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Full text of "A Terrible Temptation: A Story of To-day"

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A TEKREBLE TEMPTATION. 



25 









a 



H 



O 

t^ ■ 

H 



H 

H 



o 

Q 

OD 

H 

QD 
M 
f 



5 



her lover ; I know women better than you 
do ; I am one of the precious lot." 

The Admiral replied only with a look of 
superlative scorn ; this incensed the Somer- 
set, and that daring woman, whose ear was 
nearer to the door, and had caught sounds 
that escaped the men, actually turned the 
handle, and while her eye flashed defiance, 
her vigorous foot spurned the folding-doors 
wide open in half a moment. 

Bella Bruce lay with her head sideways 
on the table, and her hands extended, 
moaning and sobbing piteously for poor 
Sir Charles. 



She scarcely noticed him, for the moment 
he turned her she caught sight of Miss 
Somerset, and recognized her face in a mo- 
ment. ** Ah 1 the Sister of Charity 1 " she 
cried, and stretched out her hands to her 
with a look and a gesture so innocent, con- 
fiding, and imploring, that the Somerset, 
already much excited by her own eloquence, 
took a turn not uncommon with termagants, 
and began to cry herself. 

But she soon stopped that, for she saw 
her time was come to go, and avoid un- 
pleasant explanations. She made a dart 
ancb secured the two letters. ** Settlei i s. 



26 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



tool of Richard Bassett, don't be a tool and 
a dupe by halves. He is in love with her 
too. Marry her to the blackguard, and 
then you will be sure to kill Sir Charles." 

Having delivered this with such volubility 
that the words pattered out like a roll of 
musketry, she flounced out, with red cheeks 
and wet eyes, rushed down the stairs, and 
sprang into her carriage, whipped the po- 
mes, and away at a pace that made the 
spectators stare. 

Mr Oldfield muttered some excuses and 
retired more sedately. 

All this set Bella Bruce trembling and 
weeping, and her father was some time be- 
fore he could bring her to anything like 
composure. Her first words, when she 
could find breath, were " He is innocent ; 
he is unhappy. O that I could fly to him 1 " 

" Innocent ' What proof ? " 

" That brave lady said so." 

" Brave lady 1 A bold hussy. Most 
likely a friend of the woman Somerset, and 
a bird of the same feather. Sir Charles 
has done himself no good with me by send- 
ing such an emissary. 

"No, papa; it was the lawyer brought 
her, and then her own good heart made her 
burst out. Ah ! she is not like me : she has 
courage. What a noble thing courage is, 
especially in a woman 1 ** 

*< Pray did you hear the language of this 
noble lady V " 

"Every word, nearly; and I shall never 
forget them. They were diamonds and 
pearls." 

" Of the sort you can pick up at Billings- 
gate." 

" Ah, papa, she pleaded for him as I can- 
not plead, and yet I love him. It was true 
eloquence. O, how she made me shud- 
der 1 Onlv think ; he had a fit, and lost his 
reason, and all for me. What shall I do ? 
What shall I do?" 

This brought on a fit of weeping. 

Her father pitied her, and gave her a 
crumb of sympathy : said he was sorry for 
Sir Charles. 

" But," said he, recoverinor his resolution, 
"it cannot be helped. He must expiate 
his vices, like other men. Do pray pluck 
up a little spirit and sense; now try and 
keep to the point. This woman came 
from him ; and ^ou say you heard her lan- 
guage, and admire it. Quote me some of 

" She said he fell down as black as his 

hat. and his eyes rolled, and his poor tpeth 

„ rys s n ^ dAi eidadi^yiriar darlime! 



swallow an anonymous letter like spring- 
water. Oh 1 oh I " 

" Green ? There was a word 1 " 

"Oh I oh I But it is the right word. 
You can't mend it. Try, and you will see 
you can't. Of course 1 was green. Oh 1 
And she said everv gentleman who can 
afford to keep a saddle-horse has a female 
friend, till his banns are called in church. 
Oh! ohi" 

" A pretty statement to come to your 
ears 1 " 

" But, if it is the truth 1 * The truth 

MAY BE BLAMED, BUT IT CAN'T BE 

SHAMED.' Ah I I '11 not forget that ! I *11 
pray every night I may remember those 
words of me brave lady I Oh I " 
" Yes ; take her for your oracle." 
"I mean to. I always try to profit by 
my superiors. She has courage: 1 have 
none. I beat about the bush ana talk skim- 
milk: she uses the veiy word. She said 
we have been the dupe and the tool of a 
little scheming rascal, an anonymous cow- 
ard, with motives as base as his heart is 
black, oh I oh ! ay, that is the way to speak 
of such a man : I can*t do it m^'self, but I 
reverence the brave lady who can. And 
she was n't afraid even of you, dear papa. 
* Come, old gentlemar,' — ha I ha 1 ha 1 — 
' take the world as it is. Belgravian moth- 
ers would not break both their hearts for 
what is past and gone.' What hard good 
sense 1 a thing I always did admire : be- 
cause I 've got none. But her heart is not 
hard. After all her words of fire that went 
so straight, instead of beating the bush, she 
ended by crying for me. Oh I oh 1 oh ! 
Bless h|^l bless her! If ever there 'was 
a good woman in the world that is one. 
She was not bom a lady, I am afraid ; but 
that is nothing : she was bom a woman, and 
I mean to make her acquaintance, and take 
her for my example in all things. No, dear 
papa, women are not so pitiful to women, 
without causjB. She is almost a stranger, 
yet she cried for me. Can you be harder 
to me than she is ? No ; pity your poor girl, 
who will lose her health, and perhaps her 
life. Pity poor Charles, stung by an anony- 
mous viper, and laid on a bed of sickness 
for me , oh I oh I oh I " 

" I do pity you, Bella. When you cry 
like this my heart bleeds." 

" I '11 try not to cry, papa. Oh I oh 1 " 
" But, most of all, I pity your infatuation, 
your blindness. Poor innocent dove, that 
looks at others by the light of her own good- 
ness and so sees all sBannor dftvlnluos iif a 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



27 



" Come, Bella. I thought you were going 
to imitate the jade, and not beat about the 
bush. Yes, or no ? " 

" The features are very like." 

" Bella, you know it is the same woman. 
You recognized her in a moment. That 
speaks yolumes. But she shall find I am 
not to be made < a dupe and a tool of ' quite 
so easily as she thinks. I '11 tell you what, 
— this is some professional actreps Sir 
Charles has hired to waylay you. Little 
simpleton I " 

He said no more at that time ; but, after 
dinner, he ruminated, and took a very se- 
rious, indeed almost a maritime, view of the 
crisis. "I 'm overmatched now," thought 
he. " They will cut my sloop out under the 
very guns of the flagship, if we stay much 
longer in this port, — a lawyer against me, 
and a woman too ; there 's nothing to be done 
but heave anchor, hoist sail, and run for it." 

He sent otf a forei^ telegram, and then 
went up stairs. <* Bella, my dear," said he, 
" pack up your clothes lor a journey. We 
start to-morrow." 

** A journey, papa I A long one ? " 

« No. We sha' n't double the Horn this 
time." 

"Brighton? Paris?" 

« O, arther than that." 

" The grave. That is the journey I 
should like to take." 

" So you shall, some day ; but, just now, 
it is a foreign port you are bound for. Gro 
and pack." 

"I obey." And she was creeping off, but 
he called her back and kissed her, and said, 
" Now, I '11 tell you where you are going ; 
but you must solemnly promise me^not to 
write one line to Sir Charles Bassett." 

She promised ; but cried as soon as she 
had promised; whereat the Admiral in- 
ferred he had done wisely to exact the 
promise. 

" Well, my dear," said he, " we are ffoing 
to Baden. Your aunt Molinejix is tnere. 
She is a woman of great delicacy and pru- 
dence, and has daughters of her own all 
well married, thanks to her motherly care. 
She will bring you to your senses bitter 
than I can." 

Next evening they left England, by the 
mall; and the day after, Richard Bassett 
learned this through his servant, and went 
home triumphant, and, indeed, wondering 
at his success. He ascribed it, however, to 
the Nemesis whic i dogs the heels of those 
who inherit the estate of another. 

Such was the only moral reflection he made, 
thoagh the business in general, and partic- 
ularly his share in it, admitted of several. 

Miss Somerset also heard of it, and told 



The whole matter appeared stagnant for 
about ten days ; and then a delicate hand 
stirred the dead waters cautiously. Mr. 
Oldfield, of all people in the world, received 
a short letter m)m Bella Bruce. 

•< KoNiesBERa Hotel, BadKn. 

" Miss Bruce presents her compliments to Mr. 
Oldfield^ and will feel much obliged if he will send 
her the name and address of that brave lady who 
accompanied him to her father's house. 

" Miss Bruce desires to thank that lady^ person- 
aUyy for her brave defence of one with whom it 
would be imfiroper in her to communicate ; but she 
can never be indifferent to his u)eifaie, nor hear of 
his sufferings unthout deep sorrow." 

« Confound it ! " feaid Solomon Oldfield, 
" What am I to do? I must n't tell her it 
is Miss Somerset." So the wary lawyer 
had a copy of the letter made, and sent to 
Miss Somerset for instructions. 

Miss Somerset sent for Mr. Marsh, who 
was now more at her beck and call than 
ever, and told him she had a ticklish letter 
to write. " I can talk with the best," said 
she ; *' but the moment I sit down and take 
up a pen, something cold runs up my 
shoulder, and then down my back-bone, 
and I *m palsied. Now you are •silways 
writing, and can't say < Bo ' to a goose, in 
company. Let us mix ourselves, i '11 
walk about, and speak my mind ; and then 
you put down the cream, and send it." 

From this ingenious process resulted the 
following composition : — 

" She whom Miss Bruce is good enough to call 
' the brave lady,' happened to know the truth, and 
that tempted her to try and baffle an anonymous ' 
slamlerer who was ruining the happiness of a lady 
and gentleman. Being a person of warm mpidses, 
she went great lengths ; but she now wishes to retire 
into the shade. She is flattered by Miss Bruce's 
desire to know her, aria some day, perhaps, may 
remind her of it. But, at present, she must deny 
herself that honor. If her reasons were known. 
Miss Bruce vsould not be offended, nor hurt; she 
would entirely approve them. 

Soon after this, as Sir Charles Bassett sat 
by the fire, disconsolate, his servant told 
him a lady wanted to see him. 

"Who is it?" 

"Bee: pardon, Sir Charles; but it is a 
kind of a sort of a nun, Sir Charles." 

" O, a Sister of Charity 1 Perhaps the 
one that nursed me. Aamit her, oy all 
means." 

The Sister came in. She had a large 
veil on. Sir Charles received her with 
profound respect, and thanked her, with 
some little hesitation, for her kind attention 
to him. She stopped him by saying that 
was merely her duty. "But," said she, 
softl " words ^11 fipm J ou on t^ ^gd of 



1^ 



28 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



" Ah, then no wonder you speak so kindly : 
you can feel what I have lost. She has left 
England to avoid me." 

<* All the better. Where she is, the door 
cannot be closed in your face. She is at 
Baden. Follow her there. She has heard 
the truth from Mr. Oldiield, and she knows 
who wrote the anonymous letter." 

« And who did ? " 

« Mr. Richard Bassett." 

*This amazed Sir Charles. 

^ The scoundrel t " said he, after a long 
silence. 

" Well, then, why let that fellow defeat 
you, for his own ends ? I would go at once 
to Baden. Your leaving England would be 
one more proof to her that she has no rival. 
Stick to her like a man, sir, and you will 
win her I tell you. 

These words from a nun amazed and 
fired him. He rose from his chair, flushed 
with sudden hope and ardor. " I *11 leave 
for Baden to-morrow morning." 

The Sister rose to retire. 

" No, no," cried Sir Charles. « I have 
not thanked you. I ought to go down on 
my knees and bless you for i3l this. To 
whom am 1 so indebted ? " 

" No matter, sir." 

**But it does matter. You nursed me, 
and perhaps saved my life, and now you 
give me back the hopes that make life 
sweet. You will not trust me with your 
name?" 

" We have no name." 

" Your voice at times sounds very like — 
no, 1 will not affront you by such a compari- 
son." 

" I *m her sister," said she, like lightning. 

This announcement staggered Sir Charles, 
and he was silent and uncomfortable. It 
gave him a chill. 

The Sister watched him keenly, but said 
nothing:. 

Sir Charles did not know what to say, so 
he asked to see her face. << It must be as 
beautiftil as your heart." 

The Sister shook her head. "My face 
las been disfigured by a frightftil disorder." 

Sir Charles uttered an ejaculation of 
regret and pity. 

" I could not bear to show it to one who 
esteems me as you seem to do. But per- 
haps it will not aWays be so." 

" 1 hope not. You are young and Heaven 
is good. Can I do nothinor for you ? who 
tt "n 



" By all means : but it is a poor thing to 
offer you," 

" I shall value it very much." 

" Say no more. I am fortunate in having 
anything you deign to accept." 

And so the ring changed nands. 

The Sister now put it on her middle 
finger, and held up her hand, and her bright 
eyes glanced at it, through her veil, with 
that delight which her sex in general l^el 
at the possession of a new bawble. She 
recovered herself, however, and told him, 
soberly, the ring should return to his family 
at her death, if not before. 

" I will give you a piece of advice for it," 
said she. "Miss Bruce has foxy hair and 
she is very timid. Don't vou take her ad- 
vice about commanding her. Shie would 
like to be your slave I Don 't let her. 
Coax her to speak her mind. Make a 
friend of her. Don 't you put her to this — 
that she must displease you or else deceive 
you. She might choose wrong, especially 
with that colored hair." 

** It is not in her nature to deceive." 

"It is not in her nature to displease. 
Excuse me ; I am too fanciful and look at 
women too close. But I know your happi- 
ness depends on her : all your eggs are in 
that one basket. Well, 1 have told you 
how to carry the basket. Grood by." 

Sir C harles saw her out, and bowed re- 
spectfully to her in the hall, while his ser- 
vant opened the street door. He did her 
this homage as his benefactress. 

W^hen Admiral and Miss Bruce reached 
Baden, Mrs. Molineux was away on a visit ; 
and this disappointed Admiral Bruce, who 
had counted on her assistance to manage 
and comfort Bella. Bella needed the latter 
very much ; a glance at her pale, pensive, 
lovely face, was enough to show tnat soiv 
row was rooted at her heart. She was sub- 
jected to no restraint, but kept the house of 
her own accord, thinking, as persons of her 
age are apt to do, that her whole history 
must be written in her face. Still, of course, 
she did go out sometimes, and one cold, but 
bright aniernoon she was strolling languidly 
on the parade, when all in a moment she 
met Sir Charles Bassett face to face. 

She gave an eloquent scream, and turned 
pale a moment, and then the hot blood 
came rushing, and then it retired, and she 
stood at bay, with heaving bosom, and great 
eyes. 
I • Id u d 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



29 



" Yon must not speak to me, sir. I am 
forbidden." 

" Pray do not condemn me, unheard." 

<< If I listen to you I shall believe you. I 
won't hear a word. Gentlemen can do 
things that ladies cannot even speak about. 
Talk to my aunt Molineux; our fate de- 
pends on her. This will teach you not to 
be so wicked. What business have gentle- 
men to be so wicked? Ladies are not. No, 
it is no use, I will not hear a syllable. I am 
ashamed to be seen speaking to you. You 
are a bad character. O Charles, is it 
true you had a fit?" 

"Yes." 

" And have you beep very ill ? You look 
ill." 

" I am better now, dearest" 

<< * Dearest I ' Don't call me names. How 
dare you keep speaking to me, when I re- 
quest you not ? " 

<< Bat I can't excuse myself, and obtain 
my pardon, and recover your love, unless I 
am allowed to speak." 

"O, you can speak to my aunt Moli- 
neux, and she will read you a fine lesson." 

"Where is she?" 

" Nobody knows. But there is her house, 
the one with the iron gate. Gret her ear 
first, if you really love me ; and don't you 
ever waylay me again. If you do, I snail 
say something rude to you, sir. O, I 'm so 
happy 1 " 

Having let this out, she hid her face with 
her hands, and fled like the very wind. 

At dinner-time she was in high spirits. 

The Admiral congratulated her. " Brava, 
Bell I Youth, and health, and a foreign 
air, will soon cure you of that follv." 

Bella blushed deeply, and said nothing. 
The truth struggled within her, too, but she 
shrank from giving pain and receiving ex- 
postulation. 

She kept the house, though, for two days, 

Eartly out of modesty, partly out of an 
onest and pious desire to obey her father 
as much as she could. 

The third day Mrs. Molineux arrived, 
and sent over to the Admiral. 

He invited Bella to come with*him. She 
consented eagerly ; but was so long in dress- 
ing that he threatened to go without her. 
She implored him not to do that ; and, after 
a monstrous delay, the motive of which the 
reader may perhaps divine, father and 
daughter called on Mrs. Molineux. She re- 
ceived them very affectionately. But, when 
the Admiral, with some hesitation, began to 
enter on the great subject, she said, quietly, 
"Bella, my dear, go for a walk, and come 
back to me in half an hour." 

" Aunt Molineux I ' said Bella, extending 
both* her hands imploringly to that lady. 

Mrs. Molineux was proof against this 
blandishment, and Bella had to o. 



When she was gone, this lady, who, both 
as wife and mother, was literally a model, 
rather astonished her brother the Admiral. 
She said, " I am sorry to tell you that you 
have conducted this matter with perfect im- 
propriety, both you and Bella. She had no 
business to show vou that anonymous letter ; 
and, when she did show it you, you should 
have taken it fix)m her, and told her not to 
believe a word of it." 

" And married my daughter to a liber- 
tine I Why, Charlotte, I am aediamed of 
you." 

Mrs. Molineux colored hish ; but she kept 
her temper; and ignored ue interruption. 
"Then, if you decided to so into so indeli- 
cate a question at all (and really you were 
not bound to do so on anonvmous informa- 
tion), why then you should have sent for 
Sir Charles, and given him the letter, and 
put him on his honor to tell you the truth. 
He would have told you the fact, instead of 
a garbled version ; and the fact is that, be- 
fore he knew Bella, he had a connection 
which he prepared to dissolve, on terms very 
honorable to nimself, as soon as he engaged 
himself to your daughter. What is there in 
that? Why, it is common, universal, 
amongst men of fashion. I am so vexed 
it ever came to Bella's knowledge : really, it 
is dreadful to me, as a mother, that such a 
thin| should have been discussed before that 
child. Complete innocence means complete 
Ignorance; and that is how all my girls 
went to their husbands. However, what 
we must do now is to tell her Sir Charles 
has satisfied me he was not to blame ; and, 
afler that the subject must never be recurred 
to. Sur Charles has promised me never to 
mention it, and no more shall Bella. And 
now, my dear John let me congratulate you. 
Your daughter has a high-minded lover, 
who adores her, with a fine estate : he has 
been crying to me, poor fellow, as men vrill 
to a woman of my age ; and if vou have any 
respect for my jud^ent — ask him to din- 
ner." 

She added that it mi^ht be as well if, af- 
ter dinner he were to take a little nap. 

Admiral Bruce did not fall into these 
views without discussion. I spare the read- 
er the dialogue, since he yielded at last, on- 
ly he stipulated that his sister should do the 
dinner and the subsequent siesta. 

Bella returned, looxing very wistful and 
anxious. 

" Come here, niece," said Mrs. Molineux. 
" Kneel you at my knee. Now look me in 
the face. Sir Charles Bassett ha. loved you, 
and you only, from the day he first saw you. 
He loves vou now as much as ever. Dc you 
love him?" 

" O, aunt I aunt ! " A shower of kisses, 
and a tear or two. 

"That is enojjeh. Then^ ^ our e es. 



30 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION, 



and dress your beautiftd hair a little better 
than that ; for he dines with me to-day." 

Who so bright and happy now as Bella 
Bruce? 

The dreaded aunt did not stop there. 
She held that, after the peep into real life 
Bella Bruce had obtained, for want of a 
mother 's vigilance, she ought to be a wife 
as soon as possible. So she gave Sir Charles 
a hint that Baden was a very good place 
to be married in : and, from that moment, 
Sir Charles gave Bella and her father no 
rest till they consented. 

Little did Richard BaSsett in England 
dream what was going on at Baden. He 
now surveyed the cnimneys of Huntercombe 
Hall with resignation, and even with grow- 
ing complacency, as chimneys that would 
one day be his, since their owner would not 
be in a hurry to love again. He shot Sir- .. 
Charles's pheasants whenever they strayed 
into his hedgerows,, and he-lived moderately 
and studied healdi. In a word, content 
with the result of his anonymous letter, he 
confined himself now to cannily outliving 
the wrongful heir, his cousin. 

One fine frosty day, the chimneys of Hun- 
tercombe be^an to show signs of life; 
vertical columns of blue smoke rose in the 
air, one after another, till at last there 
were about forty going. 

Old servants fiowea down from London. 
New ones trickled in, with their boxes, from 
the country. Carriages were drawn out into 
the stable-yard, horses exercised, and a 
whisper ran that Sir Charles was coming to 
live on his estates, and not alone. 

Richard Bassett went about, inquiring 
cautiously. 

The rumor spread, and was confirmed by 
some little facts. 

At last, one fine day, when the chimneys 
were all smoking, the church bells began to 



Richard Bassett heard, and went out, 
scowling deeply. He found the village all 
agog with expectation. 

JEresently there was a loud cheer from 
the steeple, and a fiag floated from the top 
of Huntercombe house. Murmurs. Distant 



so she swept past Richard Bassett ; she saw 
him directly, shuddered a moment, and half 
clung to her husband : then on again, and 
passed through the open gates amidst loud 
cheers* She alighted in her own hall, and 
walked, nodding and smiline sunnily, 
through two files of domestics and retainers ; 
and thought no more of Richard Bassett, 
than some bright bird that has flown over a 
rattlesnake and glanced down at him. But 
a gorgeous bird cannot always be flying. 
A snake can sometimes creep under her 
perch, and glare, and keep hissing, till she 
shudders, and droops, and lays her plumage 
in the dust. 



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH. 

^^ENERALLY, deliberate crimes are fol- 
lowed by some giceat punishment ; but they 
are also often attended in their course by 
briefer chastisements, single strokes from 
the whip that holds the round dozen in re- 
serve. These precursors of the grand expi- 
ation are sharp but kindly lashes ; for they 
tend to whip the man out of the wrong 
road. 

Such a stroke fell, on Richard Bassett. 
He saw Bella Bruce sweep past him, cling- 
ins to her husband and shuddering at him- 
seLT. For this, •then, he had plotted and 
intrigued and written an anonymous letter. 
The only woman he had ever loved at all 
went past him with a look of aversion, and 
was his enemv's wife, and would soon be 
the mother of that enemv's children, and 
blot him forever out of tne coveted Inher- 
itance. 

The man crept home and sat by his lit- 
tle fireside, cru shed. Indeed, from that hour 
he disappeared and drank his bitter cup 
alone. 

After a while it transpired in the vil- 
lage that he was very ill. The clergyman 
went to visit him, but was not admitted. 
The only person who got to see him was his 
friend Wheeler, a smsdl but sharp attorney, 
by whose advice he acted in country matters, 
lii't , s n f o tin and 

h^..thei 8 * w 

t 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



31 



Wheeler, it is all over. I and mine shall 
never have Huntercombe now." 

"I'll tell you what it is," said Wheeler, 
almost angrdy, " you will have six feet by 
two of it before loi^ if you go on this way. 
Was ever such folly 1 to fret yourself out of 
this jolly world because you can't get one 
particular slice of its upper crust ; why, one 
bit of land is as good as another, and I '11 
show you how to get land, — in this neigh- 
borhood too ; ay, right under Sir Charles's 
nose." 

" Show me that," said Bassett, gloomily 
and incredulously. 

'< Leave off moping, then, and I will. I 
advise the Bank, you know, and Splatchett's 
farm is mortgaged up to the eves. It is not 
the only one. I go to the village inns and 
pick up* all the gossip I hear there." 

" How am I to find money to buy land ? " 

"I'll put you up to that too; but you 
must leave off moping. Hang it, man, never 
say die. There are plenty of chances on 
the cards. Gret your color back, and marry 
a girl with money, and turn that into land. 
The first thing is to leave off grizzling. 
Why, you are playing the enemy's game : 
that can't be right, can it ? " 

This remark was the first that really 
roused the sick man. 

Wheeler had too few clients to lose one. 
He now visited Bassett almost daily, and, 
being himself full of inventions and schemes, 
he got Bassett, by degrees, out of his leth- 
argy ; and he emerged into daylight a^ain ; 
but he looked thin, and yellow as a guinea, 
and he had turned miser. He kept but 
one servant, and fed her and himself at Sir 
Charles Bassett's expense. He wired that 
gentleman's hares and rabbits in his own 
hedges. He went out with his gun every 
sunny afternoon and shot a brace or two of 

Eheasants, without disturbing the rest ; for 
e took no dog with him to run and yelp, but 
a little boy, who quietly tapped the hedge- 
rows and walked the sunny banks and shaws. 
They never came home empty-handed. 

But, on those rarer occasions, when Sir 
Charles and his Mends beat the Bassett 
woods, Richard was sure to make a large 
bag ; for he was a cool, unerring shot, and 
flushed the birds in hedgerows, slips of un- 
derwood, etc., to which me fairer sportsmen 
had driven them. 

These birds, and the surplus hares, he al- 
*ways sold in the market town, and put the 
money into a box. The rabbits he ate, and 
also squirrels, and, above all, voung hedge- 
hogs; a gypsy taught him now to cook 
them, viz. ! by enclosing them in clay, and 
baking them in wood embers ; then the 
bristles adhere to the burnt clay, and the 
meat is juicy. He was his own garden- 
er, and vegetables cost him next to noth- 
ing. 



So he went on through all the winter 
months, and by the spring his health and 
strength were restored ; then he turned 
woodman ; cut down every stick of timber 
in a little wood near his house, and sold it ; 
and then set to work to grub up the roots, 
for fires, and cleared it for tillage. The ^ 
sum he received for the wood was much 
more tlian he expected, and this he made a 
note of. 

He had a big body that could work hard 
all day; a big Hate, and a mania for the 
possession of land ; and so he led a truly 
Spartan life, and everybody in the village 
said he was mad. 

Whilst he led this hard life. Sir Charles 
and Lady Bassett were the gayest of the 
gay. She was the beauty and the bride. 
Viiiiits and invitations poured in firom every 
part of the country. Sir Charles, flattered 
by the homage paid to his beloved, made 
himself younger and less fastidious, to in- 
dulge her ; and the happy pair often drove 
twelve miles to dinner, and twenty to dine 
and sleep, — an excellent custom in that 
county, one of whose favorite toasts is 
worth recording, — " Mat you dine where 

TO IT PLEASE, AND SLEEP .WHERE TOU 
DINE." 

They were at every ball, and gave one or 
two themselves. . 

Above all, they enjoyed society in that 
delightful form which is confined to large 
houses. They would have numerous and 
well-assorted visitors staying at the house 
for a week or so, and all dining at a hu^e 
round table. But two o'clock p. m. was the 
time to see how hosts and guests enjoyed 
themselves; the hall door of Huntercombe 



/ 



was approached by a flight of stone 
easy of ascent and about twenty-four feet 
wide ; at the riding hour, the county ladies 
used to come, one after another, holding up 
their riding habits with one hand, and 
perch about this gigantic flight of steps like 
peacocks and chat like jays, while tne ser- 
vants walked their horses about the gravel 
esplanade, and the four-in-hand waited a 
little in the rear. A fine champing of bits 
and fidgeting of thoroughbreds there was 
till all were ready ; then the ladies would 
each put out her little foot with charming 
nonchalance to the nearest gentleman or 
groom, with a slight preference for the 
grooms, who were more practised ; the man 
lifted, the lady sprans at the same time, 
and into her saddle, like a bird, — Lady 
Bassett on a very quiet pony or in the car- 
riage to please some dowager, — and away 
they clattered in high spirits, a regular cav- 
alcade. It was a huntmg county, and the 
ladies rode well ; square seat, ligfit hand on 
the snaffle, the curt) reserved for cases of 
necessity; and when they had patted the 
horse on the neck at starting, as all these 



32 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



coaxing creatures must, tbe^r rode him with 
that well-bred ease and unconsciousness of 
being on a horse which distinguishes ladies 
who have ridden all their lives from the 
gawky snobbesses in Hyde Park, who ride, 
if riding it can be called, with their elbows 
uncoutUy fastened to their sides as if by a 
rope, their hands at the pit of their stom- 
achs, and both those hands, as heavy as a 
housemaid's, sawing the poor horse with 
curb and snaffle at once; while the whole 
body breathes pretension and affectation, 
and seems to say: " Look at me; I am on 
horseback I Be startled at that — as I am I 
and I have had lessons from a riding-mas- 
ter ; he has taught me how a lady should 
ride — in his opinion, poor devil." 

The champing, the pawing, the moimting, 
ftnd the clattering of these bright cavalcades, 
with the music of the women excited by 
motion, furnished a picture of wealth, and 
gayety, and happy country life, that cheered 
the whole neighborhood, and contrasted 
strangely with the stem Spartan life of him 
who had persuaded himself he was the 
rightM owner of Huntercombe Hall. 

Sir Charles Bassett was a magistrate, 
and soon foupd himself a bad one. One 
day he made a little mistake, which, owing 
to his popularity, was verv gently handled 
by the Bench at their weekly meeting ; but 
still Sir Charles was ashamed and morti- 
fied. He wrote directly to Oldfield, for 
law-books, and that gentleman sent him an 
excellent selection, bound in smooth calf. 

Sir Charles now studied three hours 
every day, except hunting-days, when no 
squire can work ; and, as his study was his 
justice-room, he took care to find an au- 
thority before he acted. He was naturally 
humane, and rustic offenders, especially 
poachers and runaway farm-servants, used 
to think themselves fortunate if they were 
taken before him, and not before Squire 
Powys, that was sure to give them the sharp 
edge of the law. So now Sir Charles was 
useful as weU as ornamental. 

Thus passed fourteen months of happi- 
ness, with only one little cloud ; there was 
no sign yet of a son and heir. But let a 
man be ever so powerful, it is an awkward 
s X J.upr IS h 1^ ptrai ^ ee r 8» 



Sir Charles now received a hint from one 
of his own game-keepers, that the old 
farmer was in a bad way and talked of 
selling. So Sir Charles called on him, and 
asked him if he would sell << Splatchett's " 
now. " Why, I can't sell it twice," said 
the old man, testily. " You ha' got it, han't 
ve ? " It turned out that Richard Bassett 
had been beforehand. The Bank had 
pressed for their money, and threatened 
foreclosure; then Bassett had stepped in 
with a good price ; and, although tne con- 
veyance was not signed, a stamped agree- 
ment was, and neither vendor nor purchaser 
could go back. What made it more galling, 
the proprietor was not aware of the feud 
between the Bassetts, and had thought to 
please Sir Charles, by selling to one of his 
name. 

Sir Charles Bassett went home seriously 
vexed ; he did not mean to tell his wife ; 
but love's eye read his face, love's arm went 
round his neck, and love's soft voice, and 
wistful eves soon coaxed it out of him. 
''Dear Charles," said she, ''never mind. 
It ts mortifying ; but think how much you 
have, and how little that wicked man has. 
Let him have that farm; he has lost his 
self-respect, and that is worth a great many 
farms. For my part, I pity the poor wretch. 
Let him try to annoy you ; your wife will 
try, against him, to make you happy, my own 
beloved ; and I think I may prove as strong 
as Mr. Bassett," said she, with a look of 
inspiration. 

Her sweet and tender sympathy soon 
healed so slight a scratch. 

But they had not done with Splatchett's 
yet. Just after Christmas Sir Charles in- 
vited three gentlemen to beat his more dis- 
tant woods. Their guns bellowed in quick 
succession through the woods, and at last 
they reached the end of North Wood. Here 
Uiey expected splendid shooting, as a great 
many cock-pheasants had already been seen 
running ahead. 

But, when they got to the end of the wood, 
they found Lawyer Wheeler standing against 
a tree just within Splatchett's boundary; 
and one of their own beaters reported that 
two boys were stationed in the road, each 
n * > h sti k l^u]^^^ ^ Q^nfinj^ tl^ % 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



33- 



Only those were spared that flew north- 
wards into " Splatdiett's." It was a veri- 
table slaughter, planned with judgment and 
carried out in a most ungentlemanlike and 
unsportsmanlike manner. 

It goaded Sir Charles beyond his pa- 
tience. After several vain efforts to re- 
strain himself, he shouldered his gun, and 
followed by his friends, went bursting 
through the larches to Richard Bas- 
sett. 

" Mr. Bassett," said he, " this is most un- 
gentlemanly conduct." 

" What is the matter, sir ? Am I on your 
ground ? " 

'< No ; but you are taking a mean advan- 
tage of our being out. Who ever heard of 
a gentleman beating his boundaries the yery 
day a neighbor was out shooting and filling 
them with his game ? '' 

" O, that is it, is it ? When justice is 
against you, you can talk of law ; and when 
law is against you, you appeal to justice. 
Let us be in one story or the other, please. 
The Huntercombe estates belong to me by 
birth. You have got them by legal trick- 
ery. Keep them, whilst you live. They 
will come to me one day, you know. Mean- 
time, leave me my little estate of * Splatch- 
ett's.* For shame, sir ; you have robbsd me ' 
of my inheritance and my sweetheart ; do 
you grudge me a few cock-pheasants ? 
Why, you have made me so poor they are 
an object to me now." 

" O," said Sir Charles, " if you are steal- 
ing my game to keep body and soul to- 
gether, I pity you. In that case, perhaps 
Dwill let my friends help you fill your 
er." 

Richard Bassett hesitated a moment ; but 
Wheeler, who had drawn near at the sound 
of the raised voices, made him a signal to 
assent. 

** By all means," said he, adroitly. " Mr. 
Markham, your father often shot with mine 
over the Bassett estates. You are welcome 
to poor little * Splatchett's.* Keep your 
men off. Sir Charles ; they are noisy bung- 
lers, and do more harm than good. Here, 
Tom 1 Bill 1 beat for the gentlemen. They 
shall have the sport. I only want the 
birds." 

Sir Charles drew back, and saw pheas- 
ant after pheasant thunder and whiz into 
the air, then collapse at a report, and fall 
like lead, followed by a shower of feathers. 

His friends seemed to be deserting him 
for l^chard Bassett. He left them in 
charge of his keepers, and went slowly 
home. 

He said nothing to Lady Bassett till 
night, and then she got it all from him. 
She was very indignant at many of the 
things; but as for Sur Charles, all his cousin's 
arrows glided off that high-minded gentle- 



man, except one, and that quivered in his 
heart. " "Yes, Bella," said he, " he told me 
he should inherit these estates. That is be- 
cause we are not blessed with children." 

Lady Bassett sighed. *< But we shall be, 
some day. Shall we not ? " 

" Grod knows," said Sir Charles, gloomily. 
"I wonder whether there was really any- 
thing unfair done on our side, when the 
entau was cut ofi? " 
" Is that likely, dearest ; why ? " 
<< Heaven seems to be on his side." 
" On the side of a wicked man ? " 
^ But he may be the father of innocent 
children." 
" Why, he is not even married." 
" He will marry. He will not throw a 
chance away. It makes my headi dizzy, 
and my heart sick. Bella, now I can un- 
derstand two enemies meeting alone in 
some solitary place, and one killing the 
other in a moment of rage ; for, when this 
scoundrel insulted me, I remembered his 
anonymous letter, and all his relentless, 
impenitent malice — Bella, I could have 
raised my gun, and shot him like a weasel." 
Lady Bassett screamed faintly, and flung 
her arms round his neck. "O Charles, 
pray to God against such thoughts. You 
shall never go near that man again. Don't 
think of our one disappointment : think of 
all the blessings we enjoy. Never mind 
that wretched man's hate. Think of your 
wife's love. Have I not more power to 
make you happy than he has to aflflict you, 
my adored?" These sweet words were 
accDmpanied by a wife's divine caresses, 
with the honey of her voice, and the liquid 
sunshine of her loving eyes. Sir Charles 
slept peacefully that night, and forgot his 
one grief, and his one enemy, for a time. 

Not so Lady Bassett. She lay awake all 
night and thought deeply of Richard Bas- 
sett and " his unrelenting, impenitent 
malice." Women of her fine fibre, when 
they think long and earnestly on one thing, 
have often divinations. The dark Future 
seem^ to be illuminated a moment at a time 
by flashes of lightning, and they discern the 
indistinct forms of events to come. And 
so it was with Lady Bassett : in the stilly 
night, a terror of the future, and of Richard 
Bassett, crept over her, — a terror dispropor- 
tioned to his past acts and apparent power. 
Perhaps she was oppressed at having an 
enemy, — she who was bom to be loved ; 
at all events, she was full of feminine divi- 
nations, and forebodings, and saw by Sashes, 
many a poisoned arrow fly from that quiver, 
and strike the beloved breast. It had al- 
ready discharged one that had parted them 
for a time, and nearly killed Sir Charles. 

Daylight cleared awav much of this dark 
terror, but left a sober dread, and a strange 
resolution. This timid creature, stimulated 



34 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



by love, determined to watch the foe, and 
defend her husband with all her little 
power. All manner of devices passed 
through her head, but were rejected, be- 
cause if Love eaid " Do wonders," Timidity 
said '< Do nothing that you have not seen 
other wives do. ** So she remained, schem- 
ing, and longing, and fearins, and passive, 
all day. But the next day she conceived a 
vague idea, and, all in a heat, rang for her 
maid. While the maid was coming, she 
fell to blushing at her own boldnesn, and, 
just as the maid opened the door, her ther- 
mometer fell so low that — she sent her up- 
stairs for a piece of work. O lame and 
impotent conclusion 1 

Just before luncheon, she happened to 
look through a window, and to see the head 
gamekeeper crossing the park, and coming 
to the house. Now this was the very man 
she wanted to speak to. The sudden temp- 
tation siurprised her out of her timidity. 
She rang the bell again, and sent for the 
man. 

That Colossus wondered in his mind, and 
felt uneasy at an invitation so novel How- 
ever he clattered into the morning^room, in 
his velveteen coat, and leathern gaiters up 
to his thigh, pulled his front hair, bobbed 
his head, and then stood firm in body as 
him of Rhodes, but in mind much abashed at 
finding himself in her ladyship's presence. 

The lady, however, did not prove so very 
terrible. 

" May I inquire your name, sir ? " said 
fijie, very respectfully. 

" Moses Moss, my lady." 

<<Mr. Moss, I wish to ask yon a question 
or two. May I ? " 

*' That you may, my lady." 

" I want you to explain — if yon will be 
BO good — now the proprietor of * Splatch- 
ett's ' can shoot all Sir Cfharles's pheasants." 

" Lord I ray lady, we ain't come down to 
that. But he do shoot more than bis share, 
that *s sure an* sartain. ^ Well, my lady — 
if you please — game is just like Christians, 
it will make for sunny spots. Highmore has 
got a many of them there, with good cover, 
and so we breeds for him. As for Splatch- 
ctt's that don't hurt we, my lady ; it is all 
arable land and dead hedsres with no bot- 
tom; only there's one little tongue of it 
runs into North Wood, and planted with 
larch ; and, if you please, my lady, there is 
always a kind of coarse grass grows under 
young larches, and makes a strong cover for 
game. So, beat North Wood which way 
you will, them artful old cocks will run 
ahead of ye, or double back into them 
larches ; and you see Mr. Ba^sett is not a 
gentleman like Sir Charles; he is always a 
mouchin^ about, and the biggest poacher in 
the parish; and so he drops on to 'em out of 
''K)unds." 



" Is there no way of stopping all this, sir? " 

" We might station a dozen oeaters ahead : 
they would most likely get shot ; but I don't 
think as they 'd mind that much, if 'you had 
set your heart on it, my lady. Dall'd if 
I would, for one." 

" O Mr. Moss ! Heaven forbid that any 
man bhould be shot for me. No, not for all 
the pheasants in the world. I '11 try and 
think of some other way. I should like to 
see thp place. May I ? " 

** Yes, my lady, and welcome.* 

« How shall I get to it, sir ? " 

" You can ride to the * Woodman's Rest,' 
my lady, and it is scarce a stone's-throw 
firom there ; but 't is baddish travelling for 
the likes of you." 

She appointed an hoar, rode with her 
groom to the public-house, and thence was 
conducted through bush, through brier, to 
the place where uer husband had been so 
annoyed. 

Moss's comments became very intelligible 
to her the moment she saw the place. She 
said very little, however, and r(Hie home. 

Next day she blushed high, and asked 
Sir Charles for a hundred pounds to spend 
upon herself. 

Sir Charles smiled, well pleased, and gave 
it her, and a kiss into the bargain. 

" Ah 1 but," said she, " that is not all." 

" 1 am glad of it. You spend too little 
money on yourself, — a great deal too little." 

"That is a complaint you won't have 
long to make. 1 want to cut down a few 
trees. May I ? " 

"Going to build?" 

" Don't ask me. It is for myself." 

" That is enoueh. Cut down every stick 
on the estate, if you like. The barer it 
leaves us the better." 

" Ah, Charles, you promised me not. 1 
shall cut with great discretion, I assure 
you." 

" As you please," said Sir Charles. " If 
you want to mak$ me happy, deny yourself 
nothing. Mind, I shall be angry if you do." 

Soon after this, a gaping quidnunc came 
to Sir Charles and told him Lady Bassett 
was felling trees in North Wood. 

" And pray who has a better right to fell 
trees in any wood of mine ? " 

" But she is building a wall." 

" And who has a letter right to build a 
wall?" 

With the delicacy of a gentleman he 
would not go near the place after this till 
she asked him, and that was not long. She 
came into his study, all beaming, and invited 
him to a ride. She took him into North 
Wood, and showed him her work. Richard 
Bassett's plantation, hitherto divided from 
North Wood only by a boundary scarcely 
visible, was now shut off by a brick wall : 
on Sir Charles's side of that wall every stick 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 35 



o 
i 



o 

d 

H 

► 



of timber was felled and removed, for a dis- 
tance of fifty yards, and about twenty yards 
from the wall a belt of larches was planted, 



" It is all mighty fine, fair lady, but you 
have told me a fib. You said it was to be 
all for yourself, and got a hundred pounds 



a little higher than cabbages. I out of me." 

Sir Charles looked amazed, at first ; but I " And so it was for myself, you silly thing, 
soon observed how thoroughly his enemy Are you not myself? and the part of my- 
was defeated. " My poor Bella," said he, self I love the best." And her supple wri«t 
'< to think of your taking all this trouble j wa«) round his neck in a moment, 
about such a thin^ — " He stopped to They rode home together, like lovers, and 
kiss her very tendeny, and she shone with comforted each other, 
joy and innocent pride. " And I never I Richard Bassett, with Wheeler's assist- 
thou^ht of this ! You astonish me, Bella." ' ance, had borrowed money of Highmore to 
I tf* A " * g ^ *^ V s iri s w • " an u I sa ' • w rr wed m ne 



36 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



the first year. This sounds incredible ; but 
owing to the custom of felling only ripe 
trees, landed proprietors had no sure clew to 
the value of all the timber on an acre. Rich- 
ard Bassett had found this out, and bought 
Dean's Wood upon the above terms : i. e., 
the vendor gave him the soil, and three 
hundred pounds, gratis. He grubbed the 
roots, ana sold them for fuel, and plant- 
ed larches to catch the overflow of Sir 
Charleses game ; the msB grew beautifully, 
now the trees were Sown, and he let it for 
pasture. 

He then, still under Wheeler's advice, 
came out into the world again, improved 
his dress, and called on several county fami- 
lies, with a view to marrying money. 

Now in the country they do not despise a 
poor gentleman of good lineage, and Bassett 
was one of the joldest names in the county ; 
so every door was open to him ; and, indeed 
his late hermit life had stimulated some cu- 
riosity. This he soon turned to sympathy, 
by communicating that he was proud but 
poor; robbed of the vast estates that be- 
longed to him by birth, he had been unwill- 
ing to take a lower position. However, 
Heaven had prospered him; the wrongful 
heir was childless ; he was the heir-at-law, 
and felt he owed it to the estate, which must 
return to his line, to assume a little more 
public importance than he had done. 

Wherever he was received he was sure to 
enlarge upon his wrongs; and he was be- 
lieved, for he was notoriously the direct 
heir to Bassett and Huntercombe, but the 
family arrangement, by which his father had 
been bought out, was known only to a few. 
He readfly obtained sympathy, and many 
persons were disgusted at Sir Charles's il- 
liberality in not making him some compen- 



^sation. 



To use the h 
h , ^ 



At a very early hour Sir Charles ordered 
his carriage and drove home instead of stay- 
ins all ni^t. 

Mrs. Hardwicke, being a fool, must make 
a little more mischief. She blubbered to 
her husband, and he wrote Sir Charles a 
remonstrance. 

Sir Charles replied that he was the only 
person aggrieved; Mr. Hardwicke ought 
not to have invited a blackguard to meet 
him. 

Mr. Hardwicke replied that he had never 
heard a Bassett called a blackguard before, 
and had seen nothing in Mr. Bassett to 
justify an epithet so unusual amongst gen- 
tlemen. "And to be frank with you, Sir 
Charles," said he, ^ I think tliis bitterness 
against a poor gentleman whose estates you 
are so fortunate as to possess is not consist- 
ent with your general character, and is in- 
deed unworthy of you." 

To this Sir Charles Bassett replied : — 

** Dear Mk. Hardwicke, — You have ap- 
plied some remarks to me which I will endeavor to 
forgety as they were written in entire ignorance of 
the truth. J^ut, if we are to remain friends, I ex- 
pect you to brieve me whn I tnll you that Mr. 
Richard Bassett has never been uronqed by me cnr 
mine, but has wronged me and Lady Bassett deeply. 
He is a dishonorable scoundrel, not entitled to be re- 
ceived in society : and if after this assuinnce, you 
receive him, I shall m-ver darken your doors again. 
So please let me know your decision, 
" / remain 

" yours truly, 

" Charles Dyke Bassett." 

Mr. Hardwicke chafed under this, but 
Prudence stepped in; he was one of the 
county members, and Sir Charles could com- 
mand three hundred votes. 

He wrote back to say he had received 
Sir h ' 1 



y ad 

n u e n d 



akbes ard & ^ ^ '"^ *^ vt5 Please 



vJ 



A TEKRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



37 



<< I am a wise friend. This is a more " You will not see him at all." 

serious matter than you seem to think.*' " Charles I " 

" Libel 1 " " No, Bella ;- 1 cannot have these animals 

" Of course. Why, if Sir Charles had talking to my wife." 

consulted me, I could not have dictated a " But, dear love, I am so full of forebod- 

better letter. It closes every chink a de- ings. You know, Charles, I don't often 

fendant in libel can creep out by. Now presume to meddle; but I am in torture 

take your pen and write to Mr. Haid- about this man. If you receive him, may I 



wicke." 

" Dear Sib, — / have received your letter con- 
taining a libel virit^i bf Sir Charl^ Bassett, Mu 



1 
et.uretaSo 



be with you? Then we shall be two to 
one." 

"No, no," said Sir Charles, testily ; then, 
sseincciier l^autiful ^ esi£U afettibd refusal 



bo ecae e ae^en^Gti* urseelr<<hhe» 



iSufe 



uaaeecse 



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH. 

With this bitter reply Wheeler retired 

Erecipitately ; the shait pierced but one 
osom ; for the devoted wife, with the 
swift ingenuity of woman's love, had put 
both her hands ridit over her husband's 
ears, that he mi^t hear no more in- 
sults. 

Sir Charles very nearly had a fit; but 
his wife loosened his neckcloth, caressed 
bis throbbing head, and applied eau-de-Co- 
logne to his nostrils : he got better, but felt 
dizzy for about an hour. She made him 
come into her room and lie down : she 
hung over him curling as a vine, and light 
as a bird, and her kisses lit softlv as down 
upon his eyes, and her words of love and 
pity murmured music in his ears, till he 
slept and that danger passed. 

For a day or two after this both Sir 
Charles and Lady Bassett avoided the un- 
pleasant subject. But it had to be faced ; 
80 Mr. Oldfield was summoned to Hunter^ 
combe, and all engagements given up for 
the day, that he might dine alone with them 
and talk the matter over. 

Sir Charles thought he could justify; but, 
when it came to the point, he could only 
prove that Richard had done several un- 
gentlemanlike things, of a nature a stout 
jury would consider trifles. 

Mr. Oldfield said of course they must enter 
an appearance ; and, this donp, the wisest 
course would be to let him see Wheeler, 
and try to compromise the suit. " It will 
cost you a thousand pounds. Sir Charles, I 
dare say ; but if it teaches you never to write 
of an enemy, or to an enemy, without show- 
ing your lawyer the letter first, the lesson 
wul be cheap. Somebody in the Bible says 
* O that mine en^ woul^ write a book 1 * 



client has no alternative. No gentleman in 
the county would speak to him if he sat 
quiet under such contumely." 

After beating about the bush the usual 
time, Oldfield said that Sir Charles was 
hungry for litigation, but that Lady Bassett 
was averse to it. " In short, Mr. Wheeler, 
I will try and get Mr. Bassett a thousand 
pounds to forego this scandal." 

" I will consult him, and let you know," 
said Wheeler. << He happens to be in the 
town." 

Oldfield called a^ain in an hour. Wheeler 
told him a thousand pounds would be accept- 
ed, with a written apology. 

Oldfield shook his head. « Sir Charles 
will never write an apology ; right or wrong, 
he is too sincere in ms conviction." 

"He will never get a jury to share 
it." 

" You must not be too sore of that. You 
don't know the defence." 

Oldfield said this with a gravity which 
did him credit. 

"Do you know it yourself?" said the 
other keen hand. 

Mr. Oldfield smiled haughtily, but said 
nothing. Wheeler had hit the mark. 

" By the by," said the latter, " there is 
another little matter. Sir Charles assaulted 
me, for doing my duty to my client. I mean 
to sue him. Here is the writ ; will you ac- 
cept service?" 

" O, certainly, Mr. Wheeler, and I am 
glad to find you do not make a habit of serv- 
ing writs on gentlemen in person." 

" Of course not. I did it on a single oc- 
casion, contrary to my own wish ; and went 
in person — to soften the blow — instead of 
sending my clerk." 

After this little spar, the two artists in 
1 w bad oea a tb f f ewell with e^e t. 



Cif< 



40 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



of her own money, to keep the matter out of 
court. But her very terror of Richard Bas- 
sett restrained her. She was always think- 
ing about him, and had convinced herself he 
was the ablest villain in the wide woild ; and 
she thought to herself, " If, with his small 
means, he annoys Charles so, what would he 
do if I were to enrich him ? He would 
crush us." 

As the trial drew near, she Began to hover 
about Sir Charles in his study, like an 
anxious hen. The maternal yearnings were 
awakened in her bv marriage ; and ^e had 
no child ; so her Cliarles in trouble was hus- 
band and child. 

Sometimes she would come in and just 
kiss his forehead, and run out again, casting 
back a celestial look of love at the door, 
and, though it was her husband she had 
kissed, she blushed divinely. At last one 
day she crept in and said, very timidly, 
" Charles, dear, the anonymous letter, is 
not that an excuse for libelling him — as 
they call telling the truth ? " 

" Why, of course it is. Have you got it ? " 

" Dearest, the brave lady took it away." 

« The brave lady 1 Who is that ? ^' 

"Why, the lady that came with Mr. Old- 
field, and pleaded your cause with papa; 
O, so eloquently I Sometimes, when I 
think of it now I feel almost jealous. Who 
is she?" 

" From what you have always told me, I 
think it was the Sister of Charity who 
nursed me." 

**You silly thing, she was no Sister of 
Charity, that was only put on. Charles, 
tell me the truth. What does it matter now f 
It was some lady who loved you." 

" Loved me, and set her wits to work to 
marry me to you ? " 

" Women's love is so disinterested — 
sometimes." 

" No, no ; she told me she was a sister of 
and no doubt that is the truth." 

« • 8V f th 



Lady Bassett complied with the letter, 
but, goose or not, evaded the spirit of Sir 
Charks's command with considerable dex- 
terity. 

'* Dear Mb. Oldfield, — You mca/ guess 
what trouble I am in. Sir Charles will sooti have 
to appear in open court, and be talked against by 
some great orator. That anonymous letter Mr. Bas- 
sett wrote me was very base, and is surely some jus- 
tijkation of the violent epithets my dear husband, 
in an unhappy moment of, irritation, has applied to 
him. The brave lady has it. I am sure she wiU 
not refuse to send it me. I wish I dare ask her to 
give tt me unth her own hand ; but I must not, J 
suppose. Pra^ tell her how unhappy I am, and 
perhaps she wtU favor us with a uxnrd of advice 
as weU as the letter. I remain, 
" Yours faithfully, 

"Bella Bassett." 

This letter was written cU the brave lady ; 
and Mr. Oldfield did what was expected, he 
sent Miss Somerset a copy of Lady Bassett's 
letter, and some lines in his own hand, de- 
scribing Sir Charles's difficulty in a more 
business-like way. 

In due course Miss Somerset wrote him 
back, that she was in the country, hunting, 
at no very great distance from Huntercombe 
Hall ; she would send up to town for her 
desk ; the letter would be there, if she had 
kept it at aU» 

Oldfield groaned at this cool conjecture, 
and wrote back directly, urging expedition. 

This produced an enect he had not anti- 
cipated. 

One morning Lord Harrowdale's fox- 
hounds met at a large covert, about ^Ye 
miles from Huntercombe, and Sir Charles 
told Lady Bassett she must ride to cover. 

"Yes, dear. — Charles, love, I have no 
spirit to appear in public. We shall soon 
havcpublicity enough." 

"That is my reason. I have not done, 
nor said, anything I am ashamed of, and 
you will meet the county on this and on 
' " r r / 

howl^ 

ral ,t ^ 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



41 



"No, no. Not 80 tyrannical as tliat; 
han^it all I " 

" I)o you know what I do whilst you are 
hunting? I pray all the time that you may 
not get a fall and be hurt ; and I pray God 
to forgive you and all the gentlemen for 
your cruelty in galloping with all those dogs 
after one poor littlS inoffensive thin^, to 
hunt it, and kill it, — kill it twice, indeed, 
once with terror, and then over again with 
mangling its poor little body." 

"This is cheerfiil," said Sir Charles, 
rather ruefiilly. " We cannot all be angels, 
like you. It is a glorious excitement. 
TTiere, you are too good for this world ; I'll 
let you off going." 

" O no, dear. I won*t be let off, now 
I know your wish. Only I beg to ride 
home as soon as the poor thing runs away. 
You would n't get me out of the thick covers, 
if I was a fox. I *d run roimd and round, 
and call on all my acquaintances to set 
them running." 

As she said this, her eyes turned towards 
each other in a peculiar way, and she looked 
extremely foxy ; but the look melted away 
directly. 

The hounds met, and Lady Bassett, who 
was still the beauty of the county, was 
surrounded by riders, at first ; but, as the 
hounds began to work, and every now 
and then a young hound uttered a note, 
they cantered about, and took up different 
posts, as experience suggested. 

At last a fox was found at the other end 
of the cover, and away galloped the hunters 
in that direction, all but four persons, — 
Lady Bassett, and her groom, who kept re- 
spectfully aloof, and a lady and gentleman 
who had reined their horses up on a rising 
ground about a furlong distant. 

Lady Bassett, thus left alone, happened to 
look round, and saw the ladv level an op- 
erarglass towards her and look through it. 

J^ a result of this inspection, the lady 
cantered towards her. She was on a chest- 
nut gelding of great height and bone, and 
rode him as if they were one, so smoothly did 
she move in concert with his easy, magnifi- 
cent strides. 

When she came near Lady Bassett, she 
made a little sweep and drew up beside her 
on the grass. 

There was no mistaking that tall figure 
and commanding face. It was the brave 
lady. Her eyes sparkled, her cheek was 
slightly colored with excitement ; she looked 
healthier and handsomer than ever, and also 
more femi^^i^i^c^ %q reason y^ sao^acious 

'^ d >». tl m V^ 

ff nB hfriJo eP s 



looked lovingly at her, before she could 
speak. At last she said, "Yes; and you 
have come to help us again." 

" Well, the lawyer said there was no 
time to lose; so 1 have brought you the 
anonymous letter." 

" 0, thank you, madam, thank you." 

" But I 'm afraid it will be of no use, 
unless you can prove Mr. Bassett wrote it. 
It is in a disguised hand." 

"But you found him out by means of 
another letter." 

"Yes, but I can't give you that other 
letter, to have it read in a court of law, b&r 
cause, do you see that gentleman there ? " 

"Yes." ' 

« That is Marsh." 

"O, isit?" 

" He is a fool ; but I am going to marry 
him. I have been very ill smce I saw you, 
and poor Marsh nursed me. Talk of wo- 
men nurses! If ever you are ill in ear- 
nest, as I was, write to me, and I'll send 
you Marsh. O, I have no words to tell you 
his patience, his forbearance, his watclmil- 
ness, his tenderness to a sick woman. It 
is no use, I must marry him ; and I could 
have no letter published that would give 
him pain." 

" Of course not. O madam, do you 
think I am capable of doing anything that 
would give you pain, or dear Mr. Marsh 
either?" 

" No, no, you are a good woman." 

" Not half so good as you are." 

"You don't know what you are say- 
ing." 

" O yes, I do." 

" Then I say no more ; it is rude to con- 
tradict. Good by. Lady Bassett." 

" Must you leave me so soon ? Will you 
not visit us ? May I not know the name 
of so good a jfriend ? " 

" Next week I shall be Mrs, MarshJ' 

" And you will give me the great pleas- 
ure of having you at my house, you and 
your husband ? " 

The lady showed some agitation at this, 
an unusual thing for her. She faltered, 
" Some day, perhaps, if I make him as good 
a wife as I hope to. What a lady you are I 
Vulgar people are ashamed to be grateful ; 
but you are a bom lady. Good by, before 
I make a fool of myself; and they are all 
coming this way, by the dogs' music." 

"Won't you kiss me after bringing me 
this?" 

" Kiss you ? " and she opened her eyes. 

" ^^ flP>hdft?'??Kx'^^^*k%'^ Bassett, bend- 



mn r^ OTdiff or e 



42 A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



s 

o 

H 

H 

!^ 

H 
P 
O 

n 

I 

H 

55 
O 

H 

O 



9 






At that contact the stranger seemed to fore described; but she replied pretty prompt- 
change her character all in a moment. She ly, "The brave lady herself ; she brought 
strained Bella to her bosom, and kissed her me the anonymous letter for your defence." 
passionately, and sobbed out wildly, " O " Why, how came she to know about it ? " 
God, you are good to sinners. Tliis is " She did not tell me that. She was in 
the happiest hour of my life — it is a fore- a great hurry. Her fiance yt^ waiting for 
runner. Bless you, sweet dove of inno- her." 

cence I You will be none the worse, and I " Was it necessary to kiss her in the hunt- 
am all the better — Ahl Sir Charles 1 ing-field ?" said Su: Charles, with something 
Not one word about me to him." very like a frown. 

And with these words, uttered with sud- " 1 'd kiss the whole field, grooms and 

den energy, she spurred her great horse, all, if they did you a great service, as that 

leaped the ditch, and burst &rough the dear lady has," said Bella. The words were 

dead hedge into the wood, and winded out brave, but the accent piteous. 

"orhS liwa* « 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



43 



to escape fartber examination about this 
mysterioos lady. She rode home according- 
ly. There she found Mr. Oldfield, and 
showed him the anonymous letter. , « 

He read it, and said it was a defence, but 
a disagreeable one. << Suppose he says he 
wrote it, and the^ facts were true ? " 

"But I don't think he will confess it. 
He is not a gentleman. He is very untruth- 
ful. Can we not make this a trap to catch 
him, sir ? He has no scruples." 

Oldfield looked at her in some surprise at 
her depth. 

" We must get hold of his handwriting," 
said he. " We must ransack the local banks ; 
find his correspondents." 

" Leave all that to me," said Lady Bas- 
sett, in a low voice. 

Mr. Oldfield thought he might as well 
please a beautiM and loving woman, if he 
could ; so he gave her something to do for 
her husband. " Very well, collect all the 
materials of comparison you can, letters, re- 
ceipts, etc. Meantime I will retain the two 
principal experts in London, and we will 
submit your materials to them the night be- 
fore the trial." 

