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manlier looa tnan tuut wueI•e^v^^u nuvciinuo 

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"An exceedingly -.vell-written story." — Birmingham Daily Gazette, 



" Let him read these stories for himself, and he will be 
rewarded." — Manchester Guardian. 

"It is a fascinating book." — Glasgow Serald. 



" Incident abounds, and there are some quaint and curious 
studies of manners and sketches of character. Altogether it is a 
good last volume." — Academy. 

MANCHESTER : Abel Heywood & Son. 

LONDON : Simpkin, Marshall, & Co. ; and all 



Poems, by Mrs. Gr. Linn^us Banks. Illustrated. 

Square 8vo, 5s. 

" Mrs. Banks writes with fluency and animation ; her vein of 
sentiment is pure and earnest.'^ — Athencetim. 

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MAN ; " " GLORY," &C., &C. 


VOL. 1. 

^ 1883. 




^. / 




I. — Preliminary 1 

II. — Settled , . 19 

III. — Travellers .32 

IV. — At the Forest House .... 55 

V. — Ked Riding-Hood and Her Friends . . 79 

VI. — Left with the Misses Briscoe . . 102 

"^ VII. — Muriel's New Life 118 

VIII. — Mrs. Hopley's Postscript .... 140 

': IX.— A Proposal .163 

C; X. — Sam's First 185 

V "XL — Muriel's Eeturn Home . . . 203 




:HAT ! nursing again, Muriel ! What 
is Betty doing, and where is thy 
mother ? " cried Mrs. Bancroft, the furrier, as 
she walked into the back parlour of her son- 
in-law's house, the mere turn of a handle havimr 
opened the front entrance for her, without the 
ceremony of knocking. It was only when 
rioters or other rough people were about that 
doors were bolted during daylight in the last 
century, or indeed in the early years of this. 
A slim girl, not more than eleven years of age, 
was pacing the floor with a baby-brother in 
her slender arms. She answered cheerfully ; 

VOL. I. B 


" Betty is washing dishes iii the back 
kitchen, and mother is upstairs putting the 
clean clothes away. I have not had Georgey 
very long, grandmother. And I don't mind 
nursing him one bit when he doesn't cry. 
He has given over now." 

" Oh ! then he has been crvinof ? " and 
there was some acerbity in the old lady's tone, 
as if she had '-minded" very much. 

'• A little. Poor fellow, his teeth plague 
him, mother says ; " and Muriel D'Anyer 
bent over the big boy in her arms with 
such a look of pitiful affection in her large 
dark-brown eyes, as clearly told she was in 
earnest, though he did make her arms ache, 
and her heart too when she could not still 
his complaining. 

'' I suppose Anna and Marion are both at 
school?'"' again questioned Mrs. Bancroft. 
" And where is Sara ? " 

" Upstairs with mother. Hsh, hsh," — this to 
the infant, whose lip was again curling to a cry. 

The old lady's chintz gown of printed linen 
was open in the front over a quilted petticoat, 


though tucked up behind to keep her train 
out of the dust, and on each side, under this 
open robe, a pannierdike pocket balanced its 
fellow. By a bright steel chain depended from 
her waist the sheathed scissors and plump 
pincushion, without which no good housewife 
was equipped. Her keys would have dangled 
from another chain, but that out of doors they 
were slipped into the right-hand pocket, and 
were consequently invisible, even the chain 
beinsr lost under the over-sown. It was 
summer-time, and a scarf-like mantle of 
black silk covered her shoulders, as mittens 
covered her arms, leaving her fino'ers bare 
and free to use ; the bonnet on her head 
towered high above her lappet-like cap, and 
assisted by her high-heeled shoes (buckled 
across the instep) imparted height and im- 
portance to a short figure. 

Emptying from one pocket a store of 
cherries, and cakes from the other, she kissed 
the girl on the forehead, and said, " Divide 
these amongst you," and witliout waiting for 

thanks quitted the room and marched upstairs. 

B 2 


She found her daughter, Mrs. D'An3'er — 
quite a young-looking woman to be the 
mother of five children — on her knees in front 
of a carved oaken coffer, her own gift to tlie 
married couple. She was counting and 
arranging her household sheets and napery 
fresh from the airing, with little Sara, a 
fair-haired beauty of three years, watching 
her movements, and hindering under tlie 
pretext of help. 

Without a word of prelude Mrs. Bancroft 
liegan, in a broader vernacular than I care to 
inflict on my readers, common as it was then 
to the manufacturing class ; 

" I tell thee what, Ellen, I shall not leave 
Muriel here any longer to be kept from school, 
and sacrificed to that boy. She is not strong 

Mrs. D'Anyer rose to salute her mother, but 
her gentle " How do you do ? " changed to a 
faltering apology, " Well, mother, I should 
not have kept her at home to-day, but I was 
very busy " 

" And always will be " interrupted her 


mother : " every clay brings its own duties, 
and every houseliold its own work ; only con- 
trivance and management can keep the hour's 
work to the hour. But busy or not busy, I'm 
not going to see Muriel grow lopsided with 
lugging a great lad about, and grow up in 
ignorance Avhilst her sisters are being properly 
educated. Thah must have a nurse if Betty 
has no time. I know thah't not so stronsf as 
thah should be — all the fruits of marrying too 
young — and thah needs help ; but I don't 
think John will mind thee keeping a stout lass 
to nurse that lad of ]us. If he does, /'// pay 
her wages ; and as I mean to take Muriel off 
your hands altogether, that will square ac- 

Mrs. D'Anyer, a mild, timid little Avoman, 
stood in no small awe of her prompt, ener- 
getic mother, but she also stood in fear of her 
husband, and ventured a sort of expostulatory 
protest, to which the old lady paid no sort of 

"I tell thee, Ellen," she maintained, " the 
eldest girl in a large family is always made a 


drudge to the rest ; it was so in my case, but 
I'll take care it shall not be Muriel's lot. She 
shall go home with me ; I'll see her educated. 
John won't miss her. I don't think he has 
cared for the lass since the illness that seamed 
her face and spoiled her beauty ; " and she 
wiped a handkerchief over her own face, 
warm with the excitement and energy of her 

"Oh, mother!" was all the younger woman 
could interject in remonstrance, as she placed 
tlie last pile of linen in the coffer and closed 
the heavy Ud. 

" Ah, thah may say, ' Oh, mother ! ' but 
thah knows its true. I'll go and have a talk 
to John in the warehouse. I suppose I shall 
find him there;" and off she went, determined 
not to let her project cool. 

It has been said that Mrs. Bancroft was a 
furrier. It may be added that she had for 
many years carried on most successfully the 
-extensive wholesale business of her dead 
husband, in premises situated in the rear of 
Jier handsome double- fronted red brick house 


on Eed Bank, Manchester, and was accounted 
a wealthy woman in her sphere. Wealthy, 
that is, as the world goes ; her possessions 
could be reckoned in houses and land, bought 
and sold as merchandise ; but she had scarcely 
the true riches, though she went regularly to 
church, stood in good repute, and had a pro- 
found veneration for religious profession in 

Dingy enough now is the thoroughfare 
known as Eed Bank ; even fifty years ago 
the deterioration had begun, smoke doiug 
more than the fins^er of Time to tone down 
tints of brickwork and stone ; nay, a pubHcan 
had set his sign over what had been Mr^?. 
Bancroft's door, there were shops where had 
been private houses, and inferior structures 
were creeping up the steep hill-sides to ob- 
literate every trace of grass or of the red 
sand from which the road took its name. 
Yet was the verdant country close at hand in 
Mrs. Bancroft's time, grass and flowers and 
bushes were plentiful atop of the rugged red- 
banks left on either side by successive lower- 


infrs of the liill, over which then ran the main 
road to Eochdale and Bury from Scotland 
Bridge and the valley of the Irk upwards, and 
Mrs. Bancroft's house at the foot of the brow 
was a residence of some pretensions. 

Twelve years prior to this decided enuncia- 
tion of opinion relative to her favourite 
grandchild Muriel, her own daughter Ellen 
was a dark-haired, dark-eyed, vivacious dam- 
sel of sixteen, the youthful roundness of whose 
cheeks softened the high cheek-bones, whicli 
age or illness might define and sharpen as 
they had done for the elder woman. They 
were alike short in stature, alike active and 
notable, but the resolute set of mouth and 
the energy of the woman had no signs of 
development in the girl. 

At that period dancing was an accomplish- 
ment more for the aristocracy than for traders, 
but a certain Madam Bland had opened an 
academy in a fashionable part of the town for 
such as could afford to pay well for instruction, 
and Mrs. Bancroft did not hesitate to enrol 
Ellen amoniT the select circle of Madam 


Bland's pupils, as a finishing touch to an 
education which had, to say the least, cost 

No retail trader could have gained admis- 
sion for son or daughter into that circle ; the 
line was drawn at merchants and manufac- 
turers ; but of all those who did most honour 
to Madam's professorship was John D'Anyer, 
who, though but the son of a Manchester 
manufacturer, yet boasted he had blue blood 
in his veins as in his name. 

He was barely twenty, yet he stood six 
feet high, and had a figure as finely propor- 
tioned as his handsome face. Dancing was 
only one of his many accomplishments, but it 
was the one in which his peculiar graces of 
form and manner were most likely to move 
impressionable hearts ; and Ellen Bancroft 
was only one of the damsels who sighed for 
him. But in her case the attraction w^as 
mutual. And not alone in minuet or cotillion 
had they seen and admired each other. The 
Bancroft and the D'Anyer pews in the Colle- 
giate Church adjoined, there was speaking 


acquaintance between the elders, and the two 
3^oung people might be said to have grown up 
under each other's eye. 

In Madam Bland's academy the acquain- 
tance ripened rapidly ; it furnished occasions 
for mutual intercourse unsuspected at home, 
and led to a step not in the Terpsichorean 

One sunny morning when early May blos- 
soms scented the air. Miss Bancroft, arrayed as 
for a fashionable assembly in a dress of cherry 
colour-and-white satin brocade, her hair 
elaborately coiled by the peruquier, was 
lianded by her admiring mother into a sedan 
chair at the door of the house on Eed Bank, 
as was customary on dancing days, and it 
sUghtly struck the mother that "the lass was 
in an unusual flurry." 

Be this as it may, the chairmen bore the 
sedan, not to Madam Bland's, but to the 
Collegiate Church ; and when they again set 
lier down at her unsuspecting mother's door 
fshe was the wife of John D'Anyer. 

No one's advice had been asked, no one's 


counsel taken. The girl, captivated by 
a handsome face and graceful figure, had 
allowed his dominant will to control her. 
Had any reason existed for secrecy beyond 
their immature age, it was unknown. 

Three months later a loud ran- tan, tan, tan, 
tan, on the heavy knocker, startled the echoes 
in the Eed Bank house. Mrs. Bancroft had 
just come in from the warehouse for her 
four o'clock tea, and a maid was carrying the 
mahogany tea-board, with its freight of tiny 
handleless cups and saucers, into the house- 
hold room, and almost dropped it in her fright. 

The clang on the knocker had not ceased 
when she opened the door, and Mr. John 
D'Anyer, in a fashionable suit of plum- 
coloured kerseymere, with silver buckles at 
his breeches' knees and on the instep of his 
high-heeled shoes, crushed past her into the 
lobby, and in thick but imperious tones 
demanded to see his " wife." 

Margery insisted that he had mistaken the 
house, and failing to convince him, turned 
hack to seek her mistress in the kitchen. 


To her amazement he followed her, not too 
steadily, down the passage, to be confronted 
by Mrs. Bancroft, wlio stood with her face 
towards him, by the white deal table, 
under the broad window, at which Ellen was 
washing, in a large bowl, lace ruffles and 
lawn kerchiefs, too dainty to be sent to a 
common clear-st archer. 

It was evident the young man had taken too 
m.uch wine ; his three-cornered hat was awry, 
the ruffles ac his wrists, the falling neckcloth 
edged Avith lace, were sullied and disordered ; 
and so Mrs. Bancroft thought were his wits, 
as he repeated, " I have come for my wife ; I 
want my wife.'' 

" Your wife ? " she echoed, and would 
have added, " There is no Avife of yours here," 
but she chanced to glance towards her 
daughter, and the words died upon her lips. 

It needed not his iteration of " Yes, Ellen ; 
— my wife ! " that white face, that shrinking, 
trembling figure told all. 

Whether in wrath, or to keep the girl from 
fainting, she could never decide with herself, 


she took up tlie earthen bowl and dashed its 
contents, water and lace together, upon the 
daughter who had deceived her. 

" Take your wife, take her ! and never let 
her darken my doors again ! " she cried, 
sternly, and passed out of the kitchen, not 
to return until the door had closed upon 
them both, as she had closed the door of 
her heart. 

Though an only daughter, Ellen was not an 
only child. She had a brother three years 
her senior, training to succeed his mother in 
the business. His intercession for his sister 
might have been expected. 

Nothing of the kind occurred. Samuel 
Bancroft had not a thought beyond self. He 
sat down to the tea-table, after a rough pre- 
liminary scrub in the scullery, rendered neces- 
sary by his duties in the skin-yard — was 
briefly told what had occurred, bidden never 
to name his sister ag^ain, — and had no desire 
to transsfress. 

He could have told, had he been so minded, 
that he had been deputed to break the secret 


to his mother ; but he preferred to assume 
ignorance, and wipe his clean hands of the 
offending pair, as he hoped to wipe his sister 
out of the mother's will by-and-bye. 

Months went by — months which sharpened 
and hardened the outlines of Sarah Bancroft's 
face. An idol had been shattered, and nothing 
had replaced it. Her seat in the Old Church 
was vacant ; she resolutely passed its walls 
and trudged forward to St. Ann's (there being 
no church nearer home at that time) ; but 
thouo^h she heard the words '-Harden not 
your hearts, as in the provocation," Sabbath 
by Sabbath, she refused to take their import 
to herself. If there was any softening of her 
heart, it was unknown ; the silence peremp- 
torily enjoined at the outset became habitual ; 
her business did not throw her in the way 
of the D'Anyers, and she knew nothing even 
of her daughter's whereabouts. Whether she 
felt more keenly the barb of her child's 
ungrateful secrecy, or the prolonged estrange- 
ment, could not be told ; but unspoken feeling 
of some kind brought out more sharply the 


prominence of her cheek-bone, and ploughed 
fresh Knes on her brow. 

She had several brothers and brothers-in- 
law in different trades ; but their places of 
business lying away across the town, they did 
not often meet. 

One sleety afternoon in the following Feb- 
ruary, as she was shaking hands with a 
Bolton hatter, to whom she had sold a larixe 
parcel of rabbit-skins (to be felted into veri- 
table beaver), her brother Ealph, a cotton 
merchant, stepped into the warehouse, 
amongst piles of skins, and barely waiting 
until the hatter's back was turned be^an, — 

"Sarah, dost thah know the tale that's 
goin' about the town ? " 

" What tale ? " said both eyes and Hps. 

" Why, that thy daughter Ellen was turned 
out of the house wringin' wet, with no clothes 
but what she stood up in, and is now livin' 
on the charity of the D'Anyers! " 

Mrs. Bancroft changed countenance. 
" Wringing wet ! " " No clothes ! " she 
echoed, as if unaware how literally Ellen's 


dismissal had been taken, but her pride caiiglil 
lip the one word " charity," and her breast 
lieaved as with a pent-up burden. " Charity ! 
charity!" she exclaimed. "My daughter 
living upon cliaritij ! I'll see about that! " and 
to her brother's surprise, before he was aware 
of her intentions, she was across the yard, 
in the liouse, and out again at the front, with 
the hood of her scarlet cloth cloak over her 
bonnet, and lier pattens on her feet, hurrying 
throu^^h the wet to the smallware manufac- 
turer's in Cannon Street, panting as she went 
with suppressed and contending emotions. 

" I liear tliat my daughter is said to be 
living on your charity, Mr. D'Anyer," she 
began abruptly, as the old smallware manu- 
facturer presented himself before his unex- 
pected visitor. 

" Nay, nay, Mrs. Bancroft, Ellen is as wel- 
come as th' flowers i' Ma}^ I put another 
loom down when she came, that's all, and I 
mean to put another down now th' little lass 
hath come ! I always put a fresh loom down 
when a fresh mouth comes to be filled ; and 


the more the merrier, say I. I only wish 
JSTelly herself was stronger; but she has never 
fairly got over the wetting you gave her. " 

Mrs. Bancroft felt herself rebuked, though 
she did not take in the full purport of his 
speech. " Well, sir," said she, ignoring the 
censure, " you can put the profit of your 
looms to other uses. I do not intend my 
daughter to live an any one's charitij. If 
your son has neither business to maintain his 
wife, nor home to take her to, it is time he 
had. And I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll fur- 
nish them a house, and I'll be five hundred 
pounds towards setting him up in business, if 
you'll be another five hundred ; and they can 
come to my house until they have one of their 
own. But no living on charity ! " and the 
word came out with a gasp. 

" There has been no charity, my good 
friend," said Mr. D'Anyer, with a genial smile. 
" No one regretted John's secret and precipi- 
tate match more than myself and Mally " (his 
wife), " but my son's wife is my daughter, and 
as such we made her welcome. And I shall 

VOL. I. c 


be glad to meet you half-way in giving them 
a start in life, either in my trade, or yours, or 
one of your brothers'. But they will have to 
stay here until they have a house of then- 
own. We are not so tliick on the spot as we 
were, and the place is big enough to hold us 
all. Besides — Ellen cannot be removed, and 
I don't think it would be safe for you to see 
her just yet ; she must not be agitated. But 
there's naught to hinder you seeing the httle 

"What little lass?" Mrs. Bancroft would 
have asked, but he was out of the room, and 
she who had gone tliere in higli-handed pride 
and indignation, was left to institute com- 
parisons and ponder his meaning. Presently 
he returned wath a long-robed infant in his 
patriarchal arms — and then she was en- 

Pride, indignation, resentment, dissolved in 
tears over her first grandchild's face. 

Little Muriel had come as a pacificator. 



f^^o THOUSAND pounds was a goodly capi- 
y^M tal to commence business with in 177S, 
when John D'Anyer elected to turn fustian 
manufacturer, a term at that time of very 
wide signification. A warehouse was found 
and fitted for his trade in Sugar Lane, not 
far from his own father's thread and small- 
ware manufactory in Cannon Street. Then 
Mrs. Bancroft, reconciled to the young people, 
furnished for them, solidly and well, a house 
in Broom Street close by, tlie exclusive res- 
pectability of which was maintained by posts 
and chains to bar the ingress of unprivileged 
vehicles. Whatever the street may be now, it 
was then genteel— and dull ; but Broom Street 
and Sugar Lane met at a sharp angle, and 
there was the advantage of communication at 

c 2 


the back between house and warehouse. 
Steam power had not been introduced into 
manufactories, and very few were fitted up 
with elaborate machinery. Outlay was 
chiefly for raw material and work-people's 
wages. In John D'i\nyer's, for instance, 
warpers — generally women — carried home 
great hanks of yarn in their canvas bags, or 
" pokes," and brought it back on their heads 
in huge flat balls, warped ; that is, threads of 
sufficient number and length for the piece of 
cloth, arranged and grouped together sys- 
tematically by means of pegs in the warper's 
cottage wall. The handloom weavers took 
home the warp, with twist for the weft, and 
brought it back in the piece ; again it went 
out to be bleached or dyed, and, in the case 
of fustians, to be cut. In these days so many 
processes are carried on in one set of premises 
that immense capitals are required. Then 
John D'Anyer was considered to start under 
very favourable auspices, and expected to 
make a fortune, as others had done before 


But they were plodders, he was not. He 
was proud to be his own master, and the 
master of others ; had taken to the business 
kindly, and was not too proud to doff his coat 
and lend a hand either to putter-out or 
packer. Then, being vain of his penman- 
ship, he conducted his own correspondence, 
not a very onerous duty, and kept his own 
books, with a clerk under him ; and was as 
good a buyer and seller as any on 'Change. 
But he was vain of liis person as well as of 
his penmanship, and was apt to vary the 
monotony of the Exchange Eoom with a stroll 
under the trees of St. Ann's Square, the adja- 
cent fashionable promenade, or arm in arm 
with friend or cousin of his own age, who had 
more money than wit, finish the day at the 
cockpit, or it might be in a carouse. 

And in this John D'Anyer must not be 
judged by our standard. Temperance had not 
become a creed : a man amongst men was he 
who could carry most liquor with the steadiest 
legs and the clearest head; and so long as a 
man was up and about his business during the 


day, no one troubled himself how he spent 
his nii^hts. That concerned no one but the 
people at home. 

And it must not be supposed that John 
D'Anyer's proclivity for convivial society was 
such as to interfere with his business, or make 
him other than a c^entleman, although he had 
demanded his girl-wife in most unseemly 
fashion. He was wont to say he " would not 
give a button for aay man wlio could not be 
anything in any society," and certainl}^ the 
polished gentleman occasionally descended. 
He was, however, a strict disciplinarian in 
business or out, and his devoted little wife, 
who had not her mother's strength of will, 
was too timid to oppose act or word of his, 
too nervous to propose aught to which he 
might object ; and neither years nor mother- 
hood brought her self-reliance. 

Mrs. Bancroft was loth to admit it even to 
herself; but Ellen DAnyer had never quite 
recovered from the effects of the Avetting she 
had given her twelve years before. Her im- 
prudent and impetuous young husband, too 


excited to reason, had liurried lier away at 
Mrs. Bancroft's harsh bidding, drenched as 
she was ; and thongh he hailed the first sedan 
chair they met, there was nearly a mile to 
traverse between Eed Bank and Cannon 
Street, and explanations to follow, before dry 
garments could be substituted. Eheumatic 
fever was a natural sequence, and life -long 
delicacy ; mental suffering having been super- 
added to the physical. Her long illness had, 
however, been borne with patient resignation, 
and had served to draw her nearer to her 
Creator. The seventeen -years-old wife had laid 
down her self-will before Muriel was born. 

It was therefore with no slight trepidation 
she awaited, with her boy in her arms, the 
return of her energetic parent from the ware- 
house that summer afternoon ; having no 
clear idea of the proposal to be made, or of 
her husband's mood to receive it. Nor was 
she much more assured by the triumphant 
smile on Mrs. Bancroft's face as she walked 
into the back sitting-room and bade Muriel 
" take Sara and her doll into the kitchen." 


" Well, it is settled," she began ; "I am to 
find you a respectable and capable nursemaid, 
and Muriel is to be turned over to me." 

" You are not cfoin^? to take Muriel from 
me," put in Mrs. John D'Anyer faintly. 

" Yes, I am ; so have her box packed by 
this day week. I'll see you have a nurse 
before then ; and, by-the-bye, put nothing in 
that is half Avorn. I'll see she has a fresh rig 
out before she goes." 

" Goes where ? " asked the wonderimr youno- 

" Why, to Chester, with me. Did I not tell 
you I was going to send her to school ? " 

Mrs. John D'Anyer's heart sank. She 
dearly loved her first-born, if the father did 
not ; and the announcement was like a sen- 
tence of banishment to lier. 

" Cliester I Oh, mother, surely there are 
good schools in Manchester ; you would not 
send the dear girl so far away. And such a 
dangerous road — that terrible forest to cross. 
How could she ever come home for her holi- 
days ! " 


" She will have no holidays. — You need not 
look so blank. I will see to the lass. And 
I'll get thy father's kinsman, the- Eev. Thomas 
Bancroft, to look after her, so she'll be well off, 
for lie's a good man. She would only be 
put upon at home ; be at every one's beck 
and call ; be nursemaid and scapegoat for the 
whole lot, and I've set my mind on making a 
clever woman of her. Aye, and a happy one 
into the bars^ain. She is o^oinf^ amoncfst ladies, 
to be treated like a lady. I'll see to that." 

Tears sprang to tlie mother's eyes. 

" Now, don't be silly," cried the observant 
grandmother ; " the child's not gone yet, and 
won't go till Chester Fair ; so there's all the 
time between this and Michaelmas to reconcile 
yourself, if you are so foolish as to need 
reconcilini]^ to a chancre which is for her 

''But what of Muriel? it will break her 
tender heart ! " 

" Leave her to me, there shall be no break- 
ing of hearts. I'll see to that. There might 
be some breaking of back if she stayed here 


much lonofer. And now call lier in, and let 
us have tea. John will be in directly." 

During this colloquy Marion and Anna, the 
one nine and the other seven, had come skip- 
ping home from school ; but, kept in check 
by Muriel with grandmother's cherries and 
cakes, had remained discreetly in the large 
bright kitchen. And as children were seldom 
permitted to take tea with their elders, there 
was no hardship in sitting down at the round 
oak table to their brown bread and cans 
of milk, whilst father, mother, and grand- 
mother drank tea and ate white bread and 
butter in the parlour ; and unknown to them, 
two strong minds strove to convince a weak 
but warm-hearted mother that it was well the 
daughter she loved should be taken from her. 

The hardship came to the children a week 
afterwards, when Sister Muriel went to stay 
with Grandmother Bancroft, and a stout girl 
of fifteen, rough and ready in her handling of 
them, was the only substitute. They had no 
forecast of the longer parting in store, 3'et 
they cried themselves to sleep. 


]^s"or had Muriel when slie was sent every 
morning up Eed Bank for a drauglit of new 
milk at the farm-house by the stocks, " to 
brinir a colour into her cheeks," as her fjrand- 
mother said ; or even when she was measured 
for new frocks, and shoes and bonnets and 
caps, and was provided with a fur muff and 
tippet of grey squirrel, and was told that slie 
was oroinsf with Grandmother Bancroft to 
Chester Fair. 

Chester Fair ! Did not her father and 
uncles talk of it, and the business down there, 
for weeks before and after ; and had she not 
seen the preparations made for her father's 
departure, the packing of his saddle-bags, the 
loading of his pistols ! Surely it was a great 
event to her, a somethino- to look forward to 
Avith glee. Muriel had no prescience and no 
fears. But the tender mother had ; and 
though she had been enjoined to say nothing, 
and to let the child go away quietly ; and 
thou^rh she knew that Muriel was dearer to 
" Grandmother Bancroft " than all her posses- 
sions, and that the resolute old lady was 


actuated by a sincere desire to promote the 
child's welfare, she could not let her go under 
a false impression, to waken to reality among 
strangers, and that without a word of fare- 
well warninij^ and counsel. 

She took tlie opportunity when Muriel, 
taller, stronger, and rosier for her four 
months' residence and rambles in the fresh air 
and green fields around lied Bank — the latter 
shared with Milly Hargreaves, a favourite 
cousin, whose father's dye-works lay between 
Eed Bank and the Eiver Irk — was permitted 
to spend a couple of days in Broom Street 
prior to the eagerly anticipated journey to 
Chester Fair. 

Never to be forgotten by Muriel so long as 
she lived, was that hour with her mother in 
the privacy of her chamber, an hour dark as 
was the mahogany furniture and heavy 
moreen draperies, for there she first learned 
that her journey to Chester was not a mere 
pleasure-trip. It was sad for both ; not that 
the Misses Briscoe's school had terrors for 
Muriel, or to Mrs. John D'Anyer ; it had been 


painted in the brightest tints ; but the parting, 
the separation for a long and uncertain period, 
the distance which must lie between them, 
had. And to understand this, it must be 
known that m 1789 there was no direct con- 
veyance for passengers between Manchester 
and Chester. Goods were sent on pack-horses, 
or by the Duke of Bridgewater's new canal ; 
and horse-drawn packet-boats which met a 
stage-coach three miles from Frodsham, were 
also provided for tlie accommodation of pas- 
sengers. Otherwise the ordinary stage-coach 
went no farther than Northwich, and people 
who did not travel on horse-back must hire 
a post-chaise or a cart, and run the risk of 
highwaymen and footpads on their route 
through Delamere Forest, if they wished 
to reach the Palatine city. 

