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Full text of "Miss Tommy: A Mediaeval Romance. And, In a Houseboat; a Journal"

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■ ■ ..•■■'' ■ 



Ltinexil^^^S' 



jsaa>oB< 



MISS TOMMY 



^ Mtixaml Homante 



AND 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT 



21 lournal 



BY THE AUTHOR OF 

"JOHN HALIFAX, GENTLEMAN" 



ILLUSTRATED 



NEW YORK 

HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE 

1884 



V 



3 \. 



\J 



HARVARD tOlLEGE LIBRARY 

Gin Of 

MMES SlUKiiiS PRAY 



MISS MULOCK'S WOJ^S. 



A BRAVE LADY. lUoftnttod. 8to, Paper, 
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PREFACE. 



In the exciting blaze of modern fiction the 
glowworm light of this simple and old-fashioned 
story almost seems to need apology ; except that 
it is, in degree, a true story; and truth is al- 
ways worth something. My heroine really lived ; 
about half a century ago ; she was very beautiful 
and charming; her name was Thomasina, and she 
was generally called " Miss Tommy.'' 

Perhaps, in these days, when so many women 
disdain to be such — contemning domestic life, 
and, by a curious contradiction, at once imitating 
and despising men, it may be excusable to have 
painted one who was "only a woman" — noth- 
ing more. 



MISS TOMMY 

Oi Mttncmal Komame 



MISS TOMMY. 




PART I. 

I on should call her Thomasi- 
na," said I, as I held in my 
arms a friend's first baby, 
whose dear and honored fa- 
ther bears the old-fsehioned 
name of Thomas, though 
snppressed into an initial. 
" Thomaaina !" repeated the yoang mother 
with polite hesitation. "Isn't it a — rather a 
long name? And if it were shortened — fancy 
her being called ' Tom ' or ' Tommy ' !" 

" "Why not i The most charming woman I 
ever knew was named Thomasina, and all her 
life was called ' Miss Tommy.' " 
While I spoke the old days came back upon 



2 MI8S TOMMY. 

me — the days when I was a girl, who am now a 
middle-aged mother. I saw her clear as if it 
were yesterday, my dear " Miss Tommy," whom 
I loved with a kind of passionate admiration, 
such as a girl often conceives for an elderly 
woman, and which she returned with the ten- 
derness that warm childless hearts give, and are 
glad to give, to other people's children. 

She rises up before me now — her pale, pure 
face, her small, dainty figure, her gentle way of 
moving and speaking, and her dear little soft 
hands — she had such pretty hands to the very 
last. But her beauty was not obtrusive. You 
might be in the room with her for ever so long 
and not notice Miss Tommy, till you came and 
sat beside her — found her out, so to speak ; and 
then you were never likely to forget her. I 
never did, from the first hour when I made her 
acquaintance. 

It was in a ball-room, of all places in the world 
— a London ball-room. I was sitting in a corner, 
dull and silent, refusing to dance, for the only 
one I cared to dance with had just gone oflE to 
India, and as I was only nineteen and he two- 



MISS TOMMY. 6 

and-twenty, our parents would not let us be en- 
gaged ; they said we would change our minds 
half a dozen times during the three years that he 
was to be away — which might have been true, 
though it wasn't. So I wore the willow, half in 
sorrow, half in anger, for Charlie Gordon's sake, 
and thought myself the most miserable and ill- 
used girl in the world. 

Everybody — that is, the "everybody" of a 
large family and a circle of affectionate friends 
— knew of my griefs and my wrongs. Some 
blamed, no doubt, and some sympathized, for 
Charlie was a universal favorite. He was away, 
luckily for him, and out of it all ; for me, I bore 
my heart-break as best I could, and tried to wear 
my willow — rather ostentatiously, but with a dig- 
nified grace which raised me very much in my 
own opinion, and even afforded me a certain con- 
solation. 

I can smile at myself now, at the folly of sup- 
posing that the whole order of things was to be 
turned upside down to make two lovers happy — 
two creatures, young and foolish, with not a half- 
penny between them. And yet I am a little 



4 MISS TOMMY. 

sorry for my old self too, for it was a very hon- 
est self, and its pain was a very real pain. I 
should not like to inflict the like on my own 
children without serious cause. 

Enough of this, however, though it is not so 
much outside my story as it appears to be. 

I had been sitting, silent and sullen, watching 
the couples waltzing round, and declining every 
partner who came up to me, with a scarcely civil 
negative — they were decent young men enough, 
but, oh, so inferior to Charlie! — when I heard 
some one beside me say, in a gentle tone, " Do 
you dislike dancing ?" 

It was a small and rather elderly lady — a 
" wall-flower " like myself — but with such a beau- 
tiful face, and such a pretty dress — a dove-colored 
silk trimmed with rich old lace. But her toilet 
was not of the youthful style that the London 
ladies of her age made themselves look old and 
ugly in — nay, might even have been called " pro- 
vincial" had it not been so very suitable and 
graceful. Who she was I had no idea, and yet, 
as the ball was in my aunt's house, I knew nearly 
all the guests. And I might have resented this 



« w^'.^Jttll 



qnestioD mxa & szsk^sei use 3ir 

swer it, hovever. ski cse jemtt flCTiiJinfffiL: 
^I diink I bacf« soai t^il b^ 



but yoo weie qvzse & ^Eszit ^ri ^iqi. Ii s iuimt 
yens anee I Tkiscd tokt cm*, iir I suftuzL aonuft 
up to Loodoii. Mt Iumbk s js I>i<r^cJ^ 

^ DoTer P It was tbe puiee oear Cliiirae'i 
letter was dated from. *I>> Jxia kit^'v I>i^ 
aod— and the icgxmeBis iitagf>jimft" :^i£nt T I 
ly aaked. 

^Xo; I am u hgrnhlp cmlsiaJ^flDci ioe. 
a quiet smile. ^ I hsre bo mcSssrw ffsintfgsfi: 
But the other day I watdied a rtgrnenx jeare 
India — the — th." 

It was Chailie's own. And hr her wmr of 
lookiiig down and not at me, and by a certain 
t^ider intonation in her roiee, I wm sore iLe 
knew about me and Charlie^ P^faaps she was 
Boiry for na. I grasped h^* hand. 

^ Indeed, I ought to know yoo, to remember 
yon ; bnt I forget your name." 

"I am Miss Trotter — Thomasina Trotter — 
sometimes called ^ Miss Tommy.' " 



6 MISS TOMMY. 

She laughed and I laughed, which prevented 
my crying — which I was ready to do. To think 
of this little old lady having had the last precious 
glimpse denied to me — the sight of my Charlie 
before he sailed ! 

" Miss Tommy ! What a funny name ! I 
must tell it to — ^" And then the thought that I 
had now no Charlie to tell anything to, for our 
parents would not let us correspond, came upon 
me with such a pang that I could hardly keep 
back the tears. 

Miss Trotter touched my hand softly, and 
then stood up in front of me, as if admiring 
the dancers, till I had recovered my composure. 

"I beg your pardon. I ought not to be so 
silly ; but, oh 1" — here my grief burst out — " he 
is just gone to India, and that was his regiment 
you saw, and — if you had ever known Charlie 
Gordon — " 

The old lady — ^she seemed old to me who was 
nineteen — started slightly, and a sudden color 
flushed all over her delicate features. "My 
dear," she said, taking my hand, " I did not know 
this Charlie Gordon, but from all I hear of him 



MISS TOMMY. 7 

I can imagine that his friends mast miss him 
sorely. And to part with any one dear to us, 
for a long absence abroad, with all the chances 
and risks of absence, is" — here her voice fal- 
tered — " is a hard thing." 

Then she did know all. How I blessed her 
for her kind words ! 

"But," she continued, suddenly brightening, 
" let us hope he will come back safe and sound, 
and — ^just the same." 

Yes, she did understand. I, who thought my 
love affair the most important affair in the world, 
was grateful to the old lady, and felt that I could 
have loved her in spite of her ugly and vulgar 
name, " Miss Tommy Trotter." Who could she 
be? I had never heard of her; but then my 
aunt had a large circle of friends outside our 
circle, and for many months past my interests 
had narrowed down to one person. I cared lit- 
tle for anybody or anything that was not con- 
nected with Charlie. 

I should soon have poured out into her sympa- 
thizing bosom the whole story of me and Char- 
lie, but for the unromantic intervention of supper, 



B MISS TOMMY. 

to which some one took her in, and she disap- 
peared. I might have forgotten her altogether, 
for in my preoccupied state of mind I was apt 
to forget both people and things, everything but 
Charlie, had not my mother one day, sitting by 
ray bed-side — ^I had fretted myself at last into 
real illness — said suddenly : 

"Decie" (being the tenth, I had been chris- 
tened Decima), " where did you meet Miss Tom- 
my Trotter ?" 

" Miss Tommy Trotter ?" 

"An old friend of your aunt's, now staying 
with her. She was asking kindly after you, and 
sorry you were ill. She also said, as you had 
been ordered sea air, and as it is so inconvenient 
for me to leave home, if I would trust you to 
her at Dover — " 

" Dover ? Yes, I will go. Please let me go 
at once," cried I, with an eagerness that must 
have given a pang to my tender mother, with 
whom I had steadily refused to go anywhere. 
But she had already learned, as mothers must, 
that there had come a time when even she could 
not make her darling happy. Tears after, when 



MISS TOMMY. y 

she slept peacefully " under the daisies," I found 
out by my own experience how miserable I must 
have made my poor mother in those days. 

"Very well, dear," was all she said. "Miss 
Trotter, your aunt tells me, is a most sensible 
woman, and will look after your health. And 
you will have sufficient comforts, even luxuries, 
for she is a lady of fortune, inherited from her 
uncle, Mr. Thomas Trotter ; a most respectable 
man, but not quite a gentleman ; in fact, a tailor 
— an army tailor." 

We Murrays were proud of our blue blood, and 
since I had known the Gordons I was prouder 
still. For a moment I hesitated, and wished I 
had not so readily consented to visit a tailor^s 
niece. 

" But she looks and speaks like a gentlewoman. 
Miss Trotter herself — ^" 

"And she is a gentlewoman, or your aunt 
would not have kept up acquaintance with her. 
She first heard of her through a mutual friend, 
who said the Trotters were always ^ quite re- 
spectable.' " 

" What friend ?" 

1* 



10 MISS TOMMY. 

" Major Gordon," my mother answered, hesi- 
tating, for that was Charlie's old ancle in India. 
His name turned the balance. I was now de- 
termined to go to Dover. In truth, I would al- 
most have gone anywhere to get away from 
home. 

Two days after — for I rose from my bed and 
packed my things myself the very next day, as 
if I had never been ill at all — two days after 
I found myself breathing the salt sea air, and 
gazing across the stormy ocean which had car- 
ried away my Charlie. Indeed, the first walk I 
insisted on taking was to the pier -head, where 
his dear feet, in those lovely military boots about 
which he was so particular, had last touched Eng- 
lish shores. To be sure, that sacred spot was now 
occupied by a burly sailor, who, from his huge 
boots to his old sou'wester, formed a striking 
contrast to my Charlie ; still, I viewed him with 
tender interest; and there, with the sea-breeze 
blowing my tears away, and the bright winter 
sun — if the winter sun shines anywhere, it shines 
at Dover — making me feel hopeful in spite of 
myself, I told Miss Tommy my love-story from 




beginning to end. We were keeping her car- 
riage waiting at the pier-head all the time, bnt I 
never thonght of that ; in those days I was not 
in the habit of thinking mncb about anybody 
escept myself and my sorrows. 

MisH Trotter lifitened to them with great pa- 
tience, tboiigh with not qnite so mach moarnful 



12 MI8S TOMMY. 

sympathy as I had expected. In fact, when I 
had finished, she actually smiled. 

" The end ? No, my dear ; I cannot call it the 
end yet : you are but nineteen. And now, as it 
is a little chilly, what do you say to our going 
home to tea?" 

I did not care for tea — not I ! I would much 
rather have driven up and down the pleasant 
esplanade, to watch the sun setting behind the 
heights and throwing his last glimmer on Dover 
Castle, where Charlie had spent those few sad 
last days, thinking of me (at least I hope so). 
But my companion said gently, though decisively, 
" We must go in" — and we went in. 

The house was not near so grand as I expected, 
from what I had heard of Miss Trotter's large 
fortune. Eight hundred a year or so — I was try- 
ing to grow learned about incomes — would have 
kept it luxuriously. It was a very pretty house, 
sitting — to speak metaphorically — with its back 
under the clifE and its feet to the shore, a little 
garden alone parting it from the sea ; indeed, in 
very high winter tides the waves actually washed 
into the flower beds, creating much destruction, 



MISS TOMMT. 13 

which, however, was always repaired hj spring. 
For it was snch a sheltered, sunshiny nook ; and 
the rooms, thongh smaU, were most daintUy and 
tastefnlly furnished: the whole atmosphere with- 
in and without was so redolent of cheerful peace, 
that on entering I gave a great sigh of satisfac- 
tion, and wondered if Charlie had ever seen it. 

" I really cannot say," replied my hostess, smil- 
ing, ^^not having had the honor of Lieutenant 
Gordon's acquaintance. And 

'How should I your tnie-loTe know 
From another one' 

of the many young officers who walk up and 
down here ? Dover town is all dotted with bits 
of scarlet; and — hark! there is the bugle — we 
are quite a military community, you see." 

^' I am so glad I" For it warmed my heart and 
made me happy — being " a lass that loved a sol- 
dier," and fain to cast my lot with him for good 
or ill. Silly enough, and yet — 

Miss Tommy regarded me with a curious, ten- 
der kind of observation, till the smile on her lips 
melted into a half -sigh. She turned away and 
began making the tea, which she always did with 



14 MI88 TOMMY. 

Iier own hands, despite her well-appointed house- 
hold of servants — women -servants only. There 
was apparently no butler in her establishment; 
and though the carriage we had just stepped out 
of was exceedingly comfortable, there were no 
footmen in livery behind it. We had to open 
and shut its doors ourselves. Altogether, even on 
this my first day at Miss Trotter's house, I was 
much struck by the total absence of show and 
formality ; by refinement without lavishness, and 
comfort without luxury. 

"An old maid's house," as she placidly called 
it, hoping I should be happy therein. Could I ? 
Are old maids ever happy ? Which of course I 
disbelieved, at nineteen. After many more years' 
experience and observation of life I incline to 
reconsider my verdict. 

Even now — to me who had just gone through 
a great domestic convulsion, to say nothing of 
tlie small tempests in teapots that were always 
bi^^wlng in our numerous and tumultuous family 

th^ exceeding repose of the maiden household 
I Imd il^H>ppwJ into, where nobody squabbled and 
MmUh)^ ^^ fui^%'' was most soothing and pleasant. 



MISS TOMMY. 15 

It was, of course, a silent house — no children 
running about or girls singing up and down the 
stairs; but when one has had rather too much 
of domestic noise, silence is agreeable for a time. 
And it was a small house, much smaller than I 
had expected — which, perhaps, in some youthful- 
ly incautious manner I betrayed, for Miss Trotter 
said, in the course of our tea-dinner — not a regular 
late dinner at all : 

"I hope, my dear, you will be able to make 
yourself happy here. You see, I live quite sim- 
ply. Where would be the use of anything else ? 
There is only myself. One cannot eat more 
than one dinner, or sleep in more than one room, 
at the same time. Still," she added, with that 
curiously bright smile she had — a mixture of 
pain struggling with pathos, like a person who 
had tried to be happy all her life in spite of cir- 
cumstances — " still I must own that I like a nice 
dinner and a pretty room." 

"And certainly you have them," I answered, 
with a full sincerity that evidently pleased her. 

" Yes, I think this is pretty," said she, glancing 
round the room and out of the window, where 



16 MISS TOMMY. 

the last gleam of sanset was shining on the dis- 
tant sea. "Sycamore Hall, my uncle's place in 
the country, is much larger and grander, and I 
have to live there in summer-time, and I try to 
keep it up properly, but I like my little Dover 
house much better." 

Here the conversation ceased, for I felt it 
awkward. In her place I should have ignored 
as much as possible this defunct tailor- uncle — 
"quite respectable" as he had been termed by 
Major Gordon ; but Miss Trotter referred to him 
and to his Sycamore Hall — no doubt a mansion 
full of coarse and vulgar splendors — as calmly as 
she did tp her own small house and simple way 
of living. She must be an "odd" sort of per- 
son, I thought, and very different from the peo- 
ple among whom I had been accustomed to move 
— " our circle," as my sisters sometimes called it. 

Miss Trotter, as I found out in course of our 
talk, had no sisters, no relations at all. She 
was, in the full sense of the term, a solitary old 
maid, yet the least like an old maid, and, as I 
soon discovered, the least solitary, of any lady I 
ever knew. For a "lady," even in my sisters' 



MISS TOMMY. 17 

reading of the word, no one could doubt she 
was, in spite of her uncle the tailor. 

She devoted herself to me with a cordial po- 
liteness, though mingled with occasional fits of 
what appeared to me like shyness, for the whole 
of the first day, for I was very tired, and perhaps 
just a trifle cross — "depressed," as I called it — 
and, like many another young goose, I had come 
to consider depression — that condition in which 
one sits dumb and dogged, with downcast eyes, 
and cheek leaning on one's hand — as rather a 
virtue than not. It took all my hostess's kindly 
pains to rouse me from it, by talking to me and 
showing me the town of Dover — that dear, old- 
fashioned town, which I shall always love to the 
bottom of my heart. 

It has changed little since those days, or, in- 
deed, since days long before then. In its narrow 
streets and quaint back alleys you may still come 
upon bits of Roman brick-work, mediaeval stone- 
work, and solid last -century wood -work. The 
place is full of relics interesting to the archaeolo- 
gist, from the time of Julius Caesar upwards. 
You, continental travellers, rushing through it, 



18 MIBS TOMMY. 

and you, fashionable diners at the "Lord War- 
don," liave no idea how picturesque Dover can 
look, with its quaint, foreign-like Snargate Street, 
its old-world Castle Street, with a noble view of 
the Castle framed in at the end, and finally the 
Ciistlo itself, which Charlie had told me about, 
and which I was so eager to see — walking about 
the embattled rock, up and down steps, and in 
and out of fortifications, with feet as active as if 
1 had never been ill. 

In truth, I did not feel very ill, the air was so 
pure and invigorating, the sense of freedom and 
hope so strong, and the little old lady by my 
side was such a bright companion, taking such a 
hearty interest in everything about her, including 
me. For I could see that I, Decima Murray, 
really was an object of interest to her, at which 
in my youthful conceit I was not at all surprised, 
nor at the unwearied patience with which she 
listened to my endless references to my sorrows 
— of course, the most important subject in the 
world was that of Charlie and me. 

I was, however, " taken down a peg," as Char- 
lie would have said, when, after breakfast on the 
second day, Miss Tommy rose at once. 



MISS TOMMY. 21 

"Now, my dear, I must leave you to amuse 
yourself. Being rather a busy woman, I never 
attempt to entertain my guests. Here are plenty 
of books and music; and there is the shore — it 
is very pleasant sitting on the shingle in front 
of the house, if you have nothing else to do; 
dinner is at one ; and the carriage will be round 
soon after two, and — " 

She went on to outline the day and my duties 
in it, making me out to be a mere portion of the 
household life, instead of the pivot upon which 
it all turned. Not very flattering, but she did it 
so naturally and cheerfully that one could not be 
offended. 

"I hope you will not be dull, my dear. My 
young guests seldom are, and I have a good 
many from time to time. It is very pleasant to 
an old woman to have a girl in the house. They 
help me, too^ in many ways." 

Now, I had never been accustomed to help 
anybody. I always expected everybody to help 
me. Being the youngest, and the beauty of the 
family, from the time I left school I had idled 
about in great enjoyment. From the choosing 



22 MIBS TOMMY. 

of a dress to the sewing on of a glove-button, 
everything had been done for me, and I had no 
mind to change this order of things. I was no 
longer a light-hearted girl, but an ill-used woman 
and an interesting invalid. So I tacitly ignored 
the suggestion of my being useful, and began 
killing time, ornamentally, in my customary 
way 

Still, after a while this became rather monoto- 
nous, especially when I saw my hostess busy day 
after day, occupied from morning to night with 
duties domestic and duties social; for she had 
evidently a large circle of friends, in which she 
was an important element — a rich single woman 
always is. Even when she found time for a 
brief chat with me, she had always her knitting 
or sewing at hand, to work while she talked. 
Our two hours' drive every afternoon for the 
good of my health was, I think, the only portion 
of the day in which I ever saw her idle. 

I wondered at her. An elderly woman, and 
an old maid too, for whom life was over — or, 
rather, for whom it had never begun, for what 
is life without love in it ? — how could she be so 



lOMXT. 2S 

cheerfali For dieerfol she inrariablj vtf : lyA 
with any exobenuit spiritfi, but with a qmei lOr- 
der-cnrrent of placid gajetr, that I — ^ulI I fiaj 
I envied! Xot exactly. Somedmee I aliDos: 
pitied her for having had either no Lean at aZI 
or no nse for one ; and I hogged my gnef. xmizAfi 
away from the sight of Miss Trotters l^igLt faiOe:. 
let my listless hands drop idle on my lap. ai;d £&.: 
and monmed for Chaiiie. 

" Are you not sorry for me F I asked oije div. 
when we had been sitting taUdng as we drorei 
at least, I had talked, and all about mjytiL of 
oonise. So preooeopied was I that I never jjr^- 
ticed all the beanty of ocean and sky, Walmer 
Castle, St. Margaret's, and the Goodwin Saijds — 
that smiling, glittering expanse of sea where 
many a ship has gone down. ^ Sorely yoo mo^ 
be sorry for me f 

" Yes, very. Bot," after a panse, " not exactly 
for what yoo soppose." 

"Not for being parted from Charlie? Why, 
I am the most unhappy girl in the world.'' 

" Are yoo 2" she said, smiling. Then sudden- 
ly changing into seriousness, ^Xo girl can be 



24 MI88 TOBCMT. 

considered * the most unhappy girl in the world,' 
be her love ever so nnfortunate, if she has loved, 
and if the object of her affection has never been 
nnvsrorthy of it." 

" What, not if she was torn from him, as I 
from Charlie? or lost him in some way — if he 
died, or — married somebody else ?" 

Miss Tommy (I like to call her thus) sat silent, 
her little hands folded over her muff, and her 
eyes looking straight forward with a sort of 
wistfulness in them — those sweet brown eyes, 
so merry, bright, and clear ! 

"Different people, my dear, have different 
opinions, and yours may not agree with mine. 
But I think, and I have always thought, that if 
a girl has a real true affection — I will not say a 
passion, which is a selfish thing, but a devotion, 
which is the most unselfish thing on earth — and 
has the strength to keep to it, nothing can ever 
make such an attachment ^unfortunate,' except 
the man's sinking so low that to love him be- 
comes worse than a folly — a degradation. But 
I must not become didactic," added she, with a 
sudden change of tone and manner. "If there 



MISS TOMMY. 25 

is a thing that frightens young people, it is 
preaching — I never preach." 

That was true. If I had now and again felt 
so ashamed of my idleness that I seriously con- 
templated asking her to give me something to 
do, it was not because she ever told me I was 
lazy ; only, contrasted with her busy life, I be- 
gan to see the fact only too plainly. 

" My love for Charlie could never be a degra- 
dation," I replied, with dignity. " He is the best 
of men. Indeed, the Gordons are all honorable 
men. His father is long dead, killed in battle, 
as you know " — of course, I supposed everybody 
to know and remember every small fact con- 
nected with Charlie — " but his uncle and god- 
father is, he says, quite a prema clievalier^ a Bay- 
ard, a Don Quixote, as they call him in the fami- 
ly. You must have heard of him. Perhaps you 
know him ?" 

" Yes." 

And then I remembered it was Major Gor- 
don who had vouched for the Trotters being " re- 
spectable." Probably the departed Thomas Trot- 
ter had been his tailor. I felt a little shy of the 

2 



26 MISS TOMMY. 

• 

subject. To me the idea of a tailor in the family 
was as bad as a sheep-atealer ; worse, indeed, for 
I could quite sympathize with Charlie when he' 
told me of his ancestors the Border chieftains, 
" several of whom were hanged, and a good many 
more ought to have been." But a tailor I I 
turned away my eyes from my companion's sweet 
face, and contemplated Dover Castle in the dis- 
tance ; would hav6 changed the subject, but Miss 
Trotter evidently had no intention of avoiding 
it. 

" I knew Major Gordon when he was a young 
man," she said. " He first made acquaintance 
with my uncle in the way of business, and then 
he met my father, who was a country clergyman, 
and a very clever man. He came often to our 
house at one time." 

" And you know him still. What is he like ?" 
I asked, eagerly ; for anything or anybody con- 
nected with Charlie was interesting to me. 

" Yes, I may say I know him still ; for he is 
not one to neglect an old acquaintance. I have 
seen him every time he has returned to Eng- 
land." 



MISB TOMMY. 27 

" That has not been very often. Do you know 
— have you ever heard — " I stopped, remember- 
ing the "skeleton in the house," which Charlie 
had confided to me. "Did you ever see — his 
wife ?" 

" Yes ; she was a very beautiful woman — a 
good deal older than he." 

"And was she bad or mad — or what? Did 
she run away from him, or was he obliged to 
shut her up ? Charlie did not know ; nobody 
did know, he says. Poor Major Gordon was al- 
ways quite silent both as to his sorrows and his 
wrongs. But it does not matter— she is dead 
now." 

" Dead !" 

" Yes ; she died six months ago. Charlie said 
his uncle might possibly be coming home soon ; 
but he hoped — ^and I hope too — ^it would not be 
just yet, till he himself had reached India. An 
uncle of Major Gordon's high character would be 
so very useful to Charlie." 

" Yes," answered Miss Trotter, rather vaguely ; 
and then the conversation dropped. Nor — in 
spite of my anxiety to get as much out of her 



28 MISS TOMMY. 

as I could respecting this uncle and namesak<3, 
upon whose will and power to help Charlie, by 
promotion or otherwise, depended so much of 
our future — did I succeed in eliciting any more 
facts about Major Gordon. Indeed, I soon came, 
perhaps hastily, to the conclusion that there were 
none to discover ; that the acquaintance between 
them had been so slight, and renewed so briefly, 
and at such long periods, as to leave nothing to 
talk about. 

At any rate, Miss Trotter would not talk, either 
about his personal appearance, which Charlie had 
said was " so queer," or his income, or his rela- 
tions with his unfortunate wife. She just an- 
swered my questions as briefly as civility allowed, 
and spoke of something else. In this, as in most 
other matters, I soon found Miss Trotter disliked 
" talking over " things. If she was an old maid, 
she was an old maid not given to gossip. 

As time went on — my visit extending from 
days to weeks — I almost forgot she was an old 
maid. She had such motherly ways with the 
heaps of young people who were perpetually 
haunting her house, making it anything but a 



MIB8 TQianr. 29 

doll house ; and she moved about it so brightly 
and actively, with her little, light figure and her 
pretty face — I think small women keep young 
much longer than big ones. Miss Trotter seemed 
to me to grow younger and younger every week ; 
there was a sunshine in her smile and an elas- 
ticity in her step ; and then her complexion, that 
^^cmx^^ of elderly ladies, was kept so fresh and 
fair by her simple, regular life, her busy habits 
and placid mind, that sometimes, to call her, as 
she always called herself, ^ an old woman," seemed 
quite ridiculous. 

And then she had such a young heart. She 
would laugh like a child over a funny story, cry 
like a child over a pathetic book. But she was 
not sentimental. By and by, whenever I b^;an 
talking of my woes, she adroitly changed the con- 
versation, gave me something else to think about 
— something to do. Doing, not talking, was her 
characteristic. She was decidedly a woman of 
few words. She said she ^ liked thinking best ;" 
and whenever we were together, after we had 
grown familiar with one another, there used to 
come long pauses of busy silence, during which. 



30 MI8S TOMMY. 

fast as our fingers moved — for I at last conde- 
scended to work too — we scarcely interchanged a 
single word. 

Sometimes, when I got tired of thinking, even 
about my Charlie, I used to wonder what in the 
world Miss Trotter was thinking about — what 
she could find to think about, old as she was, 
and with no Charlie. Once I asked her. 

She colored up, almost as vividly as I should 
have done had I been thinking of Charlie. 

" What do I think about, did you say ? Why, 
my dear, I can hardly tell. I have always been 
a rather meditative person, and during my life I 
have had a good deal to think of, and a good 
many people too. That was when I was very 
poor ; it is not likely to be different now I am 
rich." 

" Are you very rich ?" — a question that would 
have been impertinent were it not so silly. But 
I meant no offense, nor did she take any. 

" I have enough for all I want or wish, my 
dear ; and after that, enough, thank God, to give 
to a few others what they want. So I pay back 
in my old age the debts of kindness of my youth. 



MISS TOMMY. - 31 

And I rejoice in my riches, even though they are 
often a care." 

" A care ! How can that be possible ?" 

Miss Trotter turned, with a rather sad look in 
her eyes. " Decie, if you were wearing a warm 
cloa'k, and saw another, or several others, stand- 
ing in the cold all in rags, yet knew not how to 
amend things, would you not sometimes long to 
take off your delightful silks and furs? But I 
am talking nonsense. All I mean to say is the 
very trite remark, * that we all have our cares.' " 

" Yes, indeed 1" I reverted to mine, and be- 
moaned for the hundredth time the cruel fate 
which divided me from Charlie, and behaved, or 
misbehaved, myself as love -sick young people so 
constantly do, to the grief of their parents, the 
annoyance of their relations, and the ridicule of 
their friends. 

