LADY BASSETT timed her next visit so that she found Dr. Suaby at home.

He received her kindly, and showed himself a master; told her Sir Charles's was a mixed case, in which the fall, the fit, and a morbid desire for offspring had all played their parts.

He hoped a speedy cure, but said he counted on her assistance. There was no doubt what he meant.

Oh, for one thing, he said to her, rather slyly, "Coyne tells me you have been good enough to supply us with a hint as to his treatment; sedatives are opposed to his idiosyncrasy."

Lady Bassett blushed high, and said something about Dr. Willis.

"Oh, you are quite right, you and Dr. Willis; only you are not so very conversant with that idiosyncrasy. Why have you let him smoke twenty cigars every day of his life? the brain is accessible by other roads than the stomach. Well, we have got him down to four cigars, and in a month we will have him down to two. The effect of that, and exercise, and simple food, and the absence of powerful excitements--you will see. Do your part," said he, gayly, "we will do ours. He is the most interesting patient in the house, and born to adorn society, though by a concurrence of unhappy circumstances he is separated from it for a while."

She spent the whole afternoon with Sir Charles, and they dined together at the doctor's private table, with one or two patients who were touched, but showed no signs of it on that occasion; for the good doctor really acted like oil on the troubled waters.

Sir Charles and Lady Bassett corresponded, and so kept their hearts up; but after Rolfe's hint the correspondence was rather guarded. If these letters were read in the asylum the curious would learn that Sir Charles was far more anxious about his wife's condition than his own; but that these two patient persons were only waiting a certain near event to attack Richard Bassett with accumulated fury--that smoldering fire did not smoke by letter, but burned deep in both their sore and heavy, but enduring, Anglo-Saxon hearts.

Lady Bassett wrote to Mr. Rolfe, thanking him again for his advice, and telling him how it worked.

She had a very short reply from that gentleman.

But about six weeks after her visit he surprised her a little by writing of his own accord, and asking her for a formal introduction to Sir Charles Bassett, and begging her to back a request that Sir Charles would devote a leisure hour or two to correspondence with him. "Not," said he, "on his private affairs, but on a matter of general interest. I want a few of his experiences and observations in that place. I have the less scruple in asking it, that whatever takes him out of himself will be salutary."

Lady Bassett sent him the required introduction in such terms that Sir Charles at once consented to oblige his wife by obliging Mr. Rolfe.


"My DEAR SIR--In compliance with your wish, and Lady Bassett's, I send you a few desultory remarks on what I see here.

"1st. The lines,

'Great wits to madness nearly are allied,
And thin partitions do their bonds divide,'

are, in my opinion, exaggerated and untrue. Taking the people here as a guide, the insane in general appear to be people with very little brains, and enormous egotism.

"My next observation is, that the women have far less imagination than the men; they cannot even realize their own favorite delusions. For instance, here are two young ladies, the Virgin Mary and the Queen of England. How do they play their parts? They sit aloof from all the rest, with their noses in the air. But gauge their imaginations; go down on one knee, or both, and address them as a saint and a queen; they cannot say a word in accordance; yet they are cunning enough to see they cannot reply in character, so they will not utter a syllable to their adorers. They are like the shop-boys who go to a masquerade as Burleigh or Walsingham, and when you ask them who is Queen Bess's favorite just now, blush, and look offended, and pass sulkily on.

"The same class of male lunatics can speak in character; and this observation has made me doubt whether philosophers are not mistaken in saying that women generally have more imagination than men. I suspect they have infinitely less; and I believe their great love of novels, which has been set down to imagination, arises mainly from their want of it. You writers of novels supply that defect for them by a pictorial style, by an infinity of minute details, and petty aids to realizing, all which an imaginative reader can do for himself on reading a bare narrative of sterling facts and incidents.

"I find a monotony in madness. So many have inspirations, see phantoms, are the victims of vast conspiracies (principalities and powers combined against a fly); their food is poisoned, their wine is drugged, etc., etc.

"These, I think, are all forms of that morbid egotism which is at the bottom of insanity. So is their antipathy for each other. They keep apart, because a madman is all self, and his talk is all self; thus egotisms, clash, and an antipathy arises; yet it is not, I think, pure antipathy, though so regarded, but a mere form of their boundless egotism.

"If, in visiting an asylum, you see two or three different patients buttonhole a fourth and pour their grievances into a listening ear, you may safely suspect No. 4 of--sanity.

"On the whole, I think the doctor himself, and one of his attendants, and Jones, a keeper, have more solid eccentricity and variety about them than most of the patients."


Extract from Letter 2, written about a fortnight later:


"Some insane persons have a way of couching their nonsense in language that sounds rational, and has a false air of logical connection. Their periods seem stolen from sensible books, and forcibly fitted to incongruous bosh. By this means the ear is confused, and a slow hearer might fancy he was listening to sense.

"I have secured you one example of this. You must know that, in the evening, I sometimes collect a few together, and try to get them to tell their stories. Little comes of it in general but interruptions. But, one night, a melancholy Bagman responded in good set terms, and all in a moment; one would have thought I had put a torch to a barrel of powder, he went off so quickly, in this style:

"'You ask my story: it is briefly told. Initiated in commerce from my earliest years, and traveled in the cotton trade. As representative of a large house in Manchester, I visited the United States.

"'Unfortunately for me, that country was then the chosen abode of spirits; the very air was thick and humming with supernaturalia. Ere long spirit-voices whispered in my ear, and suggested pious aspirations at first. That was a blind, no doubt; for very soon they went on to insinuate things profane and indelicate, and urged me to deliver them in mixed companies; I forbore with difficulty, restrained by the early lessons of a pious mother, and a disinclination to be kicked downstairs, or flung out o' window.

"'I consulted a friend, a native of the country; he said, in its beautiful Doric, "Old oss, I reckon you'd better change the air." I grasped his hand, muttered a blessing, and sailed for England.

"'On ocean's peaceful bosom the annoyance ceased. But under this deceitful calm fresh dangers brooded. Two doctors had stolen into the ship, unseen by human eye, and bided their time. Unable to act at sea, owing to the combined effect of wind and current, they concealed themselves on deck under a black tarpaulin--that is to say, it had been black, but wind and weather had reduced it to a dirty brown--and there, adopting for the occasion the habits of the dormouse, the bear, the caterpillar, and other ephemeral productions, they lay torpid. But the moment the vessel touched the quay, profiting by the commotion, they emerged, and signed certificates with chalk on my portmanteau; then vanished in the crowd. The Custom-house read the certificates, and seized my luggage as contraband. I was too old a traveler to leave my luggage; so then they seized me, and sent us both down here. (With sudden and short-lived fury) that old hell-hound at the Lodge asked them where I was booked for. "For the whole journey," said a sepulchral voice unseen. That means the grave, my boys, the silent grave.'

"Notwithstanding this stern decree, Suaby expects to turn him out cured in a few months.

"Miss Wieland, a very pretty girl, put her arm in mine, and drew me mysteriously apart. 'So you are collecting the villainies,' said she, sotto voce. 'It will take you all your time. I'll tell you mine. There's a hideous old man wants me to marry him; and I won't. And he has put me in here, and keeps me prisoner till I will. They are all on his side, especially that sanctified old guy, Suaby. They drug my wine, they stupefy me, they give me things to make me naughty and tipsy; but it is no use; I never will marry that old goat--that for his money and him--I'll die first.'

"Of course my blood boiled; but I asked my nurse, Sally, and she assured me there was not one atom of truth in any part of the story. 'The young lady was put in here by her mother; none too soon, neither.' I asked her what she meant. 'Why, she came here with her throat cut, and strapping on it. She is a suicidal.'"


This correspondence led eventually to some unexpected results; but I am obliged to interrupt it for a time, while I deal with a distinct series of events which began about five weeks after Lady Bassett's visit to Mr. Rolfe, and will carry the reader forward beyond the date we have now arrived at.

It was the little dining-room at Highmore; a low room, of modest size, plainly furnished. An enormous fire-place, paved with plain tiles, on which were placed iron dogs; only wood and roots were burned in this room.

Mrs. Bassett had just been packed off to bed by marital authority; Bassett and Wheeler sat smoking pipes and sipping whisky-and-water. Bassett professed to like the smell of peat smoke in whisky; what he really liked was the price.

After a few silent whiffs, said Bassett, "I didn't think they would take it so quietly; did you?"

"Well, I really did not. But, after all, what can they do? They are evidently afraid to go to the Court of Chancery, and ask for a jury in the asylum; and what else can they do?"

"Humph! They might arrange an escape, and hide him for fourteen days; then we could not recapture him without fresh certificates; could we?"

"Certainly not."

"And the doors would be too well guarded; not a crack for two doctors to creep in at."

"You go too fast. You know the law from me, and you are a daring man that would try this sort of thing; but a timid woman, advised by a respectable muff like Oldfield! They will never dream of such a thing."

"Oldfield is not her head-man. She has got another adviser, and he is the very man to do something plucky."

"I don't know who you mean."

"Why, her lover, to be sure."

"Her lover? Lady Bassett's lover!"

"Ay, the young parson."

Wheeler smiled satirically. "You certainly are a good hater. Nothing is too bad for those you don't like. If that Lady Bassett is not a true wife, where will you find one?"

"She is the most deceitful jade in England."

"Oh! oh!"

"Ah! you may sneer. So you have forgotten how she outwitted us. Did the devil himself ever do a cunninger thing than that? tempting a fellow into a correspondence that seemed a piece of folly on her part, yet it was a deep diabolical trick to get at my handwriting. Did you see her game? No more than I did. You chuckled at her writing letters to the plaintiff pendente lite. We were both children, setting our wits against a woman's. I tell you I dread her, especially when I see her so unnaturally quiet, after what we have done. When you hook a large salmon, and he makes a great commotion, but all of a sudden lies like a stone, be on your guard; he means mischief."

"Well," said Wheeler, "this is all very true, but you have strayed from the point. What makes you think she has an improper attachment?"

"Is it so very unnatural? He is the handsomest fellow about, she is the loveliest woman; he is dark, she is fair; and they are thrown together by circumstances. Another thing: I have always understood that women admire the qualities they don't possess themselves--strength, for instance. Now this parson is a Hercules. He took Sir Charles up like a boy and carried him in his arms all the way from where he had the fit. Lady Bassett walked beside them. Rely on it, a woman does not see one man carry another so without making a comparison in favor of the strong, and against the weak. But what am I talking about? They walk like lovers, those two."

"What, hand in hand? he! he!"

"No, side by side; but yet like lovers for all that."

"You must have a good eye."

"I have a good opera-glass."

Mr. Wheeler smoked in silence.

"Well, but," said he, after a pause, "if this is so, all the better for you. Don't you see that the lover will never really help her to get the husband out of confinement? It is not in the nature of things. He may struggle with his own conscience a bit, being a clergyman, but he won't go too far; he won't break the law to get Sir Charles home, and so end these charming duets with his lady-love."

"By Jove, you are right!" cried Bassett, convinced in his turn. "I say, old fellow, two heads are better than one. I think we have got the clew, between us. Yes, by Heaven! it is so; for the carriage used to be out twice a week, but now she only goes about once in ten days. By-and-by it will be once a fortnight, then once a month, and the black-eyed rector will preach patience and resignation. Oh, it was a master-stroke, clapping him in that asylum! All we have got to do now is to let well alone. When she is over head and ears in love with Angelo she will come to easy terms with us, and so I'll move across the way. I shall never be happy till I live at Huntercombe, and administer the estate."

The maid-servant brought him a note, and said it was from her mistress. Bassett took it rather contemptuously, and said, "The little woman is always in a fidget now when you come here. She is all for peace." He read the letter. It ran thus:


"DEAREST RICHARD--I implore you to do nothing more to hurt Sir Charles. It is wicked, and it is useless. God has had pity on Lady Bassett, and have you pity on her too. Jane has just heard it from one of the Huntercombe servants."


"What does she mean with her 'its'? Why, surely-- Read it, you."

They looked at each other in doubt and amazement for some time. Then Richard Bassett rushed upstairs, and had a few hasty words with his wife.

She told him her news in plainer English, and renewed her mild entreaties. He turned his back on her in the middle. He went out into the nursery, and looked at his child. The little fellow, a beautiful boy, slept the placid sleep of infancy. He leaned over him and kissed him, and went down to the dining-room.

His feet came tramp, tramp, very slowly, and when he opened the door Mr. Wheeler was startled at the change in his appearance. He was pale, and his countenance fallen.

"Why, what is the matter?" said Wheeler.

"She has done us. Ah, I was wiser than you; I feared her. It is the same thing over again; a woman against two children. This shows how strong she is; you can't realize what she has done--even when you see it. An heir was wanted to those estates. Love cried out for one. Hate cried out for one. Nature denied one. She has cut the Gordian knot; cut it as boldly as the lowest woman in Huntercombe would have cut it under such a terrible temptation."

"Oh, for shame!"

"Think, and use your eyes."

"My eyes have seen the lady; I think I see her now, kneeling like an angel over her husband, and pitying him for having knocked me down. I say her only lover is her husband."

"Oh, that was a long time ago. Time brings changes. You can't take the eyes out of my head."

"Suppose it should be only a false alarm?"

"Is that likely? However, I will learn. Whether it is or not, that child shall never rob mine of Bassett and Huntercombe. Anything is fair against such a woman."


THAT very night, after Wheeler had gone home, Richard Bassett wrote a cajoling letter to Mary Wells, asking her to meet him at the old place.

When the girl got this letter she felt a little faint for a moment; but she knew the man, his treachery, and his hard egotism and selfishness so well, that she tossed the letter aside, and resolved to take no notice. Her trust was all in her mistress, for whom, indeed, she had more real affection than for any living creature; as for Richard Bassett she absolutely detested him.

As the day wore on she took another view of matters: her deceiver was the enemy of her mistress; she might do her a service by going to this rendezvous, might learn something from him, and use it against him.

So she went to the rendezvous with a heart full of bitter hate.

Bassett, with all his assurance, could not begin his interrogatory all in a moment. He made a sort of apology, said he felt he had been unkind, and he had never been happy since he had deserted her.

She cut that short. "I have found a better than you," said she. "I am going to London very soon--to be married."

"I am glad to hear it."

"No doubt you are."

"I mean for your sake."

"For my sake? You think as little of me as I do of you. Come, now, what do you want of me--without a lie, if you can?"

"I wanted to see you, and talk to you, and hear your prospects."

"Well, I have told you." And she pretended to be going.

"Don't be in such a hurry. Tell us the news. Is it true that Lady Bassett is expected--"

"Oh, that is no news."

"It is to me."

"'Tain't no news in our house. Why, we have known it for months."

This took away the man's breath for a minute.

At last he said, with a great deal of intention:

"Will it be fair or dark?"

"As God pleases."

"I'll bet you five pounds to one that it is dark."

Mary shrugged her shoulders contemptuously, as if these speculations were too childish for her.

"It's my lady you want to talk about, is it? I thought it was to make me a wedding present."

He actually put his hand in his pocket and gave her two sovereigns. She took them with a grim smile.

He presumed on this to question her minutely.

She submitted to the interrogatory.

Only, as the questions were not always delicate, and the answer was invariably an untruth, it may be as well to pass over the rest of the dialogue. Suffice it to say that, whenever the girl saw the drift of a question she lied admirably; and when she did not, still she lied upon principle: it must be a good thing to deceive the enemy.


Richard Bassett was now perplexed, and saw himself in that very position which had so galled Lady Bassett six weeks or so before. He could not make any advantageous move, but was obliged to await events. All he could do was to spy a little on Lady Bassett, and note how often she went to the asylum.

After many days' watching he saw something new.

Mr. Angelo was speaking to her with a good deal of warmth, when suddenly she started from him, and then turned round upon him in a very commanding attitude, and with prodigious fire. Angelo seemed then to address her very humbly. But she remained rigid. At last Angelo retired and left her so; but he was no sooner out of sight than she dropped into a garden seat, and, taking out her handkerchief, cried a long time.

"Why doesn't the fool come back?" said Bassett, from his tower of observation.

He related this incident to Wheeler, and it impressed that worthy more than all he had ever said before on the same subject. But in a day or two Wheeler, who was a great gossip, and picked up every thing, came and told Bassett that the parson was looking out for a curate, and going to leave his living for a time, on the ground of health. "That is rather against your theory, Mr. Bassett," said he.

"Not a bit," said Bassett. "On the contrary, that is just what these artful women do who sacrifice virtue but cling all the more to reputation. I read French novels, my boy."

"Find 'em instructive?"

"Very. They cut deeper into human nature than our writers dare. Her turning away her lover now is just the act of what the French call a masterly woman--maîtresse femme. She has got rid of him to close the mouth of scandal; that is her game."

"Well," said Wheeler, "you certainly are very ingenious, and so fortified in your opinions that with you facts are no longer stubborn things; you can twist them all your way. If he had stayed and buzzed about her, while her husband was incarcerated, you would have found her guilty: he goes to Rome and leaves her, and therefore you find her guilty. You would have made a fine hanging judge in the good old sanguinary times."

"I use my eyes, my memory, and my reason. She is a monster of vice and deceit. Anything is fair against such a woman."

"I am sorry to hear you say that," said Wheeler, becoming grave rather suddenly. "A woman is a woman, and I tell you plainly I have gone pretty well to the end of my tether with you."

"Abandon me, then," said Bassett, doggedly; "I can go alone."

Wheeler was touched by this, and said, "No, no; I am not the man to desert a friend; but pray do nothing rash--do nothing without consulting me."

Bassett made no reply.

About a week after this, as Lady Bassett was walking sadly in her own garden, a great Newfoundland dog ran up to her without any warning, and put his paws almost on her shoulder.

She screamed violently, and more than once.

One or two windows flew open, and among the women who put their heads out to see what was the matter, Mary Wells was the first.

The owner of the dog instantly whistled, and the sportive animal ran to him; but Lady Bassett was a good deal scared, and went in holding her hand to her side. Mary Wells hurried to her assistance, and she cried a little from nervousness when the young woman came earnestly to her.

"Oh, Mary! he frightened me so. I did not see him coming."

"Mr. Moss," said Mary Wells, "here's a villain come and frightened my lady. Go and shoot his dog, you and your son; and get the grooms, and fling him in the horse-pond directly."

"No!" said Lady Bassett, firmly. "You will see that he does not enter the house, that is all. Should he attempt that, then you will use force for my protection. Mary, come to my room."

When they were together alone Lady Bassett put both hands on the girl's shoulders, and made her turn toward her.

"I think you love me, Mary?" said she, drinking the girl's eyes with her own.

"Ah! that I do, my lady."

"Why did you look so pale, and your eyes flash, and why did you incite those poor men to-- It might have led to bloodshed."

"It would; and that is what I wanted, my lady!"

"Oh, Mary!"

"What, don't you see?"

"No, no; I don't want to think so. It might have been an accident. The poor dog meant no harm; it was his way of fawning, that was all."

"The beast meant no harm, but the man did. He is worse than any beast that ever was born; he is a cruel, cunning, selfish devil; and if I had been a man he should never have got off alive."

"But are you sure?"

"Quite. I was upstairs, and saw it all."

This was not true; she had seen nothing till her mistress screamed.

"Then--anything is fair against such a villain."

"Of course it is."

"Let me think."

She leaned her head upon her hand, and that intelligent face of hers quite shone with hard thought.

At last, after long and intense thinking, she spoke.

"I'll teach you to be inhuman, Mr. Richard Bassett," said she, slowly, and with a strange depth of resolution.

Then Mary Wells and she put their heads together in close discussion; but now Lady Bassett took the lead, and revealed to her astonished adviser extraordinary and astounding qualities.

They had driven her to bay, and that is a perilous game to play with such a woman.

Mary Wells found herself a child compared with her mistress, now that that lady was driven to put out all her powers.

The conversation lasted about two hours: in that time the whole campaign was settled.


MARY WELLS by order went down, in a loose morning wrapper her mistress had given her, and dined in the servants' hall. She was welcomed with a sort of shout, half ironical; and the chief butler said,

"Glad to see you come back to us, Miss Wells."

"The same to you, sir," said Mary, with more pertness than logic; "which I'm only come to take leave, for to-morrow I go to London, on business."

"La! what's the business, I wonder?" inquired a house-maid, irreverentially.

"Well, my business is not your business, Jane. However, if you want to know, I'm going to be married."

"And none too soon," whispered the kitchen-maid to a footman.

"Speak up, my dear," said Mary. "There's nothing more vulgarer than whispering in company."

"I said, 'What will Bill Drake say to that?'"

"Bill Drake will say he was a goose not to make up his mind quicker. This will learn him beauty won't wait for no man. If he cries when I am gone, you lend him your apron to wipe his eyes, and tell him women can't abide shilly-shallying men."

"That's a hexcellent sentiment," said John the footman, "and a solemn warning it is--"

"To all such as footmen be," said Mary.

"We writes it in the fly-leaf of our Bibles accordingly," said John.

"No, my man, write it somewhere where you'll have a chance to read it."

This caused a laugh; and when it was over, the butler, who did not feel strong enough to chaff a lady of this caliber, inquired obsequiously whether he might venture to ask who was the happy stranger to carry off such a prize.

"A civil question deserves a civil answer, Mr. Wright," said Mary. "It is a sea-faring man, the mate of a ship. He have known me a few years longer than any man in these parts. Whenever he comes home from a voyage he tells me what he has made, and asks me to marry him. I have said 'No' so many times I'm sick and tired; so I have said 'Yes' for once in a way. Changes are lightsome, you know."

Thus airily did Mary Wells communicate her prospects, and next morning early was driven to the station; a cart had gone before with her luggage, which tormented the female servants terribly; for, instead of the droll little servant's box, covered with paper, she had a large lady's box, filled with linen and clothes by the liberality of Lady Bassett, and a covered basket, and an old carpet-bag, with some minor packages of an unintelligible character. Nor did she make any secret that she had money in both pockets; indeed, she flaunted some notes before the groom, and told him none but her lady knew all she had done for Sir Charles. "But," said she, "he is grateful, you see, and so is she."

She went off in the train, as gay as a lark; but she was no sooner out of sight than her face changed its whole expression, and she went up to London very grave and thoughtful.

The traveling carriage was ordered at ten o'clock next day, and packed as for a journey.

Lady Bassett took her housekeeper with her to the asylum.

She had an interview with Sir Charles, and told him what Mr. Bassett had done, and the construction Mary Wells had put on it.

Sir Charles turned pale with rage, and said he could no longer play the patient game. He must bribe a keeper, make his escape, and kill that villain.

Lady Bassett was alarmed, and calmed it down.

"It was only a servant's construction, and she might be wrong; but it frightened me terribly; and I fear it is the beginning of a series of annoyances and encroachments; and I have lost Mr. Angelo; he has gone to Italy. Even Mary Wells left me this morning to be married. I think I know a way to turn all this against Mr. Bassett; but I will not say it, because I want to hear what you advise, dearest."

Sir Charles did not leave her long in doubt. He said, "There is but one way; you must leave Huntercombe, and put yourself out of that miscreant's way until our child is born."

"That would not grieve me," said Lady Bassett. "The place is odious to me, now you are not there. But what would censorious people say?"

"What could they say, except that you obeyed your husband?"

"Is it a command, then, dearest?"

"It is a command; and, although you are free, and I am a prisoner--although you are still an ornament to society, and I pass for an outcast, still I expect you to obey me when I assume a husband's authority. I have not taken the command of you quite so much as you used to say I must; but on this occasion I do. You will leave Huntercombe, and avoid that caitiff until our child is born."

"That ends all discussion," said Lady Bassett. "Oh, Charles, my only regret is that it costs me nothing to obey you. But when did it ever? My king!"

He had ordered her to do the very thing she wished to do.

She now gave her housekeeper minute instructions, settled the board wages of the whole establishment, and sent her home in the carriage, retaining her own boxes and packages at the inn.


Richard Bassett soon found out that Lady Bassett had left Huntercombe. He called on Wheeler and told him. Wheeler suggested she had gone to be near her husband.

"No," said Bassett, "she has joined her lover. I wonder at our simplicity in believing that fellow was gone to Italy."

"This is rich," said Wheeler. "A week ago she was guilty, and a Machiavel in petticoats; for why? she had quarreled with her Angelo, and packed him off to Italy. Now she is guilty; and why? because he is not gone to Italy--not that you know whether he is or not. You reason like a mule. As for me, I believe none of this nonsense--till you find them together."

"And that is just what I mean to do."

"We shall see."

"You will see."

Very soon after this a country gentleman met Wheeler on market-day, and drew him aside to ask him a question. "Do you advise Mr. Richard Bassett still?"


"Did you set him to trespass on Lady Bassett's lawn, and frighten her with a great dog in the present state of her health?"

"Heaven forbid! This is the first I've heard of such a thing."

"I am glad to hear you say that, Tom Wheeler. There, read that. Your client deserves to be flogged out of the county, sir." And he pulled a printed paper out of his pocket. It was dated from the Royal Hotel, Bath, and had been printed with blanks, as follows; but a lady's hand had filled in the dates.

"On the day ---- of ----, while I was walking alone in my garden, Mr. Richard Bassett, the person who has bereaved me by violence of my protector, came, without leave, into my private grounds, and brought a very large dog; it ran to me, and frightened me so that I nearly fainted with alarm. Mr. Bassett was aware of my condition. Next day I consulted my husband, and he ordered me to leave Huntercombe Hall, and put myself beyond the reach of trespassers and outrage.

"One motive has governed Mr. Bassett in all his acts, from his anonymous letter to me before my marriage--which I keep for your inspection, together with the proofs that he wrote it--to the barbarous seizure of my husband upon certificates purchased beforehand, and this last act of violence, which has driven me from the county for a time.

