Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Chaplain of the Fleet
Author: Besant, Walter, Rice, James
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Chaplain of the Fleet" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



Note: Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/chaplainofthefle00besa



THE CHAPLAIN OF THE FLEET

by

WALTER BESANT and JAMES RICE

Library Edition



London
Chatto And Windus, Piccadilly
1888

Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson and Co.
Edinburgh and London.



CONTENTS.

                       Part I.

                  _WITHIN THE RULES._

 CHAP.                                                     PAGE

    I. HOW KITTY LOST HER FATHER AND HER FRIENDS.             9

   II. HOW KITTY MADE ENGAGEMENTS.                           19

  III. HOW WE CAME TO LONDON ON THE COACH.                   25

   IV. HOW KITTY FIRST SAW THE DOCTOR.                       41

    V. HOW KITTY WITNESSED A FLEET WEDDING.                  59

   VI. HOW KITTY BEGAN TO ENJOY THE LIBERTIES OF THE FLEET.  76

  VII. HOW KITTY LEARNED TO KNOW THE DOCTOR.                 88

 VIII. HOW KITTY SPENT HER TIME.                             93

   IX. HOW THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE MADE TWO WOMEN PRISONERS.   105

    X. HOW THE DOCTOR WAS AT HOME TO HIS FRIENDS.           110

   XI. HOW THE DOCTOR DISMISSED HIS FRIENDS.                126

  XII. HOW KITTY EXECUTED THE DOCTOR'S REVENGE.             132

 XIII. HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH WOKE OUT OF SLEEP.                145

  XIV. HOW MRS. DEBORAH WAS RELEASED.                       152

   XV. HOW MRS. ESTHER WAS DISCHARGED.                      158

                       Part II.

              _THE QUEEN OF THE WELLS._

    I. HOW WE RETURNED TO THE POLITE WORLD.                 177

   II. HOW WE WENT TO THE WELLS.                            186

  III. HOW NANCY RECKONED UP THE COMPANY.                   194

   IV. HOW KITTY WENT TO HER FIRST BALL.                    209

    V. HOW KITTY WORE HER CROWN.                            225

   VI. HOW THE DOCTOR WROTE TO KITTY.                       236

  VII. HOW KITTY BROKE HER PROMISE.                         241

 VIII. HOW KITTY HAD LETTERS AND VERSES.                    250

   IX. HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH WENT TO LONDON.                   258

    X. HOW TWO OLD FRIENDS CAME TO EPSOM.                   265

   XI. HOW SIR MILES RENEWED HIS OFFER.                     276

  XII. HOW HARRY TEMPLE PROVED HIS VALOUR.                  283

 XIII. HOW DURDANS WAS ILLUMINATED.                         291

  XIV. HOW MY LORD MADE HIS CONFESSION.                     301

  XV.  HOW NANCY HAD A QUICK TONGUE.                        308

  XVI. HOW SPED THE MASQUERADE.                             313

 XVII. HOW KITTY PREVENTED A DUEL.                          326

XVIII. HOW HARRY GOT RELEASED.                              344

  XIX. HOW WILL LEVETT WAS DISAPPOINTED.                    360

   XX. HOW WILL WOULD NOT BE CROSSED.                       379

  XXI. HOW KITTY WENT TO LONDON.                            417

 XXII. HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH RECEIVED HIS FREEDOM.             435



THE CHAPLAIN OF THE FLEET.



Part I.

_WITHIN THE RULES._



CHAPTER I.

HOW KITTY LOST HER FATHER AND HER FRIENDS.


My life has been (above any merits of my own) so blessed by Providence,
that methinks its history should be begun with the ringing of bells,
the singing of psalms, the sound of cornet, flute, harp, sackbut,
psaltery, and all kinds of music. For surely the contemplation of a
happy course should, even towards its close, be accompanied by a heart
full of cheerful piety and gratitude. And though, as often happens to
us in the Lord's wisdom, ill fortune, disappointment, troubles of the
flesh, and pain of disease may perhaps afflict me in these latter years
of fleeting life, they ought not to lessen the glad song of praise
for blessings formerly vouchsafed (and still dwelling in my memory)
of love, of joy, and of happiness. Truly, the earth is a delightful
place; a fair garden, which yields pleasant fruit; and, if it may be
so said with becoming reverence, there are yet, outside the gates of
Eden, places here and there which for beauty and delight, to those who
thither win their way, are comparable with Paradise itself. In such a
place it has been my happy lot to dwell.

Yet, just as the newborn babe begins his earthly course with a
wail--ah, joyful cry for ear of mother!--so must this book begin with
tears and weeping.

The weeping is that of an orphan over her dead father; the tears are
those which fall upon a coffin beside an open grave: they are the tears
of men and women come to pay this reverence at the burial of a man who
was their best friend and their most faithful servant.

All the morning the funeral knell has been tolling; the people listen,
now, to the solemn words of a service which seem spoken by the dead man
himself to those who mourn. They admonish and warn, but they bid them
be of good cheer, lift up hearts, and trust in the Lord.

When we are in great grief and sorrow, outward things seem to affect
us more than in ordinary times, when the heart is in repose, and the
mind, perhaps, slower of apprehension. The day, for instance, was
late in May; the blackbird, thrush, and chaffinch were singing in the
wood beside the church; a lark was carolling in the sky; a cuckoo was
calling from the coppice; the hedges were green, and the trees were
bright with their first fresh foliage; the white may-blossom, the
yellow laburnum, and the laylock were at their best, and the wild roses
were just beginning.

To the country girl who had never yet left her native village, this joy
of the spring was so natural that it did not jar upon the grief of her
soul. When the funeral was over, and the grave filled in and the people
all dispersed, she stood for a few moments alone, and then walked away
across the long grass of the churchyard, stepping lightly over the
graves of the villagers, opened the little wicket gate which led to the
vicarage garden, passed in, and sought a sheltered place where, beneath
the shade of bushes, she sat upon a bench and folded her hands, looked
before her, and fell a-thinking.

She was between sixteen and seventeen, but tall of her age, and looked
older; she wore a new black frock; she had thrown her straw hat with
black ribbons upon the bench beside her. As for her face, I suppose
it was pretty. Alas! I am a hypocrite, because I _know_ that it was
pretty. As yet, she did not know it, and had never thought about her
face. Her eyes were brown (she has ever been thankful to have had brown
eyes); her features were regular, and her face rather long; her hair
was abundant and soft: it was like the hair of most English maidens, of
a dark brown, or chestnut (it is now white); her arms were shapely, and
her fingers thin and delicate (they were the fingers of a Pleydell);
as for her complexion, it was as good as can be expected in a girl
whose blood is pure, who has, as yet, known no late hours, who has been
taught to use plenty of cold water and no washes or messes, who has
run about without thinking of freckles, and has lived in the open air
on homely food. In other words, as fine a show of red and white was in
the cheeks of that child as ever Sir Joshua Reynolds tried to copy upon
canvas.

She was thinking many things. First, of her father and his death; of
the funeral, and the grief shown by people whom she had thought to be
hard of heart, insensible to his admonitions, and untouched by his
prayers. Yet they stood about the grave and wept, rude women and rough
men. Would they ever again find a minister so benevolent, so pious, and
so active in all good work? She thought of the house, and how dark and
lonely it was, deserted by its former owner. She thought of what she
should do, in the time before her, and how she would be received in her
new home. One thing comforted her: she looked older than she was, and
was tall and strong. She could be helpful.

Then she drew out of her pocket a letter written for her only three
days before her father died. She knew it quite by heart, but yet she
read it again slowly, as if there might still be something in it which
had escaped her.

    "MY BELOVED DAUGHTER" (thus it ran),--"Knowing that I am about to
    die and to appear before my Father and merciful Judge, it is right
    that I should bestir myself to make thee comprehend the situation
    in which thou wilt be placed. Of worldly wealth I have, indeed, but
    little to give thee. Face thy lot with hope, resignation, and a
    cheerful heart. The righteous man, said one who knew, hath never
    been found to beg his bread. Indeed, the whole course of this world
    is so ordered (by Divine wisdom), that he who chooseth the narrow
    path chooseth also the safest. Therefore, be of good cheer.

    "_Imprimis._ When I am buried, search the bedstead, and, in the
    head thereof, will be found a bag containing the sum of one hundred
    guineas in gold pieces. I have saved this money during my twenty
    years of incumbency. I trust that it will not be laid to my charge
    that I did not give this also to the poor; but I thought of my
    daughter first. Secondly, Farmer Goodpenny is indebted to me in
    the sum of twenty-two pounds, four shillings, and eightpence, for
    which I have his note. I charge thee that he be not asked to pay
    interest, and since it may be that he hath not the money, let it
    wait his good time. He is an honest man, who fears God. Thirdly,
    there is money, some twelve pounds or more, lying in my desk for
    present use. Fourthly, there are several small sums due to me,
    money put out and lent (but not at usury), such as five shillings
    from the widow Coxon, and other amounts the which I will have thee
    forgive and remit entirely; for these my debtors are poor people.
    The horse is old, but he will fetch five pounds, and the cow will
    sell for two. As for the books, they may be sent to Maidstone,
    where they may be sold. But I doubt they will not bring more than
    ten guineas, or thereabouts, seeing that the call for works of
    divinity is small, even among my brethren of the cloth. And when
    you go to London, forget not to ask of Mr. Longman, publisher, of
    St. Paul's Churchyard, an account of my 'Sermons,' published by him
    last year; my essay on 'Philo-Judæus,' issued four years ago; and
    my 'Reflections on the Christian State,' which he hath by him in
    manuscript. He will perhaps be able to return a larger sum of money
    than I was led by him at first to expect.

    "My will and plain injunctions are as follows:

    "When everything has been paid that is owing, and there are none
    who can hereafter say that he had a claim upon me which was
    unsatisfied, get together thy wearing apparel and effects, and
    under some proper protection, as soon as such can be found, go to
    London, and there seek out thy uncle and mother's brother, the
    Reverend Gregory Shovel, Doctor of Divinity, of whom I have spoken
    to thee of old. I take shame to myself that I have not sent him,
    for many years, letters of brotherly friendship. Nor do I rightly
    remember where he is to be found. But I know that he lives, because
    once a year there comes to me a keg or anker of rum, which I know
    must be from him, and which I have drunk with my parishioners in
    a spirit of gratitude. Perhaps it would have been more consistent
    in a brother clergyman to have sent one of the latest books of our
    scholars. But he means well, and the rum is, I confess, of the
    best, and a generous drink, in moderation. He was once Curate and
    Lecturer of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields; but I would have thee go
    first to the Coffee-house in St. Paul's Churchyard, where they know
    all the London clergy, and ask for his present lodging. This found,
    go to him, tell him that I am dead, give him thy money, entrust
    thyself to him, and be guided by him as thou hast been by me.

    "And now, my daughter, if a father's prayers avail thee, be assured
    that I die like Jacob the patriarch, blessing thee and commanding
    thee. For my blessing, I pray that the Lord may have thee in His
    keeping, and give thee what is good for the eternal life. For my
    commandment--Be good: for herein is summed up the whole of the
    Commandments.

    "And remember, my child, the Christian who lives in fear of
    death is foolish: even as he is foolish who will not lay hold of
    the promise, and so lives in terror of the Judgment. For now I
    know--yea, I _know_--that the Lord loveth best that man who all
    the days of his life walks in faith and dies in hope.--Your loving
    father,

                                                 "LAWRENCE PLEYDELL."

Had ever a girl so sweet a message from the dead, to keep and ponder
over, to comfort and console her? She knew every word of it already,
but the tears came afresh to her eyes in thinking of the dear hand
which wrote those words--quiet now, its labours done, in the cold
grave. Her father's last Will and Testament gave her more than
riches--it gave her strength and consolation. The example of his life,
which was so Christian and so good, might be forgotten, because the
girl was too young to understand it, and too ignorant to compare; but
this letter of true faith and religion would never be forgotten.

The Reverend Lawrence Pleydell, Master of Arts and sometime Fellow of
the ancient and learned College or House of Christ, Cambridge, was
(which is a thing too rare in these days) a country clergyman who was
also a scholar, a divine, a man of pious thought, and a gentleman
by descent, though only of a younger branch. It is too often found
that if a country clergyman be a gentleman, he continues the habits
of his class, such as fox-hunting, card-playing, and wine-drinking,
concerning which, although the Bishops seem not yet of one mind upon
the matter, I, for my humble part, remembering what kind of man was my
good father, venture to think are pursuits unworthy of one who holds
a cure of souls. And when a clergyman is a scholar, he is too often
devoted entirely to the consideration of his Greek and Latin authors,
whereby his power over the hearts of the people is in a measure lost.
Or, if he is a divine, he is too often (out of the fulness of his mind)
constrained to preach the subtleties and hidden things of theology,
which cannot be understood of the common people, so that it is as if
he were speaking in an unknown tongue. And sometimes the parson of
the parish is but a rude and coarse person, of vulgar birth, who will
smoke tobacco with the farmers--yea, even with the labourers--drink
with them, and not be ashamed to be seen in beer-houses, tap-rooms, or
even at such unseemly diversions as bull-baiting, badger-drawing, and
cock-fighting. It were to be wished that the Church were purged of all
such.

The parish contained, besides farmers, but one family of gentlefolk,
that of Sir Robert Levett, Knight, who with his wife and two children
lived at the Hall, and had an estate worth two thousand a year at
least. When the vicar's wife died (she was somewhat his inferior in
point of family, but had a brother in the Church), and his child was
left without a mother, nothing would do for Lady Levett than that
the little maid should be taken into the Hall and brought up, having
governesses and teaching, with her own daughter, Nancy, who was of
about the same age, but a little younger. So the two girls were
playfellows and scholars together, being taught those things which
it befits a lady to learn, although one of them would be a poor lady
indeed. There was one son, Will, who was at first at Eton with his
cousin (and Sir Robert's ward), Harry Temple, the young Squire of
Wootton Hampstead. It was a fearful joy when they came home for the
holidays. For, although they kept the house in activity and bustle,
making disorder and noise where there was generally quiet and order,
yet after the manner of boys, who rejoice to show and feel their
strength, they would play rough tricks upon the two girls, upset and
destroy their little sports, and make them understand what feeble
things are young maidens compared with boys.

Now just as the two girls were different--for one grew up tall and
disposed to be serious, which was Kitty Pleydell, and the other was
small and saucy, always with a laugh and a kiss, which was Nancy
Levett--so the boys became different: for one, which was Will Levett,
a rosy-cheeked lad, with a low forehead and a square chin, grew to
dislike learning of all kinds, and was never happy except when he was
in the stables with the horses, or training the dogs, or fox-hunting,
or shooting, or fishing, or in some way compassing the death of wild
creatures, sports to which his father was only moderately addicted; but
the other, Harry Temple, was more studiously disposed, always came home
with some fresh mark of his master's approbation, and read every book
he could find.

There came a change in their behaviour to the girls as they grew
older. Will ceased to set a dog to bark at them, and to crack a whip
to frighten them, or ride unbroken colts in order to make them cry
out for fear; and Harry ceased to tease and torment them with little
tricks and devices of mischief at which they were half pleased and
half humiliated. When the boys left school they were sent to Pembroke
College, Cambridge, a college in which many generations of Levetts had
been educated. After two terms, Will came home, looking cheerful though
somewhat abashed. He had been rusticated _sine die_, as the phrase
runs: which means that he was not to go back again until he had made
such ample submission and apology, with promises of future amendment as
would satisfy the authorities as to the safety of allowing him back.

It was not known rightly what he had done; there was a story in which
a retriever, a horse, a punch-bowl, a badger, a bargee, a pump, and a
water-trough were curiously mixed up, and his rustication had somehow
to do with the introduction of a proctor (whom one understands to be a
learned and reverend magistrate) and a bull-dog, into this inconsistent
and discordant company.

Sir Robert looked grave when he received his son, my lady wept, and
the girls were ashamed; but all speedily recovered their good spirits,
and the whole stable rejoiced exceedingly to see Will back among them.
Even the foxes and their cubs, Sir Robert said, which had of late waxed
fat and lazy, manifested a lively pleasure, and hastened to get thin
so as to afford the greatest sport possible; the trout practised all
their tricks in readiness for one who respected a fish of subtlety;
the pheasants and young partridges made haste to grow strong on the
wing; the snipe and small birds remembered why Nature had taught them
to use a devious and uncertain flight; the rabbits left off running
straight; the otters remembered the uncertainty of life and the glory
of a gallant fight; the ferrets laughed, thinking of the merry days
they were going to have; the hares, who never take any solid interest
in being hunted, ran away to the neighbouring estates; and the badgers,
who were going to be drawn in their holes, turned sulky.

This was what Sir Robert told the girls, who laughed, but believed that
it was all true. As for Cambridge, there was no more thought of that.
Will had had enough of lectures, chapels, and dons; henceforth, he
said, he should please himself.

"Man," said Sir Robert, "who is ever disappointed, must continually
be resigned. What if Will hath refused to get learning? He will not,
therefore, gamble away the estate, nor disgrace the name of Levett.
Holdfast is a good dog. It is the fortune of this house that if, once
in a while, its head prove a fool as regards books, he still sticks to
his own."

Will promised to stick fast to his own, and though he gave himself up
henceforth altogether to those pursuits which make a man coarse and
deaden his sensibility (whereby he loses the best part of his life), he
promised, in his father's opinion, to prove a capable manager and just
landlord, jealous of his own rights, and careful of those of others.

Will thus remaining at home, the girls saw him every day, and though
they had little talk with him, because it could not be expected that
they should care to hear how the dogs behaved, and how many rats had
been killed that morning, yet he was, in his rough way, thoughtful
of them, and would bring them such trifles as pretty eggs, stuffed
kingfishers, dressed moleskins, and so forth, which he got in his walks
abroad. In the evening he would make his artificial flies, twist his
lines, mend his landing-nets, polish his guns; being always full of
business, and kindly taking no notice while Nancy or Kitty read aloud,
nor seeming to care what they read, whether it was the poetry of Pope,
or some dear delightful romance; or the "Spectator," or the plays of
Shakespeare. All was one to him.

He seemed in those days a good-natured young man who went his own
way and troubled himself not one whit about other people. Women were
inferior creatures, of course: they could not shoot, hunt, fish, ride
to hounds; they had no strength; they did not like to see things
killed; they did not love sport; they did not drink wine; they did not
take beer for breakfast; they did not smoke tobacco; they loved tea,
chocolate, coffee, and such vanities; they loved to dress fine and
stand up making bows to men, which they called dancing; they loved to
read a lot of nonsense in rhymes, or to cry over the sorrows of people
who never lived. Women, however, had their uses: they kept things in
order, looked after the dinner, and took care of the babies.

Will did not say all these things at once; but they were collected
together and written down by the girls, who kept a book between them,
where they entered all the things they heard which struck their
fancy. Nancy even went so far as to try to make up a story about the
proctor and the pump, but never dared show it, except to her father,
who pinched her ear and laughed. They called the page about the ways
of women "Will's Wisdom," and continually added to it without his
knowledge; because Will, like all men who love the sports of the field
and not the wisdom of the printed page, became quickly angry if he were
laughed at. The girls always pictured Esau, for instance, as a grave
man, with a square chin, who talked a good deal about his own hunting,
took no interest in the occupations of the women, and could never see a
joke.

Two years or so after Will's rustication, Harry came of age and
left Cambridge without taking a degree. There were bonfires, and
oxen roasted whole, and barrels of beer upon the green when he took
possession of his own estate and went to live in his own house, which
was three miles and a half from the Hall.

He came from Cambridge having no small reputation for learning and
wit, being apt at the making of verses in English, Latin, and Italian.
He was, moreover, skilled in mathematical science, and especially in
astronomy; he had read history, and understood the course of politics.
I think that from the beginning he aspired to be considered one of
those who by birth and attainments are looked upon as the leaders of
the world; he would be a scholar as well as a gentleman; he would be
a poet, perhaps to be ranked with Pope or Dryden; he would be a man
of fashion; and he would sit in ladies' _salons_, while other men sat
over bottles of port, and talked gallantry. As for his appearance, he
was tall and slight in figure; his face was long and rather thin; his
eyes were grave; his manner was reserved; to the girls he was always
courteous, asking their opinion, setting them right when they were
wrong, lending them books, and directing them what to read. To Kitty
he was a man to be respected, but never, she may truly say, did she
allow her thoughts to dwell on the possibility of love: perhaps because
love is between opposites, so that the grave may love the gay; perhaps
because she knew very early that Lady Levett earnestly desired one
thing--that Harry might fall in love with Nancy; and perhaps because to
Nancy herself, little, merry Nancy, whose heart was full of sunshine,
as her eyes were full of sunlight, and her lips never moved but to say
and sing something saucy, or to laugh and smile--to Nancy, I say, this
man was an Apollo, and she wondered that all women, not to speak of
men (whose stupidity in the matter of reverence for each other is well
known) did not fall down before him and do him open worship.

A few months after Harry Temple came of age, the vicar was taken ill
with a putrid fever, caught while administering the last rites of the
Church to a dying woman, and was carried off in a fortnight. This
disaster not only robbed poor Kitty of the best of fathers, but also
of the kindest patron and the most loving friend; for it took her away
from the Hall, and drove her out, as will be presently seen, to meet
dangers as she had never imagined among a people whose wickedness after
many years, and even to this day, makes her wonder at the longsuffering
of the Lord.



CHAPTER II.

HOW KITTY MADE ENGAGEMENTS.


The day after the funeral, Sir Robert Levett himself walked to the
Vicarage in the afternoon, and found the girl still in the garden, on
her favourite seat. As soon as she looked into his kind face she burst
into fresh tears.

"Cry on, pretty," he said, sitting beside her, and with a tear in his
own eye. "Cry on: to cry is natural. Thou hast lost the best and most
Christian father that ever girl had; therefore cry on till thou art
tired. Let the tears fall. Don't mind me. Out handkerchief. So good
a scholar shall we never see again. Cry on, if thou hast only just
begun, should it bring thee comfort. Nor ever shall we hear so good a
preacher. When thou hast finished let me have my say. But do not hurry."

Even at the very saddest, when tears flow as unceasingly as the
fountains in the Land of Canaan, the sight of an elderly gentleman
sitting on a bench beneath a mulberry-tree, his hat beside him, his wig
in his hands for coolness, his stick between his legs, and his face
composed to a decent position, waiting till one had finished, would be
enough to make any girl stop crying. Kitty felt immediately inclined to
laugh; dried her eyes, restrained her sobs, and pulled out her father's
will, which she gave to Sir Robert to read.

He read it through twice, slowly, and then he hummed and coughed before
he spoke--

"A good man, Kitty child. See that thou forget not his admonitions. I
would he were here still to admonish us all. Sinners that we were, to
heed his voice no better. And now he is gone--he is gone. Yet he was a
younger man than I, by ten years and more, and I remain." Here he put
on his wig, and rose. "As for this money, child, let us lose no time
in making that safe, lest some thief should rob thee of it. A hundred
guineas! And twenty more with Farmer Goodpenny! And this money waiting
at the publishers![A] Verily thou art an heiress indeed!"

In the bedroom, at the head of the great bed, they found beneath the
mattress a long narrow box secretly let into the panel close to the
great cross-beam. I say secretly, but it was a secret known to all
the world. Carpenters always made those secret hiding-places in beds,
so that had there been a robber in the house he would have begun by
searching in that place. Sir Robert knew where to find the spring, and
quickly opened the box.

Within it lay two canvas bags, tied up. Could bags so little hold so
great a sum! Sir Robert tossed them into his pockets as carelessly as
if they were bags of cherries.

"Now, little maid," said he, sitting on the bed, "that money is safe;
and be sure that I shall call on Farmer Goodpenny to-morrow. Let me
know what is to be done about thy father's wish that thou shouldst go
to London?"

"It is his injunction, sir," said Kitty gravely. "I must obey his will."

"Yet thy father, child, did not know London. And to send a young
girl like thyself, with a bag of guineas about thy neck, to ask in a
coffee-house for the address of a clergyman is, methinks, a wild-goose
sort of business. As for Dr. Shovel, I have heard the name--to be sure,
it cannot be the same man----" he stopped, as if he would not tell me
what it was he had heard.

"It is my father's command," she repeated.

"Unless nothing better should be found. Now, London is a dangerous
place, full of pitfalls and traps, especially for the young and
innocent. We are loth to lose thee, Kitty; we are afraid to let thee
go. Nothing will do for Lady Levett but that thou remain with us and
Nancy."

This was a generous offer, indeed. Kitty's eyes filled with tears
again, and while she stood trying to find words of gratitude, and to
decline the offer so as not to appear churlish, madam herself came
running up the stairs, in her garden hat and plain pinner, and fell to
kissing and crying over the girl.

Then she had to be told of the will and last commands.

"To be sure," she said, "thy father's commands must be respected and
obeyed. Yet I know not whether it would not be well to disobey them.
Kitty, my dear, stay with us and be my daughter, all the same as Nancy.
I do not ask thee to enter my service, or to receive wages, or to do
work for me any other than a daughter may."

Kitty shook her head again. She was truly grateful; there was no one so
kind as her ladyship; but she must go to London as her father bade her.

"Why," cried Sir Robert, "the child is right. Let her go. But if she
is unhappy with her friends, or if she is in any trouble, let her know
where to look for help."

"There may be cousins," said madam, "who will find thee too pretty
for their own faces, and would keep thee at home with the towels and
dusters and napkins. I would not have our Kitty a Cinderella--though
house-service is no disgrace to a gentlewoman. Or there may be manners
and customs of the house that a young girl should disapprove. Or there
may be harsh looks instead of kind words. If that is the case, Kitty,
come back to us, who love thee well, and will receive thee with kisses
and joy."

Then they left her in the empty house, alone with Deborah, the house
servant.

She was looking over her father's books, and taking out one or two
which she thought she might keep in memory of him (as if anything were
needed) when she heard steps, and Deborah's voice inviting some one to
enter.

It was Harry Temple: he stood in the doorway, his hat in his hand, and
under his arm a book.

"I was meditating in the fields," he said, "what I should say to Kitty
Pleydell, in consolation for her affliction. The learned Boethius----"

"O Harry!" she cried, "do not talk to me of books. What can they say to
comfort any one?"

He smiled. Harry's smile showed how much he pitied people not so
learned as himself.

"The greatest men," he said, "have been comforted by books. Cicero, for
instance.... Nay, Kitty, I will not quote Cicero. I came to say that I
am sorry indeed to learn that we shall lose thee for a time."

"Alas!" she said, "I must go. It is my father's order."

"I am sure," he replied, "that you would not leave us for a lighter
reason. You know our hearts, Kitty, and how we all love you."

"I know----" Kitty began to cry again. Everybody was so full of love
and pity. "I know, Harry. And perhaps I shall never n--n--never see you
again."

"And does that make this parting harder?" He turned very red, and laid
his precious book of consolation on the table.

"Why, of course it does," she replied, wiping her eyes.

"You _shall_ see us again," he went on earnestly. "You shall come back
with me. Kitty, I will give you one twelvemonth of absence. You know I
love you tenderly. But your father's commands must be obeyed. Therefore
for a whole year I shall not seek you out. Then, when I come for you,
will you return with me, never to go away again?"

"Oh!" she cried, clasping her hands, "how joyfully will I return!"

The young man took her hand and raised it to his lips.

"Divine maid!" he cried. "Fit to grace a coronet, or to make the home
of a simple gentleman an Arcadia of pastoral pleasure!"

"Do not mock me, Harry," she said, snatching away her hand, "with idle
compliments. But forget not to come and carry me away."

"Alas!" he said; "how shall I exist--how bear this separation for
twelve long months? Oh, divine Kitty! Thou will remain an ever-present
idea in my heart."

"Harry," she burst out laughing in her tears, "think of the learned
Boethius!"

So he left her.

In half an hour another visitor appeared.

This time it was Will. He was in his usual careless disorder; his
scarlet coat a good deal stained, his waistcoat unbuttoned, his wig
awry, his boots dusty, his neckerchief torn, his hands and cheeks
browned by the sun. He carried a horsewhip, and was followed by
half-a-dozen dogs, who came crowding into the room after him.

"So," he said, sitting down and leaning his chin upon his whipstock,
"thou must go, then?"

"What do you want with me, Will?" she asked, angry that he should show
so little sympathy.

"Why," he replied, rubbing his chin with the whipstock, "not much,
Kitty. Nancy will come to cry."

"Then you can go away, Will."

"I came to say, Kitty, that though you do be going to go" (Will easily
dropped into country talk), "I shanna forget thee. There!"

"Thank you, Will."

"As for the matter of that, I love thee--ah! like I love old Rover
here."

"Thank you again, Will."

"And so I've brought along a sixpence--here it is--and we'll break it
together." Here he bent and broke the coin with his strong fingers.
"My half goes into my pocket--so; and the other half is thine--there."
He threw it on the table. "Well, that's done." He stood up, looked at
me sorrowfully, and heaved a great sigh. "I doubt I've a done wrong.
Hadst been going to stay, a' woulden a' spoke yet awhile. Liberty is
sweet--girls are skittish. Well, we'll take a twelvemonth yet. There's
no hurry. Plenty time before us. I shall have my liberty for that
while. Mayhap I will fetch thee in the spring. Ay, May's the best
month to leave the dogs and the birds, though the vermin will begin to
swarm--rot 'em! Come, Rover. Good-bye, wench."

He gave her a resounding kiss on the cheek, and turned away.

The girl laughed. She did not pick up the broken sixpence, which,
indeed, she hardly noticed, her mind being full of many things.

Presently Nancy came, and the two girls spent a miserable evening
together, in great love and friendship.

Now, how could an ignorant country girl, who had never thought over
these things at all, guess that she had engaged herself to be married,
in one day, in one hour even, to two different men? Yet that was
exactly what this foolish Kitty had actually done.

FOOTNOTES:

[A] When, some months later, Kitty went to the publisher, that
gentleman informed her that there was no money to receive, because he
had been a loser by the publication of the books.



CHAPTER III.

HOW WE CAME TO LONDON ON THE COACH.


With the purpose, therefore, of carrying out my father's injunctions,
I remained for a few days at the Vicarage alone, having one servant to
take care of me. But, had it not been for an accident, I might have
remained at the village all my life. "For," said Lady Levett, "it
is but right, child, that the instructions of your father should be
carried out; I should like to know, however, who is to take charge of
thee to London, and how we are to get thee there? A young maid cannot
be sent to London on a pack-horse, like a bundle of goods. As for Sir
Robert, he goes no more to town, since he has ceased to be a member.
I care not for the court, for my own part, and am now too old for the
gaieties of London. Nancy will enjoy them, I doubt not, quite soon
enough; and as for the boys, I see not very well how they can undertake
so great a charge. I doubt, Kitty, that thou must come to the Hall,
after all. You can be useful, child, and we will make you happy. There
is the still-room, where, Heaven knows, what with the cowslip-wine,
the strong waters, the conserving, pickling, drying, candying, and
the clove gilliflowers for palleting, there is work enough for you
and Nancy, as well as my still-room maid and myself. And just now,
Sir Robert calling every day for a summer sallet (which wants a light
hand), to cool his blood!"

I would very willingly have gone to the Hall; I asked nothing better,
and could think of nothing more happy for myself, if it could so be
ordered. My father's wishes must certainly be obeyed; but if no one
at the Hall could take charge of me, it seemed, at first, as if there
could be no going to London at all, for our farmers and villagers were
no great travellers. None of them knew much of this vast round world
beyond their own fields, unless it were the nearest market-town, or
perhaps Maidstone, or even Canterbury. Now and again one of the rustics
would go for a soldier (being crossed in love); but he never came
home again to tell of his campaigns. Or one would go for a gentleman's
servant (being too lazy to work like his father); then he would return
filled with all the wickedness of London, and stay corrupting the minds
of the simple folk, till Sir Robert bade him pack and be off, for a
pestilent fellow. Or one would go away to the nearest market-town to be
apprenticed to a handicraft (being ambitious, as will happen even to
simple clods, and aspiring to a shop). But if he succeeded, such an one
would seldom come back to the place which gave him birth.

An accident happened which served my purpose. There was a certain
farmer on Sir Robert's estate, whose sister had married a London
tradesman of respectability and reputed honesty, named Samuel Gambit
(he was a builder's foreman, who afterwards became a master builder,
and made great sums of money by taking city contracts. His son, after
him, rose to be an alderman in the city of London). Whether the young
woman was in ill health, or whether she was prompted by affection, I
know not, but she left her husband for a space and journeyed into the
country to see her friends and people. Now when I heard, by accident,
that she was about to return, my heart fell, because I saw that my time
was come, and that a proper person to take charge of me during the
journey was found in Mrs. Gambit.

Madam sent for her. She was a strong, well-built woman, of about six
or seven and twenty, resolute in her bearing, and sturdy of speech.
She was not afraid, she said, of any dangers of the road, holding (but
that was through ignorance) highwaymen in contempt; but she could not
be answerable, she said, and this seemed reasonable, for the safety of
the coach, which might upset and break our necks. As for the rest, she
would be proud to take the young lady with her to London, and madam
might, if she wished, consider the extra trouble worth something; but
that she left to her ladyship.

"I know," said Lady Levett, "that it is a great charge for you to
conduct a young gentlewoman to town in these bad and dangerous times,
when not only the high roads are thronged with robbers, and the
streets with footpads, but also the very inns swarm with villains, and
gentlemen are not ashamed to insult young persons of respectability in
stage-coaches and public places. But Kitty is a good girl, not giddy,
and obedient. I will admonish her that she obey you in everything upon
the road, and that she keep eyes, ears, and mouth closed all the way."

The good woman undertook to have her eye upon me the whole journey.
Then Lady Levett made her promise that she would take me straight
to St. Paul's Coffee-house, St. Paul's Churchyard, there to inquire
after my uncle's residence, and never leave me until she had seen me
deposited safely in Dr. Shovel's hands.

Now was I in a flutter and agitation of spirits indeed, as was natural,
considering that I was going to leave my native place for the first
time in my life and to seek out new relations.

"Nancy!" I cried, "what will be my lot? What will become of me?"

Nancy said that she would tell my fortune if I would only leave off
walking about and wringing my hands and be comfortable.

Then she sat down beside me in her pretty affectionate way, and threw
her arms round my waist, and laid her head upon my shoulder.

"You are so tall and so pretty, Kitty, that all the men will lose their
hearts. But you must listen to none of them until the right man comes.
Oh! I know what he is like. He will be a great nobleman, young and
handsome, and oh, so rich! he will kneel at your feet as humble as a
lover ought to be, and implore you to accept his title and his hand.
And when you are a great lady, riding in your own coach, as happy as
the day is long, you will forget--oh no, my dear! sure I am you will
never forget your loving Nancy."

Then we kissed and cried over each other in our foolish girls' way,
promising not only kind remembrance, but even letters sometimes. And we
exchanged tokens of friendship. I gave her a ring, which had been my
mother's, made of solid silver with a turquoise and two pearls, very
rich and good, and she gave me a silver-gilt locket with chased back,
and within it a little curl of her hair, brown and soft.

Lady Levett gave me nothing but her admonition. I was going, she said,
to a house where I should meet with strangers who would perhaps, after
the manner of strangers, be quicker at seeing a fault than a grace, and
this particularly at the outset and very beginning, when people are
apt to be suspicious and to notice carefully. Therefore I was to be
circumspect in my behaviour, and above all, be careful in my speech,
giving soft words in return for hard, and answering railing, if there
was any railing, with silence. But perhaps, she said, there would be
no railing, but only kindness and love, in the which case I was all
the more to preserve sweet speech and sweet thoughts, so as not to
trouble love. Then she was good enough to say that I had ever been a
good maid and dutiful, and she doubted not that so I would continue in
my new world, wherefore she kissed me tenderly, and prayed, with tears
in her eyes--for my lady, though quick and sharp, was wondrous kind of
heart--that the Lord would have me in His keeping.

I say nothing about Sir Robert, because he was always fond of me, and
would almost as soon have parted from his Nancy.

Now it was a week and more since I had, without knowing it, received
those overtures of love from Harry Temple and Will, which I took in my
innocence for mere overtures of friendship and brotherly affection.
They thought, being conceited, like all young men, that I had at once
divined their meaning and accepted their proposals; no doubt they gave
themselves credit for condescension and me for gratitude. Therefore,
when, the evening before I came away, Harry Temple begged me, with
many protestations of regret, not to inform Sir Robert or madam of his
intentions, I knew not what to say. What intentions? why should I not?

"Reigning star of Beauty!" he cried, laying his hand upon his heart,
"I entreat thy patience for a twelvemonth. Alas! such separation! who
can bear it!

   "'Fond Thyrsis sighs, through mead and vale,
        His absent nymph lamenting----'"

"O Harry!" I cried, "what do I care about Thyrsis and absent nymphs?
You have promised to bring me back in a year. Very well, then, I shall
expect you. Of course you can tell Sir Robert whatever you please. It
is nothing to me what you tell Sir Robert or my lady."

"She is cold as Diana," said Harry, with a prodigious sigh; but I broke
from him, and would hear no more such nonsense. Sighing shepherds and
cruel nymphs were for ever on Harry Temple's lips.

As for Will, of course he wanted to have an explanation too. He
followed Harry, and, in his rustic way, begged to say a word or two.

"Pray go on, Will," I said.

"I promised a twelvemonth," he explained. "I'll not go back upon my
word. I _did_ say a twelvemonth."

"A twelvemonth? Oh yes. You said the same as Harry, I remember."

"I don't know what Harry said, but I'll swear, whatever Harry said,
I said just the clean contrary. Now, then, liberty's sweet, my girl.
Come, let us say fifteen months. Lord! when a man is twenty-one he
don't want to be tied by the heels all at once. Let's both have our run
first. You are but a filly yet--ay--a six months' puppy, so to say."

"You said a twelvemonth, Will," I replied, little thinking of what he
meant. How, indeed, could I know? "I shall expect you in a twelvemonth."

"Very good, then. A twelvemonth it must be, I suppose. Shan't tell my
father yet, Kitty. Don't you tell un neyther, there's a good girl. Gad!
there will be a pretty storm with my lady when she hears it! Ho! ho!"

Then he went off chuckling and shaking himself. How could a courtly
gentleman like Sir Robert and a gentlewoman like her ladyship have a
son who was so great a clown in his manner and his talk? But the sons
do not always take after their parents. A stable and a kennel, when
they take the place of a nursery and a school, are apt to breed such
bumpkins even out of gentle blood.

In the morning at five I was to start in the cart which would take us
across the country to the stage-coach.

Nancy got up with me, and we had a fine farewell kissing. The boys
were up too; Harry out of compliment to me, dressed in a nightcap and
a flowered morning-gown; and Will out of compliment to his kennel,
for whose sake he always rose at daybreak. He was dressed in his old
scarlet coat, he carried a whip in one hand, and half-a-dozen dogs
followed at his heels.

"Remember, sweet Kitty," whispered Harry, with a ceremonious bow, "it
is but for a twelvemonth."

"Only a year," said Will. "Heart up, my pretty!"

They heard what each had said, and they were looking at each other
puzzled when I drove away.

"What did you mean, Will?" asked Harry, when the cart was out of sight,
"by saying only a year?"

"I meant what I meant," he replied doggedly. "Perhaps you know, and
perhaps you don't."

"Of course I know," said Harry. "The question is, how do you know?"

"Well," replied Will, "that is a pretty odd question, to be sure. How
could I help knowing?"

"I think," said Harry, red in the face, "that some one has been
injudicious in telling any one."

Will laughed.

"She ought not to have told, that's a fact. But we will keep it secret,
Harry; don't tell her ladyship."

So that each thought that the other knew of his engagement with Kitty.

Little heed gave I to them and their promises. It was pleasant,
perhaps, though I soon forgot to think about it at all, to remember
that Harry and Will after a twelvemonth would come to carry me home
again, and that I should never leave the old place again. But just then
I was too sad to remember this. I was going away, Heaven knew where,
amongst strangers, to people who knew me not; and I mounted the cart in
which we were to begin our journey crying as sadly as if it had been
the dreadful cart which goes to Tyburn Tree. The best thing to cure
a crying fit is a good jolting. It is impossible to weep comfortably
when you are shaken and rolled about in a country cart among the deep,
hard ruts of last winter. So I presently put up my handkerchief, dried
my eyes, and thought of nothing but of clinging to Mrs. Gambit when
the wheels sank deeper than usual. The way lay along the lanes which I
knew so well, arched over with trees and lofty hedges, then in their
beautiful spring dressing. It led past the churchyard, where the sun
was striking full upon my father's new-made grave. I tried to think of
him, but the cart jolted so terribly that I was fain to remember only
how I carried his last admonitions in my bosom, and the money in two
bags sewn to my petticoats.

Presently the lane led on to the high-road, which was not quite so
rough, and here we came to the roadside inn where the stage-coach
changed horses. We waited an hour or so, until at length we saw it
coming slowly up the hill, piled with packages and crowded with
passengers. But there was room for two more, and we mounted to our
places outside. Presently the machine moved slowly along again. It
was so heavily-laden and the roads were so rough, that we rolled as
if every moment we were going to roll over into the ditch, where we
should all be killed. Mrs. Gambit loudly declared that nothing should
ever again take her out of London, where a body could ride in a coach
without the fear of being upset and the breaking of necks. On this
journey, however, no necks were broken, because the coach did not
upset. When the rolling was very bad, Mrs. Gambit clutched me with one
hand and her right hand neighbour with the other. I, in my turn, seized
her with one hand and my right hand neighbour with the other. Then we
both shrieked, until presently, finding that we did not actually go
over, I began to laugh.

My neighbour was a clergyman of grave and studious aspect. He wore
a full wig, which had certainly been a second-hand one when it was
bought, so shabby, was it now; his gown was also shabby, and his
stockings were of grey worsted. Clearly a country clergyman of humble
means. His face, however, looked young. When I caught him by the arm,
he laid hold of my hand with both of his, saying gravely, "Now, madam,
I hold you so tightly that you cannot fall." This was very kind of him.
And, presently, he wanted to lay his arm round my waist for my better
protection. But this was taking more trouble than I would consent to.

There was, however, a worse danger than that of upsetting. This year,
England suffered from a plague of highway-robbers, the like of which
was never before known. The roads were crowded with them. They were
mostly disbanded soldiers, who, being either disinclined to return
to their old trades, or being unable to find employment, roamed
about the country either singly or in pairs, or in bands, rogues and
vagabonds, ready to rob, steal, plunder, or even murder as occasion
offered. They were sometimes so bold that they would attack a whole
coachful of passengers, and take from them whatever they carried,
unless, as sometimes happened, there were one or two valiant men on
the coach ready to give them a warm reception with guns, pistols,
swords, or even stout cudgels. They were said seldom to show much fight
(being conscious of the gallows awaiting them if they were wounded or
captured), and would generally make off. But it was not always that
passengers were found ready to risk the fight, and in most cases they
sat still and delivered.

With this danger before us, it was not surprising that the conversation
should turn upon highwaymen whenever the road became a little smooth,
and I listened with terror to the tales I heard. Most of them were
related by a man who sat opposite to me. He wore a scratch wig
(probably his second-best), and had his hat flapped and tied about his
ears as if it were winter. He was, I suppose, a merchant of some kind,
because he talked a great deal about prices, and stocks, and markets,
with other things, Greek and Hebrew to me. Also, he looked so uneasy,
and kept watching the road with so anxious an air, that I felt sure
he must be carrying a great parcel of money like me, and I longed to
advise him to imitate my prudence; and at the next town we got down
to sew it within his coat. He continually lamented, as we went along,
the desperate wickedness of the highway-robbers: he spoke of it as if
he were entirely disinterested, and regarded not at all the peril to
his own fortune, but only the danger of their own souls, liable to
be wretchedly lost and thrown away by their dreadful courses. And he
talked so feelingly on this subject that one began to feel as if good
words were being spoken to the edification of the soul. As for their
suppression, he said that, in their own interests, strong measures
would be necessary. Trade would never flourish, and therefore men would
not be induced to follow a respectable trade until ships could sail the
seas without fear of pirates, and honest merchants carry their property
up and down the king's highway without fear of highwaymen. Here we came
in sight of a man on horseback, and we all kept silence for an anxious
space, till we discovered, by his great wig and black coat, that it was
nothing but a country surgeon riding out to see a patient. Then the
merchant went on to say that since the gallows did not terrify these
evil-doers, he, for one, was for trying how they would like the French
wheel.

At this there was a terrible outcry: the clergyman, especially, asking
if he wished to introduce French barbarities.

"Such things," he said solemnly, "are the natural accompaniment of
Popery. Pray, sir, remember Smithfield."

"Sir," said the merchant, "I hope I am as good a Protestant as my
neighbours. I call that, however, not barbarity but justice and mercy
which punishes the guilty and deters the weak. As for barbarities, are
we Protestants better than our neighbours? Is it not barbarous to flog
our soldiers and sailors for insubordination; to flog our rogues at the
cart-tail; to lash the backs of women in Bridewell; to cut and scourge
the pickpockets so long as the alderman chooses to hold up the hammer?
Do we not hack the limbs of our traitors, and stick them up on Temple
Bar? Truly the world would come to a pretty pass if we were to ask our
cut-throats what punishment would hurt them least."

"I like not the breaking of legs on wheels," cried Mrs. Gambit. "But to
call the flogging of Bridewell hussies barbarous! Fie, sir! You might
as well call bull-baiting barbarous."

No one wanted to encourage highway-robbers, yet none but this merchant
from foreign parts would allow than an Englishman, however wicked,
should cruelly have his limbs broken and crushed by a rod of iron.

"As for the gentlemen of the road," said Mrs. Gambit, "I, for one, fear
them not. They may take the butter and eggs in my basket, but they
won't find my money, for that is in my shoe."

"Nor mine," said I, taking courage and thinking to show my cleverness;
"for it is all sewn safe inside my petticoats."

"Hush, silly women!" cried the merchant. "You know not but there is a
highwayman sitting in disguise on the coach beside you. I beg pardon,
sir," he turned to the clergyman beside me--"no offence, sir--though I
have heard of a thief who robbed a coach after travelling in it dressed
as a gentleman of your cloth."

"None, sir, none," replied his reverence. "Yet am I not a highwayman,
I do assure you for your comfort. Nor have I any money in my pocket or
my shoe. I am but a simple clergyman, going to look at a benefice which
hath been graciously bestowed upon me."

"That, sir," said the merchant, "is satisfactory, and I hope that
no other ears have heard what these ladies have disclosed. Shoes?
petticoats? Oh, the things that I have seen and heard!"

The clergyman then told us that he had a wife and six daughters, and
that the preferment (two hundred pounds a year!) would make a man of
him, who had as yet been little better than a slave with sixty pounds
for all his income. The Christian year, he told us, was a long Lent for
him, save that sometimes, as at Christmas and Eastertide, he was able
to taste meat given to him. Yet he looked fat and hearty.

"My drink," he said, "is from the spring, which costs nothing; and my
bread is but oatmeal-porridge, potatoes, or barley-meal."

Then he pressed my hand in his, said I resembled his wife in her
younger days, and declared that he already felt to me like a father.

There sat next to the merchant a young gentleman of about seventeen
or eighteen, brave in scarlet, for he had just received a commission
as ensign in a regiment of the line, and was on his way to join his
colours, as he told us with pride. Directly highway robbers were
mentioned he assumed, being a young man with rosy and blushing cheek,
fitter for a game of cricket on the green than for war's alarms, a
fierce and warlike mien, and assured us that we ladies should not want
protection while he was on the coach. And he made a great show of
loosening his sword in the scabbard to ensure its quick and ready use,
should the occasion rise. The merchant received these professions of
courage with undisguised contempt; the clergyman smiled; Mrs. Gambit
nodded her head and laughed, as if he was a boy whose talk meant
nothing. I neither laughed at him nor scowled at him. In fact I was
thinking, girl-like, what a handsome boy he was, and hoping that he
would some day become a great general. As the country seems at the
present juncture sadly in want of great generals, I fear he has been
killed in action.

When we stopped for dinner, at one o'clock--I remember that I never
before saw so prodigious a piece of roast beef upon the table--our host
must needs spoil all enjoyment of the meal by asking us, just as we
were sat down, sharp-set by the air, if we had met or seen anything of
a certain "Black Will," who seemed to be very well known by all. The
very name caused our poor merchant to push back his plate untasted, and
the young officer to rise from the table and hasten to assure himself
that his sword was loose in the scabbard.

"Because," said the landlord, "it is right for you to know that Black
Will is reported in this neighbourhood with all his crew: a bloody lot,
gentlemen. I hope you have no valuables to speak of upon you. However,
perhaps they will not meet you on the road. They murdered a man last
year, a young gentleman like you, sir," nodding to the ensign, "because
he offered resistance and drew his sword. What is a little toothpick
like that, compared with a quarterstaff in the hands of a sturdy rogue?
So they beat his brains out for him. Then they gagged and used most
unmercifully, kicking him till he was senseless, an honest gentleman
like yourself, sir"--he nodded to our merchant--"who gave them the
trouble of taking off his boots, where, for greater safety, as the poor
wretch thought, he had bestowed his money----"

"God bless my soul!" cried the merchant, changing colour, so that I for
one felt quite certain that his was there too, and that his courage was
down in his boots as well, to keep the money company. "Bless my soul!
hanging, mere hanging, is too good for such villains."

"It is indeed," replied the landlord, shaking his head. "There was a
young lady, too"--I started, because he looked at me--"who had her
money sewn in a bag inside her frock." I blushed red, knowing where
mine was. "They made her take it off and dance a minuet with one of
them in her petticoats. But indeed there is no end to their wickedness.
Come, gentlemen, let me carve faster; spare not the beef; don't let
Black Will spoil your appetites. Cut and come again. He may be twenty
miles away. A noble sirloin, upon my word! To be sure, he may be
waiting on the hill there in the wood."

"A glass of brandy, landlord," cried the merchant, who surely was a
dreadful coward. "Tell me, would he be alone?"

"Not likely." The landlord, I thought, took a pleasure in making
us uneasy. "He would have two or three with him. Perhaps six. With
pistols. Do take some more beef. And blunderbusses. Ah! a desperate
wicked gang."

In such cheerful discourse we took our dinner, and then, with
trepidation, mounted to our places and drove away.

We got up the hill safely, and met no Black Will. During the next stage
we all kept an anxious look up and down the road. The coach seemed to
crawl, and the way was rough. The sight of a man on horseback made
our hearts beat; if we saw two, we gave ourselves up for lost. But I
was pleased all the time to mark the gallant and resolute behaviour
of the boy, who, with his hand upon the hilt of his sword, sat pale
but determined; and when he caught my eye, smiled with the courage of
one who would defend us to the death, as I am sure he would, like the
gallant young knight he was.

Towards the evening we caught sight of the tower of Canterbury
Cathedral, and soon afterwards we rolled through the streets of that
ancient city, and got down at the Crown Inn, where we were to rest for
the night.

I pass over, as unworthy of record, my own wonder at so great and
beautiful a city. This was the first town I had ever seen; these the
first shops; and this the first, and still the grandest, to my mind, of
great cathedral churches. We walked through the great church at sunset,
where there was something truly awful in the lofty arches mounting
heavenwards, and the gloom of the roof. Outside there were Gothic
ruins; rooks were calling to each other in the trees, and swifts were
flying about the tower.

At supper we had more talk about highway-robbers, but we were assured
that there was less danger now, because between Canterbury and London
the road is more frequented, and therefore robbers, who are by nature
a timorous folk, hesitate to attack a coach. Moreover, the landlord
told us that we should have with us two or three honest citizens of
Canterbury, substantial tradesmen, who travelled to London together for
mutual protection, taking money with them, and pistols with which to
defend themselves.

"One of them," he added, "is a lieutenant in the train-band, and
a draper in the city: a more resolute fellow never handled a
yard-measure."

The gentlemen ordered a bowl of punch after supper, and we retired. As
we left the room, the clergyman followed us. Outside the door, Mrs.
Gambit having already begun to go upstairs, he said he would give
me his benediction, which he did, kissing me on the cheeks and lips
with much (and undeserved) affection. He was good enough to say that
I greatly resembled his youngest sister, the beautiful one, and he
desired closer acquaintance. Nor could I understand why Mrs. Gambit
spoke scornfully of this act of kindness, which was entirely unexpected
by me. "Kindness, quotha!" she cried. "A pious man indeed, to love to
kiss a pretty maid! I like not such piety."

In the morning the train-band lieutenant, with his two friends, came
swaggering to the inn. He carried his pistols openly, and made more
display of them, I thought, than was necessary, considering his
character for resolution and desperate bravery. Then we started, our
little soldier still ready with his sword.

The road was smoother; it ran for the most part along enclosures and
gentlemen's parks. It was broad and straight, having been made, we were
told by the draper, in the time of the Romans; and as we drew near to
London, the villages became more frequent, and the road was covered
with carts, waggons, and carriages of every kind, all moving towards
London. Was London bigger than Canterbury? I asked. They laughed at
my innocence, and began to tell me that you might take the whole of
Canterbury out of London and not miss it much: also that he or she who
had not seen London had not seen the greatest marvel and wonder of the
world.

"There are fine buildings," said the merchant, "in Paris, though the
streets are foul; but in London there are buildings as fine, with
streets that are broader: and there is the trade. Aha!"--he smacked his
lips--"Paris hath no trade. One has to see the ships in the Pool, and
the Custom House, and the wharves, before one can understand how great
and rich a city is London. And one should also--but that, young lady,
you cannot ever do, live as long as you will, being only a woman--feast
at one of the great City Companies to understand how nobly they can use
their wealth."

We were still anxious about highwaymen, but our fears were greatly
lessened by the presence of the brave draper of Canterbury. The
clergyman kept up a flow of anecdotes, which showed strange
acquaintance with the wickedness of the world, on highwaymen, footpads,
robbers of all kinds, deceivers of strangers, and practisers on
innocence. The merchant listened eagerly, and together they bemoaned
the credulity of the ignorant, and the subtlety of the designing.

Our spirits grew higher as we neared the end of our journey. Now,
indeed, there was but little fear. The coach travels from Canterbury to
London in a single day; we should arrive before nightfall.

"Ha! ha!" said the merchant, rubbing his hands, "we who travel
encounter many dangers. In London one can go to bed without fearing
to be murdered in one's sleep, and walk abroad without looking to be
brained and murderously treated for the sake of a purse and a watch.
There may be pickpockets, shoplifters, and such petty rogues: there
may be footpads about St. Pancras or Lincoln's Inn Fields, but small
villains all compared with these desperate rogues of highwaymen."

"Desperate indeed," said the clergyman. "Dear sir, we should be
grateful for our preservation."

It was already past seven when we arrived at the Talbot Inn. The
merchant fetched a deep sigh, and thanked Providence aloud for keeping
us safe from the danger of "Stand and deliver!" The clergyman said,
"Amen," but gently reproved the merchant for not allowing him, as an
ordained minister, to take the lead in every devotional exercise. When
they got down they entered the house together. The young ensign pulled
off his hat to me, and said that no doubt the rogues had got wind of
an officer's presence on the stage. Then he tapped his sword-hilt
significantly, and got down, and I saw him no more. The gallant draper,
getting down slowly, lamented that he must still be carrying loaded
pistols, with never an opportunity for using them upon the road, and
uncocked his weapons with as much ostentatious care as he had shown
in loading them. For my own part, I had no taste for fighting, or for
seeing fights, and was only too glad to escape the hands of men who, if
tales were true, did not even respect a girl's frocks. The clergyman
bestowed a final benediction upon me, saying that he craved my name
with a view to a closer friendship; and would have kissed me again had
not Mrs. Gambit pushed him away with great roughness.

The thing I am now about to relate will doubtless seem incredible. Yet
it is true. I learned it some time after, when Black Will was hanged,
and his last Dying Speech and Confession was cried in the streets.

The merchant and the clergyman entered the Talbot Inn to drink together
a bowl of punch at the former's expense before separating. The latter,
out of respect for his cloth, called for a private room, whither the
punch was presently brought.

Now, when they had taken a glass or two each, both being very merry,
they were disturbed by the entrance of two tall and ill-favoured
fellows, who walked into the room and sat down, one on each side of the
merchant.

"Gentlemen!" he cried, "this is a private room, ordered by his
reverence here and myself for the peaceful drinking of a thanksgiving
glass."

"No," replied the clergyman, rising and locking the door; "I find, dear
sir, that this room had been already bespoke by these gentlemen, who
are friends of mine own, and that we have very urgent business which
particularly concerns yourself."

At these words the merchant turned pale, being, as you may imagine,
horribly frightened, and perceiving that he had fallen into a nest of
hornets. Whereupon he sprang to his feet, and would have rushed to the
door, but that two of the villains seized him and pushed him back into
the chair, while the third drew a knife and held it at his throat,
informing him that his weasand would most certainly be cut across did
he but move a finger or utter a sigh. At this dreadful threat the poor
man gave himself up for lost, and said no more, only the tears of
despair rolled down his face as he thought of what was going to happen
to him.

The good clergyman then, with smiles and a polite bow, informed him
that in this world things are not always what they seemed to be.
"Honest tradesmen," he said, "often turn out to be common cheats, and
substantial citizens become bankrupts. Therefore, it is not surprising
if a reverend minister of the Established Church should occasionally
bear a hand in a little scheme in which good acting and dexterity are
essentials necessary for success. In fact," he went on, drinking up all
the punch meanwhile, "though to you and to many good friends I am a
pious divine, among my particular intimates and these gentlemen of the
road"--here he pointed to the two villains--"I am no other than Black
Will, at your service! Nay, do not faint, dear sir. Although you would
break me on the wheel, had you the power, I assure you I shall do you
no harm in the world. Wherefore, kick off your boots!"

Alas! in his boots was the money which the poor man was bringing home
from France. They took it all. They tied him to his chair, and that
to the table. They gagged him; they put his wig on the table, tied a
handkerchief over his head, so that he should seem to be asleep; and
then they left him, telling the waiter that the gentleman in the blue
room was tired after his journey, and would like to be undisturbed for
an hour or two.

To think that this villain (who was but twenty-four when he was hanged,
a year or so later) should dare to feel towards me like a father, and
to give me his blessing--on the lips!



CHAPTER IV.

HOW KITTY FIRST SAW THE DOCTOR.


It was past seven in the evening when we arrived at the Talbot Inn
of Southwark, and too late to begin our search after my uncle that
evening. Mrs. Gambit, therefore, after conference with a young man of
eight-and-twenty or so, dressed in broadcloth, very kindly offered me a
bed at her own lodging for the night. This, she told me, was in a quiet
and most respectable neighbourhood, viz., Fore Street, which she begged
me not to confound with Houndsditch. I readily assured her that I would
preserve separate the ideas of the two streets, which was easy to one
who knew neither.

She then informed me that the young man was no other than her husband,
foreman of works to a builder, and that, to save the expense of a
porter, he would himself carry my box. Mr. Gambit upon this touched
his hat respectfully, grinned, shouldered the box, and led the way,
pushing through the crowd around us, and elbowing them to right and
left without a word of excuse, as if they were so many ninepins.

I learned afterwards that it is customary with the mechanical tradesmen
of London thus to assert their right of passage, and as it is not every
one who gives way, the porter's burden is not unfrequently lowered
while he stops to fight one who disputes his path. In evidence of these
street fights, most of the London carters, coachmen, chairmen, porters,
and labourers, bear continually upon their faces the scars, recent or
ancient, of many such encounters. As for the gentlemen, it seems right
that they should not disdain to strip and take a turn with their fists
against some burly ruffian who would thrust his unmannerly body past
his betters, confident in his superior strength.

Mr. Gambit looked round from time to time to see if we were following,
and it gave me pain to observe how my box, which was long in shape,
became the constant cause of sad accidents; for with it Mr. Gambit
either knocked off a hat, or deranged a wig, or struck violently some
peaceful person on the back of his head, or gave an inoffensive citizen
a black eye, or caused profane passengers to swear. He was, however, so
big, strong, and careless about these reproaches, that no one cared to
stop him or offered to fight him until he was well on ahead.

"It's a royal supper," he turned and nodded pleasantly, shouting these
words to his wife: the box thus brought at right angles to the road,
barred the way while he spoke, except to the very short. "Tripe--fried
tripe!--with onions and carrots and potatoes. Will be done to a turn at
eight. Make haste!"

What crowds! what rushing to and fro! what jostling, pushing, and
crowding! What hurrying, and what wicked language! Sure something
dreadful must have happened, nor could I believe Mrs. Gambit when she
assured me that this was the usual crowd of London.

Then we came to London Bridge: and I saw the ships in the river and
the Tower of London. Oh, the forests of masts! And beyond the river,
the steeples of the great city shining bright in the evening sunshine.
Which of them was my uncle's church?

We crossed the bridge; we walked up Gracechurch Street to Cornhill; we
passed through a labyrinth of narrow and winding lanes, crowded like
the wider streets. Mr. Gambit hurried along, thinking, I suppose, of
his supper, and using my box as a kind of battering-ram with which to
force a way. Presently we came to a broad street, which was, in fact,
Fore Street, where was Mrs. Gambit's lodging.

"Eight o'clock," said Mr. Gambit, as we reached the top of the stairs.
"Now for supper."

There was such a noise in the street below that we could hardly hear
the church bells as they struck the hour. Yet there were churches all
round us. But their bells clanging together only added somewhat to the
general tumult.

"Eight o'clock, wife--good time!"

He dropped my box upon the floor, and hastened down the stairs.

It was a comfortable lodging of two rooms, in one of which a cloth was
laid for supper, which Mr. Gambit speedily brought from a cookshop, and
we had a royal supper indeed, with two quarts at least of the nauseous
black beer of London, to which such men are extravagantly addicted.

Supper ended, Mr. Gambit lit a pipe of tobacco and began to smoke,
begging me not to mind him. His wife told him of the farm and her
brother, and I tried to listen through the dreadful noise of the street
below. It was a warm evening and our window was thrown open; people
were passing up and down, talking, singing, whistling, shouting, and
swearing. I could hear nothing else; but the good man seemed as if he
was deaf to the roar of the street, and listened to his wife as quietly
as if we were in the fields. I asked him presently, with a shout, what
was the cause of a dreadful riot and tumult? He laughed, and said that
it was always the same. It was a pity, I said, that London being so
rich, could not keep the streets quiet.

"Ay, but," said he, "there are plenty of poor people as well, and you
must first ask what they think about having their mouth shut."

The strangeness of the place and the noise in the streets kept me awake
nearly all that night, so that, when Mrs. Gambit called me in the
morning, I was still tired. But it was time to be up and seeking for my
uncle.

We got everything ready: my father's last will and testament; my bags
of money, which Mrs. Gambit carried for me in her basket, and tied the
basket to her arm; and my box of clothes. Then, because Mrs. Gambit
said that a young lady should not walk with her box carried by a
porter, like a servant wench, we hired a coach and told him to drive us
to St. Paul's Coffee-house.

It is not far from Fore Street to St. Paul's Churchyard, but the crowd
in the streets, the waggons and carts, and the dreadful practice of
London drivers to quarrel and then to stop while they abuse each other,
delayed us a great deal, so that it was already half-past nine when we
came to the Coffee-house.

We got down, leaving the coach at the door.

It was a place the like of which I had never dreamed of. To be sure,
everything was new to me just then, and my poor rustic brain was
turning with the novelty. There was a long room which smelt of tobacco,
rum-punch, coffee, chocolate, and tea; it was already filled with
gentlemen, sitting on the benches before small tables, at which some
were taking pipes of tobacco, some were talking, some were writing, and
some were reading the newspapers. Running along one side of the room
was a counter covered with coffee-pots, bottles of Nantz, Jamaica rum,
Hollands, and Geneva: there were also chocolate-dishes, sugar, lemons,
spices, and punch-bowls. Behind the counter sat a young woman, of
grave aspect, knitting, but holding herself in readiness to serve the
customers.

The gentlemen raised their heads and stared at me; some of them
whispered and laughed; all gazed as if a woman had no more business
there than in the inner precincts of the Temple. That was what occurred
to me instantly, because they were, I observed, all of them clergymen.

They were not, certainly, clergymen who appeared to have risen in
the world, nor did their appearance speak so much in their favour as
their calling. They were mostly, in fact, clad in tattered gowns, with
disordered or shabby wigs, and bands whose whiteness might have been
restored by the laundress, but had changed long since into a crumpled
yellow. I heard afterwards that the house was the resort of those
"tattered crapes," as they are irreverently called, who come to be
hired by the rectors, vicars, and beneficed clergy of London, for an
occasional sermon, burial, or christening, and have no regular cure of
souls.

On such chance employment and odd jobs these reverend ministers
contrive to live. They even vie with each other and underbid their
neighbours for such work; and some, who have not the means to spend a
sixpence at the Coffee-house, will, it is said, walk up and down the
street, ready to catch a customer outside. One fears that there must
be other reasons besides lack of interest for the ill success of these
men. Surely, a godly life and zeal for religion should be, even in this
country of patronage, better rewarded than by this old age of penury
and dependence. Surely, too, those tattered gowns speak a tale of
improvidence, and those red noses tell of a mistaken calling.

This, however, I did not then know, and I naturally thought there must
be some great ecclesiastical function in preparation, a confirming on
a large scale, about to be celebrated in the great cathedral close
beside, whose vastness was such as amazed and confounded me. These
clergymen, whose poverty was no doubt dignified by their virtues, were
probably preparing for the sacred function after the manner practised
by my father, namely, by an hour's meditation. Perhaps my uncle would
be among them.

Seeing me standing there helpless, and I daresay showing, by my face,
what I immediately manifested in speech, my rusticity, the young woman
behind the counter came to my assistance, and asked me, very civilly,
what I lacked.

"I was told," I stammered, "to inquire at the St. Paul's Coffee-house
for the present lodging of my uncle." As if there was but one uncle in
all London!

"Certainly, madam," said the woman, "if you will tell me your uncle's
name."

"I was told that you knew, at this house, the residence of every London
clergyman."

"Yes, madam, that is true; and of a good many country clergymen. If you
will let me know his name, we will do what we can to assist you."

"He is named" (I said this with a little pride, because I thought that
perhaps, from my own rusticity and the homeliness of my companion, she
might not have thought me so highly connected), "he is the Reverend
Gregory Shovel, Doctor of Divinity."

"Lord save us!" she cried, starting back and holding up her hands,
while she dropped her knitting-needle. Why did she stare, smile, and
then look upon me with a sort of pity and wonder? "Dr. Shovel is your
uncle, madam?"

"Yes," I said. "My father, who was also a clergyman, and is but lately
dead, bade me come to London and seek him out."

She shook her head at this news, and called for one William. There came
from the other end of the room a short-legged man, with the palest
cheeks and the reddest nose I had ever seen. They spoke together for
a few minutes. William grinned as she spoke, and scratched his head,
under the scantiest wig I had ever seen.

"Can you tell me?" I began, when she returned. I observed that William,
when he left her, ran quickly up the room, whispering to the gentlemen,
who had ceased to stare at me, and that, as soon as he had whispered,
they all, with one consent, put down their pipes, or their papers, or
their coffee, stayed their conversation, and turned their clerical
faces to gaze upon me, with a universal grin, which seemed ill-bred,
if one might so speak of the clergy. "Can you tell me?"

"I can, madam; and will," she replied. "What, did your father not know
the present residence of Dr. Shovel? I fear it will not be quite such
as a young lady of your breeding, madam, had a right to expect. But
doubtless you have other and better friends."

"She has, indeed," said Miss Gambit, "if his honour Sir Robert Levett,
Justice of the Peace, is to be called a good friend. But if you please,
tell us quickly, madam, because our coach waits at the door, and
waiting is money in London. The country for me, where a man will sit
on a stile the whole day long, and do nothing, content with his daily
wage. And the sooner we get away from these reverend gentlemen, who
stare as if they had never seen a young lady from the country before,
the better."

"Then," the young woman went on, "tell your man to drive you down
Ludgate Hill and up the Fleet Market on the prison side; he may stop at
the next house to the third Pen and Hand. You will find the doctor's
name written on a card in the window."

We thanked her, and got into the coach. When we told the coachman where
to go, he smacked his leg with his hand, and burst out laughing.

"I thought as much," cried the impudent rascal. "Ah, Mother Slylips!
wouldn't the doctor serve your turn, but you must needs look out for
one in the Coffee-house? I warrant the doctor is good enough for the
likes of you!"

He cracked his whip, and we drove off slowly.

Now, which was really extraordinary, all the reverend gentlemen of the
coffee-room had left their places and were crowded round the door,
some of them almost pushing their wigs into the coach windows in their
eagerness to look at us. This seemed most unseemly conduct on the
part of a collection of divines; nor did I imagine that curiosity so
undignified, and so unworthy a sacred profession, could be called forth
by the simple appearance of a young girl in the coffee-room.

The faces formed a curious picture. Some of the clergymen were
stooping, some standing, some mounting on chairs, the better to see, so
that the doorway of the Coffee-house seemed a pyramid of faces. They
were old, young, fat, thin, red, pale, of every appearance and every
age; they were mostly disagreeable to look at, because their possessors
were men who had been unsuccessful, either through misfortune or
through fault; and they all wore, as they stared, a look of delighted
curiosity, as if here was something, indeed, to make Londoners
talk--nothing less, if you please, than a girl of seventeen, just come
up from the country.

"Bless us!" cried Mrs. Gambit, "are the men gone mad? London is a
wicked place indeed, when even clergymen come trooping out merely to
see a pretty girl! Fie for shame, sir, and be off with you!"

These last words were addressed to one old clergyman with an immense
wig, who was actually thrusting his face through the coach window. He
drew it back on this reprimand, and we went on our way.

I looked round once more. The young woman of the counter was still in
the doorway, and with her William, with the scrubby wig and the red
nose; round them were the clergymen, and they were all talking about
me, and looking after me. Some of them wagged their heads, some shook
theirs, some nodded, some were holding their heads on one side, and
some were hanging theirs. Some were laughing, some smiling, some were
grave. What did it mean?

"If," said Mrs. Gambit, "they were not clergymen, I should say they
were all tomfools. And this for a pretty girl--for you are pretty,
Miss Kitty, with your rosy cheeks and the bright eyes which were never
yet spoiled by the London smoke. But there must be plenty other pretty
girls in London. And them to call themselves clergymen!"

"Perhaps they were looking at you, Mrs. Gambit."

The idea did not seem to displease her. She smiled, smoothed the folds
of her gown, and pulled down the ends of her neckerchief.

"Five years ago, child, they might. But I doubt it is too late. Set
them up, indeed! As if nothing would suit them to look at but the wife
of a respectable builder's foreman. They must go into the country, must
they, after the pretty faces?"

But oh, the noise and tumult of the streets! For as we came to the west
front of St. Paul's, we found Ludgate Hill crowded with such a throng
as I had never before believed possible. The chairmen jostled each
other up and down the way. The carts, coaches, drays, barrows, waggons,
trucks, going up the hill, met those going down, and there was such
a crush of carriages, as, it seemed, would never be cleared. All the
drivers were swearing at each other at the top of their voices.

"Shut your ears, child!" cried Mrs. Gambit. But, immediately
afterwards: "There! it's no use; they could be heard through my
grandfather's nightcap! Oh, this London wickedness!"

There are many kinds of wickedness in London; but the worst, as I have
always thought, because I have seen and heard so much of it, is the
great and terrible vice of blasphemy and profane swearing, so that, if
you listen to the ragamuffin boys or to the porters, or to the chair
and coach men, it would seem as if it were impossible for them to utter
three words without two, at least, being part of an oath.

Then some of the drivers fought with each other; the people in the
coaches looked out of the windows--swore, if they were men; if they
were ladies, they shrieked. Most of those who were walking up and down
the hill took no manner of notice of the confusion; they pushed on
their way, bearing parcels and bundles, looking neither to the right
nor to the left, but straight in front, as if they had not a moment to
spare, and must push on or lose their chance of fortune. Some there
were, it is true, who lingered, looking at the crush in the road and
the men fighting; or, if they were women, stopping before the shops,
in the windows of which were hoods, cardinals, sashes, pinners, and
shawls, would make the mouth of any girl to water only to look at them.
At the doors stood shopmen, bravely habited in full-dressed wigs with
broad ribbon ties behind, who bowed and invited the gazers to enter.
And there were a few who loitered as they went. These carried their
hats beneath their arms, and dangled canes in their right hands.

There was plenty of time for us to notice all that passed, because the
block in the way took fully half an hour to clear away. We were delayed
ten minutes of this time through the obstinacy of a drayman, who,
after exchanging with a carter oaths which clashed, and clanged, and
echoed in the air like the bombshells at the siege of Mans, declared
that he could not possibly go away satisfied until he had fought his
man. The mob willingly met his views, applauding so delicate a sense
of honour. They made a ring, and we presently heard the shouts of
those who encouraged the combatants, but happily could not see them,
by reason of the press. Mrs. Gambit would fain have witnessed the
fight; and, indeed, few country people there are who do not love to see
two sturdy fellows thwack and belabour each other with quarterstaff,
singlestick, or fists. But I was glad that we could not see the battle,
being, I hope, better taught. My father, indeed, and Lady Levett were
agreed that in these things we English were little better than the poor
pagan Romans, who crowded to see gladiators do battle to the death,
or prisoners fight till they fell, cruelly torn and mangled by the
lions; and no better at all than the poor Spanish papists who flock to
a circus where men fight with bulls. It is hard to think that Roman
gentlewomen and Spanish ladies would go to see such sights, whatever
men may do. Yet in this eighteenth century, when we have left behind
us, as we flatter ourselves, the Gothic barbarisms of our ancestors, we
still run after such cruelties and cruel sports as fights with fists,
sticks, or swords, baitings of bull, bear, and badger, throwing stones
at cocks, killing of rats by dogs and ferrets, fights of cocks, dogs,
cats, and whatever other animals can be persuaded to fight and kill
each other.

When the fight was over, and one man defeated--I know not which, but
both were horribly bruised and stained with blood--the carts cleared
away rapidly, and we were able to go on. Is it not strange to think
that the honour of such a common fellow should be "satisfied" when he
hath gotten black eyes, bloody nose, and teeth knocked down his throat?

We got to the bottom of the hill, and passed without further adventure
through the old gate of Lud, with its narrow arch and the stately
effigy of Queen Elizabeth looking across the Fleet Bridge. Pity it is
that the old gate has since been removed. For my own part, I think
the monuments of old times should be carefully guarded, and kept, not
taken away to suit the convenience of draymen and coaches. What would
Fleet Street be without its bar? or the Thames without its river-gates?
Outside, there was a broad space before us. The Fleet river ran, filthy
and muddy, to the left, the road crossing it by a broad and handsome
stone bridge, where the way was impeded by the stalls of those who
sold hot furmety and medicines warranted to cure every disease. On the
right, the Fleet had been recently covered in, and was now built over
with a long row of booths and stalls. On either side the market were
rows of houses.

"Fleet Market," said the driver, looking round. "Patience, young lady.
Five minutes, and we are there."

There was another delay here of two or three minutes. The crowd was
denser, and I saw among them two or three men with eager faces, who
wore white aprons, and ran about whispering in the ears of the people,
especially of young people. I saw one couple, a young man and a girl,
whom they all, one after the other, addressed, whispering, pointing,
and inviting. The girl blushed and turned away her head, and the young
man, though he marched on stoutly, seemed not ill pleased with their
proposals. Presently one of them came to our coach, and put his head
in at the window. It was as impudent and ugly a head as ever I saw. He
squinted, one eye rolling about by itself, as if having quarrelled with
the other; he had had the bridge of his nose crushed in some fight;
some of his teeth stuck out like fangs, but most were broken; his chin
was bristly with a three days' beard; his voice was thick and hoarse;
and when he began to speak, his hearers began to think of rum.

"Pity it is," he said, "that so pretty a pair cannot find gallant
husbands. Now, ladies, if you will come with me I warrant that in half
an hour the doctor will bestow you upon a couple of the young noblemen
whom he most always keeps in readiness."

Here the driver roughly bade him begone about his business for an ass,
for the young lady was on her way to the doctor's. At this the fellow
laughed and nodded his head.

"Aha!" he said, "no doubt we shall find the gentleman waiting. Your
ladyship will remember that I spoke to you first. The fees of us
messengers are but half-a-crown, even at the doctor's, where alone the
work is secure."

"What means the fellow?" cried Mrs. Gambit. "What have we to do with
gentlemen?"

"All right, mother," he replied, with another laugh. Then he mounted
the door-step, and continued to talk while the coach slowly made its
way.

We were now driving along the city side of the Fleet Market, that
side on which stands the prison. The market was crowded with buyers
and sellers, the smell of the meat, the poultry, and the fruit, all
together, being strong rather than delicate.

"This," said Mrs. Gambit, "is not quite like the smell of the
honeysuckle in the Kentish hedges."

The houses on our right seemed to consist of nothing but taverns, where
signs where hoisted up before the doors. At the corner, close to the
ditch was the Rainbow, and four doors higher up was the Hand and Pen,
next to that the Bull and Garter, then another Hand and Pen, then the
Bishop Blaize, a third Hand and Pen, the Fighting Cocks, and the Naked
Boy. One called the White Horse had a verse written up under the sign:

   "My White Horse shall beat the Bear,
      And make the Angel fly;
    Turn the Ship with its bottom up,
      And drink the Three Cups dry."

But what was more remarkable was that of the repetition in every window
of a singular announcement. Two hands were painted, or drawn rudely,
clasping each other, and below them was written, printed, or scrawled,
some such remarkable legend as the following:

                   "Weddings Performed Here."
    "A Church of England Clergyman always on the Premises."
                  "Weddings performed Cheap."
                     "The Only Safe House."
                  "The Old and True Register."
      "Marriage by Church Service and Ordained Clergymen."
                    "Safety and Cheapness."
             "The Licensed Clergyman of the Fleet."
        "Weddings by a late Chaplain to a Nobleman--one
                  familiar with the Quality."
                        "No Imposition."
                  "Not a Common Fleet Parson;"

with other statements which puzzled me exceedingly.

"You do well, ladies," the man with us went on, talking with his head
thrust into the coach, "you do well to come to Doctor Shovel, whose
humble servant, or clerk, I am. The Doctor is no ordinary Fleet parson.
He does not belong to the beggarly gentry--not regular clergymen at
all who live in a tavern, and do odd jobs as they come, for a guinea a
week and the run of the landlord's rum. Not he, madam. The Doctor is a
gentleman and a scholar: Master of Arts of the University of Cambridge
he was, where, by reason of their great respect for his learning and
piety, they have made him Doctor of Divinity. There is the Rev. Mr.
Arkwell, who will read the service for you for half-a-crown; he was
fined five shillings last week for drunkenness and profane swearing.
Would it be agreeable to your ladyship to be turned off by such an
impious rogue? There is the Rev. Mr. Wigmore will do it for less, if
you promise to lay out your wedding money afterwards on what he calls
his Nantz: he hath twice been fined for selling spirituous drinks
without a license. Who would trust herself to a man so regardless of
his profession? Or the Rev. John Mottram--but there, your ladyship
would not like to have it read in a prison. Now, at the Doctor's is a
snug room with hassocks. There is, forsooth, the Rev. Walter Wyatt,
brother of him who keeps the first Pen and Hand after you turn the
corner; but sure, such a sweet young lady would scorn to look for
drink after the service; or the Rev. John Grierson, or Mr. Walker, or
Mr. Alexander Keith, will do it for what they can get, ay! even--it is
reported--down to eighteenpence or a shilling, with a sixpennyworth of
Geneva. But your ladyship must think of your lines; and where is your
security against treachery? No, ladies. The Doctor is the only man; a
gentleman enjoying the liberties of the Fleet, for which he hath given
security; a Cambridge scholar; who receives at his lodging none but the
quality; no less a fee than a guinea, with half-a-crown for the clerk,
ever enters his house. The guinea, ladies, includes the five-shilling
stamp, with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which binds
the happy pair like an act of parliament or a piece of cobbler's wax.
This cheapness is certainly due to the benevolence and piety of the
Doctor, who would be loth indeed to place obstacles in the way of so
Christian and religious a ceremony."

"We have certainly," cried Mrs. Gambit, in dismay at such a flow of
words, "got into Tom Fool's Land. This man is worse than the parsons at
the Coffee-house."

"Now, ladies," the fellow went on, throwing the door wide open with
a fling, and letting down the steps, "this is the house. Look at it,
ladies!"

We got down and stood looking at it.

It was a low house of mean appearance, built in two stories of brick
and timber, the first floor overhanging the lower, as was the fashion
until the present comfortable and handsome mode of using stucco and
flat front was adopted. The brick had been once covered with a coat of
yellow wash, which had crumbled away over most of the front; the timber
had once been painted, but the paint had fallen off. The roof was
gabled; like the rest of the house, it looked decaying and neglected.
The window of the room which looked out upon the street was broad, but
it was set with leaden frames of the kind called diamond, provided
with the common greenish glass, every other pane being those thick
bull's-eye panes, which would stand a blow with a club without being
broken. Little light would enter at that window but for the bright sun
which shone full upon it; the casement, however, was set open to catch
the air.

As for the air, that was hardly worth catching, so foul was it with
the fumes of the market. Right in front of the door stood a great
heap of cabbage leaves, stalks, and vegetable refuse, which sometimes
was collected, put in barrows, and carted into the Fleet Ditch, but
sometimes remained for months.

Mrs. Gambit sniffed disdainfully.

"Give me Fore Street," she said. "There's noise, if you like, but no
cabbage-stalks."

"This, ladies," said the man after a pause, so that we might be
overpowered with the grandeur of the house; "this is no other than the
great Dr. Shovel's house. Here shall you find a service as regular and
as truly read as if you were in the cathedral itself. Not so much as
an amen dropped. They do say that the Doctor is a private friend of
the dean, and hand-in-glove with the bishop. This way. Your ladyship's
box? I will carry it. This is the good Doctor's door. The clerk's
fee half-a-crown; your ladyship will not forget, unless the young
gentleman, which is most likely, should like to make it half-a-guinea.
I follow your ladyships. Doubt not that, early as it is, his reverence
will be found up and ready for good works."

"I believe," said Mrs. Gambit, "that this man would talk the hind legs
off a donkey. Keep close to me, Miss Kitty. Here may be villainy; and
if there is, there's one at least that shall feel the weight of my ten
nails. Young man," she addressed the fellow with sharpness, "you let
that box alone, or if you carry it, go before; I trust Londoners as far
as I can see them, and no farther."

"Pray, ladies," cried the man, "have no suspicion."

"It's all right," said the coachman, grinning. "Lord! I've brought them
here by dozens. Go in, madam. Go in, young lady."

"This way, ladies," cried the man. "The Doctor will see you within."

"A clergyman," continued Mrs. Gambit, taking no manner of notice of
these interruptions, "may not always, no more than a builder's foreman,
choose where he would live. And if his parish is the Fleet Market,
among the cabbages, as I suppose the Doctor's is, or about the Fleet
Prison, among the miserable debtors, as I suppose it may be, why he
must fain live here with the cabbage-stalks beneath his nose, and make
the best of it."

"Your ladyship," the messenger went on, addressing himself to me, "will
shortly, no doubt, be made happy. The gentleman, however, hath not yet
come. Pray step within, ladies."

"You see, Miss Kitty," said Mrs. Gambit, pointing to the window, with
a disdainful look at this impertinent fellow, "this is certainly the
house. So far, therefore, we are safe."

In the window there hung a card, on which was written in large
characters, so that all might read:

             +-------------------------------------+
             |      REVEREND GREGORY SHOVEL,       |
             |        DOCTOR OF DIVINITY,          |
             |  FORMERLY OF CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY.  |
             +-------------------------------------+

Now, without any reason, I immediately connected this announcement with
those curious advertisements I had seen in the tavern windows. And yet,
what could my uncle have to do with marrying? And what did the man mean
by his long rigmarole and nonsense about the Reverend This and the
Reverend That?

However, Mrs. Gambit led the way, and I followed.

The messenger pushed a door open, and we found ourselves in a low room
lit by the broad window with the diamond panes, of which I have spoken.
The air in the room was close, and smelt of tobacco and rum: the
floor was sanded: the wainscoting of the walls was broken in places;
walls, floors, and ceiling were all alike unwashed and dirty: the only
furniture was a table, half-a-dozen cushions or hassocks, and one
great chair with arms and back of carved wood. On the table was a large
volume. It was the Prayer-book of the Established Church of England and
Ireland, and it was lying open, I could plainly see, at the Marriage
Service.

At the head of the table, a reflection of the sunlight from the window
falling full upon his face, sat a man of middle age, about fifty-five
years or so, who rose when we came in, and bowed with great gravity.
Could this be my uncle?

He was a very big and stout man--one of the biggest men I have ever
seen. He was clad in a rich silk gown, flowing loosely and freely about
him, white bands, clean and freshly starched, and a very full wig.
He had the reddest face possible: it was of a deep crimson colour,
tinged with purple, and the colour extended even to the ears, and the
neck--so much of it as could be seen--was as crimson as the cheeks.
He had a full nose, long and broad, a nose of great strength and very
deep in colour; but his eyes, which were large, reminded me of that
verse in the Psalms, wherein the divine poet speaks of those whose eyes
swell out with fatness: his lips were gross and protruded; he had a
large square forehead and a great amplitude of cheek. He was broad in
the shoulders, deep-chested and portly--a man of great presence; when
he stood upright he not only seemed almost to touch the ceiling, but
also to fill up the breadth of the room. My heart sank as I looked at
him; for he was not the manner of man I expected, and I was afraid.
Where were the outward signs and tokens of that piety which my father
had led me to expect in my uncle? I had looked for a gentle scholar,
a grave and thoughtful bearing. But, even to my inexperienced eyes,
the confident carriage of the Doctor appeared braggart: the roll of
his eyes when we entered the room could not be taken even by a simple
country girl for the grave contemplation of a humble and fervent
Christian: the smell of the room was inconsistent with the thought
of religious meditation: there were no books or papers, or any other
outward signs of scholarship; and even the presence of the Prayer-book
on the table, with the hassocks, seemed a mockery of sacred things.

"So, good Roger," he said, in a voice loud and sonorous, yet musical as
the great bell of St. Paul's, so deep was it and full--"So, good Roger,
whom have we here?"

"A young lady, sir, whom I had the good fortune to meet on Ludgate
Hill. She was on her way to your reverence's, to ask your good offices.
She is--ahem!--fully acquainted with the customary fees of the
Establishment."

"That is well," he replied. "My dear young lady, I am fortunate in
being the humble instrument of making so sweet a creature happy. But I
do not see ... in fact ... the other party."

"The young lady expects the gentleman every minute," said the excellent
Roger.

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Gambit, "the man is stark mad--staring mad!"

"Sir," I faltered--"there is, I fear, some mistake."

He waved both of his hands with a gesture reassuring and grand.

"No mistake, madam, at all. I am that Dr. Shovel before whom the
smaller pretenders in these Liberties give place and hide diminished
heads. If by any unlucky accident your lover has fallen a prey to some
of those (self-styled) clerical gentry, who are in fact impostors and
sharpers, we will speedily rescue him from their talons. Describe the
gentleman, madam, and my messenger shall go and seek him at the Pen and
Hand, or at some other notorious place."

The clerk, meanwhile, had placed himself beside his master, and now
produced a greasy Prayer-book, with the aid of which, I suppose, he
meant to give the responses of the Church. At the mention of the word
"mistake" a look of doubt and anxiety crossed his face.

"There is, indeed, some mistake, sir," I repeated. "My errand here is
not of the kind you think."

"Then, madam, your business with me must be strange indeed. Sirrah!" he
addressed his clerk, in a voice of thunder, "hast thou been playing the
fool? What was it this young lady sought of you?"

"Oh, sir! this good person is not to blame, perhaps. Are you indeed the
Rev. Gregory Shovel, Doctor of Divinity?"

"No other, madam." He spread out both his arms, proudly lifting his
gown, so that he really seemed to cover the whole of the end of the
room. "No other: I assure you I am Dr. Gregory Shovel, known and
beloved by many a happy pair."

"And the brother-in-law of the late Reverend Lawrence Pleydell, late
vicar of----"

He interrupted me. "Late vicar? Is, then, my brother-in-law dead? or
have they, which is a thing incredible, conferred preferment upon sheer
piety?"

"Alas! sir," I cried, with tears, "my father is dead."

"Thy father, child!"

"Yes, sir; I am Kitty Pleydell, at your service."

"Kitty Pleydell!" He bent over me across the table, and looked into my
face not unkindly. "My sister's child! then how----" He turned upon his
clerk, who now stood with staring eyes and open mouth, chapfallen and
terrified. "FOOL!" he thundered. "Get thee packing, lest I do thee a
mischief!"



CHAPTER V.

HOW KITTY WITNESSED A FLEET WEDDING.


Then I pulled out my father's letter, and gave it to him to read.

He took it, read it carefully, nodding gravely over each sentence, and
then returned it to me.

"Lawrence, then," he said softly, "Lawrence is dead! Lawrence Pleydell
is dead! And I am living. Lawrence! He hath, without reasonable doubt,
passed away in full assurance. He hath exchanged this world for a
better. He hath gone to happiness. Nay, if such as he die not in faith,
what hope remains for such sinners as ourselves? Then would it be
better for those who dwell in the Liberties of the Fleet if they had
never been born. So. My sister's child. Hold up thy face, my dear."
He kissed me as he spoke, and held his hand under my chin so that he
could look at me well. "There is more Pleydell than Shovel here. That
is well, because the Pleydells are of gentle blood. And the daughter
doth ever favour the father more than the mother. Favour him in thy
life, child, as well as in thy features.

"Lawrence is dead!" he went on. "The gentlest soul, the most pious and
religious creature that the world has ever seen. He, for one, could
think upon his Maker without the terror of a rebellious and prodigal
son. The world and the flesh had no temptations for him. A good man,
indeed. It is long since I saw him, and he knew not where I live, nor
how. Yet he, who knew me when I was young, trusted still in me--whom no
one else will trust. This it is to start in life with goodly promise of
virtue, scholarship, and religion."

He cleared his throat, and was silent awhile.

"Thy father did well, child. I will treat thee as my own daughter. Yet
I know not, indeed, where to bestow thee, for this house is not fit for
girls, and I have none other. Still, I would fain take thy father's
place, so far as in me lies. He, good man, lived in the country, where
virtue, like fresh butter and new-laid eggs, flourishes easily and at
the cost of a little husbandry in the way of prayer and meditation.
As for us who live in great cities, and especially in the Rules or
Liberties of the Fleet, we may say with the Psalmist, having examples
to the contrary continually before us, with temptations such as
dwellers in the fields wot not of, 'He that keepeth the Law, happy is
he!' I have neither wife nor child to greet thee, Kitty. I must bestow
thee somewhere. What shall we do?"

He paused to think.

"I might find a lodging----but no, that would not do. Or in----but
the house is full of men. There is the clerk of St. Sepulchre's, whose
wife would take thee; but the rector bears me a heavy grudge. Ho!
ho!" he laughed low down in his chest. "There is not a parish round
London, from Limehouse to Westminster, and from Southwark to Highgate,
where the niece of Dr. Shovel would not find herself flouted, out of
the singular hatred which the clergy bear to me. For I undersell them
all. And if they pass an Act to prevent my marrying, then will I bury
for nothing and undersell them still. Well, I must take order in this
matter. And who are you, my good woman?" He asked this of Mrs. Gambit.

"Jane Gambit, sir," she replied, "at your service, and the wife of
Samuel Gambit, foreman of works. And my charge is not to leave Miss
Kitty until she is safe in your reverence's hands. There are the hands,
to be sure; but as for safety----"

She paused, and sniffed violently, looking round the room with a
meaning air.

"Why, woman, you would not think the child in danger with me?"

"I know not, sir. But Miss Kitty has been brought up among gentlefolk,
and the room is not one to which she has been accustomed to live in, or
to eat in, or to sleep in, either at the Vicarage or the Hall. Tobacco
and the smell of rum may be very well--in their place, which, I humbly
submit, is in a tavern, not a gentlewoman's parlour."

"The woman speaks reason," he growled, laying his great hand upon the
table. "See, my dear, my brother-in-law thought me holding a rich
benefice in the Church. Those get rich benefices who have rich friends
and patrons. I had none; therefore I hold no benefice. And as for my
residence, why, truly, I have little choice except between this place
and the Fleet Prison, or perhaps the King's Bench. Else might I welcome
thee in a better and more convenient lodging. Know, therefore, Kitty,
without any concealment, that I live here secluded in the Liberties of
the Fleet in order that my creditors, of whom I have as many as most
men and more importunate, may no longer molest me when I take my walks
abroad; that I am in this place outside the authority of the bishop;
and that my occupation is to marry, with all safety and despatch
without license, or asking of banns, or any of the usual delays, those
good people who wish to be married secretly and quickly, and can
afford at least one guinea fee for the ceremony."