These dangers had been too often discussed 
in Muriel's presence to leave her ignorant. 
There could be no home-coming at stated 
times, and her young heart sank ; but when 
she saw how her dearly-loved mother was 
overpowered, she put a brave face upon it. 


and said ^' perhaps fallier or grandmother 
might bring her mother over to see her at 
fair time." She knew that her grandmother 
had a rehation in Chester, a clergyman, the 
liead master of the Grammar School there, 
and had been told that he would be sure to 
come and see her ; still, he was not her 
mother, and her mother was all the w^orld 
to her. 

But she grew grave and sober as her 
mother exhorted her to " hold fast by the 
hand of Christ at all times and in all seasons, 
whether tried, or tempted, or troubled, and 
never to let it go." And then her mother put 
into her hands a thickly bound black volume 
with massive silver clasps, on which were 
engraved D.M., 1711, the same initials and 
date being stamped in gold on either side. 
" Take this, my child," she said ; " it is the 
most precious token of my love that I can 
bestow upon you — the Bible and Pra3^er-book 
of our ancestress Deborah Massey ; it was 
her constant companion, the law of her life. 
Make it yours, Muriel, and I shall never re grct 


this day. The book has been handed down 
as a precious treasure ; it has been such to 
me, let it be such to you." 

The tears of the mother and daughter 
mingled on the black cover and on the silver 
clasps, as the arms of Muriel went round that 
mother's neck in a clasp as close, and a kiss 
of assurance sealed the promise that she gave. 



|g|ELAMEEE FOEEST and Cliester Fair ! 
tflif Tliere was a promise of romance and 
mystery in the one, of pleasure in the otlier. 
What o-irl of Muriel's acfc but would have 
looked forward with excitement and antici- 
pation ? 

It was a sad damper to learn that the 
romance of the hazardous journey, the show 
and delights of the great fair, were to termi- 
nate in the reality of a strange boarding- 
scliool, and long absence from home and the 
mother she loved so dearly. 

Gratitude to Grandmother Bancroft, which 
had been bubbling up from the deep fountain 
in her breast, as one new garment after 
another had come from the mantuamaker, and 
her handsome furs from the warehouse, sank 


to a low ebb when she learned the hidden 
motive for so much preparation. It was not 
in her nature to demur openly, but she said 
to herself over and over again : " But for 
mother, I might have gone away without 
knowing ! It was not kind of Grandmother 
Bancroft! It was not hind. Kow could she 
do it ? " Her murmurings were, however, 
stilled by the remembrance that her own 
mother had said " it was for her good, and 
that it was very kind of grandmother to take 
the charge and expense of Muriel's ward- 
robe and education on herself." " If mother 
thinks it is good for me, I suppose I ought 
to be satisfied ; and if grandmother really 
means it for the best, it is ungrateful to 
grumble. Only it is so far I Well, as mother 
says, the Lord can hear me, and see me, and 
care for me in Chester as well as here, and for 
them too ! " but she had her fears, missfivino-s, 
and regrets, nevertheless. 

It was in such mood Muriel watched her 
Grandmother Bancroft as she packed new 
linen and new frocks in a small trunk, covered 

VOL. I. D 


with mottled cow-hide, whereon her initials 
" M. D." shone in the glory of brass nails. 

" Who gave thee this ? " asked Mrs. Ban- 
croft, as the girl tendered the silver-clasped 
Bible to be packed. 

" Mother," was the answer, " and see the 
letters on the back are the same as 'those on 
the box." 

" I think Ellen might have set more store 
by Deborah Massey's Bible than to give it 
thee. But see thah take care of it, and use 
it well." 

She did not say, "Make good use of it," 
that did not occur to her. 

" But how is my box to go, grandmother ? '' 
asked Mnriel, as the key was turned in tlie 
lock, and a canvas cover fitted ; " if I am to 
ride on a pillion behind Uncle Sam, our horse 
could not carry it, and yours will have the 
saddle-bags. Will one of the pack-horses 
take it?" 

" Xo, lass ! I've done with pack-horses, 
thank goodness ! Your box will go to-morrow 
along with the bales of furs and peltry to the 


wharfinger of the Duke's canal, and be sent 
by boat to Frodsham, or nigh it, and on by 
carrier's waggon to the Manchester Hall in 
Chester ; the new hall that thy Grandfather 
D'Anyer, and me, and your uncles, and other 
Manchester folk have gone shares to build." 

So saying, Mrs. Bancroft sent the packing- 
needle on its last errand through the canvas, 
drew the stitch tight with a business-like jerk, 
cut it away with the scissors at her girdle, and 
rose from her knees. 

Muriel was curious. 

" How did you manage, grandmother, be- 
fore the hall was built ? " 

" How ? Wh}^, as best we could. Showed 
our goods in booths in the streets, as had 
been done for years before, or kept them at 
our inns, and looked out for customers. But 
that didn't suit me. I said I'd see about it, 
and now we've a fine hall to cover us." 

''Hundreds of years!" Muriel had ejacu- 
lated, but Mrs. Bancroft's task completed, she 
had no mind to linger. She was wanted in 
the warehouse, else she might have told 

D 2 


Muriel that fairs were of very ancient date, 
and had their origin in the wants and neces- 
sities of the people ; and that of the early- 
English fairs, established and chartered for the 
sale or interchange of goods and produce, 
or for the hiring of men and maidservants at 
a period when towns and villages were scat- 
tered and far apart, roads few and unsafe, 
Chester Fair was one of the earliest, and in 
best repute. Its charter dated back almost to 
the days of Hugh Lupus, the first Earl of 
Chester, who held his rich Palatinate by grant 
from his near kinsman, William the Conqueror. 
Chester was an important seaport then, and 
needed a strong hand to fortify the castle the 
Eomans had left, as well as to protect the 
commerce of the Dee from the pirates swarm- 
ing in the Irish Channel. She might have 
told how the monks of St. Werburgh had 
represented " mysteries " or " miracle plays," 
to edify and keep from mischief the idle mul- 
titudes who thronged to the fair for sport, of 
wliicli the more modern show was the outcome ; 
and how none but freemen of the city were 


permitted to trade within its walls except 
when a white glove was hung out from the 
tower of St. Peter's, as a symbol of peace, of 
the native trade, and of the fair. And she 
might have justified her own special business 
at Chester Fair with an old chronicler's sum- 
mary of its merchandise : — 

"Hides and fish, salmon, hake, herringe, 
Irish wool and linen cloth, faldinge, 
And martens good, be her marchandie, 
Hartes hides, and other of venerie, 
Skins of otter, squirrel, and Irish hose, 
Of sheep, lamb, and foxe, is her chafFare, 
Fells of kids and conies great plenty," 

But she could not have told or foretold how 
" kettles o' steeam " would go whizzing and 
fizzing over the land with a besom of pro- 
gression in their train to sweep such chartered 
fairs clean away as nuisances, not con- 

She had told the girl at various times quite 
sufficient about Chester, its fairs, and its 
double rows of shops, where the covered 
pathway to the upper row was riglit over the 
roofs of the lower set, above which the 
prominent house-fronts formed a sort of ar- 


cade ; quite enough to put the looming school 
in the background, and after the first tears of 
parting were dried, to cause Muriel to sit her 
pillion lightly, and clasp her Uncle Sam's 
waist in hopeful mood and with a smile on 
her cheerful countenance. 

But Muriel had never mounted a pillion 
before ; the lournev was lonfjf and tedious ; 
the roads were wofully uneven beneath the 
horse's feet, and long ere they reached Xorth- 
wich she was sick with the jolting, and her 
face proclaimed it. Samuel grumbled hard 
at the loss of time and money, when his 
mother announced her intention to remain at 
the Unicorn until the next morning on the 
lass's account. 

"It's not as if you were going right through 
to Chester," he urged ; " it's only seven or 
eight miles to Eddisbury, and you know the 
Kingsleys expect you. When Muriel has had 
a good dinner and a horn of home-brewed, 
she'll be as right as ninepence, I'll warrant." 

It was not customary in the last century to 
discuss business before young people, or make 


tliem privy to the plans of their elders, and 
Muriel took the sharp " Sam ! " and the sig- 
nificant frown of her grandmother, as a 
reminder that she was present, and need not 
be enlightened ; but Samuel, keen and sharp 
where his own interest was concerned, took it 
as a hint that there were strangers in the 
room, and that it was not wise to prate of 
their path so openly. 

Irritated as much at his own thoughtless- 
ness as at the rebuke, he rubbed his hands 
smartly over his breeches' thiglis, indulged in 
a brief whistle, and rising, said : 

" Hang it, what a while they are with that 
dinner I I'll go and have a look at the horses, 
and see no tricks are played with them or 
their feed. One need be sharp in this world ! " 
and the cunning look in his greenish-grey 
eyes said people had need to be very sharp 
indeed to take Mm in. At the door he turned 
round to say, " And if the lass be so desper- 
ately tired let her lie down on yon settle by 
tlie wall, if its cushion's soft enough," a hint 
Muriel scarcely liked to take before strangers. 


But lier grandmother's quick, "I'll see to 
that," settled the business, and she lay down, 
with a saddle-bag for a pillow, glad to rest, 
and in the sense of repose soon forgot the 
strangeness of all around, the farmers and 
others by the hre. Then she began to 
wonder if she also was expected at Eddisbury, 
and what sort of people the Kingsleys were, 
and what sort of a place the Forest House 
was, and to think how funny it was she 
should be <io\\\(X there after all her wonder 
about it. She had heard it spoken of many 
a time, but curiosity was a crime in that 
generation (and the next). " Don't ask ques- 
tions, children should be seen and not heard," 
being the general stopper on a thirst for 

She had a hazy recollection of being told by 
some one it was " only an old, rambling farm- 
house," and very likely her informant had no 
acquaintance with its history, and could have 
told her no more. But that old, rambling, 
picturesque, black-and-white, timber- and- 
rubble Forest House, of which scarcely a ves- 


tige remains for the antiquary, occupied tlie 
jsite of an older edifice still, the stronghold of 
the wise Ethelfleda, the daughter of King 
Alfred, the wife and widow of Ethelred, king 
of Mercia, the sister and counsellor of King 
Edward. Here, on a lofty elevation, in the 
very centre of the great forest, she, whom the 
old chroniclers call " the wisest of women," 
founded what she held to be an impregnable 
city, strengthening it with earthworks, traces 
of which remain, and with palhsades, of which 
only the name is left. The eleven thickly 
wooded acres which had held Ethelfleda's 
strong city of Eddisbury, still retain the title 
of the Old Pale, and the "old farm-house" 
Muriel was about to visit, dated back to times 
when Delamere Forest w^as a chase for the 
ancient Earls of Chester, and the chief custo- 
dian of the red and fallow deer held the so-called 
Chamber of the Forest, with a band of sub- 
ordinates to assist in the maintenance of the 
forest laws, and his own privileges. This was 
even before James the First knighted the Chief 
Forester, or confirmed the appointment to Sir 


John Dene and his heirs for ever, and so the 
Forest House towards which Muriel was 
wending, had, hke the forest itself, seen its 
palmy days depart, and was not merely old, 
but ancient. But paint and whitewash covered 
up the wrinkles of time, and it still showed a 
good front to the world from that coign of 
'vantage, " the storied hill of Eddisbury." 

Nothing of this had floated into Muriel's 
dreams, when she was startled from a doze by 
the return of her Uncle Sam and his exclama- 
tion, " No sign of dinner yet, and two o'clock ! 
It seems there are some fine folk upstairs, 
mother, who came in yon chaise before the 
door, and there's been such a fuss made over 
getting dinner for them all in a hurry, that 
plain tradesfolk that travel on horseback 
must e'en be content to wait. Oh ! you're 
here at last," he cried, as the hostess herself 
came in close at his heels to lay the cloth, and 
apologise for keeping old customers waiting ; 
but " the lady wdio came in the yellow chaise," 
she said, " was ill, and sick folk must be 
minded first." 


" So they must," assented Mrs. Bancroft, 
" and I've been in no hurry. I wanted this 
little lass to have a good spell of rest before 
her dinner." 

Muriel was too much shaken to eat a good 
dinner, she felt as if all her bones had been 
dislocated ; the hour's rest had not refreshed 
her much more than the repast ; but she was 
unwilling to cause unpleasantness or discon- 
cert her grandmother's arrangements, so, when 
the meal was over, she answered Samuel's 
"Well, are you ready?" with a smile and a 
prompt assent, and stifled a sigh of weariness 
as she stepped up on the horse-block, to 
resume her seat on the pillion, well repaid by 
her grandmother's look of satisfaction ; though 
if she had obeyed her own inclination, she 
would have preferred to stay where she was. 

She was aware that Mr. Kingsley was the 
Chief Forester of Delamere, and that her 
grandmother, who had large dealings with 
him, carried a silver whistle in the sliape of 
a horn, which had been given to her as a token, 
but until Uncle Samuel had spoken she had 


no idea they were going to the Forest House. 
It was a reUef to learn they were not going on 
to Chester that afternoon. And Sam was in 
liaste to get to tlieir journey's end before 
dusk, as the road was not too hvely, and not 
in too good repute. 

Mrs. Bancroft had a small freehold property 
at Waverham, on the north-east border of 
the forest, which required her supervision, and 
for this, and other reasons, she had set out a 
full fortnight before Michaelmas, and a week 
prior to the fair. A few days later the road 
would be alive with travellers of all sorts and 
conditions wendincf towards the same goal. 
As it was — though the post-chaise had left 
the inn not ten minutes before themselves — 
only a stray pedlar, a labouring man, children 
nutting or blackberrying, or a farmer on 
horseback, were to be passed upon the road ; 
and when once they were fairly in the forest, 
notwithstanding the clearness of the after- 
noon and the mellow tints of the autumnal 
foliage, there was a sharp breeze which swept 
the deep waters of the meres into mimic 



waves, rustled over the waving fro^ids of fern, 
went singing and sighing through tlie trees, 
driving the brown and yellow leaves in 
showers around them, and somehow revived 
the mysterious influence of the old tales she 
had so often listened to at home. 

Yet as they rode steadily and slowly along 
the ascending road, past wide stretclies of 
boggy moss, or yellow broom, undulating 
pasture, billowy brake or low copse where 
trees were sparse, her mind was disabused of 
the idea that a forest was a dense impene- 
trable mass of trees, such as she had read of 
in an old book at home, Kinc^ Arthur and 
his Knights of the Eound Table sought 
adventures in. Still there were giant oaks, 
and stately elms, and graceful birch, and 
smooth-boled amber-tinted beeches massed 
together here and there between, and in the 
distance might wooded Eddisbury be seen 
like a dark cloud of firs against the opaUne 
sky. And as high overhead a pair of wild 
ducks took their flight from mere to mere, or 
a crested grebe on whirring wing obeyed the 


call of an e:^pectaut mate, or a frightened hare 
or rabbit scuttled awav for safety amontrst the 
herbage, or a solitary lapwing trying the speed 
of its thin legs against their horses', broke the 
stillness with the sharp " peewheet, peewheet " 
of maternal care : all these siiihts and sounds 
unwonted told the town girl they were 
intruders on nature's domain ; and that where 
was a covert for deer was a covert also for 
men of evil deed, and evil fame. 

She clung closer to her uncle in silence, not 
because he was a favourite, but because she 
was timid as well ai tired ; and as they passed 
moss and mere, she scarcely heard her grand- 
mother whilst pointing to places on their route 
sav. *• That's Massev Lodcre," " This is Crab- 
tree Green," '• Yon's the Plague Hole, where 
the dead were buried," and so on, for very 
weariness and apprehension, not allayed when 
Samuel Bancroft — who could feel her tremb- 
ling even through his thick riding coat — in a 
spirit of mischief pointed with his whip ahead 
to their right, with the remark : " And yon- 
der's the Thieves' Moss. Muriel. It lies in the 


corner where th' roads meet." "Was not the 
very name significant r 

If in her unselfishness she had comphed 
with lier uncle's wish, and ignored her own 
fatigue rather than be a cause of expense and 
delav to her grandmother, she becran to think 
it might have been as well to have accepted 
her kind ofier and remained at the inn, and to 
fancy the afternoon was closing prematurely, 
and that a robber was lurkinoj behind every 
tree and bush. 

All at once, as if it had been whispered in 
her soul, came the recollection ; " Mother has 
often said father was as safe in the forest as in 
the town if God's angels had him in their 
keeping ; '" and there was strength in the 
inspiration , not of body, but of mind. The 
road was too rugged and uneven to let the 
body rest. 

They skirted the moss with the evil name 
until the Chester road was crossed by another 
which led uphill to the dense woods of tlie 
Old Pale, where was situated the Forest House 
whither tliev were bound. Here they turned 


at a sliarp angle, still keeping the Thieves' 
Moss to their right, and had gone several 
paces forward when something like a scream 
broke the stillness. 

Horses and riders pricked up their ears. 
Muriel's heart stood still. 

"It is only an owl," cried matter-of-fact 
Samuel. " Let us get on." 

" I tell thee it's a woman," insisted his 
mother. " We'd best see into it," as a second 
and more terrified scream, blent with a con- 
fusion of sounds, came in confirmation on 
the breeze. 

Without ^vaste of words mother and son 
turned their steeds back, and after a moment's 
deliberation urged the tired beasts along the 
winding road towards Chester. In less than 
three minutes they sighted an overturned 
chaise, to which the restive horses were 
threatening destruction, obviously the one 
which had been re-horsed in Northwich, from 
its conspicuous yellow body and the luggage 
strapped behind. 

" Oh ! the poor lady ! " cried Muriel, her 


dread of robbers vanishing before this real 
disaster. " And I'm sure she was ilL I saw 
her face as they drove off." 

In another minute they were on the spot, 
their bridles hitched to a bough, Samuel cut- 
ting away at the traces with his clasped knife 
and shouting to the postillion to keep his 
plunging horses steady. Mrs. Bancroft's 
ready hand unfastened the door of the up- 
turned chaise, and a fine man in miUtary 
undress, whose riHit arm was in a slinof, 
struggled forth with her aid. 

" I thank you, madam," said he with the 
politeness of habit ; " but oh, my poor wife 
and son ! I fear they are killed ! " and as he 
spoke in tones of deepest emotion he bent to 
look within the chaise, and called anxiously, 
" Ceha ! Arthur ! " 

" / am not killed, sir," answered a voice 
from within ; and as the head of the speaker, 
a handsome youth of sixteen, emerged from 
the vehicle, Muriel clasped her hands in a 
tremor of shuddering dismay, for a line of 
blood ran from a wound down the side of his 

VOL. I. E 


face. " I was only stunned, sir ; but I fear 
my mother is more seriously hurt. She is 
quite insensible. Will some one assist me 
to raise her ? " 

Samuel Bancroft stepped forward. The 
horses were cut loose, and the postillion kept 
them aloof, but the chaise was a wreck, the 
officer disabled, the lady to all appearance 
dead or dying, and the evening closing 

"What is to be done?" ejaculated the 
gentleman in trouble and perplexity, without 
any hope of a solution. 

"I'll see to that," said Mrs. Bancroft 
briskly, as she withdrew her head from the 
cliaise. Up to her lips went the silver whistle 
slung from her neck, and at once over moss 
and mere, brake and thicket, went out a quick 
succession of throbbing notes clear as the 
ring of a bugle, and echo seemed to catch up 
tlie tones and send them back from near and 
far ; and presently, as if in answer to the call, 
along the rutty road, over the dusky sward, 
forth from copse and woodland, one figure 


after another loomed dimly through the mist 
and came towards them at a run. 

At the first note of the whistle the officer 
had started in apprehension. " Was this 
break-down a plot to rob them, and tliis liard- 
featured woman in league with highwaymen ? " 
he thought ; but he cast his eyes on the piti- 
ful face of Muriel, and was reassured. 

Mrs. Bancroft had seen his startled look, and 
answered it. " Eh ! we are peaceful travellers, 
sir ; you need not be alarmed. I carry this 
wliistle as a safeguard, for I have been hard 
beset in this forest myself before now. It was 
the gift of the head forester, and here come 
tlie keepers to protect or assist their master's 

One by one as the men came up, each, 
armed with gun and hunting-knife, doffed his 
cap to Mrs. Bancroft, as if in respectful 

The situation was apparent enough. Samuel 
Bancroft and the youth between them had 
with some difficulty managed to extricate the 
hidy from the broken chaise, and on its 

E 2 




cushions, placed by Muriel on the grass by 
the roadside, she lay with her eyes closed, 
still insensible, her husband bending over her 
and Muriel chafing her small white hands as a 
restorative, her own face pale as that under 
the hood of the injured lady. 

Mrs. Bancroft and her son held a brief 
conference with the keepers. The officer was 
spoken to. 

The postillion rode back ruefully to North- 
wich with orders, not merely concerning his 
carriage, but to offer a heavy fee in the name 
of Captain Wynne, of the Eoyal Welsh 
Fusiliers, to a doctor to stimulate his speedy 
attendance at Eddisbury. 

The captain stripped off his crimson scarf 
of netted silk with the remark that he " never 
thought it would be put to such sad service," 
and it was spread to form a litter for his wife, 
whose only sign of life was a quiver of the 
nostrils, a momentary raising of the eyehds 
when Samuel Bancroft poured a few drops 
from his spirit flask between the white lips. 

The captain's son, though he had made 


light of his own injuries from broken glass, 
was not sorry when Muriel offered to bind up 
his bleeding head, and Mr. Bancroft passed 
the flask to him, with the hint "you had 
better mount Ball and take charge of my 
niece. You don't seem in fettle for a long 

The luggage was unstrapped, and mounted 
on broad shoulders ; but as there were four or 
five keepers, and Mr. Bancroft offered to lend 
a hand at the litter, one of them set off by a 
short cut to apprise Mrs. Kingsley of the 
coming guests, expected and unexpected, and 
the procession moved forward as quickly as 
care would permit ; Captain Wynne by the 
side of the litter with his wife's liand in his 
own ; Mrs. Bancroft riding in advance and 
keeping her eye not so much on steady-going 
Ball as on his new rider, behind whom Muriel 
had been mounted. 

She was afraid lest he might faint and lose 
his seat from loss of blood, and bring Muriel 
down with him ; but of any connection be- 
tween the handsome young stranger and her 


grandchild beyond the courtesy and service of 
the hour, she had not a scintilktion in her 

As for Muriel, she was in the sight of 
Arthur Wynne just a good-natured, tender- 
hearted child who had done what she could 
for himself and mother, the mother whose 
jDeril absorbed all his thoughts and interest ; 
and Muriel's too, for that matter. The un- 
toward accident had put shyness and timidity 
to flight, and called forth all the pitiful ten- 
derness of her nature; personal fear and 
fatigue were forgotten, whilst anxiety for the 
strangers amongst wliom she had been thrown 
blent with rejoicing that she had not yielded 
to her own sense of weariness at Xorthwich, 
and so detained her grandmother. 

Mist rising from mere and moss had met 
the descending twilight, blotting out the 
brushwood and the road before them ; but 
the veil on the forest path was not so deep 
as that which hid the future path of life 
from all. 



l^pHEX Sarah Bancroft said "I'll see to it," 
^<^!Mi discussion was at an end ; she had put 
down her foot, and opposition was useless. 
It had been so in her brief married life, and 
in the long years of her widowhood. It was 
so in her household, and in her business. 
When she said a thing must be done or un- 
done, it was so. When she named a price to 
give or to take, there was no chaffering, no 
argument. It must be or not be. When she 
had said " I'll see to it," Ellen D'Anj^er knew 
that her daughter was to all intents and pur- 
poses taken from her. Mrs. Bancroft's "I'll 
see to it," meant that she had taken Muriel's 
future into lier hands, as if she had the power 
and prescience of Deity. 


It was true she had done this in the very 
plentitude of her love for the girl, for, as her 
son Samuel knew full well, Sarah Bancroft had 
warm and susceptible pulses in her breast, 
though her sharply outhned features bore 
false witness against it, and she covered up 
and hid her affections out of sight, as weak- 
nesses to be ashamed of, and kept well under 
control ; as her dominant will kept all around 

She had never reasoned the matter with 
lierself, but that she was born to rule she had 
never a doubt, any more than of her own in- 
fallibility. She would have acknowledged a 
Supreme Euler had the question been ])ut to 
her, but no one put the question, and she felt 
herself sufficient for all things. Her faith was 
in herself — to herself she was a law. When 
Captain Wynne's troubled exclamation Avas 
answered by her decisive " I'll see to it," and 
she raised the forester's silver whistle to her 
lips, it was as though an imperial liat had 
gone forth ; a guarantee of safety and protec- 
tion, care for the sick lady, hospitable welcome 


for all. She had so decided, and who should 
demur ? 

Certainly the keepers looked one at another, 
but no one disputed her behests ; and if Cap- 
tain Wynne took all for granted and was pro- 
fuse in thanks, and Muriel never doubted her 
grandmother's power and prerogative, Samuel 
Bancroft did. 

He knew that Mrs. Kingsley was an Arden, 
and never forgot for how many successive 
generations an ancestor of hers had been 
" Chief Forester and bow-bearer of Delamere," 
and that she never allowed her husband to 
forget that it was in her right he held the 
office, even though the Kingsleys had held it 
first of all. And he felt pretty well assured 
that no silver whistle w^ould have been granted 
to his mother without Mrs. Kingsley \s full con- 
currence ; but he was equally sure she never 
contemplated its use in the service of casual 
wayfarers, and felt somewhat dubious of their 

He was right. The furrier's party had been 
expected, and for them hospitality had pro- 


videcl its best. But for any additions to that 
party in the shape of strangers pulled out of 
a broken-down chaise the forester's wife was 
not prepared — and not disposed to prepare. 
For once Mrs. Kinsfslev's insulted diornitv over- 
shadowed her humanity. 

"AVhat I brinofiniT a liock of stransfers into 

CO c 

this house without invitation or perraission I " 
she exclaimed, as the keeper deUvered his 
message. "Does Mrs. Bancroft mistake the 
Forest House for her own, or for an inn ? " 

"I think, wife,'' said Mr. Kingsley astutely, 
" Sarah Bancroft just took thee for what thou 
art, a kind-hearted, hospitable woman, too 
good a manager to be put about by two or 
three extra visitors, and too fjood a Samaritan 
to let a fellow-creature perish by the wayside." 

" Indeed I " was all her response, though 
she muttered to herself " Surely the inn at 
Kelsall might have served their turn." Her 
husband's two shots had failed to bring dignity 
down from its perch, and she lost siglit of 

humanitarian necessitv in her desire to teach. 


Sarah Bancroft a lesson. 


A large ^vood lire was blazing and sputter- 
ing on tlie stone hearth in the large square 
entrance-hall, where stags' heads and antlers 
were interspersed with other trophies of the 
chase — bows and arrows, hunting-whips and 
horns, fowling-pieces and shot-belts, as decoi a- 
tions on its walls of pannelled oak, with a 
primitive oil-lamp or two on brackets to show 
then' glories off. A carved oak settle and its 
table, vrith a few straight-backed oaken chairs, 
ranged against the walls, were all the furni- 
ture, but two sreat hounds lav baskins: before 
the fire on a deerskin rug, and the atmosphere 
was redolent of venison and hai'e and other 

The wide door stood open, the hght 
streamed a welcome out to friends and to 
strangers ; the Chief Forester pressed forward 
to greet the former and to give hospitable 
assurance to the latter : the very dogs rose 
from the hearth to salute the new-comers ; 
but Mrs. Kingsley, in her green silk quilted 
petticoat and overgown, stood frigidly apart 
with folded hands, to mark her sense of the 


intrusion ; and for once Mrs. Bancroft found 
lier sagacity and sufficiency at fault. 

