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2(43S.'23 



Harrard College 
Library 




By Exchange 




By the Author of "John Halifax." 

From the North British Review^ 

She attempts to show how the trials, perplexities, joys, sorrows, la- 
bors, and successes of life deepen or wither the character according to 
its inward bent 

She cares to teach, not how dishonesty is always plunging men into 
infinitely more complicated external difficulties than it would in real life, 
but how any continued insincerity gradually darkens and corrupts the 
very life-springs of the mind ; not how all events conspire to crush an 
[ unreal being who is to be the " example " of the story, but how every 
event, adverse or fortunate, tends to strengthen and expand a high mind, 
and to break the springs of a selfish or merely weak and self-indulgent 
nature.- 

She does not limit herself to domestic conversations, and the mere 
shock of character on character ; she includes a long range of events — 
the influence of worldly successes and fiulures — ^the risks of conunerdal 
enterprises — the power of social position — ^in short, the various elements 
of a wider economy than that generally admitted into a tale. 

She has a true respect for her work, and never permits herself to 
"make books," and yet she has evidently very great fadlity in making 
them. 

There are few writers who have exhibited a more marked progress, 
whether in freedom of touch or in depth of purpose, than the authoress 
of " The OgUvies " and " John Halifax." 



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MY MOTHER AND I. 



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MY MOTHER AND I 



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ILLUSTRATIONS. 



PAGB 

" There I sat like a fool — no^ like a poor creature suddenly stunned^ 

who knew not what she said or didJ*' Frontispiece. 

" * You^re a widow^ I seeV^'^ 30 

'^At this moment up came the carrier's cart^"* 45 

*^ He offered the coin to me with a half-smile and a bow,"*^ 51 

" * You will pardon an old man for addressing a strange Iculy? ". . 59 

** * General^ this is Mrs. Picardy^ " 103 

*^*Away, Conrad^ and let Elma see how she likes to be an old 

man^s walking-stick,^ " 115 

" / can see him now^ sitting with his hands folded and eyes look' 

ing straight before him?'' 146 

" The quadrille .aver. Sir Thomas Appleton took me to Mrs. Rix, 

and stood talking with Cousin Conrad?"* 160 

"/ crouched once more on the hearth-rug?'^ 191 

" Was it fancy y or did I feel the kind hand closed tighter over 

mine f" 224 

^Ife drew my arm through his?^ 229 

" Cousin Conrad put his hand a moment lightly on my shoulder?'' 269 



MY MOTHER AND I. 



CHAPTER 1 

" Serent; years ago, mj darling ; tereatj jean ago." 

I So murmars Ten- 
I nyson'e" Grandmoth- 
er" to her "Little 
j Aonie," telliDg, with- 
j ODt pain, the painful 
incidents of a long- 
past youth. 
I have no little 
', Annie, and it is not 
quite seventy years 
since I was a girl; 
httt still I can nnder- 
stand how the old 
woman talked of her 
girlhood, and «ven 
enjoyed doing so, in 
a sort of way. 

Bevisiting lately, after a long lapse of time, a place 



12 MT MOTHER AND L 

where I once spent six months — the six months which 
were the turning-point in my whole life — ^I see my own 
old self so vividly and with such a cnrions interest, nay, 
even pity, as if it were somebody else, that I half incline 
to tell the whole story : a story so simple, so natural, so 
likely to have happened, in one form or another, to many 
a girl, and withal so long ended, that it can do nobody 
any harm, and may do somebody some little good. 

Poor Elma Picardy ! Looking back at her, she seems 
to be — ^not me at all, but " a girl in a book." If I were 
to put her into a book, would she help other girls a lit- 
tle ? Perhaps ; for I believe many another girl has gone 
through a similar experience ; has had her fate settled 
for good or ill before she was out of her teens ; has 
gone through the same hard stru^les, all alone, with no- 
body to advise or comfort her, and a cluster of extra- 
neous folk standing by, looking on and discussing her, in 
the cold, wise — I mean worldly-wise — way in which 
elder people do discuss the young, as if they themselves 
had forgotten their own youth, or possibly had never 
had any. It is different with me. I was young once 
— ^young and foolish. I know it; yet am bot ashamed 
of it; and it may help me to be a help to some other 
poor girl, who has no mother to speak to, or if she has 
one, would not speak to her if she could, or could not if 
she would, since, alas ! all these cases do sometimes hap- 
pen. For such a one I will write my story. 



MT MOTHER AND I. 13 

My name was Elma Ficardy, as, indeed, it is still ; 
and I was jnst seventeen, an only child, whose life 
would have been perfectly solitary except for her 
mother. 

My mother and I. Never were there such friends as 
my mother and I ; real equal friends, in addition to be- 
ing mother and daughter. It was so from my cradle, 
my father having died a month after I was bom. I 
never had a nurse-maid : she was too poor to give me 
one, even had she wished ; but I think she did not wish. 
I was all she had, and she preferred keeping me wholly 
to herself. Besides, in those days mothers took care of * 
their children rather more than they think it neces 
sary to do now. It was not considered that even her 
duties to society compelled a lady to resign to a staff of 
inferior women that other duty — to bring up for God 
and man those precious little human souls and bodies 
with which Heaven had intrusted her. The world still 
held the old-fashioned opinion that to be a mother, in 
the largest sense, was at once the highest honor and the 
chiefest usefulness to which any woman could aspire. 

So my mother, both by choice and necessity, was my 
only nurse, my sole playfellow. From morning till 
night and from night till morning we were never apart. 
It was, of course, an exceptional condition of things ; but 
so it was, and I have never ceased to be thankful for the 
fact, and for its result, that through all my babyhood 



14 HT MOTHEB AND I. 

and childhood I learned absolutely nothing bnt what I 
learned from her. Afterward other people taught me ; 
for though a well-read, she was not exactly an accom- 
plished woman; but that was mere outside learning. 
My true education, the leading and guiding of soul and 
heart, was never in any hands but my mother's. In the 
course of years she ceased to be my governess, but she 
never ceased all her days to be, as the Bible says, " my 
companion, my guide, my most familiar friend." 

Yes, familiar, though she was thirty when I was bom. 
But this gulf of time did not seem to affect us. Either- 
she slipped gently down to my level, or I stepped up to 
hers ; I knew not how it was done, but done it was, the 
gulf being bridged over without any conscious effort on 
her side or mine. And the trust between us was equal 
to the sympathy. I hear girls nowadays say, " Oh, don't 
tell mamma; she wouldn't understand." Why, my 
mother understood every thing, and I always told her 
every thing ! As soon as I could speak it was, " Look, 
mammy, look 1" at every new felicity ; and as for sorrow, 
from the day when I broke my doll till I broke — some- 
thing else : only I did not quite break it — ^my first cry 
was, " Mother — I want my mother 1" Day and night 
my only shelter was in her bosom. I remember, and can 
feel still, though I am an old woman, the infinite healing 
of her kiss for all anguish, great and small. 

My mother was quite alone in the world, being, as I 



MT HOTHEB AND L 15 

said, widowed directly after my birth. My father was 
an Indian officer. From his miniature, he most have 
been much handsomer, and I knew he was a year or two 
younger, than herself. The exact circumstances of their 
marriage I never learned. It came probably from what 
I have heard called " the force of propinquity,^' for they 
must have been very unlike in every way. But they 
were thrown together, he having lodged at the house of 
her parents — he had quarreled with his own — during a 
long and dangerous illness. " He could not do without 
me — so he married me," she once said, with a rather sad 
smile ; and this was the only explanation she ever gave, 
even to me, her daughter, of her courtship and marriage. 

In a year death ended the union, and she was alone 
again— more alone than before: for her parents had 
died also, and died bankrupt. The few luxuries she had 
ever enjoyed passed away ; she had nothing to live upon 
but the two small pensions, hers and mine, as a soldier's 
widow and orphan ; and she had not a creature in the 
world belonging to her except me. 

This was all I knew of her and myself during my child- 
hood and early girlhood. She never talked to me about 
the past ; and the present was all-sufficient^ of course, to 
a child. Consequently she learned to make it sufficient 
to herself. And this, I have since thought, constituted 
the great blessing I unconsciously was to her. In all her 
cares and affliction^ she ^^ set me in the midst," as Christ 



16 MT MOTHER AND I. 

once Bet a little child ; and in my innocent ignorance, 
my implicit tmst, my glorious f orgetf ulness of yesterday 
and indifference to to-morrow, I became to her truly " of 
the kingdom of heaven." As she told me long after- 
ward, I comforted her more than she could have been 
comforted by any other living soul. 

So we were perfectly happy together, my mother and 
I. We lived in a world of our own — a wonderful world, 
full of love, content, and enjoyment. That we were 
poor did not affect us in the least — ^poverty never does 
much affect a child, unless prematurely tainted by being 
brought up among worldly-minded elders For instance, 
I have heard grown-up people recall the misery they 
once suffered from going to school less well dressed than 
their school-mates; but I can not remember such dis- 
tresses ever troubling me. I was no more afflicted to 
see other girls in sashes while I had none than my moth- 
er was grieved by the fact that her gowns were of print 
or muslin when her friends wore silk and satin. I saw 
she always dressed herself, as she dressed me, neatly, 
comfortably, as prettily and as much in the fashion as 
she could afford, and there the matter ended. What 
we could not afford we neither craved for nor mourned 
. over. 

As I grew toward womanhood the great contest be- 
tween us was who should have the best clothes : I wished 
it to be the mother, she would rather it had been the 



MY MOTHER AlO) L 17 

daughter. Many a fond battle we had upon this point 
every time there were new clothes to be bought I 
conld not bear to see her go on wearing a shabby bon- 
net and give me a new one, or tnm and tarn her gowns 
to the last limits of respectability because I grew out of 
my frocks so fast that it was almost impossible to keep 
me well dressed, suitably dressed, which, it was easy to 
find out, she was most anxious to do. 

For I was her only child ; and, let me confess the 
fact, so familiar that I soon ceased to think it of impor- 
tance, aiui, indeed, have forgotten when I first discovered 
it — ^I was an exceedingly pretty child. Not like herself 
at all, but the very image of my father. Consequently 
as I grew up I became not merely pretty, but handsome ; 
beautiful, in short — at fifteen I believe I was downright 
beautiful — so that there could be no two opinions about 
me. 

Looking in my glass now, I take a pathetic pleasure 
in recalling this, and my dear mother^s pride and delight 
in the same, which she now and then attempted to hide, 
though she never tried to deny or conceal the obvious 
fact of my beauty — ^first, because it would have been im- 
possible; secondly, because she would have thought it 
foolish and vn-ong. She held beauty to be a gift of 
Q-od, and, as such, to be neither ignored nor despised, 
but received thankfully, gladly — a real blessing, if re- 
garded and accepted as such in all simplicity and hu- 
mility. 



18 MT MOTHEB AND I. 

" Mammy dear," I remember once saying, as I ran 
into her arms, " am I not a very pretty little girl? Ev- 
ery body says so." 

" .Yes, my darling, you are a very pretty little girl, and 
mammy is glad of it ; but Bhe is most glad because you 
are good. Pretty little girls ought always to be exceed- 
ingly good." 

This lesBon she impressed upon me so strongly that I 
came to think even beauty a secondary thing, and many 
a comical story was preserved of my answers to my flat- 
terers — children find only too many—" Yes, of course 
I'm a pretty little girl, but I'm a good girl too." " Mam- 
my says pretty girls are plenty, and good girls scarce ; I 
mean to be a good girl," etc., etc. Simple, silly speech- 
es, no doubt, but they serve to show that I was not vain 
in any contemptible way. In truth, I was so accustomed 
to be praised, to look in the glass, and see there a face 
which could not fail to give myself as much pleasure as 
it did to my friends, that I believe I accepted my beauty 
as calmly as people accept most things which they are 
bom to — a title, an estate, or any other accidental ap- 
pendage of fortune. I rejoiced in it, much as the lilies 
and roses do, without any ridiculous pride. 

My mother rejoiced too — ^in my eyes, which somebody 
told her were like a gazelle's; in my hair, purple-black 
and very long, which she always dressed herself with 
her own hands till I was a woman grown ; in my slender 



MY MOTHER ASD Z 19 

willowy figure — I was tall, like my father, and at thir- 
teen years old had overtopped herself entirely; above 
all, in a certain well-bred air, which I suppose I always 
had, for I have overheard people describe me as " a most 
lady-like child." This quality might have been heredi- 
tary, but I myself attribute it to my never having had 
any companionship except my mother's. 

I did not understand then — I do now — ^why she was 
so exceedingly particular over my associates ; how many 
and many a little girl whom I wanted to play with I 
was gently withdrawn from, lest I might catch the tone 
of that half-and-half "genteel" society which, for a 
widow of limited income, is not easy to escape. Not 
until I grew up a woman did I fully comprehend how 
difficult it must have been for her to make me grow up 
really a lady, unharmed by the coarse influences of pov- 
erty, not always refined poverty, which necessarily sur- 
rounded us on every side. She could not have done it, 
even though we lived as quietly as possible, first in Lon- 
don lodgings, where my father had died, and then in a 
school, wherCj in return for my instruction, she took 
charge of the whole seamstress work of the establish- 
ment — she could not possibly have done it, I say, had she 
not kept me continually by her side, and exposed to no 
influence except her own. 

And she was a lady. Aye, even though she was a 
tradesman's daughter. But the fact that my grandfa- 



20 MY MOTHER AND I. 

ther, a builder, had been a self-made man, only enough 
educated to desire to educate his child, did not affect me 
in the least. My mother's relations, the Dedmans, and 
my father's, the Picardys, were to me equally mythical. 
I knew nothing about them, and cared less. 

She seldom spoke of either the persons or the inci- 
dents of her early life. She seemed to have been drift- 
ed out into the world, as Danae was drifted out to sea, 
with her baby in her arms, utterly uncertain on what 
shore she would be thrown, or if she would ever touch 
land at all. But, like Danae and Perseus, we were cast 
upon a friendly shore. Wherever we went, I remember, 
every body was kind to us. Perhaps it was the deep in- 
stinct of human nature, that inclines people always to be 
kind to the widow and orphan; but most probably it 
was my mother's own sweet nature, and her remarkable 
mixture of gentleness and self-dependence, which made 
all whom she met ready to help her, because they saw 
she was willing, to the utmost of her capabilities, to help 
herself. 

I dare say she had her chances of marrying again,'but 
of such a possibility she never dreamed. So we were 
just "my mother and I," a pair so completely one, and 
so content in each other, that beyond general kindliness 
we never cared much for any body outside. We had no 
visible relations, and not very many friends — intimate 
friends, I mean, either young or old, who would stand 



MY MOTHER AND L 21 

in my place toward her, or in here toward me. It never 
struck me to pnt any playfellow in opposition to my 
mother; and she often said that ever since I was born 
she liked my company better than that of any grown-up 
person. 

So we wandered about the world together, changing 
our mode of life or place of residence as she deemed 
best both for my health, which was rather delicate, and 
for my education. It was always me, always for my ad- 
vantage ; of herself and her own pleasure I do not be- 
lieve she ever thought at alL And therefore her sor- 
rows, whatever they were, brought no bitterness with 
them. She endured them till they passed by, and then 
rose out of them to renewed life. She was to the end 
of her days the happiest-natured woman I ever knew, 
and the most cheerful of countenance. ** 

Describe her personally I will not — I can not ! Who 
ever could paint a mother^s face ? It seems, or ought to 
seem, unlike every other face in the wide world. We 
have been familiar with it all our lives — ^from our cradle 
we have drank it in, so to speak, like mother's milk, and 
looked up to it as we looked up to the sky, long before 
we underetood what was beyond it — only feeling its 
beauty and soothing power. My mother's face was like 
heaven to me, from the time when I lay in her lap, and 
sucked my thumb, with my eyes steadily fixed on here, 
while she told me " a 'tory," until the day when I last 



22 HY MOTHEB AKD I. 

Btood and gazed down npon it, with its sweet shut mouth 
and sealed eyes : gazed — myself almost an old woman — 
wondering that it had suddenly grown so young. 

But many, many years, thank God ! before that day 
— ^years spent in peace and content, and no small share 
of happiness, since, as I have said, we were always hap- 
py merely in being together— occurred that strange time, 
that troubled six months, to which I have referred, and 
which even how makes my heart beat with a sensation 
which no length of time or change of fortunes has ever 
deadened, nor ever will deaden, until I cease to live. 
There is no pain in it now— not an atom of pain ! no 
regret, no remorse — but there it is, an unalienable fact, 
an ineffaceable impression. And it all happened twen- 
ty, thirty — ^no, I will not count how many years ago. 
I was just seventeen, and my mother was seven-and- 
forty. 



HY MOTHER AND I. 23 



CHAPTER n. 

I TTAn " finished my education," or was supposed to 
have done so, though my mother often laughed, and 
said nobody's education was ever "finished." Still, I 
had had all the masters that she could afford to give 
me, and further study was to be carried on by myself. 
We also left the school, where we had resided so long, 
in the suburbs of London, and came to live in the coun- 
try, " all alone by ourselves," as we said. For we two 
together was the same as being alone, only with the 
comfort of companionship. 

Our abode was a village in Somersetshire, whither we 
had come chiefiy by chance. Like Adam and Eve, 
" the world was all before us where to choose," and any 
place seemed pleasant after that horrid "genteel neigh- 
borhood," neither town nor country, with the advan- 
tages of neither and the unpleasantness of both. At 
least so I thought in my hasty angry youth, which had 
such quick eyes to see the dark shades in every picture. 
But my mother always answered gently that there 
might have been mu|h worse places than Kilbum, and 






-we had lived very pMcefully there for five years. She 



24 MY MOTHER AND I. 

always saw the sunny side of every thing, rather than 
tlio cloudy one. She was of a far more contented dis- 
position than I. 

Btill it was always I who started new and daring 
idoAB, as I had done in this case. When we decided as 
to wlioiK) we should make our new home, I had got oat 
the maps, and proposed laughingly that we should toss 
up a half-penny, and select the place on which it fell. 
It foil flat and prone on the town of Bath ! 

" Bath ? — how odd 1 were you not born there, moth- 
er ? Of course we'll go and live at Bath." 

" Oh, no, no !" she cried, suddenly ; then checked her- 
self. " Well, my child, if you wish it particularly, I see 
no reason why we should not go. There is nobody to 
go to, certainly ; I never had many relations, and those 
1 had are long dead ; still, Bath is pretty, dh, so pretty ! 
You never saw any place at all like it, Elma ;" and her 
eyes brightened with a tender sort of memory in them. 

" I should be delighted to see it, the home where you 
lived as a child and a girl — a grown-up girl like me. 
AlsO) mother darling, was it not at Bath that you met 
my father, and were married ?" . 

«Tes." 

" Did papa like Bath as much aaTou ?" 

" Not quite. He was ill there for many months, you . 
know, and people seldom fancy jj^ place where they 
are long ilL" 



« 



■^ 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 25 

" But he fell in love with you there, and that ought 
to have made him like it." 

I had just begun to have an idea that there wa& such 
a thing as " falling in love," and that of course it was 
the happiest thing in all the world. 

My mother was silent — so silent that I took her hand 
caressingly. 

" I like sometimes to talk about my father. Was he 
not very handsome ? — And exceedingly like me ?" 

" Tou vain little monkey !" smiled ray mother. 

And then I laughed too at the conceited speech I 
had unwittingly made. In our harmless fun the slight 
shadow which had come over my mother's face passed 
away, and we continued our consultation — we never 
did any thing without consulting one another — but 
made no more references to the past. I saw she did 
not wish it. 

Nevertheless, things so happened that, in the first in- 
stance, we went from London to Bath just to gratify 
my curiosity. For three days we wandered about the 
city — the beautiful lady-city, of which my mother had 
not said one word too much ; but it was too beautiful, 
too expensive for our small finances. A little dreary, 
too, despite its beauty. We knew no one — not a soul ! 
and there were so many grand idle people walking 
about that the place felt far more lonely than London, 
where * every body *' bd%. 



26 MT MOTHES AND I. 

Also — it may seem a foolish, conceited thing to con- 
fess, and yet I must, for it is true — these idle people 
stared at us so, as if they had nothing to do but to stare, 
and I resented it much. My mother answered my in- 
dignation with gentle composure. 

" Idle folk will always stare, my child. Besides, you 
are taller and more remarkable-looking — well, perhaps 
prettier — :than most girls; and then you have such a 
very little, insignificant mother to walk beside you." 

"Nonsense!" I said; for I thought her sweet face 
and dainty figure the pleasantest to look at in all the 
world. 

" Come, don't let us be cross ; let us take the stares 
patiently, and fancy ourselves the Duchess of Kent and 
the Princess Victoria, who have to endure the like 
whenever they go out, as well as the rest of the royal 
family." 

" But I am not one of the royal family." 

" No, my child," said my mother, half laughing, half 
sad; "but Heaven has given you almost as trying a 
dignity. My poor Elma, people are sure to stare at you 
wherever you go ; but we vdll avoid it as much as we 
can. What do you say? Instead of remaining at 
Bath, which, indeed, we should find far too dear, sup- 
pose we were to try and find some pretty, quiet>illage 
near it — I remember several — and settle down there, 
where you vrill have nobody to look at you but the cows 



MY MOTSEB AND I. 27 

and sheep — except your mother ! Will she suffice, my 
petr 

" Yes, entirely." 

And I spoke the truth. Odd as it may seem, my 
mother had done wisely in never denying fact« as they 
were. Her fond, candid admiration of me supplied the 
place of any other; her frank admission of the fact of 
my beauty — a simple fact, no more — absolutely prevent- 
ed my having any petty vanity about it. Just as chil- 
dren brought up without any mysteries make none, and 
those to whom the truth is always spoken can not see 
the slightest necessity for such a mean trick as lying. 

Besides this rather comical reason for our taking 
flight from Bath, my mother had another, which she 
did not then tell me. She wished to live in the country 
— ^in the healthiest place she could find. I had been 
studying hard, I was not strong, and the disease of 
which my father died — ^last of five brothers — was con- 
sumption. My mother had always watched me, I told 
her sometimes, " as a cat watches a mouse ;" but it was 
not till after-years that I found out the reason. 

Still, there was no sign of my father's having left me, 
with his own strong likeness, this fatal inheritance. My 
mother had given me not only her moral but her phys- 
ical qualities — a sound mind in a sound body. The 
wholesome Dedman blood, the blood of the people, 
counteracted all that might have been dangerous on my 



28 MY MOTHES AND L 

father's side. From that, and from her careful up- 
bringing, I have, though never robust, enjoyed thor- 
oughly good health. No troubles have been able to kiU 
me. I have lived — ^have been obliged to live — through 
them all. There have been times when I almost regret- 
ted this — when it would have been so much easier to 
slip from life, and shirk all its duties ; when one fell 
back longingly upon the heathen proverb that "those 
whom the gods love die young." Not the Christian 
God I To Him the best sacrifice is not death, but a 
long, useful, active, healthy life ; reaping unto the last 
Christ's benediction — that it is more blessed to give 
than to receive, to minister than to be ministered unto. 

The nest where my mother and I settled ourselves we 
found on our very first day of search. It was in a vil- 
lage a few miles from Bath — a small, old-fashioned 
house in an old-fashioned street, which sloped down in 
a steep descent to our door. Indeed, the whole neigh- 
borhood had a curious up-and-down-iness — ^very charm- 
ing to me, who had grown sick of the long level Lon- 
don pavements and suburban roads. 

Equally peculiar and attractive was the landlady, true 
Somersetshire, blunt in words and kind in deeds, who 
insisted on our accepting from her a; lunch of bread 
and cheese, but declined point-blank to accept ns as 
lodgers. She always had a family throughout the sum- 
mer, she said — an excellent family f rqm Bath — and she 



/ 



MT MOTHER AND I. 31 

liked to be alone in the winter, and until they came, 
which was never before June. 

But it" was now only January, and I had fallen in 
love with the quaint old house, and its quainter furni- 
ture, chiefly of oak, certainly a century old. Also, by a 
lucky chance, Mrs. Golding had fallen in love with my 
mother. . 

Not with me. Oh dear, no! She took the greatest 
pains to indicate how little she thought of me— consid- 
ered me a mere chit of a girl, most objectionably pretty. 

" I don't care to have good-looking misses about my 
place. They're always such a bother. If it was only 
you, ma'am" — and she looked admiringly at my moth- 
er's calm face and smooth gray hairs — she had been 
gray ever since I could remember. " You're a widow, 
I see ?" glancing at the modified form of widow's cap 
which she always wore. 

"Yes, I have been a widow; ever since that girl of 
mine was bom." 

" And — ^not over-rich, I suppose, ma'am ?" 

" No," returned my mother, unoffended ; f^r it never 
occurred to her to feel the slightest shame or annoyance 
on account of her poverty. 

"Then I think I'll take you. You won't be much 
trouble. Only your two selves ?" 

" Only our two ^elvies," said my mother, putting her 
arm through mine, a good deal amused,. but longing, 



32 MY MOTHER AND I. 

like me, to take refuge in this quiet house, and with one 
who seemed, though odd, to be a good and kindly wom- 
an. "I think, really, you had better take us. You 
must be rather dull all alone." 

" No doubt, ma'am — ^no doubt. But I couldn't take 
from you my usual rent — it wouldn't be honest unless 
the summer-time. Let us see — what shall it be? What 
would you like to give me ?" 

My mother laughingly declining to name a sum, this 
most extraordinary of landladies named one, which, 
compared with London prices, was perfectly ridiculous, 
and yet a great relief to our purse. But she declared it 
was the usual rate of payment for winter lodgings. We 
agreed, promising to turn out when the summer family 
arrived. 

" But that is five months to come. A great deal may 
happen in five months," said my mother, half sighing. 

" Aye, indeed, ma'am ; miss may be married by then ; 
who knows ? There is certainly nobody about here to 
marry her. They're are all old maids in our parts. She 
won't find one young gentleman, that I can tell her." 

I blushed furiously, and felt so insulted that I would 
almost have walked out of the house on the spot, had 
not my mother said gently, with that quiet dignity 
which puts a stop to all possible forwardness, 

"We have not begun to think of these things yet, 
Mrs. Golding. My daughter is only seventeen." 



KY MOTHEB AND I. 33 

" Well, and I was only seventeen and a half when I 
married, and a pretty mess I made of it. My face was 
my fortune, every body said — that was why poor Gold- 
ing married me; and it didn't last" (no, certainly not, 
apparently) ; " and he was an awful worrit, and that did 
, last, and wore me to skin and bone, as you see. Well, 
well, he's gone now, so we'll say no more^ about him. 
Don't you believe in men, miss;. don't marry in haste 
and repent at leisure. That's all I say." 

This melancholy sentiment — ^which the departed Geld- 
ing, staring down from the wall in red face, blue coat, 
and yellow waistcoat, did not contradict — amused me so 
much that it cooled my wrath, and I made no objection 
to our finally settling the bargain, and agreeing to be- 
come Mrs. Gelding's inmates on the morrow. 

" Only," I said, when we talked over the matter, " we 
shall have to keep her at a distance, I am sure. She is 
a very impertinent woman." 

" Because she spoke about your marrying, my child ? 
Well, I suppose you will be married some day ;" and my 
mother put back my hair, and looked steadily into my 
blushing face. " Would you like to be married, Elma ? 
Tes, of course you would. It is a woman's natural des- 
tiny. But there is plenty of time — aplenty of time." 

" I should rather think so." 

" And when you do begin to take such a thing into 
your little head, be sure you tell your mother." 

B2 



34 MT MOTHER AND I. 

" Of couree I shall." 

Here we dropped the matter, not unwillingly, I fancy, 
on either side. It was a topic quite new ; at least this 
was the first time that my mother had named it at all 
seriously. For me, as a little girl, I had always pro- 
tested, like most little girls, that I meant to marry my 
mother ; afterward, that I would not marry at all, for 
fear of having to leave her. Latterly these protestations 
had ceased, for they seemed to me rather silly ; besides, 
a kind of shyness had crept over me on the subject of 
love and marriage. Not that I did not think of it ; on 
the contrary, I believe I thought a great deal, but I said 
nothing. If I could have questioned my mother about 
her own experience — her own courtship and marriage — -. 
it would have opened my heart; but this was almost 
the only thing upon which she kept silence toward me, 
or, if I attempted to speak, gently avoided the subject. 

She did so now. When I hazarded a question or two 
apropos of a small house in a back street of Bath, which 
she showed me in passing, saying she had once lived 
there for a little while, she answered abruptly; and 
when we quitted the city — ^the fair city which I had 
already begun to be fond of — I think it was rather a re- 
lief to her than not. 

In a wieek's time we felt quite settled in our new 
home. It was such a pretty home, the prettiest we had 
ever had. The village was such a curious place, with 



MY MOTHER AND I. 35 

its ancient houses and gardens, shut in by high walls, its 
picturesque church, and its altogether old-world aspect, 
as if it had gone to sleep a century ago, and was only 
half awake still. 

We had one favorite walk, called the Tyning — a curi- 
ouB word, the meaning of ;hich I neveVknew. But 
the walk was very pleasant: a kind of high path or nat- 
ural bridge from hill to hill, sloping steeply down on ei- 
ther side. On one hand you saw the distant uplands, 
on the other the valley below, with a little>^river winding 
through it, turning a gray old cloth-mill, which seemed 
the only manufacturing industry of the place. 

One day we crossed the Tyning on our way to an old 
ruined abbey, which Mrs. Golding said was one of the 
sights of the neighborhood. It was a bright, clear Feb- 
ruary day. I threw back my head, and eagerly drank 
in Jvery breath of ttxe pleLnt bracing dr. But it 
made my mother shiver. I placed myself on the vdnd- 
ward side of her, and drew her arm through mine, as I 
had always been in the habit of doing when we walked 
out, ever since I had discovered, vdth the pride of thir- 
teen years, that I was half an inch taller than she. She 
clung to me, I thought, a little closer than usual as we 
discussed our summer plans. 

"We will be idle till March ; then we will study reg- 
ularly. You must not let slip your education. You 
may need it yet." 



36 MY MOTHER AND L 

She spoke with hesitation, knowing I knew quite well 
the possibility to which she referred — that she might 
die prematurely, when her pension would die with her, 
and mine was too small to maintain me. If I were left 
motherless, I should also have to earn my bread. But 
the first terror^ if I ever did look at it, blotted the sec- 
ond out of sight entirely. 

" If you want me to make use of my education, I wiU 
do it," said I, intentionally misapprehending her. " I 
will turn governess to-morrow, if you wish, though I 
should hate it — ^yes, hate it ! And you always said it is 
the last kind of life I am fitted for." 

" That is true, my poor child." 

I caught her sigh. I saw her sidelong anxious look. 
Only since I have been gliding down the hill, and watch- 
ed so many young folks climbing up it, have I recog- 
nized fully the meaning of my mother's silent looks — 
her ceaseless prevision of a future that should last long 
after hers was ended — if indeed it had not ended long 
ago, her ovm individuality being entirely absorbed in 
this young life of mine. To be a mother is in truth en- 
tirely to foi^et one's self-one's personal interests, gri^Es, 
and joys, and to project one's self wholly into the new 
generation, vdth its wonderful present, its still more mys- 
terious future, both of which seem apparently to lie in 
one's own hands. Only apparently, perhaps; and yet 
we have to act as if it were really so, as if the whole re- 



MY MOTHER AND I. 37 

sponsibility of her children's lives rested upon the moth- 
er. Oh, that all mothers felt it thus! and when they 
do feel it, oh, if their children could now and then see 
into their hearts ! 

I could not into my mother's — ^not wholly, even though 
she was so dear to me and I to her. Now and then, as 
to-day, there seemed something on her mind which I did 
not understand, something which she tried first to con- 
ceal, then to shake off ; and finally succeeded. 

" No, my darling, I do not wish you to turn governess, 
or any thing else, just now," said she, gravely. " I only 
wish you to grow up a well-educated gentlewoman, equal 
to any position which— But just now your position is 
to be your mother's own dear, only daughter," added 
she, suddenly stopping herself ; " a sensible, clever — no, 
not very clever — ^" 

Alas 1 that was true enough. I was not clever. Nor 
accomplished, neither; for my vdse mother, finding I 
had little voice and less ear, had stopped my music ; my 
drawing also had come to an end — ^since, to waste time 
on any study which requires real talent when one has 
abg(blutely none, she considered simply ridiculous. 

"No, you are certainly not a genius — ^you will never 
set the Thames on fire. But, whatever you are, I am 
content with you, my daughter." 

" Thank you," replied I, humble, and yet proud. 

My mother never allowed me to ponder over either 



38 WY MOTHER AND I. 

my merits or my short-comings. She said it was better 
just to do one's work, and not think much about one's 
self at all. Her satisfaction in me, not often thus plain- 
ly expressed — touched and pleased me, and I walked 
gayly, a weight lifted off my heart. I knew well I was 
in no sense a brilliant girL My " face was my fortune," 
not my brains. This did not matter much now, though 
there came a time when I would have given half my 
beauty to possess just a little. of what people call "tal- 
ent." So it is — we generally care most for the qualities 
which are not ours. 

However, just now I cared for nothing and nobody 
but my mother. She and I strolled on together, enjoy- 
ing the spring smell in the air, and the colored twilight 
just beginning to lengthen, and the blackbird's soft love- 
note-^the first of the year — for it was near upon Valen- 
tine's Day. Somehow or other we lost our way, and 
found oui'selves not at the ruined abbey, but exactly 
where we had started ; audit was too late to start again. 

" Never mind, we will go there some other day " (aye, 
we did — I have never forgotten that day). " Have we 
not the whole spring before us? And how delicious, 
mother, to think we have it all to ourselves ! No school 
— no lessons — no visitors. We literally don't know a 
soul between here and London. Hurrah ! How grand 
it is to have got no friends!" 

" But we may make some — I hope we shall." 



MY MOTHEB AND Z 89 

" I don't Because they will be falling in love with 
you and taking you from me ; and I like to have you all 
to myself, mammy !" (Big girl as I was, I often called 
her "mammy," or "mummy," or "mimi" — some one of 
the half -hundred pretty names I used to invent for her 
when I was a baby. But "mother" was my favorite 
name. Lots of girls had " mammas " — ^very few had a 
" mother." None, I averred, like mine.) 

She laughed, and told me nobody was likely to dispute 
my possession. " Especially of such an elderly person 
as I am growing, for do you know, my child, though the 
evening' is so pleasant, I feel quite tired and cold." 

I blamed myself bitterly for having persuaded her to 
put on a summer cl6ak — ^her winter one looked so shab- 
by in the sunshine. 

" I protest, mother, you shall not go on a day longer 
without buying that Paisley shawl we have so long 
talked about; which will at once be light and warm. 
We'U go to Bath after it to-morrow." 

"Oh no, no!" Again her unaccountable shrinking 
from this pleasant city, which, as soon as I had left it, I 
quite longed to see again. 

"Well, mother darling, you shall not be vexed; but 
the shawl must be got somehow, and Bath is the only 
place to get it at. Will you let me go and buy it all by 
myself?" 

The moment I had made this proposition I was fright- 



40 MY MOTHER AND I. 

ened at it, for I had never yet walked a street's length 
alone ; and as to going shopping alone, the idea was 
dreadful. Yet, as I hurried my mother home, every 
shiver of hers made my conscience-stings sharper and 
my resolution more strong. 

" I must learn to be useful, and do things sometimes 
by myself," argued I. " Only trust me 1 I will try to 
lose none of the money, and waste it you may be sure I 
shall not. And when I go into the shop I will not be 
nervous — ^not get angry if people do stare at me. Why 
should not I walk about alone ? There is nothing really 
to be afraid of." 

" No, my love ; and if you were obliged to do it— -if I 
were away, and you had no protection, I should wish 
you to do it — brave as a lion, innocent as a lamb. But 
you are not obliged. Wait a while, and we will choose 
the shawl together." 

But I could not wait — not longer than the few days 
during which my mother was laid up with severe cold 
after this unlucky walk. Why had I not taken care that 
she was warmly clad before I let her buy me that gypsy 
hat with the checked pink ribbons (how one remembers 
individually one's girlish clothes — at least, when they are 
not numerous I) and the brown silk pelisse, which had 
cost such a deal of money? I hated it — ^I hated my- 
self, I resolved to have not another new thing all sum- 
mer, if only I could coax her to be extravagant in the 



MY MOTHER AND I. . 41 

matter of the Paisley shawl. Go to Bath I must — but 
how? 

