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Full text of ""The last of the Mortimers", a story in two voices"

WMMBBfe* 





MRS OLIPHANT 




m 










Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 

by 



PROFESSOR 
B. M. CORRIGAN 






THE 



LAST OF THE MORTIIJ 



PORT CARLING 



in <3tto l^felC LIBRARY, 



MRS. OLIPHANT, 






AUTHOR OF 

"MADONNA MARY," " FOR LOVE AND LIFE," " SQUIRE ARDEN," 
" MAY," "THE HOUSE ON THE MOOR," ETC. ETC. 



NEW EDITION. 



WARD, LOCK, AND CO., 

LONDON, NEW YORK, AND MELBOURNE. 

[All rights reserved.} 



CONTENTS. 



PART I. 

PACK 

THE LADIES AT THE HALL . . 1 

PART II. 
THE LIEUTENANT'S WIFE .. 48 

PART 111. 
THE LADIES AT THE HALL continued 105 

PART IV. 

THE LIEUTENANT'S WIFE continued . 1C6 

PART V. 
THE LADIES AT THE HALL continued * . 227 

POSTSCRIPT . * , , . 865 




THE LAST OF THE MORTIMERS. 



PAET L 



THE LADIES AT THE HALL. 



CHAPTER I. 

I THOUGHT I heard a slight rustle, as if Sarah had taken 
off her spectacles, .but 1 was really so interested in the 
matter which I was then discussing with Mr. Cresswell, our 
solicitor, that I did not look round, as I certainly should have 
done in any other circumstances; but imagine my utter 
amazement and the start which Mr. Cresswell gave, nearly 
upsetting the ink on the drab table-cover, which never could 
have got the better of it, when my sister Sarah, who never 
speaks except to me, and then only in a whisper, pronounced 
distinctly, loud out, the following words : " His Christian 
name was Richard Arkwright ; he was called after the cotton - 
spinner ; that was the chief thing against him in my father's 
days." 

Now it was years and years ago since Sarah had lost her 
voice. It happened before my father died, when we were both 
comparatively young people ; she had been abroad with him 



2 The Last of the Mortimers. 

and caught a violent cold on her way home. She was rather 
proud in those days it was before she took to knitting and 
she had not forgotten then that she was once a beauty. When 
ehe saw that her voice was gone for good, Sarah gave up 
talking. She declared to me privately that to keep up a con- 
versation in that hoarse horrid whisper was more than she 
could give in to, and though she was a very good Christian 
in principle she never could be resigned to that loss. At first 
she kept upstairs in her own room ; but after my father's death 
she came regularly to the drawing-room, giving everybody to 
understand that she was not to be spoken to. Poor dear old 
soul ! she was as anxious to hear everything that was said to 
me as if she had come down off her stilts and taken part in the 
conversation ; but you may suppose what a startling event it 
was to hear Sarah's voice. 

I gave a jump, as was natural, and ran to her to see what 
had happened. 

"Do be cautious, Milly," she said, fretfully, in her old 
whisper ; for to be sure I had whisked down her ball of worsted, 
and caught one of her pins in my new-fashioned buttonholes. 
" At your age a gentlewoman should move about in a different 
sort of way. I am quite well, thank you. Please to go back 
to your occupation, and leave me to carry on mine in peace." 

"But Sarah, my dear soul! you've got back your voice!" 
cried I. 

Sarah smiled at me, not with her pretty smile. " People 
who are strong are always thinking such things," she said. 
"You don't know what it is to be afflicted ; go back to your 
business, please." 

"What does she say, Miss Milly?" cried Mr.- Cresswell, 
quite eagerly, when I went back to the table. 

" Oh, nothing at all ; it's all a mistake, I suppose," said 
I, feeling a little nettled, "put it down all the same. I dare 
say it was one of those spirits we hear about nowadays. And 
a very useful bit of information too, which makes it all the 
more remarkable, for I never heard they did much good in 
that way. Richard Arkwright ! Of all the names I ever 
heard, the oddest name for a Mortimer ! but put it down." 

Mr. Cresswell put it down as I said. " Richard Arkwright 
Mortimer is something more of an individual than Blank 
Mortimer, Esq., that's true," said he ; " he ought to be some- 
thing with that name. Begging your pardon, Miss Milly, 
though he was a Mortimer, he ought to have had either a 
profession or a trade with that name. Don't you think now," 



The Last of the Mortimers. 8 

he said, lowering his voice, and making a sign at Sarah over 
his shoulder, u after having broken the ice, something more 
might be go out of her f 

1 shook my head at first, being angry ; then I nodded as 1 
came to myself, and at last said it was all I could say 
" We'll see." 

" Ah, ah, we'll see that'll do, Miss Milly ; but don't lose 
your temper, my dear lady," said Mr. Cresswell ; " all the 
county reverences you for an angelic temper, as you well 
know." 

" Stuff !" said I ; " I've too much Welsh blood in me for 
that ; but a pack of interlopers, like the rest of you, never 
know the real mettle of them that come of the soil ; we're as 
clear of the soil as the ore in the Llangollen mines, we Mor- 
timers ; we can do what we have to do, whatever it may be." 

Mr. Cresswell cast up his eyebrows a little, and gave a 
kind of glance towards Sarah and her knitting. " Well, 
well, it isn't bad ore, at all events," he said, with a chuckle : 
u but, after all, I suppose the first squire was not dug out of 
Llewellyn cliff?" 

" It will be a vast deal more profitable to find out where 
the next squire is to come from," said I ; u we are old women 
both of us ; I'd advise you to set things agoing without 
delay. What would happen, do you suppose, if Sarah and I 
were both to die without finding an heir ? What does happen, 
by the bye, when such a thing occurs; does it go to the 
crown ?" 

" My dear lady, I would not give much for the crown's 
chance," said Cresswell, with, a little shrug of his shoulders. 
" Heirs-at-law are never so far lost or mislaid but they turn 
up some time. Birds of the air carry the matter when there's 
an estate in question. There's nothing so safe to be found, 
in my humble opinion, as an heir-at-law." 

" For I shouldn't much mind," said I to myself, thinking 
over it, "if it went to the Queen. She might fix on the 
park for autumn quarters, sure, as well as on that outlandish 
{Scotch castle of hers. It's a great deal nearer, and I make 
sure it's prettier ; or if she gave it to the Prince of Wales as a 
present, or to any of the other children, I should not mind for 
my part. It is not by any means so bad a prospect as I 
supposed it might go to the Queen." 

" But, then, what would be done with Mr. Richard Ark- 
wright and his progeny? I'll be bound he has ten children," 
said Mr. Cresswell. ** Somebody did leave Her Majesty an 



4 The Last of the Mortimers. 

estate not so very long ago, and I rather think she sought 
out the heirs and made it up to them. Depend upon it, Mr. 
Richard Arkwright would have it out of her. Come, we must 
stick to the Mortimers, Miss Milly. I'll go off and see after 
the advertisements; there's plenty of time. I don't believe 
you mean to be in any hurry out of this world, either Miss 
Sarah or you." 

" That's as it may be that's as God pleases," said I; " but 
you must wait a little first, and I'll see if I can find out 
anything further about him. Perhaps some one can think 
on ; we'll see, we'll see ; more may come." 

Mr. Cresswell nodded his head confidentially. " You don't 
remember anything about him yourself V" he said. 

" Bless you, I am ten years younger than she is," said I; 
u she was a young lady, 1 was only a child. I neither knew 
nor cared anything about the Lancashire cousin. Ten years 
make a great deal of difference when people are young." 

"And when they're old as well," said Cresswell, with a 
little nod of his head. Mr. Cresswell, of course, like all 
the other people, would never have looked at me when Sarah 
was present in olcJ days ; but now, when we were both old 
women, the sly old lawyer had wheeled about, and was rather 
an admirer of mine. I have had admirers since I was fifty ; 
I never had many before. 

44 Mow, are you going to stay to tea ?" said I. 
44 Thank you. I have not the least doubt it would be for 
my own advantage ; my cook is not to be named in the same 
breath with yours ; but I promised to be home to dinner," 
said Mr. Cresswell. u Thank you all the same; Sara will 
be waiting for me." 

" And how is the dear child ?" said I. 

44 Very contrairy," said Mr. Cresswell, shaking his head. 
" To tell the truth, I don't know what to make of her. I 
had twenty minds to bring her to-day and leave her with 
you. 1 ' 

u Bring her next. time. I never find her contrairy," said 
I. ' 4 But perhaps you never were young yourself ?" 

44 Perhaps not, Miss Milly," he said. " I have had a pretty 
tough life, anyhow ; and it is hard to be thwarted at the last 
by the only creature one has to love." 

f ' It is harder not to have a single creature that one haa a 
right to love," said 1 a little sharply. " If we had your Sara 
belonging to us, contrairy or not, we should not have to hunt 
up a far-off cousin, or advertise for an heir." 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. I 

A little passing gleam shot from the solicitor's eye ; IIP 
looked at me close for a moment, and then at Sarah, with 
a lip that moved slightly, as if he were unconsciously saying 
soniething within himself ; I saw what it was as clear as 
daylight. 

" She's a good girl," he said, faltering a little. ** I daresay 
you'd soon have her in hand, Miss Milly ; there's no place 
she is so fond of as the Park ; I'll bring her out to-morrow." 

And he went away, never thinking that I had seen what 
was in his mind* 



CHAPTER IT. 

OUR drawing-room was a very large one. The Mortimers 
had required large rooms in their day ; and I will not 
say, if we had been young people, and disposed to have com- 
pany, that we could not have kept it up with any of them ; 
for my father, who lived in a very homely way, proud as he 
was, had laid up a good deal, and so had we. But though we 
kept no company, we had not the heart to turn the Mortimer 
family, of which we were the only remaining representatives, 
out of their old room. So we had a great screen, made of 
stamped leather, and which was like everything else, of my 
grandmother's days, stretched behind Sarah's chair, and with 
a very large bright fire, and a good lamp upon the round 
table, we managed to find the fireside very comfortable, 
though we were surrounded by all the ranges of old furniture 
in the old half-dark room. Old Ellis had to come stumbling 
as slowly as if the distance had been half a mile between 
us and the door, when he came into the room with anything; 
and I dare say impatient young people could not have put up 
with the rumble of chairs rolled aside, and footstools tripped 
over, with which he always gave us warning of his coining. 
For my part 1 was used to it, and took no notice. Where 
I sat, the prospect before me was, first, Sarah in her easj 
daair, close within shade of the screen, and beyond a darkling 



6 The Last of the Mortimers. 

stretch of space, which a stranger might have made very 
mysterious, but which I knew perfectly well to be filled with 
just so many tables, chairs, ottomans, and miscellaneous 
articles, not one of which could have been stolen away without 
being missed. On the other side of the room, behind my own 
chair, was a grand piano in a corner and another waste of 
old furniture. Many people wondered why we did not make 
a cosy little sitting-room of the boudoir, which had never 
been used since my mother's days. But Sarah, and I may 
say myself also, was of a different way of thinking. We liked 
the big room which once had not been at all too big for 
the Mortimers, and I am not sure that I did not even like 
the dark bit on either side of us, and the two big old- 
fashioned mirrors, like magic mirrors in a fairy tale, with 
a faint trembling of light over them, and all the shadowy 
depths of the room standing out in them, as if to double the 
size, which was already so much too great. Sometimes I used 
to stand and watch myself going across one of those big 
mirrors. It was a strange weird creature wandering about 
among the still, silent, deserted household gods. It was not 
surely me. 

Not that I mean to represent myself as a sentimental person 
not in the very slightest degree. I am past fifty and stout. 
My own opinion is that people had best be stout when they 
are past fifty, and I like my own little comforts as well as 
anybody of my years. When I was young I was far from 
being pretty. If I am to state frankly my own ideas on this 
subject, I would say that I think I might have passed for 
moderately good-looking, if 1 had not been sister to a beauty. 
But when we two were described as the beautiful Miss Mor- 
timer and the plain Miss Mortimer, you may suppose how any 
little poor pretensions of mine were snubbed at once. To be 
good-looking was something not expected from Sarah's sister. 
But however the tables have rather turned of late. If you 




Milly. 

it doesn't matter very much, to be sure ; but dear, dear, vanity 
does lie deep ! I declare honestly it's a pleasure to me. 

When Sarah and I are by ourselves, we don't have a great 
deal of conversation. She has lost her voice, as I said, which 
makes her decline talking : and I must say, though she never 
yields to acknowledge it, that I think she's lost her hearing a 
little, poor dear old soul 1 Every night in her life (except 



The Last of the Mortimers. 7 

Sundays) she reads the Times. That paper gets great abuse in 
many quarters, especially in the country, where our old 
Squires, to be sure, are always at it for changing its opinions ; 
but 1 say, great success, and long life to the Times ! that is my 
opinion. How ever Sarah would get over those long evenings 
without that paper, I don't know. It quite keeps us in 
reading; and I do assure you, we know much more about 
most things that are going on than a great many men do, who 
are much more in the world. The Times comes in early, but 
Sarah never looks at it till after tea. I have to keep out of 
her sight, indeed, when I glance over it myself in the early 
part of the day, for Sarah does not approve of daylight 
reading. She thinks it a waste of time. We have not such a 
very great deal to occupy us either, as you may suppose ; at 
least Sarah has little, except her knitting, for she will rarely 
allow me to consult her anything about the property, though 
she is the eldest. I wonder for my part that she does not 
weary of her life. She never comes down to breakfast, and I 
don't know very well what she and Carson find to busy them- 
selves about till noon in her room upstairs; but at twelve 
o'clock punctually she comes down all dressed for the day. 
She does not dress as I do, in the ordinary dress that every- 
body wears, neither are Sarah's fashions the same as I remember 
in our youth, when our waists were just under our arms, and 
our gowns had "gores" in them. On the contrary, she has 
taken to a very long waist and tight sleeves, with a worked 
muslin shawl or scarf over her shoulders. ' In cold weather the 
muslin is lined with silk of delicate colours, and her cap, which 
is always light and pretty (Carson has great taste), trimmed to 
correspond. Her hair, of course, she always wears in curis at 
the front. It is quite silver-white, and her face, poor dear 
soul, is a little pinched and sharp nowadays. When she takes 
her seat within shelter of the screen at twelve o'clock every 
day, the muslin shawl, lined with peach, is as pretty as possible 
in itself : to be sure Sara Cressweli might almost wear it to a 
ball ; but I do declare I thought it looked very chilly to-day 
on Sarah. Nice wJaite Shetland for instance, which is almost 
as pretty as lace, or, indeed, one of those beautiful soft fine 
woollen shawls, would look a great deal better over that 
purple silk gown, if she couid only think so. But to be sure. 
Sarah will have her own way. There she sat knitting all the 
time Mr. Cressweli was talking with me, and there she does 
sit all day long with her basket of wools, and knitting-pins, 
and patterns. Every other day she takes a drive, goes to 



U The Last of the Mortimers. 

church once on Sundays, and reads the Times on all the week 

evenings. That is exactly how she lives. 

Now perhaps this does not appear so odd to anybody else as 
it does to me ; and I am sure I might have got used to it 
after a dozen years ; but only Sarah, you see, has very good 
abilities, and is not the person to fix herself down like this. 
And she knows a great deal more of life than f do. My father 
and she were, I think, near upon ten years abroad after my 
mother died. What she was doing all that time I know no 
nore than Carson does. Many a rumour went about that she 
wa, married, and many an anxious hour I had all by myself 
at the Park. But when she came back just Miss Mortimer, 
there was not a soul in the county but was surprised. Such a 
great beauty ! and papa's eldest daughter and co -heiress ! 
people said it was unaccountable. I can't say 7 thought it 
unaccountable. I never saw anybody that I could fancy 

myself, except perhaps , and then he never asked me, you 

know. It might be precisely the same with Sarah, though she 
was a beauty. But the wonder to me is that after having 
lived abroad so long, and having, as I have no doubt she had, 
u life of her own, which did not merely belong to my father's 
daughter, she should just have settled down like this. Many 
and many a time have I thought it all over, sitting opposite to 
her of an evening, when tea was over and she was reading the 
Times. There she sat quite straight up, her muslin shawl with 
the peach-bottom lining dropping down a little over her 
shoulders, and her thin hands in their black lace mits holding 
the paper. She" had never reposed any confidence in me, you 
see. I did not know what might have happened to her when 
she was out upon the big waves of life. I dare say many a 
time when I wondered why she took no interest in my affairs, 
she was back upon that reserve of her own which I knew 
nothing about. But the odd thing to me is, that after having 
really had something that one could call a life, something 
happening to her own self, don't you know what I mean ? 
she should have settled down so fixed and motionless here. 

We dined early, which was a prejudice of mine ; but as 
Sarah had a very uncertain appetite, we had always "some- 
thing " to tea, which was the cause of Mr. Cresswell's allusion 
to our cook Evans. Further, we indulged ourselves by having 
this substantial tea in the drawing-room, which we never left 
after our early dinner. When tea was over on the night of 
Mr. Cresswell's visit, I had some little matters to do which 
kept me about the room, going from one place to another. A* 



The Last of the Mortimers. 9 

1 stood in the shadow looking at the bright fire and lamp, and 
Sarah reading in her easy chair, I could not prevent a great 
many inquiries rising in my mind. What was Cousin Richard 
Arkwright Mortimer to her, for example? He had not been 
at the Park, nor heard of, so far as I know, for forty years. 
And then about her voice ? On the whole it was very curious. 
I resolved to try hard for some conversation with Sarah, after 
she had done with the Times, that night. 



CHAPTER IIL 

TT was not a very easy matter to draw Sarah into a conversa- 
tion, especially in the evening. I had to watch my 
opportunity very carefully. At ten exactly the door opened 
in the dark distance, and Ellis came rumbling along through 
the dim depths behind the screen with the sherry and biscuits. 
Just at the same moment Sarah smoothed out the paper care- 
fully, laid it down, as she always did, on the top of her wool- 
basket, and held out her hands to warm them at the fire. 
They were very thin hands in their black lace mits, and they 
were a little rheumatic sometimes, though she did not like to 
confess it. She kept rubbing them slowly before the fire. 

I poured out her glass of sherry, put the plate of biscuits 
within her reach, and drew my chair nearer, that I might be 
sure of hearing what she said. Sarah took no notice of my 
movements ; she rubbed diligently one of her forefingers, the 
joints of which were a little enlarged, and never so much as 
glanced at me. 

4 'Did you ever know anything about this cousin Richard of 
ours, Sarah ?" said I. 

She did not answer just for a moment, but kept on rubbing 
her forefinger ; when that was finished she answered, "I knew 
a good deal about him once. I would have married him if they 
had let me, in the old times." 

I was so thunderstruck by this unexpected frankness that I 
scarcely knew what to say. At last I stumbled out somehow 



10 The Last of the Mortimers. 

" Tou would have married him !" with a kind of inexpres- 
sible amazement ; and she saying it so calmly too ! 

" Yes," said Sarah, rubbing her middle finger thoughtfully, 
" he was young, and fresh -looking, and good-tempered. I dare 
say I could have liked him if they had let me ; it is quite 
true." 

"And would they not let you?" cried I, in my eagerness, 
thinking that perhaps Sarah was going to confide in me at 
last. 

" No," she said, pursing up her lips. She seemed to echo 
the " no '' after, in the little nod she gave her head, but she 
said nothing more. 

44 And Sarah, tell me, please, if you don't mind, was it 
because of his means ?" cried I ; " was he not rich enough V" 

44 You don't know anything about these affairs, Milly," said 
Sarah, a little scornfully. " I don't mind in the least. He 
was exactly such a man as would have taken your fancy. 
When I saw him, five years after, 1 was glad enough they did 
not let me ; though it might have saved a deal of trouble too," 
she said to herself in a kind of sigh. 

1 don't know how I managed to hear those last words. 1 am 
sure she did not think I heard them. You may suppose I grew 
more curious with every word she spoke. 

44 And where was it you met him five years after ; was it 
abroad?" said I, with a little flutter in my voice. 

I cannot think she was very sharp in her hearing. She gave 
a little glance up at me, noticing that I paused before the last 
word; and then seeing me look a little frightened and 
conscious, she drew herself up all at once, and stopped rubbing 
her fingers. 

44 Do you mean to cross-question me, Milly?" she cried, 
giving a stamp with her foot. " Do you mean to rummage 
into my affairs and find me out by your questions ? You are 
very much mistaken, I can tell you. I am just as willing as 
any one that Richard Mortimer should be found out. In 
making your new heir you shall have no opposition from me." 
44 Why, bless us all, Sarah !" said I, " it was your own idea." 

41 Very well," she said, with a little confused heat of manner ; 
4 'why do you imply that I have any objection? One would 
suppose, to hear you, that you were trying to find out some 
secrets of mine." 

44 1 never knew you had any secrets to find out," said I, 
sharply. I knew quite well I was aggravating her, but one, 
must take one's own part. 



Ths Last of the Mortimers. 11 

She did not make any answer. She got up on her feet, and 
drew her muslin shawl round her. There was a little nervous 
tremble about her head and hands ; she often had it, but I 
marked it more than ever to-night. I thought at first she was 
going away without her sherry, but she thought better of that. 
However, she went a few steps behind the screen to put her 
basket aside, a thing she never did ; and I think I can see her 
now, as I saw her in the big mirror, drawing the fingers of one 
hand through the other, and gliding along through the dark 
room, all reflected from head to foot in the great glass, with her 
peach-blossom ribbons nodding tremulously over her grey hair, 
and her white muslin shawl drawn over her shoulders. Her 
face, as I saw it in the mirror, had a cloud and agitation upon 
it, but was set with a fixed smile upon the lips, and a strange, 
settled, passionate determination. I could no more penetrate 
what it meant than I could tell why Sarah was angry. It was 
something within herself that made her so, nothing that I had 
done or said. 

After she was gone I dropped into my chair, and sat there 
wondering and pondering till the fire had nearly gone out, and 
the great room was lying blank and chill in the darkness. Now 
that my thoughts were directed into this channel and it was 
very strange to me that they never had been so before there 
were a thousand things to think of. When Sarah was twenty 
and I only ten there was a wonderful difference to be sure be- 
tween us, and not a great deal less when Sarah was thirty and 
I twenty ; but from that time it had been growing less by 
degrees, so that we really did not feel nowadays any great 
difference in our age. But I was only fourteen when my 
mother died. I had never, of course, been able to share in any 
of the gaieties, being only in the schoolroom, and certainly 
never dreamed of criticising my big sister, whom I thought 
everything that was beautiful and splendid. Then my father 
and she went away and left me. The Park was let, and I 
lived with my godmother. I almost forgot that I had a father 
and sister in the world. They seldom wrote, and we lived 
entirely out of the world, and never heard even in gossip of the 
goings on at Rome and Naples, and what place the beautiful 
Miss Mortimer took there. They came home at last quite sud- 
denly, in the depth of winter. Naturally Sarah had caught a 
very bad cold. She kept her own room for a very long time 
after and never saw anybody. Then she lost her voice. I 
remember I took it quite for granted at the time that it was 
her cold and the loss of her voice that made her shut herself 



12 The Last of ike Mortimers. 

ip ; but I must say that once or twice since I have had a little 
doubt on that subject. She was then not much past five-and- 
thirty, a very handsome woman. My father lived many years 
after, but they never, though they had been great companions 
for so long before, seemed to be at ease in each other's presence. 
They never even sat down to dinner together when they could 
help it. Since then, to be sure, Sarah had begun to live more 
with me ; but what a life it was ! I had the concerns of the 
property to occupy me, and things to manage ; besides, I was 
always out and about in the vi!]age and among the neighbours ; 
and still more, I was quite a different woman from Sarah, more 
homely-like, and had never been out in the world. I wouldn't 
for anything be what you might call suspicious of my own only 
sister ; and what I could be suspicious about, even if I wanted 
to, was more than I knew. Still it was odd, very odd, more 
particularly after Sarah's strange words and look. My mind 
was all in a ferment I could not tell what to think ; but it 
came upon me as strong as a conviction that something must 
have happened in those ten years ; what it could be was as dark 
as midnight, but there must be something. That was the end 
I came to after all my pordermg. Ellis came twice into the 
room to shut up, and twice stumbled off again with his " Beg 
pardon, ma'am." It began to feel clvlly as the fire went out, 
and the night grew pale and ghostly in the mirrors. By and 
by I began to hear those cracks and rustles which one always 
hears when one sits up late at night. It wasn't in the fur- 
niture, bless you ! I know a great" deal belter than that ; the 
old walnut and satin-wood was all seasoned by a century's wear. 
I don't pretend to say what it was : but I know that I was made 
very uneasy sitting all by myself, with the fire out, in that big 
room. When it drew near twelve o'clock, I went to bed. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 13 



CHAPTER IV. 

I MIGHT as well, before all this description of our day's 
talk and cogitations, have said first who we were. 
The Mortimers are an old Cheshire family. We came 
originally from the other side of the Dee ; but we have been 
settled here in the Park since Henry the Seventh's time, when 
to be sure Welshmen were in fashion. The old tower of 
Wyfod, over Llangollen way, was the cradle of our family. 
So we have not travelled very far from our origin. We have 
always been, since we came to the Cheshire side, tolerably 
prosperous and prudent, not mixing much with politics, 
having a pretty eye for a bargain, and letting other people 
get along in their own way ; I say so quite frankly, not being 
ashamed of it. Once, I confess, I felt a little sore that we 
had no crusading knights nor wild cavaliers among our 
ancestors ; but that, of course, was when I was young. Now 
I take a different view of affairs. Cavaliers and crusading 
knights have been generally very expensive luxuries for their 
families, and must have done a great deal more mischief than 
a man, however well disposed to it, could do at home. 
Another circumstance has been good for our purse, but not so 
good (I fear so at least it threatens at the present moment) 
for the prolongation of the race. The Mortimers have never 
had large families. I suppose few English houses of our rank, 
or indeed of any rank, can count so few cousins and collateral 
branches. We have relations, certainly, by my mother's side, 
who was one of the Stamfords of Lincolnshire ; but except 
this visionary Richard Arkwiight (did ever mortal hear of 
such a name for a Mortimer !), there is not a single individual 
remaining of our own name and blood to inherit the property 
after us, which is a very sad thing to say, and indeed, in some 
degree, a sort of disgrace to us. The family allowance of 
children for ever so long has been somewhat about one son and 
one daughter. The daughter has married off, as was natural, 
or died unmarried, as, indeed, for a Miss Mortimer, was more 
natural still ; and the son has become the squire, and had a 
son and a daughter in his turn. In Queen Anne's time, the 
then squire, whose name was Lewis, made an unfortunate 
divergence from the usual custom. He had two girls only ; 
but one of them married, and her husband took our name and 



1| The Last of the Mortimers. 

arms ; the other died very opportunely, and left her sister in 
full possession, so no harm was done. It is, however, a saying 
in the family, that the Mortimers are to end in two sisters, and 
that after them the property is to be divided and alienated 
from the name. This is one reason why I never was much of 
a favourite at home. They forgave Sarah, for she was beautiful, 
and just the person to be an heiress. But co-heiresses are the 
bugbear of the Mortimers. Ah me ! If there had been no 
such saying as this, or if we had been poor girls, it might have 
made a difference ! Not in me, to be sure ; I need not be 
sentimental about it. I never saw an individual in this world 
I could have fancied but one, and he, you know, never asked 
me ; so it could not have made the slightest difference to me. 

However, if there's one thing more than another that my 
heart is set to resist, it is letting this prophecy be fulfilled in 
our time. I'd rather compass sea and land to find a Mor- 
timer ! I'd rather set out, old as I am, and hunt for one with 
a lantern through the world! Sarah, though she is so 
capricious and contrary, is of the same mind. It was she who 
told me of this Mr. Richard Arkwright, whom I had forgotten 
all about. And yet, you see, after showing such decided 
interest, she turns upon one so ! What a very odd thing it is 
that she did not marry ! 1 never could make it out, for my 
part. Nobody could imagine, to see her now, how very pretty, 
nay, how beautiful she was ; and such a way with her ! and 
dressed, to be sure, like a duchess. All the young men in the 
county were after her before she went abroad. But dear, 
dear ! to think what a changed life when she came home, and 
lost her voice, and shut herself up in her own room. 

There is nothing I dislike more than curiosity, or prying, or 
suspiciousness ; but I should like to know the rights of it how 
Sarah went on abroad. To be sure my father was anxious 
enough that she should get married, and have a good humble- 
minded husband, who would take the name of Mortimer. It 
was only me that he would not hear of any proposal for. I 
don't think he would have broken his heart if, like the Milly 
Mortimer in Queen Anne's time, I had been so obliging as to 
die. 

However, here we are, just as we were in the nursery, two 
Miss Mortimers. Sarah, who might have had half a dozen 
good marriages, just the same as I am ; and I protest I don't 
even know that there are two people existing in the world 
who have the smallest collateral right to divide the property 
and take it away from the name ; unjesg 



The Last of the Mortimers. 15 

fehould happen to have co-heiresses ! married to husbands who 
will not change to Mortimer ! Don't let me think of such a 
horror ! 

These are our circumstances in the meantime. It is a very 
sad thing for a family when there are no collateral branches. 
1 forgot to say that how this Richard Arkwright came about, 
was by the strange accident of Squire George, who died in 
1713, having two sons I 



CHAPTER V. 

DURING all this time and indeed, after all, it was only a 
single day I had forgotten all about Mr. Cresswell and 
his Sara. He and his family had been our family's solicitors 
for a great many generations. He knew all our secrets that we 
knew ourselves. It is only about twenty years since he suc- 
ceeded his father in the business, and married that pretty 
delicate young creature, the clergyman's daughter of St. John's. 
She died very early, poor thing, as was to be expected, and 
Sara is his only child. But, of course, he does not know any 
more than a baby how to manage a pretty fantastical young 
girl. They are a very respectable, substantial family in their 
way, and have been settled in their house in Chester for a very 
long time though, of course, it would be absurd to call a 
family of solicitors an old family and Mr. Cresswell is very 
well off in the world, and can give a very pretty fortune to his 
daughter ; yet the covetous old fox has actually a fancy in his 
mind 1 could see it when he was last here that if Sara only 
played her cards well she might be heiress of the Park, and 
succeed Sarah and me. An attorney's daughter ! Not that I 
mean to put a slight upon Sara, who is our godchild, and a 
very sweet, pretty girl. But to fancy that old Cresswell could 
take up such an idea, and / not find him out! It is odd, 
really, how the cleverest of men deceive themselves. He will 
take every means to find out Richard Mortimer all the same. 
He'll not fail of his duty, however things may turn out, I 



16 The Last of the Mortimers. 

know that ; but to think at the very bottom of his sly old 
heart that he should have a hankering after the Park ! It is 
quite inconceivable what fancies will take hold of men. 

Sara is our godchild, as I said, called Sara Millicent, in token 
of the kindness that poor Mrs. Cresswell, poor young mother- 
less creature, thought she had received from us. Poor little 
soul ! she little thought then, that the baby she was so proud 
of, was the only one she was to be spared to bring into the 
world. From that time till now Sara has been a pet at the 
Park, and always free to come to us when she wished, or 
when her father thought it would do her good. This was 
how she was coming to-day. Perhaps it might be imagined 
by some people rather a bold thing of one's family solicitor to 
bring his daughter to us without an invitation. But you see 
we were only ladies, and did not stand on our dignity as people 
do when there are men in the house; and, besides, she was 
our pet and godchild, which makes all the difference. 

Just before dinner, Mr. CressVell's one-horse chaise came 
into the courtyard. We never use the great door except for 
great people, and when Sarah goes out for her airings. I 
always use the court entrance, which is much handier, especially 
in winter, and when there is no fire in the great hall. I really 
see no use, except on occasions, for a fire in that great hall. It 
looks miserable, I dare say, but then the coal it consumes is 
enormous enough to keep three families in the village com- 
fortably warmed and we keep no lackeys to lounge about 
there, and be in the way. A good respectable family servant, 
like Ellis, with plenty of maids, is much more to my taste than 
those great saucy fellows, who have not the heart of a mouse. 
But this is quite apart from what I was saying. Sarah had 
come down just the same as ever, except that she had her 
brown gown on, she wears a different gown every day in the 
week, and her muslin shawl lined with blue, and of course 
blue ribbons in her cap to correspond. Carson, after all, is 
really a wonderful milliner. She seemed to have forgotten, or 
at least passed over, our little quarrel, for she spoke just the 
same as usual, and said, as she always does, that she hoped that 
I would not forget to order the carriage for her drive. I have 
given over being nettled about this. She says it regularly, 
poor dear soul, every other day. 

u And little Sara is coming to-day," said 1. " You'll take 
her for company, won't you ? It will do the child good." 

" Do her good I why, Cresswell has a carriage !" said Sarah 
ia her whisper ; " beggars will ride before all's done." 



The Last of the Mortimers. 17 

" But he's nothing of a beggar, quite the reverse ; he'a 
very well-to-do, indeed," said I. " I think he has a very good 
right to a one-horse chciise." 

44 Ah, to be sure, that makes all the difference," said Sarah 
in her sharp way, " I forgot it was but one horse." 

Now her voice, which is rather pleasant when she's kind, 
gets a sort of hiss in it when she's spiteful, and the sound of 
that " horse," though I wouldn't for the world say any harm 
of my sister, drew out all the hoarseness and unpleasant sound 
in the strangest way possible. I was quite glad to hear at that 
moment the wheels in the courtyard. 

44 There is little Sara," said 1, and went off to fetch her in, 
very glad to get off, it must be confessed : but glad also, to be 
sure, to see my little pet, who had always taken so kindly to 
me. Before I could get to the door which Ellis was holding 
open, the dear child herself came rushing upon me, fairly 
driving me a few steps back, and taking away my breath. 
44 You're not to come into the draught, godmamma. It's so 
cold, oh, it's so cold ! 1 thought my nose would be off," cried 
Sara's voice close to my ear. She was talking and kissing me 
at the same moment, and after the start she had given me, you 
may suppose, I did not pick up exactly every word she said 
But that was the substance of it, to be sure. 

u Why didn't you wear a veil? You ought to wear a veil, 
child. We were all supposed to have complexions when I was 
young," said I. u Don't you have any complexions, now, you 
little girls V" 

44 Oh, godmamma ! I don't expect ever to hear you talking 
nonsense," said Sara severely. u What's the good of our 
.complexions? We can't do anything with them that I ever 
heard of . Come in from the draught, please, for the sake of 
your dear old nose." 

44 You are the rudest little girl I ever knew in my life. Go 
in, child, go in, and see your godmamma," said I. ' How 
ever do you manage that girl, Mr. Cresswell? Does she 
think I don't know all the draughts in my own house?" 

44 Ah, my dear lady, she's contrairy. I told you so she 
always was and ever will be," said Mr. Cresswell, putting down 
his hat with a sigh. Dear, dear! the poor man certainly had 
his troubles with that little puss. Manage her, indeed ! when, 
to be sure, as was natural, she made him do exactly just as she 
pleased. 

When we went in after her, he and I, there she was, to be 
sure, kneeling down on Sarah's footstool, trying all she could 



18 The Last of the Mortimers. 

to put my sister's curls out of order with kissing her. ^ If any 
one else had dared to do it ! But Sara, who never since she 
was a baby feared any creature, had her way with her 
godmother as well as with all the rest of us. There's a great 
deal in never being afraid. 

" Now, go up-stairs, and take off your bonnet, there's a 
good child ; there's a fire in your room to warm it for puss in 
velvet. Go, and come down smooth and nice as your god- 
mamma loves to see you. Dinner will be ready presently, 
and you must be nice for dinner. There, there, don't talk any 
more, Sara, go and smooth your hair." 

" Oh yes, certainly, and then you'll see what's happened !" 
cried Sara, and frisked off out of the room like a little puss as 
she was. 

I dare say the dear child expected nothing less than a great 
curiosity on my part about what had happened. Poor dear 
ittle kitten ! she forgot that these little secrets were not such 
great matters to me. When she was gone we did not say a 
syllable about Sara ; but her good father began to pull about 
the things on one of the tables behind the screen, and made 
signs to me with his eyebrows to come and talk to him. 
"When I passed over that way he said quite softly, "Anything 
more?" 

"Not a word," said I; for, to be sure, that about Sarah 
marrying if they would have let her was private, arid even the 
family solicitor had nothing to do with it, though, I dare say 
if the truth were known, he knew all about it better than I 
did. " Not a word ; only, I suppose, I should say he must be 
about her own age." 

Mr. Cresswell glanced up at me, gave a short little smile, a 
nod of his head, and a shrug of his shoulders, and understood 
all about it as if I had told him. 

" Was in love with her once, of course thought so !" he 
said in his undertone: "you ladies, for one good thing, do 
think on when we've made fools of ourselves about you. It's 
always our compensation." 

" We think on after you've forgotten all about it that's 
what you mean," said I. 

Mr. Cresswell gave another little shrug with his shoulders, 
and glanced at the screen behind which Sarah was knitting. 
" How lovely she was once, to be sure !" he said with a little 
sigh, and then laughed out at himself, not without a little 
redness in his face. To speak of a blush in a man of his years 
would be simply absurd, you know. Such a piece of presump- 



The Last of the Mortimers. 19 

tion ! I do believe Bob Crcsswell had taken it upon him to 
fall in love with Sarah too in his young days. I could have 
boxed his ears for him; and to think he should have the 
audacity to laugh at himself now 1 



CHAPTER VI. 

"PHIS conversation of ours, if it could be called a conversa- 
J_ tion, was luckily interrupted by the entrance of little 
Sara, who came into the room, ligbtfooted and noiseless, as 
Buch creatures can when they are young. She had on a velvet 
jacket, over a thick-corded blue silk dress. She must have 
spent quite a fortune in dress, the little saucy puss. What 
startled me, however, was her hair. She had a beautiful head 
of hair, and wore it of course in the fashion, as all young girls 
ought. Some people were so misguided as to call Sara Creswell 
dark-complexioned. They meant she had very dark hair, eye- 
brows, and eyelashes. As for her skin, it was as pure as 
Sarah's, who had always been a blonde beauty. But with all 
the mass of hair she had, when she chose to spread it out and 
display it, and with her black eyes and small face, I don't 
wonder people thought the little witch dark. However, all 
that was done away now. There she stood before me, laughing, 
and making her curtsey, with short little curls, like a child's, 
scarcely long enough to reach to her collar all her splendid 
hair gone a regular crop ! I screamed out, as may be sup- 
posed ; I declare I could have whipped her with the very best 
will in the world. The provoking, wicked little creature ! no 
wonder her poor father called her contrairy. Dear, dear, to 
think what odd arrangements there are in this world ! 1 should 
have brought her under some sort of authority, I promise you ; 
but really, not meaning to be profane, one was really tempted to 
say to one's self, what could Providence be thinking of to give 
such a child to poor old Bob Cresswell, who knew no more how 
to manage her than I know how to steer a boat ? 



20 The Last of the Mortimers. 

'* * Declare I think you are very wicked," I said when I 
gained ^ j breath ; " I do believe, Sara, you take a delight in 
vexing your friends. For all the world what good could it do 
to cut off your hair? Don't speak to me, child ! I declare 1 
am so vexed and provoked and angry, I could cry !" 

" Don't cry, godmamma," said Sara quite coolly, " or I'll 
have it made up into a wig ; you can't fancy how nice it is 
now. Besides, what was the good of such a lot of hair? Don't 
you know that's what gives people headaches? I thought I 
had better be wise in time." 

"You little storyteller!" cried I, "you never had a headache 
in your life." 

" Ah, but prevention is better than cure," said the wicked 
little creature with her very demurest look. 

u Dinner, Ma'am," said Ellis at the door. It was just as 
well for Sara. But I had a great mind to pinch her, as Mr. 
Thackeray says the ladies do, when we went together to the 
dining-room. I am sure she deserved it. However, she did 
not escape a little pinch which touched her, brave as she was 
Sarah, 1 suppose, had not taken the trouble to look at her till 
we were all seated at table. Then she looked up, quite ignorant 
of what had happened. Sarah did not start like me, nor scream 
out ; but she looked at little Sara quite composedly, leaning 
forward to see her all round. When she had quite done, she 
folded her hands upon her napkin, and smiled. " What a 
shocking fright you have made of yourself, my dear child," 
said Sarah with the most amiable look in the world. Little 
Sara coloured up in a moment, grew red and furious like a 
little vixen, and had something angry and wicked on the very 
tip of her tongue, which however, bold as she was, she dared 
not say. Mr. Cresswell ventured to give a little mutter and 
chuckle of a laugh, and how the little witch did look at him ! 
But as for me, though I was glad to have her punished, I could 
DOD find in my heart to hear anything said against her without 
standing up in her defence. 

" Well, of course, I ani very angry," said I ; " but I can't 
say I agree with your godmamma either it's pretty enough, 
for that matter." 

" Oh, please, don't take any trouble about my feelincs. I 
never meant it to be pretty," said little Sara, quite furious. 

" Nice hair is very much in a dark person's favour. It helps 4 
the complexion and harmonises," said Sarah, who kept always 
looking at the child in her smiling aggravating way. "People 
will soon notice the want of it in you, iny iear. They will say 



The Last oj the Mortimers. 21 

you are very much gono off in your looks. It's a pity you 
were so rash. It does make you a sad fright, whatever Milly 
says." 

Now, only imagine how little Sara was to bear all this, 
spoken just in Sarah's whisper, which made everybody, even 
Ellis, who was waiting, listen close to hear what she said. It 
was very seldom she said so many words in one day, not to say 
at one speaking. She began to eat her soup when she had done 
her pleasant remarks. And surely I never did remark before 
how odd the s's sounded in her poor lost voice. Somehow they 
seemed to go hissing round the table, as if every word had an s 
in it. It was a round table, and not very large. Sarah never 
would do any carving, and I got tired of always, doing it. So 
Ellis managed for us now on the sideboard, knowing foreign 
ways a little, and a small table suited us best. 

*' Ah, my dear lady, I wish you'd take her in hand," said 
Mr. Cresswell (dear, dear! it is inconceivable how injudicious 
some people are !) ; " she's too many for me." 

u My opinion is," said I, breaking in as well as I could, 
seeing that poor little Sara must come to an explosion if they 
kept it up, " that when a gentleman comes to visit two single 
ladies, he should let us know what's going on in the world. 
Have you never a new curate at St. John's to tell us of, and 
are all the officers just exactly as they used to be? You may 
all be very superior,, you wise people. But I do love gossip, I 
am free to acknowledge. I heard your rector preached in his 
surplice last Sunday. How did you Evangelicals take that, 
Mr. Cresswell, eh ? For my part, I can't see where's the harm 
in a surplice as you Low Church people do." 

" You and I will never agree in that, Miss Milly," said Mr. 
Cresswell ; " though, indeed, if Dr. Roberts came into the 
pulpit in white, I've my own idea as to how you'd take it. 
However, not to speak of surplices, the red-coats are going, I 
hear. We're to have a change. The Chestnuts are coming 
up from Scotland, and our men are ordered to the West 
Indies. The Colonel doesn't like it a bit. It's better for him 
in one way, but he's getting to like a steady friendly little 
society, and not to care for moving. He's getting up in years, 
like the rest of us, is the Colonel. This will tell on him, 
you'll see." 

* Well, to be sure, when a man's old, he ought to retire," 
said I ; u there are always plenty to take his place." 

" Ah. it's easy to talk," said Mr. Cresswell. " It's all very 
well for us to retire that have made money ; but a man that 



22 The Last of the Mortimers. 

has only his pay. what is he to do? He has got that pool 
little widow-daughter of his to keep, and Fred is very un- 
settled, I'm afraid, and little comfort to his father. There's 
a deal of difference, Miss Milly, between full-pay and half -pay. 
He'd have to cut down his living one half if he retired." 

"That's just exactly what I quarrel with in these grand 
times of ours," said 1; "what's the harm of cutting down one's 
living one half ? My own opinion is, I'd respect a man very 
much that did it. Great people can do it somehow. I wish 
you luxurious middle-class people would learn the way. But 
then you don't stand by each other when you fall into poverty. 
You drop your friend when he can't ask you to dinner. You 
are good to his children, and patronise them, and forget they 
were just the same as yours a little while ago. I don't think 
we'll ever come to any good in this country till we get back 
to knowing how to be poor." 

4 ' My dear lady, England never was in such splendid 
Condition," said Mr. Cress well, with a smile at my ignorance. 
"If we've forgotten how to save, we've learned how to grow 
rich." 

" I know all about England," said I ; "we read the Times ; 
don't you tell me. I'm anything but easy about England. 
Making money is no substitute in the world for saving it. I 
tell you, the world won't be what I call right till a gentleman 
may be as poor as God pleases, without being ashamed of it ; 
and have the heart to cut down his living one-half too." 

u Well, well Miss Milly, ladies are always optimists," said 
Mr. Cresswell ; "but I shouldn't like to be poor myself, nor 
see Sara tried with economics. She don't understand anything 
about them, that's sure." 

" The more's the pity. What if she should marry a poor 
man V" said I. 

"She shan't marry a poor man, my dear lady," said Mr. 
Cresswell. 

Upon which Sara lighted up. I knew she would. The 
dear child would do anything out of contradiction. 

" Rather a poor one than a rich one, papa," cried Sara, with 
a little start of opposition. " Godmamma is always quite 
right. It's shocking how everybody worships rich people. 
If we were to live in a little cottage, now, and make a dozen 
poor people comfortable! instead of always living in that dull 
old house, and having the same chairs and tables, and looking 
at exactly the same things every day. Godmamma ! I do so 
want my room fresh papered. J know every tint of that 



The Last of the Mortimers. 28 

pattern, till it makes me quite ill to look at it. Wouldn't it 
be a thousand times more reasonable and like a Christian, if 
papa would stop giving stupid dinners, and taking me to 
stupid parties, and divide all his money with, say, a dozen 
poor families, and live in a sweet country cottage ? It isn't 
enough for us, you know, to make us great people. But. it 
would be quite enough to give us all plenty to live upon, the 
dozen others and ourselves as well. Don't you think it would 
be a great deal more like what a man should do, than keeping 
all one's money to one's self, like papa ?" 

Little Sara grew quite earnest, and her eyes sparkled as she 

rke. Her father laughed inwardly under his breath, and 
ught it just one of her vagaries. She divide all her money 
with her neighbours, the extravagant little puss in velvet ! 
But don't suppose Sara was shamming. She was as thought- 
less and as prodigal as ever a child was who knew no better. 
But for all that, she could have done it. She could have 
found out how to do -it. She meant what she said. 



CHAPTER VII. 

" "OUT you are a very foolish, thoughtless, provoking 

_D little puss; there can't be any mistake about it," 
said I. 

" Nothing of the sort, godmamma," said Sara, " such a 
quantity of time was always taken up with that hair of mine ; 
it had to be brushed out at night, however sleepy I was, and it 
had to be done I don't know how many times a day. Think 
of wasting hours of one's time upon one's hair !" 

" But, my dear child, you have too much time on your 
hands. Do you ever do anything in the world, you velvet 
kitten," said I. 

u If it was anybody else but you, I should be angry, god- 
mamma," said Sara ; " but, indeed, I have tried a quantity of 
things. As for working, you know I won't work 1 tell every- 



24 The Last of the Mortimers. 

body so plainly. What's the good of it ? I hate crochet and 
cushions and footstools. If I had some little children to keep 
all tidy, there would be some good in it ; or if papa was poor 
I might mend his stockings but I won't work now, whatever 
anybody says." 

U I don't see any reason why you should not keep some little 
children tidy, or mend papa's stockings either, if you would 
like it," said I. 

<; If I would like it !" cried Sara, in high wrath and indig- 
nation, u as if that was why I should do it ! I don't think there 
can be anything more dreadful in life than always having to 
do just what one likes. Now, look hero, godmamma; suppose 
I was to mend papa's stockings because I liked it, oh, how 
Mary would giggle and laugh and rejoice over me ! She has 
to do 'it, and doesn't like it a bit, you may be sure. And 
suppose I were making frocks for poor children, like the 
Dorcas society, wouldn't all the sensible people be on me to 
?ay how very much better it would be to have poor women 
make them and pay them for their work ? I could only do 
what it's other people's business t<? do. I have got no business. 
The best thing wanted of me is just to sit idle from morning to 
night and read novels; and nobody understands me either, not 
even my dear old godmamma, which is hardest of all." 

u But, Sara, if you chose, you could do good: the best thing 

of all to do you could " 

"Oh stop, stop, godmamma ! I can't do good. I don't 
want to do good. I hate going about and talking to people ; 
and besides, they are all, every one of them," said Sara, with 
tears, half of vexation and half of sorrow, sparkling in her 
eyes, " a great deal better than me." 

I had not a single word to say against this ; for indoed, 
though I said it, because of course it was the right thing to 
say, I vVV can't undertake, upon my honour, that I thought a 
spoiled child like Sara Cresswell was the kind of creature to be 
much comfort to poor men or poor women labouring hard in 
the sorrows of this life. 

" I went once with Miss Fielding from the Rectory. There 
was one house," said Sara, speaking low and getting red, 
" where they hadn't so much to live on for the whole year 
through as papa had to pay for my dressmaker's bill. He had 
just been worrying me about it that morning, so I remember. 
But they weren't miserable! no more than you are, god- 
mamma ! not one half, nor a quarter, nor a hundredth part so 
miserable as I am ! And the woman looked so cheerful and 



The Last of th* Mortimers. 25 

right with the baby in her arms, and all the cleaning to do I 
cried and ran off home when I got out of that house. I was 
ashamed, just dead ashamed, godmamma, and nothing else. 
Doing good ! oh ! I think if I were the little girl, coming in 
to hold the baby, and help to clean, I might get some good 
myself. But then nobody will understand me whatever 1 say. 
I don't want to invent things to ' employ my time.' Employ- 
ing one's time is about as bad as improving one's mind. I 
want to have something real to do, something that lias to be 
done and nobody but me to do it ; and I don't mind in the 
least whether 1 should like it or not." 

" Well, dear," said I, " you're not nineteen yet; plenty of 
time. I dare say you'll have your hard work some day or 
other, and won't like it any more than the rest of us. Have 
patience, it will all come in time." 

" Then, I suppose," said Sara, with a little toss of her pro- 
voking little head, " I had better just go to sleep till that time 
comes." 

" Well, my love, papa would save a good deal, no doubt, if 
if there were no dressmaker's bills. You inconsistent little 
witch ! Here you tell me how disgusted you are with being a 
rich man's daughter and having nothing to do, yet you cut off 
your hair to save time, and go on quite composedly spending 
as much as would keep a poor family and more than one 
poor family, I suspect on your dressmaker's bill. Little 
Sara, what do you mean ?" 

u The two things have no connection," said Sara, tossing her 
head again ; " I never pretended that I wanted to save papa's 
money. What's the good of it? I like pretty things to wear, 
and 1 don't care the very least in the world how much money 
papa has in the bank, or wherever he keeps it. He told me 
once & was my own means I was wasting, for, of course, it 
would be all mine when he died," she went on, her eyes 
twinkling with proud tears and wounded feeling ; " as if that 
made any difference ! But I'll tell you what, godmamma. If 
he was to portion out all the money to ourselves and so many 
other people, just enough to live upon, you'd see how happy I 
should be in muslin frocks. I know I should 1 and keep 
everything so snug and nice at home." 

" Oh, you deluded little child !" said I ; " don't you know 
there's ever so much nasty work to do, before everything can 
be nice as we always have it? Should you like to be a house- 
maid with your little velvet paws, you foolish little kitten? 
You don't know what you're saying." 



26 The Last of the Mortimers. 

" But I do, though and I could scratch too," said the wild 
little puss, with a glance out of her black eyes which con- 
founded me. I thought the child had gone out of her wits 
altogether. No wonder her poor father called her contrairy, 
poor hapless man. 

This conversation took place aftbj dinner, when we two 
went back to the drawing-room. Mr. Cresswell had returned 
to Chester in his brougham, and Sarah had gone out all by 
herself for her drive. Perhaps little Sara, after being so 
aggravated at dinner, would not have gone with my sister 
even had she been asked ; but her godmamma did not ask her, 
Dear, dear, what a very strange world this is ! Poor Sarah 
chose to go out alone, driving drearily through the winterly 
trees and hedges ; she chose always to turn aside from the 
village, which might have been a little cheerful, and she never 
dreamt of calling anywhere, poor soul ! I have lived a quiet 
life enough, but I could not get on without a smile here and a 
word there, and the sight of my fellow-creatures at least. 
However, I have no call to censure neighbours, much less my 
sister. This is how Sara Cresswell and I had time for our long 
conversation. I broke it off short now, thinking it was about 
time for Sarah to come in. 

"Now little Sara," said 1, "we'll drop the question what 
you're to do as a general question just now ; but your godmamma 
will be in directly. What shall you do while you're here ? 
Should you like to come and set my papers straight? It's 
nice, tiresome, sickening work. It always gives me a head- 
ache, but I can't trust a servant to do it. I think it's the very 
work for you." 

" But, dear godmamma, here's a novel," said Sara, who 
was sunk deep in an easy-chair, and had not the very 
slightest intention of obeying me, "just the very one I 
wanted, and I see by the first chapter that Emily is my own 
very favourite heroine. I'll do it to-morrow, please to- 
morrow morning, not to-day." 

" But it must be done to-day." 

" Oh, must ! why must f You have only to do what you 
please you are not obliged to keep time like a dressmaker or 
a clerk," said Sara, reading all the while. 

"Oh, you child!" said I; "suppose papa's dinner was 
waiting, or his stockings to mend, would you let them stand 
till you had finished your novel? Oh, you deluded littlo 
thing, is that the good workwoman you would be?" 

Before I bad finished speaking Sara had started like a little 



The Last of the Mortimers. 27 

sprite out of her chair, tossed the novel into the corner of a 
distant sofa, and went off like the wind to the library, where 
I did my business and kept my papers. I had to hurry after 
her as quickly as could. A pretty job she would have made 
of it, had she done it alone ! 



CHAPTER VIII. 

IF there is one thing I dislike more than another, it is the 
housemaid, or even Ellis, meddling with my papers. I 
don't scold a great deal, in a general way, but I will allow that 
I don't spare any of them when they flutter my accounts and 
receipts about in setting things to rights. So in the course of 
nature the things get dusty ; and I quite expected to see poor 
little Sara grow pale and give in before she was half through 
the year's accounts. But nobody knows the spirit that is in 
that child. After she had once roused herself to do it, she 
held at it without an idea of yielding. I saw her look now 
and again at her little toys of hands, but I took no notice ; 
and on she went at the papers manfully, putting them in as 
regular order as I could have done myself. It was not such a 
very important business after all, but still it's a comfort to see 
a person set to anything with a will, especially a little spoilt 
wilful creature that never had anything to do but her own 
pleasure all her life. 

Nearly an hour after we had come into the library somebody 
came with a gentle knock to the door ; thinking it was Ellis, I 
said, " Come in," without looking up, waiting for him to speak. 
But while I sat quietly going on with my business, with Sara 
close by rustling her papers, T was quite startled and shaken all 
at once to hear a voice close by me which I did not hear half 
a dozen times in a twelvemonth, the voice of Carson, Sarah's 
maid. 

"Bless me, what's the matter?" I said, looking up at the 
sound, being really too much startled to notice what she said. 



28 Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 

11 Nothing, I hope, ma'am," said Carson, who was very pre- 
cise and particular. " But my missis is not come in, ma'am, 
from her drive, and I thought I'd make bold to ask if she was 
going anywhere as I didn't know ?" 

" Sarah not come back from her drive ?" said I, looking at 
my watch; "why, we've had lights this half hour, Carson; it's 
getting towards five o'clock." 

"Yes, ma'am," said Carson, briefly, not allowing for my 
surprise, " that is just what I said." 

This pulled me up a little, as you may suppose ; but I was 
seriously put out about Sarah, when I really saw how the 
matter stood. 

"I know nothing about where she was going. Dear, dear, 
can anything have happened?" I cried, getting a little flustered 
and anxious; then I jumped up, as was natural, and looked out 
at the window ; though of course nothing was to be seen there 
but the shrubbery and a corner of the flower-garden. " But I 
can't tiiink what could have happened either. The horses are 
rery steady, and Jacob is care itself ; besides, we'd have heard 
directly if anything had gone wrong. No, no, there can't have 
been any accident. My sister was just in her usual, Carson, 
eh?" 

" Just in her usual ma'am," said Carson, like an echo of my 
voice. 

' Then, dear, what can be the matter? it's only some acci- 
dent, of course," said I ; "I don't mean accident, only some 
chance turn out of the way, or something. Bless me, to think 
of Sarah out after nightfall ! Why don't you run out to the 
road and look for the carriage? Call some of the people about. 
King the bell, child, can't you? or no, sit still, Sara. I'll 
take a peep out at the great gate myself." 

Saying which, I hurried past Carson, brushing against her, as 
she did not keep out of my way, and snatched a cloak out of 
the hal], and ran to the gate. It was only twilight out of 
doors, 'though we had our lamp lighted. A nice night, grey, 
a little frosty, but rather pleasant, with the lights twinkling 
out of the windows. I said to myself, " Nothing 1 should like 
better than a brisk walk down to the village ; bat Sarah, you 
know Sarah's different." What could keep her out so late ? 
I can't say I was alarmed, but I did get a little uneasy, 
especially as I saw Ellis making his way up one road from the 
gate of the courtyard, and the houseboy running down another. 
It was Carson's doings, no doubt ; well, well! I ought to be 



The Last of the Mortimers. 29 

thankful my sister had a maid that was so fond of her ; but 
taking things out of my hands in this way, not only made me 
angry, as was natural, but flurried me as well. 

As I stood there, however, watching, and thinking I surely 
heard a sound of wheels somewhere in the distance, somebody 
went past me very suddenly. I could not see where he sprang 
from, he appeared in such a sudden un explainable way. I got 
quite a fright, and, except that, he was a gentleman, and pro- 
bably a young one, I could tell nothing more about the figure 
that shot across my eyes. Very odd ; could he have been 
hiding in the bushes? What could he want ? \V ho could it 
be? I certainly hear the carriage now, and there conies the 
houseboy up the road waving his arms about ; but instead of 
looking for my sister, I looked after this figure that had passed 
me. It passed Ellis too, and looked in his face, making him 
start, as it appeared to me, and so went straight on, till the 
road turned and I could see it no longer. I felt quite as if I 
had met with an adventure. Could it be some lover of little 
Sara's that had followed her out here ? or, dear, dear ! could 
it have anything to do with delaying Sarah's drive? Just 
then the carriage came in sight, and I ran back to the house- 
door to receive my sister and nsk what had detained her. She 
stepped out of the carriage, looking paler than her ordinary, 
and A\ith that nervous shake in her hands and head, and looked 
as if she could quite have clutched hold of Carson, who of 
course was there to receive her. 

" Sarah," cried I, ' ; what in all the world has kept you so 
long? We were at our wits' end, thinking something had 
happened." 

4k You'll be glad to see nothing has happened," said Sarah, 
in her whisper, trying hard to be quite composed and like 
herself as she took hold of Carson's arm. " The beauty of the 
evening, you know, drew me a little further than I generally 

gO." jr 

This she said looking into my face, nay, Into my eyes all 
the time, as if to defy any suspicions or doubt I might have. 
Her very determination to show that there wa^ no other reason, 
made it quite evident that there had been something, whatever 
it was. 

I said nothing of course. I had not the least idea what my 
own suspicions pointed at, nor what they wero. So it was not 
likely I should make any scene, or put it iuto the servants' 
heads to wonder. So I stood still and askv,d no more 
questions, while Sarah passed before me, leaning on Caison'a 



80 The Last of the Mortimers. 

arm, to go upstairs. It was the most simple and reasonable 
thing in the world ; why should she not have gone further than 
Bhe intended one night in her life? But she did not, that is 
all. 

When I went back to the library, little Sara, extraordinary 
to relate, was sitting exactly where I left her, busy about the 
papers. The wilful creature did not seem to have moved 
during my absence. She was as busy and absorbed as if there 
was nothing else to do or think of in the world. And while 
we had been all of a nutter looking for Sarah, she, sitting 
quiet and undisturbed, had got the greater part of her work 
finished. 

u Sara, you unfeeling child," said I, " were you not anxious 
about your godmamma ?" 

u No," said Sara, very simply. " Godmamma Sarah, and 
coachman Jacob, and those two fat old horses could surely all take 
care of each other. I wasn't frightened, godmamma. I never 
heard of any accidents happening to big old stout carnages and 
horses like yours. I've nearly got my work done while you've 
been away." 

This was all the sympathy I got from little Sara. Of course 
I could no more have told her the puzzle my mind was in than 
I could have told the servants ; but still, you know, an intelli- 
gent young person might have guessed by my looks and been 
a little sympathetic ; though to be sure there is no use pre- 
tending with one's self. I do believe I liked Sara twenty times 
beter for taking no notice ; and then, how cleverly the little 
kitten had got through her work ! 

We saw nothing more of Sarah that night. When it was 
time for tea, Carson came doAvn again with missus's com- 
pliments, and she was tired with her long drive, and would 
have tea in her own room. I said nothing at all, but handed 
her the Times. I don't doubt Sarah had her tea very snug 
in her nice cosy dressing-room, with Carson purring round her 
and watching every move she made. I never could manage 
that sort of thing for my part. Little Sara and I, however, 
tnough her godmamma deserted us, were very comfortable, OB 
the whole, downstairs. 



The Last of tlie Mortimers. 



CHAPTER IX. 

TTTE had both been reading almost all the evening. Sara 
VV had her novel, and I had the Times Supplement, which 
I am free to confess I like as well as any other part of the 
paper. I will not deny that I finished the third volume before 
I began to the newspaper; but, to be sure, a novel, after you 
are done with it, is an unsatisfactory piece of work ; especially 
if the evening is only half over, and you have nothing else to 
begin to. I sat leaning back in my chair, wandering over the 
advertisements, and very ready for a talk. That is just the 
time, to be sure, when one wants somebody to talk to. If I 
had ever been used to the luxury of a favouritn maid when I 
was young, as Sarah was, I do believe I should have been in 
my own cosy room now as well as Sarah, talking everything 
over with my Carson. But that is not the way I was brought 
up, you see. To be sure, as there was ten years of difference 
beoween us, nobody had ever looked for me, and Sarah had 
got quite settled in her heiress ways before I was born. When 
1 was young, I used to think it a sad pity for everybody's sake 
that I ever was born, especially after my mother died ; how- 
ever, L changed my views upon that subject a good many 
years ago. Yet here I sat looking all over the advertisements, 
and keeping an eye on Sara to see if there was any hope of 
getting a little conversation out of her. Alas! she was all 
lapped up and lost in her novel. She thought no more of me 
than of Sarah's empty chair. Ah! novels are novels when 
people are young. I looked at the poor dear child, and 
admired and smiled at her over the top of the newspaper. If 
I had been a cabbage, Sara could not have taken less notice of me. 

At last she suddenly exclaimed out loud at something she 
was reading, of course " I declare !" as if she had made a 
discovery, and then stopped short and looked up at me with a 
sort of challenge, as if .defying me to guess what she was 
thinking of. Then, seeing how puzzled I looked, Sara laughed, 
but reddened a little as well, to my amazement; and finally, 
not without the least little touch of confusion, explained 
herself. To be sure it was quite voluntary, and yet a little 
unwilling too. 

"There's something here exactly like the Italian gentleman; 
he that people talk so much about in Chester, you know." 



32 The Last of the Mortimer*. 

" I never knew there was an Italian gentleman in Chester. 
What a piece of news ! and you never told me," said I. 

" He only came about a fortnight ago," said Sara " It 
looks quite romantic, you know, godmanima, which is the only 
reason / have heard anything about it. He came quite in 
great style to the Angel, and said he was coming to see some 
friends, and asked all about whether anybody knew where the 
Countess Sermoneta lived. You may be quite sure nobody 
had ever heard of such a name in Chester. I heard it all from 
Lucy Wilde, who had heard it from her brother, who is 
always playing billiards and things at the Angel Harry 
Wilde " 

u That is the poor young man who " 

u Oh, dear godmamma, don't bother ! let one go on with 
one's story. Harry Wilde says the Italian came down among 
them, asking everybody ' about this Countess Sermcneta, and 
looking quite bewildered when he found that nobody knew 
her ; but still he was quite lively, and thought it must bo 
some mistake, and laughed, and made sure that this was really 
Cliestare he had come to, and not any other place. But next 
day ? people say, he sent for the landlord and asked all about 
the families in the neighbourhood, and all of a sudden grew 
quite grave and serious, and soon after took lodgings in 
Watergate, and has been seen going about the streets and the 
walls so much since that everybody knows him. He speaks 
English quite well people say so, I mean and he has a 
servant with him, the funniest-looking fat fellow you ever 
saw ; no more like a proper Italian servant in a play or a 
novel than I am ; and he calls himself just Mr. Luigi ; and 
that, of course, you know, must be only his Christian name." 

" Nay, indeed, Sara, 1 don't know anything about it. There 
is nothing at all Christianlike in the name, so far as 1 can 
see." 

" Well then, 7 know, godmamma, which is all the same," 
cried the impatient little creature ; " but then, to be sure, our 
old Signor Valetti used to tell us they never minded their 
family names in Italy; and that people might be next-door 
neighbours for ever so long and never know each other's sur- 
names. Isn't it pretty? especially when they have pretty 
Christian names, as all the Italians have.'' 

" My dear, if you think Looegee pretty, T don't," said I. 
"Take my word for it, there is nothing like the sensible 
English names. I've had a good deal of experience, and 1 
don't like your romantic foreigners. For my part, I don't like 



The Last of the Mortimers. 38 

people that have a story. People have no right to have stories, 
child. If you do your duty honestly, and always tell the truth, 
and never conceal anything, you can't get up a romance about 
yourself. As for this Italian fellow and his name " 

u I don't believe he's a fellow any more than you are, god- 
mamma," cried Sara, quite indignantly ; " people should know 
before they condemn ; and his name is just plain Lewis when 
it's put into English. I did not think you were so prejudiced, 
indeed I did not or I never would have told you anything at 
all about the poor count " 

*' Heaven preserve us ! he's a count, is he ?" said I. " And 
what do you know about him, Sara Cresswell, please, that you 
would quarrel with your own godmother for his sake ?" 

Sara did not speak for a few minutes, looking very flushed 
and angry. At last, after a good fight with herself, she started 
up and threw her arms round my neck. "Dear godmamma, 
I wouldn't quarrel with you for anybody in the world," cried 
the little impulsive creature. Then she stopped and gave a 
little toss of her head. " But whatever anybody says, I know 
it's quite right to feel kind to the poor Italian gentleman, a 
stranger, and solitary, and disappointed ! I do wonder at you 4 
people, godmamma you people who pretend to do what's in 
the Bible. You're just as hard upon strangers and as ready to 
take up a prejudice as anybody else." 

" I never pretended not to be prejudiced," said I ; " it's 
natural to a born Englishwoman. And as for your foreign 
counts, that come sneaking into people's houses to marry their 
daughters and run off with the money " 

u Oh, if it is that you are thinking of, godmamma," cried 
Sara with great dignity, sitting quite bolt upright in her chair, 
u you are totally mistaken, I assure you. I never spoke to the 
#entieman in my life ; and besides," she went on, getting very 
red and vehement, u I never will marry anybody, I have quite 
made up my mind; so, if you please, godmamma, whatever 
you choose to say about poor Mr. Luigi, whom you don't know 
anything about, I hope you will be good enough not to draw 
me into any stupid story about marrying I quite hate talk of 
that kind." 

I was so thunderstruck that 1 quite called out ''You 
impertinent little puss," said I, " is that how you dare to talk 
to your godmother !" I declare I do not think I ever was put 
down so all my life before. I gave her a good sound lecture, 
as anybody will believe, about the proper respect she owed to 
her friends and seniors, telling her that I was very much afraid 



34 The Last of the Mortimers. 

she was in a bad way ; and that, however her father, who 
spoiled her, might let her talk, she ought to know Letter than 
to set up her little saucy face like that in our house. I said a 
great deal to the little provoking creature. I am sure she 
never saw me so angry before, though she has been a perfect 
plague and tease all her clays. But do you think she would 
give in, and say she was sorry ? Not if it had been to save her 
life ! She sat looking down on her book, opening and shutting 
it upon her hand, her little delicate nostril swelling, her red 
upper lip moving, her foot going pat-pat on the carpet, but 
never owning to be in the wrong or making the least apology. 
After I had done and taken up my paper again, pretending to 
be very busy with it, she got up and rummaged out the other 
volume of the novel, and came to me to say good-night, 
holding out her hand and stooping down her cheek, meaning 
me to kiss her, the saucy little puss! As she was in my house, 
and a guest, and her first night, I did kiss her, without looking 
at her. It was a regular quarrel; and so she too went off to her 
own room. So here I was all alone, very angry, and much 
disposed to launch out upon the servants or somebody. Con- 
trairy indeed ! I should think so ! I wonder how that poor 
old Bob Cressweil can put up with his life. If she were mine I 
would send her off to school, for all so accomplished as they saj 
she is. 



CHAPTER X. 

I II AD not a very good night after these troubles : somehow 
one's sleep goes from one more easily when one grows old ; 
and 1 kept dreaming all the night through of my sister and 
little Sara, and something they were concealing from me, 
mixing them both up together in my mind. I rose very 
uneasy and excited, not a bit refreshed, as one should feel in 
the morning. One thing very strange I have noticed all my 
life in dreams. Though never a single thing that one dreams 



The Last of the Mortimers. 35 

should ever come true, the feeling one has comes true somehow. 
1 don't know whether anybody will understand me. I have 
had friends in my young days, whom I thought a great deal 
upon, that did not prove true to me. And I have remarked, 
often long before I found them out, however fond o5k trustful 
in them I was through the day, I was always uneasy in my 
dreams, always finding out something wrong or meeting some 
unkindness which makes me have a great confidence, not in 
what^you would call dreams, you know, but in the sentiment 
of dreams, if you can understand what I mean. I woke up 
very unrefreshed, as I say ; and got dressed and came down- 
stairs as soon as it was daylight, though I knew well enough I 
should find nobody there. My sister always breakfasted in her 
own room, and Sara was late of coming down at the best of 
times ; however, I got some letters about business, which were 
perhaps the best things I could have had. They put me off 
minding my quarrel with little Sara, or trying to find out what 
had kept Sarah so late on her drive. 

I had nearly finished breakfast when little Sara came down- 
stairs. She came up to me just as she had done the night 
before, holding out her hand and stooping down her cheek to 
be kissed, but not looking at me. I kissed her, the provoking 
puss, and poured out her coffee. And after ten minutes or so 
we got on chatting just as usual, which was a relief to me, for 
I don't like apologies and explanations. I never could bear 
them. Little Sara, after she had got over feeling a little 
awkward and stiff, as people always do when they have been 
wrong, was just in her ordinary. She was used to affront 
people and to have them come to again, the little wicked 
creature I am afraid she did not mind. 

This little quarrel had put Sarah a good deal out of my 
mind, I must allow, but I got back to being anxious about her 
directly when I saw her come down- stairs. I can't tell what 
the change upon her was she did not look older or paler, or 
anything that you could put plainly in words she was just as 
particularly dressed, and had her silver-white curls as nice, and 
her cap as pretty as usual, but she was not the same as she had 
been yesterday ; certainly there was some change. Not to 
speak of that little nervous motion of her head and hands, 
which was greater to-day than ever I had seen it, there was a 
strange vigilance and watchfulness in her look which I don't 
remember to have ever seen there before. She looked me very 
full in the face, I remember with a sort of daring defying 
openness, and the same to little Sara, though, of course what 



86 The Last of the Mortimers. 

could the child know? All over, down to her very hands, aa 
she went on with her knitting, there was a kind of self- 
consciousness that had a very odd effect upon me. I could not 
tell what in the world to think of it. And as for supposing that 
some mere common little accident, or a fright, or anything 
outside of herself, had woke tier up to that look, you need not 
tell me. I have not lived fifty years in this world for nothing. 
I knew better. Whatever it was that changed Sarah's look, 
the causes of it were deep down and secret in herself. 

It was this of course that made me anxious and almost- 
alarmed, for I could not but think she must have something on 
her mind to make her look so. And when she beckon ad to me 
that afternoon after dinner, as she did when she had anything 
particular to say, I confess my heart went thump against my 
breast, and I trembled all over. However, I went close up as 
usual, and drew my chair towards her that I might hear. 
Little Sara was close by. She could hear too if she pleased, 
but Sarah took no notice of the child. 

" Have you heard anything from Cresswell about Richard 
Mortimer?" Sarah asked me quite sharply all at once. 

" Why, no : he did not say anything yesterday when he was 
here. Did you have any conversation with him ?" 

"// Do I have any conversation with any one?" said 
Sarah, in her bitter way. " I want you to bestir yourself about 
this business, however. We must have an htir." 

" It is odd how little I have thought about it since that day 
very odd," said I; " and I was quite in earnest before. I 
wondered if Providence might, maybe, have taken it up now? 
1 have seen such a thing : one falls off one's anxiety somehow, 
one can't tell how ; and lo ! the reason is, that the thing's 
coming about ail naturally without any help from you. We'll 
be having the heir dropped down at the park gates some of 
these days, all as right and natural as ever was." 

I said this without thinking much about it ; just because it 
was an idea of mine, that most times, when God lays a kind of 
lull upon our anxieties and struggles, it really turns out to be 
because He himself is taking them in hand ; but having said this 
easy and calm, without anything particular in my mind, you 
may judge how I was startled half out of my wits by Sarah 
dashing down her knitting-pin out of her hand, stamping her 
foot on the footstool, and half screaming out in her sharp, 
strangled whisper, that sounded like the very voice of ra^e 
itself 

" The fool ! the fool ! oh, the fool ! Shall T be obliged t* 



TJie Last of the Mortimers. 87 

leave my home and my seclusion and do it myself? 1 that 
might have been so different ! Good God ! shall 1 be obliged 
to do it me I When I was a yo'ing girl I might have hoped 
to die a duchess, everybody said so, and now, instead of 
being cared for and shielded from the envious world, people 
were always envious of me since ever 1 remember, must I go 
trudging out to find this wretched cousin? Is this all the 
gratitude and natural feeling you have? Good heaven! to put 
such a thing upon me !" 

She stopped, all panting and breathless, like a wild creature 
that had relieved itself somehow with a yell or a cry ; but, 
strange, strange, at that moment Ellis opened the door. 1 
will never think again she does not hear. The sound caught 
her in a moment. Her passion changed into that new 
watching look quicker than I can tell ; and she sat with her 
eyes fixed upon me, for, poor soul, to be sure she could not 
see through the screen behind her to find out what Ellis came 
for, as if she could have killed me for the least motion. I 
got so excited myself that I could hardly see the name on the 
card Ellis brought in. Sarah's looks, not to say her words, 
had put it so clearly in my mind that something was going to 
happen, that my self-possession almost forsook me. 1 let the 
card flutter down out of my hand when I lifted it off the tray, 
and did not hear a single syllable of what the man was saying 
till he had repeated it all twice over. It was only a neighbour 
who had sent over to ask for Miss Mortimer, having heard 
Bomehow that Sarah was poorly. She heard him herself, how- 
ever, and gave an answer her compliments, and she was 
quite well before I knew what it was all about. If she had 
boxed me well she could not have muddled my head half so 
much as she had done now. When Ellis went away again, 
and left me alone close by her, I quite shook in my chair. 

But she had got over her rage as it seemed. She stooped 
down to pick up her knitting-pin with a little pettish 
exclamation that nobody helped her now-a-days -just in her 
usual way, and took up the dropt stitches in her knitting. 
But I could very well see that her hand trembled. As she did 
not say any more, I thought I might venture to draw back my 
chair. But when she saw the motion she started, looked up at 
me, and held up her hand. 1 was not to get so easily 
away. 

" I had no idea you minded it so much. Well, well, Sarah 
cried I, in desperation, "I will write this moment to ui^., 
Mr. Cresswell on." 



88 The Last q/ the Mortimers. 

And shout it all out, plaese, that the ehild may hear !'' 
said Sarah, with a spiteful look as if she could bite me. I 
was actually afraid of her. I got up as fast as I could, and 
went oU to the writing-table at the other end of the room. 
Mhere was nothing I would not do to please her in a 
rational way ; but, of all the vagaries she ever took up before, 
what did this dreadful passion mean ? 



CHAPTER XL 

THE next day I had something to do in the village, which 
was only about half a. mile from the Park gates; but little 
Sara, when 1 asked her to go with me, had got some piece of 
business to her fancy in the greenhouse, and was not disposed 
to leave it, so I went off by myself. I went in, as I passed the 
lodge, to ask for little Mary Williams, who had a cough which 
1 quite expected would turn to hooping-cough, though her 
mother would not believe it (I turned out to be right, of course). 
Mrs. Williams was rather in a way, poor body, that morning. 
Mary was worse and worse, with a flushed face and shocking 
cough, and nothing would please her mother but that it was 
inflammation, and the child would die. It is quite the strangest 
thing in the world, among those sort of people, how soon they 
make up their minds that their children are to die. I scolded 
her well, which did her good, and promised her the liniment 
we always have for hooping-cough, and said I should bring up 
a picture-book for the child (it's^a good little thing when it is 
well) from the new little shop in the village. This opened up, 
as I found out, quite a new phase of poor Williams' trouble. 

" I wouldn't encourage it ma'am, no sure, I wouldn't, not for 
a hundred picture-books. 1 wouldn't go for to set up them as 
'tices men out of their houses and lads fro' home. No! I seen 
enough of that when poor old Williams was alive, and we was 
all in Liverpool. It's all as one as the public-houses, ma'am. I 
can't see no difference. Williams, it was his chapell ; and the 
boy, it's his night-school and his reading. I don't see no good 



The Last of the Mortimers. 89 

of it. In the old man's time, many's the weary night I've sat 
by myseV mending their bits o' things, and never a soul to 
cheer me up ; and now, look'ee here, the boy's tooken to it ; 

and if I'm to lose Mary " 

" You ridiculous woman," cried I, while the poor creature 
fell sobbing and took to her apron, " what's to make you lose 
Mary ? The child's going in for hooping-cough, as sure ever 
child was, and I see no reason in the world why she shouldn't 
get over it nicely, with the spring coming on as well. Don't 
fret ; trouble comes soon enough without going out of the way 
to meet it. What's all this story you've been telling me about 
poor Willie, and the shop in the village, and the night-school ? 
foon't you know, you foolish woman, the night-school may be 
the making of the boy?" 

" I don't know nothink about it, ma'am, nor I don't want to 
know," said our liberal-minded retainer. " I know it takes the 
boy out o' the house most nights in the week ; and I sits a- 
thinking upon my troubles, and listening to all the sounds in 
the trees, sometimes moidered and sometimes scared. I'd clear 
away thankful any night, even washing night, when I'm folding 
for the mangle, to have him write his copy at home ; and have 
a hearth-stone for him, though I say it as shouldn't, as bright 
as a king's. But he's a deal grander nor the like o' that, he 
is he'll stay and read the papers and talk. Bother their 
talk and their papers ! I ask you, ma'am, wouldn't Willie be 
a deal better at home?" 

" I shouldn't say but what I might perhaps think so too," 
said I ; u but then the gentlemen say not, and they should 
know best." 

"The gentlemen! and there's another worry, sure," said 
Mrs. Williams ; " who would you think, ma'am, has been in 
the village, but a Frenchman, a-spying all about, and asking 
questions ; and had the impudence to come to my very door, 
to the very park gates, to ask if I knowed a lady with a French 
name that was here or hereabout. I answered him short, and 
said I knew nothink about the French, and shut the door in his 
face, begging your pardon, ma'am ; for, to be sure, he was after 
no good, coming asking for outlandish ladies here." 

" Very odd," said I, "I hope it's no robber, Williams. You 
were quite right to shut the door in his face." 

"And if I might make so bold," said Williams, coming closer 
and speaking low, "Jacob, he maintains it was a French fellow 
with a mustache that scared Miss Sarah the day afore yester- 
day. Jacob seen him, but took no notice ; and directly after 



40 Zhe Last of the Mortimers. 

Miss Sarah up and pulled the string, and told him to drive 
round by Eden Castle, a good five-mile round, and to go quick. 
You may depend Miss Sarah took him for a robber, or some- 
think ; and I'm dead sure it was the same man." 

I was very much startled by this, though I could scarcely tell 
why ; but, of course, I would not let Williams suppose there 
was any mystery in it. ' ' Very likely," said I ; " my sister goes 
out so little, she's timid but I am losing my time. Good-bye, 
little Mary, I'll fetch you your picture-book ; and be sure you 
*rub her chest well with the liniment. I have always found it 
successful, and I've tried it for ten years." 

When I had fairly got out of the lodge, I went along without 
losing any more time, wonderfully puzzled in my own mind. 
Here was a riddle I could neither understand nor find any key 
to. After hearing little Sara's tale, and all she had to say 
about the Italian, there was nothing so surprising in finding 
him out here, if it should happen to be him, seeing the park 
was only a few miles from Chester ; only that Sara showed 
more interest in him than she had any call to do, and if he should 
happen to be coming after her, it was a thing that should be 
looked to. But why, in all the world, should Sarah be agitated 
by the sight of him? That was the extraordinary circumstance. 
As for supposing her to be alarmed at the idea of a robber, that, 
of course, was the merest folly, and I never entertained the idea 
for a moment. But if this were not the reason, what could the 
reason be? I was entirely lost in bewilderment and consterna- 
tion. Could it be the mere passing face of a stranger which 
made her so deeply anxious as to the name of the visitor who 
called next day, and the entrance of Ellis with the card? 
How, in all the world, could a wandering Italian, seeking or 
pretending to seek for somebody no one had ever heard of, 
make any difference to Sarah ? The more I turned it Qver the 
moi'e 1 was mystified. I could not even guess at any meaning 
in it ; but to drive five miles round out of her way, to be so 
excited all at once about the heir of the Mortimers, and to have 
got such a strange, watchful, vigilant look on her face, these 
changes could not come from nothing: but I had not the merest 
shadow of a clue to guide me in connecting little Sara's Italian, 
if it was he, with my sister Sarah's agitation and excitement. 
I stopped short at this, and could not go a step further ; if there 
was any connection between the two if there was nothing else 
to account for Sarah's trouble which 1 did not know of then, 
the whole affair was the most extraordinary mystery I ever 
came across. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 41 

I walked pretty smartly down to the village while I was 
occupied with these thoughts. A nice little village ours was, 
though I can't really say whether you would have called it 
picturesque. A little bit of a thread of a stream ran along 
the lower edge of the common, and found its way som ';liovv, 
all by itself, little thing as it was, down to the Dee. At that 
time of year the common was rather chilly to look at, the 
grass and the gorse bushes being a good bit blackened by 
frost, which had set in pretty sharply. I remember noticing, 
as I passed, that Dame Marsden, whose cottage is the first you 
come to on the left-hand side, just on the edge of the common, 
had her washing out, some of the things, after the line was 
full, being spread on the gorse, and that the shirts were lying 
there with their stiff white arms stuck out like pokers, as hard 
with the frost as if they had been made of wood. But after 
you pass the first few cottages, which just lie here and there, 
you come to a snug bit of street, with the Rectory garden and 
a peep of the house on one side, and the doctor's house staring 
straight at it across the road ; and the other better houses of 
the village thrusting forward on both sides, as if to take care 
of the aristocracy, and keep them cosy. Just before you come 
to the doctor's was the new shop I had spoken of at the lodge. 
It was got up by the doctor, and was going to be a failure. It 
had all kinds of cheap books and papers, and of all things in 
the world, a reading room ! And the shopkeeper, who was 
rather a smart young fellow, taught a night school after the 
shop was over. I dare to say it wasn't a bad place ; but, of 
course, in a bit of a rural village like ours, it was easy to see it 
would never succeed. 

Into this shop, however, I went to get little Mary Williams 
her picture-book ; and I can't but say I was very much struck 
and surprised to see a stranger standing there whom I had 
never seen before, and to hear roars of laughter coming out of 
the shop and drawing the children about the door. The 
stranger was one of the fattest men I ever saw : not that he 
was dreadfully big or unwieldy, on the contrary, he was 
spinning about on his toes in a way that would have been 
a trial to the lightest Englishman. His fatness was so beauti- 
fully distributed that it was amazing to see. His arms in t-h* 
coat-sleeves which fitted them like the covers of a cushion, 
his short plump fingers, all were in perfect keeping. As for 
his face, that was nearly lost in beard. When I entered the 
shop he had seized his beard with one of his fat hands, in the 
of his monologue ; for he was talking, I have no 



42 Tfo Last of the Mortimers. 

doubt, iii r very animated and lively manner, if any one 
could have understood a word of what he said. Now, I confess 
I felt a good deal of sympathy with the poor fellow ; for I 
remember quite well the only time I ever was abroad feeling 
an odd sort of conviction that if I only spoke very clear, plain, 
distinct English, and spoke loud enough, people, after a while, 
must come to understand me. When he saw me he made a 
spin clean out of my way, took off the queer hat he had on, 
made me a bow, and stopped talking till I had done^ my 
business ; which was the most civil thing 1 had seen in a 
stranger for many a day. And the face was such a jolly, 
honest sort of face that, in spite of my prejudice against 
foreigners, I felt quite disarmed all at once. 

"Who is he'? What is he saying?" said J to the shop- 
people. 

" Goodness knows !" cried old Mrs. Taylor, the shopkeeper's 
mother. "I know no more on't nor if it was a dog. Lord, 
Miss Milly ! to think of poor creatures brought up from their 
cradles to talk sicli stuff as that !" 

" I was brought up at a grammar-school, ma'am," sr.id 
young Taylor himself, with a blush ; u where it isn't modern 
languages, you know, ma'am, that's the great thing ; and, 
though I know the grammar, I'm not very well up in my 
French." 

Here his little sister, who had kept nudging him all this 
time, suddenly whispered, with her face growing crimson, 
" Oh, Alfred ! ask Miss Milly ! to be sure she knows." 

And, to tell the truth, though 1 knew I could never keep up 
a conversation, I had been privately conning over in my own 
mind a little scrap of French, though whether he was French 
or not I knew no more than Jenny Taylor. So I faced round 
boldly enough, not being afraid of any criticism, and fired off 
my interrogation at the good-humoured fat fellow. He looked 
so blank after I had spoken that it was quite apparent he did 
not understand a word of it. Pie made a profusion of bows. 
He entered into a long and animated explanation, which sent 
Jenny Taylor into fits of laughter, and filled her mother with 
commiseration. But I caught two words, and these con- 
founded me. The first was "Italiano," over and over re- 
peated ; the second which he pronounced, pointing out to the 
street with many lively gestures, was " padrone." I com- 
prehended the matter all at once, and it made my heart, beat. 
This was the servant whom little Sara had described, and the 
master, the " padrone," was in the village pursubg hi,a 



The Last of the Mortimers. 43 

extraordinary inquiries, whatever they were, here. For the 
moment I could not help being agitated; I felt, I cannot 
explain why, as if I were on the eve of finding out something. 
I asked him eagerly, in English, where his master was ; and 
again received a voluble and smiling answer, I have no doubt 
in very good Italian. Then we shook our heads mutually and 
laughed, neither quite convinced that the other could not 
understand if he or she would. But the end was that I got 
my picture-book and left the shop without ascertaining ;my- 
thing about the padrone. Perhaps it was just as well. Why 
should I go and thrust myself into mysteries and troubles 
which did not make any call upon me ? 



CHAPTER XII. 

I HAD a good many little errands in the village, and stayed 
there for some time. It was dusk when 1 turned to go 
home. Very nice the village looks at dusk, I assure you the 
rectory windows beginning to shine through the trees, and the 
doctor's dining-room answering opposite as if by a kind of 
reflection ; but no lamps or candles lighted yet in the other 
village houses, only the warm glow of the fire shining through 
the little muslin blind on the geraniums in the window ; and, 
perhaps, the mother standing at the door to look out for the 
boys at play, or to see if it is time for father's coming 
home. l)ame Marsden's shirts were still lying stiff and stark 
like ghosts upon the gorse bushes ; and some of the early 
labourers began to come tramping heavily down the road with 
their long, slow, heavy steps. I had just stopped to ask James 
Hobson for his old father, when my share of the adventure 
came. I call it the adventure, because I suppose, somehow, 
we were all in it Sarah, little Sara Cresswell, and me. 

Just when that good Jem had gone on such a fellow he is, 
too ! keeps his old father like a prince ! another sort of a 
figure appeared before the light ; and, bless me, to think I 

D 



44 The Last of the Mortimers. 

should have forgotten that circumstance ! of course it was the 
same figure that started so suddenly past me that evening 
when I stood looking for Sarah at the gate. He took off his 
hat to me. in the half light, and stopped. I stopped also, I 
cannot tell why. So far as 1 could see, a handsome young 
man, not so dark as one expects to see an Italian, and none of 
that sort of French Ihowman look you know what I mean 
that these sort of people generally have : on the contrary, a 
look very much as if he were a gentleman : only, if I may say 
it, more innocent, more like a child in his ways than the young 
men are now-a-days. 1 did not see all this just in a moment, 
you may be sure. Indeed, I rather felt annoyed and dis 
pleased when the stranger stopped me on the road my own 
road, that seemed to belong to me as much as the staircase or 
corridor at home. If he had not been possessed of a kind of 
ingratiating, conciliatory sort of manner, as these foreigners 
mostly have, I should scarcely have given him a civil answer, 
1 do believe. 

u Pardon, Madame " not Madam, you perceive, which is 
the stiffest, ugliest word that can be used in English and I 
can't make out how, by putting an e to the end of it, and 
laying the emphasis on the last syllable, it can be made so 
deferential and full of respect as the French word sounds to 
English ears " pardon, Madame ; I was taking the liberty to 
make inquiries in your village, and when I am so fortunate as 
to make an encounter with yourself, I think it a very happy 
accident. Will Madame permit me to ask her a question ; 
only one, it is very important to me?" 

"Sir," said I, being a little struck with his language, 
and still more with his voice, which seemed to recall to me 
some other voice I had once known, u you speak very good 
English." 

His hat was off again, of course, in a moment to acknowledge 
the compliment ; but dark as it was. I could neither overlook 
nor could I in the least understand, the singular, half pathetic, 
melancholy look he gave me as he answered. u 1 had an 
English mother," said the young foreigner ; and he looked at 
me in the darkness, and in my complete ignorance of him, as if 
somehow I, plain Millicent Mortimer, a single woman over fifty, 
and living among my own people, either knew something about 
his mother, or had done her an injury, or was hiding her up 
somewhere, or I don't know what. I could not tell anybody 
how utterly confounded and thunderstruck I was. I had nearly 
screamed out : 'I? What do I know about your mother V" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 45 

so ranch impression did it have on me. After all it is wonderful 
how these foreigners do talk in this underhand sort of way with 
their eyes. I declare I do not so much wonder at the influence 
they often get over young creatures. That sort of thing is 
wonderfully impressive to the imagination. 