"Sir Charles and I have often been your hosts and your guests; we now ask you to watch our property and our legal rights, so long as through injustice and cruelty my husband is a prisoner, his wife a fugitive."


"There," said the gentleman, "these papers are going all round the county."

Wheeler was most indignant, and said he had never been consulted, and had never advised a trespass. He begged a loan of the paper, and took it to Bassett's that very same afternoon.

"So you have been acting without advice," said he, angrily; "and a fine mess you have made of it." And, though not much given to violent anger, he dashed the paper down on the table, and hurt his hand a little. Anger must be paid for, like other luxuries.

Bassett read it, and was staggered a moment; but he soon recovered himself, and said, "What is the foolish woman talking about?"

He then took a sheet of paper, and said he would soon give her a Roland for an Oliver.

"Ay," said Wheeler, grimly, "let us see how you will put down the foolish woman. I'll smoke a cigar in the garden, and recover my temper."

Richard Bassett's retort ran thus:


"I never wrote an anonymous letter in my life; and if I put restraint upon Sir Charles, it was done to protect the estate. Experienced physicians represented him homicidal and suicidal; and I protected both Lady Bassett and himself by the act she has interpreted so harshly.

"As for her last grievance, it is imaginary. My dog is gentle as a lamb. I did not foresee Lady Bassett would be there, nor that the poor dog would run and welcome her. She is playing a comedy: the real truth is, a gentleman had left Huntercombe whose company is necessary to her. She has gone to join him, and thrown the blame very adroitly upon



When he had written this Bassett ordered his dog-cart.

Wheeler came in, read the letter, and said the last suggestion in it was a libel, and an indictable one into the bargain.

"What, if it is true--true to the letter?"

"Even then you would not be safe, unless you could prove it by disinterested witnesses."

"Well, if I cannot, I consent to cut this sentence out. Excuse me one minute, I must put a few things in my carpetbag."

"What! going away?"

"Of course I am."

"Better give me your address, then, in case anything turns up."

"If you were as sharp as you pass for you would know my address--Royal Hotel, Bath, to be sure."

He left Wheeler staring, and was back in five minutes with his carpet-bag and wraps.

"Wouldn't to-morrow morning do for this wild-goose chase?" asked Wheeler.

"No," said Richard. "I'm not such a fool. Catch me losing twelve hours. In that twelve hours they would shift their quarters. It is always so when a fool delays. I shall breakfast at the Royal Hotel, Bath."

The dog-cart came to the door as he spoke, and he rattled off to the railway.

He managed to get to the Royal Hotel, Bath, at 7 A.M., took a warm bath instead of bed, and then ordered breakfast; asked to see the visitors' book, and wrote a false name; turned the leaves, and, to his delight, saw Lady Bassett's name.

But he could not find Mr. Angelo's name in the book.

He got hold of Boots, and feed him liberally, then asked him if there was a handsome young parson there--very dark.

Boots could not say there was.

Then Bassett made up his mind that Angelo was at another hotel, or perhaps in lodgings, out of prudence.

"Lady Bassett here still?" said he.

Boots was not very sure; would inquire at the bar. Did inquire, and brought him word Lady Bassett had left for London yesterday morning.

Bassett ground his teeth with vexation.

No train to London for an hour and a half. He took a stroll through the town to fill up the time.

How often, when a man abandons or remits his search for a time, Fate sends in his way the very thing he is after, but has given up hunting just then! As he walked along the north side of a certain street, what should he see but the truly beautiful and remarkable eyes and eyebrows of Mr. Angelo, shining from afar.

That gentleman was standing, in a reverie, on the steps of a small hotel.

Bassett drew back at first, not to be seen. Looking round he saw he was at the door of a respectable house that let apartments. He hurried in, examined the drawing-room floor, took it for a week, paid in advance, and sent to the Royal for his bag.

He installed himself near the window, to await one of two things, and act accordingly. If Angelo left the place he should go by the same train, and so catch the parties together; if the lady doubled back to Bath, or had only pretended to leave it, he should soon know that, by diligent watch and careful following.

He wrote to Wheeler to announce this first step toward success.


SOME days after this Mr. Rolfe received a line from Lady Bassett, to say she was at the Adelphi Hotel, in John Street. He put some letters into his pocket and called on her directly.

She received him warmly, and told him, more fully than she had by letter, how she had acted on his advice; then she told him of Richard Bassett's last act, and showed him her retort.

He knitted his brows at first over it; but said he thought her proclamation could do no harm.

"As a rule," said he, "I object to flicking with a lady's whip when I am going to crush, but--yes--it is able, and gives you a good excuse for keeping out of the way of annoyances till we strike the blow. And now I have something to consult you upon. May I read you some extracts from your husband's letters to me?"

"Oh, yes."

"Forgive a novelist; but this is a new situation, reading a husband's letters to his wife. However, I have a motive, and so I had in soliciting the correspondence with Sir Charles." He then read her the letters that are already before the reader, and also the following extracts:


"Mr. Johnson, a broken tradesman, has some imagination, though not of a poetic kind; he is imbued with trade, and, in the daytime, exercises several, especially a butcher's. When he sees any of us coming, he whips before the nearest door or gate, and sells meat. He sells it very cheap; the reason is, his friends allow him only a shilling or two in coppers, and as every madman is the center of the universe, he thinks that the prices of all commodities are regulated by the amount of specie in his pocket. This is his style, 'Come, buy, buy, choice mutton three farthings the carcass. Retail shop next door, ma'am. Jack, serve the lady. Bill, tell him he can send me home those twenty bullocks, at three half-pence each--' and so on. But at night he subsides into an auctioneer, and, with knocking down lots while others are conversing, gets removed occasionally to a padded room. Sometimes we humor him, and he sells us the furniture after a spirited competition, and debits the amounts, for cash is not abundant here. The other night, heated with business, he went on from the articles of furniture to the company, and put us all up in succession.

"Having a good many dislikes, he sometimes forgot the auctioneer in the man, and depreciated some lots so severely that they had to be passed; but he set Miss Wieland in a chair, and descanted on her beauty, good temper, and other gifts, in terms florid enough for Robins, or any other poet. Sold for eighteen pounds, and to a lady. This lady had formed a violent attachment to Miss W.; so next week they will be at daggers drawn. My turn came, and the auctioneer did me the honor to describe me as 'the lot of the evening.' He told the bidders to mind what they were about, they might never again be able to secure a live baronet at a moderate price, owing to the tightness of the money market. Well, sir, I was honored with bids from several ladies; but they were too timid and too honest to go beyond their means; my less scrupulous sex soared above these considerations, and I was knocked down for seventy-nine pounds fifteen shillings, amid loud applause at the spirited result. My purchaser is a shop-keeper mad after gardening. Dr. Suaby has given him a plot to cultivate, and he whispered in my ear, 'The reason I went to a fancy price was, I can kill two birds with one stone with you. You'll make a very good statee stuck up among my flowers; and you can hallo, and keep those plaguy sparrows off.'"


"Oh, what creatures for my darling to live among!" cried Lady Bassett piteously.

Mr. Rolfe stared, and said, "What, then, you are like all your sex--no sense of humor?"

"Humor! when my husband is in misery and degradation!"

"And don't you see that the brave writer of these letters is steeled against misery, and above degradation? Such men are not the mere sport of circumstances. Your husband carries a soul not to be quelled by three months in a well-ordered mad-house. But I will read no more, since what gives me satisfaction gives you pain."

"Oh, yes, yes! Don't let me lose a word my husband has ever uttered."

"Well, I'll go on; but I'm horribly discouraged."

"I'm so sorry for that sir. Please forgive me."

Mr. Rolfe read the letter next in date--


"We are honored with one relic of antiquity, a Pythagorean. He has obliged me with his biography. He was, to use his own words, engendered by the sun shining on a dunghill at his father's door,' and began his career as a flea; but his identity was, somehow, shifted to a boy of nine years old. He has had a long spell of humanity, and awaits the great change--which is to turn him to a bee. It will not find him unprepared; he has long practiced humming, in anticipation. A faithful friend, called Caffyn, used to visit him every week. Caffyn died last year, and the poor Pythagorean was very lonely and sad; but, two months ago, he detected his friend in the butcher's horse, and is more than consoled, for he says, Caffyn comes six times a week now, instead of once.'"


"Poor soul!" said Lady Bassett. "What a strange world for him to be living in. It seems like a dream."

"There is something stranger coming in this last letter."

"I have at last found one madman allied to Genius. It has taken me a fortnight to master his delusion, and to write down the vocabulary he has invented to describe the strange monster of his imagination. All the words I write in italics are his own.

"Mr. Williams says that a machine has been constructed for malignant purposes, which machine is an air-loom. It rivals the human machine in this, that it can operate either on mind or matter. It was invented, and is worked, by a gang of villains superlatively skillful in pneumatic chemistry, physiology, nervous influence, sympathy, and the higher metaphysic, men far beyond the immature science of the present era, which, indeed, is a favorite subject of their ridicule.

"The gang are seven in number, but Williams has only seen the four highest: Bill, the King, a master of the art of magnetic impregnation; Jack, the schoolmaster, the short-hand writer of the gang; Sir Archy, Chief Liar to the Association; and the glove-woman, so called from her always wearing cotton mittens. This personage has never been known to speak to any one.

"The materials used in the air-loom by these pneumatic adepts are infinite; but principally effluvia of certain metals, poisons, soporific scents, etc.

"The principal effects are:

"1st. EVENT-WORKING.--This is done by magnetic manipulation of kings, emperors, prime ministers, and others; so that, while the world is fearing and admiring them, they are, in reality, mere puppets played by the workers of the air-loom.

"2d. CUTTING SOUL FROM SENSE.--This is done by diffusing the magnetic warp from the root of the nose under the base of the skull, till it forms a veil; so that the sentiments of the heart can have no communication with the operations of the intellect.

"3d. KITING.--As boys raise a kite in the air, so the air-loom can lift an idea into the brain, where it floats and undulates for hours together. The victim cannot get rid of an idea so insinuated.

"4th. LOBSTER-CRACKING.--An external pressure of the magnetic atmosphere surrounding the person assailed. Williams has been so operated on, and says he felt as if he was grasped by an enormous pair of nut-crackers with teeth, and subjected to a piercing pressure, which he still remembers with horror. Death sometimes results from Lobster-cracking.

"5th. LENGTHENING THE BRAIN.--As the cylindrical mirror lengthens the countenance, so these assailants find means to elongate the brain. This distorts the ideas, and subjects the most serious are made silly and ridiculous.

"6th. THOUGHT-MAKING.--While one of these villains sucks at the brain of the assailed, and extracts his existing sentiments, another will press into the vacuum ideas very different from his real thoughts. Thus his mind is physically enslaved."


Then Sir Charles goes on to say:


"Poor Mr. Williams seems to me an inventor wasted. I thought I would try and reason him out of his delusion. I asked if he had ever seen this gang and their machine.

"He said yes, they operated on him this morning. 'Then show them me,' said I. 'Young man,' said he, satirically, 'do you think these assassins, and their diabolical machine, would be allowed to go on, if they could be laid hands on so easily? The gang are fertile in disguise; the machine operates at considerable distances.'

"To drive him into a corner, I said, 'Will you give me a drawing of it?' He seemed to hesitate, so I said, 'If you can not draw it, you never saw it, and never will.' He assented to that, and I was vain enough to think I had staggered him; but yesterday he produced the inclosed sketch and explanation. After this I sadly fear he is incurable.

"There are three sane patients in this asylum, besides myself. I will tell you their stories when you come here, which I hope will be soon; for the time agreed on draws near, and my patience and self-control are sorely tried, as day after day rolls by, and sees me still in a madhouse."


"There, Lady Bassett," said Mr. Rolfe. "And now for my motive in reading these letters. Sir Charles may still have a crotchet, an inordinate desire for an heir; but, even if he has, the writer of these letters has nothing to fear from any jury; and, therefore, I am now ready to act. I propose to go down to the asylum to-morrow, and get him out as quickly as I can."

Lady Bassett uttered an ejaculation of joy. Then she turned suddenly pale, and her countenance fell. She said nothing.

Mr. Rolfe was surprised at this, since, at their last meeting, she was writhing at her inaction. He began to puzzle himself. She watched him keenly. He thought to himself, "Perhaps she dreads the excitement of meeting--for herself."

At last Lady Bassett asked him how long it would take to liberate Sir Charles.

"Not quite a week, if Richard Bassett is well advised. If he fights desperately it may take a fortnight. In any case I don't leave the work an hour till it is done. I can delay, and I can fight; but I never mix the two. Come, Lady Bassett, there is something on your mind you don't like to say. Well, what does it matter? I will pack my bag, and write to Dr. Suaby that he may expect me soon; but I will wait till I get a line from you to go ahead. Then I'll go down that instant and do the work."

This proposal was clearly agreeable to Lady Bassett, and she thanked him.

"You need not waste words over it," said he. "Write one word, 'ACT!' That will be the shortest letter you ever wrote."

The rest of the conversation is not worth recording.

Mr. Rolfe instructed a young solicitor minutely, packed his bag, and waited.

But day after day went by, and the order never came to act.

Mr. Rolfe was surprised at this, and began to ask himself whether he could have been deceived in this lady's affection for her husband. But he rejected that. Then he asked himself whether it might have cooled. He had known a very short incarceration produce that fatal effect. Both husband and wife interested him, and he began to get irritated at the delay.

Sir Charles's letters made him think they had already wasted time.

At last a letter came from Gloucester Place.


"Will my kind friend now ACT?




Mr. Rolfe, upon this, cast his discontent to the winds and started for Bellevue House.


On the evening of that day a surgeon called Boddington was drinking tea with his wife, and they were talking rather disconsolately; for he had left a fair business in the country, and, though a gentleman of undoubted skill, was making his way very slowly in London.

The conversation was agreeably interrupted by a loud knock at the door.

A woman had come to say that he was wanted that moment for a lady of title in Gloucester Place, hard by.

"I will come," said he, with admirably affected indifference; and, as soon as the woman was out of sight, husband and wife embraced each other.

"Pray God it may all go well, for your sake and hers, poor lady."

Mr. Boddington hurried to the number in Gloucester Place. The door was opened by the charwoman.

He asked her with some doubt if that was the house.

The woman said yes, and she believed it was a surprise. The lady was from the country, and was looking out for some servants.

This colloquy was interrupted by an intelligent maid, who asked, over the balusters, if that was the medical man; and, on the woman's saying it was, begged him to step upstairs at once.

He found his patient attended only by her maid, but she was all discretion, and intelligence. She said he had only to direct her, she would do anything for her dear mistress.

Mr. Boddington said a single zealous and intelligent woman, who could obey orders, was as good as a number, or better.

He then went gently to the bedside, and his experience told him at once that the patient was in labor.

He told the attendant so, and gave her his directions.


ME. ROLFE reached Bellevue House in time to make a hasty toilet, and dine with Dr. Suaby in his private apartments.

The other guests were Sir Charles Bassett, Mr. Hyam--a meek, sorrowful patient--an Exquisite, and Miss Wieland.

Dr. Suaby introduced him to everybody but the Exquisite.

Mr. Rolfe said Sir Charles Bassett and he were correspondents.

"So I hear. He tells you the secrets of the prison-house, eh?"

"The humors of the place, you mean."

"Yes, he has a good eye for character. I suppose he has dissected me along with the rest?"

"No, no; he has only dealt with the minor eccentricities. His pen failed at you. 'You must come and see the doctor,' he said. So here I am."

"Oh," said the doctor, "if your wit and his are both to be leveled at me, I had better stop your mouths. Dinner! dinner! Sir Charles, will you take Miss Wieland? Sorry we have not another lady to keep you company, madam."

"Are you? Then I'm not," said the lady smartly.

The dinner passed like any other, only Rolfe observed that Dr. Suaby took every fair opportunity of drawing the pluckless Mr. Hyam into conversation, and that he coldly ignored the Exquisite.

"I have seen that young man about town, I think," said Mr. Rolfe. "Where was it, I wonder?"

"The Argyll Rooms, or the Casino, probably."

"Thank you, doctor. Oh, I forgot; you owed me one. He is no favorite of yours."

"Certainly not. And I only invited him medicinally."

"Medicinally? That's too deep for a layman."

"To flirt with Miss Wieland. Flirting does her good."

"Medicine embraces a wider range than I thought."

"No doubt. You are always talking about medicine; but you know very little, begging your pardon."

"That is the theory of compensation. When you know very little about a thing you must talk a great deal about it. Well, I'm here for instruction; thirsting for it."

"All the better; we'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart."

"All right: but not of your favorite Acetate of Morphia; because that is the draught that takes the reason prisoner."

"It's no favorite of mine. Indeed, experience has taught me that all sedatives excite; if they soothe at first, they excite next day. My antidotes to mental excitement are packing in lukewarm water, and, best of all, hard bodily exercise and the perspiration that follows it. To put it shortly--prolonged bodily excitement antidotes mental excitement."

"I'll take a note of that. It is the wisest thing I ever heard from any learned physician."

"Yet many a learned physician knows it. But you are a little prejudiced against the faculty."

"Only in their business. They are delightful out of that. But, come now, nobody hears us--confess, the system which prescribes drugs, drugs, drugs at every visit and in every case, and does not give a severe selection of esculents the first place, but only the second or third, must be rotten at the core. Don't you despise a layman's eye. All the professions want it."

"Well, you are a writer; publish a book, call it Medicina laici, and send me a copy."

"To slash in the Lancet? Well, I will: when novels cease to pay and truth begins to."

In the course of the evening Mr. Rolfe drew Dr. Suaby apart, and said, "I must tell you frankly, I mean to relieve you of one of your inmates."

"Only one? I was in hopes you would relieve me of all the sane people. They say you are ingenious at it. All I know is, I can't get rid of an inmate if the person who signed the order resists. Now, for instance, here's a Mrs. Hallam came here unsound: religious delusion. Has been cured two months. I have reported her so to her son-in-law, who signed the order; but he will not discharge her. He is vicious, she scriptural; bores him about eternity. Then I wrote to the Commissioners in Lunacy; but they don't like to strain their powers, so they wrote to the affectionate son-in-law, and he politely declines to act. Sir Charles Bassett the same: three weeks ago I reported him cured, and the detaining relative has not even replied to me."

"Got a copy of your letter?"

"Of course. But what if I tell you there is a gentleman here who never had any business to come, yet he is as much a fixture as the grates. I took him blindfold along with the house. I signed a deed, and it is so stringent I can't evade one of my predecessor's engagements. This old rogue committed himself to my predecessor's care, under medical certificates; the order he signed himself."

"Illegal, you know."

"Of course; but where's the remedy? The person who signed the order must rescind it. But this sham lunatic won't rescind it. Altogether the tenacity of an asylum is prodigious. The statutes are written with bird-lime. Twenty years ago that old Skinflint found the rates and taxes intolerable; and doesn't everybody find them intolerable? To avoid these rates and taxes he shut up his house, captured himself, and took himself here; and here he will end his days, excluding some genuine patient, unless you sweep him into the street for me."

"Sindbad, I will try," said Rolfe, solemnly; "but I must begin with Sir Charles Bassett. By-the-by, about his crotchet?"

"Oh, he has still an extravagant desire for children. But the cerebral derangement is cured, and the other, standing by itself, is a foible, not a mania. It is only a natural desire in excess. If they brought me Rachel merely because she had said, 'Give me children, or I die,' and I found her a healthy woman in other respects, I should object to receive her on that score alone."

"You are deadly particular--compared with some of them," said Rolfe.

That evening he made an appointment with Sir Charles, and visited him in his room at 8 A. M. He told him he had seen Lady Bassett in London, and, of course, he had to answer many questions. He then told him he came expressly to effect his liberation.

"I am grateful to you, sir," said Sir Charles, with a suppressed and manly emotion.

"Here are my instructions from Lady Bassett; short, but to the point."

"May I keep that?"

"Why, of course."

Sir Charles kissed his wife's line, and put the note in his breast.

"The first step," said Rolfe, "is to cut you in two. That is soon done. You must copy in your own hand, and then sign, this writing." And he handed him a paper.


"I, Charles Dyke Bassett, being of sound mind, instruct James Sharpe, of Gray's Inn, my Solicitor, to sue the person who signed the order for my incarceration--in the Court of Common Pleas; and to take such other steps for my relief as may be advised by my counsel--Mr. Francis Rolfe."


"Excuse me," said Sir Charles, "if I make one objection. Mr. Oldfield has been my solicitor for many years. I fear it will hurt his feelings if I intrust the matter to a stranger. Would there be any objection to my inserting Mr. Oldfield's name, sir?"

"Only this: he would think he knew better than I do; and then I, who know better than he does, and am very vain and arrogant, should throw up the case in a passion, and go back to my MS.; and humdrum Oldfield would go to Equity instead of law; and all the costs would fall on your estate instead of on your enemy; and you would be here eighteen months instead of eight or ten days. No, Sir Charles, you can't mix champagne and ditch-water; you can't make Invention row in a boat with Antique Twaddle, and you mustn't ask me to fight your battle with a blunt knife, when I have got a sharp knife that fits my hand."

Mr. Rolfe said this with more irritation than was justified, and revealed one of the great defects in his character.

Sir Charles saw his foible, smiled, and said, "I withdraw a proposal which I see annoys you." He then signed the paper.

Mr. Rolfe broke out all smiles directly, and said, "Now you are cut in two. One you is here; but Sharpe is another you. Thus, one you works out of the asylum, and one in, and that makes all the difference. Compare notes with those who have tried the other way. Yet, simple and obvious as this is, would you believe it, I alone have discovered this method; I alone practice it."

He sent his secretary off to London at once, and returned to Sir Charles. "The authority will be with Sharpe at 2:30. He will be at Whitehall 3:15, and examine the order. He will take the writ out at once, and if Richard Bassett is the man, he will serve it on him to-morrow in good time, and send one of your grooms over here on horseback with the news. We serve the writ personally, because we have shufflers to deal with, and I will not give them a chance. Now I must go and write a lie or two for the public; and then inspect the asylum with Suaby. Before post-time I will write to a friend of mine who is a Commissioner of Lunacy, one of the strong-minded ones. We may as well have two strings to our bow."

Sir Charles thanked him gracefully, and said, "It is a rare thing, in this selfish world, to see one man interest himself in the wrongs of another, as you are good enough to do in mine."

"Oh," said Rolfe, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. My business is Lying; and I drudge at it. So to escape now and then to the play-ground of Truth and Justice is a great amusement and recreation to poor me. Besides, it gives me fresh vigor to replunge into Mendacity; and that's the thing that pays."

With this simple and satisfactory explanation he rolled away.

Leaving, for the present, matters not essential to this vein of incident, I jump to what occurred toward evening.

Just after dinner the servant who waited told Dr. Suaby that a man had walked all the way from Huntercombe to see Sir Charles Bassett.

"Poor fellow!" said Dr. Suaby; "I should like to see him. Would you mind receiving him here?"

"Oh, no."

"On second thoughts, James, you had better light a candle in the next room--in case."

A heavy clatter was heard, and the burly figure of Moses Moss entered the room. Being bareheaded, he saluted the company by pulling his head, and it bobbed. He was a little dazzled by the lights at first, but soon distinguished Sir Charles, and his large countenance beamed with simple and affectionate satisfaction.

"How d'ye do, Moss?" said Sir Charles.

"Pretty well, thank ye, sir, in my body, but uneasy in my mind. There be a trifle too many rogues afoot to please me. However, I told my mistress this morning, says I, 'Before I puts up with this here any longer, I must go over there and see him; for here's so many lies a-cutting about,' says I, 'I'm fairly mazed.' So, if you please, Sir Charles, will you be so good as to tell me out of your own mouth, and then I shall know: be you crazy or hain't you--ay or no?"

Suaby and Rolfe had much ado not to laugh right out; but Sir Charles said, gravely, he was not crazy. "Do I look crazy, Moss?"

"That ye doan't; you look twice the man you did. Why, your cheeks did use to be so pasty like; now you've got a color--but mayhap" (casting an eye on the decanters) "ye're flustered a bit wi' drink."

"No, no," said Rolfe, "we have not commenced our nightly debauch yet; only just done dinner."

"Then there goes another. This will be good news to home. Dall'd if I would not ha' come them there thirty miles on all-fours for't. But, sir, if so be you are not crazy, please think about coming home, for things ain't as they should be in our parts. My lady she is away for her groaning, and partly for fear of this very Richard Bassett; and him and his lawyer they have put it about as you are dead in law; that is the word: and so the servants they don't know what to think; and the village folk are skeared with his clapping four brace on 'em in jail: and Joe and I, we wants to fight un, but my dame she is timorous, and won't let us, because of the laayer. And th' upshot is, this here Richard Bassett is master after a manner, and comes on the very lawn, and brings men with a pole measure, and uses the place as his'n mostly; but our Joe bides in the Hall with his gun, and swears he'll shoot him if he sets foot in the house. Joe says he have my lady's leave and license so to do, but not outside."

Sir Charles turned very red, and was breathless with indignation.

Dr. Suaby looked uneasy, and said, "Control yourself, sir.'"

"I am not going to control myself," cried Rolfe, in a rage. "Don't you take it to heart, Sir Charles. It shall not last long."


"Dr. Suaby, can you lend me a gig or a dog-cart, with a good horse?"

"Yes. I have got a WONDERFUL roadster, half Irish, half Norman."

"Then, Mr. Moss, to-morrow you and I go to Huntercombe: you shall show me this Bassett, and we will give him a pill."