Even Captain Wynne saw there was some 
misunderstanding, and pressed forward to 
apologise ; but Mrs. Kingsley chanced to catch 
a glimpse of the pale face of the lady in the 
litter as she was borne in and laid on the oaken 
settle, and of the stained bandage above the 
equally pale face of the youth by her side, and 
all her womanly sympathy was aroused on the 

As she approached the litter she answered 
the apologist, to the utter exclusion of the 
others, "I can understand, sir, you were mis- 
led ; but be under no concern for this lady, 
she shall have every attention, although this 
is not an inn, and the influx of so many guests 
was not anticipated." Then with the same 
unwonted loftiness, turning her head, " Mrs. 
]3ancroft, I trust you are willing to surrender 
your room to the lady you have brought ? " 
and she laid an emphasis on the closing- 

" Of course I am, or I should 7iot have 


brou2flit her here. And I broiifrht them all 
here on the strength of your hospitahty and 
goodness to me on a like occasion when I 
was a stranger. If I've made a mistake we 
can settle it afterwards." 

And there is no question that they did 
settle it together afterwards ; but for that 
night Mrs. Kingsley was on her mettle to 
prove herself a good hostess and a kind 

Muriel mio^ht have been unnoticed amidst 
it all had she not followed Mrs. Wynne's 
bearers up the stairs and along the gallery 
Avhich overlooked the hall, to the ready 
chamber, her weariness forgotten in her 
desire to be of service, and taking Mrs. Kings- 
ley by surprise by her aptitude and readiness 
in administerinof such restoratives as were at 
liand, and her delicacy of touch whilst help- 
ing to disrobe the lady, whose wrist was 
injured, and hung helpless. 

And what a briirht face was hers, when she 
bore the intellio^ence to the anxious father 
and son, " Mrs. Wvnne has come to herself, 


and asked for you.'' Who then observed 
that it was seamed and scarred ? Had not 
her glad tidings irradiated and beautified her 
countenance? Did she not seem to them one 
of the o'ood anf^els that walk the earth in 
disguise ? 

Somethinn^ of the kind glanced throuirli the 

o o o 

mind of Mrs. Kingsley, when Muriel, perceiv- 
ino' how she was distracted between her 
duties as hostess and her cares for the invaUd, 
volunteered to remain with the sick lady 
until the doctor came, so that others might 
go in to supper. 

"I can attend to Mrs. Wynne by myself; I 
am not afraid, and I am not hungry," she said, 
adding, " and the doctor will surely be here 

Mrs. Kingsley had certainly been troubled 
about the long-delayed supper and the spoil- 
ing viands, but as she Avent across the wide 
gallery and down the broad oak staircase, she 
thought to herself what a patient little maiden 
she had left beliind in the big bedroom hung 
with tapcstr}^, and full of flickering sliadows, 


as tlie firelight rose and fell without reaching 
its remote corners. 

And some remark of the kind slie made as 
she took her place at the long table in the 
dining-room on the right of the hall, which 
had been set more than an hour with the 
whitest of home-spun napery, the brightest of 
silver tankards and Sheffield cutlery, and 
where drinkins^-horns with silver rims flanked 
the horn-hafted knives and two-pronged forks 
instead of glasses. 

" As composed and observant as a woman," 
she said, " and not at all afraid to be left 
alone with Mrs. Wynne, in that strange room, 
away from us all." 

"' She was timid enough as we came througli 
the forest," interjected Samuel Bancroft, witli 
somethini^ like a mn ; " I've a notion she 
fancied there was a robber hiding in every 

" Then thou hadst frightened her ! " said 
his mother across the table, " and there was 
no need of that : she had lieard of Delamerc 
before to-day." 


'• Hidden dangers are apt to impress tlie 
imagination, sir," put in the captain, resting 
]iis fork ; '* I have known men who never 
blenched before the fire of the enemy, shrink 
from the shadows of a dark room ; the little 
lady must be naturally brave." 

" She removed a splinter of glass, and 
bound up my head, without any show of 
either fear or repugnance," added the cap- 
tain's son. 

" She seems a born nurse," then said Mrs. 
Kingsley, as though in praise, as she helped 
Samuel to a second slice of venison. 

" A born nurse ! I hope she was born for 
something better ! " quoth Mrs. Bancroft, brid- 
ling. " I'll see that Muriel D'Anyer is no nurse." 

'• I think you misunderstood, madam," the 
captain began. 

'• Oh, no I I did not," she answered. " I'm 
taking her " 

But the doctor — whose name was Holmes, 
a little fat, pudgy, round-faced man — coming 
at that instant, the rest of Mrs. Bancroft's 
speech was lost. 


Tlie captain was too anxious about liis wife 
to continue at the board, and tliougli with an 
ill-grace at the interruption, Mrs. Kingsley 
held him excused. 

Mrs. Wynne was discovered to be suiTerinor 
from a broken wrist, and from severe shock 
to her system, already enfeebled. 

" She will not be in a fit state for removal 
for many days, and will require the utmost 
attention, if she is to be removed at all. But 
she is in good hands." 

So said tlie doctor ; but he knew nothing of 
the irritation of Mrs. Kingsley at having the 
patient thrown on her hands in such a matter- 
of-course way, to say nothing of the additional 
husband and son ; when she had calculated on 
a long gossip with her old crony. 

Good part of the forester's income was 
derived from his perquisities in the matter of 
skins, and Jiis wife's indignation at tlie use 
Mrs. Bancroft had made of the silver whistle, 
intended as a safeguard to herself, had 
annoyed him greatly, Mrs. Bancroft had 
bouofht so laro^elv from him. lie was a 2:ood- 

VUL. I. F 


natured fellow, and was pleased at supper- 
time to find that matters had adjusted them- 
selves comfortably. 

Judge then his annoyance when Mrs. 
Kingsley broke in on a business conference 
in the malodorous skin-store tlie next morning, 
with Mrs. Bancroft and her son. just as the 
prices and quantity of deer, squirrel, marten, 
and fox-skins had been settled, and tlie 
question how many liundred hare and rabbit 
skins should be supplied at a given rate was 
under consideration. 

The morning opinion of the Xorthwich 
doctor had been promulgated, and Mrs. 
Kingsley came, in anything but the best of 
humours, to vent her indignation at being 
" saddled with the care and cost of an invalid 
and her relatives, for no one knows how 

" Would you have had the poor woman die 
in the forest ? " asked Mrs. Bancroft. 

" Certainly not ! " was the tart reply. 

"Then be as thankful for the chance of 
saving her life," answered the other, " as you 


were when you took charge of me, and as for 
the cost " 

" Why, make a bill out, and ask the captain 
to settle it," thrust in Samuel, who had always 
an eye to the money ; and thought that a very 
plain solution of the difficulty. 

Mrs. Kingsley drew herself up, and her nose 
curled : " As if we were innkeepers," said 

" Here, Mr. Kingsley," said Mrs. Bancroft, 
" take your whistle," and she released it from 
her neck. " You'd best have it back, as I 
don't know Avhen to use it. Sam, go and see 
the horses saddled, we'll be off to Wavorham 
at once. And we'll take Muriel with us. If 
we're not expected till to-morrow it won't 
matter much there. But before we go I'd 
better seek out the captain, and let him know 
that I've made a mistake for once in my life ; 
and /'// see about hiring a nurse in Waverham, 
if there's no objection to that," 

And off Mrs. Bancroft set towards the 
house, greatly to the chagrin of both Mr. 
Kingsley and his wife, who followed her with 

F 2 


entreaties to return. He was afraid to lose a 
good customer, his discomfited spouse to have 
the truth blurted out to Captain Wynne all 
too bluntly. She was not an unkindly woman 
in the main, and had grumbled more to 
" put Sarah Bancroft down," than from any 
lack of Christian kindness towards the sick 

Samuel slapped his thigh in satisfaction as 
he looked after them from the door of the 
outbuilding — a place fitted with louvre-board 
windows to admit air. " Egad, Mistress 
Kingsley is caught in her own trap now ! I'd 
back my mother against her any day ! But I 
must be off after the horses if she's made up 
her mind to go." Then he stopped short, and 
as if he had hurt his thigh in slapping it, 
rubbed it slowly and ruefully. " Whew ! " he 
half whistled to himself, " suppose Ave're in 
th' wrong box in Waverham too ; an' it's like 
enough if Lydia's none prepared. It's awk- 
Avard anyhow," and he went on his errand 
slowly enough. 

Captain Wynne was found pacing the stone 


floor of the entrance liall, liis left hand sup- 
porting the arm in the sling, shaken when the 
chaise overturned, his head down, his mind a 
chaos of anxiety and perplexity. The pre- 
carious state of his wife ; the wound in the 
head of his son, which threatened to prove 
troublesome ; his own helplessness, the result 
of a duel with a fellow-ofFicer, were sufficient 
causes, without the consciousness that they 
were trespassing, still further to chafe the 
proud man, who was accustomed to command 
and to control ; and found himself cast like 
a straw upon a stream, through the mere 
loosening of a lincli-pin. 

He had entrusted to Mr. Holmes, the 
surgeon, who had undertaken the charge, 
money and a letter, to be despatched post- 
haste to Chester for his own servants. They 
had been " sent on as couriers in advance to 
have all things prepared at the Blossoms Inn," 
he said, " and would be themselves uneasy and 
all at sea." 

The announcement of Mrs. Bancroft's 
sudden departure took him by surprise. 


Somehow, though she did not suggest it, he 
fek answerable for the change in her plans. 
He had, whilst pacing to and fro, observed 
Mrs. Kingsley intercept Mrs. Bancroft in a 
side passage, and hold her as if in argument, 
where the former seemed to urge and the 
other unwilhug to comply. 

" I am convinced we are trespassing here," 
he said, as both women came into the hall 
together, " vet with my poor wife's life 
hanging on a thread I see not how it is to be 
remedied. What compensation I can make 
to our excellent host and hostess for this 
intrusion on their privacy, and to your little 
grandchild for her tender ministrations '' 

" We seek no compensation," began Mrs. 
Kingsley loftily. 

" My grandchild's done her duty, Captain 
Wynne, and that's her reward," interrupted 
Mrs. Bancroft stifflv. " But Muriel's iroino' 
and I came to ask if I had not better hire a 
nurse in Waverham. one you can pay out of 
your purse, and who can wait on Mrs. Wynne 
night and day." 


" Miss D'Anver Dfoinn^ ? I'm sorry for tliat. 
My son. who is upstairs with her and his 
mother now, tells me that she is the tenderest 
of young nurses, one of the sweetest crea- 
tures that ever entered a sick room. I am 
sure my wife will miss her greatly. I should 
say that I have already sent to Chester for 
Mrs. Wynne's own maid, but if — of course 
with Mrs. Kingsley's sanction — you do not 
mind the trouble of fmdins^ a suitable atten- 
dant, you will add greatly " 

**If my servants and myself are insufficient, 
you are at liberty to do as you please in 
sending for your own, Captain," interrupted 
Mrs. Kingsley; "but don't you, Mrs. Bancroft, 
send Maggy Blackburn into mi/ house," and 
she turned on her heel as if she considered 
the proposition a fresh indignity. 

Xow Maggy Blackburn was precisely the 
nurse contemplated by the furrier, but though 
a skilled attendant on the sick as times went, 
and a village doctress of more than local 
repute, she had two not over reputable sons, 
n:ien suspected of a liking for game and other 


property not their own — tliey were in very ill 
odour at the forester's. 

There was a window with a wide seat at 
each side of the entrance ; into one of these 
the captain flung himself as the very sport of 
fate, bitterly lamenting the mischance of the 
broken chaise, nay even the humiliating 
intervention of Mrs. Bancroft — and she was 
on her way upstairs to summon Muriel to 
depart, when in through the passage burst 
Mr. Kingsley, his brown face lit up with 

" I say, Captain, you may thank God your 
chaise broke down when it did, and that tlie 
Bancrofts were at hand to bring you here ! " 

" Indeed ! " interjected the captain in a tone 
not altogether free from incredulity. 

"Aye, that you may! A traveller was 
plundered and welhiigh murdered by two 
ruffians last night— not half a mile farther 
up the road." 

" Hah ! " cried the officer, with amazement 
on his face. 

" He was speechless," continued the for- 


ester, " when one of our keepers found liim 
there battered and bleedmg, with his pockets 
inside out. And it was all Whitely and 
another man could do to get him to the 
inn at Kelsall. He had come to himself before 
they left him, but I hear he's in a bad way. 
He must have had a horse, for he had a whip 
in his hand, but the horse was gone. Helped 
the foot-pads to make off, I reckon. You had 
a narrow and most providential escape." 

A providential escape ! and he had been 
questioning the ways of the Most High, as ]ie 
had chafed and fretted in his walk on that 
stone floor. A providential escape indeed ! 
A mercy not to be forgotten ! 

" We may indeed be thankful," he said 
seriously. "But cannot something be done 
for the injured traveller? " 

"Well, I'm just off to see what can be done 
for him, and who he is. A man with 
empty pockets is like to find cold comfort at 
an inn. Though he might be worse off than 
where he is." 

" I shall be glad to bear you company, sir," 


then eaiJ the officer to the forester, " and to 
hold the innkeeper indemnified in case the 
poor fellow be unable to pay. And if you 
will allow me — I should like to reward the 
humanity of your keepers. I owe them 
something on my own account." 

'^Tut ! Tut ! " said the otlier as a put off, 
but Captain Wynne was not a man to be put 

The news spread quickly. Not one of the 
travellers but felt there was an escape to be 
thankful for. 

" I expect that break-down was planned," 
said Samuel ; " I half fancied the rogue of a 
postillion was playing tricks with his horses, 
and now I am sure of it. My hat to a button 
if that chap was not playing into the hands 
of the robbers. Belike o'oin^ shares ! " 

" Eobbers ! then there were robbers after 
all ! " cried Muriel, clasping her hands wlien 
she heard. " Oh, how glad I am that we 
did not stay in Nortliwich ! and that grand- 
mother had that whistle ! Oh, Mr. Arthur, if 
robbers had attacked you it would have killed 


your mother with the fright, ill as she was I 
God's angels must have been around her," 
and she looked reverently up. 

" I think they were,'' said he ; but he knew 
not she referred to her own mother's words, 
and his had a double sio^nification. 

Mrs. Kingsley summoned one of the keepers 
and questioned him ; and in the general ex- 
citement Sarah Bancroft's departure was 
retarded. Indeed to travellers like herself, 
a violent act of highway robbery such as that 
was not to be disregarded. She was anxious 
to learn more, and that prompt measures 
should be taken to discover the criminals and 
bring them to justice. And the exciting ques- 
tion was still under discussion when Mr. 
Kingsley and Captain Wynne returned. The 
latter much agitated. 

"My God! Arthur, what do you think? 
The poor fellow lying there disfigured and 
lamed is Norris ! " 

"Norris?" ejaculated the son in a higher 
key, " What brou.grht Norris there ? " 

" Owen's over-anxiety and his own fidelity. 


They became alarmed when we failed to 
arrive in the afternoon. At last he mounted 
and left Chester to meet us. Their idea was 
that your mother was too ill to proceed ; and 
that his services mio;ht be needed. Poor 
fellow, lie has paid dearly for his zeal. The 
miscreants struck him from his horse, and 
then rifled his pockets. There was ver}^ little 
worth taking, except his watch, and in their 
rage they beat liim unmercifully. lie will 
never be good for anything as a soldier 

*' And his liorse. Captain," put in Sam, from 
the oaken settle, " was that worth much ? " 

" Worth something as a liorse, sir, worth 
nothimj in the calculation of loss, where a faith- 
ful servant's life is concerned," was the answer, 
which somewhat took Mr. Samuel aback ; at 
least he rubbed his knees, and said no more. 

Then Captain Wynne expressed his hope 
that Mrs. Wynne should not be disturbed with 
the intelliixence. 

" I think you may trust Miss D'Anyer for 
that, sir," said his son. 


" Miss D'Aiiyer \Yill not be here, sir," 
observed Mrs. Bancroft stiffly, once more 
adjusting her cloak, and making a move. 

" I say, you'd best take the whistle back, 
Mrs. Bancroft," suizc^ested the forester. 

" Aye, and make yourself comfortable 
where you are," added his wife, more ashamed 
of herself than she liked to own. " Miss 
D'Anyer has seen nothing of the place yet, 
and I'm sure she will not want to go whilst 
Mrs. Wynne is in danger, besides I don't think 
she could be spared, she is such a helpful 
little body," she was going to add, " and such 
a capital nurse,'' but she remembered the 
grandmother's indignation at the word, and 
stopped short in time. 

The forester joined his wife in her argu- 
ments, and after some little persuasion, to 
which Sam added an interested word, Mrs. 
Bancroft, for a marvel, yielded to persuasion, 
took back the whistle, the horses were un- 
saddled, she completed her purchases and 
orders ; and when she and Samuel started for 
Waverham the next day, Muriel was left 


behind, to lier own satisfaction and that of 

Mrs. Bancroft had seen a finger that was 
not hers directing these events, and pondered 
over it. But she did not take the lesson very 
deeply to heart ; and went forth on her other 
errand to control human lives and destinies, 
as if she had a ricfht Divine. 



^^pOPiE than a week had gone by, a week 
W^&^ which Muriel devoted to the sick 
hidy, with the sohcitude of genuine interest, 
without asking herself how her services Avere 
regarded, or to be requited. She was one of 
those who could not Avitness suffering without 
an active desire to alleviate it, one whose 
simple aim seemed to be to make herself 
useful to others. 

It was nothing to her that Mrs. Wynne 
accepted her ministrations as one accustomed 
to homage and attention, one whose patrician 
birth entitled her to such service as her in- 
feriors were ready to render. And if Mrs. 
Wynne considered the child honoured in 
being allowed to wait upon her, had not 
Muriel said the same, and meant it. 


What knew the lady of the long passages 
and flight of stairs Muriel trod up and down 
so frequently on her behalf? or of the weari- 
some watch in a darkened room, when the sun 
was shining on the autumnal foliage without, 
and the twitter of birds, as well as the voice 
of Mr. Kingsley, tempted the town girl to 
stroll with him and Arthur Wynne through 
the enchanting^ woodland ? AVas it not 
sufficient that she, the daughter of a baronet, 
recognised the j^eculiar delicacy of Muriel's 
touch, and preferred her attendance to that 
of Mrs. Kingsley or her own maid, Owen, who 
was now by her side F And when at length 
able to recline on a couch by the wood fire, 
was it not enough that she smiled on the 
gratified young nurse and pressed into her 
hand a locket rimmed with gold and pearls, 
in which reposed a coil of her own auburn 
hair ? 

Proud indeed w^as Muriel of the delicate 
lady's progress toward recovery, and said it ; 
proud too of the souvenir so earnestly pressed 
upon her ; but had she or Sarah Bancroft 


either had an inkling that the crystal locket 
with the jewelled rim was tendered as pay- 
ment to cancel an obligation, the one would 
have laid it down in sorrow, the other flung 
it back in scorn. 

Captain Wynne had chafed under the obli- 
gations pressed on him by circumstances, as 
such, but he had the sense to see the spirit in 
which services were rendered, and that in 
their degree the Kingsleys and the Bancrofts 
were every whit as proud as himself, and he 
was careful not to wound a feeling^ he under- 

He was liberal to the two keepers whose 
humane attentions to l^orris had kept life in 
the man, no less than to those others who had 
rendered him and his personal service, but he 
saw intuitively that the Kingsleys would be 
insulted by offers of repayment, and his proud 
spirit chafed at the dilemma in which he was 
placed. His own sense of justice told him 
that he had no right to trespass on the 
hospitality of strangers ; yet here they were 
quartered upon civilians for an indefinite 

VOL. I. Cx 


time, and civilians who assumed the rank and 
position of equals. It was a trial to the pride 
and independence of the military man, and 
he paced the long stone hall by the hour, 
inwardly rebellious and annoyed, outwardly 
reserved and silent. In his manner wlien 
addressed he was courteous, gratefully ur- 
bane — but there was an evident effort to 
keep irritation down, and he was not 

The young man alone (after the feebleness 
consequent on loss of blood had worn off, and 
he was no longer compelled to louuge in an 
easy chair by his mother's bedside, or on the 
oak settle in the great hall) fraternised with 
their hospitable entertainers, made friends first 
with the hounds, then sought initiation into tlie 
mysteries of woodcraft, and was equally ready 
for a day's jaunt with Mr. Kingsley, taking the 
inn at Kelsall by the way, to look in npon 
Xorris, and see that he was not neglected, or 
for a day's sport, and bore the forester com- 
pany with such an easy acceptance of the 
situation as put those around him at their 


ease also. Certainly he was at the age of 

He had insisted on ]\Iuriel, whom he had 
dubbed '• Little Eed Pdding Hood " from the 
scarlet cloak she wore, joining in a stroll 
through the park of the Old Pale and over the 
slopes around Eddisbury on the day before 
her departure. 

"You may safely leaye ]\Irs. AVynne to 
Owen's care now," he said, '* and I am quite 
of ]\Irs. Kingsley's opinion that you haye been 
too long shut up with our inyalid. A ramble 
through the woods will bring 3'our roses back ; 
and I will take care no wolf runs away with 



" Ah," she answered with a smile, ** the 

wolf did not run off with Eed Eidimr Hood 
from the wood. It was in her o-randmother's 
cottage he ate her up ; there are no talk- 
ing wolyes now," and clasping her cloak she 
stepped out of the doorway with him, as he 

"Don't be so sure of that, !Miss D'Anyer, 
there are talking wolyes to be met eyerywhere, 


but they go on two legs, not on four. I've 
heard it was a wolf of this description set his 
teeth in my father's arm." And the young 
man's face clouded as he spoke. 

"A wolf!" she echoed incredulously, "I 
heard your father tell Uncle Samuel that he 
was wounded in a duel. But perhaps you are 
right, for I think men who fight duels are 
worse than wolves, and worse than Cain, since 
they go on purpose to murder one another, 
and I do not think Cain knew what he was 
doinor. He had never seen death before he 


struck his brother." 

Arthur Wynne looked down at her in 
amazement. " That is a new doctrine," he 
observed gravely, after a pause, " I shall not 
forcret it," and for some time he walked on in 
silence, keeping the child's hand in his as an 
elder brother might. 

It did not strike her that she had reflected 
on his father, and if it occurred to him, he 
made no remark. 

Presently she stopped and looked back at 
the house, with its many angles and gables. 


its black beams intersecting in strange devices 
the weather-stained rouorlicast, its windows of 
all sizes, from the tiny dormer to the broad 
mullion, and the one fine oriel over the en- 
trance, from which the road swept downwards 
in a steep but gradual descent. It had been a 
noble edifice in its time, but its best days were 
gone, and there was a portion lapsing into 
utter decay. 

" I wonder how old the Forest House is ? '* 
soliloquised Muriel as she scanned it thought- 
fully. " It looks older than grandmother's 
houses in Toad Lane, and they have been 
built hundreds and hundreds of years ! " 

" We want my uncle. Sir Madoc Wynne, here 
to settle that question," replied Arthur ; " I 
am not much of an antiquary, I only know 
that the place is very ancient. Mr. Kingsley 
tells me that Eddisbury was a fortified city in 
Saxon times ; his own and his wife's ancestors 
have held the place as Chief Foresters since 
the twelfth century." 

" That is a long time," said Muriel, " it tires 
one to count back." 


"Aye," responded her companion, "it is 
almost as far back as Sir Madoc counts the 
pedigree of the Wynnes." 

"Pedigree! Oh! that's what my father 
talks so much about. And it is so tiresome. 
I don't think a long pedigree makes people 
kinder or better. Do 3'ou ? " 

"I have not considered the question, I will 
tell 3'ou when I do," and lie laughed lightly, 
showing a set of firm white teeth, and then 
he stopped, and pointing westwards bade her 
" look across to the far horizon. You see 
those gray mountains standing up like clouds 
ao^ainst the sky ? Amoncfst them lies the home 
of Sir Madoc and his ancestors — and mine," he 
added as an afterthought. 

" And that shinino- like water with the sun 
upon it, and those church towers ? " she 
asked, as if not much interested in ancestry. 

She was told she looked on the river Dee 
and Chester's old cathedral and churches ; 
but there was a wide and varied landscape 
spread out before them, nearer Oakmere 
glittered like a diamond amongst emeralds, 


and from another point in their ramble came 
Halton Castle into view with the river which 
gave its name to the ancient kingdom of. 
Mercia ; the river which had scarcely begun 
to swell with its own importance, for the mer- 
chant-fleets of the Mersey were then unbuilt. 

It Avas all new and glorious to Muriel, her 
brown eyes expanded to take in the panorama 
of moss and mere, village and woodland, city 
or stream or mountain, and then as they 
strayed through the woods tinged with the 
gold and brown of autumn, or on the grassy 
upland, the young man and the child, she 
filled her hands with flowers, nor questioned 
hoAV many might have kept possession of the 
soil since Saxon spades upturned it, though 
every blossom called an exclamation forth. 
Tangled amongst bushes and brambles (with 
the blackberries of which her mouth and 
fingers soon were stained), she found the 
white and rosy trumpets of the bindweed, in 
shady nooks the hart'stongue fern, and others 
of the tribe ; Scotland's emblem, the spear-, 
thistle, held its head erect, and braved the 


gatherer, but slie did not despise the yellow 
corymbs of the common ragwort, or the gol- 
den disk of the dandelion ; she found too a 
single raceme of the pure blue milkweed, and 
another blossom of the eyebright, lingerers 
from July ; and out in the open, a nodding 
harebell and a tuft or so of flowering grass 
were added to lier posy, of wliicli she was 
not a little proud. 

It was shown with delight to Mrs. Kingslcy, 
Avho, thinking little of these wild natives of 
the forest, smiled at the girl's simplicity, yet 
supplied a queer-shaped vase of antique ware 
to hold them. And then they were carried as 
a precious gift to the invalid, on wliose lips 
came a suspicion of a faint curl as she barely 
glanced at them ; but Owen bade her place 
her bouquet on a table in the oriel, and there 
they were left, to be ignominiously cast out on 
the morrow, when the giver was herself gone, 
as " disgusting Aveeds." 

But the harebell and the eyebright were 
not thrown away with the rest. Someone had 
taken them from the jar ; someone who had 


pleasant associations with the '' vanished 
hand " that had culled them ; someone who 
could symbolize the graceful form, and the 
bright eyes of the unsophisticated child with 
these wildUngs of the wayside and the wood ; 
someone who had learned a lesson from the 
child of which manhood mioht need a 



" Well, have the murdering ruffians been 
caught yet ? " were the first w^ords of Mrs. 
Bancroft as Mr. Kiugsley helj)ed her to dis- 
mount the following morning, when she and 
her son came for MurieL " Has the captain's 
good horse been recovered ? " was the ques- 
tion of the latter. 

"Neither," was the answer of the forester. 
"But there are two men missing from the 
forest, who were hanging about the day before ; 
and the captain's gone to Chester to set the 
hounds of justice on their track." 