But Miss Trotter neither laughed nor was an- 
gry. A little quiet smile was all she indulged 
in. 

"My dear, the separation is only for three 
years, till you are twenty-one and he twenty-four 
— no very great age. And some lovers have 



32 MIB6 TOMMY. 

been parted for a whole lifetime, and had to bear 
it. Do you think you are the only person who 
ever suffered? If you knew the sad stories — 
many of them love stories — that I have listened 
to for the last thirty years. Yet — ^I listen still." 

"It is very kind of you." And it began to 
dawn upon me that she tras very kind — this 
busy, active, maiden lady, with every hour of 
her day, every corner of her kindly heart, as full 
as it could hold — to listen to me in my self-ab- 
sorbed grief, which seemed, in my morbid fancy, 
to be the only sorrow in the world. " But these 
others ; what has become of them all ?" 

She answered softly, 



i( ( 



Some are married, some are dead,' 



as Longfellow sings, in his ' Old Clock on the 
Stairs.' Life always goes on to the same tune, 

* Forever — never! Never — forever!' and some- 
times, strange to say, the 'never' creates the 

* forever !' " 

Though I did not take in her meaning, her 
manner rather surprised me, and the voice, though 
calm, had a tone of sadness in it. Could it be 



that she undeistood, ot her own expenencev tbe 
pain I was endming? duU die — thk br^ic Ettle 
middle-aged woman, so fall of fibooght for odboiy 
living such an actrre, aeefiilr ti^^PI? ^^^^ — ^^ ^^^^ 
^ loved and lost " ! There was a tradiCKm. mr 
annt had said, that Miss Tomm j Trotter had once 
been the belle of the neighborhood, and had re- 
fused at least twentj c^ers. Bat she was an old 
woman now, and I, with the favorhe belief of the 
yomig, that the old never feel anjthin^ and be- 
ing preoccupied with mj own affuz^ pot the 
question aside. A minnte or two afiier, we were 
both langhing so menilj at some aeeidental le- 
mark she made that I f <»got all about it. 

One of AGsB Tommy's strongest diaraeteristics 
was her keen sraise of homor. Xot that she was 
at all that very donbtfnl penonage, a female wit, 
bnt she dearly liked to be merry, and had a tal- 
ent for seeing the comic suie ot things. I one 
day told ha- she wonld ^ create a joke upon the 
ribs of death,'' as Shakespeare says. 

"Well, and if I do!" she answ^ied. **One 
must bear things somehow, and it is better to 
bear them with a langh than a moan. Besides, 

2» 



84 MISS TOMMY. 

an innocent joke is like a life -boat, it often car- 
ries us over the roughest seas." 

That, I often thought, was the reason young 
people liked her company. She was so amusing, 
as well as sympathetic. She had always a cloud 
of girls about her — ^young men too, though there 
were not many at Dover. But, on the whole, I 
think she did not care for men. She won great 
deference from the other sex, but she never flat- 
tered them, nor was put into any great flutter of 
felicity by their attentions, as I have seen young 
and old maids too betray. Perhaps she saw their 
weak points a little too plainly to be universally 
adored, in spite of the twenty traditional wooers, 
of whom she was said never to have encouraged 
one. 

So time passed on. My stay extended from 
weeks to months, for I was not wanted at home ; 
probably, as I now think, they were glad to get 
rid of me, for I could not have been pleasant 
company to either my mother or my sisters. But 
Miss Trotter endured me — made the best of me. 
I grew stronger in health and less morbid in 
mind. Now and then, instead of weeping, I 



MISS TOMMY. 35 

caught myself laughing as I had never laughed 
since Charlie went away. 

He had now been gone six months. The win- 
ter was over, the spring was fast coming on. In 
the lengthening twilight we used to walk up and 
down the shore and watch the sunset colors of 
the sea, and make plans for taking drives inland 
to see if the hedges were beginning to bud, and 
from what sheltered nooks came those baskets of 
primroses which little dirty girls and 'boys were 
daily offering to us, with a pathetic entreaty that 
Miss Trotter found irresistible, as well the little 
villains knew. 

" Those primroses must be growing some- 
where," she would say, sententiously. " We must 
go and look for them." 

But still we never went, for the bitter east 
winds — the one only fault of Dover — made driv- 
ing diflBcult. We liked to spend every afternoon 
in walking up and down the shore, not seldom 
wandering on to the Admiralty Pier, then newly 
begun, to watch the workmen there, and to see 
the Calais boat come in. 

This was — and maybe still is — the great amuse- 



36 MI88 TOMMY. 

m^it of Dover, especially on rough days. Miss 
Tommy and I used to laugh over the innate 
cruelty of human nature in going to watch the 
landing of miserable foreigners or returning Brit- 
ons who had been nnwise enough to trust them- 
selves away from our happy island. Many an 
^ odd fish " we saw and smiled at, and many an 
invalid at whom we did not smile, for the home- 
ward route from the East was then often by 
Calais and'Dover, and everything Indian had the 
deepest interest for me. My companion too — 
sometimes I saw her kind brown eyes fixed with 
the most earnest inquiry upon some sallow-faced, 
sickly passenger — ^perhaps a liver-tormented cross 
old Indian, burned up with years of hot climate 
and brandy pawnee. Would Charlie ever look 
like that? Could I imagine him with a dried- 
up, bronzed, unlovely face, like those faces which 
made Miss Tommy stop her harmless jokes to re- 
gud wistfully, even with a sort of tenderness ? 

« I am so sorry for them," she would say. She 
was Borry for everybody who was sick, or sad, or 
wea naughty, as I sometimes told her ! And she 
^mgnerei ^^that sickness or sadness often made 



MISS TOMMY. 37 

naughtiness." Yet she herself was sometimes 
both — she was not very strong, as I slowly found 
out — but this never made her " naughty." 

One day — shall I ever forget it ? — a blustering 
March day, when we could hardly keep our foot- 
ing, or succeed always in " dodging " the sudden 
waves that came sweeping against the pier — over 
it sometimes, in a shower of spray — she and I 
went as usual to see the boat come in. I liked to 
go ; the wild weather never harmed me, and some- 
how even the sight of the ocean which divided 
us seemed to bridge over the distance between 
me and Charlie. I once said as much to my com- 
panion, and she answered that it was " natural." 

She, too, enjoyed the sea on stormy days, so 
we stood our ground — almost the only ladies 
who did so — and watched the little dot of a boat 
come nearer across the Channel, appearing and 
then almost disappearing among the high waves 
— " like a human life," Miss Trotter said — till it 
got home at last. 

She counteracted the sentimental remark by a 
series of harmless jokes, which made me laugh in 
spite of myself. I had put my arm round her — 



38 MISS TOMMY. 

as I did sometimes, being a very tall girl and she 
such a little woman that I almost thought she 
would be blown away — when I suddenly felt her 
start, and saw her eyes were fixed with something 
more than curiosity on one of the passengers. 

He stood on the deck a little apart, waiting till 
the crowd at the gangway should melt away, and 
idly looking up at the white cliffs, as if it had 
been many a long year since he had last seen 
them. He was a tall gentleman, tall and thin. 
If I say he reminded me of Don Quixote I mean 
no offense to that hero — always a great favorite 
of mine — or to this man, who looked a man in 
the best sense of the word. Gaunt and gray, and 
rather shabbily dressed, in half- military fashion, 
with a decidedly military bearing, he never could 
have been mistaken for anything but that rather 
rare article — " a man and a gentleman." 

Following the direction of Miss Trotter's eyes, 
he attracted mine too. 

" Who can he be ? Is he anybody you know ?" 

" I think so," she answered beneath her breath. 
"Come with me to the gangway, Decie ! you will 
be so glad." 



HISS TOMMY. 41 

Her lips were quivering, bat her smile, as she 
turned to me — I shall never forget it! — never 
cease to be grateful for her kind thought of me 
just then. 

In another minute I saw her hold out her 
hand — " Major Gordon, I believe ?" 

Major Gordon ! Charlie's uncle ! 

The tall gentleman started, and, perceiving us, 
lifted his hat. 

" I am Major Gordon. But — ^pardon me ; my 
memory often fails me." 

He accepted, bowing, her offered hand ; he 
looked down intently into her face, without the 
slightest sign of recognition. 

"I beg your pardon — I ought to know you, 
and yet — " 

"I am Miss Trotter, Mrs. Murray's friend. 
And this is Miss Decima Murray." 

"Ah, yes!" A light seemed to break upon 
him ; he turned to me and shook my hand warm- 
ly. Then Charlie must have told him. Perhaps 
he had even seen Charlie. 

I was so delighted, that, as the children say, I 
"hardly knew whether T stood on my head or 



42 MISS TOMMY. 

my heels." He had come home, this nncle from 
India, who was to prove a sort of protecting an- 
gel to Charlie, whom probably he had met be- 
fore he started, and who had told him to come 
and see me. He looked as if he liked me, as if 
he meant to like me — the dear old gentleman! 
For he was an old gentleman — that is, he might 
be something between fifty and seventy ; but 
after forty everybody was " old " to me then, 

" I have heard of you, Miss Murray ; I meant 
to come and see you. This chance meeting is a 
great pleasure to me, and also to find you with 
an old friend — " 

He turned to Miss Trotter, who stood a little 
aside, and spoke to her kindly and cordially. 
Evidently he had no feeling about the tailor- 
uncle, but asked after " all the family " with a 
slightly hesitating air, as if trying to remember 
of what it had consisted, and where they all now 
were. 

Miss Trotter soon set him at ease. " I have no 
relations; they are all dead long ago. There is 
only me." 

Major Gordon shook her hand warmly again 



1088 TOMIIT. 43 

and again, thanldng her for being ^so TefT 
kind" as to remember him for all these reazs 
since he had been bst in England. "^ How many 
years ! for reaUy I have lost count. One forges 
so many things — I can haidly belicTe that I am 
again at home. And how strange to find one 
face, not to say two faces ^ — he bowed and smiled 
to each of ns ; a most pleasant smile, that lighted 
np his worn face into something like yonthfulneas 
— ^^ to meet me with sach a kindly welcome." 

^^ Ln^age, sir," cried an offidons porter, jnst 
taking away the gangway ; and we dropped into 
the bnsmess of life again. 

He had very little Inggage — sorprisingly little 
for a gentleman home from India ; but then he 
was a soldier, and accustomed to rongh it, as evi- 
dently he did. My Charlie wonld have been 
horrified at travelling with such a portmanteau. 
Major Gordon caught me looking at it. 

" Old and battered, like myself," said he with 
a smile. " Never mind, it has seen good service. 
And now — it also is coming home." 

A slight sigh, almost immediately repressed, 
and Major Grordon stood, looking around hira 



44 MISS TOMMY. 

with a half -bewildered air, and faintly potting 
aside, with a rather irritable gesture, the appeal- 
ing porters, or inn - touters, who began to gather 
round him. 

" Where am I going ? I don't know, my good 
man. Nowhere particular. The custom-house? 
yes, the custom-house — I must follow the rest. 
Good day — adieu ! and thank you, ladies." 

But Miss Trotter came forward, with her prac- 
tical, business-like air — she was the most thorough 
" woman of business " I ever knew. 

" I am a resident here, and can easily get your 
luggage examined and passed. Also, my carriage 
is waiting at the head of the pier, and if you 
would return and dine with us — ^" 

I hung upon his hand — he was my Charlie's 
dear old uncle ! — and begged him to come. I was 
sure — quite sure — Miss Trotter would be glad to 
see him. " Do come with us," I implored ; " do 
come home." 

" Come home !" he repeated, with a strange 
pathos in the words. " You are very kind," turn- 
ing to Miss Trotter, " and I thank you. Yes, I 
will come." 



HISS TOMMY. 45 

And so it befell that Major Gordon's first day 
in England, after so many years, was spent in 
Miss Trotter's house, with herself and me. A 
very pleasant day — and to me, at least, a real fe- 
licity. How I blessed the " chance," as I thought 
it (not being aware till long afterwards that some 
of his friends had known he was daily expected 
in England) — the happy chance which brought 
Charlie's uncle to Dover, and brought me to the 
Admiralty Pier at the very moment of his land- 
ing. ITor did he himself disguise his pleasure. 
An Indian oflScer, retired invalided upon half- 
pay, with no relations and no money, is not like- 
ly to have a very jubilant welcome home. 

He said as much, or, rather, it dropped from 
him unawares, while sitting peacefully at our fire- 
side — I had become so much at home there that 
I often called it " ours." But otherwise he spoke 
very little of himself or his affairs. 

Nor, eagerly as I expected it, did he once re- 
fer to mine. He watched me. I felt he was 
"taking stock of me" — noticing every word I 
said, everything I did, with a sharp observance 
almost amounting to suspicion ; but except in 



46 MISS TOMMY. 

answer to a question or two from Miss Trotter — 
bless her for that ! — he never mentioned CharKe. 

I should have been angry with him, except 
that, as he sat warming his long brown hands 
at the fire — his gray mustache and thin, sallow 
face giving him more the air of a Don Quixote 
than ever — he looked such a lonely man that I 
felt sorry for him. After a time, however, he 
brightened up and turned to Miss Trotter, who 
sat in the shadow — her little figure half buried 
in the depths of her favorite arm-chair. He be- 
gan talking with her of old times. 

" It was so kind of you to speak to me. I 
cannot imagine how you recognized me, after 
all the years that have passed since we met — I 
forget how many." 

" Not so very many — ten perhaps — " 

" And where was it I saw you last ? I ought 
to recollect, but my memory is so bad. I am 
getting quite an old man now." 

"At Mrs. Murray's — just before you sailed. 
Also, if you remember, you came to see me at 
Crookfield — my father had just died." 

" Ah, yes, I came once, and I ought to have 



MISS TOMMY. 47 

come oftener — but" — a dark shadow crossed his 
face—" my time was much engrossed just then." 

Miss Trotter said nothing, and after a niinute 
or so he again recurred to her father. 

"The dear old rector — how kind he was to 
me when I was a young man ! Not so very 
young neither — I was nearly thirty, but I felt 
like a boy during all that furlough. How I en- 
joyed fishing in the rectory stream, and making 
hay in the rectory meadow ? It seems all like a 
dream now — so very long ago. 

" Yes." 

"But perhaps you will hardly recollect — you 
must have been such a mere child then, Miss 
Trotter — ^fourteen or thereabouts." 

" Seventeen. I was older than I looked." 

"And you have changed very little. I could 
almost see the face of the little girl in the hay- 
field." 

Was it my fancy, or a sudden red glow from 
the firelight ? but I saw the delicate pink cheek — 
Miss Trotter had the complexion of a girl still — 
change to a deep carmine. Our guest never saw 
it : he was gazing absently into the glowing coals 



48 MISS TOMMY. 

— indeed, he had mechanically taken up the poker 
to stir them, but dropped it with a smile. 

" I beg your pardon, Miss Trotter — and yet — 
I have certainly known you more than seven 
years." 

She too smiled, and said gently that he need 
not apologize — she did not consider him as a 
stranger; and then she rose and made the tea, 
leaving him and me to sit and talk. But he did 
not profit by the opportunity ; he still told me 
not a scrap of news about poor Charlie. Either 
he was very reticent — men are so much shyer 
about love-affairs than women — or else the time 
for him to take any interest in such things had 
long passed by. Yery likely ! Whatever he had 
been, he was certainly growing into an "old 
fogy " now. Not even a rich " old fogy," as I 
had somehow imagined him to be. His clothes 
were decidedly shabby ; and when there was a 
talk of his going to sleep at the Lord Warden, 
he said it would be " too expensive," and decided 
with a dignified indifference that I marvelled at 
— so unlike Charlie ! — to take up his quarters at a 
much inferior hotel. 



MISS TOMMY. 49 

" Not that I have sunk to the * worst inn's worst 
room,' as Pope has it — how fond your father was of 
Pope, Miss Trotter ! — but I am obliged to take care 
of my pence, else my pounds would not take care of 
themselves. And I am growing an old man now." 

No one contradicted the fact — which indeed 
was only too true. As he sat thoughtfully twirl- 
ing his gray mustache, and sometimes putting a 
hand upon his broad forehead, bald to the crown, 
as if to remove a certain feeling of confusion 
there, no one would have imagined Major Gor- 
don anything but an old man. 

And with an old man's peculiarity he again and 
again reverted to the days of his youth, and this 
pretty village of Crookfield, of which Miss Trot- 
ter's father had been rector. 

"How long is it since you were there? Is 
it much changed ?" he asked. " Everything is 
changing nowadays — everything and everybody; 
I should hardly like to see it again. I have never 
seen it but that once, since — let me consider — I 
believe not since the day your father married me. 
You know" — turning suddenly to Miss Trotter — 
" you know that my wife is dead ?" 

3 



50 MISS TOMMY. 

« Yes." 

He stated the fact — indeed, the two facts, be- 
tween which had come such a lifelong tragedy (I 
found it all out afterwards) — merely as facts, noth- 
ing more. With the silent dignity which makes 
most men — not, alas! women — cover over their 
domestic wounds, he wrapped his mantle round 
him, Csesar-like, hiding every drop of blood, every 
quiver of pain. He had always done it, I heard, 
and he did it still. 

But all was ended now. As we watched him 
from our wicket-gate walk down the moonlight 
shore — we had gone a few steps outside to show 
him the way to his hotel — upright still, and 
soldier-like in his bearing, but so thin and with- 
ered-up and melancholy-looking, one wondered if 
he had ever been young. I said as much to Miss 
Tommy. 

" A nice old gentleman, though, but rather 
grim. No wonder they call him Don Quixote. 
But how anybody could ever say that, even in his 
young days, he was like my Charlie — ^" 

Miss Trotter turned, with just the shadow of 
sharpness in her gentle voice. "You girls are apt 



MISS TOMMY. 51 

to make severe criticisms and rash judgments. 
Had you known Major Gordon in his ' young 
days,' as you call them, perhaps you would have 
thought differently. He might not have been 
exactly handsome, but there was no one so grace- 
ful, so courteous, such a true gentleman. Still, 
like Don Quixote, if you will," she added, with a 
little laugh, but I saw in the moonlight that her 
eyes were glittering with tears. 

" He certainly is very like Don Quixote now," 
said I; « and what a mercy his Dulcinea is dead ! 
Did you notice he never talked about her ? Per- 
haps he loved and admired her to the last. And 
so they were married at your village ?" 

" Yes ; she came from near there." 

" And she was very beautiful, and he was very 
much in love with her ? They went out to India 
and then they came back for a year, with the 
little daughter that died here, and he returned 
alon« ?" 

I put these facts, which I had heard, in the form 
of questions, hoping to find out more, but Miss 
Trotter merely answered, "I believe so." She 
was as reticent as the Major himself. Whatever 



52 MI8S TOMMY. 

she knew of his affairs she kept in as sacred 
silence as he did. And there was no getting out 
of her what she did not choose to tell. Small as 
she was, simple in her bearing and feminine in 
her manner, no one could ever take a liberty with 
Miss Tommy. 

In those days people did not rush about with 
the speed of "From London to Paris in ten 
hours." Major Gordon, intending to rest at 
Dover three days, stayed three weeks. After so 
much knocking about the world he seemed not 
sorry for even a brief repose. He and his battered 
portmanteau removed from the second-rate hotel 
which he calmly affirmed was " rather too dear for 
him," and took up their quarters in a lodging found 
for him by Miss Trotter with a widow woman, 
one of her numerous "friends" — she had as many 
friends among the poor as the rich, and she always 
gave them that pleasant name. 

Most people are "known by their friends," who 
catch the reflection of themselves, more or less. 
Major Gordon never came to us — and he came 
every day — without singing the praises of his ex- 
cellent landlady. Mrs. Wilson was so "good," 



MISS TOMMY. 53 

80 " clever," so " kind." He seemed surprised to 
find these qualities in a woman, and dwelt upon 
them, in the smallest trifles, with an earnest grati- 
tude that would have been amusing, had it not 
been so pathetic. 

And how he did enjoy his cosey, sunshiny rooms, 
half-way up the Castle Hill ; even though on one 
side the sunshine rested on the white stones and 
green trees of an old churchyard. In front of the 
house was a sloping garden, where the birds were 
just beginning to build. There, too, he had the 
familiar military element to amuse him, for all 
the traffic of the Castle passed his door, and he 
would prick up his ears like an old war-horse, 
Mrs. Wilson said, at the tramp of a regiment or 
the music of a band. 

Major Gordon was not exactly a reading man. 
His eyes were weak, he told us ; he had once had 
slight ophthalmia in Egypt ; and his wandering, 
soldier's life had tended to the study of men 
rather than of books. But he was a shrewd old 
fellow, as I soon saw. He had gone through the 
world with his eyes open, and his observations on 
things and people were often very acute ; though 



54 MISS TOMMY. 

with regard to himself and his own affairs he had 
the simplicity of a child. 

In fact, as I said to Miss Trotter, Charlie's uncle 
amused me exceedingly — "he was such a queer 
combination of the serpent and the dove." I 
laughed with him and at him ; I admired him and 
criticised him, after the boldly candid fashion of 
young people. But Miss Tommy never made any 
comments upon him at all. 

As I said, instead of three days he stayed three 
weeks, before going on to London, which he 
seemed in no hurry to do. 

" My business can stand over, and keep no one 
waiting; nobody expects me," he said one day, 
with a smile, half sad, half cynical — there was a 
touch of cynicism in many of his remarks, which 
always had the effect of making Miss Trotter 
silent. "All I have to do can be done at any 
time." 

"No time like the present, as Miss Trotter 
would say," I answered, laughing. 

" Young lady," said the Major, turning upon 
me with a sharpness so unwonted that it actually 
made me start, " if you had no future and no past. 



MISS TOMMY. 56 

yon would trouble yourself very little about the 
present." 

Which seemed to be his way — a kind of indif- 
ferent drifting with the tide, sad to see in a man 
who has passed his prime, from whom youth*8 
energy has naturally departed, leaving behind 
neither the firm resolve of middle life nor the 
calm contentment of old age. 

Possibly I give my impressions of Major Gor- 
don more from what I afterwards knew of him 
than from what I first observed, for he was not 
one of those people who take you by storm — • 
it required time and opportunity to find him 
out. We had both. He seldom missed a day 
in coming to East Cliff, though never until af- 
ternoon ; for Miss Trotter's mornings were al- 
ways full — mine, too, by the force of example, 
which was ten times better than precept. But 
in the lengthening spring evenings, when day- 
light began to fade, we used to see his tall, thin 
figure, with that old fur coat buttoned to the 
throat, appearing in the distance down the Es- 
planade ; he would join us and walk home with 
us, sit down by our fireside " for just ten min- 



5G MIS8 TOMICY. 

ntes," and when he once sat down he never got 
np again. 

One conld scarcely wonder at this. The bright 
room, the cosey tea-table — not your careless, come- 
and-go, afternoon tea, which had not then been in- 
vented, but the good old-fashioned evening meal, 
with the hissing nm, the hot muffins, the yellow 
marmalade and tempting jam, and the mistress of 
it all sitting at the head of her table, with her 
placid, homelike smile. No wonder that her guest 
sometimes put his cup down and regarded her 
wistfully. 

" Miss Trotter," he said one day, " you are the 
most comfortable-looking woman I ever knew, 
and the cleverest at making other people com- 
fortable." 

" Thank you," she laughed. 

" And I remember you were the same as a 
child. How your father used to call you his ^ lit- 
tle house-mother !' What a pity — " He stopped ; 
perhaps he had been going to say, " What a pity 
you were never married," but politeness made 
him alter it to " What a pity more women were 
not like you 1" 



MISS TOMMY. 57 

That simple, open admiration — so outspoken 
and free from all reserve — it seemed sometimes 
rather to wound its object. She always turned 
the conversation, as now. 

" Yes, my father had many a pleasant nickname 
for his favorites. Yours, I remember, was ' Bon- 
nie Prince Charlie.' " 

Major Gordon laughed heartily. " What a mis- 
nomer ! The adjective should have been applied 
to you ; for I think you were the ' bonniest ' little 
girl I ever saw. It was a pleasure to look at you 
— as it is still " — with a courtly bow, so complete- 
ly belonging to the stately compliments of the old 
school that no one could be offended at it. 

And yet I fancied I saw that pained look again 
cross Miss Tommy's face — the sweetest "old 
lady's " face that ever was, as I thereupon declared. 
She made us both a little bow, and bade us "go 
on with our tea, and talk no more nonsense." 

Thus we enjoyed our innocent jokes, a very 
happy trio ; or, if not happy, at least contented. 
If two of us had felt inclined to keep up the 
" winter of our discontent," it was " made glorious 
summer" by the sunshiny nature of the third. 

3* 



58 MI88 TOMMY. 

Miss Tommy bonestlj declared that she liked to 
be happy ; and no one could live with her, as I 
liad done all these months, without becoming, in a 
moderate and decorous degree, happy toa 

I said so to Major Gordon, one day when he and 
I were walking together, as we sometimes did, for 
many a merry mile. Miss Trotter following us in 
her little pony carriage ; for she was not strong, 
and often said what a '^ thankfulness " it was to 
her that, having walked so much in her youth, she 
conld in her old age afford the luxury of driving. 
But we two were still young and active, she told 
us, and she watched us striding along through the 
pleasant lanes and sweeps of undulating country 
which lie inland, just beyond Dover town. 

We were bound to St. Eadegund's Abbey, which 
we wished to show Major Gordon before he left. 
His departure, fixed and unfixed again several 
times, was finally settled for to-morrow ; and, the 
week after, so was mine. I too was going to Lon- 
don, to resume my family's usual round of " the 
season ;" to be speculated upon by match-making 
mothers, criticised by ugly sisters, and flirted with 
by undesirable younger brothers, to my mother's 



MI8B TOMMY. 59 

great alarm. No need ! My heart was bound up 
in my absent Charlie. 

His uncle had told me nothing about him. Our 
affair, if he knew it, and I could not help fancying 
he did know, was apparently of no importance to 
him — a mere specimen of the " calf-love " which I 
had more than once heard him contemptuously 
refer to in conversation. The " tender passion '' 
was clearly not in his line. He treated me much 
like any other young lady — politely, paternally, 
but without showing any special interest in me or 
recognizing my possible future tie to himself. 
Now I, though sometimes he vexed me by the 
stolidity with which he ignored all my " fishing 
questions," having all one aim — Charlie — I could 
not help feeling a deep interest in him and a sense 
of regret at his departure, which surprised myself. 

" What is there in some people that, though we 
are glad to see them, we never miss them ; while 
others, whenever they go away, they leave a large 
hole behind ?" 

I had said this to Miss Tommy as she was tying 
on her bonnet for our expedition ; and I happened 
to catch in the glass the reflection of her face. 



60 

Snch a monrnf al expreeeion it had, with iIb wide 
eves that saw nothiDg, and its close-set mouth, as if 
fixed for the endurance of an eternal want, a per- 
petual pain. 

It haunted me all through the walk, though 
whenever she passed us her face was dressed in 
smiles — so much so that Major Gordon said : 

"What a very happy woman Miss Trotter 
seems to be ! a great deal happier, perhaps, than 
if she had been married." 

Which was one of many severe remarks on the 
married state which continually fell from him, 
inclining me to rise up and do battle with him, 
except that he had the advantage of me, and of 
Miss Trotter too, in having been married. But, 
as she said to me once, there are two kinds of 
cynics — those w.ho do not believe at all, and those 
who believe so intensely that they will accept 
nothing short of absolute truth — absolute perfec- 
tion. Was that the reason she had never mar 
ried? 

Arrived at St. Radegund's, I took out my 
sketch-book — Charlie had a fancy for art, and 
had given me once some lessons, so of course I 



MIBB TOMMY. 61 

stuck to my drawing valorously. I had talked to 
Charlie's uncle as long as I could, but still he was 
an " old fogie ;" the young and old have not 
many points in common, and after a while find 
one another's society a trifle dull. Now, elderly 
folk do not seem to mind dulness, but can go on 
together, as I have known Major Gordon and 
Miss Trotter do, for ever so long, without ex- 
changing a dozen words. 

They did so now. After we had examined the 
ruins, and speculated on the departed St. Eade- 
gund, who, I believe, was a lady abbess, and this 
her convent; but really 1 felt little interest in 
her, a long dead and buried woman, while I was 
a living woman, oh ! so keenly, painfully alive ! 
1 left my two respected seniors to their mutual 
society, and took refuge in my own, which was 
much more interesting. Soon I had settled my- 
self in a secluded corner to make my sketch, and 
think of Charlie. 

Both these useful occupations had absorbed me 
for a good half-hour, when I heard voices behind 
me ; there was a broken wall between, and they 
evidently did not know 1 was there. Indeed, 



62 MI88 TOMMY. 

they were in such earnest talk — those two worthy 
friends of mine — that I should not have troubled 
myself about them, any more than they about 
me, had I not, after a minute or so, caught 
Charlie's name. 

" Yes, he is a real good fellow, that nephew of 
mine ! I only wish I could be a better uncle and 
godfather to him ; bat I have little influence and 
no money. Besides, he is in the queen's service, 
and I in ^ John Company's.' His only way of 
getting promotion is by purchase. If I had the 
money I once made — you know I never was ex- 
travagant, and I did hope to keep enough to be 
comfortable in my old age, and perhaps have a 
trifle for Charlie — well, it is gone, and there is 
little use in speaking about it." 