A bold idea struck me. "Mother, Mrs. Golding is 
going to Bath to-morrow : may I go with her and buy 
your shawl ? She knows the shop, and will take care of 
me.'' 

And then, remembering the figure the old woman cut 
in her enormous bonnet, and cloak of most respectable 
antiquity, carrying a huge basket, which went full of 
eggs and returned full of groceries, my mind misgave 
me. Certainly, to walk up Milsom Street beside Mrs. 
Golding would require some little moral courage. 

I think my mother guessed this, for she smiled. 

" Have you considered — " 

*' Yes, I've considered every thing. What does it mat- 
ter ? I'm not going to be a goose any more." 

" But to act on the principle of the man who, walking 
about in an old coat, said, ' If every body knows me, it's 
all right ; if nobody knows me, it's all right too.' Well 
done, my child !" 

" Then I may go ?" 

She hesitated ; but I was so urgent that at last I got 
my own way — as I did sometimes now, when it was not 
actually a wrpng way, but simply a question of feeling. 
I had come to that age, my mother said, when, in many 
things, she left me to judge for myself. 

" Well, I never !" cried Mrs. Golding, when I broached 



42 MT MOTHER AND I." 

the subject to her. "Such a fine young lady as you 
wanting to go to Bath with an old woman like me! 
And I sha'n't walk either: my old legs can't stand it 
this muddy weather. I meant to take the carrier's cart." 

This was a new perplexity. " But in for a penny, in 
for a pound." The shawl must be got, and this was 
the only way to get it. At oncJe, too, that my mother 
might have it as soon as she was able to go out again. 

I smile now to remember, not without a strange sense 
of fatality, with what passionate persistence I stuck to 
my point, and carried it But it was not for myself, it 
was solely for her — ^my own dear mother — ^the centre of 
all my world. 

"We'll go, then, miss, if you can manage to be up in 
time, for the carrier passes at six in the morning," said 
Mrs. Golding, rather maliciously. " And when you've' 
been to market with me, I'll go to Pulteney Street or 
Koyal Crescent with you, and look at the fine folks- 
promenading. That is, if you're not ashamed to be seen 
with an old body who was once as young and bonny as 
yourself — though I say it." 

Mrs. Gelding's prehistoric good looks were her we6,k 
point, and I did not want to hurt her feelings. The old 
woman had been very good to us ever since we arrived. 
So I had no alternative but to consent ; and my mother 
had none but to let me go. 

She dressed me, however, in my very simplest and 



MT MOTHER AND L 4r3 

plainest garments. " It was evident," . I told her, " that 
she wished me to pass for Mrs. Golding's granddaugh- 
ter." 

"That wonld be diflScult," said she. And catching 
her face in the glass as she looked over my shoulder, 
fastening my collar behind, I saw her fond, proud smile 
— ^wholly a. mother's smile. Ton girls, when you are 
mothers yourselyes, and dress your own daughters, will 
understand it, and allow that no personal vanity was 
ever half so pleasant. 

"Now, then, turn round, child, and let me arrange 
your bonnet-strings. How untidy you are 1" (Alas, I 
was — a common failing at seventeen.)- "You might 
with advantage imitate that neat old woman — ^your sup- 
posed grandmother." 

• "Mrs. Golding? Oh dearl But tell me, what was 
my real grandmother — your mother-r-like ?" 

"I can not remember. Tou forget I was brought up 
by my step-mother." 

" And my other grandparents on my father's side ?" 

"I do not know; I never saw them," replied my 
mother, hastily. " Child, don't forget to buy new rib- 
bons for your hair." It was in long plaits, fastened 
round my head like a coronet, very pretty to look at — I 
may say so now. 

My mother so evidently disliked the subject that I 
ventured no other questions. Strangely enough, I had 



44 MT MOTHER AND I. 

never asked any before, nor thought at all about my re- 
mote ancestors. We lived so entirely in the present, 
and our life, in its mild, monotonous current, was so full, 
that I never troubled myself about the past. I was not 
of a very imaginative temperament — ^besides, the future 
was every thing to me, as it generally is in our teens. 

At this moment up came the carrier's cart. My 
mother kissed me tenderly — more tenderly than usual, 
perhaps, it was so seldom I ever had left her for a whole* 
day — ^put me gayly into that ignominious equipage, and 
I drove away. 

Had she seen, had I seen, that the driver was — not 
that funny old man in his voluminous capes, but Fate 
herself, sitting beside him and holding the reins ! But 
no ; had I foreknown aU, it would have been — with my 
clear-eyed wfll it should have been— exactly the same. 



>*> 



UT HOTHEB AND L 



CHAPTER m. 

I THOUGHT in my 
girlhood — I think etill 
— that Bath is one of 
the most beautiful 
cities in the world. 
Florence, they say, is 
something like it ; bat 
I have never seen 
riorence, and I love 
Bath, with that fond, 
half-sad sort of love 
which hangs about 
particular places, mak- 
ing them seem to qb, 
all om- days, unlike 
any other places in the 

wide world. 
During our short stay there I had not seen half ita 

beauties, for my mother seemed unwilling to go about * 

more tlian she was obliged, and it was winter weather ; 

but now as we crept slowly along the high Claverton 



48 MY M0THJE3S AND I. 

Eoad, and looked down on the valley below, where the 
river and the canal meandered, side by side, and in and 
out, glittering in the morning sunshine; then coming 
suddenly upon it, I saw the white city, terraces, cres- 
cents, circuses, streets, one above the other, rising up al- 
most to the top of Lansdowne Hill. I could not help 
exclaiming, " How beautiful !" 

Mrs. Golding, being a Somersetshire woman, looked 
pleased. She made the carrier stop his jolting cart for 
a minute or two that I might get a better view. 

" Yes, Bath is a nice place, and there's some nice folks 
in it — to make amends for the nasty ones." 

" Who are they ?" I inquired. 

" Card-players and ball-goers, and worldlings general- 
ly," answered Mrs. Golding. " But they're nothing to 
you, miss, or me either. And there are good folks be- 
sides — though they're not many." 

I was silent We had already discovered that Mrs. 
Golding belonged to a peculiar sect, called Plymouth 
Brethren, which had lately risen up in the West of En- 
gland. My mother did not agree with them in their 
opinions ; but she told me that many of them were very 
good people, and that I must never smile at Mrs. Gold- 
ing and her extraordinary forms of speech, as if she and 
her " brethren " were the only children of the Almighty 
Father, the only receptacles of eternal truth, and accept- 
ers of what they called " salvation." 



HY MOTHER AND I. 49 

So I forgave her for holding forth a little too harshly 
on the wickedness of the world, which to me seemed 
not a wicked world at all, but most beautiful and enjoy- 
able ; forgave her, too, for keeping me out of the lively 
streets — MUsom Street, Gay Street, Quiet Street, such 
quaint names ! Patiently I followed her into the nar- 
row and dirty regions at the bottom of the town, where 
she transacted her business, selling and buying alternate- 
ly, but always contriving to keep one eye upon her bas- 
ket and the other upon me. 

Little need was there. Nobody looked at me. In 
this busy quarter of the city every body was occupied 
with his or her own affairs. I felt, with some amuse- 
ment and perhaps a shade of annoyance, that I was be- 
ing taken for the old woman's granddaughter after all. 

Well, what did it matter ? like the Miller of Dee — 



(( 



I cared for nobody, and nobody cared for me," 



except my mother — only and always my mother. 

It was very dull going about without her, we were so 
seldom apart. So^as soon as Mrs. Golding had done her 
business I suggested mine — the shawl, and insisted on 
getting it at the very best shop in Bath. 

Must I confess that, even as an elderly lady, I rather 
like shopping ? Even when I do not buy, the sight of 
the pretty things pleases me, as it did in the days when 
I could not afford to buy ; when rich silks and dainty 

C 



50 mr MOTHER and i. 

muBlins were tantalizing impoBsibilitieB, and my mother 
and I looked at. them and shook our heads with a reso- 
lute smile, but still a smile. "What was there to sigh 
oyer? - We never had to go in rags, or even threadbare, 
like some people. And when we did enter a shop, mon- 
ey in hand, to clothe ouroelves as elegantly and fashion- 
ably as we could afford, how we did enjoy it I Much 
more, I think, than those who have not to pick and 
choose, but can buy all they fancy without considering 
the cost. And then our buying had one remarkable 
feature, which we regarded essential — though I have 
found since that every body does not so regard it — we 
always paid. 

I took care to let the shopman see my full purse, and 
was counting my money rather too ostentatiously, and of 
course awkwardly, when it tumbled down, and one half- 
sovereign rolled right at the feet of an old gentleman 
who was just then entering the shop. 

He stooped and picked it up, though he was rather 
infirm, but politeness seemed an instinct with him ; then 
loolyng round, he offered the coin to me, with a half- 
smile and a bow. 

I bowed too, and said " thank you," rather gratefully, 
for I thought it a kind thing for an old man to do. 
But if old, his figure was upright still, and soldierly look- 
ing. It made me look at him a second time : niy father 
had been a soldier. 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 53 

He looked at me, too, not as young men sometimes 
looked, with rude admiration, but very intently, as if he 
thought he knew me, and had half a mind to speak to 
me. But as I did not know him in the least, I quietly 
turned away, and gave all my mind to the purchase of 
the shawl. 

I have it still, that dear old shawl — old and worn, but 
pretty still. Often I regard it with a curious feeling, 
remembering the day I bought it. What a struggle the 
buying cost me ! a battle first against Mrs. Golding, who 
wanted a bright scarlet centre, whereas this one was 
white, with a gray " pine-apple " border, and then against 
myself, for my mother had given me only three pounds, 
and its price was three guineas, and I had to borrow. 

"Tet it is so lovely, so quiet and lady-like, just after 
my mother's own taste! She would be sure to like it, 
only she would say it was too dear." 

"Not a bit dear: good things are always cheap," said 
reassuring Mrs. Golding, pressing the three shillings 
upon me rather boisterously. 

To escape — ^f or I saw the old gentleman was watching 
us and our dispute (probably he had nothing better to 
do) — I took the money, at which I fancied he smiled. 

Perhaps he had heard all that passed : well, what 
harm? Supposing he did overhear, he could learn 
nothing except that my mother was poor and careful, 
with lady-like tastes, and that I liked to please her if 



54 MY MOTHER AND L 

possible. Nevertheless, his observant eye vexed me, and 
I turned my back upon him until we went out of the 
shop. 

However, there was great consolation in thinking of 
the beautiful shawl. How nice my mother would look 
in it, and how warm it would be 1 

" And a real Paisley shawl is never out of fashion," 
added Mrs. Golding, encouragingly; then drew down 
the comers of her mouth, saying, "Fashion was a snare." 

Very likely; and yet I should have enjoyed being 
dressed like those young ladies I saw walking up and 
down Milsom Street in the sunshine. Pleasant as it 
had been to admire the grand shops in the Corridor and 
elsewhere, it would have been pleasanter still to be able 
to go in and buy there whatever I chose. There were 
scores of pretty things which I longed to take home with 
me, for myself or my mother, and could only stare at 
through the tantalizing glass panes. It was a little hard. 

Another thing was harder. In spite of Mrs. Golding, 
who made the fiercest duenna possible, the passers-by 
did stare at me ; idle loungers, who no doubt thought it 
great fun to inspect a new face, and all the more so be- 
cause it was under a plain cottage bonnet, and had no 
protector but an old woman. With a man beside me, a 
father or a brother, no one would have dared to stare ; 
and if instead of walking I had been driving, it would 
have been altogether different. Then these young men 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 55 

would have recognized my position, and paid me the 
same respectfal attentions that they offered to other 
young ladies, to whom I saw them talk and bow, court- 
eous and reverential, while to me — 

Was it my lowly condition that exposed me to this 
rude gaze, or only my beauty? but I hated my beauty 
since it caused me such humiliation. My cheeks burn- 
ing, my heart full of angry resentment, I hurried on 
through the crowded streets, Mrs. Golding trotting after 
me as fast as she could. 

"Where are you going?" she pettishly said at last. 
" What on earth is the matter with you ?" 

It was useless to explain, and indeed I hardly knew 
myself, so I merely replied that I was tired, and pro- 
posed that we should go and sit down in the quietest 
place we could find. 

" That will be Marlborough Fields, if you don't mind 
the cows. People say some of these days there's goiug 
to be a grand park made there for the fine folk to walk 
in, just as they now walk up and down Eoyal Crescent. 
You'll want to go and see them ? Of course, all you 
young folk do like the vanities of the world." 

Perhaps old folks too ; for, though I protested against 
it, Mrs. Golding, shaking her head in a solemn, incredu- 
lous way, took me right into the then fashionable prom- 
enade. The high, broad walk in front of the Crescent 
houses was as full as it could hold of gayly dressed peo- 



56 MT MOTHEB AND I. 

pie, walking up and down, and conversing together, for 
every body seemed to know every body. There were 
no carriages, but there was a good sprinkling of sedan- 
chairs, in which the old and infirm went about. - Some 
of them were pitiful spectacles, in their apparent strug- 
gle against remorseless age, sickness, decay ; their fran- 
tic clinging to that poor feeble life, which could no 
longer be to them either a pleasant or desirable thing. 

It made. me sad — me to whom, in my strong, fresh 
youth, life seemed eternal. I looked upon these poor 
creatures as if their melancholy lot could never concern 
me, and yet it weighed me down, and I was glad to get 
out of the crowd into a foot-path leading to the Weston 
Eoad. There, in a quiet nook, some kind soul had put 
up under a shady tree a comfortable seat, where we sat 
down, and Mrs. Golding took out a huge parcel of pro- 
visions : a most ungenteel repast, and I was horrified at 
it, hungry as I felt ; but there was no use in objecting ; 
and, besides, we were quite out of every body's way, the 
grand people confining themselves entirely to their walk 
up and down the Crescent, where they could see and be 
seen properly. 

So we sat quiet and alone. Nothing passed us save 
one carriage — a very fine one — driving slowly toward 
Weston. 

" Bless us 1" cried Mrs. Golding, indignantly, " how 
stuck-up the world is growing ! In my time there were 



MT MOTHER AND L 57 

only four carriages in Bath, and only the very rich peo- 
ple thought of such a thing." 

" Probably the owner of that one is a rich person," 
said I, carelessly ; but I followed it with my eyes, for I 
was very tired, and I thought how nice it would be to 
be driving leisurely home instead of waiting about here 
for an hour, and then being jolted back in that horrid 
carrier's cart. 

These half-sad, half-envious musings must have lasted 
some minutes, for Mrs. Golding, having eaten and drunk 
her fill, leaned her bead back against the tree in a deli- 
cious dose. The same carriage drove past again, and, 
stopping a little way off, the footman helped out its only 
occupant, an elderly gentleman, who, after walking fee- 
bly a turn or two in the sunshine, came toward the bench, 
much exhausted, though evidently striving hard against 
his weakness, and holding himself as upright as he could. 
Then I perceived he was the same old gentleman who 
had picked up my half-sovereign for me in the shop. 

Glad to return civility for civility, I made room for 
him, squeezing myself close up to Mrs. Golding — a po- 
liteness which he just acknowledged, without looking at 
me, sat down, quite exhausted, and closed his eyes. 

What a contrast it was — the sleepy half -life of these 
two old people, one on either side of me, with that strong, 
vivid, youthful life of mine, full of such an endless ca- 
pacity for pleasure and pain ! "Would it ever dwindle 

C2 



58 MY MOTHER AND I. 

down to" this ? Should I ever be like them ? It seemed 
impossible. 

Mrs. Golding's eyes were still peacefully shut ; biit 
the old gentleman opened his, and, seeing me, gave a 
start. 

" I beg pardon ; I am sure I havie seen you before — 
yes, yes, now I recollect. , Excuse me." And he took 
his hat off, clear off, from his reverend white head. 
" You will pardon an old man for addressing a strange 
lady ; but I really think I must somewhere or other have 
had the pleasure of meeting you." 

I shook my head^ smiling. 

" Pardon, then, a thousand times. You, young lady, 
may make a blunder sometimes when you are seventy- 
three years old." 

I said I made blunders now, and I was only seven- 
teen. 

" Only seventeen ! You look older. But perhaps you 
are the eldest of a large family ?" 

" Oh no I We are only two — ^just my mother and I." 

" A most fortunate pair," said he, bowing, but asked 
no further personal questions. And indeed, though we 
immediately began talking, and talked straight on, upon 
all sorts of subjects, for a full half -hour, he^ never made 
the slightest approach to any topic that could imply any 
curiosity about me or my affairs. He was equally reti- 
cent about himself, keeping punctiliously to the cautious, 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 61 

neutral ground of pleasant generalities — a characteristic, 
I often think, of well-bred people, and which constitutes 
the charm of their society ; just as the secret of true po- 
liteness consists in one thing — unselfishness ; or, as the 
Bible puts it, "esteeming others better than them- 
selves." 

In my short, shut-up life I had seen few men, fewer 
gentlemen ; none, indeed, to compare with the charac- 
ters in my books — Sir Charles Grandison, the Waverley 
heroes, and even those of Miss Austin, whom I less 
approved, for they were so like every body else, and I 
wanted somebody quite different. Now this old gentle- 
man was certainly different from any one I had ever 
seen, and I admired him exceedingly. 

Nor, recalling him, do I wonder at my admiration, 
sadden as it was. The fine old head, with its aquiline 
features, the erect, soldierly bearing, the dignified and 
yet gentle manners — ^as courteous to a mere " slip of a 
girl" as if she had been a duchess — ^the blandly toned 
voice, and easy flow of conversation, belonging to the 
period when conversation was really held as a fine art, 
and no fiippancy or slang was tolerated. I had never 
seen any one equal to him. Above all, I was struck by 
his wonderful tact — ^the faculty of drawing one out, of 
making one at ease with one's self, so that one unfolded 
as naturally as a flower in sunshine: which quality, when 
the old possess, and will take the trouble to use it, makes 



62 MY MOTHER AND I. 

them to the young the most charming companions in the 
world. 

I was deeply fascinated. I forgot how the time was 
slipping on, and my mother sitting waiting for me at 
home, while I was enjoying myself without her, talking 
to a gentleman whom I had never set eyes on before to- 
day, and of whose name and circumstances I was as ut- 
terly ignorant as he was of mine. 

The shadows lengthened, the soft rosy twilight began 
to fade, and the thrush's long evening note was heard 
once or twice from a tall tree. 

" Spring come again !" said the old gentleman, with a 
slight sigh. " The days are lengthening already ; it is 
five o'clock," and he looked at his watch, a splendid old- 
fashioned one, with a large P in diamonds on the back. 
" My carriage wiU be up directly. I always dine at six, 
and dislike being unpunctual, though I have no ladies 
to attract me homeward, no fair faces to brighten my 
poor board. Alas ! I have neither daughters nor grand- 
daughters." 

A wife, though, he must have had ; for there was a 
thin wedding-ring on the little finger of his left hand, 
which it fitted exactly, his hands being remarkably small 
and delicate for such a tall man. I always noticed peo- 
ple's hands, for my mother had told me mine were rather 
peculiar, being the exact copy of my father's, with long, 
thin fingers and almond-shaped nails. This old gentle- 



HT MOTHBB AND I. 63 

man's were, I fancied, rather like them, at least after the 
same sort of type. 

" You have no granddaughters ! What a pity ! Would 
you have liked to have some ?" 

And then I blushed at this all but rude question, the 
more so as he started, and a faint color came into his 
cheek also, old as he was. 

"Pardon me: I did not mean exactly that — that — 
But why should I dilate on my own affairs ? She is hav- 
ing a good long doze al Jresco, this worthy nurse of 
yours." (Then he at least had not concluded Mrs. Geld- 
ing to be my grandmother.) 

" Yes ; I suppose she is tired. We ought to be going 
home.' My mother will be so dull: I have hardly ever 
left her for a whole day alone." 

" Is your mother like you ? Or, rather, are you like 
your mother ?" 

This was the only question he had put that could at 
all be considered personal ; and he put it very courte- 
ously, though examining my face with keen observation 
the while. 

" I, like my mother ? Oh no ; it is my father I take 
after. Though I never saw him ; I was a baby when he 
died. But my mother — I only wish I were like her ; so 
good, so sweet, so — every thing ! There never was her 
equal in the whole world." 

The old gentleman smiled. 



64 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

" I dare say she thinks the same of her daughter. It 
is a way women have. Never mind, my dear ; I am not 
laughing at your happy enthusiasm. It will soon cool 
down." 

" I hope I shall never cool down into not admiring my 
mother !" said I, indignantly. 

" No, of course. Mothers are an admirable institu- 
tion, much more so than fathers sometimes. But your 
nurse is waking up. Good-afternoon, madam." He was 
of the old school, who did not think politeness wasted on 
any thing in the shape of a woman. " Your young lady 
and I have been having such a pleasant little conversa- 
tion !" 

" Indeed, sir !" said my duenna, bristling up at once, 
but smoothing down her ruffled feathers when she per- 
ceived it was quite an old gentleman, a real gentleman 
too, who had been talking to me. " But it's time we 
were moving home. Are you rested now. Miss Picar- 
dy?" 

The old man started violently. 

" What did you say ? What is her name ?" 

His eagerness, even excitement, put Mrs. Golding on 
the defensive at once. 

" I can't see, sir, that a strange young lady's name is 
any business of yours. You've never seen her before 
to-day, and you certainly won't after ; so I'm not a-going 
to answer any of your questions. Come, my dear." 



IIY MOTHEB AND I. 65 

But the old gentleman had fixed his eyes on me, ex- 
amining me intently, and almost shaking with agitation. 

" I beg pardon," he said, turning to Mrs. Golding, with 
an evident effort; '^yon are quite right — quite right; 
but, in this one instance, if you would allow me to know 
her name — " 

* "No, I won't; and you ought to be ashamed of your- 
self for asking it," cried my angry protectress, as she 
tucked me under her arm, and marched me off ; for, of 
course, resistance on my part would have been ridiculous. 

Presently I ventured a remonstrance, but was stopped 
at once. 

" You don't know Bath ways, my dear. Wait till you 
get home, and then tell your mother." 

"Of course I shall tell my mother. But it was a 
shame to be rude to such a kind old gentleman — ^the 
most charming old gentleman I ever saw." 

" Very welL Charming or not charming, I've done 
my duty." 

And she hurried me on, till, just stopping to breathe 
at the comer of Royal Crescent, there overtook us a gray- 
headed man, who looked like an old family servant. He 
touched his hat respectfully. 

" Beg pardon, but I believe you are the young lady 
who was sitting beside my master in Marlborough 
Fields? He desired me to go after you, and give you 
this card." 



66 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

Mrs. Golding extended her hand. 

" No, no ; I was told to give it to the young lady her- 
self. All right. Good-afternoon, miss." 

He too looked keenly in my face, and started even as 
his master had done. 

"Lord bless us! The saints be about usl" I heard 
him mutter to himself. 

But he was evidently an old soldier likewise, who 
simply obeyed orders, asking no questions ; so he touched 
his hat again, and walked back as fast as he could. 

I took the card — an ordinary visiting-card — ^with a 
name and address printed thereon; a second address, 
" Eoyal Crescent, Bath," being hurriedly written in pen- 
cil. But the name, when I made it out, caused me to 
start in intense astonishment. It was — ^'Lieutenant' 
Oeneral Pica/rdyP 



MY MOTHEB AND L 67 



CHAPTEE IV. 

As was natural, during the whole drive home in that 
horrid shaky carrier's cart, I thought of little else than 
the card in my pocket. I had put it there at once, with- 
out showing it to Mrs. Golding, who saw I was offended 
with her, and perhaps recognized that I had some reason 
to be. But in no case should I have discussed the mat- 
ter with her. I was very proud in those days, and had 
no notion of being confidential with my inferiors. 

Besides, it might possibly concern us — our own private 
affairs. The name, Picardy, was such a very peculiar 
one that this stranger might turn out to be some relative 
of ours. What relative? Little as I knew about my 
father, I did know that he had died the last of his race 
— BO it could not be his elder brother. Perhaps an uncle ? 
Or possibly — ^no, it was too much to expect ! — it would 
be too like a bit out of a book, and a very romantic book 
indeed — ^that this most interesting old gentleman should 
turn out to be my grandfather. 

Yet I clung to the fancy, and to a hundred fancies 
more, until, by the time we reached home, I had worked 
myself up into a condition of strong excitement. 



68 MY MOTHEB AND !• 

It was already dark, but I saw my mother's figure 
against the blind, and her hand put forward to draw it 
and look out, as she caught the first rattle of the cart 
wheels down the street. In a minute more I had leaped 
> out, and come face to face with her dear little figure 
standing at the door, the calm eyes shining upon me — 
no, shining up at me, for I was so tall — and the cheerful 
voice saying, in that peculiarly soft tone which rings in 
my ears even now when I am sad and alone, " Well, my 

child r 

A sudden thrill went through me. For the first time 
in my life I knew something which my mother did not 
know; I had a strong interest in which she possibly 
might not share. For the Picardy name was hers, but 
the Picardy blood was wholly mine. 

" Well, my child, and have you had a pleasant day ?" 

I could not answer immediately. She saw, quick as 
lightning, that things were not all right with me, and 
perhaps imagining I had been annoyed by some diffi- 
culty concerning Mrs. Golding, bade me not tell her a 
single thing that had happened until I had taken off my 
bonnet, and had some tea. 

" Then you will be rested, and can unfold to me all 
your adventures." 

Adventures, indeed! Little she knew! And some 
instinct made me put off, minute after minute, telling 
her the strange thing wliich had befallen me. 



KY MOTHER AND J. 69 

" But you have really enjoyed yourself, my darling," 
said my mother, anxiously, as she folded up my pelisse, 
for I was so bewildered that I did less for myself than 
usual. 

"Oh yes, very much. And I have bought your 
shawl — ^sueh a beautiful shawl! Shall we look at it 
now 2" 

"Not till after you have had some tea, my child. 
How tired you look! Are you sure you are quite 
well?" 

" Oh yes ! But, mother darling, something has hap- 
pened — something so strange ! Look here : an old gen- 
tleman gave me this card — such a charming old gentle- 
man, who sat beside me on a bench and talked to me, 
and I talked to him. It was not wrong, was it ?" 

" No, no," said my mother, hurriedly, trying in vain 
to decipher the card by the dim candle-light. 

"And when we left him, he wanted to know my 
name, and Mrs. Golding was so cross, and refused to 
give it — so he sent his man after us with this card. 
Look, is it not strange ? It is our name, our very own 
name, ^ lieutenant-General Picardy.' " 

My mother sunk on a chair, deadly pale. "Ah, I 
knew it would come, some day. My child, my own 
only child I" 

She flung her arms about me, and burst out weeping 
as I had never seen her weep before. 



70 MY MOTHER AND I. 

When she recovered herself I had put the card away, 
but she asked me for it, and examined it carefully. 

" Tes, it must be General Picardy himself. I did not 
know he lived at Bath; indeed, I doubted if he were 
living at all. I have not heard of him for bo many 
years." 

" But, mother, who is General Picardy ?" 

" Tour grandfather." 

I too sank down on a chair, shaking all over with agi- 
tation. It was such a surprise. A painful surprise, too, 
for it implied that my mother had had secrets from me 
— secrets kept for years. 

" And you never told me ? Surely I was old enough 
to know something about my own grandfather, whom I 
always supposed to be dead." 

"I never said so. But still I thought it most proba- 
ble, since if alive he must have been keeping silence 
and enmity against me for seventeen years." 

" Enmity against you, my own best, dearest mother ! 
Then I will throw his card into the fire, and never 
think of him again." 

She stopped my hand. "N"o — he is your grandfa- 
ther, your father's father, and the nearest relation, after 
me, that you have in the world. Let us talk about him 
quietly by and by. Come down to tea now, Elma, my 
child. You know," with a faint struggle at a smile, 
" you always say, if the world were coming to an end. 



MY MOTHER AND I. 71 

mother muBt have her tea." I laughed, and my mo- 
mentary wrath, first against her, and then against him, 
parsed away. It seems strange, but I was prone to 
these outbursts of passion when I was a girl, though 
they never lasted long. . They never come now at all. 
Sometimes I could almost wish they did, if I had my 
mother there to soothe them. 

"And after tea, mother, you will tell me every 
thing?" 

" Yes. I would have told you long ago, but it was a 
painful story, and one that I thought could not possibly 
signify to your future, or affect your happiness in any 
way. Perhaps I judged VTrong." 

« Oh no, you were right, you always are," cried I, im- 
pulsively ; and when I heard the story, my reason sec- 
onded this conviction. 

But first my mother made me tell her my adventure, 
which I did, concealing nothing, not even my ardent 
admiration of the old gentleman who was my grand- 
father — the first real gentleman, I declared, that I had 
ever seen. 

" Tes, I believe he is that," sighed my mother. " So 
was yOTr father — so were all the family. It is a very 
old and honorable family." 

" I am glad." 

Yes ; I was glad, and proud also. I looked down on 
my hands, my pretty hands, then up at my face, where 



78 MY MOTHER A3SCD I. 

in the old cracked mirror I saw an image — was it not a 
softened kind of image of that stem old face, with tihe 
aquiline nose, firm close month, and brilliant eye&i 
Aye, nndonbtedly I was a Picardy. 

My mother, if she noticed me^ said nothing, bnt only 
made me sit down on the hearth-rug at her feet, with 
my arm across her lap, and her soft hands stroking my 
hair — our favorite position when we had a talk. Then 
she began telling me the story of the past. 

A sad story, though I could see that she intentionally 
made it as little so as possible. Still, any body with or- 
dinaiy perceptions must have felt sure that there had 
been many painful bits in it, though she glossed them 
over, and did not dwell upon them. 

In the first place, my father's marriage with her had 
evidently been considered by his father a disgraceful 
mesalliance; for he refused to see him, and would have 
disinherited him, only the property was entailed. En- 
tailed, however, strictly in the male line, and I was a 
daughter! My birth, which my father had reckoned 
on as a means of reconciliation, disappointed him so ex- 
cessively that he, in his turn, declared he would not look 
at me, and died a month afterward. 

Whether in their brief married life he had been to 
my mother kind or unkind — whether his own untrue- 
11668 had brought about its natural results (for he had 
persuaded her that his father had no objection to their 



KY MOTHER AND I. 73 

union), whether he came to blame her for having be- 
lieved in him, to reproach her for having loved him, 
and loved him, too, when he was an utter wreck in 
health and fortune — ^if things were thus or not I can 
not tell. She did not tell me. She certainly did not 
praise my father, but she never blamed him ; and when 
1 began to blame him she laid her hand on my lips, as 
if to say that, after all, he was my father. 

But my grandfather I was free to criticise if I chose, 
and I did it pretty sharply too. He, a poor soldier, to 
insult my mother by accusing her of "catching" my 
father, when she could get nothing by it, not even mon- 
ey, for the family estate did not fall in till after they 
were married, and it was her father they lived upon — 
her father, the tradesman, who, however uneducated, 
had been an honest, independent man, and had educa- 
ted his child and made her a lady — quite as much a 
lady as her husband was a gentleman. 

So thought I, and said it too, as far as I dared ; but 
my mother always stopped me, and confined herself to 
strictly relating the facts of the case. 

When she was a widow, and my grandfather was liv- 
ing, somary and childless, at his newly gained estate, 
she thought there might be some relenting, at any rate 
toward me ; but there was none. Her letter remained 
long unanswered, and then there came one from the 
family lawyer, saying that if Miss Picardy — that was 

D 



74 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

mjBelf — were sent to the General at once, she would be 
received and adopted, on condition that hfer mother re- 
nounced all claim to her, and never saw her again. 

" And what did you say ?" I exclaimed, in passionate 
indignation. 

" I said that my child was my child — that I would 
neither renounce her nor connive at her renouncing me 
so long as I lived. But that after I was dead — and I 
thought then that my life would be short — she would 
belong legally to General Picaidy, and I would leave 
orders for her to be sent to him immediately." 

" That was wrong." 

" No ; it was right," returned my mother, slowly and 
softly. " For my own parents were dead ; I had no near 
kindred, and if I had. General Picardy was as near, or 
nearer. Besides, though hard to me, I knew him to 
have been always a just, honorable, upright man — a 
man to be trusted; and whom else could I trust? I 
was quite alone in the world, and I might die any day 
— I often thought I should." 

" My darling mother !" 

" Yes ; it was rather hard to bear," she said, with a 
quivering lip. " To feel as ill as I often felt then, and 
to know that my own frail life was the sole barricade 
my baby had against the harsh world — my poor little 
helpless baby — my almost more helpless little girl, who 
was growing up headstrong, self-willed, yet so passion- 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 75 

ately loving! No wonder I seized upon the only 
chance I had for your safety after I was gone. I told 
General Ficardy that all I asked of him was to educate 
yon, so as to be able to earn your own living — that he 
need not even acknowledge you as his granddaughter — 

» 

his heiress you could not be, for I knew the property 
passed to a distant cousin. But I entreated him to 
bring you up so as to be a good woman, an educated 
woman, and then leave you to fight your own battle, my 
poor child !" 

" But I have had no need to fight it. My mother has 
fought it for me.^ 

" Yes, so far. Are you satisfied ?" 

"I should think so, indeed! And now, mother, I 
shall fight for you." 

She smiled, and said " there was no need." Then she 
explained that having always in view this possibility of 
my being sent to my grandfather and brought up by 
him, she had never said a word to me of his unkindness 
to herself; indeed, she had thought it wisest to keep 
total silence with regard to him, since if I once began 
questioning, it would have been so diflicult to tell half- 
truths, and full explanations were impossible to a child. 

" But now, Elma, you are no child. You can judge 
between right and wrong. You can see there is a great 
difference between avoiding a bad man and keeping a 
dif];nified silence toward a good man who unfortunately 



76 MY HOTHEB AND I. 

has misjudged one, under circumstances when one has no 
power to set one's self right. Understand me, though 
I have kept aloof from him, I have never hated your 
grandfather. Nor do I now forbid you to love him." 

" Oh, mother, mother !" 

I clung to her neck. Simply as she had told her sto- 
ry, as if her own conduct therein had been the most or- 
dinary possible, I must have been bliiid and stupid not 
to perceive that it was any thing but ordinary, that very 
few women would have acted with such wisdom, such 
self-abnegation, such exceeding generosity. 

" You don't blame me, then, child, for keeping you to 
myself? I was not keeping you to poverty — we had 
enough to live upon, and, with care, to educate you fit 
for any position which you might hereafter be called to 
fill, so that General Picardy need never be ashamed of 
his granddaughter. For all else, could any thing have 
made up to my girl for the want of her mother?" 

"Nothing — nothing! Oh, what you have gone 
through, and for me, too !" 

" That made it lighter and easier. When you are a 
mother yourself, you will understand." 

" But General Picardy " — for I could not say grand- 
father — " did he answer your letter ?" 

" No. Still, I took care he should always have the 
option of doing so. Wherever we lived, I sent our ad- 
dress to the lawyer. But nothing came of it, so of late 



MY MOTHEB AND L 77 

years I concluded he was either grown childish — ^he 
must be a good age now — or was dead. But I kept 
faithfully to my promise. I told you nothing about 
him, and I educated you so as to meet all chances — to 
be either Miss Picardy, of Broadlands, or Miss Picardy, 
the daily governess, as I was slowly coming to the con- 
clusion you would have to be. Now — " 

My mother looked steadily at me, and I at her. I do 
not deny the sudden vision of a totally changed Kfe — a 
life of ease and amusement, able to get and to give 
away all the luxuries I chose — flashed across my mind's 
eye. " Miss Picardy, of Broadlands," and Miss Picardy, 
the poor daily governess. What a difference I My 
heart beat, my cheeks burned. 

" Suppose your grandfather should want you ? You 
said he seemed much agitated at hearing your name; 
and he must have taken some trouble to inform you of 
his, and his address too. No doubt he wishes you to 
write to him." 

" I will not. He is a wretch 1" 

"Hush ; he is your grandfather." 