He paused quite in a natural, urtful sort of way, to let the 
look have its full effect ; and he must have seen I was startled 
too ; for though I was old enough to have been his mother, I 
was, of course, but a plain Englishwoman, and had no power 
over my lace. 

" Madame," said the stranger with a little more vehemence, 
and a motion of his arm which looked as if he might fall into 
regular gesticulating, just what disgusts one most, " to find the 
Countess Sermoneta is the object of my life !" 

" I am very sorry I can't help you," said I, quite restored to 
myself by this, which I was, so to speak, prepared for ; " I 
never heard of such a person ; there's no one of that name in 
this quarter, nor hasn't been, I am sure, these thirty years." 

Seeing 1 was disposed to push past, my new acquaintance 
stood aside, and took off again that everlasting hat. 

" I will not detain Madame," he said in a voice that, I con- 
fess, rather went to my heart a little, as if I had been cruel to 
him; "but Madame will not judge hardly of my case. I came 
to find one whom I thought I had but to name ; and I find her 
not, nor her name, nor any sign that she was ever here. Yet I 
must find her, living or dead ; I made it a promise to my father 
on his death-bed. Madame will not wonder if I search, ask, 
look everywhere ; I cannot do otherwise. Pardon that I .ay 
so mu 'h ; I will detain Madame no more." 

And so he stood aside with another salute. Still he took off 
his hat like a gentleman no sort of flourish a little more dis- 
tinctly raised from his head, perhaps, than people do now-a- 
days ; but nothing in bad taste; and just in proportion to his 
declaration that he would not detain me, I grew, if I must con- 
ittvi it, more and more willing to be detained. I did not go on 
vyr-'n he stood out pf-my way, but rather fell a little back, and 
turned more towards him than I had yet done. Dame Marsden 
had just lighted her lamp, and it cast a sort of glimmery, un- 
certain light upon the face of my new acquaintance ; undeniably 
a handsome young man. I like good-looking people wherever 
1 iiml thorn; and that was not sll. Somehow, through his 
beard which I daresay people who like such appendages would 
have thought quite handsome there seemed to me to look, by 
glimpses, some face i had known long ago ; and his voice, 



i& Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 

foreign as it was, had a tone, just an occasional inde- 
scribable note, which reminded me of some other voice, I 
could not tell whom belonging to. It was very strange ; and 
one forgets stories that one has no personal interest in. Did I 
ever hear of any country person that had married an Italian ? 
for somehow I had jumped to the conclusion that it was his 
mother he sought. 

" It is very odd," said I, " I can fancy I have heard a voice 
like yours somewhere long ago. I seem to feel as if I knew 
you. I don't remember ever hearing the name you want ; but 
I'll consult my sister and an old servant we have, and try to 
find out, Sermoneta ! I certainly do not recollect ever hear- 
ing the name, But it is very sad you should be so disappointed. 
If you will come to the Park some day next week and ask for 
Miss Millicent, I will do my best to find out for you if anybody 
knows the name." 

He made a great many exclamations of thanks, which, to be 
sure, I could have dispensed with, and paused a little again in 
a hesitating way when I wanted to go on. At last he'begau 
quite in a new tone ; and this was the oddest part of all. 

" If Madame should find, on inquiring, that the bearer of 
this name did not will to bear it ; if there might be reasons to 
conceal that name ; if the lady, who is the Contessa, would 
but see me, would but let me know " 

" Sir," said I, interrupting the young fellow all at once, ! 'ig 
it an English lady you are speaking of? English ladies do 
not conceal their names. Reason or not, we own to the name 
that belongs to us in this country. No, no, I know nothing 
about such a possibility. I don't believe in it either. If I can 
hear of a Countess Sermoneta, I'll let you know ; but as for 
anybody denying their own name, you must not think such 
things happen here. Good night. You're not accustomed to 
England, I can see. You must not think me impatient; but 
that's not how we do things in our country. Come to the 
Park, all the same ; and I shall do what I can to find out 
whether anybody remembers what you want to know," 

This time he did not make any answer, only drew back a 
step, and so got quite out of the light of Dame Marsden's 
window. He seemed to be silenced by what I had said, and I 
went on quite briskly, a little stimulated, I confess, by that 
little encounter, and the exertion of breaking my spear for 
English honour. Denying one's name, indeed! Of course 
we have our faults like other people ; but who ever heard of 
an English person (not speaking or thieves, or sugb creatures, 



TJie Last of Hie Mortimen. 4? 

of course), denying his name ! The thing was quite pre- 
posterous. It quite warmed me up as 1 hastened back to the 
Park, though I was rather later than usual, and the night had 
fallen dark all at once ; and, to be sure, this kept me from all 
those uncomfortable ideas that perhaps, it might ben decep- 
tion after all ; and what if it were a contrivance to be admitted 
to the Park? and it might, even, for anything I knew, be all a 
fortune-hu:)ter'.s device to ~et introdmoi to S'u'-i Crepswoll 
which disturbed my mind sadly, though 1 felt mucn asLawedof 
them alter I hud time for reaction at home. 



48 The Last of the Mortimers. 



PAET II. 



THE LIEUTENANT'S WI7PI. 



CHAPTER I. 

I WILL tell yo'j exactly how it all happened. 
I have been an orphan all ray life : at least, if tha*j ?>, a 
little Irish, 1 mean that 1 never knevr, or saw, that 1 know oi', 
either my father or my mother. Sad enough in the bec.b of 
ca?es, and mine was not the best case you could think of. I 
don't know who paid for me when 1 was a child. Some of 
mamma's relations, I suppose, among them ; and of all people 
in the world to trust a poor little orphan child to, think of 
fixing upon a soldier's wife, following the regiment ! That is 
how I have always been half a soldier myself ; and one reason, 
perhaps, if any reason was necessary but his dear, good, 
tender-hearted self, why I was so ready, when Harry asked 
me, to do the most foolish thing in the world. 

Though I say they made a strange choice in leaving me 
with dear Nurse Kichards, I don't mean that it was not, so far 
as the woman was concerned, the very best choice that 
possibly could have been made. Richards himself was a 
sergeant, and she was quite a superior woman ; but much 
more to the purpose than that, she had been my very own 
nurse, having taken me when poor mamma died. She had 
lost her baby, and I had lost my mother ; and it was for real 
love, and not for hire, that Nurse Kichards took the charge of 
me. Sku used to work hard, and deny herself many things, I 



The Last of the Mortimers. 

know, to keep the little house, or the snug lodgings we always 
had, as far off from the barracks as Richards would allow 
them to be. I know she could not possibly have had- enough 
money for me to make up for what she spent on my account ; 
but I don't think it was hard to her, working and sparing for 
the poor orphan little girl. I know such things by my own 
experience now. It was sweet to her to labour, and contrive, 
and do a hundred things I knew nothing about, for " the 
child's" sake. I would do it all over again, and thankful, for 
her sake. Ah, that I would ! Pain and trouble are sweet for 
those one loves. 

She did her duty by me too, if ever woman did. She never 
would let me forget that I was a lady, as she said. She used 
to lecture me by the hour about many a thing being fit enough 
for the other children which was not becoming for me, till 1 
came to believe her as children do, and gave myself little airs 
as was natural. I got no education, to be sure, but reading 
and writing, and needlework, and how to do most things 
about a house. So far as 1 have gone into life yet it has been 
a very good education to me. I don't doubt much more 
serviceable than if I had been at boarding-school, as poor 
Aunt Connor used to lament, and wish I had ; but it was 
a sad wandering life for all that. We were in Edinburgh the 
first that I can recollect. I remember as clear as possible, as 
if it were in a dream, the great Castle Rock standing high up 
out of the town, and whatever was ado in the skies, sunshine, 
or moonlight, or clouds, or a thunder-storm, or whatever was 
going on, always taking that for its centre, as 1 imagined. I 
could fancy still, if I shut my eyes, that I saw the grey 
building up high in the blue air, with the lights twinkling in 
the windows half way up to the stars ; and heard the trumpet 
pealing out with a kind of wistful sound, bringing images to 
me, a soldier's child, of men straying about, lost among the 
darkling fields, or bewildered in the streets, when the recall 
sounded far up over their heads in that calm inaccessible 
height. I see that very Castle Rock now again, not in 
imagination, but with my real eyes. It is just the same as 
ever, though I am so very different. It is my first love, and 
I am loyal to it. Not being of any country, for I am some 
Irish, and some Welsh, and some Scotch, and Harry is a pure 
thorough-bred Englishman, I can quite afford to be in love 
with Edinburgh Castle. The regiment went to Swansea after 
it left Edinburgh, and then to Belfast, and we were in dreadful 
terror of being sent to Canada, where Nurse Richards declared 



50 The Last of the Mortimers. 

ehc never would take " the child." However, it never came tfl 
trying. At Belfast, dear tender soul, she died. Ah me ! ah 
me ! 1 could not think how the kind Lord could leave me 
behind, so wretched as I was ; but He knew better than I did. 
I was only fifteen ; I humbly hope, now I'm twenty, 1 have a 
great deal more yet to do in the world. But 1 thought of 
nothing then except only what a comfort it would be to slip 
into the coffin beside her and be laid down quietly in lier 
grave. 

I did not know a single relation I had, if, indeed, I had any ; 
Aunt Connor, I know, used to send the money for me ; but 
Nurse Richards had often told me she was not my real aunt ; 
only my uncle's wife, and he was dead. So, though she sup- 
ported me, she had no right to love me ; and she couldn't love 
me, and did not, that is certain ; for I was fifteen, and had 
never seen her, nor a single relation in the world. However, 
when she heard of Nurse Richards' death, Aunt Connor sent 
her maid for me. It is very fortunate, Bridget said, we were 
in Belfast, and no great distance off, for if it had been in 
England, over the seas, there was no telling what might have 
happened. I was very unwilling to go with Bridget. I struggled 
very much, and spoke to Richards about it. I said I would 
much rather go into service, where at least I could be near 
her grave ; but it was of no use speaking. I was obliged to 
obey. 

Aunt Connor lived in Dublin ; and when I got to her house 
and saw the footman, and the page in his livery, and all the 
grandeur about the house, I thought really that Aunt Connor 
must be a very great lady. Harry says the house was shabby- 
fine, and everything vulgar about it ; but I cannot say I saw 
that. Perhaps I am not so good a judge as Harry, never having 
seen anything of the kind before. I do believe that she really 
was very kind to me in her way ; I must say so, whatever 
Harry thinks. Harry says she behaved atrociously, and was 
jealous of me because I was prettier than her own girls (which 
is all Harry's nonsense), and a great deal more like that all in 
the Cinderella style, you know, where the two young ladies are 
spiteful and ugly, and the little girl in the kitchen is quite an 
angel. I love Cinderella ; but all the same, Harry's story is not 
true. I underscore the words to convince him if he should ever 
see this. Alicia and Patricia were very handsome girls, as 
different from me as possible and good girls too, and always 
had a kind word for their poor little coilsin. They did not take 
me to all their gaieties, to be sure, I am sure I did not wish it. 



The Last of Hie Mortimer*. 51 

I was much happier in the nursery. After I had seen Harry 
ft few times, perhaps I did grudge going clown so seldom to the 
drawing-room ; and used to keep wondering in my heart which 
of them he was fond of, and had many a cry over it. But now 
^that it is all past, and I see more clearly, I know they were very 
'' kind indeed, considering. They were never, all the time I was 
there, unfeeling to me; they liked me, and I liked them: 
nothing in the world of your Cinderella story. If I had a nice 
house, and was rich enough to have a visitor, there is nothing 
I should like better than to have Patricia (her sister is married) 
come to see me. It would be pleasant to see her bright Irish 
face. No, honestly, I cannot complain of Aunt Connor. I am 
very sorry I deceived her for an honr she was never unkind to 
me. 



CHAPTER II. 

I DID not think I could have said half a dozen words about 
myself without telling all the story of my marriage. But 
what 1 have said was necessary to keep you from blaming me so 
much. For, after all, I was a young, friendless, desolate creature, 
longing very much to have somebody belonging to me, some- 
body of my very own, and with no very clear natural duty to 
Aunt Connor, though she had paid for bringing me up. I say 
again she was kind to me, and so were the girls ; but principally 
because it was not in their nature to be unkind to anybody, and 
not because they had a particular affection for me. And that 
is what one wants, whatever people may choose to say. One 
might die of longing for love though one was surrounded with 
kindness. Ah, yes, I am sure of it : even a little unkindness 
from people we belong to, and who belong to us, one can bear 
it. To have nobody belonging to you is the saddest thing ia 
the world. 

I never was melancholy or pensive, or anything like that. 
After a while, when I could think of Nurse llichards without 



62 The Last of the Mortimers. 

breaking my heart, I got just as cheerful as other girls of my 
age, and enjoyed whatever little bit of pleasure came to me. 
But after I began to know Harry after it began to dawn upon 
my mind that there might be somebody in the world who would 
take an interest in all my little concerns, for no better reason 
than that they belonged to me, not for kindness or compassion, 
I felt as if 1 were coining to life all at once. I have had some 
doubts since whether it was what people call love ; perhaps I 
would have been shyer had it been so, and 1 don't think I ever 
was shy to speak of. I was so glad, so thankful, to the bottom 
of my heart, to think of having somebody belonging to me. If 
we could have done something to make ourselves real brother 
and sister, I believe I should have been just as glad. However, 
of course that was impossible. All the officers used to come to 
Aunt Connor's ; she was always good-tempered and pleasant, 
and glad to see them, though I am sure she would not have 
allowed her girls to marry any of those poor lieutenants. How- 
ever, I happened to be in the drawing-room a good many times 
when Harry came first. Nobody noticed that we two were 
always getting together for a time ; but when my aunt did 
observe it, she was angry, and said I was ilirting, and i was 
not to corne downstairs any more in the evening. I thought I 
didn't mind ; I never had minded before. But I did feel this. 
I made quite sure Harry was falling in love with one of my 
cousins, and used to wonder which it would be, and cry. Crying 
by one's self does not improve one's looks ; and when I met 
Harry the first day, by real accident, he looked so anxious and 
concerned about me, that it quite went to rny heart. My aunt 
used to send me on her particular errands at that time, to order 
things for the dinner-parties, and to match ribbons, and to take 
gloves to be cleaned ; things the servants could not do properly. 
She used to say if I kept my veil down, and walked very 
steadily, nobody would ever molest me ; and nobody ever did. 
Only Harry got to know the times I generally went out, and 
always happened to meet me somewhere. Oh yes, it was very 
wrong; very, very wrong . if I nac l ever had a mother I could 
not have forgiven myself. But it was such a comfort to see 
his face brighten up as he caught sight of me. No one could 
tell how cheering it was except one as friendless as me. So, as 
you may suppose, it went on from lens to more, and at last (after 
we had been asked in church, and I don't know all what) Harry 
and J called in at a far-off little church one morning, and were 
married. I had not thought very much about it till it was over ; 
but the moment it was fairly over I full into the greatest panic 



The Last of the Mortimers. 53 

I ever was in, in a%my life. What if Aunt Connor should find 
us out? If she did find us out, what would be done to us? 
what would happen to Harry? I almost think he must have 
carried me out of church, my head quite spun round upon my 
shoulders. I fell into such a tremble that my limbs would not 
support me. When were out of the church, it was a summer 
morning, beautiful and sweet, and the air so pleasant that it 
made one happy to breathe it, we two foolish young creatures 
looked with a kind of awe into each other's faces. Harry was 
pale as well as me. I do believe he was in a panic too. " Oh, 
Harry, what have we done ?" cried I with a little gasp. He 
burst out into a great trembling laugh. u What we can never 
undo, Milly darling ; nor anybody else for us," said he ; " and 
God be praised !" I could not say another word. We neither 
of us could speak any more ; we went silently along through the 
air, so sweet and sunny, trembling and holding each other close, 
to my aunt's door, where we were to part. I think we must 
have gone gliding along like fairies, on the wings that grow to 
people's shoulders at those wonderful moments ; surely we did 
not walk over the common pavement like ordinary people. 
But the common door, the white steps, the blank front of Aunt 
Connor's house, disenchanted us. 1 could not stop to say good- 
bye, but only gave him a frightened look, and ran in, for the 
door was fortunately open. Oh, how cold and trembling I felt 
when I shut my room door, and was safe in, and knew it was 
all over ! I took off my white frock, all in awe and terror of 
myself. But when I had put on my morning dress, and looked 
at myself in the glass, it was not Milly Mortimer ! / knew it 
was not Milly Mortimer. I fastened my ring so that I could 
wear it round my neck under my high dress, without anybody 
knowing ; but already it had made a mark round my finger. 
I was married ! Oh dear, dear, and to think I could not tell 
anybody ! 1 never had a secret all my life before. I went 
down on my knees in the corner, and asked God to forgive me, 
and to take care of us two poor children that did not know 
what we were doing. Then I had to get up and open my door, 
and go out in the every-day house. I can't tell how I did it. 
Of all the wonders in my life, there is none like that. I can 
fancy how I was led on to consent to be married ; but how did 
I ever go downstairs and do my sewing, and eat my din nor, 
and look Aunt Connor in the face ? I suppose I must have 
done it somehow without making them suspect anything ; and 
I don't wonder my aunt called me a little hypocrite, What & 
hypocrite I must have been! 



64 The Last of tie Mortimers* 

I did not see Harry next day, and felt vc#y miserable ; cold, 
ns if a sudden frost had come on in the middle of summer. But 
the next morning after, looking out of my window very early, 
who should I see looking up at the house but himself ! 'IhaiJ 
moment I got back into the sun. We belonged to each other ; 
everything, even to the dress I had on, Harry was pleased to 
know about. Ah, what a difference ! I cannot say anything 
else, though it may be very improper. After that moment I 
never was ashamed again of what I had done, nor frightened, 
nor sorry. If it was wrong, it's a pity, and I don't defend 
myself; but from that time I thought only that I had somebody 
belonging to me ; that I dared not get ill, or mope, or die. or 
do any foolish thing ; that I had Harry to think of, and do for, 
and take care of. Ah, that was different from doing Aunt 
Connor's messages. It was not being married, it was being 
born it was coining to life. 



CHAPTER III. 

\7'OtT are not to suppose, however, that we did not pay for 
JL our foolishness. If I had been a well-brought up girl 
living at home, I should have been perfectly wretched in that 
strange, feverish, secret life in which everything felt like guilt ; 
and, as it was, the excitement and feeling of secrecy wore me 
out day by day. Poor Harry, too, got quite harassed and 
wretched looking. This that we had done certainly did not 
make us happy. Harry still came to the house for the chance 
of seeing me ; and imagine what I felt to know that he was in 
tiie drawing-room, and /, Us wife, sitting upstairs, after the 
little children had gone to bed, sewing in the quiet nursery! I 
don't know how I ever endured it ; and to hear Alicia and 
Patricia next morning saying to each other what a bear that 
young Langham had grown ! Once or twice, when I was 
allowed to be downstairs, it was worse and worse. If one of 
the ether gentlemen so much as looked at me, Harry flushed up 



The Last of the Mortimers. 65 

and looked furious. Twenty times in a night I tho ight he 
would have interfered and made a scene ; but all the time we 
dared scarcely speak to each other ; and I am sure Aunt Connor 
never thought we were flirting then. When I went out, as 
before, on my aunt's errands, with my veil down, Harry, 
instead of being pleased to meet me, as he used to be, was so 
cross and unhappy that it was quite dreadful to be with him. 
And he would come about the house looking up at the windows 
at all kinds of improper times, quite in an open way, as if he 
were defying Aunt Connor. I was quite in a fever night and 
day ; I never knew what might happen any minute. He could 
not bear so much as to think of other people ordering me about, 
and making me do things I did not want to do. 1 am sure it 
is very good of Harry to be so kind and fond of me as he is ; 
for I feel certain that, for the first three months, our marriage 
made him miserable, injured his health, and his temper, and his 
appetite, and everything. You may say, why did we keep it 
secret ? The reason was this, that he was to come in to a little 
money, which his uncle, who was his only relation, had pro- 
mised him on his birthday, and which he ought to have got 
before now; and poor Harry thought every day it might come, 
and was always waiting. But unless it was that promised 
present, he had nothing in the world but his lieutenant's pay. 

However, of course, this state of things could not go on. 
One day I had gone out to take some gloves to be cleaned, and 
Harry, of course, had met me. We were going along very 
quiet, not saying much to each other, for he had been in one of 
his troublesome humours, having got a letter from his uncle 
without a word in it about the money, and I bad been begging 
him to have patience a little, when all at once my heart gave a 
jump, and I knew the crisis had come. There, straight before 
us, crossing the road, was Aunt Connor, with her great eyes 
fixed upon Harry and me ! 

I gave a little cry and looked round. If there had been any 
cross street or opening near I should have run away, and never 
looked either of them in the face again; but there was not 
a single opening in all the houses. I clasped my hands together 
tight, and stood still, with something throbbing so in my head 
that I thought it would burst. I did not see Harry nor 
anything, only Aunt Connor coining up to me whom i had 
deceived. 

She grasped hold of me by the arm as soon as ever she earns 
up. " Oh, you shameless, ungrateful creature ! Is this what 
you hare come to after all mv care of you? This is how you 



66 The Last of the Mortimers. 

take your walks, is it, Miss Mortimer? Oh, gDod heavens 1 
was ever simple woman so taken in and imposed upon ? Oh, 
you wicked, foolish, thoughtless thing! do you know you're 
going to ruin? do you know you're seeking your own 
destruction ? do you know ? Lord save us, I don't know what 
words to say to you! Haven't you heard what comes to young 
girls that behave so? Ob, you young scapegrace! how dare 
you bring such a disgrace on my house !" 

" Hold your tongue, you old witch," said Harry, who was 
perfectly wild with rage, as I could hear by the sound of his 
voice, for 1 dared not turn my head to look at him. But there 
he was, grasping hold of my hand and holding me up. "Take 
your hand off my wife's arm, Mrs. Connor. What ! you dare 
venture to speak about disgrace and destruction after sending 
her out defenceless day after day. She has had somebody to 
ditfend her, though you took no trouble about it. Yes, A i illy 
darling, I am thankful it has come at last. Madam, take away 
your hand ; she is my wife." 

Aunt Connor fell back from me perfectly speechless, holding 
up her two hands. We two stood opposite. Harry holding my 
hand drawn through his arm. I thought I should have sunk 
into the ground ; and yet I felt so happy and proud I could 
have cried with joy. Yes, it was quite true ; I was not all by 
Myself to fight my own battles. We two belonged to each 
oi her, and all the world could not make it otherwise. I could 
not say a word, and I. did not mind. L could leave it all to 
I lurry . Henceforward he would stand up for me before all the 
world. 

I really cannot tell, after that, what Aunt Connor said. I re- 
member that Harry wanted to take me away at on.ce to his lodg- 
ings, and said he would not allow me to go home with her ; and 
fell.' took hold of my arm again, and declared she would not let me 
gi > till she had proof he was telling the truth about our marriage, 
riu end of it all was that we both went home with her. She was 
dreadfully angry, speechless with rage and dismay ; but after 
just the first she managed to keep proper and decorous in what 
she said, being in the street, and not wishing to make a scene 
or gather a crowd. She took us into the library and had it out 
there. Oh, what names she called me ! not only deceitful and 
ungrateful, but, what was far worse, light and easily won ; and 
warned Harry against me, that I'd deceive him as well. When 
she said that it roused me ; and I don't know what I should 
have said if Harry had not drawn me aside quite quietly and 
whispered, " Leave it all to me." I did ; I never said a'-word 



The Last of the Mortimers. 67 

for myself. I put my cause into his hands. To be answered 
for, and have my defence undertaken so, did a great deal more 
than make up to me for anything that could be said. It was 
all very agitating and dreadful, however ; and I could not help 
thinking that most likely Harry's uncle, when he heard what a 
foolish marriage his nephew had made, would not send that 
money, and Harry would have me to provide for, and so little, 
so very little to do it with ; and most likely all his brother 
officers making fun of him to each other for being so foolish. 
Ah ! now I felt how foolish we had been. 

" Milly must come home with me," said Harry. " If I 
could scarcely endure her remaining here while it was all a 
secret, you may suppose how impossible it is that I can endure 
it now. I thank you very much, Mrs. Connor, for finding us 
out; and don't think," he said, changing his look in a moment, 
" that I forget or will forget what actual kindness you may 
have shown to my wife. But she is my wife : she must not do 
other people's business, or live in any house but her own. 
Mrs. Connor will let you put your things together, Milly 
darling, for I cannot leave you behind again." 

" Well, young people," said Aunt Connor, " I have seen a 
great deal, and come through a great deal in my life, but 
such boldness and unconcern I never did see before. Why, 
you don't even look ashamed of yourselves ! not Miss here, 
that is going to be at the head of her own establishment, in 
the parlour over Mrs. Grogram's shop, with boots lying about 
in all the corners, and a cigar-box on the mantelshelf. How- 
ever, Mr. Langham, I am not such an old witch as you think 
for. I won't let my poor Connor's niece go off like this, all 
of a sudden, with a young man that has never made the least 
preparation for her. I am not throwing any doubt upon your 
marriage, nor meaning any scandal upon the lieutenant, Miss 
Milly, you need not flush up ; but what do you suppose his 
landlady would say if- he came in with a young lady by his 
side, and said he had brought home his wife ? Do you think 
she'd believe in you, or give you proper respect, you un- 
fortunate young creature ? No, no ; I'll do my duty by you, 
whether you will or no. Let Mr. Langham go home and 
make things a little ready for a lady. She's a lady by both 
sides of the house, I can tell you, Mr. Langham; and I've 
heard her poor papa say might come in for a great estate, if 
she lived. Any how, she's poor Connor's niece, and she shan't 
go out of my house in an unbecoming manner. Go homo and 
set your place in order for a bride ; and since it must foe so, 



63 The Last of tJie Mortimers. 

come back for Milly ; but out of this door she's not going to- 
night. Now be easy, be easy. I have had to do with hsr 
for eighteen years, and you have had to do with her for a 
month or two. It's not respectable, I tell you, you two*' 
young fools. AVliat ! do you think I'll make away with her, if 
you leave her here while you make things decent at home V" 

Neither Harry nor 1 could resist kindness; and Aunt 
Connor was kind, as nobody could deny; but he blushed, 

Eoor fellow, and looked uncomfortable, and looked at me to 
clp him out this time. " Harry has no money, no more than I 
have," said I; "it's his wife that must make things tidy at 
home." 

A kind of strange spasm went over Aunt Connor's face, as 
if she had something to say and couldn't, or wouldn't. She 
pursed up her lips all at once, and went away hastily to the 
Dthcr end of the room to pick up something, something that 
had nothing at all to do with us or our business. " Weil, 
well, do as you like," she said, in a curious choked voice. 
When she turned away from us, Harry drew me close to him 
to consult what we should do. It was quite true about the 
boots, he said, with a blush and a laugh ; should I mind V 
Certainly I did'nt mind ; but I thought, on the Avhole, it wa;i 
best not to vex Aunt Connor any more, but to take her advice, 
he to leave me here to-night, and fetch me home to-morrow. 
Fetch me home 1 I that had never known such a thing in all 
my life. 

\Vc parted for another day with that agreement ; and, 
strange as people may think it, I was quite a heroine in 
Aunt Connor's house that night. The girJs both came up to 
my room and made me tell them all about it, and laughed and 
kissed me, and teased me, and cried over me, and did all sorts 
of kind foolish things. They found out my ring tied round 
my neck, and made me put it on ; and they kept constantly 
running back and forward from their own room to mine with 
little presents for me. Not much, to be sure ; but I was only 
a girl, though I was married, and liked their. There was 
somebody to dinner, so I did not go do.vnstairs , but when the 
strangers were gone, there was a liu.e supper in my honour, 
and Aunt Connor made some negus with her own hand, and 
ordered them all to drink dear Milly's health the last night she 
would be at home. I could have really thought they loved 
me that last night. They did not, however ; only, though it 
might not be very steady or constant, they were kind, kind at 
the heart ; and when one was just at the turn of one's life, 



The Last of tlie Mortimers. 59 

and all one's heait moved and excited, they could no moro 
have refused their sympathy than they could have denied 
their nature ; and being very much shocked and angry at first 
did not make the least difference to this. The girls were 
twenty times fonder of me that night than if I had beeii 
married ever so properly, dear, kind, foolish Irish hearts! 

But all the while there was a strange uneasy look in Aunt 
Connor's face. I divined somehow, 1 cannot tell by what 
means, that there was something she ought to tell me which 
she either was afraid or unwilling to let me know, or haA 
some object in keeping from me. She must be an innoccnb 
woman, surely, or 1 never couJd have read that so clear in her 
face. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE next morning Harry came radiant, quite like a new 
man. Was it all for joy of taking me home? or, perhaps 
he had got the money on this most convenient of all mornings? 
but such things don't often happen just at the most suitable 
time. He came rushing in with a kind of shout, u Milly, 
we've orders to march ; we're going next week. Hurrah !" 
cried Harry. 

" And why hurrah ?" said I. 

''We'll have ourselves to ourselves, and nobody in our way," 
lie said ; but just then seeing Aunt Connor, who was at the 
other end of the room, stopped short and looked a little con- 
fused. He had not intended to say anything ill-natured to 
her. 

"Oh, I am not affronted; you're excusable, you're quite 
excusable," said Aunt Connor; "and I believe it is very lucky; 
you'll have a fresh start, and nobody will know how foolish 
you have been. I was too angry to ask yesterday, or to think 
of anything but that deluded child there* that thinks herself 3Q 
j but youn# Lar.gh&;n, dear, have ye any fri 



60 Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 

** None to whom I am answerable," said Harry. 

"Then that means no father nor mother, no parents ana 
guardians?" said my aunt. " Well, what you've done is done, 
and can't be undone ; we must make the best of it. Have you 
put the boots into the corner, and tidied the cigars off the 
mantelshelf? and now Mrs. Grogram knows all about it, when 
it happened, where it happened, and how you two took clever 
Mrs. Connor in ?" 

" Exactly," said Harry, laughing; "you have quite described 
it all. I have done my best, Milly darling; come home." 

" You're glad, you two young fools?" said my aunt. 

"I should think so! and shouldn't we be glad?" cried Harry. 
" If we have not a penny between us, we have what is much 
better. Milly, come." 

" Hush with your Milly, Milly," said Aunt Connor, " and 
gpeak for yourself, young man. My poor Connor's niece, if 
she is undutiful, shall never be said to be penniless. Well,' 
I've won the battle. I will tdl you, for i ought. As sure as 
she's standing there in her white frock, she has five hundred 
pounds." 

"Five hundred pounds! 1 ' both Harry and I repeated the 
words with a little cry of wonder and delight. 

She had said this with n flash of resolution, as if it were quite 
hard to get it out ; now khe fell suddenly into a strange sort of 
coaxing, persuading tone, which was sadly painful to me just 
as I was getting to like her better ; and as she coaxed and grew 
affectionate she grew vulgar too. How strange ! I had rather 
have given her the money than seen her humble herself so. 

" But it's out at the best of interest, my dears ; what you 
couldn't get for it elsewhere. Think of five-ancl-twenty pounds 
a-year ; an income, Milly ! My child, I'll undertake to pay 
you the half year's interest out of my own pocket to help you 
with your housekeeping ; for, of course, you would never think 
of lifting the money, you nor young Langham, with such an 
income coming of it. No, no ; let well alone, I say. 1 would 
Dot meddle with a penny of it if I were you. l^ash young 
creatures that don't know the value of money, you'd just throw 
it away ; but think what a comfort there is in five-and-twenty 
pounds a-year !" 

Harry and I looked at each other; it was as clear as day that 
ehe had it herself, and did not want to give it up. He was 
angry; I was only vexed and distressed. I never in all my life 
had thought of money before. 

" Five hundred pounds would be yery useful to Milly iu** 



The Last of the Mortimers. 61 

now, Mrs. Connor," said Harry ; "she has not a trousseau, as 
your daughters would have ; and I can only give her all I have, 
which is little enough. At least it's my duty to ascertain all 
about it ; where it is, and what it is, and " 

u Oh, what it is ! half of it Uncle Connor's own gift to the 
ungrateful creature half of it at the very least ; and ascertain, 
to be sure ! ascertain, and welcome ! call it in if ye please, 
and spend it all in three weeks, and don't come to me for help 
or credit. What do you mean, sir? Do ye think it's anything 
tome?" 

u Oh, Aunt Connor, please don't be angry. I never had but 
half-a-sovereign all my life," cried I. "You'll tell us all about 
it afterwards, to be sure. Harry I mean Mr. Langhain 
doesn't understand. But it would be so handy to have some of 
it, Aunt v'onnor, don't you think so? Only please don't be 
angry. I should like, all out of my own head, to spend ten 
pounds." 

Aunt Connor did not speak, but went to her desk and took 
romething out of it that was already prepared one envelope 
she gave to Harry and the other to me. 

"Here is the half year's dividend of your wife's little money; 
it's just come due," said Aunt Connor, "and here, Milly, dear, 
is your aunt's wedding-present to you. Now you can have 
your will, you see, without breaking in upon your tiny bit of 
fortune. See what it is to have thoughtful friends." 

For in my envelope there was exactly the sum I wished for 
ten pounds. 

And what do you suppose I did ? Harry standing there as 
sulky as a statue, looking as if he would like to tear up his 
share and throw it into the fire. I was so delighted I ran and 
threw my arms round her neck, and kissed Aunt Connor. I 
hugged her quite heartily. I did not understand five hundred 
pounds; but I knew I could get something nice for Harry, and 
a new dress and a wedding bonnet, with orange-blossoms, out 
of what she gave me. And she cried, too, and kissed me as if 
I had been her own child ; and it Wcis no hypocrisy, whatever 
you may think. Harry snatched me away, and quite turned 
me out of the room to get my bonnet. He looked the sulkiest, 
most horrid fellow imaginable. I almost could have made faces 
at him as he sent me away ; it was our first real quarrel ; but 
1 can't say I was very much afraid. 

When we 'got out of doors he was quite in a passion with 
[><>r Aunt Connor. "Kind! what do you mean by kind? 
why, you've been living on your own money. I am sure she 



62 The Last cf the Mortimers, 

lias -not spent more on you, besides making you her servant," 
cried Harry. " And to take her present ! and kiss her pah ! 
I would not do it for a hundred pounds." 

" Nobody asked you, sir," said I : " but come this way, please 
Harry, I want to look at one shop- window jusfc one. I saw 
something there yesterday that would just do for me; and now 
I can afford to buy a dress." 

" By Jove !" cried Harry, " what creatures you women arc ; 
here we are, on as good as our wedding-day, walking home for 
the iirst time, and you are thinking of the shop-windows ! Are 
you just like all the rest ?" 

" Oh, indeed, just precisely," said I. " Ah, Harry, I never 
was in the street before that I felt quite free and yet quite 
protected and safe. Only think of the difference ! I am not 
afraid of anybody or anything to-day. I am going IIOFM>. If 
you were not so grave and proper I think I could dance all the 
way." 

Harry did not say another word ; he held my arm close, anr 1 
called me by my name. My name was Milly darling, to Harry; 
he said it sounded like the turn of an Irish song. He calls me 
Milly darling still, though we have been married two years. 

And how pretty he had made that little parlour over Mr?. 
Grogram's shop ! Not a boot about anywhere that I could see, 
nor the shadow of a cigar ; clean new muslin curtains up, and 
flowers on the table ; and the landlady curtseying, and calling 
me Mrs. Langham. It was the very first time I had heard the 
name. How odd it sounded ! and yet an hour after I should 
have laughed if any one had called me Miss Mortimer, as ii 
that were the most absurd tiling in the world. 

And to make home does not require many rooms or a great 
fleal of furniture. I have not a u house of my own " yet, and, 
perhaps, may not have for years. A poor subaltern, with 
nothing but his pay, when he is so foolish as to marry, has M 
take his wife to lodgings; but the best house in the world couU 
not have felt to me a warmer, safer, more delightful home tha.4 
Grograui's parlour above the 



The Last of the Mortimers* 



CHAPTER V. 

TT ir> only right, however," said Harry, "that before \vo 

JL leave we should know all that Mrs. Connor can teli us > 
Milly darling, about your family and your relations. Though 
she's to have your five hundred pounds, she need not haw) 
your family archives too." 

44 Why, Harry, you almost spealc as if you grudged her the 
five hundred pounds !" 

"And so I do," said Harry. "Just now, while I am so 
poor, it might have made you a little comfortable. Please 
Heaven, after a while, five hundred pounds will not matter so 
much ; at least it is to be hoped so. If there would only come 
a war " 

" Harry, you savage ! how dare you say so !" cried I. 

44 Nonsense! what's the good of a soldier except to fight?" 
he said. " Active service brings promotion, Milly. You would 
not like to see me a subaltern at forty. Better to take one's 
chance of getting knocked on the head." 

" Ah, it is very easy for you to talk," said I ; " and if I could 
disguise myself and 'list like Lady Fanshawe " 

44 List ! you five-foot creature ! you could be nothing but 
a drummer, Milly ; and besides, Lady Fanshawe did not 'list, 
she " 

" Never mind, I could contrive as well as she did," said I. 
" I could get upon stilts or something, and be your man, and 
never disclose myself till I had cut down all your enemies, and 
brought you safe out of the battle, and then fainted in your 
arms." 

44 Pleasant for me," said Harry ; " but I do believe, in spite 
of romance, Fanshawe himself would have given his head to 
have had his wife safe at home that time. Do you think it 
would be a comfort to a man if he was shot down himself to 
think his wife was there with nobody to take care of her? 
No, Milly darling ; the truest love would stay at home and 
pray." 

44 And die," said I ; " I understand it better now. If I were 
'listing and going after you, it would not be for your sake, 
Harry, but for my own. How do women keep alive, do you 
think, when those that belong to them are at the wars?" 



64 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Neither of us knew ; but to think of it made us shudder antf 
tremble, I that should have to bear it some day ! for the 
very people in the streets said that war was coming on. 

"In the meantime let me remind you," said Harry, "that 
we're going to Aunt Connor's to bid them good -bye, and that 
I mean to ask her all about your relations, and gel; a full 
history of your family, in case you might happen to be a 
princess in disguise, or a p/eat heiress. By the bye, she said 
something like that. Only don't be too sanguine, Hilly ; if 
iihere had been anything more to get on your account, Aunt 
Connor would have ferreted it out." 

1 thought he was rather hard upon her, but could not really 
say anything in her defence. I had myself begged Harry, 
after two or three talks with Aunt Connor about it, not to say 
any more to her about claiming the five hundred pounds. She 
had only her jointure, poor lady, and could not have paid it 
without ruining herself. And, after all, she had always paid 
Nurse Richards for me, and had kept me, and been kind 
enough to me. So it was settled she was to keep it, and give 
us the five-and- twenty pounds a-year. Not that she would 
allow, straight out, that she had it. She always pretended ifc 
was somebody else that paid har tiu interest, and that it was 
the very best investment in the world, and she wished she 
could get as much for her money. Poor Aunt Connor ! her 
pretence did not deceive anybody ; but 1 suppose it was a sort 
of comfort to herself. 

I did not take any part in Harry's questions at first ; it was 
all I could do to answer the girls, who wanted to know all how 
we were going to travel, and everything about it. Patricia 
brought me down her warm cloak tlwt she had worn all last 
winter. She said, though it wasn't new, it would be a com- 
fortable wrap for the journey, if f would have it ; and indeed 
I thought so too, though Harry, I dare say, would have made 
a fuss about it, if I had consulted him. But when Aunt 
Connor really began to talk about poor papa and mamma, I 
hushed the girls and listened. I never had heard anything 
about them. It was natural it should be very interesting to 
me. 

" It was more from hearsay than knowledge, for, of course, 
MiUy's papa was a great deal older than me," said Aunt Connor, 
with a little toss of her head, " He was forty when he married 
Haria, my poor Connor's only sister ; and she was not very 
young either ; and it went very hard with her when Milly 
there came into the world ; but though she died, poor soul ! he 



The Last of the Mortimers. 65 

would not call the babe Maria, do what we would, but 
Millicent, because it was the great name in his family. That 
was how we came to hear about his family at all. His head 
was a little touched, poor soul! He said what if she should 
come into the Park property after all, and not be called Milly? 
He said Millicent Mortimer had been a name in the family 
from the Conquest, or the Restoration, or something; and the 
heiress that wasn't Millicent had no luck. When he got 
weakly, he maundered on for ever about his family. It was 
cousins or cousins' children had the property, and one of thorn 
had jilted him. He used > say, in his wandering way, that 
one would never come to good ; she'd never bring an heir to the 
property. But whether there were sons, or if it was only a lady 
between him and the estate, or how the rights of it were, I could 
not tell you. We used to think half of it was maundering, 
and my poor dear Connor never put any faith in it. Except 
Maria Connor that married him being not so young as she 
once was, not a creature about knew Mr. Mortimer. He was 
an Englishman, and not much of a man any how. No offence 
to you, Milly, dear ; he was the kind of man that never does 
any good after he's been jilted ; so, if you should happen to 
meet with that cousin of his that did it, you can put out your 
anger upon her. He left no particulars, poor man. I don't 
believe it ever came into his head that it might really matter 
for his poor little girl to have friends that would help her on 
in the world. And to be sure, Milly was but a year old when 
papa died." 

u But this was worth taking some pains and making some 
inquiries about," said Harry. " Where did those friends live ? 
What county did he belong to? you must surely have known." 

"We knew no more than I tell you, Langhani, dear. My 
poor dear Connor, as I tell you, never put any faith in it. 
There's some books in the house belonging to him, that I was 
always to have sought out and given to Milly. I'll get them 
to-day, if I can, before you leave. But if you'll trust my 
opinion, I don't think it's the least good in the world. At the 
best, he was but a distant cousin, if all was true, he said ; and 
spoke about his little girl proving heir after all, more in spite 
against her that jilted him than anything else. Why, all 
he had, poor man, did not come to but a trifle over five 
hundred pounds ; I mean dear ! what a memory I have ! 
three hundred pounds, for poor dear Connor put a large slice 
to Milly's little fortune. .Now that's all I have to tell you. 
But I'll get Milly her father's books." 



CO The Last of the Mortimers. 

And I have not the least doubt it was all she had to tell us ; 
every word she knew. But that very night we got the books 
just as we were packing up. They were as damp and mouldy 
as they could be, odd volumes of one thing and another ; one 
of Shakespeare, with Bichard A. Mortimer written in it, and 
" Haworth" underneath ; another was Hudibras ; another was 
an old French school copy of Racine, with " Sarah Mortimer, 
the Park, May, 1810," upon it, and in it an old pencil drawing 
all curled up at the edges, and rubbed out in some places, of a 
great house with trees and gardens round it, and a young lady 
mounting her horse at the door ; scribbled at the corner of 
this, in a strange scratchy hand, was a kind of little inscrip- 
tion : " Sarah as 1 saw her last, and the Park I wonder was 
I in love with them both? 11. M." The last of this was 
evidently written at a later time than the first. But that was 
all. Not a single clue to papa's grand friends, who they 
were, or where they were. I dare say there are a hundred 
thousand parks in England, and, unless we could find it out 
from the drawing (which, I am sorry to say, was a very poor 
one. Harry, being disappointed and spiteful, took the pains 
to point out to me that the house was leaning up against the 
trees, and off the perpendicular, and that the young lady was 
on the Avrong side of the horse), there seemed no information 
a,t all in poor papa's books. Poor papa ! it was very cruel of 
Harry ! most likely his heart was breaking when he drew 
u Sarah as I saw her last." Do you say he might have put 
her on the right side of the horse for all that, you cruel savage? 
Perhaps there were tears in his eyes all the time, Mr. Langham. 
You are not sentimental. I dare say you would not cry if you 
were looking at me for the last time. But that has nothing 
to do with poor papa. 1 have no doubt he must have been 
a very feeling man. 

However, we did not make anything out of the books ; and 
I am sure I should not have said half so much about it except 
that Harry really took an interest in it which quite surprised 
me. I never expected to turn out an heiress, nor cared much 
whether I had grand relations or not; and a journey with 
Harry in that sweet September weather was far too delightful 
to let me think of anything else. It was as good as a wedding 
tour. 



The Last of the Mortimert, 67 



CHAPTER VL 

nillE regiment was ordered to Edinburgh ; and it was there 
I we went accordingly in that lovely autumn weather. I 
don't think Harry quite liked to hear me talk of Nurse Richards 
and the way she brought me up ; but he was pleased enough to 
take walks with me all round that castle which was the centre 
of my recollections. At first we used to spend every leisure 
moment we had wandering up and down the steep walks, and 
always pausing to look up at the great precipice of rock. It 
was like a friend to me, rising up out of the soft tiers and 
green slopes of grass : the two churches down at its foot 
looking so mean and tiny beside it. People should not build 
churches there. I almost think even a great noble cathedral 
would look shabby under the shadow of that rock ; and only to 
think of that dreadful West Church and the other one ! how 
they can dare venture to stand there and don't move and 
crumble down of themselves 1 They would if there was any 
feeling in stone. 

We got our lodgings out to the south of the castle, two nice 
little cosy rooms. It was not a fashionable quarter, to be sure, 
nor were the rooms very grandly furnished ; but we had such 
views from the windows ! The Castle Rock, with its buildings 
jutting on the very edge, and yet standing so strong and firm ; 
the harsh ridge of the crags behind, and the misty lion -head 
over all, gazing like a sentinel towards the sea. And it was 
not these only, but all the clouds about them. Such dramas 
3 very day ! Now all sweet and serene like happiness ; now all 
thundery and ominous like a great misfortune ; now brightened 
up with streaks of home and comfort ; now settling down 
leaden- dark, and heavy like death itself, or despair. I never 
was poetical that I know of ; but it was like reading a very 
great poem every day to live in that little house at Brunts- 
field. Harry enjoyed it as much as I did. We lived the very 
cheapest that ever was. We never went out anywhere ; for 
Harry had always a little society with his brother officers and 
at mess, and I had him, and old Mrs. Saltoun, our landlady, 
to talk to when he was away, and was as happy as the day was 
long. All the pleasantest recollections I had as a child were 
connected with this place ; and when 1 looked out of my 



68 Tlte Last of the Mortimers. 

window at night and saw the lights shining up on the top of 
the Castle Rock, and the stars higher still glimmering out 
above, or the moon revealing out of " the dark where Arthur's 
Seat lay quiet, couched like a sentinel ; and heard the recall 
trumpet pealing out high into the clear air, my mind used to 
wander from dear Nurse Richards, and the stories she used to 
tell me, back to my great happiness now. When Harry 
found me at the window crying to myself, he thought I was 
low-spirited. Low-spirited ! I was crying for pure happiness ; 
because I was too happy to tell it, or put it in words, or show 
it anyhow else. 

All this time we had never heard a single word from Harry's 
uncle who promised him the present on his birthday. This 
uncle was the only relation he had except some cousins whom 
he did not know much about. He was very near as friendless 
as I was ; only that he remembered his father and mother 
perfectly well, and had been brought up at home, which 
made a great difference. Harry of course had written to his 
uncle to say what had occurred ; and he had never answered 
the letter. He was an old bachelor, and rather rich ; and if 
he did not take offence, and nothing happened, it had always 
been supposed that Harry was to be his huir ; though I did not 
know this till after we were married and could not untie 
ourselves, however angry any one might be. 

One day, however, Harry came home to me with a wonder- 
ful face. I could not tell, though I knew what his face 
meant pretty well by this time, what it was that day ; whether 
he was angry, or disappointed, or vexed, or only bursting with 
laughter. It turned out he was all of them together. He 
tossed a letter on the table, and laughed and stamped his foot, 
as if he did not quite know what he was doing. 

<l By Jove, it's too absurd!" cried Harry; for I could not 
get him to leave off that stupid exclamation : but I thought it 
>nust be a little serious too, as well as absurd, by the look in 
us eye. 

And what should it be but a letter from his uncle, declaring 
that, though nothing else would have induced him to do such 
a thing, yet, to punish Harry's rashness and presumption, he 
had made up his mind to a step which everybody assured him 
was the most prudent thing he could do, and which it was 
only a pity he had not thought of sooner ; this was, in short, 
that he had married as well as Harry. Enclosed his nephew 
would find cards addressed to his new wife : and, as for the 
expenses of such an undertaking, he assured Harry that it 



The Last of the Mortimers. 69 

would be ridiculous to look for any assistance to a man in 
tinilar circumstances with himself. On a clear understanding 
f which he could certainly afford to wish his nephew joy, 
^ut nothing else, for he meant now to have heirs of his 
own. 

Harry stared at me while I read this letter with a sort of 
angry fun and indignation in his face, which would turn 
either one way or another, I could see, according to how I 
received it. I cannot say I was the least disappointed. I 
threw down the letter, and clapped my hands and laughed. 
It was the most whimsical letter you could imagine ; and, as 
for the birthday present, or any other assistance to us, I had 
never looked for it since Harry wrote what we had done. 

"Weel, weel, it's no ill news, that's a comfort. But, 
Captain, you maunna come in rampaging and disturbing the 
lady when we're no looking for you," said Mrs. Saltoun, who 
had been sitting with me. Now I'll gang my ways ben the 
house ; and you ken where to find me, Mrs. Langham, my 
dear, when you want me again." 

I had it on my lips to beg her not to go away, but stopped 
in time, for Harry naturally, though he likes her very well, 
does not take comfort in the good old lady as I do. When she 
was gone he laughed out again, but a little abruptly, and not 
as if he felt particularly happy about the news. 

'Why, Harry, what's the matter; did you expect any- 
thing? "'said I. 

" Well, not exactly, to be sure," said Harry, with a half- 
ashamcd look ; " except the first moment when I recognised 
the old fellow's handwriting. I did think it woulol be 
pleasant, Milly darling, to get some little comforts about you 
just now." 

"I have quantities of comforts," said I; "and such a 
jewel of an old lady to look after me when you are away. 
There is nobody in the world so lucky as me." 

" Lucky !" said Harry, with a little shout. ** If you should 
turn out a great heiress to be sure ; that's always a possible 
contingency, according to your Aunt Connor. Otherwise, with 
all sorts of things going to happen to us, and only my 
subaltern's pay " 

u Mr. Langham, you forget my five-and-twenty pounds a 
year!" cried I. 

And how do you think the savage answered me ? " The old 
witch !" exclaimed Harry, " to think of her stopping your 
simple mouth with that ten pounds I I'd have seen her ducked, 



70 The Last of tlie Mortimers. 

or burned, or whatever they do to witches, before I'd have 
taken it! and cheating you out of your little morsel of 
fortune! How long do you suppose you'll get your five-and- 
twenty pounds ?" 

" As long as poor Aunt Connor can pay it," said I. " Things 
might come in the way to be sure ; but she means to pay it 
regularly, and always will when she can. What makes you so 
discontented, Harry ? We have enough for to day, and God 
knows all about to-morrow." 

" Ah, yes ! but He's far off, Milly, to a poor fellow like me. 
How can I tell that He cares much what's to become of us, 
unless, indeed, it were for your sake ;" 

" Oh, Harry, Harry ! how dare you say so !" cried I. " And 
see how good He has been to us two orphans. Neither of us 
had any home or any one belonging to us ; and only look 
round you now /" 

Do you think it was not very much that he had to look 
round upon ? a little room, low-roofed, and humbly furnished. 
It was nothing to any other man or woman in the world ; but 
we were two of us together in it, and it was our home. Could 
I help but cry when I thought how different I was from Aunt 
Connor's niece in the nursery? And Harry was just as thank- 
ful as I was, though he had his little pretences of grumbling 
like this now and then. Does anybody think he was really 
anxious, either about his uncle's present that was never to come 
now, or my five hundred pounds that was not much more to be 
relied on, or what was to happen to us ? No ! he was no more 
anxious than I was ; only now and then he pretended to make 
a little fuss about it, and to be wanting something better for 
me. . 



The Last of the Mortuncrt 71 



CHAPTER VII. 

WE were nearly two years in Edinburgh; and it was there, 
of course, that baby Harry came into the world. Ho 
made a great difference in many things. I could not go out to 
walk with Harry any longer ; 1 could not even sit and talk 
with him so much, and, however economical I was, it could not 
be denied that already three of us cost more than two of us had 
done. It is strange enough, but still it is true, baby, bless 
him, brought thorns upon the roses that came with him into 
the world. Harry had not lived in a family since his father 
died long ago ; he had lived a young man's life, and had his 
own fastidious fancies like (I suppose) most young men. He 
was very much delighted when baby came, but he was not so 
much delighted when baby was always with us, and occupying 
almost all my time and attention ; and it fretted him when he 
saw traces about that once nice cosy sitting-room, which was 
nursery now as well as dining-room and drawing-room ; even 
baby's basket, all trimmed with white muslin and pink ribbons, 
which he thought very pretty at first, annoyed him now when 
he saw it about ; and when I had to stop talking to him in 
order to see after baby, he would first laugh, then bite his lip, 
then whistle, then go to the window, and after a while say he 
had better smoke his cigar outside while I was so busy. I dare 
say this cost me a few tears, for of course I thought there was 
no occupation in the world so sweet as nursing baby, and was 
sadly disappointed just at first that Harry could not be content 
to watch his pretty ways every moment as I did ; however, I 
had to make up my mind to it. And as it was my business to 
mind Harry as well as his son, I had to think it all over in my 
mind what was to be done. It was hard work considering 
what was best; for to think of getting a servant upon our 
small means went to my very heart. At last one day 1 formed 
a great resolution, and took Airs. Saltoun into my confidence. 

" Here is how it is," said I, u I must have a maid to help me 
with baby when Mr. Langham is at home. Men can't under- 
stand things ; they think it so odd to sec one always with a 
baby on one's lap ; especially when they have not been accus- 
tomed to anything of the sort. Mrs, Saltoun, I $huli be qbli^ed 
tp have a maid," 



72 The Last of the Mortimers. 

"I told you so, my dear, the very day the lammie was born," 
said Mrs. Saultoun ; "but I'm one that never presses my 
advice. I know experience is far more effectual than anything 
I can say." 

" But look here I can't afford it it's a disgrace to think of 
such a thing with our small means, while I am perfectly strong 
and quite able to take care of him myself; but what can I do?" 
said 1. 

" My dear," said Mrs. Saltoun, "poverty's dreadful, and debt 
is worse ; but it's heaviest of all the three to make a young 
married man discontented with his ain house. Dinna be 
affronted ; I'm no saying a word ! the Captain's just extraordi- 
nary ; but he's no the lad to be second to the baby for a' that ; 
and it's nothing to sigh about. Time's just the kind of troubles 
every woman has to set her face to, as sure's she's born. My 
dear, hoAvever much ye canna afford, you'll have to contrive." 

u Well, I have been thinking. If you will promise faithfully 
never to tell anybody, and keep my secret, and above 
everything, whatever you do, never let Harry know !" cried I. 

u I'll promise," said Airs. Saltoun ; u but I'll not promise to 
give my consent unless it's feasible and in reason ; and no 
unbecoming the Captain's bonnie young wife." 

"The Captain's wife ! ah, if he were only the Captain ! 
but he's just a subaltern yet," said I; " however, you will be 
disappointed if you think I am meaning anything great. I 
can't do anything to bring in money, and I am sure Harry 
would not let me if I could. No it's only oh, Mrs. Saltoun, 
if you would help me ! I could get up all the linen myself. I 
can do it, though you may not think so. All Harry's things 
that he is so particular about, the laundress here never pleases 
him ; and baby's frocks. I think if you would contrive to help 
me, I could save so many shillings a week. I'll do those pretty 
collars of yours and your fine caps, and you shall see how 
pretty they'll look." 

"But your pretty bits of hands, my dear?" said Mrs. 
Saltoun; u a small matter of work betrays itself on a lady's 
hands that's not used to do anything. They would let out 
your secret, however well I kept it. What would you do with 
your hands ?" 

" But it will not hurt my hands such beautiful clean 
work it is quite a. lady's work," said I ; " and then I can put 
gloves on when I am done, and get some of the kalydor stuff. 
Besides, it will be only one day in the week." 

Airs. Saltoun sat thinking it over, but she could not say a 



The Last of tlie Mortimers. 73 

angle word against it. If I couldn't have done it, it might have 
been slow work learning; but I had a genius for it! Ah, 
hadn't I ironed out Aunt Connor's lace much oftener than the 
clear-starcher did ! So here was something at once that could 
be saved ; and nobody knows how dreadful the laundress's bill 
is when there's a baby in the house ; so now I thought I might 
venture to try and look for a maid. 

44 My great terror was you were thinking of giving lessons, 
or selling some trumpery of fancy work, begging your pardon, 
my dear," said Mrs. Saltoun ; 44 for the young ladies now-a-days 
would a' break their necks to make money, before they would 
take a step out of their road to save it ; and indeed, you're not 
far wrong that clear-starching is lady's work. It takes nice 
fingers, dainty, clean, and light. I was in an awfu' fright it 
was lessons on the piano, or handscreens to take inio the 
Repository. But it's really very reasonable for a young 
creature of your years ; if you're quite clear in your own mind 
you can take the responsibility of shirts. Of all the things I've 
seen in my life I canna remember that I ever saw a man 
what you could call perfectly pleased." 

" I am not afraid about that ; but remember, you have 
promised solemnly, upon your honour," said I, 44 never, what- 
ever you do, to tell Harry !" 

"I'll keep my word. But what put it into your head, a 
sensible young woman like you, to go and run away with the 
like of a young sodger officer, that everybody knows have 
scarcely enough for themselves, let alone a wife ? And if it's 
hard work now, what will it be when you've a large family ? 
and how will you ever live or keep your heart if he goes to 
war?" 

44 Mrs. Saltoun, don't speak !" cried I ; " what is the use of 
making me miserable ? He is not going to the war to-day. It 
is not certain there is to be a war at all. Why do you put 
such dreadful things in my mind ? If he goes I'll have to bear 
it like the other soldiers' wives; but do you suppose I have 
strength to bear it now beforehand, before the time? God 
does not promise anybody so much. If such a dreadful, 
dreadful thing should be, I'll get strength for it that 
day." 

The good old lady did not say a word, but stroked my hand 
that was resting on the table in a kind of comforting, coaxing 
way. I looked up very much alarmed, but I could not see 
anything particular in her face. I suppose she was sorry for 
roe only in a general gort of way ; because I was young, and 



74 The Last of the Mortimers. 

poor, and just beginning my troubles. So strange? I was 
pitying her all the same for being old, and nearly at the end of 
hers. How different things must seem at that other end of 
the road ! Some of her children were dead, some married, 
close at hand so far as space was concerned, but far distant lost 
in their owu life. I dare say when she liked she could go back 
into memory and be again a young wife like me, or an anxious 
middle-aged mother like her own daughter-in-law and here 
it had ended, leaving her all alone. But she was very cheerful 
and contented all the same. 

Harry came in while I was busy with planning about my 
new maid. After I had decided that she would have to sleep 
somewhere, and wondered why neither Mrs. Saltoun nor 
myself had ever thought of that, I had begun to wonder what 
sort of a person I should get ; whether, perhaps, she would be 
a dear good friend-servant, or one of the silly girls one hears 
about. If she were a silly girl, even, there might be good in 
her. But here Harry came in, and my thoughts were all dis- 
sipated, lie looked a little excited, and had a paper in his 
hand, out of which he seemed just about to read me something. 
Then he paused all at once, looked first at me and then at 
baby's cradle, and his face clouded all over. I got terribly 
alarmed ; I rushed up to him and begged him to tell me, for 
pity, what it was. 

" It's nothing but fancy," said Harry. " I was going to tell 
you great .news, my Milly darling ; but it came over me, some- 
how, what you would do, and who would take care of you if 
you should be left alone with your baby ; even though 1 were 
not killed." 

" God would take care of us," I cried out sharp, being in a 
kind of agony. " Say it out you are going to the war ?" 

" No, no ; nothing of the sort ; only look here. It has 
thrown us all into great excitement; but we are not under 
orders, nor like to be," said Harry. "Don't tremble we are 
all safe yet, you foolish Milly. Look here." 

Though I was leaning upon him, and he held the paper 
before my eyes, I could not read a word. But I guessed what 
it was. It was the Proclamation of War. 

" Come out with me and hear it read at the Cross. It is to 
be done at twelve o'clock. Come," said Harry, coaxing and 
soothing me; '-it is something to see. Pluck up a heart, 
Milly ! Come and hear it courageously, like a soldier's wife. 
But, oh ! I forgot baby," he said, stopping short all at 0090 
With a sort of hall- annoyed laugh. 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. ?5 

" Baby shan't prevent me this time," I cried ; for what 
between this dreadful news and the excitement in Harry's 
mind, and the sudden way he stopped when he recollected I 
couldn't rightly go out with him, I was desperate. u Mrs. 
Saltoun will keep him till I come back ; and he will not wake, 
perhaps, for an hour." 

The old lady came when I asked her ; and was quite pleased 
to sit down by the cradle while I tied on my bonnet with my 
trembling hands. Harry was very kind very pleased. \Ve 
went along winding up the steep paths, through the gardens to 
the Castle, my favourite walk, and into that long, grand, noisy 
old street with the yellow haze lingering between the deep 
houses, down the long slope towards Holyrood. 1 could see the 
people clearly enough about the streets, the little groups all 
clustered about the outside stairs, and the stir of something 
going to happen. But I could not look at the official people 
coining to say it again and make it more certain, iff the 
trumpet had been a gun and killed somebody, my hearb could 
scarcely have leaped more. Harry's cheek flushed up ; and I 
could almost fancy I felt the blood stir and swell in the arm I 
was leaning on. He was a soldier, and he forgot me as he held 
up his head and listened. Just then I could not hold up my 
head. The trumpet sounded to me, somehow, as if it camo 
lonely out of the distance over some battle where men were 
dying who had wives and babies at home. A woman stood 
before me crying, and drew my attention for a moment. She 
dared say out what was in her heart, because, though perhaps 
she was no poorer, she was not a lady like me. " Eh, weary on 
them ! it's your man and my man that's to pay for their 
fancies," she was saying among her tears. u Glad ! do ye ask 
me to be glad at sound o' war V If our regiment doesna gang 
the day, it'll gang some day. I've five weans that canna fend 
for themsels', and I'm a sodger's wife. God help us a' !" I 
dropped my veil over my face to hide my eyes from Harry, and 
slid jny hand out of his arm he, ail excited in his soldier-mind, 
scarcely knowing it to speak to my neighbour who had spoken 
to my heart. I had nothing to give her but my hand and my 
own troubled fellow-feeling, too deep and sore to be called 
sympathy. " For I am a soldier's wife, too ; and God help us, 
as you say '" I cried in her ear. She wiped off her tears, poor 
soul, to look at me as Harry drew me away. She and the other 
woman with her whispered about us as we went away through 
the crowd. They forgot their own anxiety to pity " the poor 
young thing, the young lieutenant's wife." I know they did, 



tfQ The Last of the Mortimers. 

the kind creatures ; for one of them said so another day. God 
help us all, soldiers' wives ! 

"But do you know this is like a little coward, Milly 
darling," said Harry, as we walked home, when he found I 
could not speak, " and foolish as well. We are not going to 
the wars." 

"If you are not going to-day, you will go some day, 
cried, with a sob. She said true, poor soul ; I felt it in my 
heart. 

" To be sure we shall," said Hairy ; " and you care neither 
for glory nor promotion, nor to have your husband do his duty, 
you poor-spirited Milly ! But you can't act Lady Fanshawe 
now ; you will have baby to comfort you at home." 

" Do you mean that you are going V" cried I. 

" Hush, hush ! why this is like a child. I am not going. 
But, Milly, understand; if I don't go some day, I shall be 
wretched. Make up your mind ; you are a soldier's wife." 

So I went home with this in my heart. Oh. my poor little 
economies, my little vulgar cares about the housekeeping! 
And perhaps he was going away from me to be killed. But 
hush, hush! I could riot be Lady Fanshawe any more, now that 
there were three of us in the world ; and Harry said the truest 
love would stay at norne and pray. 



CHAPTEB VIII. 

E very next day after that, while I was singing baby to 
sleep, sitting all alone by the fire, there was a soft knock 
at the door. I said, " Come in !" thinking it was Mrs. Saltoun, 
when there suddenly appeared before me a figure as different 
as possible from the nice little cosy figure of our good old 
landlady. This was an overgrown girl, fourteen or there- 
abouts, in the strangest scanty dress. A printed cotton frock, 
very washed out and dingy, so short as to leave a large piece of 
legs, clothed in blue-grey stockings, uncomfortably visible; 



The Last of the Mortimers. 77 

very red arms that somewhat looked as if they were all elbow 
and fingers ; a great checked blue and white pinafore, much 
washed out like the frock, into the breast of which the hands 
were thrust now and then by way of relief to the awkwardness 
of their owner ; hair disposed to be red, and superabundant in 
quantity, thrust back as far as was practicable under the shade 
of a queer big bonnet, not only a full-sized woman's bonnet, 
but one ten years old, and made in the dimensions common at 
that distant period. She stood at the door looking at me in a 
perfect agony of innocent awkwardness, shuffling one foot over 
the other, twisting her red fingers, holding. down her bashful 
head, but all the time staring with wistful eyes at baby and 
myself, and so sincere a look of awe and admiration that of 
course I was touched by it. She did not say a word, but 
dropped a foolish curtsey, and grew violently red standing at 
the door. I could not think what such a strange apparition 
wanted with me. 

u What do you want, my good girl?" said 1 at last. 

" The mistress said 1 might come," with another curtsey. 
Then, after a violent effort, " They said you was wanting a 
lass." 

A lass! Here she was then, the first applicant for the new 
situation of baby's personal attendant! Oh dear, what a 
spectre ! 1 had to pause a little before 1 could answer her. 
lleally, though I was not much disposed to laughter, the idea 
was too ludicrous to be treated gravely. 

" Yes, 1 want ' a lass ;' but not one so young as you,'' said I. 
" I want somebody who can take care of my baby. Who sent 
you to me?" 

" The mistress said I might come," answered the apparition ; 
" I can keep wee babies fine " 

"You can keep wee babies fine! How old are you?" 
cried I. 

" I'm just fourteen since I was born, but some folk count 
different. I'm awfu' auld other ways," said my extraordinary 
visitor, with a kind of grotesque sigh. 

The creature roused my interest with her odd answers and 
wistful round eyes. " Shut the door and come here," said I. 
" Do you know me ? and what tempted you to think you could 
do for my servant ? Were you ever in a place before ?" 

u No ; but I've seen you gaun by, the Captain and you, and 
I would be awfu.' glad if you would let me come. There's 
plenty things I can do if I could get leave to try," cried the 
girl with a wonderful commotion in her voice, " I've nursed 



78 The Last of the Mortimers. 

bairns since ever I was a bairn myself, and I can wash, and 1 
can sew. Oh, leddy, tak me ! I'll no eat very much, and I 
dinna want no wage ; and I'll learn everything you tell me, for 
the mistress says I'm awf u' quick at learning ; and I'll serve 
you hand and foot, nicht and day !"_ 

41 But, my poor girl," said J, quite amazed by this burst of 
eloquence, " why do you want so much to come to me ?" 

Upon this another extraordinary change came upon my 
would-be maid. She fidgeted about, she blushed fiery red, she 
thrust her red hands into the bosom of her pinafore, she stood 
upon one heavy foot, making all sorts of wonderful twists and 
contortions with the other. At last in gulps, and with every 
demonstration of the most extreme confusion and shamefaced- 
ness, burst forth the following avowal. "Oh! because you're 
rael bonnie ; and you smile and oh, I would like to come !" 

It was an extraordinary kind of flattery, certainly ; but I 
felt my cheeks flush up, and I cannot deny my heart was 
touched. I remember too, when I was a little girl, taking 
fancies to people ; I believe I might have fallen in lovo with a 
lady and gone and offered myself to be her servant, as likely as 
not if I could have done it. The uncouth creature no more 
meant to flatter me than to offend me. She was deeply 
ashamed of having made her confession. Her shame, and her 
admiration, and her passionate childish feeling quite went to 
my heart. 

" You are a very strange girl," said I. " What is your 
name, and where do you live? and do your parents know what 
you want with meV" 

4 'They ca' me Leezie Bayne. My father died six months 
since," said the girl, falling into a kind of vacant tone after 
her excitement, as if this account of herself was something 
necessary to go through, but not otherwise interesting. " I 
never had any mother, only a stepmother, and lots of little 
bairns. She's gaun back to her aiu place, among her friends, 
and I'm to be left, for I've naebody belonging to me. We 
live down the road, and I used ay to see you gaun by. 
Whiles you used to smile at me, no thinking ; but I ay 
minded. And the folk said you we're awf u' happy with the 
Captain, and had a kind look for everybody, and oh, leddy, 
I've naebody belonging to me !" 

1 could have cried for her as she stood there, awkward, 
before the little fire, with great blobs of tears dropping off her 
cheeks, rubbing them away with her poor red hands. I knew 
no more how to resist her, in that appeal she made to my 



The Last of the Mortimers. 79 

happiness, than if I had been a child like a baby in my lap. 
The' tears came into my eyes, in spite of myself* In the 
impulse of the moment I had nearly broken forth and confided 
to her my terror and grief about Harry, and this dreadful war 
that was beginning. She took possession of me, like the 
soldier's wife, with a nearer fellow feeling than sympathy. 
Poor, forlorn, uncouth creature, she stood before me like my 
old self, strangely transmogrified, but never to be denied. I 
could riot answer her for what could 1 say? Could I cast 
her off, poor child, led by the instincts of her heart to me of 
all people ? And oh dear, dear, what a ridiculous contrast to 
all the passionate, elevated feeling of her story, coul^ 1 take 
her all in her checked pinafore and blue stockings, a pathetic 
grotesque apparition, to be baby's nurse and iny little 
maid ? 

There never was a harder dilemma : and imagination, you 
may be sure, did its very byst to make things worse, by 
bringing up before me the pretty, tidy, fresh little maid I had 
been dreaming of, with a white apron and a little cap, and 
plump arms to hold my baby in. "What could I do? and oh, 
if I could not resist my fate, what would Harry say to me ? 
How he would shrug his shoulders and admire my good taste ; 
how he would look at her in his curious way as if she were 
a strange animal ; how he would laugh at me and my soft 
heart ! I got quite restless as the creature stood there opposite 
to me, twisting her poor foot and clasping her hands hard as 
she thrust them into the bosom of her pinafore. I could not 
stand against her wistful eyes. I grew quite desperate looking 
at her. Could I ever trust my child in those long red arms 
that looked all elbow and yet how could I send her 
away? 

44 Lizzie, my poor girl," cried I, remonstrating, u don't you 
see I am very, very sorry for you ? But look here now : my 
baby is very young, not three months old, and I could never 
dare trust him to a young girl like you. You must see that 
very well, a girl with so much sense ; and besides, I want 
somebody who knows how to do things. I don't think 1 
could teach you myself ; and besides " 

Here I fairly broke down, stopped by the flood of 
arguments which rose one after another, not to be defeated, in 
Lizzie's round anxious eyes. 

44 But I dinna need to learn," she cried out whenever my 
voice faltered and gave her a chance. " I ken ! I would keep 
that bonnie baby from morning to night far sooner than play ; 



80 The Last of the Mortimers. 

if practice learns folk, I've been learning and learning a' ray 
life ; and I'm that careful I would rather break every joint in 
a' my body than have a scratch on his little finger ; and I can 
hem that you wouldna see the stitches ; and I can sing to him 
when he's wakin', and redd up the house when he's in his bed. 
I'm no telling lees ; and I'll serve you on my knees, and never 
have a thought but how to please you, oh, leddy, if you'll let 
me come !" 

Could I resist .that? I do not believe Harry himself could 
if he had heard her. I gave in because I could not help 
myself. I did it in shame and desperation, but what could I 
do ? She was too many for me. 

u Go down stairs and ask Mrs. Saltoun to come up," said 

_L. 

She went off in a moment, almost before I could look up, 
and vanished out of the room without any noise I suppose 
because of the high excitement the poor child was in. Mrs. 
Saltoun came up rather flurried, casting very strange looks at 
Lizzie. When I saw the dear prim old lady beside that extra- 
ordinary creature, and saw the looks she cast at her, the 
lii'licrous part of it seized hold upon me, and I was seized with 
oucu a fit of laughing that I could scarcely speak. 

u Mrs. Saltoun," said I, " I don't know really what you will 
think of me. I am going to take her for my maid.." 

Mrs. Saltoun looked at me and looked at Lizzie, who made 
her a curtsey, She thought I had gone out of my senses. 
"It's to be hoped it's for lady's maid and not for bairn's maid 
then," she said, with dreadful sarcasm. If Mrs. Saltoun was 
so severe, what would Harry say. 

" She is an orphan and all alone ; and she says she under- 
stands about children," said I, humbly, in self-defence. 

" Oh, if you please, I can keep bairns fine," said Lizzie; " if 
ye'll ask the neebors they'll a' tell ; and oh, if the leddy will 
try me, dinna turn her against me again ! I'm no a lassie in 
mysel. I'm awfu' auld in mysel. Afore harm would come to 
the baby I would die." 

" And, my la^s, what good would it do the lady if ye were to 
die," said Mrs. Saltoun entering the lists, u after maybe killin' 
her bonnie bairn ?" 

" I would a' fa' in pieces first !" cried Lizzie. " I would let 
them burn spunks in my fingers, or crush my feet as they did 
jangsyne ; there's no a creature in the world I wouldna fecht 
and fell afore harm came to the wean !" 

Mrs. Saltoun was not prepared for such an address ; nor for 



The Last of the Mortimers. 81 

the true fire of enthnfirnn and valour that burned through 
Lizzie's tears ; but she did not give in. I had the satisfaction 
to look on and listen while the old lady demonstrated in the 
clearest way that she would never do, without any particular 
regard for her feelings ; and then quietly enjoyed the triumph 
when Lizzie burst forth upon Mrs. Saltoun, and in two minutes 
routed her, horse and foot. Half an hour after Mrs. Saltoun 
and I sat contriving what dress could be got up on the spur of 
the moment to make the creature presentable ; and that very 
night, while Harry was at mess, she sat in the little kitchen 
downstairs helping to make up a fresh new printed dress for 
herself in a fashion which justified part of her assertions, and 
with a rapidity which I could explain only under the supposi- 
tion that excitement had still forcible possession of her. I 
confess I was myself a little excited ; though she was only a 
girl of fourteen and a servant, not to say the most grotesque 
and awkward -looking person imaginable, it is wonderful what 
an effect this sudden contact with so strange and characteristic 
a creature immediately had. My fears about the war faded off 
for the moment. I could not help being quite occupied with- 
thoughts about the new-comer: whether, after all, I ever 
would venture to trust baby with her , what Harry would say 
when he saw that odd apparition ; whether I had only been 
very foolish ; whether I might have resisted. Lizzie Bayne 
had made herself the heroine of that night. 



CHAPTER IX. 

days after, when Lizzie made her appearance with a 
decently made dress, long enough and wide enough to 
suit her stature, whatever might be her age; with a clean 
collar, a white apron, and smooth hair, she looked quite pre- 
sentable. I cannot say she was good-looking; but, undeniably, 
she looked a capable creature, and with her lively brown eyes, 
good colour, and clear complexion might improve even in looka 



R2 The Last of the Mortimers. 

by and by. But nobody could do anything for that grotesque 
awkwardness, which belonged to Lizzie's age, perhaps, rather 
than to herself. She still stood upon one foot, and twisted the 
other round the leg that supported her. She worked uneasily 
with her big hands, making vain efforts to thrust them into the 
pinafore which recent improvements had swept away ; and she 
still hung her head in agonies of awkwardness and self-con- 
sciousness. A creature so sensitively aware of observation, how 
could she be trusted with the most precious baby in the world ? 
1 repeated this five hundred times the first morning; but never 
once after I had fairly ventured to place the child in her arms. 

' What on earth is that sprite doing here? Has Mrs. Saltoun 
taken her in, or where does she come from?" said Harry the 
first day. I felt quite piqued and affronted. 1 felt myself 
bound to defend her with all the earnestness in the world. 

" Sprite ! What do you mean ? Why, that is my new maid, 
Henry, that I told you of; and a capital maid she is," said I, 
firing up with all the consciousness of not having taken the 
wisest step in the world. 

"Your new maid !" And Harry said, "Oh!" in the most 
aggravating manner in the world. I am obliged to confess 
that Lizzie's arrival, so much out of the ordinary way, and the 
excitement of getting her up, of making her fit to appear, and 
of testing her qualities, had very much aroused my mind out of 
the heavy thoughts I had been entertaining a few days ago; so 
that I was no longer so subdurd nor so entirely devoted to 
Harry but what I could be provoked with him now and then. 

" There is nothing to cry out about ; she is rather young, to 
be sure, and not the most graceful figure in the world ; but 
she's good and grateful, poor child, and 1 am quite content." 

" You must recollect though, Milly, that we can't afford to 
keep anybody for charity," said Harry; "she does not look 
very gainly ; and if she can't save you the half of your present 
trouble, I'll turn out a tyrant, I warn you, and send her 
away." 

" I am quite the best judge, you may be sure," said I, with 
a little internal tremor; "and I tell you I am satisfied. If you 
attempt to be tyrannical, it is you who shall be sent away."* 

" Ah, Milly darling, how's that ! I shall be sent away soon 
enough," said Harry, with a little sigh. " I have been thinking 
that all over since we talked of it the other day. What, you've 
forgot, have you, Milly ? Thank heaven ! I was only 'afraid 
you were fretting over it, and thinking where I should send 
you to be safe when the time came and I had to go away." 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 83 

" Oh, Harry, how cruel !" said I. " I had got it out of my 
mind just then. Now, I shall never forget it again. And 
where could you send me ? What would it matter, except to 
be near at hand for the post, and get the earliest news." 

" Unless you were to go to your Aunt Connor ; poor Milly," 
said he with a pitiful look at me. 

41 Have you got your orders. ?" cried I, clasping my hands. 

He said, "Nonsense!" getting up hurriedly. "Indeed, Milly, 
you must consider this question without thinking it is all over 
the moment I speak of it ; and don't burden yourself with an 
unsuitable maid. You know, whether we go to the Crimea or 
not, we are likely very soon to go somewhere. The regiment 
Cannot be long here," * 

14 Then, Harry, if there is nothing certain don't let us talk of 
it," said I ; " when one's heart is to be broken, one cannot keep 
always anticipating the moment. 4 ' Don't make any arrange - 
ments ; when it comes, that will be time enough. I shall care 
about nothing but letters. So long as I can have letters 1 shall 
do." 

Harry stayed, lingering about me before he went out. " I 
am not so sure that the Lady Fanshawe idea is a foolish one 
after all," he said after awhile. " What fetters you put a man 
into, you wives and babes ! I wish I only knew somebody 
that would be very good to yoir-if I have to go away. Nine- 
teen ! and to be left all by yourself in the world ! It's hard 
work, Milly, to be a soldier's wife." 

44 If you don't mean anything particular if there's no orders 
come have pity on me, and don't talk, Harry !" I cried out. 
44 When you must go, I'll bear it. I shall do as well as the 
other soldiers' wives. I can never be all by myself as long as 
you are in the world, though you should be ten thousand miles 
away. Don't talk of it. I shall get strength when the day 
comes ; but the day has not come nor the strength ; don't puo 
me to needless torture, Harry." 

ik I won't," he said again, with that little sigh, and went 
away leaving me very miserable. Oh ! if all this happy life 
were to finish and come to an end. If I was to waken up some 
dreadful morning and find him gone, and all the light gone out 
like the light in a dream ! I durst not think upon it. I got 
up and rushed about my little occupations. Lizzie came 
upstairs when I was taking baby, who had just woke from his 
morning sleep, out of the cradle. She stood, shy and doubtful, 
looking at me, seeing in a moment that I was not so cheerful as 
usual. Poor child, with a strange self-recollection that waa 



84 The Last of the Mortimers. 

quite natural, but seemed very odd to me, she thought she had 
something to do with it. Her countenance fell directly. She 
came sidling up to me with her heart in her face. Mrs. 
Saltoun had taught her sonio faint outlines of common con- 
ventional civility, and succeeded in substituting " uiem" for 
" leddy" in her style of address. She came up to me accord- 
ingly, with the tears ready to start, and every sign of grieved 
disappointment and restrained eagerness in her face. " Oh, 
mem," cried Lizzie, "have I been doing wrong? Are you 
no pleased wi' me?" The words went to my heart, I can- 
not tell how. It made me see more clearly than a dozen 
sermons how we were every one of us going about in a 
private little world of our own. To think that her shortcom- 
ings, the innocent grotesque creature, should throw me into 
such trouble ! What a strange unconscious self -estimation that 
was not selfishness ! In spite of myself, the load at my hearb 
lightened, when I smiled up at the girl. 

"Lizzie," said I on the impulse of the moment, not thinking 
chat I might perhaps wound her; "if we did not suit each 
other, should we quite break our hearts?" 

Lizzie coloured high, made a momentary pause, and dropped 
her queer curtsey, " Eh no, mem, no you; I couldn't expect 
it,'' said Lizzie, with a long sigh. Then, after another pause : 
"If it was a' to turn out a dream after twa haill days ; and, to 
be sure, it's three days coming ; but if it was a 7 to come to 
naething after a' this," smoothing down her new dress, " and a' 
the thoughts I've had in my mind, eh me ! I think I would 
have nae heart ony mair either to break or bind/' 

Now, perhaps there was not very much in these words ; but; 
they were so exactly what I had been thinking myself, that 
they seemed to make a new link between me and my odd child- 
maid. 

" That is just what I have been thinking but with far, far 
more reason," said I ; " for, oh, Lizzie ! war's proclaimed, and 
Mr. Langham may have to leave me ; it might happen any 
day ; and what should I do alone ?" 

"Oh, mem, dinna greet !" said Lizzie loudly : " dinna let 
tears fa' on the wee baby ; but I ken what you would do. Just 
nurse the bairn, and pray the Lord, and wait. If you were 
sending me awa', it would be never to come back again ; but if 
the Captain gangs to the wars he'll come hame a great general ; 
maybe he would have a ribbon at his breast and a Sir at his 
name !" cried Lizzie, .slowing up suddenly. " Eh, wouldna we 
a' be proud 1 You inight'weary whiles, but the Captain would 



The Last of the Mortimers. 85 

never forget you, nor be parted in his heart, if he was ten 
thousand miles away." 

You strange little witch," said I, crying, with the strangest 
f -fling of comfort, " you say the very words that come into in y 
heart? 1 

The creature gave me a bright affectionate look, with tears 
in her brown eyes. "And please can I take baby out for a 
walk?" she said, immediately falling back into her own depart- 
ment, with her little bob of a curtsey. "I'll gang before the 
windows to let you see how careful I am. It's the bonniest 
morning ever was. Eh, mem. if you're pleased, I'll ay see the 
sun shining," cried my nursery-maid. 

And I actually did trust her with my precious baby, and 
stood at the window watching her with breathless anxiety and 
satisfaction for a whole hour, afraH to lose sight of her for a 
moment. Steady as a judge walked Lizzie, grand and im- 
portant in her "charge," disdaining the passing appeals of 
" neighbours," marching along on the sunny side of the way 
for it was already cold enough to make that necessary shading 
the child's eyes with such adroit changes of his drapery and her 
own, preserving him from the wind at the corners, and picking 
her steps over the unequal road with such care and devotion, 
that I could have run downstairs and kissed her on the spot. 
The sight, somehow, drove half the bitterness of my thoughts 
out of my head. The sky was clear with that " shining after 
rain" which has so much hope and freshness in it. The wind 
was brisk, with plenty of floating clouds to knock about. Before 
us, in the clear air, the castle rock looked almost near enough 
to have touched it, with the sun shining on its bold grey front, 
and all those white puffs of clouds blowing against and around 
it, like heavenly children at their play. How it stood there, 
everlasting ! How the sun smiled arid caressed those old walls 
where Harry was, and warmed and brightened the cheerful bit 
of road where, to and fro, before my eyes, unconscious in his 
baby state, went Harry's son. Ah, me ! td-day is to-day, if 
one were to die to-morrow. I was too young to grope about 
for darkness to come, and lose the good of this beautiful hour. 
Besides, does not the good Lord know all about to-morrow ? 
Beginning and end of it, one thing with another, it pleases 
Him. Presently we shall have it, and strength for it. So, away 
till your time, you dark hour ! just now it is not God, but un 
eiieiL v who sends you. The light is sweet, and it is a pleasant 
thing to behold the sun. 



86 The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER X. 

WHEN" Harry came home that evening, I knew he had 
something to tell me : but after the first start was over, I 
felt sure it was not anything painful from the look of his face. 
I may venture to say now that he was a very handsome young 
man in those days ; but the thing that first drew my heart to 
him was the way he always betrayed himself with his face. 
"Whatever he was feeling or thinking, you could tell it by his 
eyes ; arid if he sometimes happened to say anything he did not 
think, as happens to everybody now and then, his eyes woke up 
to a kind of sly, half ashamed, half amused expression, and let 
you know he was fibbing in the oddest way in the world. 

u I almost fell upon a discovery to-night," said Harry. 
"What should you have thought, Milly darling, if I had 
brought you home word about your father and that estate you 
are to come heir to? I actually thought I was on the scent ot' 
it for ten minutes at least." 

"But it was a mistake," said I, very quietly. 

u I confess, so far, it was a mistake ; but still we may hear 
something," said Harry. " You have heard me talk of old 
Pendleton scores of times. Fancy how I looked when he 
began about Haworth, a little town in Yorkshire, all sorts of 
stories, as if he knew all about it. After I had sat out a dozen 
anecdotes of other people, I asked him if he knew any 
Mortimers there. Oh yes, yes! he said briskly, old Mortimer 
lived in the brick house opposite the church ; famous old fellow 
before he got so very rheumatic and useless had a son about 
Pendleton's own age. And here he shook his head : ' Never 
did any good, sir ! never did any good ! Jilted in early life, 
and never got over it.' You may suppose this made me prick 
up my ears." 

u My father!" said I. 

" To be sure ! it could not be anybody \else ; but it was your 
grandfather whom old Pendleton would keep talking of. I 
asked very closely all about him. It appears he only died 
about ten years ago ; long after your father, Milly, and seems 
to have been tolerably rich, according to Pendleton. 1 here's 
none of the family remaining, Pendleton says. The red brick 
house is all falling to ruins ; and how the money went, or 



The Last of the Mortimers. 87 

whether there was any money, he can't tell. I have a strong 
idea of making some inquiries about it. Don't you think it 
would be worth while?" 

41 It seems to me of late that you're always thinking about 
money. Why is it ?" said I. 4> Why should we go and 
trouble ourselves about people that have never inquired after 
us." 

" You simpleton !" cried Harry. " Who cares whether they 
like us or no ; but that red brick cosy house for my Milly 
darling, and a little comfort to console her it would take all 
the pricks out of my pillow when " 

u Don't talk, Harry. I'll not listen to you. I'll have no 
inquiries made," cried I, in desperation. " Every time I 
comfort myself a little you pull me back again. To-night I 
am very happy and content, and don't care for your to- 
morrows. Be quiet and let my grandfather alone, if I ever 
had one. What do 1 care for him ? He was either in debt 
and had no money to leave, or he was living on an annuity, or 
he endowed a hospital, or something. And the red brick nonse 
of cour&e is in Chancery. Let the old gentleman alone. I'll 
tell you about baby. He certainly noticed Mrs. Saltoun's bird 
swinging in its cage to-day." 

' Nonsense ! Pendleton is to write to his brother, who lives 
there, and ask for all the particulars. He says your grandfather 
was a character," said Harry. " He belonged to some good 
family : Welsh, Pendleton thinks but professed to scorn all 
that, and called his son after Arkwright, the cotton-spinner ; 
that's what the A. means in your father's name. By Jove ! 
I wouldn't write myself Richard Arkwright if I could help it. 
What humbug it is giving fellows other people's names! 
They must have had a fancy for it in those days. Guess what 
Pendleton's own name is? He signs himself E. B. quite 
modestly It's Edmund Burke, upon my honour !" 

44 Well," said I, "we have only got three names among us; 
and they are all simple enough." 

" Oh, so is Richard Arkwright when it's a man's own 
name," said Harry. * ' Now what do you think of my discovery? 
I confess I think it's something to know where one's family 
belong to. If I could only have taken you to our dear old 
Rectory, Milly. What a pleasure it would ha^ e b urn to have 
thought of you there! I could have watched you all round 
every turn of the garden, although I had been at the other end 
of the world." 

" You are not going to the other end of the world ; and we 



88 The Last of the Mortimers. 

have no claim upon the Rectory now, any more than on my 
grandfather," said I. "Here is a cup of tea for you. Now 
do be content ; and don't talk, Harry ; at least not on that 
subject. Of all the places in the world I like Edinburgh, a 
little to the south of the Castle, and close upon Bruntsneld 
Links." 

"You have no imagination, Milly," said he. "However 
we'll hear what old Pendleton says ; and if there is anything 
known about it I should be very much tempted, little as we 
have at present " 

"To throw our poor good money away," cried 1. "You 
who grudged baby his pretty hood ! Oh, Harry, Harry, what 
wild fancies have you taken into your head V" 

"To make my Milly a refuge when I'm away. Not so 
wild, after all," he said to himself softly. 1 made a noise with 
my teacups, and would not hear him. It was hard work keep- 
ing cheerful when he would return and return to the same 
subject. Sometimes I trembled "and wondered, with a sudden 
pang, was it a presentiment V But all the presentiments I ever 
hoard of were sudden and did not last; and it was natural 
enough, too, that he should be anxious. If he did have to leave 
me, would not I work, or beg, or steal, or anything, to have 
everything comfortable for him? I forgave Harry for looking 
out for a home for his poor little wife ; but yet every time he 
spoke of it, it went to my heart. 