I stared in amazement. To be sure, every clergyman can marry, but for a
clergyman to do naught else seemed strange indeed.

He saw my amazement; and, drawing his tall and burly figure upright,
he began to deliver an oration--I call it an oration, because he so
puffed his cheeks, rolled his sentences, and swelled himself out while
he spoke, that it was more like a sermon or oration than a mere speech.
In it he seemed to be trying at once to justify himself in my eyes, to
assert his own self-respect, and to magnify his office.

"It is not likely, child," he said, "that thou hast been told of
these marriages in the Fleet. Know, therefore, that in this asylum,
called the Rules of the Fleet, where debtors find some semblance of
freedom and creditors cease to dun, there has grown up a custom of
late years by which marriages are here rapidly performed (for the
good of the country), which the beneficed clergy would not undertake
without great expense, trouble, delay, and the vexation of getting
parents' and guardians' consent, to say nothing of the prodigality
and wasteful expense of feasting which follows what is called a
regular marriage. Therefore, finding myself some years ago comfortably
settled in the place, after contracting a greater debt than is usually
possible for an unbeneficed clergyman, I undertook this trade, which
is lucrative, honourable, and easy. There are indeed," he added, "both
in the Prison and the Rules, but more especially the latter, many
Fleet parsons"--here he rolled his great head with complacency--"but
none, my child, so great and celebrated as myself. Some, indeed, are
mere common cheats, whose marriages--call them, rather, sacrilegious
impostures--are not worth the paper of their pretended certificates.
Some are perhaps what they profess to be, regularly ordained clergymen
of the Church of England and Ireland as by law established, the supreme
head of which is his gracious Majesty. But even these are tipplers, and
beggars, and paupers--men who drink gin of an evening and small beer
in the morning, whose gowns are as ragged as their reputations, and
who take their fees in shillings, with a dram thrown in, and herd with
the common offscourings of the town, whom they marry. Illiterate, too:
not a Greek verse or a Latin hexameter among them all. Go not into the
company of such, lest thou be corrupted by their talk. In the words of
King Lemuel: 'Let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember
their misery no more.'" Here he paused and adjusted his gown, as if he
were in a pulpit. Indeed, for the moment, he imagined, perhaps, that
he was preaching. "As for me, Gregory Shovel, my marriages are what
they pretend to be, as tight as any of the archbishop's own tying,
conducted with due decorum by a member of the University of Cambridge,
a man whose orders are beyond dispute, whose history is known to all,
an approved and honoured scholar. Yes, my niece, behold in me one who
has borne off University and College medals for Latin verse. My Latin
verses, wherein I have been said to touch Horace, and even to excel
Ovid, whether in the tender elegiac, the stately alcaic, the melting
sapphic, or the easy-flowing hendecasyllabic loved of Martial, have
conferred upon my head the bays of fame. Other Fleet parsons? Let
them hide their ignorant heads in their second-hand peruques! By the
thunders of Jupiter!"--his powerful voice rose and rolled about the
room like the thunder by which he swore--"By the thunders of Jupiter,
I am their Bishop! Let them acknowledge that I, and I alone, am THE
CHAPLAIN OF THE FLEET!"

During this speech he swelled himself out so enormously, and so
flourished his long gown, that he seemed to fill the whole room. I
shrank into a corner, and clasped Mrs. Gambit's hand.

This kind of terror I have always felt since, whenever, which is rare,
I have heard a man speak in such a full, rich, manliness of voice. It
was a voice with which he might have led thousands to follow him and
do his bidding. When I read of any great orator at whose speeches the
people went mad, so that they did what he told them were it but to rush
along the road to certain death, I think of the Reverend Dr. Shovel.
I am sure that Peter the Hermit, or St. Bernard, must have had such a
voice. While he spoke, though the words were not noble, the air was
such, the voice was such, the eloquence was such, that my senses were
carried away, and I felt that in the hands of such a man no one was
master of himself. His demeanour was so majestic, that even the shabby,
dirty room in which he spoke became for the time a temple fit for the
sacred rites conducted by so great and good a man: the noise of carts,
the voices of men and women, were drowned and stilled beneath the
rolling music of his voice. I was rapt and astonished and terrified.

Mrs. Gambit was so far impressed when the Doctor began this oration,
that she instantly assumed that attitude of mind and body in which
country people always listen to a sermon: that is to say, she stood
with her chin up, her eyes fixed on the ceiling (fie! how black
it was!), her hands crossed, and her thoughts wandering freely
whithersoever they listed. It is a practice which sometimes produces
good effects, save when the preacher, which is seldom, hath in his own
mind a clear message to deliver from the Revealed Word. For it prevents
a congregation from discerning the poverty of the discourse; and in
these latter days of Whitfield, Wesley, and the sad schisms which daily
we witness, it checks the progress of Dissent.

The Doctor, after a short pause, swept back his flowing gown with
a significant gesture of his left hand, and resumed the defence
or apology for his profession. It was remarkable that he spoke as
earnestly, and with as much force, eloquence, and justness in this
address to two women--or to one and a half, because Mrs. Gambit,
thinking herself in church, was only half a listener--as if he had been
addressing a great congregation beneath the vast dome of St. Paul's.
The Doctor, I afterwards found, was always great; no mean or little
ways were his: he lived, he spoke, he moved, he thought like a bishop.
Had he been actually a bishop, I am sure that his stateliness, dignity,
and pomp would have been worthy of that exalted position, and that
he would have graced the bench by the exhibition of every Christian
virtue, except perhaps that of meekness. For the Doctor was never meek.

"Let us," said the Doctor, "argue the question. What is there contrary
to the Rubric in my calling? The Church hath wisely ordered that
marriage is a state to be entered upon only after sanctification by her
ministers or priests; I am one of those ministers. She hath provided
and strictly enjoined a rule of service; I read that service. She hath
recommended the faithful to marry as if to enter a holy and blessed
condition of life; I encourage and exhort the people to come to me with
the design of obeying the Church and entering upon that condition.
She hath, in deference to the laws of the land, required a stamped
certificate (at five shillings); I find that certificate in obedience
to the law. Further, for the credit of the cloth, and because people
must not think the ministers of the Church to be, like common hackney
coachmen, messengers, running lackeys, and such varlets, at the beck
and call of every prentice boy and ragamuffin wench with a yard-measure
and a dishclout for all their fortune; and because, further, it is
well to remind people of thrift, especially this common people of
London, who are grievously given to waste, prodigality, gluttony,
fine clothes, drinking, and all such extravagances--nay, how except
by thrift will they find money to pay their lawful tithes to Mother
Church?--wherefore it is my custom--nay, my undeviating rule--to charge
a fee of one guinea at least for every pair, with half-a-crown for the
services of the clerk. More may be given; more, I say, is generally
given by those who have money in pocket, and generous, grateful hearts.
What, indeed, is a present of ten guineas in return for such services
as mine? Child, know that I am a public benefactor; behold in me one
who promotes the happiness of his species; but for me maids would
languish, lovers groan, and cruel guardians triumph. I ask not if there
be any impediment; I inquire not if there be some to forbid the banns;
I do not concern myself with the lover's rent-roll; I care not what
his profession--I have even married a lady to her footman, since she
desired it, and a nobleman to his cook, since that was his lordship's
will. I ask not for consent of parents; the maiden leaves my doors a
wife: when she goes home, no parents or guardians can undo the knot
that I have tied. Doctors, learned in theology, casuistry, science,
and philosophy, have been called by divers names; there have been the
Subtle Doctor, the Golden Doctor, the Eloquent Doctor. For me there has
been reserved the title of the Benevolent Doctor; of me let it be said
that he loved even beyond his respect towards his diocesan, even beyond
obedience to his ecclesiastical superiors, even beyond consideration to
the parish clergy, who by his means were deprived of their fees, the
happiness of his fellow men and women."

His voice had dropped to the lower notes, and his last words were
spoken in deep but gentle thunder. When he had finished, Mrs. Gambit
dropped her chin and returned to practical business.

"And pray, sir, what will Miss Kitty do?"

Recalled to the facts of the case, the Doctor paused. His cheeks
retracted, his breadth and height became perceptibly smaller.

"What will she do? That is, indeed, a difficulty."

"If," said Mrs. Gambit, "your honour is a prisoner----"

"Woman!" he roared, "I enjoy the Liberties of the Fleet--the Liberties,
do you hear? Prate not to me of prisoners. Is Dr. Shovel a man, think
ye, to clap in a prison?"

"Well, then, is Miss Kitty to live here?" She looked round in disgust.
"Why, what a place is this for a young lady virtuously and godlily
reared! Your ceiling is black with smoke; the windows are black with
dirt; the walls are streaked with dirt; the floor is as thick with mud
as the road--faugh! If your honour is a bishop, as you say you are,
you can doubtless put the poor young lady, who is used to sweet air
and clean floors, where she will get such--and that without profane
swearing."

The last remark was caused by language used at that moment outside the
window by a man wheeling a barrow full of cabbages, which upset. While
picking up the vegetables, he swore loudly, administering rebuke in a
couple of oaths at least, and in some cases more, to every head of
cabbage in turn. An unreflecting wretch indeed, to break a commandment
upon a senseless vegetable!

"Nay," I said, "my uncle will do what is best for me."

"I will do for thee," he said, "what I can. This place is not fit for
a young girl. All the morning it is wanted for my occupation. In the
evening I am visited by gentlemen who seek me for certain merits,
graces, or beauties of conversation in which I am said (although I
boast not) to be endowed with gifts beyond those allotted to most men.
No, child, thou must not stay here."

While we stood waiting for his decision, we became aware of a most
dreadful noise outside. Men were shouting, women were screaming; of
course bad language and cursing formed a large part of what was said.
The air about the Fleet was always heavy with oaths, so that at last
the ear grew accustomed to them, and we noticed them no more than in
the quiet fields one notices the buzzing of the insects. But these
people, whoever they were, congregated outside the door of the house;
and after more oaths and loud talk, the door was opened and they all
tramped noisily into the room--a party of men and women, twelve in
all--and drew up in some sort of order, every man leading a woman by
the hand. As for the men, though I had never seen the sea, I knew
at once that monsters so uncouth and rough could be none other than
sailors. They were all dressed alike, and wore blue jackets with
flannel shirts and coloured silk neckties: every man carried round his
waist a rope, at the end of which was a knife; they wore three-cornered
hats without lace or any kind of trimming; they had no wigs, but wore
their own hair plastered with tallow, rolled up tightly and tied
behind; and one bore a great and grisly beard most terrible to behold.
Great boots covered their feet; their hands were smeared with tar;
their faces were weather-beaten, being burnt by the sun and blown by
the breeze; their eyes were clear and bright, but their cheeks were
bruised as if they had been fighting: they were all laughing, and their
countenances betokened the greatest satisfaction with everything.
As for the women, they were young, and some of them, I suppose,
were handsome, but they looked bold and rough. They were very finely
dressed, their frocks being of silk and satin, with flowered shawls,
and hats of a grandeur I had never before seen; immense hoops and great
patches. But the fight outside had torn their finery, and more than one
nymph had a black eye. However, these accidents had not diminished the
general joy, and they were laughing with the men.

"Why--why!" roared the Doctor, as he called them to attention by
banging the table with his fist, so that the windows rattled, the women
shrieked, and the plaster fell from the wall. "What is this? Who are
ye?"

The impudent fellow with the white apron who had brought us to the
place, here stepped in, bringing with him another couple. He, too,
had been fighting, for his face was bleeding and bruised. Fighting, I
presently found, was too common in Fleet Market to call for any notice.

"What is this, Roger?" repeated the Doctor. "These tarpaulins are
no cattle for my handling. Let them go to the Pen and Hand, or some
other pigsty where they can be irregularly and illegally married for
eighteenpence and a glass of rum."

"Please your reverence," said Roger, handling his nose, which was
swollen, tenderly, "they are honest gentlemen of the sea, paid off at
Wapping but yesternight, still in their sea-going clothes by reason
of their having as yet no time to buy long-shore rigging; not common
sailors, but mates by rating in the ship's books, and anxious to be
married by none other than your reverence."

"Ay--ay! honest Roger." The Doctor's voice dropped and became soft and
encouraging. "Ay--ay! this is as it should be. Know they of the fee?"

"They wish me to offer your reverence," said the clerk, "a guinea
apiece, and five guineas extra for your honour's trouble, if so be so
small a gift is worth your acceptance; with half-a-crown apiece for the
clerk, and a guinea for his nose, which I verily believe is broken in
the bridge. I have had great trouble, your reverence, in conveying so
large a party safe. And indeed I thought, at one time, the Rev. Mr.
Arkwell would have had them all. But the gallant gentlemen knew what
was best for them; and so, your honour, with a nose----"

The Doctor shook his head and interrupted any further explanation.

"That would indeed have been a misfortune for these brave fellows.
Come, Roger, collect the fees, and to business with what speed we may."

"Now then," said Roger roughly, "money first, business afterwards. No
fee, no marriage. Pay up, my lads!"

The men lugged out handfuls of gold from their pockets, and paid
without hesitation what they were told. But the women grumbled, saying
that for half-a-crown and a dram they would have been married quite as
well, and so much more to spend. When the Doctor had put the fees in
his pocket, he advanced to the table and took up the Prayer-book. What
would my father have said had he witnessed this sight?

Then Roger pulled out his greasy book, and put himself in place ready
to say the responses. All being ready, the Doctor again banged the
table with his fist so that they all jumped, and the women screamed
again, and more plaster fell off the wall.

"Now, all of you!" he roared, "listen to me. The first man who
interrupts, the first woman who laughs, the first who giggles, the
first who dares to misbehave or to bring contempt on this religious
ceremony, I will with my own clerical hands pitch headforemost into the
street. And _he shall remain unmarried_!"

Whether they were awed by his great voice and terrible aspect, the
men being short of stature as all sailors seem to be, or whether they
feared to be pitched through the window, or whether they trembled at
the prospect of remaining unmarried (perhaps for life) if the Doctor
refused to perform the ceremony, I know not. What is quite certain is
that they one and all, men and women, became suddenly as mute as mice,
and perfectly obedient to the commands of Roger the clerk, who told
them where to stand, when to kneel, what to say, and what to do. A
curtain ring acted as wedding-ring for all.

The Doctor would omit nothing from the service, which he read from
beginning to end in his loud musical voice. When he had married the
whole six, he shut the Prayer-book, produced six stamped certificates,
rapidly filled in the names and dates, which he also entered in his
"Register," a great book with parchment cover. Roger acted as witness.
Then the brides were presented by the Doctor with the certificates of
their marriage. The ceremony lasted altogether about half-an-hour.

"You are now, ladies and gentlemen," he said, smiling pleasantly,
"married fast and firm, one to the other. I congratulate you. Marriage
in the case of sailors and sailors' wives is a condition of peculiar
happiness, as you will all of you presently discover. The husband, at
the outset, is liable for the debts of his wife"--here the men looked
sheepishly at each other--"this no doubt will be brought home to all of
you. There are several brave gentlemen of the sea now languishing in
the Fleet Prison through inability to pay off these encumbrances. They
will continue to lie there for the whole term of their lives, these
unfortunate men. Husbands are also liable for the debts incurred by
their wives while they are abroad"--here one or two of the men murmured
something about London Port and giving it a wide berth, which I did not
understand. "As for the wives of seafaring men, their blessings and
privileges are also peculiar and numerous. They will have to remain at
home and pray for the safety of the husbands whom they will see perhaps
once every five years or so: they will, in this widowed state, be able
to practise many Christian virtues which those who enjoy the constant
presence of a husband are less often called upon to illustrate: such
are patience under privation, resignation, and hope. Most of them will
find the allowance made to them by their husbands insufficient or
irregularly paid. If any of them marry again, or be already married,
it is, let me tell you, a hanging matter. Yea, there are already in
Newgate hard by, several unfortunate women cast for execution who
have married again while their husbands were at sea. Lying in the
cells they are, waiting for the cart and the gallows!" Here the women
looked at one another and trembled, while their cheeks grew pale. "It
is too late now. Should there be any woman here who has committed the
crime of bigamy, let that woman know that it is too late for aught but
repentance. The gallows awaits her. You are now therefore, my friends,
bound to each other. I trust and hope that these marriages have not
been hastily or lightly entered upon. You have heard the duties of
husband to wife and wife to husband, in the words of the service duly
read to you by a clergyman of the Church of England. Go now, perform
those duties: be bright and shining examples of temperance, fidelity,
and virtue. Should any man among you find that his marriage hath led
him, through such a cause as I have indicated, to the King's Bench,
or the Fleet, or the Compter; should he have to exchange, against his
will, the free air of the sea for the confinement of a gaol, and the
rolling deck for the narrow courtyard; should he see himself reduced
(having never learned any handicraft or trade) to starvation through
these liabilities of his wife, or should any woman among you have
hereafter to stand her trial for bigamy either for this work newly
accomplished or for any future crime of the same nature, it will then
be your comfort to reflect that you were not married by an irregular,
self-constituted, self-styled Fleet parson, but by an ordained
clergyman and a Doctor of Divinity. Wherefore, I wish you well. Now go,
less noisily than you came. But the noise I impute to your ignorance,
as not knowing the quality of the man into whose presence you so rudely
pushed. As for the marriage feast, see that you enjoy it in moderation.
Above all, let your liquors be good. To which end--I speak it purely
out of my benevolence and for the good of head and stomach--you will
find the rum at the Bishop Blaize cheap and wholesome. Be not tempted
to prefer the Rainbow or the Naked Boy, where the liquor is deplorable;
and perhaps, in an hour or so, I may look in and drink your healths.
Roger, turn them out."

They went away sheepish and crestfallen, who had come noisy and
triumphant. I was ashamed, thinking of my father, and yet lost in
wonder, looking at my uncle who had so easily tamed this savage crew.

"I am glad," said the Doctor, when they had gone, "that this chance did
not become the windfall of an irregular and unlicensed practitioner.
They cannot say that I warned them not. Well, let them have their way.
A few days more and the men will be afloat again, all their money gone;
and the women----"

"Will they starve, sir?" I asked.

"I doubt it much," he replied. "Come, child, I have a thought of a plan
for thee. Follow me. And you, good woman, come with us that you may see
your charge in safety."

The thing that I had seen was like a dream--the appearance of the
disorderly sailors and the women whom they married; the words of the
service read solemnly in this unhallowed room; the exaction of the
money beforehand; the bleeding faces and marks of the recent fight;
the exhortation of the Doctor; the disappearance of the actors; the
swollen nose, black eye, and the importance of the clerk reading the
responses--what strange place was this whereunto I had been led? One
pitied, too, the poor fellows on whom Fate had bestowed such wives. I
thought, child as I was, how terrible must be life encumbered with such
women! Womanlike, I was harder on the women than the men. Yet truly,
women are what men make them.

"Follow me, child."

He led us out of the house, turning to the right. In the market was a
lot of country people who were standing about a stall. And we heard a
voice: "There's the Doctor--there goes the great Dr. Shovel."

My uncle drew himself up to his full height, and stalked grandly along
with the eyes of the people upon him. "See," he seemed to say, by the
swelling folds of his gown, "see my fame, how widespread it is--my
reputation, how great!"

He stopped at the corner of Fleet Lane, where the houses were no
longer taverns, and announcements of marriages were no longer to be
seen. It was a house of three stories high, with a door which, like all
the doors in that neighbourhood, stood ever open.

Here the Doctor stopped and addressed Mrs. Gambit--

"You spoke of safety. I am about to confide this child to the care of
two gentlewomen, poor, but of good birth and character, whom unjust
laws and the wickedness of men have condemned to imprisonment. I know
of no better guardians; but you shall satisfy yourself before you go
away. Wait a moment while I confer with the ladies."

We stayed below for ten minutes. Then my uncle came down the stairs,
and bade me return with him to be presented to the ladies, who had
kindly accepted the charge, on condition, he said, of my good conduct.

I followed him, Mrs. Gambit keeping close to me. We stopped at a door
on the first floor. The room was poor and shabby: the furniture, of
which there was not much, was old and worn: there was no carpet: a
white blind was half drawn over the window: the place, to judge by
the presence of a saucepan, a kettle, and a gridiron, was apparently
a kitchen as well as a sitting-room: all, except a great portrait of
a gentleman, in majestic wig and splendid gown, which hung over the
fireplace, was mean and pinched. Two ladies, of fifty or thereabouts,
stood before me, holding out hands of welcome.

They were both exactly alike, being small and thin, with hollow cheeks,
bright eyes, and pointed features like a pair of birds: they wore
white caps, a sort of grey frock in cheap stuff: their hair was white:
their hands were thin, with delicate fingers, transparent like the
fingers of those who have been long in bed with sickness: they were of
the same height, and appeared to be of the same age--namely, fifty or
thereabouts. My first thought, as I looked at them, was that they had
not enough to eat--which, indeed, like all first thoughts, was correct,
because that had generally been the case with these poor creatures.

"Kitty," said the Doctor, taking me by the hand, "I present you to
Mrs. Esther Pimpernel"--here the lady on the left dipped and curtsied,
and I also, mighty grave--"and to Mrs. Deborah Pimpernel"--here the
same ceremony with the lady on the right. "Ladies, this is my niece
Kitty Pleydell, daughter of my deceased sister Barbara and her husband
Lawrence Pleydell of pious memory. I trust that in consenting thus
generously to receive this child in your ward and keeping, you will
find a reward for your benevolence in her obedience, docility, and
gratitude."

"Doctor," murmured Mrs. Esther, in a voice like a turtledove's for
softness, "I am sure that a niece of yours must be all sensibility and
goodness."

"Goodness at least," said her sister, in sharper tones.

I saw that the difference between the sisters lay chiefly in their
voices.

"She will, I trust, be serviceable to you," said the Doctor, waving
his hand. "She hath been well and piously brought up to obedient ways.
Under your care, ladies, I look for a good account of her."

"Dear and reverend sir," Mrs. Esther cooed, "we are pleased and happy
to be of use to you in this matter. No doubt little miss, who is well
grown of her years, will repay your kindness with her prayers. As for
us, the memory of your past and present goodness----"

"Tut, tut!" he replied, shaking his great head till his cheeks waggled,
"let us hear no more of that. In this place"--here he laid his right
hand upon his heart, elevating his left, and leaning his head to one
side--"in this place, where infamy and well-deserved misery attend most
of those who dwell in it, it is yours, as it should be mine, to keep
burning continually the pure flame of a Christian life."

"How sweet! how noble!" murmured the sisters.

Was it possible? The man whom we had just seen reading the service of
Mother Church, which my father had taught me to regard as little less
sacred than the words of the Bible itself, in a squalid room, reeking
with the fumes of rum and stale tobacco, before a gang of half-drunken
sailors, assumed naturally and easily, as if _it belonged to him_, the
attitude and language of one devoted entirely to the contemplation and
practice of virtue and good works. Why, his face glowed with goodness
like the sun at noonday, or the sun after a shower, or, say, the sun
after a good action. The Doctor, indeed, as I learned later, could
assume almost any character he pleased. It pleased him, not out of
hypocrisy, but because for a time it was a return to the promise of his
youth, to be with these ladies the devout Christian priest. In that
character he felt, I am convinced, the words which came spontaneously
to his lips: for the moment he _was_ that character. Outside, in the
Fleet Market, he was the great Dr. Shovel--great, because among the
Fleet parsons he was the most successful, the most learned, the most
eloquent, the most important. In his own room he married all comers,
after the manner we have seen; and it raised the envy of his rivals
to see how the crowd flocked to him. But in the evening he received
his friends, and drank and talked with them in such fashion as I
never saw, but of which I have heard. Again, it raised their envy to
witness how men came from all quarters to drink with the Doctor. At
that time he was no longer the Christian advocate, nor the clergyman;
he was a rollicking, jovial, boon companion, who delighted to tell
better stories, sing better songs, and hold better talk--meaning more
witty, not more spiritual talk--than any of those who sat with him. I
have never been able to comprehend what pleasure men, especially men
of mature years, can find in telling stories, and laughing, drinking,
smoking tobacco, and singing with one another. Women find their
pleasures in more sober guise: they may lie in small things, but they
are innocent. Think what this world would be were the women to live
like the men, as disorderly, as wastefully, as noisily!

"Now, good woman," said my uncle to Mrs. Gambit, "are you satisfied
that my niece is in safe hands?"

"The hands are good enough," replied the woman, looking round her; "but
the place----"

"The place is what it is," said the Doctor sharply; "we cannot alter
the place."

"Then I will go, sir."

With that she gave me my parcel of money, kissed me and bade me
farewell, curtsied to the ladies, and left us.

"I shall send up, ladies," said the Doctor, "a few trifles of
additional furniture: a couple of chairs, one of them an arm-chair--but
not for this great, strong girl, if you please--a bed, a shelf for
books; some cups and saucers we shall provide for you. And now, ladies,
I wish you good-morning. And for your present wants--I mean the wants
of this hungry country maid, who looks as if mutton hung in toothsome
legs on every verdant hedge--this will, I think, suffice;" he placed
money in Mrs. Esther's hand--I could not but think how he had earned
that money--and left us.

When he was gone the two ladies looked at each other with a strange,
sad, and wistful expression, and Mrs. Esther, with the guineas in her
hand, burst into tears.



CHAPTER VI.

HOW KITTY BEGAN TO ENJOY THE LIBERTIES OF THE FLEET.


Her tears disconcerted me extremely. What did she cry for? But
she presently recovered and dried her eyes. Then she looked at me
thoughtfully, and said--

"Sister, I suppose this child has been accustomed to have a dinner
every day?"

"Surely," replied Mrs. Deborah. "And to-day we shall dine."

To-day we should all dine? Were there, then, days when we should all go
hungry?

"You must know, my dear," Mrs. Esther explained in a soft, sad
voice, "that we are very poor. We have, therefore, on many days in a
week to go without meat. Otherwise we should have to do worse"--she
looked round the room and shuddered--"we should have to give up the
independence of our solitude. Hunger, my child, is not the worst thing
to bear."

"A piece of roasting-beef, sister," said Mrs. Deborah, who had now
assumed a hat and a cloak, "with a summer cabbage, and a pudding in the
gravy."

"And I think, sister," said Mrs. Esther, her eyes lighting up eagerly,
"that we might take our dinner--the child might like to take her
dinner--at twelve to-day."

While Mrs. Deborah went into the market, I learned that the two sisters
had taken no food except bread and water for a week, and that their
whole stock now amounted to two shillings in money and part of a loaf.
What a strange world was this of London, in which gentlewomen had their
lodging in so foul a place and starved on bread and water!

"But," she repeated with a wan smile, "there are worse things than
hunger. First, we must pay our rent. And here we are at least alone;
here we may continue to remember our breeding."

Before Mrs. Deborah returned, I also learned that they were chiefly
dependent on a cousin for supplies of money, which were made to them
grudgingly (and indeed he was not rich), and that the Doctor had
provided for my maintenance with the offer of so large a weekly sum
that it promised to suffice for the wants of all.

"We are," said Mrs. Esther, "but small eaters; a little will suffice
for us. But you, child, are young; eat without fear, eat your fill; the
money is for you, and we shall grudge you nothing."

While the beef was roasting I noticed how their eyes from time to time,
in spite of themselves, would be fixed upon the meat with a hungry and
eager look. Nor had I any enjoyment of the meal till I had seen their
pangs appeased. After the plenty of the Vicarage and the Hall, to think
of bread and water, and not too much bread, for days together! Yet,
hungry as they were, they ate but little; it shamed me to go on eating,
being always a girl of a vigorous appetite and hard-set about the hour
of noon; it shamed me at first, also, to observe their ways of thrift,
so that not the least crumb should be wasted. Mrs. Deborah read my
thoughts.

"In this place," she said, "we learn to value what it takes money to
procure. Yet there are some here poorer than ourselves. Eat, child,
eat. For us this has been, indeed, a feast of Belteshazzar."

Dinner over, we unpacked my box, and they asked me questions. I found
that they were proud of their birth and breeding; the portrait over
the fire was, they told me, that of their father, once Lord Mayor of
London, and they congratulated me upon being myself a Pleydell, which,
they said, was a name very well known in the country, although many
great city families might be ignorant of it.

"No gift, my dear," said Mrs. Esther, "is so precious as gentle blood.
Everything else may be won, but birth never."

All day long there went on the same dreadful noise of shouting, crying,
calling, bawling, rolling of carts, cracking of whips, and trampling of
horses' feet. In the evening I asked, when the sun went down, but the
noise decreased not, if it was always thus.

"Always," they replied. "There is no cessation, day or night. It is
part," said Mrs. Deborah, "of our punishment. We are condemned, child;
for the sin of having a negligent trustee, we go in captivity, shame,
and degradation all our lives."

"Nay," said her sister, "not degradation, sister. No one but herself
can degrade a gentlewoman."

Truly, the noise was terrible. When I read in the "Paradise Lost," of
fallen angels in their dark abode, I think of Fleet Market and the
Fleet Rules. It began in the early morning with the rolling of the
carts: all day long in the market there was a continual crying of the
butchers: "Buy, buy, ladies--buy! Rally up, ladies--rally up!" There
were quarrels unceasing and ever beginning, with fights, shouting and
cursing: the fish-women quarrelled at their stalls; the poultry-wives
quarrelled over their baskets; the porters quarrelled over their
burdens; the carters over the right of way; the ragamuffin boys over
stolen fruit. There was nothing pleasant, nothing quiet, nothing to
refresh; nothing but noise, brawling, and contention. And if any signs
of joy, these only drunken laughter from open tavern-doors.

Thus I began to live, being then a maid of sixteen years and seven
months, in the Rules and Liberties of the Fleet Prison; surely as bad
a place, outside Newgate Prison, as could be found for a girl brought
up in innocence and virtue. For, let one consider the situation
of the Rules. They include all those houses which lie between the
ditch, or rather the market, on the west, and the Old Bailey on the
east--fit boundaries for such a place, the filthy, turbid ditch and
the criminal's gaol--and Fleet Lane on the north to Ludgate Hill
on the south. These streets are beyond and between the abodes of
respectability and industry. On the east was the great and wealthy City
with the merchants' houses; on the west the streets and squares where
the families of the country had their town residence; on the south, the
river; on the north, the dark and gloomy streets of Clerkenwell, where
thieves lay in hiding and the robbers of the road had their customary
quarters. Why, Jonathan Wyld himself, the greatest of villains, lived
hard by in Ship Court. Is there, anywhere, in any town, an acre more
thickly covered with infamy, misery, starvation, and wretchedness?

If we walked abroad, we could not go north because of Clerkenwell,
where no honest woman may trust herself: if we went south we had to
walk the whole length of the market, past the marrying taverns, so that
shame fell upon my heart to think how my uncle was one of those who
thus disgraced his cloth: when we got to the end, we might walk over
the Fleet Bridge, among the noisy sellers of quack medicines, pills,
powders, hot furmety, pies, flounders, mackerel, and oysters; or on
Ludgate Hill, where the touts of the Fleet parsons ran up and down,
inviting couples to be married, and the Morocco men went about, book in
hand, to sell their lottery shares. The most quiet way when we took the
air was to cross Holborn Bridge, and so up the hill past St. Andrew's
Church, where, if the weather were fine, we might go as far as the
gardens of Gray's Inn, and there sit down among the trees and feel for
a little the joy of silence.

Said Mrs. Deborah, one day, when we two had sat there, under the trees,
for half an hour, listening to the cawing of the rooks--

"Child, the place"--meaning the Rules--"is the City of Destruction
after Christian and Christiana, and the boys, and Mercy, were all gone
away."

We lived in one room, which was both kitchen and parlour. We had no
servant; the Doctor's provision kept us in simple plenty; we cleaned
and dusted the place for ourselves; we cooked our dinners, and washed
our dishes; we made our dresses; we did for ourselves all those things
which are generally done by a servant. Mrs. Esther said that there
was no shame in doing things which, if left undone, would cause a
gentlewoman to lose her self-respect. 'Twas all, except the portrait of
her father, that she had left of her former life, and to this she would
cling as something dearer than life.

There were other lodgers in the house. All who lodged there were, of
course, prisoners "enjoying" the Rules--who else would live in the
place? On the ground-floor was Sir Miles Lackington, Baronet. He was
not yet thirty, yet he had already got rid of a great and noble estate
by means of gambling, and now was compelled to hide his head in this
refuge, and to live upon an allowance of two guineas made weekly to him
by a cousin. This, one would have thought, was a disgrace enough to
overwhelm a gentleman of his rank and age with shame. But it touched
him not, for he was ever gay, cheerful, and ready to laugh. He was kind
to my ladies and to me; his manners, when he was sober, were gentle;
though his face was always flushed and cheeks swollen by reason of his
midnight potations, he was still a handsome fellow; he was careless
of his appearance as of his fortune; he would go with waistcoat
unbuttoned, wig awry, neckcloth loose, ruffles limp; but however he
went it was with a laugh. When he received his two guineas he generally
gave away the half among his friends. In the evening they used to carry
him home to his room on the ground-floor, too drunk to stand.

I soon got to know him, and we had frequent talks. He seemed to be
ever meeting me on the stairs when I went a-marketing; he called upon
us often, and would sit with me during the warm summer afternoons,
when the sisters dropped off to sleep. I grew to like him, and he
encouraged me to say freely what I thought, even to the extent of
rating him for his profligate practices.

"Why," he would say, laughing, "I am at the lowest--I can go no lower;
yet I have my two guineas a week. I have enough to eat, I drink freely:
what more can I want?"

I told him what his life seemed to me.

He laughed again at this, but perhaps uneasily.

"Does it seem so terrible a thing," he said, leaning against the
window with his hands in his pockets, "to have no cares? Believe me,
Kitty, Fortune has brought me into a harbour where winds and tempests
never blow. While I had my estate, my conscience plagued me night and
morning. And yet I knew that all this must fly. Hazard doth always
serve her children so, and leaves them naked. Well--it is gone. So can
I play no more. But he who plays should keep sober if he would win.
Now that I cannot play, I may drink. And again, when, formerly, I was
rich and a prodigal, friend and enemy came to me with advice. I believe
they thought the Book of Proverbs had been written specially to meet my
case, so much did they quote the words of Solomon, Agar, and Lemuel.
But, no doubt, there have been fools before, and truly it helpeth a
fool no whit to show him his folly. 'As a thorn goeth up into the hand
of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.' I remember that
proverb. Now that Hazard hath taken all, there is no longer occasion
for advice. Child, you look upon one who hath thrown away his life,
and yet is happier in his fall and repents not. For I make no doubt
but that, had I my fortune back, 'twould fly away again in the same
fashion."

He concluded with an allusion to the Enemy of Mankind, for which I
rebuked him, and he laughed, saying--

"Pretty Puritan, I will offend no more."

Had I been older and more experienced, I should have known or suspected
why he came so often and met me daily. Kitty had found favour in the
sight of this dethroned king. He loved the maid: her freshness, her
rosy cheeks, her youth, her innocence pleased him, I suppose. We know
not, we women, for what qualities there are in us that we are loved by
men, so that they will commit so many follies for our sake.

"Thou art such a girl, sweet Kitty," he said to me, one day, "so pretty
and so good, as would tempt a man wallowing contentedly in the pigsties
of the world, to get up, wash himself, and go cleanly, for thy sake.
Yet what a miserable wretch should I be did I thus learn to feel my own
downfall!"

And again he told me once that he was too far gone to love me; and not
far enough gone to do me an injury.

"Wherefore," he added, "I must worship at thy shrine in silent
admiration."

It was kindly done of Sir Miles to spare an ignorant girl. For so
ignorant was Kitty, and so brotherly did he seem, that had he asked
her to become his wife, I think she would have consented. Oh, the fine
state, to be my Lady Lackington, and to live in the Rules of the Fleet!

Another lodger in our house, a man whose face inspired me with horror,
so full of selfish passion was it, was a Captain Dunquerque. With him
were his wife and children. It was of the children, poor things, that
our Esther spoke when she said there were some in the place poorer
than themselves; for the wife and children starved, while the captain,
their father, ate and drank his fill. A gloomy man, as well as selfish,
who reviled the fate which he had brought upon himself. Yet for all
his reviling, he spared himself nothing so that his children might
have something. I am glad that this bad man has little to do with my
history. Another lodger, who had the garret at the top, was Solomon
Stallabras, the poet.

It is very well known that the profession of letters, of all the
trades, callings, and conditions of men, is the most precarious and
the most miserable. I doubt, indeed, whether that ought to be called
a profession which requires no training, no colleges or schools, no
degree, and no diploma. Other professions are, in a way, independent:
the barrister doth not court, though he may depend upon, the favour
of attorneys; the rector of the parish doth not ask the farmers to
support him, but takes the tithes to which he is entitled; the poor
author, however, is obliged to receive of his publisher whatever is
offered, nor is there any corporate body or guild of authors by whom
the situation of the poet may be considered and his condition improved.
Alone among learned men, the author is doomed to perpetual dependence
and poverty. Indeed, when one considers it, scarce anything else is
to be expected, for, in becoming an author, a man is so vain as to
expect that to him will be granted what has been given to no man except
Shakespeare--a continual flow of strength, spirits, ingenuity, wit,
and dexterity, so as to sustain, without diminution or relaxation, the
rapid production of works for the delight of the world. I say rapid,
because the books are bought by publishers at a low rate, though they
are sold to the public at large sums. And, if we think of it, scarce
any author produces more than one or two books which please the world.
Therefore, when the fountain runs dry, whither is that poor author to
turn? The public will have none of him; his publisher will have none
of him; there remains, it is true, one hope, and that unworthy, to get
subscriptions for a volume which he will never produce, because he will
have eaten up beforehand the money paid for it before it is written.

The Fleet Prison and its Rules have always been a favourite resort and
refuge for poets and men of letters. Robert Lloyd died there, but long
after I went away; Richard Savage died there; Churchill was married
in the place, and would have died there, had he not anticipated his
certain fate by dying early; Samuel Boyce died there; Sir Richard Baker
died there; William Oldys, who died, to be sure, outside the Rules,
yet drank every night within them; lastly, within a stone's throw of
the Rules, though he was never a prisoner, died the great John Bunyan
himself.

I heard my ladies, from time to time, talk of a certain Mr. Stallabras.
They wondered why he did not call as usual, and laid the blame upon
me; little madam had made him shy. One day, however, Mrs. Esther
being called out by one of Captain Dunquerque's children, came back
presently, saying that Mr. Stallabras was starving to death in his room.

Mrs. Deborah made no reply, but instantly hurried to the cupboard, when
she took down the cold beef which was to be our dinner, and cut off
three or four goodly slices; these she laid on a plate, with bread and
salt, and put the whole upon a napkin, and then she disappeared swiftly.

"The poor young man! the dear young man!" cried Mrs. Esther, wringing
her hands. "What can we do? My dear, the sweetest and most mellifluous
of poets! The pride and glory of his age! It was he who wrote 'Hours
of the Night,' the 'Pleasures of Solitude,' the 'Loves of Amoret and
Amoretta,' and other delightful verses; yet they let him languish in
the Fleet! What are my countrymen thinking of? Would it not be better
to rescue (while still living) so ingenious and charming a writer from
his poverty, than to give him (as they must), after his death, a grave
in Westminster Abbey?"

I asked her if we should read together these delightful poems.

"We have no copy," she said. "Mr. Stallabras, who is all sensibility,
insists, from time to time, upon our having copies, so that we may read
them aloud to him. Yet his necessities are such that he is fain to
take them away again and sell them. As for his manners, my dear, they
are very fine, being such as to confer distinction upon the Rules. He
has not the easy bearing of Sir Miles Lackington, of course, which one
would not expect save in a man born to good breeding; but he possesses
in full measure the courtesy which comes from study and self-dignity.
Yet he is but a hosier's son."

Mrs. Deborah here returned, bearing an empty plate.

She had trouble at first, she said, to persuade him to eat. His
prejudices as a gentleman and a scholar were offended by the absence of
horse-radish; but, as he had eaten nothing for two days, he was induced
to waive this scruple, and presently made a hearty meal. She had also
persuaded him to come downstairs in the evening, and take a dish of
tea.

Thanks to the Doctor's liberality in the matter of my weekly board, tea
was now a luxury in which we could sometimes indulge. Nothing gave Mrs.
Esther more gratification than the return, after long deprivation, to
that polite beverage.

At about five o'clock the poet made his appearance. He was short of
stature, with a turned-up nose, and was dressed in a drab-coloured
coat, with bag-wig, and shoes with steel buckles. Everything that he
wore had once been fine, but their splendour was faded now; his linen
was in rags, his shoes in holes; but he carried himself with pride. His
dignity did not depend upon his purse; he bore his head high, because
he thought of his fame. It inflicted no wound to his pride to remember
that he had that day been on the eve of starvation, and was still
without a farthing.

"Miss Kitty," he said, bowing very low, "you see before you one who,
though a favourite of the Muses, is no favourite of Fortune:

    ''Gainst hostile fate his heart is calm the while,
    Though Fortune frown, the tuneful sisters smile.'

Poetry, ladies, brings with it the truest consolation."

"And religion," said Mrs. Esther.

"There lives not--be sure--the wretch," cried the poet, "who would
dissociate religion and the Muse."

This was very grand, and pleased us all. We had our dish of tea, with
bread and butter. I went on cutting it for the poet till the loaf was
quite gone.

During the evening he gave utterance to many noble sentiments--so
noble, indeed, that they seemed to me taken out of books. And before he
went away he laid down his views as to the profession of letters, of
which I have already spoken, perhaps, too severely.

"It is the mission of the poet and author," he said, "to delight, and
to improve while delighting. The man of science may instruct; the
poet embodies the knowledge, and dresses it up in a captivating way
to attract the people: the divine teaches the dogmas of the Church;
the poet conveys, in more pleasing form, the lessons and instructions
of religion: the philosopher and moralist lay down the laws of our
being; the author, by tropes and figures, by fiction, by poetry, shows
the proper conduct of life, and teaches how the way of virtue leads to
happiness. Is not this a noble and elevating career? Does not a man do
well who says to himself, 'This shall be my life; this my lot?'"

He paused, and we murmured assent to his enthusiasm.

"It is true," he went on, "that the ungrateful world thinks little
of its best friends; that it allows me--_me_, Solomon Stallabras,
to languish in the Rules of the Fleet. Even that, however, has its
consolation; because, ladies, it has brought me the honour and
happiness of your friendship."

He rose, saluted us all three in turn, and sat down again.

"Art," he went on, "so inspires a man with great thoughts, that it
makes more than a gentleman--it makes a nobleman--of him. Who, I would
ask, when he reads the sorrows of Clarissa, thinks of the trade--the
mere mechanical trade--in which the author's money was earned? I cannot
but believe that the time will come when the Court itself, unfriendly
as it now is to men of letters, will confer titles and place upon that
poor poet whose very name cannot now reach the walls of the palace."

My ladies' good fortune (I mean in receiving the weekly stipend for
my maintenance) was thus shared by the starving poet, whom they no
longer saw, helpless to relieve him, suffering the privation of hunger.
Often have I observed one or other of the sisters willingly go without
her dinner, pleading a headache, in order that her portion might be
reserved for Mr. Stallabras.

"For sensibility," said Mrs. Esther, "is like walking up a hill: it
promotes appetite."

"So does youth," said Mrs. Deborah, more practical. "Mr. Stallabras is
still a young man, Kitty; though you think thirty old."

That he was a very great poet we all agreed, and the more so when,
after a lucky letter, he secured a subscriber or two for his next
volume, and was able to present us once more with a book of his own
poetry. I do not know whether he more enjoyed hearing me read them
aloud (for then he bowed, spread his hands, and inclined his head
this way and that, in appreciation of the melody and delicacy of the
sentiments), or whether he preferred to read them himself; for then he
could stop when he pleased, with, "This idea, ladies, was conceived
while wandering amid the fields near Bagnigge Wells;" "This came to me
while watching the gay throng in the Mall;" "This, I confess, was an
inspiration caught in church."

"Kitty should enter these confessions in a book," said Mrs. Esther.
"Surely they will become valuable in the day--far distant, I
trust--when your life has to be written, Mr. Stallabras."

"Oh, madam!" He bowed again, and lifted his hands in deprecation. But
he was pleased. "Perhaps," he said, "meaner bards have found a place in
the Abbey, and a volume dedicated to their lives. If Miss Kitty will
condescend to thus preserve recollections of me, I shall be greatly
flattered."

I did keep a book, and entered in it all that dropped from his lips
about himself, his opinions, his maxims, his thoughts, and so forth. He
gradually got possessed of the idea that I would myself some day write
his life, and he began insensibly to direct his conversation mainly to
me.

Sometimes he met me in the market, or on the stairs, when he would tell
me more.

"I always knew," he said, "from the very first, that I was born to
greatness. It was in me as a child, when, like Pope, I lisped in
numbers. My station, originally, was not lofty, Miss Kitty." He spoke
as if he had risen to a dazzling height. "I was but the son of a
hosier, born in Fetter Lane, and taught at the school, or academy, kept
by one Jacob Crooks, who was handier with the rod than with the Gradus
ad Parnassum. But I read, and taught myself; became at first the hack
of Mr. Dodsley, and gradually rose to eminence."

He had, indeed, risen; he was the occupant of a garret; his fame lay in
his own imagination; and he had not a guinea in the world.

"Miss Kitty," he said, one day, "there is only one thing that
disqualifies you from being my biographer."

I asked him what that was.

"You are not, as you should be, my wife. If virtue and beauty fitted
you for the station of a poet's wife, the thing were easy. Alas, child!
the poet is poor, and his mistress would be poorer. Nevertheless,
believe that the means, and not the will, are wanting to make thee my
Laura, my Stella, and me thy Petrarch, or thy Sidney."

It was not till later that I understood how this starveling poet, as
well as the broken baronet, had both expressed their desire (under more
favourable circumstances) to make love to me. Grand would have been my
lot as Lady Lackington, but grander still as Mistress Stallabras, wife
of the illustrious poet, who lived, like the sparrows, from hand to
mouth.



CHAPTER VII.

HOW KITTY LEARNED TO KNOW THE DOCTOR.


Those evenings of riot from which Sir Miles was so often carried home
speechless, were spent in no other place than that very room where I
had seen the marriage of the sailors; and the president of the rabble
rout was no other than the Doctor himself.

I learned this of Sir Miles. If my ladies knew it, of which I am not
certain, they were content to shut their eyes to it, and to think of
the thing as one of the faults which women, in contempt and pity,
ascribe to the strange nature of man. I cannot, being now of ripe
years, believe that Heaven hath created in man a special aptitude for
debauchery, sin, and profligacy, while women have been designed for the
illustration of virtues which are the opposite to them. So that, when
I hear it said that it is the way of men, I am apt to think that way
sinful.

It was Sir Miles himself who told me of it one morning. I found him
leaning against the doorpost with a tankard of ale in his hand.

"Fie, Sir Miles!" I said. "Is it not shameful for a gentleman to be
carried home at night, like a pig?"

"It is," he replied. "Kitty, the morning is the time for repentance. I
repent until I have cleared my brain with this draught of cool October."

"It is as if a man should drag a napkin in the mud of the Fleet Ditch
to clean it," I said.

He drank off his tankard, and said he felt better.

"Pretty Miss Kitty," he said, "it is a fine morning; shall we abroad?
Will you trust yourself with me to view the shops in Cheapside or the
beaux in the Mall? I am at thy service, though, for a Norfolk baronet,
my ruffles are of the shabbiest."

I told him that I would ask Mrs. Esther for permission. He said he
wanted first a second pint, as the evening had been long and the drink
abundant, after which his brain would be perfectly clear and his hand
steady.

I told him it was a shame that a gentleman of his rank should mate with
men whose proper place was among the thieves of Turnmill Street, or the
porters of Chick Lane, and that I would not walk with a man whose brain
required a quart of strong ale in the morning to clear it.

"As for my companions," he said, taking the second pint which the boy
brought him and turning it about in his hands, "we have very good
company in the Liberties--quite as good as your friend Christian, in
that story you love so much, might have had in Vanity Fair, had he been
a lad of mettle and a toper. There are gentlemen of good family, like
myself; poets like Solomon Stallabras; merchants, half-pay captains
and broke lieutenants; clerks, tradesmen, lawyers, parsons, farmers,
men of all degrees. It is like the outside world, except that here all
are equal who can pay their shot. Why, with the Doctor at the head of
the table, and a bowl of punch just begun, hang me if I know any place
where a man may feel more comfortable or drink more at his ease."

"The Doctor," I asked. Now I had seen so little of my uncle that I had
almost forgotten the marriage of the sailors, and was beginning again
to think of him as the pious and serious minister who spoke of sacred
things to my guardians. "The Doctor?"

"Ay;" Sir Miles drank off the whole of his second pint. "Who else?"
His voice became suddenly thick, and his eyes fixed, with a strange
light in them. "Who else but the Doctor? Why, what would the Rules be
without the Doctor? He is our prince, our bishop, our chaplain--what
you will--the right reverend his most gracious majesty the King of the
Rules." Sir Miles waved his hand dramatically. "He keeps us sweet; he
polishes our wits; but for him we should be wallowing swine: he brings
strangers and visitors to enliven us; drinks with us, sings with us,
makes wit for us from the treasures of his learning; condescends to
call us his friends; pays our shot for us; lends us money; gives food
to the starving, and drink--yes, drink, by gad! to the thirsty, and
clothes to the naked. Ah, poor girl! you can never see the Doctor in
his glory, with all his admirers round him, and every man a glass of
punch in his hand and a clean tobacco-pipe in his mouth. The Doctor?
he is our boast; a most complete and perfect doctor; the pride of
Cambridge; the crown and sum of all doctors in divinity!"

He had forgotten, I suppose, his invitation to take me for a walk, for
he left me here, staggering off in the direction of the Hand and Pen,
where, I doubt not, he spent the rest of his idle and wasted day.

It would have been useless and cruel to talk to my guardian about this
discovery. It was another thing to be ashamed of. Sir Miles told me
less than the truth. In fact the Doctor's house was the nightly resort
of all those residents in the Rules whom he would admit to his society.
Hither, too, came, attracted by his reputation for eloquence, wit, and
curious knowledge, gentlemen from the Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and other
places, who were expected, as a contribution to the evening, to send
for bowls of punch. But of this presently.

I saw my uncle seldom. He visited the sisters from time to time, and
never failed to ask particularly after my progress in knowledge,
and especially in the doctrines of the Church of England. On these
occasions he generally left behind him, as a present, some maxim or
precept tending to virtue, which we could repeat after his departure
and turn over in our minds at leisure. Once he found me alone, Mrs.
Deborah being indisposed and confined to her room, where her sister was
nursing her. He took advantage of their absence to impress upon me the
necessity of circumspection in my manner of life.

"Heaven knows, child," he said, "what thy future will be. Hither come
none but profligates and spendthrifts. Yet what else can I do with
thee? Where bestow thee?"

"Oh, sir!" I said, "let me not be taken from my dear ladies."

"Thou shalt not, child; at least for the present. But it is bad for
thee to live here; it is bad for thee to have as an uncle one whose
life is sadly inconsistent with his Christian profession, and who might
despair, were it not for the example of Solomon (methinks from his
history may be sucked consolation by all elderly and reverend sinners).
Like him, what I lack in practice I partly make up with precept. He
who, like me, is a Fleet parson, should be judged differently from
his fellows: he is without the license, and therefore hath forfeited
paternal affection of his bishop; he is exposed to temptations which
beset not other folk; among those who flock to him for marriage are
some who would fain commute their fees for brandy and strong drinks,
or even bilk the clergyman altogether--a sin which it is difficult to
believe can be forgiven. Hence arise strifes and wraths, unseemly for
one who wears a cassock. Hither come those who seek good fellowship
and think to find it in the Rules; Templars, young bloods, and wits.
Hence arise drinking and brawling; and as one is outside the law,
so to speak, so one is tempted to neglect the law. I say nothing of
the temptations of an empty purse. These I felt, with many prickings
and instigations of the Evil One, while I was yet curate of St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields, before I escaped my creditors by coming here.
Then I was poor, and found, as the Wise Man says, that 'The poor is
hated even of his own neighbour.'"

He went on, half preaching, half talking.

A man who sinned greatly, yet preached much; who daily fell, yet daily
exhorted his neighbour to stand upright; who knew and loved, as one
loves a thing impossible to attain, the life of virtue; who drank,
laughed, and bawled songs of an evening with his boon companions; who
married all comers, no questions asked, without scruple and without
remorse; a priest whose life was a disgrace to his profession; who did
kind and generous things, and paid that homage to Virtue which becomes
one who knows her loveliness.

It pleased him to talk, but only with me, about himself. He was always
excusing himself to me, ashamed of his life, yet boasting of it and
glorying in it; conscious of his infamy, and yet proud of his success;
always thinking by what plea he could justify himself, and maintain his
self-respect.

"I am a man," he said, "who is the best of a bad profession. My work is
inglorious, but I am glorious; my rivals, who would rob me of my very
practice, do not hate me, but esteem and envy me. I have, yea, outside
these Rules, friends who love me still; some of them pity me, and some
would see me (which is impossible) restored to the fold and bosom of
the Church; some who drink with me, talk with me, borrow of me, walk
with me, smoke with me, and are honoured by my friendship. There is no
man living who would wish me harm. Surely, I am one of those who do
good to themselves, whom, therefore, their fellow-men respect."

I have said that he was generous. Sir Miles spoke the truth when he
declared that the Doctor fed the starving and clothed the naked. Truly
it seems to me natural to believe that these good deeds of his must be
a set-off to the great wickedness of his life. There were no occupants
of the prison and its Liberties who were rich. Some there were who
would have starved but for the charity of their friends. The poor
prisoners were allowed to beg, but how could poor gentlewomen like my
guardians bear to beg for daily bread? Rather would they starve. As
for the prison, I know nothing of it; I never saw the inside; it was
enough for me to see its long and dreary wall. I used to think at night
of the poor creatures shut up there in hopeless misery, as I thought,
though Sir Miles declared that most of them were happier in the prison
than out; and beside the latticed gate there stood every day a man
behind bars begging with a plate and crying: "Pity the poor prisoners."

Is it not sad that the same punishment of imprisonment must be meted
out to the rogue and the debtor, save that we let the rogue go free
while we keep the debtor locked up? Truly, the Vicar of St Bride's or
even the Dean of St. Paul's himself could preach no better sermon,
could use no words more fitted to arrest the profligate and bring the
thoughtless to reason, than that doleful cry behind the bars. Nor could
any more salutary lesson be impressed upon young spendthrifts than to
take them from house to house in the Rules and show them the end of
graceless ways.



CHAPTER VIII.

HOW KITTY SPENT HER TIME.


As soon as they were settled together, and the ladies had decided in
their own minds that the girl would lighten their lives, they resolved
that Kitty's education must not be neglected, and for this end began to
devise such a comprehensive scheme as would have required the staff of
a whole university to carry it through. Everything was set down (upon
a slate) which it behoved a girl to know. Unfortunately the means at
their disposal did not allow of this great scheme. Thus it was fitting
that music should be taught: Mrs. Deborah had once been a proficient
on the spinnet, but there was no spinnet to be had; the French tongue
forms part of polite education, but though both ladies had learned it
of old, their memory was defective, and they had neither dictionary nor
grammar nor any book in the language; limning, both with pencil and
in water-colours, should be taught, but the sisters could neither of
them draw, and hardly knew a curve from a straight line. Calligraphy is
almost a necessary, but the handwriting of both ladies was tremulous,
and of antiquated fashion; they knew not the modern Italian hand. There
was in the Rules a professor in the art, and an attempt was made to get
lessons from him. But he was already old and hastening to the grave,
which speedily closed over him; his hand shook, because he drank strong
waters; his coat was stained with beer and punch; his wig smelt always
of tobacco.

Mrs. Deborah undertook, as a beginning, to teach the girl book-keeping
by single and double entry. How or why she ever came to learn this
science has never been understood. Yet she knew it, and was proud of it.

"It is a science," she said, "which controls the commerce of the world.
By its means are we made rich: by the aid of book-keeping we apportion
the profit and the loss which are the rewards of the prudent or the
punishment of the thriftless. Without book-keeping, my dear, the
mysteries and methods of which I am about to impart to you, neither a
Whittington, nor a Gresham, nor even a Pimpernel, would have risen to
be Lord Mayor of London."

Kitty only imperfectly grasped the rudiments of this science. No doubt,
had she been placed in a position of life where it was required, she
would have found it eminently useful. Mrs. Esther, for her part, taught
her embroidery and sampler work. As for preserving, pickling, making of
pastry and home-made wines, cookery, distilling, and so forth, although
the sisters had been in their younger days notable, it was impossible
to teach these arts, because, even if there had been anything to
pickle or preserve, there was only one sitting-room in which to do it.
Therefore, to her present sorrow, Kitty speedily forgot all that she
had formerly learned in the still-room at Lady Levett's. For there is
no station so exalted in which a lady is not the better for knowing
the way in which such things should be done, if it is only that she
may keep her maids in order. And if, as the learned Dr. Johnson hath
informed us, a lady means one who dispenses gifts of hospitality and
kindness, there is another reason why she should know the value of her
gifts. There is something divine in the contemplation of the allotment
of duty to the two sexes; man must work, build up, invent, and
acquire, for woman to distribute, administer, and divide.

As for reading, they had a book on the history of England, with the
cover off, and wanting the title-page with several chapters. There was
one of those still remaining in which the author exhorted his readers
(her teachers told the girl that the admonition belonged to women as
well as men) never to grow faint or to weary in the defence of their
Liberties. She ignorantly confounded the Liberties of the country with
the Liberties of the Fleet, and could not avoid the reflection that a
woman would certainly put more heart into her defence of the Liberties
if these were cleaner, and if there were fewer men who swore and got
drunk. There were also a Bible and a Church Prayer-book; there were
three odd volumes of "Sermons;" and there were besides odd volumes of
romances, poems, and other works which Mr. Solomon Stallabras was able
to lend.

Mrs. Deborah added to her knowledge of book-keeping some mastery over
the sublime science of astronomy. By standing on chairs at the window
when the west wind blew the fogs away and the sky was clear, it was
possible to learn nearly everything that she had to teach. The moon
was sometimes visible, and a great many of the stars, because, looking
over the market, the space was wide. Among them were the Pole Star, the
Great Bear, Orion's belt, and Cassiopeia's chair. It was elevating to
the soul on such occasions to watch the heavenly bodies, and to listen
while Mrs. Deborah discoursed on the motions of the planets and the
courses of the stars.

"The moon, my dear," she would say, "originally hung in the heavens
by the hand of the Creator, goes regularly every four weeks round the
sun, while the sun goeth daily round the earth: when the sun is between
the earth and the moon (which happens accidentally once a month or
thereabouts), part of the latter body is eclipsed: wherefore it is then
of a crescent-shape: the earth itself goes round something--I forget
what--every year: while the planets, according to Addison's hymn, go
once a year, or perhaps he meant once a month, round the moon. This
is the reason why they are seen in different positions in the sky. And
I believe I am right in saying that if you look steadily at the Great
Bear, you may plainly see that every night it travels once about the
earth at least, or it may be oftener at different seasons. When we
reflect"--here she quoted from recollection--"that these bodies are so
far distant from us, that we cannot measure the space between; that
some of them are supposed to be actually greater than our own world;
that they are probably inhabited by men and women like ourselves;
that all their movements round each other are regular, uniform, never
intermittent--how ought we to admire the wisdom and strength of the
Almighty Hand which placed them there!"

Then she repeated, with becoming reverence, the words of Mr. Addison,
the Christian poet, beginning:

   "Soon as the evening shades prevail
    The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
    And nightly to the listening earth
    Repeats the story of her birth.
    While all the stars that round her burn,
    And all the planets in their turn,
    Confirm the tidings as they roll,
    And spread the truth from pole to pole."

In such meditations and exercises did these imprisoned ladies seek to
raise their souls above the miseries of their lot. Indeed, one may
think there is nothing which more tends to make the mind contented and
to prevent repining, than to feel the vastness of nature, the depth
and height of knowledge open to man's intellect, the smallness of
one's self, and the wisdom of God. And although poor Mrs. Deborah's
astronomy was, as has been seen, a jumble; although she knew so little,
indeed, of constellations or of planets, that the child did not learn
to distinguish Jupiter from the Pole Star, and never could understand
(until that ingenious gentleman, who lately exhibited an orrery in
Piccadilly, taught her) how the planets and stars could go round the
moon, and the moon round the sun, and the sun round the earth, without
knocking against and destroying one another, she must be, and is,
deeply grateful for the thoughts which the good lady awakened.

In all things the sisters endeavoured to keep up the habits and manners
of gentlefolk. The dinner was at times scanty, yet was it served on a
fair white cloth, with plates and knives orderly placed: a grace before
the meat, and a grace after.

In the afternoon, when the dinner was eaten, the cloth removed, and
the plates washed, they were able sometimes to sally forth and take
a walk. In the summer afternoons it was, it has been said, pleasant
to walk to the gardens of Gray's Inn. But when they ventured to pass
through the market there was great choice for them. The daily service
in the afternoons at St. Paul's was close at hand: here, while the body
was refreshed with the coolness of the air, the mind was calmed with
the peace of the church, and the soul elevated by the chanting of the
white-robed choristers and the canons, while the organ echoed in the
roof. After the service they would linger among the tombs, of which
there are not many; and read the famous Latin inscription over the door
of the cathedral, "_Si monumentum requiris, circumspice_."

"I knew him," Mrs. Esther would whisper, standing before the great
man's monument. "He was a friend of my father's, and he often came and
talked, my sister and myself being then but little, on the greatness
of astronomy, geometry, and architecture. In the latter years of his
life he would sit in the sunshine, gazing on the noble cathedral he
had built. Yet, grand as he is, he would still lament that his earlier
plans, which were grander still, had not been accepted."

Then out into the noisy street again: back to the shouts of chairmen,
waggon-drivers, coachmen, the bawling of those who cried up and down
pavements, the cries of flying piemen, newsmen, boys with broadsheets,
dying confessions, and ballads--back to the clamour of Fleet Market.

Another excursion, which could only be undertaken when the days were
long, was that to Westminster Abbey.

The way lay along the Strand, which, when the crowded houses behind
St. Clement's and St. Mary's were passed, was a wide and pleasant
thoroughfare, convenient for walking, occupied by stately palaces like
Northumberland and Somerset Houses, and by great shops. At Charing
Cross one might cross over into Spring Gardens, where, Mrs. Esther
said, there was much idle talk among young people, with drinking of
Rhenish wine. Beyond the gardens was St. James's Park: Kitty saw it
once in those days, being taken by Sir Miles Lackington; but so crowded
was it with gallant gentlemen, whose wigs and silken coats were a
proper set-off to the hoops and satins of the ladies, that she was
ashamed of her poor stuff frock, and bade Sir Miles lead her away,
which he did, being that day sorrowful and in a repentant mood.

"I have myself worn those silk waistcoats and that silver lace," he
said with a sigh. "My place should be amongst them now, were it not for
Hazard. Thy own fit station, pretty pauper, is with those ladies. But
Heaven forbid you should learn what they know! Alas! I knew not when I
ought to stop in the path of pleasure."

"Fie!" said she. "Young men ought not to find their pleasure in
gambling."

"Humanity," said Sir Miles, becoming more cheerful when the Park was
left, "has with one consent resolved to follow pleasure. The reverend
divines bid us (on Sunday) be content to forego pleasure; in the week
they, too, get what pleasure they can out of a punch-bowl. I am content
to follow with other men. Come, little Puritan, what is thy idea of
pleasure?"

That seemed simple enough to answer.

"I would live in the country," said she readily, "away from this
dreadful town; I would have enough money to drink tea every day (of
course I would have a good dinner, too), and to buy books, to visit and
be visited, and make my ladies happy, and all be gentlewomen together."

"And never a man among you all?"

"No--we should want no man. You men do but eat, drink, devour,
and waste. The Rules are full of unhappy women, ruined by your
extravagances. Go live all together and carry each other home at night,
where no woman can see or hear."

He shook his head with a laugh, and answered nothing. That same night,
however, he was led home at midnight, bawling some drinking song at the
top of his voice; so that the girl's admonition had no effect upon him.
Perhaps profligate men feel a pleasure not only in their intemperance
but also in repentance. It always seemed to me as if Sir Miles enjoyed
the lamentations of a sinner the morning after a debauch.

On the few occasions when their journey was prolonged beyond Charing
Cross, the ladies were generally attended and protected by Mr. Solomon
Stallabras, who, though little in stature, was brave, and would have
cudgelled a porter, or cuffed a guardsman, in the defence of ladies, as
well as the strongest and biggest gentleman.

There are many other things to see in Westminster Abbey--the coronation
throne, Henry the Seventh's Chapel, the monuments of kings, queens,
great lords, and noble generals--but Mr. Stallabras had an eye to one
spot only.

"There," he said, "is the Poet's Corner: with Dryden, Ben Jonson, and
the glorious dead of this spot, shall, perhaps, my ashes be mixed.
Ladies, immortality is the poet's meed."

The poor man needed some solace in these days, when his poverty was
excessive. Later on he found a little success: obtained an order for
a volume of "Travels in Cashmere" (whither he had never been), which
brought him in eight guineas. He afterwards added "A Romantic Tale,"
the scene of which was laid in the same sweet abode of Sensibility.
It was interspersed with verses, as full of delicacy as the tale
itself. But the publisher, who gave him five guineas for it, complained
afterwards that he had lost by his bargain. Mr. Stallabras often
boasted of the great things he could do were there no publishers, and
regretted the invention of printing, which rendered this class, who
prey upon the very vitals of poor poets, a necessity.

These holidays, these after-hours of rest in the tranquil aisles of St.
Paul's, or the awful Gothic shades of Westminster, were far between.
Mostly the three sat together over their work, while the tumult raged
below.

"Patience, child," said Mrs. Deborah. "Patience, awhile. We have borne
it for nigh thirty years. Can you, who have hope, not bear it a little
longer?"

Said Mrs. Esther: "Providence wisely orders every event, so that each
year or each day shall add something to the education of the soul. It
is doubtless for some wise purpose we have been kept in scarceness
among runagates and spendthrifts."

On Sundays they generally went to the church of St. Giles, Cripplegate.
It was a long way from the Rules, but the ladies liked it because it
was the church where their father lay buried. From the place where they
sat in the seats of the poor, which have neither cushions nor backs,
they could read the tablet to the memory of the late Joshua Pimpernel,
once Lord Mayor of London, and Alderman of Portsoken Ward. The great
church was full of City memories, dear to them from their childhood:
when they were girls they used to sit in a stately pew with red serge
seats and hassocks; now, they worshipped in the same church, but on the
benches among the poor women and the children. Yet there was the same
service, with the rector and the clerk in their desks, the schoolboys
of the Charity along the left, and the schoolgirls of the Charity along
the right; the beadles and vergers, the old women who swept the church,
opened the pew doors, curtsied to the quality and remained behind for
doles--all brought back their childhood. They were as poor themselves
as these old trots, but they could not stay for doles. It is a large
and handsome church, filled with grave citizens, responsible men, whose
ventures are abroad on many seas, respected for wealth and upright
conduct, good men and true, such as was, in his day, my Lord Mayor
Pimpernel himself; with the citizens sit their wives bravely attired,
and their daughters making gallant show in hoops, patches, lace,
sarsnet, and muslin. Outside the church a graveyard, piled and full,
still with a tree or two upon it, whose boughs in June are covered with
bright green leaves, among which the sparrows twitter and fly about.
There is also a great round tower of antique look, which once had been
part of the Roman wall of London.

Here they went to worship. When the minister came to the words in the
Litany--

    "Lord have mercy upon all prisoners and captives,"

the sisters would catch each other by the hand, and audibly follow the
reader in prayer as well as response. For thirty years, for fifty-two
Sundays in each year, they had made that prayer in the same words, for
most of the time in the same church. Yet what answer?

Kitty took the prayer, presently, for herself as well. If these ladies
were prisoners, why, what was she? If they might not sleep abroad, and
only walk in the streets by permission and licence of the law, how
was she different from them, since she could not, being but a maid,
and young and penniless, go abroad at all without them or some other
protection?

The sight of the leaves on the trees outside; the fluttering and flying
of the sparrows, now and then the buzzing of a foolish bee who had
found his way into the church, carried the girl's thoughts away to
the quiet place in the country where, between Hall and Vicarage, she
had been brought up. Would the sweet country never more be seen? Was
her life to be, like that of these poor ladies, one long prison among
reprobates and profligates?

The summer came on apace: it grew hot in June; in July it was so
hot that they were fain to sit all day and to sleep all night, with
open windows. The air was cooler, perhaps, at night, but it was
laden with the odours of decaying cabbages, trodden peas and beans,
rotten strawberries, bruised cherries, broken gooseberries, with the
nauseous breath of the butcher's stall, and the pestilential smell
of the poulterer's shop. Moreover, they could not but hear the oaths
and ribaldries of those who sat and lounged about the market, staying
in the open air because it was warm and because it was cheap. The
bulkheads, bunks, booths, stalls, and counters of the market were free
and open to the world: a log of wood for a pillow, a hard plank for a
bed; this was the reward of a free and lawless life. On most nights
it seemed best to lie with windows closed and endure the heat. Yet
closed windows could not altogether keep out the noise, for on these
summer nights all the knaves and thieves unhung in this great town
seemed to be gathered here, pleased to be all together, a Parliament of
rogues, under the pent-houses and on the stalls of the market. And as
in some Roman Catholic countries nuns and monks maintain a perpetual
adoration to the Blessed Virgin, whom they ignorantly worship, so did
these reprobates maintain a perpetual litany of ribaldry and foul
conversation. It never ceased. When one grew tired he lay down and
slept: his friends carried on the talk; the drinking booths were open
all night long, so that those who talked might slake their thirst, and
if any waked and felt thirsty he too might have a drain and so lie down
again. Day and night there was a never-ending riot: the ladies, as the
hot days continued, grew thinner and paler, but they bore it patiently;
they had borne it for thirty years.

Between two and three in the morning there generally came a little
respite; most of the brawlers were then asleep, drunk, or tired out;
only at corners, where there was drink to be had, men and women still
gathered together, talking and joking. At four, or thereabouts, the
market-carts began to arrive, and noise of another kind began.

One morning in July Kitty awoke--it was a hot and close night--just
when all the City clocks were striking three; it was broad daylight;
she sprang from bed, and drawing the blind aside a little, looked out
upon the market below and the City around. In the clear and cloudless
air, before the new day had charged it with a fresh covering or
headpiece of smoke, she saw the beautiful spires of St. Bride's, St.
Dunstan's, St. Andrew's, St. Mary's, and St. Clement's rising one
beyond the other into the clear blue sky, their weather-cocks touched
by the morning sun; on the south, over the river, were visible the
green hills of Surrey, the sun shining on their hanging woods, as plain
as if they were half a mile away. On the north there were the low hills
of Highgate, Hampstead, and Hornsey, the paradise of cits, and yet
places most beautiful, wooded and retired. Everywhere, north, west,
and south, spires of churches rising up to the heavens, as if praying
for the folk beneath. And under her eyes, the folk themselves!

They were human ruins of the past, the present, and the future.

Old men were among them who lay with curled up limbs, shaking with
cold, warm though the night was, and old women, huddled up in scanty
petticoats, lying with tremulous lips and clasped hands. The cheeks
both of the old men and the old women were swollen with drink. What was
the record of their lives? Some of them had been rogues and vagabonds
from the very first, though how they managed to scape the gallows would
be hard to tell. Doubtless their backs were well scarred with the
fustigations of the alderman's whip, and they could remember the slow
tread of the cart behind which they had marched from Newgate to Tyburn,
the cruel cat falling at every step upon their naked and bleeding
shoulders. Yet what help? They must starve or they must steal; and,
being taken, they must be hanged or must be flogged.

Why, these poor old men and poor old women should, had they not missed
the meaning of their lives, have been sitting in high places, with the
state and reverence due to honoured age, with the memory of a life well
fought, hung with chains of gold, draped with cloth of silver and lace.
Yet they were here, crouched in this filthy, evil-smelling place, eyes
shut, backs bent, lips trembling, cheeks twitching, and minds hardened
to iniquity. Did any of them, perchance, remember how one who knew
declared that never had he seen the righteous forsaken or the good man
beg his bread?

A dreadful shivering seized the girl. What plank of safety, what
harbour of refuge was open to her that she too might escape this fate?
What assurance had she that her end might not be like unto the end of
these? Truly none, save that faith by which, as Paul hath taught, the
only way to heaven itself is opened.

Then there were young men with red and swollen faces, thieves and
vagabonds by profession, who found the air of the market more pleasant
than that of Turnmill or Chick Street. Yet it was an ominous and
suspicious place to sleep in; a place full of bad dreams for thieves,
criminals, and debtors, since close at hand was the Fleet Prison,
its wards crowded with the careless, who lounged and jested, and the
hopeless, who sat in despair; since but a hundred yards from them stood
the black and gloomy Newgate, its condemned cells full of wretches, no
worse than themselves, waiting to be hanged, its courts full of other
wretches, no worse than themselves, waiting to be tried, sentenced,
and cast for execution, and its gaol-fever hanging over all alike,
delivering the wards from their prisoners, cheating the hangman,
hurrying to death judge, jury, counsel, prisoner, and warders together.
But they never think upon such things, these poor rogues; each hopes
that while his neighbour is hanged, he will escape. They cannot stop
to think, they cannot turn back: behind them is the devil driving them
downwards; before them, if they dare to lift their eyes, the horrid
machinery of justice with pillory, whip, and gallows. Among them, here
and there, pretty boys and girls, lying asleep side by side upon the
hard wooden stalls; boys with curly hair and rosy faces, girls with
long eyelashes, parted lips, and ruddy cheeks--pity, pity, that when
they woke they should begin again the only trade they knew: to thieve,
filch, and pick pockets, with the reward of ducking, pumping, flogging,
and hanging.

So clear was the air, so bright the morning, that what she saw was
impressed upon her memory clearly, so that she can never forget it.
The old men and old women are dead; the young men and women are, one
supposes, hanged; what else could be their fate? And as for the boys
and girls, the little rogues and thieves, who had no conscience and
took all, except the whippings, for frolic, are any left still to sleep
on hot nights in that foul place, or are all hanged, whipped at the
cart-tail, burnt in the hand, or at best, transported to labour under
the lash in the plantations?

Sinner succeeds unto sinner as the year follows year; the crop of
gallows fruit increases day by day; but the criminals do not seem to
become fewer.



CHAPTER IX.

HOW THE SOUTH SEA BUBBLE MADE TWO WOMEN PRISONERS.


One Sunday evening in the autumn, the market being then quiet, the two
ladies and the girl sat round a fire of coal, talking together by its
light. The memories of the sisters, by some accident, were carried back
to the past, and they told the child the story, of which she already
knew a part, how by a great and crying injustice of the law, they had
been shut up in prison, for no fault of their own, for nearly thirty
years.

"My father's eyes," said Mrs. Deborah, looking at the portrait over the
fireplace, "seem to rest upon me to-night."

Mrs. Esther shuddered.

"It is a sign, sister," she said, "that something will happen to us."

Mrs. Deborah laughed a little bitterly. I thought afterwards that the
laugh was like that of Sarai, because a thing did happen to her, as
will presently be seen.

"Nothing," she said, "will happen to you and to me any more, Esther,
except more pain and more starvation."

"Patience, Deborah," sighed Mrs. Esther. "We who have borne our
captivity for nine-and-twenty years----"

"And seven months," said her sister.

"Can surely bear it a little longer."

"We were girls when we came here," said Mrs. Deborah; "girls who might
have had lovers and become mothers of brave sons--not that you, Kitty,
should let your thoughts run on such matters. But there are no honest
lovers for honest girls in the Rules of the Fleet."

"Lovers!" echoed Mrs. Esther, with a heavy sigh. "Mothers! with sons!
Ah, no! not for us."

"We are old women now, sister. Well, everything is short that hath an
end. Let us take comfort. To earthly prison is a certain end appointed."

"We came to the gaol, sister," continued Mrs. Esther, "two girls,
weeping, hand-in-hand. Poor girls! poor girls! My heart bleeds to think
of them, so young and so innocent."

"We shall go out of it," said her sister, "with tears of joy. They
shall write upon our tombstones, 'These sisters thank God for death.'"

"What fault, we asked--ah! Deborah, how often we asked it!--what fault
had we committed? For what sin or crime of ours did this ruin fall upon
us?"

"I ask it still," said Deborah the impatient, "I ask it every day. How
can they call this a land of justice, when two innocent women can be
locked up for life?"

"My sister, we may not kick against the pricks. If laws are unjust they
must be changed, not disobeyed."

Mrs. Deborah replied by a gesture of impatience.

"We were blessed with parents," said Mrs. Esther, half talking to
herself, half to me, "whose worth and piety were as eminent as their
lofty positions in the City. Our respected father was Lord Mayor in the
year 1716, when, with our esteemed mother, who was by birth a Balchin,
and the granddaughter of Sir Rowland Balchin, also once Lord Mayor, he
had the honour of entertaining his Highness Prince George of Denmark.
We were present at that royal banquet in the gallery. Our father was
also, of course, an alderman----"

"Of Portsoken Ward," said Mrs. Deborah.

"And Worshipful Master of the Company of Armour Scourers."

"And churchwarden of St. Dionis Backchurch," said Mrs. Deborah.

"Which he beautified, adding a gallery at his own expense."

"And where, in 1718, a tablet was placed in the wall to his memory,"
added Mrs. Deborah.

"And one to the memory of Esther, his wife," continued the elder
sister, "who died in the year 1719, so that we, being still minors,
unfortunately became wards of a merchant, an old and trusted friend of
our father."

"A costly friend he proved to us," said Mrs. Deborah.

"Nay, sister, blame him not. Perhaps he thought to multiply our
fortunes tenfold. Then came the year of 1720, when, by visitation of
the Lord, all orders and conditions of men went mad, and we, like
thousands of others, lost our little all, and from rich heiresses of
twenty thousand pounds apiece--such, Kitty, was then our enviable
condition--became mere beggar-girls."

"Worse," said Mrs. Deborah grimly. "Beggar-wenches are not in debt;
they may go and lay their heads where they please."

"We were debtors, but to whom I know not; we owed a large sum of money,
but how much I know not; nor have ever been able to understand how
our guardian ruined us, with himself. I was twenty-two, and my sister
twenty-one; we were of age; no one could do anything for us; needs must
we come to the Fleet and be lodged in prison."

"Esther!" cried her sister, shuddering; "must we tell her all?"

"My child," continued Mrs. Esther, "we suffered at first more than we
dare to tell you. There was then in charge of the prison a wretch,
a murderer, a man whose sins towards me I have, I hope, forgiven,
as is my Christian duty. But his sins towards my sister I can never
forgive; no, never. It is not, I believe," she said with more asperity
than I had ever before remarked in her--"it cannot be expected of any
Christian woman that she should forgive in a wicked man his wickedness
to others."

"That is my case," said Mrs. Deborah. "The dreadful cruelties of
Bambridge, so far as I am concerned, are forgiven. I cannot, however,
forgive those he inflicted upon you, Esther. And I never mean to."

This seemed at the moment an edifying example of obedience to the
divine law. Afterwards the girl wondered whether any person was
justified in nourishing hatred against another. And as to that,
Bambridge was dead; he had committed suicide; he had gone where no
human hate could harm him.

Every one knows that this man must have been a most dreadful monster.
He was the tenant, so to speak, of the prison, and paid so much a year
for the privilege of extorting what money he could from the unfortunate
debtors. He made them pay commitment fees, lodging fees, and fees of
all kinds, so that the very entrance to the prison cost a poor wretch
sometimes more than forty pounds. He took from the two ladies all the
money they had, to the last guinea; he threatened them with the same
punishment which he (illegally) inflicted on the unfortunate men; he
would, he said, clap them in irons, set them in tubs, put them in the
strong-room, which was a damp and dark and filthy dungeon, not fit for
a Turk; he kept their lives in continual terror of some new misery:
they had ever before their eyes the spectacle of his cruelties to
Captain MacPheadrid, whom he lamed; Captain Sinclair, whom he confined
until his memory was lost and the use of his limbs; Jacob Mendez,
whom he kept locked up till he gave up his uttermost farthing; and
Sir William Rich, whom he slashed with a hanger and beat with sticks
because he could not pay his lodging.

And as every one knows, Bambridge was at last turned out through the
exertions of General Oglethorpe.

   "And how can I forget the generous band,
    Who, touched with human woe, redressive searched
    Into the horrors of the gloomy gaol!"

"We endured these miseries," continued Mrs. Esther, "for four years,
when our cousin was able to go security and pay the fees for us to
leave the dreadful place and enjoy the Rules. Here, at least, we have
some liberty, though we must live among scenes of rudeness, and see
and hear daily a thousand things which a gentlewoman should be able to
escape and forget. Our cousin," she went on, after a pause, "is not
rich, and is able to do little for us: he sends us from time to time,
out of his poverty, something for our necessities: out of this we have
paid our rent, and being able sometimes to do some sewing work, we
have lived, though but poorly. Two women want but little: a penny will
purchase a dish of broth."

"It is not the poverty we lament," said Mrs. Deborah, "it is the place
wherein we live."

"Then," Mrs. Esther went on, "Heaven sent us a friend. My dear, be it
known to you, that had it not been for the Doctor, we had, ere now,
been starved. He it was who found us in hunger and cold; he fed us,
clothed us, and warmed us."

"To us, at least, he will always be the best of men," said Mrs. Deborah.

"More than that, sister; he hath brought us this child to be our joy
and comfort: though God in His mercy forbid that your young days should
all be wasted in this wicked place, which surely is the very mouth----"

Here they were interrupted by an uproar in the street below us: a
bawling and bellowing of many men: they were bringing home the baronet,
who was already drunk. Among the voices Kitty heard, and hung her head
with shame, the tones of her uncle, as clear and sonorous as the great
bell of St. Paul's.

They said nothing for a space. When all was quiet again, and the
brawlers had withdrawn, Mrs. Esther spoke in her gentle way.

"A man's life doth, doubtless, seem to himself different from what he
seems to the women who know him. We know not his moments of repentance,
his secret prayers, or his temptations. Men are stronger than women,
and they are also weaker: their virtues are nobler: their vices are
more conspicuous. We must not judge, but continue to think the best.
I was saying, my dear, when we were interrupted by the brawling of
Sabbath-breakers, that your uncle, the worthy Doctor, is the most
kind-hearted and generous of men. For all that he has done to us,
three poor and defenceless women, we have nothing to give in return
but our prayers. Let us give him these, at least. May the Lord of all
goodness and mercy reward him, strengthen him, and forgive him whatever
frailties do beset him!"



CHAPTER X.

HOW THE DOCTOR WAS AT HOME TO HIS FRIENDS.


If it be true (which doubtless will be denied by no one) that women are
fond of changing their fashions and of pranking themselves continually
in some new finery, it is certainly no less true that men--I mean young
ones--are for ever changing their follies as well as their fashions.
The follies of old men--who ought to be grave, in contemplation of the
next world--seem to remain the same: some of them practise gluttony:
some love the bottle: some of them the green table: some, even more
foolish, pretend to renew their youth and counterfeit a passion for our
sex. As for the fashions of the young men, one year it is the cocking
of a hat, the next it is the colour of a waistcoat, the cut of a skirt,
the dressing of a wig; the ribbon behind must be lengthened or reduced,
the foretop must stick up like a horn one year and lie flat the next,
the curls must be amplified till a man looks like a monstrous ram, or
reduced till he resembles a monkey who has been shaved; the sword must
have hilt and scabbard of the fashionable shape which changes every
year; it must be worn at a certain angle; the rule about the breadth of
the ruffle or the length of the skirt must be observed. So that, even
as regards their fashions, the men are even with the women. Where we
cannot vie with them is in the fashion of their amusements, in which
they change for ever, and more rapidly than we change the colour of a
ribbon. One season Ranelagh is the vogue, the next Vauxhall; the men
were, for a year or two, bitten by that strange madness of scouring
the streets by night, upsetting constables, throwing pence against
window-panes, chasing belated and peaceful passengers, shouting and
bellowing, waking from sleep timid and helpless women and children.
Could one devise a braver and more noble amusement? Another time there
was the mischievous practice of man-hunting. It was thought the work
of a fine fellow, a lad of spirit, to lie hidden, with other lads of
spirit, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, or some such quiet place, behind the
bushes, until there might pass by some unfortunate wretch, alone and
unprotected. Then would they spring to their feet, shouting, "That's
he! that's he! after him, boys!" and pursue the poor man through the
streets with drawn swords and horrid cries, until, half dead, he
rushed into some tavern or place of refuge. As for actors, singers,
or dancers, they take them up for a season, and then abandon them for
no merit or fault in them whatever; one day they are all for Church,
and the next they applaud Orator Henley; one day they shout for Nancy
Dawson, and the next for Garrick; one day they are Whig, and the next
Tory; one year they brandish thick clubs, wear heavy greatcoats with
triple capes, swear, drink porter, and go like common coachmen; the
next, with amber canes, scented gloves, lace ruffles, flowered silk
waistcoats, skirts, extended like a woman's hooped petticoat, they
amble along as if the common air was too coarse for them, mince their
words, are shocked at coarse language, and can drink nothing less fine
than Rhenish or Champagne, though the latter be seven shillings and
sixpence a flask; and as for their walk, they go on tip-toe like a
city madam trying to look like a gentlewoman. The next year, again,
they are all for Hockley-in-the-Hole and bear-baiting. This year, the
fashion was for a short space, and among such as could get taken there,
to spend the evenings in the Rules of the Fleet, where, the bloods of
the town had discovered, was to be found excellent company for such as
liked to pay for it, among those who had been spent and ruined in the
service of fashion, gaming, and gallantry.

There are plenty of taverns and houses of call in London where a
gentleman may not only call for what he pleases to order, but may also
be diverted by the jests and songs of some debauched, idle fellow
who lies and lops about all day, doing no work and earning no money,
but in the evening is ready to sing and make merriment for a bowl of
punch. This rollicking, roaring blade, the lad of mettle, was once
a gentleman, perhaps, or a companion to gentlemen. To him nature,
intending her worst, hath given a reckless temperament, an improvident
brain, a merry laugh, a musical voice, a genius for mimicry, of which
gifts he makes such excellent use that they generally lead him to end
his days in such a position. Men need not, for certain, go to Fleet
Market to find these buffoons.

Yet, within the Rules, there was an extraordinary number of these
careless vagabonds always ready to enjoy the present hour could some
friend be found to pay the shot. In the morning they roamed the place,
leaned against bulkheads, sat in doorways, or hid themselves within
doors, dejected, repentant, full of gloomy anticipations; in the
evening their old courage came back to them, they were again jocund,
light-hearted, the oracle of the tavern, the jester and Jack-pudding of
the feast, pouring out songs from the collections of Tom D'Urfey, and
jokes from Browne and Ned Ward.

Many of the taverns, the Bishop Blaize, for example, and the Rainbow,
kept one or two of these fellows in their regular employ. They gave
them dinner, with, as soon as the guests arrived in the evening,
liberty to call for what they pleased. If the visitors treated them,
so much the better for the house; but there were, however, conditions,
unwritten but understood: they were never to be sad, never grave,
never to show the least signs of repentance, reflection or shame; and
they were not to get drunk early in the evening, or before the better
sort of visitors, whose entertainment they were to provide. Shameful
condition! shameful servitude, for man (who hath a soul to think of) to
obey!

One has to confess with shame that among the tavern buffoons, the
Professional Tom Fools of the Fleet, were several of those clergymen
whose trade it was to make rash couples wretched for life. This
peculiarity, not to be found elsewhere, provided, perhaps, a novelty in
vice which for a time made the Rules a favourite resort of men about
town: the knowledge that the man who, without a rag left of the gravity
belonging to his profession, laughed, sang and acted for the amusement
of all comers, should have borne himself as a grave and reverend
divine, gave point to his jest and added music to his song. It is not
every day that one sees a merry-andrew in full-bottomed wig, bands, and
flowing gown; it is not in every tavern that one finds the Reverend
James Lands dancing a hornpipe in clogs, or the Reverend William Flood
bawling a comic song while he grins through a horse-collar. Nor could
the wits find at the coffee-houses of St. James's or Covent Garden,
or at any ordinary place of amusement, a clergyman at the head of the
table ruffling it with the best--albeit with tattered gown and shabby
wig--ready with jest more profane, wit more irreverent, song and story
more profligate, than any of the rest.

As for Doctor Shovel, it must not be supposed that he was to be found
in any of these places.

"What!" he was wont to cry, "should a man of reputation, a scholar,
whose Latin verses have been the delight of bishops and the pride
of his college, a clergyman of dignity and eloquence, condescend to
take the pay of a common vintner, make merriment for the company of a
mug-house, hobnob with a tradesmen's club, play buffoon for a troop of
Templars, and crack jests for any ragamuffin prentice with half-a-crown
to call for a bottle? No, sir! The man who would know Doctor Gregory
Shovel must seek him in his own house, where, as a gentleman and a
scholar, he receives such as may be properly introduced on every night
of the year--Sundays excepted, when he takes his drink, for the most
part, alone."

In fact, his house was the chief attraction of the Rules; but access
was only granted to those who were brought by his friends. Once
introduced, however, a man was free of the house, and might not only
come again as often as he pleased, but bring other friends. Now, as men
prize most that which is least easy to procure, whether they want it or
not, it became a distinction to have this right of spending the evening
in the Fleet Market. A fine distinction, truly!

Those, however, who went there were not unlikely to find themselves
among a goodly assemblage of wits and men of fashion. The Doctor
played the host with the dignity of a bishop, and the hospitality of
a nobleman; chairs were set around the table, in that room where he
performed his daily marriages; those who came late could stand or send
for a bench from the market; Roger and William, the two clerks, were
in attendance to go and fetch the punch which the Doctor or his guests
provided for the entertainment of all. Tobacco was on the table; the
Doctor was in the chair, his long pipe in his mouth, his great head
leaning back, his eyes rolling as he talked, before him his glass of
punch. He was no buffoon; he did not cut capers, nor did he dance, nor
did he sing Tom D'Urfey's songs, nor did he quote Ned Ward's jokes.
If the company laughed, it was at one of his own stories, and when he
sang, the words were such as might have been heard in any gentlewoman's
parlour, and the music was Arne's, Bull's, Lilly's, or Carey's. Round
him were poets, authors, scholars, lawyers, country gentlemen, and
even grave merchants; some of them were out at elbows, threadbare, and
sometimes hungry, but they were as welcome as the richer sort who paid
for the punch. The younger men came to listen to one who was notorious
for his impudent defiance of the law, and was reported to possess
excellent gifts of conversation and of manner. The elder men came to
look upon a man unabashed in his disgrace, whom they had known the
favourite of the town.

"All the world," Sir Miles Lackington told me, "ran after Doctor
Shovel when he was a young man and evening lecturer at St.
Martin's-in-the-Fields; never was clergyman more popular in the world
or in the pulpit; what was to be looked for when such a young man spent
his morning with great ladies, who cried, 'Oh, sweet sir! oh, reverend
sir! how eloquent, how gracious are your words!' but that he should see
within reach promise of preferment, and run into debt to maintain a
fine appearance and a fine lodging?"

The fine ladies had gone off after other favourite divines; their
promises were forgotten; they had listened to other voices as musical,
and bowed their heads before other divines as pious. The debts were
unpaid--the Doctor in the Rules. He possessed no longer the wonderful
comeliness with which he had stolen away the hearts of women, he
preached no more in any pulpit; but his old dignity was left, with his
eloquence and his wit. He who had charmed women now attracted men.

"Fie!" he would say; "remind me not of that time. I was once the pet
and plaything of ladies, a sort of lapdog to be carried in their
coaches: a lackey in a cassock, with my little store of compliments,
pretty sayings, and polite maxims: my advice on patches, powder, and
Eau de Chypre: my family prayers: my grace before meat: my sermons on
divine right and the authority of the Church; and my anecdotes to make
my lady laugh and take the cross looks out of little miss's dimpled
cheeks. And, gentlemen, withal a needy curate, a poor starveling,
a pauper with never a guinea, and a troop of debts which would not
disgrace a peer.

"Whereas," he would continue, "here I live free of duns and debt:
the countesses may go hang: I look for no more patrons: I expect no
beggarly preferment; I laugh at my ease, while my creditors bark but
cannot bite."

To those who objected that in former times he preached to the flock,
and that his eloquence was now as good as lost to the Church, he
replied that, as Chaplain of the Fleet, he preached daily, whereas
formerly he had preached but once a week, which was a clear gain for
righteousness.