" Aye," chimed in Mrs. Kingsley, " and 
we've a notion Maggy Blackburn knows 
more of the business than an honest woman 


" What, Nurse Blackburn ? " and a curious 
look crossed the face of Sam Bancroft as the 
ejaculation escaped him. 

" Aye, Nurse Blackburn ! " quickly res- 
ponded the mistress of the Forest House, with 
a look as curious and meaniiig into the calcu- 
lating eyes of the querist, which shifted 
beneath hers, " she's none too good, if all 
were told ; and she knows many a thing more 
than she tells." 

" Hush, hush, wife, a still tongue makes a 
wise head, and Maggy Blackburn's not to be 
blamed for her lads' misdeeds." 

"I'm not so sure of that, she should have 
brought them up better." 

" So she should," echoed Sarah, with a 
proud glance at her own son, as much as to 
say, " See how he has been trained." " As the 
twig is bent the tree inclines." 

" Is Muriel ready ? " interrupted Sam, who 
had his own reasons for changing the subject. 

" Yes, here she comes," cried Mrs. Kingsley, 
as Muriel at that instant crossed the gallery 
at the far end of the hall, in her scarlet cloak, 


with the hood well drawn over her gipsy hat, 
whether for riding, or to shadow eyes moist 
from parting with languid and feeble Mrs. 
Wynne it would be hard to say. " But you 
won't go without a bite or a sup, and dinner 
on the table ready for you." 

Sam excused himself on account of the 
horses standing out in the cold, but their host 
set his mind at ease respecting them, and soon 
he was busy with the game-pie and the home- 
brewed, talking politics with the forester, whilst 
his mother between the pauses of knife and 
fork had a private gossip with Mrs. Kingsley. 

Muriel liad been called to the board, cloaked 
though she was, and young Mr. Wynne, who 
had her flowers in his button-hole, saw that 
she was not nes^lected. 

After luncheon there was another run up- 
stairs, for another good-bye of Mrs. Wynne, 
Mrs. Bancroft following her grandchild, and 
both wishing the lady a speedy restoration to 
health, for which she thanked them condes- 
cendingly, with the graceful langour of exces- 
sive debility. 


But no sooner had the door closed behind 
ihem, than the sensitive kdy cried to patient 
Owen — " My salts, Owen, my salts ! How that 
horrid old woman smelled of cheese ! And, 
Owen, bathe my temples with the Hungary 
water, her loud coarse voice has distracted 
me. Thank Heaven I thev're cfone. That 
child's exuberance had become quite oppres- 
sive. And," after a pause, " my good Owen, 
when you go downstairs, don't forget to throw 
out those discfustinor weeds." 

But when Muriel had taken leave of his 
lady mother, Arthur Wynne accompanied her 
to the front entrance, and with much real 
friendhness lifted her to her seat on the pillion 
behind her uncle, whilst Mr. Kingsley, as of 
old, helped Mrs. Bancroft into her saddle. He 
had a grateful heart, had the young man, and 
saw that in his mother's set phrases of fare- 
well for which he would have been glad to 
make amends. 

On the broad doorstep, beneath the oriel, 
also stood Mrs. Kingsley, in a figured linen 
morning gown, whose last words were, " You 


will let Miss D'Anyer come and spend her 
holidays here, old friend ; my young folk will 
be home then, and they will show her about. 
She has seen nothing of Delamere yet, mewed 
up in a sick room," apparently forgetful that 
Arthur Wynne was present, still pale, and 
with a plaistered forehead, but courteous and 
gentlemanlike as his father, for whose tem- 
porary absence he had thought fit to 
apologise, not omitting thanks in that father's 
name, and his own. 

" ni think about it," was Mrs. Bancroft's 
brief response to the invitation, as she stooped 
to exchange a last business word with Mr. 
Kingsley, whose hand was on her bridle. 

But a smile of truthful earnestness broke 
over Muriel's homely face and lit up her ex- 
pressive face while she answered for herself : 
" Xay, I had a delightful walk through the 
woods yesterday, and I am sure I have 
altogether had a very pleasant visit." 

" You have done your best to make it so for 
others. Red Fading Hood," observed Arthur 
Wynne, as he shook liands with her a second 


time; "I do not know wlietlier my mother 
will miss you most or myself, and tliougli we 
may neyer meet again, I assure yon, I shall 
always remember the cheery little maid with 
the gentle fingers and compassionate brown 
eyes under her red riding-liood. I shall haye 
a reminder liere," and he touclicd his wounded 
brow; ''Good-bye!" 

" Tlie war-path and the trade-path do not 
often cross," murmured the young man to 
liimself as the trayellers rode off, Muriel nod- 
ding back. " There is not much chance of 
our meetimx ai^'ain. D'Anyer ! I wonder liow 
she came by her aristocratic name. By the 
way, she said something of her father's pedi- 
gree. I'll ask the forester. Anyway she is a 
most obliging creature ! I wish I had a sister 
like her, though she is not liandsome. There 
is something in those brown eyes that is better 
than beauty. I would my father had been 
here to take leaye of them. I am afraid my 
mother does not sufficiently estimate our 
obligations to httle Eed Pdding Hood and her 
friends, and he does." 


And now the travellers from Manchester 
were again on their road, each carrying away 
a new chain of associations and speculations. 

If Sarah Bancroft's equanimity had been 
disturbed at Eddisbury, it had been restored 
at Waverham ; and as for her son, wliy, he 
carried satisfaction under his three-cornered 
hat and buttoned up under his dark long-tailed 
riding coat if any one did. lie had persuaded 
his mother that she was arrano^inf^ that 
which he had arranged and settled quite two 
years before, and he had done it to his own 

" Yes, Mrs. Kingsle}^ Sam is to marry 
Lydia Bradley at Christmas ; it was that which 
took me to Waverham this time," Mrs. Ban- 
croft had said to the forester's wife before she 
came away. "He has loved the lass many a 
year, but he has stuck to his mother and the 
business, and would not even ask the girl till 
I had seen her and said I was willing. Not 
like that daughter of mine, Muriel's mother, 
Vvdio took the world on her shoulders at six- 
teen, with never a word to kith or kin. Xo, 


I told Sam to see and keep single, and he has 
done so to please me, and now I mean to take 
him into the business, and find him a house to 
live in, and the farmer will fit up the house 
for them. I've settled it all." 

" Ah, well, it's about time Mr. Samuel had. 
a home of his own and a wife in it, and 
Lydia's a notable bodv," observed Mrs. King- 
sley dryly, asking after a pause, " Shall you 
come for the wedding ? " 

"JSTay, it's our busy season, they can wed 
without me." 

" So they can," assented Mrs. Kingsley with 
a secret undercurrent of silent ejaculation. 
" Bless my soul, how clever people can be 
taken in ! Trust Sam Bancroft to get all he 
wants ! " 

And having a prospect of getting all he 
wanted, even to a share of Farmer Bradley's 
guineas, Samuel chuckled at his own clever- 
ness as he rode along ; and cracked sly jokes 
with the people on the road, for now there 
were many journeying to the fair. 

Muriel knew nothine^ of the business which 


had taken them to Waverham, or of the com- 
ing marriage of her bachelor uncle ; and as 
they jogged along her thoughts went back to 
the Forest House and those she had left there, 
and lingered amongst the rustling bracken or 
the many tinted bushes, followed the flight of 
waterfowl from the meres, or of a hare or 
rabbit as it scampered out of sight, or 
travelled ahead to Chester Fair and the un- 
known school where her journey was to end. 

Daylight had not touched the veil of dusk 
when Boughton Eoad Avas left behind, and 
Foregate Street rose on either side, quaint and 
curious. Midway, Sam made a feint of stop- 
ping ; he pointed to an opening on the right, 
"Here's Queen Street, mother; suppose we 
leave Muriel now." 

Muriel's heart gave a leap ; — surely she 
would not be left among strangers so abruptly ! 

" Pdde on, lad, and no nonsense," said her 
grandmother, and speedily, to Muriel's relief, 
the horses were entering the city under the 
wide arch of the East Gate, and picking their 
way amongst a throng of people and horses and 

VOL. I. H 


veliicles, and stalls of all kinds and deirrees, 
from that of the itmerant quacksalver to that 
of the respectable tradesman. 

For although there was a ground set apart 
for the purposes of the fair, it was pretty 
much abandoned to dealers in horses and 
cattle, the booths of travellino- sliowmen and 
mountebanks ; and the absolute bujdng, sell- 
ing, and barter of merchandise was carried on 
in the liighways and inns of the quaint old 
city. The church of St. Peter had already 
hung out the symbolic white glove, and the 
fair was declared open. 

It was not altof^ether a novel si^ht to 
Muriel. Manchester had its fairs, if they 
differed somewhat in character and impor- 
tance, and also had its narrow streets of over- 
hanging timber houses, picturesque and 
diverse of gable and tint ; it was only wlicn 
she saw the people walking in the Eows in an 
arcade above the lower shops, or leaning on 
the parapets, and amongst them Welsh-women 
with men's beavers above their linen caps, 
1 hat a feeling of strangeness was aroused. 


So slow was tlieir progress amongst the 
crowd that she had ample time for observa- 
tion, and she was scanning curiously the 
Yacht Inn at the corner of Nicholas Street, 
where the ground floor modestly retreated 
into the shade, and the upper stories advanced 
successively overhead — quite unconscious that 
they had halted at the old commercial house, 
or that the red-faced landlord was waiting to 
lift her from her seat — until she had a hint 
from her uncle. 

" Come, Muriel, lass, bestir thyself. What 
art' dreaming about ? " 

They were shown into a low-ceiled apart- 
ment where candles were already lighted, and 
tables were spread with comestibles for the 
influx of customers peculiar to fair time. 
Huge loaves and joints of meat which had 
lost their fair proportions, remnants of pies, 
the separate halves of a cheese in japanned 
biggins, and these flanked with mugs of brown 
stone-ware with a foam atop, or brightly 
polished tankards of ale. But Mrs. Bancroft 
was disposed for something warm after her 

H 2 


journey, and soon a tea-board was before her, 
and as she poured out tlie fragrant beverage 
for herself and Muriel, Samuel carved a 
roasted capon, and dispensed it witli the 
savoury adjunct of broiled ham. But he pre- 
ferred a puUat a tankard to sips at a tea-cup. 

Muriel's appetite, as before, had been jolted 
out of her. 

''You'd best make a good supper, lass," 
said her uncle, as he laid down his knife and 
fork, and smoothed his hands along his 
thighs. " Tliere's no knowing when you'll 
have another. Tliey'll not feed you witli 
fowl and ham at school," and he chuckled 
until he choked. 

Muriel looked alarmed. 

" Be quiet, Sam ; don't you scare tlie lass ! " 
put in his mother sharply. "She will have 
plenty of good wliolesome food. I'll take 
care of that. Do you think Miss Briscoes 
would have such a name if they starved their 
scholars ? You mio-ht delight in tormentinsj 

Whether or not, he had put to flight what 


little appetite Muriel had sat down with ; and 
sent her to bed in very unusual depression. 

She was, however, fresh for breakfast the 
next morning ; and when that meal was dis- 
posed of, was in hopes that her grandmother 
would take her to the fair. But no, Mrs. 
Bancroft was too keen a business woman to 
waste a morning so unprofitably. She did 
not mean to be unkind, but hers were trading 
instincts, and Muriel there was an en- 

I'll see about it before the fair's over. You 
may look about you as we go along. I've 
already given a week to the king, it won't 
pay to throw another day away into the 
bargain," was all she said as she took Muriel 
by the hand and stepped on briskly towards 
Queen Street. 

Samuel had been off some time to look 
after their furs and peltry at the new Hall and 
to see it unpacked. 



[IE liiglily genteel residence of the Misses 
Briscoe, was a solid if somewhat grim 
brick building with stone dressings, and a 
flight of steps the iron handrails of which 
swept outwards with a curl right and left. 

There they were shown into a fireless 
reception room painted brown, where a pair of 
globes stood sentry in arched recesses on 
either side the hearth, and spindly fire-irons 
in tall rests within a perforated steel fender 
had an air of never being used, any more than 
the square footstools on eitlier side, where a 
worsted cat and dog preserved unbroken peace. 
High backed chairs, with contorted limbs and 
painted velvet covers, were ranged like a 
regiment against the sombre walls, whereon 
Jiung the pictorial embroidery and poonah- 


painting which was the school's diploma ; and 
on the centre table were bDoks and other nick- 
nacks presented by grateful pupils or their 

After waiting a few moments the two Misses 
Briscoe entered together, the thin mittened 
arm of the one sister resting on the thinner 
mittened arm of the other. Their high heeled 
shoes fell on the faded carpet in precise step, 
and their tall caps and prim long stomachers 
seemed to bend in unison as they courtesied 
with gracious if formal politeness and smiled 
urbanely. They were supposed to confer a 
favour in accepting the pupil. 

Brusque Mrs. Bancroft was not easily 
overawed. She had no time to spare for 
ceremony, and after introducing Muriel as the 
Miss D'Anyer about whom she had written, 
plunged into business at once. 

The two maiden ladies, nowise disconcerted, 
shook Muriel by the hand, spoke to her with 
reassuring gentleness, told her she need not 
tremble, she was certain to be happy under 
their auspicious guardianship ; rang the bell 


for a '' ^liss Williams," and desired that young 
lady, with the most benignant of smiles, to 
introduce their charming new pupil to her 

As a rule, ^Muriel was not demonstrative ; 
but then, notwithstanding the winning aspect 
of the teacher and the honeyed words of the 
Misses Briscoe, she flung her arms around the 
neck of her grandmother, and as if struck with 
a quick foreboding, cried piteously, " Oh, 
o-randmother, dear c^randmother, do not leave 
me here ; take me back to my mother ; take 
me back to my mother!" 

"My dear, you are disturbing your kind 
relative ; pray control your emotions," said 
Miss Briscoe calndy, releasing the clinging 
arms with prim decision, and leading the 
young girl to the door and to Miss Wilhams, 
as if the latter had been a sort of warder and 
she a captive ; her grandmother's "Don't fret, 
Muriel, I'll see you again before I go back," 
following her with just a gleam of comfort. 

There was a shght twitching of Sarah Ban- 
croft's hard mouth and a suspicious moisture 


in her eyes as Muriel was led away, but Miss 
Briscoe's unruffled demeanour recalled the 
business woman to herself, and she soon found 
that the Misses Briscoe, altliouoii smooth and 
velvety as peaches, and she as rough as a 
russet apple, were traders as keen and astute 
as her own self. 

There were so many small matters to be 
paid for, not mentioned beforehand as extras, 
so many little items in the way of plate and 
linen to be provided for the pupil — and left 
for the school, so much to be settled and 
arranged respecting course of stud}' and 
needlework, the use of harpsichord and library, 
each meaning a fresh dip into the pocket. 
She, however, was prepared to be liberal, and 
only stipulated that Muriel should " have a 
sound education, plenty of good food, and a 
comfortable home." 

Alas for fair promises and testimonials ! 
The Misses Briscoe traded on their power to 
mould their pupils to pattern, their own frigid 
gentility the model. They made too much of 
their Christian principles, and were strict 


observers of fast-days and forms. But what 
hearts they might have had m their youth, had 
slirivelled up hke their lean bodies ; and the 
human hearts and souls in their charge were 
all but ignored in their system of training and 

They had a single parlour-boarder, and for 
the first fortnight Miss D'Anyer was permitted 
to take her meals along with this privileged 
young lady, at the table of the Misses Briscoe, 
which was set forth with due regard to the 
|)roprieties — and economy. But no sooner 
was the fair over, and the Bancrofts and 
.D'Anyers " gone beyond come again," than 
she took her place with the rest of the pupils. 

True to her promise Sarah Bancroft had not 
only obtained the Eev. Thomas Bancroft's 
promise to watch over Muriel, as she told her 
for her comfort before she went away ; but she 
had also called to see her grandchild and take 
her round the city, and although Miss Briscoe 
and her echo had done their polite best to con- 
vince her that " Miss D'Anyer was perfectly 
happy, and that, it would be a thousand pities 


to unsettle the dear young lady again," she 
said she "would rather risk that than break 
her word." 

She tempered her abruptness with an invi- 
tation for Miss Briscoe to join them, and then 
there was no longer any demur. 

With a face all smiles, her scarlet cloak 
around her shoulders, her gipsy hat tied down 
under her chin, Muriel would have rushed to 
her grandmother's embrace, but there was a 
restraining hand to intimate propriety. And 
there was the chilling presence of Miss Briscoe, 
with eyes and ears open, whether under Mrs. 
Bancroft's guidance they traversed the Eows, 
or the walls, that enclosed the city within a 
quadrangle of defensive rampart which peace- 
fid citizens had converted into a pleasant 
promenade. And whether proud of her native 
city, or of her historical lore, the precise and 
stately preceptress descanted learnedly and 
loftily as they went — if somewhat parrot-like 
— on its glories and antiquities, ignoring, 
if not ignorant of the fact that Sarah Bancroft 
knew pretty well as much of Chester as she 


did herself, and most likely would have told 
her so, if Muriel had not been there to see 
and be instructed. 

She, poor child, Avould much rather have 
cuddled up close to her grandmother, on this 
last day, and have talked of her mother, and 
George, her father, and her sisters, and her 
cousin Milly Ilargreaves, but politeness con- 
demned her to listen, and ere long she found 
herself interested. For though she did not 
care to hear that the citizens owed " to the 
noble house of Grosvenor the magnificent 
new arch " of the Eastgate (by the steps of 
which they had mounted to the walls), and 
could only see in the Cathedral an enormously 
big church rather out of repair, w^hen they 
reached the angle of thew^all where stood the 
PhcEuix Tower with the canal flowing tran- 
quilly beneath, and was told that "during the 
memorable siege of Chester King Charles the 
First looked out from the top and saw his 
troops defeated b}^ the Parliamentarians on 
Eowton Moor," she seemed to feel for the 
sorrow of the poor king ; and would fain have 


gone herself to the top of the tower and have 
looked out like him, but her companions 
scanned the formidable ascent to the doorway 
and the promise of further steps inside, with 
wholesome regard to their own years, and 
breath, so Muriel scampered up the steps 
alone, to be recalled midway, with a quick 
" Miss D'Anyer ! " in which w^as compressed the 
essence of the censure and rebuke she would 
have in full the next day. 

She had scarcely forgotten her own disap- 
pointment, or that of King Charles, when 
they reached the old North Gate, where their 
path lay under a narrow arch in a superin- 
cumbent pile of buildings, dark and ancient, 
the roadway of course running under the 
larger arch below. Here Miss Briscoe made a 
pause to be the more impressive. 

" This," said she, " is not only our Xortli 
Gate, but the City Gaol, and is of most 
renowned antiquity ; indeed its foundations 
were laid by the Eomans. Of course / was 
never inside," and she drew herself up vir- 
tuously, " but I understand it contains some 


curious cells, and instruments of torture such 
as were used in tlie old days of religious 

" They don't use them now, I hope,"' put in 
Muriel earnestly. 

" Oil, no, my child, those dark ages are 
past, no one is tortured now-a-days. There 
was a meddlesome fellow, called John Howard, 
who has a mania for visiting prisons, came 
here five years ago and he reported that in 
this City Gaol, the convicts and prisoners for 
trial, were severely ironed by the neck, hands, 
waist and feet, and chained to the floor, and 
at night to their beds in the horrid dungeon ; 
and he also said that the ' allowance of a 
pennyworth of bread for felons, and a pound 
for debtors, was inferior in quality to that 
sold in the city.' And many other things he 
said, even that ' men and women were not 
properly separated ; ' all reflecting on the 
humanity of the gaoler. But no doubt he 
exaggerated grossly; or if not, does he expect 
that we are to pamper criminals ? If men 
will commit offences, or will not pay their. 


debts, tliey deserve to go to gaol. They have 
no one to blame but themselves if they are 

" I don't think they have a right to ])ut 
fetters on a man before he is tried," was the 
commentary of Mrs. Bancroft who had a 
habit of forming her own opinions, though 
not more inclined to deal leniently with 
offenders than others of her age and 

But Muriel, who had listened with dilating 
eyes, broke in breathlessly : 

" I don't think the}^ have a right to put 
anyone in irons, and chain him to the floor ; 
I think that must be torture." 

" Little girls of your age have no right to 
think," was the severely grave rebuke of Miss 
Briscoe, and Muriel was silenced. 

Then, as if to efface any impression of 
harshness she might have left on Mrs. Ban- 
croft's mind, this inimitable trainer of youth 
waved a thin arm and a yellow mitten with 
a courtly air, towards an old building in 
an angle of the wall, with the gracious 


intimation, " And now we approach the 
' ancient hallowed Dee,' as the poet Drayton 
desiixnates our classic river, and here stands 
the Goblin Tower ; the Watertower you may 
observs lies down below, though the water 
no lonsfer washes its base as of old." 

Her hearers followed the wave of her arm, 
and looked out over the flowing river and the 
wide expanse of country on the other side 
which Mrs. Bancroft told Muriel was Wales ; 
but she was impatient to get back to her 
business, and Muriel had not overcome the 
impression made upon her by the shadows of 
the dark Northgate, and John Howard's report 
thereon. Her heart ached for the poor 
prisoners confined within those hard stone 
walls, and she saw and heard all else vacantly. 
The word Wales somehow brought up other 
associations, and she wondered if the men who 
had robbed and beaten Captain Wynne's ser- 
vant would be put in that '* horrid dungeon," 
and chained to the floor if they were caught, 
and with a child's logic began to hope they 
would not be caught, if that was how they 


would be used — thoiigli tliey did certainly 
deserve punishing. 

Her ^grandmother observed that her mind 
was astray, and asked " What art' a dreaming 
about, Muriel ? " and being told, answered, 
but not harshly, " Don't thee bother thy young 
brains o'er such thing;s, lass ! Eof]^ues like 
those deserve hanc^ino;, and nothins: less. 
How else are honest folk to travel in peace ? " 

This was another problem for Muriel, who 
walked dreamily on over the Watergate and 
past the Eoodee, and only roused when the 
Castle was pointed out. 

" What ! a real castle where knights in 
armour used to live and fiofht ! " 

The exclamation was addressed to her 
grandmother, but Miss Briscoe replied : 

"Yes, Miss D'Anyer, and the ground at the 
end of Queen Street, where you saw the shows 
and mountebanks, was formerly the ' Justing 
Field,' where the armed knights were wont to 
' tilt.' " 

"Oh, like Prince Arthur and Sir Lancelot 
du Lake, and Sir Tristam," and Muriel, who 

VOL. I. I 


had met with a few old romances, glowed with 
a new enthusiasm. 

"I'm afraid, Miss D'Ayner, yours has not 
been an improving kind of study. We must 
amend that," and the enthusiasm was damped. 

Indeed, whenever the natural girl l)roke 
forth, or addressed herself to her grand- 
mother, or crept to her side lovingly, there 
Miss Briscoe interposed to keep the ])alpi- 
tating young heart within bounds, and re- 
press any undue confidences. And wdien, 
havinj? left the Brid^^e-c^ate far behind, and 
the Wishing-steps which promise so much that 
can never be, and having made tlie circuit of 
the walls, descended once more into Eastgate 
street. Miss Briscoe retained Muriel's hand 
within her own ; ''for her safety in the throng 
of the fair." Nay, even wlien Mrs. Bancroft 
led the way to the New Manchester Ilall, and 
generously pressed upon the admiring school- 
mistress a mink muff and tippet each for her- 
self and sister, with a view to bespeak favour 
for her grandchild, her vigilance scarcely 


It was during tlie selection of these that 
Muriel saw her father for a moment, but he 
was busy with a Welsh customer bartering 
fustian, tufts, and moleskin for flannel, and had 
not even a kiss for the child, who sighed and 
Avatched him wistfully, but beyond a brief 
"Good-bye, be a good lass," she had no further 
word or speech from him. 

" Do not disturb your good parent, you see 
lie is engaged,'' had been Miss Briscoe's frigid 
reminder, unheard by the grandmother, or 
she would have set that matter right. 

With half-closed eyes Samuel Bancroft had 
'' taken stock " of the stately old lady as she 
entered the hall in the wake of his mother, and 
courtesied to him as formally on introduction 
as if in a drawing-room, and he certainly 
must have sent a random shot home to her, 
when he saluted the girl in his idea of jocu- 
larily with, " Well, Muriel, you're a prisoner 
now, I hope you like your gaolers," 

He had the jocularity taken out of him, 
however, before the day was two liours older 
wlien someone came to talk to him about 

1 2 


prisoners and gaolers, a tall tliin woman in a 
grey cloak, whom he called " Maggy," and 
who came with a request, which took the 
form of a demand, a demand that liad to be 
complied with before he got rid of her. 

It must have been no joking matter to him, 
for long after she was gone, he looked right 
and left and rubbed his knees, ejaculatino- 
under his breath, "Egad, its well that anti- 
quated piece of frozen honey and vinegar 
took our old dame out of sigfht and hearincf, 
or there'd have been the very devil to pay." 

It miofht be well for Sam, but thoui^h her 
grandmother went back to Queen Street, and 
she was politely invited to take tea at the 
same table, Muriel had not one moment's 
private speech with her. 

The wary spinsters might have spared their 
pains. Muriel was not given to feel oppressed, 
or to complain ; they checked some loving 
messages home, but no undue revelations. In 
fact she had hardly bent her shoidders to the 
yoke of discipline when her grandmother 
went; but with the closing of the door 


began her school- life in earnest : school-life 
as it Avas in the last century, when even in 
the home the birch was the symbol of rule. 

She had her first shock on the night of her 
entrance, when the bedfellow to whom she 
liad been assigned, a Miss Alice Ford, from 
^orthwich, led her upstairs to the dormitory 
which she was to share with several others. 

It was not only that there were five or six 
pallet-beds in the room, or that pillows and 
coverings were scant, or that slie objected to 
a bedfellow, or to wasli in a basin of water 
common to others, or that the dim rays of the 
dip-candle, placed on the landing to serve 
four rooms, had a struggle to reach her 
corner, or that she was told she must have 
her clothes folded and be in bed in less than 
ten minutes ; it was the culmination of all 
these in a babel and a scramble in which there 
was no j^ause for j)i'ayer, in which she knelt 
dowm amidst confusion, to rise from her knees 
in the dark, which seemed to overturn all her 
own mother's reverent teaching, and over- 
whelm her with dismay. 

Muriel's new life. 

IfiROM a confused dream of home, and of 
^^ nursing her infant brother, wliose cry- 
ing was not to be stilled, Muriel was aroused 
at six the next morning by the loud clangour 
of a bell. There was a general leap to the 
floor, and a repetition of the overnight 
scramble, not unmixed with contention wJio 
should be first to use water or towels, whose 
turn it was to fasten the backs of bodices, or 
to make the vacated beds, the prompt willing- 
ness of Muriel to give place or to assist 
others resulting in disaster. 

When tlie bell rang its second summons 
her frock was not on her shoulders, and of 
those she had been ready to help not one 
would stay to fasten it for her. They could 
cry, " Make haste, you'll be late ! " but only 


Miss Ford, the daughter of a Northwich 
yeoman, had the grace to turn back and 
bestow three mmutes on the new pupil. 

Those three minutes represented a repri- 
mand, and a fine which went into a money-box 
'•for the poor." ]S'o excuse was admitted. 
Miss Ford paid for her act of courtesy (on the 
score of dilatoriness), and once more Muriel's 
sensitive heart was shocked. That she, being 
fresh to the school, and ignorant of its rules, 
was exonerated, was no satisfaction to her so 
long as another was punished on her account. 
She would have refunded the fine. 