And I must say for myself that I never had the least hope 
either from my unknown relations or Harry's. I could not 
believe in a grandfather, nor any cold strange people belonging 
to me. If I had friends they should have shown themselves 
friendly when 1 needed it most. Now I thought, in my pride, 
I did not want to know anything about them. I pictured to 
myself an old morose man, that would have nothing to say to 
his poor son's only child. In my mind I took quite a prejudice 
against the very place, and dreamt all that night of a mouldy 
old red-brick house, with endless passages, and little steps now 
and then to throw one down and break one's limbs in the dark- 
ness. Somehow, both Harry's imagination and mine fixed on 
that old red -brick house. He thought it would be pleasant to 
settle me in such a place, i had the most frightful fancies 
about it. I could see myself going about the old grey faded 
rooms, and Harry away at the war. I could see a pale crea- 
ture, that was me, go wringing her hands down the old stair- 
case, and trembling at the window waiting for the post coming 
in. I could see dreadful shadows of scenes that might be when 



The Last of the Mortimers. 89 

the letters came, which I would not look at, but could not shut 
out of my heart. Harry did not think how he was torturing 
me when he spoke of that old red-brick house. It seemed, 
somehow, as if all my fears took solid form, and became real 
when they got a shelter to house themselves in. I grew super- 
stitious, as most people do when their hearts are in great 
trouble. Going on from less to more I came to settle upon this 
as a token for evil. If anyhow, by any dreadful chance, some- 
thing should come of it, and I should ever have that house in 
my power, then I should know that the light was to depart 
from me, and that I was to be set down, all by myself, and 
desolate, to wither down and pine to death where my hard- 
hearted grandfather had died In my own mind,- and without 
baying anything to anybody, I settled upon this sign; and grew 
so assured of it, just by fancying things, that, if I had heard that 
my grandfather had left me a fortune, and that we should be 
comfortable all the rest of our lives, I should have sunk down 
as if the intelligence WHS a blow. To be poor and happy, and 
have our own way to make, seemed just enough, somehow; and 
in my superstition 1 almost thought God would punish us for 
wanting more. I thought if wealth ^Lculd possibly come, hap- 
piness would fly away. I made sure if Harry got his will it 
would be death to me. The thought of it put a new terror into 
iny life. His going away was not now the first thing I was 
afraid of. I was afraid of his finding that home for me that he 
was so anxious about that place where I cc^kld be comfortable 
without him. Every grief in the world came to be implied and 
suggested to my mind by the mention, of that red-brick house. 



90 The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER XI. 

* /~\H yes, I am very fanciful, I know I am ; but if Harry 

\J would only be content, and let me be happy while I 
can," said I, trying, but without success, to gulp down my 
tears. 

" Mrs. Langham, my dear, the Captain canna be content, 
and it stands to reason," said Mrs. Saltoun; "and being 
anxious, as a good man should, to provide for his wife and his 
bairn, will no take him away an hour sooner than if he were a 
reckless ne'er-do-weel, that cared neither for the tane nor the 
tither. Be reasonable, and let him speak. He's young and 
you're young ; and you're neither o' ye that wise but ye might 
thole mending. It's a real, discreet, sensible thing o' the young 
gentleman to try his very utmost for a home for his wife if he 
lias to go away." 

u If you have taken his side I shall give up speaking," said 
I. "What do I care for home, or anything else, if he is 
away?" 

" But you care for the Captain's peace of mind, Mrs. Langham, 
my dear," said Mrs. Saltoun ; " that's far different. Maybe 
the truest love of a' would make itself content to be left in 
splendour for the sake of a comfortable thought to them that's 
going on a far different road. J wouldna say but the thought 
o' your safety would lighten mony an hour of danger. Mony's 
the strange thing I've seen in my life ; but eh ! when ye have 
them that ye maybe mayna have lang, gie them their will ! Let 
him have his ain way, and gang in wi' him if ye can. There's 
mony a young wife like you would die cheerful, or do ony 
hard thing in the world for her husband, but canna see her 
way just to do that. Gie him his will! I was ower late 
learning that mysel'." 

The very tone in which my good old lady spoke plunged me 
deeper and deeper into my agony of alarm and terror. I did 
not take her words for what they meant. I went aside to draw 
terrifying inferences from her tone and the sound of her voice. 
She thought he would go, I concluded perhaps she had heard 
already that marching orders had come she thought that he 
would never come back again, if he did leave me. Anxiety and 
fear seized hold upon me so forcibly that I never stopped to. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 91 

think that Mrs. Saltoun had no means of knowing, any more, 
or even so much as I knew, and that she could not possibly be 
better informed on this point than I was. 

' And now tell me about your family, Mrs. Languam, my 
dear. I've come across half the folk in the country, I might 
venture to say, one time and another. I was on the continent 
for three years with my old gentleman," said Mrs. Saltoun; 
u it's just astonishing to say such a thing, but if you'll believe 
me, a person gets better acquaint with their own country folk, 
that is, meaning the higher ranks o' life, in foreign parts than 
at home. It's maybe just a glance and away, that's true ; but 
them that has good memories minds." 

" And were you really abroad ?" said I, feeling a little 
interested in epite of all my trouble ; " and who was your old 
gentleman V not " 

" No, no, nobody belonging to me. I had the charge of his 
house and his young family, that he had no business to have at 
his age ; an auld f uil of a man that had married a young wife, 
and lost her, and was left, past seventy, with four young 
bairns. Mortimer ? wasn't that your name, my dear ? Eh ? I 
mind of a Miss Mortimer made a great steer among a' the 
English one season ; and among mair than the English by 
bad fortune. She was counted a great beauty ; but 1 cannasay 
she was like you." 

" No, indeed, not likely !" cried I. 

" I would rather have your face than hers though," said kind 
Mrs. Saltoun. " Bless me, now I think of it, that was a very 
strange story. There was a Count somebody that followed her 
about like her shadow. Except her beauty, 1 canna say I ever 
had much of an opinion of her. She was very heartless to her 
servants, and, for all the admirers she had, 1 think her greatest 
admirer was herself ; but between you and me, my dear, men 
are great fools ; she had ay a train after her. To be sure she 
was said to be a great fortune as well. I canna think but that 
poor Count was badly used. Counts are no a' impostors, like 
what we think them here. He was a real handsome gentleman, 
that one. He was with her wherever she went for a year and 
more. Some folks said they were to be married, and more 
said they were married already. That was ay my opinion ; 
when, what do you think, all at once he disappeared from 
her, and for a while she flirted about more than ever; 
and then she went suddenly off and home with her falher. 
I would like to hear the rights o' that story. Vs'lu-n a 
woman's a witch, and I canna think a great beauty without a 



92 The Last of the Mortimers. 

heart is on y thing else most other women take a great interest 
in finding her out. Fools say it's for envy ; but it's no for 
envy, my dear. You see beauty doesna blind a woman ; we 
can ay see what's going on underhand." 

" And what became of her?" said I. 

"That is just what I never heard. That is the worst of 
meeting in with folk abroad ; you see them once, and you, 
maybe, never see them a' your days again," said Mrs. Saltoun. 
" To be sure, you commonly hear of them, one way or other ; 
but I never heard of the beautiful Miss Mortimer again. It's 
five -and- twenty years ago, if it's a day, and she was far from 
young then. That poor Count I canna mind his name was 
a good five years, if no more, younger than the witch that 
kept him at her call. I took a real spite against that woman ; 
for you see she was just at the over-bloom, and yet took a' the 
airs of a young queen. I wouldna wonder in the least but, 
after a', she was married and wouldna own to it. There was 
nae heart in her." 

" But if she was married, how could she help herself?" 
said I. 

"That is what I canna tell," said Mrs. Saltoun; "there's 
wheels within wheels, especially in foreign parts. Maybe the 
Count vvasna a grand enough match, maybe I canna tell you; 
it's a' guess-work ; but I am very sure of one thing, that she 
was not an innocent woman, with nothing on her conscience 
when she went away." 

44 1 hope she is no relation of mine," said I. " Harry has 
found out that I had a grandfather, and all about him. Oh, 
only sup; -)se, Mrs. Saltoun, this dreadful beauty should turn 
out. to be my aunt! That icou/d be delightful!" I said to 
myself after a while, with a kind of bitter satisfaction; " not 
to live in the red-brick house alone, but to live with a dreadful 
old beauty who would be sure to be haunted. That would be 
purgatory, enough, to please anybody ; and Mortimer is not at 
all a common name." 

My old lady looked up at me half frightened. " Don't say 
such a thing, Mrs. Langham, my dear. I would not say a 
word against any person's character, far less one that might 
turn out a relation of yours. But, for all that I've no right to 




should be so that, in the order of Providence, the Captain was 
to go, you mustna take up just with ony relation without 



The Last of the Mortimers. 93 

considering if they would make ye happy. You must be 
careful where you go you must " 

** Happy?" cried I. It seemed like mockery and a kind of 
insult ; as if I could be happy when Harry, perhaps, was in 
danger, perhaps wounded or ill, in suffering, and away from 
me! 

"Whisht, whisht," said Mrs. Saltoun. "I ken ye better 
than ye ken yourself. It'll be hard, hard work at first ; but 
when the parting's over you'll get hopeful, and think o' the 
meeting again ; and ye'll ay get letters to cheer ye; and with 
the baby and the sun shining you'll be happy before you ken. 
But I maunna have ye settled down with the like of yon Miss 
Mortimer. Na! na! naething like that, if she were twenty 
times an aunt. Far better stay on still with me, that would 
ay be coming and going to cheer you up. Yon's a woman 
without a heart. I must speak to the Captain mysel'." 

Though I was much nearer crying that being amused, I 
could not but laugh at Mrs. Saltoun's anxiety about her Miss 
Mortimer, whom there was not the very slightest reason to 
suppose any relation of mine. I took up the idea myself, I 
must say, with quite a ludicrous sort of uncomfortable satis- 
faction. If I had a grandfather, why should not I have an 
aunt? Why should there not be an old Miss Mortimer living 
in the red-brick house, ready to take me in, and kill me 
slowly by degrees? I formed an immediate picture of her 
how she would look, and what she would say to me. I fancied 
her dressed up in her old fashions, trying to look young and 
a beauty still. How dreadful it must be to drop from being a 
great beauty, and having everybody worship you, down to a 
mere old woman left all by yourself ! Poor old Miss Mortimer ! 
If she was my aunt, and was very cross, and discontented, and 
miserable, there might be something different in the old red- 
brick house, that quiet, dead comfortable home that poor 
Harry, in his love and kindness, was so anxious to find for me. 
There would be some satisfaction in living a miserable life with 
an ogre in an enchanted castle if Harry were away. Mrs. 
Saltoun's words did not alarm me ; on the contrary, I grew 
quite curious about this imaginary Miss Mortimer. I thought 
I could fancy her going about those faded rooms which 
yesterday 1 fancied seeing myself in. Now it was her figure 
I saw all alone by the fire. Had she got used to it, I wonder ? 
or did she chafe and beat her poor old wings against the cage, 
and hate the world that had given over admiring her? I tried 
to spell out what kind of a beauty she had been ; but it was 



94 The Last of the Mortimers. 

always twilight in the old-fashioned room. Tall, to be sure, 
with grey hair that had been black, and proud eyes all 
wrinkled up in their sockets. Poor old Miss Mortimer! I 
wonder did she know that she had an orphan niece who was to 
be sent to her for a comfortable home? Couldn't I look 
again, and see myself come in, and how she greeted me ? I 
think I must have grown quite fantastic in my troubles. I 
could not keep my thoughts away from Mrs. Saltoun's great 
beauty. All alone in the house that was falling into decay, 
what ghosts must crowd about her! Did she see the Count 
she had ill-used oftenest, or some other who was more 
favoured? How did she keep these phantoms off from her in 
the silence ? I kept going over all this as other girls go over 
imaginary romances of their own ; I knew what my own 
romance was ; but still I was only nineteen, and loved to 
dream. 

And, perhaps, the consequence of this new turn to my 
thoughts was, that I was more tolerant of Harry's curiosity 
and anxious musing about my father's family, which had been 
revealed to him in that strange, unexpected glimpse by Mr. 
Pendleton, the regimental doctor. I did not stop him 
nervously when he began to talk of that favourite subject of 
his thoughts. He was always coming back to it somehow. I 
could trace the idea running through all he said. Not fancy 
and nonsensical imaginations like mine ; but serious, simple- 
minded anxiety, and an earnest concern about the matter 
which w r ould have broken my heart, had I not begun to get 
used to it now. There was nothing talked about or heard of 
but the w r ar and the quantities of soldiers who were being sent 
way. Harry had no other expectation or hope but to go too, 
and all his thought was, to find a shelter for me. I could see 
it haunted his mind constantly, and at last I gave in to it, 
that he might be eased on the subject. I used to discuss it 
over with him whore I should go oh, only to go like Lady 
Fanshawe, and be beside him, though he did not know ! 
That was impossible ; so I let him talk, and smiled the best I 
could. Soon enough, perhaps, we should have land and sea 
between us. Let him say what he would. Let him arrange 
what he would. If it was a comfort to him, what did it 
matter? The old brick house and Miss Mortimer would be 
better than the happiest of homes. Who could wish to bcj 
happy while Harry was away 



The Last of the Mortimers. 05 



CHAPTER XII. 

ONE day after this Harry came in with a letter in hig 
hand. 

"Here is news, Miily, darling; not such news as we ei* 
pected, but still news," said he ; " this is not how you are to 
become a great heiress, certainly ; but still it's interesting. It 
turns out, after, all, that your grandfather was not rich." 

" Oh ! is it Mr. Pendleton's letter?" said I. 

" Pendleton's brother has something to do with it," said 
Harry, with a little excitement ; " there was not much money 
not any more than enough to pay the debts and give some 
presents to the old servants but there is the house. They 
had no funds to employ in looking up the heir, and nobody 
cared to take much trouble. So there it stands falling to 
pieces. Look here, Milly ; it's yours, indisputably yours." 

"But how about Miss Mortimer?" cried I. 

Harry stopped short all at once as he was opening the 
letter, and stared at me. " Miss Mortimer ! who is she?" he 
said, in the most entire amazement. He might well look 
surprised : but I had so entirely made up my mind about her, 
and that she was living in the old house, that his question was 
quite a shock to me. 

" Why, Miss Mortimer, to be sure," I said, faltering a 
little ; and then I could not help laughing at Harry's astonished 
face. 

" It appears that you know more than Mr. Peiidleton does, 
Milly," said he ; " there is no Miss Mortimer here. I suppose 
you are only amusing yourself at my expense : but I really am 
quite in earnest. Mr. Mortimer's house is entirely yours. 
He had no child but your father ; you are the heir-at-law. I 
only wish there had been a Miss Mortimer. You may look 
displeased, Milly darling ; but think if there had been a good 
old lady to take care of you while I'm away !" 

" Oh, Harry, you don't know what you are saying," cried 1 ; 
"that Miss Mortimer was an old witch and "beauty. Mrs. 
Saltoun told me that if she should turn out to be a relation of 
mine, she would speak to you herself, to say that I must not on 
any account go there." 

"Go where? What Miss Mortimer are you speaking of ? M 
said Harry, completely mystified. 



00 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Then I had to confess that I knew nothing of her, and it was 
all imagination; and Harry shook it off quite lightly, and 
went on to talk of this house. As if I ever could, after all my 
fancies, put Miss Mortimer out of that house ! As if she h;id 
not taken possession, a wonderful old ghost, always to live and 
reign there ! And, moreover, my heart got quite chill within 
me as Harry spoke. This was my bad omen ; this was the sign 

1 had appointed with myself for the corning of every trouble. 
I got so pale, listening to him, that he was disturbed, and grew 
quite anxious. Was I ill? What was the matter with me? 
1 said No, with a gasp, and let him go on. He read out of the 
letter all the description of this dreadful house ; but I am sure 
I did not need any description. I saw it as clear as a picture ; 
large rooms, to be sure, with great faded Turkey carpets on 
them ! a low broad staircase, with myself coming down on the 
post-morning wringing my hands, and Miss Mortimer sitting 
all silent by the fire ; a large old garden with mossy apple-trees, 
and a sun-dial somewhere about, some dozen bedrooms or so, 
all hushed and solemn, as if people had died there. I am not 
sure that I heard the words of Harry's description ; for what 
was she good ? I saw it perfectly well in my mind, far clearer 
than I ever could have known it by words. 

*' .And Harry," cried I, with a start of despair, when he came 
to a pause, " would you really have me go to live in such a 
place a place I never was in in all my life a place I have 
no kind feeling about, nor pleasant thoughts only because it 
was iny grandfather's house, whom I never saw, and who never 
cared to see me V I did not think you could have been so cruel. 
Besides, it would be far too expensive. Servants would have 
to be kept for it ; and you must make up your mind that it 
would kill me." 

" But it might sell for a good price," said Harry, " and I 
might get you a pretty cottage, where you pleased, with the 
money. I am going to write to old Pendleton to tell him who 
you are and all abou-t it. You have had your own way with 
your first bit of fortune ; but I should not at all wonder, Milly 
darling," he said, laughing, " if you were to offer it, rent free, 
to your Aunt Connor, that she might find it a very eligible 
situation. After such a description, Mrs. Connor is not the 
woman to despise the red-brick house." 

" She might have it altogether, and welcome, for me," said 
I. *' Oh, Harry, I can't help thinking it's an ill omened place. 
I could never be happy there." 

" Who ever heard of an ill omen now-a-days?" said Harry 



The Last oj the Mortimers. 97 

11 it's a pagan fancy, Milly. For my part the idea rather cap- 
tivates me. I should like to live in the house my good father 
was born hi. My bridegroom uncle has it now. Don't you 
think I lit. I better write and tell him my little wife is an 
heiress ? However, perhaps the best thing will be to try and 
sell the house." 

'Oh, much the best thing!" I said. That would be 
getting rid of it, at all events ; and as Harry would not leave 
ff talking of it, I persuaded him with all my might to get 
done with it so. We were both quite confident that we had 
only to say who we were and get it without any trouble. 
Thafe, of course, was all very natural in me that knew nothing 
about things, but Harry might have known better. He was 
quite pleased and interested about it. I think he never was 

Suite satisfied not to know who I belonged to ; but now that 
e had hunted up my grandfather, he was quite comforted. 
And how he did talk of the pretty cottage he was to buy me ! 
Sometimes it was to be in England, in his own county; 
which he naturally liked best of all places; sometimes near 
Edinburgh, where we were, because I was fond of it. Some- 
times we took walks and looked at all the pretty little houses 
we ceuld see. He had planned it out in his own mind, all the 
rooms it was to have, and used to study 'the upholsterer's 
windows, and take me ever so far out of my way to see some 
pretty table or chair that had taken his fancy. He said if he 
could only see me settled, and know exactly what I was 
looking at, and all the things round me, it would be such a 
comfort when he went away. 

This going away was kept so constantly before my mind 
that I could not forget it for a moment. I lived in a constant 
state of nervous expectation. Every day when he came in I 
went to meet him with a pang of fear in my heart. Such con- 
stant anxiety would have made a woman ill who had nothing 
to do ; but I was full in the stream of life, and one thing 
counterbalanced another, and kept everything going. That 
must be the reason why people do get strength to bear so many 
things when they are in the midst of life. Young disengaged 
people would die of half the troubles that middle-aged, hard- 
labouring people have ; but I had a daily dread returning every 
time Harry returned, and with a shiver of inexpressible relief 
put off my anxiety to the next day, when I found there was no 
news. All the evils of life" seemed to crowd into that one possi- 
bility of Harry's going away. It was not that I feared any 
positive harm coming to him, or had made up my mind that he 



98 T1ie Last of the Mortimers, 

would hot Come back again ; it was the sudden extinction of out 
bright troubled life that I looked forward to, the going out of 
our' happiness. I did not seem to care where I should be, or 
what might happen after that time. 

In the meantime Harry grew quite a man of business, and 
entered with something like enjoyment, I thought, into the 
pursuit of my grandfather's house. He wrote to Aunt Connor 
for all the information that could be had about my father, and 
for the register of his marriage and my birth. He wrote a 
long letter to that Mr. Pendleton at Ila worth, who had, as he 
said, something to do with it ; and old Pendleton, the surgeon, 
came out to see me, and told me all he remembered about my 
father. That was not very much ; the principal thing was, 
that he had heard of poor papa being jilted by a relation of his 
own, a great heiress in Wales, he thought, but he could not 
tell where. Of course that must have been Sarah, in poor 
papa's drawing, who was getting on the wrong side of her 
horse ; and u he never did any more good," Mr. Pendleton 
said. He lingered about at home for some time, and then went 
wandering about everywhere. He had a little money from his 
mother, just enough to keep him from being obliged to do any- 
thing ; and the old surgeon burst out into an outcry about the 
evils of a little money, which quite frightened me. " When 
silly people leave a young man just as much as he can live on, 
they ruin him for life," said old Mr. Pendleton. u Unless 
he's a great genius there's an end of him. Richard Mortimer, 
begging your pardon, was not a great genius, Mrs. Langham ; 
but he might have been a good enough soldier, or doctor, or 
solicitor, or something; or a cotton-spinner, as his name in- 
clined that way, if it hadn't been for his little bit of money. 
Langham, my boy, either have a great fortune or none at all ; 
it will be all the better for your heir." 

" We'll have a great fortune," said Harry. " The first step 
must be to sell this red-brick house." 

Mr. Pendleton gave him an odd look. " There's a saying 
about catching the hare first before you cook it," said the 
doctor. " Make yourself quite sure they'll give you a deal of 
trouble before they'll let you take possession ; and then there's 
no end of money wanted for repairs. The last time I saw it, 
there was a hole that a man could pass through in the roof." 

Harry looked aghast at this new piece of information ; 

nothing that 1 ever saw had such an effect upon Harry's 

courage. He gazed with open eyes and mouth at the disen- 

chanter for a moment. I do think he could see the rain 



The Last of the Mortimers. 99 

dropping in, and the wind blowing, and damp and decay 
spreading through the house just as clearly as I saw Miss Mor- 
timer sitting by the fire, and myself going down the stairs. 
After that I used to think Harry was thinking of the house, 
whenever it rained much. He used to sigh, and look so grave, 
and say solemn things about the wet weather destroying pro- 
perty. And I cannot deny that I laughed. Altogether, this 
house kept us in talk and interest, and did a good deal to 
am'ise us through this winter, whi?,h, without something to 
lighten it, would have passed very slowly, being so full of 
perpetual anxiety and fears. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

XT was in spring that Harry came in one day with the news 
in his face ; at least I thought it was the news. Heaven 
help me ! 1 came forward with my hands clasped, struck 
speechless by the thought, my limbs trembling under me so 
that 1 could scarcely stand. I suppose Harry was struck by 
my dumb agony. My ears, that were strained to hear the one 
only thing in the world that I was afraid of, devoured, without 
being satisfied, the soothing words he said to me. I gasped at 
him, asking, I suppose, without any sound, to know the 
worst ; and he told me at once, in pity for my desperate 
face. 

u No such thing, Milly darling. No, no; not to the war 
just yet. We are only to leave Edinburgh, nothing more." 

I think I almost fainted at this reprieve ; I could scarcely 
understand it. The certainty of the other was so clear upon 
my mind that 1 almost could have thought he deceived me. I 
sank down into a seat when I came to myself, and cried in my 
weakness like a child ; Harry all the while wondering over me 
in a surprise of love and pity. I do not think he quite knew 
till then how much that terror had gone to my heart. 

"No, Milly, darling," he kept repeating, looking at mo 



100 The Last of the Mortimers. 

always with a strange compassion, as if he knew that the grief 
I was dreading must come, though not yet : " take comfort, 
it has not come yet ; and before it comes you must be stronger, 
and able to bear what God sends." 

u Yes, yes, yes, I will bear it," said I, under my breath, 
" but say again it is not to be now." 

"No, we are going away to Chester," said Harry, "be 
satisfied, I will not try to cheat you when that time comes. 
We are to go to Chester to let some other fellows away. Now 
you rnnst pack again and be going, Milly, like a true soldier's 
wife." 

Ah, me ! if that were all that was needful for a soldier's wife ! 
Somehow, all that night after, I felt lighter in my heart than 
usual. I had felt all this time as if the sword was hanging 
over my head ; but now that we were sent out wandering 
again, the danger seemed to have faded further off. Nobody 
would take the trouble to send a regiment from one end of the 
country to the other, and then send them right away. If they 
had been going to the war, they would have gone direct from 
Edinburgh. It was a respite, a little additional life granted to 
us. I sang my old songs that night, as I went about the room. 
I could dare laugh to baby, and dance him about. How he 
was growing, the dear fellow ! He set his little pink feet firm 
on my hand, and conld stand upright. I showed Harry all 
his accomplishments, and rejoiced over them. How thankful 
and lighthearted I was, to be sure, that night! Harry kept 
watching me, following me with his eyes in the strangest, 
amused, sympathetic way. He was surprised to see the 
agony I was in at first ; but he was still more surprised to see 
how easily, as one might have said, I got over it now. 

"And, Milly, what is to be done with the sprite?" said 
Harry. 

" Lizzie ? what should be done with her ? She is an 
orphan, she has nobody belonging to her, she has taken 
shelter with me. Harry, no ; we're poor, but we're not free to 
think of ourselves alone. Lizzie shall go too. She is God's 
child, and He sent her to rne." 

Harry did not say anything, but he kept slowly shaking his 
head and drumming upon the table. Harry had the common 
people's ideas rather about responsibility. He was afraid of 
the responsibility. For all the kindness in his heart he did not 
like to step into what might be other people's business, or to 
take u-p any burdens that did not lie in his way. 

" Besides, she is the best servant in the world. She is 



The Last of the Mortimers. 101 

worth all Aunt Connor's three inaids. I can trust her with 
baby almost as well as I can trust myself ; and, besides," said 
I, rather hypocritically, " look at the creature's laundry work; 
you never were so pleased before." 

" Well, that is rather astonishing, I confess," said Harry, 
looking at his fresh wristband with a little admiration. " I 
don't believe those awkward red fingers ever did it. She must 
keep some private fairy in a box, or have made an agreement 
with a nameless personage. What if poor Lizzie's soul were in 
danger on account of your fine linen, you hard-hearted Milly ! 
I do not believe you would care." 

u Ah ! you can't deny her talents in the laundry," cried I, 
with a little injudicious laughter. " What a triumph that is ! 
You never were content with anybody's work before." 

Harry looked at me rather doubtfully. "You look very 
much as if you were a little cheat," he said. u I'll have a peep 
into the laundry one of these days myself." 

' But Lizzie must go with us," said I. "I have taken very 
much to the strange creature. You and I are God's orphans 
too. We have a right to be good to her ; and it is not all on 
one side don't think it, Harry ; she is very good to me. She 
helps me with all her might, and stands by me whenever I 
want, or tries to do it. 1 had rather have her than half-a- 
dozen common servants. Leave this to me." 

" But consider, Milly, what you are making yourself 
responsible for," cried Harry. 

1 stopped hi? mouth ; I would not let him speak ; and 
danced away with baby all in my joy and comfort to put him 
to bed. We met Mrs. Saltoun on the stairs in the dark, and 
as she kissed the child, I kissed my good old lady out of the 
fulness of my heart. u We are going away, but it is only to 
Chester : we shall be together still," I said in her ear. I never 
thought how strange she would think it that I should be 
pleased to leave her, or how she might wonder at my spirits 
getting up so easily. I was very happy that night. 

Lizzie was putting all baby's things away when I went into 
the room. She folded and laid them all aside more nicely than 
I could have done it myself ; not, so far as I know, because 
orderliness came natural to her, but because, with all her heart, 
she had wanted to please me, and saw with her quick eyes how 
it was to be done best. When anybody looked at Lizzie, and 
she knew it, she was just as awkward as ever. How I had 
Laboured to make her hands and her feet look as if they 
belonged to her, without twisting up or going into angles ! but 



102 The Last of the Mortimers. 

it was all of no use. Whenever anybody looked at Lizzie, sho 
would stand on one foot, and seek refuge of an imaginary 
pinafore for her hands ; but just now, in the firelight, when 
you could only half see her, you cannot think how tidily and 
nicely the uncouth creature was going about, her work. 

I paused before the fire after the child was in bed. ' ' Lizzie," 
said I, standing in the warm light, and looking down into it, 
" do you like Edinburgh very much ?" I did not look round 
for her answer, I waited till she should come to me ; and yet 
felt pleased to see her, with " the tail of my eye," as Mrs. 
Saltoun would have said, flitting about after one thing and 
another, through the pleasant darkness, with the firelight all 
glimmering and shooting gleams of reflection into it, sinning 
in the drawers, and chairs, and furniture, which Lizzie's hands 
had rubbed so bright. I could not help thinking, with a little 
pride and self-complacency, that it was all my doing. If I 
had not taught her, and taken pains with her- but then, to be 
sure, if she had not been wonderfully clever and capable ; the 
one thing had just as much to do with it as the other. But, 
between her exertions and my own, I had been very successful 
in my little maid. 

" Edinburey ?" said Lizzie, coming up to me, with a linger- 
ing sound in that genuine Edinburgh tone of hers, " eh, mem, 
isn't it rael bonnie? They say there's no such another bonnie 
town in the world." 

"But there are, though," said I; "they say quantities of 
foolish things. Lizzie, the regiment is ordered away." 

Lizzie clasped her hands together, and gave a shrill shriek. 
" I'll waken the wean, but I canna help it. Eh, what will we 
do?" cried Lizzie, in a voice of suppressed and sharp despair. 
"I heard you say once you would die, and if you die, so will the 
bairn, and so will I ; and what heart would the Captain have 
to come hame again ? He would throw himself upon the spears, 
the way they do in the ballads, and get his death. Mem !" cried 
the excited girl, seizing my arm and stamping her foot upon the 
floor in an impassioned appeal to my weakness, "if ye dinna 
bide alive, and keep up your heart, he'll never come hame !" 

I cannot explain what an extraordinary effect this had upon 
me. The sudden flush of excitement and desperate necessity 
for doing something to inspire and hold up my weakness, which 
animated Lizzie, cast a new light upon myself and my selfish 
terror. She cared nothing about affronting or offending me, 
the brave primitive creature ; she thought only of rousing, 
pricking me up to exert what strength I had. Her grasp on 



The Last of the Mortimers. 108 

my arm, her stamp on the floor, were nature's own bold sug- 
gestions to arrest the evil she dreaded. I should not give way, 
or break down I should not send away my soldier unworthily, 
nor peril the life on which another hung, if Lizzie could help 
it. What I had escaped for the moment what I should have 
to go through with by and by, came all up before me at her 
words. She whom I was proud of having trained for my 
service had a braver heart than me. 

But when T could explain to her the real nature of the case 
our position changed immediately. Lizzie's countenance fell ; 
she hung her head, and relapsed into all her old awkwardness. 
It was neither the bold young soul, resolved, come what might, 
to inspire me with needful courage, nor the handy little maid 
busied with her work, but the old uncouth Lizzie, not knowing 
how to stand or look for extreme awkwardness and eagerness, 
that stood gazing wistful at me in the firelight. She stood with 
her lips apart, looking at me, breathless with silent anxiety, 
muttering as she stood, with an incessant nervous unconscious 
motion, the physical utterance of extreme anxiety. She made 
no appeal to me then; but, like a faithful dog, or dumb 
creature, kept gazing in my face. 

"And so we shall have to go away," said I, somewhat 
confused by her eyes ; "and you are an Edinburgh girl, and 
people know you here. I could recommend you very well, and 
you might get a better place ; you must think it all over, and 
decide what we must do." 

Lizzie's face showed that she only understood me by 
degrees ; that she should have any choice in the matter not 
seeming to have occurred to her. When she fairly made it out, 
she gave a joyful shout, and another little cry ; but plunged 
me into the wildest amazement, the moment after, by the 
following question, in which I could find no connection what- 
ever with the subject under hand. 

" Mem," said Lizzie, "is a' the Bible true alike the auld 
Testament as weel as the New ?" 

" Surely," said I, in the most utter surprise. 

" Then I know what I'll do," cried the girl ; " I'll bring you 
a hammer and a nail, and you'll drive it into the doorpost 
through my ear." 

" What in the world do you mean, child?" cried I, "are 
you laughing at me, Lizzie V or is the girl c*azed." 

" Me laughing ? if you would do it I would greet with joy ; 
for the Bible says them that have the nail driven through, 
never gang out ony mair for ever, but belong to the house, 



104 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Mrs. Saltoun mightna be pleased if it was done in the parlour, 
but down at the'outer door it might be nae harm. Eh, mem, 
will ye ask the Captain ?" cried Lizzie, " and then I'll never 
leave ye mair !" 

Just then Harry called me downstairs, and all laughing, and 
with tears in my eyes, I hurried down to him, not knowing 
whether to be most amused or melted. 

Harry had something to consult me about, which he plunged 
into immediately, so that I had still had no opportunity of 
propounding Lizzie's petition, when, all at once, about an hour 
after, she made her appearance at the door. I never saw the 
creature look so bright ; hvr eyes were shining, her colour high, 
her breath coming quick with agitation, excitement, and a 
mingled thrill of joy and terror. In one hand she carried Mrs. 
Saltoun's great hammer, in another a rusty iron nail ; and her 
resolution had removed at once her awkwardness and her re- 
verential dread of Harry. She came up to him with a noiseless 
air of excitement, and touched him on the sleeve ; she held out 
the hammer and the nail without being able to speak a word. 
He, on his side, looked at her with the utmost amazement. Lizzie 
was too much excited to explain herself, or even to remark his 
astonished look ; she had come to prove her allegiance in the 
only way that occurred to her. 1 believe, in my heart, that she 
longed for the grotesque extraordinary pang which was to 
make her my bondslave for ever ; the spirit of a martyr was in 
the child's heart. 

When Harry understood the creature's meaning you may 
imagine what a scene followed. 1 had to send Lizzie away lest 
her highly-wrought feelings should be driven desperate, by the 
agonies of laughter it threw him into. I took her outside the 
door and put away the hammer, and gave her a kiss in the 
dark. I whispered in her ear, " That shall be our boi-id, 
Lizzie; we will take it out of the New Testament rather than 
the Old," and left her sitting on the stairs, with her apron 
thrown over her head, crying her heart out. No one, from 
that day forward, has ever spoken of leaving Lizzie behind 



The Last of the Mortimert. 105 



PAKT III. 
THE LADIES AT THE HALL. 

(Continued). 

CHAPTER I. 

I CANNOT tell what it was that made me silent about this 
adventure while we were having tea. My mind was 
naturally full of it, but when, having the words just on my lips, I 
looked at Sarah, some strange influence held me back. That 
reluctance to speak of a matter which will turn out painful to 
somebody I have felt come across me like a sort of warning more 
than once in my life ; and this time it was so powerful, that 
during our meal I said nothing whatever about the matter. You 
are not to suppose, though, that I was so good a dissembler as 
not to show that I had something on my mind. Little Sara 
found me out in a moment. She said, "What are you thinking 
of, godmamma?" before we had been two minutes at table, and 
persecuted me the whole time, finding out whenever I made 
any little mistake; and, indeed, I made several, my mind being 
so much occupied. Sarah, on the contrary, took no notice; she 
seemed, indeed, to have recovered herself a good deal, and had a 
very good appetite. She never talked much at any time, and 
had said less than usual since ev. / little Sara arrived. So what 
with my abstraction and Sarah's quiet occupation with herself, 
there was not much talk, you may suppose. Little Sara Cress- 
well's eyes, however, quite danced with mischief when she saw 
me so deep in thought. She kept asking me all sorts of ques- 
tions ; whether there was any bit of the road haunted between 



106 The Last of the Mortimers. 

the Park and the village ? whether I had got some sermons 
from the rector to read? whether Dr. Appleby had been trying 
some of his new medicines (the doctor was certainly too much 
given to experiments) upon me ? whether 1 had met anybody 
to frighten me ? Tea was all but finished, and 1 had just rung 
the bell, when the little plague asked this last question ; and 
you may imagine I was quite as much inclined to tell all my 
story as Sara was to draw me out. 

"Now I'll just tell you what I think has happened, god- 
mamma," cried Sara. "" One of your old lovers has appeared 
to you, and told you that, but for you, he might have been a 
happy man ; and that all his troubles began when you refused 
him. Now haven't I guessed right?" 

" Kiglit? Why, I have told you a dozen times, Sara, that I 
never had any lovers," said I, " not till I was forty, at least." 

" But that is no answer at all," cried the little puss. " And 
the poor man might die for you, when you were forty, all the 
same. Was it himself, quite pined away and heart-broken, 
that you saw, godmamma, or was it his ghost?" 

" Uush, you little provoking thing," said I ; " you and I 
had a quarrel about an Italian the other evening. Now 1 know 
a deal better about him than you do, Sara. He is all the ghost 
I met." 

I gave a glance at Sarah, sidelong, as I spoke. I am sure 
what I said was light enough, and not very serious, but her ear 
hud caught it ; it was a sign to me that she was still as much 
on the watch as ever. She did not speak, nor lift up her head, 
except with a little momentary start, but she stopped knittmy, 
which was something extraordinary to me. 

And little Sara flushed up; whether it was with the recollec- 
tion of our quarrel, or a private interest of her own in the 
young stranger, who, to be sure, being a handsome young man, 
and mysterious, and romantic, was quite likely to excite a 
foolish young imagination, I cannot tell ; but her cheeks cer- 
tainly reddened up at a great rate, and she looked exactly as if 
she were ready to pounce and bite, what between curiosity and 
wrath. 

" I met him on the road ; it is my belief he passed the gate 
the other evening when I was looking out. Poor young man 1 
he speaks very good English for an Italian," said 1. 

Then Sarah's whisper interfered and stopped me ; she spoke 
very sharply. " Who are you speaking of?" she said; "there 
are no Italians here." 

"There is one," said I; "poor fellow Little Sara there 



The Last of the Mortimers. 107 

knows about him. It appears he came expecting to find a 
lady hereabouts, and can't find her. I can't think on the 
name myself ; I never heard it that I know of ; but I must 
allow that the young man looks like a gentleman ; and for au 
Italian " 

" Bo silent, Milly ! What can a person like you know?" 
said Sarah, in an irritated shrill tone. " They're a double- 
minded, deceitful, intriguing race ; they're vile story-tellers, 
everyone; they're a people no more fit to be considered like 
other Christians than dogs are, or slaves. Bah! What di 
you mean talking to me of Italians? None of you are the 
least aware of what you are speaking of. I know them 
well." 

Here little Sara struck boldly into tbe breach, and saved me 
from the necessity of struggling out an answer. 

u Godmamma, you are frightfully unjust !" cried little 
Sara. " I wonder how you can speak of a whole people so ; 
and such a people ! as if everybody in the world did not know 
who they are, and what they have done !" 

' They have done every kind of fraud and falsehood in 
existence," said Sarah, so earnest that her voice sounded like a 
sort of smothered shriek. " 1 tell you, child, whoever trusts 
or believes in them gets deceived and betrayed. Don't speak 
to me of Italians I know them ; and if any Italian comes 
here pretending to ask anything," she said, suddenly turning 
round upon me, and catching at me, if I may say so, with her 
eye, "mind you, Milly, it's a cheat! I say, recollect it's a 
cheat ! He does not want any living creature ; he wants 
money, and profit, and what you have to give." ' 

If she had said all this quietly, and there had been nothing 
beforehand to rouse my attention, I should not have been 
surprised ; for to be sure, that was very much like what I had 
always believed ; and as for lying, and seeking their own 
advantage, I rather think that is just about what an English 
person, who knows no better, thinks of most foreigners, right 
or wrong. But Sarah's way of speaking was breathless and 
excited. She was no more thinking of Italians in general than 
1 was, or than little Sara was. She was thinking on some one 
thing, and some one person ; she alone knew who and what. 
All her anger, and her qui ckn ess , arid her dreadful look of 
bring in earnest, were personal to herself: and I cannot 
to anybody how my sister's unexplainable anxiety and 
nt. bewildered and excited me. 

But, S'.irah, you don't know anything of this poor fnVnd 

II 



108 The Last of the Mortimers. 

man ; he may be as honest as ever was. I do believe he is, for 

my part," said I ; u and what he wants is " 

" Don't tell me !" cried Sarah. " I don't want to hear what 
he wants. How should L know anything about him ? Hold 
your tongue, Milly, I tell you. What ! you go and take a 
fancy to a young villain and impostor, and neglect me!" 

** Neglect you ! but, dear, not for the poor young Italian 
gentleman's sake; you can't think that!" said I, more and 
more amazed. . 

u You all neglect me !" said Sarah, throwing down her 
knitting, and rising mp in her passion. U I don't want to hear 
of reasons or causes. You are not to tell me what young 
impostors you may fish up in the streets, or what ridiculous 
things your proteges may want. Don't say anything to me, I 
tell you ! I desire to hear nothing about it. Make up what 
pretty romance you please, you are quite fit to do it; but I 
clear my hands of all such matters you shall not even tell 
them to me !" 

And as she said this, could I believe my eyes? Sarah 
thrust her footstool out of the way, pushed back her screen, 
and making a momentary pause to search round all the dim 
depths of the room with her eyes, went out, leaving us two, 
Sara and me, staring at each other. What had affronted her ? 
"What could be the cause of her displeasure. She left her 
knitting thrown down into the basket, and the Times lying on 
the chair beside her seat. Nobody had done or said anything 
to displease her, unless my mention of the young Italian had 
done it. What strange secret irritation could be working in 
her, to produce these outbursts of passion without any cause ? 

Little Sara stared at me with her bright eyes wide open, till 
Surah had quite gone out of the room ; then the wicked little 
creature, struck, I suppose, with something comic in my blank 
distressed look, burst out laughing. I cannot tell you how the 
sound of her laugh, thoughtless as she was, jarred upon me. 

^'Is^this how you live so amicably at the Park, godmamma?" 
cried Sara. "The people say you have the temper of an angel, 
and that nobody else could live with godmamma Sarah. I 
never believed it was true till now. You have the temper of 
an angel, godmamma. You forgave me the other night when 
I was so naughty ; you kissed me, though I did not expect you 
woiuct And now here you' have been kind to poor Italian Mr. 
Juuigi, and you have got paid for it. What have the Italians 
done to godmamma Sarah to make her so savage at their very 
name ?" 



The Last vf the Mortimers. 109 

"Ah! that is the question wkat is it?" said L "God 
knows!" 

" Then you don't know?" said little Sara. " Yet I could 
have thought you did, you looked so." 
" How did I look?" cried I. 

" As if there were a secret somewhere; as if you were think- 
ing how godmamma Sarah would take it ; as if you were well, 
just watching her a little, and trying to see whether she cared," 
said the observant little girl. 

u Was I, indeed ? was I so? Ah! I deserve to be punished. 
What right have I to go and dream over anybody's looks and 
frame romances, as she says? Heaven forgive me ! I'll go and 
beg her pardon. I did not mean to do it. To think I should 
be so mean and suspicious ! Little Sara, let me go." 

Sara held me fast, clinging with her arms round my waist- 
and her provoking little face the little witch turned up close to 
mine. " Tell me first what the romance was, godmamma ?" 
said Sara. " She accused you of it, and you confess ; and I am 
sure a romance is far more in my way than yours. Tell me, 
please, this very moment, what romance you are making up ? 
Has Mr. Luigi anything to do with it ? Is it all about god- 
mamma Sarah? Tell me directly, or I don't know what I shall 
do. Sit down in this great chair, and begin romance of real 
life." 

" Ah, you foolish little girl ! there's many a romance of real 
life you durst not listen to, and I durst not tell you," cried I. 
" I am not making up any romance. Nonsense ! Child, get 
up. I'll tell you about your Mr. Luigi, which is the only story 

in my head. He is looking for a lady ; but that you know " 

" Oh yes, and he can't find her ; the Countess Sermoneta," 
said Sara, in her careless way. 

Just then, to my still greater wonder, Sarah returned to the 
room. Evidently she had heard the child's words. I saw her 
come to a dead stop in the shadow close by the door, and put 
her hand upon her side, as if she were out of breath and had 
io recover herself. What did this strange flitting about mean? 
In her usual way she never moved from her seat, except to go 
to dinner. Her going away was extraordinary, and her coming 
back more extraordinary still. I could but gaze at her in amaze- 
ment as she came slowly up, threading through the furniture 
in the half light. But Sara, who had still her arms clasped 
round me, had of course her back to her godmamma, and dul 
not see that she had come back to the room. 
" Wasn't it the Countess Sermoneta ?" said Sara, "I kuo* 



110 The Last of the Mortimers. 

he was asking all over Chester for such a person, and was so 
disappointed. Did you never hear of a Countess Sermoneta, 
godmamma ? If you heard it once you surely would remember 
the name." 

Sarah had stopped again while the girl was speaking. Could 
she have been running up and downstairs that her breath came 
so quick, and she had to make such pauses to recover herself ? 
I could not answer Sara for watching my sister, feeling some- 
how fascinated; but then, remembering that Sara had detected 
me in anxious observation of her godmother, I hurried on with 
the conversation to avoid any suspicion of that. 

"That is just what I told the young man, my dear child 
that I never had heard the name," said I ; " but I promised to 
try all I could to get some news for him. It is very sad he 
should be disappointed, poor young fellow. I promised to ask 
Ellis, who has been centuries with the Mortimers, you know ; 
and I thought, perhaps, your godmamma and I, if we had a 
talk together, might recollect somebody that married a 

foreigner " 

Here I made a dead pause in spite of myself. Sarah had 
somehow managed to get back into her seat. She was wonder- 
fully pale and haggard, and looted like a different creature. 
She looked to me as if all her powers were strained for some 
purpose, and that at any moment the pressure might be too 
much, and she might give way under it. I could not go on ; 
I stopped short all at once, with a feeling that somehow I had 
been cruel. "Not to-night," I said softly to Sara, "another 
time." Sara was obedient for a miracle. We broke off the 
conversation just at that point, with an uneasy feeling among 
us that it had been far more interesting and exciting than it 
ought to have been ; and that the best thing to be done was to 
bury it up, and conceal what we had been talking about. 
Such was the immediate result of my easy promise to consult 
my sister. Sarah sat very steadily through all that evening, 
remaining up even later than usual. She took no notice of 
anything that was said, nor mentioned why she went away. 
We were all very quiet, and had little to say for ourselves. 
What was this forbidden ground ? 



TJie Last of tU Mortimers. Ill 



CHAPTER II. 

ris very odd, when there happens to be any one bit of 
tabooed ground in a family, how impossible it is to keep off 
it. I daresay every member of a household, above childhood, 
knows that, more or less. If there is one matter that some two 
people are quite sure to disagree upon, whom it is quite the 
business of your life to keep comfortable and on good terms, 
isn't that matter always turning up somehow? Doesn't it 
float about in the air, and hover over your head, always ready 
to poke in when it is not wanted, and do what mischief it can ? 
That is my experience, at least. And it was so much the 
worse in our case, because little Sara had no idea of keeping 
quiet, and no notion that her innocent mischief and meddling 
could do any real harm, or have any worse effect than putting 
her godmamma "in a passion." Putting people in a passion 
was fun to the thoughtless little girl ; it never came into her 
little saucy inconsiderate head that Sarah's passion was not a 
flash of harmless lightning like her own, or that it meant 
anything which could disturb and overturn all my sister's quiet 
life, and put me into a fever of bewilderment and anxiety. For 
days after I kept carefully off the subject, thinking it would be 
better to leave a polite message with Ellis for the Italian young 
gentleman if he called, and say I was sorry I could not get him 
any information, than to worry my poor sister, who was so 
unaccountably disturbed by hearing of him. Not that Sarah 
said anything about it ; but she looked so haggard and anxious 
that it went to my heart. She came down even earlier than 
usual and sat up later ; listened eagerly to all the conversation 
going on ; sometimes, even, missed her drive ; sat on the watch, 
as one might have supposed ; but when she had gone out for her 
airing one day, I met the carriage, and, can you believe it, the 
very blinds were down ! If, when all was quiet, and nothing 
had happened, I used to wonder sometimes what sort of life 
she had led when she was younger, what friends she might 
have had, and what was her history when she was abroad, you 
may fancy how busy my mind was on that subject now. 

The more I thought it over, of course, the more I could 
make nothing of it. And what do you think at last was the 
conclusion I came to? That Sarah, being a great beauty, and 



112 The Last of the Mortimers. 

always accustomed to admiration and almost a kind of worship, 
had forgotten, poor dear soul, that Time had changed all that, 
and that she was an old woman ; and that she imagined the 
Italian we talked of, to be one of her old lovers come here to 
look for her, and was quite frightened he should see her, and 
know she was at the Park, and disturb us all with his raptures 
and passions. After turning it over for days and days, that 
was the very best explanation I could come to. Why she 
should be so tragical about it, to be sure, I could not tell. 
Perhaps she thought the story of all her old gay doings, if they 
were to come to my ears, would not sound just what a quiet 
old maid like me would approve of. Possibly, it might be 
somebody she had jilted that she was frightened to see ; perhaps 
she was afraid of that Italian revenge one reads of in books. 
I do suppose people are still stabbed out of jealousy and 
revenge in Italy ; and everybody carries a stiletto about him. 
If that was what Sarah thought of, no wonder she was fright- 
ened, poor dear. And I must say it quite went to my heart to 
see her so anxious and unsettled, watching every word that was 
said, and turning her keen eyes towards me for she would not 
yield to change her seat, so that she might see for herself who 
came in every time the door was opened, to know who it was 
by my face ; and, above all, going out that dreary drive with 
the carriage blinds down, carrying all her dismal thoughts with 
her! If she would only have confidence in me, what a 
difference it would make! I could very soon have relieved 
her mind about it, I am sure. What was it to me if she had 
been very gay and foolish when she was young ? that was all 
over, and she was my very own sister. To think that I should 
stand upon my dignity, or blame Sarah for anything that was 
past. But then she was so proud ! she always was so proud ! 
she would never own to being less than perfect. The best 
thing was to disabuse her mind, if possible, and to make it 
evident that this Italian was a young man, far too young ever 
to have been a lover of Sarah's. A lover ! why, she might have 
been his mother as far as age was concerned and that he was 
seeking, quite openly, an entirely different person. If I had 
been a courageous woman I should have gone through with my 
Btory the first night, and most likely saved my poor sister a 
great deal of unnecessary anxiety. But I never was brave at 
going into disagreeable conversation. I can't say I ever was 
clever at conversation at all. And when a person runs away 
with a mistaken idea, and you can't manage to get it out of 
her head, and the further you go the worse it becomes, what 



The Last of the Mortimers. 118 

can you do? I tried to nerve myself up to going into it, b:: ( , I 
could not. Whatever it was, it made her vastly uncomfortable, 
that was evident ; and really when Sarah gets into her passions 
there is no reasoning with her, and I get flustered immediately, 
and she won't listen to explanations. So on the whole I never 
had a more troublesome piece of. business on my hands. 

As for little Sara Creswell, she was the greatest tease and 
plague that ever was in a house. She worried me morning and 
night about the romance I was making up, and did not hesitate 
the least to carry on her persecution before Sarah, who looked 
at her with a kind of silent rage, which the saucy little puss 
never found out. But occupied and troubled as my mind was, 
it was impossible not to be amused at that inconsistent little 
creature and her goings on. She had brought out two grest 
trunks with her, big enough to have held the whole of my 
wardrobe for winter and summer, though she knew very well 
we saw no company, and never required her to dress in the 
evening. And as for her lace and worked muslin, and all that 
foolish extravagance, that is so much in fashion again, there 
was no end to the store she had. Years before this I gave her 
the name of puss in velvet, for a very good reason. What do 
you think, at eleven years old, she had persuaded that poor 
innocent helpless man, her unfortunate papa, to do ? Why, to 
get her a velvet frock, to be sure not a pelisse, but a dress for 
evenings like any dowager old lady ! Did ever anybody hear 
of anything so preposterous ? And she kept up her fancy still, 
with velvet jackets, and even a little ridiculous velvet apron all 
trimmed and ornamented. Poor Mr. Cresswell, to be sure, 
was well off, and, indeed, rich in his way ; but she might have 
ruined any man with her extravagance ; and as to being 
ashamed of it, would lift up her face coolly, and tell you she 
never pretended to want to save papa's money. At the same 
time she was as great as ever on the subject of dividing it all, 
and keeping just enough to live on. When that condition of 
things came about, she was to have no servants, but to do 
everything herself, and so were all the other people who were 
to share poor Mr. Cresswell's money among them. When she 
went into the village with me she gave a wary eye to the 
cottages, how things were put tidy and was quite resolved 
ahe should do it all, and be as happy as possible. But as for 
anything yenteel, or middling, she scouted at it with the 
greatest contempt in the world. It was as good as a play to 
hear her. If my mind had been free to amuse myself, I should 
have quite enjoyed Sara's vagaries; but, as it was, I could 



114 The Last of the Mortimers. 

only be amused and provoked by them now and then. I do 
believe she was much happier at the Park than at home. That 
big dull house, with all the unchangeable furniture, was not 
a place for a fantastical young girl ; she poked about the green- 
houses in all the back corners where the gardener did not want 
her, and where she was always sweeping down his flower-pots ; 
she rummaged through the great suites of rooms that nobody 
ever occupied ; she came into the library to help me with my 
accounts, and tease me out of my wits ; she went fishing about 
the house through all the nooks and corners, and read all tha 
old novels over again ; and then she could not persuade arid 
worry me into doing everything she pleased, as she could her 
father. I believe just at that moment Sara being at the Park 
was a great comfort to me. 



CHAPTER III. 

ONE day in the week I found little Sara all by herself in the 
library, very much engrossed about something. Indeed, 
she was in deep study, if that was to be believed. She had the 
great volume of the history of the county spread out before 
her, and a "Peerage " by her side ; and at her other hand were 
some trumpery little books about Chester, of the handbook 
kind, Chester being, as everybody knows, a place of great 
antiquity, and, indeed, a kind of show place in this part of the 
country. She did not hear me when 1 came in, and as I came 
to an astonished pause behind her, quite bewildered to 
know what the little kitten could want with that great 
book, it was impossible she could see me. She was quite at 
the end of the county history, going over all the details about 
the families, and looking up the peerage, I could see, to find 
out all the connections and collateral branches. What could 
the child be so anxious about? Not our family, certainly, 
for we had no collateral branches. Just once for an instant, it 
shot through my mind, that her father might somehow havo 



TJie Last of the Mortimers, 113 

put that sly secret idea of his, own, that, if sho played her cards, 
well, we might leave her heiress of the Park, in little Sara's 
head; but a moment's thought convinced me that there was 
nothing in that. She was far too bold and simple for any such 
plan ; she would have repeated it out to me directly and 
scorned it ; and she had not an idea of the value of wealth, or 
what was the good of being very rich. If I could have made 
her a Mortimer, she might have thought twice about it, but 
not for being made simply an heiress ; that was a matter to 
which Sara was quite indifferent. 

But if it could not be us, who could it be ? ETad the child, 
perhaps, an admirer among some of the county families ? I 
made a little rustle, I suppose, as I stood watching her ; for she 
turned sharp round, found me out, and flushed up violently. 
In her hasty annoyance she threw the book over, shutting it 
upon her morsel of a hand, and defied me, turning round on 
her seat. Certainly if Mr. Cresswell hud instructed his 
daughter to be very good, and amiable, and conciliatory, he 
had taken the very best plan to bring about a failure. Oh ! 
but she was contrairy ; the poor dear unfortunate man, what a 
life he must have led with that little puss ! 

" Godmamma !" cried Sara, with her eyes flashing, "I never 
knew that you spied upon people before !" 

" Nor did I," said I, quietly. kt You may flatter yourself 
you are quite the first that ever found it out. Don't crush 
y*ur hand to pieces, child ! 1 don't want to know what you 
are about." 

On this the impatient little girl threw the book open again 
with a sound that echoed through all the library. 

" Everybody may know what I am doing \ Now don't be 
angry, godmamma, I mean I quite intended to tell you if I 
found anything," cried Sara. u Look here, this is just what it 
is. You said you had promised to help that poor Italian 
gentleman, and I know quite well you have never tried yet to 
find eut anything for him. You need not look suspicious. I 
am interested about him. There is no harm in that, is there ? 
If he were as old as Ellis, and as fat as his servant, I should be 
interested in him all the same." 

" Little Sara, never tell fibs," said I. " I am just fifty, and 
you are only seventeen ; but I should not be interested in him, 
all the same, if he were old and fat, I assure you. Let me 
hear, now, what you have been doing. You have nothing at 
all to do with him, remember ; it was me, and only me, ho 
applied to ; but let us hear what it is." 



116 The Last of the Mortimers. 

"Oh, it is nothing at all," said Sara in a disappointed tone. 
" I thought somebody might be found out, in some of these 
books, that had married an Italian. I like the l Peerage ; ' it 
is the funniest thing in the world to see how all the people are 
twisted and linked together like network. Everybody in the 
world must be everybody else's cousin, if all the common 
people's families were like the peers." 

" To be sure we are," said I, " only so distant it won't 
count ; but 1 don't see what this has to do with what we were 
talking of before. Did you find nobody that had married an 
Italian in all the 4 Peerage,' Puss?" 

44 You are trying to make me angry, godmamma," said 
Sara, " but I shan't be angry. There is no Countess 
Sermoneta, though I have looked over all the county families, 
and all their connections that I can make out ; and papa, who 
knows everybody, does not know any such person, for I made 
him think and tell me ; and the only person I can think of who 
does know is " 

Here little Sara stopped and looked very closely and keenly 
in my face. 

"Who, child?" said I. "Not me, I am certain. Whom 
do you mean ?" 

kt Can't you guess? "Why, godmamma Sarah, to be sure," 
cried Sara. " I am quite sure she knows who the Countess 
Sermoneta is." 

"Child!" cried I, "do you know what you are saying? 
Your godmamma Sarah ! how dare you think of such a 
thing !" 

" Dare ? is it anything wrong ?" said Sara. " You are 
making a great deal more mystery of it than I should do, 
godmamma. After all, it isn't a bit mysterious. Mr. Luigi 
wants to find this lady, and not knowing the country, he has 
come most likely to the wrong place ; and I am sure he asks 
for her plain enough out. He could not do it plainer if she 
were Mrs. Smith instead of Countess Sermoneta ; and there is 
nothing secret about it that I can see ; only this, that god- 
mamma Sarah knows her, and is so cross she won't tell." 

"Sara, Sara, don't say so !" cried I, "you make me quite 
Unhappy. How can your godmamma, who never sets her 
foot out of doors, one may say, for she would almost see as 
much in her own chamber as out of the carriage windows, 
how could she possibly know a person no one else knows ? And 
as for being cross, I really consider it very disrespectful and 
unkind of you, Sara. She never was cross to you. I am sure 



The Last of the Mortimers. 117 

she has always been very kind to you. You have had yon? 
own way so much, child, and been so spoiled, that you think 
you may say anything; but I must say, criticism on your 
godmothers " 

" I never criticised my godmothers," cried Sara, starting up. 
" I may be as wicked as you please, but I never did so. 1 
said godmamma Sarah was cross. Why, everybody knows 
she is cross. I never said, nor pretended, she was cross to me ; 
and as for kindness ! you don't expect me, I am sure, to give 
you thanks, godmamma, for that !" 

"What could you give me else?" said I, in some little 
surprise. 

Sara stamped her little foot on the floor in vexation and 
impatience. " Godmamma ! what thing in the world could I 
give you but love ?" cried the provoking little creature. " You 
don't suppose thanks would do ? I thank Ellis when he opens 
the door for me, or anybody I don't care for. I had rather, 
if you could, you did think me wicked and ungrateful, than 
suppose I would go and thank you." 

" The child understands!" said I to myself, with tears in my 
eyes. Ah ! what multitudes of people there are in the world 
who don't understand ! I was taken by surprise. But Sara 
was of that disposition that she would quarrel with everybody 
all round, and fight for her secret like a little Amazon, before 
she ever would let anybody find out the real feeling that was in 
her heart. If you think she threw her arms round me and 
kissed me after that, you are quite mistaken. On the con- 
trary, if she could have pinched, scratched, or given me a good 
shake, she would have liked it, I believe. 

** But I want to know how this notion came into your per- 
verse little head?" said I ; " how can your godmamma know, 
Sara ? and what could possibly make you imagine she did ?" 

kt Why did you watch her so the other night?" cried Sara. 
41 You saw, yourself, she knew something about it. Didn't she 
listen to every word, and look as if she could have told us in a 
minute ? and I am sure she thinks it quite pleasant to keep up a 
secret we don't know," cried the little girl that knew no better; 
" it quite interests her. I wonder how people can have so little 
feeling for others. She is not sorry for poor Mr. Luigi, nor 
concerned to think of all his loss of time and patience. She 
would rather keep her secret than satisfy him. What can it 
matter to godmamma Sarah, whether he finds the Countess 
Sermoneta or not?" 

"What, indeed?" said I, with a sigh of bewilderment, 



118 The Last of the Mortimers. 

That was just the question I could not answer. What had site 
to do with it ? and by what strange witchcraft was it, that 
Sara and I had both instinctively mixed her up with this busi- 
ness of which, to be sure, in reality she did not, she could not 
know anything V How dared we come to such conclusions with 
only looks to build upon ! Seeing my own thoughts thus re- 
flected in little Sara, I became quite shocked at myself. 

" Child, it is quite impossible she can know anything about 
it. Both you and I are infatuated," cried I. " How can Sarah 
possibly be mixed up in such a matter? It is the merest folly. 
She doesn't even know your Mr. Luigi, nor who he is, nor the 
very name of the lady he is looking for. It is nonsense, Sara, 
quite nonsense. How is it possible she ould know ?" 

" Oh, godmamma, I'll tell you how; I have been thinking it 
out, and I am sure I am right. She was a Jong time abroad, 
you have often told me, and she knew a great many people," 
cried Sara ; " among the rest she knew this lady ; and either 
because she likes her, or because she hates her, or because she 
won't tell, she keeps all quiet about it. But she can't help 
knowing, and saying she knows with her eyes. Godmamma 
Sarah, though she takes no notice, knows everything better than 
you do. Carson gets every oody's news of them. Why, she 
even made my poor little Alic6 tell her all about Georgy Wilde, 
you know, and that unlucky '.brother of hers, how often he 
came to our house, and everything about it ; and godmamma 
Sarah did not leave me at (peace about it either. I am sure 
they know everything that fiappens up in godmamma Sarah's 
room. Godmamma, do you never have a gossip with your 
maid?" 

*' I have got no maid, child ; you know that very well," said 
I. "I never was brought up with any such luxury; and when 
I came to my kingdom I was too old to begin, and liked my 
own ways. But at all events, though you are so confident in 
your opinion, I am quite sure your godmamma can have no 
knowledge of this business, so don't speak of it any more." 

"Will you ask her?" said Sara; "if she knows nothing 
about it, she will not mind being asked. Why should you be 
afraid of speaking if she does not know anything about it ? It 
might be awkward, perhaps, if she knew "and would not tell ; 
but it can't matter if she doesn't know. Will you ask her, 
godmamma? or will you let me?" 

" Oh, for heaven's sake go away, child, and don't drive me 
crazy !" I cried. " Go upstairs and decide what dress you will 
wear, you velvet kitten ; go and gossip with your maid. Here 



The Last of tlie Mortimers. 



119 



am I in a peck of troubles, and can't see my way out or in, and 
you ask me to let you /" 

14 You wouldn't mind it in the least if you thought god- 
mamma Sarah did not know," said the provoking little girl ; 
and so went gliding off, satisfied that I was of her opinion. 
"When I was left to myself I dropped on a chair in utter 
despair, and could not tell what to think. The safest way was 
certainly to vow to myself that Sarah had nothing to do with 
it at all. What could she have to do with it ? Her strange 
anxious looks must spring from some other cause. For once, 
at least, instinct must have deceived itself. Sarah knew the 
world and the Italians. She was not so easily taken in as we 
were nothing else was possible ; and she was only annoyed to 
see how ready to be imposed upon I was. 



CHAPTER IV. 

conversation, of course, set my thoughts all into a 
JL ferment again. Little Sara was wonderfully quick- 
witted, if she was not very wise, as, indeed, was not to be 
expected at her years ; and I confess her idea did return to my 
mind a great many times. Sarah might have known an 
Italian Countess in that obscure time of her life which I had no 
clue to ; might even know some reason why persons from Italy 
might be looking for her, and might be nervous, for old 
acquaintance' sake, of any one finding her out. When every- 
thing was so blank, any sort of sign-post was satisfactory. It 
was true that I don't remember seeing Sarah display so 
much anxiety for any other person all her life before. But 
there might be reasons ; and if it was a friendly feeling, 1 
should certainly be the last person in the world to worry and 
aggravate my sister. I wish I could have composed my mind 
all the reasonings I went through ; but really, whew 1 $a\y 



120 The Last of the Mortimer*. 

poor Sarah sitting all watchful and conscious at her knitting, 
not getting on at all with her work, hearing the least rustle in 
the room, or touch at the door ; starting, and trying to concal 
her start every time the bell rung, with all the features of her 
face growing thinner, and her hands and head trembling more 
than they ever used to do, it was quite impossible for rue 
to persuade myself that her mind was not busy with some- 
thing which had happened, or which was about to happen. It 
might be something as completely unconnected with the poor 
Italian as possible ; most likely it was ; but something there 
was which agitated her most unaccountably, which I knew 
nothing about, and which she was determined I should not 
know. She was as conscious that I observed this strdnge 
change upon her as I was myself ; and she faced me with such 
a resolution and defiance ! No ! I could read it in her eyes, 
and the full look she turned upon me whenever I looked at her 
she would die rather than 1 should find it out. 

It is quite impossible, however ignorant you may be of the 
causes of it, to live in the close presence of a person devoured 
by anxiety without being infected by it, more or less. One 
g<-ts curious and excited, you know, in spite of one's self; and 
all the more, of course, if the cause is quite inexplicable and the 
trouble sudden. I lived in the kind of feeling that you have 
just immediately before a thunderstorm the air all of a hush, 
so that you could hear the faintest stir of a bird, or rustle of a 
branch, yet never knowing the moment when, instead of the 
bird's motion or the leaves' tremble, it might be the thunder 
itself that clamoured in your ears. 

In this condition of mind Sara's little side reference to 
Carson, and my sister's acquaintance with everything that 
passed, did not fail to have its effect upon me, as well as other 
things. I don't know that I would have been above question- 
ing Carson if I could have got at her ; but I did not see her 
once in three months, and could not have had any conversation 
with her without making quite an affair of it, and letting all the 
house know. Carson was not her right name. She had been 
Sarah's maid when she was a young girl, and had married and 
lost her husband, and come back to the Park just in time to go 
abroad with her mistress, and being well known in the house 
by her maiden name, never got any other. I could not help 
wondering within myself if she knew, or how much she knew, 
of Sarah's trouble, and its cause, whatever that might be. 
When the thought rose in my mind whether I might not try 
to get to private speech of Carson, I was out in the grounds 



The Last of tJie Mortimers. 121 

making a little survey, to see how everything was looking for 
pring, and had just been at the lodge to see poor little Mary, 
who (as I had foreseen from the beginning) was bad with the 
whooping-cough, but no worse than was to be expected, and 
nothing alarming or out of the way. The carriage had just 
gone up to take Sarah out for her drive, and I, all in shelter of 
a clump of holly bushes, became the witness, quite unawares 
and without any intention, of a most singular scene. A foot- 
step went softly by me upon the gravel. I was just behind 
the lodge, and within sight of the gate and the road without. 
I saw Carson, in her cap and in-doors dress, go softly out at 
the gate. She went out into the road, pretending to hold 
out her hand and raise her face to see whether it rained ; as if 
it were not perfectly clear to any one that it did not rain, nor 
would, either, till the glass fell. She looked up and down with 
an anxious look, and lingered five minutes or more in that 
same position. Then she came in, and met the carriage just 
inside the gate, which Williams had come to her cottage door 
to open. " All's quite bright and clear, ma'am," 1 heard 
Carson say; "no appearance of rain. I hope you'll have a 
pleasant drive." A moment after the carriage wheeled quickly 
out, the blind being drawn down just as it turned into the 
road. Carson stood looking after it with a kind of grieved, 
compassionate expression, which made me like her better. She 
answered Williams' question, u Whatever had come over Miss 
Sarah to make her so particklar about the weather ; in the 
carriage, too, as she wouldn't be none the wiser, wet nor dry !" 
very shortly, sighed, and turner to go back, mincing with true 
lady's-maid nicety, along the road. The sigh and the pitying 
look on her face determined me. I took a quick step through 
the bushes and came up to her. The holly branches tore a bit 
of trimming, as long as my finger, oft 7 my garden hood (I think 
a hood a great deal more suitable than a hat for a person of my 
years) ; but I did not mind. Here was a chance if I could 
only use it well. 

44 Carson," said I, not to give her time to tliink, " my sister 
has surely grown very fidgety of late ?" 

Carson stared at me in an alarmed, confused way ; .but soon 
got back her self-possession. " My missis was always a bit 
fidgety, ma'am, though no more than she had a. right to be," 
said this one real, true, faithful adherent, whom Sarah had 
secured to her cause. 

" I don't know about such rights," said I. "Now tell iLe, 
Carson ; you know a groat deal more about her than I do. 



122 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Don't you think I can see how nervous and disturbed she is? 
what's the matter with my sister? what is she afraid of? and 
what do you and she expect to see upon the road, that you go 
out to look that the way is clear, before she ventures beyond 
the gate ? Don't tell me abottt rain, I know better ; what did 
you expect to see ?" 

Carson was taken entirely by surprise ; she faltered, she 
grew red, she wrung her hands ; she stammered forth some- 
thing quite unintelligible, consisting of exclamations. 
"Ma'am! Miss Milly!" and "My missis!" all confused and 
run into each other. She had no time to invent anything ; 
and her fright and nervousness for the moment quite betrayed 
her. 

"I don't want you to be false to your mistress," said I, 
getting excited, in my turn, at finding myself so near a clue to 
this mystery, as I thought. " I don't want you to tell me her 
secret, if she has one only let me know. Is there some 
danger apprehended ? Is there some one in the country that 
Sarah is afraid to see? What is wrong? Her limbs are 
trembling under her, and her face growing thinner. Only 
think of her going out with the blinds down, poor forlorn soul ; 
What is wrong? It would mend matters, somehow, if I 
knew." 

" Miss Milly," said Carson, with a great many little coughs 
and clearings of her throat, u my missis has an attack on her 
nerves, that's what it is ; when she haves them attacks, she 
grows fidgety, as you say, ma'am. A little nice strengthening 
medicine, now, or a change of air, would be a nice thing. I 
said that to my missis just this very morning. I said ' A few 
months at Brighton, now, or such like, would do you a world 
of good, ma'am.' It's on her nerves, that's what it is." 

Carson had got quite glib and fluent before she ended this 
speech ; the difficulty had only been how to begin. 

" Now, Carson !"' cried I, "if your mistress's health suffers, 
and it turns out to be something you could have told me, you 
may be certain I shall call you to account for it. Think what 
you are saying. We Mortimers never have nervous attacks. 
I know you're deceiving me. Think again. Will you tell me 
what is wrong?" 

u Ma'am, Miss Milly, it's an attack on the nerves," cried 
Carson ; my missis has had them before. I couldn't say more 
if I was to talk till to-morrow. I've got my caps to see to, I 
y@ur pardon ; my missis is very particular about Ijejr 
" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 123 

Upon which Carson somehow managed to elude me, with a 
mixture of firmness and cunning quite extraordinary; and 
while I had still my eyes fixed on her, and was calling her to 
stay with all the authority of my position as acting mistress of 
the house, contrived to melt in at a back door and escape out 
of my hands, I never could explain how. Talk about con- 
trolling people with your eye, and swaying them by force of 
character, and all that ! I defy anybody to sway a servant in 
a great house who is trained to the sort of thing, and knows 
how to recollect her work at a critical moment, and the nearest 
way to the back stairs. Carson had proved herself too many 
forme* 



CHAPTER V 

TT seems I was destined to hear of nothing but this Italian. 
J_ I had not kept faith to him, certainly. I had been startled 
and thrown back by finding out how the idea of him got to be 
involved in Sarah's trouble ; and really I did not care much 
about the Countess Sermoneta, whom 1 had never heard of. I 
had been interested in him, I allow ; but how could 1 keep up 
an interest in strangers, with so much closer an anxiety near 
home ? 

However, just the next day after I had spoken to Carson, 
Dr. Roberts called. Dr. Roberts was our rector ; not a relation, 
but a kind of family connection, somehow, I really could not 
tell how. For three or four generations, at least, a Roberts 
had held our family living. There were so few of us Mortimers, 
as I have already explained, that the living could never be of 
any use to us ; and our great-great-grandfathers had happened 
to be intimate, and so it came about that the living was as 
much an hereditary thing to the Robertses as our property waa 
to us. Pr Roberts was the best of good, easy, quiet 



124 The Last of the Mortimer*. 

He preached us a nice little sermon every Sunday. He would 
dine with the people who were in a condition to ask him, and 
make himself as agreeable as possible. He patted the children 
on the head, and wondered how it was that he had forgotten 
their names. Of course he had his own way of doing mo,st 
things, and seldom varied ; but then one could always calculate 
on what he would do and say, and wasn't that a comfort? On 
the whole, he was the most excellent, good drowse of a man I 
ever knew. He led a very quiet life, with little interruption, 
except when, now and then, a storm seized upon him, in the 
shape of a new curate with advanced ideas. In such cases Dr. 
Roberts generally bowed to the tempest till its force was 
exhausted. He laughed in his quiet way at the young men. 
" They are all for making a fuss when they begin," he said to 
me, confidentially; u but depend upon it, when they come to 
our age, Miss Milly, they'll find the advantage of just getting 
along." That was his favourite mode of > rogress. He was too 
stout and easy to make much haste, lie loved to get along 
quietly ; and really, as ours was a small parish, and nothing 
particular to make a commotion about, I don't suppose there 
was much harm done. 

But only to think of Dr. Roberts becoming one of my assail- 
ants ! I never could have expected any such thing. He came 
in, bringing some books from Miss Kate, who was as unlike 
him as possible. She was very active in the parish, and had 
something to do, with or for, everybody. She was rather 
Low- Church, and sent us books to read, to do us good, which, 
for my part, I always read faithfully, being very willing to 
have good done me, as far as it was practicable. Dr. Roberts 
sat down with a little sigh in the round easy chair, his 
particular chair, which Ellis wheeled out for him ; not with a 
sentiiy ental sigh, good man ; but the road to the Park ascends 
a little*, and the doctor, for the same reason as Hamlet, was a 
little scant of breath. 

We were all as usual. Sarah, in the shadow of the screen, 
with her knitting-pins in her hands, and her basket of wools 
and patterns at her side ; myself opposite, commanding a view 
of the door and the great mirror, and all the room ; little Sara, 
half a mile off, reading at one of the windows for it was very 
mild for February, and really one did not feel much need of a 
fire. Dr. Roberts wandered on in his comfortable way for half 
an hour at least ; he complimented Miss Mortimer on always 
being so industrious, and me upon my blooming looks ! only 
think of that ! but I dare say he must have forgotten that it 



The Last of ths Mortimen. 125 

was Sarah who was the beauty ; and he gave us a quiet opinion 
upon the books he had brought us, that they were ** very much 
in Kate's style, you know ;" and had a word to say about the 
curate just one of his comfortable calls, when he has some- 
thing to say about everybody ; nothing more. 

u But, by-the-bye," said the good Doctor, " I had almost 
forgotten the principal thing. There's something romautio 
going on among us just now, Miss Milly. Where is little Miss 
Cresswell ? she ought to hear this." 

"What is it, Doctor?" I asked, rather startled at this 
beginning. 

u Well, the fact is, I have had a strange sort of visitor," said 
the Doctor, with a soft little laugh ; "or rather two, I should 
say," he continued, after a little pause, " ha ! ha ! I had 
Hubert to him, who pretends to speak Italian, you know, ha ! 
ha ! He could speak Dante, perhaps ; but he can't manage the 
Transteverine. I can't say that I did not enjoy it a little. 
These young fellows, Miss Milly, are so happy in their own 
good opinion. Poor Hubert was terribly put out." 

" \V ho are you speaking of ?" asked I again. 

" Well, of a visitor I had ; or two, as 1 have just said, the 
master and the man. The master speaks English very 
tolerably; the man is the real, native, original article, newly 
imported. I am in good condition myself," said the good 
Doctor, giving a quiet unconscious pinch on his plump wrist ; 
" but anything like that, you know, goes quite beyond me. 
You would have laughed to see poor young Hubert, poor 
fellow, talking to him in his high Dantesque way, and the fat 
fellow dashing in through the midst of it all, helter skelter, in 
real Italian. Ha ! ha ! it was a most amusing scene." 

" Italian ?" said I, scarcely venturing to speak above my 
breath, my consternation was so great. 

" Yes," said Dr. Roberts, calmly, with still a little agitation 
of laughter about his voice the discomfiture of the curate 
amused him excessively " Italian. The young man called on 
me to ask after a lady, whom he supposed to be living in this 
neighbourhood, a Countess Sermoneta, Did you ever hear of 
such a person, Miss Milly ?" 

" No," said I, as quietly as I could. Sarah took no notice, 
showed no curiosity, betrayed to me that she had heard this 
name before, and did not learn the particulars of the stranger's 
inquiry for the first time. In general she liked to hear the 
news ; and though she rarely took any part in the conversation, 
listened to it, and showed that she did so. To-day she never 



126 The Last of the Mortimers. 

raised her head. Perhaps I was over-suspicious; but thig 
entire want of interest only added to my bewildering doubts. 

At this point little Sara came forward, and thrust herself, as 
was natural, into a conversation so interesting to her ; I only 
wondered she had not done it sooner. 

" That is poor Mr. Luigi, that has been so much talked of in. 
Chester," cried Sara; " and godmamma met him on the road, 
and promised to try and find out for him. Do make her take 
it up, please Dr. Roberts. Did you never hear of the lady 
either V How strange nobody should have heard of her ! Who 
was she, does he say ? What does he want with her ? do tell 
us, dear Dr. Roberts, please." 

Sarah's knitting-pins had dropped out of her hand when her 
goddaughter broke in upon Dr. Roberts' good-humoured drowsy 
talk. 1 turned to help her to pick them up, but she waved me 
away. What could be the matter ? she was trembling all over 
like an aspen leaf. 

" My dear Miss Cresswell, he gave me no information what- 
ever," said the Doctor, smiling most graciously upon the pretty 
dainty little creature in her velvet jacket ! " and indeed, he 
was not quite the kind of man that I should undertake to 
question. Hubert might do it, you know, ha ! ha ! but then 
he rather stands on the dignity of his office, and would not 
mind putting you, yourself, dangerous though it might be, 
through your catechism. I did all that lively curiosity could 
do, you may believe, to find out who he is, and who she was, 
but I made nothing of it. He, as you seem to know, calls him- 
self Mr. Luigi, and he wants the Countess Sermoneta, a person 
no one in Cheshire ever heard of. I told him I had no doubt 
he was mistaken in the locality ; near Manchester, perhaps, or 
Chichester, or some other place with a similar-sounding name ; 
but I don't think he took in what I said. And you saw him, 
too, Miss Milly ? very odd, wasn't it ? He must have made a 
mistake in the place." 

" I suppose so," said I, quite faintly. Sarah's knitting-pins 
had actually fallen out of her hands again ! 

" 1 promised to inquire and let him know if I heard any- 
thing," said the rector ; " but if I do not know, and you do not 
know, Miss Milly, we're about the likeliest people in the 
county, I suspect, I don't think it is much good making other 
inquiries. You are sure you never heard the name ?" 

"Never in my life, so far as I recollect," said I. " T pro- 
mised to make inquiries, too, and asked him to come to the 
Park, and I would let him know. But that seems merely 






The Last of the Mortimers. 127 

tantalising him. If you will give me the address, Dr. Roberts, 
I will write him a note. 

He gave me the address in his own leisurely way, and then 
he returned to the scene at the rectory, where he had called the 
curate, who happened to be with him at the time, to talk to 
Mr. Luigi's servant, not without some intention of doing the 
good young man a mischief, I am sure ; and how poor Mr. 
Hubert talked Dantesque, as the Doctor said, shaking his portly 
person with quiet laughter, and the fat Italian burst in with a 
flood of what Dr. Roberts called real Italian. I could understand 
how it would be from what I had seen myself ; but I confess I 
found it very difficult to listen and smile as it was necessary to 
do. There sat Sarah, close up in the shelter of her screen, never 
lifting her head or making any sign to show that she heard the 
conversation ; not a smile rose upon her face ; she saw nothing 
amusing in it ; her lips were firm set together, and all the lines 
of her face drawn tight; and though her cheeks retained a 
kind of unnatural glow, which, for the first time in my life, 
made me think that Sarah used paint, or something to heighten 
her complexion, her brow and chin, and all except that pink 
spot, were ghastly grey, and colourless. She had stopped her 
knitting altogether now, and was rubbing her poor fingers, 
making believe to be very much occupied with them, stooping 
down to rub the joints before the fire. It quite went to my 
heart to see her sitting so forlorn there, shut up within herself. 
Ah ! whatever it was she feared, could I ever be hard upon her? 
could I ever do anything but help her to bear what misfortune 
or anxiety she might be under ? I thought Dr. Roberts would 
never be done with his story. I thought he would never go 
away. I dare say he, on his part, thought we had just had a 
quarrel, or something of that sort, and gave Miss Kate an 
amusing description of us when he went home ; for he had an 
amusing way of telling a story. And then, how to get quit of 
little Sara when he was gone f I felt sure my sister would 
break out upon me somehow, very likely without taking any 
notice of the real reason ; but all that silent excitement must 
find an outlet somehow ; either that, or her mind would give 
way, or she would break a blood-vessel, or something dreadful 
would happen. I knew Sarah's ways very well, we had been 
BO long together. I knew that, one way or other, she must get 
it out, and relieve herself ; and, to be sure, there was nobody 
whom she could relieve her feelings upon but me. 



128 The Last of the Mortimer*. 



CHAPTTCR VL 

ALL in haste, and in a peremptory tone, to which nobody 
could be less used to than she was, I had sent little Sara 
away OB some commission, invented on the spur of the moment, 
when the door closed on Dr. Roberts. The child looked up in 
my face with an amazed un comprehension of any order issued 
to her ; I fancy I can see her great eyes growing larger and 
blacker as she turned, asking what I meant. But Sara had 
understanding in her, wilful as she was ; she saw there was 
occasion for it, though she could not understand how ; and 
whenever her first surprise was over, she went off and obeyed 
me with an alacrity which I shall always remember. We two 
were left alone. I took up some work that lay on the table. 
I could not tell whether it was mine or Sara's, or who it 
belonged to. I bent my head fumbling over it, too agitated to 
see what I was doing. Now the volcano was about to explode. 
Now, even, an explanation might be possible. 

" What was that I heard from you just now?" cried Sarah, 
in her shrill whisper. " You were so lost to all common feeling, 
you were so forgetful of my claims and everybody else's, that 
you invited a common foreign impostor to come here here, 
without an idea what bad intentions he might have here to 
my house !" 

" Sarah ! for heaven's sake what do you know about him ? 
What have you to do with this young man ?" said I, the words 
bursting, in spite of myself, from my lips. 

I suppose she did not expect this question. She stopped 
with a flood of other reproaches and accusations ready to 
be poured forth, staring at me staring there is no other 
word for it. Her looks were dreadful to me. She looked 
like some baited animal that had turned to bay. Was it 
my doing? Presently her senses came back to her. And 
I was glad, really thankful, when I saw that it was mere 
passion one of her fits of temper, poor dear soul! that 
had returned upon her again. 

"You dare to ask me such questions?" she cried; "you, 
l poor simpleton that throws our doors open to any adven- 



The Last of the Mortimers. 129 

turer! This is what I have to do with him. He shall 
never enter my house. I'll have him expelled if he comes 
here. I'll muster ihe servants and let them know who's 
mistress, you, a rustical fool that knows nothing of the 
world, and are ready to throw yourself at anybody's head 
that flatters you a little, or me, that knows life and can 
detect a cheat ! What ! you'll go slander me in addition, 
will you? You worry and drive me out of my senses, and 
then pretend that I have something to do with every 
impostor you pick up in the streets. 1 tell you I'll have 
him turned out if he dares to come to this house. I will 
not have my peace molested for your fool's tricks and intrigues. 
An Italian forsooth! a fellow that will cringe to you, 
and flatter you, and be as smooth as velvet. I'll have him 
thrown into prison if he dares to come here 1" 

"Surah! Sarah! for what reason? the poor young man 
has never harmed you," I cried, holding up my hands. 

She gave a strange bitter cry. " Fool ! how can you 
tell whether he has harmed me?" she cried out, wringing 
her thin hands: then suddenly stopping short, came to 
herself again, and stared at me once more. Always that stare 
of blank resistance the hunted creature brought to bay. 
She had been standing while she spoke before. Now she 
dropped into her chair, exhausted, breathless, with a strange 
look of fury at herself. She thought she had betrayed 
herself and most likely so she had, if I had possessed the 
slightest clue by which to find her mystery out. 

"I beg and entreat you to be calm, and not to excite 
yourself," cried I, trying, if it were possible, to soothe her. 
44 I know nothing whatever about this young Italian, Sarah. 
I took an interest in him from his appearance, and something 
in his voice and because he was a stranger and had no 
friends. But I will write to him immediately not to come he 
is nothing to me. He has neither flattered me nor asked 
anything of me. I see no harm in him ; but I shall certainly 
write and say he is not to come. You might know well that 
there is no stranger in the world for whom I would cross 
you." 

' Oh, I am used to fair speeches, Milly," said my sister, 
44 quite used to them ; and used to being made no account of 
when all's done. I, that might have been so different. I 
might have had a coronet, and been one of the leaders of life, 
instead of vegetating here ; and, instead of respecting me after 
I have resigned all that, I am to be badgered to death by your 



180 The Last of the Mortimers. 

old maid's folly, and have a vulgar impostor brought in upon 
me to oust me out of my home. Bring in whom you like, 
thank heaven, I'm more than a match for you. I tell you, 
you shall bring nobody here it is my house, and was my 
house before you were born. I shall keep it mine, and leave 
it to whom I like. Your romances and fictions are nothing in 
this world to me. I am mistress, and I will be mistress. You 
are only my younger sister, and I have nothing in tlie world 
to consult but my own pleasure. I am not to be driren into 
changing my mind by any persecution. I advise you to give 
up your schemes before you suffer for them. Nobody, I tell 
you, no man in the world with evil designs against me, and 
my fortune, and my honour, shall come into my house !" 

"Sarah! what- on earth do you mean? Who is plotting 
against you? Your fortune and your honour? \Vlut are 
you thinking of ? You have gone too far to draw back now," 
cried I, in the greatest excitement. " Explain yourself before 
we go any farther what do you mean ?" 

Once more she stared at me blankly and fiercely ; but she 
had got it out, and had more command of herself after she had 
relieved her mind. Could it be only an outburst of patsion? 
but my spirit was up. 

"The house is my house as well as yours," I cried, when 
ehe did not answer. " 1 have a voice as powerful as yours iu 
everything that has to be done. Yes, I can see what is going 
to happen. We are the two Mortimers that are to send it out; 
of the name. But I will not give up my rights, either for the 
prophecy or for any threats. I have never made a scheme 
against you, nor ever will. You have been wretched about 
something ever since that day you were so late on your drive. 
I have seen it, though I cannot tell the reason. This Italian 
cannot be any connection of yours. He is a young man; he 
could not be more than born when you were abroad. You 
might be his mother for age. What fancy is it that you have 
taken into your mind . about him ? What do you suppose you 
can have to do with him ? Sarah, for heaven's sake ! what is 
the matter? If you ever had the slightest love for me, take 
me into your confidence, and let me stand by you now." 

For when I was speaking, some of my words, I cannot tell 
which, had touched some secret spring that I knew nothing of ; 
aryl dropping down her head upon her hands she gave such a 
bitter, desperate groan that it went to my very heart. I ran 
to her and fell on my knees by her side. I kissed her hand, 
and begged her to have confidence in me, I was ready to 



The Last of the Mortimers. 131 

prorate never to disturb her, never to speak of setting up n 
wi!! of ray own again ; Lut I felt 1 must not give in ; it uo 
be now or never. She would trust me and tell me her trou.-i 
whether it was real or only fanciful ; and her mind would bo 
relieved when it was told. 

But the now passed and the never came. She lifted up her 
head and pushed me away ; she looked at me with cold stony 
eyes; she relapsed without a moment's interval into her us an I 
chilly, common-place, fretful, tone that tone of a discontented 
mind and closed heart which had disturbed and irritated mine 
for years. All her old self returned to her in an instant. 
Even her passion had been elevating and great in comparison. 
She looked at me with her cold observant eyes, and bade me 
get up, and not look so like a fool. " But it is impossible to 
think of teaching you what anybody else of your age and 
position must have learned thirty years ago," she said, twitch- 
ing her dress, which, when I foolishly threw myself down 
beside her, 1 had put my knee upon unawares, from under me. 
I cannot describe to anybody the mortified, indignant feeling 
with which I scrambled up. Think of going down upon my 
knees to her, ready to do anything or give up anything in the 
world for her, and meeting this reception for my pains ! I felt 
almost more bitterly humiliated and ashamed than if I had 
been doing something wrong. I, who was not a young girl 
but an elderly woman, long accustomed to be respected and 
obeyed ! If she had studied how to wound me most deeply, she 
could not have succeeded better. I got up stumbling over my 
own dress, and hastily went out of the room. I even went out 
of the house, to calm myself down before I met anybody. I 
would not like to confess to all the angry thoughts that came 
into my mind for the next hour in the garden. I walked 
about thinking to get rid of them, but they only grew more 
and more vivid. My affection was rejected and myself insulted 
at the same moment. You would not suppose, perhaps, that 
one old woman could do as much for another ; but I assure you, 
Sarah had wounded nie as deeply as if we had been a couple of 
young men. 

When I found my temper was not going down as it ought to 
do, but on the contrary my imagination was busy concocting 
all sorts of revengeful things to say to her, I changed my plan, 
and went back to the library and looked over the newspapers 
Don't go and think over it, dear good people, when you fee 
very much insulted and angry. Read the papers or a novel 
I went down naturally when I stopped thinking. After all> 



132 The Last of the Mortimers. 

poor Sarah ! poor Sarah ! whom di.l she harm by it ? only her- 
self, not me. 

But anybody will perceive at a glance that after this I was 
more completely bewildered than ever, and could not under- 
take to say to my own mind, far less to anybody else, whether 
there was or was not any real reason for Sarah's nervousness, or 
whether she had actually any sort of connection with this 
young Italian. Sometimes I made myself miserable with the 
idea that the whole matter looked like an insane fancy. 
People when they are going mad, as I have heard, always take 
up the idea that they are persecuted or wronged somehow. 
What if Sarah's mind was tottering, and happening to catch 
sight of this young man, quite a stranger, and very likely to 
catch her eye, her fancy took hold of him as the person that 
was scheming against her ? The more I thought over this, the 
more feasible it looked ; though it was a dreadful thing to think 
that one's only sister was failing in her reason, and that any 
night the companion of my life might be a maniac. But what 
was I to think ? How was it possible, no madness being in the 
case, that a young unknown stranger could threaten the fortune 
and honour of Sarah Mortimer, born heiress of the Park, and 
in lawful possession of it for more than a dozen years? What 
possible reason could there be for her, if she was in her sane 
senses, fearing the intrigues of anybody, much less a harmless 
young foreigner? But then that groan! was it a disturbed 
mind that drew that involuntary utterance out of her? 
Heaven help us ! What could any one think or do in such 
circumstances ? I was no more able to write a note to Mr. 
Luigi that evening than I was to have gone out and sought 
him. Things must take their chance. If he came he must 
come. I could not help myself. Besides, I h :d no thought for 
Mr. Luigi and his lost Countess. I could think only of my 
sister. No! no! little Sara was deceived, clever as she was. 
Sarah knew no Countess Sermoneta her mind disturbed and 
unsettled, had fixed upon the strange face on the way, only as 
some fanciful instrument of evil to herself. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER VII. 