Lady Bassett, thus instructed, drove to all 
the banks, but found no clerk acquainted 
with Mr. Bassett's handwriting. He did 
not bank with anybody in the county. 

She called on several persons she thought 
likely to possess letters or other writings of 
Kichard Bassett. Not a scrap. 

Then she began to fear. The case looked 
desperate. 

Then she began to think. And she 
thought very hard indeed, especially at 
ni^ht. 

In the dead of night she had an idea. 
She got up, and stole from her husband's 
side, and studied the anonymous letter. 

Next day, she sat down, with the anony- 
mous letter on her desk, and blushed, and 
trembled, and looked about like some wild 
animal scared. She selected from the 
anonymous letter several words, " character, 
abused, Sir, Charles, Bassett, lady, aban- 
doned, friend, whether, ten, slanderer," etc., 
and wrote them on a slip of paper. Then 
she locked up the anonymous letter. Then 
she locked the door. Then she sat down to 
a sheet of paper, and, after some more wild 
and furtive glances all around, she gave her 
whole mind to writing a letter. 

And to whom did she write, think yon ? 

To Richard Bassett. 



CHAPTER THE NINTH. ] 

" Mb. Bassett, — I am sure both yourself and 
my husband will suffer in public estimation, unless 

d t u m 



" Do not think me blind, nor presumptuous ; Sir 
Charles, when he wrote thai letter, had reason to 
bdieve you had done him a deep injury by unfair 
means. Many will share that opinion, if this 
cause is tried. You are his cousin, and his netr-at' 
law, I dread to see an unhappy feud inflamed by 
a public trial. Is there no personal sacrifice by 
which I can compensate the affront you have re- 
cdved, without compromising Sir Charles Bassett* s 
v^acity, who is the soul of honor f 

** I am yours obediently, 

"Bella Bassett." 

She posted this letter, and Richard Bas- 
sett hs^ no sooner received it than he 
mounted his horse, and rode to Wheeler's 
with it. 

That worthy's eyes sparkled. "Capi- 
tal I " said he. " We must draw her on, 
and write an answer that will read well in 
court." 

He concocted an epistle just the opposite 
of what Richard Bassett, lefl to himself^ 
would have written. Bassett copied, and 
sent it as his own. 

" Lady Bassett, — / thank you for writing 
to me at this moment, when I am weighed down by 
slander. Your own character stands so high, that 
you would not deign to write to mc if you believed 
the abuse that has been lavished on me. With you 
I deplore this family feud. It is not of my seek' 
inq ; and as for this lawsuit, it is one in which the 
Plaintiff is really the Defendant. Sir Charles 
has written a defamatory letter, which has closed 
every house in this county to his victim. If , as I 
now feel sure, you disapprove the libd, pray per- 
suade him to retract it. The rest our lawyers can 
settle. 

" Yours very respectfully, 

"BiCHARD Bassett." 

When Lady Bassett read this, she saw 
she had an adroit opponent. Yet she wrote 
again. 

" Mr. Bassett, — There are limits to my in- 
fluence with Sir Charles, I have no power to make 
him say one word against his convictions. 

•* But my lawyer tells me you seek pecuniary com- 
pensation for an affront. I offer you, out of my 
own means, which are ample, that whidi you seek, 
— offer it freely and heartily; and I honestly ' 
think you had bdter receive it from me than expose 
yourself to the risks and mortifications of a public 
trial. 

" / am yours obediently, 

"Bella Bassett." 

" Lady Bassett, — You have fallen into a 
very ncUural error. It is true I sue Sir Charles 
Bassett for money; but that is only because the law 
allows me my remedy in no other farm. What 
really brings me into court is the defence of my in- 
jured honor. How do tfou meet me f You say, 
virtually, * Never mind your character: here is 
money.* Permit me to decline it, on such terms. 

*' A public insult cannot be cured in private. 

"Strong in my innocence, and my wrongs, I 
court what you call the risks of a public trial. 

" hatever the r ult have la ed tl Sh ^ 

nff^T a 



44 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



unjbriunaie for your husband that your genUe in- Charles Basfiett, who enjoys his cousin's 
Jluence is limited by his vanity, which perseveres in ancestral estates, and can so well appreciate 



a cmel slander^ instead of retracting it, while there 
is yet time. 

** lam, Madam, yours obediently, 

"RiCHABD BaSSBTT." 

'* Mb. Bassett, — / retire from a correspond- 



what that cousin has lost hy no fault of his 
own." 

"Hearl heapl" 
" Silence in the Court I " 
The Judge. I must request that there 

ence which appears to be useless, and might, if pro- may be no manifestation of feeling. 

longed, draw some bitter remark from me, as it has Counsel. I will endeavor to prov3ce none, 

from y^«- , . , ^ , , J _ , my lord. It is a very simple case, and I f hall 

Afier the trial, which you court, and I depre- ^ot occupy vou long. TVell, gentlemen, Mr. 

jn y eye, ^^^^^ cbediendy, ^^^ ^^^^^ poor, he is proud and honora- 

" Bblla Bassbtt " ^^ °^®* ^^ frowns of fortune like 

a gentleman — like a man. He has not 

In this fencing match between a la^er solicited Government for a place. He has 

and a lady each gained an advantage. The not whined nor lamented. He has dignified 

lawyer's letters, as might have been ex- unmerited poverty by prudence and sell^ 

pected, were the best adapted to be read to denial ; and, unable to rorget that he is a 

a jury : but the lady, subtler in her way, Bassett, he has put by a little money every 

obtained, at a small sacrifice, what she year, and bought a small estate or t'wo, 

wanted, and that without raising the slight- and had even applied to the Lord Lienten- 

est suspicion of her true motive in the cor- ant to make him a justice of the peace, 

respondence. when a most severe and unexpected blow 

She announced her success to Mr. Oldfield; fell upon him. Amongst those large pro- 
but, in the midst of it, she quaked with ter- prietors who respected him in spite op his 
ror at the thought of what Sir Charles humbler circumstances, was Mr. Hiurdwiekey 
would say to her for writing to Mr. Bassett one of the county members ; well, gentle- 
at all. men, on the 21st of last May Mr. Bassett re- 
She now, with the changeableness of her ceived a letter from Mr. Hard wick e, enclos- 
sex, hoped and prayed Mr. Bassett would ing one purporting to be from Sir Charles 
admit the anonymous letter, and so all her Bassett — 
subtlety and pains prove superfluous. The Judge. Does Sir Charles Bassett 

Quaking secretly, but with a lovely face, admit the letter ? 

and serene front, she took her place at the Defendant's Counsel (after a word with 

Assizes, beside the judge, and got as near Oldfield). Yes, my lord, 

him as she could. Plaintijff^s Counsel. A letter admitted to 

The court was crowded, and many ladies be written by Sir Charles Bassett. That 

present. letter shall be read to you. 

Bassett y. Bassett was called in a loud The letter was then read, 
voice ; there was a hum of excitement, then The counsel resumed, '* Conceive, if yon 
a silence of expectation, -and the plaintiff's can, the effect of this blow, just as my tin- 
counsel rose to address the jmry. happy and most deserving client was rising 

a little in the world. I shall prove that it 

" Mat it please your Lordship : Gen- excluded him from Mr. Hardwicke's house, 

tlemen of the Jury — The plaintiff in this and other hotises too. He is a man of 

case is Blchard Bassett, Esquire, the di- too much importance to risk affronts; he 

rect and lineal representative of that old has never entered the door of any gentle- 

and honorable family, whose monuments man in this county since his powerful rela- 

are to be seen in several churches in this tive published this cruel libel. He has 

county, and whose estates are the largest, I dra^vfn his Spartan cloak around him ; and 

believe, in the county. He would have he awaits your verdict to resume that place 

succeeded, as a matter of course, to those amongst you which is due to him in every 

estates, but for an arrangement made only way, due to him as the heir in direct line to 

a year before he was bom ; by which, con- the wealth, and, above all, lo the honor of 
e-e t. a *dte' ^ «w « " M^® P^^se ts \ dugr t ^im aa,S* Gtftrle 

e • * ere 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



45 



would be si^perflnous; the facts speak for 
themselves. Call James Hardwicke, Esq." 

Mr. Hardwicke proved the receipt of the 
letter from Sir Charles, and that he had 
sent it to Mr. Bassett ; and that Mr. Bassett 
had not entered his house since then, nor 
had he invited him. 

Mr. Bassett was then caUed, and being 
duly trained by Wheeler, abstained from 
all neat and wore an air of dignified dejec- 
tion. His counsel examined him, and his 
replies bore out the opening statement. 
Everybody thought him sure of a verdict. 

He was then cross-examined. Defend- 
ant's counsel pressed him about his unfair 
way of shooting. The judge interfered and 
said that was trifling. If there was no sub- 
stantial defence, why not settle the mat- 
ter? 

" There is a defence, my lord." 

" Then it is time you disclosed it." 

"Very well, n^y lord. Mr. Bassett, 
did you ever write an anonymous letter ? " 

" Not that I remember." 

<' O, that appears to you a trifle. It is 
not so considered." 

The Judge. Be more particular in your 
question. 

" I will, my lord. Did you ever write an 
anonymous letter, to make mischief between 
Shr Charles and Lady Bassett ? " 

" Never," said the witness ; but he turned 
pale. 

" Do you mean to say you did not write 
this letter to Miss Bruce ? Look at the let- 
ter, Mr. Bassett, before you reply." 

Bassett cast one swift glance of agony at 
Wheeler, then braced himself like iron. 
He examined the letter attentively, turned 
it over, lived an age, and said it was not 
his writing. ■ 

f^ Do you swear that ? " 

«' Certainly." 

Defendants Counsel. I shall ask your 
lordship to take down that reply. If per- 
sisted in my client will indict the witness 
for perjury. 

Plaintiff's Counsel. Don't threaten the 
witness as well as insult him, please. 

The Judge. He is^ an educated man, and 
knows the duty he owes to God and the 
defendant. Take time, Mr. Bassett, and 
recollect Did you write that letter ? " 

"No, my lord." 

Counsel waited for the judge to note the 
reply, then proceeded. 

"You have lately corresponded with 
Lady Bassett, I think ? " 

"Yes. Her ladyship opened a corre- 
spondence with me." 

" It is a lie I " roared Sir Charles Bassett 
from the door of the grand jury room. 

" Silence in the Court I " 

The Judge. Who made that unseemly 
remark? 



Sir Charles. I did, my lord. My wife 
never corresponded with the cur. 

7'he Plaintiff. It is only one insult more, 
gentlemen, and as false as the rest. Per- 
mit me, my lord. My own counsel would 
never have put the question. I would liot, 
for the world, give Lady Bassett pain, but 
Sir Charles and his counsel have extorted 
the truth from me. Her ladyship did open a 
correspondence with me; and a friendly one. 

The Plaintiff's Counsel. Will your lord- 
ship ask whether that was afler the defend- 
ant had written the libel ? 

The question was put, and answered in 
the affirmative. 

Lady Bassett hid her face in her hand°. 
Sir Cbiarles saw the movement, and groaned 
aloud. 

The Judge. 1 beg the case may not be 
encumbered with irrelevant matter. 

Counsel replied that the correspondence 
would be made evidence in the case. (To 
the witness.) " You wrote this letter to 
Lady Bassett?" 

"Yes." 

" And every word in it ? " 

" And every word in it," faltered Bassett, 
now ashy pale, for he began to see the trap. 

" Then you wrote this word ' charac- 
ter,' and this wonj * injured,' and this 
word — " ^ 

The Judge (peevishly). He tells you he 
wrote every word in those letters to Lady 
Bassett. What more would you have ? 

Counsel. If your lordship will be good 
enough to examine the correspondence, and 
compare those words in it I have underlined 
with the same words in the anonymousMet- 
ter, you will perhaps find I know my busi- 
ness better than you seem to think. ' (The 
counsel who ventured on this remonstrance 
was a sergeant.^ 

"Brother Eitherside," said the judge, 
with a charming manner, " you satisfied me 
of that, to my cost, long ago, whenever I 
had you against me in a case. Please hand 
me the letters." 

While the judge was making a keen com- 
parison, counsel continued the cross-exam- 
ination. 

" You are aware that this letter caused a 
separation between Sir Charles Bassett and 
the lady he was engaged to ? " 

" I know nothincr about it." 

" Indeed ! Well, were you acquainted 
with the Miss Somerset mentioned in this 
letter?" 

" Slightly." 

" You have been at her house ? " 

" Once or twice." 

" Which ? Twice is double as often as 
once, you know." 

« Twice." 

"No more?** 

« Not that I recollect." 



46 



A TERKIBLE TEMPTATION. 



< 

< 
Hi 

o 

H 

P3 
M 
H 
H 
N 
1^ 



H 

H 
H 
O 


p 



" You wrote :to her V " 

" I may have." 

" Did you, or did you not ? " 

" J did." 

" What was the purport of that letter ? " 

" I can't recollect at this distance of time." 

" On your oath, sir, did you not write, 
urging her to co-operate with you to keep 
Sir Charles Bassett from marryingr his affi- 
anced, Miss Bella Bruce, to whom that 
anonymous letter was written with the 
same object ? " 

The perspiration now rolled in visible 
drops down the tortured liar's face. Yet 
still, by a gigantic effort, he stood firm, and 
even planted a blow. 

** T did not write the anonymous letter. 
But I believe I told Mies Soow t ^ 1 1 vi 



Miss Bruce, and that her lover was robbing 
me of mine, as he had robbed me of every- 
thing else." 

"And that was all you said — on your 
oath ? " 

"All I can recollect." With this the 
strong man, cowed, terrified, expecting his 
letter to Somerset to be produced, and so 
the iron chain of evidence completed, gasped 
out, " Man, you tear open al|. my wounds at 
once I " and, with this, burst out sobbing, 
and lamenting aloud that he had ever been 
bom. 

Counsel waited calmly till he should be 
in a condition to receive' another dose. 

" O, will nobody stop this cruel trial ? " 
said Lady Bassett, with the tears trickling 
t cwn hdr face. 



A TEREOBLE TEMPTATION. 



47 



ar 



The judge heard this remark, withoat 
seeming to do so. 

He said to defendant's counsel, " What- 
ever the truth may be, you have proved 
enough to show Sir Charles Bassett miajVit 
well have an honest conviction that Mr. 
Bassett had done a dastardly act. Wheth- 
er a jury would ever agree on a question of 
handwriting must always be doubtful. Look- 
ing at the relationship of the parties, is it 
advisable to carry this matter farther ? If I 
might advise the gentlemen, they would 
each consent to withdraw a juror." 

Upon this suggestion the counsel for both 
parties put their neads together in animated 
whispers ; and, during this, the judge made 
a remark to the jury, intended for flie pub- 
lic : " Since Lady Bassett's name has been 
drawn into this, I must say that I have 
read her letters to Mr. Bassett, and they are 
such as she could write without in the least 
compromising her husband. Indeed, now 
the defence is disclosed, they appear to me 
to be wise and kindly letters, such as only 
a good wife, a high-bred lady, and a true 
CWstian could write in so delicate a mat- 
ter." 

Plaintiff* s Counsel, — My lord, we are 
agreed to withdraw a juror. 

Defendants Counsel, — Out of respect for 
your lordship's advice, and not from any 
doubt of the result, on our part. 

The Crier. — Wage v, Haliburton ! 

And so the car of justice rolled on till it 
•came to Wheeler v, Bassett. 

This case was soon disposed of. 

Sir Ciiarles Bassett was dignified and 
calm in the witness-box, and treated the 
whole matter with high-bred nonchalance, 
as one unworthy of the attention the Court 
was good enough to bestow on it. The 
judge disapproved the assault, but said the 
plaintiff had drawn it on himself; by unpro- 
fessional conduct, and by threatening a gen- 
tleman in his own* house. Verdict for the 
plaintiff, — 405. The judge refused to cer- 
tify for costs. 

iady Bassett, her throat parched with ex- 
citement, drove home and awaited her hus- 
band's return with no little anxiety. As soon 
as she heard him in his dressing-room, she 
glided in and went down on her knees to 
him. " Pray, pray, don't scold me ; I couldn't 
bsar you to be defeated, Charles." Sir 
Charles raised her, but did not kiss her. 
" You think only of me," said he, nather 
sadly. " It is a sorry victory, too dearly 
bought." 0^ 

Then she began to crv. 

Sir Charles begged her not to cry ; but 
slill he did not kiss her, nor conceal his mor- 
ifi * -dli 1 .h 



her husband was right, and loved her like 
a man. But she thought also that she was 
not very wrong to love him in her way. 
Wrong or not, she felt she could not sit 
idle, and see his enemy defeat him. 

The coolness died away, by degrees, with 
so much humility on one side and so much 
love on both : but the subject was interdict- 
ed forever. 

A week after the trial Lady Bassett wrote 
to Mrs. Marsh, under cover to Mr. Oldfield, 
and told her how the trial had gone, and, 
with many expressions of gratitude invited 
her and her husband to Huntercombe 
Hall. She told Sir Charles what she had 
done, and he wore a very strange look. 
"Might I surest that we have them alone ? " 
said he, dryly. 

" By all means," said Lady Bassett. " I 
don't want to share my paragon with any- 

In due course a reply came ; Mr. and 
Mrs. Marsh would avail themselves some 
day of Lady Bassett's kindness : at present 
they were going abroad. The letter was 
written by a man's hand. 

About this time Oldfield sent Sir Charles 
Miss Somerset's deed, cancelled, and told 
him she had married a man of fortune, who 
was devoted to her, and preferred to take 
her without any dowry. 

Bassett and Wheeler went home crest- 
fallen, and dined together. They discussed 
the two trials ; and each blamed the othen 
They quarrelled, and parted : and Wheeler 
sent in an enormous bill, exte^ing over 
five years. Eighty-five items 'oegan thus: 
" Attending you at your house for several 
hours, on which occasion you asked my ad- 
vice as to whether — " etc. 

Now, as a great many of these attendances 
had been really to shoot game, and dine on 
rabbits, at Bassett's expense, he thought 
it hard the conversations should be charged, 
and the rabbits not. 

Disgusted with his defeat, and resolved 
to evade this bill, he discharged his servant, 
and put a. retired soldier into his house, 
armed him with a blunderbuss, and ordered 
him to keep all doors closed, and present 
the weapon aforesaid at all rate collectors, 
tax collectors, debt collectors, and appli- 
cants for money to build churches, or con- 
vert the heathen ; but not to fire at any- 
body except his friend Wheeler, nor at him 
imless he should try to shove a writ in at 
some chink of the building. 

This done, he went on his travels, third- 
class, with his eyes always open, and his 
heart full of bitterness. 

Nothinor happened to Richard Bassett on 
hi or h .. > h . ' e 



48 



A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



I am about to relate seems at this moment 
incredible to me, though it is simple 
fact. 

He found the commercial room empty, 
and rang the bell. In came the waiter, a 
strapping girl, with coal-black eyes, and 
brows to match, and a brown skin, but 
glowing cheeks. 

They both started at sight of each other. 
It was Polly Somerset. 

"Why, Polly! How d* ye do? How do 
you come here ? " 

" It *s along of you I *m here, young man," 
said Polly, and began to whimper. She 
told him her sister had found out from the 
page she had been colloguing with him, and 
had never treated her like a sister after 
that. " And, when she married a gentle- 
man, she would n't have me aside her, for 
all I could say, but she did pack me off into 
service, and here I be." 

The girl was handsome, and had a liking 
for him. Bassett was idle, and time hung 
heavy on his hands : he stayed at the inn a 
fortnight, more for Polly's company than 
anything : and, at last, offered to put her 
into a vacant cottage qu his own little estate 
of Highmore. But the girl was shrewd, 
and had seen a great deal of life this last 
three years ; she liked Blchard in her wav, 
but she saw he was all self, and she would 
not trust him. " Najr," said she, " I *11 not 
break with Rhoda for any young man in 
Britain. If I leave service, she will never 
own me at all ; she is as hard as iron." 

" Well, but you mi^ht come and take 
service near me, and men we could often 
get a word together." 

" O, I 'm agreeable to that : you find me 
a good place. I like an inn best ; one sees 
firesh faces." 

Bassett promised to mana^ that for her. 
On reaching^ home, he found a conciliatory 
letter from Wheeler, coupled with his pei> 
mission to tax the bill, according to his own 
notion of justice. This, and other letters, 
were in an outhouse ; the old soldier had 
not permitted them to penetrate the fortress. 
He had entered into the spirit of his in- 
structions, and to him a letter was a proba- 
ble hand-grenade. 

Bassett sent for Wheeler; the bill was 
reduced, and a small payment made ; the 
rest postponed till better times. Wheeler 
was then consulted about PollJ^, and he told 
his client the landlady of the "Lamb" 
wanted a good active waitress ; he thought 
he could arrange that little affair. 

In due course, thanks to this artist, Mary 

Wells, hitherto known as Polly Somerset, 

w' 1 e b "La "• nd 



fnend Wheeler, and even sleep there after 
supper. 

By and by the vicar of Huntercombe 
wanted a servant, and offered to engage 
Mary Wells- 
She thought twice about that. She could 
neither write nor read, and therefore was 
dreadfully dull without company ; the bus- 
tle of an inn, and people coming and going, 
amused her. However, it was a temptation 
to be near Richard Bassett ; so she accepted 
at last. Unable to write, she could not 
consult him ; and she made sure he would 
be delighted. 

But, when she got into the village the 
prudent Mr. Bassett drew in his horns, and 
avoided her. She was mortified, and very 
angry. She revensed herself on her em- 
plover; broke double her wages. The vicar 
had never been able to convert a smasher ; 
so he parted with her very readily to Lady 
Bassett, with a hint that she was rather un- 
fortunate in glass and china. 

In that large house her spirits rose, and, 
having a hearty manner and a clapper 
tongue, she became a general favorite. 

One day she met Mr. Bassett in the vil- 
lage, and he seemed delighted at the sight 
of her, and begged her to meet him that 
night at a certain place, where Sir Charles's 
gaJden was divided from his own by a ha-ha. 
It was a very secluded spot, shut out fix)m 
view, even in daylight, by the trees and 
shrubs and the winding nature of the walk 
that led to it ; yet it was scarcely a hundred 
yards from Huntercombe Hall. 

Mary Wells came to the tryst, but in no 
amorous mood. She came merely to tell Mr. 
Bassett her mind ; viz. that he was a shabby 
fellowj and she had had her cry, and did n't 
care a straw for him now. And she did 
tell him so, in a loud voice, and with a 
flushed cheek. 

But he set to work, humbly and patiently, 
to pacify her ; he represented that in a 
small house like the vicarage everything is 
known ; he should have ruined her charac- 
ter if he had not held aloof. " But it is 
different now," said he. " You can run out 
oiflluntercombe House, and meet me hete, 
and nobody be any the wiser." 

" Not I," said Mary Wells, with a toss. 
" The worst thing a girl can do is to keep 
company with a gentleman ; she must meet 
him in noles and corners and be flung off 
like an old glove when she has served bis 
turn." 

" That will never happen to you," Polly 
dear. We must be prudent for the present ; 
but I shall be more my own master some 



bhY 



tP 



1 



1q love 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



49 



Such was the warning her natural shrewd- 
ness gave her. But perseverance under- 
mined it ; Bassett so oflen threw out hints 
of what he would do some day, mixed with 
warm protestations of love, that she began 
almost to hope he would marry her. She 
really liked him ; his fine fi^r^ and his 
color pleased her eye, and he had a plausi- 
ble tongue to boot. 

As for him, her rustic beauty and health 
pleased his senses ; but, for his heart, she had 
little place in that. What he courted her 
for j'jst now was to keep him informed of 
all that passed in Huntercombe Hall. His 
morbid soul hung about thatplace, and he 
listened greedily to Mary Wells's gossip. 
He had counted on her volubility; it did 
not disappoint him; she never met him 
without a budget, one half of it lies or exag- 
gerations. She was a born liar. One night 
she came in high spirits, and greeted mm 
thus : « What d *ye think ? I'm riz I Mrs. 
Eden, that dresses my lady's hair, she took 
ill yesterday, and I told the housekeeper I 
was used to dress hair, and she tola my 
lady. If you did n't please our Rhoda at 
that, 't was as much as your life was worth ; 
you must n't be thinking of your young 
man with her hair in your hand, or she 'd 
rouse you with a good crack on the crown 
with a hair-brush. So I dressed my lady's 
hair, and handled it like old chaney ; by the 
same toaken she is so pleased with me, you 
can't think. She is a real lady; not like 
our Rhoda ; speaks as civil to me as if I 
was one of her own sort ; and says she, * I 
should like to have you about me, if I might.* 
I had it on my tongue to tell her she was 
mistress ; but I was a little skeared at her 
at first, you know. But she will have me 
about her; I see it in her eye." 

Bassett was delighted ^t this news ; but 
he did not speak his mind all at once ; the 
time was not come. He let the gypsy rattle 
on, and bided his time. He fiattered her, 
and said he envied Lady Bassett to have 
such a beautiful girl about her. " I '11 let 
my hair grow,'* said he. 

"Ay, do,*' said she, "and then I'll pull 
it for you." 

This challenge ended in a little struggle 
for a kiss, the sincerity of which was doubtml. 
Polly resisted vigorously, to be sure, but 
briefly, and, having given in, returned it. 

One day she told him Sir Charles had 
met her plump, and had given a great 
start. 

This made Bassett very uneasy. " Con- 
found it, he will turn you away. He will 
say, ' This girl knows too much."* 

"How simple you be I *' said the girl. 
"D*ye think I let him know? Says he, 
* I think 1 have seen you before.' * Yes, sir,' 
says I ; * I was housemaid here before my 
lady had me to dress her.' < No,' says he, 
7 



* I mean in London, — in Mayfair, you know.' 
I declare you might ha' knocked me down 
wi* a featner. So 1 looks in his face as cool 
as marble, and I said, ' No, sir ; I never had 
the luck to see London, sir,' says I. < All 
the better for you,' says he, and he swal- 
lowed it like spring water, as Sister Rhoda 
used to say when she told one and they be- 
lieved it." 

" You are a clever girl," said Bassett. " He 
would have turned you out of the house if 
he had known who you were." 

She disappointed him in one thing ; she 
was bad at answering questions. Morally 
she was not quite so great an egotist as 
himself, but intellectually a greater. Her 
volubility was all egotism. She could 
scarcely say ten words, except about her- 
self. So when Bassett questioned her 
about Sir Charles and Lady Bassett, she 
said "Yes," or "No," or "I don't know," 
and was off at a tangent to her own sayings 
and doings. 

Bassett, however, by great patience and 
tact, extracted from her at last that Sir 
Chaurles and Lady Bassett were both sore 
at not having children, and that Lady Bas- 
sett bore the blame. 

" That is a good joke," said he. " The 
smoke-dried rake. Folly, you might do me 
a good turn. You have got her ear ; open 
her eyes for me. What might not happen ? '* 
His eyes shone fiendishly. 

The young woman shook her head. " Me 
meddle between man and wife 1 I 'm too 
fonrf'of my place." 

" Ah, you don't love me as I love you. 
You think only of yourself." 

"And what do you think of? Do you 
love me well enough to find me a better 
place, if you get me turned out of Hunter- 
combe HaU?" 

" Yes, I will ; a much better." 

" That is a bargain." 

Mary Wells was silly in some things, but 
she was very cunning too ; and she knew 
Richard Bassett's hobby. She told him to 
mind himself, as well as Sir Charles, or 
perhaps he would die a bachelor, and so his 
flesh and blood would never inherit Hunter- 
combe. This remark entered his mind. 
The trial, though apparently a drawn bat- 
tle, had been fatal to him, — he was cut ; he 
dared not pay his addresses to any lady in 
the coimty, and he often felt very lone'y 
now. So everything combined to draw him 
towards Mary Wells, — her swarthy beauty, 
which shone out at church like a black 
diamond among the other women ; his own 
loneliness; and the pleasure these stolen 
meetings gave him. Custom itself is pleas- 
ant, and the company of this handsome 
chatterbox became a habit, and an agree- 
able one. The young woman herself em- 
ployed a woman's arts ; she was cold and 



50 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



loving by tarns, till, at last, be gave her 
what she was working for, a downright 
promise of marriage. She pretended not 
to believe him, and so led him further ; he 
swore he would marry her. 

He made one stipulation, however. She 
really must learn to read and write first. 

TVnen he had sworn this, Mary became 
more uniformly affectionate ; and as women 
who have been in service learn great self- 
government, and can generally please so 
K)ng as it serves their turn, she made her- 
self so agreeable to him, that he began 
really to have a downright liking for her, a 
liking bounded, of course, by his incurable 
selfishness ; but, as for his hobby, that was 
on her side. 

Now learning to read and write was 
wormwood to Mary Wells ; but the prize 
was so great; she knew all about the 
Huntercombe estates, partly from her sister, 
partly from Bassett himself. (He must tell 
nis wrongs even to this girl.) So she re- 
solved to pursue matrimony, even on the 
severe condition of becoming a scholar. 
She set about it as follows : One day that 
she was doing Lady Bassett's hair, she 
sighed several times. This was to attract 
the lady*8 attention, and it succeeded. 

" Is there anything the matter, Mary ? " 

« No, my lady." 

« I think there is." 

" Well, my lady, I am in a little trouble 
but it is my own people's fault, for not send- 
ing of me to school. I might be married to- 
morrow, if I could only read and write." 

" And can you not ? " 

« No, my lady." 

" Dear me, 1 thought everybody could 
read and write nowadays." 

" La, no, my lady 1 not half of them in 
our village." 

"Your parents are much to blame, my 
poor girl. Well, but it is not too late. 
Now 1 think of it, there is an adult school 
in the village. Shall I arrange for you to 
go to it ? " 

« Thank you, my lady. But then — " 

"Well?" - 

"All my fellow-servants would have a 
laugh against me." 

" The person you are engaged to, will he 
not instruct you ? " 

" O, he have no time to teach me. Be- 
sides, I don't want him to know, either. 
But I won't be his wife to shame him." 
(Another sigh.) 

" Mary," said Lady Bassett, in the inno- 
cence of her heart, " you shall not be morti- 
fied, and you shall not lose a good marriage. 
I will try and teach you myself." 

Mary was profuse in thanks. Lady Bas- 
sett received them rather coldly. She gave 
her a few minutes* instruction in her dress- 
'ng-room, every day j and Mary, who could 



not have done anything intellectual for half 
an hour at a stretch, gave her whole mind 
for those few minutes. She was quick, and 
learned very fast. In two months she could 
read a great deal more than she could un- 
derstand, and could write slowly, but very 
clearly. 

Now, by this time, Lady Bassett had be- 
come so interested in her pupil, that she 
made her read letters and newspapers to 
her, at those parts of the toilet when her 
services were not required. 

Mary Wells, though a great chatterbox, 
was the closest girl in England. Limpet 
never stuck to a rock as she could stick to 
a lie. She never said one word to Bassett 
about Lady Bassett's lessons. She kept 
strict silence till she could write a letter, 
and then she sent him a line to say she had 
learned to write for love of him, and she 
hoped he would keep his promise. 

Bassett's vanity was flattered by this. 
But, on reflection, he suspected it was a 
falsehood. He asked her suddenly, at their 
next meeting, who had written that note 
for her. 

" You shall see me write the fellow to it 
when you like," was the reply. 

Bassett resolved to submit the matter to 
that test some day. At present, however, 
he took her word for it, and asked her who 
had taught her. 

" I had to teach myself. Nobody cares 
enough for me to teach me. Well, I '11 for- 
give you if you will write me a nice letter 
ror mine." 

" What I Tjrhen we can meet here and 
say everything ? " 

" No matter ; I have written to you, and 
you might write to me. They all get letters 
except me, and the jades hold 'em up to 
me ; they see I never get one. When you 
are out, post me a letter now and then. 
It will only cost you a penny. I 'm sure I 
don't ask you for much." 

Bassett humored her in this, and in one 
of his letters called her his wife that was 
to be. 

This pleased her so much that the next 
time they met she hung round his neck with 
a good deal of feminine grace. 

Richard Bassett was a man who now lived 
in the future. Everybody in the county 
believed he had written that anonymous 
letter, and he had no hope of shining by 
his own light. It was bitter to resign his 
personal hopes; but he did, and sullenly 
resolved to be obscure himself, but the 
father of the future heirs of Huntercombe. 
He would marry Mary Wells, and lay the 
blame of the match upon Sir Charles, who 
had blackened him in the county, and put it 
out of his power to win a lady's hand. 

He told Wheeler he was determined to 
marry, but he had not the couiage to tell 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



51 



him all at once what a wife he had selected. 
The consequence of this half-confession was 
that Wheeler went to work to find him a 
girl with money. 

One of Wheeler's clients was a retired 
citizen, living in a pretty villa near the 
njarket-town. Mr. Wright employed him 
in little matters, and found him active and 
attentive. There was a Miss Wright, a 
meek little girl, palish, on whom her father 
doted. Wheeler talked to this girl of his 
friend Bassett, his virtues, and his wrongs, 
and interested the young lady in him. This 
done, he brought him to the house, and the 
girl, being slight and delicate, gazed with 
gentle but undisguised admiration on Bas- 
setts torso, V^eeler had told Richard 
Misb Wright was to have seven thousand 
pounds on her wedding-day; and that 
excited a corresponding admiration in the 
athletic gentleman. 

After that, Bassett often called by him- 
self, and the father encouraged the intimacy. 
He was old, and wished to see his daughter 
married before he left her ; and this seemed 
an eligible match, though not a brilliant 
one : a bit of land and a good name on one 
side ; a smart bit of money on the other. 
The thing went on wheels. Richard Bas- 
sett was engaged to Jane Wright almost 
before he was aware. 

Now he felt uneasy about Mary Wells, 
very uneasy ; but it was only the uneasiness 
of selfishness. 

He began to try and prepare ; he affected 
business-visits to distant places, etc., in 
order to break off by degrees. By this 
means their meetino^s were comparatively 
few. When they did meet (which was now 
generally by written appointment), he tried 
to prepare by telling her he had encoun- 
tered losses, and feared that to marry her 
would be a bad job for her, as well as for 
him, especially if she should have children. 

Mary replied she had been used to work, 
and would rather work for a husband than 
any other master. 

On another occasion she asked him qui- 
etly whether a gentleman ever broke his oath. 

" Never," said Richard. 

In short, she gave him no opening. She 
would not quarrel. She adhered to him, as 
she had never adhered to anything but a 
lie before. 

Then he gave up all hope of smoothing 
the matter. He coolly cut her ; never came 
to the trysting-place ; did not answer her 
letters; 'and, being a reckless egotist, 
married Jane Wright all in a hurry, by 
special license. 

He sent forward to the clerk of Hunter- 
combe church, and engaged the ringers to 
ring the church bells from six o'clock till 
sundown. This was for Sir Charles's ears. 

It was a balmy evening in May. Lady 



Bassett was commencing her toUet in an 
indolent way, with Marv Wells in attend- 
ance, when the church-bells of Hunter- 
combe struck up a merrv peal. 

"Ahl" said Lady Bassett. "What is 
that for ? Do you know, Mary ? " 

" No, my lady. Shall I ask ? " 

" No : 1 dare say it is a village wedding." 

" No, my lady : there 's nobody b^n 
married here this six weeks. Our kitchen- 
maid and the baker was the last, you know. 
I '11 send and know what it is for." 

Mary went out, and despatched the first 
house-maid she caught, for intelligence. 
The girl ran into the stable to her sweetr 
heart, and he told her directly. 

Meantime Lady Bassett moralized upon 
church-bells. 

"They are always sad, saddest when 
they seem to be merriest. Poor things 1 
they are trving hard to be merry now ; but 
they sound very sad to me, sadder than 
usual, somehow." , 

The girl knocked at the door. Mary half 
opened it, and the news shot in — " 'T is 
for Sauire Bassett, — he is bringing of his 
bride nome to Highmore to-day." 

"Mr. Bassett, — married, — that is sud- 
den. Who could he find to marry him V " 

There was no reply. The housemaid had 
flown off to circulate the news, and Mary 
Wells was supporting herself by clutching 
the door, sick with the sudden blow. 

Close as she was, her distress could not 
have escaped another woman's eye: but 
Lady Bassett never looked at her. Aftier 
the first surprise she had gone into a revery, 
and was conjuring up the future to the 
sound of those church-bells. She requested 
Mary to go and tell Sir Charles ; but she 
did not lift her head, even to give this order. 

Mary crept away, and knocked at Sir 
Charles's dressing-room. 

" Come in," said Sir Charles, thinking, of 
course it was his valet. 

Mary Wells just opened the door, and 
held it ajar. " My lady bids me tell vou, 
sir, the bells are ringing for Mr. Bassett ; he 's 
married, and brings her home to-night." 

A dead silence marked the effect of this 
announcement on Sir Charles. Mary Wells 
waited. 

" May Heaven's curse light on that mar- 
riage, and no child of theirs ever take my 
place in this house 1 " 

" A-a-men I " said Mary Wells. 

" Thank you, sir 1 " said Sir Charles. 
He took her voice for a man's, so deep and 
guttural was her " A-a-men " with concen- 
trated passion. 

She closed the door, and crept back to 
her mistress. 

Lady Bassett was seated at her g^ass, with 



52 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



her hair down, and her fihoulders bare. 
Mary clenched her teeth, and set aboat her 
QBual work, but very soon Lady Bassett 
gave a start, and stared into the glass. 
<< Marv 1 ** said she, " what is the matter ? 
You look ghastly, and your hands are as 
cold as ice. Are you faint ? " 
"No." 



" Then you are ill ; very ill." 
" I have taken a chill," st 



chill," said Mary, dog- 
gedly. 

" Go instantly to the still-room maid, and 
get a large glass of spirits and hot water, — 
quite hot." 

Mary, who wanted to be out of the room, 
fostened her mistress's back hair with dog- 
ged patience, and then moved towards the 
door. 

<<Mary," said Lady Bassett, in a half- 
apologetic tone. 

« My lady." 

" I should like to hear what the bride is 
like." 

"I'll know that to-night," said Mary, 
grinding her teeth. 

" I sl^l not require you again till bed- 
time." 

Mary left the room and went not to the 
still-room, but to her own garret, imd there 
she gave way. She flang herself, with a 
wild cry, upon her little l^d, and clutched 
her own hair and the bedclothes, and 
writhed all about the bed like a wild-cat 
wounded. 

In this anguish she passed an hour she 
never forgot nor forgave. She got up at 
last, and started at her own image in the 
glass. Hair like a savage's, cheek pale, 
eyes bloodshot. 

She smoothed her hair, washed her face, 
and prepared to go down stairs ; but now 
she was seized with a faintness, and had to 
sit dofrn and moan. She got the better 
of that, and went to the still-room and got 
some spirits; but she drank them neat, 
gulped them down like water. They sent 
5ie, devil into her black eye, but no color 
into her pale cheek. She had a little scaiv 
let shawl ; she put it over her head and went 
into the village. She found it astir with 
expectation. 

Mr. Bassett's house stood near the high- 
way, but the entrance to the premises was 
private, and through a long wbite gate. 

By this gate was a heap of stones, and 
Mary Wells got on that heap and waited. 

When she had been there about half an 
hour Richard Bassett drove up in a hired 
carriage with his pale little wife beside him. 
At his own gate his eye encountered Mary 
Wells, and he started. She stood above 
h'm t 1- h r s f Id 1 • 



seemed lifted out of her low condition, and 
dignified by wrong. 

He had to sustain her look for a few 
seconds, while the gate was being opened, 
and it seemed an age. He felt his first 
pan^ of remorse when he saw that swarthy, 
ruddy cheek so pale. Then capie admira- 
tion of her beautv, and disgust at the 
woman for whom he had jilted her ; and 
that gave way to fear: the hater looked 
into those glittering eyes, and saw he had 
roused a hate as unrelenting as his own. 



CHAPTER THE TENTH. 

For the first few days Richard Bas£ett 
expected some annoyance from Mary 
Wells; but none came, and he began to 
flatter himself she was too fond of him to 
give him pain. 

This impression was shaken about ten 
days ailer the little scene I have described : 
he received a short note from her, as fol- 
lows: — 

" Sir, — You must meet me to-night, at the same 
place, eight o'clock. If yvu do not come, it Kill be 
the worse for you, 

"M. W." 

Richard Bassett's inclination was to treat 
this summons with contempt ; but he thought 
it would be wiser to go, and see whether the 
^rl had any hostile intentions. Accord- 
ingly he went to the tryst. He waited for 
some time, and at last he heard a quick, firm 
foot, and Mary Wells appeared. She was 
hooded with her scarlet shawl that con- 
trasted admirably with her coal-black hair ; 
and out of this scarlet frame her dark eyes 
glittered. She i^tood before him in silence. 

He said nothing. 

She was silent too for some time. But 
she spoke first. 

"Well, sir, you promised one, and you 
have married another. Now what are you 
going to do for me ? " 

« What can I do, Mary? I 'm not the 
first that wanted to marry for love, but 
money came in his way and tempted him." 

" No, you are not tibe first. But that *8 
neither here nor there, sir. That chalk- 
faced girl has bought you away from me 
with her money, and now I mean to have 
my share on 't." 

"O, if that is all," said Richard, "we can 
soon settle it : I was afraid you were going 
to talk about a broken heart, and all that 
stufi*. You are a good, sensible girl ; and 
too beautiful to want a husband long. I 'U 



sh 



ifio 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



63 



of Huntercombe Hall by and by? Fifty 
poands 1 No ; not five uftiea" 

" Well, 1 11 give you seventy-five, and, if 
that won't do, you must go to law, and see 
what you can get/' 

"What, han't you had your bellyful 
of law? Mind, it is an unked thing to 
forswear yourself, and that is what you 
done at the 'sizes : I have seen what you 
did swear about your letter to my sister; 
Sir Charles have got it all wrote down in 
his study ; and you swore a lie to the judge, 
as you swore a ue to me here under heaven, 
you villain I " She raised her voice very 
loud. " Don't you gainsay me, or I '11 soon 
have you by the heels in jail for your lies. 
You '11 do as I bids you, and very lucky to 
be let off so cheap. You was to be my mas- 
ter, but you chose her instead — well then 
you shall be my servant. You shidl come 
here every Saturday, at eight o'clock, and 
bring me a sovereign, which I never could 
keep a lump o' money, and 1 have had one 
or two from Rhoda ; so I '11 take it a sover- 
eign a week, till I get a husband of my own 
sort, and then vou '11 have to come down 
handsome once for all." 

Bassett knitted his brows, and thought 
hard. His natural impulse was to defy her ; 
but it struck him that a great many things 
might happen in a few months ; so at last be 
said humbly, " I consent : I have been to 
blame. Only I 'd rather pay you this money 
in some other way." 

" My way, or none." 

" Very well, then, I will bring it you as 
you say." 

" Mind you do, then," said Mary Wells, 
and turned haughtily on her heel. 

Bassett never ventured to absent himself 
at the hour ; and, at first, the black mail was 
delivered and received with scarcely a 
word ; but by and by old habits so far re- 
vived, that some little conversation took 
place. 

Then, after a while, Bassett used to tell 
her he was unhappy, and she used to reply 
she was crlad of it. 

Then he began to speak slightingly of his 
wife, and say what a fool he had been to 
marry a poor silly nonentity, when he might 
have wedded a beauty. 

Mary Wells, being intensely vain, listened 
with complacency to this, although she re- 
plied coldly and harshly. 

By and by her natural volubility over^ 



malice, and that shrewd insight into human 
nature which many a low woman has, — the 
cooler she was, the warmer did Richard 
Bassett grow, till, at last, contrasting Ms 
pale, meek littie wife with this glowing 
Hebe, he conceived an unholy liking for the 
latter. She met it, sometimes with coldness 
and reproaches, sometimes with affected 
alarm, sometimes with a half-yielding man- 
ner, and BO tormented him to her neart's 
content, and undermined his affection for 
his wife. Thus she revenged herself on 
them both to her heart's content. 

But malice so perverse is apt to recoil on 
itsetf; and women, in particular, should not 
undertake a long and subtle revenge of this 
sort; since the strongest have their hours v 
of weakness, and are surprised into things 
they never intended. The subsequent his- 
tory of Mary Wells will exemplify this. 
Meantime, however, meek little Mrs. Bassett 
was no match for the beauty and low cun- 
ning of her rival. 

Yet a time came when she defended her- 
self unconsciously. She did something that 
made her husband most solicitous for her 
welfare and happiness ; he began to watch 
her health with maternal care, to shield her 
from draughts, to take care of her diet, to 
indulge her in all her whims instead of 
snubbing her, and to pet her, till fehe was 
the happiest wife in Endand for a time. 
She deserved this at his nands, for she as- . 
sisted him there where his heart was fixed ; 
she aided his hobby ; did more for it than 
any other creature in England could. 

To return to Huntercombe Hall ; the lov- 
ing couple that owned it were no longer 
happy. The hope of offspring was now de- 
serting them, and the disappointment was 
cruel. They suffered deeply, with this dif- 
ference, that Lady Bassett pined, and Sir 
Charles Bassett firetted. 

The woman's grief was more pure and 
profound than the man's. If there had been 
no Richard Bassett in the world, still her 
bosom would have yearned and pined, and 
the great cry of Nature, " Give me children, 
or I die," would have been in her heart, 
though it would never have risen to her 
lips. 

Sir Charles had of course less of this pro- 
found instinct than his wife, but he had it 
too ; only, in him the feeling was adulter- 
ated and at the same time embittered by 



54 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



This chafed the childless man, and gradual- 
ly undermiDed a temper habitually sweet, 
tnou^h subject, as we have seen, to violent 
ebullitions where the provocation was intol- 
erable. Sir Charles then, smarting under his 
wound, spoke now and then rather unkindly 
to the wife he loved so devotedly ; that is to 
say, his manner sometimes implied that he 
blamed her for then: joint calamity. 

Lady Bassett submitted to these stings in 
silence. They were rare and speedily fol- 
lowed by touching regrets ; and even had it 
not been so, she would have borne them 
with resignation; for this motherless wife 
loved her husband with all a wife's devotion 
and a mother's unselfish patience. Let this 
be remembered to her credit ; it is the truth, 
and she may need it. 

Her own yearning was too deep and sad 
for firetfulness : yet, though, unlike her hus- 
band's, it never broke out in anger, the day 
was gone by when she could keep it always 
silent. It welled out of her at times in ways 
that were truly womanly and touchinor. 
r ulft 1 -f 



a faint cry had been heard at the bottom of 
the old well, — it was ninety feet deep; 
people had assembled, and a brave farmer's 
boy had been lowered in the bight of a cart- 
rope, and had brought up a dead hen and 
a live child bleeding at the cheek, having 
fallen on a heap of fagots at the bottom of 
the well. "Which child was the prisoner's. 

Sir Charles had the evidence written 
down, and then told the accused she might 
make a counter-statement if she chose, but it 
would be wiser to say nothing at all. 

Thereupon the accused dropped him a lit- 
tle short courtesy, looked him steadily in the 
face with her pale gray eyes, and delivered 
herself as follows : — 

" If you please, sir, I was a sitting by th' 
old well, with baby in my arms : and I was 
mortal tired I was, wi* caning of him ; he be 
uncommon heavy for his age : and if you 
please, sir, he is uncommon resolute ; and, 
whilst I was so, he give a leap right out of 
my arms and fell down th' old well. I 
screams, and runs away to tell my brother's 
f il • 



A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



5? 



went out, but soon returned, looking pale 
and wild. 

" Yes ! " said she, with forced calmness ; 
then, suddenly losing her self-command, 
she broke out, pointing through the win- 
dow, at Highmore, <' He has got a fine 
boy — to take our place here. Kill me, 
Charles I Send me to heaven, to pray for 
you ; and take another wife that will love 
you less, but be like other wives. That 
villain has married a firuitfiil vine, and" 
(lifling both arms to heaven with a gesture 
unspeakably piteous, poetic, and touching) 
" I am a batren stock." 



CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH. 

Of all the fools Nature produces with the 
help of Society, fathers of first-borns are 
about the most offensive. 

The mothers of ditto are bores too, fling- 
ing their human dumplings at every head ; 
but, considering the tortures they have suf- 
fered, and the anguish the little egotistical 
viper they have just hatched will most likely 
give them, and considering further that their 
love of their first-bom is greater than their 
pride, and their pride unstained by vanity, 
one must make allowances for them. 

But the male parent is not so excusable. 
His fussy vanity is an inferior article to the 
mother's silly but amiable pride. His ob- 
truflive affection is two thirds of it egotism, 
and blindish egotism, too; for if, at the 
very commencement of the wife's preg- 
nancy, the husband is sent to India, or 
handed, t^e little angel, as they call it, — 
Lord forgive them I — is nurtured from a 
speck to a mature infant by the other par- 
ent, and finally brought into the world by 
her just as effectually as if her male con- 
federate had been tied to her apron-string 
all the time, instead of expatriated, or 
hanged. 

Therefore, the Law — for want, I suppose, 
of studying Medicine — is a little inconsid- 
erate in giving children to ^sithers, and tak- 
ing them by force from such mothers as can 
support them ; and therefore let Gallena go 
on clucking over her first-bom, but Gallus 
be quiet, or sing a little smaller. 

With these preliminary remarks, let me 
introduce to ou a character new in fi *, n 



oiit into the world, and made «aUs on peo- 
ple, merely to remind them he had a son 
and heir. 

His self-gratulation took a dozen forms ; 
perhaps the most amusing, and the richest 
food for satire, was the mock-querulous style, 
of which he showed himself a master. 

"Don't you ever marry," said he to 
Wheeler and others. " Look at me ; do you 
think I am the master of my own house? 
Not 1 ; I am a regular slave. First, there 
is a monthly nurse, who orders me out of 
my wife's presence, or graciously lets me in, 
just as she pleases : that is Queen 1. Then 
there 's a wet-nurse. Queen 2, whom I must 
humor in everything, or she will quarrel 
with me, and avenge herself by souring her 
milk. But these are mild tyrants compared 
with the young King himself. If he doeflf 
but squall, we must all skip, and find out 
what he ails, or what he wants. As ibr me, 
I am looked upon as a necessary evil : the 
women seem to admit that a father is an en- 
cumbrance without which these little angels 
could not exist, but that is all." 

He had a christening feast, and it was 
pretty well attended ; for he reminded all 
he asked that the young Christian was the 
heir to the Bassett estates. They feasted, 
and the church-bells rang merrily. 

He had his pew in the church new lined 
with cloth, ana took his wife to be churched. « 
The nurse was in the pew, with his son 
and heir. It squalled, and spoilt the Litur- 
gy. Thereat Gallus chuckled. 

He made a gravel walk all along the ha- 
ha that separated his garden mm Sir 
Charles's, and called it « The Heir's Walk." 
Here the nurse and child used to parade on 
sunny afternoons. 

He got an army of workmen, and built a 
nursery fit for a duke's nine children. It 
occupied two entire stories, and rose in the 
form of a square tower high above the rest 
of his house, which indeed was as humble 
as "The Heir's Tower" was pretentious. 
" The Heir's Tower" had a flat lead roof, 
easy of access, and fit>m it you could inspect 
Huntercombe Hall, and see what was done 
on the lawn or at some of the windows. 

Here, in the August afternoons, Mr. and 
Mrs. Bassett used to sit drinking their tea, 
with nurse and child; and Bassett would 
talk to his unconscious bov, and tell him 
that the great house, and all that belonged 
toi slBomdboilBseiiils itduflthe arts thah t tbu^tth 



'66 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



combe Hall, and gave cruel pain to the 
childless ones, over whom this inflated father 
was in fact exulting. , 

As for the christening, and the bells that 
pealed for it, and the subsequent churching, 
they bore these things with sore hearts, but 
bravely, being things of course. But, when 
it came to their ears that Bassett and his 
family called his new gravel-walk '*The 
Heir^s Walk," and his ridiculous nursery 
"The Heir's Tower," this roused a bitter 
animosity, and indeed led to reprisals. Sir 
Charles built a long wall at the edge of his 
garden^ shutting out "The Heir's Walk," 
and intercepting the yiew of his own prem- 
ises from that walk. 

Then Mr. Bassett made a little hill at the 
end of his walk, so that the beir might get 
one peep over the wall at his rich inheri- 
tance. 

Then Sir Charles began to fell timber on 
a gigantic scale. He went to work with 
several gan^s of woodmen, and all his 
woods, which were very extensive, rang 
with die axe, and the trees fell like com. 
He made no secret that he was going to sell 
timber to the tune of several thousand 
pounds, and settle it on his wife. 

Then Richard Bassett, thronph Wheeler, 
his attorney, remonstrated in his own name 
and that of his son, against this excessiye 
fall of timber on an entailed estate. 

Sir Charles chafed like a lion stuns by a 
gadfly, but vouchsafed no reply: the an- 
swer came from Mr. Oldiield ; ne said Sir 
Charles had a right under the entail to fell 
every stick of timber, and turn his woods 
into arable ground if he chose ; and, even 
if he had not, looking at his age and his 
wife's, it was extremely impr(K)able that 
Richard Bassett would inherit the estates : 
the said Richard Bassett was not personally 
named in the entail, and his rights were all 
in supposition : if Mr. Wheeler thought he 
could dispute both these positions, the 
Court of Chancery was open to his client. 

Then Wheeler advised Bassett to avoid 
the Court of Chancery in a matter so debat- 
able; and Sir Charles felled all the more 
for the protest ; the dead bodies of the trees 
fell across each other, and daylight peeped 
through the thick woods. It was like the 
clearing of a primeval forest. 

Richard Bassett went about frith a wit- 
ness, and counted the fallen. 

The poor were allowed the lopwood : thev 
thronged in for miles round, and each built 
himself a ^reat wood-pile for the winter ; 
the po<^r blessed Sir Charles : he gave the 
proceeds, thirteen thousand pounds, to his 
wife, for h^r separate use. He did not tie 
it up. He restricted her no further than 
this ; she undertook never to draw above 
£ 100 at a time without consultinsr Mr. 
Oldfield as to the application. Sir Charles 



said he ahoold add to this fund every year; 
his beloved wife should not be poor, even if 
the hated cousin should outlive him and turn 
her out of Huntercombe. 

And so passed the summer of that year, 
then the autumn, and then came a singular- 
ly mild winter. There was more himting 
than usual, and Richard Bassett, whom hu 
wife's fortune enabled to cut a better figure 
than before, was often in the field, mounted 
on a great bony horse that was not so fast 
as some, being half bred, but a wonderful 
jumper. 

Even in this pastime the cousins were ri- 
vals. Sir Charles's favorite horse was a mag- 
nificent thoroughbred, who was seldom ht 
ofl' at the finish ; over good ground Rich- 
ard's cocktail had no chance with him ; but 
sometimes, if towards the close of the run 
they came to stiff* fallows and strong fences, 
the great strength of the inferior animal, 
and that prudent reserve of his powers, 
which disdneuishes the canny cocktail from 
the higher-blooded animal, would give him 
the advantage. 

Of this there occurred, on a certain 18th 
of November, an example fraught with very 
serious consequences. 

That day the hounds met on Sii- Charles's 
estate. Sir Charles and Lady Bassett break- 
fasted in pink ; he had on his scarlet coat, 
white tie, irreproachable buckskins, and tcp- 
boots. (It seemed a pity a speck of dirt 
should fall on them.) Lady Bassett was in 
her blue riding-habit ; and, when she mount- 
ed her pony, and went to cover by his side, 
with her blue velvet cap, and .her red-broivn 
hair, she looked more like a brilliant flower 
than a mere woman. 

A veteran fox was soon found, and went 
away with unusual courage and speed, and 
Lady Bassett paced homewards, td wait her 
lord s return, with an anxiety men laugh 
at, but women can appreciate. It was a 
form of quiet sufiering she had constantly en- 
dured, and never complained nor even men- 
tioned the subject to Sir Charles but once, 
and then he pooh-poohed her fancies. 

The hunt had a burst of about forty min- 
utes that left Richard Bassett's cocktail in 
the rear ; and the fox got into a large beech 
wood with plenty of briers, and kept dodg- 
ing about it for two hours, and puzzled the 
scent repeatedly. 

Richard Bassett elected not to go wind- 
ing in and out among trees, risk his horse's 
legs in rabbit-holes, and tire him for noth- 
ing. He had kept for years a little note- 
book he called " Statistics of Foxes," and 
that told him an old dog-fox of uncommon 
strength, if dislodged from that particular 
wood, would slip into Bell-man's Coppice, 
and, if driven out of that, would face the 
music again, would take the open country 
for Higham Gorse, and probably be killed 



A TERRIBLE TEMFTATIOlfr. 



57 



before he got there ; but once there, a regi- 
ment of scythes mi^ht cut him out, but bleed- 
ing, sneezing fox-hounds would never work 
him out at me tail of a long run. 

So Richard Bassett kept out of the wood, 
and went sently on to Bell-man's Coppice, 
and waited outside. 

His book proved an oracle. After two 
hours' dodging and manceuvring, the fox 
came out at the very end of Bell-man's 
Copse with nothing near him but Eichard 
Bassett Pug gave him the white of his 
eye in an uglv leer, and headed straight as 
a crow for Higham Grorse. 

Richard Bassett blew his horn, collected 
the hunt, and laid the dogs on : away they 
went, close together, thunder-mouthed^ on 
the hot scent. 

Ailer a three miles* ^Uop, they sighted 
the fox for a moment, just going over the 
crest of a rising ground two furlongs off. 
Then the hullahrbaloo and excitement grew 
furious, and one electric fury animated dogs, 
men, and horses. Another mile, and the tox 
ran in sight scarcely a furlong off; but many 
of the horses were distressed ; the Bassetts, 
however, kept up, one bv his horse being 
fresh, the other by his animal's native cour- 
age and speed. 

Then came some meadows, bounded by a 
thick hedge, and succeeded by a ploughed 
field of unusual size, — eighty acres. 

When the fox darted into this hedge the 
hounds were yelling at his heels ; the hunt 
burst through the min fence, expecting to 
see them kill close to it. 

But the wily fox had other resources at 
his command than speed. Appreciating his 
peril, he doubled and ran sixty yards down 
the ditch, and the impetuous hounds rushed 
forward and overran the scent. They 
raved about to and fro, till, at last, one of 
the gentlemen descried the fox running 
down a double furrow in the middle of the 
field. He had got into this, and so made 
his way more smoothly than his four-footed 
pursuers could. The hounds were laid on, 
and away thev went helter-skelter. 

At the end of this stijff ground a stiffish 
leap awaited them ; an old quidcset had 
been cut down, and all the elm-trees that 
grew in it, and a new auickset hedge set on 
a high bank with double ditches. 

The huntsman had an Irish horse that 
laughed at this fence ; he jumped on to the 
bank, and then jumped off it into the next 
field. 

Richard Bassett's cocktail came up slowly, 
rose high, and landed his fore-feet in the 
field, and so scrambled on. 

Sir Charles went at it rather rashly ; his 
horse, tried hard by the fallow, caught his 
heels against the edge of the baidc, and went 
headlong into the other ditch, throwing Sur 
Charles over his head into the field. Un- 



luckily some of the trees were lying about» 
and Sir Charles's head struck one of these 
in falling; the horse blundered out again, 
and galloped afler the hounds, but the rider 
lay there motionless. 

Nobody stopped at first; the pace was 
too good to inquire ; but presently Richard 
Bassett, who had greeted the accident with 
a laugh, turned round in his saddle, and 
saw his cousin motionless, and two or three 
gentlemen dismounting at the place. These 
were new-comers. Then he resigned the 
hunt, and rode back. 

Sir Charles's hat was crushed in, and 
there was blood on his white waistcoat ; he 
was very pale, and quite insensible. 

The gentlemen raised him, with expres- 
sions of alarm and kindly concern, ana in- 
quired of each other what was best to be done 

Richard Bassett saw an opportunity to 
conciliate opinion, and seized it. " He must 
be taken home directly," said he. " We 
must carry him to' that farm-house, and get 
a cart for him." 

He helped carry him accordingly. 

The farmer lent them a spring cart^ with 
straw, and they laid the insensible baronet 
gently on it, Richard Bassett supporting his 
head. ^ Gentlemen," said he, rather pom- 
pously, << at such a moment everything but 
the tie of kindred is forgotten." WhicSi re- 
sounding sentiment was warmly applauded 
by the honest squires. 

They took him slowly and carefully to- 
wards Huntercombe, distant about two miles 
fix>m the scene of the accident. 