"No." There was something strangely pa- 
thetic in these monosyllables of Miss Trotter's, 
which implied and concealed so much. Her 
soft " No " and " Yes " — I can almost hear them 
still ! 

" You are right. Let bygones be bygones. 
That has always been my principle and practice. 
The loss of the money was not my fault, only my 



MISS TOMMY. 69 

misfortune. With my small needs I can do with- 
out it. And now about Charlie." 

Was I mean ? I think I was ; yet the impulse 
to listen was irresistible. For three weeks I had 
been kept on the tenter-hooks of suspense; not 
a word, good, bad, or indifferent, did his uncle 
say of my poor Charlie. Of course, the ideal 
and honorable thing just now would have been 
a good loud cough I But that might have per- 
plexed them. Indeed, I had already heard a lit- 
tle too much, for it was easy to guess that Major 
Gordon's " misfortune " was his wife. I made 
this excuse to myself at the time for doing what 
I did. Well, I did it, and there's an end. 

" Charlie, poor lad ! Well, he may be a great 
fool — a young man in love usually is — but he is 
an honest fool. He told me everything, and 
made me promise to go and see his young lady 
as soon as I reached England. This was the 
cause of my inflicting myself so long on your 
kindness, Miss Trotter." 

" I perceive." 

"It was my only chance of finding out what 
stuff the girl was made of. Not a bad sort of 



64 MISS TOMMY. 

girl. As you say, Charlie might have done worse ; 
but lie would have done better not to have got 
into the entanglement at all." 

Entanglement 1 Charlie's devotion to me an 
" entanglement 1" I was furious, first at Major 
Gordon and then at Miss Trotter. What could 
these two old idiots know about love — such love 
as mine and Charlie's? 

After a pause I heard the latter say gently, 
"What is your objection?" 

" First and foremost — she has money." 

Was it my fancy, or a real tremble in her 
voice, as Miss Trotter answered, " Few people 
besides yourself would count that an objection. 
Why ?" 

" Can you ask ? when Charlie has not a half- 
penny f No, no ; a man with proper pride would 
never have dreamed of such a thing." 

" Is not that rather hard for Decie ? When she 
herself is worth much more than her fortune ?" 

And then my dear Miss Tommy spoke up for 
me, warmly, kindly, generously, until I felt my- 
self blushing to the ears, and wished with all my 
heart I had been half as good as she thought me. 



MISS TOMMY. 65 

" We will let that pass," replied Major Gordon 
in his most worldly tone; he was both worldly 
and matter-of-fact sometimes, or liked to appear 
so. " My dear Miss Trotter, you always believe 
the very best of everybody. Yet the girl is a 
good girl enough ; but how do we know what 
sort of woman she will turn out ? Many a man 
is deceived by a pretty face ; he marries it, and 
learns afterwards to loathe it. A handsome girl 
— a girl with money ; how can you tell that she 
will not grow into an arrant flirt — a married 
flirt, the worst of all — or a scolding, extravagant 
jade, or some of those delightful forms of the 
genus woman that we sometimes see in India? 
Never in England, of course ;" and I could im- 
agine the Major's courteous, deprecatory bow. 
Though I heard also his bitter laugh, which nega- 
tived it. 

And after a minute I heard the sweet pleading 
voice : " We need not talk ; it is enough, gener- 
ally, to act. What can be done for these foolish 
young people? They are very fond of one an- 
other." 

" Fond ? — as a child is fond of a stick of sugar- 



66 MISS TOMMY. 

candy. Take it away and they will soon get over 
it. Best that they should get over it." 

" Are you sure of that ?" 

" Quite sure. A man who marries young is a 
fool; if he marries late in life he often takes 
the crooked stick and repents it till death. The 
wisest man is he who never marries at all. And 
so I said to my nephew Charlie." 

" And he said — " 

"The usual thing! Did any young man in 
love ever listen to anybody's advice, or feel any- 
thing but hatred to the prudent parent or friend 
that stood between him and his madness ?" 

" Have you done this ?" 

"Not at all. My bark is worse than ray bite, 
I assure you. I only told him he was a very 
great fool, and that I could not help him in the 
least. Had I been a rich man now, I might have 
been a fool too, for I like the lad — ^I might have 
bought his promotion, and sent him home in 
three years, a colonel perhaps, to marry Miss 
Decie, supposing she is still true to him, which 
is not over likely. Could any girl of nineteen 
keep true for a twelvemonth to any man ?" 



MISS TOMMY. 67 

Miss Trotter made no answer, and Major Gor- 
don went on to thank her for her interest in his 
nephew. 

" And he really is a good fellow, who will work 
his way and get promotion — also gray hairs. Miss 
Murray will by that time be the happy wife of 
an earl or a millionaire. Your rich people gen- 
erally marry money — carrying coals to Newcas- 
tle. I hope, by-the-bye, that Mrs. Murray will 
not suspect me of doing anything to forward my 
nephew's cause by my visit here ?" 

" I will take care she shall not." 

" And, Miss Trotter, do not imagine I think ill 
of your young protegee^ who is most fortunate in 
having you for her friend. Sh^ is a very pleas- 
ant person ; she might make a good wife ; and, 
if I could earn money enough to buy Charlie's 
promotion — Do you think anybody would give 
work — paying work — to a broken-down old sol- 
dier ?" 

He said this with a laugh, but evidently meant 
it — an intention so kindly that I forgave him a 
good deal ; forgave too the answer by which Miss 
Trotter negatived it. 



68 MIS8 TOMMY. 

" I think it is the young who ought to work. 
The old should take rest ; they need it, and de- 
serve it." 

" But you — you never seem to rest ? Ton are 
busy from morning till night, chiefly for other 
people. You are able to throw yourself out of 
yourself in the most marvellous way. Tou think 
of everybody ; does anybody ever think of you ? 
Nay, here am I, keeping you standing discussing 
Charlie's affairs and my own, when you ought to 
be sitting in your carriage. Where is it ? Shall 
I go and fetch it ?" 

" If you please." 

I heard him stride away — heard her creep for- 
ward and sit down on a stone — a broken pillar. 
The bent little figure, the hands tight-clasped on 
her lap, the head drooped down as in patient ac- 
quiescence under a long- familiar burden — I can 
see her still, my dear Miss Tommy ! 

But just then I saw nothing but myself, and 
my own indignation, which at last boiled over. I 
startled her by my sudden appearance. 

" Miss Trotter, you must drive me home. I 
will not walk back with Major Gordon. I have 



MISS TOMMY. 69 

heard — I don't care whether I was right or wrong 
— but I overheard, accidentally, every word he 
has been saying to yon about me and Charlie. 
And — ^I hate him !" 

Whereupon I burst at once into a storm of 
tears. 

Miss Trotter rose and came beside me. I felt 
my hand taken, with a firm, soft clasp, which 
calmed me in spite of all my wrath. 

" My dear, they say listeners never hear any 
good of themselves, but you cannot have heard 
much harm. And people are often mistaken 
without being actually wrong. We need not 
'hate' them. We should rather be sorry for 
them." 

"I am not sorry for him at all — the hard, 
worldly-minded, mean old fellow." 

Here a little hand was laid upon my mouth. 

"Not mean — he never could be mean. And 
you never could speak ill of Charlie's uncle. He 
is fond of Charlie." 

I looked down in her face with its soft, pale 
smile — not till now had I noticed how exceed- 
ingly pale she was — and it seemed to comfort me. 



70 MISS TOMMY. 

" I can't imagine how it is that you under- 
stand everybody's troubles, and have a cheering 
word to say to everybody. It must be because 
you are so happy and have had such an easy 
life." 

" Must it ? Well, never mind. Dry your 
teare, Decie — an April shower on an April day, 
for indeed it is no more. Look, there comes 
the carriage, and Major Gordon, carrying a great 
bunch of primroses. Does that look * worldly- 
minded V Forgive him, my dear. Take no no- 
tice of anything; Do your best — and leave the 
rest." 

I obeyed her. I received Major Gordon and 
his floral oflEering — which he presented to me 
with the air of a knight of the Middle Ages — 
without betraying any grudge against him. Nay, 
I even walked home with him, conversing in the 
most amicable manner on the beauties of spring, 
and the pity it was to waste May mornings and 
June evenings in the follies of the London sea- 
son, just as if I had never " hated " him at all. 

It was impossible indeed to hate him long. 
There was such an extraordinary sweetness about 



MISS TOMMY. 71 

him — that mixture of sweetness and strength 
which in a man is so fascinating, at any age. 
Charlie had it in degree; but I must confess I 
never saw it so strongly marked in any man as 
in Charlie's uncle, despite his bald crown and 
gray hairs. 

" He might almost win a woman's heart yet," 
I said to Miss Trotter, after he had departed that 
night, bidding us a rather lingering good-bye, 
for he was to start at eight next morning. He 
seemed quite uncertain when he should come 
back, if he came back at all. " Perhaps he may 
find some rich widow who would take him, oddi- 
ties and all, or some benevolent and eager-to-be- 
married old — " 

I stopped, ashamed, for I had ceased to laugh 
at old maids since I had known Miss Tommy. 
Though no one could be less like the received 
type of an old maid than she was, with her love- 
ly old face, so peaceful and smiling, her contented 
air, and her universal and most motherly tender- 
ness, especially over the young. 

" Some * unappropriated blessing,' which is the 
polite term for an unmarried woman," said she, 



72 MISS TOionr. 

with A gontlo smilo. "No, I do not think Major 
(lonlon is likely to marry. But he might ha^e 
II l()i)(5 and useful life yet. I trust he will ha^e. 
Ill) diwTvefl it." 

Sho rose and took up his gloves — such an old 
and hluihhy pair I which he had left behind on 
liin favorite arm-chair — the Major's chair we had 
f(ot to (^all it ; it looked sad and empty now. 

'* \Vt» will Bond them after him when we know 
wlu^ru ho luiH p;one to," she said, and folded them 
up and laid thuni carefully in a drawer. 

'i'liaL ni^ht she went to bed rather early — we 
had ^ot into a habit of sitting " four feet on a 
fiJiidor" over the dying fire till midnight — and 
blio lijoked very tired all next day. But she 
said bIio had to do double duty consequent on 
yesterday's idleness, so went about as usual, while 
I busied myself in preparing for my melancholy 
departure. 

I had not thought till I came to leave her how 
sorry I should be to do it — how I should miss 
her genial smile, her ceaseless care and thought 
for me. That busy life seemed still to have room 
for everything and everybody. 



MISS TOMMY. 73 

" Good-byes are sore things," I said, thinking 
sorrowfully of mine with Charlie ; of which Miss 
Trotter might have been thinking too, for she an- 
swered : 

" And yet it is something to have the right to 
grieve — to know that the grief is mutual — to feel 
that the parting is not indefinite. There are 
those who have none of these consolations, yet 
they have to bear the same pang. Some part- 
ings are like death itself, only without its peace." 

I looked up from my packing, for she spoke 
with keen sympathy, even emotion. 

" Yes, there must be some poor young creat- 
ures even more miserable than I and Charlie." 

" I and Charlie," " Charlie and me 1" I wonder 
she was not sick of that perpetual chorus of ego- 
tistical woe, which I, like many another foolish 
girl, inflicted upon my affectionate friends — at 
least upon this friend. She insisted that I should 
"keep myself to myself" with other people; 
especially with my family, who, I shrewdly sus- 
pected, would not stand as much as she did. I 
should have henceforth to conceal my sorrows, 
or try and rise superior to them, and make my- 

4 



74 MIB8 TOMMY. 

self as happy as I cotildy with Charlie away ; 
which seemed a sort of infidelity to Charlie. 

When I said so, Miss Tommy smiled. 

" My dear, young people in love always think 
it a duty to be miserable. By and by they learn 
a higher duty — that if you are not happy your- 
self you have the more need to make other peo- 
ple happy. The weakest, the most unchristian 
thing a woman can do, or a man either, is to die 
of a broken heart." 

" Yet people have died." 

" And lived — which is harder. But what non- 
sense we are talking 1 You will not die broken- 
hearted after parting with me, my dear," and 
she laughed her own merry laugh. "And for 
Charlie, I would advise you, for the next three 
months at least, not to say a word about Charlie. 
You may think of him all the same, you know." 

" Don't laugh at me." 

" I am not laughing. I want you to think of 
him. I hope you will keep true to him ; for one 
real love, be it ever so sad, is better than twenty 
' fancies,' or a hundred ' flirtations.' " 

"Thank you — thank you; you are not like 



MISS TOMMY. 75 

Major Gk)rdon. Ton believe in me ; you do not 
think I shall ever forget Charlie." 

"No." 

We stood at the wicket -gate for a breath of 
the salt sea, just to refresh us before bedtime. 
The moonlight nights were over; but through 
the clear darkness we could trace the beautiful 
curve of the bay, studded with its ring of lights 
— the incoming tide, heard rather than seen, on 
the one hand, and the dim outline of white cliffs 
on the other. How many a night we had walked 
up and down, the two of us — latterly the three — 
and now it was all come to an end. 

"Ton will have to take your walks alone," I 
said. 

" Yes ; I am used to it." 

That phrase, with its infinite pathos! I did 
not notice it then, nor understand it ; I was too 
young to have " got used " to anything. But I 
somehow felt my heart yearn towards the soli- 
tary woman. Any unmarried woman must be 
solitary, I thought. I put my arms round her 
and kissed her, not as a mere salutation, but 
with the warm kisses of youth, as I used to kiss 



1DB6 TOUKT. 



Chftrlie (no ! let me correct mjeelf, as Clwriie 
used to kiss me). She kissed me back again, 
with, to in; surprise, a great sob ; and then and 
there in tlio gileiit starlight, to my still greater 
Btirpriee, she — like the people in the Bible — "fell 
on my neck and wept." Mj dear Miss Tommy ! 




PART IL 

Chablie Gordon did come back at the three 
years' end; and, despite his uncle's prophecy, 
he did find me true, and not married either 
to an earl or a millionaire. I will not say that 
I had not been asked; but that is neither here 
nor there, and, as Miss Trotter once observed, 
the less a woman says about her rejected lovers 
the better. 

She — my dear Miss Tommy — happened to be 
sitting with me when Charlie suddenly appeared. 

It was the day after my twenty-first birthday, 
which, though lively enough, I cannot say was 
very happy. But I tried hard to make it so ; for 
I had by this time learned my lesson — the lesson 
first taught me by her dear old self in her pretty 
house at Dover, during the peaceful three months 
when she "took me in" — me, almost a "stranger" 
— and returned me back to my parents healed in 
body and mind. At least I was so much better 



78 MISS TOMMY. 

that I endured the ensuing three years without 
making myself unendurable to my family, as is 
the way with so many young people who have 
been " crossed in love." Much pity I have for 
them, poor things I — the tender .pity that Miss 
Tommy had for me; but my pity never blinds 
me, as it never blinded her, to the truth of the 
matter, namely, that to waste one's life, with all 
its duties, all its blessings — ^and few lives are void 
of the latter, none of the former — to sacrifice it on 
the shrine of any one human being, is, as some 
statesman said of a great political error, ^^ worse 
than a crime — a blunder." And had I for those 
three years made myself and my family utterly 
miserable on Charlie's account, I should certainly 
have committed a great blunder; for I should 
have taught them to despise me and hate him — 
hate my dear Charlie, the best, nicest, pleasantest 
— but I will not forestall things. 

On my birthday — which was a rather important 
date, since on coming of age I inherited some 
money from an old great-aunt — I had all my own 
people about me : my married brothers and their 
families, my two elder sisters, both engaged and 



MISS TOMMY. 79 

making "excellent matches" — to my mother's 
great delight. For me, I would not have married 
either of my brothers-in-law elect for the world I 
But I was very civil to them, and took with com- 
posure the jokes about my "unattached" condi- 
tion, without a single creature to pay me attention 
either in the house or at the birthday ball. In- 
stead, I occupied myself with paying attention to 
my dear Miss Tommy, who, though I had not been 
allowed to visit her again, was always considered 
in the family as my particular friend, and invited 
to our house whenever I desired it. 

Not since that pleasant fortnight which I spent 
with him had I again seen Major Gordon. My 
family met him once in society, and — by all ac- 
counts — gave him so unmistakably the "cold 
shoulder" that I scarcely wondered he had left 
unfulfilled his promise of coming to see me when 
he was "settled" in London. But possibly he 
never had settled anywhere; for I had heard 
nothing of him until quite lately, when, in answer 
to my questions, Miss Trotter said that in an ac- 
cidental letter which she had received from him 
he " inquired kindly " after me. 



80 MISS TOMMY. 

This was all. She evidently wished to say as 
little as possible about the Gordons — nncle and 
nephew — which did not contribute to the happi- 
ness of my birthday. But, I reflected, no doubt 
she felt bound in honor to tell me nothing about 
Charlie, and perhaps after all she had very little 
to tell. For when I communicated to her the 
only news which had reached me of Major Gor- 
don — how some mutual friend had met him in 
the city looking very shabby, worn, and old — she 
seemed both surprised and pained. 

But to return to me and Charlie. By-the-bye, 
it was a creditable novelty in me to " return " to 
Charlie, instead of making him, as aforetime, the 
one sole subject of my conversation. He ap- 
peared, as I have said, the very day after my birth- 
day. We were sitting among the debris of the 
ball, in the dulness of tired-out folk, when the 
footman suddenly announced " Colonel Gordon." 

^^ It must be a mistake — and mamma and the 
girls are out," I said to Miss Trotter ; but she only 
smiled. 

" It's you, miss, that the young gentleman asks 
for," said our old John, with a grin — well he knew 



MISS TOMMY. 81 

Charlie in the old days! "And be told me to say 
Colonel Gordon." 

So in be walked, as composedly as if be bad 
been tbe fairy prince come to demand tbe band 
of tbe beautiful princess, wbicb be did witbin an 
hour or two, of her astounded parents ! 

There was no reason why be should not. He 
was no longer Mr., but Colonel, Gordon. A lucky 
battle (alas! that we should call it so) bad pro- 
moted him — had enabled him to come home in 
time to keep bis tryst with me, and to " come for- 
ward," as the phrase goes, with dignity and inde- 
pendence, to ask me of my father. 

We sat together in the little boudoir, band-in- 
hand, like children ; sat and cried for joy — kissing 
one another between whiles, also like children; 
for there was no one near except Miss Trotter, 
knitting energetically in the big drawing-room. I 
introduced Charlie to her, saying she was a friend 
of bis uncle ; but he did not seem to have beard 
of her or to think much about her. In truth, 
poor dear fellow ! at that moment he thought of 
nothing but me ; and declared he bad thought of 
nothing but me all the time be bad been parted 

4* 



82 MI88 TOlOfT. 

from me. Which I hope was true. At any rate, 
I saw no reason to doubt it. 

"A colonel's pay is not a fortune, my Decie, 
but it is quite equal to what you have, and so my 
pride is satisfied — my uncle's too. He met me 
when I reached London yesterday. We had a 
long talk, and though he did not exactly advise 
me to come here to-day, he did not object to it. 
He said he liked you very much, and that if I 
must be so foolish as to marry, perhaps I had 
better marry you ; and so — ^" 

Here Charlie ended his sentence in another but 
equally satisfactory way. Oh, dear me ! how fool- 
ish we are when we are young, and yet how sweet 
is the folly ! 

And then he told me confidentially a remark- 
able fact — which there was no need to make a 
matter of public talk — that when he came home he 
found lying at his banker's a large sum of money, 
which, added to his colonel's pay, would give an 
income sufficient to enable us to marry at once. 
It had been paid into the bank anonymously — ^by 
whom, he had not the remotest idea. 

This latter fact was rather " uncomfortable," he 



MISS TOMMY. 83 

owned, and I agreed with him; still it did not 
strike me as wonderful that anybody should do 
anything for Charlie; and among his numerous 
friends probably there was one who had a fancy 
for secret benevolence. 

"I thought at first it was my uncle, but found 
the dear old fellow knew nothing at all about the 
matter, of which I was very glad, for though he 
declares he is not poor, that no gentleman is poor 
who knows the extent of his income and lives 
within it, still he must have great trouble to make 
ends meet. And he ought to have more comforts 
than he has, an old man like him — ^better clothes, 
better food, and perhaps some one to do his writ- 
ing and reading for him : his sight is not good, 
though from long habit he manages extremely 
well. He is at once very independent and very 
helpless — ^poor Uncle Gordon !" 

Here Miss Trotter, who had sat in the back- 
ground absorbed in her knitting, looked up. (1 
had told Charlie he need not mind her; she 
knew all about us, and would play propriety 
in the most harmless way till my mother came 
home.) 



84 MISS TOMMY. 

^'Has Major Gordon changed his address? 
Will you give it to me ? I am an old friend of 
his." 

Charlie bowed. He admired pretty women of 
all ages; and I could see he was quite taken by 
the sweet-looking little old lady. 

"Who in the world is she? Trotter? Not 
Trotters the army-tailors?" 

I stopped his whispers with the severest of 
frowns, made him write down the address of his 
uncle's new lodgings — it was in a very shabby 
and dreary London street — ^and gave it to Miss 
Tommy. Shortly afterwards she made some ex- 
cuse and left us together, which was, we both 
agreed, the very kindest thing she could do. 

So it was all soon arranged, for Charlie was one 
who never allowed any grass to grow under his 
feet. He was determined, and so was I. We had 
both an independent income, small, but suflBcient ; 
and we were young and strong enough to "rough 
it " a little if necessary. Though it scarcely would 
be necessary, as, to my mother's great relief, the 
regiment was coming home, so that Charlie would 
have, for the present at least, no more fight- 



inSS TOMMY. 85 

iug, nor would my parents lose their youngest 
darling. 

I was their darling, I felt ; and they had meant 
me no harm, nor done it either, by insisting on 
the temporary separation between my lover and 
me. It had only made us the worthier and, if 
possible, the dearer to one another. True love is 
all the truer for being tried. 

When, next day, I received the congratulations 
of our mutual families — ^though his consisted only 
of his uncle, for his only living relative, a married 
sister, lived in the far north of Scotland — ^I think 
my Chsirlie^B Jiancee was the happiest girl in the 
world. Far happier than if I had at once got 
what I wanted, and oh ! a thousand times happier 
than if I had withstood or disobeyed my parents, 
sulked with my brothers and sisters, and made 
myself generally disagreeable at home — the dear 
familiar home which would be mine now for so 
very short a time. Another home might be fuller, 
wider, brighter ; but there is something in the in- 
nocent girl-life, free from cares and responsibili- 
ties, safe hidden in the warm nest, and cherished 
under the soft, motherly wing — something which 



86 lOBS TOMMT. 

a girl never gets again in all her days, and never 
thoroughly understands or appreciates till it is 
hers no more forever. 

Yet, as I said to Miss Tommy, for once in my 
life quoting poetry, 

^'LoTe 18 swoet, 
Given or retamed — ^** 

to which she only answered, " Yes " — ^her usual 
gentle ^^ Yes." But she kissed me fondly. I am 
sure she was glad in her inmost heart to see me so 
happy. 

And, looking back through many years, through 
*' all the chances and changes of mortal life," as 
the prayer-book has it, I can remember vividly 
that day, and feel that it was good to be happy. 
I can see myself sitting in my usual place at the 
family dinner-table, beside my father, but with 
Charlie on my other side, an accepted lover, and 
both of us, we flattered ourselves, sustaining our 
new position with dignity and grace. Still we 
were both a little nervous — I am sure I was — and 
it Was quite a relief that there were no strangers 
present, except two who could hardly be called 
such — ^Miss Trotter and Major Gordon. 



MISS TOMMY. 87 

They happened to sit together at the other end 
of the table, for my mother had, of course, been 
taken in to dinner by Charlie's uncle, and my 
father — he was a little distraity poor man, and no 
wonder ! — ^had forgotten Miss Tommy. She would 
have had to walk in alone, had not Major Gordon, 
ever courteous, turned and given her his other 
arm. 

So the two old acquaintances were placed side 
by side, which they seemed to enjoy, for they 
talked a good deal. And, as I noticed to Charlie 
(it was such a comfort to have Charlie to tell 
everything to once more !), his uncle grew less 
solemn and Don Quixotish — as who would not 
under the snnBhiny influence of my dear Miss 
Tommy? (N.B. I never called her that to her 
face, but she knew we often did so behind her 
back ; nor do I think she disliked it — she once told 
me that her father's pet name for her was always 
" Tommy.") 

As I sat in my usual place, radiant in my new 
happiness, with all my dear ones about me, and 
especially the dearest of all, more than once I 
caught Miss Trotter's glance wandering towards 



88 MI88 TOlOfT. 

me with a wiBtful tenderness almost amounting to 
sadness, and I wondered, with a sudden flash of 
intuition, bom of my deep bliss, what her youth 
had been, whether she had ever known, even for 
a brief moment, the felicity which, thoughtless as 
I was in these early days, I thought of with a sigh 
of content, saying with old King David, "My cup 
runneth over." 

" I am glad to see Major Gordon here," whis- 
pered I to Charlie. " He looks a good deal older 
since I saw him first. I wonder what he was like 
as a young man." 

" They say he was like me." (To which I re- 
sponded indignantly, " Oh no !") " But he would 
not be an ill-looking fellow, poor Uncle Gordon, if 
only he would spruce himself up a bit, as he has 
done to-day, for the credit of the family. He is 
not vain, but he is most awfully proud. Would 
you believe it, he is vexing his very life out be- 
cause he cannot discover the anonymous friend to 
whom I owe that money, and he cannot bear 
being indebted to any human being. I think he 
is more angry than grateful. Now, I am very 
grateful." 



MISS TOMMY. 89 

And so was I, without perplexing myself about 
the matter, which, however, Major Gordon did 
not refer to at all; but whenever he fell into 
fits of silence or abstraction, as was not seldom, 
Charlie whispered, "He is worrying himself about 
the money, poor old dear !" 

The " old dear," however, was very benignant 
to me, informing Charlie that "he had always 
liked me." Though a little stately and formal, 
not at all like the " gay Gordons " of the ballad, 
which I took care to quote to Charlie — 

''He tnnied about lightlie, as the Gordons does a', 
I thank yon, Leddy Jean, my lovers promised ava'* — 

still, taking him altogether, I confessed, and after 
he had left my mother confessed also, that Major 
Gordon was not an uncle to be ashamed of. 

It sounded odd to call him major and his 
nephew colonel ; but he did not seem to mind it, 
they being in different services. Besides, as I 
heard him say to Miss Trotter, what did it mat- 
ter? "his day was done." A sad remark, to 
which she made no answer; but as he turned 
away, I saw her eyes follow him with a long, wist- 
ful look — which opened mine. 



90 MI88 TOIOTT. 

I was only one-and-twenty, and she — well! I 
had never heard exactly how old she was; but 
there are some people and some things which 
never grow old. From that minute there dawned 
upon me an idea, which I had the good sense and 
delicacy to keep entirely to myself, bat which 
furnished me with a due to many mysteries — 
even to that grand mystery of Charlie's money. 
And so, perhaps, I was the only person not sur- 
prised when, two days after, as we ladies were all 
sitting in the morning-room, there came a mes- 
sage that Major Gordon was below, and " wished 
to speak to Miss Trotter for five minutes on busi- 
ness." 

" Do not be frightened, Decie ; I know what it 
is," said she, taking my hand — hers was cold and 
nervously trembling ; but she sat still and said no 
more. 

Major Gordon walked into the room, looking 
more than ever " as if he had swallowed a poker," 
my sisters said. He exchanged a few civilities 
with my mother, and then, as she was leaving the 
room, stopped her. 

^^Do not go, Mrs. Murray; I have no secrets 



MISS TOMMY. 91 

with Miss Trotter. The 'business' I wished to 
speak to her about is public enough — only too 
public. I should prefer you all hearing the ques- 
tion I have the pleasure, or pain, of putting to 
her, and which, I trust, she will answer can- 
didly." 

Miss Tommy looked up full in his face. It was 
a look quite different from that she bestowed on 
any of us. In it was something at once sad, ear- 
nest, yet restful — something of a child's look, dif- 
fident and hesitating, but full of trust, reminding 
me of what she had once said of him, that if he 
had one quality more than another, it was relia- 
bleness. 

" I will speak at once and resolve my doubts," 
be said, crossing over to her. "Miss Trotter, 
the unknown friend who placed that large sum to 
my nephew's credit at his banker's was, I have 
reason to believe, yourself. Am I right ?" 

She grew crimson all over, then paled again, 
and said gently, almost deprecatingly : "Yes, it 
was I." 

" And why did you do it ?" 

" Ah, Major Gordon 1" I cried, reproachfully, 



92 MISS TOMICT. 

and ran to embrace my dear Miss Tommy in a 
burst of gratitude, but she softly put me aside." 

<< Why should I not do it ? I have no one to 
spend my money upon, or leave it to — neither 
husband, child, nor near relation. I chose to do 
this, and I think I was justified in doing it." 

She spoke with a mingled dignity and pathos 
which could not fail to strike anybody. It seemed 
to strike Major Gordon, and remind him that in 
his pride he had a little failed of courtesy : grati- 
tude, I suppose, could not have been expected 
from him. 