NEXT morning at breakf.-ist I found a letter waiting me, in 
an unknown hand an odd hand, not inelegant, but 
which somehow gave a kind of foreign look evvn to the honest 
English superscription. The address was odd, too. It \vat 
Miss Milla Mortimer, a very extraordinary sort of title for me, 
Millicent. That is the work of diminutives they are apt to 
get misunderstood and metamorphosed into caricatures of 
names. 

The letter inside was of a sufficiently odd description to 
correspond with the address ; this is how it was expressed : 

"MADAME, 

" You will pardon me if I say Madame, when I perhaps 
should ought to say Mademoiselle. Madame will understand 
that the titles of honour, which differ in every country, do 
much of times puzzle a foreigner. Since I had the honour of 
making an encounter with Mademoiselle, I have more than 
once repeated my searches ; and all in finding no one, it has 
come to me in the head to go to another place, where there 
may be better of prospects. I have, then, made the conclusion 
to go to Manchester, where I shall find, as they say, some 
countrymen, and will consult with their experience. There 
are much of places, they say, with Chester in the name. I go 
to make a little voyage among them. If I have the happiness 
to find the Contessa, I will take the liberty of making Madame 
aware of it. If it is to fail, I must submit. I shall return to 
Chester ; and all in making my homage to Madame, wi lluse 
the boldness of asking if anything of news respecting the 
Contessa may have come to her recollection. In all cases 
Madame will permit me to remember with gratitude her 
bounty to a stranger. 

" LUIGI S ." 

Sara and I were, as usual, alone at the breakfast-table, and 
to tell the truth, I prized this interval when Sarah's eyes were 
not upon me, nor all the troublous matters conveyed in her 
looks present to my mind, as quite a holiday season, when I 
could look as I liked, say what I pleased, and be afraid of 



184 The Last of the Mortlmei's. 

nobody. Besides, though I was moro and more uneasy about 
Sarah, 1 was not disturbed in my mind about this young man 
to the degree I had been, nor so entirely mystified about any 
possible connection between them. Since last evening, think- 
ing it all over, it came to be deeply impressed upon my mind 
that there was no connection between them : that my poor 
sister knew nothing whatever about him or his Italian 
Countess. Simply that Sarah's mind, poor dear soul, was 
giving way, and that catching sight of the strange face on the 
road, she had somehow identified and fixed upon it as the face 
of an unknown agent of trouble, the " somebody " who always 
injures, or persecutes, or haunts the tottering mind. It was 
but little comfort to me to conclude upon this, as you may 
suppose, but it seemed to explain everything. It cleared up 
a quite unintelligible mystery. Poor Sarah! poor soul! She 
who had known such a splendid morning, such an exciting 
noon, such a dull leaden afternoon of life, and how dark the 
clouds were gathering round her towards the night ! 

But being thus eased in my mind about the young man, the 
kindness I had instinctively felt to him came strong upon me. 
I remembered the look he had, quite affectionately, the nice, 
handsome, smiling, young fellow ! Who could it be that he 
was like ? Somebody whom I remembered dimly through the 
old ages ; and his voice, too ? His voice made a thrill of 
strange wondering recollections run through me. Certainly 
that voice had once possessed some power or influence over my 
mind. I decided he would not find his Countess in Manchester. 
Fancy the ridiculous notion ! A Countess in Manchester ! 
No. She must belong about Cheshire, somewhere ; and I 
must have known her in my youth. 

So I read his note twice over, with a good deal of interest, 
and then naturally, as we had talked of him together so often, 
handed it to Sara. jSIow I did not in the least mean to watch 
Sara while she read it, but, having my eyes unconsciously 
upon her face at the moment, was startled, I acknov/ledge, by 
seeing her suddenly flush up, and cast a startled glance at me, 
as if the child expected that something more than usual was to 
be in the note. Who could tell what romantic fancies might 
be in her head? It is quite possible her imagination had 
been attracted by the stranger, and perhaps if she had heard 
that Mr. Luigi had fallen romantically in love with her, Sara 
would have been less surprised and much less shocked than I 
should. However, there was no such matter, but only a 
sensible, though, I must confess, rather odd and Frenchified 



The Last of the Mortimers. 185 

note. After the iirst glance she read it over very calmly and 
carefully, then laid it. down, with something that looked 
wonderfully like a little shade of pique, and cried out in her 
sharpest tone : 

" Oh, goihnamma, how sensible ! to be sure to be an Italian, 
and young, he must be a perfect miracle of a Luigi. Actually, 
because there are countrymen of his in Manchester music 
teachers and Italian masters, of course to give up an 
appointment with a lady, and at such a house as the Park ! 
1 think he must be quite the most sensible and pretty-behaved 
of young men." 

u I think he shows a great deal of sense," said I, not 
altogether pleased with the child's tone; "but if you will 
excuse me saying so, Sara, I think it is just a little vulgar 
of you to say k at such a house as the Park.' " 

Sarah flushed up redder and redder. I quite thought we 
were to have a quarrel again. 

" Oh, of course, godmamma, if I had been speaking of 
a of an English gentleman ; but you- know," said the wicked 
little creature, looking boldly in my face, "you set him down 
at once, whenever you heard of him, as an adventurer, 
a count, you know, one of the fellows that came sneaking 
into people's houses and wanted to mnrry people's daughters. 
I am only repeating what you said, godmnmma. It was not 
I that said it. And now you perceive this good respectable 
young man docs not attempt anything of the kind." 

" But then you see we, at the Park, have no daughters to 
marry," said I, looking at her rather grimly. 

" Oh, to be sure, that makes all the difference," cried Sara, 
bursting open her own letters with a half -ashamed, annoyed 
laugh. I have no doubt she had said twice as much as she 
meant to say, the impatient little puss, and was ashamed of 
herself, She had set her heart on seeing Mr. Luigi, that was 
the plain truth of the matter. Seeing him at the Park, whore 
of course papa could have nothing to say against the intro- 
duction, hearing all about his search after the unknown lady, 
exercising her wiles upon him. turning him into a useless creature 
like that poor boy Wiklc, in Chester, who was good for nothing 
but to waylay her walks and go errands for her. That was what 
she wanted, the wicked little coquette. It was just as well Mr. 
Luigi had taken care of himself, and kept out of the way. 
I really thought it was right to read her a lecture on tho 
occasion. 

" Sara, you are quite disappointed the poor young man is 



136 TJie Last of the Mortimers. 

not coming. You wanted to make a prey of him, you artful 
puss," said I. " You thought, out here in the country, with 
nothing else to do, it would be good fun to make him fall in 
love with you you know you did ! And I think it is not 
at all a creditable thing, I assure you. How can you excuse 
yourself for all the damage you have done to that ycung 
Wilde?" 

" Damage !" cried Sara. "If I am a puss, I may surely 
pounce upon a mouse that comes in my way," she said spite- 
fully ; and then putting on her most innocent look ; " but, 
indeed, it is very shocking to have such suspicions of me, 
especially as I am a fright now, godmainina Sarah says." 

' It is just as well Mr. Luigi does not put himself in your 
way," said I ; " and it would be very wicked of you to do any 
harm to him, or attempt such a thing; and I say so par- 
ticularly, because I think you are quite inclined to it, Sara, 
which is very wrong and very surprising. You are not such 
a beauty as your godmainina Sarah was, but you have just 
the same inclinations. It is something quite extraordinary 
to me." 

The little puss looked at me with her wicked eyes blazing, 
and her face Hushed and angry. She looked quite beautiful in 
spite of her short little curls. I am not sure that she might 
not, when she grew older, be very near as great a beauty as 
her godmainina. She did not make any answer, but bit her 
lips, and set her little red mouth, and looked a very little sprite 
of mischief and saucy daring. She was not abashed by what I 
said to her. She was a thoughtless child, aware only of a 
Btrange mischievous power she had, and thinking no harm. 

" For I know," said I, half to myself, " that poor Mr. Luigi 
will come back. I feel as if I had known him half a lifetime 
ago. His voice is a voice I used to hear when I was young. 
I can't tell whose voice it is, but I know it. He'll come back 
here. He won't find the lady in Manchester, or any other 
Chester ; he'll find her in Cheshire, if he finds her at all." 

" Did godmamma Sarah say so?" cried Sara, suddenly losing 
her own self-consciousness in her interest in this bit of 
mystery. 

" Child, do not be rash," cried I, in some agitation. "Your 
godmamma knows nothing about her ; it is all a mistake." 

" Did you ask her?" said Sara. " Godmamma, it is written 
in her face. When the rector was speaking, when you were 
speaking, even when I was speaking, it was quite evident she 
knew her abroad, and remembered who she was ; but she will 



Thf Last o/ the Mortimers* 187 

not tell. It is not a guess ; I am perfectly sure of it. She 
knows all about her, and she will not tell." 

'* It is quite a mistake, Sara," cried I, trembling in spite of 
myself. u She has taken some fancy into her head about Mr. 
Luigi, some merely visionary notion that he has some bad 
intention, I cannot tell you what. But I am certain she knows 
nothing about this Countess. Child, don't think you know 
better than anybody else ! I have thought a great deal aLout 
it, and made up my mind. Your godmamma has grown 
fanciful, she has taken this into her head. Don't be rash in 
speaking of your fancies ; it might give her pain ; and your 
idea is all a mistake." 

" Will you ask her? or will you let me ask her?" cried Sara. 
"If she says 'No,' I shall be satisfied." 

" I will do no such thing," said I. " She is my only sister, 
I will do nothing to molest or vex her ; and, Sara, while I am 
here, neither shall you.'' 

Sara did not say anything for a few minutes. She allowed 
me to pick up my letter in silence, for we had finished break- 
fast. She let me gather up my papers and ring the bell, and 
make my way to the door. Then, as I stood there waiting for 
Ellis, she brushed past me rapidly. " Godmamma " said Sara, 
looking into my face for a momemt, u all the same, she knows," 
and had passed the next instant, and was gliding upstairs 
before I had recovered my composure. How pertinacious she 
was 1 Against my will this had an effect on me. 



138 The Last of the Morliinerst 



CHAPTER VIII. 

GREAT and many were my musings what steps I ought to 
take ; or, indeed, whether I ought to take any steps in the 
strange dilemma I was in. I considered of it till my head 
ached. What if Sarah's mind were possibly just at that delicate 
point when means of cure might be effectual ? but how could 1 
bring her to any means of cure? There have been many 
miserable stories told about false imputations of insanity and 
dreadful cruelties and injustice following, but I almost think 
there might be as many and as sad on the other side, about 
friends watching in agony, neither able nor willing to take any 
steps until it was too late, far too late, for any good. This was 
the situation I felt myself in ; no matter whether I was right 
or wrong in my opinion, this was how I felt myself. I suppose 
nobody can think of madness appearing beside them in the 
person of their nearest companion, without a dreadful thrill 
and terror at their heart ; but at the same time I felt that, 
however inevitable this might be, I must first come to it un- 
mistakably. I must first see it, hear it, beyond all possibility 
of doubt, before I ventured to whisper it even to the secret ear 
of a physician. 

All this floated through my mind with that dreadful faculty 
of jumping at conclusions that imagination always has. Did 
ever anybody meet with any great misfortune, which has been 
hanging some time over them, without going through it a 
thousand times beiore the blow really fell, and the dreadful 
repetition was done away with once ana xor ever? How many 
times over and over, sleeping and waking, does the death-bed 
watcher go through the parting that approaches before it really 
comes? Dying itself, I think, one naturally thinks what 
kind of a process that is, as one comes near the appointed 
natural period of its coming, dying itself must be rehearsed 
BO often, that its coming at last is a real relief to the real actor. 
Not only does what is real go through a hundred performances 
in one's imagination, but many a scene appals us that, thank 
heaven, we are never condemned to go through with. 1 could 
not see before me what was to happen, nor into Sarah's niincj 



TJie Last of the Mortimers. 139 

to know what was astir there ; but I tortured myself all the 
same, gathering all the proofs of this new dismal light thrown 
upon her, in my mind. All insane people make up a persecutor 
or pursuer for themselves. Poor Sarah had found hers in the 
strange face, it was so unusual in our quiet roads to see a 
strange face ! which she met all at once and without warning, 
on the quiet road. 

I recollected every incident, and everything confirmed my 
idea. She had taken a panic all at once, she had driven five 
miles round to get out of his way ; from that hour painful 
watchfulness and anxiety had come to her face. Carson was 
gent out to see that the road was clear, before, poor soul, she 
would venture out, though with the carriage blinds drawn 
down. Ah ! I think if my only communication with the open 
air and the out-of-doors world was in the enclosure of that 
carriage with the blinds drawn down, I should certainly go 
mad, and quickly too ! I had a long afternoon by myself in 
the library that day. I went back, as well as my memory 
would carry me, into the history of the Mortimers. Insanity 
was not in our family. no trace of it. We had never been 
very clever, but we had been obstinately sane and sober-minded. 
My mother's family too, the Stamfords, so far as I know, were 
all extremely steady people. It is odd when one individual of 
a family, and no more, shows a tendency to wander ; at sixty, 
too, all of a sudden, with no possible reason. But who can 
search into the ways of Providence ? It might perhaps never 
go any further ; it might be the long silence of her life, and 
perhaps long brooding over such things as may have happened 
to her in the course of it. Something must have happened to 
Sarah ; she was not like me. She had really lived her life, and 
had her own course in the world. She had known her own 
bitterness, too, no doubt, or she she, the great beauty, the 
heiress, would not have been Sarah Mortimer sitting voiceless 
by the fireside. She had been too silent, had too much leisure 
to go over her life. Her brain had rusted in the quietness ; 
terrors had risen within her that took form and found an 
execution for themselves whenever, without any warning, she 
saw a strange face. This explained everything. I could see it 
quite clear with this interpretation ; and without this nothing 
could explain it ; for the young Italian looking for his friend, 
the lady whom nobody had ever heard of, could be nothing in 
the world to Sarah Mortimer. f 

Thinking over this, it naturally occurred to me that it woulcl 
be important to let my poor sister know that this innogent 

K 



140 The Last of the Mortimers. 

young object of her fears had left the neighbourhood. It 
might, even, who knows? restore the balance to her poor mind. 
I got up from my chair the moment I thought of that, but did 
not go out of the library quite so quickly as you might have sup- 
posed, either. I was afraid of Sarah's passions and reproaches ; 
I always was. She had a way of representing everybody else 
as so unkind to her, poor dear soul, and of making out that she 
was neglected and of no consequence. Though I knew that 
this was not the case, I never could help feeling uncomfortable. 
Perhaps if I could only have put myself in her place, I might 
have felt the same ; but it made me very timid of starting any 
subject before her that she did not like, even though it might 
be to relieve her mind. 

I went slowly into the drawing-room. I thought most likely 
little Sara was dressing upstairs, and we two would have a 
little time to ourselves. When I went into the great room it 
was lying in the twilight, very dim and shadowy. The great 
mirror looked like another dimmer world added on to this one 
which was already so dim, a world all full of glimpses and 
gliding figures, and brightened up by the gleams of the fire- 
light which happened to be blazing very bright and cheerful. 
There were no curtains closed nor blinds down. Four great 
long windows, each let into the opposite wall a long strip of 
sky, the grass, and leafless trees, giving one a strange idea of 
the whole world outside, the world of winds, and hills, and 
rivers, and foreign unknown people. It was not light that 
came in at these windows ; it was a sort of grey luminous 
darkness, that led our eyes up to the sky and blurred every- 
thing underneath. But in the centre of the room buried that 
ruddy centre of fire, a light which is quite by itself, and is not 
to be compared to anything else. Straight before me, as I 
stood at the door, was Sarah's screen, shutting out as much 
light as it could, and of course concealing her entirely ; but 
beyond, full in the ruddy light on the other side of the screen, 
with the red fire reddening all over her velvet jacket, her 
glossy hair, and the white round arms out of those long wide 
sleeves, sat little Sara Cresswell, on a footstool opposite her 
godmamma, and talking to her. I cannot say Sara was in a 
pretty attitude. Young ladies now-a-days are sadly careless in 
their ways. She was stooping quite double, with one of her 
hands thrust into her hair, and the fire scorching her com- 
plexion all to nothing ; and one of the long, uncovered windows, 
with the blind drawn up .to the very top, you may be sure by 
Sara's own wilful hands, was letting in the sky light over her, 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 141 

like a very tall spirit with pale blue eyes, so chilly, and clear, 
and pale, that it looked the oddest contrast possible to the 
firelight and the little velvet kitten then in front of it, all 
scorched and reddened over, as you could fancy ; velvet takes 
on that surface tint wonderfully. I could see nothing of Sarah 
in the shelter of her screen ; but there sat the little puss in 
velvet, straight before her, talking to her as nobody else ever 
ventured to talk. I have been long telling you how that 
fireside scene looked, just to get my breath. I had been 
trying to work myself up to the proper pitch to enter upon 
that subject again with my poor sister. But lo ! here had little 
Sara come on her own account and got it all over. I could see 
at a glance that there was no more to be said. 

I came forward quietly and dropped into my own seat without 
saying anything. Dear, dear ! had it been an insane, un- 
reasonable terror, or had it been something real and serious 
that she knew, and she alone? Sarah was leaning a little 
towards the fire, rubbing the joints of her fingers, which were 
rheumatic, as I have mentioned before ; but it was not what 
she was doing that struck me ; it was the strange look of ease 
and comfort that had somehow come upon her. Her whole 
person looked as if it had relaxed out of some bondage. Her 
head drooped a little in a kind of easy languor : her muslin 
shawl, lined with pale blue, hung lightly off her shoulders. 
Her pins were laid down orderly and neat on her basket with 
the wools. Her very foot was at ease on the footstool. How 
was it ? If it had been incipient madness, could this grateful 
look of rest have come so easily ? Would the fever have gone 
down only at knowing he was away ? Heavens know ! I sat 
all silent in my own chair in the shadow, and felt the water 
moisten my old eyes. What she must have gone through 
before this sudden eas2 could show itself so clearly in every 
limb and movement ! What an iron bondage she must have 
been putting on ! What a relief this was ! Her comfort and 
sudden relaxation struck me dumb. I was appalled at the 
sight of it. My notion about insanity, dreadful k> think of, 
but still natural and innocent, was shaken ; a restless uneasi- 
ness of a different description rose upon my mind. Could he 
indeed be anything to her, this young stranger? Could she 
in her own knowledge have some mysterious burden which was 
connected with his coming or going ? Could she have recof/- 
nised, instead of only finding an insanely fanciful destiny in 
his strange face? Impossible! That foreign life of hers, so 
obscure and mysterious to me. wns of an older period than his 



142 The Last of the Mortimers. 

existence. He could bring no gossip, no recollections to con- 
found her. At the time of her return he could scarcely have 
been born. Thus I was plunged into a perfect wilderness of 
amazed questions again. 

Whei. little Sara went off to dress, she dressed every 
evening, though we never saw anybody, I stole to the door- 
after her, and caught her little pink ear outside the door in the 
half-lighted hall. She gave a little shriek when I came 
suddenly behind her. I believe she thought I was angry, and 
came to take her punishment into my own hand. 

" What did you say to your godmamma, Sara ?" said I. 

u Nothing," said the perverse child. Then, after a little 
pause, " I told her that your Mr. Luigi was gone, godmamma ; 
and that he was a very pretty-behaved young man ; and asked 
her who the Countess Sermoneta was." 

" You did?" 

" Yes ; but she did not mind," said Sara. " I am not sure if 
she heard me ; she gave such a long sigh, half a year long. 
Godmamma Sarah's heart must be very deep down if it took 
that to ease it ; and melted all out, as if frost was over some- 
how, and thaw had come." 

u Ah ! and what more ?" said I. 

"Nothing more," cried the child. "Don't you think I 
have a little heart, godmamma ? If she felt it so, could I go 
poking at her with that Countess's name ? Ah ! you should 
have seen her. She thawed out as if the sun was shining and 
the frost gone." 

"Ah!" I cried again. It went to my heart as well. 
" Come down and talk, little Sara," said I, and so went back 
to the drawing room, where she sat looking so eased a*id 
relieved,. poor soul, poor soul! I was very miserable. I had 
not the heart to ring for lights. I sat down in my chair with 
all sorts of dismal thoughts in my heart. She did not speak 
either. She was rubbing her rheumatic fingers, and taking in 
all the warmth and comfort. She looked as if somehow she 
had escaped good heavens ! from what ? 



The Last of tie Mo i timers. 143 



CHAPTER IX. 

"VTEXT day that change upon Sarah's whole appearance 
.Li continued, and throughout the whole week. She was 
like herself once more. Carson made no more stealthy ex- 
peditions out of doors before my sister set out on her drive. 
Sarah did not stir in her chair and eye me desperately when 
the door opened. She even seemed to fall deaf again with 
that old, soft, slight hardness of hearing which I used to 
suspect in her. There was no pressure on her heart to startle 
her ears. 

While I in the meantime tried my best to think nothing 
about it, tried to turn a blank face towards what might 
happen, and to take the days as they came. I have not come 
to be fifty without having troubles in plenty. For the last 
dozen years, to be sure, there had been only common embar- 
rassments. The fewer people one has to love, the fewer 
pleasures and joys are possible, the less grow our sorrows. It 
is cold comfort, but it is a fact notwithstanding. Grief and 
delight go hand in hand in full lives; when we are stinted 
down into a corner both fall off. We suffer less, we enjoy 
less; we suffer nothing, we enjoy nothing in time, only 
common pricks and vexations, which send no thrill to the 
slumbering heart. So we had been living for years; happy 
enough, nothing to disturb us ; or not happy at ali; if you 
choose to take that view of the subject ; true either way. Not 
such a thing as real emotion lighting upon our house, only 
secondary feelings ; no love to speak of, but kindness ; no joy, 
but occasional pleasure ; no grief, but sometimes regret. A 
very composed life, which had been broken in upon quite 
suddenly by a bewildering shadow, tragic fear, doubt, 
alarm, sudden mystery no ways explainable, or madnesij 
explainable but hopeless. In this pause of dismay and doubt, 
while the dark, unknown, inexplicable figure had turned 
away from the door a little, it was hard to turn from its 
fascination and go quietly back to that quiet life. 

Little Sara Cresswtll came much about me in the library in 
those days ; she interested herself in my business much ; she 






144 The Last of the Mortimers. 

tried to interfere with my work and help me, as the kitten 
called it. All the outlays on the estate, the works that were 
going on, the improvements I loved to set a-going which did 
not all come to anything, and the failures, of which to be 
sTire there were plenty pleased the impatient creature mightily. 
I was considered rather speculative and fanciful among the 
Cheshire squires; they did not approve of my goings on ; they 
thought me a public nuisance for preserving no game, and 
making a fuss about cottages. But I am sorry to say little 
Sara did not agree with the squires. She thought my small 
bits of improvements very slow affairs indeed ; she grew indig- 
nant at my stinginess and contracted ideas. She thought any 
little 1 did were just preliminary attempts not worth mentioning. 
When was I to begin the work in earnest she wanted to know? 

'What work, Sara?" 

" What work ? Why, here are you, godmamma, an old 
lady you will never grow any wiser or any better than you 
ai'e, 1 ' cried the intolerable child. "You can't get any more 
good out of all that belongs to the Park than just your nice 
little dinners, and teas, and the carriage, and the servants, and, 
perhaps, half-a-dozen dresses in the year, though I do believe 
three would be nearer true, and to keep all these farms, and 
fields, and meadows, and orchards, and things, all for god- 
mamma Sarah and you! Don't you feel frightened sometimes 
when you wake up suddenly at night ?" 

" You saucy little puss ! why ?'" cried I. 

" To think of the poor," said Sara, with a solemn look. She 
held herself straight up, and looked quite dignified as she turned 
her reproving eyes on rne. "Quantities of families without any 
homes, quantities of little children growing up worse than your 
pigs, godmamma, quantities of people starving, and living, and 
crowding, and quarrelling in black streets not as broad as this 
room, with courts off from them, like those horrid, frightful 
places in Liverpool. While out here you are living in your big 
rooms, in your big house, with the green park all round and 
r< und you, and farmers, and gardeners, and cottagers, and 
servants, and all sorts of people, working to make you com- 
fortable ; with more money than you know what to do with, 
and everything belonging to yoursdf , and nobody to interfere 
with you. And why have you any right to it more than 
them T ' 

Little Sara's figure swelled out, and her dark eyes shone 
bright as she was speaking. It took away my breath. " Are 
vou a Chartist, child ?" I cried. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 115 

* l l think I am a Socialist," said Sara, very compos vlly ; 
'* but I don't quite know. 1 think we should all go shares. I 
ha\\- told you so a dozen times, godrnamma. Suppose papa has 
twelve hundred a year, 1 do believe he has a great deal more, 
isn't it dreadful ? and all, not out of the ground like yours, 
but from worrying people into lawsuits and getting them into 
trouble. Well, suppose it was all divided among a dozen 
families, a hundred a year. People can live very comfortably, 
I assure you, godmamma, upon a hundred a year." 

" Who told you, child ?" said I. 

" The curate has only eighty," said Sara ; "his wife dresses 
the baby and makes all its things herself, and they have very 
comfortable little dinners. The window in my old nursery 
the end window you know just overlooks their little parlour. 
They look so snug and comfortable when the baby is good. To 
be sure it must be a bore taking one's dinner with the baby in 
one's lap; and I am sure she is always in a fright about visitors 
coming. I think it would be quite delightful to give them one 
of papa's hundreds a year." 

"In addition to their eighty?" said L "Why, then, there 
is an end of going shares." 

Sara coughed and stammered for a moment over this, quite 
at fault; but not being troubled either about logic or con- 
sistency, soon plunged on again as bold as ever. 

" Whatever you say, godmamma, people can live quite 
comfortable on a hundred a year. I have reckoned it all up ; 
and I don't see really any reason why anybody should have 
more. Only fancy what a quantity of hundreds a year you 
and godmamma Sarah might distribute if you would. And, 
instead of that, you only build a few cottages and give a few 
people work work ! as if they had not as good a right as 
anybody to their living. People were not born only to work, 
and to be miserable, and to die." 

" People were born to do a great many harder things than 
you think for, Sara," said I. " Do you think I am going to 
argue with a little velvet kitten like you ? I advise you to try 
your twelve families on the twelve hundreds a year. But 
what do you suppose you would do if your godmamma and I , 
having no heirs, left the Park to you, and you had your will, 
and might do what you pleased?" 

What put this into my head I cannot say ; but I gave it 
utterance on the spur of the moment. Sara stared at me for a 
moment, with her pretty mouth falling a little open in astonish- 
ment. Then she jumped up and clapped her hands. "Do, god- 



1-16 The Last tf ilie Mortimers, 

mamma !" :;!ie cried out, " oil do ; such a glorious scatter t 
should make ! everybody should have enough, and we'd build 
the loveliest little chapel in existence to St. Millicent, if there 
is such a saint. I have always thought it would be perfectly 
delightful to be a great heiress. Godmamma, do!" 

To see her all sparkling with delight and eagerness quite 
charmed me. Had she ever heard a hint of being left heiress 
to the Park, of course she must have looked wretched and 
Conscious. Anybody would that had thought of such a great 
acquisition. Sara had not an idea of that. She thought it the 
best fun possible. She clapped her hands and cried, u Do, 
godmamma !" She was as bold as an innocent young iion, 
without either guile or fear. 

" It should be tied down so that you could not part with a 
single acre, nor give away above five pounds at a time," 
said I. 

" Ah !" said Sara, thoughtfully ; " I dare say there would be 
a way of cheating you somehow though, godmamma," she said, 
waking up again with a touch of malice. " People are ahvayg 
cheated after they are dead. 1 knew a dear old lady that 
would not have her portrait taken for anybody but one friend 
whom she loved very much ; but, what do you think? after sho 
was gone they found the wicked wretch of a photographic man 
that kept the tiling, the negative they call it, and printed 
scores of portraits, and let everybody have one. I would have 
given my little finger to have had one ; but to go and cheat her, 
and baulk her after she was dead, and all for love, that is crnel. 
I would rather go against what you said right out, godmamma, 
than go against what I knew was in your heart." 

" Ah, Sara, you don't know anything about it," said I. "If 
you had a great deal of money all to yourself, and could 
do anything you liked with it, as heaven knows you may 
have soon enough ! and were just as foolish with it as you 
intend, how disgusted you would be with your charity, to be 
sure, after a while ! What a little misanthrope you would 
grow! What mercenary, discontented wretches you would 
think all the people! 1 think I can see you fancying how 
much good you are doing, and yet doing only harm instead. 
Then that disagreeable old fellow, experience, would take 
you in hand. The living are cheated as well as the dead. We 
are all cheated, and cheat ourselves. Nothing would make me 
go and have my portrait taken ; but 1 don't deny if I found 
out that people had got it spontaneously, and handed it about 
among themselves all for love, I should not be angry. You 



The Last of the Mortimers. 147 

are a little goose. You don't know what manner of spirit you 
are of." 

" It is very easy talking, godmamma," said Sara. " I was 
watching yesterday when godmarama Sarah went out for her 
drive. The groom and the boy were hard at work ever so long 
with the carriage and horses before it was ready. I saw them 
out of the window of Alice's room while she was mending my 
dress for me. Then came old Jacob to the door with the 
carriage. Then came godmamma Sarah leaning on Carson's 
arm to go downstairs. So there were two great horses and four 
human creatures, three men and a woman, all employed for 
ever so long to give one old lady a half -hour's drive, when a walk 
would have done her twenty times as much good," concluded 
the child hastily, under her breath. 

** You speak in a very improper manner ; an old lady I 
You ought to have more respect for your godmamma," said I, 
indignantly. " Your godmamma has nothing that is not per- 
fectly suitable to her condition of life.'' 

"But godmamma Sarah is an old lady, whether I am 
respectful or not," said the girl stoutly. " When 1 see ladies 
driving about I wonder at them. Two great horses that could 
fight or plough ; and two great men that might do the same ; 
and all occupied about one lady's drive ! If I were queen I 
would do away with drives ! Ah ! shouldn't I like to be Semi- 
ramis, the Semiramis of the story, that persuaded the king to 
let her be queen for a day, and turned everything upside down, 
and then " 

" Cut off the king's head. Would you do it, Sara, after ho 
had trusted you ?" said I. 

Sara came to a sudden pause. " I would not mind about 
cutting off his head ; but, to be sure, being trusted is different. 
As if it were not a story, not a word true ! But please, god- 
mamma," cried the wild creature, making me a curtsey, " don't 
leave me the Park. I don't want to be trusted, please. I want 
to have my own way." 

Which was the truest word she ever said. 



143 The Last of the l&orii/ner*. 



CHAPTER X. 

rnllE days wore away thus in talks with little Sara, and 
I vague expeditions out of doors, a misty sort of confused 
life. I felt as one feels when one knows of some dreadful storm, 
or trial, that has passed over for a little, only to come again by 
and by. After seeing Sarah show so much feeling of one kind 
and another, distress, anxiety, and apprehension one day, and 
comfort and relief another, I could not bind myself with 
the thought that this could possibly pass off and come to 
nothing. Such things don't happen once and get done with. 
There was a secret reason somewhere working all the same, 
either in her own mind alone, or in the past and her history 
as well ; and one time or other it must make its appearance 
again. Whether it was her mind giving way ; and in that 
cane it did not matter whether Mr. Luigi came back or not, 
for if he did not appear, fancy would, doubtless seize upon 
some other ; or whether it was some person this young man 
resembled, or some part of her life \vhich she was afraid 
to hear of again which he recalled to her, in any case it was 
sure to break out some other day ; and I cannot tell what 
a strange uncomfortable excitement it brought into my life, 
and how the impulse of watching came upon me. Sarah's 
smallest motions got a meaning in my eyes. I could not 
take things easily as I had used to do. She had always, 
of course, been very important in the house ; but she had 
been a kind of still life for a long time now. She would 
r/ot be consulted about leases or improvements, or anything 
done on the estate. So long as everything was very com- 
fortable and nice about her, the fire just to her liking, 
which Ellis managed to a nicety ; the cooking satisfactory ; 
her wools nicely matched, and plenty of new patterns ; her 
screen just in the proper position, protecting her from the 
draught ; and the Times always ready when she was ready 
for it, Sarah got on, as it appeared, very comfortably. 
Despite all that, to be sure she would get angry sometimes; 
but I was used to it, and did not mind much. Only to think 
that a person, who had either in the past or in her own mind 



The Last of the Mortimers. 149 

something to work her up to such a pitch of excitement, 
could live such a life ! She seemed to have quite resumed 
it now with a strange kind of unreasoning self -consolation. 
If it was the Italian that disturbed her, how could she persuade 
herself that he was not coming back again? Her quiet falling 
back into her old way was inexplicable to me. 

I seemed to myself to stand just then in a very strange 
position. Sarah on one side of me all shut up and self secluded, 
with a whole life all full of strange incidents, dazzling, bril* 
liant, uuforgotten years, actual things that had happened 
locked in her silent memory ; and little Sara on tiptoe, ou 
the other side, eager to plunge in her own way into the life she 
dreamt of, but knew nothing about. All the wild notions of 
the little girl, ridiculous-wise opinions, poor dear child, her 
principles of right and justice with which she would rule the 
world, and all her innocent break-downs and failures, ever in 
her fancy, came pouring down upon me, pelting me at all 
times. And on the other side was my sister, content to spend 
her life in that easy-chair, my sister whom I knew nothing 
about, whose memory could go out of the Park drawing-room- 
into exciting scenes and wonderful events which haJ neve? 
heard of. How strange it was ! I don't remember much tha\ 
I did in those days. I lived under a confused, uneajy cloud, 
ready enough to be amused with Sara's philosophy. I am not 
sure that I was not all the more disposed t -.smile at and tease 
the dear child, and be amused by all the new ideas she started, 
for the troubled sensation in my own mind. Nothing could 
have happened, I think, that would have surprised me. Soi.ie- 
times it came into my head whether my father could uave 
done, or tried to do, something when he was abroad, to cut us 
off from the succession ; and once I jumped bolt upright out 
of my seat, thinking what if my father had married abroad 
and had a son, and we were living usurpers, and Sarah knew 
of it ! How that idea did set my heart beating ! If I had not 
been so much frightened for her passions, I should have gone 
to her directly and questioned her. But to be sure my father 
was not tlie man to leave off his own will for any consideration 
about his daughters ; and would have been only too proud to 
have had a son. After thinking, I gave up that idea ; but my 
heart went at a gallop for hours after, and I should not have 
been surprised to hear that anything had happened, or was 
going to happen. Really, anything real and actual, however 
bad, would have been a relief from the mystery which preyed 
upon me. 



150 The Last of the Mortimers. 

" Papa is coming to fetch me, to-morrow," said Sara Cresa- 
well, in rather a discontented tone. " There is to be some ridi- 
culous ball, or something. Can anybody imagine anything so 
absurd as asking people to a ball when you want to show you're 
sorry to part with them? and papa might have known, if lie had 
ever taken the trouble to think, that 1 have no dress -" 

" Sara, child! how many hundreds a year do you give your 
dressmaker ?" said I. 

" That has nothing whatever to do with it, godmamma," 
said Sara, making a slightly confused pause ; and then resum- 
ing, with a defiant look into my face, u if I might give one 
hundred a year away out of all papa has got, I could live upon 
one dress in a year ; but what is the use of shillings and six- 
pences to beggars, or of saving up a few pounds additional to 
papa? I don't call that any economy. If we were living 
according to nature, it would be quite different ; then I should 
want no ball-dresses. Besides," continued the refractory crea- 
ture, "I don't want to go; and if papa insists on me going, 
why shouldn't I get some pleasure out of it? Everything else 
will be just the same as usual, of course. Godmamma," ex- 
claimed Sara suddenly, with a new thought, " will you ask 
papa anything about this business ? it is not done with yet. 
He will come back, and all will have to be gone over again. 
Will you mention it to papa ?" 

She had been thinking of it too, she, thoughtless as she 
was, found something in it not of a kind to die away and be 
passed over. 1 could not mistake, nor pretend to mistake, what 
she meant ; it was to be read in her very eyes. 

" My dear, I have told you already that your godmamma can 
have nothing whatever to do with this young man," said I, with 
a little irritation ; "if she is out of sorts it is nobody's business. 
Do you fancy she could keep up an acquaintance with 
an Italian countess for more than twenty years, and I know 
nothing of it ? Nonsense ! Some fancy, or some old recollec- 
tions, or something, had an effect upon her just at the moment. 
Speak to your father ! Why, you told me he knew nothing 
about the Countess Sermoneta. Shall I ask him to feel your 
godmamma's pulse and prescribe for her ? or do you suppose, 
even if he were fit for that, your godmamma would allow it, 
without feeling herself ill? Your papa is highly respectable, 
and has always been much trusted by the family. But there 
are things with which one's solicitor has nothing whatever to 
do ; there are things which belong to one's self, and to nobody 
else in the world." 



TJte Last of tlie Mortimers. 151 

Poor little Sara ! I did not mean to mortify the child ! She 
<rre\v crimson with pride and annoyance. I bad no intention 
of reminding her that she was only the attorney's daughter; 
but she reminded herself of it on the instant, with all the pride 
of a duchess. She did not say a syllable, the little proud crea- 
ture ; but turned away with such an air, her cheek burning, 
her eyes flashing, her little foot spurning the ground. She 
went off with a great sweep of hor full skirts, disturbing the 
air to such an extent that I quite felt the breeze on my cheek. 
Perhaps it was just as well. Of course there was a differenco 
between the Mortimers and the Cresswells. Because we did 
not stand on our dignity, people were so ready to forget 
what they owed to us. It was just as well the spoiled child 
could learn, for once in her life, that it was all of grace and 
favour that she was made so much of at the Park. 

I made quite sure that she went to her own room directly, to 
see after the packing of her things, with some thoughts of start- 
ing for home at once, without even waiting for her father. 
However, when she began to talk to her little maid Alice, about 
that ball-dress, I daresay the other matter went out of the 
child's head. The next that I saw of her was when she made a 
rush downstairs to ask me for postage stamps, with a letter in 
her hand, all closed ready to go off. She was still pouting and 
ill-tempered ; but she contrived to show me the address of the 
letter. Alas, poor dear Bob Cresswell ! it was to the Chester 
milliner, the best one we had, no doubt ordering a dress for the 
ball. Yet I do believe, for all that, the child could really have 
done what she said. I believe, if some great misfortune had 
happened, and her father had lost all his money, Sara's first 
impulse would have been. to clap her hands and cry, "Now 
everybody shall see !" Of course it is very dreadful to lose 
one's fortune and become poor and have to work. But I wonder 
are there no other spoiled creatures in the world like Sara, 
who have their own ideas about such calamities, and think they 
would be the most famous fun in the world '? Too much of any- 
thing makes a revulsion in the mind. Such over-indulged, 
capricious, spoiled children have often hardy bold spirits, and 
would be thankful for some real, not sham necessity. But, in 
the meantime, she had not the slightest idea of doing without 
ter ball-dress. 



152 Tim La*t of tke Mortimer* 



CHAPTER XI. 

MR. CRESSWELL came next day accordingly. T confess 
the very sight of him \v;is a sort of solace to me in my 
perplexities ; that solid steady man, with his sharp keen eyes 
and looks, as if he knew everything going on round about him. 
To be sure, being a lawyer, he must have pretended to know a 
great many more things than he could have any insight into. 
{Still, when one is in great doubt, and cannot tell where to turn, 
the sight of one of these precise men, with a vast knowledge 
about other people, and no affairs of their own of any con- 
sequence, is a kind of relief to one. Such men can throw light 
on quantities of things quite out of their way. I could not 
help saying to myself, though I had snubbed Sara for saying 
it, that he might, perhaps, have helped to clear up this mystery. 
But, of course, he was always a last resort if anything more 
happened. They were to have dinner before they went away, 
and Mr. Cresswell reached the Park by noon ; so there was 
plenty of time to tell him anything. He came into the 
dra wing -room rubbing his hands. Sarah had just come down- 
stairs and taken her seat. She was looking just as she always 
did, no tremble in her head to speak of, her attention quite 
taken up with her wools, attending to what was said, but with 
no anxiety about it. When Mr. Cresswell came in her face 
changed a little ; she looked as if all'at once she had thought of 
something, and gave me a sign, which I knew meant he was to 
come to her. I brought him directly, not without a great deal 
of curiosity. It was a warm day for the season ; and just 
immediately before the lire, where the good man had to sit to 
listen, was not just the most comfortable position in the world. 
He even contrived to make a kind of appeal to me. Couldn't 
I hear what it was, and tell him afterwards ? I took no notice ; 
I confess it was rather agreeable to me than otherwise, to set 
him down there to get roasted before the fire. 

U I want to know what you have done about Richard 
Mortimer," said Sarah in her shrill whisper; " there has been 
no advertisement in the Times nor the Chester papers. 1 
you are not losing time ; what have you done ?" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 153 

It struck me that Mr. Cresswell looked just a little abashed 
f.nd put out by this question ; but it might be the fire. He 
put up his hand to shelter his face, and hitched round hia 
chair ; then shrugged his shoulders a little, insinuating that she 
was making far too much of it. " My dear lady, advertisements 
are the last resort. I hope to do without any such troublesome 
process," said Mr. Cresswell. " All the Mortimers in England 
will rouse up at the sight of an advertisement. I should prefer 
to take a little time. Information is always to be obtained 
privately when one has any clue at all." 

" Then have you obtained any private information ?" said 
Sarah, in rather a sharp tone. She had no inclination to let 
him slide away till she was quite satisfied. 

u Such things take their time," said Mr. Cresswell, devoting 
all his attention to screening himself from the fire. u How 
you ladies can bear cooking yourselves up so, on this mild day, 
I cannot understand ! 1 can hear you perfectly , Miss Mor- 
timer, thank you ; your voice is as distinct as it always was, 
though, unfortunately not the same tone. What a voice your 
sister used to have, to be sure ! went through people's hearts 
like a bell." 

This was addressed to me, in the idea of being able to 
wriggle out of the conversation altogether. It is my con- 
viction he had not taken a single step in the matter of Richard 
Mortimer ; but if he thought he could shake off Sarah's 
inquiries so, he deceived himself. She never was, all her life, 
to be turned from her own way. 

" It is sometime now since we instructed you on this 
subject," said Sarah. " If you have not made any discovery, 
at least you can tell us what you are doing. Milly, there, 
like a fool, does not care. She talks of Providence dropping 
us an heir at our door, a foundling, I suppose, with its name 
on a paper pinned to its frock," said Sarah, growing rather 
excited, and turning an angry look on me. 

To my astonishment Mr. Cresswell also looked at me ; his 
was a guilty, conscious, inquiring look. What strange 
creatures we all are ! This shrewd lawyer, far from thinking 
that Sarah's words referred to any mysterious trouble or 
derangement in her own mind, took them up, knowing his 
own thoughts, with all the quickness of guilt, to refer to Sara ! 
He thought we had probably had a quarrel about leaving her our 
heiress ; that I had stood up for her, and Sarah had opposed it. 
So he turned his eyes to me to see if I would make any private 
telegraphic communication to him of the state of affairs. And 



154 The Last of the Mortimers. 

when he found nothing but surprise in my eyes, turned back a 
little disappointed, but quite cool and ready to stand to his 
arms, though he had failed of this mark. 

"The truth is, there is nothing so easy as finding an heir. 
I'll ensure you to hunt him up from the backwoods, or China, 
or anywhere in the world. There'? a fate connected with 
heirs," said Mr. Cresswell, pleasantly, "whether one wants 
them or not they turn up with all their certificates in their 
pocket-books! Ah! they're a long-lived, sharp-sighted race; 
they're sure to hear somehow when they're wanted. Don't be 
afraid we'll find him, sure enough. If you had made up your 
minds to disown him, and shut him out, he'd turn up all the 
same." 

u Milly," cried Sarah suddenly, with her little shriek of 
passion, all so unexpected and uncalled for that I fairly jumped 
from the table I was standing at, and had nearly overturned 
her screen on the top of her, " what do you mean by that 
fixed look at me? How dare you look so at me? Did I 
speak of disowning any one ? Richard Mortimer, when he's 
found, shall have the park that moment, if I lived a dozen 
years after it. Nobody shall venture, so long as I live, to cast 
suspicious looks at me ! " 

1 declare, freely, I was unconscious of looking at her as 
though I had been a hundred miles away at the moment ! I 
stood perfectly still, gaping with consternation and amazement. 
Such an unwarranted, unexpected accusation, fairly took away 
my breath, Mr. Cresswell, accustomed to observe people, was 
startled, and woke up 1'rom those dreams of his own which 
clouded his eyesight in this particular case. He looked at her 
keenly for a moment, then, turned with a rapid question in 
his eyes to me ; he seemed to feel in a moment there was 
somehow some strange new element in the matter. But, of 
course, I had no answer to make to him, either with voice 
or eyes. 

" I was not looking at you at all, Sarah," faltered I. "I 
was not looking at anything in particular. Nobody is going 
to be disowned, that I know of. Nobody is seeking our 
property, that I know of," I said again involuntarily, my eye 
turning with a kind of stupid consciousness, the very fast 
feeling in the world which I wished or intended to show, 
upon Mr. Cresswell, who was quite watching my looks to see 
what this little episode meant. 

He coloured up in a moment. He stumbled up from his 
ir, looking very much confused. He dared not pretend to 



The Last of tlie Mortimers. 155 

know what I meant, nor show himself conscious, even that I 
had looked at him. He went across the room to the window, 
looked out, and came back again. It was odd to see such a 
man, accustomed and trained to conceal his sentiments, so 
betrayed into showing them. When he sat down again he 
turned his face to the fire, and almost his back to me. Matters 
had changed. It appeared I was not such a safe confidante as 
he had supposed. 

"You shall very soon be satisfied about Mr. Richard 
Mortimer," he said, looking into the fire. "Don't be afraid ; 
I am on the scent ; you may trust it to me. But, really, I 
don't wonder to see Miss Milly take it very reasonably. What 
do you want with heirs yet? If I had any thoughts of that 
kind, I should put all my powers in motion to get that little 
kitten of mine married. If I leave her by herself she will 
throw away my poor dear beautiful dividends in handtuls. 
But, somehow, the idea doesn't oppress me ; and, of course, I 
am older than any lady in existence can be supposed to be. 
I am " 

"Hold your tongue, Cresswcll," cried Sarah crossly. "I 
daresay we know what each other's ages are. Attend to 
business, please. I want Richard Mortimer found, I tell you. 
You can tell him his cousin Sarah wants him. He will come, 
however far off he may be, when he hears that. You can put 
it in the papers, if, you please." 

Saying this Sarah gave her muslin scarf a little twitch over 
her elbow, and held, up her head wiiu & Grange little vain 
self -satisfied movement. Oh, how Mr. Cresswell did look at 
her ! how he chuckled in his secret soul! From what 1 \\;\<\ 
seen once before I understood perfectly well what he meant. 
He had once taken the liberty to fall in love with Sarah 
Mortimer himself ; and now to see the old faded beauty 
putting on one of her old airs, and reckoning on the fidelity of 
a man who, no doubt it was to be hoped, or what was to 
become of our search for heirs ? had married and forgotten 
all about her years ago tickled him beyond measure. He 
felt himself quite revenged when he saw her self-complacence. 
He ventured to chuckle at it secretly. I should have liked, 
aboye all things, to box his ears. 

" Ah ! to be sure ; I'll use all possible means immediately. 
It's to be hoped he has ten children," said Mr. Cresswell, with 
a very quiet private laugh. Sarah did not observe that he 
was laughing at her. I believe such an idea could never have 
entered her head. She began, with an habitual motion she 

' 



156 The Last of the Mortimers. 

had got whenever she left off knitting, to rub her fingers and 
stoop to the fire. 

u And I insist yon should come and report to us what you 
are doing," said Sarah ; " and never mind Milly ; see me. It 
is I who am interested. Milly, as I tell you, thinks Providence 
will drop her an heir at the door." 

What could she mean by these spiteful sneering sugges- 
tions ? I had thought no more of heirs for many a day never 
since I got involved in this bewildering business, which I 
could see no way through. Her sudden attack sent a little 
thrill of terror through me. / was casting suspicious looks at 
her ; an heir was to be dropped at our door ; somebody was 
plotting against her fortune and honour. Good heavens! 
what could it mean but one thing ? Mad people are always 
watched, pursued, persecuted, thwarted. I was cast from one 
guess to another, as if from wave to wave of a sea. I came 
back to that idea again ; and trembled in spite of myself to 
think of little Sara and her father leaving us, and of being left 
alone to watch the insane haze spreading over her mind. It 
was sure to spread if it was there. 



CHAPTEE XII. 

I WILL not undertake to say that we were a particularly- 
sociable party at dinner tbat day. The stranger, Mr. 
Cresswell, who might have been supposed likely to give us a 
little news, and refresh us with the air of out of doors, was 
constrained and uncomfortable with the idea of having been 
found out. I am sure it was the last idea in the world which I 
wanted to impress upon him. But still, in spite of myself, 1 
had betrayed it. Then Sara, without the faintest idea of her 
father's uneasiness, had a strong remembrance of my unlucky 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 157 

words on the previous day, and was very high and stately, by 
way of proving to me that an attorney's daughter could be 
quite as proud as a Mortimer as if I ever doubted it ! and a 
great deal prouder. For really, when one knows exactly what 
one's position is., and that nobody can change it, one does not 
stand upon one's defence for every unwary word. However, 
BO it was that we were all a little constrained, and I felt as one 
generally feels after a pretty long visit, even from a dear friend, 
that to be alone and have the house to one's self will just at 
first be a luxury in its way. 

Not having any free and comfortable subject to talk of, we 
naturally fell to books, though Mr. Cresswell, I believe, never 
opened one. He wanted to know if Sara had been reading 
novels all day long, and immediately Sara turned to me to ask 
whether she might have one home with her which she had 
begun to read. Then there burst on my mind an innocent 
way of putting a question to Mr. Cresswell which I had been 
very anxious to ask without seeing any way to do it. 

u I don't think you will care for it when you do read it Sara; 
it is all about a poor boy who gets persuaded not to marry, and 
breaks the poor creature's heart who is engaged to him, because 
there has been madness in the family. High principle, you 
know. I am not quite so sure in my own mind that I don't 
think him a humbug ; but I suppose it's all very grand and 
splendid to you young people. Young persons should be 
trained very closely in their own family history if that is to be 
the way of it. I hope there never was a Cresswell touched in 
his brain, or, Sara, it would be a bad prospect for you." 

" Jf you suppose I should think it a bad prospect to do as 
Gilbert did, you are very wrong, godmamma," cried Sara. 
*' Why shouldn't he have been quite as happy one way as the 
other ? Do you suppose people must be married to be happy ? 
it is dreadful to hear such a thing from you !" 

" Well, to be sure, so it would be," said I, " if I had said it. 
I am not unhappy that I know of, nor happy either. Oh, you 
little velvet kitten, how do you know how people get through 
life? One goes jog- jog, and does not stop to find out how one 
feels. But I'd rather though I daresay it's very bad philo- 
sophy have creatures like you do things innocently, without 
being too particular about the results. Besides, I think 
Cheshire air is good steady air for the mind, not exciting, you 
know. I don't think we've many mad people in our county, 
eh, Mr. Cresswell ? Did you ever hear of a crazy Mortimer ?" 
Mr. Cresswell looked up at me a little curiously which, to 



158 The Last of the Mortimers. 

be sure, not having any command over my face, or habit of 
concealing what I thought, made me look foolish. Sarah lifted 
her eyes, too, with a kind of smile which alarmed me a smile 
of ridicule and superior knowledge. Perhaps 1 had exposed my 
fears to both of them by that question. I shrank away from 
it immediately, frightened at my own rashness. But Mr. 
Cresswell would not let me off. 

" I have always heard that your grand-uncle Lewis was very 
peculiar," said Mr. Cresswell, "he that your cousin is de- 
scended from. Let us hope it doesn't run in Mr. Richard's 
family. I suppose there's no reason to imagine that such a 
motive would prevent him from marrying?" he continued, 
rather spitefully. " And it was no wonder if Lewis Mortimer 
was a little queer. What could you expect? he was the second 
son ! an unprecedented accident. The wonder is that some- 
thing did not happen in consequence. Oh yes, he was soft a 
little, was your grand-uncle Lewis; but most likely it descended 
to him from his mother's side of the house." 

"And my father was named after him!" cried I, with a 
certain dismay. 

They all laughed, even Sarah. She kept her eyes on me as 
if searching through me to find out what I meant. She was 
puzzled a little, I could see. She saw it was not a mere idle 
question, and wanted to know the meaning. She was not con- 
scious, thank heaven ! and people are dismally conscious, as I 
have heard, when their brain is going. This was a little com- 
fort to me under the unexpected answer I had got, for I 
certainly never heard of a crazy Mortimer all my life. 

" If qualities descended by names, my little kitten would be 
in luck," said Mr. Cresswell. "But here is a new lot of officers 
coming, Miss Milly ; what would you recommend a poor man 
to do?" 

"Papa!" cried Sara, with blazing indignation, " what does 
any one suppose the officers are to me ? You say so to make 
my own godrnamma despise me, though you know it isn't true! 
I can bear anything that is true. That is why we always 
quarrel, papa and I. He does not mind what stories he tells, 
and thinks it good fun. I am not a flirt, nor never was 
never, even when I was too young to know any better. No, 
godmamma, i}0 more than you are ! nobody dares say it of 
me." 

We were just rising from table when she made this 
defence of herself. It was not quite true. I know she tor- 
mented that poor boy Wilde as if he had been a mouse, the 






The Last of the Mortimers, 

Crttel Creature ; and I am perfectly convinced that she was 
much disappointed Mr. Luigi did not come to the Park, because 
she had precisely the same intentions with regard to him. I 
must allow, though I was very fond of Sara, that, professing to 
be mighty scornful and sceptical as to hearts breaking, she 
loved to try when she had it in her power. I daresay she was 
not conscious of her wicked arts, she used them by instinct ; 
but it came to much the same thing in the end. 

I went out of the room with her, under pretence of seeing 1 
that her boxes were nicely packed ; I did not say anything 
about it, whether I thought her a flirt or not, and she quieted 
down immediately, with a perception that I had something to 
say. I drew her into the great window of the hall, when 
Sarah, and immediately after her Mr. Cresswell, for, of course, 
to him our early dinner only served as lunch, and no man 
would dream of sitting over his wine at three o'clock in the 
afternoon, especially in a lady's house, had passed into the 
drawing-room. It was a great round bay-window, at one end 
of the hall, where our footmen used to lounge in my father's 
time, when we kept footmen. It had our escutcheon in it, in 
painted glass, and the lower panes were obscured, I cannot tell 
why, unless because it made them look ugly. The hall was 
covered with matting, and the fire had been lighted that day, 
but must have gone out, it felt so cold. 

" Sara, I wish to say to you not that I don't trust your 
discretion, my dear child ;" said I, " but you might not think I 
cared don't say anything about your godtnanmia, or about 
this Mr. Luiggi, dear " 

I was quite prepared to see her resent this caution, but [ was 
not prepared for the burst of saucy laughter with which the 
foolish little girl replied to me. 

*' Oh dear, godmamma, don't be so comical ! it isn't Luiggi, 
it's Luidgi, that's how it sounds," cried Sara. " To think of 
any one murdering the beautiful Italian so ! Don't you really 
think it's a beautiful name?" 

" I freely confess I never could see any beauty in Italian, 
nor any other outlandish tongue," said I. "Luidgi, be it, if 
that's better. I can't see how it makes one morsel of difference'; 
but you will remember what I say?" 

44 Luigi simply means Lewis ; and how should you be pleased 
to hear Lewis mispronounced ? You said it was your faLher'a 
name, godmamma," said the incorrigible child. 

I turned away, shaking my head.. It was no use saying 
anything more ; most likely she would pay attention to what I 



160 The Last of the Mortimers. 

eaid, though she was so aggravating ; oh, but she was contrairy 
Never man spoke a truer word. Nevertheless, as she stood 
there in her velvet jacket, with her close-cropped pretty curls, 
and her eyes sparkling with laughter, I could not help admiring 
her myself. I don't mind saying I am very inconsistent. A 
little while before, I had been thinking 4t would be rather 
pleasant to have the house quiet and to ourselves. Now, I 
could not help thinking what a gap it would leave when she 
was gone. Then the child, who at home was led into every 
kind of amusement (to be sure procurable, in Cheshire, must be 
added to this), had been so contented, after all, to live with 
two old women, whom nobody came to see, except now and 
then in a morning call ; and though she was so wicked, and 
provoking, and careless, she was at the same time so good and 
clever (when she pleased) and captivating. One could have 
put her in the corner, and kissed her the next moment. . As 
she stood there in the light of the great window, I, who had 
left her, shaking my head, and reflecting how contrairy she 
was, went back to kiss her, though I gave her a little shake as 
well. That is how one always feels to these creatures, half- 
and-half ; ready to punish them and to pet them all at once. 

However, after a while (though it was no easy matter 
getting Sara's trunks on the carriage I wonder Mr. Cresswell 
ventured on it, for his poor horse's sake), they went away ; and 
feeling just a little dull after they were gone, and as it was just 
that good-for-nothing time, which is the worst of an early 
dinner, the interval between dinner and tea, I set out for a 
walk down to the village. It was Sarah's day for her drive, 
and she passed me on the road, and kissed her hand to me out 
of the carriage window. No blinds down now ; the horses 
going at their steady pace, rather slowly than otherwise, 
wheeling along through the soft hedgerows which began to 
have some buds on them. I wonder what Jacob thought of it ; 
I wonder what Williams at the lodge had to say on the subject. 
Such a strange unreasonable change 1 



The Last of the Mortimers. 161 






CHAPTER XHI. 

I CALLED at a good many houses in the village. I am 
thankful to say 1 have rarely found myself unwelcome, to 
the best sort of people at least. Most of us have known eacli 
other so long, and have such a long stretch of memory to 1,0 
back upon together, that we belong to each other in a way. 
As for the scapegraces, they are a little frightened of me, I 
confess. They say, Miss Milly comes a-worriting, when I 
speak ucy mind to them. I can't say the men reverence me, 
nor the women bless my influence, as I read they do with 
some ladies in some of Miss Kate Roberts' books. But we are 
good friends on the whole. When the men have been drinking, 
and spent all their wages, or saucy, and put out of their place, 
then they try their best to deceive me, to be sure ; but I know 
all their little contrivances pretty well by this time. They 
don't mean much harm after all, only to persuade one that 
things are not so bad as they look. 

After I had given a glance into the shop where I saw Mr. 
Luigi's fat servant, I only saw him once, but yet the place 
seemed full of that fat, funny, good-humoured, outlandish 
figure, with his bows and smiles, and loquacious foreign 
speech, that poor Mrs. Taylor commiserated so deeply I 
stepped across to the rectory to make a call there. The 
poor young shopkeeper, who had a night-class for the men 
and grown lads, and was really an intelligent, well-meaning 
young man, had been confiding his troubles to me. They 
did not care a bit about learning ; they did not even want to 
read. When they did read it was the most foolish books I 
Poor young Taylor's heart was breaking over their stupidity. 
And then, to keep a shop, even a bookshop, hurt his " feel- 
ings," poor lad. He had been brought up for a teacher's 
profession, he said he even had some experience in " tuition." 
He had thought he could make a home for his mother 
and his little sister; and now Dr. Appleby was grumbling 
that he did not succeed, and thought it his own faulty 
Poor young fellow ! to be sure, he should have gone stplidl" 
through with it, and had no business to have any " feelings.! 



162 Th* Lad of the Mortimers. 

But, yoit see, people will be foolish in every condition of 
life. 

So I stepped across the road to call on Miss Kate, thinking 
of him all the way ; thinking of him and that unknown young 
Italian, only once seen, whom the apparition of the fat servant 
in Taylor's shop somehow connected with the young shop- 
keeper. How Mr. Luigi had forced himself into all my 
thoughts ! and yet the only one fact i knew about him was, 
that he was looking for an apocryphal lady whom nobody ever 
heard of ! Should I have thought no more about him but for 
Sarah's mysterious agitation ? i really cannot tell. Again and 
again his voice came back to me, independent of Sarah. Whose 
voice was it ? Where had he got that hereditary tone ? 

Miss Kate was in, for a great wonder. She was wonder- 
fully active in the parish. She was far more the rector, except 
in the pulpit, than good Dr. Roberts was. I am sure he was 
very fortunate to have such an active sister. I don't think 
anything ever happened, within a space of three or four miles 
round the village, that Miss Kate was not at the bottom of it. 
Of course I expected to hear everything over again that DP. 
Roberts had told us about Mr. Luigi. But, so long as Sarah 
was not present, I could take that quite easily. Indeed, I 
wished so much to know more of this stranger, somehow, that 
I really felt I should be glad to hear all that they had to say. 

" I was indeed very much interested in the young man," 
said Miss Kate, starting the subject almost immediately, as I 
expected. u I think great efforts should be made to lay hold 
of every one that comes out of his poor benighted country. I 
said so to the Doctor ; but the Doctor's views, you know, are 
very charitable. Mr. Hubert, however, quite agreed with me. 
I asked him to come .back when he came to this part of the 
country again, and said I should be very glad to have some 
serious conversation with him. He stared, but he was very 
polite ; only, poor young man, his thoughts are all upon this 
lady. I have no doubt he thought it was that business I 
wanted to talk to him about." 

" But I suppose, like Dr. Roberts, you can throw no light 
upon her ; who she is, or where she is ?" said I. " It is strange 
he should seem so positive she was here, and yet nobody 
remembers her. For my own part, if I hail once heard it, I 
am sure I should never have forgotten that name. I have a 
wondeiful memory for names." 

"Very strange no doubt," said Miss Kate, with a little 
cough. "And then, that man of his. Alas, what an im- 






The Last of the Mortimers. 163 

prisoned soul ! To think he should be in the very midst of 
light and faithful preaching, and yet not be able to derive any 
benefit from it ! I never regretted more deeply not having 
kept up my own Italian studies. And poor Mr. Hubert but 
you would hear all about that ; the Doctor does so delight in 
an amusing story. They could not understand each other in 
the very least, you know. Ah, what a matter it would be to 
get hold of that poor Domenico that's his name. Why, he 
might be quite an apostle among his countrymen, when he got 
back. But nothing Cc>n be done till he can be taught English, 
or some agency can be found out in Italian. I can't tell you 
how much interest I feel in these poor darkened creatures. And 
to think they should be in the midst of the light, and no possi- 
bility of bringing them under its influence ! I don't speak of 
the master, of course, who knows English very well ; but I am 
not one that am a respecter of persons, the servant is quite as 
much, if not more, interesting to me." 

" If they stay long I daresay he'll learn English," I sug- 
gested modestly ; " but it will be a sad pity if the poor gentle- 
man has come so far to seek out this lady, and can't find any 
trace of her. I promised him to do all I could to find out 
for him ; but nobody seems ever to have heard of her. It 
will be a thousand pities if he has all his trouble for no 
end." 

"Ah, Miss Milly! let us hope he may acquire something 
else that will far more than repay him," said Miss Kate ; 
44 disappointments are often great blessings in directing one's 
mind away from worldly things. We were all very much 
interested in him, I assure you. Mr. Hubert promised to 
write to a friend of his in Chester to ask if he could give him 
any assistance. If it were only for the sake of that strange 
resemblance, the Doctor would tell you, of course, the re- 
semblance which struck both him and myself ?" 

44 No," cried I ; u did you find out anybody he was like? I 
only saw him in the dark, and could not make out his face ; but 
his voice has haunted me ever since. I was sure I knew the 
voice." 

" 1 wonder the Doctor did not mention it," said Miss Kate, 
with a little importance. " The truth is, it struck us both a 
good deal ; a resemblance to your family, Miss Milly." 

I don't know whether I was most disposed to sink down upon 
my chair or start up from it with a cry ; I did neither, however. 

44 To my family V" I gasped out. 

44 Yes ; it was very singular," said Miss Kate ; " I daresay, 



164 The Last of the Mortimers. 

of course, it was only one of those accidental likenesses. I re- 
member being once thought very like your sister. How strange 
you should think you knew his voice ! You have some relations 
in Italy, perhaps V" 

u Not that 1 know of," said I, feeling very faint. I cannot 
tell what I was afraid of ; but 1 felt myself trembling and 
shaken ; and 1 durst not get up and go out either, or Miss Kate 
would have had it all over the parish before night, that some- 
thing had gone wrong at the Park. 

But I don't remember another word she said. I kept my 
seat, and answered her till I thought I might reasonably be 
supposed to have stayed long enough. Then I left the rectory, 
my mind in the strangest agitation. That this stranger, who 
had driven Sarah half mad, should be like our family ; what a 
bewildering, extraordinary thing to think of! But stranger 
still, at this moment, when I had just heard such a wonderful 
aggravation of my perplexity that voice of his which had 
haunted me so long, and which I felt sure I could identify at 
once, if the person it once belonged to was named to me, 
vanished entirely from my mind as if by some conjuring trick. 
It was extraordinary it looked almost supernatural. I could 
no more recall that tone, which I had recalled with perfect 
freshness and ease when I entered the rectory garden, than I 
could clear up the extraordinary puzzle thus gathering closer 
and closer round all my thoughts. 

In this state of mind I hurried home, feeling really as if 
there must be someting supernatural in the whole business, 
and too much startled to ask any definite questions of myself. 
When I had reached the house, and was going upstairs, I met 
one of the maids coming down, who had been upon some 
errand into Sarah's room. This careless girl had left a 
thing never even seen when my sister happened to be out for 
her drives the room-door open. Before I knew what I was 
doing, I had stepped inside. I can't tell what I wanted 
whether to speak with Sarah or to spy upon her, or to listen 
at her door. Carson and she were in the dressing-room, I 
could hear. And now I will tell you what I did. I don't 
think I was responsible for my actions at that moment ; but 
whether or not, this is what I did. I stepped forward 
stealthily, stooped down to the keyhole, and listened at the 
door! 

There ! I have said it out. Nobody else knows it to this 
day. I, who called myself an honourable person, listened at 
pay sister's door. For the first five minutes I was so agitated 



The Last of the Mortimers. 165 

by my strange position that, of course, I did not hear a word 
they said. But after a little I began to hear indistinctly that 
they were talking of some letter that had better be burned 
that Carson was speaking in a kind of pleading tone, and 
Sarah very harsh and hard, her words easier to be distinguished 
in that hissing whisper of hers than if she had spoken in the 
clearest voice imaginable. I can't say I was much the better 
for the conversation, till at last, just as I was going away, 
came this, which made my heart beat so loud that I thought it 
must be heard inside that closed mysterious door : 

"And to think they should have called him Lewis, too; 
though the English is a deal the prettiest. Ah, ina'am," cried 
Carson, with a little stifled sob, "it showed love in the 
heart !" 

"Yes, for the Park," said Sarah, in her whisper. I dared 
not stay a moment longer, for I heard them both advancing to 
the door. I fled to my own room, and dropped down there on 
my sofa stupified. My head ached as if it would buist. My 
heart thumped and beat as if it would leap out of my bosom 
Lewis ! my father's name and, good heaven 1 the voice I 
What did it what coutf it meauV 



166 The Last of the Mortimers. 



PART IV. 

THE LIEUTENANT'S WIFE. 
(Continued.) 

CHAPTER I. 

WHAT a strange little quaint place Chester is! I thought 
I should never have been tired walking along those 
ramparts, looking over the soft green slopes, and up to the 
blue hills in the distance, and down here and there upon the 
grey old churches and the quiet busy little town ; but at first 
we had our lodgings "to look for, which was a much more 
serious matter. I had made up my mind from the very first 
not to expect to be called upon, nor to go into society ; or 
rather I had set my face against any chance of it, knowing 
always that we could not do it on the little money we had. 
But now I found out that Harry was not content with this. 
He was very anxious to have better lodgings, where ladies 
could come to see me. I should say dearer lodgings, for better 
than Mrs. Saltoun's we could not have had. He wanted me to 
have quite a drawing-room instead of our nice, cosy, old- 
fashioned parlour, which was good for everything; and then 
to think people might be asking us to dinner, and how many- 
embarrassments and troubles we might meet with ! For it is 
embarrassing to be asked out, and to be obliged to let the 
people suppose you are sulky, and ill-tempered, and won't go ; 
or else to invent excuses which, besides being sinful, are 
always sure to be found out ; when the real reason is simply 






The Last of tlie Mortimers. IS7 

that one has not a dress, and cannot afford to get one just 
then. The other ladies in the regiment might wonder what 
sort of person I could be, and tell each other that poor young 
Langham had married some poor girl, and been very foolish. 
It was exactly true so he had ; and as I can't say 1 had any 
idea that he could be ashamed of me, I took it all very quietly. 
So long as we were happy, and could afford to live in our own 
way, 1 did not rnind ; but now Harry had got discontented, 
somehow or other. He was quite in a fuss to think that I was 
not received as I ought to be, and a great many more things 
like that perhaps somebody had said something to him, as if 
he were supposed to be ashamed of me at all events he had 
changed his mind from our first plan ; and though I felt quite 
convinced my way was the wisest, I had to change it as before. 
Anything was better than having him uncomfortable and dis- 
contented. I supported myself with Mrs. Saltouii's opinion , 
and went with resignation to look at all those expensive 
lodgings. 

The people seemed all to guess that we belonged to the new 
regiment ; and some of them were quite great ladies, and quite 
enlightened me as to what we should require. For most of the 
day I was in a perfect panic ; every place seeming dearer than 
another. When we went into those expensive rooms I always 
found out something that it was quite impossible for me to 
tolerate (quite independent, of course, you know, of any question 
of price !) till Harry quite fretted at my fastidiousness. At last 
we did find a place that suited me. It was no great thing in point 
of situation. It was a first floor, a front and back drawing-room. 
I believe, candidly, that the back room was about as big as 
Mrs. Saltoun's good substantial old dining-table, which we used 
to have in our sitting-room in Edinburgh; but then there were 
folding-doors ; and the front drawing-room was decorated and 
ornamented to such a pitch that one was quite afraid to sit 
down in any of the chairs. When I heard what the rent was, 
I was charmed with the rooms. Harry could not understand 
my enthusiasm. I found it the handiest place in the world ; 
and then it showed such discrimination in the landlady to ask so 
moderate a rent. "We fetched Lizzie and baby from the inn 
directly, and dismissed Harry to look at the town. And really, 
when we got a little settled, it was not so uncomfortable ; 
though, to be sure, to give up the sizeable room for company 
(and they never came !), and to live in that little box behind 
was very foolish, as I always thought. However, when, I 
pbove and Lizzy below, we had investigated the house, an<J 






168 The Last of the Mortimers. 

when the landlady was made to comprehend, with difficulty, 
that our washing was done at home, and that her toleration of 
these processes was needful, and when her wonder and the 
first shock to her system conveyed in this piece of intelligence 
was over, things looked tolerably promising. The worst was, 
we had no view ; no view whatever except the bit of garden 
plot before the house, filled with dusty evergreens, and the 
corner of a street which led to the railway station. The cabs 
and people, going to and from the trains, made the only 
variety in the prospect ; and anybody will allow that was 
sadly different from windows which looked sidelong over 
the corner of Bruntsfield Links, upon the Castle, and the 
Crags, and Arthur's Seat. However, what I had to think of, 
in the meantime, was how to live without getting into debt ; 
for, of course, people like us, with just so much money coming 
in (and oh, how very, very little it was !), had neither any 
excuse nor any way of saving themselves if once they ventured 
into debt. 

Thus we got established in our new quarters ; and many a 
long ramble I took with Harry along those strange superan- 
nuated walls. To think how they once stood up desperate, in 
defence, round the brave little town! to think of the wild 
'Welsh raging outside on that tranquil turf, where the races were 
now-a-days ; to think of those secure streets down there, that 
lengthened themselves out presumptuously beyond the ramparts, 
and even cut passages through them, once cowering in alarm 
below their shadow ! The place quite captivated me ; and 
then the streets themselves, the strange dark covered pathways, 
steps up from the street, with the shops lurking in their 
shadow 1 like some of the German towns, Harry told me. 
Looking into them from the street, and seeing the stream of 
passengers coming and goimg, through the openings and heavy 
wooden beams of the railing ; or looking out of one of those 
openings upon a kind of street-scenes and life that had nothing 
in , the world to do with the strange old-world arcade, from 
which one looked out as from a balcony, was as good as reading 
a book about ancient times. It was not like my dear Edin- 
burgh, to be sure, but it was very captivating ; and Harry and 
i enjoyed exploring together. It was all new and fresh to 
us and it was spring ; and when you have nothing to trouble 
you much, it is delightful to see new places, and get new 
pictures into the mind. Chester was quite as novel, and fresh, 
and captivating, though it was only in our own country, as 
that German Munich which Harry told me of Harry had 



The Last of the Mortimers. 169 

been a great traveller before he joined, while his father was so 
long ill could have been. 

Lizzie, however, was not nearly so much at her ease as I was. 
When she felt herself laughed at, and looked at, and misunder- 
stood, Lizzie fell back into her chronic state of awkwardness. 
Her national pride was driven to enthusiasm by her contact 
with "thae English." Lizzie entertained a steady disbelief 
that the tongue in which she heard everybody speak which 
was far enough from being a refined one, however, was their 
native and natural speech. " They were a' speaking grand for 
a purpose o' their ain, to make folk believe they were lords and 
leddies," Lizzie said; and with a still higher pitch of indig- 
nation, " Mem, you aye understood me, though you're an 
English leddy ; and think o' the like o 1 them setting up no' to 
understand what your lass means when she's speaking! 1 
dinna understand them, I'm sure, no half a dozen words. To 
hear that clippit English, and the sharp tongues they have, 
deaves me. The very weans in the street they've nae innocence 
i% them. They're a' making a fashion of speaking as fine as 
you." 

'Never mind, Lizzie; you'll soon get accustomed to them, 
and make friends," said I, with an attempt at consolation. 

"Friends! I never had anybody belonging to me but a 
faither," said Lizzie, who understood relations to be signified 
by that word : " but I'm no heeding now ; and I'll soon learn 
to nip the ends off the words like the rest o' them. There's a 
grand green for drying, that Mrs. Goldsworthy calls the back 
ga'den ; and, if you'll no' be angry, I can do the ironing grand 
mysel'." 

" You ! but I dare not trust you, Lizzie," said I, shaking my 
head. "Mr. Langham would find it out I mean he would 
find me out if they were not quite so well done ; and you 
don't consider what quantities of things you will have to do 
to keep the drawing-room nice, and get tea and breakfast, and 
wash, and I don't know what ; and yet always to be tidy, and 
keep baby all day long. You don't know what you have on 
your hands already, you unlucky girl." 

" Eh, I'm glad !" cried Lizzie, clapping her hands together 
with fervour ; and her brown eyes sparkled, and her uncouth 
figure grew steady with the delight of conscious energy and 
power. If she had been eighteen she would not have been so 
simple-minded. Never anybody was so fortunate as I had 
been in my little maid. 



170 The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER IL 

"TTERY soon we began to get interested in the people round 
V about us ; for we were not here, as we had been in Mrs. 
Saltoun's little house, the only strangers. By means of Lizzie, 
who was much annoyed at the discovery, I found out that the 
house was quite full of lodgers. On the ground floor there was 
a foreign gentleman and his servant. The gentleman was 
absent at first ; but the man, a very fat, good-humoured- 
looking fellow, who adopted us all into his friendship imme- 
diately, and expanded into smiles through the railings of the 
stair when any of us went up or down, was in full possession. 
The way that Lizzie avoided this smiling ogre, and the way in 
which he appreciated her panic, and was amused by it, and 
conciliated and coaxed her, was the most amusing thing I ever 
saw. And the way he opened the door for me, and took off 
his hat, and laid his hand on his heart and bowed ! The good 
fellow quite kept us in amusement. When baby, who was 
getting on famously and noticing everything, crowed at him, 
in spite of his great beard, as children will do to men (it is very 
odd ; but babies do take to strange men sooner than to strange 
women, I believe), the fat foreigner burst into great shouts of 
delighted laughter, and snapped his fat fingers, and made the 
funniest grimaces to please the child. None of us could speak 
a single word of his language ; we did not even know at first 
what countryman he was ; but we all got to have the most 
friendly, kind feeling for the stranger, all except Lizzie, who 
stumbled up and flew downstairs in her anxiety to avoid his 
eyes. One bad habit he certainly had; he smoked perpetually. 
He smoked cigars shocking bad ones, Harry said : he did not 
even put them down when he sprang out of his parlour to open 
the door for me ; but only withdrew the one he was smoking 
from his full red lips, and held it somehow concealed in ins- 
hand. As he was constantly about in the house, or lingering 
close at hand with his great-coat buttoned on round his throat 
like a cloak, and the empty sleeves waving from his shoulders, 
stamping his feet on the ground, and whistling like a bird, thia 



The Last of the Mortimers. 171 

Smell of bad cigars was perpetually about the house. Poor 
Mrs. Goldsworthy went up and down with the most grieved 
look upon her face. If any one made the least sign of having 
smelt anything disagreeable, she held up her hands in the most 
imploring way. and said, " What can a poor body do? Pie's 
the obligingest creatur as ever was ! and he don't know a word 
of Christian language; and the gentleman which is a real 
gentleman, and none o' your make-believes as good as left 
him in my charge ; and, bless you, if he will smoke them 
cigars, and don't understand a word a body says to him, what 
am I to do?" Indeed, for my own part, I had not only a great 
sympathy for him, but I could not help liking the fat fellow ; 
and after a few days it was astonishing how we got used to the 
cigars. 

Then we ourselves occupied the two next floors. It was a 
strange little house ; two rooms, back and front, piled on the 
top of each other four stories high ; the top-story rooms were 
attics ; and there was actually a lodger in each of those attics ! 
Where Mrs. Goldsworthy and her daughter slept themselves was 
more than either Lizzie or I could make out. One of the attic 
lodgers was a thin, wistful man, whom I could not help looking 
at. He worked at something in his own room, and used to go 
out to dine. He was always very neat and clean ; but very 
threadbare, and with a hungry look that went to one's heart. 
Perhaps it was not want ; maybe he was hungry for something 
else than mere money or nourishment ; but sometimes I am 
sure I should not have been surprised to hear that he was 
starving too. Sometimes he looked at me or at baby in his 
wistful way, just as he vanished past us. I can't say he ever 
smiled, even at little Harry ; but still we drew his eyes when 
he chanced to meet us going out' or in. I felt a great com- 
passion for this poor solitary man. He was a man that might 
have been found starved, but never would have asked any 
charity ; at least so I thought of him. I used to fancy him 
sitting in his solitary room upstairs by the window, and not by 
the fire, for we never heard him poking any fire, and often 
saw him at the window, and wondered how people could get 
so isolated, and chilled, and solitary ; how they lived at all 
when they came to that condition benumbed of all comfort, 
and still not frozen to death. How strange to think of keeping 
on living, years and years after one's heart is dead ! Harry 
said I was fanciful and continually made stories about people; 
but I did not tell Harry one half of my fancies ; I don't know 
what ho would have done to me if J had ; but I did so wish I 



172 The Last of ilie Mortimers. 

could have some chance of doing something to please that old 
man. 

One day Harry came downstairs with a smile on his face. 
" There is the most ludicrous scene going on below ; come and 
look, Milly," he said, drawing me to the stairs. I peeped down, 
and there, to be sure, I saw a reason for the sound of talking 
I had heard for a few minutes past. Lizzie was sitting on the 
stair, pondering deeply, with a perplexed face, over a large 
book spread out on the step above her. She was holding baby 
fast in one arm, and staving off his attempts to snatch at the 
leaves of the book. Leaning on the bannisters regarding her, 
and holding forth most volubly in an unknown tongue, was 
our fat friend ; and between every two or three words he 
pointed to the book, making a sort of appeal to it. The con- 
trast between the two she silent and bewildered, confused by 
her efforts to restrain baby and comprehend the book he, the 
vast full figure of him, so voluble, so good-humoured, so com- 
placent, talking with his fat arms and ringers, his gestures, and 
every movement he made talking with such confidence that 
language which nobody understood was almost as irresistible 
to me as to Harry. We stood looking down at them, extremely 
amused and wondering. Then Lizzie, failing to comprehend 
the book, and hearing herself addressed so energetically, raised 
her round eyes, round with amazement, to the speaker's face. 
The unknown tongue awed Lizzie ; she contemplated him with 
speechless wonder and dismay ; until at last, when the speaker 
made an evident close appeal to her, with a natural oratory 
which she could not mistake, unintelligible /is was its meaning, 
her amazement burst forth in words. " Eh, man, what div ye 
mean ?" cried Lizzie, in the extremity of her puzzled wonder. 
It was the climax of the scene. Though I thrust Harry back 
into the room instantly, that is laughter might not be heard, 
and smothered my own as best I could, the sound caught 
Lizzie's watchful ears. In an ther moment she had reached the 
top of the stairs, breathless, ith her charge in her arms. The 
puzzled look had not left zzie's eyes, but she was deeply 
abashed and ashamed of h If. Harry's laughter did not 
mend the matter, of course. She dropped baby in my arms, 
and twisted herself into all her old awkward contortions. 
I had to send her away and miss Harry into the other room. 
Poor Lizzie had never posse eel sufficient courage to permit 
herself to be accosted by the dreadful foreigner before. 

However, we were not le amused when we heard what 
Mrs. Goldsworthy would have called " the rights of it." Lizzie, 



The Last of the Mortimers. 173 

with great resolution, determined to have herself exculpated, 
came to me with her statement as soon as she was quite assured 
that ' ' the Captain" was out of the way. 

" Eh ! I came to think at last he was, maybe, a Hielander," 
said Lizzie, "though they're seldom that fat. And he laid 
down the book straight before in the stair. I kent what kind 
of book it was. It was the book wi' a' kind o' words, and the 
meanings. But the meanings just were English, and the words 
were some other language. And I kind of guessed what he 
wanted, too. He wanted me to look in the book for the words 
he said, to tell me what he meant ; but eh ! how Avas I to ken 
where one word ended and another began ? And he just hur- 
ried on and on ; and the mair I listened, the inair I could not 
hear a single word, and looking at the book was just nonsense ; 
and Master baby, he would try his hand ; and oh, Mem, if 
you're angry, I didna mean ony ill, and Til never do it 
again." 

''Nonsense, Lizzie! lam not angry; but couldn't you get 
on with the dictionary, and help the poor fellow ? Were not 
you a very good scholar at school ?" 

" No very," said Lizzie, hanging her head in agonies of 
pleased but painful bashf ulness, and unconsciously uttering her 
sentiments in language as puzzling to an English hearer as any 
uttered by our fat friend downstairs. " !No very," said Lizzie, 
anxiously truthful, yet not unwilling to do herself due credit ; 
"no very, but gey." 

Here I fear my laugh rather shocked and affronted Lizzie. 
She stood very upright, and twisted nothing but her fingers. 
It would have been as impossible to persuade her that there 
was scarcely a person in Chester, but myself, who could have 
translated that exquisite monosyllable as to convince the 
foreigner that he was actually and positively incomprehensible 
in spite of the dictionary. But I will not attempt to interpret 
gey; it is untranslatable, as we are quite content so many 
French words should be. Even into Harry's head, which 
should be capable of better things, I find it quite impossible to 
convey an idea of the expressiveness of this word. Lizzie and 
I, however, knew no other to put in its place.. 

" But a gey good scholar might do a great deal for the poor 
fellow," said I, when I had got over my laughter; " tell, him 
the English names for things. Try if you can find out his 
name ; but I forgot you were frightened for him, Lizzie." 

41 Aye, till I thought he might, maybe, be a Hielander," 
aid Lizzie. " Though the Hielanders dinna belang to us at 



174 The Last of the Mortimers. 

hame, they might feel kindly in a strange place; and I've 
heard folk speaking Gaelic. But this is no like Gaelic, it's 
a' aws and os ; and it's awfu 1 fast, just a rattle ; a' the words 
run in to one another. Forbye what harm could he do me ? 
and the book was straight in my way on the stair ; and it 
gangs to my heart to set my foot on a book. Ye might be 
trampin' ower a bit o' the Bible without kennin' ; and then 
he's very good-natured ; and then," said Lizzie, her eyes sud- 
denly glowing up, "it would be grand to learn a language 
that nae ither body kens !" 

With the greatest cordiality I applauded this crowning 
argument, and did all I could to encourage her to persevere 
with the dictionary, and make herself interpreter ; for I was 
not wise enough to think that this new study might possibly 
be too captivating for Lizzie, and lead her into neglect of her 
many and pressing duties. I only thought it was the most 
amusing mode of intercourse I ever heard of, and that it would 
be great fun to watch its progress. Besides, as she said 
herself, what harm could he do her ? Poor Lizzie, who might 
have been in danger at an elder age in such a comical friend- 
ship, was invulnerable to. all the dangers of flirtation at 
fourteen. 



$1ie Last of the MortimeM* 



CHAPTER III. 

BOUT this time Harry's object was attained, and some of 

. the other ladies of the regiment called on me. I think 
they were a little surprised to find me just like other people, 
and not very much afraid of them ; though I will confess that 
in my heart I was rather anxious, thinking whether Lizzie would 
have the discretion to put baby's best frock on, in case they 
asked to see him. They did ask, of course ; and when, after a 
few minutes, Lizzie came down, not only with his best frock 
on, but with the ribbon I had just got to trim my bonnet for 
spring, carefully tied round his waist for a sash, anybody 
may imagine what my feelings were ! He looked very pretty 
in it certainly; but only fancy my good ribbon that I had 
grudged to buy, and could not do without! Ah! it- is just 
possible that one's nursery-maid may be too anxious to show 
off one's baby to the best advantage. However, of course, I 
had to smile and make the best of it, and console myself with 
bursting forth upon Lizzie whenever they were gone. 

"How could you think of taking my ribbon! oh, Lizzie, 
Lizzie! and I am sure I cannot afford to buy another one," 
cried I. 

"It's a' preened on," said Lizzie mysteriously, "there's no 
a single crumple in't ; and I made the bows just like what the 
leddies have them on their bonnets, and it's no a bit the waur. 
But, Mem, the very weans in the street have a sash round 
their waist ; and was I gaun to let on to strangers that our 
bairn hadna everything grand ? And he sat still like a king 
till I fastened it a' on.. You see yoursel' it has taken nae 
harm." 

" But the pins !" cried I, in horror. " Were you not afraid, 
you dreadful girl, to make a pincushion of my boy V" 

Lizzie was fast taking them out, conveying them to her 
mouth in the first place, and furtively withdrawing them again 
lest I should observe her. Her only answer was to point 
triumphantly to the child. 

" Would he laugh like that if I had jaggit him?'' cried Lizzie. 
There was no contesting that proof ; so 1 had to withdraw the 



Phe Last of the Mortimetv* 

ribbon out of their joint hands immediately, and put it at Once 
to its proper use. This, however, was neither the first nor the 
last of Lizzie's impromptus. Those great red fingers of hers, all 
knuckles and corners as they were, had that light rapid touch 
which distinguishes every true artiste. She devised and 
appropriated for the decoration of the baby and " the credit of 
the house," with the utmost boldness. It was not safe to 
leave anything which she could adapt to his use in her way. 

The next trial I had was an invitation to dinner, which came 
for us shortly after. I set my face very much against it. Long 
ago, when Harry used to tell me about their parties, I made up 
my mind it never would do for us to begin going to them, 
however much we might be asked. To be sure Harry might 
go. I was always glad Harry should go ; but how was I, who 
had got no trousseau, like other young wives, when I was 
married, but just had one cheap silk dress, bought off Aunt 
Connor's ten pounds, which I made up myself, to go out to 
dinner ? I stood out long and obstinately ; but I had to give 
in at last, just as I had about the maid and the lodgings. Harry 
would not go by himself. Pie would not decline the invitation ; 
he said, with a very glum face, that we had better accept, and 
leave it to the chapter of accidents to find an excuse at the 
time. He did not understand how necessary it was for me to 
keep at home. He had been able always to go where he 
wanted, and keep up with the rest, and it fretted him dread- 
fully now to feel the bondage that our narrow means put us in. 
You understand he did not object to be economical in a general 
way, nor even, indeed, grumbled, the dear good fellow, at 
giving up many of his old luxuries ; and, at first, he seemed to 
be delighted with having no society but our own. But now, 
when he began to feel annoyed that his wife was not in the 
same position as the others, and when I plied him with all the 
old arguments that we da^l not begin such a life or the 
expense would ruin us, H#rry became very restive indeed. 
Somehow it seemed to gall and humble him ; the idea that his 
wife could not go out for want of a dress ! He could not put 
up with the thought ; he jumped up from his chair as if some- 
thing had stung him. "It is nonsense, Milly! folly; the 
merest shortsightedness ; you don't want half a dozen dresses to 
go to one dinner, and one dress can't ruin us," cried the 
unreasonable fellow. He would not understand me or listen to 
me. The notion wounded him quite to the heart. He 'looked 
so sulky and miserable that I could not bear to see it. I gave 
ft great sigh, and gave in again. What could I do ? 



The Last of the Mortimers. 177 

" Well, Harry !" said I, "the foolishness is all on the other 
side, mind ; but if I must give in I can't help myself. I am 
only twenty, not twenty quite. I'll go in white." 

u Bravo ! you could not do better than go in white !" cried 
Harry, " there's a courageous woman ! But why, may an 
ignoramus ask, should you not go in white, Milly darling! 
Isn't it the dress of all others for a well, an ugly little creature 
like you?" 

44 1 am not so sure about the ugly," said I ; " and now, 
please, get your hat and come out with me. I saw the fashions 
in a window at the other end of the street. Let us go and look 
at them, and then 1 shall know how to make it up." 

u Why can't you go to the milliner like other people," 
growled the unsatisfied man ; " and why, answer my question, 
shouldn't you go in white ?" 

I durstn't confess that I had my own vanity in the matter, 
and being a matron, rather despised a white muslin frock to go 
out in ; for if 1 had betrayed the least inkling of such a thing, 
there is no saying what he might not have done; run up a bill, 
or paid away all the money he had, or something; so I stopped 
his mouth with some foolish answer, and ran off to get my 
bonnet. Upstairs baby was sitting on the carpet, with Lizzie 
beside him, jumping a little paste-board harlequin to please 
him. Her brown eyes were quite sparkling over the loose- 
legged, insane figure, as she jerked the string about. I could 
not help but stand and look at her for a moment with a startled 
sensation. She was just as much amused as baby was. Only 
to think of such a child being left in charge of our boy ! I 
went downstairs in consequence with a slower step, after having 
given Lizzie a superabundance of cautions about taking care of 
him. Only a girl of fourteen ! I daresay all this time you 
must have been thinking I was mad to trust her ; but, indeed, 
she was a very extraordinary girl ; and after all, when you 
think it, fourteen is quite a 'trustworthy age. She was old 
enough to know what she ought to do, and not old enough to 
be distracted by thoughts of her own. Ah, depend upon it, 
fourteen is more single-minded than eighteen ; and then Lizzie 
had a woman's strength and handiness along with her child's 
heart. 