"Meantime," said Dr. Suaby, "I take a leaf out of your Medicina laici, and prescribe a hearty supper, a quart of ale, and a comfortable bed to Mr. Moss. James, see him well taken care of. Poor man!" said he, when Moss had retired. "What simplicity! what good sense! what ignorance of the world! what feudality, if I may be allowed the expression."

Sir Charles was manifestly discomposed, and retired to bed early.

Rolfe drove off with Moss at eight o'clock, and was not seen again all day. Indeed, Sir Charles was just leaving Dr. Suaby's room when he came in rather tired, and would not say a word till they gave him a cup of tea: then he brightened up and told his story.

"We went to the railway to meet Sharpe. The muff did not come nor send by the first train. His clerk arrived by the second. We went to Huntercombe village together, and on the road I gave him some special instructions. Richard Bassett not at home. We used a little bad language and threw out a skirmisher--Moss, to wit--to find him. Moss discovered him on your lawn, planning a new arrangement of the flower beds, with Wheeler looking over the boundary wall.

"We went up to Bassett, and the clerk served his copy of the writ. He took it quite coolly; but when he saw at whose suit it was he turned pale. He recovered himself directly, though, and burst out laughing. 'Suit of Sir Charles Bassett. Why, he can't sue: he is civiliter mortuus: mad as a March hare: in confinement.' Clerk told him he was mistaken; Sir Charles was perfectly sane. 'Good-day, sir.' So then Bassett asked him to wait a little. He took the writ away, and showed it Wheeler, no doubt. He came back, and blustered, and said, 'Some other person has instructed you: you will get yourself into trouble, I fear.' The little clerk told him not to alarm himself; Mr. Sharpe was instructed by Sir Charles Bassett, in his own handwriting and signature, and said, 'It is not my business to argue the case with you. You had better take the advice of counsel.' 'Thank you,' said Bassett; 'that would be wasting a guinea.' 'A good many thousand guineas have been lost by that sort of economy,' says the little clerk, solemnly. Oh, and he told him Mr. Sharpe was instructed to indict him for a trepass if he ever came there again; and handed him a written paper to that effect, which we two had drawn up at the station; and so left him to his reflections. We went into the house, and called the servants together, and told them to keep the rooms warm and the beds aired, since you might return any day."

Upon this news Sir Charles showed no premature or undignified triumph, but some natural complacency, and a good deal of gratitude.

The next day was blank of events, but the next after Mr. Rolfe received a letter containing a note addressed to Sir Charles Bassett. Mr. Rolfe sent it to him.


SIR--I am desired to inform you that I attended Lady Bassett last night, when she was safely delivered of a son. Have seen her again this morning. Mother and child are doing remarkably well.

"W. BODDINGTON, Surgeon,
17 Upper Gloucester Place."


Sir Charles cried, "Thank God! thank God!" He held out the paper to Mr. Rolfe, and sat down, overpowered by tender emotions.

Mr. Rolfe devoured the surgeon's letter at one glance, shook the baronet's hand eloquently, and went away softly, leaving him with his happiness.

Sir Charles, however, began now to pine for liberty; he longed so to join his wife and see his child, and Rolfe, observing this, chafed with impatience. He had calculated on Bassett, advised by Wheeler, taking the wisest course, and discharging him on the spot. He had also hoped to hear from the Commissioner of Lunacy. But neither event took place.

They could have cut the Gordian knot by organizing an escape: Giles and others were to be bought to that: but Dr. Suaby's whole conduct had been so kind, generous, and confiding, that this was out of the question. Indeed, Sir Charles had for the last month been there upon parole.

Yet the thing had been wisely planned, as will appear when I come to notice the advice counsel had given to Bassett in this emergency. But Bassett would not take advice: he went by his own head, and prepared a new and terrible blow, which Mr. Rolfe did not foresee.

But meantime an unlooked-for and accidental assistant came into the asylum, without the least idea Sir Charles was there.

Mrs. Marsh, early in her married life, converted her husband to religion, and took him about the county preaching. She was in earnest, and had a vein of natural eloquence that really went straight to people's bosoms. She was certainly a Christian, though an eccentric one. Temper being the last thing to yield to Gospel light, she still got into rages; but now she was very humble and penitent after them.

Well, then, after going about doing good, she decided to settle down and do good. As for Marsh, he had only to obey. Judge for yourself: the mild, gray-haired vicar of Calverly, who now leaned on la Marsh as on a staff, thought it right at the beginning to ascertain that she was not opposing her husband's views. He put a query of this kind as delicately as possible.

"My husband!" cried she. "If he refused to go to heaven with me, I'd take him there by the ear." And her eye flashed with the threat.

Well, somebody told this lady that Mr. Vandeleur was ruined, and in Dr. Suaby's asylum, not ten miles from her country-seat. This intelligence touched her. She contrasted her own happy condition, both worldly and spiritual, with that of this unfortunate reprobate, and she felt bound to see if nothing could be done for the poor wretch. A timid Christian would have sent some man to do the good work; but this was a lion-like one. So she mounted her horse, and taking only her groom with her, was at Bellevue in no time.

She dismounted, and said she must speak to Dr. Suaby, sent in her card, and was received at once.

"You have a gentleman here called Vandeleur?"

The doctor looked disappointed, but bowed.

"I wish to see him."

"Certainly, madam.--James, take Mrs. Marsh into a sitting-room, and send Mr. Vandeleur to her."

"He is not violent, is he?" said Mrs. Marsh, beginning to hesitate when she saw there was no opposition.

"Not at all, madam--the Pink of Politeness. If you have any money about you, it might be as well to confide it to me."

"What, will he rob me?"

"Oh, no: much too well conducted: but he will most likely wheedle you out of it."

"No fear of that, sir." And she followed James.

He took her to a room commanding the lawn. She looked out of the window, and saw several ladies and gentlemen walking at their ease, reading or working in the sun.

"Poor things!" she thought; "they are not so very miserable: perhaps God comforts them by ways unknown to us. I wonder whether preaching would do them any good? I should like to try. But they would not let me; they lean on the arm of flesh."

Her thoughts were interrupted at last by the door opening gently, and in came Vandeleur, with his graceful panther-like step, and a winning smile he had put on for conquest.

He stopped; he stared; he remained motionless and astounded.

At last he burst out, "Somer-- Was it me you wished to see?"

"Yes," said she, very kindly. "I came to see you for old acquaintance. You must call me Mrs. Marsh now; I am married."

By this time he had quite recovered himself, and offered her a chair with ingratiating zeal.

"Sit down by me," said she, as if she was petting a child. "Are you sure you remember me?"

Says the Courtier, "Who could forget you that had ever had the honor--"

Mrs. Marsh drew back with sudden hauteur. "I did not come here for folly," said she. Then, rather naively, "I begin to doubt your being so very mad."

"Mad? No, of course I am not."

"Then what brings you here?"


"What, have I mistaken the house? Is it a jail?"

"Oh, no! I'll tell you. You see I was dipped pretty deep, and duns after me, and the Derby my only chance; so I put the pot on. But a dark horse won: the Jews knew I was done: so now it was a race which should take me. Sloman had seven writs out: I was in a corner. I got a friend that knows every move to sign me into this asylum. They thought it was all up then, and he is bringing them to a shilling in the pound."

Before he could complete this autobiographical sketch Mrs. Marsh started up in a fury, and brought her whip down on the table with a smartish cut.

"You little heartless villain!" she screamed. "Is this, the way you play upon people: bringing me from my home to console a maniac, and, instead of that, you are only what you always were, a spendthrift and a scamp? Finely they will laugh at me."

She clutched the whip in her white but powerful hand till it quivered in the air, impatient for a victim.

"Oh!" she cried, panting, and struggling with her passion, "if I wasn't a child of God, I'd--"

"You'd give me a devilish good hiding," said Vandeleur, demurely.

"That I would," said she, very earnestly.

"You forget that I never told you I was mad. How could I imagine you would hear it? How could I dream you would come, even if you did?"

"I should be no Christian if I didn't come."

"But I mean we parted bad friends, you know."

"Yes, Van; but when I asked you for the gray horse you sent me a new sidesaddle. A woman does not forget those little things. You were a gentleman, though a child of Belial."

Vandeleur bowed most deferentially, as much as to say, "In both those matters you are the highest authority earth contains."

"So come," said she, "here is plenty of writing-paper. Now tell me all your debts, and I will put them down."

"What is the use? At a shilling in the pound, six hundred will pay them all."

"Are you sure?"

"As sure as that I am not going to rob you of the money."

"Oh, I only mean to lend it you."

"That alters the case."

"Prodigiously." And she smiled satirically. "Now your friend's address, that is treating with your creditors."

"Must I?"

"Unless you want to put me in a great passion."

"Anything sooner than that." Then he wrote it for her.

"And now," said she, "grant me a little favor for old acquaintance. Just kneel you down there, and let me wrestle with Heaven for you, that you may be a brand plucked from the fire, even as I am."

The Pink of Politeness submitted, with a sigh of resignation.

Then she prayed for him so hard, so beseechingly, so eloquently, he was amazed and touched.

She rose from her knees, and laid her head on her hand, exhausted a little by her own earnestness.

He stood by her, and hung his head.

"You are very good," he said. "It is a shame to let you waste it on me. Look here--I want to do a little bit of good to another man, after you praying so beautifully."

"Ah! I am so glad. Tell me."

"Well, then, you mustn't waste a thought on me, Rhoda. I'm a gambler and a fool: let me go to the dogs at once; it is only a question of time: but there's a fellow here that is in trouble, and doesn't deserve it, and he was a faithful friend to you, I believe. I never was. And he has got a wife: and by what I hear, you could get him out, I think, and I am sure you would be angry with me afterward if I didn't tell you; you have such a good heart. It is Sir Charles Bassett."

"Sir Charles Bassett here! Oh, his poor wife! What drove him mad? Poor, poor Sir Charles!"

"Oh, he is all right. They have cured him entirely; but there is no getting him out, and he is beginning to lose heart, they say. There's a literary swell here can tell you all about it; he has come down expressly: but they are in a fix, and I think you could help them out. I wish you would let me introduce you to him."

"To whom?"

"To Mr. Rolfe. You used to read his novels."

"I adore him. Introduce me at once. But Sir Charles must not see me, nor know I am here. Say Mrs. Marsh, a friend of Lady Bassett's, begs to be introduced."

Sly Vandeleur delivered this to Rolfe; but whispered out of his own head, "A character for your next novel--a saint with the devil's own temper."

This insidious addition brought Mr. Rolfe to her directly.

As might be expected from their go-ahead characters, these two knew each other intimately in about twelve minutes; and Rolfe told her all the facts I have related, and Marsh went into several passions, and corrected herself, and said she had been a great sinner, but was plucked from the burning, and therefore thankful to anybody who would give her a little bit of good to do.

Rolfe took prompt advantage of this foible, and urged her to see the Commissioners in Lunacy, and use all her eloquence to get one of them down. "They don't act upon my letters," said he; "but it will be another thing if a beautiful, ardent woman puts it to them in person, with all that power of face and voice I see in you. You are all fire; and you can talk Saxon."

"Oh, I'll talk to them," said Mrs. Marsh, "and God will give me words; He always does when I am on His side. Poor Lady Bassett! my heart bleeds for her. I will go to London to-morrow; ay, to-night, if you like. To-night? I'll go this instant!"

"What!" said Rolfe: "is there a lady in the world who will go a journey without packing seven trunks--and merely to do a good action?"

"You forget. Penitent sinners must make up for lost time."

"At that rate impenitent ones like me had better lose none. So I'll arm you at once with certain documents, and you must not leave the commissioners till they promise to send one of their number down without delay to examine him, and discharge him if he is as we represent."

Mrs. Marsh consented warmly, and went with Rolfe to Dr. Suaby's study.

They armed her with letters and written facts, and she rode off at a fiery pace; but not before she and Rolfe had sworn eternal friendship.

The commissioners received Mrs. Marsh coldly. She was chilled, but not daunted. She produced Suaby's letter and Rolfe's, and when they were read she played the orator. She argued, she remonstrated, she convinced, she persuaded, she thundered. Fire seemed to come out of the woman.

Mr. Fawcett, on whom Mr. Rolfe had mainly relied, caught fire, and declared he would go down next day and look into the matter on the spot; and he kept his word. He came down; he saw Sir Charles and Suaby, and penetrated the case.

Mr. Fawcett was a man with a strong head and a good heart, but rather an arrogant manner. He was also slightly affected with official pomposity and reticence; so, unfortunately, he went away without declaring his good intentions, and discouraged them all with the fear of innumerable delays in the matter.

Now if Justice is slow, Injustice is swift. The very next day a thunder-clap fell on Sir Charles and his friends.

Arrived at the door a fly and pair, with three keepers from an asylum kept by Burdoch, a layman, the very opposite of the benevolent Suaby. His was a place where the old system of restraint prevailed, secretly but largely: strait-waistcoats, muffles, hand-locks, etc. Here fleas and bugs destroyed the patients' rest; and to counteract the insects morphia was administered freely. Given to the bugs and fleas, it would have been an effectual antidote; but they gave it to the patients, and so the insects won.

These three keepers came with an order correctly drawn, and signed by Richard Bassett, to deliver Sir Charles to the agents showing the order.

Suaby, who had a horror of Burdoch, turned pale at the sight of the order, and took it to Rolfe.

"Resist!" said that worthy.

"I have no right."

"On second thoughts, do nothing, but gain time, while I-- Has Bassett paid you for Sir Charles's board?"


"Decline to give him up till that is done, and be some time making out the bill. Come what may, pray keep Sir Charles here till I send you a note that I am ready."

He then hastened to Sir Charles and unfolded his plans, to him.

Sir Charles assented eagerly. He was quite willing to run risks with the hope of immediate liberation, which Rolfe held out. His own part was to delay and put off till he got a line from Rolfe.

Rolfe then borrowed Vandeleur on parole and the doctor's dog-cart, and dashed into the town, distant two miles.

First he went to the little theater, and found them just concluding a rehearsal. Being a playwright, he was known to nearly all the people, more or less, and got five supers and one carpenter to join him--for a consideration.

He then made other arrangements in the town, the nature of which will appear in due course.

Meantime Suaby had presented his bill. One of the keepers got into the fly and took it back to the town. There, as Rolfe had anticipated, lurked Richard Bassett. He cursed the delay, gave the man the money, and urged expedition. The money was brought and paid, and Suaby informed Sir Charles.

But Sir Charles was not obliged to hurry. He took a long time to pack; and he was not ready till Vandeleur brought a note to him from Rolfe.

Then Sir Charles came down.

Suaby made Burdoch's keeper sign a paper to the effect that he had the baronet in charge, and relieved Suaby of all further responsibility.

Then Sir Charles took an affectionate leave of Dr. Suaby, and made him promise to visit him at Huntercombe Hall.

Then he got into the fly, and sat between two keepers, and the fly drove off.

Sir Charles at that moment needed all his fortitude. The least mistake or miscalculation on the part of his friends, and what might not be the result to him?

As the fly went slowly through the gate he saw on his right hand a light carriage and pair moving up; but was it coming after him, or only bringing visitors to the asylum?

The fly rolled on; even his stout heart began to quake. It rolled and rolled. Sir Charles could stand it no longer. He tried to look out of the window to see if the carriage was following.

One of the keepers pulled him in roughly. "Come, none of that, sir?"

"You insolent scoundrel!" said Sir Charles.

"Ay, ay," said the man; "we'll see about that when we get you home."

Then Sir Charles saw he had offended a vindictive blackguard.

He sank back in his seat, and a cold chill crept over him.

Just then they passed a little clump of fir-trees.

In a moment there rushed out of these trees a number of men in crape masks, stopped the horses, surrounded the carriage, and opened it with brandishing of bludgeons and life-preservers, and pointing of guns.


A BIG man, who seemed the leader, fired a volley of ferocious oaths at the keepers, and threatened to send them to hell that moment if they did not instantly deliver up that gentleman.

The keepers were thoroughly terrified, and roared for mercy.

"Hand him out here, you scoundrels!"

"Yes! yes! Man alive, we are not resisting: what is the use?"

"Hand down his luggage."

It was done all in a flutter.

"Now get in again; turn your horses' heads the other way, and don't come back for an hour. You with your guns take stations in those trees, and shoot them dead if they are back before their time."

These threats were interlarded with horrible oaths, and Burdoch's party were glad to get off, and they drove away quickly in the direction indicated.

However, as soon as they got over their first surprise they began to smell a hoax; and, instead of an hour, it was scarcely twenty minutes when they came back.

But meantime the supers were paid liberally among the fir-trees by Vandeleur, pocketed their crape, flung their dummy guns into a cornfield, dispersed in different directions, and left no trace.

But Sir Charles was not detained for that: the moment he was recaptured he and his luggage were whisked off in the other carriage, and, with Rolfe and his secretary, dashed round the town, avoiding the main street, to a railway eight miles off, at a pace almost defying pursuit. Not that they dreaded it: they had numbers, arms, and a firm determination to fight if necessary, and also three tongues to tell the truth, instead of one.

At one in the morning they were in London. They slept at Mr. Rolfe's house; and before breakfast Mr. Rolfe's secretary was sent to secure a couple of prize-fighters to attend upon Sir Charles till further notice. They were furnished with a written paper explaining the case briefly, and were instructed to hit first and talk afterward should a recapture be attempted. Should a crowd collect, they were to produce the letter. These measures were to provide against his recapture under the statute, which allows an alleged lunatic to be retaken upon the old certificates for fourteen days after his escape from confinement, but for no longer.

Money is a good friend in such contingencies as these.

Sir Charles started directly after breakfast to find his wife and child. The faithful pugilists followed at his heels in another cab.

Neither Sir Charles nor Mr. Rolfe knew Lady Bassett's address: it was the medical man who had written: but that did not much matter; Sir Charles was sure to learn his wife's address from Mr. Boddington. He called on that gentleman at 17 Upper Gloucester Place. Mr. Boddington had just taken his wife down to Margate for her health; had only been gone half an hour.

This was truly irritating and annoying. Apparently Sir Charles must wait that gentleman's return. He wrote a line, begging Mr. Boddington to send him Lady Bassett's address in a cab immediately on his return.

He told Mr. Rolfe this; and then for the first time let out that his wife's not writing to him at the asylum had surprised and alarmed him; he was on thorns.

Mr. Boddington returned in the middle of the night, and at breakfast time Sir Charles had a note to say Lady Bassett was at 119 Gloucester Place, Portman Square.

Sir Charles bolted a mouthful or two of breakfast, and then dashed off in a hansom to 119 Gloucester Place.

There was a bill in the window, "To be let, furnished. Apply to Parker & Ellis."

He knocked at the door. Nobody came. Knocked again. A lugubrious female opened the door.

"Lady Bassett?"

"Don't live here, sir. House to be let."

Sir Charles went to Mr. Boddington and told him.

Mr. Boddington said he thought he could not be mistaken; but he would look at his address-book. He did, and said it was certainly 119 Gloucester Place; "Perhaps she has left," said he. "She was very healthy--an excellent patient. But I should not have advised her to move for a day or two more."

Sir Charles was sore puzzled. He dashed off to the agents, Parker & Ellis.

They said, Yes; the house was Lady Bassett's for a few months. They were instructed to let it.

"When did she leave? I am her husband, and we have missed each other somehow."

The clerk interfered, and said Lady Bassett had brought the keys in her carriage yesterday.

Sir Charles groaned with vexation and annoyance.

"Did she give you no address?"

"Yes, sir. Huntercombe Hall."

"I mean no address in London?"

"No, sir; none."

Sir Charles was now truly perplexed and distressed, and all manner of strange ideas came into his head. He did not know what to do, but he could not bear to do nothing, so he drove to the Times office and advertised, requesting Lady Bassett to send her present address to Mr. Rolfe.

At night he talked this strange business over with Mr. Rolfe.

That gentleman thought she must have gone to Huntercombe; but by the last post a letter came from Suaby, inclosing one from Lady Bassett to her husband.


"119 Gloucester Place.

"DARLING--The air here is not good for baby, and I cannot sleep for the noise. We think of creeping toward home to-morrow, in an easy carriage. Pray God you may soon meet us at dear Huntercombe. Our first journey will be to that dear old comfortable inn at Winterfield, where you and I were so happy, but not happier, dearest darling, than we shall soon be again, I hope.

"Your devoted wife.


"My heartfelt thanks to Mr. Rolfe for all he is doing."


Sir Charles wanted to start that night for Winterfield, but Rolfe persuaded him not. "And mind," said he, "the faithful pugilists must go with you."

The morning's post rendered that needless. It brought another letter from Suaby, informing Mr. Rolfe that the Commissioners had positively discharged Sir Charles, and notified the discharge to Richard Bassett.

Sir Charles took leave of Mr. Rolfe as of a man who was to be his bosom friend for life, and proceeded to hunt his wife.

She had left Winterfield; but he followed her like a stanch hound, and when he stopped at a certain inn, some twenty miles from Huntercombe, a window opened, there was a strange loving scream; he looked up, and saw his wife's radiant face, and her figure ready to fly down to him. He rushed upstairs, into the right room by some mighty instinct, and held her, panting and crying for joy, in his arms.

That moment almost compensated what each had suffered.


So full was the joy of this loving pair that, for a long time, they sat rocking in each other's arms, and thought of nothing but their sorrows past, and the sea of bliss they were floating on.

But presently Sir Charles glanced round for a moment. Swift to interpret his every look, Lady Bassett rose, took two steps, came back and printed a kiss on his forehead, and then went to a door and opened it.

"Mrs. Millar!" said she, with one of those tones by which these ladies impregnate with meaning a word that has none at all; and then she came back to her husband.

Soon a buxom woman of forty appeared, carrying a biggish bank of linen and lace, with a little face in the middle. The good woman held it up to Sir Charles, and he felt something novel stir inside him. He looked at the little thing with a vast yearning of love, with pride, and a good deal of curiosity; and then turned smiling to his wife. She had watched him furtively but keenly, and her eyes were brimming over. He kissed the little thing, and blessed it, and then took his wife's hands, and kissed her wet eyes, and made her stand and look at baby with him, hand in hand. It was a pretty picture.

The buxom woman swelled her feathers, as simple women do when they exhibit a treasure of this sort; she lifted the little mite slowly up and down, and said, "Oh, you Beauty!" and then went off into various inarticulate sounds, which I recommend to the particular study of the new philosophers: they cannot have been invented after speech; that would be retrogression; they must be the vocal remains of that hairy, sharp-eared quadruped, our Progenitor, who by accident discovered language, and so turned Biped, and went ahead of all the other hairy quadrupeds, whose ears were too long or not sharp enough to stumble upon language.

Under cover of these primeval sounds Lady Bassett drew her husband a little apart, and looking in his face with piteous wistfulness, said, "You won't mind Richard Bassett and his baby now?"

"Not I."

"You will never have another fit while you live?"

"I promise."

"You will always be happy?"

"I must be an ungrateful scoundrel else, my dear."

"Then baby is our best friend. Oh, you little angel!" And she pounced on the mite, and kissed it far harder than Sir Charles had. Heaven knows what these gentle creatures are so rough with their mouths to children, but so it is.

And now how can a mere male relate all the pretty childish things that were done and said to baby, and of baby, before the inevitable squalling began, and baby was taken away to be consoled by another of his subjects.

Sir Charles and Lady Bassett had a thousand things to tell each other, to murmur in each other's ears, sitting lovingly close to each other.

But when all was quiet, and everybody else was in bed, Lady Bassett plucked up courage and said, "Charles, I am not quite happy. There is one thing wanting." And then she hid her face in her hands and blushed. "I cannot nurse him."

"Never mind," said Sir Charles kindly.

"You forgive me?"

"Forgive you, my poor girl! Why, is that a crime?"

"It leads to so many things. You don't know what a plague a nurse is, and makes one jealous."

"Well, but it is only for a time. Come, Bella, this is a little peevish. Don't let us be ungrateful to Heaven. As for me, while you and our child live, I am proof against much greater misfortunes than that."

Then Lady Bassett cleared up, and the subject dropped.

But it was renewed next morning in a more definite form.

Sir Charles rose early; and in the pride and joy of his heart, and not quite without an eye to triumphing over his mortal enemy and his cold friends, sent a mounted messenger with orders to his servants to prepare for his immediate reception, and to send out his landau and four horses to the "Rose," at Staveleigh, half-way between Huntercombe and the place where he now was. Lady Bassett had announced herself able for the journey.

After breakfast he asked her rather suddenly whether Mrs. Millar was not rather an elderly woman to select for a nurse. "I thought people got a young woman for that office."

"Oh," said Lady Bassett, "why, Mrs. Millar is not the nurse. Of course nurse is young and healthy, and from the country, and the best I could have in every way for baby. But yet--oh, Charles, I hope you will not be angry--who do you think nurse is? It is Mary Gosport--Mary Wells that was."

Sir Charles was a little staggered. He put this and that together, and said, "Why, she must have been playing the fool, then?"

"Hush! not so loud, dear. She is a married woman now, and her husband gone to sea, and her child dead. Most wet-nurses have a child of their own; and don't you think they must hate the stranger's child that parts them from their own? Now baby is a comfort to Mary. And the wet-nurse is always a tyrant; and I thought, as this one has got into a habit of obeying me, she might be more manageable; and then as to her having been imprudent, I know many ladies who have been obliged to shut their eyes a little. Why, consider, Charles, would good wives and good mothers leave their own children to nurse a stranger's? Would their husbands let them? And I thought," said she, piteously, "we were so fortunate to get a young, healthy girl, imprudent but not vicious, whose fault had been covered by marriage, and then so attached to us both as she is, poor thing!"