"Keep your pence," said Miss Ford, who 
was two years older than herself ; " you will 
need all your pocket-money." 

And so Muriel thought when Miss Wilhams 
warned her not to stand on the hearth or she 
would be fined, and when the entrance of Miss 
Betty after a tour of inspection in the dormi- 
tories, and the discovery of stray articles, 
such as caps and brushes, added sundry pence 
and halfpence to the growing fund " for the 

Wills: M'-iriel was sr-fi-Z-iiVliij: c.: :]:e s::ra 
m tee t^'X. i: v - ^ ~ .e led in a 

year. Miss Br iit her head 

with a fcHinal " Good moming, ladies," as her 
aster had dcHie, to be in turn saluted with low 
and daboiate courtseys from the pupils ^n 
■Iff I If Miss W illijun?;^ the mild and ladylike 
teadier, then placed a large book on a table 
near the fiie, and at the signal, with won- 
drondy little shuffling, the girls dropped to 
thdr knees simultaneously, and Miss Briscoe 
read, ex- dedaimed, a morning prayer from 
the volume. 

After prayers there was more reprimanding 
for inattsition, carele^ess, lack of devotion; 
and Murid wondered at her own escape, for 
her mind would stray homewards, and insti- 
tute comparisons between the prayers of her 
mother and of Miss Briscoe. 

Breakfast followed, but until she had ceased 
to be the especial guest of the principals, 
Muriel knew nothing but hearsay of school- 
room fere. 

Zr as of the boiled milk 


and bread set before tlie young ladies for 
breakfast thrice a week, which the careful 
cook had seasoned with bits of ^g shell, 
cheese, suet, etc., shaken in ~1: the crumbs 
from the bread-basket and kitchen table. 
" Oh ! for a cup of the new milk from the 
Stocks' Farm, and a plate of oatmeal pc rri-^g^e ! 
This mess is uneatable," thous^ht she. 

T- cic —ere plenty of hungry candidates for 
that A^hich she rejected, and on nulk mori_i :_ - 
she generally went breakfastless. 

Xor did dinner make amends. A gu<:d ap- 
petite was " vulgar," ** over-feeding tended to 
corpulence," consequently the meat and 
vegetables were doled out with due regard to 
the shm gentihty of the young ladies. The 
consternation when " Ohver Twist asked for 
more,'' could not exceed that when Muriel 
passed her plate innocently for '* another 
potato, if you please," 

As at dinner, so was the long tea-table set 
out, with due r^ard to gentihty. Each young 
lady had her own china cup and silver spoon ; 
but a very wishy washy apology for tea was 


poured therein, and one tiny lump of loaf- 
sugar duly dropped in from silver tongs as 
flavouring, by Miss Williams, who presided. 
(Brown sugar was not genteel, and white was 
expensive.) Plates of thick bread, with a 
microscopic film of butter, were ranged at 
intervals, and hungry Muriel unsuspiciously 
helped herself to more than the regulation 

Some one else, better informed, must have 
done the same, for when Miss Ford and the 
other raonitress, whose duty it was literally to 
icait, sat down to their own chilled repast, 
the plates were bare. 

" Oh, that's nothing new," w\as the answer 
of her next neighbour, to a question from 
Muriel ; " only two pieces each are sent 
in. If any one takes more, some one 
must go without. There is no more to 
be had." 

Muriel was dismayed. A second time Miss 
Ford was doing penance for her. She could 
not stand that. Her sense of justice over- 
came timidity. She rose, and begged that 


Miss Williams would order in a fresh supply, 
explaining that she found she had taken more 
than her share. 

" It is against the rules," said the teaclier 
quietly, but she flushed to the roots of her 
hair, as if she felt her task unpleasant, know- 
ing how insufficient Avas the quantity for 
f]^rowinof crirh. 

O Do 

It is certain that Muriel's frank admission 
and request were not displeasing, or she would 
not have shut her ears to the indignant " It's 
a shame ! " with which the novice sat down. 
As certain as that Muriel had a friend in Miss 
Ford from that hour. 

And it was no unusual thing for kindly- 
disposed Rachel Williams to close both her 
ears and eyes, when by so doing she could 
ward off punishment for trivial offences. How 
else would it have been possible for the day- 
scholars to smujrGfle in the buns and rolls half- 


famished Muriel and her companions gave 
them the secret pence to buy ? 

She had a gentle heart, and had been 
tenderly nurtured, but her mother had long 


been dead ; lier father, a naval officer, had 
fallen in battle, and she was dependent on her 
situation for support. Many were the indig- 
nities she herself bore, and bore calmly, wait- 
ing patiently for the day in the unknown 
future Avhen her lover, a Lieutenant Griffitlis, 
in her late father's ship, should come and 
claim her. Not that she was altogether friend- 
less ; she had an aunt in Wales who would 
have made a home for her, but self-respect 
inclined her to turn her English education 
to account, and to put up with minor evils 
philosophically. She saw much in the 
fashionable boarding-school which she was 
powerless to remedy, but she had the conso- 
lation of softening asperities, and even of 
turning hardships to a Christian account. 

Muriel soon learned to look to lier for 
counsel and comfort. After carrying her 
silver-clasped Bible to St. John's Church a 
couple of Sundays, it was coolly transferred 
to Miss Briscoe's hands, and not returned. 
" It is too costly for a child's use," she was 
told. The girl felt as if a portion of her 


heart had been torn away, 3^et she could not 
venture to expostulate. To Miss WilHams she 
went in an agony of grief, and laid bare all 
her mother's wishes, and her own promises, as 
bound up in that volume, and her dread lest 
it was gone for ever, and the fulfilment of her 
promise with it. 

" My dear Miss D'Anyer," said the teacher 
kindly, making the best of what she disap- 
proved, " do not be alarmed ! When you leave 
the school, your Bible will be restored to you. 
Xo doubt Miss Briscoe considered that the 
parade of so costly a book before your school- 
fellows was calculated to arouse pride in 
yourself, env}^ and other ill-feelings in them. 
You would not wish to tempt others to evil. 
Consider it as a temptation out of your way; 
and remember that your promise to your good 
mother was made as a means to build up a 
Christian life. I will find you a plain Bible 
and Prayer-book, which will serve that pur- 
pose quite as well ; and I will give you what 
help I can — a quiet half-hour now and then, 
for reading, and explanation when any 


difficulty arises, if 3^011 will regard me as a 

Muriel could but remember, as tlie explana- 
tion so kindly put made itself felt, that she 
had indeed been proud of her exclusive 
possession, as if it conferred distinction on 
herself; and she recalled too the upturned 
noses of her schoolfellows ; their nods, and 
looks, and sly nudgings as she had taken her 
place in the file, book in hand ; to say nothing 
of the whispers. 

"Isn't Miss set up?" "Silver clasps in- 
deed ! " " Vastly fine ! " and other sneers 
which had reached her in passing, and being 
open to conviction, she grew calmer as she 
listened to Miss Williams' apology, if not 
altogether reconciled to her loss. 

It was soon buzzed about that Miss Briscoe 
liad impounded the coveted volume, and then 
the same young lips twitted her spitefully 
with the "pride that had a fall," until Miss 
Ford interposed between the passive Muriel 
and their ill-nature. 

She soon found that the teacher was as 


o'ood as her word. Without the shi^htest 
show of favouritism, Miss Williams made her 
feel she had a friend beside her there ; 
and truly a friend was needed to make the 
strict routine endurable. Xot that it was 
worse for Muriel than for others, only that 
she was sensitive and susceptible. 

So much time was given to study and needle- 
work, so little, so very little, to recreation; 
unless the hour devoted every morning to 
deportment was considered such. Muriel did 
not think it very lively to bend her knees in 
courtseys till they ached, or to be screwed up 
in the stocks to turn out her feet, or to march 
about the schoolroom with a leather collar 
propping up her chin, and her arms pinioned 
by a backboard to improve her figure. She 
would much rather have walked up and down 
the kitchen at home with George in her arms, 
or led a game of romps with her younger 
sisters, and I am afraid was not over grateful 
to her grandmother, whose motives had not 
been confided to lier. 

Yet it must not be forofotten that for 


healthful exercise — and the parade of the 
school — there was the weekly promenade 
round the city Avails, with the favour of an 
occasional detour into the Eows, when those 
whose pocket-money had not already gone 
in secret to the baker's, or openly to the 
poor-box, might regale at the pastry-cook's, 
and lucky did the girls think themselves 
if now and then the Misses Briscoe delegated 
their guardianship to Miss Williams and a 

Muriel would have considered herself for- 
tunate had it been so on that brisk December 
day, when she had been ten weeks in the 
school. Instead, Miss Briscoe, stiff as any 
other martinet, marched at the head of the 
(graduated file of o-irls, whilst Miss Bettv 
brought up the rear. Miss Williams was a 
prisoner to the schoolroom, keeping guard 
over lesser prisoners then in disgrace. 

It was a very staid and decorous but not 
very animated procession. The keen air 
sharpened appetites already sharp enough, 
and the cold pinched fingers and toes already 


in danger of chilblains. Muriel was well pro- 
tected from tlie weather. Other girls had 
muffs, or cloaks, or gipsy bonnets of straw, but 
her bonnet was a glossy black beaver, rough- 
ened by every breeze, and worn in conjunction 
with muff and cloak, the combination brought 
her into trouble. They had not proceeded far 
in their routine walk along the walls, when, 
midway between the Wishing steps and the 
Bridge-gate a young lieutenant of the Eoyal 
Welsh FusiJiers, was observed lounging idly 
against the parapet. He had a handsome face 
under his black cheese-cutter hat ; and as his 
scarlet coat and white spatterdashes set off a 
well-formed if slight figure, no wonder if more 
than one stray glance went towards him. 

All at once he c^ave a recos^nisino: start, 
ejaculated "Eed Eiding Hood, by all that's 
wonderful ! " and, with a well-pleased smile 
breaking over his face, darted forward and 
offered his hand to Muriel, who took it, 
nothing loth, and answered his " Miss 
D'Anyer, how glad I am to see you ! " with 
" And so am I, Mr. Arthur. But I did not 

VOL. I. K 


know you. I hope Mrs. Wynne is better, 

" Ah the hair-powder and uniform disguised 
me, I suppose. Now it was your famihar 
attire caught my eye ! Oh, thank you, my 
mother is " 

He got no farther. Miss Betty from the 
rear, and Miss Briscoe from the van, had come 
aghast to the rescue. Consternation sat on 
every youthful brow but Muriel's, and she 
wore a look of questioning perplexity. With 
awful severity Miss Briscoe demanded, — 

" How dare you presume, sir, to accost 
one of viy pupils without sanction ? Lying 
in wait to arrest her progress during our 
promenade ! It is monstrous ! " 

Lieutenant Wynne bowed, offered a defer- 
ential explanation and an apology ; but Miss 
Briscoe was not to be molhfied, or misled, as 
she phrased it. "Your colonel will hear of 
this matter, sir," was her final and decisive 

Arthur Wynne raised his hat, bowed re^j^ret- 
fully, said to Muriel, " I hope, Miss D'Anyer, 


I have not plunged you into disgrace with my 
precipitation," and stepped back, leaving the 
way clear. 

But the scandalized spinsters were so much 
discomposed by the pouncing of this wolf in 
uniform on one of their flock, that nothino- 
but immediate return was possible. It was 
only in the security of the haven in Queen 
Street that they could deal with a matter of 
so much moment. The very character of the 
school was in peril. 

As for Muriel, solitary confinement and 
bread-and-water diet for the remainder of 
the week was her portion. Her attempt at 
explanation only made the matter worse. 
" Not known him a fortnie^ht ! It was dis- 
graceful ! " 

Solitary confinement in a fireless room in 
midwinter with such dietary would now-a- 
days rouse the indignation of parents, and 
drive the educational professor into the Bank- 
ruptcy Court. Then, it was a part of the 
common system, and it was not for the pupil to 
rebel or the parent to remonstrate. Alike in 

K 2 


our army, our navy, and our schools, discipline 
was preserved rigorously. 

If Muriel, catcliing at a word thrown out 
by the young officer, whose commission was 
little more than a montli old, looked for the 
appearance and intervention of Mrs. Wynne, 
she was disappointed. That lady never came, 
although her health was sufficiently re-estab- 
lished for visiting. 

'' The schoolmistress was quite right, 
Arthur, and most discreet," she had said to 
her son, "You certainly took a liberty.'' — 
" Yes, gratitude is vastly proper, no doubt, 
but it lias limits and degrees. Mine does not 
prompt to a cultivation of an acquaintance 
with a school-girl, or her trading relatives." 

Captain Wynne must have thought some- 
what differently, since, before Miss Briscoe 
could forward her complaint to the colonel at 
liead quarters, she had a visit from him. He 
came less to tender an apology for his son 
than to inquire for Miss D'Anyer, and to 
smooth away any misconception by the 
remark that he and his were under consider- 


able obligations to the young lady and her 
friends, and he desired to thank her in person. 
Yet so little deference did he pay to Miss 
Briscoe's dignity, and so little was she disposed 
to admit precipitancy or mistake on her part, 
that the captain was constrained to take leave 
without seeing Muriel, and the message he left 
was never delivered. 

But such a Hiitter had the officer's arrival 
created, that the news went to Muriel as a 
" profound secret " along with her bread and 

For a moment it warmed up the chilly 
atmosphere of lier dormitory ; but it passed, 
and added only one more to the many 
problems lier child-brain attempted to solve 
during her fasting solitude. At first she had 
flung lierself down on the deeply recessed 
window-seat, and coihng her pinafore round 
her bare arms, looked down vacantly on back- 
yards, wliere garments from the Avash alone 
enlivened the scene, and on the pla3'ground 
where was never any play, wondering and 
pondering the nature of her offence. 


" Oh, wliat would I not give for my cloak, 
or my fur muff and tippet, from the robing- 
room ! " she murmured to herself, as the cold 
seemed to freeze her blood ; " I dare not 
wrap myself up in one of tlie quilts or they 
would chastise me as they did Miss Sims. 
It is very cruel ! I wonder if either Miss 
Briscoe or Miss Betty was served so when 
they went to school ! But what u it all 
for?" And then she walked about the long 
room to keep herself from freezing utterly ; 
still turnino- over and over in her mind the 


injustice of lier punishment, the hardship of 
her dail}^ life, the stern discipline of the school, 
her grandmother's motive for singling her out 
for such an experience, the pain it would 
cause her mother to know what she had to 
endure, the wonder no letters came with home 
news or inquiries, the aching fear lest she was 
.forgotten; and then with the memory of the 
Sunday evening sermon at the Octagon 
Chapel, came the inner questioning if she 
was expiating some unremembered sin; and 
the preacher's category of " sins of omission," 


coupled with his fiery denunciations, filled 
her with terror. 

Unknown to all, Muriel passed through a 
crisis of her life in those three solitary days. 
There had been bitter moments when there 
was danger that her soft and sensitive heart 
would harden to stone under the sense of 
neglect and cruelty. But on the eve of the 
second day (the day on which Miss Ford, as 
monitress of her class, brought up on a daintily 
covered waiter, the bread and water for her 
mid-day meal, and with it the secret of Cap- 
tain Wynne's visit), whilst the Misses Briscoe 
w^ere sipping their souchong in contentment, 
Miss Williams, whose heart ached for the 
innocent offender, carried her own tea up to 
the bewildered pupil sitting alone in the cold 
and dark, and with it, a downy angola-shawl 
of her own ; determined to brave the censure 
of her employers if it came to their know- 

" Here, throw this over your shoulders, 
my dear, and drink this tea, it may serve to 
warm you," was all that she said, but it was 


sufficient. Muriel knew instinctively that the 
tea was her teacher's own, that she would her- 
self have to go without, and that simple act of 
self-denying sympatliy turned the whole cur- 
rent of the t^drl's feelinirs. She burst into 
tears. The teacher had to slip back hurriedly, 
but she had time for a few words of healing, 
and when she left the crisis was past. Muriel 
sank on her knees and prayed. It was a 
child's j)rayer ; but it went up to heaven on 
the wings of faitli and submissive humility. 

The learning of a psalm liad been part of 
her 2^unishment ; the Bible left with her for 
the purpose became an up-springing fountain 
of consolation for her all the last day of her 
penance, and for ever after ; and she gathered 
strength from it as well as comfort and guid- 
ance. That which had been intended by the 
Misses Briscoe as a p^?za/^^ for speaking to a 
stranger, and which had called up a spirit 
of rebellion long dormant, was, with God's 
blessing and the kind teacher's instrumen- 
tality, converted into a permanent benefit. 
Whithersoever Miss Williams went, went 


also tlie Three Christian Graces, and she had 
introduced them to her sad Uttle friend. 

All the school was ao-os: the followino- week. 
Letters w^ere to be written home. It was a 
sad damper to the uninitiated to find they had 
to be draughted on their slates, and to be sub- 
mitted to Miss Briscoe for revision and inter- 
polation before they could be transferred to 
paper. Muriel's epistle had undergone wonder- 
ful transformation in the process, and she felt 
some compunction in setting her signature to 
it when complete. 

'' How am I to sign this ? It is not true," 
whispered Muriel across the double desk to 
Miss Ford who sat opposite. 

" What you wrote was true. Leave the 
alterations on Miss Briscoe's conscience," was 
the cool reply, and after a little more hesitation 
the letter was signed. 

The answer came in a hamper just before 
Christmas time, when the other pupils were 
looking forward to home cheer and festivities. 
Muriel did not see it opened ; but Miss Briscoe 
reported among the contents three letters, — 


one for herself and two for ^Iiiriel, two books, 
and a larsre currant cake. This she was at 
once allowed to cut up and distribute amongst 
her companions. Then, and not before. Miss 
Briscoe read out to her slowly and deliberately, 
as if she were picking her way amongst the 
words and sentences, that whicli had been 
penned by her mother and grandmotlier for 
the girl's own eye and heart, and to which 
Muriel listened Avith clasped hands and eager 

They were just such letters as might be 
expected to answer her fabulous epistle home. 
She was conoratulated on her health, her 
happiness, jier attacliment to her benign 
teachers, and was told to be thankful for a 
home so replete with comforts denied in other 
schools which they could name. Then 
fuUowed the home news, and this swallowed 
up the advice with wliich the letters were 

She learned not only that her Uncle Sam was 
gone to Waverham to be married to Lydia 
Bradley, but that her little brother George 


Lad been dead for more than six weeks, — the 
brother she had nursed, who had learned to 
walk by her hand. 

After that Miss Briscoe's dry, hard tones fell 
on deaf ears. Muriel sat on the form with 
her hands still clasped, but as one crushed 
and stunned. There were pitying glances 
directed towards her, but she seemed neither 
to hear nor see. At length Miss Williams 
took her by the hand and led her to her own 
room, where the sluices of grief might open 
and relieve the bursting child-heart. 

She did more. Under the conviction that 
it would be cruel to leave the young thing 
with those frigid spinsters in that great liouse, 
alone with her new sorrow, she obtained per- 
mission (granted readily enough on the calcu- 
lation that her board would be saved) to bear 
Muriel away with her to Wrexham, where 
she always spent her own holidays, at a large 
farm about a mile beyond the town, with her 
good-natured and hospitable Aunt Parry. 


:\n?s. iiorj.Kv's postscript. 

I^XIA' tlirce weeks' lioliday ! Yet wliat 
'^<J^ a boon and a refreshment it was, 
alike to worn-out teacher and pupil. To 
Muriel it was notliin^^ less tlian a provi- 
dential change for which soul and body 
were the better. 

Fancy what she wonld liave endured shut 
up for those three weeks with the prim and 
unbending spinsters in their formal back 
sitting-room, witliout recreation or books cal- 
culated to dissipate her new sorrow — the 
library of which she had " the use " was scant 
and lieavy — or waking the echoes in the soli- 
tary dreariness of the uncarpeted school-room 
and dormitories ; to pass and re-pass servants 
to whom she might not speak ; to shiver in 
view of a fire she might not approach ; and to 


sit in silence at a precise table where lier 
portion of food was all too meagre. 

And then contrast the untrammelled free- 
dom of the farm-house life, wdiich she had 
been so fearlessly invited to share, and where 
a hospitable welcome met them in advance 
with the farmer's cart at Wrexham, to be 
repeated in every act and word of her kind 
hostess. True, everyone there save Mrs. 
Parry had a Welsh tongue, and her English 
w^as none too fluent, but Miss Williams was a 
ready interpreter, and in her absence a smiling 
pantomime did duty for speech ; and it was 
good fun for Muriel to pick up' words and 
phrases in the Cymric vernacular. Then 
there was the abundant and nutritious fare — 
milk, eggs, poultry, apples, honey, without 
stint, with the very sweetest of brown bread 
and butter. 

Muriel had learned to milk at the Stocks' 
Farm. It was a renewed pleasure to pat the 
sleek sides of tlie small Welsh cows, and try 
her hand afresh at milking time. She could 
help to feed the poultry, watch with interest 


the processes of churning, butter and cheese- 
makinor, and could share in the Christmas 
merry-making, where the strange costume and 
speech were part of her entertainment ; and if 
she could not understand the Sunday services 
at Wrexham's picturesque church, she could 
comprehend her kind friend's translation and 
comments during the drive back to the farm. 

On one of these occasions the spring cart, 
driven by Mrs. Parry's son, had to be drawn 
aside to make wav for a passinof carriacre 
drawn by two small native ponies ; and in 
which reclined a lady muffled up in furs, and 
accompanied by a portly gentleman. 

In the former Muriel recognised Mrs. 
Wynne, and with a sudden exclamation 
clasped her hands elated ; but the lady made 
no sign of recognition, and her companion was 
a strano'er. The sjirl's countenance fell. 

" Do you know that lady ? " inquired Miss 

"Yes, she is Mrs. Wynne, Captain Wynne's 
wife, mother of the young officer — you 


Yes ; Miss Williams remembered ; she liad 
heard how Muriel chanced to know the voung 
lieutenant ; and she had an opinion that the 
lady might have distinguished Muriel in the 
cart, had she been so minded, but she only 
added, after a few words in Welsh witli Mrs. 
Parry, "Mrs. Wynne is staying with the 
captain's relatives at the Plas, we may meet 
her again." 

Meeting thus with Mrs. Wynne, sent Muriel's 
thoughts off at a tangent to the Forest, to 
wonder if the captain's servant was better, 
and if the robbers had been put in prison ; 
and if they were the men Mrs. Kingsley 
fancied; and who that Maggy Blackburn was, 
for she had kept her ears open thougli her 
lips were closed. Then having landed at 
Waverham with Maggy Blackburn, the 
marvel of her Uncle Samuel's marriage filled 
her mind with speculations what her new aunt 
would be like, and when she would see her, 
and where they were going to live ; and then 
home her thoughts flew to her mother, 
mourniner for the loss of little George, and 


she ]iad not a very bright face when the cart 
stopped at the farm-gate. 

They did not meet with Mrs. Wynne again, 
although they wrapped themselves up and 
rambled over the mountains, making the most 
of the fine crisp weather, day after day. 
There is no question Muriel was disappointed, 
but she did not let disappointment mar her 
enjoyment. Indeed, she gathered a fund of 
more than health in those excursions. For to 
Eachel Wilhams — 

" Not a tree, 
A ]>lant, a leaf, a Llossom, but contained 
A folio volume. She could read, and read. 
And read again, and still find something new, — 
Something to please and something to instruct, — 
E'en in the noisome weed." 

And though winter had stripped most of the 
leaves from the book of Nature, she could 

" Sermons iu stone, books in the running brooks, 
And good in everything." 

And so she fed Muriel's receptive mind with 
the purest thought, and led the girl to look 
herself for good in everything, even though 


tlie mountains wore no summer robes and the 
air was keen and cold. 

It was well ; for Muriel had gone to the 
Misses Briscoes' school under a delusion, only 
to experience a rough awakening. She went 
back now, re-invigorated and strengthened, to 
face evils of which she knew the worst, and 
determined, with the help of her Heavenly 
Father, to make the best of that which she 
could not remedy, and which might not be 
wholly evil. 

It was well she went back to the chilly 
rooms, scant fare, wearisome exercises, and 
difficult tasks (not so much in books as needle- 
work) in so cheerful a spirit ; it served to 
reconcile her somewhat to the severe 
discipline, and brighten the monotonous 
hardship of daily routine, not only for herself 
but for those with wdiom she came in contact : 
as Eachel Williams had brightened it for her. 

Young Misses of the present generation 
have no conception what those hardships 
were at the period when the birch for personal 
castigation was considered an indispensable 

VOL. I. L 


adjunct of even a fashionable seminary; when 
the set visits of music and dancing masters 
alone broke the monotony; and a letter or 
hamper from home put the whole school in a 
flutter, even though the contents were doled 
out, as it were, through a sieve. 

It was quite an excitement when Miss 
Briscoe announced, with some stateliness, the 
arrival of '' an eminent artist to paint Miss 
Ford's portrait " on white siik for the after 
embroidery of draperies and accessories in 
coloured silks by the favoured young hady ; 
such portrait-taking being a sure indication 
of a coming removal from the estabUshment, 
and of friends willing to pay well lor the 
distinction. Yet Muriel blurred a bright 
carnation in her own embroidery with a tear 
when she heard of the parting in store, for 
she had learned to love Alice Ford. 

Two years, — two years more of study and 
privation, — and then Miss D'Anyer herself 
was invited " to have the honour of sitting to 
the celebrated artist ; " but prior to that, her 
grandmother (who came duly for the great 


fairs, and brought just a few scraps of home 
news for the girl's hungry heart, and always 
a present for the Misses Briscoe) had carried 
off in triumph an embroidered posy with 
impossible stems adorned and tied Avith a 
sprawling blue bow, all on a circular disc of 
white satin, likewise a filigree basket and tea- 
caddy, a set of fine linen shirts, and a muslin 
apron of marvellously delicate Avorkmanship, 
to be exliibited to the D'Anyers as a proof 
of Muriel's proficiency and her own wisdom in 
bearino' her off to Miss Briscoe's renowned 



She had no suspicion how many fines had 
been paid, how many tears shed by aching 
eyes over the " sixteen different openwork 
stitches " in the embroidered apron border 
which Miss Briscoe displayed with so mucli 
pride as " a credit to the school," or how 
often the rosebuds and forget-me-nots Iiad 
bloomed and faded from the satin before 
completion. And so far had Muriel accepted 
the irremediable, that proud of her work and 
the commendations she received, she was 

L 2 


too full of questions about tliose at home, 
durincf the brief visits of her Grandmother 
Bancroft or lier father at fair-time, to think 
of complaining, had the opportunity been 

Indeed, so rigidly was the dogma enforced, 
" Obey those in authority over you," that 
the complaint of a child or anyone 7iot in 
authority, would have been disregarded, if 
indeed it did not suggest insubordination, 
and a more rigorous rule. And so long as 
Muriel was no worse off than the rest she 
would have felt ashamed to talk of hardship 
or accuse either Miss Briscoe or Miss Betty 
of inhumanity. 

Consequently, when the Eev. Thomas Ban- 
croft, mindful of his promise, called to ascertain 
how the young lady w^as progressing, he 
carried away only favourable impressions, 
setting down to youthful diffidence the hesita- 
tion of Muriel to answer, in the presence of 
Miss Briscoe, his questions, whether she 
was happy and comfortable. Muriel gained 
nothinof bv his brief visits, but the suave 


Misses Briscoe did. The good report of the 
learned Head Master of the Grammar School 
was not to be despised, and they gained that 
by Muriel's uncomplaining silence. 