Not to delay longer about it, we did go to the party. 
Harry said I looked very well on the whole ; he did not think 
he would have been disposed to exchange with anybody. J 
had no jewellery at all, which was rather a little humiliating to 
xne ; but, to my wonder and delight, Harry did not object to 



178 The Last of the Mortimers. 

that. " They'll only think you're setting up for simplicity/ 1 
he said, laughing. " I suppose it's safer to be thought a little 
humbug than to have your dreadful destitution known. Come 
along. Nobody will suspect you have not a bracelet ; only 
mind you behave yourself very innocently, like a little shep- 
herdess, and you'll take everybody in." 

I cannot say I very much admired this piece of advice ; and 
if Harry had thought me the least likely to take it, I am sure 
he would riot have been so ready with his good counsels. The 
party disappointed me a greau deal. How is it one reads in 
books of society being so captivating, and intoxicating, and all 
that, and how, when one is used to it, one can't do without it? 
On the contrary, it was as dull duller than anybody could 
imagine ! instead of that delightful stream of conversation 
always kept up, and so easy, and so witty, and so clever, you 
could see perfectly well that everybody was trying to contrive 
what they should say, and to find out things that would bear 
talking about. The poor lady of the house was so anxious to 
keep up the talk that she ate no dinner in the first place ; and 
in the second, evidently frightened by the pauses that occurred, 
kept talking loud herself, and dancing on from one subject to 
another till she was quite breathless. Then there was one man 
who was expected to make you laugh people prepared to 
laugh whenever he opened his lips ; but 1 am sorry to say I 
was so indiscreet as only to stare at him, and wonder what it 
was about. I caught the eye of the young lady sitting by him 
as I did so. She was little, less than me, dark, and very, 
very pretty. She was only Miss somebody, but she was 
dressed more richly than anybody there, and had the most 
beautiful bracelets. I could not help feeling a. little when I 
looked at my poor wrists and my white muslin dress I who 
was married, and she only a young girl; when, just at that 
moment, she gave me a quick look, lifting up her eyebrows, 
and smiling rather disdainfully at the great wit beside her. 
Immediately we two were put in communication somehow. I 
suppose it was mesmerism. Her eyes kept seeking mine all 
the time of dinner. The odd thing about her was that her 
hair was quite short, hanging in little curls upon her neck, like 
a child's ; and of all things in the world, for such a child to 
wear, she was dressed in violet velvet, the most beautiful shade 
in the world. I suppose Harry would have said she was a 
little humbug too, and did it for effect ; but, to be sure, it 
must have been wealth arid not poverty that did it in her 
case. When we went up to the drawing-room after dinner, 



The Last of the Mortimerst 



179 



she Very soon made her way to me. The other ladies, most of 
them belonging to the regiment, had come round me, and 
were doing their best to discover why I had been kept in the 
dark so long, and whether anything could be found out about 
me. I stood at bay pretty well, I think ; but when Miss 
Cresswell came in, somehow all at once, like a fresh little 
breeze, in her soft velvet dress, to the sofa beside me, I really 
felt I could have laid down my head on her shoulder and cried. 
To be sure it was very foolish ; one can smile and keep up 
when one is being baited, and when one finds a real friend 
after being aggravated out of one's life, it is only natural to 
feel disposed to cry. I say a real friend, though I never saw 
her before, it was mesmerism, I suppose; we took to each 
other at once. 

We had got quite intimate oefore the gentlemen name 
upstairs. I had told her where we lived, and she promised to 
come and see me, and we had found out a great many opinions 
we had in common. Things were different, however, when the 
gentlemen appeared. All the young men hovered about Miss 
Cresswell. There were few young ladies, and she was certainly 
much -the prettiest ; and, I am very grieved to have to say it 
I cannot deny that she did flirt a little. She was disdainful, 
and would take no notice of anybody at first, but by degrees 
'she did come to little bursts of flirtation ; and I am afraid she 
liked it too. Then there began to be things said about her and 
me which displeased me. We were " Art and Nature," some- 
body said ; and some of the gentlemen evidently entertained 
the same feeling that Harry indicated, when he said they 
would suppose me a little humbug. Evidently we were both 
thought little humbugs, sitting by each other to set each other 
off. Some of them, I do believe, thought it had all been made 
up beforehand. Certainly we were a strange contrast ; I, in. 
my plain white dress, with no ornaments ; she in velvet, 
with such a quantity of jewellery. But to have people looking 
at me, and contrasting me with Miss Cresswell, and making 
jokes upon my dress and hers, was what I did not choose to 
put up with. People accustomed to society may like it, but I 
did not. So I got up and took Harry's arm, and went to look 
at a picture. Nobody spoke to us for some five miutes or so, 
but we were close to some ladies talking with all their might. 
Then some one touched my arm, and 1 saw Miss Cresswell had 
followed me, and brought an old gentleman with her. This 
was her father. I got behind one of the talking ladies to veil 
my " simplicity," that there might be no more nonsense about 



180 The Last of the Mortimers. 

it. The ladies were talking of women working. Oh, so little 
they knew or pretended to know about it ; I wonder what 
they would have thought if they could have seen my laundry 
operations ; or, indeed, I ^fonder, under all their fine talk, 
whether they had not, of mornings, some work to do them- 
selves. However, I only tell this from the glimpse it gave me 
of my new friend. 

" It is all very well to speak of hardships," cried Miss Cress- 
well. "/ can't see any hardship in doing one's work. Ah! 
don't you think they are very happy who have something to 
do? something they must do whether they like it or not. I 
hate always doing things if I like ! it is the most odious, tire- 
some stuff ! If I like ! and if I like it pray, what is the good 
of it ? It is not work any longer, it is only pleasure." 

" My dear child," said one of the old ladies, " be thankful 
you have so much ease and leisure. Your business just now is 
to please your papa." 

Here the old gentleman burst in with a long slow laugh, 
"To worry him, you mean," said Mr. Cresswcll; " tell her of 
her duty, Mrs. Scrivin. Ah, my dear lady, she's contrairy !" 
he cried, shaking his head with a certain air of complacence 
and ruefulness. Miss Cresswell gave him such a flashing, 
wicked look out of her dark eyes, and then seized my hand to 
lead me away somewhere. She was not a dutiful good girl, it 
appeared ; she did not look like it. Now she was roused up, 
first by flirting, and then by rebellion and opposition, you 
could see it in her eyes. I am sorry, I am ashamed to confess 
it but I do believe I liked her the better for being so wicked. 
It is very dreadful to say such a thing, but I am afraid it was 
true. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 181 



CHAPTER IV. 

OUR fat Italian friend below stairs began to give us great 
amusement just then. Wherever he went he carried 
under his arm that square volume as fat as himself, in which 
Lizzie was at present pursuing her occult and bewildered 
studies. To see Domenico (for that was his name), coming 
to a sudden halt straight before you, blocking out all the light 
from that tiny passage which Mrs. Goldsworthy called her 
" hall," and announcing, with a nourish of his dictionary, that 
he had something to communicate, was irresistibly comic cer- 
tainly ; but it was a little embarrassing as well. Domenico's 
verbs were innocent of either past, present, or future. I 
presume he was quite above any considerations of grammar, 
except that supplied to him by nature, in his own language, 
and was not aware that such a master of the ceremonies existed 
to introduce him to the new tongue, which the poor fellow 
found so crabbed and unmanageable. I have heard of people 
managing to get on in foreign countries with a language 
composed of nouns and the infinitive of verbs (I honestly 
confess, that when I heard this story first, I had very vague 
ideas of what the infinitive of a verb was) ; a primitive savage 
language containing the possibilities of existence ; eating, 
drinking, and sleeping ; but quite above the conventional uses 
of conversation. Domenico's ambition was far higher, but his 
information was absolutely confined to those same infinitives. 
He knew the word only as it stood in the dictionary what 
were tenses and numbers to him ? But you will perceive that 
a conversation conducted on these principles was necessarily 
wanting in precision, and that the conversing persons did not 
always understand each other with the clearness that might 
have been desired. 

One clear spring morning, a few days after the party, I was 
going out about household affairs, when Domenico stopped me 
on the way to the door. He had hfe coat oif, and the immense 
expanse of man in shirt-sleeves, which presented ^tself before 
me, cannot be expressed by description. As usual, he was 
gmiling all over his face ; as usual, his red lips and white teeth 



162 The Last of the 

opened out of his beard with a primitive fulness and genial 
good-humour; as usual, he seized his beard with one hand as he 
addressed me, opening out his big dictionary on the ta ^ with 
the other. " Signora," cried Domenico, " the master my me, 
of me," first pointing at himself, and then, to make assurance 
sure, boxing his chest emphatically, " the my master, Signora 
understand ? come back." 

" What?" cried I, " he has come back, has he, Domenico?" 

Domenico nodded a hundred times with the fullest glee and 
rapture. "I me Domenico," he cried, again boxing him- 
self, that there might be no doubt of his identity, ' ' make 
prepare." 

From which I divined that the master was not yet returned ; 
and, nodding half as often as Domenico, by way of signifying 
my entire content and sympathy, foolishly concluded that I 
was let off and might pass. However, Domenico was not yet 
done with me. 

"The Signora give little of the advice," said Domenico, with 
unusual clearness, opening the door of his parlour, and inviting 
me by many gestures to enter. I looked in, much puzzled, and 
found the room in all the agonies of change. The carpet 
had been lifted, and the floor polished, which, perhaps, 
explained the sounds we had heard for some days. I cannot 
describe how the mean planks of poor Mrs. Goldsworthy's little 
parlour, many of them gaping apart, looked under the pains- 
taking labours of Domenico. " He had contrived to rub them 
into due slipperiness and a degree of shine ; but the result was 
profoundly dismal, and anything but corresponding to the face 
of complacency with which Domenico regarded his handiwork. 
The fat fellow watched my eyes, and was delighted at first to see 
my astonishment ; but, perceiving immediately, with all the 
quick observation which our straitened possibilities of speech 
made necessary, that my admiration was by no means equal to 
surprise, his countenance fell. ' ' He not pleases to the Signora," 
said Domenico. Then he hastened to the corner where the 
rejected carpet lay in a roll, and spread a corner of it over the 
floor. I nodded my head again and applauded. Domenico's 
disappointment was great. 

" But for the sommere ?" said Domenico with a melancholy 
interrogation. 

" It is never so warm in England, cold, cold," i said, with 
great emphasis and distinctness. Domenico heard and bright- 
ened up. 

"Ah, thank! all, thank! not me remember, England I 



The Last of the Mortimers. 



183 



ah! Inghilterra ! no Italia! ah, thank! the Signora make 
good." 

The Signora was permitted to consider herself dismissed, I 
conclucl^ by the bows that followed, and I hastened to the 
door, outstripping, as 1 thought, the anxious politeness of the 
fat Italian. But I wronged his devotion : with that light step, 
which was so ludicrously out of proportion to his enormous 
figure, he swung out of the room to open the door for me, and 
accomplished it in spite of my precipitation, taking in his vast 
dimensions somehow so as to pass me without collision. I went 
about my business with all the greater lightness after this 
comical encounter, and a little curiosity, I confess, in respect 
to the master who was coming home. Harry had heard of him 
already, as having quite a romantic story attached to him. He 
had come to Chester to see some lady whom he was quite con- 
fident of finding, and had been hunting all the neighbouring 
country for her without meeting anybody who knew even her 
name. It was supposed he had gone to make inquiries some- 
where else, and now he was coming home. I got quite in- 
terested about it. I pictured him out to myself quite a 
romantic Italian, of course, \vith long hair, and a picturesque 
cloak, and possibly a guitar. I made up a story in my own 
mind, like that story of the Eastern girl and A'Becket that 
prettiest story ! I could fancy Dornenico's master, not knowing 
much more English, perhaps, than Domenico, wandering about 
everywhere with the name on his lips ; for, of course, it must- 
be a love-story. It is impossible to imagine it could be any- 
thing else. 

In the evening, when Harry and I were going out for a little 
walk, Domenico suddenly presented himself again, and stopped 
us. This time lie was beaming broader than ever with smiles 
and innocent complacent self-content. He invited us into the 
parlour with a multitude of bows. Harry, who had heard the 
morning's adventure, went immediately, and I followed him. The 
room was all in the most perfect tidiness ; Mrs. Goldsworthy's 
hideous ornaments were put in corners, ornaments of any kind 
being apparently better than none in Domenico's eyfg. But 
the mantel-piece, where the little flower-glasses had heretofore 
held sole sway, was now occupied by some plaster figures 
bought from some wander ing image-merchant, whom Domenico 
had loudly fraternised and chattered with at the door somo 
days before. In the middle was a bust of Dante, up*n which 
the Italian had placed a wreath of green leaves. The walls 
WPFg PQYere4 with cheap-coloured prints in frames. J 



184. The Last of the Mortimers,- 

of Domenico's own manufacture ; such prints as people fasten 
up, all t'rameless in their simplicity, upon walls of nurseries : 
gay, bright, cheap, highly-coloured articles, which quite satisfied 
the taste of Domenico, himself a child in everything but size 
and years. It was nothing to his simple mind that they had 
HO money value, and I suppose no value in art either. I don't 
suppose Domenico knew anything about art, though he was an 
Italian. But he knew about decoration ! He had made the 
walls blush and smile to welcome the new-comer. I trust his . 
master was no artist either, and could appreciate the adorn- 
ments which made the face of Domenico beam. The good 
fellow was so pleased that he forgot his dictionary ; he burst 
forth into long explanations, interspersed by bursts of laughter 
and gestures of delight, in his own tongue. He threw open the 
door of the little room behind to reveal to us the arrangements 
of his master's bedchamber. He explained to Harry at least I 
have no doubt, by the way he pointed to the carpet, and the 
frequency of the word Signora, that this was what he meant 
all about the carpet and his polished floor. At last it suddenly 
flashed upon Domenico that he was spending his eloquence in 
vain. He rushed to the table where his beloved dictionary 
reposed ; he dashed at its pages in frantic haste, with wild 
pantomimic entreaties to us to' wait. lt Is good? good?" said 
Domenico, with an eager expressiveness which made up for his 
defective verbs. I applauded with all the might of gestures 
and smiles ; upon which our friend once more opened the door 
for us. " To-morrow ! after to-morrow!" said the good fellow. 
It was then his master was coming home. 

And, I am sorry to say, Harry was rather disposed to laugh 
at the fat Italian, and to be sarcastic upon his beautiful prints. 
Harry did not know anything in the world about pictures ; but 
he know how cheap these were, and that was enough for him, 
the prose English! nan. I am thankful to say that I soon 
reduced him to silence. He declared I was savage in good 
Domenico's defence. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 185 



CHAPTER V. 

EM, he's been at the market," said Lizzie, next room- 
i n g> " and bought a hen ; and he smiles and laughs 
to himself like to bring down the house.* 

This was the first bulletin of the important day on which the 
Italian gentleman was expected home. 

The next report was more painful to Lizzie's feelings. " He's 
been at the chapel," said Lizzie, in a horrified whisper, " and 
brought name water to put in the wee bowlie at the maister's 
bedhead. Oh, did you see it? it has a cross, and and a 
figure on't," said Lizzie, with a deep awe, " and a wee round 
bowlie for the water. What'll yon be for ? I'm no sure it's safe 
to be in the same house." 

Lizzie's horror, however, did not diminish her curiosity. 
After a little interval another scrap of information reached my 
attentive ear. " He has some veal on the kitchen -table," said 
Lizzie, u and if he's no' working at it himsel'! A man ! cutting 
away and paring away, and putting the pan a' ready like a 
woman and, eh, mem*, the wastry's dreadful. He's making 
holes in't and stuffin' them fu' o' something. Noo he's puttin't 
on the fire." 

That day baby was neglected for the first time. Lizzie was 
too much excited and interested not to say that she had an 
observant eye. and believed it quite possible that she might 
receive a hint from this man of all work to repress her natural 
curiosity. The next thing she reported was a half-alarmed 
statement that " he was away out again and left it at the fire ; 
and what if it was sitting to * before he came hame ?" Lizzie's 
dread of this accident carried her off downstairs to watch 
Domenico's stew with friendly anxiety. In about an hour she 
re-appeared again. 

" He's come back ; and, eh ! o' a' the things in the world to 
think upon, it's a box of thae nasty things he smokes !" cried 
Lizzie. " If the gentlemen smokes tae, we'll a' be driven out 
of the house." 

* A Scotch expression which signifies burned in the pan. 



186 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Just then, however, another incident occurred which inter- 
rupted Lizzie's observations. As she went out of the room, in 
silent despair, after her last alarming presentiment, somebody 
evidently encountered her coming up. "I want Mrs. Langham, 
please," cried Miss Cresswell's voice. "Are you her maid? 
Oh, I'm not to be shown into the drawing-room. I am to go 
to her. Where is she ? in the nursery ? Show me where to 
go, please." 

"But you maun go to the drawing room," said Lizzie, 
making, as I felt sure from the little quiver in her voice, her 
bob to the young lady, and audibly opening the sacred door of 
our state apartment. 

" Maun? do you mean must ? I never do anything I must,'" 
said Miss Cresswell. "There now! make haste; show me 
where Mrs. Langham is." 

"The drawing-room is the place for leddies that come 
visiting," said Lizzie, resolutely. " I'll no let ye in ony other 
place." 

"You'll not let me in ! what do you mean, you impertinent 
child ?" cried Miss Cresswell. 

" I'm no a child," cried Lizzie. "I ken my duty ; and if I 
was to loose my good place what good would that do onybody '? 
If ye please, ye'll come in here." 

The pause of astonishment that followed was evident by the 
silence ; then a little quick impatient step actually passed into 
that poor little drawing-room. "You strange little soul ! but 
I'll tell Mrs. Langham," cried Miss Cresswell. 

"I'm no a soul," said Lizzie; "I'm just like other folk. 
I'm Mrs. Langham 's lass ; and she kens me different from a 
stranger. What name will I say, if ye please?" 

_ This question was answered by a burst of laughter from the 
visitor, which I increased by throwing open the door of my 
concealment and disclosing myself with baby in my arms. He 
had on his lest frock Ijy accident, which explains my rashness. 

" How have you managed it?" cried Miss Cresswell ; " why, 
here is a romance-servant. Dear Mrs. Langham, tell me what 
you have done to make her so original and let me have 
baby. I have not come to make a call, as that creature 
supposed. I have come as a friend you said I might. Why 
must I be brought into this room ?" 

" it is the most cheerful room," said I, evading the question : 
"however, Lizzie did not mean to be saucy she knew no 
better but she is the most famous Jielp in the world, though 
ghe is little mor than a child," 



The Last of the Mortimers. 187 

"But then I suppose you must do a great many things 
yourself?" said my visitor, looking me very close in the face. 

I felt my cheeks grow hot in spite of myself if Harry had 
heard her he would have been furious ; and I daresay many 
people would have set this down at once as the impertinence of 
the rich to the poor. I felt it was no such thing ; but still it 
embarrassed me a little, against my will. 

"Do you know some people would be affronted to be asked 
as much ?" said I. 

"I know," cried Miss Cresswell, with a little toss of her 
head, " people who can't understand how miserable it is not 
to have to do anything. Do you believe in voluntary work? 
I don't. I can't see it's any good. I can't see the use of it. 
I should like to cook the dinner and keep the things tidy. I 
should like to see everything stand gaping and calling for me 
till I set it to rights. That's the pleasure ; but as for saving 
somebody else trouble, why should I do it? I can't see any 
advantage whatever in that." 

" Then you would not have me save Lizzie or the landlady 
some trouble when I can?" said I. 

" That is totally a different thing," said the impetuous little 
girl ; then she started, in a manner to me inexplicable, and 

fazed out of the window near which she was sitting. " Mr. 
Aiigi!" she exclaimed to herself; "now I should so like to 
know what he wants here." 

Just then there was tne noise of an arrival at the door ; of 
course it must be the Italian gentleman. " Who is he-?" said 
I. " Jf it is the Italian, he lives here." 

Without making any immediate reply, Miss Cresswell clasped 
her hands softly together. " How strange !" she exclaimed. 
Of course it was her own thoughts she was following out, but 
they seemed sufficiently interesting to rouse my attention. I 
occupied myself in the meantime with baby, feeling that it 
would be the merest cruelty to call upon Lizzie at this climax 
of the day's excitement. And Miss Cresswell leant forward, 
carefully drawing out the curtain of the window to shade her, 
and watching the return of Domenico's master. Her colour 
was a little higher than it had been previously, and she seemed 
to have quite quietly and comfortably forgotten my presence, 
I was amused ; and, if I must confess it, I was in a condition to 
be easily affronted as well. At last she recovered herself, and 
blushed violently. 

u I don't know what you will think of me," she cried ; u but 
it is so strange my godmamma had the last news of his going, 

* 



188 The Last of the Mortimers. 

and I have the first intelligence of his return. Do you know, 
there is quite a story about him. He has come here to seek 
out a lady whom nobody ever heard of ; but I do believe, what- 
ever any one may choose to say, that godmamma Sarah 
knows." 

" Knows? Will she not tell, then ?" said I. 

" Look here," said Miss Cresswell ; "she was once a great 
beauty ; and I believe, if you never will tell anybody, that she's 
a cruel, wicked old woman. There ! 1 did not mean to say 
half so much. She got so agitated whenever she heard what Mr. 
Luigi wanted that nobody could help finding her out ; but, 
though I am certain she knows, she will do everything in the 
world rather than tell." 

" But why?" 

u Oh, I cannot tell you why. I know nothing at all about 
it ; and remember," cried my imprudent visitor, u that 1 tell 
you all this in the greatest secret ! I would not tell papa nor 
any one. I said it to my own godmamma just as it came into 
my head, and put her into such distress, the dear old soul ! My 
own idea is, that godmamma Sarah does it only for spite ; but 
her sister, you know, has a different opinion, and is frightened, 
and does not know what she is frightened about. 1 daresay 
you will think me very strange to say so," said Miss Cresswell, 
again blushing very much, "but 1 should like to meet Mr. 
Luigi. I am sure he is somehow connected with my god- 
mothers : 1 cannot make out how, I am sure ; but I am quite 
certain, however unlikely it may be, that godmamma Sarah 
knows !" 

She seemed quite excited and in earnest about it ; so, as all 
her thoughts were turned that way, I told her our amusing 
intercourse with Domenico, and what good friends we were. 
Though she laughed and clapped her hands, she was too much 
engrossed with her own thoughts evidently to be much amused. 
She was most anxious to know whether I had heard anything 
of Mr. Luigi ; whether the landltidy talked of him ; whether I 
kne\v how he came to Chester. She told me the story 1 had 
heard dimly from Harry in the most clear and distinct manner. 
On the whole, she filled me with suspicions. If I had not seen 
her flirting so lately, I should certainly have fancied her in 
love. 

"You know him, then?" said I, after hearing her very 
steadily to an end. 

" Not in the least," she cried, once more blushing in the 
most violent, undisguisable way. " How should I know 



The Last of the Mortimers. 

Don't you know I have no brothers or sisters, Mrs. Langham ? 
ami can't you suppose that papa has exactly the same people to 
dinner ye.ir after year? Ah, you are quite different ! You 
nave your own place, and can choose your own-society choose 
me, please, there's a darling ! My name's Sara ; quite a 
waiting-maid's name; let me have baby and come and help 
you. As for saying he would not come to me, it is nonsense. 
I will tell you exactly how many friends I have, Godmamma, 
who is more than a friend, of course, but no relation ; my old 
nurse, whom I never see, and who lives a hundred miles off ; 
and old Miss Fielding, at the rectory. Now only think how- 
much I am alone ! You are quite new here ; you can choose 
for yourself choose me !" 

" With all my heart !" said I. I was so much surprised by 
her ignorance and her free speech, that, though 1 liked her 
very much, I really dm uou unow what morn TO say. 

"I suppose, then, 1 may take off my bonnet?" she said, 
quite innocently looking up in my face. 

If she had rushed to kiss me I could have understood it. If 
she had declared we were to be friends for ever, I should have 
quite gone in with her ; but, to take off her bonnet ! that was 
quite a different matter. I am sadly afraid I stammered and 
stared. I wanted a friend as much as she did but men are 
such strange creatures. What would Harry say when he came 
in? 

However, Sara Cresswell did not wait till I finished con- 
sidering. In five minutes after she was sitting on the carpet 
at the window with little Harry, playing with him. r ihe 
child was quite delighted. As for me, I was too much taken 
by surprise to know whether I was pleased or not. Harry was 
to dine at mess that night ; and, of course, I had only meant 
to have tea all by myself in the little back room. What was 
to be done ? I am sorry to say I was very much tempted to 
improvise a dinner, and pretend that it was just what I always 
did. I think the thing that saved me from this was looking at 
her with her little short curls ; she looked s like a child ! 
Besides, if we were really to be friends, was I to begin by 
deceiving her? Much better she should know at once all our 
simple ways. 

" You will have no dinner," said I, faltering a little. " Mr. 
Langham goes out, and I only take tea." 

" That is exactly what I like. Dinners are such bores !" 
said Sara, with the air of one who belonged to us and had 
taken possession. 



190 The Last of the Mortimers. 

It was getting quite dark, and the lamps were being lighted 
outside ; of course it delighted baby very much to be held up 
t see them, as his new nurse held him. As she stood there 
lifting him up, I put my hand upon her pretty hair. She had 
quite taken my heart. 

" Have you had a fever, dear?" said I. 

Sara stared at mp a moment, then looked deeply affronted, 
then burst into a strange laugh. " 1 forgive you, because you 
called me dear," she cried, starting off with baby to the other 
window. I suppose, then, it had not been a fever some foolish 
fancy or other, and no doubt her friends and acquaintance 
had pretty well avenged it, without any further question 
from me. 




The Last of the Mortimers. 191 



CHAPTER -VI. 

NEXT morning I was a little amused and a little surprised 
to think over all that had happened. The idea of h aving 
a friend, who stayed with me till after nine, and helped to put 
baby to bed, and interfered with Lizzie, and turned over all 
our few books, and asked all sorts of questions, was the oddest 
thing in the world to me ; and of course when I told Harry I 
heard all sorts of jokes from him about female friendship, and 
inquiries how long it would last, which made me extremely 
angry. Are men's friendships any- steadier, I wonder? I 
should say male friendship, to be even with him. Mr. 
Thackeray is delightful ; but he puts a great deal of stuff into 
young men's heads. I allow he may joke if he likes to be 
sure, he does not mean half of it but do you suppose they may 
all follow his example ? Not that I meai/to infer anything on 
Harry's part that I could not pay him back quite comfortably. 
But not meaning Harry in the least, I don't see why I should 
not do my little bit of criticism. I was just beginning to read 
books at that time, and everything was fresh to me. All the 
foolish lads think they are quite as wise as Mr. Thackeray, and 
have quite as good a right to think themselves behind ths 
scenes. I suppose there never was anybody who did not like to 
feel superior and wiser than his neighbours. I would put 
Domenico's laurel wreath on Mr. Thackeray's head; but I 
should like to put an 'extinguisher on the heads of the 
Thackerians. I should think the great man would be disposed 
to knock down half the people that quote him, could he only 
hear, and behold, and note. 

However, that has nothing to do with my story. I knew 
Lizzie must be in a highly excited state from ](<ng repression of 
her manifold gleanings of intelligence respecting last night's 
arrival ; and I went to her as soon as Harry was out lest any 
explosion should happen. Lizzie, however, looked rather down- 
cast as, baby being asleep, she went about her work upstairs. 
My first idea was that some jealousy of Miss Cresswell had 
invaded the girl's mind, but that did not explain all the 
peculiarities of her manner. She certainly allowed herself to 



192 The Last of the Mortimers. 

be drawn into an account of Domenico's proceedings, which 
gradually inspired and animated her ; but even in the midst of 
this she would make a hurried pause, now and then, and listen, 
as if some painful sound had reached her ear. 

" It was a very grand dinner. Eh, I never saw onything 
like the way he steered, and twisted, and mixed, and watched," 
said Lizzie ; " he maun be a real man -cook, like what's in books ; 
and took up everything separate, six different things one after 
the ither ; and Sally says there was as mony plates as if it had 
been a great party ; and the minute before and the minute 
after, what was the gentleman doing but smoking like as if he 
was on fire ; and eh, mem, he maun be a great man yon ! 
Domenico kissed his hand ; but after that," continued Lizzie, 
blushing and turning aside with a strong sense of impropriety, 
t "the gentleman kissel him /" 

" That is how foreigners do," said I, in apology. 

"And after the dinner there was that sound o' tongues 
through the house, you would have thought the walls would 
ha'e been down. Eh, sic language for Christians to speak ! 
but, mem, they're no Christians, they're Papishers is that 
true?" said Lizzie, with a little anxiety. " Such a blatter o' 
words, and no one a body could understand. No' that I was 
wantin' to understand; but it's awfu' funny to hear folk 
speakin', and nae sense in't. Eh, whisht! what was that?" 
cried Lizzie, starting and stopping short in her tale. 

It certainly was, or sounded, very like a moan of pain. 

"What is it, Lizzie?" 

" Eh, to think of us speaking of dinners, and ic nonsense ! 
and, mem, it's a poor man like to dee with pride, and sicjt- 
ness, and starvation ! What will I do ? What will 1 do?" 
cried Lizzie. " If naebody else in the house durst, it maun be 
me. I'll no keep quiet ony langer he canna be ill at me that 
was destitute mysel'. I'll gang and steal the bairn's beef -tea, 
and tell him lies, that it's his ain. Mem, let me gang. I 
canna beart ony mair !" 

I stopped her, however, growing very much excited myself. 
"What is it? What do you mean ?" 

Lizzie, who was choking with distress, eagerness, and excite- 
ment, pointed her finger up, and struggled to find her voice. 
It burst upon me in a moment. The "poor gentleman in the 
attic, the threadbare wistful man who went out to dine, had 
not been visible for some days. Lizzie told me in gasps what 
the landlady had told her. He was ill ; he was very poor ; 
deeply in Mrs. Goldsworthy's debt. They had noticed thai 



The Last of the Mortimers. 193 

his usual work had not been on his table for some time, and 
that no domestic stores of any kind were in his little cupboard ; 
three days ago he had become too ill to go out, they did not 
think he had anything to eat, and he would accept nothing 
from them. All yesterday they had not ventured to enter his 
room. Sick, starving, friendless what a picture it was ! No 
wonder he had hungry, wistful eyes. I lost no time as you may 
suppose. I sent Lizzie flying downstairs for the beef-tea. As 
for asking whether he would admit me or not, whether he 
would think it impertinent or not, I never stopped to think. 
Another of those moans, more audible this time because. I was 
listening for it, thrilled me through and through before Lizzie 
came back. Bless the girl ! in no time at all she had got the 
whitest napkin to be had in the house for the tray ; and the 
beef-tea smoked and smelt just as it ought. I was at the door 
of the room before I thought anything about how I was to 
excuse myself. By mere instinct I opened the door first ; then 
knocked, merely to warn the inmate of my coming, and in 
another moment stood all by myself in a new world. 

Another world ! a world of misery, endurance, voiceless 
passion, and persistence, altogether unknown to me. He was 
lying on some chairs before the fireplace, supporting his gaunt 
shoulders against the end of his bed, before the fireplace, in 
which there was no fire, nor had been. It was trim and well- 
blacked, and filled up with faded ornamental chippings of paper. 
His table was beside him, and he leaned one arm on it; nothing 
on the table, not even a book, except some old pens, blotting- 
paper, and an ink-bottle. His coat buttoned close up to his neck, 
with dreadful suggestive secrecy, plainly telling how little there 
was below ; and the hungry sad eyes, glaring wolfish and frenzied 
out of his worn face. He gave a great start when I came in, 
and either in passion or weakness thrust one of the chairs 
from under his feet, so that it fell with a great noise on the 
floor. The sound and the movement made my heart beat. But 
he took no further notice, only stared at me. I went forward 
and put the tray before him on the table, uncovered the basin, 
placed everything within his reach. All the while he stared at 
me, his eyes contracting and dilating as I never saw the eyes of 
any human creature before. I scarcely think he was a human 
creature at that moment ; at least he was holding to his man- 
hood only by that frantic hold of pride, which hunger and 
misery were rending before my very eyes. He began to 
tremble dreadfully; the sight of the food excited his weakness; 
but he tried to resist till the last gasp. 



14 The Last of tiie MortimM 

" Who are you? and how dare you come to my uom and 
intrude upon me !" lie said hoarsely, and trembling like a palsied 
man. 

t; I am your fellow-lodger. You used to notice my baby 
when you went downstairs ; and they told me you were ill, and 
could not go out. When one is ill there is nothing so good as 
beef-tea," said I, trembling a good deal myself ; ' l even if you 
cannot eat, you might drink a little, and it would refresh you. 
Do pray try, it will do you good." 

" And how do you know V" he said trembling more and more, 
till his very utterance was indistinct, "that I cannot have beef- 
tea or or anything else I like, of my own. Ah !" he ended, 
with a sharp cry. He put forward his hand towards it ; then 
he stopped in a dreadful spasm of resistance, and glared at me. 
I obeyed my first impulse, and went out of the room hurriedly. 
He would not take it while I was there. 

In about five minutes after I went back again with some 
coals and wood, in one of Mrs. Goldsworthy's old coal scuttles. 
I thought I saw how to manage him never to ask permission 
or make apologies, but simply to do what was needful. He 
had emptied the basin, I saw at a glance, and had a piece of 
bread in his hand, which he put down when I came in. He 
said nothing, but stared at me as I lighted the fire. When iny 
back was turned to him I fancied he made another stealthy 
application to the bread. He would hide the full amount of his 
misery if it were possible ; but it was only a partial victory he 
could obtain over himself. 

"Who, who are you?" he said at. last. "You you are a 
lady, eh ? It is not your business to make up fires ?" 

" Yes," said I, as cheerfully as I could ; " but we are poor ; 
and when one has not much money one has many things to 
do." 

At this the poor gentleman gave a great groam. Then, after 
a little, gasped, in broken words, " Thank God ! creatures like 
you don't know the truths they say." 

I understood him at once. " No," said I, "it is quite true ; 
but God knows all about it, that is a comfort always. Don't 
you think if I put the pillows behind you, you would' be 
more comfortable ? Try this. I am quite sure it is better 
so." 

"Ah! but how do you know I can't have pillows as 
I please, and whatever I want of my own ?" cried the 
jealous, delirious pride, waking up again in his big hollow 
eyes. 



The Last of the MoitimefS. 195 

* l I don't know anything about it," said I; "but you 
have nobody with you just now. If you will not send 
for any friends, you can't help having neighbours all the 
same." 

He said, " Ah !" again, and relapsed into his silent stare. 
But for the frenzy of desperate want and desperate pride, which 
only flickered up by moments, he was too far benumbed with 
want and suffering to do anything in the way of resistance. 
After I had settled him a little comfortable I went downstairs 
again, and as soon as baby's second bowl of beef-tea, which had 
been hastily made to take the place of the first, was ready, I 
stole that also, and went up with it again. Baby, who was as 
fat as possible, could quite well do without it ; and I remember 
having read that people, who had been in great want, should 
get food very often but not much at a time. The poor gentle- 
man was lying with his head on the pillow and his eyes half shut, 
the light of the fire glimmering over him, and a kind of quiet in 
his attitude. When he opened his eyes they grew wolfish again 
for a moment ; but he was subdued the first frenzy was gone. 
Somehow he did not seem alone any longer, with that dear good 
charitable fire blazing and crackling, and making all the noise 
it could, as if to show what company it could be. And this 
time he actually drew the basin towards him, and ate its contents 
before me. I went to the little window and cried a little pri- 
vately. Oh, it was pitiful ! pitiful ! That morning I am sure 
he had laid himself down upon these chairs, mad with want, 
bitterness, and solitude, to die. 




196 The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER VII. 

"T7OTJ, who would not go out to dinner because you could 

JL not afford it !'' cried Harry, " how do you dare venture 
on such rash proceedings ? It appears to me you have adopted 
a new member into the family." 

" Ah, but it is different/' said I : " going 1 out to dinner was 
a matter of choice, this was a matter of necessity." 

"It depends upon how people think," said Harry, "the 
priest and the Levite were of quite a different opinion ; but if 
you mean to have friends and pensio. ors, and get rich people 
and poor people about you, Milly darling, we'll have to think 
of new supplies. I cannot imagine how it has gone out of my 
mind all this time. Pendleton actually asked me to-day 
whether I had heard anything more about your grandfather's 
house." 

" My grandfather's house !" I said ; and we both looked at 
each other and laughed ; our removal had put all that out of 
our heads. Chester, and new places to look at, and new 
people to see, and just the usual disturbance of one's thoughts 
in changing about, had betrayed Harry who was so anxious 
about it, just as much as it had betrayed me. 

" I must see after it now in earnest. A thousand pounds or 
BO, you know," said Harry, with a kind of serio-comic look, 
" would be worth a great deal to you just now." 

And with this he went out. A thousand pounds or so ! 
twenty would have been nice ; aye, or ten, or even five, more 
than just our regular money. However, I only laughed to 
myself, and went upstairs to my poor gentleman. After all, I 
am not so sure that he was a gentleman, or at least anything 
unusual in himself. He was very independent, and want, and 
a passionate dread of being found out, and made a pauper of, 
had carried him to a kind of heroism for the moment. But 
when he got used to me, and consented to let me bring him 
things, he became very much like other people. He was 
always eager to get the newspaper and see the news. I carried 
him up the Chester paper, which Mrs. Goldsworthy took in 
just now. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 107 

When I went into his room, the first thing I saw was two 
letters on the table. Pie was just drawing back, and still 
trembling from his exertion, for he was still very weak. He 
put the letters towards me with a little movement of his 
hand. 

"I am writing to ask for work; I'm wonderfully steady 
now, wonderfully steady ; if they would only give me work ! 
Ah, it's hard times when a man can't get work," he said. 

I glanced at them as he wished me. " Cresswell?" said I; 
" 1 think I know his daughter, Mr. Ward. I'll speak to her ; 
perhaps she can make him help you." 

" She can make him do whatever she likes," said my friend, 
with his wistful eyes ; "it '11 be well for him if she don't 
make him do what he'll repent." 

" How do you mean ?" said I, with some surprise. 

u Well !" said my patient, u it's a story I don't understand, 
and I can't give you the rights of it. I was never more than 
just about the office an hour or so in the day, getting my 
copy. You see there's two rich old ladies about half-a-dozen 
miles out o' Chester, and there's either some flaw in their 
title, or something that way. I know for certain there was an 
advertisement written out for the Times, for one Mor- 
timer " 

"Mortimer!" 

u Yes," he said, looking at me in his eager way. " 1 
suppose it had been some day when he had quarrelled with 
them, and meant to bring in the true owner ; when all of a 
sudden it was withdrawn, and has never been in the Times to 
this day ; and Miss Cresswell after that spent a long time at 
the Park. Somebody said in the office it was more than likely 
the ladies would leave their property to her ; and to be sure it 
that was so, it would be none of her father's business to hunt 
up the right heir." 

I felt completely dizzy and bewildered ; I kept looking down 
upon the table, where the letters seemed to be flitting about 
with the strangest unsteady motion. 

" And are the ladies called Mortimer ?" I said, almost under 
my breath. 

" Yes ; they're folks well known in Chester, though seldom 
to be seen here," said Mr. Ward; "the youngest one, Miss 
Milly, is a good creature; the other one, and her name is 
Sarah, was a great beauty in her day. I remember when J, 
was a lad, we young fellows would walk all that way just to 
see her riding out of the gates, or driving her grey ponies ; 



198 The Last of the Uortimers. 

they called her the beautiful Miss Mortimer in those days. I 
daresay now she's as old, and as crazy, and as chilly but 
thank heaven, she can never be as poor, and as friendless, and 
as suffering as me." 

I could not make any answer for a long time. I stood with 
my hands clasped together, and my brain in a perfect whirl ; 
these words, Sarah, Miss Mortimer, the Park, going in gusts 
through my mind. What did it mean ? 1 had come upstairs 
with a smile on my lips about the fabulous house of my grand- 
father. Was this the real story now ubout to disclose itself ? 
I felt for a moment that overwhelming impatience to hear more 
which makes one giddy when on the verge of a discovery ; but 
I did not want to betray myself to the old man. 

" And do you mean," said I, holding fast by the table to 
keep myself from trembling, " that they are not the lawful 
owners of their estate ?" 

" Nay, I cannot tell you that," said my patient, very coolly ; 
"but what could be wanted with an advertisement in the 
Times for one Mortimer? and old Cresswell holding it back, 
you know, as soon as it was likely that his girl might get the 
Park." 

" Do you remember what was the Mortimer's name that was 
to be advertised for ? I know some Mortimers," said I, with a 
little tremble in my voice. 

" I can't say 1 exactly remember just at this moment," 
said the old man, after a little pause. "It wasn't like a 
Mortimer name ; it was nay, stay, it was one of the cotton- 
spinners' names; 1 remember I thought of the spinning- jenny 
directly ; something in that v/ay ; 1 can't tell exactly what it 
was." * 

I could scarcely stand. I could scarcely keep silent ; and yet 
I durst not, for something that choked the voice in i\\y throat, 
Suggest my father's name boldly to his recollection. 1 hurried 
away and threw myself on a chair in my own room. All was 
silent there; but with just a door between us Lizzie was playing 
with my boy ; and his crows of infant delight, and her soft but 
homely voice, seemed to break in upon the solitude I wanted. 
I rose from that retreat, and went down to our little drawing 
room. There it was Domcnico's voice, round and full, singing, 
whistling, talking, all in a breath. Nowhere could I get quiet 
enough to think over the extraordinary information I had just 
received. Or, rather, indeed it was not either Lizzie's voice, or 
Domenico's, but the agitation and tumult in my own mind ; 
the beating of my heart, and the stir and restlessness that rose 



The Last of the Mortimers. 199 

in me, that prevented me from thinking. Could it be possible 
that my father's languid prophecy, which Aunt Connor reported 
so lightly, had truth in it. after all? The idea excited me 
beyond the power of thinking. I went out and came in. I 
took up various kinds of work and threw them down again ; 
I could do nothing till Harry came in, .and I had told him. 
Then I fancied there might possibly seem some sense and co- 
herence in the news. If this were to come true, then what 
prospects might be dawning upon us ! In this sudden illumi- 
nation my past dread returned to me, as a fear which has been 
forgotten for a time always does. The war ! if Harry's wife 
turned out a great heiress, must not Harry himself cease to be 
a soldier and enter into his fortune? Ah me ! but he would 
not ; he would not if I should ask him on my knees ; not, at 
least, till he had taken his chance of getting killed like all the 
rest. 

This threw me back, with scarcely a moment's interval, 
into the full tide ^ those *l'.r>Miihts which had tortured me 
before we came to Chester. I got up from my chair and began 
to walk about the room in the restlessness of great sudden 
apprehension and terror. All my trouble came back. My 
fears had but been asleep, the real circumstances were uu- 
changod ; even to-day, this very day, Harry might be ordered 
to the war. 

He saw my nervous, troubled look in a moment when he 
came in ; he was struck by it at once. " You look as you once 
looked in Edinburgh, Milly," he said, coming up to me; 
*' what is the matter'? Something has happened while I have 
been away?" 

u Harry,". cried I, with a little excitement, suddenly remem- 
bering that I had news to tell him. " I have found the Park 
and the Sarah ; I have found the estate I am heiress to; I have 
found out something far more important than that old red- 
brick house ; and, do you know, hearing of this brought 
everything to my mind directly, all !)>y terrors and troubles. 
Never mind, I'll tell you what I heard in the first place. It 
was from my poor gentleman upstairs." 

Harry, who had heard me with great interest up to this 
point, suddenly shrugged up his shoulders, and put his lijs 
together with that disdainful provoking whew ! with which 
men think they can always put one down. 

" Oh. indeed, you need not be scornful !" said I ; u he writes 
papers fur a lawyer, and had a very good way of knowing. 
Hu says Mr. Crwwttt had uu advertisement (ill ready to be put 



200 The Last of ilie Mortimers. 

into the Times some months ago, for one Mortimer, whose name 
reminded him of a spinning-jenny. But it never was sent to 
the paper, because Miss Cresswell went out to the Park, and 
it was thought the ladies would make her their heiress ; but it 
was supposed there was some flaw in their title, and that this 
Mortimer would be the true heir." 

" The Park, and the ladies, and Miss Cresswell, and it was 
supposed? By Jove, Milly!" cried Harry, with great vehe- 
mence, "do you see how important this is? have you no 
better grounds than it was thought, and, it was supposed ?" 

u You are unreasonable, Harry ; I only heard what he had 
to say ; and, besides, it might not be my father, nor the same 
people at all. He could not tell me, I only heard what he had 
to say." 

But this explanation did not satisfy Harry ; he became as 
excited as I had been, but in a different way. He snatched up 
his hat, and would have gone at once, on the impulse of the 
moment, to see Mr. Cresswell, had not I detained him. The 
news had the same influence on Harry that it had on me. 
It woke us both out of that happy quiescence into which we 
had fallen when we came here. We were no longer dwelling at 
peace, safe in each other's society ; once more we were thrown 
into all the agitation that belonged to our condition and 
prospects. 

Harry was a soldier, ready to be sent off any day to the 
camp and the trenches, gravely anxious about a home and 
shelter for his wife and child ; I, a soldier's wife, ready at 
any moment to have the light of my eyes torn from me, and 
my life cut in twain. After the first hurried burst of consul- 
tation, we were both silent, thinking on these things. Certainly 
it was better that we should have been aroused. -Tiie reality 
coming at once, all unapprehended and unthought of, would 
otherwise have been an intolerable blow. Now there was little 
fear that we could forget again. 

It was natural that we should return to the subject again 
and again during the day. Harry drew my father's old books, 
and the drawing he had laughed at, from his own desk, where 
he had kept them ; and with them the envelope, full of formal 
documents, which he had written to Aunt Connor for with so 
much haste and importance, to substantiate my claim to my 
grandfather's house; there they lay, unused, almost unlocked 
at. Harry shook his head as he drew them out. We neither 
of us said anything. We were neither of us sorry that we had 
forgotten all about it for a time. For my own part, I went 



The Last of the Mortimers. . 201 

away upstairs very like to cry. This information, which had 
thrown us back into so many troubles, might never come to 
anything; and even if it did, what difference would that make? 
Harry, if I was found out to be a king's daughter, would 
never leave his profession, or shrink from its dangers, while 
this war lasted. My pleasant forgetfulness was over now. 
He was looking at this subject in the same light he had 
looked at it before we left Edinburgh ; it would be a home 
forme. 



The Last of the Mortimers* 



CHAPTER VITT. 

IT was an agitated, troubled day. The accidental nature of 
the information, calmly told to one who was supposed to 
have no interest in it ; the coincidence of the names ; the 
startled feeling we had in thus being suddenly brought into 
contact with people nearly connected with us, who were 
unaware of our existence, and of whose existence we had been 
unaware, acted very powerfully on our imaginations. I don't 
think either Harry or I had a moment's doubt upon the subject. 
As to the identity of the persons, certainly none ; and I confess 
that I, for one, received with perfect faith the suggestion that 
there was a wrong somehow in the matter, and that my father 
had turned out to be the true heir. It never occurred to me to 
imagine any other reason for the suppressed advertisement ; 
and Mr. Cress well, whom I had thought at the very climax of 
respectability, suddenly descended into a romantic lawyer-villain 
in my excited eyes. 

To add to the agitation of my thoughts, Sara Cresswell chose 
to take that day for one of her odd visits. She came in the 
afternoon to stay with me till evening. She was clearly quite 
beyond her father's control ; not even subject to a wholesome 
restriction of hours and meal-times ; for she never said her 
father was out to dinner on the occasions of her coming, nor 
accounted in any way for her liberty at his dinner-hour. The 
little brougham used to come for her at night, and her little 
maid in it a sign, I suppose, that the father did not dis- 
approve ; but that was all. Only wilful as she was, I confess I 
had grown to like her very much. I sometimes lectured her ; 
and once or twice we quarrelled ; but she always came back 
next time just the same as ever. So quarrelling with her was 
evidently useless. I must say I had a very strange sensation in 
welcoming her to-day. Could she know her father's base pur- 
poses about the Park which, according to all appearances, ought 
to be mine ? Could she have been paying her court to those 
ladies with the hope of supplanting the true heir? A glance 
$ fter fape, only too frank and daring always, might 



The Last of the Mortimers. 203 

undeceived me ; but of course, I was bucklered up in my own 
thoughts, and could s ,-e nothing else. 

" You are ill," said Sara, kfc or you are worried ; or 'tis I 
have done something. If I have, I don't mind ; that is to say, 
I am very sorry, of course, and 1 will never do it again. But 
if you think you will get rid of me by looking glum, you are 
Badly mistaken. I shan't go. If you won't have me for', 
friend, I shall come for a servant, and fight it out with Lizzie. 
Lizzie, will you have me for ' a neebor ?' Ah, I'm learning 
Scotch." 

" Eh, that's no Scotch !" cried Lizzie ; " ye dinna ken what 
it is. I'm, maybe, no that good at learning folk now, for I 
have to speak English mysel'." 

" And Italian, Lizzie !" cried Sara, clapping her hands, and 
forgetting all about my " glum T ' face. 

Lizzie's elbows and ankles fell almost immediately, and the 
most extraordinary blush rose on the girl's face. " Eh, but it's 
funny to hear twa speaking't," cried Lizzie, evading the subject 
eagerly. The truth is, she had got overmuch involved in the 
delightful excitement of the new language, and in consequence 
of the ludicrous fascination of the dictionary, by means of 
which Domenico and she conducted their conversations, had 
come to like the society of that worthy. When I found him 
escorting my child-maid and the baby out-of-doors, I thought 
it was time to remonstrate on the subject ; and my remon- 
strance had woke a certain womanly consciousness in the 
awkward -sensitive girlish bosom of Lizzie. She was over- 
whelmed with shame. 

Fortunately, the mention of the "twa" diverted Sara's 
thoughts. She had never ceased to be interested in Mr 
Luigi, and I saw a world of questions in her eye immediately. 
I hurried her downstairs, not feeling able, really, for random 
talk ; and troubled, more than I could express, to think 
how disappointed Harry would be when he came home 
full of one subject, expecting to talk it over with me, and 
found me occupied entertaining a stranger, a stranger, 
too, who had something to do with it, who was our rival, 
and plotting against us, all unaware of who we were. 

However, as it happened, one of the first things Sara's 
eye lighted upon when we entered the room, was that old 
drawing of poor papa's, which lay on the table. She was 
the quickest creature imaginable. She had it in her hand 
before I knew what she was about. Her exclamation made 
me start and tremble as if I had been found out in some- 






20-4 The Last of the Mortimers. 

thing. Here was another witness giving evidence freely, 
without any wish or contrivance of mine. 

"Why, here is the Park!" cried Sara, "actually the 
very house ! Where, in all the world, did you get it ? Have 
you been there? Do you know them? ' Why, I thought 
you were quite strangers to Chester! I never knew any- 
thing so odd. Who did it? It is frightfully bad, to be 
sure, but a staring likeness. Dear Mrs. Langharn, where 
did you get this ?" 

" I got it out of an old book," said I, with a guilty faltering 
which I could not quite conceal. " What Park is it ? where ia 
it? I do not know the place." 

But I am sure if ever anybody looked guilty and the 
possessor of an uncomfortable secret, it was me at that 
moment. I turned away from Sara, putting away that 
envelope with the certificates which Harry (how careless!) 
had also left on the table. I am sure she must have felt there 
was something odd in my voice. 

"What Park? why, the Park, to be sure. Everybody 
in Chester knows the Park ; and here is an inscription, 
I declare !" she cried, running with it to the window. " Oh, 
look here ; do look here ! It must have been some old lover of 
godmamma Sarah's. I never saw anything so funny in 
my life. ' Sarah as I saw her last.' Oh, Mrs. Langham ! 
do come and look at this comical, delightful thing! Isn't 
it famous ? She's as old as old as any one's grandmother. 
Who could it be? who could it possibly be?" 

u Did you say your godmother?" said I. This was another 
novel aggravation. Of course I had heard Sara speak 
of her godmothers ; but, somehow, I had not identified 
them with the ladies who were expected to make her their 
heir. 

But Sara was too much excited and delighted, and full 
of glee and ridicule, to answer me. She kept dancing 
about and clapping her hands over the drawing; always 
returning to it, and indulging in criticisms as free and as 
depreciatory as Harry's had been. It was getting dark, 
and I confess I was very glad to sit down a little in the half 
light, and repose myself as well as I could while she was 
thus engaged and wanted no attention from me. Just 
then, however, I heard Harry's foot coming upstairs, and, 
to my great wonder and almost alarm, somebody else entered 
with Harry. I could scarcely see him as I rose to receive 
my husband's companion. Somebody else, however, saw 



The Last of the Mortimers. 205 

Irim quicker than I did. In a moment Sara had dropped 
into the shadow of the curtains, and became perfectly silent. 
An inconceivable kind of sympathy with her (it could be 
nothing but mesmerism) somehow cleared up the twilight 
in a moment, and made me aware who the stranger was. It 
was Domenico's master, Mr. Luigi, the Italian gentleman 
downstairs. 

I cannot tell how the first preliminaries were got over. Of 
all times in the world to make acquaintance with anybody, 
think of the twilight, just before the candles came in, and when 
you could scarcely make out even the most familiar face ! We 
got on somehow, however; we three Sara sitting all the time 
dropt down, and nestling like a bird. among the curtains, struck 
into the most unaccountable silence. I suppose she thought 
nobody saw her ; whereas, on the contrary, Mr. Luigi, looking 
out of the darkness where he was sitting towards the window, 
saw the outline of her pretty head against a bit of green-blue 
sky as distinct as possible ; and looked at it too, as I can 
testify. 

When candles came at last (Mrs. Goldsworthy had a lamp ; 
but it smoked, and the chimney broke, and all sorts of things 
happened to it), after the first dazzled moment we all looked 
at each other. Then Sara became clearly visible, and was 
forced out of her corner to let the blind be drawn down. She 
came forward to the light at once, with just the least bravado 
in her manner, ashamed of hiding herself. She had still the 
drawing in her hand. 

"Mr. Langham," said Sara, "do you know this wonderful 
drawing ? I never was so amused and amazed in my life. Do 
you know it's the Park ? and my godmarnma Sarah when she 
was a young lady and a great beauty. To think you should 
find it accidentally ! And it must have been one of her old 
lovers who did it. Oh, please give it to me, and let me show 
it her. She would be pleased. She would soon find out whose 
it was." 

Here Mr. Luigi, who had taken up one of those old books of 
my father's, which Harry in his carelessness bad left upon the 
table, uttered a very brief instantly suppressed exclamation. I 
wonder what he could have discovered ! It was the copy of 
Racine, which I have before mentioned as among papa's books, 
on which was written the name of Sarah Mortimer. Sarah 
Mortimer ! Here were we all strangers, or almost strangers, to 
each other, all apparently startled by the sound and sight of 
this name. What could the Italian have to do with SaraU 



206 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Mortimer? she who broke poor papa's heart, and whom we had 
found out so suddenly to-day? 

"This lady?" said Mr. Luigi, holding up the book to me 
with a slight tremulousness, " Madame will not think me 
impertinent ; does she live ?" 

" Indeed," said I, with a shiver of agitation, " I cannot tell. 
I do not know anything about her ; her name on that book and 
the drawing is all we know. I think she is a ghost. Do you 
too know her name ? Sara, tell us, for pity's sake, who is this 
Sarah Mortimer of the Park ?" 

Sara stared at the book with still greater amazement than 
she had shown at the drawing. " She is my godmamma," said 
the girl, in a disturbed, amazed tone. " She is Miss Mortimer 
of the Park. Since you all know her name, you all know that 
certainly. How is it you know her ? why did you not tell me ? 
Is there any mystery? it all seems very strange to me." 

"Then it is that lady," exclaimed Mr. Luigi "it is that 
lady I did meet in the village." 

" No," said Sara, recovering herself in a moment ; " you met 
my other godmamma, her sister. She told me she had met 
yoi ':- May I ask if you found the lady in Manchester? 
Godmamma was very much interested and anxious to know. 
Did you find her? have you heard where she is to be found ?" 

Mr. Luigi looked at the book once more ; then closed it down 
firmly with his hand ; then gazed a little anxiously in Sara's 
face. "Have I found the lady?" he repeated like an echo. 
" Mademoiselle, I do not know." 

Then the Italian, as if with an instinctive motion, laid his 
other hand over the book, and clasped them both upon it as 
though to hold something fast. Then to my amazement and 
to Sara's but to something more than amazement on Sara's 
part something very much like pique and offence he turned 
towards Harry and began to talk on indifferent matters. I 
had noticed a half-weary, half-impatient sigh escape him as he 
laid his hands over that book ; but he showed no other 
symptom of emotion. The next moment he was talking in 
very good English, slightly, very slightly, broken with now 
and then a foreign idiom, something about public affairs. I 
confess I felt disappointed as well as Sara. He had recog- 
nised that name ; somehow it, was familiar to him ; and his 
enigmatical answer had naturally stimulated our curiosity. He 
left us behind him staring and wondering, when he suddenly 
glided from the brink of some revelation to those quiet remarks 
upon English politics, Harry, full, of his share of the common 



The Last of the Mortimers. 207 

excitement, did not enter into it with half so much heart as 
Mr. Luigi. Harry blundered and was awkward, his thoughts 
being elsewhere. Mr. Luigi was quite undisturbed and at his 
ease. Sara scarcely spoke again while he remained ; she did 
all but turn her back upon him ; she showed her pique quite 
clearly enough to catch the quick eye of the Italian. Al- 
together he did not stay very long, thinking us, 1 daresay, 
rather an uncomfortable party ; and Harry, disappointed, as 1 
had expected, not to find me alone, and be able to hold a 
comfortable consultation, went downstairs with him to smoke 
a cigar. 

"Now they are gone," cried Sara; "now the man in the 
iron mask has left us. I wonder if that is what one would 
call a romantic Italian ? ah ! I'd rather have fat Domenico. 
Now they're gone, do tell me, once for all, what is godmamma 
Sarah to you?" 

" Nothing in the world that I know of," said I, faltering a 
little ; " we have only that drawing and her name in the old 
book." 

" I know there is something between her and him" said 
Sara, returning, to my great dismay to the other books on the 
table; "she knows about him, or he knows about her, or 
something. You know she was a long time abroad. What 
funny old books! Was it among those you found the 
drawing? But, stop, here is another Mortimer Richard A. 
Mortimer who is he? Papa has been their agent for 
centuries, and I have known them all mv life, but I never 
heard of a Richard luortimer. jjo ten ine, wno was he ? 

" Indeed, it is all very odd," cried I, really fluttered out of 
my self-possession. "I wonder what will come of it? Itia 
very strange and bewildering. Richard Mortimer was my 
father." 

"Then you are a relation!" cried Sara; "you must be a 
relation, there are so few Mortimer.? ; and your father must 
have been her lover. Are you sure, are you quite sure? 
Why, your name must be Mortimer too ! and Milly ! Mr. 
Langham calls you Milly Milly Mortimer! Oh, dear, dear! 
I never can get to the Park to tell them to-night, and how 
shall I contain myself till to-morrow ? I knew there must be 
something that made me love you so much at first sight. To 
be sure, that explains everything. Milly Mortimer ! oh, you 
dear, pretty, good, delightful Mrs. Langham ! 1 am so glad, 
EO happy ! They are my godmothers, and so to be sure we 
are relations too;" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 

Upon which Sara threw her arms round me in a wild, 
rapid embrace. I was so very much shaken and disturbed with 
all that had happened, that I could scarcely bear this last. I 
remember using all my remaining power to convince her that- 
the relationship was by no means certain still, and that it was 
not to be communicated to the ladies at the Park without 
further assurance. Sara, however, only overpowered me with 
caresses and exclamations. She entirely upset all the re- 
maining strength I had. She kept us from that consultation 
which Harry and I were both so much longing for. She left 
us at last in terror lest we should be brought into immediate 
contact with those unknown relatives. This day of great 
news, excitement, and perplexity, was, I think, the "most 
exhausted, uncomfortable day I ever met with in all ray 
life. 



The Last of the Mortimer*. 209 



CHAPTER IX. 

a TT is the oddest business altogether that I had ever any- 
J_ thing to do with," said Harry, next morning ; u OHO 
cannot tell what step to take first. My own idea, of course, is 
to call on this old Cresswell and get it all out of him. He evi- 
dently is the man who knows." 

" Ah, but, Harry, if he is one of those scheming lawyers," 
said I, " why should he go and betray his clients for people 
whom he never heard of before? and, besides, it would be 
impossible to tell him how we got information about it, for you 
could not speak of the advertisement without ruining poor Mr. 
Ward." 

" Milly, I may be sorry enough for your poor Mr. Ward, but 
I am more interested a great deal in your rights," said Harry ; 
44 besides, if everything came true we could make it up to him. 
I see nothing for it but going to old Cresswell. He will be 
glad since he did think of an advertisement to have such a 
rod of terror to hold over the heads of his old ladies ; at all 
events we shall know what it is. It might come to nothing 
after all," said Harry, with a little sigh, " and there is nothing 
more injurious than to be kept uncertain. Why, to tell the 
truth, I feel extravagant this morning : I got up with the 
feeling. I should like to go and ruin myself in accordance with 
the sentiment of the moment. If it's all true, why should we 
be economical? your grandfather's red brick house on one 
side, and this Park on the other. We're lucky people, Milly. 
I'll either go and see old Cresswell and have it out with him, or 
I'll go and throw away every shilling I have." 

" Ah, Harry, give it to me," I said, holding out my hands ; 
" but I don't believe you have any money, so it doesn't matter. 
Only just wait a little, please ; don't let us do things hastily 
Think of thrusting our claims suddenly upon two old ladies 
who perhaps have enjoyed it all their life. Only think of us 
two, young and happy, disturbing the lives of two old people 
who are not so fortunate as we are ! Not to-day ; let us try to 
get other proof first. Try if Mr. Pendleton knows anything* 
write to Haworth again. At least, don't let us be hasty j 4 



210 The Last of the Mortimers. 

day or two cannot matter; and I don't trust this Mr. Cress- 
well," cried I, with some vehemence. " He cannot be honest, 
or he would not have done such a thing." 

Harry laughed at my earnestness. He said lawyer-villains 
had gone out of fashion, and that there were no Mr. Gammons 
now-a-days. The truth is, we had both been reading novels 
since we came to Chester, and I am not at all sure that Harry 
was as sceptical about Mr. Gammon as he professed to be. 
But, to my consolation, he went out without any definite 
purpose of beginning his proceedings. "I daresay old Cress- 
well is an old humbug," said Harry. " I'll see whether there 
is not some other old fellow about who is up to everybody's 
genealogy; surely there ought to be some such person about the 
Cathedral. And I'll write to Pendleton, Milly. To be sure, 
there is nothing to hurry us. ' Let us take time, that we may 
be done the sooner.' I'll do nothing desperate to-day." 

"When he was gone I felt a little sense of relief. I sat long 
in the same chair, with the table still littered with the breakfast 
things, neglecting my duties and even baby. He had been 
brought downstairs before Harry went out, and was now sitting 
at my feet on the carpet, playing with my work-basket, which 
much contented him. I did not observe the havoc that was 
taking place, but sat still in a tumult of thoughts which I could 
not describe. I suppose nobody ever did come to a sudden 
knowledge or even fancy that they might be found out heirs 
of a great estate without feeling fluttered. I was half afraid of 
the thought, yet it had a strange, vague, bewildering exhilaration 
in it. Sometimes a trembling shadow would cross my mind of 
my old spectre ; but it had faded again to-day into the agita- 
tion of surprised and trembling hopes. One does not always 
feel the same even about one's own terrors. And, upon the 
whole, I felt raised into a kind of general elevation, thrust up 
above myself into another region, capable of being kinder, more 
liberal and magnanimous than I had ever felt before. I suppose 
it must have been the same feeling which Harry had when he 
said he felt extravagant. I could have emptied my purse to a 
beggar, I believe, at least I could have found it in my heart 
to give him sixpence instead of a penny, to such an extent 
had this vague, exhilarating rich feeling carried me away. 

Lizzie looked a little mysterious when I called her at last. 
She was bursting with something to tell ; and when I addressed 
some ordinary question to her, her news broke forth suddenly 
without any introduction. " Eh, the gentleman's awa' again," 
cried Lizzie, "and he thinks she maun be found or heard tell 



The Last of the Mortimers* 211 

o' he thinks there maun be word of her. The gentleman's 
awa' back where he was, to bring something he left, and 
'JMenico says, as sure's death she maun be found." 

"Who must be found?" 

" Eh, mem, it's the leddy ! They came a* this gate, ower 
the hills and the seas, to find a leddy. I canna just understand 
wha she is," s.iid Lizzie, " but she's some freend ; and 'Menico'a 
clear she maun be found now, and he's dancing like to bring 
down the house for joy." 

" But you don't look very joyful, Lizzie ; what is the 
matter ?" said I. 

Lizzie made a desperate effort to restrain herself, but, failing, 
burst into violent tears. "Eh, he's written me a letter!" cried 
the girl, sobbing ; and then, with much fumbling, eyes blind 
with tears, and a face all glowing with shame, the letter came 
forth from, the bosom of Lizzie's dress, and was thrust into my 
hand. 

Alas for my self-congratulations over Lizzie's childish age I 
Fourteen, after all, it appeared, was no safeguard. But I was 
as much amused as troubled when I undid Domenico's letter. 
It was written on odd thin paper, in a very tolerable hand ; it 
was addressed to the Elizabeth Bain, and its contents were as 
follows : 

" To the my little good Lessee. 

" You be good child ; if the lady yours will, I take you to 
the theatre after to-morrow, for gratitude. To me you show of 
bounty, I to you of thanks. There be grand sight at the 
theatre which will please to you. Show the ISignora yours this 
letter mine, and ask if permission. It will much please to ie 
to make festa for my little good Lessee. There be none word 
in English for festa, for because the English not know to make 
it. 

44 DOMENICO." 

" But, Lizzie," cried I, in surprise, " there is nothing in this 
to cry about. He only means to be kind, poor fellow. There 
is not a word in all this that sounds like " 

Love-making, I was about to have said, but paused, partly 
in respect for the innocence of the girl, and partly ashamed of 
myself for my instinctive suspicion that flirtation was inevitable 
when " a foreigner," however fat, was in the case. Lizzy had 
wiped her eyes and was looking at me wistfully, quite ready to 
sob again. 

" Oh, it's no him," cried Lizzie ; " he's a papist, puir mail, 



212 The Last of the Mortimer*. 

and he doesna ken ony better. But oh, mem, it's me me that 
was weel brought up, and learned the catechism and ay gaed 
to the kirk ; and what will I do ? what will I do V" 

u For pity's sake, Lizzie, tell me what is the matter?" cried 
I, really alarmed. 

Lizzie burst into tears once more. She wiped her eyes with 
her apron, with hot and humid hands ; then, casting a pathetic 
glance at me from under the drapery, sobbed forth the dreadful 
confession, " Oh, mem ! though I think burning shame, and 
ken it's dreadful, I canna help it I would like to gang !" 

This anti-climax was too much for my gravity, ami Lizzie 
looked on with moist, uncomprehending eyes at the burst of 
laughter which I could not restrain. Poor Lizzie ! I have no 
doubt she thought me very heartless neither to satisfy her guilty 
desires after such vanities, nor her scruples of conscience and 
violent shame at her own weakness. Baby, however, was 
more sympathetic. Seeing his beloved Lizzie in tears, a fellow- 
feeling made him scream in concert. He had to be consoled, 
though his nurse went away wistful, trembling lest I should 
consent, and lest I should not consent. But privately I confess 
I was very much relieved and not a little ashamed of myself. 
To think I should have suspected any absurd love-making 
between these two ! I felt ready to go and ask poor Lizzie's 
pardon. But why should not she go to the theatre and satisfy 
her mind? Pomenico could not be less than twenty years 
older than herself. On the whole, this little episode quite 
increased the lightness of my spirits. The day was bright, the 
spring was every hovir becoming more sweet, and as I sat there 
by myself with my child in the little back-room, noting the 
sunshine, which did not reach us. fall sweet upon the little 
walled- in gardens at the back, a sudden project which had 
already glanced through my mind, became feasible on the 
moment. Yes, I should do it. Lizzie and the baby, for a 
breath of country air, should go with me. By actual witness 
of my own eyes I would identify the Park. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER X.' 

fTlHE next day Harry had duties of one sort and another, 
J_ which would completely occupy his time. He had not 
found any student of genealogy who could tell him all about 
the Mortimers of the Park ; but he had heard of one, and. 
between that and his duty, was full engaged both in person and 
thoughts. A better opportunity could not be. I told him I 
thought of ta,king a long walk into the country with Lizzie and 
baby this beautiful day ; and, except a warning not to go too 
iii far and weary myself, Harry had nothing to say against my 
intention. I may say, however, that in the meantime, having 
consulted with him on the subject, I had plunged Lizzie's mind 
into the most dread commotion of terror, delight, and curiosity, 
by consenting to Domenico's proposal, only adding Mrs. Golds- 
worthy to the party, to make all right. 

And it was true that Mr. Luigi had disappeared again ; he 
was only to be three days gone, Domenico assured us, holding 
up three of his fingers. " Tree sola, tree only," repeated the 
fat fellow once more, blocking up the passage as of old ; and 
once more, with that inimitable wheel and elastic step of his, 
opening the door before any one could approach it. I could 
not help wondering to myself whether the Italian gentleman 
was likely to leave Chester before we did ; certainly the loss of 
Domenico would make quite a difference in the house. I had 
not thought quite so much as I might have been supposed to 
have done about this Italian gentleman. He too had recognised 
the name of Sarah Mortimer as having some influence on his 
fate. He had left early next morning, as if acting upon the 
knowledge he had gained, whatever that might be. It was very 
strange ; afterwards, of course, I came to lay everything 
together, and wonder at myself that I had not seen how things 
were tending. But at the moment I was full of my own 
thoughts ; they seemed so very much more important to me 
just then than anything else. I dismissed Mr. Luigi with just 
half a thought of surprise and curiosity; I dare say Sara 
Cresswell had thought more of him. And Sara had not come 
to me through all that long intervening day. Could she 



214 The Last of the Mortimers. 

have gone to the Park to. tell the news ? would they acknow- 
ledge or pretend to disown us ? That was a question far more 
interesting to me than all the Italians in the world. 

The private object of my expedition, however, was one I 
was truly ashamed to mention to anybody ; but, for all that, it 
had taken a great hold upon myself. I have said I had been 
reading novels ; and the very last one we had from the library 
was "Ten Thousand a Year." It struck upon my mind even 
at the very moment when poor Mr. Ward had told me first. 
Those dear, good, delightful, fine, superfine Aubreys ! to think 
of all their sufferings, the poor dear superlative people how 
dreadfully they felt it to have only a maid waiting at table ! 
Oh me ! and only to think that here might we ourselves be 
bringing about such another calamity ! Of course you may 
think it was very fantastical. I do confess that the dreadful 
downfall of having only a maid to wait, seemed to me, at first 
sight, the most fine distress I had ever heard of ; but it took a 
hold upon my mind all the same ; I could not help imagining 
to myself the other side of the picture. It was very pleasant 
to think of falling heirs to a great estate, and being lifted in a 
moment from poverty into great wealth ; but who were those 
two pathetic figures turning away from the closed door of the 
house which had been their home so long, mournfully settling 
down in their new straitened quarters, breaking up all the 
habits of their lives, missing somehow in an unspoken way, 
that it would be ludicrous to express in words, but was far 
from ludicrous to feel, all the grander circumstances of their 
life V Ah ! that was quite a different question. I thought I 
could see them sighing over their contracted rooms, their 
fallen state not speaking, falling silent rather, life going out 
and ebbing away from them, I saw the two pale old lofty 
faces, the pride, the submission, the deep sense of downfall 
concealed in their hearts, and I felt myself stopped short in my 
way. Those ineffable Aubreys, those figures painted on 
velvet, those dear porcelain creatures, with their exquisite 
troubles, had an effect upon my imagination, even though I. 
might venture to smile at them sometimes. Superfine people, 
to be sure, must have superfine afflictions ; and to think of 
being a Tittlebat Titmouse, and driving out such angels from 
their paradise into the cold-hearted, unsympathetic world, 
that cared no more whether they had a six-foot footman and a 
carriage, than it cared about myself, a subaltern's poor wife, 
driving out of Chester in an omnibus ! So this was the real 
cause of my journey. I went remorsefully, thinking all thQ 



The Last of the Mortimers. 215 

way how Mrs. Aubrey swooned at all emergencies. I wonder, 
when they heard the dreadful power we had over them, would 
Miss Sarah and Miss Milly swoon in each other's arms? I 
could see them going about, stricken silent, afraid to look at 
each other ; and it would be all our doing. Remorseful to my 
very heart, I went to visit their village and ask about them, 
and seethe house if I could. Perhaps some arrangement might 
be made, after all, to prevent any loss to these poor dear old 
ladies. I felt as if I could have done anything for them, my 
heart was so compunctious and repentant of the power we had 
to do them harm. I am not sure my great magnanimousness 
did not have a root in what Harry called feeling extravagant^ 
as well as in u Ten Thousand a Year." 

We went out a considerable part of the way in an omnibus, 
and then walked. After a good long walk through a nice 
country, we saw a pretty common a liitle way before us : I call 
it pretty because some parts of it were very unequal and 
broken, having gorse bushes, with here and there a golden 
honey-bud among the prickles. To get to the common, we 
crossed over a very clean, nicely kept piece of road, straight 
and smooth, leading down to the village from the gates of a 
great house. The house was too far off to make it out, but I 
felt my heart beat a little, knowing, from the description I had 
got, that it could be no other than the Park. 

I left Lizzie and her charge seated on the soft grass of 
the common, where baby, who had never before known any- 
thing so delightful, began to pluck at the crowflowers with his 
fat hands ; and went down into the village to buy them some 
biscuits. 1 confess I felt very guilty. Going anywhere all by 
myself confused me, not being accustomed to it ; but I was not 
an innocent stranger here ; I was a spy in my rival's kingdom ; 
I was a Bolingbroke pretending to acknowledge the sway of 
the existing sovereign : I was going to traffic with his subjects 
and tamper with them. If the village authorities had found 
me out, and held a court-martial and hanged me on the spot, I 
think I should have acknowledged the justice of their decision. 
I was a spy. 

It was a nice village a nice, well cared-for, tidy, yet not 
too picturesque or unnatural village ; looking as if the richer* 
people about were friendly and sensible, not interfering too 
much, but keeping up a due reverence and influence. Some 
tall bushes of broom were actually bursting into yellow streaks 
over the garden palings not wall of a house standing back a 
little, which I found out to be the Rectory. It must have beeu 






216 The Last of the Mortimers. 

very sheltered and warm, for it was still only April. However, 
though I was full of curiosity, my mind was not sufficiently 
disengaged to carry away a clear picture of the village ; and 
when the women looked out from the doors at me with an 
instinct that a stranger was passing, I felt more guilty than 
ever. I made my way accordingly to the baker's as fast as I 
could, and got some dark-complexioned ponderous buns there, 
which I felt sure would rouse Lizzie's national sense of supe- 
riority to great triumph. Then 1 made a tremulous excuse of 
wanting some biscuits besides, and so got a little time to bring 
forward the questions I had prepared. 

u Who is it that lives in the great house at the other end of 
the village?" said I hypocritically, pointing with my finger 
towards the Park. 

" Who is it V" said the baker's wife, leaning on her counter 
with a certain contempt and admiration of my ignorance ; 
*' law bless you, ma'am, you don't know this place, seemingly. 
Them's the Miss Mortimers, the oldest family in Cheshire. 
They're as well known as the Queen about here." 

" I am a stranger," said I hurriedly. " Are they ladies I 
mean are they young ladies ? were there no sons V" 

The taker's wife leaned back upon a sack of flour, and 
laughed. " Miss Milly's godrnoother to half the village," she 
said ; " she's none that young, she's isn't. No, there wasn't no 
son. I've heard my mother say there was once talk of making 
Miss Mortimer an ouldest son like, but it couldn't be done. 
They're cooheiresses, that's what it's ca'ed I've seen it written 
down myself cooheiresses of the late Lewis Esquire ; that's 
the name it goes by ; and as they ain't married it's no harm." 

" Did they succeed their father, then ?" said I. 

u And that they did," cried the woman, ' ; and their father's 
father, and grandfather, and great-grandfather, as far back as 
I don't know when : they're no mushroom folks, tiie folks in 
the Park." 

I felt very much puzzled and perplexed; how could my 
father, then, have anything to do with it? It was very 
strange. 

" But I suppose the lands were entailed, then, or something 
of that sort. Was there never another heir that claimed ? I 
think you must be wrong," said I, betraying myself in my 
wonder and haste. 

The baker's wife opened her eyes wide and stared ; then 
laughed out rather scornfully politeness is not the first rule 
either of life or speech in Cheshire. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 217 

u I've lived here in the village all my life," she said ; " if I 
don't know, I'd like to hear who should. Nay, nay, there 
never was a dream of another heir ; they're surer nor most folks 
are the Miss Mortimers. There ain't scarce one living be- 
longing to them to get it when they're gone. I tell you what it 
is, it's a mistake. You're thinking on Eden Hall." 

44 Oh !" said I, " perhaps ! I am a stranger here." 

44 Sure you're strange," said the baker's wife ; 44 any one in 
the village could tell that. Ne'er a one asked such questions o 
me nor any questions at all, but the price of bread, and how 
the crops are to be, except that Frenchman with the moustache. 
You're not belonging to him, are you ? You're English by 
your speech." 

44 Oh yes, I'm English," cried I, not without a vague 
momentary vision of the village court-martial, and being hung 
up for a spy. u I will take my change, please." 

And I took my change, and went away with quickened steps 
but changed feelings. I had not the heart to speak to anybody 
else. I passed old women at the doors, who, no doubt, could 
have told something about it ; but I did not venture to make 
any more inquiries. I was completely lost in perplexity. The 
undisputed representatives of a race, the heirs of father, grand- 
father, and great-grandfather to unknown antiquity what 
could be urged against their possession ? 1 was startled into 
sudden doubt of the whole matter. What if it were all a 
deception ? The very pathway swam and twisted under my 
eyes. When I reached the common, arid threw myself wearily 
on the grass beside little Harry and his maid, I felt quite a 
different person from her who had left them there. I gave 
Lizzie the coarse buns, but I did not listen to the comments 
which came as I knew they would. I was far too much bewil- 
dered and shaken out of my fancies to be amused. After I had 
rested awhile, I got up, and, taking tLi^ with me, went up, 
rather faltering, to the gates of the Park. A little lodge, half 
hidden among evergreen bushes, wjis at the gate. I went 
forward, Lizzie following me close, to ask if we might be per- 
mitted to look at the house. 

But, just as I was going up to the door, I was accosted by a 
lady who came hurriedly forward by a side-path. She held out 
her hand to stop us before she came up, and full of fanciful 
alarm as I was, I stopped, startled, with again the sensation of 
having been found out. She was middle-sized and stout, with a 
plump, handsome figure and sensible, kind face very sensible, 
very kind, not brilliant at all; and, I think, with its much 




218 TJie Last of the Mortimers. 

perplexed thought and anxiety upon it, as there WAS on 
mine . 

" Don't go into the lodge with the baby, please," she cried, 
as soon as she was near ; u the little girl has the hooping-cough. 
It's always best to keep out of the way of danger. If I can 
tell you what you want, shall be very glad. I see you're a 
stranger ; or if you want to see Mrs, Williams, send away the 
baby, please. Hooping-cough's very catching, and it's hard 
upon such a young child." 

This voice and this speech completely overpowered me. 
I could not doubt for a moment that this was one of 
the Miss Mortimers. I was no longer a mere spy ; I was 
an unnatural traitor. I motioned Lizzie with my hand to go 
away, but stood still speechless myself, the tears rising to 
my eyes. The lady stood waiting to see what I wanted, 
but discovering my distress, as some people can, came a 
littf.e closer to me. " Are you ill ? can I help you in 
anything ?" she said, looking very pitifully and kindly into my 
wet eyes. 

"No, thank you. I was going to ask if I might look at 
the Park; but I must make haste after baby," I cried. I 
had the impulse to curtsey to her as children do ; for any- 
thing I know i did it. The only thing that I am certain 
of is, that as fast as my feet would carry me, I hastened 
away. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 219 



CHAPTER XL 

WE were able to get the same omnibus going home, 
which I was very glad of, for the strange defeat I 
had received made me feel doubly weary with the walk, 
which, after all, had not been a very long one. There 
was only one person in this omnibus, which was not a 
town omnibus, you know, but one which went between 
Chester and an important village, seven or eight miles off. 
He was an elderly man, very well dressed in black, with 
a white cravat. To tell the plain truth, I took him for a 
dissenting preacher by his dress; and as he looked very 
serious and respectable, and was very polite in helping us 
to get in, we had some little conversation after a while. 
When he saw me look at the houses we passed with an 
appearance of interest, he told me the names of them, or 
who they belonged to. He was exceedingly polite and 
deferential, so polite that he called me ma'am, which sounded 
odd ; but I could only suppose he was an old-fashioned 
person and liked such antiquated ways of expression. I 
confess a suspicion of his real condition never crossed my mind. 
But he evidently knew everybody, and after a while my 
prevailing idea woke up again. 

" Do you know," said I, with a little hesitation, " the family 
at the Park the Miss Mortimers ? I should very much like to 
hear something about them." 

" There's nobody I know better, ma'am," said our companion 
with a slight look of surprise ; " I've been with that is, I've 
known 'em this fifty years." 

" Oh, then will you please tell me how they succeeded ?" said 
I ; " how did they come into the estate ?" 

" How they succeeded ?" said the stranger, with a certain 
slow wonder and amazement ; u why, ma'am, in the natural 
way, after their father as was Squire before them." 

Here I could not help thinking to myself that the dissenting 
clergy must be dreadfully uneducated, if this were one of them. 

" But was there never any gap in the succession?" said I ; 
"has it been in a straight lkie ? has there been no break lately 
no branch of the family passed over ?" 



220 The Last of the Mortimers. 

" Bless you, ma'am, you don't know the Mortimers," said our 
friend ; " there's never enough of them to make branches of 
the family. There was a second cousin the young ladies had a 
many years ago, but I never heard of no more of them, and he 
was distant like, and had no more thoughts of succession than 
I had. If that gen'lman was alive or had a family, things 
might be different now." 

"How do you mean things might be different now?" cried 1. 

" The ladies, ma'am, has never married," said the man, who 

certainly could not be more than a Methodist local preacher at 

the utmost, " and, in the course of nature, there can't be no 

natural heir." 

This view of the subject, however, was one totally unsatis- 
factory to me. " Are you sure," said I, u that. there never was 
any other heir spoken of that there never was any story about 
the succession that there was never anybody to dispute it with 
the Miss Mortimers ? I thought 1 had heard some such story 

about " 

u Ah, you're thinking, ma'am, of Eden Hall, just the next 
property," said he. 

tk But was there never any claimant to the Park?" .asked I, 
tome what excited. 

"' No such thing," said the man in black, " nor couldn't be. 
Bless you, the family's well known. There never was so much 
as a will-case, as 1 ever heard on ; for why, you see, ma'am, 
there never was such a plenty of children to make quarrels. 
When there's but two or so, there's little can come of quarrel- 
ling. No, no ! there never was no strange claimant to our 
estate." 

-'To your estate, did you say V" cried I,' in amazement. 
".So, ma'am, no no such presumption. 1 said our, and 
sure I might ; I've been with the ladies this fifty year." 

lv Oh !" I exclaimed, much dismayed. This was certainly 
coming to the very head-quarters for information. This was 
no local preacher after all, but only the Miss Mortimers' major- 
domo. If there had been any possible excuse for it, I should 
certainly have got out of the omnibus immediately, so utterly 
confounded and taken aback did 1 feel. But as we were still some 
two miles out of Chester, and we were all tired, and baby cross 
and sleepy, I had to think better of it. However, in my con- 
sternation I fell into instant silence, and felt really afraid of 
meeting the man's eye. He sat opposite me, beside Lizzie, very 
respectful and quiet, and by no means obtruding himself upon 
my notice. I cannot tell how shocked aiid affronted and augr" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 221 

I felt with myself. I had, I suppose, like most people of my 
condition, a sort of horror of men-servants, a sort of resentful 
humiliation in feeling tjtiat I had mistaken one of that class for 
an ordinary fellow-traveller, a frightened idea of what Harry 
would think to hear of his wife sitting in an omnibus beside 
Miss Mortimer's man. Altogether I was sadly discomfited and 
beaten. The Miss Mortimers had got the better of me at every 
hand ; and I was entirely humiliated and cast down by this 
Wt blow of all. 

The interval was quite tedious and oppressive till we arrived 
1 Chester. Seeing me look at another house unconsciously as 
we passed, the man, most kindly and good-humouredly, I am 
sure, after my sudden withdrawal from the conversation, 
mentioned its name. " That is Dee-sands, ma'am, the mayor 
o' Chester's place. It ain't within sight of the Dee, and 
there's none of them sands near here, but they do say it's 
named after a song," said the good-natured cicerone. " Oh !" 
said I again, shrinking back into my corner. He looked at me 
rather closely after this, muttering something that sounded 
like "No offence!" and leaned back also, a little affronted. 
It did not occur to me that I was only drawing his attention 
to what I had said before by this sudden reserve. I took care 
to show no more interest in the wayside villas, and sprang out 
with a great sense of relief when we reached the end of our 
journey. Happening to glance back when I had reached our 
own door, I saw that the omnibus had been delayed by 
numerous descents from the roof, and was still standing where 
we had left it, and that Miss Mortimer's man had put his head 
out of one of the windows, and was watching where I went to. 
This circumstance made me enter with great haste and 
trepidation. Now, above all, I had been found out ; and if 
ever any one felt like a traitor and a spy, it was surely me, 
stumbling back from that unsuccessful enterprise across the 
threshold of Mrs. Goldsworthy's house. 

The door was opened to us too alertly to be done by anybody 
but Domenico ; and it was Domenico accordingly, in his vast 
expanse of shirt sleeves. It was quite a comfort to see his 
beaming, unconscious face. " The time is fine," said 
Domenico; "it pleases to the signora to make promenade? 
Ah, bravo ! the piccolo signore grow like tree." 

This was in reference to baby, who crowed at him and held 
out his arms, and whom Domenico freely called piccolo and 
piccolino, at first somewhat to my indignation ; but I confess 
the uood fellow's voice and looks, and the way baby stretched 




222 The Last of the Mortimers. 

out to him, out of poor Lizzie's tired arras, was quite con- 
solatory and refreshing to me. It is easy to get a feeling of 
home to a place, surely. It was only lodgings, and Domenico 
was a foreigner, and 1 had not the ghost of an early associa- 
tion with the little insignificant house ; but I cannot tell you 
what a sense of ease and protection came upon me the very 
moment I was within the door. 

Upstairs on the table lay a letter. We got so few letters 
that I was surprised, and took it up immediately, and with still 
greater surprise found it to be from Sara Cresswell, lamenting 
over not having found me, wondering where I could have gone, 
and concluding with a solemn invitation to dinner in her 
father s name. " Papa is so anxious to see Mr. Langham and 
you," wrote Sara, " and to talk over things. I have been 
obliged to obey him for once, and not to go or write out to 
dear godmamma till he has seen you. If you don't come he 
will be so dreadfully disappointed; indeed, I am quite sure if you 
don't come he will go to see you. I can't suppose you \vill be 
able to resist such a threat as that. Send me a word, please, 
directly. 1 shall be quite wretched till I know." 

This revived all my excitement, as may be supposed ; there 
must be something in it after all, and surely, instead of Harry 
going to his office to seek him, it would be much better to meet 
at his house, and with an evening's leisure too ; for Sara had 
taken care to add that nobody else was to be there. The 
earnestness of this invitation seemed so entirely contradictory 
to all that I had heard to-day, that the wildest vague suspicions 
of mystery began to break upon mv mind. To be sure, bakers 
and butlers were not likely to be in the secret. Mr. Cresswell 
knew all about it ; and here was he seeking us entirely of his 
own accord ! Once more all my dazzled ambitious dreams came 
back again ; I forgot my failure and sense of treachery 1 was 
no traitor it was only my rights that I had been thinking of ; 
and they were not pathetic possible victims, but triumphant 
usurpers, who now had possession of the Park. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 223 



CHAPTER XII. 

I HAD managed to regain my spirits entirely before Harry 
returned : if anything, indeed, I think this revival of all 
my fancies, after my disappointment and annoyance, had 
stimulated me more than before. It was a beautiful April 
evening, quite warm and summer-like, and there had just been 
such a sunset, visible out of the front windows, as would have 
gone far at any time to reconcile me to things in general. I 
was sitting in the little drawing-room alone, with baby Harry 
in my lap, much delighted to find that he could stand by my 
side for half a minute all by himself, and rewarding him with 
kisses for the exhibition of that accomplishment. I was tired 
after my long walk, and felt it delicious rest to lean back in 
that chair and watch the light gradually fading out of the sky, 
free to think my own thoughts, yet always with the sweet 
accompaniment of baby's inarticulate little syllables, and 
touches of his soft small fingers. I remember that moment 
like a moment detached out of my life. My heart had 
rebounded higher out of its despondency. Who could tell what 
a bright future that might be on the very brink of which we 
trembled? And I, whom Harry had married so foolishly, it 
was I who was to bring this wealth to my husband and my 
child. It was pleasant thinking in that stir of hope, in that 
calm of evening, sitting listening for Harry's step on the stair. 
The light grew less and less in the two front windows, and the 
open door of communication between the two rooms brought 
in a long line of grey luminous sky from the east into my 
twilight picture. And I had so much to tell Harry. Ah, 
there at last was his foot upon the stair ! 

He came in, not to the room in which I was, but to the 
other, and gave a glance round to see if I was there ; then, not 
seeing me, instead of calling out for " Milly darling," as he 
always did, Harry threw his cap on the table, and dropped 
heavily into a chair, with a long sigh a strange sigh, half 
relieved, half impatient the sigh of something on his mind. 
I can see the half-open door, the long gleam of the eastern 
window, the scarcely visible figure dropped into that chair I 



224 The Last of the Mortimers. 

can see them all as clearly as at that moment. I stumbled up 
unawares, gathered baby into my arms I cannot tell how, and 
was at his side in a moment. My own voice sounded foreign 
to my ears as I cried out, " Harry, what is it ? tell me I" 
Nothing else would come from my lips. 