"What! would you have me send forth my newly married lambs without a
word of exhortation beyond the rubric? Nay, sir; that were to throw
away the gift of speech, and to lose a golden occasion. None leave
my chapel-of-ease unless fortified and exhorted to virtue by such an
admonition as they have never before enjoyed."

One evening in October, when the summer was over and the autumn already
set in, the Doctor sat as usual in his arm-chair. Before him stood his
tobacco-box, and beside it lay his pipe. As yet, for it was but eight
o'clock, there was no punch. Four great wax candles stood lighted on
the table, and in the doorway were the two impudent varlets, whom he
called his clerks, leaning against the posts, one on either hand.

There was but one visitor as yet. He was a young Templar, almost a
boy, pale and thin because of his late hours and his excesses. And the
Doctor was admonishing him, being at the time in a mood of repentance,
or rather of virtue.

"Young man," he said, "I have observed thee, and made inquiry among thy
friends regarding thy conduct, which resembles, at present, that of
the prodigal son while revelling in his prodigality. Learn from this
place and the wretches who are condemned to live in it, the end of
profligacy. What the words of Solomon have hitherto been powerless to
teach, let the Chaplain of the Fleet enforce. The wellspring of wisdom
is as a flowing brook, says the Wise Man. Yet ye drink not of that
stream. Also he saith that Wisdom crieth at the gates, at the entry of
the city. But ye regard not. He hath told ye how the young man, void of
understanding, falls continually into the pit of destruction. But ye
heed not. The drunkard and the glutton, he hath declared, shall come to
poverty. Ye listen not, but continue to eat and to drink. Wherefore,
young man, look around thee and behold this place. We who are here sit
among wine-bibbers and spendthrifts: we have not in our comings and
goings--but, alas! we never go--any gracious paths of pleasantness:
we go never among the meadows to breathe the air of buttercups and to
ponder on the divine wisdom: we listen perpetually to the cackle of
fools, the braying of asses, whom we could indeed wish to be wild and
on their native Asiatic plains; and the merriment of madmen, which is
like unto the crackling of thorns beneath the pot: we have--though our
sins are multitudinous as the moments--no time nor opportunity for
repentance: and even if we did repent, there is no way out for us, no
escape at all, but still we must remain among the wicked until we die.
Even the Christian priest, who finds himself (through thoughtlessness
over money matters, being continually occupied with higher things)
brought hither, must leave the ways which are right, and cleave unto
those which are wrong. It is only by lying, bullying, and swearing,
that money (by which we live) is drawn here out of the purses of silly
and unwary people. Granted that we draw it. What boots it if one's
rogues bring in a hundred couples in a month? The guineas melt away
like snow in the sunshine, and nothing remains but the evil memory of
the sins by which they were gotten."

The Templar, astonished at such a sermon from such a man, hung his
head abashed. He came to drink and be merry, and lo! an exhortation
to virtue. While the Doctor was yet speaking, there came a second
visitor--no other than Mr. Stallabras, the poet, who came, his head
erect, his hand thrust in his bosom, as if fresh from an interview with
the Muses. The Doctor regarded him for a moment, as one in a pulpit
might regard a late-comer who disturbed his sermon, and went on with
his discourse:

"This is a place, young man, where gnashing of teeth may be heard day
and night by him who has ears to hear, and who knows that the sound
of riot and merriment are but raised to drown despair: to him every
song is a throb of agony, every jest rings in his ears like a cry of
remorse: we are in a prison, though we seem to be free; we are laid by
the heels, though we are said to enjoy the Liberties of the Fleet; we
live and breathe like our fellows, but we have no hope for the rest of
our lives; we go not forth, though the doors are open; we are living
monuments, that foolish youth may learn by our luckless fate to avoid
the courses which have brought us hither. Wherefore, young man, beware!
_Discite justitiam moniti._"

He paused awhile, and then continued:

"Yet we should not be pitied, because, forsooth, we do but lie in the
beds that we have chosen. No other paradise save a heaven of gluttony
would serve our turn. In the Garden of Eden, should we peradventure
and by some singular grace win thither, we should instantly take to
wallowing in the mud and enjoying the sunshine: some of us would sit
among the pigsties in happy conversation and friendship with the swine:
some would creep downstairs and bask among the saucepans before the
kitchen fire: some would lie among the bottles and casks in the cellar.
Not for such as have come here are the gardens, the streams, the
meadows, and the hilltops."

Then came two more guests, whom he saluted gravely. These were
accustomed to the Doctor's moods, and sat down to the table, waiting
in silence. He, too, became silent, sitting with his head upon his
hand. Then came others, who also found the Doctor indisposed for mirth.
Presently, however, he banged the table with his fist, and cried out in
those deep tones which he could use so well:

"Come, life is short. Lamenting lengthens not our days. Brothers, let
us drink and sing. Roger, go bring the bowl. Gentlemen all, be welcome
to this poor house. Here is tobacco. Punch is coming. The night is
young. Let every man be merry."

The room was half full: there were, besides the residents and lodgers
of the place, young lawyers from the Temple, Gray's Inn, and Lincoln's
Inn; poets not yet in limbo; authors who were still able to pay for
their lodgings; young fellows whose creditors were still forbearing;
and a few whose rich coats and lace betokened their rank and wealth.

The evening began, the Doctor's voice loud above all the rest. Half
an hour afterwards, when the air of the room was already heavy with
tobacco-smoke, Sir Miles Lackington who usually came with the earliest,
arrived, bringing with him a young gentleman of twenty-two years or
thereabouts, who was bravely dressed in a crimson coat, lined with
white silk: he had also a flowered silk waistcoat, and the hilt of his
sword was set with jewels. He was, in fact, one of those gentlemen who
were curious to see this jovial priest, self-styled Chaplain of the
place where there were so many parsons, who set the laws of the country
at defiance with an audacity so splendid. He looked surprised, as if he
had not expected so large an assembly.

"Follow me, my lord," said the baronet, whose jolly face was already
flushed, and his voice already thick with wine. "Come, my lord, let us
get nearer the Doctor. Gentlemen, by your leave: will you make place
for his lordship? Doctor, this gentleman is none other than the young
Lord Chudleigh, who hath heard of your eloquence and your learning, and
greatly desires your better acquaintance. Rascal Roger, chairs for my
lord and myself!"

He pushed his way through the crowd, followed by his guest. The doctor
turned his head, half rose; his melancholy mood had passed away: he
was in happy vein: he had sung one or two songs in a voice which might
have been heard at Temple Bar: he had taken two or three glasses of
punch, and smoked a pipe and a half of the best Virginian; he was in
the paradise which he loved. Yet when Sir Miles Lackington spoke, when
he named his guest, the Doctor's face became suddenly pale, he seemed
to totter, his eyes glared, and he caught at the arm of his chair, as
if about to be stricken with some kind of fit. His friends, who had
never seen those ample and rubicund cheeks other than of a glowing
ruddiness, were greatly terrified at this phenomenon.

"The Doctor is ill," cried Solomon Stallabras, starting to his feet.
"Give air--open the windows--let us carry the Doctor into the street!"

But he recovered.

"It is nothing," he said. "A sudden faintness. The day has been close.
Let no one move." He drank off his glass of punch: the colour came back
to his face and the firmness to his legs. "I am well again. Sir Miles,
you are always welcome. Were the Liberties peopled with such as you,
we should be well sped indeed. Quick with the chairs, Roger. I rejoice
to see your lordship in this poor house of mine. Had other noblemen
of your lordship's rank but kept their word, I should this day have
welcomed you in the palace of a bishop. Forget, my lord, that I am not
a bishop: be assured that if I cannot bestow the episcopal absolution
and benediction which he of London hath ever ready for a nobleman,
my welcome is worthy of a prelate, and the punch not to be surpassed
even at Lambeth Palace. Sir Miles, you forgot, I think, to make me
acquainted with his lordship's noble name."

"I am the Lord Chudleigh," said the young man doubtfully, and with a
pleasing blush.

"Again, your lordship is welcome," said the Doctor. "In the old days
when I was young and able to stir abroad in the world, without a
creditor in every street and a vindictive dun in every shop (whose
revenge in this my confinement has only brought lamentation on every
mother's son, because they remain all unpaid), it was my privilege to
be much with your noble father. In truth, I knew not that he was dead."

"My father died two years ago at his country house."

"Indeed!" The Doctor gravely gazed in his guest's face, both still
standing. "Is that really so? But we who live in this retirement hear
little news. So Lord Chudleigh is dead! I went upon the Grand Tour with
him. I was his tutor, his companion, his friend, as he was kind enough
to call me; he was two years younger than myself, but our tastes were
common, and what he bought I enjoyed and often chose. There came a
time when--but your lordship is young--you know not yet how rank and
class separate friends, how the man of low birth may trust his noble
friend too much, and he of rank may think the decalogue written for the
vulgar. Your father is dead! I had hoped to see him if but once more,
before he died: it was not to be. I would have written to him upon his
deathbed had I known: I owed him much--very much more than I could hope
to repay, yet would I have repaid something. Your father died suddenly,
my lord, or after painful illness?"

"He died, Doctor Shovel, after a long and very painful illness."

"Why, there," cried the Doctor, as if disappointed. "Had I only known
there would have been time for half-a-dozen letters. I would I had been
with him myself."

"It is kind of you, sir," said his lordship, "thus to speak of my
father."

"Did he--but I suppose he had forgotten--did he condescend to speak of
me?"

"Never," replied Lord Chudleigh; "at least not to me."

"There were certain passages in his life," the Doctor went on
thoughtfully, "of such a kind as recur to the memory of sick and dying
men, when the good and evil deeds of our lives stand arrayed before us
like ministering spirits and threatening demons. Certain passages, I
say, which were intimately associated with myself. Indeed, it cannot be
that they entirely perished from his lordship's memory. Since he spoke
not of them, let me not speak. I am sorry, my lord, to have saddened
you by thus recalling the thought of your dead father."

"Nay, sir," said Lord Chudleigh, "to have met so old a friend of my
father's is a pleasure I did not expect. I humbly desire, sir, your
better acquaintance."

The company during this long talk were mostly standing. It was no new
thing to meet a man of rank at the Doctor's, but altogether new to have
the conversation assume so serious a tone. Every one felt, however,
that the dignity of the Doctor was greatly increased by this event.

Then the Doctor waved his hand, and resumed his cheerful expression.

"Gentlemen," he said, "be seated all, I pray. My lord, your chair is
at my right. Enough of the past. We are here to enjoy the present
hour, which is always with us and always flying from us. We crown it
with flowers and honour it with libations: we sing its presence with
us: we welcome its coming, and speed its parting with wine and song.
So far are we pagans: join with us in these heathen rites wherein
we rejoice in our life and forget our mortality. None but poets are
immortal. Solomon--Solomon Stallabras, the modern Apollo, the favourite
of the Nine, we drink your health and wish the long deferring of your
immortality. Let us drink, let us talk, let us be merry, let us while
away the rosy hours." He banged the table with his fist and set the
glasses clinking. Then he filled a glass with punch and handed it
to Lord Chudleigh. "As for you, Sir Miles," he said, "you may help
yourself. Ah, tippler! the blush of the bottle is already on thy cheeks
and its light is in thy eyes. Wherefore, be moderate at the outset.
Roger, thou villain, go order another bowl, and after that more bowls,
and still more bowls. I am athirst: I shall drink continually: I shall
become this night a mere hogshead of punch. So will all this honourable
company; bid the vintner beware the lemon and be sparing of the sugar,
but liberal with the clove and the nutmeg. This night shall be such a
night as the Rules have never before seen. Run, rogue, run!" Roger
vanished. "Let me sing you, my lord, a song of my youth when nymphs and
shepherdesses ran in my head more than Hebrew and theology."

He sang in his rich, full, and musical voice, the following ditty:

         "Cried the nymph, while her swain
          Sought for phrases in vain,
    'Ah, Corydon, let me a shy lover teach;
          Your flowers and rings,
          Your verses and things,
    Are pretty, but dumb, and I love a bold speech.

        "'To dangle and sigh,
          To stammer and cry,
    Such foolishness angers us maidens in time:
          And if you would please,
          Neither tremble nor tease,
    But remember to woo us with laughter and rhyme.

        "'Go, hang up thy crook,
          Change that sorrowful look
    And seek merry rhymes and glad sayings in verse:
          Remember that Kitty
          Rhymes still unto pity,
    And Polly takes folly for better or worse.

        "'Come jocund and gay,
          As the roses in May,
    With a rolling leg and a conquering smile:
          Forget not that mirth
          Ever rhymes unto worth,
    And lucky the lover who laughs all the while.'"

"I wrote the song," said the Doctor, "when it was the fashion to be
sighing at the feet of Chloe. Not that my song produced any impression
on the fashion. Pray, my lord, is it the custom, nowadays, to woo with
a long face and a mournful sigh?"

Lord Chudleigh laughed and put the question by.

"What do women care for lovers' sighs? I believe, gentlemen, they like
to be carried by assault. Who can resist a brave fellow, all fire and
passion, who marches to the attack with a confident laugh and a gallant
bearing? It is the nature of the sex to admire gallantry. Therefore,
gentlemen, put on your best ruffles, cock your hats, tie your wigs,
settle the angle of your swords, and on with a hearty countenance.

"I remember, being then in Constantinople, and at a slave-market where
Circassians were to be bought, there came into the place as handsome a
young Turk as ever you might wish to set eyes upon. Perhaps he was a
poet, because when he had the slaves brought out for his inspection,
at sight of the prettiest and youngest of them all, he fell to sighing
just like an English gentleman in love. Presently there came in an old
ruffler of fifty, who, without any sighs or protestations, tugged out
his purse and bought the slave, and she went off delighted at having
fetched so good a price and pleased so resolute a fellow."

The Doctor continued to pour forth stories of adventure and experience,
interspersed with philosophical maxims. He told of courts and cities as
he saw them in the year 1720, which was the year in which he made the
Grand Tour with the late Lord Chudleigh. He told old tales of Cambridge
life. While he talked the company listened, drank, and smoked; no one
interrupted him. Meanwhile he sent the punch about, gave toasts--with
every glass a toast, with every toast a full glass--and swore that on
such a night no one should pay but himself, wherefore let every man
fill up.

"Come, gentlemen, we let the glasses flag. I will sing you another
song, written for the good old days of Tom D'Urfey, when men were
giants, and such humble topers as ourselves would have met with scant
respect.

   "Come, all ye honest topers, lend an ear, lend an ear,
      While we drain the bowl and push the bottle round, bottle round;
    We are merry lads, and cosy, cosy here, cosy here;
      Though outside the toil and moil may resound, may resound.

   "Let us drink reformation to mankind, to mankind;
      Example may they follow from our ways, from our ways:
    And whereas to their follies they are blind, they are blind,
      Their eyes may they open to their craze, to their craze.

   "For the miser all day long hugs his gold, hugs his gold;
      And the lover for his mistress ever sighs, ever sighs:
    And the parson wastes his words upon his fold, upon his fold;
      And the merchant to the ledger glues his eyes, glues his eyes.

   "But we wrangle not, but laugh, while we drink, while we drink;
      And we envy no man's happiness or wealth, or his wealth;
    We rest from toil and cease from pen and ink, pen and ink;
      And we only pray for liquor and for health, and for health.

   "Then the miser shall, like us, call for wine, call for wine:
      And the lover cry for lemon and the bowl, and the bowl:
    And the merchant send his clerks for brandy fine, brandy fine;
      And the parson with a bottle soothe his soul, soothe his soul.

   "And the rogue shall honest grow, o'er a glass, o'er a glass;
      And the thief shall repent beside a keg, beside a keg:
    And enmity to friendship quickly pass, quickly pass;
      While good fellows each to others drink a peg, drink a peg.

   "All kill-joy envies then shall disappear, disappear;
      Contented shall we push the bottle round, bottle round;
    For 'tis cosy, topers all, cosy here, cosy here;
      Though outside the toil and moil may resound, may resound."

Thus did the Doctor stimulate his guests to drink. As the night wore
on, one by one dropped away: some, among whom were Sir Miles, dropped
asleep; a few lay upon the floor. As for Lord Chudleigh, the fiery
liquor and the fumes of the tobacco were mounting to his brain, but
he was not, like the rest, overpowered. He would have got up and gone
away, but that the Doctor's voice, or his eyes, held him to his place.

"I am thinking," said the Doctor with a strange smile, "how your father
at one time might have rejoiced to think that you should come here. The
recollection of his services to me must have soothed his last moments.
Would that I could repay them!"

Lord Chudleigh assured him that, so far as he knew, there was nothing
to repay, and that, if there had been, his father's wish would
certainly have been to forgive the debt.

"He could not forgive the debt," said the Doctor, laughing. "It was not
in his power. He would have owned the debt. It was not money, however,
but a kindness of quite another sort."

"Then," said Lord Chudleigh, prettily bowing, "let me thank you
beforehand, and assure you that I shall be proud to receive any
kindness in return that you may have an opportunity to show me."

"Believe me, my lord," said the Doctor, "I have the will if not the
power: and I shall not forget the will, at least."

"It is strange," he continued, "that he never spoke about his younger
days. Lord Chudleigh attracted to himself, between the age of
five-and-twenty and thirty, the friendship and respect of many men,
like myself, of scholarship and taste, without fortune. He with his
friends was going to supply that defect, a promise which circumstances
prevented him from fulfilling. The earthen vessel swims merrily, in
smooth water, beside the vessel of brass; when a storm rises it breaks
to atoms. We were the earthen vessels, he the brazen; we are all broken
to atoms and ground beneath the heel. I, who almost alone survive,
though sunk as low as any, am yet not the least miserable, and can
yet enjoy the three great blessings of humanity in this age--I mean
tobacco, punch, and the Protestant religion. Yet one or two of the
earthenware pots survive: Judge Tester, for instance, a fellow whose
impudence has carried him upwards. He began by being a clown born and
bred. First he was sent to the Inns of Court, where he fell into a red
waistcoat and velvet breeches, and so into vanity. Impudence, I take
it, is the daughter of vanity. As for the rest, a few found their way
to this classic region, on which Queen Elizabeth from the Gate of Lud
looks down with royal benignity; but these are gone and dead. One,
I know, took to the road, and is now engaged in healthful work upon
a Plantation of Maryland; two were said to have joined the Waltham
Blacks, and lived like Robin Hood, on venison shot in the forest, and
other luxuries demanded of wayfarers pistol in hand; one I saw not
long ago equipped as a smallcoal man in blue surplice, his shoulder
laden with his wooden tinder, and his measure twisted into the mouth of
his sack; another, a light-weight and a younger son, became a jockey,
and wore the leathern cap, the cut bob, the buff breeches, and the
fustian frock, till he was thrown and broke his neck. I laugh when I
think of what an end hath come to all the greatness of those days.
To be sure, my lord paid for all and promised future favours; but we
were fine gentlemen on nothing, connoisseurs with never a guinea,
dilettanti who could not pay for the very eye-glasses we carried. In
the province of love and gallantry every man, beggar as he was, thought
himself a perfect Oroondates. We sang with taste; we were charming
men, nonpareils. We had the tastes of men of fortune; we talked as if
the things we loved were within our reach; we dreamed of pictures,
bronzes, busts, intaglios, old china, or Etruscan pateræ. And we had
the vices of the great as well as their tastes. Like them we drank;
like them we diced; like them we played all night at brag, all-fours,
teetotum, hussle-cup, chuck-farthing, hazard, lansquenet. So we lived,
and so we presently found the fate of earthen vessels. Heaven hath
been kinder to some of us than we deserve. Wherefore, gentlemen, drink
about." Here the Doctor looked round him. "Gentlemen, I perceive that
I have been for some time talking to a sleeping audience. Roger, pour
me out another glass. Swine of Circe, I drink to your headaches in the
morning. Now, lads, turn all out."



CHAPTER XI.

HOW THE DOCTOR DISMISSED HIS FRIENDS.


Those of the guests who had not already departed, were sitting or lying
asleep upon the floor or on the chairs. The last to succumb had been
Lord Chudleigh, not because his was the strongest head, but because he
had drunk the least and struggled the hardest not to fall a victim to
the punch. Sir Miles had long since sunk peacefully upon the floor,
where he lay in oblivion, one of the men having loosened his cravat to
prevent the danger of apoplexy. Solomon Stallabras, among whose vices
was not included the love of strong drink, was one of the earliest to
depart; the young Templar whom the Doctor exhorted to virtue early in
the evening, was now lying curled up like a child in the corner, his
virtuous resolutions, if he had ever formed any, forgotten. Others
there were, but all were crapulous, stupid, senseless, or asleep.

The Doctor stood over his victims, victorious. He had taken, singly,
more punch than any three of them together; yet there they all lay
helpless, while he was steady of head and speech; it was past two
o'clock in the morning; the candles, low now, and nearly spent, burned
dim in the thick, tobacco-laden air; the walls were streaming with the
heat generated by the presence of so many men and so much drink. Roger,
with the red nose and pale cheeks, still stood stolidly at the door,
waiting for the half-finished bowl and the last orders; beside him, his
fellow-lackey and clerk William.

"Turn all out, Roger," said the Doctor.

"Aye, sir," said Roger.

Both men addressed themselves to the task. They were accustomed to
turn out their master's guests in this fashion. First, they lifted the
fallen form of Sir Miles, and bore him carefully to his lodging; then
they carried out the young Templar and the others who lay snoring upon
the floor, and deposited them upon the stalls of the market outside,
where the fresh air of the night might be expected to restore them
speedily.

Meanwhile, Roger and William, for their better protection, would
themselves watch over them until such time as they should awake, rise,
and be ready to be led home with tottering step and rolling gait, for
such reward as the varlets might demand.

The Doctor's clerks had a hard life. They began to tout on Ludgate Hill
and the Fleet Bridge at eight; they fought for their couples all the
morning with other touts; in the evening, they waited on the Doctor's
guests; at midnight, they bore them into the market; there they watched
over them till they could be taken home. A hard and difficult service.
But there were few of the men about the Fleet who did not envy a
situation so well paid; indeed, one cannot but admire the hardness of
men to whom a daily fight, with constant black eyes, broken teeth, and
bleeding nose, appears of such slight importance in the day's work, as
not to be taken into account.

There remained Lord Chudleigh, who had fallen asleep in his chair, and
was the last.

"As for this young gentleman, Roger," said the Doctor, "carry him
upstairs and lay him upon my bed; he is of different stuff. Do not wake
him, if you can help it."

Nothing but an earthquake or an explosion of gunpowder could have
awakened the young man, so senseless and heavy was he. They bore him up
the stairs, the Doctor following; they took off his boots, his coat,
and waistcoat, put on him the Doctor's nightcap, and laid him in the
bed.

All finished, the Doctor bade them drink off the rest of the punch, and
begone.

The Doctor, left quite alone, opened the windows and doors, and stepped
out into the market. At two o'clock on a cold October morning, even
that noisy place is quiet; a west wind had driven away the smoke, and
the sky was clear, glittering with innumerable stars. The Doctor threw
open his arms and took a deep breath of the cold air, standing with his
wig off, so that the wind might freshen his brain. Before him he saw,
but he took no heed, the helpless forms of his guests, lying on the
stalls; beside them sat, wrapped in heavy coats, his two serving-men,
looking like vultures ready to devour their prey, but for fear of their
master, who would infallibly cause them to be hanged.

After a few minutes in the open air, the Doctor returned to his room;
he was sober, although he had taken enough punch to make ten men drunk;
and steady of hand, although he had smoked so much tobacco; but the
veins on his face stood out like purple cords, his eyes were bloodshot,
his great lips were trembling.

He did not go to bed, but lit a fresh pair of candles, and sat in his
chair thinking.

His thoughts carried him back to some time of trouble, for he presently
reached out his hand, seized his tobacco-pipe, and crushed it in
fragments; then he took the glass from which he had been drinking, and
crushed that, too, in his great strong fingers.

"I knew not," he murmured, "that the villain was dead. If I had known
that he was ill, I should have gone to see him, if only to remind him,
with a curse, of the past. He is dead; I can never curse him face to
face, as I hoped to do. I did not think that he would die before me; he
seemed stronger, and he was younger. I looked to seek him out at any
time, when I wanted a holiday, or when I wanted a diversion. I thought
I would take him in his own house, and show him, in such words as only
I can command, how mean a creature he was, and what a treacherous cur.
Now he is dead. He actually never will be punished at all."

This reflection caused him the greatest sadness. He shook his head as
he thought it over.

"It is not," he said to himself, "that I wished to be revenged on him
(though doubtless, as men are but frail, that desire entered somewhat
into my hopes), so much as that I saw in him a man who, above most
men, deserved to be punished. I break the law daily, incurring thereby
the penalty of a hundred pounds, which I never pay, for each offence.
Yet truly am I less burdened in my conscience than should have been
this Lord Chudleigh. And he hath died in honour. In this world one
man steals a pig, and receives the approbation of his kind; another
looks over a wall, and is clapped in gaol for it; one man slaughters
a thousand, and is made a duke; another kills one, and is hanged. I
am in prison, who never did anything against the law until I came
here, nor harmed any except my creditors. My lord, who thought the
ten commandments made for creatures of baser blood, and the round
world, with all that therein is, only created for his own insatiable
appetite, lives in honour and dies--what can I tell?--perhaps in grace;
fortified, at least, with the consolations of the Church and the
benedictions of his chaplain. So all things seem matter of chance. As
Solomon Stallabras says, in one of his fables:

  "'We little flies who buzz and die,
    Should never ask the reason why.'"

He yawned; then, struck with a sudden thought, he took one of the
candles and softly mounted the stairs. Shading the light with his
hand, he looked upon the face of the young man sleeping on his bed. A
handsome young man, with regular features strongly marked, delicate
lips, and pointed chin.

"Truly," said the Doctor, "a youth of great beauty. Another David. He
is more handsome than his father, even in those young days when he
caressed me to my ruin, and led me on with promises to my undoing.
Yet he hath the trick of the Chudleigh lip, and he hath his father's
nose. Would that his father were alive, and that it was he and not
his son lying here at my mercy! The son is something; out of regard
to his father's memory, he shall not get off scot-free. But what is
to be done? There is nothing, I think, that I would not do"--his red
face grew purple as he thought of his wrongs--"were his father living,
and could I make him feel through his son. Nothing, I believe. As I
am a Christian man, if my lord were alive this day, I think I could
tie a stone round the boy's neck and chuck him into the Fleet Ditch
at Holborn Bridge. And yet, what a poor and miserable thing to do! A
moment of brutal satisfaction in thinking of the father's agony--an
eternity of remorse. But his father is dead; he cannot feel at all any
more, whatever I do. If I could"--his face grew dark again, and he
ground his teeth--"I believe I could drag the boy downwards, little by
little, and destroy his very soul, to make his father suffer the more."

He gasped and caught his breath.

"Why," he murmured, "what is this? It is well for men that they are
not led into temptation. This young lord hath fallen into my hands.
Good. What shall I do with him? He knows nothing. Yet he must suffer
something. It is the law. We are all under the law. For the third and
fourth generation--and he is only the first generation. His children
and his grandchildren will have to suffer after him. It is not my
fault. I am clearly carrying out the law. He is providentially led
here, not that I may take revenge upon the son of my enemy for his
father's wrong, but that he might receive chastisement at my hands,
being those of the fittest person, even as Solomon was chosen to slay
both Joab and Shimei. What then shall I do? The Reverend Gregory
Shovel cannot murder the boy; that would be the common, vulgar thought
of a Fleet Market butcher or a hodman. Murder? A nauseous thought."

He took up the candle and stole noiselessly down the stairs, as if the
thought had driven him from the place.

When he was back in his own room he began to walk up and down, thinking.

"He is but a boy," he said, "a handsome boy; 'twould be a sin to harm
him. Yet, being sent here as he is, in a way that can be no other than
providential, 'twould be a sin to let him go. How if I make him pay all
my debts, and so leave the Liberties and live respectably ever after?
Respectably!" he laughed a little. "Why, who would believe that the
great Doctor Shovel could be respectable? The mud of this place, this
dwelling beside a ditch, hath entered into my soul as the iron of the
chains entereth into the soul of the prisoner. My name is too deeply
daubed with the Fleet mud; it cannot be cleansed. And should I give
up my place? Should I leave to another the honour I have won and the
income I make therefrom? Shall there be another Chaplain of the Fleet
while I survive? No; that will never do. How could I live away from
this room wherein I wallow day and night? Here am I at mine ease; here
I get wealth; I cannot leave this place."

He was in great perplexity. He wandered up and down; he was torn
between his wrath against the father and his consciousness that it
would be a mean and dreadful villainy to take revenge upon the son.

"I must have taken too much punch," he said, "thus to be agitated.
Punch, like wine, 'is a mocker, strong drink is raging.' The Christian
should forgive; the father is dead; the lad is a handsome lad and may
be good. Besides, whatever I do to the boy, his sire will neither know
nor feel. I might as well suppose that the legs and heads on Temple
Bar feel what is said about them below. I am a fool; yet am I but a
man. For such a crime even a saint would feel a righteous wrath. Yet it
is cowardly to take revenge upon the son, the committer of the crime
having gone to his own place. Yet he _is_ that man's son. What then to
do?"

He turned the question over a thousand times, yet found no answer.
At last a thought came to him. He nodded his head and laughed aloud.
Then he sought his arm-chair, adjusted his ample gown so as to get the
greatest amount of comfort out of it, placed his feet upon a stool, and
folded his arms.

"I have taken at least a quart of punch more than is good for me. That
is most certain. Otherwise I should have known at once what I should
do. I have actually forgotten the peculiarities of my own position.
Which shows that I am neither so young nor so strong as I have been.
Perhaps the system wants a fillip. I will take a dose of Norway
tar-water to-morrow. But first, my lord, you shall find out, early in
the morning, why I am called the Chaplain of the Fleet."



CHAPTER XII.

HOW KITTY EXECUTED THE DOCTOR'S REVENGE.


The Doctor seldom transacted business before nine o'clock in the
morning, unless, as sometimes happened, a spirited apprentice, a lad
of mettle, came with his master's daughter, both stealing away at
seven, before the master and mistress were up, when she was supposed
to be attending morning prayers at church, or helping Molly the maid
with the mop, and he was expected to be cleaning out the shop and
dressing the window. The ceremony over, they would go home again, but
separately, young miss carrying her Prayer-book before her as demure as
a kitten, looking as if she had never heard of a Fleet marriage, and
was ignorant of the great Doctor Shovel, chaplain, yea, bishop of that
place; while the boy, with brush and broom and watering-can, would be
zealously about his master's work when that poor man--his morning dish
of chocolate or pint of small ale despatched--appeared in the shop for
the conduct of the day's affairs. Afterwards they could choose their
own time for declaring what had been done. Thus did the Doctor make or
mar the fortunes of many a bold prentice-boy.

This morning the Doctor awoke from sleep at seven or thereabouts,
having in four hours slept off the punch and tobacco in his arm-chair.
His face became almost benign in its thoughtful kindliness as he
remembered the guest lying asleep upstairs, and what he was about to do
for him. He rose, shook himself, opened the windows and doors, and went
out into the market, still in his nightcap, carrying his wig in one
hand and his silk handkerchief in the other.

The market was already crowded with purchasers, principally those who
buy a barrowful of fruit and vegetables, and bawl through the streets
until all is sold. But there was a good sprinkling of maids and
housewives buying provisions for the day. The morning was fresh, with a
little autumn fog, and the sun shining through it like a great yellow
disk; the waggons stood about with their loads of cabbages, carrots,
parsnips, potatoes, apples, plums, and sloes, waiting till they could
be discharged; on the heaped-up pile of fruits and vegetables you could
see hanging still the slender threads and cobwebs which are spun every
night in autumn time by invisible spiders, and appear in the morning
strung with beads of dew.

"Stand aside!" cried the stall-keepers, one and all. "Make way for the
Doctor! Don't you see the Doctor? Room for the Doctor!"

He walked magisterially to the pump, under which he held his bare head
for a few moments while a boy pumped the cold water over him. This
done, he shook his head, mopped his poll with his silk handkerchief,
clapped on his wig, and returned to his own house, his robes
majestically floating around him.

The market, proud of its Doctor, made way for him with salutations and
inquiries after his reverence's health.

At the house he found his two runners waiting for him, as fresh--if
pale cheeks and red noses can look fresh--as if they had not been up
until two o'clock in the morning.

He sent for a pint of small ale, and began to consider what next.

"Roger," he said, "canst thou, at the present moment, lay thy hand upon
a woman willing to be a bride, either in the prison or elsewhere?"

Roger hesitated.

"It depends, your reverence, on the bridegroom. About Tower steps, for
instance, and down Wapping way, there are brides in plenty to be picked
up for the asking."

"Not brides for me, Roger. Think again. I want a bride who wants a
husband, and not a sailor's money; who will stick to her husband and
make him as happy in his wedded life as you and the rest of mankind are
or have been."

Roger grinned. He was himself a widower, and could be tickled with the
joke.

"I think I know the very woman," he said. "A young widow----"

"Good," said the Doctor.

"She has been extravagant, and is in debt----"

"Very good," said the Doctor.

"A prisoner in the Fleet; but I can fetch her out in a twinkling, for
half-a-crown."

"Ay--ay," said the Doctor. "Go on, honest Roger. A widow, extravagant,
and in debt. That promises well."

"Her husband was an honest draper in Gracechurch Street, who lately
died of smallpox, leaving her a good business and a thousand pounds in
money. She hath already squandered the thousand, wasted the business,
and brought herself to ruin. She is comely, and is but thirty years of
age; to get out of the Fleet, I think she would marry the----"

"She shall marry better than that, Roger. Go fetch her here: tell
her to come and talk with me, and that if she pleases me in her
conversation and appearance, she may shortly marry a gentleman."

"This," said the Doctor, when his man was gone, "will be a good stroke
of business. This shall be his punishment. My lord shall marry this
extravagant slut. No paltry common revenge this. Just punishment for
the first generation. He will gain a pocketful of debts and a wife
who will stick to him like a leech. Aha!--a city wench--none of
your proud city madams, grand enough to be a countess--but a plain
tradesman's widow, with no ideas beyond a dish of tea, Bagnigge Wells,
strawberries at Bayswater, cakes at Chelsea, or at the best, a night
of wonder-gaping at the quality at Vauxhall; a wife of whom he will be
ashamed from the very first. This is good business. What a pity! what a
thousand pities that his noble father is no more!"

The Doctor laughed and rubbed his hands. Then he mounted the stairs
again, and entered his bedroom. The lad was still sound asleep; his
cheeks less red, and his breathing lighter.

"His head will ache," said the Doctor. "I fear he is unaccustomed
to punch. When he wakes his limbs will feel like lead: his throat
will feel like a limekiln; his tongue will be furred like the back
of a squirrel; his eyes will be hot and heavy, as if he had a fever;
his hand will shake like the hand of a palsied man; he will totter
when he tries to walk. Ah! cursed drink! Time was when I, who am now
as seasoned as a port-wine cask, or a keg of Nantz, would feel the
same when I awoke after such a night. Age brings its consolations."
He rubbed his hands, thinking that he could now drink without these
symptoms. "I will marry him," he continued, "while he is yet half
drunk. When he recovers, it will be time to explain the position of
things. Should I explain, or should his wife? Ho! ho! A draper's widow,
of Gracechurch Street, to marry the heir of all the Chudleighs!"

He stood over the bed again, and passed his hand lightly over the
sleeping boy's cheeks. Something in his looks touched the Doctor, and
his eyes softened.

"Poor lad! I never had a son. Perhaps, if there had been one, things
would have been different. He is a very handsome boy. Pity, after all,
that he must marry this jade, this extravagant wench who will waste
and scatter his patrimony, and likely bring him to shame, when, being
so young, so handsome, and so rich, he might have had the prettiest
girl in the country"--here he started--"might have had--might have
had--can he not have? Is there a prettier girl or a better-bred girl
anywhere in the land than Kitty Pleydell? What more can any man want?
she is of gentle blood--on one side at least, for the Shovels, it is
very certain, do somewhat smack of the soil. Never a Shovel, except
the Reverend Gregory Shovel, Doctor of Divinity, who hath risen to
greatness. Clods all. Here is a great chance for such a revenge as
would have driven the old lord mad, and will be a blessing and a
boon to the young lord. Ho! ho! my Lord Breaker of Promises, my Lord
Trampler of Dependents, my Lord Villain and Rogue, how likes your
lordship that your son should marry my niece? As for you, young spark,
I will give you a bride so sweet, so fair, so fresh, that by heavens!
you ought to woo her for a twelvemonth, and then go and hang your
foolish neck by a garter because she would not say yea. Well, well!
let us return good for evil--let us still be Christians. Yet no Lord
Chudleigh hath deserved to have any benefit at my hands."

He rubbed his hands: he laughed to himself, his shoulders rolling from
side to side: he nodded his head pleasantly at his victim, then he went
downstairs again, with grave and thoughtful mien. He was thinking how
best to bring about his purpose.

He found, however, waiting below, Roger, his man. With him there came
a woman dressed in shabby finery. She was a woman of about thirty-two
years of age, stout, and still comely; she looked about the room as if
in search of some one; her face was eager and anxious. When she saw the
Doctor, she put her handkerchief to her eyes and burst, or pretended to
burst, into tears.

"Alas, Doctor!" she cried, "I am truly ashamed to come in such a
plight. But I have nothing else to put on. And Roger, good man, says
that the gentleman will not wait. Who is the gentleman? Surely not
Thomas Humpage, the mercer, who always promised to marry me when my
husband should die, and now refuses because, although a warm man, he
will not take upon him the burden of my poor debts. Alas! men are ever
thus towards us poor women. Pray, Doctor, who is the gentleman? Far
be it from me to keep the poor man waiting; and indeed, I was ever a
pitiful woman, and----"

"You are under a little mistake, madam," said the Doctor, interrupting
her. "There is no gentleman here asking for you. Roger is an ass, and a
pig."

Roger made no reply. Excess of zeal frequently led him into mistakes.
He stared straight before him, and modestly edged away in the direction
of the door, so as to be out of reach both of the Doctor's fist, the
weight of which he knew already, and the lady's nails.

The poor woman's face fell, and real tears crowded into her eyes. Now
the Doctor was a man who could not bear the sight of a woman crying, so
he hastened to soothe her.

"Your case, madam," he said, "hath awakened my commiseration. I have
sent for you to know whether, should Roger be able to find a suitable
husband, you would be willing to take him."

"O Doctor!" she sobbed; "best of men! If only you can find me a
husband, I should be grateful to the end of my days. I would marry any
one--any one--even Roger."

Roger swiftly vanished through the door.

"He may be as old as Methusalem, and as ugly as a foreign Frenchman,
but I would marry him--to take my place in the prison and go free once
more."

"Roger," said the Doctor, "is a great match-maker. He hath persuaded
many couples into this room that never thought, when they went out to
take the air and see the shops, of coming here. See, now, would the
skipper of a merchantman serve your turn?"

"Doctor, I love a sailor. They make confiding husbands, and they bring
home money."

"Once married, you are free. And then your creditors would have to
catch your husband, who, if he is the handy tarpaulin that deserves
you, will show them a clean pair of heels off the Nore. Madam, I will
do my best. Meanwhile, perhaps a guinea would be of use to you."

She cried in earnest as she took it.

"O Doctor! the debts are not much altogether; a poor two hundred
pounds. And a man may always be happy in the prison. There are
skittles and beer. But a woman never can. And I would go to see him
sometimes--say twice a year."

She went away weeping. But she stopped when she saw Roger outside the
door, and held a few minutes' eager conversation with him before she
returned to her prison. Perhaps he found some simple country lad or
sailor who was beguiled into marrying her, only to take upon him her
debts, and to lie within four walls instead of her. But indeed I know
not.

We had finished our breakfast and were tidying the room: my thoughts
were full of the country that morning, because I had dreamed of the
old place and the garden with its yellow leaves, the trailing cobwebs,
banks covered with branches of mignonette, nasturtium eight feet long,
pinks now mostly over, bending their faded heads, and the larkspur,
foxglove, Venus's looking-glass, bachelors' buttons, mournful widow,
boys' love, stocks, their glory over now, their leaves withering and
all run to seed. I was talking about these sweet things with my ladies,
when I heard the Doctor's voice at the bottom of the stairs, bidding me
quickly take my hat and hood and run down to him, for that he needed me
for half an hour.

I obeyed, little thinking what was to follow. He said nothing, but, by
a gesture, bade me follow him.

When we came to his house, Roger and William, his two runners, were
waiting outside the door, and the room was set out in the usual
fashion, in readiness for any who might chance to call.

"You," said the Doctor to the men, "wait outside until I call you.
Stay, fetch a quart of ale at once."

The ale brought, the men retired and shut the door.

"Kitty," said my uncle, "I have long intended to bestow upon thee the
greatest good fortune which it is in my power to procure. Thou art a
good girl: thou art my sister's child: thou hast shown a spirit of
obedience. I have reflected that it is not well for thee to remain
much longer in the Rules, and the only way to provide thee with a home
elsewhere, is to provide thee with a husband."

"But, sir," I said, beginning to be extremely terrified, "I do not want
a husband."

"So say all young maids. We, child, know what is best for them. I could
have found thee a husband among my friends. Sir Miles Lackington,
indeed, spoke to me concerning the matter; he is a baronet. The
Lackingtons are an old family; but he hath squandered his fortune, and
I cannot learn that any more money will come to him. Besides, he drinks
more than is befitting even in a gentleman of title."

"Oh, sir!" I cried, "not Sir Miles."

"No, Kitty"--the Doctor smiled benevolently upon me--"I regard thy
happiness first. No drunkard shall marry my niece. Mr. Stallabras hath
also opened his mind upon thee; he is an ingenious man, with a pretty
wit, and if verses were guineas, would be a great catch for thee. But
alas! he hath no money, so I dismissed him."

Poor Solomon! That, then, was the reason of a late melancholy which we
had remarked in him. Mrs. Esther took it as caused by the wrestling of
genius, and said that the soul within him was too great for the bodily
strength.

"But, Kitty," here the Doctor beamed upon me like the sun in splendour,
"I have here--yea, even in this house, the husband of my choice, the
man who will make thee happy. Start not--it is resolved. Child, _obey
me_."

I declare that I was so terrified by the Doctor's words, so amazed by
his announcement, so spellbound by his words and manner, that I did not
dare resist. Had he told me that I was to be hanged, I could not have
made an effort to save myself.

"_Obey me_," he repeated, bending his eyebrows, and looking upon me no
longer as a sun in splendour, but as an angry judge might look upon
a criminal. "Stand here--so--do not move; keep thy face covered with
thy hood, all but thine eyes. Give me your hand when I ask it, and be
silent, save when I bid thee speak. Be not afraid, girl; I do this for
thine own good. I give thee a gentleman for thy husband. Thou shalt not
leave this place yet awhile, but needs must that thou be married. I
return in five minutes."

He took the jug of beer and climbed the stairs. I meanwhile stood where
he had placed me, my hood over my head, in the most dreadful terror
that ever assailed the heart of any girl.

Upstairs the Doctor awakened Lord Chudleigh with some difficulty. He
sat up on the bed and looked round him, wondering where he was.

"I know now," he murmured, "you are Doctor Shovel, and this is----"

"Your lordship is in the Liberties of the Fleet."

"My head is like a lump of lead," said the young man.

"Your lordship was very merry last night, as, indeed, befits the happy
occasion."

"Was I merry? Indeed, I think I was very drunk. What occasion?"

"Drink a little small ale," said the Doctor; "it will revive you."

He took a long drink of the beer, and tried to stand.

"So," he said, "I am better already; but my head reels, Doctor, and my
legs are unsteady. It serves me right. It is the first time, and it
shall be the last."

"I hope so, since your lordship is about to undertake so important a
charge."

"What charge?" asked Lord Chudleigh, still dazed and unsteady.

"Is it possible that your lordship hath forgotten your mistress of
whom you would still be talking last night? 'The sweetest girl in
England--the prettiest girl in all the world--the fairest, kindest
nymph'--I quote your lordship."

Lord Chudleigh stared in amazement.

"The sweetest girl?--what girl?"

"Oh, your lordship is pleased to jest with me."

"I remember you, Doctor Shovel, whom I came to see last night with Sir
Miles Lackington; I remember the punch and the songs; but I remember
nothing about any girl."

"Why, she is downstairs now, waiting for your lordship. You will come
downstairs and keep your appointment."

He spoke in a peremptory manner, as if ordering and expecting
obedience.

"My appointment? Have I gone mad? It is this cursed punch of yours. My
appointment?"

The Doctor gave him his coat and wig, and helped him to put them on.

"I attend your lordship. She is downstairs. Take a little more ale to
clear your head: you will remember then."

The young man drank again. The beer mounted to his brain, I suppose,
because he laughed and straightened himself.

"Why, I am a man again. An appointment? No, Doctor, hang me if all the
beer in your cellar will make me remember any appointment! Where is Sir
Miles? He might tell me something about it. Curse all punch, I say.
Yet, if the lady be downstairs, as you say, I suppose I must have made
some sort of appointment. Let me see her, at any rate. It will be easy
to--to----" here he reeled, and caught hold of the Doctor's hand.

What a crime! What a terrible wicked thing was this which we did--my
uncle and I! I heard the steps on the stairs; I might have run away;
the door was before me; but I was afraid. Yes, I was afraid. My uncle
had made me fear him more than I feared the laws of my God; or, since
that is hardly true, he made me fear him so much that I forgot the laws
of my God, I did not run away, but I waited with a dreadful fluttering
of my heart.

I held my hood, drawn over my head, with my left hand, so that only my
eyes were visible, and so I kept it all the time.

I saw in the door the most splendid young man I had ever seen; he was
richly dressed, though his coat and ruffles showed some disorder, in
crimson coat and sash, with flowered silk waistcoat, and sword whose
hilt gleamed with jewels. His cheek was flushed and his eyes had a
fixed and glassy look; the Doctor led him, or rather half supported
him. Was this young man to be my husband?

Roger must have been watching outside, for now he came in and locked
the door behind him. Then he drew out his greasy Prayer-book, standing
by his lordship, ready to support him if necessary.

"So," he said, "this is the sweetest girl in all England--hang me if I
remember! Look up, my girl: let me see thy face. How can I tell unless
I see thy face?"

"Silence!" said the Doctor in a voice of command.

I know not what strange power he possessed, but at the sound of his
voice the young man became suddenly silent and looked about the room,
as if wondering. For myself, I knew that I was to be married to him;
but why? what did it mean?

The Doctor had begun the service. My bridegroom seemed to understand
nothing, looking stupidly before him.

Roger read the responses.

The Doctor did not hurry; he read the exhortation, the prayers,
the Psalms, through slowly and with reverence; other Fleet parsons
scrambled through the service; the Doctor alone knew what was due to
the Church; he read the service as a clergyman who respects the service
ought to read.

"Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?"

The man Roger gave the dazed bridegroom a jog in the ribs.

"Say 'I will,'" he whispered loudly.

"I will," said the young man.

"Wilt thou," the Doctor turned to me, "have this man to thy wedded
husband?"

Roger nodded to me. "Say 'I will,'" he admonished me.

I obeyed; yet I knew not what I said, so frightened was I.

"Who giveth," the Doctor went on, "this woman to be married to this
man?"

The dirty, battered rogue, the clerk, took my hand and laid it in that
of the Doctor. I was given away by the villain Roger. Then the service
went on.

"With this ring"--the man's hand was holding mine, and it was dry and
hot; his face was red and his eyes were staring--"with this ring I thee
wed; with my body I thee worship; with all my worldly goods I thee
endow."

       *       *       *       *       *

Consider--pray consider--that when I took part in this great
wickedness, I was but a young girl, not yet seventeen years old;
that the thing came upon me so suddenly that I had not the sense to
remember what it meant; that my uncle was a man of whom any girl would
have been afraid. Yet I knew that I ought to have fled.

When my bridegroom held my hand in his I observed that it was hot and
trembling; his eyes did not meet mine; he gazed upon the Doctor as if
asking what all this meant. I took him, in my innocence, for a madman,
and wondered all the more what this freak of the Doctor's could mean.

For ring, the Doctor drew from his guest's little finger a diamond
ring, which was full large for my third finger.

When the service was finished, bride and bridegroom stood stupidly
staring at each other (only that still I wore my hood drawn over my
face), while Roger placed upon the table a great volume bound in
parchment with brass clasps.

"This, my lord, is our Register," said the Doctor, opening it at a
clean page. "Sign there, if you please, in your usual hand. I will fill
in the page afterwards."

He took the pen and signed, still looking with wondering eyes.

"Now, child," said the Doctor, "do you sign here, after your husband.
The certificate you shall have later. For the present, I will take
care of it. Other practitioners of the Fleet, my lord," he said, with
professional pride, as he looked at his great volume, "would enter
your name in a greasy pocket-book and give your wife a certificate on
unstamped paper. Here you have a register fit for a cathedral, and a
certificate stamped with no less illustrious a name than the Archbishop
of Canterbury. Your lordship hath signed your name in a steady and
workmanlike fashion, so that none henceforth shall be able to malign
your conduct on this day; they shall not say that you were terrified,
or bribed, or were in a state of liquor on the day of your marriage;
all is free and above suspicion. I congratulate your lordship on this
auspicious occasion. Roger, your mark here as witness. So. It is
customary, my lord, to present the officiating clergyman, myself, with
a fee, from a guinea upwards, proportionate to the rank and station
of the happy bridegroom. From your lordship will I take nothing for
myself; for the witness I will take a guinea."

Here the bridegroom pulled out his purse and threw it on the table. He
spoke not a word, however; I think his brain was wandering, and he knew
not what he did. Yet he obeyed the voice of the Doctor, and fell into
the trap that was set for him, like a silly bird allured by the whistle
of the fowler. I am certain that he knew not what he did.

The Doctor pulled one guinea from the purse, and handed it back to the
owner.

"Roger," he said, "go drink his lordship's health; and hark
ye--silence. If I hear that you have told of this morning's doings, it
shall be the worst day in all your life. I threaten not in vain. Go!"

Then the Doctor took up the tankard of ale which stood in the
window-seat.

"Your health, my lord;" he drank a little and passed it to his
lordship, who drained it; and then, with a strange, wild look, he
reeled to the Doctor's arm-chair and instantly fell fast asleep.

"Your husband is not a drunkard, Kitty, though this morning he appears
in that light."

"But am I married?" I asked.

"You are really married. You are no longer Kitty Pleydell; you are
Catherine, Lady Chudleigh. I wish your ladyship joy."

I stared at him.

"But he does not know me; he never saw me," I remonstrated.

"That he does not know you yet is very true," replied the Doctor. "When
the fitting time comes for him to know you, be sure that I will remind
him. For the present he shall not know whom he has married.

"I perceive," he went on, seeing that I made no reply, "that thou art
a good and obedient child. Ask no questions of me. Say not one word to
any one of this day's work. Be silent, and thou shalt have thy reward.
Remember--_be silent_. Now go, child. Go, Lady Chudleigh."



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH WOKE OUT OF SLEEP.


Alas! there was small pride in that thought. What joy of being Lady
Chudleigh, when I had to pick my way home through the dirty and crowded
market, thinking of the pain and grief this wicked thing would cause
my ladies when they learned it, of the shame with which my father's
soul would have been filled had he known it, and the wrath of Lady
Levett when she should hear it! "Oh, Kitty!" I thought, "how miserably
art thou changed in four short months! In the happy fields at home,
everything (save when the rustics swore at their cattle) breathed
of religion and virtue; in this dreadful place, everything leads to
profligacy and crime. And what a crime! And the poor young gentleman!
Did ever any one hear the like, that a young girl, not yet quite
seventeen, should thus consent to marry a man whom she had never
seen! Oh, shame and disgrace! And that young man, so handsome and so
gallant, albeit so tipsy that he could scarcely stand. Who would have
thought, four months ago, that Kitty would be that wicked creature?"
Afterwards, I thought of the dreadful wickedness of marrying while
still in mourning for a father not yet six months dead. But I confess
that at first, so confused was I, that this thought did not oppress me.
Indeed, there was almost too much to think about. Suppose I was, by a
careless word, to reveal the secret! Suppose the rascal Roger were to
tell it abroad in the market! Suppose the young man (whose name I did
not dare to pronounce) were to see me, and find my name! Suppose the
Doctor were at once to reveal to my--husband, I suppose I ought to call
him--who and what I was! All these thoughts, I say, crowded into my
mind together, and filled me with repentant terrors.

I went straight home, because there was no other place to go to.
Mrs. Deborah reminded me, when I had taken off my hood, that we were
still engaged upon the long-outstanding account between Richard Roe,
gentleman, and Robert Doe, draper. It was one of the problems of
the Book-keeping Treatise, how rightly to state this account to the
satisfaction both of Doe (who wanted all he could get), and of Roe (who
wanted to pay as little as possible). I remember that Richard Roe had
not only bought extraordinary things (for a gentleman), such as ladies'
hoops and paniers, but had bought them in immense quantities, to be
explained, perhaps, by the supposition that he was a benefactor to
the female sex, or perhaps that he was shipping things to Madagascar,
where I believe a sarsnet pinner, if in scarlet, is considered worth a
diamond as big as a pigeon's egg; and a few bottles of eau de Chypre
are thought a bargain, if purchased by a ruby weighing a pound or so.

We had been engaged for a month upon a statement of the account showing
the exact liabilities of Richard Roe (who used to pay in odd sums, with
pence and farthings, at unexpected times); we never got it right, and
then we began again. Fortunately, it costs nothing to clean a slate.

I sat down to this task with listless brain. What girl, after being
so suddenly hurled into matrimony, with the possession of so great
a secret, could take any interest in the debts of Richard Roe? The
figures got mixed; presently, I was fain to lay the slate aside, and to
declare that I could do no more that day.

Nor, indeed, could I do anything--not even hear what was said, so
that my ladies thought I was sickening for some fever; which was not
improbable, fever being rife at this time, owing to the smell from the
vegetables, and one of the little Dunquerques in our own house down
with it. Ah! could they only have guessed the truth, what sorrow and
pity would have been theirs, with what righteous wrath at the sin.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I was gone, the Doctor called back Roger, and they carried the
unhappy bridegroom again to the bedroom, where they laid him on the bed
and then left him to himself.

"He will sleep," said the Doctor, experienced in these cases, "until
the afternoon. Have a cup of mutton-broth for him when he wakes, with a
pint of small ale."

Then he returned, and the ordinary business of the day began. The
couples came in--half-a-dozen of them. One pair gave him five guineas.
They were an Irishman, who thought he was marrying a rich widow; and a
woman head over ears in debt, who thought she was marrying a wealthy
squire. A week afterwards the unhappy bridegroom came to the Doctor to
undo the match, which was impossible. He escaped his wife's creditors,
however, and took to the road, where, after many gallant exploits, he
was caught, tried, and hanged at Tyburn, making a gallant and edifying
end, and ruffling it bravely to the very foot of the ladder. The day,
therefore, was profitable to the Doctor.

"Well begun, Roger," he said, "is well done. The morning's work is
worth ten guineas. I would rest this afternoon; wherefore, bring no
more couples. Yet one would fain not disappoint the poor creatures. Let
them come, then, Roger. We may not weary in well-doing. And, hark ye,
take this guinea to Mistress Dunquerque--not the captain, mind--and
bid her spend it for the children; and inquire whether Mr. Stallabras
hath paid his rent lately; if not, pay it; and buy me, on Ludgate Hill,
a hat and feathers for Miss Kitty; and, varlet! if thou so much as
breathe of what was done here this morning--I threaten not, but I know
the history of thy life. Think of the past; think of Newgate, close by;
and be silent as the grave."

At three o'clock in the afternoon, when the Doctor, after his dinner,
sat over a cool pipe of Virginia, Lord Chudleigh came downstairs. He
was dressed and in his right mind, although somewhat flushed of cheek
and his hand shaky.

"Doctor Shovel," he said, "I thank you for your hospitality, and am
sorry that I have abused it. I am ashamed to have fallen into so
drunken and helpless a condition."

"Your lordship," said the Doctor, rising and bowing, "is welcome to
such hospitality as this poor house of a prisoner in the Liberties of
the Fleet can show a nobleman of your rank. I am the more bound to show
this welcome to your lordship, because, for such as is my condition, I
am beholden to the late Lord Chudleigh."

This was a speech which might have more than one meaning. His lordship
made no answer, staring in some perplexity, and fearful that the punch
might still be in his head.

"It was in this room," he said presently, "that we drank last night. I
remember your chair, and these walls; but I remember little more. Fie,
Doctor! your way of treating guests is too generous. Yet I have had a
curious and uneasy dream. Those books"--he pointed to the Register and
the Prayer-book--"were those upon the table last night? They were in my
dream--a very vivid and real dream. I thought I was standing here. Your
man was beside me. Opposite to me was a girl, or woman, her face and
figure covered with a hood, so that I knew not what she was like. Then
you read the marriage-service, drew the ring from off my finger, and
placed it upon hers. And you pronounced us man and wife. A strange and
interesting dream!"

"What was the ring, my lord?"

"A diamond ring, set round with seven pearls; within, the crest of my
house, and my initials."

"Let me see the ring, my lord."

He changed colour.

"I cannot find it."

"My lord, I know where is that ring."

The Doctor spoke gravely, bending his great eyebrows. Lord Chudleigh
was a man of fine presence, being at least five feet ten inches in
height, without counting the heels of his boots and the foretop of his
wig. Yet the Doctor, whose heels were thicker and his toupee higher,
was six feet two without those advantages. Therefore he towered over
his guest as he repeated--

"I know where to find that ring!"

"You cannot mean, Doctor----" cried Lord Chudleigh, all the blood
flying to his face.

"I mean, my lord, simply this, that at eight o'clock this morning,
or thereabouts, you rose, came downstairs, met a young lady who was
waiting for you, and were by me, in presence of trustworthy witnesses,
duly and properly married."

"But it was a dream!" he cried, catching at the table.

"No dream at all, my lord. A fact, which you will find it difficult to
contradict. Your marriage is entered in my Register; I have the lines
on a five-shilling stamp. I am an ordained minister of the Church of
England; the hours were canonical. It is true that I may be fined a
hundred pounds for consenting to perform the ceremony; but it will be
hard to collect that money. Meanwhile, those who would inflict the fine
would be the last to maintain that sacerdotal powers, conferred upon
me at ordination, can suffer any loss by residence in the Rules of the
Fleet. Ponder this, my lord."

"Married!" cried Lord Chudleigh. "Married? It is impossible."

"Your dream, my lord, was no dream at all, but sober truth, believe me."

"Married?" he repeated.

"Married," said Doctor Shovel. "I fear that your state of mind, during
the performance of the ceremony, was not such as a clergyman could
altogether wish to see. Still who am I, to decide when a gentleman is
too drunk to marry?"

"Married! Oh, this is some dreadful dream! Where is my bride? Show me
my wife!"

"She is gone, Lord Chudleigh."

"Gone! Where is she gone?"

The Doctor shook his head for an answer.

"Who is she? What is her name? How came she here?"

"I am sorry that I cannot answer your lordship in these particulars.
She came--she was married--she went away! In her own good time she will
doubtless appear again."

"But who is she?" he repeated. "What is she like? Why did she marry me?"

"Why did your lordship marry her? That, methinks, would be the proper
question."

"Show me your Register, man!" Lord Chudleigh was sober enough now, and
brought his fist down upon the table in peremptory fashion. "Show me
your Register and your certificate!"

"Ta! ta! ta!" cried the Doctor. "Softly, young man, softly! We are not
used to threats in this chapel-of-ease, where I am archbishop, bishop,
and chaplain, all in one. For the Register, it is securely locked up;
for the certificate, it is perhaps in the hands of Lady Chudleigh."

"Lady Chudleigh!"

"Perhaps her ladyship hath consigned it to my keeping. In either case,
you shall not see it."

"This is a conspiracy," cried Lord Chudleigh. "I have been deceived by
rogues and knaves! This is no true marriage."

"You would say that I am lying. Say so, but, at your peril, _think_ so.
You are as truly married as if you had been united in your own parish
church, by your own bishop. Believe that, for your own safety, if you
believe nothing else. At the right time, her ladyship will be revealed
to you. And remember, my lord"--here the Doctor, towering over him,
shook his great forefinger in warning or menace--"should you attempt
another marriage in the lifetime of your present wife, you shall be
brought to your trial for bigamy as sure as my name is Gregory Shovel.
Laws, in this country, are not altogether made for the punishment of
the poor, and even a peer may not marry more than one woman."

"I will have this wickedness exposed," cried his lordship hotly.

"Alas! my lord," said the Doctor, "the name of Gregory Shovel is
already well known. I am but what your father caused me to be."

"My father! Then there is revenge.... The benefits which my father
conferred upon you----"

"They were greater than any I can confer upon you. He kept me with him
as his private jester. I found him wit: he fed me upon promises. He
turned me forth, to be flung into a debtor's prison. That, however, was
nothing. Your lordship will own"--here the Doctor laughed, but without
merriment--"that I have returned good for evil; for, whereas your
father robbed me of a wife, I have presented you with one."

"O villain!" cried my lord. "To revenge the wrongs of the father upon
the son--and this wretch continues to wear the gown of a clergyman!"

"Say what you please. So rejoiced am I with this day's work that I
allow you to cast at me what names come readiest to your tongue. But
remember that curses sometimes come home."

"Where is my wife, then?" he demanded furiously.

"I shall not tell you. Meantime, choose. Either let this matter be
known to all the world, or let it remain, for the present, a secret
between you and me. As for the lady, she will be silent. As for
the rogue, my clerk, if he so much as breathes the secret to the
cabbage-stalks, I have that which will hang him."

"I want to see the woman who calls herself my wife," he persisted.

"That shall you not. But perhaps, my lord, you would like to go home to
St. James's Square with such a wedding-party as we could provide for
you: a dozen of Fleet parsons fuddled; the bride's friends, who might
be called from their stalls in the market; the music of the butchers,
with salt-boxes, marrow-bones, and cleavers; the bride herself. Look
out of the window, my lord. Which of the ragged baggages and trollops
among the market-women most takes your lordship's fancy?"

Lord Chudleigh looked and shuddered.

"Go your way," the Doctor went on, "and always remember you have a
spouse. Some day, for the better glorifying of your noble name, I will
produce her. But not yet. Be under no immediate apprehension. Not yet.
At some future time, when you are happy in the applause of a nation
and the honours of a sovereign, when your way is clear before you and
your conscience gives you the sweet balm of approbation, when you have
forgotten this morning, we shall come, your wife and I, with 'Room for
my Lady Chudleigh! Way there for her ladyship and Doctor Gregory Shovel
from the Rules of the Fleet!'"

"Man," replied Lord Chudleigh, "I believe you are a devil. Do what you
will; do your worst. Yet know that the woman may proclaim her infamy
and your own; as for me, I will not speak to her, nor listen to her,
nor own her."

"Good!" said the Doctor, rubbing his hands. "We talk in vain. I now bid
farewell to your lordship. Those convivial evenings which you desired
to witness will still continue. Let me hope to welcome your lordship
again on the scene of your unexpected triumphs. Many, indeed, is the
man who hath come to this house single and gone out of it double; but
none for whom awaits a future of such golden promise. My most hearty
congratulations on this auspicious and joyful event! What can come out
of this place but youth, beauty, birth, and virtue? And yet, my lord,
there is one singularity in the case. One moment, I pray"--for Lord
Chudleigh was already outside the door--"you are the only man I ever
knew who spent his honeymoon--alone!"



CHAPTER XIV.

HOW MRS. DEBORAH WAS RELEASED.


No one would be interested to read more of my shame and repentance at
that time; nor does it help to tell how the Doctor was asked by my
ladies if I was subject to any kind of illness for which I might be
sickening. The reply of the Doctor to them, and his private admonitions
to myself, may be partly passed over; it was true, no doubt, as he said
while I trembled before him, that a young girl, ignorant and untaught,
would do well to trust her conscience into the spiritual direction of
a regularly-ordained clergyman of the Church of England like himself.
As for the marriage, I was to remember that it was done and could not
be undone. He hung round my neck by a black ribbon the diamond ring, my
wedding-ring, by which to keep my condition ever before myself; to be
sure it was not likely that I should forget it, without the glitter and
sparkle of the brilliants, which I used to look at night and morning in
secret. What did he think of me, this husband of mine, the young man
with the handsome face, the white hands, and the fixed, strange eyes?
Did he, night and morning, every day curse his unknown wife?

"Let him curse," said the Doctor. "Words break no bones; curses go home
again; deeds cannot be undone. Patience, Kitty! before long thou shalt
be confessed by all the world, the Lady Chudleigh. Come, cheer up,
child!" he concluded kindly. "As for what is done, it is done. Partly
I did it to clear off an old score, whereof I may perhaps tell thee at
another time, and partly for thy honour and glory. Thy father, Kitty,
was proud of his name and family, though he married my sister, the
daughter of a tenant farmer; but never a Pleydell yet has been lifted
up so high as thou shalt be: while as to the Shovels, I am myself the
only great man they have yet sent into the world, and they are not
likely to go beyond the Chaplain of the Fleet."

Then he held up his great forefinger, as long and thick as a school
ruler, bent his shaggy eyebrows, and pushed out his lips.

"Remember, child, silence! And go no more moping and sorrowful,
because thou shalt soon sit in thine own coach, with the world at thy
feet, singing the praises of the beautiful Lady Chudleigh. Such a
girl as my Kitty for Sir Miles Lackington? Why, he hath eyes for the
beauty of a glass of Bordeaux--he hath sense to rejoice over a bowl
of punch; but from Helen of Troy or Cleopatra of Egypt he would turn
away for a bottle of port. Or Stallabras, now--should such a creature
as he presume to think of such a woman? Let poets sing of women at a
distance--the farther off the better they sing--that is right. Why,
child, such curls as thine, such roses of red and white, such brown
eyes, such lips and cheek and chin, such a figure as thou canst show to
dazzle the eyes of foolish boys--Lord Chudleigh should go on his knees
before me in gratitude and transport. And, believe me, some day he
will."

We are all alike, we women. Call us beautiful, and you please us. It
was almost the first time that any one had called me beautiful save
Sir Miles Lackington when in his cups, or Solomon Stallabras in his
poetic way. Yet every pretty girl knows that she is pretty. There are
a thousand things to tell her: the whispers of the women, the sidelong
looks of the folk in the streets, the envy of envious girls, the praise
of kindly girls, her glass, the deference paid by men of all classes
and all ages to beauty, the warnings of teachers, nurses, governesses,
and matrons that beauty is but skin-deep, virtue is better than looks,
handsome is as handsome does, 'tis better to be good than pretty,
comeliness lasts but a year, while goodness lasts for ever, and so
on--all these things make a girl on whom heaven has bestowed this most
excellent gift of beauty know quite as well as other people what she
possesses, though she knows not yet the power of the gift.

"You are pretty, child," said Mrs. Esther to me on the very same day as
the Doctor. "You will be a beautiful woman."

"Which is no good to a girl in the Rules," said Mrs. Deborah, "but
rather a snare and a danger."

"Nay, sister," said Mrs. Esther, "it is a consolation to be beautiful.
You, dear, when we were thirty years younger, were beautiful enough to
melt the heart even of the monster Bambridge."

"A beautiful face and person," Mrs. Deborah added with a smile on her
poor face as she thought of the past, "should belong to a good and
virtuous soul. In the better world I have no doubt that the spirits of
the just will arise in such beauty of face and form as shall be unto
themselves and their friends an abiding joy."

Let us think so: when I die it may be a consolation to me that a return
to the beauty of my youth is nigh at hand. I am but a woman, and
there is nothing in the world--except the love of my husband and my
children--that I think more precious than my past beauty.

Soothed, then, by my uncle's flatteries, comforted by his promises,
and terrified by his admonitions, I fell in a very few days into the
dreams by which youth beguiles the cares of the present. My husband,
Lord Chudleigh, would go his own way and never ask after me; I should
go mine as if he did not exist; some time or other we should leave the
Liberties of the Fleet, and go to live near Lady Levett and my dear
Nancy. As for the coronet and the rank, I was too ignorant to think
much about them. They were so high above me, I knew so little what
they meant, that I no more thought of getting them than of getting
David's harp and crown. I waited, therefore, being a wife and yet no
wife, married and yet never seen by my husband; sacrificed to the wrath
of the Doctor, as that poor Greek maiden in the story told me by my
father, murdered at Aulis to appease the wrath of a goddess.

Two events happened which, between them, quite drove the marriage out
of my mind, and for awhile made me forget it altogether.

The first of these was the illness of Mrs. Deborah.

There was fever about the market, as I have said; one of the little
girls of Mrs. Dunquerque, in our house, was laid down with it. In
autumn there was always fever in the place, caused, my ladies said, by
the chill and fog of the season, by the stench of the vegetables and
fruit of the market, and perhaps by the proximity of Newgate, where
gaol fever was always cheating the gallows. One day, therefore, Mrs.
Deborah lay down, and said she would rather not get up again any more.
She would not eat, nor would she have any medicine except a little
tar-water which seemed to do her no good. When she got very ill indeed,
she consented to see an apothecary; he prescribed blood-letting, which,
contrary to expectation, made her only weaker. Then we went to the
old woman who kept a herb shop at the other end of Fleet Lane, and
was more skilful than any physician. She gave us feverfew, camomile,
and dandelion, of which we made hot drinks. As the patient grew
worse instead of better, she made an infusion of shepherd's-purse,
pennycress, and pepperwort, to stimulate the system; she brought a
tansy-pudding, which poor Mrs. Deborah refused to eat; and when gentian
water failed, the old woman could do no more.

On the fifth day, Mrs. Deborah gave herself up, and contemplated her
end in a becoming spirit of cheerfulness. She comforted her sister
with the hope that she, too, would before long join her in a world
"where there is no noise, my dear, no fighting, no profane swearing,
no dirt, no confusion, no bawling, no starving, no humiliation. There
shall we sit in peace and quiet, enjoying the dignity and respect which
will be no doubt paid to two Christian gentlewomen."

"I might have known it," sighed poor Mrs. Esther in her tears. "Only a
week ago a strange dog howled all night below our window. I should have
known it for a warning, sent for you, my dear, or me, or for Kitty. It
cannot have been meant for Sir Miles, for the poor gentleman, being in
his cups, would not notice it: nor to Mr. Stallabras, for he sets no
store by such warnings."

"It was for me," said Mrs. Deborah with resignation, while Mrs. Esther
went on recollecting omens.

"Last night I heard the death-watch. Then, indeed, sister, I gave you
up."

"It was a message for me," said the sick woman, as if she had been
Christiana in the story.

"And this morning I heard a hen crow in the market--a hen in a basket.
Alas! who can have any doubt?"

"It is but six weeks," said Mrs. Deborah, feebly, "since a hearse on
its way to a funeral stopped before our door. I remember now, but we
little thought then, what _that_ meant."

"I saw, only a fortnight ago," continued Mrs. Esther, "a winding-sheet
in the tallow. I thought it pointed at Kitty, but would not frighten
the child. Sister, we are but purblind mortals."

Far be it from me to laugh at beliefs which have so deep a root in
Englishwomen's hearts: nor is it incredible to those who believe in the
divine interference, that signs and warnings of death should be sent
beforehand, if only to turn the thoughts heavenward and lead sinners to
repent. But this I think, that if poor Mrs. Deborah had not accepted
these warnings for herself, she might have lived on to a green old age,
as did her sister. Being, therefore, convinced in her mind that her
time was come, she was only anxious to make due preparation. She would
have been disappointed at getting well, as one who has packed her
boxes for a long journey, but is told at the last moment that she must
wait.

As she grew weaker, her brain began to wander. She talked of Bagnigge
Wells, of Cupid's Garden, the entertainments of her father's company,
and the childish days when everything was hopeful. While she talked,
Mrs. Esther wept and whispered to me--

"She was so pretty and merry! Oh! child, if you could have seen us both
in our young days--if you could have seen my Deborah with her pretty
saucy ways; her roguish smile, her ready wit made all to love her! Ah!
me--me--those happy days! and now! My dear Deborah, it is well that
thou shouldst go."

This was on the morning of Mrs. Deborah's last day in life. In the
afternoon her senses returned to her, and we propped her up, pale and
weak, and listened while she spoke words of love and farewell to be
kept sacred in the memory of those who had to go on living.

"For thirty years, dear sister," she murmured, while their two thin
hands were held in each other's clasp--"for thirty years we have prayed
daily unto the Lord to have pity upon all prisoners and captives,
meaning more especially, ourselves. Now, unto me hath He shown this
most excellent mercy, and calleth me away to a much better place than
we can imagine or deserve. I had thought it would be well if He would
lead us out of this ward to some place where, in green lanes and
fields, we might meditate for a space in quiet before we died. I should
like to have heard the song of the lark and seen the daisies. But God
thinks otherwise."

"Oh, sister--sister!" cried Mrs. Esther.

"'There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither
shall there be any more pain,'" said Mrs. Deborah. "Kitty, child," she
turned her pale face to me, "be kind to my sister."

We wept together. Outside there was the usual tumult of the market--men
buying and selling, with shouts and cries; within, three women weeping,
and one dying.

"Go, dear," said she who was dying; "call the Doctor. He hath been
very generous to us. Tell him I would receive the last offices from his
hands."

The Doctor came. He read the appointed service in that deep voice of
his, which was surely given him for the conversion of the wicked. The
tears streamed down his face as he bent over the bed, saying in the
words of the Epistle appointed--"'My daughter, despise not thou the
chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him. For
whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth; and scourgeth every child whom He
receiveth.'"

In the evening the poor lady died, being released from her long
imprisonment by that Royal Mandate, the Will of God.

We buried her in the green and pleasant churchyard of Islington. It is
a sweet spot, far removed from the noise of London; and though her poor
remains feel nothing, nor can hear any more the tumult of crowds, it is
good to think that round her are no streets, only the few houses of the
village. She lies surrounded by fields and trees; the daisies grow over
her grave, the lark sings above the church; she is at rest and in peace.



CHAPTER XV.

HOW MRS. ESTHER WAS DISCHARGED.


After poor Mrs. Deborah's death my lessons came to a sudden stop, and
have never been resumed. Some of that perspicacity of style which I
have often admired in our modern divines might have fallen to my lot,
to enrich this narrative, had I continued in my course of single and
double book-keeping.

"I am not clever," said Mrs. Esther, "like Deborah. She was always the
clever one as well as the beauty. That gave her a right to her little
temper, poor dear. I cannot teach astronomy, because one star is to me
exactly like another. Nor do I know aught about book-keeping, except
that it is a very useful and necessary science. Therefore, Kitty, thou
must go untaught. For that matter, I think you know as much as a woman
need ever know, which is to read, to write--but one ought not to expect
of a woman such exactness in spelling as of a scholar--and to cipher
to such a moderate degree as may enable her to add up her bills. But
it grieves me to think you are growing up so tall and straight without
learning how to make so much as a single cordial, or any strong waters.
And with our means, what chance of teaching you to toss a pancake, fold
an omelette, or dish a Yorkshire pudding?"

It was then that we began to console ourselves for my ignorance,
our troubles, and even, I bear mind, for our late loss, by reading
"Clarissa," a book which the Doctor, ever watchful in the interests
of virtue, presented to Mrs. Esther with a speech of condolence. He
said that it was a work whose perusal could not fail most strongly to
console her spirit and to dispose her for resignation; while for purity
of morals, for justice of observation, and for knowledge of the human
heart, it was unequalled in any language. He then made a digression,
and compared the work with the ancient Greek romances. Adventure, he
said, was to be found in Heliodorus, and the story told by Apuleius
of Cupid and Psyche was exquisitely pathetic; yet none of the earlier
writers could be compared, or even named in the same breath, with Mr.
Richardson, who reminded him especially of Sophocles, in the tenderness
with which he prepared the minds of his audience for the impending
tragedy which he could not alter or abate, seeing that it was the will
of Necessity. There was nothing, he went on to say, more calculated
to inspire or to strengthen sentiments of virtue in the breasts of
the young--and especially in the young of the feminine sex--than a
contemplation of Clarissa's virtue and Lovelace's wickedness. We were
greatly edified by these praises, coming from so great a scholar and
one so eminently fitted to discourse on virtue. We received the work,
prepared (so far as I was concerned) to partake of food for reflection
of the satisfying kind (so that the reader quickly lays aside the
work while he meditates for a few days on what he has read) which is
supplied by the pious "Drelincourt on Death." Hervey's "Meditations
among the Tombs," or Young's "Night Thoughts."

"After dinner, my dear," said Mrs. Esther, "you shall read it aloud to
me. Do not stop if I shut my eyes in order to hear the better. These
good books should be carefully listened to, and read very slowly.
Otherwise their lessons may be overlooked, and this would be a sad pity
after all the good Doctor's trouble in first reading the book for us.
What scholarship, Kitty! and what a passion, nay, what an ardour, for
virtue animates that reverend heart!"

I cannot but pause here to ask whether if Mr. Richardson had chosen to
depict to the life the character of a clergyman, who had fallen into
such ways as my uncle, with his sins, his follies, his degradation, the
Doctor would himself have laid it to heart? Alas! I fear not. We know
not ourselves as we are: we still go dreaming we are something better
than we seem to others: we have a second and unreal self: the shafts
of the satirist seem to pierce the hearts of others. I am sure that
many a Lovelace, fresh from the ruin of another Clarissa (if, indeed,
there could be another creature so incomparable), must have read this
great romance with tears of pity and indignation. Otherwise the race of
Lovelaces would long since have become extinct.

We received, therefore, "Clarissa," expecting edification, but not
joy. We even put it aside for a week, because Mrs. Esther hardly felt
herself, at first, strong enough to begin a new book, which might flood
her mind with new ideas and make her unsettled. At last, however, she
felt that we must no longer postpone obeying the Doctor.

"Only a short chapter, my dear, to begin with. Heavens! how shall we
struggle through eight long volumes?"

I shall be ever thankful that it was my duty to read these dear
delightful pages of this great romance. You may judge of our joy when
we read on, day after day, hurrying over household work in the morning,
neglecting our walks abroad, and wasting candlelight in the evening the
more to enjoy it. We laid aside the book from time to time while we
wept over the author's pathetic scenes. Oh, the horrid usage of poor
Clarissa! Was ever girl more barbarously served? Was ever man so wicked
as her lover? Were parents ever so blinded by prejudice? Had girl ever
so unkind a brother--ever so perverse a sister? I thought of her all
day long, and at night I dreamed of her: the image of Clarissa was
never absent from my brain.

Everything in the book was as real to me as the adventures of Robinson
Crusoe, or those of Christian on his pilgrimage from the City of
Destruction. So long as the reading of this immortal book lasted--we
read page after page twice, thrice, or four times over, to get out of
them the fullest measure of sympathy, sorrow, and delight--we loved
with Clarissa: her sorrows were ours: we breathed and talked Clarissa:
Mrs. Esther even prayed, I believe--though the book was already
printed, and therefore it was too late for prayer--that the poor, sweet
innocent, might escape the clutches of her wicked lover, who, sure, was
more a demon than a man: we carried the thought of Clarissa even to
church with us.

We invited our friends to share with us this new-found joy. Solomon
Stallabras was always ready to weep with us over a dish of tea. Never
any man had a heart more formed for the tenderest sensibility. Pity
that his nose was so broad and so much turned up, otherwise this
natural tenderness might have been manifested in his countenance. While
I read he gazed upon my face, and was fain, from time to time, to draw
forth his handkerchief and wipe the tears from his streaming eyes.

"Stop, Miss Kitty!" he would say: "let us pause awhile: let us come
back to virtue and ourselves. It is too much: the spectacle of so
much youth and beauty, so much innocence--the fate of our poor
Clarissa--read by a nymph whose lot is so below her merits--it is too
much, Mrs. Pimpernel--it is indeed!"

In some way, while I read, this poet, whose imagination, as became his
profession, was strong, mixed up Clarissa with myself, and imagined
that my ending might be in some way similar to that of the heroine.
Now, with Solomon Stallabras, to think was to believe. Nothing was
wanting but a Lovelace. I believe that he waited about the market in
hopes of finding him lurking in some corner. Perhaps he even suspected
poor Sir Miles. Had he found him, he assured Mrs. Esther, he fully
intended to pierce him to the heart with a spit or skewer from one of
the butcher's stalls; adding that it would be sweet for him to die,
even from the cart at Tyburn, for my sake. But no Lovelace was trying
to make me leave my shelter with Mrs. Esther.

Sometimes Sir Miles Lackington came to join in the reading, but we
found him wanting in sensibility. Without that quality, Richardson's
novels cannot be enjoyed. He inclined rather to the low humour which
makes men enjoy Fielding's "Tom Jones," or Smollett's "Peregrine
Pickle"--works full, no doubt, of a coarse vitality which some men
like, but quite wanting in the delicate shades of feeling that commend
an author to the delicacy of gentlewomen. And to think that old Samuel
Richardson was nothing but a printer by trade! Heaven, which denied
this most precious gift of creation to such tender and poetic souls as
that of Solomon Stallabras, vouchsafed to bestow it upon a printer--a
mechanical printer, who, if he was not paid for setting up type
himself, yet employed common workmen, superintended their labours, paid
them their wages, and put profits into his purse. It seems incredible,
but then Shakespeare was only an actor.

"The sunshine of genius," said Solomon, "falls upon the children of the
lowly as well as those of the rich. I am myself a scion of Fetter Lane."

Sometimes, indeed, Sir Miles Lackington was so wanting in delicacy and
so rude as to laugh at us for our tears.

"You cry over Richardson," he said; "but if I were to bring you 'Tom
Jones' I warrant you would laugh."

"'Tom Jones,'" said Mrs. Esther, "is clearly a work of coarseness.
Ladies do not wish to laugh. The laws of decorum forbid unrestrained
mirth to females of good breeding. Fielding may suit the pewter pots
of the tavern; Richardson goes best with the silver service of the
mansion."

We looked about us as if our room was the mansion and our cupboard was
lined with silver dishes.

Sir Miles laughed again.

"Give me a pewter mug well filled and often filled," he said, "with
'Tom Jones' to bear it company, and I ask no more. 'Clarissa,' and the
silver service may remain with you, ladies. Strange, however, that
folk should prefer a printer to a gentleman. Why, Fielding comes of an
honourable house."

"Gentle blood," replied Mrs. Esther, "does not, unfortunately, always
bring the gifts of poetry and sensibility. You are yourself of gentle
birth, Sir Miles, yet you own that you love not Richardson. Many great
authors have been of lowly extraction, and Mr. Stallabras was saying
finely but yesterday, that the sunshine of genius falls upon the
children of the poor as often as upon those of the rich."

Solomon inclined his head and coloured; Sir Miles laughed again in his
easy fashion.

"But," he said, "Mr. Richardson knows nothing about the polite _ton_.
His men are master tradesmen disguised in swords and scarlet coats;
they are religious tradesmen, wicked tradesmen, and so forth; but they
are not gentlemen; they cannot talk, think, or walk, write, or act like
gentlemen. If we want to read about polite society, let us at least ask
gentlemen to write for us."

Sir Miles read little, yet his judgment was generally right, and since
I have seen the society of which Richardson wrote, I have learned
that he was right in this case; for Richardson, pathetic and powerful
as he is, had certainly never been among the class whose manners and
conversation he attempted to portray.

Presently we finished "Clarissa," with floods of tears. I believe that
no book was ever written which has caused so many tears as this work.
Just then it was about the end of the year: we had already eaten our
Christmas plum porridge in the darkest and deadest time of the year,
the time when fogs fall over the town by day and stop all work: when
nights are long and days short: when the market was quiet at night
because it was too cold to stand about or to lie in the open: when
all the fighting and brawling were over before five o'clock, and the
evenings were tranquil though they were long. It was just after we
ended our book, and were still tearful under its influence, that our
deliverance came to us.

I think it was on the 31st of December in that same year of grace,
seventeen hundred and fifty, in which I had come to the Liberties, and
twenty-nine full years with some eleven months since the poor ladies
had been incarcerated. I well remember the day, though not certain of
the date. It was evening: we had finished work: supper was on the table
when we should care to take it--bread and an excellent Dutch cheese;
the candle was extinguished, and we were sitting before the fire. Mrs.
Esther was talking, as women love sometimes to talk, about the little
things they remember: she was telling me--not for the first time--of
the great frost of 1714, when she was a young girl, and of the fair
which they held upon the ice; of the dreadful scare there was in 1718
from the number of highwaymen and footpads, for whose apprehension
the Government offered as much as £100 a head; of Orator Henley, who
began to preach in Clare Market shortly after the ladies came to the
Fleet; of the dreadful storm in 1739, which killed the famous colony
of sparrows in the Mile End Road; of the long frost of 1739, when from
Christmas unto February the poor watermen and fishermen could not earn
a single penny; of the fever of 1741; of the banishment of papists
before the Pretender's landing, in 1744; of the great Rebellion of
1745, when the city so nobly did its duty.

"My dear," she said, "we, that is the citizens, because the prisoners
of the Fleet and the persons who enjoy the Liberties could hardly be
expected to contribute money or aught but prayers--and most of the poor
creatures but little used to praying!--raised twelve thousand shirts
with as many garments to correspond, ten thousand woollen caps (to
serve, I suppose, as nightcaps for our brave fellows when they slept in
the open air), ten thousand pairs of stockings, twelve thousand gloves,
a thousand blankets--which only makes one blanket for twelve men, but
I hope they took turns about--and nine thousand spatterdashes. There
was a camp on Finchley Common, of which we heard but did not visit;
the militia were kept in readiness--a double watch was set at every
one of the city gates; there were some in the Liberties, who thought
that a successful invasion of England might lead to the burning of
account-books, registers, ledgers, and warrants, in which case we might
all get out and keep out. For my own part, my dear, and for my sister
Deborah's part, I am happy to say that we preferred the Protestant
succession even to our own freedom, and wished for no such lawless
ending to a captivity however unjust, but prayed night and day for the
confusion of the young Pretender. Happily our prayers were answered,
and great George preserved."

Then we talked of the past year, how it had brought Mrs. Esther a
daughter--as she was good enough to say--and taken away a sister. She
cried a little over her loss, but presently recovered, and taking my
hand in hers, said many kind and undeserved things to me, who had been
often petulant and troublesome: as that we must not part, who had
been so strangely brought together, unless my happiness should take
me away from the Fleet (I thought, then, of my husband, and wondered
if he would ever come to take me away), and then said that as we were
at New Year's Eve, we should make good resolutions for the next year,
which were to be kept resolutely, not broken and thrown away; that for
her part, she designed, if I agreed and consented to the change, to
call me niece, and I should call her aunt, by which mutual adoption
of each other our affection and duty one towards the other would be
strengthened and founded, as it were, on a sure and stable basis.

"Not, my dear," she added, "that you can ever call yourself a
Pimpernel--an honour granted to few--or that you should ever wish to
change your name; but in all other respects you shall be the same as
if you were indeed my own niece, the daughter of my brother (but I
never had one) or sister (but I had only one, and she was as myself).
Truly the Pleydells are a worthy family, of whom we have no need to be
ashamed."

I was assuring her that nothing could alter my love and gratitude for
her exceeding kindness, when we heard footsteps and voices on the
stairs, and presently a knock at the door, and the Doctor stood before
us. Behind him were Sir Miles Lackington and Solomon Stallabras.

"Madam," said the Doctor, "I wish you a good evening, with the
compliments of the season. Merry as well as happy may you be next year."

I declare that directly I saw his face, my heart leaped into my mouth.
I _knew_ that he was come with great and glorious news. For his eyes
glowed with the light of some suppressed knowledge, and a capacious
smile began with his lips and glowed over the vast expanse of his ruddy
cheeks.

"Merry, Doctor--no. But happy if God will."

"Ta! ta! ta! we shall see," he replied. "Now, madam, I have a thing
to say which will take some time to say. I have taken the liberty of
bringing with me a bottle of good old port, the best to be procured,
which strengthens the nerves and acts as a sovereign cordial in cases
of sudden excitement. Besides, it is to-night New Year's Eve, when all
should rejoice." He produced the bottle from under his gown and placed
it on the table. "I have also taken the liberty to bring with me our
friends and well-wishers, Sir Miles Lackington and Mr. Stallabras,
partly to--to--" here he remembered that a corkscrew was not likely
to be among our possessions--"to draw the cork of the bottle, a thing
which Sir Miles does with zeal and propriety." The Baronet with great
gravity advanced and performed the operation by a dexterous handling of
the poker, which detached the upper part of the neck. "So," continued
the Doctor; "and partly that they too, who have been so long our true
and faithful friends, may hear what I have to say, and so that we may
all rejoice together, and if need be, sing psalms with merry hearts."

Merry hearts? Were we to sing psalms with merry hearts in the place
where for thirty years every day had brought with it its own suffering
and disgrace to this poor lady?

Yet, what news could the Doctor have which made his purple face so
glad, as if the sunlight instead of our fire of cannel coal was shining
full upon it?

"Kitty child," he went on, "light candles: not one candle--two candles,
three candles, four candles--all the candles you have in the place;
we will have an illumination. Sir Miles, will you please to sit? Mr.
Stallabras, will you take Kitty's chair? She will be occupied in
serving. Glasses, child, for this honourable company. Why"--he banged
his fist upon the table, but with consideration, for it was not so
strong as his own great table--"why, I am happier this night than ever
I have been before, I think, in all my life. Such a story as I have to
tell!"

I placed on the table the three candlesticks which formed all our
stock, and set candles in them and lit them. I put out such glasses
as we had, and then I stood beside Mrs. Esther's chair and took her
hand in mine. I knew not what to expect, yet I was certain that it was
something very good for Mrs. Esther. Had it been for me, the Doctor
would have sent for me; or for himself, he would have told it without
this prodigality of joy. Surely it must be for my good patron and
protector! My pulses were bounding, and I could see that Mrs. Esther,
too, was rapidly rising to the same excitement.

"Certain I am," said Sir Miles, "that something has happened. Doctor,
let us quickly congratulate you. Let us drink your health. I burn to
drink some one's health."

"Should something have happened," said the poet, "I would it were
something good for ladies who shall be nameless."

"Stay," said the Doctor. He stood while the rest were sitting. He thus
increased the natural advantage of his great proportions. "We are not
yet come to the drinking of healths. But, Mrs. Pimpernel, I must first
invite you, before I go on with what I have to say, to take a glass of
this most generous vintage. The grapes which produced it grew fat and
strong in thinking of the noble part they were about to fulfil: the
sunshine of Spain passed into their juices and filled them with the
spirit of strength and confidence: that spirit lies imprisoned in the
bottle before us----"

"It does--it does!" murmured Sir Miles, gazing thoughtfully at the
bottle.

"He ought to have been a poet!" whispered Solomon.

The Doctor looked round impatiently, and swept the folds of his gown
behind him with a large gesture.

"For what did the grapes rejoice? Why was the vintage more than
commonly rich? Because in the fulness of time it was destined to
comfort the heart and to strengthen the courage of a most worthy and
cruelly tried lady. Indeed, Mrs. Pimpernel, wonderful are the decrees
of heaven! Drink, madam."

He poured out a glass of wine and handed it to her. She stared in his
face almost stupidly: she was trying to repress a wild thought which
seized her: her lips were parted, her gaze fixed, her hands trembling.

"Drink it, madam," ordered the Doctor.

"What is it? oh! what is it?" she cried.

"Drink the wine, madam," said Sir Miles kindly. "Believe me, the wine
will give you courage."

I took the glass and held it to her lips, while she drank submissively.

"With a bottle of port before him," said Sir Miles encouragingly, "a
man may have patience for anything. With the help of such a friend,
would I receive with resignation and joy, good fortune for myself or
disasters to all my cousins, male and female. Go on, Doctor. The lady
hath taken one glass to prepare her palate for the next."

"Patience, now," said the Doctor, "and silence, all of you. Solomon
Stallabras, if you liken me again to a poet, you shall leave this room,
and lose the joy of hearing what I have to tell."