Xay, she made no complaints during the 
midsummer holidays spent at Forest House, 
and if she looked thin, it was put down to 
over- growth and over-study. 

She was too curious to ascertain what 
became of Captain Wynne's servant, and if 
the robbers had been caught, to say much 
about herself, though it did transpire that she 
had been punished because Arthur Wynne 
spoke to her, and that she had not been 
allowed to see the captain when he called. 

" Ah, 1 daresay it was against the rules," 
said Mrs. Kingsley, polishing and dusting an 
oaken buffet or sideboard on which silver 
drinking vessels disputed precedence with 
china punchbowls. One of the former she 
took up and handed to Muriel, "See what the 
captain sent to my good man, and read what 
is on it, ' A token of a stranger's gratitude for 
genuine kindness and hearty hospitality.' 


It's a iine cup ; Kingsley's rare and proud of 
it, I can tell you. And look here, I'm just as 
proud of these." And she threw open a 
panel-door of the buffet to display a china 
tea-service over Avhich a modern aesthete 
might rave. 

" I suppose Mrs. Wynne sent you that," 
suggested Muriel, when she had sufficiently 
admired Loth. 

"Not she! And if she had I should have 
sent it back. She gave herself too many fine 
airs to suit me. If the rest of the world 
wasn't born to wait on her she thouolit so. 
No, it came from the young man; the best of 
the lot; the only sociable one of the three. I 
daresay he had some of the family pride, but 
he didn't show it here. Kincrslev and he i>-ot 
on famously together ; and he looked well 
after that man Xorris." 

" I'm glad of that," said Muriel, " but you 
did not tell me " 

"Oh, I forgot. Aye, the thieves were 
caught as sure as they ever will be, but there 
were three or four folk, an ostler and a bar- 


maid, and one or two others that swore an 
aUbi, and so they got off, more's the pity ! 
For, if there be two bii^fjer roorues in all 
Cheshire than those Blackburns, I never saw 
an honest man. And that old mother of theirs 
is qnite as bad. I wonder how Lydia and 

your Uncle " Mrs. Kingsley stopped short 

suddenly, as if the vigorous rubbing of old 
oak demanded all her breath and her 

Muriel looked up — wondered — but she had 
asked what was an alibi, and Mrs. Kingsley 
launched into an explanation that it was a 
proof an accused person was somewhere else 
when a crime was committed ; and then into 
compassion for Norris, who would be lame for 
the rest of his life, his hip having been "put 
out" ; and Muriel went back to school without, 
hearing what Mrs. Kingsley had to say about. 
Uncle Sam and her new aunt ; the aunt slie- 
had not seen. 

Back to school, fresher and brighter ; to 
grow pale and thin again as the months went 
on ; and there was acrain a dreary winter 


holiday before her when all her schoolfellows 
were gone. But her good friend Miss Williams 
again came compassionately to the rescue, and 
Muriel was quite content to leave the good 
things in her Christmas-hamper for the Misses 
Briscoe, so long as she was carried off to spend 
another delightful vacation at Wrexham. The 
last; for soon after, to Muriel's great grief, 
she was called upon to part from her beloved 
teacher : that governess on whom the Misses 
Briscoe looked loftily down, yet to whom she, 
and not she alone, could point in all her after 
life as her exemplar; who had taught her 
that patient endurance might be sublime, and 
that self was a very small item in the sum of 

The naval officer had come ashore on leave 
and promotion. There was such a lovers' 
meeting in the spinsters' reception-room as 
ought to have brightened it up for ever. 
Then followed a happy wedding at St. John's, 
and a feast to all the boarders, over which the 
Misses Briscoe graciously presided in their 
best array, because they got all the credit 


and had none of tlie cost ; then there was a 
general presentation of girhsh tributes of 
esteem and affection. 

And when at last the gallant Captain Grif- 
fiths carried off his bride in a post-chaise 
so many tears w^ere shed for the loss of their 
gentle teacher, that Miss Briscoe nodded her 
head significantly and said in confidence to 
lier sister, " It was time she went ; " to 
which the echo responded, " So it was.'' 

Thoughtful for others to the last, the newl}^- 
made wife contrived to make that a red-letter 
day for Muriel as well as herself, by the 
restoration of Deborah Massey's Bible, surren- 
dered by Miss Briscoe at her urgent entreaty ; 
and the few impressive words of farewell 
counsel which accompanied it were not likely 
to be soon forgotten. 

Her departure was a loss to the whole 
school. Her successor was of another order. 
She strained discipline to hide her own incom- 
petence, and made the girls' lives intolerable 
with fnies and punishments, intensifying in- 
stead of softenini^ the harsh rule of the prin- 


cipals. But if the good teacher was lost, her 
influence was not. In emulation of her 
exam[)le, it became Muriel's aim to screen or 
shield younger or more delicate girls from un- 
deserved penalties, to lend her aid in difficult 
tasks, whether of book or work, and between 
her cares for others and the embroidery which 
was supposed to herald release, time passed 
less drearily. 

She was now a tall, thin, dark -haired, brown- 
eyed maiden close upon fifteen, taking her 
place as monitress in due rotation ; and, 
besides coming in for frequent short-commons 
in consequence, had many opportunities for 
self-denial. Tlien she had a child of eight in 
her charge in school and dormitory; and that 
which miglit have been a source of irritation 
to others, proved a very safety-valve for her 
pent-up affections. And surely never was one 
school-girl so cared for by another as was 
Polly Button. 

Not only when lessons from Johnson's 
School Dictionary or Murray's Grammar had 
to be driven into a dull brain, but night after 


night in the severe depth of winter did Muriel 
sit up in bed, chafing the cliild's benumbed 
feet in the dark, to alLay incipient chilblains 
when her own were in far worse plight. And 
who but she had the bravery to appeal to 
Miss Briscoe's humanity against the weekly 
promenade on the walls, and the double walk 
to mornino^ service at St. John's and evenino; 
service at the Octagon Chapel on the Sunday, 
when the snow lay deep upon the ground, and 
every girl in the school had sore heels to be 
excoriated by the friction of shoes and pattens 1 

And what though Miss Ikiscoe stood aghast 
at her audacity, and lifting her mittened 
hands, declared : — 

" It would bring ruin on the school ! So 
loncf as Mr. Twemlow's youns^ o^entlemen can 
w^alk abroad for air and exercise, or to attend 
Divine service, our young ladies must. A 
single exception might be made ; but as a 
body — impossible ! " 

What mattered it, so long as Muriel ob- 
tained immunity for the little one in her 
charge and two others, and induced Miss 


Betty to prepare a whey of alum-and-milk to 
batlie affected feet ! She was herself repri- 
manded ; but she " had done some good," and 
was therewith content. 

The snow lay on the ground for weeks. 
Miss Briscoe was inflexible. Through it the 
limping girls must j)lod so long as Mr. Twem- 
low's pupils went their wonted way. (They 
might, or might not, be in like condition.) 
Even Miss Betty ventured to expostulate {she 
had a slightly tender spot under the hard 
crust) ; but she was put down with, " Betty, I 
am surprised! We cannot afford to indulge 
in foolish sentiment. We must maintain ap- 
pearances at any cost. The reputation of our 
school depends upon it. What would be 
thought if even half the girls were left at 
home? It would be ruin, utter ruin!" 

As if she had invoked it, ruin came after 
the snow was gone, and of the general chil- 
blains only the scars remained. 

An epidemic broke out in the school, which 
was not to be concealed. Cestrian parents 
removed their children in alarm, and spread 


the rumour to others further afield. True to 
her creed, Miss Briscoe dehayed communi- 
cating with friends until Doctor Wilmslow 
urged the necessity. 

"But we shall lose all our pupils, sir," 
argued Miss Briscoe in dismay. 

" Ye — es, madam, so I am a — afraid ; but 
— a — I see no alternative. The healthy — a — ■ 
a — must be removed — a — a — for their own 
safety." (The puffy little physician seemed to 
draw inspiration from the gold-headed cane 
which he tapped against his chin.) "Eela- 
tives will — a — I doubt not — a — appreciate 
your — a — thoughtful attention, and — a — a — 
self-sacrifice. And — a — I fear, madam — you 
would — a — be certain to lose them — a — other- 

" You do not think there is any real danger 
of the others, doctor, do you ? " and the lace 
frill of her tall cap trembled as she spoke. 

The doctor had a pecuniary interest in the 
Misses Briscoes' pupils ; but he had also his 
professional reputation at stake. 

"Well — um — a not if they — a — have a 


careful — a — attention, such — a — as Miss 
D'Anver oivcs to Miss — a— Dutton, and — a — 
you have space to separate the — a— cases." 

" Separate ! Why, sir, we have given up 
one dormitory to the invahds already ! The 
house is like a hospital ! " 

" Without hospital conveniences I " thouglit 
tlie doctor, as he closed liis lips with the 
gold knob of his cane, and bowed himself 

And so thouglit Mrs. Bancroft when she 
came upon the scene about a week later. 

Manchester had only just set about lighting, 
watching, and cleansing the town b}' Act of 
Parliament ; it had not added a postman to its 
list of officials in the spring of 1793. The 
whole postal staff of the rich and thriving 
manufacturing centre, consisted of Miss Wil- 
lett the post-mistress, and two clerks! Had 
not Sarah Bancroft, as a business woman, sent 
<a trusty messenger to the small post-office in 
St. Ann's Square, twice or thrice a week, as 
did other merchants and traders, Miss Briscoe's 
tardy communication might have waited with 


its face to the window-pane until seen and 

It was a dreary, drizzling February day. 
With a hood over her head to protect lier 
cap, Mrs. Bancroft slipped her feet into pattens 
and crossed the wet yard to a long, low, timber, 
louvre-boarded shed, where her son stood to 
superintend the nailing of raw or damp skins 
fur downwards on dry boards, and the dusting 
or rubbing of powdered qidcklime on others 
already stretched, such being at that time the 
cleansing and purifying process. 

She had two open letters in her hand. 
"Ell! Sam, here's a pretty coil — read that," 
and she put Miss Briscoe's formal letter into 
his hand, whilst her quick eye went over the 
rows of skins set aside to dry, and those in 
preparation, and her equally quick tongue 
called out to a workman : '' Liglitly, lad, wi' 
th' lime, do'st mean to eat through the skin 
to th' fur ! Thah lays it on th' chinchilli as 
thick as if 'twere bearskin." 

" Well," said Sam, " and Avhat"s the coil ? 
Wliat if Muriel be ill, doesn't Miss Briscoe say 


there's no occasion for alarm, she will have 
every care and attention ? " 

" At. ay, lad ! but read what Mrs. Hop ley 
says, and then spell, and put together.'' 

Mrs. Hopley was a mantua-maker in Water- 
gate Street, Chester, patronized by the beauti- 
ful Lady Grosvenor, to whom she had been 
for many years own maid or housekeeper, 
until, late in life, she married the butler and 
speedily discovered that if she would have a 
garment to wear herself, she must begin to 
make garments for other people. 

The buying of undressed skins (rabbits were 
classed and killed as vermin) had taken Mrs. 
Bancroft to Eaton Hall year by year, she had 
thus become acquainted with both, and now 
she supplied Mrs. Hopley with prepared furs 
for her aristocratic customers. 

Mrs. Hopley's episrle would have been a 
mere order for court ermine for " my lady," 
with sable and mink in sets and for trimminir 
fcr other customers, given with business- 
like precision, but for an afterthought, which 
found expression in a postcript. 


''I think you have a CTandchild at Miss 
Briscoe's. Of course you will send to remove 
her without delay ; and if your messenger 
brought the furs, it would save carriage. 
What a direful calamity for Briscoe ! " 

It was a characteristic addendum. 

•• Well/' said Sam, scratching his chin, ^^ that 
means something. It's decidedly queer ! " 

" It means a journey to Chester for me, lad. 
I shall be off by the morning packet-boat, to 
catch the coach at Preston Brook ; so get the 
furs sorted out and packed first thing. What- 
ever s the matter 111 see into it. And see you 
don't go to D'Anvers. and frisrhten Ellen. 
And give that wife of yours a caution: 
though Lydia looks as if she coidd hold 
her tongue. Ill be back before the week's 

" Ay, trust Lydia to keep a secret with any 
woman ahve ; " and a curious look came into 
Sam's half-shut eyes. 

" I want no secret kept : I only recommend 
caution for Ellen's sake. Secrecy, sin, and 
sorrow begin wi' th' same letter : ay, and 

VOL. I. M 


selfishness too. Keep clear of secrets, my 
lad ! " 

She had turned so abruptly that the peculiar 
expression of doubt and misgiving which sud- 
denly settled on the face of that tliirty-three 
years' " lad " was unseen. And if the clank 
of her pattens echoed any misgivings in Sarali 
Bancroft's own breast, they were not of her 
son Sam, or of lier own unerring judgment, 
but of the Misses Briscoe, so bepraised in her 
grandchild's letters home. Mrs. Hopley's 
postcript pointed to something more than did 
Miss Briscoe's guarded epistle. She was 
" bound to see into it." 

And she did, but was not back before the 
week was out. 



S^HEN ushered into the prim re- 
' ception-room, so rich in specimens oi 
needlework and cahgraphy, and flattering 
testimonials, Mrs. Bancroft found herself in 
the midst of an excited group of strangers, to 
whom a surgeon named Prestbury, engaged 
by an anxious father, was enunciating his 
very decided opinion that the outbreak of 
disease in the school was mainly due to in- 
sufficient dietary, warmth, and water supply ; 
and, in short, much that is now summed up 
as defective sanitation. 

" Infamous ! infamous ! " ran round the 
room in a chorus. Guardians and relatives 
rose in a body from their high-backed em- 
broidered chairs, and turned with one accord 

and all degrees of exasperation towards the 

M 2 


two spinsters, wlio stood, witli primly folded 
arms and compressed lips, to confront accusa- 
tions and reproaches witli dignified silence. 

Denial was impossible, tlie condition of the 
suflering girls, the scant bedding, the crowded 
dormitories, needed little by way of evidence 
from youns: lips to confirm the surQ-eon's 
sorrowful testimony. Yet it was from young 
lips Mrs. Bancroft learned that Muriel had 
caught the infection whilst watching and 
tendinis Polly Dutton and others in the 

" She was so kind, and I am so sorry," said 
her little informant pitifully, adding, " And she 
read to us out of lier beautiful Bible, and the 
' Pilorim's Proirress/ and ' Evenincfs at Home,' 
and never seemed tired. Xo one reads to us 

But Muriel made no complaint, she only 
said, — 

"It was very well I was not taken ill at 
first, or Polly would have had no one to nurse 
her, and might not have got better so soon." 
Getting better for any of them was not an 


easy matter there^ yet not an hotel in the town 
would open its doors to a patient from the 
infected school. 

It was the break-up of the important estab- 
lishment. By ones and twos the pupils were 
removed as speedily as safety permitted. Only 
the few who had escaped, and whose distant 
friends were uninformed, remained until the 
vacation, and of these not all returned. 

It was in vain, by tardy attention to the 
sick, that the Misses Briscoe strove to re- 
habilitate themselves in public esteem and 
maintain their ])osition. Strict disciphne was 
allowable, but not starvation. The prestige of 
the school was gone ; and after a struggle 
against fate, in a year or two they announced 
their " intention to retire." 

Seeing no chance of her removal with the 

disorder at its height, energetic Mrs. Bancroft 
cooUy took possession of Muriel's dormitory, 
as if it had been a hospital ward, and she the 
appointed nurse ; a hint taken by two other 
pupils' feminine friends, whether to the 
chagrin or the satisfaction of the sisters there 


is no knowing. As for Mrs. Bancroft, she 
engaged her own doctor, sent in supplies, and 
took care that medicines and diet were duly 

She set aside Miss Briscoe and Miss Betty at 
the outset. 

" Look you," said she, " don't you go near 
my grandchild with long faces and pitiful 
words. as if you cared for her. All you care 
for is money. The little creatures committed 
to your charge have been no more to you 
than so many oranges, out of which you 
could squeeze the golden juice. And you've 
squeezed them a trifle too close at last. Here 
I am, and here I shall remain until there is a 
change one way or other. And if Mr. Prest- 
bury's orders are not carried out, and aught 
happens to my dear child, if there's justice to 
be had in the Pentice Court, you shall suffer 
for it. ril see to that." 

And there, sure enough, did the hard- 
featured woman of business, whose soul was 
supposed to be w^rapped up in her business, 
remain, watching night and day by Muriel's 


bed with unwavering affection; her bustling 
energy subdued to quiet, or expended on 
obstructives in the regions of the kitchen, to 
whom she soon laid down a law of her owni. 

Up and dow^n stairs she went w^ith the 
activity of a younger woman ; indeed, if truth 
were told, sitting still to watch the thin face 
was like a penance to her. 

At such times would her thoughts fly off 
to the furriery, wondering how^ Sam would 
manage without her ; if orders were executed 
properly ; if certain furs had been dressed 
satisfactorily; if wages and bills had been paid. 
Then her mind would revert to Ellen D'Anyer 
and her probable anxiety ; and occasionally a 
still small voice would whisper that she had 
better have left the girl wdth her mother. 
But the whisper made her uneasy, and she 
resolutely closed her ears. 

Then she blamed the Eev. Thomas Bancroft 
for keeping her in the dark ; little thinking 
how he had been blinded on the one or two 
occasions he had made for seeing the girl, or 
how much the good man was occupied with 


his own concerns, liis duties as clergyman, 
schoolmaster, author, and the father of a family. 

She had trusted so much to his supervision 
when she brought Muriel to the Misses Briscoe ; 
and noAV she blamed herself for trusting to 
anyone hut herself. 

There was only one thing she liked less 
than a silent watch ; and that began when 
Muriel first showed sis^ns of amendment, 
and expressed a desire that she would 
read her Bible aloud to her. She could 
not refuse ; but surely never had Deborah 
Massey's Bible been opened less willingly. 

Muriel's full eyes kindled at her favourite 
passages, unwitting that many a one was a 
searching probe to her grandmother's self- 
reliant soul. 

Before Muriel left her bed the task required 
less effort, and by the time she was able to 
walk downstairs, Sarah Bancroft had resolved 
to renew her acquaintance with the large 
family Bible, mounted on the oak bureau at 

Then followed a demand for Miss D'Anyer's 


bill, and a business-like docking of exorbitant 
charges, never before disputed, ere Sarah Ban- 
croft opened her canvas money-bag and laid 
her guineas down. 

School-books and other belonc^ino^s had 
already been gathered together, not forget- 
ting the unfinished portrait, to be completed 
at home. An ostler came from the Plume of 
Feathers in Bridge Street for '' the young lady's 
luggage." There was a tearful farewell to 
the remaining fragments of the broken-up 
school, poor motherless Polly Button sobbing 
on Muriel's neck. There was a more cere- 
monious and less affectionate leave-taking in 
the worsted-work apartment (where Mrs. 
Bancroft had spoken her mind pretty freely), 
an exchange of elaborate courtesies, and 
Muriel, who longed to say she was sorry for 
their misfortune, went down the outer steps 
for the last time ; her freedom anticipated by 
fully three months. 

She was not judged fit for a tedious journey; 
but her grandmother (who never lost sight of 
business, and so turned her involuntary 


presence in Chester to account), invited Mrs. 
Hoplev's company, hired a boat at the Bridge 
Wliarf, and the following day treated Muriel 
to a breezy row up the river to Eaton Park, 
the home of the Grosvenors. And it was 
a treat to Muriel, wlio had only seen the 
silvery Dee irom the walls, and previously 
nothing wider than the fresh water Irwell and 
Irk, and had never put foot in a boat before. 

As they walked, after landing, along the 
avenue of bare but stately trees, just swelling 
into bud, to the imposing and solid, if heav}-, 
brick mansion Sir John Vanbrugh had de- 
signed (since superseded by a palace), and 
Muriel's brown eyes, ranging over the park 
(where indications that Spring was on the 
alert made themselves felt, and seen, and 
heard), were filled with silent delight, she was 
startled out of her dreamy rapture by the 
abrupt question of her grandmother, — 

" Did'st ever hear or see anything more of 
that captain and his wife who had so narrow 
an escape in Delamere Forest? " 

Muriel flashed with shame as she answered, 


not sliame for herself, but that which she had 
to tell of others. 

" Well, grandmother, ^Ir. Arthur was on 
the "Walls one day when the school went for 
the weekly airing ; I scarcely knew him, for 
he had on a fine uniform, and looked so hand- 
some, but he knew me, and came to shake 
hands with me, and then — and then, Miss 
Briscoes were angry, said he was ' rude ' and 
' impertinent,' threatened to write to some- 
body about him, and perhaps they did, for 
we never met him again — and I was repri- 
manded, and was sent to the dormitory." 

'"For what?" was the mutual interro- 
gation of her companions. 

"Why, it seems, I had broken the 
rules in speaking to him." 

" Broken the fiddlesticks ! " exclaimed Mrs. 
Bancroft indignantly. '• I wish I'd known ! 
Then I suppose that was the last of 

'' Well, I was told, as a great secret, by one 
of the monitors, that Captain Wynne called 
the next day, and asked for me, but Miss 


Briscoe sent no message to me, and lie never 
came again." 

"Eh! And didn't the lady you had waited 
upon hand and foot come herself?" 

" I don't know, I was never told. But I've 
seen her. I saw her the first time I was in 
Wrexham — the Christmas little Georgey died." 

" Ah," interrupted her grandmother, " and 
when your Uncle Sam was married. Well ? " 

Muriel went on, " We were on a narrow 
road in Mrs. Parry's cart, and she met us in a 
carriage — but she didn't see me," and a sigh 
pointed the sentence. 

" Wouldn't, more like. I've no notion of 
fine folk, wlio take your services as if they 
liad a right to them, and are too proud to 
know you afterwards ; but the lass has as good 
blood in her veins as they have, I know. 
Catch me putting myself out of the way for 
such people again ! I hate ingratitude." 

" Nay, grandmother," pleaded Muriel, " I 
don't think Mrs. Wynne ungrateful : you know 
she gave me that beautiful locket ! and T.n 
certain Mr. Arthur was glad to see me." 


'' Well, well, cliild, liave your own way ! " 
was Mrs. Bancroft's conclusion of the arcfu- 
ment. " The lass has more charity than I 
have," she whispered, aside to Mrs. Hopley ; 
adding aloud, " But here we are, and now, 
Muriel, you can have a rest." 

There was rest and a luncheon in the 
housekeeper's room, along with the house- 
steward and lady's maid, over which the 
elders chatted pleasantly ; then Muriel, being- 
still weak, was laid on a roomy sofa, whilst 
Mrs. Hopley had an interview with Lady 
Grosvenor, and Mrs. Bancroft with the head 
gamekeeper. Muriel was fatigued and 
drowsy ; she was at length awaked from 
slumber by the housekeeper's invitation to 
show her the picture-gallery and other state 

It was all new and wonderful to Muriel ; 
and when at length they returned to Chester, 
she had forgotten all about the Wynnes and 
her grandmother's suggestion of ingratitude, 
which had given her some unpleasant sensa- 


She was left the next morning to explore 
the city in which she had lived so long, and 
of which she had seen so little, whilst her 
grandmother made business calls on customers 
in the Eows. 

The afternoon was given to a formal tea 
drinking at Mrs. Hopley's, where Muriel was 
treated with especial attention, not only as a 
convalescent, but as Mrs. Bancroft's grand- 

Indeed, Mrs. Hopley — a little woman in a 
plain black stuff dress, of no fashion but her 
own — seemed to lay herself out to attract and 
entertain her younger guest; now a tall, thin 
girl of graceful bearing, and not uncomely 
face. Time had done wonders in the three 
years and a half she had spent in Chester, 
and if her flowing locks had been sacrificed in 
her recent illness, the old marks on her skin 
were rapidly disappearing. 

There were hot wheat-cakes, and other 
Cheshire delicacies on the table, of which she 
was invited to partake freely. After tea she 
was taken to the show-room where Lady Gros- 

A PliOPOSAL. 175 

Tenor's court dress, suspended on an upright 
pole with cross-way pegs' for arms, and 
inflated by a hoop, was displayed amongst 
others, most attractively. 

" How do you like them, my dear? " ques- 
tioned Mrs. Hopley graciously, after explain- 
ing to Muriel that hoops were worn at court, 
though out of fashion in private life; court- 
dress being appointed at the beginning of a 
reign, to be retained to the end ; and the little 
plain woman in black gave a touch to a fold 
here, and a turn to drapery there, so as to 
catch the hglit and produce the best effect. 

" Oh ! very much ; — at least, all but that 
purple velvet, I don't care for the way in 
which it is trimmed," answered truth-tellinij 
Muriel, wliose instinctive taste was offended. 

Mrs. Ilopley lifted her eyebrows, " How 
would 3'ou have trimmed it ? " she said with 
encouraging suavity. 

" Oh, I'm not a mantua-maker," Muriel 
replied modestly, " but I think I should have 
liked it better this way," and she proceeded 
to a practical demonstration with some loose 


paper, and pins from her own pocket pin- 

" My dear," cried Mrs. Hopley, " your 
admirable suggestion shall be carried out on 
another robe. I wish I had a young lady in my 
work-room with so much taste and discernment. 
Talent of that kind is instinctive." A few 
more questions were asked to draw Muriel 
out, and Mrs. Hopley, — who had made her 
acquaintance before, when growth had necessi- 
tated fresh garments, — exclaimed, " You 
might have been a milliner ! What say you, 
Mrs. Bancroft, to leaving her with me as an 
apprentice. It's a thousand pities so much 
natural taste should be wasted ; and if, as you 
tell me, there is a large family of girls, she 
would find a knowledge of dressmaking ex- 
tremely useful — supposing she did not work 
for strangers," she added, observing the com- 
pression of the furrier's closed lips. 

" She is going home with me to-morrow, 
Mrs. Hopley," was Sarah Bancroft's answer, 
somewhat doggedly given. 

Mrs. Hopley returned to the charge. She 


had seen Muriel's embroidery and tambour- 
work,* and had long desired to get one of 
Miss Briscoe's needlework pupils into her 
Avork-roora, to replace one named Phoebe 
Home who had been out of her time quite 
two years, and was missed. 

" Yes, yes, of course ; I don't mean now — 
but after a while" (she had said "leave her 
Avith me"). "You have known me long 
enough to trust her in my care ; you know I 
have children of my own." 

" Ay, ay, I know," was all the response. 

Mrs. Ilopley turned to Muriel, " Would 
you not like to be able to make and trim such 
robes as this," and she laid her finger lightly 
on a rich amber and black brocade. 

" Oh, yes, if " 

Her "if" was cut short. "You hear, my 
friend ? " and then after a pause — 

" It is worth considering. Neither man 
nor woman should be without a trade, in 
these uncertain times. Eiches take wing, 

* So called from being worked on muslin or other material 
stretched on a frame as tightly as a drum. Tlie tambour-needle 
resembles somewhat the modern crochet-hock. 

VOL. I. N 


and a livins^ at the fin2^er-ends does not. And 
/ have not found mantua-makincr at all de- 
rogatory. / mamtain a good position," and 
the little woman looked as if she knew her 
own importance. 

" Well, well," said the furrier impatiently, 
" I'll see about it, I'll see about it," as if 
desirous to turn the conversation. 