" Forgive me. I acknowledge your generosity; 
but there are two sides to the subject, ours and 
yours. It is hard enough for us, poor as we are 
— my nephew and I — to be connected with a 
wealtliy family by marriage ; but it is harder still, 
it is almost humiliating, to be indebted to — " 

" I beg your pardon," interrupted Miss Trotter; 
and her voice had a quiver of keen pain. " You 
are not indebted to me, Major Gordon. What I 
did I did for the sake of this little girl here, and 
for a young man who, by what I have learned — 
and I took some pains to find out all about him — 



MISS TOMMY. 93 

deserves every good thing that Fortune can be- 
stow. For me, I am merely a tool in the hands 
of Fortune, or Providence, to make two people 
happy. There is not so much of happiness in this 
world that I or any one need regret the deed." 

The words were a little sad, but the smile was 
so sunny that even Major Gordon must have been 
a stone to resist it. He extended his hand, and 
clasped hers warmly. 

" Tou are a good woman, an exceedingly good 
woman; and my nephew is fortunate in having 
your esteem — your — patronage, shall I say ? No, 
your kind oflSces. I hope he will be grateful to 
you — I think he will." 

" He ought to be !" cried my mother, warmly. 
She had no pangs of wounded pride, and her prac- 
tical mind at once leaped to the obvious conclu- 
sion that so affectionate and wealthy a friend — an 
old maid, too — implied a very comfortable future 
for Charlie and me. " But, my dear Miss Trotter, 
how well you kept the secret, and what a roman- 
tic idea to take into your head 1" 

"Not at alll" laughing in her old, pleasant 
way. "May not a woman do as she likes with 



94' MI88 TOMMT. 

her own { an unmarried woman especially. That 
is the advantage we have over yon British mar 
trons ; there is no one to argue with us, no one to 
contradict us. Besides" — ^here she took a graver 
tone, and (I thought) turned more towards Major 
Gordon as she spoke — ^^ I am rich now, but I was 
poor once, very poor. It teaches me to under- 
stand poverty. I mean " — and now she addressed 
him directly — ^^that you must disabuse your 
nephew's mind of any idea of obligation to me. 
I am merely paying back, in my old age, the debts 
of my youth. Do not speak of the matter again. 
Forget it. Will you promise me this ?" 

She laid her hand on his coat sleeve — a rather 
shabby sleeve. Now, in full daylight, any eye — 
certainly a woman's — might have detected sad ev- 
idences that he had no woman to take care of 
him : frayed wrijstbands, holes in gloves, buttons 
missing from shirt-fronts, etc. Poor Major Gor- 
don! 

"I do promise 1" he said, with much feeling; 
and, taking up the little hand, he kissed it in 
knightly fashion before us all — an action so sud- 
den, so unlike what one would have expected of 



MISS TOMMY. 95 

him that I did not wonder to see her start. But 
the expression of her dear old face was less of 
pleasure than pain. 

Major Gordon soon left, saying, in his usual 
formal manner, " that he would now go in search 
of his nephew, explain to him this discovery, and 
send him to offer his own acknowledgments to 
his benevolent friend," indicating Miss Trotter by 
a stately bow, which forced me to clasp her round 
the neck in a fervor of enthusiasm. 

"I shaVt call you my * benevolent friend,'" 
exclaimed I, half crying, half laughing. ^^ I love 
you ; that is all." 

^^ And that is enough," she answered, stroking 
my hair in a fond way she had. Shortly after* 
wards she went to her own room, whence she did 
not emerge for some hours. 

Kext day she bade us adieu, and departed from 
our large, merry household to her own 'solitary 
home. 

My mother declared she could not possibly stand 
three weddings at once, and that Charlie and I 
must wait a little, which I was not sorry to do. I 
liked to prolong the sweetness of the courtship 



96 MISS TOMMY. 

time; indeed, as I confided to Miss Tommy, I 
would not have minded ever so long an engage- 
ment now that I really belonged to Charlie, and 
could be a comfort to him in all things, as he to 
me. And she answered that I was right. " True 
love was always true, whether or not it ever ended 
in marriage" — a sentiment in which Charlie did 
not wholly agree with her. 

But he did agree with her, and so did I, in pro- 
testing against a grand wedding like my sisters', 
with three clergymen to tie the knot, and twelve 
bridesmaids to " assist " at the performance, which 
was a real " performance," and went off admira- 
bly. But I would have preferred being married 
in a cotton gown, with the pew-opener for my 
bridesmaid. 

When I said this, however. Miss Tommy 
laughed, and declared I was going a step too far ; 
that there were certain duties we owed to society ; 
and, for her part, she thought it might be a pleas- 
ant thing to be married with all one's family 
about one. 

"A blessing we solitary ones perhaps appreci- 
ate more than you," she added ; and then we fell 



MISS TOMMY. 97 

into a discussion upon family ties, d propo8 of 
Scotch clannishness, and of Major Gordon, in 
-whom it was very strong. I was sure he liked 
Charlie, not merely for himself, dear fellow ! good 
as he was, but because he belonged to " the fam- 
ily." 

" And, as he once argued with me— r-we are very 
good friends now, you know — he cannot under- 
stand why you should like Charlie so much, see- 
ing he does not belong to you — is not connected 
with you by any tie of blood. Nor am I, for that 
matter; yet you like me a little, don't you?" 

She pressed my hand tenderly, and then said : 
" Yes, you are right. The tie of blood — that is 
all Major Gordon cares for. Some have this feel- 
ing very strong — so strong that it blunts all sense 
of other ties. I have known parents, most de- 
voted to their own children, who had no tender- 
ness, no justice even, for other people's children ; 
and brothers and sisters who thought whatever 
they did was right, and what outsiders did infalli- 
bly wrong. But perhaps I judge harshly, Decie, 
my dear, and from my own point of view. What 
would become of me if I had no heart except for 

5 



98 MI88 TOIOCT. 

my own kith and kin, of whom I have none in 
the wide world ?" 

It was not often that she Bpokethns; seldom, 
indeed, of herself at all. She once said, langhing, 
'^ that she did not find it an interesting subject." 
But to-day, in the pleasure of having me with 
her, and on this visit — the last I should pay her 
before I was married — our hearts seemed to open 
out one towards one another. 

We were sitting on the Castle Hill, near the 
top of the steps, and looking down on Dover town 
and bay, which lay so still and bright, with the 
autumn sunset reflected in it. Miss Trotter still 
came, every winter, to her little honse at Dover. 
She liked it better, she owned, than her grand 
mansion in the country ; and so did I. We agreed 
that my farewell visit as Decie Murray should be 
to Dover. Accordingly, we fell into our old ways, 
and walks too. But I noticed she could not walk 
quite so far ; she had often to stop and rest, as 
now. And when Charlie came down, she let us 
go off on our rambles by ourselves, and Major 
Gordon by himself. For he, too, appeared once 
or twice, and took up his quarters with his old 



I 



ll 



MISS TOMMY. 101 

landlady, who thought him " the nicest old gen- 
tleman that ever was." 

Scarcely an "old" gentleman, unless one saw 
his face. He was so thin — slim, one might say — 
and upright that, walking behind him and Char- 
lie, you could hardly say which was the uncle and 
which the nephew. How often we watched them 
both. Miss Tommy and I, standing by the window 
of her little drawing-room — watched them walk 
away together, like father and son, we looking 
after them — was it like mother and daughter ? or 
aunt and niece ? or simply friends — chosen friends? 

People may talk as they will of the "ties of 
blood," but the ties of friendship, of voluntary 
election, firm and well founded, are fully as close 
and as strong — comparable to nothing, I think, 
except the tie of marriage ; that is, the real mar- 
riage of heart and soul, which I was now begin- 
ning to understand. 

"I believe," said I one day to Miss Tommy 
when I was standing by her side, watching those 
two, who had just left us, and were coming back 
to dinner — " I believe, if anything happened that 
I did not marry Charlie, I should break my heart." 



102 MISB TOMHT. 

" No, you wonld not," she answered gently, but 
without hesitation. ^^ Being a good woman, you 
would live and bear it. But whether he lived or 
died, if he did nothing to make him unworthy of 
love, you would feel like his wife to the end of 
your days." 

I looked at her, just on the point of saying 
" that this was true ; only, how could she possibly 
understand?" and then I changed my mind and 
said nothing. 

I cannot say I altogether liked Major Gordon's 
settling himself at Dover, and so persistently com- 
ing here with his nephew, like the old song — 

*' You'll in your girls again be courted, 
And I'll go wooing with my boys," 

which the boys might not wholly approve of. 
Charlie did not, but I calmed him down. And, 
for certain reasons of my own, I forgave the Ma- 
jor, and gave him no hint of being unwelcome. 
He really was not so very much in the way after 
all. Accustomed to long solitude, he needed very 
little to amuse him ; and if he had done so. Miss 
Trotter was fully equal to the occasion. Though 
not exactly clever, she had the quick sympathy 



MISS TOMMY. 103 

which is almost better than cleverness. She was 
always inventing some little pleasure, outside, for 
him and for us ; and inside the house her constant 
cheerfulness, her unfailing sweet temper, and, 
above all, her bright sense of fun, made an atmos- 
phere that would have sunned into pleasantness 
the grimmest old curmudgeon alive. 

But Uncle Gordon was no curmudgeon, nor 
grim, though I sometimes accused him of being 
so. By degrees he seemed to become accustomed 
to our peaceful life, took an interest in all Miss 
Trotter's work, and in our play, as he called 
our harmless love-making, which was so soon to 
merge in the busy duties of life; he warned us 
once that we were " like a couple of lambs sport- 
ing on the edge of a precipice." However, his 
bitter sayings grew fewer and fewer : he seemed 
to accept the fact that Charlie and I were happy, 
and to condescend to be happy himself after his 
fashion. He owned that he " really enjoyed " our 
quiet evenings, all four together, to which I sto- 
ically submitted and compelled Charlie to submit ; 
not shutting ourselves up in a separate nook, as 
most lovers do. For, as I told the dear fellow. 



104 MISS TOMMY. 

when he got impatient and cross, we should soon 
have our evenings all to ourselves, and have to sit 
" four feet on a fender " all our lives long. 

When I thought of this future — how sweet it 
was, how dear and familiar Charlie had grown to 
me, how impossible it would now be to carry on 
life without him — more and more it was borne in 
upon me what those suffer who have to live their 
whole life without the one human being who is 
their other self, the entire satisfaction and comple- 
tion of their existence. And I felt such pity — 
the deep pity that only happy folks can feel — for 
those who had been, for any cause, what is termed 
" disappointed in love." 

Major Gordon might never have been in love 
at all, by the little sympathy he showed for 
Charlie and me. Instead of going and talking 
with Miss Trotter, which he could so easily have 
done, he would persist in keeping up desultory 
general conversation, which sometimes drifted 
back into old times, familiar to our respected 
seniors, but a little dull for us. They belonged 
to the old world — we to the new; and, fond as 
we were of them, there seemed a gulf between 



loss TOMMT. 105 

them and us. In spite of onr heroic self-sacri- 
fice, we found our evenings rather dreary, and 
were glad to propose a game at whist, or a book 
to read. Charlie read aloud remarkably well, and 
therefore was verj^good-natured in doing it. 

But it was diflBcult to find anything he con- 
sidered worth reading in the rather limited li- 
brary of Miss Trotter, who, I must confess, was 
not a literary lady. Her books had chiefly be- 
longed to her father. I discovered among them, 
to my surprise, some which Major Gordon must 
have given her when she was a girl. But neither 
he nor she was a book-lover now. His life had 
been too completely that of a wandering soldier, 
and hers was absorbed in the responsibilities of 
her large fortune and still larger heart. Still 
they both liked to hear " a pretty story," or a 
"little bit of poetry" — something which be- 
longed to their young days — something they 
could understand. And one evening, when we 
were at our wits' end, Charlie and I, to find 
something " old-fashioned " enough for our dear 
but rather diflBcult friends, we lighted upon an 
odd volume of Crabbe, which, no doubt, in the 

5* 



106 MI88 TOMHT. 

days of the departed Beverend John Trotter had 
been considered " delightful " poetry. 

Charlie opened it by merest chance at a poem 
called "Procrastination," which probably this 
generation has never heard of, and yet it is very 
touching as well as clever in its way. It is the 
story of two lovers, aflBanced early in life. 

"The pnident Dinah was the maid beloved. 
And the kind Rapert was the youth approved." 

Fortune is against them, however, and Dinah's 
" prudence," together with the advice of the 
wealthy aunt with whom she lives, causes the 
marriage to be put off and off. Rupert goes 
abroad to earn money ; the aunt dies and leaves 
Dinah her heiress, but Eiipert, still poor, is not 
summoned back. The letters between them grow 
fewer and colder. Prosperity hardens the elderly 
maiden's heart. She spends month after month 

*'In quiet comfort and in rich content. 
Miseries there were, and woes the world around, 
But these had not her pleasant dwelling found. 
She knew that mothers grieved and widows wept, 
And she was sorry — said her prayers — and — slept" 

At last there appears before her 



MIBS TOMMY. 107 

^' A huge, tall sfdlor with his tawny cheek 
And pitted face." 

It is Eupert, poor as ever, but loving and faith- 
ful — too faithful even to dread infidelity. The 
lady calls him "friend," suggests that they are 
both frail and old, too old to think of love or 
marriage. With a mixture of religious senti- 
ment and worldliness, she gives him what is ele- 
gantly termed " the sack." 

**She ceased. With steady glance, as if to see 
The very root of this hypocrisy, 
He her small fingers monlded in his hard 
And bronzed broad hand ; then told her his regard, 
His best respect, were gone : bat love had still 
Hold in his heart, and goyemed yet the will. 
Or he would curse her. Saying this, he threw 
The hand in scorn away, and bade adieu. 
Frond and indignant, suffering, sick and poor, 
He grieved unseen, and spoke of love no more." 

Sinking lower in fortune, he "shares a parish 
gift " in this his native place. There sometimes 

**At prayers he sees 
The pious Dinah dropped upon her knees; 
Thence, as she walks the street with stately air. 
As chance directs, oft meet the parted pair. 
When he with thick-set coat of badge-man^s blue 
Moves near her shaded silk of changeful hue — 



lOS MISS TOMMY. 

When his frenk air and his unstudied pace 

Are seen with her soft manner, air, and grace. 

And his plain artless look with her sharp meaning fiice. 

It might some wonder in a stranger more 

How these together could have talked of lore." 

At this point of his reading Charlie paased; 
lie had read very well, growing interested in 
the story in spite of himself. So was I too. 
The " pious Dinah," how I hated her 1 We sat 
in a circle ronnd the fire; well I remember the 
picture! — Miss Trotter in her little chair, knit- 
ting — she said she was obliged to knit to keep 
herself awake ; yet she did not seem asleep now, 
though the knitting had dropped. Her wide- 
open eyes were fixed with a sad, yearning, un- 
speakably tender gaze on the arm-chair opposite, 
where, in comfortable shadow — she always ar- 
ranged the light so that his eyes should not be 
troubled by it — sat Major Gordon. 

He was not sleeping either, but listening in- 
tently; he always listened to a story with the 
earnest simplicity of a child. 

" Shall I finish it, uncle, or are you tired ?" 

" Not tired — no ! But go on— go on," he an- 
swered irritably. " Let us see how it ends." 



MISS TOMMY. 109 

There was very little more. Only a picture — 
I wonder no artist has ever painted it — of one of 
those chance meetings, when Eupert, sitting on 
a roadside seat, watches " the lady " giving or- 
ders to a tradesman, and moralizes npon how he 
should have treated her had their positions been 
reversed — 

''Ah, yes I I feel that I had faithful proved, 
And should have soothed and raised her, blessed and loved.*' 

And then — 

"Dinah moves on — she had observed before 
The pensive Bupert at a humble door : 
Some thoughts of pitj raised bj his distress. 
Some feeling touch of ancient tenderness, 
Beligion, duty, urged the maid to speak 
In terms of kindness to a man so weak. 
But pride forbade, and to return would prove 
She felt the shame of his neglected love — 
Nor wrapped in silence could she pass, afraid 
Each eye would see her and each heart upbraid. 
One way remained — ^the way the Levite took 
Who Mrithout mercy could on misery look 
(A way perceived by craft, approved by pride). 
She crossed, and passed him on the other side." 

" The " — I am afraid it was really that strong 
expletive — " the devil she did I" exclaimed Major 
Gordon, starting up in his chair, and then laugh- 



110 loss TOMMY. 

ing at himself in a sort of Bhamefaced way at his 
great excitement over " a mere bit of poetry." 

" Not poetry at all," protested Charlie, with 
lofty disdain. '^ A piece of common human nat- 
ure, nothing more." ^ 
• " Yes, of course it is only human nature," said 
his uncle, calming down. ^^And it served the 
fellow right. He was a fool to trust a woman. 
And any man — any poor man — who marries a 
rich woman is worse than a fool, a knave." 

To do Major Gordon justice, I believe that, in 
his simplicity of nature, his entire freedom from 
egotism or self- consciousness, he had no idea of 
the drift of what he was saying. I should have 
given him a gentle hint that his remark was, if 
not untrue, at least uncivil, but I caught sight of 
Miss Trotter's face and held my tongue.. 

What a sad, strange thing it is, the way the 
best of people often wound others quite unin- 
tentionally I How often I have seen hands that 
would not willingly have hurt a fly, stab some 
tender heart to the very core, and pass on, never 
even noticing the blow, or guessing that they had 
wounded another, perhaps to death. 



MISS TOMMY. Ill 

Miss Trotter rose from her little chair. As she 
did so, her rnstling gown — she always dressed 
richly and becomingly — reminded me of the 
" shaded silk of changeful hue.*' But there the 
parallel ended. . 

^^ Decie," she said, leaning on me as she passed, 
for she moved feebly and unsteadily, " your Char- 
lie reads well ; I like to hear him. He has been 
very kind. And now, if Major Gordon approves, 
we will go to our game at whist." 

Her smile, as she turned towards him, was some- 
what fixed in its sweetness, and there was a me- 
tallic evenness in her tone not customary with 
her. Then, rearranging the light so as not to 
incommode Uncle Gordon, whose eyes always 
troubled him more or less, she took her place at 
the card-table and played for an hour. 

When our guests left she sat talking with me 
for a little while. I think it was about the color 
of my drawing-room furniture, and whether I 
should have chintz or damask. But as we parted 
on the top of the stairs, the cheek I kissed and 
the hands I held were as cold as stone. 

Lying awake that night I thought a good deal. 



112 MISS TOMMY. 

and before morning I made np my mind, perhaps 
in grievons error— I was still a girl, with a full 
and happy heart, which saw only one perfect 
happiness — love — in existence — but I meant well. 
I repeat — though I think of it now with an an- 
guish of remorse, perhaps wholly unneeded — that 
I meant well. 

The next day was one of those lovely antumn 
mornings that we often have at Dover — bright, 
mild, and so clear that the windows in Calais 
town were plainly visible, glittering in the sun- 
shine across a placid sea. I had a curious fancy 
about Dover and Calais, places so like and so nn- 
like, so near and yet so apart. They reminded 
me of two people sitting looking at one another 
over an easily crossed barrier — two who had been 
friends all their lives, and never anything more. 
" Friends — lovers that might have been." 

I made the remark — perhaps a very stupid re- 
mark — this day, and at luncheon, that everybody 
might hear. But nobody did hear apparently, 
except Charlie, who laughed at me for quoting 
poetry, and declared that Dover and Calais were 
not friends, but bitter enemies, and then retold 



MISS TOMMY. 113 

the old tale of Queen Philippa and the burghers 
coming with ropes round their necks, till, if he 
had not been such a dear innocent donkey, I 
could have boxed his ears. 

It was such a remarkably clear day that Miss 
Trotter proposed a walk to the Castle. Charlie 
had never seen the view from the top of the 
Keep, and Major Gordon was never weary of 
going round the fortifications, explaining military 
tactics, and " fighting his battles o'er again," as 
is so pleasant to old soldiers. Sometimes, in the 
midst of it, he would sigh and declare ^^ his day 
was done," at which we only laughed at him, for, 
though so excessively thin, he was a hale man 
yet, and had grown much stronger since his re- 
turn to England. Eut he was just at the time 
of life when many people, feeling the approach 
of old age, dread it and resist it, instead of ac- 
cepting it with its good as well as its ill. He 
was continually trying to do too much, and then 
calling himself " a broken-down man, fit for noth- 
ing in this world." 

As he did this day, when, having already 
walked to St. Eadegund's and back, he persisted 



114 HISS TOMMY. 

in climbing the Castle, and explaining to ns 
every inch of the forts and fortifications. At 
last, fairly tired oat, he sat down on the tnrf 
behind the Roman Pharos, now an adjunct to the 
Castle church, and prepared for a qniet smoke, 
the one only luxury which he allowed himself. 

I can see him at this minute — his sallow, 
bearded face, his long, thin, brown hands; he 
never wore gloves now, saying they were " too 
expensive," and, indeed, all his clothes were a lit- 
tle " seedy " in character. But his figure was so 
upright, his carriage so graceful, that if he had 
been clothed in a sack Major Gordon would have 
looked like a gentleman. 

I sat down beside him, owning I was tired, and 
sending Charlie off to the keep in company with 
Miss Trotter, who volunteered to accompany him. 

" IIow young and active she is still !" said 
the major, following them with his eyes. " She 
walks as fast as Charlie himself." 

" Yes ; she has spirit enough to do anything 
she has set her mind to do. She is a dear soul, 
and so sweet-looking still. I think I never saw 
such a pretty old lady." 



MISS TOMMY. 115 

" Scarcely an old lady yet ; she must be ten or 
twelve years younger than I, and much yonnger 
in character and feelings. But she was always 
light-hearted." 

"Was she?" 

" And is so still. What a peaceful face it is ! 
What an even, happy life she must have had !" 

I said nothing. This chance turn which the 
conversation had taken was gradually bringing 
about — providentially, was it? — that to which I 
had made np my mind. 

" You women are incomprehensible creatures, 
Decie," continued Major Gordon, with a long pnflE 
at his pipe, " else I should have thought it a curi- 
ous circumstance that Miss Trotter, with all her 
attractions, has remained unmarried." 

I answered that I did not find it curious at all. 
Some of the very best and most charming women 
never did marry, not because nobody asked them, 
but because they were asked by nobody they 
cared to accept. For my part, I said, I would 
have been an old maid and gloried in it — but for 
Charlie ! 

Charlie's uncle laughed heartily, regarding me 



116 MISS TOMMY. 

with that amused paternal air which sometiixies 
pleased, sometimes vexed me. Now, when I 
was so desperately in earnest, it altogether vexed 
ine. 

" You men are often as blind as bats," I cried. 
'^ My dear Miss Tommy is worth a hnndred of 
yon. Is it possible, Major Gordon, that it has 
never occurred to you why she never married P' 

^^ Xo." And he turned upon me a countenance 
of most simple-minded astonishment — blank aston- 
ishment, nothing more. 

^^ And does it not occur to you now that the 
wisest and best thing you could do, for both your 
sakes, would be to — to make her Mrs. Gordon ?" 

For a minute he seemed perfectly paralyzed—- 
but with surprise, mere surprise — then he seemed 
dimly to understand. His sallow face grew scar- 
let ; it was strange to see an old man blush like a 
girl. He drew himself up with a haughty dignity 
that I had never seen before, even in him. 

" You are utterly and entirely mistaken. What 
you say is worse than a mistake — an insult to her 
and to me." 

I was so confounded that I had not a word to 



f 



t 



MISS TOMMY. 119 

say. My only answer was a bnrst of tears— futile, 
childish tears. 

Major Gordon was one of those men who, in 
their worst anger, are mollified at once by seeing 
a woman weep. 

" Don't, my dear girl, pray don't," he mnttered, 
hastily ; " I forgive you. I know you meant no 
harm ; only you must never mention this — this 
folly, not even to Charlie. On no account what- 
ever to Charlie," added he, earnestly. "It is a 
pure invention of your silly little brain, which 
must never be repeated to any human being." 

He rose, letting his pipe drop as he did so ; it 
was broken to bits, and it was a very favorite pipe 
too ; but he never stopped to pick it up ; he just 
rose and walked away. I saw him through my 
burning tears marching up and down, with his 
head bent and his hands clasped behind him, 
but he made no effort to come back to me again. 

Nor did I attempt to go to him. I could have 
bit my tongue off, knocked my head against the 
wall, in my anguish and vexation of spirit. And 
yet, as he truly said, I had meant no harm. I had 
only tried in my rash and silly way to play Prov- 



120 HISS TOMMY. 

idence — ^to put things right, which often go so 
cruelly wrong in this world — and I had failed. 

But perhaps I had been mistaken after all ? In 
him I certainly had. There was evidently not an 
atom of tenderness or emotion in him. To see 
him walking to and fro there, as stifiE as a bronze 
statue, and then go forward to meet Charlie and 
Miss Trotter as if nothing had happened ; oh ! it 
was aggravating beyond all words ! 

Maybe it was to punish me, I thought, or to 
prevent my betraying anything to Charlie, that 
he put his arm through his nephew's, and they 
walked ahead together to East Cliff ; much to the 
annoyance of my poor boy, who naturally wanted 
to walk with me. For Miss Trotter — my dear 
Miss Tommy ! — she accepted the arrangement, as 
she usually did any fancy of Major Gordon's, and 
followed with me, talking in her usual sweet way 
— contented always in others' contentment. For 
me there was nothing left but to practise the self- 
control which she had taught me; I kept my 
misery to myself, and, either from pride or pain, 
I think I was more than usually cheerful all that 
day. 



MISS TOMMY. 121 

It had strack me as not impossible that Major 
Gordon might not appear in the evening as nsaal; 
indeed, I should have thought better of him had 
he stopped away. But he did not. He came in 
rather late, and when Charlie — whose quarters 
were at the Lord Warden — was just beginning to 
wonder what had become of his uncle ; but he did 
come, and sat in his arm-chair, and played his 
game at whist in the old way. If once or twice 
he seemed absent or even a little sad, this was so 
much his habit that we none of us noticed it — ^at 
least, we never said we did ; but he said " Good- 
night" to us with his usual gentle courtesy — not 
a word more than " Good-night." 

Next morning, when we were sitting at break- 
fast, there came a note to Miss Trotter. She read 
it, then walked to the window and read it again. 
Lastly, she gave it to me to read — 

" My deab Miss Tkotteb, — Will you say to my 
nephew that unexpected business demands my 
presence in London to-day for some time ? I have 
accordingly given up my rooms — offering good 
Mrs. Wilson a week's rent instead of the proper 

6 



122 MISS Toionr. 

notice. She has refused it. Therefore I am 
obliged to trouble you with the sum enclosed, 
begging you to make it useful to her in some 
way. 

" To yourself I can only oflfer my excuses for 
not making any formal adieu, and thank you from 
my heart for your many kindnesses. 
" Yours sincerely, 

"Chables Evebett Gordon." 

I returned the letter in silence, and without 
looking at her. For myself, I could have burst 
out sobbing, or torn my hair in despair, had not 
such proceedings been utterly ridiculous as the 
result of a formal note of farewell from Charlie's 
uncle. At which, moreover, Charlie himself, who 
came in shortly afterwards, did not seem in the 
least surprised. 

" Poor old fellow ! he is so restless, he never 
settles anywhere. My only wonder was that he 
stayed here so long." 

And so the matter was put aside. We found 
on inquiry that Major Gordon had packed up his 
portmanteau at night — it really seemed a part of 



MISS TOMMY. 123 

himself, that old portmanteau ! — and started at 
eight the next morning, leaving no address. 

And so the wave of life closed over him, and 
more than him. Even Charlie and I soon forgot 
him, for we were young and happy, and had a 
great deal to talk about and arrange. Miss Trotter 
too was busy, as she always was ; and I saw little 
of her all day long. But at night, when Charlie 
and I crept into a corner to carry on our harmless 
love-making, I caught sight of her, sitting oppo- 
site the empty chair, doing nothing, her hands 
folded on her lap, in an attitude — was it of peace, 
of patience, or only resignation ? 

After that, during the few days I stayed, we 
mentioned Major Gordon very seldom, and then 
only in the most cursory and superficial way. 
Once, when, as no second letter came, I carelessly 
accused him of "forgetting" us, she answered 
with grave reproof: 

" N(J, that is not likely. He is one of the few 
who never forget. Perhaps, as Charlie suggested, 
he found Dover — and us — a little dull, and was 
glad to get away. But," with a quiver of the lip, 
" he need not have spoken of my ' kindness.' " 



PART m. 

I HAD been married over two years. If I did 
not absolutely adore my Charlie, nor he me, as in 
our silly sweet courtship days, we loved one an- 
other in a sensible, rational way, which was far 
better. We had found out all each other's faults, 
crotchets, and foibles — quarrelled, and got over it. 
To suppose that married people never quarrel is 
simple nonsense, but then, if they have any com- 
mon-sense and right feeling, they will soon get 
over it — all the more perhaps from the feeling 
that they miist get over it. 

It may be a commonplace and unsentimental 
view of things, but, as I often tell Charlie, I be- 
lieve that once or twice during our first year of 
married life, if he could have got rid of me, he 
would have done it. And I — well, I won't say. 
But as we could not get rid of one another, but 
were obliged to run quietly together, like two 
hounds in a leash — why, we did it, and so learned 



MISS TOMMY. 125 

to make the best of one another, as I trust we 
shall always continue to do. 