"It is now some three months that the thought came into my mind of
investigating the case of certain prisoners lying forgotten in the
prison or dragging along a wretched existence in the Rules. It matters
not what these cases were, or how I have sped in my search. One
case, however, has filled me with gratitude and joy because--madam,"
he turned suddenly on poor Mrs. Esther, "you will please to listen
patiently. This case concerns the unhappy fate of two poor ladies.
Their history, gentlemen"--oh! why could he not get on faster?--"is
partly known to you. They were daughters of a most worthy and respected
city merchant who, in his time, served many civic offices with dignity
and usefulness, including the highest. He was a benefactor to his
parish, beautified his church, and died leaving behind him two young
daughters, the youngest of whom came of age in the year 1720. To
each of them he left a large fortune, no less than twenty thousand
pounds. Alas! gentlemen, this money, placed in the hands of their
guardian and trustee, a friend as honourable as the late Lord Mayor
himself, the ladies' father, namely, Alderman Medlicott, was in the
year 1720 shamefully pillaged and stolen by the alderman's clerk,
one Christopher March, insomuch that (the alderman having gone mad
by reason of his losses) the poor girls had no longer any fortune
or any friends to help, for in that bad time most all the merchants
were hit, and every one had to look after himself as best he could.
Also this plundering villain had so invested part of their money, in
their own name by forgeries, as to make them liable for large sums
which they had not the means of paying. They were therefore arrested
and confined in the prison hard by, where under the rule of the rogue
Bambridge they suffered many things which it is painful to recall or
to think about. Presently, however, that tormentor and plague of the
human race--_captivorum flagellum_--scourge of innocent captives and
languishing debtors, having been mercifully removed and having hung
himself like Judas and so gone to his own place, these ladies found the
necessary security which ensures for all of us this partial liberty,
with the opportunity, should we embrace it, of improving the golden
hours. In other words, gentlemen, they came out of the prison, and have
ever since dwelt amongst us in this place.

"Gentlemen, we have with us here many improvident and foolish
persons who have mostly by their own misconduct reduced themselves
to our unhappy condition. It needs not that in this place, which is
not a pulpit, I should speak of those who have gambled away their
property"--Sir Miles shook his head--"or drank it away"--Sir Miles
stared straight at the ceiling--"or have missed their chances, or been
forgotten by Fortune"--Mr. Stallabras groaned. "Of these things I will
not speak. But it is a thing notorious to all of us that the Liberties
are not the chosen home of virtue. Here temperance, sobriety, morality,
gentle words, courteous bearing, truth, honour, kindness of thought,
and charity--which seeketh not her own--are rarely illustrated and
discourteously entreated. Wherefore, I say, that for two ladies to have
steadfastly resisted all the temptations of this place, and to have
exhibited, so that all might copy, the exemplar of a perfect Christian
life during thirty years, is a fact which calls for the gratitude as
well as the astonishment of the wondering Rules."

"He _ought_ to have been a----" began Solomon Stallabras, wiping a
sympathetic tear, but caught the Doctor's frowning eye and stopped;
"an--an Archbishop," he added presently, with a little hesitation.

"Sir," said the Doctor, "you are right. I ought to have been an
archbishop. Many an archbishop's Latin verses have been poor indeed
compared with mine. But to proceed. Madam, I would fain not be tedious."

"Oh, sir," said Mrs. Esther, whose brain seemed confused with this
strange exordium.

"After thirty years or thereabouts of most undeserved captivity and
forced retirement from the polite world--which they were born to
adorn--these ladies found themselves by the will of Providence forced
to separate. One of them winged her glad flight to heaven, the other
was permitted to remain awhile below. It was then that I began to
investigate the conditions of their imprisonment. Madam," he turned
suddenly to Mrs. Esther, so that she started in her chair and trembled
violently, "think of what you would most wish: name no trifling matter;
it is not a gift of a guinea or two, the bettering of a meal, the
purchase of a blanket, the helping of a poor family; no boon or benefit
of a day or two. Let your imagination rove, set her free, think boldly,
aim high, think of the best and most desirable thing of all."

She tried to speak, her lips parted; she half rose, catching at my
hand: but her words were refused utterance; her cheek grew so pale and
white that I thought she would have swooned and seized her in my arms,
being so much stronger and bigger. Then I ventured to speak, being
moved myself to a flood of tears.

"Oh, madam! dear madam! the Doctor is not jesting with you; he hath
in his hands the thing that we desire most of all. He brings you, I
am sure, great news--the greatest. Oh, sir"--I spoke now for her who
was struck dumb with hope, fear, and astonishment--"what can this poor
lady want but her release from this dreadful place? What can she pray
for, what can she ask, morning and night, after all these years of
companionship with profligates, spendthrifts, rogues, and villains, the
noisy market people, the poor suffering women and children of this den
of infamy, but her deliverance? Sir, if you have brought her that, tell
her so at once, to ease her mind."

"Well said, Kitty," cried Sir Miles. "Doctor, speak out."

"No poet--not even Alexander Pope--could have spoken more eloquently,"
cried Solomon Stallabras.

As for Mrs. Esther, she drew herself gently from me, and stood with her
handkerchief in her hand, and tears in her eyes, her poor thin figure
trembling.

"I have brought with me," said the Doctor, taking her hand and kissing
it, "the release of the most innocent prisoner in the world."

She steadied herself for a few moments. Then she spoke clearly and
calmly.

"That," she said, "has ever been the utmost of my desire. I have
desired it so long and so vehemently (with my sister Deborah, to whom
it has been granted) that it has become part of my very being. I have
desired it, I think, even more than my sister. Thirty years have I
been a prisoner in the Fleet, though for twenty-six in the enjoyment
of these (so-called) Liberties. Gentlemen, you know full well what
manner of life has been ours; you know the sights, the sounds, the
wickednesses of this place." Here Sir Miles hung his head. "I am, as
the Doctor most kindly hath told you, a gentlewoman born; my father,
besides being a great and honourable merchant of this most noble
city of London, once Lord Mayor, an Alderman of Portsoken Ward, and
Worshipful Master of the Company of Armour Scourers, was also a true
Christian man, and taught us early the doctrines and virtues of the
true faith. We were educated as heiresses; we were delicately brought
up in the love of duty and religion; too delicately for women fated
to herd with the worst and bear the worst. It is, therefore, no merit
of ours if we have behaved, according to our lights, as Christian
gentlewomen. Yet, sirs, kind friends, it has been great unhappiness to
us; bear with me a little, for when I think of my sister's sufferings,
and my own, I fain must weep. It has been, believe me, great, great
unhappiness."

I think we all wept with her. Yet it was astonishing to see with what
quiet dignity she spoke, resuming, at a moment's notice, the air not
only of a gentlewoman, which she had never lost, but of one who is no
longer troubled by being in a false position, and can command, as well
as receive, respect. I saw before me a great city lady, as she had been
trained and brought up to be. Small though she was, her dignity made
her tall--as her unmerited sufferings and patience made her great.

Sir Miles laid his hand on the poet's shoulder.

"Great heaven!" he cried. "Canst thou weep any more over the
misfortunes of Clarissa, with this poor lady's sorrows in thy
recollection?"

The Doctor wiped his eyes. But for those backslidings which we have
already lamented, what an admirable character, how full of generosity,
how full of sympathy, how kind of heart, was my uncle!

"Pray, madam," he said, "be seated again. Will you take another glass
of wine?"

"No, Doctor," she replied. "This is now no case for the help of wine.
Pray finish the story of your benevolent care."

"Why, madam, as for benevolence," he said, "I have but done what Sir
Miles Lackington or Solomon Stallabras"--the poet spread his arms and
tapped his breast--"would have done, had they possessed the power of
doing; what, indeed, this crying slip of a girl would have done had she
known how. Benevolence! Are we, then, Old Bailey prisoners, chained by
the leg until the time comes for us to go forth to Tyburn Tree? Are we
common rogues and vagabonds, that have no bowels? Can such a life as
yours be contemplated with unmoved eyes? Is Sir Miles a Lovelace for
hardness of heart? or Solomon Stallabras a salamander? Am I a Nero?
Nay, madam, speak no more of benevolence. Know, then, that of all the
people whom the conduct of the villain Christopher March with regard to
your affairs injured, but two are left alive. The heirs of the rest are
scattered and dispersed. These two have prospered, and are generous as
well as old; their hearts melted at the tale of suffering; they have
agreed together to give back to you, not only the security which keeps
you here, but also a formal release of your debt to them; you can go
whenever you please."

"Why, then," shouted Sir Miles, grasping the bottle, "we can drink
her----"

"Stay," said the Doctor. "There is one thing more. This generous gift
restores to you, not only liberty, but also your father's country
estate in Hertfordshire, worth six hundred pounds a year. And here,
madam, are the papers which vouch for all. You have now your own
estate, and are once more a gentlewoman of fortune and position."

She took the papers, and held them grasped tightly in her lap.

"And now, gentlemen," said the Doctor, gently taking the bottle from
the baronet's hand, "we will drink--you, too, Kitty, my dear, must
join--a happy new year to Mrs. Esther Pimpernel."

They drank it with no more words; and Sir Miles fell on his knees and
kissed her hand, but without speaking aught.

Mrs. Esther sat still and quiet, trying to recover herself; but the
first eloquence would not return, and she could not speak for crying
and sobbing. In broken words she said, while she caught the Doctor's
great hand and held it, that he had been, in very sooth, her guardian
angel; that it was he who had rescued her sister and herself from the
monster Bambridge and the horrors of the prison; that, but for him,
they would long ago have starved: that, but for him, she should have
languished for the rest of her days in the Rules. Then she prayed that
God would reward the protector and defender of the poor.

The Doctor drew away his hand, and, without a word, walked out of the
room with hanging head, followed by Sir Miles and Mr. Stallabras.

"We shall go, my sweet Kitty; together we shall leave this dreadful
place," she murmured when we were alone. "What is mine is yours, my
child. Let us humbly to our knees."



Part II.

_THE QUEEN OF THE WELLS._



CHAPTER I.

HOW WE RETURNED TO THE POLITE WORLD.


We love those places most where we lived when we were young, and where
we were wooed and won, and where we had those sweet dreams, which can
only come to the very young, of a happy future, impossible in this
transitory and fleeting life. Dear to me and romantic are the scenes
which to many are associated with disease and infirmity, or at best
with the mad riot of the race, the assembly, and the ball.

Truly there is no time, for a woman, like the time when she is young
and beautiful, and is courted by a troop of lovers. She feels her
power, though she does not understand it; she remembers it long after
the power has gone, with the witchery of bright eyes, soft cheeks, and
blooming youth. I think there can never be any faith or hope in the
future so strong as to resist the sigh over the past, the feeling that
it is better to be young than to be old: to blossom than to wither.

When we went to Epsom Wells we had managed between us, by silence as
to the past and a tacit understanding, to forget the Rules altogether.
Forgetting, indeed, is easy. Surely the butterfly forgets the days when
it was a mere crawling grub; Cophetua's queen no doubt soon learned
to believe that she had royal blood, or blue blood at least, in her
peasant veins (for my own part, I think the king should have mated
with one nearer his own rank). There is little difficulty in putting
out of sight what we wish forgotten. There was a man, for instance,
about the Fleet market, running odd jobs, who actually had forgotten
that he was once hanged. The people used to go there on purpose to
see the wretch, who was, I remember, bow-legged and long-armed, with
broad shoulders; his face was marked with smallpox; he squinted; he had
a great scar upon his cheek; the bridge of his nose was broken; he
had no forehead visible; his ears projected on either side, and were
long, like the ears of a mule; his eye-teeth were like tusks; and as
for his expression, it was that which John Bunyan may have had in his
mind when he wrote about the mob in Vanity Fair, or the ill-favoured
ones who got over the wall and accosted Christiana--an expression which
one may briefly describe as indicating a mind not set upon spiritual
things. Now this man had actually once been hanged, but being taken
away after the hanging to Barber Surgeons' Hall, near St. Giles's
Church, Cripplegate, was then restored to life by one who thought to
dissect him. That was why everybody looked after him, and would have
asked him questions if they had dared accost such a ruffian. For it
seemed to the unthinking as if he, alone among living men, had, like
Dante and Virgil, gone into the regions of the dead, conversed with the
spirits of the unjust (being himself a monstrous criminal), and, after
witnessing their tortures, had returned to the living. To those who
bribed him with rum and then put questions, he replied that as for the
hanging, it might be as the gentleman said, but he had forgotten it. As
for what he saw between his hanging and his restoration to life, he had
forgotten that too. Now if a man can forget having been hung, it stands
to reason that he can forget anything.

At all events, without the insensibility of this wretch, we speedily
agreed to forget the Fleet Rules, and in all our conversations to make
as if we had never been there at all, and knew of the place, if at all,
then only by hearsay and common bruit and rumour. As for the Chaplain
of the Fleet, the great promoter of those marriages which made the
place infamous and the chief performer of them notorious, we agreed
that we were only to think of him as our benefactor.

Not that we put these resolutions into words, but we arrived at them
in the manner common among women, with whom a smile or a glance is as
intelligible as many words (with a bottle of wine) among men.

It was due to this desire to forget the past that we never even read
through the "Farewell to the Fleet," presented to us by Mr. Solomon
Stallabras on the morning of our departure. The first four lines, which
was as far as I got, ran as follows:

   "With easy air of conscious worth expressed,
    Fair Pimpernel her sorrows oft addressed;
    The listening echoes poured her sighs abroad,
    Which all unheard by men, were heard by God."

He handed the verses to us with a low bow as we stepped into the coach,
leaving him behind still--poor wretch!--"enjoying" the Liberties.

We first repaired, with the view of spending a period of retirement, to
a convenient lodging in Red Lion Street, where Mrs. Esther set herself
seriously to resume the dress, manner, language, and feelings of a
gentlewoman.

"We have been," she said, "like the sun in eclipse. It is true that one
does not cease to enjoy, under all circumstances, the pride of gentle
birth, which has been my chief consolation during all our troubles.
But if one cannot illustrate to the eyes of the world the dignified
deportment and genteel appearance due to that position, the possession
of the privilege is a mere private grace, like the gift of good temper,
patience, or hope."

At first and for some weeks we held daily conversations and
consultations on the subject of dress. We were, as may be guessed,
somewhat like Pocahontas, of Virginia, when she left the savages and
came into the polite world--because we had to begin from the very
first, having hardly anything in which a lady could go abroad, and
very little in which she could sit at home. Truly delightful was it
to receive every day the packages of brocades, lace, satins, silks,
sarsnets, besides chintzes, muslins, woollen things, and fine linen
wherewith to deck ourselves, and to talk with the dressmaker over the
latest fashion, the most proper style for madam, a lady no longer
young, and for me, who, as a girl, should be dressed modestly and yet
fashionably.

"We must go fine, child," said Mrs. Esther. "I, for my part, because a
fine appearance is due to my position: you, because you are young and
beautiful. The gallants, to do them justice, are never slow in running
after a pretty face; but they are only fixed by a pretty face in a
pretty setting."

Alas! to think that my face, pretty or not, already belonged,
willy-nilly, to a man who had never run after it.

Mrs. Esther found that not only the fashions of dress, but those of
furniture, of language, of manners, and of thought, were changed since
her long imprisonment began. We therefore made it our endeavour by
reading papers, by watching people, and by going to such places as the
Mall, the Park, and even the fashionable churches, to catch as far as
possible, the mode. Mrs. Esther never quite succeeded, retaining to the
last a touch of antiquated manners, an old-fashioned bearing and trick
of speech, which greatly became her, though she knew it not. Meanwhile
we held long and serious talk about the rust of thirty years, and the
best way to wear it off.

In one of the sermons of the Reverend Melchior Smallbrook, a divine
now forgotten, but formerly much read, the learned clergyman states
that the sunshine of prosperity is only dangerous to that soul in
which tares are as ready to spring as wheat: adducing as a remarkable
example and proof of this opinion, the modern prelates of the Church
of England, whose lives (he said) are always models to less fortunate
Christians, although their fortunes are so great. Now in Mrs. Esther's
soul were no tares at all, so that the sunshine of prosperity caused
no decrease or diminution of her virtues. She only changed for the
better, and especially in point of cheerfulness and confidence. For
instance, whereas we were formerly wont, being poorly clad, to creep
humbly to church, sit in the seats reserved for the poor (which have
no backs to them, because the bishops consider the backs of the poor
to be specially strengthened by Providence, which hath laid such heavy
burdens upon them), and afterwards spend the day sadly over Hervey's
"Meditations among the Tombs," we now went in hoops, laces, mantles, or
cardinals, with faces patched, to the new church in Queen Square, where
we had front seats in the gallery, and after church we dined off roast
meat, with pudding, and after dinner read such discourses as presented,
instead of penitential meditations, a thankful, nay, a cheerful view
of life. I am sure, for my own part, I found the change greatly for
the better. But we made no new friends, because Mrs. Esther wished to
remain in strict retirement until she had recovered what she called the
Pimpernel Manner.

"It is a Manner, my dear, as you will perceive when I recover it, at
once dignified and modest. My father and my grandfather, both Lord
Mayors, possessed it to an eminent degree, and were justly celebrated
for it. My poor sister would never have acquired it, being by nature
too sprightly. I was gradually learning it when our misfortunes came.
Naturally afterwards it would have been absurd to cultivate its
further development. The Pimpernel Manner would have been thrown
away in----such a place as that to which we retired."

I am so stupid that I never clearly understood the Pimpernel Manner,
even when Mrs. Esther afterwards assured me that she had now fully
recovered it.

Meantime, my education was resumed in the lighter departments. No girl
who had once tackled book-keeping, by single and double entry, could
want any more solid instruction. My guardian played the harpsichord
for me, while my dancing-master gave me lessons in the minuet; or she
personated a duchess, a countess, or even the most exalted lady in the
land, while the master, a pink of courtesy, who had once danced on the
boards of Drury Lane, presented me dressed in hoops and a train. I was
so diligent in dancing that I was soon ready, he assured me, to make
a figure at any assembly, whether at Bath, Epsom, Tunbridge Wells,
Vauxhall, or Ranelagh. But for the present these gaieties had to be
postponed, partly because the Pimpernel Manner was slow in developing,
and without it my guardian would not stir abroad, partly because we
had no gentleman to go with us. Sir Miles Lackington would, I am sure,
have gone with us, had we asked him to take us. But he was not to be
depended upon if a bottle of wine came in the way. Solomon Stallabras
would have gone, but the poor poet had no clothes fit for a polite
assembly. Moreover, there was an objection, Mrs. Esther said, to both
those gentlemen, that the fact of their being in the enjoyment of the
Liberties of the Fleet might have been thrown in our teeth at a polite
assembly.

It seemed to me then, being ignorant of the extreme wickedness of men,
a grievous thing that gentlewomen cannot go whithersoever they please
without the protection of a man. What sort of an age, I asked, is
this, which pretends to have cast aside Gothic barbarism, yet cannot
suffer its ladies to go unprotected for fear of insult or damage to
their reputation? Scourers and Mohocks, I said, no longer infest the
streets, which are for the most part secure even from footpads and
purse-cutters. I was as yet, however, unacquainted with that class of
man which loves to follow a woman, to stare at her, and to make her
tremble with fear, being no better, but rather worse, than so many
highwaymen, common bullies, and professed rogues.

Sir Miles Lackington did not desert us. Neither my cruelty, he said,
nor his own unworthiness could persuade him to do that; he must needs
follow and worship at the shrine of his unattainable sun and shining
star--with such nonsense as men will still be talking even when they
know that the woman is not for them.

On the occasion of the first visit I privately informed him that
we wished to have no mention made of the place where we were once
residing. He very kindly agreed to silence on this point, and we
sustained between us a conversation after the manner of polite circles.
Sir Miles would ask us, with a pinch of snuff, if we liked our present
lodging--which was, as I have said, in Red Lion Street, not far from
the fields and the Foundling Hospital--better than those to be obtained
in Hill Street and Bruton Street, or some other place frequented by
the best families. Madam, with a fashionable bow, would reply that we
were favourably placed as regards air, that of Bloomsbury being good
for persons like herself, of delicate chests; and that concerning
educational conveniences for miss, she found the quarter superior to
that mentioned by Sir Miles. Then the honest baronet would relate,
without yawning or showing any signs of fatigue, such stories of
fashionable life as he had learned from those who had lately come to
the Fleet, or remembered from his short career among the world of
fashion. We agreed, always without unnecessary waste of words, to
consider him as a gentleman about town, familiar with the Great.

The Doctor came but rarely. He brought wise counsel. He was a miracle
of wisdom. No one is ever so wise in the conduct of his friends'
affairs as he who has wrecked his own. Have we not seen far-seeing and
prudent ministers of state, who have conducted the business of the
nation with skill and success, yet cannot manage their own far more
simple business?

Mrs. Esther talked to no one but to him about the past. She had no
secrets from him. She even wished him, if possible, to share in her
good fortune, and wanted him to appease his creditors with half of all
that was hers. But he refused.

"My imprisonment," he said, "is also my freedom. While I am lying in
the Fleet I can go abroad as I please; I fear no arrest: my conscience
does not reproach me when I pass a shop and think of what I owe the
tradesman who keeps it, because my creditors have paid themselves by
capture of my body. Your purse, dear madam, were it ten times as long,
would not appease the hungry maw of all my creditors and lawyers.
Of old, before I took refuge among the offal and off-scouring of
humanity, the prodigal sons, and the swine, there was no street west of
Temple Bar where I did not fear the voice of a creditor or expect the
unfriendly shoulder-tap of a bailiff. Besides, were I free, what course
would be open to me? Now I live in state, with the income of a dean:
outside I should live in meanness, with the income of a curate. I will
retire from my present position--call it cure of souls, madam--when
the Church recognises merit by translating me from the Fleet market to
a fat prebendal stall. And, believe me, Virtue may find a home even
beside those stalls, and among those grunting swine."

I understand now, being much older and abler to take a just view of
things, that if my uncle could have obtained his discharge he would
have been unwilling to take it. For, granted that he was a learned and
eloquent man, that he would have attracted multitudes to hear him,
learning and eloquence, in the Church, do not always obtain for a
clergyman the highest preferment; the Doctor, who was no longer young,
might have had to languish as a curate on forty or perhaps sixty pounds
_per annum_, even though it became the fashion to attend his sermons.
And, besides, his character was for ever gone, among his brethren of
the cloth. A man who has been a Fleet parson is like one who has passed
a morning in hedging and ditching. He must needs wash all over. Truly,
I think that the Doctor was right. To exercise the functions of his
sacred calling all the morning for profit, to drink with his friends
all the evening, to spend a large portion of his gains in deeds of
charity and generosity among a poor, necessitous, prodigal, greedy,
spendthrift, hungry, thirsty, and shameful folk, who rewarded his
liberality by a profusion of thanks, blessings, and good wishes, was
more in accordance with the Doctor's habits of thought. He persuaded
himself, or tried to persuade others, that he was doing a good work in
the morning; in the afternoon he performed works of charity; in the
evening he abandoned himself to the tempter who led him to sing, drink,
and jest among the rabble rout of Comus.

One morning he bade me put on my hat and walk with him, because he had
a thing to say. I obeyed with fear, being certain he was going to speak
about my unknown husband.

"Girl!" he said, as we walked past the last house in Red Lion Street
and along the pathway which leads to the Foundling Hospital. "Girl, I
have to remind you and to warn you."

I knew well what was to be the warning.

"Remember, you are now seventeen and more; you are no longer a young
and silly girl, you are a young woman; thanks to your friends, you have
taken the position of a young gentlewoman, even an heiress. You will
soon leave this quiet lodging and go where you will meet society and
the great world; you are pretty and well-mannered; you will have beaux
and gallants dangling their clouded canes at your heels and asking your
favours. But you are married. Remember that: you are married. You must
be careful not to let a single stain rest upon your reputation."

"Oh, sir!" I cried, "I have endeavoured to forget that morning. Was
that marriage real? The poor young gentleman was tipsy. Can a tipsy man
be married?"

"Real?" The Doctor stood and gazed at me with angry eyes and puffed
cheeks, so that the old terror seized me in spite of my fine frock
and hoop. "Real? Is the girl mad? Am I not Gregory Shovel, Doctor of
Divinity of Christ's College, Cambridge? Not even the King's most
sacred Majesty is married in more workmanlike fashion. Let your husband
try to escape the bond. Know that he shall be watched: let him try to
set it aside: he shall learn by the intervention of learned lawyers,
if he do not trust my word, that he is as much married as St. Peter
himself."

"Alas!" I said. "But how shall my husband love me?"

"Tut! tut! what is love? You young people think of nothing but
love--the fond inclination of one person for another. Are you a pin
the worse, supposing he never loves you? Love or no love, make up thy
mind, child, that happy shall be thy lot. Be contented, patient, and
silent. When the right day comes, thou shalt step forth to the world as
Catherine, Lady Chudleigh."

That day he said no more to me. But he showed that the subject was not
out of his thoughts by inquiries into the direction and progress of my
studies, which, he hinted, should be such as would befit my rank and
position. Madam thought he meant my rank as her heiress, a position
which could not be illustrated with too much assiduity.

Soon after we went to Red Lion Street, my uncle gave madam my bag of
guineas.

"Here is the child's fortune," he said. "Let her spend it, but with
moderation, in buying the frocks, fal-lals, and trifles which a young
gentlewoman of fortune should wear. Grudge not the spending. Should
more be wanting, more shall be found. In everything, my dear lady, make
my niece an accomplished woman, a woman of _ton_, a woman who can hold
her own, a woman who can go into any society, a woman fit to become the
wife--well--the wife of a lord."

It was on New Year's Day that we left the Fleet; it was in the summer,
at the end of June, when we decided that enough had been done to rub
off the rust of that unfashionable place.

"You, my dear," said Mrs. Esther, "have the sprightly graces of a
well-born and well-bred young woman: I can present you in any society.
I, for my part, have recovered the Pimpernel Manner. I can now make an
appearance worthy of my father."

I assured my kind lady that although, to be sure, I had never been able
to witness the great original and model from which the Pimpernel Manner
was derived, yet that no lady had so fine an air as herself; which was
certainly true, madam being at once dignified and gifted with a formal
condescension very pretty and uncommon.



CHAPTER II.

HOW WE WENT TO THE WELLS.


Access to the polite world is more readily gained (by those who have
no friends) at one of the watering-places than in London. Considering
this, we counselled whether it would not be better to visit one, or
all, of the English Spas, rather than to climb slowly and painfully up
the ladder of London fashion.

Mrs. Esther at first inclined to Bath, which certainly (though it is
a long journey thither), is a most stately city, provided with every
requisite for comfort, possessing the finest Assembly Rooms and the
most convenient lodgings. It also affords opportunities for making the
acquaintance and studying the manners of the Great. Moreover, there
can be no doubt that its waters are efficient in the cure of almost
all disorders; and the social enjoyment of the hot bath, taken in the
company of the wits and toasts who go to be parboiled together in that
liquid Court of scandal, chocolate, and sweets, is surely a thing
without a rival.

On the other hand, Tunbridge Wells is nearer London; the roads are
good; a coach reaches the place in one day; and, so amazing is the
rapidity of communication (in which we so far excel our ancestors),
that the London morning papers reach the Wells in the evening, and a
letter posted from the Wells in the morning can be answered in the
following evening. Also the air is fine at Tunbridge, the waters
wholesome, and the amusements are said to be varied. Add to this that
it is greatly frequented by the better sort of London citizens, those
substantial merchants with their proud and richly dressed wives and
daughters, whom Mrs. Esther always looked upon as forming the most
desirable company in the world. So that it was at first resolved to go
to Tunbridge.

But while we were making our preparations to go there, a curious
longing came upon Mrs. Esther to revisit the scenes of her youth.

"My dear," she said, "I should like to see once more the Wells of
Epsom, whither my father carried us every year when we were children.
The last summer I spent there was after his death, in the dreadful year
of 1720, when the place was crowded with Germans, Jews, and the people
who flocked to London with schemes which were to have made all our
fortunes, but which only ruined us, filled the prisons and madhouses,
drove honest men upon the road, and their children to the gutters. Let
us go to Epsom."

Epsom Wells, to be sure, was no longer what it had been. Indeed,
for a time, the place had fallen into decay. Yet of late, with
their horse-racing in April and June, and the strange repute of the
bone-setter Sally Wallin, the salubrity of the air on the Downs, the
easy access to the town, which lieth but sixteen miles or thereabouts
from Paul's, and the goodness of the lodgings, the fame of the place
had revived. The gentry of the country-side came to the Monday
breakfasts and assemblies, when there was music, card-playing, and
dancing; the old buildings were again repaired, and Epsom Wells for a
few years was once more crowded. To me, as will presently be very well
understood, the place will ever remain a dear romantic spot, sacred to
the memory of the sweetest time in a woman's life, when her heart goes
out of her keeping, and she listens with fear and delight to the wooing
of the man she loves.

We went there in the coach, which took about three hours. We arrived in
the afternoon of a sunny day--it was a Friday, which is an unlucky day
to begin a journey upon--in the middle of July. We were presently taken
to a neat and clean lodging in Church Parade, where we engaged rooms
at a moderate charge. The landlady, one Mrs. Crump, was the widow,
she told us, of a respectable hosier of Cheapside, who had left her
with but a slender stock. Her children, however, were in good service
and thriving; and, with her youngest daughter, Cicely, she kept this
lodging-house, a poor but genteel mode of earning a livelihood.

The first evening we sat at home until sunset, when we put on our
hoods and walked under the trees which everywhere at Epsom afford a
delightful shade during the heat of the day, and a romantic obscurity
in the twilight. A lane or avenue of noble lime-trees was planted in
the Church Parade. Small avenues of trees led to the houses, and formed
porches with rich canopies of green leaves. There was a good deal of
company abroad, and we could hear, not far off, the strains of the
music to which they were dancing in the Assembly Rooms.

"We have done well, Kitty," said Mrs. Esther, "to come to this place,
which is far less changed than since last I came here. I trust it
is not sinful to look back with pleasure and regret on the time of
youth." Here she sighed. "The good woman of the house, I perceive with
pleasure, remembers the name of Pimpernel, and made me a becoming
courtesy when I informed her of my father's rank. She remembers seeing
his Lord Mayor's Show. There are, it appears, many families of the
highest distinction here, with several nabobs, rich Turkey and Russian
merchants, great lawyers, and county gentry. She assures me that
all are made welcome, and that the assemblies are open to the whole
company. And she paid a tribute to thy pretty face, my dear."

In the morning we were awakened, to our surprise and delight, by a
delectable concert of music, performed for us, by way of salutation
or greeting, by the band belonging to the place. They played, in
succession, a number of the most delightful airs, such as, "A-hunting
we will go," "Fain I would," "Spring's a-coming," "Sweet Nelly, my
heart's delight," and "The girl I left behind me." The morning was
bright, and a breeze came into my open window from the Surrey Downs,
fresh and fragrant with the scent of wild flowers. My brain was filled
with the most ravishing ideas, though I knew not of what.

"My dear," said Mrs. Esther, at breakfast, "the compliment of the
music shows the discernment of the people. They have learned already
that we have pretensions to rank, and are no ordinary visitors, not
haberdashers' daughters or grocers'."

(It is, we afterwards discovered, the rule of the place thus to salute
new comers, without inquiry at all into their rank or fortune. We
rewarded the players with half-a-crown from madam, and two shillings
from myself.)

It is, surely, a delightful thing to dress one's self in the morning
to the accompaniment of sweet music. If I were a queen, I would have
a concert of music every day, to begin when I put foot out of bed: to
sing in tune while putting on one's stockings: to dance before the
glass while lacing one's stays: to handle a comb as if it was a fan,
and to brush one's hair with a swimming grace, as if one was doing a
minuet, while the fiddles and the flutes and the hautboys are playing
for you. Before I had finished dressing, however, Cicely Crump, who
was a lively, sprightly girl, with bright eyes, and little nose, about
my own age, came to help me, and told me that those ladies who went
abroad to take the air before breakfast wore in the morning an easy
dishabille, and advised me to tie a hood beneath the chin.

"But not," she said with a laugh, "not to hide too much of your face.
What will they say to such a face at the ball?"

We followed her advice, and presently sallied forth. Although it was
but seven o'clock, we found a goodly assemblage already gathered
together upon the Terrace, where, early as it was, the shade of the
trees was agreeable as well as beautiful. The ladies, who looked at us
with curiosity, were dressed much like ourselves, and the gentlemen
wore morning-gowns, without swords: some of the elder men even wore
nightcaps, which seemed to me an excessive simplicity. Everybody talked
to his neighbour, and there was a cheerful buzz of conversation.

"Nothing is changed, my dear," said Mrs. Esther, looking about her with
great satisfaction; "nothing except the dresses, and these not so much
as we might have expected. I have been asleep, dear, like the beauty in
the story, for thirty years. But she kept her youth, that lucky girl,
while I--heigh-ho!"

Cicely came with us to show us the way. We went first along the Terrace
and then to the New Parade, which was also beautifully shaded with elms
and limes. Between them lies the pond, with gold and silver fish, very
pretty to look at, and the tumble-down watch-house at one end. Then she
showed us the pump-room.

"Here is the spring," she said, "which cures all disorders: the best
medicine in the world."

There was in the room a dipper, as they call the women who hand the
water to those who go to drink it. We were told that it was customary
to pay our footing with half-a-crown; but we drank none of the water,
which is not, like that of Tunbridge Wells, sweet and pleasant to the
taste. Then Cicely led us to another building hard by, a handsome
place, having a broad porch with columns, very elegant. This, it
appeared, was the Assembly Room, where were held the public balls,
concerts, and breakfasts. We entered and looked about us. Mrs. Esther
recalled her triumphs in this very room, and shed a tear over the past.
Then a girl accosted us, and begged permission to enter our names in a
great book. This (with five shillings each by way of fees) made us free
of all the entertainments of the season.

Near the Assembly Rooms was the coffee-house, used only by the
gentlemen.

"They pretend," said Cicely, "to come here for letter-writing and to
read the news. I do not know how many letters they write, but I do know
what they talk about, because I had it of the girl who pours out their
coffee, and it is not about religion, nor politics, but all about the
toast of the day."

"What is the toast of the day?" I asked.

Cicely smiled, like a saucy baggage as she was, and said that no doubt
Miss Kitty would soon find out.

"Already," she said, "Mr. Walsingham is looking at you."

I saw an old gentleman already dressed for the morning, with lace
ruffles and a handkerchief for the neck of rich crimson silk, who sat
on one of the benches beneath the trees, his hand upon a stick, looking
at me with a sort of earnestness.

"Hush!" cried Cicely, whispering; "he is more than eighty years of age:
he goes every year to Epsom, Bath, and Tunbridge--all three--and he
can tell you the name of the toast in every place for fifty years, and
describe her face."

A "toast," then, was another word for a young lady.

As we passed his bench, the old gentleman rose and bowed with great
ceremony to madam.

"Your most obedient servant, madam," he said, still looking at me. "I
trust that the Wells will be honoured by your ladyship with a long
stay. My name is Walsingham, madam, and I am not unknown here. Permit
me to offer my services to you and to your lovely daughter."

"My niece, sir." Madam returned the bow with a curtsey as deep. "My
niece, Miss Kitty Pleydell. We arrived last night, and we expect to
find our stay so agreeable as to prolong it."

"The Wells, madam, will be delighted." He bowed again. "I hope to be
of assistance--some little assistance--in making your visit pleasant.
I have known Epsom Wells, and, indeed, Bath and Tunbridge as well,
for fifty years. Every year has been made remarkable in one of these
places by the appearance of at least one beautiful face: sometimes
there have been even three or four, so that gentlemen have been divided
in opinion. In 1731, for instance, a duel was fought at Tunbridge
Wells, between my Lord Tangueray and Sir Humphrey Lydgate, about two
rival beauties. Generally, however, the Wells acknowledge but one
queen. Yesterday I was publicly lamenting that we had as yet no one
at Epsom whom we could hope to call Queen of the Wells. Miss Kitty
Pleydell"--again he bowed low--"I can make that complaint no longer. I
salute your Majesty."

"Oh, sir," I said, abashed and confused, "you are jesting with me!"

He replied gravely, that he never jested on so serious a subject as the
beauty of a woman. Then he hoped to see us again upon the Terrace or on
the Downs in the course of the day, and left us with a low bow.

"I told you, miss," said Cicely, "that it would not be long before you
found out what is meant by a toast."

She next took us to a book-shop, where we learned that for a crown we
could carry home any book we pleased from the shop and read it at our
ease; only that we must return it in as good condition as we took it
out, which seems reasonable. The people in the shop, as are all the
people at Epsom, were mighty civil; and madam, partly with a view of
showing the seriousness of her reading, took down a volume of sermons,
which I carried home for her.

Next day, however, she exchanged this for a volume of "Pamela," which
now began to occupy our attention almost as much as "Clarissa" had
done, but caused fewer tears to flow. Now is it not a convenient thing
for people who cannot afford to buy all they would read, thus to pay
a subscription and to borrow books as many as they wish? I think that
nothing has ever yet been invented so excellent for the spread of
knowledge and the cultivation of taste. Yet it must not go too far
either; for should none but the libraries buy new novels, poems, and
other works of imagination, where would be the reward of the ingenious
gentlemen who write them? No; let those who can afford buy books: let
those who cannot buy all they can, and join the library for those they
cannot afford to buy. What room looks more comfortably furnished than
one which has its books in goodly rows upon the shelves? They are
better than pictures, better than vases, better than plates, better
than china monkeys; for the house that is so furnished need never feel
the dulness of a rainy day.

There remained but two subscriptions to pay before our footing was
fairly established.

The leader of the music presented himself, bowing, with his
subscription-book in his hand. The usual amount was half a guinea.
Madam gave a guinea, being half for herself, and half for me, writing
down our names in the book. I saw, as we came away, that a little group
of gentlemen quickly gathered round the leader and almost tore the book
from his hand.

"They are anxious to find out your name, miss," said Cicely. "Then
they will go away and talk in the coffee-house, and wonder who you are
and whence you came and what fortune you have. Yet they call us women
gossips!"

Lastly, there was the clergyman's book.

"Heaven forbid," said madam, "that we pay for the music and let the
prayers go starving!"

This done, we could return home, having fairly paid our way for
everything, and we found at our lodgings an excellent country breakfast
of cream, new-laid eggs, fresh wild strawberries from Durdans Park,
delicate cakes of Mrs. Crump's own baking, and chocolate, with Cicely
to wait upon us.

It was the godly custom of the place to attend public worship after
breakfast, and at the ringing of the bell we put on our hats and went
to the parish church, where we found most of the ladies assembled. They
were escorted to the doors of the sacred house by the gentlemen, who
left them there. Why men (who are certainly greater sinners, or sinners
in a bolder and more desperate fashion, than women) should have less
need of prayers than we, I know not; nor why a man should be ashamed
of doing what a woman glories in doing. After their drinkings, their
duels, their prodigalities, and wastefulness, men should methinks
crowd into the doors of every church they can find, women leading them
thereto. But let us not forget that men, when they live outside the
fashion and are natural, are by the bent of their mind generally more
religiously disposed than women: and, as they make greater sinners, so
also do they make more illustrious saints.

When we came out of the church (I forgot to say that we were now
dressed and ready to make as brave a show as the rest) we found outside
the doors a lane of gentlemen, who, as we passed, bowed low, hat in
hand. At the end stood old Mr. Walsingham.

He stood with his hat raised high in air, and a smile upon his lined
and crowsfooted face.

"What did I say, Miss Kitty?" he whispered. "Hath not the Queen of the
Wells arrived?"

I do not know what I might have said, but I heard a cry of "Kitty!
Kitty!" and, looking round, saw--oh, the joy!--none other than my
Nancy, prettier than ever, though still but a little thing, who ran up
to me and threw herself in my arms.



CHAPTER III.

HOW NANCY RECKONED UP THE COMPANY.


Nancy Levett herself, pretty and merry, prattling, rattling Nancy, not
grown a bit, and hardly taller than my shoulder. I held her out at
arm's length.

"You here, Nancy?"

Then we kissed again.

"And not a bit changed, Nancy?"

"And oh! so changed, Kitty. So tall and grand. Come to my mother."

Lady Levett was standing close by with Sir Robert, who took me by the
shoulders and kissed my cheeks, forehead and lips in fatherly fashion.

"Gadso!" he cried. "This is brave indeed. Things are likely to go well
at Epsom. We have got back our Kitty, wife."

Lady Levett was colder. Perhaps she had misgivings on what had been
done with me for the last twelvemonth. And then I, who had gone away a
simple, rustic maid, was now in hoops, patches and powder.

"Kitty will tell us presently," she said, "I doubt not what she has
done, and under whose protection she is travelling."

Then I hastened to present Mrs. Esther, who stood aside, somewhat
embarrassed.

"Madam," I said, "I present to you my benefactress and guardian, Mrs.
Esther, to whose care I was entrusted by my uncle. Dear aunt, this is
my Lady Levett. Mrs. Esther Pimpernel, madam, hath done me the singular
kindness of calling me her niece."

"My niece and daughter by adoption," said that kind lady. "Your
ladyship will be pleased, out of your goodness of heart, to hear
the best report of this dear child's health and conduct. The good
principles, my lady, which she learned of you and of her lamented
father, have borne fruit in virtues of obedience and duty."

Both ladies made a deep reverence. Then said Lady Levett--"I assure
you, my dear madam, I looked for nothing less in this dear child.
From such a father as was hers, could aught but good descend? Madam,
I desire your better acquaintance. For Kitty's sake, I hope we may be
friends."

"Why," said Sir Robert, "we are friends already. Kitty, thou art grown:
thou art a fine girl. I warrant we shall have breaking of hearts before
all is done. Epsom Wells was never so full of gallants. Well, breaking
of hearts is rare sport, and seldom hurts the men, though they make so
great a coil about it in their rhymes and nonsense. But have a care,
both of you: sometimes the girls get their own little cockleshells of
hearts broken in earnest."

"I should like to see the man among them all who could break my heart,"
said Nancy pertly, laughing.

"Yours?" her father asked, tapping her pretty rosy cheek. "It is such a
little one, no one can find it: nevertheless, lass, it is big enough to
carry all thy father's in it, big as he is."

Then we began to ask questions all together. I to inquire after the
village and the hall, the church, the ponies, the garden, the hounds,
the fruit, all the things we used to think about: and Will, they
told me, was at home, but was coming to the Wells for certain races
in which he would himself ride. Harry Temple was gone to London, but
would perhaps come to Epsom as soon as he knew who was there. Why had I
written not one single letter?

I blushed and hung my head. I could not tell the truth, for the sake of
Mrs. Esther, how I was ashamed at first to speak of the place in which
I found myself, and afterwards was afraid; but I should have to explain
my silence.

"It was not," I stammered, "that I was ungrateful to your ladyship for
all your kindness. But things were strange at first, and there was
nothing that I could take any pleasure in telling your ladyship. And
a London letter from a simple girl, who can send no news of the great
world, is a worthless thing to deliver by the post."

"Nay, child," said Lady Levett, "we should not have grudged the charge
for good tidings of thy welfare."

"Our Kitty," said Mrs. Esther, colouring a little, for it is never
pleasant to help at concealing, dissembling, or falsifying things,
"has had a busy time of late. Your ladyship knows, doubtless, that
her education was not completed. We have had masters and teachers of
dancing, music, deportment, and the like during the last few months,
and I trust that we shall find she will do credit to the instruction
she has received. Meanwhile I have, for reasons which it would not
interest your ladyship to learn, been living in great retirement. We
had a lodging lately in Red Lion Street, not far from the Foundling
Hospital, where the air is good and the situation quiet."

We fell, presently, into a sort of procession. First went Lady Levett
and Mrs. Esther (I overheard the latter speaking at length of her
father, the Lord Mayor, of her grandfather, also the Lord Mayor, and
of her last visit to Epsom), then came Nancy, Sir Robert, who held my
hand, and myself. The music, which had stopped during prayers, began
again now. The Terrace was crowded with the visitors, and Nancy began
to point them out to me as we walked along.

"Look, child--oh! how beautiful you have grown!--there is Mr. Pagoda
Tree--it is really Samuel Tree, or Obadiah Tree, or, I think, Crabapple
Tree, but they all call him Pagoda Tree: he has made a quarter of a
million in Bengal, and is come running to Bath, Epsom and Tunbridge, in
search of a wife. With all his money I, for one, would not have him,
the yellow little Nabob! He has five-and-twenty blacks at his lodgings,
and they say he sticks dinner-knives into them if his curry be not hot
enough. There goes the Dean of St. Sepulchre's. He is come to drink the
waters, which are good for a stomach enfeebled by great dinners; there
is no better fox-hunter in the county, and no finer judge of port. Pity
to be seventy years old when one has all the will and the power to go
on doing good to the Christian Church by fox-hunting and drinking"--he
was certainly a very red-faced divine, who looked as if this world
was more in his thoughts than the next, where, so far as we know,
fox-hunting will not be practised and port will not be held in esteem.
"You see yonder little fribble, my dear--do not look at him, or it will
make him think the better of himself: he is a haberdasher from town,
who pretends to be a Templar. A fribble, Kitty--oh! you innocent,
tall, beautiful creature!--a fribble is a thing made up of rags, wig,
ruffles, wind, froth, amber cane, paint, powder, coat-skirts and sword.
Nothing else, I assure you. No brains, no heart, no ears, no taste,
nothing. There are many fribbles at the Wells, who will dance with you,
talk to you, and--if you have enough money--would like to run away with
you. Don't throw yourself away on a fribble, Kitty. And don't run away
with anybody. Nothing so uncomfortable.

"That gallant youth in the red-coat is an officer, who had better be
with his colours in America than showing his scarlet at the Wells. Yet
he is a pretty fellow, is he not? Here are more clergymen----" One of
them somewhat reminded me of my uncle, for he wore, like him, a full
wig, a cassock of silk, and a flowing gown; also, he carried his head
with the assurance which belongs to one who is a teacher of men, and
respects his own wisdom. But he differed from my uncle in being sleek,
which the famous Chaplain of the Fleet certainly was not. He dropped
his eyes as he went, inwardly rapt, no doubt, by heavenly thoughts.

"That," Nancy went on, "is the great Court preacher, the Reverend
Bellamour Parolles, Master of Arts. The shabby divine beside him is the
Vicar of Sissinghurst, in Kent, who is here to drink the waters for a
complaint that troubles the poor man. What a difference!"

The country parson went dressed in a grey-striped calamanco nightgown;
he wore a wig which had once been white, but was now, by the influence
of this uncertain climate, turned to a pale orange; his brown hat
was encompassed by a black hatband; his bands, which might have been
cleaner, decently retired under the shadow of his chin; his grey
stockings were darned with blue worsted. As they walked together it
seemed to me that the country parson was saying to the crowd: "You
see--I am in rags; I go in darns, patches, and poverty; yet by my
sacred profession and my learning, I am the equal of my brother in
silk." While the more prosperous one might have been thought to say:
"Behold the brotherhood and equality of the Church, when I, the great
and fashionable, know no difference between myself and my humble
brethren!"

In the afternoon and evening there was, however, this difference, that
the town parson was seen at the Assembly Rooms among the ladies, while
his country brother might have been seen at the Crown, over a pipe and
a brown George full of strong October.

Then Nancy went on to point out more of the visitors. There were
merchants, well known on the Royal Exchange; courtiers from St.
James's; country gentlemen, with their madams, brave in muslin pinners
and sarsnet hoods, from estates remote from the great town, where they
had never ceased to consider themselves the feudal lords of the people
as well as the land: there were younger sons full of talk about horses
and hounds: there were doctors in black, with bag-wigs: there were
lawyers in vacation, their faces as full of sharpness as is the face of
a fox: there were young fellows not yet launched upon the fashionable
world, who looked on with the shyness and impudence of youth, trying to
catch the trick of dress, manner and carriage which marks the perfect
beau; there were old fellows, like Mr. Walsingham, who sat on the
benches, or ran about, proud of their activity, in attendance on the
ladies. It was indeed a motley crew.

"They say that Epsom has come into fashion again," Nancy went on. "I
know not. Tunbridge is a dangerous rival. Yet this year the place is
full. That young man coming to speak to me you may distinguish by your
acquaintance, my dear."

What a distinction! "He is--I hope your lordship is well this
morning--he is the young Lord Eardesley, whose father is but just dead.
He is a Virginian by birth, and all his fortune, with which the family
estates have been recovered, was made by tobacco on his plantations. He
has hundreds of negro slaves, besides convicts. Yet he is of grave and
serious disposition, and abhors the smell of a pipe. Peggy Baker thinks
to catch his lordship. Yet coronets are not so easily won."

She stopped again to speak to some ladies of her acquaintance.

"Well, my dear, as for our manner of life here, it is the same as at
all watering-places. We dress and undress: we meet at church, and on
the Terrace and the New Parade, and the Assembly Rooms: we go to the
Downs to see races before dinner and after dinner: we talk scandal: we
say wicked things about each other: we try to catch the eyes of the
men: we hate each other with malice and uncharitableness: we raffle: we
gamble: we listen to the music: we exchange pretty nothings with the
beaux: we find out all the stories about everybody here: and we dance
at the Assembly."

She stopped to breathe.

"This is a rattle," said Sir Robert, "which never stops--like the clack
of the water-wheel. Go on, Nan."

"One of our amusements," she went on, tossing her little head, "is
to buy strawberries, cherries, vegetables, salad, fowls and ducks of
the higglers who bring them to the market, or carry them round to
the houses of the town. The gentlemen, I observe, derive a peculiar
satisfaction in chucking those of the higglers who are young and
good-looking under the chin. This, I confess, is a pleasure which I
cannot for my own part understand."

"Saucy baggage!" said her father.

"You and I, Kitty," she continued, "who do not want to chuck farmers'
daughters under the chin, may, when we are tired of the races or the
promenade, take an airing in a coach, or watch the raffling, or the
card-players. Here they play cards all day long, except on Sunday. Or
we may go to the book-shop and hear the latest scandal: or we may go
home and trim our own things and talk about frocks, and patches, and
poetry, and lace, and lovers. But, for Heaven's sake, Kitty, do not, in
this censorious place, make that pretty face too cheap, and let no one
follow you on the Terrace but the best of the company."

"Good advice," said Sir Robert. "This girl of mine has got her father's
head."

"As for cards," Nancy went on, taking no notice of her father's
interruption, "the tables are always laid in the Assembly Room: the
ladies mostly play at quadrille, and the gentlemen at whist; but there
are tables for hazard, lansquenet, faro, and baccarat, where all comers
are welcome, provided they have got money to lose and can lose it
without also losing their temper, a thing we women throw away daily,
and lose without regarding it, so cheap and abundant a commodity it
is. My dear, so long as I value my face, I will never touch the odious
delightful things. Yet the joy of winning your enemy's money! Oh! oh!
And the dreadful grief to lose your own!

"There is a concert this evening. I would not advise you to attend it,
but to wait for Monday's ball--there to make your first appearance. I
shall go, because some of my swains are going to play with the paid
musicians; and of course I look to see them break down and spoil the
whole music, to their great confusion.

"But Monday--Monday is our day of days. All Sunday we think about it,
and cannot say our prayers for thinking of the dear delightful day. And
what the clergyman preaches about none of us know, for wishing the day
was here. On Monday we have a great public breakfast to begin with: the
gentry come to it from all the country-side, with the great people from
Durdans: in fine weather we breakfast under the trees upon the Terrace
while the music plays. You will find it pleasant to take your chocolate
to the strains of flute and clarionet, French horn and hautboy; the
sunshine raises the spirits, and the music fills the head with pretty
fancies. Besides, every girl likes to be surrounded by tall fellows
who, though we care not a pin for one of them, are useful for providing
conversation, cakes, and creams, telling stories, saying gallant
things, fetching, carrying, and making Peggy Baker jealous. On Monday,
too, there are always matches on the Downs: we pretend to be interested
in the horses: we come back to dinner and a concert: in the afternoon
some of the gentlemen give tea and chocolate; and at six o'clock, the
fiddles tune up--oh, the delicious scraping!--we all take our places:
and then begins--oh! oh! oh!--the dear, delightful ball! My child, let
Miss Peggy Baker dress her best, put on her finest airs, and swim about
with her most languishing sprawl, I know who shall outshine her, and be
the Queen of the Wells."

"Yourself, dear Nancy?"

"No; not myself, dear Nancy," she replied, imitating. "Oh! you well
may blush for shame, pretty hypocrite! 'Tis yourself, dear Kitty, that
I mean. You shall burst upon their astonished gaze like Venus rising
from the sea in our picture at home, only better dressed than that poor
creature!"

Just then a young lady, with the largest hoop I had ever seen, with
patches and powder, and accompanied by three or four gentlemen,
came slowly along the walk. As she drew near she looked at me with
curiosity. She was a tall girl--nearly as tall as myself--with features
rather larger than ordinary, and as she moved I understood what Nancy
meant by languishing and swimming.

Nancy ran to meet her, taking her by both hands, and affecting a mighty
joy.

"Dear Miss Peggy," she began, "I am charmed to see you looking so well
and lovely. How that dress becomes your shape! with what an air sits
that hat!"

"Oh, Miss Nancy!" Miss Peggy swam and languished, agitating her fan
and half shutting her eyes, which were very large and limpid. "Praise
from such a judge of beauty and dress as yourself is rare indeed. What
should we poor women do without the discrimination of our own sex. Men
have no discernment. A well-dressed woman and a draggletail are all one
to them."

"Not all men, dear Miss Peggy," continued Nancy, her eyes sparkling.
"Mr. Walsingham was only saying this morning that you are, like
himself, a proof of the salubrity of the Wells, since it is now the
fifth season----"

"The third, dear child," Miss Peggy interrupted, with a tap of her fan
on Nancy's knuckles--indeed she deserved it. "I am very much obliged to
Mr. Walsingham, whose tongue is free with all the ladies at the Wells.
It is but yesterday since he said of you----"

"This is my friend, Miss Kitty Pleydell," said Nancy quickly, rubbing
her knuckles. "Kitty, my dear, you have heard of the beautiful Peggy
Baker, last year the Toast of Tunbridge Wells, and the year before
the Toast of Bath. Up to the present she has been our pride. On
Monday evening you shall see her in her bravest attire, the centre of
attraction, envied by us poor homely creatures, who have to content
ourselves with the rustic beaux, the parsons, the lawyers, and the
half-pay officers."

Now, whether this artful girl did it on purpose, or whether it was
by accident, I know not: but every word of this speech contained an
innuendo against poor Miss Peggy. For it was true that she had been for
two years following a Toast, but she was still unmarried, and without
a lover, though she had so many men for ever in her train; and it was
also true that among her courtiers at Epsom, the little band who held
back while the ladies talked, there were, as I afterwards learned,
at least three rustic beaux, two lawyers, a fashionable parson, and
six half-pay officers. However, she disguised whatever resentment she
might have felt, very kindly bade me welcome to the Wells, hoped that I
should enjoy the place, told Nancy that her tongue run away with her,
and that she was a saucy little baggage, tapped her knuckles for the
second time with her fan, and moved away.

When Nancy had finished telling me of the amusements of the place and
the people--I omit most of what she said as to the people because,
although doubtless true, the stories did not redound to their credit,
and may now very well be forgotten--we left the Terrace, Sir Robert now
joining madam, and looked at the stalls and booths which were ranged
along the side. They were full of pretty things exhibited for sale,
and instead of rude prentice boys for salesmen they were good-looking
girls, with whom some of the gentlemen were talking and laughing.

"More chin-chucking, my dear," said Nancy.

It was the fashion to have a lottery at almost every stall, so that
when you bought anything you received a ticket with your purchase,
which entitled you to a chance of the prize. When you chose a bottle
of scent, the girl who gave it you handed with it a ticket which gave
you the chance of winning five guineas: with a pair of stockings came
a ticket for a ten-guinea lottery. It was the same thing with all the
shops. A leg of mutton bought at the butcher's might procure for the
purchaser the sum of twenty guineas; the barber who dressed your hair
presented you with a chance for his five-guinea draw; the very taverns
and ordinaries had their lotteries, so that for every sixpenny plate
of boiled beef a 'prentice had his chance with the rest, and might
win a guinea; you ordered a dozen oysters, and they came with the
fishmonger's compliments and a ticket for his lottery, the first prize
of which would be two guineas, the drawing to take place on such a day,
with auditors appointed to see all fair, and school children named to
pull out the tickets; even the woman who sold apples and cherries in
a basket loudly bellowed along the street that she had a half-crown
draw, a five-shilling draw, and so on. Every one of us treasured up
the tickets, but I never met any who won. Yet we had the pleasure of
attending the drawing, dreaming of lucky numbers, and spending our
prizes beforehand. I am sure that Nancy must have spent in this way
many hundreds of pounds during the season, and by talking over all the
fine things she would buy, the way in which their exhibition upon her
little figure would excite the passion of envy in the breast of Peggy
Baker and others, and her own importance thus bedecked, she had quite
as much pleasure out of her imaginary winnings as if they had been
real ones. It is a happy circumstance for mankind that they are able
to enjoy what they never can possess, and to be, in imagination, the
great, the glorious, the rich, the powerful personages which they can
never, in the situation wherein Providence has placed them, hope to
become.

Presently we went home to dinner, which was served for us by Cicely
Crump. After dinner, while Mrs. Esther dozed, Cicely told me her
history. Her father, she said, had been a substantial tradesman in
Cheapside, and though little of stature, was in his youth a man of
the most determined courage and resolution. When only just out of
his apprenticeship he fell in love with a beautiful young lady named
Jenny Medlicott (daughter of the same Alderman Medlicott whose ruin
brought poor Mrs. Esther to destruction): as he knew that he could
never get the consent of the alderman, being poor and of obscure birth,
and knowing besides that all is fair in love, this lad of mettle
represented himself to his nymph as a young gentleman of the Temple,
son of a country squire. In this disguise he persuaded her to run away
with him, and they were married. But when they returned to London they
found that the alderman was ruined, and gone off his head. Therefore
they separated, the lady going to Virginia with Lady Eardesley, mother
of the young lord now at Epsom, and the husband going back to the shop.
After the death of poor Jenny he married again. "And," said Cicely,
"though my mother is no gentlewoman, one cannot but feel that she
might have been Miss Jenny Medlicott herself had things turned out
differently. And that makes all of us hold up our heads. And as for
poor father, he never forgot his first wife, and was always pleased to
relate how he ran away with her all the way to Scotland, armed to the
teeth, and ready, for her sake, to fight a dozen highwaymen. Such a
resolute spirit he had!"

Then Nancy Levett came, bringing with her a milliner, Mrs. Bergamot.

"Kitty," she cried, "I cannot rest for thinking of your first ball, and
I have brought you Mrs. Bergamot to advise. My dear, you _must_ be well
dressed." Then she whispered: "Do you want money, dear? I have some."

I told her I had as much as a hundred and twenty guineas, at which she
screamed with delight.

"Kitty!" she cried again, clasping my hands. "A hundred guineas! a
hundred guineas! and twenty more! My dear, that odd twenty, that poor
overflowing of thy rich measure, is the utmost I could get for this
season at the Wells. Oh! happy, happy girl, to have such a face, such
a shape, such eyes, such hair, such hands and feet, and a hundred and
twenty guineas to set all off!"

She sat down, clasped her hands, and raised her eyes to Heaven as if in
thankfulness. I think I see her now, the little dainty merry maid, so
arch, so apt, sitting before me with a look which might be of envy or
of joy. She had eyes so bright, a mouth so little, dimples so cunning,
a cheek so rosy and a chin so rounded, that one could not choose but
love her.

"Miss Pleydell," she said to the milliner, "has not brought all her
things from London. You must get what she wants at once, for Monday's
ball. Now, let us see."

Then we held a parliament of four, counting Cicely, over the great
question of my frocks. Nancy was prime minister, and did all the
talking, turning over the things.

"Let me see, Mrs. Bergamot. Fetch us, if you have them--what you
have--in flowered brocades--all colours--violet, pink, Italian posies,
rose, myrtle, jessamine, anything; a watered tabby would become you,
Kitty; any painted lawns,--silks and satins would be almost too old for
you: do not forget the patches _à la grecque_--Kitty, be very careful
of the patches; gauzes, what you have, Mrs. Bergamot; we want more
hoods, a feathered muff, stomacher, Paris nets, _eau de Chypre_ or _eau
de luce_, whichever you have; ear-rings are no use to you, my poor
child. Pity that they did not pierce your ears: see the little drops
dangling at mine. At any rate, thank Heaven that we neither of us want
vermilion for the cheeks. Poor Peggy! she paints these two years and
more. Ruffs, Mrs. Bergamot, and tippets, cardinals, any pretty thing in
sarsnets, and what you have in purple. Kitty, purple is your colour.
You shall have a dress all purple for the next ball. Ah! if I could
carry purple! But you, Kitty, with your height and figure--stand up,
child--why, she will be Juno herself!"

"Truly," said the dressmaker, "as for Miss Pleydell, purple has come
into fashion in pudding-time, as folk say."

"A pretty woman," Nancy went on, examining me as if I had been a dummy,
"not a pretty 'little thing' like me, is as rare in Epsom as a black
swan or a white blackbird, or green yellow-hammer, or a red blue tit."

When the dressmaker was gone, and we were left alone, Nancy began
again, out of her great experience, to talk of the place we were in.

"My dear," she said, "before one's father one cannot say all that one
would wish"--could such wisdom be possible at seventeen-and-a-half?
"This is a very shocking and wicked place; we used to be taught that
girls ought to sit in a corner, after they had put on their best
things, and wait to be spoken to, and not to think about attracting the
men; and not, indeed, to think about the men at all, save in their own
room, where they might perhaps pray that if there were any men in the
world not addicted to gambling, drinking, cursing, hunting, fighting,
and striking, those men might be led by Heaven to cast eyes of love
upon them. Oh!"--here she held up her hands and shook her head just
like a woman four times her age, and steeped in experience--"in this
place it is not long that the girls sit in a corner, and, indeed, I do
not greatly love corners myself; but the very wives, the matrons, the
married women, my dear,"--her voice rose with each word till it had
mounted nearly to the top of the possible scale,--"are coquettes, who
interfere with the girls, and would have the gallants dangling at their
heels. As for their husbands, they are the last persons considered
worthy of their notice; they put on their dresses and deck themselves
out to please anybody rather than the persons whom it should be their
only study to please."

"Nancy," I whispered, "when you are married, will you never, never
dress to please anybody but your husband?"

"Why," she replied, "my father, my mother, my children (if I have any),
my friends will be pleased to see me go fine. But not for lovers--oh!"

We agreed that would-be lovers should be received and properly dealt
with before marriage.

"Bashfulness, here," continued the pretty moralist, "is--Heaven help
us!--lack of breeding; what goes down is defiance of manners and
modesty. Propriety is laughed at; noise is wit; laughter is repartee;
most of the women gamble; nearly all are in debt; nobody reads anything
serious; and we backbite each other perpetually."

I know not what had put her in so strange a mood for moralising.

"However," she said, "now that you are come, we shall get on better.
I have made up my mind that you are to be the Toast of the season. I
shall set you off, because you are brown and I am fair; you are tall,
and I am short; you are grave, and I am merry; you are thoughtful,
and I am silly; you have brown eyes, and I have blue. We will have
none but the best men about us; we will set such an example as will
shame the hoydens of girls and tame the Mohocks among the men. Miss
Lamb of Hackney, who thinks herself a beauty, will then be ashamed
to jump about and scream at the Assembly with nothing over her skinny
shoulders. Peggy Baker shall have after her none but the married men
(who are of no possible use except to spoil a girl's reputation),
although she sighs and swims and sprawls with her eyes half shut.
Do you know that she sat for her portrait to Zincke, at Marylebone
Gardens, as Anne Boleyn, and was painted with eyelashes down to the
corners of her mouth?"

"Nancy," I cried, "you are jealous of Miss Peggy Baker."

She laughed, and talked of something else. From this I conjectured
that Peggy had said or reported something which offended her. What had
really been said, I learned afterwards, was that Nancy was running
after Lord Eardesley, which was unkind as well as untrue.

"Last year," she said, "after you went away, nothing would serve my
mother but a visit to Bath. It is not so gay as Tunbridge Wells,
because the company are mostly country folk, like ourselves, who stand
upon their dignity; but it is better than this place, where there
are so many London cits that it passes one's patience, sometimes, to
see their manners"--really, Nancy must have been seriously put out.
"However, I dare say Bath is as wicked as any of the watering towns,
when you come to know it. I liked the bathing. What do you think,
Kitty, of everybody promenading in the water up to their chins--that
is to say, the little people, like me, up to their noses (only I wore
pattens to make myself higher), and the tall men up to their shoulders,
in hot water? Everybody frolicking, flirting, and chattering, while
japanned trays float about covered with confectionery, tea, oils, and
perfumes for the ladies; and when you go away, your chair is nothing
but a tub full of hot water, in which you are carried home. We stayed
there all July and August, though my mother would have kept me, if she
could, from the baths till I was bigger. Harry Temple was there, too,
part of the time."

"And how doth Harry?"

"He is a good honest fellow," said Nancy, "though conceited and a prig;
his mouth full of learned words, and his head full of books. He seemed
to pine after your departure, Kitty, but soon recovered himself, and
now eats and drinks again as before. He found some congenial spirits
from Oxford at Bath, and they used to talk of Art, and pictures (when
any one was listening), and bronzes, and all sorts of things that we
poor people know nothing of."

Then she told me how Harry had made a poem upon me, after my departure,
which he turned into Latin, Greek, and Italian, and had given Nancy a
copy. And how Will had christened one pup Kitty, and another Pleydell,
and a third Kitty Pleydell, and was casting around how to give a fourth
puppy my name as well.

It seemed so long ago that I had almost forgotten poor rustic Will,
with his red face, his short sturdy figure, and his determination.

"Dear Kitty," said Nancy, "if thou couldst take a fancy for our
Will--he is a brave lad, though dull of parts and slow of apprehension.
As for Harry"--here she stopped, and blushed.

I remembered my secret, and blushed as well (but for guilt and shame);
while poor Nancy blushed in maiden modesty.

"Dear Nancy," I replied, kissing her, "believe me, but I could never
marry your brother Will. And as for Harry----"

"As for Harry," she echoed, with downcast eyes.

It was easy to read her secret, though she could not guess mine.

"As for Harry," I said, "where could he be better bestowed than----"

Here I kissed her again, and said no more, because between two women
what more need be said?

Alas! I had quite forgotten--indeed, I never suspected--that I was
actually engaged to become the wife of both Harry and Will, who was at
this same time the wife of Lord Chudleigh. And both men were on their
way to Epsom to claim the promise.



CHAPTER IV.

HOW KITTY WENT TO HER FIRST BALL.


If I were to write all that Nancy said on Saturday afternoon it would
fill a volume; and if I were to write down all that we four said about
my dress for the Monday ball, it would take four volumes at least, so
nimbly ran our tongues. It was determined, however, that the purple
frock should be put in hand at once, with ribbons and everything to
correspond; but that for this occasion, as time pressed, we would take
my best frock, a new white satin, never before worn. Mrs. Bergamot
would dress me, and the hairdresser was engaged for two o'clock.

"Everything," said Nancy, "depends upon the first impression. Already
the world is agog to see the beautiful Miss Pleydell dressed. As for
me, my dear, nobody noticed my first appearance at all. And yet I
thought I looked very nice. To be sure, a person of my inches cannot
expect to command attention. I am feeling my way, however, and though I
am little, my tongue is sharp. After Monday we will have our court, you
and I, to ourselves. The men will be at our feet, and Peggy may lie all
on a rock deploring."

I asked her afterwards how she could speak so openly before this
milliner, who would probably tell all the town what she had said.

"My dear," she replied sharply, "your Nancy is not altogether a goose,
and she knows what she is doing. Mrs. Bergamot is a most trustworthy
person. I quite rely upon her. I have never known her fail in her
duties as town-crier. She will spread it abroad that you have brought a
hundred guineas and more to spend in frocks and things; she will tell
everybody that you have ordered a purple velvet in the first fashion;
she will not fail to repeat that you and I together mean to lead the
company at the Wells; she will probably tell Peggy that she may go and
sit on a rock deploring; and she will inform Miss Lamb of Hackney that
her shoulders are skinny. They cannot hate us worse than they do,
therefore we will make them fear us."

What a little spitfire was this Nancy of mine!

To the religious and the sober, Sunday is a day of serious meditation
as well as of rest: to me, the Sunday before the ball was a day of such
worldly tumult as should afford ample room for repentance in these
later years. Unhappily, we repent but seldom of these youthful sins.
Yet, when we went to church, the organ seemed to play a minuet, the
hymns they sang might have been a hey or a jig in a country dance, and
the sermon of the preacher might have been a discourse on the pleasures
and enjoyments of the world, so rapt was my mind in contemplation of
these vanities.

The service over, we walked out through a lane of the godless men who
had not gone to church. Nancy came after me very demure, carrying her
Prayer-book, her eyes cast down as if rapt in heavenly meditation. But
her thoughts were as worldly as my own, and she presently found an
opportunity of whispering that Peggy Baker had thrown glances of the
greatest ferocity from her pew at herself and me, that Mrs. Bergamot
had already spread the news about, and that the concourse of men at
the door of the sacred place was entirely on my account. "If it was
not Sunday," she added, "and if it were not for the crowd around us, I
should dance and sing."

       *       *       *       *       *

The time for opening the ball was six, at which time dancing began,
and was continued until eleven, according to the laws wisely laid down
by that public benefactor and accomplished Amphitryon, Mr. Nash, who
effected so much improvement for Bath and Tunbridge that his rules
were adopted for all other watering-places. Before his time there
were no fixed hours or fixed prices, the laws of precedence were
badly observed, the gentlemen wore their swords, and disputes, which
sometimes ended in duels, were frequent and unseemly. Now, however,
nothing could be more orderly than the manner of conducting the
entertainment. The charge for admission was half-a-crown for gentlemen,
and one shilling for ladies; no swords were permitted, and the ball
was opened by the gentleman of the highest rank in the room. At Epsom,
a country squire or a city knight was generally the best that could be
procured, whereas at Bath an earl was not uncommon, and even a duke was
sometimes seen.

My hairdresser, who was, on these occasions, engaged from six o'clock
in the morning until six in the evening, was fortunately able to give
me half an hour at two o'clock, so that I had not more than four
hours or so to sit without moving my head. This was a very happy
circumstance, many ladies having to be dressed early in the morning,
so that for the whole day they could neither walk about nor move for
fear of the structure toppling over altogether. Mrs. Bergamot herself
dressed me. I wore my white satin frock over a great hoop with fine new
point-lace for tuckers; my kerchief and ruffles were in lace, and I had
on a pearl and coral necklace, presented to me by Mrs. Esther, who was
contented to wear a black ribbon round her neck in order that I might
go the finer. As for herself, she wore a rich brocade, which greatly
became her and made her look like a countess.

"Nay, child," she said, "not a countess, but like a gentlewoman, as
hath ever been my simple ambition, and the daughter of a great London
merchant."

But to think that in every house in Epsom there was one girl, at least,
or perhaps two, who were spending as much time and thought as myself
upon the decoration of our persons for this ball! And what chance had I
of distinction among so many fine women of less rustic breeding?

"She will do, Mrs. Bergamot, I think," said Mrs. Esther.

"Madam," replied the dressmaker, who no doubt considered it part of
her business to flatter her customers, "Madam, I dare swear that there
hath not appeared--I do not say at Epsom alone, but at Tunbridge and at
Bath--so beautiful a creature in the memory of man. Mr. Walsingham, who
remembers all the beauties for fifty years, declares that Miss Kitty
surpasses all. Straight as a lance, madam, and shapely as a statue,
with such a face as will deal havoc and destruction among the men."

Mrs. Esther nodded her head and laughed. Then she shook her head and
looked grave.

"We must not become vain, Kitty," she said. "Beauty is but skin-deep;
it fades like the flowers: think only of virtue and goodness, which
never fade. And yet, child, thou art young: thou art beautiful: be
happy in the sunshine, as is meet. Thank Heaven for sunshine!"

She pressed my hand in hers, and the tears rose to her eyes. Was she
thinking of her own youth, which had been so unhappy?

When Mrs. Bergamot left us, she confessed to me that, like me, she had
been in a strange agitation of spirit at the contemplation of this
assembly.

"It is thirty years," she said, "since I have been in a gay crowd. I
thought that such a thing as the sight of youth and happiness would
never come to me again. And to think that, after all these years,
I should go back to the very room where, in 1720, amid a crowd of
adventurers, speculators, and gamblers, who were going to ruin us all,
I attended my last ball!"

This was while we were waiting for the chairs.

"I think," she went on, in her soft voice, which was like the rippling
of a stream, "that my child will do credit to herself. I am glad that
you have kept your neck covered, my dear. I would rather see you go
modest than fine. I hope that Lady Levett will be there before us.
In such cases as this the sight of a friend gives us, as it were, an
encouragement: it is like a prop to lean against. I hope the chairs
will not be late. On the other hand, one would not, surely, arrive
too early. My dear, I am trembling all over. Are you sure you have
forgotten none of your steps? Ah! if no one were to ask you to dance, I
should die of shame and mortification! But they will--oh! they will. My
Kitty is too beautiful to sit among the crowd of lookers-on."

Here came Cicely, running to tell us that the chairs were below, and
that the men swore they could not wait.

"A minute--one minute only. Dear, dear, how quick the girl is! Cicely,
take one last look at Miss Kitty. Do you think, child, she has got
everything, and is properly dressed?"

"Quite properly, madam. No lady in the assembly will shine like Miss
Pleydell."

"Good girl. And, Cicely, if you see that anything is wanting in my
dress, do not scruple to tell me. Young eyes are sometimes quicker than
old ones."

"Nothing, madam. Your ladyship is dressed in the fashion."

Then the chairmen, who, like all their tribe, were unmannerly fellows,
bellowed that they would wait no longer, and we descended the stairs.
One would have been ashamed to confess the fact, but it actually
was the very first time I had ever sat in a chair. The shaking was
extremely disagreeable, and one could not, at the beginning, feel
anything but pity for the poor men who made their living by carrying
about the heavy bodies of people too fine or too lazy to walk. However,
that feeling soon wore off: just as the West Indian and Virginian
planters learn by degrees to believe that their negro slaves like to
work in the fields, are thankful for the lash, and prefer digging under
a hot sun to sleeping in the shade.

We arrived at the Assembly Rooms a few minutes before six. The rooms
were already crowded: the curtains were drawn, and the light of day
excluded. But in its place there was a ravishing display of wax
candles, arranged upon the walls on sconces, or hanging from the
ceiling. The musicians in the gallery were already beginning, as is
their wont, to tune their instruments, twanging and blowing, just as a
preacher begins with a preliminary hem.

My eyes swam as I surveyed the brilliant gathering; for a moment I held
Mrs. Esther by the wrist, and could say nothing nor move. I felt like
an actress making her appearance for the first time upon the stage,
and terrified, for the moment, by the faces looking up, curious and
critical, from the crowded pit and glittering boxes.

At that moment Lady Levett arrived with her party. I think Sir Robert
saw our distress and my guardian's anxiety to appear at her ease, for
he kindly took Mrs. Esther by the hand, and led her, as if she were
the greatest lady in the assembly, to the upper end, while Nancy and I
followed after.

"O Kitty!" she whispered; "there is no one half so beautiful as you--no
one in all the room! How the men stare! Did they never see a pretty
woman before? Wait in patience for a little, ye would-be lovers, till
your betters are served. Peggy Baker, my dear, you will burst with
envy. Look! Here she comes with her courtiers."

In fact, Miss Baker herself here appeared with her mother, surrounded
by three or four gentlemen, who hovered about her, and she languidly
advanced up the room.

She came straight to us, and, after saluting Lady Levett and Mrs.
Esther, held out her hand to Nancy and curtseyed to me.

"You look charming to-night, dear Miss Nancy. That frock of yours--one
is never tired of it."

"And you--oh, dear Miss Peggy!"

Nancy turned white, because her frock was really rather an old one.

"It is good wearing stuff," said Miss Peggy. "Yet I had thought that
mode gone out."

"So it had, my dear," said Nancy sharply; "and I believe it went out
five seasons ago. That is longer than I can recollect. But it has come
back again. Fashions do revive, sometimes."

This was a very ill-natured thing to say, and made poor Miss Peggy
wince and colour, and she did not retaliate, because, I suppose, she
could think of nothing to say.

Then old Mr. Walsingham, who had constituted himself the director of
the ceremonies, appeared. He was dressed in the most beautiful crimson
silk coat, lined with white, and purple waistcoat, and he came slowly
up the hall, with a gentleman whose bearing was as great as his own,
but whose years were less.

"It is young Lord Chudleigh," whispered Peggy Baker, fanning herself
anxiously. "He has come from Durdans with his party."

Lord Chudleigh!

Heavens! To meet in such a manner, in such a place, my own husband!

"What is the matter, Kitty dear?" asked Nancy. "You turned quite pale.
Bite your lips, my dear, to get the colour back."

"It is nothing. I am faint with the heat and the lights, I suppose. Do
not take notice of me."

Peggy Baker assumed an air of languor and sensibility, which, though
extremely fine, was perhaps over-acted.

"Lord Chudleigh," she said, "is of course the person of the highest
distinction in the room. He will invite, I presume, Lady Levett to open
the ball with the first minuet. If Lady Levett declines, he will be
free to select another partner."

In fact, Mr. Walsingham conducted Lord Chudleigh to Lady Levett, and
presented him to her. Her ladyship excused herself on the ground that
her dancing days were over, which was of course expected. His lordship
then said a few words to Mr. Walsingham, who nodded, smiled, and
conducted him to the little group composed of Nancy, Peggy Baker, and
myself. But he presented his lordship--to me!

"Since," he said, while the room went round with me, "since Lady Levett
will not condescend to open the ball with your lordship, I beg to
present you to Miss Kitty Pleydell, who appears to-night, for the first
time, at our assembly; and, I am assured, for the first time in any
assembly. My lord, the sun, when he rises in splendour, dims the light
of the moon and stars. Miss Kitty, I would I were fifty years younger,
that I might challenge this happy young gentleman for the honour of the
dance."

Then Lord Chudleigh spoke. I remembered his voice: a deep shame fell
upon my soul, thinking where and how I had heard that voice before.

"Miss Pleydell," he said, bowing low, "I humbly desire the honour of
opening the ball with you."

It was time to rally my spirits, for the eyes of all the company were
upon us. There was only one thing to do--to forget for the moment what
was past, and address myself to the future.

I can look back upon the evening with pride, because I remember how
I was able to push away shame and remembrance, and to think, for the
moment, about my steps and my partner.

Twang, twang, twang, went the fiddles. The conductor raised his wand.
The music crashed and rang about the room.

"Courage, Kitty!" whispered Nancy. "Courage! Think you are at home."

The hall was cleared now, and the people stood round in a triple
circle, watching, while my lord, his hat beneath his arm, offered me
his hand, and led me into the middle of the room.

The last things I observed as I went with him were Mrs. Esther, wiping
away what looked like a little tear of pride, and Peggy Baker, with
red face, fanning herself violently. Poor Peggy! Last year it was she
who would have taken the place of the most distinguished lady in the
company!

They told me afterwards that I acquitted myself creditably. I _would_
not permit myself to think under what different circumstances that hand
had once before held mine. I would not break down before the eyes of so
many people, and with Peggy Baker standing by, ready to condole with me
on my discomfiture. But I could not bring myself to look in the face of
my partner: and that dance was accomplished with eyes down-dropped.

Oh! it was over at last; the dance which was to me the most anxious,
the most delightful, the most painful, that ever girl danced in all
this world! And what do you think strengthened my heart the while? It
was the strangest thing: but I thought of a certain verse in a certain
old history, and I repeated to myself, as one says things when one is
troubled:

"Now the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace
and favour in his sight: so that he set the royal crown upon her head."

"Child," whispered Mrs. Esther, her face aglow with pleasure and pride,
"we are all proud of you."

"Kitty," said Lady Levett, who was more critical, because she knew more
of the polite world, "you acquitted yourself creditably. Next time, do
not be afraid to look your partner in the face. My lord, I trust that
Miss Pleydell's performance has made you congratulate yourself on my
declining the honour of the minuet?"

"Your ladyship," said Lord Chudleigh, "may be assured that, if anything
could compensate for that disappointment, the grace and beauty of my
fair partner have effected that object."

"Gadzooks!" cried Sir Robert. "Here is a beating about the bush! Kitty,
my pretty maid, no duchess could have danced better, and never a queen
in Christendom is more beautiful! Say I well, my lord?"

"Excellently well, Sir Robert. You have said more than I dared; not
more than I thought."

Then Mr. Walsingham came bustling to congratulate me.

"But one opinion--only one opinion, Miss Pleydell! Lady Levett, your
obedient servant. Mrs. Pimpernel, I offer my congratulations on this
young lady's success. I would it had been Bath, or even Tunbridge,
whence the rumour of such beauty and such grace would have been more
quickly carried about the country. But it will be spread abroad. There
are three hundred tongues here to-night, who will talk, and three
hundred pens who will write. Miss Kitty, once more I salute your
Majesty--Queen of the Wells!"

Then Lord Chudleigh, and Sir Robert Levett, and the gentlemen standing
round sank on one knee and bowed almost to the ground, crying--

"Queen of the Wells! Queen of the Wells!"

And Nancy, in her pretty, saucy way, ran and stood beside me laughing.

"And I am her Majesty's maid of honour. Remember that, gentlemen all!"

"The saucy baggage!" cried Sir Robert.

And Peggy Baker, for whom in this hour of triumph one felt a little
pity, came too, with a curtsey and a smile which looked more like a
frown.

"Miss Pleydell must accept my homage, too," she said. "We are fortunate
in having one so inimitably lovely for our Queen. It makes one wonder
where so much beauty could have been hidden."

I suppose she meant this as an innuendo that I was not, therefore,
accustomed to such good company. I thought of Fleet Lane and the
Market, and I laughed aloud.

But Lord Chudleigh was expected to dance with another lady before the
ball was opened; and here was another disappointment for poor Peggy,
for he led out Nancy, who took his hand with a pride and joy which did
one's heart good to look at.

If I had been afraid to raise my eyes, Nancy was not; she looked in my
lord's face and laughed; she talked and prattled all the time she was
dancing; and she danced as if the music was too slow for her, as if she
would fain have been spinning round like a school-girl when she makes
cheeses, as if her limbs were springs, as if she would gladly have
taken her partner by both hands and run round and round with him as she
had so often done with me when we were children together, playing in
the meadows beside the Hall. All the people looked on and laughed and
clapped their hands; never was so merry a minuet, if that stately dance
could ever be made merry. As for me, I was able to look at his face
again, though that was only to begin the punishment of my crime.

What did I remember of him? A tall young man of slender figure; with
cheeks red and puffed, a forehead on which the veins stood out ready
to burst, a hand that shook, eyes that looked wildly round him; a
dreadful, terrible, and shameful memory. But now, how changed! As for
his features, I hardly recognised them at all. Yet I knew him for the
same man.

Go get a cunning limner and painter. Make him draw you a face stamped
with some degrading vice, or taken at the moment of committing some
grievous sin against the conscience. Suppose, for instance, that
the cheeks swell out with gluttony; or let the lips tremble with
intemperance; or let the eyes grow keen and hawk-like with gambling:
let any vice he pleases be stamped upon that face. Then let him go away
and draw that face (which before was dark with sin and marked with
the seal of the Devil) as it should be, pure, wise, and noble as God,
who hath somewhere laid by the model and type of every created face,
intended it to be. You will know it and you will know it not.

The face which I had seen was not the face of a drunkard, but of a
drunken man, of a man heavy and stupid with unaccustomed drink. I
had always thought of him as of a creature of whose violence (in his
cups) I should go in daily terror, when it should please the Doctor
to take me to my husband. Now that I saw the face again, the spirit
of drunkenness gone out of it, it seemed as if the man could never
stoop to weakness or folly, so strong were the features, so noble were
the eyes. How could such a man, with such a face and such a bearing,
go about with such a secret? But perhaps, like me, he did not suffer
himself to think about it. For his face was as that of David when
he was full of his great mission, or of Apollo the sun-god, or of
Adonis whom the Syrian women weep, or of Troilus when he believed that
Cressida was true.

To be sure, he never thought of the thing at all. He put it behind
him as an evil dream: he would take no steps until he wished to be
married, when he would instruct his lawyers, and they would break the
bonds--which were no true bonds--asunder. If he thought at all, he
would think that he was married--if that was indeed a marriage--to some
poor unworthy wretch who might be set aside at pleasure: why should his
thoughts ever dwell--so I said to myself with jealous bitterness--on
the girl who stood before him for ten minutes, her face muffled in a
hood, her eyes cast down, who placed a trembling and wicked hand in his
and swore to follow his fortunes for better for worse?

Alas poor Kitty! Her case seemed sad indeed.

Then my lord finished his minuet with Nancy, and other couples advanced
into the arena, and the dancing became general. Of course there was
nothing but minuets until eight o'clock.

Nancy was merry. She said that her partner was delightful to dance
with, partly because he was a lord--and a title, she said, gives an air
of grace to any block--partly because he danced well and talked amiably.

"He is a pretty fellow, my dear," she said, "though of position
too exalted for one so humble as myself. He had exhausted all his
compliments upon the Queen and had none for a simple maid of honour,
which I told him at parting, and it made him blush like a girl. How
I love to see a man blush; it is a sign that there is yet left some
remains of grace. Perhaps Lord Chudleigh is not so hardened as his
fellows. Look at Peggy's languid airs: she thinks a minuet should be
danced as if you were going to die the very next minute; and she rolls
her eyes about as if she were fainting for a man to kiss her. My dear,
Lord Chudleigh, I fear, is above us both; yet he is but a man, and
all men are made of tinder, and a woman is the spark. I think he may
be on fire before long, think not upon him until you find out how his
affections are disposed, and whether he is free. A roving lord, at the
watering-places, who is young and handsome, is as dangerous to us poor
damsels, and plays as much havoc among our hearts, as Samson when he
had got that jawbone, among the Philistines. A truly dreadful thing
it would be"--it was wonderful that she should be saying all this in
ignorance, how every word went home--"to set your affections upon a
lord, and to find out afterwards that he was pledged to somebody else.
Hateful thing she would be!"

While the minuets were dancing we stood and watched the gay throng.
Never had I dreamed of anything so gay and animated. There were three
hundred people, at least as many men as women, and all dressed in their
very best. As for the ladies, it was the fashion when I was a girl for
all to be powdered, but there were many modes of dressing the head.
For some wore aigrettes of jewels (who could afford them) some false
flowers, and some true flowers, which were pretty and becoming for a
young girl: and some had coiffures _à la culbutte_, some _en dorlotte_,
some _en papillon_, or _en vergette_, _en équivoque_, _en désespoir_,
or _en tête de mouton_. The last was the commonest, in which there were
curls all over the back of the head. And there were French curls, which
looked something like eggs strung on a wire round the head, and Italian
curls or scallop-shells. The petticoats were ornamented with falbalas
and _pretantailles_; most ladies wore _criardes_, and all had hoops,
but some wore hoops _en coupole_ and some small hoops, and some looked
like a state-bed on castors, and as if they had robbed the valance
for the skirt and the tester for the trimmings. But there is no end
to the changes of fashion. As for the gentlemen, their vanities were
mostly in the wig, for though the full wig was now gone out of fashion,
having given place to the neat and elegant tie-wig with a broad black
ribbon and a little bag, or a queue, yet there was not wanting the
full-bottomed periwig, the large flowing grizzle, and the great wig
with three tails. And every kind of face, the vacant, the foolish, the
sensual, the envious, the eager, the pert, the dignified, the brave,
the anxious, the confident--but none so noble as that face of my lord.

"Is our Queen meditating?"

I started, for he was beside me.

"It is my first ball," I said, "and I am wondering at the pretty sight
of so many happy and merry people."

"Their merriment I grant," he replied. "As for their happiness, we had
better perhaps agree to take that for granted."

"I suppose we all agree to give ourselves up to the pleasures of the
hour," I said. "Can we not be happy, even if we have a care which we
try to hide?"

"I hope, at least," he said, "that Miss Pleydell has no cares."

I shook my head, thinking how, if all hearts were opened and all
secrets known, there would be wailing instead of laughter, and my lord
and myself would start asunder with shame on my part and loathing on
his.

"Yes," he said; "an assembly of people to please and to be pleased
is a charming sight. For a time we live in an atmosphere of ease and
contentment, and bask at the feet of the Queen of Hearts."

"Oh, my lord!" I said, "do not pay me compliments: I am only used to
plain truth."

"Surely that is the honest truth," he said. "To be Queen of the Wells
is nothing, but to be the Queen of Hearts is everything."

"Nay, then," I returned, blushing, "I see I must put myself under the
protection of Mr. Walsingham."

The old beau was hovering round, and gave me his hand with a great air
of happiness.

"From me," he said, "Miss Pleydell knows that she will hear nothing but
truth. The language of gallantry with a beautiful woman is pure truth."

It was eight o'clock, and country dances began. I danced one with Lord
Chudleigh and one with some gentleman of Essex, whose name I forget.
But I remember that next day he offered me, by letter, his hand, and
eight hundred pounds a year. At nine we had tea and chocolate. Then
more country dances, in which my Nancy danced with such enjoyment and
happiness as made Sir Robert clap his hands and laugh aloud.

At eleven all was over, mantles, hoods, and capuchins were donned, and
we walked home to our lodgings, escorted by the gentlemen. The last
face I saw as we entered the house was that of my lord as he bowed
farewell.

Cicely was waiting to receive us.

"O madam!" she cried, "I was looking through the door when my lord took
out miss for the minuet. Oh! oh! oh! how beautiful! how grand she did
it! Sure never was such a handsome pair."

"My dear," said Mrs. Esther to me, when Cicely had left us, "I believe
there never was known so great a success for a first appearance. There
is no doubt you are the reigning Toast of the season, child. Well,
enjoy when you can, and be not spoiled by flattery, Kitty, which is
vanity. Such a face, they all declare, such a figure, such eyes, such
a carriage, were never before seen at Epsom. Beware of Flatterers,
my dear. Where did you get such graces from? Pay no heed to the
compliments of the men, child. Sure, it is the prettiest creature ever
formed. They would turn thy head, my dear."

In the middle of the night I awoke from an uneasy dream. I thought that
I was dancing with my lord before all the people at the assembly: they
applauded loudly, and I heard them whispering: "What a noble pair! Sure
Heaven hath made them for each other!" Then suddenly Peggy Baker burst
through the crowd, leading by the hand my uncle: and crying: "Lord
Chudleigh, I congratulate you upon your marriage! Your bride is with
you, and here is the Chaplain of the Fleet, who made you happy." Then
the people laughed and hissed: the Doctor lifted his great forefinger
and shook it at my lord; I saw his face change from love to disgust,
and with a cry I hid my shameful cheeks in my hands and fled the place.

The waking was no better than the dreaming. The husband whom I had
almost forgotten, and whom to remember gave me no more than a passing
pang, was here, with me, in the same town. What was I to do--how treat
him--in what words to tell him, if I must tell him, the dreadful, the
humiliating truth?

Or, again--a thought which pierced my breast like a knife--suppose I
were condemned to see him with my own eyes, falling in love, step by
step, with another woman: suppose that I were punished by perceiving
that my humble and homely charms would not fix, though they might
attract for a single night, his wandering eyes: oh! how could I look
on in silence, and endure without a word the worst that a woman can
suffer? Ah! happy Esther, whom the king loved above all women: so that
he set the royal crown upon her head!

The day broke while I was lying tortured by these dreadful suspicions
and fears. My window looked towards the east: I rose, opened the
casement, and let in the fresh morning air. The downs rose beyond the
house with deep heavy woods of elm and birch. There was already the
movement and stir of life which begins with the early dawn: it is as if
the wings of the birds are shaking as their pretty owners dream before
they wake: as if the insects on the leaves were all together exhorting
each other to fly about and enjoy the morning sun, because, haply, life
being so uncertain to the insect tribe, and birds so numerous, that
hour might be their last: as if the creatures of the underwood, the
rabbits, hares, weasels, ferrets, snakes, and the rest were moving in
their beds, and rustling the dry leaves on which they lie. Over the
tree-tops spread broader and broader the red glow of the morning: the
sounds of life grew more distinct; and the great sun sprang up. Then I
heard a late-singing thrush break into his sweet song, which means a
morning hymn of content. The other birds had mostly done their singing
long before July: but near him there sang a turtle with a gentle coo
which seemed to say that she had got all she wanted or could look for
in life, and was happy. Truly, not the spacious firmament on high
alone, but all created things do continually teach man to laud, praise,
and glorify the name of the great Creator. "Whoso," says the Psalmist,
"is wise and will observe these things"--but alas for our foolishness!
I looked, and drank the sweetness of the air, and felt the warmth of
the sun, but I thought of nothing but my husband--mine, and yet not
mine, nor could he ever be mine save for such confession and shame as
made my heart sick to think of. To be already in love with a man whom
one had seen but twice! was it not a shame? Yet such a man! and he
was already vowed to me and I to him--although he knew it not: and,
although in a secret, shameful way, the holy Church had made us one, so
that, as the service hath it, GOD Himself hath bound us together. To be
in love already! O Kitty! Kitty!