"Don't attempt to make excuses for his conduct," 
cried I, furiously, the more furiously for that momenta- 
ry longing after better fortunes to which I have plead- 
ed grnlty. " I will never forgive him as long as I live." 

" That is more than I have ever said of him or any 
human being." 



78 MY MOTHER AND I. 

" Because, mother, you are the most generous woman 
alive. Also, because the wrong was done to yourself. 
It is much easier, as you often say, to forgive for one's 
self than for another person. Myself I don't care for ; 
but I can't forgive him for his behavior to you." 

" You ought, I think," was the earnest answer. " list- 
en, Elma. Unkind as he was, unfairly as he treated 
me, he himself was treated unfairly too. I could nev- 
er explain, never put myself right with him. I was 
obliged to bear it. But it made me tender over him 
— indeed, rather sorry for him. Never mind me, my 
child. There is no reason in the world why your 
grandfather should not be very fond of you." 

Here my mother began to tremble, though she tried 
not to show it, and I felt her grasp tighten over my 
hand. 

"Darling mother," said I, cheerfully, "why should 
we trouble ourselves any more about this matter? I 
have seen my grandfather. He has seen me. Let us 
hope the pleasure was mutual ! And there it ends." 

"Jt will not end," said my mother, half to herself. 
She looked up at me as I stood on the hearth, very 
proud and erect, I dare say, for I felt proud. I longed 
to have a chance of facing my grandfather again, and 
letting him see that I had a spirit equal to his own; 
that if he disclaimed me, I also was indifferent to him, 
and wished to have nothing in common with him — ex- 



MY MOTHER AND L 79 

cept the name, of which he could not deprive me : I too 
was a Picardy. My mother looked at me keenly, as if 
I had been another woman's child and not hers. " No, 
no, it will not end." 

But when two, three, four days slipped by and noth- 
ing occurred — ^to be sure, it would have been rather dif- 
ficult for my grandfather to find us out, but I never 
thought of that commonplace fact — the sense that all 
had ended came upon me with a vexatious pain. I had 
obstinately i-esisted my mother's proposal to write to 
General Picardy. 

"No; the lawyer has our London address; he can 
write there, and we shall get it in time. By all means 
let him have a little trouble in discovering us, as he 
might have done any time these seventeen years." 

"But the address may have got lost," argued my 
mother. " Or when he comes to think it over, and es- 
pecially when he gets no answer to his card, he may 
doubt if you were the right person. Yet, if he only 
looked at you — " 

' However, if I bore my father's likeness in my f ai^e, I 
was all my mother in my heart ; as self-contained, as in- 
dependent, only not half so meek, as she. My spirit re- 
volted against my grandfather; bitterly I resented 
those long years of silence on his part, when, for all he 
knew, we might have sunk into hopeless poverty, or 
even starved. 



80 MT MOTHER AND I. 

"No, he knew we could not starve" said my mother, 
when I angrily suggested this. " 1 told him we had our 
pension, which doubtless he considered quite enough — 
for us; You must remember, in his eyes I was a very 
humble person." 

" You, with your education !" 

" He never knew I was educated. Nobody ever told 
him any thing about me," added she, sadly. " He only 
knew I was a tradesman's daughter ; and that, to per- 
sons like General Picardy, is a thing unpardonable. 
His son might as well have married a common servant ; 
he saw no difference ; indeed, he said so." 

" Oh, mother I" 

" It is true — and you will find many others who think 
so. There are strong class distinctions in the world — 
only we have lived out of the world; but we can not 
do so much longer;" and she sighed. "As to lady- 
hood, an educated woman is every where and always a 
lady. But you are also a lady bom." 

And then she told me of my long string of ancestors, 
and how her marriage must have fallen like a 1innd.r- 
bolt upon the family and its prejudices. Why my 
father ever risked it, I can not comprehend, except by 
supposing him to have been a young man who always 
did what he liked best at the moment, without reflect- 
ing on its consequences to himself or to others. 

But my mother, my long-suffering,' noble -hearted 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 81 

mother — the scape-goat upon whom all his sins were 
laid— 

'^Has the pearl less whiteness 
Because of its birth ? 
Has the violet less brightness 
For growing near earth?" 

I repeated these lines to her, half laughing, half crying, 
vowing that no power on earth should compel me to 
have any thing to say to General Picardy unless he fully 
and respectfully recognized my mother. 

But there seemed little chance of this heroic resolu- 
tion being put to the test. Day after day slipped by; 
-the ring of purple and yellow crocuses under our parlor 
window dropped their cups and lay prone on the ground, 
to be succeeded by red and lilac primroses. Soon in 
our daily walks we found the real wild primroses. I 
brought them home by handf uls, happy as a child. I 
had never before lived in the country — the real country 
— such as I had read of in Miss Mitford's and other 
books; and every day brought me new interests and 
new pleasures, small indeed, but very deUcious. ' 

However, in the midst of all, I think we were both 
conscious of a certain uneasy suspense — perhaps even 
disappointment. No word came from my grandfather. 
Whether we hoped or feared — I hardly knew which my 
feeling was — ^that he would find us out, he did not do it. 
The suspense made me restless, so restless that I was 

1)2 



82 MY MOTHER AND I. 

sure my mother saw it, for she proposed to recommence 
my studies — 

^'^Tis better to work than liye idle, 
*Tis better to sing than to grieve," 

said she, smiling. 

" But I am not grieving ; what should I grieve about ? 
I have every thing in the world to make me happy," 
was my half-vexed reply. 

And yet somehow I was not quite happy. I kept 
pondering again and again over the story of my parents, 
and recalling every word and look of my grandfather, 
who had attracted me to an extent of which I myself 
was unaware until I began to doubt if I should ever see 
him any more. Whatever his faults might have been, 
or whatever faults of others, as my mother half hinted, 
might have caused them, to me he had appeared alto- 
gether charming. 

Besides, though I should have been ashamed to own 
these last, with the thought of him came many foolish 
dreams — springing out of the Picardy blood, I fancied, 
and yet before I knew there was any thing remarkable 
in the Picardy blood they had never come to me — 
dreams of pride, of position; large houses to live in, 
beautiful clothes to wear, and endless luxuries both to 
enjoy and to distribute. Yes, let me do myself this jus- 
tice — I never wished to enjoy alone. 

When we peeped at the handsome old houses walled 



MY HOTHEB AND I. 83 

in with their lovely gardens, as .one often sees in Devon- 
shire villages, or met the inmates, who passed us by, of 
course, they being the " gentry " of the place, and we 
only poor people living in lodgings, I used to say to my- 
self, "Never mind, I am as well -bom as they; better 
perhaps, if they only knew it ;" and I would carry my- 

■ 

self all the loftier because I knew my clothes were so 
plain and so shabby — for I refused to have any thing 
that summer, lest my mother should feel compunction 
about her Paisley shawl. 

That lovely shawl ! it was my one unalloyed pleasure 
at this time. She looked so sweet in it — its soft white 
and gray harmonizing with the black dress she always 
wore, though she did not pretend to permanent mourn- 
ing. Though not exactly a pretty woman, she had so 
much of youth about her still that she gave the effect of 
prettiness ; and being small, slight, and dainty of figure, 
if ypu walked behind her you might have taken her for 
a girl in her teens instead of a woman long past forty. 
A lady indeed ! — she was a lady, every inch of her ! 
The idea of my grandfather supposing she was not I I 
laughed to myself over and over again as I recalled how 
I had unconsciously praised her to him. If he expected 
me to be ashamed of my mother, he would find himself 
egregiously mistaken. 

How did she feel ? Was her mind as full as mine of 
this strange adventure, which had promised so much and 



84 B£Y MOTHEB AND L 

resulted in nothing ? I could not tell, she never spoke 
about it ; not till, having waited and waited till I could 
bear it no longer, I put to her the question direct, did 
she think we should ev^r hear of my grandfather, and 
would she be glad or sorry if we never did ? 

" My child, I hardly know. It may be, as I said, that 
the lawyer has lost our address, or that General Picardy 
expects you to pay him the respect of writing first. 
Would you like to do it?" 

"No. And you? You never answered my second 
question — if we hear of him no more, shall you be sorry 
or glad ?" 

My mother hesitated. " At first, I own it was a great 
shock to know he was so. near, and had seen you, be- 
cause I always felt sure that once seeing you, he would 
want to have you." 

" And would you have let him have me ?" 

She smiled faintly. " 1 think I would have tried to do 
what was right at the time; what was best for you, my 
darling. But apparently we are neither of us likely to 
have the chance. I fear you must be content with only 
your mother." 

Only my mother I Did she imagine I was not con- 
tent ? And had her imaginations any foundation ? 

I think not. The more I recall my old self, that poor 
Elma Picardy, who had so many faults, the more I feel 
sure that this fault was not one of them. I had a ro- 



MY MOTHER AND I. 86 

mantic longing to see my grandfather again, perhaps 
even a vish to rise to my natural level in society and 
enjoy its advantages ; but love of luxury, position, or de- 
8ire for personal admiration-these were not my sins. 
Nothing that my grandfather could have given me 
would have weighed for a moment in comparison with 
my mother. 

So the weeks went by and nothing happened. It was 
already the end of April, when something did happen at 
last 



HY MOTHEK AHD t 



We had been tak- 
ing a long walk, across 
the Tyning, and down 
the sloping fields to the 
deep valley through 
which the river ran — 
the pretty river, whidi 
first tamed an ancient 
cloth -mill, and then 
■wound out into the 
open country in pict- 
ureBqne curves. I had 
a basket with me, and 
as we sauntered along 
between the high 
banks — such a treas- 
ure-trove of floral beauty I like most Somersetshire lanes 
— I filled it with roots of blue and white violetfl. Even 
now the amell of white violets makes me remember 
that day. 
When we got into oar little parlor, rather tired, both 



MT MOTHEB AND L 87 

of US, I set the basket down beside a letter, which I was 
nearly sweeping off the table. It was not a post letter, 
but had been sent by hand. 

" Stop — ^what is that ?" 6aid my mother. 

What was it, indeed ? I have it still. 

It is a long letter, in a firm, clear, but rather small 
handwriting ; no slovenliness about it, neither the care- 
lessness of youth nor the infirmity of age; a little form- 
al and methodical, perhaps — I afterward learned to like 
formality and method, at least to see the advantages of 
both. But the letter : 

" Deab Madam, — I write by desire of my cousin. Gen- 
eral Picardy, who has for several weeks kept his bed 
with severe and sudden illness, a sort of suppressed gout, 
from which he is now gradually recovering. His «x- 
tremely helpless condition, until at last he sent for 
me, may account for the long delay in this communi- 
cation. 

" On the day of his seizure, he had accidentally seen 
and conversed with a young lady whom he afterward 
had reason to believe was your daughter, and his grand- 
daughter. He asked in vain for her name and address, 
and then gave his own, on the chance of her being the 
right person. Eeceiving no answer, he concluded he 
had been mistaken. But, unwilling to trust servants 
with his private affairs, he waited till I could act as his 



88 MY MOTHER AM) I. 

amanuensis, and get from his lawyer the address you 
once promised always to give. This we have with diffi- 
culty obtained. 

" It is, of course, a mere chance that the young lady 
whom the General met, and whose name he fancied was 
Picardy, should be his granddaughter, but he wishes to 
try the chance. The bearer of this letter is the old but- 
ler who delivered the card, and who declares that the 
lady to whom he delivered it was the very image of his 
young master, whom he remembers well. 

"Will you, dear madam, oblige me in one thing? 
Whatever may be your feelings with regard to my 
cousin, will you remember that he is now an old man, 
and that any agitation may be dangerous, even fatal to 
him ? One line to say if it was really his granddaugh- 
ter whom he met, and you will hear from him again im- 
mediately. In the sincere hope of this, allow me to 
sign myself, dear madam, your faithful servant, 

"CONEAD PlOAKDY." 

"Conrad Picardy," repeated my mother, aloud. I, 
reading the letter over her shoulder, was much more 
agitated by it than she. These weeks of suspense had 
apparently calmed her, and prepared her for whatever 
might happen. Her voice was quite steady, and her 
hand did not shake, as she gave me the letter to read 
over a second time. "Conrad Picardy. That is cer- 



MY MOTHEB AKD I. 89 

tainly the cousin — ^your grandfather's heir. It is gener- 
oiiB of him to try to discover a possible heiress." 

" I thought the estate was entailed." 

" So it is, the landed estate ; but the General can not 
possibly have lived up to his large income. He is doubt- 
less rich, and free to leave his money to whomsoever he 
chooses." 

" To me, probably ?" said I, with a curl of the Ep. 
" Thank you, mother, for the suggestion." 

" It would be but a natural and right thing," returned 
my mother, gently, " though I do not think it very prob- 
able. This Conrad has no doubt been like a son to him 
for years. I remember — ^yes, I am sure I remember hear- 
ing all about him. He was an orphan boy at school ; a 
very good boy." 

" I hate good boys !" 

Walking to the window, I stood looking out, in the 
hope that my mother would not notice the excessive agi- 
tation which possessed me. Nevertheless I listened with 
all my ears to the conversation that passed between her 
and Mrs. Golding. 

" No, ma'am, the messenger didn't wait, though he first 
said he would, and tied his horse to the palings ; and I 
asked him into your parlor, he was such a very respect- 
able-looking man. But the minute I had shut the door 
he opened it and called me back, to ask whose miniature 
was that on the chimney-piece — your dear husbar ^* 



90 KT MOTHEB AND I. 

ma'am. And when I told him that, he said it was quite 
enough ; he would call for an answer to the letter to- 
morrow morning, for the sooner he got back to Bath the 
better. And I thought so too, ma'am," in a mysterious 
whisper ; " and do you know I was not sorry to get him 
out of the house. For I do believe he was the servant 
of that impertinent old fellow who — ^" 

" Mrs. Golding," I cried, " speak more respectfully, if 
you please. That ' old fellow,' as you call him, happens 
to be my grandfather." 

If ever a woman was " struck all of a heap," as she 
would say, it was Mrs. Golding. She had been very 
kind to us, in a rather patronizing way, as well-to-do 
commonalty likes to patronize poor gentility — or so I 
had angrily fancied sometimes ; but she had never failed 
to show us the respect due to "real" ladies. To find us 
grand folks, or connected with grand folks, after all, was 
quite too much for her. She put on such an odd look 
of alarm, deprecation, astonishment, that I burst out 
laughing. 

Much offended, the good woman was quitting the 
room, when my mother came forward in that sweet, fear- 
less, candid way she had ; she often said the plain truth 
was not only the wisest but the easiest course, and saved 
people a world of trouble, if they only knew it. 

" My daughter is quite in earnest, Mrs. Golding ; Gen- 
eral Picardy really is her grandfather, and my father-in- 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 91 

law; bnt, as often happens in famaies, there has been a 
long coolness between us, so that when they met they 
did not recognize one another, until he heard you men- 
tion her name. A fortunate chance, and you will not 
be sorry to think you had a hand in it." (My mother, 
dear heart! had always the sweetest way of putting 
things.) 

Mrs. Golding cleared up at once. " Indeed, ma'am, 
I'm delighted. And, of course, he'll be wanting you im- 
mediately. I wish you joy. Such a grand carriage, and 
miss there will look so well in it I A fine old gentle- 
man he was — a real gentleman, as any one could see she 
was a real lady. Why, ma'am, the day she and I was in 
Bath, there was not a soul but turned and looked after 
us, and I'm sure it wasn't at me ! You'll make a great 
show in the world ; but don't heed it, don't heed it ; it's 
a poor world after all. Miss Picardy." 

Very funny was the struggle between the old woman's 
pleasure and pride in this romantic adventure, especially 
since she too had had a finger in the pie, and her ac- 
quired habit of mourning over that "world" which she 
secretly liked still. But we had no time to discuss her 
and her feelings ; we were too full of our own. 

" What must be done ?" said my mother, as she and I 
sat down together, the letter before us. " The man said 
he should call for an answer to-morrow. What shall I 
Bay ?" 



92 ' MY MOTHEB AND I. 



5> 



" Whatever you choose, mother dear.' 

She looked at me keenly. " Have you really no wish, 
either way? You are old enough to have both a wish 
and a will of your own." 

" Not contrary to yours. You shall decide." 

For I felt that if it were left to me, the decision would 
be so di£Scult as to be aU but impossible. 

My mother read the letter over again. " A very good 
letter, courteous and kind. Let me see ; this Conrad was 
a school-boy, about fifteen or so, when you were bom. 
He would now be between thirty and forty. Probably 
he is married, with a family to provide for. It is really 
much against his own interest to help the General to find 
out a granddaughter." 

I laughed scomfuUy— I was very scornful sometimes 
in those days. " He may do as he chooses, and so shall 
I. So, doubtless, will my grandfather, in whose hands 
we'll leave the matter." 

" No — ^in hands much higher," said my mother, rever- 
ently. " Nothing happens by chance. Chance did not 
bring us here ; nor send you, ignorantly, to meet your 
grandfather in Bath, twice in the same day. It was very 
curious. Something will come of it, I am sure." (So, 
in my heart, was I.) " But whatever comes, you will al- 
ways be my daughter, my one ewe lamb. I have nobody 
in the world but you." 

She held out her arms half-imploringly, as if she 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 93 

feared she knew not what. As I caressed her, I told 
her she was a foolish old mother to be so afraid. 

" No ; I am not afraid. No true mother ever need 
be. Her little bird may fly away for a time, but is sure 
to come back to its own safe nest. So will you." 

" But I am not going to fly away — not, at least, with- 
out you. I never mean to leave you." 

" Never is a long word, my darling. Let us content our- 
selves with settling the affairs of to-day — and to-morrow." 

" When we will just send the briefest possible answer 
— ^perhaps only your card — to General Picardy; your 
* kind compliments and thanks ' to Mr. Picardy, this 

« 

^good boy' Conrad, and then go a long walk and get 
more violets." 

Alas ! I was not quite honest. My thoughts were 
running upon very different things from violets. 

I scarcely slept all night ; nor, I think — ^f or I had my 
head on her shoulder — did my mother sleep much ei- 
ther. But we did not trouble one another with talking. 
Perhaps both felt by instinct that to talk would be diflS- 
cult, since, for the first time in our lives, we were look- 
ing on the same thing with different eyes, and each had 
thoughts which she could not readily tell to the other. 
This was sure to happen one day — it must happen to ev- 
ery human being; we all find ourselves at some point 
of our lives alone, quite alone. Still, it was rather sad 
and strange. 



94 MY MOTHEB AKD 1. 

Next morning, after breakfast, when my mother had 
just aaid, " Now, child, we must make up our minds what 
to do, and do it at once," there appeared a grand car- 
riage, with two servants, one of them being the same old 
man who had followed me with his master's card. He 
presented it once more. 

" General Picardy's compliments, and he has sent the 
carriage, hoping Miss Picardy will come and spend the 
day with him at Bath. He will send her back in the 
same way at night." 

A brief message, delivered vjdth military exactitude. 
The one thing in it which struck me was that it was ex- 
clusively to Miss Picardy. There was no mention of 
Mrs. Picardy at all. I wondered, did my mother notice 
this? 

Apparently not. " Would you like to go, my dar- 
ling?" was all she said; and then, seeing my state of 
mind, suggested we should go up stairs together. " We 
wiU answer the General's message immediately," said 
she, pointing to a chair in our poor little parlor for the 
grand servant to sit down. 

" Thank you, ma'am," answered he, and touched his 
forehead, military fashion. Yes ; the old soldier at once 
recognized that she was a lady. 

Then we sat together, my mother and I, with our bed- 
room door shut, hearing the horses champing outside, 
and knowing that we had only a few minutes in which 



r 



MT MOTHEB iLND L 95 

to make a decision which might alter our whole future 
lives — my life certainly ; and was not mine a part of 
hers? It had been hitherto — was it possible things 
would be different now ? 

" Would you like to go, Elma? — would you be happy 
in going ?" 

" In going without you ?" 

Then she recognized the full import of the message. 
"I perceive. He does not want me; he wishes you to 
go alone." 

" Then, whatever he wishes, I will not go. Not a step 
vdll I stir without my mother. Nobody shall make me 
do it." 

" Stop a minute, my furious little woman. Nobody 
wants to make you. That is not the question. The 
question is, how far you are right to refuse a hand held 
out thus — an old man's hand." 

" But if it has struck my mother ?" 

She smiled. " The blow harmed me not, and it has 
healed long ago. He did not understand — ^he did not 
mean it. Eesides, I am not his own flesh and blood — 
yon are. He is your own grandfather." 

" But he does not love me, nor I him, and love is the 
only thing worth having." 

** Love might come." 

I recall my mother's look as she sat pleading thus, and 
I wonder how she had the strength to do it. I think 



96 MY MOTHER AXD I. 

there is only one kind of love — ^mother's' love, and that 
not even the love of all mothers — which could have 
done it. 

She argued with me a long time. At last I begged 
her to decide for me, just as if I were still a little child ; 
but she said I was old enough to decide for myself, and 
in such an important step I must decide. All this while 
the horses kept tramping the ground outside; every 
sound of their feet seemed to tramp upon my heart. If 
ever a poor creature felt like being torn in two, it was I 
at that moment. 

For I wanted to go — I longed to go. Not merely for 
the childish pleasure of driving in a grand carriage to a 
fine house, but also because I had formed a romantic 
ideal of my grandfather, I wished to realize it — to see 
him again, and find out if he really were the kind of 
man I imagined. If so, how fond of him, how proud of 
him, I should have been 1 I, poor Elma Picardy, who 
never in her life had seen a man — ^a real, heroic man ; 
only creatures on two legs, with ridiculous clothing and 
contemptible faces — and manners to match. ^ Not one 
of them ought to be named in the same day vrith my 
grandfather. 

Yes, I was thirsting to go to him ; but I could not 
bear to let my mother see it. At last a loop-hole of 
hope appeared. 

^^ Perhaps there was some mistake in the message 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 97 

Let US send Mrs. Golding to ask the servant to re- 
peat it." 

No ; there was no mistake. He was qnite sure hk 
master expected Miss Picardy only. 

Then I made up my mind. I had a mind and a will, 
too, when I chose to exercise them ; and the thing in 
this world which most roused me was to see a wrong 
done to another person. Here the injured person hap- 
pened to be my own mother. Of course I made up my 
mind! 

" Very well. I will answer the message myself. You, 
mother darling, shall have nothing to do with it." 

And as I spoke I pressed her into an arm-chair, for 
she looked very pale, and leaning over her, I kissed her 
fondly. As I did so, it dawned upon me that the time 
might come, was perhaps coming now, when I might 
have to take care of my mother, not she of me. Be it 
so ; I was ready. 

" Messages are sometimes misdelivered ; write yours," 
said she, looking at me — a little surprised, but I think 
not sorry ; nay, glad. 

I took a sheet of paper, and wrote in as clear and 
steady a hand as I could — 

" Elma Picardy thanks her grandfather f orchis kind- 
ness ; but, as she told him, she has scarcely ever in her 
life spent a whole day away from her mother. She can 

not do it now. She must decline his invitation." 

E 



98 MY MOTHEB AND L 

Then I walked down stairs, and gave the letter myself 
to the servant, the old man who had known my father. 
He must have seen my father in my face, for he looked 
at me with swimming eyes — big, beaming Irish eyes 
(have I ever said that the Picardys were an Irish, or, 
rather, a French family long Hibemicized ?). He held 
the letter doubtfully. 

"Ah, miss, it's to say ye're coming, is it? Ton that 
are the young masther's own daughter, and as like him 
as two peas. The ould masther's mad to see ye. Sure 
now, ye'U come ?" 

It was my first welcome among my father's people, 
and to reject it seemed hard. But I only shook my 
head. 

" No, I'm not coming." 

" And why don't ye come. Miss Picardy ?" said the 
old man, with true Irish freedom — the freedom of long 
devotion to the family. I afterward found that he 
had dandled on his knee my father and my four dead 
imcles, and now was nursing his old master with the 
tenderness of a brother. "Te're of the ould stock. 
Wouldn't ye like to visit the General ?" 

"Very much, but — I could not possibly go without 
my mother." 

The Irish have many faults, but want of tact is not 
one of them. 

" You're right, miss, quite right, and I'll tell the Gen- 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 99 

eral so if he asks me. Good-day. It'll all come right 
by and by, mark my words, Miss Picardy." 

This was just a little too much. I did not understand 
people taking liberties with me. I drew myself up, and 
saw my grandfather's carriage drive away — standing 
as still as a statue and as proud as Lucifer. Eut when 
it was quite out of sight, and my chance gone — ^perhaps 
the one chance in my life of rising to the level to which 
I was born — the pride broke down, the statue melted — 
I am afraid into actual tears. 

My mother should not see them, that I was deter- 
mined; so I ran into Mrs. Gelding's empty kitchen and 
dried them — although, having left my pocket-handker- 
chief up staire, I had to dry them on the round towel ! 
This most unpoetical solution of things knocked all the 
nonsense out of me, and I went up stairs to my mother 
with a gay face and a quiet heart. 

She had said nothing, one way or other, after she told 
me to decide for myself ; but now that I had decided she 
looked at me with gladdened eyes, and leaned her head 
on my shoulder, uttering a sigh of relief. And once 
again I felt how proud I should be when we had to 
change places, and I became my mother's shield and 
comforter, as she had been mine. Sometimes, of course, 
regrets would come, and wonderings as to how my grand- 
father had taken my answer; but I put such thoughts 
back, and after all we had a happy day. 



100 H7 HOTHEB AND I. 

The next day — oh 1 how lovely it was ! I remember 
it as if it were yesterday. Spring had come at last. 
The sun shone with the changeful brightness of April 
and the comfortable warmth of Jnne. The palms were 
all out, and the scent from their opening buds filled the 
lanes. The woods were yellow with primroses and blue 
with violets ; hyacinths were not in blossom yet. As for 
sound, what with larks in the sky, linnets and wrens in 
the hedge-rows, and blackbirds on every tall tree, the 
whole world seemed full of birds' singing. A day to 
make old folk feel young again, and the young — why — 
I felt alive to the very ends of my fingers with a sense 
of enjoyment present, a foreboding of infinitely greater 
delight to come. How can I describe it ? the delicious 
feeling peculiar to one's teens, the ^^ light that never was 
on sea or shore." No, never was — ^never could be, per- 
haps ; we only see its dawning. But tUere may be fuU 
day somewhere, beyond this world of pain. 

My mother and I were coming home from our long 
walk. She carried a great bunch of primroses for our 
parlor ; I had a basket of violet roots to plant in Mrs. 
Gelding's garden. I was determined to finish her violet- 
bed — ^in spite of my grandfather ! indeed, I tried hard to 
forget him, and to believe that all yesterday had been a 
dream. 

No, it was not a dream, for at that minute we came 
face to face with a carriage turning round the comer of 



HY MOTHER AND I. 101 

the solitary Bath road. It was my grandfather's car- 
riage, and he himself sat in it. 

That it was he I saw at once, and my mother gnessed 
at once, for she grasped me by the arm. He leaned 
back, a little paler, a little sterner-looking than I remem- 
bered him ; bnt it was not at all a bad face or a mean 
face. On the contrary, there was something very noble 
in it; even his worst enemy wonld have said so. I 
cotdd have felt sony for him, as he Bat in the Bunshine, 
with his eyes closed, apparently not enjoying this beanti- 
fnl world at all. 

Should we pass him by ? That was my first impulse. 
It would be easy enough; easy also to remain out of 
doors till all chance of his finding us, if he had really 
come to call, was over. Pride whispered thus — and yet — 

No, it was too late. The old butler or valet, or what- 
ever he was, had seen us ; he touched his hat and said 
something to a gentleman who sat opposite to my grand- 
father. The carriage stopped, and this gentleman im- 
mediately sprang out. 

" I beg your pardon ; I presume you are Mrs. Picar- 
dyr 

He had addressed himself to my mother, taking no 
notice of me. She bowed ; I did nothing ; all my atten- 
tion was fLsed on my grandfather, who seemed with diffi- 
culty to rouse himself so as to take in what was happen- 
ing. The other gentleman spoke to him. 



102 MY MOTHER AND I. 

" General, this is Mrs. Picardy. Madiara, we were go- 
ing to call. My cousin is too lame to get out of the car- 
riage. Will you mind entering it and driving a little 
way with him ? He wishes much to be introduced to 
you." 

I can not tell how he managed it — the stranger, who, 
of course, I guessed was not a stranger, but my cousin, 
Conrad Picardy — however, he did manage it. Almost 
before we knew where we were, the momentous meeting 
was over, and that without any tragic emotion on either 
side. It was just an ordinary introduction of a gentle- 
man to a lady. My mother was calm, my grandfather 
courteous. The whole thing was as commonplace as 
possible. No conversation passed — ^beyond a few words 
on the extreme beauty of the day and the length of the 
drive from Bath — ^until my mother said something about 
her regret to find the General such an invalid. 

"Yes; I suffer much," said he. "Poor old thing!" 
patting his swathed leg propped on cushions ; " it is al- 
most worse than when I was shot in battle. I can not 
walk a step. I am a nuisance to every body, especially 
to my good cousin. By the bye, I should have presented 
him to you — Major Picardy, Mrs. Picardy ; and, Conrad, 
this is my granddaughter, Elma." 

He said my name with a tender intonation. It was a 
family name, my mother had told me ; in every genera- 
tion there had been always at least one Elma Picardy. 



HT MOTHSB AND I. 105 

Major Picardy bowed, and then, as my mother held 
out her hand, he shook hands with ns both. His was a 
tonch rather peculiar, unlike all clasps of the hand I 
ever knew, being at once soft and firm — strong as a 
man's, gentle as a woman's. I can feel it still, even as 
I can still see my mother?s smile. His face — ^it seemed 
afi if I had seen it before 'somewhere — was of the same 
type as my grandfather's, only not so hard. He looked 
about thirty-five, or a little older. 

"Major Picardy is visiting me now," said my grand- 
father. " He is kind enough to say he is not weary of my 
dull house, where, madam, I have nothing to offer you, 
should you honor me with a visit, but the society of two 
lonely soldiers." 

My mother bowed courteously, acknowledging but not 
absolutely accepting the invitation. 

" Major Picardy is not married, then ?" said she, turn- 
ing to him. " I thought — I imagined — " 

" No, not married," said he ; and the shadow flitting 
across his face made my mother speak at once of some- 
thing else, and caused me to begin weaving no end of 
romantic reasons why he was still a bachelor, this elderly 
cousin of mine, for to seventeen thirty-five is quite elder- 
ly. But he interested me, being the same sort of man 
apparently ss my grandfather, only younger. 

General Picardy was entirely of the old school. Ho 
called my mother "madam," and addressed her with 

E2 



106 MY MOTHEB ANIX I. 

the formal politeness of Sir Charles Grandison. In no 
way did he betray that there had ever been any anger 
between them, or that he had ever treated her in any 
way different from now. 

Should I condone his ofPenses? Should I forgive 
him } Alas ! I fear I never once thought of his sins or 
my condescending pardon. I was wholly absorbed in 
the pleasure of this meeting, and in my intense admira- 
tion of my grandfather. 

When the carriage, having moved slowly up and down 
the village for half an hour, set us down at our own 
door, he renewed the invitation. 

" I will send the carriage for you, madam ; and if you 
will remain the night — a few days — a week — ^you and 
this girl of yours — my girl, too" (and he gently touched 
my hand) — " I shall be only too happy. Fix the day 
when I may have the honor of receiving you ; an early 
day, I trust." 

" Oh, mother," I cried, eagerly, " let us go — ^let us go 
to-morrow !" 

My grandfather looked pleased. 

" See what it is to have a young lady to decide for us 
elders. Madam, you must agree. Conrad, you will ar- 
range every thing, as far as is possible to us helpless 
soldiers ? Child, if we once let you into our house, I 
fear you will turn commander-in-chief there, and rule 
us all." 



MY MOTHEB AND I. lOt 

This speech, implying a future so bright that I hardly 
dared believe in it, settled the matter. My mother, 
whatever she felt, betrayed nothing, but assented cheer- 
fully to the plan ; and when we all parted it was with the 
understanding that we should spend the next day and 
night under my grandfather's roof, " and as many more 
days and nights, madam, as you may find convenient or 
agreeable." 



108 MY MOTHER AND L 



CHAPTER VL 

I DID sleep under my grandfather's roof, but it was 
not for a week after that, and it was without my mother. 

That very night she slipped on the stairs, and sprained 
her ankle — ^no serious injury, but enough to make her 
glad to rest on the sofa, and confine herself to our two 
little rooms. 

"And it would never do to go hobbling helplessly 
about big ones," said she. " Besides, all gentlemen hate 
invalids — no doubt your grandfather does. He is an 
old man, and you may have to put up with some pecul- 
iarities. I think you will do this better, and get on with 
him better, quite alone." 

" Tou don't mean me to go alone ?" 

" Yes, my child," said she, decisively. 

And I found she had already answered affirmatively 
a letter of his — or, rather, of Major Picardy's — ^begging 
I might come, and explaining that he had invited a 
Mrs. Rix, another " elderly " cousin, to stay at Royal 
Crescent as my companion and chaperon until my 
mother could join me. 

At first I remonstrated vehemently. Either we would 



MY MOTHER AND I. 109 

go together, or I would not go at all — at least, not to- 
morrow, as she had arranged. 

" But he earnestly desires it. And you forget, my 
child, that a man over seventy has not too many to-mor- 
rows." 

" Oh, you wish me to go ? You want to get rid of me ?" 

My mother smiled — a strangely pathetic smile. In a 
moment my arms were round her neck. 

" m do any thing you like, mammy dear — any thing 
you consider right and best." 

" Thank you, my darling. But we will sleep upon it, 
and see what to-morrow brings." 

It brought another urgent letter from my grandfather 
— that is, his amanuensis — wishing us both to go, in spite 
of my mother's half -in valid state ; but I could not get 
her to change her mind. Perhaps she was glad of an 
excuse to stay behind; but chiefly, I fancied, because, 
thinking always of me, and never of herself, she honest- 
ly believed I shoulcl get on better with my grandfather 
alone. "Whatever were her reasons, evidently her reso- 
lution was taken. 

" And now let us pack up, my child ; for the carriage " 
(Major Picardy said it would be sent on chance) " ought 
to be here directly." 

" Put up very few things, mother, for I shall certainly 
be back in two days," said I, half indignant at her think- 
ing she could do without me so easily. 



110 MY MOTHER AND I. 

" You have very few things altogether, my poor Elma ; 
not half what General Picardy's granddaughter ought to 
wear," said my mother, with one of her troubled looks. 

" Nonsense 1" and my passionate pride rose up. " He 
must take me as I am — clothes and all. It is not his 
doing that I have not ran about in rags these seventeen 
years." 

"Hush ! my darling. Let by-gones be by-gones. He 
wishes this, I am sure. If you had seen the way he 
looked at you the other day I and you are all that is left 
to him — the only child of his race and name. He is 
sure to love you." 

"Ishe?" 

Though I said nothing, in my heart of hearts I felt 
that I too could love my grandfather — if he would let 
me. There was such a world of love in me then — such 
a capacity for admiring and adoring people. I longed 
to find creatures worthy of worship, and to make myself 
a mat for their feet to walk over. Hopeless delusion ! not 
rare in young girls, but costing them many a pang ; yet 
better and safer than the other delusion, that every body 
must be admiring and adoring them. After all, I have 
known worse human beings than poor Elraa Picardy at 
seventeen. 

Our preparations were scarcely finished — and I found 
from the condition of my wardrobe that my mother must 
have been silently preparing it all the week — when I 



MY MOTHEB AND I. Ill 

heard the sound of carriage-wheels. My heart jumped 
— ^I could not help it — I was so sorry to go, yet so glad. 
In truth, I could not understand myself at all. 

Major Picardy had said something about fetching me 
himself ; but the carriage was empty. This was a re- 
lief ; for how could I have talked all the way to Bath 
with a perfect stranger ? A relief also was it that my 
good-byes had to be so brief. I had no time to think 
whether I was happy or miserable. 

My mother clasped and kissed me fondly, but without 
tears. 

" There is nothing to weep for, my child. Go, and be 
happy. One only advice I give you — ^it is your family 
motto, only put into beautiful Latin — ^ Do the right, and 
fear nobody.' Not even your grandfather." 