And we made more than the best, if possible, 
of our little son when he came — our "son and 
heir," though we had not much for him to be heir 
to I We resolved that he should be Charles Ev- 
erett Oordon, the third of the name now extant; 
which reminded us that we ought to give him 
for godfather his great-uncle, Major Gordon. And 
as, being a boy, he only required one godmother, 
it was a difficult and delicate question as to who 
that important personage should be. My mother 
said she was too old, and besides she had about 
seventeen other godchildren. We were in con- 
siderable perplexity, when Charlie suddenly sug- 
gested Miss Trotter. 

I hesitated, which made him very angry. (N.B. 
If my hnsband has a fault, it is that he always 
likes everybody to agree with him in everything, 
especially his wife.) 

^ Why not, Decie ? What extraordinary notion 
have you got into your head ? Why not, I ask ? 
Because you think she'll think that you think she 
ought to provide for him, or at least to educate 



126 MISS TOMMY. 

hiin ? which she might easily do, rich woman as 
she is, with not a relative in the world." 

I protested, with entire sincerity, that no such 
idea had ever entered my mind. In truth, her 
riches were the last thing one thought of in re- 
lation to Miss Tommy. My reasons had been 
altogether different. But I did not give them. 
I never could see that even the most loving wife 
has a right to tell her husband other people's 
secrets. Also, as I once heard Miss Trotter say, 
a secret discovered by chance should be kept as 
sacredly as if it had been specially confided. 

So I let Charlie say his say — dear hot-tempered 
young villain as he is! — and then mildly sug- 
gested that the plain truth was our best course 
— it often is. Why not write to Miss Trotter, 
saying that we asked her for pure love, that we 
did not want her to do anything for our boy, 
not even to give him a christening fork and 
spoon ? 

" That silver spoon which was not in his mouth 
when he was born, I fear !" laughed Charlie. 
" And we will say the same thing to Uncle Gor- 
don, and tell her what we have said. She can't 



MI8B TOMMY. 127 

suppose we want to get anything out of him. 
She knows — for I told her myself — that he is as 
poor as a church mouse." 

The letters were written, and an answer in the 
affirmative came to both, amusing Charlie ex- 
tremely. 

"Such formal, old-fashioned epistles. They 
may well come from an old maid, and an old — 
well, Uncle Gordon is as good as a bachelor. 
But I dare say both will feel kindly enough to 
the little fellow. And at any rate we have paid 
them the compliment." 

Which, in the pride of our youthful parent- 
hood, we considered a very great compliment in- 
deed. We were glad to pay it, having seen but 
little of either Miss Trotter or Major Gordon 
since our marriage, at which they were both pres- 
ent. Directly afterwards Miss Trotter had gone 
to Sycamore Hall, her country place, which she 
did not much care for. It was of the genteel 
villa order, only a dozen miles from London by 
rail. But she stayed there longer than usual, 
having lent her Dover house to some invalid 
friends, of whom she always had a large stock 



128 1088 TOMMY. 

on hand. The poor, the helpless, the sick, the 
sorrowful, always gravitated towards her as by 
a natural impulse. She said it was one of the 
compensating laws of Providence, to give her 
that great stronghold of solitary lives — some- 
thing to do. 

For Uncle Gordon, whether he did anything 
or nothing, we could not find out. I fear, alas ! 
that in our young happiness we did not trouble 
ourselves overmuch to find out. We resided in 
barracks at Chichester, he in London. He had 
enough to live upon — we knew that ^-- at least 
enough for a man of his simple and almost as- 
cetic habits. And he was "eccentric," Charlie 
said. He did not like to be interfered with; so 
when, instead of giving us his address at the 
lodgings which we supposed he had, he only 
gave it at his club, we accepted the fact, and 
thought no more about it or him. 

" Evil is wrought by want of thought, 
As much as want of heart.'' 

And so it befell that, without intending it, 
we had actually never seen these two dear old 
friends, nor, I believe, had they seen each other. 



MISS TOMMY. 129 

since mj marriage -day, until we all met at the 
church on the day of my boy's christening. 

It was a London church, for my mother had 
insisted on having me with her when baby was 
bom, and it was dull and gloomy as London 
churches often are. But there seemed to come 
sunshine into it with the arrival of baby's god- 
mother. 

Miss Trotter had driven up from Sycamore 
Hall. When she entered, in her soft gray dress, 
her white bonnet and shawl, I thought she looked 
as pretty as ever ; and when she took baby in her 
arms, admired and kissed him, her smile was as 
bright and innocent as his own (dear lamb that 
he was ! and of course the finest baby that ever 
was seen); but afterwards it seemed to me she 
was both paler and thinner, and a good deal aged, 
since those happy days at Dover. 

However, I alone noticed this. Charlie ap- 
proved of her very much, and whispered that 
she looked "a regular fairy godmother." But 
at this moment there marched up the aisle, a 
little late and hurried, though upright and mili- 
tary-looking as ever. Major Oordon. 

6* 



130 HISS Toionr. 

He seemed eonfiued among ns all; shook 
hands with me as if he scarcely knew me, and 
bowed to Miss Trotter and my mother as if un- 
certain who they were, until I explained, saying 
that the former was to be godmother. Then he 
shook hands with her warmly. . 

^' I beg yonr pardon ; I really did not know 
yon, I am growing so blind.'* 

She looked np at him with a sndden, startled 
air. I too recalled with almost a ^'stonnd'' of 
pain how Charlie and I had laughed over his bad, 
irregular writing ; and how I had quite forgotten 
what he once told me, and which I had smiled 
over as a morbid fancy, that in course of years he 
would infallibly pay the penalty of his Egyptian 
experience, and perhaps lose his sight entirely. 

Was it that — was it because he could not see 
how shabby his clothes were, that he looked so 
untidy, so unlike himself ? And did anybody no- 
tice this ? 

But I had no time for speculation or for con- 
trition. The ceremony began. The sponsors — 
my young brother was the third — took their 
places round the font ; and Uncle Gordon, stand- 



MISS TOMMY. 131 

ing by Miss Trotter's side, repeated after her, 
with great unction and earnestness, his part in 
the service. When it was ended, he even con- 
descended, guided by her, to kiss the little morsel 
of humanity for whom he had made these vows. 

" And I mean to keep them," said he, in his 
direct and simple way ; " or if I fail, she will. 
The third Charles Everett Gordon shall turn out 
better than both the two former — eh, Charlie ?" 

He was very cheerful, and seemed glad to come 
among us again, and proud to be a great-uncle and 
godfather. When we returned to my mother's 
we had a most merry christening breakfast — " al- 
most like a wedding breakfast," Charlie declared, 
if there had been a bride for the infant bride- 
groom. So after the health of the hero of the 
feast had been given, he gave that of the god- 
mother; whereupon Major Gordon rose, with 
great dignity and grace, and returned thanks for 
Miss Trotter, referring to the many years he had 
known her, his exceeding respect for her, etc., etc. 
— a series of the usual kindly commonplaces, but 
said with an earnestness very pleasant to see. 

She listened, much as people do listen under 



132 MISS TOMMY. 

such circumstances, with her eyes fixed on the 
table - cloth ; bnt her hand, when I took it, 
clutched mine with a nervous grasp as if I were 
something to hold by, while everybody and every- 
thing went drifting away. 

She had obeyed our request literally, and 
brought baby nothing but her blessing. Uncle 
Gordon, however, touched me exceedingly by 
giving me, just before he left, a silver coral and 
bells. 

"Take it — it belonged to my little girl that 
died," was all he said, and went away. 

To think that after all these years — thirty at 
the least — he should have kept something of his 
dead child's, whom everybody else had long for- 
gotten ! Bat, as Miss Trotter once said of him, 
he "never forgot." And I vowed to myself 
that I too would never forget, but in years to 
come would try to do all I could for Uncle Gor- 
don. 

Alas ! resolutions melt away, especially when 
one is not strong and has a good many cares. 
My baby fell ill, and during the days and weeks 
of suspense that I hung over his little cradle, 



MISS TOMMY. 133 

feeling that the spark of flickering life, which 
was nothing to the outside world, was every- 
thing to me, I never thonght of other lives. His 
godfather quite passed from my remembrance, 
and his godmother too, until one day, when he 
had fairly turned the corner, and began to get 
well, I was told that Miss Trotter was below 
waiting to see me. 

How I rushed into her arms ! What torrents 
of thankful tears I wept upon her shoulder! 
How much I had to tell her — of baby's danger, 
his beauty, his sweetness — the heartbreak it would 
have been to lose him — all my griefs, vay hopes, 
fny joys — as I had always been accustomed to 
talk about to her. But so did everybody. 

She listened, as she always listened to every- 
body, with that keen quick sympathy of hers, 
entering into everything as if there were, for the 
time being, no other interest in the wide world. 
My mother had been very kind — ^we were in her 
house all this time — but then she was a busy 
mother of a family, and a fashionable lady be- 
sides. Now, Miss Tommy was a woman, which 
not all are who call themselves so ; and not every 



134 MISS TOMMY. 

real mother has so mach of the motherly heart as 
she. 

I said so to her, thanking her for having oome 
all the way to London to see me, such a deal of 
trouble for an old lady to take. 

" Yes. I am an old lady now — ^I can do as I 
like," she answered, smiling. "But I did not 
come up from Dover, I am at Sycamore Hall still. 
I had — business." 

" Other folks' business of course 1 You may 
not always * love your neighbor as yourself,' but 
you wear out your life for him all the same. 
Uncle Gordon always used to say so." 

" It was about your Uncle Gordon I wanted to 
speak to yon, Decie, if you can spare me ten 
minutes." 

Saying this, she looked so sad, so grave, that 
suddenly I remembered, with a pang of contri- 
tion, my good resolutions on the christening day, 
entirely forgotten since. 

" Is anything amiss with Uncle Gordon ? Sure- 
ly nothing has happened ?" 

'' No, my dear, nothing serious ; but I am 
afraid there is a good deal amiss with him, and 



MISS TOMMY. 135 

I waited to consult you about it^ as soon as your 
own trouble was over.'* 

And then she told me — what I ought to have 
known already — what Charlie and I ought to 
have had the sense to find out, how she found it 
out, Heaven only knows! — that Uncle Gordon 
had been far from well of late ; that he was liv- 
ing in shabby London lodgings, alone, uncared 
for, in much discomfort, if not in actual poverty. 
No wonder I We all knew his income was small, 
requiring the utmost management to make it do 
at all, and how could he manage with his failing 
sight and advancing years? how could he save 
himself from falling a prey to dishonest servants 
and unscrupulous landladies ? 

" He cannot take care of himself, and there is 
nobody to take care of him. What can be done, 
Decie T 

" I will go and see him." And I started up in 
remorse. " Poor Uncle Gordon I To think that 
we, his own people, have forsaken him, while you 
— ^but I must go to him at once." 

"Will you take me with you?" she said it al- 
most as if asking a favor. " I have the address, 



136 MISS TOMMY. 

somewhere in StPancras — and — there is a cab 
waiting outside. Shall we go ?" 

" Ah 1 that is so like you. When you want to 
do a good deed, you do it at once." 

" My dear," she answered, with a faint smile, 
" the young may wait — the old cannot." 

So, ashamed of my hesitation, I ran up-stairs, 
to find my baby sleeping the peaceful sleep of 
convalescence. There was no reason why I should 
not go, so I went. 

She had waiting only a common cab ; her own 
comfortable carriage and sleek horses would have 
indeed startled the natives of that narrow street 
— one of the many semi-genteel streets which lie 
between Russell Square and King's Cross, free 
from shops and chiefly let as lodgings ; perfect- 
ly respectable, but oh ! how unutterably dreary ! 
Especially on the shady side, where we found the 
number we were in search of; aided by a woman 
who went crying, " Strawberries ! strawberries !" 
down the long, hot pavement, the only indication 
that summer was at hand. 

But no spring or summer, no sunshine or 
fresh, sweet air, ever came into those dark, dirty 



MISS TOMMY. 137 

rooms, which were all Major Gordon had of 
" home." 

Miss Trotter looked up at the gloomy windows 
with a sigh. " After all his happy youth, all his 
long wanderings, this !" I heard her say, as if 
more to herself than me ; and then we entered. 

" Two ladies a-wanting to see old gen'Ieman in 
parlor," screamed the little lodging-house ser- 
vant, as if with intense astonishment at such a 
visit. 

He needed to be a "gentleman" to face it. 
Eousing himself, half asleep, from an old leather 
arm-chair, wrapped in a once gay but now most 
shabby Indian dressing-gown, his hair unkempt, 
his beard neglected — dull, untidy-looking— every- 
thing, in short, but dirty, which would have been 
impossible to the dainty habits of the dear old 
man. He rose up — tall, gaunt, more like Don 
Quixote than ever, none the less so from his 
never-forgotten knightly courtesy. 

" To what am I indebted — I mean, who is do- 
ing me this honor ?" 

" Oh, Uncle Gordon, it's only me — Decie — and 
— ^and Miss Trotter." 



/• 



138 MI88 TOmCT. 

'^ Miss Trotter !^' I conld see him start. '^ It is 
very kind of Miss Trotter to come and see me 
here." 

They shook hands ; and I think neither he nor 
she noticed my bad grammar — nor indeed any- 
thing about me at all — ^for the moment. 

He was evidently very glad to see us — ^her es- 
pecially. Looking round the room for a chair 
and finding none, he pushed forward the arm- 
chair. 

"It is not so very uncomfortable, especially 
when one is asleep, as I fear I was when you en- 
tered. These long afternoons one gets tired, I 
find. Allow me." 

With the air of a Bayard he placed her in the 
chair, felt for a footstool, and put it under her 
feet, then turned to me and thanked me warmly 
for coming to see him. 

" But how did you find me out ? I never gave 
any address. I thought the club was sufficient," 
added he, returning to his hard, dry, dignified 
manner. "This is not exactly a — a palace in 
which to receive ladies." 

I made some excuse about Miss Trotter's hav- 



MISS TOMMY. 139 

iDg heard where he lived, and that he had not 
been well, so we were anxious. Then I darted 
at once into my own affairs, and how ill his god- 
son had been, occupying his attention entirely for 
two or three minutes. Meanwhile Miss Trotter 
sat in the arm-chair with her veil down. 

I could have cried almost when I looked at 
Uncle Gordon, and then at the wretched lodging- 
house parlor, grimy and gloomy, with just the 
ordinary shabby lodging-house furniture — a table, 
six chairs, and a horse-hair sofa. !N'o pictures, no 
books, no adornments of any kind. Such an air 
of dreary neglect about everything; even the 
half-eaten mid-day dinner being left on the table 
where it was laid, as if nobody could take the 
trouble to fetch it away. Yes, I — even I — could 
have wept; what must it have been with others? 
— ^those who knew him when he was young, like 
my Charlie. Would Charlie — ^would my little 
Carl ever come to this i 

And yet, wreck as we found him, sitting — as he 
half comically, half bitterly said, pointing to the 
dSn*i8 of dinner — "like Marius among the ruins 
of Carthage," there was a dignity, a patience, even 



140 MISS TOMHT. 

a sweetness in his look that made it impossible to 
pity him. The feeling concerning him was some- 
thing quite different — something that dried the 
tears in one's eyes, and made one involnntarily use 
a softer tone in speaking, and be more punctilious 
than ever in what one said to him, as if he had 
been a duke or a prince instead of a poor, broken- 
down, half-pay oflBcer. 

He gave ns tea — the nastiest tea and the saltest 
butter I ever tasted. What would Charlie have 
said to them ? But they might have been nectar 
and ambrosia, by the way he offered, and Miss 
Trotter officiated at, that miserable meal. He had 
asked her to do so, and when she took off her veil 
and gloves and sat down to that feminine duty, 
she seemed to make "a sunshine in a shady 
place." 

It was a very shady place indeed. " This room 
has a north aspect, the sun never enters it," said 
Major Gordon. " The other side of the street is 
brighter, but then lodgings are much dearer, and, 
besides, it is very little matter to me ; I am quite 
content here." 

"Sweet are the uses of adversity." In all that 



MISS TOMMY. 141 

visit I never beard him say one of the bitter 
things of which he used to say so many at Dover. 
Bat now something seemed to have softened him, 
and made him less restless and irritable. Was it 
the long solitude, or the shadow of coming blind- 
ness, of which he spoke with such composure that 
I was amazed ? 

" I try my best, Decie, but I fear I am growing 
more helpless every day. I doubt if I shall be 
competent to pass an opinion upon my godson's 
beauty if I do not come to see him very soon.'* 

" You must come," I eagerly urged. " Why 
not ? You can have almost nothing to do." 

" Nothing that I can do — ^reading and writing 
are becoming impossible. Yes, the days are rather 
long; that is why you found me asleep, I sup- 
pose." 

"Do you never go out?" asked Miss Trotter, 
gently. 

" Oh, yes ; regularly every day. I do not want 
to get ill and fall a burden upon other folk before 
my time. And my doctor in India told me I 
should always be able to see light, as oculists call 
it, so as to find my way about, which is a great 



142 MI88 TOmCT. 

comfort. For the rest, when one knowB the 
worst, one can always face it, at least, when one is 
old and has not mnch to lose. It is the yoang 
who are frightened, is it not. Miss Trotter?" added 
he, turning to her with a smile, and repeating his 
thanks. '^ It was so kind of yon to take all this 
tronble, when, I fear, I have neglected common 
politeness." 

"But not kindness," she answered. "Tour 
old landlady, Mrs. Wilson, can never be grateful 
enough to you for getting her son that situation 
in London. She will bless you, she says, to her 
dying day." 

" Then I am sure I hope I shall be blessed for 
a long time. Will you tell her so when you go 
back to Dover ?" 

" Suppose," said Miss Trotter, after a moment's 
hesitation, "you were to tell her yourself?" 

" What do you mean ?" 

"Her lodgings have stood empty a long time. 
It would be a great advantage to her if some one 
who gave little trouble, like yourself, some one 
she could rely on — poor widow woman as she is — 
would take her two rooms. Dover may be dull — 



MISS TOMMY. 143 

I dare say yon found it so— bnt it is pleasanter 
than London in hot weather ; and Mrs. Wilson's 
rooms are very comfortable." 

"Yes; and I liked the green bank in front 
and the green churchyard — my quiet neighbors I 
called them — behind. Yes — but — ^No I" 

"By and by I hope to have Decie with me; 
also your godson. Isn't it your duty to come 
and see that the boy is brought up in the way he 
should go ?" 

" He cannot fail to be, with such a mother — 
and such a godmother," said Major Gordon, bow- 
ing to each of us in his old formal way. Bnt he 
said no more about Dover and Mrs. Wilson, nor 
did Miss Trotter. The pained look on her face, 
which he could not see, and her silence, which he 
did not seem to notice — I understood both, and 
wondered, angrily. Is there a man in the world 
who is worth a woman's devotion ? 

Major Gordon talked a good deal more, asking 
numerous questions about Charlie and the boy, 
and scarcely speaking of himself at all. He 
seemed very quiet, very patient, but as if he had 
lost all interest in life, and was just drifting on 



144 MISS TOMMY. 

from day to day, without troubling himself much 
about anything. 

We rose at last. 

" Pardon ! but I must go with you till you find 
a cab. I will not detain you a minute." 

He did, though — a good many minutes, poor 
fellow! — till he emerged from the next room 
spruced up — ^his old self in some degree — as thin 
and upright and military-looking as ever, and 
showed us out with great state, explaining, in an- 
swer to some remonstrances, that we need not be 
in the least uneasy about him — with the help of 
his stout stick he could pilot himself anywhere. 

" I have not sunk to a dog and a string yet, you 
see, though it may come to that — who knows? 
And I am very careful of stumbling. I have 
stumbled a good deal in my lifetime, but I keep a 
firm footing now. I mean to be independent as 
long as ever I can." 

And then with exceeding earnestness I urged 
him to come and stay a little — a good while — all 
summer — with Charlie and me, his own flesh and 
blood. 

" Do you really mean it ?" said he, in a touched 



MISS TOMMY. 145 

voice. "Would not you young people weary of 
me ? But yet, as you say, I am your own flesh 
and blood." 

"And you will come?" 

"Perhaps." And then, with a hearty "Good- 
bye, and thank yon," he parted from us. We 
passed him as we drove, feeling his way carefully 
with his stick. Hearing the wheels, he paused a 
moment and took off his hat with his old stately air. 

" Poor Uncle Gordon ! I do hope he will 
come." 

"Yes, to Chichester — not Dover. He cares 
only for his own flesh and blood. Many people 
are like that," Miss Trotter added, hastily. " It 
is — SL fine quality to have." 

"Uncle Gordon has innumerable fine quali- 
ties," I said. " But " — I couldn't help adding — 
" if I had had the making of him, I think I would 
have made him — a little different." 

Miss Trotter said she was going straight home. 
What a contrast that luxurious, empty Sycamore 
Hall must be to the "home" we had just quitted ! 
So I left her at Victoria Station, sole occupant of 
a comfortable, first-class carriage, looking so sweet 

7 



146 MISS TOMMY. 

in her rich black silks, her soft whites and grays 
— ^jnst the dress for an elderly lady who wishes — 
and rightly wishes — ^to look " lovely " to the end. 
Outwardly she was the picture of peace and pros- 
perity; but after she had bade me a smiling 
good-bye, I saw — ^what she did not mean me to 
see — the weary face, the clutch of the clasped 
hands pressed tightly together, as when we nerve 
ourselves to bear an almost unbearable pain. 

Yet there was nothing to do, nothing to say. 
It was one of those " mysterious dispensations of 
Providence," as people call them, in which no 
one can interfere except Providence ; and the only 
safe plan is to sit still and hold one's tongue. 

I carried my son liome in triumph to Chichester, 
and all the ladies of the regiment declared that 
there never was such a baby ! At least, they told 
me so — in which opinion I agreed. And even 
now, in spite of the six which came after, I hold 
the flower of my flock to be Charles Everett Gor- 
don the third. 

That his godfather and namesake did not come 
and see him was a great blow to my maternal 
pride. I wrote several touching letters, setting 



MISS TOMMY. 147 

forth the perfections of the young gentleman, and 
asking no answer except the welcome sight of our 
dear old uncle; but neither that nor any other 
reply came. Then Charlie, happening to be a day 
in London, called, missed him, and came back in- 
dignant at the folly of any man's burying himself 
in such a " horrid hole." 

" But then Uncle Gordon was always eccentric, 
and did not care a pin for outside things" — which 
was a great eccentricity to my dear, matter-of-fact 
Charlie. " He cannot be ill, for he was out walk- 
ing. I left my card, with a message that we 
hoped to see him at Chichester immediately. If 
he does not come, it must be because he does not 
care to come, and we must just leave him alone. 
It is the only way." 

I was not so sure of that, and I did not leave 
him alone, but wrote again and again ; in vain. 
After that, feeling that there was no more to be 
done, unwillingly I sank into silence. 

The hot summer days came and went. In Au- 
gust my boy began to flag a little, and by Septem- 
ber I was sure he needed sea air. So, after think- 
ing of the matter on all sides — not wholly on my 



143 MI88 TOMMY. 

own side, for my baby, instead of making mo 
more selfish, seemed to have knocked the selfish- 
ness ont of my heart, and opened it to other 
people's sorrows and cares — I wrote to my dear 
Miss Tommy, and proposed that we should come 
to Dover, to Mrs. Wilson's lodgings, which were 
good enough for us, as they had once been for 
Major Gordon. 

"And then we should be no trouble to you," 
I added, " for you might not like a baby in the 
house." 

Which was a great piece of hypocrisy on my 
part, for who on earth could object to such a 
domestic sunbeam as my little Carl ? Though he 
was not quite as silent as sunbeams — he shouted, 
cooed, laughed, and, very occasionally, cried. Still, 
though politeness made me disguise my opinion, I 
felt he would be a great attraction in any old 
maid's house, and was neither surprised nor sorry 
when Miss Trotter wrote that we must come to 
East Cliff and nowhere else. So we came. 

There was no change? in the place or the house, 
except that by some miraculous agency my former 
bedroom had been turned into a nursery ! But 



MISS TOMMY. 149 

tliere was a great change in me — from the idle, 
sentimental, love-sick girl to the busy wife and 
mother, who had won from Fate all she craved. 
Was it worth the winning? Do we ever find a 
fulfilled desire as perfect as we thought it ? 

But let me not lightly condemn either myself 
or my Charlie. If in some things I had not 
gained exactly what I expected, I had gained 
much that I did not expect — experience, which is 
a possession in itself ; a full, busy, active life, in 
which one has hardly time to consider whether it 
is a perfectly happy life or not. Also, I had 
gained, in a sense, myself; had learned to guide 
and control myself, which is the great secret of 
guiding and governing others. In so doing I had 
also learned to live out of myself, and in and for 
others — the real mystery and best blessing of mar- 
riage. 

" No ; don't imagine I ever wish I had not been 
married," said I one day to Miss Tommy, when I 
had been opening up to her a fardel of cares do- 
mestic, small in themselves, but amounting often- 
times to a heavy burden, such as unmarried girls 
— free, careless creatures! — can hardly under- 



150 MISS TOMMY. 

stand. " How people can ever go on making nov- 
els and plays end with marriage, and dismiss their 
charactei'S to live happy ever after, passes my 
comprehension ! But for all that — for all that — ^" 

I looked at my sweet Carl, asleep on his rug 
on the shingle, with an umbrella over him, and 
thought of his kind young father, who was so 
proud of him and so fond of him, in an ignorant, 
masculine way. And I felt that, spite of all cares, 
mine was the true life, the natural life ; that I had 
need to rejoice in it, and to thank God for it, as I 
hope I did. 

We were sitting on the shore just in front of 
Miss Trotter's house — our usual morning encamp- 
ment — with books and work, though, I fear, we 
did little at either, but sat watching the waves, in 
sleepy peace, migrating backward from time to 
time — not being of the courtiers of Canute tribe, to 
make believe that our individual wills could con- 
trol the routine of the universe. How little can 
any one life fashion its destiny ! except so far as 
it takes its lot into its own hands, accepts it, and 
makes the best of it. 

I had not to look far for an example of this. 



MISS TOMMY. 151 

Coming back with clearer eyes to my old haunts, 
I admired more than ever my dear Miss Tommy. 
I enjoyed, too, having her all to myself, at least, 
80 far as was possible in her busy life. It seemed, 
however, a little less busy than it used to be, and 
she herself less active and energetic. More than 
once she owned to being " tired." And when I 
suggested that she had come to the time of rest, 
and ought to rest, she did not deny it, unless by a 
faint smile, and a whisper of " Not yet ; not just 
yet, my dear." And as she sat beside me on the 
shingle, ostensibly keeping guard over Carl's slum- 
bers, and knitting the while, I noticed that her 
eyes were, often neither on the child nor her 
work, but fixed with a quiet sadness on the shining 
water — the " illimitable sea without a bound " — 
which, I think, when people come to the verge of 
this our little life they seem to yearn to, as if it 
reminded them of that eternity which, we pray, 
may satisfy all that was incomplete in time, and, 
in some way or other, round our poor, petty ex- 
istence as the ocean rounds the world. 

Though I had been at Dover some days, and 
we had had a great deal of talk, we had never 



152 MISS TOMMY. 

once Bpoken of Uncle Gordon till this noomiDg, 
when, missing mj dailj letter from mj husband, 
and knowing he was to go up to London on the 
Saturday, I wondered whether anything had gone 
wrong, and communicated my doubts to mj com- 
panion. 

Miss Trotter looked up. " The Monday letters 
come in late from London." She took out her 
watch. " They will arrive in five minutes. Stay 
hero, Decie, while I go and fetch them." 

And she watched me while I tore open Char- 
lie's ; feeling glad to see his dear, old, ugly scrawl 
again, more illegible than ever, as if he had writ- 
ten in great haste. (lie must have done so, for 
he never mentioned Carl.) 

^''I want you to come up to London and see 
Uncle Gordon, lie has fallen into the hands of 
a confounded quack, who promises to cure his 
weak sight, but it seems more a case of kill than 
cure, lie won't listen to me ; he may to you, or 
perhaps to Miss Trotter, if you could get her to 
come. He has evidently a great respect for her 
judgment. Bring her, and come at once.' 

" It is impossible !" I cried. " Leave my Carl 



MISS TOMMY, 153 

for two days! what is Charlie thinking of? How 
stupid men are, even when husbands and fathers I 
Impossible 1" 

Miss Trotter, who had sat down on the shingle, 
rose up. There was a new enei'gy in her move- 
ments, a new brightness in her eyes. 

*'My dear, let us try if we cannot make it pos- 
sible. I will go with you, and Carl too ; the jour- 
ney will not harm liim, and he can stay with a 
friend of mine in London" — my mother was 
abroad. *'Let me see. The next train starts in 
two hours. Could you be ready ?" 

There was no resisting her quiet resolution. 
" We'll try," I said, and rose. 

"You will never regret it. Look here" — she 
pointed out a postscript which I had not noticed 
in Charlie's letter. " 'Unless you come at once it 
may be too late. The operation is fixed for Tues- 
day.' " 

*' And this is Monday. Poor XJncle Gordon !" 

"It must not be too late," Miss Trotter said. 
" We will go to him to-night, and get him to come 
right away from London — here, perhaps. You 
must persuade him, Decie." 

7* 



154 MISS TOMMY. 

^^You must, Charlie said." 

"Oh, no; he only cares for his own people," 
was the answer, with a sad kind of smile. 