This 18th November Lady Bassett passed 
much as usual with her on hunting days. 
She was quietly patient till the afternoon, 
and then restless, and could not settle down 
in any part of the house till she got to a 
little room on the first fioor, with a bay-^ 
window commanding the country over which 
Sir Charles was hunting. In this she sat, 
with her head against one of the mullions, 
and eyed the country-side as far as she 
could see. 

Presently she heard a rastle, and there 
was Mary Wells standing and looking at her 
with evident emotion. 

<< What is the matter, Mary ? " said Lady 
Bassett. 

** O my ladv 1 " said Mary. And she 
trembled, and her hands worked. 

Lady Bassett started up, with alarm 
painted in her countenance. 

<< My ladv, there 's something wrong in the 
hunting field." 

« Sir Charles I " 

" An accident, they sav." 

Lady Bassett put her hand to her heart 
with a faint cry. Mary Wells ran to her. 

" Come with me directly I " cried Lady 
Bassett She snatched up her bonnet, and, 
in another minute, she and Mary Wells were 



58 A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



on their road to the village, questioning all over with mnd, and his white waistcoat 

everybody they met. bloody, lav with his head upon Richard 

But nobody they questioned could tell Bassett's knee. His hair was wet with 

them anything. The stable-boy, who had bloody some of which had trickled down his 

told the report in the kitchen of Hunter- cheek and dried. Even Richard's buckskins 

combe, said he had it from a gentleman's were slightly stained with it. 

groom, riding by, as he stood at the gates. At that sight. Lady Bassett uttered a 

The ill news thus flung in at the gate by scream, which Uiose who heard it never 

one passing rapidly by, was not confirmed forgot, and flung herself. Heaven knows 

by any further report, and Lady Bassett be- how, into the cart ; but she got there, and 

gan to hope it was false. soon had that bleeding head on her bosom. 

But a terrible confirmation came at last. She took no notice or Richard Bagsett,'but 

In the outskirts of the village, mistress she got Sir Charles away from him, and tbe 

and servant encountered a sorrowful pro- cart took her, embracing him tenderly, and 

cession, the cart itself, followed by five gen- kissin his hurt head, and moaning over 

tlemen on 'tissrae ft tsnincr 1 1 him 1 1 eb h the viJSgp^ to punter ogpibe p j 

iar fr ys d ' Hh d ah A. . f .md 

th h 



A TEBEIBLE TEMPTATION. 



59 



same village, in a carriage and four, — bells 
pealing, rastics shouting, — to take posses- 
sion of Huntercombe, and fill it with pledges 
of their great and happy love j and, as they 
flashed past, the heir-at-law shrank hope- 
less into hiii little cottaee. Now, how 
changed the pageant! a farmer's cart, a 
splashed and bleeding and senseless form 
in ii, supported by a childless, despair- 
ing woman, one weeping attendant walking 
at the side, and, amongst the gentlemen 
pacing slowly behind, the heir-at-law, with 
his head lowered in that decent affectation 
of regret, which, all heirs can put on to hide 
the indecent complacency within. 

At the steps of Huntercombe Hall the 
servants streamed out, and relieved the 
strangers of the sorrowful load : Sir Charles 
was carried into the Hall, and Richard Bas- 
sett turned away with one triumphant flash 
of his eye, quickly suppressed, and walked 
with impenetrable countenance, and studied 
demeanor, into Hi^hmore House. 

Even here he did not throw off the maflk. 
It peeled off by degrees. 

He began oy telling his wife gravely 
enough Sir Charles had met with a severe 
fall, and he had attended to him, and taken 
him home. 

"Ah, I am glad you did that, Richard," 
said Mrs. Bassett *' And is he very badly 
hurt?" 

"I am afraid he will never get over it. 
He never spoke. He just groaned when 
they took lum down from the cart at Hun- 
tercombe." 

« Poor Lady Bassett I " 

"Ay, it will be a bad job for her. 
Jane!" 

" Yes, dear." 

" There is a providence in it The fall 
would nsver have killed him ; but his head 
struck, a t^ee upon the ground; and that 
tree was one of the yery elms he had just 
cut down to rob our boy." 

"Indeed?" 
^ " Yes : he was felling the very hedgerow; 
timber, and this was one of the old elms in 
a hedge. He must have done it out of spite, 
for elm-wood fetches no price ; it is good 
for nothing I know of, except coffins. Well, 
he has cut down his.*' 

"Poor man ! — Richard, death reconciles 
enemies. Surely you can forgive him now." 

" I mean to try.'* 

Richard Bassett seemed now to have im- 
bibed the spirit of quicksilver. His occu- 
pations were not actually enlarged; yet, 
somehow or other, he seemed full of business. 
He was all complacent, bustled about noth- 
ing. He left off inveighing against Sir 
Charles : and indeed, if you are one of those 
weak spirits to whom censure is intolerable, 
t^t^i^ \9J^cl|^i9q^asftira^tontQ jrite 



die : let me comfort genius in particular with 
this little recipe. 

Why, on one occasion, Bassett actually 
snubbed Wheeler for a mere allusion. That 
worthy just happened to remark, " No more 
felling of timber on Bassett Manor for a 
while." 

" For shame ! " said Richard. « The man 
had his faults, but he had his good qualities 
too : a high-spirited gentleman ; beloved by 
his friends, and respected by all the conn* 
try. His successor will find it hard to rec- 
oncile the country to his loss." 

Wheeler stared, and then grinned satiri- 
cally. 

This eulogy was never repeated ; for Sir 
Charles proved ungrateful; he omitted to 
die after all. 

Attended by first-rate physicians, tenderly 
nursed and watched by Lady Bassett and 
Maiy Wells, he got better by degrees, and 
every stage of his slow but hopefid progress 
was (communicated to the servants and the 
village, and to the ladies and gentlemen 
who rode up to the door eyery day, and left 
their cards of inquiry. 

The most attentive of all these was the 
new rector, a youn^ clergyman, who had 
obtmned the living by exchange. He was 
a man highly gifted both in body and mind; 
a swarthy Adonis, whose large dark eyes from 
the very first turned with glowing admira- 
tion on the blond beauties of Lady Bassett 

He came every day to inquire afler her 
husband; and she sometimes left the suf- 
ferer a minute or two, to make her report to 
him in person. At other times Mary Wells 
was sent to him. That artful girl soon dis- 
covered what had escaped her mistress's 
observation. 

The bulletins were favorable, and wel- 
comed on all sides. 

Richard Bassett alone was incredulous* 
" I want to see him about again," said he. 
" Sir Charles is not the man to lie in bed if 
he was really better. As for the doctors, 
they flatter a fellow till the last moment 
Let me see him on his legs, and then I '11 
believe he is better." 

Strange to say, obliging Fate granted 
Richard Bassett this m<3erate request 

One firosty but sunny afternoon, as he 
was inspecting his coming domain from 
"The Heir's Tower," he saw the hall door 
open, and a muffled figure come slowly 
down the steps between two women. 

It was Sir Charles, feeble but convales- 
cent He crept about on the sunny gravel 
for about ten minutes, and then his nurses 
conveyed him tenderly in again. 

This sight, which might have touched 
with pity a more generous nature, startled. 
Richurd Bassett, and then moved his bile. 



60 



A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



see us all <mt. And that Mair Wells nurses 
him, and I dare say is in love with him 
by this time : the fools can*t nurse a man 
without. Curse the whole pack of ye ! " he 
yelled, and turned away in rage and dis- 
gust. 

That same night he met Mary Wells, and, 
in a strange fit of jealousy, began to make 
hot protestations of lore to her : he knew it 
was no use reproaching her, so he went on 
the other tack. 

She received his vows with cool compla- 
cency, but would only stay a minute, and 
would only talk of her master and mistress 
towards whom her heart was, really warm- 
ing in their trouble. She spoke hopefully, 
and said, " 'T is n't as if he was one of you 
faint-hearted ones, as meet Death half-way. 
Why, the second day, when he could scarce 
speak, he sees me crying by the bed, and 
says he,'almost in a wmsper, 'What are 
you crying for ? ' * Sir,' eays I, * 't is for you ; 
to see you lie like a ghost.* *■ Then you be 
wasting of salt water,^ says he. ' I wish I 
may, sir,' says I. So then he raised himself 
up a little bit ; < Look at me,' says he. ' I'm 
a Bassett. I am not the bieed to die for a 
crack on the skull, and leave you all to the 
mercy of them that would have no mercy' — 
which he meant yon, I suppose. So he 
ordered me to leave crying, which I behooved 
*to obey, for he will be master, mind ye, 
while he have a finger to wag, poor dear 
gentleman, he will." 

And, soon afler this, she resisted all his 
attempts to detain her, and scudded back to 
the house, leaving Bassett to his if^flections, 
which were exceedingly bitter. 

"Curse them I" said he. "Even that 
girl likes them better than she does me." 
' Sir Charles got better, and at last, used 
to walk daily with Lady Bassett. Their 
favorite stroll was up and down the lawn, 
close under the boundarv wall he had built 
to shut out " The Heir's "Walk." 

The aflemoon sun struck warm upon that 
wall, and the walk by its side. 

On the other si^e a nurse often carried 
little Dicky Bassett, the heir, but neither of 
the promenaders could see each other, for 
the wall. 

Richard Bassett, on the contranr, from 
" The Heir's Tower," could see both these 
little parties; and, as some men cannot 
keep away from what causes their pain, he 
used to watch these loving walks, and see 
Sir Charles get stronger and stronger, till, 
at last, instead of leaning on his beloved 
wife, he could march by her side, or even 
give her his arm. 

Yet the picture was, in a great degree, 
delusive; for, except during these blissful 
walks, when the sun shone on him, and 
Love and Beauty soothed him, Sir Charles 
was not the man he had been. The shake 



he had received appeared to have dama^ 
his temper strangely. He became so imta- 
ble, that several of his servants left him; 
and to his wife he repined ; and his child- 
less condition, which had been hitherto only 
a deep disappointment, became in his eyes 
a calamity that outweighed his many bless- 
ings. He had now narrowly escaped dying 
without an heir, and this seemed to sink 
into his mind, and, co-operating with the 
concussion his bnun haa received, brought 
him into a morbid state. He brooded on it, 
and spoke of it, and got back to it from 
every other topic, in a way that distressed 
Lady Bassett unspeakably. She consoled 
him bravely ; but often, when she was alone, 
her gentle courage gave way, and she cried 
bitterly to herseu*. 

Her distress had one effect she little ex- 
pected; it completed what her invariable 
Kindness had begun, and actually won the 
heart of a servant. Those who really know 
that tribe will agree with me that this was 
a marvellous conquest. Yet so it was; 
Mary Wells conceived for her a real affec- 
tion, a\id showed it by unremitting atten- 
tion, and a soft and tender voice, that 
soothed Lady Bassett, and drew many a 
silent but grateful glaiice from her dove- 
like eyes. 

Mary listened, and heard €nough to blame 
Sir Charles for his peevishness, and she be- 
gan to throw out little expressions of dis- 
satisfaction at him; but these were so 
promptly discouraged by the faithful wife, 
that she drew in again, and avoided that 
line. 

But one day, coming softly as a cat, she 
heard Sir Charles and Lady Sassett talking 
over their calamity. Sir Charles was say- 
ing that it was Heaven's curse : that all the 
poor people in the village had children; 
that lUchard Bassett's weak puny little 
wife had brought him an heir, and was 
about to make him a parent again. He 
alone was marked out, and doomed to be 
the last of his race. " And yet," said he, 
" if I had married any other woman, and 
you had married any other man, we should 
have had children by the dozen, I suppose." 

Upon the whole, mough he said nothing 
palpably vnjust, he had the tone of a man 
blaming his wife as the real cause of their 
joint cSamity, under which she suffered a 
deeper, nobler, and more silent anguish than 
himself. This was hard to bear, and, when 
Sir Charles went away, Mary Wells ran in 
with an angry expression on the tip of her 
tongue. 

She found Lady Bassett in a pitiable con- 
dition, lyin^, rather than leaning, on the 
table, with her hair loose about her, sob- 
bing as if her heart would break. 

All that was good in Mary Wells tugged 
at her heart-strings. She flung herself on 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



61 



? 



her knees beside her, and, seizing her mis- 
tress's hand, and drawing it to her bosom, 
fell to crying and sobbing alon^ with her. 

This canine devotion took Lady Bassett 
by surprise. She turned her tearful eyes 
upon her sympathizing servant, and said, 
**0 Macy!" and her soft hand pressed 
the girl's harder palm gratefully. They 
wept together. 

Mary spoke first "O my lady," she 
Bobbed, <4t breaks my heart to see you so. 
And what a shame to blame you for what 
is no fault of youm 1 If I was your husband, 
the cradles would soon be full in this house : 
but these fine gentlemen, they be old be- 
fore their time all with smoking of tobacco ; 
and then to come and lay the blame on 
wel" 

"Mary, I value you very much, —more 
than I ever did a servant in my life : but if 
you speak against vour master, we shall 
part." 

" La, my lady, I would n't for the world. 
Sir Charles is a perfect gentleman. Why, 
he gave me a sovereign only the other day 
for nursing of him : but he did n't ought to 
blame you for no fault of yourn, and to 
make you cry. It tears me inside out to see 
ou cry ; you that is so good to rich and poor. 

would n't vex myself so for that : dear 
heart, 'twas always so; God sends meat to 
one house, and mouths to another." 

** I could be patient if poor Sir Charles 
was not so unhappy," sighed Lady Bassett ; 
** but if ever you are a wife, Mary, you will 
know how wretched it makes us to see a 
beloved husband unhappy." 

" Then I 'd make him happy," said Mary. 

« Ah, if I only could I" 

"O, I could tell you away; for I have 
known it done ; and now he is as happy as 
a prince. You see, my lad v, some men are 
like children : to make them happy you 
must give them their own way ; and so, if 
I was in your place, I would n't make two 
bites of a cherry, for sometimes I think he 
will fret himself out of the world for wantr 
on't." 

« Heaven forbid I " 

« It is my belief you would not be long 
behind him." 

**No, Mary. Why should I ? 'J 

" Then — whisper, my lady I " 

And, although Lady Bassett drew slightly 
back at this freedom, Mary Wells poured 
into her ear a proposal that made her stare 
and shiver. 

As for the rirl's own face, it was as un- 
moved as if it nad been bronze. 

Lady Bassett drew back, and eyed her 

tftW ^ 

* ense 



taken in you. I am afraid you are a vicious 
girl. Leave me, please. 1 can't bear the 
sight of you." 

Mary went away, very red, and the tear 
in her eye. 

In the evening Lady Bassett gave Mary 
Wells a month's warning, and Mary ac- 
cepted it doggedly, and thought herself 
verv cruelly used. 

Alter tms mistress and maid did not ez- 
chan^ an unnecessary word for many days. 

This notice to leave was very bitter to 
Mary Wells, for she was in the very act of 
making a conquest Young Drake, a very 
small toner, and tenant of Sir Charles, had 
fallen in love with her, and she liked him, 
and had resolved he should marry her; with 
which view eho was playing the tender but 
coy maiden very prettily. But Drake, 
though young and very much in love, was 
advised by his mother, and evidently re- 
solved to go the old-fashioned way,— ^ keep 
company a year, oj^d know the girl before 
offering the ring. 

Just before her month was out a more 
serious trouble threatened Mary Wells. 

Her low artfiil amour with Richard Bas- 
sett had led to its natural results. By de- 
grees she had gone further than she intend- 
ed, and now the fatal consequences looked 
her in the face. 

She found herself In an odious position f 
for her growing regard for young Drake, 
though not a vicnent attachment, was enough 
to set her more and more against Bichifd 
Bassett; and she was preparing an entire 
separation from the latter, when the fatal 
truth dawned on her. 

Then there was a temporary revulsion of 
feeling ; she told her condition to Bassett, 
and implored him, with many tears, to aid 
her to disappear for a time, and hide her 
misfortune, especially from her sister. 

Mr. Bassett heard her, and then gave her 
an answer that made her blood run cold. 
"Why do you come to me?" said he. 
"Why don't you go to the right man, 
young Drake ? " 

He then told her he had had her watched, 
and she must not think to make a fool of 
him. She was as intimate with the young 
farmer as with him, and was in his company 
every day. 

Mary Wells admitted that Drake was 
courting her, but said he was a civil, re- 
spectful young man, who desired to make 
her his wife. "You have lost me that," 
said she, bmrsting into tears ; " and so, for 
God's sake, show yourself a man for once, 
and see me ^rough my tr<^)le." 

8 ^ A itire ae m h 



62 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



H 
O 

Si 



I 



S 



n 

H 



give YOU a wedding present; that is all I 
can do for any other man's 8wee|,hearc. I 
have pot my own family to provide for, and 
it is all I can contrive to make both ends 
meet." 

He was cold and inflexible to her prayers. 
Then she tried threats. He laughed at 
them. Said he, " The time is gone by for 
that : if you wanted to sue me for breach of 
promise, you should have done it at once, 
not waited eighteen months, and taken an- 
other sweetheart first. Come, come, you 
played your little game. You made me 
come here week aS/er week and bleed a 
sovereign. A woman that loved a man 
would never have been so hard on him as 
Yoa were on me. I grinned and bore it; 
but, when you ask me to own another man's 



child, a man of your own sort, that you axe 
in love with, — you hate me, — that is a lit- 
tle too much. "No, Mrs. Drake ; if that is 
your game, we will fight it out, — before the 
public, if you like." And having delivered 
this with a tone of harsh and loud defiance, 
he left her, — left her forever. She sat 
down upon the cold ground and rocked her- 
self. Despair was cold at her heart. 

She sat in that forlorn state for more than 
an hour. Then she got up and went to her 
mistress's room, and sat by the fire ; for her 
limbs were cold as well as her heart. 

She sat there gazing at the fire, and sigh- 
ing heavily, till Lady Bassett came up to 
bed. She then went through her work like 
an automaton, and every now and then a 
deep sigh came from her breast. 



A TEEBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



6a 



Lady Bassett heard her sigh, and looked 
at her. Her face was altered; a sort of 
BuUen misery was written on it. Lady Bas- 
sett was quick at reading faces, and this 
look alarmed her. " Mary," said she, kindly, 
** is there anything the matter ? " 

No reply. 

" Are you unwell ? " 

"No." 

** Are you in trouble ? " 

" Ay," with a burst of tears. 

Lady Bassett let her cry, thinking it 
would relieve her, and then spoke to her 
again with the languid pensiveness of a 
woman who had also her trouble. "You 
have been very attentive to Sir Charles, 
and a kind good servant to me, Mary." 

"You are mocking me, my lady," said 
Mary, bitterly. " You would n't have turned 
me off for a word if I had been a good 8e]> 
vant" 

Lady Bassett colored high, and was si- 
lenced for a moment. At last she said, " I 
feel it must seem harsh to you. You don't 
know how wicked it was to tempt me. But 
it is not as if you had done anything wrong. 
I do not feel bound to mention mere words. 
I shall give you an excellent character, 
Mary : indeed I have. I think I have got 
a good place for you. I shall know to-mor- 
row ; and, when it is settled, we will look 
over my wardrobe together." 

This proposal implied a boxful of presents, 
and would have made Mary's dark eyes 
flash' with delight at another time ; but she 
was past all uiat now. She interrupted 
Lady Bassett with this strange speech: 
"You are very kind, my lady; will you 
lend me the key of your medicine-chest ? " 

Lady Bassett looked surprised, but said, 
** Certainly, Mary," and held out the keys. 

But before Mary could take them she 
considered a moment, and asked her what 
medicine she required. 

" Only a little laudanum." 

" No, Mary ; not whilst you look like that 
and refuse to tell me your trouble. I am 
your mistress, and must exert my authority 
for your good. Tell me at once what is the 
matter." 

" I 'd bite my tongue off sooner." 

" You are wrong, Mary. I am sure I 
should be your best friend. I feel much 
indebted to you for the attention and the 
affection you have shown me ; and I am 

grieved to see you so despondent. Make a 
iend of me, my poor girl. There — think 
it over, and talK to me again to-morrow." 

Mary Wells took the true servant's view 
of Lady Bassett's kindness. She looked at 
it as a trap ; not, indeed^ set with malice 

aense, but still a trap. She saw that 
/ Bassett meant kindly at present, but 
for all that, she was sure that if she told 
the truth her mistress would turn agtunst 



her, and say, " Oh I I had no idea yonr 
trouble arose out of your own imprudence* 
I can do nothing for a vicious girL" 

She resolved therefore to say nothing, or 
else to tell some lie or other quite wide of 
the mark. 

Deplorable a» this young woman's situa- 
tion was, the duplicity and coarseness of 
mind which had Drought her into it would 
have somewhat blunted the mental agony 
such a situation must inflict; but it was 
aggravated by a special terror; she knew 
that, if she was found out, she would lose 
the only sure friend she had in the world. 

The fact is, Mary Wells had seen a great 
deal of life during the two years she was 
out of the reader's sight. Rhoda had been 
^ery good to her ; hi3 set her up in a lodg- 
ing-house, at her earnest request. She 
misconducted it^ and failed : threw it up in 
disgust, and begged Bhoda to put her in the 
public line. Bhoda complied. Mary made 
a mess of the public-house. Then Bhoda 
showed her she was not fit to govern any- 
tl^ng, and drove her into service again; 
and, in that condition, having no more cares 
than a child, and plenty of work to do, and 
many a present fnxn Bhoda; she had been 
happy. 

. But Rhoda, thoi^h she forgave blunders, 
incapacity for business, and waste of money, 
had always told her plainly there was one 
thing she never would forgive. 

.Rhoda Marsh had become a good Chris- 
tian in every respect but one. The male 
rake reformed' is rather tolerant; but the 
female rake reformed is, as a rule, bitterly 
intolerant of female frailty; and Rhoda 
carried this female characteristic to an ex- 
treme, both in word and in deed. They were 
only half-sifiters after all ; and Mary knew 
that she would be cast off forever if she 
deviated firom virtue so far as to be found 
out. 

Besides the general warning, there had 
been a special one. When she read Mary's 
first letter from Huntercombe Hall, Rhoda 
was rather taken aback at first; but, on 
reflection, she wrote to Mary, saying she 
could stay there on two conditions: she 
must be discreet, and never menjtion her 
sister Rhoda in the house, and she must 
not be tempted to renew her acquaintance 
with Richard Bassett. 

" Mind," said she, " if ever you speak to 
that villain, I shall hear of it, and I shall 
never notice you again." 

This was the galling present and the dark 
future which had made so young and un- 
sentimental a woman as Mary Wells think 
of suicide for a moment or two ; and it now 
deprived her of her rest, and next day kept 
her thinkings and brooding all the time her 
now leaden limbs were carrying her through 
her menial duties. 



64 



A TEfl^BIBLE TEMPTATION. 



The afternoon was sunny, and Sir Charfes 
and Lady Bassett took their usual walk. 

Mary Wells went a little waiy with them, 
looking very miserable. Lady Bassett ob- 
served, and said kindly, "Mary, you can 
give me that shawl, I will not keep you ; go 
where you like till five o'clock." 

Mary never said so much as "Thank 
you." She put the shawl round her mis- 
tress, and then went slowly back. She sat 
down on the stone steps, and glared stu- 
pidly at the scene, and felt very miserable 
and leaden. She seemed to be stuck in a 
sort of slough of despond, and could not 
move in any direction to get out of it. 

While she sat in thi& gloomy revery a 
gentleman walked up to the door, and Mary 
Wells lifted her head and looked at him. 
Notwithstanding her condition, her eyes 
rested on him with some admiration, for he 
was a model of a man : six feet high, and 
built like an athlete. His face was oval, 
and his skin dark but glowing; his hair, 
eyebrows, and long eyelashes black as jet ; 
his gray eyes large and tender. He was 
dresFed in black, with a white tie, and his 
clothes were well cut, and seemed superlar 
tively so, owing to the importance and sym- 
metiy of the figure they covered. It was 
the new vicar, Mr. Angelo. 

He smiled on Mary graciously, and asked 
her how Sir Charles was. 

She said he was better. 

Then Mr. Angelo asked more tiopudly, 
was Lady Bassett at home. 

" She is just gone out, sir." 

A look of deep disappointment crossed 

Mr. Angelo's face. It did not escape Mary 

Wells. She looked at him full, and, lowers 

in<r her voice a little said ^*dSar » 'ai nla * 
h ry ivh, g 



shrabbeiy with a speed Mary Wells had 
never seen equalled. , He had won the 200- 
yard race at Oxford in his day. 

The aeonized screams were repeated, and 
Mary Wells screamed in response as she 
ran towards the place. 



CHAPTER THE TWELFTH. 

Sib Chables Bassett was in high 
spirits this afternoon, indeed a little too 
high. 

« Bella, my love," said he, « now 1 11 tell 
you why I made you give me your signature 
this morning. The money has all come in 
for the wood, and this very day I sent Old- 
field instructions to open an account for you 
with a London banker." 

Lady Bassett looked at him with tears of 
tenderness in her eyes. "Deareet," said 
she, " I have plenty of money ; but the love, 
to which I owe thispresent, that is my trea- 
sure of treasures. Well, I accept it, Charles ; 
but don't ask me to spend it on myself; 1 
should feel I was robbing you." 

"It is nothing to me how you spend it; I 
have saved it from the enemy." 

Now that very enemy heard these words. 
He had looked from the " Heir's Tower " 
and seen Sir Charles and Lady Bassett 
walking on their side the wall, and the nurse 
carrying his heir on the otlier side. 

He had come down to look at his child 
in the sun; but he walked softly, on the 
chance of overhearing Sir Charles and Lady 
Bassett say something or other about his p 
hea}]^' h^ desicrn went no forther h ht Thr 
tlU th 1 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



65 



linn 



liye I '11 woik for you, and against that yil- 
lain." 

«* Charles," cried Lady Bassett, « I im- 
plore you to turn your thoughts away from 
that man, and to give up these idle schemes. 
Were you to die 1 should soon follow you ; 
80 pray do not shorten your life by these 
an^ passions, or you wiJl shorten mine." 

This appeal acted powerfully on Sir 
Charles, and he left off suddenly with 
flushed cheeks, and tried to compose him- 
self. 

But his words had now raised a corre- 
sponding fury on the other side of that boun- 
dary wall. Richard Bassett, stun^ with 
rage, and, unlike his high-bred cousin, ac- 
customed to mix cunning even with his ^nry, 
5ave him a terrible blow, — a very coup de 
amac. He spoke at him ; he ran forward 
'to the nurse, and said very loud, <* Let me 
see the little darling; he does you cred- 
it ; what fat cheeks I — what arms I — an 
infant Hercules 1 There, take him up the 
mound. Now lifb him in your arms, and let 
him see his inheritance. Higher, nurs3, 
higher. Ay, crow away, youngster; all 
that is yours, — house, and land, and all. 
They may steal the trees, they can't make 
away with the broad acres. Ha I I believe 
he understands every word, nurse. See 
how he smiles and crows." 

At the sound of Bassett's voice Sir Charles 
started, and at the first taunt, he uttered 
something between a moan and a roar as of 
a wounded lion. 

" Come away," cried Lady Bassett. " He 
is doing it on purpose." 

But me stabs came too fast. Sir Charles 
shook her off, and looked wildly round for 
a weapon to strike his insulter with. 

« Curse him and his brat 1 " he cried. 
"Thev shall neither of them— I'll kill 
them both." 

He sprang fiercely at the wall, and, not- 
withstanding his weakly condition, raised 
himself above it, and glared over with a face 
80 full of fury that Richard Bassett recoiled 
in dismay for a moment, and said, *< Run I 
run 1 He '11 hurt the child I " 

But the next moment Sir Charles's hands 
lost their power; he uttered a miserable 
moan, and fell gasping under the wall in an 
epileptic fit, with all the terrible symptoms 
I have described in a previous portion of 
this story. These were new to his poor 
wife, ana, as she strove in vain to control 
his fearful convulsions, her shrieks rent the 
air. Indeed, her screams were so appalling 
that Bassett himself sprang at the wail and, 
by a great effort of strength, drew himself 
u and ered down with white face iS'*^^ 

o dan N 



At that moment humanity prevailed oyer 
everything, and he flung himself oyer the 
wall, and in his haste got rather a heavy 
fall himself. << It is a fit I " he cried, and, 
running to the brook close by, filled his 
hat with water, and was about to dash it 
over Sir Charles's face. 

But Lady Bassett repelled him with hoi> 
ror. " Don't touch him, you villain I You 
have killed him." And then she shrieked 
again. 

At this moment Mr. Angelo dashed up, 
and saw at a glance what it was, for he had 
studied medicine a little. He said, <' It is 
epilepsy. Leave him to me." He managed, 
by his great strength, to keep the patient's 
head down till the face ^t pale and the 
limbs still ; then, telling Lady Bassett not 
to alarm herself too much, he lifted Sir 
Charles, and actually proceeded to carry 
him towards the house. Lady Bassett, 
weeping, proffered her assistance, and so 
did Mary Wells ; but this athlete said a lit- 
tle brusquely, '' No, no ; I have practised 
this sort of tiling " ; and, partly by his rare 
strength, partly by his familiarity with all 
athletic feats, carried the insensible baronet 
to his own house, as I have seen my accom* 
plished friend Mr. Henry Neville carry a 
tall actress on the mimic stage ; only, the 
distance being much longer, 3ie perspira- 
tion rolled down Mr. Angelo's face with so 
sustained an effort. 

He laid him gently on the floor of his 
study, while Lady Bassett sent two grooms 
galloping for medical advice, and lialf a 
dozen servants running for this and that 
stimulant, as one thing after another oc- 
curred to her agitated mind. The yery 
rustling of dresses and scurry of feet over- 
head told all the house a great calamity had 
stricken it. 

Lady Bassett hun^ over the sufferer, 
sighing piteously, and was for supporting 
his beloyed head with her tender arm ; but 
Mr. Angelo told her it was better to keep 
the head low, that the blood might flow 
back to the yessels of the brmn. 

She cast a look of melting gratitude on 
her adviser, and composed herself to apply 
Stimulants under his direction and advice. 

Thus judiciously treated. Sir Charles be- 
gan to recover consciousness in part He 
stared and muttered incoherently. Lady 
Bassett thanked God on her knees, and then 
turned to Mr. Angelo with streandng eyes, 
and stretched out both hands to him, with 
an indescribable eloquence of gratitude. 
He gave her his hands timidly, and she 
pressed them both with all her soul. Un- 
' u 1 eh 



^-jea 



H 



66 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Bat at this moment Sir Charles broke 
out in a sort of dry, business-like voice, 
«« I '11 kill the viper and his brood." Then 
he stared at Mr. Angelo, and could not 
make him out at first. *< Ah 1 " said he, 
complacently, '^this is my private tutor: a 
man of learning. I read Homer with him; 
but I have fotgotten it, all but one line, — 

"vifirtos 6f Tarepa Kreiyuv vcuSas iraraXeurec." 

That 's a beautiM verse. Homer, old boy, 
I '11 take vour advice : I '11 kill the heir-at- 
law, and his brat as well, and, when they 
are dead and well seasoned, I '11 sell them 
to that old timber-merchant, the devil, to 
make hell hotter. Order my horse, some- 
body, this minute." 

During this tirade Lady Bassett's hands 
kept clutching, as if to stop it, and her eyes 
filled with horror. 

Mr. Angelo came again to her rescue. He 
affected to take it all as a matter of course, and 
told the servants they need not wait, Sir 
Charles was coming to himself by degrees, 
and the danger was all over. 

But when the servants were sone he said 
to Lady Bassett, seriously, <'I would not 
let any servant be about Sir Charles, except 
this one. She is evidently attached to vou. 
Suppose we take him to his own room.' 

He then made Mary Wells a signal, and 
they carried him up stpirs. 

Sir Charles talked all the while with 
pitiable vehemence; indeed it was a con- 
tinuous babble, like a brook. 

Mary Wells was taking him into his own 
room, but Lady Bassett said, " No ; into my 
room. O, I will never let him. out of my 
sight again." 

Then they carried him into Lady Bas- 
sett's bedroom, and laid him gently down 
on a couch there. 

He looked round, observed the locality, 
and uttered a little sigh of complacency. 
He left off talking for the present, and 
seemed to doze. 

The place, which exerted this soothing 
influence on Sir Charles, had a contrary and 
strange effect on Mr. Angelo. 

It was of palatial size, and lighted by 
two side windows and an oriel window at 
the end ; the delicate stone shafts and mul- 
lions were such aa are oftener seen in cathe- 
drals than in mansions ; the deep embrasure 
was filled with beautiful flowers and lus- 
cious exodc leaf-plants from the hot-houses. 
The floor was c^ nolished oak, and some 
feet of this were len bare on all sides of the 
great Aubusson carpet made expressly for 
the room. By this means cleanliness pene- 
trated into every comer ; the oak was not 
only cleaned, but polished like a mirror. 
The curtains were Frengl^chi^tzes, ^f s^b- 



roi^tinted satin paper, to which French 
art, unrivalled in these matters, had eiven 
the appearance .of being stuffed, padded, 
and divided into a thousand cosey pillows by 
gold-beaded nails. 

The wardrobes were of satin-wood. The 
bedsteads, one small, one large, were plain 
white, and sold in moderation. 

All this, nowever, was but the frame to 
the delightful picture of a wealthy yooBg 
lady's nest. 

The things that startled and thrilled Mr. 
Angelo were those his imaginatipn could 
see the fair mistress using, xhe exquisite 
toilet-table, the Dresden mirror, with its 
delicate china frame muslined and ribboned, 
the great ivory-handled brushes, the array 
of cut-glass gold-mounted bottles, and all 
the artillery of beauty; the baths of various 
shapes and sizes, in which she laved her 
fair body; the bath sheets, and the profu- 
sion of linen, fine and coarse. The bed, with 
its frilled sheets, its huge frilled pillows, and 
its eider-down quilt, covered with bright 
purple silk. 

A delicate perfume came through the 
wardrobes, where strata of fine linen from 
Hamburg and Belfast lay on scented herbs ; 
and this, permeating the room, seemed the 
very perfume of Beauty itself, and intoxi- 
cated the brain. Imagmation conjured nic- 
tures proper to the scene ; a goddess at ner 
toilet^ that glorious hair lying tumbled on 
the pillow, and burning in contrasted color 
with the snowy sheets and with the purple 
quilt* 

From this revenr he was awakened by a 
sofl; voice that said, "How can I ever thank 
you enough, sir ? " 

Mr. Angelo controlled himself, and ^d, . 
" By sending for me whenever I can be of 
the slightest use." Then, comprehending 
his danger, he added, hastily, " And I fear 
I am none whatever now." Then he rose 
to 0:0. 

Lady Bassett ^ave him both her hands 
again, and this tune he kissed one of them 
au in a flurry ; he could not resist the temp- 
tation. Then he hmried away, with his 
whole soul in a tumult. Lady Bassett blush- 
ed, and returned to her husband's side. 

Doctor Willis came, heard the case, looked 
rather grave and puzzled; and wrote the 
inevitable prescription ; for the established 
theory is, that man is cured by drugs alone. 

Sir Charles wandered a little while the 
doctor was there, and continued to wander 
after he was gone. 

Then Mary Wells begged leave to sleep 
in the dressing-room. 

Lady Bassett thanked her, but said she 
thouorbt it unnecessary ; a good night's rest, 
she hoped, would make a great change in 

SI d .kil d H" f ase s ^ to(# 



A TESRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



67 



CO 



n 

CO 

< 

O 



(4 

pi!; 

O 






etly brought her little b6d into the dressing- 
room, and laid it on the floor. 

Her judgment proved right ; Sir Charles 
was no better next day, nor the day after. 
He brooded for hours at a time, and when 
he talked there was an incoherence in his 
discourse ; above aU, he seemed incapable 
of talking long on any subject without com- 
ing back to the fatal one of his childless- 
ness; and when he did return to this it 
was sure to make him either deeply dejected 
or else violent against Richard JBassett and 
his son ; he swore at them, and said they 
were waiting for his shoes. 

Lady Bassett's anxiety deepened; strange 
fears came over her. She put subtle ques- 
tl nsiis) ^A d»ctt>r * he returned obscure an- 



swers, and went on prescribing medicines 
that had no effect. 

She looked wistfully into Mary Wells's 
face, and there she saw her own thoughts 
reflected. 

"Mary," said she, one day, in a low 
voice, " what do they say in the kitchen ? " 

" Some say one thing, some another. 
What can they say ? They never see him, 
and never shall, while I am here." 

This reminded Lady Bassett that Mary's 
time was up. The idea of a stranger tak- 
ing her place, and seeing Sir Charles in his 
£ resent condition, was horrible to her. " O 
lary," said she, piteously, " surely you will 
not leave me just now I *' 

« Do 9jii5ph me to sta m 1*4 ? " 



68 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



** Can yon ask it ? How can I hope to 
find each devotion as^ yourg, such fidelity, 
and, above all, such secrecy ? Ah, Mary, I 
am the most unhappy lady in all England 
this day." 

Then she began to cry bitterlv, and Mary 
Wells cried with her, and said she would 
stay as long as she could ; but, said she, '< I 
gave you good advice, my lady, and so you 
will find." 

Lady Bassett made no answer whatever, 
and that disappointed Mary, for she wanted 
a discussion. 

The days rolled on, and brought no change 
fi)r the better. Sir Charles continued to 
brood on his one misfortune. He refused 
to eo out of doors, even into the garden, 
giving as his reason that he was not fit to 
be seen. "I don't mind a couple of wo- 
men," said he, gravely ; << but no man shall 
see Charles Bassett in his present state. 
No. Patience ! Patience 1 I '11 wait till 
Heaven takes pity on me. After all, it 
would be a shame that such a race as mine 
should die out, and these fine estates go to 
blackguards and poachers and anonymous 
letter-writers." 

Lady Bassett used to coax him to walk in 
the corridor; but, even then, he ordered 
Mary Wells to keep watch, and let none of 
the servants come that way. From words 
he let fall, it seems he thought ^' childless- 
ness " was written on his face, and that it 
had somehow degraded his features. 

Now a wealthy and popular baronet could 

not thus immure himself for any length of 

. time without exciting curiosity, 'and setting 

all manner of rumors afloat Visitors poured 

into Huntercombe to inquire. 

Lady Bassett excused herself to many; 
but some of her own sex she thought it best 
to encounter. This subjected her to the insidi- 
ous attacks of curiositv admirably veiled with 
sympathv. The assailants were marvellously 
subtle; but so was the devoted wife. She 
gave kiss for kiss, and equivoque for equi- 
voque : she seemed grateful for each visit ; 
but they ^t nothing out of her, except that 
Sir Charles's nerves were shaken by his fall, 
and that she was playing the tyrant for once, 
and insisting on absolute quiet for her patient. 

One visitor she never refused, — Mr. An- 
gelo. He, from the first, had been her true 
Mend; had carried Sir Charles away from 
the enemy, and then had dismissed the gap- 
ing servants. She saw that he had divined 
her calamity, and she knew, from things he 
raid to her, that he would never breathe 
a word out of doors. She confided in him. 
She told him Mr. Bassett was the real cause 
of all this misery. He had insulted Sir 
Charles : the nature of this insult she sup- 
pressed. " And, O Mr. Angelo," said she, 
'that man is my terror night and day. I 



don't know what he can do ; but I feel he 
will do something, if ever he learns my poor 
husband's condition." 

<< 1 trust, Lady Bassett, you are convinced 
he will learn nothing fix>m me. Indeed, I 
will tell the ruffian anything you like : he 
has been sounding me a little ; called to in- 
quire after his poor cousin — the hypocrite ! " 

" How good you are! Please tefi him ab- 
solute repose is prescribed for a time ; but 
there is no doubt of Sir Charles's ultimate 
recovery." 

Mr. Angelo promised heartilv. 

Mary Wells was not enough : a woman 
must have a man to lean on in trouble ; and 
Lady Bassett leaned on Mr. Angelo. She 
even obeyed him. One day he told her 
that her own health would fail if she sat al- 
ways in the sick-room; she must walk an 
hour every day. 

^Must i ? " said she, sweetly. 

" Yes, even if it is only m your own 
garden." 

From that time she used to walk with him 
nearly every day. 

Richard Bassett saw this from his tow- 
er of observation, — saw it, and chuckled. 
" Aha ! " said he. *' Husband sick in bed. 
Wife walking in the garden with a young 
man, — a parson too. He is dark, she is 
fair. Something ,will come of this. Ha, 
ha I" 

Lady Bassett now talked of sending to 
London for advice; but Mary Wells dis- 
suaded her. ** Physic can't cure him : there 's 
only one can cure^him, and that is yourself 
my lady." 

" Ah, would to Heaven I could I " 

" Try my way, and you will see, -my lady." 

<* What, that way I O no, no! " 

" Well, then, if you won't, nobody else 
can." 

Such speeches as these, often repeated, 
on the one hand, and Sir Charles's melan- 
choly on the other, drove Lady Bassett 
almost wild with distress and perplexity. 

Meanwhile her vague fears of Ricnard 
Bassett were being gradually realized. 

Bassett employed Wheeler to sound Dr. 
Willis Bk^ to his patient's condition. 

Dr. Willis, true to the honorable tra- 
ditions of his profession, would tell him 
nothinsr. But Dr. Willis had a wife. She 
pumped him, and Wheeler pumped her. 

By this channel Wheeler got a somewhat 
exaggerated account of Sjr Charles's state. 
He carried it to Bassett,. and the pair put 
their heads together. 

The consultation lasted all night, and 
finally a comprehensive plan of action was 
settled. Wheeler stipulated that the law 
should not be broken in the smallest par- 
ticular, but only stretched. 

Four days after this conference Mr. Baa- 
sett, Mr. Wheeler, and two spruce gentle- 



A TEMIIBLE TEMPTATION, 



69 



men dressed in black, sat upon the << Heir's tress. << He came from Dr. Willis, my lady ; 

Tower " watching Hnntercombe Hall. it was Dr. Mosely ; and the other gent was 

They watched, and watched, until they a suigeon." 

saw Mr. Angelo make his usual daily call. << Twt) medical men, sent by Dr. Willis ? " 

Then they watched, and watched, until said Lady Bassett, knitting her brow with 

Lady Bassett and the youn^ clergyman wonder and a shade of doubt, 

came out, and strolled together into the << A couple of her own sweethearts, sent 

shrubbery. by herself," suggested Sir Charles. 

Then the two gentlemen went down the Lady Bassett sat down, and wrote a hasty 

stairs, and were hastily conducted by Bas- letter to Dr. Willis. " Send a groom with 

sett to Huntercombe Hall. it, as fast as he can ride," said she ; and 

They rang the bell, and the ^ller said, she was much discomposed, and nervous, 

in a business-like voice, *' Dr. Mosely, from and impatient, till the answer came back. 

Dr. Willis." Dr. Willis came in person. *< I sent no 

Mary Wells was sent for, and Dr. Mosely one to take my place," eaid he ; "I esteem 

said, " Dr. Willis is unable to come to-day, my patient too nighly to let any stranger 

and has sent me." ^ prescribe for him, or even see him, — for a 

Mary Wells conducted him to the patient, few days to come." 

The other gentleman followed. Lady Bassett sank into a chair, and her 

<' Who is this ? " said Mary. ** I can't eloquent face filled with an undefinable 

let all the world in to see him." terror. 

" It is Mr. Donkyn, the surgeon. Dr. Mary Wells, being on her defence, put in 

Willis wished the patient to be examined her word. <' I am sure he was a doctor ; 



with the stethoscope. You can stay outside, 
Mr. Donkyn." 

This new doctor announced himself to 
Sir Charles, felt his pulse, and entered at 
once into conversation with him. 

-Sir Charles was in a talking mood, and 
very soon said one or two inconsecutive 



things. Dr. Mosely looked at Marv Wells, it has ever benefited, 



for he wrote a prescription, and here 't is." 
Dr. Willis examined the prescription with 
no fi"iendly eye. 

*^ Acetate of morphia I The verr worst 
thing that could be given him. This is the 
fitvorite of the specialists. This fatal drug 
has eaten away a thousand brains for one 



and said he would write a prescription, 

As soon as he ^had written it, " Mr. Don- 
kyn 1 •• he said, very loud, " Mr. Donkyn 1 " 

The door instantly opened, and that 
worthy appeared on the threshold. 

" Oblige me," said the doctor to his con- 
frere, " by seeing this prescription made up ; 
and you c^n examine the patient yourself, 
but do not fatigue him." 

With this he retired swifUy, and strolled 
down the corridor to wait for his com- 
panion. 

He had not to wait long. Mr. Donkyn 
adopted a free-and-easy style with Sir 



* Special- 



<< Ah ! " said Lady Bassett. 
ists * 1 what are they ? " 

'< Medical men who confine their practice 
to one disease." 

** Mad doctors, he means," said the pa- 
tient, very gravely. 

Lady Bassett turned very pale. " Then 
those were mad doctors." 

"Never you mind, Bella," said Sir 
Charles. " I kicked the fellow handsomely." 

** I am sorry to hear it. Sir Charles." 

« Why ? " 

Dr. Willis looked at Lady Bassett, as 
much as to say, " I shall not give him my 



Charles, and that gentleman marked his real reason"; and then said, "I think it 

sense of the indi^ity by turning him out very undesirable you should be excited and 

of the room, and kicking him industriously provoked until your heallh is thoroughly 

half-way down the passage. restored." 

Messrs. Mosely and Donkyn retired to Dr. Willis wrote a prescription, and re- 

Hio^hmore. tired. 

Bassett was particularly pleased at the Lady Bassett sank into a chair, and 

Baronet having kicked Donkyn ; so was trembled all over. Her divining fit was on 

Wheeler ; so was Dr. Mosely. Donkyn her ; she saw the hand of the enemy, and 

alone did not share the general enthusiasm, filled with vague fears. 



ba llW?" d T# ISL "^a 9 43* ^•'" 1 



a y '• ^M?s 



70 



A TEEEIBLE TEMPTATION. 



a moment, and strikes ; and then is gone 
and leaves his victim trembling." 

Then she slipped into the dressing-room, 
and became hysterical, out of her husband's 
sight and hearing. 

Mary Wells nursed her, and, when she 
was better, whispered in her ear, ^* Lose no 
more time then. Cure him. You know 
the way." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH. 

In the present condition of her mind these 
words produced a strange effect on Lady 
Bassett. She quivered, and her eyes began 
to rove in that peculiar way I have already 
noticed ; and then she started up, and walked 
wildly to and fro ; and then she kneeled down 
and prayed ; and then, alarmed, perplexed, 
exhausted, she went and leaned her head on 
her patient's shoulder, and wept softly, a long 
time. 

Some days passed, and no more strangers 
attempted to see Sir Charles. 

Lady Bassett was beginning to breathe 
again, when she was afflicted by an unwel- 
come discovery. 

Mary Wells fainted away so suddenly 
that, but for Lady Bassett*s quick eye ana 
ready hand, she would have fallen heav- 
Uy. 

Lady Bassett laid her head down, and 
loosened her stays, and discovered her con- 
dition. She said nothing till the young 
woman was well, and then she taxed her 
with it. 

Mary denied it plump; but, seeing her 
mistress's disgust at the falsehood, she owned 
it with many tears. 

Being asked how she could so far forget 
herself, she told Lady Bassett she had long 
been courted by a respectable young man ; 
he had come to the village, bound on a three 
years* voyage, to bid her ^ood by, and, what 
with love and grief at parting, they had been 
betrayed into folly ; and now he was on the 
salt seas, little dreaming in what condition 
he had left her ; ** and/' said she, " before 
ever he can write to me, and I to him, I 
shall be a ruined girl ; that is why I wanted 
to put an end to myself; — I will, too, un- 
less I can find some way to hide it from the 
world." 

Lady Bassett begged her to give up those 
de rate thoughts ; she would think what 



had laid aside her trouble, her despair, and 
given her sorrowful mind to nursingmnd com- 
tbrting Sir Charles. This would have out- 
weighed a crime^ and it made the wife's 
bowels yearn over the unfortunate girl. 
" Mary," said she, <' others must jadge you ; 
I am a wife and can only see vour fidelity 
to my poor husband. I don't know what I 
shall do without you, but 1 think it is my 
duty to send you to him if possible. You 
are sure he really loves you ? " 

" Me cross the seas after a young man ? " 
said Mary Wells. <^ I 'd as lieve hang my- 
self on the nighest tree, and make an end. 
No, my lady, n you are really my friend, let 
me stay here as long as I can, — I will 
never go down stairs, to be seen, — and then 
give me money enough to get my trouble 
over unbeknown to m^ sister; she is all 
my fear. She is married to a gentleman, 
and got plenty of money, and I shall never 
want while she lives, and behave myself; 
but she would never forgive me if she knew. 
She is a hard woman ; she is not like you, 
my lady. I 'd liever cut my hand off, ibaa 
1 'd trust her as 1 would you." 

Lady Bassett was not auite insensible to 
this compliment ; but she felt uneasy, ^* What, 
help you to deceive your sister 1 " 

" For her good. Why, if any one was to 
go and tell her about me now, she 'd hate 
them for telling her almost as much as she 
would hate me." 

Lady Bassett was sore perplexed. Un- 
able to see quite clear in the matter, she 
naturally reverted to her husband, and his 
interest. That dictated her course. She 
said, " Well, stay with us, Mary, as long as 
you can : and then money shall not be want- 
ing to hide your shame from all the world : 
but I hope, when the time comes, you will 
alter your mind, and tell your sister. May 
I ask what her name is ? " 

Mary, after a moment's hesitation, said 
her name was Marsh. 

*^ I know a Mrs. Manh," sud Lady Bas- 
sett ; " but, of course, thfit is not your sis- 
ter. My Mrs. Marsh is rather fair." 

** So is my sister, for that matter." 

"And tall?" 

"Yes; but you never saw her. You'd 
never forget her, if you had. She has got 
eyes like a lion." 

"Ahl Does she ride?" 

" O, she is famous for that ; and driving, 
and all." 

"Indeed I But no; I see no resem- 



A TEBRIBLE TEUFTATION. 



71 



The day waa not over yet Just before 
diDne]>time a fly from the station drove to 
the door, and Mr. Oldfield sot out. 

He was detained in the nail by Sentinel 
M088. 

Lad^ Bassett came down to him. At the 
very sight of him she trembled, and said, 
"ifichaid Bassett?" 

" Yes," said Mr. Oldfield, "he is m the 
field agaia. He has been to the Court of 
Chancery ex parte^ and obtained an injunc- 
tion ad interim to stay waste. Not another 
tree must be cut ^own on this estate for the 
present." 

♦< Thank Heaven it is no worse than that. 
Not another tree shall be felled on the 
grounds." 

" Of course not But they will not stop 
there. If we do not move to dissolve the 
injunction, I fear they will go on, and ask 
the Court to administer the estate, with a 
view to all interests concerned, especially 
those of the heir-at-law and his son." 

" What, iwhile my husband lives ? " 

" If they can prove him dead in law." 

" I don't understand you, Mr. Oldfield." 

" They have got affidavits of two medical 
inen that he is insane." 

Lady Bassett uttered a faint scream, and 
pat her hand to her heart 

" And, of course, they will use that ex- 
traordinary fall of timber as a further proof, 
and also as a reason why the Court should 
interfere to protect the heir-at-law. Their 
case is well got up, and very strong," said 
Mr. Oldfield, regretfully. 

" Well, but you are a lawyer; and you 
have always beaten them hitherto." 

"I had law ana fact on my side. It 
is not eo now. To be frank. Lady Bassett, 
I don't see what I can do, but watch the 
ca«e, on the chance of some error, or ille- 
gality. It is very hard to fi^ht a case when 
you cannot put your client forward — and I 
suppose that would not be safe. How un- 
fortunate that you have no children ! " 

" Children 1 How could they help 
us?" 

" What a question I How could Richard 
Bassett move the Court, if he was not the 
heir-at-law?" 

After a long conference, Mr. Oldfield re- 
turned to town, to see what he could do in 
the way of procrastination, and Lady Bas- 
sett promised to leave no stone unturned to 
cure Sir Charles in the mean time. Mr. 
Oldfield was to write immediately if any 



one acqusdnted with her fcx might see that 
some strange conflict was going on in her 
troubled mind. 

Every now and then she would come and 
cling to her husband, and cry over him ; 
and that seemed to still the tumult of her 
soul a little. 

She never slept all that night ; and, next 
day, clinging in her helpless agony to the 
nearest branch, she told Mary Wells what 
Bassett was doing, and said, " What shall I 
do ? He is not mad ; but he is in so very 
precarious a state that, if they get at him 
to torment him, they will drive him mad 
indeed." 

*^^ly lady," said Mary Wells, "I can't 
ffo froip my word. 'T is no use making two 
bites of a cherry. A\^e must cure him : and 
if we don't, you 'U never rue it but once, 
and that will be all your life." 

" I should look on myself with horror af- 
terwards were 1 to deceive him now." 

" No, my lady, you are too fond cf him 
for that Once you saw him happy, you 'd 
be happv too, no matter how it came about. 
That fiichard Bassett will turn him cut of 
this else. I am sure he will ; he is a hard- 
hearted villain." 

Lady Bassett's eyes flashed fire ; then her 
eyes roved ; then she sighed deeply. 

Her powers of resistance were beginning 
to relax. As for Mary Welle, she gave her 
no peace ; she kept instilling her mind into 
her mistress's, with the pertinacity of a 
small but ever-dripping fount, and we know 
both by science and poetry that many small 
drops of water will wear a hole in marble. 

" Gutta cavat lapidem non tI ecd ssepe cadendo." 

And in th^ midst of all a letter came 
from Mr. Oldfield, to tell her that Mr. Bas- 
sett threatened to take out a commissicn ile 
lunaticoj and she must prepare Sir Charles 
for an examination ; for, if reported in?ane, 
the Court would administer the estates ; but 
the heir-at law, Mr. Bassett, would have the 
ear of the Court, and the right of application, 
and become virf ually master of Huntercombe 
and Bastett ; and perhaps, considering the 
spirit by which he was animated, wculd con- 
trive to occupy the very Hall itself. Lady 
Bassett was in the dressing-room, when fho 
received this blow, and it drove' her almost 
frantic. She bemoaned her husband ; she 
prayed God to take them both, and Jet their 
enemy have his will. She wept and raved, 
and at the height of her distress, came from 
the other roomo fe 1 he »" Childless I 



72 



A TEREIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Mary Wells bow trembled a little in her 
torn ; but 8he seized the opportunity, — 

" My lady, whatever I say, you *11 stand 
to?" 

" Whatever you say, 111 stand to." 



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH. 

Mart Wells, like other uneducated 
women, was not accustomed to think long 
and earnestly one any on subject; to use an 
expression she once applied with far less 
justice to her sister, her mind was like run- 
ning water. 

But gestation affects the brains of such 
women, and makes them think more stead- 
ily, and sometimes very acutely ; added to 
which, the peculiar dangers and difficulties 
that beset this drl during that anxious pe- 
riod stimulated ner wits to the very utmost. 
Often she sat quite still for hours at a time, 
brooding, and brooding, and asking herself 
how she could turn each new and unex- 
pected event to her own benefit. Now, so 
much does mental force depend on that ex- 
ercise of keen and long attention, in which 
her sex is generally deficient, that this young 
woman's powers were more than doubled 
since the day she first discovered her condi- 
tion, and began to work lier brains night 
and day for her defence. 

Gradually, as events 1 have related un- 
folded themselves, she caught a glimpse ot 
this idea, that if she could get her mistress 
to have a secret, her mistress would help 
her to keep her own. Hence her insidious 
whispers, and her constant praises of Mr. 
An^elo, who, she saw, was infatuated with 
Lady Bassett. Yet the designing creature 
was acbually fond of her mistress ; and so 
strangely compounded is a heart of this low 
kind, that the extraordinary step she now 
took was half afiectionate impulse, half ego- 
tistical design. 

She made a motion with her hand invit- 
i*ii; Lady Bassett to listen, and stepped into 
Sir Charles's room. 

"Childless! childless I childless I" 

" Hush, sir," said Mary Wells. « Don't 
say so. We sha' n't be many months with- 
out one, please Heaven." 

Sir Charles shook his head sadly. 

" Don't you believe me ? " 

"No." 

« What, did ever I tell you a lie?** 

" No : but you are mistaken. She would 
have told me." 

" Well, sir, my lady is young and shy, and 
I think she is afnaid of disappointing you 
after all • for ou know s^ thefe 's mai^ a 



Sir Charles was mfi6h agitated, and said 
he would give her a hundred guineas if that 
was true. " Where is my darling wife ? 
Why do I hear this through a servant ? " 

Mary Wells cast a look at the door, and 
said for Lady Bassett to hear, " She is re- 
ceiving company. Now, sir, I have told 
you good news : will you do something to 
oblige me ? You should n't speak of it di- 
rect to my lady just yet; and, if you want 
all to go well, you must n't vex my lady, as 
you are doing now. What I mean, you 
must n't be so down-hearted, — there 's no 
reason for 't, — and you must n't coop your- 
self up on this floor : it sets the folks talk- 
ing, and worries mv lady. You should give 
her every chance, being the way she is." 

Sir Charles said eagerly he would not vex 
her for the world. " I '11 walk in the gar- 
den," said he; "but as for going abroad, 
you know I am not in a fit condition yet : 
my mind is clouded." 

" Not as I see." 

" O, not always. But sometimes a cloud 
seems to get 'into my head; and, if I was in 
public, I might do or say something discred- 
itable. I would rather die." 

" La, sir 1 " said Mary Wells, in a broad, 
hearty way, " a cloud in your head I You *ve 
had a bad fall, and a fit at top on 't, and no 
wonder your poor head do ache at times. 
You '11 outgrow that — if you take the air, 
and give over fretting about t' other thing. 
I tell you you '11 hear the music of a child's 
voice, and little feet a pattering up and 
down this here corridor, before ao reiy long 
— if so be you take my advice, and leave 
off fretting my lady with fretting of yourself. 
You should consider : she is too^ fond of you 
to be well when you be ill." 

"I'll get well, for her sake," said Sir 
Charles, firmly. 

At this moment there was a knock at the 
door. Mary Wells opened it so that the 
servant could see nothing. 

" Mr. Angelo has called." 

" My lady will be down directly." 

Mary Wells then slipped into the dress- 
ing-room, and found Lady Bassett looking 
pale and wild. She had heard every word. 

" There, he is better already," said Maxy 
Wells. " He shall walk in the garden with 
you this afternoon." 

" What have you done ? I can't look 
him in the face now. Suppose he speaks to 
me?" 

"He will not. I'll manatre that. You 
won't have to say a word. Only listen to 
what / say, and don't make a liar of me. 
He is better already." 

" How will this end ? " cried Lady Bas- 
sett, helplessly. " What shall I do ? " 
In X Y,9u£||u^t^gO do »» W f aeh. e,. ^^iJ 



A TEBRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



73 



« I -will go to him.'* 

She slipped out hy the other door, and it 
was three hours, instead of one, before she 
returned. 

For the first time in her life she was 
afiraid to face her husband. 



CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH. 

Meantime Mary Wells had a long con- 
Tersation with her master; and after that 
she retired into the adjoining room, and sat 
down to sew baby-linen clandestinely. 

After a considerable time. Lady JBassett 
came in and, sinking into a chair, covered 
her face with her hands. She had her bon- 
net on. 

Mary Wells looked at her with black eyes 
that flashed triumph. 

Afier so surveying her for some time, she 
said, '* I have been at him again, and there 's 
a change for the better already. He is not 
the same man. You go and see else." 

Lady Bassett now obeyed her servant : 
she rose, and crept, like a culprit, into Sir 
Charles's room. She found him clean- 
shaved, dressed to perfection, and looking 
more cheerftd than she had seen him for 
many a long day. " Ah, Bella," said he, 
" you have your bonnet on ; let us have a 
walk in the garden." 

Lady Bassett opened her eyes, and con- 
sentea eagerly, though she was very tired. 

They walked together ; and Sir Charles, 
being a man that never broke his word, put 
no direct onestion to Lady Bassett, but 
spoke cheerfully of the future, and told her 
she was his hope and his all ; she woald 
baffle his enemy, and cheer his desolate 
hearth. 