So she sent me away with a jest and a smile — away 
into the new, beautiful, unknown world 1 This bright 
spring day, with the sun shining, the birds singing, the 
soft southwest wind blowing, what girl in her teens 
would not have been happy — at least, not very unhappy 
— even though she had left her mother behind for a few 
days, and was all alone ? I dried my eyes, I sat up in 
the carriage, and looked about me. Ah, yes, it was in- 
deed a beautiful world ! 

It is so still; even though my eyes have ceased to 
shine, and almost to weep ; though my heart beats lev- 
elly and quietly ; and I look behind rather than before, 



112 MY MOTHER AOT) L 

except when I look into the world everlasting. It is — 
yes, thank God ! — ^it is still to me the same beautiful 
world. 

Leaving the delicious country lanes, we entered Bath 
streets. There I saw the admired young ladies and the 
admiring young gentlemen, sauntering idly up and down, 
looking at one another, and occasionally at me too. I 
looked at them back again, fearlessly now. Times were 
changed — my dreams were realized, my pride was healed. 
As Miss Picardy, seated in her grandfather's carriage, I 
met the world on an equal footing, and it was very 
pleasant. 

Will any one blame me — I hardly blame myself now 
— ^for enjoying things so much, even though I had left 
my mother ? "Was it not a delight to her to see me hap- 
py ? Had she not desired to see me happy ? And as I 
descended from the carriage in front of my grandfa- 
ther's house at Eoyal Orescent, I really believe I was 
one of the happiest girls in the world. 

The house stands there yet. I passed it the other 
day : a group of children were on the steps ; a modem 
carriage, very unlike my grandfather's, waited at the door. 
New people lived in it, to whom, as to the rest of the 
world, it seemed just like any other house. But it never 
will seem so to me. To the end of my days, I could 
never pass it without turning back to look at it — and 
remember. ^ 



HY MOTHEB AND I. 113 

I did not enter it without a welcome. My grandfather 
was 'still in his room ; but my cousin, Major Picardy, 
stood at the door, and behind him was an elderly lady, 
Mrs. Bix, whom I may as well describe, as I did that 
night in my letter home, as " nothing particular." 

Major Picardy I have never described, and I doubt if 
I can do it now. Other people I see clearly enough ; 
but to me he never seemed like other people. Perhaps, 
were I to meet him now, for the first time — ^but no I it 
would be just the same, I am sure. 

The "good boy" had become a good man — that you 
saw at once by his face — a handsome face, I suppose, 
since it resembled my grandfather's; but I never re- 
member asking myself whether it were handsome or not. 
It was his face — that was all. He was not a tall man — 
scarcely taller than I — and his figure was a little bent, 
being contracted at the chest ; but he had great dignity 
of carriage, and a certain formality of manner, also like 
my grandfather, which became him as well as it did the 
General. Both were soldiers, as I have said, and both 
equally well-bom, well-bred, and well-educated. 

" Welcome I" he said to me, holding out a kind, warm 
hand ; " welcome, cousin, to the house of all others where 
you have a right to be welcome. Mrs. Rix, will you 
take Miss Picardy up to her room ?" 

Mrs. Eix — who immediately informed me that she was 
" bom a Picardy," and seemed to have an unlimited ad- 



114 MT MOTHEB A19D I. 

miration, mingled with awe, for the whole Picardy race 
— led the way to the guest-chamber, evidently the best 
room in the house, which had been prepared for my 
mother and me. A charming room it was, with its three 
windows, set in an oval, looking up the smiling hill-side, 
where, dotted among the green hills, mansion after man- 
sion, and terrace after terrace, were beginning to climb 
up to the very rim of the deep circular basin in which 
Bath is built. ^ 

" You will find it quite quiet, being at the back of the 
house. Do you like quiet, my dear ?" 

I did not know. But I think I liked every thing, and 
I told my grandfather so when I met him at lunch. He 
was walking feebly into the dining-room on Major Pi- 
cardy's arm. At my remark he laughed, and his cousin 
smiled. 

" Away, Conrad, and let Elma see how she likes to be 
an old man's walking-stick. She is fully as tall as you. 
Come here, child." 

I came, and he leaned on me. Does one love best those 
who lean upon one ? I think some do. From that min- 
ute I began, not only to admire, but to love my grand- 
father. 

Was he loving-hearted ? It was too much to expect 
sentimei^ at his age. This first meal at his table almost 
choked me, for I was so nervous, so full of confiicting 
emotions, that it was with diflSculty I could k6ep from 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 117 , 

crying. But he ate with composure and appetite, talk- 
ing Bath tittle-tattle to the others, and scarcely noticing 
me. After lunch he called me to him, and took my face 
between his soft, withered hands. 

" Yes, you are like your father, but still more like your 
grandmother. A beautiful girl she was ; you remember 
her, Mrs. Rix ? and you, Conrad ? But no — I forgot. 
My wife — ^Lady Charlotte Picardy — ^has been dead these 
forty years." 

He mentioned the fact quite calmly, not omitting the 
" Lady " Charlotte. It was odd, I thought, for a man to 
speak of a dead wife in that tone. Still, he had never 
married again, but had lived solitary for forty years. 

" Tou will turn her head, General, by comparing her 
to her beautiful grandmother. And yet it is true," 
whispered Mrs. Kx, looking at me. 

I felt that my other cousin was looking too. He rose. 
, " Come, where shall we go for our afternoon drive ? 
What have you seen, Miss Picardy ?" 

"Nothing." 

At which, as if I had said something funny, ihey all 
smiled at me, these three people, all so much my seniors, 
to whom I seemed already becoming the child of the 
house. This fact I felt sure of: their manner to me 
was so kind. Further, I did not consider— indeed, I was 
thinking so much about them, that it did not occur to 
me to trouble myself as to what they thought about me. 



118 MT MOTHEB AND L 

Shortly we were out in the Bunahine ; and^ oh, how 
bright the sunshine is at Bath 1 and how the white city 
and green country shine together under it, in soft spring 
days, such days as this ! The carriage moved slowly up 
the steep hill. Mrs. Bix sat beside the General, Major 
Picardy and I opposite. 

"Take care of his arm," said the ever-fidgety Mrs. 
Rix, as a jolt in the carriage pushed us together. And 
then I found out that my cousiii. was invalided, having 
been shot in the shoulder at some Indian battle. 

" But pray don't look so grave about it," laughed he ; 
" it only makes me a little stifF. I have not much pain 
now, though the ball is still there. I assure you, I am 
enjoying my furlough extremely. Miss Picardy." 

" Call her Elma — she is still a child," said my grand- 
father, so affectionately that even the pride of seventeen 
could not take ofFense. Besides, was I not a child, and 
was it not pleasant to be so regarded and so treated by 
these three kind people ? 

They seemed different from any people I had ever 
known, especially the two gentlemen. Both were gen- 
tlemen, in the deepest sense of the word. I felt it then 
by instinct, my reason satisfies me of it now. Both be- 
ing military men, they had seen a great deal of the 
world, and seen it with intelligent eyes, so that their con- 
\-er8ation was always interesting, often most delightful. 
Not learned, or I could not have understood it ; but this 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 119 

talk of theirs I could understand, and feel happy that I 
could. To show off one's own cleverness does one harm ; 
but to be able to appreciate the cleverness of other peo- 
ple always does one good. 

I was so absorbed in listening that I scarcely looked 
about me, until the fresh wind of Combe Down blew in 
our faces, and my grandfather shivered. Major Picardy 
leaned forward to fasten his cloak for him — it had two 
lions' heads for a clasp, I remember. Moving seemed 
to have hurt the wounded shoulder; he turned slightly 
pale. 

"Don't, Conrad. Ton never think half enough of 
yourself. Let your arm rest. Here, Mrs. Rix, may I 
trouble you ?" 

" Will you not ' trouble 'me ?" 

I said it shyly, vrith much hesitation, but was reward- 
ed by the sudden bright pleasure in my grandfather's 
face — and not in his alone. It was curious what pains 
my cousin took to make me feel at ease, and especially 
with the General. 

When I had fastened the cloak — with rather nervous 
fingers, I confess — the old soldier took and kissed them, 
with that " grand seigneur " air which became him so 
well — then lifted them up. " See, Conrad, a true Pi- 
cardy hand." 

Cousin Conrad (I learned by and by to call him so) 
smiled. " The General thinks. Cousin Elma, that to be 



120 MY MOTHEB AKD I. 

bom a Ficardy is the greatest blessing that can happen 
to any human being." 

Here Mrs. Rix looked quite frightened, which rather 
amused me. For I had sense enough to see that the se- 
cret of Major Ficardy's undoubted influence with the 
old man was that, unlike most people, he was not afraid 
of him. This spoke well for both parties. It is only a 
tyrant who likes having slaves ; and as I looked at the 
General, I felt sure he was no tyrant Under whatever 
delusion he had so unkindly treated my mother, was, and 
is still, a mystery to me, one that I can never penetrate, 
because the secret of it was doubtless buried in a long- 
forgotten grave. In all our intercourse he never once 
spoke to me of his son, my father. 

We drove down the steep valley below Combe Down, 
then reascended and came out upon the beautiful Clav- 
erton Eoad. At Claverton church I exclaimed, " I know 
this place quite well." 

" I thought you knew nothing, and had never been 
any where. When, my dear, were you here before ?" 

"The day I first saw you, sii>" (I had noticed that 
Cousin Conrad usually called him "sir," and he had 
never yet bade me call him " grandfather "), " I drove 
past here with Mrs. Golding, in the carrier's cart." 

" In the carrier's cart ! A young lady going about in 
a carrier's cart I" cried Mrs. Eix, aghast. 

"But how courageous of the young lady to own it!" 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 121 

Baid Cousin Conrad ; and then my grandfather, who had 
looked annoyed for a moment, brightened up. 

" Quite right— quite right. Mrs. Rix, I assure you 
a Picardy may do any thing. Only, my dear Elma, 
I hope you wiU not again patronize your friend the 
carrier, or indulge in any such eccentric modes of 
taiveling." 

"Indeed, young ladies should never do eccentric 
things," said Mrs. Eix, eying me with a little curiosity, 
but evidently not having the slightest idea that I was a 
" poor relation," and ignorant that there had ever been 
any " difficulties " between my mother and the General. 
She had lived all her life in India, and was only a very 
distant cousin ; I felt glad she had not been made a con- 
fidante of the family history. But Cousin Conrad knew 
every thing, and I drew courage frqm his encouraging 
smile. 

« And this was the view you saw from the carrier's 
cart ? Was it a pleasant conveyance ?" 

" Not very ; exceedingly shaky. But I am sure I shall 
never regret the journey." 

" No, I do not believe you ever will," replied Cousin 
Conrad, suddenly changing into gravity. 

We were standing on a tombstone, looking down the 
valley, he and I only, he having proposed to show me 
the beautiful little church and church-yard. There we 
had lingered for ten minutes or more, reading the in- 

F 



122 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

scriptions, and stepping from mound to mound — those 
green mounds which to me implied almost nothing, ex- 
cept a sort of poetic melancholy, which added a tender 
charm to life — this bright, hopeful young life of mine. 
But Cousin Conrad was older. 

" I am very familiar with graves," he said, stepping 
round by one of them, not jumping over it as I did. 
" All belonging to me are dead ; my kindred, and the 
dearest of my friends. I am quite alone in the world." 

" Alone in the world ! What a terrible thing!" 

" I don't feel it so. I have plenty of work to do. My 
doctor once told me I was not likely to have a very long 
life, and ever since I have determined to make it as full 
as possible." 

"How?" 

"What a puzzling question! especially as just now 
you see me living the idlest of lives, having nothing in 
the world to do but to be a little help to your grandfa- 
ther." 

"That is natural. Are you not my grandfather's 
heir?" 

"Another puzzling question. What a catechist you 
are ! Do you mean to interrogate every body like this, 
when you come out into the world ?" 

"I can not tell," said I, laughing. "Eeally, I know 
nothing of the world. We never lived in it, ray mother 
and I." 



MT MOTHER AND I. 123 

" Would you care to live in it ?" 

" Perhaps. But that would depend upon what my 
mother wished. She decides every thing." 

" Tell me more about your mother." 

So I described her, in a few brief passionate words, 
determined that he at least should fully know all that 
she really was in herself and all that she had been to 
me. I can not say what made me do it, or wish to do 
it, to so slight an acquaintance ; but then he never seem- 
ed to me a stranger, and he was of my own blood and 
name. 

Also, to speak about my mother seemed to make 
amends for what was so strange as to appear almost 
wrong — that I could be happy, actually happy, away 
from her. 

" But I shall not be away long. If she is not able to 
come here, I shall go back to her, let me see, the day 
after to-morrow," said I, very decidedly. 

"Could you not enjoy staying a while with the Gen- 
eral? You like him?" 

"Yes," hesitating, but only because I doubted how 
far I could trust .my companion. Then, looking in his 
face, I felt sure I might trust him. " Yes, I could like 
my grandfather very much, if only I were certain he 
would be kind to my mother." 

Major Picardy regarded me earnestly. "You may 
set your mind at rest on that point, now and always." 



124 MY MOTHER AND I. 

" Are you sure ?" 

" Quite sure. He told me bo. And when you know 
him better, you will find him a man who, whatever his 
other faults may be, is not given to change — ^perfeetly 
sincere and reliable. And now let us go back. Be as 
good a girl as ever you can to your grandfather. He 
wishes for you, and, remember, he needs you." 

" Wishes me f needs me f Oh, I am so glad ?" 

I went back to the carriage with a heart as light as 
the lark's that we left singing over the church-yard. My 
heart sang too, a happy song all to itself, the whole way 
back. I had found something new in my life — my life 
which had seemed already as full as it could hold, till 
these fresh interests came, yet I found it could hold them, 
and enjoy them too. " I must tell my mother aU about it," 
thought I, and began writing my evening letter in my 
head. But no words seemed strong enough to express 
my grandfather's attractiveness and Cousin Conrad's 
kindness. 

The dinner hour was six. Mrs. Eix told me she was 
going to dress, so I dressed likewise, in my only silk 
gown — a soft, dark gray — ^with iny best Yalenciennes 
collar and cuffs. I thought my toilet splendid, till I saw 
Mrs. Bix, in cherry -colored satin, with bare arms and 
neck, covered only by a black lace shawl. I felt almost 
like a real "poor relation" beside her, till I met Cousin 
Conrad's kind smile, as if he understood all about it, and 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 125 

was rather amused than not. Then I forgot my foolish 
vexation, and smiled too. 

As for my grandfather, he took no notice whatever of 
my clothes, but a good deal of me ; talking to me at in- 
tervals all dinner-time, and when, that meal being quick- 
ly over, a good many people came dropping in, as was 
the custom in Bath, Mrs. Eix told me, he introduced me 
punctiliously to every body as " My granddaughter. Miss 
Picardy.? 

Some of them looked surprised, and some of them, I 
was sure, made undertoned comments upon me and my 
appearance ; but I did not care. If my grandfather was 
satisfied, what did it matter ? 

The guests were not very interesting, nor could I un- 
derstand how grown-up people should play with such 
deep earnestness at those games of cards, which at school, 
when we made up an occasional round game, I always 
found so supremely silly — sillier even than building card- 
houses. But I got a little quiet talk with Cousin Con- 
rad, who, seeing I was dull, came up to me. By and by 
the evening was over — this first evening, never to be for- 
gotten. 

When every body was gone, and we were saying good- 
night, my grandfather put his hand on my shoulder, and 
called Mrs. Biz. 

" I do not presume to comprehend ladies' costume, but 
it seems to me that this is a rather ^ sad-colored robe,' as 



126 MY MOTHER AND I. 

Shakespeare has it, for so young a person. What say 
you, my dear, would you not prefer to look a little more 
— ^more like other young ladies ?" 

I winced. 

" Yes, indeed, General, she ought," said Mrs. Rix. " I 
have been thinking all the evening, only I did not quite 
know how to say it, that if Miss Picardy were dressed — 
as Miss Picardy — that is, if you would allow me to take 
her to a proper Bath dressmaker-^" 

But my pride was lip. " Thank you ; I prefer to wait 
till my mother comes. It is she who always chooses my 
clothes." 

" As you please. Good-night," said my grandfather, 
shortly, as he took up his candle and disappeared. 

Cousin Conrad gave me a look, a very kind one, yet it 
seemed to " call me to order," almost like one of my 
mother's. Was my pride right or wrong ? What must 
I do? 

" Follow him," whispered Major Picardy ; and I obey- 
ed. I hope it is not a startling confession, but there 
have been very few people in my life whom I either 
could or would " obey." 

I followed the old man, walking feebly down stairs, 
and touched him. 

" I beg your pardon, I — " 

" Pray do not apologize. I merely asked you to give 
me the pleasure of seeing you dressed as becomes your 



MY MOTH£B AND I. 127 

position — ^my position, I mean — and you declined. It 
does not matter." 

" It does niatter, since I have vexed you. I could not 
help it. Don't you see, sir, that I have got no money ? 
How can I go and buy new clothes ?" 

He looked puzzled, but a little less severe. 

" Why, child, surely you understood that — but it is of 
no consequence whether I am pleased or not." 

" It is of consequence." 

"To me, perhaps. I do not flatter myself it can be so 
to either you or your mother." 

Was this speech ironical ? Did it infer any ill-feeling 
toward my mother ? If so, I must speak out. I must 
make him see clearly on what terms we stood. 

" Sir," I said, looking him boldly in the face, " I am 
seventeen years old, and I never saw you, never even 
heard of you, till a few weeks ago. My mother has 
brought me up entirely. I am what I am, my mother's 
child; and I can not be different. Are you ashamed 
of me ?" 

He looked, not at me, for he had turned his back upon 
me, but at my reflection on the mirror opposite-^a figure 
which startled even myself, it stood so tall and proud. 

" Ashamed of you ? No." 

" One word more : do you expect me to be ashamed 
of my mother ?" 

Here I felt my hand caught with a warning pressure. 



128 MT MOTHBB AND I. 

and Coufiin Conrad joined ns ; coming, with his winning 
smile, right between my grandfather and me. 

^' Is it not rather too late at night to begin any unnec- 
essary conversation ? The whole question lies in a nut- 
shell, Cousin Elma. A young lady from the country 
comes to visit her grandfather. She is, of course, a little 
behind the fashion, and as her grandfather wishes her to 
take the head of his table" (I started at this news), " he 
naturally wishes her to be dressed according to la mode 
— ^is not that the word ? — ^Uke other ladies of her age and 
station. He has a right to bestow, and she to accept, 
this or any other kindness. I am sure Mrs. Picardy 
would approve. Every wise mother knows that it is un- 
wise for any young girl, in any society, to look peculiar." 

" Do I look peculiar ?" 

" Very. Quite unlike any girl I ever saw." 

" Is that meant for civility or incivility, Conrad ?" said 
ray grandfather, laughing ; for, in truth, there was no re- 
sisting that charming way Cousin Conrad had of smooth- 
ing down people — half in jest, half in earnest. "Then, 
Elma, we will make you like other girls, if we can, to- 
morrow. Now, good-night." 

A dismissal — decided, though kindly. Evidently my 
grandfather disliked arguments and " scenes." He pre- 
ferred the comic to the tragic side of life — in fact, like 
most men, he could not endure being " bothered" — would 
do or suffer a great evil to avoid a small annoyance. So 



MT MOTHER AND I. 129 

Cousin Conrad that night told me ; and bo I found out 
for myself by and by. 

At present there was nothing for me to do but to creep 
up stairs, rather crestfallen, and find Mrs. Bix waiting to 
conduct me to my room; where she stayed talking a 
terribly long time, advising me,in elderly and matronly 
fashion, about the life into which I was about to plunge. 
She seemed to take it for granted that I was to be a long 
time in Bath ; and she impressed upon me the necessity 
of doing as other people did, and dressing as other peo- 
ple dressed, and, above all, of trying to please my grand- 
father. 

" For he is an odd man, a very odd man, my dear. I 
have seen very little of him of late years, but quite 
enough to find out that. Until he invited me here he 
never even told me his son had been married, so that to 
make your acquaintance was a pleasant surprise. Miss 
Picardy. Tou must introduce me to Mrs. Picardy. How 
soon she must have become a widow ! And where did 
she come from ? And what was her maiden name ?" 

" My mother was a Miss Dedman. She was bom in 
Bath," was all I answered to these and several more in- 
quisitive questions. 

" And she will be here, I trust, before I leave ? Most 
likely you will both stay with the General for some time? 
A capital arrangement. He has lots of money to l^ave, 
if he has not left it already to Major Picardy, who gets 

F2 



130 IfY MOTHER AND I. 

the landed estate. He is very fond of Cbnsin Conrad ; 
still, he might grow fonder of you, and if he were to al- 
ter his will in your favor — ^" 

" I should despise him !" 

I stamped with my foot— my tears burst forth; I 
could not help it — I had been so over-excited that day. 
And then to be told calmly that I was to stay here in 
order to worm myself into the . old man's good graces, 
and supplant Cousin Conrad ! What a horrid idea ! what 
a humiliating position I I felt inclined to run away that 
minute, even though it was the middle of the night — ^ruh 
away back to my mother. 

The whole thing was so different from what I had 
been used to. Mrs. Eix, who talked very little before 
my grandfather and Cousin Conrad, when she talked to 
me exhibited her true self, so exceedingly small and 
worldly-minded, that all my pleasant sensations faded 
out, and I began to feel as if I had got into an atmos- 
phere where I could not breathe properly. When I 
shut the door upon ber? showing her politely out — ^not 
much to her regret, for, though I checked them at once, 
she had been quite frightened at my tears — I threw my- 
self forlornly down upon the bed, and cried like a child 
for my mother. 



m UOTHEB ABD I. 



CHAPTER Vn. 



In spite of my pro- 
test that if mj mother 
did not come to me, I 
should go to her di- 
rectly, two or three 
weekB dipped by ; Bhe 
did not come, yet I 
did not go. She kept 
patting me ofE from 
day to day, asanring 
me that till she could 
walk well, she was far 
happier in small rooms 
than large, and Mrs. 
Golding was moat de- 
voted to her, which I 
vould well believe. Every body loved to serve my 
mother. 

" Beeidee," she argued, " if yoor grandfather wishes 
to keep yon, stay. It is yonr duty, as well as yonr pleas- 
ure, to please him in all possible ways." 



132 MY HOTHEB ANP I. 

Therefore, I found she quite agreed with Cousin Con- 
rad in condemning me for being so proud about accept- 
ing kindnesses; she said I ought to wear my new clothes 
gratefully and gayly, and sent a polite message herself 
to Mrs. Eix for the care bestowed on my toilet. My 
dear mother ! Not a word of hers expressed or betrayed 
the slightest pain or jealousy ; not a hint ever suggested 
that, while I was happy and merry, the petted child of 
the house, for whom every body \^as planning enjoy- 
ments all day long, she was l^ft alone to spend long, 
dull days, with little to do, and nothing to amuse her, 
except reading my letters and answering them. 

I have all hers, written daily; an extravagance of 
postage which was made practicable by Cousin Conrad's 
providing me with no end of franks. They are almost 
the only letters she ever wrote me, and I read them over 
still sometimes, vdth a full heart. A little formal they 
may be — most people wrote formally in those days — but 
they are charming letters, with her heart, the mother's 
heart, at the core of all. She told me every thing, as I 
her ; so that, while our personal separation was hard, 
there was a strange new delight in reading, as in writ- 
ing, the visible words of love. Besides, to recount the 
day's history at night was as good as living it over 
again. 

And what a life it was ! even externally ; full of end- 
less amusement, with all the attractions of luxury and 



MY HOTHEB AND I. 133 

refinement. 1 fell into it as naturally as if it had al- 
ways been mine. "The Picardy blood," I supposed; 
until Cousin Conrad laughed at me for saying this, and 
assigning it as a reason for feeling so much at home, as 
content in a large house as in a small one, with riches 
as with poverty. 

" No," said he, gravely and gently, as if he thought he 
had hurt me ; " the real reason is because poverty and 
riches are only outside things. The true you — Elma 
Picardy — is the same through both, and unaffected by 
either." 

What did affect me, then % What made me feel as if 
I saw a new heaven and a new earth, where every body 
walked up and down like angels? and they were as 
good as angels, some of them. For me — I never thought 
if I were good or bad ; I did not think much about my- 
self at all. I was happy, but if any body had asked me 
why, I could not have told. The strangest thing was, 
my being happy away from ray mother; but then she 
was happy too — she assured me of that — and she knew 
every thing that happened to me, day after day. 

It was a curious life, regular even in its dissipation. 
The only inmates of that large house were my grandfa- 
ther, Mrs.Rix, and myself. Cousin Conrad lodged in 
Marlborough Buildings, close by. But he usually met 
us every morning at the. Pump Eoom, again in the 
afternoon promenade round Sydney Gardens, or up and 



134 1£Y MOTHBB AND I. 

down our own Crescent, the most favorite lounge of all. 
And he always dined with us, he alone generally; for 
there was little dinner-giving at Bath then, but every 
body went out of an evening. Besides small parties at 
private houses, the Assembly Eooms were thronged 
every night. There were the ordinary balls, beginning 
at seven and ending at eleven ; and the dress balls, 
which were kept up an hour later, when, as twelve 
o'clock struck, the master of the ceremonies would hold 
out his watch to the band ; instantly the music stopped, 
and the dancers disappeared, as if over them hung the 
doom of Cinderella. 

At least so Mrs. Eix told me, for I myself did not go 
to these balls ; my grandfather said I was too young. 
But I was taken to the dancing practice, where, on 
stated afternoons, the young gentlemen and ladies for 
miles round came to the rooms, to be instructed in qua- 
drilles and country dances, and those new round dances, 
now all the fashion, of which Mrs. Eix much disap- 
proved; I too. The exercise was charming; but to 
have people's arms round my waist was not pleasant — 
nerer could have been, I thought, unless I were dancing 
with some one very near, and dear, and kind. 

On the whole, I liked best the quiet social evenings, 
at home or abroad, when my grandfather and Mrs. Eix 
played cards, and I wandered about the room, some- 
times alone, sometimes with Cousin Conrad, who, like 



MY MOTHEB AND 1/ 135 

my grandfather, knew and was known by every body. 
Though he was not a great talker, and cared neither for 
cards nor dancing, he was very popular ; and so many 
sought his company that I always felt pleased and 
grateful when he sought mine. 

These evenings always ended at ten o'clock, when we 
went home, in sedan chairs on wet nights ; but when it 
was fine, we walked back tq Eoyal Crescent, cloaked 
and hooded, as was the fashion of many ladies. Indeed, 
one ancient dame used to boast that she often marched, 
with all her diamonds on, attended only by her maid, 
the whole way from her house in Norfolk Crescent to 
the Assembly Rooms. 

Mrs. Eix was not brave enough for that; so she and 
the General had each a chair. Cousin Conrad and I 
walking after .them. How pleasantly the fresh night air 
used to blow through circus and square; how pretty 
even the common streets looked, with their lines of 
lamps ; and how grandly solemn was the sky overhead, 

'^ Thick inlaid with patines of bright gold !^' 

It 

He used often to say that line to me, with many others, 
for he was a great lover of Shakespeare and other old 
writers, of whom I knew almost nothing. Memory fails 
me a little for modem poetry, but I think I could re- 
member most of that, even now. 
We also used to study a little astronomy, which was a 



136 HY MOTHER AlH) X 

hobby of his, acquired in long night-marches and camp- 
ings out. I learned all the constellations and their 
names, and a good deal besides. There was one par- 
ticular planet, I remember, which night after night used 
to rise over Beechen ClifF. I called it "my star," at 
which Major Picardy smiled, and said it was Jupiter, 
the most prosperous star of any, astrologers believed, 
and that I should have a most fortunate and happy life. 
I laughed, and believed it all. 

As I soon found out, I was, coilipared with him, ex- 
ceedingly ill-educated. This was not my mother's fault, 
but my own. Beyond exacted lessons, I had never cared 
to study or to read. Now I felt my own ignorance pain- 
fully, horribly. My grandfather had a good library, and 
one day, when Cousin Conrad found me hunting there, 
he volunteered to choose some books for me. After 
that, he used to talk to me about them ; and many a 
time, when the young gentlemen of Bath were whisper- 
ing nonsense to me — which they did pretty often — I 
used to grow very weary of them, and keep thinking all 
the time of what I had been reading that morning, and 
what Cousin Conrad would say about it when we 
walked home together at night, under the stars. 

Those wondrous stars! those delicious moonlights! 
that cool, scented, summer dark, perhaps better than 
either ! I was only a girl then — only seventeen. Now 
I am — ^no matter what. But to this day, if I chance to 



MY MOTHBB AND I. 137 

walk home of a May night, after a party, the old tune 
comes back again, and the old feeling — ^the feeling that 
life was such a grand and beautiful thing, with so much 
to do, perhaps also to suffer ; only suffering looked he- 
roic aud sweet— especially if borne for some one else. 
The bliss of making unheard-of sacrifices for those one 
loved haunted me continually ; indeed, self -martyrdom 
seemed the utmost joy of existence. For instance, I re- 
member one bleak night silently placing myself as a 
barrier^ — oh, what a feeble one ! — between a fierce north 
wind and — a person to whom it was very hurtful to 
catch cold. I caught cold, of course; but whether I 
saved that other person is doubtful. No matter. Some 
people might laugh at me ; I have never laughed at 
myself. 

I record these times and these feelings, because many 
a girl may recognize them as her own experience too. It 
is nothing to be ashamed of, though it does not always 
bring happiness. But, I repeat, there are in life more 
things — possibly better things — than happiness. 

When I say I was happy, it was in a way rather dif- 
ferent from the calm enjoyment I had with my mother. 
Little things gave me the keenest joy; other things, 
equally and ludicrously little, the sharpest pain. For 
instance, one day, when Mrs. Eix said at table that I 
was becoming " the belle of Bath," and my grandfather 
laughed, and Cousin Conrad said — nothing at all I Did 



XSS ^^ MOTHER AND I. 

he think I liked it ? that I cared for being admired and 
flattered, and talked nonsense to, or for any thing but 
being loved t — as, it sometimes seemed, they were all be> 
^nning to love me at Boyal Crescent Even my grand- 
father, besides that chivalrons politeness which was his 
habit toward all women, began to treat me with a per- 
sonal tenderness very sweet, always ending by saying I 
was " every inch a Picardy." Which was one of the 
very few things I did not repeat to my mother. 

My darling mother 1 All this time I had never seen 
her. Cousin Conrad had. He rode over twice or tHrice, 
bringing me back full news ; but though my grandfa- 
ther said I might have the carriage whenever I liked 
to go home for a few hours, somehow I never did get 
it, and was afraid to ask for it. Since, kind as the Gen- 
oral was, he always liked to bestow kindnesses, and not 
to be asked for them. 

So time passed. Bath became very hot and relaxing, 
as is usual in spring ; and, either with that or the con- 
stant excitement, my strength flagged, my spirits be- 
came variable. 

" Is she quite well ?" I overheard Cousin Conrad ask- 
ing Mrs. Rix one day ; when I answered sharply for my- 
self that I was " perfectly well, only a little tired." 

" Of what ? Dissipation, or of us all ? My child " — 
he often addressed me so, quite paternally — " would you 
like to go back to your mother?" 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 139 

A sndden " stound," whether of joy or pain I knew 
not, came over me. I paused a minute, and then eaid, 
" Yes." Immediately afterward, for no cause at all, I 
began to cry. 

"She certainly is not strong, and ought not to have 
too much dissipation," said Mrs. Eix, much troubled. 
"Oh, dear me! and it was only this morning that the 
General asked me to arrange about taking her to her 
first public ball." 

"Her first ball!" 

"My first ball!" 

Cousin Conrad and I were equally astonished — 
whether equally pleased, I could not tell. 

"Well, it is natural your grandfather should have 
changed his mind. I don't wonder that he wishes to 
see the ^ coming out ' — is not that what you girls call 
it? — of the last of his race, to witness the triumph of 
another ^ beautiful Miss Picjardy.' " 

I looked at him reproachfully. " Cousin Conrad ! are 
you going to talk nonsense too ?" 

"It is not nonsense. I was merely stating a fact," 
said he, smiling. " But I beg your pardon." 

It is strange how often we think lightly of the gifts 
we have, and wish for those which Providence has de- 
nied. Often, when there was a knot of silly young fel- 
lows hovering round me, I thought how much better 
than being merely pretty would it have been to be 



*|40 >^ MOTHER AND I. 

dever and accomplished, able to understand the books 
CV»usin Conrad read, and talk with him in his own 
way. I was so afraid he despised me, and this last re- 
mark convinced me of it. My heart saivk with shame, 
and I thought how willingly one would give away all 
one^s beauty — aye, and youth too, only that goes fast 
enough — ^to become a sensible, educated woman. Such 
are really valuable, and valued. 

We were all three walking up and down the grassy 
terrace of a house where my grandfather had come to 
call, leaving us to amuse ourselves outside, as it was a 
most beautiful place, centuries old. Every body about 
Bath knows St. Katherine's Court. As it happens, I 
have never seen it since that day, but I could remember 
every bit of its lovely garden — the fountain that trick- 
led from the rocky hill above, the cows feeding in the 
green valley below, and the tiny gray church on one 
side. 

"I should like to show you the church. It dates 
long before the Eeformation, and is very curious. Will 
you come, Mrs. Eix, or would you rather sit still 
here ?" 

As Major Picardy might have known she would, 
which I myself did not regret. She was a kind soul, 
but she never understood in the least the things that we 
used to talk about, and so she often left us alone. Very 
dull indeed to her would have been our speculations 



HT MOTHEXK AKD I. 141' 

about the old carved pnlpit, and who had preached in it ; 
the yew-trees in the church-yard, which might have fur- 
nished bows for the men who fought at Bosworth Field. 
I tried hard to improve my mind by listening to what 
Ciousin Conrad said. He had such an easy, kind way of 
giving information, that one took it in, scarcely fancy- 
ing one was learning at all. Soon I quite forgot my 
wounded feelings, my fear of his contempt for a poor 
girl who had nothing in the world to recommend her 
except her beauty. 

Suddenly he turned round and asked me why I had 
been so vexed with him about the ball. Did I dislike 
going? 

No, I liked it very much. 

" Then why were you offended with me ? "Was it be- 
cause I called you ^ the beautiful Miss Picardy V " 

He had guessed my thoughts, as he often did, just 
like a magician. I hung my head. "I thought you 
were laughing at me, or despising me. It is such a con- 
temptible thing to be- only pretty. Oh, I wish I could 
be ugly for a week !" 

He smiled. " But only for a week. Tou would soon 
be glad to turn back into your old self again, and so 
would others. Believe me, beauty is always a blessing, 
and not necessarily harmful. The loveliest woman I 
ever beheld was also the best." 

Who could that be ? His mother, or — no, I had never 



142 1£Y MOTHER AM) I. 

heard of his having a sieter. Still I did not like to 
afik. 

9 

" I would not speak of her to every body/' continue 
he, in a rather hesitating tone, suddenly sitting down. 
He had a habit of turning pale and sitting down, inva- 
lid fashion, though he always refused to be called an in- 
valid. " But I should like to speak of her to you some- 
times, for you remind me of her in your height and the 
color of your hair; though I think — yes, I am quite 
sure — that, on the whole you are less handsome than she. 
Still, it is the same kind of beauty, and I like to look 
at it." 

He paused, and I sat still, waiting for what was com- 
ing next ; so still, that a little sparrow came and hopped 
in at the church door, looked at us, and hopped out 
again. 

" I do not know if you will understand these things, 
yon are still such a child ; but, once upon a time, I was 
engaged to be married." 

I started a little. Since my first I'omantic specula- 
tions concerning him — making him the hero of some 
melancholy history — Cousin Conrad and his marrying 
had quite gone out of my head. He was just himself — 
a gentleman of what to me seemed middle age, five-and- 
thirty probably — always kind and good to me, and to 
every young lady he knew, but never in the slightest de- 
gree "paying attention" to any body. And he had 



MY MOTHER AND I. 143 

been " engaged to be married." Consequently " in love." 
(For I had no idea that the two things are not always 
synonymous.) I felt very strange, but I tried not to 
show it. 