IIow we managed it I hardly knew, but we did 
manage it : we caught our train, and arrived safely 
in London. She took me to her "friend," an old 
servant, who had married from her house, and 
who now let most comfortable lodgings. There 
we established Carl and his nurse. Miss Trotter 
waiting patiently beside me till my screaming lit- 
tle angel was put to bed and asleep, and myself 
fed, rested, and refreshed — how she thought of 
me in all these little things ! Then she said, 
" Shall we go ?" and we went. 

It was an August evening — sunless, airless — all 
tlic more dreary because one knew that the sun 
was setting and the breezes blowing somewhere 
in the world ; somewhere that one might get to, 
and yet could not. I often think the saddest of all 
wants or losses is a loss that on« feels to be needless. 

" Why will he shut himself up in this miserable, 
dull street," I cried, as we entered it, "when he 
might make himself so happy among us all ? His 
life is not near done yet." 



MISS TOMMY. 155 

" No ; look I" — she grasped my hand. " Is not 
that he at the door ?" 

It was, indeed, poor Uncle Gordon — taller, thin- 
ner, shabbier than ever, I thought — standing on 
his door-step, with his head raised, staring up at a 
bright glimmer of light, the last ray of sunset 
caught by the attic windows opposite. He watched 
it till it vanished, and then, feeling his way with 
his stick, walked slowly down the street. But he 
did not see us till I touched him, nor recognize us 
till I mentioned our names. 

For the moment a gleam of pleasure crossed his 
face — " Oh, how good I how kind !" — and then the 
light faded. "How did you come, and why? 
Did Charlie say anything ?" 

I answered — as Miss Trotter had decided I should 
answer, if necessary ; for it was the truth, though 
not all the truth — " Since you will not come and 
see your godson, I have brought him to see you ; 
at least, I shall bring him to-morrow morning." 

"To-morrow? That will be* too late." He 
tjould not restrain a slight shudder. "Did not 
Charlie tell you ?" 

"We know it all, and we have come to talk with 



156 MISS TOMMY. 

jou about it," said Miss Trotter, in her finn, soft 
voice ; and I saw her, to my surprise, put her arm 
through his, and guide him across the street cor- 
ner. He, too, seemed surprised, and then he 
pressed the hand close to his side, with a sort of 
acknowledgment of the kindness, and as if he 
found a certain comfort in it. 

"I was going out for my evening walk — ^my 
last ; for I am to be shut up some weeks in total 
darkness. Indeed, who knows if I may ever see 
again ? It is just a chance ; but I think it right 
to take it ; do not you ?" 

" I am not sure." 

"But I must take it," said he, irritably. "1 
am growing so helpless ; and if I have to live on 
for the next five, ten, twenty years — no, no, 
thank God, not twenty ! But even five would be 
too many, as I am now." 

He spoke in such intense despondency that I 
was frightened. I did not understand trouble — I 
had seen so little of it in my young life — or morbid 
melancholy ; for Charlie, bless him ! takes every- 
thing easily, and is the cheeriest, most light-heart- 
ed soul ! But my dear Miss Tommy, she was 



MISS TOMMY. 157 

familiar with sorrow, as all sorrowful people in- 
jstinetively knew. I fell behind a little, leaving 
the two " old folks " to walk on together. 

Soon Major Gordon stopped. " How thonght- 
less of me 1 You will be tired this close evening. 
Shall we go back to my lodgings ?" 

" Or shall we go into the Kegent's Park, close 
by ? It will be cooler there.'* 

" Just as you choose." 

He contentedly submitted to be led, and his 
companion, with a new impulse, as it were, took 
the leading of him. She was usually rather a si- 
lent person, especially with Major Gordon; but 
now she talked, and got him to talk. I heard him 
tell her, as if it were a relief, all he had suffered 
of late — the weary helplessness, the intolerable ir- 
ritation of compelled idleness. 

" If I were a feeble old man it might be easier, 
but I am not feeble. I can walk miles and miles. 
Sometimes I go on walking for hours, round and 
round the Eegent's Park ; the park-keepers must 
take me for the "Wandering Jew, or one of the 
wild beasts escaped from the Zoological Gardens. 
I almost think I see myself, like the brown bear 



ir»S MISS TUMMY. 

there, pacing to and fro everlastingly in his cage 
— nothing to hope for, nothing to do. That is the 
worst of it,'' turning suddenly round upon her as 
she eat beside him on the bench, in that long ave- 
nue which makes Eegent's Park a pleasant place 
even in the dullest summer evenings. "Fancy — 
yon, who have such a busy, bright life — what it 
must be to have nothing to do all day long; to sit 
thinking, thinking, till your head whirls round; 
to go back and back upon your whole life, and see 
all the mistakes of it, too late to remedy — ^" 

" Is it too late ? Is anything ever too late while 
life and strength last?" 

'* ] >iit they may not last long, and then I shall fall 
a helpless burden upon somebody. But no; I'll 
take cai'c it never comes to that. For the burden 
I am to myself" — he stuck his stick fiercely into 
the turf, as if he were slaying an enemy — "I only 
M'onder sometimes that I have not blown my 
brains out." 

Here I could not help a little cry. 

"No, my kind niece; no, my good old friend," 
said Uncle Gordon, patting our hands as he sat 
between us; "you need not be afraid. It will 



MISS TOMMY. 101 

never come to that. I am a Christian man ; and, 
besides, I must keep up the dignity of the family. 
It would never do, would it, Decie, for the third 
Charles Everett Gordon to be ashamed of the 
first ?" 

" He never will 1 Oh, Uncle Gordon, if you 
would only come to us ; to baby and me ; we are 
staying with Miss Trotter, and you might go to 
your old lodgings, and Mrs. Wilson would be de- 
lighted to take care of you." 

"I don't want anybody to Hake care' of me," 
was the sharp answer; and then he begged my 
pardon. "Ah, yes, I do; I feel I do; but — 
However, perhaps to-morrow — " 

" It is a great risk." 

"No more than the risk of a battle; one con- 
quers or dies." 

" Or lives on, wounded and useless, which is 
much harder than dying." 

" You are right. Miss Trotter ; I never thought 
of that." 

" If this man — you own he is a quack — should 
fail; if he should leave you worse than before, 
which he says he may, what then J" 



162 MISS TOMMY. 

"Nothing. I shall have done it by my own 
choice, and the result matters to nobody." 

" Is there any human being who can say, who 
dare venture to say, that his well-being matters to 
nobody ?" 

He seemed startled, uneasy. She went on. 

"To throw up one's life, saying it belongs to 
one's self alone, is some people's creed, I know ; 
but is it not a very selfish one ? Ought we not to 
do the best we can with the life Heaven gives, 
nntil Heaven takes it away ? But I did not mean 
to preach — I am not good at preaching — only to 
suggest a practical idea." 

" You were always good at practical ideas," ho 
answered, with a smile. " Say on." 

She explained that she had a friend — the first 
oculist of the day. With so many invalids on 
hand she had no end of friends among doctors. 
She proposed to bring the great man for a consul- 
tation with the other one, who could not possibly 
object to this before anything was done. 

" Give me his address ; he shall be written to, 
and the whole trouble taken off your hands," 
added this Machiavelian woman. "It will only 



MISS TOMMY. 163 

be a day's delay, and then, if yon still wish 
for the operation " — she glanced up at his poor, 
dim eyes — beautiful eyes they must have been 
when he was young — and shivered, like a mother 
who feels cruelly in every nerve every hurt 
to her child — "you will have at least the satis- 
faction of having done nothing that was not in- 
evitable." 

" You are right," he said. 

"She always is right," I added, eagerly; but 
Miss Tommy laid her hand on my mouth, took 
out her tablets, wrote down the address he gave, 
then asked him to put us in a cab, and we would 
go home. 

"I am glad to be of some use still," he said, 
rising. "I shall see you to-morrow. You will 
bring the great man ? I can afford to pay him. 
Just this one more chance !" 

He breathed hard, as if a weight were taken 
off his mind, and, thanking us warmly for all our 
kind thought of him, he bade us adieu. 

"Poor Uncle Gordon!" I sighed once more. 
But she did not sigh. She said nothing, yet I 
thought I saw a change in her dear face, of some- 



164 MI88 TOMMY. 

thiDg — not exactly happiness, but what I had 
heard her say was better — blessedness. 

The ass in the lion's skin — we afterwards found 
ont how great an ass he was, and how completely 
he had taken in the simple old soldier — did not 
stay to face the great lion, but sent word that he 
bad to go to a case a hundred miles off, and could 
not attend the consultation. 

"I thought as much," laughed Miss Trotter's 
eminent friend, when he heard the name. " You 
will never see any more of him.'* And we never 
did. 

The great doctor was a character, as most great 
doctors are. When we brought him into Major 
Gordon's dull room his large, kindly presence 
seemed to carry sunshine with it — mental and 
moral. He took by storm the sickly, morbid, 
nervous man, encouraged him by pleasant words, 
and then proceeded to business. 

" I must have some one of you with me. Who 
will stay ?" 

**I will," said Miss Trotter, at once, and Uncle 
Gonion said, " Thank you." 

So they turned us out, Charlie and me. For 



HISS TOMMY. 165 

• 

nearly an hour we perambulated the streets, in 
sore suspense. I might have felt it more had mj 
poor Charlie felt it less, but I never saw him so 
unmanned. When at last we were summoned 
back — to no very ill news, as I saw at a glance — 
Charlie quite gave in, and wrung his uncle's hand 
with something very like a sob. 

" "Well, my boy," said Major Gordon, cheerily, 
" I know the worst now, and no one shall ever say 
of me, * A soldier, and afeard.' " 

"No, indeed," added the great man. "Mrs. 
Gordon, I have been giving your uncle here a 
piece of my mind. He will never see better 
than he does now, but he may not see much 
worse, if he lets well alone. Of course, I could 
try all sorts of experiments, but they would be 
mere experiments — all might fail; and at his 
age, I repeat, it is better to let things alone. 
There is a story about a man who ^sought not 
unto the Lord, but unto the physicians' — which 
means, I take it, that he would not trust Nat- 
ure, would neither believe in her curative power, 
nor accept her natural laws of decay. We often 
do the same thing, and worry ourselves and our 



166 MISS TOMMY. 

friends to death, for fear of dying, until we actu- 
ally die." 

" But it is not a question of dying here. I may 
live to be ninety, you say. The question is, how 
I am to face my life — such as it is ?" 

" My dear friend " — with this honest, good man 
all his patients were 6is dear friends — "you have 
but to live a day at a time, and it will grow easier 
as you get used to it. I have known many blind 
men who led the merriest and happiest of lives. 
And * better bear the ills you have,' as my dear old 
Shakespeare tells me, Hhan fly to others that 
you know not of;' which might have been your 
fate had you risked that operation. We know 
a good deal — we doctors; but I think the best 
tiling we know, and the cleverest of us learn it 
soonest, is our own ignorance." 

Everybody laughed ; and the tragedy melted 
into comedy. 

A few more wholesome advices Miss Trotter's 
friend gave, one of which was to "clear out of 
here as fast as possible." And on receiving his 
fee he put it back on the table, saying that he, 
a man of peace, made it a point of honor never 



MISS TOMMY. 167 

to take anything from " our national defenders." 
So, shaking hands all round, he jumped into his 
carriage and departed. I never see his name in 
print now without remembering the good deed he 
did that day. 

Charlie, too, departed. "You women will man- 
age all the rest," he whispered. But I could 
manage nothing ; my nerves had been thoroughly 
shaken. I was glad Uncle Gordon could not see 
me, as I sat in a corner and cried. He, too, looked 
exceedingly pale and exhausted. 

But there was one of us whose strength never 
was exhausted as long as there was anything to be 
done. Nor her patience — and it required a good 
deal ; for at first he was deaf as an adder to all her 
charming. Gradually she reasoned him into ac- 
knowledging that Mrs. Wilson, and Mrs. Wilson's 
delicate son, who was a good scholar and a sweet- 
natured lad, would be useful to him; while his tak- 
ing possession of his old lodgings would be a very 
great advantage to them — which, perhaps, was 
the wisest argument she could use. The sharpest 
sting of Uncle Gordon's lot seemed to be that 
he was now, as he said, " of no use to anybody." 



168 HISS TOMMY. 

"But we will make you of nse, Miss Trotter 
and me, and, at worst, you can play with the 
baby." 

"Is it come to that?" said he, with a hearty 
laugh, which looked like acquiescence. "And 
that lad Wilson, who is so to benefit by the 
pleasure of reading to me, and enjoying my 
sweet society. I suppose you think, Miss Trot- 
ter, that I am like the Countess of Pembroke, 
and that * to love me is a liberal education !' A 
pity the experiment has never been tried. But it 
would fail — with me everything has failed." 

That mixture of bitterness and sadness, with a 
strange vein of sweetness running through it all, 
intense gratitude for the smallest kindness, and a 
thoughtfulness for others which I have never 
seen in any other man — no, I did not wonder at 
anybody's loving Uncle Gordon. 

Miss Trotter went up to him as he stood at the 
window, and laid her hand on his arm. 

" I don't think I ever asked anything of you in 
all my life, but I ask you now — Will you come 
back to Dover with Decie and me ?" 

There was evidently a struggle in his mind as 



HI8S TOMMY. 169 

great as must have been in hers before she made 
the request ; but both were conquered. 

Major Gordon took the gentle hand, and pressed 
it warmly in both his own, saying, in a broken 
voice, " Thank you ; yes — I will go." 

What a jubilee of a journey it was! How 
happy he seemed, and how glad she looked to see 
him happy ! And, as I said to Charlie afterwards, 
these elderly folk, when they really do enjoy 
themselves, do it thoroughly; not like us young 
people, who are always ready to find a crumpled 
rose-leaf under all our felicities. But those for 
whom life is slowly narrowing down to the sim- 
plicities of childhood are, like children, contented 
and amused with little things. 

I had not expected Uncle Grordon to take the 
least notice of his godson, but he did. He even 
condescended to travel with him and with us, for 
several stations, before retiring to his smoking-car- 
riage; seemingly much interested in discovering 
that young Carl had the right number of arms, legs, 
and fingers — which latter were used in pulling his 
great-uncle's beard till that respected relative cried 
for mercy. Nevertheless, when driven from the 

8 



170 

field, the Major came again and again to onr car- 
riage, asking if we were all right, and apparently 
taking pleasure in being ^ a family man," as I told 
him, and having somebody belonging to him to 
take care of. 

'' Let me do it," I overheard him saying to 
Miss Tommy, in some trifling difficulty abont the 
luggage. ^^ Let me do all I can for yon, and as 
long as I can. The hardest thing possible is to be 
compelled to do nothing." 

That sentence struck the key-note, I think, of 
all our relations with him, during those days which 
followed — halcyon days, which I look back upon 
with a peace indescribable. It was September, 
the pleasantest month in the year at Dover, where, 
indeed, all months are pleasant; but this month 
especially, with its clear, bright, cool days, its brill- 
iant sunsets and harvest moonlights ; and last, not 
least, as a variety, its equinoctial storms, when the 
wind blew and the waves rose, sweeping right 
over the Admiralty Pier and flooding the espla- 
\m\o — nay, once pouring in a torrent over the 
imor (lowers in our front garden, and departing^ 
l^mvlnK '^ ^ wreck till next spring. 



MffiS TOMKT. 171 

^^Next qiring," said MisB Tommj, with her 
ugaal eheerfol aoquiesceiioe in the inefitable, ^ we 
will make it all bright again." 

She was in an especiaU j bright mood, and look- 
ing better than I had eeen her look ever sinee my 
marriage. She was a perfect sLive to little Gail, 
managing him as if she had been the mother of 
ten, instead of an old maid. And she took eaie 
of me — ^for I was not strong — as if she had been 
my mother. How she found time for OTerything 
was a mjeterj ; hot, as she said, langhing, ^ If she 
couldn't find time, she made it." Thns she made 
time — an hoar ev^y day — to do writing and read- 
ing for Major Grordon. 

He had taken up his old quarters with Mn. 
Wilson, who received him with open arms. Her 
little house had, I noticed, been made pretty and 
comfortable from attic to basement, and, as she 
had no other inmates, she was able to give Major 
Gk>rdon the range of all her rooms, and derote 
herself to his comfort in a way which soon showed 
itself in his changed appearance, e^en down to his 
lovely white shirt-fronts^ and his good, respectable 
coats, hats, and boots. 



172 MISS TOMMY. 

"I can't see them," he said, "but they feel 
much tidier than they used to be, and I always 
find them in the same place, and put them on with- 
out any trouble. She almost perplexes me with 
her gratitude, that poor woman. I can't think 
why she is so kind to me, and how she continues 
to make me so very comfortable at so very small 
a cost." 

But I could. 

However, I only laughed, and told him he 
would grow quite a dandy in his old age, now that 
he had a woman to look after him, to say nothing 
of that lad Jack, who had installed himself as 
amateur valet, and did his duty both with pride 
and affection. For, odd as the old soldier un- 
doubtedly was in his ways — a mixture of irritabil- 
ity and independence that made living with him 
not always smooth sailing — he had one peculiarity 
which I only wish were commoner among his sex 
— he thought so little about himself that he made 
everybody else think about him. From the eldest 
to the youngest of the Wilson family there was 
not one who would not have done anything in the 
world for the comfort of Major Gordon. 



MISS TOMMY. 173 

Yes, I repeat, those were halcyon days, to me, 
who had had a good deal of saffering and care, and 
to my two companions, who gradually became, in a 
way I had not noticed before, companions to one 
another. Not of mornings; Miss Trotter was al- 
most always busy then, and it was not her way to 
neglect business. She sometimes looked after us 
with wistful eyes, when she started us oflE, baby 
and me to our encampment on the shore. Major 
Gordon for his long morning stroll; he grew 
daily more active and strong, and his eyes did not 
seem worse, so we said as little about them as pos- 
sible ; but she neither walked with him nor idled 
with me, until, punctually as the twelve o'clock 
gun fired, we used to see the little figure emerg- 
ing from the house, and coming towards us wher- 
ever we were — which she always seemed to know. 
And then we all sat and chatted together for an 
hour, till dinner-time. 

After dinner we always drove, far away inland, 
or through the fiat and dull country — not pretty 
to look at, but fresh with salt wind, and glimmer- 
ing with continual glimpses of sea — towards Wal- 
mer and Deal. Uncle Gordon always liked the 



174 MISS TOMMY. 

sea best. He said he bad been brought up near 
it in his youth, and had never got over the love 
of it and the delight in it. The mere '^ smell of 
the sea/' he sometimes declared, seemed " to kill 
fifty years," and make him feel like a boy again. 

There was at times a curions yonthf nlness about 
him still ; or it seemed to have sprung up of late, 
like autumn crocuses. He took an interest in all 
our proceedings, women as we were. But we were 
neither silly nor idle women — certainly, one of us 
was not. Accustomed for years to manage her 

large fortune entirely herself, Miss Trotter's re- 

• 

sponsibilities and sphere of action were very wide. 
Until I listened to her talks with Major Gordon, 
whose advice and opinion she often asked — ^for it 
gave him something to think of, and occasionally 
his great longing, "something to do" — I had no 
idea how largely useful an old maid's life could be, 
nor what an important element she was in the 
community. These were before the days of wom- 
en's rights. I do not believe Miss Trotter ever 
dreamed of being made a common-council woman, 
or of having a seat in Parliament, yet she could 
have filled both ofiSces better than a good many 



MISS TOMMY. 175 

men I know. Her capacity for business was as 
great as her delight in it — real delight — the pleas- 
ure of seeing things work harmoniously, of em- 
ploying all her energies, and using — not abusing 
— all her money, since, as she sometimes said, the 
one aim of life should be, " Let nothing be lost." 

She was never much of a talker, but I noticed 
that, seeing how dependent Major Gordon natu- 
rally was upon conversation, she learned to talk 
more. And, in spite of her shyness at reading 
aloud, she taught herself to do it, and, of even- 
ings, often read to us for hours — "in humble 
emulation of Charlie," she once said, when I, 
who remembered that last reading of Charlie's 
and the unlucky consequences which followed it, 
felt conscience -stricken. But the Major sat im- 
passive, never taking the slightest notice. Per- 
haps he had entirely forgotten the unfortunate 
incident — perhaps — 

I never was inside a man's heart — very queer 
articles they must be sometimes ! I never knew 
much of any man except my dear, simple-minded 
spouse ; but I think, if anything ought to have 
touched a man — ^not his vanity, not his passions. 



176 MI8S TOMMY. 

but that highest and best self of him which all 
good men have — it would be that which had been 
given to Major Gordon. However, I have not 
to jndge, only to record. 

Day by day went on. Miss Trotter seemed to 
have the art of filling up every hour with some- 
thing pleasant. Carl grew into a young Her- 
cules, and I into a very creditable mother of the 
same. Every day Uncle Gordon appeared with 
a brighter look and a lighter step. He was in- 
deed, as Miss Trotter always declared, remarkably 
hale and active for his years. Far more so, as 
we both gradually found out, than she. 

" She seems so tired," he said to me one day. 
I had not given him credit for noticing the fact 
— men seldom do know whether we are tired or 
not. I am sure I might be ready to drop be- 
fore my dear innocent Charlie would ever find 
it out — but that is neither here nor there. 

"She often is tired," I answered, "only she 
doesn't say so. She hates to trouble anybody." 

" Indeed !" and from that time his hand was 
always ready to help her across the shingle, his 
arm to sustain her in our walks up and down the 



MJSA TOMMY. 177 

esplanade. He accommodated his quick pace to 
her slow one, his long strides to her tiny foot- 
steps, tnmed when she tamed, and stopped when 
she seemed weary. 

Those qniet walks, sometimes in snnshine, bnt 
oftener in twilight, or even moonlight and star- 
light — ^for, on accoant of his poor eyes. Uncle Gor- 
don liked walking at night — ^how enjoyable they 
were! What a fairy picture the old town be- 
came, with its circle of glittering lights, echoed 
by the lights of the Castle and the heights ; while 
on the other side was the ever-moaning sea, a 
dense black, dotted with masses of white foam, or 
shining in that mysterious, moon-made ^^path of 
rays" which 

'* We think would lead to some bright isle of rest" 

So beautiful, so dream-like, the scene often used 
to be, that even I, happy wife and mother as I 
was, with all the blessings of youth close in my 
grasp, grew sentimental. It was enough to make 
old people forget they were old, and wish they 
could begin their life over again — only, with a 
difference ! 

"I wonder how it would feel to be like that 

8* 



178 MISS TOMMY. 

little man of yours, Decie," said Major Gordon 
one day, pointing to Carl, who was rolling aboat 
on the sea-shore at St. Margaret's. We had taken 
him with ns tliere, as we were to be several hours 
away. Uncle Gordon had said he should like 
to have our tea picnic in a quite new place; 
and whenever he wished a thing, I noticed that, 
soon or late, it came about. ^^Carl, my friend, 
if my poor old soul could somehow get into 
your little body, and begin life all over again, 
what would I do with it ? Miss Trotter " — turn- 
ing to her as she sat on the shingle — we had 
investigated the picturesque village and the fine 
old church, and the steep descent to the little 
bay, and were sitting down — she always seemed 
glad to sit down — "Miss Trotter, do you know, 
I sometimes feel afraid of growing old. Do 
you r 

"ISTo;" afterwards, with a gentle smile and a 
firmer decision, she repeated, " Oh, no !" 

" But you would like to be young ? I was al- 
ways happy when I was young — were not you ?" 

" Happiness comes to some early, to others late ; 
and perhaps it is best not to think much of hap- 



r 



MIB8 TOMKT. 181 

piness at all. One often finds it when one has 
ceased to look for it." 

^^ But I used to look for it — here, there, and 
everywhere — eagerly, greedily — and I never found 
it. And now I am left 'on the bleak shore 
alone,' as the song says. Solitary, useless, blind, 
no wonder I am afraid of old age." 

It was a good while before she answered, and 
then it was in a slightly constrained tone. 

'^ I think your fear of the future is needless. 

As Dr. told you, one has but to live a day 

at a time. Your eyes are never likely to be 
worse than now ; and I have known people who 
could not see at all, yet were neither dependent 
nor helpless." 

It was the wrong word, as she saw, with a sting 
of pain, when too late to alter it. 

'^ I hate to be helpless," he broke in, almost 
fiercely ; ^^ and as for being dependent, I should 
loathe it. I mean to do all I can for myself, to 
my very last breath." 

"So do I," was the quiet reply. "I can under- 
stand the man — who was it ? — that wished to ' die 
standing.' But one cannot always stand, and 



18S 

ttand Alone. Sometimes I hare to lean pretty 
hard on Dede there. She does not mind i^ imd 
I— I rather like it." 

^ Thank yon," I cried, impnlnvelj damping ike 
dear little soft hand. I had began to'eompre- 
hend the pride and pleasnre it is for the young 
to help the old, though I did not take in as I do 
now how little we can help them — how many 
burdens thej have to bear which God only can 
lighten, until, in his own good tim^ he takes 
them all away. 

It went to my heart to see this dear woman 
putting ont her frail little hand to cany another's 
burden, as if she had none of her own. 

^^ I think," she said, ^^ old age should be to us 
a Sabbath after the week's work is done. We 
should rest, and be glad to rest ; we should not 
try to do more than we can do, and then be 
angry that we cannot do it. It is better often 
to accept our infirmities than to struggle against 
them. They may not be harder than many 
things we suffered in our youth. I once heard 
a sorely tried woman say, her greatest trial was 
that her sufferings were only mental ; no sorrow 



MISS TOMMY. 183 

ever made her ill, and it wonld have been such a 
relief to be ill I Now, I, who never feel quite 
well—" 

Major Gordon tamed to her with a startled 
air. 

" I mean, very seldom. But I always feel quite 
happy," she added, in her cheerf ullest of tones. 

And she looked happy. There was now in her 
faded face a continual peace, deeper even than 
when I first knew her. Then, there was a kind 
of effort in it, a determination to be happy, spite 
of fate. Now there was none — she was happy. 
She sat with my boy across her lap; he had 
tired himself out, and then settled down (truly, 
though I say it, there never was such a good 
child as my little Carl I). She kept patting him 
softly while she talked ; but her eyes looked out 
far beyond him, beyond us all, to the great wide 
sea shining in the sun — the sea which she had 
been so fond of all her life, across which her heart 
must have fied many a time ; but it had no need 
to do that now. 

Major Gordon sat and smoked his pipe, perfectly 
content. It was touching to see how very con- 



■ 1 



184 urn lomiT.* 

tent he could be, for a man who had knocked 
about the world for half a centuiy — ^he once told 
U8 he was a mere boy when he first went out to In- 
dia. And he was content with such little things — 
our innocent, childish, tea picnic, and the book 
afterwards. Miss Trotter generally produced a 
book from her pocket wherever we went: it 
whiled away the time to him, who could neither 
scramble about nor enjoy views. And, as he 
often said, it gave him something to think about 

We had been going through a course of Shake- 
speare, which he m joyed with the freshness and 
simplicity of a boy — ^he said he had never " culti- 
vated his mind " before, and was determined to 
do it now, or, rather, we were doing it for him. 

" Go on with ' King Lear,' will yon, Miss Trot- 
ter, if Decie can put np with snch a melan- 
choly story ? But I have a fellow-feeling for the 
poor old forsaken king, and the blind Gloucester. 
You were just at the point where they got to 
Dover fields, and he wanted to throw himself over 
the cliflf, and Edgar saved him — was it not ?" 

" Yes ; how well you remember I" 

So he did, every word she read, with that pleas- 



MISS TOMMY. 185 

ant voice of hers, ^' gentle and low, an excellent 
thing in woman." How Uncle Gordon made us 
langh, even in that most pathetic passage over 
Cordelia, by his emphatic " Yes, so it is I" His lis- 
tening was the most earnest, absorbing thing, just 
like a child's. 

" Poor old Gloucester. What a take-in it was ! 
And yet it was right. I hope he kept to the 
* free and patient thoughts ' which Edgar recom- 
mended. But it isn't always easy for a blind man 
to be patient," he sighed. "And that is your 
Shakespeare's Cliff, Miss Trotter. I remember, 
you told me to look out for it, the first day I went 
back to India. I could see it then, I can't now. 
But I could climb it still, if you would guide 
me as Edgar did Gloucester. I'll promise not to 
throw myself over." 

He seemed so eager to go, with the restlessness 
which still came over him at times, though much 
seldomer than formerly, that Miss Trotter pro- 
posed our driving direct from St. Margaret's to 
Shakespeare's Cliff. 

"We should get there before sunset, and the 
sky looks stormy; we may have the equinoctial 



186 IQBS TOlOfT. 

gales soon, and our difb Hre not safe in a lii|^ 
wind. PerhapB we had better not lose this calm 
day.** 

^ That's right," said Unde Gordcm ; ^ I lil^ do- 
ing things at once. I always did. Wh^i one is 
yonng one hates to lose time." « 

^ And when one is old one has no time to bse." 

She rose, gave Oarl to his nnrse^ and Mon we 
were all climbing the steep aseent wh^bi leads 
down to that lovely, lonely bay of St. M»Fgare^s» 
I noticed how often she paused, and how heavily 
she sometimes leaned on me, or on the strongs 
hand which was always at her service now. *^ Let 
me help you," Uncle Gordon used to say; "it 
helps me too, you know." 

On our drive home I thought my dear Miss 
Tommy was rather silent, watching the sunset, 
which promised to be very fine. Some of the 
grandest sunsets I have ever seen have been from 
the hill-road between St. Margaret's and Dover 
Castle. She pointed it out to me, but still silent- 
ly. We had both of us learned not to speak much 
of pleasures in which poor Uncle Gordon could 
not share. 