She blushed, and looked confused and 

distressed ; then he smiled, and talked of 

indifierent matters, until a pain in his head 

stopped him ; then he became confused, 

^d u tLD<r h' hr 'f e ^ '^ ^ ^ ^^ 



timent of Mary Wells, coupled with her 
uniform kindness to himself gave her great 
influence with Sir Charles in his present 
weakened condition. Moreover, the yorms 
woman had an oily, persuasive tongue ; and 
she who persuades us is stronger than he 
who convinces us. 

Thus influenced, Sir Charles walked 
every day in^ the garden with his wife, and 
forbore all direct allusion to her condition, 
though his conversation was redolent of it. 

He was still subject to sudden collapses of 
the intellect ; but he became conscious when 
they were coining on ; and, at the first warn- 
ing, he would insist on burying himself in 
his room. 

After some days he consented to lake 
short drives with Lady Bassett in the open 
carriage. This made her very joyful. Sir 
Charles refiised to enter a single house, so 
high was his pride, and so sreat his terror 
lest he should expose himself; but it was a 
great point gained that she could take him 
about the county, and show him in the 
character of a mere invalid. 

Everything now looked like a cure, slow, 
perhaps, but progressive ; and Lady Bassett 
had her joyful hours, yet not without a bit- 
ter alloy; her divining mind asked itself 
what she should say and do, when Sir 
Charles should be quite recovered. This 
thought tormented her, and sometimes so 

goaded her that she hated Mary Wells for 
er well-meant interference, and, by a natu- 
ral recoil from the familiarity circumstances 
had forced on her, treated that young wo- 
man with great coldness and hauteur. 

The arSiil girl met this with extreme 
meekness and servility ; the only retort she 
ever hazarded was an adroit one ; 8he would 
take this opportunity to say, "How much 
better master do get, ever since I took in 
hand to cure him 1 

This obliaue retort seldom failed. Lady 
Bassett would look at her husband, and her 
face would clear ; and she would generally 
end by giving Mary a collar, or a scarf, or 
somethin . 



th 



eh ^ 



74 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Mary WellB made it fatally easy to her. 
She was the agent ; Lady Bassett was silent 
and passiTe. 

After all she had a hope of extrication. 
Sir Charles once cured, she would make 
him travel Europe with her. Money would 
relieve her of Mary Wells, and distance cut 
all the other cords. 

And indeed a time came when she looked 
back on her present situation, with wonder 
at the distress it had caused her. " I was 
in shallow water then," said she; *^but 
nowl" 



CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH. 

Sir Charles observed that he was never 
trusted alone. He remarked this, and in- 
quired, with a peculiar eye, why that 
was. 

Lady Bassett had the tact to put on an in- 
nocent look, and smile, and say, ". That is 
true, dearest. I have tied yo)i to my apron- 
string without mercy. But it serves you 
rkht for having fits, and frightening me. 
'You get well, and my tyranny will cease at 
once." 

However, afler this, she oflen left him 
alone in the garden, to remove firom his 
mind the notion that he was under restraint 
from her. 

Mr. Bassett observed this proceeding 
from his tower. 

Oae day Mr. Angelo called, and Lady 
Bassett left Sir Charles in the garden, to 
go and speak to him. . 

She had not been gone many minutes, 
when a boy ran to Sir Charles, and said, 
^'O sir, please come to the gate; the lady 
has had a fall, and hurt herself." 

Sir Charles, much alarmed, followed the 
boy, who took him to a side gate opening 
on the high-road. Sir Charles ru^ed 
through thi8, and was passing between two 
stout fellows that stood one on each side 
the gate, when they seized him, and lifted 
him in a moment into a close carriage that 
was waiting on the spot He struggl^ and 
cried loudly for assistance ; but they bun- 
dled him in and sprang in after him: a 
third man closed the door, and got up by the 
side of the coachman. He drove off, avoid- 
ing the village, soon got upon a broad road, 
and bowled along at a great rate, the car- 
riage being light, and drawn by two power- 
fiQ horses. 

So cleverly and rapidly was it done, that, 
but for a woman's quick ear, the deed might 
not have been discovered for hours. But 
Mary Wells heard the crv for help through 
an open window, recognized Sir Charles's 
voice, and ran screaming down stairs to 
Lady Bassett : she ran wildly out, with Mr. 



Angelo^ to look f<Mr Sir Charles. He was 
nowhere to be found. Then she ordered 
every horse in the stables to be saddled; 
and she ran with Mary to the place where 
the cry had been heard. 

For some time no intelligence whatever 
could be gleaned; but at last an old man 
was found, who said he had heard somebody 
cry out, and soon after that a carriage had 
come tearing by him, and gone round (he 
corner; but this direction was of little 
value, on account of the many roads, any 
one of which it might have taken. 

However, it left no doubt that Sir Charles 
had been taken away from the place by 
force. 

Terror-stricken, and pale as death. Lady 
Bassett never lost her head for a moment. 
Indeed she showed unexpected fire; she 
sent off coachman and grooms to scour the 
country, and rouse the gentrv to help her ; 
she gave them money, and told them not to 
come back till thev had found Sir Charles. 

Mr. Angelo said eagerly, " I 'U go to the 
nearest magistrate, and we will arrest Rich- 
ard Bassett on suspicion." 

" God bless you, dear friend 1 " sobbed 
Lady Bassett. " O yes, it is his doing, — 
murderer I " 

Off went Mr. Angelo, on his errand. 

He was hardlv gone, when a man was 
seen running and shouting across the fields. 
Lady Bassett went to meet him, surrounded 
by her humble sympathizers. It was young 
Drake : he came up. panting, with a double- 
barrelled gim in nis hand, — for fC^-was 
allowed to shoot rabbits on his own little 
farm, — and stammered out, " O my lady 
— Sir Charles — they have ^airied him 
off, against his will." 

"Who? Where? Did vou see him ? " 

" Ay, and heerd him ^nd alL I was fer- 
reting rabbits by the side of the turnpike- 
road yonder, and a carriage came tearing 
along, and Sir Charles put out his head and 
cried to me, * Drake, mey are kidnapping 
me. Shoot!' But they pulled him back 
out of sight." 

" O my poor husband I And did you let 
them? Oh!" 

** Could n't catch 'em, my lady, so I did 
as I was bid ; got to my gun as quick as 
ever I could, and gave me coachman both 
barrels hot." 

"What, kill him?" 

*' Lord, no ; 't was sixty yards off ; but 
made him holler and squeak a good un. 
Put thirty or forty shots into his back, I 
know." 

" Give me your hand, Mr. Drake. I '11 
never forget that shot." Then she began to 
cry. 

" Doant ye, my lady, doant ye," said the 
honest fellow, and was within an ace of 
blubbering for sympathy. ** We ain't a lot 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



75 



p 

P 



o' babies, to see our sauire kidnapped. If 
you would lend Abel Moss there, and me, a 
couple o' nags, we'll catch them yet, my 
lady." 

« That we will," cried Abel. « You take 
me where you fired that shot, and we '11 fol- 
low the fresh wheel-tracks. They can't beat 
us while they keep to a road." 

The two men were soon mounted, and in 
pursuit, amidst the cheers of the now ex- 
cited yillagers. But still the perpetrators 
of the outrage had more than an hour's 
start ; and an hour was twelve miles. 

And now Lady Bassett, who had borne up 
80 brayely, was . seized with a deadly faint- 
ness, and supported into the house. 

lild dldfir nd u 
( w m 7 fn 



it. Parson had said Mr. Bassett was to 
blame ; and that passed from one to another, 
and so fermented that, in the evening, a 
crowd collected round Highmore House, and 
demanded Mr. Bassett. 

The servants were alarmed, and said he 
was not at home. 

Then the man demanded, boisterously, 
what he had done with Sir Charles, and 
threatened to break the windows unless they 
were told; and, as nobody in the house 
could tell them, the women egged on the 
men, and they did break the windows ; but 
they no sooner saw their own work than 
they were a little alarmed at it, and retired 
talking ve loud, to support their waning 
or * * •nor 



t Jte a 



to O ( 



76 



A TEBBEBLE TEMPTATION. 



They left & house full of holes and 
screams, and poor little Mrs. Bassett half 
dead with firight. 

As for Lady Bassett, she spent a horrible 
sight of terror, suspense, and agony. She 
could not lie down, nor even sit still ; she 
walked incessantly, wringing her hands, and 
groaning for news. 

Mary Wells did aU she could to comfort 
her ; but it was a situation beyond the power 
of words to alleviate. 

Her intolerable suspense lasted till four 
o'clock in the morning; and then, in the 
still night, horses' feet came clattering up to 
the door. 

Lady Bassett went into the hall. It was 
dimly lighted by a single lamp. • The great 
door was opened, and m clattered Moss and 



Drake, splashed^ and weary, and down- 
cast. 

<< Well?" cried Lady Bassett, clasping 
her hands. 

<< My lady," said Moss, << we tracked the 
carriage into the next county, to a place 
thirty miles from here — to a lodge — and 
there they stopped us. The place is well 
guarded with men and great big dogs. We 
heerd 'em bark, did n't us, Will ? " 

" Ay," said Drake, deiectedly. 

'< Tne man as kept the lodge was short, 
but civil. Says he, * This is a place nobody 
comes in but by law, and nobody goes out 
but by law. If the gentleman is here you 
may go home and sleep ; he is safe enough.' " 

"A prison? Nol^' 

" A 'sylum, my lady." 



CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH. 

THE lady put her hand to her heart and 
was eilent a long time. 
^At last she said doggedly, but faintly, 
^ You will go with me to that place to-mor- 
row, one of you." 

"I'll go, my lady," said Mosa. "Will, 
here, had better not show his face. They 
might take the law on him for that there 
shot." 

Drake buns his head, and his ardor was 
evidently coded by discovering that. Sir 
Charles had been taken to a madhoase. 

Lady Bassett saw and sighed, and said 
she would take Moss to show her the way. 

At eleven o'clock next morning, a ligrht 
carriage and pair came round to ttie ifaili 
gate, and a large basket, a portmanteau, 
and a baor were placed on the roof under 
care of Moss. Smaller packa^s were put 
inside ; and Ladv Baesett and her maid got 
in, both dressed in black. 

They reached Bellevne House at hall past 
two. The lodge gate was open, to Lady 
Bassett's ^surprise, and they drove through 
some pleasant grounds to a large white 
house. 

The lace at first sicrht had no distinc- 
le m eteae ^ee 

n role lacoa e a 

dThv 



He soon returned' and said, " Dr. Suaby 
is not here, but the gentleman in charge 
will see you." 

Ladv Bassett got out, and, beckoning Ma- 
ry Wells, followed the servant into a curi- 
ous room, half library, half chemist's shop ; 
they called it " the laboratory." 

Here she found a tall man leaning on a 
dirty mantel-piece, who received her stiffly. 
He had a pale mustache, very thin lips, and 
altogether a severe manner. His head bald, 
rather prematurely, and whiskers abun- 
dant. 

Lady Bassett looked him all over with one 
glance of her woman's eye, and saw e^ehad 
a hard and vain man to deal with. 

"Are you the gentleman to whom this 
house belongs ? " she faltered. 

" No, madEim ; I am in charge during Dr. 
Suaby's absence." 

" That comes to the same thing. Sir, I 
am come to see my dear husband." 

" Have you an order ? " 

" An order, sir? I am his wife." 

Mr. Salter shrugged his shoulders a little, 
and said, " I have no authority to let any 
visitor see a patient without an order from 
the person by whose authority he is placed 
here -^ ^[^m^^B^gg^ -c 

tsnaJgbca e ^^^ nusP^^ ®® 



eoc ter 



e ee cs 



78 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION 



Then she began to cr7, and wring her 
hands. 

" This is Tery painful," said Mr. Salter, 
and leit the room. 

The respectable servant looked in soon af- 
ter, and Lady Basse tt told him, between her 
sobs, that she had brought some clothes and 
things for her husband. ** Surely, sir," said 
she, " they will not reftise me that? " 

" Lord, no, ma'am," said the man. " You 
can give them to the keeper and nurse in 
charge of him.*' 

' Lady Bassett slipped a guinea into the 
man's hand directly. «Let me see thbee 
people,'* said she. 

The man winked, and vanished : he soon 
reappeared, and said loudly, '* Now, madam, 
if you will order the things into the hall." 

Liady Bassett came out and gave the order. 

A short, bull- necked man and rather a 
pretty young woman with a flaunting cap, 
bestirred themselves getting down the things; 
and Mr. Salter came out and looked on. 

Lady Bassett called Mary Wells, and 
gave her a five-pound note to slip into the 
man's hand. She telegraphed the girl, who 
instantly came near her with an indiarrub- 
ber bath, and, afiecting ignorance, asked 
her what that was. 

Lady Bassett dropped three sovereigns 
into the bath, and said, '* Ten times, twen- 
ty times that, if you are kind to him. Tell 
him it is his cousin's doing, but his wife 
watches over him." 

« All right," said the girl. « Come again 
when the doctor is here." 

All this passed, in swift whispers, a few 
yards from Mr. Salter, and he now came for- 
ward and offered his arm to conduct Lady 
Bassett to the carriage. 

But the wretched, heart-broken wife for- 
jt her art of pleasing. She shrank from 
im with a faint cry of aversion, and got in- 
to her carriage unaided. Mary Wefis fol- 
lowed her. 

Mr. Salter was unwilling to receive this 
rebuff. He followed and said, << The clothes 
shall be given with any message you may 
think fit to intrust to me." 

Lady Bassett turned away sharply firom 
him, and said to Mary Wells, ** Tell bim to 
drive home. Home 1 I have none now. Its 
light is torn fix>m me." 

The carriage drove away as she uttered 
these piteous words. 

She cried at intervals all the way home ; 
and could hardly drag herself up stairs to 
bed. 

Mr. Angelo called next day with bad 
news. Not a magistrate would move a 
finger against Mr. Bassett ; he had the law 
on nis side. Sir Charles was evidently in- 
sane ; it was quite proper he should be put 
in security before he did some mischierto 
imself or Lady Bassett, " They say, why 



^ 



was he hidden for two months, if tbere was 
not something very wrong V " 

Lady Bassett ordered the carriage and 
paid several calls, to counteract this fatal 
impression. 

She found, to her horror, she might as well 
try to move a rock. There was plenty of kind- 
ness and pity ; but the moment she began to 
assure them her husband was not insane she 
was met with the dead silence of polite in- 
credulity. One or two old friends went fur- 
ther, and said, " My dear, we are told he could 
not be taken away without two doctors' cer- 
tificates; now, consider, they must know 
better than you. Have patience, and let 
them cure him." 

Lady Baseett withdrew her friendship on 
the spot from two ladies for contradicting 
her on such a subject, and retired home af 
most wild herself. ^ 

In the village her carriage was stopped by 
a woman with her hair au fiying, who told 
her in a lamentable voice that Squire Bassett 
had sent nine men to prison for taking Sir 
Charles's part and ill-treating his captprs. 

" My lawyer shall defend them. at my ex- 
pense," said Lady Bassett with a sigh. 

At last she got home, and went up to ber 
own room, and there was Mary Wells wait- 
ing to dress her. 

ohe tottered in, and sank into a chair. 
But, after this temporary exhaustion, came 
a rising tempest of passion ; her eyes roved, 
her fingers worked, and her heart seemed to 
come out of her in words of fire. << I have 
not a friend in all the county. That villain 
has only to say < Mad,' and all turn from me, 
as if an angel of truth had said < Criminal.' 
We have no friend but one, and she is my 
servant. Now go and envy wealth and titles. 
No wife in this parish is so poor as I ; power- 
less in the folds of a serpent. I can't see m v 
busband, without an order from him. He is all 
power, I and mine all weakness." She raised 
her clenched fists, she clutched her beautiful 
hair as if she would tear it ^ut by the roots. 
" I shall go mad I I shall go mad 1 No I " 
said she, all of a sudden. '< That will not do. 
TOiat is what he wants — and then my darling 
would be defenceless. I will not go mad." 
Then suddenly grinding her white teeth, 
" I '11 teach hirn to drive a lady to despair. 
I '11 fight." 

She descended, almost without a break, 
firom the fury of a Pythoness to a strange 
calm. Oh I then it is her sex are danger- 
ous. 

" Don't look so pale," said she, and she 
actually smiled. '< All is fair against so 
foul a villain. You and I will defeat him. 
Dress me, Mary." 

Mary Wells, carried away by the unusual 
violence of a superior mind, was quite bewil- 
dered. 

Lady Bassett smiled a strange smile, and 



A TEBRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



79 



said, " 1 11 show 70a How to dress me *' ; and 
Blie did give her a lesson that astonished 
her. 

" And now," said Lady Bassett, " I shall 
dress you." And she took a loose full dress 
out of her wardrobe, and made Mary Wells 
put it on ; but first she inserted some stuffing 
so adroitly, that Mary seemed very l^xom, 
but what she wished to hide was hidden. 
Not so Lady Bassett herself. Her figure 
looked much rounder than in the last dress 
she wore. 

With all this she was late for dinner, and, 
when she went down, Mr. Angelo had just 
finished telling Mr. Oldfield of the mishap 
to the villagers. 

Lady Bassett came in animated and beau- 
tiiiil. 

Dinner was announced directly, and a com- 
monplace conversation kept up till the ser- 
vants were got rid of. She then told Mr. 
Oldfield how she had been refused admit- 
tance to Sir Charles at Bellevue House, a 
plain proof, to her mind, they knew her hus- 
band was not insane ; and beg^d him to act 
with energy, and get Sir Chanes out, before 
his reason could be permanently injured by 
the outrage, and the horror of his situation. 

This led to a discussion, in which Mr. 
Angelo and Lady Bassett threw out various 
su^stions, and Mr. Oldfield cooled their 
ardor with sound objections. He was famil- 
iar with the Statutes de Lunatico, and said 
they had been strictly observed, both in the 
ciuptqre of Sir Charles,. and in Mr. Salter's 
refusal to let the wife see the husband. In 
short, he appeared either unable or unwill- 
ing to see anything except the strong legal 
position of the adverse party. 

Mr. Oldfield was one of those prudent 
lawyers, who search for the adversary's 
strong points, that their clients may not be 
taken by surprise ; and that is very wise of 
them. But wise things require to be done 
wisely : he sometimes carried this system so 
far as to discourage his client too much. It 
is a fine thing to make your client think 
his case the weaker of the two, and then 
win it for him easily ; that gratifies your 
own foible, professional vanity. But sup- 
pose, with your discouraging him so, he fiings 
•apy or compromises, a winnmg case ? Sup- 
pose he takes the huff, and goes to some 
other lawyer, who will warm him with hopes, 
instead of cooling him with a one-sided and 
hostile view of his case ? 

In the present discussion Mr. Oldfield's 
habit of beginning by admiring his adver- 
saries, together with his knowledge of law 
and little else, and his secret conviction that 
Sir Charles was unsound of mind, combined 
to paralyze him ; and, not being a man of 
invention, he could not see his way out of 
the wood at all : he could negative Mr. An- 
gelo's suggestions, and give g<x>d reasons, but 



he could not, or did not, suggest anything 
better to be done. 

Lady Bassett listened to his negative wis- 
dom with a bitter smile and said at last, 
with a sigh, *' It seems, then, we are to sit 
quiet, and do nothing, while Mr. Bassett and 
his solicitor strike blow upon blow. There 
— I'll fight my own battle j and do you 
try and find some way of defending the 
poor souls that are in trouble because they 
did not sit with their hands before them 
when their benefactor was outraged. Com- 
mand my purse, if money will save them 
from a prison." 

Then she rose with dignity, and walked 
like a cameleopard all down the room on 
the side opposite to Mr. Oldfield. Angelo 
ilew to open the door, and in a whisper 
begged a word with her in private. She 
bowed assent, and parsed on from the room. 

« What a fine creature 1 " said Mr. Old- 
field. « How she walks. I " , 

Mr. Angelo made no reply to this, but 
asked him what was to be done for the poor 
men: 'Mhey will be up before the Bench, 
to-morrow." 

Stun? a little .by Lady Bassett's remark, 
Mr. Oldfield answered promptly, " We must 
get some tradesmen to bail them, with our 
money. It will only be a few pounds apiece* 
If the bail i$ accepted, they shall ofier pe- 
cuniary compensation, and ^et up a defence ; 
find somebody to swear Sir Charles was 
sane, — that sort of evidence is always to be 
got. Counsel must do the rest. Simple 
natives — benefactor outraged — honest im- 
pulse — regretted the moment they under- 
stood the capture had been legally made. 
Then throw dirt on the plaintiff. He is 
malicious, and can be proved to have for- 
sworn himself in Bassett v. Bassett." 

A tap at the door, and Mary Wells put in 
her head. " If you please, sir, my lady is 
tired, and she wishes to say a word to you 
before she goes up stairs." 

** Excuse me one minute," said Mr. An- 
gelo, and followed Mary Wells. She 
ushered him into a boudoir, where he found 
Lady Bassett seated in an arm-chair, w^h 
her bead on her hand, and her eyes fixed 
sadly on the carpet. 

SnQ smiled faintly to him, and said, 
" Well, what do you wish to say to me ? " 

« It is about Mr. Oldfield. He is clearly 
incompetent." 

**I don*t know. I snubbed him, poor 
man : but if the law is all a^inst us 1 " 

" How does he know that r He assumes 
it, because he is prejudiced in. favor of the 
enemy. How does he know they have done 
everything the Act of Parliament requires ? 
And, if they have, Law is not invincible. 
When Law defies Morality, it gets baffled, and 
trampled on, in all civilized communities." 

«< I never heoid that before." 



80 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Wn 



" Bat you would, if you bad been at Ox- 
ford," said he, smiling. 

«AhI*' 

<< What we want is a man of genius, of in- 
vention, a man who will see every chance, 
take every chance lawAil or unlawful, and 
fight with all manner of weapons." 

Lady Bassett's eye flashed a moment. 
" Ah 1 " said she ^ '' but where can I find such 
a man, with knowledge to guide his zeal ? " 

'< I think I know of a man, who could at all 
events advise you, if you would ask him." 

"Ahl Who?" 

'< He is a writer ; and opinions vary as to 
bis merit. Some say he has talent ; others 
say it is all eccentricitv and afiectation. 
One thing is certain, his books brin^ about 
the changes he demands. And then he is in 
earnest ; he has taken a good many alleged 
lunatics out of confinement." 

<< Is it possible ? then let us apply to him 
at once." 

'< He lives in London ; but I have a firiend 
who knows him. May I send an outline to 
him through that friend, and ask him whether 
be can advise you in the matter ? " 

*< You may ; and thank you a thousand 
times 1 " 

<< A mind like that, with knowledge, zeal, 
and invention, mast surely throw some 
Hght." 

" One would think so, dear friend." 

<< I Ml write to-ni^ht, and send a letter to 
Greatrex ; we shall perhaps get an answer 
the day after to-morrow." 

** Ah, you are not the one to go to sleep in 
the service of a friend. A writer, did you say ? 
What does he write?" 

"Fiction." 

** What, novels?" 

^ And dramas and all." 

Lady Bassett sighed incredulously. '<I 
sbould never think of going to Fiction for 
wisdom." 

<< When the Family^ Galas were about to 
be executed unjustly, with the consent of all 
the lawyers and statesmen in France, one 
man in a nation saw the error, and fought 
for the innocent, and saved them ; and that 
one wise man in a nation of fools was a 
writer of fiction." 

** Ah 1 a learned Oxonian can always an- 
.tho .thou lf«e 



You can write vour letter here, and then 
please come and relieve me of Mr. Nega- 
tive." 

She rang, and ordered cofiee and tea into 
the drawinz-room ; and Mr. Oldfield found 
her very cold company. 

In half an hour Mr. Angelo came down, 
lookins flushed and very handsome ; and 
Lady Bassett had some fresh tea made for 
him. 

This done, she bade the gentlemen good 
night, and went to her room : here she found 
Marv Wells full of curiosity to know whether 
the lAwyer would get Sir Charles out of the 
asylum. 

Lady Bassett gave loose to her indigna- 
tion, and said nothing was to be expected 
from such a Nullity. " Mary, he could not 
see. I gave him every opportunity. I . 
walked slowly down the room before him 
after dinner ; and I came into the drawing 
room and moved about, and yet he could 
not see." 

*'Then you will have to tell him, that is 
all." 

"Never: no more shall you. I'll not 
trust my fate, and Sir Charles's, to a man 
that has no eyes." 

For this feminine reason she took a spite 
against poor Oldfield : but, to Mr. Angelo, 
she suppressed the real reason, and entered 
into that ardent gentleman's grounds of dis- 
content, thoush these alone would not have 
entirely dissolved her respect for the family 
solicitor. 

Next afternoon Angelo came to her in 
great distress and ire. " Beaten I beaten ! 
and all throudi our adversaries having more 
talent. Mr. Bassett did not appear at first. 
AVheeler excused him on the ground that 
his wife was seriously ill through the fright. 
Bassett's servants were called, and swore to 
the damage and to the men, all but one. 
He got off. Then Oldfield made a dry 
speech ; and a tradesman he had prepared 
offered bail. The magistrates were consult- 
ing, when in burst Mr. Bassett all in black, 
and made a speech fiftv times stronger than 
Oldfield's, and sobbecf, and told them tbe 
rioters had frightened his wife so she had 
been prematurely confined, and the child 
was dead. Could they take bail for a riot, 



A TEKRIBIiE TEMPTATION. 



81 



defenceless ladies, that there it humanity, 
and justice, ^and law in the land." Then 
Oldfield tried to answer him with his hems 
and his haws : but Bassett turned on him 
like a giant, and swept him away.'' 

" Poor woman I " 

*< Ah I that is true : I am afraid I have 
thought too little of her. But you suffer, 
and so must she. It is the most terrible 
feud : one would think this was Corsica, in- 
stead of England, only the fighdnv is not 
done with daggers. But, after this, pray 
lean no more on that Oldfield. We were 
all carried away at first ; but now I think of 
it Bassett must haye been in the Court, and 
held back to make the climax. O yes 1 it 
was another surprise and another success. 
They are all sent to jail. Superior gener- 
alship ! If Wheeler had been our man, we 
should have had ei^ht wives crying for pity, 
each with one child in her arms, and an- 
other holding on to her awon. Do, pray. 
Lady Bassett, dismiss that I^^ullity." 

** O, I cannot do that ; he is Sir Charles's 
lawyer ; but I haye promised you to seek ad- 
Tice elsewhere, and so I will." 

The conversation was interrupted by the 
tolling of the church-bell. 

The first note startled Lady Bassett, and 
she turned pale. 

*< I must leave you," said Angelo, Fret- 
fully. " I have to bury Mr. Bassett's Uttle 
boy : he lived an hour.'* 

Lady Bassett sat, and heard the bell. toll. 

Strange sad thoughts passed through her 
mind. ** Is it saddest when it tolls, or when 
it rinvs — that bell ? He has killed his 
own child, by robbing me of my husband. 
We are in the hands of Grod, aner aU, let 
Wheeler be ever so cunning, and Oldfield 
ever so simple. — And I am not acting by 
that — Where is my trust in God's justice ? 
— O^ thou of little faith 1 — What shall I 
do ? * Love is stronger in me than faith, — 
stronger than anything in heaven or earth. 
God forgive me — Grod help me — I will go 
back. 

*^ But O, to stand still, and be good, and 
simple, and so see my husband trampled on 
by a cunning villain I 

" Why is there a future state, where 
everything is to be different? no hate ; no 
injustice ; all love. Why is it not all of a 
piece ? Why begin wrong, if it is to end 
all right ? If I was omnipotent, it should 
be ri^ht from the first. — O thou of little 
faith 1 — Ah me 1 it is hard to see fools and 
devils, and realize angels unseen. O that I 
could shut my eyes in faith, and go to sleep, 
and drift on the right path ; fori ' 
take it with my eyes open, 
bleeding for him." 

Then her head fell lanjjWdly DacL, 

eyes closed, and the tear! ^welled trough 
them : they knew the way, by 4ia8 time* 




CHAPTER THE EIGHTEENTH. 

Next morning in came Mr. Angelo, with 
glowing cheeks and sparkling eyes. 

" I have ^ot a letter, a most gratifying 
one. My fhend called on Mr. Kolfe, and 
gave him my lines ; and he replies direct to 
me. May I read you his letter ? " 

" O yes." 

" ' Dear Sir, — The case you have sent tne, of a 
gentleman confined on certificates by order of an in- 
teresCed relative, — as you presume, jbr you have not 
seen the order, — and on grounds you mink insuffi* 
cient, is interesting, and some of it looks true : but 
there are gaps in' the statement, and 1 dare not ad- 
vise in so nice a matter till these arefUled ; hut that 
I suspect can only be done by the lady herself She 
had better call on me in person ; it may be worth her 
while* At home every day 10 — 3, this ufeek. As 
for yourself, you need not address me through 
Greatrex, I have seen you pull No. 6, attd afters 
wards stroke, in the University boat, and you dived in 
Portsmouth harbor, and saved a sailor. See 
** Ryde Journal,*' Aug, 10, p. 4, col, 3; cited in 
my Day-book Aug, 10, and also in my Index homi- 
num, in voce ** Angelo " — ba I ha i here 's a fel- 
low for detail. 

" ' Yours very truly, 

"'ROLTB.'" 

"And did you?" 

"Did I what?" 

" Dive, and save a soldier." 

" No ; I nailed him just as he was sink- 
ing." 

" How good and brave you are I " 

Angelo blushed like a girl. " It makes 
me too happy, to hear such words firom you. 
But I vote we don't talk about me. Will 
you call on Mr. Rolfe." 

« Is he married ? " 

Angelo opened his eyes at the question. 
" I thmk not," said he : " Indeed I know he 
is not." 

" Could you get him down here ? " 

Angelo shook his head. "If he knew 
you — perhaps — but can you expect him to 
come here upon your business? These 
popular writers are spoiled by the ladies. I 
doubt if he would walk across the street to 
advise a stranger. Candidly, why should 
he?" 

" No ; and it was ridiculous vanity to sup- 
pose he would. But I never called on a 
gentleman in my life." 

" Take me with you. Yon can go up at 
nine, and be back to a late dinner." 

" I shall never have the courage to go. 
Let me have his letter." 

He gave her the letter, and she took it 
away. 

o'clock she sent Mary Wells to 
with a note to say she had stud- 
^ letter, and there was more 
she 1^ thought; but his going 
off ^m her husband to boat-racing seemed 
trivuA^ and jshe could not make up h^ mind 



82 



A TERKDBLE TEMPTATION. 



to go to London to consult a noyelist on such 
a serious matter. 

At nine she sent to say she should go, 
but could not think of dragging him there : 
she should take her maid. 

Before eleven, she half repented this reso- 
lution, but her maid kept her to it : and at 
haLf past twelve next dav they reached Mr. 
Rolfe's door ; an old-fashioned, mean-look- 
ing house, in one of the briskest thorough- 
iisures of the metropolis ; a cab-stand oppo- 
site to the door, and a tide of omnibuses pass- 
ing it. 

Lady Bassett viewed the place discontent- 
edly, and said to herself, ** What a poky 
little place for a writer to live in; how noisy, 
how unpoetical 1 " 

They knocked at the door. It was opened 
by a maid-gervant. 

« Js Mr. Rolfe at home ? " 

" Yes, ma'am. Please give me your card 
and write the business." 

Lady Bassett took out her card, and wrote 
a line or two on the back of it. The maid 
glanced at it, and showed her into a room, 
while she took the card to her master. 

The room was rather long, low, and non- 
descript. Scarlet flock, paper. Curtains 
and sofas green Utrecht velvet. Wood- 
work and pillars white and gold. Two win- 
dows looking on the street. At the other 
end folding-doors with scarcely any wood- 
work, all pate glass, but partly hidden by 
heavy curtains of the same color and mate- 
rial as the others. 

Accustomed to large, lofty rooms. Lady 
Bassett felt herself in a long box here ; but 
the colors pleased her. She said to Mary 
Wells, " Wnat a funny, cosey Httle place for 
a gentleman to live in I " 

Mr. Holfe was engaged with some one, 
and she was kept waiting ; this was quite 
new to her, and discouraged her, already 
intimidated by the novelty of the situation. 

She tried to encourage herself, by saying 
it was for her husband she did this unusual 
thing ; but she felt very miserable and in- 
clined to cry. 

At last a bell rang ; the maid came in and 
invited Lady Bassett to follow her. She 
opened the glass folding-doors, and took 
them into a small conservatory, walled like 
a grotto, with ferns sprouting out of rocky fis- 
sures, and spars sparkling ; water dripping. 
Then she opened two more glass folding- 
doors, and ushered them into an empty room, 
the like of which Lady Bassett had never 
seen ; it was large in itself, and multiplied 
tenfold by great mirrors firom floor to ceil- 
ing, with no frames but a narrow oak bead- 
ing : opposite her, on entering, was a bay- 
vdndow all plate glass, the central panes of 
which opened like doors, upon a pretty lit- 
tle garden that glowed with color, and was 
acked by fine trees belonging to the nation ; 



for this garden ran up to the wall of Hyde 
Park. 

The numerous and large mirrors all down 
to the ground laid hold of the garden and 
the flowers, and by double and treble reflec- 
tion filled the room with delightful nooks of 
verdure and color. 

To confuse the eye still more, a quantity 
of young india-rubber trees, with glossy 
leaves, were placed before the large central 
mirror. The carpet was a warm velvet>'pile, 
the walls were distempered, a French gray, 
not cold, but with a tint of mauve that cave 
a warm and cheering bloom ; this soothing 
color gave great eflect to the one or two 
masterpieces of painting that hung on the 
walls, and to the gilt frames ; the iurniture, 
oak and marqueterie highly polished ; the 
curtains, scarlet merino, through which the 
sun shone, and, being a London sun, difluecd 
a mild rosy tint favorable to female faces. 
Not a sound of London could be heard. 

So far the room was romantic ; but there 
was a prosaic corner to shock those who 
fancy tnat fiction is the spontaneous over- 
flow of a poetic fountain fed by nature only ; 
between the fireplace and the window, and 
within a foot or two of the wall, stood a gi- 
gantic writing-table, with the signs of hard 
labor on it, and of severe system. Three 
plated buckets, each containing three pints 
rail of letters to be answered, letters to be 
pasted into a classified guard-book, loose 
notes to be pasted into various books and 
classified (for this writer uEed to sneer at 
the learned men who sav, " J will look among 
my papers for it ; he held that every written 
scrap ought either to be burnt, or pasted 
into a classified guard-book, where it could 
be found by consulting the index); ^ye 
things like bankers' bill-books, into whose 
several compartments MS. notes and news- 
paper cuttings were thrown, as a preHlUi- 
nary towards classification in books. 

Underneath the table was a formidable, 
array of note-books, standing upright, and 
labelled on their backs. There were about 
twenty large folios, of classified facts, ideas, 
and pictures ; for the very wood-cuts were 
all indexed and classified on the plan of a 
tradesman's ledger; there was also the re- 
ceipt-book of the year, treated on the same 
plan. Receipts on a file would not do for 
this romantic creature: if a tradesman 
brought a bill, he must be able to turn to 
that tradesman's* name in a book, and prove 
in a moment whether it had been paid or 
not. Then there was a collection of solid 
quartos, and of smaller folio guard-bcoks 
called Indexes. There was " fiidex rerum 
et joumalinm " — " Index rerum et libro- 
rum " — " Index rerum et hominum " — and 
a lot more ; indeed so many that, by way of 
climax, there was a fat folio ledger, entitled 
** Index ad Indices." 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



83 



By the side of the table were six or seven 
thick pasteboard cards, each about the size 
of a large portfolio, and on these the au- 
thor's notes and extracts were collected 
from all his repertories into something like 
a focns, for a present purpose. He was 
vxitins a novel based on facts ; facts, inci- 
dents, living dialogue, pictures, reflections, 
situations, were all on these cards to choose 
&om, and arranged in headed columns : and 
some portions of the work he was writing 
on this basis of imagination and drudgery 
lay on the table in two forms, his own writ- 
ing, and his secretarv's copy thereof, the 
latter corrected for the press. This copy 
was half margin, and so provided for addi- 
tions and improvements; but for one ad- 
dition there were ten excisions, great and 
small. 

Lady Bassett had just time to take in the 
beauty and artistic character of the place, 
and to realize the appalling drudgery that 
stamped it a workshop, when the author, 
who had dashed into his garden for a mo- 
ment's recreation, came to the window, and 
ftimished contrast No. 3. For he looked 
neither like a poet nor a drudge, but a great 
&t country farmer. He was rather tall, 
very portly, smallish head, commonplace 
features, mild brown eye, not very bright, 
short beard, and wore a suit of tweed all one 
color. Such looked the writer of romances 
founded on fact. He rolled up to the win- 
do\^ — for, if he looked like a farmer, he 
walked like a sailor — and stepped into the 
room* 



CHAPTER THE NINETEENTH. 

Mr. Rolfe siureyed the two women 
with a mild, inoffensive, ox-like gaze; and 
invited them to be seated with homely 
civility. 

He sat down at his desk, and, turning to 
Lady Bassett, said, rather dreamily, " One 
moment, please : let me look at the case and 
my notes." 

First his homely appearance, and now a 
certain languor about ids manner, discour- 
aored Lady Bassett more than it need, for 
all artists must pay for their excitements 
with occasional languor. Her hands trem- 
bled, and she began to gulp and try not to 
cry. 

Mr. Rolfe observed directly, and said, 
rather kindly, "You are agitated, — and 
no wonder." 

He then opened a sort of china-closet, 

ured f IBt ah d?k eH rftss ^e * BX 



"Yes, it will do you good foi once in 
a way. It is only Ignatia." 

She drank it by depees, and a tear along 
with it that fell into the glass. 

Meantime Mr. Rolfe had returned to his 
notes and examined them; he then ad- 
dressed her, half stiffly, half kindly, — 

"Lady Bassett, whatever may be your 
husband's condition, — whether his illness 
is mental or bodily, or a mixture of the two, 
— his clandestine examination by bought 
physicians, and his violent capture, the nat- 
ural effect of which must have been to excite 
him and retard his cure, were wicked and 
barbarous acts contrary to God's law and 
the common law of England, and, indeed, 
to all human law, except our shallow, incau- 
tious Statutes de Lunatico : they were an 
insult to yourself, who ought, at least, to 
have been consulted, — for your rights are 
higher and purer than Richard Bassett's ; 
therefore, as a wife bereaved of your husband 
by fraud and violence, and the bare letter of 
a paltry statute whose spirit has been vio- 
lated, you are quite justified in coming to 
me, or to any public man you think can help 
your husband and you." Then with a cer- 
tain bonhomie^ " So lay aside your ner- 
vousness ; let us go into this matter sensi- 
bly, like a big man and a little man, or like 
an old woman and a young woman, which- 
ever you prefer." 

Lady Bassett looked at him, and smiled 
assent; she felt a great deal more at her 
ease after this opening. 

" 1 dare not advise you yet. I must know 
more than Mr. Angelo has told me. Will 
you answer my questions frankly ? " 

" I will try, sir." 

" Whose idea was it confining Sir Charles 
Bassett to the house so much ? " 

" His own. He felt himself unfit for soci- 
ety." 

"Did he describe his ailment to you 
then ? " 

"Yes." 

" All the better : what did he say ? " 

" He said that, at times, a cloud seemed 
to come into his head, and then he lost all 
power of mind ; and he could not bear to be 
seen in that condition." 

" This was after the epileptic seizure ? '* 

"Yes, sir." 

" Humph ! Now will you tell me how 
Mr. Bassett, by mere words, could so enrage 
Sir Charles as to give him a fit ? " 

Lady Bassett hesitated. 

" What did he say to Su- Charles ? " 

" He did not speak to him. His child and 

ewr Ih tmb*Art Hed I 

o&bl wnh f n 



84 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



" He must be very sensitiye." 

« On that subject." 

Mr. Rolfe was silent ; and now, for the first 
time, appeared to think intently. 

His study bore frait apparently; for he 
tamed to Lady Bassett, and said suddenly, 
" What is the strangest thing Sir Charles 
has said of late — the very strangest?" 

Lady Bassett turned red, and uien pale, 
and made no reply. 

Mr. Rolfe rose, and walked up to Mary 
Wells. 

** What is the maddest thing your master 
has ever said?" 

Mary Wells, instead of replying, looked 
at her mistress. 

The writer instantly put his great body 
between them. ^ Come, none of that," said 
' he. " I don't want a falsehood ; 1 want the 
truth." 

" La, sir, I don*t know. My master he is 
not mad, I 'm sure ; the queerest thing he 
ever said was, he did say at one time 't was 
writ on his face as he had no children." 

^ Ah ! And that is why he would not go 
abroad perhaps." 

" That was one reason, sir, I. do suppose." 

Mr. Rolfe put his hands behind his back, 
and walked thoughtfully, and rather dis- 
consolately, back to his seat. 

" Humph ! " said he. Then, after a pause, 
•* l/Vell, well ; I know the worst now ; that is 
one comfort. Lady Bassett, you really must 
be candid with me. Consider ; good advice 
is like a tight glove ; it fits the circumstances, 
and it does not fit other circumstances. No 
man advises so badly on a false and partial 
statement as I do, for the very reason that 
my advice is a close fit. Even now, I can't 
understand Sir Charles's despair of having 
children of his own." 

The writer then turned his looks on the 
two women, with an entire absence of ex- 
pression : the sense of his eyes was turned 
inwards, though the orbs were directed to- 
wards his visitors. 

With this lack-lustre gaze, and in the tone 
of thoughtful soliloquy, he said, " Has Sir 
Charles Bassett no eyes? and are there 
women so furtive, so secret, or so bashful, 
they do not tell their husbands?" 

Lady Basset t turned, with a scared look, 
to Mary Wells, and that young woman 
showed her usual readiness. She actually 
came to Mr. Rolfe, and balf whispered to 
him, " If you please, sir, gentlemen are 
blind, and my lady she is yery bashful ; but 
Sir Charles knows it now ; he have known 
• e . • • • se 



tors got into his apartment, and the day of 
his capture, how long ? " 

" About a fortnight." 

<<And, in that particular fortnight, was 
there a marked improvement?" 

" La, yes, sir : was there not, my lady ? " 

*< Indeed there was, sir. He was besin- 
ning to take walks with me in the garden, 
and rides iu an open carria^. He was 
petting better eveiy day, and, O sir, that 
IS what breaks my heart : I was curing mv 
darling so fast, and now they will do aU 
they can to destroy him. Their not letting 
his wife see him terrifies me." 

<* I think I can explain that Now tell 
me — what time do you expect — a eertain 
event?" 

Lady Bassett blushed, and cast a hasty 
glance at the speaker ; but he had a piece 
of paper before him, and was preparing to 
take down her reply, with the innocent face 
of a man who had asked a simple and neces- 
sary question, in the way of business. 

Then Lad v Bassett looked at Mary W^ells, 
and this look Mr. Rolfe surprised, because 
he himself looked up, to see why the lady 
hesitated. 

After an expressive glance between the 
mistress and maid, the lady said almost inau- 
dibly, *' More than three months," and then 
she blushed all over. 

Mr. Rolfe looked at the two women a mo- 
ment, and seemed a -little puzzled at their 
tele^phing each other on such a subject, 
but he coolly noted down Lady Bassett's re- 
ply, on a caixi about the size of a foolscap « 
sheet ; and then set himself to write on the. 
same card the other facts he had elicited. 

Whilst he was doing this very slowly with 
trre&t care and pains, the lady was eying 
him like a zoologist studying some new ani- 
mal ; the simplicity and straightforwardness 
of his last question won by degrees upon 
her judgment, and reconciled her to her In- 
quisitor, the more so, as he was quiet but 
intense^ and his whole soul in her case. 
She began to respect his simple straightfor- 
wardness, his civility without a grain of gal- 
lantry, and his caution in eliciting all the 
facts before he would advise. 

After he had written down his synopFis, 
looking all the time as it' his life depended 
on its correctness, he leaned back, and his 
ordinary but mobile countenance was trans- 
figured into geniality. 

" Come," said he, " grandmamma has pes- 
tered you with questions enoujirh ; now you 
retort : a«k me an ^thing : speak 'our mind : 
s a • 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



115 



handed the child over to Nurse No. 2, with 
a lofty condescension, as who should saj, 
''You suffice for porterage; I, the superior 
artist, reserve myself for emer^ncies." No. 
2 received the invaluable bundle with meek 
complacency. 

By and by Nurse 1 got fidgety, and kept 
changing her position. 

«« What is the matter, Mary ? " said Lady 
Bassett, kindly. <' Is the dress too tight ? " 

"No, no, my lady," said Mary sharply, 
'< the gownd 's all right." And then she was 
quiet a little. 

But she began again ; and then Lady.Bas- 
Bett whispered Sir Charles, "I think she 
wants to sit forward ; may 1 ? " 

" Certainly not. I *11 change with her. 
Here, Mary, try this side. We shall have 
more room in the landau ; it is double, with 
wide seats." 

Mary was gratified, and amUsed herself 
looking out of the ¥dndow. Indeed, she 
was quiet for nearly half an hour. At llie 
expiration of that period the fit took her 
again. She beckoned haughtily for Baby, 
" which did come at her command," as the 
song says. ShO' sot tired of Baby, or some- 
thing, and handed him back again 

Presently she was disoovered to be cry- 
ing. 

General consternation I Universal, but 
▼ague consolation 1 

Lady Bassett looked an inquiry at Mrs. 
Millar. Mrs. Millar looked back assent. 
Lady Bassett assumed the command, and 
took off Mary's shawl. 

« Yes," said she, to Mrs. Millar. « Now, 
Maurj', be good ; it is too tight." 

Thus urged, the idiot contracted herself 
by a mighty effort, while Lady Bassett at- 
tacked uie fastenings, and, with infinite dif- 
ficulty, they unhooked three bottom hooks. 
The fierce burst open that followed, and the 
awful chasm, showed what gigantic strength 
yanity can command, and now savi^ely 
abuse it to maltreat nature. 

Lady Bassett loosened the stays too, and 
a deep sigh of relief told the truth, which 
the \yixi% tongue had denied, as it always 
does whenever the same question is put.* 

The shawl was replaced, and comfort 
gainea till they entered the town of Stave- 
lei^h. 

Nurse instantly exchanged places with Sir 
Charles, and took the child again. He was 
her banner in all public places. 

When they came up to the inn, they were 
greeted with loud hurrahs. It was market- 
day The town was full of Sir Charles's 
tenants and other farmers. His return had 
got wind, and every farmer under fifty had 
resolved to ride with him into Hunter^ 
combe. 

When five or six, all shouting together, 
intimated this to Sir Charles, he sent one of 



his people to order the butchers out to Hun- 
tercombe, with joints a score, and then to 
gallop on with a note to his housekeeper and 
butler. " For those that ride so far with 
me must sup with me," said he ; a sentiment 
that was much approved. 

He took Lady jSassett and the women up- 
stairs and rested them about an hour : and 
then they started for Huntercombe, followed 
by some thirty farmers, and a dozen towns- 
people, who had a mind for a lark and to 
supat Huntercombe Hall for once. 

The ride was delightful ; the carriage 
bowled swiftly along over a smooth roaw, 
with often tuit at the side ; and that enabled 
the young farmers to canter alongside with- 
out dusting the carriage-party. Every man 
on horseback they overtook joined them; 
some they met turned back with them, and 
these were rewarded with loud cheers : 
every eye in the carriage glittered, and every 
cheek was more or less flushe^by this uproar- 
ions sympathy so gallantly shown, and the 
yery thunder of so many horses' feet, each 
carr^g a firiend, was very excitixi^ and 
elonous. Why, before they got to the vil- 
lage, they had fourscore horsemen at their 
backi^. 

As they got close to the village Mary 
Grosport held out her armis for young master : 
this was not the time to forego her impor- 
tance. 

The church-bells rang out a clashing 
the cavalcade clattered into the vif 
Everybody was out to cheer, and, at 
sigHt of Baby? the women's voices were as 
loud as the men's. Old pensioners of the 
house were out bareheaded ; one, with hair 
white as snow, was down on his knees, pray- 
ing a blessing on them. 

Lady Bassett began to cry softly; Sir 
Charles, a little pale, but firm as a rock ; 
both bowing ri^ht and left, like royal person- 
ajges ; and well they mieht ; every house in 
the village belonged to them but one. 

On approaching that one, Mary Gosport 
turned ner head round, and shot a glance 
round out of the tail of lier eye. Ay, there 
was Richard Bassett, pale and gloomy, half 
hid belund a tree at his gate ; but Hate's 
quick eye discerned him : at the moment of 
passing, she suddenly lifted the child high, 
and showed it him, pretending to show it to 
the crowd : but her eye told the tale ; for, 
with that act of fierce hatred and cunning 
triumph, those black orbs shot a colored 
gleam like a furious leopardess's. 

A roar of cheers burst from the crowd at 
that inspired gesture of a woman, whose face 
and eyes seemed on fire: Lady Bassett 
turned pale. 

The next moment they passed their own 

gkte, and dashed up to tne Hall steps of 
untercombe. 
Sir Charles sent Lady Bassett to her room 



116 



A tERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



for the night. She walked, throoffh a row 
of ducking seirants, bowing ana smiling 
like a genUe goddess. 

Mary GosiKyrt, afraid to march in a long 
dress with tne child, for fear of accidents, 
handed him superbly to Ifillar, and strutted 
haughtily after ner mistress, nodding patron- 

XHer follower, the meek Millar, 8top;>ed 
a to show the heir ri^ht and left, with 
simple eeniality and kinoness. 

»ir Charles stood on the hall steps, and 
invited all to come in and take pot-luck. 

Already spits were turning before great 
fireil ; a rump of beef, legs of pork, and peas- 
puddings boiling in one copper ; turke^rs and 
fowls in another ; joints and pies baking in 
the great brick ovens ; barrels of beer on 
tap, and magnums of champagne and port, 
marching steadily up from the cellars, and 
forming m line and square upon sideboards 
and tables. 

Supper was laid in the hall, the dining- 
room, ue drawing-room, and the great kitch- 
en. 

Poor yillagers trickled in; no man or 
woman was denied : it was open house that 
night, as it had been four hundred years 
ago. 



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SIXTH. 

When Sharpens cleik retired, after serving 
that writ on Bassett, Bassett went to WheeC 
er, and treated it as a jest. But Wheeler 
looked puzzled, and Bassett himself, on sec- 
ond thoughts, said he should like advice of 
Counsel. Accordingly they both went up 
to London to a solicitor, and obtained an 
interview with a Counsel learned in the law. 
He heard their story, and said, " The ques- 
tion is, can you convince a jury he was in- 
sane at the time ? '' <* But he can't get in- 
to Court," said Bassett. " I won't let him." 

" O, the Court will make you produce him." 

" But I thought an insane person was civ- 
Uiter mortuus, and could n't sue." 

^ So he is ; but this man is not insane in 
law. Shutting up a man on certificates is 
merely a prebminary step to a &ir trial by 
his peers, whether he is insane or not. Take 
the parallel case of a Felon. A magistrate 
commits him for trial, and generally on bet- 
ter evidence than medical certificates ; but 
that does not make the man a Felon, or dis- 
entitle him to a trial by his peers ; on the 
contrary, it entitles hun to a trial, and he 
could get Parliament to interfere, if he was 
not brought to trial. This Plaintiff simply 
does what, he will say, you ought to have 
done ; he tries himself; if he tries vou at 
the same time, that is your fault. If he is 
insane now, fight. If he is not, I advise vou 
to discharge him on the instant and then 
compound." 



Wheeler said he was afrmd the PlaindfiT 
was too vindictive to come to terms. 

'' Well, then, you can show you discharged 
him the moment you had reason to think 
he was cured, and you must prove he 
was insane when you incarcerated him ; 
but I warn you it iml be uphill work if he 
is sane now; the jury will be apt to go bj 
what they see." 

Bassett and Wheeler retired ; the latter 
did not presume to difier ; but Bassett was 
dissatisfied and irritated. 

« That fellow would only seethe Plaintiff's 
side," said he. " The fool forgets there is 
an Act of Parliament, and that we have 
complied with its provisions to a T." 

" Then why did you not ask his construc- 
tion of the Act? " suffgested Wheeler. 

<< Because I don^ want his construc- 
tion. I 've read it, and it is plain enough 
to anybody but a fi)ol. Well, I have 
consulted Counsel, to please you; and 
now I'll so my own way, to please my- 
self." 

He went to Burdoch, and struck a bar- 

giin, and Sir Charles was to be shifted to 
urdoch's Asylum, and nobody allowed to 
see him there, etc. etc. ; the old system, in 
short, than which no better has, as yet, 
been devised, for perpetuating, or even 
causing, mental aberration. 

"Rom baffled this, as described, and Bas- 
sett was literally stunned. He now saw 
that Sir Charles had an ally full of re- 
sources and resolution. Who could it be ? 
He be^an to tremble. He complained to 
the police, and set them to discover who 
had thus openly and audaciously violated 
the Act of Parliament, and then he went 
and threatened Dr. Suabv. 

But Bolfe and Sir Charles, who loved 
Suaby as he deserved, had provided against 
that ; theyhad not let the doctor into their 
secret. He therefore said, with perfect 
truth, that he had no hand in the matter, 
and that Sir Charles, being bound upon his 
honor not to escape from Bellevue, would 
be in the Asylum still, if Mr. Bassett had 
not taken him out, and invoked brute force, 
in the shape of Burdoch. ^< Well, sir," said 
he, *<it seems they have showii you two can 
play at that game." And so bade him good 
afternoon, very civilly. 

Bassett went home sickened. He remained 
sullen and torpid for a day or two ; then he 
wrote to Burdoch to send to London and 
try and recapture Sir Charles. 

But next day he revoked his instructions, 
for he got a letter from the Commissioners 
of Lunacy, announcing the authoritative 
discharge of Sir Charles, on the strong rep- 
resentation of Dr. Suaby and other compe- 
tent persons. 

That settled the matter, and the poor 
cousin had kept the rich cousin three months 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



117 



at his own expense, with no solid advantage, 
but the prospect of a lawsuit. 

Sharpe, spurred by Bolfe, gave him no 
breathing time. With the utmost expedi- 
tion the Declaration in Bassett v. Bassett 
followed the writ. It was short, simple, and 
in three counts. 

" For violently seizing and confining the 
Plaintiff in a certain place, on a false pre- 
tence that he was insane. 

" For detaining him in spite of evidence 
that he was not insane. • 

** For endeavoring to remove him to an- 
other place, with a certain sinister motive 
there specified. 

"By which several acts the Plaintiff had 
suffered in his health and his worldly affairs, 
and had endured great a^ony of mind. 

" And the Plaintiff clauned damages, ten 
thousand pounds.'' 

Bassett sent over for his friend Wheeler, 
and showed him the new document, with no 
little consternation. 

But their discussion of it was speedily 
interrupted by the clashing of triumphant 
bells and distant shouting. 

They ran out, to see what it was. Bassett, 
half suspecting, hung back ; but Mary Gos- 
port's keen eye detected him, and she held 
up the heir to him, with hate and triumph 
blazing in her face. 

He crept into his own house, and sank 
into a chair-foudroyd. 

Wheeler, however, roused him to a neces- 
sary effort, and next day they took the dec- 
laration to Counsel, to settle their defence 
in due form. 

" What is this ? " said the learned gentle- 
man. " Three counts I Why, I advised you 
to discharge him at once." 

" Tes," said Wheeler, " and excellent ad- 
vice it was. But my client — " 

** Preferred to go his own road. And now 
I am to cure the error I did what I could to 
prevent." 

*< I dare say, sir, it is not the first time in 
your experience." 

<< Not by a great many. Clients, in gen- 
eral, have a great contempt for the notion 
that prevention is better than cure." 

*< He can't hurt me," saad'Bassett, impa- 
tientlv. " He was separately examined by 
two doctors, and all the provisions of the 
statute exactly complied with." 

" But that is no defence to this plaint. 
The statute forbids you to imprison an 
insane person without certain precautions ; 
but it does not give you a right, under any 
circumstances, to imprison a sane man. 
That was decided in Butcher v. Butcher. 
The defence you rely on was pleaded as a 
second plea, and the Plaintiff demurred to 
it directly. The question was argued before 
the fidl court, and the judges, led oy the first 
lawyer of the age, decided unanimously that 



the provisions of the statute did not affect 
sane Englishmen, and their rights under the 
common law. They ordered the plea to be 
struck off the record, and the case was re- 
duced to a simple issue of sane or insane. 
Butcher t;. Butcher governs all these cases. 
Can you prove htm insane ? If not, you had 
better compound on any terms. In Butcher's 
case the jury gave £8,000, and the Plaintiff 
was a man or very inferior position to Sir 
Charles Bassett. Besides, the Defendant, 
Butcher, had notpersisted against evidence, 
as you have, lliey will award £5,000 at 
least, in this case." 

He took down a volume of reports, and 
showed them the case he had cited; and, 
on reading the unanimous decision of the 
judges, and the learning by which they 
were supported. Wheeler said at once, "Mr. 
Bassett, we might as well try to knock down 
St. Paul's with our heads, as to go agunst 
this decision." 

They then settled to put in a single plea, 
that Sir Charles was insane at the time of his 
captore. 

This done to gain time, Wheeler called on 
Sharpe ; and, a&r several conferences, got 
the case compounded by an apology, a solemn 
retractation in writing, and the payment of 
four thousand pounds ; and his counsel as- 
sured him his client was very lucky to get 
off so cheap. 

Bassett paid the money, with the assistr 
ance of his wife's father: but it was a 
sickener; it broke his spirit, and even 
injured his health for some time. 

Sir Charles improved the village with 
the monev, and gave a copyhold tenement 
to each of the men Bassett had got impris- 
oned. So thev and their sons and their 
grandsons lived rent free, — no, now I think 
of it, they had to pay fourpence a year to 
the Lord of the Manor. 

Defeated at every point, and at last pun- 
ished severely, Riduurd Bassett fell into a 
deep dejection and solitarv brooding of a 
sort very dangerous to the reason. He 
would not go out of doors to ^ve his ene- 
mies a triumph. He used to sit bv the fire 
and mutter, "Blow upon blow, blow upon 
blow. My poor bov will never be Lord of 
Huntercombe now,'^ and so on. 

Wheeler pitied him, but could not rouse 
him. 

At last a person, for whose narrow attain- 
ments and simplicity he had a profound, 
though, to do him justice, a civil contempt, 
ventured to his rescue. Mrs. Bassett went 
crying to her father, and told him she feared 
the worst, if Richard's mind could not be 
diverted from the Huntercombe estate, and 
his hatred of Sir Charles and Lady Bassett, 
which had been the great misfortune of her 
life, and of his own, but nothing would ever 
eradicate it. Richard had great abilities, 



1X8 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



was a linguist, a wonderful accountant: 
coald her dear father find him some profita- 
ble employment, to divert his thoughts ? 

<' What, all in a moment ? " said the old 
man ; *^ then I shall have to buy it : and, if 
I go on like this, I shall not have much to 
leave you." 

Having delivered this objection, he went 
up to London, and, having many firiends in 
the City, and laying himself open to pro- 
posals, he got scent at last of a new insur- 
ance company that proposed also to deal 
in reversions, especially to entailed estates. 
By prompt purcnase of shares in Bassett's 
name, and introducing Bassett himself, who, 
by special study, had a vast acquaintance 
with entailed estates, and a genius for arith- 
metical calculation, he managed somehow to 
get him into the direction with a stipend, 
and a commission on all business he might 
introduce to the office. 

Bassett yielded sullenly, and now divid- 
ed his time between London and the coun- 
try. 

Wheeler worked with him, on a share of 
commission, and they made some money be- 
tween them. 

After the bitter lesson he had received, 
Bassett vowed to himself he never would 
attack Sir Charles again, imless he was sure 
of victory. For all this, he hated him and 
Ladv Bassett worse than ever, hated them 
to the death. 

He never moved a finger down at Hunter- 
combe, nor said a word ; but, in London, he 
employed a private inquirer to find out 
where' Lady Bassett had lived at the time of 
her confinement, and whether any clergyman 
had visited her. 

The private inquirer could find out noth- 
ing, and Bassett, comparing his advertise- 
ments with his performance, dismissed him 
for a humbug. 

But the office brought him into contact 
with a great many medical men, one after 
another. He used to say to each stranger, 
with an insidious smile, << I think you once 
attended my cousin, ~ Lady Bassett." 



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-SEVENTH. 