Sir Charles was in no humor to make mountains of mole-hills. "Why, my dear Bella," said he, "after all, this is your department, not mine."

"Yes, but unless I please you in every department there is no happiness for me."

"But you know you please me in everything; and the more I look into anything, the wiser I always think you. You have chosen the best wet-nurse possible. Send her to me."

Lady Bassett hesitated. "You will be kind to her. You know the consequence if anything happens to make her fret. Baby will suffer for it."

"Oh, I know. Catch me offending this she potentate till he is weaned. Dress for the journey, my dear, and send nurse to me."

Lady Bassett went into the next room, and after a long time Mary came to Sir Charles with baby in her arms.

Mary had lost for a time some of her ruddy color, but her skin was clearer, and somehow her face was softened. She looked really a beautiful and attractive young woman.

She courtesied to Sir Charles, and then took a good look at him.

"Well, nurse," said he, cheerfully, "here we are back again, both of us."

"That we be, sir." And she showed her white teeth in a broad smile. "La, sir, you be a sight for sore eyes. How well you do look, to be sure!"

"Thank you, Mary. I never was better in my life. You look pretty well too; only a little pale; paler than Lady Bassett does."

"I give my color to the child," said Mary, simply.

She did not know she had said anything poetic; but Sir Charles was so touched and pleased with her answer that he gave her a five-pound note on the spot; and he said, "We'll bring your color back if beef and beer and kindness can do it."

"I ain't afeard o' that, sir; and I'll arn it. 'Tis a lovely boy, sir, and your very image."

Inspection followed; and something or other offended young master; he began to cackle. But this nurse did not take him away, as Mrs. Millar had. She just sat down with him and nursed him openly, with rustic composure and simplicity.

Sir Charles leaned his arm on the mantel-piece, and eyed the pair; for all this was a new world of feeling to him. His paid servant seemed to him to be playing the mother to his child. Somehow it gave him a strange twinge, a sort of vicarious jealousy: he felt for his Bella. But I think his own paternal pride, in all its freshness, was hurt a little too.

At last he shrugged his shoulders, and was going out of the room, with a hint to Mary that she must wrap herself up, for it would be an open carriage--

"Your own carriage, sir, and horses?"


"And do all the folk know as we are coming?"

Sir Charles laughed. "Most likely. Gossip is not dead at Huntercombe, I dare say."

Nurse's black eyes flashed. "All the village will be out. I hope he will see us ride in, the black-hearted villain!"

Sir Charles was too proud to let her draw him into that topic; he went about his business.


Lady Bassett's carriage, duly packed, came round, and Lady Bassett was ready soon afterward; so was Mrs. Millar; so was baby, imbedded now in a nest of lawn and lace and white fur. They had to wait for nurse. Lady Bassett explained sotto voce to her husband, "Just at the last moment she was seized with a desire to wear a silk gown I gave her. I argued with her, but she only pouted. I was afraid for baby. It is very hard upon you, dear."

Her face and voice were so piteous that Sir Charles burst out laughing.

"We must take the bitter along with the sweet. Don't you think the sweet rather predominates at present?"

Lady Bassett explored his face with all her eyes. "My darling is happy now; trifles cannot put him out."

"I doubt if anything could shake me while I have you and our child. As for that jade keeping us all waiting while she dons silk attire, it is simply delicious. I wish Rolfe was here, that is all. Ha! ha! ha!"

Mrs. Gosport appeared at last in a purple silk gown, and marched to the carriage without the slightest sign of the discomfort she really felt; but that was no wonder, belonging, as she did, to a sex which can walk not only smiling but jauntily, though dead lame on stilts, as you may see any day in Regent Street.

Sir Charles, with mock gravity, ushered King Baby and his attendants in first, then Lady Bassett, and got in last himself.

Before they had gone a mile Nurse No. 1 handed the child over to Nurse No. 2 with a lofty condescension, as who should say, "You suffice for porterage; I, the superior artist, reserve myself for emergencies." No. 2 received the invaluable bundle with meek complacency.

By-and-by Nurse 1 got fidgety, and kept changing her position.

"What is the matter, Mary?" said Lady Bassett, kindly. "Is the dress too tight?"

"No, no, my lady," said Mary, sharply; "the gownd's all right." And then she was quiet a little.

But she began again; and then Lady Bassett whispered Sir Charles, "I think she wants to sit forward: may I?"

"Certainly not. I'll change with her. Here, Mary, try this side. We shall have more room in the landau; it is double, with wide seats."

Mary was gratified, and amused herself looking out of the window. Indeed, she was quiet for nearly half an hour. At the expiration of that period the fit took her again. She beckoned haughtily for baby, "which did come at her command," as the song says. She got tired of baby, or something, and handed him back again.

Presently she was discovered to be crying.

General consternation! Universal but vague consolation!

Lady Bassett looked an inquiry at Mrs. Millar. Mrs. Millar looked back assent. Lady Bassett assumed the command, and took off Mary's shawl.

"Yes," said she to Mrs. Millar. "Now, Mary, be good; it is too tight."

Thus urged, the idiot contracted herself by a mighty effort, while Lady Bassett attacked the fastenings, and, with infinite difficulty, they unhooked three bottom hooks. The fierce burst open that followed, and the awful chasm, showed what gigantic strength vanity can command, and how savagely abuse it to maltreat nature.

Lady Bassett loosened the stays too, and a deep sigh of relief told the truth, which the lying tongue had denied, as it always does whenever the same question is put.

The shawl was replaced, and comfort gained till they entered the town of Staveleigh.

Nurse instantly exchanged places with Sir Charles, and took the child again. He was her banner in all public places.

When they came up to the inn they were greeted with loud hurrahs. It was market-day. The town was full of Sir Charles's tenants and other farmers. His return had got wind, and every farmer under fifty had resolved to ride with him into Huntercombe.

When five or six, all shouting together, intimated this to Sir Charles, he sent one of his people to order the butchers out to Huntercombe with joints a score, and then to gallop on with a note to his housekeeper and butler. "For those that ride so far with me must sup with me," said he; a sentiment that was much approved.

He took Lady Bassett and the women upstairs and rested them about an hour; and then they started for Huntercombe, followed by some thirty farmers and a dozen towns-people, who had a mind for a lark and to sup at Huntercombe Hall for once.

The ride was delightful; the carriage bowled swiftly along over a smooth road, with often turf at the side; and that enabled the young farmers to canter alongside without dusting the carriage party. Every man on horseback they overtook joined them; some they met turned back with them, and these were rewarded with loud cheers. Every eye in the carriage glittered, and every cheek was more or less flushed by this uproarious sympathy so gallantly shown, and the very thunder of so many horses' feet, each carrying a friend, was very exciting and glorious. Why, before they got to the village they had fourscore horsemen at their backs.

As they got close to the village Mary Gosport held out her arms for young master: this was not the time to forego her importance.

The church-bells rang out a clashing peal, the cavalcade clattered into the village. Everybody was out to cheer, and at sight of baby the women's voices were as loud as the men's. Old pensioners of the house were out bareheaded; one, with hair white as snow, was down on his knees praying a blessing on them.

Lady Bassett began to cry softly; Sir Charles, a little pale, but firm as a rock; both bowing right and left, like royal personages; and well they might; every house in the village belonged to them but one.

On approaching that one Mary Gosport turned her head round, and shot a. glance round out of the tail of her eye. Ay, there was Richard Bassett, pale and gloomy, half-hid behind a tree at his gate: but Hate's quick eye discerned him: at the moment of passing she suddenly lifted the child high, and showed it him, pretending to show it to the crowd: but her eye told the tale; for, with that act of fierce hatred and cunning triumph, those black orbs shot a colored gleam like a furious leopardess's.

A roar of cheers burst from the crowd at that inspired gesture of a woman, whose face and eyes seemed on fire: Lady Bassett turned pale.

The next moment they passed their own gate, and dashed up to the hall steps of Huntercombe.

Sir Charles sent Lady Bassett to her room for the night. She walked through a row of ducking servants, bowing and smiling like a gentle goddess.

Mary Gosport, afraid to march in a long dress with the child, for fear of accidents, handed him superbly to Millar and strutted haughtily after her mistress, nodding patronage. Her follower, the meek Millar, stopped often to show the heir right and left, with simple geniality and kindness.

Sir Charles stood on the hall steps, and invited all to come in and take pot-luck.

Already spits were turning before great fires; a rump of beef, legs of pork, and pease-puddings boiling in one copper; turkeys and fowls in another; joints and pies baking in the great brick ovens; barrels of beer on tap, and magnums of champagne and port marching steadily up from the cellars, and forming in line and square upon sideboards and tables.

Supper was laid in the hall, the dining-room, the drawing-room, and the great kitchen.

Poor villagers trickled in: no man or woman was denied; it was open house that night, as it had been four hundred years ago.


WHEN Sharpe's clerk retired, after serving that writ on Bassett, Bassett went to Wheeler and treated it as a jest. But Wheeler looked puzzled, and Bassett himself, on second thoughts, said he should like advice of counsel. Accordingly they both went up to London to a solicitor, and obtained an interview with a counsel learned in the law. He heard their story, and said, "The question is, can you convince a jury he was insane at the time?"

"But he can't get into court," said Bassett. "I won't let him."

"Oh, the court will make you produce him."

"But I thought an insane person was civiliter mortuus, and couldn't sue."

"So he is; but this man is not insane in law. Shutting up a man on certificates is merely a preliminary step to a fair trial by his peers whether he is insane or not. Take the parallel case of a felon. A magistrate commits him for trial, and generally on better evidence than medical certificates; but that does not make the man a felon, or disentitle him to a trial by his peers; on the contrary, it entitles him to a trial, and he could get Parliament to interfere if he was not brought to trial. This plaintiff simply does what, he will say, you ought to have done; he tries himself; if he tries you at the same time, that is your fault. If he is insane now, fight. If he is not, I advise you to discharge him on the instant, and then compound."

Wheeler said he was afraid the plaintiff was too vindictive to come to terms.

"Well, then, you can show you discharged him the moment you had reason to think he was cured, and you must prove he was insane when you incarcerated him; but I warn you it will be uphill work if he is sane now; the jury will be apt to go by what they see."

Bassett and Wheeler retired; the latter did not presume to differ; but Bassett was dissatisfied and irritated.

"That fellow would only see the plaintiff's side," said he. "The fool forgets there is an Act of Parliament, and that we have complied with its provisions to a T."

"Then why did you not ask his construction of the Act?" suggested Wheeler.

"Because I don't want his construction. I've read it, and it is plain enough to anybody but a fool. Well, I have consulted counsel, to please you; and now I'll go my own way, to please myself."

He went to Burdoch, and struck a bargain, and Sir Charles was to be shifted to Burdoch's asylum, and nobody allowed to see him there, etc., etc.; the old system, in short, than which no better has as yet been devised for perpetuating, or even causing, mental aberration.

Rolfe baffled this, as described, and Bassett was literally stunned. He now saw that Sir Charles had an ally full of resources and resolution. Who could it be? He began to tremble. He complained to the police, and set them to discover who had thus openly and audaciously violated the Act of Parliament, and then he went and threatened Dr. Suaby.

But Rolfe and Sir Charles, who loved Suaby as he deserved, had provided against that; they had not let the doctor into their secret. He therefore said, with perfect truth, that he had no hand in the matter, and that Sir Charles, being bound upon his honor not to escape from Bellevue, would be in the asylum still if Mr. Bassett had not taken him out, and invoked brute force, in the shape of Burdoch. "Well, sir," said he, "it seems they have shown you two can play at that game." And so bade him good afternoon very civilly.

Bassett went home sickened. He remained sullen and torpid for a day or two; then he wrote to Burdoch to send to London and try and recapture Sir Charles.

But next day he revoked his instructions, for be got a letter from the Commissioners of Lunacy, announcing the authoritative discharge of Sir Charles, on the strong representation of Dr. Suaby and other competent persons.

That settled the matter, and the poor cousin had kept the rich cousin three months at his own expense, with no solid advantage, but the prospect of a lawsuit.

Sharpe, spurred by Rolfe, gave him no breathing time. With the utmost expedition the Declaration in Bassett v. Bassett followed the writ.

It was short, simple, and in three counts.

"For violently seizing and confining the plaintiff in a certain place, on a false pretense that he was insane.

"For detaining him in spite of evidence that he was not insane.

"For endeavoring to remove him to another place, with a certain sinister motive there specified.

"By which several acts the plaintiff had suffered in his health and his worldly affairs, and had endured great agony of mind."

And the plaintiff claimed damages, ten thousand pounds.

Bassett sent over for his friend Wheeler, and showed him the new document with no little consternation.

But their discussion of it was speedily interrupted by the clashing of triumphant bells and distant shouting.

They ran out to see what it was. Bassett, half suspecting, hung back; but Mary Gosport's keen eye detected him, and she held up the heir to him, with hate and triumph blazing in her face.

He crept into his own house and sank into a chair foudroyé.

Wheeler, however, roused him to a necessary effort, and next day they took the Declaration to counsel, to settle their defense in due form.

"What is this?" said the learned gentleman. "Three counts! Why, I advised you to discharge him at once."

"Yes," said Wheeler, "and excellent advice it was. But my client--"

"Preferred to go his own road. And now I am to cure the error I did what I could to prevent."

"I dare say, sir, it is not the first time in your experience."

"Not by a great many. Clients, in general, have a great contempt for the notion that prevention is better than cure."

"He can't hurt me," said Bassett, impatiently. "He was separately examined by two doctors, and all the provisions of the statute exactly complied with."

"But that is no defense to this plaint. The statute forbids you to imprison an insane person without certain precautions; but it does not give you a right, under any circumstances, to imprison a sane man. That was decided in Butcher v. Butcher. The defense you rely on was pleaded as a second plea, and the plaintiff demurred to it directly. The question was argued before the full court, and the judges, led by the first lawyer of the age, decided unanimously that the provisions of the statute did not affect sane Englishmen and their rights under the common law. They ordered the plea to be struck off the record, and the case was reduced to a simple issue of sane or insane. Butcher v. Butcher governs all these cases. Can you prove him insane? If not, you had better compound on any terms. In Butcher's case the jury gave £3,000, and the plaintiff was a man of very inferior position to Sir Charles Bassett. Besides, the defendant, Butcher, had not persisted against evidence, as you have. They will award £5,000 at least in this case."

He took down a volume of reports, and showed them the case he had cited; and, on reading the unanimous decision of the judges, and the learning by which they were supported, Wheeler said at once: "Mr. Bassett, we might as well try to knock down St. Paul's with our heads as to go against this decision."

They then settled to put in a single plea, that Sir Charles was insane at the time of his capture.

This done, to gain time, Wheeler called on Sharpe, and, after several conferences, got the case compounded by an apology, a solemn retractation in writing, and the payment of four thousand pounds; his counsel assured him his client was very lucky to get off so cheap.

Bassett paid the money, with the assistance of his wife's father: but it was a sickener; it broke his spirit, and even injured his health for some time.

Sir Charles improved the village with the money, and gave a copy-hold tenement to each of the men Bassett had got imprisoned. So they and their sons and their grandsons lived rent free--no, now I think of it, they had to pay four pence a year to the Lord of the Manor.


Defeated at every point, and at last punished severely, Richard Bassett fell into a deep dejection and solitary brooding of a sort very dangerous to the reason. He would not go out-of-doors to give his enemies a triumph. He used to sit by the fire and mutter, "Blow upon blow, blow upon blow. My poor boy will never be lord of Huntercombe now!" and so on.

Wheeler pitied him, but could not rouse him. At last a person for whose narrow attainments and simplicity he had a profound, though, to do him justice, a civil contempt, ventured to his rescue. Mrs. Bassett went crying to her father, and told him she feared the worst if Richard's mind could not be diverted from the Huntercombe estate and his hatred of Sir Charles and Lady Bassett, which had been the great misfortune of her life and of his own, but nothing would ever eradicate it. Richard had great abilities; was a linguist, a wonderful accountant; could her dear father find him some profitable employment to divert his thoughts?

"What! all in a moment?" said the old man. "Then I shall have to buy it; and if I go on like this I shall not have much to leave you."

Having delivered this objection, he went up to London, and, having many friends in the City, and laying himself open to proposals, he got scent at last of a new insurance company that proposed also to deal in reversions, especially to entailed estates. By prompt purchase of shares in Bassett's name, and introducing Bassett himself, who, by special study, had a vast acquaintance with entailed estates, and a genius for arithmetical calculation, he managed somehow to get him into the direction, with a stipend, and a commission on all business he might introduce to the office.

Bassett yielded sullenly, and now divided his time between London and the country.

Wheeler worked with him on a share of commission, and they made some money between them.

After the bitter lesson he had received Bassett vowed to himself he never would attack Sir Charles again unless he was sure of victory. For all this he hated him and Lady Bassett worse than ever, hated them to the death.

He never moved a finger down at Huntercombe, nor said a word; but in London he employed a private inquirer to find out where Lady Bassett had lived at the time of her confinement, and whether any clergyman had visited her.

The private inquirer could find out nothing, and Bassett, comparing his advertisements with his performance, dismissed him for a humbug.

But the office brought him into contact with a great many medical men, one after another. He used to say to each stranger, with an insidious smile, "I think you once attended my cousin--Lady Bassett."


SIR CHARLES and Lady Bassett, relieved of their cousin's active enmity, led a quiet life, and one that no longer furnished striking incidents.

But dramatic incident is not everything: character and feeling show themselves in things that will not make pictures. Now it was precisely during this reposeful period that three personages of this story exhibited fresh traits of feeling, and also of character.

To begin with Sir Charles Bassett. He came back from the asylum much altered in body and mind. Stopping his cigars had improved his stomach; working in the garden had increased his muscular power, and his cheeks were healthy, and a little sunburned, instead of sallow. His mind was also improved: contemplation of insane persons had set him by a natural recoil to study self-control. He had returned a philosopher. No small thing could irritate him now. So far his character was elevated.

Lady Bassett was much the same as before, except a certain restlessness. She wanted to be told every day, or twice a day, that her husband was happy; and, although he was visibly so, yet, as he was quiet over it, she used to be always asking him if he was happy. This the reader must interpret as he pleases.

Mary Gosport gave herself airs. Respectful to her master and mistress, but not so tolerant of chaff in the kitchen as she used to be. Made an example of one girl, who threw a doubt on her marriage. Complained to Lady Bassett, affected to fret, and the girl was dismissed.

She turned singer. She had always sung psalms in church, but never a profane note in the house. Now she took to singing over her nursling; she had a voice of prodigious power and mellowness, and, provided she was not asked, would sing lullabies and nursery rhymes from another county that ravished the hearer. Horsemen have been known to stop in the road to hear her sing through an open window of Huntercombe, two hundred yards off.

Old Mr. Meyrick, a farmer well-to-do, fascinated by Mary Gosport's singing, asked her to be his housekeeper when she should have done nursing her charge.

She laughed in his face.

A fanatic who was staying with Sir Charles Bassett offered her three years' education in Do, Ra, Mi, Fa, preparatory to singing at the opera.

Declined without thanks.

Mr. Drake, after hovering shyly, at last found courage to reproach her for deserting him and marrying a sailor.

"Teach you not to shilly-shally," said she. "Beauty won't go a-begging. Mind you look sharper next time."

This dialogue, being held in the kitchen, gave the women some amusement at the young farmer's expense.

One day Mr. Richard Bassett, from motives of pure affection no doubt, not curiosity, desired mightily to inspect Mr. Bassett, aged eight months and two days.

So, in his usual wily way, he wrote to Mrs. Gosport, asking her, for old acquaintance' sake, to meet him in the meadow at the end of the lawn. This meadow belonged to Sir Charles, but Richard Bassett had a right of way through it, and could step into it by a postern, as Mary could by an iron gate.

He asked her to come at eleven o'clock, because at that hour he observed she walked on the lawn with her charge.

Mary Gosport came to the tryst, but without Mr. Bassett.

Richard was very polite; she cold, taciturn, observant.

At last he said, "But where's the little heir?"

She flew at him directly. "It is him you wanted, not me. Did you think I'd bring him here--for you to kill him?"

"Come, I say."

"Ay, you'd kill him if you had a chance. But you never shall. Or if you didn't kill him, you'd cast the evil-eye on him, for you are well known to have the evil-eye. No; he shall outlive thee and thine, and be lord of these here manors when thou is gone to hell, thou villain."

Mr. Richard Bassett turned pale, but did the wisest thing he could--put his hands in his pockets, and walked into his own premises, followed, however, by Mary Gosport, who stormed at him till he shut his postern in her face.

She stood there trembling for a little while, then walked away, crying.

But having a mind like running water, she was soon seated on a garden chair, singing over her nursling like a mavis: she had delivered him to Millar while she went to speak her mind to her old lover.

As for Richard Bassett, he was theory-bitten, and so turned every thing one way. To be sure, as long as the woman's glaring eyes and face distorted by passion were before him, he interpreted her words simply; but when he thought the matter over he said to himself, "The evil-eye! That is all bosh; the girl is in Lady Bassett's secrets; and I am not to see young master: some day I shall know the reason why."


Sir Charles Bassett now belonged to the tribe of clucking cocks quite as much as his cousin had ever done; only Sir Charles had the good taste to confine his clucks to his own first-floor. Here, to be sure, he richly indemnified himself for his self-denial abroad. He sat for hours at a time watching the boy on the ground at his knee, or in his nurse's arms.

And while he watched the infant with undisguised delight, Lady Bassett would watch him with a sort of furtive and timid complacency.

Yet at times she suffered from twinges of jealousy--a new complaint with her.

I think I have mentioned that Sir Charles, at first, was annoyed at seeing his son and heir nursed by a woman of low condition. Well, he got over that feeling by degrees, and, as soon as he did get over it, his sentiments took quite an opposite turn. A woman for whom he did very little, in his opinion--since what, in Heaven's name, were a servant's wages?--he saw that woman do something great for him; saw her nourish his son and heir from her own veins; the child had no other nurture; yet the father saw him bloom and thrive, and grow surprisingly.

A weak observer, or a less enthusiastic parent, might have overlooked all this; but Sir Charles had naturally an observant eye and an analytical mind, and this had been suddenly but effectually developed by the asylum and his correspondence with Rolfe.

He watched the nurse, then, and her maternal acts with a curious and grateful eye, and a certain reverence for her power.

He observed, too, that his child reacted on the woman: she had never sung in the house before; now she sang ravishingly--sang, in low, mellow, yet sonorous notes, some ditties that had lulled mediaeval barons in their cradles.

And what had made her vocal made her beautiful at times.

Before, she had appeared to him a handsome girl, with the hardish look of the lower classes; but now, when she sat in a sunny window, and lowered her black lashes on her nursling, with the mixed and delicious smile of an exuberant nurse relieving and relieved, she was soft, poetical, sculptorial, maternal, womanly.

This species of contemplation, though half philosophical, half paternal, and quite innocent, gave Lady Bassett some severe pangs.

She hid them, however; only she bided her time, and then suggested the propriety of weaning baby.

But Mrs. Gosport got Sir Charles's ear, and told him what magnificent children they reared in her village by not weaning infants till they were eighteen months old or so.

By this means, and by crying to Lady Bassett, and representing her desolate condition with a husband at sea, she obtained a reprieve, coupled, however, with a good-humored assurance from Sir Charles that she was the greatest baby of the two.

When the inevitable hour approached that was to dethrone her she took to reading the papers, and one day she read of a disastrous wreck, the Carbrea Castle--only seven saved out of a crew of twenty-three. She read the details carefully, and two days afterward she received a letter written by a shipmate of Mr. Gosport's, in a handwriting not very unlike her own, relating the sad wreck of the Carbrea Castle, and the loss of several good sailors, James Gosport for one.

Then the house was filled with the wailing and weeping of the bereaved widow; and at last came consolers and raised doubts; but then somebody remembered to have seen the loss of that very ship in the paper. The paper was found, and the fatal truth was at once established.

Upon this Mr. Bassett was weaned as quickly as possible, and the widow clothed in black at Lady Bassett's expense, and everything in reason done to pet her and console her.

But she cried bitterly, and said she would throw herself into the sea and follow her husband.

Huntercombe was nowhere near the coast.

At last, however, she relented, and concluded to remain on earth as dry-nurse to Mr. Bassett.

Sir Charles did not approve this: it seemed unreasonable to turn a wet-nurse into a dry-nurse when that office was already occupied by a person her senior and more experienced.

Lady Bassett agreed with him, but shrugged her shoulders and said, "Two nurses will not hurt, and I suspect it will not be for long. Mary does not feel her husband's loss one bit."

"Surely you are mistaken. She howls loud enough."

"Too loud--much," said Lady Bassett, dryly.

Her perspicuity was not deceived. In a very short time Mr. Meyrick, unable to get her for his housekeeper, offered her marriage.

"What!" said she, "and James Gosport not dead a month?"

"Say the word now, and take your own time," said he.

"Well, I might do worse," said she.

About six weeks after this Drake came about her, and in tender tones of consolation suggested that it is much better for a pretty girl to marry one who plows the land than one who plows the sea.

"That is true," said Mary, with a sigh; "I have found it to my sorrow."

After this Drake played a bit with her, and then relented, and one evening offered her marriage, expecting her to jump eagerly at his offer.

"You be too late, young man," said she, coolly; "I'm bespoke."

"Doan't ye say that! How can ye be bespoke? Why, t'other hain't been dead four months yet."

"What o' that? This one spoke for me within a week. Why, our banns are to be cried to-morrow; come to church and hear 'em; that will learn ye not to shilly-shally so next time."