MISS TOMMY. 187 

I know not why I should call him "poor" 
Uncle Gordon, for, indeed, I had almost ceased 
to pity him. He bore his affliction with such pa- 
tient heroism — ^the heroism of courage, not stoicism 
—for he let us help him and guard him as much 
as ever we liked, except that he was so anxious 
not to give us " trouble." 

When we had deposited Carl and his nnrse at 
home, he was most eager to go on to Shake- 
speare's Clifi; so we went as far as the carriage 
could be taken, and climbed the rest — a rather 
hasty climb, for the sun was sinking fast. Miss 
Trotter faintly suggested that Uncle Gordon and 
I should go alone, but he would not hear of it. 

" It is an easy ascent, you say, and Decie and I 
will help you. Oh, no, you must not stay behind. 
We could not possibly do without you — we never 
can." 

She smiled, and went. 

Everybody knows Shakespeare's ClifE — the 
haunt of Dover shop-girls and shop-boys on Sun- 
day afternoons, and of Dover visitors all the week. 
Nothing in the least adventurous about it ; just a 
steep down, green and smooth, rising to a peak. 



188 MISS TOMMY. 

where you can look over the sheer, precipitoas clif 
into the sea. Not now, however, 

*' Half-way down 
Hangs he who gathers samphire— dreadfal trade!" 

Neither do 

*' The fishermen that walk npon the beach 
Appear like mice.*' 

Doubtless the clifE is much less grand than it 
was in Shakespeare's time, if Shakespeare ever 
saw it; but it is grand still — so dizzy a height 
that I was not surprised to see Miss Tommy catch 
hold again, of her own accord, of the hand which 
had helped her up. He turned round and smiled. 

" Don't be afraid ; I shall not jump over, and so 
' shake patiently my great affliction off,' like poor 
old Gloucester. I might have done so once — I 
don't know — if you had not come and saved me." 

Uncle Gordon said this with deep feeling. He 
stood, holding tightly her hand, while with the 
other hand he took off his hat and bared his head 
to the wind, which blew sharp and keen. It was 
a fine face, a noble face, with its look of quiet 
heroism, with its smooth brow and shut eyes, 
turned towards the gorgeous sunset, which, alas ! 



MISS TOMMY. 191 

to him was nothing. Bat he had mach enjoy- 
ment left still ; and, what is rather rare, he seem- 
ed to know it and own it. 

" People talk of owing their lives to other peo- 
ple, but. Miss Trotter, I think I shall owe you 
more than my life — the worth of it — if, old as I 
am, it ever gets to be worth anything; and I 
hope I shall not forget. But you are shivering — 
I can feel your hand shake." 

It was nothing, she said ; only she had been hot 
with walking, and the wind up here was very 
cold. 

Major Gordon took up his outer coat, and, in 
spite of all her remonstrances, wrapped her in 
it. We hurried her down to the carriage, almost 
carrying her between us, the little "fairy god- 
mother," as he sometimes called her. She laugh- 
ed at our anxiety, speedily recovered herself, or 
seemed to do so, and was unspeakably bright and 
gay all the evening, looking so pretty and so young 
— I wished Uncle Gordon had had his eyes. As 
for his heart, it was an article so incomprehen- 
sible that by this time I had ceased speculating 
about it, and given it up in despair. 



198 HIB8 Tomnr. ^ 



Next day, for the very first time since I had 
known her, Miss Tommy did not appear at break- 
fast She was not ill, she said, only she felt tired 
— ^rather more tired than usual; but she should 
certainly be up by noon. However, noon camo, 
and she was not up, to the great perplexity of 
Major Gbrdon, who appeared, as usual, to have 
his newspaper read to him. 

I had to do it, but he complained that I did not 
read half so well, nor could understand what he 
wanted read, as did the ^^ fairy godmother." At 
which, when I told her, she laughed heartily, and 
declared that, after going throngh life without 
any accomplishments, it was most delightful to 
have acquired in her old age that most useful one 
— the art of reading aloud. 

" Tell Major Gordon his praise puts me on my 
mettle. I shall certainly be up to-morrow." 

And so she was ; but only to find that she was 
able for nothing more than to lie on the sofa in 
the sitting-room beside her bedroom — the "par- 
lor" we called it, because such endless talking 
^^nt on in it ; such a ceaseless stream of people 
finally came to consult her there — people in 



MISS TOMMY. 193 

trouble, people in joy, people wanting money, 
advice, sympathy, help ; continual " wants," which 
Miss Trotter was expected to supply, and did so, 
as far as was in her power, every day of every 
week. 

But she could not do it now. She lay, smiling 
still, and not "wry" ill, she affirmed, but still 
unable to see anybody. I had to keep guard at 
the door — ^no sinecure ! — ^and tell all visitors that 
it was " only a chill," and she would be better to- 
morrow. 

« That ' only a chill V—I don't like it," said Uncle 
Gordon, who came to the house about six times a 
day, and sat patiently in the drawing-room, or 
made himself useful in amusing little Carl, for 
the child took an uncomfortable fancy of crying 
for his mother. " You see, an old soldier learns 
to be a bit of a doctor, and I know many a bad 
illness comes from a mere chill. She must have 
got it that evening on Shakespeare's Cliff, and it 
was I who persuaded her to go." 

He seemed so distressed, so remorseful, that I 
made out my anxiety to be less than it really was, 
and got him to stay the evening. T read to liiin, 

9 



IM maB 

USked to hiniy but it would not do. He could 
not rest; he seemed to be perpetnallj missing 
her ; indeed, the room looked so empty and f dt 
00 silent without h^, that I oonld hardly bear it 
myself. It was a real relief when, at last, he fell 
asleep in his favorite arm-ehair, for he seemed un- 
willing to leave the house till the latest possible 
minute. Kot till aU was quiet, and I myself the 
lart person up, did I succeed in turning him out, 
and watehing his retreating figure — such a firm, 
active step it was still t — ^along the shore. 

At ei^t in the morning he came haxk again, 
" just to inquire." He looked sorely troubled to 
find my invalid was no better, and when I went 
np to her I could hear him pacing to and fro in 
the room below, till I almost feared she must hear 
him too. Once, I was sure she did. She was lying 
with her eyes shot — ^asleep, I thought — when she 
suddenly opened them. 

" Is that Major Gordon ?" she asked. 

I said " Yes ;" and told her how I could hardly 
get him out of the house, and how restless and 
unhappy he was, blaming himself as the cause of 
her illness. 



HISS TOMMY. 195 

" Oh, no," with the brightest of smUes. « Tell 
him I am quite sure to be better to-morrow." 

She closed her eyes and went to sleep again, 
with a look as peaceful as that of my little Carl. 

But she was not " better to-morrow," and I in- 
sisted on sending for the doctor. 

Miss Tommy did not like doctors ; busy people, 
and people not given to trouble much about them- 
selves, seldom do. She said — imitating gayly 
one of the Scotticisms that even yet Major Gor- 
don occasionally let fall — that "she couldna' be 
fashed ;" that machines would wear out, and had 
better wear out with as little fuss as possible ; but 
to-day, when I urged our great anxiety — his, as 
well as mine — she yielded. 

I was out when the doctor came ; she had sent 
me for my daily walk with Uncle Gordon. " He 
must not miss it," she said ; " and, besides, sick- 
nurses ought to go out every day. I have had a 
great deal of nursing to do in my life, but I never 
was nursed before," she added, and put up her 
face to kiss me, like a child. When I returned 
the doctor had come and gone. 

Miss Trotter was lying on her sofa in the par- 



196 MI8B TOMMY. 

4 

lor. How sweet she looked in her soft gray 
dressing-gown and close white cap 1 But her face 
was turned to the wall. She hardly noticed my 
entrance, and, when I spoke, moved with a half- 
startled look, as if I had roused her from sleep or 
deep thinking. Her cheeks were flushed, and her 
breathing was quick and hard. 

" Decie," she whispered, " the doctor says I am 
to go to bed and stay there. I think he is right, 
but I waited till you came in. Also because" — 
she lifted herself up and looked in my face with 
a sad, earnest expression — "I want to see Major 
Gordon, for just five minutes." 

I hesitated. In truth, I was shocked to see the 
change in her. 

" It cannot harm him or me. I mtist see him. 
You can stay. I have nothing, almost nothing, 
to say to him ; but I must see him." 

And she lay, scarcely moving, with her eyes 
fixed on the door, until he came. 

If I had not loved my Charlie — and yet that 
was a different sort of love too — I could never 
have understood that yearning gaze, nor the 
quick, bright smile, followed by a look of intense 



2KT 

oootent md tbbl » Msior GrDrotm scr Qtnm beaide 
her, and toc^ Iibt Iiodc in boiL iiiE — 'V'hleL ite 
sometiiiieE did now buiL ^v iar and U' me— 6 pfr- 
tbetic ags tbai lixt oarknfls ws £TC*wiiJi^ rouuc 

I veart md bh in !;&{• ucfw-^frhnQtirir. wat/^iiu^ 
the hmg it^QerB of itie zi^ zissc imrk^ ov^s- aijti 
broke ^^rv^ tbs sa-'waT it iaiv>wes% of apntr. 
My foIL hriglit li& — k full beipit; ttj: atid iif 
resdeBB as l^bai tide — fi&c imiK: twu t^ui^ liv^. iii; 
bat done, ooml pesio^ just ebtiiii^ awav — wii^ ^^ 
oootnfit! 

"I Bent far tchl'*' die aaid. for Uiide fiordoii 
Beemed too JDaneb xdot^ to utter n word. ^'W 
caose the doetor telk xoe I «ia!I xi<it W able v^ «^ 
any <Mie £w Kwne lixae, aod I tiiou^t J tsLould 
like to 0Be jon ap&iiu io ease — hu mu^ — Js%>t 
that it miidb mattot : but one ue^er kii<> w«,^ 

He started- ^ Tot do oot meaii that ? Ob, no 
no, no I It ▼«« tbe cLUi ou tU cJiff-t^^p^ ^uad I 
brought you there- It it I tiutt Lare kilM ^ou/' 

" Xot in the leart," fehe ani?wer«)d, etrorjgJ/ md 

firmly. "You must never ima^ue wich «u<>h 

utter noneenfie. On tbe contrary,*' changiij|f h<jr 



196 

fittb Im^ into mamittaem, ^acNDething yofa odd 
iht&a win make me hasppj; wooM have made me 
happy for an my dajs to ocmie. I wanted to tell 

70a 80." 

She panaed, bat he Baid nodiing. She went on: 
^Once yon aaked me if I had had a happy life. 
No, not Tory. Bat I have tried to make the best 
of ity aa everybody can." 
^^I wish to God I had done so too P 
^* Yon have," she answered, eagerly ; ^^ indeed 
yon have. I know it. Yon thonght I knew 
nothing, bnt I knew everything, and have known 
it all along. And I say yon have done all yon 
could, in all ways. It has been a comfort to me 
for years and years, to feel this ; to think that 
there was somewhere in the world, even if ever 
so far away, a man so good as yon." 

She spoke with diflSculty, and with long pauses 
between, but distinctly and firmly, as people 
speak on their deathbeds, when they have ceased 
to have anything to hope for, anything to fear. 
He could not see her face, but she could see his, 
and I was glad she could. 

" Now, my friend " (as she now and then called 



MISS T0M3IY. 199 

him, thoiigh generally nothing but Major Gor- 
don) ; " now you must go." 

"Presently. One word — you are not so very 
ill ? Ton will try to get better V 

" Oh, yes ; I will try," speaking in the soothing 
tone one uses to a child — not unneeded, he being 
utterly unmanned. 

I rose, for I felt he must go. 

"Good-bye, then; just for to-day," he mut- 
tered. " Good-bye." 

And, lifting her hand, he would have kissed it ; 
but she drew him nearer to her, and, putting both 
her arms round his neck, with unutterable tender- 
ness, she kissed him on the forehead and on the 
poor blind eyes. 

" All my life — all my life I" she murmured, with 
a smothered passion almost like that of youth. 
They kissed one another once more, solemnly and 
lingeringly, as if for an eternal farewell, and then 
I led him out of the room. 

***** 

My dear Miss Tommy did not die. For weeks 
it was a struggle between life and death, but life 
gained the victory. 



SNK) 

^I wkh to live," she said, more than onoe. 
^I have 80 much to Uve for; so much to do.'' 

And well abe might have said this, had she 
seen the cmel ^^want" she was in the house, in 
the neighboriiood, even in the outside world. 
If ot till then — for she had never had a dangorons 
illness in her life — not till then did anybody find 
ont how deeply Miss Trottw was beloved and 
how widely respected. The ridi came in their 
carriages, the poor on their ragged feet, to her 
door, and looked np with tears to that silent win- 
dow, behind which the fight for life was going on. 
Ob, it was a terrible time, and yet a peaceful one. 
I came out of it an older and a graver woman — 
fitter to face life, or death, without being afraid. 

I do not think she was afraid — it was not in her 
nature to be afraid of anything ; but I think she 
would have liked to stay just a little longer, "to do 
her work," as she said. And I sometimes fancied 
she was pleased with all those testimonies from 
outside of what a noble life an " old maid '' can 
live, aud how sorely fehe can be missed, even 
though she leaves behind neither child nor hus- 
band. Very sweet to her were all those tokens 



901 

of nniversal love, whieh in unmarried woman 
can always win ; a love neither of nature nor of 
blood, but of choice and — ^let not those who nerer 
win it deceive themaelTee — of deeerring. 

Slowly and steadily life came bade into her 
dear old face ; but it was quite an old face now, 
the hair perfectly gray and the delicate complex- 
ion gone. Nothing was left except her wonderful 
look of sweetness and peace — an abiding inward 
peace, never absent now. Xor did it change 
when, though she revived to eonvaleseence, we 
soon began to feel that paiect health, with all its 
activities, ener^es, and enjoyments, was never 
likely to be hers any more. 

Still, after she came down-stairs, we tried our 
very best to make everything go on just as (be- 
fore — with, however, a difference. 

Of course, all I had guessed, seen, and heard in 
that supreme moment when she thought she was 
dying was kept by me as sacred and silent as if I 
had known nothing. Uncle Gordon never spoke 
of it to me, nor did she. Whether they ever re- 
ferred to it with one another, or whether they let 
it aU pass like a dream of the night — which, in 

9* 



mBB xcnoiT. 

troth, to me it sometimeB Boemed-^I cannot tell, 
and I neyer heard. When they met, which was 
as soon as the doctor allowed hw to see anybody, 
it was like ordinary friends— dose and tender and 
tried, hot still only friends. 

There was no talk whateyer of marriage. Such 
an idea never seemed to have entered into any- 
body's head regarding them, two snch '^old peo- 
jde" as they were — Unde Gordon, with his 
horror of matrimony, and IGss Tommy, who had 
an her days shown snch a total indifference to it 
But I, who had heard those words, ^ All my life- 
all my life !" read the history differently. 

Possibly it was his pride, or their mutual 
shrinking from the world's sneering comments on 
elderly marriages, or it might have been that she 
felt her own infirmities, and did not wish to be a 
burden upon him — ^for she had pride too, dear 
soul! But, whatever it was, it was exclusively 
their own concern, and both seemed entirely sat- 
isfied. 

They did not marry, yet it was hardly possible 
to imagine a more perfect union. It did one 
good to see them together, and they were now to- 



MISS TOMMY. 203 

gether every day. How her face brightened at 
the sight of him, and his at the sound of her 
voice ! There was between them that entire sym- 
pathy which even married people seldom have — 
that comfort of companionship which, be it 
friendship or love, and whether discovered early 
or late, makes, when found, the utmost blessing 
of life. All the more that neither of them had 
any other close ties, except Charlie and me. But, 
after carefully thinking it over, I decided not to 
tell my secret, or, rather, their secret, even to 
Charlie. 

They did not marry. And sometimes, when I 
saw the perfect oneness between them, and how 
completely they belonged to one another, I felt 
there was no need they should marry. They 
were too old for the world to say a hard word 
against them — indeed, it never noticed them at 
all. Daily was Uncle Gordon's tall, gaunt fig- 
ure seen marching up and down the esplanade 
beside her chair — her illness had been rheu- 
matic fever, and it was long before she could 
walk. Later on, when she did walk, though very 
feebly, she was supported by the arm which nev«'' 



d04 ICDSS TOlOfT; 

failed her ; followed, perhaps, bj a eareless glance 
or two from the groups of juveniles who hannt 
the Dover shore ; young ladies, and young of- 
ficers from the Castle, talking, laughingy and 
flirting together^ and possibly calling it ^ love." 
How little they understood Uie word t But thes^ 
whose story nobody knew f 

Even my Charlie, now settled into a practical 
man of the world and f adier of a family^ never 
suspected anything deeper than he saw. . Pethaps 
if he had, he, too^ would only have mailed; bnt 
he was the best and dearest of husbands, and not 
a bit jealous of my devotion to Miss Tommy. 
Indeed, seeing that I was likely to be so much 
at Dover, be proposed that we should come and 
live there ; applied for and obtained a semi-mili- 
tary post at the Castle. So we planted ourselves 
beside her, at which Miss Trotter was very glad. 

" I am an old woman now ; I want taking care 
of," she said to me one day. " Others will have 
to do my work for me. I must learn to be idle, 
and rest." 

But idleness was evidently a great punishment 
to her. As soon as possible she had resumed her 



MISS TOMMY. 207 

usual "work," as well as that part of it which 
she had done for Uncle Gordon ; such as read 
ing his newspapers to him and writing his let 
ters. But very soon the tables were turned; 
instead of her helping him, he began to help 
her. 

As I have said, in his youth Major Gordon had 
an excellent head for business. Soldier as he 
was, he had accumulated — as in those days the 
servants of the East India Company had many 
opportunities of doing — a considerable fortune. 
It had all been wasted, and not by himself ; but 
he never spoke of this, and I need not. 

Still, his shrewdness and clear-headedness re- 
mained, rather increased than diminished by his 
dim sight — nay, having once accepted his infirm- 
ity, he, with his orderly and methodical soldierly 
habits, succeeded in making the very best of it. 
It was astonishing how much he did, and was 
happy in doing, aided by his faithful secretary 
Jack Wilson. 

So I was scarcely surprised when, one day, call- 
ing me into her room, the parlor, where they usu- 
ally spent their mornings, sometimes with Jack 



908 iCDSs Tcnorr. 

to do writing for them, sometimeB she and Major 
Gordon alone, the dear godmother said : 

^^Decie, we want to tell yon something'' — ^ 
both often said ^^ we " now. ^^ We have come to 
the oondnsion that my life is rather too hard 
for me. I mean, the endless amount of business 
_other people's business— which I have always 
done and cannot give np. I need help, and my 
friend here" — laying her hand on TJnele Gor- 
don's as he sat beside her sofa — alas, she was al- 
most always lying down now I — ^' has promised 
to help me." 

" I am 80 glad — bo glad !" 

Perhaps she thought from my eagerness that I 
had meant something different from whal; she 
meant, for the faintest possible flush crossed her 
cheek, and died out again. 

" He is going to be my man of business ; to 
look into all my affairs; to undertake all my 
correspondence, with Jack as his lieutenant and 
working secretary. He will be always ready to 
give me his advice, and see that I am not cheated, 
and that I don't cheat anybody — an onerous duty. 
In fact, as I said, he will take care of me." 



MISS TOMMY. 209 

" And in return," added Major Gordon, with 
a touch of his old pride, " Miss Trotter wishes to 
give me — and being a poor man I am content 
to accept — a regular salary, a much larger salary 
than I think I deserve. We called you in, Decie, 
to decide the point." 

" It seems we need a mutual friend in this, if 
in nothing else," said Miss Tommy, gayly ; and 
she laid the disputed question before me ; in 
which, of course, I decided for her, and against 
Uncle Gordon. 

^^ It is no use fighting against two women, and 
one of them with such a strong will of her own," 
said he, smiling, and turning to Miss Tommy — 
it was one of the prettiest things in the relation 
between these two to see how they sometimes 
made fun of each other's peculiarities — "so I 
submit." 

" That is right, and Decie knows it is right. 
She is a very sensible woman. But indeed it 
matters little, between you and me ; we quite un- 
derstand one another, do we not ?" 

" My dear, yes !" he answered, softly. That 
was the only diflference in his manner to her, 



no 

irfiidiy alwajB so eoortooiUy hid now in it a toncli 
€f reveren t tmdmieai^ andi as he showed to no 
one ebe. And when ihej were by th^naelTesy 
or with only me, he caDed h^ not ^IGsb Trot- 
ter," bat ^'Dear," or ''My dear," with an intonar 
tion 8iidi as I have hesid betweoi people who 
had beoi fi^ yesn married. 
, lima sU was sailed ; and it was likewise set- 
tied that we should Hve half Hbe year at Dover, 
in oar three separate habitatioDs^ bat that when 
we went for the sommor to 8yeanii»e Hall we 
shoald practically beecmie one funQy — ''my 
family," as l^Gss Trotter affectionately called ns, 
saying what a pride it was to have a family in 
her solitary old age. 

I think the next few years were the happiest 
she had ever known. She often said so, looking 
into my eyes with a wistful tenderness — ^the ten- 
derness of those who know one another's secrets, 
yet never speak of them, even between them- 
selves. Yes, she was perfectly happy, even though 
she had her sufferings — the inevitable physical 
sufferings of declining years, which perhaps the 
old bear better from knowing that they are in- 



BOSS TOMMY. Sll 

evitable, that there is no waj out of them except 
through ^^ the grave and gate of death," as the 
Prayer-Book says. How much or how little she 
thought of that, or of the " joyful resurrection " 
with a new body, but (oh, God grant it !) with the 
same soul, I could not teU. She had little need 
to talk of the heavenly life ; she lived it here on 
earth. 

Uncle Gordon had his sufferings too, but they 
were not those of weakness. His iron constitution 
recovered itself; he bade fair to become a hale and 
hearty septuagenarian or octogenarian. Cheerful, 
too, in spite of his blindness, which never became 
total darkness. In our happy domestic circle the 
deadened heart of him burst out into full flower, 
late, but lovely, " like a Glastonbury thorn," as I 
sometimes said. But there was nothing of the 
thorn-tree about him. He was more like a holly, 
which loses all its prickles as it nears the top. 

And he was the best of uncles to Charlie and 
me and our boys — we had three now, so that the 
clan Gordon was not likely to end. Miss Trotter 
delighted in them and petted them all, but none 
was to her like her own Charles Everett the third, 



212 MISS TOMMY. 

whom I generally let her have all to herself, that 
he might grow up as perfect as " old maids' chil- 
dren " are said to be. Though, as Charlie some- 
times observed, it seemed "funny" to call Miss 
Tommy an old maid — she, that was a sort of 
mother to everybody who needed one. Her 
motherliness was her strong characteristic. Many 
grown-up people now living owe their life, health, 
education — all that makes existence worth having 
— to that childless woman, who never had a baby 
of her own on her lonely breast. 

But she was happy — ^I know she was. Her 
empty heart was filled, her anxious spirit at rest. 
She, who all her life had suffered and labored for 
others, now enjoyed her Sabbath of peace. She 
saw of "the travail of her soul," and was satis- 
fied. 

Our last winter at Dover was, I rejoice to re- 
member, the brightest we ever spent there. A 
faint, cold fear, which had long hung over us, that 
my husband might be ordered on foreign service, 
was dispelled by his consenting to retire on half- 
pay, which Miss Trotter earnestly desired. 

" Don't leave me, Decie," she said, with a pa- 



mss TOiiMT. 213 

thetic entreaty, the fall meaning of which I un- 
derstood afterwards. "Don't any of you leave 
me for very long at a time." 

We never did. Uncle Gordon, for one, was 
never absent from her a single day — not mere* 
ly for her sake, either. Feeble as she was, he 
seemed as if he could not do without her — ^her 
clear head, her bright, brave heart. He himself 
was wonderfally well and strong, looking years 
younger than his real age, taking a firm hold of 
life still, and, as "man of business" to the rich 
Miss Trotter, able to make such a good use of it* 
He liked the work too ; it interested him, and eX' 
ercised all bis dormant energies. He never now 
complained of having nothing to do, and, indeed, 
was becoming a remarkable instance of how much 
even a blind man can do if he tries. 

" How well it has all turned out, Decie, since 
the day when you and I stood together on that 
Admiralty Pier and watched the boat come in !" 

We were standing, she and I, I remember, at 
the window of her parlor; I with my last baby 
asleep on my shoulder, and she watching silently 
her well-beloved sea. Also watching Uncle C 



n4 

doDy who WIS ^tekiiig Yds ^oostitiitiimal,'' as he 
ealled it — marchuig up and dawn the little jetly, 
iqpright as an arrow, and evidentij enjoying him- 
adf ezeeedingi J. 

''How well he looks, how strong he is!" I said. 
''Kever was th^re a man so dianged." 

** YesP she answered, with a smile, and suddenly 
turned and kisaed me — (»r, rather, the baby — ^with 
her ejes full of tears. Tlmi added, '^I hsTo had 
snch a happy life I Hi^piw altogether, I thinly 
than that of most women. And I thank God." 

We stood a HtUe widh longer, nntil she noticed 
how BtroDg the wind was blowing, and how thin 
Uncle Gordon's coat was. 

"He forgets how keen our Dover east winds 
are in March. He fancies himself as yoang as 
ever ; and yet he is" — with a little low laugh of 
complete content — "we are both of ns getting 
really old. No, that coat won't do, Decie. I 
must speak to him about it to-morrow." 

" That to - morrow " — she was away ! I say 
" away," for I never could feel it like death. We 
found her next morning, asleep, apparently, with 
her hands clasped on her breast ; as she once told 



KISS TOMMY. 215 

me she generally went to sleeps" it felt bo like 
saying one's prayers." But she was away — quite 
away. 

She had died, as she must have long known she 
probably would die, of the heart disease which so 
often follows rheumatic fever. All her affairs 
were left clear, down to the minutest item. She 
had more than once said that a sudden death was 
the happiest of all — and she had it. Her great 
fear — ^that of living to be a burden upon others 
— she thus escaped. But her last thought was of 
other people — of him ; for I found written on the 
little slate which always lay on her dressing-table, 
as a slight help in the endless small things she 
had daily to remember — " Mem. — To speak about 
Major Gordon's coat to morrow." 

* * * * * 

"When Miss Trotter's will was read it was 
found that, many years ago, she had left half her 
fortune to Charles Everett Gordon. By a later 
codicil she left him the whole, with reversion to 
his nephew and great- nephew. Except some 
charitable annuities, and one or two small memo- 
rial legacies, she left it to him absolutely, without 



S16 lOBS DOlOtT. 

icrtrietioM — **oertaia that be will use it sa well 
II it aai pooibly be nsed." 

Ho did. For i time I thought this was im- 
poeaible — that he would nerer be liimeelf again, 
the blow BtTDck him so t«7 hard. At 6rst be 
aeeroed panlyied.by it, then for weeks he wan- 
dered idxHit aimleiBly, scuoely noticing any of us, 
looking alwajB tat Mme one rise, whom be could 
never find. .Bot gndniU/ be rose up and faced 
hii work— Am- wodE, which obe had left him to do 
— and did it Adtbfnlly to tixe end. 

Uncle Gordon lired to be a very old man — 
winning age's beet blessings — 

"Honor, loro, obedience, troops of frieodi," 

— friends whom he helped to make happy, as bis 
wealth enabled him to do. But be himself re- 
tained his simple, almost ascetic, habits. Many a 
time I had to look after him and change his shabby 
coat for a new one — remembering, with the sa- 
erednesa that death casts over the commonest 
things, that last though tfulness of the woman who 
loved him, as, he knew now, no one else bad ever 
loved him in all this world. 
He never forgot her; sometimes for months he 



1 

I 


^P UIS& TOMMY. 217 

scarcely mentioned Lev name, bnt I was Bnre lie 
never forgot her. And often, when his day's work 
was done, lie would lean back in his arm-chair 
with a tired look, and ait long silent — a silence 
that none of ns ever ventured to break. 

We had bnried her, by lier own written desire, 

at Dover — in St. James's chnrchyard, which was 

10 ^J 


1 

1 



218 MISS TOMMY. 

overlooked by Mrs. Wilson's house, where, when- 
ever we went there, Uncle Gordon always took 
up his old quarters. Once he drew me to the 
window : it was a moonlight night, and the white 
gravestones were shining, and the trees waving, 
especially the tree in a corner we knew well, just 
under the gray church-tower. 

" Tell me, Decie, is it all right ? — the marble 
cross and the flowers? She was so fond of 
flowers." 

I told him it was a perfect little garden. Not 
only we, but everybody, seemed to take care of it. 

" Yes. Everybody loved her," he said. 

After a little T drew down the blind, and made 
his fireside comfortable for him — the solitary fire- 
side where he would sometimes sit, quite alone 
and doing nothing, all evening long. Then, as I 
led him to his arm-chair, he suddenly whispered, 
catching my hand and grasping it hard : 

" Decie, when my time comes — remember — be- 
side her." 

I have remembered. 

THE END. 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT 



^ ionrnal 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 



A Jmmuil. 



T HAD long heard of the house -boat, and had 
-■- once seen it (as you see it now, my readers, 
in a sketch done by a girl little older than many 
of you, but already a notable English artist). It 
lies, summer after summer, moored in a tiny bay 
on our river Thames, and twice it had been of- 
fered to me for a week's occupation by its kind- 
ly owner, but I never was able to go. When at 
last I found I could go I was as ready to ^^ jump 
for joy " — had that feat been possible at my age 
— as any of you young people. 