Sir Charles and Lady Bassett, relieved 
of their cousin's active enmity, led a quiet 
life, and one that no longer furnished strik- 
ing incidents. 

iBut dramatic incident is not everything : 
character and feeling show themselves m 
things that will not make pictures. Now 
it was precisely during this reposeful period, 
that three personages of this stoir exhibited 
fresh traits of feelmg and also of'^character. 

To begin with Sir Charles Bassett. He 
came back from the Asylum, much altered 



in body and mind. Stopping his cigars had ^ 
improved his stomach ; working in the gar- 
den had increased his muscular power, and 
his cheeks were healthy, and a little sun- 
burnt, instead of sallow. His mind was also 
improved : contemplation of insane persons 
had set him by a natural recoil to study self- 
control. He had returned a philosopher* 
No small thing could irritate him now. So 
far his character was elevated. 

Lady Bassett was much the same as be- 
fore, excent a certain restlessness. She 
wanted to oe told every day, or twice a day, 
that her husband was happy ; and, although 
he was visibly so, yet, as ne was quiet over 
it, she used to be always asking him if he 
was happy. This the reader must interpret 
as he pleases. 

ManrGosport gave herself airs. Respect- 
fiil to her master and mistress, but not so 
tolerant of chaff in the kitchen as she used 
to be. Made an example of one girl, who 
threw a doubt on her marriage. Com- 
plained to Lady Bassett, affected to fret, 
and the girl was dismissed. 

She turned singer. She had always sung 
psalms in church, but never a profane note 
in the house. Now she took to singing over 
her nursling ; she had a voice of proiugions 
power and mellowness, and provided she 
was not asked, would sing lullabies and 
nursery rhymes from another county, that 
ravished the hearer. Horsemen have been 
known to stop in the road, to hear her sing 
through an open window of Huntercombe, 
two hundred yards off. 

Old Mr. Meyrick, a fermer weHsfft-do, fas- 
cinated by Mary ' Gosport's singing, asked 
her to be his housekeeper, when she should 
have done nursing her charge. 

She laughed in his face. 

A fanatic, who was staying with Sir 
Charles Bassett, offered her diree years' 
education in Do, Ra, Mi, Fa, preparatory to 
singins at the opera. 

Decuned without thanks. 

Mr. Drake, after hovering shyly, at last 
found courage to reproach her for deserting 
him, and marrying a sailor. 

<< Teach you not to shilly «hally," said she. 
'< Beauty won't go a begging. Mind you look 
sharper next time." 

which dialogue, being held in the kitchen, 
gave the women some amusement at the 
young farmer's expense. 

One day Mr. Richard Bassett, from 
motives of pure affection, no doubt, not 
curiosity, desired mightily to inspect Mr. 
Bassett, aged eight months and two days. 

So, iq his usual wily way, he wrote to 
Mrs. Grosport, asking her, for old acquaint- 
ance' sake, to meet him in the meadow at 
the end of the lawn. This meadow belonged 
to Sir Charles, but Richard Bassett had a 
right of way through it, and could step into 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



119 



it by a postern, as Maiy could by an uon 
gate. 

He asked ber to come at eleven o'clock, be- 
cause, at that bour, be observed sbe walked 
on tbe lawn witb ber cbaree. 

Mary Gosport came to the tryst, but with- 
out Mr. Bassett. 

Richard was very polite ; she cold, taciturn, 
observant. 

At last he said, << But where 's the little 
hdr?" 

Sbe flew at him directly. " It is him you 
wanted, not me. Did you think I 'd bnug 
him here — for you to kill him ? " 
Come, I say." 

<< Ah, you 'd kill him, if you had a chance. 
But you never shall. Or, if you did n't kill 
hinii you 'd cast the evil eye on him, for you 



are well known to have tbe evil eye. No ; 
he shall outlive thee and thine, and be lord 
of these here manors, when thou is gone to 
hell, thou villain." 

Mr. Richard Bassett turned pale, but did 
the wisest thing he could, — put his bands in 
bis pockets, and walked into bis own prem- 
ises, followed, however, by Mary Gk)sport> 
who stormed at him, till he shutbis postern 
in her face. 

She stood there trembling for a little while, 
then walked away, crying. 

But, having a mind like running water, she 
was soon seated on a gardcn-cbair, singing 
over her nursling, like a mavis : she bad de- 
livered him to Millar, while sbe went to speal^ 
her mind to ber old lover. 

As for Richard Bassett, he was theory* 



120 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



bitten, and so turned everything one way. 
To be sure, as long as the woman's glaring 
eyes, and face distorted by passion, were 
before him, he interpreted her words simply : 
but when he thought the matter over he said 
to himself, " The evil eye ! That is all bosh ; 
the girl is in Lady Bassett's secrets ; and I 
am not to see young master : some day I 
shall know the reason why.'' 

Sir Charles Bassett now belonged to the 
tribe of clucking cocks quite as much as his 
cousin had ever done ; only Sir Charles had 
the good taste to confine his clucks to his 
own first floor. Here, to be sure, he richlv 
indemnified himself for his self-denial abroad. 
He sat for hours at a time, watching the bov 
on the ground at his knee, or in his nurse^s 
arms. 

And, whilst he watched the infant with un- 
disguised delight. Lady Bassett would watch 
him with a sort of furtive and timid com- 
placency. 

Yet, at times, she suffered from twinges of 
jealousy, — a new complaint with her. 

I think I have mentioned that Sir Charles, 
at first, was annoyed at seeing his son and 
heir nursed by a woman of low condition. 
Well, he got over that feeling by degrees, 
and, as soon as he did get over it, his senti- 
ments took quite an opposite turn. A woman 
for whom he did very httle, in his opinion, — 
since what, in Heaven's name, were a ser- 
vant's wages, — he saw that woman do some- 
thing great for him : saw her nourish his son 
and heir from her own veins; the child had 
no other nurture ; yet the father saw him 
bloom and thrive, and grow surprisingly. 

A weak observer, or a less enthusiastic 

Earent, might have overlooked all this ; but 
•ir Charles had naturally an observant eye 
and an analytical mind, and this had been 
suddenly, but effectually, developed by the 
Asylum and his correspondence with Rolfe. 

He watched the nurse then, and her ma- 
ternal acts, with a curious and gratefiil eye, 
and a certain reverence for her power. 

He observed, too, that his child reacted 
on the woman : she had never sun^ in the 
house before ; now she sang ravishingly, 
sang in low, mellow, yet sonorous notes 
some ditties that had lulled mediaeval barons 
in their cradles. 

And what had made her vocal made her 
beautiful at times. 

Before, she had appeared to him a hand- 
some girl, with the hi^ish look of the lower 
classes : but now, when she sat in a sunny 
window, and lowered her black lashes on 
her nursling, with the mixed and delicious 
smile of an exuberant nurse relieving and 
relieved, she was soft, poetical, sculptorial, 
maternal, womanly. 

This species of contemplation, though 
half philosophical, half paternal, and quite 



innocent, gave Lady Bassett some severe 
pangs. She hid them, however, only she 
bided her time and then suggested the pro- 
priety of weaning Baby. 

But Mrs. Gosport got Sir Charles's ear, 
and told him what magnificent children they 
reared in her village by not weaning infants 
till they were eighteen months old or so. 

By this means, and by crying to Lady 
Bassett, and representing her desolate con- 
dition, with a husband at sea, she obtained 
a reprieve, coupled, however, with a good- 
humored assurance from Sir Charles that she 
was the greater baby of the two. 

When the inevitable hour approached 
that was to dethrone her, she took to read- 
ing the papers, and one day she read of a 
disastrous wreck, the Carbrea Castle, 
only seven saved out of a crew of twenty^ 
three. She read the details carefully, and, 
two days afterwards she received a letter 
written hy a shipmate of Mr. Grosport, in a 
handwriting not very unlike her own, relat- 
ing the saa wreck of the Carbrea Castle 
and the loss of several good sailors, James 
Gosport for one. 

llien the house was filled with the wail- 
ing and weeping of the bereaved widow ; 
and then came consolers and raised doubts^ 
but then somebody remembered to have 
seen the loss of that very ship in the paper. 
The paper was found, and the fatal truth 
was at once established. 

Upon this Mr. Bassett was weaned as 
quickly as possible, and the widow clothed in 
black at Lady Bassett's expense, and every- 
thing in reason was done to pet her and 
console her. 

But she cried bitterly, and said she woald 
throw herself into the sea and follow her 
husband. 

Huntercombe was nowhere near the coast. 

At last, however, she relented, and con- 
cluded to remain on earth as dry nurse to 
Mr. Bassett. 

Sir Charles did not approve this; it 
seemed unreasonable to turn a wet nurse in- 
to a dry nurse, when that ofiSce was alrea^ 
occupied by a person her senior and more 
experienced. 

Lady Bassett a^eed with him, bnt 
shrugged her shoumers and said, <<Two 
nurses will not hurt, and I suspect it will 
not be for long. Mary does not feel her hus- 
band's loss one bit." 

<< Surely you are mistaken. She howls 
loud enough." 

" Too loud, — much," said Lady Bassett, 
dryly. * 

Her perspicuity was not deceived. In a 
very short time, Mr. Meyrick, unable to get 
her for his housekeeper, ofiered her mar- 
riage. 

" What 1 " said she, " and James Gosport 
not dead a month ? " 



A TEERIBLE TEMPTATION. 



121 



« Say the word now ; and take your own 
time/' said he. 

*• Well, I might do worse," said she. 

About six weeks after this Drake came 
about her, and in tender tones of consolation 
suggested that it is much better for a pret- 
ty girl to marry one who ploughs the land 
than one who ploughs the sea. 

^ That is true," said Mary, with a sigh ; 
**I have found it to my sorrow." 

After this Drake played a bit with her, 
and dien relented, and one evening ofiered 
her marriage, expecting her to jump eagerly 
at his offer. 

« You be too late, young man," said she, 
coolly, "I'm bespoke." 

« Doan't ye say that 1 How can ye be be- 
spoke ? Why t' other han't been dead four 
months yet." 

« What o' that? This one spoke for me 
within a week. Why our banns are to be 
cried to-moirow ; come to church and hear 
'em, that will learn ye not to shilly shally so 
next time." 

« Next time I " cried Drake, half blubber- 
ing : then, with a sudden roar, " What, be 
you coming to market again, arter this ? " 

" Like enough : he is a sight older than I 
be. 'T is Mr. Meyrick, if ye must know." 

Now Mr. Meyrick was well-to-do, and so 
Drake was taken aback. 

" Mr. Meyrick ! " said he, and turned sud- 
denly respectful. 

But presently a view of a rich widow flit- 
ted before his eye. 

« Well," said he, " you sha' n't throw it in 
my teeth agidn as I speak too late. I ask 
you now, and no time lost" 

" What, am I to stop my banns, and jilt 
Farmer Meyrick for thee t " 

" Nay, nay. But I mean I '11 marry you, 
if you '11 marry me, as soon as ever the breath 
is out of that dall'd old hunks's body." 

" Well, well. Will Drake," said Mary, 
gravely, " if I do outlive this one, — and you 
Daint married long afore, — and if you keeps 
in the same mind as you be now, — and lets 
me know it in good time, — I '11 see about t." 

She save a flounce that made her petti- 
coats wiiislc like a mare's tail, and off to the 
kitdbcn, where she related the dialogue with 
an appropriate reflection, the company con- 
taining several of either sex. " Dilly, Dally, 
and Shilly, Shally, they belongs to us as wo- 
man be. I hate and de^ipise a man, as can't 
make up his mind in half a minnut." 

So the Widow Gosport became Mrs. Mey- 
rick, and lived in a farm-house not quite a 
mile from the Hall. 

She used often to come to the Hall, and 
take a peep at her lamb ; this was the name 
^e gave Mr. Bassett long after he had 
ceased to be a child. 

About four years after the triumphant re- 



turn to Huntercombe, Lady Bassett con- 
ceived a sudden coldness towards the little 
boy, though he was universally admired. 

She concealed this sentiment from Sir 
Charles, but not from the female servants : 
and, from one to another, at last it came round 
to Sir Charles. He disbelieved it utterly at 
first ; but, the hint having been given him, 
he paid attention, and discovered there 
was, at all events, some truth in it. 

He awaited his opportunity, and remon- 
strated, " My dear Bella, am I mistaken, or 
do I really observe a falling off in your ten- 
derness for your child ? " 

Lady Bassett looked this way and that, 
as if she meditated flight, but at last she re- 
signed herself, and said, << Yes, Charles ; my 
heart is quite cold to him." 

« Good heavens, Bella! But why? Is 
not this the same little angel that came to 
our help in trouble, that comforted me even 
before his birth, when my mind was morbid, 
to say the least?" 

<< I suppose he is the same," said she, in a 
tone impossible to convey, by description of 
mine. 

<< That is a strange answer." 

« If he is, / am chan^d." And this she 
said doggedly and unlike herself. 

" What I " said Sir Charles, very gravely, 
and with a sort of awe : << can a woman 
withdraw her affection frt)m her child, her 
innocent child ? If so, my turn may come 
next" 

<<0 Charles! Charles!" and the tears 
began to well. 

" Why, who can be secure after this ? 
What is so stable as a mother's love? If 
that is not rooted too deep for gusts of ca- 
price to blow it away, in Heaven's name 
what is?" ^ 

No answer to that but tears. 

Sir Charles looked at her very long, at- 
tentively, and seriously, and droppea the 
subject. 

But his dropping so suddenly a subject of 
this importance was rather suspicious, and 
Lady Bassett wa too shrewd not to see 
that. 

They watched each other. 

But with this difference: Sir Charles 
could not conceal his anxiety, whereas the 
lady appeared quite tranquil. 

One day Sir Charles said, cheerfully, 
" Who do you think dines here to-morrow, 
and stays all night ? Dr. Suaby." 

" By invitation, dear? " asked Lady Bas- 
sett, quietly. 

Sir Charles colored a little, and said 
quietly, "Yes." 

Laay Bassett made no remark, and it was 
impossible to tell by her face whether the 
visit was agreeable or not 

Some time afterwards, however, she said, 
'< Whom shall I ask to meet Dr. Suaby ? " 



122 



TERRIBLB TEMPTATION. 



« Nobody, for Heaven s sake 1 " 

^ Will not that be dull for him ? " 

"I hope not/' 

" You will haye plenty to say to him, eh, 
darling ? '* 

" We never yet lacked topics. Whether 
or no, his is a mind I choose to drink neat." 

"Drink him tieat?" 

" Undiluted with rand minds." 

«Ohl" 

She uttered that monosyllable very dryly, 
and said no more. 

Dr. Suaby came next day, and dined 
with them, and Lady Bassett was charming ; 
but, rather earlier than usual, she said, 
*^ Now I am sure you and Dr. Suaby must 
have many things to talk about," and re- 
tired, casting back an arch, and almost a 
cunning smile. 

The door closed on her; the smile fled, 
and a sombre look of care and suffering 
took its place. 

Sir Charles entered at once on what was 
next his heart ; told Dr. Suaby he was in 
some anxiety ; and asked him if he had oh- 
served anything in Lady Bassett. 

" Nothing new," said Dr. Suaby, " charm- 
ingas ever." 

Then Sir Charles confided to Dr. Suaby, 
in terms of deep feeling and anxiety what 
I have coldly told the reader. 

Dr. Suaby looked a little grave, and 
took time to think before he spoke. 

At last he delivered an opinion, of Which 
this is the substance, though not the exact 
words. 

" It is sudden and unnatural, and I can- 
not say it does not partake of mental aber- 
ration. If the patient was a man, I should 
fear the most serious results : but here we 
have to take into account the patient's sex, 
her nature, and her present condition. 
Lady Bassett has always appeared to me a 
very remarkable woman. She has no me- 
diocrity in anything; understanding keen, 
perception wondermlly swift, heart lar^e 
and sensitive, nerves high strung, sensibUi- 
ties acute. A person of her sex, tuned so 
high as this, is always subject, more or less, 
to nysteria. It is controlled by her intelli- 
^nce and spirit: but she is now, for the 
time being, in a physical condition that has 
often deranged less sensitive women than 
she is. I believe this about the boy to be a 
hysterical delusion, which will pass away 
when her next child is bom. That is to say, 
she will probably ignore her first-bom, and 
everything else, for a time; but these car 
prices, springing in reality from the body 
rather than the mind, cannot endure forever. 
When she has several grown-up children 
the first-bom will be the favorite. It comes 
to that at last, my good friend." 

" These are the words of wisdom," said 
^ir Charles ; '< God bless you for them." 



After a while he said, "Then what yoa 
advise is simply — patience ? " 

" No, I don't say that. With such a larse 
house as this, and your resources, you mioht * 
easily separate them before the delusion 
grows any farther. Why risk a calam- 
fty?" 

" A calamity ? " and Sir Charles began to 
tremble. 

" She is only cold to the child as yet. 
She might go farther, and fancy she hated 
it. Obsta principiis: that is my motto. 
Not that I really think, for a moment, the 
child is in danger. Lady Bassett has mind 
to control her nerves with ; but why run the 
shadow of a chance ? " 

" I will not run the shadow of a chance," 
said Sir Charles, resolutely ; " let us come 
up stairs : my decision is taken." 

The very next day Sir Charles called on 
Mrs. Meyiick, and aisked if he could come to - 
any arrangement with her to lodge Mr. Bas- 
sett and his nurse under her roof; " The 
boy wants change of air," said he. 

Mrs. Mevrick jumped at the proposal, but 
declined all terms. " No," said she, " the 
child I have suckled shall never pay me for 
his lodging. Why should he, sir, when I 'd 
pay you to let him come, if I was n't afeard 
of offending you ? " 

Sir Charles was touched at this, and, be- 
ing a gentleman of tact, said, " You are very 
good : well, then, I must remain your debtor 
for the present." 

He then took his leave, but she walked : 
with him a few yards, just as far as the 
wicket gate that separated her little front - 
garden from the high-road. 

" I hope," said she, " my lady will come 
and see me, when my lamb is with me : a 
sight of her would he good for sore eyes. 
She have never been here but once, and then 
she did not get out of her carriage." 

" Humph I" said Sir Charles, apologeti- 
cally, " she seldom goes out now ; you un- * 
derstand." 

" O, I 've heard, sir ; and I do put up my 
prayers for her ; for my lad v has been a 
good friend to me, sir, and, if you will be- 
lieve me, I often sets here ana longs for a 
sight of her, and her sweet eyes, and her 
hair like sunshine, that I Ve hsui in my 
hand so often. Well, sir, I hope it will 
be a girl this time, a little ^1 with golden 
hair ; that 's what I wants this time. They '11 
be the prettiest pair in England." 

"With all my heart," said Sir Charles; 
" girl, or boy, I don't care which ; but I 'd 
give a few thousands if it was here, and the 
mother safe." 

He hurried away, ashamed of having ut- 
tered the feelings of his heart to a farmer's 
wife. To avoid discussion, he sent Mrs. Mil- 
lar and the boy off, all in a huny, and then 
told Lady Bassett what he had done* 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



123 



Sbe appeared mncb distressed at that, 
and asked what she had done. 

He soothed her, and said she was not to 
blame at all ; and she must not blame him 
either. He had done his best. 

** After all you are the master/* said she, 
submissively. 

"lam," said he, *<and men will be ty- 
rants, you know." 

Then she flung her arm round her ty- 
rant's neck and there was an end of the 
discussion. 

One day he inquired for her and heard, 
to his no small satisfaction, she had driven 
to Mrs. Meyrick's, with a box of things 
for Mr. Bassett She stayed at the farm- 
house all day, and Sir Charles felt sure he 
had done the right thing. 

Mrs. Mevrick found out to her cost the 
difference between a nursling and a ram- 
pageous little boy. 

Her lamb, as she called him, was now a 
young monkey, vigorous, active, restless, 
and, unfortunately, as strong on his pins as 
most boys of six. It took two women to 
look after him, and smart ones too, so swift- 
ly did he dash off into some mischief or 
other. At last Mrs. Meyrick simpli6ed mat- 
ters in some degree by locking the large 
gate, and even the small wicket, and order- 
ing all the farm people and milkmaids to 
keep an eve on him, and bring him straight 
to her if he should stray, for he seemed to 
hate indoors. Never was such a boy. 

Nevertheless, such as had not the care of 
him admired the child for his beauty and 
assurance. He seemed to regard the whole 
human race as one family, of which he was 
the rising head. The moment he caught 
^ght of a human being he dashed at it and 
into conversation by one unbroken move- 
ment. 

Now children in general are too apt to 
hide their intellectusd treasures from stran- 
gers by shyness. 

One day this ready converser was stand- 
ing on the steps of the house, when a gentle- 
man came to the wicket gate, and looked 
over into the garden. 

Young master darted to the gate directly, 
and, getting his foot on the lowest bar and 
his hands on the spokes, gave tongue. 

"Who are you? I'm Mr. Bassett I 
don't live here; I'm only staying. My 
home is Huncom HalL I 'm to have it for 
myself when papa dies. I did n't know dat 
till I cc»ne here. How old are yon ? I 'm 
half-past four — " 

A loud scream, a swift rustle, and Mr. 
Bassett wag clutched up by Mrs. Meyrick, 
who snatched him away with a wild glance 
of terror and defiance, and bore him swiftly 
into the house with words ringing in her 
ears that cost Mr. Bassett dear, he being 
the only person sh^ coul^punish. She sat 



down on a bench, flung young master across 
her knee in a minute, and bestowed such a 
smacking on hini as far transcended his 
wildest dreams of the weight, power, and 
pertinacity of the human arm. 

The words Richard Bassett had shot her 
flying with were these : — 

"Too latel I've seen the parson's 

BRAT." 

Richard Bassett mounted his horse and 
rode over to Wheeler, for he could no longer 
wheedle the man of law over to Highmore, 
and I will say briefly why. 

1st. About three years a^, an old lady, 
one of his few clients, left him three thou- 
sand pounds, just reward of a very little 
law and a vast deal of gossip. 

2d. The head solicitor of the place got 
old and wanted a partner. Wheeler bought 
himself in, and tnenceforth took his share 
of a good business, and by his energy en- 
larged it, though he never could founa one 
for nimself. 

Sd. He married a wife. 

4th. She was a pretty woman, and blessed 
with jealousy of a just and impartial nature : 
she was equally jealous of women, men, 
books, business, anything that took her hus- 
band from her. 

No more sleeping out at Highmore; no 
more protracted potations ; no more bache- 
lor tncks for Wheeler. He still valued his 
old client, and welcomed him; but the venue 
was changed, so to speak. 

Richard Bassett was kept waiting in the 
outer oflice; but when he did get in he 
easily prevailed on Wheeler to send the 
next chent or two to his partner, and give 
him a full hearing. 

Then he opened his business. "Well," 
said he, " I 've seen him at last 1 " 

" Seen him? seen whom ? " 

**The boy they have set up to rob my 
boy of the estate. I 've seen him, Wheeler, 
seen him close; and he's as black as 

MY HAT." 



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-EIGHTH. 

Wheeler, instead ofbeing thunder-strick- 
en, said quietly, « O, is he ? Well ? " 

" Sir Charles is lighter than I am : Lady 
Bassett has a skin like satin, and red hair." 

" Red I say auburn gilt. I never saw such 
lovely hair." 

" Well," said Richard, impatiently, « then 
the boy has eyes like sloes, and a brown 
skin, lU:e an Italian, and black hair almost; 
it will be quite." 

« Well,'^ said Wheeler, « it is not so very 
uncommon for a dark diild to be bom of 
fairpaients, or vice versa. I once saw an 



124 



A TEBSEBLE TEMPTATION. 



urcbin that was like neitiher father nor moth- 
er, but the image of his father's grandfa- 
ther, that died eighty years before he was 
bom. They used to hold him up to the por- 
trait." 

Said Bassetty " Will you admit that it is 
uncommon V " 

<< Not so uncommon as for a high-bred 
lady, living in the country, and adored by 
her husband, to trifle with ner marriage tow, 
finr that is what you are driving at." 

<< Then we have to decide oetween two 
improbabilities ; will yoa grant me that, Mr. 
Wheeler?" 

"Yes." 

" Then suppose I can proye fhet upon 
fact, and coincidence upon coincidence, all 
tending one way ! Are you so prejudiced, 
that nothing will convince you ? ** 

" No. But it will take a great deal : that 
lady's fkce is fhll of purity, and she fought 
us uke one who loved her husband." 

" Fronti ntdla Jides: and as for her ^ht- 
ing, her infidelity was the weapon she defeat- 
ed us with. — Will you hear me?" 

" Yes, yes ; but pray stick to facts, and 
not conjectures." 

"Then don't interrupt me with childish 
arguments : 

" Fact 1. — Both reputed parents fair ; the 
boy as black as the ace of spades. 

" Fdct 2. — A handsome youns fellow 
was always buzzing around her mdyship, 
and he was a parson, and ladies are remark- 
ably fond of parsons. 

*^ Fact 3. — This parson was of Italian 
breed, dark, like the boy. 

^^ Fact A, — This dark young man left 
Huntercombe one week, and my lady left it 
the next, and they were both in the city of 
Bath at one time. 

« Fact 5. — The Lady went from Bath to 
London. The dark young man went from 
Bath to London." 

" None of this is new to me," said Wheel- 
er, quietly. 

" No ; but it is the rule, in estimating co- 
incidences, that each fresh one multiplies 
the value of the others. Now the boy look- 
lag so Italian is a new coincidence, and so 



is what I ameoing to tell yon, — at last I 
have found the medical man who attended 
Lady Bassett in London.'' 

"Ah I" 

" Yes, sir ; and I have learned Fact 6. — 
Her ladyship rented a house, but hired no 
servants, and engaged no nurse. She had 
no attendant but a lady's-maid, no servant 
but a sort of charwoman. 

" Fact 7. — She dismissed this doctor mo- 
usnally soon, and gave him a very large fee. 

*^ Facts. — She concealed her address 
from her husband." 

" Oh I can you prove that ? " 

"Certainly. Sir Charles came up to 
town, and had to hunt for her, came to this 
veiy medical man, and asked for the address 
his wife had not given him ; but lo ! when ba 
got there the bird was flown. 

" Fact 9. — Following the same system of 
concealment, my lady levanted from Lonr 
don within ten days of her confinement. 

" Now put all these coincidences togeth- 
er. Don t you see that she had a lover, and 
that he was about her in London and other 
places? Stop! Fact 10, — Those two were 
married for years, but had.no child but this 
equivocal one ; and now four years and a 
half have passed, during all which time ihej 
have had none, and the youne parson has 
been abroad during that period.'' 

Wheeler was staggerea and perplexed bj 
this artful array of coincidences. 

" Now advise me," said Bassett. 

"It is not so easy. Of coarse if Sir 
Charles was to die, you could claim the es- 
tate, and give them a great deal of pain and 
annoyance ; but the burden of proof would 
always rest on yon. My advice is not to 
bream a syllable of this : but get a good do- 
tective, and push your inquiries a little fiu>- 
ther, among house agents, and the women 
they put into houses ; find that charwoman^ 
and see if you can pick up anything more." 

" Do you know such a thing as an able 
detective?" 

" I know one that will work, i£ 1 instroct 
him." 

" Instruct him, then." 

"IwiU." 



CHAPTER THE TWENTY-NINTH. 

Lady Bassett, as her time of trial drew 
near, became despondent. 

She spoke of the ^ture, and tried to 
pierce it ; and in all these little loving spec- 
ulations and anxieties, there was no longer 
anymention of herself. 

This meant that she feared her husband 
was about to lose her. I put the fear 
in the very form it took in that gentle 
breast. 

Possessed with this dread, so natural to 
her situation, she 'set her house in order, 
and left her little legacies of clothes, and 
jewels, without the help of a lawyer ; for 
Sir Charles, she knew, would respect her 
lightest wish. 

To him she left her all, except these tri- 
fles, and, above all, — a manuscript book. 
It was the history of her wedded life. Not 
the bare outward history : but sueh a record 
of a sensitive woman*s heart, as no male 
writer's pen can approach. 

It was the nature of her face and her 
ton^e to conceal ; but here, on this paper, 
she laid bare her heart ; here her very sub- 
tlety operated, not to hide, but to dissect 
herself and her motives. 

But, O, what it cost her to pen this faith- 
ful record of her love, her trials, her doubts, 
her perplexities, her asjonies, her tempta- 
tions, and her crime. Often she laid down 
the pen, and hid her face in her hands. Often 
the scalding tears ran down that scarlet face. 
Often she writhed at her desk, and wrote on, 
sighing and moaning. Yet she persevered 
to the end. It was the grave that gave her 
the power. " When he reads this," she said, 
^^ I shall be in my tomb. Men make ex- 
cuses for the dead. My Charles will forgive 
me when I am gone. He will know I loved 
him to desperation." 

It took ner many days to write ; !t was 
quite a thick quarto ; so much may a wo- 
man feel in a year or two ; and, need t say 
that, to the reader of that volume, the mys- 
tery of her conduct was all made clear as 
daylight ; clearer far, as regards the revela- 
tion of mind and feeling, than I, dealer in 
broad facts, shall ever make it, for want of 
a woman's mental microscope, and deUcate 
bnu^i. 

AjqH, when this record was finished, she 



wrapped it in paper, and sealed it with 
many seals, and wrote on it, — 

*' Only for my husband* s eye. 
From her who loved him not wis 
but too well," 

And she took other means that even the 
superscription should never be seen of any 
other eye but his. It was some little com- 
fort to her, when the book was written. 

She never prayed to live. But she used 
to pray, fervently, piteously, that her child 
might live, and be a comfort and joy to his 
father. 

The person employed by Wheeler discov- 
ered the house agents, and the woman he 
had employed. 

But these added nothing to the evidence 
Bassett had collected. 

At last, however, this woman, under the 
influence of a promised reward, discovered 
a person who was likely to know more 
about the matter; viz.: the woman who 
was in the house with Lady Bassett at the 
very time. 

But this woman scented gold directly; 
so she held mysterious language ; declined 
to say a word to the officer ; but intimated 
that she knew a great deal, and that the 
matter was in truth well worth looking into, 
and she could tell some strange tales, if it 
was worth her while. 

This information was sent to Bassett ; he 
replied that the woman only wanted money 
for her intelligence, and he did not blame 
her ; he would see her next time he went to 
town, and felt sure she would complete his 
chain of evidence. This put Richard Bas- 
sett into extravagant spirits. He danced 
his little boy on nis knee, dnd said, *^ I '11 
run this little horse against the parson's 
brat ; five to one, and no takers." 

Indeed, his exultation was so loud and 
extravagant, that it jarred on gentle Mrs. 
Bassett. As for Jessie, the Scotch servant, 
she shook her head, and said the master 
was fey. 

In the morning he started for London, 
still so exuberant and excited that the 
Scotch woman implored her mistress not to 
let him go ; there would be an accident on 
the railway, or something. But Mrs. Bassett 
knew her husband too well to interfere with 
his journeys. 



126 



A TEEBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Before lie drove off he demanded his little 
boy. 

" He must kiss me," said he, " for I 'm go- 
ing to work for him. D' ye hear that, Jane ? 
Tms day makes him heir of Huntercombe 
and Bassett." 

The nurse brought word that Master 
Bassett was not very well this morning. 

'< Liet us look at him," said Bassett. 

He got out of his gig, and went to the nur^ 
eery. He found his little boy had a dry 
cou^h, with a little flushing. 

"It is not much," said he ; " but I *11 send 
the doctor over from the town." 

He did so, and himself proceeded up to 
London. 

The doctor came, and, finding the bov 
labored in breathing, administered a fuU 
dose of ipecacuhana. This relieved the 
child for the time; but about four in the 
afternoon he was distressed again, and be- 
gan to cough with a peculiar grating sound. 

Then there Was a cry of msmay : " The 
croup I " The doctor was gone for, and a 
letter posted to Bichard Bassett, urging him 
to come back directly. 

The doctor tried everything, even mer^ 
cury, but could not check the fatal discharge : 
it stiffened into a still more fatal membrane. 

When Bassett returned next afternoon in 
great alarm, he found the poor child thrust- 
ing its fingers into its mouth, in a vain atr 
tempt to free the deadly obstraction. 

A warm bath and strong emetics were now 
administered, and great relief obtained . The 
patient even ate and drank, and asked leave 
to get up and play with a new toy he had. 
But, as often happens in this disorder, a severe 
relapse soon came, with a spasm of the glottis 
so violent and prolonged that the patient at 
last resigned the struggle. Then pain 
ceased forever: the heavenly smile came; 
the breath went; and nothing was left in 
the little white bed but a fair piece of tinted 
clay, that must return to the dust, and carry 
thither all the pride, the hopes, the boasts 
of the stricken father, who had schemed, 
and planned, and counted without Him, in 
whose hands are the issues of life and 
death. 

As for the child himself, his lot was a 
happy one, if we could but see what the 
world is really worth. -He was always a 
bright child, that never cried, nor com- 
plained : his first trouble was his last ; one 
day*s pain, then bliss eternal : he never got 
poisoned by his father's spirit of hate, but 
loved and was beloved during his little life- 
time ; and, dying, he passed m>m his Noah's 
ark to an inheritance a thousand times 
richer than Huntercombe, Bassett, and all 
his cousin's lands. 

The little grave was du^, the bell tolled, 
and a man bowed double with mef saw his 
c^hild and his ambition laid in the dust. 



Lady Bassett heard the bell tolled, and 
spoke but two words : " Poor woman I ** 

She might well say so. Mrd. Bassett was 
in the same condition as herself, yet this 
heavy blow must fall on her. 

As for ^chard Bassett, he sat at home, 
bowed down and stupid with grief. 

Wheeler came one day to console him ; 
but, at the sight o him, refrained from idte 
words. He sat down by him for an houK, 
in silence. Then he got up and said " Good 
by." 

" Thank Vou, old friend, for not insulting 
me,*' said Bassett, in a broken voice. 

Wheeler took his hand, and turned awaj 
his head, and so went away, with a tear in 
his eye. 

A fortnight after this he came again, and 
found Bassett in the same attitude, but not 
in the same leaden stupor. On the contra- 
ry, he was in a state of tremor, he had lost 
under the late blow the sanguine mind that 
used to carry him through everything. 

The doctor was up stairs, and his wife's 
fate trembled in the oalance. 

" Stuy by me," «aid he, " for all my nerve 
is gone. I 'm afraid I shall lose her ; for I 
have just begun to value her ; and that it 
how God deals with his creatures, the mep- 
ciftd God, as they call him." 

Wheeler thought it rather hard God Al- 
mighty should be blamed, because Dick Bas- 
sett had taken eight years to find out hia 
wife's merits ; but he forbore to say so. He 
said kindly he would stay. 

Now while they sat in trying suspense 
the church-bells struck up a merry peal. 

Bassett started violently, and his eyes 
gave a strange glare. 

*' That 's the other 1 " said he ; for he had 
heard about Lady Bassett by this time. 

Then he turned pale. " They ring fbr 
him : then they are sure to toll for me.' 

This foreboding was natural enough in a 
man so blinded by egotism as to fancy thai 
all creation, and the Creator himseli^ must 
take a side in Bassett v. Bassett 

Nevertheless events did not justify thai 
forebodine. The bells had scarcely dona 
ringing for the happy event at Huntep^ 
combe, when joyful feet were heard running 
on the stairs ; joyful voices clashed together 
in the passage, and in came a female ser- 
vant with joyful tidings. Mrs. Bassett was 
safe, and the child in the world. ^ The 
loveliest little girl you ever saw 1 " 

" A girl I " cried Bichard Bassett, with 
contemptuous amazement. Kven his mel- 
ancholy forebodings had not gone that 
length. " And what have they got at Hun- 
tercombe ? " 

" O, it is a boy, sir, there." 

" Of course." 

The ringers heard, and sent one of their 
number to ask him if they should ring. 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



127 



H 
> 

H 
d 

H 
O 



o 



« What for ? " asked Bassett, with a nasty 
dittering eye ; and then with a sudden fury, 
he seizea a large piece of wood from the 
hasket to fling at his insulter. << I '11 teach 
you to come and mock me." 

The ringer vanished ducking. 

« Gently," said Wheeler, « gentljr." 

Bassett diucked the wood back into the 
basket, and sat down gloomily, saying, 
** Then how dare he come and talk about 
ringing beUs for a girl. To think that I 
should have all this mght, and my wife all 
this trouble — for a giri I " 

It was no time to talk of business then ; 
but about a fortnight afterwards, Whieeler 
said, *} I took the detective o£f, to save yon 
expense." 

'* Quite right," said Bassett, wearily. 



'< I gave yon the woman's address ; so tha 
matter is in your hands now, I consider." 

"Yes," said Bassett, wearily. "Move 
no farther in it" 

" Certainly not ; and, frankly, I should be 
glad to see you abandon it." 

"I have abandoned it. Why should I 
stir the mud now ? I and mine are thrown 
out foi'ever ; the only question is, shall a son 
of Sir Charles, or the parson's son, inherit ? 
I 'm for the wrongful heir. Ay," he cried, 
starting up, and beating the aur with his fists 
in sudden frvy, " since the right Bassetts are 
never to have it, let the wrong Bassetts be 
thrown out, at all events ; I 'm on mv back, 
but Sir Charles is no better off; a Dastard 
will succeed him, thanks to that cursed wo* 
man who defeated me.** 



128 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



This turn took Wheeler by snrpriBe. It 
f^so gave him real pain. '^Bassett," said 
he, 'U pity you. What sort of a life has 
yours been for the last eight years ? Yet, 
when there 's do fuel left for war and ha- 
tred, you blow the embers. You are incur- 
able.''^ 

<' I am," said Richard. << 1 11 hate those 
two with my last breath, and curse them in 
my last prayer." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTIETH. 

Lady Bassett's forebodings, like most 
of our insights into the ^ture, were confuted 
by the event 

She became the happy mother of a flaxen- 
haired boy. She insisted on nursing him 
herself; and the experienced persons who 
attended her raised no objection. 

Jn connection with this, she gave Sir 
Charles a peck, not very severe, out sud- 
den, and remarkable as the only one on 
record. 

He -^as contemplating her and her nurs- 
ling wi^ tbe deepest affection, and hap- 
pened to say, '<My own Bella, what deligbt 
It gives me to see you I " ^ 

" Yes," said she, " we will have onlv one 
mother this time, will we, my darling ? and 
it shall be Me." Then suddenly, turning 
her head like a snake, *' O, I saw the looks 
you gave that woman ! " 

Tms was the fiunous peck ; administered 
in return for a look that he had bestowed 
on Mary Gosport, not more than five years 
ago. 

Sir Charles would, doubtless, ave bled 
to death on the spot, but either he had nev- 
er been aware how he looked, or time and 
business had obliterated the impression, 
for he was unaffectedly puzzled, and said, 
" What woman do jrou mean, dear ? " 

<<No matter, darlmg," said Lady Ba»- 
sett, who had already repented her dire 
severity : <* all I sav is, that a nurse is a 
rival I could not endure now; and, another 
thing, I do believe those wet nurses dve 
their disposition to the child : it is dreadful 
to think o£" 

« Well, if so. Baby is safe. He will be 
the most amiable boy in England." 

^ He shall be more amiable than I am, — 
scolding my husband of husbands " ; and 
ihe leaned towards him. Baby and all, £»r 
a kiss from his lips. 

We say at school " Seniores priores," " let 
fibvor go by seniority," but, whdre babies 
adorn the scene, it is ^'juniores priores," 
with that sex to which the very young are 
confided. 

To this rule, as might be expected, Lady 
Bassett furnished no exception; she was 



absorbed in Baby, and trusted Mr. Ba^ett 
a good deal to ms attendant, who bore an 
excellent character for care and attention. 

Now Mr. Bassett was strong on his pins 
and in his will, and his nurse-maid, after 
all, was young; so he used to take his 
wflJks, nearly every day, to Mrs. Mey^ 
rick's : she petted mm enough, and spoiled 
him in every way, while the nurse-maid was 
flirting with her farm-servants out of sight. 

Sir Charles Bassett was devoted to the 
boy, and used always to have him to his 
study in the morning, and to the drawing 
room after dinner, when the party was 
small, and that happened much oftener 
now than heretofore: but at other hours 
he did not look after him, being a business 
man, and considering him at that age to be 
under his mother's care. 

One day the only guest was Mr. Rolf^ ; 
he was staying in the house for three days> 
upon a condition sugsested by himself, viz. : 
that he might enjoy his fiiends' society in 
peace and comfort, and not be set to roll 
the stone of conversation up some young 
lady's back, and obtain monosyllables in 
reply, faintly lisped amidst a clatter of 
fourteen knives and forks. As he would 
not leave his writing-table on any milder 
terms, the^ took him on these. 

After dinner in came Mr; Bassett, erect^ 
and a proud nurse with little Compton, just 
able to hold his nurse's gown and toddle. 

Bolfe did not care for small children ; hB 
just glanced at the angelic fair-haired iib- 
fant, but his admiring gaze rested on the 
elder boy. 

« Why, what is here, — an Oriental 
Prmce?" 

The boy ran to him directly. " Who axe 
you ? " 

"Rolfe the writer. Who are you, — the 
Gypsy King?" 

** No ; but I am very fond of gypsies. 
I 'm Mister Bassett : and when papa diBs I 
shall be Sir Charles Bassett." 

Sir Charles laughed at this with paternal 
&tuitrjr, especially as the boy*B name hap- 
pened to be Beginald Francis, after his 
grandfather. 

Bolfe smiled satirically, for these litt^ 
speeches from children did much to recon- 
cile him to his lot 

« Meantime," said he, <<let us feed off 
him; for it may be forty years before we 
can dance over his grave. First let us see 
what is the unwhdesomest thing on the 
table." 

He rose, and, to the infinite delight of 
Mr. Bassett, and even of Master Comoton, 
who pointed and crowed from his mower's 
lap, he got up on his chair, and put on a 
pair of spectacles to look. 

« Eureka 1 " said he ; << behold that dish 
by Lady Bassett; those are matrons glaces: 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



129 



fetch them here, and let us go in for a fit of 
the gout at once." 

'< Gout ! what 's that ? " inquired Mr. Bas- 
•ett 

« Don't ask me." 

« You don't know." 

« Not know I What, did n't I tell you I 
was Rolfe the writer. Writers know every- 
tiiin^. That is what makes them so modest." 

'i/&. Bassett was now unnaturally silent 
for five minutes, munching chestnuts ; this 
enabled his quests to converse ; but, as soon 
as he had cleared his plate, he cut right 
across the conversation, with that savage 
contempt for all topics but his own, which 
characterizes gentlemen of his age, and says 
Le to Rolfe, ** You know everytmng ? then, 
what's a parson's brat ? " 

" Well, that 's the one thin^ I don't know," 
mid Rolfe ; " but a brat I we to be a bov 
who interrupts ladies and gentlemen with 
nonsense, when they are talking sense." 

''I am very much obliged to you, Mr. 
R(^e," said Lady Bassett. << That remark 
was very much needed." 

Then she called Reginald to her, and lec- 
tured him, 8oUo voce, to the same tune. 

" You old bachelors are rather hard," said 
Sir Charles, not very well pleased. 

^' We are obliged to be ; you parents are 
so soft. Afler all, it is no wonder ; what a 
saperb boy it is I — Ah, here is nurse. I 'm 
00 sorry. Now we shall be cabined, cribbed, 
confined to rational conversation, and I shall 
not be expected to — (good night, little 
flaxen an^I ; good-by, handsome and lo- 
quacious (kmon ; kiss and be friends) — ex- 
pected to know, all in a minute, what is a 
parson's brat. By, the by, talking of par- 
sons, what has become of Angelo ? " 

" He has been, away a go^ many years. 
Consumption, I hear." 

" He was a fine-built fellow, too ; was he 
not, Lady Bassett ? " 

<<I don't know; but he was beautifully 
strong. I think I see him now, carrying 
dear Charles in his arms all down the gar- 
den." 

<< Ah, you see he was raised in a univer- 
sity that does not do thinss by halves, but 
trains both body and mind, as they did at 
Athens ; for the union of study and athletic 
sports is spoken of as a novelty, but it is 
only a return to antiquity." 

Here letters were brought by the second 
post. Sir Charles ^anced at his, and sent 
t^m to his study. Xady Bassett had but 
one. She said << May I ? " to both genHe- 
men, and then opened it. 

<< How strange I " said she. << It is from 
Mr. Angelo : just a line to say he is coming 
home quite cured." 

She began this composedly, but blushed 
afterwards, — blushed quite red. 

<< May 1 1 " said she, and tossed it deli- 



cately half-way to Rolfe. He handed it to 
Sir Charles. 

Some remarks were then made about the 
coincidence, and nothing further passed 
worth recording at that time. 

Next day Lady Bassett, with instinctive 
curiosity, asked Master Reginald how he 
came to put such a question as that to Mr. 
Rolfe. 

*< Because I wanted to know." 

'^But what put such Words into your 
head ? I never heard a gentleman say such 
words : and you must never say them again, 
Reginald." 

*< Tell me what it means, and I wpn't," 
said he. 

" O," said Lady Bassett, " since you bar- 
gain with me, sir, I must bargain with you. 
Tell me first where you ever heard such 
words." 

^ When I was staying at nurse's. Ah, 
that was ioUy." 

*< You uke that better than being here ? " 

« Yes." 

'< I am sorry for that. Well, dear, did 
nurse say that ? Surely not ? " 

<' O no ; it was the man." 

"What man?" 

^< Why, the man that came to the gate one 
morning, and talked to me, and I talked to 
him, and that nasty nurse ran out, and 
caught us, and carried me in, and gave ma 
such a hiding, and all for nodiing." 

" A hiding I What words the poor child 
picks up 1 But I don't understand why 
nurse should beat you.*' 

" For speaking to the man. She said he 
was a bad man, and she would kill me if 
ever I spoke to him again." 

"O, it was a. bad man, and said bad 
words, — to somebody he was quarrelling 
with?" 

" No, he said them to nurse because she 
took me away." 

"What did he say, Reginald?" asked 
Lady Bassett, becoming very grave and 
thoughtful all at once. 

" He said < That 's too late : I 've seen the 
parson's brat. ' " 

"Oh I" 

" And I 've isked nurse again and again 
what it meant, but she won't tell me. ohe 
only says the man is a liar, and I am not to 
say it again : and so I never did sav it again 
— for a long time : but, last nignt, vmen 
Rolfe the writer said he knew everything, 
it struck my head — what is the matter, 
mamma ? " 

" Nothing ; nothing." 

" You look BO white. Are yon ill, mam- 
ma ? " and he went to put his arms round 
her, which was a mighty rare thing with him. 

She trembled a good deal, and did not 
either embrace him or repel him. She only 
trembled. 



130 



A TEURTBLE TEMPTATION. 



After some time the recoyered hers^ 
enoush to say, in a voice, and with a man- 
ner, that impressed itself, at once, on this 
diarp bo^ : " Reginald, your nurse was quite 
right. Understand this ; the man was your 
enemy — and mine ; the words he said, you 
must not say again. It would be like tak- 
ing up dirt and flinging some on your own 
face, and some on mine/' 

"I won't do that," said the boy, firmly. 
<< Are you afraid of the man, that you look 
80 white?" 

<<Aman with a woman's tongue — who 
can help fearing ? " 

" Don't you be afraid ; as soon as I 'm big 
enough, I '11 kill him." 

Ls^y Bassett looked with surprise at the 
diild, he uttered this' resolve with such a 
tteady resolution. 

She drew him to her, and kissed him on 
the forehead. 

<< No, Reginald," said she ; * we must not 
died blood; it is as wicked to kill our ene- 
mies as to kill any one else. But never 
speak to him, never even listen to him ; if 
he tries to speak to you, run away from him, 
and don't let him — he is our enemy." 

That same day she went to Mrs. Mey- 
rick, to examine her. But she found me 
boy had told her all there was to tell. 

Mrs. Meyrick, whose affection for her 
was not diminished, was downright vexed. 
<< Dear me 1" said she ; " I did think I had 
kept that from vexing of you. To think of 
the dear child hiding it for nigh two years, 
and then to blurt it out like that I Nobody 
heard him, I hope ? " 

"Others heard; but — " 

" Did n't heed ; the Lord be praised for 
that." 

" Mary," said Lady Bassett, solemnly, " I 
am not equal to another battle with Mr. 
Richard Bassett ; and such a battle 1 Bet- 
ter tell all, and (He." 

« Don't think of it," said Mary. « You 're 
safe from Richard Bassett now. Times are 
changed since he came spying to my gate. 
His own boy is gone. You have got two. 
He '11 lie still, if you do. But, if you tell 
your tale, he must hear on 't, and he '11 tell 
his. For Grod's sake, my lady, keep close. 
It is the curse of women that they can't 
just hold their tonnes, and see how things 
turn. And is this a time to spill good 
liquor ? Look at Sir Charles I why, he is 
another man ; he have got flesh on his bones 
now, and color into his cheeks, and 't was 
you and I made a man of him. It is my be- 
lief you 'd never have had this other little 
angel, but for us having tense and courage 
to see what must be done. Knock down 
our own work, and send him wild again, 
and give that Richard Bassett a handle? 
You '11 never be so mad." 

Lady Bassett replied. The other an- 



swered; and so powerfully, that Lady Basii- 
sett yielded, and went home sick at hearty 
but helpless, and in a sea of doubt. 

Mr. Angelo did not call. Sir Charles 
asked Lady Bassett if he had called on hor. 

She said, "No." 

" That is odd," said Sir Charles. " Per- 
haps he thinks we ought to welcome him 
home. Write and ask mm to dinner. 

" Yes, dear. Or you can write." 

"Very well, I will. No, I wiU call." 

Sir Charles called, and welcomed him 
home and asked him to dinner. Angelo re- 
ceived him rather stiflly at first ; but accept 
ed his invitation. 

He came, looking a good deal older and 
graver, but almost as handsome as ever; 
only somewhat changed in mind. He had 
become a zealous clergyman ; and his soul 
appeared to be in his work. He was distant 
and very respectful to Lady Bassett; I 
misht say obsequious. Seemed almost afiraid 
of her, at first. * 

That wore off in a few months ; but he 
was never quite so much at his ease with 
her as he had been before he left some years 
ago. 

And so did time roll on. 

Every morning, and every night, Ladj 
Bassett used to look wistfully at Sir Charles 
and say, " Are you happy, dear ? Are you 
sure you are happy ? " 

And he used always to say, and with 
truth, that he was the happiest man in £n^ 
laud, thanks to her. 

Then she used to relax the wild and wis^ 
fill look with which she asked the question, 
and give a sort of sigh, half content, half 
resignation. , 

In due course another fine boy came, and 
filled the Royal office of Baby, m his turn. 

But my story does not follow him. 

Reginald was over ten years old, and 
Compton nearly six. They were as diflfeiv 
ent in character as complexion, both re- 
markable boys. 

Reginald, Sir Charles's favorite, was a 
wonderful boy for riding, running, talking ; 
and had an amazing genius for melody ; he 
whistled to the admiration of the village^ 
and latterly he practised the fiddle in woods 
and imder hedges, being aided and abetted 
therein by a gypsy boy whom he loved, and 
who, indeed, provided the instrument. 

He rode with Sir Charles, and rather 
liked him; his brother he never noticed, 
except to tease him. Lady Bassett he ad- 
mired, and almost loved her while she was 
in the act of playing him undeniable melo- 
dies. But he liked ms nurse Meyrick better 
OR the whole ; she flattered him more, and 
was more unifbrmly subservient. 

With these two exceptions he despised 
the whole race of women, and aflected male 
society only, especially of grooms, stable- 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



131 



boys,' and gypsies ; these last weloomed him 
to their tents, and almost prostrated them- 
selyes before him, so dazzled were they by 
his beauty and his color. It is belieyed 
they suspected him of having gypsjr blood 
in his Veins. They let him into their tents, 
and even into some of their secrets, and he 
promised them they should hare it all their 
own way as soon as he was Sir Reginald ; 
he had out^wn his original theory that he 
was to be Sir Charles on his father's death. 
He hated in-doors; when fixed, by com- 
mand, to a book, would beg hard to be al- 
lowed to take it into the sun ; and at flight 
would open his window and poke his black 
head out to wash in the moonshine, as he 
said. 

He despised ladies and gentlemen, said 
they were all affected fools, and gave imita- 
tions of all his father's ^ests, to prove it; 
and so keen was this child of nature's eye 
for affectation that, very often, his disap- 
proving parents were obU^d to confess the 
imp had seen with his fresn eve defects cus- 
tom had made them overlook, or the solid 
food qualities that lay beneath had over^ 
alanced. 

Now all this may appear amusing and ec- 
centric, and so on, to strangers ; But afier 
the first hundred laughs or so with which 
paternal indulgence dismisses the faults of 
childhood, Sir Charles became very grave. 
The boy was his darling, and his pride. 
He was ambitious for him. He earnestly 
desired to solve for him a problem, which is 
as impossible as squaring the circle, viz.: 
how to transmit our experience to our chil- 
dren. The years and the health he had 
wasted before he knew Bella Bruce, these 
he resolved his successor should not waste. 
He looked higher for this beautiful boy than 
for himself. He had fully resolved to be 
member for the county one day; but he 
did not care about it for himself; it was 
only to pave the way for his successor; 
that Sii Reginald, afler a long career 
m the Commons, might find his way into 
the House of Peers, and so obtain dimuty, 
in exchange for antiquity ; for, to teu the 
truths the ancestors of four fifths of the 
British House of Peers had been hewers 
of wood and drawers of water, at a time 
when these Bassetts had already been gen- 
tlemen of distinction for centuries. 

All this love, and this vicarious ambition^ 
were now mortified daily. Some fathers 
could do wonders for a brilliant boy, and 
with him ; they expect him, and a dull boy 
appears ; that is a bitter pUl ; but this was 
worse; Reginald was a sharp boy; he could 
do anything ; fasten him to a book tor twen- 
ty minutes, he would learn as mucb as most 
boys in an hour; but there was no keeping 
him to it, imless you strapped him or nailed 
him, for he had the will of a mule, and the 



suppleness of an eel to carry out his wilL 
And then his tastes — low, as his features 
were refined ; he was a sort of moral dun^ 
fork ; picked up all the slang of the stable, 
and scattered it in the dining-room, and 
drawins-room ; and, once or twice, he stole 
out of his comfortable room at night, and 
slept in a gypsy's tent, with his arm round 
a gypsy boy, unsullied, firom his cradle, by 
soap. 

At last Sir Charles could no longer reply 
to his wife at night, as he had done for tnis 
ten years past : he was obliged to confess 
that there was one cloud upon his happiness. 
<< Dear Reginald grieves me, and makes me 
dread the future ; for, if the child is father 
to the man, there is a bitter disappointment 
in store for us. He is like no other boy ; 
he is like no human creature I ever saw ; 
at his age, and long after, I was a fool; 
I was a fool till I knew you; but surely I 
was a gentleman. I cannot see myself 
again — in my first-bom." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIRST. 

LADY BASSETT was paralyzed for a 
minute or two by this speech. At la^ 
she replied by asking a question, — rather a 
curious one. " Who nursed you, Charles ? " 

" What, when T was a baby ? How can I 
tell? Yes, by the by, it was my mother 
nursed me — so I was told." 

And your mother was a Le Compton. 
This poor boy was nursed by a servant. O, 
she has some good Qualities, and certainly 
devoted to us, — to tnis day her face bright- 
ens at sight of me, — but she is essentially 
vulgar; and do you remember, Charles, I 
wished to wean mm early ; but I was over- 
ruled, and the poor child drew his nature 
from that woman for nearly eighteen 
months; it is a thing unheard of nowa- 
days." 

" Well, but surely it is fix)m our parents 
we draw our nature.'' 

<< No ; I think it is from our niu*ses. If 
Compton or Alec ever turn out like Regi- 
nald, blame nobody but their nurse, and 
that is Me." 

Sir Charles smiled faintly at this piece of 
feminine logic, and asked her what he should 
do. 

She said she was quite unable to advise. 
Mr. Rolfe was coming to see them soon, per- 
haps he mi^ht be able to su^^est something. 

Sir Chanes said he womd consult him; 
but he was clear on one thing, the boy must 
be sent fix>m Huntercombe, and so sepa- 
rated from all his present acquaintances* 

Mr« Rolfe came and the distressed father 
opened his heart to him In strict confidence 
respecting Reginald. 



132 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Eolfe listened and erfmpathized, and knit 
his brow, and asked time to consider what 
he had heard, and also to study the hoy for 
himself. 

He angled for him next day accordingly. 
A little table was taken ont on the lawn, and 
presently Mr. Rolfe issued forth in a uni- 
form suit of dark blue flannel and a som- 
brero hat, and set to work writing a novel 
in the sun. 

Reginald in due course descried this fig- 
ure, and it smacked so of that Bohemia to 
which his own soul belonged, that he was 
attracted thereby, but made his approaches 
stealthily like a little cat. 

Presently a fiddle went off behind a tree, 
so close that the noTclist leaped out of his 
seat with an eldrich screech ; K>r he had long 
a^o forgotten all about Mr. Rednald, and, 
^en he got heated in this kind of compo- 
sition, any sudden sound seemed to nis 
tense nerves and boiling brain about ten 
times as loud as it really was. 

Having relieved himself with a yell, he 
sat down with the mien of a martyr expect- 
ing tortures; but he was most acreeably 
disappointed ; the little monster played an 
English melody, and played it in tune. 
This done, he whistled a quick tune and 
played a slow second to it in perfect har- 
mony; this done, he whistled the second 
part and played the qmck treble; a very 
simple feat, but still ingenious for a boy, 
and new to his hearer. 

"Bravo I bravo I" cried Rolfe with all 
his heart. 

Mr. Reginald emerged, radiant with van- 
ity. " You are like me, Mr. Writer," said 
he ; " you don't like to be cooped up in- 
doors." 

" I wish I could play the fiddle like you, 
my fine fellow." 

" Ah, ydu can't do that all in a minute ; 
sed the time I have been at it.'' 

"Ah, to be sure, I forgot your anti- 
qdty." 

" And it is n't the time only ; it 's giving 
your mind to it, old chap." 

"What, you don't give your mind to 
your books then, as you do to your fiddle, 
young gentleman f** 

" iNot such a flat. Why, lookee here, 
Governor, if you go and give your mind to 
a thing you don't uke, it 's always time wast- 
ed, because son^e other chap, that doed like 
.it, will beat you, and what 's the use working, 
for to be beat ? " 

" < For,' is redundant," objected Rolfe. 

" But if you stick hard to the things you 
like, you do 'em downright well. But old 
people are such fools, they always drive you 
the wrong way. They make the gals plav 
music six hours day, and jrou might as well 
set the hen bullfinches to pipe. Look at the 
gals as come here, how they rattle up and 



down the piano, and can't make it sing a 
morsel. Why they couldn't rattle like that, 
if they 'd music in their skins, d — ^n 'em : 
and they drive me to those stupid books, be- 
cause I 'm all for music and moonshine. Can 
you keep a secret ? " 

« As the tomb." 

" Well, then, I can do plenty of things well, 
besides nddling : I can set a wire with any 
poacher in the parish. I have caught plenty 
of our old man's hares in my time ; and il 
takes a workman to set a wire as should be.^ 
Show me a wire, and I '11 tell you whether* 
it was Hudson, or Whitbeck, or Squinting 
Jack, or who it was that set it. I know 
all their work that walks by moonlight here- 
abouts." 

"This is criticism; a science; I rjefer 
art : play me another tune, my bold Bohe- 



mian. 






" Ah, I thought I should catch ye with my 
fiddle. You 're not such a muff as the oth- 
ers, old 'un, not by a long chalk. Hang 
me, if I won't give ye * Ireland's music,' and 
I 've sworn never to waste that on a fool. 

He played the old Irish air so simply and 
tunably, that Rolfe leaned back in his chair, 
with half-closed eyes, in soft voluptuous eo- 
sti^. 

The youngster watched him with his 
coal-black eye. 

" I like you," said he, " better than I 
thought I should, a precious sight." 

" Highly flattered." 

" Come with me, and hear my nurse sing 
it." 

" What, and leave my novel ? " 

" O, bother your novel." 

" And so I will. That will be tit for tat ; 
it has bothered me. Lead on, Bohemian 
bold." 

The boy took him, over hedge and ditch 
the short cut to Meyrick's farm ; and caught 
Mrs. Meyrick, and said she must sing " Po- 
land's music " to Rolfe the writer. 

Mrs. MejTick apologized for her dress, 
and affected shyness about singing: Mr. 
Reginald stared at first, then let her know 
that, if she was going to be affected like the 
girls that came to the Hall, he should hate 
her, as he did them, and this he confirmed 
with a naughty word. 