"Next time!" cried Drake, half blubbering; then, with a sudden roar, "what, be you coming to market again, arter this?"

"Like enough: he is a deal older than I be. 'Tis Mr. Meyrick, if ye must know."

Now Mr. Meyrick was well-to-do, and so Drake was taken aback.

"Mr. Meyrick!" said he, and turned suddenly respectful.

But presently a view of a rich widow flitted before his eye.

"Well," said he, "you shan't throw it in my teeth again as I speak too late. I ask you now, and no time lost."

"What! am I to stop my banns, and jilt Farmer Meyrick for thee?"

"Nay, nay. But I mean I'll marry you, if you'll marry me, as soon as ever the breath is out of that dall'd old hunks's body."

"Well, well, Will Drake," said Mary, gravely, "if I do outlive this one--and you bain't married long afore--and if you keeps in the same mind as you be now--and lets me know it in good time--I'll see about it."

She gave a flounce that made her petticoats whisk like a mare's tail, and off to the kitchen, where she related the dialogue with an appropriate reflection, the company containing several of either sex. "Dilly-Dally and Shilly-Shally, they belongs to us as women be. I hate and despise a man as can't make up his mind in half a minnut."

So the widow Gosport became Mrs. Meyrick, and lived in a farmhouse not quite a mile from the Hall.

She used often to come to the Hall, and take a peep at her lamb: this was the name she gave Mr. Bassett long after he had ceased to be a child.


About four years after the triumphant return to Huntercombe, Lady Bassett conceived a sudden coldness toward the little boy, though he was universally admired.

She concealed this sentiment from Sir Charles, but not from the female servants: and, from one to another, at last it came round to Sir Charles. He disbelieved it utterly at first; but, the hint having been given him, he paid attention, and discovered there was, at all events, some truth in it.

He awaited his opportunity and remonstrated: "My dear Bella, am I mistaken, or do I really observe a falling off in your tenderness for your child?"

Lady Bassett looked this way and that, as if she meditated flight, but at last she resigned herself, and said, "Yes, dear Charles; my heart is quite cold to him."

"Good Heavens, Bella! But why? Is not this the same little angel that came to our help in trouble, that comforted me even before his birth, when my mind was morbid, to say the least?"

"I suppose he is the same," said she, in a tone impossible to convey by description of mine.

"That is a strange answer."

"If he is, I am changed." And this she said doggedly and unlike herself.

"What!" said Sir Charles, very gravely, and with a sort of awe: "can a woman withdraw her affection from her child, her innocent child? If so, my turn may come next."

"Oh, Charles! Charles!" and the tears began to well.

"Why, who can be secure after this? What is so stable as a mother's love? If that is not rooted too deep for gusts of caprice to blow it away, in Heaven's name, what is?"

No answer to that but tears.

Sir Charles looked at her very long, attentively, and seriously, and said not another syllable.

But his dropping so suddenly a subject of this importance was rather suspicious, and Lady Bassett was too shrewd not to see that.

They watched each other.

But with this difference: Sir Charles could not conceal his anxiety, whereas the lady appeared quite tranquil.

One day Sir Charles said, cheerfully, "Who do you think dines here to-morrow, and stays all night? Dr. Suaby."

"By invitation, dear?" asked Lady Bassett, quietly.

Sir Charles colored a little, and said, quietly, "Yes."

Lady Bassett made no remark, and it was impossible to tell by her face whether the visit was agreeable or not.

Some time afterward, however, she said, "Whom shall I ask to meet Dr. Suaby?"

"Nobody, for Heaven's sake!"

"Will not that be dull for him?"

"I hope not."

"You will have plenty to say to him, eh, darling?"

"We never yet lacked topics. Whether or no, his is a mind I choose to drink neat."

"Drink him neat?"

"Undiluted with rural minds."


She uttered that monosyllable very dryly, and said no more.

Dr. Suaby came next day, and dined with them, and Lady Bassett was charming; but rather earlier than usual she said, "Now I am sure you and Dr. Suaby must have many things to talk about," and retired, casting back an arch, and almost a cunning smile.

The door closed on her, the smile fled, and a somber look of care and suffering took its place.

Sir Charles entered at once on what was next his heart, told Dr. Suaby he was in some anxiety, and asked him if he had observed anything in Lady Bassett.

"Nothing new," said Dr. Suaby; "charming as ever."

Then Sir Charles confided to Dr. Suaby, in terms of deep feeling and anxiety, what I have coldly told the reader.

Dr. Suaby looked a little grave, and took time to think before he spoke.

At last he delivered an opinion, of which this is the substance, though not the exact words.

"It is sudden and unnatural, and I cannot say it does not partake of mental aberration. If the patient was a man I should fear the most serious results; but here we have to take into account the patient's sex, her nature, and her present condition. Lady Bassett has always appeared to me a very remarkable woman. She has no mediocrity in anything; understanding keen, perception wonderfully swift, heart large and sensitive, nerves high strung, sensibilities acute. A person of her sex, tuned so high as this, is always subject, more or less, to hysteria. It is controlled by her intelligence and spirit; but she is now, for the time being, in a physical condition that has often deranged less sensitive women than she is. I believe this about the boy to be a hysterical delusion, which will pass away when her next child is born. That is to say, she will probably ignore her first-born, and everything else, for a time; but these caprices, springing in reality from the body rather than the mind, cannot endure forever. When she has several grown-up children the first-born will be the favorite. It comes to that at last, my good friend."

"These are the words of wisdom," said Sir Charles; "God bless you for them!"

After a while he said, "Then what you advise is simply--patience?"

"No, I don't say that. With such a large house as this, and your resources, you might easily separate them before the delusion grows any farther. Why risk a calamity?"

"A calamity?" and Sir Charles began to tremble.

"She is only cold to the child as yet. She might go farther, and fancy she hated it. Obsta principiis: that is my motto. Not that I really think, for a moment, the child is in danger. Lady Bassett has mind to control her nerves with; but why run the shadow of a chance?"

"I will not run the shadow of a chance," said Sir Charles, resolutely; "let us come upstairs: my decision is taken."

The very next day Sir Charles called on Mrs. Meyrick, and asked if he could come to any arrangement with her to lodge Mr. Bassett and his nurse under her roof. "The boy wants change of air," said he.

Mrs. Meyrick jumped at the proposal, but declined all terms. "No," said she, "the child I have suckled shall never pay me for his lodging. Why should he, sir, when I'd pay you to let him come, if I wasn't afeard of offending you?"

Sir Charles was touched at this, and, being a gentleman of tact, said, "You are very good: well, then, I must remain your debtor for the present."

He then took his leave, but she walked with him a few yards, just as far as the wicket, gate that separated her little front garden from the high-road.

"I hope," said she, "my lady will come and see me when my lamb is with me; a sight of her would be good for sore eyes. She have never been here but once, and then she did not get out of her carriage."

"Humph!" said Sir Charles, apologetically; "she seldom goes out now; you understand."

"Oh, I've heard, sir; and I do put up my prayers for her; for my lady has been a good friend to me, sir, and if you will believe me, I often sets here and longs for a sight of her, and her sweet eyes, and her hair like sunshine, that I've had in my hand so often. Well, sir, I hope it will be a girl this time, a little girl with golden hair; that's what I wants this time. They'll be the prettiest pair in England."

"With all my heart," said Sir Charles; "girl or boy, I don't care which; but I'd give a few thousands if it was here, and the mother safe."

He hurried away, ashamed of having uttered the feelings of his heart to a farmer's wife. To avoid discussion, he sent Mrs. Millar and the boy off all in a hurry, and then told Lady Bassett what he had done.

She appeared much distressed at that, and asked what she had done.

He soothed her, and said she was not to blarne at all; and she must not blame him either. He had done it for the best.

"After all, you are the master," said she, submissively.

"I am," said he, "and men will be tyrants, you know."

Then she flung her arm round her tyrant's neck, and there was an end of the discussion.

One day he inquired for her, and heard, to his no small satisfaction, she had driven to Mrs. Meyrick's, with a box of things for Mr. Bassett. She stayed at the farmhouse all day, and Sir Charles felt sure he had done the right thing.

Mrs. Meyrick found out to her cost the difference between a nursling and a rampageous little boy.

Her lamb, as she called him, was now a young monkey, vigorous, active, restless, and, unfortunately, as strong on his pins as most boys of six. It took two women to look after him, and smart ones too, so swiftly did he dash off into some mischief or other. At last Mrs. Meyrick simplified matters in some degree by locking the large gate, and even the small wicket, and ordering all the farm people and milkmaids to keep an eye on him, and bring him straight to her if he should stray, for he seemed to hate in-doors. Never was such a boy.

Nevertheless, such as had not the care of him admired the child for his beauty and his assurance. He seemed to regard the whole human race as one family, of which he was the rising head. The moment he caught sight of a human being he dashed at it and into conversation by one unbroken movement.

Now children in general are too apt to hide their intellectual treasures from strangers by shyness.

One day this ready converser was standing on the steps of the house, when a gentleman came to the wicket gate, and looked over into the garden.

Young master darted to the gate directly, and getting his foot on the lowest bar and his hands on the spikes, gave tongue.

"Who are you? I'm Mr. Bassett. I don't live here; I'm only staying. My home is Huncom Hall. I'm to have it for myself when papa dies. I didn't know dat till I come here. How old are you? I'm half past four--"

A loud scream, a swift rustle, and Mr. Bassett was clutched up by Mrs. Meyrick, who snatched him away with a wild glance of terror and defiance, and bore him swiftly into the house, with words ringing in her ears that cost Mr. Bassett dear, he being the only person she could punish. She sat down on a bench, flung young master across her knee in a minute, and bestowed such a smacking on him as far transcended his wildest dreams of the weight, power, and pertinacity of the human arm.

The words Richard Bassett had shot her flying with were these:

"Too late! I've SEEN THE PARSON'S BRAT."


Richard Bassett mounted his horse and rode over to Wheeler, for he could no longer wheedle the man of law over to Highmore, and I will very briefly state why.

1st. About three years ago an old lady, one of his few clients, left him three thousand pounds, just reward of a very little law and a vast deal of gossip.

2d. The head solicitor of the place got old and wanted a partner. Wheeler bought himself in, and thenceforth took his share of a good business, and by his energy enlarged it, though he never could found one for himself.

3d. He married a wife.

4th. She was a pretty woman, and blessed with jealousy of a just and impartial nature: she was equally jealous of women, men, books, business--anything that took her husband from her.

No more sleeping out at Highmore; no more protracted potations; no more bachelor tricks for Wheeler. He still valued his old client and welcomed him; but the venue was changed, so to speak.

Richard Bassett was kept waiting in the outer office; but when he did get in he easily prevailed on Wheeler to send the next client or two to his partner, and give him a full hearing.

Then he opened his business. "Well," said he, "I've seen him at last!"

"Seen him? seen whom?"

"The boy they have set up to rob my boy of the estate. I've seen him, Wheeler, seen him close; and HE'S AS BLACK AS MY HAT."


WHEELER, instead of being thunder-stricken, said quietly, "Oh, is he? Well?"

"Sir Charles is lighter than I am: Lady Bassett has a skin like satin, and red hair."

"Red! say auburn gilt. I never saw such lovely hair."

"Well," said Richard, impatiently, "then the boy has eyes like sloes, and a brown skin, like an Italian, and black hair almost; it will be quite."

"Well," said Wheeler, "it is not so very uncommon for a dark child to be born of fair parents, or vice versa. I once saw an urchin that was like neither father nor mother, but the image of his father's grandfather, that died eighty years before he was born. They used to hold him up to the portrait."

Said Bassett, "Will you admit that it is uncommon?"

"Not so uncommon as for a high-bred lady, living in the country, and adored by her husband, to trifle with her marriage vow, for that is what you are driving at."

"Then we have to decide between two improbabilities: will you grant me that, Mr. Wheeler?"


"Then suppose I can prove fact upon fact, and coincidence upon coincidence, all tending one way! Are you so prejudiced that nothing will convince you?"

"No. But it will take a great deal: that lady's face is full of purity, and she fought us like one who loved her husband."

"Fronti nulla fides: and as for her fighting, her infidelity was the weapon she defeated us with. Will you hear me?"

"Yes, yes; but pray stick to facts, and not conjectures."

"Then don't interrupt me with childish arguments:

"Fact 1.--Both reputed parents fair; the boy as black as the ace of spades.

"Fact 2.--A handsome young fellow was always buzzing about her ladyship, and he was a parson, and ladies are remarkably fond of parsons.

"Fact 3.--This parson was of Italian breed, dark, like the boy.

"Fact 4.--This dark young man left Huntercombe one week, and my lady left it the next, and they were both in the city of Bath at one time.

"Fact 5.--The lady went from Bath to London. The dark young man went from Bath to London."

"None of this is new to me," said Wheeler, quietly.

"No; but it is the rule, in estimating coincidences, that each fresh one multiplies the value of the others. Now the boy looking so Italian is a new coincidence, and so is what I am going to tell you--at last I have found the medical man who attended Lady Bassett in London."


"Yes, sir; and I have learned Fact 6.--Her ladyship rented a house, but hired no servants, and engaged no nurse. She had no attendant but a lady's maid, no servant but a sort of charwoman.

"Fact 7.--She dismissed this doctor unusually soon, and gave him a very large fee.

"Fact 8.--She concealed her address from her husband."

"Oh! can you prove that?"

"Certainly. Sir Charles came up to town, and had to hunt for her, came to this very medical man, and asked for the address his wife had not given him; but lo! when he got there the bird was flown.

"Fact 9.--Following the same system of concealment, my lady levanted from London within ten days of her confinement.

"Now put all these coincidences together. Don't you see that she had a lover, and that he was about her in London and other places? Stop! Fact 10.--Those two were married for years, and had no child but this equivocal one; and now four years and a half have passed, during all which time they have had none, and the young parson has been abroad during that period."

Wheeler was staggered and perplexed by this artful array of coincidences.

"Now advise me," said Bassett.

"It is not so easy. Of course if Sir Charles was to die, you could claim the estate, and give them a great deal of pain and annoyance; but the burden of proof would always rest on you. My advice is not to breathe a syllable of this; but get a good detective, and push your inquiries a little further among house agents, and the women they put into houses; find that charwoman, and see if you can pick up anything more."

"Do you know such a thing as an able detective?"

"I know one that will work if I instruct him."

"Instruct him, then."

"I will."


LADY BASSETT, as her time of trial drew near, became despondent.

She spoke of the future, and tried to pierce it; and in all these little loving speculations and anxieties there was no longer any mention of herself.

This meant that she feared her husband was about to lose her. I put the fear in the very form it took in that gentle breast.

Possessed with this dread, so natural to her situation, she set her house in order, and left her little legacies of clothes and jewels, without the help of a lawyer; for Sir Charles, she knew, would respect her lightest wish.

To him she left her all, except these trifles, and, above all--a manuscript book. It was the history of her wedded life. Not the bare outward history; but such a record of a sensitive woman's heart as no male writer's pen can approach.

It was the nature of her face and her tongue to conceal; but here, on this paper, she laid bare her heart; here her very subtlety operated, not to hide, but to dissect herself and her motives.

But oh, what it cost her to pen this faithful record of her love, her trials, her doubts, her perplexities, her agonies, her temptations, and her crime! Often she laid down the pen, and hid her face in her hands. Often the scalding tears ran down that scarlet face. Often she writhed at her desk, and wrote on, sighing and moaning. Yet she persevered to the end. It was the grave that gave her the power. "When he reads this," she said, "I shall be in my tomb. Men make excuses for the dead. My Charles will forgive me when I am gone. He will know I loved him to desperation."

It took her many days to write; it was quite a thick quarto; so much may a woman feel in a year or two; and, need I say that, to the reader of that volume, the mystery of her conduct was all made clear as daylight; clearer far, as regards the revelation of mind and feeling, than I, dealer in broad facts, shall ever make it, for want of a woman's mental microscope and delicate brush.

And when this record was finished, she wrapped it in paper, and sealed it with many seals, and wrote on it,

"Only for my husband's eye.
From her who loved him not wisely,
But too well."

And she took other means that even the superscription should never be seen of any other eye but his. It was some little comfort to her, when the book was written.

She never prayed to live. But she used to pray, fervently, piteously, that her child might live, and be a comfort and joy to his father.


The person employed by Wheeler discovered the house agent, and the woman he had employed.

But these added nothing to the evidence Bassett had collected.

At last, however, this woman, under the influence of a promised reward, discovered a person who was likely to know more about the matter--viz., the woman who was in the house with Lady Bassett at the very time.

But this woman scented gold directly: so she held mysterious language; declined to say a word to the officer; but intimated that she knew a great deal, and that the matter was, in truth, well worth looking into, and she could tell some strange tales, if it was worth her while.

This information was sent to Bassett; he replied that the woman only wanted money for her intelligence, and he did not blame her; he would see her next time he went to town, and felt sure she would complete his chain of evidence. This put Richard Bassett into extravagant spirits. He danced his little boy on his knee, and said, "I'll run this little horse against the parson's brat; five to one, and no takers."

Indeed, his exultation was so loud and extravagant that it jarred on gentle Mrs. Bassett. As for Jessie, the Scotch servant, she shook her head, and said the master was fey.

In the morning he started for London, still so exuberant and excited that the Scotch woman implored her mistress not to let him go; there would be an accident on the railway, or something. But Mrs. Bassett knew her husband too well to interfere with his journeys.

Before he drove off he demanded his little boy.

"He must kiss me," said he, "for I'm going to work for him. D'ye hear that, Jane? This day makes him heir of Huntercombe and Bassett."

The nurse brought word that Master Bassett was not very well this morning.

"Let us look at him," said Bassett.

He got out of his gig, and went to the nursery. He found his little boy had a dry cough, with a little flushing.

"It is not much," said he; "but I'll send the doctor over from the town."

He did so, and himself proceeded up to London.

The doctor came, and finding the boy labored in breathing, administered a full dose of ipecacuanha. This relieved the child for the time; but about four in the afternoon he was distressed again, and began to cough with a peculiar grating sound.

Then there was a cry of dismay-- "The croup!" The doctor was gone for, and a letter posted to Richard Bassett, urging him to come back directly.

The doctor tried everything, even mercury, but could not check the fatal discharge; it stiffened into a still more fatal membrane.

When Bassett returned next afternoon, in great alarm, he found the poor child thrusting its fingers into its mouth, in a vain attempt to free the deadly obstruction.

A warm bath and strong emetics were now administered, and great relief obtained. The patient even ate and drank, and asked leave to get up and play with a new toy he had. But, as often happens in this disorder, a severe relapse soon came, with a spasm of the glottis so violent and prolonged that the patient at last resigned the struggle. Then pain ceased forever; the heavenly smile came; the breath went; and nothing was left in the little white bed but a fair piece of tinted clay, that must return to the dust, and carry thither all the pride, the hopes, the boasts of the stricken father, who had schemed, and planned, and counted without Him in whose hands are the issues of life and death.

As for the child himself, his lot was a happy one, if we could but see what the world is really worth. He was always a bright child, that never cried, nor complained: his first trouble was his last; one day's pain, then bliss eternal: he never got poisoned by his father's spirit of hate, but loved and was beloved during his little lifetime; and, dying, he passed from his Noah's ark to an inheritance a thousand times richer than Huntercombe, Bassett, and all his cousin's lands.


The little grave was dug, the bell tolled, and a man bowed double with grief saw his child and his ambition laid in the dust.

Lady Bassett heard the bell tolled, and spoke but two words: "Poor woman!"

She might well say so. Mrs. Bassett was in the same condition as herself, yet this heavy blow must fall on her.

As for Richard Bassett, he sat at home, bowed down and stupid with grief.

Wheeler came one day to console him; but, at the sight of him, refrained from idle words. He sat down by him for an hour in silence. Then he got up and said, "Good-by."

"Thank you, old friend, for not insulting me," said Bassett, in a broken voice.

Wheeler took his hand, and turned away his head, and so went away, with a tear in his eye.

A fortnight after this he came again, and found Bassett in the same attitude, but not in the same leaden stupor. On the contrary, he was in a state of tremor; he had lost, under the late blow, the sanguine mind that used to carry him through everything.

The doctor was upstairs, and his wife's fate trembled in the balance.

"Stay by me," said he, "for all my nerve is gone. I'm afraid I shall lose her; for I have just begun to value her; and that is how God deals with his creatures--the merciful God, as they call him."

Wheeler thought it rather hard God Almighty should be blamed because Dick Bassett had taken eight years to find out his wife's merit; but he forbore to say so. He said kindly that he would stay.

Now while they sat in trying suspense the church-bells struck up a merry peal.

Bassett started violently and his eyes gave a strange glare. "That's the other!" said he; for he had heard about Lady Bassett by this time.

Then he turned pale. "They ring for him: then they are sure to toll for me."

This foreboding was natural enough in a man so blinded by egotism as to fancy that all creation, and the Creator himself, must take a side in Bassett v. Bassett.

Nevertheless, events did not justify that foreboding. The bells had scarcely done ringing for the happy event at Huntercombe, when joyful feet were heard running on the stairs; joyful voices clashed together in the passage, and in came a female servant with joyful tidings. Mrs. Bassett was safe, and the child in the world. "The loveliest little girl you ever saw!"

"A girl!" cried Richard Bassett with contemptuous amazement. Even his melancholy forebodings had not gone that length. "And what have they got at Huntercombe?"

"Oh, it is a boy, sir, there."

"Of course."

The ringers heard, and sent one of their number to ask him if they should ring.

"What for?" asked Bassett with a nasty glittering eye; and then with sudden fury he seized a large piece of wood from the basket to fling at his insulter. "I'll teach you to come and mock me."

The ringer vanished, ducking.

"Gently," said Wheeler, "gently."

Bassett chucked the wood back into the basket, and sat down gloomily, saying, "Then how dare he come and talk about ringing bells for a girl? To think that I should have all this fright, and my wife all this trouble--for a girl!"


It was no time to talk of business then; but about a fortnight afterward Wheeler said, "I took the detective off, to save you expense."

"Quite right," said Bassett, wearily.

"I gave you the woman's address; so the matter is in your hands now, I consider."

"Yes," said Bassett, wearily; "Move no further in it."

"Certainly not; and, frankly, I should be glad to see you abandon it."

"I have abandoned it. Why should I stir the mud now? I and mine are thrown out forever; the only question is, shall a son of Sir Charles or the parson's son inherit? I'm for the wrongful heir. Ay," he cried, starting up, and beating the air with his fists in sudden fury, "since the right Bassetts are never to have it, let the wrong Bassetts be thrown out, at all events; I'm on my back, but Sir Charles is no better off; a bastard will succeed him, thanks to that cursed woman who defeated me."

This turn took Wheeler by surprise. It also gave him real pain. "Bassett," said he, "I pity you. What sort of a life has yours been for the last eight years? Yet, when there's no fuel left for war and hatred, you blow the embers. You are incurable."

"I am," said Richard. "I'll hate those two with my last breath and curse them in my last prayer."


LADY BASSETT'S forebodings, like most of our insights into the future, were confuted by the event.

She became the happy mother of a flaxen-haired boy. She insisted on nursing him herself; and the experienced persons who attended her raised no objection.

In connection with this she gave Sir Charles a peck, not very severe, but sudden, and remarkable as the only one on record.

He was contemplating her and her nursling with the deepest affection, and happened to say, "My own Bella, what delight it gives me to see you!"

"Yes," said she, "we will have only one mother this time, will we, my darling? and it shall be Me." Then suddenly, turning her head like a snake, "Oh, I saw the looks you gave that woman!"

This was the famous peck; administered in return for a look that he had bestowed on Mary Gosport not more than five years ago.

Sir Charles would, doubtless, have bled to death on the spot, but either he had never been aware how he looked, or time and business had obliterated the impression, for he was unaffectedly puzzled, and said, "What woman do you mean, dear?"

"No matter, darling," said Lady Bassett, who had already repented her dire severity: "all I say is that a nurse is a rival I could not endure now; and another thing, I do believe those wet-nurses give their disposition to the child: it is dreadful to think of."

"Well, if so, baby is safe. He will be the most amiable boy in England."

"He shall be more amiable than I am--scolding my husband of husbands;" and she leaned toward him, baby and all, for a kiss from his lips.

We say at school "Seniores priores"--let favor go by seniority; but where babies adorn the scene, it is "juniores priores" with that sex to which the very young are confided.

To this rule, as might be expected, Lady Bassett furnished no exception; she was absorbed in baby, and trusted Mr. Bassett a good deal to his attendant, who bore an excellent character for care and attention.

Now Mr. Bassett was strong on his pins and in his will, and his nurse-maid, after all, was young; so he used to take his walks nearly every day to Mrs. Meyrick's: she petted him enough, and spoiled him in every way, while the nurse-maid was flirting with the farm-servants out of sight.

Sir Charles Bassett was devoted to the boy, and used always to have him to his study in the morning, and to the drawing-room after dinner, when the party was small, and that happened much oftener now than heretofore; but at other hours he did not look after him, being a business man, and considering him at that age to be under his mother's care.

One day the only guest was Mr. Rolfe; he was staying in the house for three days, upon a condition suggested by himself--viz., that he might enjoy his friends' society in peace and comfort, and not be set to roll the stone of conversation up some young lady's back, and obtain monosyllables in reply, faintly lisped amid a clatter of fourteen knives and forks. As he would not leave his writing-table on any milder terms, they took him on these.

After dinner in came Mr. Bassett, erect, and a proud nurse with little Compton, just able to hold his nurse's gown and toddle.

Rolfe did not care for small children; he just glanced at the angelic, fair-haired infant, but his admiring gaze rested on the elder boy.