To live in a house -boat on the broad river, 
with a safe barricade of water between you and 
the outside world, to fish out of your parlor door, 
and if you wanted to wash your hands, to let 



is A HOUSE-BOAT. 




down your jug from your bedroom window ; 
moreover, to have nnlimited snoriees and Bnn- 
seta, to Bleep with the "lap-lap" of a flowing 
stream in yonr ears, to waken with the songs of 
birds from the trees of the shore — what conld 
be more delightful? Nothing — except perhaps 
"camping oat" under the stars, which might be 
a trifle damp and uncomfortable. 

No dampness here. More than comfort — act- 
nal beauty. When I went down to look at it in 
early spring, and the kind owner showed it with 
pride — pardonable pride — I found the house-boat 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 223 

adorned with Walter Crane's drawings and Will- 
iam Morris's furniture, perfectly "aesthetic" in 
its decorations, and as convenient as a well-ap- 
pointed yacht. Also there was "a feeling" about 
it as if the possessor loved it, and loved to make 
people happy in it. There were mottoes from 
Shakespeare, Shelley, Keats, Milton, in every room, 
and pictures on every wall, besides the perpetual 
pictures outside — a gallery of ever-changing love- 
liness. 

I came home enthusiastic, and immediately set 
about choosing " a lot of girls," as many as the 
boat would hold, to share it. 

Only girls. Any elderly person — except the 
inevitable one, myself — would^ we agreed, have 
spoiled all. I did not choose my girls for out- 
side things, though some of them were pretty 
enough, too; but for good temper, good sense, 
and a cheerful spirit, determined to make the 
best of everything, and face the worst if neces- 
sary. These were the qualities I looked for, and 
found. 

I shall not paint their portraits, except to men- 
tion that three out of the six were KatJierines, 



994 iM A moma^m}ja. 

We had tiberef om to dfatingiiiib thmn hb EUt j, 
ibih, and Katie, tim lattar bdog our little nudd* 
of^dkwork, our ooadbmaa'a dangliter. The other 
three girb were: the artist — whose name, Mar- 
gery May, 18 public prepay — and two girls, 
speeifdly mine, whom I shall demgnate as *^ Menm 
and Tnnm." All were between fifte^i and 
twenty-five — happy age! — and all still walked 
^in maiden meditation, fiwey free." So we had 
not a man among ns exc^t onr sole mate po- 
teetor, Katie's fath^, and onr long-fiuthfol ser- 
vant Him I shaU caU '^Adam,'' after Shake- 
speare's Adam in " As You Like It," whom he re- 
sembles in everything but age. 

Six girls afloat! And very much afloat they 
were, swimming like ducks — no, let us say swans 
— on a sea of sunshiny happiness. As we drove 
from our last railway station, through the little 
town — the last town, too — our open omnibus, 
flUed with bright-faced girls, seemed quite to in- 
terest the inhabitants. And when we reached 
the actual country, that lovely Thames Valley, 
which all English artists know, the ringing laugh- 
ter at every small joke startled the still July af- 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 225 

ternoon, and made the birds dart flattering ont 
of the hedgerows! Such hedgerows! — full of 
wild brier -roses, pink and deep -red honeysuckle, 
traveller's joj, and dozens of other flowers useless 
to name, as they may not grow in America. But 
our English girls love them, our English fields 
would be nothing without them. 

^' There it is ! There is the house-boat I" cried 
Kitty, who had seen it before, having been with 
me when we explored it domestically. 

"Hurrah! we have nearly reached it — our 
'appy 'ome I" exclaimed Meum and Tnum, stand- 
ing up in the carriage together. Two of the 
£atherines followed their example; indeed, we 
should have been considered a most ill -behaved 
party, only fortunately there was no one to see 
us except one laborer, lazily sitting on a mowing- 
machine which was slowly cntting down all the 
pride of the flowery meadow through which we 
drove to the river-side. 

There she lay, the Pinafore^ and beside her the 

Bihj a little boat, which was to be our sole link 

with the outside world. In it sat the owner, who 

had patiently awaited us there these two hours, 

10* 



ni A. KHnut-aoAT. 




and whose portrait I tlionld like to paint if oalj 
to show yon a bachelor — an old bachelor, yon 
young girls would call him — who has neither 
grown selfish nor cynical, who knows how to use 
his money withont abusing it, and who'does nse 
a good part of it in making other people happy. 
The Pinafore is his hobby. He had it bnilt 
on the top of a barge, under his own direction, 
and from his own design. It consists of a ealooa 
at one end, a combination kitchen and dining- 
room at the other, and four cabins between, with 
two berths in each, A real little honse, and well 
might we call it our happy home— for a week. 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 227 

Onr host showed us all over it once more, 
pointed out every possible arrangement for our 
comfort, partook of a hasty cup of tea, and then 
drove back in our empty omnibus Londonward, 
deeply pitied by us whom he left behind in his 
little paradise. 

The first meal ! — ^its liveliness was only equalled 
by the quickness with which it disappeared. 
And then came several important questions. 

'^Business before pleasure/' said the stern 
mother. ^^ Choose your room-mates, girls, and 
then arrange your rooms. It is the fashion on 
board the Pinafore to do everything for your- 
selves. When all is ready we will take a row 
and watch the sunset, then come back to bed." 

This last would have been a pleasant business 
if some of them had had to ^Hurn in" to beds 
of their own making. 

" Ma'am," said Katie, who was beside me when 
I peeped into one cabin, ^^ hadn't I better do the 
rooms? the young ladies do not quite understand 
about it. I will have all ready by the time you 
come back." 

Katie, the best of little housemaids, was heartily 



SS8 BT A B00Ba*BQ4T. 

tibaaked, ftiid her offar lu»eptocL ^ But, girk^ re- 
member, it te to be tiie firat tod lest time. After 
to-o^t yon mnrt learn to do your own rooms 
yonrsdires.'' 

80 we threw overboard the fmustieal for the 
poetical, and, like Hiawatha, wmt aaSing ^ tow* 
ard the snnaet" in dreamy, laqr deli|^t. 

What a annaet it wast Eirerything eeemed 
fdl of rich enmmer life^ from the stately pair of 
swans sailing about with th^ dx gray crfgnets 
after them, to the water-hen dtting among the 
reeds, the willow-wien smging in among the 
bnshes, and the water-rat darting into bis hole as 
we passed. All was beauty, all was peace, and 

**The cares that infest the day 
Do fold their tents, like the Arabs, 
And silently steal away.** 

Every one of my five girls could handle an oar, 
some better, some worse; and how they did enjoy 
their row! The two youngest took turns, and 
succeeded at least in " catching crabs '' with much 
fun and ease. 

On and on, till we were stopped by a lock. 
The three evils of the Thames are locks, weirs, 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 229 

and lashers. So we turned and let ourselves drift 
back with the current, now running very fast. 
Now and then we "hugged" the bank, and gath- 
ered thence a huge handful of purple loosestrife, 
blue and white bugloss, meadow-sweet, forget-me- 
not — the Thames is rich in water-flowers. On we 
floated, over great beds of water-lilies, yellow or 
white, which grew in a quiet little " back-water," 
where we nearly got stranded on a shoal and 
pierced with a snag. But " a miss is as good as a 
mile," said we, and were more careful another 
time. 

"Look — a private gallows!" exclaimed Tuum, 
who had a droll, bright way of putting things. 
" We mustn't go there on any account." But it 
was only an odd arrangement for catching eels ; 
so we examined it, laughed, and passed on. 

The sun had long set, and the moon was setting 
— the little young moon, like a silver boat — when 
we re-entered our " happy home " for supper and 
bed, the second speedily following the first, for 
various excellent reasons, one being that the sup- 
per-table was required for Adam's couch. He 
bad his choice whether to sleep on it or under it, 




S80 

and pnfemd (lie latto', ■■ Iieiiig.**inore like a 
fooF-poBtOT." Ad«m IB t^ imtiu« abooBt M'SUeDt- 
■■ hit honei, but his few renau-ka, tana, diy, and 
ahrewd, often pass into fumLy provettw. 

80 an the Pinafore^s crew sank into repose, 
exeept one, vlio has an occagioDal bad habit of 
Ijing awake " till the day break and the shadows 
flee away." How gloriously it did break, that 
dawn on the Thames ! and how strange were the 
river Bonnda, the chirping of birds and the lowing 
of cattle mingling with other strange noises, after- 
wards discorered to be the tapping of swans' beaks 
against the barge, and the wateWrats careering 
about uuderneath. 

These swans, of which onr artist has taken 
some portraits, are the pride and ornament of the 
Thames. They belong to the Thames Conser- 
vancy Corporation, and no one is allowed to 
molest or destroy them. They sail abont like 
kings and queens, followed by their families, and 
are petted and fed and admired nritil they become 
quite tame. They used to gather round our boat 
and eat out of the girls* hands; and their motions, 
always full of grace, were a delight to behold. 



1 HOUSE-BOAT. 




DawD oame, and with it the power to fsce and 
enjoj another new day. 

A holiday ia aever the worse when there tddb 
through it a stratum — a yery thin Btratam — of 
work. So the two working bees, author and art- 
ist, decided to be put ashore after breakfast and 
left under two trees with their several tasks, while 
the others enjoyed themselves till dinner-time, 




«lMa «e ci^eebad fiiMkli^ iriw vvro to junr about 
ten vakmtotpmdibo^wiAm. 

DisDOT nmiiidB me €ti oar domntio cffiun, 
whidi, eomidwiiig Uut food f«r dgfat or tea 
htuigij peo^ doei not grow on erery bnah, were 
important. Qroeerifli lod otbv ibweB we broag^t 
with na, bot bread, milk, bntter, fruit, and rege- 
td>lM we bid to get from the inn opposite, which 
alflOHOt Qxnu* int^at, ready cooked, it being im- 
poanble to rout a, joint on board the Pinafore. 
Fieah wetv, too, we had to get from the inn pnmp, 
riTer water not being wholesome for drinking. 

Great fan were those endless rows with jugs 
and cans, for we were all thirety aoole, and all, 
even Adam, teetotalers. The amount of milk we 
got through was snch that some one snggested it 
wonld save trouble to fetch the cow on board. 
The kindly landlady bade ns "gather onr frnit 
for ourselves," so we often brought home a boat- 
load of well-earned food — potatoes, pease, crisp 
lettuces pulled up by the roots, and eaten aa rab- 
bits eat them, with raspberries and cherries and 
currants to our hearts' content. It was almost as 
good as shooting or fishing one's dinner. And, 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 233 

by-the-bye, the sight of the fish jumping up 
round the boat brought the saddest look to 
Adam's amiable countenance. 

" If I had but a rod and line, ma'am, Fd catch 
them for dinner." And very nasty they might 
have been, I thought — river fish generally are; 
yet politeness would have obliged us to eat them, 
so perhaps all was for the best. 

After a mirthful day our guests departed, fear- 
ing a thunder-storm, which never came, and, to 
rest their arms, my five girls decided to stretch 
their legs and take a walk on shore. The said 
walk became a run finally. " Let's have a run," 
said the biggest of them and the most beautiful. 
As she tucked up her skirts she looked a real Ata- 
lanta. The second in heiglit, and only a trifie less 
in grace and activity, did the same ; and off they 
started up what seemed a solitary road, when lo I 
suddenly appeared two young Oxford men, book 
in hand I What they thought of the apparition 
of these two young athletes, and the three other 
girls behind, all of whom collapsed suddenly into 
decorum, will never be known; but I doubt if 
they read much for the next ten minutes. 




, The fun Uiiu •t<q)ped, Te tiiongfat we would go 
'K^Mriy into t^ TiIl>SO ebnrohjard, where two 
old men were •oleninlj' making hay of the gran 
«Dt over the gnvea. Tfaenoe we passed into s 
qoiet wood, and finally came home, hangry, as 
Qgnil^ to Ripper, uid eo condnded onr eeoond 

No, not eoneliided. Abont eleven pjl hap- 
pened a moat drunatie ioddent. A sadden and 
violent bnmp canaed the Pimtfore to shake from 
stem to stern, and woke oa all np. Some declared 
that they beard a Toiee exdli^, "Hollo, Bill; 
where are yon going to t" and others vowed they 
heard a great rattling at what we called our 
" front door." Adam was loudly called, and he 
and his mistreBB, in rather hasty toilets, care- 
fnlly examined every corner, but all was safe. 
Then we looked ont, in case there had been an 
accident ; but nothing could be Been. The river 
flowed on, lonely, dark, and still. I entered the 
cabin, where five maidens all in white stood to- 
gether in a gronp not unlike the daughters of 
Niobe, and toot their evidence. However, as the 
mystery, whatever it was, could not be solved, we 



IN A HOCeE-BOAT. 



all went to bed ; and Adam baring, with his neoal 
faithf alnees, poked into erery place tbat a thief 
or even a fly coold enter, made the brief remark, 
^^ Pirates P and retired again to his table. 

The only resalt of this remarkable oocnrrenee 
was that about eight next morning, finding a sol- 
emn silence instead of the nsnal tremendous chat- 
ter, I went in to look at mj ^rls, and found them 
all five lying fast asleep, ^ like tops." As it was 
a pelting wet morning, with the wind blowing 
after a fashion which required all one's imagina- 
tion to make believe that our dwelling was ^^ quite 
steady," this breaking of my Mede and Persian 
rule of an eight-o'clock breakfast was less impor- 
tant; but I said, remorselessly, ^^This most never 
happen again." Nor did it. 

Their laziness lost my girls the great excite- 
ment of the day. A sudden outcry from Adam 
of ^^ The boat ! the boat !" revealed the alarming 
sight of oar little Bibj which had got unmoored, 
drifting away calmly at her own sweet will down- 
stream. There we were I For a moment Adam 
looked as if he meant to swim after her; then 
he changed his m M with all his 



986 m ▲ HODBB-iBOtAX^ 

ilfi6Dgtfa. Fmaale TOiees join^ tlie ehoras. At 
flnfc we were in despauv f <Mr at tlmt ho^r and on 
mck a wet mcHmillg tiiere was not a j^nl to be 
seen at the hotel guden or ferry, wljitli^r the 
pretty J3ib was floating^ jort as if die hM gone of 
her own aeeord to f rteh the letters A last ago- 
nized shont we made, taxi then we saw a nian 
posh ont, evidoitly thinking somebody was drown^ 
ing. He canght the position^ and the boat, wfai<^ 
in another minute <Mr two wonld luive drifted 
past, and brought h&t back to as in trinmph. 

After this we setded down, thankf nl that things 
were no worse, in spite of a dreary down-pour 
and a wind that rattled every door and window 
of our frail dwelling. The girls' countenances 
fell. "What in the world shall we do ?" 

Now, though the happiest days of my life are 
spent among young people, I have always found 
that a certain amount of law and order is as good 
for them as for myself, else we get "deiporal- 
ized." So, instead of hanging about and moan- 
ing, wondering when it would clear up, and if it 
didn't clear up what would become of us, I set 
everybody to doing something. 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 237 

Two of the girls cleaned the bedrooms, and ex- 
ulted over the " dust " they swept away, another 
wrote home letters, and a fourth gave us delight- 

• 

ful music on the harmonium. The artist had, of 
course, her own proper work, sitting in the shelter 
of the kitchen doorway. And when about eleven 
the sky cleared, and it grew into a lovely July 
day, breezy and bright, with white clouds careering 
about, we felt we had well earned our happiness. 

Still, it was too stormy to row much ; so we ex- 
plored the shore on either side — first, the abbey, 
beside which was the hotel and its garden, and 
also a farm-yard, with haystacks almost touching 
the ancient ruins which date from the time of 
King John. 

Then, after the important interval of tea, came 
a long walk on the opposite bank. There, pro- 
tected from the wind by three umbrellas, the party 
sat admiring the view, and themselves making a 
picture, in which our artist has here immortalized 
them. And lastly, as if to reward our cheerful 
patience, the wind sank, and in the clear west, in 
the midst of a brilliant after-sunset light, sat the 
crescent moon. 



**We mast go oat agsin and have another 
row I" — and so we bad, antU twilight mdted into 
da^ 

Bj eight o'clock on the third morning the 
house-boat was as noisy as a magpie's nest. We 
had arranged for a long expedition with a boat- 
man who knew each lock, weir, lasher, every dan- 
ger on the river, and leaving to him all the care 
of the voyage, we determined to enjoy ourselves 
solely. Bnt before then I mnet needs arrange 
something much sadder — our going home. 

There was a general moan : " Must we go 
home? Only from Monday to Saturday — the 
inside of a week I And we shonld have liked to 
stay here a whole month I" 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 239 

Vainly I represented that even had the be- 
nevolent owner allowed it — and he could not, 
for there was another party of his friends wait- 
ing to come in whenever we went out — our afiec- 
tionate families could not possibly spare us after 
Saturday. 

But I stretched the time to the very longest 
limit, and then, according to my habit, was mild- 
ly firm. " When mother says No," observed one 
who ought to know it, " there is an end of the 
matter." So there was. 

Our morning row was delightful, but brief, 
since the four girls and the boat had to sit for 
their portraits, as they appear on the following 
page, the young artist having afterward drawn 
herself (from memory) sitting in the bow. But 
we had scarcely reached home when there came 
the most awful down-pour. 

I had warned them of this, having read in the 
Times that a " depression " was travelling over 
from America — all our "depressions" do come 
from America — but of course they did not be- 
lieve it. Even now, though the sky was a leaden 
gray, and the river too, bubbling all over with the 



940 IH A aOU8>-B(UT. 

sheets of nan whiefa pelteA^on oar flat roof, Vid ' 
our "front garden **'Uid "bati ffodea" (as, -ire 
oalkd the two eiida of the ^Jtrga, nnng one. as,ji 
Bcnllery, the other as m dra«itig^<ooid).vwe..a«^ 
ing viA wet, m; five girii woidd hardly b^iestt 
in their hard lot 

"It most clear; it will clear," persisted they. 
Bat it did not — for six mortal Lours. We soon 
ceased to lament, and rejoiced that we were safe 
under cover. We made the beet of the after- 
noon ; we read, we drew, we played games. Then 
we took to music, did, or tried to do, some catches 
and ronnds; finally onr eldest gave us Mendels- 
sohn on the little harmoniam, and our youngest, 
in her clear, fresh, pathetic roice, sang ns Schu- 
bert's songs from " Wilhelm Meister," antil a boat- 
load of soaked, white -jacketed yoaths were seen 
to stop under the opposite bank listening to the 
Lurlei-like strain. (N. B. — I hope it did not 
canse their deaths from rhenmatic fever.) 

Bnt the worst times come to an end, if you only 
wait long enough, and by seven f.u. we looked 
out on a clondless sky and a shining river. Ere 
we started for another sunset row Adam said. 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 243- 

briefly, " There's fish for supper, ma'am.'' He 
too had utilized the wet day, and there were a 
dozen small dace, caught by some fishing-tackle 
he had borrowed, swimming in a bucket, alike 
indifferent to the hook they had swallowed and 
the prospect of being speedily fried. But Adam's 
pride in his fishing exploit was a little lessened 
an hour after, when we found him with mingled 
laughter and anxiety gazing after a majestic 
swan, which had swallowed the baited hook, and 
then swam away, carrying rod and line after 
him. It took a long chase to recover both, but 
they were recovered ; and so, we concluded, was 
the swan, for he reappeared shortly after as if 
nothing had ever happened to him, and ate the 
food we threw out to him with his usual dignity 
and grace. 

The last day had now come — at least, our last 
whole day — Friday. We resolved to make the 
most of it, going up the river in the forenoon, 
and down the river in the afternoon, taking with 
us a frugal meal of bread - and - butter, milk, and 
cherries, also the towing-rope, in case rowing up- 
stream should be too r*-^ ^^ qnd too long a busi- 



U( A UOUBE'BOAT. 




0688. There is a towiDg-path all the way along 
the Thame8, at one Bide or other, and we need 
often to see a yonng man or eren a girl, or some- 
timee both amiably hameBsed together, pnlling 
along a whole boatfal of people with the greatert 
ease. We thought the towing, if necesaary, wonld 
be great fnn for the after-dinner row. 

Onr morning row was rather s failm^ ; it was 
too "genteel." The river flowed between civil- 
ized fiborea, dotted with splendid villaB, Ita banks 
were elegantly boarded in for promenades; its 
very boat-honscs were palatial rendences. !No 
osiers, niBlies, and lovely water-plants ; the very 
water-lilies looked " cultivated." We agreed that 
onr own bit of river was mnch the best, and that 



IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 245 

not a single honse-boat — we passed half a dozen 
at least — was half so pretty or commodious as our 
Pinafore. Content and hungry, we came back 
to it, determined to eat our dinner in ten min- 
utes, and be off again. But fate forbade. 

"Listen! — that's surely thunder. And how 
black the river looks! It's bubbling, too, all 
over. Hark !" 

Clash ! crash ! and down came the rain, regu- 
lar thunder rain, continuing without a moment's 
pause for three hours. Drenched boat-loads of 
unlucky pleasure- seekers kept passing our win- 
dows, struggling for the hospitable inn opposite. 
Is there any satisfaction in watching the mis- 
fortunes of our neighbors ? Was it the weakness 
or meanness of our human nature which made us 
congratulate ourselves that the rain had come on 
exactly when it did, and so found us under safe 
shelter, watching mildly these poor, half-drowned 
creatures, instead of being in the same plight our- 
selves ? 

" Still, yesterday evening was lovely ; to-night 
may be the same," said the girls, determined to 
keep up their spirits. And when at last the rain 



SM I» A IlClCSE-BOAT. 

did actaallj eeaae, aud a bit of blue eky appeared, 
" eoouglj to inako a cat a jacket," they set to 
vorfc, bailiDg oat ud diyiog che boat, protesting 
the while that this soppy and qaita aimeceesary 
oocnpatioa vu " delightf oL" . 

Fortone &vor8 the bnve. It vu BeTeno'do^ 
before we vera able to start, bnt that last row 
vu the loTeliast we had on the Thames. Bach a 
anoset I Such views of oder beds, and isIatiilB of 
taU mdieB, and masBes of woodUnd, and smooth 
green parks with centniy-old trees, and noisj 
wdn, and dark, ^ent locks I We had ^own fear- 
less or desperate, and determined to go throngh 
two locks. Some of ns, I tbitik, would have gone 
on to London, drifting contentedly down the 
stream ; but motherly wisdom saw the sun fast 
dropping and the twilight darkening, aud insisted 
on taming homeward, and was obeyed. 

Only once, when the crimson sanset, reflected 
in the river from behind a fnnge of low trees, 
made a picture too lovely to resist, our artist im- 
plored to be " dropped," as was her habit. This 
being impoBsible at that hour, we compromiBed 
by "lying to" near the bank while she painted. 



m A HOUBE-BOAT. 247 

or tried to painty in the dim light. We Bang a 
quantity of old BongB — duets and gleeB. In the 
pauses the corncrake put in his note from the 
shore, and one or two other birds wakened up 
with a sleepy chirp ; then all sank into silence, 
and there was only the quiet river and quiet sky, 
up which the crescent moon was sailing brighter 
and brighter. I think, however long my girls 
may live, and whatever may happen to them, they 
will never forget that night. 

It was almost night, and brilliant moonlight, 
when we reached our " 'appy 'ome.'^ Our con- 
sciences were not quite easy, for we had Adam's 
little daughter on board with us, and wo found 
him anxiously watching for us. 

"Did you think anything had happened — that 
we were all drowned ?" 

"Yes, ma'am, I did," said he, briefly. Poor 
Adam! Shut up in his floating prison, he had 
evidently not spent the happiest of half -hours. 
But he forgave us, and we at least had been 
happy — and it was our last night. 

About eleven or so, when the magpie's nest 
was all quiet, chancing to look out I saw the 



S18 IN A UOBBE-BOAT. 

loveliest mooneet. The large, bright creseenE 
close upon the horizon shone iu a cloudless west- 
-em 8^, and vm reflected in the river, vith a 
gnlf of dufaieH between. Aita wstching it for 
HTOvl minntei, determined to Me the last of it, 
I went back into my cabin and took up a book 
^— aome sketobee bj Hiss liackeeaj. One on 
** FHoidship ** intereited and touched me bo mn^ 
that I read on to tbe end, then started np and 
nubed to the window. It was too late — mj 
mooa bad sett Onlj a £aint circle of l^t in 
-tlie akjf and another, fainter stiU, on the rivo-, 
showed where she had been. 

I went back to bed a little sad at heart and 
vexed with myself for having missed the lovely 
sight by about a minnte, after having sat op on 
purpose to watch it. Too late — too late I Why 
cannot we always do, not only the right thing, 
but at the right time? 

My girls had apparently discovered this secret. 
Long before ever I was stirring, though old birds 
are nsually early birds, I heard a great clatter and 
chatter in the parlor, or saloon. It was our two 
"little ones," broom in hand, with their dresses 



IN A HOUBE-BOAT. 249 

tacked up apron fashion, cleaning and sweeping, 
throwing down tea -leaves, taking np rngs, dust- 
ing tables and chairs, washing china — in short, 
fairly turning the house (or house -boat) out of 
windows. The delighted laughter with which 
they watched the dust and ddbris sail down the 
river, a sort of floating island of rubbishy was 
quite infectious. 

" No, no ; we can't eat any breakfast until we 
have done our work. We are determined to 
leave the parlor as neat and beautiful as we 
found it," which noble sentiment I thoroughly 
shared. 

After breakfast there were the cabins to put 
in order, and all the packing to be done. It 
was eleven before we felt free to enjoy our- 
selves; and then the sky looked so threatening 
that I protested against the long expedition that 
was being planned. Suppose it rained — in fact, 
it had rained a little — and we all got wet through, 
and had to start for our long railway journey 
without any possibility of drying ourselves. So, 
in deference to the prudent mother, who never 

denied them anything she could help, the good 

11* 



250 IN A HOUSE-BOAT. 

girls cheerfully gave up their pleasure, and we 
spent a delightful hour or two in paddling about 
close at home, and gathering water-lilies. 

This last proceeding was not so easy as it 
looked. "Water-lilies have such thick, strong 
stalks, and grow in such deep water, that in 
plucking them one is apt to over -balance the 
boat, especially if fully laden. We had to land 
half of our crew on an osier -island, while the 
others floated about, guiding themselves with the 
boat-hook, and cautiously grasping at the dazzling 
white blossoms and plate -like leaves which cov- 
ered the surface of the water for many yards. A 
risky proceeding it always is, gathering water- 
lilies ; but oh ! when they were gathered, what 
a handful — nay, armful — of beauty and delicate 
perfume did we carry back ! 

And we got back not a minute too soon. "We 
had scarcely sat down to dinner — our last dinner 
— at which we laughed much, perhaps to keep 
our spirits up, when, flash ! crash ! the storm was 
upon us. A more fearful thunder-storm I never 
saw. The river was one boiling sheet of plashing 
rain, the clouds were black as night ; between 



IN A HOUBE-BOAT. 251 

them and the water the forked lightning danced, 
and once when, after a loud clap of thunder, a 
column of white smoke burst out from the wood 
opposite, we felt sure the bolt had fallen. 

For two whole hours the storm raged, and then, 
just as we were wondering if the carriage would 
venture to come for us, and how we should ac- 
complish our seven -mile drive without being 
drenched to the skin, the rain ceased, the blue 
sky appeared, and the world looked as the world 
feels after the thunder-storm in Beethoven's Pas- 
toral Symphony. 

And so, with contented and thankful hearts, 
although a little melancholy, and with the very 
tune of the reapers' " Thanksgiving Song " out 
of the said Symphony ringing in our ears, we 
left our ' house - boat and our beautiful and be- 
loved river, and went our several ways home. 

"We may never in our lives have such an- 
other week !" said one of the girls, mournfully, 
which is very possible. But ought we not to be 
glad that we ever had it at all ? 

One particular thankfulness I had, and I can- 
not end without uttering it, as a testimonial to 



Ol A HOUSE-BOAT. 



md a bit of tender advice to many" 



252 

my five girls, 

otherfi. 

One day we passed a rather pathetic sight : a 
motherly hen staodiug on the brink of the river, 
and chnekling moumfnlly to a troop of lively 
yonng ducklings which were swimming about in 
utter indifference to her and her evident anxiety. 

" Poor old thing !" said one of the most mis- 
chievous of my girls, " she is jnst like — ahem !" 

I felt the soft impeachment, and, conscience- 
smitten, tried to smile. 

" Bnt it really is very hard for the poor creat- 
ure," gently observed another. " Once we bad a 
ben with a fine brood of dncBings; they went 
into the water; the mother stood awhile watch- 
ing them in an agony, and then she followed ■ 
them." 

" And what became of her ¥' 

" She floated awhile, paddling with her feet, 
and pufQng out her feathers, and then she sank, 
and was drowned." 

And perhaps if my girls had not every one of 
them, however lively and daring by natnre, been 
thoughtful, cautious, considerate, using that com- 




IK A HOU6E-BOAT. 253 

moD-Bense pradeDoe which is the tmest uoeelfiBh- 
nefiB both for themselires and me, I should daring 
oar six dajs in the hoofie-boat have led the life — 
and might finally have died the death — of that 
poor old hen. Instead of which not one of the 
five was, I think, more trnlj happy than L 



THE Ean>. 



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III