He rose too the attitude of rest was not possible at such a 
time ; he came and held the child and me close to him, making 
me lean on him. u It is nothing more than we expected," he 
said, " Milly darling. It is only to have a heart you are a 
soldier's wife." 

I knew without any more words. I stood within his arm, 
silent, desperate, holding my dear frightened baby tight, too 
tight. Ah, liod help us! In a moment, in the twinkling of 
an eye, as the Bible says, out of the happiest nutter of hope 
into that cold, desperate, hopeless darkness. I could have 
fancied I was standing on a battlefield, with the cold, cold 
wind blowing over us. I made no outcry or appeal ; my heart 
only leaped with a start of agony at the worst, at the last 
conclusion. We were not within his sheltering arm he young, 
and strong, and safe but looking for him looking for him on 
that black, dead battlefield ! 

I don't think it was the cry of the child, whom he took softly 
out of my straining arms, but Harry's compassion that roused 
me. I cried out sharply, " Don't pity me, Harry ; I'll bear it." 
It was all I could say. I went out of his arm with agitated, 
hurried step, and shut out that cruel clear sky looking down 
upon the battlefield I saw. I did not think nor notice that 
this unseasonable action threw us into perfect darkness. It 
was a kind of physical relief to me to do something with my 
hands, to ring some common sound into my ears. At this 
moment Lizzie came into the room, carrying lights. As I 
lifted my confused eyes to them, what a ghastly change had 
passed on this room all so cold, dark, miserable ; the furni- 
ture thrust about out of its place ; the fireplace dark, and Harry 
standing there, with the child in his arms and his cap thrown 
on the table, as if this very moment he was going away. He 
was in uniform too, and the light caught in the glitter of his 
sword. Was there to be no interval ? My head swam round. 
My heart seemed to stop beating. The misery of imagination 
drove me half frantic as if the present real misery had not 
been enough. 

After a while we sat together once more as usual, he trying 
to bring me to talk about it and receive it like a common event. 
"Jt is what we have looked forward to for months," said 



The Last of the Mortimers. 225 

Harry; "it should not be strange to you now. Think how 
you looked for it, Milly darling, long ago." 

" Yes," said I. Was it likely I could talk? I only rocked 
myself backward and forward in my chair. 

" You said God would give you strength when the hour came : 
the hour has come, Milly. You are a soldier's wife!" he 
said. 

" Yes, yes !" and then I burst into an attempt to tell him 
what I had been doing if I must talk let me talk of something 
else than this and broke down, and fell, God help me ! to 
crying and sobbing like a child ; which was how the good Lord 
gave me the power of bearing what He had sent. I got better 
after that ; I heard and listened to it all, every detail, 
when they would have to go, where they would sail from, 
everything. And then I grew to see by degrees that 
Harry, but for me, was not sorry to be sent to the war ; 
that his eye was brightening, his head raised erect. Oh 
me ! he was a soldier ; and I I was only a foolish creature 
that could not follow him or be with him, that could not come 
between him and those bullets, that could only stay at home 
and pray. 

But when he came and stroked my hair down with his hand, 
and soothed me like a child, and bent over me with such 
compassion in his face sorry for me, full of pity in his *f 
tionate tender heart for the poor girl he was leaving belnn 
that was more than 1 could bear. * With a dreadful pa 
thought it was his widow he saw, all lonely and desolate, wuli 
no one to comfort her ; and I, his wife, thrust him away, and 
defied that dreadful killing thought. No 1 1 might leap at 
the worst, because i cuuia HOD neip my nurrying, blind ima- 
gination ; but he should not, no one else should I was resolute 
of that. So we talked of all the things that were needful for 
his preparation ; and he spoke of expense and economy, and I 
laughed and scorned his talk. Economy ! expense ! Perhaps 
I did not know, could not think where it was to come from ; 
but where careless money can get everything, do you think 
careful love would fall far short V I took courage to laugh at 
his words. 

And then I told him all my day's trials, and that invitation 
for the next day, which, even after what had happened, we 
must still accept. We did not have baby downstairs again that 
night I dared not courage will go so far, but not further. I 
went upstairs to put him into his little bed, and was glad, God 
help me ! to be out of Harry's sight for half an hour. But stiU 



226 The Last of the Mortimers. 

I was not free ; Lizzie was about me, gliding here and therd 
with her inquisitive sharp eyes sharp eyes all the sharper for 
tears, praying and threatening me with her looks. Nobody 
would believe in my courage. They thought I should break 
down and die. Oh me ! if one could die when one pleased, one 
might sometimes make short work of it ; God does not give us 
that coward's refuge. When I was all alone in my own room, 
I took an old regimental sash of Harry's and bound it round 
me tight. I cannot tell why I did it ; I think it was in my 
fancy somehow to bind up my heart, that it should neither yield 
nor fail. 



The Last of the Mortimers* 227 



PART V. 
THE LADIES AT THE HALL. 

(Continued.) 

CHAPTER I. 

SOME weeks of quietness passed over us after these dreadful 
half -revelations which really disclosed nothing. I will 
not attempt to give you any explanation of my state of mind ; 
I don't think J could if I tried. I had ceased to think of in- 
sanity in respect to my sister Sarah ; she was not insane no 
such thing. That scrap of conversation I had overheard in her 
dressing-room overturned all my delusions. Some real thing, 
some real person, had power to drive her half mad with anxiety 
and fear. What she could be anxious about what she could 
be afraid of she who had lived in the deadest peace at home 
for nearly five-and-twenty years was to me an inscrutable 
mystery. But that this Italian stranger was no stranger that 
his name was given him after the name of my father that 
love, supposed by Carson to be love in the heart, and admitted 
by Sarah to be love for the estate, had suggested that name- 
were facts not to be doubted. I need not say anything about 
the long trains of agitated and confused thinking into which 
these discoveries betrayed me. They ended in nothing they 
could not end in anything. But for a kind of determination I 
had, to keep up stedfastly till some light came, and see the 
end of it, I don't doubt they would have made me ill. But I 
kept well in spite of them. Either our bodies are not so sensi- 
tive as they are said to be, or I ana a very stupid person^ which 



228 The Last of the Mortimers. 

I wouldn't deny if I was taxed with it ; for certainly many 
things that worry other people don't trouble me very much. 
However, let the reason be what it might. I kept up. 1 could 
not take any comfort, as Sarah did, in knowing this young man 
Nad gone away. I can't tell how she could have blinded her- 
elf, poor soul. / knew he would come back. She did not 
seem to think so ; yet surely she knew all about it far better 
than I did. What a strange blank, unexplainable mystery it 
was ! Judging by appearances, the yoang man could not be 
much more than born when she returned home. Yet she knew 
him. Incomprehensible, wild, mad idea, of which, even after 
all I had heard, my reason denied the possibility! She knew 
him I and what or who, except herself, could explain it? 

The only conclusion I could come to in all ny jo c ring was 
one that had glanced into my mind before, that my father had 
married abroad and had a son, whom Sarah had somehow 
stormed or threatened him into disowning. But then my father 
was I grieve to say it, but one must tell the truth a man 
who considered his own will and pleasure much more than any- 
thing else in the world; and I don't think it would have broken 
his heart to have turned us out of our heiress-honours, especially 
when we grew old and did not marry. And to have left a male 
heir behind him! It was a very unlikely story, to be sure ; but 
certainly Sarah and he were never friends after their return. 
They avoided each other, though they lived under the same 
roof. They treated each other with a kind of ceremonious 
politeness, more like mutual dislike than love. Dear, dear, to 
think in a quiet English family how such a dark secret could 
rise and grow ! I set to hunting up all my father's letters, not 
those he had written to me at home, for he never wrote except 
when he was obliged, but his own letters which he had left 
behind him. I could find nothing there that threw the slightest 
light upon the mystery. And then, if he was my father's son, 
what could the young Italian mean by seeking after this 
fabulous lady ? What had the Countess Sermoneta to do with 
it? On the whole, anybody will see that I ended my investiga- 
tions and reasonings just where I began them. 1 knew nothing 
about it I could discover nothing. I had only to wait for the 
storm that was returning that must return. And if oh, 
dear, to think of such a thing ! if it was the miserable wealth 
we had, that prompted Sarah to set her face against this stranger 
- if it were to keep possession of the estate from him who was 
its lawful owner, thank Heaven ! we were coheiresses. She 
thought she could do as she pleased with the Park, and I dare 



The Last of the Mortimers. 229 

say, in right and lawful things, I might, have yielded to her ; 
but I hope Millicent Mortimer was never 'the woman to keep 
what did not belong to her. If he had a title to the estate 
Heaven knows how he could I gave up trying to imagine ; 
but if he had, without either resistance or struggle he should 
have my share. 

I really could not tell how much time had passed from that 
day when Sara Cresswell left us. It was near the end of 
April, so I suppose it must have been about two months after, 
when the accident I am going to tell happened. One afternoon 
when I was in the shrubbery I saw a young lady comimg up 
towards the gate, a young creature, pretty and fair-com- 
plexioned, not tall, but very compact and orderly in her looks, 
with the air of being a handy, cheerful little woman, and good 
for most things she required to do. That was how she struck 
me, at all events. I dare say many people would have said she 
was just a very pretty girl, evidently sobered down by an early 
mariiage, for she had an odd nursemaid by her side, carrying a 
beautiful baby. This stranger caught her attention very much 
as I watched her through the tall evergreen bushes. There was 
no mystery about her, certainly. I took a liking for her all of 
a sudden. Somehow it flashed into my mind that if I had evef 
been so young and as happy I might have been just such a young 
woman myself. I don't mean so pretty, but the same kind of 
creature. She was not rich, it was clear, for the nursemaid 
was not much more than a child, an odd, awkward-looking 
girl; and though the young mother herself was sufficiently 
well-dressed, her tilings had that indescribable home-made ImK 
which one always recognises. She was a little heated \vitli 
walking, and had some very grave wrinkles of care, thouglit- 
fulnesf, and even anxiety, upon her pretty smooth forehead. 
I saw her aiming straight at the door of the lodge, and hastened 
out to warn her off. She was certainly a stranger, and could 
never know that the hooping-cough was in the house. She took 
my warning very oddly, looked at me with great curiosity and 
with tears I am sure I saw them coming into her eyes and 
then, with some half-explanation about wishing to see the Park, 
hurried away after her lovely little boy. I don't know how 
long I stood, like a fool, looking after them, with a great desire 
to call her back and ask her in to see the house. Very lik"ly 
she had come out from Chester to give her baby a country 
walk. Pretty young soul ! I had no more doubt she was a 
good little wife than that she was a pretty creature, and very 
young to be that child's mother. 1 daresay she was tired and 






230 The Last of the Mortimers* 

would have been much the better fora rest. But while I stood 
thinking of it, of course she was gone far out of the range of 
my voice. As for running after her, that was out of the 
question at my age ; and perhaps, after all, it was as well not 
to bring that lovely baby near the lodge. Mary might have 
rushed out, and the mischief might have been done in a 
moment. As for hooping-cough itself, when children have 
good constitutions, 1 can't say it is a thing I am very timid 
about ; but it goes very hard with infants, and one could never 
excuse one's-self for putting such a child in peril. So I went 
back to the house, though rather slowly. I can't tell how it 
was, 1 am sure, but I felt just as if I had missed a visit from 
a friend whom it would have been a great comfort to see. 

I might have forgotten this little incident altogether, but 
for something that happened afterwards. Ellis had to go into 
Chester that day indeed, he had just left a few minutes 
before my pretty young stranger came up. When Ellis came 
back he took an opportunity of speaking privately to me 
indeed, he asked me to step aside into the hall for a minute. 
How he found out that there was any uneasiness in my mind, 
or that any doubt about our right to the estate had ever 
occurred to me, I cannot tell ; there are few things more 
wonderful than the kind of instinct by which servants divine 
the storms which may be only brooding about a house. Ellis 
looked very grave and important ; but as he always does so, I 
was noways alarmed. 

" There was a young lady, ma'am," said Ellis, " rode in the 
omnibus along with me this afternoon ; well, not perhaps what 
you might call a real lady neither ; leastways I don't know 
her looks was all in her favour; but ladies, as you know, 
ma'am, don't go riding in an omnibus with bits of nursegirls 
and babies. But I don't say she was one of your common 
sort." 

"Why, it must have been that pretty young creature," 
eaidl. 

"Well, ma'am," said Ellis, actually with a little shame- 
facedness, " if you ask me my opinion, she was a pooty young 
creature, and so was the baby. But it ain't what she looked, 
Miss Milly ; it's what she said. She asked as anxious as could 
be after the family at the Park." 

"Did she know anything of us?" said I, quite delighted. 
" I wonder who she is ; she quite took my heart." 

" Not if you'd hate heard her speak, ma'am," said Ellis. 
" She asked, kind of curious like, how .you came to succeed to 



The Last of the Mortimers. 281 

the estate, and whether there wasn't no gap in the line, and if 
none o' the family were ever passed over, and a deal of such 
questions. I told her it was Eden Hall she was thinking on, 
but she wasn't satisfied. She said wasn't there another 
claimant to the estate, and was I quite sure you was the 
right people and hadn't passed over nobody? But the 
strangest thing of all was, as soon as I let out by accident I 
belonged to the Park, it was all over in a twinkling. Afore 
you could know where you was, from asking her questions 
and looking as anxious as you please, and her little veil up 
over her bonnet, and her face turned to you like a child in a 
moment, ma'am, it was dead shut up and drawn back, and the 
veil down and face as if it didn't see the place you was. I said 
to myself, ' There's summut in this,' as soon as ever I seed the 
way she took me belonging to the Park ; and, to be sure, all the 
way not another word. Seeing things like, that, I made bold to 
look after her when sne went out ; and if you might chance to 
have any curiosity, Miss Milly, here's a note of the address." 

"But what should I have any curiosity about?" said I, 
agitated and surprised, taking the paper from him eagerly 
enough, yet quite at a loss to account for any interest 1 could 
have in his adventure. Ah ! had it happened six months ago, 
how I should have laughed at Ellis ! but it could not have 
happened six months ago. Ellis himself would have taken no 
notice whatever of such questions then. 

14 Ma'am," said Ellis, u the quality has their own ways ; if / 
don't know that, who should? I dare say it ain't nothink to 
you ; but it's curious to have parties asking about the Park, as 
if we was a family as bad-romances . and ^ing a pooty young 
creature, you see, Miss Milly, i tnough. it might be possible as 
you'd like to know." 

" Very well, thank you, Ellis. I know you're always 
careful about the interests of the family," said I. 

" I've been at the Park fifty year," said Ellis, with his best 
butler's bow. I gave him a nod, and went away to the 
library a great deal more disturbed than I would let him 
perceive, but I don't undertake to say that he didn't see it all 
the same. Here was just the very fuel to set my smouldering 
impatience into a blaze. A sudden impulse of doing some- 
thing seized upon me like a kind of inspiration. Here was a 
new actor in the strange bewildering drama. Who was she? 
Could she be Luigi's wife coming to aid him ? As the thought 
struck me I trembled with impatience, standing at the window 
where it was too dark to read that address. I must wait for 



232 The Last of the Mortimers. 

the morning, but certainly there was light out of darkness; 
However foolish it might be, I could bear it no longer. Here 
was a clue to guide my steps, and whether right or wrong, 
to-morrow I should plunge into the mystery. The idea took 
possession of me beyond all power of resistance. I walked 
about the library in the dark, quite excited and tremulous. 
The wind had risen, and the night was rather stormy, but I 
could not go into the comfort and light of that great drawing- 
room where Sarah sat knitting. To-morrow, perhaps, I shouftj 
know the secret of her death in life. 



The Last of the Mortimer*. 233 



CHAPTER EL 

I GOT very little rest that night, and was up almost by 
break of day the next morning. In the height of my 
excitement and anxiety, I felt more comfort in my mind than 
I had done for a long time. Sitting waiting is dreadful work, 
but I felt myself again when there appeared anything to do. 
I would not allow myself to suppose that it would end in 
nothing. Such inquiries could not possibly be made without a 
motive. 1 was so restless that I scarcely could remain quietly 
at home for an hour or two after breakfast which, out of regard 
for appearances, I was obliged to sacrifice ; but for the same 
reason I made up my mind not to take the carriage, but to 
walk to the point where the omnibus passed, and take my 
chance of finding a seat in it as other people did. I went out 
accordingly about eleven o'clock, and left a message for Sarah 
that I was going to make some calls, and that she was not to 
wait dinner for me, as 1 should probably Junch somewhere at 
a friend's house. 1 saw Ellis look out after me from the hall 
window, with a kind of solemn grin on his face. Ellis was not 
to be deceived ; he knew where I was going as well as I did 
myself. 

As I had intended, I got into the omnibus when it passed, to 
the great amazement and dismay of both guard and driver, 
who knew me well enough. 1 thought to myself, after I was in 
it, that it was perhaps rather a foolish thing to do. If any talk 
got abroad about our family, and if the strangers, male and 
female, kept making strange inquiries, and I was seen driving 
no, that is not the word riding in an omnibus, what would 
people think but that some extraordinary downfall had happened 
at the Park? There were only some countrywomen in the 
coach, who stared at me a little, but were too busy with their 
own affairs to mind me much. Fortunately there was no one 
there from our own village. It was a very long drive to 
Chester, going in the omnibus ; and being unaccustomed to it, 
nd never on the outlook for jolts, I felt it a good deal, I 



234 The Last of the Mortimers. 

confess, besides being just the least thing in the world in a 
false position. Not that I minded being seen in the omnibus, 
but because the guard knew me, and was troublesomely respect- 
ful, and directed the attention of the other passengers towards 
me. Great people, when they pretend to travel incognito, must 
find it a great bore, I should fancy. Of course somebody 
always betrays them, and it must be a great deal easier to bear 
what you can't help bearing when there is no mystery about it, 
than when every blockhead thinks himself in your secret, and 
bound to keep up the joke with you. 

At last we came to the street, and I got down. It was Hear 
the railway station, and so all sorts of traffic poured past the 
place ; shabby hackney cabs, omnibuses from the Chester hotels, 
vans of goods, all the miscellaneous stuff that pours into railway 
stations. The houses were a little back from the road, to be 
sure, with little " front gardens," as the people call them. I 
walked past three or four times before I had screwed myself up 
to the point of going in. The thing that dissipated all my 
feelings of embarrassment in a moment, and brought me back 
to the eagerness and excitement with which I set out from 
home, was the sudden appearance of Mr. Luigi's servant, the 
large, fat, good-humoured Italian, whom I have before men- 
tioned, at the door of one of the houses% The sight of him 
flushed me at once into determination. I turned immediately 
to the house where he stood, and of course it was the house, 
the number which Ellis had written down on his paper ; there 
could be no doubts on the subject now. 

u I wish to see your mistress," said I, going up to the man, 
too breathless and eager to waste any words. 

He looked at me with good-humoured scrutiny, repeating 
" Meestress " with a puzzled tone ; at last a kind of gay, 
half-flattered confusion came over his good-humoured face, he 
put his hand on his heart, made a deprecatory, remonstrating 
bow, and burst into some laughing mixture of Italian and 
English, equally unintelligible. The fellow actually supposed 
I meant his sweetheart, or pretended to suppose so. I became 
very angry. He did not look impertinent either; but yon 
may fancy how one would feel, to be supposed capable of sucii 
a piece of levity at such a time. And a person of my condition, 
too ! Happily, at this moment the nurse-girl whom I had 
seen with my pretty young stranger suddenly made her ap- 
pearance with the baby in her arms. I appealed to her, and 
though she stared and made answer in words not much more 
intelligible to me than her fellow-servant's, she showed me 



The Last of the Mortimers. 235 

upstairs. She was going out with the beautiful baby, but one 
way and another I was so worried and uncomfortable, and felt 
so strongly the existence of those plots against us which I was 
now going to clear up, that I took no notice of the child. I 
said nothing at all but that I wanted to see her mistress, and 
walked into the little drawing room without thinking I might 
be going into the young stranger's presence, possibly into the 
presence of both husband and wife. However, the moment I 
Lad entered I saw her ; there she was. In uiy heat and annoy- 
ance I went up to her instantly. 

" Young lady," said I, " you were in the neighbourhood 
of my house yesterday ; you were in our village ; I myself saw 
you approaching the Park. You put some very strange 
questions to my servant. You must know how harassed and 
disturbed I have been by inquiries I don't know the meaning 
of. What is it all about V What claim has your husband 
upon the Mortimers? Who is he? What does ho want 
with us?" 

1 said this without pausing to take breath, for my encounter 
with the servant, I confess, had irritated me. Now, when I 
had said my say and come to myself, I looked at her and felt 
a little shocked. She was certainly changed since yesterday ; 
but before I had time even to make a mental comment on this 
change, I was entirely confounded by the entrance of a new 
and unsuspected actor -on the scene ; her husband ! evidently 
her husband ; but as unlike Mr. Luigi as one handsome young 
man could be unlike another, a bright, open-faced unmis- 
takable Englishman, a young soldier. The sight of him struck 
me aghast. What new complication was this ? 

" If there's going to 1)6 any fighting, that's my trade," said 
the new-comer. " We'll change places, Milly darling. 
Madam, my wife has a great many things to occupy her just 
now ; let me answer for her, if that is possible. I think I 
know what she has been abouc." 

Saying which, he wheeled the one easy chair in the room 
towards me, and invited me to sit down. I sat down with the 
feeling of having somehow deceived myself strangely and made 
a huge mistake. 1 could not make it out. Mr. Luigi's 
servant was below, and this was certainly the young woman 
whom I had arrested on her way to the Park, and who had 
asked questions of Ellis in the omnibus. But who was this 
handsome young soldier ? What had he to do with it ? A 
cold tremble came over me that it was what the newspapers 
pall a mistaken identity, and that somehow I had stumbled in, 



236 The Last of the Mortimers. 

after the rudest and most unauthorized fashion, into the 
privacy of two innocent young creatures who knew nothing 
about the Park. 

" Pardon me if I am wrong," I said with a gasp ; "I 
fear I must be wrong, only let me ask one question. Did 
you speak to a man in the omnibus yesterday about the 
Mortimers of the Park ? or was it not you ? 1 am sure 
I shall never forgive myself if I have made such a foolish 
mistake." 

"But it is no mistake," said the young wife, who had 
remained in the room, standing very near the half -opened 
door into the tiny apartment behind. Poor young soul! 
she was certainly changed in those twenty-four hours. 
I could scarcely resist an impulse that came upon me, to go 
up and take her in my arms, and ask the dear young 
creature what it was that ailed her. Depend upon it, 
whatever she might have asked about the Mortimers, that 
face meant no harm. I looked at her so closely, I was so much 
attracted by her, that I scarcely noticed, till she repeated it, 
what she said. 

"It is no mistake," she said, growing firmer; "I did 
ask questions. I am sure you are Miss Mortimer we will tell 
you how it was. Harry, you will tell Miss Mortimer all 
about it. I am a little a little stupid to-day. I'll go 
and fetch the books if you will tell 'Miss. Mortimer how it 
was." 

She went away quite simply and quietly. He stood 
looking after her with a compassionate, tender look, that 
went to my heart. He did not speak for a moment, and 
then he said, with a sigh, .something that had nothing 
to do with my mystery. "We got marching orders for 
the Crimea yesterday," said the dear simple-hearted young 
fellow, with the tears coming into his honest eyes. "It 
is very hard upon my poor Milly;" and he broke off with 
another sigh. 

If the two had come to me together the next moment, 
and disclosed a plan to turn us out of our estate or pull 
the house down over our heads, I could have hugged them 
in my arms all the same. God bless the dear children! 
whatever they had to tell, there was but one thing in 
their thoughts, and that was the parting that was coming. 
If I had been the hardest heart in the world, that spon- 
taneous confidence must have melted me. As it was, I could 
hardly help crying over them in their anguish and happi- 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 23) 

People are happy that have such anguishes. 1 could 
hardly help exclaiming out aloud, " I'll take care of her !" and 
yet dear ! to think of human short-sightedness ! Had not I 
come all this way to find them out ? 

She came back again a minute after, with some old books in 
her arms. 

"Have you told Miss Mortimer, Harry?" she asked, 
pausing with a little surprise to hear no conversation going 
on between us, and to see him leaning against the mantel-shelf 
just as she had left him, with his hand over his eyes. Then 
she gave him a quick, affectionate, indignant glance I might 
say petulant and came up in her energetic way to the table, 
where she put down the books. " / will tell you, Miss 
Mortimer," said the brave little woman. " We do not know 
very much ourselves, but perhaps when you hear our story you 
can make it plain better than we can. We found it out only 
by chance." 

" My dear," said I, " do not call me Miss Mortimer ; my 
eldest sister is Miss Mortimer. I am called Miss Milly ; Millicent 
Mortimer is my name." 

Here the young man broke in suddenly.- " Her name was 
Millicent Mortimer too," he cried. "Milly! that is her 
name I beg your pardon, Miss Mortimer; I think there 
is no name in tne world equal to it. She's Milly, named 
so at her father's dj^ire. Tell me, is she nearly related 
to you?" 

1 was so astonished I rose up to my feet and stared at them 
both. To be sure, I had heard him call her Milly ; but my 
thoughts had been so entirely drawn astray by Mr. Luigi, that 
I never thought of anything else. I stood perfectly 
thunderstruck, staring at them. " What are you telling me?" 
I cried. Really my mind was not in a condition to take in 
anything that might be said to me. She put the old books 
towards me one by one. I opened them, not knowing what I 
did. " Sarah Mortimer, the Park, 1810." Heaven bless us ! 
Sarah's hand, no doubt about it ; but who in the world was 
she? 

" Child, take pity on me !" I cried ; " with one thing and 
another I am driven out of my wits. Tell me, for heaven'? 
sake, who was your father? Are you that Luigi's sister r 
Who are you ? Where did you come from ? God help us ! J 
don't know what to think, or where to turn. Your father, 
who was he ? What do you know about him ? Were you 
bora in Italy too ? What is the truth of this wild, dreadful 



238 The Last of the Mortimers. 

mystery? Sarah may know about it perhaps, but I kno\? 
nothing, nothing! If you would not have me go out of 
my senses, child, tell me who you are, and who your father 
was." 

They both gazed at me astonished. " She is Millicent 
Mortimer," said her young husband, u the child of Richard 
Mortimer and Maria Connor ; she was born in Ireland. Milly ! 
Milly ! the old lady is going to faint." 

For I sank dead down in my chair, as was natural. I put 
my hands over my face. I fell a-crying and sobbing in that 
wonderful, blessed relief. If my worst suspicions had come 
true, I could have stood up and faced it. But my strength 
went from me in this delicious, unspeakable comfort. Richard 
Mortimer's children ! The heirs we were looking for ! Oh 
clear ! to think I could ever be so distrustful of the good Lord ! 
This was what all the mystery had come to ! I sat crying like 
a fool in my chair, the two looking on at me, thinking me crazy 
most likely most likely wondering, in their innocent grieved 
hearts, at the old woman crying for nothing. How could they 
tell what a mountain-load of trouble they had taken off my 
head? 

4 'My dear," cried T, when I could control myself enough, u if 
you are Richard Mortimer's daughter you're the nearest rela- 
tion we have. You were to have been advertised for before 
now we've been seeking you, or trying to seek you, everywhere. 
I knew there must be something made my heart warm to you so. 
My dear, we're the last of the old race ; there's nobody but 
Richard Mortimer's children to carry on the name. God help 
us! I am a silly old woman. I had taken dreadful fears into 
my head. Why didn't you come and say it plain out, and 
turn all my anxiety and troubles into joy? Ah Milly, dear 
Milly Mortimer ! I could think you were my own child some- 
how come and let me kiss you. I am not so weak as this 
usually, but I'm quite overcome to-day. Come here, child, and 
let me look at you. It's pleasant to think there's a young 
Mortimer in the world again." 

I was so much engaged with my own feelings, that I did not 
notice how much the young people were taking it. When I 
did come to myself a little, they were standing rather irresolute, . 
that pretty young Milly Mortimer looking at me in a kind of 
longing, reluctant way, either as if she could not take me at 
my word, or had something on her mind. As for her husband, 
he was looking at me too, but with a full eager look, which I 
in a, momenfc his lip trembling an4 swelling out a 



I 



The Last of the Mortimete. 

little, his eyes full, his whole face telling its story. When he 
caught my eye he turned his look upon her, and then back to 
me again. Do you think I did not understand him? lie said, 

You will take care of my Milly ?" clearer than he could have 
laid it in a thousand words ; and if my eyes were slow to 
answer him, you may be sure it was no fault of will or heart. 
Seeing she was shy to come to me, and recovering myself, 1 
went to the new Milly and kissed her. I can't tell what a 
pleasure I took in looking at her. She belonged to me she 
was of cur very own blood, come from the same old forefathers. 
I thought nothing strange that I loved her in a moment. It 
was not love at first sight, it was natural affection. That 
makes a vast difference. Even Sara Cresswell was not like a 
child of our own family. To think of another Milly Mortimer, 
pretty, and happy, and young ! such a Milly as I might have 
been perhaps, but never was. I felt very happy in this child of 
my family. Jt was half as good as having a child of one's 
own. 

Then they showed me some other books with poor Richard 
Mortimer's name in them, and his drawing of the Park, and 
Sarah getting on her horse. Poor fellow ! but I rather fear he 
could not have been any great things of a man. I felt quite 
easy and light at my heart ; nothing seemed to frighten me. 
And the two young people even, in the little excitement, forgot 
their own trouble, which was a comfort to me. 

"But all this time, my dear," said I, at length, "you have 
said nothing about your brother. How did he get to be 
Italian, and what did he mean by asking about that lady 
and why not come at once to the Park and say out who he 
was?" 

"My brother?" said the young wife, faltering ; and gave a 
wondering look at me, and then turned round, with a habit she 
seemed to have, to consult her husband with her eyes ; " my 
brother? I am afraid you have not understood. Harry 
is " 

" I know what Harry is," cried I ; " don't tell me about Jim. 
I mean your brother your brother. Why, dear, dear child, 
don't you understand? I met this man at the door of this 
very house Mr Luigi, you know as they call him ; of course 
Le must belong to you." 

" Indeed," said the new Milly, with very grave, concerned 
looks, " I never spoke to him but once in my life ; we don't 
know anything about him. I never had any brother; there 
were none but me." 



210 



The Last of the Mortimers. 



I don't think 1 said anything at all in answer. I said no- 
thing, so far as I know, for a long time after. I sat stupified, 
feeling my burden all the heavier because I had deluded myself 
into laying it off a little. Oh me ! we had found the heirs that 
Sarah had thought so much about; but the cloud had not 
dissolved in this pleasant sunshine. Out of my extraordinary 
sense of relief, I fell into darker despondency than ever. He 
was not Milly Mortimer's brother, nor anybody belonging to 
her. Who could he be? 



Th* Last oj Hie Mortimer*. 



CHAPTEB ITT. 

I DON'T know very well how I got to Mr. Cresswell's 
house. I did manage to get there somehow. 1 went 
listlessly through the old fashioned streets I knew so well, and 
turned down upon that serious old house with its brick front 
and rows of windows all covered with Venetian blinds. It met 
the morning sun full, and that was why the blinds were down ; 
but it had a dismal effect upon me, as anything else would 
have had at that moment. I know how the rooms look inside 
when the blinds are down ; it throws a chill into one's heart 
that has known them put down for sadder reasons. 1 went 
into the house in the same listless way, like a person in a dream. 
Somehow I could not take any comfort in those dear young 
creatures I had just found out. Mr. Luigi, whom I had not 
found out, returned upon me like a nightmare. Was there no 
possible way in which this mystery could be discovered? 
What if I sought an interview with himself and put it to him 
fairly to tell me who he was? I went into Bob Cresswell's 
drawing-room, where the windows were open and the sunshine 
slanting in through the Venetian blinds. It was rather dark, 
but a green pleasant darkness, the wind stirring the curtains, 
and now and then knocking the wood of the blinds softly 
against the woodwork of the window ; a cheerful kind of 
gloom. Sara's knick-knacks lay scattered about everywhere 
on the tables, and there were cushions, and ottomans, and 
screens, and fantastic pieces of ornamental work about, enough 
to have persuaded a stranger that Sara was the most in- 
Justrious person in the world. The creature bought them all, 
/ou know, at fancy fairs and such absurd places. I am not 
mre that she ever took a needle in her fingers ; but she said 
Aerself she had not the slightest intention of saving her poor 
papa's money ; and indeed it was very true. 

I was thankful to sit down by myself a little in the silence. 
Sara was out, it appeared, and 1 threw myself into an easy- 
chair, and actually felt the quietness and green-twilight look 
of the room, with just a touch of sunshine here and there upon 
the carpet near the windows, a comfort to me. Once again, 



242 The Last of the Mortimers. 

as you may suppose, I thought it all over ; but into the 
confused crowd of my own thoughts, where Sarah, Carson, 
Mr. Luigi, his fat servant, my new-found Milly Mortimer, 
and all her belongings, kept swaying in and out and round 
about each other, there came gleams of the other people sug- 
gested by this room ; Mr. Cresswell trying to make some 
light out of the confusion, Sara darting about, a mischievous, 
bewildering little sprite, and even, by some strange incoherency 
of my imagination, Sara's poor pretty young mother, dead 
seventeen years ago, flickering about it, with her melancholy 
young eyes. Poor sweet lonely creature ! I remember her a 
bride in that very room, with Bob Cresswell who might 
almost have been her father, very fond, but not knowing a 
bit what to make of her ; and then lying helpless on the sofa, 
and then fading away out of sight, and the place that had 
known her knowing her no more. Ah me ! I Avonder whether 
that is not the best way of getting an end put to all one'8 
riddles. If Sarah and I had died girls, we should have been 
girls for ever, pleasant shadows always belonging to the 
old house. Now it would be different, very different. When 
we were gone, what story might be told about us ? " In their 
time something dreadful occurred about the succession, proving 
that they had never any right to the estate;" or "the great 
lawsuit began between the heirs of a younger branch and a 
supposed son of Squire Lewis." Dear! dear! Who could this 
young man be? and now here was our real relation, our pretty 
Milly Mortimer our true heir, if we were the true heirs of the 
estate. Dare I let her believe herself the heir of the Park with 
this mystery hanging over all our heads V Poor dear child, she 
was thinking more about her husband's marching orders than if 
a hundred Parks had been in her power. Trouble there, trouble 
here ; everywhere trouble of one sort or another. I declare I 
felt very tired of it all, sitting in that cool shady drawing- 
room. I could turn nowhere without finding some aggravation. 
This is how life serves us, though it seems such a great thing 
to keep in life. 

"But, godmamma, how in all the world did you come 
here?" cried Sara Cresswell, springing upon me suddenly, 
before I had seen her come in, like a kitten as she was ; " you 
who never come to Chester but in great state, to call upon 
people ! It's only one o'clock, and there's no carriage about 
the streets, and you've got your old brown dress on. How did 
you get here?" 

"Never mind, child," said I, a little sharply ; " you take 



The Last of the Mortimers. 243 

ftway my breath. Suppose you get me some lunch, and don't 
ask any questions. I am going to stay all day, perhaps all 
night," I said with a little desperation ; " perhaps it's the best 
thing I could do." 

" Godmamma, something has happened !" cried Sara ; and 
she came and knelt down on the stool at my feet, looking up in 
my face, with cheeks all crimsoned over, and eyes sparkling 
brighter than I had ever seen them. It was not anxiety but 
positive expectation that flushed the child's face. 1 could not 
help thrusting her away from me with my hand, in the 
fulness of my heart. 

" Child !" cried I, " you are glad ! you think something has 
happened to us, and it flushes you with pleasure. I did not 
expect as much from you !" 

Sara stumbled up to her feet, confused and affronted. She 
stood a moment irresolute, not sure, apparently, how to take it, 
or whether to show me to the full extent how angry and 
annoyed she was. However, I suppose she remembered that 
we were in her father's house, and that I was her guest after a 
fashion ; for she stammered some kind of apology. " You took 
me into your confidence before, and naturally I wanted to 
know," cried the child, with half -subdued fury. She had never 
been taught how to manage her temper, and she could not do 
it when she tried. 

" You," said I, " we are your godmothers, Sara, and have 
loved you all your life ; but you want to know, just as if it 
were a story in a novel though, for all you can tell, it may be 
something that involves our fortune, or our good name, or our 
life." 

Now this was very foolish of me, and I confess it. It was 
not anger at Sara that made me say it nothing of the sort. 
But I had come through a good deal, and my mind was so full 
that I could bear no more. It burst from me like something 
I could not retain, and after that I am ashamed to confess, 
I cried. It was merely the excitement and agitation of the 
day, so unusual to me, and coming after such a long strain 
of silent excitement as I had already come through. 

Sara stood before me confounded. She was quite unpre- 
pared for anything of this kind. She kept standing by me in 
a bewildered way, too much puzzled to say anything. At 
length she knelt down on the footstool and pressed my hand 
upon her little soft mouth. " Something dreadful has 
happened, godmamma?" said Sara, looking up at me wistfully. 
The poor child was really alarmed and full of anxiety now. 




244 The Last of the Mortimers. 

"No, no," said I, " nothing has happened at all. I am only 
too nervous and alarmed and unhappy to bear speaking to. I am 
not unhappy either. Sara, child, can't you leave me by myself 
a little and 'order luncheon ? I'll tell you all about it then." 

Sara got up immediately to do what I told her ; but before 
she left me stole her arm round my neck and kissed me. " I 
have got a secret to tell you, godmamma; you'll be so glad 
when you know," whispered the creature in my ear. Glad! I 
suppose it would be some of her love affairs, some deluded 
young man she was going to marry, perhaps Well ! so I might 
have been glad, in a manner, if it were a suitable match, and 
she had taken any other time to tell me ; but you may fancy 
how much happiness 1 had to spare for anybody now. 

It may be imagined that my appetite was not very great in 
spite of my anxiety about luncheon, but I certainly was glad to 
have a glass of Mr. Cressw ell's nice Madeira after all my fatigue 
and exhaustion. Sara and I sat opposite to each other in the 
dining-room, where the blinds were down also, without saying 
much for some time. She was watching me I could see. 
There she sat very demure and a little anxious, in he)' velvet 
jacket, shaking her short curls, now and then, with an impa- 
tient kind of motion. I was glad to see that kitten have so 
much perception of the rights of hospitality ; for she allowed 
me to take my time, and did not torture me with questions, so 
that I really got the good of this little interval, and was 
refreshed. 

" I ought to be very happy instead of being so nervous and 
uncomfortable," cried I at last; "for only fancy, my dear 
child, who I have found. Do you remember when you were 
at the Park hearing your godmamma Sarah speak of an heir 
whom she wanted your papa to advertise for ? Well, what do 
you think, Sara? I have actually found her ! for she is not an 
heir but an heiress. What your godmamma Sarah will say 
when she hears it, I can't think ; for she has never been 
advertised for, you know. She has turned up ' quite promis- 
cuous,' as Ellis says." 

" Oh ! so you know !" said Sara, in quite a disappointed 
tone ; " and I thought I had such a secret for you. Well, of 
course, since you do know, it doesn't matter ; they're coming 
here to-night." 

" My dear, I know they are coming here to-night. They 
told me so ; and your papa is to go over the whole, and make it 
11 out how it is. Ah, dear meJ" said I with a sigh, " if that 
were but all!" 



The Lad of the Mortimers. 245 

" Dear godmatnma," said Sara in her coaxing way, " are you 
not glad? 1 thought you would certainly be glad to tind 
another MilJy Mortimer; but you've got something on your 
mind." 

" Ah, yes, 1 have something on my mind," said I. "Sara, 
child, 1 don't know what to do with myself. I must see this 
Mr. Luigi before 1 go home." 

" You can't, godmamma; he is not in Chester," cried Sara, 
with a sudden blush. "As soon as he found out the very 
next morning at least he went away to fetch some things he 
had left behind." 

u Found out what ?" 

Sara put her hands together with a childish appealing 
motion. " Indeed, 1 do not know indeed, dear godmamma, 
I do not know. If you think it wrong of me to have spoken 
to him, I am very sorry, but I can't help it. 1 met hirn at 
Mrs. Laugham's, you know, and he saw Sarah Mortimer 
written in her book. And the next morning he met me, I 
mean I met him we happened to meet in the street and he 
told me he had found the clue he wanted, and was going to 
fetch some things he had put for safety in London and 1 
know he "has not come back." 

" How do you know he has not come back ?" said I. 

Sara thought I was thinking of her, and the child blushed 
and looked uneasy ; 1 observed as much, but I did not till long 
afterwards connect it with Mr. Luigi. I was too impatient to 
know about himself. 

" Because I should have seen him," said Sara, faltering. It 
did not come into my head to inquire why she was so sure she 
would have seen him. My thoughts were occupied about my 
own business. 1 groaned in my heart over her words- Not 
yet was I to discover this mystery. Not yet was i to clear 
my mind of the burden which surely, surely, 1 could not 
long go on bearing. It must come to an end, or me. 



The Last of the Mortimer** 



CHAPTER IV. 

AFTEtt what Sara had told me I felt in great doubt as to 
what I should do. Staying in Chester, even for a night, 
was against my habits, and might make people talk. Ellis, of 
course, would be very wise over it among the servants, and the 
chances were that it might alarm Sarah ; but at the same time 
I could not return there in the same state of uncertainty. I 
could not meet her face again, and see her going on with her 
knitting in that dreadful inhuman way. Having once broken 
out of my patience, it seemed to me quite impossible to return 
to it. I felt as if I could only go and make a scene with Sarah, 
and demand to know what it was, and be met by some cruel 
cold denial that she understood anything about it, which would, 
of course, feeling sure that she understood it all, but having 
no sure ground on which I could contradict her, put me half 
out of my senses. On the whole, staying in Chester all night 
could do no harm. If Ellis talked about it, and pretended that 
he knew quite well what I had gone about, I dare say it was no 
more than he had done already, and would be very well inclined 
to do again. One must always pay the penalty for having 
faithful old servants, and, really, if my absence frightened 
Sarah, so much the better. She ought not to be allowed to go 
on placidly congratulating herself on having shut out this poor 
young man. If we were wronging him, what a cruel, cruel, 
miserable thing it was of Sarah to be glad of having balked 
him and driven him away ! It is dreadful to say such things of 
one's own only sister, but one does get driven out of patience. 
Think of all 1 had come through, and the dreadful doubt hang- 
ing over me ! I had kept very quiet for a long time and said 
nothing to nobody; but now that 1 had broken out, 1 
fear I was in rather an unchristian state of mind. 

All that afternoon I kept quiet, and rested behind the green 
blinds in Mr. Cresswell's half -lighted drawing-room. How 
Sara ever has got into the way of enduring that half light I 
can't imagine ; or rather 1 should say 1 don't believe she uses 
this room at all, but has the back drawing-room, where the 
Window is from which she could see down into the poor 



The Last of the Mortimers. 247 

curate's rooms, and watch his wife dressing tho baby, as she 
told me long ago. You can see the street, too from an end 
window in that back drawing-room ; perhaps that is how she 
would have known if Mr. Luigi had come back, for 1 am 
pretty sure, from the glimpses I had when the doors opened, 
that the blinds were not down there. She received her \isitors 
in the back drawing room that afternoon. I heard them come 
and go, with their dresses rustling about, and their fresh 
young voices. Of course 1 neither heard nor listened what 
they were talking of ; bu\ dear, to hear how eager the 
creatures were in their talk! as if it were anything of any 
consequence. I sat with that hum now and then coming to my 
ears, bewildering myself with my own fancies. If 1 could 
have read a book or a paper, or given my mind to anything 
else, it would have been a deal better for me ; but my disorder 
of mind, you see, had come to a crisis, and I was obliged to let 
it take its way. 

It was not without a good deal of difficulty and embarrass- 
ment that Mr. Cresswell and I met. He was a little uncom- 
fortable himself with the same feelings he had shown a spark 
of at the Park, and unduly anxious to let me see that he had 
lost no time in inquiring about the Langhams, that was the 
name of the young people, as soon as he heard of them, and 
had meant to come out to us next day and tell us the result. 
For my part, I was a great deal more embarrassed than he was. 
I could scarcely help letting him see that this new heiress was 
a very small part of my excitement and trouble ; indeed, had 
no share in the trouble at all, for as much as I could give my 
mind to think of her, was pure pleasure ; but at the same time 
my heart revolted from telling him my real difficulty. lie, I 
dare say, had never once connected the young Italian, whon. 
everybody in Chester knew something about, with us or oui 
family ; and I was so perfectly unable to say what it was 1 
feared, that a shrewd precise man like Cresswell would have 
set it down at once merely as a woman's fancy. At the same 
time, you know, I was quite unpractised in the art of con- 
cealing my thoughts. I betrayed to him, of course, a hundred 
times that I had something on my mind. I dare say he 
remembered from the time of our last interview that I look^ 
to have something on my mind, and he made a great maw 
very skilful efforts to draw it out. He talked of Sarah, with 
private appeals to me in the way of looks and cunning question? 
to open my mind about her ; and, to tell the truth, it cost me 
a little s,etf-4ejiial, after we really got into conversation, not to 



248 The Last of the Mortimers. 

say something, and put his shrewdness on the scent I dare 
say he might have worried out the secret somehow or another; 
but I did not commit myself. I kept my own counsel closely, 
to his great surprise. I could see he went away baffled when 
it was nearly time for dinner. And he was not at all pleased 
to be baffled either, or to think that I was too many for him. 
I felt sure now I should have to be doubly on my guard, for 
his pride was piqued to find it all out. 

I can't tell anybody what a comfort it was to my heart 
when my new Milly Mortimer came. If the two had been 
very bright and elate about finding themselves heirs to a great 
estate I might have been disgusted, glad as I was to know 
about them ; for, to be sure, one does not like one's heirs to be 
very triumphant about wealth they can only have after one's 
own death. But something more than houses or lands was in 
that young creature's mind. She was wonderfully steady and 
cheerful, but never for a moment lost out, of her eyes what was 
going to happen to her. It was not mere sympathy, you know, 
that made me know so well how she was feeling, for, to be 
sure, I never was in her circumstances nor anything like 
them ; it was because I was her relation, and had a natural 
insight into her mind. I don't believe Sara had the least 
perception of it. When we came upstairs after dinner, leaving 
that fine young soldier, whom really I felt quite proud of, 
with Mr. Cresswell, this came out wonderfully, and in a way 
that went to my heart. Sara, who was extremely affectionate 
to her, set her in an easy chair and brought her a footstool, 
and paid her all those caressing little attentions which such 
kittens can be so nice about when they pli-ase. u I am so 
glad you have come to know my godmamma just now," said 
Sara, kissing her, u because she will know to comfort you when 
Mr. Langham goes away." 

My Milly said nothing for a moment ; she rather drew 
herself away from Sara's kiss. She did not lean back, but 
pj't upright in her chair, and put away the stool with her 
fo t. k 'I am a soldier's wife," she said the next minute in 
tne most unspeakable tone, with a kind of sob that did not 
sound, but only showed, in a silent heave of her breast. Ah, 
the dear child ! have not soldiers' wives a good call to be heroes 
too? I drew Sara away from her in a sort of passion ; that 
velvet creature with her sympathy and her kisses, when the 
other was hanging on the edge of such a parting ! If one could 
do nothing for the sweet soul, one might have the charity to leave 
her alone 



The Last of the Mortimers. 249 

But after a while I drew Milly into talking of herself, for I 
was naturally anxious to know ail about her, and where she had 
been brought up, and how she had found out that she belonged 
to us. We all knew that young Langham and Mr. Oesswel). 
were going over the papers that her husband had brought with 
him, and setting it all straight; but as 1 never had any doubt 
from the moment I saw those books of hers, I was much more 
anxious to know from Milly herself how she had spent her life. 
She told us with a little reserve about her Irish friends and hor 
odd bringing up, and then how she had met with Harry. She 
told you all about that herself, I know, a great deal better than 
I could repeat it, ana fuller, too, than she told us. But when 
she got fully into that story, she could not help forgetting 
herself and the present circumstances a little. Sara sat on a 
stool before her, with her hands clasped on her knees, devouring 
every word. Certainly Sara took a wonderful interest in it. I 
never saw her so entirely carried away by interest and 
sympathy. When Milly was done, the creature jumped up and 
defied me. 

"You couldn't blame her ; you couldn't have the heart to 
blame her ! It was just what she ought to have done !" cried 
Sara, with her face in such a commotion, all shining, and 
blushing, and dewy with tears. I was confounded by her 
earnest looks. It was very interesting, certainly, but 
there was nothing to transport her into such a little rapture as 
that. 

" Child, be quiet," said I ; " you are determined to do me 
some harm, surely. I don't blame Milly. She thought she had 
nobody belonging to her, though she was mistaken there. My 
dear, you have one old woman belonging to you that will expect 
a great deal, I can tell you. I can feel somehow, as if it might 
have been me you were telling of, if I had ever been as pretty 
or as young " 

" Godmamma, such nonsense !" cried Sara* lt you must have 
been as young once ; and if you were not far prettier than god- 
mamma Sarah, I will never believe my eyes !" 

"Your godmamma Sarah was a great beauty," said I ; u but 
that is nothing to the purpose. If I had ever been as young 
and as pretty as this Milly Mortimer, I might have fallen in 
with a Harry too, who knows ? and it might not have been 
any the better for you, my dear child ; so it's just as well that 
things are as they are. But, all the same, I can't help thinking 
that it might have been my slory you're telling. There's a 
great deal in a name, whatever people may say. I shall thinl 



250 The Last of the Mortimers. 

the second Milly is to go through all the things the first Milly 
only wondered about. I never had any life of my own to speak 
of. You have one already. I shall think I have got hold 
of that life, that always slipped through my fingers, when I see 
you going through with it. I shall never feel myself an odd 
person again." 

" Ah ! but life is not happiness," burst from my poor Milly's 
lips in spite of herself ; then she hastily drew up again : " I 
mean it is not play," she said, after a while. 

" If it were play, it would be for children ; it is heavy work 
and sore," cried I : " that much 1 know, you may be sure ; but 
then there are words said, that one can never forget, about him 
that endureth to the end." 

Such words were comfort to me ; but not just to that young 
creature in the intolerable hope and anguish she had in her 
heart. She was not thinking of any end ; I was foolish to say 
it ; and after all I knew more of life than she did far more ! 
and knew very well it did not spring on by means of heart- 
breaking events like the parting she was thinking of, or joyful 
ones like the meeting again which already she had set all her 
heart and life on, but crept into days and days like the slow 
current it had been to me. Sara, however, as was natural, 
was impatient of this talk. I believe she had something on her 
mind too. 

"You do not blame your Milly, godmamma?" she cried, a 
little spitefully ; " but I suppose you would blame any other 
poor girl ; as if people were always to do what was told them, 
and like such people as they were ordered to like ! You old 
people are often very cruel. Of course you would blame every 
one else in the world?" 

"I should certainly blame you" cried I, "if you should 
venture to think you might deceive your good father, that 
never denied you anything in his life. You velvet creature, 
what do you know about it? You never had an unkind word 
said to you, nor the most foolish wish in your little perverse 
heart denied. If you were to do such a thing, I could find it 
in my heart to lock you up in a garret and give you bread and 
water. It would not be a simple-hearted young creature with 
every excuse in the world for her, but a little cheat and traitor, 
and unnatural little deceiver. There! you are a wicked 
creature, but you are not so bad as that. If you said it your- 
self I should not believe it of you !" 

But to my amazement the child stood aghast, too much dis- 
mayed, apparently, to be angry, and faltered out, " Believe 



The Last of the Mortimers. 251 

what?" with her cheeks suddenly growing so pale that she 
frightened me. The next moment she had rushed into the back 
drawing-room, and from thence disappeared, for I went to 
look after her, fairly flying either from herself or me. I was 
entirely confounded. I could not tell what to make of it. 
Was little Sara in a mystery too ? 

44 If I am betraying Sara, I am very sorry," said Milly, when 
I looked to her for sympathy ; " but I fear, though they don't 
know it themselves, that she and the Italian gentleman are 
thinking more of each other, perhaps, than they ought." 

She had scarcely finished speaking when Sara returned, 
dauntless and defiant. " I rushed away to see whether your 
note had gone to godmamma Sarah," said the daring creature, 
actually looking into my very eyes. u A sudden dreadful 
thought struck me that it had been forgotten. But it is all 
right, godinamma ; and now I thiuk we might have some 
tea." 






252 The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER V. 

rpHE gentlemen came upstairs looking very cheerful and 
_1_ friendly, so of course every thing had been satisfactory in 
their conversation. After a little while Mr. Cresswell came to 
tell me all about it. He said the papers seemed all quite 
satisfactory, and he had no doubt Mrs. Langham was really 
Richard Mortimer's daughter, the nearest, and indeed only 
relation, on the Mortimer side of the house, that we had in the 
world. 

" I have no doubt about it," said I ; " Lut I am very glad, all 
the same, to have it confirmed. Now, my clrar child, you 
know that we belong to each other. My sister and I are, 
on your father's side, the only relations you have in the 
world." 

Milly turned round to receive the kiss I gave her, but 
trembled and looked as if she dared not lift her eyes to me. 
Somehow I believe that idea which brightened her husband, 
came like a cold shadow between her and me, the thought that 
I would take care of her when he was away. It was very 
unreasonable, to be sure ; but, dear, dear, it was very natural ! 
I did not quarrel with her for the impulse of her heart. 

" But softly, softly, my dear lady," said Mr. Cresswell; "the 
papers all seem very satisfactory, 1 admit ; but the ladies are 
always jumping at conclusions. I shall have to get my Irish 
correspondent to go over the whole matter, and test it, step by 
step. .Xot but that 7am perfectly satisfied ; but nobody can tell 
what may happen. A suit might arise, and some of these 
documents might be found to have a flaw in it. We must be 
cautious, very cautious, in all matters of succession." 

"A suit! Why, wouldn't llichard Mortimer, if he were 
alive, be heir-at-law? Who could raise a suit?" cried I. 

I suppose he saw that there was some anxiety in my look 
which I did not express; and, to be sure, he owed me something 
for having thwarted and baffled him. "There is no calculating 
what mysterious claimant might appear," said Mr. Cresswell, 
quite jauntily. " I heard somebody say, not very long ago, 
that all the romance now-a-days came through the hands of 



The Last of the Mortimers. 253 

conveyancers and attorneys. My dear lady, leave it to me ; I 
understand my own business, never fear." 

I felt as if a perfect fever possessed me for the moment. My 
pulse beat loud, and my ears rang and tingled. " What mys- 
terious claimant could there be to the Park?" I cried. 1 
betrayed myself. He saw in a moment that this was the dread 
that was on my mind. 

*' Quite impossible to say. I know no loophole one could 
creep in through," he said, with a little shrug of his shoulders 
and a pretended laugh. "But these things defy all proba- 
bilities. It is best to make everything safe for our young friends 
here." 

Now this, I confess, nettled me exceedingly ; for though we 
had taken so much notice of his daughter, and had lived so 
quietly for many years, neither Sarah nor I had ever given up 
the pretensions of the Mortimers to be one of the first families 
in the county. And to hear an attorney speaking of " our 
young friends here," as if they were falling heirs to some 
old maiden lady's little bit of property ! I was very much 
exasperated. 

41 It seems to me, Mr. Cresswell, that you make a little 
mistake," said I. "Our family is not in such a position that its 
members could either be lost or found without attracting 
observation. In a different rank of life such things might 
happen ; but the Mortimers, and all belonging to them, are too 
well known among English families, if I am not mistaken, to 
allow of any unknown connections turning up." 

Mr. Cresswell immediately saw that he had gone too far, and 
he muttered a kind of apology and got out of it the best way 
he could. I drew back my chair a little, naturally indignant. 
But Cresswell, whose father and his father's father had been 
the confidential agents of our family, who knew very well what 
we had been, and what we were whenever we chose to assert 
ourselves, to think of him, a Chester attorney, patronising 
our heirs and successors ! You may imagine I had a good right 
to be angry, and especially as I could see he was quite pluming 
himself on his cleverness in finding out what was in my mind. 
He thought it was a whim that had taken possession of me, no 
doubt, a kind of monomania. I could even see, as he thought 
it all quietly over by himself over his cup of tea, what a smile 
came upon his face. 

Yo'ing Langham, however, just then contrived to gain my 
attention, lie did it very carefully, watching his opportunitie 
when Milly was not looking at him, or when he thought she 



254 The Last of the Mortimers, 

was not looking at him. " I am heartily glad to have found 
you out now, of all times," said the young man. " Milly 
would not have gone to her relations in Ireland, and I have 
no relations. She will be very lonely when we are gone. Poor 
Milly ! It is a hard life I have brought her into, and she so 
young." 

" You are not much older yourself," said I ; " and if you 
children bring such trouble on yourselves, you must be all the 
braver to bear it. I doubt if she'd change with Sara Cresswell 
at this moment, or any other unmarried young creature in the 
world." 

The young man looked up at me gratefully. " I can't tell 
you how good she is," he said, in his simplicity. " She never 
breaks down nor complains of anything. I don't understand 
how she has saved and spared our little means and made them 
do ; but she has, somehow. Now, though she's pale with 
thinking of this don't you think she's pale? but I forgot, you 
never saw her before she has set all her mind upon my 
outfit, and will hear of nothing else. I wish it were true what 
the books say. I wish one's young wife would content herself 
with thoughts of glory and honour ; indeed, I wish one could 
do as much one's self," said the good young fellow, with a 
smile and sigh. " I fear I am only going, for instance, 
because I must go ; and that I'll cast many a look behind me 
on my Milly left alone. She's just twenty," he said, with an 
affectionate look at her which brought her eyes upon us and 
our conversation, and interrupted so far the confidential 
character of the interview between him and me. 

u Say nothing about it just now," said I, hurriedly, " it 
only vexes her to hear you talk of what she is to do ; leave her 
alone, dear soul but at the same time don't be afraid. The 
very day you go I'll fetch her to the Park. She shall be our 
child while you are away and it is to the Park you shall 
come when you come home. But say nothing about it now. 
She cannot bear to think of it at present. When the worst is 
over she'll breathe again. Hush ! don't let her hear us 
now !" 

" But you know her, though you don't know her," said he, 
under his breath, with a half-wondering grateful look at me 
that quite restored my good -humour. I remember I nodded 
at him cheerfully. Know her ! I should like to know who 
had as good a right ! These young creatures can't understand 
how many things an old woman knows. 

Here Milly came up to us, a little jealous, thinking some,* 



The Last of the Mortimers. 255 

how we were plotting against her. " Harry is talking to you 
of something?" she said, with a little hesitation in her 
voice. 

" On the subject we both like bcsb, just now," said I. 
" But I wish you both to go with me to the Park. You can 
manage it, can you not? The dear baby, and the little nurse, 
and but the fat Italian ? Ah ! he doesn't belong to you. 

" No ! he was in great triumph to-night ; his master has 
come home," said young Langham. ' ; He does not belong to 
us ; but he is a devoted slave of Milly's for all that. 

"His master came home to-night!" I repeated the words 
over to myself involuntarily ; and then a sudden thought 
struck me in the feverish impulse which came with that news. 
** Children," said I, with a little gasp, " it is deeply to all our 
interest to know who that young man is. I can never rest, 
nor take comfort in anything till 1 know. Will you try to 
have him with you to-morrow, and I will come and speak to 
him ? Hush ! neither the Cresswells nor anybody is to know ; 
it concerns only us Mortimers. Will you help me to see him 
at your house?" 

"You are trembling," said Milly, suddenly taking hold of 
my hand. " Tell Harry what it is and he will do it. He is 
to be trusted ; but it will agitate you." 

u I cannot tell Harry, for I do not know," said I, below my 
breath, leaning heavily upon the arm, so firm and yet so soft, 
that had come to my aid. " But I will take Harry's support 
and yours. It shall be in your house. Whatever is to be 
said shall be said before you. Thank heaven! if I do get 
agitated and forget myself you will remember what he 
says." 

" It is something that distresses you ?" said the young 
stranger, once more looking into my face, not curious but 
wistful. I should nave been angry had Sara Cresswell 
asked as much. I was glad and comforted to see Milly 
anxious on my account. 

" I cannot tell what it is ; but whatever it is, it is right that 
you should know all about it," said I. " For anything I can 
tell you it may interfere both with your succession and ours. I 
can't tell you anything about it, that is the truth ! I know no 
more than your baby does how Mr. Luigi can have any con- 
nection with our family ; but he has a connection somehow 
that is all I know. To-morrow, to-morrow, please God ! we'll 
try to find out what it is." 

The two young people were a good deal startled by my 



1 



256 TJie Last of the Mortimers. 

agitation ; perhaps, as was natural, they were also moved by the 
thought of another person who might interfere with the 
inheritance that had just begun to dazzle their eyes ; but as I 
leaned back in my chair, exhausted with the flutter that came 
over me at the very thought of questioning Mr. Luigi, my eyes 
fell upon Mr. Cresswell, still sipping a cup of tea, and quietly 
watching me over the top of his spectacles ; and at the same 
moment Sara came in from the back drawing-room with great 
agitation and excitement in her face. I could see that she 
scarcely could restrain herself from coming to me and telling 
me something ; but with a sudden guilty glance at her father, 
and a sudden unaccountable blush, she stole off into a corner, 
and, of all the wonderful things in the world, produced actually 
some work out of some fantastic ornamental work-table or 
other ! That was certainly a new development in Sara. But 
I could read in her face that she had seen him too. She too 
had somehow poked her curls into this mystery. All around 
me, everybody I looked at, were moved by it, into curiosity or 
interest, or something deeper I, the principal person in the 
business, feeling them all look at me, could only feel the more 
that I was going blindfold to, I could not tell what danger or 
precipice. Blindfold ! but at least it should be straightforward. 
I knew that much of the to-morrow, which it made me 
tremble with excitement to think of; but I knew nothing 
more. 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 257 



PAKT VI. 
THE LIEUTENANT'S WIFE. 

(Continued.) 

CHAPTER I. 

II /TY dear old relation whom we have found out so suddenly, 
JLV_L an d whom I am quite ashamed to have once thought to 
be a kind of usurper of something that belonged to me, has 
been too much distressed and troubled altogether about this 
business to have the trouble of writing it down as well ; and I 
have so little, so strangely little, to take up my time just now. 
The days are somehow all blank, with nothing ever happening 
in them. In my mind I can always see the ship making way 
over the sea, with the same rush of green water, and the same 
low-falling, quiet sky, and no other ships in sight. It has been 
very quiet weather that is a great mercy. They should be 
almost landed there by this time. 

But that is not my business just now. My dear Aunt 
Mifly it is true she is only my father's cousin, but cousin is an 
awkward title between people of such different age, and, 
according to Sara Cresswell, she is my aunt, a la mode de 
Bretagne, which I don't mind adopting without any very close 
inquiry into its meaning made an engagement with us to come 
to our house the next morning after that first day we met her. 
Harry came home from the Cresswells that night in raptures 
with Aunt Milly. It was rather hard upon me to see him so 
pleased. Of course I knew very well what made him se pleased. 
fie thought he had secured a home for me. He was never tired 



58 The Last of tfie Mortimers, 

praising her in his way. I am not exactly sure whether s!i3 
herself would have relished the praises he gave her, because he 
has a sad habit of talking slang like all the rest. But apart 
from any reason, he took to her, which it is a great pleasure to 
think of now. When we got home Mr. Luigi's window was 
blazing with light just as it had done when he returned before; 
for Domenico seems to be quite of the opinion that candles are 
articles of love and welcome as well as of devotion. Harry, who 
had quite made acquaintance with the Italian gentleman when 
he was at home before, went in to see him, and I went upstairs 
to baby. I used to take comfort in getting by myself a little, 
just at that time. Ten minutes in my own room in the dark 
did me a great deal of good. When one takes an opportunity 
and gets it out of one's heart now and then, ens can go on 
longer and better at least 1 have found it so. 

Lizzie, always watchful, was very ready to let me hear that 
she was close at hand. The moment she heard me open my 
own room-door, she began to move about in the back apartment 
where she kept watch over baby, and I do believe it was only 
by dint of strong self-denial that she did not burst in upon me 
at once. I can't fancy what she thought would happen if I 
" gave way." It must have taken some very terrible shape to 
her fancy. After 1 had my moment of repose, I went to baby's 
room. He was asleep like a little cherub in Mrs. Goldsworihy's 
old wicker-work cradle, which I had trimmed with chintz for 
him ; and Lizzie sat by the table working, but looking up at 
me with her sharp suspicious eyes sidelong inquisitive looks, 
full of doubts of my fortitude, and anxiety for me. It was all 
affection, poor child. When one has affectionate creatures about 
one, it is impossible to be hard or shut one's self up. 1 had no 
choice but to stop and tell Lizzie about my new friend. 

" Oh, it was thon leddy was at the muckle gates, and warned 
us away for the kingcough," cried Lizzie ; "I minded her the 
very moment at the door. I was sure as could be from the first 
look that it was some friend." 

" Some friend," in Lizzie's language meant some relation. I 
asked in wonder, " Why ?" 

But Lizzie could not explain why ; it was one of those un- 
reasonable impressions which are either instinctively prophetic, 
or which are adopted unconsciously after the event has proved 
them true. 

"But you were never slow where help was needed or com- 
fort," said Lizzie, dropping her eyes and ashamed of her own 
compliment ; " and I kent there was somebody to be seat to 



The Last oj ilie Mortimers. 25 

Comfort you ; and wha could it be but a friend ? For naebody 
could take you like the way you took me." 

I suppose Lizzie's view of things, being the simplest, had 
power over me. I was struck by this way of regarding it. 
Perhaps 1 had not just been thinking of what was Kent. I felt 
as if that tight binding over my heart relaxed a little. Ah ! so 
well as the Sender knew all about it all my loneliness, dismay, 
and troubles ; all my Harry's risks and dangers ; all our life 
beyond inscrutable dread life which I dared not attempt to 
look at and everything that wo.s in it, I held my breath, and 
was silent in this v. r ide world that opened out to me through 
Lizzie's words. 

" And eh, mem," cried Lizzie, opening her eyes wide, " I was 
sent for down the stair." 

" Where ?" cried 1 in astonishment. 

" I was sent for down the stair," said Lizzie, with the oddest 
blush and twist of her person. " Menico, he's aye been awfu' 
ill at me since I wouldna gang to the playhouse after it was a' 
settled as if 1 could gang to play mysel' the very day the news 
came ! and eh, when he came up and glowered in at the door, 
and Mrs. Goldsworthy beside him, and no a person but me in 
oor house, I was awfu' feared. Her being English, they were 
like twa foreigners thegither ; and how was I to ken what they 
were wantin' ? The only comfort I had was inindin' upon the 
Captain's sword. It was aye like a protection. But a' they said 
was that Mrs. Goldsworthy would stop beside baby, and I was 
to gang down the stair and speak to the gentleman. I thought 
shame to look as if I was feared but I was awfu' feared for a' 
that." 

"And what then?" 

" I had to gang,'' said Li/jzie, holding down her head ; " lie 
was sleeping sound, and I kent I could hear the first word of 
greetin' that was in his head ; / could hear in ony corner o' the 
house ; and Mrs. Goldsworthy gied me her word she would sit 
awfu' quiet and not disturb him. Eh, mem, are ye angry ? I 
never did it afore, and I'll never do it again." 

"No, you must not do it again," said I ; " but who wanted 
you downstairs ?" 

" Eh, it was the Italian gentleman," said Lizzie; "and it was 
a' about the leddy that was hore the day. He wanted to ken 
if she was wanting him ; and then he wanted to hear if I kent 
her, and what friend she was to you ; but it was mostly a' to 
make certain that it wasn't him she wanted as if a leddy like 
yon was likely to have ony troke wi' foreigners or strange men! 






260 The Last of the Mortimers. 

and there was aye the other blatter to Menico in their ain 
language and ower again, and ower again to me, if it wa?na 
him she asked for. And me standing close at the door listen- 
ing for baby, and thinking shame to be there, and awfu' feared 
you would be angry. I would like to ken what the like of him 
had to do wi' leddies? and Menico, too, that might have kent 
better but there's naebody will behave to please folk perfect 
in this world." 

" But this is very strange news," said I. " What did you 
say, Lizzie ? did you say it was Miss Mortimer, and that she 
was a relation of mine." 

" Eh, no me !" cried Lizzie. " Ye might think it to see me 
so silly, but I wasna that daft. I said it was ane on a visit to 
the leddy. 1 had nae ado with it ony mair than that, and I'm 
sure neither had he." 

Here Harry's voice sounded from below, calling me, and I 
left Lizzie somewhat amused by her cautious and prudent 
answer, and not a little curious to see that the Italian was 
interested about the old lady as well as she about him. I 
found Harry quite full of the same story. Mr. Luigi had 
questioned him with great caution about Miss Mortimer, and 
of course had heard the entire story from Harry of our 
relationship, and how we found each other out. He had 
received it very quietly, without expressing any feeling at all, 
and had asked some very close questions about her and about 
the Park, and her other sister. Harry could not make him 
out. Of course neither of us knew the other sister. Evidently 
it was a mysterious business somehow. But as we knew 
nothing whatever about it, we soon came to an end of our 
speculations. The morning, perhaps, as Aunt Milly thought, 
would clear it all ujx 



Last of the Mortimers. 261 



CHAPTER II. 

THE morning came, and a very lovely morning it was, as 
bright and almost as warm as summer, one of those 
glimpses of real spring which come to us only by days at a 
time. Aunt Milly came almost before we had finished break- 
fast. I dare say she is accustomed to early hours ; but it was 
evidently strong anxiety and excitement that had brought her 
out so soon to-day. I had told Lizzie she was coming, and 
Lizzie, either with some perception of the real nature of her 
visit, which I could not in any way account for, or with 
natural Scotch jealousy and reluctance to satisfy the curiosity 
of strangers as to our relationship, kept on the watch after she 
had given baby into my charge, and got her triumphantly 
into the house without any intervention on the part of 
Domenico. Aunt Milly sank into a chair, very breathless and 
agitated. Tt was some time before she could even notice little 
Harry. To see her so made me more and more aware how 
serious this business, whatever it was, must be. 

"But I am too early, I suppose?" she said with a little 
gasp. 

Harry thought it was rather too early, unless he were to 
tell Mr. Luigi plainly what he was wanted for, which eho 
would not permit him to do. It was a very uncomfortable 
interval. She sat silent, evidently with her whole mind bent 
upon the approaching interview. We, neither knowing the 
subject of it, nor what her anxiety was, had nothing to say, 
and I was very glad when Harry went downstairs to find the 
Italian. Then Aunt Milly made a hurried communication 
to me when we were alone, which certainly did not explain 
anything, but which still she evidently felt to be taking me 
into her confidence. 

" My dear, Sarah knows something about him," said Aunt 
Milly; "somehow or other Sarah knows that he has a claim 
upon us. When she heard of the inquiries he was making, 
she was in a state of desperation used to drive out with the 
carriage blinds down, poor soul, and kept watching all da 
long, so wretched and anxious that it would have broken 



l 



262 jftte Last of the Mortimers. 

your heart. But how it all is, and how about this CottntcSfj 
and his being named Luigi, and his claim upon the estate, 
and her knowing him though, so far as I can judge, he 
could be no more than born when she came home Hark ! was 
that somebody coming upstairs ?" 

It was only some of the people of the house moving about. 
Aunt Milly gave a sigh of relief. "My dear, I'm more and 
more anxious since I've found you, to know the worst," she 
said. " It is as great a mystery to you as to your baby, how 
he can have any connection with us. Dear, dear! to think 
of a quiet family, and such a family as the Mortimers, plunged 
all at once into some mystery .' it is enough to break one's 
heart ; but then, you see, Sarah was so long abroad." 

" Was she long abroad?" said I, with a little cry. All at 
once, and in spite of myself, my old fancy about that old Miss 
Mortimer, whom I imagined living in my grandfather's house, 
came back to my mind. The great beauty whom my good Mrs. 
Saltoun had seen abroad how strange if this should be her after 
all ! Somehow my old imaginations had looked so true at the 
time, that 1 seemed to remember them as if they were matters 
of fact and not of fancy. I looked up, quite with a conscious- 
ness that I knew something about it, in Aunt Milly 's face. 

"What do you know about her?" cried Aunt Milly, rising 
up quite erect and rigid out of her chair. Her excitement was 
extreme. She had evidently gone beyond the point at which 
she could be surprised to find any stranger throwing light upon 
her mystery. But at that moment those steps for which we 
had been listening did ascend the stairs. We could hear them 
talking as they approached, the Italian with his accent and 
rather solemn dictionary English, and Harry's voice that 
sounded so easy in comparison. Aunt Milly sank back again 
into her chair. She grasped the arms of it to support herself, 
and gave me a strange half-terriried, half-courageous look. In 
another moment they had entered the room. 

Mr. Luigi came in without any idea, I dare say, of the 
anxiety with which we awaited him ; but he had not been a 
minute in the room when his quick eye caught Aunt Milly, 
though she had drawn back with an involuntary movement of 
withdrawal from the crisis she had herself brought on. I could 
read in his face, the instant he saw her, that he divined the 
little contrivance by which he had been brought here. He 
stood facing her after he had paid his respects to me, and took 
no notice of the chair Harry offered him. As for Harry and I, 
not knowing whether they really knew each other, or whether 



The Last of the Mortimers. 263 

they ought to be named to each other, or what to do, we stood 
very uncomfortable and embarrassed behind. I said "Miss 
Mortimer," instinctively, to lessen the embarrassment if I could. 
1 don't believe he heard me. He knew Miss Mortimer very well, 
however it was. 

And it was he who was the first to break the silence. He 
made a kind of reverence to her, more than a bow, like some 
sort of old-fashioned filial demonstration. " Madame has some- 
thing to say to me?" he asked, with an anxiety in his face 
almost equal to her own. 

" Yes," cried Aunt Milly, " I I have something to say to 
yon. ISit down, and let me get breath." 

He sat down, and so did we. To see her struggling to 
overcome the great tremor of excitement she had fallen into, 
and we all waiting in silence for her words, must have been a 
very strange scene. It was the merest wonder and curiosity, of 
course, with Harry and me ; but I remember noticing even at 
that moment that Mr. Luigi was not surprised. He evidently 
knew something to account for her agitation. He sat looking 
at her, bending towards her with visible expectation of some- 
thing. It was no mystery to him. 

" Sir young man," cried Aunt Milly, with a gasp, " I do 
not know you ; you are a stranger, a foreigner ; you have 
nothing to do with this place. What, in the name of heaven, 
is it that you have to do with mine or me ?" 

Mr. Luigi's countenance fell. He was bitterly disappointed ; 
it was evident in his face. He drew a long breath and clasped 
his hands together, half in resignation, half appealing against 
some hard fate. " Ah !" he said, " I did hope otherwise is it, 
indeed, indeed, that you know not me T' 

Aunt Milly gave a cry half of terror. * 4 1 recognise your 
voice," she said. " I see gleams in your face of faces 1 know. I 
am going out of my wits with bewilderment and trouble ; but 
as sure as you are there before me, I know no more who you 
are than does the child who cannot speak." 

Mr. Luigi made no reply for some minutes. Then he made 
some exclamations in Italian, scarcely knowing, I am sure, what 
he was saying. Then he remembered himself. u Thing most 
strange ! thing most terrible !" cried the young man ; " not 
even now ! not even now !" and he looked round to us with 
such distress and amazement in his face, and with such an 
involuntary call for our sympathy, though we knew nothing 
about it, that his look went to my heart. Aunt Milly saw it, 
and was confounded by it. His genuine wonder and 






264 The Last of the Mortimers. 

grieved consciousness that she ought to have known this secret, 
whatever it was, stopped her questions upon her lips. She sat 
leaning forward looking at him, struck dumb by his looks. _ I 
was so excited by the evident reserve on both sides, which 
implied the existence of a third person whom neither would 
name, that 1 burst into it, on the spur of the moment, 
without thinking whether what I said was sensible or 
foolish. "Who?" I cried, " who is the other person that 
knows ?" 

Both of them started violently; then their eyes met in a 
strango look of intelligence. Aunt Milly fell back in her chair 
trembling dreadfully, trembling so much that her teeth chat- 
tered. Mr. Luigi rose. " I am at Madume's disposition," he 
said softly ; " but what can I say ? It is better I be gone 
while 1 do not harm Madame, and make her ill. Pardon ! it is 
not I who am to blame !" 

Saying so, he took Aunt Milly 's hand, kissed it, and turned 
to the door. She called him back faintly. u Stop, I have not 
asked you rightly,'' said poor Aunt Miiiy. ' Could not you tell 
me, without minding anybody else? Are you are you? oh! 
who are you ? I do beseech you tell me. If wrong is done you, 
I have no hand in it. What is there to prevent you telling 
me?" 

" Ah, pardon. I know my duty," said the young man. 
*' If she will reject me then ! but it is yet too early. 1 wait 
I expect she has not yet said it to me." 

Aunt Milly gathered herself up gradually, with a strange 
fluttered look in her eyes. " Reject you ! God bless us ! it is 
some mistake, after all. Do you know who it is you are 
speaking of ? Do you know if it is my sister Sarah? She is 
my elder sister, ten years older than me, oki enough to 
be your mother is it she? or, oh, God help us! is it a 
mistake?" 

Mr. Luigi turned towards me for a moment, with a face 
melted out of all reserve, into such affection ateness and emotion 
as I scarcely ever saw on a man's face. When she named her 
sister's age, he said, " Ah !" with a tone as if her words went to 
his heart. But that was all. He shook his head. He said, 
" No more, no more," and went slowly but steadily away. It 
was no mistake. What she said conveyed no information to 
him. He knew that Sarah's age and all about her, better than 
her sister did, or I was mistaken. What he said, awd still more 
what he looked, brought a strong sudden impression to my mind. 
I don't know yet how I can be right if I *m right it ifi tb.e 



The Last of the Mortimers. 265 

strangest thing in the world ; but I know it darted into my 
head that morning when Luigi's face melted out so strongly, 
and that cry which explained nothing came from his heart. 

In the meantime, however, poor Aunt Milly sat wringing 
her hands and more troubled than ever, repeating to herself 
bits of the conversation which had just passed, and bits of other 
conversations which we knew nothing about. Harry and I, a 
little uncomfortable, still tried to occupy ourselves so that we 
should not hear anything she did not waiit us to hear ; but we 
did not wish to leave her either. At last Harry went out 
altogether and left her alone with me, and by degrees she 
calmed down. I do not wonder she was painfully excited. 
There could be little doubt some strange, unnatural secret was 
concealed in her house. 

" But you heard him say reject" said Aunt Milly, " if she 
rejected him do you feel quite sure he understood my last 
question? Not knowing a language very well makes a 
wonderful difference; and what if he supposed my sister a 
young woman, Milly ? When I began to be troubled about 
this business, I couldn't but think that it was some old lover 
Sarah was afraid of meeting, forgetting the lapse of time. She 
was a great beauty once, you know. How do you suppose, 
now, an old woman could reject a young man ?" 

u But there are other meanings of the word than as it is 
between young women and young men," said I ; "he might 
mean disown." 

" He might mean disown," repeated Aunt Milly slowly, 
" disown ; but, dear, dear child," she cried, immediately 
throwing off her first puzzlrd hypothesis, and falling back at 
once into the real subject of her trouble, " what can he be to 
Sarah that she could disown him? Before you can disown a 
person he must belong to you. How could Mr. Luigi belong 
to my sister ? but, to be sure, it is folly to put such questions 
to you that know nothing about it. Milly, dear, I'll have to go 
home." 

u I am very, very sorry you are going home disappointed," 
said I. 

l Yes," said Aunt Milly, with a great sigh, " it is hard to 
think one's somehow involved in doing wrong, my dear ; it's 
hard to live in the house with your nearest friend, and not to 
know any more of her than if she were a stranger. What was 
I saying? I never said so much to any creature before. I 
*ake you as if you belonged to me, though you scarcely know 
jje yet, Milly. I'd like you to settle to coine out as soou us 



I 



The Last of the Mortimer*. 

possible, dear. I'd like you to see Sarah, and tell me what 
you think. Perhaps there is no telling she might say 
something to you" 

" But will she be pleased to know about us?" said I. 

" It was her desire to seek for you," said Aunt Milly. " She 
thought of that, somehow, just before this trouble came on. 
Sometimes it has come into my mind, that she thought if she 
found your father, he would have protected her somehow. I 
can't tell : it is all a great mystery to me." 

And so she went away after a while, looking very sorrowful ; 
but came back to tell me to put my bonnet on and come with 
her to Mr. Cresswell's, who was to drive her home. On our 
way there I suddenly felt her grasp my arm and point forward 
a little way before us, where Mr. Luigi was walking slowly 
along the road by Sara Cresswell's side. Aunt Milly came 
almost to a dead stop, looking at them. They were not arm- 
in-arm, nor did they look as if they had met on purpose. I dare 
say it was only by accident. Sara, as usual, was dressed in a 
great velvet jacket, much larger and wider than the one she 
wore indoors, and held her little head high, as if she quite 
meant to impress an idea of her dignity upon the Italian, who 
had to stoop down a long way, and perhaps did stoop down 
more than Aunt Milly and I saw to be exactly necessary. 
They went the length of the street together, quite unconscious 
of the critics behind them, and then separated, Mr. Luigi 
marching off at a very brisk pace, and Sara continuing her way 
home. We came up to her just as she reached her own door. 
She was certainly a very pretty creature, and looked so fresh 
and blooming in the morning air that I could not have scolded 
her a great deal, though I own I had a very good mind to do 
my best in that way, while we were walking behind. The 
moment she saw us she took guilt to herself. Her face glowed 
into the most overpowering blush, and the little parasol in her 
hand fell out of her trembling ringers. But, of course, her 
spirit did not forsake her. She was not the person to yield to 
any such emergency. 

" We have been walking after you for a long time," said 
dear Aunt Milly, in a voice which I have no doubt she sup- 
posed to be severe. " I should have called you to wait for 
us, had I not seen you were otherwise enraged." 

"Oh! then you saw Mr. Luigi, godmamma?" said Sara, 
quite innocently. "He says he thinks he has found out 
where the Countess Sermoneta is." 
" The Countess Sermoneta ! oh, child } child, how can you 



TH& Lttfti oj tne Mortimers. 267 

Bpeak so to me?" cried Aunt Milly. " I don't believe there ia 
any such person in the world. I believe he only makes a fuss 
about a name, no one ever heard of, to cover his real designs, 
whatever they may be." 

*' Godmamina !" cried Sara, with a flash of fury ; " perhaps 
it will be better to come indoors," cried the little wicked 
creature (as Aunt Milly calls her) ; " nobody, that I ever 
heard of, took away people's characters in the open street." 

Aunt Milly went in quickly, shaking her head and deeply 
troubled. The renewal of this subject swept Sara's enormity 
out of her head. We followed, Sara bidding me precede her 
with a sort of affronted grandeur, which, I confess, was a 
little amusing to me. When we came into the dining-room, 
where Aunt Milly went first, the little girl confronted us both, 
very ready to answer anything we had to say, and confute us 
to our faces. But much to Sara's surprise, and perhaps 
annoyance, Aunt Milly did not say a word on the subject. 
She shook her head again more energetically than ever. She 
was so much shaken on this one subject, that other matters 
evidently glided out of her mind, whenever she was recalled to 
this. 

44 No, no ! depend upon it there's no Countess Sermoneta. 
I believed in it at first, naturally, as everybody else did. It 
may be a lady, but it isn't an Italian lady. No, no," said 
Aunt Milly, mournfully ; u he knows better. He said nothing, 
you may be sure, about her to me." 

At this moment Mr. Cresswell entered the room, and a 
little after the brougham came to the door. There waa 
nothing more said on the subject. Sara saw them drive away, 
with a flutter of fear, I could see ; but she need not have been 
afraid. Aunt Milly had returned into the consideration of 
her own mystery, which swallowed up Sara's. I do not think, 
for my own part, that I had very Christian feelings towards 
Mr. Luigi as I went home. 



'268 The Last of tlw Mortimer*, 






CHAPTER HI. 

FOR a few days after I was occupied entirely with my own 
affairs. We had promised to go to the Park to see th at 
strange sister Sarah, who troubled Aunt Milly's mind so much; 
and we had, of course, to make some little preparations for 
going more, indeed, than were very convenient at such a time, 
as you may very well suppose. However, Aunt Connor, who had 
not paid the last half year's interest, sent it just then, " all in a 
Jump," as she said herself, " thinking it would do you more 
good ;" as indeed it did, though perhaps poor Aunt Connor had 
other motives than that one for not sending it just when it was 
due. Harry was quite pleased at the thought of going to the 
Park. He got leave of absence for a few days ; and, naturally, it 
was a satisfaction to him, sifter feeling that he had been obliged 
to keep his wife in the shade so loug, to say that it was to my 
relations we were going. And what with all the preparations 
for his going away as well, I was so very busy that I got little 
.leisure to think. It is very common to say what good oppor- 
tunities for thought one has in working at one's needle and it 
is very true so far as quiet, leisurely work is concerned ; but 
when it happens to be making shirts and such things and you 
know, with most men, merely to say they are made at home is 
enough to make them feel as if they did not fit, it is quite a 
different matter. I was too busy, both mind and fingers, to do 
much thinking ; and that was far better for me than if I had 
found more leisure. I used to go up to Lizzie's room, which 
we called the nursery, and work~there. Baby sat on the carpet, 
well protected with cushions, and furnished with things to play 
with. He was not very particular his playthings were of a 
very humble and miscellaneous order ; but f am sure he was as 
happy as a little king. 

,, And eh, isn't it grand that his birthday's come before the 
Captain gangs away? He'll, maybe, be back," said Lizzie, 
peering in*? my face with a sidelong look, " before another 
year." 



The Last of the Mortimers. 269 

4t Hush !" said I, hastily ; *' but you must remember, Lizzie, 
to be particularly nice and tidy, and to look as if you were 
twenty, at least, when we go to the Park." 

Here Lizzie drew herself up a little. "I've never been 
among a housefu' o' servants," said Lizzie, ** that's true but 
I've been wi' a leddy, and that suld learn folk manners better 
nor a' the flunkeys in the world. For Menico says, as well as 
I can understand him, that there's twa men-servants, and as 
mony maids as would fill a house. Eh, mem, wouldn't it be a 
great vexation to see a wheen idle folk aye in the road? 
Menico's no like a common man ; there's no an article he canna 
do ; but as for just flunkeys to hand the plates and do about 
a house eh, if it was me, I would think they werena 
men." 

" But Miss Mortimer's man is not a flunkey ; it was he who 
came with us in the omnibus," said I. 

u Yon gentleman ?" said Lizzie, in great dismay. " I thought 
he was a minister ; and eh, to think of him puttin' on fires and 
waitin' at the table! I would far sooner be a woman 
mysel'." 

" And have you any objection to be a woman apart from 
that ?" said J. " I did not think you had been so ambitious, 
Lizzie. What would you do if you were a man ?" 

Lizzie's colour rose, and her work fell from her hand. " I 
would gang to the wars with the Captain, cried the girl, ** I 
would aye make a spring in before him where danger was. I 
would send word every day how he did, and what he was 
doing. I would stand by our ain flag if they hacked me in 
pieces. I wouldna let the Hielanders stay still, no a moment! 
I would dash them down on the enemy wi' a' their bayonets, 
and cry * Scotland and the Queen !' and if we were killed, 
wha's heeding ! it would be worth a man's while to die !" 

This outburst was more than I could bear. I forgot to 
think it was only Lizzie, a woman and a child, that spoke. I 
put my hands over my eyes to shut out the prospect she 
brought before me, but only saw the picture all the clearer, as 
ny hand, with all its warm pulses beating, shut out the 
daylight. I could see Harry rushing before them with his 
sword drawn. I could hear his voice pealing out over their 
heads ; I could see the smoke close over him and swallow him 
up. Ah, heaven ! pictures and stories are made out of such 
scenes. This creature by my side had flamed up into exulting 
enthusiasm at the thought. How many hearts attended those 
charging regiments, breaking against each other, heart upon 



270 The -Last of the Mortimers. 

h >irt! It came to my heart to wonder, suddenly, whether 

re might not be some young Russian woman, like me, 
..... yining that fight. Her husband and my Harry might 
meet under those dreadful flags, she and I, would not 
we meet, too, in our agony ? 1 held out my arms to her 
with a cry of anguish we were sisters, though they were 
foes. 

When I looked up Lizzie was crying bitterly, partly with 
her own excitement, partly, because she saw how cruel her 
suggestion had been to me. She did not mean it so, poor 
child. Baby sat playing all the time among his cushions, 
crowing to himself over the bright-coloured ball he had found 
under his heap of toys. I thought to myself he would laugh 
all the same whatever happened, and wondered how I should 
bear to hear him. But that was enough, that was too much. 
I stopped myself, as best I could, from going on any further. 
I got some linen that had to be cut out, and rose up to do it ; 
it was very delicate work. If I were not very careful, a 
snip of the scissors, too much or too little, might spoil all the 
stuff ; for Harry was very fastidious, you know, about all hia 
things, like most young men. It took some trouble to steady 
my hand enough but I did manage it. I wonder what the 
Russian woman did, to calm her agitation down. 

Lizzie recovered very hastily when she saw what I was doing. 
She picked up her work, and sewed for a long time so silently and 
swiftly, that the snip of my scissors and the movement of her 
arm, as she drew through her needle, were the only sounds, 
except those which baby made, to be heard in the room. At 
last she took courage to address me with great humility, asking 
only if it was " the day after the morn" that we were going to 
the Park ? 

I nodded my head in return, and Lizzie took courage to go 
on. The next question was whether the Italian gentleman, 
would be there? 

" Tho Italian gentleman ! what has he to do with the Miss 
Mortimers ?" cried I. 

" Eh, it's no me said it," cried Lizzie, in alarm; "but 
yesterday, the day the leddy was here Menico was a' the gate 
oat there, ance errand \vi' a letter. I said what way did it no 
go to the post? and he said the post wouldna do. But I 
wouldna let on the leddy was here." 

"He went out with a letter, did he?" said I, in much 
surprise. " Was that where he was all day? I did not see him 
about till it was dark," 



The Last of the Mortimers. 271 

tc There maun be another leddy ?" said Lizzie, inquisitively ; 
" and he gaed her some grand name or another. He's awfu' 
funny wi' his names, lie ca's baby Sitjiwrino and ragazzino, 
and I dinna ken a' what. I looked them up in the dictionary, 
and they were a' right meanings enough. But it wasna Miss 
Mortimer he ca'ed the other leddy. Eh, mem, isn't Menico 
getting grand at his English ? and I'me aye improving myseF 
too," said Lizzie, with a little blush and awkward droop of her 
head. 