" It was before I went to India," he continued. " I 
was only three-and-twenty, and she was twenty-one. 
She had every thing that fortune could give ; I too, ex- 
cept perhaps money. But she had that as well; so we 
did not mipd. An honest man, who really loves a wom- 
an, and gives her all he has to give, need not mind, 
though she is rich and he is poor. Do you not think 
so?" 

" Yes." 

" One only trouble we had : she was delicate in health. 
I knew I should always have to take care of her. I did 
so already, for she had no mother. She was an orphan, 
and hjlQ been a ward of Chancery. The lady who lived 
with her was a sister of Mrs. Rix." 

" Mrs. Rix ! She never said a word." 

" Oh, no," with a sad kind of smile, "it is so long ago; 
every body has forgotten, except me. I think I am one 
of those people who can not forget. Still, I have come 
to Bath ; I have, gone over the same walks ; I have been 
to a party at the same house — I mean the house where 
she lived, and from which she was to have been married." 

" Was to have been ?" asked I, beneath my breath. 

"It was only two weeks before the day. We were 



144 1£Y MOTHEB AND I. 

both SO young and happy — ^we liked dancing so much 
— ^we wanted to have a good dance together in these 
Assembly Eooms. We had it; and then she wonld 
walk home. It was May, but you know how sharp the 
winds come round street comers here. She caught cold ; 
in a week she died." 

Died 1 So young, so happy, so well beloved ! Poor 
girl ! Fortunate girl ! 

I could not weep for her; something lay heavy on 
my heart, seemed to freeze up my tears. But I sat 
quiet, keeping a reverent silence toward a grief which 
he had thought I could not " understand." 

Cousin Conrad had told his story very calmly, letting 
fall the brief words one by one, in tiie same mechanical 
tone; so that any body who did not know him would 
have thought he felt nothing. What a mistake 1 

We sat several minutes without speaking; and then, 
with a sudden impulse of compassion, I touched his 
hand. He pressed mine warmly. 

" Thank you. I thought. Cousin Elma, we should be 
better friends after this than even before. Ton will un- 
derstand that mine has not been an altogether bright life 
— like yours, for instance ; indeed, mine seems half over 
when yours is scarcely begun. Nor is it likely to be a 
very long life, the doctors say ; so I must put as much 
into it as I possibly cau. Ab much work, I mean. For 
happiness—" 



t him n9w, sitting ivilh kii iandi folded and tyts leaking straight 



MT MOTHEB AND L 147 

He stopped. * Z can see him now, sitting with hands 
folded and eyes looking straight before him — grave, 
steady, fearless eyes, with a touch of melancholy in 
them' — ^bnt nothing either morbid, or bitter, or angry. 
Such would have been impossible to a nature like his. 

^^ Happiness must' take its chance. I neither seek it 
nor refuse it. Nor have I been, I hope, altogether urn 
happy hitherto. I have always found plenty to do^ be^ 
sides mj profession." 

I knew that. It had sometimes made me almost an- 
gry to learn, through Mrs. Bix, the endless calls upon 
him— ^his health, his time, and his money — ^by helpless 
people, who are .sure to find out and hang upon a soli- 
tary man, who has the character of being unselfish and 
ready to help every body. When I looked at him, and 
thought of all that, and of the grief that had fallen upon 
his life, which, falling upon most men, would have made 
it a blank life forever, I felt— no, it is not necessary to 
say what I felt. 

There is a quality called hero-worship. It does not 
exist in every body; and some people say that it is 
scarcely to be desired, as causing little bliss and much 
bale ; but to those who possess it, and who have found 
objects whereon to expend it, it is an ecstasy worth any 
amount of pain. 

Though all the world had seemed to swim rou&d me 
for a minute or two, and Cousin Oonrad^s quiet voice 



148 MT MOTHEB Am) I. 



went through me, word by word, like a sharp knife — 
still I slowly got right again. I saw the blue sky out 
through the church door, and heard a lark in the air, 
singing high up, like an invisible voice — the voice, I 
could have fancied, of that girl, so long dead, who had 
been so happy before she died. Happy to an extent 
and in a sort of way of which the full sweetness had 
never dawned upon me till now. 

To be " in love," as silly people phrase it — ^to love, as 
wise and good people have loved, my mother, for in- 
stance — I seemed all at once to understand what it was ; 
aye, in spite of Cousin Conrad. And, with that knowl- 
edge, to understand something else, which frightened 
me. 

However, I had sense enough to drive tlmt back, for 
the time being, into the inmost recesses of my heart, and 
to answer him, when, after sitting a minute or two long- 
er, he proposed that we should go back to Mrs. Eix, vdth 
my ordinary " Yes." He always laughed at these " Yes- 
es" or "Noes," which he declared formed the staple of 
my conversation with him or my grandfather. Only, 
as we went out, I said in a whisper, " Would you mind 
telling me her name?" 

" Agnes." 

So we went back to the carriage, and drove home ; 
and I think nobody would have known that any thing 
had happened. 



MY MOTHER AND I. 149 

But little things make great changes sometimes. 
When I went into the tiny gray church, Mrs. Eix had 
laughed at the way I bounded down the hilly terrace, 
called me "such a child!" — no wonder the General 
thought I was "too young" to go to the Assemblies. 
When I came out again, I felt quite an old person — old 
enough to go to twenty balls. 



150 ICY MOTHEB AND I. 



CHAPTER Yin. 

Thekb came upon me a great craving to see my moth- 
er. Not that I wished to tell her any thing — indeed, 
what had I to teU ? In writing about that afternoon at 
St. Katherine's Court, I merely described the house, the 
garden, and the old gray church. What had passed 
therein I thought I had no right — I had certainly no 
desire — to speak of, not even to my mother ; and from 
the complete silence which followed — Cousin Conrad 
never referred to it again — ^it seemed after a day or two 
almost like a story heard in a dream. 

But a dream that never could be forgotten. A young 
girl seldom does forget the first time she comes face to 
face with a love story — not in a book, but in real life ; 
meets and sympathizes with those who have actually felt 
all that she has been mistily thinking about. 

Whenever Cousin Conrad looked at me, as he did 
sometimes, in a very tender, wistful way, as if seeing in 
my face some reflection of the one long hidden under a 
coflSn-lid, I used to ponder on all he had gone through, 
wondering how he had ever borne it and lived. But he 
had lived up to five-and-thirty a useful and honored life ; 



MT MOTHER Am> I. 151 

and though he had hinted it might not be a long one, 
probably on account of that sad taint in our Taunted 
Picardy blood — consumption — still there^emed no rea- 
son why he should fear or hope — did he hope ? — for its 
ending. Cheerful he was — cheerful, calm, busy; was 
he also happy ? Was it possible he ever could be happy ? 
Endlessly I used to ponder over him and her, and on 
the brief time of love they had had together ; and then, 
overcome with an unaccountable sadness, I used to turn 
to thinking of my mother. 

If I could only go to her ! lay my head on her shoul- 
der, and feel how entirely she loved me — me only out 
of the whole world. And it seemed as if I had a little 
neglected her of late, and allowed other people to absorb 
me too much. Had she guessed this ? Did she fancy I 
loved her less? I would soon show her she was mis- 
taken. As soon as ever nay grandfather would allow 
me, I would go back to the two dear little rooms in our 
quiet village, and be as merry and happy as if I had 
never gone away — ^never known any thing beyond the 
peaceful life when she and I were all in all to one an- 
other. We were so still, only — 

Was there any thing in that " only " which made me 
stop and examine myself sharply ? Does there not come 
a time to the most loving of children when they begin 
to feel a slight want — when parents and home are not 
quite sufficient to them? They can no longer lie all 



152 MY MOTHER AND I. 

day, infant-like, on the mother's breast, and see no heav- 
en beyond her face. Other faces grow pleasant, other 
interests arise. It seems diflSicult to content one's self 
with the calm level of domestic life, with its small daily 
pleasures and daily pains. They want something larger 
— ^grander. They are continually expecting some un- 
known felicity, or arming themselves against some he- 
roic anguish, so delicious that they almost revel in the 
prospect of woe. 

This state of feeling is natural, and therefore inevita- 
ble. If recognized as such, by both parents and chil- 
dren, it harms neither, is met, and passed by. 

If I could have gone to ray mother ! Afterward, the 
hinderances to this looked so small; at the time they 
seemed gigantic. First, Mrs. Eix, with her pre-occupa- 
tion about my toilet and her own at my first ball, which 
was to happen in a few days. Then my grandfather's 
dislike to have any thing suggested to him, even to the 
use of his carriage, except by Cousin Conrad, to whom 
the whole household were in the habit of applying in 
all difficulties, who arranged every thing and thought of 
every body; but he was absent — gone to London on 
some troublesome law business, somebody else's business, 
of course. 

"I can't tell why," he said, smiling, "except that it is 
from my being so alone in the world, but I seepa fated 
to be every body's guardian, every body's trustee. Take 



MY MOTHER AND I. 153 

care; perhaps your grandfather may make me yours, 
and then what a handful I shall have I and how tightly 
I shall hold you, like one of the cruel guardians in story- 
books — especially when you want to marry 1 No, no, 
my child, seriously, I will let you marry any body you 
please." 

" Thank you," I said, laughing. He did not know he 
had hurt me. 

We missed him much out of the house, even for a few 
days. If he had been there, I should easily have got to 
see my mother. As it was, there seemed no way, except 
starting to walk the seven miles alone ; and I doubted 
if either she or Cousin Conrad would have approved of 
that step : it would have seemed so disrespectful to my 
grandfather. 

Thus it came to pass that a fifth week was added to 
the four, and still I had not seen my mother. 

I wished, though, that she could have seen me when I 
was dressed for the ball ; I knew it would have made 
her happy* That was my consolation for not feeling 
quite so happy myself when it came to the point, as I 
supposed all young girls ought to feel on such an occa- 
sion. How she would have admired the white silk, fes- 
tooned with white roses, in which I stood like a statue 
while Mrs. Kix and her maid dressed me— not half grate- 
ful enough, I fear, for their care ; for I was thinking of 
that girl ^ Agnes," scarcely older than myself, who, prob- 

G2 



154 MT MOTHBB AND I. 

ably in some house close by, had once been dressed for 
one of these very assemblies. So young, so happy ; yes, 
I was sure she had been happy ; and I sighed, and my 
white silk looked dull, and my white roses faded, and 
that nameless despondency to which the young are so 
prone fell upon me like a cloud, till Mrs. Eix said, kind 
soul ! " There now ; I wish your mother could see you." 

The mention of my mother nearly made me burst out 
crying. Crying when one is dressed for one's first ball ! 
What a strange girl I must have been ! 

" Come now, my dear, and let your grandfather look 
at you." 

He quite started when I came into his room, regarded 
me intently, then made me walk to and fro, which I did 
— as grave and dignified as even he could desire. I was 
not shy, but rather indifferent, feeling as if it mattered 
little who looked at me. 

" Yes, that will do, Elma ; you gratify me much. All 
the daughters of our house have been noted for their 
beauty. This generation will be no exception to the 
rule. I wish I were well enough to witness the dibut 
to-night of another beautiful Miss Picardy." 

I smiled. There was no uncomfortable flattery in my 
grandfather's grand politeness; it was the mere an- 
nouncement of a fact. I said nothing. What value 
was my beauty to me ? except that it pleased him — and 
my mother. 



M7 MOTHEB AND I. 155 

" Tes, you are quite right, General ; and I am sure the 
Major would say the same, if he were here ; but' I sup- 
pose nothing would have persuaded him to accompany 
us." 

"No, Mrs. Eix; you are aware that he has never been 
to a ball since the death of Miss Frere." 

" Oh, poor Miss Frere ! How much he was attached 
to her, and she to him. My sister has told me all about 
it. A sad story. Miss Picardy, which I will tell you 
while we are having our tea, if you will remind me." 

Which I did not do. 

" Elma," said my grandfather, as he sat watching me, 
looking more beni^ than I had ever seen him ; " you 
may like to read this before you go." 

It was a letter from my mother, by which I found 
that he had politely urged her coming to see my intro- 
duction into society. She excused herself, but promised^ 
if she felt well enough, to pay her long-promised visit 
" in a few days." 

Then I should have my mother, and I need not go 
away I In a moment my variable spirits rose, and the 
confused sense of pain which was so new to me slipped 
away. As I wrapped my beautiful white cloak round 
me, and caught sight of myself in the mirror on the 
stairs, I knew I was, on the whole, not unpleasant to look 
at I and was glad to please even the three women-serv- 
ants who came to peep at me in the hall. 



1 



156 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

There was another person entering it, who stopped to 
look too. He seemed tired with travehng, but in his 
face was the familiar smile. Kind Cousin Conrad ! ev- 
ery body was delighted to see him. 

" I am not quite too late, I see. All the world seems 
collected to behold your splendors^ Cousin Elma. May 
not I!" 

He gently put aside my cloak. My heart was beating 
fast with the surprise of seeing him, but I stood quite 
still and silent for him to examine my dress and me. 

" Thank you," he said, with the slightest possible sigh. 
" Tou look very nice. Now let me put you into your 
chaise." Ab he did so, he said gently, " Be happy, child. 
Go and enjoy yourself." 

So I did, to a certain extent. How could it be other- 
wise with a girl of seventeen, who loved dancing with 
all her heart, and had no end of partners, some of whom 
danced exceedingly well? Good and bad dancers was 
the only distinction between them — to me. For all else 
they might have been automatons spinning round on two 
legs. Their faces I scarcely looked at. The only face 
I saw was one which was not there. 

How tired Cousin Conrad had looked! Sad too. 
Had the sight of me in my ball-dress reminded him of 
old times — of his best-beloved Agnes ? All through the 
whirl of light and music and dancing, I had in my 
mind's eye the picture of those two as they must have 



MY MOTHER AND I. 157 

looked, dancing together, at their last ball ; but I thought 
of one not wholly with pity, but envy. 

Still I danced on — danced with every body that asked 
me. My feet were light enough, though my heart felt 
sometimes a little heavy, and I rather wondered why 
girls thought a ball-room such a paradise ; until, crossing 
throngh the crowd of figures, all alike either unknown 
or indifferent to me, I saw one whom I knew. The 
slight stoop, the head with its short, crisp curls, the grave, 
quiet eyes, and wondrously beautiful smile, how the sight 
of him changed all the aspect of the room ! 

It was very kind of Cousin Conrad to come. This 
sense of his excessive kindness was my first thought, and 
then another sense of comfort and enjoyment, such as I 
used to feel when my mother was by. I could not go 
to him — I was dancing ; but I watched him go to Mrs. 
Rix, and they both stood watching me, I saw, until they 
fell into conversation, and did not notice me at all. 
Then I noticed them. 

. It is an odd sensation, trying to view as with the eyes 
of a stranger some one whom you know intimately. 
Many gentlemen in the room were taller, handsomer, 
younger than Cousin Conrad; but somehow he was 
Cousin Conrad, just himself, and different from them all. 

I wondered what he and Mrs. Eix were talking about ; 
ordinary things probably: she would not surely be so 
tactless, so cruel, as to wonder at his coming to-night, or 



158 MY MOTHEB AlO) I. 

to remind him of the last night he wafe here, when he 
danced with Miss Frere as his partner — ^just as one Sir 
Thomas Appleton (I had good cause to remember his 
name afterward) was dancing with me. Oh no ! not so. 
I cared nothing for Sir Thomas Appleton. If I had 
been dancing with any one I loved, as Agnes loved Cous- 
in Conrad, how different it would have been ! Yet he 
had said I " did not understand." 

He was right. I did not understand — not fully. I 
had no idea whither I was drifting ; no more than has a 
poor little boat, launched on a sunshiny lake without 
helm or oars, which goies on floating, floating as it can 
only float, toward the great open sea. There had come 
a curious change in me, a new interest into my life, a 
new glory over my world. It was strange, very strange, 
but the whole room looked different now Cousin Conrad 
was there. 

Imlac, in "Easselas," says (a trite and often-quoted 
but most true saying), " Many persons fancy themselves 
in love, when in reality they are only idle ;" and there- 
fore, for all young people, idleness is the thing most to be 
avoided, since the sham of love, coming prematurely, is 
of all things the most contemptible and dangerous. But 
some people never " fall in love " at all ; they walk into it 
blindfold, and then wake suddenly, with wide-open eyes, 
to And that all the interest of life is concentrated in one 
person, whom they believe, truly or not, to be the best 



MY MOTHER AND I. 161 

periBon they* ever. knew, and whom they could no more 
help loving than they could help loving the sun for shin- 
ing on them, and the air, for giving them wherewithal to 
breathe. This is not being " in love," or being " made 
love to." It is love^ pure and simple, the highest thing, 
if often the saddest, which a woman's heart can know. 

If I had been an angel looking down from the heights 
of Paradise upon another Elma Picardy, I might have 
sighed and said, "Poor child!" but I do not know that 
I should have tried to alter things in any way. 

The quadrille over. Sir Thomas Appleton took me to 
Mrs. Eix, and stood talking with Cousin Conrad, whom 
he knew ; so there was no explanation, save a whisper 
from Mrs. Rix-^ 

" He says the General sent him. They thought you 
ought not to be here without some male relative ; so he 
came." 

" He is very kind," said I — ^but I was a little vexed. 
In those days the one thing that sometimes vexed me in 
Cousin Conrad was his habit of doing first what he ought 
and next what he liked to do. I have lived long enough 
to see that the man who does first what he likes and 
then what he ought, is of all men, not absolutely wicked, 
the most hopelessly unreliable. 

Cousin Conrad might have come to the ball from duty 
only, but I think he was not unhappy there. His good 
heart was strong enough to forget its own sorrows in 



162 MY MOTHSB AND I^ 

« 

others' joys. Giving Mrs. Bix bis arm, and consigning 
me to Sir Thomas, he led the way to the tea-room, and 
made ns all sit down to one of those little tables at which 
people who liked one another's company were accus- 
tomed to form a circle to themselves. His pleasant talk 
brightened us all. Then he proposed taking me round 
the rooms, and showing me every thing and every 
body. 

" She is so young, with the world all before her," said 
he to Sir Thomas Appleton. " And it is such a won- 
derful, enjoyable world." , 

Aye, it was. As I went along, leaning on Cousin Con- 
rad's arm, and looking at all he showed me, I thought 
there never was such a beautiful hall. Cinderella's, 
when the prince was dancing with her, was nothing to 
it ; only, unlike Cinderella, when twelve o'clock struck 
my white silk did not crumble into rags, niy slippers did 
not drop off from my poor little feet. 

" Well, it is over," said I, with a little sigh. 

" Yes, it is over," echoed Sir Thomas, with u much 
bigger one. I had been again his partner, by his own 
earnest entreaty and Cousin Conrad's desire, that he 
might be able to tell my grandfather how well I could 
dance. So I had danced, my very best too, knowing 
he was looking on, and was pleased with me. It made 
mo pleased with myself, and not vexed, even when I 
heard people whispering after me, " The beautiful Miss 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 163 

Picardy." Had not Cousin Colirad said that the most 
beautif al person he ever knew was also the best ? 

I wondered if he were thinking of her now. From a 
certain expression in his face as he stood watching the 
quadrille, I fancied he was. Yes, he had truly said he 
was one of those who " can not forget." 

I also never forget. Many a ball have I been to in 
my life, but not one incident of this, my first, hpfl van- 
ished from my memory. 

It was over at last, and I felt myself in the midst of 
a crowd of people pushing toward the door, with Cousin 
Conrad on one side of me and Mrs. Rix on the other. 
Sir Thomas Appleton was behind. 

" See," said he, " what a beautiful night it is ; ever 
so many .are walking home ; will you walk home, too. 
Miss Picardy ?" 

" No," said Cousin Conrad, decidedly. 
He muffled me carefully up, put me in a chair, did 
the same thing for Mrs. Rix, and then walked off down 
the street with somebody, I suppose Sir Thomas ; but I 
really never noticed that poor young man. I doubt if I 
even bade him good-night. In five minutes more he 
had gone out of my head as completely as if he had 
never existed. 

So much so that when Mrs. Rix came into my room 
to talk over the ball, and asked me what I thought of 
him, I answered that I could not tell ; I had never 
thought about him at all. 



164 MT MOTHER AND I. 

" Never thought about him ! Such a rich, handsome, 
gentlemanly young man, just come into one of the finest 
estates in Somersetshire. Well, you are the oddest girl 
I ever knew." 

Was I ? How ? What could she mean ? Surely I 
had not.lnisbehaved myself, or been uncourteous in any 
way to this very respectable gentleman? But no; he 
was Cousin Conrad's friend, and Cousin Conrad had not 
blamed me in the least, but had met me at the door and 
parted from me with a kind good-night. He was not 
displeased with me. Then, whatever Mrs. Rix meant or 
thought did not matter so very much. 



UY HOTREB AND L 



CHAPTER IX 



It was jnst a week 
after the ball — a hap- 
py week ; for, as Mrs. 
Hix said, all the family 
seemed happier now 
Cousin Conrad had 
come back. 

We had miesed him 
ranch. My grandfa- 
ther was the sort of 
man who would be 
always autocrat abso- 
lute in his own house ; 
but Cousin Conrad 
was his prime minis- 
ter. To him — the 
heir presumptive, as every body knew — came every 
body, with their petitions, their difficulties, their cares. 
Far and near, all helplees people claimed his help ; all 
idle people his nnoccnpied time. His money, toa 
Moderate as his income was, he seemed always to have 



166 MY MOTHEB AND L 

enough to give to those that needed it But he invari- 
ably gave cautiously, and in general secretly. So much 
so that I have heard people call Major Picardy a rath- 
er "near" man. How little they knew ! 

We missed him, I say, because he was the guiding 
spirit of the house. Guiding, for he never attempted to 
rule. Yet his lightest word was always obeyed, because 
we saw clearly that when he said, " Do this," he meant, 
"Do it, not because I say so, but because it is right." 
The right, followed unswervingly, unhesitatingly, and 
without an atom of selfishness or fear, was the pivot 
upon which his whole life turned. Therefore his influ- 
ence, the divinest form of authority, was absolutely un- 
limited. 

Besides, as Mrs.Eix sometimes said to me — just as 
if I did not see it all ! — he was " so comfortable to live 
with." In him were none of those variable moods of 
dullness, melancholy, or iU-temper, which men so often 
indulge in — ^moods which in a child wfe call " naughti- 
ness," and set the sinner in a comer with his face to 
the wall,.or give him a good whipping and let him 
alone ; but in his papa, or grandpapa, or uncle, we sub- 
mit to as something charmingly inevitable, rather inter- 
esting than not, although the whole household is thereby 
victimized. But Cousin Conrad victimized no one ; he 
was always sweet-tempered, cheerful, calm, and wise. 
His one great sorrow seemed to have swallowed up all 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 167 

lesser ones, so that the minor vexations of life could not 
affict him any more. Or else it was because he, of all 
men I ever knew, lived the most in himself, and yet out 
of himself ; and therefore was able to see all things with 
larger, clearer eyes. Whether he knew this or not — 
whether he was proud or humble, as people count hu- 
mility, I can not tell. No one could, because he never 
talked of himself at all. 

Young as I was, I had sense to see all this in him, the 
first man vrith whom I was ever throvm in friendly re- 
lations ; to see and — what does one do when one meets 
that which is perfectly lovable and admirable ? admire 
it ? love it ? No ; love is hardly the word for that kind 
of feehng. We adore. 

This did not strike me as remarkable, because every 
body in degree did the same. Never was there a per- 
son better loved than he. And yet he gave himself no 
pains to be popular ; he seldom tried to please any body 
particularly ; only to be steadily kind and simply good 
to every body. 

Good above all to me,. unworthy ! Oh, so good! 

The one person whose opinion of him I did not know 
was my mother's, though he had ridden over to see her, 
taking messages from me, almost every week. But she 
said little about him, and I did not like to ask. One of 
the keenest pleasures I looked forward to in this her visit 
was that she would then learn to know Cousin Conrad 



168 MY MOTHER AND I. 

as I knew him. Mrs. Eix said, as soon as my mother 
came to chaperon me, she should go to Cheltenham. 
Then how happy would we three be, walking, talking 
together, the best company in the world ! 

For the first time in my life, I thought without jeal- 
ousy of my mother's enjoying any body's company but 
mine. Planning the days to come, which seemed to 
rise up one after the other, like the slope after slope of 
sunshiny green which melted into the blue sky at the 
top of Lansdowne Hill, I sat at my bedroom window, 
perhaps the happiest girl in all Bath. 

Ah, pleasant city of Bath ! how sweet it looked to me 
then, a girl in my teens ! How sweet it looks still to 
me, an old woman ! Aye, though I walk its streets with 
tired feet, thinking of other feet that walk there no 
more, but in a far-away City which I see not yet ; still 
dear to my heart and fair to my eyes is every nook and 
corner of that city, where I .was so happy when I was 
young. 

Happy, even in such small things as my new dress, 
which I had been arranging for the evening. We went 
out so much that I should have been very ill off had not 
my grandfather given me plenty of beautiful clothes. 
When I hesitated, Cousin Conrad said, " Take them ; it 
is your right, and it makes him happy." So I took 
them, and enjoyed them too. It is pleasant to feel that 
people notice one's dress — people whose opinion one 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 169 

values. I laughed- to think my mother would not call 
me " untidy " now. 

Also, I was glad to believe, to be quite sure, that my 
grandfather was not ashamed of me. When Mrs. Eix 
told him how many partners I had, he used to smile 
complacently. " Of course ! She is a Miss Picardy — 
a true Miss Picardy. Isn't she, Conrad?" At which 
Cousin Conrad would smile too. 

He always went out with us now, though he did 
not dance ; but he kept near us, and made every thing 
easy and pleasant — almost as pleasant as being at 
home. 

But these home evenings were the best, after all. I 
hoped they would come back again when my mother 
was here. Often I pictured to myself how we would 
enjoy them. My grandfather asleep in his chair; my 
mother and Cousin Conrad sitting on the large sofa, one 
at either end ; and I myself on my favorite little chair, 
opposite them. How often he laughed at me — such a 
big, tall girl — for liking such a little chair ! They would 
talk together, and I would sit silent, watching their two 
faces. Oh, how happy I should be 1 

I had fallen in so deep a reverie, that when there 
came a knock to my door I quite started. 

It was only Mrs. Rix, coming to say that my grandfa- 
ther wanted me. But she did it in such a mysterious 
way — ^and besides, it was odd that he should want me at 

H 



170 HT MOTHER AND I. 

that early hour, and in his study, where few ever went 
except Cousin Conrad. 

" What does he want me for ? There is nothing tlie 
matter T 

" Oh, no, my dear ; quite the contrary, I do assure 
you. But, as I said to the General, ' She is so innocent, 
I am sure she has not the slightest idea' — oh, dear, what 
am I saying? — I only promised to tell you that your 
gitmdfather wanted you." 

" I will come directly." 

She said true ; I had not the slightest idea. I no more 
guessed what was coming upon me than if I had been a 
baby of five years old. I stayed calmly to fold up my 
dj'ess and put my ribbons by, Mrs. Eix looking on with 
that air of deferential mysteriousness which had rather 
vexed me in her of late. 

" That is right, my dear. Be very particular in your 
toilette ; it is the proper thing, under — ^your circumstan- 
ce. But here I am, letting the cat out of the bag again, 
which the Major said I was on no account to do." 

" Is Cousin Conrad with my grandfather ?" said I, with 
a sudden doubt that this might concern him — his going 
back to India, or something. 

" Oh, no. He and Sir Thomas went away together — 
Sir Thomas Appleton, you know — who has been sitting 
with the General these two hours." 

" Has he ?" and I was just going to add, *^ How very 



MY MOTHER AND I. • 171 

tired my grandfather must be !" when I remembered the 
young man was a favorite with Mrs. Rix ; at least, she 
always contrived to have him near us, and to get me to 
dance with him. The latter I liked well enough — he 
was a beautiful dancer; the former I found rather a 
* bore. But then he was an excellent person, Cousin Con- 
rad said, and they two were very good friends ; which 
had inclined me to be kind, kinder than I might other- 
wise have been, to Sir Thomas Appleton. 

Forgetting all about him, I ran down stairs, gayly too. 
For second thoughts told me there was nothing to be 
afraid of. If any thing were going to happen — ^if Cous- 
in Conrad had been returning to India, he would have 
told me ; certainly as soon as he told Mrs. Rix. He had 
got into a habit of talking to me, and telling me things, 
very much as a kind elder brother would tell a young 
sister, whom he wished to make happy with his trust as 
well as his tenderness. And it did make me happy, 
more and more so every day. My soul seemed to grow, 
like a flower in sunshine, and to stretch itself out so as 
to be able to understand what seemed to me, the more I 
knew of it, the most perfect character of a man that I 
had ever heard or read of. And yet he liked me — ^poor 
ignorant me ! and I was certain, if he were going out to 
India, or any where else, he would have told me as soon 
as he told her. So I threw aside all uneasiness, and 
knocked at my grandfather's door with a heart as light 
as a child's. 



I72 MY MOTHEB AND L 

For the last time ! It never was a child's heart any 

more. 

" Come in, my dear 1 Pardon my dressing-gown. If 
I did not receive yon thus early, I might not have 
canght yon at all. You have, I hear, such endless en- 
gagements, and are growing the cynosure of every eye 
in Bath." 

"I, sir?" said I, puzzled over the word "cynosure," 
being, alas ! not classically educated, like my grandfa- 
ther and Cousin Conrad. Still it apparently meant 
something nice, and my grandfather smiled as if at 
some pleasant idea ; so I smiled too. 

" Yes, they tell me you are universally admired," pat- 
ting my hand affectionately with his soft, old fingers. 
" Quite natural, too. One of your friends " — ^he looked 
at me keenly — ^''one of your most ardent friends, has 
been praising you to me for these two hours." 

" Sir Thomas Appleton, was it ? But he is Mrs. Eix's 
friend, rather than mine. She is exceedingly fond of 

him." 

I said this, I know I did, with the most perfect sim- 
plicity and gravity. My grandfather again looked at 
me, with a sort of perplexed inquiry, then smiled with 
his grand air. 

" Quite right. The proper things entirely, in so very 
vonng a lady. My dear Elma, your conduct is all I 
could desire. How old are you ?" 



HY MOTHER AND L 173 

" Seventeen and a half." 

"My mother, your grandmother — ^no, she would be 
your great-grandmother — was, I remember, married at 
seventeen." 

" Was she ? That was rather young — ^too young, my 
mother would think. She did not marry till she was 
thirty." 

I said that rather confusedly. I always did feel a lit- 
tle confused when people began to talk of these sort of 
things. 

My grandfather drew himself up with dignity. 

" Mrs. Picardy's opinion and practice are, of course, 
of the highest importance. Still, you must allow me to 
differ from her. In our family, early marriages have 
always been the rule, and very properly. A young wife 
is more likely to bend to her husband's ways, and this — 
especially in cases where the up-bringing has been, hem ! 
a little different — is very desirable. In short, when in 
such a case a suitable match offers, I think, be the young 
lady ever so young, her friends have no right to refuse 
it." 

What young lady? Did he mean me? Was any 
body wanting to marry me ? I began to tremble vio- 
lently — why, I hardly knew. 

"Sit down, my dear. Do not be agitated, though a 
little agitation is of course natural under the circumstan- 
ces. But did I not say that I am quite satisfied with 



174 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

you t and — ^let me assure you — with the gentleman like- 

Wise. 
It was that, then. Somebody was wanting to marry 

me. 

Now, I confess I had of late thought a great deal about 
love, but of marriage almost nothing. Of course mar- 

4 

riage follows love, as daylight dawn ; but this wonder- 
ful, glorious dawn, coloring all the sleeping world — this 
was the principal thing. When one sits on a hill-top, 
watching the sun rise, one does not much trouble one's 
self about what will happen at noonday. To love, with all 
one's soul and strength, to spend and be spent for the 
beloved object ; perhaps, if one deserved it, to be loved 
back again, in an ecstasy of bliss — these were thoughts 
and dreams not unfamiliar and exquisitely sweet But 
the common idea of marriage, as I heard it discussed by 
girls about me : the gentleman paying attention, propos- 
ing, then a grand wedding, with dresses and bridesmaids 
and breakfast, ending by an elegant house and every 
thing in good style ; this I regarded, if not with indif- 
ference, with a sort of sublime contempt. That I should 
ever marry in that wayl I felt myself grow hot all 
over at the idea. 
" Yes, my dear, I assure you Sir Thomas Appleton — " 
Now the truth broke upon me ! His persistent fol- 
lowing of us, Mrs. Rix's encouragement of him, her in- 
cessant praising of him to me ; and I had been civil and 



MY MOTHER AND I. 175 

kind to him, bore as he was, for her sake and Cousin 
Conrad's ! Oh me, poor me ! 

" Sir Thomas Appleton, Elma, has asked my permis- 
sion to pay his addresses to you. He is a young man of 
independent . fortune, good family, and unblemished 
character. He may not be — well, I have known clever- 
er men, but he is quite the gentleman. You will soon 
reciprocate his affection, I am sure. Come, my dear, al- 
low me to congratulate you." And he dropped on my 
forehead a light kiss, the first he had ever given me. 
'^ Pray be calm. I had wished Mrs. Eix to communi- 
cate this fact, but Conrad thought I had better tell you 
myself." 

The "fact," startling as it was, affected me less than 
this other fact — that Cousin Conrad knew it. 

My heart stood still a moment; then began to beat 
so violently that I could neither hear nor see. Instinct- 
ively I shrank back out of my grandfather's sight ; but 
he did not look at me. With his usual delicacy he be- 
gan turning over papers, till I should recover myself. 

For I must recover myself, I knew that, though from 
what I hardly did know ; except that it was not the 
feeling he attributed to me. Still, I must control it. 
Cousin Conrad knew all, and would be told all. 

When my grandfather turned round, I think he saw 
the quietest possible face, for he patted my hand approv- 
ingly. 



176 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

" That is right. Look happy — ^you ought to be hajppy. 
Let me again say I am quite satisfied. Sir Thomas has 
behaved throughout exceedingly like a gentleman. Es- 
pecially in applying to me first, which he did, he says, 
by Conrad's advice, you being so very young. But 
not too young, I trust, to appreciate the compliment paid 
you, and the great advantage of such a connection. I, 
for my part, could not have desired for my grand- 
daughter a better marriage ; and, let me say it, in choos- 
ing you. Sir Thomas will do equal honor to my family 
and his own." 

It never seemed to enter my grandfather's head that 
I should not marry Sir Thomas Appleton ! 

What was I to do, a poor, lonely girl ? What was I 
to say when my answer was demanded? "No," it 
would be, of course ; but if I were hard pressed as to 
why I said no — 

Easy enough to tell some point-blank lie, any lie that 
came to hand; but the truth, which I had always been 
accustomed to teD, without hesitation or consideration, 
that I could not tell. It burst upon me, while I sat 
there, blinding and beautiful as sunrise. 

Why could I not marry Sir Thomas Appleton or any 
other man ? Because, if so, I should have to give up 
thinking — as I had lately come to think, in all I did or 
felt or planned — of a friend I had : who was more 
to me than any lover in the whole world. A man, the 



MY MOTHER AND I. 177 

best man I ever knew, who, if twenty lovers were to 
come and ask me, I should still feel in my heart was su- 
perior to them all. 

But — could I tell this to my grandfather, or any hu- 
man being ? And if not, why not ? What was it, this 
curious absorption which had taken such entire posses- 
sion of me ? Was it friendship? or — that other feeling 
which my mother and I had sometimes spoken about, 
as a thing to come one day ? Had it come ? And, if 
so, what then ? 

A kind of terror came over me. I grew cold as a 
stone. For my life I could not have spoken a word. 

There seemed no necessity to speak. Apparently my 
grandfather took every thing for granted. He went on 
informing me in a gentle, courteous, business-like way 
that Sir Thomas and his sister, "a charming person, 
and delighted to welcome you into the family, my dear," 
would dine here to-morrow. "Not to-day; Conrad sug- 
gested that you would probably like to be alone with 
your mother to-day." 

That word changed me from stone into flesh -again — 
flesh that could feel, and feel with an infinite capacity 
of pain 1 I cried out with a great cry, " Oh, let me go 
home to my mother." 

" I have already sent for her. She ought to be here 
in an hour," said my grandfather, rather stiffly, and 
again turned to his papers that I might compose myself. 