Thus threatened, she came to book, and 
sang Ireland's melody in a low, rich, sono- 
rous voice ; Reginald played a second ; the 
harmony was so perfect and strong, that cer- 
tain glass candelabra on the mantel-piece 
rang loudly, and the drops vibrated. Ihen 
he made her sing the second, and he took 
the treble with his violin ; and he wound tip 
by throwing in a third part himself, a sort 
of counter-tenor, his own voice being much 
higher than the woman's. 

The tears stood in Rolfe s eyes. " Well,* 
said he, " you have got the soul of musics 



A TEKRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



133 



i 

H 
t* 



> 
O 

o 

H 

n 

M 

o> 

O 

d 
a 



d 

H 



you two. I could listen to you * From mom 
till noon, from noon till dewy ere.' " 

As they returned to Huntercombe, this 
mercurial youth went off at a tangent, and 
Kolfe saw him no more. 

He wrote in peace, and walked about be- 
tween the heats. 

Just before dinner-time, the screams of 
women were heard hard by, and the writer 
hurried to the place, in time to see Mr. Bas- 
sett hanging by the shoulder from the 
branch of a tree, about twenty feet from the 
ground. 

Rolfe halloed, as he ran, to the women, 
to fetch blankets to catch him, and got un- 
der the tree, determined to try and catch 
him in his arms, if necessary ; but he en- 
couraged the boy to hold on. 



« All right. Governor," said the boy in a 
quayering yoice. 

It was yery near the kitchen ; maids and 
men poured out wiih blankets ; eight people 
held one, under Bolfe's direction, and down 
came Mr. Bassett in a semicircle, and 
bounded up again off the blanket, like an 
india-rubber b^ll. 

His quick mind recoyered courage, the 
moment he touched wool. 

"Crikey I that's jolly," said he, «giye 
me another toss or two." 

" O no I no I " said a good-natured mud. 
" Take an' put him to bed right off, poor dear." 

" Hold your ton^e, ye bitch," said young 
hopeful : " if ye don't toss me, I '11 turn ve 
all off, as soon as eyer the old un kicks tho 
bucket." 



13^ 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Thus menaced, they thought itpradentto 
toss him : but, at the third toss, he yelled out 
c'Ohl ohi ohi I'm all wet: it'sbloodl 
I 'm dead." 

' Then the j examined, and found his arm 
was seyerely lacerated by an old nail that 
had been driven into the tree, and it had 
torn the flesh in his fall : he was covered 
with blood, the sight of which quenched his 
manly spirit, and ne began to howl. 

" Old linen rag, warm water, and a bottle 
of champagne," wouted Rolfe : the servants 
flew. 

Rolfe dressed and banda^d the wound 
for him, and then he felt faint : the cham- 
pagne soon set that ri^ht; and then he 
wanted to set drunk, aUeging, as a reason, 
that he haa not been drunk for this two 
months. 

Sir Charles was told of the accident, 
and was distressed by it, and also by the 
cause. 

" Rolfe," said he, SGrrowfiJly, « there is a 
ring-dove's nest on that tree : she and hers 
have built there in peace and safety for a 
hundred years, and cooed about the place. 
My unhappy boy was climbing the ti^e, to 
take the young, afler solemnly promising 
me he never would : that is the bitter truth. 
What shall I do with the young barbarian ? " 

He sighed, and Lady Bassett echoed the 
sigh. 

Said Rolfe, " The young barbarian, as you 
call him, has disarmed me : he plays the 
fiddle like a civilized angel." 

«0 Mr. Rolfe I" 

" What, you his mother, and not found 
that out yet? O yes, he has a heaven- 
bom eenius for music." 

RoUe then related the musical feats of the 
urchin. 

Sir Charles begged to observe that this 
talent would go a very little way towards 
fitting him to succeed his father and keep 
up the credit of an ancient family. 

<<Dear Charles, Mr. Rolfe knows that; 
but it is like him to make the best of things, 
to encourage us. But what do you think 
of him on the whole, Mr. Rolfe ? has Sir 
Charles more to hope or to fear ? " 

" Give me another day or two, to study 
him," said Rolfe. 

That night there was a loud alarm. Mr. 
Bassett was running about the veranda in 
his night-dress. 

They caught him, and got him to bed, 
and Itolfe said it was fever ; and, with the 
assistance of Sir Charles and a footman, 
laid him between two towels steeped in 
tepid water, then drew blankets tight over 
him, and, in short, packed him. 

"Ah I" said he complacently; "I say, 
give me a drink of moonshine, old chap." 

"I'll give you a bucketful," said Rolfe; 
then, wiu the servant's help, took his little 



bed, and put it close to the window ; the 
moonlight streamed in on the boy's face, luA 
great black eyes glittered in it. He wa« 
diabolically beautiful. " Kiss me, moon- 
shine," said he, " I like to wash in you." 

Next day he was, apparently, qmte well, 
and certaixuy lipe for iresh mischief. Roli^ 
studied him, and, the evening before be 
went, gave Sir Charles and Lady Bassett 
his opinion, but not with his usual alacrity ; 
a weight seemed to hang on him, and, more 
than once, his voice trembled. 

" I shall tell you," said he, '* what I see — 
what I foresee — and then, with great diffi- 
dence, what I advise. 

^ "I see — what Naturalists call, a rever- 
sion in race, a boy who resembles in color 
and featmres neither of his parents, and in- 
deed, bears little resemblance to any of the 
races that have inhabited England since 
history was written. He suggests rather 
some Oriental type." 

Sir Charles turned round in his chair, with 
a sigh, and said, <<We are to have a ro- 
mance it seems." 

Lady Bassett stared with all her eyes, and 
began to change color. 

The theorist continued, with perfect com- 
posure, " I don't undertake to account for it, 
with any precision. How can I ? Perhaps 
there is Moorish blood in your family, and 
here it has revived ; you look incredulous, 
but there are plenty of examples, ay, and 
stronger than this : ever^ child that is bom 
resen^les some progenitor; how then do 
you account for Julia Pastrana, a youn^ 
lady who dined with me last week, ana 
sang me ' Ah perdona,' rather feebly, in the 
evening? Bust and figure like any other 
lady, hand exquisite, arms neatly turned, 
but with lon^ silky hair from the elbow to 
the wrist. Face, u^hl forehead made of 
black leather, eyes lul pupil, nose an excre- 
scence, chin pure monkey, face all covered 
with hair; briefly, a type extinct ten thou- 
sand years before Adam, yet it could revivB 
at this time of day. Compared with La 
Pastrana, and many much weaker examples 
of antiquity revived, that I have seen, your 
Mauritanian son is no great marvel after 
all." 

♦* This is a little too far-fetched," said Sir 
Charles, satirically ; " Bella's father was a 
very dark man, and it is a tradition in oar 
family that all the Bassetts were as black 
as ink till they married with you Rolfes, in 
the year 1684." 

« Oho I " said Rolfe, « is it so ? See how 
discussion brings out things." 

"And then," said Lady Bassett, « Charles, 
dear, tell Mr. Rolfe what / think." 

«Ay, do," said Rolfe; "that will be a 
new form of circumlocution." 

Sir Charles complied with a smile. 
"Lady Bassett's theoiy is, that childrea 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



185 



derive their natare qnite as mncli from 
their wet-nurses as from their parents, and 
she thinks the faults we deplore in Regi- 
nald ^re to be traced to his nurse ; hy tSie 
hj, she is a dark woman too/' 

" Well," said Rolfe, "there 'b a good deal 
of truth in that, as far as regards the dis- 
position. But I never heard color so ac- 
counted for; yet why not? It has been 
proved that the very bones of young ani- 
mals can be colored pink, by feeding them 
on milk so colored.*' 

« There 1" said Lady Bassett. 

"But no nurse could give your son a 
color which is not her own. I have seen 
the woman; she is only a dark Endish- 
woman. Her arms were embrowned by 
exposure, but her forehead was not brown. 
Mr. Reginald is quite another thing. The 
skin of nis body, the white of his eye, the 
pupil, all look like a reversion to some Ori- 
ental type ; and, mark the coincidence ; he 
has mental peculiarities that point towards 
the East" 

Sir Charles lost patience. *' On the con- 
trary," said he, "he talks, and feels, just 
like an English snob, and makes me miser- 
able." 

" O, as to that, he has picked up vulgar 
phrases at that farm, and in your stables ; 
but he never picked up his musical genius 
in stables and farms, far less his poetry." 

« What poetry ? " 

" What poetry ? Why, did not you hear 
him ? Was it not poetical of a wounded, 
fevered boy to be^ to be laid by the win- 
dow, and to say < Let me drink the moon- 
shine'? Take down your Homer, and 
read a thousand lines hap-hazard, and see 
whether you stumble over a thought more 
poetical than that. But criticism does not 
exist; whatever the dead said was ^ood; 
whatever the living say is little ; as if the 
dead were a race apart, and had never been 
the living, and the living would never be 
the dead. 

Heaven knows where he was ranning to 
DOW, but Sir Charles stopped him, by con- 
ceding that point. " Weu, you are right: 
poor child, it was poetical," and the father's 
pride predominated, for a moment, over 
evenr other sentiment. 

"Yes; but where did it come from? 
That looks to me a typical idea; I mean an 
idea derived, not from his luxurious parents, 
dwellers in curtained mansions, but from 
some outdoor and remote ancestor ; perhaps 
from the Oriental tribe that first colonized 
Britain ; they worshipped the sun and the 
moon, no doubt; or perhaps, after all, it 
oxdy came from some wandering tribe that 
passed their lives between the two H^hts of 
Heaven, and never set foot in a human 
. dwelling." 

" This," said Sir Charles, << is a flattering 



speculation, but so wild and romantic, that. 
I fear it will lead us to no practical result. 
I thought you undertook to advise me. 
What advice can you build^ on these cob- 
webs of your busy brain? " 

"Excuse me, my practical friend," said 
Rolfe. "I opened my discourse in three 
heads. What I see — what I foresee — and 
what, with diffidence, I advise. Pray don't 
disturb my methodus, or I am done for; 
never disturb an artist's form. I have told 
you what I see. What I foresee is this; 
you will have to cut off the entail with Reg- 
inald's consent, when he is of age, and 
make the Saxon boy Compton your succes- 
sor. Cutting off entails runs in families, 
like everything else ; your grandfather did 
it, and so will you. Ion should put by a 
few thousands every year, that you may be 
able to do this without injustice either to 
your Oriental or your Saxon son." 

" Never I " shouted Sir Charles : then, in 
a broken voice, " He is my first-bom, and 
my idol ; his coming into the world rescued 
me out of a morbid condition : he healed my 
one great grief. Bar the entail, and put his 
younger brother in his place — never I " 

Mr. Rolfe bowed his head politely, and 
left the subject, which indeed could be car- 
ried no further, without serious offence. 

" And now for my advice. The question 
is, how to educate this Strang boy. One 
thing is clear; it is no use tryins the hum- 
drum plan any longer; it has been tried, 
and faded. I should adapt his education to 
his nature. Education is made as stiff and 
unyielding as a board ; but it need not be. 
I should abolish that spectacled tutor of 
yours at once, and get a tutor, young, en- 
terprising, manly, and supple,, who would 
obey orders : and the order should be to ob- 
serve the boy's nature, and teach accord- 
ingly. Why need men teach in a chair, and 
boys learn in a chair? The Athenians 
studied not in chairs. The Peripatetics, as 
their name imports, hunted knowledge 
afoot; those who sought truth in the groves 
of Academus were not seated at that work. 
Then let the tutor walk with him, and talk 
with him by sunlight, and moonlight, relat- 
ing old history, and commenting on each 
new thing that is done, or word spoken, and 
improve every occasion. Why, I myself 
wonld give a guinoa a day to walk with 
William White about the kindly aspects, 
and wooded slopes of Selbome, or with Karr 
about his garden. Cut Latin and Greek 
clean out of the scheme. They are mere 
cancers to those who can never excel in 
them. Teach him not dead languages, but 
living facts. Have him in your justice 
room for half an hour a day, and give him 
your own comments on what he has heard 
there. Let his tutor take him to all quarter 
sessions and assizes, and stick to him like 



136 



A TEBBEBLE TEMPTATION. 



diacalum, especially out of doom ; order him 
never to be admitted to the stable yard; 
dismiss every biped there that lets him 
come. Don't let him visit his nurse so 
often, and never without his tutor ; it was 
she who taught him to look forward to your 
dejcease; that is just like these common 
women. Such a tutor as I have described 
will deserve £500 a year. Give it him; 
and dismiss him if he plays humdrum, and 
does n't earn it. Dismiss half a dozen, if 
necessary, till you get a fellow with a grain 
or two of genius Tor tuition. When the 
boy is seventeen, what with his Oriental 
precocity, and this system of education, he 
will know the world as well as a Saxon 
boy of twenty-one, and that is not saying 
much. Then, if his nature is still as wild, get 
him a large tract in Australia; cattle to 
breed, kangaroos to shoot, swift horses to 
thread the bush and gallop mighty tracts ; 
he will not shirk business, if it avoids the 
repulsive form of sitting down indoors, and 
oners itself in combination with riding, 
hunting, galloping, cracking of rifles, and 
of colonial whips as loud as rifles, and 
drinking sunshine and moonshine in that 
mellow clime, beneath the Southern cross 
and the spangled firmament of stars un- 
known to us." 

His own eyes sparkled like hot coals at 
this Bohemian picture. 

Then he sighed and returned to civiliza- 
tion. "But," said he, "be ready with 
eighty thousand pounds for him, mat he 
may enjoy his own way and join you in 
barring the entail. I forgot, I must say no 
more on that subject; I see it is as ofien- 
sive — as it is inevitable. Cassandra has 

Soken wisely, and, I see, in vain. €rod 
ess you both — good night." 

And he rolled out of the room with a cer- 
tain clumsy iipportance. 

Sir Charles treated all this advice with 
a polite forbearance while he was in the 
room, but on his departure delivered a sage 
reflection. 

" Strange," said he, " that a inan so val- 
uable in any great emergency should be so 
extravagant and eccentric in the ordinary 
aflairs of life. I might as well drive to 
Bellevue House and consult the first gen- 
tleman 1 met there." 

Lady Bassett did not reply immediately, 
and Sir Charle^ observed that her face 
was very red and her hands trembled. 

"Why, Bella," said he, "has all that 
rhodomontade upset you? " 

Lady Basactt looked frightened at his 
noticing her agitation, and said that Mr. 
Bolfe always overpowered her. " He is so 
large, and so confident, and throws such 
new light on things." 

" New light I Wild eccentricity always 
does that; but it is the light of Jack-o'-lan- 



tern. On a ^at question, so near my 
heart as this, give me the steady light of 
common sense, not the wayward corusca- 
tions of a fiery imagination. Bella dear, I 
shall send the boy to a ^ood school, and so 
cut off at one blow all the low associations 
that have caused the mischief." 

"You know what is best, dear," said 
Lady Bassett ; " you are wiser than any of 
us." 

In the morning she got hold of Mr. Bolfe, 
and asked him if he could put her in the 
way of getting more than three per cent 
for her money without risk, 

" Only one," said Bolfe. " London Free- 
holds in risii^ situations, let to substantial 
tenants. I can get you five per cent that 
way, if you are always readv to buy. The 
thing does not offer every day." 

" I have twenty thousand pounds to dis- 
pose of so," said Lady Bassett. 

« Very well," said Bolfe. " I '11 look out 
for you, but Oldfield must examine titles 
and do the actual business. The best of 
that investment is, it is always improving ; 
no ups and downs. Come," thought he, 
" Cassandra has not spoken quite in vain." 

Sir Charles acted on his judgment, and 
in due course sent Mr. Bassett to a school 
at some distance, kept by a cleivyman, who 
had the credit in that county of exercising 
sharp supervision and strict discipline. 

Sir Charles made no secret of the boy's 
eccentricities. Mr. Beecher said he had 
one or two steady boys who assisted him ia 
such cases. 

Sir Charles thought that a very good 
idea ; it was like putting a wild colt into 
the break with a steady horse. 

He missed the boy sadly at first, but com- 
forted himself with the conviction that he 
had parted with him for his good : that conr 
soled him somewhat 

Hie younger children of Sir Charles and 
Lady Bassett were educated entirely by 
their mother, and taught as none but a 
loving lady can teach. 

Compton, with whom we have to do, 
never knew the thorns with which the 
path of letters is apt to be strewn. A 
mistress of the great art of pleasing made 
knowledge fi\>m the first a primrose path 
to him. Sparkling all over with intelli- 
gence, she impregnated her boy with it. 
She made herself his favorite companion ; 
she wQuld not keep her distance. She 
stole and coaxed knowledge and goodness 
into his heart and mind with rare and 
loving cunning. 

She taught him English and French and 
Latin on the Hamiltonian plan, and stored 
his young mind with history and biography, 
and read to him, and conversed with * ~ 
on everything as they read it. 



A TEERIBLE TEMPTATION* 



137 



She taught him to speak the tnKih, and 
to be honorable and just. 

She tauvht him to be polite, and even 
formal, rather than free and easy and rude. 
She taught him to be a man. He must not 
be what brare boys called a moUev-coddle : 
like most womanly women she had a vener- 
ation for man, and she ^ave him her own 
high idea of the manly character. 

J^atural ability, and habitual contact with 
a mind so attractive and so rich, gave this 
intelligent boy many good ideas beyond his 
age. 

When he was six jrears old, Lady Bas- 
sett made him pass his word of honor that 
he would never go into the stable-yard; 
and even then he was far enough advanced 
to keep his word religiously. 

In return for this pne let him taste some 
sweets of lib^ty, and was not always i^er 
l^im. She was profound enough to see that, 
without liberty, a noble character cannot 
be formed ; and she husbanded the curb. 

One day he represented to her that, in 
die meadow next their lawn, were great 
stripes of yellow, which were possibly cow- 
slips ; of course they might be only butter- 
cups, but he hoped better things of them : 
he further reported that there was an iron 
gate between him and this paradise : he could 
get over it if not objectionable; but he 
thought it safest to ask her what she 
thought of the matter; was that iron gate 
intended to keep little boys from the cow- 
slips, because, if so, it was a misfortune to 
which he must resign himself. Still, it was 
a misfortune. All this, of course, in the 
ample language of boyhood. 

xhen Lady Bassett smiled, and said 
** Suppose I were to lend yon a key of that 
iron gate?" 

** mamma ! '* 

^ I have a great mind to." 

" Then you will, you will." 

«* Does that follow?" 

** Yes : whenever you say you think you '11 
do something kind, or you have a great miiid 
to do it, you know you always do it ; and 
that is one thing I do like you for, mamma, 
you are better than your word." 

<< Better than my word? Where does 
the child learn these things ? " 

'< La, mamma, papa says that often." 

^ O, that accounts for it. I like the 
phrase very much. I wish I could think I 
deserved it. At any rate I will be as good 
as my word for once ; you shall have a key 
of the gate." 

The boy clapped his hands with delight. 

The key was sent for, and, meantime, she 
told him one reason why she had trusted him 
with it was because he had been as good as 
Us word about the stable. 

The key waa brought, and she held it up. 



half playfully, and said, " Hiere, sir, I de- 
liver you this upon conditions : you must 
only use it when the weather is (]^uite dry, 
because the grass in the meadow is longer, 
and will be wet. Do you promise ? " 

" Yes, mamma." 

" And you must always lock the gate when 
you come back, and bring the key to one 
place — let me see — the drawer in the hall 
table, the one with marble on it ; for you 
know a place for everything is oar rule. 
On these conditions, I nereby deliver you 
this magic key, with the right of egress and 
ingress." 

« Egress and ingress ? " 

" Egress and ingress." 

<<Is that foreign for cowslips, mamma — 
and oxlips ? " 

'' Ha I ha I the child's head is full of cow- 
slips. There is the Dictionary; look out 
Egress, and afterwards look out Ingress." 

When he had added these two words to 
his little vocabulary, his mother asked him 
if he would be good enough to tell her why 
he did not care much about all the beautifA 
flowers in the garden, and was so excited 
about cowslips, which appeared to her a 
flower of no great beauty, and the smell 
rather sickly, begging his pardon. 

This question posed him dreadfully: he 
looked at her in a sort of comic distress, and 
then sat gravely down all in a heap, about a 
yard off, to think. 

** Finally he turned to her with a wry face, 
and said *'Why do I, mamma ? " 

She smiled deliciously. <<No, no, sir," 
said she. ^ How can I get inside your 
little head, and tell what is there ? Tkere 
must be a reason, I suppose ; and you know 
you and I are never satisfied till we get at 
the reason of a thing. But there is no 
hurry, dear. I give you a week to find it 
out. Now run and open the gate — Stay, 
are there any cows m that field ? " 

'< Sometimes, mamma; but they have no 
horns you know." 

" Upon your word ? " 

<* Upon my honor. I am not fond of {heat 
with horns, myself." 

" Then run away, darling. But you must 
come and hunt me up, and tell mo how you 
enjoyed yourself, because that makes me 
happy, you know." 

This is mawkish; but it will serve to 
show on what terms the woman and boy were. 

On second thoughts, I recall that apology, 
and defy creation. « The Mawkish " is a 
branch of literature, a great and popular one, 
and I have neglected it savagely. 

Master Compton opened the iron gate, 
and the world was all before him where to 
choose. 

He chose one of those yellow stripes that 
had so attracted him. Horror 1 it was all 
buttercups, and deil a cowslip. 



438 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATIOIT. 



Never theless, ptDrrain? his researches, he 
found plenty of that delightfal flower scat- 
tered about the meadow in thmner patches ; 
and he gathered a double handful and dirtied 
Ills knees. 

Returning, thus laden, from his first excm> 
sion, he was accosted hj a fluty voice. 

"Little boy I" 

He looked up, and saw a girl standing on 
Uie lower bar of a little wooden gate painted 
white, looking over. 

*^ Please bring me my ball,^ said she, 
pathetically. 

Compton looked about, and saw a soft ball 
of many colors lying near. 

He put down his cowslips gravely, and 
lirought her the ball. He gave it her with 
a blush, because she was a strange girl : 
lind she blushed a little, because he did. 

He returned to his cowslips. 

<< Little bovl" said the voice, "please 
bring me my oall again." 
. He brought it her, with undisturbed po- 
liteness. She was giggling; he laughed too> 
at that. 

" You did it on purpose that time," said 
he solemnly. 

« La I you don't think I 'd be so wicked," 
said she. 

Compton shook his head doubtfully, and, 
considering the Interview at an end, turned 
to go, when instantly the ball knocked his 
hat off, and nothing of the malefactress was 
visible, but a black eye sparkling with fun 
and mischief, and a bit orforebead wedged 
against the angle of the wall. 
. This being a challenge, Compton said, 
" Now you come out after that, and stand a 
ghot, like a man." 

The invitation to be masculine did not 
|«mpt her a bit ; the only thing she put out 
was her hand, and that she drew in with a 
lauph, the moment he threw at it. 

At this juncture, a voice cried, " Ruperta 1 
yhat are you doing there ? " 

Ruperta made a rapid signal with her 
hand, to Compton, implying that he was to 
run away : and she herself walked demurely 
towards the person who had called her. 

It was three days before Compton saw 
her again ; and then she beckoned him roy- 
ally to her. 

« Little boy," said she, "talk to m«." 

Compton looked at her a little confound- 
ed, and did not reply. 

" Stand on this gate, like me, and talk," 
Bsld she. 

He obeyed the first part of this mandate, 
iind stood on the lower bar of the little gate ; 
so their two figures made a V, when they 
)iung back, and a tenpenny nail, when they 
eame forward and met, and this motion they 
tontinued through the dialogue ; and it was 
a pity the little wretches could not keep 
still, and send for my friend the English 



Titian ; for, when their heads were in post* 
tion, it was indeed a pretty picture of cnild- 
ish and flower-like beauty and contrast; llie 
bov fair, blue-eyed, and with exauisite 
golden hair; the girl black-eyed, black- 
browed, and with eyelashes of incredible 
length and beauty, and a check brownish, 
but tinted, and so glowing with health and 
vigor, that, pricked with a needle, it seemed 
ready to squirt carnation right into your 
eye. 

She dazzled Master Compton so, that he 
could do nothing but look at her. 

" Well ? " said she, smiling. 

" Well," replied he, pretending her 
" well " was not an interrogatory, but a con- 
cise statement, and that he had discharged 
the whole duty of man by according a 
prompt and cheerful consent 

"You begin," said the lady. 

"No, you." 

"What for?" 

"Because — I think — you are the clev- 
erest." 

" Good little boy I Well then, I will. 
Who are you?" 

" I am Compton. Who are you, please ? " 

" I am Ruperta." 

" I never neard that name before." 

" No more did I. I think they measured 
me for it : you live in the great house there, 
don't you?" 

" Yes, Ruperta." 

« Well then, I live in the little house. It 
is not ver^ little either. It 's Highmore. I 
saw you in church one dav ; is that lady 
with the hair your mamma ? " 

"Yes, Ruperta." 

« She IS beautiful." 

"Isn't she?" 

" But mine is so good." 

" Mine is very good too, Ruperta. Won-. 
derfully good." 

"I like you, Compton — a little." 

" I like you a good deal, Ruperta." 

" La, do you ? I wonder at that : yon are 
like a cherub, and I am such a black thing." 

" But that is why I like you. Repnsdd is 
darker than you, and O so beautifuL" 

" Hum I — he is a very bad boy." 

« No, he is not." 

"Don't tell stories, child; he is. I 
know all about him. A wicked, vulgar, bad 
boy." 

" He is not," cried Compton, almost sniv- 
elling : but he altered his mind, and fired 
up. " You are a naughty story-telling girl, 
to say that." 

" Bless me I " said Ruperta, coloring high, 
and tossinp her head haughtily. 

"I don^ like you notr, Ruperta," said 
Compton, with all the decent calmness of a 
settled conviction. 

" You don't ? " screamed Ruperta. " Then 
go about your business directly, and don't 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



13» 



never come here again t — Scolding me ! — 
How dare you ? — oh I oh I oh 1 " and the 
little lady went off slowly, with her finger 
in her eye : and Master Compton looked 
rather ruefal, as we all do, when this charm- 
ing sex has recourse to what may be called 
^ liquid reasoning." I have known the most 
Bolid reasons unable to resist it. 

However "mens conscia recti," and, above 
all, the cowslips, enabled Compton to resist, 
and he troubled his head no more about her 
that day. 

But he looked out for her the next day, 
and she did not come ; and that rather dis- 
appointed him. 

The next day was wet, and he did not go 
into the meadow, being on honor not to So 
so. 

The fourth day was lovely, and he spent 
a long time in "the meadow, in hopes : he 
saw her for a moment at the gate ; but she 
8x>eedily retired. 

He was disappointed. 

However, he collected a good store of 
cowslips, and then came home. 

As ne passed the door out popped Ru- 
perta from some secret ambusn, and said, 
"Well?" 

« Well," replied Compton. 

** Are you better, dear ? " 

" I 'm very well, thank you," said the 
boy. 

" In your mind,! mean. You were cross 
last time, you know." 

Compton remembered his mother's les- 
sons about manly behavior, and said, in a 
jaunty way, << Well, I s'pose I was a little 
cross." 

Now the other cunning little thing had 
come to apologize, if there was no other 
way to recover her admirer. But, on this 
confession, she said, " O, if you are sorry 
for it, I forgive you. You may come and 
talk." 

l%en Compton came and stood on iha 
gate, and they held a long conversation; 
and, having Quarrelled last time, parted 
now with ratner violent expressions of 
attachment. 

After that they made friends and laid their 
little hearts bare to each other; and it soon 
appeared that Compton had learned more, 
but Ruperta had thou:;ht more for her self, 
and was sorelv puzzled about many things, 
and of a vastly inquisitive mind. " Why," 
said she^ '< is good things so hard, and bad 
things 80 nice and easy ? It would be much 
better if good things was nice and bad ones 
nasty. ^Diat is the way 1 'd have it, if I 
could make things." 

Mr. Compton shook his head and said 
piany things were yery hard to understand, 
and even his mamma sometimes could not 
make out all the things. 

*< Nor inine neither ; I puzzle her dreadfoL 



I can't help that ; things should n't come and 
puzzle me, and then 1 should n't puzzle her* 
Shall I tell you my puzzles, and perhapf^ 
you can answer them, because you are a bo^. 
I can't think why it is wicked for me to dig 
in my little garden on a Sunday, and is n't 
wicked for Jessie to cook and Sarah to make 
the beds. Can't think why mamma told papak 
not to be cross, and,, when I told her not to 
be cross, she put me in a dark cupboard all: 
among the dreadful mice, till I screamed so 
she took me out and kissed me and ?av<^ 
me pie. Can't think why papa called Sally 
< Something' for spilling the ink over his 
papers, and when I called the gardener the' 
very same for robbing my flowers, all their 
hands and eyes went up, and they said 1 was- 
a shocking girl. Can't think why papa gig- 
gled the next moment, if I was a shocking 
girl : it is all puzzle — puzzle — puzzle." 

One day she said, <<Can you tell me 
where all the bad people are buried ? for 
that puzzles me dreadfuL" 

Compton was posed at first, but said at 
last he thousht they were buried in the 
churchyard, along with the good ones. 

" O indeed I " said she, wiui an air of pily..^ 
" Pray, have you ever been in the church- 
yard, and read the writings on the stones ? ** 

"No." 

" Then I have. I have read every single '' 
word ; and there are none but good people 
buried ihercy not one." She added, rather 
pathetically, "You should not answer me 
without thinking, as if things was easy, 
instead of so hard. Well, one comfort, 
there are not many wicked people here- 
abouts; they live in towns; so 1 suppose 
they are buried in the garden, poor things, 
or put in the water with a stone." 

Compton had no more plausible theory 
ready, and declined to commit himself to 
Ruperta's ; so that topic fell to the ground. 

One day he found her perched as usual, 
but with her bright little face overclouded. 

By this time the intelligent boy was fond 
enousrh of her to notice her face. 

« What 's the matter, Perta ? " 

"Ruperta. The matter? Puzzled again 1 
It is very serious this time." 

« Tell me, Ruperta." 

"No, dear." 

" Please." 

The younv lady fixed her eyes on lum, 
and said, witn a pretty solemnity, " Let us 
play at Catechism." 

" I don't know that game." 

" The governess asks questions, and the 
good little boy answers. That 's Catechism. 
1 'm the governess." 

" Then I 'm the good little boy." 

" Yes, dear; and so now look me full in 
the face." 



140 



JL TERBIBtE TEMPTATION. 



<* There — you *re rery pretty, Bnperta." 

^ Don't be giddy ; I 'm hideous ; bo be- 
hnve, and toswer all my questions. O, 
I'm so unhappy. Answer me, is yotmg 
people, or old people, goodest ? " 

<* You should say best, dear. Good, bet- 
ter, best. Why, old people, to be sure — 
much." 

*' So I thought ; and that is why I am so 
puzzled. Then your papa and mine are 
much betterer — will tnat do ? — than we 
are?" 

« Of course they are." 

<< There he goes 1 Such a child for an- 
flwering slap bang I never." 

^'I'm^not a child. I'm older than you 
are, Ruperta." 

"That's a story." 

"Well, then, I'm as old; for Mary says 
we were born the same day ^- the same 
hour — the same minute." 

" La I we are twins." 

She paused, however, on this discovery, 
and soon found reason to doubt her hasty 
conclusion. "No such thing," said she: 
"they tell me the bells were ringing for 
you being found, and then I was found — to 
catechism you." 

"There, then yon see I am older than 
you, Ruperta." 

" Yes, dear," said Ruperta, very gravely, 
" 1 'm younger in my body, but older in my 
head." 

This matter being settled, so that neither 
party could complun, since antiquity was 
evenly distributed, die catechizing recom- 
menced. 

« Do you believe in * Let dogs delight ' ? " 

"I don't know." 

" What I " screamed Ruperta. " O you 
wicked boy! Why, it eomes next after 
Bible." 

. ** Then I do believe it," said Compton, 
who, to tell the truth, had been merely puz- 
zled by the verb, and was not afflicted with 
any doubt that the composition referred to 
was a divine oracle. 

"Good boy!" said Ruperta, patroniz- 
^ingly. "Well, then, this is what puzzles 
me; your papa and mine don't believe in 
*Dog8 delight.' They have been quarrel- 
fing this twelve years and more, and mean 
to go on, in spite of mamma. She is good. 
Did n't you know that your pi^ and mine 
are great enemies ? " 

" No, Ruperta. O, what a pity ! " 

" Don't, Compton, don't : there, you have 
made me cry." 

He set himself to console her. 

She consented to be consoled. 

But she said, with a sigh, " What becomes 
of old people being better than young ones, 
now ? Are you and I bears and lions ? Do 
we scratch out each other's eyes ? It is all 
puzzle, puzzle, puzzle. I wish I was dead I 



Nurse says, when I *m dead I shall under- 
stand it all. But I don't know ; I saw a 
dsad cat once, and she did n't seem to know 
as much as before ; puzzle, puzzle. Comp- 
ton, do you think they are puzzled in 
heaven ? " 

"No." 

" Then the sooner we both go there, the 
better." 

" Yes, but not just now." 

"Why not?" 

" Because of the cowslips." 

« Here 's a boy ! What, would you rath- 
er be among the cowslips than the angels ? 
and think of the diamonds and pearls that 
heaven is paved with." 

" But you might n't be there." 

"What! Am I a wicked girl, then, — 
wickeder than you, that is a boy ? " 

" O no, no» no ; but see how big it is tip 
there " ; they cast their eyes up, and, taking 
the blue vault for creation, were impressed 
with its immensity. " I know where to find 
you here, but up there you might be ever so 
far off me." 

"La! so I might. Well, then, we had 
better keep quiet I suppose we shall get 
wiser as we get older. But, Compton, 
I 'm so sorry your papa and mine are bears 
and lions. Why does n't the clergyman 
scold them ? " 

"Nobody dare scold my papa," said 
Compton, proudly. Then, after reflection, 
" Perhaps, when we are older, we may per- 
suade them to make friends. I think it is 
very stupid to quarrel ; don't you ? " 

" As stupid as an owl." 

"You and I had a quarrel once, Ruperta.** 

" Yes, you misbehaved." 

" No, no ; you were cross." 

" Story ! Well, never mind : we did 
quarrel. And you were miserable directly." 

"Not so very," said ComptOn, tossing 
his head. 

"I was, then," said Ruperta, with un- 
guarded candor. 

"So was I." 

" Good boy ! Kiss me, dear." 

" There — and there — and there — > 
and — " 

"That will do. Iwanttotalk, Comp- 
ton." 

"Yes, dear." 

"I 'm not very sure, but I rather think, 
I 'm in love with you, — a little, little bit, 
you know." 

"And I'm sure I'm in love with you, 
Ruperta." 

" Over head an' ears ? " 

"Yes." 

" Then I love you to distraction. Both- 
er the gate. If it was n'tfi>r that^ I could 
run in the meadow with you : and maiiy 
you perhaps, and so gather cowslips togetkr 
er foy ever and ever." 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Ul 



"Let US open it" 

"YoucaaV 

« Let U8 try." • % 

** I have. It won't be opened." 

"het me try. Some gates want to be 
lifted up a little, and then they will open. 
Hiere, 1 told you so." 

The gate came open. 

Ruperta uttered an exclamation of de- 
light, and then drew back. 

<<I 'm afraid, Compton," said she, <'papa 
would be angry." 

She wanted Compton to tempt her; but 
that younv gentleman, having a strong 
sense of fiual duty, omitted so to do. 

When she saw he would not persuade 
her, she dispensed. ''Come along," said 
she, " if it is only for five minutes." 

She took his hand, and away the;^ scam- 
pered. He showed her the cowsups, the 
violets, and all the treasures of the mead- 
ow ; but it was all hurry, and skurry, and 
excitement; no time to look at anything 
above half a minute, for fear of being found 
out ; and so, at last, back to the gate, beam- 
ing with stolen pleasure, glowing and spark- 
ling with heat and excitement. 

The cunning thing made him replace the 
gate, and then, after sayin^ she must go for 
about an hour, marched demurely b»:k to 
the house. 

After one or two of these hasty trips, im- 
punity gave her a sense of security, and, the 
weather getting warm, she used to sit in 
the meadow with her beau and weave 
wreaths of cowslips, and place them in her 
black hair, and for Compton she made coro- 
netsof bluebells, and adorned his golden head. 

And, sometimes, for a little while, she 
would nestle close to him, and lean her 
head, with all the feminine grace of a ma- 
ture woman, on his shoulder. 

Said she, " A boy's shoulder does very nice 
for a girl to put her nose on." 

One d^ the aspiring girl asked him what 
was that forest. 

" That is Bassett's wood." 

^ I will go there with you some day, when 
papa is out." 

" I 'm afraid that is too far for you," said 
Compton. 

*• Nothing is too far for me," replied the 
ardent girl. « Why, how far is it? " 

" Jkfore than half a mile." 

«Is it very big?" 

"Immense." 

" Belong to the Queen ? " 

"No, to papa." 

" Oh I " 

And here my reader may well a& what 
was Lady Bassett about, or did Compton, 
with all his excellent teaching, conceal all 
this from his mother and his mend. 

On the contrary, he went openmouthed to 
Jierand told her he had seen such a pretty 



little girl, and gave her a brief account of 
their conversation. 

Lady Bassett was startled at first and 
greatly perplexed. She told him he must 
on no account go to her ; if he spoke to her, 
it must be on papa's ground. She even made 
him pledge his honor to that. 

More than that she did not like to say. 
She thought it unnecessary and undesirable 
to transmit to another generation the un- 
happy feud by which she had suffered so 
much, and was even then suffering. More- 
over, she was as much afraid of Richard 
Bassett as eyer. If he chose to tell his girl 
not to speak to Compton, he might. She 
was resolved not to fo out of her way to 
affront him, through his daughter. Besides, 
that might wound Mrs. Bassett, if it got 
round to her ears ; and, although she haSL 
never spoken to Mrs. Bassett, yet their eyes 
had met in church, and always with a pa- 
cific expression. Indeed, Lady Bassett ielt 
sure she had read in that meek woman's 
face a regret that they were not friends, and 
coidd not be firiends, because of their hus- 
bands. Lady Bassett, then, for these rea- 
sons, would not forbid Compton to be kind 
to Ruperta in moderation. 

Whether she would have remained as 
neutral had she known how far these young 
things were going, is quite another matter ; 
but Compton's narratives to her were, natu- 
rally enough, very tame compared Tvith the 
reality, and she never dreamed that two 
seven-year-olds could form an attachment 
so warm as these little plagues were do- 
ing. 

And, to conclude, about the time when 
Mr. Compton first opened the gate for his 
inamorata, Lady Bassett's mind was divert- 
ed, in some degree, even from her beloved 
boy Compton, by a new trouble, and a host 
of passions it excited in her own heart. 

A thunder-clap fell on Sir Charles Bas« 
sett, in the form of a letter from Reginald's 
tutor, informing him that Reginald and an- 
other lad had been caught wiring hares in 
a wood at some distance, and were now in 
custody. 

Sir Charles mounted his horse, and rode 
to the place, leaving Lady Bassett a prey to 
great anxiety and bitter remorse. 

Sir Charles came back in two days, with 
the galling news that his son and heir was in 
prison for a month, all his exertions having 
only prevailed to get the case summarily 
demtwith. 

Reginald's companion, a young gypsy, 
aged seventeen, had got three months, it 
being assumed that he was the tempter: 
the reverse was the case though. 

When Sir Charles told Lady Bassett all 
this, with a face of agony, and a broken 
voice, her heart almost burst: she threw 
every other eonsid^alion to the winds. 



142 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATIOK^ 



« Charles,'' she cried, *« I can't bear ii.>i 
can't see your heart wrung any moBt, and 
your affect ioBS blighted. Tear that young 
viper out of your breast : don't go on wast- 
isg your heart's blood on a stranger ; he ib 

NOT YOUa BON." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SECOND. 

At this monstrous declaration, from the 
very lips of the man's wife, there was a dead 
fcilence, Sir Charles being struck dumb, and 
Lady Bassett herself terrified at the sound 
of the Words she had uttered. 

After a terrible pause, Sir Charles fixed 
his eyes on her, with an awful look, and said, 
very slowly ** Will — you — have — the — 
goodness — to — say that again? but first 
uiink what you are saving." 
. This made Lady Bassett shake in every 
limb; indeed the very flesh of her body 
quivered. Yet she persisted, but in a tone 
that, of itself, showed how fast her courage 
was oozing. She faltered out, almost in- 
audibly, '* I say you must waste no more 
love on him — he is not your son." 

Sir Charles looked at her to see if she 
was in her senses : it was not the first time 
he had suspected her of being deranged on 
this one subject. But no : she was pale as 
death, she was cringing, wincing, quivering, 
and her eyes roving to and fro ; a picture not 
of frenzy, but of guilt unhardened. 

He began to tremble in his turn, and was 
so horror-stricken and agitated that he could 
hardly speak. '< Am I dreaming ? " he 
gasped. 

Lady Bassett saw the storm she had raised, 
and would have given the world to recall her 
words. 

« WhoFc'ishe, then ? " asked Sir Charles, 
in a voice scarcely human. 

"I dqp*t know," said Lady Bassett. 
dogffedly. 

"Then how dare you say that he is n't 
mine?" 

*^ Elill me, Charles," cried she, passion- 
ately ; " but don't look at me so, and speak 
to me so. Why I say he is not vours, is he 
like you, either in face or mind ? " 

" And he is like — whom ? " 

Lady Bassett had lost all her courage by 
Ihis time : she whimpered out, " Like no- 
body except the gypsies." 

" Bella, this is a subject which will part 
you and me for life unless we can agree upon 
it—" 

No reply, in words, fi^m Lady Bassett. 

*< So please let us understand each other. 
Your son is not my son. Is that what you 
look me in the face and tell me ? " 

" Charles, I never said that. How could 

e be my son, and not be yours ? " 



And she raised her eyes, and looked him 
fiill in the face : no fear nor cringing now : 
thAroilian was majestic. 

Sir Charles was a little alarmed in his 
turn ; for his wife's soft eyes flamed battle 
for the first time in her life. 

" Now, you talk sense," said he ; " if he is 
yours, he is mine ; and, as he is certainljr 
yours, this is a very foolish conversation, 
which must not be renewed, otherwise — " 

'*! shall be insulted by my own hu»- 
band?" 

" I think it very probable. And, as I do 
not choose you to be insulted, nor to think 
yourself insulted, I forbid you ever to recur 
to this subject." 

" I will obev, Charles ; but let me say one 
word first. When I was alone in London, 
and hardly sensible, might not this child 
have been imposed upon me and you ? I 'm 
sure he was." 
• "By whom?" 

"How can I tell? — I was alone — that 
woman in the house had a bad face -— the 
gypsies do these things, I 've heard." 

" The gypsies And why not the fairies ? ** 
said Sir Charles, contemptuously.' " Is that 
all you have to suggest — before we close 
the subject forever r " 

" Yes,'' said Lady Bassett, sorrowfully. " I 
see you take me for a mad woman ; but time 
will show. O, that I could persuade yoa 
to detach your affections from that boy][ — 
he will break your heart else, — and rest 
them on the children that resemble us la 
mind and features." 

" These partialities are allowed to moth- 
ers ; but a father must be just. Reginald is 
my first-born ; he came to me from Heaven 
at a time when I was under a bitter trial, 
and firom the day he was bom till this day 
I have been a happy man. It is not often a 
father owes so much to a son as I do to my 
darling boy. He is dear to my heart in 
spite of his faults ; and now I pity him, as 
well as love him, since it seems he has only 
one parent, poor little fellow." 

Lady Bassett opened her mouth to reply, 
but could not. She raised her hand s in mute 
despair, then quietly covered her face with 
them, and soon the tears trickled through 
her white fingers. 

Sir Charles looked at her, and was touched 
at her silent grief. 

" My darling wife," said he, « I think this 
is the only thing you and I cannot a^ree 
upon. Why not be wise as well as lovmg, 
and avoid it" 

" I will never seek it again," sobbed Lady 
Bassett " But, O," she cried, with sudden 
wildness, " something tells roe it will meet 
me, and follow me, and rob me of my hus^ 
band. Well, when that day comes, I shall 
know how to die." 

And with this she burst away firom him. 



A TEBRIBX.E TEMPTATION. 



143 



like some creature who has been stung past 
endurance. 

Sir Charles often meditated on this stra#ge 
scene : turn it how he could, he came back 
to the same conclusion, that she must have 
an hallucination on this subject. He said 
to himself, ** If Bella really believed the boy 
was a changeling, she would act upon her 
conviction, she would urge me to take some 
steps to recover our true child, whom the 
gypsies or the fairies have taken, and given 
us poor dear Reginald instead." 

Jaut still the conversation, and her strange 
looks of terror, lay dormant in his mind ; 
both were too remarkable to be ever forgot- 
ten. Such things lie like certain seeds, 
awaiting only fresh accidents to spring into 
life. 

The month rolled away, and the day came 
for Reginald's liberation. A dog-cart was 
sent for him, and the heir of the Bassett's 
emerged from a county jail, and uttered a 
"vdioop of delight ; he insisted on driving, 
and went home at a rattling pace. 

He was in high spirits tUl he ^t in sight 
of Huntercombe Hall ; and then it suddenly 
occurred to his mercurial mind that he 
should probably not be received with an 
ovation, petty larceny being a novelty in that 
ancient house whose representative he was. 

When he did get there, he found the whole 
family in such a state of commotion that his 
return was hardly noticed at all. 

Master Compton's dinner hour was two 
p. H., and yet, at three o'clock ot this day, 
he did not come in. 

This was reported to Lady Bassett, and 
it gave her some little anxiety ; for she sus- 
pected he might possibly be in the company 
of Ruperta Bassett ; and, although she did 
not herself much object to that, she object- 
ed very much to have it talked about and 
made a fuss. So she went herself to the 
end of the lawn, and out into the meadow, 
that a servant mi^ht not find the young 
people together, if ner suspicion was correct 

She went into the meadow and called 
"Comptonl — Compton!" as loud as she 
could, but there was no replv. 

Then she came, in, and began to be 
alarmed, and sent servants about in all di- 
rections. 

But two hours elapsed, and there were no 
tidings. The thing looked serious. 

She ^ent out grooms well mounted to 
scour the country. One of these fell in 
with Sir Charles, who thereupon came 
home, and iidund his wife in a pitiable 
state. She was sitting in an arm-chair, 
trembling and crying hysterically. 

She cauorht his hand directly, and 
grasped it like a vice. 

^ It is Richard Bassett 1 " she cried. ^ He 



knows how to wound and loll me. He has 
stolen our child." 

Sir Charles hurried out, and, soon after 
that, Re^nald arrived, and stood awe- 
struck at her deplorable condition. 

Sir Charles came back heated and anx- 
ious, kissed Reginald, told him in three 
words his brother was missing, and then in- 
formed Lady Bassett that he had learned 
something very extraordinary ; Richard Bas- 
sett's little girl had also disappeared, and 
his people were out, looking after her. 

"Ah I they are together," cried Lady 
Bassett. 

"Together? a son of mine consorting 
with that viper's brood I " 

** What does that poor child know? O, 
find him for me, if you love that dearchild^j 
mother I " 

Sir Charles harried out directly, but was 
met at the door by a servant, who blurted 
out, " The men have dragged the fish-ponds^ 
Sir Charles, and they want to know if they 
shall drag the brook." 

" Hold your ton^e, idiot," cried Sir 
Charles, and thrust him out ; but the wise- 
acre had not spoken in vain. Lady Bas- 
sett moaned, and went into worse hysterics, 
with nobody near her but Reginald. 

That worthy, never having seen a lady in 
hysterics, and not being hardened at all 
points, uttered a sympathetic howl, and flung 
his arms round her neck. " Oh I^ oh I oh I 
Don't cry, mamma." 

Lady Bassett shuddered at his touch, but 
did not repel him. 

«I 'U find him for you," said the boy, "if 
you will leave off crying." 

She stared in his face a moment, and 
then went on as before. 

" Mamma 1 " said he, getting impatient, 
" do listen to me. I '11 find him easy 
enough, if you will only listen." 

" You ! — you I " and she stared wildly 
at him. 

" Ay, I know a sight more than the fools 
about here. I 'm a poacher. Just you put 
me on to his track. I '11 soon run into him, 
if he is above ground." 

« A child like you ! " cried Lady Bas- 
sett, " how can you do that ? " and she be- 
gan to wring her hands a^ain. 

" I 'II show you," said the boy, getting 
very impatient, "if you will just leave off 
crying like a great baby, and come to any 
place you like where he has been to-day and 
left a mark." 

" Ah 1 " cried Lady Bassett 
."I 'm a poacher," repeated Reginald, 
quite proudly ; " you forget that" 

" Come witli me," cried Lady Bassett, 
starting up. 

She whipped on her bonnet, and ran with " 
him down the lawn. 

" There, Reginald," said she, panting, "I 



144 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



think 1117 darling was here this afternoon ; 
yesy yes, he mu8t ; for he had a key of the 
door, and it is open/' 

<< All right," said Reginald ; '< come into 
the field." 

He ran siboat, like a dog hunting, and 
soon found marks among the cowslips. 

<< Somebody has been gathering a nose- 
&,y here to-day," said he ; '< now, mamma, 
Siere 's only two. ways out of this field, let 
us go straight to that gate ; that is the like- 
liest." 

Near the sate was some clay, and Regi- 
nald showed ner several prints of small feet. 

<< Look," said he, << here 's the track of 
two, — one 's a gal ; how I know, here 's a 
sole to this shoe no wider nor a knife. 
Come on." 

In the next field he was bafiied fi>r along 
time; but at last he found a place in a 
dead hedge, where they had gone through. 

^ See," said he, '* these twigs are fresh 
broken, and here 's a bit of the gal's frock. 
Ohl won't she catch it?" 

" O you brave, clever boy ! " cried Lady 
Bassett 

" Come on ! " shouted the urchin. 

He hunted like a beagle, and saw like a 
bird, with his savage glittering eye. He 
was .on fire witli the lurdor of the chase ; 
and, not to dwell too lonv on what has been 
so often and so well wntten by others, in 
about an hour and a half he bronsht the 
anxious, palpitating, but now hopeful moth- 
er, to the neighborhood of Bassett's wood. 
Here he trusted to his own instinct.. ** They 
have gone into the wood," said he, '< and I 
don't blame 'em. I found my way here long 
before his age. I say, don't you tell ; I 've 
snared plenty of the Grovemor's hares in 
that woQd." 

He got to the edge of the wood and ran 
down me side. At last he found the marks 
of small feet on a low bank, and, darting 
over it, discovered the fainter traces on some 
dectnring leaves inside the wood. 

" There," said he ; *< now it is just as if 
you had got them in your pocket, far they '11 
never find their way out of this wood. 
Bless youi: heart, why, / used to get lost in it 
at first." 

<< Lost in the wood ! " cried Lady Bassett, 
^' but he will die of fear, or be eaten by wild 
beasts ; and it is getting so dark." 

<' What about that ? Night or day is all 
one to me. What will you give me, if I find 
him before midnight ? " 

<< Anything I 've got in the worid." 

** Give me a sovereign ? " 

<< A thousand I" 

"Give me a kiss?" 

« A hundred " 

" Then I '11 tell you what 1 11 do, — I don't 
mind a little trouble, to stop your crying, 
mamma, because yott are the right sort, — 



1 11 eet the village out, and we will tread the 
wood, with torches slu* all for them as can't 
see by night; I can see all one; and you 
shall have your kid home to supper, x on 
see there 's 1 heavy dew, and he is not like 
me that would rather sleep in this wood 
than the best bed in London city ; a night 
in a wood would about settle his hash. So 
here goes. I can run a mile in six minutes 
and a half." 

With these word?, the strange boy was 
off like an arrow fix)m a bow. 

Lady Bassett, exhausted by anxiety and 
excitement, was glad to sit down; her 
trembling heart would not let her leave the 
place, that she nowbe^an to hope contained 
ner child. She sat down and waited pa- 
tiently. 

The sun set, the moon rose, the stars gli^ 
tered; the infinite leaves stood out dark and 
solid as if cut out of black marble ; all was 
dismal silence and dread suspense to the 
solitary watcher. 

Yet the lady of Huntercombe Hall sat 
on, sick at heart, but patient, beneath that 
solemn sky. 

She shuddered a little as the cold dews 
gathered on her, for she was a woman 
nursed in Luxury's lap; but she never 
moved. 

The silence was dismal. Had that wild boy 
forgotten his promise, or were there no pa- 
rents in thb village, that their feet lagged so ? 

It was nearly ten o*clock, when her keen 
ears, strained to the utmost, discovered a 
faint buzzing of voices; but where she 
could not tell. 

The sounds increased, and increased, and 
then there was a temporary silence ; and af* 
ter that a faint halloing in the wood to her 
right. The wood was five hundred acres, 
and the bulk of it lay in front and to her left. 

The halloing got louder and louder; the 
whole wood seemed to echo; her heart beat 
high ; lights glimmered nearer and nearer, 
hares and rabbits pattered by, and startled 
her, aud pheasants thundered off their 
roosts with aft incredible noise, owls flitted, 
and bats innumerable, disturbed and ter- 
rified by the glaring lights and loud resound- 
ing hallos. ^ ^ 

i^earer, nearer came the sounds, till at 
last a line of men and boys, full fifty, carry- 
ing torches and lanterns, came up, and 
lighted up the dew-^pangled leaves, and 
made the mother's heart leap with joyful 
hope at succor so powerful. 

O, she could have kissed the stout village 
blacksmith, whose deep sonorous lungs rang 
close to her. Never had any man's voice 
sounded to her so like a god's, as this stout 
blacksmith's << hilloop I hilloopl" close and 
loud in her ear, and those at the end of the 
line halloed <fhilloH>pl hilloK>pi" like an 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



145 



echo; and so they passed on, through bush 
and brier, till their voices died away in the 
distance. 

A boy detached himself from the line, 
and ran to Lady Bassett, with a travelling- 
rug. It was Reginald. 

*^ Tou put on this," said he. He shook 
it, and standing on tip-toe, pat it over her 
shoulders. 

« Thank you, dear," said she. " Where 
is papa?" 

<< O, he is in the line, and the Highmoro 
swell and all." 

«< Mr. Richard Bassett I " 

" Ay, his kid is out on the loose, as well 
as ours." 

« O Reginald, if they should quarrel ! " 

« Why, our governor can lick Aim, can 't 
he?" 



CHAPTEB THE THIRTY-THIRD. 

** O, don't talk so. I would n't for all 
the world they should quarrel." 

'< Well, we have got enough fellows to 
part them, if they do." 

<<Dear Reginald, you have been so good 
to me, and you are so clever ; speak to some 
of the men, and let there be no more quar- 
relling between papa and that man." 

« Ml right," said the boy. 

*' On second thoughts, take me to papa; 
I '11 be by his side, and then they can- 
not." 

^ You want to walk through the wood ? 
that is a good joke. Why, it is like walk- 
ing through a river, and the young wood 
slapping your eyes, for vou can't see every 
twig bv this light, and the leaves sponging 
your face and shoulders; and the briers 
would soon strip your eown into ribbons, 
and make your little ankles bleed. No, yon 
are a lady ; you st^ where you are, and let 
us men work it. We sha' n't find him yet 
awhile. I must get near the Grovemor, 
When we find my lord, I '11 give a whistle 
you could hear a mile off.'' 

*^ O Reginald, are you sure he is in the 
wood?" 

" I 'd bet my head to a chany orange. 
Yon might as well ask me, when I track a 
badger to his hole, and no signs of his go< 
ing out again, whether old long-claws is 
there. I wish I was as sure of never going 
. back to sdiool as I am of finding that little 
lot. The only thing I don't like, is the 
ag muff's not giving us a hallo back. 
, any way, I 'U find 'em, alive ifr dead" 

And, with this pleasing assurance, the 
little imp scudded off, leaving the mother 
glued to the spot with terror* 

For full an hour more the torches 
■ gleamed, though fiunter and fiunter, and so 



full was the wood of echoes, that the voices, 
though distant, seemed to hallo all round 
the agonized mother. 

But presently there was a continuous yell, 
quite different from the isolated shouts, a 
distant but unmistakable howl of victory 
that made a bolt of ice shoot down her back, 
and then her heart to glow like fire. 

It was followed by a keen whistle. 

She fell on her knees and thanked God 
for her boy. 

In the middle of this wood was a shallow 
excavation, an old chalk -pit, nnuEed for 
many years. It was never deep, and had 
been half filled up with dead leaves : these, 
once blown into the hollow, or dropped fiK)m 
the trees, had accumulated. 

The very middle of the line struck on this 
place, and Moss, the old keeper, who was 
near the centre, had no sooner cast his eyes 
into it than he halted, and uttered a stento- 
rian hdlo well known to sportsmen, — ^* Seb 
— HO I" 

A dead halt, a low murmur, and, in a 
very few seconds, the line was a circle, and 
aU the torches, that had not expired, held 
high in a flaming ring, over the prettiest 
little sight that wood hid ever presented. 

The old keeper had not given tongue on 
conjecture, like some youthful hound. In a 
little hollow of leaves, which the boy had 
scraped out, lay Master Compton and Miss 
Ruperta, on their little backs, each with an 
arm round the other's neck, enjoying the 
sweet sound sleep of infancy, which neither 
the horror of their situation — Babes in the 
wood — nor the shouts of fifty people had 
in the smallest degree disturbed ; to be sure 
they had undergone great fatigue. 

X oung Master wore a coronet of blue- 
bells on his golden head: young Miss a 
wreath of cowslips on her ebon lo^s. The 
pair were flowers, cherubs, children, every- 
thing that stands for young, tender, and 
love^r. 

The honest villa^rs gaped, and roared in 
chorus, and held nigh their torches, and 
gazed with reverential delight. Not for them 
was it to finger the little gentlefolks, but 
only to devour them with admiring eyes. 

indeed, the picture was carried home to 
many an humble hearth, and is spoken of 
to this day in Huntercombe village. 

But the pale and anxious fathers were in 
no state to see pictures ; they only saw their 
children; Sir Charles and Richard Bassett 
came round with the general rush, saw, and 
dashed into the pit. 

Strange to say, neither knew the other 
was there : eaeh seized his child, and tore 
it awav from the contact of the other child, 
as if from a viper; in which natural but 
harsh act they saw each other for the first 



U6 



TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



O 



I 



o 

5' 



time, and their eyes gleamed in a moment 
-with hate and defiance, over their loving 
children. 

Here was a pictqre of a different kind, and, 
if the melancholy Jaaues, or any other gen- 
tleman with a foible for thinking in a wood, 
had been there, methinks he hi^ moralized 
very prettily on the hideousness of hate and 
the beauty of the sentiment it had inter- 
rupted so fiercely. But it escaped this sort 
of comment for about eight years. Well, 
all this woke the bairns ; the lights dazzled 
them, the people scared them. Each hid a 
little face on the paternal shoulder. 

The fathers, like wild beasts, each carry- 
ing off a lamb, withdrew, glaring at each 
other ; but the very next moment the strong- 
er and better sen^ent prevailed, and they 



kissed and blessed their restored treasures, 
and forgot their enemies for a time. 

Sir Charles's party followed him, and 
supped at Huntercombe, every man Jack of 
them. 

Besinald, who had delivered a terrific 
cat-call, now ran off to Lady Bassett. There 
she was, still on her knees. *<Ft)undl 
found 1 " he shouted. 

She clasped him in her arms and wept 
for joy. 

" My eyes I " said he, " what a one you 
are to cry I You come home : you '11 catch 
your death o' cold." 

" No, no ; take me to my child at once." 

" Can't be done ; the Governor has car*- 
ried him off through the wood ; and I ain't 
a going to let you travel the woo4« You 



A TEREIBLE TEMPTATION. 



147 



come with me; we 11 go the short cut, and 
be home as soon as them." 

She complied, though trembling all over^ 

On the way he told her where the chil- 
dren had been discovered, and in what atti- 
tude. 

" Little darling I " said she. " But he 
has frightened his poor mother, and nearly 
broken her heart. Oh " 

" If you cry any more, mamma — Shut 
up, 1 tell you." 

^'MustU Oh!" 

" Yes, or you '11 catch pepper." 
, Then he pulled her alon^, gabbling all 
the time. ** Those two swells did n't quar- 
rel, after all, you see." 