"Why, what is here--an Oriental prince?"

The boy ran to him directly. "Who are you?"

"Rolfe the writer. Who are you--the Gipsy King?"

"No; but I am very fond of gypsies. I'm Mister Bassett; and when papa dies I shall be Sir Charles Bassett."

Sir Charles laughed at this with paternal fatuity, especially as the boy's name happened to be Reginald Francis, after his grandfather.

Rolfe smiled satirically, for these little speeches from children did much to reconcile him to his lot.

"Meantime," said he, "let us feed off him; for it may be forty years before we can dance over his grave. First let us see what is the unwholesomest thing on the table."

He rose, and to the infinite delight of Mr. Bassett, and even of Master Compton, who pointed and crowed from his mother's lap, he got up on his chair, and put on a pair of spectacles to look.

"Eureka!" said he; "behold that dish by Lady Bassett; those are marrons glacés; fetch them here, and let us go in for a fit of the gout at once."

"Gout! what's that?" inquired Mr. Bassett.

"Don't ask me."

"You don't know.

"Not know! What, didn't I tell you I was Rolfe the writer? Writers know everything. That is what makes them so modest."

Mr. Bassett was now unnaturally silent for five minutes, munching chestnuts; this enabled his guests to converse; but as soon as he had cleared his plate, he cut right across the conversation, with that savage contempt for all topics but his own which characterizes gentlemen of his age, and says he to Rolfe, "You know everything? Then what's a parson's brat?"

"Well, that's the one thing I don't know," said Rolfe; "but a brat I take to be a boy who interrupts ladies and gentlemen with nonsense when they are talking sense."

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Rolfe," said Lady Bassett. "That remark was very much needed."

Then she called Reginald to her, and lectured him, sotto voce, to the same tune.

"You old bachelors are rather hard," said Sir Charles, not very well pleased.

"We are obliged to be; you parents are so soft. After all, it is no wonder. What a superb boy it is!--Here is nurse. I'm so sorry. Now we shall be cabined, cribbed, confined to rational conversation, and I shall not be expected to--(good-night, little flaxen angel; good-by, handsome and loquacious demon; kiss and be friends)--expected to know, all in a minute, what is a parson's brat. By-the-by, talking of parsons, what has become of Angelo?"

"He has been away a good many years. Consumption, I hear."

"He was a fine-built fellow too; was he not, Lady Bassett?"

"I don't know; but he was beautifully strong. I think I see him now carrying dear Charles in his arms all down the garden."

"Ah, you see he was raised in a university that does not do things by halves, but trains both body and mind, as they did at Athens; for the union of study and athletic sports is spoken of as a novelty, but it is only a return to antiquity."

Here letters were brought by the second post. Sir Charles glanced at his, and sent them to his study. Lady Bassett had but one. She said, "May I?" to both gentlemen, and then opened it.

"How strange!" said she. "It is from Mr. Angelo: just a line to say he is coming home quite cured."

She began this composedly, but blushed afterward--blushed quite red.

"May I?" said she, and tossed it delicately half-way to Rolfe. He handed it to Sir Charles.

Some remarks were then made about the coincidence, and nothing further passed worth recording at that time.

Next day Lady Bassett, with instinctive curiosity, asked Master Reginald how he came to put such a question as that to Mr. Rolfe.

"Because I wanted to know."

"But what put such words into your head? I never heard a gentleman say such words; and you must never say them again, Reginald."

"Tell me what it means, and I won't," said he.

"Oh," said Lady Bassett, "since you bargain with me, sir, I must bargain with you. Tell me first where you ever heard such words."

"When I was staying at nurse's. Ah, that was jolly."

"You like that better than being here?"


"I am sorry for that. Well, dear, did nurse say that? Surely not?"

"Oh, no; it was the man."

"What man?"

"Why, the man that came to the gate one morning, and talked to me, and I talked to him, and that nasty nurse ran out and caught us, and carried me in, and gave me such a hiding, and all for nothing."

"A hiding! What words the poor child picks up! But I don't understand why nurse should beat you."

"For speaking to the man. She said he was a bad man, and she would kill me if ever I spoke to him again."

"Oh, it was a bad man, and said bad words--to somebody he was quarreling with?"

"No, he said them to nurse because she took me away."

"What did he say, Reginald?" asked Lady Bassett, becoming very grave and thoughtful all at once.

"He said, 'That's too late; I've seen the parson's brat.'"


"And I've asked nurse again and again what it meant, but she won't tell me. She only says the man is a liar, and I am not to say it again; and so I never did say it again--for a long time; but last night, when Rolfe the writer said he knew everything, it struck my head--what is the matter, mamma?"

"Nothing; nothing."

"You look so white. Are you ill, mamma?" and he went to put his arms round her, which was a mighty rare thing with him.

She trembled a good deal, and did not either embrace him or repel him. She only trembled.

After some time she recovered herself enough to say, in a voice and with a manner that impressed itself at once on this sharp boy: "Reginald, your nurse was quite right. Understand this: the man was your enemy--and mine; the words he said you must not say again. It would be like taking up dirt and flinging some on your own face and some on mine."

"I won't do that," said the boy, firmly. "Are you afraid of the man that you look so white?"

"A man with a woman's tongue--who can help fearing?"

"Don't you be afraid; as soon as I'm big enough, I'll kill him."

Lady Bassett looked with surprise at the child, he uttered this resolve with such a steady resolution.

She drew him to her, and kissed him on the forehead.

"No, Reginald," said she; "we must not shed blood; it is as wicked to kill our enemies as to kill any one else. But never speak to him, never even listen to him; if he tries to speak to you, run away from him, and don't let him--he is our enemy."

That same day she went to Mrs. Meyrick, to examine her. But she found the boy had told her all there was to tell.

Mrs. Meyrick, whose affection for her was not diminished, was downright vexed. "Dear me!" said she; "I did think I had kept that from vexing of you. To think of the dear child hiding it for nigh two years, and then to blurt it out like that! Nobody heard him I hope?"

"Others heard; but--"

"Didn't heed; the Lord be praised for that."

"Mary," said Lady Bassett, solemnly, "I am not equal to another battle with Mr. Richard Bassett; and such a battle! Better tell all, and die."

"Don't think of it," said Mary. "You're safe from Richard Bassett now. Times are changed since he came spying to my gate. His own boy is gone. You have got two. He'll lie still if you do. But if you tell your tale, he must hear on't, and he'll tell his. For God's sake, my lady, keep close. It is the curse of women that they can't just hold their tongues, and see how things turn. And is this a time to spill good liquor? Look at Sir Charles! why, he is another man; he have got flesh on his bones now, and color into his cheeks, and 'twas you and I made a man of him. It is my belief you'd never have had this other little angel but for us having sense and courage to see what must be done. Knock down our own work, and send him wild again, and give that Richard Bassett a handle? You'll never be so mad."

Lady Bassett replied. The other answered; and so powerfully that Lady Bassett yielded, and went home sick at heart, but helpless, and in a sea of doubt.

Mr. Angelo did not call. Sir Charles asked Lady Bassett if he had called on her.

She said "No."

"That is odd," said Sir Charles. "Perhaps he thinks we ought to welcome him home. Write and ask him to dinner."

"Yes, dear. Or you can write."

"Very well, I will. No, I will call."

Sir Charles called, and welcomed him home, and asked him to dinner. Angelo received him rather stiffly at first, but accepted his invitation.

He came, looking a good deal older and graver, but almost as handsome as ever; only somewhat changed in mind. He had become a zealous clergyman, and his soul appeared to be in his work. He was distant and very respectful to Lady Bassett; I might say obsequious. Seemed almost afraid of her at first.

That wore off in a few months; but he was never quite so much at his ease with her as he had been before he left some years ago.


And so did time roll on.

Every morning and every night Lady Bassett used to look wistfully at Sir Charles, and say--

"Are you happy, dear? Are you sure you are happy?"

And he used always to say, and with truth, that he was the happiest man in England, thanks to her.

Then she used to relax the wild and wistful look with which she asked the question, and give a sort of sigh, half content, half resignation.

In due course another fine boy came, and filled the royal office of baby in his turn.

But my story does not follow him.


Reginald was over ten years old, and Compton nearly six. They were as different in character as complexion--both remarkable boys.

Reginald, Sir Charles's favorite, was a wonderful boy for riding, running, talking; and had a downright genius for melody; he whistled to the admiration of the village, and latterly he practiced the fiddle in woods and under hedges, being aided and abetted therein by a gypsy boy whom he loved, and who, indeed, provided the instrument.

He rode with Sir Charles, and rather liked him; his brother he never noticed, except to tease him. Lady Bassett he admired, and almost loved her while she was in the act of playing him undeniable melodies. But he liked his nurse Meyrick better, on the whole; she flattered him more, and was more uniformly subservient.

With these two exceptions he despised the whole race of women, and affected male society only, especially of grooms, stable-boys, and gypsies; these last welcomed him to their tents, and almost prostrated themselves before him, so dazzled were they by his beauty and his color. It is believed they suspected him of having gypsy blood in his veins. They let him into their tents, and even into some of their secrets, and he promised them they should have it all their own way as soon as he was Sir Reginald; he had outgrown his original theory that he was to be Sir Charles on his father's death.

He hated in-doors; when fixed by command to a book, would beg hard to be allowed to take it into the sun; and at night would open his window and poke his black head out to wash in the moonshine, as he said.

He despised ladies and gentlemen, said they were all affected fools, and gave imitations of all his father's guests to prove it; and so keen was this child of nature's eye for affectation that very often his disapproving parents were obliged to confess the imp had seen with his fresh eye defects custom had made them overlook, or the solid good qualities that lay beneath had overbalanced.

Now all this may appear amusing and eccentric, and so on, to strangers; but after the first hundred laughs or so with which paternal indulgence dismisses the faults of childhood, Sir Charles became very grave.

The boy was his darling and his pride. He was ambitious for him. He earnestly desired to solve for him a problem which is as impossible as squaring the circle, viz., how to transmit our experience to our children. The years and the health he had wasted before he knew Bella Bruce, these he resolved his successor should not waste. He looked higher for this beautiful boy than for himself. He had fully resolved to be member for the county one day; but he did not care about it for himself; it was only to pave the way for his successor; that Sir Reginald, after a long career in the Commons, might find his way into the House of Peers, and so obtain dignity in exchange for antiquity; for, to tell the truth, the ancestors of four-fifths of the British House of Peers had been hewers of wood and drawers of water at a time when these Bassetts had already been gentlemen of distinction for centuries.

All this love and this vicarious ambition were now mortified daily. Some fathers could do wonders for a brilliant boy, and with him; they expect him, and a dull boy appears; that is a bitter pill; but this was worse. Reginald was a sharp boy; he could do anything; fasten him to a book for twenty minutes, he would learn as much as most boys in an hour; but there was no keeping him to it, unless you strapped him or nailed him, for he had the will of a mule, and the suppleness of an eel to carry out his will. And then his tastes--low as his features were refined; he was a sort of moral dung-fork; picked up all the slang of the stable and scattered it in the dining-room and drawing-room; and once or twice he stole out of his comfortable room at night, and slept in a gypsy's tent with his arm round a gypsy boy, unsullied from his cradle by soap.

At last Sir Charles could no longer reply to his wife at night as he had done for this ten years past. He was obliged to confess that there was one cloud upon his happiness. "Dear Reginald grieves me, and makes me dread the future; for if the child is father to the man, there is a bitter disappointment in store for us. He is like no other boy; he is like no human creature I ever saw. At his age, and long after, I was a fool; I was a fool till I knew you; but surely I was a gentleman. I cannot see myself again--in my first-born."


LADY BASSETT was paralyzed for a minute or two by this speech. At last she replied by asking a question--rather a curious one. "Who nursed you, Charles?"

"What, when I was a baby? How can I tell? Yes, by-the-by, it was my mother nursed me--so I was told."

"And your mother was a Le Compton. This poor boy was nursed by a servant. Oh, she has some good qualities, and is certainly devoted to us--to this day her face brightens at sight of me--but she is essentially vulgar; and do you remember, Charles, I wished to wean him early; but I was overruled, and the poor child drew his nature from that woman for nearly eighteen months; it is a thing unheard of nowadays."

"Well, but surely it is from our parents we draw our nature."

"No; I think it is from our nurses. If Compton or Alec ever turn out like Reginald, blame nobody but their nurse, and that is Me."

Sir Charles smiled faintly at this piece of feminine logic, and asked her what he should do.

She said she was quite unable to advise. Mr. Rolfe was coming to see them soon; perhaps he might be able to suggest something.

Sir Charles said he would consult him; but he was clear on one thing--the boy must be sent from Huntercombe, and so separated from all his present acquaintances.

Mr. Rolfe came, and the distressed father opened his heart to him in strict confidence respecting Reginald.

Rolfe listened and sympathized, and knit his brow, and asked time to consider what he had heard, and also to study the boy for himself.

He angled for him next day accordingly. A little table was taken out on the lawn, and presently Mr. Rolfe issued forth in a uniform suit of dark blue flannel and a sombrero hat, and set to work writing a novel in the sun.

Reginald in due course descried this figure, and it smacked so of that Bohemia to which his own soul belonged that he was attracted thereby, but made his approaches stealthily, like a little cat.

Presently a fiddle went off behind a tree, so close that the novelist leaped out of his seat with an eldrich screech; for he had long ago forgotten all about Mr. Reginald, and, when he got heated in this kind of composition, any sudden sound seemed to his tense nerves and boiling brain about ten times as loud as it really was.

Having relieved himself with a yell, he sat down with the mien of a martyr expecting tortures; but he was most agreeably disappointed; the little monster played an English melody, and played it in tune. This done, he whistled a quick tune, and played a slow second to it in perfect harmony; this done, he whistled the second part and played the quick treble--a very simple feat, but still ingenious for a boy, and new to his hearer.

"Bravo! bravo!" cried Rolfe, with all his heart,

Mr. Reginald emerged, radiant with vanity. "You are like me, Mr. Writer," said he; "you don't like to be cooped up in-doors."

"I wish I could play the fiddle like you, my fine fellow."

"Ah, you can't do that all in a minute; see the time I have been at it."

"Ah, to be sure, I forgot your antiquity."

"And it isn't the time only; it's giving your mind to it, old chap."

"What, you don't give your mind to your books, then, as you do to your fiddle, young gentleman?"

"Not such a flat. Why, lookee here, governor, if you go and give your mind to a thing you don't like, it's always time wasted, because some other chap, that does like it, will beat you, and what's the use working for to be beat?"

"'For' is redundant," objected Rolfe.

"But if you stick hard to the things you like, you do 'em downright well. But old people are such fools, they always drive you the wrong way. They make the gals play music six hours a day, and you might as well set the hen bullfinches to pipe. Look at the gals as come here, how they rattle up and down the piano, and can't make it sing a morsel. Why, they couldn't rattle like that, if they'd music in their skins, d--n 'em; and they drive me to those stupid books, because I'm all for music and moonshine. Can you keep a secret?"

"As the tomb."

"Well, then, I can do plenty of things well, besides fiddling; I can set a wire with any poacher in the parish. I have caught plenty of our old man's hares in my time; and it takes a workman to set a wire as it should be. Show me a wire, and I'll tell you whether it was Hudson, or Whitbeck, or Squinting Jack, or who it was that set it. I know all their work that walks by moonlight hereabouts."

"This is criticism; a science; I prefer art; play me another tune, my bold Bohemian."

"Ah, I thought I should catch ye with my fiddle. You're not such a muff as the others, old 'un, not by a long chalk. Hang me if I won't give ye 'Ireland's music,' and I've sworn never to waste that on a fool."

He played the old Irish air so simply and tunably that Rolfe leaned back in his chair, with half closed eyes, in soft voluptuous ecstasy.

The youngster watched him with his coal-black eye.

"I like you," said he, "better than I thought I should, a precious sight."

"Highly flattered."

"Come with me, and hear my nurse sing it."

"What, and leave my novel?"

"Oh, bother your novel."

"And so I will. That will be tit for tat; it has bothered me. Lead on, Bohemian bold."

The boy took him, over hedge and ditch, the short-cut to Meyrick's farm; and caught Mrs. Meyrick, and said she must sing "Ireland's music" to Rolfe the writer.

Mrs. Meyrick apologized for her dress, and affected shyness about singing: Mr. Reginald stared at first, then let her know that, if she was going to be affected like the girls that came to the Hall, he should hate her, as he did them, and this he confirmed with a naughty word.

Thus threatened, she came to book, and sang Ireland's melody in a low, rich, sonorous voice; Reginald played a second; the harmony was so perfect and strong that certain glass candelabra on the mantel-piece rang loudly, and the drops vibrated. Then he made her sing the second, and he took the treble with his violin; and he wound up by throwing in a third part himself, a sort of countertenor, his own voice being much higher than the woman's.

The tears stood in Rolfe's eyes. "Well," said he, "you have got the soul of music, you two. I could listen to you 'From morn till noon, from noon till dewy eve.'"

As they returned to Huntercombe, this mercurial youth went off at a tangent, and Rolfe saw him no more.

He wrote in peace, and walked about between the heats.

Just before dinner-time the screams of women were heard hard by, and the writer hurried to the place in time to see Mr. Basset hanging by the shoulder from the branch of a tree, about twenty feet from the ground.

Rolfe hallooed, as he ran, to the women, to fetch blankets to catch him, and got under the tree, determined to try and catch him in his arms, if necessary; but he encouraged the boy to hold on.

"All right, governor," said the boy, in a quavering voice.

It was very near the kitchen; maids and men poured out with blankets; eight people held one, under Rolfe's direction, and down came Mr. Bassett in a semicircle, and bounded up again off the blanket, like an India-rubber ball.

His quick mind recovered courage the moment he touched wool.

"Crikey! that's jolly," said he; "give me another toss or two."

"Oh no! no!" said a good-natured maid. "Take an' put him to bed right off, poor dear."

"Hold your tongue, ye bitch," said young hopeful; "if ye don't toss me, I'll turn ye all off, as soon as ever the old un kicks the bucket."

Thus menaced, they thought it prudent to toss him; but, at the third toss, he yelled out, "Oh! oh! oh! I'm all wet; it's blood! I'm dead!"

Then they examined, and found his arm was severely lacerated by an old nail that had been driven into the tree, and it had torn the flesh in his fall: he was covered with blood, the sight of which quenched his manly spirit, and he began to howl.

"Old linen rag, warm water, and a bottle of champagne," shouted Rolfe: the servants flew.

Rolfe dressed and bandaged the wound for him, and then he felt faint: the champagne soon set that right; and then he wanted to get drunk, alleging, as a reason, that he had not been drunk for this two months.

Sir Charles was told of the accident, and was distressed by it, and also by the cause.

"Rolfe," said he, sorrowfully, "there is a ring-dove's nest on that tree: she and hers have built there in peace and safety for a hundred years, and cooed about the place. My unhappy boy was climbing the tree to take the young, after solemnly promising me he never would: that is the bitter truth. What shall I do with the young barbarian?"

He sighed, and Lady Bassett echoed the sigh.

Said Rolfe, "The young barbarian, as you call him, has disarmed me: he plays the fiddle like a civilized angel."

"Oh, Mr. Rolfe!"

"What, you his mother, and not found that out yet? Oh yes, he has a heaven-born genius for music."

Rolfe then related the musical feats of the urchin.

Sir Charles begged to observe that this talent would go a very little way toward fitting him to succeed his father and keep up the credit of an ancient family.

"Dear Charles, Mr. Rolfe knows that; but it is like him to make the best of things, to encourage us. But what do you think of him, on the whole, Mr. Rolfe? has Sir Charles more to hope or to fear?"

"Give me another day or two to study him," said Rolfe.

That night there was a loud alarm. Mr. Bassett was running about the veranda in his night-dress.

They caught him and got him to bed, and Rolfe said it was fever; and, with the assistance of Sir Charles and a footman, laid him between two towels steeped in tepid water, then drew blankets tight over him, and, in short, packed him.

"Ah!" said he, complacently; "I say, give me a drink of moonshine, old chap."

"I'll give you a bucketful," said Rolfe; then, with the servant's help, took his little bed and put it close to the window; the moonlight streamed in on the boy's face, his great black eyes glittered in it. He was diabolically beautiful. "Kiss me, moonshine," said he; "I like to wash in you."

Next day he was, apparently, quite well, and certainly ripe for fresh mischief. Rolfe studied him, and, the evening before he went, gave Sir Charles and Lady Bassett his opinion, but not with his usual alacrity; a weight seemed to hang on him, and, more than once, his voice trembled.

"I shall tell you," said he, "what I see--what I foresee--and then, with great diffidence, what I advise.

"I see--what naturalists call a reversion in race, a boy who resembles in color and features neither of his parents, and, indeed, bears little resemblance to any of the races that have inhabited England since history was written. He suggests rather some Oriental type."

Sir Charles turned round in his chair, with a sigh, and said, "We are to have a romance, it seems."

Lady Bassett stared with all her eyes, and began to change color.

The theorist continued, with perfect composure, "I don't undertake to account for it with any precision. How can I? Perhaps there is Moorish blood in your family, and here it has revived; you look incredulous, but there are plenty of examples, ay, and stronger than this: every child that is born resembles some progenitor; how then do you account for Julia Pastrana, a young lady who dined with me last week, and sang me 'Ah perdona,' rather feebly, in the evening? Bust and figure like any other lady, hand exquisite, arms neatly turned, but with long, silky hair from the elbow to the wrist. Face, ugh! forehead made of black leather, eyes all pupil, nose an excrescence, chin pure monkey, face all covered with hair; briefly, a type extinct ten thousand years before Adam, yet it could revive at this time of day. Compared with La Pastrana, and many much weaker examples of antiquity revived, that I have seen, your Mauritanian son is no great marvel, after all."

"This is a little too far-fetched," said Sir Charles, satirically; "Bella's father was a very dark man, and it is a tradition in our family that all the Bassetts were as black as ink till they married with you Rolfes, in the year 1684."

"Oho!" said Rolfe, "is it so? See how discussion brings out things."

"And then," said Lady Bassett, "Charles dear, tell Mr. Rolfe what I think."

"Ay, do," said Rolfe; "that will be a new form of circumlocution."

Sir Charles complied, with a smile. "Lady Bassett's theory is, that children derive their nature quite as much from their wet-nurses as from their parents, and she thinks the faults we deplore in Reginald are to be traced to his nurse; by-the-by, she is a dark woman too."

"Well," said Rolfe, "there's a good deal of truth in that, as far as regards the disposition. But I never heard color so accounted for; yet why not? It has been proved that the very bones of young animals can be colored pink, by feeding them on milk so colored."

"There!" said Lady Bassett.

"But no nurse could give your son a color which is not her own. I have seen the woman; she is only a dark Englishwoman. Her arms were embrowned by exposure, but her forehead was not brown. Mr. Reginald is quite another thing. The skin of his body, the white of his eye, the pupil, all look like a reversion to some Oriental type; and, mark the coincidence, he has mental peculiarities that point toward the East."

Sir Charles lost patience. "On the contrary," said he, "he talks and feels just like an English snob, and makes me miserable."

"Oh, as to that, he has picked up vulgar phrases at that farm, and in your stables; but he never picked up his musical genius in stables and farms, far less his poetry."

"What poetry?"

"What poetry? Why, did not you hear him? Was it not poetical of a wounded, fevered boy to beg to be laid by the window, and to say 'Let me drink the moonshine?' Take down your Homer, and read a thousand lines haphazard, and see whether you stumble over a thought more poetical than that. But criticism does not exist: whatever the dead said was good; whatever the living say is little; as if the dead were a race apart, and had never been the living, and the living would never be the dead."

Heaven knows where he was running to now, but Sir Charles stopped him by conceding that point. "Well you are right: poor child, it was poetical," and the father's pride predominated, for a moment, over every other sentiment.

"Yes; but where did it come from? That looks to me a typical idea; I mean an idea derived, not from his luxurious parents, dwellers in curtained mansions, but from some out-door and remote ancestor; perhaps from the Oriental tribe that first colonized Britain; they worshiped the sun and the moon, no doubt; or perhaps, after all, it only came from some wandering tribe that passed their lives between the two lights of heaven, and never set foot in a human dwelling."

"This," said Sir Charles, "is a flattering speculation, but so wild and romantic that I fear it will lead us to no practical result. I thought you undertook to advise me. What advice can you build on these cobwebs of your busy brain?"

"Excuse me, my practical friend," said Rolfe. "I opened my discourse in three heads. What I see--what I foresee--and what, with diffidence, I advise. Pray don't disturb my methods, or I am done for; never disturb an artist's form. I have told you what I see. What I foresee is this: you will have to cut off the entail with Reginald's consent, when he is of age, and make the Saxon boy Compton your successor. Cutting off entails runs in families, like everything else; your grandfather did it, and so will you. You should put by a few thousands every year, that you may be able to do this without injustice either to your Oriental or your Saxon son."

"Never!" shouted Sir Charles: then, in a broken voice, "He is my first-born, and my idol; his coming into the world rescued me out of a morbid condition: he healed my one great grief. Bar the entail, and put his younger brother in his place--never!"

Mr. Rolfe bowed his head politely, and left the subject, which, indeed, could be carried no farther without serious offense.