I was not much in the humour for laughing at poor Lizzie's 
self-complacency ; but I was rather anxious to hear all the 
gossip I could get for Aunt Milly's sake. I asked immediately 
" Were they kind to Menico at the Park?" 

Lizzie hesitated a little in her answer. " He's rael clever at 
speaking," she said, apologetically, 1 suppose finding it rather 
hard to go back so soon after her laudation " but when it's a 
long story it's no so easy to ken no a' he means. But I'm no 
thinking they were very good to him for he was awfu' angry 
when he came hame. And eh, to see him at his dinner ! You 
would think he hadna seen meat for a week. It's no a guid 
account of a house no meaning ony harm of a great house like 
the Park," said Lizzie, reflectively, " when a man comes awfu' 
hungry hame." 

Here there was a little pause while Lizzie threaded her needle. 
I don't know whether she was indulging in any melancholy 
anticipations of the hospitality of the Park. However, presently 
she resumed her story again. 

" And eh, mem ! far mair than that," said Lizzie, making a 
fresh start, " he brought back the very same letter just as it 
was it might be beca/ose the leddy was out, or I dinna ken 
what it might be ; but I saw him gi'e it back to the gentleman. 
And the gentleman, instead of being angry, he just took the 
letter and shook his head, and set fire to it at the candle. The 
door was open, and I saw him do it as I came up the stairs, 
gaed to my heart to see him burning the good letter," said 
Lizzie; "there was, maybe, something in't that somebody 
might have likit to hear." 

" But, Lizzie, don't you know nobody has any business with 
a letter except the person who wrote it, and the person it is 
addressed to ?" said I. 

I spoke, I confess, in an admonitory spirit. We did not 
get very many letters, but Harry was sadly careless of those he 
did get. 



272 The Last of the Mortimers. 

"Eh, but foreigners are no like other folk," cried Lizzie; 
" there's something awfu' queer in burning a letter, and it a' 
sealed up. I couldna find it in my heart ; and when it's a 
long story, it's awfu' fickle to understand Domenico, the half o' 
what he says." 

Lizzie ended with a sigh of unsatisfied curiosity. Perhaps, if 
1 could have done it, I might have been as anxious to cross- 
question Domenico as she. 



The Last of the Mortimer*. ii73 



CHAPTER IV 

OUR little journey was arranged by Aunt Milly in the most 
comfortable way she could think of for us. Harry would 
not. consent to let her send the carriage all the way. The 
railway was close to us, and it passed about two miles from the 
Park, where there was a little station ; and the carriage was to 
meet us there. It was a very short journey, certainly ; but I 
remember when we were all in the train, all every one of 
us, a family entire and close together, and especially at the 
moment when we were passing through the tunnel, and felt in 
the darkness more entirely separated from the world, a sudden 
thought seized upon me : " Oh, if we were only going on, 
anywhere, anywhere to the end of the world!" Plunging 
through the darkness, with Harry sitting close by me, and 
baby on my knee, and nobody able to approach or stop us 
going on all together 1 All sorts of people have their fancies, 
no doubt. I daresay mine were very homely ones ; but I shall 
never forget the strange thrill that came upon my heart as this 
wild possibility seized me. When we came slowly into the 
daylight, and the train stopped, and the door of the carriage 
flew open, and dear Aunt Milly herself appeared to welcome us, 
I woke up with a little shiver into real life again. Ah me ! one 
cannot dart into the bowels of the earth and hide one's self. 
But life and duty somehow looked cold at me with their piercing 
daylight eyes after that thought. 

Everything familiar stopped short and broke off when we 
got into the carriage. Aunt Milly was not a great lady. I 
don't think anything could ever have made her a great lady ; 
but it was clear she had been a person of consideration for 
many a year. I never had been in such a carriage before ; 
indeed, I don't think I had ever been in any carriage but a 
public one, for, of course, Aunt Connor was not rich enough to 
have a carriage of her own. But when I sat down by Aunt 
Milly's side, I could not help feeling immediately that it all 
belonged to me. It was a strange feeling, and indeed, if nobody 
will be shocked, it was a very pleasing feeling. Instead of 
making me discontented, somehow it quite reconciled me to 



274 The Last of the Mortimers* 

being poor, My own opinion is, that people of good family, 
or whatever is equivalent to good family, people that know 
they belong to a higher class, whether other people know it or 
not, always bear poverty best. It does not humiliate them as 
it does people who have always been poor. I think I could 
have stood any remarks upon my bonnet, or even baby's pelisse, 
with great equanimity after my visit to the Park ; being poor 
looked so much more like an accidental circumstance after that. 
Perhaps I don't explain very well what I mean, so I will just 
state it plainly, and then you may understand, or disagree with 
it, just as you choose. The higher one's rank is, the better one 
can bear being poor. There ! it is not the common opinion, 
but I believe it all the same for that. 

And here was the Park, the very same great modern house 
that stood (leaning on the trees) in poor papa's drawing, with 
two wings drawn out from the main body of the building, and 
a curious archway and a little paved court at the side before 
you came to the great door. We went to the great door as we 
were strangers, and I could see the grave face of my omnibus 
acquaintance peeping through a round bow-window close to the 
door before he admitted us, very solemnly and with profoundest 
abstract air. 1 wonder if he could remember us. His face 
looked as blankly respectful as if any idea on any subject 
whatever would somehow be unbecoming the dignity of the 
Park. Aunt Milly, who had gradually become fidgety, now 
took hold of my hand and drew me forward quickly. 1 went 
with her, a little astonished, but with no clear idea where I was 
going. She took me into a very long, very large room, with a 
great many tall windows on one side, a room so big as to look a 
perfect maze of furniture to me. I saw nobody in it, and did 
not think of it as being a room in common use. She had 
brought me to see some picture, no doubt. But Aunt Milly 
hurried me up this long room, with her hand upon my wrist, to a 
screen that seemed drawn so as to shelter one side of the fireplace. 
When we came in front of this, I was greatly startled to see a 
lady, with large knitting-pins in her hands, rise slowly from an 
arm-chair. There was nothing extraordinary in her look ; she 
had fine features, I suppose, I don't think I know, very well, 
what fine features are, she had white hair, and a pretty cap 
with soft-coloured ribbons, and a strange, studied, soft-coloured 
dress. I noticed all this unconsciously, in the midst of the 
nervous and startled sensation that 1 had in being brought in 
front of her so suddenly. She put both her knitting-pins into 
pne hand, and held out the other to me. Then she bent 

L 



The Last of the Mortimers. 

forward a little, meaning me to kiss her, which I did with much 
awe and with no great sensation of pleasure. Her hand was 
cold, and so was her cheek. I could scarcely help shrinking 
away from her touch. Then she spoke, and I, being quite 
unprepared for it, was still more startled. Her voice was a 
kind of whisper, very strange and unpleasant ; all the s's came 
out sharp, with a kind of liiss. I suppose it was because she 
was so entirely used to it herself that Aunt Milly never men- 
tioned it to me. 

" So you are Richard Mortimer's daughter ?" she said. " Sit 
down : I am very glad to see you. It is I that have been so 
anxious about finding you for some time past. But where is 
your husband ? I want him to come as well as you." 

" He is in the hall. He will be here presently, Sarah," said 
Aunt Milly. " I told Ellis to show him in, and the dear baby, 
too ; but I could not keep back Milly from you for a moment. 
I knew you would be anxious to see her at once." 

" I wish to see her husband too," said Miss Mortimer. 
" So your name is Milly ? Because it was our principal family 
name, I suppose ? Your father was a great man for family 
matters, because his father was such a leveller ; otherwise I 
should have thought he would have called you after me." 

Why, I wondered ? but indeed I had very little inclination 
to speak. 

" I want to see your husband particularly. I should like you 
to live here. Milly says he is going to the Crimea," said Miss 
Mortimer. " I hope he's a reasonable man. Why shouldn't 
he leave the army at once? /want him here. You were not 
the heir to an estate like the Park when he got orders for the 
Crimea. I see no reason in the world why he should not sell 
out and stay at home." 

I think she went on saying more, but I did not hear her ; 
the great room swam in my eyes ; she seemed all fading away 
into pale circles. I lost hold of the chair or something I was 
standing by. I don't remember anything else till I felt some 
water dashed on my face, and gradually the pale circles 
cleared away, and I was in the same room again. I had no 
idea what had happened to me. 1 was lying on a sofa, though, 
now, with my face all wet, and a dreadful singing and buzzing 
in my ears, and Harry was there. I found out I had fainted. 
I never did such a thing in all my life before ; how very 
foolish of me ! and just when she was talking, too, about that 
that chance. I caught hold of Harry's fingers tight : " Go 
and speak to her !" I cried out. I could not keep still until 



276 The Last of the Mortimers. 

he went, for I could see the screen, and knew she waa 

there. 

When he disappeared behind the screen, and when, after a 
moment, Aunt Milly followed, always keeping her eyes on me, 
I lay perfectly still, grasping my two hands in each other. 
My mind was all seething up, as if in a fever, round what she 
had said. I was conscious of nothing else. I could not hear 
what they were saying now for the noise in my ears ; but as I 
lay still a strange succession of feelings came over me. It was 
like so many breezes of wind, each cooler, nay, I mean 
colder, than the other. First it occurred to me what other 
people would say of him, of Harry, whom no one now durst 
breathe a doubt upon ; then I thought of him fighting with 
himself for my sake, trying to put down his manhood and his 
honour to save breaking his wife's heart; then I came to 
myself last of all. Would I ? could I ? I groaned aloud in 
my anguish. Oh, llussian woman, what would you say? 
There are plenty to be killed and sacrificed. Shall we let our 
children's fathers go, to be lost in that smoke and battle? 
Harry burst out to me from behind the screen when I was in 
this darkness. I never saw him look as he looked then. He 
took my two hands and cried out in an appeal and remon- 
strance, " Milly, do you say so ?" looking down at me with 
his eyes all in a blaze. I could not; bear it. I put him away 
- thrust him away. They say I cried out to God in my 
despair. I cannot tell anything that I said but " Go !" Oh, 
Russian woman, I wonder if you made up your mind as I did ! 
No, not if it were to break my heart ; we could die, all of us, 
when the good Lord p!e;ised ; but the good Lord never pleased 
that one of ua should make the other fail. 



Last of the Mortimers. 277 



CHAPTER V. 

I FELT ffl and shaken all the rest of that day. It was some 
time before they would let me get up from the sofa, and [ 
quite remember how very strange it was to lie there in the 
great daylight room, with the sky looming in through the 
great window, and to watch, always so close by, and yet so 
distant, that screen which was drawn out by the side of the 
fire. 1 could not keep my eyes from that harmless piece of 
furniture. Aunt Miily kept coining and going, constantly 
talking to cheer me up, and bring things to show me. But 
no sound came from the screen. There, in that little space, 
shut off and shaded out of the centre of her home, sat the 
woman who already fascinated me with an influence I could 
not explain. Without knowing what I was doing indeed, 
even I may say against my will, strange recollections of 
stories I had read came up to my mind ; about people in masks 
going whispering through an evil life, about the veiled 
prophet in the poem, about secret hidden creatures suspected 
of all manner of harm, but never found out, or betrayed. 
There she was, within three paces of me, concealed and silent, 
or was it not rather watchful, lurking, with her bloodless 
smile and her shut up heart? My imagination, perhaps, is 
always too active ; somehow it quite overpowered me that 
day. It seized upon Miss Sarah Mortimer's looks and her 
voice, and the strange separation which she made by that 
screen between herself and the world. She was different 
entirely different from that old ghastly Miss Mortimer whom 
I used to dream of in my grandfather's house ; that one with 
her hair all mixed with grey, and her dark careless dress, 
sitting by the fire with the ghosts of the past about her, was a 
pleasant recollection in face of this. The great beauty, 
deserted of all the world and fallen into solitude, had something 
pathetic in her loneliness. But behind that screen there was 
no pathos that I could see ; nothing human, I had almost said. 
What folly to speak so! To anybody's eyes but mine, I 
daresay there was only an old lady very prettily and carefully 
dressed, everything about her looking as if it were intended to 



273 The Last of the 

repeat and reproduce the effect of lior white hair ; soft 3oK nrs 
with clouds of something white coming over them. But 1 
could not look at her in that way. I was in a\ve and afraid 
when I looked at the screen. It was a comfort to get out of 
the room, to go upstairs, where after a while Aunt Milly 
took me. But I could not forget her even upstairs. There 
she sat in her armchair, stony-eyed, knitting like one of the 
F a t es , or was it spin they did ? and that screen drawing a 
magical, dreadful shadow round her chair. 

Aunt Milly had prepared our rooms for us with the greatest 
care, that was very evident. There was the daintiest little bed 
for baby, all new and fresh, evidently bought for him, and 
quite a basketful of new toys, which already he was doing his 
best to pull all to pieces. Oh, such bright, luxurious rooms ! 
I felt my heart grow a little cold as I looked at them. 
Neither Harry nor Aunt Milly had said a word to me on the 
subject. They thought they could deceive me, I suppose ; but 
the moment I saw these apartments, don't you think I could 
see what they were planned out for ? I was to be taken there 
when he went away. 

" And, my dear, what do you think of your Aunt Sarah?" 
said her kind sister, looking rather wistfully into my 
face. 

I was so foolish that I was half afraid to answer. How 
could I tell that our words were not heard behind the screen 
yonder? And as for meeting her eyes 1 could not have done 
that for the world. 

" But you know she is not my Aunt Sarah," said I. " It is 
a love name, dear Aunt Milly. I I don't know Miss Mor- 
timer yet ; you must let me keep it for you." 

" Hush ! you have not known me much longer !" cried Aunt 
Milly, "No such thing, child ! we are both the same relation 
to you. Poor dear Sarah ! 1 forgot to tell you about her 
voice. Isn't it very sad she should have lost her beautiful 
voice ? She is very clever too, Milly," said Aunt Milly, with 
a sigh. u When you know her better you will admire her 
very much." 

u But you know she jilted poor papa," said 1, trying to 
laugh and shake off my dread of the veiled woman down- 
stairs. 

"My dear! she jilted half the county!" said Aunt Milly, 
rather solemnly and not without a little pride. " Your 
Aunt Sarah was the greatest beauty that ever was seen when 
ehe was as young as you." 



The Last of the Mortimers. 279 

This speech made me smile in spite of myself. Dear Aunt 
Milly, perhaps, had been a little slighted by the county. She 
had no compunction about her sister's prowess. I don't know 
that I felt very sorry for her victims myself, even poor papa, I 
fear. But, ah me ! what kind of a woman was this, I wonder, 
that had been an enchantress in her day ! She was an 
enchantress still. She charmed me, as a serpent, I could 
suppose, might charm some poor creature. I wonder if there 
was any pity in her, any feeling that there was a God and a 
heaven, and not merely the century-old ceiling with the 
Mortimers' arms on it, over her where she sat ? I don't believe 
ehe cared. I don't think there was anything in the world but 
her own will and inclination, whatever it might be, that ruled 
her in her dreadful solitude. I wonder when "she looked across 
her knitting at such a human creature as Aunt Milly how she 
felt ; whether it ever came into her head to wonder which of 
them was contrary to nature? But I don't suppose Miss 
Mortimer cared anything about nature. In this wonderful 
world, all so throbbing with life and affection, I think she must 
have known nothing but herself. 

Thinking like this, you may suppose I could not deceive Aunt 
Milly to make her think I admired her sister. I kept off speak- 
ing of her ; which, of course, though not quite so unpleasant, 
tells one's mind clearly enough. Aunt Milly gave a little 
sigh. 

" My dear, I see you don't take to Sarah just at once. I was 
in hopes if you had taken to each other she might, perhaps, 
have told you something of what is on her mind. Because, 
you know, after all we have heard, something must be on her 
mind, whether she shows it or not. I am afraid it is all 
beginning again now, Milly ; but somehow she hasn't let her 
courage down as she did when that young man was about 
before. I suppose she's more prepared now. She drove out 
quite calm yesterday, just as usual ; though Mr. Luigi's servant 
was out here with a letter the very day I saw his master at your 
house." 

So I heard," said I. 

44 So you heard! Dear! How did you hear? I know 
things spread in the most dreadful way," said Aunt Milly, in 
great distress ; " but to think that should have reached Chester 
already ! What did you hear ?" 

" I heard it only from Lizzie, my little maid," said I, pointing 
to the door of the other room. 4 ' Mr. Luigi's servant and sue 
are great friends." 



280 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Aunt Milly followed the movement of my hand with her 
eyes, a little awe-stricken. " She must speak his language, 
for he knows no English," she said, with involuntary respect. 
u But dear, dear, she's only a child ! To be sure she'll go and 
publish it all in the servants' hall. But speaking of that, my 
dear, you ought to have a proper nurse. I felt very nervous 
about baby when I saw her carrying him. She may be big, 
you know, but she's only a child." 

Here Lizzie, either because she had heard us, or by some 
sudden inpulse of her own, knocked pretty loud at the door. I 
went to it a little timidly, rather apprehensive that she had 
been listening, and meant to defend herself. I did Lizzie great 
injustice however. She was standing in a paroxysm of joyful 
impatience on the other side of the door. I don't believe the 
most injurious expression applied to herself could have reached 
Lizzie's ears at that moment. She had her great arms stretched 
out, stooping over little Harry. Her face was perfectly radiant 
and flushed with delight. On they came, baby tottering on 
his own little limbs, half triumphant, half terrified, Lizzie with 
her wings spread out, ready to snatch him up the moment he 
faltered. Anybody may imagine what I did. I dropped 
down on the floor and held out my arms to him, and forgot all 
my troubles for the moment. When he came tottering into my 
arms, the touch of his little hands swept all the cares and 
sorrows out of the world. It was not for long. But a minute's 
joy is a wonderful cordial ; it strengthens one's heart. 

" And oh, mem !" cried Lizzie, lifting her apron to her eyes, 
" the Captain '11 see him afore he gangs away !" 

" Go and fetch him," cried Aunt Milly, turning her out of 
the room. Aunt Milly was nearly as delighted as she was ; but 
she saw it was hard upon me to be continually reminded that 
Harry was to be gone so soon. By way of putting it out of 
my mind, she began such a lecture about letting babies walk 
too soon, and about weak ankles and bowed legs and all kinds 
of horrors, that I snatched my boy up on my knee, and was as 
much alarmed as I had been overjoyed. When Harry came, 
and found me half frightened to allow baby to exhibit his new 
accomplishment, and Aunt Milly doing her best to soften down 
her own declarations, and convince me that she referred to 
babies in general, and not to my boy, he burst into fits of 
laughter. I rather think he kissed us all round, Aunt Milly 
and all. He was in very high spirits that day. It did not occur 
to him what a struggle 1 had corne through before 1 over- 
came Miss Mortimer's temptation ; he was contented to think 



The Last of the Mortimers. 281 

I had fainted from heat and excitement and all the fatigue I 
had been exposed to of late ; and it was a comfort to him to 
have my real voluntary consent to his going away. Then this 
was to be my home, and here was my dear kind friend beside 
me. His heart rose, he laughed out his amusement and 
pleasure with the freedom of a young man in the height of his 
strength and hope. The sound startled the unaccustomed 
walls. I saw Aunt Milly look at him with a kind of delighted 
surprise and pleasure. Youth had not been here for long. I 
wondored did manhood, after Harry's fashion of it, belong to 
the Mortimers at all ? Many a day since, sitting in these silent 
rooms, the echo of Harry's laugh has come back to me ringing 
like silver bells. Ah, hush ! we shall all laugh when he comes 
back. 

But when Lizzie came to take her charge, the expression of 
t^e girl's face had completely changed. She took the child away 
with a certain frightened gravity that had a great effect upon 
me. Aunt Milly had left me by this time, and Harry had gone 
out to see the grounds, leaving me to rest. Resting was not 
very much in my way ; of course I got up from the sofa the 
moment they were gone. What good would it do me, docs 
anybody suppose, to lie there and murder myself with think- 
ing? I went after Lizzie to ask her what was wrong. Lizzie 
was very slow to answer. There was "naething wrang; she 
wasna minding. The man in blacks had asked if she was the 
nurse or the nursery-maid. But it's no my place to answer 
questions," said Lizzie, with indignation, " and thae English 
they're that saucy, they pretend they dinna ken what I'm 
saying. Eh, I would just like to let them ken, leddies and 
gentlemen ay ken grand what I'm saying! but they've nae 
education : 'Menico says that hirnsel'." 

" But what does 'Menico know about education, Lizzie ?" 
said I. 

Lizzie looked much affronted. " He mayna maybe ken 
English," she said, "but he may be a good scholar for a' that. 
The tither maids just gape and cry La ! when he takes the 
dictionary, and laugh at every word he says. He says they've 
nae education, thae English. He's no' a common servant-man 
like that man in blacks. He kens a' the gentlemen's business 
and what he's wantin', and everything about it. Eh," 
cried Lizzie, opening her eyes wide, and glancing behind 
her with involuntary caution, " do you think yon would 
be for?" 

u Who ?" said I. Was it possible that Lizzie knew ? 



282 The Last of the Mortimers. 

" Mem !" said Lizzie, with national unconscious skill and tha 
deepest earnestness, " do you think there's ony witches in thia 
country, like what there was lang syne ?" 

I was a little startled by the question ; it brought back to 
my mind in an instant that extraordinary picture which had so 
great an effect on my own imagination, the veiled woman at 
her knitting with the screen behind her chair. 

u Or the Evil Eye," continued Lizzie, with a little gasp of 
visionary terror ; "oh dinna say, if ye please, that I'm to bring 
him into yon muckle room ! for I would do some ill to the house, 
or her, or myself and would be carried, and no ken what I 
was doing, if she put any of her cantrips upon our bairn !" 

" Lizzie!" cried I, " child, you forget what you are saying, 
and where you are !" 

u Oh no, no' me !" cried Lizzie with vehement tears in her 
eyes ; " but, Mem, it maun be her ; there's nae other leddy 
except our leddy in this house. And if I was never to say 
another word, she's no canny ; I ken she's no canny, if it was 
only what Domenico says." 

" In the name of wonder what does Domenico say ?" cried I, 
driven to despair by the wild words in which there was no 
meaning. I don't believe she knew herself what the meaning 
was. 

Lizzie stopped short and repeated, with a puzzled and 
troubled glance at me, u When it's a long story it's awfu' 
fickle to ken," she said, slowly; "but just that yon's the 
leddy. Eh, I dinna ken what they ca' her right, nor what ill- 
will they have at her ; but 'Menico, he says he says Mem, 
you'll no be angry, it wasna me, he says she's the deil 
himseiy 

" Lizzie," said I, in considerable agitation, " try to recollect; 
Miss Milly wants to know ; what does Domenico say?" 

Lizzie blushed, and made a long pause again. " You see it's 
the Dictionary, Mem," she said, with a sigh. " When he'a 
tired looking up the words, he just gi'es a great burst out in the 
Italian, and thinks he's explained it a'. It's awfu' fickle when 
it's a lang story ; but just it's her ; and eh ! I'm sure she's no 
canny by what Domenico says." 

I had to be content with this very unsatisfactory conclusion. 
It was all Lizzie could give me, it was her; and she was a 
dreaded mysterious person against whom the Italian was 
struggling in vain. I felt a strange thrill of curiosity, deeply 
as my own mind was pre-occupied. Was it a melodrama or a 
tragedy I was about to be preesnt at? The crisis, whatever \\ 



The Last of the Mortimers. 283 

might be, could not be long delayed. What part were we to 
play in it ? why did she want Harry to stay ? I did not say 
anything either to him or Aunt M.illy of Lizzie's communication 
or my own fancies; but it seemed to me somehow, when I 
passed through the rooms or along the passages that a certain 
tingling stillness, the pause before the storm, was closing round 
and round about the house. 



284 



CHAPTER VI. 

" 1 VJ'E were interrupted in our talk yesterday," said Aunt 

W Milly, "but I have not forgotten what you said 
about your little maid. My dear, I don't think it is worth 
your while to warn her against talking about such matters. 
When they think a thing's important, they are all the more 
likely to talk." 

" But you don't know Lizzie," said I. 

" No," said Aunt Milly, doubtfully. " I always have heard 
the Scotch were faithful servants ; but it's undeniable that they 
do love to talk. Besides, she's only a child. My dear, has she 
any particular claim upon you?" 

"Only that she is an orphan," said I, "like Harry and 
me." 

" Ah, dear child ! there's two of you ; it does not matter to 
you," cried Aunt Milly ; then she continued, rather anxiously, 
" I'd like to know, however, what she can tell about this, Milly. 
Ellis told me a confused story about a foreign man coining 
with a letter, and that he insisted on seeing the lady the 
lady ! and couldn't talk no more sense, Ellis says. I understood 
by the description, it must be that man. There couldn't be two 
fat foreign serving-men in a quiet county like this ; and 
Carson, * as happened to be in the hall at the moment,' Ellis 
tells me, spoke to him, ' and they arguifyed for long in a queer 
language.' and then he went away. I don't know any more of 
it, my dear. This Lizzie of yours, if she can understand 
that man, and he told her of it, I wonder does she know any 
more?" 

Then I told her of the further particulars which had come 
under Lizzie's observation, the letter returned and destroyed. 
Aunt Milly once more grew a good deal excited. She walked 
about the room with a troubled face, and many exclamations ; 
but on the whole it gave her comfort. u My dear, she can't be 
afraid of him now," said Aunt Milly ; and with this piece of 
consolation she went away strengthened to her many businesses, 
for everything evidently is in her hands. That eldest sister of 
hers, whom I cannot call by any name of love, takes no 



The Last of the Mortimers. 

to anything. When she does talk, she talks as if she vre the 
sole mistress and ruler of the house ; \>ut Aunt Milly, though I 
understand they are quite equal in their rights, has all the 
trouble. It is very strange, but I could not feel so comfortable 
about her sending back that letter as Aunt Milly did. To tell 
the plain truth, a very distinct suspicion had entered into my 
mind about her. It flashed upon me when Mr. Luigi was 
speaking of her, and it grew stronger and stronger every hour 
I spent in the same room, though how it could be, was more 
than by any amount of thinking I could divine. I will riot 
say what my fancy was ; I was always too imaginative. I don't 
want to commit myself till I see whether anything will occur to 
bear me out. - 

The next day was wet, and I had abundant means of seeing 
Miss Mortimer. I think my foolish faint that first day had 
quite settled me in her opinion. She saw I was a nobody 
from that moment. Accordingly all that rainy afternoon I sat 
by her in the strangest unsocial way. The fire was still kept 
up, though the weather was warm ; and Aunt Milly had 
stationed me in her own easy chair, opposite her sister, and 
commanding the entire length of the room so that I could see 
who entered at the door, though Miss Mortimer could neither 
eee 'or be seen by any one coming: in. The five great windows 
were all very naked and bare, the curtains drawn back, and 
the blinds drawn up, according to Miss Mortimer's fancy ; she 
had always an amount of twilight at her command by move- 
ment of her screen. These five long lines of cold broad light, 
the cloudy sky looking full down upon us, and the blasts of 
rain driving against the cold transparent fence of glass which 
separated us from that outdoor world, where the early flowers 
hung their heads in the rain, and the shrubs cowered and 
drew together in the fitful gusts of wind, gave an extraordinary 
atmosphere to the picture. Then that long great mirror at the 
end of the room repeated the five windows in strange per- 
spective, and reflected all the maze of space and crowd of 
furniture in bars of light and shadow ; while here, in the 
centre, played the uncertain glow of the fire, much too warm, 
and making the air feel unnatural ; and close before me sat 
Miss Mortimer with the screen carefully drawn round her 
chair. She had on her usual dress her muslin scarf or shawl, 
I forget which, lined with pale blue silk, and ribbons of the 
Bame colour in her cap, and black lace mits upon her thin 
hands, which, when she happened to stop for a moment, she 
rubbed slowly before the fire. She did not t*llr tp me. I 



280 TJie Last of the Mortimers. 

understand it was very rarely she talked to any one. 
as if it wore some weird work she was about, she knitted off ; 
but sometimes, as I was conscious, lifted her eyes from her 
knitting, and continuing her work all the time, surveyed me 
as I sat helpless before her. Every time the door of the room 
happened to open she repeated this. I felt her stare at me, as 
she might have stared at a mirror, to see who had entered the 
oom ; and it is impossible to describe how I felt under that 
look. I durst not answer it by turning my eyes upon her ; but 
looking past her at the door, as one naturally does when the 
door of the room opens and knowing her gaze to be fixed on 
me, I faltered, I trembled, my face burned in spite of myself. 
This went on till, in desperation, I fairly answered her look ; 
then my feelings changed. Those blue eyes, which must have 
paled and chilled with age, were gazing with a watchful dread 
in my face. It was not me she was looking at. Her hands 
went on, in their dreadful inhuman occupation, while she 
found in my face a reflection of who it was that went in, or 
out, by that door behind her. It might be a habit she had 
got into ; bub I could read in her eyes that she sat there in 
full expectation of somebody or something arriving suddenly, 
which might startle and distress everybody else, but which she 
knew. Again, I saw the same contrast which I had seen 
between Aunt Milly and Mr. Luigi. This woman, like the 
Italian, was in no perplexity. She was not confused with a 
mystery she could not comprehend, as Aunt Milly was. She 
knew something was coming, and what was coming, and 
was prepared to defend herself, and hide her shame to the 
death. 

Hide her shame! oh, how do I dare say it; how could I 
venture to say that she had disgraced herself, or even to think 
so ? There she sat, clothed in a double respect, even by reason 
of all that made her so unlovely and distasteful to me, the real 
great lady of the house, served by everybody, imagining herself 
quite supreme ; the head of the house, though she transferred 
all the trouble of it to other shoulders ; Miss Mortimer, of the 
Park, a spotless maiden lady, who might have been, as the 
common story went, had she chosen to marry, almost of any 
rank she pleased. All that I knew ; but as I gazed at her, tb.3 
wild sudden fancy that had seized me before, grew stronger and 
stronger. A kind of loathing took possession of me. Shame 
may be dreadful, must be dreadful ; but to deserve it, and yet 
to escape it to know one's self guilty, and fight all one's life 
against the penalty to shut one's self up, heart and voice, likQ 



The Last, of me ALoriimers. 28? 

that in a corner, waiting for the discovery and exposure which 
has become inevitable and resolute by every lie and expedient 
of falsehood to resist and baffle it the sight was hideous to me. 
I turned away from her with a feeling of sickness then in the 
impulse of the moment I spoke. 

" Should not you like to take this seat, Miss Mortimer, if you 
wish to see who comes in at the door V" 

"How do you know," she cried, in her strangled voice, "that 
I wish to see who comes in at the door?" 

a I can see it in your eyes," said 1. I could not help a little 
shudder as I spoke. Her only answer was to draw a little 
further back into the twilight of her screen. I don't think she 
looked at me again ; but she did something else when Ellis came 
in the next time, which was quite as characteristic. She listened 
visibly, with an extraordinary intentness ; her knitting stopped, 
though her eyes were bent on it. I could fancy she must have 
heard the very vibration of the man's foot upon the floor, and 
satisfied herself by its sound what it was. 

" Miss Milly's compliments, ma'am, and will you please step 
into the library a moment," said Ellis to me. 

" Who's in the library, eh ?" interrupted Miss Mortimer, 
before I could speak - 

Ellis faced round upon her slowly, with evident surprise : " I 
don't know as it's nobody, ma'am," said the man ; " Miss Miily 
has something to show the young lady." 

" Who's in the house ? why don't you answer me? You are 
making up a story," cried Miss Mortimer, almost with a 
shriek. 

" Nobody, as I know on, but the Captain, as is in the stables, 
ma'am, looking at the colt," said Ellis, doggedly, " and Miss 
Milly, as is waiting in the library for the young lady, with some 
pictures to show to her, as it looked to me ; nor likely to come 
neither on such a day." 

Instead of resenting this speech as I supposed, Miss Mortimer 
smiled to herself with a nod. She gave a glance out from her 
screen at the blank of cloudy sky and the falling rain. It 
seemed to soothe her somehow. She relapsed back again, and 
resumed her knitting, without looking at or speaking to me. 
Did it relieve her to be told that nobody was likely to come on 
such a day ? Could she imagine a spring shower was motive 
enough to keep the avenging truth away? I cannot tell. Who 
could tell ? I might be wronging her cruelly to think of 
any avenger on his way. But I left the room, leaving her 
there with the blank clouds and rain, with the solitary 



288 The Last of the Mortimers. 

gleam of the decaying fire, in the heavy silence and broad 
light of the vast room. She was standing at bay, grim 
arid desperate ; but she could actnally imagine that the 
fate which pursued her would be kept away by the April 
shower ! I cannot express all the wonder, pity, and horror that 
come over my heart such strange, strange, inconsequent 
blendings of the dreadful and the foolish were not in any phi 
losophy of inino* 



The Last of the Mortimers. 289 



CHAPTER ViL 

T FOUND Aunt Milly in the library with some miniatures 
J_ spread out before her. She wanted to show them to me. I 
can't tell very well what had suggested this to her. She was kept 
indoors by the rain, and with this standing uneasiness in her 
mind, Aunt Milly naturally sought for some means of returning 
to a discussion of the subject that engaged all her thoughts. 
She made me sit down by her, and silently put one after another 
before me. I could see clearly enough what she meant. A 
certain family resemblance ran through them all, a resem- 
blance which Aunt Milly herself had escaped, and of which 
I believe there was not a trace in my features. But one 
after another these portraits recalled to me the young Italian's 
lace. 

" I ought to tell you," said Aunt Milly in a tremulous tone, 
*' what has occurred to my own mind. 1 have thought of it for 
some time, but it's so very unlikely that I never could allow 
myself to think it. I do believe he must be my father's son. 
Yes, you may well be surprised. I can't think anything else 
but that my father must have married and had a son, and Sarah 
somehow had bullied him into leaving the child behind, and 
we've been deceivers all this time, and the Park has never been 
ours." 

" But, dear Aunt Milly," cried I, " with all these terrible 
thoughts, why don't you satisfy yourself. If you tell Miss 
Mortimer how much you have found out, she certainly cannot 
help clearing up the rest." 

'* Ah ! but she can help it she is not carried away by her 
feelings ; she knows better than to bo surprised or anything 
like that. Lhave asked her and been none the better for it," 
cried Aunt Milly, " and the young man will not tell me either. 
Milly, hush ! there is certainly some one at the door." 

The door bell at the Park was a peculiar one it had a 
solemn cathedral sort of sound that rolled through the whole 
house, and it was only used by strangers or visitors on cere- 



290 The Last of the Mortimers. 

mony. Both of us started violently when we heard it ; it came 
upon our consultations like a sudden alarm of battle. 

" It rains as bad as ever ; on such a day who can ring the 
great bell at our door ?" cried Aunt Milly. " God help us ! if 
my father walked in at that door, I should not feel it was any- 
thing out of the way. Nothing would surprise me now." 

I could not make her any answer. We both sat perfectly 
silent, waiting for what was to come. As if to heighten the 
excitement of the moment, the rain, which had been failing 
steadily all day, suddenly became violent, and dashed against 
the windows in torrents. Through all this we could hear the 
great door opened and the sound of voices. My thoughts 
travelled into the great vacant drawing-room where these 
sounds could not fail to reach Miss Mortimer within her screen. 
What was she doing? Could she be sitting there still, dumb 
and desperate, listening but not looking, with a pride and 
resistance more dreadful in its self-control than the wildest 
passions ! I trembled with suspense and wondering anxiety in 
spite of myself. As for Aunt Milly, the miniatures she was 
looking at fell out of her hands. She covered her eyes for an 
instant, and then lifted her scared and pallid face to the door, 
as if she could hear the approaching sounds better, for having 
her eyes fixed that way. There was a pause that I suppose did 
not endure a minute, but which looked like an hour. Then a 
soft tap at the door ; then Ellis entered, looking half as pale 
and anxious as we did vaguely frightened he could not tell 
how. 

" Miss Milly," he said, in a hasty troubled voice, " the 
gentleman is here as wants Miss Mortimer : what am I to 
do?" 

The old mistress and the old servant looked at each other. 
The man did not know anything, but he knew the involuntary 
suspicion and dread that had somehow gathered about the 
house. 

" What are we to do? God help us, Ellis, I know no more 
than the baby !" cried Aunt Milly under her breath. 

She was carried by her excitement beyond her usual dis- 
cretion. I interposed as I best could. 

" Let it come to the crisis !" cried I, not being well awg.ru 
what I said ; "it must be best to know qlearly Aunt Milly 
hush ! recollect, you know nothing let him go in." 

She made a convulsive pause .and restrained herself ; and 
then the usual keeping up of appearances recurred to her 
mind. "My sister's voice! you know, Milly," she said. 



The Last of the Mortimers. 291 

turning to me as if with a kind of apology, " who who is 
it, Ellis?" 

" It's it's the foreign gentleman, ma'am," said Ellis, with a 
sympathetic faltering of his voice. 

"Then show him in to Miss Mortimer?" cried Aunt Milly 
with a gasp over the words. " You shouldn't have spoken so, 
my dear," she said as soon as he was gone, " servants have 
nothing to do with our private affairs. Dear, dear, it's 
surely very cold. It's the storm come on so suddenly a hail- 
storm, I declare. Don't you feel, Milly, how cold the air has 
grown ?" 

I made no answer, and she did not expect any. She went up 
close to the library door, and stood there as if listening, shiver- 
ing now and then with the nervous chill of her own emotion. 
We heard the drawing-room door open and shut, then silence, 
silence, something positive, not merely an absence of sound. I 
stood by the table trembling, fancying I saw the stranger pass, 
as if through a picture, up that empty-seeming room, with the 
cold chill daylight spying in, and the motionless, conscious 
creature who feared and yet defied him lurking behind that 
screen. Would she speak to him? If she did it would not be 
with that stifled whispering voice. What communication would 
pass between them? Would the old walls groan with some 
dark secret fatal to their honour? The very air tingled 
round us in the dead calm of the house. Surely it never was 
so noiseless before. As for Aunt Milly, she stood before me 
shivering at the door, sometimes putting her hand upon the 
*ck, then drawing back in irresolute terror. This lasted for 
sortis. time, though most likely for not half so long as I imagined 
it did ; then she turned to me, wringing her hands and bursting 
out into tears and cries. 

" I cannot leave her alone any longer, Milly," she said in 
broken words. " I cannot desert her in time of need 
and made as though she would leave the room, and then 
returned and sank into a chair and hid her face in her 
hands. 

She was entirely overwhelmed and broken down. All I 
could do for her. was to get a shawl which hung over the 
sofa, and wrap it round her. All this had been too much for 
her strength. 

In the midst of our suspense, Harry came suddenly in upon 
us. The sound of his honest frank step ringing into the 
library, startled me back to life again, and even Aunt Milly 
lifted up her blanched face expecting him to bring some news. 



292 The Last of tlie Mortimers. 

Harry looked startled and curious, and did not grow less so aa 
he looked at our agitated faces. 

"What is the matter, Milly?" he cried. "I passed the 
drawing-room windows just now, and looked in thinking 
to see you. Miss Mortimer was standing at a table looking 
over some papers, and by her side was Luigi, talking very 
earnestly. By Jove ! to see thorn standing there you would 
have said they were mother and son." 

At these words Aunt Milly lifted up her head, listening, but 
Harry's expression did not seem to strike her ; she held up her 
finger and cried " Hark!" 

The silence was broken. A bell evidently rung a door 
hastily opened startled us all three standing together. " Shall 
Harry go after him ?" cried I, seeing how it was and pointing 
Harry to the door ; but Aunt Milly would not, or perhaps 
could not, suppose that the visitor was merely going away. 
She sprang up, crying, " She must be ill!" and rushed out of 
the library. 1 followed her, alarmed, but not for Miss Morti- 
mer. I saw Luigi standing at the open door, just about to go 
out into the cold rainy world out of doors, but Aunt Milly did 
not see him. She rushed forward blindly into the room where 
she supposed her sister to be ill. 

When I rushed in after her I found the usual positions of the 
two ladies much reversed. Miss Mortimer was standing 
between the fire and the window, looking at her sister with a 
certain fierce scorn. Aunt Milly had sunk down in utter 
exhaustion and bewilderment upon a large ottoman. The two 
were looking at each other. Aunt Milly all trembling, pallid, 
and anxious. Miss Mortimer, with her head more erect than 
usual, her muslin mantle hanging back from her shoulders, her 
attitude very rigid and exact, and no symptom of excitement 
about her, save in the slight hurried incessant movement of her 
head and hands. A mere spectator would have said she was the 
judge and the other the culprit. It was an extraordinary 
scene. 

"What did he say? Who is he? What does he want? 
Sarah, tell me for the love of heaven," cried Aunt Milly in her 
agony of distress and terror. 

"Who is he? I am not a girl to distinguish any one 
person by that name," said Miss Mortimer. 

Then she went back steadily to her chair, and sat down in 
it and took up her knitting. 

"Any one who thinks to surprise me into speaking of 
my private affairs, is mistaken," she said after a while. 



Tfie Last of the Mortimers. 293 

" Gossips like you may talk as they please ; but what belongs 
to UK- is mine, and nobody in the world has a right to ask what 
I either do or say." 

That was all. She never opened her lips again that day. 
She sat there rigid, pretending to work ; she did not work 
however. I noticed that to keep her hands and her head from 
excessive trembling was almost more than she was able for ; 
but the day passed without any disclosuie. I believe now she 
would die sooner than make any sign. 



v;,?4 iK Last of the Mortimers, 



CHAPTER VIII. 

was a very miserable day. I cannot fa~cy a ir.ore 
JL uncomfortable position for a Granger than that of being 
thrust into some distressing family secret, almost immediately 
after his or her introduction to the family in which it exists. 
This was just what had happened to me. I was kept one way 
or the other between those two sisters all the day. AuntMilly 
kept continually appealing to me with her eyes, for conversation 
would not keep up its fluctuating and feeble existence in pre- 
sence of that figure within the shelter of the screen ; and my 
unlucky position of confidante must have been so apparent that 
I should not have wondered at any degree of dislike or displea- 
sure which Miss Mortimer could have shown me. She did not 
show any, however ; i could discern no signs of aversion to me, 
What am I saying? I could discern no signs of any human 
feeling whatever in her appearance and behaviour that day. 
My impression was that the sole thing with which her mind 
was occupied, was the effort to keep her head steady, and over- 
come the nervous, tremulous motion which agitated her frame. 
It was a relic, it might be an evidence, of some unseen tempest. 
But I am firmly convinced that this was the subject of all her 
thoughts. I watched, I must confess, with intense curiosity, 
though as quietly as possible, that she might not see I was 
watching her, every movement she made. But she did not 
notice me ; she scarcely noticed anybody ; she was careless of 
what other people were thinking ; what she laboured after, all 
that miserable, lingering, rainy night was to get the command 
of herself. She never ventured to unbend her attitude in the 
slightest degree. She set her teeth together sometimes, and 
made her face look ghastly ; but she could not keep down that 
external symptom of the trouble or tempest within. Her head 
kept moving with an incessant tremble ; her hands were too 
much agitated to pursue their work. She kept the knitting- 
pins in her fingers, and held them rigidly together, as if she 
were knitting, and sometimes made a few convulsive stitches, 
and dropt them again, and bent in a tragical dismal confusion 
over that trifling occupation of hers, which had grown so weird 



The Last of the Mortimers. 295 

an adjunct of herself to me. I watched her with a certain 
horror and pity which I cannot describe. It was not hei paltry 
wealth and lands she was defending ; it was her honour and her 
life. There she sat a solitary desperate creature driven to bay, 
with dear Aunt Milly's vague terrors and anxieties revolving 
about her ; but conscious in herself of a misery and danger far 
transcending anything in her innocent sister's thoughts. Life 
and honour ! but I believed there was no way in this world to 
defend them but by unnatural falsehood, cruelty, and wrong, 
and that she did not shrink from these means of upholding 
herself. Perhaps even a virtuous struggle would have exer- 
cised less fascination, than the sight of that desperate guilty 
secret resistance. I could not keep my eyes from Miss Morti- 
mer. There was something terrible to me in her convulsive 
efforts after stillness, and in the nervous motion which con- 
tinually betrayed her, and which no exertions on her part could 
overcome. 

But she sat out all the lengthy lingering hours of that 
evening, after dinner, for they departed from their usual customs 
at that time, and dined late out of compliment to Harry. We 
did try to talk a little, but Aunt Milly's thoughts were all astray 
upon one subject, and she was continually breaking off in 
abrupt conclusions which irresistibly suggested the engrossing 
matter which she dared not enter upon. Miss Mortimer, mean- 
while, attempted to read her Times; but whether it was 
that the rustle of the paper betrayed the trembling of her hands, 
or that her mind was unfit for reading anything, she soon laid 
the paper by, and resumed her pretence of working. You may 
suppose that Harry and I were not very much at our ease in 
this strange position of affairs. Almost everything that was 
said among us suggested a something which could not be said, 
yet which occupied everybody's thoughts. Aunt Milly sat 
flushed and troubled opposite to her sister ; her distressed per- 
plexed look, the look of one totally at a loss and unable to offer 
any explanation even to herself ; her glances, sometimes direct- 
ing me to look at Miss Mortimer, sometimes appealing to me 
in vain for some suggestion which could throw light upon the 
subject, were enough of themselves to betray to any stranger 
the existence of some secret unhappiness in the house. Harry, 
who was not so much in Aunt Milly's confidence as I was, kept 
appealing to me on the other side. What was it all about ? I 
never wished so fervently for the conclusion of a day as I did 
for that ; and yet there must be some extraordinary fascination 
\n watching one's fellow-creatures. I should not like to get 



296 The Last of the Mortimers. 

fairly into that dreadful inhuman occupation -which people 
called studying character. But I was so curious about Miss 
Mortimer that I could almost have liked to follow her to 
her own room, and watch, when she was no longer on her guard 
against other people, how she would look and what she would 
do. Would she faint, or cry out, or dash herself against the 
floor? or was she so accustomed to that dreadful secresy that 
she would not betray herself even to herself ? She must have 
lived that dreadful hidden life, and locked up all she knew in 
ner own breast for a lifetime ; for a longer lifetime than mine. 

" I wonder," said Henry, when we were alone that evening, 
*' what sort of a person this Miss Mortimer is. Something's 
wrong clearly. I suspect there must be something in the old 
lady's life which will not bear the light of day." 

u What makes you think so?" said I. 

" The t'other old lady and you play into each other's hands," 
cried Harry ; " you know more about it than you choose to 
tell. But of course you are right enough if it is somebody 
else's secret; only recollect, Milly, I am very glad you should 
be an heiress ; I am extremely glad you will have a house to 
receive you while I am away, and that come what may, that 
little beggar is provided for ; but look here, if there's another 
relation nearer than you, legitimate or illegitimate, I won't 
stand by and see him wronged." 

u Harry, tell me what you mean," cried I. 

Harry looked at me a little indignantly ; he thought I knew 
more th<m he did, and was trifling with him. u Milly, who is 
that fellow Luigi V" he said at last. 

" I make dreadful guesses," said I, u but I cannot tell. Aunt 
Milly knows nothing about him. The only idea she can form 
is that he may be her father's son." 

Harry gave a long, half amazed, incredulous whistle, and 
turned away. He could scarcely believe me. Then 1 told him 
all I had heard, and something of what I had guessed. We did 
not converse plainly about this guess, which he had evidently 
jumped at as well as myself. A secret held with such dreadful 
tenacity was not a thing to be lightly discussed ; but we both 
felt the same on the subject, only Harry's mind took a more 
charitable view of it than I did. They say we are always 
harder on guilty women than men are ; perhaps it is natural. 
I felt an abhorrence rise within me which I could neither over- 
come nor disguise at the idea of a woman, and especially a 
woman in such a position as Miss Mortimer, having lived a 
pretended life of honour and innocence all these years, with 



The Last of the Mortimers. 297 

that fttiilt in her mmd which nobody knew but she ; and now 
of ttivr samilcing and disowning nature to keep up that dreadful 
sham. I can understand people meeting death rather than 
disgrace*; that is, I mean I could understand how one would 
rather hear that those whom one loves should die than disgrace 
themselves ; but I don't understand an insane struggle against 
the disgrace which one has deserved. That is not a noble 
struggle, so far as I can see ; the only way of existing through 
such dreadful circumstances would be by enduring it ; and all 
the same whether it was a woman or a man. I do think it is a 
shame to speak as some people speak on this subject, as if the 
disgrace were all ; as if all the harm was not done when the 
wrong was done, whether disgrace came or no ! 

44 I'll tell you what, Milly," said Harry, " I must say I think 
it's very hard the poor old lady should lose her good name for 
something that happened an age ago. No doubt, by what we 
saw to-day, she must have set her poor old heart upon resisting 
and denying it, as foolish people always try to do. Now, you 
know, that's evidently of no use. Of course a mere statement 
of any such claim having been made, is enough to finish Miss 
Mortimer, with all the gossips of the county, whether it was 
proved or not. Now I shan't be here for long, and as they 
seem disposed to be so very kind to you " 

u Don't, Harry !" 

44 But I must/' said he. " It will be no end of consolation 
to me to think of you in these pretty rooms which Miss Milly 
has already prepared for you. If I can do them a good turn 
before I go, i will, you may depend upon it. As soon as we 
return to Chester I'll see Luigi ; and if it can be got out of 
him what he wants, I shall certainly make an effort to have 
him satisfied, and Miss Mortimer left unmolested. It would 
not do if sins of thirty years standing were to be brought 
against people in this way. Why, anybody might be thrown 
into sudden shame on such a principle ; and you women, you 
know, are so vindictive and all that " 

44 Oh, yes ! I know," said I, " and will always be vindictive 
all the same. Imagine this woman standing side by side with 
Aunt Milly, and considered as spotless as she ; imagine such a 
long cruel abominable sin, and no retribution overtaking it ! 
Oh, you may be pitiful if you like, but it disgusts me." 

Harry laughed. k4 1 should be surprised if it did not disgust 
you, Milly darling," he said, u but poetic justice is exploded 
now-a-days. I don't suppose Luigi can be very anxious for hef 
personal affection, considering how she seems to have behaved; 



298 TJie Last of the Mortimen. 

and, indeed, to be sure he would be fully more disgraced than 
she. How many days are we to be here? I shall see him 
whenever we return to Chester." 

u Three days longer," said I, with a sigh. Somehow this 
little visit to the Park had come to look like a little barrier 
between me and what was coming. Presently we should go 
back to Chester, and then " 

Harry understood my sigh. He repeated the very words I 

was saying in my mind. " And then " said Harry, u and 

then, darling, to see which of us two is bravest ! But it will 
come hardest upon you, my poor little wife." 

44 Harry," cried I, "don't speak!" and I went away, and 
would have no more of such talk. It was enough that it was 
coming ; it would be enough when it came. 

Perhaps the last few words of this conversation were not the 
best preparation possible for sleep. 1 know I awoke a great 
many times during that long dark night, and once in its deepest 
darkness and stillness I fancied I heard a groan faintly sounding 
through the wall. Miss Mortimer's rooms were near ours. 
This sound set all icy imagination busy again. It was she 
who groaned under that veil of night. She, so dreadfully on 
her guard all day long, who relieved her miserable heart thus 
when nobody watched her. It was impossible not to feel 
excited in the neighbourhood of such mysterious secrecy. The 
sound of that groan moved me to pity ; she had not escaped 
without retribution. Was not that dread of the consequences 
under which she was suffering, worse than the very hardest 
shnpe the consequences were likely to assume, if they them 
selves ever overtook the sinner ? 



The Lasi of the Mortimers. 299 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE next day began much like the previous day ; it was 
still showery and damp ; and though Harry was out of 
doors I was prevented, by Aunt Milly's care, from joining him. 
In the afternoon we were to go out with her on a round of in- 
spection to see the neighbourhood, Miss Mortimer having volun- 
teered to give up the carriage to us for that purpose, though 
it was the day on which she generally took her drive ; and the 
rector and some other near neighbours were to come to dinner 
in the evening. I was once more alone with Miss Mortimer. 
We sat much as we had done on the previous day, opposite 
each other, the moments passing'over us in a certain excited si- 
lence. She did not say anything to me ; she did not even look 
at me. She showed none of that voiceless anxiety to know 
who had come in when the door opened, which struck me be- 
fore. She was much calmed down ; the person she expected 
had come ; the blow, whatever it was, had been borne ; and 
for the present moment there was an end of it. She actually 
knitted her pattern correctly, and counted her stitches, and re- 
ferred to her book to see if she was correct, as she sat there be- 
fore me in her inhuman calm. Was she a creature of flesh and 
blood, after all ? or a witch, like those of the old stories, with- 
out any human motives in her heart of stone ? 

I could not help thinking so as 1 sat beside her. Her head 
still trembled slightly ; but I suppose that was an habitual mo- 
tion. She sat there shut up in herself, her misery and her 
relief, and the cold dauntless spirit that must have risen from 
that smart encounter yesterday, and gained strength by the 
very struggle hidden from everybody round her, as if they 
had been a world away. I gazed and wondered, . almost trem- 
bled, at that extraordinary death in life. She who had all the 
tumult of passion and guilt in her memory ; she who must have 
entered into the fullest excitement of life, and got entangled in 
its most dreadful perplexities ; she who was no ascetic, nor even 
pretended to that rival excitement of the devotee which might 
have replaced the other ; how could she have lived silent and 
obdurate through those dreadful years ? The very thought of 

U 



300 The Last of the Mortimers. 

them struck me aghast. After her life of flattery, admiration, 
and universal homage; after her experience, whatever that 
might be, of more personal passions, to drop for a longer time 
than my whole life behind that screen into that chair ! As I 
sat opposite to her, my thoughts turned back to that other Miss 
Mortimer, whom I had placed in imagination iii my grand- 
father's house. Once more I thought I could see that large 
low room which I never had seen, except in fancy, with the 
ancient beauty sitting silent by the fire amid the ghosts of the 
past. Was this the true impersonation of that dream of mine? 
Was this the Miss Mortimer, with her foreign count, whom 
Mrs. Saltoun remembered ? As this recurred to me I could 
scarcely help a little start of quickened curiosity arid eagerness. 
It seemed to flicker before me as a possible interpretation of all 
this dark enigma, could only the connecting link be found. As 
I was wandering deeper and deeper into these thoughts so 
deep as to forget the strange position 1 stood in, and the possi- 
bility of being taken for a kind of domestic spy, which had 
embarrassed me at first I heard a little commotion outside. - 
The door, perhaps, was ajar, or it might be simply that my 
ears were quickened by hearing a little cry from baby, and 
Lizzie's voice belligerent and full of determination. I got up 
hastily and went to the door. I don't think Miss Mortimer 
even lifted her eyes to notice my movement. It was certainly 
Lizzie in some conilict with one of the authorities of the house; 
and Lizzie, as the natural and primitive method of asserting 
her own way, had unconsciously elevated her voice },.a proceed- 
ing which alarmed baby, and also, as it appeared$ier antago- 
nist. I ran and threw the door open as I heard another cry 
from my little boy. There, outside, was a -curious scene. 
Lizzie, in her out-of-doors dress, just returned from a walk in 
the garden with baby, with her face a little flushed, and her 
plentiful hair somewhat blown about by the wind, was reso- 
lutely pressing forward to enter the drawing-room, where, to 
be sure, she had no business to come ; while holding her back 
by her cloak, and whispering threats and dissuasions, was a 
person whom I had scarcely seen before, but whom I knew at 
once to be Carson, Miss Mortimer's maid. Lizzie was greatly 
excited; and what with managing the baby and resisting this 
woman, while at the same time possessed with some mission 
which she was evidently determined to perform, looked fatigued 
and exhausted too. 

" But I will,'" cried Lizzie, with her eyes flashing. " I'm no 
heeding whether it's my place or no. I promised I would gi'e 



The Last of the Mortimei's. 801 

it into her ain very hand ; and do ye think I'm gaun back o 1 
my word ? I tell ye I uritl gie't to the leddy mysel'. Eh, 
mem !" she exclaimed, breathlessly, with a sudden change of 
her tone as she saw me, " I met Menico at the gate, and I pro- 
mised to gi'e it into the leddy's ain hand." 

When I approached, Carson fell back ; she shrank, I could 
fancy, from meeting my eyes. Her hand dropped from Lizzie's 
cloak ; she was as much afraid to be supposed to interfere as 
she was anxious to interfere in reality. 

*' My missis's nerves, ma'am," said Carson, glibly, but in a 
half whisper, kl is not as strong as might be wished. If the 

young person, ma'am, would give it to me, or . You see 

the ladies at the Park they're known for charity, and beggars' 
letters, or such like, they're too excitin' for niy missis'; they 
puts her all in a tremble it's on her nerves." 

'* But, mem," cried Lizsie, " I canna go back o' my word." 
I stood between them, much perplexed and bewildered. The 
anxiety of Miss Mortimer's maid was evident ; and Lizzie, from 
whose arms baby had instantly struggled as soon as he saw me, 
was greatly excited. At this moment she produced the letter 
which was in question. Carson made a stealthy spring to 
seize it, but recollecting herself, drew back, and looked up 
guilty, but deprecating in my face. I don't know whether it 
was a desire to dear up the mystery, or the cruel curiosity of 
an observer of character that decided me. I dismissed Carson 
coldly, saying 1 would ring if Miss Mortimer wanted her, and 
told Lizzie to follow me into the room. Lizzie's excitement 
sank into .awe as she trod softly through this great, faded, 
magnificent apartment. Before she reached the screen which 
sheltered Miss Mortimer, she was almost- speechless with half 
superstitious reverence. I am sure she would willingly have 
given her letter to Carson or anybody at that moment. The very 
fact that the person she was about to confront was thus con- 
cealed from her overawed her simple mind. When she actually 
emerged from behind the screen, and came in full sight of Mii-s 
Mortimer, Lizzie's healthful face was perfectly colourless, and 
her frame trembling. The supreme awkwardness of the attitude 
into which she fell, the spasmodic rudeness with which she 
thrust out that hand that contained the letter, the fright and 
consternation visible in every twist of her person, would have 
been painfully ludicrous if there had been any time to observe 
it. Miss Mortimer raised her eyes and stared at the strange 
figure before her. Almost absurd as that figure was in its 
dismay and terror, her mind was not sufficiently at ease to be 



802 The Last of the Mortimers. 

simply surprised. Any strange apparition had a right to 
appear before this woman in her intrenchments of dumb 
resistance. As I stood by looking on, I could understand the 
feeling which worked in her eyes. She was not surprised. No 
miracle could have surprised her. She was rather asking in 
her heart, "Who is this new assailant'? Who will come 
next?" 

u If ye please, it's a letter," said Lizzie, in a tremulous voice. 

Miss Mortimer made no attempt to take the letter. She 
said, " Who are you ?" with a strange curiosity ; as if, amid all 
the powers that had a secret right to assail her in her conscious 
guiltiness, this was a new hobgoblin whom she could not well 
connect with the others. If there were any purgatory, I could 
fancy a poor soul there asking in the same tone the name of the 
new imp who came to torment it. 

This was more than Lizzie could bear. I don't know what 
perplexed terrors and superstitious ideas of evil influence 
brought back the blood to her cheeks. She trembled all over 
under that eye, which had suggested the idea of the Evil Eye 
to Lizzie, and to which she was determined never to expose 
*' our bairn." She must have endured a kind of martyrdom as 
she stood under its steady gaze. " Eh, me? I'm no onybody," 
cried Lizzie, shivering with excitement; " it's just a letter. I 
said I would gi'e it into the leddy's own hand." 

Miss Mortimer turned upon me on the child on the very 
mirror on the further wall, a look of silent defiance ; she 
seemed to look round to call upon the very apartment in which 
we sat to witness what she did. Then she took the letter from 
Lizzie's rigid fingers, and with scarcely a motion, except of her 
hand, dropped it into the fire. After she had done it, she 
turned again to us with another steady look, and even with a 
smile ; triumphant ! with a certain gleam of devilish satisfac- 
tion in her success, as if she had baffled us all once more. But 
in that very moment, while she still smiled, I could see her 
hold herself fast between the arms of her chair, to keep down 
the nervous tremor which seized her. That resisting, defying 
spirit was lodged in nothing stronger than a human frame. 
Her head shook, steadied, trembled a,ain, with a force beyond 
all her power of control. With all that soul of successful evil 
in her face, her head shook as if with the palsy of extreme old 
age, and in spite of the most convulsive strenuous efforts to 
keep it still. I was nearly as much awe-struck as Lizzie. I 
stole out of sight of her as the girl did. Never was there such 
a picture J She could conquer nature, truth, and every human 



TJie Last of the Mortimers. 80S 

feeling ; but she could not conquer those tremulous chords and 
threads of mortal flesh which refused to be in the conspiracy. 
She sat there dumbly defying every scrutiny, but with the 
smile growing fixed and ghastly on her face as she tried, with 
her utmost desperate feeble strength, and failed, to defy and 
overcome herself. 

I asked Lizzie no questions as she came upstairs after me. I 
did not say anything to her when I heard her sobbing out her 
agitation in her own room. There was not a word said between 
us when she came refreshed by that little ebullition, and by the 
necessary arrangement of her wind-blown hair and dress, to 
take charge of little Harry. When I had given the child up to 
her, I went downstairs again, quite silent and eager. You 
may very well ask why. I cannot defend myself. I went 
down with no better motive than to watch Miss Mortimer, and 
see if anything more could be found out. 

When I went into the room I saw nobody, but heard some 
voices and movement behind the screen. I believe if Miss Mor- 
timer had been speaking in the ordinary human voice, I should 
not have heard her at that distance ; but I did hear that strange 
stifled whisper almost as well as if it had been hissed into my 
ear. 

" I must deny, deny, deny," said the strange voice. " Don't 
speak to me, you know nothing about it. It is the only strength 
I have." 

. u But, oh ! dear, dear, such a pretty young gentleman !" 
said the other speaker, in a tone of weeping but hopeless 
remonstrance. 

" Let him prove his rights," said Miss Mortimer. 

I obeyed my instincts, and fled out of the room as I heard 
that she was stirring behind the screen. And I had not been 
mistaken in the guess I made. She came out a few minutes 
later, leaning on Carson's arm, leaning heavily, with her head 
trembling like that of a palsied person ; but her eyes full of 
that dreadful self-possession, knowledge and resistance. I 
trembled, too, as I stood aside to let her pass. She did not say 
anything, though she stared hard at me. The maid, though 
she did her best to make up her usual face when she saw me 
there, was evidently overpowered with anxiety and distress. 

There was, then, one other individual who knew that secret 
one creature who loved that dreadful old woman, and in whom 
she trusted. I could not help standing still to look after them 
as they went upstairs. Carson was very little younger than 
her mistress. She had a naturally anxious look, as well she 



f 04 The Last of the Mortimers. 

might if she had been for years the depository of this secret, 
I could not help picturing their life to myself as they wen j 
upstairs : the innocent woman troubled and tearful, the guiltj 
woman calm and immovable, but for that trembling of her 
frame which even her remorseless will was not strong enough tc 
subdue. I could understand better now how she kept alive, and 
could preserve that frightful stillness of hers. Upstairs, in 
their own apartments, no doubt another life went on ; a life of 
recollections and schemes which no one knew of, a life palpi- 
tating full of those past years of which Miss Mortimer guve no 
sign. That was how she kept herself alive. I could not do 
anything but stand still, watching them, as they went slowly 
up to that retirement, where the mask could be laid off and the 
veil drawn. When they were out of sight, I strayed into the 
great vacant drawing-room, unable to withdraw my thoughts 
from this strange pair. U I must deny, deny, deny!" That 
was the position she had taken. Could any one in existence 
could Luigi, a sensitive and high-minded young man as he 
seemed to be seek motherly love from such a woman as this? 
Motherly love ! it was dreadful even in thought to apply such 
words to anything that could come from her. Shame only, 
shame to both. What motive could he have to go on seeking 
her ? for Nature had evidently no place in her heart of stone. 



The Last of the Mortimer . 805 



CHAPTEB X. 

UT, dear, ^ dear, where's Sarah?" cried Aunt Milly, 
when some time later she came into the room. 

1 felt almost as guilty as if I had suddenly got some share in 
Miss Mortimer's secret. " She was going upstairs when I 
came in," said I ; but I could not find it in my heart to say 
what new accident had done this. 

Aunt Milly looked at her chair and her footstool, and the 
work-basket she had left behind, as- if she might possibly 
ascertain something from them. " My dear, it will be well to 
avoid the strangers to-night," she said, nodding her head, as if 
this conclusion was, on the whole, not unsatisfactory ; " and, 
indeed, Milly, though you may think it strange of me to say 
so, I am not sorry ; for Miss Kate, I am afraid, would be very 
likely to mention something about that poor young man, who- 
ever he may be !" said Aunt Milly, with a sigh. " Dear, dear, 
to think what troubles people make, both for themselves an4 
others, that might be avoided by a little openness. Why 
couldn't he have told me, my dear? If he has claims, I'd 
have seen him satisfied to the very last farthing, Milly ! and it 
he hasn't claims, why should he persecute Sarah and me ?" 

"But it might be something he couldn't tell," said I, 
rashly. 

** Something he couldn't tell ? What dp you mean, child ? 
What sort of a connection could he have with our family that he 
couldn't tell?" cried Miss Milly. " I see what you mean. He 
might be a natural son. Harry has put that into your head, 
now, for I am sure you never could have thought of it of 
yourself. Milly, Milly, it's dreadful to say, but I'd be more 
thankful than I can tell you, to know that he was. I shouldn't 
forget he was my father's son all the same ; he should be amply 
provided for amply, my dear ; ah, but it's far too good news 
to be true ; and, besides, what would Sarah care for him, if he 
were illegitimate ? It could not hurt us in the least. Nothing, 
but what would be an injury to us, can explain Sarah's looks. 



806 The Last of the Mortimers 

Don't let us think of it any more, Milly. Come and show me, 
dear, what you're going to wear to-night. I should like you 
to look pretty, though they are all old people ; for they're old 
friends as well. Come upstairs with me, and show me what 
you are to have on." 

I went, not without some trepidation, for I did not know 
what Aunt Milly would say when she knew I had nothing but 
white muslin. She did shake her head when she saw it spread 
out ready to put on. She even faltered forth some half 
questions as to what I had in my wardrobe, whether I had 

not a nice ; but there dear Aunt Milly stopped. She 

would not hurt my feelings whatever I might wear ; and I 
don't deny I felt a little mortified myself to see it laid out like 
a little girl's best frock. However, I am thankful to say 
Harry never had an idea that it was not the very best thing 
I could wear. 

u There are some lace flounces," said Aunt Milly, half to 
herself, eyeing the poor white frock over again, "that might 
brighten it up a little ; " then she turned round suddenly and 
kissed me by way of apology. " My dear, don't be 
affronted, I'm sure you will look very pretty in it ; only 
I should have preferred, just for this one night, but, to be 
Bure, you never thought of bringing out all your things for 
such a short visit, and us such quiet people. Never mind, 
Milly dear, it will look very nice, I am sure. I have a very 
pretty scarf you shall wear thrown over it; it may not be 
quite in the fashion ; but fine lace never goes out of fashion, 
you know. I mean to give it you anyhow ; and here's a little 
jewel-box, with some ornaments in it ; I used to wear them 
myself when I was a girl, and I had them reset just for a little 
remembrance of this visit. Put them on, for my sake, 
to-night; and remember, dear, that -what we've been talking 
about so much these few days is a family secret. If anybody 
shonld say anything that seems to touch on it, or should even 
mention Mr. Luigi's name, don't look as if you were conscious 
of anything. It may come to nothing, you know. I am very 
glad you like them, my dear. I am quite pleased I thought of 
it. But recollect, Milly, my love, to be on your guard." 

With these words she left me, running away from my thanks 
for her present. I was very much pleased with her present, 
and even at that moment, when people might suppose I had 
more serious things to think of, I must say it did give me a 
flutter of gratification to find bracelets in the jewel-box. 
How kind and thoughtful it was of Aunt Milly ! I wonder if 



The Last of the Mortimers. 807 

she knew T hadn't any? I showed them to Lizzie, who 
thought anything so grand had never been seen, and to baby, 
who would have liked to have them to play with, and finally 
to Harry when he came in, and I had to prepare for our drive. 
Harry found some fault (of course) with their style, but was 
quite as pleased as I was. And, indeed, it was very good of 
him to be pleased, for I had almost to go down on my knees to 
him to keep him from buying me something of the kind when 
we came to Chester, and he naturally grudged that any one 
should give them to me but himself. 

To think of me saying so much about such a small affair as 
bracelets, when things so much more important were sur- 
rounding us on every side ! I am afraid to say it, but it is 
true, that when I went down into the drawing-room that 
evening I was thinking too much about my beautiful scarf and 
these same bracelets to notice, at the first moment, who wag 
there. The first thing that brought me to myself was hearing 
the voice of Miss Mortimer behind her screen. I was so 
amazed that, instinctively, without giving any reason to myself 
for it, I pushed forward to see her. There she sat, that dread- 
f*:^ wonderful witch of a woman so far from being moved by 
any feeling of nature which might have led her to avoid the 
strangers, as innocent Aunt Milly supposed sitting there as if 
on a throne, entirely assuming the part of mistress of the house, 
and receiving the homage of her guests. Evidently everybody 
was surprised everybody had understood Miss Mortimer to 
have withdrawn from any but the most secluded life ; and I do 
not think I ever felt such a thrill of wonder and pity, and 
almost horror, as when, after all I had seen and noted, after 
her convulsive trembling and watchful readiness for any attack, 
after the way ia which, this very day, she had retreated, 
stubborn but exhausted, upstairs, I saw her sitting here, in 
full evening dress, with jewels and ornaments ; her watchful 
eyes gleaming stealthily round, and her ears alive to every 
sound. 

As I came forward I caught sight of Aunt Milly sitting silent 
by herself by a table, with a face full of the deepest perplexity 
and distress. She raised her troubled eyes to me, and grasped 
at my hand for a moment, as if to strengthen herself. She 
could not make it out any attempt to decipher her sister's 
purpose was in vain to Aunt Milly the light might as well 
have tried to comprehend the darkness. But I had not time to 
say anything to her. Miss Mortimer had called Harry, who 
drew me along with him ; and it was she who introduced us to 



308 TJie Last of the Mortimers. 

the rector and his sister, and to that heavy old Sir George, and 
the Penrhyns of Eden Castle. I am sure I cannot tell what she 
said ; it was principally Harry she spoke of, and I remember 
that she called him their heir and nearest relation, which gained 
us a very flattering reception from the strangers. But the mere 
fact of seeing her there, with hr^r bare arms and shoulders 
shining thin through just such another scarf as I had on, and 
her eyes meeting everybody else's with ;i certain wide-open 
vigilant stare, and her head held stiffly erect to dissemble that 
trembling, which, even still, she could not overcome, at once 
confounded and engrossed me so much that I could observe 
nothing else. Harry got into conversation with the gentlemen, 
and Miss Kate, from the Rectory, a woman evidently full of 
curiosity and enterprise, seized upon Miss Mortimer. I 
managed to get away to Aunt Milly ; she took my hand again, 
and pressed it almost painfully. "My dear, what do you 
suppose this means ?" said Aunt Milly, looking wistfully up in 
my face. 

u To defy everybody," I said, scarcely knowing what I was 
saying; "but, dear Aunt Milly, you warned me to be on my 
guard. You look so troubled, people will fancy something is 
wrong." 

When I said that, she got up hastily and joined the others. 
I can't tell how the strangers felt ; but for all of us who 
belonged to the house, it is impossible to imagine any scene 
more extraordinary. To see the dauntless, unnatural wicked- 
ness of that woman facing and defying everybody to see her 
take the principal place, and ignore the troubled, terrified sister, 
whose guests these people really were out of all the mysterious 
veil of secrecy and darkness in which she had been wrapped, to 
watch her emerging thus, not only as if nothing were wrong 
with her, but as if, in reality, she was the soul of everything, 
and dear Aunt Milly only her shadow and servant ! When 
Miss Mortimer took the head of the table at dinner, and Aunt 
Milly astonished, and not knowing what to make of it, dropped 
into a seat near the foot, where Harry was, our dismay and 
wonder were nearly at their climax. Aunt Milly clasped my 
hands hard ; she had got a chair placed in the corner beside me, 
and whispered 

" I don't mind it, my dear, don't think I mind it. If all 
was well, and I had known her meaning !" 

I understood that perfectly ; but then all was not well, and 
nobody had known the weird woman's meaning. Now she had 
it all in her own hands. With her grey hair, and her thin 



The Last of the Mortimers. 309 

bare aged shoulders peeping out of her scarf, she marie a 
dreadful pretence of flirting with that old Sir George ; and 
curious Miss Kate sat scrutinising her, and making perpetual 
remarks ; and Aunt Milly and I looked on with awe and alarm 
which I could not describe. I could scarcely answer Mr. Penrhyn 
when he spoke to me. I fear he must have thought me a very 
poor representative of the Mortimers. But I could not keep 
my attention from that figure at the head of the table. 1 
could not help wondering, did she see the writing and the 
man's hand upon the wall? for in all her pretences, and 
affectations, and coquetries, those strange coquetries, and 
gestures, and movements of the head and hands, which might 
have been pretty in a young beauty, but were so dismal in a 
white-haired old woman remember, she never once forgot. 1 
could see it plain in her eyes all the time. If the handwriting 
had come upon the wall, as it did in Belshazzar's palace, it 
would not have surprised her. No allusion that could be made 
would shock or startle her. She knew everything that could 
come ; and, in her devilish daring, she was prepared for 
all. 

I hope it is not very wicked 01 me to use such words ; indeed, 
I cannot tell what others l couia use. 

' Things went on so till we got back to the drawing-room, 
which was a relief in its way. And by dint of continuing so 
long, the pressure had, of course, grown easier, and I had 
actually begun to make a little acquaintance with Mrs. 
Penrhyn, who was young, and had little children of her own, 
and quite insisted I should take her upstairs to see baby, when 
I was suddenly recalled from that very agreeable talk we were 
just falling into, by the sharp voice of Miss Kate. 

"Have you heard any more of that young Italian, Miss 
Milly ?" said Miss Kate ; " he that struck me, you know, as 
having so odd a resemblance to your family? very strange ! 
and did you not perceive it yourself? I hear he has been seen 
about here again, and his servant, that stout person. Ah, how 
very sad he doesn't know English, that poor fellow ! perhaps he 
has picked up a little since. Of all the sad things in the world, 
I know nothing so melancholy as being in the midst of light, 
and yet, for such a trifling thing as the want of language, 
remaining in darkness. I have never forgiven myself for 
neglecting Italian since that day. Ah, I wish I knew Italian 
as you do, Miss Mortimer. Who can tell what use 1 might 
have been to that poor benighted man !" 

I bad turned aside, with the words stopped on my very lipa, 



10 The Last of the Mortimers. 

to listen, So had Aunt Milly, looking aghast, and with every 
tinge of colour blanched from her face. Miss Mortimer did 
not observe me ; but she noticed her sister, and stared at her 
with actually a little pause and smile of malice, to direct every- 
body's attention to her startled face, before she spoke. 

U I can't speak even my own language now," was all Miss 
Mortimer said ; and all the time looked at Aunt Milly with 
that derisive look, as if to show that whoever was agitated by 
this reference it was not herself. I was so wicked as to think 
she meant to turn over the scandal, if any should rise, upon 
her sister ; and it made my blood boil ; but, to be sure, I was 
quite in error there. 

" Oh, I am sure after to-night !" cried Miss Kate ; 
" Indeed, my dear Miss Mortimer, I must congratulate you. 
I hope it is the beginning of a new life. If v on would but 
take a little interest in the parish, with your improved health, 
1 am sure it would do so much good ; and if you should happen 
to meet that unfortunate young man, and would be induced to 
explain the truth to him a little in his own language " 

Here Miss Mortimer gave an extraordinary kind of gasp, 
without, however, uttering any sound. Nobody observed 
it but me, as my eyes were fixed on her. Then she spoke 
as if she could not help herself, drawing back into the 
shadow. 

" He speaks English !" she said, with an extraordinary tone 
of being compelled to say something as if some influence 
within her had constrained the words from her unwilling 
tongue. 

"But, ah, it is the servant I speak of, "-cried Miss Kate; 
" one soul is just as precious as another ; it is he, poor 
unfortunate man ! If you should meet him in any of your 
drives, he is very stout, and has a large beard, and is so 
completely the foreigner that you can't mistake him, if 
you would only stop the carriage and say a word in 
season." 

There was another wonderful contraction of all the muscles 
of Miss Mortimer's face, and this time a kind of hysterical 
sound came with it. 

" If I meet him," she said, slowly, " I'll give him a word in 
season don't be afraid," and she laughed. 

It made me shiver and tremble all over. I was thankful that 
Ellis came that moment with tea, and I could get up and go 
into another corner of the room to recover myself. I don't 
know how Aunt Milly bore it. She had not a particle of 



The Last qf the Mortimer*, 811 

colour in her face the whole evening after. But Miss 
Mortimer went upstairs steadily when all the guests were 
gone. I do not know what befell when she got into her own 
room. I do not think they had much rest there that night. 
If she had fallen down in a fit, or expired at the head of the 
table that evening, it would not have surprised me. She had 
lived through it ; but I am sure neither she nor her poor 
faithful maid closed their eyes that night. 



812 The Last of the Mommer* 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE day after that, was the day we had fixed to go hack to 
Chester. Miss Mortimer did not come downstairs ; but 
Carson came to me with a little packet while i was helping 
Lizzie to pack up baby's things The poor woman looked ill 
and strange herself. She had a scared terrified expression, as if 
she were afraid of everybody, and looked so worn-out and 
exhausted that I could scarcely help telling her, for pity's sake, 
to go and get some sleep. 

" My missis sends her love," said Carson, "and she's very 
sorry she can't corne downstairs to see vou, ma'am, nor the 
Captain, bat hopes 12 won't be long till you're here again ; and 
sends you this, and iier iovo. 

" Is Miss Mortimer ill V" said I. 

Carson hesitated befor<-> she answered. 

"It's on her nerves," she said, at last, faltering ; " it's I 
mean, to be sure, she's a little overtired because of overdoing of 
herself last night. It was out of compliment to the Captain, 
ma'am, and you. My missis has a great spirit ; but it's the 
body as is weak." 

" Yes," said I, unable to restrain the impulse; "but, oh, don't 
you think she has just too great a spirit? What if it kills her 
one of these days ?" 

The woman flashed up for a moment into an attempt 
of resentment and dignity, but, partly from her weakness 
andwatching and want of sleep, broke, -down immediately, 
and shed a few tears in her apron. The poor creature's heart 
was moved. " If it kills her she'll die ; but she'll n,ver give in," 
sobbed Carson ; and then, recovering herself all at once " it's 
on the nerves, that's what it is," said the faithful servant, and 
hurried away. 

It was some time before I cared to open Miss Mortimer's 
packet. It contained two rings, one of them a slight turquoise 
thing, which was for me, and the other a fine diamond^ which 



The Last of the Mortimers. 313 

was to be given to my husband. "Tell him it's a family 
jewel," said a little accompanying note. I put it down on 
Harry's dressing-table, where he would find it when he came 
in. / would not put such a present on his finger ; besides, it 
was best he should have it direct from herself she had always 
received him as the representative of the Mortimers, and not 
me. 

And then Aunt Milly came upstairs to kiss and cry over 
us. I was very ,sad myself, as was natural. There was nothing 
now between me and Harry's going, but a few weeks rather 
a few days. J should look straight into the face of that 
dreadful approaching moment when we turned our backs on 
the Park. 

I could not cry as Aunt Milly did. I felt to myself as if I had 
been trifling all this time, taken up with other people's affairs, 
and making friends with strangers, while every hour was 
bringing us closer to that day. Dear Aunt Milly held me fast 
in her arms, and whispered everything in the world she could 
think of to console me : that I had baby ; that I should have 
letters regularly ; that the war wouid not last long ; that I 
must trust God, and pray. Ah, as if I did not know all that ! 
if I had not known it and gone over it all in my own mind 
a thousand times, there might have been some comfort in what 
she said. 

u And look here," said Aunt Milly, thrusting a purse in to my 
pocket not into my hand, to give me a chance of putting it 
back again " he is our representative, dear. He is not to go a 
ntep till he has everything everything you can so much as think 
upon to make him comfortable. Now, Milly, don't say a word. 
I'll think you don't love me if you say a word. Will it be any 
comfort to you, or me, to think here's some paltry money left, 
and Harry gone to fight for us all without something that 
would make him comfor^ible? You'd work your fingers off 
to get it for him, and \ on have no excuse for denying me. 
Don't say anything to Harry, child. Men don't understand 
these things. It's between you and me ; and, please God, we'll 
tell him all our schemes when we get him back safe, the dear 
fellow. But, dear, what is that on the table? Sarah's 
diamond ! that one she has always had such a fancy for. Has 
she sent it to you ?" 

" To Harry," said I. 

" To Harry ! Dear, dear, what creatures we are !" cried Aunt 
Milly, much agitated, and bursting in tears again. tk Poor 
Sarah 1 she's not so hard-hearted as you and me were thinking, 



814 The Last of the Mortimers. 

Milly. Oh, God help her ; if He would only bring her to 
deal true and fair, and have out this trouble in the face 
of day, there might be some comfort yet for her in this very 
life!" 

I made no answer. I did not love Miss Mortimer, as I 
suppose, in some sort of way, her sister did ; and, besides, my 
thoughts were all turned in another direction again. I had 
ceased to see the Park and its troubles so acutely as I had done 
for some days past. My mind was returned to my own private 
burden. I had little to say to anybody after that. I turned 
away even from Aunt Milly, with a dreadful feeling that I was 
not to see her again till Harry was gone. For I knew in my 
heart, though they never said any thing to me, that this was how 
it was to be. 

I had not the heart to talk even to Harry, as we drove 
slowly back to Chester slowly, . as I fancied. We went 
in the carriage all the way. We had no railway or tunnel to go 
through this time. Nothing to help me to a moment's delusion 
of plunging away to the end of the world, or into the bowels of 
the earth, it did not matter which, all together. That was 
impossible. Miss Mortimer's carriage put nothing in my mind 
but the inevitable parting, and all that was to happen to ine 
after Harry was gone. 

When we got to our Chester lodgings, Domenico was there, 
as usual, full of the noisiest, kindest bustle, to help in getting 
everything in, as if he had belonged to us, instead of belonging 
to a stranger, who, most likely, had little reason to bear the 
heirs of the Mortimers any good will. Mr. Luigi was standing 
at the window all the time, looking at the carriage, the horses, 
the servants ; thinking, perhaps, they might all have been his 
under different circumstances. How can I tell what he was 
thinking? I am sure at that moment, though I observed 
him at the window, I took no pains to imagine what his 
thoughts were, and did not care. I did not care for anything 
just then. 

It was one of my bad times. It was one of the hundred 
partings which I had with Harry before the real parting came. 
When the things were lifted out of the carriage, I could see 
them all in my own mind lifted in again, all but Harry's share 
of them, and myself sitting blind in that corner with all the 
world dark before me. Well, well ; it is no use reasoning over 
it, as if that would make things any better. Thousands and 
thousands were just the same as me ; did that make it any 
Better, do you suppose ? I thought of the poor woman in the 



TJw Last of the Mortimers. 815 

Edinburgh High Street, and her hard damp hand that pressed 
mine. I was a soldier's wife like all the rest. I went up into 
my own room and got Harry's old sash again, and bound it 
tight over my heart. It gave me a kind of ease, somehow. 
And to hear baby shouting at sight of his old toys, and Harry 
calling for his Milly darling, downstairs 1 It was an agony of 
happiness and anguish j it waa life. 



816 The Last of the Mortimer*. 



CHAPTEE XII. 

THE very next day Sara Cresswell came to see me. I cannot 
say that I was very glad, for I grudged everything now 
that did not belong to the one business which was engrossing 
us. I had been out that morning with Harry trying to get 
things that were necessary for him. I don't mean the common 
articles of his outfit, for these, now that we had money enough, 
could be ordered at once without contriving ; but the little 
conveniences that might make him more comfortable. He 
protested that I would load him with so many contrivances for 
comfort that comforc would be impossible ; and, 1 daresay I 
was foolish. But he let me do it without more than just 
laughing at me. He knew it was a sort of consolation. When 
Sara came the room was in a litter with all sorts of portable 
apparatus ; things for cooking, and lamps, and portable dressing 
things, and the wonderful convenient portmanteaus they make 
now-a-days. I was putting them all together, and comparing, 
and thinking all how he won Id' do when, instead of home, 
where everything came naturally, without being asked for, he 
should have only these skeletons to make himself comfortable 
with. I had lighted the lamp, and was boiling the little kettle 
ovei it, to see how it would do Ah, if we only had been 
going all together ! If I could have imagined myself there to 
boil the kettle and have everything warm and nice for him 
when he came in from the trenches, how pleasant all these con- 
trivances would have been ! As it was I had just had his 
servant up and been showing him the things we had bought ; 
he looking grim and half amused, touching his cap and saying, 
" Yes, ma'am," to every word I said, but laughing in his mind 
at all my womanish nonsense. I could see that perfectly, and 
1 had a good cry after the man was gone ; and was just rousing 
up from that, to boil the little kettle, when Sara Cresswell 
came in. 

In this short week there was a good deal of change upon 
Sara. Her eyes had a quick kind of fitful light in them gleam- 
ing about everywhere, as if she were somehow dissatisfied, 
either with herself or her own circumstances, and sought a kiucj 



The Last of the Mortimers. 817 

of relief in external things. There was a change in her appear- 
ance too ; her little short curls had either grown too long to 
cluster about her neck as she had worn them, or she had taken 
another caprice about this fashion of hers, for they were now 
all gathered into a net, a thing which changed her appearance, 
somehow, without one being able to see for the first minute 
how it was. She flushed up wonderfully when she saw my 
occupation. She came and kissed me, and sat down by me to 
watch the lamp. I had to explain to her all about it, how it 
was arranged, and everything ; and after she had sat with me 
watching till the little kettle boiled, all at once it seemed to 
flash upon her what dreadful thing was implied to me in that 
little apparatus, and she suddenly looked up in my face and 
took hold of my hand, and burst out crying. I gave way just 
for one moment too, but even her presence and her sympathy 
kept me from breaking down altogether. But it warmed my 
heart to Sara to see her crying for my trouble. I took the 
little teapot out of the place it was fitted into and made some 
tea, and gave her some without saying anything. We sat by 
the table where that little lamp was still burning, throwing the 
steady, cheerful little flame that showed so strange in the day- 
light, upon us. We drank that tea together without saying 
anything, till Sara, not being able to contain herself, her heart 
quite running over with pity for me, took the cup out of my 
hand and threw her arms round me. u We shall be sisters 
while he is away !" cried Sara, not knowing what to say to 
comfort me. I don't think I said anything ; but we were real 
fast friends from that day. 

" But I must have everything cleared away now, before 
Harry comes in," said I ; " he must not see all this litter we 
have been making. He thinks me foolish enough already. 
Go into the other room, Sara dear, and take a book and wait 
for me. Lizzie is out with baby. I'll come to you presently." 

" As if I could not help !" cried Sara, dashing the tears away 
off her cheek. " Why, oh, Milly, why won't people let us 
women do what we were born to? This is twenty times 
pleasanter than going into the other room and taking a 
book." 

And so, I daresay, it was. When everything was tidy we 
Aid go into the other room. Sara sat near the window, where 
she could see out without being seen herself. I took up some 
of Harry's things that I had begun to make before Aunt Milly's 
money came. I would have made them every one myself if I 
coold, but that, to be sure, was impossible ; and what a com 



818 The Last of the Mortimers. 

fort it was to think he would have such a good supply of 
everything ; but still it was a pleasure to me to have that work. 
We sat talking for some time about other things, about the 
Park, and Aunt Milly, and Miss Mortimer, but without 
touching upon anything but the surface, how I liked them, 
and all that, till at last Sara gave a little start and exclama- 
tion, and put her hands together. It was something she saw in 
the street. I rose to look over her shoulder what it was. 

" There is Mr. Langham and Mr. Luigi," cried Sara. " What 
can they be talking about? Are they coming in, I wonder? 
How earnest they both look ! Now they are turning back 
again. Oh, Milly, tell me, please ! what are they talking 
about?" 

" How can I possibly tell you?" said I ; but I suppose there 
was a little faltering and consciousness in my tone. 

Sara sat watching for some time longer. " They walk up 
and down, quite engrossed in their conversation," said Sara ; 
" when they reach the end of the pavement, they turn back 
again, up and down, up and down. Now Mr. Langham seems 
urging something upon him now he turns away, he clasps his 
hands together, he appeals to Mr. Langham. What is it? 
what is it all about? I never can persuade him to tell me. 
How does he belong to the Park or the Mortimers? Why are 
they frightened for him ? Oh, Milly, you who have just come 
from them, tell me what it is? I am not asking from vain 
curiosity I I I have a right " 

Here Sara stopped, overcome with agitation. I was close 
behind her. I could not help growing agitated too. 

" Sara, tell me /" I cried; "we are both motherless crea- 
tures, and you have nobody to guide you. Tell me ; you call 
him Jie, you don't say his name. What is he to you?" 

Sara turned back and leant her head upon me, and fell into a 
passion of tears again ; different tears tears for herself, and 
out of the anguish of her heart. She was doing wrong she 
knew she was doing wrong she had gone on with it wilfully, 
knowing it was wrong all -the time ; and now she had gone too 
far to draw back. 

" Oh, Milly, Milly, papa does not know !" she cried, in such 
a tone of misery. And, indeed, I don't wonder. How could 
she look him in the face knowing how fond of her he was ? 

" But, Sara, this is dreadfully wrong of Mr. Luigi," cried I j 
" he ought to know better ; he should at least have gone to Mr. 
Cress well. It is his fault." 

*' Was it your Harry's fault?" cried Sara, starting up in my 



The Last of the Mortimers. $19 

face, all flushed and glowing. " Should he have gone directly 
and told everybody ? And you were married, married, Milly ! 
and ever such a time before it was found out. How can you 
pretend to be so shocked at me ?" 

To see her spring up, all blushing and beautiful, and deter- 
mined as she was she who had been sobbing on my shoulder a 
moment before, took me entirely by surprise. I retreated a 
step before her. I could not tell what answer to make. She 
was not ashamed, the little darling creature 1 She was ready 
to stand up for him against all the world. 

" It was not my good father that loved me, it was only my 
aunt," I said, faltering; "and, besides, it was I who should 
have told her ; and as for Harry Harry " 

"He is no better than Luigi !" cried Sara; *' he ought to 
have gone and told and asked for you. You know he should ; 
and you were married, actually married, and oh, Milly, can 
you really venture to scold me V" 

" If I had nothing else to excuse me I was ashamed, at least," 
said I, a little sharply. 