H2 



178 MY MOTHEB AlO) I. 

And I tried, oh, how desperately I tried, to choke down 
my BobB. 

If I could only run away ! hide myself any where, 
anyhow, out of every body's sight ! answering no ques- 
tions and giving no explanations I That was my first 
thought. My second was less frantic, less cowardly. 
Whatever happened, I must not go away and leave my 
grandfather believing in a Ue. 

Twice, thrice, I opened my lips to speak — just one 
word — a brief, helpless, almost imploring "No," to be 
given by him at once to the joung man who was so mis- 
taken as to care for me ; but it would not come. There 
I sat like a fool — no, like a poor creature suddenly 
stunned, who knew not what she said or did — did not 
recognize herself at all except for a dim consciousness 
that her only safety lay in total silence. 

Suddenly there came a knock at the hall-door close 

by. 

" That's Conrad," said my grandfather, evidently re- 
lieved. Young ladies and their love affairs were too 
much for him after the first ten minutes. " Conrad said 
he would be back directly. Ah, must you go, my 
dear?" For I had started up like a hunted hare. At 
all costs I must escape now, at once too, before Cousin 
Conrad saw me. " Go, then, pray go. God bless you, 
my dear." 

I just endured that benediction ; a politeness rather 



MY MOTHER AND I. 179 

than a prayer ; and felt my grandfather touch my hand. 
Then I fled — fled like any poor dumb beast with the 
hounds after it, and locked myself up in my own room. 

I am an old woman now. I very seldom cry for any 
thing ; there is nothing now worth crying for. Still, 
I have caught myself dropping a harmless tear or two 
on this paper at the thought of that poor girl, Elma Pi- 
cardy, in her first moments of anguish, terror, and de- 
spair. 

It was at first actual despair. Not that of hopeless 
love ; because if it were love, of course it was hopeless. 
The idea of being loved and married in the ordinary 
way by the only person whom it would be possible for 
me to love and marry never entered into my contempla- 
tions. The despair was because my mother would be 
here in an hour, either told, or expecting to bd told ev- 
ery thing. And if I did not tell her, she, who knew 
me so well, would be sure to find it out. What should 
I do ? For the first time in my life I dreaded to look 
in the face of my own mother. 

She must be close at hand now. I took out my watch ; 
ah, that watch ! Cousin Conrad had given it me only 
a week ago, saying he did not want it, it was a lady's 
watch — ^his mother's, I think— and it would be useful to 
me. I might keep it till he asked for it. I did. It 
goes tick-tick-tick, singing its innocent daily song, just 
over my heart, to this day. A rather old watch now; 



180 MY MOTHER AND I. 

but it will last my time. Laying my forehead on its 
calm, white face — not my lips, though I longed to kiss 
it, but was afraid — I sobbed my heart out for a little 
while. 

Then I rose up, washed my face and smoothed my 
hair, trying to make myself look, externally at least, like 
the same girl my mother sent away from her, only about 
six weeks since. Oh, what a gulf lay between that 
time and this ! Oh, why did she ever send me away ? 
Why did I ever come here ? And yet — ^and yet — 

No, I said to myself then, and I say now, that if all 
were to happen over again, I would not have had it dif- 
ferent. 

So I sat with my hands folded, looking up the same 
sunny hillside that I had looked at this morning, but 
the Ught seemed to have slipped away from it, and was 
fading, fading fast. Alas I the view had not changed 
— it was only I. 

A full hour — more than an hour — I must have sat 
there, trying to shut out all thought, and concentrate my- 
self into the one effort of listening for carriage-wheels, 
which I thought I should hear even at the back of the 
house. Still they did not come. I had just begun to 
wonder why, when I heard myself called from the foot 
of the stairs. 

" Is Miss Picardy there ? I want Miss Picardy." 

The familiar voice, kind and clear ! It went through 



MT MOTHEB AND I; 181 

me like a sword. Then I sprang np and hugged my 
pain. It was only pain ; there was nothing wrong in it; 
there could not be. Was it a sin, meeting with what 
was perfectly noble, good, and true ? to see it, appreciate 
it, love it ? Yes, I loved him. I was sure of that now. 
But it was as innocently, as ignorantly, as completely 
without reference to his loving me, as if he had been 
an angel from heaven. 

Now, when I know what men are, even the best of 
them — not so very angelic after all — I smile to think 
how any girl could ever thus think of any man; yet 
when I remember my angel — not perhaps all I imagined 
him, but very perfect still — I do not despise myself. 
He came to me truly as an angel,- a messenger, God's 
messenger of all things pure and high. As such I loved 
him — and love him still. 

" Miss Picardy ! Can any one tell me where to find 
Miss Picardy ?" 

For the second time I heard him call, and this time 
it felt like music through the house. I opened my door, 
and answered over the balustrade — 

"I am here. Cousin Conrad. Has my mother come 1" 

"No." 

My first feeling, let me tell the truth, was a horrible 
sense of relief. Ah me I that I ever should have been 
glad not to see my mother ! Then I grew frightened. 
What could have kept her from coming ? No small rea- 



182 MY MOTHER AND I. 

son, surely ; if she knew how mtich I needed her, and 
why she was sent for. But p3rhaps no one had told 
her. 

Cousin Conrad seemed to guess at my perplexity and 
alarm. When I ran down stairs to him, the kind face 
met me, and the extended hands, just as usual. 

" I thought I would give you the news myself, lest 
you might be uneasy. But there is no cause, I think. 
Tour grandfather only sent a verbal message, and has 
received the same back, that Mrs. Picardy is "not able" 
to come to-day, but will write to-morrow. However, if 
you Uke, I will ride over at once." 

"Oh, no." 

" To-morrow, then ; but I forget. I have to go to 
London to-morrow for a week. Would you really wish 
to hear ? I can ride over to-night in the moonlight." 

" Tou are very kind. No." 

My tongue "clave to the roof of my mouth" — my 
poor, idle, innocent, chattering tongue. My eyes never 
stirred from the ground. Mercifully, I did not blush. 
I felt all cold and white. And there I stood, like a fool. 
No, I was not a fool. A fool would never have felt my 
pain ; but would have been quite happy, and 'gone and 
married Sir Thomas Appleton. 

Did he think I was going to do that ? I was sure he 
was looking at me with keen observation, but he made 
no remark until he said at last, with a very gentle voice — 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 183 

" You need not be unhappy, cousin ; I think you are 
sure to see your mother to-morrow." 

"Yes." 

" Good-by, then, till dinner-time, the last time I shall 
see you for some days." 

"Good-by." 

Possibly he thought I did not care about his going, or 
my mother's coming, or any thing else — except, perhaps, 
Sir Thomas Appleton. 

Without another word he turned away, and went 
slowly down stairs. It was a slow step, always firm and 
steady, but without the elasticity of youth. I listened to 
it, tread after tread, and to the sound of the hall-door 
shutting after it. Then I went back into my room again, 
and oh, how I cried 1 



184 KT MOTHER AND I. 



CHAPTER X. 

We had a strangely quiet dinner that evening. There 
were only we four — my grandfather, Cousin Conrad, 
Mrs. Eix, and I ; and, as usual when we wfere alone, my 
grandfather, with courteous formality, took Mrs. Eix in 
to dinner, and Cousin Conrad took me. I remember, as 
we crossed the hall, he glanced down on my left hand, 
which lay on his arm ; but he did not pat it, as he some- 
times did, and he treated me, I thought, less like a child 
than he had ever done before. 

For me — what shall I say? what can I tell of my- 
self ? It is all so long ago, and even at the time I saw 
every thing through such a mist — half fright, half pain — 
with a strange gleam of proud happiness shining through 
the whole. 

I believed then, I believe still, that to be loved is a 
less thing than to love — to see that which is loveworthy, 
and love it. This kind of attachment being irrespect- 
ive of self, fears no change, and finds none. If it suf- 
fers, its sufferings come to it in a higher and more bear- 
able shape than to smaller and more selfish affections. 
As Miranda says of Ferdinand — 



MT MOTHEB AND L 185 

" To be your fellow 
Toa may deny me, but 111 be your servant, 
Whether you will or no." 

Aye, and not an unhappy service, though silent, as with 
a human woman — not a Miranda — it needs must be. I 
was happy, happier than I could tell, when I had man- 
aged that his seat at dinner should be nearest the fire — 
he loved fires, summer and winter; and that, in the 
drawing-room, the chair he found easiest for his hurt 
shoulder to lean against should be in the comer he liked 
best, where the lamplight did not strike against his eyes. 
The idea of his wooing or marrying me, or marrying 
any body, after what he had told me, would have seemed 
a kind of sacrilege. But it did him no harm to be loved 
in this* innocent way, and it did me good — oh, such infi- 
nite good I That quiet dinner-hour beside him, listening 
to his talk with my grandfather, which he kept up, I no- 
ticed, with generous pertinacity, so that nobody might 
trouble me; the comfort of being simply in the room 
with him, able to watch his face and hear the tones of 
his voice — ^how little can I tell of all this, how much can 
I remember 1 And I say again, even for a woman, to 
love is a better thing than to be loved. 

Therefore, girls need not blush or fear, even if, by 
some hard fortune, they find themselves in as sad a po- 
sition as I. 

When Mrs. Kix fell asleep, as she always did when we 



186 MY MOTHER AND I. 

were alone together after dinner, I sat down on the 
hearth-rug, with her little pet Bpaniel curled up in my 
lap, and thought, and thought, till I was nearly bewil- 
dered. 

Neither she nor any one-had named Sir Thomas Ap- 
pleton. Nobody had taken the slightest notice of what 
had happened since morning, or what wa^ going to hap- 
pen to-morrow, except that in Mrs. Eix's manner to me 
there was a slight shade of added deference, and, in my 
grandfather's, of tenderness, as if something had made 
me of more consequence since yesterday. For Cousin 
Conrad, he was just the same. Of course, to him, noth- 
ing that had occurred made any difEerence. 

Sometimes the whole thing seemed like a dream, and 
then I woke up to the consciousness of how true it all 
was, and of the necessity for saying and doing something 
that might end it. For if not, how dM I know that I 
might not be dragged unwittingly into some engage- 
ment, some understood agreement that might bind me 
for life, when I only wanted to be free — free to think, 
without sin, of one friend — the only man in the world 
in whom I felt the smallest interest — ^free to care for 
him, to help him if he ever needed it — ^to honor and love 
him always. 

This was all. If I could only get rid of that foolish 
Sir Thomas, perhaps nobody else woilld'ever want to 
marry me, and then I could go back into the old ways, 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 187 

externally at/least, and nobody would ever guess my se- 
cret, not evm my mother. For I had lately felt that 
there was sofenething in me which even she did not un- 
derstand, a reticence and strength of will which belonged 
not to the Dedmans, but thflpPicardys. Often, when I 
looked into his eyes, I was conscious of being, in charac- 
ter, not so very unlike my grandfather. 
. Therefore, nobody could force me or persuade me 
into any marriage — I was sure of that ; and sitting in 
front of the fire — we had fires still, for Cousin Conrad's 
sake— idly twisting little Flossy's ears, I tried to nerve 
myself for every thing. 

Alas ! not against every thing ; for when the two gen- 
tlemen came in, and behind them a third, it was more 
than I could bear. To my despair, I began blushing 
and trembling so much that people might fancy I act- 
ually loved him. 

But, oh ! how I hated him — his handsome face, his 
nervous, hesitating manner I 

" I have to apologize. The General brought me in, 
just for five minutes, to say how sorry I was not to be 
able to pay my respects to Mrs. Picardy. To-morrow, 
perhaps to-morrow — ^" 

" We shall all be most happy to see you to-morrow," 
said my grandfather, with grave dignity, and, turning to 
Mrs. Eix, left Si? Thomas to seat himself on a chair by 
my side. 



188 MY MOTHER AND I, 

I suppose I ought to have been grateful. Every girl 
ought to feel at least gratefully to the man that loves 
her. But I did not; I disliked, I almost loathed him. 

Pardon, excellent, kindly, and very fat baronet, whom 
I meet every year, when you come up to London with a 
still handsome Lady Appleton and three charming Miss 
Appletons, who are all most polite to me — pardon! 
Every thing is better as it is ; both for you and for me. 

It was a wretched wooing. Sir Thomas talked nerv- 
ously to my grandfather, to Cousin Conrad, to every 
body but me, who sat like a stone, longing to run away, 
yet afraid to do it. For now and then the General cast 
on me a look of slight annoyance — if so courteous a 
gentleman could ever look annoyed ; and Mrs. Rix came 
and whispered to me not to be "frightened." Fright- 
ened, indeed ! At what ? At a creature who was more 
than indifferent — absolutely detestable — to me, from 
the topmost curl of his black hair to the sole of his 
shining boots. He must have seen this; I wanted him 
to see it. Tet still he stayed on, and on, as if he would 
never go. 

When at last he did, and I faced the three with whom 
I had lived so happily all these weeks — ^the three who 
knew every thing, and knew that I knew they knew it 
— ^it was a dreadful moment. 

" I think we had better retire," said my grandfather, 
rather sternly. " Conrad, I want you for a few minutes. 



MY MOTHER AKD t 189 

And Mrs. Eix, you who are accuBtomed to the ways of 
society, will perhaps take the trouble to explain to my 
granddaughter that — that — ^" 

" I understand, General. Kely upon me," said Mrs. 
Eix, mysteriously. 

And then, with the briefest good -night to me, my 
grandfather left the room. 

Mrs. Eix, having her tongue now unsealed, made the 
most of her opportunity. How she did talk I What 
about, I very dimly remember, except that it was on the 
great advantage of being married young, and to a per- 
son of wealth and standing. Then she held out to me 
all the blessings that would come to me on my marriage 
— country house, town house, carriages, horses, dresses, 
diamonds — ^the Appleton diamonds were known all over 
the county. In short, she painted my future cotdetir 
de ToaCy only it seemed mere landscape-painting, figures 
omitted, especially one figure which I had heretofore con- 
sidered most important of all — ^the husband. 

What did I answer ? Nothing — I had nothing to say. 
To speak to the poor woman would have been like two 
people talking in difiEerent languages. Besides, I despised 
too much all her arguments, herself also — aye, in my 
arrogant youth I actually despised her — poor, good-nat- 
ured Mrs. Kix, who only desired my happiness. If her 
notion of happiness were not mine, why blame her ? As 
I afterward learned, she had had a hard enough life of 



190 MY MOTHER AND I. 

her own, to make her feel nowfthat to.-,86Ciire meat, 
drink, and clothing of the belst description for the whole 
of one's days, was, after all, not a bad thing. 
. But I? ' Oh ! I could have. lived on bread and witter : 
I could have served on my knees; I could; have given 
up every* luxury, have suffered [every .sorrow— ^pirovided 
it were myself alone that sufFeped-rrif only I might never 
have parted from some one— wi^ Sir Thomas Appletpn. 

Mrs. Rix talked till she .was. tired, and then,:qtiite sat- 
isfied,! suppose, that silence meant acquiescence, and no 
doubt a- little proud of her. own powers of rhetoric^ she 
bade me a kind good-night, and went up staira. , ' 

I crouched once more on the hearth-rug, without even 
the little dog, feeling the loneliest creature alive. Not 
crying — I was past that — ^but trying to harden .ixiysj^if 
into beginning to : endure. " Vincit qui patitur,^l my 
mother's favorite motto, to me .had. as yet no meaning. 
I had had such a happy life, with almost nothing to en- 
dure. Now I must begin — I must take up my burdiBn 
and bear it, whatever it might be. And I must bear 
it alone. No more — ah! never any more — could I run 
.to my mother, and lay my grief in her arms, and feel 
that her kiss took away almost every sting of pain. At 
least, so I thought then. 

I tried to shut my eyes on the far future, and think 
only of to-morrow. Then I must inevitably speak Xo my 
grandfather, and ask him to give Sir Thomas a distinct 



r on Iht hearth-rug." 



MY MOTHEB AJOT) I. 193 

No. If further information were required, I must say 
simply that I did not love him, and therefore could not 
marry him ; and keep to that. . Nobody could force out 
of me any thing more ; and all reasonings and persua- 
sions I must meet with that stony silence, easy enough to- 
ward ordinary persons, whom I cared as little for as for 
Mrs. Eix. But with my mother ? — I felt a frantic de- 
sire, now, that every thing should be over and done be- 
fore my mother came. Then she and I would return to 
the village together, and go back to our old life — ^with 
a difference — oh, what a difference ! 

It was not wholly pain. I deny that. Miserable and 
perplexed as I was, I felt at intervals content, glad — nay, 
proud. I had found out the great secret of life ; I was 
a child no more, but a woman, with a woman's heart. 
When I thought of it, I hid my face, a burning face, 
though I was quite alone, yet I had no sense of shame. 
To be ashamed, indeed, because I had seen the best, the 
highest, and loved it I Mrs. Eix had said, a{propo8 of 
my " shyness," that of course no girl ought to care for 
any man until he asked her. But I thought the angels, 
looking down into my poor heart, might look with oth- 
er eyes than did Mrs. Bix. 

So I was not ashamed. Not even when the door sud- 
denly opened, and Cousin Conrad himself came in. I 
sprang up, and made believe I had been warming my- 
self at the fire — ^that was all. 

I 



194 MY MOTHER AND L 

^ I b^ your pardon, Elma, but your grandfather sent 
me here to see if yon had gone to bed." 

^' I was just going. Does he want me V^ 

"No." 

Conrad was so quiet that I perforce grew qniet 
too, even when he came and sat down by me on the 

60&. 

"Have yon a few minutes to spare? Because the 
General asked me to speak to you. about a matter which 
you must surely guess. Shall I say my few words now, 
or put them off till morning ?" 

" Say them now." 

For I felt that whatever was to happen had best 
happen at once, and then be over and done. 

Our conversation did not last very long, but I remem- 
ber it, almost word for word, even to this day. Through- 
out, he was his own natural self — calm, gentle, kind. 
I could see he had never the slightest idea he was 
wounding me, stabbing me deep down to the heart with 
such a tender hand. 

" I suppose you know," he said, " what I am desired 
to speak to you about ?" 

« I think I do." 

"And I hope you know also that I should not take 
the liberty — brotherly liberty though it be, for I feel to 
you like an elder brother — ^if the General had not ex- 
pressly desired it, and if I were not afraid of any excite- 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 195 

ment bringing on a return of his illness. Yon would be 
very sorry for that." 

" Yes." Yes and No were all the words I found my- 
self capable of answering. 

"Your grandfather is, as yon perceive, very proud of 
you — ^fond of you, too. In his sort of way, he has set 
his heart upon your making what he calls a good mar- 
riage. Now, Sir Thomas Appleton — ^" 
. I turned and looked him full in the face. I wished 
to find out how far he spoke from his heart, and how far 
in accordance with his duty and my grandfather's desire. 

" Sir Thomas Appleton is not a brilliantly clever man, 
nor, in all things, exactly the man I should have ex- 
pected would please you ; but he would please almost 
any girl, and he is thoroughly good, upright, and gentle- 
manly. In worldly advantages this is, as your grand- 
father ,and Mrs. Rix say" (he slightly smiled), "a very 
* good ' ndarriage indeed. Nor, I think, would your moth- 
er disapprove oi it, nor need you do so, for her sake. 
You will be married sometime, I suppose ; she knows 
that. This marriage would secure to her a home for 
life, in the house of a son-in-law who I doubt not would 
be as good a son to her as he always was to his own 
mother. Elma, are you listening ?" 

Of course I was 1 I heard every word — took in with 
a cruel certainty that if I said " Yes," it would make 
every body happy, most likely Cousin Conrad too. 



196 MY MOTHEB AND I. 

"You wish me, then — you all wish me — to marry 
Sir Thomas Appleton, whether I care for him or not ?" 

He noticed the excessive bitterness of my tone. "No, 
you mistake. In fact, I mast be in some mistake too. 
I thought, from what they said, that there was not the 
slightest doubt yon cared for him. At least that his 
love was not unacceptable to yon." 

" Love !" I said fiercely. " He has danced vrith me 
half-a-dozen times at a ball, and talked with me at two 
or three evening parties. How can he love me ? What 
does he know of me ? As much as I of him — which is 
nothing, absolutely nothing. How dare he say he loves 
me r 

I stood with my heart throbbing and my eyes burn- 
ing. I wished to do something — ^to hurt something or 
somebody, I was so hurt and sore myself. And then I 
fell a-crying ; not violently, but the great tears would 
roll down. I was terribly ashamed of myself. When I 
looked up again, I am sure there must have been some- 
thing in my eyes — ^he once told me I had deer^s eyes — 
not unlike a deer when the hunter stands over her with 
his knife at her throat. 

" Cousin Conrad, why do you persuade me to marry 
your friend, when I don't love him, when I don't want 
to marry him or any body, but only to go home to my 
mother? Oh, why can't you leave us at peace togeth- 
^1 We were so happy, my mother and I ?" 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 197 

I broke into one single sob. At the moment my only 
thought was to hide myself from him and all the world 
in my mother's aims. 

Cousin Conrad looked much troubled. "There has 
been some great blunder," he said, "and the General 
must have been utterly misled. I am glad he sent me to 
speak to you instead of speaking himself ; for when he 
finds out the truth, he will be, I fear, exceedingly — dis- 
appointed. And for poor Sir Thomas, was it such a very 
imnatural and wicked thing to love you?" And he 
went on speaking with great kindliness, touching kind- 
liness, of the many good qualities of the man who want- 
ed to marry me — ^me, simple Elma Picardy, without for- 
tune or. accomplishments, or any thing to recommend 
me, except perhaps my poor pretty face. A generous 
love, at any rate, and I could perceive he thought it so. 

It was very hard to bear. Even now, at this distance 
of time, I repeat that it was very hard to bear. For a 
moment, in an impulse of sharp pain, I felt inclined to 
do as many a girl has done under like circumstances — 
to throw myself, just as I was, into the refuge of a good 
man's love, where I should suffer no more, be blamed no 
more ; where all my secret would be covered over, and 
nobody would ever know. And then I looked at the 
noble, good face that from my first glance at it had 
seemed distinct from every face I ever beheld, except 
my mother's. 



198 HT MOTHER AHD I. 

'Soy I could not do it Not while he stood there, alone 
in the world, with no tie that made it wrong for me to 
think of him as I did. I mtut think of him. I mtut 
love him. Thongh it killed me, I must love him, and 
never dream of mariTing any body else. 

So I said, quite quietly, that I should be very much 
obliged to him if he would take the trouble of telling 
my grandfather the real state of the case, as I feared 
this morning I did not make him understand. In truth 
I was so terribly frightened. 

" Poor child ! But you are not afraid of me ? You 
know I would never urge you to do any thing that made 
you unhappy ? My dear Ehna, of course you shall go 
back to your mother. Believe me, very few of us are 
worth giving up a mother for." 

He patted my hand. Oh, why could I not snatch it 
away ? What a horrible hypocrite I did feel ! 

^^ And now let us see what can be done, for it is rather 
difficult. I have to go away early to-morrow morning, 
and shall probably be absent the whole week. In the 
mean time it will never do for you and your grandfather 
to talk this over together ; he will get irritated with you." 

" Oh let me go home to my mother !" 

"She expressly said you were on no account to go, 
but to wait till she came or sent for you." 

This was odd, but I did not take it much into account 
then. I was too perplexed and miserable. 



MY MOTHER AND I. 199 

" The only way that I can see is to tell your grandfa- 
ther that some difficulties have arisen, and that I have 
gone to Sir Thomas to beg him not to urge his suit un- 
til Mrs. Picardy arrives. The General will accept that 
explanation, and think no more about it till the week is 
ended. You know, Elma, your grandfather has one very 
strong peculiarity : he does not like being ' bothered.' " 

And Cousin Conrad smiled, just to win back my faint 
smile, I thought, and make me feel that life was not 
the dreadful tragedy which no doubt my looks implied 
that I found it. 

"This is your firet pain, my child, but it wiU soon 
pass over. I wish I could say the same for poor Apple- 
ton." 

I hung my head. " Have I been to blame ? Have I 
said or done any thing amiss t No, I am sure I have 
not. When one does not feel love, one can not show it." 

" Some girls can, but not you. No, it is simply a 
misfortune, and not your fault at all. I will go and tell 
him the truth. He will get over it." 

" I hope so." And I felt as if a load were taken off 
my heart, all the oppressive love (which I did not very 
much believe in), all the horses and carriages, houses, 
servants, and diamonds. I was again Elma Picardy, 
with her own free heart in her bosom, her heart which 
nobody wanted — at least nobody that could have it — 
and her life before her, straight and clear. Sad it might 



200 VY MOTHER AJSD I. 

be, a little dreary perhaps Bometimes, but it was qnite 
clear. 

So we sat together, Cousin Conrad and I, having ar- 
ranged this unpleasant business — sat in our old way 
over the fire, talking a little before we bade good-night. 

" Isn't it strange," said he, " that I should always be 
mixed up with other people's love affairs — I who have 
long given up every thing of the kind for myself? One 
would think I was a woman, and not a man, by the way 
people confide in me sometimes." 

I thought it was because of the curious mixture of 
the woman in him, as H^ere is in all good men, the ver, 
manliest of them ; but I only said it was ^' because he 
was so kind." 

"It would be hard not to be kind, seeing how sad the 
world is, and how much every body has to suffer. You, 
too, Elma — I don't expect you will find life a bed of 
roses. But I hope it wiU be a reasonably happy life, 
and not a lonely one like, mine." 

He paused a little, looking steadily ^to the fire, and 
folding his hands one upon the other, after his habit. 

" Not that I complain — all that is, is best. And no 
doubt I could change my life if I chose, since, without 
vanity, women are so good that I could probably get 
some kind soul to take me if I wished it. But I do not 
wish it. My health is so uncertain that I have no right 
to ask any young woman to marry me, and I am afraid 



i 



MY MOTHER AND I. 201 

I should not like an old one. So I'll go on as I do, and 
perhaps finally die in the anns of a Sister of Charity." 

He was not looking at me, or thinking of me ; proba- 
bly he was thinking of her who died in his arms, and 
whom he would meet again one day. Suddenly he 
turned round and seized both my hands, with his whole 
aspect changed, the grave, composed, middle-aged face 
looking almost young, the sallow cheeks glowing, the lips 
quivering. 

" I hope you will have a happy life.* I hope you will 
find some good man whom you love, who will love you 
and take care of you — ^ wear you in his bosom,' as the 
song says, * lest his jewel he should tine.' For under- 
neath that beauty which you despise so, Elma, is a rich 
jewel — ^your heart ; and I am sure your mother knows ' 
it. If you see her before I return, tell her I said so. 
And good-night, my dear child." 

He wrung my hands and quitted the room. 

Miserable girl that I was! — until he named her, I 
had wholly f orgo|ten my mother 1 

12 



UT HOTBBB ASD J. 



CHAPTER XL 



I HAD wifihed, in 
telling my Btoiy, to 
speak as little as pos- 
sible of myself and 
my feelings, but it is 
difflcnlt to avoid it, 
60 vividly do I recall 
^ emotioDS of that 
time. 

If I were asked at 

what period of a 

woman's life she is 

capable of the intens- 

est love, the sharpest 

grief, I shotdd say it 

waeinherteeuBjwheii 

she is snpposed too yoang to anderstand eitbsr, and late 

ia life, when people think she ought to have done with 

both. Chiefly because, when yonng, we can scarcely take 

in the fnture ; when old, we know that for ns the fatnre 

exists no more. Therefore I am mnch more sorry for 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 203 

girls and middle-aged women, when " in love," as the 
phrase is, than I am for those in the prime of life, to 
whom that very fact brings strength and compensa- 
tion. 

> 

Falling asleep that night, or rather next morning, for 
it was daylight before I lost consciousness of myself and 
what had happened to me within those thirty-six hours — 
I was a changed creature. 'Not a miserable creature at 
all, not in the least broken-hearted, only changed. 

I knew now that for me woman's natural lot, to which 
my mother looked innocently forward, was not to be. I 
should never marry, never give her the grandchildren 
that she used to laugh about, or the son-in-law that was 
to be the staff ot-her old age. For me, and for her 
through me, these felicities were quite at an end. Yet I 
did not grieve. I felt rather a kind of solenm content- 
ment, a peaceful acceptance of every thing; my lot, if 
not happy in the ordinary sense, would be very blessed, 
for I should never lose him — ^he would never marry ; no- 
body was likely ever to be a nearer friend to him than I. 
And I might, in my own humble way, come very near 
to him. The chances of life were so many, that to a 
faithful heart, continually on the watch to do him good 
or to be of use to him, innumerable opportunities might 
arise. Nay, even if I were quite passive, never able to 
do any thing for him, I might still watch him from a 
distance, glory in his goodness, sympathize in his cares, 



204 MY MOTHER AUD I. 

and feel that I belonged to him in some far-off way that 
nobody knew of, to the end of my days. 

That sad word he had let fall about the end of his 
days being so uncertain did not affect me much. At 
my age, to one who has never come near it, death seems 
merely a phantom, often more beautiful than sad — ^a 
shadow that may fall upon others, but does not touch 
ourselves. To me, with my heart full of new-bom love, 
death seemed a thing unnatural and impossible. I never 
remember thinking of him and it together, no more than 
if he had been immortal, as to me he truly was. 

Thus, after our conversation that night, I was quite 
happy — ^happier than I had ever been in my life before. 
My feeling was, in a dim sort of way, almost that of a 
person betrothed — betrothed to some one who had gone 
to a far country, or whom she could not possibly marry ; 
yet having a sense of settled peace, such as girls never 
have whose hearts are empty and their destinies uncer- 
tain. Mine was, I believed, fixed forever; I had no 
need to trouble about it any more. 

And though I was so young, not yet eighteen, what 
did it matter ? My grandmother was married at eight- 
een. So in a sense was I. I took one of my mothei^ 
rings (the very few she possessed she had given me when 
I left her) and placed it on the third finger ; now nobody 
need attempt to marry me any more. 

Three days passed by — three perfectly quiet days. My 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 205 

grandfather was not well, and kept his rooms. Mrs^Eix 
never said a word to me about Sir Thomas Appleton, or 
any thing. She. was a little distant and cold, as if I had 
somehow done a foolish or naughty thing, and thereby 
made myself of much less value than I was a few days 
before; but that was all the difference I found in her. 
It was Cousin Conrad, I knew, who had smoothed mat- 
ters down for me, even when absent, though how he 
managed it I nevier knew. 

The letter I had expected from my mother did not 
come, nor she herself either. It surprises me now to re- 
member how calmly I took this, and how easily I satis- 
fied myself that, being quite unaware of the reason she 
had been sent for, she was waiting patiently tiU my 
grandfather should send for her again. Also, though 
I watched the post daily, with an anxiety that I tried 
hard to conceal, it was not entirely for my mother's let- 
ters. 

Cousin Conrad had said that he should probably send 
me a line from London. A letter from him — a bit of 
his own handwriting, and for me I No wonder I wait- 
ed for it, and rejoiced in it when it came, with a joy the 
reflected shadow of which lingers even now. 

The merest line it was : 

" Deab Cousin Elma, — Tell your mother I have pro- 
cured the books she wanted, and hope to bring them to 



206 MT MOTHER AND I. 

her next week, if she is not with yon, as I tmst she is. 
No more, for I am very busy, bnt always 

" Your affectionate friend, 

" CONKAD PiCAEDY." 

My " affectionate friend !" It was enough, enough to 
make my life happy until liie end. So I believed then ; 
perhaps I do stilL The heart of life is the love that is 
in it, and the worthiness of the person loved. 

I wrote to my mother, giving Cousin Conrad's mes- 
sage, and scolding her gayly for not having come or 
written. I said if she did not appear to-morrow, I should 
most certainly come and see her. Only come and see 
her; I did not suggest coming home for good. I rea- 
soned with myself it would be so very much better for 
her to come here. 

All my happy dreams revived, all my plans concern- 
ing her and him, and how they would care for one an- 
other, and I for them both. As to myself, I must try to 
make myself worth caring f or ; try to cultivate my mind, 
and even to make the most of my outside beauty, which 
he had told me I "despised." He did not; he liked 
beautiful people, and owned it Was not Agnes beauti- 
ful, and, as Mrs. Rix once said, just a little like me i 

Once or twice, by ingeniously guiding the conversa- 
tion, I had got Mrs. Eix to talk of Agnes ; for I loved 
^jH* almost as if she had been alive — loved them both to- 



MY MOTHEB AITO I. " 207 

gether, for, in a human sense, both were equally distant 
from me — distant, yet so near. The thought of him was 
now never absent from me for a single minute, not dis- 
placing other thoughts, but accompanying them like an 
under-current of singing birds or murmuring streams; 
or, rather, it was most like what I have heard nursing 
mothers say when they went to sleep with a baby in their 
arms : they were never afraid either of harming or for- 
getting it, because, waking or sleeping, they were always 
conscious it was there. So was L My last sigh of 
prayer at night was for him ; my first feeling in the 
morning was how bright and happy the world seemed, 
since he was in it! A world without him, a day in 
which I could not wake up to the thought of him, ap- 
peared now incredible and impossible. 

I know there are those who will smile, and call such 
a love, such a worship rather, equally incredible and im- 
possible. I do not argue the point. That it was a truth 
my life has proved. 

The third day after that day — so full of startling pain, 
yet ending in solemn content — I was sitting peacefully 
sewing in my bedroom, whither, on any excuse, I was 
glad to creep. To be alone was the greatest bliss I knew. 
My watch, ticking on the table beside me, was the only 
sound that broke the quietness. I looked tenderly at its 
pretty white face, and thought of Cousin Conrad's mother, 
and what a happy woman she must have been, and how 
I would have loved her had I known her. 



208 MT MOTHER AND I. 

Then, seeing it was near post-time, I listened, but not 
anxioasly. It was unlikely he would write again before 
he came back on the following Wednesday, three days 
hence. Then he would be sure to come. One of his 
characteristics was exceeding pimctuality and dependa- 
bleness. If he had promised to do a certain thing at a 
certain time, you might rely upon him that no whim, no 
fancy, no variable change of plan, nothing, in short, but 
inevitable necessity, would prevent his doing it. Down 
to the smallest trifles, he was the most conscientious per- 
son I ever knew. Once when I told him so he laughed, 
luid said, " Life was so fuU of work that if one did not 
take some trouble to make it all fit in together, like the 
wheels of a watch, the whole machinery soon went 
wrong." 

But I am wandering from my actual story — ^wander- 
ing away to linger over this picture of a perfect life. 
For his was an almost perfect life. Some women's des- 
tiny is to love down, excusingly, pityingly. Thank God I 
mine was to love up. 

I sat thinking of him, and wondering how he had set- 
tled that troublesome business in London which he had 
tM me of — other people's business, of course — sat as 
h^PPy as could be, as unconscious of the footstep of com- 
ing awrrow as (mercifully, I often think) we generally 
ai-^ \A»til it knocks at our very door. Thus, for the sec- 
ond time, under Mrs. Kix's fingers it knocked at mine. 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 209 

" Come down at once to the General ; he has got a 
letter." 

" From my mother ?" But though I said " my moth- 
er," I thought not of her alone, and if I turned sick with 
dread, my fear was not wholly on her account. 

" No, my poor dear girl, not exactly your mother. The 
doctor — ^" 

" Oh, she is ill ! she is ill I" And pushing Mrs. Eix 
aside, I ran down stairs like lightning and burst into my 
grandfather's room. He gave me the letter at once. 

My darling mother! Her week of silence, her not 
coming to Bath, as well as her anxiety to prevent my 
coming home, were now fully accounted for. Small-pox 
had been very much about in the village, and at last she 
had caught it — ^not dangerously, the doctor said hers was 
a mild case ; stiU she had been very ill, and it would be 
some time yet before she was able to write. He wrote, 
by her desire, to my grandfather, explaining all, and en- 
treating that I should be kept from coming to her. She 
had all the care she needed — himself, Mrs. Golding, and 
a hospital nurse — and nothing must be risked for her 
child. On no account was I to come near her. 

" Cruel ! cruel !" sobbed I, till I met my grandfather's 
look of amazement. " No, it is not cruel ; it is just like 
herself — ^just what she always told me she would do in 
such a case. She used to say that she should have lived 
alone but for me, and she could die alone, even without 



210 MY MOTHER AND I. 

one eight of me, rather than harm me. Oh, mother ! 
mother !" 