"And now for my advice. The question is, how to educate this strange boy. One thing is clear; it is no use trying the humdrum plan any longer; it has been tried, and failed. I should adapt his education to his nature. Education is made as stiff and unyielding as a board; but it need not be. I should abolish that spectacled tutor of yours at once, and get a tutor, young, enterprising, manly, and supple, who would obey orders; and the order should be to observe the boy's nature, and teach accordingly. Why need men teach in a chair, and boys learn in a chair? The Athenians studied not in chairs. The Peripatetics, as their name imports, hunted knowledge afoot; those who sought truth in the groves of Academus were not seated at that work. Then let the tutor walk with him, and talk with him by sunlight and moonlight, relating old history, and commenting on each new thing that is done, or word spoken, and improve every occasion. Why, I myself would give a guinea a day to walk with William White about the kindly aspects and wooded slopes of Selborne, or with Karr about his garden. Cut Latin and Greek clean out of the scheme. They are mere cancers to those who can never excel in them. Teach him not dead languages, but living facts. Have him in your justice-room for half an hour a day, and give him your own comments on what he has heard there. Let his tutor take him to all Quarter Sessions and Assizes, and stick to him like diaculum, especially out-of-doors; order him never to be admitted to the stable-yard; dismiss every biped there that lets him come. Don't let him visit his nurse so often, and never without his tutor; it was she who taught him to look forward to your decease; that is just like these common women. Such a tutor as I have described will deserve £500 a year. Give it him; and dismiss him if he plays humdrum and doesn't earn it. Dismiss half a dozen, if necessary, till you get a fellow with a grain or two of genius for tuition. When the boy is seventeen, what with his Oriental precocity, and this system of education, he will know the world as well as a Saxon boy of twenty-one, and that is not saying much. Then, if his nature is still as wild, get him a large tract in Australia; cattle to breed, kangaroos to shoot, swift horses to thread the bush and gallop mighty tracts; he will not shirk business, if it avoids the repulsive form of sitting down in-doors, and offers itself in combination with riding, hunting, galloping, cracking of rifles, and of colonial whips as loud as rifles, and drinking sunshine and moonshine in that mellow clime, beneath the Southern Cross and the spangled firmament of stars unknown to us."

His own eyes sparkled like hot coals at this Bohemian picture.

Then he sighed and returned to civilization. "But," said he, "be ready with eighty thousand pounds for him, that he may enjoy his own way and join you in barring the entail. I forgot, I must say no more on that subject; I see it is as offensive--as it is inevitable. Cassandra has spoken wisely, and, I see, in vain. God bless you both--good-night."

And he rolled out of the room with a certain clumsy importance.

Sir Charles treated all this advice with a polite forbearance while he was in the room, but on his departure delivered a sage reflection.

"Strange," said he, "that a man so valuable in any great emergency should be so extravagant and eccentric in the ordinary affairs of life. I might as well drive to Bellevue House and consult the first gentleman I met there."

Lady Bassett did not reply immediately, and Sir Charles observed that her face was very red and her hands trembled.

"Why, Bella," said he, "has all that rhodomontade upset you?"

Lady Bassett looked frightened at his noticing her agitation, and said that Mr. Rolfe always overpowered her. "He is so large, and so confident, and throws such new light on things."

"New light! Wild eccentricity always does that; but it is the light of Jack-o'-lantern. On a great question, so near my heart as this, give me the steady light of common sense, not the wayward coruscations of a fiery imagination. Bella dear, I shall send the boy to a good school, and so cut off at one blow all the low associations that have caused the mischief."

"You know what is best, dear," said Lady Bassett; "you are wiser than any of us."

In the morning she got hold of Mr. Rolfe, and asked him if he could put her in the way of getting more than three per cent for her money without risk.

"Only one," said .Rolfe. "London freeholds in rising situations let to substantial tenants. I can get you five per cent that way, if you are always ready to buy. The thing does not offer every day."

"I have twenty thousand pounds to dispose of so," said Lady Bassett.

"Very well," said Rolfe. "I'll look out for you, but Oldfield must examine titles and do the actual business. The best of that investment is, it is always improving; no ups and downs. Come," thought he, "Cassandra has not spoken quite in vain."

Sir Charles acted on his judgment, and in due course sent Mr. Bassett to a school at some distance, kept by a clergyman, who had the credit in that county of exercising sharp supervision and strict discipline.

Sir Charles made no secret of the boy's eccentricities. Mr. Beecher said he had one or two steady boys who assisted him in such cases.

Sir Charles thought that a very good idea; it was like putting a wild colt into the break with a steady horse.

He missed the boy sadly at first, but comforted himself with the conviction that he had parted with him for his good: that consoled him somewhat.


The younger children of Sir Charles and Lady Bassett were educated entirely by their mother, and taught as none but a loving lady can teach.

Compton, with whom we have to do, never knew the thorns with which the path of letters is apt to be strewn. A mistress of the great art of pleasing made knowledge from the first a primrose path to him. Sparkling all over with intelligence, she impregnated her boy with it. She made herself his favorite companion; she would not keep her distance. She stole and coaxed knowledge and goodness into his heart and mind with rare and loving cunning.

She taught him English and French and Latin on the Hamiltonian plan, and stored his young mind with history and biography, and read to him, and conversed with him on everything as they read it.

She taught him to speak the truth, and to be honorable and just.

She taught him to be polite, and even formal, rather than free-and-easy and rude. She taught him to be a man. He must not be what brave boys called a molly-coddle: like most womanly women, she had a veneration for man, and she gave him her own high idea of the manly character.

Natural ability, and habitual contact with a mind so attractive and so rich, gave this intelligent boy many good ideas beyond his age.

When he was six years old, Lady Bassett made him pass his word of honor that he would never go into the stable-yard; and even then he was far enough advanced to keep his word religiously.

In return for this she let him taste some sweets of liberty, and was not always after him. She was profound enough to see that without liberty a noble character cannot be formed; and she husbanded the curb.


One day he represented to her that, in the meadow next their lawn, were great stripes of yellow, which were possibly cowslips; of course they might be only buttercups, but he hoped better things of them; he further reported that there was an iron gate between him and this paradise: he could get over it if not objectionable; but he thought it safest to ask her what she thought of the matter; was that iron gate intended to keep little boys from the cowslips, because, if so, it was a misfortune to which he must resign himself. Still, it was a misfortune. All this, of course, in the simple language of boyhood.

Then Lady Bassett smiled, and said, "Suppose I were to lend you a key of that iron gate?"

"Oh, mamma!"

"I have a great mind to."

"Then you will, you will."

"Does that follow?"

"Yes: whenever you say you think you'll do something kind, or you have a great mind to do it, you know you always do it; and that is one thing I do like you for, mamma--you are better than your word."

"Better than my word? Where does the child learn these things?"

"La, mamma, papa says that often."

"Oh, that accounts for it. I like the phrase very much. I wish I could think I deserved it. At any rate, I will be as good as my word for once; you shall have a key of the gate."

The boy clapped his hands with delight. The key was sent for, and, meantime, she told him one reason why she had trusted him with it was because he had been as good as his word about the stable.

The key was brought, and she held it up half playfully, and said, "There, sir, I deliver you this upon conditions: you must only use it when the weather is quite dry, because the grass in the meadow is longer, and will be wet. Do you promise?"

"Yes, mamma."

"And you must always lock the gate when you come back, and bring the key to one place--let me see--the drawer in the hall table, the one with marble on it; for you know a place for every thing is our rule. On these conditions, I hereby deliver you this magic key, with the right of egress and ingress."

"Egress and ingress?"

"Egress and ingress."

"Is that foreign for cowslips, mamma--and oxlips?"

"Ha! ha! the child's head is full of cowslips. There is the dictionary; look out Egress, and afterward look out Ingress."

When he had added these two words to his little vocabulary, his mother asked him if he would be good enough to tell her why he did not care much about all the beautiful flowers in the garden, and was so excited about cowslips, which appeared to her a flower of no great beauty, and the smell rather sickly, begging his pardon.

This question posed him dreadfully: he looked at her in a sort of comic distress, and then sat gravely down all in a heap, about a yard off, to think.

Finally he turned to her with a wry face, and said, "Why do I, mamma?"

She smiled deliciously. "No, no, sir," said she. "How can I get inside your little head and tell what is there? There must be a reason, I suppose; and you know you and I are never satisfied till we get at the reason of a thing. But there is no hurry, dear. I give you a week to find it out. Now, run and open the gate--stay, are there any cows in that field?"

"Sometimes, mamma; but they have no horns, you know."

"Upon your word?"

"Upon my honor. I am not fond of them with horns, myself."

"Then run away, darling. But you must come and hunt me up, and tell me how you enjoyed yourself, because that makes me happy, you know."

This is mawkish; but it will serve to show on what terms the woman and boy were.

On second thoughts, I recall that apology, and defy creation. "THE MAWKISH" is a branch of literature, a great and popular one, and I have neglected it savagely.

Master Compton opened the iron gate, and the world was all before him where to choose.

He chose one of those yellow stripes that had so attracted him. Horror! it was all buttercups and deil a cowslip.

Nevertheless, pursuing his researches, he found plenty of that delightful flower scattered about the meadow in thinner patches; and he gathered a double handful and dirtied his knees.

Returning, thus laden, from his first excursion, he was accosted by a fluty voice.

"Little boy!"

He looked up, and saw a girl standing on the lower bar of a little wooden gate painted white, looking over.

"Please bring me my ball," said she, pathetically.

Compton looked about; and saw a soft ball of many colors lying near.

He put down his cowslips gravely, and, brought her the ball. He gave it her with a blush, because she was a strange girl; and she blushed a little, because he did.

He returned to his cowslips.

"Little boy!" said the voice, "please bring me my ball again."

He brought it her, with undisturbed politeness. She was giggling; he laughed too, at that.

"You did it on purpose that time," said he, solemnly.

"La! you don't think I'd be so wicked," said she.

Compton shook his head doubtfully, and, considering the interview at an end turned to go, when instantly the ball knocked his hat off, and nothing of the malefactress was visible but a black eye sparkling with fun and mischief, and a bit of forehead wedged against the angle of the wall.

This being a challenge, Compton said, "Now you come out after that, and stand a shot, like a man."

The invitation to be masculine did not tempt her a bit; the only thing she put out was her hand, and that she drew in, with a laugh, the moment he threw at it.

At this juncture a voice cried, "Ruperta! what are you doing there?"

Ruperta made a rapid signal with her hand to Compton, implying that he was to run away; and she herself walked demurely toward the person who had called her.

It was three days before Compton saw her again, and then she beckoned him royally to her.

"Little boy," said she, "talk to me."

Compton looked at her a little confounded, and did not reply.

"Stand on this gate, like me, and talk," said she.

He obeyed the first part of this mandate, and stood on the lower bar of the little gate; so their two figures made a V, when they hung back, and a tenpenny nail when they came forward and met, and this motion they continued through the dialogue; and it was a pity the little wretches could not keep still, and send for my friend the English Titian: for, when their heads were in position, it was indeed a pretty picture of childish and flower-like beauty and contrast; the boy fair, blue-eyed, and with exquisite golden hair; the girl black-eyed, black-browed, and with eyelashes of incredible length and beauty, and a cheek brownish, but tinted, and so glowing with health and vigor that, pricked with a needle, it seemed ready to squirt carnation right into your eye.

She dazzled Master Compton so that he could do nothing but look at her.

"Well?" said she, smiling.

"Well," replied he, pretending her "well" was not an interrogatory, but a concise statement, and that he had discharged the whole duty of man by according a prompt and cheerful consent.

"You begin," said the lady.

"No, you."

"What for?"

"Because--I think--you are the cleverest."

"Good little boy! Well, then, I will. Who are you?"

"I am Compton. Who are you, please?"

"I am Ruperta."

"I never heard that name before."

"No more did I. I think they measured me for it: you live in the great house there, don't you?"

"Yes, Ruperta."

"Well, then, I live in the little house. It is not very little either. It's Highmore. I saw you in church one day; is that lady with the hair your mamma?"

"Yes, Ruperta."

"She is beautiful."

"Isn't she?"

"But mine is so good."

"Mine is very good, too, Ruperta. Wonderfully good."

"I like you, Compton--a little."

"I like you a good deal, Ruperta."

"La, do you? I wonder at that: you are like a cherub, and I am such a black thing."

"But that is why I like you. Reginald is darker than you, and oh, so beautiful!"

"Hum!--he is a very bad boy."

"No, he is not."

"Don't tell stories, child; he is. I know all about him. A wicked, vulgar, bad boy."

"He is not," cried Compton, almost sniveling; but he altered his mind, and fired up. "You are a naughty, story-telling girl, to say that."

"Bless me!" said Ruperta, coloring high, and tossing her head haughtily.

"I don't like you now, Ruperta," said Compton, with all the decent calmness of a settled conviction.

"You don't!" screamed Ruperta. "Then go about your business directly, and don't never come here again! Scolding me! How dare you?--oh! oh! oh!" and the little lady went off slowly, with her finger in her eye; and Master Compton looked rather rueful, as we all do when this charming sex has recourse to what may be called "liquid reasoning." I have known the most solid reasons unable to resist it.

However, "mens conscia recti," and, above all, the cowslips, enabled Compton to resist, and he troubled his head no more about her that day.

But he looked out for her the next day, and she did not come; and that rather disappointed him.

The next day was wet, and he did not go into the meadow, being on honor not to do so.

The fourth day was lovely, and he spent a long time in the meadow, in hopes: he saw her for a moment at the gate; but she speedily retired.

He was disappointed.

However, he collected a good store of cowslips, and then came home.

As he passed the door out popped Ruperta from some secret ambush, and said, "Well?"


"WELL," replied Compton.

"Are you better, dear?"

"I'm very well, thank you," said the boy.

"In your mind, I mean. You were cross last time, you know."

Compton remembered his mother's lessons about manly behavior, and said, in a jaunty way, "Well, I s'pose I was a little cross."

Now the other cunning little thing had come to apologize, if there was no other way to recover her admirer. But, on this confession, she said, "Oh, if you are sorry for it, I forgive you. You may come and talk."

Then Compton came and stood on the gate, and they held a long conversation; and, having quarreled last time, parted now with rather violent expressions of attachment.

After that they made friends and laid their little hearts bare to each other; and it soon appeared that Compton had learned more, but Ruperta had thought more for herself, and was sorely puzzled about many things, and of a vastly inquisitive mind. "Why," said she, "is good thing's so hard, and had things so nice and easy? It would be much better if good things were nice and bad ones nasty. That is the way I'd have it, if I could make things."

Mr. Compton shook his head and said many things were very hard to understand, and even his mamma sometimes could not make out all the things.

"Nor mine neither; I puzzle her dreadful. I can't help that; things shouldn't come and puzzle me, and then I shouldn't puzzle her. Shall I tell you my puzzles? and perhaps you can answer them because you are a boy. I can't think why it is wicked for me to dig in my little garden on a Sunday, and it isn't wicked for Jessie to cook and Sarah to make the beds. Can't think why mamma told papa not to be cross, and, when I told her not to be cross, she put me in a dark cupboard all among the dreadful mice, till I screamed so she took me out and kissed me and gave me pie. Can't think why papa called Sally 'Something' for spilling the ink over his papers, and when I called the gardener the very same for robbing my flowers, all their hands and eyes went up, and they said I was a shocking girl. Can't think why papa giggled the next moment, if I was a shocking girl: it is all puzzle--puzzle--puzzle."


One day she said, "Can you tell me where all the bad people are buried? for that puzzles me dreadful."

Compton was posed at first, but said at last he thought they were buried in the churchyard, along with the good ones.

"Oh, indeed!" said she, with an air of pity. "Pray, have you ever been in the churchyard, and read the writings on the stones?"


"Then I have. I have read every single word; and there are none but good people buried there, not one." She added, rather pathetically, "You should not answer me without thinking, as if things were easy, instead of so hard. Well, one comfort, there are not many wicked people hereabouts; they live in towns; so I suppose they are buried in the garden, poor things, or put in the water with a stone."

Compton had no more plausible theory ready, and declined to commit himself to Ruperta's; so that topic fell to the ground.

One day he found her perched as usual, but with her bright little face overclouded.

By this time the intelligent boy was fond enough of her to notice her face. "What's the matter, Perta?"

"Ruperta. The matter? Puzzled again! It is very serious this time."

"Tell me, Ruperta."

"No, dear."


The young lady fixed her eyes on him, and said, with a pretty solemnity, "Let us play at catechism."

"I don't know that game."

"The governess asks questions, and the good little boy answers. That's catechism. I'm the governess."

"Then I'm the good little boy."

"Yes, dear; and so now look me full in the face."

"There--you're very pretty, Ruperta."

"Don't be giddy; I'm hideous; so behave, and answer all my questions. Oh, I'm so unhappy. Answer me, is young people, or old people, goodest?"

"You should say best, dear. Good, better, best. Why, old people, to be sure--much."

"So I thought; and that is why I am so puzzled. Then your papa and mine are much betterer--will that do?--than we are?"

"Of course they are."

"There he goes! Such a child for answering slap bang I never."

"I'm not a child. I'm older than you are, Ruperta."

"That's a story."

"Well, then, I'm as old; for Mary says we were born the same day--the same hour--the same minute."

"La! we are twins."

She paused, however, on this discovery, and soon found reason to doubt her hasty conclusion. "No such thing," said she: "they tell me the bells were ringing for you being found, and then I was found--to catechism you."

"There! then you see I am older than you, Ruperta."

"Yes, dear," said Ruperta, very gravely; "I'm younger in my body, but older in my head."

This matter being settled so that neither party could complain, since antiquity was evenly distributed, the catechizing recommenced.

"Do you believe in 'Let dogs delight?'"

"I don't know."

"What!" screamed Ruperta. "Oh, you wicked boy! Why, it comes next after the Bible."

"Then I do believe it," said Compton, who, to tell the truth, had been merely puzzled by the verb, and was not afflicted with any doubt that the composition referred to was a divine oracle.

"Good boy!" said Ruperta, patronizingly. "Well, then, this is what puzzles me; your papa and mine don't believe in 'Dogs delight.' They have been quarreling this twelve years and more, and mean to go on, in spite of mamma. She is good. Didn't you know that your papa and mine are great enemies?"

"No, Ruperta. Oh, what a pity!"

"Don't, Compton, don't: there, you have made me cry."

He set himself to console her.

She consented to be consoled.

But she said, with a sigh, "What becomes of old people being better than young ones, now? Are you and I bears and lions? Do we scratch out each other's eyes? It is all puzzle, puzzle, puzzle. I wish I was dead! Nurse says, when I'm dead I shall understand it all. But I don't know; I saw a dead cat once, and she didn't seem to know as much as before; puzzle, puzzle. Compton, do you think they are puzzled in heaven?"


"Then the sooner we both go there, the better."

"Yes, but not just now."

"Why not?"

"Because of the cowslips."

"Here's a boy! What, would you rather be among the cowslips than the angels? and think of the diamonds and pearls that heaven is paved with."

"But you mightn't be there."

"What! Am I a wicked girl, then--wickeder than you, that is a boy?"

"Oh no, no, no; but see how big it is up there;" they cast their eyes up, and, taking the blue vault for creation, were impressed with its immensity. "I know where to find you here, but up there you might be ever so far off me."

"La! so I might. Well, then, we had better keep quiet. I suppose we shall get wiser as we get older. But Compton, I'm so sorry your papa and mine are bears and lions. Why doesn't the clergyman scold them?"

"Nobody dare scold my papa," said Compton, proudly. Then, after reflection, "Perhaps, when we are older, we may persuade them to make friends. I think it is very stupid to quarrel; don't you?"

"As stupid as an owl."

"You and I had a quarrel once, Ruperta."

"Yes, you misbehaved."

"No, no; you were cross."

"Story! Well, never mind: we did quarrel. And you were miserable directly."

"Not so very," said Compton, tossing his head.

"I was, then," said Ruperta, with unguarded candor.

"So was I."

"Good boy! Kiss me, dear."

"There--and there--and there--and--"

"That will do. I want to talk, Compton."

"Yes, dear."

"I'm not very sure, but I rather think I'm in love with you--a little, little bit, you know."

"And I'm sure I'm in love with you, Ruperta."

"Over head an' ears?"


"Then I love you to distraction. Bother the gate! If it wasn't for that, I could run in the meadow with you; and marry you perhaps, and so gather cowslips together for ever and ever."

"Let us open it."

"You can't."

"Let us try."

"I have. It won't be opened."

"Let me try. Some gates want to be lifted up a little, and then they will open. There, I told you so."

The gate came open.

Ruperta uttered an exclamation of delight, and then drew back.

"I'm afraid, Compton," said she, "papa would be angry,"

She wanted Compton to tempt her; but that young gentleman, having a strong sense of filial duty, omitted so to do.

When she saw he would not persuade her, she dispensed. "Come along," said she, "if it is only for five minutes."

She took his hand, and away they scampered. He showed her the cowslips, the violets, and all the treasures of the meadow; but it was all hurry, and skurry, and excitement; no time to look at anything above half a minute, for fear of being found out: and so, at last, back to the gate, beaming with stolen pleasure, glowing and sparkling with heat and excitement.

The cunning thing made him replace the gate, and then, after saying she must go for about an hour, marched demurely back to the house.

After one or two of these hasty trips, impunity gave her a sense of security, and, the weather getting warm, she used to sit in the meadow with her beau and weave wreaths of cowslips, and place them in her black hair, and for Comp-ton she made coronets of bluebells, and adorned his golden head.

And sometimes, for a little while, she would nestle to him, and lean her head, with all the feminine grace of a mature woman, on his shoulder.

Said she, "A boy's shoulder does very nice for a girl to put her nose on."

One day the aspiring girl asked him what was that forest.

"That is Bassett's wood."

"I will go there with you some day, when papa is out."

"I'm afraid that is too far for you," said Compton.

"Nothing is too far for me," replied the ardent girl. "Why, how far is it?"

"More than half a mile."

"Is it very big?"


"Belong to the queen?"

"No, to papa."


And here my reader may well ask what was Lady Bassett about, or did Compton, with all his excellent teaching, conceal all this from his mother and his friend.

On the contrary, he went open-mouthed to her and told her he had seen such a pretty little girl, and gave her a brief account of their conversation.

Lady Bassett was startled at first, and greatly perplexed. She told him he must on no account go to her; if he spoke to her, it must be on papa's ground. She even made him pledge his honor to that.

More than that she did not like to say. She thought it unnecessary and undesirable to transmit to another generation the unhappy feud by which she had suffered so much, and was even then suffering. Moreover, she was as much afraid of Richard Bassett as ever. If he chose to tell his girl not to speak to Compton, he might. She was resolved not to go out of her way to affront him, through his daughter. Besides, that might wound Mrs. Bassett, if it got round to her ears; and, although she had never spoken to Mrs. Bassett, yet their eyes had met in church, and always with a pacific expression. Indeed, Lady Bassett felt sure she had read in that meek woman's face a regret that they were not friends, and could not be friends, because of their husbands. Lady Bassett, then, for these reasons, would not forbid Compton to be kind to Ruperta in moderation.

Whether she would have remained as neutral had she known how far these young things were going, is quite another matter; but Compton's narratives to her were, naturally enough, very tame compared with the reality, and she never dreamed that two seven-year-olds could form an attachment so warm, as these little plagues were doing.

And, to conclude, about the time when Mr. Compton first opened the gate for his inamorata, Lady Bassett's mind was diverted, in some degree, even from her beloved boy Compton, by a new trouble, and a host of passions it excited in her own heart.

A thunder-clap fell on Sir Charles Bassett, in the form of a letter from Reginald's tutor, informing him that Reginald and another lad had been caught wiring hares in a wood at some distance and were now in custody.

Sir Charles mounted his horse and rode to the place, leaving Lady Bassett a prey to great anxiety and bitter remorse.

Sir Charles came back in two days, with the galling news that his son and heir was in prison for a month, all his exertions having only prevailed to get the case summarily dealt with.

Reginald's companion, a young gypsy, aged seventeen, had got three months, it being assumed that he was the tempter: the reverse was the case, though.

When Sir Charles told Lady Bassett all this, with a face of agony, and a broken voice, her heart almost burst: she threw every other consideration to the winds.

"Charles," she cried, "I can't bear it: I can't see your heart wrung any more, and your affections blighted. Tear that young viper out of your breast: don't go on wasting your heart's blood on a stranger; HE IS NOT YOUR SON."


AT this monstrous declaration, from the very lips of the man's wife, there was a dead silence, Sir Charles being struck dumb, and Lady Bassett herself terrified at the sound of the words she had uttered.

After a terrible pause, Sir Charles fixed his eyes on her, with an awful look, and said, very slowly, "Will--you--have--the--goodness--to--say that again? but first think what you are saying."

This made Lady Bassett shake in every limb; indeed the very flesh of her body quivered. Yet she persisted, but in a tone that of itself showed how fast her courage was oozing. She faltered out, almost inaudibly, "I say you must waste no more love on him--he is not your son."

Sir Charles looked at her to see if she was in her senses: it was not the first time he had suspected her of being deranged on this one subject. But no: she was pale as death, she was cringing, wincing, quivering, and her eyes roving to and fro; a picture not of frenzy, but of guilt unhardened.

He began to tremble in his turn, and was so horror-stricken and agitated that he could hardly speak. "Am I dreaming?" he gasped.

Lady Bassett saw the storm she had raised, and would have given the world to recall her words.

"Whose is he, then?" asked Sir Charles, in a voice scarcely human.

"I don't know," said Lady Bassett doggedly.

"Then how dare you say that he isn't mine?"

"Kill me, Charles," cried she, passionately; "but don't look at me so and speak to me so. Why I say he is not yours, is he like you either in face or mind?"

"And he is like--whom?"

Lady Bassett had lost all her courage by this time: she whimpered out, "Like nobody except the gypsies."

"Bella, this is a subject which will part you and me for life unless we can agree upon it--"

No reply, in words, from Lady Bassett.

"So please let us understand each other. Your son is not my son. Is that what you look me in the face and tell me?"