" I am not ashamed of Lewis !" cried the little girl, stamping 
her little foot and clasping her hands together. When her 
courage deserted her, she came and nestled into my side again, 
and clasped her arms tight and cried. What was to be done ? 
for whatever I might have done myself, I could not be an acces- 
sory to Sara's secret, to break her kind father's heart. 

" But tell me who he is ? What is Mr. Langham speaking 
to him about?" whispered Sara at last. 

" Has he not told you who he is ?" 

" Only that soon he will be able to come to papa and tell 
him everything, but that his duty to somebody prevents him 
speaking now, till he has permission," said Sara, under her 
breath. " I am not excusing him," she went on, lifting up her 
head. " As you say, it was my part to tell papa ; and it was 
only just the other day that that there was anything to tell. 
We have not been going on making it up for a long time. We 
have not been keeping it secret for months, like some people." 

" Sara, hush," said I ; " you know quite well your case and 
mine are not alike ; but, at any rate, I am older and wiser now. 
Must I, or must Harry, go and tell your father ?" 

Sara looked at me with a degree of affectionate spite and 
wickedness I never saw equalled. "You would, you treach- 
erous, perfidious creature F'she cried, flinging away from me ; 
" but Mr. Langham wouldn't ! you need not think it. You 
will have to go yourself ; and papa will think we have had A 



820 The Last of the Mortimers. 

quarrel, and won't believe you. Ah, Milly! here they are 
coming back. Tell me what Mr. Langham was saying to him ? 
Tell me what it all is ?" 

If I had known ever so well what to tell her, and been as 
willing as I was able, I would have been prevented by Harry's 
coming in. He was looking grave and perplexed. His inter- 
view with Luigi had not satisfied him, any more than such a 
conversation had satisfied anybody else who approached the 
Italian. Sara stopped short with the most violent blush on her 
face when she saw him. She withdrew from me, and got into 
a corner. She went to the window, and pretended to be looking 
out very earnestly. She answered Harry's salutation only over 
my shoulder. The next moment she came whispering to me 
that it was time for her to go. Evidently, however much she 
encouraged herself by our example, she could not face Hariy. 
She whispered, " Don't tell 1" and clenched her little fist at me 
as she went away. Of course I only laughed at her ; but it 
appeared I did not need to tell Harry. He came upstairs, after 
seeing her out, with a smile on his face. 

" Has she been telling you what trouble she has got herself 
into? Oh, don't betray her secret," said Harry. " I have just 
heard it from the other side. Here are other two fools follow- 
ing our example, Milly. What is to be done for them f It is 
worse, you know, in their case, as 1 took pains to show Luigi. 
Mr. Cresswell is a different person from Aunt Connor ; and we 
two were equal in our poverty. I don't approve," said Harry, 
with a laugh mingling in his gravity, " of such a thing as 
this." 

" And what did he say?" said I, thinking, no doubt, that my 
Harry's wisdom had made the Italian ashamed of himself. 

Harry laughed again, but grew rather red. " Word for 
word what I used to say when I was explaining to myself why 
I did not go and ask you from your Aunt Connor. I hope 
they'll have as good an issue as we have had, Milly, darling,'* 
said Harry, " But here's some extraordinary mistake again. 
Either we're mistaken in our guess, which I can't think pos- 
sible, or poor Luigi's dreadfully mistaken in the laws of Eng- 
land and of civilised life. Perhaps he thinks our being 
Protestants makes an end of law. I can't tell what he thinks, 
nor what to think of the whole concern. He refuses my 
mediation, Milly ; at least he tells me I am wrong." 

" Wrong in what particular?" I asked eagerly. 

Harry shook his head. " 1 can't tell ; but he will not hear of 
any compensation, ?r of giving np his pursuit of that poor old 



The Last of the Mortimers. 821 

lady. When he saw what I meant he grew very hot and 
angry, and asked if I meant to insult him, but afterwards said 
to himself, ' It is in ignorance,' with a sort of magnanimity 
which would be simply ridiculous according to my notion of 
the affair. They'll have it out their own way, Milly. We 
can't interfere, that's clear ; only I wish there was some light 
thrown upon it," said Harry, u before I went away, that I 
might know what your fortune is likely to be. What would 
you say if this grand Park of yours turned out to be no inherit- 
ance for us at all ?" 

" I should not break my heart ; but what could he have to 
do with the Park ?" cried I. " If he were Mr. Mortimer's son, 
why should Miss Mortimer be so troubled about it ? and how 
could he, if he is Miss Mortimer's " 

" Hush, Milly ;.we don't know anything about it. Let's 
talk of our own concerns," said Harry, with a sigh. These 
words plunged me back again into the mood from which Sara 
had roused me. The other things weat like shadows this was 
the real life which belonged to us. 



The Last of the 



CHAPTER XIII. 

I DON'T remember very well after that how these outside 
affairs went on. I used to see them both, of course. 
Sara came to me almost every day, and sometimes helped with 
my work, and sometimes played with baby, and sometimes 
would read aloud to me when Ilcirry was out. She meant it 
very Avell and was very good, and a comfort, as much as that 
was possible. I remember being glad when she read, and did 
not talk, for then I was free to my own thoughts. I daresay, 
thinking it over since, that it must have been the fascination of 
seeing her constantly, which for that interval took precedence 
of everything in Luigi's mind, and kept him inactive ; for I 
heard from Aunt Milly that he had not been to the Park 
again, nor heard of in any way, so far as she knew. And 
Miss Mortimer had been ailing too, and had very bad nights, 
and had been a whole week that she did not come downstair^ 
I heard all these things at the time without taking any notice 
of them. Harry, after finding himself so unsuccessful with 
Luigi, had given it all up ; and we were both too much 
occupied with our own concerns to think of anything else. 
We did not talk much of what was to happen when he was 
gone. It had come to be tacitly concluded that I was to go 
with Aunt Milly; and, I suppose, that thought that crossed 
Harry's mind after his conversation with Luigi, u What if 
the Park should turn out to be no inheritance of ours after 
all?" had passed away again as it came. I can't say I ever 
thought of the Park at that time one way or another ; and I 
am sure what Harry was glad for me to have, was not the 

Erospect of a great fortune, but the presence of a dear 
fiend. 

One day he rode out to see Aunt Milly, and take leave of 
her. He saw them both, he told me, but nothing passed that 
I cared to inquire into. We had a great deal to do, which 
helped us to pull through these days. It was such a difficulty 
to get those things which I had collected, packed. Harry's 



The Last of the Mortimer*. 823 

Servant came, and puffed and scratched his head over them, 
and poor Domenico came up to help ; and what with his 
broad laughs and pantomime, and his determination to get 
everything in, and his cheerfulness over all his failures, and 
the ludicrous way in which he and Thomson addressed each 
other, each in his own language, and abused each other too, 
even I was obliged to laugh, and the assistants were all kept in 
good-humour. I felt as if it had been very dark all these days 
often raining, always cloudy, the streets muddy and uncom- 
fortable, and the air stifling. I can't tell whether it was so in 
reality, bub it certainly seemed so to me. 

Then the very last day came. Harry was specially busy all 
that day ; there were all the men to look after, and he was 
acting adjutant. I went out by myself to see whether I could 
not find anything else he might want. It was very fatiguing 
walking I suppose it was a rainy day. When I came in I 
felt very faint, and sat down in a chair in the hall for an 
instant to recover myself. I can't tell how Luigi knew that I 
was there ; but he came out to the door of his room, and 
stood looking at me for a moment. I got up, being jealous 
that anybody should see me break down, just then ; but he 
held up his hand as if to beg me to stay. 

" May I say how I think of you?" he said. " Just now you 
are never out of my mind, you and that brave Langham. 
Patience, patience ! such men come back they come back !" 

"Oh, hush, hush, hush!" I cried. I could say nothing 
more, and pressed past him to go upstairs 

He put his hand on mine when I laid it on the rail of the 
stairs, detaining me. " We are cousins," he said, softly ; u do 
not put me away. In my country we say cousin-brotherit 
does not matter, it is the same. L will be your brother if you 
will let me. Tell him. I am not to be ashamed of ; he knows 
not ; but if she will not do what is right, soon all the world 
must know. I am your brother, at your disposition. Say it to 
him. I will not come to say farewell to disturb you but tell 
him ; he shall trust me, and you may want a brother ; we are 
of one blood." 

" Oh, let me go !" I cried. " I can't ask you how this is. I 
can't thank you, though I am sure it is kindness. I can't think 
of anything to-day ; let me go." 

Luigi kissed my hand, and let me go. It startled me very 
much for the moment. I rushed upstairs, feeling as if he had 
been rude to me ; but indeed he had not been rude to me, 
nor anything the least like it. But it startled me into 



824 The Last of the Mortimers. 

realizing all that was going to happen. That I should be altne 
as to-morrow. I remember running and clutching at the 
blinds which were down, and drawing them up with great 
haste, and almost passion. It seemed to me as if that dim 
light were predicting something ; as if the furniture standing 
about was looking on, and knew what was going to be. Now 
the time was come ; 1 had gone over it and over it in my fancy ; 
this would be the last of my rehearsals ; to-morrow Harry 
would be away. 

And the to-morrow came, as they always do. I did not feel 
in the least diminished in my strength. I did not feel I had any 
body at all that morning. I went with him to the railway 
steadily, you may suppose. I would not lose a moment of the 
time we were to be together in any folly about myself. I 
remember him saying something about me going home alone, 
and all that, as men will do. But 1 did not lose sight of him 
till the last moment when the train disappeared into the 
tunnel ; and I can't tell how long I stood there watching, after 
it had vanished into that darkness. Now he was gone ! 
Another train came up, and the crowd disturbed me standing 
there all by myself. 1 did not feel as if it were truo ; but I 
went away all the same. I said to myself, over and over again, 
" He is gone ;" but it did me no good. I went out cf the 
railway not believing in it. Outside there was a cab waiting 
for me. But Domenico rushed forward to open the door, and 
somehow they had contrived that Lizzie and baby should be 
there to take me home. I heard afterwards that Luigi and 
Domenico were both watching close by all the time, in case I 
should faint, or something. I suppose they thought I would 
faint, not knowing any better. Lizzie's great eyes, panic- 
struck, gazing in my face, full of tears tli.it she durst not let 
fall, struck me quite strangely when I got into the cab ; and 

then little Harry stretched out his arms to me and then . 

But even at the worst it was not so dreadful as I thought it 
would be. I was not sitting blind and desperate, with all the 
world dark before me. No, no; and God forgive me for 
thinking I should. Harry was living and well, and gone to do 
his duty ; and this was his boy smiling in my face, and the 

sun was shining . And I had to live, and to be patient, 

and to pray. 

When we got home, Aunt Milly's kind face, anxiously gazing 
out of the window, was the first thing I saw. She came run- 
ning downstairs to take me in her arms ; she seemed to think 
it strange I could walk in &o steadily, and did not want anf 



The Last of the Mortimers. 825 

support. Sara was upstairs too. I have no doubt it was kind, 
the kindest thing possible; but I felt dreadfully fatigued, 
somehow, with that morning's work. I could have liked to have 
been by myself a little. I went to my own room to put off my 
bonnet, and sat down with a kind of pang of comfort. I thought 
I was glad it was over ; and then my eye fell on Harry's old 
Bcarf and somehow the silence came ringing about my ears with 
no "Milly, darling !" sounding through it : and I began to see it 
was true, and he was away. 

When Aunt Milly came stealing into the room after me, she 
dropped down by my side where 1 was kneeling, and put her 
kind arms round my waist. "Yes, dear, cry!" said Aunt 
Milly, " it will do you good !" But I did not cry after that 
I was better. 1 was glad it was over now. 

We waited till we had a message by the telegraph to say the 
ship was just sailing out of the Mersey ; for Harry had stopped 
with me till the very last moment. And then we went away. I 
remember everything so clearly that happened that day. I 
remember how the sun kept shining, and how they all looked 
at me as if I had been ill, and had to be watched and cared for 
at every step. It was all very new to me. In the hall, as we 
were going away, Luigi came up to me again. Aunt Milly had 
made me take her arm ; not that I needed it, but she seemed 
to think I ought to need it. Luigi came and took my hand. 
" Remember !" he said, u I am your brother, at your disposition, 
till he comes back." I don't think I made him any answer ; 
for the very sight of him made Aunt Milly tremble. He went 
out after us to put us into the carriage, and somehow managed 
to do it, though Aunt Milly was afraid of him. He put her in 
last of all, and kissed her hand. Aunt Milly did not say 
anything to me for a long time after. She kept gazing out of 
the carriage windows as long as she could see Luigi ; and I 
have a kind of consciousness that he stood there, with his hat 
off. as long as we could be seen on the road. For the moment 
ehe had returned into her own trouble and forgotten mine. I 
leaned out of the other window, and felt the wind on my face. 
Ah, God send the winds were safe upon the sea 1 He was 
gone really gone. I was not even to hear of him for a long 
time ; and when I was to see him, God knew alone. I was 
swept out of his sight, and he out of mine, as if we did not 
belong to each other. There was only One now, in heaven or 
earth, that at the same moment could see him and me. When 
I thought of that it melted all my heart. Our Father, the only 
father we two had, saw us both, with no boundaries betweeD 



826 The Last of the Mortimers, 

us all that time when I could neither see nor hear of Uaffy, 
God Avas my link to my husband. He knew. We were both 
in His eye if we were worlds asunder. There, we were near to 
each other, however else we might be separate. The impression 
Came so strong upon me that for a moment I could not say I 
was less than glad. No distance in the world, though it put ua 
for a time out of sight of each other, could ever put us out of the 
eight of God. 



Tlie Last of the Mortimers* 827 



CHAPTER XIV- 

"VTOBODY will be surprised when I say, that, after this, 
JL\| things got into their usual way very soon, and that when 
the event was over, everything subsided round it, and soon 
Aunt Milly began to forget that I was the invalid (in spirit) 
whom she had taken such tender care of, and brought back all 
her budget of perplexities and troubles to pour them into iny 
ear ; and after a day or two's retirement in my own room, 
which was an ease to me, I went dowstairs and about, and took 
a share in everything. Miss Mortimer had got better of her 
illness, if illness it was. She sat within the screen as usual, 
'doing her knitting, and not taking much notice of anybody. 
I don't know whether she had really suffered in her health, but 
it seemed to me that she got thinner, and that sometimes there 
was a gleam of fiery restrained excitement in her eyes, which 
were rather cold eyes by nature. We were told that she still 
had very bad nights ; and I am sure, two or three times when 
I met poor Carson by accident, it took all my self-control to 
keep me from speaking to her, and begging her to deliver her- 
self, somehow, from this dreadful yoke. I never saw exhaus- 
tion and a kind of weak despair so written upon anybody's face. 
These bad nights, whatever they might be to the mistress, must 
have been murderous work to the poor maid. 

"My dear," said Aunt Milly, "I shall never forget that 
young man's look as he put me into the carriage, and kissed my 
hand." Aunt Milly held out her plump soft hand as she spoke, 
and looked at it. " They have a habit of doing so, these 
Italians. But if you will believe me, Milly, it was actually an 
affectionate look the poor young fellow gave me ; and I have 
never asked you what he meant ; he was your brother, he said. 
My dear, what did he mean ? Ah, I remember how disap- 
pointed I was to find that he was not your brother, and Richard 
Mortimer's son. That would have been such a happy solu- 
tion of everything ! but tell me why he called himself your 
brother? Was it only sympathy, Milly?" 

" He said we were of the same blood ; l^e s,ai4 we were 
tions," said f , witfc soine hesitation,, 



828 The Last of the Mortimers. 

The book she had been reading fell out of Aunt Milly's hand. 
" Relations!" she cried, faltering and growing pale; "then, 
Milly, there can be no doubt at all about it. Milly, I tell you 
he must be my father's son ; how could you be relations ? And 
indeed, indeed," cried Aunt Milly, growing more and more 
agitated, " I can't bear this any longer. ISTow you are with rne 
to support me, I must take it into my own hands. I will go 
and write to him this moment, and ask him down here to clear 
it all up. Don't say anything I must do it ; it is impossible to 
go on living in this way." 

" But Miss Mortimer ?" said I. 

" Miss Mortimer ?" cried Aunt Milly, with a little scream, 
that was almost hysterical, u what can my sister Sarah have to 
do with it? It is no harder upon her than it is upon me. If 
he is my father's son, how can she be mixed up in it ? And 
how can you and he be relations unless he is my father's son ? 
Don't speak to me, Milly. He shall come here and tell it all, 
and at least we shall know what there is to fear.'' 

" But if she were too much excited it might make her ill," 
said I, dreading that visit, without knowing anything to say 
against it. 

"I can't help it!" cried Aunt Milly, "I am desperate. 
Think of living and enjoying what doesn't belong to you! Oh, 
Milly, Milly! what do you think I must do? I never was in 
secrots and mysteries before ; it's dreadful to me ; and Sarah 
would not yield to tell what she's kept hidden so long, not for 
her life. We'll see how she looks to-night I did not think 
she looked any worse than usual. I would not hurt her, you 
may be sure, not for any relief to myself ; but we can't go on 
with this hanging over us, Milly," she said, with faltering lips. 
" I'll write to-morrow ; I certainly will write to-morrow. 
Relations ! My dear, dear child, it will be a dreadful dis- 
appointment to you ; but that is as good as proof." 

Poor Aunt Milly! she was desperate, as she said ; and what 
good it would do wilting, or asking, or even demanding any- 
thing, that one of the people who knew it would guard at the 
cost of her life, and the other would disclose only at his own 
time, I could not see. Luigi had refused to tell her already ; 
he would not tell Sara Cresswell. -He was waiting a per- 
mission that never, never in this world would be given. And 
he, too, must be deluded:. What could he think our laws or 
our principles were if he could have any rights, but those of 
shame? It was all a mystery; I could see that Aunt Milly's 
idea was quite a false one. But I dared not tell her that idea 



The Last of the Mortimers. 829 

of my own, which, perhaps, for anything I knew, might prove 
as false as hers. 

That morning I went out with Lizzie and my boy. He 
could walk now along the sunny road holding my finger, and 
trot after his own little shadow, and try to catch the motes in 
the sunshine, as I suppose all babies do but, to be sure, it is 
just as original and strange in every child that does it, for all 
that. I was walking by him, very tranquil and even contented 
in my mind. There had been very quiet weather ; and little 
Harry was so well and so beautiful ; and I felt so much more 
as if I could trust my Harry himself in God's hands without 
trembllrg for him every moment, that rny heart opened out a 
little to the beautiful day. I don't know that I sould have 
borne to see Doinenico, much less to speak to him, but for 
that 

For there was Domenioo, unmistakably, on the edge of the 
common. He was dressed in a white linen suit, all white, as if 
he wanted to make his enormous bulk and his black beard as re- 
markable as possible in this beardless and sober-minded country. 
It was warm weather now, and I daresay he thought the hot 
summer was coining as in his own home. Baby, with whom he 
had always been a favourite, gave a little shout at sight of him, 
and tottered forward a step or two. Of course Domenico's 
hat had been in his hand from the first moment he saw me, 
He threw it down on the grass now, and seized little Harry, 
and tossed him up in his arms. I was afraid of this play, but 
my brave boy was not ; he actually boxed at Lizzie with his 
little fists when I begged Doinenico to set him down. 

u Pardon," said Doinenico ; " i me make demand of the 
signora, pardon it pleases to the piccolo signorino beebee. I 
Doinenico here this," said the great fellow, punching his 
breast, that I might be quite sure of the person he meant, 
" take joy in heart for see the signora another time." 

" Thank you, Domenico," said I. "I shall never forget how 
kind you have been. What is it that brings you here?" 

Domenico pointed round to various points of the compass, 
not seeming sure which to fix upon, and then burst into a great 
laugh at himself. " It pieu^c? to the signora to pardon," said 
Domenico ; " when not to have the Lce^- not clevare to make 
the speak. Here is the master of me." 

u Your master, Domenico? where?" cried I". 

Once more Domenico looked round to all the points of the 
compass. "lie here he here puff Ecco ! he move far 
to make the time go. Here m v master come to 



830 The Last of the Mortimers. 

the visit the signora not to know the other signora V Yes, 
yes ; in that large big palazzo of not any colour. Behold 1 
The my master there go." 

"Who is he going to see there?" asked I, with some 
anxiety. 

Domenico held up his hand with many elaborate gestures of 
caution and silence. Then he bent his enormous person forward 
and stooped to my ear. When he spoke it was in a whisper. 
"It is need to speak silent silent! The signora contessa," 
said Domenico, witli half -important, half-guilty air of one who 
communicates a secret. I drew back from him in utter 
bewilderment what could he mean ? 

"There is no contessa there, Domenico," said I, in my 
ordinary tone ; " your master is deceived." 

Domenico held up his hand with an evident entreaty that I 
would be cautious. Then he looked back upon Lizzie, the only 
person in sight. " I not fear for the Lizzie," said Domenico ; 
and then launched forth into a half-whispered description of 
the contessa, whoever that might be. But L confess that 
Domenico's description, being Italian whenever he warmed, and 
only when he slackened and recollected himself falling into 
such English as he was capable of, was difficult to make out. 
I fully entered into Lizzie's feeling, that it was "awfu' fickle to 
ken what he meant when it was a long story." I remained 
profoundly bewildered, and unable to make out one word in ten. 

As for learning anything about the contessa poor fellow! 
or, rather, it was his master that was to be pitied evidently 
here was some new mistake, some additional impediment to the 
finding out of this mystery. I left Lizzie with little Harry on 
the common, and went rather sadly home. This little bit of 
apparent foolishness naturally set me all astray as to the 
mysterious business which had cost us so much thought. 
Was it a mistake of Domenico's perhaps? for Luigi and Miss 
Mortimer had actually met, and there could be no mistake 
there. 

When I looked back that great white apparition was keeping 
Lizzie company on the common. They were a strange couple ; 
but I cannot say I had any such doubts or fears concerning 
Domenico's attendance, as a proper mistress ought to have had. 
I flattered myself Lizzie was a great deal too young to take any 
harm. She stood with her red-brown hair a little blown about 
her eyes : her clear, sanguine complexion, her angular and still 
awkward figure, looking up at the man -monster beside her, and 
up her han4 tQ ghado her eyes from tfre sun, which waj 



The Last of the Mortimers. 831 

Burning in her face. While Domenico, with all his great pro- 
portions expanded by his white dress, impended over her, 
his smiling mouth opening in the midst of his black beard, an 
outre extraordinary foreign figure, enough to drive any staid 
English village out of its propriety. I remember the picture 
they made as distinctly as possible, with the green common 
surrounding them, and the gorse bushes all bursting into flower; 
and my own beautiful baby tottering about the fragrant grass. 
I was quite secure in Lizzie's love and Domenico's kindness. I 
went away with a smile at the curious group upon that soft 
English common both figures alien to the soil and with a 
tenderness in my breast to them both. Domenico had made 
himself well understood in another language, if not in that of 
ordinary spoken communications. I shall always have a kind- 
ness to his whole nation for that good fellow's sake. 

As I paused at the gate of the Park, I saw another figure 
advancing by an opposite road. I recognised Luigi in a 
moment. He was coining hurriedly down between the green 
hedges, no doubt coming to pay that visit of which Domenico 
had warned me. I rushed in. with all the eagerness of a 
child, to get my bonnet off and be in tne drawing-room before 
he came. 






B32 



The Last of the Mortimers. 



CHAPTER XV. 

WHEN I reached the drawing-room, after throwing off ray 
bonnet and arranging my hair in the most breathless 
luiste, terrified to hear the summons at the door before I was 
downstairs, I was thunderstruck to find Sara Cresswell there. 
The sight of her made an end of my awkward feeling of shame 
for my own haste and curiosity. Surely this was nothing less 
than a crisis that was coming. Sara had just arrived, and was 
explaining the reasons for her visit in such a very fluent and 
demonstrative way, that I could see at once they were all made 
up, and some motive entirely -different from those she men- 
tioned had brought her. She was still in her hat and velvet 
jacket, seated rather on the edge of her chair, talking very 
volubly, but looking breathless and anxious, while Aunt Milly, 
v ho was sitting in her own place, opposite her sister, and near 
1 MO fireplace, looked at her, perplexed and uncertain, evidently 
i ither suspicious of the many motives which had procured us 
tliis visit ; which, if Sara had only said nothing about it, would 
have been received as a delightful surprise, and wanted no 
accounting for. It was evidently a great relief to Sara when I 
came in ; she came to kiss me, turning her face away from 
Aunt Milly, and caught hold of me so tight, and gave me such 
a troubled, emphatic LOOK, taat even IT na'i not heard before, 
1 should have known something was coimiig. I stood by her 
breathless for a moment, wondering why the door-bell did not 
ring, Luigi had certainly had abundant time to have got to 
the door, and then went up to the other end of the room on 
pretence of finding my work ; while Sara, instead of following 
me, dropped into her chair again, evidently too nervous, too 
anxious, too eager to see the first of it and lose nothing, to do 
anything but sit still. We were both traitors and plotters. 
She had come to watch something that fcras about to happen, 
but which thj principal person concerned did not know. While 
1, more cruel still, took my trembling way up to the other end 
of the apartment, and stationed myself behind Aunt Milly s 
tliat I might not lose a look or word from Miss Mortimer. I 



The Last of the Mortimers. 883 

felt ashamed of myself, but I could not help it. I felt a kind 
of conviction that this was to be the decisive day. 

But still there was no sound at the door ; there was time to 
look round all the peaceable vast room, and be struck by the 
quietness, the repose of the scene in which some act of this 
mysterious drama was about to be enacted. It was always 
very light here, but the bright day and the sunshine out of 
doors, made it now even lighter than usual, and refused to any 
of us the slightest shade for our faces, whatever undue expres- 
sion might come to them. Sara had adopted the only expedient 
possible, by turning her back upon the light, and had, besides, 
a little shelter in her hat. But dear Aunt Milly, looking at 
her favourite with a troubled inquiring expression, and laying 
down the work she had in hand in order to examine Sara's 
countenance the better, was so fully set forth in all her looks, 
movements, and almost feelings, by that broad clear day-light, 
that I shrank back from it in spite of myself, fearing that it 
would betray me too. The only shadow in the* room was that 
afforded by Miss Mortimer's screen. She sat there just as 
usual, in her violet -coloured dress, her light muslin embroidered 
scarf, worn without any lining, now that the weather was 
warm, and her pretty cap, with ribbons corresponding to her 
dress ; her head moving so slightly that it was difficult to per- 
ceive the motion ; her pattern-book open on her knee, her 
head bent over it. At this moment, when the thunders of 
Providence were just about to break over her, she sat there, 
with her head ov^r her knitting-book, counting her stitch us, 
and trying a new pattern. When I saw how she was occupied, 
my own trembling pretence at work fell from my hands. I 
gazed at her openly with a wonder which was almost awe. 
My heart cried out against her in her dread composure. The 
Avenger was coming, and there she sat, all conscious, aware, 
in every nerve, of her guilt, and yet able to maintain that 
hideous calm. Tes ! it would have been sublime had she been 
a good woman, threatened by some undeserved doom. I 
declare it was ghastly, devilish, dreadful to me ! 

All this time nobody came to the door. I daresay, perhaps, 
it was not very many minutes after all ; but in the excitement 
and suspense it seemed a very long time to me. And either 
the house was specially quiet, or there was something in my 
agitated condition which made me think so. Miss Mortimer 
never lifted her head ; if she had not been so engaged with her 
pattern, surely she would have noticed the perplexed looks of 
Aunt Milly, and iny excited face. But ' did not, she kept 



834 The Last of the Mortimers. 

working on at her new stitch. We all relapsed into perfect 
silence ; Sara's voluble excuses for herself died all at once off 
her lips. Aunt Milly dropped into a strange anxious silence, 
looking at her. As for myself, I could not have spoken a word 
whatever had been the consequences. Sara's nervous motion 
of her foot on the carpet startled me so much that I had nearly 
committed myself by some cry of agitation. It was a dread, 
inexplainable pause, which nobody dared either break or 
account for. Dead silence and expectation. And Miss Mor- 
timer bending her head over her pattern-book counting the 
loops for her new stitch. 

The bell did not ring. If it had rung it must have startled 
us all so much*" as to diminish the sense of what was coming ; 
there was no such premonition ; a little sound of steps and 
subdued voices in the hall made my heart beat so loud that I 
felt sure my Aunt Milly must have heard it. Sara looked up 
at me suddenly A when that sound became audible. Her face 
was perfectly colourless, and her hands firmly clasped together. 

u Children, what is it?" said Aunt Milly, with a sharp 
frightened cry, breaking off suddenly in a troubled manner as 
the steps drew nearer. Miss Mortimer lifted her head from her 
book. She looked up, she looked full at me ; she smiled. She 
was listening, but she was not afraid. 

When suddenly the door was thrown open ; Ellis called out, 
with his fullest voice : " The Count Sormonata," and somebody 
came in. I cannot tell who it was that came in. I heard Sara 
cry out with a kind of shriek and repeat the name, "The Count 
Sermoneta !" The work and the book and all the trifling 
matters about her fell off from Miss Mortimer. She rose up, 
clenching her hand, ghastly, like a dead woman. She cried out 
in a voice I shall never forget : " he is dead, dead!" she cried, 
with the wildest scream and outcry. ' ' I tell you, h e is dead, dead ! 
My God, he is dead ! Will nobody believe me ?" shrieked out 
the miserable woman. Her sister ran to her, and was thrust 
away with those terrible clenched hands. But she never turned 
to look, nor cast aside her screen that hid the new comer from 
her. She stood still like some frightful statue, rigid, with her 
wild eyes fixed upon the air before her heaven knows what 
she might see there ! listening in some frightful agony to the 
steps that came slowly up the room. When that scream burst 
from her the footsteps faltered and stopped. Then Miss 
Mortimer looked at me, the only creature she saw before her, 
and laughed a dreadful laugh of madness and misery. " He 
knows it I" she cried out, triumphantly, "if you did not, he 






Tlie Last of the Mortimers. 835 

does. He is dead, dead !" and then came to another dreadful 
pause, leaning her clenched hands upon the table and fixing 
her wild eyes upon something straight before her. While I 
followed the mad stare of her eyes with a shudder I could not 
refrain, another person came with noiseless rapidity into the 
spot she was gazing on. It was not a spectre it was simply 
Luigi, from whose face agitation had banished all the colour, 
and who stood trembling and speechless, wringing his hands, 
and gazing at her with an unspeakable appeal and entreaty. 
She did not say anything more ; she stood with her eyes full 
opened and staring wide, leaning her hands on that table. I 
believe, if anybody had touched her, she would have fallen. I 
almost believed, while 1 looked at her, that she had died 
standing, and that it was a lifeless form that stood fixed in that 
horrible erect attitude, fronting us all, fronting a thousand 
times more than us, all the guilt and sins of her life. I gave a 
cry myself in the extremity of my terror .and trouble. I went 
to her, I cannot tell how, stumbling over Aunt Milly, who had 
either fallen or fainted, or 1 cannot tell what. I went and put 
my arm round that dreadful ghastly figure. It was not her I 
was approaching, but it, the terrible mask and image of her. I 
had not a thought but that she was dead. 

When I touched her, she fell, as I had thought she would. 
But so strong an impression did her dreadful appearance have 
upon me, that, when her figure sank into the chair and showed 
Borne elasticity, instead of going down on the floor, crumbling 
down, dropping to pieces, as somehow I had expected, I was 
struck with a horrible fear and surprise. She was not dead. I 
called out to them all, what were we to do? and she seemed to 
hear me. 1 saw, with a terror I cannot explain, her terrible 
eyes turn from Luigi they looked nt mo, at Aunt Milly, they 
cast a glance over the room. Was it that the spirit was living 
and the body dead ? 

I cannot tell what we did for a dreadful interval after that. 
Carson came into the confused crowd. Luigi disappeared to 
find a doctor, and we tried to get her lifted rnd laid upon the 
sofa. But though she neither moved nor spoke, and scarcely 
seemed to breathe, she resisted, in some dreadful way, and 
would not be removed. I shall never forget that dreadful face ; 
when I am ill it comes back to me, a recollection never to be 
banished ; dead yet never consenting to die, keeping alive, 
determined, resolute, unshaken. I can see the discoloured lips 
begin to move, the words formed on the inarticulate tongue, 
the eyes lightening out of that fixed stare. Half the house had 



836 The Last of the Mortimers. 

stolen into the room in this dreadful emergency without any- 
body observing them. But the dead woman observed them. 
And I, who was standing nearest, recoiled from her side, and 
the whole circle round her broke up and fell back in speechless 
horror, when a sound broke from that dreadful convulsed 
mouth. Old Carson, trembling but faithful, stood by her 
mistress. The poor creature said she understood that sound. 
It was to send everybody away, said the woman, whose limbs 
would scarcely support her, and whose very teeth chattered. 
They all went away, terrified but curious ; the boldest lingered 
behind the screen. Nobody remained within sight of those 
dreadful eyes but Aunt Milly and me. "* We two stood huddled 

in each other, not daring to say a wo\. ,, or even to exchange 

looks. Carson stood by her mistress's side. Carson knew all 

and everything, more than we knew. She held some cordial to 

the dead lips, she chafed the ghastly hand, she gazed with 

pitiful eyes and tears and entreaties at the terrible face. This 

A oiMuii was not deserted in her terrible necessity. The voice of 

v humble love reached somehow to the springs of existence, 

she came back slowly, in a solemn, fearful waking, out of 

i.'iiih into life. We stood looking on, with an awe and terror 
impossible to describe. It was a miracle slowly enacting before 
us. She was dead and was alive again. Ghastly and dreadful, 
like a woman out of the grave, M^sa Mortimer woke up to ail 
her uuiaery again. 



Hie Last of the Mortimers. 837 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THIS extraordinary revival was going on when the doctor 
rushed in. Carbon, who had been the principal person 
in all this scene, rushed at him and drew him back. She kept 
her hand on his arm, detained him, ran into voluble but 
trembling explanations. When he came forward the doctor 
gazed with a troubled face at the patient. A fainting fit 
brought on by great agitation ; n'obody could give any other 
account of it ; he felt her pulse, and "prescribed, and lingered, 
and looked at us all with mingled inquiry and suspicion. 
What had we been doing to her ? Why had she not been 
removed to bed ? A flash came from the awakening eyes. She 
made a motion of her hand, waving him away, then looked at 
me. and pointed vaguely but imperatively before her. When 
I did not obey immediately, she repeated the question, and at 
last spoke, with great evident pain, impatience, and imperious- 
ness : "Bring him?" were those the words? She was so 
imperative, so fiercely determined, that I hastened out to call 
Luigi. I found him at the door watching, very pale, and in 
profound distress. He came in after me without saying a 
word ; be went up to her without waiting for me, and knelt 
down at her feet, and took her hands in his own. " Mother ! 
Mother !" cried the young man. If it did not go to her heart, 
it went to the heart of every other person present ; and Aunt 
Milly, with a great cry of amazement and terror, repeated it 
after him, " Mother !" But who could think of any discovery 
then? The doctor stood listening, thunderstruck, behind the 
screen. I believe Sara Cresswell was in the room. But we 
who were round about this terrible figure could observe nothing 
else, except the dread inarticulate waves of passion that kept 
rising in her dead face. She thrust at her son with a wild 
motion of her bloodless hands bs if to put him away. She 
questioned him with her eyes in such frantic impatience, 
because he could not understand her, that the sight was more 



888 The Last of the Mortimers* 

thnn I could bear. I fell back from her trembling and like to 
faint. Then her will got the better of her weakness. She 
cried out aloud, with a voice that I am sure could have been heard 
all over the house ; it was not a living voice ; it rang out 
wild, and loud, and hard, in separate words, " Where is he? 
he ? dead ! let him come. 1 know he is dead, let him come ; 
Count !" and here the terrible voice rose and broke in a wild 
horror of babbling cries. God help us ! It was a dreadful 
scene. Aunt Milly stood supporting herself by a chair, unable 
to utter a word or even to move. 1 was afraid to stir, lest I 
should faint and fall on the floor. Carson only stood close by 
her mistress, supporting her head and gazing with wistful eyes 
at Luigi ; the young man stumbled up from his knees in an 
agony of pity and horror. He held up his hands in wild 
appeal, whether to her, or to us, or only to God, I cannot tell. 
" It is my father !" he cried. " She thinks it was my father ; 
and I am to blame !" Then he knelt down again humbly at 
her feet, and held up his clasped hands to her as if he were 
praying. I think he must have done it with an intention of 
drawing her attention by any means, and to prove to her that 
it was the truth he said. 

" Mother," he cried, looking up at tLose eyes which had 
returned, and were fixed upon him, " mother, I am your son ! 
My father is dead and undisturbed in his grave ; he has sent 
me to his wife. It is I, it is no other. He is with the saints, 
where there are no names. It is I who am Sermoneta ; mother ! 
Oh, heaven, does she not hear me ? will she not hear me ? It 
was I, only I. It was Luigi, Countess ! If I must not bear 
your name, I must bear my own. I say it was I, not my 
father, who can neither do evil nor endure it, me, either 
Luigi Sermoneta or Lewis Mortimer, as you will, your son !" 

It is impossible to describe the effect this had upon us all. 
Aunt Milly burst forth into weeping, convulsive, and not to. be 
restrained. Poor Carson's bosom heaved with silent sobs. 
Luigi, who had risen up as he said these last words, stood erect 
in a passionate self-assertion and defence before his miserable 
mother. Even she changed under this sudden blaze of revela- 
tion. She sat up in her chair, and grew more human ; her 
rigid head began to tremble, her dread- eyes to lose their horror. 
Now it was no longer that mad ghastly stare with which she 
regarded the young man before her. She looked at him, leaning 
forward, slowly recovering her powers. Some convulsive gasps 
or sobs in her throat alone interrupted this pause of terrible 
silence. She looked at him, from head to foot, with a slow, 



The Last of the Mortimers. 839 

dismal scrutiny. Only once before in her life held she met him 
face to face ; then she had been strong enough to send him 
away and disown him. Now, perforce, the mother looked at 
her son. The young man trembled under that steady gaze ; 
he held out his hands, and cried out " Mother !" as if all the 
eloquence in the world lay in that word. She continued 
perusing him all over with that slow examination. Gradually 
Blie returned to be herself again. Not changed, not subdued ! 
Out of that death and agony there came forth, not a repentant 
woman, but Sarah Mor timer, a creature who would not believe 
in everlasting truth and justice not though one should rise from 
the dead. 

** If you are Count Sermon eta," she said, with all her old 
expression, pausing between the words to get strength, but 
speaking in her usual voice, "how do you dare come to me and 
offer what your father refused? Impostor! you shall never, 
never, never sit in my father's place ! I disown you. I I 
have nothing to do with you. What! would you kill me 
again ?" 

Here I interposed ; I could not help myself. My very soul 
sickened at her. I came forward, without knowing what I waa 
doing. " Let her alone," I cried out, " don't say anything. 
She has died and come alive again, and is no better. Do you 
think you can move her? Oh, Aunt Milly, it is your part 
ow. Take him away out of her sight, leave her alone in her 
wretchedness. Can you bear to see her smiling there? smiling 
at us ! She is dead, and it is a devil that has come into her 
frame !" 

"Milly, hush, hush, you are mad," cried Sara Cresswell, 
behind me ; but Aunt Milly did not think I was mad. She 
came and put her arm into Luigi's, her tears driven away by 
horror and indignation. " As sure as God sees us all," cried 
Aunt Milly, " I will do you justice. Come away from 
her, as Milly, says. You make her wickeder and wickeder 
Oh, wickeder than she really is ! Oh, Sarah," she cried 
out, turning suddenly round, "is it true? is he your 
son?" 

Miss Mortimer said nothing ; the very colour had returned 
to her face. Her head trembled excessively, but she had forced 
some frightful caricature of a smile upon her lip. She held 
out her hand and pointed at them in a kind of derision. " You 
were always a fool," she said at last, with a gasp. Aunt Milly 
did not wait or hesitate any longer. She was possessed, like 
me, with a sudden impatience and intolerance of that inhuman 



340 The Last of the Mortimer*. 

hard-heartedness. She went away hastily out of the room, 
drawing Luigi with her. Miss Mortimer listened to the sound 
of their steps till it had quite died away. 'I'll en she turned 
round to Carson with some instinctive confession of weakness 
at last. Their eyes met ; but even Carson could no longer 
receive this dreadful confidence. She stumbled back from her 
mistress with a cry. u L cannot, I cannot !" cried Carson, 
" anything but this. I held him in my arms a baby, and I'll 
never disown him, if I was to die." As her mistress turned 
round upon her, Carson retreated back till she came to the wall, 
and stood there, fixed and despeiate, holding up her hands as if 
to keep off those pursuing eyes. '* Whatever you please !" cried 
Carson, " but not to disown him as I dressed the first day he 
was in this world. No ! not for no payment nor coaxing ! 
I've served you faithful all times and seasons, but I'll not do 
no more, not if I was to die !" 

Miss Mortimer sat gazing a t her rebellious maid. What 
no other appeal could do this did. She sank into the frail old 
woman she was, as she gazed at Carson, who had forsaken her. 
She broke forth into feeble, passionate tears. Sh^ could bear to 
send her son away from her, but she could not bear to lose her 
faithful companion and attendant of forty years. " Carson!" 
cried the broken voice, in a tone of absolute despair. Then 
Miss Mortimer rose up. 1 ran forward to her in terror, and so 
did Sara, but she waved us both away, steadied herself, cast a 
long look upon the woman who stood trembling against the 
wall, and slowly turned to make her way out of the room. She 
walked like some one upon whom sudden blindness had fallen, 
wavering, stopping to steady herself, putting out her hand to 
pilot the way, groping through the piercing daylight that 
penetrated every corner of the room. We followed her, 
trembling and terrified. As she went slowly through the long 
room, heavy sobs came from her poor breast, sobs of which she 
was not conscious ; her muslin scarf had been torn and crushed 
in her dreadful faint, if it was a faint, and hung all dishevelled 
from her shoulders. One hand hung loosely down by her side, 
the other she groped with as she made her way. Now and then 
she moaned aloud. Oh, miserable forsaken creature! there 
had been still one link of life to hold her on to the living 
world. 

We went after her, silent, hushing our very steps lest she 
should turn upon us, and watching with a perfect awe of 
wonder how she steered herself through the room ; she stumbled 
on the stair, but still rejected any assistance. All the way up 



The Last of the Mortimers. 341 

she went forlorn, accepting no support. When we reached her 
door, I rushed forward not to let her shut me out. " Let me 
be your maid to-night," I cried out, laying my hand upon hers. 
Her hand made me shiver ; it was cold, as if it had actually" 
been dead. She pushed me back, not looking at me, and shut 
the door. What she did, or how she sustained herself in that 
vacant room, we could see no longer. Sara and J, arrested at 
the door, turned and looked into each other's faces. Sara broke 
out into the passionate tears of excitement and agitation which 
could be restrained no longer. " She will kill herself !" cried 
Sara. *' Oh, godmamma, let me in, let we in. I will never 
cross you or trouble you. I will wait upon you night and day, 
godmamma !" No answer came. We tried to open the door, 
but she had fastened it. We could do nothing but leave her 
alone in this dreadful solitude. For a little while a rustling 
sound of motion was in the room, and still those pathetic, un- 
conscious moans breaking at intervals into the silence. But 
after a while all became still. She had not fainted or fallen, 
for we should have heard her. She made no answer to our 
e ' reaties dead silence reigned in the room where that living 
spirit, with all its dread forces and passions, palpitated within its 
veil of worn-out flesh. I could imagine her taking possession of 
that dreadful solitude, losing at a blow far more than reputation 
or fair-fame, all that made her life tolerable to her, entering 
upon a new, unthought of, murderous purgatory. We could 
not make up our minds to leave that closed door. Sara was 
still crying, and almost hysterical with her long strain of excite- 
ment. I made her go into the neighbouring room, where Lizzie 
was with my boy, while I ran downstairs for Aunt Milly. Oh, 
what a contrast it was ! I snatched little Harry into my arms 
to kiss him, and went away again, with a pity, I cannot 
describe, past the door where that dreadful forsaken woman .ay 
alone in the silence. I eould not bear it. God alone knew how 
she had sinned ; but to leave her thus deserted in her misery 
was not in the heart of man. 

I ran downstairs very hastily without waiting to think at 
the foot of the stairs Carson stood crying. She gasped out an 
inquiry at me which was not audible at first. u Is she alone? 
alone? alone? Will nobody stay with her?" cried Carson. 
" Oh, ma'am, my missis will never let me near her again ! 1 
know it's no use trying ; but, for the love of mercy, let some- 
body get into the room ! There's poisons and all sorts there. 
God forgive me! couldn't I have held my tongue?" cried the 
poor woman, in an agony of terror. I was angry with her in 



842 The Last of the Mortimers. 

the impatience of my thoughts. I did not consider for how 
many long years Carson had endured all. 

u But why can't you go up now? try if she will let 
you in ; she is fond of you, Carson," said I. " Oh, go, go, and 
try." 

" She'll never look at me more," said Carson with mournful 
certainty ; " but I'll go, I'll try. If it was at the end of the 
world, I'd go ; but she'll never see me again." The poor woman 
went upstairs saying this over to herself, and dreadful as it was 
to think so, I was certain she was right. 

And I went on to the library where Aunt Milly was. 
She had forgotten her sister. She was listening, with a glowing 
face, with tears, and outcries, and lamentations, to the tale 
Luigi told her. Some papers were lying before them, and a 
miniature, which caught my eye even at such a moment a 
picture of a lovely fair woman, imperious and splendid. I 
cannot say that it bore any resemblance to the wretched, 
solitary creature upstairs ; but I knew it was Sarah Mortimer, 
Sarah Mortimer, unkind, untrue, a woman making no account 
of love or tenderness ; but not the Sarah Mortimer who had 
delivered herself to the devil, and turned her back upon 
nature. I pointed at it unconsciously in my excitement. It 
was easier 1 \,n naming ner name. 

u Do you. &now she is alone upstairs, by herself ?" cried I, 
" perhaps dying, and nobody with her ! Aunt Milly, you are 
her sister. She will neither let us in, nor answer us. You 
have a right to go to her. There are all kinds of dangerous 
things in the room she might die !" 

" But Carson Carson is there," cried Aunt Milly, grasping 
my hand, to bring me to myself. " My dear, Carson is a better 
companion than either you or me." 

*' But Carson has gone," I cried, " Carson will never be 
with her any more. Hush ! was that a sound upstairs? Come, 
I entreat you ! She is all alone, quite alone, not a creature 
with her. It is heartrending to think what she is doing there 
come ! come!" 

Aunt Milly stood perplexed. She could not comprehend 
Carson's absence, and I might have had a long account of 
the whole matter to go through had not Luigi come to my 
assistance. He took her hand hurriedly, and pressed it in his 
own. 

u My aunt, I can wait," said Luigi, " and I will till there is 
time for me ; but my mother, my mother is " 

Aunt Milly started, and understood all n a moment. Hia 



TJie Last of the Mortimers. 848 

mother, the unfortunate wretched woman who had disowned 
and rejected him no need for over-much explaining, or 
setting-forth of all the darker shades of the picture to show her 
wretchedness. Nature and she had parted company, and there 
was nothing too dreadful that might not befall her in the fatal 
silence of that secluded room. 



The Last of the Mortimer*. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

ALL the remainder of that dreadful afternoon we spent in 
vain endeavours to get admission. No answer came to 
us from those closed doors silence, dead and unbroken, was 
within thos^ concealing walls, which it seemed wonderful to 
me did not beat and throb with the torturing life within them. 
r l he whole house was disturbed, as was to be supposed. While 
we stood in an anxious, troubled group round Miss Mortimer's 
door, Carson, with her melancholy and ashamed face, stood 
anxious and terrified at a little distance the maids below came 
to take furtive peeps upon the stairs and Ellis himself stood 
listening in the hall, catching at every sound. The whole 
house was conscious of some dreadful crisis, which had occurred, 
or was occurring ; and even in the frightful anxiety which 
possessed us, Aunt IVliliv oeeran to rcei cuat extraordinary 
infraction of all the decorums or sucn a nouse. She whispered 
to Sara to leave us, and go downstairs to restore the equilibrium 
of the household a little, and sent Carson into Lizzie's room, 
where the poor creature sank, overpowered and almost fainting, 
upon the bed. 'I hen Aunt Milly went away to her own apart- 
ment, and came back with a huge bunch of keys. With these 
in her hand she motioned me to follow her round about into 
the little corridor to which Miss Mortimer's dressing-room 
opened. " Milly, stand by me," she cried, with a sob. " I'd 
rather face so many lions than go in upon her against her will 
but it must be I cannot help myself. After what we saw 
to-day, I should be guilty, I should be a criminal don't you 
think so, Milly? if I left her alone to-night." 

It was getting dusk, and the light was pale and ghastly in 
that little corridor which was close upon the backstairs, and 
very bare and chill. The door opened without the assistance 
of the keys. We went into the little luxurious room where the 
fire burned brightly, warm though the weather was, and which 
bore all the marks of being lived in and cherished. An easy- 
chair and footstool were placed at the side of the fire, and close 
by stood a little table with a raised ornamental rim, like a tray, 
in which some books and some of Miss Mortimer's materials 



The Last of tlie Mortimirs. 845 

for work were placed. At the other end of the room was a 
window, where stood a plain rush-bottomed chair and a larg 
round basket of work ; there was Carson's place ; and the union 
of the two in this their joint retirement and dwelling-place 
the junction of the lady's luxuries and the servant's labours in 
this habitation common to them both struck me with a 
pathetic force, now that this old, long, immemorial connection 
was brought to a close so hurriedly. Aunt Milly did not linger 
in this room ; she went straight to the door leading into the 
bedchamber which was fastened. " Sarah," she called softly, 
" Sarah !" there was no answer. We listened, and the silence 
round was dreadful ; the silence and the gathering twilight, 
and the terrible mystery of life or death that lay in that closed- 
up room. Then she tried the keys with her trembling hands. 
Still not a word from the solitary within, not even of remon- 
strance or indignation. After what seemed to us a dreadful 
tedious interval, in which the night appeared visibly to darken 
round us, the lock at length yielded. The key that had been 
in it fell, with a dull, heavy sound, inside, making our hearts 
beat. Then Aunt Milly opened the door. I shall never forget 
the sensation with which 1 entered that dark room. What we 
were to find there, a ghastly corpse or a miserable living crea- 
ture, nobody could tell ; treading on the soft carpets that made 
our footsteps noiseless, brushing past those soft-drawn curtains 
which shut out every draught, coining into this atmosphere of 
care, and comfort, and luxury, the contrast was almost too 
dreadful to bear. I remember trying to listen for her breath, 
but could not for the terrified beating of my own heart. The 
darkness made everything more dreadful still, for the blinds 
were drawn down, and the little light there was fell so faintly 
through them that we could scarcely find our way through the 
room. Aunt Milly was before me ; she made a terrified plunge 
forward, and gave a cry as we came past the head of the bed, 
which was towards the dressing-room door. Something lay in 
a heap on the fioor by the side of the bed. She threw herself 
down on the floor beside that heap. I don't think she was 
conscious, even when she touched it, what it was ; but as 1 
rushed to help her, as 1 thought, I was suddenly arrested by a 
gleam of eyes from the bed. "I*am not dead," said Miss 
Mortimer. I could not help nor command myself. Some 
scream or shriek came from me in the extremity of my awe and 
terror. I could hear it answered by a sudden stir and commo- 
tion outside the door. u They're killing my mistreSiS," was 
Lizzie's voice ; and with the wildest alarm lest some violent 



846 The Last of the Mortimers. 

attack on the door should follow, I rushed to it, opened it, and 
asked for lights. 

Outside were half the household grouped at various distances. 
No precautions could stifle that eager curiosity which knew by 
instinct that some wonderful mystery was here. They all 
dispersed when they saw me, frightened and ashamed of them- 
selves. Only Lizzie kept her ground. She seized hold of my 
sleeve and detained me. " You're no to stay there !" cried 
Lizzie. " Oh, no ?/ow, no you ! You'll gang and let them kill 
you, and the bairn'll perish, and the Captain never come hame ! 
Let me in ! I'll get the drinks and keep up the fire, and never 
close an e'e ; but it's no you that's to watch, and you the light 
o' folks e'en. It's no to be you ! If I was to gang to my bed 
and sleep, what would the Captain say to me?" cried poor 
Lizzie, with a trembling burst of excitement and anxiety, 
standing close up by me, holding my sleeve, pressing to enter 
the room. Somehow it comforted me, though it was a piece of 
folly. I told her again to get the lights, and went back into 
the dark, solemn room. These sounds of the outside world 
had not entered there. Miss Mortimer lay on the bed with her 
eyes wide-awake and gleaming, gathering into them all the 
little light in the room. Aunt Milly stood beside her, asking 
how she was ; herself scarcely recovered from the shock that 
had been given her by that heap of clothes upon the floor, 
trembling, not knowing very well what she said, her great 
yearning anxiety and curiosity to get at her sister's heart, 
overflowing in uneasy questions. Did she feel ill? Would 
she have anything? How was she? Miss Mortimer took no 
notice of her questions. She repeated once " I am not dead," 
with a strange spitefulness and defiance, and for the rest lay 
silent, looking at me as I moved about the room, a dark unde- 
cipherable figure, and at poor Aunt Milly standing beside me. 
She took no other notice. It seemed to please her to lie there 
silent, defying all our curiosity. But she did not complain or 
find fault with our presence. I believe in my heart she was 
glad to have her dreadful solitude thus broken, and that it was 
a comfort to her desolation to see living creatures moving in 
the darkness. I cannot help thinking so ; but after that one 
expression, twice repeated, not all the anxious questions of her 
sister could bring a syllable to her lips. 

When the candles came she closed her eyes ; then, after a 
little interval, made a wrench at the curtains and gave an 
impatient sigh. The sigh was for Carson, who doubtless knew 
exactly what she liked and what she did not like. The fire 



The Last of the Mortimers. 847 

was kid already in the grate, and I lighted it, and began to 
put away those things which lay on the floor. Wherever 1 
moved, when it was within her sight, she followed me with her 
eyes from within the crimson shadow of the curtain. She was 
perfectly composed and self-possessed. She was even well as it 
appeared. The ghastly colour had disappeared from her face. 
She lay there self-absorbed, as she sat over her knitting. All 
the dread incidents of this day had passed over, and left Sarah 
Mortimer unchanged. Such a woman could deny, defy, live 

through any thing. I watched her with indescribable awe and . 

Well ! I had pitied her while she was alone ; but do you sup- 
pose I could love such a woman, lying there unmoved and 
unrepentant, in her dread self -occupation ? It was not possible 
I hated her, loathed her, turned away with sickening and 
disgust from her dreadful looks. It was hard, even, to pity 
her now. 



848 TJis Last of the Mortimers* 



CHAPTEB XVIII. 

I HAD with difficulty overcome Aunt Milly. I had repre- 
sented to her how much better I was able to bear it than 
she, and Aunt Milly herself had sent off Sara Cresswell to bed. 
It was late at night, and all the house was still.. We were both 
together in the dressing-room. Nothing would persuade dear 
Aunt Milly to leave me alone to this vigil. She wrapped her- 
self in a shawl and lay down upon the sofa. " I am at hand 
the moment I am wanted," she said. 1 had kissed baby, and 
said my prayers beside him. I was not frightened or nervous 
now. I went in, wrapped in my dressing-gown, to loot at my 
patient. She stretched out her hand, and then when she saw 
me, drew it back again with a fretful groan, and turned her face 
to the wall. It was Carson, still Carson, whom she missed at 
every turn. But she did not answer me when 1 asked it she 
wanted anything, she only groaned again with a dismal impo- 
tence and impatience. I sat and watched her at a distance 
while she lay in that broad wakefulncss, her eyes wandering to 
and fro, her mind evident] y wandering, too, into never-ending 
thought. It was to me a spirit, somehow, chained and fettered 
to a body it could not throw off, which lay in irksome confine- 
ment on that bed, a spirit ever active, sleepless, evil. Why 
was I sitting up with her ? she was not even ill. Was it that 
she had died that day, and some wicked spirit had taken 
possession of the exhausted frame ? 1 declare that this idea 
returned to ma in spite of myself. 1 could not escape from it ; 
as tli e night crept on strange fears came over me. Her eyes 
fascinated mine. 1 could not withdraw my gaze trom those 
two gleams cf strange light within the crimson curtains, 
moving about from minute to minute with their restless obser- 
vation. What was she thinking of? Could she tell that, 
under this roof, the roof of his fathers, her injured son was 
sleeping? Was she thinking ol her youth, her life, the past, 
with all its dread, pertinacious, stubborn cruelty ? 1 did not 
know then how the extraordinary story told by Luigi could be 
harmonised into possibility. I could not think of any story ; i 






TJie Last of the Mortimers. 849 

could think of nothing but that solitary woman pursuing those 
sleepless thoughts, which nobody shared, through all the dread 
recesses of her conscience, through all the scenes, visible to her 
only, of her hidden mysterious life. 

It must have been about midnight when some one knocked 
softly at the door. It made me start painfully with a terror I 
could not subdue. I rose to see who it was, trembling at the 
summons. It was Carson, who called me anxiously into the 
drawing room. She did not say anything, but drew me to a 
little medicine -chest, which she opened, and from which, all 
silently, with the speed of long custom, she took a little bottle, 
and dropped some of its contents into a glass of water. " You 
must put this by her bedside," whispered Carson, "and here 
are all her medicines ; but don't drop them yourself, for the 
love of pity ! you've no experience. You might give her her 
death. When my missis wants her draughts, will you call 
me ?" While I promised to do so, Aunt Milly woke up from 
a short sleep. " Has anything happened, Milly ?" she cried, 
starting up suddenly. Nothing had happened but that her 
start had thrown down a footstool, and made a noise which 
sounded dreadful in the calm of the night. The three of us 
dispersed hastily upon that sound. Carson disappeared out of 
the room Aunt Milly sat up trembling on the sofa. I went 
back to the patient. The noise had roused her. She had 
struggled up in bed, and was trying to look round to the 
dressing-room door. 

" Who is it ?" she crieol, when I went in, her eyes fixing on 
me with something of the dreadful expression they had in the 
drawing-room, as if she had lost control over them, and the 
orbs turned wildly out and fluttered to the light. " If it's him, 
let him come here." 

" It was only Carson," I said. 

u Carson? let her not come near me. 1 will do her an 
injury," cried Miss Mortimer with wild exasperation. Then 
she suffered herself to fall back on her pillows. " They're all 
in a plot," she went on, " all in a plot, the very woman I 
trusted ; 1 shall never trust anybody any more. But here's 
the wonderful thing ; she is just as great a coward as she is a 
fool ; and to think she should hate me so much as to be able to 
go up and down these passages in the middle of the night with 
a dead man 1 Hark, there they are !" 

I fell back from the bedside at the words, unable to refrain 
from a shudder of horror. 

" You're afraid," said Miss Mortimer, looking at me with a 



850 27w? Last of the Mortimers.. 

kind of contemptuous curiosity. " Yet you saw him come in 
yesterday and you did not faint. I remember seeing you stare 
and stare. Ah ! it's strange to see a dead man !" 

" I saw nobody but Luigi ; nobody but your son," cried I, in 
dismay. 

When it was said I drew back in alarm, lest the words should 
rouse her into passion. But they did not. She was beyond 
that. 

" I could not see him, though," she continued, going on in 
her dreadful monologue ; "it was only a kind of feeling he 
was there, and the scent of the syringas in the garden. You 
know it's very overpowering ; those they call the Virgin's 
Breast. It was that made me faint." 

Here she fixed her eyes on me again, as if she imagined that 
she had been setting tip a plausible plea and dared me to 
contradict it. 

u I wonder if he's as handsome now he's dead," she went on 
in a very low tone ; u he was never as handsome for a man as I 
was for a woman. I'll never, never speak to Carson again ; 
but you might ask her if he's kept his looks. Ah ! I thought 
I saw some one behind the curtains there ; but he'll never 
appear to me. For he swore, you know, he swore, he was never 
to give me any trouble, and he kept his word till he died." 

" Oh, Miss Mortimer," I cried, coming forward to the bed 
with the glass in my hand. She held out hers eagerly, and 
interrupted me. 

" Miss Mortimer! to be sure I am Miss Mortimer; I have 
always been Miss Mortimer, you know that ; then what's all 
this made up story about a son ? For, you know," she said, 
sinking her voice again into a whisper, and holding the glass 
in her hand, " to be called countess would have been a tempta- 
tion to many a woman. But I never would have it, not for a 
day, never after he refused to take our name. That's what a 
man calls love, you know. You shall take his name if it's a 
beggar's, and he will not take yours if it brings a kingdom. 
But I was not the sort of woman to be a beggarly Italian 
countess. And I've beaten him in his grave," she cried out in 
ghastly triumph, ' ' in his grave I've got the victory over him ! 
Here's the child on his knees to me to call him Lewis Mortimer. 
Ah ! you're Richard Mortimer's daughter. I might have 
married Richard 1C I had known how things were going to turn 
out. We'll set it all right to-inorrow. Yes ; stand by me, and 
we'll set it all right. There's no dead man shall conquer ine. 
Do you bear ? There be is pacing about the passage as he 



The Last of the Mortimers, 851 

need to do when I refused to see him. But he dared not come 
in ; no, not if I had been a thousand times his wife." 

And I cannot help it if people may think me a fool ; there 
were steps outside in the passage. If it was a living creature 
I cannot tell ; but, as certain as I live, there were footsteps 
going up and down, up and down, with a heavy, melancholy 
tread. She looked at me full in the face as we heard them 
going on. She began to tremble so that the bed shook under 
her ; her eyes grew wilder, her colonr more ghastly. In spite 
of all she said, she was stricken to her very heart with fear. 

And as for me, I did not feel I had courage to open the door. 
I called out, " Whoever you are, go away, I beseech, go 
away ! She cannot rest while you are here." The steps 
stopped in a moment , then, after a pause, went on and went 
away, growing fainter in the distance. Thank heaven it must 
have been somebody living ! perhaps Carson, perhaps her son. 

When I came back to the bedside she had dropped asleep 
actually, in the midst of her terror, had fallen into an unnatural 
slumber. It was an opiate that Carson had given her. The 
little medicine-chest was full of different kinds of opiates. 
Scarcely one of them that was not marked poison. I looked 
into the dressing-room for a minute to comfort poor Aunt 
Milly, who had heard all her sister said, and was in a dreadful 
state of agitation. She kissed me and blessed me, and leaned 
her dear kind head upon my shoulder for the moment I dared 
stay beside her. " She would never have said so much to me," 
said Aunt Milly, and wrapped her own shawl round me, and 
tried to make me take some wine which she had brought 
upstairs. When I would not take that, lest it should make me 
sleepy, Aunt Milly got up from the sofa to make some tea for 
me. Everybody knows such nights everybody knows how 
some one always tries to comfort the watcher with such atten- 
tions tender, useless, heartbreaking attempts at outside 
consolation. I went back to the sick room with a pang both 
of relief and anguish. If it had been my husband or my baby 
that I was watching! Thank God it was not so! but the 
picture came before me with a terrible force just then, when I 
did not know where Harry was, nor how he might be lying, 
nor who might be watching over him. I tried to shut out my 
own thoughts from this room ; but who could ever do that? 
I fancied I could see white soldiers' huts rising in the darkness, 
and groans of wounded men. It was a relief to me when my 
patient groaned and turned in her bed. But she did not wako ; 
she lay all night long in what seemed more like a stupor than a 



852 The Last of the Mortimers. 

sleep, interrupted by groans and stifled outcries, and long sighs 
that broke one's heart. !No wonder we had heard of her bad 
nights. 

In the morning, when she woke at last, Miss Mortimer 
turned round upon me with a half-stupified, wondering stare. 
Then she recollected herself. She did not speak, but I saw all 
the thoughts of the previous night come slowly back to her 
face. She watched me arranging the room in the cheerful 
morning light ; she even permitted me to raise her among her 
pillows, and swallowed, though with an effort, the tea I brought 
her. She bore no malice against me for anything I had said. 
She seemed even pleased to have me beside her ; but it was not 
for my sake ; I believe she thought I was doing it for an inter- 
ested reason. And she she thought she had found an 
accomplice in me. 

This morning she spoke with, difficulty, and her looks were 
changed. She looked ill, very ill. The morning light showed 
a strange widening and breadth about her eyes, a solemn fixed 
expression in her face, which, though I had never watched it 
coming before, went to my heart with an instinctive chill and 
recognition. She could not bear me to be out of her sight for 
a moment. When I went to the dressing-room door to speak a 
tvord to Aunt Milly she called me back with an impatient, 
Jtifled cry. At last she beckoned me close to her bedside. 

" I want 1 want send let him, come," she stammered 

Alt. 

"Luigi?" I said. 

She clasped her hands together in an access of passion. " To 
make my will," she cried, with a kind of scream ; " now 
now this moment." When she had uttered the words she fell 
back panting, a flush of weakness and fever coming to her face. 
I went and told Aunt Milly, who, all troubled as she was, sent 
off a messenger immediately for Mr. Cresswell. " I will send 
for the doctor, too, and and the clergyman ; but what can 
Dr. Roberts do for her ? " cried poor Aunt Milly, wringing her 
hands. The clergyman ! What, indeed, could that sleek, 
comfortable man do. at this deathbed of guilt and passion ? 
Ah. me 1 A poor priest might have done something, perhaps, 
or a poor preacher accustomed to matters of life and death. 

The day glided on while we waited. She would not let me 
leave her; but she did not say anything, except disjointed 
murmurs, and strange broken conversations with herself. It 
was not the present time that her mind was busy with. Lis- 
tening in the silence of that room I became aware of a passionate 



Thj Last f the Mortimers. 853 

prime of life, an Italian summer, a bitter mortification, disap- 
pointment, revenge revenge which had come back upon the 
remorseless inflictor, and made her life the desert it had been. 
It all opened up before me in break^ and glimpses ; afterwards, 
when I knew the story, it was with the force of an actual 
representation that I remembered this broken, unconscious 
autobiography. She was not raving ; she was only calling up 
and setting in order the incidents of that crisis of her life, 1 
cannot follow her through it now ; but I remember that the 
awe, and interest, and excitement kept me from feeling any 
weariness. 

I could not turn away for any sort of refreshment ; I sat 
fascinated before tnat revelation of the secret of her days. 
She seemed to have foresworn husband and child, life itself 
and all that made it bearable, in dreadful vengeance for some 
broken promise or unfulfilled vow. Her father came flitting 
across the troubled picture ; the count, and some dreadful 
controversy about a name, all intermixed with recollections of 
certain rooms and their furniture ; of a garden and a thicket of 
syringas. What that point of deception or disappointment 
was, on which the whole story turned, I could not tell ; but for 
this she had left the stream of life when life was at its fullest 
promise ; for this she had settled down in a frightful, stubborn 
determination, behind that screen in the drawing-room of the 
Park. All her after existence, huddled up into one long 
monotonous day, had not made these scenes less fresh in her 
memory. This was now sne naa revenged herself on the 
Count, who was dead- on ner son, wnom she disowned 
cast away from her ; 'ah ! above all, a thousand times 
bitterly, on herself.'*" 

It was afternoon wKki Mr. Cresswell came. He was brought 
up to the room immediately, without a word of explanation, 
and accordingly knew nothing of all the dreadful history of the 
last twenty -four hours. He had not even a hint that anything 
was changed, except the health of Miss Mortimer. He came 
and expressed his. concern in the common-place tone of an 
unexcited stranger ; he expressed his surprise to see me with 
her. In his heart he set it down that this will was of my 
suggesting. I am certain he did ; and smiled to find me the 
nurse of the sick woman. But Miss Mortimer (that I should 
still go on calling her by that name after all I had heard !) left 
him very little time. She recovered herself wonderfully at 
sight of him ; her very utterance became easier in the anxiety 
she showed to express herself plainly. She was impatient of 



The Last of tlie 

his inquiries and condolences. She moved her hands uneasily 
about the bed, and for a moment her eyes fluttered as they had 
done the day before ; but as soon as he had prepared his 
papers, and taken his pen in hand, she was composed again. 
My heart beat so loud with anxiety to hear what she said, 
that I could scarcely breatUe. Was she now at last to set right 
the injustice of a life ? 

"Write," she cried, with a gasp for breath, "that I leave 
everything mind, it is everything, Bob Cresswell, no par- 
titions. My sister Milly, though she is a fool, is as fond of 
her, ah ! as as I am all the Park and the lands belonging to 
it, to Millicent Mortimer. There ! the young soldier's wife ; 
and to eh ! who is it ? Who speaks to me ?" 

I grasped her hand hard in my sudden passion. It was cold, 
cold, a dead hand, and horrified me with its touch. " Stop," 
I cried, "oh, stop, Mr. Cresswell ; she cannot mean such 
horrible injustice ! Miss Mortimer 1 Countess ! whatever you 
are ! will you dare to die and never repent ? Do you think I 
will let you bring a curse on my innocent baby ? Stop ! Stop I 
I forbid it. for her coul's sake 1" 

Mr. Cresswell pushed back his chair and stared in amazement 
too great for words. She looked at me with a strange air of 
cunning and superior wisdom, and tnen at him. 

" She thinks," said the dying woman, in a kind of whisper, 
addressing Mr. Cresswell, " to draw me into some foolish talk, 
and bring it up against the will. Fool! they are all fools; 
go on." 

" What does it mean ?" he said looking at me. 

"It means that she ought to do justice," I cried; "that 
it is all she can do now ; that she is going to die without 
repenting, without making amends. If you write it, it will 
be a sin." 

" Bob Cresswell, go on ; it is I who am the person to be 
attended to," said Miss Mortimer. " This creature, do you 
hear, is a fool. I know what I mean." 

" There is something here I don't understand ; my dear lady 
you're not so very ill, suppose we put it off," said the lawyer 
in great perplexity ; " and there's Miss Milly, you know, she 
has her share in the Park. 

" Attend to me/" cried Miss Mortimer, wildly. " You will 
kill me; am I to be thwarted now, as well as all my life? Oh, 
good heavens! in my own house, and in bed, and perhaps 
going to die and I am not to have my will, my will ! I shall 
have my will, if I should write it myself 1" 



The Last of the Mortimers. 855 

(She stretched out her eager hand towards the writing things, 
stretching out of bed, and by some chance touched Mr. Cress- 
well. When he felt that deathly touch he grew very grave, 
and started with a shudder. He took up his pen immedi- 
ately. 

" I will do what you please," he said. He could not resist 
that cry of death. 



856 The Last of ike Mortimer*. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

IRAN downstairs in desperation. I could not be content 
to let that dreadful mockery go on. It was vain, for 
we never, never, would have taken another man's rights; 
but for herself, the miserable, guilty woman, to hinder her by 
any means, to save her from putting that seal upon all her 
cruelty and falsehood. I saw nobody as I flew down the stairs, 
though afterwards I was conscious that Lizzie had been 
standing there with my beautiful innocent boy. Do you think 
I would consent for a kingdom to bring the curse of wrongful 
wealth upon little Harry ? Not if starvation and misery had 
been the only other choice ! 

I burst into the library, where I knew Aunt Milly was. 
Pale with watching and anxiety, she was sitting propped up in 
an easy-chair, with Sara Cresswell and Luigi beside her. I 
believe they had been telling her their story, and she, straining 
her ear for every sound, had been trying to listen to them. 
When I came in she started up from her chair and came to 
meet me, unconsciously putting them away. " What is it, 
Milly ?" she cried, putting out her arms to me. I dared not 
permit myself to rest or even lean upon her. I seized her hand 
and drew her to the door. 

" Come up, and interfere," I cried ; " she is making her 
dreadful will. She is leaving everything to me. Come, before 
she has put the seal to all this misery. Aunt Milly, can you 
stand aside and let this be done ?" 

" My dear," said Aunt Milly, with a burst of tears, kissing 
me and looking in my face, u you know I love you, Milly ; you 
know you are almost dearer to me now than any creature on 
earth." 

I could not thank her; I had no time. I did not feel 
grateful or pleased, but only impatient. " Come ; come !" I 
repeated almost with violence. I could not understand how she 
could delay. 

4 Let her do what she will," cried Aunt Milly. " If I go 



The Last of the Mortimers. 857 

and argue with her, it will only make her worse. Oh, child ! 
we can't cross her now ; don't you see we can't cross her now ? 
But 1 took a vow, as sure as God saw us, I would do justice," 
said Aunt Milly, solemnly through her tears. " She can but 
do what she can. We are co-heiresses ! she has no power but 
over her own share." 

" Share !" 1 cried, " is it shares we have to think of ? She is 
dying, and she does not repent." 

I could not wait there any longer ; they all followed upstairs, 
Aunt Milly holding my hand. They all came into the dressing- 
room, where we could faintly hear Miss Mortimer's voice, and 
where Carson stood trembling at the door. At this moment 
there was no order or rule in the stricken house. Then Aunt 
Milly went with me into the sick room. Mr. Cresswell was 
writing, and Miss Mortimer had stopped speaking. She turned 
her eyes triumphantly upon us both. 

" 1 have carried out your wishes, Milly. I have left every- 
thing to your favourite," she said, with pauses to got her 
brent h. " You may sign it after me, and then it will be 
comiilete." 

II Sarah, that boy, that boy !" cried Aunt Milly. " Oh, put 
out your hand to him iust once think, before it is finished, 
what claims he has. vaive mm something. Sarah ! Sarah ! you 
would not take me into your confidence ; but I'll go down on 
my knees to you if you'll do justice to that boy !" 

u I am going to die," said Miss Mortimer, after a pause. 
" I can see it in all your faces. 1 can't be much worse oil than 
I've been here. But look you, Milly, if you come and drive 
me into passion ; if that wretched boy so much as comes near 
me, I'll die directly, and you'll be my murderers. II is father 
made the choice and I will not change, no, not if he came 
again, as he did yesterday, with the dead man. Cresswcll, 
I'm growing a little faint. Is it ready to sign?" 

He brought it and laid it before her on the bed; and she 
called to me to raise her up. I was desperate. I would rath r 
have been content to be her murderer, as she said, than to let 
her do that sin. 

11 You are not Sarah Mortimer," said I, as with great 
difficulty she wrote her signature. u It is a false name, and 
you know it is. Write your own name, Countess Sennoneta, 
and let everybody know that you have disinherited your 
son." 

She stared rnund at me, setting her teeth, then returned to 
the paper, and with a desperate resolution completed it. I 



358 The Last of the Mortimers. 

stood perfectly aghast as I saw that dead hand trace those 
words, which to me cut her off for ever from every hope : 
"By marriage, Sermoneta." God help us! was there now no 
place of repentance ? 

" And now," she said, falling back on her pillows, " send me 
Carson I want no more no more from anybody ; send me 
my maid. I'll forgive her though she deserted me ; nobody," 
sobbed the poor voice, all at once breaking and growing 
feeble, " nobody knows me but Carson. I want my maid ; 
Carson, here!" 

She had scarcely spoken, when Carson was by her side 
kneeling down at the bed, kissing the cold hand held out to her 
with such tears and eager affection as I never saw a servant 
show to a mistress, it was a reconciliation of love. The tears 
came into Miss Mortimer's eyes. She gave her hand to her 
maid's caresses with actual affection. It was the strangest 
conclusion to that dismal scene. One after another we three 
went out of the room confounded. Aunt Milly weeping tears, 
the bitterness of which I could not enter into. Mr. Cresswell, 
with a face of utter wonder, and myself, too much shocked and 
shaken to be able for anything. I could not go downstairs 
vvith them. I took refuge in the room that had been fitted up 
as a nursery for my baby. I got my boy into my arms and 
cried over him. It was too much ; when he put his innocent 
arms round my neck and laid his cheek to mine to console me, 
my happiness struck me as with a pang. Oh, the unutterable 
things she had lost, that poor, miserable woman ! I got up 
again to rush back to her with my baby, and see if that would 
not touch her heart, but stumbled in weariness and weakness, 
and fell on my knees on the floor. That was all that was to be 
done. I acknowledged it with that dreadful sense of impotence 
that one has, when hearts and souls have to be dealt with. On 
my knees I might help that desolate, lonely creature, nowhere 
else, in no other manner. And even this not now. I was worn 
out with excitement and distress. I was ashamed to think, or 
permit myself to say, that one night's watching had done it. 
1 had to put little Harry back into Lizzie's hands and lie down 
in the waning daylight. My head throbbed, and my heart 
beat, so that I could not even recollect my thoughts. And all 
that had happened seemed to have no impression but one upon 
me. I never thought of that group downstairs going over the 
wonderful story which nobody had so much as guessed at. I 
thought only of that hopeless woman, in her shut-up room, slowly 
floating out of existence, dying hour by hour, and minute by 



The Last of the Mortimers. 359 

minute, unchanged and unsubdued. What was death that it 
should change her, whom love and pity, and the long-suffering 
of God had not changed ? But I thought to myself I could 
never more blame those who preach out of season as well as in 
season, and cannot be silent. There were moments in which I 
could not endure myself in which I felt as if I must go and 
make another appeal to her even at the risk of thrusting 
myself into the room, and disturbing the quiet of her last 
houra. 



360 The Last of the Mortimer** 



CHAPTER XX. 

BY MISS MILLY MORTIMER. 

IT is I who must finish what there is to tell. My dear Milly 
was not in a condition, either of mind or body, to go on 
with the story that had moved her so much ; and since then, 
poor dear child, you may suppose how little heart she had to 
enter upon other things. We heard of the battle that had just 
been fought not long after, and knew that Harry was sure to 
have been in it, having got letters from him of his safe arrival 
just the day after my sister's death. And then we had to wait 
for the lists. I can tell nobody how we lived through these 
days. She used to go down and teach in the village school, 
and to all the distressed people near. The things she did for 
them might have shocked me at another time. Anything, it 
did not matter what, a servant's work, whatever there might , 
happen to be to do and came home at night tired to dcath s 
but with no sleep in her poor eyes. She used to say, though 
she could not sleep, that it was a kind of comfort to be very 
tired, it dulled her a little in her heart. When the news 
came he was slightly wounded, and had distinguished himself , 
she fell down in a faint at my feet. It was the first moment 
she dared be insensible. After that little term of relief, our 
anxieties were constant. But at last, you know, it is all over, 
and he is coming home. 

But to go back to that day. W T hen we left my sister's 
deathbed, and I, without even Milly to support me, went down 
alone with them all to hear everything told over again, and all 
Mr. Cresswell's remarks and astonishment, you may well 
imagine it was very hard to me. I would have given anything 
to have been able to keep all that from Mr. Cresswell, but 
after what he had heard, and Sarah's extraordinary signature, 
of course it was indispensable that he should understand the 
whole business ; as well as for my nephew's sake. I am bound 
to say Luigi behaved to his poor mother in a very different way 
from that in which she had treated him. If she had been the 
best mother in the world he could not have told the tale more 



The Last of the Mortimers. 861 

gently. He went over it all, how there had been a secret 
marriage done in Leghorn, where it was not unlawful for a 
Catholic to marry a Protestant, and where his father came under 
some engagement to take our own name. How it was kept 
secret for some reason of her own. How my father found it 
out. How the Count was summoned and called upon to bind 
himself, now that the affair could not be mended, to come home 
with them, and take the name of Mortimer. How, being 
dreadfully irritated by his wife (I don't doubt she could have 
driven a man mad, especially in the days of her beauty), he 
refused ; and how she had renounced, and given him up, and 
had nothing more to say to him. You may say, why did not 
he claim his rights? I can't tell. He might have ruined her 
reputation, to be sure, or made the whole story public ; but I 
suppose she must have been more than a match for him. She 
retired away into some village, and had her baby, and left it 
there. Then she came home. The Count never disturbed her 
all his life ; and when he died he told his son the story, and 
bade him never to rest till he ha'l recovered his mother. The 
young man, all amazed, full of grief for his father and anxiety 
to find her, came to England, asking for the Countess Ser- 
moneta. It was only after many failures, and seeking better 
information from his father's papers, that he came to believe 
that she called herself still Miss Mortimer; and we know all 
the rest. Luigi did not blame her, not a single word ; he sat 
with his head leaning on his hands, overcome with distress and 
trouble. He called her his mother, his mother, every time he 
spoke, and said the name in such a tone as would have gone to 
anybody's heart. Little Sara sat gazing at him all the time, 
with her whole heart in her eyes. When he covered his face 
with his hands in that pitiful way, Sara was unable to contain 
herself; she moved restlessly in her seat, fell a-crying in 
extreme agitation, and then, just for a moment, laid her hand 
upon his and pressed it with a" quick momentary touch of 
sympathy. Her father's eyes gleamed out for a moment sur- 
prise, anger, I cannot tell what mixture of feelings ; but, dear ! 
dear ! what had their courtships and lovemakings to do in this 
stricken house ? I could not bear any such question just at 
that moment. I told Cresswell that it was needful he should 
make my will, too, as well as my sister's, and that I left my 
share to my nephew, without any conditions. Cresswell made 
objections, as was natural for a lawyer. His objections were 
too much for me; I got angry and impatient, more than I 
to have done. Here was he pottering about proofs aud 



862 The Last of the Mortimers. 

such things, when I knew, and hau seen, ana read it all in my 
sister's face. This story was the key to Sarah's life ; I under- 
stood it all now what it meant, from her never-uttered quarrel 
with my father, down to the time when she met Luigi on the 
road. And the man spoke to me about proofs ! I made him 
draw out a kind of form of a will, like that which Sarah had 
signed, but which Mr. Cresswell worded so cautiously, that it 
would be null if Luigi was not proved my nephew bequeathing 
all my share of the Park estate to him. I confess it cost me a 
pang to do this ; I confess freely that, to part the lands, and to 
leave it away from Milly, and to think it was Sarah and not me 
who had provided for that dear child, went to my heart ; but 
I would rather have died than refused justice to my sister's 
son. 

Luigi carae round to my side and took my two hands and 
kissed them. I was so wicked as to dislike it just at that 
moment, and to think it was one of his Italian ways. But he 
stood before me with tears in his eyes, and that look of the 
Mortimers, which nobody could mistake. "And your love?" 
he said. I could not stand out against that ; I broke down 
entirely, arid cried and sobbed like a child. Dreadful days 
these had been ! Now I was overpowered, and could do no 
more. When I rose to go upstairs Luigi drew my arm into 
his, and took care of me like a son. He begged me to go t. 
Milly, and not to be by myself ; and I cannot tell how, but his 
voice had so great an effect upon me, that I did just as he said. 
Oh, dear ! dear ! to think what Sarah had cast away from her. 
There was she, lying alone, rejecting every creature in the 
world but Carson, and here was the love that belonged to her, 
coming to me. 

I did not see Mr. Cresswell again before he went away. Sara 
came up a little after, in despair, saying he had ordered her to 
return with him, and came and hugged me silently, and cried, 
with a frightened look upon her pale little face. u I would say 
farewell to godmamma Sarah, if I dared," cried the poor child ; 
but I dared not let her do it. She went away, casting longing 
looks back at us like a creature condemned. It was natural 
that she should feel leaving us in so much trouble, and going 
back to her own quiet, motionless home. It was not Sara's fault 
she had not been watching with us every moment of that ter- 
rible night ; but, for all that, it was very right of Mr. Cress- 
well to take her away. 

And then some days of watching followed. Once Sarah 
fciQ h?r rgoni, and she s^yr the doctor 



The Last of the Mortimers. 868 

malting any objection she would have lived still, had that 
been possible but when I begged her to see Luigi, just to say 
one word to him, to let him believe she recognised him as her 
son, her looks grew so terrible that I dared not say more. He 
went himself, out of my knowledge, to her door, and begged 
and prayed to be let in ; but Carson came out to him, pallid 
with terror, and begged him to go away, or he would kill Miss 
Mortimer for they kept up that farce of a name to the end. 
Luigi came to me heart-broken ; it was, indeed, a terrible 
position for the young man. He reproached himself for seek- 
ing his natural rights, and bringing on all this misery. He 
said, " I have killed my mother !" It was all I could do to 
comfort him. God forgive her! it was not he who was to 
blame. 

This was how my sister Sarah died. I try never to think of 
it. I try not to remember that dreadful time. Thank heaven ! 
to judge others is not our part in this life. There is very little 
comfort to be had out of it, anyhow ; living and dying it was a 
sad existence for a woman. If she had not much love in her 
lifetime, I think there are few graves over which have been, 
shed more bitter tears. On her tombstone she is called 
Countess Serinoneta ; the first time she has ever borne that ill- 
fated name. 

It was not difficult to prove the whole history. By degrees 
Mr. Cresswell gathered enough from other sources to convince 
him of Luigi's story ; and after that it did not take much 
persuasion to make him consent to give my nephew his 
daughter. It was not the match he might have made, of 
course. The Sermonetas are a very old family in their own 
country ; not much wonder the Count would not consent to 
give up his own name, and take the name of the haughty 
Englishman that despised him. Luigi would have changed his, 
had hig mother bidden him, and for his father's sake ; but the 
young man was deeply grateful to me for not making any con- 
ditions. For my part, I did not want him to be the repre- 
sentative of the Mortimers. I may safely say I came to love 
him like a child of my own at last. But after all he was a 
foreigner still, and even when I came to be fond of him, I never 
could see him without pain mixing with the pleasure. It waa 
Harry, little Harry, my sweet English baby, Milly's beautiful 
boy, that was to be the Mortimers' heir. 

And Sara will not be married till Harry Langham cornea 
home. Perhaps it is not justice to Sara to say my nephew 
might have done better ; but, after all, you know, her father ia 



864 The Last of the Mortimers. 

only an attorney, our family attorney. Her hair is grown, 
now, and she is a little older, and very pretty ; very pretty 
indeeed the little creature is. She is not in the least like what 
my sister Sarah used to be ; she can never be such a beauty as 
her poor godmarnma was. If it were nothing else, she is too 
little for beauty ; but I must say she is extremely pretty. I 
don't know if there is such another in all Cheshire. My Milly 
is different. Of the two / should rather have her ; but then i 
am not a young man 

And the war is over, and the dear tUH ifi nervously happy, 
and counting the days. About another week or so and Harry 
.Langham will be at 



The Last of the Mortimer* 865 



POSTSCRIPT. 

BY MRS. LANGHAM. 

HATCR7 is home, safe and well. He is to get the Medjidie 
sM<d the French ribbon of honour; but you can see 
thp,t in- the papers. It is something else I have to tell. 

It is just a week before Sara's marriage day, and 'Lizzie comes 
to me looking very foolish. I had thought she had recovered of 
her awkwardness. There she stands, twisting her feeb again, 
rolling up her arms in her white apron, holding her head to one 
side in a paroxysm of her old use and wont. Really, if she 
were not standing in such a preposterous attitude, Lizzie would 
look rather pretty ; she has such a nice complexion., and her 
red-brown hair pleases me it is not too red. It suits those 
features which are not at all regular, but only very pleasant 
and bright, with health, and youth, and a good heart. But 
now there is something dreadful choking Lizzie, which must be 
got out. 

"Mem, the Captain's come name." came at last in a 
burst. 

He was brevet Major now, and most people about the Park 
called him Colonel ; and he was in the next room, no further 
off, so I rather stared at Lizzie's piece of news. 

u And wee Mr. Harry, he's a grand little gentleman," said 
Lizzie ; " and a's weel, and there's no cloud in a' the sky as big 
as the dear bairn's little finger, let abee a man's hand." 

This solemn enumeration of my joys alarmed me considerably. 
" Do you know of anything that has happened, Lizzie?" I cried 
with a momentary return of my old fears. 

41 Naething's gaun to happen," said Lizzie, u I'm meaning 
no to you ; naething but the blessing of God that kens a'. It 
was just to say " 

Here Lizzie came to a dead stop, and cried, the unfailing 
resource in all difficulties. A perception of the truth flashed 
upon me as I looked at her. 



8G6 The Last of the Mortimers. 

"Do you mean to say ?" cried I, but got no further 

in my extreme amaze. 

u Eh, it's no me!" cried Lizzie. "But eh, Menico 
says " 

Here she stopped again, gave me a frightened look, made an 
attempt to go on and finally, startled by a sound in the next 
room, where Harry was, dropped the apron she had uncon- 
sciously pulled off, on the floor, and fairly ran away. 

Leaving me thunderstruck, and by no means pleased. I 
knew if 1 went and told Harry he would burst into fits of 
laughter, and there would be an cad to all serious consideration 
of the subject. To lose Lizzie all at once like this, to let the 
creature go and marry a foreigner! There was something 
quite unbearable in the thought ; what was I to do? A 
foreigner, and a Catholic, too, and a man twice as old as 
herself ; the girl was mad ! The more I thought of it the more 
distressed I grew. At last I went to seek Aunt Milly, who 
was the only practicable counsellor. She was in the garden, 
and I went to seek her there. It was July, and sultry weather. 
In the hall, now better occupied than it used to be, stood 
Domenico, in the white suit, vast and spotless, with which he 
always distinguished himself in summer weather, and which 
always put me in mind of that dreadful day when the Count 
Sermoneta first came, in his own name, to the Park. Do- 
menico started forward, noiseless and smiling, to open the 
door. The action brought before me in a minute our little 
Chester lodgings, our troubled happy days, our parting, and all 
the simple kindness this honest fellow had done us. His face 
beamed through all my recollections of that time, always thus 
starting forward with the courtesy of the heart. My heart 
warmed to him in spite of all I had been cogitating against 
him. Perhaps he divined what it was occupied my thoughts 
he followed me out at the door. 

"It pleases to the Signora give me the Leezee?" said 
Domenico, with an insinuating look. " No ? no ? But what 
to have done ? The Signora displeases herself of me ? Where- 
fore ? Because V I not know." 

I am not displeased," said I. " You are a very good fellow, 
Domenico, and have always been very kind. But she is a 
child ; she is not seventeen. What \vculd you do with her in a 
strange country ? She is too young for you." 

" The Leezee contents herself, 1 ' said Domenico, with a broad 
smile opening out his black beard. "If it pleases to the 
I bring her back other times ; I take the care of her ; 



The Last of the Mortimers. 867 

I make everything please to her. The Signora not wills to say 
no?" 

And of course I did not say no; I had no right to say 
anything of the sort. And Lizzie actually was not afraid to 
marry that mountain of a man. She went away with him, 
looking dreadfully ashamed, and taking the most heartrending 
farewell of little Harry and me, Domenico looking on with great 
but smiling sympathy all the while, and not at all resenting 
her tears. But the Captain had come home, and little Harry 
had attained the independence of two and a half years. Lizzie 
felt she had discharged her trust, and was no longer impera- 
tively needed to take care of me. I kissed her when she went 
away, as if she had been a sister of my own, and I confess was 
not ashamed to add a tear to the floods that poured from her 
brown eyes ; but I am obliged to avow that it is not within the 
range of my powers to put correctly on paper all the long 
rolling syllables of her new nama. 



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