I think my grandfather was touched, and that if he 
bore any grudge against me in the matter of Sir Thomas 
he forgot it now. His tone and manner were extremely 
kind. 

" Comfort yourself, my dear ; you see all has gone well 
so &r ; Mrs. Picardy is apparently out of danger, and no 
doubt will soon be convalescent She was quite right to 
act as she did; I respect her for it, and shall tell the doc- 
tor so, desiring him to pay her all attention, and send 
news of her every day." 

" News every day !" For, in spite of all my mother^s 
prohibitions, I had no thought but how fast I could get 
ready, and, imploring for once to have the carriage, go 
home immediately. 

" Yes, every day, or every other day, as he says it is a 
mild case," continued my grandfather, looking a little 
wearied of my tears ; " and if Mrs. Eix could suggest 
any thing to send her — ^wine or jelly, perhaps — ^provided 
we run no risk of infection. Pardon me, but I have a 
great horror of small-pox. In my young days it was an 
actual scourge. Two young ladies I knew had their pros- 
pects blighted for life by it ; but your excellent mother 
is neither very young nor — " 

" She is beautiful — beautiful to me !" cried I, indig- 
nantly. " She is every thing that is sweet and precious 



HY MOTHER AKD I. 211 

to me. Oh, if she had only told me she was ill — ^if I 
conld have gone to her days ago 1" 

" You do not mean to say you are going now ?" 

Had I meant it ? I can not tell. I was silent. 

" Such a step," my grandfather continued, " would be 
most imprudent. She herself forbids it, and I respect 
her for doing so. Tou could not benefit her, and you 
might destroy your prospects for life." 

Destroy my prospects for life 1 Probably because he, 
too, considered that my face was my fortune, and the 
small-pox might spoil me and prevent my being married 
by some other Sir Thomas Appleton 1 That thought set- 
tled my mind at once. 

I said, with a quietness that surprised myself, consid- 
ering the storm of grief and rage within me, "I do not 
care for my prospects. Since it is for my sake only that 
my mother forbids my going to her, I mean to disobey 
her and go." 

Then, for the first time, I saw what my grandfather 
could be when he was contradicted. Peace be to him ! 
I had rather not remember any thing he said, nor recall 
the expression of his noble and handsome old face, as I 
saw it just then. He must, as I found out afterward, 
have built many hopes and plans upon poor me, the last 
of his direct line, and it was hard to have them disap- 
pointed. 

" You will understand one thing," said he at last, his 



212 MT MOTHER AND L 

wrath taming from a red into a white heat, equally pow- 
erful and more dangerous, " when you quit this house 
against my will, you quit it forever. All that I mean 
to give you I shall leave to your Cousin Conrad. Tou 
hear me ?" 

" Oh yes !" And I was so glad ! — ^glad that he should 
have aU, and I nothing ; that in any way my loss should 
be his gain. But the next minute I heard something 
more. 

" Now, Elma, I will detain you no longer. If you 
have your vexations, I have mine. Only this morning 
Conrad writes to teU me he is going back to India im- 
mediately." 

I have heard people, who have suffered sudden an- 
guishes, say that it is Uke a gun-shot wound, which at 
first does not hurt at all. The struck man actually 
stands upright a minute, sometimes with a smile on his 
face, before he drops. So it was with me. 

Had my grandfather seen me, I believe there would 
have been nothing to see ; but he put his hand over his 
face, and spoke querulously rather than angrily. 

" So make up your mind — if any woman ever could 
make up her mind. Stay, and I will send daily for news 
of your mother. Go, and though it is a fool's errand, my 
carriage shall take you there in safety. But, remember, 
you do not return. Adieu now. In an hour let me have 
your decision." 



HY MOTflEB AND I. 213 

He rose, and bowed me out of his study with cold po- 
liteness—me, a poor girl whose mother was dying I 

But I did not believe that ; indeed, I must, have ac- 
cepted blindly the doctor's statement that it was a mild 
case, and the worst over, and I must have deluded my 
conscience in the most extraordinary way as to the sin 
of disobeying my grandfather, as well as my mother. 
Still, looking back, I can pity myself. It was a hard 
strait for a poor girl to be in, even without that other 
thing, which nobody knew of. 

But /knew it. I — the inner me — ^was perfectly well 
aware that my worst struggle was Vith another pang, 
and that the diflSculty of choice sprang from quite an- 
other motive than the dread of vexing my grandfather, 
or even of saving myself — ^my young life and my pretty 
f ace-^which had, nevertheless, grown strangely dear to 
me of late. 

If I went back to my mother, and Cousin Conrad 
went to India in a month, I should not see him again — 
perhaps never in this world. For even if he wished to 
come to bid me good-by, my grandfather would prevent 
it. I, too, perhaps. Of course I should treat him exact- 
ly as my mother had treated me, and shut the door of 
our infected house upon him, even though it broke my 
heart. Therefore, if I went away to-day, I should'never 
look upon his face, never hear the sound of his voice — 
never any more ! 



214 HT MOTHEB AND L 

Oh, my GtoA 1 my God ! 

I believe I did instiiictively cry out that upon him, 
conBcionfi for the first time in my brief life that he has 
it in his power to take away the desire of our eyes at a 
stroke. My mother — Cousin Conrad — I might lose them 
both. Nay, by holding to one I should infallibly lose 
the other. What must I do ? 

I did that which we are all so prone to do — ^I tempo- 
ri^ed. I said to myself that for a girl like me to fly in 
the face of her grandfather and her mother was very 
wrong; that if I literally obeyed them, whatever fol- 
lowed, they could not blame me. At any rate, I would 
obey till Wednesday, when I should see Cousin Conrad, 
and could ask him, whose judgment of right and wrong 
was so clear and firm, what I ought to do. 

Oh, sad sophistry ! trying with vain arguments to rea- 
son myself into doing what I wanted to do, following the 
compulsion of an emotion so overwhelming, an agony so 
sharp and new, that I could not comprehend it or my- 
self. Even with my mother in my heart all the time- 
wretched about her, longing to go and take care of her— 
I felt that at all risks, at all costs, I must stay and look 
on that other face — ^the only face that ever came be- 
tween me and hers — ^just once more. 

Within an hour I knocked at my grandfather's door, 
and told him I would stay, at any rate, for one day 
^y^^ — I dared not say two days, lest he might guess 



lAT MOTHEB Am} I. 215 

why. But no, he seemlsd almost to have forgotten what 
I came about till I reminded him. 

" Certainly, certainly ; we will send a messenger off 
at once to inquire, and I hope your mother will be quite 
well soon ; she is sure to agree with me that you have 
acted wisely. And for myself, I am much gratified by 
your remaining with me. When Conrad is gone, I shall 
have only you left to be a comfort to my old age." 

He patted my hand almost with tenderness. Oh, what 
a hypocrite I felt ! 

Most of those two days I spent in his study. He seem- 
ed to like to have me, and I liked to be there. It was 
easier to busy myself in doing things for him than to sit 
with my hands before me, thinking or listening to Mrs. 
Bix's terrible flow of talk. Poor woman, she was so 
torturingly kind to me — helped me pack up the basket 
of good things, giving strict injunctions that it should be 
dropped outside the door, and that the messenger should 
on no account go in. She hovered over me while I 
wrote the letter that was to accompany it, sympathizing 
with my torrents of tears, yet telling me no end of stories 
about families she knew, who had been swept off whole- 
sale by the small-pox, or made hideous for lif a 

" If it were any thing but small-pox, my dear, I should 
^7y 8^ ^^ once. A mother is a mother, you know. 
When mine was in her last illness, I sat up with her 
night after night for three weeks. The last forty-eight 



216 MY MOTHER AJBTD I. 

homiB I never left her for an instant — not till the breath 
was out of her body. I closed her eyes my own self, my 
dear, and thankful, too, for she had suffered very much." 

" Oh, be quiet — be quiet 1" I almost screamed ; and 
then the good woman kissed me, with her tears running 
down, and was silent — ^f or about three minutes. 

Her next attempt to change the subject was concern- 
ing " poor Major Picardy " and his sudden return to In- 
dia, wondering why he went, when he could so easily 
have retired on half -pay or sold out ; in the course of 
nature it could not be very long before he came in 
for the Picardy estate. " The property he must have ; 
though, as I told you, your grandfather can leave the 
ready money to any body else — ^you, perhaps, since he is 
much vexed at the Major's departure. Besides, India 
doubles the risk of his health, and if he die, where is 
the estate to go to ? — not that he is likely ever to be an 
old man. Still, he might pull on with care, poor fellow ! 
for a good many years. But I suppose he thinks it does 
not much matter whether his life is long or short, seeing 
he has neither wife nor child. He said as much to me 
the other day." 

I did not believe that — ^it was contrary to his reticent 
character ; but I believed a great deal. And I listened 
— ^listened as a St. Sebastian must have listened to the 
whiz of each arrow that struck him — until I felt some- 
thing like the picture of that poor young saint in the 



J 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 217 

National Gallery, which my mother and I used to stop 
and look at. She was rather fond of pictures in the old 
days. 

Ah, those days ! Six months ago I would no more 
have thought of keeping away from her when she was 
ill, had she commanded it ever so, than of not pulling 
her out of a river for fear of wetting my hand ! Some- 
times, strangely as I was deceiving myself about the 
duty of obedience, and so on, there flashed across me a 
vivid sense of what a cowardly, selfish wretch I was, 
even though my motive was no foolish fear for my 
pretty face, or even my poor young life, the whole pre- 
ciousness of which hung on other lives, which might or 
might not last. 

Once, on the Tuesday evening, when I was taking a 
walk with Mrs. Eix, who had benignly given up a card- 
party; when the birds were singing their last sleepy 
song, the sky was so clear and the earth so sweet, I had 
such a vision of my mother lying sick in her bed, all 
alone, perhaps neglected — at any rate without me beside 
her, me, her own daughter, who knew all her little ways, 
and could nurse her as no one else could — that a great 
horror seized me. Had it not been night, I believe I 
should have started off that minute and gone to her, 
even had I walked the whole way. 

With difllculty Mrs. Eix got me. to go in and go to 
bed — Mrs. Rix, the poor, dear woman whose arguments I 

K 



218 XY MOTHER AND I. 

despised ; yet I yielded, saying to myself, " It is only 
twelve hours to wait." 

Wait for what? The message from my mother or 
the one more look at Cousin Conrad's face, the one last 
dasp of his hand, and then it would all be shut up in 
my heart forever — the love he did not care for, the 
grief he could not see. I should just bid him good-by, 
an ordinary good-by, and go back to my mother, to be- 
gin again the old life — ^with a difference. But the dif- 
ference only concerned myself. Nobody else should be 
troubled by it. If I were careful, even she should not 
find it out. 

So, with a kind of stolid patience and acceptance of 
whatever might happen, without struggling against it 
any more, I laid me down to sleep that Tuesday night, 
and woke up on Wednesday morning — a very bright, 
sunshiny morning, I remember, it was — much as those 
wake up who, in an hour or two, are to be led outside 
their prison walls to feel the sunshine, to see the blue 
sky, just for a few minutes, and then, in their full young 
strength, with every capacity of enjoyment, "aimer et 
d'etre aim6" (as wrote a young Frenchman, Eoussel, 
who thus perished, in the terrible later revolution that 
I have lived to see), be placed blindfold against a wall 
and — shot. 



KT MOTHEB AND I. 219 



CHAPTER XII. 

I SPENT most of the Wednesday morning in my grand- 
father's study, reading aloud his daily newspapers, writ- 
ing some letters, and doing other little things for him 
which Cousin Conrad was used to do. 

"But you may as well begin to learn to help me; 
there will be nobody else to do it when he is gone," said 
the old man sadly. 

One quality, which my mother used to say was the 
balance-weight that guided all others, she often thought 
me sorely deficient in — self-control. I think I began 
to learn it during these last days, and especially that 
Wednesday morning. 

Several times my grandfather praised me quite affec- 
tionately for my " quietness." " One might suppose you 
were two or three and twenty, my dear, instead of not 
yet eighteen." 

Not yet eighteen 1 What a long, dreary expanse of 
life seemed before me, if I took after him and the fam- 
ily (the Picardys, save during this last generation, have 
been a long-lived race), and attained to the mysterious 
threescore years and ten ! Yet, in a sort of way, he was 
happy still. 



220 KY MOTHER A3XD L 

But I — ^I Bhivered at the prospect, and wondered how 
I should ever bear it all. 

Now I wonder no more. I think it will be so. Like 
him, I shall probably live to extreme old age ; the last 
leaf on the tree : very lonely, but not forlorn. Yet I 
accept the fact, and do not complain. God never leaves 
any life without sunshine while it can find its sunshine 
in his smile. 

Cousin Conrad had not said what time he should ar- 
rive, and I thought every ring at the hall-bell was his. 
When at last he came, it was without any warning. He 
just walked in as if he had left us yesterday, and all 
things were the same as yesterday. 

" General 1 Cousin Elma ! How very cosy you look, 
sitting together !" And he held out a hand to each of us. 

Then he sat down, and he and my grandfather fell 
into talk at once about his going to India. 

I would have slipped away, but nobody told me to go 
away, or seemed to make any more account of me than 
i£ I were a chair or a table. So I took up a book and 
stayed. It would have been dreadful to have to go. 
Even a few additional minutes in his presence was some- 
thing. Of my own affairs nobody said a word, and for 
the moment all remembrance of them passed from me. 
I only sat in my comer and gazed and gazed. 

He looked ill, and perhaps a shade graver than usual ; 
but the sweet expression of the mouth was unchanged, 



HY MOTHEB AND L 221 

and 80 was the wonderful look in the eyes, calm, far- 
away, heavenly, sach as I have never seen in any human 
eyes but his. 

At that moment, aye, and many a time, I thought — ^if 
I could just have died for him, without his knowing it ! 
died and left him happy for the rest of his life; yes, 
even though it had been with some other woman — how 
content I should have been ! 

My grandfather and he began talking earnestly. To 
all the General's arguments he answered very little. 

" No, I have no particular reason for going — at least, 
none of any consequence to any body but myself. As 
you say, perhaps I am weary of idleness, and there lies 
work which I can do, and come back again in a few 
years." 

" To find me in my grave." 

" Not you ; you will be a hale octogenarian, and that 
. young lady," turning to look at me, " will be a bloom- 
ing young matron. By-the-bye, Cousin Elma, did you 
give my message to yoiff mother ? I hope she is quite 
well." 

I could bear no more. I burst into violent sobs. He 
came over to me at once. 

" What is the matter ? What has happened ?" Then 
in a whisper, " Surely, my little jest did not offend you ?" 

Evidently, he knew nothing ; but my grandfather soon 
told him alL 



222 MY MOTHER AND I. 

" What ! her mother m, and Ehna still here V 

This was all he said. Kot in any reproach or blame, 
but in a kind of sad surprise. At once, as by a flash of 
lightning, I saw the right and the wrong of things ; how 
I had acted, and what he must have thought of me for 
so acting. 

" She is here, because I would not allow her to go,'' 
said my grandfather, hastily and half apologetically, as 
if he, too, had read Cousin Conrad's look. " Mrs. Pi- 
cardy herself, with extreme good sense, forbade her com- 
ing. Think what a risk the girl would run. As a man 
of the world, Conrad, you must be aware that with her 
beauty — ^" 

" Yes, I am aware of every thing ; but still I say she 
should have gone." 

It was spoken very gently, so gently that even my 
grandfather could not take offense. For me, all I did 
was frantically to implore Cousin Conrad to help me to 
persuade my grandfather to let me go. I would run 
any risks. I did not care what happened to myself at 
all. 

" I know that, poor child. Hush ! and I will tiy to 
arrange it for you." 

He put me into an arm-chair, very tenderly, and stood 
by me, holding my hand, as a sort of protection, if such 
were needed. But it was not. Either my grandfather 
had seen his mistake, or did not care very much about 



HT MOTHER AlO) I. 225 

the matter either way, so that he was not "bothered;" 
or else — ^let me give the highest and best motive to him, 
as we always should to every body — before many more 
words had been said, he felt by instinct that Cousin C!on- 
rad was right. 

" Elma has shown her good feeling and obedience to 
me by not going at first," said he with dignity. " Now, 
if you think it advisable, and if, as I suppose, the risk is 
nearly over — ^" 

" No, it is not over. Do not let us deceive ourselves." 
Was it fancy, or did I feel the kind hand closed tighter 
over mine ? " For all that, she ought to go." 

At that moment Mrs. Bix came in, looking very much 
troubled. She had met the messenger returning with 
the news that " Mrs. Picardy was not quite so well to- 
day." 

"Order the carriage at once," said my grandfather, 
abruptly. 

Then there was a confused hurrying of me out of the 
room, packing up of my things, talking, talking — poor, 
kind Mrs. Rix could do nothing without talking I — ^but, 
in spite of all the haste, at the end of an hour I was still 
standing in my bedroom, watdhing stonily every body 
doing every thing for me. Oh, they were so kind, so 
terribly kind, as people constantly are to those unto whom 
they think something is going to happen; and they 
gave me endless advice about nursiag my mother and 

E2 



226 MT MOTHER AKD L 

saying myself — I who knew nothing at all about small- 
pox or any kind of illness, who had never in my life been 
laid on a sick-bed or stood beside one. They were sorry 
for me, I think ; for I remember even the little kitchen- 
maid coming up and pressing a Uttle bag of camphor 
into my hand. 

" Take care of yourself, miss ; oh, do take care of your 
pretty face," said she ; but I paid no attention to her or 
to any body. 

The one person who did not come near me was Cousin 
Conrad. I thought I should have had to go without 
bidding him good-by, when I saw him standing at the 
drawing-room door. 

" Here, Mrs. Rix, I want to consult you." 

And then he explained that he had fetched a doctor, 
whose new theory it was that second vaccination was a 
complete preservative against small-pox — that every 
thing was ready to do it if I would consent 

" You will not refuse ? You think only of your 
mother. But I — we — must think also of you." 

" Thank you," I said ; " you are very kind." He could 
not help being kind to any creature in trouble. 

Without more ado I bared my arm. I remember I 
wore what in those days was called a tippet and sleeves, 
80 it was easy to get at it ; but when the doctor took out 
his case of instruments I began to tremble a little. 

<< Will it hurt much ?— Not that I mind." In truth, I 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 227 

should not have minded being killed, with his hand to 
hold by, and his pitying eyes looking on. 

" Do not be frightened. It hurts no more than the 
prick of a pin," said Cousin Conrad, cheerfully ; " only 
it leaves a rather ugly mark. Stop a minute. Doctor. 
Mrs. Eix, push the sleeve a little farther up. Do not let 
us spoil her pretty arm." 

The doctor called for somebody to hold it. 

" I will," he said, seeing Mrs. Eix looked frightened. 
She said she could not bear the sight of the smallest 
"surgical operation" "Not that this is one. But if 
it were," added he, with a look I have never forgot- 
ten, " I think I should prefer nobody to hurt you but 
me." 

There was a silent minute, and then the doctor paused. 

" I forgot to ask if this young lady is likely to be in 
the way of small-pox just at present, because, if so, vac- 
cination might double the risk instead of lessening it. 
She ought to keep from every chance of infection for 
ten or twelve days." 

I said, with strange quietness, " It is of no conse- 
quence — I must go. My mother may be dead in ten 
or twelve days." * 

Cousin Conrad stopped the surgeon's hand. " If it be 
so, what are we doing? In t^-uth I hardly know what I 
am doing. Let me think a moment." 

I saw him put his hand to his head. Then he and the 



228 HT MOTHEB AND I. 

doctor retired together, and talked apart. I eat still a 
minnte or two, and followed them. 

" I can not wait — ^I must go." 

" You shall go, poor child," said Consin Conrad. He 
was very white — ^long afterward I remembered this too 
— ^but he spoke quietly, soothingly, as to achild. " List- 
en ; this is the difficult question. If you are Taccinated, 
and go at once to your mother, you have no chance of 
escaping the disease ; if you are not vaccinated afresh, 
there is just a chance that the old protection may re- 
main. He does not say you wiU escape, but you may. 
Will you try it? If you must go, you ought to go at 
once. Shall you go ?" 

" Of course I shall." 

He drew a deep breath, " I thought she would. Doc- 
tor, you see." 

" She runs a great risk," said the old man, looking at 
me compassionately. 

" I know that — ^nobody better than I. Still she must 
go. Come, Elma, and bid your grandfather good- 

by." 

He drew my arm through his, and we went down 
stairs together, Mrs. Rix following us. She was crying 
a little — kind, soft-hearted woman !.- — but I could not cry 
at all. 

My grandfather, too, was very kind. "A sad depart- 
ure, Elma. We shall all miss you very much, shall we 



"ttt drew my arm through his," 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 231 

not, Conrad ? Such a bit of young bright life among us 
old folks 1" 

" Yes," said he. 

** Good-by, my dear, and God bless you. Kiss me." 

I did so, clinging to him as I had never clung to any 
body except my mother. My heart was breaking. All 
my cry now was to go to my mother. Indeed, the strain 
was becoming so dreadful, minute by minute, that I was 
longing to be away. 

" Is any body going in the carriage with you ?" said 
my grandfather. 

Eagerly I answered that I wanted nobody, I had rather 
be alone ; that I wished no one to come near our house, 
or to run the slightest danger of infection. And then 
they praised me, my grandfather and Mrs. Rix, for my 
good sense and right feeling. One person only said 
nothing at all! 

Not tiU the very last moment, when I was in the car- 
riage and he standing by it — standing bare-headed in 
the sunshine, looking so old, so worn. And oh, what a 
bright day it was 1 How happy all the world seemed, 
except me. 

" If I do not come with you, it is not from fear of in- 
fection. You never thought it was?" 

"No." 

" That is right. And now think solely of nursing your 
mother and taking care of yourself. Take all the care 
you can. You promise ?" 



232 MT MOTfiEB AND I. 

" Then good-by, and God bless you, my dearest child." 

He said that — ^those very words. Confused as I was, 
I was sure of this. 

A minute more, and I was gone. Gone away from 
him, from the sound of his voice and the sight of his 
face ; gone away into darkness, anxiety, and pam. How 
sharp a pain I did not even then sufficiently recognize. 

For there was remorse mixed with it — ^remorse that, 
in my passionate exaggeration of girlhood, felt to me 
like ^^ the worm that dieth not, the fire that is never 
quenched." From the moment that the glamour passed 
away, and I got into the old familiar scenes — even be- 
fore I entered the village — the gnawing pain began. 
There was no need of Mrs. Gelding's bitter welcome — 
" So, Miss Picardy, you're come at last, and high time 
too 1" — ^no need of her sarcastic answer that my mother 
was " going on quite well, and perfectly well attended 
to," to smite me to the very heart. 

^* Beg your pardon, miss, but as nobody expected you, 
the parlor isn't ready ; and of course you won't think of 
going up stairs." 

I never answered a word, but just began to feel my 
way up the narrow staircase. After Eoyal Crescent, 
how narrow and dark it seemed, and how close and 
stuffy the whole house was I Yet here my mother had 
been lying, alone, sick unto death, without me; while I 



MY MOTHER AND I. 233 

— Oh me, oh me! would God ever forgive me? She 
would, I knew; but he? Or should 1 ever forgive my- 
self? 

I think the sharpest conscience -sting of all is that 
which nobody knows of except one's self. Now no creat- 
ure said to me a word of blame. Even Mrs. Golding, 
after her first sharp welcome, left me alone; too busy to 
take the slightest notice of me or my misdeeds. She 
and all the house seeifled absorbed in their nursing. 
There could be no doubt how well my mother was loved, 
how tenderly she had been cared for. 

But I — I was made no more account of than a stock 
or a stone. 

" Tou can't go in," said Mrs. Golding, catching hold 
of me just as I reached the familiar door. "Nobody 
sees her but the nurse and me. And she doesn't want 
you. She begged and prayed that we wouldn't tell you ; 
and when you was obliged to be told, that we'd keep 
you away from her. Bless her, poor dear lady, she might 
have saved herself that trouble." 

I groaned in the anguish of my heart. ' 

" Hold your tongue, or she'll hear you. She can't see, 
but her ears are sharp enough. For all she said about 
your not being allowed to come, she's been listening, 
listening every day." 

" I must go in — I will go in." 

" No, you won't. Miss Picardy." 



234 MY MOTHER AND I. 

And without more argament the old woman pushed 
me into the little room beside my mother's, shut the 
door, and set her back against it. 

"Here you are, and here you may stop; for you're 
not of the least good any where else in the house. I'm 
sorry the room's so small — after them at Koyal Orescent 
— and dull, for a young lady as has been going to danc- 
ing-parties and card-parties every night; but it's all we 
can do for you just at present.' By-and-by, when your 
mother gets better, if she does get better, and God only 
knows — ^" 

But here even the hard old woman grew softer at the 
sight of my despair. 

Does any. body know what it is — the despair of hav- 
ing forsaken a mother, and such a mother as mine ? 

In all her life she had never forgotten me, never 
ceased to make me her first object, first delight; and 
now, in her time of need, I had forgotten her, had put 
her in the second place, had allowed other interests and 
other enjoyments to fill my heart. And when it came 
to the point, I had taken advantage of her generous love, 
seized upon every feeble excuse to stay away from her, 
left to strangers the duty of nursing her; aye, and they 
had done it, while her own daughter had contented her- 
self with mere superficial inquiries, and never come near 
her bedside. 

This, let people pity and excuse me as they might— 



MT MOTHER AND I. 235 

and Mrs. Golding, to soothe me, did make some kindly 
excuses at last — was the plain trnth of the matter. 
However others might be deceived, I could not deceive 
myself. If, as they hinted, my mother were to die, I 
should never be happy again— never in this world. 

And there I was, bound hand and foot as it were; 
close to her, yet unable to go near her, or do any thing 
for her; shut up in that tiny room, afraid to stir or 
speak, lest she should find out I was there, which, in her 
critical state, both the nurse and the doctor agreed liiight 
be most dangerous. I spoke to them both, and they 
spoke to me those few meaningless, encouraging words 
that people say in such circumstances; and then they 
left me, every body left me, to pass hour after hour in 
listening for every sound within that solemn, quiet sick- 
chamber. 

All the day, and half of the night, I sat there, perfect- 
ly passive, resisting nothing, except Mrs. Gelding's efforts 
to get me to bed. " What was the use of my sitting up ? 
I was no good to nobody." 

Ah 1 that was the misery of it. I was " no good to 
nobody 1" And with my deep despair there mingled a 
mad jealousy of all those who were any good, who were 
doing every thing they could think of for my darling 
mother, while I sat there like a stone. 

Oh, it served me right — quite right. Every thing was 
a just punishment, for — what? 



236 MT HOTHEB AND I. 

I did not even ask myself what I gave no name to 
the thing — ^the joy or the pain — which had been at the 
bottom of all. From the moment I had crossed this 
threshold, my whole life at Bath seemed to pass away— 
like a dream when one awakes — as completely as if it 
had never been. 



KT UOTHEB iSD t 



CHAPTER ynt 



ma for Bor- 
row.** 8ome people 
know what that is, 
eepecially when they 
are yoniig ; they 
know also how ter- 
rible IB the waking. 
About midnight I 
had thrown myaelf 
on the bed in my 
clothes. JnBt be- 
fore dawn, a twitter- 
ing Bwallow outside 
awoke me, shivering 
with cold, wonder- 
ing where I was, and 

why I was still dressed. Then the whole truth poured 

apon me like a flood. 
After a while I gathered strength and confidence 

enough to get up and listen. AH was quiet in the next 

room, dead quiet. Even the faint, slow stirring of the 



238 MY MOTHSB AND L 

fire, the last sound 1 had caught before falling asleep, 
bad ceased. Who was there } What was happening ? 

I opened my door noiselessly — ^the other door stood 
ajar, so that I could look in. Every thing was half- 
dark ; the fire had dropped into red embers ; the nurse 
sat beside it, asleep in her chair. The bed I could not 
see, but I heard from it faint breathing, and now and 
then a slight moan. 

Oh, my mother 1 my mother ! 

She was saying her prayers — all alone, in the middle 
of the night, with not a creature to love her or comfort 
her; sick — dying, perhaps — dying without one sight of 
me. She was saying to herself the words which, she 
once told me, had been her consolation her whole life 
through— "Our Father," and " Thy will be done." 

My heart felt like to burst. But the self-control which 
she had tried vainly to teach me, until God taught me in 
a different way, stood me in good stead now. Hiding 
behind the door, I succeeded in keeping myself perfectly 
quiet 

By-and-by she called feebly for "some water to 
drink," but getting no answer, turned over again with 
a patient sigh. 

What should I do! — wake the nurse, or go to my 
mother myself — I who had been so crueUy shut out 

• • • 

fiom her ? But what if, as they said, I did her harm ? 
I had had no experience whatever of sickness or sick- 



MT MOTHEB Ain> I. 239 

nursing. Suppose at the mere sight of me she should 
get startled, excited ? And then I remembered, almost 
with relief, that she could not see me. The small-pox 
had, as often happens, for the time being made her to- 
tally blind. 

She called again upon the stupid, sleeping nurse — 
well, poor woman, she had not been to bed for eight 
nights !— and caUed in vain. Then I determined to risk 
it. Stepping stealthily forward, I came beside the bed, 
and looked at my darling mother. Oh, what a sight 1 

Once I heard a poor lady say, threatened with heart- 
complaint, " Thank God, it is a clean disease to die of !", 
and the horror of so many of those illnesses which we 
have to fight with and suffer from is that they are just 
the contrary — so terribly painful both to the sick and 
those about them. Small-pox is one of these. 

My mother had it in a comparatively mild form ; that 
is, the eruption had not extended beyond the face and 
head. Yet there she lay — she, once so sweet and pure 
that kissing her was, I sometimes said, like kissing a 
bunch of violets — one mass of unpleasantness, soreness, 
and pain. 

Wearily she moved her head from side to side, evi- 
dently not knowing where to lay it for ease, talking to 
herself between whiles in a helpless, patient way, " Oh, 
the long, long night! — Oh, I wish it was morning I — 

« 

Nurse, nurse ! isn't there any body to give me a drink 
of water 1" 



240 MT MOTHEB AND I. 

Then I hesitated no more. Ignorant as I was, and 
half stupid with misery besides, I managed to lift her 
np in the bed, and hold the glass to her lips with a per- 
fectly steady hand, afterward rearranging her pillows, 
and making her, she said, " so comfortable." This I did 
not once, but several times. Yet she never found me 
out She said, " Thank you, nurse," and seemed a little 
surprised at not being answered ; but that was all. Sick- 
ness was too heavy upon her to take much notice of any 
thing. And then the nursing she had had was mere 
mechanical doing of what was necessary, not caressingly, 
not what a daughter's would have been. Poor darling ! 
as she lay back again in her patient darkness, not seem- 
ing even to expect any thing — not one soothing word or 
touch — her poor hands folded themselves in the same 
meek resignation. 

" Pray go to your bed, nurse. I will try to go to sleep 
again." 

I kept silence. It was for her sake, and I did it; but 
it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in all 
my life. Until morning I sat beside my naother, she 
utterly unconscious of my presence, and I thinking of 
nothing and nobody but her. 

Yes, it was so. The sight of her poor face blotted out 
entirely every other face — even his. This was the real 
Ufe — the dream-life was gone. As I sat there, quite 
quiet now, not even crying silently, as at first I had done, 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 241 

all that I said to myself was that vow which another 
girl made — not to her own mother, only her mother-in- 
law — " God do so to me, and more also, if aught but 
death part thee and me." 

I think I could have restrained myself, and managed 
so cleverly that for hours my mother might never have 
found me out, had not Mrs. Golding suddenly entered 
the room with a flash of daylight, waking up the nurse, 
and coming face to face with me as I sat, keeping watch 
in her stead. 

" Bless my soul, you here ? Go away directly." 

I said in a whisper, but with a resolution she could 
not mistake, " I shall not go away. I have been here 
half the night. No one shall nurse my mother but me." 

Sick people often take things much more quietly than 
we expect. All things come alike to them; they are 
surprised at nothing. My mother only said — 

" Mrs. Golding, who is it that you want to send away ? 
Who says she has been sitting with me half the night ? 
Was it my child ?" 

" Yes, mother darling, and you'll let me stay ? I'll be 
such a good nurse — and I'll never go to sleep at all." 

She laughed — a little, low, contented laugh — and put 
out her hand ; then suddenly seemed to recollect herself, 
and drew it back. 

" Tou ought not to have come — I told you not to 
come." 



242 MY MOTHEB AND L 

" It is too late now, for I have been here, as I said, 
half the night ; and didn't I make you comfortable ?" 

" Oh, so comfortable ! Oh, how glad I am to have 
my child !" 

This was all she said, or L People do not talk much 
under such circumstances. Even Mrs. Golding forbore 
to blame or scold, but stood with the tea-cup in her hand 
until a large tear dropped into it. Then she gave it up 
to me, and disappeared. 

The nurse followed her, a little vexed, perhaps ; but 
they both recovered themselves.ih time, and allowed me 
to take my place beside my mother without much oppo- 
sition. Truly I was, as they said, "a 'young, ignorant, 
helpless thing," but they saw I tried to do my best, and 
it was my right to do it. 

So I did it, making a few mistakeSj no doubt, out of 
utter inexperience; but out • of .caretessness,' never. My 
whole mind was. set uppmone." thing — how I could best 
take care of my mother. ; Of those words which, when 
uttered, had shot through me.with su'chl a sense of joy, 
"Take care of yourself," I never once 'thought again, or 
of him who had said them. For the. first" time in my 
life, I learned the utter absorption of 'a sick-room — ^how 
every thing seems to centre within, its ioiir narrow walls, 
and every thing in the world without seems to !f ade away 
and grow dim in the distance. No fear, of 'my forget- 
ting my mother now. 



MY MOTHER AND I. 243 

It was very painful sick-nursing, the most painful I 
^hink I ever knew, and I have known much in my life- 
time. The mere physical occupation of it put out every 
other thought, leaving no single minute for either hopes 
or fears. To keep stolidly on, doing every thing that 
could be done, day by day, and hour by hour — that was 
all. As for dread of infection, or anxiety as to what 
would happen next, to her or to me, I do not remember 
even thinking of these things. Except that it was just 
her and me, my mother and I, as heretofore, shut up to- 
gether in that one room, with the eye of God looking 
upon us — we uncertain what it would be his will to do ; 
whether, in any way, either by taking her and leaving 
me, or healing her and smiting me— ^I deserved it I oh, 
how intensely I sometimes felt that I deserved it ! — he 
would part mother and child. 

He did it not. She slowly recovered, and by one of 
those mysterious chances which now and then occur with 
small-pox, I, though running every danger of it, never 
took the disease. They all watched me — I could see 
how ihey watched me, with a kind of anxious pity that 
I never felt for myself ; but day after day went by, and 
still I kept perfectly well, able for all that I had to do, 
never once breaking down either in body or mind. My 
mother sometimes followed me about the room with a 
tender content in her eyes. 

"I used to wonder what sort of woman my child 
would grow up — now I know." 



244 MY MOTHER AND I. 

We had '* turned the tables," she and I ; she was weak, 
I strong. Naturally, Illness made her a little restless 
and querulous ; I was always calm. In fact, as I told 
her laughing once, she was the baby, and I the old 
woman. Yes, that was the greatest change in me — ^I 
began to feel so very old. 

That did not matter — heaven had preserved my moth- 
er, and me too, though I had taken my life in my hand 
to win or lose. It was saved. I was kept to fight on 
and labor on all these years, and at last, I suppose, to be 
laid in my coffin with the same face which, even to this 
day, those who love me are pleased to call beautifuL 

But my mother's face was changed, though she recov- 
ered ; and when she really began to mend, more rapid- 
ly than any one expected, still the disease left its mark 
upon her soft cheeks, her pretty neck and throat, round 
which, when I was quite a big girl, my sleepy hand loved 
to creep in babyish fashion. The expression of her dear 
face could not alter, but her complexion, once fresh as a 
child's, totally faded. When I left her, that day she 
stood at the door, and watched the carriage drive away, 
she had still looked young ; when she rose up from her 
sick-bed, she was almost an elderly woman. 