There is a chapter in the Song of Solomon which is, as learned men
tell us, written "of Christ and His Church," the poet speaking in such
an allegory that, to all but the most spiritual-minded, he seemeth to
speak of the simple love of a man and a maid. And surely it may be read
without sin by either man or maid in love. "I am," she says, "the rose
of Sharon and the lily of the valleys.... My beloved spake, and said
unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo! the
winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the
earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the
turtle is heard in the land."

When I had read that chapter and dried my weeping eyes, and perhaps
prayed awhile, I lay down upon my bed again, and slept till Cicely came
at seven and called me up to dress and walk abroad.



CHAPTER V.

HOW KITTY WORE HER CROWN.


Thus happily began our stay at Epsom Wells.

After our morning walk we returned home, being both fatigued with the
excitement and late hours, and one, at least, desirous to sit alone and
think about the strange and perilous adventure of the evening. Strange,
indeed; since when before did a man dance with his own wife and not
recognise her? Perilous, truly, for should that man go away and give
no more heed to his wife, then would poor Kitty be lost for ever. For
already was her heart engaged in this adventure, and, like a gambler,
she had staked her whole upon a single chance. Fortunately for her, the
stake was consecrated with tears of repentance, bitterness of shame,
and prayers for forgiveness.

Mrs. Esther gently dozed away the morning over "Pamela." I was occupied
with needlework. Cicely ran in and out of the room, looking as if she
longed to speak, but dared not for fear of waking madam.

After a while she beckoned me to the door, and whispered me that
outside was a higgler with ducklings and cherries, should we please to
choose them for our dinner. I followed her, and after a bargain, in
which the Surrey maiden showed herself as good as if she had been bred
in Fleet Market (though without the dreadful language), she began upon
the business which she was burning to tell me.

"Sure, Miss Kitty," she said, "all the world is talking this morning
about the beautiful Miss Pleydell. The book-shop is full of nothing
else, the gentlemen in the coffee-house can talk of nothing but of
Miss Pleydell, and up and down the Terrace it is nothing but, 'Oh,
madam, did you see the dancing of Miss Pleydell last night?' 'Dear
madam, did you remark the dress of Miss Pleydell?' And 'Can you tell
me whence she comes, this beautiful Miss Pleydell?' And the men are
all sighing as if their hearts would burst, poor fellows! And they
say that Lord Chudleigh gave a supper after the ball to the gentlemen
of his acquaintance, when he toasted the beautiful Miss Pleydell. Oh
the happiness! He is a young nobleman with a great estate, and said
to be of a most virtuous and religious disposition. The gentlemen are
mounting ribbons in honour of the peerless Kitty, so I hear--and you
will not be offended at their venturing so to take your name--and, with
a little encouragement, they will all be fighting for a smile from the
fair Kitty."

"Silly girl, to repeat such stories!"

"Nay," she replied, "it is all truth, every word. They say that never
since the Wells began has there been such a beauty. The oldest dipper,
old Mrs. Humphreys, who is past eighty, declares that Miss Pleydell
is the loveliest lady that ever came to Epsom. When you go out this
afternoon you will be finely beset."

And so on, all the morning, as her occasion brought her into the room,
whisking about, duster in hand, and always clatter, clatter, like the
mill-wheel. After dinner we received a visit from no other than Lord
Chudleigh himself.

He offered a thousand apologies for presenting himself without asking
permission, kindly adding, that however he might find Miss Kitty,
whether dressed or in dishabille, she could not be otherwise than
charming. I know one person who thought Kitty in her morning frock,
muslin pinner, and brown hair (which was covered with little curls),
looped up loosely, or allowed to flow freely to her waist, prettier
than Kitty dressed up in hoop, and patches, and powder. It was the
mirror which told that person so, and she never dared to tell it to any
other.

He had ventured, he said, still speaking to Mrs. Esther, to present an
offering of flowers and fruit sent to him that morning from his country
house in Kent; and then Cicely brought upstairs the most beautiful
basket ever seen, filled with the finest flowers, peaches, plums,
apricots, and cherries. I had seen none such since I said farewell to
the old Vicarage garden, where all those things grew better, I believe,
than anywhere else in England.

"My lord," said my aunt, quite confused at such a gift, such
condescension! "What can we say but that we accept the present most
gratefully."

"Indeed, madam," he replied, "there is nothing to say. I am truly
pleased that my poor house is able to provide a little pleasure to two
ladies. It is the first time, I assure you, that I have experienced the
joy of possessing my garden."

Then he went on to congratulate Mrs. Esther on my appearance at the
ball.

"I hear," he said, "that on the Terrace and in the coffee-house one
hears nothing but the praises of the fair Miss Pleydell."

I blushed, not so much at hearing my name thus mentioned, because I was
already (in a single day--fie, Kitty!) accustomed and, so to speak,
hardened, but because he smiled as he spoke. My lord's smile was not
like some men's, bestowed upon every trifle; but, like his speech,
considered. I fear, indeed, that even then, so early in the day, my
heart was already thoroughly possessed of his image.

"The child," said Mrs. Esther, "must not have her head turned by
flattery. Yet, I own, she looked and moved like one of the three
Graces. Yet we who love her must not spoil her. It was her first ball,
and she did her best, poor child, to acquit herself with credit."

"Credit," said my lord kindly, "is a poor, cold word to use for such a
grace."

"We thank your lordship." Mrs. Esther bowed with dignity. This,
surely, was a return to the Pimpernel Manner. "We have been living
in seclusion, for reasons which need not be related, for some time.
Therefore, Kitty has never been before to any public assembly. To be
sure, I do not approve of bringing forward young girls too early;
although, for my own part, I had already at her age been present at
several entertainments of the most sumptuous and splendid character,
not only at Bagnigge Wells and Cupid's Garden, but also at many great
city feasts and banquets for the reception of illustrious personages,
particularly in the year of grace, 1718, when my lamented father was
Lord Mayor of London."

The dear lady could never avoid introducing the fact that she was thus
honourably connected.

Lord Chudleigh, however, seemed interested. I learned, later, that
some had been putting about, among other idle rumours, that I was the
daughter of a tattered country curate.

"Indeed," he said, "I knew not that the late Mr. Pleydell had been the
Lord Mayor. It is a most distinguished position."

"Not Mr. Pleydell, my lord. Sir Samuel Pimpernel, Knight, my father,
was the Lord Mayor in question. His father was Lord Mayor before him.
Kitty Pleydell is not my blood relation, but my niece and ward by
adoption. Her father was a most distinguished Cambridge scholar and
divine."

"There are Pleydells," said Lord Chudleigh, "in Warwickshire.
Perhaps----"

"My father," I said, "was rector of a country parish in Kent, where
Sir Robert Levett hath a large estate. He was the younger son of the
Warwickshire family of that name, and died in the spring of last year.
My relations of that county I have never met. Now, my lord, you have my
genealogy complete."

"It is an important thing to know," he said, laughing; "in a place
like Epsom, where scandal is the staple of talk, as many freedoms
are taken with a lady's family as with her reputation. I am glad
to be provided with an answer to those who would enact the part of
town-crier or backbiter, a character here greatly aspired to. No doubt
the agreeable ladies whose tongues in the next world will surely be
converted into two-edged swords, have already furnished Miss Kitty with
highwaymen, tallow-chandlers, or attorneys for ancestors, and Wapping,
Houndsditch, or the Rules of the Fleet"--it was lucky that Mrs. Esther
had a fan--"for their place of residence. In the same way, they have
most undoubtedly proved to each other that she has not a feature worth
looking at, that her eyes squint--pray pardon me, Miss Kitty--her hair
is red, her figure they would have the audacity to call crooked, and
her voice they would maliciously say was cracked. It is the joy of
these people to detract from merit. You can afford to be charitable,
Miss Kitty. The enumeration of impossible disgraces and the distortion
of the rarest charms afford these ladies some consolation for their
envy and disappointment."

"I hope, my lord," I said, "that it will not afford me a consolation
or happiness to believe that my sex is so mean and envious thus to
treat a harmless stranger."

He laughed.

"When Miss Kitty grows older," he said to Mrs Esther, "she will learn
to place less confidence in her fellows."

"Age," said Mrs. Esther sadly, "brings the knowledge of evil. Let none
of us wish to grow older. Not that your lordship hath yet gained the
right to boast this knowledge."

Then my lord proceeded to inform us that he purposed presenting some
of the ladies of the Wells with an entertainment, such as it seems is
expected from gentlemen of his rank.

"But I would not," he said, "invite the rest of the company before I
had made sure that the Queen of the Wells would honour me with her
presence. I have engaged the music, and if the weather holds fine we
will repair to Durdans Park, where we shall find dancing on the grass,
with lamps in the trees, supper, and such amusements as ladies love and
we can provide."

This was indeed a delightful prospect; we accepted with great joy, and
so, with protestations of service, his lordship departed.

"There is," said Mrs. Esther, "about the manners of the great a
charming freedom. Good breeding is to manners what Christianity is
to religion. It is, if one may reverently say so, a law of perfect
liberty. My dear, I think that we are singularly fortunate in having
at the Wells so admirable a young nobleman, as well as our friends
(also well-bred gentlefolks) Sir Robert and Lady Levett. I hear that
the young Lord Eardesley is also at the Wells, and was at last night's
assembly; and no doubt there are other members of the aristocracy by
whom we shall be shortly known. You observed, Kitty, the interest shown
by his lordship, when I delicately alluded to the rank and exalted
station of my late father. It is well for people to know, wherever we
are, and especially when we are in the society of nobility, that we
are not common folk. What ancestors did his lordship say that envious
tongues would give us--tallow-chandlers? attorneys? A lying and
censorious place, indeed!"

Later on, we put on our best and sallied forth, dressed for the evening
in our hoops, patches and powder, but not so fine as for Monday's
ball. The Terrace and New Parade were crowded with people, and very
soon we were surrounded by gentlemen anxious to establish a reputation
for wit or position by exchanging a few words with the Reigning Beauty
of the season--none other, if you please, than Kitty Pleydell.

But to think in how short a time--only a few hours, a single
night--that girl was so changed that she accepted, almost without
wondering, all the incense of flattery that was offered up to her! Yet
she knew, being a girl of some sense, that it was unreal, and could
not mean anything; else a woman so bepraised and flattered would lose
her head. The very extravagance of gallantry preserves the sex from
that calamity. A woman must be a fool indeed who can really believe
that her person is that of a Grace, her smile the smile of Venus, her
beauty surpassing that of Helen, and her wit and her understanding that
of Sappho. She knows better: she knows that her wit is small and petty
beside the wit of a man: her wisdom nothing but to learn a little of
what men have said: her very beauty, of which so much is said, but a
flower of a few years, whereas the beauty of manhood lasts all a life.
Therefore, when all is said and done, the incense burned, the mock
prayers said, the hymn of flattery sung, and the Idol bedecked with
flowers and gems, she loves to step down from the altar, slip away from
the worshippers, and run to a place in the meadows, where waits a swain
who will say: "Sweet girl, I love thee--with all thy faults!"

On this day, therefore, began my brief reign as Queen of the Wells. Mr.
Walsingham was one of the first to salute me. With courtly grace he
bowed low, saying--

"We greet our Queen, and trust her Majesty is in health and spirits."

Then all the gentlemen round formed a lane, down which we walked, my
old courtier marching backwards.

The scene, Mrs. Esther said afterwards, reminded her of a certain day
long ago, when they crowned a Queen of Beauty at Bagnigge Wells, in the
presence of the Lord Mayor, her father.

To be sure, it was a very pretty sight to watch all these gallants
making legs and handling their canes with such grace as each could
command, some of them having studied in those noble schools of manners,
the _salons_ of Paris or the reception-rooms of great ladies in London.
Yet it was certain to me that not one of them could compare with my
lord--my own lord, I mean.

Presently we came upon Lady Levett and her party, when, after a few
words of kind greeting from her ladyship, and an admonition not to
believe more of what I was told than I knew to be true, we divided,
Nancy coming with me and Mrs. Esther remaining with Lady Levett. The
music was playing and the sun shining, but a fine air blew from the
Downs, and we were beneath the shade of the trees. We sat upon one of
the benches, and the gentlemen gathered round us.

"Gentlemen," said Nancy, "I am the Queen's maid of honour. You may
all of you do your best to amuse her Majesty--and me. We give you
permission to exhaust yourselves in making the court happy."

What were they to do? What had they to offer? There was a bull-baiting
in the market at which my maid of honour cried fie! There was a match
with quarterstaves on the Downs for the afternoon, but that met with
little favour.

"We need not leave home," said Nancy, "to see two stout fellows bang
each other about the head with sticks. That amusement may be witnessed
any summer evening, with grinning through a horse-collar and fighting
with gloves on the village green at home. Pray go on to the next
amusement on the list. The cock-pit you can leave out."

One young gentleman proposed that we might play with pantines, a
ridiculous fashion of paper doll then in vogue as a toy for ladies
with nothing to do: another that we should go hear the ingenious Mr.
King lecture on Astronomy: another that we should raffle for chocolate
creams: another that we should do nothing at all, "for," said he, "why
do we come to the Wells but for rest and quiet? and if Miss Pleydell
and her maid of honour do but grant us the privilege of beholding their
charms, what need we of anything but rest?

  "'To walk and dine, and walk and sup,
    To fill the leisure moments up,
    Idly enough but to the few
    Who've really nothing else to do.
    Yet here the sports exulting reign,
    And laughing loves, a num'rous train;
    Here Beauty holds her splendid court,
    And flatt'ring pleasures here resort.'"

I, for one, should have enjoyed the witnessing of a little sport better
than the homage of lovers.

"Here is Miss Peggy Baker," cried Nancy, jumping up. "Oh! I _must_
speak to my dear friend Miss Peggy."

Miss Baker was walking slowly down the Terrace, accompanied by her
little troop of admirers. At sight of us her face clouded for a moment,
but she quickly recovered and smiled a languid greeting.

"Dear Miss Peggy," cried Nancy--I knew she was going to say something
mischievous--"you come in the nick of time."

"Pray command me," she replied graciously.

"It is a simple question"--Miss Baker looked suspicious. "Oh! a mere
trifle"--Miss Baker looked uneasy. "It is only--pray, gentlemen, were
any of you in the book-shop this morning?"

All protested that they were not--a denial which confirmed my opinion
that impertinence was coming.

"Nay," said Nancy, "we all know the truthfulness of gallants, which is
as notorious as their constancy. Had you been there you would not have
paid Miss Pleydell those pretty compliments which are as well deserved
as they are sincere. But, Miss Peggy, a scandalous report hath got
abroad. They say that you said, this morning, at the book-shop, that
Kitty Pleydell's eyes squinted."

"Oh! oh!" cried Mr. Walsingham, holding up his hands, and all the rest
cried "Oh! oh!" and held up theirs.

"I vow and protest," cried Peggy Baker, blushing very much. "I vow and
protest----"

"I said," interrupted Nancy, "that it was the cruellest slander. You
are all good-nature. Stand up, Kitty dear. Now tell us, Miss Peggy,
before all these gentlemen, do those eyes squint?"

"Certainly not," said poor Peggy, in great confusion.

"Look at them well," continued Nancy. "Brown eyes, full and clear--eyes
like an antelope. Saw any one eyes more straight!"

"Never," said Peggy, fanning herself violently.

"Or more beautiful eyes?"

"Never," replied Miss Peggy.

"There," said Nancy, "I knew it. I said that from the lips of Miss
Peggy Baker nothing but kind words can fall. You hear, gentlemen; women
are sometimes found who can say good things of each other: and if we
find the malicious person who dared report that Miss Peggy Baker said
such a thing, I hope you will duck her in the horse-pond."

Miss Peggy bowed to us with her most languishing air, and passed on.
Nancy held up her hands, while the gentlemen looked at one another and
laughed.

"Oh, calumny!" she cried. "To say that Kitty's eyes were askew!"

For there had been a discussion at the book-shop that morning, in
which the name of Miss Pleydell was frequently mentioned; and her
person, bearing, and face were all particularly dwelt upon. Miss
Baker, as usual in their parliaments, spoke oftenest, and with the
most animation. She possessed, on such occasions, an insight into the
defects of women that was truly remarkable, and a power of representing
them to others which, while it was eloquent and persuasive, perhaps
erred on the side of exaggeration. She summed up what she had to say in
these kind words--

"After all, one could forgive fine clothes worn as if the girl had
never had a dress on fit to be seen before, and manners like a hoyden
trying to seem a nun, and the way of dancing taught to the cits who go
to Sadler's Wells, and a sunburnt complexion, and hands as big as my
fan--all these things are rustic, and might be cured--or endured. But I
cannot forgive her squint!"

And now she had to recant publicly, and confess that there was no
squint at all.

This audacious trick of Nancy's was, you may be sure, immediately
spread abroad, so that for that day at least the unfortunate creature
found the people looking after and laughing wherever she went.
Naturally, she hated me, who really had done her no harm at all, more
and more.

The gentlemen, or one among them, I knew not who, offered this evening
a general tea-drinking with the music. It was served under the trees
upon the open walk, and was very gay and merry. After the tea, when the
day began to decline, we went to the rooms where, though there was no
dancing, there was talking and laughing, in one room, and in the other
games of cards of every kind--cribbage, whist, quadrille, hazard, and
lansquenet. We wandered round the tables, watching the players intent
upon the chances of the cards. I thought of poor Sir Miles Lackington,
who might, had it not been for his love of gaming, have been now, as he
began, a country gentleman with a fine estate. In this room we found
Lord Chudleigh. He was not playing, but was looking on at a table where
sat a young gentleman and an officer in the army. He did not see us,
and, under pretence of watching the play of a party of four ladies
playing quadrille, one of whom was Lady Levett, I sat down to watch
him. Was he a gambler?

I presently discovered that he was not looking at the game, but the
players. Presently he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the younger
man, and said, in a quiet voice--

"Now, Eardesley, you have had enough. This gentleman knows the game
better than you."

"I hope, my lord," cried the other player, springing to his feet, "that
your lordship doth not insinuate----"

"I speak what I mean, sir. Lord Eardesley will, if he takes my advice,
play no more with you."

"Your lordship," cried the gentleman in scarlet, "will perhaps remember
that you are speaking to a gentleman----"

"Who left Bath, a fortnight ago, under such circumstances as makes
it the more necessary for me to warn my friend. No, sir,"--his eye
grew hard, and his face stern. "No, sir. Do not bluster or threaten.
I will neither play with you, nor suffer my friends to play with you;
nor, sir, will I fight with you, unless you happen to attack me upon
the road. And, sir, if I see you here to-morrow, the master of the
ceremonies will put you to the door by means of his lackeys. Come,
Eardesley."

The gamester, thus roundly accused, began to bluster. His honour was at
stake; he had been grossly insulted; he would have the satisfaction of
a gentleman; he would let his lordship know that his rank should not
protect him. With these noble sentiments, he left the room, and the
Wells saw him no more.

Then, seeing me alone, for I had escaped from my court, being weary of
compliments and speeches, he came to my chair.

"I saw you, my lord," I said, "rescue that young gentleman from the man
who, I suppose, would have won his money. Is it prudent to engage in
such quarrels?"

"The young gentleman," he replied, "is, in a sense, my ward. The man is
a notorious sharper, who hath been lately expelled from Bath, and will
now, I think, find it prudent to leave the Wells. I hope, Miss Kitty,
that you do not like gaming?"

"Indeed, my lord, I do not know if I should like what I have never
tried. 'Tis the first time I have seen card-playing."

"Then you must have been brought up in a nunnery."

"Not quite that, but in a village, where, as I have already told you,
my father was vicar. I do not know any games of cards."

"How did you amuse yourself in your village?"

"I read, made puddings, worked samplers, cut out and sewed my dresses,
and learned lessons with Nancy Levett."

"The pretty little girl who is always laughing? She should always
remain young--never grow old and grave. What else did you do?"

"We had a choir for the Sunday psalms--many people came every Sunday
to hear us sing. That was another occupation. Then I used to ride
with the boys, or sometimes we would go fishing, or nutting, or
black-berrying--oh! there was plenty to do, and the days were never too
long."

"A better education than most ladies can show," he replied, with his
quiet air of authority.

"And you, my lord. Do you never play cards?"

"No," he replied. "Pray do not question me further on my favourite
vices, Miss Kitty. I would not confess all my sins even to so charming
and so kind a confessor as yourself."

"I forgive you, my lord," I said, "beforehand. Especially if you
promise to abandon them all."

"There are sins," he said slowly, "which sometimes leave behind them
consequences which can never be forgotten or undone."

Alas! I knew what he meant. His sin had left him burdened with a
wife--a creature who had been so wicked as to take advantage of his
wickedness; a woman whom he feared to hear of and already loathed. Poor
wife! poor sinner! poor Kitty!



CHAPTER VI.

HOW THE DOCTOR WROTE TO KITTY.


The next morning at dinner, we heard the summons of the post-boy's
horn, and Cicely presently ran in with a letter in her hand. It was
addressed to me, in a large bold handwriting, and was sealed with red
wax. I opened it and found a smaller letter inside it, marked "Private.
For my niece's eye alone." So that both letters were from my uncle, the
Doctor.

"Your private letter," said Mrs. Esther, "doubtless contains some
admonition or advice designed for you alone. Put it in your pocket,
child, and read it in your own room. As for the other letter, as it is
not marked private, it would be well for you to read it aloud, after
dinner, and while we are eating one of my Lord Chudleigh's delicious
peaches."

To this I willingly complied, because I greatly feared the private
letter would contain some instructions concerning the secret which the
Doctor and I possessed between us. Accordingly, the dinner over, I
began the perusal of my uncle's letter.

    "MY DEAR NIECE,--You will first of all, and before reading any
    further, convey my dutiful respects to the lady by whose goodness
    you have been placed in a position as much above what you could
    have wished, as her benevolence is above the ordinary experience of
    mortals."

"Oh, the excellent man!" cried Mrs. Esther.

    "I have to report that, under Providence, I am well in health,
    and in all respects doing well; the occupation in which I am now
    engaged having received a stimulus by the threatening of a new Act
    for the prevention of (so-called) unlawful marriages. The increase
    in the number of applicants for marriage hath also (as is natural)
    caused an increase in the upstarts and pretenders who claim to have
    received canonical orders, being most of them as ignorant as a
    butcher's block, and no more ordained than the fellows who bang a
    cushion in a conventicle. The clergymen of London complain that the
    parsons of the Fleet take away their parishioners, and deprive them
    of their fees: they cannot say that I, who never take less than a
    guinea, undersell them. You will be glad to learn that Sir Miles
    Lackington hath left this place. He hath lately received a legacy
    from a cousin of a small estate, and hath made an arrangement with
    his creditors, by virtue of which his detainers are now removed.
    Nevertheless, we expect him back before long, being well assured
    that the same temptation and vice of gambling, which brought him
    here before, will again beset him. Yet he promiseth brave things.
    We gave him a farewell evening, in which his health was toasted,
    and more punch drunk than was good for the heads of some present,
    among whom were gentlemen members of the Utter Bar, from the two
    Temples and Lincoln's Inn, with many others, and honourable company.

    "It will also be a pleasure to you to learn that the ingenious
    Mr. Stallabras is also at large. Probably he, too, will return
    to us ere long. For the present his sole detaining creditor, who
    had supplied him for years with such articles of apparel (at
    second-hand) as were necessary for his decent appearance on the
    credit of his future glory, agreed to take ten guineas in full
    discharge of a bill for forty, which the poet could never hope
    to pay, nor the tradesman to receive. The calling of poet is at
    best but a poor one, nor should I counsel any one to practise the
    writing of verse unless he be a man of fortune, like Mr. Alexander
    Pope (unfortunately a Papist), or a Fellow of some substantial
    college, such as the Houses of Trinity, Peter, and Christ, at
    Cambridge, like Mr. Ray. Nor is there any greater unhappiness than
    to draw a bill, to speak after the manner of merchants, upon your
    future success and industry, and to be compelled to discount it.
    He hath now conceived the idea of a tragedy and of an epic poem.
    The first he will endeavour to produce at Drury Lane as soon as it
    is written: the second he will immediately get subscribed among
    his friends and patrons. Unfortunately he has already obtained
    subscriptions, for a volume of verses, and, having eaten the
    subscriptions, cannot now find a publisher: in truth, I believe the
    verses are not yet written. This melancholy accident obliges him to
    seek for new patrons. I wish him well.

    "It is, my dear niece, with the greatest satisfaction that I learn
    you have, with Mrs. Esther, gone to Epsom. The situation of the
    place, the purity of the air upon the Downs, the salubrity of the
    waters, the gaiety of the company, will, I hope, all be conducive
    to the health of that most excellent lady, your best friend----"

"Oh, the good man!" cried Mrs. Esther.

    "To whom I charge you be dutiful, obedient, and careful in the
    smallest punctilio. The cheerfulness of the amusements (if Epsom
    be the same as when I once visited it, when tutor to a young
    gentleman of quality) should communicate to her spirits something
    of the joy with which I could now wish her to regard the world. As
    for yourself, my child, I am under no apprehension but that music,
    gay companions, and your time of life will together make you as
    mirthful as is possible for human being. Remember, however, that
    happiness is but for a season: that mirth must never pass beyond
    the bound of good manners: and that when a woman is no longer
    young, the reputation she has earned as a girl remains with her,
    even to the grave. Wherefore, Kitty, be circumspect. The town news
    is but little: the (so-styled) young Pretender is said to be moving
    again, but little importance is now attached to his doings, and for
    the moment the Protestant dynasty seems firm. But Heaven knows----"

Here followed a quantity of news about the ministers, the Houses of
Parliament, the foreign news, and so forth, which I omit.

    "I have seen a sermon, published this year by one Laurence Sterne,
    on 'Conscience,' which I would commend to Mrs. Pimpernel. I also
    commend to you Dr. Samuel Johnson's 'Vanity of Human Wishes,' and
    the first number of the 'Rambler,' of which I hear great things.
    Mr. Henry Fielding hath produced a novel called 'Tom Jones,' of
    which the town is talking. I mention it here in order that you
    may be cautioned against a book whose sole merit is the faithful
    delineation of scenes and characters shocking to the female
    moralist. For the same reason I would have thee beware of Mr.
    Smollett's 'Peregrine Pickle,' in which, as a man who knows--alas!
    the wickedness of the world, I find a great deal to commend.

    "The weather has been strangely hot even for July, and fever is
    rife in this neighbourhood. I hear that the Bishop of London
    threatens me with pains and penalties. I have sent word to his
    lordship, that if he will not allow me to marry, I will _bury_, and
    that at such prices as will leave his clergy nothing but the fees
    of the paupers, beggars, and malefactors.

    "I think that I have no more news to send. I would that I were
    able to send thee such tidings as might be looked for in a London
    letter; but I know not what actor is carrying away all hearts, nor
    what lady is the reigning toast, nor what is the latest fashion in
    cardinal, sack, patch, or tie-wig, nor anything at all that is dear
    to the hearts of an assembly on the Terrace of Epsom. Therefore,
    with my duty to Mrs. Pimpernel,--I remain, my dear niece, your
    loving uncle,

                                 "GREGORY SHOVEL, _Doctor of Divinity_.

    "_Post Scriptum._--I enclose herewith a short letter of admonition,
    which thou mayest read by thyself, as such things are not
    interesting to Mistress Pimpernel."

"Now," cried Mrs. Esther, "was there ever such a man? Living in such
a place, he preserves his virtue: among such dregs and offscourings
of mankind he stands still erect, proclaiming and preaching Christian
virtue. O Kitty! why was not that man made a bishop? Sure, there is no
other position in the world fit for him. With what eloquence would he
defend Christian faith? With what righteous indignation would he not
expel evil-doers?"

I did not dare to ask, which of course occurred to me, what indignation
he would show against such as violated the law by marrying in the Fleet.

"Now," I said, "with your permission, madam, I will retire, in order to
read my uncle's private letter of admonition."

I opened the short note in fear; yet there was nothing alarming in it.

    "MY DEAR NIECE,--I add a word to say that Lord Chudleigh is going
    to visit Epsom, and hath either engaged or been offered the mansion
    of Durdans for the summer: perhaps he is already there. It may be
    that you will make his acquaintance: in any case you cannot fail
    of being interested in his doings. Since his visit to the Fleet,
    I hear that he has been afflicted with a continual melancholy, of
    which you and I know the cause. He has also led a very regular and
    almost monastic life, reproaching himself continually for that
    lapse from temperance which led to what he regards as the curse of
    his life.

    "Child, if he pays you attentions, receive them with such
    coquettish allurements as your sex knows how to hang out. On this
    point I cannot advise. But if he is attracted by more showy and
    more beautiful women"--I looked at the glass and smiled--"then
    be careful not to exhibit any jealousy or anger. Remember that
    jealousy and anger have ruined many a _femina furens_, or raging
    woman. Let things go on, as if nothing of all that you and I wot
    of had happened. He will be watched, and at the right time will be
    called upon to acknowledge his wife. Such a return for the evil
    done me by his father shall be mine. And with such a return of good
    for evil, a brilliant position for yourself. If he should fall
    in love, if he hath not already done so, with another woman, you
    would, in one moment, blast his hopes, trample on all that he held
    dear, and make him ridiculous, a criminal, and a deceiver. But it
    is at all times a more Christian thing for a man to fall in love
    with his own wife.

    "Remember, my dear Kitty, I place the utmost reliance on thy
    good sense. Above all, no woman's jealousies, rages, and fits of
    madness. These things will only do thee harm.

                                   "Your loving uncle,
                              "GREGORY SHOVEL, _Doctor of Divinity_."

Were one a stock or a stone; had one no feelings; were one destitute of
pity, sympathy, and compassion, these letters might have been useful as
guides to conduct. But the thing had happened to me which my uncle, in
his worldly wisdom, could never calculate upon: I had fallen in love
with Lord Chudleigh: I was passionately anxious that he should fall in
love with me. What room, in such a condition of mind as was this man,
for advice so cold, so interested as this? Return good for evil? What
had I to do with that? I wanted to wreak no vengeance on my lord: I
would have surrounded him with love, and been willing to become his
servant, his slave, anything, if only he would forgive me, take me
for his sweetheart, and make me his wife. But to lay those snares: to
look on coldly while he made love to other women: to wait my time, so
as to bring shame and remorse upon that noble heart--that, Kitty, was
impossible. Yet I could not write to my uncle things which he could
not understand. I could not say that I repented and was very sorry:
that I loved my lord, and was determined to inflict no harm upon him:
and that, if he chose to fall in love with another woman--who was I,
indeed, that he should love me?--I was firmly resolved that no act
or word of mine should injure him, even though I had to stand in the
church and see him with my own eyes married to that other--that happy
woman--before the altar.



CHAPTER VII.

HOW KITTY BROKE HER PROMISE.


No one must think that I was sorry, or even embarrassed, when I heard
that Harry Temple had joined the company at Epsom; and though the name
of coquette was given me by him, and that of jilt, with such other
abusive terms as the English tongue provides, by Will Levett, later
on, I beg that every one will believe me when I declare that I had no
knowledge at all of being betrothed, or under any kind of promise, to
either of these two young men. Yet, as will have been perceived by any
who have read the second chapter of this narrative, both of them had
just grounds for believing me to be their promised wife. In fact, I
was at the time so silly and ignorant that I did not understand what
they meant; nor had I, being so much tossed about, and seeing so many
changes, ever thought upon their words at all, since. And whereas there
was no day in which the thought of my dear and fond Nancy did not come
into my mind, there never was a day at all in which my memory dwelt
upon either Will or Harry, save as companions of Nancy. And although
grievous things followed upon this neglect of mine, I cannot possibly
charge myself with any blame in the matter. As for Will, indeed, his
conduct was such as to relieve me of any necessity for repentance;
while Harry, even if he did play the fool for a while, speedily
recovered his senses, and found consolation in the arms of another.
Lastly, men ought not to go frantic for any woman: they should reflect
that there are good wives in plenty to be had for the asking; women
virtuously reared, who account it an honour (as they should) to receive
the offer of an honest man's faithful service; that no woman is so good
as to have no equal among her contemporaries: while as for beauty, that
is mostly matter of opinion. I am sure I cannot understand why they
made me Queen of the Wells, when Nancy Levett was passed over; and I
have since seen many a plain girl honoured as a beauty, while the most
lovely faces were neglected.

The first, then, of my two lovers--or promised husbands--who arrived at
Epsom was Harry Temple.

We were walking on the New Parade in the afternoon, making a grand
display; I in my new purple velvet with purple ribbons, a purple mantle
and purple trimmings to my hat, very grand indeed. Mr. Walsingham
was talking like a lover in a novel--I mean of the old-fashioned and
romantic school of novel, now gone out. The art of saying fine things
now too much neglected by the young, was then studied by old and young.

"Ladies," he was saying, "should never be seen save in the splendour
of full dress: they should not eat in public, unless it be chocolates
and Turkish sweets: nor drink, unless it be a dish of tea: they should
not laugh, lest they derange the position of the patch or the nice
adjustment of the coiffure: they may smile, however, upon their lovers;
all their movements should be trim and evenly balanced, according to
rules of grace: in fact, just as a woman was the last and most finished
work in Nature, so a lady dressed, taught, and cultivated, should be
the last and most finished work in Art. The power of beauty--Miss
Pleydell will approve this--should be assisted by the insinuation of
polite address: rank should be enhanced by the assumption of a becoming
dignity: dishabille should hide at home: nor should she show herself
abroad until she has heightened and set off her charms, by silk and
satin, ribbons and lace, paint, powder, and patches."

"I suppose, sir," said Nancy, pointing to an absurd creature whose
follies were the diversion of the whole company, "the dress of the lady
over there in the short sack would please you. Her body a state-bed
running upon castors, and her head-dress made up of trimmings taken
from the tester. She is, sir, I take it, a finished work of Art."

Then she screamed: "O Kitty! here is Harry Temple." And then she
blushed, so that Mr. Walsingham looked at both of us with a meaning
smile. He came sauntering along the walk, looking about him carelessly,
for as yet he knew none of the company. His manner was improved since
last I saw him, a year and more ago: that was doubtless due to a visit
to the Continent. He was a handsome fellow certainly, though not so
tall or so handsome as Lord Chudleigh: his features were smaller and
his air less distinguished; but still a pretty fellow. I thought of
Nancy's secret and laughed to myself, as yet never suspecting what he
would say. The great difference at first sight between Harry Temple and
Lord Chudleigh was that the former looked as if he was ready to take
the place which the world would assign to him, while the latter would
step to the front and stand there as if in his proper place. It is a
grand thing to be a leader of men.

Suddenly he saw us, and stood still with such a look of bewilderment
and astonishment as I never saw.

"Nancy!"--he had his eyes upon me all the time--"I knew you were here,
but--but----"

Here Nancy burst out laughing.

"Harry does not remember you, Kitty. Oh the inconstancy of men!"

"Kitty?" It was his turn to look confused now. "Is it possible? Kitty
Pleydell? Yet, surely----"

"I am sorry that Mr. Temple so easily forgets his old friends," I said.

"No, no. Forget? not at all." He was so disconcerted that he spoke in
single words. "But such a change!"

"A year ago," I said, "I was in russet and brown holland, with a straw
hat. But this watering-place is not my native village, and I wear brown
holland frocks no longer."

"Save in a pastoral," said Mr. Walsingham. "A shepherdess should always
wear brown holland, with ribbons and patches, powder and paint; and a
crook beautifully wreathed with green ribbons."

"Gentlemen," I said to my followers, "this is my old friend, Mr.
Harry Temple, of Wootton Hampstead, Kent, whom you will, I doubt not,
welcome among you. But what punishment shall be inflicted upon him for
forgetting a lady's face?"

This gave rise to a dispute on an abstract point of gallantry. One
held that under no circumstances, and during no time of absence,
however prolonged, should a gentleman forget the face of his mistress;
another, that if the lady changed, say from a child to a woman, the
forgetfulness of her face must not be charged as a crime. We argued the
point with great solemnity. Nancy gave it as her opinion that the rest
of a woman's face might be forgotten, but not the eyes, because they
never change. Mr. Walsingham combated this opinion. He said that the
eyes of ladies change when they marry.

"What change?" I asked.

"The eyes of a woman who is fancy free," said he gravely, "are like
stars: when she marries, they are planets."

"Nay," said Nancy; "a woman does not wait to be married before her eyes
undergo that change. As soon as she falls in love they become planets.
For whereas, before that time, they go twinkle, twinkle, upon every
pretty fellow who has the good taste to fall in love with her, as mine
do when I look upon Lord Eardesley"--the young fellow blushed--"so
after she is in love, they burn with a steady light upon the face of
the man she loves, as mine do when I turn them upon Mr. Walsingham."

She gazed with so exaggerated an ardour into the old beau's wrinkled
and crows'-footed face, that the rest of us laughed. He, for his part,
made a profound salute, and declared that the happiness of his life was
now achieved, and that he had nothing left to live for.

In the evening, a private ball was given in the Assembly Rooms by some
of the gentlemen, Lord Chudleigh among the number, to a circle of the
most distinguished ladies at the Wells. In right of my position as
Queen, I opened the ball (of course with his lordship). Afterwards,
I danced with Harry. When the country dances began, I danced again
with Harry, who kept looking in my eyes and squeezing my hand in a
ridiculous fashion. At first I set it down to rejoicing and fraternal
affection. But he quickly undeceived me when the dance was over, for
while we stood aside to let others have their turn, he began about the
promise which we know of.

"Little did I think, sweet Kitty," he said, with half-shut eyes, "that
when I made that promise to bring you back into Kent, you would grow
into so wonderful a beauty."

"Well, Harry," I replied, "it was kindly meant of you, and I thank you
for your promise--which I now return you."

"You return me my promise?" he asked, as if surprised, whereas he ought
most certainly to have considered what had been my country ignorance
and my maidenly innocence when he gave me his promise.

"Certainly," I said; "seeing that I am now under the protection of
Mrs. Esther Pimpernel, and have no longer any need for your services."

"My services?" as if still more surprised. I am convinced that he was
only acting astonishment, because he must have known the truth had he
reflected at all. "Why, Kitty, I do not understand. You are not surely
going to throw me over?"

Then I understood at last.

"Harry," I said, "there has been, I fear, some mistake."

"No," he replied; "no mistake--no mistake at all. How could there be a
mistake? You promised that you would return with me, never to go away
again."

"Why, so I did. But, Harry, I never thought----"

"You _must_ have known what I meant, Kitty! Do not pretend that you
did not. Oh! you may open your eyes as wide as you like, but I shall
believe it, nevertheless."

"You have made a great mistake," I said; "that is very certain. Now let
us have no more talk of such things, Harry."

Lord Chudleigh came at that moment to lead me in to supper. I thought
very little of what had passed, being only a little vexed that Harry
had made so great a blunder.

The supper was pleasant too, with plenty of wax candles, cold chickens,
capons, wheat-ears, ice-creams, and champagne, which is certainly the
most delicious wine ever made.

After supper, my lord asked me if there was any friend of mine whom I
would especially like to be invited to his party at Durdans?

I named Harry Temple, whom my lord immediately sought out, and invited
in my name. Harry bowed sulkily, but accepted.

"Is there any person," Lord Chudleigh asked next, "whom you would like
not to be asked?"

"No," I said; "I have no enemies."

"As if the Queen of the Wells could avoid having enemies?" he laughed.
"But there are none who can do you harm, even by the venom of spiteful
tongues."

He was silent for a minute or two, and then he went on, with
hesitation--

"Pardon me, Miss Pleydell: I have no right to speak of these things to
you; my interest is greater than my politeness, and I venture to ask
you a question."

"Pray speak, my lord."

"A spiteful tongue has whispered it abroad that you have to-day given
your plighted lover a cold reception."

"Who is my plighted lover?"

"Mr. Harry Temple. Tell me, Miss Pleydell, if there is any promise
between you and this gentleman?"

He looked at me in such a way as made me both rejoice and tremble.

"No, my lord," I said, blushing against my will, and to my great
confusion; "I am not promised to Mr. Temple. Will your lordship take me
to the dancing-room?"

It was a bright moonlight night when we came away. We walked home,
escorted by some of the gentlemen. Lord Chudleigh, as he stooped to
take my hand, raised it rapidly to his lips and pressed my fingers. The
action was not seen, I think, by the others.

That night I tried to put the case plainly to myself.

I said: "Kitty, my dear, the man you want above all other men to fall
in love with you has done it; at least, it seems so. He seeks you
perpetually; he talks to you; he singles you out from the rest; he is
jealous; his eyes follow you about; he sends fruit and flowers to you;
he gives an entertainment, and calls you the Queen of the Feast; he
presses your hand and kisses your fingers. What more, Kitty, would you
have?"

On the other hand, I thought: "If he falls in love with you, being
already married, as he believes, to another woman, he commits a sin
against his marriage vows. Yet what sin can there be in breaking vows
pronounced in such a state as he was in, and in such a way? Why, they
seem to me no vows at all, in spite of the validity of the Doctor's
orders and the so-called blessing of the Church. Yet he cannot part
from his wife by simply wishing; and, knowing that, he does actually
commit the sin of deceit in loving another woman.

"Kitty, what would you have? For, if he doth not love you, then are you
miserable above all women; and if he does, then are you grieved, for
his own sake, for it is a sin--and ashamed for your own, because your
confession will be a bitter thing to say. Yet must it be made, soon or
late. Oh! with what face will you say to him: 'My lord, I am that wife
of the Fleet wedding'? Or, 'My lord, you need not woo me, for I was won
before I was wooed'? Or perhaps, worst thing of all, 'My lord, the girl
who caught your fickle fancy for a moment at Epsom, whom you passed
over, after a day or two, for another, who was not pretty enough to fix
your affections, is your lawful wife'?

"Kitty, I fear that the case is hopeless indeed. For, should he really
love you, what forelook or expectancy is there but that the love will
turn to hatred when he finds that he has been deceived?"

Then I could not but remember how a great lord, with a long rent-roll,
of illustrious descent, might think it pleasant for a day or two
to dance attendance upon a pretty girl, by way of sport, meaning
nothing further, but that he could not think seriously of so humble
a girl as myself in marriage. It would matter little to him that she
was descended from a long line of gentlemen, although but a vicars
daughter; the Pleydells were only simply country gentlefolk. I was a
simple country clergyman's daughter, whose proper place would be in
his mother's still-room; a daughter of one of those men whose very
vocation, for the most part, awakens a smile of pity or contempt,
according as they are the sycophants of the squire whose living they
enjoy, or the drudges of their master the rector whose work they do. It
was not in reason to think that Lord Chudleigh----Would to Heaven he
had not come to Epsom Wells at all! Then, when the Doctor chose the day
for revealing the truth, I might have borne the hatred and scorn which
now, I thought, would kill me.

Oh, if one could fix him! By what arts do girls draw to themselves the
love of men, and then keep that love for ever, so that they never seek
to wander elsewhere, and the world is for them like the Garden of Eden,
with but one man and one woman in it? I would have all his heart, and
that so firmly and irrevocably given to me, that forgiveness should
follow confession, and the heart remain still in my keeping when he
knew all my wickedness and shame.

Then a sudden thought struck me.

Long ago, when I was a child, I had learned, or taught myself, a
thing which I could fain believe was not altogether superstitious.
One day my father, who would still be talking of ancient things, and
cared for little of more modern date than the Gospels, told me of a
practice among the ancients by which they thought to look into the
future. It was an evil practice, he said, because if these oracles were
favourable, they advanced with blind confidence; and, if unfavourable,
with a heart already prepared for certain defeat and death. Their
method was nothing in the world but the opening of a Virgil anywhere,
and accepting the first line which offered itself as a prophecy of the
event of their undertaking. I was but a little thing when he told me
this, but I pondered it in my mind, and I reasoned in this way (nothing
doubting that the ancients did really in this manner read the future)--

"If these pagans could tell the event by consulting the words of
Virgil, a heathen like unto themselves, how much more readily ought we
to learn what is going to happen by consulting the actual Word of God?"

Thereupon, without telling any one, I used to consult this oracle,
probably by myself, in every little childish thing which interested me.

It was a thing presumptuous, though in my childhood I did not know that
it was a sin. Yet I did it on this very night--a grown-up woman--trying
to get a help to soothe my mind.

The moonlight was so bright that I could read at the open window
without a candle. I had long since extinguished mine.

I opened the Bible at random, kept my finger on a verse, and took the
book to the casement.

There I read--

"Wait on the Lord: be of good courage; and He shall strengthen thy
heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord."

Now these words I thankfully accepted as a solemn message from Heaven,
an answer to my prayer.

So I laid me down, and presently fell fast asleep.



CHAPTER VIII.

HOW KITTY HAD LETTERS AND VERSES.


Everybody knows that a watering-place in summer is a nest of singing
birds. I do not mean the birds of the air, nor the ladies who sing at
the concerts, nor the virtuosos, male and female, who gather together
to talk of appogiatura, sonata, and--and the rest of the musical
jargon. I mean rather those epigrammatists, libellous imitators of
Pasquin, and love-verse writers who abound at such places. Mostly they
are anonymous, so that one cannot thank them as one would. The verses,
this year at Epsom, came down upon us in showers. They were stuck up
on the pillars of the porch of the Assembly Rooms, they were laid upon
the table of the book-shop, they were handed about on the Terrace. Also
they came to me at my lodgings, and to Nancy at hers, and very likely
to Peggy Baker at hers. Here, for instance, is one set which were shown
round at the Assembly--

   "Epsom could boast no reigning Toast:
      The Terrace wept for pity.
    Kind Fortune said, 'Come, lift your head;
      I send you stately Kitty.'

   "She came, she reigned, but still disdained
      The crowd's applause and fancy;
    Quoth Fortune, 'Then, content ye, men,
      With pretty, witty Nancy.'"

Every morning lovers were at our feet (on paper). They wrote letters
enjoining me "by those soft killing eyes" (which rhymed with "sighs")
to take pity on their misery, or to let them die. You would have
thought, to read their vows, that all the men in the town were in
profound wretchedness. They could not sleep: they could no longer go
abroad: they were wasting and pining away: they were the victims of
a passion which was rapidly devouring them: Death, they said, would
be welcomed as a Deliverer. Yet it will hardly be believed that, in
spite of so dreadful an epidemic of low fever, no outward signs of it
were visible in the town at all: the gentlemen were certainly fat and
in good case: their hearts seemed merry within them: they laughed,
made jokes, sang, and were jolly to outward show: their appetites
were good: they were making (apparently) no preparations for demise.
Their letters and verses were, however, anonymous, so that it was
impossible to point with accuracy to any sufferer who thus dissembled.
From information conveyed to me by Cicely Crump, I believe that the
verses and letters came in great measure from the apprentices and
shopmen employed by the mercers, haberdashers, hosiers, and drapers
of the town--young men whose employment brings them constantly into
the presence of ladies, but whose humble positions in the world forbid
them to do anything more than worship at a great distance: yet their
hearts are as inflammable as their betters, and their aspirations are
sometimes above their rank, as witness the gallant elopement of Joshua
Crump, Cicely's father, with Miss Jenny Medlicott, daughter of an
alderman: then they find relief and assume a temporary dignity--as they
fondly think--in writing anonymous love-letters. I think the letters
must have come from these foolish and conceited young men, because I
cannot understand how a gentleman who values his self-respect could so
far humiliate himself as to write letters which he would be ashamed
to sign, declaring himself the foolish victim of a foolish passion,
and addressing a fellow-creature, a being like himself, with all the
imperfections of humanity upon her, as an angel (which is blasphemous),
and a sun of glory (which is nonsense), or a bright particular star
(which is copied from the preface to the Bible). I confess that we
liked the open compliments and public attentions of the gentlemen:
they pleased us, and we took them in sober honesty for what they were
worth--the base coin of gallantry rings as pleasantly sometimes as the
guinea gold of love--but it is one thing to be called a goddess in the
accepted language of exaggeration and mock humility commonly used in
polite assemblies, and another to be addressed in a grovelling strain,
seriously and humbly, as if one were the Lama of Thibet, or the great
Bashaw, or the Pope himself. It is pleasant to see a young fellow
dancing along the walk with his hat under his arm, making reverence,
with his eyes full of admiration, his face lit with smiles, and
compliments upon his tongue, because one knows that it is the natural
homage paid by an honest fellow to a pretty girl, and that when years
have robbed the beauty, the homage will be paid to some one else. But
for these silly boys' letters----

And then we made the sad discovery, by comparing our letters, that
they were not even original. Many of them were, word for word, the
same, showing that they had been copied from the same model. If it be
true that passion makes the most tongue-tied lover eloquent, then this
discovery proved that the violence of the passion was as feigned as the
letters were false, unless Nancy's supposition was true.

"Fie!" cried she, "the wretch has written the same letters to both of
us. Can he be in love with two maids at the same time?"

Then she took both letters and showed them about among the company.

There was another kind of letter which I received: it was filled with
slander and abuse, and was written in disguised handwriting. Several of
them came to me, and I was foolish enough to be vexed over them, even
to shed tears of vexation. My anonymous correspondent gave me, in fact,
such information and advice as the following, which was not conveyed to
me all at once, but in several letters.

"Your Lord Chudleigh is very well known to be a gambler who hath
already dipped more than half his estate; do you think it possible that
he should marry the daughter of that poor thing--a country parson--with
no more fortune to her back than what a city madam may chance to give
her? Be not deceived. Your triumph is to walk the Terrace with him
at your elbow: your disgrace will be when he leaves you to lament
alone...."

"Do not think that any other gentleman will stoop to pick up the
cast-off fancy of Lord Chudleigh. When he leaves you, expect nothing
but general desertion and contempt. This advice comes from a
well-wisher."

"Lord Chudleigh is, as is very well known, the falsest and the most
fickle of men. When he hath added you to the list of women whom he hath
deceived, he will go away to Bath or town, there to boast of what he
hath done. He belongs to the Seven Devils' Club, whose boast it is to
spare no man in play and no woman in love. Be warned in time."

"Poor Kitty Pleydell! Your reputation is now, indeed, cracked, if not
broken altogether. Better retire to the obscurity of your town lodging,
where, with Mrs. Pimpernel, you may weep over the chances that you
think to have lost, but have never really possessed. Better take up,
while is yet time, with Harry Temple. All the Wells is talking of your
infatuation about Lord Chudleigh. He, for his part, is amused. With his
friends he laughs and makes sport."

And so on, and so on: words which, like the buzzing of a fly or the
sting of a gnat, annoy for a while and are then forgotten. For the
moment one is angry: then one remembers things and words which show
how false are these charges: one reflects that the writer is more
to be pitied than the receiver: and one forgives. Perhaps I was the
readier to forgive because I saw a letter written by no other (from the
similarity of the _t_'s and _k_'s) than Miss Peggy Baker, and was fully
persuaded that the writer of these unsigned letters was that angry
nymph herself.

As for the verses which were left at the door, and brought by boys who
delivered them and ran away--Nancy said they had no clothes on except
a quiver and a pair of wings, and so ran away for shame lest Cicely
should see them--they bore a marvellous resemblance to those which the
ingenious Mr. Stallabras was wont to manufacture; they spoke of nymphs
and doves and bosky groves; of kids and swains on verdant plains; of
shepherds' reeds and flowery meads, of rustic flutes and rural fruits.

"The fashion of verses," said Mrs. Esther, "seems little changed since
we were here in 1720. Doubtless the English language has never been
able to achieve a greater excellence than that arrived at by Dryden,
Pope, Addison, and Steele."

Perhaps the language of love is always the same, and when a man feels
that tender emotion he naturally desires to quit the garish town and
the artificial restraints of society, and with his _inamorata_ to seek
the simple delights of the meadows and the fields, there to be together:

   "Come, live with me and be my love,
    And we will all the pleasures prove----"

So that to every lover the old language, with its musty tropes
and rusty figures, is new and fresh, just as any other delight in
life when first tasted. I say nothing for that poor weakling, that
hothouse plant, the passion affected by beaux at a watering-place for
fashionable beauties, which may use the strong language of real love,
and yet is so fragile as to be in danger of perishing with every cold
blast and frosty air.

I would not laugh at these simple poets, because I have learned since
then that there are youths who, too bashful to speak, may yet conceive
such a pure and noble passion for a woman--who certainly does not
deserve it--as may serve for them as a stimulus and goad to great
actions. For no creature, whether man or woman, can do fit suit and
service to another, whether in thought or action, without endeavouring
to make himself fit and worthy to be her servant. And if he be but one
of a hundred following in a crowd of worshippers, it is good for him
to mark and obey the laws of gallantry and knightly service, and to
lay aside for a while the talk of barrack, stable, coffee-house, and
gaming-room.

"Pretty moralist," said Nancy, "you would like the young fellows at
your heel, doing suit and service; and you would like to feel that
their attendance is doing good to their innocent souls. Now, for my
part, I think only how they may be doing good to myself, and when I see
them figuring and capering, hat under arm, one foot valiantly stuck
out--so--the ties of their wigs wagging behind them, and their canes
bobbing at their wrists. I feel, my dear, as if I was not born in vain.
All this posturing, all this capering, like a French dancing-master or
a bear with a hurdy-gurdy, is meant for me--that is, except what is
meant for you, which is the larger half. It may do good to the men:
I am sure I wish from my heart it does, because the poor profligates
want so much good done to them; but I rather love to think of the
honour it confers upon us women, and the envy, hatred, and malice it
awakens in the breast of our sisters. My dear Peggy Baker is turning
positively green with this hateful passion of jealousy. To be a Toast,
even a second Toast, like me, when your superior charms--I am not a
bit jealous, Kitty, my dear--have had their due acknowledgment, is a
very great honour. In years to come, say about the beginning of the
nineteenth century, if I live so long, I shall say to my grandchildren,
who will then be about eighteen or nineteen, and as beautiful as the
day, 'My dears,' I shall say, 'your grandmother, though you will find
it difficult to believe, was not always toothless, nor did her hands
always shake, nor were her cheeks wrinkled, nor were her chin and nose
close together. Look in the glass, girls, and you may guess what your
poor old grandmother once was, in the days when she was pretty Nancy
Levett, a Toast when the beautiful Kitty Pleydell was Queen of the
Wells. Kitty Pleydell, who married----,' no, my dear, I will not say
it, because it might bring you bad luck."

I told Nancy about Harry Temple's strange mistake; she grew very
serious over it, and reflected what was best to be done. I warned
her to say nothing herself, but to leave him to his own reflections.
First he sulked, that is to say, he avoided me in public, and did not
even pay his respects to Mrs. Pimpernel in private; then he implored
me to give him another hearing. I gave him what he asked, I heard him
tell his story over again, then I assured him once more that it was
impossible. He behaved very strangely, refused to take my answer as
final, and vexed us by betraying in public the discontent and anger
which, had he possessed any real regard for me, he ought to have kept
a secret in his own breast. Some of the backbiters, as Lord Chudleigh
told me, put it about that I had thrown over my former lover. Allusion
to this calumny was made, as has already been shown, in the anonymous
letters.

Lord Chudleigh paid me no compliments and wrote me no verses, nor did
he often join in our train upon the Terrace. But he distinguished us
by frequently paying a visit to our lodgings in the morning, when he
would sit and read, or talk, and sometimes share our simple dinner.

"We who belong to the great City houses," said Mrs. Esther after one
of these visits, "are accustomed from infancy to familiarity with
Nobility. My father, when Worshipful Master of the Scourers' Company,
or in his year of office as Lord Mayor, would sometimes have a peer
on one side and a bishop on the other. Baronets and simple knights we
hardly valued. Therefore these visits of his lordship, which are no
doubt a great distinction for both of us, seem like a return of my
childhood."

We learned from Lord Chudleigh that it was his intention (afterwards
fully carried out) to take that active part in the administration of
state affairs to which his exalted rank naturally called him.

"I am ever of opinion," he said, "that a gentleman in this country owes
it to his birth and position to do his utmost for the preservation of
our liberties and the maintenance of sound government."

And he once told us, to our astonishment, that had he lived in the days
of Charles the First, he should have joined the party of the Parliament.

It seemed to me, who watched him narrowly and with trembling, that
he was desirous, in these visits, to find out what manner of person
I was, and whether I possessed any virtues, to illustrate that
external comeliness which had already taken his fancy. Alas! I thought
continually with shame of the time when I should have to throw myself
at his feet and implore his mercy and forgiveness.

Then he encouraged me to talk about my childhood and my father, taking
pleasure, I thought, in the contemplation of a life given up to heaven
and learning, and smiling at the picture of Lady Levett, who ruled us
all, the two boys who came home to tease the girls, and little Nancy,
so fond and so pretty. I wondered then that he should care to hear
about the way I lived, the books I read, the death of my honoured
father, and the little things which make up a country maid's life,
wherein the ripples and the gentle breezes are as important to her as
great storms and gales to men and women of the world. I know, now,
that when a man loves a girl there is nothing concerned with her that
he does not want to know, so that her image may be present to him from
the beginning, and that he may feel that there has been no year of her
life, no action of hers at all, that he does not know, with what she
thought, what she did, who were her friends, and what she was like.

Thus he told me about his own country house, which was a very fine
place indeed, and his gardens, stables, library, pictures, and all the
splendid things which he had inherited.

Two things we hid from each other, the one that I was the girl whom he
had married: the other, that he was already married.

"Child," said Nancy, "the young lord hath plainly bewitched thee.
Remember, my dear, that a woman must not be won too easily. Can we not
break his heart a little?"

Lady Levett took occasion to speak to me to the same effect.

"Kitty," she said, "I have eyes in my head and can see. Do not
encourage the man too much. Yet it would be a grand match, and I should
be well content to see a coronet on that pretty head. Still, be not too
ready. But he is a handsome fellow, and I believe as good as we can
expect of any man in this profligate age. Nay, child, do not change
colour: I know nothing against his character, except that he has a town
house and that he has lived much in London. But make him feel a little
the pangs of love. Listen, or pretend to listen, to the addresses of
another man. When my husband came courting me, do you think I said yes
all at once? Not so. There were other suitors in the field, let me
tell thee, Kitty, as young and as rich as Sir Robert, and of as good a
family. To be sure, there was none so good in my eyes. As for one, he
rode to hounds all day, and in the evening slept in his chair. He broke
his neck jumping a brook when he was but thirty. Another, he drank
October all day long, and at night was carried to bed like a log. When
he was forty he was taken with a seizure, being still a bachelor, all
for love of me and his brown jug, which I think he loved still more.
And a third, he was choleric, and used to beat his grooms. Now, my
dear, a man who beats his grooms is just as likely to beat his wife.
Wherefore, beware of strikers. And a fourth, he was a gambler, and all
night over his cards, so that I would have none of him. He lost his
estate and went into the Austrian service. There he was run through the
body and killed in a duel by a French chevalier, who had first robbed
him at faro. But do not think I let my true love know my resolution. I
plagued him first, and teased him until he was humble. Then I bade him
be happy, and the good man hath been happy ever since."

Alas! I could not tease my lord or plague him: I could not coquet with
other men, even though Peggy went about saying--

"The silly wretch is in love with him: she shows it in her eyes. Oh the
impudence!"



CHAPTER IX.

HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH WENT TO LONDON.


Without telling any one of his intention, Lord Chudleigh posted one
morning to town. I was acquainted with this news by Miss Peggy Baker,
who informed me of it in her kindest manner.

"Dear Miss Pleydell," she said, after morning service, as we were
coming out of church, "have you heard the dreadful news?"

"I have heard no news," I replied.

"We have lost the chief ornament of the company. Yes; you may well turn
pale"--I am sure I did nothing of the kind--"Lord Chudleigh has left
Epsom--some say for the season: some say on account of some distaste
he has conceived for the place: some say on account of previous
engagements."

"What kind of engagements?"

"I thought you would ask that. It is rumoured that he is shortly to be
married to a young lady of good birth and with a fortune equal to his
own. It is certain that he will not return."

"Really!" said Nancy, who had now come to my aid, "how shall you be
able to exist, dear Miss Peggy, without him?"

"I? Oh, indeed, I am not concerned with Lord Chudleigh."

"I mean, how can you exist when the principal subject for scandalous
talk, and the chief cause of anonymous letters, is removed?"

She blushed and bit her lips.

"I think, Miss Levett," she gasped, "that you allow your tongue greater
liberties than are consistent with good-breeding."

"Better the tongue than the pen, dear Miss Baker," replied Nancy.
"Come, Kitty, we will go weep the absence of this truant lord."

"The Temple still remains--he! he!" said Miss Baker.

This was a conversation at which I could laugh, spiteful though it was.
I knew not that my lord was gone away, nor why. But one thing I knew
very well. He was not gone to marry any one. If that can be called ease
which was mostly shame, I felt easy, because ordinary jealousy was not
possible with me. He _could not marry, if he wished_. Poor lad! his
fate was sealed with mine.

Yet, thinking over what might happen, I resolved that night upon a
thing which would perhaps incense my uncle, the Doctor, beyond all
measure. I resolved that should that thing happen which most I dreaded,
that my lord should fall in love with another woman, I would myself,
without his ever knowing who had done it, release him from his ties.
I knew where the Doctor kept his registers: I would subtract the leaf
which certified our union, and would send it to my lord; or should the
Doctor, as was possible, propose any legal action, I would refuse to
appear or to act. Now without me the Doctor was powerless.

Lord Chudleigh went to town, in fact, to see the Doctor. He drove to
his town house in St. James's Square, and in the morning he sallied
forth and walked to the Fleet Market.

The Reverend Doctor Shovel was doing a great and splendid business.
Already there were rumours of the intention of Government to bring in a
bill for the suppression of these lawless Fleet marriages. Therefore,
in order to stimulate the lagging, he had sent his messengers, touters,
and runners abroad in every part of the city, calling on all those who
wished to be married secretly, or to avoid wedding expenses, feasts,
and junketings, and to be securely married, to make haste, while there
was yet time. Therefore there was a throng every day from seven in
the morning, of prentices with their masters' daughters, old men with
their cooks, tradesmen who would avoid the feasting, sailors home for
a few weeks, as eager to marry a wife as if they were to be home for
the whole of their natural lives, officers who wanted to secure an
heiress, and many honest folk who saw in a Fleet wedding the easiest
way of avoiding the expenses of their friends' congratulations, with
the foolish charges of music, bells, dancing, and rejoicing which often
cripple a young married couple for years. Why, the parents connived
with the girls, and when these ran away early in the morning, and came
home falling upon their knees to confess the truth, the play had been
arranged and rehearsed beforehand, and the forgiveness took the form of
money for furniture instead of for feasting. But still the parents went
about holding up their hands and calling Heaven to witness that they
could not have believed their daughter so sly and deceitful a puss.

Hither came Lord Chudleigh, heavy of heart.

The Doctor at eleven in the morning was in the full swing of his
work. Two couples of the lower class were being married in the house.
Outside, the place was beset with wedding parties, couples coming
shyly and timidly, and couples coming openly and without shame. The
touters and runners of the rival Fleet parsons were fighting, swearing,
cajoling and inviting people to stop with them, holding out offers of
cheapness, safe marriage, expedition, secrecy, and rum punch. Strangers
to London, who had never heard of Doctor Shovel's greatness, were led
away to those pretenders whose canonical orders were so doubtful. I
believe the world at large entertains contempt for all Fleet parsons as
a body (happily no longer existent), but, for my own part, while I hold
the memory of the Doctor in mingled shame and respect, I despise the
rest because he himself held them in such low esteem.

Roger, the touter, recognised his lordship, as he made his way slowly
through the mob along the side of the market.

"Good morning, my lord," he said--his face was bloody and bruised, his
tie-wig was awry, his coat was torn, so fierce had been the struggle
of the morning--"good-morning, my lord. We have not seen your lordship
this long while. Would your lordship like speech with the Doctor? He is
busy now, and six couples wait him. Warm work it is now! But I think
he will see your lordship. We should be glad to drink your lordship's
health."

The fellow made his way through the crowd, and presently returned,
saying that the Doctor was very near the benediction, after which he
would give his lordship ten minutes, but no longer, and should lose a
guinea for every minute.

The Doctor, in fact, was dismissing a pair of couples with a few words
of advice. They were respectable young city people, getting the secret
marriage for the reasons which I have already described.

"You are now," he said, "married according to the rites of holy Mother
Church. You are tied to each other for life. I hope you will thank and
continually bless my name for tying the knot this morning. Remember
what the Church charges her children in the words of the service. Go:
be honest in your dealings, thrifty in your habits, cautious in your
trusts, careful of small gains; so shall you prosper. Let the husband
avoid the tavern in the morning, and the conventicle on the Sunday; let
the wife study plain, roast, and boiled, make her own dresses, pretend
not to be a fine madam, and have no words with gallants from the west
of Temple Bar.

"If, on the other hand," he went on, knitting his brows, "the husband
spends his money in clubs, among the freemasons, and in taverns; if he
do not stick to business, if he cheat in his transactions; or if the
wife go finely dressed, and talk with pretty fellows when she ought to
be cleaning the furniture; if they both go not to church regularly and
obey the instruction of their rector, vicar, or curate--then, I say,
the fate of that couple shall be a signal example. For the husband
shall be hanged at Tyburn Tree, and the wife be flogged at Bridewell.
Go."

They bowed, being overwhelmed with the terrors of this parting
advice, and departed. Outside, they were greeted with a roar of rough
congratulation, and were followed by the shouts of the market till they
reached Fleet Bridge, where they were quickly lost in the crowd.

Then the Doctor turned to Lord Chudleigh.

"Your lordship has come, I suppose," he asked, "to inquire after the
health of her ladyship?"

"I come, Doctor Shovel," replied my lord gravely, "to know from
your own lips, before I commit the affair to counsel, how far I am
compromised by the disgraceful trick you played upon me about a year
ago."

"Your lordship is married," said the Doctor simply. "So far are you
compromised, and no further. Nay, we seek no further complication in
this business."

He sat down in his wooden arm-chair, and, with his elbow on the table,
knitted his bushy eyebrows, frowned and shook his great forefinger in
his visitor's face.

"Your lordship is married," he repeated. "Of that have no doubt; no
doubt whatever is possible. Tell your lawyer all; refer him to me."

"The story," said Lord Chudleigh, "is this. I come here, out of
curiosity, to see you--a man of whom I had heard much, though little
to your credit. I am received by you with courtesy and hospitality.
There is much drinking, and I (for which I have no defence to offer)
drink too much. I awake in the morning still half unconscious. I am
taken downstairs by you, and married, while in that condition, to some
woman I had never before seen. After this I am again put to bed. When I
awake, I am informed by you what has taken place."

"That is a story neatly told," said the Doctor. "If I had to tell it,
however, the details would assume another complexion. What brought
your lordship to spend the night in such a place as the Liberties of
the Fleet? A common parson of the Fleet? Nay, that is improbable; my
modesty forbids me to believe so incredible a circumstance. But we may
suppose an appointment for the morning; an appointment made and kept; a
secret marriage----"

"Would you dare to tell such a story as that?" Lord Chudleigh
interrupted the Doctor with vehemence. "Would you dare, sir, to hint
that I, Lord Chudleigh, had designed a Fleet marriage?"

"My lord, where a member of your family, where your father's son is
concerned, I dare a great deal, I assure you."

"And the woman--who is she? Produce me this wretch, this creature who
became an accomplice in the plot."

"All in good time. Be assured, my lord, that we shall produce her in
good time--at the right time. Also, be resigned to the inevitable.
Nothing can unmarry you now."

"I think," said his lordship, "that thou art the greatest villain in
England."

"Ta, ta, ta!" The Doctor lay back in his chair with his arms extended
and a genial laugh. "Your lordship is not complimentary. Still, I
make allowances. I cannot fight you, because I am a clergyman; you
can therefore say what you please. And I own that it certainly is a
vexatious thing for a gentleman of your rank and position to have a
wife and yet to have no wife: not to know her name and parentage.
Why, she may be in the soap-suds over the family linen in the Fleet
Liberties, or selling hot furmety on Fleet Bridge, or keeping a
farthing sausage-stall in the Fleet Market, or making the rooms for
the gentlemen in the Fleet Prison, or frying beefsteaks in Butcher
Row; or she may be picking pockets in St. Paul's Churchyard, or she
may be beating hemp in Bridewell, or she may be under the Alderman's
rod in Newgate. Nay, my lord, do not swear in this place, which is,
as one may say, a chapel-of-ease. Then her parents: your lordship's
father and mother-in-law. Roger, my touter--say--may be her parent;
or she may come of a dishonest stock in Turnmill Lane; or she may be
ignorant of father and mother, and may belong to the numerous family
of those who sleep in the baskets of Covent Garden and the ashes of
the glass-houses. I repeat, my lord, that to swear in such a place,
and before such a man, a reverend divine, is impious. Avoid the habit
of swearing altogether; but, if you must swear, let it be outside this
house."

"You will not, then, even tell me where she is, this wife of mine?"

"I will not, my lord."

"You will not even let me know the depth of my degradation?"

"My lord, I will tell you nothing. As for her ladyship, I will say not
a word. But as I have shown you the possibilities on one side, so I
would show them to you on the other. She may be the wretched creature
you fear. She may also be a gentlewoman by birth, young, beautiful,
accomplished; fit, my lord, to bear your name and to be your wife."

"No," he cried; "that is impossible. What gentlewoman would consent to
such a marriage?"

The Doctor laughed.

"There are many things in this world," he said, "that even Lord
Chudleigh cannot understand. Now, my lord, if you have nothing more to
say, you may leave me. There are already half a dozen expectant brides
upon the threshold. One would not, sure, keep the poor things waiting.
I am generally at home, my lord, in the evening, and should you feel
inclined for another social night with punch, and a song over the bowl,
your lordship will be welcome, in spite of hard words."

Lord Chudleigh answered not a word, but walked away.

Small comfort had he got from the Doctor.

Now was he in a sad plight indeed; for his heart was altogether filled
with the image of Kitty Pleydell. Yet how hope to win her? And how
stand by and let her be won by another man?

To be married in such a way, not to know who or what your wife might
be, is, surely, a thing quite beyond any history ever told.



CHAPTER X.

HOW TWO OLD FRIENDS CAME TO EPSOM.


The Doctor's letter had informed us of the liberation of Mr. Stallabras
and Sir Miles Lackington; but we were not prepared for their arrival
at Epsom. They came, however, travelling together by the coach, their
object being not so much, I believe, to visit the watering-place of
Epsom or to enjoy its amusements, as to renew certain honourable
proposals, formerly made in less happy times, to Kitty Pleydell.

Naturally, we were at first somewhat perturbed, fearing the scandal
should certain tongues spread abroad the truth as to our residence in
the Fleet.

"My dear," said Mrs. Esther, with a little sigh, "my mind is made up.
We will go to Tunbridge out of their way."

This was impossible, because they would follow us. For my own part,
I looked upon the Fleet Rules with less shame than poor Mrs. Esther.
To her, the memory of the long degradation was infinitely painful.
For everybody, certainly, a time of degradation, however unmerited,
is never a pleasant thing to remember. I think that the whole army of
martyrs must agree together in forgetting the last scenes of their
earthly pilgrimage. The buffetings, strippings, scourgings, roastings,
burnings, and hangings, the long time of prison, the starvation, the
expectancy and fear--the going forth to meet the hungry lion and the
ruthless tiger--surely it cannot be comfortable to remember these?
No martyr on the roll had ever been more innocent or undeserving of
punishment than Mrs. Esther Pimpernel: no sufferer ever complained
less: but she loved not to think of the past, nor to be reminded of it
by the arrival of one whom she had known there.

Nevertheless, when Sir Miles Lackington presented himself at our
lodging, he was received with a gracious friendliness.

His newly recovered liberty made little alteration in the appearance
of this prodigal son. His dress was worn in the same easy disorder,
the ruffles being limp, his wig tied carelessly, the lace upon his hat
torn, as if in some scuffle, and the buckles of his shoes were an odd
pair. His face preserved the same jolly content, as if the gifts of
Fortune were to be regarded no more than her buffeting.

"We are always," said my guardian, with a little hesitation, "we are
always glad to welcome old friends--even friends in common misfortune.
But, Sir Miles, it is not well to remind us--or--or to talk to others
of those unhappy days."

He laughed.

"I remember them not," he said. "I never remember any day but the
present. Why should we remember disagreeable things? Formerly we
borrowed; now we lend: let us go on lending till we have to borrow
again. Do you remember Mr. Stallabras the poet?"

Surely, we remembered Solomon.

"He goes abroad now in a silk-lined coat with lace ruffles. He has
bought a new wig and started a subscription list for a new poem, having
eaten up the last before the poem was written. I subscribed for three
copies yesterday, and we pretended, both of us, he that he did not
want the money, and I that I had always had it. Without forgetting and
pretending, where should we be?"

"Indeed," said Mrs. Esther, "one would not willingly either forget or
pretend. But some things are best remembered in silence. The memory of
them should keep us humble, Sir Miles."

"I do not wish to be humble," replied the baronet. "Humble people do
not sing and drink, nor gamble, nor make love. They go in sadness and
with hanging heads. I would still go proud."

While he was with us came Solomon himself, bravely dressed indeed, with
about an ell of ribbon tied around his throat, a new and fashionable
wig, and bearing himself with all the dignity possible in a poet of
five-feet-three. His chin was in the air and his hat under his arm
when he marched into the little room.

I shook hands with him, and whispered to him not to mention the word
Fleet. Thereupon he advanced to Mrs. Esther with such a bow as would
have graced a court, saying--

"Madam, I have had the honour of being presented to you in London, but
I know not if I am still distinguished by your recollection."

"Sir," said Mrs. Esther, "that person must indeed be blind to merit who
can forget Mr. Stallabras, the favourite of the Muses."

"O madam! this compliment----"

"O sir! our hearts are not so insensible as to forget those delightful
verses, which should be the glory of an unthinking age."

I asked him then if he had received a bequest.

"I have found what is better," he said, "a female Mæcenas. The virtues
of antiquity linger only in the breasts of the fair. She is a person
of singularly cold and calm judgment. Despréaux himself had not a
cooler head or a sounder critical faculty. Therefore, when such a
lady prophesies immortal renown to a poet, that poet may congratulate
himself. I am poet laureate to Lady Tamarind, relict of Sir Joseph
Tamarind, brewer and sometime sheriff in the City of London. Her
ladyship's taste is considered infallible in all subjects, whether
china, tulips, plays, pictures, fans, snuff-boxes, black boys, or
poets."

His eyes twinkled so brightly, his turn-up nose seemed so joyfully to
sniff the incense of praise, prosperity had already made his cheeks so
sleek and fat, that we could hardly recognise our starveling poet.

"The taste," said Mrs. Esther, "of a woman who recognises the merit of
your verses, Mr. Stallabras, is beyond a doubt."

He rubbed his hands and laughed.

"I was already out--" he began, but as we all manifested the greatest
confusion at the beginning of this confession, he stopped and turned
red. "I mean I was--I was----"

"You were beginning, I think," I interrupted, "to open a new
subscription."

"Thank you, Miss Kitty," he replied. "I was--as soon as I left the
Ru--I mean, as soon as I could, I went round among my patrons with my
project. This lady immediately bought all my previous poems, including
the translation of 'Lucretius,' which the rascal publisher declared had
been his ruin, when he went bankrupt, and presented me with a hundred
guineas, with which I was enabled"--here he surveyed his person with
satisfaction, and raised one leg to get a better view of his stockings
and shoe-buckles--"I was enabled to procure garments more suitable to a
personage of ambition, and to present myself to the honourable company
assembled at Epsom on a footing of easy equality."

"But a hundred guineas will not last for ever," I said, thinking of the
sums of money which I had already spent on frocks and ribbons since we
came from London.

"That is not all," he said; "I have my new volume of poems, which has
been subscribed by Lady Tamarind and her friends. This is a change,
is it not, Miss Kitty? Formerly, when I was in the Ru--I mean, before
my good fortune came--a sixpenny ordinary was beyond me: I have lived
upon half-a-crown for a week: I have written lines on a 'Christian's
Joys' when starving: and I have composed the 'Lamentations of a Sinner'
when contemplating suicide as the only relief from my troubles.
Now--now--how different! Fortune's wheel has turned--Fame is mine. And
as for poems, I can write as many as I please to give the world, and
always find a subscription list ready to my hand. This brain, Miss
Kitty, like the Fountain of Helicon, will run for ever: that is, while
life and Lady Tamarind remain."

"The stream may get muddy sometimes," said Sir Miles, with a smile.

Fate, which condemns poets to poverty, also compensates them with hope.
If they are in present sunshine, it will last for ever: if in cold
neglect, the future will give what the past has refused: posterity
will continue to wave the censing-pot and send up wreaths of spicy
smoke, a continual flow, grateful to the blessed Spirit above: so that,
fortunate or in neglect, they dwell in a perpetual dream, which keeps
them ever happy.

Then the sanguine bard drew forth his new subscription list.

"I call it," he said, "by the modest title of a 'Project for the
Publication of a New Collection of Odes and Heroic Pieces,' by Solomon
Stallabras, Esquire. I am aware that my birth gives no warrant for the
assumption of the rank of Esquire, but Lady Tamarind is good enough
to say that the possession of genius lifts a man to the level of the
gentry, if not the nobility of the country."

"It does, Solomon; it does," said Sir Miles.

"I venture, ladies, therefore," he said, taking a pencil from his
pocket, "to solicit your honoured names as subscribers for this poor
effort of a (perhaps) too ambitious brain. The poems, when completed,
will be printed in royal quarto, with the portrait of the author as he
appears crowned by Fame, while the Graces (draped for the occasion in
the modern taste) stand behind him: Cupid will raise aloft the trumpet
of Fame: the Muses will be seen admiring from a gentle eminence which
represents Parnassus: Apollo will be figured presenting the poet with
his own lyre, and the sacred stream will flow at his feet--my own
design. In the distance the skin of Marsyas will hang upon a tree, as a
warning to the presumption of rivals. The work will be bound in calf,
and will be issued at the price of two guineas. For that small sum,
ladies, Solomon Stallabras offers a copy of his poems."

"O Mr. Stallabras!" cried Mrs. Esther, "for so charming a picture I
would give not two but twenty guineas, to say nothing of the poems.
Go on, dear sir; raise our thoughts to virtue, and strengthen our
inclinations in the path of duty. Poets, indeed, make the way to heaven
a path of roses."

Now here was a change from old times! Solomon flourishing a
subscription list in lace and silk, and Mrs. Esther offering guineas
by the dozen! Sir Miles, who was leaning by the window just as he had
been wont to do in our poor lodging, nodded and laughed, unseen by Mrs.
Esther.

"Permit me, sir," she said, "if you will be so good, to put my name
down for----"

"O madam!"

The poet bowed low and brandished his pencil.

"For ten copies of this immortal work, in one of which I would ask you
to write your name, in your own hand, for the enrichment of the volume
and the admiration of posterity."

"Madam," said Solomon, with emotion, "I will write my name in the whole
ten."

"And, dear sir, one copy for Miss Kitty."

"Such generosity! such princessly, noble patronage of the Poetical
Art!" he fairly chuckled as he wrote down the names. "Eleven copies!
Twenty-two guineas! This is indeed to realise fame."

He received the money, which Mrs. Esther paid him with a countenance
all smiles, although he vainly tried to throw into his expression the
pride of the poet, to whom money is but filthy lucre.

We then conversed on Epsom and its beauties, and as the gentlemen had
as yet seen none of them, I proposed to lead them to the Downs, whence
I promised them such a landscape as should infinitely rejoice their
eyes. They accepted with expressions of gratitude, and we started.
When, however, we came to the doors of the Spread Eagle, Sir Miles
recollected that at twelve he always took a tankard of cool October for
the good of his health. He therefore left us, promising to follow. But
as he did not come, and we saw him no more that day, I suppose he found
the society of the tankard more enchanting than that of Kitty Pleydell.
We therefore walked up the hill alone, and presently stood upon the
open down, which commands so noble a view. The place was quite deserted
that day, save for a single group of gentlemen, who were conducting a
match, but so far off that we heard not their voices.

I took advantage of this solitude to convey to the poet an instruction
that it would be better not to talk freely at Epsom concerning such
vicissitudes of fortune as we had experienced. I pointed out to him
that until Mrs. Esther's position was securely fixed it might do her
injury to have her story garbled by censorious tongues; that, for his
own sake, his late connection with the Liberties of the Fleet would
be better concealed; and that, for myself, although it mattered less,
because I was never a prisoner while yet an inmate of the Rules, I did
not wish my story, such as it was, to be passed about the Wells, and
mangled in the telling.

Mr. Stallabras declared stoutly that he would not for worlds reveal one
word about the past--for my sake.

"Nay," I said, "not for mine, but for the sake of that dear lady to
whom you owe so much."

"It is true," he said; "I owe her even life. She hath fed me from her
slender stores when I was starving. And when no one would even read my
verses she would learn them by heart and repeat them with tears. For
her sake, then, if not for yours."

Then his face assumed an expression like unto that with which he had
once before made me an offer of his hand, and I knew that he was going
to do it again. If such a thing is going to be done, the sooner it is
over the better. Therefore I waited with calmness, hoping that the
paroxysm would be short and not violent.

"Miss Kitty," he began, turning very red, "some time ago I was
penniless, almost starving, and detained in the (absurdly called)
Liberties of the Fleet for the amount of forty pounds sixteen shillings
and eightpence--a sum so small that it made me blush to confess it,
most of my friends in the same place being incarcerated for substantial
sums of hundreds and even thousands. In this difficult position, which
required the philosophy of a Stoic to endure with resignation, I had
the temerity to offer my hand to the most beautiful woman in the world.
I have often, since, wondered at my own audacity and her gentleness
while she refused so presumptuous a proposal."

"Indeed, Mr. Stallabras," I said, "you conferred great honour upon me."

He bowed.

"The position of affairs," he went on, "is now changed. The poet's
brows are crowned with bays by the hand of a lady as skilled in poets
as she is in pug-dogs; his pockets are lined with guineas; as for the
Fleet Rules--I whistle the memory of the place to the winds. Phew! it
is gone, never to return: I see before me a long and great future,
when booksellers will compete for the honour of publishing me, and
the greatest lords and ladies in the land will rush to subscribe for
copies. Like Shakespeare, I shall amass a fortune: like Prior, I shall
receive offers of embassies: like Addison and Chaucer, I shall be
placed in posts of honour and profit."

"I hope, Mr. Stallabras," I said, "that such will indeed be your
future."

"Do you really hope so, Miss Kitty?" His face flushed again, and I was
quite sorry for him, knowing the pain I was about to inflict upon him.
"Do you hope so? Then that emboldens me to say--Fairest of your sex,
divine nymph, accept the homage of a poet: be celebrated for ever in
his immortal verse. Be my Laura! Let me be thy Petrarch!"

"I will," I replied. "I accept that offer joyfully. I will be to you
what Laura was to Petrarch, if that will content you."

I gave him my hand, which he seized with rapture.

"Oh, beautiful Kitty!" he cried, with such joy in his eyes that I
repented having said so much, "fortune has now bestowed upon me all I
ask. When, goddess, wilt thou crown my happiness!"

"It is already crowned," I replied. "I have given you, Mr. Stallabras,
all you asked for. Let me remind you that you yourself told me the
story of Petrarch's love. I will be your Laura, but I must have the
liberty of doing what Laura did--namely, the right to marry some one
else."

His face fell.

"Oh!" he murmured. "Why did I not say Heloïse?"

"Because she was shut up in a convent. Come, Mr. Stallabras, let us
remain friends, which is far better for both of us, and less trying
to the temper than being lovers. And I will help you with your
subscription-book. As for being married, you would tire of me in a
week."

Upon this he fell to protesting that it was impossible for any man to
tire of such a paragon among women, and I dare say the poor deluded
creature really meant what he said, because men in love are blind.
When this failed to move me, he lamented his ill-fortune in having
placed his hopes upon the heart of a beautiful statue as cold as Dian.
Nor was it until he had prophesied death to himself and prayed for
ruin and loss of his fame, both of which, he said, were now useless,
or comparatively useless to him, that I succeeded in making him, to
a certain extent, reasonable, and calming his anger. He really had
thought that so grand an offer of marriage with a poet, whom he placed
on about the same level with Homer, would tempt any woman. According
to some detractors of the fair sex, every woman believes that every
man must fall in love with her: but I am sure that there is no man who
does not believe that he is irresistible when once he begins to show a
preference or an inclination.

I then persuaded him, with honeyed words, to believe in my sorrow that
I was not able to accept his proposals; and I added that as he had by
this time sufficiently admired the beauties of the landscape, we might
return to the town, when I should have the honour of presenting him to
some of the better sort among the visitors.

He came down the hill with me, sighing after the manner of poets in
love, and panting a little, because he was fat and short of breath, and
I walked fast.

We found the Terrace crowded with people congregated for the morning
talk; the breakfasts being all eaten, the tea-drinking over, morning
prayers finished, and the music playing merrily.

I presented the poet to Lady Levett as an ingenious gentleman whose
verses, known all over town, were doubtless already well known to her
ladyship. She had not the hardness of heart to deny knowledge of the
poet, and gave him a kindly welcome to Epsom, where, she said, she had
no doubt whatever but that he would meet with the reception due to
qualities of such distinction.

Then I ventured to suggest that Mr. Stallabras was receiving names for
a subscription edition of his new poems. Lady Levett added hers, and
begged the poet to visit her at her lodging, where she would discharge
her debt.

In the course of an hour I presented Stallabras to young Lord
Eardesley, Harry Temple, and half the gentlemen at the Wells, asking
of each a subscription to the poems, so that the fortunate poet found
himself some fifty guineas the richer by his morning's work.

"Miss Kitty," he said humbly, "I knew not, indeed, that you were so
great a lady. The 'Queen of the Wells,' I am told. Not but all who know
your worth and kindness must rejoice at this signal triumph. I now
plainly see why I must be content with the lot of Petrarch."

Once launched in society, the poet became quickly a kind of celebrity.
Just as, in some years, a watering-place would boast of having among
its visitors such famous men as Dr. Johnson, Mr. Garrick, or Mr.
Richardson, so now it pointed to Mr. Stallabras, and said to strangers,
"See! The great Mr. Stallabras! The illustrious poet!"

He, like all men born in London, was equal to the opportunity, and rose
on the wave of fashion; his subscription-list kept mounting up; he
sent his poems to the press; he received proofs and read them beneath
the portico, which he compared to the columns where the Roman poets
had been accustomed to read their compositions. We gathered round
and listened; we cried, with our handkerchiefs to our eyes: "O Mr.
Stallabras, how fine! how wondrous pathetic! how just!" Then would he
bow and twist, and wave his hand, and wag his head.

He became an oracle, and, like all oracles in the matter of taste, he
quickly learned to give the law. He affected to understand pictures,
and talked about the "brio" of one painter, and the "three-lights" rule
of another; he was very sarcastic in the matter of poetry, and would
allow but two good poets in the century--himself and Mr. Alexander
Pope; in the region of romance he would allow little credit to
Fielding, but claimed immortality for Richardson.

"Oh, sir, pardon me," he said to one who attributed the greater merit
to the former writer. "Pardon me. The characters and the situations of
Fielding are so wretchedly low and dirty that I cannot imagine any one
being interested in them. There is, I admit, some strength of humour in
him, but he hath over-written himself. I doubt he is a strong hulking
sort of man."

"But, sir," said Lady Levett, "we ladies like men to be strong and
hearty as becomes a man. You surely do not mean that every big man must
have low tastes."

"The mind and the body are united," said the little poet, "they
influence one another. Thus, in a weak frame we find delicacy, and in
a strong frame, bluntness. Softness and tenderness of mind are often
remarkable in a body possessed of the same qualities. Tom Jones could
get drunk on the night of his uncle's recovery--no doubt Mr. Fielding
would manifest his joy in the same manner."

He went on to assure us that Lady Bellaston was an intimate friend of
Mr. Fielding's; that Booth was himself; Tom Jones, again, himself;
Amelia his first wife; his brawls, gaols, sponging-houses, and quarrels
all drawn from his own personal experience.

"He who associates with low companions, ladies," concluded the
ex-prisoner of the Fleet, "must needs himself be low. Taste consorts
only with tasteful persons."

"Should not a lady be beautiful, Mr. Stallabras?" asked a bystander. "I
always supposed so, but since a man is not to be strong, perhaps I was
wrong."

"Sir!" Mr. Stallabras drew himself up to his fall height, and his
fingers closed upon the roll of proof-sheets as if it had been a
sword-hilt. "Sir! all ladies--who have taste--are beautiful. I am
ready to be the champion of the sex. Some are more beautiful than
others,"--here he raised his eyes to me and sighed. "Some flowers are
more beautiful than others. The man of taste loves to let his eyes rest
on such a pleasing object,"--here two young gentlemen winked at each
other--"she is a credit to her sex. When goodness is joined to such
beauty, as is the case with----" Here he looked at me and hesitated.

"Oh!" cried Nancy, "say with _me_, Mr. Stallabras, or Miss Peggy
Baker."

"May I say Miss Pleydell?" he asked, with a comprehensive smile.
"There, indeed, is all Clarissa, and the heart of sensibility, in
contemplating her perfections, reverts to the scenes of our divine
Richardson."



CHAPTER XI.

HOW SIR MILES RENEWED HIS OFFER.


Thus did I get rid of one suitor, knowing that there were still two
more in the field, and anxious about my lord's absence, which, I
doubted not, was concerned in some way with me. Heavens! if he should
find out the secret! If the Doctor should communicate to him the thing
which I desired to tell at my own time and place.

The Evil One, at this juncture, suggested a temptation of his own.

Suppose a message, which my lord could trust, were to reach him,
stating that there would be no attempt to follow up the so-called
marriage in the Rules, that he could go his own way, unmolested; that
the very certificate and the leaf of the register containing the proof
of the marriage would be restored to him--how would that be?

Yet, what sort of happiness could a wife expect who every day had to
fear the chance of detection and exposure? Some time or other he would
learn that I was the niece of the man who had dealt him this blow; some
day he would learn the whole story. Why, there was not only the Doctor,
but his man Roger, the villain with the pale face, the scarred cheeks,
and the red nose. If the Doctor were dead, what would prevent such a
man from telling the story abroad and proclaiming it to all comers?

For poor Kitty there was only one course open; she must work her way
to happiness through shame and confession. Yet with all the shame and
confession there was no certainty that the happiness would follow.
A man vehemently loves and desires a woman, but a woman vehemently
desires the love and desire of a man. I desired, with all my strength
and with all my might, the affections of my lord. His image, his idea,
were with me always. For me there was no other man in the world.

But first I had to deal with my present suitors.

Solomon dismissed, and made happy with praises and guineas (a poet is a
creature whose vanity seems always to outweigh all other qualities), I
had next to reckon with Sir Miles, who was more reasonable and yet more
persistent.

I knew that he had come to Epsom on purpose to seek me out. That was
borne in upon me with a force not to be resisted. He always did me
the honour of showing me a preference when we lived under the same
roof, and when he would lie in wait for me at the foot of the sanded
stairs. And, of course, I liked him. He was good-natured, he had the
_air noble_; he would not, certainly, beat his wife or treat her
unkindly, although he would probably spend all the money in drink and
play. And whether he was rich or poor, in the Rules or in the Prison,
or wandering free, he would still be the same easy, careless creature,
happy in the sunshine, happier by candlelight over a bowl of punch.

On the Terrace, where we met him in the afternoon, he was the same,
save that his clothes were newer, as when, just as he lounged now
beneath the trees, he had then lounged among the bulkheads and stalls
of the market, till evening came with the joys of the day. Always with
the carriage of a gentleman. Most of the beaux of Epsom were such
gentlemen as claim the title of Esquire by right of their profession as
attorneys, barristers, officers, nabobs, rich merchants, and the like.
As for their manners, they were easy so long as they were natural, and
then they were somewhat barbarous; when they endeavoured to assume the
manners of such as Lord Chudleigh, they were awkward. As for the young
fellows from the country estates, they were always clowns; they came
clowns to the Wells; they put on fine clothes; laughed and grimaced;
lost their money at horse-racing and lansquenet, and went home clowns.
But Sir Miles was always, even when drunk, a gentleman.

I suppose he had the impudence, at first, to suppose that I was going
to seek him out and distinguish him before all the company with my
particular regard. When he discovered that it was difficult to get
speech with the Queen of the Wells unless you joined her court, he came
along with the rest, and was speedily as ready with his compliment,
his innuendo, his jest, and his anecdote. He was more ready than most,
because he had seen the great world in his youth, and had caught their
manner. The general run of gallants were, it seemed to me, afraid of
him. To be sure, he was a big, strong man, could have crunched two
or three of the slender beaux between his arms; yet he was the most
kind-hearted fellow in the world.

Three days after his arrival, Lord Chudleigh having then been away for
a week, and I beginning to wonder what business kept him so long from
the apron strings of Kitty, he invited me to go with him to the Downs
to see a match. I would go with him, though well I knew what he meant;
and, of course, when we got to the Downs, the match was over and the
people going home.