« Thank Heaven I " 

<< But they looked at each other like hobe- 
lixes, and pulled the kids away like pison. 
Ha, ha 1 1 say, the voung 'uns ain't of the 
same ndnd as the old 'nns. I sav, though, 
our Compton is not a bad sort ; I m blowed 
if he had n't taken off his tippet to put round 
his gal. I say, don't you think that little 
chap has begun rather early? Why, / did 
n't trouble my head about the gals tul I was 
eleven years old." 

Lady Bassett was too much agitated to 
discuss these delicate little questions just 
then. 

. She replied as irrelevantly as ever a lady 
did. "O you good, brave, clever boy!" 
said she. 

Then she stopped a moment to kiss him 
heartily. <' I shall never forget this night, 
dear. I shall always make excuses for you. 
O, shall we never get home? " 

<< We shall be home a^ soon as they will," 
said Reginald. << Come on." 

He gabbled to her the whole way; but 
the reiKler has probably had enough of his 
mill-clack. 

Lady Bassett reached home, and had just 
ordered a large fire in Compton's bedroom, 
when Sir Charles came in, bringing the 
boy. 

The lady ran out screaming, and went 
down on her knees, with her arms out, as 
only a mother can stretch them to her child. 

There was not a word of scolding that 
night. He had made her suffer ; but what 
of that? She had no egotism; she was a 
true mother. Her boy had been lost, and 
was found ; and she was the happiest soul 
in creation. 

But the fathers of these Babes in the wood 
were both intensely mortified, and took meas- 
ures to keep those little lovers apart in fu- 
ture. Richanl Bassett locked up his gate : 
Sir Charles padlocked his ; and they Doth 
told their wives they really must be more 
vigilant. 

The poor children, being in disgrace, did 
not venture to remonstrate. But they used 
often to think of eaeh other, and took a 



liking to the British Sunday ; for then they 
saw each other in church. 

By and by even that consolation ceased. 
Ruperta was sent to school, and passed her 
holidays at the searside. 

To return to Reginald, he was compelled 
to change his clothes that evening, but was 
allowed to sit up, and, when the heads of the 
house were a little calmer, became the hero 
of the night 

Sir Charles, gazing on him with parental 
pride, said, <<£^ginald, you have be^un a 
new life to-day, and begun it well. Let us 
forget the past, and start iresh to-day, with 
the love and gratitude of both your parents." 

The boy hung his head, ana said nothing 
in reply. 

Lauiy Bassett came to his assistance. 
" He will : he will. Don't say a word 
about the past. He is a good, brave, 
beautifol bov; and I adore him." 

<< And I like you, mamma," said Retgi- 
nald, graciouslv. 

From that day, the boy had a champion 
in Lady Bassett : and. Heaven knows, she 
had no sinecure; poor Reginald's virtues 
were too eccentric to balance his faults for 
long together. Bis parents could not have 
a child lost in a wood every day ; but good 
taste and propriety can be offended every 
hour, • when one is so young, active, and 
lavage, as Master Reginald. 

He was up at five, and doing wrong all 
day. 

Hours in the stables, leamii^ to talk 
horsey, and smell dunghilly. 

Hours in the village — gossiping and 
romping. 

In g(x>d company, an owl. 

In bad, or low, company, a crickety a 
nidktingale, a magpie. 

He was seen at a neighboring fair, play- 
ing the fiddle in a booth to dancing yokels, 
and receiving their pence. 

He was caught by Moss wiring hares in 
Bassett's wood, within twenty ysmls of the 
place where he had found the Babes in the 
wood so nobly. 

Remonstrated with tenderly and solemn- 
ly, he informed Sir Charles that poaching 
was a thing he could not live without, and 
he modestly asked to have Bassett's wood 
given him to poach in, offering, as a con- 
sideration, to keep all other poachers out : 
as a greater inducement he represented that 
he should not require a house, but only a 
coarse sheet to stretch across an old saw- 
pit, and a pair of bluikets for winter use ; 
one under; one over. 

Sir Charles was often sad, sometimes 
indignant. 

Lady Bassett excused each enormity with 
pathetic ingenuihr; excused, bat simered, 
and indeed pined visibly, fyr all this time 



148 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



he was tormenting her as few women in her 
position have been tormented. Her life was 
a struggle of contesting emotions ; she was 
wounded, harassed, perplexed, and so miser^ 
able, she would have welcomed Death, that 
her husband might read that Manuscript, 
and cease to suffer, and she escape the 
diame of confessing, and of living aner it. 

In one word she was expiating. 

Neither the excuses she made, nor the 
misery she suffered, escaped Sir Charles. 

He said to her at last, *' My own Bella, 
this unhappy boy is killing you. Dear as 
he is to me, you are dearer. I must send 
him away again." 

'< He saved our darling," said she, faintly ; 
but she could say no more. He had ex- 
hausted excuse. 

Sir Charles made inquiries everywhere, 
and, at last^ his attention was drawn to the 
following advertisement in the Times — 

U' NMANAGEABLE, Backward, or other BOYS, care- 
fully TRAINED and m>UCATED, by a married 
rector. Homo comforts. Moderate terms. Address Dr. 
Beecher, Fennymore, Cambrldgesblre. 

He wrote to this gentleman, and the 
correspondence was encoura^g. " These 
scapegraces," said the artist in tuition, <* are 
like crab^trees; abominable till you graft 
them, and then they bear the best*iruit/' 

Wbjle the letters were passing, came a 
climax. Reckless Reginald could keep no 
boimds intact : his inward definition of a 
boundary was ^'a thing you should go a 
good way out of your way rather than not 
overleap." 

Accordingly he was often on Highmore 
farm at night, and even in Highmore gar- 
den ; the boundary wall tempted him so. 

One light, but windy night, when every- 
body that could put his head under cover, 
and keep it there, did, reckless Reginald 
was out enjoying the fresh breezes; he 
mounted the boundary wall of Highmore 
like a cat, to see what amusement might 
offer. Thus perched, he speedily discovered 
a bright light in Highmore dining-room. 

He dropped from the wall directly, and 
Biole softly over the grass, and peered in at 
the window. 

He saw a table with a powerftd lamp on 
it : on that table, and gleaming in that light, 
were several silver vessels of rare size and 
workmanship: and Mr. Bassett, with his 
coat off, and a green baize apron on, was 
cleaning one of these with brush and leather. 
He had already cleaned the others, for they 
glittered prodigiously. 

Reginald's black eye gloated and glittered 
at this unexpected display of weaUh in so 
dazzling a form. 

But this was nothing to the revelation in 
store. When Mr. Bassett had done with 
that piece of plate, he went to the panelled 
wall, and opened a door so nicely adapted 
o the panels, that a stranger would hardly 



have discovered it Yet it was an enop- 
mous door, and, being opened, revealed a 
still larger closet, lined with green velvet, 
and fitted with shelves from fi<x>r to ceiling. 
Here shone, in all their elory, the old 

Elate of two good families : t£at is to say, 
alf the old plate of the Bassetts, and all 
the old plate of the Goodwvns, from whom 
came Highmore to Richard Bassett through 
his mother Ruperta Groodwyn, so named 
after her grandmother so named after her 
aunt; so named after her godmother; so 
named after her father, Prince Rupert, cava* 
lier, chemist, glass-blower, eto. ete. 

The wall seemed ablaze with suns and 
moons, for many of the chased goblets, plates, 
and dishes, were silver-gilt : none of your 
filmy electro-plate, but gold laid on thick, 
by ^e old mercurial process, in days when 
they that wrought in precious metals were 
honest — for want of knowing how to cheat. 

Glued to the pane, gloating on this con- 
stellation of gold suns and silver moons, and 
trembling with Bohemian excitement, reck- 
less Reginald heard not a stealthy step upon 
the grass behind him. 

I& had trusted to a fact in optics, forget- 
ting the doctrine of shadows. 

The Scoteh servant saw from a pantry- 
window the shadow of a cap projected on 
the grass, with a face, and part of a body. 
She stepped out, and got upon the grass. 

Finding it was only a boy, she was brave, 
as well as cunning ; and, owing to the wind, 
and his absorption, stole on him unheard, 
and pinned him with her strong hands by 
both his shoulders. 

Young Hopeful uttered a screech of dis- 
may, and administered a back kick that 
made Jessie limp for two days, and scream 
very lustily for the present. 

Mr. Bassett, at this dialogue of yell% 
dropped a coffee-pot with a crash and a 
tinkle, and ran out directly, and secured 
young Hopefiil, who thereupon began to 
quake and remonstrate. 

<<I was only taking a look," said he; 
« where 's the harm of that ? " 

" You were trespassing, sir," said Rich- 
ard Bassett. 

« What is the harm of that. Governor ? 
You can come all over our place, for what 
I care." 

" Thank you. I prefer to keep to my own 
place." 

" Well, I don't. I say, old chap, don't bit 
me. 'T was I put 'em all on the scent of 
your kid, you know." >* 

<< So I have heard. Well, then, this makes 
us quits." 

«l>on't it? You ain't such a bad sort^ 
after all." 

" Only mind, Mr. Bassett, if I cateh you 
prying here again, that will be a fresh ao- 
count, and I shill open it with a horsewhip." 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



149 



He then gave liim a little pnsh, and the 
boy fled like the wind. When he was gone 
lUchard Bassett became rather uneasy. He 
had hitherto concealed, even from his own 
family, the great wealth his humble home 
contained. His secret was now public. 
Repaid had no end of low companions. 
If burglars got scent of this, it might be 
very awkward. At last he hit upon a de- 
fence. He got one of those hooks ending 
in a screw, which are used for pictures, ana 
screwed it into the inside of the cupboard 
door near the top. To this he fastened a 
long piece of catgut, and carried it through 
the floor. His bed was just above the cup- 
board door, and he attached the gut to a 
bell by his bedside. By this means nobody 
could open that cuplxMurd without ringing 
in his ears. 

Jessie told Tom, Tom told Maria and 
Harriet; Harriet and Maria told Every- 
body; Somebody told Sir Charles. He 
was deeply mortified. 

^ You young idiot 1 " said he ; " would 
nothing less Sian this serve your turn? 
must you go and lower me and yourself by 
giving just offence to my one enemy? — the 
man I hate and despise, and who is always 
on the watch to injure or afiront me. On! 
who would be a rather ! There, pack up 
your things: you will go to school next 
morning at eid^t o'clock." 

Mr. Regin^d packed accordingly; but 
that did not occupy lon^ ; so he salhed forth, 
and, taking for granted that it was Richard 
' Bassett who had been so mean as to tell, he 
purchased some paint and brushes and a 
rope, and languished until midnight. 

But when that ma^c hour came he was 
brisk as a bee ; let mmself down from his 
T'eranda, and stole to Richard Bassett's 
front door, and inscribed thereon, in large 
and glaring letters, — 

"JsRRT Sneak, Esq., 
TeU-Tale Tit:* 

He then returned home much calmed and 
eomforted, climbed up his rope and into his 
room, and there slept sweetly, as one who 
bad discharged his duty to his neighbcnr and 
society in general. 

In the morning, hpwever, he was very ac- 
tive, hurried the grooms, and was off before 
the appointed time. 

Sir Charles came down to breakfast, and 
lo ! young Hopeful gone, without the awk- 
ward ceremony of leave-taking. 

Sk Charles found, as usual, many delica- 
cies on his table, and amongst ihem one rarer 
to him than ortolan, pin-tsul, or wUd turkey 
(in which last my soul delights); for he 
found a letter from Richard Bassett, Esq. 

'' Sib, -» Last night we caught your successor 
tfuU is to he at my dining-room window, prying 



into my private affairs, Having ike honor of our 
family at hearty £ was about to administer a little 
wholesome correction, when he reminded me he had 
been instrumental in tracking Miss Bassett, and 
thereby rescuing her: upon this I was, naturally, 
mollified, and sent him about his business, hoping to 
have seen the last of him at Highmore. 

" This morning my door is covered with oppro^ 
brious epithets, and, as Mr. Bassett bought paint 
and brushes at the shop yesterday afternoon, it is 
doubtless to him I am indebted fttr them, 

" I make no comments ; / simpli' record thefticts, 
and put them down to your credit, and your son's. 
" Your obedient Servant, 

''Richard Bassbtt." 

Lad^ Bassett did not come down to 
breakfast that mominp ; so Sir Charles di- 
gested this dish in solitude. 

He was furious with Reginald; but, as 
^chard Bassett's remonstrance was intend- 
ed to insult him, he wrote back as follows : 

" SiB, — lam deeply grieved that a son of mine 
should descend to look in at your windows, or to 
write anything^ whatever upon your door; and 1 
wiU take care it shall never recur. 

" Yours obediently, 
"Charles Dykb Bassbtt." 

This little correspondence was salutarv; 
it fanned the coals of hatred between tne 
cousins. 

Reckless Re^nald soon found he had 
cauo^ht a tartar in his new master. 

Aat gentleman punished him severely 
for every breach of discipline. The study 
was a cool dark room, with one window 
lookinz north, and that window barred. 
Here he locked up the erratic youth for 
hours at a time, upon the slightest esca- 
pade. 

Reginald wrote a honeyed letter to Sir 
Charks, bewailing his lot, and praying to 
be removed. 

Sir Charles replied sternly, and sent him 
a copy of Mr. Richard Bassett*s letter. He 
wrote to Mr. Beecher at the same time, exy 
pressing his full approval. 

Thus disciplined, the boy began to change, 
he became moody, sullen, silent, and even 
sleepy, — * this was the less wonderful, that 
he generally escaped at night to a gypsy 
camp, and courted a ^psy girl, who was 
nearlv as handsome as himself, besides be- 
in^ older, and far more knowing. 

His tongue went like a mill, and the whole 
tribe soon knew all about him, and his par- 
ents. 

One morning the servants ^t up super- 
naturally early, to wash. Mr. Reginald was 
detected stealing back to his roost, and re- 
ported to the master. 

Mr. Beecher had him up directly, locked 
him into the study alone ; put the other stu- 
dents into the drawing-room ; and erected 
ban to his bedroom window. 



150 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



A few dajB of this, and lie pned like 
a bird in a cage. 

A few more, and his gypsy drl came for- 
tone-telling to the servants, and wormed out 
the troth. 

Then she came at night under his window, 
and made him a signal. He. told her his 
hard case, and told her also a resolution he 
had come to. She Informed the tribe. The 
tribe consulted. A keen saw was flung up 
to him ; in two nights he was through the 
bars ; the third he was free, and joined his 
sable friends. 

They struck their tents, and decamped 
with horses, asses, tents, and baggage, and 
were many miles away by daybreu, without 
troubling turnpikes. 

The wyy 1^ not a line behind him, and 
Mr. Beeeher half hoped he might come 
back; still he sent to the nearest station, 
and telegraphed to Huntercombe. 

Sir Charles mounted a fleet horie, and 
rode off at once into Cambridgeshire. He 
set inquiries on foot, and learned that the 
boy had been seen consorting with a tribe 
of gypsies. He heard, also, tmit these were 
rather high gypsies, many of them foreign- 
ers ; and that they dealt in horses, and had 
a farrier ; and that one or two of the girls 
were handsome, and also singers. 

Sir Charles telegraphed for detectives 
from London: wrote to the Mayors of 
towns; advertised, with full description 
and large reward, and brought such pres- 
sure to Dear upon the Egyptians, that the 
band began to fear: they consulted, and 
took measures for their own security : none 
too soon, for, they being encamped on 
Grey's Common in Oxfordshire, Sir Charles 
and the rural police rode into the camp, and 
demanded young Hopeftil. 

They were e(]^ual to tbe occasion: at first 
they knew nothing of the matter, and, with 
injured innocence, invited a full inspection. 

The invitation was accepted. 
. Then, all of a sudden, one of the women 
affected to be strack with an idea. <<It is 
the young gentleman who wanted to join us 
in Cambridgeshire.*' 

Then all their throats opened at once. 
^ Yes, gentleman, there was a lovely young 
gentleman wanted to come with us ; but we 
would n't have him. What could we do with 
him?" 

Sir Charles left them under surveillance, 
and continued his researches, telegraphing 
Lady Bassett twice every day. 

A dark stranger came into Huntercombe 
village, no longer young, but still a striking 
figure : had once, no doubt, been superlar 
tively handsome. Even now, his long hair 
was black, and his eye could glitter : but 
his life had impregnated his noble features 
with hardness and meanness; his large 



black eye was restless, keen, and servfle: 
an excellent figure for a painter though; 
born in Spain he was not afraid of color, 
had a red cap on his snaky black hair, and 
a striped waistcoat. 

He inquired for Mr. Meyrick's farm. 

He soon found his way thither, and asked 
for Mrs. Meyrick. 

The female servant who opened the door 
ran her eye up and down nim, and said, 
brusquely, ^ What do you want with her, my 
man Y because she is busy." 

** O, she will see me, Miss.' 

Softened by the <«Miss," the gurl kughed, 
and said, *< What makes you thmk tha^ my 
man?" . 

'< Give her this. Miss,** said the gypsj^ 
''and she will come to me." 

He held her out a dirty crumpled piece of 
paper. 

Sally, whose hands were wet firom the 
tub, whipped her hand under the comer of 
her checkered apron, and so took the note 
with a finger and thumb operating through 
the linen. By this means she avoided two 
evils, — her fingers did not wet the letter, 
and the letter did not dirty her fingers. 

She took it into the kitchen to her mis- 
tress, whose arms were deep in a wash- 
tub. 

Mrs. Meyrick had played the fine lady at 
first starting, and for ^ix months would not 
put her hand to anything. But those twin 
cajolers of the female heart. Dignity and 
Laziness, made her eo utterly wretched* 
that she returned to her old habits of work, 
only she combined with it the sweets of 
domination. 

Sally came in, and said, ^ It 's an old 
gypsy, which he have brought yon this." 

Mrs. Meyrick instantly wiped the soap- 
suds firom her brown but shapely arms, and, 
whipping a wet hand under her apron, took 
the note just as Sally had. It contained 
these words only: — 

" NuBSB, — The old Bmanee will teJl ym aU 
about me. _^^ Reoimald.*' 

She had no sooner read it than she took 
her sleeves down, and whipped her shawl 
ofi* a peg, and pot it on, and took off her 
apron, — and all for an old gyp^. No 
stranger must take her for anything but 
a lady. 

Thus embellished in a turn of the hand, 
she went hastily to the door. 

She and the g^'psv both started at sight 
of each other, and Mrs. Meyrick screamed. 

" Why, what brings you here, old man ? " 
said she, panting. The ^psy answered with 
oily sweetness, <<The little gentleman sent 
me, my dear. Why, you look like a queen." 

«<Hush!" said Mrs. Meyrick. <<Come 
in here," 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION, 



151 



Slie made the old gypsy sit down, and she 
sat close to liim. 

" Speak low, Daddy,** said she, "and tell 
me all about my boy, my beautiful boy." 

The old gypsy told Mrs. Meyrick the 
wrongs of Keginald that had driven him 
to th^ ; and she fell to crying and lament- 
ing, and inveighing against all concerned, 
— Schoolmaster, Sir Charles, Lady Bassett, 
and the gypsies. Them, the old man de- 
fended, and assured her the youn^ gentle- 
man was in good hands, and would he made 
a little King of, all the more, that Eeturah 
had told them there was gypsy blood in him. 

Mrs. Meyrick treated £is with loud sc(»*n ; 
and then returned to her grief. 

When she had indulged that grief for a 
long time, she felt a natural desire to quar- 
rel with somebody, and she actually put on 
her bonnet, and was going to the Hall to give 
Lady Bassett a bit of her mind, for she said 
that lady had never shown the feelings of a 
woman for the lamb. 

But she thought better of it, and post- 
poned the visit. "I shall be sure to say 
something I shall be sorry for after," said 
she: so me sat down again, and returned 
to her grief. 

Nor could she ever shake it off as thorough- 
ly as she had done any other trouble in her 
life. 

Months afler this, she said to Sally, with 
a burst of tears, "I never nursed but one, 
and I shall never nurse another : and now 
he is across the seas." 

She kept the old gypsy at the farm; or, 
to speak more correctlv, she made the farm 
his head-quarters. She assigned him the 
only bedroom he would accept viz. a cattle- 
shed, open on one side. She used often to 
have lum into her room, when she was 
alone : she gave him some of her husband's 
clothes, and made him wear a decent hat : 
by these means she effaced, in some degree, 
his nationality, and then she compelled her 
servants to caJl him " The foreign Gent." 

The foreign Gent was very apt to disap- 
pear in fine weather, but rain soon drove 
him back to her fireside, and hunger to her 
fieshpots. 

On the very day the foreign Gent came 
to Meyrick's farm, Lady Bassett had a letter 
by post from Reginald. 

" Dear Mamma, — lam gone with thegypsieSy 
across the water, I am sorry to leave you. You 
are the right sort : but they tormented me so, with 
their books, and their dark rooms. It is very un- 
fortunate to be a boy. When I am a man, I shall 
be too old to be tormented, and then I will come back. 
" Your dutiful Son, 

" Reginald." 

Lady Bassett telegraphed Sir Charles, 
and he returned to Huntercombe, looking 
old, sad, and t^orn. 



Lady Bassett set herself to comfort and 
cheer him, and this was her gentle office for 
many a long month. 

She was the more fit for it, that her own 
health and spirits revived the moment Regi- 
nald left the country with his friends the 
gypsies ; the color crept back to her cheek, 
her spirits revived, and she looked as hand- 
some, and almost as young, as when she 
married. She tasted tranquillity. Year 
after year went by, without any news of 
Reginald, and the hope grew that he would 
never cross her threshold again, and Comp- 
ton be Sir Charles's heir, without any more 
trouble. 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FOURTH. 

Our story now makes a bold skip. Comp- 
ton Bassett was fourteen vears old, a youth 
highly cultivated in mind, and trained in 
body, but not very tall, and rather effemi- 
nate looking, because he was so fair and his 
skin so white. 

For all that, he was one of the bowlers 
in the Woolcombe eleven, whose cricket- 
ground was the very meadow in which he 
had erst gathered cowslips with Ruperta 
Bassett; and he had a canoe, which he car- 
ried to adjacent streams, however narrow, 
and paddled it with singular skill and vigor. 
A neighboring miller, suffering under 
drought, was heard to say "There ain*t 
water enough to float a duck ; nought can 
swim but the dabchicks and Muster Bas- 
sett.'* 

* He was also a pedestrian, and got his 
father to take long walks with him, and leave 
the horses to eat their oats in peace. 

In these walks young master botanized 
and geologized ms own father, and Sir 
Charles ^ave him a little politics, history, 
and English poetry, in return. He had 
a tutor fresh &om Oxford for the clas- 
sics. 

One day, returning with his father from a 
walk, they met a youn^ lady walking 
towards them from tne viUage : shewastal^ 
and a superb brunette. 

!Now it was rather a rare thing to see a 
lady walking through that village, so both 
Sir Charles and his son looked keenly at 
her, as she came towards them. 

Compton turned crimson, and raised his 
hat to her rather awkwardly. 

Sir Charles, who did not know the lady 
from Eve, saluted her nevertheless, and 
with infinite grace ; for Sir Charles, in his 
youth, had lived with some of the elite of 
French society, and those gentlemen bow 
to the person whom their companion bows 
to. Sir Charles had imported this excellent 
trait of politeness, and always practised it^ 



152 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



though not die custom in England, the 
more the pity. 

As soon as the young lady had passed 
and was out of heanng, Sir Charles said 
to Compton, *' Who is that lovely girl ? 
Why, how the boy is blushing I " 

« O papa ! " 

« Well, what is the matter ? " 

** Don't you see ? It is herself, come back 
from school.* 

<< 1 have no doubt it is herself and not 
her sister, but who is herself? " 

« Ruperta Bassett." 

<< Richard Bassett's daughter I impossible. 
That young lady looks seventeen or eigh- 
teen years of age." 

« xes, but it is Ruperta. There 's no- 
body like her. — Papa." 

"Well?" 

" I suppose I may speak to her now." 

"What for?" 

" She is so beautiful." 

" That she really is. And therefore I ad- 
vise you to have nothing to say to her. You 
are not children now, you know. Were 
you to renew that intimacy, you might be 
tempted to fall in love with her. I don't 
say you would be so mad, for you are a sen- 
sible boy : but still, after that little business 
in the wood — " 

" But suppose I did fall in love with her ? " 

" Then that would be a great misfortune. 
Don't you know that her father is my ene- 
my ? If you were to make any advances to 
that young lady, he would seize the oppor- 
tunity to affiront you, and me through you." 

This silenced Compton, for he was an 
obedient youth. 

But in the evening he got to his mother 
and coaxed her to take his part. 

Now Lady Bassett felt the truth of all her 
husband had said ; but she had a positive 
wish the young people should be on friendly 
terms at all events : she wanted the family- 
feud to die with the generation it had af- 
flicted. She promised, therefore, to speak 
to Sir Charles ; and so great was her influ- 
ence that she actually obtained erms for 
Compton : he might speak to Miss Bassett, 
if he would realize the whole situation, and 
be very discreet, and not revive that absurd 
familiarity into which their childhood had 
been betrayed. 

She communicated this to him, and warned 
him at the same time that even this conces- 
sion had been granted somewhat reluctantly, 
and in consideration of his invariable good 
conduct; it would be immediately with- 
drawn upon the slightest indiscretion. 

"O, I will be discretion itself," said 
Compton; but the warmth with which he 
kissed his mother gave her some doubts. 
However, she was prepared to risk some- 
thing. She had her own views in this mat- 
er. 



When he had got this limited permissioii. 
Master Compton was not much nearer the 
mark ; for he was not to call on the young 
lady, and she did not often walk in the vi£ 
la^. 

But he often thought of her, her loving, 
sprightly ways seven years ago, and the 
blaze of beauty with which she had re- 
turned. 

At last, one Sunday afternoon, she .came 
to church alone. When the congregatioa 
dispersed, he followed her, and came up 
with her, but his heart beat violently. 

" Miss Bassett I " said he, timidly. 

She stopped and turned her eyes on him : 
he blushed up to the temples. She blushed 
too, but not quite so much. 

"I am afraid you don't remember me,** 
said the boy, sadly. 

"Yes I do> sir," sjdd Ruperta, shyly. 

" How you are grown ! " 

" Yes, sir." 

"You are taller than I am; and more 
beautiful than ever." 

No answer, but a blush. 

" You are not angry with me for speak- 
ing to you ? " 

" No, sir." 

" I would n't offend you." 

<* I am not offended. Only — " 

" O Miss Bassett, of course I know yon 
will never be — we shall never be — like we 
used." 

A very deep blush, and dead silence. 

" You are a grown-up young lady, and I 
am only a boy still, somehow. But it would 
have been hard if I might not even speak to 
you. Would it not?" 

" Yes," said the young lady, but after some 
hesitation, and only in a whisper. 

" I wonder where you walk to. I have 
never seen you out but once." 

No reply to this little feeler. 

Then, at last, Compton was discouraged, 
partly bv her beauty and size, partly by hep - 
taciturmty. 

He was silent in return, and so, in a state 
of mutual constraint, they reached the gate 
Highmore. 

" Good by," said Compton, reluctantly. 

" Good by." 

" Won't you shake hands ? " 

She blusned, and put out her hand hal^ 
way. He took it and shook it, and so they 
parted. 

Compton said to his mother dlscqnsolately, 
" Mamma, it is all over. I have seen her, 
and spoken to her: but she haswne off 
dreadfully." \ 

"Why, what is the matter ?" V 

" She is all changed. She is so shspid 
and dignified got to be. She has noS^ a 
word to say to a fellow." ,^ 

" Perhaps she is more reserved : that il<8 
natural. She is a young lady now." 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



153 



" Then it is a great pity she did not stay 
as she was. O, the bright little darling ! 
Who 'd think she could ever turn into a 
great, stupid, dignified thing? She is as 
tall as you, mamma." 

<< Indeed! She has made use of her time. 
Well, dear, don't take too much notice of 
her, and then you will find she will not be 
nearly so shy." 

« Too much notice ! I shall never speak 
to her again — perhaps." 

" I would not be violent, one way or the 
other. Why not treat her like any other 
acquaintance ? " 

Next Sunday afternoon she came to 
church alone. 

In spite of his resolution, Mr. Compton 
tried her a second time. Horror I she was 
all monosyllables and blushes again. 

Compton began to find it too uphill. At 
last, when they reached Highmore gate, he 
lost his patience, and sud, '* I see how it is. 
I have lost my sweet playmate forever. 
Grood by, Ruperta; I won't trouble you 
any more." And he held out his hand to 
the young lady for a final farewell. 

Ruperta whipped both her hands behind 
her back like a school-girl, and then, recov- 
ering her dignity, cast one swift glance of 
gentle reproach, then suddenly assuming vast 
stateliness, marched into Highmore like the 
mother of a family. These three changes 
of manner she effected all in less than two 
secoi^ds. 

Poor Compton went away sorely puzzled 
by this female kaleidoscope, bat not a little 
alarmed and concerned at having mortally 
offended so much feminine dignity. 

After that he did not venture to accost her 
for some time, but he cast a few sheep's-eyes 
at her in church. 

Now Ruperta had told her mother all ; 
and her mother had not forbidden her to 
speak to Compton, but had insisted on re- 
serve and discretion. 

She now told her mother she thought he 
would not speak to her any more, she had 
snubbed him so. 

" Dear me I " said Mrs. Bassett, " why did 
you do that ? Can you not be polite and 
nothing more ? " 

" No, mamma." 

** Why not ? He is very amiable. Every- 
body says so." ^ 

<* He is. But I keep remembering what 
a forward girl I was, and I am afiraid he has 
not forgotten it either, and that makes me 
hate the poor little fellow ; no, not hate him ; 
but keep him off. I dare say he thinks me 
a cross ill-tempered thing : and I am very 
unkind to him : but I can't help it." 

" Never mind," said Mrs. Bassett; " that 
is much better than to be too forward. Papa 
would never forgive that." 

B^ and by there was a cricket-match in 



the farmer's meadow, Hi^hco^be and Hun- 
tercombe eleven against the town of Stave- 
leigh. All clubs liked to play at Hunter- 
combe, because Sir Charles found the tents 
and the dinner, and the young farmers drank 
his champagne to their hearts' content 

Ruperta took her maid and went to see 
the match. They found it soing against 
Huntercombe. The score as follows : 

Staveleigh. First innings, a hundred and 
forty-eight runs. 

Huntercombe eighty-eight. 

Staveleigh. Second innings, sixty runs, 
and only one wicket down; and Johnson 
and Wright, two of their best men, well in, 
and masters of the bowling. 

This being communicated to Ruperta, she 
became excited, and her soul in the game. 

The batters went on knocking the balls 
about, and scored thirteen more, before the 
young lady's eyes. > 

« O dear!" said she, <<what is that boy 
about? Why doesn't he bowl? They 
pretend he is a capital bowler." 

At this time, Compton was standing loi^ 
field on, only farther from the wicket thiui 
usual. 

Johnson at the wicket bowled to, beins a 
hard but not yerj scientific hitter, lifled a 
half volley ball right over the bowler's head, 
a hit for roar, but a sky-scraper. Compton 
started the moment he hit, and, running 
with prodigious velocity, caught the baU 
descending, within a few yards of Ruperta; 
but, to set at it, he was obliged to throw 
himself forward into the air; he rolled upon 
the grass, but held the baU in sight all the 
while. 

Mr. Johnson was out^ and loud acclama- 
tions rent the sky. 

Compton rose, and saw Ruperta clapping 
her hands close by. 

She left off, and blushed, directly he saw 
her. He blushed too, and touched his cap 
to her, with an air half manly, half sheepish ; 
but did not speak to her. 

This was the last ball of the over, and, as 
the ball was now to be delivered from the 
other wicket, Compton took the place of 
long-leg. 

The third ball was overpitched to leg, 
and Wright, who, like most country players, 
hit freely to leg, turned half, and caught 
this ball exactly right, and sent it whizzing 
for six. 

But the very force of the stroke was fieital 
to him ; tiie ball went at first bound right 
into Compton's hands, who instantly fiung 
it back, like a catapult, at Wright's wicket. 

Wright, having nit for six, and being un- 
able to see what had become of the ball, 
started to run, as a matter of course. 

But the other batsman, seeing the ball 
go right into long-legs hands like a bullet» 
cried" Back 1" 



154 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Wright toftied, and would have got back 
to his wicket, if the ball had required hand- 
ling by the wicket-keeper ; but, hj a mix- 
ture of skill with lucky it came ri^ht at the 
wicket Seeing whidb, the wicket-keeper 
Tery judiciously let it alone, and it earned 
off the bails just half a second before Mr. 
Wright grounded his bat. 

** How's that, umpire? ** cried the wicket- 
keeper. 

" Out ! " said the Staveleigh umpire, who 

*ged at that end. 

Jp went the ball into the air, amidst 
great excitement of the natives. 

Rup^rta, carried away by the general 
enthusiasm, nodded all sparkling to Comp- 
ton, and that made his heart b^t, and his 
soul aspire. So next over he claimed his 
rights, aad took the ball. Luck still be- 
j&iended him: he bowled four wickets in 
twelve overs; the wicket-keeper stumped a 
fifth : the rest were " the tail," and disposed 
of for a few runs, and the total was no more 
than Huntercombe's first innings. 

Our hero then took the bat, and made 
forty-seven runs before he was disposed of, 
five wickets down for a hundred and ten 
runs. The match was not won yet, nor 
sure to be ; but the situation was reversed. 

On going out, he was loudly applauded ; 
and Ruperta naturally felt proud of her 
admirer. 

Being now fi%e, he came to her irreso- 
lutely with some iced champagne. 

Ruperta declined, with thanks; but he 
looked so imploringly that she sipped a 
little, and said, warmly, '<I hope we ehall 
win : and, if we do, I know whom we shall 
have to thank." 

<< And so do I : you. Miss Bassett" 

" Me ? Why, what have / done in the 
matter?" 

"You brought us luck, for one thing. 
You put us on our mettle. Staveleigh shall 
never beat me, with you looking on." 

Ruperta blushed a little, for the boy's 
eyes beamed with fire. 

<'If I believed that," said she, <<I should 
hire myself, out at the next matcb, and 
chaise twelve pair of gloves." 

" You may believe it, then ; ask anybody 
whether our luck did not change the mo- 
mentyou came." 

" Ihen I am afiraid it will go now, for I 
am going." 

" jTou will lose us the match if you do," 
said Compton. 

" I can't help it : now you are out, it is 
rather insipid. There, you see I can pay 
compliments as well as you." 

Then she made a gracefiil inclination and 
moved away. 

Compton felt his heart ache at parting. 
He took a thought and ran quickly to a cer- 
tain part of the field. 



Ruperta and her attendant walked very 
slowly homeward. 

Compton caught them just ,at their own 
gate. " Cousin P' said he, imploringly, and 
held her out a nosegay of cowslips only. 

At that the memories rushed back on her, 
and the girl seemed literally to melt. She 
pave him one look full of womanly sensibil- 
ityand winning tenderness, and said, softly, 
"Thank you, cousin." 

Compton went away on wings: itie ice 
was broken. 

But the next time he met her it had frozen 
again apparently : to be sure she was alone ; 
and young ladies will be bolder when thev 
have anower person of their own sex with 
them. 

Mr. Angelo called on Sir Charles Bas- 
sett to complain of a serious grievance. 

Mr. Angelo had become zealous and elo- 
quent, but what are eloquence and zeal 
against sex? A handsome woman had 
preached for ten minutes upon a little 
mound outside the village, and had an- 
nounced she should say a few parting 
words next Sunday evening at six o'clock. 

Mr. Angelo complained of this to Lady 
Bassett. 

Lady Bassett referred him to Sir Charles. 

Mr. Angelo asked that magistrate to en- 
force the law against conventicles. 

Sir Charles said he thought the Act did 
not apply. 

" Well, but," said Angelo, " it is on youp 
ground she is going to preach." 

'< I am the proprietor, but the tenant is 
the owner in law. He could ^am me off 
his ground. I have no power." 

<*I fear you have no inclination," said 
Angelo, nettled. 

" Not much, to tell the truth," replied Sir 
Charles, coolly. "Does it matter so very 
much who sows the good seed, or whether it 
is flung abroad from a pulpit or a grassy 

"That is begging the question. Sir 
Charles. Why assume that it is good 
seed? it is more likely to be tares than 
wheat in this case." 

" And is not that begging the question ? 
Well, I will make it my business to know : 
and if she preaches sedition, or heresy, or 
bad morals, I will strain my power a little 
to silence her. More than that I really can- 
not pomise you. The day is gone by for 
intolerance." 

" Intolerance is a bad thing ; but the ab- 
sence of all conviction is worse, and that is 
what we are coming to." 

" Not quite that : out the nation has tasted 
liberty ; and now every man assumes to do 
what is right in his own eyes." 

" That means what is wrong in his neigh- 
bor's." 



A TEKRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



155 



Sir CLarles tbougbtthis neat, and laughed 
good-humoredly : he asked the rector to dine 
on Sunday at half past seven. <* I shall 
know more about it by that time," said he. 

They dined early on Sunday, at Highmore, 
and Ruperta took her maid ror a w£& in the 
aflemoon and came back in time to hear 
the female preacher. 

Half the village was there already, and 
presently the Preacher walked to her sta- 
tion. 

To Ruperta's surprise, she was a lady, 
richly dressed, tall, and handsome, but with 
features rather too commanding. She had a 
glove on her left hand, and a little Bible in 
her right hand, which was large, but white, 
and finely formed. 

She delivered a short prayer, and opened 
her text: — 

" Walk honestly ; not in strife and envy- 
ing." 

Just as the text was siven out, Ruperta's 
maid pinched her, and me young lady, look- 
ing up, eaw her father coming to see what 
was the matter. Maid was ror hiding, but 
Ruperta made a wry face, blushed, and stood 
her ground. " How can he scold me, when 
he comes himself? " she whispered. 

During the sermon, of which, short as it 
was, I can only afford to give the outline, in 
crept Compton Bassett, and got within three 
or four of Ruperta. 

Finally Sir Charles Bassett came up, in 
accordance with his promise to Angelo. 

The perfect preacher deals in generali- 
ties, but strikes them home with a few per- 
sonalities. 

Most clerical preachers deal only in gen- 
eralities, and that is ineffective, especially to 
imcultivated minds. 

Mrs. Marsh, as mi^ht be expected from 
her sex, went a little too much the other 
way. 

After a few sensible words, pointing out 
the misery in houses, and the harm done to 
the soul, by a quarrelsome spirit, she la- 
mented there was too much of it in Hunter- 
combe : with this opening she went into per- 
sonalities : reminded them of the fight be- 
tween two farm servants last week, one of 
whom was laid up at that moment in conse- 

Suence. " And," said she, " even when it 
oes not come to fighting, it poisons your 
lives, and offends your Redeemer." 

Then she went into the causes, and she 
said Drunkenness and Detraction were the 
chief causes of strife and contention. 

She dealt briefly but dramatically with 
Drunkenness, and tnen lashed Detraction^ as 
follows : 

" Every class has its vices, and Detrac- 
sion is the vice of the poor. You are ever 
so much vainer than your betters : you are 
eaten up with vanity, and never give your 
neighbor a good word. I have been in 



thirty houses, and in not one of those houses 
has any poor man or poor woman spoken 
one honest word in praise of a neighbor. 
So do not flatter yourselves that this is a 
Christian village : for it is not. The only 
excuse to be made for you, and I fear it is 
not one that God will accept on his judg- 
ment-day, is that your betters set you a bsul 
example instead of a good one. The two 
principal people in this village are kinsfolk, 
yet enemies, and have been enemies for 
twen^ years. That 's a nice example for 
two Christian gentlemen to set to poor peo- 
ple, who, they may be sure, will copy their 
sins, if they copy nothing else. 

" These gentlemen go to church regularly, 
and believe in the Bible, and yet they defy 
both church and Bible. 

*< Now I should like to ask those gentle- 
men a question. How do they mean to man- 
age in heaven ? When the Baronet comes 
to that happy place, where all is love, will 
the Squire walk out ? Or do they think to 
quarrel there, and so get turned out, both of 
them ? I don't wonder at your smiling ; but 
it is a serious consideration for all that. The 
soul of man is immortal : and what is the 
soul ? it is not a substantial thing, like the 
body ; it is a bundle of thoughts and feel- 
ings: the thoughts we die with in this 
world, we shall wake up with them in the 
next. Yet here are two Christians loading 
their immortal souls with immortal hate. 
What a waste of feeling, if it must all be 
flung off together with tiie body, lest it drag 
the souls of both down to bottomless perdi- 
tion. 

" And what do they gain in this world ? — 
irritation, ill-health, and misery. It is a fact 
that no man ever reached a ^at old age, 
who hated his neighbor; still less a good old 
age; for, if men would look honestly into 
their own hearts, they would own that to 
hate is to be miserable. 

<* I believe no men commit a sin for many 
years, without some special warnings ; and 
to neglect these, is one sin more s^lded to 
their account. Such a warning, or rather, 
I should say, such a pleading of Divine 
love, those two gentlemen have had. Do 
you remember, about eight years ago, two 
children were lost on one day, out of differ^ 
ent houses in this village?" (A murmur 
from the crowd.) 

" Perhaps some of you here present were 
instrumental, under Grod, in finding that 
pretty pair." (A louder murmur.) 

"O, don't be afraid to answer me. 
Preaching is only a way of speaking ; and 
I 'm only a woman that is speaking to you 
for your good. Tell me, — we are not in 
church, tied up by strait-laced rules to keep 
men and women from getting within arm's- 
length of one another's souls, — tell me, who 
saw those two lost children ? " 



156 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



"I, I, I, I, I," roared seyeral Toices in 
reply. 

<< Is it true, as a ^ood woman tells me, 
that the innocent darhno:8 had each an arm 
ronnd Uie other's neck? 

«Ay." 

<< jbid little coronets of flowers, to match 
their hair V (That was the girl's doing.)" 

"Ay." 

" And the little hoy had played the man, 
and taken off his tippet to put round the 
little lady?" 

" Ay I " with a hurst of enthusiasm from 
the assemhled rustics. 

"I think I see them myself; and the 
torches lighting up the dewy leaves over- 
head, and that Divine picture of innocent 
love Well, which was the prettier si^ht, 
and the fittest for heaven, — the hatred of 
Uie patents, or the affection of the children ? " 

" And now mark what a weapon hatred is, 
in the Devil's hands. There are only two 
people in this parish on whom that sight was 
wasted : and those two, being gentlemen, 
and men of education, would have been 
more afiected by it than humble folk, if Hell 
liad not been in their hearts; for Hate 
comes lix)m Hell, and takes men down to the 
place it comes fix)m. 

" Do you then shun, in that one thing, the 
example of your betters : and 1 hope those 
children will shun it too. A father is to be 
treated with great veneration, but above all 
is our Heavenly Father and his law, and 
that law, what is it ? — what has it been this 
eighteen hundred years and more ? — Why, 
Love. 

" Would vou be happy in this world, and 
fit your souls to dwell hereafter even in the 
meanest of the many mansiQns prepared 
above, you must, above all things, oe chari- 
table. You must not run your neighbor 
down behind his back, — or God will hate 
you : you must not wound him to his face, — 
or God will hate you. You must overlook 
a fault or two, and see a man's bright side, 
and then God will love you. If you won't 
do that much for your neighbor, why, in 
Heaven's name, should God overlook a mul- 
titude of sins in you ? 

"Nothing goes to heaven surer than Char- 
ity, and nothing is so fit to sit in heaven. 
St. Paul had many things to be proud of, 
and to praise in himself, — things that the 
world is more apt to admire than Christian 
charity, the sweetest, but humblest of all the 
Christian graces : St. Paul I say was a bul- 
wark of learning, an anchor of faith, a rock 
of constancy, a thunderbolt of zeal : yet see 
how he bestows the palm. 

" < Knowledge puneth up : but charity edi- 
fieth. Though I speak with the tongues of 
men and of angels, and have not charity, I 
am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling 
cymbal. And though I have the gift of pro- 



phecy, and understand all mysteries, and all 
knowledge ; and though I have all faith, so 
that I could remove mountains, and have 
not charity, I am nothing. And though I 
bestow ail my goods to feed the poor, and 
though I give my body to be burned, and 
have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 
Charity suflcreth long, and is kind ; charity 
envieth not ; charity vaunteth not itself, is 
not puffed up, doth not behave itself un- 
seemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily 
provoked, thinketh no evil ; rejoiceth not in 
iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth ; beareth 
all things, believeth all things, hopeth all 
things, endureth all things. Charity never 
faileth : but prophecies — they shall fail ; 
tongues — they shall cease ; knowledge — it 
shall vanish away. And now abideth Faith, 
Hope, and Charity, these three, but the 
greatest of these is charity.'" 

The fair orator delivered these words with 
such fire, such feeling, such trumpet-toned 
and heartfelt eloquence, that for the first 
time those immortal words sounded in these 
village ears true oracles of God. 

Then, without pause, she went on. " So 
let us lift our hearte in earnest prayer to 
God that, in this world of thorns, and tem- 
pers, and trials, and troubles, and cares, he 
will give us the best cure for aJl, — the great 
sweetener of this mortal life, — the sure fore- 
runner of Heaven, — his most excellent gift 
of charity." Then, in one generous burst, she 
prayed for love divine, and there was many 
a sigh, and many a tear, and, at the close, 
an " Amen ! " such as, alas ! we shall never, 
I fear, hear burst from a hundred bosoms 
where men repeat beautiful but stale words, 
and call it prayer. 

The preacher retired, but the people still 
lingered Fpell-bound, and then aro&e tliat 
buzz, which shows that the words have 
gone home. 

As for Richard Bassett, he had turned on 
his heel, indignant, as soon as the preacher's 
admonitions came his way. 

Sir Charles Bassett stood his ground rather 
longer, being steeled by the conviction that 
the quarrel was none of his seeking. More- 
over, he was not aware what a good friend 
this woman had been to him, nor what a 
good wife she had been to Marsh this 
seventeen years. Bis mind, therefore, 
made a clear leap from the Bhoda Somer- 
set, the vixen of Hyde Park and Mayfair, 
to this preacher, and he could not help 
smiling ; than which a worse frame for re- 
ceiving unpalatable truths can hardly be 
conceived. And so the elders were obdu- 
rate. But Compton and Buperta had no 
armor of old age, egotism, or prejudice to 
turn the darts of honest eloquence. They 
listened, as to the voice of an angel ; they 
gazed, as on the face of an angel ; and, 
when those silvery accents ceased, they 



A TERRIBLE TEltPTATION. 



157 



torned towards each other, and came to- 
wards each other, with the sweet enthusi- 
asm that became their years. *^ O Cousin 
Ruperta I " quavered Compton. " O Cousin 
Compton 1 " cried Ruoerta, the tears trick* 
Img^down her lovely cneeks. 

They could not say any more for ever so 
long. 

Buperta spoke first. She gave a final 
gulp, and said, <* I will go and speak to her, 
and thank her." 

" O Miss Buperta, we shall be too late for 
tea," suggested the maid. 

" Tea 1 " said Ruperta. " Our souls are 
before our Tea ! I must speak to her, or 
else my heart will ychoke me, and kill me. 
I will go — and so will Compton." 

" O yes I " said Compton. 

And they hurried after the preacher. 

They came up with her, flushed and 
panting; and now it was Compton's turn 
to be shy ; the lady was so tall, and statdy 
too. 

^ut Ruperta was not much afraid of any- 
thing in petticoats. *^ O madam," said she, 
" if you please, may we speak to you? " 

Mrs. Marsh turned round, and her some- 
what aquiline features softened instantly at 
the two specimens of beauty and innocence 
that had run after her. 

" Certainly, my young friends" ; and she 
smiled maternally on them. She had chil- 
dren of her own. 

" Who do you think we are ? We are 
the two naughty children you preached 
about so beautifully." 

« What I you the Babes in the wood ? " 

^ Yes, madam. It was a long, long while 
ago, and we are fifteen now ; are we not, 
(x>usin Compton?" 

" Yes, madam." 

" And we are both so unhappy at our 
parents' quarrelling. At least I am." 

"And so am I." 

** And we came to thank you. Did n't we, 
dompton?** 

« Yes, Buperta." 

" And to ask your advice. How are we 
to make our parents be friends ? Old people 
will not be advised by young ones. They 
look down on us so ; it is dreadftii." 

«' My dear young lady," said Mrs. Marsh, 
T will try and answer yon ? but let me sit 
down a minute ; for, after preaching, I am 
apt to feel a little exhausted. Now, sit be- 
side me, and give me each a hand, if you 
please." 

" Well, my dears, I have been teaching 
yon a lesson ; and now you teach me one, 
and that is, how much easier it is to preach 
reconciliation and charity> than it is to prac- 
tise it under certain circumstances. How- 
ever, my advice to you is first to pray to 
Grod for wisdom in this thino^, and then to 
watch every opportuulty. Dissuade your 



parents from every unkind act: don't be 
afraid to speak — with the word of Grod at s 
your back. I know that you have no easy 
task before you. Sir Charles Bassett and 
Mr. Bassett were both among my hearers, 
and both turned their backs on me, and 
went away unsoftened; they would not 
give me a chance ; would not hear me to 
an end, and I am not a wordy preacher 
neither." 

Here an interruption occurred. Buperta, 
so shy and cold with Compton, flung her 
arms round Mrs. Marsh's neck, with the 
tears in her eyes, and kissed her eagerly. 

*^ Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Marsh, after 
kissing her in turn, f' I was a little mortified. 
But that was very weak and foolish. I am 
sorry, for their own sakes, they would not 
stay ; it was the word of God : but they 
saw only the unworthy instrument. Well, 
then, my dears, you have a hard task ; but 
you must work upon your mothers, and win 
them to Charity." 

"Ah I that will be easy enough. My 
mother has never approved this unhappy 
quarrel." 

" No more has mine." 

" Is it so ? Then you must try and sjet 
the two ladies to speak to each other. But 
something tells me that a way will be opened. 
Flave patience. Have Faith ; and do not 
mind a check or two: but persevere, re- 
membering that ^blessed are the peace- 
makers.' " 

She then rose, and they took leave of her. 

"Give me a kiss, children," said she. 
" You have done me a world of good. My 
own heart often flags on the road, and you 
have warmed and comforted it. Grod bless 
youl" 

And so they parted. 

Compton and Ruperta walked homewards. 
Ruperta was very thoughtful, and Compton 
could only get monosyllables out of her. 
This discouraged and at last vexed him. 

" What have I done," said he, " that you 
wHl speak to anybody bat me ? " 

" Don't be cross, child," said she ; " but 
answer me a question. Did you put your 
tippet round me in that wood ? " 

" 1 suppose so." 

" O, then you don't remember doing it, 
eh?" 

"No; that I don't." 

" Then what makes you think you did? " 

" Because they say so. Because I must 
have been such an awful cad if I didn't. 
And I was always much fonder of you than 
vou were of me. My tippet 1 I'd give my 
head sooner than any harm should come to 
you. Ruperta ! 

Ruperta made no reply, but, being now 
at Highmore, she put out her hand to him, 
and turned her head away. He kissed her 
hand devotedly, and so they parted. 



158 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Compton told Lady Bassett all that had 
happened, and Ruperta told Mrs. Bas- 
sett. 

Those ladies readily promised to be on 
the side of peace, but they feared it could 
only be the work of time, and said so. 

"By and by Compton got impatient, and 
told Ruperta he had thought of a way to 
compel their fathers to be Mends. " I am 
afraid you won't like the idea, a.t Jirst,** said 
he ; " but the more you think of it, the more 
you will see it is the surest way of all." 

"Well, but what is it?" 

" You must let me marry you." 

Ruperta stared, and began to blush crim- 
son. 

" Will you, cousin ? " 

^ Of course not, child. The idea I " 

" O Ruperta," cried the boy, in dismay, 
" surely you don't mean to marry anybody 
else but me 1 " 

"Would that make you very unhappy, 
then??* 

" You know it would ; wretched for my 
life." 

" I should not like to do that. But I dis- 
approve of early marriages. I mean to 
wait till I 'm nineteen ; and that is three 
years nearly." 

"It is a fearful time: but, if you will 
promise not to marry anybody else, I sup- 
pose I shall live through it." 

Ruperta, though she made light of Comp- 
tbn's offer, was very proud of it (it was her 
firstV She told her mother directly. 

Mrs. Bassett sighed, and said that was 
too blessed a thing ever to happen. 

" Why not ? " said Ruperta. 

" How could it," said Mrs. Bassett, " with 
everybody against it but poor little me ? " 

" Compton assures me that Lady Bassett 
wishes it." 

" Indeed 1 But Sir Charles and papa, 
Ruperta?" 

" O, Compton must talk Sir Charles over, 
and I will persuade papa. I'll begin this 
evening, when he comes home from Lon- 
don." 

Accordingly, as he was sitting alone in 
the dining-room, sipping his glass of port, 
Ruperta slipped away from ner motier*s 
side, and found him. 

His face brightened at the sight of her ; 
for he was extremely fond and proud of this 
girl, for whom he would not have the bells 
run^ when she was bom. 

She came and hung round his neck a 
little, and kissed him, and said, softly, 
** Dear papa, I have something to tell you. 
I have had a proposal." 

Richard Bassett stared. 

" What, of marriage ? " 

Ruperta nodded archly. 

" To a child like you ? Scandalous I No, 
for after all you look nineteen or twenty. 



And who is the highwayman that thinks to 
rob me of my precious girl ? " 

' " Well, papa, whoever he is, he will have 
to wait three years, and so I told him. It 
is my cousin Cfompton." 

" What 1 " cried Richard Bassett, so loud- 
ly, that the girl started back dismayed. 
" That little monkey have the impudence to 
offer marriage to my daughter? Surely, 
Ruperta, you have offered nim no encour- 
agement ? " 

«N— no." 

" Your mother promised me nothing but 
common civility should poss between you 
and that young gentleman." 

" She promised for me, but she could not 
promise for him : poor little fellow I " 

" Marry a son of the man who has robbed 
and insulted your father ? " 

" O papa I is it so ? Are you sure you 
did not begin ? " 

" If you can think that, it is useless to say 
more. I thought ill-fortune had done its 
worst ; but no : blow upon blow, and wound 
upon wound. Don't spare me, child. No- 
body else has ; and why should you ? 
Marry my enemy's son, his younger son, 
and break your father's heart." 

At this, what could a sensitive girl of 
sixteen do but burst out crying, and prom- 
ise, round her father's neck, never to marry 
any one whom he disliked. 

When she had made this promise, her 
father fondled and petted her, and his ten- 
derness consoled her, for she was not pas- 
sionately in love with her cousin. 

Yet Mie cried a good deal over the letter 
in which she communicated this to Comp- 
ton. 

He lay in wait for her ; but she baffled 
him for three weeks. 

After that she relaxed her vigilance, for 
she had no real wish to avoid him, and was 
curious to see whether she had cured him. 

He met her ; and his conduct took her by- 
surprise. He was pale, and looked very- 
unhappy. 

He said, solemnly, "Were you jesting 
with me when you promised to many no 
one but me?" 

" No, Compton. But you know I could 
never marry you without papa's consent." 

" Of course not ; but, what I fear, he 
might wish you to marry somebody else." 

"Then I should refuse. I will never 
break my word to you, cousin. I am not in 
love with you, you are too young for that, 
— but somehow I feel I could not make yon 
unhappy. Can't you trust my word ? Yon 
might. I come of the same people as yon. 
Why do you look so pale? — we are very- 
unhappy." 

Then the tears began to steal down her 
cheeks ; and Compton's soon followed. 

Compton consulted his mother. She told 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



159 



himf with a sigb, she was powerless. Shr 
Charles might yield to her, but she had no 
power to influence Mr. Bassett, at present. 
"The time may come," said she. She 
could not take a very serious view of this 
amour, except with regard to its pacific re- 
sults. So Mr. Bassett's opposition chilled 
her in the matter. 

While things were so, something occurred 
that drove all these minor things out of her 
distracted heart. 

One summer evening, as she and Sir 
Charles and Compton sat at dinner, a ser- 
vant came in to say there was a stranger at 
the door, and he called himself Bassett. 

« What is he like?" said Lady Bassett, 
turning pale. 

" He looks like a foreigner, my lady. He 
says he is Mr. Bassett," said the man, with 
a scandalized air. 

Sir Charles got up directlv, and hurried 
to the hall door. Compton followed Lady 
Bassett to the door only, and looked. 

Sure enough it was Reginald, fiiU grown, 
and bold, as handsome as eVer, and darker 
than ever. 

In that moment his misconduct in run- 
ning away never occurred either to Sir 
Charles or Compton; all was eager and 
tremulous welcome. The hall rang with 
joy. They almost carried him into the din- 
ingroom. 

The first thin^ they saw was a train of 
violet-colored velvet, half hidden by the 
table. 

Compton ran forward, with a cry of dis- 
may. 

It was Lady Bassett, in a dead swoon, 
her face as white as her neck and arms, and 
these as white and smooth as satin. 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-FIFTH. 

Lady Bassett was carried to her room, 
and did not reappear. She kept her own 
apartments, and her health declined so rap- 
idly that Sir Charles sent for Dr. Willis. 
He prescribed for the body, but the disease 
lay in the mind. Martyr to an inward 
struggle, she pined visibly, and her beauti- 
ful eyes began to shine like stars, preternat- 
Tirally large. She was in a fiaghfiul condi- 
tion : she longed to tell the truth and end 
it all : but then she must lose her adored 
husband's respect, and perhaps his love ; and 
she had not the courage. She saw no way 
out of it but to die and leave her confession : 
and, as she felt that the agony of her soul 
was killing her by dcCTces, she drew a som- 
bre resignation from Siat. 

She declined to see Reginald. She could 
not bear the sight of him. 

Compton came to her many times a day, 



with a fece full of concern and even terror. 
But she would not talk to him of herself. 

IJe brought her all the news he heard, 
having no other way to cheer her. 

One day he told her there were robbers 
about Two farm-houses had been robbed, 
a thing not known in these parts for many 
years. 

Lady Bassett shuddered, bnt said noth- 
ing. 

But by and by her beloved son came to 
her in distress with a grief of his own. 

Ruperta Bassett was now the beauty of 
the county, and it seems Mr. Rutland had 
danced with her at her first ball, and been 
violently smitten with her ; he had called 
more than once at Highmore, and his atten- 
tions were directly encouraged by Mr. Bas- 
sett. Now Mr. Rutland was heir to a peer- 
age, and also to considerable estates in the 
country. 

Compton was sick at heart, and, being 
young, saw his life about to be blighted ; so 
now he was pale and woebegone, and told 
her the sad news with such deep sighs and 
imploring tearfiil eyes, that all the mother 
rose in arms. "Ah ! " said she, " they say 
to themselves that I am down, and cannot 
fight for my child ; but I would fight for 
him on the edge of the grave. Let me think 
all by myself, dear. Come back to me in 
an hour. I shall do something. Your moth- 



er IS a very cunning woman - 
loves.*' 



-for those she 



Compton kissed her gown, — a favorite 
action of his, for he worshipped her, — and 
went away. 

The invalid laid her hollow cheek upon 
her wasted hand, and thought with all her 
might. By degrees her extraordinary brain 
developed a twofold plan of action ; and she 
proceeded to execute the first part, being the 
least difiSlcult, though even that was not 
easy, and brought a vivid blush to her 
wasted cheek. 

She wrote to Mrd. Bassett. 

" Madam, — / aw very ill, and life is uncer- 
tain. Something tells me you, like me, reffret the 
unhappy feud between our houses. If this is so, it 
woM be a consolation to me to take you by the hand, 
and exchange a few words, as we already have a 
few kind looks. 

" Yours respectfully, 

"Bella Bassett." 

She showed this letter to Compton, and 
told him he might send a servant with it to 
Highmore at once. 

" O mamma 1 " said he, " I never thought 
you would do that: how good you are! 
You could n't ask Ruperta, could you? 
Just in a little postscript, you know." 

Lady Bassett shook her head. 

" That would not be wisej my dear. Let 
me hook that fish for you, not fiighten her 
away." 



160 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



Great was the astonisliment at Hmbmore 
when a blazine footman knocked at the door 
and handed Jessie the letter with assumed 
nonchalance, then stalked away, concealing 
with professional art his own astonishment 
at what he had done. 