''That's right, do! I'll make the premium 
easy," persisted Mrs. Hopley as a clencher, 
" and we might shorten the seven years to 

But no more was said, and the girl hoped 
no more would be said ; she was not inclined 
to take kindl}^ to the proposal, but she stood 
too much in awe of her grandmother to 
venture an opinion of her own unasked. 

To untravelled Muriel, the homeward 
journey was something too exquisite for 
speecli. The early March winds were keen, 
but Mrs. Bancroft declared, " I'd as lief be 
shut up in a hayloft or a snuff-box as be stifled 
inside a coach. Give me the breeze that 
blows the cobwebs off a body ! " So they 


were outside passengers, their places having 
been taken and booked overnisflit ; and as 
they were well wrapped up in warm woollen 
and fur, neither she nor the convalescent 
Muriel could take much harm. 

She was not a talkative woman ; and no 
sooner were the wheels in motion than her 
thoughts travelled with them to the ware- 
house and sheds left for more than three 
weeks to the sole care of Sam. 

Muriel's joyous anticipations outstripped 
the horses ; but the face of nature was newer 
to her ; and in the freshness of its budding 
hopes was all in unison with her own, and from 
her high seat she gazed on the shifting 
panorama of meadow and upland, brook and 
river, farm and village, with feelings and 
emotions not to be put into words. 

True, it was not the smihng month of sun 
and shower ; but the trees had already sipped 
the wine of spring, and felt it throbbing in 
the furthest shoot. There was a ruddy flush 
of flowering bloom on the wych-elm and 
poplar, a tender green on meadow and hedgc- 

N 2 


row, where tlie litlie honeysuckle twined 
among the hawthorn's opening fans ; and if 
only a sohtary snowdrop Hngered here and 
there, the crocus boldly lifted np its purple 
cup, the unostentatious daffodil by the way- 
side brook bent its head as it offered its 
incense to the passing breeze, and the colts- 
foot had sent forth its golden stars to tell with 
perfumed breath that its broad leaves were 
comingf bv-and-bve. Xow and a^rain the 
love-song of the missel-thrush was half 
drowned in the rattle of the wheels ; but 
Muriel felt as if she too must burst into 
song, so glad, so hopeful, and withal so 
thankful was she. 

She was silent from excess of feeling ; but 
even raptures do not last for hours, and 
coaches in the last century did not race 
with the wind. 

A little child shivering by her side, to 
whom she extended the benefit of her cloak 
at Frodsham, helped to enliven the remainder 
of the journey with his prattle; but when 
thev reached Preston Brook at eleven o'clock, 


she was almost too stiff and tired to aliij^ht. 
Her grandniotlier not more so. 

The long, slow-going, ark-like packet-boat 
seemed indeed an ark of refufre after the 
shaking coach. The gliding motion was rest- 
ful ; she sat at the cabin window, listened to 
the ripple of the water, the occasional swish 
of the rope and the tread of feet overhead, 
watched the trees and houses on the canal 
bank slip past as in a dream, the glory of all 
being that she had left Miss liriscoe and 
Chester for ever, and was going back to the 
dear mother and sisters who must have missed 
her so much. The dream was broken in 
upon by a woman crushing past, who offered 
Eccles cakes and nettle beer for sale, by way 
of refreshment ; but Mrs. Bancroft had a 
reticule basket well supplied, and there was 
tea to be had on board. There had need to 
be, for it was nearer seven than six o'clock 
when they reached the Castle wharf at Knot 
Mill (where Canute's castle is said to have 
been), and there was neither Sam nor con- 
veyance to meet them. 


They waited, the bustUng passengers 
dispersed, yet no one came. Mrs. Bancroft's 
brows were knit, and her hps set over her 
strong teeth, telUng of disquiet or displeasure, 
had there been hght for Muriel to read the 
record. And still they waited. 

" Do you think uncle received your letter ? " 
asked Muriel at last, in some trepidation. 
" And what shall we do ? " 

" Eh ! I don't know, child ! " brusquel}^ 
answered the first question, the characteristic 
"I'll see to it," the second. 

There were as yet no hackney coaches, 
there was no place at hand whereat to hire 
a chaise. There were, however, sturdy men 
upon the wharf, one of whom Mrs. Bancroft 
found willing to act as porter, seeing there 
was no alternative but to take the man's 
honesty upon trust, and let him lead the way 
through dark, narrow Alport Street, and Deans- 
gate, with Muriel's small hair-trunk on his 
shoulders, and Mrs. Bancroft's baof as a balance 
in the other hand, and to take the chance 
of meeting an empty sedan-chair by the way. 


Neither Muriel nor Mrs. Bancroft cared to 
show all the alarm she felt ; each had a dread 
of something wrong at home, to say nothing 
of the dangers of the streets or the two-mile 
walk at the end of a day's journey, but the 
man must have heard the tremour in Muriel's 
voice as she asked her grandmother if she 
thought the man could obtain one of the 
lanterns then flitting about the wharf among 
the shadows ; for he put down the luggage 
with a civil, " Yoi, miss, aw thenk aw con ! " 
and in a few minutes a horn lantern was in 
Muriel's hand, the luggage once more 
shouldered, and they, thus lit, following 
closely on the man's heels with apprehension 
in their hearts. 

Eemember — for in this Chester was in 
advance of Manchester — there were as yet 
no public lamps, only private ones at a few 
of the better-class houses ; that respectable 
women were not supposed to go abroad 
unattended after dusk ; that there was no 
organized police, that drunkenness was a 
fashionable vice ; that footpads drove a brisk 


trade ; and that the wild young men of the 
time thought it no shame to insult more 
peaceable people, even to the drawing of 
swords ; and you will perhaps better under- 
stand the apprehension felt alike by the 
strongminded woman, who had a nice- 
looking young girl in her charge, and the 
inexperienced young girl herself. 

Sam's fiest. 

|?|0T until they had gained the stand in 
^^ St. Ann's Square, where paviors had 
begun their much-needed work, \vas an 
empty sedan to be found, and then so many 
more intrusive carousers had they met by the 
way than sober home-going townfolk, that 
Sarah Bancroft was glad to put her grand- 
child under the canopy of one, as much for 
security as conveyance. She scorned the 
extravagance of such a luxury for herself. 

So the sturdy old dame trudged on by its 
ide, glad of the extra lantern swung on one 
of the forward poles of the sedan, as well as 
of the additional protection of the two stout 
chairmen. It was a late hour for reputable 
females to be abroad unattended. 

It was close upon eight by St. Ann's Churcli 


clock, Avlien the prim rows of trees wliicli 
sentinelled the aristocratic mansions in the 
Square were left behind, Mrs. Bancroft con- 
gratulating herself that the foul dark entry, 
with its " Dangerous Corner," so recently the 
only outlet from the Square to the Market 
Place, was done away with, and, losing sight 
of the narrowness of the Xew Exchange 
Street, thought only how soon tlie Exchange 
itself, with all its pillared facade, would be 
only a memory — and such a memory ! Had 
she not seen the heads of the Jacobite leaders 
spiked atop? She supposed the queer old 
market cross and the pilloiy they were passing 
would be the next to go ; things changed so 
fast since her young days. Her dreams of 
the past were put to flight by the activities 
of the present. The clock of the Collegiate 
or Old Church, towards which their faces were 
set, chimed the hour, and then the glorious 
bells rang out the curfew with a resonant 

In an off-street close to the shambles stood 
a dingy old public-house, known as the 

SAM'S FIB ST. 187 

" Punch House," and kept by John Shaw, at 
one time a dragoon, where throughout the 
day, and especially from four to eight in the 
evening, might be found the chief merchants 
and manufacturers discussing the news of the 
day and the prices of goods over their six- 
penny or shilling jorums of punch, for which 
the military landlord had a special and occult 
receipt. But at the first stroke of eight did 
John Shaw enter his bar-parlour with " Eight 
o'clock, gentlemen ; you must clear out." 
And out they went at the first bidding, for, 
did anyone presume to linger, the martinet's 
long-lashed whip cracked in their ears, or in 
came Molly, his factotum, Avith mop and pail, 
and flooded them out. 

No one got drunk thei^e. Some of the 
least steady-going and more exuberant spirits 
might, however, be primed for finishing the 
night elsewhere. 

The chairmen were jogging along with their 
light burden under the shade of the overhang- 
ing black and white gable-fronted old build- 
ings, not the less shadowy for the dim illumi- 


nation of casements from within, when, simul- 
taneously with the first clang of the bells, 
John Shaw drove forth the members of his 
club, six or eight of whom came on from the 
narrow bye-way, right in front of Mrs. Ban- 
croft's party, one calling to another, " Who's 
for the Cockpit?" "Who's for the Bull's 
Head?" '^ Who's for the play?" "I'm off 
to the Blue Boar ! " and so forth, blocking 
such pathway as there was. They w^ere in the 
very height of jollity and merriment, some of 
them ripe for what they called fun. 

" I say, old dame, with the lantern and 
basket, w^hat treasure have you there you 
guard so carefully ? " cried out one, — a tall, 
elegant man, in a fashionable suit of blue 
kerseymere, with shining buckles at his 
breeches' knees, — and he took a step forward 
as if to ascertain for himself. He stopped 
short, arrested by a stern, hard voice he 
knew well. 

" Your daughter, John D'Anyer, who is 
fortunate in having a more faithful guardian 
than her father this nisdit." 

SA^f'S FIB ST. 189 

In an instant the long back bent, the 
Frenchified cylindrical hat was raised from 
the gentleman's powdered hair with a graceful 
flourish, not altogether due to John Shaw's 

" I — I beg pardon, Mrs. Bancroft ; you 
have quite taken me by surprise. The imper- 
fect light must excuse the discourtsey of my 
address. But how is it " 

She interrupted him. " Now, sir, don't 
make matters worse by excuses of that kind ; 
nothing excuses rudeness to an old woman 
whoever she may " 

She broke off short. She had seen another 
figure warily edging off into the background 
as if to beat a retreat ; the stealthiness of the 
action caused her to raise her lantern, and the 
light fell on the broad buckled shoes, the grey 
worsted stockings, the steel buckled brown 
breeches, brown flap-pocketed waistcoat, wide 
deep-skirted coat, falling white neckcloth and 
disordered hair of her son Sam, with his three- 
cornered hat somewhat awry, — steady-going 
Sam ! 


" Stop, sir ! " she cried imperatively, and he 
thought best to obey. " Where art thah 
sneaking off to ? What hast thah done that 
thah cannot face me? Aye, thah may well be 
ashamed of leaving thy old mother and a 
young girl to come through the streets at 
night as they best could, and at the risk 
of insult. But I'll see into it. Move on, 

John D'Anyer was turning the handle of 
the sedan door, which Muriel could not open 
from within. She waved him back. "You 
can see Muriel to-morrow. You were in no 
such hurry to meet us on the quay." 

John DAnyer's pride was easily touched. 

As she nodded to the men to proceed, and 
stepped forward herself, heedless of the jests 
and laughter of the dispersing party from the 
Punch House, leaving son and son-in-law to 
follow, or not, as might suit them best, he 
answered haughtily : 

" As a gentleman, madam, if not as a father, 
I should have met you at the Quay had your 
coming been notified. As you did not think 


proper to acquaint me with your intended 
return, and so think proper to refuse me a 
word with my own daughter, I have no more 
to say. Good-night to both." 

His hat was again raised, but with the 
sarcastic sweep of ultra ceremony, as if he 
bowled their dismissah 

Sam was a decided contrast to his brother- 
in-law, in more than the old-fashioned homeli- 
ness of his attire and manners. He professed 
to have less pride ; he might have added that 
he had more policy. 

They had neither of them taken sufficient 
punch to cloud their intellects, and, although 
somewhat elevated, the first shock of the 
unwelcome surprise had dispelled any 
vapours from its fumes. John's wounded 
pride led him to follow a couple of his com- 
panions into the open jaws of the Blue Boar, 
whose lair was a court off the other side 
the Market Place, where he talked loftily to 
his intimates of his character as a gentleman 
being at stake, and treated the said gentleman 
to so many soothing potations that he was 


anything but a gentleman when his rat-tat-tan 
on his door knocker roused the echoes of 
Broom Street at midnight. 

Wiser Sam stuck close by his mother ; 
excused his presence at John Shaw's, and his 
extra dose of punch, on the plea that a 
little daughter having arrived that day, he 
and John had "been merely wetting the 
child's head." And the excuse Tvas sufficiently 
cogent, seeing that it was customary for a 
newly-made father to stand treat under his 
own roof, or in some bar-parlour to pay for 
the " glasses round," in which the health and 
lonfif life of the new-born child were toasted 
and drunk. 

She was barely satisfied, but she let 
it pass. 

On like grounds he excused his unpardon- 
able absence from Castle Quay. His extreme 
agitation and anxiety for Lydia had driven 
everything else out of his mind. He had for- 
gotten to send to the Post Office that morning. 
Her letter of instruction would be lying there. 

This was a much more heinous offence. 


" A business man forget the post ! " it sounded 
incredible ! Hers niiglit not be the only 
important missive lying neglected in Mrs. 
Willett's Avindow ! She was not so easily 
appeased. Yet Sam made his confession so 
naturally, and with so many genuine expres- 
sions of regret ; he had such a firm hold of 
his mother's heart, and slie such a firm belief 
in his integrity, tliat she softened at last, 
and said : — 

" Well, Sam, lad, as it is thy first child, it 
may be excusable, and as thah's come and 
owned thy forgetfulness all straight up and 
above board, I may overlook it this time ; 
but, prithee, be careful in the future. 
Punctuality and method are the hinges of 
trade, and a business man has no business 
to forget." 

Sam's face was in deep shadow, so the 
uneasy expression which crossed it during 
the first portion of this speech was lost, and 
her sharply emphasized rebuke of his untrades- 
manlike foro-etfulness mic^ht account for his 
temporary silence. 

VOL. I. o 


Presently, after a trade question or two, 
she began to ask about Lydia and the newly- 
born child, wished she had been a day earlier, 
and said ; — 

" I'd rather it had been a lad than a lass, 
for the first ; but we must take what comes." 

Again Sam's brows contracted uneasily 
and were not smoothed Avhen she bethoucfht 
herself to ask ; 

" Who's with Lydia ? " 

" Oh, — Maggy Blackburn," he answered, 
but not readily. 

"MagjQfy Blackburn!" exclaimed his 
mother, in not too pleasant atone. "Was 
there no one to be had nearer home ? " 

" Yea ; but Lj^dia has known Maggy all 
her life, and I thought, as you were away, 
it was best to humour her, as she seems to 
have such a liankerins: after Waverham folk," 
he responded, as they stopped at his mother's 
house, and his hand went up to the door- 
knocker quite unnecessaril}^, seeing that the 
door opened with a mere turn of the 

SAM'S FIB ST. 195 

' Chairmen and porter were glad to ex- 
change their loads for hard cash and foaming 
home-brewed ale, and, after spitting on the 
coins for luck, departed. 

Muriel, notwithstanding the unsuspected 
tears shed when her father left her so 
readily, had fallen asleep by the way, OAving 
as much to tlie motion of the vehicle as to 
her fatio^ue ; and she was but half awake 
when she followed her grandmother into 
the large bright kitchen, where the stone 
floor was scrubbed as clean as the deal 
tables and dresser ; and where Margery had 
put as bright a polish on the tall clock- 
case and oaken-settle as on the brass and 
copper utensils on walls and tall mantel-shelf. 

On that same settle lay a boy about four 
years old, in clothes of a countrified cut, 
though they were good and respectable 
enough. He was a ros3'-cheeked chubby 
fellow, and was fast asleep. 

" Whose lad's this ? " demanded Mrs. Ban- 
croft, as sharpl}^ and briskly as if her journey 
and two mile walk were of no account. 



" Ell ? A nurse-clioilt Maggy Blackburn 
browt \vi her fro Waverliam. Hoo* said hoo 
couldn't come boutf it. Measter browt it 
here to-day, to be out o' th' way," explained 
Margery, all in a fluster with the unexpected 
arrivals, and full of grief that there was "ne'er 
a foire anywheere but i' th' kitchen, and nowt 
but ham an' eggs for supper. Yo' nioight ha' 
letten folks know." 

" Never mind, Margery. If grandmother's 
as tired as I am, she won't care what she has 
for supper, or where she sits," said Muriel, 
dropping wearily to a seat on the settle 
beside the sleeping boy, on whom Mrs. 
Bancroft's keen glance was fixed. 

" Sup, oh, anywhere," said the latter some- 
what impatiently, as she left the kitchen to 
meet Sam in the passage. To him she put the 
same question she had put to Margery, to be 
answered again : 

" A nurse-child of Maggy Blackburn's. She 
couldn't leave it with those rough sons of hers, 
so she brought him with her. She thought, as 

* She. t Without. 


lie was but a little chap, we should not 

"Maggy Blackburn all out ! " remarked the 
old lady, seemingly satisfied with his ex- 
planation, if not with Xurse Blackburn's easy 
assurance ; and by the time their outer wraps 
were removed, and the savoury supper 
smoking on the board, her temporary irrita- 
tion had vanished. 

Still, her eyes strayed from her plate to the 
sleeping boy, as if there was something in his 
form or face which puzzled her ; and Sam was 
not sorry when she proposed that the child 
should be carried to bed, saying it was " not 
fit to take the little fellow through the night 
air at that hour, whoever he belonged to." 

" Whew ! " he whistled to himself when 
well clear of his mother's door, " that storm's 
blown over ! If ever I neoflect to send for 
the letters again may I be hanged ! And how 
she looked at the lad. I'd stand a guinea to 
know what she thought, that I would ! Well 
I may tell Lydia the danger's over now, 
thouirh it's been a close shave." 


Thinking thus, and having escaped a 
dreadful catastrophe, it was with lightened 
feet and spirits he trod the uneven and wind- 
ing way down Red Bank and Long Millgate, 
under the shadow of gable-fronted cottages 
(long since swept away), heedlessly stumbhng 
over outlying steps, and at last coming into 
violent collision with one of the ncAvly- 
appointed watchmen as he turned the sharp 
corner abruptly into Toad Lane, where he lived 
in one of his mother's houses ; a row of which 
rose with the rising ground on the right-hand 
trending towards Hyde's Cross. 

" Neaw then, tha drunken foo' ! What dost 
mean?" blurted out angrily the custodian of 
the peace, steadying himself on the narrow 

" Heiglio ! " cried Sam simultaneously and 
prophetically, " I think tim might be called 
'Dangerous Corner' with a vengeance ! " and he 
gave himself a shake to restore his balance. 

"A dangerous corner belike to thee, for 
I've hauve a moind to tak' thee t' th' watch- 
heause t' gie an acceawnt o' thisel' ; " and the 

SAM'S FIB ST. 199 

lantern went up into the disconcerted face of 

He liad to put his hand in his pocket to 
find the heavily-coated man of lantern, rattle, 
and many capes, a heal-all, and that sent him 
home a little less elated, and the mollified 
watchman contentedly on his way, bawling, 
lustily, " Past ten o'clock, and a clear, dry 
night ! " 

Maggy Blackburn, a thin, lithe woman, 
with cold, light grey eyes, and what had been 
a ruddy face, dressed in a dark-blue linen bed- 
gown (or loose jacket) and linsey petticoat, 
with a white linen long-eared cap or mutch 
to keep her straggling grey locks in order, 
opened the door for him, and before he could 
say, "How's Lydia? " began to ask " Wheer's 
th' lad ? Theer's no gettin' tlioi wife to rest 
till she knows he's safe in th' lieause." 

At his answer, the woman, for many 
reasons a privileged individual in that house- 
hold, uplifted both hands and voice : " Thy 
mother come back ! an' seen th' lad ! Eh ! 
]3ut I wouldna stand i' thy shoes, Sam Ban- 


eroft, fiir surnmai ! Tliy _iiu:^:r -ins cVcs :: 
see throngb. a biick wa.^. 

It was an ancient blac^:-?.!: :^- :::e tinil-er- 
and-rubble house, with - _rs. cueer 

tommss- ^ . . . r : 

• -■ - - ^^ 01 

various sizes. - ^ 

. _-" Ti'feoic J. 

br beams. 

..-?i :ran- 

somed ^" - !-- : ' ^ -- 

;■■_—. or 

tz:?:.!. - . - - - - _ -- .--:-" 

- - ~- 

^/V.' ' -■ " -.'.:...._"---";■ 

. T V - 

iar into me : 

serring to scr- 

- ^ ~- 

and maiTito^- 

..- . 

strai^ia^ oiize :: 

. :/ -- 

qoiries. Out of thi- : 

-_ .. --.- - 

^r::l : :. np two or three 

stairs, lav 

:l.e snort passage to the 

. : > the 

toitnons staircase. 

- -r 

' - ^iamond-paned. 


i fnmL Thi?:. 

. - r_ 

: '- - — ' T fT?rfi?«hed as a best 

r, and 

~is ^r : aflmir: 

. went 

j; and it was :_ 


Avhere a light was burning on a snap-table, 
Mr. Samuel had led the way, closing the door 
before he had committed himself to answer ; 
when he did it was with a sort of wink: 

" But what if dust be thrown in the eyes, 
Maggy?" and he slapped his thigh as if well 
pleased at his own dust-throwing ; the wisdom 
of the punch-bowl in his self-satisfied half- 
shut optics. 

"Some folks' eyes won't hold dust long. 
They may be blinded for a bit, but they see 
noan th' waur afterwards. I'd noan have 
left Jem behind. Folk as have secrets conna 
be too careful. But take thi shoon off an' 
come gradely up the stairs, an tell Lydia it's 
a' reet. She'll happen beUeve yo. I don't." 

And if Samuel Bancroft could have known 
how the face of that sleeping boy haunted 
the pillow of his mother, as a vague dream 
of somethinor remembered throusrh the mist 
of years, he would not have assured his 
anxious wife so ghbly that it was " all right." 

His confidence, however, served to set poor 
Lydia's aching heart at rest for the time, and 


when lie kissed lier and the babe and said 
'' good-night," and went off lo the spare bed- 
room, she closed her eyelids and went to 
sleep contentedly ; with none of the mis- 
givings that had tronbled her mind for years, 
and which somehow seemed transferred to 
the brain of Sarah Bancroft. 

Even with the many cares of her large 
bnsiness on her mind — business which she was 
no longer assured had been under vigilant 
supervision in her long absence, and which 
summoned her from sleep to work-rooms and 
ware-rooms at five in the morning, when the 
workmen entered the o;ate — she thought of 
him ; nay, even in the midst of calculations 
during her hasty breakfast, she could pause 
to watch the boy eating ]iis bowl of porridge 
by the side of Muriel, and ask his name. 

" Jem," was the shy ]'esponse. 

"Jem what?" 

" Maggy's Jem." 

" And what besides ? " 

"Mammy's Jem." 

" And who's your mammy ? " 

SAM'S FIB ST. 203 

The boy looked with wondering eyes from 
Mrs. Bancroft to Muriel, but only replied, 
" Why, mammy's mammy." 

He knew no more, and he could tell no 



Muriel's eeturx home. 

W^T was well ^luriel had been schooled 
^ m self-control, for tlie morning passed, 
noon came, dinner was despatched, and yet 
Mrs. Bancroft, who had sent for the delayed 
letters, could not spare time from Jier own 
pressing concerns to accompany the girl 
home, and slie had forbidden her to go 

She took little Jem by the hand into the 
shed and warehouse to show how furs were 
dressed and prepared. The powdered lime, 
the smells, and the fluff soon drove them 
back. Tiien, keeping him still with her, she 
w^ent for a stroll down Eoger's Brow to see 
her cousin Milly — or Millicent — Hargreaves, 
whose father's dyeworks lay almost behind 
Mrs. Bancroft's place, but close to the river 


side, his house adjoining the works. They 
went through great gates, and a grassy croft 
set with rows of stout posts that bristled with 
spiky hooks, into a wet yard overlooked by 
the buildings which covered in the dye-pits, 
where men in coarse woollen overshirts, and 
thick clumsv leo-aino-s, Avith bare arms all red, 
or brown, or blue, went clattering about 
in clogs away from the carboys and dye 
stuffs, hanging up dripping hanks of yarn or 
pieces of clotli on the lines or tenter-hooks 
to dry, and the boy stared on all with won- 
dering eyes. 

When they had picked their way to the 
house, Muriel was sorry to hear that Milly 
was away, but Mrs. Hargreaves found them 
some cake and promised tliat Milly should 
soon come to see her in Broom Street ; and 
as they went back through the yard they 
were met by the dyer himself, as roagh-look- 
inof with his cloo's and lei^sfinijs and indisjo- 
stained arms, as one of his own workpeople. 

He shook hands heartily witli Muriel, 
leaving his mark on her palm, asked a 


few questions, then, eyeing the boy askance, 
patted him on the head, saying : 

" And what httle chap's this ? He favours 
thi Uncle Sam, I'll be hanged if he don't." 

"He comes from Waverham. A woman 
they call Maggy Blackburn brought him with 
her. He says his name's Jem, and does not 
seem to know any other." 

" Oh I " was all his acknowledgment of 
Muriel's answer ; but when she went away, 
disappointed at not seeing Milly, he looked 
after them and crave a long: whistle. 

The banks of the Irk were not then all 
built upon. There were green spots here 
and there. She gathered a bunch of wild 
spring-flowers as they went back, for the 
chattering little one ; then in the house again, 
sat down to sing ballads and hymns, and to 
play on the harpsichord, as much to still her 
impatience as to amuse the child. 

She had a marvellously musical voice, and 
as its liquid notes floated through the rooms, 
Margery put down her work to listen ; and, 
putting her head in at the open door, said: 


" Ell ! but aw fair thowt it wur an ano-el 
singin', aw did ! " 

'• I don't feel very like an angel, Margery," 
she said witli a laugh. " My feet are tingling 
with impatience to be off," and she rose to 
consult the tall kitchen clock, as she had done 
many times during the morning. 

For not only was she most impatient to see 
those from whom she had been so long parted, 
but she feared to incur her father's displeasure 
and excite her dearly-loved mother's anxiety 
bv lins^erino- there, now that her return to 
Manchester was known. 

Yet it was close upon three o'clock before 
Mrs. Bancroft looked into the front parlour, 
where Muriel sat with little Jem in the window- 
seat, showing the pictures in the big Family 
Bible (which apart from order-book and 
ledger constituted the family library), to keep 
him quiet, and said : " Be sharp and put your 
things on, and that lad's too. We may leave 
him at your Aunt Lydia's as we go." 

Be sure no second bidding was needed. 
Up started Muriel, forgetting in her haste to 


put back the big Bible in its place on the 
bureau. It went no farther than the table, 
and there Sarah Bancroft found it at night. 
She was closing it with a mental reproof of 
Muriel's carelessness, when lier eye was caught 
by a word or two of the large type. She sat 
down ; the resolve made in Chester by her 
grandchild's bedside came freshly to mind. 
The c^reat book which had lain so loner on the 
bureau unopened, like so many a Family 
Bible, as a sort of dumb guarantor of the 
family Christianity, the silent custodian of 
its religion, lay with the seventh chapter 
of Matthew open before her, to strike, as it 
were, a shaft into her soul : 

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." 
Was it Muriel who had been careless or 
herself? Muriel had left the book open, she 
had more carelessly left it closed. 

She sat down, and read, and pondered ; 
that woman whose faith was in herself, whose 
soul was in her business, and as she read 
begfan to wonder if she was buildiiifi: her 
liouse on the rock, or on the sand? 


Howsoever slie answered the question to 
herself, she was more careful of the sacred 
volume in the future. During the week she 
was at business from early morning until late 
at night, but every Sunday afternoon, when 
she was alone, it came from its long resting- 
place to be read and studied. 