"Egad, Miss Kitty," he said, "there is always such a plaguy crowd
after your ladyship's heels, that a man gets never a chance of a word
with you, save edgeways with the pretty little beaux. Well, I have
told Solomon to go to the house and take care of Mrs. Esther. There
they are, cheek by jowl, and her handkerchief up to her eyes over his
sentimental poetry. You and I can have a talk to ourselves. It is only
a quarter of a mile from here to your lodging, but, if you like to come
with me by way of the old well and Banstead, we can make it half a
mile."

"Thank you, Sir Miles," I said; "I am not anxious to double that
quarter of a mile. Consider, if you please, that I have to get home,
dine, and dress for the day."

"Very good. Have it your own way. That, to be sure, you always will
have. I think, for my part, that you never looked so nice as when
you wore your hair in curls, and a holland frock. Miss Kitty, do you
remember a certain day when a baronet, out at elbows, offered you his
hand--with nothing in it?"

"I remember it perfectly." I laughed at the recollection. "And oh, Sir
Miles, to think of how you looked when you made that condescending
proposal. It was after a most disgraceful evening--you best know where.
You had been brought home singing. Your neck-ribbon was untied, your
wig awry, your hand shaky, your cheeks red, and in your left hand a
brown mug full of old October. What a suitor!"

"Yes," he replied, laughing, without the least appearance of being
offended by my picture. "When in the Rules, I behaved according to the
custom of the place. I am no longer in the Rules, but at the Wells. I
remember that tankard. Considering that the day is sultry, I wish I had
one in my hand this very moment."

"I am sure, Sir Miles, that your conduct under these happier
circumstances will reflect greater credit upon you."

"Happier circumstances?" he said. "Well, I suppose so. In the Fleet I
could borrow of my cousins a guinea a week or thereabout; yet borrowing
is uncertain and undignified: the manner of living was cheap, but
it was rude. Drink there was--more than one had a right to expect;
drink was plentiful, but only the Doctor got good punch; no morals
were expected of a Fleet Rules Christian. I know not that things are
happier now than then. However, you might think so. Girls never have
any philosophy. I have come into a small estate of six hundred pounds a
year. It is not so much, by five times six hundred, as what I started
with; still, with six hundred a year, one can live. Do you not think
so?"

"It seems to me a very handsome provision," I replied, thinking that
Mrs. Esther had about the same.

"Yes, it will do."

He fanned his face with his hat, and begged me to sit down on the grass
and listen to him for a moment. Men, even the most careless, like Sir
Miles, have a way of becoming suddenly solemn when they ask a woman
to become their wife. I know not whether their gravity springs from
a sense of their own great worth, or from a feeling of unworthiness;
whether it is a compliment to the woman they woo, or to themselves. Or
it may be a confession of the holiness of the state of matrimony, which
one would fain hope to be the case.

Sir Miles then, blushing and confused, offered me, for the second time,
his hand.

"You see," he said, "the right hand doth no longer shake, nor doth the
left hand hold a pot of October. I no longer am carried home at night."
He sighed, as if the reminiscence of past times was pleasing but
saddening. "I am not any more the man that once I was. Will you, sweet
Kitty--will you be Lady Lackington?"

"I cannot," I said.

"There is an income of six hundred pounds a year," he went on.
"I believe there is a small house somewhere; we could live in it
rent-free. You were always fond of hens and pigs, and milk, flowers,
apples, and all these things. I will keep two hundred pounds for
myself, and give you four. With two hundred I shall have to manage,
once a week or so, a little hazard, or a trifling lansquenet."

"What?" I asked. "Marry a gamester?"

"What matter as to that, when he will settle his money on his wife?
Think of it, Kitty. I am a baronet, though a poor one, and of as good a
family as any in Norfolk. Why the Lackingtons, as everybody knows, were
on their lands before the Conqueror."

"And if it is not enough to be a gamester, you are also--O Sir Miles!
the shame of it----"

"We gentlemen of Norfolk," he replied, without any appearance of
shame, "are honest topers all. I deny it not. Yet what matters such a
trifle in the habits of a man? Did any gentlemen in the county drink
harder than my father? Yet he was hale and tough at sixty, and would
have lived to eighty but for a fall he got riding home one night after
dinner, having a cask, or thereabouts, of port inside him, by reason of
which he mistook an open quarry for the lane which should have led him
home, and therefore broke his neck."

"So that, if his wife loved him, as no doubt she did, it was the drink
that robbed her of a husband. Your tale hath a useful moral, Sir Miles."

"Come, pretty Puritan, look at me. I am twenty-nine--in my thirtieth
year; strong and hearty, if I do get drunk of an evening. What then? Do
you want to talk to your husband all night? Better know that he is safe
asleep, and likely to remain asleep till the drink is gone out of his
head."

"Oh, the delights of wedlock! To have your husband brought home every
night by four stout fellows!"

"Evening drink hurts no man. Have I a bottle nose? Do my hands shake?
Are my cheeks fat and pale? Look at me, Kitty." He held out his arms
and laughed.

"Yes, Sir Miles," I replied; "I think you are a very lusty fellow, and,
in a wrestling-bout, I should think few could stand against you. But as
a husband, for the reasons I have stated, I say--No!"

"Take the four hundred, Kitty, and make me happy. I love thee, my girl,
with all my heart."

"Sir Miles, I cannot do it honestly. Perhaps I wish I could."

"You won't?" He looked me full in the face. "I see you won't. You have
such a telltale, straightforward face, Kitty, that it proclaims the
truth always. I believe you are truth itself. They pulled you out of
a well, down in your country place, in a bucket, and then went about
saying you had been born."

"Thank you, Sir Miles."

"Am I, therefore, to go hang myself in my garters, or yours, if you
will give them to me?"

"If you do, I shall be the first to run and cut you down."

"Sweet it were," he murmured, "to be even cut down by your fair hand.
If one was sure that you would come in time----"

"You will be reasonable, dear sir, and you will neither say nor do
anything silly."

"I do not suppose I shall pine away in despair; nor shall I hang my
head; nor shall I go about saying that there are as good fish in the
sea as ever came out of it, because, when we fished you, we fished
the best. And I swear. Kitty"--here he did swear after men's profane
way, but he needed not to have sworn so loudly or so long--"that truly,
sweet Kitty, thou art the fairest, the loveliest, and the best fish
that ever came out of any sea--a bewitching mermaid! I wish thee a good
husband.

   "On Stella's lap he laid his head,
      And, looking in her eyes,
    He cried, 'Remember, when I'm dead,
      That I deserved the prize.'"

"Thank you, Sir Miles. A shorter and a less profane oath would surely
have better graced the subject."

"It cannot be graced too much," he said, as if to swear lustily was to
confer honour upon the woman he thought to love. "For your sake, Kitty,
I would ever forswear punch, tobacco, and strong waters; drink nothing
but October; and never get drunk save on Saturday nights: for your sake
would I go live in the country among the cocks and the hens, the ducks
and the pigs; for you would I go religiously to church every Sunday
at forenoon, and expect the parson for the beef and pudding after the
sermon; for your sake would I gamble no more, save once in a way when
quarter-day brought in the rents."

"That would be a mighty reformation indeed, Sir Miles."

"Now, however, since you will not have me, I shall play with four
hundred a year out of the six. But I will be careful, all the same: I
shall punt low, and never lose more than a guinea a night."

Thus I was rid of my second suitor. Sir Miles ceased to attend the
count of followers who attended on the Terrace, but sat all day in the
card-room, playing. From time to time he met and saluted me.

"Be not afraid," he would say, "on my behalf. The card-tables are
more pleasant than the air under the trees, and I think the players
are better company than your priggish popinjays. As for my habits,
fair Kitty, pattern of virtue, they have become virtuous. I am never
drunk--well, not often--and you have brought me luck. I have won five
hundred guineas from a nabob. Think of the joy, when he pays me, of
losing it all again!"



CHAPTER XII.

HOW HARRY TEMPLE PROVED HIS VALOUR.


Thus were poet and baronet reduced to submission. The third suitor was
harder to manage, because he turned sulky. Sportsmen have said that a
fish, or a bird, or a fox, when he sulks, is then most difficult to
secure. Thus, to be captured or cajoled, the victim must be in a good
temper.

Now Harry Temple went in gloomy indignation, as was visible to all
eyes. He walked alone upon the Terrace, or sat alone in the Assembly
Room, a Killjoy to behold. That would not have mattered, because no
girl feels much sorrow for a man who foolishly sulks because he cannot
marry her; but everybody knew, or thought they knew, the cause of his
heavy looks. Peggy Baker said I had thrown him over for the sake of a
lord, who, she added kindly, would certainly throw me over in turn.
Some of the company cried shame on the flinty-hearted woman who could
let so pretty a fellow go love-sick.

"Kitty," his melancholy seemed to say, "you left us a simple country
girl: you would have been proud of my addresses had you understood my
meaning"--this was quite true: "you are now a woman of fashion, and you
have ambition: your head is turned with flattery: you aspire to nothing
short of a coronet. In those days you were satisfied with the approval
of your looking-glass and your conscience: now you would draw all men
to your heels, and are not happy unless you make them all miserable."
But that was not true at all; I did not wish to make men miserable; and
it was nothing to me whether they were miserable or happy. I thought of
one man only, as is natural to a woman in love.

"If," I said to him one day, being tired by such exhibition of temper,
"if you do not like the place, why make yourself unhappy by staying
here? Cambridge, methinks, would be a more fitting abode for you, where
there are books and scholars; not a watering-place, where people come
together to amuse themselves and be merry."

"I shall stay here," he replied, "until I find there is no hope for me."

"Oh, silly Harry!" I said; "is there no other woman in the world who
will make you happy, except poor Kitty Pleydell?"

"No--none," he shook his melancholy wig, the tie at the back of his
head wagging sorrowfully.

How was it possible to have any sympathy with so rueful a lover? Why,
it made one ridiculous. Everybody said that Harry Temple was in love
with me, that I, for the worst of motives, viz., to catch a coronet,
refused him, and that he was an excellent match, especially for one who
was nothing better than a country parson's daughter.

"I believe only a curate, my dear," Peggy Baker would say. "No doubt
she lived on bacon fat and oatmeal, and knitted her own stockings. And
yet she refuses Harry Temple, a pretty fellow, though studious, and a
man whom any of us, gentlewomen born, would be glad to encourage."

"Oh!" I said to him, "why do you not go? Why do you look reproaches on
me?"

"Because," he replied, "I still love you, unworthy as you are."

"Unworthy? Mr. Temple, methinks that a little civility----"

"Yes, unworthy. I say that a girl who throws over her oldest friends
with the almost avowed intention of securing a title, without knowing
anything of the character of the man who bears it----"

"This is too much!" I said. "First, sir, let me know what there is
against Lord Chudleigh's character. Tell me, upon your word, sir, do
you know anything at all? Is he not a man of principle and honour?"

"I know nothing against him. I dare say that he is what you think."

"Well, sir; and, in the next place, how dare you accuse me of
deliberately trying to attract my lord? Do you know me so well as to
read my soul? Do you know me so well as to be justified to yourself
when you attribute such a motive to me?"

"What other motive can I attribute to you?" he asked bitterly. "Is he
not a peer? Is he not rich?"

"O Harry!" I cried, "you will drive me mad between you. Cannot a peer
be a good man? Cannot a girl--I say--may not a girl--Harry, you force
me to say it--is it not possible for a girl to fall in love with a man
who is even a peer and a rich man? Go sir! you have humbled me, and
made me say words of which I am ashamed. Go, if you please, and tell
all the world what I have said."

Then he fell to asking my forgiveness. He was, he said, wretched
indeed: he had long lost my love.

"Man!" I said, "you never had it!"--and now he was like to lose my
friendship.

This talk about friendship between a man and woman when both are young
seems to me a mighty foolish thing. For if the woman is in love with
some one else her friendship is, to be sure, worth just nothing at all,
because she must needs be for ever thinking of the man she loves. There
is but one man in all the world for her, and that man not he who would
fain be her friend. Therefore she gives not a thought to him. Now if a
man be in love with one woman and "in friendship" with another, I think
that either his love for one must be a poor lukewarm passion, which I,
for one, would not be anxious to receive, or his friendship for the
other must be a chilly sort of thing.

However, one must not be angry for ever: Harry Temple had made me say a
thing which I could not have said to any woman--not even Nancy--and was
ashamed of having said: yet when he begged forgiveness I accorded it to
him. Harry, I was sure, would not repeat what I had said.

Somebody about this time wrote another of those little worthless
epigrams or poems, and handed it about:

   "Kitty, a fair Dissenter grown,
      Sad pattern doth afford:
    The Temple's laws she will not own,
      Yet still doth love her Lord."

"Do not be angry, Kitty," said Nancy. "This is the penalty of
greatness. What would Peggy Baker give to be lampooned? Harry is a
fool, my dear. Any woman could tell, with half an eye, that you are not
the least in love with him. What are the eyes of men like? Are they so
blinded by vanity as not to be able to see, without being told, when
they are disagreeable objects for a woman's contemplation?"

"I condole with you, Miss Pleydell," said Peggy Baker. "To be the
victim of an irreligious and even impious epigram must be truly
distressing to one, like yourself, brought up in the bosom of the
Church."

"Thank you, dear Miss Peggy," I replied, returning her smiling
courtesy. "The epigram's wound is easily healed. Is it true that you
are yourself the author?"

"O Lord, no!" she replied. "I am but a poor poet, and could not for the
world write or say anything to wound another woman's feelings."

"She would not, indeed, dear Kitty," cried Nancy, who was with me. "It
is not true--though you may hear it so stated--that Miss Peggy said
yesterday on the Parade that your father was only a curate, and that
you made your own stockings. She is the kindest and most generous of
women. We think so, truly, dear Miss Peggy. We would willingly, if we
could, send you half-a-dozen or so of our swains to swell your train.
But they will not leave us."

Was there ever so saucy a girl?

Miss Peggy bit her lips, and I think she would have liked to box
Nancy's ears there and then, had she dared. But a few gentlemen were
standing round us, laughing at Nancy's sally. So she refrained.

"O Miss Nancy!" she replied, trying to laugh, "you are indeed kind. But
I love not the attentions of men at second-hand. You are welcome to all
my cast-off lovers. Pray, Miss Pleydell, may I ask when we may expect
his lordship back again?"

"I do not know," I replied. "Lord Chudleigh does not send me letters as
to his movements or intentions."

"I said so," she replied, triumphant for the moment. "I said so this
morning at the book-shop, when they were asking each other what news
of Lord Chudleigh. Some said Miss Pleydell would surely know: I said
that I did not think there was anything between his lordship and Miss
Pleydell: and I ventured to predict that you knew no more about his
movements than myself."

"Indeed," said Nancy, coming to my assistance. "I should have thought
you were likely to know more than Kitty."

"Indeed, why?"

"Because," said Nancy, laughing, "his lordship, who is, I believe, one
of your cast-off lovers, might perhaps have written to you for old
acquaintance' sake."

Miss Peggy had no reason for loving me, who had dethroned her, but she
had reason for hating Nancy, who always delighted in bringing her to
open shame.

"What have I done to you, Miss Levett?" she asked her once, when they
were alone. "You are not the reigning Toast: I am not jealous of you:
you have done no harm to me, nor I to you. Yet you delight in saying
the most ill-natured things."

"You have done nothing to me, Miss Peggy," Nancy told her. "But you
have done a great deal to my poor Kitty, who is innocence itself. You
have slandered her: you have traduced her family, which everybody knows
is as good as your own, though her father was a country clergyman and
a younger son: you have denied her beauty: you have written anonymous
letters to her, calumniating a young nobleman who, I verily believe,
is a paragon of peers. No doubt, too, you have written letters to him
calumniating her character. Truly, with the best intentions, you could
not do much to hurt her, for my Kitty is above suspicion."

"Very well, miss," said Miss Peggy; "very well: we understand each
other. As for your charges about anonymous letters----"

"We keep them all," said Nancy; "and with them a letter written and
signed by yourself. And I think I shall show the letters about on the
Terrace."

"If you dare----" but here she checked herself, though in a great rage.
"You will do as you please, Miss Levett. I shall know, some day, how to
revenge myself for your insults. As for your curate's girl, I warrant
her innocence and her being 'above suspicion'--indeed!--to be pretty
hypocrisy and pretence. As if any woman was above suspicion!"

"Oh!" said Nancy, as a parting shot, "nobody, I assure you, ever
thought Miss Peggy Baker or any of her friends above suspicion. Let us
do you, dear miss, so much justice. You shall not find us ungrateful or
unmindful of the benefits you have conferred, or are about to confer,
upon us. Malice and spite, when they are impotent, are amusing, like
the tricks of a monkey in a cage, or a bear dancing at a stake."

Such angry passions as these disturbed the peaceful atmosphere of the
Wells. What use was it for Mr. Nash of Bath, to deprive the gentlemen
of their swords when he left the ladies their tongues? "The tongue can
no man tame: it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison."

The accident which followed, a day or two after this, may or may not
have been instigated by an enemy. Nancy always declared it was, but
then she may have been prejudiced, and we never got at the truth.

Every Friday or Saturday there came down from London a coach full of
gentlemen from the City or the Inns of Court, to spend two or three
days at the Wells. These were our most noisy visitors: they pushed
into the coteries, and endeavoured to form parts of the trains of
the beauties in vogue: they drank too much wine: gambled fiercely
for small sums; and turned the quiet decorum of the assembly into a
babel of riot, noise, loud laughter, coarse jokes, and ill-breeding.
The Sunday was thus spoiled: those of us who loved quiet stayed, for
the most part, at home when we were not in church, or wandered on the
quiet Downs, where we were undisturbed. Solomon Stallabras attended us
on these occasions, and we turned our conversation on grave matters.
I exhorted him, for instance, to direct his splendid genius to the
creation of a sacred epic, which should be to the eighteenth century
what Milton's "Paradise Lost" was to the seventeenth. He promised to
think of it, and we talked over various plans. The Deluge, St. Paul,
the Apocalypse, were discussed in turn; for my own part, I thought
that the Book of Revelation would prove a subject too sublime for
our poet's strength, and recommended, as a fitter subject for his
easy and graceful verses, the life and travels of St. Paul. In these
considerations we forgot, for awhile, the calumnies of our enemy, and
each put aside, for a time, his own private anxieties.

One Saturday evening, while Lord Chudleigh was still away, a noisier
party than usual were in the Assembly Rooms, and although there was
no dancing, the talk and quarrelling of the gamblers were incessant,
while lights were hung out among the trees, and the walk was crowded
with people. Neither Nancy nor I was present, having little desire
to be stared at by ill-bred young citizens or pushing templars.
Unfortunately, Harry Temple was among them.

While he was idling among the trees there passed him a group of three
young fellows, all talking together noisily. I suppose they had been
drinking. One of them, unfortunately, caught sight of Harry, and began
to laugh. Then they stopped, and then one stepped forward and made
Harry a profound bow.

"We welcome," he said, "the Knight of the Rueful Countenance. We
condole with your misfortune.

  "'Her Temple's rule she doth not own,
      Though still she loves her Lord.'"

Harry was not only melancholy, but also, as some such men are, he was
choleric; and he was strong, being bred and brought up to country
pursuits. In a moment his cane was in one hand and his assailant's
cravat was in his other. Then he began to beat the man with his cane.

The others stood stupid with amazement. Sir Miles, who was on his way
to the tables, and had seen the beginning of the fray, stepped to the
front.

"Who interferes with Mr. Temple has to do with me," he shouted. "Fair
play, gentlemen. Let them fight it out with fists like men, first--and
stick each other afterwards with rapiers like Frenchmen, if they like.
Gentlemen, I am Sir Miles Lackington, Baronet, at your service, if any
one wants a little breathing."

He held his cane in readiness, but the other gentlemen kept aloof. When
Harry had spent his rage, because, so far as I can learn, there was no
resistance, he shook off his opponent, adjusted his wig, which was a
little deranged, and turned quietly to Sir Miles--

"You will oblige me, Sir Miles? Thank you, gentlemen all--your servant."

He resumed his walk, lounging among the trees, the women looking after
him with a mixture of fright and admiration, as calm as if nothing had
happened.

The man who was beaten was followed off the field by his friends. Nor
could Sir Miles get speech of them that evening. In the morning, when
he went to make his murderous appointment, he found they were gone.
Fighting, it would seem, was not to their liking; though an insult to a
harmless gentleman was quite in their way.

"I am sorry, Harry," I said honestly, because a woman cannot help
respecting a man who is brave and strong, "that the taking of my name
has caused you this trouble."

"I am sorry, too," he said sadly. "Yet I blame them not, Kitty."

"But you do blame me," I replied. "Harry, if, in a little
while--somehow--I am able to show that I could not, even if I wished,
grant the thing you want--if--I say--I can make that quite clear and
plain to you--will you promise to be reconciled to what cannot--cannot
be avoided?"

"If, Kitty--what an if? But you ask the impossible. There is no
reason--there cannot be. Why, such a thing is impossible."

"But again--if--Harry, promise me so much."

He laughed grimly.

"Well, I promise."

"Give me your hand upon it," I said. "Now we shall be friends indeed.
Why, you silly Harry, you let the days go by, and you neglect the most
beautiful girls who could perhaps make you a hundred times as happy as
Kitty, all because you deck her out with imaginary virtues which she
doth not possess. Foolish Harry! Open your eyes and look about you.
What do you see?"

I, for my part, saw pretty Nancy running along the walk to meet us.
Love was in her eyes, grace in her action; youth, beauty, sweetness
in her comely shape, her rosy cheeks, her pretty smile, her winning
tongue, her curly locks. She was in morning dress, without hoop or
patch. Through the leaves of the trees the sun shone softly upon her,
covering her with a soft light which might have been that in which
Venus stole along the shore in a golden mist to meet her son--of which
my father had read to me. She was pretty, she was sweet; far prettier
than I, who was so tall; far sweeter than I, who was full of evil
passions and shame, being a great sinner.

"Foolish Harry!" I said. "What do you see?"

He only looked me in the face and replied--

"I see nothing but the beautiful Kitty."

"Oh, blind, blind!"



CHAPTER XIII.

HOW DURDANS WAS ILLUMINATED.


While these things were proceeding, Lord Chudleigh being still absent
from Durdans, I received a second letter from the Doctor.

After the usual compliments to Mrs. Esther, he proceeded to the
important part of his communication--

    "_For your private eye only._

    "I have to tell you that yesterday I saw and conversed with Lord
    Chudleigh. He sought me in order to find out, if possible, the
    name, character, and condition of a certain person. I refused to
    grant him that information; I also assured him that he would find
    it impossible to break the alliance with which I had provided him.
    This I did with the greater pleasure, having heard from a sure
    source that he hath lately paid addresses to you of so particular
    a kind as to make the whole company at Epsom Wells believe that
    they mean honourable proposals. I presume, therefore, that could he
    destroy the evidence of his former marriage he would be prepared
    to offer his hand. This is every way better than I could expect
    or wish, because when the moment arrives for informing him of the
    truth, I can point out to his lordship that his opinion and mine
    of what a wife should be exactly agree. Our triumph will then be
    complete."

Our triumph! This was what he called it. I was to be the consenting
party to inflict shame and humiliation upon my lord. This was too much.
Humiliation for him? Why, it was for myself, and my whole thoughts were
how to save him, how to set him free. The Doctor expected me to triumph
over him. Why, what did he know of a woman in love? To triumph over a
man for whose dear sake she would lay down her life to save him from
humiliation!

It was certain to my heart that my lord already felt for me that warmth
of affection which impels a man to make a woman his wife. I was sure of
this. I was so sure that I already gave myself in imagination entirely
to him, and placed his interests above my own.

In short, before I ventured to confess the fact to myself, and before
he spoke to me--for as yet he had said no word except in compliment and
common gallantry--I loved him. There was, for me, but one thing wanting
to make me happy; there was, for me, nothing to think of, to hope for,
to pray for, but the welfare of that one man. And to such a woman did
the Doctor send such a letter, proposing that I should join him in
covering him with shame and indignation. Would I thus let him choose
the moment to confess my shameful sin? Would I assist in covering the
man I loved with confusion, who would have clothed him in purple and
placed a chain about his neck, and helped him to ride forth in bravery
and triumph? Forbid the thought, kind Heaven! Oh, that a man should
have such a mind, so thick and cloudy as not to perceive that no woman
but the basest and worst could join a conspiracy so hateful! Unhappy
girl, to be made the victim of a plot in which the punishment would
fall upon herself, while the wickedness would rest with the man who
devised it, and he against whom the plot was designed would be its sole
avenger!

I resolved to be beforehand with the Doctor. I would myself choose the
time: I would tell him all: I would assure him that, innocent as I had
been in intention, I would never, never seek to assert any rights over
him; that he was free, and could go seek a wife where he pleased. Ah!
should he please to go elsewhere, it were better had I never been born.

Then, whatever moment I might choose for the confession, I could think
of none which could be chosen as favourable to myself. I might write
to him. That would be best; I would write: for how could a girl bear
to see that face, which had always looked upon her with kindness and
affection, suddenly grow hard and stern, and reproach her for her great
wickedness with looks of horror and indignation? It seemed better to
write. But, for reasons which will presently appear, that letter was
never written.

My lord returned. He called upon us next forenoon, and informed us,
looking grave and downcast, that he proposed to hold his garden-party
in Durdans Park on the next day. People had come from Vauxhall to
decorate the trees, and there would be fireworks, with supper, and
concert of horns.

I asked him, deceitfully, if his business in London had prospered. He
replied that it had not turned out so favourably as he hoped: and then
he checked himself and added that, to be sure, his affairs were of no
interest to us.

Said Mrs. Esther--

"Your lordship will not, I hope, believe that anything which
contributes to your happiness is so indifferent to us."

He bowed, and we began to talk again about his _fête_.

His invitations included all the visitors of respectability at Epsom.
Nancy, out of pure kindness, had gone about inquiring of every one if
he was invited; and, if not, she got him an invitation at once. We did
not, indeed, include the tallow-chandlers and hosiers of London, who
frequented Epsom that year in great numbers, but took up their own end
of the Assembly Rooms, and mostly walked on the New Parade. But we
included all who could claim to belong to the polite world, because
nothing is more humiliating than to be omitted from such a festivity at
a watering-place. I have known a lady of fashion retire from Bath in
mortification, being forgotten at a public tea, and never again show
her face at that modish but giddy town.

The company were to assemble at five o'clock, the place of meeting
being fixed in that part of Durdans Park most remote from the mansion,
where the great trees of birch and elm make such an agreeable
wilderness that one might fancy one's self in some vast forest. We
were escorted by Sir Miles Lackington, who came because all his
brother gamblers had deserted the card-room for the day; and Mr.
Stallabras--Solomon--was dressed in another new coat (of purple), and
wore a sword with a surprisingly fine hilt. He also had a pair of
shoe-buckles in gold, given him by his female Mæcenas, the widow of the
brewer, in return for a copy of verses. He was greatly elated, never
before having received an invitation from a person of such exalted rank.

"Now, indeed," he said, "I feel the full sweetness of fame. This it
is, Miss Kitty, to be a poet. His society is eagerly sought by the
Great: he stands serene upon the giddy height of fashion, ennobled by
the Muses (who possess, like our own august sovereign, the right of
conferring rank): he takes his place as an equal among those who are
ennobled by birth. No longer do I deplore that obscurity of origin
which once seemed to shut me out of the circles of the polite. Fetter
Lane may not be concealed in my biography: it should rather be held up
to fame as the place in which the sunshine of Apollo's favour (Apollo,
Miss Kitty, was the sun-god as well as the god of poets, which makes
the image appropriate)--the sunshine of Apollo has once rested during
the birth of an humble child. It was at number forty-one in the second
pair back, a commodious garret, that the child destined to immortality
first saw the light. No bees (so far as I can learn) played about his
cradle, nor did any miracles of precocious genius foreshadow his future
greatness. But, with maternal prescience, his mother named him Solomon."

All this because Nancy made Lord Chudleigh send him an invitation! Yet
I doubt whether his lordship had ever read one of his poems.

"It is a great blessing for a man to be a poet," said Sir Miles,
smiling. "If I were a poet I dare say I should believe that my acres
were my own again. If I were a poet I should believe that luck would
last."

"Does the name of Kitty cease to charm?" I asked.

Yes, it was true: Sir Miles had lost his five hundred guineas, won
of the nabob, and was now reduced to punt at a guinea a night. This
hardship made him melancholy.

"Yet," he said, plucking up, "if I cannot play, I can drink. Why, my
jolly poet," slapping Solomon on the shoulder, "we will presently toast
Miss Kitty as long as his lordship's champagne lasts."

Mrs. Esther said that she saw no reason why, because one vice was no
longer possible, another should take its place.

"Madam," said the baronet, "it is not that I love one more than the
other. When the purse is full, Hazard is my only queen. When the purse
is empty, I call for the bowl."

In such converse we entered the park, and followed in the procession of
visitors, who flocked to the place of meeting, where, under the trees,
like another Robin Hood, Lord Chudleigh stood to receive his guests.

Kind fortune has taken me to many feasts and rejoicings since that
day, but there are none to which my memory more fondly and tenderly
reverts; for here, amid the sweet scent of woodland flowers, under
the umbrageous trees, while the air of the Downs, fragrant and fresh,
fanned our cheeks, my lord became my lover, and I knew that he was mine
for ever, in that sweet bond of union which shall only be exchanged
by death for another of more perfect love, through God's sweet grace.
Ah, day of days! whose every moment lives eternally in our hearts!
Sometimes I think that there will hereafter be no past at all, but that
the sinner shall be punished by the ever-present shame of his sins,
and the saints rewarded by the continual presence of great and noble
thoughts.

Horns were stationed at various parts of the park, and while we drank
tea, served to us at rustic tables beneath the trees, these answered
one another in lively or plaintive strains. The tea finished, we
danced to the music of violins, on a natural lawn, as level as a
bowling-green, which seemed made for the feet of fairies. After an hour
of minuets, the country dances began, and were carried on until sunset.
Then for a while we roamed beneath the trees, and watched the twilight
grow darker, and presently rose the great yellow harvest moon.

"In such a scene," said Solomon, who was discoursing to a bevy of
ladies, "man shrinks from speaking; he is mute: his tongue cleaves
to his palate"--at all events, the poet was not mute--"here nature
proclaims the handiwork of the Creator." He tapped his forehead
reflectively.

   "Great Nature speaks: confused the sceptic flies;
    Rocks, woods, and stars sing truth to all the skies."

All the while the concert of the horns charmed the ear, while the
romantic aspect of the woods by night elevated the soul. When we
returned to our lawn we were delighted and surprised to find coloured
lamps hanging from the trees, already lit, imparting a look most
magical and wonderful, so that we cried aloud for joy. Nor was this
all: the tables were laid for supper with every delicacy that our noble
host could think of or provide.

Everybody was happy that evening. I think that even Peggy Baker forgot
her jealousies, and forgave me for the moment when Lord Chudleigh gave
as a toast "The Queen of the Wells," and all the gentlemen drained a
bumper in honour of Kitty Pleydell.

While the supper went on, a choir of voices sang glees and madrigals.
Never was party more enchanting: never was an evening more balmy: never
were guests more pleased or host more careful for them.

After supper more lamps were lit and hung upon the trees: the violins
began again, and country dances set in.

Now while I looked on, being more delighted to see than to
dance--besides, my heart was strangely moved with what I now know was
a presentiment of happiness--Lord Chudleigh joined me, and we began to
talk, not indifferently, but, from the first, gravely and seriously.

"You will not dance, Miss Kitty?" he asked.

"No, my lord," I replied; "I would rather watch the scene, which is
more beautiful than anything I have ever dreamed of."

"Come with me," he said, offering me his hand, "to a place more
retired, whence we can see the gaiety, without hearing too much the
laughter."

They should have been happy without laughing: the cries of merriment
consorted not with the scene around us.

Outside the circle of the lamps the woods were quite dark, but for
the light of the solemn moon. We wandered away from the noise of the
dancers, and presently came to a rustic bench beneath a tree, where my
lord invited me to rest.

It was not so dark but that I could see his face, which was grave and
unlike the face of an eager lover. There was sadness in it and shame,
as belongs to one who has a thing to confess. Alas! what ought to have
been the shame and sadness of my face?

"While they are dancing and laughing," he said, "let us talk seriously,
you and I, Miss Kitty."

"Pray go on, my lord," I said, trembling.

He began, not speaking of love, but of general things: of the ambition
which is becoming to a man of rank: of the serious charge and duties of
his life: of the plans which he had formed in his own mind worthily to
pass through the years allotted to him, and to prepare for the eternity
which waits us all beyond.

"But," he said sadly, "we wander in the dark, not knowing which way to
turn: and if we take a wrong step, whether from inadvertence or design,
the fairest plan may be ruined, the most careful schemes destroyed."

"But we have a guide," I said, "and a light."

"We follow not our leader, and we hide the light. Addison hath
represented life under the image of a bridge, over which men are
perpetually passing. But the bridge is set everywhere with hidden holes
and pitfalls, so that he who steps into one straightway falls through
and is drowned. We are not always drowned by the pitfalls of life, but,
which is as bad, we are maimed and broken, so that for the rest of our
course we go halt."

"I pray, my lord," I said, "that you may escape these pitfalls, and
press on with the light before you to the goal of your most honourable
ambition."

"It is too late," he said sadly. "Miss Kitty, you see in me the most
wretched of mortals, who might, I would sometimes venture to think,
have become the most happy."

"You wretched, Lord Chudleigh?"--oh, beating heart!--"you wretched? Of
all men you should be the most happy."

"I have tried," he said, "to escape from the consequences of a
folly--nay, a crime. But it is impossible. I am fast bound and tied."
He took my hand and held it, while he added: "I may not say what I
would: I may not even think, or hope, or dream of what might have been."

"Might have been, my lord?"

"Which cannot, now, ever be. Kitty, I thought after I discovered that
it was impossible that I would not return any more to Epsom Wells; in
the country, or away on foreign travel, I might in time forget your
face, your voice, your eyes--the virtues and graces which sit so well
in a form so charming--the elevated soul----"

"My lord! my lord!" I cried, "spare me----Yet," I added, "tell me all
that is in your mind. If I cannot rid you of your burden, at least I
may soothe your sorrow."

"The matter," he replied, "lies in a few words, Kitty. I love you, and
I may not ask you to be my wife."

I was silent for a while. He stood before me, his face bent over mine.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I have been a fool--nay, worse than a fool, a knave; because
I am tied by bonds which I cannot break: and I am unworthy of so much
goodness and virtue."

"Oh!" I cried, "you know not. How can you know? I am none of the things
which you imagine in me. I am a poor and weak girl; if you knew me you
would surely think so too. I cannot bear that you should think me other
than what I am."

"Why, my angel, your very modesty and your tears are the proof that you
are all I think, and more."

"No," I cried. "If I told you all: if I could lay bare my very soul to
you, I think that you could"--I was going to add, "love me no longer,"
but I caught myself up in time--"that you could no longer think of me
as better, but rather as worse, than other girls."

"You know," he said, "that I love you, Kitty. You have known that for
some time--have you not?"

"Yes, my lord," I replied humbly; "I have known it, and have felt my
own unworthiness. Oh, so unworthy, so unworthy am I that I have wept
tears of shame."

"Nay--nay," he said. "It is I who am unworthy. My dear, there is
nothing you could tell me which would make me love you less."

I shook my head. There was one thing which I had to tell. Could any man
be found to forgive that?

"I came back here resolved to tell you all. If I could not ask for your
love, Kitty, I might, at the very least, win your pity."

"What have you to tell me, my lord?"

It was well that the night was so dark that my face could not be seen.
Oh, telltale cheeks, aglow with fear and joy!

"What have you to tell me?" I repeated.

"It is a story which I trust to your eyes alone," he said. "I have
written it down. Before we part to-night I will give it to you.
Come"--he took my hand again, but his was cold--"come, we must not stay
longer. Let me lead you from this slippery and dangerous place."

"One moment"--I would have lingered there all night to listen to the
accents of his dear voice. "If you, my lord, have a secret to tell to
me, I also have one to tell you."

"Nay," he replied. "I can hear none of your pretty secrets. My peace is
already destroyed. Besides," he added desperately, "when you have read
what I have written you will see that it would be idle to waste another
thought upon me."

"I will read it," I said, "to-night. But, my lord, on one promise."

"And that is?"

"That you will not leave Epsom without my knowledge. Let me speak with
you once more after I have read it, if it is only to weep with you and
to say farewell."

"I promise."

"And--oh, my lord! if I may say it--since your lordship may not marry
me, then I, for your sake, will never marry any other man."

"Kitty!"

"That is my promise, my lord. And perhaps--sometimes--you will give a
thought to your poor--fond Kitty."

He caught me in his arms and showered kisses upon my cheeks and lips,
calling me his angel and a thousand other names, until I gently pushed
him from me and begged him to take me back to the company. He knelt at
my feet and took my hand in his, holding it in silence. I knew that he
was praying for the blessing of Heaven upon my unworthy head.

Then he led me back to the circle of lights, when the first person we
met was Miss Peggy Baker.

"Why, here," she cried, looking sharply from one to the other, "are my
lord and Miss Pleydell. Strange that the two people we have most missed
should be found at the same time--and together, which is stranger
still."

Nancy left her swains and ran to greet me.

"My dear," she whispered, "you have been crying. Is all well?"

"I am the happiest woman and the most unhappy in the world," I said. "I
wish I were in my bed alone and crying on my pillow;" and she squeezed
my hand and ran back to her lovers.

My lord himself walked home with us. We left before the party broke up.
At parting he placed in my hand a roll of paper.

"Remember," I whispered; "you have promised."

He made no answer, but stooped and kissed my fingers.



CHAPTER XIV.

HOW MY LORD MADE HIS CONFESSION.


It was not a long manuscript. I kissed the dear handwriting before I
began.

"To the Queen of my Heart," it began.

    "DEAREST GIRL,--Since I first had the happiness of worshipping at
    your shrine I have learned from watching your movements, listening
    to your voice, and looking at your face, something of what that
    heavenly beauty must have been like which, we are told, captivated
    and drove mad the ancients, even by mere meditation and thought
    upon it."

Did ever girl read more beautiful language?

    "And by conversations with you, even in the gay assembly or on the
    crowded Terrace, I have learned to admire and to love that
    goodness of heart which God hath bestowed upon the most virtuous
    among women. I say this in no flattery or desire to pay an empty
    compliment, but sincerely, and out of the respect and admiration,
    as well as the love, which I have conceived for one who is, I dare
    maintain, all goodness."

O Kitty, Kitty! to read this with blushing cheeks and biting
conscience! Surely it must make people good to be believed good; so
that, by a little faith, we might raise and purify all mankind!

    "It is my purpose to-night, if I find an opportunity, to tell you
    that I am the most wretched man in the world, because by a fatal
    accident, of which I must presently force myself to speak, I am
    for ever shut out from the happiness which it was, I believe, the
    intention of a merciful Providence to confer upon me. Yet am I also
    fortunate, and esteem myself happy in this respect, that I have for
    once in my life been in the presence of as much female beauty and
    virtue as was ever, I believe, found together in one human soul. To
    tell you these things, to speak of my love, is an alleviation of
    suffering. To tell the cause of this unhappiness is worse than to
    plunge a knife into my heart. Yet must it be told to your ear alone.

    "Last year, about the early summer, a rumour began to run through
    the coffee-houses that there was a man of extraordinary wit,
    genius, and humour to be met with in the Liberties, or Rules, of
    the Fleet Prison. These Rules, of which you know nothing"--oh,
    Kitty! nothing!--"are houses, or lodgings, lying in certain
    streets adjacent to the Fleet Market, where prisoners for debt are
    allowed, on payment of certain fees, and on finding security, to
    reside outside the prison. In fact they are free, and yet being,
    in the eyes of the law, still prisoners, they cannot any more be
    arrested for debt. Among these prisoners of the Rules was a certain
    Reverend Gregory Shovel, a man of great learning, and a Doctor
    of Divinity of Cambridge, a divine of eloquence and repute, once
    a fashionable preacher, who, being of extravagant and luxurious
    habits, which brought him into expenditure above his means, at
    last found himself a prisoner in the Fleet; and presently, through
    the influence of friends, was placed in the enjoyment of the Rules.

    "Here, whether because he had exhausted the generosity of his
    friends, or because he craved for action, or for the baser purposes
    of gain, he became that most unworthy thing, a Fleet parson--one of
    a most pestilent crew who go through the form of marriage for all
    comers, and illegally bind together for life those whom Heaven, in
    mercy and knowledge, had designed to be kept asunder.

    "I believe that, by his extraordinary ability and impudence,
    coupled with the fact that he really was, what his rivals chiefly
    pretended to be, a clergyman of the Established Church of England
    and Ireland, he has managed to secure the principal part of this
    nefarious trade to himself, and has become what he has named
    himself, 'the Chaplain of the Fleet.'

    "This person attracted to himself, little by little, a great
    gathering of followers, admirers, or friends. No one, I suppose,
    could be the friend of one who had so fallen; therefore the men
    who thronged to his lodgings, nearly every night in the week, were
    drawn thither by the fashion of running after a man who talked,
    sang, told stories, and kept open house in so desperate a quarter
    as the Fleet Market, and who yet had the manners of a gentleman,
    the learning of a scholar, and the experience of a traveller.

    "It was for this reason, solely for curiosity, that on one fatal
    evening last year I entreated Sir Miles Lackington, a former friend
    of my father's and myself, to present me to the Doctor. You have
    made the acquaintance of Sir Miles. He was once, though perhaps
    the fact has not been made known to you by him, also a prisoner of
    the Rules. To this had he been brought by his inordinate love of
    gambling, by which he had stripped himself, in six months, of as
    fine an estate as ever fell to the lot of an English gentleman,
    and brought himself to a debtor's prison. Sir Miles, who, when he
    could no longer gamble, showed signs of possessing virtues hitherto
    unsuspected in him, offered, on the occasion of borrowing a few
    guineas of me, to conduct me, if I wished to spend an evening with
    the Doctor, as he is called, to the house which this Doctor either
    owns or frequents.

    "I am not a lover of that low humour and those coarse scenes
    depicted by Mr. Fielding and Dr. Smollet. I do not delight in
    seeing drunken men sprawl in the gutter, nor women fight upon Fleet
    Bridge, nor bears baited, nor pickpockets and rogues pilloried or
    flogged. But I was promised something very different from these
    scenes. I was to meet, Sir Miles told me, a remarkable man, who
    could narrate, declaim, preach, or sing a drinking song, just as he
    was in the vein.

    "I accepted the invitation, the strangeness of which affected
    my curiosity rather than excited my hopes. I was to witness, I
    thought, the spectacle of a degraded wretch who lived by breaking
    the law, for each offence being liable to a penalty of not less
    than a hundred pounds. It would be, I expected, such a sight as
    that which the drunken Helot once presented to the virtuous Spartan
    youth.

    "We made our way through a mean and filthy neighbourhood, by the
    side of a market heaped with cabbage-stalks, past houses where,
    through the common panes of green glass set in leaden frames, one
    might see a rushlight or a tallow candle feebly glimmering, for a
    crew of drunken men to shout songs and drink beside.

    "The room into which I was led opened off the street, and was of
    fair proportions, but low. In it was a table, at the head of which,
    in a vast wooden chair, sat a man who looked, though perhaps he
    was not, the biggest man I had ever seen. Some tall men have small
    hands, or narrow shoulders, or small heads; Doctor Shovel is great
    all over, with a large and red face, a silk cassock, a full and
    flowing wig, clean bands, and a flowered morning-gown very large
    and comfortable.

    "He seemed struck with some astonishment on hearing my name, but
    presently recovered, and invited me to sit at his right hand. Sir
    Miles sat at his left. The room was pretty full, and we found that
    the evening had already begun by the exhaustion of the first bowl
    of punch. The guests consisted of gentlemen who came, like myself,
    to see and converse with the famous Doctor: and of prisoners who,
    like Sir Miles, were living in the Rules.

    "As the punch went round, the talk grew more jovial. That is to
    say, the talk of the Doctor, because no one else said anything. He
    talked continuously; he talked of everything. He seemed to know
    everything, and to have been everywhere. When he was not talking
    he was singing. At intervals he smoked a pipe of tobacco, which
    did not interrupt his talk; and he never ceased sending round the
    punch. I found that the visitors were expected to provide this part
    of the entertainment.

    "I am sure that the kindest-hearted of women will believe me when
    I tell her that I am no drunkard. Yet there are times when, owing
    to the foolish custom of calling for toasts, no heeltaps, and a
    brimming glass, the most careful head may be affected. Nor can I
    plead inexperience in the dangers of the bottle, after three years
    at St. John's, Cambridge, where the Fellows of the Society, and the
    noblemen and gentlemen commoners on the Foundation, drank freely
    at every college feast of the college port and the punch sent up
    from the butteries. I had been like other young men, but I trust
    that your imagination will not picture Lord Chudleigh carried away
    from the combination-room and put to bed by a couple of the college
    gyps. Yet, worse still, I have to present that spectacle before
    your eyes, not at a grave and reverend college feast, but in the
    dissolute Liberties of the Fleet.

    "The atmosphere of the room was close and hot, with the smell of
    the tobacco and the fumes of the punch bowl. Presently I found that
    my eyes were beginning to swim and my head to reel. I half rose to
    go, but the Doctor, laying his hand upon me, cried, with a great
    oath, that we should not part yet.

    "By this time Sir Miles was lying with his head on the table. Some
    of the guests were lying on the floor; some were singing, some
    crying; some kissing each other. It was, in short, one of those
    scenes of debauchery which may be witnessed whenever a party of
    men meet together to drink. I sat down; it was plain that I could
    not escape from these hogs without myself becoming a hog. I sat
    still, therefore, while the Doctor still talked, still laughed,
    still waved his monstrous great hand in the air as he talked, and
    the punch still went briskly round among the few who sat upright.

    "In the morning I was awakened by no other than my host of the
    preceding evening, in whose bed I had spent the rest of the night
    unconscious.

    "He stood over me with grave face, and, in reproachful accents,
    asked me how I fared, and for what purpose I had come to him? I
    was still half-drunk; I could not remember for what purpose. He
    assisted me to dress; and then, because I could not stand, he gave
    me a mug of small ale with which to clear my brain.

    "Being thus partly restored to my senses, I listened while he
    answered his own question, and told me why I had come to him.

    "'You came,' he said, 'to be married.'

    "I stared. He repeated the words--

    "'You came to be married.'

    "It seems incredible that a man should hear a statement so utterly
    false and not cry out upon the liar. Yet I did not. My brain was
    confused, that is my excuse. Also, this great man seemed to hold me
    like a wizard, while he held up his forefinger and, with wrinkled
    brow, shook it in my face.

    "'You came to be married.'

    "Good heavens! What did this mean? I was drunk, horribly drunk the
    night before--I could not remember--so drunk was I--how I came to
    the house, with whom, with what intent.

    "'She waits below,' he told me.

    "She? Who?

    "He gave me his arm to support me down the stairs. I descended,
    curious and agitated. I remember a figure with a hood. While I
    looked, this Chaplain of the Devil began the marriage service, his
    eyes still fixed on me while he recited, and seemed to read.

    "When he had finished, I was married.

    "After we had signed a book, he gave me another great mug of ale,
    which I drank to the bottom.

    "Then, I suppose, I rolled over, and was carried upstairs, for I
    remember nothing more until the evening, when I was again awakened
    by this rogue and common cheat, who, sitting by my bedside,
    congratulated me calmly on the day's work.

    "I will not go on to tell you all the things he said. I discovered
    that in some way, I know not how, but can guess, my father had once
    done this man an injury. This conspiracy was his revenge.

    "Who was my wife?

    "He would not tell me.

    "What was her position, her birth, her name? Was she some wretched
    creature who could be bought off to keep silence while she lived,
    although she was a thing to be ashamed of and to hide? Was she some
    person who would trade on her title, parade her infamy, and declare
    herself to the world as Lady Chudleigh by her lord's marriage in
    the Fleet? A hundred things I asked. He gave me no reply.

    "Her name? I had forgotten it. The register? it had been put away.
    I seemed to know the name, somehow; yet it escaped me. In the night
    it came back to me in a dream; yet in the morning it was gone
    again. Once, after my first evening with you, the name came to
    me once more in a dream; yet it was gone when I awoke, and could
    remember no other name than yours. It is nearly a year ago. I know
    not yet whom I married. She hath made no sign. Yet I know full well
    that the day will come when she will confess herself and demand
    acknowledgment.

    "One hope remains: that the marriage is not valid. It is a slender
    hope, for the man is an ordained clergyman of the Established
    Church. I am going to London to see him, to implore his pity, to
    humble myself if necessary.

       *       *       *       *       *

    "It is of no avail. I have gone. I have humbled myself, and then,
    flying into the opposite extreme, I have cursed him. He enjoyed
    both the wrath and the humility.

    "I have no longer any hope; I have taken the advice of my lawyers,
    who tell me that an Act of Parliament alone can set me free; this
    Act--how can it be got when I do not know the name of the woman?

    "Even if there were any reasonable chance that so dreadful a place
    could produce a woman of virtue and honour, which there is not, I
    could never look upon that woman with any but feelings of loathing
    and horror. For not only is her idea black beyond compare, but my
    heart is full, and will remain for ever full of Kitty Pleydell.

    "Strange to say, as I wrote the words, it seemed as if I had
    touched at last the chord of memory. The name was on my lips.
    No--it was an illusion; I have forgotten it again, and can only
    murmur Kitty Pleydell, sweet Kitty, divine Kitty, on whom may all
    the blessings of Heaven rest for ever!"



CHAPTER XV.

HOW NANCY HAD A QUICK TONGUE.


This was at once a sad and yet most joyful confession. For while the
girl who read it was full of shame and terror in thinking of his
righteous wrath and loathing, yet the tender love which filled the
pages and fired her soul with wonder and rejoicing forbade her to
believe that love was not stronger than wrath. She was so ignorant and
inexperienced, the girl who joined in this treacherous deed; she was
so dominated by the will of that masterful man, her uncle; she was
so taken by surprise--surely, when he learned these things, he would
forgive the past.

But should she tell him at once?

It would be better to tell him than that he should find it out. There
were many ways in which he could find it out. Oh, the shame of being
found out, the meanness of taking all his secrets and giving none!
Roger, the Doctor's man, might for a bribe, were the bribe heavy
enough to outweigh his fear of the Doctor, tell the name of the bride;
the Doctor might think the time had come when he should step forward
and reveal the secret; even there was danger that his lordship might
remember the name which he had seen but once, and ask me sternly if
there were upon the earth two Kitty Pleydells, of the same age, the
same height, and the same face. And what should I say then?

Stimulated by this thought, as by the touch of a sharp spur, I procured
an inkstand and paper, and began to write a letter of confession.

    "MY LORD,"

What to say next?

    "MY LORD,"

In what words to clothe a most shameful story?

We cheat ourselves; we do one thing and call it another; we stop the
voice of conscience by misrepresenting our actions; and whereas we
ought to be weighed down by the burden of our sins, we carry ourselves
confidently, with light hearts, as if we had done nothing to be ashamed
of. It is only when our crimes are set forth in plain English that we
know them for the shameful things they are. What was I to tell my lord?

A girl, brought up in the fear of God and His commandments, can be so
weak as to obey a man who ordered her to do a wicked thing. Could she
be, afterwards, so cowardly as not to tell the man whom she had thus
injured, even when she knew that he loved her? A wicked crime and a
course of deceit! How could I frame the words so as to disarm that
righteous wrath!

    "MY LORD,--It has been for a long time upon my conscience to
    tell you a thing which you ought to know before you waste one
    more thought upon the unworthy person to whom you addressed a
    confession. That confession, indeed, depicted your lordship with
    such fidelity as to make me the more ashamed to unburden my
    conscience. Know, then, that----"

Here I stopped, with trembling fingers, which refused to move.

"Know that"--what? That I was his wicked and unworthy wife, the
creature whom most of all he must hate and despise.

I could not tell him--not then. No; it must be told by word of mouth,
with such extenuating phrases and softening of details as might present
themselves to my troubled mind.

I tore the letter into a thousand fragments. Was girl ever so bested?
That sacred bond of union which brings happy lovers together, the crown
of courtship, the end of wooing, the marriage service itself, was the
thing which kept us asunder.

I would tell him--later on. There would come an opportunity. I would
make the opportunity, somewhere, at some time. Yes; the best way would
be to wait till we were alone; and it should be in the evening, when my
face and his would be partly veiled by the night; then I could whisper
the story, and ask his forgiveness.

But that opportunity never came, as will be presently seen.

After morning prayers, that day, we walked upon the Terrace, where
the company were, as usual, assembled, and all talking together below
the trees. I held in my hand the manuscript of my lord's confession.
Presently we saw him slowly advancing to meet us, wearing a grave and
melancholy look. But then he was never one of those who think that the
duties of life are to be met with a reckless laugh.

"Even in laughter," said the Wise Man, "the heart is sorrowful: and the
end of that mirth is heaviness."

"Dear Miss Pleydell," whispered Peggy Baker, as he appeared, "can his
lordship have repented already of what he said beneath the trees last
night? The poor young gentleman wears a heavy countenance this morning."

It was best to make no answer to this raillery. Let her say what she
would; I cared nothing, and was too heavy myself to made reply. I would
neither help nor hinder. Then, leaving Mrs. Esther with the party, I
advanced boldly and met my lord, returning him his manuscripts before
the eyes of all.

Everybody stared, wondering what could be in the packet I placed in his
hands; he, however, received it with a low bow, and accompanied me to
my party, saying nothing for the moment.

The music was playing its loudest, and as we walked, my lord beside me,
and Mrs. Esther with Lady Levett--Nancy remaining behind to exchange
insinuations and pert speeches (in which the saucy damsel took great
delight) with Peggy Baker. I looked back and saw their heads wagging,
while the bystanders smiled, and presently Peggy fanned herself, with
agitation in her face, by which it was easy to conclude that Nancy had
said something more than usually biting, to which her opponent had, for
the moment, no reply ready.

"You have read these papers?" asked my lord, and that in as careless a
tone as if they contained nothing of importance.

"Yes," I said, "I have read the sad story. But I pity the poor woman
who was persuaded to do your lordship this grievous wrong."

"I think she needs and deserves little of our pity," he replied. "And
as for persuasion, it could have wanted but little with a woman so
designing as to join in such a plot."

A designing woman! Poor Kitty!

Then I tried, beating about the bush, to bring his mind round to see
the possibility of a more charitable view.

"Remember, my lord, two things. This Doctor Shovel could not have
known of your coming. The plot, therefore, was swiftly conceived, and
as quickly carried into execution. You have told me in your paper--I
entreat you, my lord, burn it with all speed--that this man's influence
over you was so great as to coerce you (because your brain was not
in its natural clearness) into doing and suffering what, at ordinary
times, you would have rejected with scorn. Bethink you, then, with
charity, that this Doctor Shovel, this so-called Chaplain of the Fleet,
may have found some poor girl, over whom he had authority, and in like
manner coerced and forced her to join with him in this most wicked
plot."

"You would make excuses," he said, "for the greatest of sinners. I
doubt not that. But this story is too improbable. I cannot think that
any woman could be so coerced against her will."

I sighed.

"My lord, I beg you to remember your promise to me. You will not leave
Epsom without first telling me: you will not seek out this man, this
Doctor Shovel, or quarrel with him, or do aught to increase his malice.
Meantime, I am feeble, being only a woman, and bound in obedience and
duty to my guardian and protectress. Yet I bethink me of an old fable.
The lion was one day caught in the coils of a net, and released by the
teeth of a----"

He started.

"What does this mean! O Kitty! what can you do?"

"I do not know. Yet, perhaps I may be able to release you from the
coils of this net. Have patience, my lord."

"Kitty!"

"Let us speak no more about it for the moment," I replied. "Perhaps, my
lord, if my inquiries lead to the result you desire--it is Christian to
forgive your enemies----"

"I cannot understand you," he replied. "How should you--how should any
one--release me? Truly, if deliverance came, forgiveness were a small
thing to give."



CHAPTER XVI.

HOW SPED THE MASQUERADE.


It was at this time that the company at Epsom held their masquerade,
the greatest assembly of the season, to which not only the visitors at
the Wells, but also the gentry from the country around, and many from
London, came; so that the inns and lodging-houses overflowed, and some
were fain to be content to find a bed over shops and in the mean houses
of the lower sort. Nay, there were even many who put up tents on the
Downs, and slept in them like soldiers on a campaign.

At other times my head would have been full of the coming festivity,
but the confession of my lord and the uncertainty into which it threw
my spirits, prevented my paying that attention to the subject which its
importance demanded.

"Kitty," cried Nancy, "I have talked to you for half an hour, and
you have not heard one word. Oh, how a girl is spoiled the moment
she falls in love! Don't start, my dear, nor blush, unless you like,
because there is no one here but ourselves. As for that, all the place
knows that you and Lord Chudleigh are in love with each other, though
Peggy Baker will have it that it is mostly on one side. 'My dear,'
she said at the book-shop yesterday, 'the woman shows her passion
in a manner which makes a heart of sensibility blush for her sex.'
Don't get angry, Kitty, because I was there, and set her down as she
deserved. 'Dear me!' I said, 'we have not all of us the sensibility of
Miss Peggy Baker, who, if all reports are true, has had time to get
over the passion she once exhibited for the handsome Lord Chudleigh.'
Why, my dear, how can any one help seeing that the women are monstrous
jealous, and my lord in so deep a quagmire of love, that nothing but
the marriage-ring (which cures the worst cases) can pull him out?"

I had, in verity, been thinking of my troubles, while Nancy was
thinking over her frocks. Now I roused myself and listened.

"My mother will go as the Queen of Sheba. She will wear a train over
her hoop, a paper crown, a sceptre, and have two black boys to walk
behind her. That will show who she is. I am to go as Joan of Arc, with
a sword in my hand, but not to wear it dangling at my side, lest it
cause me to fall down: Peggy Baker will be Venus, the Goddess of Love.
She will have a golden belt, and a little Cupid is to follow her with
bow and arrows, which he is to shoot, or pretend to shoot, at the
company. She will sprawl and languish in her most bewitching manner,
the dear creature; but since she has failed with Lord Eardesley there
is nobody at Epsom good enough for her. I hear she goes very shortly
to Bath, where no doubt she will catch a nabob. I hope his liver and
temper will be good. Oh! and Mr. Stallabras will go as a Greek pastoral
poet, Theo something--I forget his name--with a lyre in one hand and
a shepherd's crook in the other. Harry Temple is to go as Vulcan: you
will know him by his limp and by the hammer upon his shoulder. Sir
Miles wants to go as the God of Cards, but no one seems to know who
that Deity was. My father says he shall go as a plain English country
gentleman, because he sees so few among the company that the sight may
do them good."

I was going as the Goddess of Night, because I wanted to have an excuse
for wearing a domino all the evening, most of the ladies throwing
them aside early in the night. My dress was a long black velvet hood,
covering me from head to foot, without hoops, and my hair dressed
low, so that the hood could cover the head and be even pulled down
over the face. At first I wanted my lord to find out by himself the
_incognita_ who had resolved to address him; but he asked me to tell
him beforehand, and to be sure I could refuse him nothing.

The splendour of the lights was even greater than that at Lord
Chudleigh's entertainment, when he lit up the lawn among the trees
with coloured oil lamps. Yet the scene lacked the awful contrast of
the dark and gloomy wood behind, in which, as one retired to talk,
the music seemed out of place, and the laughter of the gay throng
impertinent. Here was there no dark wood or shade of venerable trees
to distract the thoughts from the gaiety of the moment, or sadden by
a contrast of the long-lived forest with the transitory crowd who
danced beneath the branches, as careless as a cloud of midges on the
river-bank, born to buzz away their little hour, know hope, fear, and
love, feel pain, be cut off prematurely at their twentieth minute, or
wear on to a green old age and die at the protracted term of sixty
minutes.

The Terrace and the New Parade were hung with festoons of coloured
lamps. There must have been thousands of them in graceful arches
from branch to branch: the doors of the Assembly Rooms had columns
and arches of coloured lamps set up beside and over them: there
were porches of coloured lamps; a temple of coloured lamps beside
the watch-house at the edge of the pond, where horns were stationed
to play while the music rested: in the Rooms was, of course, to be
dancing: and, which was the greatest attraction, there were amusements
of various kinds, almost as if one was at a country fair, without the
crowding of the rustics, the fighting with quarterstaves, the grinning
through horse-collars, the climbing of greasy poles, and the shouting.
I have always, since that evening, longed for the impossible, namely,
a country fair without the country people. Why can we not have, all to
ourselves, and away from a noisy mob of ill-bred and rough people, the
amusements of the fair, the stalls with the gingerbread, Richardson's
Theatre, with a piece addressed to eyes and ears of sensibility, a
wax-work, dancing and riding people, and clowns?

Here the presenters of the masquerade had not, it is true, provided
all these amusements; but there were some: an Italian came to exhibit
dancing puppets, called fantoccini; a conjurer promised to perform
tricks, and swallow red-hot coals, which is truly a most wonderful
feat, and makes one believe in the power of magic, else how could the
tender throat sustain the violence of the fire? a girl was to dance
upon the tight-rope: and a sorcerer or magician or astrologer was to be
seated in a grotto to tell the fortunes of all who chose to search into
the future.

Nothing could be gayer or more beautiful than the assemblage gathered
together beneath these lighted lamps or in the Assembly Rooms in the
evening. Mrs. Esther was the only lady without some disguise; Sir
Robert, whose dress has been already sufficiently indicated, gave her
his arm for the evening. All the dresses were as Nancy told me. I
knew Venus by her golden cestus and her Cupid armed (he was, indeed,
the milk-boy); and beneath the domino I could guess, without having
been told, that no other than Peggy Baker swam and languished. Surely
it is great presumption for a woman to call herself the Goddess of
Beauty. Harry Temple was fine as Vulcan, though he generally forgot
to go lame: he bore a real blacksmith's hammer on his shoulder; but I
am certain that Vulcan never wore so modish a wig with so gallant a
tie behind. And his scowls, meant for me, were not out of keeping with
his character. Nancy Levett was the sweetest Joan of Arc ever seen,
and skipped about, to the admiration of everybody, with a cuirass
and a sword, although the real Joan, who was, I believe, a village
maid, probably wore a stuff frock instead of Nancy's silk, and I dare
say hoops were not in fashion in her days. Nor would she have lace
mittens or silk shoes, but bare hands and wooden sandals. Nor would
she powder her hair and dress it up two feet high, but rather wear
it plain, blown about by the winds, washed by the rain, and curling
as nature pleased. As for Mr. Stallabras, it did one good to see him
as Theocritus, nose in air, shepherd's crook on shoulder, lyre in
hand, in a splendid purple coat and wig newly combed and tied behind,
illustrating the dignity and grandeur of genius. The Queen of Sheba's
black pages (they were a loan from a lady in London) attracted general
attention. You knew her for a queen by her crown. There were, however,
other queens, all of whom wore crowns; and it was difficult sometimes
to know which queen was designed if you failed to notice the symbol
which distinguished one from the other. Thus Queen Elizabeth of
England, who bore on a little flag the motto "_Dux fæmina facti_,"
was greatly indignant when Harry Temple mistook her for Cleopatra,
whose asp was for the moment hidden. Yet so good a scholar ought to
have known, because Cleopatra ran away at Actium, and therefore could
not carry such a motto, while Elizabeth conquered in the Channel.
Then it was hard at first sight to distinguish between Julius Cæsar,
Hannibal, Timour the Tartar, Luther, Alfred, and Caractacus, because
they were all dressed very much alike, save that Luther carried a
book, Alfred a sceptre, Cæsar a short sword, Timour a pike, Hannibal
a marshal's _bâton_, and Caractacus a bludgeon. The difficulties and
mistakes, however, mattered little, because, when the first excitement
of guessing a character was over, one forgot about the masquerade
and remembered the ball. Yet it was vexatious when a man had dressed
carefully for, say, Charles the First, to be mistaken for Don Quixote
or Euripides, who wore the same wigs.

I say nothing of the grotesque dresses with masks and artificial heads,
introduced by some of the young Templars. They amused as such things
do, for a while, and until one became accustomed to them. Then their
pranks ceased to amuse. It is a power peculiar to man that he can
continue to laugh at horse-play, buffoonery, and low humour for hours,
while a woman is content to laugh for five minutes if she laughs at
all. I believe that the admirers of those coarse and unfeeling books,
"Tom Jones" and "Humphrey Clinker," are entirely men.

All the ladies began by wearing masks, and a few of the men. One of
them personated a shepherd in lamentation for the loss of his mistress;
that is to say, he wore ribbons of black and crimson tied in bows
about his sleeve, and carried a pastoral hook decorated with the same
colours. In this character some of the company easily recognised Lord
Chudleigh; and when he led out for the first minuet a tall, hooded
figure, in black velvet, some thought they recognised Kitty Pleydell.

"But why is he in mourning?" asked Peggy Baker, who understood what
was meant. "She cannot have denied him. He must have another mistress
for whom he has put on the black ribbons. Poor Kitty! we are all of us
sorry for her. Yet pride still goes before a fall."

No one knew what was meant except Lord Chudleigh's partner, the figure
in black velvet.

"I suppose," continued Peggy, alluding to the absence of my hoops,
"that she wants to show how a woman would look without the aid of art.
I call it, for my part, odious!"

After the minuet we left the dancers and walked beneath the lighted
lamps on the Terrace. Presently the music ceased for a while, and the
horns outside began to play.

"Kitty," whispered my lord, "you used strange words the other night.
Were they anything but a kind hope for the impossible? Could they mean
anything beyond an attempt to console a despairing man?"

"No," I replied. "They were more than a hope. But as yet I cannot say
more. Oh, my lord! let me enjoy a brief hour of happiness, if it should
die away and come to nothing."

I have said that part of the entertainment was a magician's cave. We
found ourselves opposite the entrance of this place. People were going
in and coming out--or, more correctly, people were waiting outside for
their turn to go in; and those who came out appeared either elated
beyond measure with the prophecies they had heard, or depressed beyond
measure. Some of the girls had tears in their eyes--they were those
to whom he had denied a lover; some came out bounding and leaping
with joy--they were the maidens to whom he had promised a husband and
children dear. Some of the young men came out with head erect and
smiling lips: I suppose the wizard had told them of fortune, honour,
long life, health and love--things which every young man must greatly
desire. Some came out with angry frowns and lips set sternly, as if
resolved to meet adverse fortune with undaunted courage--which is, of
course, the only true method. But I fear the evening's happiness was
destroyed for these luckless swains and nymphs: the lamps would grow
dim, the music lose its gladness, the wine its sparkle.

"Let us, my lord," I said, little thinking of what was to happen within
the cave--"Let us, too, consult the oracle, and learn the future."

At first he refused, saying, gravely, that to inquire of wise men
or wise women was the sin of Saul with the witch of Endor; that
whatever might have happened in olden time, as in the case of the
Delphic oracles or the High Places, where they came to inquire of
Baal or Moloch, there was now no voice from the outer world nor any
communication from the stars, or from good spirits or from evil.

"Therefore," he said, "we waste our time, sweet Kitty, in idly asking
questions of this man, who knows no more than we know ourselves."

"Then," I asked, "let us go in curiosity, because I have never seen a
wizard, and I know not what he is like. You, I am sure, will keep me
safe from harm, whatever frightful creature he may be."

So, without thinking, I led the way to the Wizard's Cave.

It stood in the Parade, beneath the trees; at the door were assembled a
crowd of the masqueraders, either waiting their turn or discussing the
reply of the oracle; the entrance, before which was a heavy curtain,
double, was guarded by a negro, armed with an immense cutlass, which he
ever and anon whirled round his head, the light falling on the bright
steel, so that it seemed like a ring of fire, behind which gleamed his
two eyes, as bright as a panther's eyes, and his teeth, as white as
polished ivory. The sight of him made some of the women retreat, and
refuse to go in at all.

The wise man received only one couple at a time: but when the pair then
with him emerged, the negro stepped forward and beckoned to us, though
it was not our turn to enter the cave. I observed that the last pair
came out with downcast eyes. I think I am as free from superstition as
any woman, yet I needs must remark, in spite of my lord's disbelief
in magic or astrology, that the unhappy young man whose fortune this
wizard told (an evil fortune, as was apparent from his face) ran away
with the girl who was with him (an honest city merchant's daughter),
and having got through his whole stock, took to the road, and was
presently caught, tried, sentenced, and hanged in chains on Bagshot
Heath, where those who please may go and see him. With such examples
before one it is hard not to believe in the conjurer and the wise
woman, just as a thousand instances might be alleged from any woman's
experience to prove that it is unlucky to spill salt (without throwing
some over your left shoulder), or to dream of crying children, or to
cross two knives upon a plate--with many other things which are better
not learned, would one wish to live a tranquil life.

What they called the Wizard's Cave was a little building constructed
specially for the occasion, of rude trunks of trees, laid one upon the
other, the interstices filled up with moss, to imitate a hermitage or
monkish cell; a gloomy abode, consecrated to superstition and horrid
rites. The roof seemed to be made of thatch, but I think that was only
an illusion produced by the red light of an oil-lamp, which hung in the
middle, and gave a soft and flickering, yet lurid light, around the
hut. There also hung up beside the lamp, and on the right hand, the
skin of a grisly crocodile, stuffed, the sight of which filled me with
a dreadful apprehension, and made me, ever after, reflect on the signal
advantages possessed by those who dwell in a land where such monsters
are unknown. A table stood in the middle, on which, to my horror, were
three grinning skulls in a row; and in each they had placed a lamp of
different colours, so that through the eye-holes of one there came a
green, of another a red, and of the third a blue light, very horrible
and diabolical to behold.

There was also a great book--doubtless the book of Fate--upon the
table. Behind it sat the Sage himself. He was a man with a big head
covered with grey hair, which hung down upon his shoulders long
and unkempt, and with a tall mitre, which had mysterious characters
engraved over it, and between the letters what seemed in the dim light
to be flames and devils--the fit occupant of this abominable place. He
wore spectacles and a great Turkish beard, frightful and Saracenic of
aspect.

I thought of the witch of Endor, of those who practised divinations,
and of the idolatrous practices on High Places and in groves, and I
trembled lest the fate of the Prophets of Baal might also be that of
the profane inquirers. Outside, the music played and the couples were
dancing.

The Wizard looked up as we stood before him. Behind the blue spectacles
and the great beard, even in the enormous head, I recognised nothing
and suspected nothing; but when he spoke, and in deep sonorous tones
called my companion by his name----

"Lord Chudleigh, what wilt thou inquire of the oracle?"----

Then indeed I turned giddy and faint, and should have fallen, but my
lord caught me by the waist.

"Be soothed, Kitty," he whispered. "Here is nothing to fright us but
the mummery of a foolish masquerade or the roguery of a rascal quack.
Calm yourself."

Alas! I feared no more the crocodile, nor the horrid death's heads,
nor the Turkish beard, nor the mitre painted with devils--if they were
devils. They disquieted me at first sight, it is true: but now was I in
deadly terror, for I knew and feared the voice. It was no other than
the voice of the Doctor, the Chaplain of the Fleet. For what trouble,
what mischief, was he here?

Then I recovered, saying to myself: "Kitty, be firm. Resolve by neither
act nor word to do harm to thy lover. Consent not to any snare. Be
resolute and alert."

Lord Chudleigh, seeing me thus composed, stepped forward to the table
and said--

"Sir Magician, Wizard, Conjurer, or whatever name best befits you, for
you and your pretended science I care not one jot, nor do I believe
but that it is imposture and falsehood. Perhaps, however, you are but
acting a part in the masquerade. But the young lady hath a desire to
see what you do, and to ask you a question or two."

"Your lordship must own that I know your name, in spite of your domino."

"Tut, tut! everybody here knows my name, whether I wear a domino or
take it off. That is nothing. You are probably one of the company in
disguise."

"You doubt my power? Then, without your leave, my lord, permit me to
tell you a secret known to me, yourself, and one or two others only. It
is a secret which no one has yet whispered about; none of the company
at the Wells know it; it is a great secret: an important secret"--all
this time his voice kept growing deeper and deeper. "It is a secret of
the darkest. Stay--this young lady, I think, knows it."

"For Heaven's sake----" I cried, but was interrupted by my lord.

"Tell me your secret," he said calmly. "Let us know this wonderful
secret."

The Doctor leaned forward over the table and whispered in his ear a few
words. Lord Chudleigh started back and gazed at him with dismay.

"So!" he cried; "it is already becoming town talk, is it?"

The Magician shook his head.

"Not so, my lord. No one knows it yet except the persons concerned in
it. No one will ever know it if your lordship so pleases. I told you
but to show the power of the Black Art."

"I wonder, then, how you know."

"The Wizard, by his Art, learns as much of the past as he desires to
know; he reads the present around him, still by aid of this great
Art; he can foretell the future, not by the gift of prophecy, but by
studying the stars."

"Tell me, then," said Lord Chudleigh, as if in desperation, "the
future. Yet this is idle folly and imposture."

"That which is done"--the Sage opened the book and turned over the
pages, speaking in low, deep tones--"cannot be undone, whatever your
lordship might ignorantly wish. That which is loved may still be loved.
That which is hoped may yet come to pass."

"Is that all you have to say to me?"

"Is it not enough, my lord? Would any king's counsel or learned
serjeant give you greater comfort? Good-night. Leave, now, this young
lady with me, alone."

"First read me the oracle of her future, as you have told me mine;
though still, I say, this is folly and imposture."

The Magician gravely turned over his pages, without resenting this
imputation, and read, or seemed to read--

   "Love shall arise from ashes of buried scorn:
    Joy from a hate in a summer morning born;
    When heart with heart and pulse with pulse shall beat,
    Farewell to the pain of the storm and the fear of the Fleet."

"Good heavens!" cried Lord Chudleigh, pressing his hand to his
forehead. "Am I dreaming? Are we mad?"

"Now, my lord," said the pretended Wizard, "go to the door; leave this
young lady with me. I have more to tell her for her own ears. She is
quite safe. She is not the least afraid. At the smallest fright she
will cry aloud for your help. You will remain without the door, within
earshot."

"Yes," I murmured, terrified, yet resolute. "Leave me a few moments
alone. Let me hear what he has to say to me."

Then my lord left me alone with the Doctor.

When the heavy curtain fell before the door, the Wizard took off the
great mitre and laughed silently and long, though I felt no cause for
merriment.

"Confess, child," he said, "that I am an oracle of Dodona, a sacred
oak. Lord Chudleigh is well and properly deceived. But we have little
time for speech. I came here, Kitty, to see you, and no one else. By
special messengers and information gained from letters, I learned,
as I wrote to you (to my great joy), that this young lord is deeply
enamoured. You are already, it is true, in some sort--nay, in reality,
his bride, though he knows it not. Yet I might waive my own dignity in
the matter, for the sake of thy happiness; and, if you like to wed
him, why, nothing is easier than to let him know that his Fleet wife is
dead. They die of drink daily. Roger, my man, will swear what I tell
him to swear. This I have the less compunction in persuading him to do,
because, in consequence of his horrid thieving, robbing, fighting, and
blaspheming, his soul is already irretrievably lost, his conscience
seared with a hot iron, and his heart impenitent as the nether
millstone. Also the evidence of the marriage, the register, is in my
hands, and may be kept or destroyed, as I please. Therefore it matters
nothing what this rogue may swear. I think, child, the best thing would
be to accept my lord's proposals; to let him know, through me, that
his former wife, whose name he knows not, is dead; he may be told, so
that he may remain ashamed of himself, and anxious to bury the thing in
silence, that she died of gin. He would then be free to marry you; and,
should he not redeem his promise and give you honourable marriage, it
will be time to reduce him to submission--with the register."

Shall I confess that, at the first blush, this proposal was welcome
to me? It seemed so easy a relief from all our troubles. The supposed
death of his wife, the destruction of the register--what could be
better?

"Be under no fear," continued the Doctor, "of my fellow Roger. He dares
not speak. By Heaven! I have plenty to hang him with a dozen times
over, if I wished. He would murder me, if he dared, and would carry me
up to Holborn Bridge, where I could be safely dropped into the Fleet
Ditch; but he dares not try. Why, if he proclaimed this marriage on
Fleet Bridge (but that he dares not do), no one would believe it on
his word, such a reputation has he, while I have the register safely
locked up. Whereas, did they come forward to give evidence for me, at
my bidding, so clear is my case, and so abundant my proofs, that no
counsel could shake them."

This speech afforded me a little space wherein to collect my thoughts.
Love makes a woman strong. Time was when I should have trembled before
the Doctor's eyes, and obeyed him in the least particular. But now I
had to consider another beside myself.

What I thought was this. Suppose the plot carried out, and myself
married to my lord again. There would be this dreadful story on my
mind. I should not dare to own my relationship with this famous Doctor;
I should be afraid lest my husband should find it out. I should be
afraid of his getting on the scent, as children say; therefore I should
be obliged to hide all that part of my life which was spent in the
Fleet. Yet there were many persons--Mrs. Esther, Sir Miles, Solomon
Stallabras, beside my uncle--who knew all of it, except that one
story. Why, any day, any moment, a chance word, an idle recollection,
might make my husband suspicious and jealous. Then farewell to all my
happiness! Better none at all than to have it snatched from me in that
way.

"There is a second plan," he went on. "We may tell him exactly who and
what you are."

"Oh, sir!" I cried, "do nothing yet. Leave it all with me for a
little--I beg, I implore you! I love him, and he loves me. Should I
harm him, therefore, by deceiving him and marrying him, while I hid
the shameful story of the past? You cannot ask me to do that. I will
not do it. And should you, against my will, acquaint him with what has
happened, I swear that, out of the love I bear him, I will refuse and
deny all your allegations--yea, the very fact itself, with the register
and the evidence of those two rogues. Sir, which would the court
believe? the daughter of the Rev. Lawrence Pleydell, or the rascal
runner of a--of yourself?"

He said nothing. He looked surprised.

"No," I went on; "I will have no more deception. Every day I suffer
remorse from my sin. There shall be no more. My mind, sir, is made up.
I will confess to him everything. Not to-night; I cannot, to-night. And
then, if he sends me away with hatred, I will never--never--stand in
his way; I will be as one dead."

"This," said the Doctor, "it is to be young and to be in love. I was
once like that myself. Go, child; thou shalt hear from me again."

He put on his mitre and beckoned me to the door. I went out without
another word. Without stood a crowd, including Peggy Baker.

"Oh!" she cried. "She looks frightened, yet exulting. Dear Miss
Pleydell, I hope he prophesied great things for you! A title perhaps,
an estate in the country, a young and handsome lover, as generous as he
is constant. But we know the course of true love never----"

Here my lord took my hand and led me away from the throng. Another pair
went in, and the great negro before the door began again to flash his
cutlass in the lights, to show his white teeth, and to turn those white
eyes about which looked so fierce and terrible.



CHAPTER XVII.

HOW KITTY PREVENTED A DUEL.


The agitation of spirits into which I was thrown by this interview with
the Doctor, blinded me for the moment to the fact that Harry Temple,
of whose pretensions I thought I had disposed, was still an angry and
rejected suitor. Indeed, for a few days he had ceased to persecute me.
But to-night he manifested a jealousy which was inexcusable, after all
I had said to him. No one, as I had gone so far as almost to explain
to him, had a better right to give me his hand for the evening than
my lord; yet this young man, as jealous as the blacksmith god whom he
personated, must needs cross our steps at every turn, throwing angry
glances both upon me and my partner. He danced with no one; he threw
away his hammer, left off limping, consorted with none of the gay
company, but nursed his wrath in silence.

Now the last dance of the evening, which took place at two o'clock in
the morning, was to be one in which all the ladies threw their fans
upon the table, and the gentlemen danced each with her whose fan he
picked from the pile. My lord whispered to me that I was first to
let him see my fan, whereupon, when the fans lay upon the table, he
deliberately chose my own and brought it to me.

I took off my domino, which was now useless, because all the company
knew the disguise. Everybody laughed, and we took our places to lead
off the country-dance.

It was three o'clock when we finished dancing and prepared to go home.

Harry Temple here came up to me and asked if he might have the honour
of escorting me to my lodgings. I answered that I had already promised
that favour to Lord Chudleigh.

"Every dance, the whole evening: the supper, the promenade: all given
to this happy gentleman! Surely, Kitty, the Queen of the Wells might
dispense her favours more generously."

"The Queen," said Lord Chudleigh, "is the fountain of honour. We have
only to accept and be grateful."

I laughed and bade Harry good-night, and offered him my hand, which he
refused sullenly; and murmuring something about pride and old friends,
turned aside and let us go.

Everybody, it seems, noticed the black looks of Harry Temple all the
evening, and expected, though in my happiness I thought not of such a
thing, that high words would pass between this sulky young gentleman
and his favoured rival, to whom he was so rude and unmannerly. Now,
by the laws of the Wells, as laid down strictly in the rules of the
great Mr. Nash for Tunbridge Wells and Bath, and adopted at all
watering-places, the gentlemen wore no swords on the Parade and in the
card-rooms; yet it was impossible to prevent altogether the quarrels of
hot-blooded men, and the green grass of the Downs had been stained with
the blood of more than one poor fellow, run through as the consequence
of a foolish brawl. When will men cease to fight duels, and seek to
kill each other for a trifling disagreement, or a quarrel?

Generally, it takes two to make a quarrel, and few men are so perverse
as deliberately to force a duel upon another against his will. Yet
this was what Harry Temple, my old schoolfellow, my old friend, of whom
I once held so high an opinion, so great a respect, actually did with
Lord Chudleigh. He forced the quarrel upon him. My lord was always a
gentleman of singular patience, forbearance, and sweetness, and one
who would take, unprovoked, a great deal of provocation, never showing
the usual sign of resentment or anger, although he might be forced
to take up the quarrel. He held, indeed, the maxim that a man should
always think so well of himself as to make an insult impossible, unless
it be deliberate, open, and clearly intended. As for his courage, he
went on to say that it was a matter of self-respect: if a man's own
conscience approve (which is the ultimate judge for all but those whose
consciences are deadened by an evil life), let him fear not what men
say, knowing full well that if they dare say more than the customs of
the polite world allow, it is easy for every man to prove that he is no
coward.

Lord Chudleigh, then, having led us to the door of our own lodging,
unfortunately returned to the Assembly Rooms, where--and outside upon
the Terrace--some of the gentlemen yet lingered. I say unfortunately,
because, as for what followed, I cannot believe but that poor Harry,
whose disposition was not naturally quarrelsome, might have been
inflamed by drinking wine with them when he ought to have gone to bed.
Now wine, to one who is jealous, is like oil upon fire. And had my
lord, for his part, retired to Durdans--as he might very properly have
done, seeing the lateness of the hour--the morning's reflection would,
I am sure, have persuaded Harry that he had been a fool, and had no
reasonable ground for quarrel with his lordship or with me.

The sun was already rising, for it was nearly four o'clock in the
morning; the ladies were all gone off to bed; those who lay about the
benches yawned and stretched themselves; some were for bed, some for
another bottle; some were talking of an early gallop on the Downs; the
lamps yet glimmered in their sockets; the Terrace looked, with its oil
lamps still burning in the brightness of the morning sunshine, with
the odds and ends of finery, the tattered bravery of torn dresses, gold
and silver lace, tinfoil, broken paper crowns and helmets, as sad as a
theatre the morning after a performance; the stalls of the Wizard, the
Italian performers, and the dancing girl, were empty and open; their
hangings were already torn down, the stand for the horses beside the
pond was broken in parts.

When Lord Chudleigh came back he found waiting for him, among the
latest of the revellers, Harry Temple, his face pale, his lips set, his
manner agitated, as of one who contemplates a rash act.

My lord threw himself upon a bench under the trees, his head upon his
hand, pensive, thinking to calm the agitation of his spirits by the
freshness of the morning air. Harry began walking up and down in front
of him, casting angry glances at him, but as yet speaking not. Now,
within the deserted card-room when the lights had all burned out, and
the windows were wide open, sat all by himself Sir Miles Lackington,
turning over a pack of cards at one of the empty tables, and thinking
over the last night's play, at which he had won some money, and
regretted to have been stopped just when he was in luck. There were now
only a few gentlemen left, and these were one by one dropping off.

Presently, with an effort, Harry Temple stopped in front of his
lordship and spoke to him.

I declare that up to this time poor Harry had always been the most
peaceful of creatures, though strong, and well accustomed to hold bouts
with Will, in which he proved almost equal to that stalwart competitor,
at wrestling, singlestick, quarterstaff, or boxing. Also, as was proved
by the affray of the Saturday evening, already related, not unready on
occasion. But a bookish youth, and not one who sought to fix quarrels
upon any man, or to commit murder in the name of honour. And this
shows how dangerous a passion is thwarted love, which can produce in a
peaceful man's bosom jealousy, hatred, rage, and forgetfulness of that
most sacred commandment which enjoins us not to slay.

"I trust, my lord," he said, laughing and blushing, as if uncertain of
himself, "that your lordship hath passed a pleasant evening with the
Queen of the Wells."

Lord Chudleigh looked up, surprised. Then he rose, for there was a look
in Harry's eyes which meant mischief. The unlucky love-sick swain went
on--

"Lord Chudleigh and Miss Kitty Pleydell. The very names seem made for
one another; no doubt his lordship is as fine a gentleman as the lady
is beautiful."

"Sir!" said Lord Chudleigh quietly, "you have perhaps been drinking.
This is the only excuse for such an association of my name with that
young lady's in a public assembly."

"Oh!" he said, "I want no excuse for addressing your lordship. The
Temples were gentlefolk before the Chudleighs were heard of."

"Well, Mr. Temple, so be it. Enjoy that superiority. Shall we close
this discussion?"

"No, my lord; there is more to be said."

He spoke hotly, and with an anger which ought surely to have been
simulated, such small provocation as he had received.

"Then, sir, in Heaven's name, let us say it and have done with it."

"You have offended me, my lord--you best know how."

"I believe I know, Mr. Temple. You also know what grounds you have for
believing that to be an offence."

"I say, my lord," his voice rose and his eyes flashed, "that you have
offended me."

"Had I done so wittingly," returned Lord Chudleigh, "I should willingly
ask pardon. But I deny your right to take offence."

"You have offended me highly," he repeated, "and that in a manner which
makes an apology only a deeper insult. You have offended me in a manner
which only one thing can satisfy."

"Before we go any farther, Mr. Temple," said my lord, sitting down
again calmly and without heat, "I would know exactly the nature of my
offence, and your reasonable right to regard it as such."

"It needs not, my lord. You know well enough what I mean."

"I know that, of course; I would wish to know, as well, your right to
be offended."

"I say, my lord, that it is enough."

Harry, being in the wrong, spoke still more loudly, and those who were
left drew near to see the quarrel.

"You need not raise your voice, sir," said Lord Chudleigh; "I like any
altercation in which I may be unhappily engaged to be conducted like
the rest of my business in life, namely, with the decorum and quietness
which become gentlemen like the Temples, and those of that younger
family the Chudleighs. You have, I believe, travelled. You have,
therefore, without doubt, had opportunities of observing the well-bred
and charming quietness with which gentlemen in France arrange these
little matters, particularly when, as now, the dispute threatens to
involve the name of a lady. Now, sir, that we understand each other,
I must inform you that unless I know the exact nature of my offence
to you, which I have the right to demand, this affair will proceed no
further. I would as soon accept a quarrel from a mad Malay running
amuck at all he meets."

"My lord!" cried Harry, with red face and trembling fingers.

"Of course I do not pretend to be unable to form a guess," Lord
Chudleigh went on gravely; "but I must beg you to instruct me exactly
what you mean. You will observe, sir, that I am here, as a visitor,
previously unknown to yourself. It is therefore strange to learn that
one has offended a gentleman towards whom my behaviour has been neither
less nor more guarded than towards others."

"My lord, you have offended me by the attentions you have paid to a
young lady."

"Indeed, sir! So I believed. But permit me to ask if the young lady is
connected with you or with your house by any ties of relationship or
otherwise?"

"She is not, my lord."

"Further: have you any right of guardianship over this young lady?"

"None, my lord. But yet you have offended me."

"The young lady is free to accept the attention of any man she may
prefer; to show her preference as openly as she considers proper. I
conclude this to be the case. And, if so, I am unable to perceive in
what way I can wilfully have offended you."

"Your lordship," said Harry Temple, enraged by his adversary's
calmness, but yet with sufficient self-command to speak in lower tones,
"has offended me in this: that if you had not paid those attentions to
Miss Pleydell, she might have accepted those courtesies which I was
prepared to offer her."

"Indeed, sir! that is a circumstance with which I am wholly
unconcerned. No doubt the same thing might be said by other gentlemen
in this company."

"I knew that young lady, my lord, long before you did. It was my
deliberate purpose, long ago, to make her my wife when the opportunity
arrived----"

"The time has come," resumed Lord Chudleigh, "but not the man----"

"I say, it was my fixed intention to marry Miss Pleydell. I did not,
my lord, form these resolutions lightly, nor abandon them without
sufficient reason. It is still my resolution. I say that you shall not
stand between me and my future wife!"

"Indeed! But suppose Miss Pleydell refuses to give her consent to this
arrangement? Surely such a resolve, however laudable, demands the
consent of the other party."

"Miss Pleydell will not refuse my hand when you have left her. Abandon
a field, my lord, which never belonged to yourself----"

"Tut, tut!" said Lord Chudleigh. "This, sir, is idle talk. You cannot
seriously imagine----"

"I seriously imagine that, if necessary, I will make my way to that
young lady over your lordship's body, if you stand in my way."

Lord Chudleigh took off his hat and bowed low.

"Then, sir, the sooner you take the first step in the pursuance of your
resolution the better. I will bar your way upon the Downs at any time
you may appoint."

Harry returned the obeisance.

"I wait your lordship's convenience," he said.

"My convenience shall be yours, Mr. Temple. For it is you who desire to
run me through, not I you. Have your own way."

"It is late to-night," said Harry, now quite calm, though with a hot
flush upon his cheek. "Your lordship would like to rest. Perhaps
to-morrow, after breakfast, while the ladies are at morning prayer."

Oh, the bloodthirsty wretch!

Lord Chudleigh bowed again.

"That time, Mr. Temple, will I dare say suit the convenience of my
second."

The code of honour, be it observed, does not allow the exhibition of
any emotion of horror, remorse, or repugnance, when you arrange to
commit that private murder which gentlemen call a duel.

Lord Chudleigh bowed once more, and left his adversary. He walked
across the Terrace to the card-room, where Sir Miles was alone with
the scattered packs of cards. When he came out, he bowed a third time,
and walked slowly away. I hope that, in his own chamber, he reflected
on the wickedness of the appointment he had made, and on its possible
consequences.

Sir Miles threw away the cards, and came out rubbing his eyes.

"Ods my life, sir!" he said, addressing Harry Temple, who, now that the
mischief was done, looked somewhat sheepish, though dignified.

The few gentlemen who were left drew nearer, anxious to lose nothing of
what might happen. English people of all ranks love above all things to
watch a quarrel or a fight, whatever be the weapons.

"Ods my life, sir!" repeated Sir Miles. "This is a pretty kettle of
fish! Here we have all spent a pleasant night--dancing, playing, and
making love, every one happy, even though some gentlemen did lose their
mistresses or their money, and here you spoil sport by quarrelling at
the end of it. What the Devil, sir, does it concern you whether my lord
talks gallantry with one young lady or another?"

"That, Sir Miles, allow me to tell you, is my business. If you are his
lordship's second, let us arrange accordingly. If a principal, let us
fight afterwards."

"No, sir," replied the baronet. "It is everybody's business. It
concerns the cheerfulness, the security, the happiness of all this
honourable company. What! if I amuse myself, and a young lady too, by
writing poems on her dainty fingers, must I needs go out and measure
swords with every young hot-head who would fain be doing the same?
Seconds and principals? Have we nothing to do but to fight duels? Mr.
Temple, I thought better things from a gentleman of your rank and
family. What! any jackanapes lawyer--any pert young haberdasher--might
think it fine thus to insult and challenge a harmless nobleman of
great name and excellent qualities! But for _you_, Mr. Temple! you,
sir, a gentleman of your county, and of ancient and most honourable
stock----Fie, sir, fie!"

"I think, Sir Miles," said Harry, who wished now to have the
preliminaries settled without more ado, "that things having so far
advanced, these reproaches may be spared. Let us proceed to business."