It was no business of Jessie's to take let- 
ters into thye drawing-room ; she would have 
deposited any other Tetter on the hall table ; 
but she brought this one in, and, standing 
at the door, exclaimed, " Here 's a letter f? 
Huntercombe ! " 

Richard Bassett, Mrs. Bassett, and Ru- 
perta, all turned upon her with one accord. 

« From where ? " 

" Fr' Huntercombe itsel'. Et isna for you, 
nor for you, Missy. Et's for the mestei^ 
ress." 

She marched proudly up to Mrs. Bassett, 
and laid the letter down on the table ; then 
drew back a step or two, and, being Scotch, 
coolly waited to hear the contents. Rich- 
ard Bassett, being English, told her she need 
not stay. 

Mrs. Bassett cast a bewildered look at her 
husband and daughter, then opened the let- 
ter quietly; read it quietly; and, haying 
read it, took out her handkerchief, and began 
to cry quietly. 

Ruperta cried, " O mamma I " and, in 
a moment, had one long arm round her 
mother's neck ; while the other hand seized 
the letter, and she read it aloud, cheek to 
cheek:. but, before she got to an end, her 
mother's tears infected her, and she must 
whimper too. 

Here are a couple of geese," said Rich- 
ard Bassett. " Can 't you write a civil re- 
ply to a civil letter, without snivelling ? I '11 
answer the letter for you." 

« No t " said Mrs. Bassett. 

Richard was amazed : Ruperta ditto. 

The little woman had never dealt in 
<< Noes," least of all to her husband : and 
besides this was such a plump " No." It 
came out of her mouth like a marble. 

I think the sound surprised even herself a 
little, for she proceeded to justify it at once. 
" I have been a better* wife than a Chris- 
tian this many years. But there 's a limit. 
And, Richard, I should never have married 
you, if you had told me we were to be at 
war all our lives with our next neighbor, 
that everybody respects. To live in the 
country, and not speak to our only neighbor, 
that is a life I never would have left my fa- 
ther's house for. Not that I complain: if 
you have been bitter to them, you have al- 
ways been good and kind to me ; and I hope 
I have done my best to deserve it; but, 
when a sick lady, and perhaps dying, holds 
out her hand to me, — write her one of your 
cold-blooded letters I That I won't. Re- 
ply ? my reply will be just putting on my 
Sonnet, and going to her this aflernoon. It 



is Passion-week too ; and that 's not a week 
to play the heathen. Poor lady I I Ve 
seen in her<sweet eyes this many years that 
she would gladly be friends with me : and 
she never passed mc close but bhe bowed to 
me in church or out, even when we were at 
daggers drawn. She is a lady, a real lady, 
every inch. But it is not that altogether. 
No, if a sick woman called me to her bed- 
side this week, I 'd go, whether she wrote 
irom Huntercombe Hall, or the poorest 
house in the place ; else how could I hope 
my Saviour would come to my bedside at 
my last hour ? " 

This honest burst from a meek lady, who 
never talked nonsense to be sure, but sel- 
dom went into eloquence, staggered Richard 
Bassett, and enraptured Ruperta so, that she 
flung both arms round her mother's neck, 
and cried, <' O mamma I I always thought 
you were the best woman in England, and 
now I know it." 

« Well, well, well," said Richard, kmdly 
enough : then to Ruperta, << Did I ever say 
she was not the best woman in England V 
So you need not set up your throats neck 
and neck at me, like two geese at a fox. Un- 
fortunately, she is the simplest woman in 
England, as well as the best, and she is go- 
ing to visit the cunningest. That Lady 
Bassett will turn your mother inside out in 
no time. I wish you would go with her ; 
you are a shrewd girl." 

"My daughter will not go till she is 
asked," said Mrs. Bassett, firmly. 

" In that case," said Richard, dryly, " let 
us hope the Lord will protect you, since it 
is for love of him you go into a she-fox's 
den." 

No reply was vouchsafed to this aspira- 
tion, the words being the words of faith, 
but the voice the voice of scepticism. 

Mrs. Bassett put Dn her bonnet, and went 
to Huntercombe Hall. 

After a very short delay she was ushered 
up stairs, to the room where Lady Bbssett 
was lying on a sofa. 

Laay Bassett heard her coming, and rose 
to receive her. 

She made Mrs. Bassett a court courtesy so 
graceftd and profound that it rather fright- 
ened the little woman. Seeing which. Lady 
Bassett changed her style, and came for- 
ward, extending both hands with admirable 
grace, and gentle amity, not overdone. 

Mrs. Bassett gave her both hands, and 
they looked full at each other in silence, till 
the eyes of both ladies began to fill. 

"xou would have come — like this — 
years ago — at a word ? " faltered Lady 
Bassett. 

" Yes," gulped Mrs. Bassett. >' 

Then there was another lono^ pause. / 

« O Lady Bassett, what a life ! It is a 
wonder it has not killed us both." < 



i 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



161 



'^Tt will kill one of us." 

«* Not if I can help it." 

" God bless you for saying so. Dear 
madam, sit by me, and let me hold the 
hand I might have had years ago, if I had 
had the courage." 

" Why should you take the blame ?" said 
Mrs. Bassett. "We have botli been good 
wives ; too obedient, perhaps. But to have 
to choose between a husband's commands 
and Grod's law, that is a terrible thing for 
any poor woman." 

"It is indeed." 

Then there was another silence, and an 
awkward pause. Mrs. Bassett broke it, 
with some hesitation. " I hope. Lady Bas- 
sett, your present illness is not in any way 
— I hope you do not fear anything more 
from my husband?" 

"O Mrs. Bassett I how can I help fear- 
ing it, — especially if we provoke him ? 
Mr. Reginald Bassett has returned, and you 
know he once gave your husband cause for 
just resentment." 

" Well, but he is older now, and has more 
sense. Even if he should, Ruperta and I 
must try and keep the peace." 

"Ruperta! I wish I had asked you to 
bring her with you. But I feared to ask 
too much at once." 

"I'll send her to you to-morrow, Lady 
Bassett" 

" No, brinj her." 

" Then tell me your hour.'* 

"Yes, and I will send somebody out of 
the way. 1 want you both to myself." 

Whilst this conversation was going on at 
Huntercombe, Richard Bassett, being lefl 
alone with his daughter, proceeded to work 
with his usual skill upon her young mind. 

He reminded her of Mr. Rutland's pros^ 
pects, and said he hoped to see her a count- 
ess, and the loveliest jewel of the Peer- 
age. 

He then told her Mr. Rutland was com- 
in^o stay a day or two next week, and re- 
quested her to receive him ^Aciously. 

She promised that at once. ^ • 

" That," said he, "will be a much better 
match for you than the younger son of Sir 
Charles Bassett. However^ my girl is too 
proud to go into a family where she is hot 
welcome." 

" Much too proud for that," said Ruperta. 

He left her smarting under that sugges- 
tion. 

Whilst he was smoking his cigar in the 
garden, Mrs. Bassett came home ; she was 
in raptures with Lady Bassett, and told her 
daughter all that had passed ; and, in con- 
clusion, that she had promised Lady Bas- 
sett to take her to Huntercombe to-morrow. 

" Me, dear 1 " cried Ruperta : " why, what 
can she want of me ? " 

" All I know is, her ladyship wishes very 



much to see you. In toy opinion you will be 
very welcome to jpoor Lady Bassett." 

« Is she very ill ? " 

Mrs. Bassett shook her head. " She is 
much changed. She says she should be 
better if we were all at peace : but I don't 
know." 

" O mamma, I wish it was to-morrow." 

They went to Huntercombe next day; 
and, ill as she was,. Lady Bassett received 
them charmingly. She was startled by Ru- 
perta's beauty and womanly appearance, but 
too well bred to show it, or say it all in a 
moment. 

She spoke to the mother first ; but pres- 
ently took occasion to turn to the daughter, 
and to say, "May I hope. Miss Bassett, that 
you are on the side of peace, like yoiu: dear 
mother and myself? " 

" I am," said Ruperta, firmly ; " I always 
was, — especially after that beautiful ser- 
mon, you know, mamma." 

Says the proud mother, You might tell 
Lady Bassett you think it is your mission to 
reunite your father and Sir Charles." 

" Mammal " said Ruperta, reproachfully. 
That was to stop her mouth. " If you tell 
all the wild things I say to you, her lady- 
ship will think me very presumptuous." 

" No, no," said Lady Bassett, " enthusi- 
asm is not presumption. Enthusiasm is 
beautiful, and the brightest flower of youth." 

" I am glad you think so, Ladv Bassett ; 
for people who have no enthusiasm seem 
very hard and mean to me." 

" And so they are," said Lady Bassett, 
warmly. 

But I have no time to record the full de- 
tails of the conversation. 1 can only pre- 
sent the general result. Lady Bassett 
thought Ruperta a beautiful and noble girl, 
that any house mic^ht be proud to adopt ; 
and Ruperta was charmed by Lady Bassett's 
exquisite manners, and touched and intei> 
ested byher pale yet still beautiful face and 
eyes. They made friends : but it was not 
till the third visit, when many kind things 
had passed between them, that Lady Bas- 
sett ventured on the subject she had at 
heart. "My dear," said she, to Ruperta, 
" when I first saw you, I wondered at my 
son Compton's audacity in loving a youn^ 
lady so much more advanced than himself; 
but now I must be frank with you ; I think 
the poor boy's audacity was only a proper 
courage. He has all my sympathy, and, if 
he is not quite indifieient to you, let me just 
put in my word, and say there is not a 
young lady in the world I could bear for my 
daughter-in-law, now I have seen and talked 
with you, my dear." 

"Thank you, Lady Bassett," said Mrs. 
Bassett ; " and, since you have said so much, 
let me speak my mind. So long as your 
son is attached to my daughter, I could never 



162 



A TERRIBLE TEMITATION. 



Trelcome any other son-in-law, I have 

GOT THE TIPPET." 

Lady Bassett looked at Ruperta for an 
explanation. Ruperta only blushed, and 
looked uncomfortable. She hated all allu- 
sion to the feats of her childhood. 

Mrs. Bassett saw Lady Bassett's look of 
perplexity, and said, eagerly, " You never 
missed it? All the better. I thought I 
would keep it, for a peacemaker partly." 

" My dear friend," said Lady Bassett, 
''you are speaking riddles to me; what 
tippet?" 

" The tippet your son took off his own 
shoulders and put it round my girl that ter- 
rible night they were lost in the wood. 
Forgive me keeping it, Lady Bassett, — 
I know I was little better than a thief, — 
but it was only a tippet to you, and to me 
it was much more. Ah I Lady Bassett, I 
have loved your darling boy ever since ; you 
can't wonder, you are a mother ; and," turn- 
ing suddenly on Ruperta, "why do you 
keep saying he is only a boy ? If he was 
man enough to do that at seven years of 
age, he must have a manly heart. No ; I 
could n't bear the sight of any other son-in- 
law ; and, when you are a mother, you '11 
imderstand many things; and, for one, 
you '11 — under — stand — why I 'm so — 
fool — ish: seeing the sweet boy's mother 
ready — to cry — too — oh! ohl oh!" 

Lady Baspett held out her arms to her, 
and the mothers had a sweet cry together 
in each other's arms. 

Ruperta's eyes were wet at this ; but she 
told ber mother she ought not to agitate 
Lady Bassett, and her so ill. 

" And that is true, my good, sensible girl," 
said Mrs. Bassett ; '' but it has lain in my 
heart this nine years, and I could not keep 
it to myself any longer. But you are a 
beauty and a spoiled child, and so I sujppose 
you think nothing of his giving you his tip- 
pet to keep you warm." 

" Don't say that, mamma," said Ruperta, 
reproachfully. " I spoke to dear Compton 
about it not long ago. He had forgotten all 
about it even." 

"All the more to his credit; but don't 
you ever forget it, my own gir|." 

" I never will, mamma." 

By degrees the three became so unre- 
served that Ruperta Was gently urged to 
declare her real sentiments. 

By this time the young beauty was quite 
cured of her fear, lest she should be an un- 
welcome daughter-in-law : but there was an 
obstacle in her own mind. She was a frank, 
courageous girl; but this appeal tried her 
hard. 

She blushed, fixed her eyes steadily on 
the ground, and said, pretty firmly and very 
slowly, " I had always a great affection for 
ny cousin Compton ; and so I have now. 



But I am not in love with him. He is but 
a boy: now I — " 
A glance at the large mirror, and a sit- 

£erb smile of beauty and conscious woman- 
ood, completed the sentence. 

" He will get older every day," said Mrs. 
Bassett. 

"Andsoehalll." 

" But you will not look older, and he will. 
You have come to your full growth. He 
has n't." 

"I agree with the dear gfrl," said Lady 
Bassett, adroitly. " Compton, with his fair 
hair, looks so young, it would be ridiculous 
at present. But it is possible to be engaged, 
and wait a proper time for marriage ; what 
I fear is, lest you should be tempted by some 
other offer. 'To speak plainly, 1 hear diat 
Mr. Rutland pays nis addresses to you, and 
visits at Highmore." 

" Yes, he has been there twice." 

" He is welcome to your father ; and his 
prospects are dazzling ; and he is net a boy 
for he has long mustaches." 

''I am not dazzled by his mustaches, and 
still less by his prospects," said ike fair 
young beauty. 

" xou are an extraordinary girl." 

« That she is," said Mrs. Bassett. « Her 
father has no more power over her than I 
have." 

" O mamma I am I a disobedient girl, 
then?" 

" No, no. Only, in this one thing, I see 
you will go your own way." 

Lady Bassett put in her woid. " Well, 
but this one thing is the happiness or mis- 
ery of her whole Ufe. I cannot blame her 
for looking well before she leaps." 

A grateful look from Ruperta's glorious 
eyes repaid the speaker. 

" But," said Lady Bassett, tenderly, " it 
is something to have two mothers when yoa 
marry, instead of one ; and you would have 
two, my love : I would try and live for you." 

This touched Ruperta to the heart fPshe 
curled round?flAdy Bassett's neck, and they 
kisseckeSch other like mother and ^daughter. 

"Tliis is toQ great a temptation," said 
Ruperta. " Yes : I tcUl engage myself to 
Cousin CoYnptton, if piipa's consent can be 
obtained. Witihout his coAsent I could not 
marry any one." 

" Nobody can obtam it, if you cannot,*' 
said Mrs. Bassett. « * 

Ruperta shook her head. "Mark 
words, mamma, it will take me years to^ 
it. Papa is as obstinate as a mulei To 
sure, I am as obstinate as fifty." :s^ 

" It shall not take years, nor yet months, ^ 
said Lady Bassett. "I know Mr. Bas- 
sett's objection, and I will remove it, cost 
me what it may." 

This speech surprised the other two ladies 
so, they made no reply. 






A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



163 






Said Lady Bassett firmly, "Do you 
ledge yourself to me, if I can obtain Mr. 
'assett's consent?" 

" I do," said Ruperta. " But — " 

"You think my power with your father 
must be smaller uian yours. I hope to 
show you you are mistaken.*' 

The ladies rose to go : Lady Bassett took 
leave of them thus; " Grood by, my most 
valued friend, and sister in sorrow ; good 
by, my dear daughter." 

At the gate of Huntercombe, who should 
they meet but Compton Bassett, looking 
very pale and unhappy. 

He was upon honor not to speak to Ru- 
perta ; but he gazed on her with a wistful 
and terrified look, that was very touching. 
She gave him a soft pitying smile in return, 
that drove him almost wild with hope. 

That night Richard Bassett sat in his 
chair, gloomy. 

When his wife and daughter spoke to 
him in their soft accents, he returned short, 
surly answers. Evidently a storm was 
brewing. 

At last it burst : he had heard of Ruper- 
ta's repeated visits to Huntercombe Hall. 
" You are not dealing fairly with me, you 
two," said he. " I allowed you to go once to 
see a woman that says she is very ill but 
•I warned you she was the cunningest wo- 
man in creation, and would make a fool of 
you both ; and now I find you are always 
going. This will not do. She is netting 
two simple birds, that I have the care OL 
Now, listen to me : I forbid you two ever to 
set foot in that house again. Do you hear 
me?" 

" We hear you, papa," said Mrs. Bassett, 
quietly, " we must be deaf, if we did not." 

Ruperta kept her countenance with diffi- 
culty. 

" It is not a request, it is a command." 

Mrs. Bassett for once in her life fired up. 
" And a most tyrannical one," said she. 

Huperta put her hand before her moth- 
er's mouth, then turned to haipfather. 




Mr. Rutland shall pay for it^* 

Mrs. Bassett communical&d^is behest to 
Lady Bassett in a letter. 

Then Lady Bassett summoned all her 
courage, and sent for^her son Compton. 
" Compton," said she, " I must speak to 
Reginald. Can you find him ? " 

" O yes, I can find him. I am sorry to 
say anybody can find him at this time of 
day." . 

" Why^where is he ? " 

" I haMy like to tell you." 

* Do you think his , peculiarities have 
escaped me ? * 






" At the public-house." 
" Ask him to come to me." 

Compton went to the public-house, and 
there, to his no small disgust, found Mr. 
Reginsdd Bassett playing the fiddle, and 
four people, men and women, dancing to 
the sound, whilst one or two more smoked 
and looked on. 

Compton restrained himself till the end 
of that dance, and then stepped up to 
Reginald, and whispered him, "Mamma 
wants to see you directly," 

" Tell her I 'm busy." 

"I shall tell her nothing of the kind. 
You know she is very ill, and has not seen 
you yet: and now she wants to. So come 
along at once, like a ^ood fellow." 

" ioungster," said Reginald, " it is a rule 
with me never to leave a young woman for 
an old one." 

" Not for your mother ? " 

" No, nor my grandmother either." 

" Then you were • born without a heart. 
But you shall come, whether you like it or 
not, — though I have to drag you there by 
the throat." 

" Learn to spell « able ' first." 

" I '11 spell it on your head, if you don't 
come." 

" O, that is the game, young un, is it ? " 

<'Yes." 

" Well, don't let us have a shindy on the 
bricks ; there is a nice little paddock" outside. 
Come out there, and I '11 give you a lesson." 

" Thank you ; I don't feel inclined to assist 
you in degrading our family.'* 

" Chaps that are afi-aid to fight should n't 
threaten. Come now, the first knock-down 
blow shall settle it. If I win, you stay here 
and dance with us. If you win, I go to the 
old woman." 

Compton consented, somewhat reluctantly; 
but, to do him justice, his reluctance arose en- 
tirely from his sense of relationship, and not 
from any fear of his senior. 

The young gentlemen took off their coats, 
and proceeded to spar without any further 
ceremony. 

Reginald, whose agility was greater than 
his courage, danced about on the tips of his 
toes, and succeeded in planting a tap or two 
on Compton's cheek. 

Compton smarted under these, and pres- 
ently, in following his antagonist, who fought 
like a shadow, he saw Ruperta and her mother 
looking horror-stricken over the palings. 

Infuriated with Reginald for this exposure, 
he rushed in at him, received a severe cut 
over the eye, but dealt him with his mighty 
Anglo-Saxon arm a full straightforward 
smasher on the forehead, which knocked 
him head over heels like a nine-pin. 

That active young man picked himself up 
wondrous slowly: rheumatism seemed to 



164 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



have suddenly seized his well-oiled joints : 
he then addressed his antagonist, in his 
most ingratiating tones, — " All right, sir," 
said he. " You are the best man. I '11 go 
to the old lady this minute." 

" 1 *11 see you go," said Compton, sternly : 
^< and mind I can run, as well as hit : so none 
of your gypsy tricks with me" 

Then he came sheepishly to the-palings, 
and said, " It is not my fault. Miss Bassett ; 
he would not come to mamma without, and 
she wants to speak to him." 

" O ! he is hurt 1 he is wounded I " cried 
Ruperta. " Come here to me." 

He came to her, and she pressed her white 
handkerchief tenderly on his eyebrow, it was 
bleeding a little. 

"Well, are you coming? " said Reginald 
ironically : ** or do you like young women 
better than old ones ? " 

Compton instantly drew back a little, 
made two steps, laid his hand on the pal- 
ings, vaulted over, and followed Reginald. 

" That 's your boy,** said Mrs. Bassett. 

Ruperta made no reply, but begim to 
gulp. 

« What is the matter, darling ? " 

« The fighting — the blood " — said Ru- 
perta, sobbing. 

Mrs. Bassett drew her on one side, and 
soon soothed her. 

When their gentle bosoms got over their 
agitation, they rather enjoyed the thing, 
especially Ruperta : she detested Reginald 
for his character, and for having insulted 
her father. 

All of a sudden, she cried out " He has 
ti^en my handkerchief. How dare he ? " 
And she affected anger. 

" Never mind, dear," said Mrs. Bassett, 
coolly, " we have got his tippet." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SIXTH. 

Could any one have looked through the 
keyhole at Lady Bassett waiting for Regi- 
nald, he would have seen, by the very 
movements of her body, the terrible agitation 
of the mind. She rose, — she sat down, — 
she walked about with wild energy, — she 
dropped on the sofa, and appeared to give 
it up as impossible, — but, erelong, that 
deadly languor gave way to impatient rest- 
lessness again. 

At last ner quick ear heard a footstep in 
the corridor, accompanied by no rustle of 
petticoats; and yet the footstep was not 
Compton's. 

Instantly she glanced widi momentary 
terror towards the door. 

There was a tap. 

She sat down, and said, with a tone from 



which all agitation was instantly banished, 
« Come in." 

The door opened, and the swarthy Regi- 
nald, diabolically handsome, with his black 
snaky curls, entered the room. 

She rose from her chair, and fixed her 
great eyes on him, as if she would read 
him S01U and body before she ventured to 
speak. 

" Here I am, mamma : sorry to see you 
look so ill." 

" Thank you, my dear," said Lady Bas- 
sett, without relaxing for a moment that 

She saic^ still covering him with her eye, 
" Would you cure me if you could ? " 

To appreciate this opening, and Lady 
Bassett's sweet engaging manner, you must 
understand that this young man was, in her 
eyes, a sort of black snake. Her flesh crept, 
with fear and repugnance, at the sight of 
him. Yet that is how she received him, 
being a mother defending her favorite 
son. 

"Of course I would," said Reginald. 
** Just you tell me how." 

Excellent words. But the lady's calm 
infallible eye saw a cunning twinkle in 
those black twinkling orbs, xoung as he 
was, he was on his guard, and waiting for 
her. Nor was this surprising: Reginald, 
naturally intelligent, had accumulated a 
large stock of low cunning in his travels 
and adventures with the gypsies, a smooth 
and cunning people. Lady Bassett's faint- 
ing upon his return, his exclusion firom her 
room, and one or two minor circumstances, 
had set him thinking. 

The moment she saw that look. Lady 
Bassett, with swift tact, glided away from 
the line she had intended to opcB, and, 
after merely thanking him, and saying, " I 
believe you, dear," though she did not be- 
lieve him, she resumed, in a very impres- 
sive tone, " You see me worse than ever to- 
day, because my mind is in great trouble. 
The time is come when I must tell vera a 
secret, which Vill cause you a bitter disap- 
pointment. Why I send for you is, to see 
whether I cannqt do something for you to 
make you happv, in spite of that cruel dis- 
appointment' 

Not a wor9 from Reginald. 

"Mr. Bassett — forgive me, if you can — 
for I am the most miserable woman in Eng- 
land — you are not the heir to this place: 
you are not Sir Charles Bassett's son." 

" What 1 ? " shouted the young man. 

Her fortitude gave way for a moment. 
She shook her he^, in confirmation of what 
she had said, and hid her burning &ce and 
scalding tears in her white and wasted 
hands. 

There was a long silence. 

Reginald was asking himself if this conld 



A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



165 



be trae; or was it a manoenvre to put lier 
ravorite Compton over his head. 

Lady Bassett looked up, and saw this 
paltry suspicion in his face. She dried her 
'>ears* directly, and went to a bureau, un- 
jocked it, and produced the manuscript 
confession she had prepared for her hus- 
land. 

She bade Reginald observe the super- 
K^ption, and the date. 

When he had done so, she took her scis- 
lors, and opened it for him. 
^^" Read what I wrote to my beloved hus- 
band at a time when I expected soon to 
appear before my Judge." 

She then sank upon the sofa, and lay 
there like a log ; only, from time to time, 
during the long reading, tears trickled from 
her eyes. 

Reginald read the whole story, and saw 
the facts must be true : more than that, be- 
ing young, and a man, he could not entirely 
resist the charm of a narrative, in which a 
lady told at full, the love, the grief, the ter- 
ror, the sufferings, of her heart, and the 
terrible temptation, under which she had 
gone astray. 

He laid it down at last, and drew a long 
breath. 

"It's a devil of a job for me," said he ; 
" but I can't blame you. You did that Dick 
Bassett, and I hate him. But what is to 
hecomeofmef* 

** What offer you, is a life, in which you 
will be happier than you ever could be at 
Huntercombe. I mean to buy you vast 
pasture-fields in Australia, and cattle to feed. 
Those noble pastures will be boiyided only 
by wild forests and hills. You will have 
Bwifl horses to ride over your own domain, 
or to gallop hundreds of miles at a stretch, 
if you like. No confinement there ; o fences 
and boundaries; all as free as air. No 
monotony : -^ one week you can dig for 
gold, another you can ride amongst vour 
nocks,, another you can hunt. All this in 
a climate so delightful that you can lie all 
night in the open air, without a blanket, un- 
der a new firmament of stars, not one of 
which illumines the dull nights of Europe." 

The bait was too tempting. " Well, you 
are the right sort," cried Reginald. 

But presently he began to doubt. " But 
all that will cost a lot of money." 

"It will; but I have a great deal of 
money." 

Reginald thought ; and said, suspiciously, 
<* I don't know why you should do all this 
for me." 

"Do you not? What, when I have 
brought you into this family, and encour- 
aged you in such vast expectations, could I, 
in honor and common humanity, let you fall 
into poverty and neglect? No* I have 
many thousand pounds, all my own, and 



you will have them all, and perhaps waste 
them all ; but it will take you some time, 
because, whilst you are wasting, I shall be 
saving more for you." 

Then there was a pause, each waiting for 
the other. 

Then Lady Bassett said, quietly, and 
with great apparent composure, " Oi course 
there is a condition attached to all this." 

"What is that?" 

" I must receive from you a written paper, 
si^ed by yourself and by Mrs. Meyrick, 
acknowledging that vou are not Sir Charles's 
son, but distinctly pled^ng yourself to keep 
the secret so long as I continue to Rimisu 
you with the means of living. You hesitate. 
Is it not fair?" 

" Well, it looks fair ; but it is an awkward 
thing, signing a paper of that sort." 

" X ou doubt me, sir : you think that, be- 
cause I have told one great falsehood, from 
good but erring motives, I may break faith 
with you. Do not insult mq with these 
doubts, sir. Try and understand that there 
are ladies and gentlemen in the world, 
though you prefer gypsies. Have you for- 
gotten that night when you laid me under 
so deep a debt, and I told you I never would 
forget It ? From that day was I not always 
your frien ? was I not always the one to 
make excuses for you ? " 

Reginald assented to that. 

" Then trust me. I pledge you my honor 
that I am this day the best friend you ever 
had, or ever can have. Refuse to sign that 

{)aper, — and I shall soon be in my grave, 
eaving behind me my confession, and other 
evidence, on which you will be dismissei) 
from this house with ignominy, and without 
a farthing, for your best friend will be dead, 
and you will have killed her." 

He looked at her frill : he said, with a 
shade of compunction, " I am not a gentle- 
man ; but yon are a lady. I '11 trust you. 
I '11 sign anything you like." 

"That confidence becomes you," said 
Lady Bassett ; " and now I have no objec- 
tion to show you I deserve it. Here is a 
letter to Mr. Rolfe, by which you may learn 
I have already placed three thousand pounds 
to his account, to be laid out by him for your 
benefit in Australia, where he has many 
confidential friends ; and this is a check for 
£ 500 I drew in your favor yesterday. Do 
me the favor to take it." 

He did her that favor with sparkling eyes. 

" Now ere is the paper 1 wish you to 
sign ; but your signature will be of little 
value to me without Mary Meyrick's." 

" O, she will sign it directly : I have only 
to tell her." 

" Are you sure ? Men can be brought to 
take a dispassionate view of their own in- 
terest : but women are not so wise. Take 
it, and try her. If she refuses, bring her to 



166 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



1 



me directly. Do you understand ? Other- 
wise, in one fatal hour, her tongue will ruin 
yoUf and destrojr me." 

Impressed with these words, Reginald 
hurried to Mrs. Meyrick, and told her, in an 
off-band way, she must sign that paper di- 
rectly. 

She looked at it and turned very white ; 
but went on her guard directly. 

<*Sign such a wicked lie as that?" said 
she. '^ That I never will. You are his son, 
and Huntercombe shall be yours. She is an 
unnatural mother." 

^ Gammon I " said Reginald. << You might 
as well say a fox is the son of a gander. 
Come now ; I am not going to let you cut 
my throat with your tongue. Sign at once, 
or else come to her this moment, and tell her 
so," 

« That I will," said Mary Meyrick, « and 
give her my mind." 

t 

This doughty resolution was a little shaken 
when she cast eyes upon Lady Bassett, 
and saw how wan and worn she looked. 

She moderated her violence, and said, 
stdlenly, "Sorry to gainsay you, my lady, 
and you so ill ; but this is a paper I never 
can sign. It would rob him of Hunter- 
combe. I 'd sooner cut my hand off at the 
wrist." 

"Nonsense, Mary," said Lady Bassett, 
contemptuously. 

She then proceeded to reason with her ; 
but it was no use. Mary would not listen to 
reason, and defied her at last in a ioud 
voice. 

« Very well," said Lady Bassett « Then, 
since you will not do it my way, it shall be 
done another way. I shall put my confes- 
sion in Sir Charles's hands, and insist on 
his dismissing him from the house, and you 
from your farm. It will kill me, and the 
money I intended for Reginald I shall leave 
to Compton." 

"These are idle words, my lady. You 
daren't." 

" I dare anything when once I make up 
my mind to die." 

She rang the bell. 

Mary Meyrick affected contempt. 

A servant came to the door. 

" Request Sir Charles to come to me im- 
mediately." 



CHAPTER THE THIRTY-SEVENTH. 

" Don't you be a fool," said Reginald to 
his nurse. 

" Sir Charles will send you to prison for 
it," said Lady Bassett. 
' " For what I done along with you ? " 



" O, he will not punish his wife ; he will 
look out for some other victim." 

" Sign, you d— d old fool," cried Regi- 
nald, seizing Mary Meyrick roughly by the 
arm. 

Strange to say. Lady Bassett int^cred, 
with a sort of majestic horror. She held up 
her hand, and said, " Do not dare to lay a 
finger on her I " 

Then Mary burst into tears, and said she 
would sign me paper. 

Whilst she was signing it, Sir Charles's 
step was heard in the corridor. 

He knocked at the door just as she signed* 
Reginald had signed alresidy. 

Lady Bassett put the paper into the man- 
uscript book, and the book into the bureau, 
and said, " Come in," with an appearance 
of composure belied by her beating heart. 

" Here is Mrs. Meyrick, my dear." 

In those few seconds so perfect a liar as 
Mary Meyrick had quite recovered herself. 

"if you please, sir," said she, "I be come 
to ast if you will give us a new lease, for 
oum it is run out." 

"You had better talk to the steward 
about that." 

" Very well, sir," and she made her cour- 
tesy. 

Reginald remained, not knowing exactly 
what to do. 

" My dear," said Lady Bassett, " Reginald 
has come to bid me good by. He is going 
to visit Mr. Rolfe, and take his advice, if 
you have no objection." 

"None whatever;, and I hope he will 
treat it wlUi more respect than he does 
mine." 

Reginald shrugged his shoulders, and was 
going out, when Lady Bassett said, " Won't 
you \iss me, Reginald, as you are goin^ 
away?" 

He ame to her: she kissed him, and 
whispered in his ear, " Be true to me, as I 
will DC to you." 

Then he left her, and she felt like a dead 
thing, with exhaustion. She lay on the 
sofa, and Sir Charles sat beside her, and 
made her drink a glass of wine. 

She lay very still that afternoon ; but at 
night she slept : a load was off her mind for 
the present. 

Next day she was so much better she 
came down to dinner. 

What she now hoped was, that entire sep- 
aration, coupled with the memory of the 
boy's misdeeds, would cure Sir Charles en- 
tirely of his affection for Reginald ; and so 
that, after about twenty years more of con- 
jugal fidelity, she might find courage to re- 
veal to her husband 5ie fault of her youth, 
at a time when all its good results remained 
to help excuse it, and all its bad results had 
vanished. 

Such was the plan this extraordinary wo- 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



167 



man oonceiTedy and its sncceM so far had a 
wonderful effect on her hei^lth. 

Bat a couple of divs {Mtssed, and she did 
not hear either from Keginald or Mr. Bolfe. 
Hutt made her a little anxious. 

On the third day Compton asked her, 
with an angry (lush on his hrow, whether 
/ she had not sent Reginald up to London. 

^ Yes, dear," said Lady Bassett. 

** Well, he is not gone, then." 

"Ohl" 

^ He is living at his nurse's. I saw him 
ta! Jb^ to an old gypsy that lives on the 
farm.'^ 

Lady Bassett groaned, hut said nothing. 

*'19ever mind, mamma," said Compton. 
*^ Your other children must love you all the 
more." 

This news caused Ladpr Bassett both 
anxietv and terror. She divined bad faith, 
and au manner of treachery, none the less 
terrible for beins va^e. 

Down went her health again, and her 
short-lived repose. 

Meantime, Reginald, in reality, was stay- 
ing at the farm on a little business of ms 

OWUt 

He had concerted an expedition with the 
foreign Grent, and was waiting for a dark 
and gusty night. 

He had undertaken this expedition with 
mixed motives, spite, and greed, especially 
the latter. He would never have under- 
taken it with a £ 500 check in Ids pocket; 
but some minds are so constituted they 
cannot forego a bad deeign once formed : 
so Mr. Reginald persisted, though one great 
motive existed no longer. 

On this expedition it is now our lot to 
accompanv him. 

The night was favorable, and at about two 
o'clock Reginald and the foreign Gent stood 
under Richard Bassett's dining-room win- 
dow, with crape over their eyes, noses, and 
mouths, and all manner of unlawful imple- 
ment's in their pockets. 

The foreign Gent prized the shutters open 
with a little crowbar; he then, with a 
glazier's diamond, soon cut out a small 
pane, inserted a cunning hand, and opened 
the window. 

Then Reginald gave him a leg, and he 
got into the room. 

The agile youth followed him, without 
assi'ttance. 

They lighted a sort of bull's-eye, and 
poured the concentrated light on the cup- 
board door, behind which lay the treasure 
of glorious old i>late. 

Then the foreign Gent produced his skele- 
ton keys, and, after several ineffective trials, 
opened the door softly, and revealed the 
glitterinty booty. 

At sight of it the foreign Gent could not 
suppress an ejaculation; but the younger 



one clapped his hand before his mouth hur- 
riedly. 

The foreign Gent unrolled a sort of green 
baize apron he had round him; it was, in 
reality,, a bag. 

Into this receptacle the pair conveyed one 
piece of plate after another, with surpris- 
ing dexterity, rapidity, and noiselessness. 
Wnen it was full, thejr be^an to fill the deep 
pockets of their shooting-jackets. 

While thus employed, they heard a ra[nd 
footstep, and Richard Bassett opened the 
door. He was in his trousers and shirt, 
and had a pistol in his hand. 

At sight of him Reginald uttered a cry 
of dismay ; the foreign Gent blew out t^ 
light 

Richard Bassett, among whose faults want 
of personal courage was not one, rushed 
forward, and collated Reginald. 

But the forei^ Grent had nused the crow- 
bar, to defend iiimself, and struck lum a 
blow on the head that made him stagger 
back. 

The foreign Gent seized this opportunity, 
and ran at once at the window, and jumped 
at it. 

If Reginald had been first, he would have 
eone through like a cat, but the foreign 
Gent, older, and obstructed by the contents 
of his pockets, higgled, and stuck a few 
seconds in die window. 

That brief delay was fatal ; fiichard Bas- 
sett levelled his pistol deliberately at him, 
fired, and sent a ball through his shoulder, 
he fell, like a log, upon the ground outside. 

Richard then levelled another barrel at 
Reginald, but he howled out for quarter, 
and was immediately captured, and, with 
the assistance of the brave Jessie, who now 
came boldly to her master's aid, his hands 
were tied behind him, and he was made 
prisoner, with the stolen articles in his 
pocket. 

When the^ were tying him, he whim- 
pered, and sud it was only a lark ; he never 
meant to keep anything. He offered a 
hundred pounds down, if they would let 
him off. 

But there was no mercy for him. 

Richard Bassett had a candle lighted, and 
inspected the prisoner. He lifted his crape 
veil, and said '< Oho I" 

** You see it was only a lark," said Regi- 
nald, and shook in every limb. 

Richard Bassett smiled grimly, and said 
nothing. He gave Jessie strict orders to 
hold her tongue, and she and he between 
them took Ranald, and locked him up in a 
small room adjoining the kitchen. 

Then they went to look for the other 
burvlar. 

He had emptied his pockets of all the 
plate, and crawled away. It is supposed he 
threw away the plate, either to soften Regi- 



168 



A TERBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



nald's offence, or in lihe belief that he had 
receiyedf his death wound, and should nqt 
require silver yessels where he was going. 

BassPtt picked up the articles, and 
brought them in, and told Jessie to light the 
fire, and make him a cup of coffee. 

He replaced all the plate, except the arti- 
cles left in Reginald's pocket. 

Then he went up staurs, and told his wife 
that burglars had broken into the house, 
but had taken nothing ; she was to give her- 
self no anxiety. He told her no more than 
this, for his dark and cruel nature had al- 
ready conceived an idea he did not care to 
communicate to her, on account of the strong 
opposition he foresaw from so good a Chris- 
tian : besides, of late, since her daughter 
came home to back her, she had opoken her 
mind m6re than once. 

He kept her then in the dark, and went 
down stairs again to his coffee. 

He sat and sipped it, and, with it, his 
coming vengeance. 

All the defeats and mortifications he had 
endured from Huntercombe returned to his 
mind ; and now, with one master-stroke, he 
would balance them all. 

Yet he felt a little compunction. 

Active hostilities had ceased for many 
years. 

Lady Bassett, at all events, had held out 
the hand to his wife. The blow he medi- 
tated was very cruel : would not his wife 
and daughter say it was barbarous ? Would 
not his own heart, the heart of a father, re- 
proach him afterwards ? 

These misgivings, that would have re- 
strained a less obstmate man, irritated Bich- 
ard Bassett : he went in a rage, and said 
aloud, ** 1 must do it : I will doit, come what 
may." 

He told Jessie he valued her much : she 
should have a black silk gown, for her cour- 
age and fidelity ; but she must not be faith- 
ful by halves. She must not breath one 
word to any soul in the house that the bur^ 
glar was there under lock and key ; if she did 
he should turn her out of the house that 
moment. 

" Hets I " said the woman, " der ye think 
I canna baud my whisht, when the maister 
bids me? I'm nae great dasher at ony 
time for my pairt." 

At seven o'clock in the morning he sent a 
line to Sir Charles Bassett, to say that his 
hoiise had been attacked last night, by two 
ttrmed burglars ; he and his people had cap- 
tured one, and wished to take hita before a 
mtkgistrate at once, since his house was not 
a fit place to hold him secure. He concluded 
6]r Charles would not refuse him the benefit 
of the law, however obnoxious he might be. 

Sir Charles's lip curled with Contempt at 
the man who was not ashamed to put such a 
doubt on papeh : 



However, he wrote back a civil line, to 
say that of course he was at Mr. Bassett's 
service, and would be in his justice-room at 
nine o'clock. 

Meantime, Mr. Richard Bassett went fi>r 
the constable and an assistant; but, even to 
them, he would not say precisely what be 
wanted them for. 

His plan was to march an unknown bur- 
glar, with his crape on his face, into Sir 
Charles's study, give his evidence, and then 
reveal the son to the father. 

Jessie managed to hold her tongue for 
an hour or two, and nothing occurred at 
Highmore, or in Huntercombe, to inter- 
fere with Bichard Bassett's barbarous re- 
venge. 

Meantime, however, something remarka- 
ble had occurred at the distance of a mile 
and a quarter. 

Mrs. Meyrick breakfasted habitually at 
ei^t o'clock. 

Reginald did not appear. 

Mrs. Meyrick went to his room, and satis- 
fied herself he had not passed the night 
there. 

Then she went to the foreign Gent's shed. 

He was not there. 

Then she went out, and called loudly to 
them both. 

No answer. 

Then she went int^ the nearest meadow, 
to see if they were in sight. 

The first thing she saw was the foreign 
Gent staggering towards her. 

<< Drunk I" said she, and went to scold 
him : but, when she got nearer, she saw at 
once that something very serious had hap- 
pened. His dark face was bloodless and 
awful, and he could hardly drag his limbs 
along; indeed they had failed him a score 
of times between Highmore and that place. 

Just as she came up with him, he sank 
once more to the ground, and turned up 
two despairing eyes towards her. 

** O Daddy I what is it? Where 's Reg- 
inald ? Whatever have they done to you ? " 

" Brandy 1 " groaned the wounded man. 

She flew into the house, and returned in 
a moment with a bottle. She put it to his 
lips. 

He revived, and told her all, in a few 
words. 

" The youtig bloke and I went to crack a 
crib. I'm shot with a bullet Hide me in 
that loose hay there; leave me the bottle, 
and let' nobody come nigh me. The beak 
will be after me very soon;" 

Then Mrs. Meyrick, being a very strong 
woman, dragged him to the haystack, and 
covered him with loose hay. 

«Now," said she, trembling, « where 's 
my boy?" 

** He's nabbed." 

«Ohl** 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



169 



"And he'll be lagged, unless you can 
beg him oflf." 

Maiy Meyrick uttered a piercing scream. 

-" You wretch! to temnt my boy to this. 
And him with five hunored pounds in his 
pocket, and my lady's favor. O, why did 
w^not keep our word with her? She was 
the wisest, and our best friend. But it is 
all your doing, you are the devil that 
tempted him, you old villain I " 

" Don't miscall me," said the gypsy. 

"Kot miscall you, when you nave run 
away, and left them to take my boy to jail. 
No word is bad enough for you, you vil- 
ladn." 

"/*m your father — and a dyina man^* 
said the old gypsy calmly, and folded his 
hands upon his breast with Oriental compo- 
sure and decency. 

The woman threw herself on her knees. 
" Forgive me, father, — tell me, where is 
he?" 

" Highmore House." 

At that simple word her eyes dilated 
with wild horror, she uttered a loud scream, 
and flew into the house. 

In five minutes she was on her way to 
Highmore. 

She reached lihat house, knocked hastily 
at the door, and said she must see Mr. 
Richard Bassett that moment. 

<< He is just gone out," said the maid. 

"Where to f" 

The girl knew her, and began to gossip. 
« Why, to Huntercombe Hall. What, have 
n't you heard, Mrs. Me}Tick? Master 
caught a robber last night. Laws, you 
shomd have seen him: he have got crape 
all over his face ; and master, and the con- 
stable, and Mr. Musters, they be all gone 
with him to Sir Charles, for to hare him 
committed — the villain. — Why, what ails 
the woman ? " 

For Mary Meyrick turned her back on 
the speaker, and rushed away in a moment. 

She went through the kitchen at Hunter- 
combe : she was so well known there, nobody 
objected: she flew up the stairs, and into 
Lady Bassett'g bedroom. " O my lady I 
my lady 1 " 

Lady Bassett screamed, at her sudden 
entrance, and wild appearance. 

Mary Meyrick told her all, in a few wild 
words. She wrung her hands with a great 
fear. 

"It's no time for that," cried Mary, 
fiercely. " Come down this moment, and 
save him." 

« How can I ? " 

"You must. You shall I "cried the oiher. 
"Don't ask me how. Don't sit wringing 
your hands, woman. If you are not there 
in five minutes, to save him, I'll tell 
all." 

" Have meicy on me," cried Lady Bassett 



" I gave him money, I sent him away. It 's 
not my fault." 

" No matter ; he must be saved, or I '11 
ruin you. I can't stay here : I must be 
there, and so must you." 

She rushed down the stairs, and tried to 
get into the justice-room; but admission 
was refused her. 

Then she gave a sort of wild snarl, and 
ran round to the small room adjoining the 
justice-room. Through this she penetrated, 
and entered the justice-room, but not in time 
to prevent the evidence from being laid be- 
fore Sir Charles 

What took place in the mean time was 
briefly this. The prisoner, handcuffed now 
instead of tied, was introduced between the 
constable and his assistant ; the door waa 
locked, and Sir Charles received Mr. Bas- 
sett with a ceremonious bow, seated him- 
self, and begged Mr. Bassett to be seated. 

" Thank you," said Mr. Bassett, but did 
not seat himself. He stood before the 
prisoner, and gave his evidence; during 
which, the prisoner's knees were seen to 
knock together with terror : he was a young 
man fit for folly, but not for felony. 

Said Richard Bassett, " I have a cupboard 
containing family plate. It is valuable, and, 
some years ago, I passed a piece of catgut 
fi:om the door, through the ceiUng, to a bsll 
at my bedside. 

"very late last night the bell sounded. 
I flung on my trousers, and went do't^ with 
a pistol. I caught two burglars in the act 
of rifling the cupboard. I went to collar 
one : he struck me on the head with a crow- 
bar, — Constable, show the crowbar, — I 
staggered, but recovered myself, and fired 
at one of the burglars : he was just strug- 
gling through the window. He fell, and I 
thought he was dead ; but he got away. I 
secured the other, and here he is — just as 
he was when I took him. Constable, search 
his pockets." 

Ilie constable did so, and produced there- 
from several pieces of silver plate stamped 
with the Bassett arms. 

"My servant here can confirm this,** 
added Mr. Bassett. 

"It is not necessary here," said Sir 
Charles. Then to the criminal, "Have 
you anything to say?" 

" It was only a lark," quavered the poor 
wretch. 

"I would not advise you to say that 
where you are going." 

He then, while writing out the warrant, 
said, as a matter of course, " Remove his 
mask." 

The constable lifted it, and started back 
with a shout of dismay and surprise : Jessie 
screamed. 

Sir Charles looked up, and saw in the 
burglar he was committing for trial his 



170 



A TERRIBLE TEIIPTATIOK. 



first-born, the heir to his hmue and his 
lands. 

Hie pen fell from Sir Charles's fingers, 
and he stared at the wan face and wild, im- 
ploring eyes that stared at him. 

He stared at the lad, and then put his 
hand to his heart, and that heart seemed to 
die within him. 

There was a silence, and a honor fell on 
all. Even Richard Bassett quailed at what 
he had done. 

<<Ahl cmel manl cruel mant" moaned 
the broken father. << God judge you for 
this — as now I must judge my unhappy 
son. Mr. Bassett, it matters little to you 
what magistrate commits you, and I must 
keep my oath. I am — going — to set you 
an — example, by signing a warrant — 

"No, no, nol" cried a woman's voice, 
and Mary Meyrick rushed into the room. 

Every person there thousht he knew Mary 
Meyrick; yet she was like a stranger to 
ihem now. There was that in her heart 
at that awful moment which transfigured a 
handsome but vulgar woman into a superior 
being. Her cheek was pale, her black eyes 
lajrge, and her mellow voice had a mtimc 
power. " You don't know what you are do- 
ms 1 '* she cried. " Go no farther, or you 
wSl all curse the hand that harmed a hair 
of his head ; you, most of all, Richard Bas- 
sett" 

Sir Charles, in any other case, would have 
sent her out f the room ; but, in his misery, 
he caught at the straw. 

" Speak out, woman," he said, ** and save 
the wretched boy, if you can. I see no 
way." 

" There are things it is not fit to speak be- 
fore all the world. Bid those men go, and 
I '11 open your eyes that stay." 

Then Richard Bassett foresaw another tri- 
umph, so. he told the constable and his man 
they had better retire for a few minutes, 
"while," said he, with a sneer, " these won- 
derful revelations are being made." 

When they were gone, Mary turned to 
Richard Bassett, and said. " Why do yon 
want him sent to prison? — to spite Sir 
Charles here, to stab his heart through his 
son." 

Sir Charles groaned aloud. 

The woman heard, and thought of many 
things. She fiung herself on her knees, 
and seized his hand. " Don't you cry, my 
dear old maste ; mine is the only neart 
shall bleed. Hb is not tour son." 

" What I " cried Sir Charles, in a terrible 
voice. 

" That is no news to me," said Richard. 
"He is more like the parson than Sir 
Charles Bassett" 

"For shame! for shame!" cried Mary 
Meyrick. " O, it becomes yon to give fa- 
thers to children, when you don't know your 



own fiesh and blood. He is TOim SOK, 

RiCHABD BASSETt." 

**My son!" roared Bassett in utter 
amazement 
"Ay. I should know; for I am his 

MOTHER." 

This astounding statement was uttered 
with all the majesty of truth, and, when she 
said " I am his mother," the voice turned 
tender all in a moment 

They were all paralyzed ; and, absorbed 
in this strange revelation, did not hear a tot- 
tering footstep : a woman, pale as a corpse, 
and with eyes glaring large, stood amongst 
them, all in a moment, as if a ghost had 
risen from the earth. 

It was Lady Bassett. 

At sight of her. Sir Charles awoke from 
the comusion and amazement into which 
Mary had thrown him, and said, " Ah — t 
Bella, do you hear what she says, that he is 
not our son ? What, then, have you agreed 
with your servant to deceive your hus- 
band?" 

Lady Bassett gasped, and tried to speak : 
but, before the woras would come, the sight 
of her corpse-like face and miserable agony 
moved Miuy Wells, and she snatched the 
words out of her mouth. 

" What is the use questioning Iter f She 
knows no more than you do. fdoneitall: 
and done it for the best. My lady's child 
died; I hid that from her; for I knew it 
would kill her, and keep you in a madhouse. 
I done for the best : I put my live child by 
her side, and she knew no better. As time 
went on, and the boy so dark, she suspected ; 
but know it she could n't till now. My lady, 
I am his mother, and there stands his cruel 
fiither ; cruel to me, and cruel to him. But 
don't you dare to harm him ; I 've got all 
your letters, promising me marriage, I'll 
take them to your wife and daughter, and 
they shall know it is your own fiesh and 
blood you are sending to prison. O, I am 
mad to threaten him : my oarling, speak him 
fair ; he is your father ; he may have a bit 
of nature in his heart somewhere, though I 
could never find it" 

The young man put his hands together, 
like an Oriental, and said, "Forgive me," 
then sank at Richard Bassett's knees. 

Then Sir Charles, himself much shaken, 
took his wife's arm and led her, trembling 
like an aspen leaf, firom the room. 

Perhaps the prayers of Reginald and the 
tears of his mother would alone have sufficed 
to soften Richard Bassett; but the threat of 
exposure to his wife ancl daughter did no 
harm. The three soon came to terms. 

Reginald to be liberated, on condition of 
going to London by tbe next train, and 
never setting his foot in that parish again. 
His mother to go with him, and see him off 



A TEBBIBLE TEMPTATION. 



171 



to Australia. Ske solemnly pledged ber- 
eelf not to reveal the boy's real parentage to 
any other soul in the world. 

This being settled, Richard Bassett called 
the constable in, and said the young gentle- 
man had satisfied him that it was a practi- 
cal joke, though a very dangerous one, and 
he withdrew the charge of felony. 

The constable said he must have Sir 
Charles's ^luthority for that. 

A message was sent to Sir Charles. He 
came. The prisoner was released, and Mary 
Meyrick took his arm sharply, as much as 
to say '< Out of my hands you go no more." 

Before they len the room. Sir Charles, 
who was now master of himself, said, with 
deep feeling, " My poor boy, you can never 
be a stranger to me. The mee^on of years 
cannot be untied in a moment. You see 
now how folly glides into crime, and crime 
into punishment. Take this to heart, and 
never again stray from the paths of honor. 
Lead an honorable life : and, if you do, 
write to me as if I was still your father." 

They retired, but Richard Bassett, lin- 
gered, and hung his head. 

Sir Charles wondered what this inveterate 
foe could have to say now. 

At last Richard said, half sullenly, vet 
with a touch of compunction, ** Sir Charles, 
^u have been more generous than I was. 
xou have laid me under an obligation." 

Sir Charles bowed loftily. 

<< You would double that obligation, if you 
would prevail on Lady Bassett to keep that 
old folly of mine secret from my wi& and 
daughter. I am truly ashamed of it ; and) 
-whatever my faults may have been, they 
love and respect me." 

<< Mr. Bassett," ssud Sir Charles, « my son 
Compton must be told that he is my heir ; 
but no details injurious to you shall trans- 

Eire : you may count on absolute secrecy 
■om Lady Bassett and myself." 

<' Sir Charles," said Richard Bassett, fal- 
tering for a moment, <<I am very much 
obliged to you, and I begin to be sorry we 
are enemies. Good morning." 

The a^tation and terror of this scene 
nearly killed Lady Bassett on the spot. 
She lay all that day in a state of utter 
prostration. 

Meantime, Sir Charles put this and that 
toffether, but said nothing. He spoke cheer 
fully and philosophically to his wife, said it 
had been a fearful blow, terrible wrench : but 
it was all for the best ; such a son as that 
would have broken his heart before long. 

*' Ah, but your wasted affections ! " groaned 
Lady Bassett ; and her tears stream^ at the 
thought. 

Sir Charles sighed : but said after a while, 
" Is affection ever entirely wasted ? Mylove 
for that young fool enlarged my heart There 
was a time he did me a deal of good." 



But next day, having only herself to think 
of now. Lady Bassett could bear no longer 
under the k>ad. of deceit. She told Sir 
Charles, Mary Meyrick had deceived him. 
^ Read this," she said, ^* and see what your 
miserable wife has done, who loved you to 
madness and crime." 

Sir Charles looked at her, and saw, in her 
wasted ferm, and her face, that, if he did 
read it, he should kill her. 

He restrained himself by a mighty effort, 
and said, '* My dear, excuse me ; out on this 
matter I have more faith in Mary Meyrick's 
exactness than in yours. Besides, 1 know 
your heart, and don t care to be told of your 
errors in judgment, no, not even by yourself. 
Sorry to offend an authoress ; but I decline 
to read your book,^ and, more than that, I 
forbid you the subject entirely for the next 
thirty years, at least. Let bygones be by- 
gones." 

That eventfti! morning Mr. Rutland called 
and proposed to Ruperta. She declined po» 
litelv, but firmly. 

She told Mrs. Bassett; and Mrs. Bassett 
told Richard in a nervous way ; but his an- 
swer surprised her. He said he was very 
glad of it ; Ruperta could do better. 

Mrs. Bassett could not resist the pleasure 
of telling Lady Bassett. She went over on 
purpose with her husband's consent 

Lady Bassett asked to see Ruperta. 

<«By all means," said Richard Bassett, 
graciously. 

On her return to Highmore, Ruperta 
asked leave to go td the Hall every day, 
and nurse Lady Bassett ^ They will let 
her die else," said she. 

Richard Bassett assented to that too. 

Ruperta, for some weeks, almost lived at 
the Hall ^ and, in this emergency, revealed 
great qualities. As the msuevoient small- 
pox, passing through the gentle cow, comes 
out the sovereign cow-pox, so, in this gra- 
cious nature, her father's vices turned to 
their kindred virtues ; his obstinacy of pur- 
pose shone here a noble constancy ; his au- 
dacity became candor, and his cunning 
wisdom. Her intelligence saw at once that 
Lady Bassett was pming to death, and a 
weak-minded nurse would be &tal : she was 
all smiles and bnghtness, and neglected no 
means to encourage the patient 

With this view, she promised to plight 
her faith to Compton the moment L^y 
Bassett should be restored to health : and 
soi with hopes, and smiles, and the noveltv 
of a daughter's love, she fought with death 
for Lady Bassett, and at last she won the 
desperate battle. 

This did Richard Bassett's daughter for 
her father's late enemy. 

The grateful husband wrote to Bassetty 
and now acknowledged his obligation* 



172 



A TERRIBLE TEMPTATION. 



A civil, mock'niodest reply from Richard 
Bassett. 

From this things went on step by step, till, 
at last, Compton and Ruperta, at eignteen 
years of age, were formally betrothed. 

Thus the children's love wore out the 
fathers' hate. 

That love, so troubled at the outset, lefl, 
by degrees, the region of romance, and rip- 

Sied smooihly through green, f owery mea- 
0W8. r 

Ruperta showed her lover one more 
phase of girlhood; she, who had been a 
precocious and forward child, and then a shy 
and silent girl, came out now a bright and 
witty young woman, full of vivacity, mod- 
estvj and sensibility. 

Time cured Compton of his one defect. 
Rupwta stopped growing at fi&een; but 
Compton went slowly on : caught her at 
seventeen, and at nineteen had passed her 
b^ a head. Ue won a scholarsnip at Ox- 
ford, he rowed in College races, and at last 
in the University race on the Thames. 

Ruperta stood, in peerless beauty, dark 
blue ih)m throat to feet, and saw his boat 
astern of its rival, saw it come up with, and 
creep ahead, amidst the roars of the multi- 
tude. When she saw her lover, with bare 
corded arms, as brown as a berry, and set 
teeth, filling his glorious part in that manly 
struggle within eight yards of her, she con- 
fessed he was not a boy now. 

But Lady Bassett accepted no such evi- 
dence: being pestered to let them marry at 
twenty years of age, she clogged her consent 
with one condition. They must live three 
years at Huntercombe as man and wife. 

" No boy of twenty," said she, " can im- 
derstand a young woman of that age. I 
must be in the house to prevent a single 
misunderstanding between my beloved cmi- 
dren." 

The vonng people, who botih adored her, 
voted the condition reasonable. They were 
married, and a wing of the spacious building 
allotted to them. 

For their sakes let us hope that their 
wedded life, now happily commenced, will 
furnish me no materials for another taLe; 
the happiest lives are uneventful. 

The foreign Gent recovered his wound, 
but acquired rheumatism and a dislike for 
midnight expeditions. 

Reginald ^albped a year or two over 
seven hundred miles of colony, sowing his 
wild oats as he flew, but is now a prosper- 
ous, squatter, very fond of sleeping in the 
open air. England was not big enough for 






ihe bold Bohemian. He does very well 
where he is. 

Old Me vrick died, and left his wife a little 
estate in the next county*. Drake asked her 
hand at the funeral. She married him in 
six months, and migrated to the estate in 
question ; for Sir Charles refused her a lease 
of his farm, not choosing to have her near 
him. 

Her new abode was in the next parish to 
her sister's. 

La Marsh set herself to convert . Mary, 
and often exhorted her to penitence : sne 
bore this pretty well, for some time, being 
overawed Dv old reminiscences of sisterly su- 
periority: but at last her vanity rebelled. 
" Repent ! and Repent 1 " cried she. " Why 
you be like a cuckoo, all in one song. One 
would think I had been and robbed a 
church. 'T is all very well for you to re- 
pent, as led a fastish lue at starting : hut I 
never done nothing as I'm ashamed onJ* 

Richard Bassett said one day to Wheeler, 
<< Old fellow there is not a worse poison than 
Hate. It has made me old before my time. 
And what does it all come to ? We might 
just as well have kept quiet ; for my grand- 
son will inherit Huntercombe and Bassett, 
after all — '' 

<< Thanks to the girl you would not ring 
the bells for." 

Sir Charles and Lady Bassett lead a 
peaceful life after all their troubles, and re- 
new their youth in their children, of whom 
Ruperta is one, and as dear as any. 

let there is a pensive and humble air 
about Lady Bassett, which shows she still 
expiates her fault, though she knows it will 
always be ignored by him for whose sake 
she sinned. V ~^^*t^ ^ 

In summing her up, it may l^ as well to 
compare this with the unmixed self-compla- 
cency of Mrs. Drake. 

You men and women, who judge this 
Bella Bassett, be firm, — and do not let her 
amiable qualities or her good intentions 
blind you in a plain matter of right and 
wrong : be charitable, — and ask yourselves 
how often in your lives, you have seen your- 
selves, or any other human being, resist a 
terrible temptation. 

My experience is that we resist other 
people's temptations nobly, and succumb to 
our own. 

So let me end with a line of England's 
gentlest satirist, — 

" Heaven be mersiftd to as all, tizmen as we be.** 



THE END. 



Public Librat^^ 



Csunbridge il Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigel 



igelow, & Cbw 



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