Xot too soon. There were disturbing in- 
fluences at work, and the woman who had 
rested on herself so long, needed to find 
" the shadow of a great rock in a weary 

But we are hastening too fast through that 
busy day. Muriel was well pleased to find 
her grandmother in a hurry : her own young 
feet had such a tendency to outstrip both 
the younger and the older ones. 

Curious as Muriel had been to know what 
sort of a person was her Uncle Sam's wife, 
the introduction to the new aunt and cousin 
in the darkened room was soon over, and left 
her not much the wiser. The face she saw on 
the pillow had a sort of faded prettiness, 
thouo^h there was an ingrained colour on her 

VOL. I. P 


clieeks, and the lips were close set when not 
speaking. And she was surely more than 
twenty-five, thought the niece, who had been 
told her age. But she had no desire to linger ; 
even the pink baby had no charm to hold her 
that afternoon. 

Indeed she thought her grandmother 
wasted time asking the queer nurse unneces- 
sary questions about little Jem, and it was 
with quiet satisfaction that she gave him a 
kiss and wished him "good-bye," her face 
radiant with hope and expectation. 

Yet the questions Sarah Bancroft had put 
to Maggy Blackburn had staggered the 
Waver ham nurse, and her close set eyes 
contracted under catechism. She w^as, 
however, equal to any emergency, and 
her answers were satisfactorily true to the 
letter if not to the spirit. The catastrophe 
was averted — for the time. 

With head erect, as befitted Miss Briscoe's 
pupil, Muriel tripped on lightly, glad that her 
grandmother only nodded to people she met 
in the crowded thoroughfare about Hyde's 


Cross, instead of stopping to speak ; but when 
at length the exclusive posts and chains of 
Broom Street were gained, and she saw lier 
father standing without hat on their own 
doorstep, all Miss Briscoe's lessons in 
deportment were forgotten. 

Children even in their teens were kept at 
formidable distances in those days, but human 
nature is stronger than custom. Muriel set 
off at a run to throw herself into his arms. 
Had she been alone he might have closed 
tliem round her in a fatherly embrace, for 
tliere is no doubt he had missed her. But the 
irritation of the previous night had not 
passed away with the fumes of John D'Anyer's 
])()tations. He had been called to order in the 
open street before both his own friends and 
common porters. He had been unwarrantably 
taxed with ungentlemanlike neglect, and any- 
thing more galling to the great foible of the 
fustian manufacturer was not possible. He 
had gone in from the wareliouse to the noon- 
tide meal expecting to fnid his long absent 
daughter dutifully waiting to salute him with 

r 2 


filial respect and affection. Her absence he 
had construed into a want of both, on her 
part, and as an intentional affront on that 
of Mrs. Bancroft. His amiable little ivife 
had only made matters worse by suggesting 

Several matters had gone wrong in the 
warehouse that afternoon— pieces of fustian 
had been spoiled in the cutting, and it did 
not improve matters Avhen he came in the 
house at four o'clock for his tea, and saw 
no signs of Muriel. Instead of sitting down, 
he walked nnpatiently to the front door, 
and thus it was that the girl's open-armed 
advance received a check. 

" I think, Miss, as you have been so long 
in findmg your way home, you might almost 
as well go back where you came from." 

" father ! " exclaimed Muriel in a tone 
of deep disappointment, as she clasped her 
open hands together in pain, and stopped 

"She can do that, John D'Anyer, if she be 
not welcome here I " cried Mrs. Bancroft, 


coming iij) in time to hear liim. " And if 
that's all the greeting thah has for the lass 
who pined for the sight of you all, till she 
could not eat her dinner, I think she's likely 
to go back sooner than thah counts for." 

But Muriel had seen another figure in the 
liall, and flying past her father, who made 
way for her, was locked in the embrace of 
her dear mother, deaf and blind to all the 
world besides. 

Sisters too, just home from school, book- 
bag and slate in hand, came rushing in 
the back way to surround and overwhelm her 
with kisses and questions, and drag her into 
the back sitting-room, where the tea-table 
was set, the toast and teapot being kept warm 
on a brass stool in front of the fire. 

Meanwhile John D'Anyer, bowing stiffly to 
his v/ife's mother, ushered her ceremoniously 
into the front parlour before she spoke 
another word. 

Much less ceremonious, she began first — 

" See thi, John, I took that dear good 
lass away because I saw there was no proper 


place for her either on thy hearth or in tliy 
heart. And if " 

She was interrupted. 

" May I ask, madam, on what grounds you 
thus heap insult on indignity? You profess 
to have gauged my heart. I'm afraid you 
have not gauged my patience, which is not 
so long as to tolerate unfounded accusations 
even from Mrs. Bancroft, no later than last 

It was her turn to interrupt. 

" Stay, John ; Sam was to blame for that. 
I had written desirino- iliee or him to be on 
the quay to meet the packet. It was not 
until we had parted in the Market Place that 
I discovered tliah wert not in fault — that my 
letter was still at the Post Office— had not 
been sent for, in fact — and I am sorry I spoke 
so hastily. But I found what politeness an 
unknown old w^oman was likely to have met 
from thee and tlii friends — and I found 
Samuel amongst the roysterers." 

The listener bowed in acknowledi^ment of 
the apology, reddened as he found the tables 


turned upon him, but smiled covertly when 
Sam Avas mentioned. 

" Ah, yes ! wetting the child's head in John 
Shaw's punch ! " 

" Ay, and disturbing his own ! Now, John 
D'Anyer," and she laid her mittened hand 
upon his coat sleeve, " thah'st a strong head 
and can stand carousing. Sam is not used to 
it. He would not have o-one to the Punch 


House but for thee. Don't thah lead him 
into bad habits." 

Astonishment, incredulity, scorn, sat on her 
interlocutor's handsome visao-e. He waved, 
his hand loftily. 

*' Mr. Samuel Bancroft, madam, is not one- 
to be led. Leading strings are not for men of 
his years and cool temperament. Mr. Samuel 
may certainly be trusted to take care of 

" So I thounrht till last nitrht." And Mrs. 
Bancroft untied her bonnet strings, and sat 
down meditatively. 

But he said no more, not even that he- 
found his brother-in-law at the Punch House 


before him ; such admission being contrary 
to his code of honour. And he scarcely 
came down from his stilts all the evening, 
though he did take Muriel in his arms at last, 
did extol her growth and upright carriage, 
and sent her to her sisters in a Hush of 
delight. But he spoiled all by saying before 
she was fairly out of hearing, "What a fright 
that cropped head makes of the lass." He 
had last seen her with her hair rippling in 
waves below her waist. 

'' Be thankful you've got tlie lass back safe, 
crop or no crop," jerked out the old woman, 
who had been talking to her daughter about 
Lydia and just overheard him. 

"Aye, mother,'' assented the younger one, 
as she poured out the tea, "we may be well 
content to let her hair go, so that we have 
her back safe and sound, seeing she has 
been so ill." 

"Tchut! What has tliat to do with the 
lass beino' a fright ? Would you have me 
thankful for tliat ? Women have no sense ! " 
Then having vented his explosive, John 


D'Anyer turned the conversation, " Did you 
do any trade in Chester before you came 
back?" And Mrs. Bancroft, launching into 
her natural theme, lost her irritation. 

This was not a very auspicious home-coming 
for Muriel. She could not forget her glimpse 
through the sedan window of her father and 
his companions, or the fright she had before 
he was recognized, and he, on his part, could 
not forget that she had so seen him. The 
want of cordiality in his first greeting was 
followed by a restraint not observed tow^ards 
the others. He was conscious that his eldest 
daughter had seen him at a disadvantage, had 
seen him guilty of an act of discourtesy to 
an elderly stranger in the street, and wounded 
self-esteem suggested that her respect for him 
and his authority would thereby be lessened. 
In the clear eyes which said plainly enough, 
" Why am I not loved like the rest? " he read 
only the glance of a searching spirit to probe 
his soul, and not feeling comfortable himself, 
he was not likely to set her at ease. Added 
to that, the Eeign of Terror in France, and 


t]ic declaration of war with that country, 
affected Ensflish commerce, and he beaan to 
feel it. Annoyance on 'Change or in the ware- 
house meant irritability at home, and polite 
sarcasm on his own hearth, of which Ellen 
had hitherto had the chief benefit. Xow, 
Muriel, throwing herself, as it were, as a soft 
cushion between them, came in for more than 
a share of his ill-humours and suspicions, nay, 
the very alacrity with which she ran to 
anticipate his wishes only increased his 
disfavour. " A pair of meek lacke3^s with- 
out a grain of spirit," he styled them on one 
occasion in his scornful cups ; and yet the 
man could be generous and noble on occasion. 
Nor were her sisters more amiable after the 
first few days. They felt themselves super- 
seded, and began to be jealous of her superior 
manner and accomplishments, as one after 
another, aunts and cousins, came in and 
noticed her and her needle-work with out- 
spoken admiration. Not so much the silken 
nosegay on the wall, in its circular gold frame, 
no prettily reflected in the circular convex 


mirror opposite between the velvet curtained 
windows, or the filio^ree-basket on the folded 
card table beneath the mirror, or the pair of 
tent-stitch footstools guarding the polished 
steel fender ; as the embroidered portrait, 
which she sat in the light of one window 
to finish. 

It was this, which being a novelty, eclipsed 
the nosegay; and was pronounced far beyond 
competition by the fingers of either cousin 
or sister. It was a tangible evidence of her 
superior endowments ; since such work was 
only turned out of schools of high standing ; 
and the minor matters of grammar, history, 
geography and arithmetic were thereby 

Moreover, it was a well painted picture of 
a comely girl in a white dress, crimson shoes 
and sash, adorned with a gold-rimmed locket 
set with pearls, and with a glorious mass of 
brown hair flowing and rippling far below 
her waist. Overarching trees and a back- 
ground of bushes threw out the graceful 
figure, which seemed in motion as did the 


fluttering canary on her linger, the ribbon 
^vhR'h seemed to hold it safe, tlie floating 
ends of her sash, and the folds of her ^vhite 

The artist had quite been equal to his 
task, and the portraiture was faithful. 

Marion and Anna envied the distinction. 
T\'hat right had she to have her portrait 
taken any more than they I And the feeling 
oozed out one day when Milly Hargreaves 
was present, admiring the picture, of which 
the hair, flesh, and sky were as the painter 
left them. 

'• It's well the painter put no marks on 
the skin to spoil its beauty,"' said Anna 

" Painters never do, even in large pictures," 
answered observant Milly. '* Didn't the 
painter leave the wart off Cromwell's 

" Well, I'm sure Muriel's hair was never so 
long or beautiful as that I " asserted Marion, 
whose raven locks only rested on her 


" I dare say it was," struck in little Sara 
chivalrously, seeing the crimson rising in 
good-natured Muriel's cheeks ; " Didn't you 
cry when they cut it all off? " 

"No love, I was too ill/' And Muriel 

"Never mind, Muriel. It is sure to grow 
again," said Milly, reassuringly, as she noticed 
the moisture ofatherincr in the mild brown 

" I don't mind my hair, ^Wly — that is — 
(she corrected herself) I should not mind, 
but father does not like me without it ; " and 
the moisture rounded to a tear. 

" That's a very pretty locket," said Milly, 
still looking at the picture, with a kindly 
desire to change the subject ; "Have you one 
like it?" ^ 

" Yes, the lady whose chaise broke down 
in Delamere Forest, gave it to me." 

" Gave it to you ? What for ? " 

"You may well ask what for? " jerked out 
Marion. "People are always giving her 
things. What did mother give her the old 


silver-clasped Bible for, I sliould like to 

" All, and grandmother gave lier a fur- 
muff and tippet, but she didn't give us any ! " 
added Anna, crossly. 

" Perhaps she will wlien you are older ; " 
suggested Milly ; " but 1 sliould like to see 
the locket and hear all about it." And when 
she did hear all about it, Milly, who was half 
a year older and a bit of a sentimentalist, 
went into ecstasies about the romantic adven- 
ture, and the handsome young officer 
cotniected therewith, running into a whole 
chapter of possibilities and probabilities. At 
which Miss Marion again turned up her long- 

From this it will be seen that kindliness 
did not spring up in Muriel's path at 

Little Sara loved her, clung to her, slept 
in her arms at night, followed her about in 
the day, came to her hornbook in hand for 
lielp up the first and hardest steps to know- 
ledge, or for a romp when work was over, 


but Marion and Anna took the cue from 
their father and in small indescribable ways 
strove ••' to bring the lady down a peg," 
especially Anna, who for some occult 
reason was his favourite. 

At the same time they did not hesitate to 
take her gifts, or to tax her skill and obliging- 
nature to the uttermost, and scarcely gave 
thanks for the willing service. 

Besides Sara the only appreciative being in 
the household was her mother, and her smile 
was Muriel's ample reward. Was John 
D'Anyer's fastidious palate to be catered for, 
or baking, pickling, preserving, wine-making 
about, Muriel's untiring activity might be 
counted on ; but whence came her patience 
and cheeriness under discouragement only 
her good mother knew. 

She, however, had not been at home quite 
a fortnight, when her mother, whose stay-at- 
home habits were proverbial, taking advan- 
tage of her husband's absence on a business 
journey, and of a line da}^ said slie thouglit it 
was about time she went to see Lydia, and 


that if Muriel felt inclined she miglit bear 
her company. 

The April sunshine was not brighter than 
the smile of Muriel as she tripped upstairs for 
her hat and cloak, and she carried something 
of the sunshine into the quaint old house and 
the shaded chamber where sat Lydia in a big 
easy-chair between the heavily draped four- 
post bed and the fire. She was wrapped in a 
blanket, had a pillow beneath lier feet, and 
pillows behind her, all tokens of Maggy Black- 
burn's good nursing. Little Jem seated on a 
low stool by the fender had fallen fast asleep 
with his head resting against her knee. Her 
right hand lay caressingly on his head when 
they opened the door, but it was calmly folded 
in the other across her waist when they 
had made the circuit of the bed, and stood 
before her. 

"How do you do. Aunt?" said Muriel in 
a low voice, accompanied by a graceful 

" How do you fmd [yourself by this t,ime, 
Lydia ? " was Mrs. D'Anyer's first salutation, 


as she held her hand to the fire to take the 
chill off before offering it to her sister-in- 
law ; " your nurse says you are both doing 

" Aye, pretty well. But I thought you had 
forgotten me, Ellen," was the faint reply. 

" Nay, I had not. Rheumatism came with 
the March winds, as usual, so I had to wait 
for fine weather and less pain, or you Avould 
have seen me sooner. So that's the little lad 
your nurse brought with her," Mrs. D'Anyer 
exclaimed, as the boy's brown head caught 
her attention. " I think she took a great 
liberty. Don't you? " 

" Oh, no," answered Lydia, with the least 
possible tremour in her voice, which her 
hearers ascribed to weakness, " we knew she 
could not come without him." 

" But what induced you to send so far for 
a nurse so encumbered ? I could have recom- 
mended a very trustworthy person close 
at hand ; Mother tells me she comes 
from Delamere, from the very heart of the 

VOL. I. Q 


Lydia shifted her head as if to change her 
position, and shade her face from the fire 
which had leapt into a bLaze. " Well, her 
house is a goodish step from Waverham, but 
I've known Maggy all my life, and thought 
I should hke her better than a strano^er,'' 
was answered wearily. 

At that moment in came the said Macfo-y, 
with cake and caudle on a tray for the visitors, 
checking Mrs. D'Anyer's next remark, 
"Mother says she has a very queer — " 
before the words " character from the 
Kingsley's," could be spoken. But whether 
Maggy overheard tlie speech or divined the 
thought, both Muriel and her mother were 
struck Avith the searching and anything but 
pleasant gleam of her hght ^rey eyes, which 
seemed as though they would transfix the 
arrested speaker, whilst she bent her long 
back to wait upon them. 

And Muriel thought the long ears of her 
linen mutch flapped as if shaken, whilst she 
interposed with the voice of one in authority, 
"Yo' munna talk so much, Lydia, till yo're 


stronger — and maybe ma'am, as yo' seem to 
be a mother yo'll bear me out. Oi've not 
ower much, loikin' for early visitors mysel', 
they dun moore harm than good." 

" Hush, Maggy," feebly remonstrated Mrs. 
Sam, " that lady is Mrs. D'Anyer, my sister-in- 
iaw ; and I have not been talking much." 

" Moore than yo' shouldn' oi've a notion," 
put in the woman with another strange look. 

Mrs. D'Anyer rose, there was small induce- 
ment to prolong her visit. " Show us the 
infant, nurse," she said, with some little dig- 
nity, " and then we will retire." 

The sleeping infant was lifted out of bed 
for inspection, duly kissed and admired, and 
then Muriel said : " I will come and nurse her 
for you, if mother will allow me, aunt. I 
used to nurse my poor brother George. How 
I wish she was a boy. Don't you, aunt? " 

The aunt's reply was inaudible. 

" You must not tease your aunt," said her 
mother, putting a gratuity in the hand of 
Maggy Blackburn, and then they departed. 
Neither observed that there were tears on the 

Q 2 


laslies of Lydia's closed eyes, or that her hand 
went back in a caress to the head of the still 
sleeping boy against her knee, as they turned 
away. Did she too wish that her first- 
born had been a boy ? 

"- We may as well walk on to Eed Bank, 
now I am out, as your father will not be 
home until to-morrow, and after dinner you 
can run and see your cousin Milly, Avhilst I 
have a quiet hour with your grandmother.'* 
said Mrs. D'Anyer, turning down-hill towards 
Long Millgate, then a long, narrow and busy 
thoroughfare, between houses of all shapes 
and sizes, from the new red-brick mansion to 
the ricketty frame-built cottage of the work- 
ing man; some up steps some down steps, 
wdth here and there a bay- windowed shop, 
where the lic^ht strucfgled throus^h small 
panes set in thick frames. On the left, dark 
entries and narrow alleys ran steeply down 
the sand-stone bank to the very margin 
of the river Irk and shut it out of sight. 
Shut out of sight too if not of smell, 
the tanneries and dye-houses also on its 


margin, and the fair gardens and bleach-crofts 
across the stream. 

Two or three streets broke the Une on the 
townward side ; and on both, more than one 
painted sign intimated that there might be 
had " good entertainment for man and 

On the lowest and ontside step of one of 
these (the Qneen Anne, whose painted Q^gj 
over the door was in good preservation) 
stood James Hargreaves, with his sleeves 
rolled np, his bare arms yellow with fustic, 
his leather breeches and leggings displaying 
samples of many dyes, jnst as rough-looking as 
when at his own works, more than a quarter 
of a mile away. He was, however, well 
known, and appearances were nothing to him, 
whatever they might be to his companion, a 
bleacher named Walker, whose croft lay across 
the unseen river, but whose attire showed 
no such intimacy with his vats and bucking 
keirs. Their two wives were closely related 
and they had business connections likewise 
to draw them too-ether. 


" Wliy, Ellen, is that tliee ! the sight's good 
for sore een ! What's brouc^ht thee so far ? " 
and out went the great yellow hand to grip 
hers heartily. 

Before she could answer that she had " been 
to see how Lydia was getting on," the 
bleacher had also put forth a claim to notice ; 
and James Hargreaves, chucking his niece 
under the chin with a couple of yellow fingers,, 
said in a tone of pleasant banter : " So, Muriel^ 
lass, you've begun betimes ! Milly says you 
picked up a sweetheart in the wilds of 
Delamere : nothing less than a liandsome 
young officer ; and under tlie very nose of 
your grandmother ! " 

Muriel was abashed; her colour rose. She 
could only say, " Oh, uncle I " in a tone of 

Her mother came to her aid . " Don't talk 
such nonsense to the girl, James. And your 
Milly ought to know better. Muriel was not 
twelve years old when she met those people 
in Delamere, and it is more than three years 
since she saw one of them." 


As if reminded by association Avith 
Delamere, he remembered Lydia, and 
remembered something else. " I say, 
didn't thah see th' httle lad from Waver- 
ham at Sam's ? " he asked curiously. 

"Yes, surely." 

" What dost a' think of him ? " 

" He was asleep, with his head against 
Lydia's knee ; I did not see his face." 

"Then Lydia taks to th' lad? Oho! 
Well look at him when thah goes again, 
and tell us." 

And with a nod, and a chuckle, and an 
injunction that they should " go and see th' 
old woman and Mill}^" he turned into the 
Queen Anne, after Mr. Walker, leaving both 
Mrs. D'Anyer and Muriel to wonder what 
there was remarkable to see in the boy. 

There was the tinkle of a Avorkyard bell, then 
of another, and another, a clatter of clogs on 
the stony pavement, of voices hailing one 
another, and the roads were alive with men 
and women, lads and lasses, and poor wee 
children hurrying home from dye works, 


bleach works, tanneries, factories, bearing all 
some tokens of tlieir various callings in dress 
or person, tlie stains of some, the odour or 
the fluff of others. 

" Poor little things," said Muriel, as two 
barefooted and raixu'ed urchins of nine or ten 
years ran against her at the corner, " how 
hard it must be for them to get up at four in 
the morning and work in a buzzing factory 
all day, when the sun is shining in the sky 
and there are buttercups in the meadows. 
I never thouoiit how much worse other 
children were off than myself, when I was 
at Miss Briscoe's." 

"No, my dear, we are all naturally selfish, 
and in our own sorrows are apt to forget the 
greater ones of others ; perhaps because we 
know and feel our own, and can only imagine 
those of others. But we must make haste 
or your grandmother will have sat down 
to dinner before we get there." 

In another minute they were on Scothmd 
Bridge ; there was another stoppage. Samuel 
Bancroft hastening home to his dinner met them. 


After ordinary greetings, Mrs. D'Anyer 
began : 

" Sam, whose boy is that at your house? 
James Hargreaves has just asked me to look 
at him and say " 

Sam scowled. " Hang James Hargreaves ! " 
he cried irritably. " Let him mind his own 
business. What's Maggy Blackburn's nurse- 
child to him, or to you either ? " he added 
sharply, " that's Maggy's affair. / never asked 

" Well, Sam, you need not get into a pas- 
sion, I only repeated Avliat " 

Again Sam interrupted : 

" Yes, only repeated. That's the way mischief 
is made. I reckon you're going up to Eed 
Bank to 'only repeat' there. But I tell \o\\ 
what, Ellen, and you, Muriel, too, you'd best 
not say anything you see or hear about my 
house up tliere^ or you'll fmd yourselves in 
the Avrong box ; " and with a monitory nod 
he stalked on. 

He was not given to think aloud, or to 
mutter as he went, but with his lips close 


lOEBZi'i'Zy 10 mai:f:t. 

set. his thoughts kept pace with his steps, 

and thus they ran : 

" Hang it all ! This comes of giving way 

to Lydia. A pretty coil iherell be if mother 

gets hold of the clue. It was sure some imp 

of mischief kept me from the Post Office that 

day, and sent the poor little lad right in 

mother s way. It's confoundedly awkward ! 

confoundedly ! " And whilst he meditated he 

scratched his chin, and looked vacantly at 

the ground as he went. Presently a cunning 

gleam shot into his eyes : he had found a 

cause for self-oxatulation. *• Ir was lucts" 
»_ • 

I met Ellen and Muriel. I've got to know 
what's in the wind, and that's something. 
And I think IVe fricfhtened both of them 
into silence- Xeither one or the other has 
the courage of a mouse, and Pd lay odds 
they say nothing to mother that's likely to 
come back to me.'' 

He was right so far, that nothing was said, 
but whether from lack of courage, or from 
lack of interest in the subject, or the pressure 
of more interesting topics, is another matter. 


Ellen L'Anyer had certainly remarked to 
Muriel : 

" Your Uncle Sam seems put out about that 
boy. And no wonder. He's not overfond of 
children, and I daresay he is savage at the 
nurse bringing another person's child into his 
house to be kept. Perhaps your grandmother 
has been grumbhng about it. I know she said 
it wa:- like Maggy Blackburn's impudence 
to bring it. So we had best say nothing 
about it, we may only make mischief. Lydia 
seems half afraid of the woman ; and it's not 
safe to offend her, seeinsr how often your 
father lias to cross the forest and the rough 
character of her two sons. You know they 
narrowly escaped the gallows over the attack 
on that captain's servant." 

" Yes, Mrs. Kins^slev told me. She said 
there had been some false swearing or they 
would never have got off. Perhaps Aunt 
Lydia only had her for a nurse, on account 
of Uncle Sam's travelling." 

However this might be. Uncle Sam's 
courage led him to disturb his sick wife's 


serenity that day by grumbling at the 
presence of both Maggy and little Jem, and 
to eat his dinner with no worse relish for 
leaving her in tears. 

And when Muriel went a few days later to 
inquire after her Aunt Lydia, she found her 
downstairs, weak and low spirited, with a fret- 
ful child, and no nurse or attendant but a 
rouo-h servant-lass not more than fourteen. 

Sam had " bundled Maggy and the boy 
both off," with little apparent regard either 
for his wife's condition or her tears. 

Lydia did not say this, she merely explained 
that "Maggy Blackburn was obliged to go 
back to Cheshire ; and I am very sorry, for I 
cannot keep baby quiet." 

" Let me try," said Muriel, and walking 
about the room witli tlie velvet face nestled 
to her own she lulled it to sleep after a time. 
'Til en seeing that Lydia was making feeble 
.attempts to " put the disordered room to 
rights," she bade her sit down and she would 
•do it. 

When Sam came in for his tea he saw 


Muriel installel in the place of Maggy Black- 
burn, with her mother's approval, she having 
hurried home to obtain it. 

"I found Aunt Lydia all alone, with the 
baby crying on her lap, and her eyes were 
red as if she was fretting over her own 
inability to manage it," she had said, nothing 
doubting her own accuracy. 

Fretting, from whatever cause, is not con- 
ducive to a patient's recovery, and quite 
three more weeks elapsed before Lydia was 
strong enough to take charge of her own 
household affairs. 

"You're born for a nurse, Muriel, in spite of 
your grandmother," Sam had said before she 
had been there many days ; Lydia had seemed to 
appreciate the gentleness of her tone, manner, 
and movements, and the unwonted daintiness 
with which lier meals were served ; and both 
were hearty and sincere in their thanks when 
she left; but for all that she had a lurking 
suspicion that tiiey would feel her absence 
a relief. 

'' Tlierc's no place like home, mother dear," 


said she, as slie untied her bonnet-strings in 
their own snug sitting-room ; "I did not feel 
much hke home at Uncle Sam's ; and I don't 
think Aunt Lydia feels so either, she sighed 
so heavily if I chanced to mention Delamere 
or the Kingsleys, or the Wynnes ; I could 
see she checked herself in speaking and shut 
her mouth tight. She never seems free and 
open, but always under some restraint, 
especially when Uncle Sam is there ; and I 
am afraid she is unhappy." 

" May be so, my dear, long courtships and 
late marriages do not always ensure felicity, 
whatever yowv grandmother may think." 

Nor did early and hasty ones, if her own 
might be taken as a sample. Not that John 
D'Anyer did not estimate his wife in his best 
moods. But he set so much larger an esti- 
mate on himself, was so thoroughly imbued 
with personal vanity, and his claim to gentility 
— though his own father was only a manu- 
facturer — had such extravagant ideas of his 
supreme right as lord and master to worship 
and obedience, and was so easily flattered out 


of doors into excesses which sent him home in 
his worst moods, that the poor little v/ife 
might have been excused had she joined her 
mother in deprecating early marriages.