"A girl can choose, I suppose," Sir Miles went on, "without the
interference or the objection of a man who is neither her father, her
guardian, her brother, nor her cousin? Why, as for this young lady,
whose name, I say, it is not respectful to name in this business--I
myself, sir, I myself paid her attentions till she bade me go about my
business. What, sir! do you think I should have suffered any man to
question my right to make a Lady Lackington where I choose, and where I
could! She laughed in my face. Mighty pretty laughing lips she has, and
teeth as white as pearls; and a roguish eye when she chooses, for all
she goes so grave. Did I, then, go snivelling in the dumps? Did I take
it ill that she showed a liking for Lord Chudleigh, who is worth ten of
me, and a dozen of you? Did I hang my chops and wipe my eyes? Did I,
therefore, insult his Lordship, and call him out?"

"All this, Sir Miles," Harry replied impatiently, "has nothing to do
with the question which lies between Lord Chudleigh and myself."

"What I argued, for my own comfort, when sweet Kitty said me nay, was
this: that the marriage condition hath many drawbacks, as is abundantly
evident from history and poetry, while freedom hath many sweets--that
a man may tire of a Beauty and a Toast in a month, but he never tired
of liberty--that children often come after matrimony, and they are
expensive--that, as for the lady's good looks, why, as many pretty
women are in the sea as ever came out of it. And as for my wounded
feelings, why, what is it but so much vanity? Granted that she is the
Toast this year: prithee who will be the Toast next? Last year, they
tell me, it was Peggy Baker--and a monstrous pretty woman, too, though
not to compare with Kitty. Now her nose is out of joint. Who next? Some
little miss now getting rapped over the knuckles in the nursery, Mr.
Temple; and she will be, in her turn, quite as fine a woman as we shall
live to see. That is to say, as I shall live to see, because you, of
course, will be no more. At eleven o'clock upon the Downs you will get
your quietus; when my lord's sword has once made daylight through your
fine waistcoat. 'Tis pity, but yet what help? Mighty little looking
after pretty women where you are going to, Mr. Temple. I advise you
to consider your earthly concerns before you go out. Well, 'tis a
shame, it is, a well-set-up man like you, with a likely face and pretty
fortune, to throw all away because a woman says nay:

   'Shall I wasting in despair,
    Die because a woman's fair?'

Tilly vally! A pretty reason why two tall fellows should stick swords
into each other. I have a great mind, sir, not to allow my principal
to go out on such a provocation."

"I can easily give him more, Sir Miles," said Harry hotly, "or you
either, as soon as you have finished your sermon."

"Oh, sir!" Sir Miles laughed and bowed. "Pray do not think that I
desire to fight on that or any other provocation. We gentlemen of
Norfolk sometimes try conclusions with the cudgel before the rapier
comes into play. Therefore, sir, having given you my mind on the
matter, and having nothing more to say at this moment, you may as well
refer me at once to your friend."

Harry turned to the group of lookers-on.

"Gentlemen," he said, "an unhappy difference, as some of you have
witnessed, has arisen between the Lord Chudleigh and myself. May I
request the good offices of one among you in this affair?"

One of them, an officer in the king's scarlet, stepped forward and
offered his services. Harry thanked him, briefly told him where he
lodged, introduced him formally to Sir Miles, and walked away. A few
minutes' whispered consultations between Sir Miles and this officer
concluded the affair. The principals were to fight on the Downs at
eleven o'clock, when there are generally, unless a match is going on,
but few people up there. This arranged, Sir Miles walked away to tell
Lord Chudleigh; and Harry, with his second, left the Terrace.

Thus the affair, as gentlemen call an engagement in which their own
lives and the happiness of helpless women are concerned, was quietly
arranged on the well-known laws of "honour," just as if it were nothing
more than the purchase of a horse, a carriage, or a house; we at home
sleeping meanwhile without suspicion, dreaming, very likely, of love
and joy, even when death was threatening those dearest to us. Sometimes
when I think of this uncertain life, how it is surrounded by nature
with unknown dangers--how thoughtless and wicked men may in a moment
destroy all that most we love--how in a moment the strongest fortune is
over-thrown--how our plans may be frustrated--how the houses of cards
(which we have thought so stable) tumble down without a warning, and
all our happiness with them--when, I say, I think of these things I
wonder how any one can laugh and be merry, save the insensate wretches
whose whole thought is of their own enjoyment for the moment. Yet the
Lord, our Father, is above all; in whose hand is the ordering of the
smallest thing--the meanest life. Moreover, He hath purposed that youth
should be a time of joy, and so hath wisely hidden away the sources of
evil.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cicely Crump was stirring betimes in the morning, and before six was
in the market buying the provisions for the day. And as she passed
the door of the Assembly Rooms, she looked in to see the dipper, a
friend of hers, who sat at the distribution of the water, though but
few of the visitors took it regularly. This good woman, Phoebe Game
by name, had kept the secret for more than an hour, having heard it,
under promise of strictest secrecy, from one of the late revellers when
she took her place among the glasses at five o'clock in the morning.
She was a good woman and discreet according to her lights; but this
dreadful secret was too much for her, and if she had not told it to
Cicely, must have told it to some one else. At sight of her visitor,
therefore, discretion abandoned this good woman, and she babbled all
she knew. Yet not in a hurry, but little by little, as becomes a woman
with such a piece of intelligence, the parting of which is as the
parting with power.

"Cicely," she said, shaking her forefinger in an awful and threatening
way, "I have heard this very morning--ah! only an hour or so
since--news which would make your poor young lady jump out of her
pretty shoes for fright. I have--I have."

"Goodness!" cried Cicely. "Oh, Phoebe! whatever in the world is it?"

"I dare not tell," she replied. "It is as much as my place is worth to
tell. We dippers are not like common folk. We must have no ears to hear
and no tongue to speak. We must listen and make no sign. The quality
says what they like and they does what they like. It isn't for a
humble dipper to speak, nor to tell, nor to spoil sport--even if it is
murder."

"Oh, tell me!" cried Cicely. "Why, Phoebe, your tongue can run twenty
to the dozen if you like. And if I knew, why there isn't a mouse in all
Epsom can be muter, or a guinea-pig dumber. Only you tell me."

Thus appealed to, Mrs. Game proceeded (as she had from the first
intended) to transfer her secret to Cicely, with many interjections,
reflections, sighs, prayers, and injunctions to tell no one, but to
go home and pray on her bended knees that Lord Chudleigh's hand might
be strengthened and his eye directed, so that this meddlesome young
gentleman might be run through in some vital part.

Cicely received the intelligence with dismay. The good girl had more
of my confidence than most ladies give to maids: but she was above the
common run and quick of apprehension. Besides, she loved me.

"What use," she asked bitterly, "for Mr. Nash to prohibit the gentlemen
from wearing their swords when they have got them at home ready for
using when they want? Mr. Temple, indeed! To think that my young lady
would look at him when my lord is about!"

"Well--go, child," said the dipper. "You and me, being two poor women
with little but our characters, which are, thank the Lord, good so far
as we have got, cannot meddle nor make in this pie. I am glad I told
you, though. I felt before you came as if the top of my head was being
lifted off with the force of it like a loaf with the yeast. Oh, the
wickedness of gentlefolk!"

Cicely walked slowly back, thinking what she had best do--whether to
keep the secret, or to tell me. Finally she resolved on telling me.

Accordingly she woke me up, for I was still asleep, and communicated
the dreadful intelligence. There could be no doubt of its truth. Sir
Miles, she told me, had expostulated with Harry Temple, who would hear
no reason. They would meet to kill each other at eleven o'clock, when
the ladies were at prayers, on the Downs behind Durdans.

I thanked her, and told her to leave me while I dressed; but not to
awaken Mrs. Pimpernel, who would be the better for a long sleep after
her late night, while I thought over what was to be done.

First of all I was in a mighty great rage with Harry; the rage I was in
prevented me from doing what I ought to have done--viz., had I been in
my right mind, I should have gone to him instantly, and then and there
I should have ordered him to withdraw from the Wells. Should he refuse,
I would have gone to Sir Robert, a Justice of the Peace, and caused the
duel to be prevented.

I could find no excuse for Harry. Even supposing that his passion was
so violent (which is a thing one ought to be ashamed of rather than to
make a boast of it), was that any reason why my happiness was to be
destroyed? Men, I believe, would like to carry off their wives as the
Romans carried off the Sabine women, and no marriage feast would be
more acceptable to their barbarous hearts than the one in which these
rude soldiers celebrated this enforced union.

Cicely and I looked at each other. It was seven o'clock. The duel was
to take place at eleven. Could I seek out Lord Chudleigh? No; his
honour was concerned. Or Sir Miles? But the honest baronet looked on
a duel as a necessity of life, which might happen at any time to a
gentleman, though he himself preferred a bout with cudgels.

Presently Cicely spoke.

"I once heard," she said, "a story."

"Child, this is no time for telling stories."

"Let me tell it first, Miss Kitty. Nay, it is not a silly story. A
gentleman once had planned to carry off a great heiress."

"What has that to do with Lord Chudleigh? He does not want to carry me
off."

"The gentleman was a wicked man and an adventurer. He only wanted the
lady's money. One of her friends, a woman it was, found out the plot.
She wanted to prevent it without bloodshed, or murder, or duelling,
which would have happened if it had been prevented by any stupid
interference of clumsy men----"

"O Cicely! get on with the story."

"She did prevent it. And how do you think?"

"How?"

Cicely ran and shut the door, which was ajar. Then she looked all about
the room and under the bed.

"It was a most dreadful wicked thing to do. Yet to save a friend or a
lover, I would even do it."

"What was it, Cicely?"

"I must whisper."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Quick! give me my hood, child."

She put it on and tied it with trembling fingers, because we were
really going to do a most desperate thing.

"Is the house on the road, Cicely? Cannot he go by another way?"

"No; he cannot go by any other way."

"Say not a word, Cicely. Let not madam think or suspect anything."

On the road which leads from the town by a gentle ascent to the Downs,
there stood (on the left-hand side going up) a large square house in
red brick, surrounded by a high wall on which were iron spikes. The
door of the wall opened into a sort of small lodge, and the great
gates were strong, high, and also protected by iron spikes. I had
often observed this house; but being full of my own thoughts, and not
a curious person always wanting to discover the business of others, I
had not inquired into the reason of these fortifications. Yet I knew
that the house was the residence of a certain learned physician, Dr.
Jonathan Powlett by name, who daily walked upon the Terrace dressed in
black, with a great gold-headed cane and an immense full periwig. He
had a room in one of the houses of the Terrace in which he received
his patients, and he made it his business to accost every stranger on
his arrival with the view of getting his custom. Thus he would, after
inquiring after the stranger's health, branch off upon a dissertation
on the merits of the Epsom waters and an account of the various
diseases, with their symptoms (so that timid men often fancied they had
contracted these disorders, and ran to the doctor in terror), which the
waters would cure. Mrs. Esther was pleased to converse with him, and
I believe spent several guineas in consultations on the state of her
health, now excellent.

I had never spoken to him except once, when he saluted me with a finely
pompous compliment about youth and beauty, the twin stars of such a
company as was gathered together at Epsom. "Yet," he said, "while even
the physician cannot arrest the first of these, the second may be long
preserved by yearly visits to this invigorating spot, not forgetting
consultations with scientific and medical men, provided they are
properly qualified and hold the license of the College of Physicians,
without which a so-called doctor is but a common apothecary,
chirurgeon, or leech, fit only to blister and to bleed."

I made my way to his house, hoping to catch him before he sallied forth
in the morning. The place was, as I have said, hidden by high brick
walls, and the gate was guarded by a lodge in which, after ringing a
great bell, I found a man of rough and strong appearance, who asked me
rudely what was my business.

I told him my business was with his master.

After a little demur, he bade me wait in the lodge while he went away,
and presently returned with the doctor.

"My dear young lady," he cried. "I trust there is nothing wrong with
that most estimable lady, Mrs. Pimpernel?"

"Indeed, doctor," I replied, "I come on quite a different errand. And
my business is for your ear alone."

Upon this he bade the fellow retire, and we were left alone in the
little room of the lodge.

Then I exposed my business.

He looked very serious when he quite understood what I wanted him to do.

"It is very dangerous," he said.

I then told him how it might be so managed as that there should be no
danger in it at all. He thought for a little, and then he laughed to
himself.

"But, madam," he said, "suppose I do this for you safely and snugly.
What reward am I to have for my trouble and risk?"

"What do you think the business is worth?"

He looked curiously in my face as if wondering how much he could safely
say. Then he replied--

"I believe it is worth exactly twenty guineas."

"I can spare no more than ten," I replied.

"Well," he said, "ten guineas is a trifle indeed for so great a risk
and so great a service. Still, if no more is to be had, and to oblige
so sweet a young lady----"

Here he held out a fat white hand, the fingers of which were curled as
if from long habit in clutching guineas.

I gave him five as an instalment, promising him the other five when the
job was done.

All being safely in train, I returned home to breakfast; but after
breakfast I returned to the physician's house, and sat down in the
lodge, so placed that I could see without being seen, and looked down
the road.

After the bell for morning prayers had stopped, I began to expect my
friends. Sure enough the first who came into sight were my lord and
Sir Miles, the former looking grave and earnest. A little while after
them came a gentleman whom I knew to be one of the company at Epsom.
He was alone. Now this was the most fortunate accident, because had
the gentleman, who was none other than Harry's second, accompanied
his principal, my plot had failed. But fortunately (as I learned
afterwards) they missed each other in the town, and so set off alone.
This, at the time, I knew not, being ignorant of the laws of the
duello. And last there came along Harry himself, walking quickly as if
afraid of being late.

I gave a signal which had been agreed upon, and as he approached
the house, the great gates were thrown open, and two strapping tall
fellows, stepping quickly into the road, caught poor Harry (the
would-be murderer) by the arms, ran a thick rope round him before he
had time to cry out, and dragged him into the gates, so quickly, so
strongly, and so resolutely, that he had not the least chance of making
any resistance. Indeed, it was done in so workmanlike a fashion that it
seemed as if the rogues had done the same thing dozens of times before.

Heavens! To think that a man brought up so virtuously as Harry Temple,
a young man of such excellent promise, so great a scholar, and one who
had actually studied Theology, and attended the lectures of a Lady
Margaret Professor, should, under any circumstances of life, abandon
himself to language so wicked and a rage so overwhelming. Nothing ever
surprised me so much as to hear that gentle scholar use such dreadful
language, as bad as any that I had ever heard in the Fleet Market.

Caught up in this unexpected way, with his arms tied to his sides,
carried by two stout ruffians, Harry had, to be sure, some excuse for
wrath. His wig had fallen to the ground, his face was red and distorted
by passion, so that even I hardly knew him, when Doctor Powlett came
out of his house and slowly advanced to meet him.

"Ay, ay, ay!" he asked slowly, wagging his head and stroking his
long chin deliberately, in the manner of a physician who considereth
what best treatment to recommend. "So this is the unfortunate young
gentleman, is it? Ay, he looks very far gone. Nothing less, I fear,
than _Dementia acuta cum rabie violentâ_. Resolute treatment in
such cases is the best kindness. You will take him, keepers, to the
blue-room, and chain him carefully. Your promptitude in making the
capture shall be rewarded. As for you, sir"--he shook his forefinger at
the unlucky Harry as if he was a schoolmaster admonishing a boy--"as
for you, sir, it is lucky, indeed, that you have been caught. You were
traced to this town, where, I suppose, you arrived early this morning.
Ha! I _have_ known madmen to be run through their vitals by some
gentlemen whom they have accosted; or smothered between mattresses--a
reprehensible custom, because it deprives the physician of his dues--or
brained with a cudgel. You are fortunate, sir. But have a care; this
house is remarkable for its kindness to the victims of mania! but have
a care."

Here Harry burst into a fit of imprecations most dreadful to listen to.

"Anybody," said the Doctor, "may swear in this house; a good many do:
that often relieves a congested brain, and does no harm to me and my
attendants. But disobedience or violence is punished by cold-water
baths, by being held under the pump, by bread and water, and by other
methods with which I hope you will not make yourself better acquainted.
Now, keepers!"

For the truth is that the doctor kept a house for the reception
of madmen and unhappy lunatics, and I had persuaded him to kidnap
Harry--by mistake. In four-and-twenty hours, I thought, he would have
time to repent. It was sad, however, to see a man of breeding and
learning so easily give way to profane swearing, and it shows the
necessity of praying against temptation. Women, fortunately, do not
_know_ how to swear. It was, I confess, impossible to pity him. Why, he
was going up the hill and on to the Downs with no other object than to
kill my lover!



CHAPTER XVIII.

HOW HARRY GOT RELEASED.


"He is now," said Dr. Powlett, returning to the lodge where I awaited
him, "safely chained up in a strait-waistcoat. A strong young
gentleman, indeed, and took four of my fellows to reduce him. Almost a
pity," he went on, thinking of the case from a professional point of
view, "that so valiant a fellow is in his right mind."

"Doctor, what may that mean?"

"Nay, I was but thinking--a physician must needs consider these
things--that a county gentleman, with so great an estate, would be
indeed a windfall in such an establishment as mine."

"Why, doctor, would you have all the world mad?"

"They are already," he replied; "as mad as March hares--all of them. I
would only have them in establishments, with strait-waistcoats on, and
an experienced and humane physician to reduce them by means of--those
measures which are never known to fail."

"I hope," I said seriously, because I began to fear that some violence
might have been used, "that my poor friend has been treated gently."

"We never," replied the doctor, "treat them otherwise than gently. My
fellows understand that this--ahem!--unfortunate escaped sufferer from
lunacy or dementia (because I have not yet had time to diagnose his
case with precision) is to be treated with singular forbearance. One or
two cuffs on the head, an admonition by means of a keeper's boot, he
hath doubtless received. These things are absolutely necessary: but no
collar-bones put out or ribs broken. In the case of violent patients,
ribs, as a rule, do get broken, and give trouble in the setting. Your
friend, young lady, has all his bones whole. No discipline, so far,
has been administered beyond a few buckets of water, which it was
absolutely necessary to pour over his head, out of common humanity, and
in order to calm the excessive rage into which the poor gentleman fell.
He is quite calm now, and has neither been put under the pump nor in
the tank. I have expressly ordered that there is to be no cudgelling.
And I have promised my fellows half-a-guinea apiece"--here he looked
at me with a meaning smile--"if they are gentle with him. I have told
them that there is a young lady interested in his welfare. My keepers,
I assure you, madam, have rough work to do, but they are the most
tender-hearted of men. Otherwise, they would be sent packing. And at
the sight of half-a-guinea, their hearts yearn with affection towards
the patients."

I smiled, and promised the half-guineas on the liberation of
the prisoner. Cuffs and kicks! a few buckets of cold water! a
strait-waistcoat! My poor Harry! surely this would be enough to cure
any man of his passion. And what a fitting end to a journey commenced
with the intention of killing and murdering your old playfellow's
lover! Yet, to be sure, it was a wicked thing I had done, and I
resolved to lose no time (as soon as there was no longer any fear of a
duel) in beginning to repent.

       *       *       *       *       *

All this accomplished, which was, after all, only a beginning, I left
the house and walked up the hill, intending to find the three gentlemen
waiting for their duel. These meetings generally took place, I knew,
on the way to the old well. I left Durdans on the right, and struck
across the turf to the left. Presently I saw before me a group of
three gentlemen, standing together and talking. That is to say, two
were talking, and one, Lord Chudleigh, was standing apart. They saw me
presently, and I heard Sir Miles, in his loud and hearty voice, crying
out: "Gad so! It is pretty Kitty herself."

"You look, gentlemen," I said, "as if you were expecting quite another
person. But pray, Sir Miles, why on the Downs so early? There is no
race to-day, nor any bull-baiting. The card-room is open, and I believe
the inns are not shut."

"We are here," he replied, unblushingly, "to take the air. It is
bracing: it is good for the complexion: it expands the chest and opens
the breathing pipes: it is as good as a draught of the waters: and as
stimulating as a bottle of port."

"Indeed! Then I am surprised you do not use the fresh air oftener. For
surely it is cheaper than drinking wine."

"In future," he said, "I intend to do so."

"But why these swords, Sir Miles? You know the rule of the Wells."

"They wanted sharpening," he replied. "The air of the Downs is so keen,
that it sets an edge on sword-blades."

"You looked--fie, gentlemen!--for Mr. Temple to help sharpen the
blades, as a butcher sharpens his knife, by putting steel to steel. Sir
Miles, you are a wicked and bloodthirsty man."

He laughed, and so did the officer. Lord Chudleigh changed colour.

"Gentlemen," I went on, "I have to tell you--I have come here to tell
you--that an accident has happened to Mr. Temple, which will prevent
his keeping the appointment made for him at this hour. I am sure, if
he knew that I was coming here, he would ask me to express his great
regret at keeping you waiting. Now, however, you may all go home again,
and put off killing each other for another day."

They looked at each other, astonished.

"My lord," I said, "I am sure you will let me ask you what injury my
poor friend Harry Temple has done you that you desire to compass his
death."

"Nay," he replied, "I desire not to compass any man's death. I am here
against my will. I have no quarrel with him."

"What do you say, Sir Miles?" I asked. "Are you determined that blood
should be spilt?"

"Not I," he replied. "But as the affair concerns the honour of two
gentlemen, I think, with respect to so fair a lady, that it had better
be left in the hands of gentlemen."

"But," I said, "it concerns me too now, partly because I have brought
you the reason of Mr. Temple's absence, and partly because he is one of
my oldest friends and a gentleman for whom I have a very great regard.
And methinks, Sir Miles, with submission, because a woman cannot
understand the laws of the duello or the scruples of what gentlemen
call honour--that honour which allows a man to drink and gamble, but
not to take a hasty word, that if I can persuade Lord Chudleigh that
Mr. Temple does not desire the duel, and is unfeignedly ashamed of
himself, and if I can assure Mr. Temple that Lord Chudleigh would not
be any the happier for killing Mr. Temple, why then this dreadful
encounter need not take place, and we may all go home again in peace."

Upon this they looked at each other doubtfully, and Sir Miles burst
out laughing. When Sir Miles laughed I thought it would all end well
at once. But then Harry's second spoke up gravely, and threatened to
trouble the waters.

"I represent Mr. Temple in this affair. I cannot allow my principal to
leave the field without satisfaction. We have been insulted. We demand
reparation to our honour. We cannot be set aside in this unbecoming
manner by a young lady."

"Pray, sir," I asked, "does your scarlet coat and your commission"--I
have said he was an officer--"enjoin you to set folks by the ears,
and to promote that method of murder which men call duelling? What
advantage will it be to you, provided these two gentlemen fight and
kill each other?"

"Why, as for advantage--none," he said. "But who ever heard----"

"Then, sir, as it will be of infinite advantage to many of their
friends, and a subject of great joy and thankfulness that they should
not fight, be pleased not to embroil matters further. And, indeed, sir,
I am quite sure that you have breathed the bracing air of the Downs
quite long enough, and had better leave us here, and go back to the
town. You may else want me to fight in the place of Mr. Temple. That
would be a fine way of getting reparation to your wounded honour."

At this he became very red in the face, and spoke more about honour,
laws among gentlemen, and fooling away his time among people who, it
seemed, either did not know their own minds, or contrived accidents to
happen in the nick of time.

"Hark ye, brother," said Sir Miles upon this, "the young lady is
right in her way, because, say what we will, our men were going out
on a fool's errand. Why, in the devil's name, should they fight? What
occasion has Mr. Temple to quarrel with my lord?"

"If Mr. Temple likes...." said his second, shrugging his shoulders.
"After all it is his business, not mine. If, in the army, a man pulls
another man's nose, why----"

"Will you please to understand, sir," I broke in, "that Mr. Temple
is really delayed by an accident--it happened to him on his way here,
and was entirely unforeseen by him, and was one which he could neither
prevent nor expect? If a woman had any honour, in your sense, I would
give you my word of honour that this is so."

"Under these circumstances," the gallant officer said, "I do not see
why we are waiting here. Mr. Temple will, of course, tell his own
story in his own way, and unless the fight takes place on the original
quarrel, why, he may find another second. Such a lame ending I never
experienced."

"And that," interposed Sir Miles, who surely was the most good-natured
of men, "that reminds me, my good sir, that in this matter, unless we
would make bad worse, we all of us had better make up our minds to tell
no story at all, but leave it to Mr. Temple. Wherefore, if it please
you, I will walk to the town in your company, there to contradict any
idle gossip we may hear, and to lay upon the back of the rightful
person, either with cudgels or rapiers, any calumny which may be
attached to Mr. Temple's name. But, no doubt, he is strong enough to
defend himself."

"Really, Sir Miles," said the officer with a sneer, "I wonder you do
not fight for him yourself. Here is your principal, Lord Chudleigh,
ready for you."

"Sir, he is not my friend, but the friend of Miss Pleydell. He is, as
I believe you or any other person who may quarrel with him would find,
perfectly well able to fight his own battles. Meantime I am ready to
fight my own, as is already pretty well known."

With that they both walked off the field, not together, but near each
other, the officer in a great huff and Sir Miles rolling along beside
him, big and good-tempered, yet, like a bull-dog, an ugly dog to tackle.

Lord Chudleigh and I were left alone upon the Downs.

"Kitty," he cried, "what does this mean?"

"That there is to be no fighting between you and Harry Temple. That is
what it means, my lord. Oh, the wickedness of men!"

"But where is he? what is the accident? What does your presence mean?
Did he send you?"

I laughed, but could not tell him. Then I reflected that the errand on
which he had come was no laughing matter, and I became grave again.

"My lord," I said, "is it well to tell a girl one day that you love
her, and the next to come out to fight with swords about a trifle? Do
you think nothing of a broken heart?"

"My dear," he replied, "it was forced upon me, believe me. A man must
fight if he is insulted openly. There is no help for it till customs
change."

"Oh!" I cried; "can that man be in his senses who hopes to win a
woman's heart by insulting and trying to kill--her--her lover?"

"Yes, Kitty." He caught my hand and kissed it. "Your lover--your most
unhappy lover! who can do no more than say he loves you, and yet can
never hope to marry you. How did I dare to open my heart to you, my
dear, with such a shameful story to tell?"

"My lord," I said, "promise me, if you sincerely love me, which I
cannot doubt, not to fight with this hot-headed young man."

"I promise," he replied, "to do all that a man of honour may, in order
to avoid a duel with him."

"Then, my lord, I promise, once more in return--if you would care to
have such a promise from so poor a creature as myself----"

"Kitty! Divine angel!"

"I swear, even though you never wed me, to remain single for your sake.
And even should you change your mind, and bestow your affections upon
another woman, and scorn and loathe me, never to think upon another
man."

He seized me in his arms, though we were on the open Downs (only there
was not a soul within sight, so far as I could see around), and kissed
me on the cheeks and lips.

"My love!" he murmured; "my sweet and gracious lady!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Next, I had to consider what best to do about my prisoner. I begged my
lord to go home through the Durdans, while I returned by the road. On
the way I resolved to liberate Harry at once, but to make conditions
with him. I therefore returned to the doctor's, and asked that I might
be allowed to see the prisoner.

Dr. Powlett was at first very unwilling. He pointed out, with some
justice, that there had not, as yet, been time enough to allow of a
colourable pretence at discovering the supposed mistake; a few days,
say a fortnight, should elapse, during which the search might be
supposed to be a-making; in that interval Harry was to sit chained in
his cell, with a strait-waistcoat on.

"And believe me," said this kind physician, "he will learn from his
imprisonment to admire the many kindnesses and great humanity shown to
unhappy persons who are afflicted with the loss of their wits. Besides
this, he will have an opportunity of discovering for what moderate
charges such persons are received, entertained, and treated with the
highest medical skill, at Epsom, by the learned physician, Jonathan
Powlett, _Medicinæ Doctor_. He will swallow my pills, drink my potions
(which are sovereign in all diseases of the brain), be nourished on
my gruel (compounded scientifically with the Epsom water), will be
tenderly handled by my keepers, and all for the low charge of four
guineas a week, paid in advance, including servants. And he will, when
cured (if Providence assist), come out----"

"Twice as mad as he went in. No, doctor; that, if you please, was not
what I intended. The mischief is averted for the present, and, if you
will conduct me to your prisoner, I think I can manage to avert it
altogether."

Well, finding that there was nothing more to be got out of the case--I
am quite sure that he was ready to treat poor Harry as really mad, and
to keep him there as long as any money could be got out of him--the
doctor gave way, and led me to the room in which lay prisoner Harry.

It was a room apart from the great common rooms in which idiots and
imbecile persons are chained at regular intervals to the wall, never
leaving their places, night or day, until they die. I was thus spared
the pain of seeing what I am told is one of the most truly awful and
terrifying spectacles in the world. The doctor, who measured his
kindness by the guineas which he could extract from his patients'
friends, kept certain private chambers, where, if the poor creatures
were chained, they were not exposed to the sights and sounds of the
common rooms.

In one of these, therefore, he had bestowed Harry.

"Let me," I said, "go in first, and speak with him. Do you come
presently."

I think if I had known, beforehand, what they were going to do, I might
have relented--but no: anything was better than that those two men
should stand, sword in hand, face to face, trying to kill each other
for the sake of an unworthy girl.

Yet the poor lad, whom I had ever loved like a brother, looked in
piteous case; for they had put the strait-waistcoat over him, which
pinned his arms to his sides, and a chain about his waist which was
fastened to the wall behind him; his wig was lying on the floor; he
seemed wet through, which was the natural effect of those savage
keepers' buckets; his face wore a look of rage and despair sad to
behold: his eyes glared like the eyes of a bull at a baiting.

"You here, Kitty?" he cried. "You? What is the meaning of you in this
house?"

"Harry, there has been, it seems a very terrible blunder committed
by Dr. Powlett's servants; they were told you were a certain escaped
madman, and they arrested you in the discharge of their duty. It is
most fortunate that the fact has been brought to my ears, because I
could hasten----"

"Then quick, Kitty, quick!" he cried. "Go, call the doctor, and set me
free. It may not yet be too late. Quick, Kitty! They are waiting for
me."

He forgot, I suppose, what this "waiting" might mean to me.

"Who are waiting, Harry?"

He did not reply.

"What were you going to do on the Downs this morning, Harry, when they
made a prisoner of you?"

"That is nothing to do with you," he replied. "Go, call the rascally
doctor, whose ribs I will break, and his men, whom I will murder, for
this job."

"Nothing to do with me, Harry! Are you quite sure?"

"You look, Kitty, as if you knew. Did Lord Chud----No; he would not.
Did Sir Miles go sneaking to you with the news? Gad! I feel inclined to
try conclusions with the Norfolk baronet with his cudgel about which he
makes such a coil."

"Never mind who told me. I know the whole wicked, disgraceful,
murderous story!"

"Disgraceful! You talk like a woman. Shall a man sit down idly, and see
his wife snatched out of his arms?"

"What wife? O Harry! you have gone mad about this business. Cannot you
understand that I was never engaged to marry you--that I never thought
of such a thing? I could never have been your wife, whether there was
any rival or no. And did you think that you would make me think the
more kindly of you, should you kill the man who, as you foolishly
think, had supplanted you? Or was it out of revenge, and in the hope of
making me miserable, that you designed to fight this duel?"

He was silent at this. When a man is in a strait-waistcoat, and chained
to a wall, it is difficult to look dignified. But Harry's look of shame
and confusion, under the circumstances of having no arms, was truly
pitiful.

"You can talk about that afterwards," he said doggedly. "Go, call the
scoundrel doctor."

"Presently. I want to tell you, first, what I think about it. Was it
kind to the woman you pretended to love to bring upon her the risk of
this great unhappiness? Remember, Harry, I told you all. I told you
what I could not have told even to Nancy, in the hope of breaking you
of this mad passion. I trusted that you were good and true of heart;
and this is the return."

"It is done now," he replied gloomily. "Do not reproach me, Kitty. Let
Lord Chudleigh run me through the body, and so an end. Now, fetch the
doctor fellow and his men."

"That would have been indeed an end," I said. "But, Harry, I have done
better than that for you. I have stayed the duel altogether. You will
not have to fight."

With that I told him how I had gone to the Downs, and what I had said
to the gentlemen. Only, be sure that I left out what passed in the road
between his lordship and myself.

Well, Master Harry flew into a mighty rage upon hearing this, and,
being still in the strait-waistcoat and in chains, his wrath was
increased because he could not move: he talked wildly about his injured
honour, swore that he would go and offer Lord Chudleigh first, and Sir
Miles later, such an open and public affront as must be washed out with
the blood of one; declared that I might have destroyed his reputation
for courage for good, but that he was resolved the world should judge
to the contrary. As for the company at the Wells, he would challenge
every man at Epsom, if necessary, if he should dare to asperse his
bravery. More he said to the same effect, but I interrupted him.

First, I promised to go with him upon the Terrace, there to meet the
people and give him such countenance as a woman could. Next I promised
him that Lord Chudleigh should meet him in a friendly spirit; that Sir
Miles should be the first to proclaim Mr. Temple's courage. I assured
him that he might be quite certain of finding many other opportunities
of proving his valiancy, should he continue in his present bloodthirsty
frame of mind. I congratulated him on his Christian readiness to throw
away a life which had hitherto been surrounded by so many blessings.
Lastly, I advised him to consider how far his present attitude and
sentiments corresponded with the divine philosophy of the ancients,
whom he had once been so fond of quoting.

He refused to make any promise whatever.

Then I bade him remember--first, where he was; second, under what
circumstances he came there; third, that he was surrounded by raving
madmen, chained to the wall as one of them, put in a strait-waistcoat
like one of them, and about to be reduced to a diet of bread and
water; that no one knew where he was except myself and Dr. Powlett;
that neither of us would tell anything about him; and that, in point
of fact, unless he promised what I asked, he might remain where he was
until all danger was past.

"And that, Harry, may be I know not when. For be very well assured
that, as I have obtained from Lord Chudleigh a promise to seek no
quarrel with you, I will not let you go from this place until I am
assured that you will seek no quarrel with him, either on my account or
under any other pretext whatever. You are in great misery (which you
richly deserve for your wicked and murderous design); you are wet and
hungry: if I go away without your promise, you will continue in greater
misery until I return. Bethink thee, Harry."

Still he was obdurate. Strange that a man will face almost anything
rather than possible ridicule.

What, after long persuasion, made him give way, was a plain threat that
if he would not promise what I required I would release him at once,
but tell his story to all the town, so that, for very ridicule's sake,
it would be impossible for the duel to take place.

"It will tell very prettily, Harry," I said. "Nancy will dress it up
for me, and will relate it in her best and liveliest way; how you tried
to get a little country girl of sixteen to engage herself to you; how,
when you found her a year later turned into a lady, you thought that
you could terrify her into accepting your proposals, on the plea that
she had already promised; how you turned sulky; how you quarrelled
with Lord Chudleigh, and made him accept your duel; how you were taken
prisoner by mistake, and kicked, cuffed----"

"I was not kicked!" he cried.

"You were. Dr. Powlett's patients are always kicked. Then you
had buckets of cold water thrown over you; you were put into a
strait-waistcoat and chained to the wall: while I came and asked you
whether you preferred remaining in the madhouse or promising to behave
like an honourable gentleman, and abstain from insulting persons who
have done no harm to you or yours."

"I believe," he said, "that it is none other than yourself who has had
me captured and treated in this manner, _femina furens_!"

"A mere mistake, Harry," I replied, "of this good physician's zealous
servants. Why, it might have happened in any such establishment. But
for me to order it--oh! impossible--though, when one comes to think
of it, there are few things a woman--_Femina furens_, the English of
which, Master Harry, I know--would not do to save two friends from
hacking and slashing each other."

Upon this he gave way.

"I must," he said, "get away from this place with what speed I may,
even if I have to pink half the men in Epsom to prove I am no coward.
Kitty, call the doctor. I believe, mad nymph, thou hast a devil!"

"Nay, Harry, all this was planned but to lay the devil, believe me. But
promise first."

"Well, then. It is a hard pill to swallow, Kitty."

"Promise."

"I promise."

"Not to pick any quarrel, or to revive any old quarrel, with Lord
Chudleigh or Sir Miles Lackington."

He repeated the words after me.

"And to remain good friends with Kitty Pleydell and all who are her
friends and followers."

He repeated these words as well, though with some appearance of
swallowing distasteful food.

"I cannot shake hands with you, Harry, because, poor boy, your hands
are hidden away beneath that strait-waistcoat. But I know you to be
an honourable gentleman, as becomes a man of your birth and so great
a scholar, and I accept your word. Wherefore, my dear old friend and
schoolfellow, seeing that there is to be no more pretence of love
between us, but only of friendship and good wishes, I will call--Dr.
Powlett."

That good man was waiting in the corridor or passage while Harry and I
held this long conversation. He came as soon as I called him.

"Sir," said I, as soon as he came in (I noticed that he looked
anxiously behind him to see that his four varlets were at hand, ready
to defend him if necessary)--"Sir, here is a most grievous mischance
indeed. For this gentleman is no other than Mr. Harry Temple, Justice
of the Peace, Bachelor of Arts of the University of Cambridge, Fellow
Commoner of his College, Member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's
Inn, and a country gentleman, with a great estate of East Kent. He is,
in truth, doctor, no more mad than you or I, or any one else in the
world."

The doctor affected the greatest surprise and indignation. First he
expressed his inability to believe my statement, although it pained
him deeply to differ from a lady; then he called upon one of his
men to bring him the _Hue and Cry_, and read out a description of a
runaway madman which so perfectly answered the appearance of Harry,
that it would deceive any one, except myself, because I was sure he had
himself written it--_after the capture_. He then asked me, solemnly and
gravely, if I did not think, having heard the description, that the men
were justified in their action.

I replied that the paper so exactly tallied with Harry's appearance
that such a mistake was most easy to account for, and must at once,
when explained, command forgiveness. Nevertheless, Harry's face looked
far from forgiving.

"Varlets," said Dr. Powlett, who in some respects reminded me of a
certain Doctor of Divinity, because his voice was deep and his manner
stately, "go, instantly, every man Jack, upon his bended knees and ask
the pardon of Mr. Temple for an offence committed by pure inadvertence
and excess of honourable zeal in the extirpation--I mean the
comfortable and kindly confinement--of the lunatic, insane, and persons
demented."

They all four fell upon their knees and asked forgiveness.

Harry replied briefly, that as for pardoning them, he would wait until
he was free, when he would break all their ribs and wring their necks.

"Sir," said the doctor, "you are doubtless in the right, and are
naturally, for the moment, annoyed at this little misadventure, at
which you will laugh when you consider it at leisure. It will perhaps
be of use to you as showing you on what humane, kindly, and gentle a
system such establishments as ours are conducted. As regards the pardon
which you will extend to these honest fellows, time is no object to
them. They would as soon receive their pardon to-morrow, or a week
hence, or a year, or twenty years hence, as to-day, because their
consciences are at rest, having done their duty; therefore, good sir,
they will wait to release you until you are ready with their pardon."

Harry, after thinking for a few moments over this statement, said, that
so far as he was concerned, the four men might go to the devil, and
that he pardoned them.

"There remains only," said the doctor, "one person who infinitely
regrets the temporary annoyance your honour has been subjected to.
It is myself. I have to ask of you, for the sake of my establishment
and my reputation, two or three conditions. The first of them is
your forgiveness, without which I feel that my self-respect as a
true Christian and man of science would suffer; the second, absolute
secrecy as regards these proceedings, a knowledge of which might be
prejudicial to me; and the third----" here he hesitated and glanced
sideways at me. "The third is, of course"--he plucked up courage and
spoke confidently--"a reimbursement of the expenses I have been put
to, as, for instance"--here he drew out a long roll, and read from
it--"services of four men in watching for the escaped lunatic for five
hours, at five shillings an hour for each man, five pounds; to the
capture of the same, being done in expeditious and workmanlike fashion,
without confusion, scandal, cracking of crowns or breaking of ribs,
two guineas; to bringing him in, and receiving many cuffs, blows,
kicks, &c., on the way, three guineas; to use of private room for one
month at one guinea a week (we never let our private and comfortable
chambers for less than one month), four guineas; to wear and tear of
bucket, strait-waistcoat, and chain, used in confining and bringing to
reason the prisoner, two guineas; to board and lodging of the patient
for one month at two guineas a week (we never receive a patient for
less than one month), eight guineas; to attendants' fees for the same
time, two guineas for entrance and three guineas for departure: to my
own professional attendance at two guineas a week (I never undertake a
case for less than one month certain), eight guineas. The total, good
sir, I find to amount to a mere trifle of thirty-eight pounds twelve
shillings."

Heavens! did one ever hear of such an extortionate charge? And all for
two hours in a strait-waistcoat!

Harry stormed and swore. But the most he could get was a reduction of
the bill by which certain items, including the three guineas for giving
and receiving kicks and cuffs, and the two guineas for wear and tear
of the bucket which had been emptied over him, were to be remitted.
Finally he accepted the conditions, with the promise to pay thirty
guineas in full discharge. And really I think that Dr. Powlett had done
a good morning's work, having taken ten guineas out of me and thirty
out of Harry. But then, as he said, it was a delicate and dangerous
business, and might, in less skilful hands (meaning perhaps mine,
perhaps his own), have led to very awkward results.

The Terrace was full of people, for it was now half-past twelve. As
Harry and I made our way slowly under the trees they parted for us
left and right, staring at us as we passed them with curious eyes.
For the rumour had spread abroad that there was to have been a duel
that morning between Lord Chudleigh and Mr. Temple, and that it was
stopped--no one knew how--by some accident which prevented Mr. Temple
from keeping his appointment. Now at the other end of the Terrace we
met Lord Chudleigh himself, who, after saluting me, held out his hand
before all the world to Harry, who took it with a bow and a blush.

There was a great sigh of disappointment. No duel, then, would be
fought at all, and the two gentlemen who were to have fought it were
shaking hands like ordinary mortals, and the lady for whom they were
going to fight was walking between them, and all three were smiling and
talking together like excellent friends.

Thus, then, did I heal up the quarrel between Harry Temple and my lord.
It would have grieved me sore had poor Harry, almost my brother, been
wounded or killed; but what would have been my lot had my lover fallen?

Three suitors had I rejected in a month, and a lover had I gained, who
was also, though this I never ventured to confess, my husband. But
there was one man whom I had forgotten quite, and he was destined to
be the cause of the greatest trouble of all. Who would have believed
that Will Levett would have dared to call himself my accepted lover?
Who would have believed that this sot, this stable and kennel haunter,
would have remembered me for a whole year, and would have come to Epsom
in the full confidence that he was coming to claim a bride?



CHAPTER XIX.

HOW WILL LEVETT WAS DISAPPOINTED.


Thus was Harry Temple at last pacified and brought to reason. In the
course of a short time he was so far recovered from his passion as to
declare his love for another woman whom he married. This shows how
fickle and fleeting are the affections of most men compared with those
of women; for I am truly of opinion that no woman can love more than
one man in her life, while a man appears capable of loving as many
as he pleases all at once or in turn, as the fancy seizes him. Could
Solomon have loved in very truth the whole seven hundred?

When I was no longer harassed by Harry's gloomy face and jealous
reproaches, I thought that the time was come when I ought to consider
how I should impart to my lord a knowledge of the truth, and I said
to myself, day after day: "To-morrow morning I will do it;" and in the
morning I said: "Nay, but in the evening." And sometimes I thought to
write it and sometimes to tell it him by word of mouth. Yet the days
passed and I did not tell him, being a coward, and rejoicing in the
sunshine of his love and kindness, which I could not bear to lose or
put in any danger.

And now you shall hear how this delay was the cause of a most dreadful
accident, which had well-nigh ruined and lost us altogether.

I could not but remember, when Harry Temple reproached me with
falsehood and faithlessness, that Will Levett had made use of nearly
the same words, making allowance for Will's rusticity. The suspicion
did certainly cross my mind, more than once, that Will may have meant
(though I understood him not) the same thing as Harry. And I remembered
how he pulled a sixpence out of his pocket and gave me the half, which
I threw upon the table unheeding, though every girl knows that a broken
sixpence is a pledge of betrothal. But I was in such great trouble and
anxiety, that I thought nothing of it and remembered nothing for long
afterwards. Yet if Harry came to claim a supposed promise at my hands,
why should not Will? which would be a thing much worse to meet, because
Harry was now amenable to reason, and by means of the strait-waistcoat
and bucket of cold water, with a little talk, I had persuaded him to
adopt a wiser course. But no reason ever availed anything with Will,
save the reason of desire or the opposition of superior force. As a
boy, he took everything he wanted, unless he could be prevented by a
hearty flogging; and he bullied every other boy save those who could by
superior strength compel him to behave properly. I have already shown
how he treated us when we were children and when we had grown up to
be great girls. So that, with this suspicion, and remembering Will's
dreadful temper and his masterfulness, I felt uneasy indeed when Nancy
told me that her brother was coming to Epsom.

"We shall be horribly ashamed of him," she said, laughing, though
vexed. "Indeed, I doubt if we shall be able to show our faces on the
Terrace, after Will has been here a day or two. Because, my dear, he
will thrash the men-servants, kiss the girls, insult the company--some
of whom will certainly run him through the body, while some he will
beat with his cudgel--get drunk in the taverns, and run an Indian muck
through the dance at the Assembly Rooms. I have told my father that
the best thing for him to do is to pretend that Will is no relation of
ours at all, only a rustic from our parish bearing the same name; or
perhaps we might go on a visit to London for a fortnight, so as to get
out of his way; and that, I think, would be the best. Kitty! think of
Will marching up and down the Terrace, a dozen dogs after him, his wig
uncombed, his hunting-coat stained with mud, halloing and bawling as
he goes, carrying an enormous club like Hercules--he certainly is very
much like Hercules--his mouth full of countrified oaths. However, he
does not like fine folks, and will not often show among us. And while
we are dancing in the rooms, he will be sitting at the door of a tavern
mostly, smoking a pipe of tobacco and taking a mug of October with any
who will sit beside him and hear his tales of badgers, ferrets, and
dogs. Well, fortunately, no one can deny the good blood of the Levetts,
which will, we hope, come out again in Will's children; and my father
is a baronet of James the First's creation, otherwise it would go hard
with our gentility."

"When do you expect him to come?"

"He sends word that he may come to-night or to-morrow, bringing with
him a horse which he proposes to match upon the Downs with any horse at
Epsom for thirty guineas a side. One match has been already fixed, and
will be run the next day, provided both horses are fresh. I hope Will
will not cheat, as he was accused of doing at Maidstone. I suppose we
shall all have to go to the Downs to see. Why do men like horse-racing,
I wonder? Crack goes the whip, the horses rush past, the people shout,
the race is over. Give me enjoyment which lasts a little longer, such
as a good country dance, or a few words with Peggy Baker on the
Terrace."

"Does Will know that I am here?" I asked.

"I suppose not," she replied. "Why, my dear, how is Will to know
anything? My father laid out large sums upon his education. Yet the end
of all is that he never reads anything, not even books on Farriery.
As for letters, he is well known not to read those which my mother
sometimes sends him; and as for sending any himself, I believe he has
forgotten the art of writing. He does everything by word of mouth, like
the savages. Perhaps he remembers how to read, because he cannot forget
his sufferings over the criss-cross-row and horn-book. Will, Kitty, is
an early Briton; he should be dressed in wool and painted with woad;
he lives by preference in a stable or a kennel; he ought to have the
body and tail and legs of a horse, then he could stay in the stable
altogether and be happy."

Perhaps, I thought, he would not know me again. But in this I was
deceived, as shall be presently shown.

Well, then, knowing that Nancy would help me in this possible trouble,
I told her exactly what happened between Will and myself, just as I had
told her about Harry, and asked her advice.

It might be that Will had clean forgotten his words, or it might be
that he had changed his mind; he might have fallen in love with some
girl of the village, or he might find me changed and no longer care for
pressing his suit.

Nancy looked grave.

"My brother Will," she said, "is as obstinate as he is pig-headed. I
am afraid he will expect you to fulfil the engagement which he may
think he has made. Never mind, my dear; do not think of it to distress
yourself. If he is obstinate, so are you. He cannot marry you against
your will."

He came the next morning, riding into town, followed by two servants,
one of whom led the famous horse which was to ride the race.

"There," whispered Nancy, "is my brother Will."

We were standing in the church porch after morning prayers, when he
came clattering down the street. He was really a handsome man for those
who like a man to be like Hercules for strength, to have full rosy
cheeks which later in life become fat and purple, a resolute eye, and a
strong, straight chin which means obstinacy.

"Oh, how strong he is!" said Nancy, looking after him. "He could crush
together half-a-dozen of our beaux and fribbles between his fingers,
and break all their ribs with a single flourish of his cudgel. Well,
Will!" she added, as her brother rode out of sight, "we shall meet
at dinner, I dare say. Do you remember, Kitty, how he would tease
and torment us, and make us cry? There ought to be no brothers and
sisters at all--the girls should grow up in one house, and the boys in
another--they should never meet till they are old enough to be lovers,
and never be together when they are too old to be lovers. Fancy the
stupidity of philosophers in putting men and women under the same
name, and calling us all humanity, or mankind, as their impudent way
is of putting it. What have they in common? Man drinks, and gambles,
and fights--woman sits at home and loves peace and moderation: man
wastes--woman saves: man loves to admire--we love to be admired. What
single quality have we in common except a desire to be amiable and seem
pleasing to the other sex?"

"Very likely," I replied, thinking of something else. "No doubt he has
long since forgotten the sixpence. No doubt he thinks no more of me or
the sixpence either."

I saw nothing of him that day, because he had so much to do with his
stable, and so much to attend to in the matter of his race, that he
did not appear upon the Terrace or at the Assembly Room. Harry Temple
shrugged his shoulders when I asked him if he had seen Will.

"I saw him," he said, "engaged in his usual occupations. He had just
cudgelled a stable-boy, was swearing at a groom, rubbing down his
racehorse with his own hands, and superintending the preparation of a
warm mash for his hack. He seems perfectly happy."

It was agreed, in spite of my fears, that we should make a party to
see this race the next morning. Nowadays it is no longer the _mode_
to seek health at Epsom Wells and on Banstead Downs. The votaries of
fashion go to Bath and Tunbridge; the old Wells are deserted, I hear
that the Assembly Rooms have fallen into decay, and there are no longer
the Monday public breakfast, the card-table, the music, the dancing,
which made the place a little heaven for the young in those times when
I myself was young. But in one respect Epsom has grown more frequented
and more renowned every year:

   "On Epsom Downs, when racing does begin,
    Large companies from every part come in."

The spring races were in April, and the summer races in June; but there
was a constant racing all the year round with the horses of country
gentlemen. They would bring them to make matches with all comers, at
such stakes as they could afford to venture on the horses; and in the
morning the company would crowd upon the Downs in goodly numbers to
bet upon the race, and shout to the winner. Sometimes ladies would go
too; not out of any love for the sport, or interest in horses, but
to please their lovers--a desire which is the cause of many a pretty
maid's sudden liking for some manly sport. I have known them even show
an interest in such rough sports as badger-drawing and otter-hunting:
they have been seen to ride after hounds in the midst of the hallos
and horns of the hunters: they have even gone with the gentlemen on
shooting-parties. Thus there were plenty of girls at Epsom ready to
please their gallants by standing about on the Downs (where the wind
plays havoc with powder and paint, and destroys irretrievably the
fabric of a head), while the panting horses were spurred over the long
course by the jockeys, and the backers cried and shouted.

Lord Chudleigh took little joy in this kind of sport, which, perhaps,
is a reason why I also disliked the sight. Nancy, also, as well as
myself, cared but little to see this famous Epsom sport; nor, indeed,
did any of the ladies who formed part of our more intimate company.
But on this occasion, as Will was to run a three-year-old of his own
training, and as he was going to ride the horse himself, and had
staked thirty guineas (beside bets) upon the event, it was judged a
duty owed to him by the family that all should go. Mrs. Esther went
out of respect to Lady Levett; Mr. Stallabras, because he remembered
how Pindar had sung of the Olympian Games, and was suddenly fired with
the desire of writing a Pindaric Ode upon the Epsom contests. Now,
it behoves a poet who sings of a horse-race, first to witness one.
Therefore he came to see how it would lend itself to modern metaphor.
Sir Miles came because he could get the chance of a few bets upon the
race, and because, when there were no cards to the fore, he liked, he
said, to hear me talk. Harry Temple came, grumbling and protesting that
for men of learning and fashion nothing was more barbarous and tedious
than this sport. Could we have had chariot-racing, with athletic games
after the manner of the ancients, he would have been pleased. As it
was, he hoped that Will would win, but feared that a clown and his
money were soon parted; with other remarks equally good-natured.

The race was to be run at half-past eleven. We had chairs for such
as preferred being carried, but the younger ladies walked. We made a
gallant procession as we came upon the course, all the ladies wearing
Will's colours, which were red and blue. They had railed off a piece of
ground where the better sort could stand without being molested by the
crowd which always congregates when a great race is to be run. Indeed,
on this occasion, it seemed as if all the idle fellows for twenty miles
round had gathered together on the Downs with one consent, and with
them half the rustics of the villages, the tradesmen and workmen of
Epsom, Leatherhead, and Dorking, and the greater part of the company
at the Wells. There were gipsies to tell our fortunes or steal our
poultry--but I, for one, had had enough already of fortune-telling from
the tent of the pretended Wizard of the masquerade: there were Italians
leading a bear: there were a couple of rough men with a bull which was
presently to be baited: a canvas enclosure was run up on poles, within
which the Cornish giant would wrestle all comers at sixpence a throw:
another, where a prize-fight would be held, admittance one shilling,
with twopence each for the defeated man: a puppet play was shown for
a penny: for twopence you might see a rare piece of art, the subject
of which I know not: and in wax, the histories of Fair Rosamond and
Susanna. Other amusements there were. I, at first, took all in honour
of Will and his race, but presently learned that a fair had been held
at Leatherhead the day before, and that these people, hearing of what
was forward, came over to get what could be picked up. And, as one fool
makes many, the knowledge of their coming, with the race for an excuse,
brought out all the country people, mouth agape, as is their wont.

The horses presently rode out of the paddock--a place where they weigh,
dress, put on the saddles, and adjust the preliminaries. Will in his
cap pulled over his ears like a nightcap (because a jockey wears no
wig), and in silk jacket, striped with blue and red, riding as if he
was part of the animal he sat, looked in his true place. Ever after
I have thought of the gallant show he made, while with left hand
holding the whip, he bridled the beautiful creature, which but for his
control would have been bounding and galloping over the plain. But they
explained to us that racehorses know when racing is meant, and behave
accordingly, save that they cannot always be refrained from starting
before the time.

Will's rival and competitor, whose name I forget (but I had never seen
him before), was a man of slighter figure, who rode equally well, but
did not at the same time appear to such advantage on horseback. Lord
Chudleigh explained to us that while Will rode naturally, sitting his
horse as if he understood what the creature wished to do, and where he
wanted to go; the other man sat him by rule of thumb, as if the horse
was to understand his master and not the master his horse. I have
ridden a great deal since then, and I know, now, the justice of my
lord's remarks, though I own that this perfect understanding between
horse and rider is not commonly found; and for my own part I remember
but one horse, three parts Arabian, with which I ever arrived at a
complete understanding. Even with him the understanding was onesided,
and ended in his always going whithersoever he pleased.

The adversary's colours were white and green; pretty colours, though
bad for the complexion of women; so that I was glad Will's were suited
to the roses of our cheeks.

They began by riding up and down for a quarter of an hour, Will looking
mighty important, stroking his horse, patting his neck, talking to him,
checking him when he broke into a canter or a gallop. The other man (he
in white and green) had trouble to keep his horse from fairly bolting
with him, which he did for a little distance more than once.

Then the starters took their places, and the judge his, in front of the
winning-post, and the horses started.

White and green led for a quarter of a mile; but Will was close behind:
it was pretty to see the eagerness of the horses--how they pressed
forward with straining necks.

"Will is holding back," cried Harry, with flashing eyes. "Wait till
they are over the hill."

"I feel like Pindar," cried Mr. Stallabras. "Would that Mr. Levett was
Hiero of Syracuse!"

"O Will!" exclaimed Nancy, as if he could hear. "Spur up your horse! If
you lose the race I will never forgive you."

We all stood with parted lips and beating hearts. Yes; we understood
the joy of horse-racing: the uncertainty of the struggle: the ambition
of the noble creatures: the eagerness of the riders: their skill: their
coolness: the shouts of the people--ah! the race is over.

Just before the finish, say two hundred yards the other side of the
winning-post, Will rose in his saddle, plied whip, and cried to his
horse. It answered with a rush, as if struck by a sudden determination
to be first: the other horse, a little tired perhaps, bounded onward
as well; but Will took the lead and kept it. In a moment the race was
finished, and Will rode gallantly past us, ahead by a whole length,
amid the cheers and applause of the people.

When the race was finished the visitors ran backward and forwards,
congratulating or condoling with each other. Many a long face was
pulled as the bets were paid: many a jolly face broadened and became
more jolly as the money went into pocket. And then I saw what is meant
by the old saying about money made over the devil's back. For those
who lost, lost outright, which cannot be denied: but those who won
immediately took their friends to the booths where beer and wine and
rum were sold, and straightway got rid of a portion of their winnings.
No doubt the rest went in the course of the day in debauchery. So that
the money won upon the race benefited no one except the people who sold
drink. And they, to my mind, are the last persons whom one would wish
to benefit, considering what a dreadful thing in this country is the
curse of drink.

If Will looked a gallant rider on horseback, he cut but a sorry figure
among the gentlemen when he came forth from the paddock, having taken
off his jacket and put on again his wig, coat, and waistcoat. For he
walked heavily, rolling in his gait (as a ploughboy not a sailor), and
his clothes were muddy and disordered, while his wig was awry. Lady
Levett beckoned to him, and he came towards us sheepishly bold, as is
the way with rustic gentlemen.

"So, Will," shouted his father heartily, "thou hast won the match. Well
rode, my boy!"

"Well rode!" cried all. "Well rode!"

He received our congratulations with a grin of satisfaction, saluting
the company with a grin, and his knuckles to his forehead like a
jockey. On recovering, he examined us all leisurely.

"Ay," he said. "There you are, Harry, talking to the women about books
and poetry and stuff. What good is that when a race is on? Might as
well have stayed at Cambridge. Well, Nancy--oh! I warrant you, so fine
as no one in the country would know you. Fine feathers make fine
birds, and----" here he saw me, and stared hard with his mouth open.
"Gad so!--it's Kitty! Hoop! Hollo!" Upon this he put both hands to his
mouth and raised such a shout that we all stopped our ears, and the
dogs barked and ran about furiously, as if in search of a fox. "Found
again! Kitty, I am right glad to see thee. Did I ride well? Were you
proud to see me coming in by a neck? Thinks I, 'I don't care who's
looking on, but I'll show them Will Levett knows how to ride.' If I'd
known it was you I would have landed the stakes by three clear lengths,
I would. Let me look at thee, Kitty. Now, gentlemen, by your leave." He
shoved aside Lord Chudleigh, and Harry, and pushed between them. "Let
me look at thee well--ay! more fine feathers--but"--here he swore great
oaths--"there never was anything beneath them but the finest of birds
ever hatched."

"Thank you, Will, for the compliment," I began.

"Why, if any one should compliment you, Kitty, who but I?"

I thought of the broken sixpence and trembled.

"A most pretty speech indeed," said Peggy Baker. "Another of Miss
Pleydell's swains, I suppose?"

"My brother," said Nancy, "has been Kitty's swain since he was old
enough to walk; that is, about the time when Kitty was born. He is as
old a swain as Mr. Temple here."

"I don't know naught about swains," said Will, "but I'm Kitty's
sweetheart. And if any man says nay to that, why let him step to the
front, and we'll have that business settled on the grass, and no time
wasted."

"Brother," cried Nancy, greatly incensed by a remark of such low
breeding, "remember that you are here among gentlemen, who do not fight
with cudgels and fists for the favours of ladies."

"Nay, dear Miss Levett," said Peggy, laughing; "I find Mr. William
vastly amusing. No doubt we might have a contest, a tournament after
the manner of the ancients, with Miss Pleydell as the Queen of Beauty,
to give her favours to the conquering knight. I believe we can often
witness a battle with swords and pistols, if we get up early enough,
in Hyde Park; but a duel with fists and cudgels would be much more
entertaining."

"Thank you, miss," said Will. "I should like to see the man who would
stand up against me."

"I think," Lord Chudleigh interposed, "that as no one is likely to
gratify this gentleman's strange invitation, we may return to the town.
Miss Pleydell, we wait your orders."

Will was about to say something rude, when his sister seized him by the
arm and whispered in his ear.

"O Lord! a lord!" he cried. "I beg your lordship's pardon. There, that
is just like you, Nancy, not to tell me at the beginning. Well, Kitty,
I am going to look after the horse. Then I will come to see thee."

"Your admirer is a bucolic of an order not often found among the sons
of such country gentlemen as Sir Robert Levett," said Lord Chudleigh
presently.

"He is addicted to horses and dogs, and he seems to consider that he
may claim--or show--some sort of equal attachment to me," I answered.

Then I told him the story of the broken sixpence, and how I became
engaged, without knowing it, to both Harry Temple and Will Levett on
the same day.

My lord laughed, and then became grave.

"I do not wonder," he said, "that all classes of men have fallen in
love with the sweetest and most charming of her sex. That does not
surprise me. Still, though we have disposed of Mr. Temple, who is, I
am bound to say, a gentleman open to reason, there may be more trouble
with this headstrong country lad, who is evidently in sober earnest, as
I saw from his eyes. What shall we do, Kitty?"

"My lord," I whispered, "let me advise for your safety. Withdraw
yourself for a while from Epsom. Give up Durdans and go to London. I
could not bear to see you embroiled with this rude and boisterous
clown. Oh, how could such a woman as Lady Levett have such a son? Leave
me to deal with him as best I can."

But he laughed at this. To be sure, fear had no part in the composition
of this noble, this incomparable man.

"Should I run away because a rustic says he loves my Kitty?" But then
his forehead clouded again. "Yet, alas! for my folly and my crime, I
may not call her my Kitty."

"Oh yes, my lord! Call me always thine. Indeed, I am all thine own, if
only I could think myself worthy."

We were walking together, the others a little distance behind us, and
he could do no more than touch my fingers with his own. Alas! the very
touch of his fingers caused a delightful tremor to run through my
veins--so helplessly, so deeply was I in love with him.

Thus we walked, not hand-in-hand, yet from time to time our hands
met: and thus we talked, not as betrothed lovers, yet as lovers: thus
my lord spoke to me, confiding to me his most secret affairs, his
projects, and his ambitions, as no man can tell them save to a woman he
loves. Truly, it was a sweet and delicious time. I fondly turn to it
now, after so many years, not, Heaven knows! with regret, any more than
September, rich in golden harvest and laden orchards, regrets the sweet
and tender April, when all the gardens were white and pink with the
blossoms of plum and pear and apple, and the fields were green with the
springing barley, oats, and wheat. Yet a dear, delightful time, only
spoiled by that skeleton in the cupboard, that consciousness that the
only person who stood between my lord and his happiness was--the woman
he loved. Heard man ever so strange, so pitiful a case?

At the foot of the hill Lord Chudleigh left us, and turned in the
direction of Durdans, where he remained all that day, coming not to
the Assembly in the evening. Mrs. Esther and I went home together to
dinner, and I know not who was the better pleased with the sport and
the gaiety of the morning, my kind madam or Cicely, the maid, who had
been upon the Downs and had her fortune told by the gipsies, and it was
a good one.

"But, my dear," said Mrs. Esther, "it is strange indeed that so loutish
and countrified a bumpkin should be the son of parents so well-bred as
Sir Robert and Lady Levett."

"Yet," I said, "the loutish bumpkin would have me marry him. Dear lady,
would you wish your Kitty to be the wife of a man who loves the stable
first, the kennel next, and his wife after his horses and his dogs?"

After dinner, as I expected, Will Levett called in person. He had been
drinking strong ale with his dinner, and his speech was thick.

"Your servant, madam," he said to Mrs. Esther. "I want speech, if I may
have it, with Miss Kitty, alone by herself, for all she sits with her
finger in her mouth yonder, as if she was not jumping with joy to see
me again."

"Sir!" I cried.

"Oh! I know your ways and tricks. No use pretending with me. Yet I like
them to be skittish. It is their nature to. For all your fine frocks,
you're none of you any better than Molly the blacksmith's girl, or
Sukey at the Mill. Never mind, my girl. Be as fresh and frolic as you
please. I like you the better for it--before we are married."

"Kitty dear," cried Mrs. Esther in alarm, "what does this gentleman
mean?"

"I do not know, dear madam. Pray, Will, if you can, explain what you
mean?"

"Explain? explain? Why----" here he swore again, but I will not write
down his profane and wicked language. Suffice it to say that he called
heaven and earth to witness his astonishment. "Why, you mean to look me
in the face and tell me you don't know?"

"We are old friends, Will," I said, "and I should like, for Nancy's
sake, and because Lady Levett has been almost a mother to me, out
of her extreme kindness, that we should remain friends. But when a
gentleman salutes me before a company of gentlemen and ladies as his
sweetheart, when he talks of fighting other gentlemen--like a rustic
on a village green----"

"Wouldst have me fight with swords and likely as not get killed, then?"
he asked.

"When he assumes these rights over me, I can ask, I think, for an
explanation."

"Certainly," said Mrs. Esther. "We are grieved, sir, to have even a
moment's disagreement with the son of so honourable a gentleman and so
gracious a lady as your respected father and worthy mother, but you
will acknowledge that your behaviour on the Downs was startling to a
young woman of such strict propriety as my dear Kitty."

He looked from one to the other as if in a dream.

Then he put his hand into his pocket and dragged out the half sixpence.

"What's that?" he asked me furiously.

"A broken sixpence, Will," I replied.

"Where is the other half?"

"Perhaps where it was left, on the table in the parlour of the
Vicarage."

"What!" he cried; "do you mean to say that you didn't break the
sixpence with me?"

"Do you mean to say, Will, that I did? As for you breaking it, I do not
deny that: I remember that you snapped it between your fingers without
asking me anything about it; but to say that I broke it, or assented to
your breaking it, or carried away the other half--Fie, Will, fie!"

"This wench," he said, "is enough to drive a man mad. Yet, for all your
fine clothes and your paint and powder, Mistress Kitty, I've promised
to marry you. And marry you I will. Put that in your pipe, now."

"Marry me against my consent, Will? That can hardly be."

"Is it possible," cried Mrs. Esther, seriously displeased, "that we
have in this rude and discourteous person a son of Sir Robert Levett?"

"I never was crossed by woman or man or puppy yet," cried Will
doggedly, and taking no notice whatever of Mrs. Esther's rebuke; "and
I never will be! Why, for a whole year and more I've been making
preparations for it. I've broke in the colt out of Rosamund by Samson
and called him Kit, for you to ride. I've told the people round, so
as anybody knows there's no pride in me, that I'm going to marry a
parson's girl, without a farden, thof a baronet to be----"

Will easily dropped into rustic language, where I do not always follow
him.

"Oh, thank you, Will. That is kind indeed. But I would rather see
you show the pride due to your rank and birth. You ought to refuse
to marry a parson's girl. Or, if you are resolved to cast away your
pride, there's many a farmer's girl--there's Jenny of the Mill, or the
blacksmith's Sue: more proper persons for you, I am sure, and more
congenial to your tastes than the parson's girl."

"I don't mind your sneering--not a whit, I don't," he replied. "Wait
till we're married, and I warrant you shall see who's got the upper
hand! There'll be mighty little sneering then, I promise you."

This brutal and barbarous speech made me angry.

"Now, Will," I said, "get up and go away. We have had enough of your
rustic insolence. Why, sir, it is a disgrace that a gentleman should
be such a clown. Go away from Epsom: leave a company for which your
rudeness and ill-temper do not fit you: go back to your mug-house,
your pipe, your stables, and your kennels. If you think of marrying,
wed with one of your own rank. Do you hear, sir? one of your own rank!
Gentle born though you are, clown and churl is your nature. As for me,
I was never promised to you; and if I had been, the spectacle of this
amazing insolence would break a thousand promises."

He answered by an oath. But his eyes were full of dogged determination
which I knew of old; and I was terrified, wondering what he would do.

"I remember, when you were a boy, your self-will and heedlessness of
your sister and myself. But we are grown up now, sir, as well as
yourself, and you shall find that we are no longer your servants. What!
am I to marry this clown----"

"You shall pay for this!" said Will. "Wait a bit; you shall pay!"

"Am I to obey the command of this rude barbarian, and become his wife;
not to cross him, but to obey him in all his moods, because he wills
it? Are you, pray, the Great Bashaw?"

"Mr. Levett," said Mrs. Esther, "I think you had better go. The Kitty
you knew was a young and tender child; she is now a grown woman, with,
I am happy to say, a resolution of her own. Nor is she the penniless
girl that you suppose, but my heiress; though not a Pimpernel by blood,
yet a member of as good and honourable a house as yourself."

He swore again in his clumsy country fashion that he never yet was
baulked by woman, and would yet have his way; whereas, so far as he was
a prophet (I am translating his rustic language into polite English)
those who attempted to say him nay would in the long-run find reason
to repent with bitterness their own mistaken action. All his friends,
he said, knew Will Levett. No white-handed, slobbering, tea-drinking
hanger-on to petticoats was he; not so: he was very well known to
entertain that contempt for women which is due to a man who values his
self-respect and scorns lies, finery, and make-believe fine speeches.
And it was also very well known to all the country-side that, give him
but a fleer and a flout, he was ready with a cuff side o' the head; and
if more was wanted, with a yard of tough ash, or a fist that weighed
more than most. As for drink, he could toss it off with the best, and
carry as much; as for racing, we had seen what he could do and how
gallant a rider he was; and for hunting, shooting, badger-baiting,
bull-baiting, dog-fighting, and cocking, there was not, he was ready
to assure us, his match in all the country. Why, then, should a man,
of whom his country was proud--no mealy-mouthed, Frenchified, fine
gentleman, of whom he would fight a dozen at once, so great was his
courage--be sent about his business by a couple of women? He would
let us know! He pitied our want of discernment, and was sorry for the
sufferings which it would bring upon one of us, meaning Kitty; of which
sufferings he was himself to be the instrument.

When he had finished this harangue he banged out of the room furiously,
and we heard him swearing on the stairs and in the passage, insomuch
that Cicely and her mother came up from the kitchen, and the former
threatened to bring up her mop if he did not instantly withdraw or
cease from terrifying the ladies by such dreadful words.

"My dear," said Mrs. Esther, "we have heard, alas! so many oaths that
we do not greatly fear them. Yet this young man is violent, and I will
to Lady Levett, there to complain about her son."

She put on her hat, and instantly walked to Sir Robert's lodgings, when
before the baronet, Lady Levett, and Nancy she laid her tale.

"I know not," said Lady Levett, weeping, "what hath made our son so
self-willed and so rustical. From a child he has chosen the kennel
rather than the hall, and stable-boys for companions rather than
gentlemen."

"Will is rough," said his father, "but I cannot believe that he would
do any hurt to Kitty, whom he hath known (and perhaps in his way loved)
for so long."

"Will is obstinate," said Nancy, "and he is proud and revengeful. He
has told all his friends that he was about to marry Kitty. When he goes
home again he will have to confess that he has been sent away."

"Yet it would be a great match for Kitty," said Will's mother.

"No, madam, with submission," said Mrs. Esther. "The disparity of rank
is not so great, as your ladyship will own, and Kitty will have all my
money. The real disparity is incompatibility of sentiment."

"Father," said Nancy, "you must talk to Will. And, Mrs. Pimpernel, take
care that Kitty be well guarded."

Sir Robert remonstrated with his son. He pointed out, in plain
terms, that the language he had used and the threats he had made were
such as to show him to be entirely unfitted to be the husband of any
gentlewoman: that Kitty was, he had reason to believe, promised to
another man: that it was absurd of him to suppose that a claim could
be founded on words addressed to a child overcome with grief at the
death of her father. He spoke gravely and seriously, but he might have
preached to the pigs for all the good he did.

Will replied that he meant to marry Kitty, and he would marry her: that
he would brain any man who stood in his way: that he never yet was
crossed by a woman, and he never would; with more to the same effect,
forgetting the respect due to his father.

Sir Robert, not losing his patience, as he would have been perfectly
justified in doing, went on to remonstrate with his son upon the
position which he was born to illustrate, and the duties which that
involved. Foremost among these, he said, were respect and deference to
the weaker sex. Savages and barbarous men, he reminded him, use women
with as little consideration as they use slaves; indeed, because women
are weak, they are, among wild tribes, slaves by birth. "But," he said,
"for a gentleman in this age of politeness to speak of forcing a lady
to marry him against her will is a thing unheard of."

"Why, lad," he continued, "when I was at thy years, I would have
scorned to think of a woman whose affections were otherwise bestowed.
It would have been a thing due to my own dignity, if not to the laws
of society, to leave her and look elsewhere. And what hath poor Kitty
done, I pray? Mistaken an offer of marriage (being then a mere child
and chit of sixteen) for an offer of friendship. Will, Will, turn thy
heart to a better mood."

Will said that it was no use talking, because his mind was made up:
that he was a true Kentishman, and a British bull-dog. Holdfast was
his name: when he made up his mind that he was going to get anything,
that thing he would have: that, as for Kitty, he could no more show
himself back upon the village-green, or in the village inn, or at any
cock-fighting, bull-baiting, badger-drawing, or horse-race in the
country-side, unless he had brought home Kitty as his wife. Wherefore,
he wanted no more ado, but let the girl come to her right mind, and
follow to heel, when she would find him (give him his own way, and no
cursed contrariness) the best husband in the world. But, if not----

Then Sir Robert spoke to other purpose. If, he told his son, he
molested Kitty in any way whatever, he would, in his capacity as
justice of the peace, have him instantly turned out of the town; if he
offered her any insult, or showed the least violence to her friends, he
promised him, upon his honour, to disinherit him.

"You may drink and smoke tobacco with your grooms and stable-boys at
home," he said. "I have long been resigned to that. But if you disgrace
your name in this place, as sure as you bear that name, you shall no
longer be heir to aught but a barren title."

Will answered not, but walked away with dogged looks.



CHAPTER XX.

HOW WILL WOULD NOT BE CROSSED.


I know not what Will proposed to himself when his father at first
admonished him; perhaps, one knows not, he even tried to set before
himself the reasonableness of his father's rebuke; perhaps, as the
sequel seems to show, he kept silence, resolving to have his own way
somehow.

However that might be, Will ceased to molest me for the time, and I was
even in hopes that he had seen the hopelessness of his desires. Our
days went on without any other visits from him, and he did not seek me
out upon the Terrace or in the Assembly Rooms.

Poor Nancy's predictions were, however, entirely fulfilled. For Will
could not, by any persuasion of hers, be induced at first to abstain
from showing himself in public. To be sure, he did not "run an Indian
muck" among the dancers, but he became the terror of the whole company
for a rough boorishness which was certainly unknown before in any
polite assembly. He did not try to be even decently polite: he was
boorish, not like a boor, but like a Czar of Russia, with a proud sense
of his own position; he behaved as if he were, at Epsom Wells, the
young squire among the villagers who looked up to him as their hero
and natural king. If he walked upon the Terrace he pushed and elbowed
the men, he jolted the ladies, he stepped upon trains, pushed aside
dangling canes and deranged wigs, as if nobody was to be considered
when he was present. Sometimes he went into the card-room and took a
hand; then, if he was tempted to give his antagonist the lie direct, he
gave it; or if he lost, he said rude things about honesty; and he was
so strong, and carried so big a cudgel, that for a time nobody dared
to check him. Because, you see, by Nash's orders, the gentlemen wore
no swords. Now, although it is possible to challenge a man and run
him through, what are you to do with one who perhaps would refuse a
challenge, yet would, on provocation, being horribly strong, cudgel his
adversary on the spot? Of course, this kind of thing could not last; it
went on just as long as the forbearance of the gentlemen allowed, and
then was brought to an end. As for Will, during the first few days he
had not the least consideration for any one; all was to give way to his
caprice.

I have already remarked upon the very singular love which young men
of all ranks seem to have for chucking under the chin young women of
the lower classes. It was very well known at Epsom Wells that many
gentlemen rose early in the morning in order to enjoy this pastime
upon the chins of the higglers who brought the fruit, eggs, fowls,
and vegetables from the farmhouses. From six to nine chin-chucking,
not actually upon the Parade and the Terrace, but close by, among the
trees, on the steps of houses, beside the pond, was an amusement in
full flow. Many of the higglers were comely red-cheeked damsels who
thought it fine thus to be noticed by the quality, and I suppose no
harm came of it all, save a little pampering of the conceit and vanity
of young girls, so that they might dream of gentlemen instead of
yeomen, and aspire beyond their rank instead of remembering the words
of the Catechism to "learn and labour to do their duty in their own
station of life." To attract the attention of a dozen young fellows:
to have them following one about, even though one carried a basket
full of eggs for sale: to listen to their compliments: to endure that
chin-chucking--I suppose these things were to the taste of the girls,
because, as Cicely told me, there was great competition among them who
should carry the basket to the Wells. Now Master Will was quite at
home, from his village experiences, with this pastime, and speedily
fell in with it, to the annoyance and discomfiture of the London beaux
and fribbles. For, still acting upon the principles that Epsom was his
own parish, the village where he was Sultan, Great Bashaw, Heyduc, or
Grand Seigneur, he at once took upon himself the right of paying these
attentions to any or all of the damsels, without reference to previous
preferences. This, which exasperated the fair higglers, drove the beaux
nearly mad. Yet, because he was so strong and his cudgel was so thick,
none durst interfere.

I have since thought, in reflecting over poor Will's history, that
there are very few positions in life more dangerous to a young man
than that of the only son of a country squire, to have no tastes for
learning and polite society, and to live constantly on the estate. For
among the rough farmers and labourers there can be no opposition or
public feeling upon the conduct, however foolish and ungoverned, of
such a young man; the rustics and clowns are his very humble servants,
nay, almost his slaves; they tremble at his frown; if he lifts his
stick they expect a cudgelling; as for the women and girls of the
village, the poor things are simply honoured by a nod and a word; the
estate will be his, the fields will be his, the cottages his; the
hares, rabbits, partridges, pheasants will be his; even the very men
and women will be his, nay, are his already. Wherever he goes he is
saluted; even in the church, the people rise to do him reverence: hats
are doffed and reverence paid if he walks the fields, or rides upon
the roads; every day, supposing he is so unhappy as to remain always
upon his own estate, he is made to feel his greatness until he comes to
believe, like King Louis XV. himself, that there is no one in the world
but must bow to his order, nothing that he desires but he must have.
And, speaking with the respect due to my benefactors, I think that Sir
Robert, a man himself of singular good feeling and high breeding, was
greatly to blame in not sending his son to travel, or in some way to
make him mix with his equals and superiors. For such a character as
Will's is formed insensibly. A man does not become selfish and boorish
all at once. Therefore, his parents did not notice, until it was forced
upon them, what all the world deplored--the self-will and boorishness
of their only son. To the last I think that Lady Levett looked upon him
as a young man of excellent heart, though stubborn.

"You _shall_ marry me," he had said. Therefore it was war to the death,
because, as you all know, I could not possibly marry him.

It was no secret at Epsom that this young autocrat had said those
words; in fact, he used them in public, insulting Harry Temple upon the
very Terrace before all the company.

"I warn you," he said, "keep away from Kitty. She's going to be my
wife. I've told her so. Therefore, hands off."

"Why, Will," Harry replied good-naturedly, "what if she refuses?"

"She shan't refuse. I've said she shall marry me, and she shall," he
replied. "Refuse? It's only her whimsical tricks. All fillies are
alike. Hands off, Master Harry."

"Why," cried Peggy Baker, "what a pretty, genteel speech, to be sure!
Oh, Mr. Levett, happy is the woman who will be your wife! Such kindness
of disposition! such sweetness! such gallantry! such sensibility!"

"I know what you mean," said Will, swearing a big oath; "and I don't
value your words nor your opinion--no--not a brass farden, no more
than I value your powder, and your paint, and your patches. You're all
alike; blacksmith's Sue is worth a hundred of ye."

Peggy burst out laughing, and Will strode away. He did not like to be
laughed at, yet could not help being intolerably rude.

When I found that Will, although he made himself the
laughing-stock--and the terror--of the place, ceased to molest me, I
was more easy in my mind; certainly, it would not have been pleasant to
walk on the Terrace, or even to go to the Assembly, if one had feared
to meet this rough and bearish inamorato, who might have insulted one,
or a gentleman with one, in the most intolerable manner. However, the
evening was generally a safe time, because then he loved to sit in a
tavern playing all-fours over a pipe and a tankard with any country
parson, or even any town tradesman, who would share his beer and be
complaisant with his moods.

This was worse than the case of Harry Temple, because, as I have said
before, I could not hope, whatever I did, to bring him to reason.
Sometimes I thought, but wildly, of Dr. Powlett's establishment.
Suppose that the whole force of the house had succeeded in putting
him into chains and a strait-waistcoat, which was certainly
doubtful--besides, so wicked a thing could not be done twice--what
assurance had I of good behaviour on release? He would promise--Will
was always ready to promise, having no more regard to truth than an
ourang-outang; but when he was free, with his cudgel in his hand, what
would he not do?

I have said that he was prodigiously strong, besides being fierce and
masterful of aspect. This made men give way to him; also he got a
reputation for being stronger than perhaps he really was. For when,
as continually happened, booths were put on the Downs for wrestling,
singlestick, quarterstaff, boxing, and other trials of skill and
strength, Will would always go, sit out the whole games, and then
challenge the victor, whom he always conquered, coming off the hero of
the day. To be sure, it was whispered that the contest was generally
arranged--by promise of half-a-crown--to be decided in favour of Will.
It seems strange, but I suppose there are men who, for half-a-crown,
will not only sell a fight--on which bets have been made--but also take
a sound drubbing as well.

And if he had a dispute with a gentleman--it was impossible for him
to exchange two words without causing a dispute--he would immediately
propose to settle the affair with cudgels or fists. Now a gentleman
should be ready to fight a street bully or a light porter in London
with any weapons, if necessary; but what sort of society would that
be in which the gentlemen would take off coat and wig and engage with
fists or clubs on the smallest quarrel?

He was so rude and overbearing that the company began to be positively
afraid of going to the Terrace or the Assembly Rooms, and indeed I
think he would have driven the whole of the visitors away in a body but
for the timely interference of Lord Chudleigh and Sir Miles Lackington.
It was the day after his open insult to Harry Temple, who could not
call out the son of his former guardian and his old playfellow.
Therefore these two resolved that there should be an end of this
behaviour.

It was bruited abroad that some steps of a serious nature were going
to be taken; there had been found a man, it was said, to bell the cat;
it was even whispered that a prize-fighter of stupendous strength,
dexterity, and resolution had been brought down expressly from London
in order to insult Will Levett, receive a challenge for singlestick,
or fists, or quarterstaff, instantly accept it, and thereupon give the
village bantam-cock so mighty a drubbing that he would not dare again
to show his face among the company. Indeed, I think that was the best
thing which could have been done, and I sincerely wish they had done
it.

But Lord Chudleigh and Sir Miles would not treat a gentleman,
even so great a cub and clown, with other than the treatment due
to a gentleman. Therefore, they resolved upon an open and public
expostulation and admonition. And, mindful of the big cudgel, they
broke the laws of the Wells, and put on their swords before they came
together on the Terrace, looking grave and stern, as becomes those
who have duties of a disagreeable kind to perform. But to see the
excitement of the company. They expected, I believe, nothing short of a
battle between Lord Chudleigh and Sir Miles on the one hand, armed with
swords, and Will on the other, grasping his trusty cudgel. The cudgel,
in his hands, against any two combatants, would have been a mighty
awkward weapon, but, fortunately, gentlemen of Will's kind entertain a
healthy repugnance to cold steel.

It was about twelve o'clock in the forenoon when Will the Masterful,
forcing his way, shoulders first, among the crowd, found himself
brought up short by these two gentlemen. Round them were gathered a
circle of bystanders, which increased rapidly till it was twenty or
thirty deep.

"Now then," he cried, "what is the meaning of this? Let's pass, will
ye, lord or no lord?"

As Lord Chudleigh made no reply, Will, growling that a freeborn
Englishman was as good as a lord or a baronet in the public way, tried
to pass through them. Then he was seized by the coat-collar by Sir
Miles, whose arm was as strong as his own.

"Hark ye," said the baronet. "We want a few words with you, young cub!"

Will lifted his head in amazement. Here was a man quite as strong as
himself who dared to address him as a cub.

"We find that you go about the Wells," continued the baronet, "which is
a place of entertainment for ladies and gentlemen, insulting, pushing,
and behaving with no more courtesy than if you were in your own
stableyard. Now, sirrah, were it not for the respect we have for your
father, we should make short work of you."

"Make short work of ME!" cried Will, red in the face, and brandishing
his cudgel. "Make short work of ME!"

"Certainly. Do not think we shall fight you with sticks; and if you
make the least gesture with that club of yours, I shall have the
pleasure of running you through with my sword." Contrary to the rules
of the Wells, both gentlemen, as I have said, wore their swords on this
occasion, and here Sir Miles touched his sword-hilt. "And now, sir,
take a word of advice. Try to behave like a gentleman, or, upon my word
of honour, you shall be driven out of the Wells with a horsewhip by the
hands of the common grooms of the place, your proper companions."

Will swore prodigiously, but he refrained from using his cudgel.
Indeed, the prospect of cold steel mightily cooled his courage.

"And a word from me, sir," said Lord Chudleigh, speaking low. "You have
dared to make public use of a certain young lady's name. I assure you,
upon the honour of a peer, that if you presume to repeat this offence,
or if you in any way assert a claim to that lady's favour, I will make
you meet me as one gentleman should meet another."

Will looked from one to the other. Both men showed that they meant what
they promised. Sir Miles, with a careless smile, had in his eye a look
of determination. Lord Chudleigh, with grave face and set lip, seemed
a man quite certain to carry out his promise. Will had nothing to say;
he was like one dumbfounded: therefore he swore. This is the common
refuge of many men for all kinds of difficulties, doubts, and dangers.
Some rogues go swearing to the gallows. Men call them insensible and
callous, whereas I believe that these wretches are simply incapable
of expressing emotion in any other way. Swearing, with them, stands
for every emotion. The divine gift of speech, by which it was designed
that men should express their thoughts, and so continually lead upwards
their fellow-creatures, become in their case a vehicle for profane
ejaculation, so that they are little better than the monkeys on the
branches.

Will, therefore, swore vehemently. This made no impression upon his
assailants. He therefore swore again. He then asked what sort of
treatment this was for a gentleman to receive. Sir Miles reminded him
that he had offended against the good manners expected of gentlemen
at a watering-place, and that he could no longer fairly be treated as
belonging to the polite class.

"Indeed," he explained, "we have gravely considered the matter, my
lord and myself, and have come to the conclusion that although, for
the sake of your most worthy father, we were ready to admonish as
a gentleman (though in this open and public manner, as the offence
required), yet we cannot consider your case to be deserving of any
better treatment than that of a common, unruly porter, carter, or
labouring man, who must be brought to his senses by reason of blows,
cuffs, and kicks. Know, then, that although this Terrace is open to all
who comport themselves with civility, decency, and consideration for
others, it is no place for brawlers, strikers, and disturbers of the
peace. Wherefore, four stout men, or if that is not enough, six, will
be told off to drive you from the Terrace whenever you appear again
upon it armed with that great stick, or upon the least offer to fight
any gentleman of the company. I believe, sir, that you are no fool, and
that you perfectly understand what we mean, and that we do mean it.
Wherefore, be advised in time, and if you do not retreat altogether
from the Wells, be persuaded to study the customs of polite society."

This was a long speech for Sir Miles, but it was delivered with an
authority and dignity which made me regret that such good abilities
should have been thrown away at the gaming-table.

Will swore again at this. Then, observing that many of the bystanders
were laughing, he brandished his cudgel, and talked of knocking out
brains, breaking of necks, and so forth, until he was again reminded by
Sir Miles, who significantly tapped the hilt of his sword, that Signor
Stick was not to be allowed to reign at the Wells. Then he hung his
head and swore again.

"It will be best, sir," said Lord Chudleigh, "that you come no more
to the Terrace or the Assembly Rooms, with or without your cudgel.
The Downs are wide and open; there you will doubtless find room for
walking, and an audience in the birds for these profane oaths, to which
our ladies are by no means accustomed."

"Let me go then," he said sulkily. "Od rot it--get out of my way, some
of you!"

He walked straight down the Terrace, the people making way for him on
either hand, with furious looks and angry gestures. He went straight
to his stable, where he thrashed a groom for some imaginary offence.
Thence he went to the King's Head, where he called for a tankard and
offered to fight the best man in the company or for ten miles round,
for fifty pounds a side, with quarterstaff, singlestick, or fists. Then
he drank more beer; sat down and called for a pipe: smoked tobacco all
the afternoon; and got drunk early in the evening.

But he came no more to the Terrace.

"And now," said Peggy Baker, "I hope that we shall see Miss Nancy
back again. Doubtless, my lord, the return of that lady, and the more
frequent appearance of Miss Pleydell with her, will bring your lordship
oftener from Durdans."

I have already mentioned our poets at Epsom, and their biting epigrams.
Here is another, which was sent to me at this time:

   "Kitty, a nymph who fain would climb,
      But yet may tumble down,
    Her charms she tries with voice and eyes
      First on a rustic clown.

   "But bumpkin squire won't serve her turn
      When gentle Harry woos her,
    So farewell Will, for Kitty still
      Will laugh, although you lose her.

   "Yet higher still than Hal or Will
      Her thoughts, ambitious, soar'd:
   'Go, Will and Hal: my promise shall
      Be transferred to my Lord.'"

I suppose the verses were written at the request of Peggy Baker; but
after all they did me very little harm, and, indeed, nothing could do
me either good or harm at Epsom any more, because my visit was brought
to a sudden close by an event which, as will be seen, might have been
most disastrous for us all.

The selfishness and boorish behaviour of Will Levett not only kept us
from walking on the Terrace in the afternoon, but also kept poor Nancy
at home altogether. She would either come to our lodgings and sit with
me lamenting over her bumpkin brother, or she would sit at home when
Sir Robert was testy and her ladyship querulous, throwing the blame
of her son's rudeness sometimes upon her husband, who, she said, had
never whipped the boy as he ought to have been whipped, in accordance
with expressed Scripture orders strictly laid down; or upon Nancy,
whose pert tongue and saucy ways had driven him from the Hall to the
kennel; or upon myself, who was so ungrateful, after all that had been
done for me, as to refuse her son, in spite of all his protestations of
affection. It was hard upon poor Nancy, the ordinary butt and victim
of her brother's ill-temper, that she should be taunted with being
the cause of it; and one could not but think that had madam been more
severe with her son at the beginning, things might have gone better.
When a mother allows her son from the very beginning to have all his
own way, it is weak in the father to suffer it: but she must not then
turn round when the mischief is done, and reproach her daughter, who
took no part in the first mischief, with being the cause of it; nor
should she call a girl ungrateful for refusing to marry a man whose
vices are so prominent and conspicuous that they actually prevent his
virtues from being discerned. Beneath that smock-frock, so to speak,
that village rusticity, behind that blunt speech and rough manner,
there may have been the sound kind heart of a gentleman, but the girl
could not take that for granted. The sequel proved indeed that she was
right in refusing, even had she been free; for Will died, as he lived,
a profligate and a drunkard of the village kind. So that even his poor
mother was at last fain to acknowledge that he was a bad and wicked
man, and but for some hope derived from his deathbed, would have gone
in sorrow to her dying day.

"I must say, Kitty," said Lady Levett to me, "that I think a little
kindness from you might work wonders with our Will. And he a boy of
such a good heart!"

"He wants so much of me, madam," I replied. "With all respect, I cannot
give him what he asks, because I cannot love him."

"He says, child, that you promised him."

"Indeed, madam, I did not. I was in sorrow and lamentation over my
fathers death and my departure from kind friends, when first Harry and
then Will came, and one after the other said words of which I took no
heed. Yet when I saw them again, they both declared that I was promised
to them. Now, madam, could a girl promise to two men within half an
hour?"

"I know not. Girls will do anything," said Lady Levett bitterly. "Yet
it passes my understanding to know how the two boys could be so
mistaken. And yet you will take neither. What! would nothing serve you
short of a coronet?"

I made no reply.

"Tell me, then, girl, will Lord Chudleigh marry thee? It is a great
condescension of him, and a great thing for a penniless young woman."

"He will marry me, madam," I replied, blushing, and thinking of what I
had first to tell him.

She sighed.