Still, this also did not matter. People do not love 
their mothers as knights their ladye-loves, or husbands 
their wives, for the sake of their youth and beauty; 
though I have known of chivalric devotion to a very 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 245 

plain waman, and tender love to a wife both feeble and 
old. When I got my mother once more down stairs, and 
had her in my arms safe and sound, warm and alive, 
I think no lover ever wept over his mistress more pas- 
sionate, more joyful tears. Her poor, faded face count- 
ed for nothing. Only to think, as I say, that she was 
safe and alive — that I had fought for her with death, 
and beaten him — that iSjGod had given me the victory. 
For I was so young still, so full of life : I could not ac- 
cept death, as we afterward learn to do, as coming also 
from God's hand. The first day that my mother came 
down stairs I sang my jubilate all over the house, and 
ran about, half laughing, half crying, like a child. 

Only for one day. Then began the weary time of 
convalescence, sometimes better, sometimes worse ; the 
reaction of the household from the excitement of a dan- 
gerous illness, which is always trying, and apt to leave 
folks rather cross. Besides, there were all the puri- 
fications to begin at once, with us still in the house. 
Poor Mrs. Golding! she' was very good, more especially 
when we considered she had lost through us her summer 
lodgers ; for it was now June. Yet for them to come 
in was as impracticable as for my mother and me to 
turn out. 

"We must make it up to her in some way," said my 
mother with a sigh, beginning already to trouble herself 
with domestic and financial anxieties, until she saw that 



246 HY MOTHEB AND L 

I would not allow it I threatened her, if she still per- 
sisted in considering me a child, incapable of managing 
any thing, that I would take the law into my own hands, 
and treat her like a captive princess — bound in silken 
chains, but firmly bound. At which she laughed, and 
said I was " growing clever," besides tyrannical. But I 
think when Mrs. Golding assured her I really had some 
sense, and was managing matters almost as well as she 
herself could, my mother was rather proud than other- 
wise. 

Other things she also, from the feebleness of illness, 
seemed to have let slip entirely. She scarcely made a 
single inquiry about my grandfather, or any of them in 
Bath. This was well, since it might have hurt her to 
find out — as I accidentally did — that none of them had 
sent to inquire ; not even to the garden gate. But per- 
haps, on every account, this was best. And yet I could 
not choose but think it rather strange. 

Gradually we passed out of the mysterious, unnatural 
half-life of the sick-room into the full, clear daylight 
of common existence. Then we found out what two 
changed creatures we were in many respects, but still, 
ever and always, my mother and I. 

We were sitting together in the parlor, that is, I was 
sitting, busy at work, and she lying idle, as was our way 
now. I had taken very much to my needle — the girl's 
dislike, the woman's consolation. The doctor had just 



MY MOTHER AND I. 247 

been, and said our invalid was much better — quite able 
to see any body, only people were afraid of infection 
still; and besides there was nobody to Cpme. But he 
said half the village had inquired for us, and to one per- 
son in particular he had had to give or send a bulletin 
every day. 

Only after the doctor had gone there darted into my 
mind the possibility as to who that person was. To 
let go of one's friends is one thing, but to be forced to 
feel that they have let you go, in an unkind way, and 
that you can not think quite so well of them as you used 
to do, is another and a much harder trial. As I said my 
prayers that night, I added earnestly, " Thank God !" — 
For what — He knew. 

But neither that day nor the next did I let my mind 
wander one minute from my darling mother, given back 
to me from the very jaws of the grave. Oh, what a girl 
can be tp a mother — a grown-up girl who is gaining the 
sense and usefulness of womanhood! And oh, what a 
mother is to a daughter, who now learns fully to feel her 
value, and gives her all the devotion of a lover and. all 
the duty of a child ! More especially if no duty is ex- 
acted. My mother and I never even mentioned the 
word. But I loved her — God knows how I loved her — 
even then and through it all. 

My needle-work done, I took to balancing our weekly 
accounts, which cost me as much trouble as if I had 



248 MT MOTHSB AND I. 

been Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when they were 
done, began to tell my mother of a good suggestion of 
Mrs. Gelding's — that we should go to some sea-side lodg- 
ing she knew of for a week or two, while she got the 
rooms cleaned and repapered ; then we could come back 
and remain here the whole summer. 

^^ She does not want to part with us ; she has grown 
so fond of you, mother." 

" But she will want more rent, and how can we pay ?" 

** I can pay !" said I, with pride. " I could not tell 
you till now, darling, but the doctor wants me to teach 
his children, as soon as ever we are out quarantine. He 
says, politely, such a good nurse will make a g^d gov- 
erness, which does not follow. But I'll try. Do you 
consent ?" 

She sighed. She too might have had other dreams; 
but they had passed away like mine. She accepted the 
fact that I must be a governess, after all. 

We kissed one another, and then, to prevent her dwell- 
ing on the subject, I began the innocent, caressing non- 
sense which one gets into the habit of during sickness, 
when the patient's mind is too feeble, and the nurse's 
too full, to take in aught beyond the small interests close 
at hand. We were silly enough, no doubt, but happy — 
when I heard a step come up the garden, a step I knew. 

My first thought — I can not well tell what it was; 
my second, that we were still an infected household. 



MY MOTHER AND I. 249 

" Stop him !" cried I, starting up and running to the 
door. " Somebody must stop him. Mrs. Golding, tell 
that gentleman he is not to come in." 

" Why not ?" And I saw him stand there, with his 
kind, smiling face. " Why not, Cousin Elma ?" 

"Because it is not safe — we are in quarantine stiU, 
you know." 

" Of course I know — that and every thing else. But 
I have taken all precautions. Your doctor and I are 
the best of friends. He sent me here — Mrs. Picardy, 
may I come in ?" 

" Certainly," she answered, looking quite pleased ; so 
without more ado he entered. Though he took no no- 
tice, I perceived that he saw the change in her — saw it 
and was very sorry, both for her and me. Appropriat- 
ing my chair, he sat down beside her and began talking 
to her, giving small attention to me, beyond a nod and 
smile. But that was enough ; it felt like windows open- 
ed and sunshine coming into a long-shut-up room. 

" General Picardy sends all sorts of kind messages to 
you. He left Bath almost directly after your daughter 
went. He said he could not bear the dullness of the 
house. But I have kept him almost daily informed of 
you both." 

" Then we were not forsaken by you all ?" said my 
mother gently, by which I guessed she had thought 
more of the matter than I supposed. 

L2 



250 MY HOTHEB AlTD I. 

CouBin Conrad shook his head gayly. " Elma, tell your 
mother she does not quite know us yet — ^not so well as 
you do." 

She looked up quickly, this dear mother of mine, first 
at him and then at me ; but there was nothing to see. 
In him, of course nothing; in me — But I had learned 
to accept his kindness as he meant it, the frank familiar 
friendship which implied nothing more. I answered 
Cousm Conrad as I would have answered any other 
friend whom I warmly liked and respected, and in" whom 
I entirely believed. 

Then I took my sewing again, and left him to his 
chat with my mother, which she evidently enjoyed. He 
had come to see her so often while I was in Bath, that 
they were better friends than I knew. My only wonder 
was that all this long time she had never praised him — 
scarcely spoken of him to me at alL 

He took tea with us, and we were very happy in his 
company ; so happy that I almost forgot to be afraid for 
him. At last, I thankfully heard him tell my mother 
that he had had small-pox very severely as a boy, and 
since then had gone in the way of it many times with 
perfect impunity. 

" Not that I should ever run useless risks — one's self 
is not the only person to think of ; and before I go home 
I mean to change my clothes and do a deal of fumiga- 
tion. You need not have the slightest uneasiness about 
me, Mrs. Picardy. I may come again ?" 



MT MOTHEB Ain> I. 251 

" We shall be very happy to see you." 

There was a little stiffness in my mother's manner, but 
she looked at him as if she liked him. I knew her face 
so well. 

"Not that I shall burden you with many visits, as I 
am still going to India, though not just yet. Would you 
like to hear how things are settled ?" 

Without any apologies, but telling us as naturally as 
if we belonged to hina, he explained that the hill-station 
to which he had been ordered was so healthy that the 
doctoi> said he would-be as well there as in England, 
perhaps better. Two or three years might re-establish 
his strength entirely. 

"And I should be thankful for that. Though when 
I first came home I did not much care. At five-and- 
twenty even, I thought my life was done." 

" Mine is not, even at seven-and-f orty," said my moth- 
er, smiling. 

" But then you have your child." 

"Aye, I have my child." 

My mother looked at me — ^such a look I As I knelt 
beside her sofa, laughing, yet within an inch of crying. 
Cousin Conrad leaned over us and touched my hand. 
I felt all the blood rush into my face, and my mother 
saw it. 

He stayed but a minute or two longer ; I let him out 
at the gate and listened to the clatter of his horse's 



252 HT MOTSnSB AND I. 

hoo& up the village, then came back into the parlor at 
once. 

My mother lay quite still, looking straight before her. 
In her eyes was a carious expression — not exactly sad, 
but pensive, as if her mind had wandered far away, and 
a letter which Cousin Conrad had just given her, saying 
it was from the General, and he hoped would please her 
as it had pleased the sender, lay untouched on her lap. 

" Shall I open it ?" said I, glad to say and do some- 
thing. 

It was a very kind letter, signed by him with his fee- 
ble, shaky signature, though the body of it was in anoth- 
er handwriting — one which we both recognized. And 
it inclosed a hundred-pound note, begging our accept- 
ance of the "trifle" to defray the expenses of her illness, 
" until I can make permanent provision for my daugh- 
ter-in-law and her child." 

" YouT child, you see, mother. He puts us both to- 
gether — he does not want to take me from you now; 
and if he did, ever so much, I would not go. I will 
never leave you again — never, darling mother !" 

She smiled, but not a word said she — not a single 
word. 

I had expected she would say something of our visit- 
or and his visit, but she did not, until just as we were 
going to bed, when she asked me to give her my grand- 
father's letter, as she would like to read it over again. 



HT MOTHEB AND I. 253 

"It is very kind of him; but I suppose Major Picar- 
dy, who seems almost like a son to him, is at the root of 
it all." 

"I suppose so." 

" He, too, is very kind. Indeed, I never met any man 
who seemed to me so thoroughly good, so entirely un- 
selfish, reliable, and true. No one could know him 
without lovinjg him." 

She looked at me — a keen, steady, half -smiling, half- 
pensive look. From that moment I was quite certain 
that my mother had found out all. 



254 MY MOTHER AND I. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Att. my life I have been the recipient of countless 
love-stories, the confidante both of young men and 
maidens, and I always found the benefit of that sage 
proverb, "Least said, soonest mended." On my side 
certainly, because many a siUy fancy is fanned into a 
misplaced love by talking it over with a foolish sympa- 
thizer ; on theirs, because I have generally found that 
those who felt the most said the least. Happiness is 
sometimes loquacious; but to pain — and there is so 
much pain always mixed up in love affairs — the safest 
and best panacea is silence. 

My mother and I were silent to one another, perfectly 
silent, though we must have read one another's hearts 
as clear as a book, day by day; still neither spoke. 
What was there to speak about ? He had never said a 
word to me that all the world might not hear, and I — I 
would not think of myself or of my future. Indeed I 
seemed to have no future at all after the 18th of Sep- 
tember, the day on which the ship was to sail from 
Southampton. 

Between now and then our life was full enough, even 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 255 

though outside it was as quiet and lonely as before I 
^^ent to Bath, except for one friend who came to see us 
now and then, like any ordinary friend, to whom our in- 
terests were dear, as his to us. He came generally on a 
Sunday, being so occupied during the week, and he used 
to call us his " Sunday rest," saying that when he was 
abroad he would try to console himself for the loss of it 
by writing regularly " Dominical letters." 

He was very cheerful about his departure, and very 
certain as to his return, which he meant to be, at the 
latest, within four years. 

" Elma will then be one-and-twenty, and you not quite 
a septuagenarian, Mrs. Picardy, and the General will be 
only seventy-five. As I told him the other day, when 
he spoke of my being one day master at Broadlands, it 
is likely to be a good many years yet before that time 
arrives." 

But he would be master there some time^ as of course 
he and we both knew. Occasionally we all took a dip 
into the far-away future, planning what he was to do 
with his wealth and influence — schemes all for others, 
none for himself. Not a thought of luxury or ease, or 
worldly position, only how he should best use all the 
good things that might fall to him so as to do the widest 
good. 

How proud I was of him — and am still I 

My mother, I could see, enjoyed his society very much. 



256 MT MOTHSB AND I. 

She told me once there was in him a charm of manner 
that she had never seen in any man, except one. ^' Only/' 
she added, ^'in nothing else does he at all resemble your 
father." 

Though she said this with a sigh, it was not a sigh of 
pain. She was in no way tmhappy, I think — quite the 
contrary — only a little meditative and grave, but that 
chiefly when we were alone. When Cousin Conrad 
came she received him warmly, and exerted herself to 
make all things as pleasant to him as possible ; the more 
so, because sometimes I was hardly able to speak a word. 

What long, still Sunday afternoons we used to spend, 
all three together, in our little parlor ! What twilight 
walks we had across the Tyning and over the fields! 
Cousin Conrad always gave my mother his arm, and I 
followed after, watching the two, and noticing his ex- 
ceeding tenderness over her ; but I was not jealous of 
him — not at all. 

At first I could see she was a little nervous in his 
company, inclined to be irritable, and quick to mark 
any little peculiarities he had — and he had a few; but 
she never criticised him, only watched him ; and gradu- 
ally I could perceive that she grew satisfied, and neither 
criticised nor watched him any more. 

I had leisure to observe and think over these two, be- 
cause I dared not think for a moment of myself — ^how 
it would be with me when he ceased to come, when we 



BfY MOTHER AND I. 257 

missed him out of our life, and the seas rolled between 
us, and his familiar presence was only a remembrance 
and a dream. Many a time when I could not sleep of 
nights — when all these things came upon me in such a 
tide that I could have wrung my hands and screamed, 
or got up and paced the room in the darkness like a 
wild creature in its cage, only for fear of disturbing my 
mother — she would put out her hand and feel for me, 
" Child, are you wide awake still ?" and take me silent- 
ly into her arms. 

Her tenderness over me in those last weeks — those 
last days — I can not describe, but have never ceased to 
remember. She kept me constantly employed ; in fact 
I was nervously eager after work, though I often left it 
half finished. But whatever I did or left undone, she 
never blamed me. She treated me a little like a sick 
child, but without telling me I was ill. For I was ill — 
sick unto death at times with misery, with bitter, bitter 
humiliation — and then by fits unutterably happy; but 
of the happiness or the misery we neither of us spoke 
at all. 

Only once I remember her telling me, as if by acci- 
dent, the history of a friend of hers, a girl no older than 
myself, who when one day coming into a room saw a 
face which she had never, seen before, yet from that 
moment she loved it — loved it, in one way or other, all 
her life. 



258 VY MOTHER AND I. 

'^ And he deserved her love ; he was a noble and good 
man," said my mother. 

" Did she marry him ?" 

"No." 

We were silent a little, and then my mother contin- 
ued, sewing busily as she spoke. "The world might 
say it was a rather sad story, but I do not. I never 
blamed her; I scarcely even pitied her. Love comes to 
us, as all other things come, by the will of God ; but 
whether it do good or harm depends, also, like other 
things apparently, upon our own will. There are such 
things as broken hearts and blighted lives, but these are 
generally feeble hearts and selfish lives. The really 
noble, of men or women, are those who have strength 
to love, and strength also to endure." 

I said nothing, but I never forgot those healing 
words; and often, when most inclined to despise my- 
self, it was balm to my heart to know that, reading it, 
as I was quite sure she did, my mother did not despise 
me ; and so I made up my mind, as she had said, to 
" endure." 

What she must have endured, for me and through me 
— often, alas I from me, for I was very irritable at times 

^no tongue can tell. Mothers only, I think, can under- 

glf^nd how vicarious suffering is sometimes the sharpest 
of sJl. During those days I used to pity myself ; now, 
Igoking back upon them, I pity my mother. Yet I have 



MT MOTHER AND I. 259 

no recollection of her ever changing from that sweet 
motherly calmness which was the only thing that soothed 
my pain. 

Her pain, the anguish of seeing herself no longer able 
to make the entire happiness of her child, of watching 
the power slip out of her hands, and for a while perhaps 
feeling, with unutterable bitterness, a vague dread that 
the love is slipping away too — of this I never once 
thought then ; I did afterward. 

Well, somehow or other the time went by and brought 
us to the last week, the last day ; which Cousin Conrad 
asked if he might spend with us, both because " we were 
the dearest friends he had," and because he had a some- 
what important message to bring from my grandfather, 
with whom he had been staying at Broadlands. 

"And a charming place it is," he wrote, "and a very 
well-managed estate too, though it is in Ireland." It 
was always a pet joke of his against my mother that she 
disliked every thing Irish, and distrusted him because 
he was just a little bit of an Irishman. She used to 
laugh, saying it was quite true he had all the Irish vir- 
tues — the warm, generous heart, the gay spirits, the quick 
sympathy, the sweet courtesy which would always rath- 
er say a kind thing than an unkind one. As for his 
Irish faults, she declined to pass judgment upon them. 
Time would show. " Ah, yes," he would sometimes an- 
swer, gravely, " if heaven grant me time." 



260 MY MOTHEB ASD I. 

But these passing sadnesses of his I never noticed 
much ; the mere sight of him was enough to make any 
one glad ; and when he came, even though it was his 
last time of coming, and I knew it, the joy of seeing 
him after a week's absence was as great as if he had 
been absent a year, and we had all three forgotten that 
he was ever to leave us again. 

He and my mother fell at once to talking, discuss- 
ing the proposition of which my grandfather had made 
him the bearer. This was, that she and I should come 
at once to live at Broadlands, not, as I at first feared, 
in the characters of Miss Picardy and Miss Picardy's 
mother, but that she should take her position as his son's 
widow and the mistress of his house so long as the 
Greneral lived. 

" That may be many years or few," said Cousin Con- 
rad, "and after his death he promises nothing; but," 
with a smile, " I think you need not be afraid." 

And tlien he went on to explain that it was my grand- 
father's wish to spend half the year at Broadlands and 
the other half in Dublin or London, according as was 
convenient, especially with reference to me and the com- 
pletion of my education, so as to fit me for whatever 
position in society 1 might be called upon to filL 

" Not that she is ill-educated, or unaccomplished. We 
know what she is, do we not, Mrs. Picardy? Still her 
grandfather vrishes her to be quite perfect, doubtless 



MT MOTHEB AND I. 261 

with the id^a that she shall one day be — '' He stopped. 
" I have no right to say any more, for I know nothing of 
the General's intentions. All I entreat is — accept his 
kindness. It will prove a blessing to himself, and to 
yon also. Elma rich will be a much more useful wom- 
an than Elma poor. This, whether she marry or not. 
If she should marry, and I hope she wiU one day — " 

Here my mother looked up sharply. There was in 
her face a slight shade of annoyance, even displeasure ; 
but it met his — so sad, so calm, so resolute — and passed 
away. She said nothing, only sighed. 

" Forgive my referring to this subject, Mrs. Picardy ; 
but it is one upon which the General feels very strongly; 
indeed, he bade me speak of it, both to relieve your mind 
and your daughter's. There was once a gentleman, a 
Sir Thomas Appleton — Elma may have told you about 
him." 

No. Elma had not* I felt I was expected to speak ; 
so I said with a strange composure, and yet not strange, 
for it seemed as if I were past feeling any thing now, 
"that I had not thought it worth while to trouble my 
mother with my trouble about Sir Thomas Appleton." 

" Trouble is an odd word for a young lady to use 
when a young man falls in love with her," said Cousin 
Conradj smiling; "but she really was very miserable. 
She looked the picture of despair for days. Never 
mind! as Mercutio says, ^Men have died and worms 



262 MY MOTHEE AND I. 

have eaten them, but not for love.' Sir Thomas is not 
dead yet — not likely to die. And your grandfather bade 
me assure you, Elma, that if half-a-dozen Sir Thomases 
should appear, he will not urge you to marry one of 
them unless you choose." 

" That is right," said my mother, " iand Elma was quite 
right too. If she do not love a man, she must never 
marry him, however her friends might wish it. She 
will not be unhappy even if she never marry at all. 
My dear child!" 

" Yes, you say truly," answered Cousin Conrad, after 
a long pause, " and truly, also, you call her ^ a child.' 
Therefore, as I told the General, before she marries, or 
is even engaged, she ought to have plenty of opportunity 
of seeing all kinds of men—^good men — and of choos- 
ing deliberately, when she does choose, so that she may 
never regret it afterward. Sometimes in Hieir twenties 
girls feel difFerently from what they do in their teens, 
and if after being bound they wake up and wish them- 
selves free again — God forbid such a misfortune should 
happen to her." 

" It never will, I think," said my mother. 

" It never must," said Cousin Conrad, decisively. " We 
will guard against the remotest chance of such a thing. 
She shall be left quite free ; her mother will be con- 
stantly beside her; she will have every opportunity of 
choice; and when she does choose, among the many 



MY MOTHEB AND I. 263 

who are sure to love her, she will do it with her eyes 
open. You understand me, do you not — ^you at least ?" 
added he, very earnestly. 

« I think I do." 

" And you forgive me ? Eemember, I am going away." 

" I do remember. I am not likely ever to forget," re- 
plied my mother, visibly affected, and offering him her 
hand. He clasped it warmly, and turned away, not say- 
ing another word. 

For me, I sat apart, thinking not much of what either 
of them said or did ; though afterward I recalled it all. 
Thinking, indeed, very little about any thing beyond the 
one fact — that he was going away, that after this day I 
should see him no more for days and weeks and months 
and years. 

I sat apart, taking no share in the conversation, only 
watching him by stealth, him to whom I was nothing at 
all, and he nothing to me, except just my Cousin Conrad. 
Yet then, aye, and at any time in my life, I could have 
died for him ! — said not a word, but just quietly died ! 
I sat, trying to lay up in my heart every trick of his 
manner, every line of his face, as a sort of memorial 
storehouse to live upon during the dark famine days 
that were coming. 

" Well, then, that business is settled," said he, with a 
sigh of relief. " You will go to Broadlands as soon as 
you can — perhaps even next week ;" and he proceeded 



264 MY MOTHER AND I. 

to give minute directions for our journey, saying it 
would be a comfort for him to know tiiat all was ar- 
ranged as easily as possible, and he would think of ns 
safe in my grandfather's beautiful home, whOe he was 
tossing on the Bay of Biscay. He could not hear of us 
for many months. There was no overland route to In- 
dia then. 

"But I can wait. I have learned to wait, and yet 
it sometimes seems a little hard, at thirty -six years 
old. But it is right — ^it is right," he added, half to 
himself. Tears after how thankful I was to remember 
his words ! 

Then, rising, he suggested that we should sit talking 
no longer ; but all three go out together into the pleas- 
ant afternoon sunshine and " enjoy ourselves." 

" Enjoy" seemed a strange word to use, and yet it was 
a true one. When friends are all at peace together, 
with entire trust and content in one another, there is no 
bitterness even in the midst of parting pain. And such 
was his sweet nature, and the influence it had upon 
those about him, that this fact was especially remark- 
able. I have now not a single recollection of that day 
which is not pleasant as well as dear. 

We spent part of it at a place where my mother and 
I had often talked of going, the abbey which we had 
started to see that afternoon when the bleak wind made 
me resolve to buy her a Paisley shawl. As we again 



MY MOTHER AND I. 265 

crossed the Tyning, I overheard her telling Cousin Con- 
rad the whole story. 

"Just like her — just like Elma!'^ said he, turning 
round to look at me, and then told how on his side he 
remembered the General's calling him into his room to 
write a letter concerning the possible granddaughter 
-which he thought he had found. 

^' It is strange upon what small chances great things 
seem to hang. We go on and on^ year after year, atfd 
nothing happens, and we think nothing ever will hap- 
pen ; and then, suddenly turning a corner, we come upon 
our destiny. Is it not so, Mrs. Picardy ?" 

I do not remember what my mother answered, or if 
she answered at all. She* was exceedingly kind, even 
tender to him; but she was also exceedingly grave. 

Thus we wandered on till we reached the old abbey — 
a mere ruin, and little cared for by the owners of the 
house in whose grounds it stood. The refectory was 
used as a wood-shed, the chapel as a stable, and above 
it, ascended by a broken stair, were two large rooms, 
fitill in good preservation, said to have been the monks' 
library and their 4ove-cot. 

"You can still see the holes in the stone walls, I am 
told, where the pigeons built their nests," said my moth- 
er. "Go up and look at them, if you like, you two; I 
will rest here." 
i^he sat down on a heap of hay, and we went on with- 

M 



266 HT HOTHEB AND I. 

out her. Only once she called after hb that the stair 
was dangerous, and he must take care of ^Hhe child." 

^^ Ah, yes !" he said with such a smile ! It made me 
quite cheerful, and we began examining every thing and 
discussing every thing quite after the old way. Then we 
rested a while, and stood looking out through the narrow 
sUts of windows onto the pleasant country beyond. 

" What a comfortable life those old monks must have 
made for themselves! And how curious it must have 
been as they sat poring over their manuscript-writing 
or illuminating in this very room, to hear close by the 
innocent little pigeons cooing in their nests! I won- 
der if they ever thought that the poor little birds were, 
in some things, happier far than they." 

" How ?" said I, and then instinctively guessed, and 
wished I had not said it. 

" Very jolly old fellows, though, they must have been, 
with a great idea of making themselves comfortable. 
See, Elma, that must be the remains of their orchard — 
those gnarled apple-trees, so very old, yet trying to bear 
a few apples still ; and there are their fish-ponds— un- 
doubtedly you always find fish-ponds near monasteries ; 
and look, what a splendid avenue of walnut-trees 1 No 
doubt they had all the good things of this life ; except 
one, the best thing of all — home ; a married home." 

It was only a word — but oh ! the tone in which he 
said it I he who, he once told me, had never had a home 



MT MOTHER AND I. 267 

in all his life. Did he regret it? "Was he, as I always 
fancied when he looked sad — was he thinkipg of Agnes ? 
Only Agnes ? 

I was not clever, and I was very young ; but I believe, 
even then, if any one had wanted it, I could have learned 
how to make a home, a real home, as only a loving 
woman can. Not a wealthy home, maybe, and one that 
might have had its fair proportion of cares and anxie- 
ties; but I would have struggled through ihem aH I 
would not have been afraid of any thing. I would 
have fought with and conquered, please God, all reme- 
diable evils; and those I could not conquer I would 
have sat down and endured without complaining. No 
one need have been afraid that I had not strength 
enough to bear my own burden, perhaps the burden of 
two. Nay, it would have made me happier. I never 
wished to have an easy life ; only a life with love in it 
— ^love and trust. Oh I how happy I could have been, 
however di£5icult my lot, if only I had had some one al- 
ways beside me, some one whom I could at once look 
up to and take care of, cherish and adore I How we 
could have spent our lives together, have passed through 
poverty if need be, and risen joyfully to prosperity, still 
together! have shared our prime and our decline, al- 
ways together 1 Instead of this — 

No ! . Silence, my heart ! What am I that I should 
fight against God ? It was his will. With him there 
are no such words as "might have been." 



268 HT MOTHER AKD I. 

One thiDg I remember vividly — that as we Btood 
there, looking out, Coosin Conrad put his hand a mo- 
ment lightly on my shoulder. 

^ Keep as you are a minute. Sometimes as you stand 
thus, with your profile turned away, you look so very 
like her — so like Agnes — that I could fancy it was she 
herself come back again, young as ever, while I have 
grown quite old. Yes, compared with you, Elma, I am 
quite old." 

I said nothing. If I had said any thing — if I could 
have told him that those we love to us never seem old, 
that even had it been as he said, he, with his gray hair, 
was more to me, and would be, down to the most help- 
less old age, than all the young men in the world. But 
how could I have said it i And if I had, it would have 
made no difference. Years afterward I recalled his look 
— ^firm and sweet, never wavering in a purpose which he 
thought right. No ; nothing would have made any dif- 
ference. 

We stayed a few minutes longer, and then came back^ 
he helping me tenderly down the broken stairs, to my 
mother's side. She gave a start, and a sudden eager, 
anxious look at us both ; but when Cousin Conrad said 
in his usual voice that it was time for us to go home, 
she looked down again and — sighed. 

We went home, rather silently now, and took a haetj 
tea, for he had to be back in Bath by a certain hour, and 



"CoHiiH Cenrad put his hand a mvmenl lighlfy en my shoulder^ 



MTT MOTHEB AND I. 271 

besides, the mists were gathering, and my mother urged 
him to avoid the risk of a cold night-ride. 

" We must say good-by at last, and perhaps it is best 
after all to say it quickly," I heard her tell him in an 
undertone. Her voice trembled, the tears stood in her 
eyes. For me, I never stirred or wept. I was as still 
as a stone. 

"Tou are right," answered he, rising. "Good -by, 
and God bless you. That is all one needs to say." 
Taking her hand, he kissed it. Then, glancing at me, 
he asked her — my mother only — " May I ?" 

She bent her head in assent. Crossing the room, he 
came and kissed me, once on my forehead, and once — 
oh, thank God, just that once! — on my mouth. Where 
I keep it — that kiss of his — till I can give it back to 
him in Paradise. 

For in this world I never saw my Cousin Conrad 

more. 

* * * # * 

We had a very happy three years — my mother and I 
— as happy as we had ever known. For after Cousip 
Conrad's departure we seenied to close up together — 
she and I — ^in one another's loving arms; understand- 
ing one another thoroughly, though still, as ever, we did 
not speak one word about him that all the world might 
not have heard. 

Outwardly, our life was wholly free from care. We 



278 MT MOTHEB ASD L 

had as Urndti of each other's sodety, or neaiij as mnch, 
ae we had ever had, with the cares of poverty entirely 
removed. My grandfather proved as good as his word^ 
and all that Consin Conrad had said of him he justified 
to the fulL He received my mother with cordial wel- 
come, and treated her from first to last with unfailing 
respect and consideration. She had every luxury that I 
could desire for her, and she needed luxuries, for after 
her illness she was never her strong, active self again. 
But she was her dear self always — the sweetest, bright- 
est little mother in all the world. 

To the world itself, however, we were two very grand 
people — Mrs. and Miss Picardy of Broadlands. At 
which we often laughed between ourselves, knowing 
that we were in reality exactly the same as in our shut- 
up poverty days— just " my mother and I." 

Cousin Conrad's letters were our great enjoyment. 
He never missed a single mail. Generally he wrote to 
her, with a little note inside for me, inquiring about my 
studies and amusements, and telling me of his own ; 
though of himself personally he said very little. Wheth- 
er he were well or ill, happy or miserable, we could 
guess only by indirect evidence. But one thing was 
clear enough— rhis intense longing to be at home. 

" Not a day shall I wait," he said in a letter to my 
grandfather — ^"not a single day after the term of ab- 
sence I have prescribed to myself is ended." And my 



MY MOTHiat AND I. 273 

grandfather coughed, saiying mysteriously that " Conrad 
always had his crotchets ;" he hoped this would be the 
last of them ; it was not so very long to look forward. 

Did I look forward ? Had 1 any dreams of a possi- 
ble future ? I can not tell. My life was so full and 
busy — my mother seemed obstinately determined to 
keep it busy— that I had little time for dreams. * 

She took me out into society, and I think both she 
and my grandfather enjoyed society's receiving me well. 
I believe I made what is called a " sensation " in both 
Dublin and London. I was even presented at Court, 
and the young Queen said a kind word or two about 
me, in Her Majesty's own pleasant way. Well, well, all 
that is gone by now ; but at the time I enjoyed it. It 
was good to be worth something — even to look at — and 
I liked to be liked very much, until some few did rath- 
er more than like me, and then I was sometimes very 
unhappy. But my grandfather kept his promise; he 
never urged upon me any offer of marriage. And my 
mother, too — my tender mother — asked me not a single 
question as to the why and the wherefore, though, one 
after another, I persistently refused them alL 

" When she is one-and-twenty, my dear, we may hope 
she will decide. By then she will have time to know 
her own mind. Conrad said so, and Conrad is always 
right." 

Thus said my grandfather to my mother, and they 

M2 



274 MY MOTHER AND L 

both smiled at one another; they were the best friends 
now, and so they remained to the last. 

The last came sooner than any of ns had thought 
— for Cousin Conrad's prophecies were not realized. 
When we had had only three years in which to make 
him happy — ^and I know we did make him happy — my 
<!ear grandfather died: suddenly, painlessly, without 
even having had time to bid us good -by. It was a 
great shock, and we mourned for him as if we had loved 
him all our lives. Aye, even though, to the great sur- 
prise of our affectionate friends — a large circle now — 
he left us only a small annuity — the rest of his fortune 
going, as the will proved he had always meant it to go, 
to Cousin Conrad. I was so glad I 

Cousin Conrad was now obliged to come home. We 
had only one line from him», when he got the sad news, 
begging my mother to remain mistress at Broadlands 
until he arrived there, and adding that, if it did not 
trouble us very much, he should be grateful could we 
manage to meet him at Southampton, he being " rather 
an invalid." 

So we went. I need not say any thing about the 
journey. When it ended, my mother, just at the last 
minute, proposed that I should remain in the carriage, 
at the dock gates, while she went forward to the ship's 
^de, where we could dimly perceive a crowd disembark- 



MY MOTHEE AND I. 275 

They disembarked. I saw them land in happy groups, 
with equally happy friends to greet them, laughing and 
crying and kissing one another.. They all came home, 
safe and sound, all but one — my one. Deep in the Eed 
Sea, where the busy ships sail over him, and the warm 
waves rock him in his sleep, they had left him — as much 
as could die of him — my Cousin Conrad. 

He had died of the fatal &mily disease which he 
knew he was doomed to, though the warm. climate of 
the East and the pure air of the hills kept it dormant 
for a long time. But some accidental exposure brought 
on inflammation of his lungs; after which he began to 
shik rapidly. The doctors told him he would never 
reach England alive ; but he was determined to try. I 
heard it was wonderful how long the brave spirit up- 
bore the feeble body. He did not suffer much, but just 
lay every day on deck ; alone, quite alone, as far as near 
friends went — yet watched and tended by all the pas- 
sengers, 88 if he had belonged to them for years. In 
the midst of them all, these kind, strange faces, he one 
day suddenly, when no one expected it, " fell on sleep." 
For he looked as if asleep — they said — with the sun 
shining on his face, and his hands folded, as quiet as a 
child. 

All that was his became mine. He left it me — and it 
was a large fortune — in a brief will, made hastily the 



376 m KOTHEB ASD L 

very cUj after be had received the tidings of nij graad- 
father's death. He gave me every thing abBolately, 
both " because it was my right," and " becanee be had 
always loved me." 

He had always loved me. Then, why grieve ! 

In course of years, I think I have almost ceased to 
grieve. H, long ago, merely becanse I loved him, I had 
felt as if already married, how much more bo now, 
when nothing coald ever happen to change this feeling, 
ar make my love for him a sin ! 

I do not say there was not an intermediate and ter- 
rible time, a time of utter blankness and darkness, when 
I " walked through the valley of the shadow of death ;" 
alone, quite alone. But by-and-by I came ont of it into 
the safe twilight — we came out of it, I should say, for 
she had been close beside me all the while, my dearest 
mother ! 

She helped me to carry out my life ; as like his ae I 
could make it, in the way I knew he would most ap- 
prove. And, so doing, it has not been by any means 
an unhappy life. I have had his wealth to accomplish 
g]l bis schemes of benevolence ; I have sought ont his 
frinnds and made them mine, and been as true to them 
In short, I have tried to do all 
lave undone, and to make my- 
ig of it. 
ras the word people most often 



MY MOTHER AND I. 277 

used concerning us during the many peaceful years we 
spent together, my mother and I. Now it is only I. 
But I am, I think, a contented old woman yet. My 
own are still my own — ^perhaps the more so as I ap- 
proach the time of reunion. For even here, to those 
who live in it and understand what it means, there is, 
both for us and for our dead, both in this life and in 
the life to coroe, the same " kingdom of heaven." 
Of course, I have always remained Elma Picardy. 



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