"Well, I would he had cast his eyes on Nancy! Yet I say not, Kitty,
that a coronet will be too heavy for thy head to wear. Some women are
born to be great ladies. My Nancy must content herself with some simple
gentleman. Go, my dear. I must try to persuade this headstrong boy to
reason."

"Persuade him, if you can, madam," I said, "to leave Epsom and go home.
He will come to harm in this place. Two or three of the gentlemen have
declared that they will follow the example of Lord Chudleigh and Sir
Miles Lackington, and wear swords, although that is against the rules
of the Wells, in order to punish him for his rudeness should he venture
again to shake his cudgel in the faces of the visitors, which he has
done already to their great discomfiture."

I know not if his mother tried to persuade him, but I do know that he
did not leave Epsom, and that the evil thing which I had prophesied,
not knowing how true my words might be, did actually fall upon him.
This shows how careful one should be in foretelling disasters, even if
they seem imminent. And indeed, having before one the experiences of
maturity, it seems as if it would be well did a new order of prophets
and prophetesses arise with a message of joy and comfort, instead of
disaster and misery, such as the message which poor Cassandra had to
deliver.

Now, when my lord had given poor Will the warning of which I have
told, he retired ashamed and angry, but impenitent, to those obscure
haunts where tobacco is continually offered as incense to the gods of
rusticity. Here he continued to sit, smoked pipes, drank beer, and
cudgelled stable-boys to his heart's content; while we, being happily
quit of him, came forth again without fear.

Nancy, however, assured me that something would happen before her
brother, whose stubbornness and masterful disposition were well known
to her, relinquished his pursuit and persecution of the woman on whom
he had set his heart.

"My dear," she said, "I know Will, as you do, of old. Was there ever
a single thing which he desired that he did not obtain? Why, when he
was a child and cried for the moon they brought him a piece of green
cheese, which they told him was cut from the moon on purpose for
him to eat. Was he ever crossed in anything? Has there ever been a
single occasion on which he gave up any enjoyment or desire out of
consideration for another person? Rather, when he has gone among his
equals has he not become an object of scorn and hatred? He made no
friends at school, nor any at Cambridge, from which place of learning
he was, as you know, disgracefully expelled; the gentlemen of the
county will not associate with him except on the hunting-field--you
know all this, Kitty. Think, then, since he has made up his mind to
marry a girl; since he has bragged about his condescension, as he
considers it; since he has promised his pot-companions to bring home
a wife, how great must be his rage and disappointment. He will _do
something_, Kitty. He is desperate."

What, however, could he do? He came not near our lodgings; he made no
sign of any evil intention; but he did not go away.

"He is desperate," repeated Nancy. "He cares little about you, but
he thinks of his own reputation. And, my dear, do not think because
Will, poor boy, is a sot and a clown that he does not think of his
reputation. His hobby is to be thought a man who can and will have his
own way. He has openly bragged about the country, and even among his
boozing companions at Epsom, that he will marry you. Therefore, oh! my
dear, be careful. Go not forth alone, or without a gentleman or two,
after dark. For I believe that Will would do anything, anything, for
the sake of what he calls his honour. For, Kitty, to be laughed at
would be the death-blow to his vanity. He knows that he is ignorant and
boorish, but he consoles himself with the thought that he is strong."

What, I repeated, being uneasy more than a little, could he do?

At first I thought of asking Harry Temple quietly to watch over Will
and bring me news if anything was in the wind; but that would not do
either, because one could not ask Harry to act the part of a spy.
Next, I thought that I had only to ask for a bodyguard of the young men
at the Wells to get a troop for my protection; but what a presumption
would this be! Finally, I spoke my fears to Sir Robert, begging him not
to tell madam what I had said.

"Courage, Kitty!" said Sir Robert Levett. "Will is a clown, for which
we have to thank our own indulgence. Better had it been to break a
thousand good ash-saplings over his back, than to see him as he is.
Well, the wise man says: 'The father of a fool hath no joy,' Yet Will
is of gentle blood, and I cannot doubt that he will presently yield and
go away patiently."

"Have you asked him, sir?"

"Child, I ask him daily, for his mother's sake and for Nancy's, to go
away and leave us in peace. But I have no control over him. He doth but
swear and call for more ale. His mother also daily visits him, and gets
small comfort thereby. His heart is hard and against us all."

"Then, sir, if Mrs. Esther will consent, one cause of his discontent
shall be removed, for we will go away to London where he will not be
able to find us."

"Yes, Kitty," he replied. "That will be best. Yet who would ever have
thought I could wish our sweet tall Kitty to go away from us!"

The sweet tall Kitty could not but burst out crying at such tenderness
from her old friend and protector.

"Forgive me, sir," I said, while he kissed me and patted my cheek as if
I was a child again. "Forgive me, sir, that I cannot marry Will, as he
would wish."

"Child!" he exclaimed, starting to his feet in a paroxysm of passion.
"God forgive me for saying so, but I would rather see a girl I loved in
her grave than married to my son!"

We then held a consultation, Lord Chudleigh being of the party; and it
was resolved that we should return to London without delay, and without
acquainting any at the Wells with our intention, which was to be
carried into effect as soon as we could get our things put together;
in fact, in two days' time.

So secret were our preparations that we did not even tell Nancy, and
were most careful to let no suspicion enter the head of Cicely Crump,
a town-crier of the busiest and loudest, who was, besides, continually
beset by the young gallants, seeking through her to convey letters,
poems, and little gifts to me. Yet so faithful was the girl, as I
afterwards found out, and so fond of me, that I might safely have
trusted her with any secret.

(Soon after the event which I am now to relate, I took Cicely into my
service as still-room maid. She remained with me for four years, being
ever the same merry, faithful, and talkative wench. She then, by my
advice, married the curate of the parish, to whom she made as good a
wife as she had been a servant, and brought up eleven children, four of
them being twins, in the fear of God and the love of duty.)

We were to depart on Friday, the evening being chosen so that Master
Will should not be able to see us go. Lord Chudleigh and Sir Miles
promised to ride with our coach all the way to London for protection. I
have often remembered since that Friday is ever an unlucky day to begin
upon. Had we made the day Thursday, for instance, we should have gotten
safely away without the thing which happened.

On Thursday afternoon we repaired to the Terrace as usual, I rather sad
at thinking that my reign as Queen of the Wells would soon be over, and
wondering whether the future could have any days in store for me so
happy as those which a kind Providence had already bestowed upon me.
There was to be a dance at six, and a tea at five. About four o'clock,
Nancy and I, accompanied only by Mr. Stallabras, sauntered away from
the Terrace and took the road leading to the Downs. Nancy afterwards
told me that she had noticed a carriage with four horses waiting under
the trees between the Terrace and the King's Head, which, on our
leaving the crowd, slowly followed us along the road; but she thought
nothing of this at the time.

Mr. Stallabras, with gallant and consequential air, ambled beside us,
his hat under his arm, his snuff box in his left hand, and his cane
dangling from his right wrist. He was, as usual, occupied with his
own poetry, which, indeed, through the interest of the brewers widow
(whom he subsequently married), seemed about to become the fashion. I
thought, then, that it was splendid poetry, but I fear, now, that it
must have been what Dr. Johnson once called a certain man's writing,
"terrible skimble skamble stuff;" in other words, poor Solomon
Stallabras had the power of imitation, and would run you off rhymes
as glibly as monkey can peel cocoa-nuts (according to the reports of
travellers), quite in the style of Pope. Yet the curious might look in
vain for any thought above the common, or any image which had not been
used again and again. Such poets, though they hand down the lamp, do
not, I suppose, greatly increase the poetic reputation of their country.

"It seems a pity, Mr. Stallabras," I was saying, "that you, who are so
fond of singing about the purling stream and the turtles cooing in the
grove, do not know more about the familiar objects of the country. Here
is this little flower"--only a humble crane's-bill, yet a beautiful
flower--"you do not, I engage, know its name?"

He did not.

"Observe, again, the spreading leaves of yonder great tree. You do not,
I suppose, know its name?"

He did not. A common beech it was, yet as stately as any of those which
may be seen near Farnham Royal, or in Windsor Forest.

"And listen! there is a bird whose note, I dare swear, you do not
know?"

He did not. Would you believe that it was actually the voice of the
very turtle-dove of which he was so fond?

"The Poet," he explained, not at all abashed by the display of so
much ignorance--"the Poet should not fetter his mind with the
little details of nature: he dwells in his thought remote from their
consideration: a flower is to him a flower, which is associated with
the grove and the purling stream: a shepherd gathers a posy of flowers
for his nymph: a tree is a tree which stands beside the stream to
shelter the swain and his goddess: the song of one bird is as good as
the song of another, provided it melodiously echoes the sighs of the
shepherd. As for----"

Here we were interrupted. The post-chaise drove rapidly up the road and
overtook us. As we turned to look, it stopped, and two men jumped out
of it, armed with cudgels. Nancy seized my arm: "Kitty! Will is in the
carriage!" I will do Solomon Stallabras justice. He showed himself,
though small of stature and puny of limb, as courageous as a lion. He
was armed with nothing but his cane, but with this he flew upon the
ruffians who rushed to seize me, and beat, struck, clung, and kicked in
my defence. Nancy threw herself upon me and shrieked, crying, that if
they carried me away they should drag her too. While we struggled, I
saw the evil face of Will looking out of the carriage: it was distorted
by every evil passion: he cried to the men to murder Solomon: he
threatened his sister to kill her unless she let go: he called to me
that it would be the worse for me unless I came quiet. Then he sprang
from the carriage himself, having originally purposed, I suppose, to
take no part in the fray, and with his cudgel dealt Solomon such a blow
upon his head that he fell senseless in the road. After this he seized
Nancy, his own sister, dragged her from me, swore at the men for being
cowardly lubbers, and while they threw me into the carriage, he hurled
his sister shrieking and crying on the prostrate form of the poor poet,
and sprang into the carriage after me.

"Run!" he cried to the two men; "off with you both, different ways. If
you get caught, it will be the worse for you."

We were half-way up the hill which leads from the town to the Downs;
in fact, we were not very far above the doctor's house, but there was
a wind in the road, so that had his men been looking out of his doors
they could not have seen what was being done, though they might have
heard almost on the Terrace the cries, the dreadful imprecations, and
the shrieks of Nancy and myself.

They had thrown me upon the seat with such violence that I was
breathless for a few moments, as well as sick and giddy with the
dreadful scene--it lasted but half a minute--which I had witnessed.
Yet as Will leaped in after me and gave the word to drive on, I saw
lying in the dust of the road the prostrate and insensible form of poor
Solomon and my faithful, tender Nancy, who had so fought and wrestled
with the villains, not with any hope that she could beat them off,
but in order to gain time, lying half over the body of the poet, half
on the open road. Alas! the road at this time was generally deserted;
there was no one to rescue, though beyond the tall elms upon the right
lay the gardens and park of Durdans, where my lord was walking at that
moment, perhaps, meditating upon his wretched Kitty.

As for my companion, his face resembled that of some angry devil, moved
by every evil passion at once. If I were asked to depict the worst face
I ever saw, I should try to draw the visage of this poor boy. He could
not speak for passion. He was in such a rage that his tongue clave to
the roof of his mouth. He could not even swear. He could only splutter.
For a while he sat beside me ejaculating at intervals disjointed words,
while his angry eyes glared about the coach, and his red cheeks flamed
with wrath.

The Downs were quite deserted: not even a shepherd was in sight. We
drove along a road which I knew well, a mere track across the grass:
the smooth turf was easy for the horses, and we were travelling at such
a pace that it seemed impossible for any one to overtake us.

My heart sank, yet I bade myself keep up courage. With this wild beast
at my side it behoved me to show no sign of terror.

Every woman has got two weapons, one provided by Nature, the other by
Art. The first is the one which King Solomon had ever in his mind when
he wrote the Book of Proverbs (which should be the guide and companion
of every young man). Certainly he had so many wives that he had more
opportunities than fall to the lot of most husbands (who have only the
experience of one) of knowing the power of a woman's tongue. He says
he would rather dwell in the wilderness than with an angry woman: in
the corner of the house-top than with a brawling woman. (Yet the last
chapter of the book is in praise of the wise woman.) I had, therefore,
my tongue. Next I had a pair of scissors, so that if my fine gentleman
attempted the least liberty, I could, and would, give him such a stab
with the sharp points as would admonish him to good purpose. But mostly
I relied upon my tongue, knowing of old that with this weapon Will was
easily discomfited.

Presently, the cool air of the Downs blowing upon his cheeks, Will
became somewhat soothed, and his ejaculations became less like angry
words used as interjections. I sat silent, taking no notice of what he
said, and answering nothing to any of his wild speeches. But be sure
that I kept one eye upon the window, ready to shriek if any passer-by
appeared.

The angry interjections settled down into sentences, and Will at last
became able to put some of his thoughts into words.

He began a strange, wild, rambling speech, during which I felt somewhat
sorry for him. It was such a speech as an Indian savage might have made
when roused to wrath by the loss of his squaw.

He bade me remember that he had known me from infancy, that he had
always been brought up with me. I had therefore a first duty to perform
in the shape of gratitude to him (for being a child with him in the
same village). Next he informed me that having made up his mind to
marry me, nothing should stop him, because nothing ever did stop him
in anything he proposed to do, and if any one tried to stop him, he
always knocked down that man first, and when he had left him for dead,
he then went and did the thing. This, he said, was well known. Very
well, then. Did I dare, then, he asked, knowing as I did full well this
character of his for resolution, to fly in the face of that knowledge
and throw him over? What made the matter, he argued, a case of the
blackest ingratitude, was that I had thrown him over for a lord: a
poor, chicken-hearted, painted lord, whom he, for his own part, could
knock down at a single blow. He would now, therefore, show me what my
new friends were worth. Here I was, boxed up in the carriage with him,
safe and sound, not a soul within hail, being driven merrily across
country to a place he knew of, where I should find a house, a parson,
and a prayer-book. With these before me I might, if I pleased, yelp and
cry for my lord and his precious friend, Sir Miles Lackington. They
would be far enough away, with their swords and their mincing ways.
When I was married they might come and--what was I laughing at?

I laughed, in fact, because I remembered another weapon. As a last
resource I could proclaim to the clergyman that I was already a wife,
the wife of Lord Chudleigh. I knew enough of the clergy to be certain
that although a man might be here and there found among them capable
of marrying a woman against her will, just as men are found among them
who, to please their patrons, will drink with them, go cock-fighting
with them, and in every other way forget the sacred duties of their
calling, yet not one among them all, however bad, would dare to marry
again a woman already married. Therefore I laughed.

A London profligate would, perhaps, have got a man to personate a
clergyman; but this wickedness, I was sure, would not enter into the
head of simple Will Levett. It was as much as he could devise--and that
was surely a good deal--to bribe some wretched country curate to be
waiting for us at our journey's end, to marry us on the spot. When I
understood this I laughed again, thinking what a fool Will would look
when he was thwarted again.

"Zounds, madam! I see no cause for laughing."

"I laugh, Will," I said, "because you are such a fool. As for you,
unless you order your horses' heads to be turned round, and drive me
instantly back to Epsom, you will not laugh, but cry."

To this he made no reply, but whistled. Now to whistle when a person
gives you serious advice, is in Kent considered a contemptuous reply.

"Ah!" he went on, "sly as you were, I have been too many for you. It
was you who set the two bullies, your great lord and your baronet, on
me with their swords--made all the people laugh at me. You shall pay
for it all. It was you set Nancy crying and scolding upon me enough to
give a man a fit; it was you, I know, set my father on to me. Says if
he cannot cut me off with a shilling, he will sell the timber, ruin
the estate, and let me starve so long as he lives. Let 'un! let 'un!
let 'un, I say! All of you do your worst. Honest Will Levett will do
what he likes, and have what he likes. Bull-dog Will! Holdfast Will!
Tear-'em Will! By the Lord! there isn't a man in the country can get
the better of him. Oh, I know your ways! Wait till I've married you.
Then butter wont melt in your mouth. Then it will be, 'Dear Will! kind
Will! sweet Will! best of husbands and of men!'--oh! I know what you
are well enough. Why--after all--what is one woman that she should set
herself above other women? Take off your powder and your patches and
your hoops, how are you better than Blacksmith's Sue? Answer me that.
And why do I take all this trouble about you, to anger my father and
spite my mother, when Blacksmith's Sue would make as good a wife--ay! a
thousand times better--because she can bake and brew, and shoe a horse,
and mend a cracked crown, and fight a game-cock, and teach a ferret,
and train a terrier or a bull-pup, whereas you--what are you good for,
but to sit about and look grand, and come over the fellows with your
make-pretence, false, lying, whimsy-flimsy ways, your smilin' looks
when a lord is at your heels, and your 'Oh, fie! Will,' if it's only an
old friend. Why, I say? Because I've told my friends that I'm going to
bring you home my wife, and my honour's at stake. Because I am one as
will have his will, spite of 'em all. Because I don't love you, not one
bit, since I found you out for what you are, a false, jiltin' jade; and
I value the little finger of Sue more than your whole body, tall as you
are, and fine as you think yourself. Oh! by the Lord----"

I am sorry I cannot give the whole of his speech, which was too coarse
and profane to be written down for polite eyes to read. Suffice it
to say that it included every form of wicked word or speech known
to the rustics of Kent, and that he threatened me, in the course of
it, with every kind of cruelty that he could think of, counting as
nothing a horsewhipping every day until I became cheerful. Now, to
horsewhip your wife every day, in order to make her cheerful, seems
like starving your horse in order to make him more spirited; or to flog
an ignorant boy in order to make him learned; or to kick your dog in
order to make him love you. Perhaps he did not mean quite all that he
said; but one cannot tell, because his friends were chiefly in that
rank of life where it is considered a right and honourable thing to
beat a wife, cuff a son, and kick a daughter, and even the coarsest
boor of a village will have obedience from the wretched woman at his
beck and call. I think that Will would have belaboured his wife with
the greatest contentment, and as a pious duty, in order to make her
satisfied with her lot, cheerful over her duties, and merry at heart
at the contemplation of so good a husband. "A wife, a dog, and a
walnut-tree, the harder you flog them, the better they be." There are
plenty of Solomon's Proverbs in favour of flogging a child, but none,
that I know of, which recommend the flogging of a wife.

Blacksmith Sam, Will said, in his own village, the father of the
incomparable Sue, used this method to tame his wife, with satisfactory
results; and Pharaoh, his own keeper, was at that very time engaged
upon a similar course of discipline with his partner. What, he
explained, is good for such as those women is good for all. "Beat 'em
and thrash 'em till they follow to heel like a well-bred retriever.
Keep the stick over 'em till such times as they become as meek as an
old cow, and as obedient as a sheep-dog."

While he was still pouring forth these maxims for my information
and encouragement my heart began to beat violently, because I heard
(distantly at first) the hoofs of horses behind us. Will went on,
hearing and suspecting nothing, growing louder and louder in his
denunciation of women, and the proper treatment of them.

The hoofs drew nearer. Presently they came alongside. I looked out. One
on each side of our carriage, there rode Lord Chudleigh and Sir Miles
Lackington.

But I laughed no longer, for I saw before me the advent of some
terrible thing, and a dreadful trembling seized me. My lord's face was
stern, and Sir Miles, for the first time in my recollection, was grave
and serious, as one who hath a hard duty to perform. So mad was poor
headstrong Will that he neither heard them nor, for a while, saw them,
but continued his swearing and raving.

They called aloud to the postillions to stop the horses. This it was
that roused Will, and he sprang to his feet with a yell of rage, and
thrusting his head out of the window, bawled to the boys to drive
faster, faster! They whipped and spurred their horses. My lord said
nothing, but rode on, keeping up with the carriage.

"Stop!" cried Sir Miles.

"Go on!" cried Will.

Sir Miles drew a pistol and deliberately cocked it.

"If you will not stop," he cried, holding his pistol to the post-boy's
head, "I will fire!"

"Go on!" cried Will. "Go on; he dares not fire."

The fellow--I knew him for a stable-boy whose life at the Hall had been
one long series of kicks, cuffs, abuse, and horsewhippings at the hands
of his young master--ducked his head between his shoulders, and put
up his elbows, as if that which had so often protected him when Will
was enforcing discipline by the help of Father Stick, would avail him
against a pistol-shot. But he obeyed his master, mostly from force of
habit, and spurred his horse.

Sir Miles changed the direction of the pistol, and leaning forward,
discharged the contents in the head of the horse which the boy was
riding. The poor creature bounded forward and fell dead.

There was a moment of confusion; the flying horses stumbled and fell,
the boys were thrown from their saddles: the carriage was stopped
suddenly.

Then, what followed happened all in a moment. Yet it is a moment which
to me is longer than any day of my life, because the terror of it has
never left me, and because in dreams it often comes back to me. Ah!
what a prophetess was Nancy when she said that some dreadful thing
would happen before all was over, unless Will went away.

Sir Miles and my lord sprang to their feet. Will, with a terrible oath,
leaped forth from the carriage. For a moment he stood glaring from one
to the other like a wild beast brought to bay. He _was_ a wild beast.
Then he raised his great cudgel and rushed at my lord.

"You!" he cried; "you are the cause of it. I will beat out your brains!"

Lord Chudleigh leaped lightly aside, and avoided the blow which would
have killed him had it struck his head. Then I saw the bright blade
in his hand glisten for a moment in the sunlight, and then Will fell
backwards with a cry, and lay lifeless on the green turf, while my lord
stood above him, drops of red blood trickling down his sword.

"I fear, my lord," said Sir Miles, "that you have killed him.
Fortunately, I am witness that it was in self-defence."

"You have killed him! You have killed my master!" cried the stable
boy, whose left arm, which was broken by his fall from the horse, hung
helpless at his side. "You have killed the best master in all the
world! Lord or no lord, you shall hang!"

He rushed with his one hand to seize the slayer of his master, this
poor faithful slave, whose affections had only grown firmer with every
beating. Sir Miles caught him by the coat-collar and dragged him back.

"Quiet, fool! Attend to your master. He is not dead--yet."

He looked dead. The rage was gone out of his eyes, which were closed,
and the blood had left the cheeks, which were pallid. Poor Will never
looked so handsome as when he lay, to all seeming, dead.

Lord Chudleigh looked on his prostrate form with a kind of stern
sadness. The taking of life, even in such a cause and in self-defence,
is a dreadful thing. Like Lamech (who also might have been defending
his own life), he had slain a man to his wounding, and a young man to
his hurt.

"Kitty," he said, in a low voice, taking my hand, "this is a grievous
day's work. Yet I regret it not, since I have saved your honour!"

"My lord," I replied, "I had the saving of that in my own hands. But
you have rescued me from a wild beast, whose end I grieve over because
I knew him when he was yet an innocent boy."

"Come," said Sir Miles, "we must take measures. Here, fellows! come,
lift your master."

The two boys, with his help, lifted Will, who, as they moved him,
groaned heavily, into the carriage.

"Now," said Sir Miles, "one of you get inside. Lift his head. If--but
that is impossible--you come across water, pour a little into his
mouth. The other mount, and drive home as quickly as you can."

I bethought me of my friend the mad doctor, and bade them take their
master to his house, which was, as I have said, on the road between the
town and the Downs, so that he might be carried there quietly, without
causing an immediate scandal in the town.

The fellows were now quite obedient and subdued. Sir Miles, who seemed
to know what was to be done, made some sort of splint with a piece of
poor Will's cudgel, for the broken arm, which he tied up roughly, and
bade the boy be careful to get attended to as soon as his master was
served. In that class of life, as is well known, wounds, broken bones,
and even the most cruel surgical operations, are often endured with
patience which would equal the most heroic courage, if it were not due
to a stupid insensibility. The most sensitive of men are often the most
courageous, because they know what it is they are about to suffer.

However, they did as they were told, and presently drove back, the
third horse following with a rope.

Then we were left alone, with the blood upon the grass and the dead
horse lying beside us.

Sir Miles took my lord's sword from him, wiped it on the turf, and
restored it to him.

"Come," he said, "we must consider what to do."

"There is nothing to do," said Lord Chudleigh, "except to take Miss
Pleydell home again."

"Pardon me, my lord," Sir Miles interposed; "if ever I saw mischief
written on any man's face, it was written on the face of that boy. A
brave lad, too, and would have driven to the death at his master's
command."

"How can he do harm?" I asked. "Why, Sir Miles, you are witness; you
saw Will Levett with his cudgel rush upon his lordship, who but drew in
self-defence. I am another witness. I hope the simple words of such as
you and I would be believed before the oath of a stable-lad."

"I suppose they would," he replied. "Meantime, there is the fact,
known to all the company at the Wells, that both you and I, Lord
Chudleigh, had publicly informed this unhappy young man, that, under
certain circumstances, we would run him through. The circumstances
_have_ happened, and we _have_ run him through. This complication may
be unfortunate as regards the minds of that pig-headed institution, a
coroner's inquest."

"Sir!" cried my lord, "do you suppose--would you have me believe--that
this affair might be construed into anything but an act of
self-defence?"

"I do indeed," he replied gravely; "and so deeply do I feel it, that
I would counsel a retreat into some place where we shall not be
suspected, for such a time as may be necessary. If the worst happens,
and the man dies, your lordship may surrender yourself--but in
London--not to a country bench. If the man recovers, well and good;
you can go abroad again."

At first my lord would hear nothing of such a plan. Why should he run
away? Was it becoming for a man to fly from the laws of his country?
Then I put in a word, pointing out that it was one thing for a case to
be tried before a jury of ignorant, prejudiced men upon an inquest, and
another thing altogether for the case to be tried by a dispassionate
and unprejudiced jury. I said, too, that away from this place, the
circumstances of the case, the brutal assault upon Solomon Stallabras,
whose ribs, it appeared, were broken, as well as his collar-bone,
the ferocious treatment of Nancy by her own brother, and my forcible
abduction in open daylight, would certainly be considered provocation
enough for anything, and a justification (combined with the other
circumstances) of the homicide, if unhappily Will should die.

This moved my lord somewhat.

Where, he asked, could he go, so as to lie _perdu_ for a few days, or a
few weeks, if necessary?

"I have thought upon that," replied Sir Miles, looking at me with a
meaning eye (but I blushed and turned pale, and reddened again). "I
have just now thought of a plan. Your lordship has been there once
already; I mean the Rules of the Fleet. Here will I find you lodgings,
where no one will look for you; where, if you please to lie hidden for
awhile, you may do so in perfect safety; where you may have any society
you please, from a baronet out at elbows to a baker in rags, or no
society at all, if you please to lie quiet."

"I like not the place," said his lordship. "I have been there it is
true once, and it was once too often. Find me another place."

"I know no other," Sir Miles replied. "You must be in London; you must
be in some place where no one will suspect you. As for me, I will stay
near you, but not with you. There will be some noise over this affair;
it will be well for us to be separated, yet not so far but that I can
work for you. Come, my lord, be reasonable. The place is dirty and
noisy; but what signify dirt and noise when safety is concerned?"

He wavered. The recollection of the place was odious to him. Yet the
case was pressing.

He gave way.

"Have it," he said, "your own way. Kitty," he took my hand, "hopeless
as is my case, desperate as is my condition, I am happy in having
rescued you, no matter at what cost."

"Your lordship's case is not so hopeless as mine," said Sir Miles; "yet
I, too, am happy in having helped to rescue this, the noblest creature
in the world."

The tears were in my eyes as these two men spoke of me in such terms.
How could I deserve this worship? By what act, or thought, or prayer,
could I raise myself to the level where my lord's imagination had
planted me? O Love divine, since it makes men and women long to be
angels!

"I mean," Sir Miles continued bluntly, "that since your lordship has
found favour in her eyes, your case cannot be hopeless."

Lord Chudleigh raised my hand to his lips, with a sadness in his eyes
of which I alone could discern the cause.

"Gentlemen," I cried, "we waste the time in idle compliments. Mount and
ride off as quickly as you may. As for me, it is but three miles across
the Downs. I have no fear. I shall meet no one. Mount, I say, and ride
to London without more ado."

They obeyed; they left me standing alone. As my eyes turned from
following them, they lighted on the pool of blood--Will's blood, which
reddened the turf--and upon the poor dead horse. Then I hastened back
across the Downs.

It was a clear, bright evening, the sun yet pretty high. The time was
about half-past five; before long the minuets would be beginning in the
Assembly Rooms; yet Lady Levett would know--I hoped that she already
knew--the dreadful wickedness of her son. Would not, indeed, all the
company know it? Would not the assault on Mr. Stallabras and on Nancy
be noised abroad?

Indeed, the news had already sped abroad.

Long before I reached the edge of the Downs. I became aware of a crowd
of people. They consisted of the whole company, all the visitors at
Epsom, who came forth, leaving the public tea and the dance, to meet
the girl who had been thus carried away by force.

Harry Temple came forward as soon as I was in sight to meet me. He was
very grave.

"Kitty," he said, "this is a bad day's work."

"How is Will? You have seen Will?"

"I fear he is already dead. The doctor to whom you sent him declares
that he is dying fast. His mother is with him."

"O Harry!" I sighed; "I gave him no encouragement. There was not the
least encouragement to believe that I would marry him."

"No one thinks you did, Kitty; not even his mother. Yet others have
been carried away by admiration of your charms to think----"

"Oh! my charms, my charms! Harry, with poor Will at death's door, let
us at least be spared the language of compliment."

By this time we had reached the stream of people. Among them, I am
happy to say, was not Peggy Baker. She, at least, did not come out to
gaze upon her unhappy rival, for whose sake one gallant gentleman lay
bleeding to death, and two others were riding away to hide themselves
until the first storm should be blown over. The rest parted, right and
left, and made a lane through which we passed in silence. As I went
through, I heard voices whispering: "Where is Lord Chudleigh? where is
Sir Miles? How pale she looks!" and so forth; comments of the crowd
which has no heart, no pity, no sympathy. It came out to-day to look
upon a woman to whom a great insult had been offered with as little
pity as to-morrow it would go to see a criminal flogged from Newgate to
Tyburn, or a woman whipped at Bridewell, or a wretched thief beaten
before the Alderman, or a batch of rogues hanged. They came to be
amused. Amusement, to most people, is the contemplation of other folks'
sufferings. If tortures were to be introduced again, if, as happened,
we are told, in the time of Nero, Christians could be wrapped in pitch
and then set fire to, thus becoming living candles, I verily believe
the crowd would rush to see, and would enjoy the spectacle the more,
the longer the sufferings of the poor creatures were prolonged.

Solomon Stallabras, Harry told me, was comfortably put into bed, his
ribs being set and his collar-bone properly put in place: there was
no doubt that he would do well. Nancy, too, was in bed, sick with the
fright she had received, but not otherwise much hurt. Mrs. Esther
was wringing her hands and crying at home, with Cicely to look after
her. Sir Robert and Lady Levett were at the doctor's. It was, I have
said, the same doctor who had undertaken the temporary charge of Harry
Temple. As we drew near the house--I observed that most of the people
remained behind upon the Downs in hopes of seeing the return of Lord
Chudleigh, in which hope they were disappointed--Harry became silent.

"Come, Harry," I said, reading his thoughts, "you must forgive me for
saving your life or from preventing you from killing Lord Chudleigh. Be
reasonable, dear Harry."

He smiled.

"I have forgiven you long since," he replied. "You acted like a woman;
that is, you did just what you thought best at the moment. But I
cannot, and will not, forgive the man with his impudent smile and his
buckets of water."

"Nay, Harry," I said, "he acted according to his profession. Come with
me to the house. I cannot even go to Mrs. Esther until I have seen or
heard about poor Will."

The doctor was coming from the sick man's chamber when we came to the
house. They had placed Will in one of the private rooms, away from the
dreadful gallery where the madmen were chained to the wall. With him
were Lady Levett and Sir Robert.

The doctor coughed in his most important manner.

"Your obedient servant, Miss Pleydell. Sir, your most obedient, humble
servant. You are come, no doubt, to inquire after the victim of this
most unhappy affair. Poor Mr. William Levett, I grieve to say, is in a
most precarious condition."

"Can nothing save him? O doctor!"

"Nothing can save him, young lady," he replied, "but a miracle. That
miracle--I call it nothing short--is sometimes granted by beneficent
Providence to youth and strength only when--I say only when--their
possession is aided by the very highest medical skill that the country
can produce. I say the very highest; no mere pretender will avail."

"Indeed, doctor, we have that skill, I doubt not, in yourself."

"I say nothing,"--he bowed and spread his hands--"I say nothing. It is
not for me to speak."

"And, sir," said Harry, "you are doubtless aware that Sir Robert is
a gentleman of a considerable estate, and that--in fact--you may
expect----"

"Sir Robert," he replied, with a smile which speedily, in spite of
all his efforts, broadened into a grin of satisfaction, "has already
promised that no expense shall be spared, no honorarium be considered
too large if I give him back his son. Yet we can but do our best.
Science is strong, but a poke of cold steel in the inwards is, if you
please, stronger still."

"Will you let me see Sir Robert?" I asked.

The doctor stole back to the room, and presently Sir Robert came forth.

He kissed me on the forehead while his tears fell upon my head.

"My dear," he said, "I ask your pardon in the name of my headstrong
son. We have held an honourable name for five hundred years and more:
in all that time no deed so dastardly has been attempted by any one of
our house. Yet the poor wretch hath paid dearly for his wickedness."

"Oh, sir!" I cried, "there is no reason why you should speak of
forgiveness, who have ever been so kind to me. Poor Will will repent
and be very good when he recovers."

"I think," said his father sadly, "that he will not recover. Go, child.
Ask not to see the boy's mother, because women are unreasonable in
their grief, and she might perchance say things of which she would
afterwards be ashamed. Go to Mrs. Pimpernel, and tell her of thy
safety."

This was, indeed, all that could be done. Yet after allaying the
terrors and soothing the agitated spirits of Mrs. Esther, whose
imagination had conjured up, already, the fate of Clarissa, and who saw
in headstrong Will another Lovelace, without, to be sure, the graces
and attractions of that dreadful monster, I went to inquire after my
gallant little Poet.

He was lying on his bed, with orders not to move, and wrapped up like a
baby.

I thanked him for his brave defence, which I said would have been
certainly efficacious, had it not been for the cowardly blow on the
back of his head. I further added, that no man in the world could have
behaved more resolutely, or with greater courage.

"This day," he said, "has been the reward for a Poet's devotion. In
those bowers, Miss Kitty, when first we met"--the bower was the Fleet
Market--"beside that stream"--the Fleet Ditch--"where the woodland
choir was held"--the clack of the poultry about to be killed--"and
the playful lambs frisked"--on their way to the butchers of Newgate
Street--"I dared to love a goddess who was as much too high for me
as ever Beatrice was for her Italian worshipper. I refer not to the
disparity of birth, because (though brought up in a hosier's shop) the
Muse, you have acknowledged, confers nobility. An attorney is by right
of his calling styled a gentleman; but a Poet, by right of his genius,
is equal of--ay, even of Lord Chudleigh."

"Surely, dear sir," I replied, "no one can refuse the highest title of
distinction to a gentleman of merit and genius."

"But I think," he went on, "of that disparity which consists in virtue
and goodness. That can never be removed. How happy, therefore, ought I
to be in feeling that I have helped to preserve an angel from the hands
of those barbarous monsters who would have violated such a sanctuary.
What are these wounds!--a broken rib--a cracked collar bone--a bump on
the back of the head? I wish they had been broken legs and arms in your
service."

I laughed--but this devotion, more than half of it being real, touched
my heart. The little Poet, conceited, vain, sometimes foolish, was
ennobled, not by his genius, of which he thought so much, but by his
great belief in goodness and virtue. Women should be humble when they
remember, that if a good man loves them it is not in very truth, the
woman (who is a poor creature full of imperfections) that they love,
but the soul--the noble, pure, exalted soul, as high as their own
grandest conception of goodness and piety, which they believe to be
in her. How can we rise to so great a height? How can we, without
abasement, pretend to such virtue? How can we be so wicked and so cruel
as, after marriage, to betray to our husbands the real littleness of
our souls? As my lord believed me to be, so might I (then I prayed)
rise to heaven in very truth, and even soar to higher flights.

Now, when I reached home, a happy thought came to me. I knew the name
of Solomon's latest patron, the brewer's widow. I sat down and wrote
her a letter. I said that I thought it my simple duty to inform her,
although I had not the honour of her friendship, that the Poet whom she
had distinguished with her special favour and patronage, was not in a
position to pay her his respects, either by letter, or by verse, or in
person, being at that time ill in bed with ribs and other bones broken
in defence of a lady. And to this I added, so that she might not grow
jealous, which one must always guard against in dealing with women,
that he was walking with two ladies, not one, and that the gallantry
he showed in defence of her who was attacked was so great that not
even a lover could have displayed more courage for his mistress than
he did for this lady (myself), who was promised to another gentleman.
Nor was it, I added, until he was laid senseless on the field that
the ravishers were able to carry off the lady, who was immediately
afterwards rescued by two friends of the Poet, Lord Chudleigh and Sir
Miles Lackington.

This crafty letter, which was all true, and yet designedly exaggerated,
as when I called my lord Solomon's friend, produced more than the
effect which I desired. For the widow, who was in London, came down
to Epsom the next day, in a carriage and four, to see the hero. Now,
she was still young, and comely as well as rich. Therefore, when she
declared to him that no woman could resist such a combination of genius
and heroic courage, Solomon could only reply that he would rush into
her arms with all a lover's rapture, as soon as his ribs permitted an
embrace. In short, within a month they were married at Epsom Church,
and Solomon, though he wrote less poetry in after years than his
friends desired, lived in great comfort and happiness, having a wife
of sweet temper, who thought him the noblest and most richly endowed
of men, and a brewery whose vats produced him an income far beyond his
wants, though these expanded as time went on.

As for Nancy, she was little hurt, save for the fright and the shame of
it. Yet her brother, the cause of all, was lying dangerously wounded,
and she could not for very pity speak her mind upon his wickedness.

The company, I learned from Cicely, were greatly moved about it: the
public Tea had been broken up in confusion, while all sallied forth
to the scene of the outrage; nor was the assembly resumed when it was
discovered that Will Levett had been run through the body by Lord
Chudleigh, and was now lying at the point of death.

In the morning Cicely went early to inquire at the Doctor's. Alas! Will
was in a high fever; Lady Levett had been sitting with him all night;
it was not thought that he would live through the day. I put on my hood
and went to see Nancy.

"Oh, my dear, dear Kitty!" she cried, "sure we shall all go distracted.
You have heard what they say. Poor Will is in a bad way indeed; the
fever is so high that the doctor declares his life to be in hourly
danger. He is delirious, and in his dreams he knows not what he says,
so that you would fancy him among his dogs or in his stables--where,
indeed, it hath been his chief delight to dwell--or with the rustics
with whom he would drink. It is terrible, my father says, that one so
near his end, who must shortly appear before his Maker, should thus
blaspheme and swear such horrid oaths. If we could only ensure him half
an hour of sense, even with pain, so that the clergyman might exhort
him. Alas! our Will hath led so shocking a life--my dear, I know more
of his ways than he thinks--that I doubt his conscience and his heart
are hardened. O Kitty! to think that yesterday we were happy, and that
this evil thing had not befallen us! And now I can never go abroad
again without thinking that the folk are saying: 'There goes the sister
of the man who was killed while trying to carry off the beautiful Miss
Pleydell.'"

No comfort can be found for one who sits expectant of a brothers death.
I bade poor Nancy keep up her heart and hope for the best.

The fever increased during the day, we heard, and the delirium. We
stirred not out of the house save for morning prayers, sending Cicely
from time to time to ask the news. And all the company gathered
together on the Terrace, not to talk scandal or tell idle stories of
each other, but to whisper that Will Levett was certainly dying, and
that it would go hard with Lord Chudleigh, who would without doubt be
tried for murder, the two grooms protesting stoutly that their master
had not struck a blow.

In the evening Sir Robert Levett came to our lodging. He was heavily
afflicted with the prospect of losing his only son, albeit not a son of
whom a parent could be proud. Yet a child cannot be replaced, and the
line of the Levetts would be extinguished.

"My dear," he said, "I come to say a thing which has been greatly on my
mind. My son was run through by Lord Chudleigh. Tell me, first, what
there is between you and my lord? Doth he propose to marry you?"

"Dear sir," I replied, "Lord Chudleigh has offered me his hand."

"And you have taken it?"

"Unworthy as I am, dear sir, I have promised, should certain obstacles
be removed, to marry him."

"His sword has caused my Will's death. Yet the act was done in defence
of the woman he loved, the woman whom Will designed to ruin----"

"And in self-defence as well. Had he not drawn, Will would have beaten
out his brains."

"Tell him, from Will's father, my dear, that I forgive him. Let not
such a homicide dwell upon his conscience. Where is he?"

"He has gone away with Sir Miles Lackington to await the finding of an
inquest, if----"

"Tell him that I will not sanction any proceedings, and if there is to
be an inquest my evidence shall be, though it bring my grey hairs with
sorrow to the grave, that my lord is innocent, and drew his sword to
defend his own life."

He left me--poor man!--to return to the sick bedside.

He had been gone but a short time when a post-boy rode to the door,
blowing a horn. It was a special messenger, who had ridden from Temple
Bar with a letter from Sir Miles.

    "Sweet Kitty," wrote the Baronet, "I write this to tell thee that
    we have taken up quarters in London. I have bestowed my lord in
    certain lodgings, which you know, above the room where once I lay."

Heavens! my lord was in my own old lodging beside the Fleet Market.

    "He is downhearted, thinking of the life he has taken. I tell him
    that he should think no more of running through such a madman in
    defence of his own life than of killing a pig. Pig, and worse than
    pig, was the creature who dared to carry off the lovely Kitty. To
    think that such a rustic clown should be brother of pretty Nancy! I
    have sent to my lord's lodging an agreeable dinner and a bottle of
    good wine, with which I hope my lord will comfort his heart.
    Meantime, they know not, in the house, the rank and quality of
    their guest. I suppose the fellow is dead by this time. If there is
    an inquest, I shall attend to give my evidence, and the verdict can
    be none other than justifiable homicide or even _felo-de-se_, for
    if ever man rushed upon his death it was Will Levett. I have also
    sent him paper and pens with which to write to you, and some books
    and a pack of cards. Here is enough to make a lonely man happy. If
    he wants more he can look out of the window and see the porters and
    fishwives of the market fight, which was a spectacle daily
    delighted me for two years and more. The doctor is well. I have
    informed him privately of the circumstances of the case, and Lord
    Chudleigh's arrival. He seemed pleased, but I took the liberty of
    warning him against betraying to my lord a relationship, the
    knowledge of which might be prejudicial to your interests."

Prejudicial to my interests!

Sir Miles was in league, with me, to hide this thing from a man who
believed, like Solomon Stallabras, that I was all truth and goodness.

I had borne so much from this wicked concealment that I was resolved
to bear it no longer. I said to myself, almost in the words of the
Prayer-book: "I will arise and go unto my lord. I will say, Forgive me,
for thus and thus have I done, and so am I guilty."

Oh, my noble lord! Oh, great heart and true! what am I, wicked and
deceitful woman, that I should hope to keep thy love? Let it go; tell
me that you can never love again one who has played this wicked part;
let hatred and loathing take the place of love; let all go, and leave
me a despairing wretch--so that I have confessed my sin and humbled
myself even to the ground before him whom I have so deeply wronged.



CHAPTER XXI.

HOW KITTY WENT TO LONDON.


Oppressed with this determination, which left no room for any other
thought, I urged upon Mrs. Esther the necessity of going to London at
once, as we had resolved to do before the accident. I pointed out to
her that, after the dreadful calamity which had befallen us--for which
most certainly no one could blame us--we could take no more pleasure in
the gaieties of Epsom: that we could enjoy no longer the light talk,
the music, and the dancing; that the shadow of Death had fallen over
the place, so far as we were concerned: that we could not laugh while
Nancy was weeping; and that--in short, my lord was in London and I must
needs go too.

"There are a hundred good reasons," said Mrs. Esther, "why we should go
away at once: and you have named the very best of all. But, dear child,
I would not seem to be pursuing his lordship."

"Indeed," I replied, "there will be no pursuing of him. Oh, dear madam,
I should be"--and here I burst into tears--"the happiest of women if I
were not the most anxious."

She thought I meant that I was anxious about Will's recovery; but this
was no longer the foremost thing in my thoughts, much as I hoped that
he would get better--which seemed now hopeless.

"Let us go, dear madam, and at once. Let us leave this place, which
will always be remembered by me as the scene of so much delight as well
as so much pain. I must see my lord as soon as I can. For oh! there are
obstacles in the way which I must try to remove, or be a wretched woman
for ever."

"Child," said Mrs. Esther severely, "we must not stake all our
happiness on one thing."

"But I have so staked it," I replied. "Dear madam, you do not
understand. If I get not Lord Chudleigh for my husband, I will never
have any man. If I cannot be his slave, then will I be no man's queen.
For oh! I love the ground he walks upon; the place where he lodges is
my palace, his kind looks are my paradise; I want no heaven unless I
can hold his hand in mine."

I refrain from setting down all I said, because I think I was like a
mad thing, having in my mind at once my overweening love, my repentance
and shame, and my terror in thinking of what my lord would say when he
heard the truth.

Had my case been that of more happy women, who have nothing to conceal
or to confess, such a fit of passion would have been without excuse,
but I set it down here, though with some shame, yet no self-reproach,
because the events of the last day or two had been more than I
could bear, and I must needs weep and cry, even though my tears and
lamentations went to the heart of my gentle lady, who could not bear
to see me suffer. For consider, the son of my kindest friends, to be
lying, like to die, run through the body by my lover: I could not
be suffered to see his mother, who had been almost my own mother: I
could never more bear to meet my pretty Nancy without thinking how,
unwittingly, I had enchanted this poor boy, and so lured him to his
death: that merry, saucy girl would be merry no more: all our ways of
kindly mirth and innocent happiness were gone, never to return: even
if Will recovered, how could there, any more, be friendship between
him and me? For the memory of his villainous attempt could never be
effaced. There are some things which we forgive, because we forget: but
this thing, though I might forgive, none of us would ever forget. And
at the back of all this trouble was my secret, which I was now, in some
words, I knew not what, to confess to my lord.

Poor Mrs. Esther gave way to all I wanted. She would leave Epsom on
Monday: indeed, her boxes should be packed in a couple of hours. She
kissed and soothed me, while I wept and exclaimed, in terms which she
could not understand, upon woman's perfidy and man's fond trust. When
I was recovered from this fit, which surely deserved no other name, in
which passion got the better of reason, and reason and modesty were
abandoned for the time (if Solomon Stallabras had seen me then, how
would he have been ashamed for his blind infatuation!), we were able
calmly to begin our preparation.

First we told Cicely to go order us a post-chaise for Monday morning,
for we must go to London without delay; then I folded and packed away
Mrs. Esther's things, while she laid her down to rest awhile, for
her spirits had been greatly agitated by my unreasonable behaviour.
Then Cicely came to my room to help me, and presently I saw her tears
falling upon the linen which she folded and laid in the trunk.

"Foolish Cicely!" I said, thinking of my own foolishness, "why do you
cry?"

"O Miss Kitty," she sobbed, "who would not cry to see you going away,
never to come back again? For I know you never, never could come here
any more after that dreadful carrying away, enough to frighten a maid
into her grave. And besides, they say that Epsom is going to be given
up, and the Assembly Rooms pulled down; and we should not have had this
gay season unless it had been for my lord and his party at the Durdans.
And what we shall do, mother and me, I can't even think."

Why, here was another trouble.

"Miss Kitty"--this silly girl threw herself on her knees to me and
caught my hand--"take me into your service when you marry my lord."

"How do you know I am to marry my lord, Cicely? There are many things
which may happen to prevent it."

"Oh, I know you will, because you are so beautiful and so good." I
snatched my hand away. "I haven't offended you, Miss Kitty, have I? All
the world cries out that you are as good as you are beautiful; and
haven't I seen you, for near two months, always considerate, and never
out of temper with anybody, not even with me, or your hairdresser, or
your dressmaker? Whereas, Miss Peggy Baker slaps her maid, and sticks
pins into her milliner."

"That is enough, Cicely," I said. "I have no power to take anybody into
my service, being as penniless as yourself. But if--if--that event
_should_ happen which you hope for--why--then--I do not--say----"

"It _will_ happen. Oh, I know that it will happen. I have dreamed of
it three times running, and always before midnight. I threw a piece of
apple-peel yesterday, and called it to name your husband. It first made
a G., which is Geoffrey, and then a C., which is Chudleigh. And mother
says that everything in the house points to a wedding as true as she
can read the signs. O Miss Kitty! may I be in your service?"

I laughed and cried. I know not which, for the tears were very near my
eyes all that time.

But oh! that thing did happen which she prophesied and I longed for--I
will quickly tell you how. And, as I have said before, I took Cicely
into my service, and a good and faithful maid she proved, and married
the curate. I forgot to say that when young Lord Eardesley heard the
story of her father's elopement with Jenny Medlicott, he laughed,
because his mother, Jenny's friend and far-off cousin, had taken her
away to Virginia with her, where, after (I hope) the death of Joshua
Crump, she had married again. Jenny, it appeared, was the daughter of
the same alderman whose fall in 1720 ruined my poor ladies. And it
was for this reason that his lordship afterwards, when Cicely had a
houseful of babies, took a fancy to them, and would have them, when
they were big enough, out to Virginia. Here he made them overseers,
and, in course of time, settled them on estates of their own, where
some of them prospered, and some, as happens in all large families,
wasted their substance and fell into poverty.

The next day, being Sunday, we spent chiefly over our devotions. It
was moving to hear the congregation invited to pray for one in grievous
danger--meaning poor Will, who would have been better at this moment
had he sometimes prayed for himself. Nancy sat beside me in our pew,
and caught my hand at the words. One could not choose but weep, poor
child! for there was no improvement in Will's fever: all night long the
doctor had sat beside his bed, while the lad, in his delirium, fancied
himself riding races, wrestling, boxing, and drinking with his boon
companions. A pitiful contrast! The pleasures of the world in his mind,
and eternity in prospect. Yet, for a man in delirium, allowance must
be made. The fever was now, in fact, at its height, and four men were
necessary to hold him down in his ravings.

We spent a gloomy Sunday indeed, Mrs. Esther being so saddened by the
anxieties of our friends that she resumed her reading of "Drelincourt
on Death," a book she had laid aside since we left the Rules. And we
observed a fast, not so much from religious motives, as because, in the
words of Mrs. Esther, roast veal and stuffing is certain to disagree
when a heart of sensibility is moved by the woes of those we love. In
the evening we had it cold, when Nancy came to sit with us, her eyes
red with her weeping, and we were fain to own that we were hungry after
crying together all day long.

"Hot meat," said Mrs. Esther, "at such a juncture, would have choked
us."

Nancy said, that after what had happened, it would certainly be
impossible for us to stay longer at Epsom, and that for herself, all
she hoped and expected now was shame and disgrace for the rest of her
life. She wished that there were convents in the country to which she
could repair for the rest of her days; go with her hair cut short, get
up in the middle of the night for service, and eat nothing but bread
and water. "For," she said, "I shall never cease to think that my own
brother tried to do such a wicked thing."

Nancy as a nun made us all laugh, and so with spirits raised a little,
we kissed, and said farewell. Nancy promised to let me know every other
day by post, whatever the letter should cost, how things went. It
seemed to me, indeed, as if, seeing that Will had not died in the first
twenty-four hours, the chance was somewhat in favour of his recovery.
And he was so strong a man, and so young. I sent a message of duty
and respect to Sir Robert--I dared not ask to have my name so much as
mentioned to Will's mother--and left Nancy in her trouble, full of mine
own.

Before we started next morning, Cicely went for news, but there was
no improvement. The stable-boy, she told me, was going about the
town, his arm bandaged up, saying that if ever a man was murdered in
cold blood it was his master, because he had never a sword, and only
a stick to defend himself with. Also, it was reported that among the
lower classes, the servants, grooms, footmen, and such, the feeling was
strong that the poor gentleman had met with foul play. Asked whether
they understood rightly what Mr. Will Levett was doing, Cicely replied
that they knew very well, and that they considered he was doing a fine
and gallant thing, one which would confer as much honour upon the lady
as upon himself, which shows that in this world there is no opinion too
monstrous to be held by rough and uneducated people; wherefore we ought
the more carefully to guard the constitution and prevent the rabble
from having any share in public business, or the control of affairs.

Our carriage took us to London in three hours, the road being tolerably
good, and so well frequented, after the first three miles, that there
was little fear of highway robbers or footpads. And so we came back to
our lodgings in Red Lion Street, after such a two months as I believe
never before fell to the lot of any girl.

Remember that I was a wife, yet a maiden; married to a man whom I had
never seen except for a brief quarter of an hour, who knew not my
name, and had never seen me at all--making allowance for the state of
drunkenness in which he was married; that I knew this man's name, but
he knew not mine; that I met him at Epsom, and that he had fallen in
love with me, and I, God help me! with him. Yet that there was no way
out of it, no escape but that before he could marry me (again) I must
needs confess the deceit of which I had been guilty. No Heaven, say the
Roman Catholics, without Purgatory. Yet suppose, after going through
Purgatory, one were to miss one's Heaven!

How could I best go to my lord and tell him?

He was in hiding, in the Rules of the Fleet, and in our old lodging
looking over the Fleet Market by one window, and over Fleet Lane by the
other--a pleasant lodging for so great a lord. Could I go down to him,
in hoops and satin, to tell him in that squalid place the whole truth?
Yet go I must.

Now, while we drove rapidly along the road, which is smooth and even
between Epsom, or at least between Streatham and London, a thought came
into my mind which wanted, after a little, nothing but the consent of
Mrs. Esther. A dozen times was I upon the point of telling her all, and
as many times did I refrain, because I reflected that, although she
knew all about the carrying away of girls from the romances which she
read, a secret marriage in the Fleet, although she had lived so long in
the Rules, and even knew my uncle and thought him the greatest of men,
was a thing outside her experience, and would therefore only terrify
her and confuse her. Therefore I resolved to tell her no more than I
was obliged.

But then my plans made it necessary that I should leave her for a
while--two or three days, perhaps, or even more.

So soon, therefore, as we had unpacked our trunks, and Mrs. Esther was
seated in an arm-chair to rest after the fatigues of the rapid journey,
I began upon the subject of getting away from her, hypocritically
pleading my duty towards the Doctor, my uncle. I said that I thought
I ought to pay him a visit, and that after my return to London he
would certainly take it unkindly if I did not; that, considering the
character of the place in which he unhappily resided, it was not to be
thought that a person of Mrs. Esther's sensibility could be exposed
to its rudeness; and that, with her permission, I would the next day
take a coach, and, unless the Doctor detained me, I would return in the
afternoon.

We had so firmly maintained our resolution to forget the past, that
Mrs. Esther only smiled when I spoke of the rudeness of the market, and
said that no doubt it was desirable for a gentlewoman to keep away from
rude and unpolished people, so that the elevation of her mind might not
be disturbed by unpleasant or harassing scenes. At the same time, she
added, there were reasons, doubtless, why I should from time to time
seek out that great and good man (now in misfortune) to whom we all
owed a debt of gratitude which never could be repaid. She therefore
gave me permission to go there, it being understood that I was to be
conveyed thither, and back again, in a coach.

In the morning, after breakfast, I dressed myself for the journey, and,
because I thought it likely that I might remain for one night at least,
and perhaps more, I took with me a bag containing my oldest and poorest
clothes, those, namely, in which I was dressed while in the market.
Then I wrapped myself in a hood which I could pull, if necessary, over
my face, and, so disguised, I stole down the stairs.

London streets are safe for a young woman in the morning, when the
throng of people to and fro keeps rogues honest. I walked through
Fetter Lane, remembering that here Solomon Stallabras was born--indeed,
I passed a little shop over which the name was painted on a swinging
sign of the Silver Garter, so that one of his relatives still carried
on the business. Then I walked along Fleet Street, crowded with chairs,
carriages, waggons, and porters. The Templars were lounging about the
gates of their Inns; the windows of the many vintners' houses were wide
open, and within them were gentlemen, drinking wine, early as it was;
the coffee-houses were full of tradesmen who would have been better at
home behind their counters; ladies were crowding into the shops, having
things turned over for them; 'prentices jostled each other behind the
posts; grave gentlemen walked slowly along, carrying their canes before
them, like wands of office; swaggering young fellows took the wall of
every one, except of each other; the street was full of the shouting,
noise, and quarrelling which I remembered so well. At the end was the
bridge with its quacks bawling their wares which they warranted to
cure everything, and its women selling hot furmety, oysters, and fish.
Beyond the bridge rose before me the old gate of Lud, which has since
been pulled down, and on the left was the Fleet Market, at sight of
which, as of an old friend, I could have burst into tears.

The touters and runners for the Fleet parsons were driving their trade
as merrily as ever. Among them I recognised my old friend Roger, who
did not see me. By the blackness of one eye, and the brown paper
sticking to his forehead, one could guess that competition among the
brethren of his craft had been more than usually severe of late.

Prosperity, I thought to myself, works speedy changes with us. Was
it really possible that I had spent six long months and more in this
stinking, noisy, and intolerable place? Why, could I have had one
moment of happiness when not only was I surrounded by infamy in every
shape, but I had no hope or prospect of being rescued? In eight short
months these things had grown to seem impossible. Death itself, I
thought, would be preferable to living among such people and in the
midst of such scenes.

I recognised them all: it gave me pain to feel how familiar they were:
the mean, scowling faces, stamped with the seal of wicked lives and
wicked thoughts--such faces must those souls wear who are lost beyond
redemption: and the deformed men and boys who seemed to select this
market as their favourite haunt. There are many more deformed among
the poor than with the better sort, by reason of the accidents which
befall their neglected children and maim them for life. That would
account for the presence of many of these monsters, but not of all; I
suppose some of them come to the market because the labour of handling
and carrying the fruit and vegetables is light, though poorly paid.

There were hunchbacks in great plenty; those whose feet were clubbed,
whose legs were knock-kneed, whose feet were turned inward, whose eyes
squinted. I looked about me for--but did not see--a certain dreadful
woman whom I remembered, who sold shell-fish at a stall and had fingers
webbed like a duck; but there was the other dreadful woman still in
her place, whose upper lip was horrid to look at for hair; there was
the cobbler who refused to shave because he said it was unscriptural,
and so sat like one of the ancients with a long white beard; there
were, alas! the little children, pale, hungry-looking, with eager,
sharp eyes, in training for the whip, the gallows, or the plantation.
They ran about among the baskets; they sat or stood among the stalls
waiting for odd jobs, messages and parcels to carry; they prowled about
looking for a chance to steal: it was all as I remembered it, yet had
forgotten so quickly. On the right the long wall of the Fleet Prison;
beyond that, the Doctor's house, his name painted on the door. I pulled
my hood closer over my face and passed it by, because before paying
my respects to my uncle I was going to make inquiries about the man I
loved.

He was, as I knew, in our old lodgings. He slept, unconscious, in my
room; he sat where I had so often sat; the place ought to have reminded
him of me. But he knew nothing; the name of Kitty Pleydell was not yet
associated in his mind with the Rules of the Fleet.

When we went away, one of those who bade us God-speed and shed tears
over our departure was Mrs. Dunquerque, who, as I have told, lived
above us with her husband, Captain Dunquerque, and her two little
girls. The captain, who was not a good man or a kind man, drank and
gambled when he got any money, and left his poor wife and children to
starve. It was to her that I meant to go. She was a kind-hearted woman,
and fond of me for certain favours I had been able to show her little
girls. I was sure to find her in the same lodgings, because in the
Rules no one ever changes.

I came to the house: I pulled the hood so close about my face that
had my lord met me he would not have known me. The door was standing
wide open, as usual. I entered and mounted the stairs. The door of the
room--our old room, on the first-floor--was half open. Within--oh, my
heart!--I saw my lord sitting at the table, with paper before him, pen
in hand. I dared not wait, lest he might discover me, but hastened
upstairs to Mrs. Dunquerque's room.

I was fortunate enough to find her at home. The captain was gone
abroad, and had taken the children with him for a morning's walk. She
sat at home, as usual, darning, mending, and making. But oh! the cry
of pleasure and surprise when she saw me, and the kisses she gave
me, and the praise at my appearance, and the questions after Mrs.
Esther! I told her of all, including Sir Miles Lackington and Solomon
Stallabras's good fortune. Then she began to tell me of herself.
They were as poor as when we went away; but their circumstances had
improved in one important particular; for though the captain was no
more considerate (as I guessed from a word she dropped), and drank and
gambled whenever he could, they had a friend who sent them without
fail what was more useful to them than money--food and clothes for the
children and their mother. She did not know who the friend was, but
the supplies never failed, being as regular as those brought by the
prophet's ravens.

I did not need to be told the name of this friend, for, in truth, I had
myself begged the Doctor to extend his charity to this poor family, and
asked him to send them beef and pudding, which the children could eat,
rather than money, which the captain would drink. This he promised to
do. Truly, charity, in his case, ought to have covered a multitude
of sins, for he had a hand ever open to give, and a heart to pity;
moreover, he gave in secret, and never did his right hand know what his
left hand was doing.

Then I opened my business to Mrs. Dunquerque, but only partially.

I told her that on the first-floor, in the rooms formerly occupied
by ourselves, there was a young gentleman, well known to Sir Miles
Lackington, who had reason to be out of sight for a short time; that
he was also known to myself--here I blushed, and my friend nodded and
laughed, being interested, as all women are, in the discovery of a love
secret; that I was anxious for his welfare; that I had made the excuse
of paying a visit to the Doctor in order to be near him: that, in fact,
I would be about him, wait upon him, and watch over him, without his
knowledge of my presence.

"But he will most certainly know thee, child," she cried. "Tell me, my
dear, is he in love with thee?"

"He says so," I replied. "Perhaps he tells the truth."

"And you? O Kitty! to think of you only a year ago!"

"There is no doubt about me," I said; "for, oh! dear Mrs. Dunquerque,
I am head over ears in love with him. Yet I will so contrive that he
shall not know me, if you will help."

"And what can I do?"

"Make his acquaintance; go and see him; tell him that he must want some
one to do for him; offer to send him your maid Phoebe--yes, Phoebe.
Then I will go, and, if he speaks to me, which is not likely, I will
answer in a feigned voice. Go, now, Mrs. Dunquerque. I will dress for
Phoebe."

She laughed and went away.

My lord lifted his head as she knocked at the door.

"I ask your pardon, sir," she said, "for this intrusion. I live above
you, upon the second-floor, with my husband and children. I suppose,
sir, that, like the rest of us in this place, you come here because
you cannot help it, and a pity it is to find so young a gentleman thus
early shipwrecked."

"I thank you, madam," said my lord, bowing, "for this goodwill."

"The will is nothing, sir, because people in misfortune ought to help
each other when they can. Therefore, sir, and because I perceive that
your room is not what a gentleman's should be, being inch thick with
dust, I will, with your permission, send down my maid when you go out,
who may make you clean and tidy."

"I shall not go out," replied my lord; "but I thank you for the offer
of the girl. I dare say the place might be cleaner."

"She is a girl, sir," replied Mrs. Dunquerque, "who will not disturb
you by any idle chatter. Phoebe!" Here she stepped out upon the
stairs. "Phoebe! Come downstairs this minute, and bring a duster."

When Phoebe came, she was a girl whose hair was pulled over her
eyes, and she had the corner of her apron in her mouth; she wore a
brown stuff frock, not down to her ankles; her hands where whiter
than is generally found in a servant; her apron was of the kind which
servant-maids use to protect their frocks, and she wore a great cap
tied under the chin and awry, as happens to maids in the course of
their work; in one respect, beside her hands, Phoebe was different
from the ordinary run of maidservants--her shoes and stockings were so
fine that she feared his lordship would notice them.

But he noticed her not at all--neither shoes, nor hands, nor cap, nor
apron, which, though it was foolish, made this servant-girl feel a
little pained.

"Phoebe," said Mrs. Dunquerque, "you will wait upon this gentleman,
and fetch him what he wants. And now do but look at the dust
everywhere. Saw one ever such untidiness? Quick, girl, with the duster,
and make things clean. Dear me! to think of this poor gentleman
sitting up to his eyes, as one may say, in a peck of dust!"

She stood in the room, with her work in her hand, rattling on about
the furniture and the fineness of the day, and the brightness of the
room, which had two windows, and the noise of the market, which, she
said, the young gentleman would mind, more than nothing at all, after a
while. As for the dreadful language of the porters and fishwives, that,
she said, was not pleasant at first, but after a little one got, so to
say, used to it, and you no more expected that one of these wretches
should speak without breaking the third commandment and shocking ears
used to words of purity and piety, than you would expect his Grace the
Archbishop of Canterbury himself to use the language of the market.
She advised the young gentleman, further, for his own good, not to sit
alone and mope, but to go abroad and ruffle it with the rest, to keep
a stout heart, to remember that Fortune frowns one day and smiles the
next, being a deity quite capricious and untrustworthy; therefore that
it behoved a young man to have hope; and she exhorted him in this end
to seek out cheerful company, such as that of the great Doctor Shovel,
the only Chaplain of the Fleet, as learned as a bishop and as merry as
a monk: or even to repair to the prison and play tennis and racquets
with the gentlemen therein confined: but, above all, not to sit alone
and brood. Why, had he never a sweetheart to whom he could write, and
send sweet words of love, whereby the heart of the poor thing would be
lightened, and her affections fixed?

So she rattled on, while I, nothing loth, plied duster, and cleaned up
furniture with a zeal surpassing that of any housemaid. Yet, because
men never observe what is under their eyes, he observed nothing of all
this activity. If I had crawled as slowly as possible over the work, it
would have been all one to him.

Presently I came to the table at which he was sitting. This, too, was
covered with dust. (It had been our table formerly, and had grown old
in the service of the Pimpernel ladies.) I brushed away the dust with
great care, and in so doing, I saw that he had a letter before him,
just begun. It commenced with these enchanting words--

"Love of my soul! My goddess Kitty----"

Oh that I could have fallen at his feet, then and there, and told him
all! But I could not; I was afraid.

He had, as yet, written nothing more. But on a piece of paper beside
the letter he had traced the outlines of a woman's head. Whose head
should it be, I ask you, but Kitty's?

I was amazed at the sight. My colour came and went.

"Phoebe," cried Mrs. Dunquerque warningly, "be careful how you touch
the papers! There, sir, we have your room straight for you. It looks a
little cleaner than it did awhile since."

"Surely," he replied, without looking around. "Yes, I am truly
obliged to you, madam. As for this girl"--still he would not look at
me--"perhaps----"

He placed a whole crown-piece in my hand. A crown-piece for such a
simple piece of work! Enough to make the best of housemaids grasping!
This is how men spoil servants.

"Can I get you anything, sir?" I asked, in a feigned voice.

"Nothing, child, nothing. Stay--yes. One must eat a little, sometimes.
Get me some dinner by-and-by."

This was all for that time. We went away, and we spent the rest of the
morning in making him such a little dinner as we thought must please
him. First we got from the market a breast of veal, which we roasted
with a little stuffing, and dished with a slice or two of bacon, nicely
broiled, some melted butter made with care, and a lemon. This, to my
mind, forms a dish fit for a prince. We added to this some haricot
beans, with butter and sweet herbs, and a dish of young potatoes. Then
we made a little fruit pudding and a custard, nicely browned, and, at
two o'clock, put all upon a tray, and I carried it downstairs, still
with my hair over my eyes, my cap still awry, and the corner of the
apron still in my teeth.

I set the food before him and waited to serve him. But he would not let
me.

Ah! had he known how I longed to do something for him, and what a
happiness it was simply to make his dinner, to prepare his vegetables
for him, and to boil his pudding! But how should he guess?

I found Sir Miles's bottle of wine untouched in the cupboard, and
placed it on the table. Then I left him to his meal. When I returned, I
found he had eaten next to nothing. One could have cried with vexation.

"Lord, sir," I said, still in my feigned voice, "if you do not eat you
will be ill. Is there never a body that loves you?"

He started, but hardly looked at me.

"A trick of voice," he said. "Yet it reminded me--Is there anybody who
loves me, child? I think there is. To be sure, there is some one whom I
love."

"Then, sir, you ought to eat, if only to please her, by keeping well
and strong."

"Well, well! I dare say I shall be hungry to-morrow. You can take away
the things, Phoebe, if that is what they call you."

I could say no more, but was fain to obey. Then as I could do no more
for him, I took up the tray and resolved to go and see the Doctor, with
whom I had much to say. Therefore I put off my servant's garb, with the
apron and cap, and drew the hood over my face again.

The Doctor's busy time was in the morning. In the afternoon, after
dinner, he mostly slept in his arm-chair, over a pipe of tobacco. I
found him alone thus enjoying himself. I know not whether he slept or
meditated, for the tobacco was still burning, though his eyes were
closed.

There is this peculiarity about noise in London, that people who live
in it and sleep in it do not notice it. Thus while there was a horrible
altercation outside his very windows--a thing which happened every day,
and all day long--the Doctor regarded it not at all. Yet he heard me
open and shut the door, and was awake instantly.

"Kitty!" he cried. "Why, child, what dost thou here?"

"I hope, sir," I said, "that I find you in good health and spirits."

"Reasonable good, Kitty. A man of my years, be he never so temperate
and regular in his habits, finds the slow tooth of time gnawing upon
him. Let me look at thy face. Humph! one would say that the air of
Epsom is good for young maids' cheeks. But why in Fleet Market, child?"

"Partly, sir, I came to see you, and partly----"

"To see some one else, of whose lodging in the Rules I have been told
by Sir Miles Lackington. Tell me--the young man whom he wounded, is he
dead?"

"Nay, sir, not dead, but grievously wounded, and in a high fever."

"So. A man in early manhood, who has been wounded by a sword running
through his vitals, who four days after the event is still living,
though in a high fever--that man, methinks, is likely to recover,
unless his physician, as is generally the case, is an ass. For, my
dear, there are as many incompetent physicians as there are incapable
preachers. Their name is Legion. Well, Kitty, you came about Lord
Chudleigh. Have you seen him?"

"Yes; but, sir, he does not know that I am here. I saw him"--here I
blushed again--"in disguise as a housemaid."

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed the Doctor. "Why, girl, thou hast more spirit
than I gave thee credit for. Thou deservest him, and shalt have him,
too. The time is come." He rose and folded his gown about him, and put
on his wig, which for coolness' sake he had laid aside. "I will go to
him and say, 'My lord, the person to whom you were married is no other
than----'"

"Oh! no, sir. I pray you do not speak to him in such fashion. Pray hear
me first."

"Well--well. Let us hear this little baggage." The Doctor was in
very good spirits, and eager to unfold this tale. He sat down again,
however, and took up his pipe. "Go on, then, Kitty; go on--I am
listening."

This was, indeed, a very critical moment of my life. For on this moment
depended, I foresaw, all my happiness. I therefore hesitated a little,
thinking what to say and how to say it. Then I began.

I reminded my uncle that, when I first came under his protection, I
was a young girl fresh from the country, who knew but little evil,
suspected none, and in all things had been taught to respect and fear
my betters. I then reminded him how, while in this discipline of mind,
I was one morning called away by him, and ordered to go through a
certain form which (granting that I well knew it to be the English
form of marriage service) I could not really believe to mean that I
was married. And though my uncle assured me afterwards that such was
the case, I so little comprehended that it could be possible, that
I had almost forgotten the whole event. Then, I said, we had gone
away from the Rules of the Fleet, and found ourselves under happier
circumstances, where new duties made me still more forget this strange
thing. Presently we went to Epsom, whither, in the strangest way,
repaired the very man I had married.

After this, I told him, the most wonderful thing in the world happened
to me. For not only did my lord fall in love with me, his legal wife,
but he gave me to understand that the only obstacle to his marrying me
was that business in the Fleet, of which he informed me at length.

"Very good," said the Doctor. "Things could not go better. If the man
has fallen in love with the girl, he ought to be pleased that she is
his wife."

Nay: that would not do either; for here another thing of which the
Doctor had no experience, being a man. For when a woman falls in love
with a man she must needs make herself as virtuous and pure in mind as
she is brave in her dress, in order the more to please him and fix his
affection. And what sort of love would that be where a woman should
glory, as it were, in deception?

Why, his love would be changed, if not into loathing, then into a
lower kind of love, in which admiration of a woman's beauty forms the
whole part. Now, if beauty is everything, even Helen of Troy would be
a miserable woman, a month after marriage, when her husband would grow
tired of her.

"Alas!" I cried, "I love him. If you tell him, as he must now be told,
that I was the woman who took a part in that shameful business--yes,
sir, even to your face I must needs call it shameful--you may tell him
at once that I release him so far as I can. I will not acknowledge the
marriage. I will go into no court of law, nor will I give any evidence
to establish my rights----"

"Whom God hath joined----" the Doctor began.

"Oh! I know--I know. And you are a clergyman of the Church, with power
and authority by laying on of hands. Yet I cannot think, I cannot feel
that any blessing of heaven could rest upon a union performed in such
a place. Is this room, nightly desecrated by revellers, a church? Is
your profligate wretch Roger a clerk? Where were the banns put up? What
bells were rung?"

"Banns are no longer fashionable," he replied. "But let me think." He
was not angry with my plainness of speech, but rather the contrary.
"Let me think." He went to his cupboard, took out his great register,
and turned over the leaves. "Ay! here it is, having a page to itself:
Geoffrey Lord Chudleigh to Catherine Pleydell. Your ladyship is as
truly Lady Chudleigh as his mother was before him. But if you _will_
give up that title and dignity"--here he smiled and tore out the page,
but carefully--"I will not baulk thee, child. Here is the register,
and here the certificate of the wedding." He put both together, and
laid them carefully aside. "Come to me to-morrow, and I will then go
with you to his lordship and give him these papers to deal with as he
pleases."



CHAPTER THE LAST.

HOW LORD CHUDLEIGH RECEIVED HIS FREEDOM.


I returned to my lodging, there to await the event of the next morning.
My lord would learn that he was free--so far good. But with his freedom
would come the news that the woman who restored it to him was the same
who had taken it away, and the same whom he had professed to love.
Alas! poor Kitty!

Now was I like unto a man sentenced to death, yet allowed to choose the
form of his execution, whether he would be hanged, poisoned, beheaded,
stabbed, shot, drowned, or pushed violently and suddenly out of life in
some other manner which he might prefer. As the time approaches, his
anxiety grows the greater until the fatal moment arrives when he must
choose at once; then, in trouble and confusion, he very likely chooses
that very method which is most painful in the contemplation and the
endurance. So with me. I might choose the manner of telling my lover
all, but tell him I must. "Pray Heaven," I said, "to direct me into the
best way." In the afternoon I became once more Phoebe.

Phoebe carried a dish of tea; would the gentleman choose to taste it?
He took it from Phoebe's hand, drank it, and returned to his writing,
which was, I believe, a continuation of that letter, the commencement
of which I had seen.

In the evening Sir Miles paid him a visit of consolation. He drank up
what was left of the bottle, and, after staying an hour or so, went
away, noisily promising himself a jovial night with the Doctor.

At eight o'clock Phoebe brought a tray with cold meat upon it, but my
lord would take none, only bidding her to set it down and leave him.

"Can I do nothing more for you, sir?" asked the maid.

He started again.

"Your voice, child," he said (although I had disguised my voice),
"reminds of one whose voice----"

"La, sir!" she asked. "Is it the voice of your sweetheart?"

He only sighed and sat down again. Phoebe lingered as long as she
could, and then she went away.

Then we all went to bed. Captain Dunquerque had by this time brought
home the little girls and gone to the Doctor's, where, with Sir Miles
and the rest, he was making a night of it.

It was a hot night; the window was open; the noise of the brawling and
fighting below was intolerable; the smell from the market was worse
than anything I remembered, and the bed was a strange one. Added to all
this, my cares were so great that I could not sleep. Presently I arose
and looked out, just as I had done a year before when first I came
to my uncle for protection. Everything was the same; there was light
enough to see the groups of those who talked and the forms of those who
slept. I remembered the old and the young, as I had seen them in the
bright light of a July dawn: poor wretches, destined from their birth
to be soldiers of the devil; elected for disgrace and shame; born for
Newgate and Bridewell; brought into the world for the whipping post,
the cart-tail, and the gallows. Just the same; and I alone changed.
For beneath me, all unconscious, was one whom I might call my husband.
Then my thoughts went wholly out to him; then I could neither sit nor
rest, nor stand still with thinking of the next day, and what I had to
say and how to say it. Oh, my love--my dear--could I bear to give him
up? could I bear to see him turn away those eyes which had never looked
upon me save with kindness and affection? Could I endure to think that
his love was gone from me altogether? Death was better, if death would
come.

Then, crazed, I think, with trouble, I crept slowly from the room, and
went down the stair till I reached the door of the room where my lord
was lying. And here I went on like a mad thing, having just enough
sense to keep silence, yet weeping without restraint, wringing my
hands, praying, offering to Heaven the sacrifice of my life, if only my
lover would not harden his heart to me, and kissing the while the very
senseless wood of the door.

Within the room he was sleeping unconscious; without I was silently
crying and weeping, full of shame and anxiety, not daring to hope, yet
knowing full well his noble heart. Why, had I, weeks before, dared to
tell him all, forgiveness would have been mine; I knew it well. Yet
now, in such a place, when he was reminded of the companions, or at
least the creatures, who had surrounded her, would he not harden his
heart and refuse to believe that any virtue, any purity, could survive?

All this was of no avail. When I was calmed a little I returned to
my own room and sat upon the bed, wondering whether any woman was so
miserable in her shame as myself.

The long minutes crept on slowly: the daylight was dawning: the night
had passed away: Captain Dunquerque had rolled up the stairs noisily,
singing a drunken song: the revellers below were quiet, but the morning
carts had begun when I fell asleep for weariness, and when I awoke the
sun was high. So I arose, dressed, and hastened downstairs, hoping to
see the Doctor before he sallied forth.

There had been, Roger told me with a smile, a great night. He meant
that the Doctor's guests had been many, and their calls for punch
numerous. Sir Miles had been carried away to some place in the
neighbourhood. The Doctor was still abed.

While we talked he appeared, no whit the worse for his night's
potations. Yet I thought his face was of a deeper purple than of old,
and his neck thicker. That was very likely an idle fancy, because a few
months could make but little difference in a man of his fixed habits.

"Well, Kitty"--he was in good humour, and apparently satisfied with the
position of things--"I have thought over thy discourse of yesterday,
which, I confess, greatly moved me: first, because I did not know thee
to be a girl of such spirit, courage, and dignity; and second, because
I now perceive that the marriage, performed in thy interest, was
perhaps, as things have now turned out (which is surely providential),
a mistake. Yet was it done for the best, and I repent me not. Come,
then, to my lord, and let me talk to him."

"First, sir," I begged, "tell him not my name."

He promised this; though, as he said, the name was on the register; and
it was agreed between us that we should speak to my lord privately,
and then that he was to call me, when I should play my part as best I
could.

The Doctor led the way. When he entered the room I ran upstairs, and
with trembling hands made myself as fine as I could; that is, I was
but in morning dishabille, but I dressed my hair, and put those little
touches to my frock and ribbons which every woman understands. And then
I put on my hood, which I pulled quite over my face, and waited.

My lord rose angrily when he saw the Doctor.

"Sir," he said, "this visit is an intrusion. I have no business with
you; I do not desire to see you. Leave the room immediately!"

"First," said Doctor Shovel, "I have business with your lordship."

"I can have no business with you," replied Lord Chudleigh. "I have
already had too much business with you. Go, sir: your intrusion is an
insult."

"Dear, dear!" the Doctor replied. "This it is to be young and
hot-headed and to jump at conclusions. Whereas, did the young gentleman
know the things I have to say, he would welcome me with open arms."

"You come, I suppose, to remind me of a thing of which you ought to be
truly ashamed, so wicked was it."

"Nay, nay; not so wicked as your lordship thinks." The Doctor would not
be put out of temper. "What a benefactor is he who makes young people
happy, with the blessing of the Church!"

"I cannot, I suppose, use violence to this man," said the other. "He
is a clergyman, and, for the sake of his cloth, must be tolerated.
Would you kindly, sir, proceed at once to the business you have in hand
and then begone? If you come to laugh over the misfortune caused by
yourself, laugh and go your way. If you come for money for the wretched
accomplice in your conspiracy, ask it and go. In any case, sir, make
haste."

"My lord," the Doctor replied, "I am a messenger--from one who
conceives that she hath done you grievous wrong, is very sorry for the
past, which she alone can undo, and begs your forgiveness."

"Who is that person, then?" His curiosity was roused, and he waited in
patience to hear what the Doctor might have to say.

"It is, my lord, the lady who may, if she chooses, call herself your
wife."

My lord stood confused.

"Does she wish to see me?"

"She wishes to place in your hands"--here the Doctor's voice became
deeper and more musical, like the low notes of a great organ--"the
proofs of her marriage with you. Does your lordship comprehend? She
will stand before you, bringing with her the only papers which exist
to prove the fact. She will put them in your own hands, if you wish;
she will destroy them before your eyes if you wish; and she will then
retire from your presence, and you shall never know, unless you wish
it, the name of the woman you married."

"But.... This is wonderful.... How shall I know that the papers are the
only proof of the ceremony?"

"Your lordship has my word--my word of a Christian priest. I break the
laws of God and of man daily. I am, however, a sinner who still guards
those rags and tatters of a conscience which most sinners hasten to
throw away--wherefore must my repentance be some day greater. Yet, my
lord, my word I never brake, nor ever looked to hear it questioned.
You shall have all the proofs. You shall be free if you please, from
this moment. You shall never be molested, reproached, threatened, or
reminded of the past."

"Free!" my lord repeated, looking the Doctor in the face. "I cannot
but believe, sir, what you solemnly aver to be the truth. Yet what am
I to think of this generosity? how interpret it? By what acts have I
deserved it? What am I to do in return? Is there any pitfall or snare
for me?"

"In return, you will grant her your forgiveness. That is a pitfall, if
you please. You will also expect a surprise."

"Strange!" said Lord Chudleigh. "Kitty asked me, too, to forgive this
woman. My forgiveness! Does she ask for no money?"

"My lord, you are utterly deceived in your belief as to this woman and
her conduct. By your leave I will tell you the exact truth.

"You know, because I told you, that the wrong inflicted upon me by your
father was my justification, from a worldly point of view, for the
advantage which I took of your condition. You think, I suppose, that
some miserable drab was brought in from the market to play the part of
dummy wife, and threaten you and persecute you for money. You are wrong.

"There was living in this place at the time, with a lady of ruined
fortunes, a young woman of gentle birth (by her father's side), though
penniless. She was beautiful exceedingly, well educated, a God-fearing
damsel, and a good girl. By her mother's side she was my niece, that
branch of her family being of obscure origin. On the death of her
father she became for a time my ward, which was the reason why she
lived here--no fit place for a girl of good reputation, I own, though
at the time I could do no better for her. She was not only all that I
have described her in appearance, carriage, and virtues, but she was,
as well, very much afraid of me, her guardian. She had been brought up
to obey without questioning her spiritual pastors and masters and all
who might be placed in authority over her. This girl it was whom you
married."

The Doctor paused, to let his words have due effect.

"When I designed the treachery, you being then sound asleep, it first
seemed to me that the fitting person for such a revenge as I at first
proposed to myself would be one of those women who are confined to the
Fleet for life, unless by hook or crook they can get them a husband.
Such a one I sent for. I did not disclose the name of the man I
proposed, because I found her only too eager to marry any one upon whom
she could saddle her debts, and so make him either pay them or change
places with her. But while I talked with the woman I thought how cruel
a thing it would be for your lordship to be mated with such a wife,
and I resolved, if I did give you a wife against your knowledge, that
she should be worthy to bear your name. Accordingly I despatched this
person, who is still, I suppose, languishing in the prison hard by, and
sent for the young lady.

"She came unsuspiciously. I told her with a frown which made her
tremble, that she was to obey me in all that I ordered her to do; and I
bade her, then, take her place at the table, and repeat such words as I
should command. She obeyed. Your lordship knows the rest."

"But she knew--she must have known--that she was actually married?"

"She could not understand. She had seen marriages performed; but then
it was in a church, with regular forms. She did not know until I told
her. Besides, I ordered her; and, had my command been to throw herself
from a high tower, she would have obeyed. She was not yet seventeen;
she was country-bred, and she was innocence itself."

"Poor child," said my lord.

"She has left the Rules of the Fleet for some time. She knows that
at any time she might claim the name and the honours of your wife,
but she has refrained, though she has had hundreds of opportunities.
Now, however, she declares that she will be no longer a party to the
conspiracy, and she is desirous of restoring, into your own hands, the
papers of the marriage. Will your lordship, first, forgive her?"

"Tell her," said my lord, "that I forgive her freely. Where is she?"

"She waits without."

Then he called me, but not by name.

My knees trembled and shook beneath me as I rose, pulled the hood
tighter over my face, and followed the Doctor into the room. In my hand
I held the papers.

"This," said the Doctor, "is the young gentlewoman of whom we spoke.
The papers are in her hands. Child, give his lordship the papers."

I held them out, and he took them. All this time he never ceased gazing
at me; but he could see nothing, not even my eyes.

"Are we playing a comedy?" he asked. "Doctor Shovel, are we dreaming,
all of us?"

"Everything, my lord is real. You hold in your hands the certificate
of marriage and the register. Not copies--the actual documents. Before
you read the papers and learn the lady's name, tell her, in my hearing,
that you forgive her. She bids me tell you, for her, that since she
learned the thing that she had done, what it meant, and whose happiness
it threatened, she has had no happy day."

"Forgiveness!" said my lord, in a voice strangely moved, while his eyes
softened. "Forgiveness, madam, is a poor word to express what I feel in
return for this most generous deed. It is a thing for which I can find
no word sufficient to let you know how great is my gratitude. Learn,
madam, that my heart is bestowed upon a woman whose perfections, to my
mind, are such that no man is worthy of her; but she hath graciously
been pleased to accept, and even to return my affection. Now by this
act, because I cannot think that we are bound together in the eyes of
the Church by that form of marriage service----"

"It is a question," said the Doctor, "which it would task the learning
of the whole country to decide. By ecclesiastical law--but let us leave
this question unconsidered. Nothing need ever be said about the matter.
Your lordship is free."

"Then"--he still held the papers in his hand, and seemed in no way
anxious to satisfy his curiosity as to the name of the woman who had
caused so much anxiety--"before we part, perhaps never to meet again,
may I ask to be allowed to see the face of the lady who has performed
this wonderful act of generosity?"

I trembled, but made no answer.

"Stay a moment," he said. "Remember that you have given up a goodly
estate, with a large fortune and an ancient name--things which all
women rightly prize. These things you have given away. Do you repent?"

I shook my head.

"Then let me never know"--he tore the papers into a thousand
fragments--"let me never know the name of the woman to whom I owe this
gift. Let me think of her as of an angel!"

The Doctor took me by the arm as if to lead me away.

"Since you do not want to know her name, my lord, I do not see any
reason why you should. Let us go, child."

"May I only see her face?" he asked.

"Come, child," urged the Doctor; "come away. There is no need, my lord."

But those words about myself, his nobleness, had touched me to the
heart. I could deceive him no longer. I threw back the hood, put up my
hands to my face, and fell at his feet, crying and sobbing.

"It is I, my lord! It was Kitty Pleydell herself--the woman whom you
thought so good. Oh, forgive me! forgive me! Have pity!"

Now I seem to have no words to tell how he raised me in his strong
arms, how he held me by the waist and kissed me, crying that indeed
there was nothing in his heart towards me but love and tenderness.

Would it not be a sin to write down those words of love and endearment
with which, when the Doctor left us alone, he consoled and soothed me?
I hid nothing from him. I told him how I had well-nigh forgotten the
dreadful thing I had done until I saw him again at the Assembly; how
from day to day my conscience smote me more and more, and yet I dared
not tell him all--for fear of losing his respect.

Let us pass this over.

The story of Kitty is nearly told.

We forgot all about poor Will and the reason why my lord should for a
while lie close. We agreed that we would be married quietly, in due
form, and of course at church, as soon as arrangements could be made.
And then nothing would do but my lord must carry me to Mrs. Esther, and
formally ask her permission to the engagement.

You may think how happy was I to step into the coach which brought me
back to my dear lady, with such a companion.

He led me into her presence with a stately bow.

"Madam," he said, "I have the honour to ask your permission to take
the hand of your ward, Miss Kitty, who hath been pleased to lend a
favourable ear to my proposals. Be assured, dear madam, that we have
seriously weighed and considered the gravity of the step which we
propose to take, and the inclination of our hearts. And I beg you,
madam, to believe that my whole life, whether it be long or short,
shall be devoted to making this dear girl as happy as it is in the
power of one human creature to make another."

Mrs. Esther was perfectly equal to the proper ceremonies demanded
for the occasion, although, as she confessed, she was a great deal
surprised at the suddenness of the thing, which, notwithstanding that
she had expected it for many weeks, came upon her with a shock. She
said that his lordship's proposal was one which the world would no
doubt consider a great condescension, seeing that her dear Kitty,
though of good family, had no other prospects than the inheritance of
the few hundreds which made her own income: but, for her own part,
knowing this child as she did--and here she spoke in terms of unmerited
praise of beauty and goodness and such qualities as I could lay but
small claim to possess, yet resolved to aim at them.

Finally, she held out her own hand to his lordship, saying--

"Therefore, my lord, as I consider Kitty my daughter, so henceforth
will I consider you my son. And may God keep and bless you both, and
give you all that the heart of a good man may desire, with children
good and dutiful, long and peaceful lives, and in the end, to sit
together for ever in happy heaven."

Whereupon she wept, falling on my neck.

Now, while we were thus weeping and crying, came Sir Miles, who
immediately guessed the cause, and wished my lord joy, shaking him by
the hand. Then he must needs kiss my hand.

"The Doctor," he explained, "told me where I should most likely find
you. The Doctor's knowledge of the human heart is most extensive. I
would I had the Doctor's head for punch. My lord, this is a lucky day.
Will Levett is out of his fever, and hath signed a written confession
that your sword was drawn in self-defence, and that had he not been
run through, his cudgel would have beaten out your brains. Therefore
there is no more to keep us in hiding, and we may go about joyfully in
the open, as gentlemen should. And as for Will, he may die or live, as
seemeth him best."

"Nay, Sir Miles," I said. "Pray that the poor lad live and lead a
better life."

       *       *       *       *       *

This is the story of Kitty Pleydell: how she came to London, and lived
in the Rules of the Fleet: how she was made to go through the form of a
marriage: how she left the dreadful, noisy, wicked place: how she went
to Epsom: how Lord Chudleigh fell in love with her, to her unspeakable
happiness; and how she told him her great secret. The rest, which is
the history of a great and noble man married to a wife whose weakness
was guided and led by him in the paths of virtue, discretion and
godliness, cannot be told.

I have told what befell some of the actors in this story--Solomon
Stallabras, I have explained, married the brewer's widow: Will Levett
recovered and did not repent, but lived a worse life after his narrow
escape than before. As for the rest, Mrs. Esther remained with us,
either at Chudleigh Court or our town house: Harry Temple was wise
enough to give up pining after what he could not get, and married
Nancy, so that she, too, had her heart's desire: Sir Miles went on
alternately gaming and drinking, till he died of an apoplexy at forty.

       *       *       *       *       *

There remains to be told the fate of the Chaplain of the Fleet.
When they passed the Marriage Act of 1753, the Fleet weddings were
suddenly stopped. They had been a scandal to the town for more than
forty years, so that it was high time they should be ended. But
when the end actually came, the Doctor, who had saved no money, was
penniless. Nor could he earn money in any way whatever, nor had he any
friends, although there were hundreds of grateful hearts among the
poor creatures around him. Who could contribute to his support except
ourselves?

Mrs. Esther, on learning his sad condition, instantly wrote to offer
him half her income. My husband, for his part, sent a lawyer among his
creditors, found out for what sum he could effect a release, paid this
money, which was no great amount, and sent him his discharge. Then,
because the Doctor would have been unhappy out of London, he made him
a weekly allowance of five guineas, reckoning that he would live on
one guinea, drink two guineas, and give away two. He lived to enjoy
this allowance for ten years more, going every night to a coffee-house,
where he met his friends, drank punch, told stories, sang songs, and
was the oracle of the company. He took great pride in the position
which he had once occupied in the Rules of the Fleet, and was never
tired of boasting how many couples he had made into man and wife.

I know that his life was disreputable and his pleasures coarse, yet
when I think of the Doctor and of his many acts of kindness and
charity, I remember certain texts, and I think we have reasonable
ground for a Christian's hope as regards his deathbed repentance, which
was as sincere as it was edifying.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Spelling, punctuation, hyphenation etc have been made consistent though
not modernised.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Chaplain of the Fleet" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home