"Charles, I never said that. How could he be my son, and not be yours?"

And she raised her eyes, and looked him full in the face: nor fear nor cringing now: the woman was majestic.

Sir Charles was a little alarmed in his turn; for his wife's soft eyes flamed battle for the first time in her life.

"Now you talk sense," said he; "if he is yours, he is mine; and, as he is certainly yours, this is a very foolish conversation, which must not be renewed, otherwise--"

"I shall be insulted by my own husband?"

"I think it very probable. And, as I do not choose you to be insulted, nor to think yourself insulted, I forbid you ever to recur to this subject."

"I will obey, Charles; but let me say one word first. When I was alone in London, and hardly sensible, might not this child have been imposed upon me and you? I'm sure he was."

"By whom?"

"How can I tell? I was alone--that woman in the house had a bad face--the gypsies do these things, I've heard."

"The gypsies! And why not the fairies?" said Sir Charles, contemptuously. "Is that all you have to suggest--before we close the subject forever?"

"Yes," said Lady Bassett sorrowfully. "I see you take me for a mad-woman; but time will show. Oh that I could persuade you to detach your affections from that boy--he will break your heart else--and rest them on the children that resemble us in mind and features."

"These partialities are allowed to mothers; but a father must be just. Reginald is my first-born; he came to me from Heaven at a time when I was under a bitter trial, and from the day he was born till this day I have been a happy man. It is not often a father owes so much to a son as I do to my darling boy. He is dear to my heart in spite of his faults; and now I pity him, as well as love him, since it seems he has only one parent, poor little fellow!"

Lady Bassett opened her mouth to reply, but could not. She raised her hands in mute despair, then quietly covered her face with them, and soon the tears trickled through her white fingers.

Sir Charles looked at her, and was touched at her silent grief.

"My darling wife," said he, "I think this is the only thing you and I cannot agree upon. Why not be wise as well as loving, and avoid it."

"I will never seek it again," sobbed Lady Bassett. "But oh," she cried, with sudden wildness, "something tells me it will meet me, and follow me, and rob me of my husband. Well, when that day comes, I shall know how to die."

And with this she burst away from him, like some creature who has been stung past endurance.

Sir Charles often meditated on this strange scene: turn it how he could he came back to the same conclusion, that she must have an hallucination on this subject. He said to himself, "If Bella really believed the boy was a changeling, she would act upon her conviction, she would urge me to take some steps to recover our true child, whom the gypsies or the fairies have taken, and given us poor dear Reginald instead."

But still the conversation, and her strange looks of terror, lay dormant in his mind: both were too remarkable to be ever forgotten. Such things lie like certain seeds, awaiting only fresh accidents to spring into life.

The month rolled away, and the day came for Reginald's liberation. A dogcart was sent for him, and the heir of the Bassetts emerged from a county jail, and uttered a whoop of delight; he insisted on driving, and went home at a rattling pace.

He was in high spirits till he got in sight of Huntercombe Hall; and then it suddenly occurred to his mercurial mind that he should probably not be received with an ovation, petty larceny being a novelty in that ancient house whose representative he was.

When he did get there he found the whole family in such a state of commotion that his return was hardly noticed at all.


Master Compton's dinner hour was two P.M., and yet, at three o'clock of this day, he did not come in.

This was reported to Lady Bassett, and it gave her some little anxiety; for she suspected he might possibly be in the company of Ruperta Bassett; and, although she did not herself much object to that, she objected very much to have it talked about and made a fuss. So she went herself to the end of the lawn, and out into the meadow, that a servant might not find the young people together, if her suspicion was correct.

She went into the meadow and called "Compton! Compton!" as loud as she could, but there was no reply.

Then she came in, and began to be alarmed, and sent servants about in all directions.

But two hours elapsed, and there were no tidings. The thing looked serious.

She sent out grooms well mounted to scour the country. One of these fell in with Sir Charles, who thereupon came home and found his wife in a pitiable state. She was sitting in an armchair, trembling and crying hysterically.

She caught his hand directly, and grasped it like a vise.

"It is Richard Bassett!" she cried. "He knows how to wound and kill me. He has stolen our child."

Sir Charles hurried out, and, soon after that, Reginald arrived, and stood awe-struck at her deplorable condition.

Sir Charles came back heated and anxious, kissed Reginald, told him in three words his brother was missing, and then informed Lady Bassett that he had learned something very extraordinary; Richard Bassett's little girl had also disappeared, and his people were out looking after her.

"Ah, they are together," cried Lady Bassett.

"Together? a son of mine consorting with that viper's brood!"

"What does that poor child know? Oh, find him for me, if you love that dear child's mother!'"

Sir Charles hurried out directly, but was met at the door by a servant, who blurted out, "The men have dragged the fish-ponds, Sir Charles, and they want to know if they shall drag the brook."

"Hold your tongue, idiot!" cried Sir Charles, and thrust him out; but the wiseacre had not spoken in vain. Lady Bassett moaned, and went into worse hysterics, with nobody near her but Reginald.

That worthy, never having seen a lady in hysterics, and not being hardened at all points, uttered a sympathetic howl, and flung his arms round her neck. "Oh! oh! oh! Don't cry, mamma."

Lady Bassett shuddered at his touch, but did not repel him.

"I'll find him for you," said the boy, "if you will leave off crying."

She stared in his face a moment, and then went on as before.

"Mamma," said he, getting impatient, "do listen to me. I'll find him easy enough, if you will only listen."

"You! you!" and she stared wildly at him.

"Ay, I know a sight more than the fools about here. I'm a poacher. Just you put me on to his track. I'll soon run into him, if he is above ground."

"A child like you!" cried Lady Bassett; "how can you do that?" and she began to wring her hands again.

"I'll show you," said the boy, getting very impatient, "if you will just leave off crying like a great baby, and come to any place you like where he has been to-day and left a mark--"

"Ah!" cried Lady Bassett.

"I'm a poacher," repeated Reginald, quite proudly; "you forget that."

"Come with me," cried Lady Bassett, starting up. She whipped on her bonnet, and ran with him down the lawn.

"There, Reginald," said she, panting, "I think my darling was here this afternoon; yes, yes, he must; for he had a key of the door, and it is open."

"All right," said Reginald; "come into the field."

He ran about like a dog hunting, and soon found marks among the cowslips.

"Somebody has been gathering a nosegay here to-day," said he; "now, mamma, there's only two ways put of this field--let us go straight to that gate; that is the likeliest."

Near the gate was some clay, and Reginald showed her several prints of small feet.

"Look," said he, "here's the track of two--one's a gal; how I know, here's a sole to this shoe no wider nor a knife. Come on."

In the next field he was baffled for a long time; but at last he found a place in a dead hedge where they had gone through.

"See," said he, "these twigs are fresh broken, and here's a bit of the gal's frock. Oh! won't she catch it?":

"Oh, you brave, clever boy!" cried Lady Bassett.

"Come on!" shouted the urchin.

He hunted like a beagle, and saw like a bird, with his savage, glittering eye. He was on fire with the ardor of the chase; and, not to dwell too long on what has been so often and so well written by others, in about an hour and a half he brought the anxious, palpitating, but now hopeful mother, to the neighborhood of Bassett's wood. Here he trusted to his own instinct. "They have gone into the wood," said he, "and I don't blame 'em. I found my way here long before his age. I say, don't you tell; I've snared plenty of the governor's hares in that wood."

He got to the edge of the wood and ran down the side. At last he found the marks of small feet on a low bank, and, darting over it, discovered the fainter traces on some decaying leaves inside the wood.

"There," said he; "now it is just as if you had got them in your pocket, for they'll never find their way out of this wood. Bless your heart, why I used to get lost in it at first."

"Lost in the wood!" cried Lady Bassett; "but he will die of fear, or be eaten by wild beasts; and it is getting so dark."

"What about that? Night or day is all one to me. What will you give me if I find him before midnight?"

"Anything I've got in the world."

"Give me a sovereign?"

"A thousand!"

"Give me a kiss?"

"A hundred!"

"Then I'll tell you what I'll do--I don't mind a little trouble, to stop your crying, mamma, because you are the right sort. I'll get the village out, and we will tread the wood with torches, an' all for them as can't see by night; I can see all one; and you shall have your kid home to supper. You see, there's a heavy dew, and he is not like me, that would rather sleep in this wood than the best bed in London city; a night in a wood would about settle his hash. So here goes. I can run a mile in six minutes and a half."

With these words, the strange boy was off like an arrow from a bow.

Lady Bassett, exhausted by anxiety and excitement, was glad to sit down; her trembling heart would not let her leave the place that she now began to hope contained her child. She sat down and waited patiently.

The sun set, the moon rose, the stars glittered; the infinite leaves stood out dark and solid, as if cut out of black marble; all was dismal silence and dread suspense to the solitary watcher.

Yet the lady of Huntercombe Hall sat on, sick at heart, but patient, beneath that solemn sky.

She shuddered a little as the cold dews gathered on her, for she was a woman nursed in luxury's lap; but she never moved.

The silence was dismal. Had that wild boy forgotten his promise, or were there no parents in the village, that their feet lagged so?

It was nearly ten o'clock, when her keen ears, strained to the utmost, discovered a faint buzzing of voices; but where she could not tell.

The sounds increased and increased, and then there was a temporary silence; and after that a faint hallooing in the wood to her right. The wood was five hundred acres, and the bulk of it lay in front and to her left.

The hallooing got louder and louder; the whole wood seemed to echo; her heart beat high; lights glimmered nearer and nearer, hares and rabbits pattered by and startled her, and pheasants thundered off their roosts with an incredible noise, owls flitted, and bats innumerable, disturbed and terrified by the glaring lights and loud resounding halloos.

Nearer, nearer came the sounds, till at last a line of men and boys, full fifty carrying torches and lanterns, came up, and lighted up the dew-spangled leaves, and made the mother's heart leap with joyful hope at succor so powerful.

Oh, she could have kissed the stout village blacksmith, whose deep sonorous lungs rang close to her. Never had any man's voice sounded to her so like a god's as this stout blacksmith's "hilloop! hilloop!" close and loud in her ear, and those at the end of the line hallooed "hillo-op; hillo-op!" like an echo; and so they passed on, through bush and brier, till their voices died away in the distance.

A boy detached himself from the line, and ran to Lady Bassett with a traveling rug. It was Reginald.

"You put on this," said he. He shook it, and, standing on tiptoe, put it over her shoulders.

"Thank you, dear," said she. "Where is papa?"

"Oh, he is in the line, and the Highmore swell and all."

"Mr. Richard Bassett?"

"Air, his kid is out on the loose, as well as ours."

"Oh, Reginald, if they should quarrel!"

"Why, our governor can lick him, can't he?"


"OH, don't talk so. I wouldn't for all the world they should quarrel."

"Well, we have got enough fellows to part them if they do."

"Dear Reginald, you have been so good to me, and you are so clever; speak to some of the men, and let there be no more quarreling between papa and that man."

"All right," said the boy.

"On second thoughts take me to papa; I'll be by his side, and then they cannot."

"You want to walk through the wood? that is a good joke. Why, it is like walking through a river, and the young wood slapping your eyes, for you can't see every twig by this light, and the leaves sponging your face and shoulders: and the briers would soon strip your gown into ribbons, and make your little ankles bleed. No, you are a lady; you stay where you are, and let us men work it. We shan't find him yet awhile. I must get near the governor. When we find my lord, I'll give a whistle you could hear a mile off."

"Oh, Reginald, are you sure he is in the wood?"

"I'd bet my head to a chany orange. You might as well ask me, when I track a badger to his hole, and no signs of his going out again, whether old long-claws is there. I wish I was as sure of never going back to school as I am of finding that little lot. The only thing I don't like is, the young muff's not giving us a halloo back. But, any way, I'll find 'em, alive or dead."

And, with this pleasing assurance, the little imp scudded off, leaving the mother glued to the spot with terror.

For full an hour more the torches gleamed, though fainter and fainter; and so full was the wood of echoes, that the voices, though distant, seemed to halloo all round the agonized mother.

But presently there was a continuous yell, quite different from the isolated shouts, a distant but unmistakable howl of victory that made a bolt of ice shoot down her back, and then her heart to glow like fire.

It was followed by a keen whistle.

She fell on her knees and thanked God for her boy.


In the middle of this wood was a shallow excavation, an old chalk-pit, unused for many years. It was never deep, and had been half filled up with dead leaves; these, once blown into the hollow, or dropped from the trees, had accumulated.

The very middle of the line struck on this place, and Moss, the old keeper, who was near the center, had no sooner cast his eyes into it than he halted, and uttered a stentorian halloo well known to sportsmen--"SEE HO!"


A dead halt, a low murmur, and in a very few seconds the line was a circle, and all the torches that had not expired held high in a flaming ring over the prettiest little sight that wood had ever presented.

The old keeper had not given tongue on conjecture, like some youthful hound. In a little hollow of leaves, which the boy had scraped out, lay Master Compton and Miss Ruperta, on their little backs, each with an arm round the other's neck, enjoying the sweet sound sleep of infancy, which neither the horror of their situation--babes in the wood--nor the shouts of fifty people had in the smallest degree disturbed; to be sure, they had undergone great fatigue.

Young master wore a coronet of bluebells on his golden bead, young miss a wreath of cowslips on her ebon locks. The pair were flowers, cherubs, children--everything that stands for young, tender, and lovely.

The honest villagers gaped, and roared in chorus, and held high their torches, and gazed with reverential delight. Not for them was it to finger the little gentlefolks, but only to devour them with admiring eyes.

Indeed, the picture was carried home to many a humble hearth, and is spoken of to this day in Huntercombe village.

But the pale and anxious fathers were in no state to see pictures--they only saw their children Sir Charles and Richard Bassett came round with the general rush, saw, and dashed into the pit.

Strange to say, neither knew the other was there. Each seized his child, and tore it away from the contact of the other child, as if from a viper; in which natural but harsh act they saw each other for the first time, and their eyes gleamed in a moment with hate and defiance over their loving children.

Here was a picture of a different kind, and if the melancholy Jaques, or any other gentleman with a foible for thinking in a wood; had been there, methinks he had moralized very prettily on the hideousness of hate and the beauty of the sentiment it had interrupted so fiercely. But it escaped this sort of comment for about eight years. Well, all this woke the bairns; the lights dazzled them, the people scared them. Each hid a little face on the paternal shoulder.

The fathers, like wild beasts, each carrying off a lamb, withdrew, glaring at each other; but the very next moment the stronger and better sentiment prevailed, and they kissed and blessed their restored treasures, and forgot their enemies for a time.

Sir Charles's party followed him, and supped at Huntercombe, every man Jack of them.

Reginald, who had delivered a terrific cat-call, now ran off to Lady Bassett. There she was, still on her knees.

"Found! found!" he shouted.

She clasped him in her arms and wept for joy.

"My eyes!" said he, "what a one you are to cry! You come home; you'll catch your death o' cold."

"No, no; take me to my child at once."

"Can't be done; the governor has carried him off through the wood; and I ain't a going to let you travel the wood. You come with me; we'll go the short cut, and be home as soon as them."

She complied, though trembling all over.

On the way he told her where the children had been discovered, and in what attitude.

"Little darlings!" said she. "But he has frightened his poor mother, and nearly broken her heart. Oh!"

"If you cry any more, mamma--Shut up, I tell you!"

"Must I? Oh!"

"Yes, or you'll catch pepper."

Then he pulled her along, gabbling all the time. "Those two swells didn't quarrel after all, you see."

"Thank Heaven!"

"But they looked at each other like hobelixes, and pulled the kids away like pison. Ha! ha! I say, the young 'uns ain't of the same mind as the old 'uns. I say, though, our Compton is not a bad sort; I'm blowed if he hadn't taken off his tippet to put round his gal. I say, don't you think that little chap has begun rather early? Why, I didn't trouble my head about the gals till I was eleven years old."

Lady Bassett was too much agitated to discuss these delicate little questions just then.

She replied as irrelevantly as ever a lady did. "Oh, you good, brave, clever boy!" said she.

Then she stopped a moment to kiss him heartily. "I shall never forget this night, dear. I shall always make excuses for you. Oh, shall we never get home?"

"We shall be home as soon as they will," said Reginald. "Come on."

He gabbled to her the whole way; but the reader has probably had enough of his millclack.

Lady Bassett reached home, and had just ordered a large fire in Compton's bedroom, when Sir Charles came in, bringing the boy.

The lady ran out screaming, and went down on her knees, with her arms out, as only a mother can stretch them to her child.

There was not a word of scolding that night. He had made her suffer; but what of that? She had no egotism; she was a true mother. Her boy had been lost, and was found; and she was the happiest soul in creation.

But the fathers of these babes in the wood were both intensely mortified, and took measures to keep those little lovers apart in future. Richard Bassett locked up his gate: Sir Charles padlocked his; and they both told their wives they really must be more vigilant. The poor children, being in disgrace, did not venture to remonstrate! But they used often to think of each other, and took a liking to the British Sunday; for then they saw each other in church.

By-and-by even that consolation ceased. Ruperta was sent to school, and passed her holidays at the sea-side.


To return to Reginald, he was compelled to change his clothes that evening, but was allowed to sit up, and, when the heads of the house were a little calmer, became the hero of the night.

Sir Charles, gazing on him with parental pride, said, "Reginald, you have begun a new life to-day, and begun it well. Let us forget the past, and start fresh to-day, with the love and gratitude of both your parents."

The boy hung his head and said nothing in reply.

Lady Bassett came to his assistance. "He will; he will. Don't say a word about the past. He is a good, brave, beautiful boy, and I adore him."

"And I like you, mamma," said Reginald graciously.

From that day the boy had a champion in Lady Bassett; and Heaven knows, she had no sinecure; poor Reginald's virtues were too eccentric to balance his faults for long together. His parents could not have a child lost in a wood every day; but good taste and propriety can be offended every hour when one is so young, active, and savage as Master Reginald.

He was up at five, and doing wrong all day.

Hours in the stables, learning to talk horsey, and smell dunghilly.

Hours in the village, gossiping and romping.

In good company, an owl.

In bad, or low company, a cricket, a nightingale, a magpie.

He was seen at a neighboring fair, playing the fiddle in a booth to dancing yokels, and receiving their pence.

He was caught by Moss wiring hairs in Bassett's wood, within twenty yards of the place where he had found the babes in the wood so nobly.

Remonstrated with tenderly and solemnly, he informed Sir Charles that poaching was a thing he could not live without, and he modestly asked to have Bassett's wood given him to poach in, offering, as a consideration, to keep all other poachers out: as a greater inducement, he represented that he should not require a house, but only a coarse sheet to stretch across an old saw-pit, and a pair of blankets for winter use--one under, one over.

Sir Charles was often sad, sometimes indignant.

Lady Bassett excused each enormity with pathetic ingenuity; excused, but suffered, and indeed pined visibly, for all this time he was tormenting her as few women in her position have been tormented. Her life was a struggle of contesting emotions; she was wounded, harassed, perplexed, and so miserable, she would have welcomed death, that her husband might read that Manuscript and cease to suffer, and she escape the shame of confessing, and of living after it.

In one word, she was expiating.

Neither the excuses she made nor the misery she suffered escaped Sir Charles.

He said to her at last, "My own Bella, this unhappy boy is killing you. Dear as he is to me, you are dearer. I must send him away again."

"He saved our darling," said she, faintly, but she could say no more. He had exhausted excuse.

Sir Charles made inquiries everywhere, and at last his attention was drawn to the following advertisement in the Times:


UNMANAGEABLE, Backward, or other BOYS, carefully TRAINED, and EDUCATED, by a married rector. Home comforts. Moderate terms. Address Dr. Beecher, Fennymore, Cambridgeshire.


He wrote to this gentleman, and the correspondence was encouraging. "These scapegraces," said the artist in tuition, "are like crab-trees; abominable till you graft them, and then they bear the best fruit."

While the letters were passing, came a climax. Reckless Reginald could keep no bounds intact: his inward definition of a boundary was "a thing you should go a good way out of your way rather than not overleap."

Accordingly, he was often on Highmore farm at night, and even in Highmore garden; the boundary wall tempted him so.

One light but windy night, when everybody that could put his head under cover, and keep it there, did, reckless Reginald was out enjoying the fresh breezes; he mounted the boundary wall of Highmore like a cat, to see what amusement might offer. Thus perched, he speedily discovered a bright light in Highmore dining-room.

He dropped from the wall directly, and stole softly over the grass and peered in at the window.

He saw a table with a powerful lamp on it; on that table, and gleaming in that light, were several silver vessels of rare size and workmanship, and Mr. Bassett, with his coat off, and a green baize apron on, was cleaning one of these with brush and leather. He had already cleaned the others, for they glittered prodigiously.

Reginald's black eye gloated and glittered at this unexpected display of wealth in so dazzling a form.

But this was nothing to the revelation in store. When Mr. Bassett had done with that piece of plate he went to the paneled wall, and opened a door so nicely adapted to the panels, that a stranger would hardly have discovered it. Yet it was an enormous door, and, being opened, revealed a still larger closet, lined with green velvet and fitted with shelves from floor to ceiling.

Here shone, in all their glory, the old plate of two good families: that is to say, half the old plate of the Bassetts, and all the old plate of the Goodwyns, from whom came Highmore to Richard Bassett through his mother Ruperta Goodwyn, so named after her grandmother; so named after her aunt; so named after her godmother; so named after her father, Prince Rupert, cavalier, chemist, glass-blower, etc., etc.

The wall seemed ablaze with suns and moons, for many of the chased goblets, plates, and dishes were silver-gilt: none of your filmy electro-plate, but gold laid on thick, by the old mercurial process, in days when they that wrought in precious metals were honest--for want of knowing how to cheat.

Glued to the pane, gloating on this constellation of gold suns and silver moons, and trembling with Bohemian excitement, reckless Reginald heard not a stealthy step upon the grass behind him.

He had trusted to a fact in optics, forgetting the doctrine of shadows.

The Scotch servant saw from a pantry window the shadow of a cap projected on the grass, with a face, and part of a body. She stepped out, and got upon the grass.

Finding it was only a boy, she was brave as well as cunning; and, owing to the wind and his absorption, stole on him unheard, and pinned him with her strong hands by both his shoulders.

Young Hopeful uttered a screech of dismay, and administered a back kick that made Jessie limp for two days, and scream very lustily for the present.

Mr. Bassett, at this dialogue of yells, dropped a coffee-pot with a crash and a tinkle, and ran out directly, and secured young Hopeful, who thereupon began to quake and remonstrate.

"I was only taking a look," said he. "Where's the harm of that?"

"You were trespassing, sir," said Richard Bassett.

"What is the harm of that, governor? You can come over all our place, for what I care."

"Thank you. I prefer to keep to my own place."

"Well, I don't. I say, old chap, don't hit me. 'Twas I put 'em all on the scent of your kid, you know."

"So I have heard. Well, then, this makes us quits."

"Don't it? You ain't such a bad sort, after all."

"Only mind, Mr. Bassett, if I catch you prying here again, that will be a fresh account, and I shall open it with a horsewhip."

He then gave him a little push, and the boy fled like the wind. When he was gone, Richard Bassett became rather uneasy. He had hitherto concealed, even from his own family, the great wealth his humble home contained. His secret was now public. Reginald had no end of low companions. If burglars got scent of this, it might be very awkward. At last he hit upon a defense. He got one of those hooks ending in a screw which are used for pictures, and screwed it into the inside of the cupboard door near the top. To this he fastened a long piece of catgut, and carried it through the floor. His bed was just above the cupboard door, and he attached the gut to a bell by his bedside. By this means nobody could open that cupboard without ringing in his ears.

Jessie told Tom, Tom told Maria and Harriet; Harriet and Maria told everybody; somebody told Sir Charles. He was deeply mortified.

"You young idiot!" said he, "would nothing less than this serve your turn? must you go and lower me and yourself by giving just offense to my one enemy?--the man I hate and despise, and who is always on the watch to injure or affront me. Oh, who would be a father! There, pack up your things; you will go to school next morning at eight o'clock."

Mr. Reginald packed accordingly, but that did not occupy long; so he sallied forth, and, taking for granted that it was Richard Bassett who had been so mean as to tell, he purchased some paint and brushes and a rope, and languished until midnight.

But when that magic hour came he was brisk as a bee, let himself down from his veranda, and stole to Richard Bassett's front door, and inscribed thereon, in large and glaring letters,

Tell-Tale Tit."

He then returned home much calmed and comforted, climbed up his rope and into his room, and there slept sweetly, as one who had discharged his duty to his neighbor and society in general.

In the morning, however, he was very active, hurried the grooms, and was off before the appointed time.

Sir Charles came down to breakfast, and lo! young Hopeful gone, without the awkward ceremony of leave-taking.

Sir Charles found, as usual, many delicacies on his table, and among them one rarer to him than ortolan, pin-tail, or wild turkey (in which last my soul delights); for he found a letter from Richard Bassett, Esq.


"SIR--Some nights since we caught your successor that is to be, at my dining-room window, prying into my private affairs. Having the honor of our family at heart, I was about to administer a little wholesome correction, when he reminded me he had been instrumental in tracking Miss Bassett, and thereby rescuing her: upon this I was, naturally, mollified, and sent him about his business, hoping to have seen the last of him at Highmore.

"This morning my door is covered with opprobrious epithets, and as Mr. Bassett bought paint and brushes at the shop yesterday afternoon, it is doubtless to him I am indebted for them.

"I make no comments; I simply record the facts, and put them down to your credit, and your son's.

"Your obedient servant,



Lady Bassett did not come down to breakfast that morning; so Sir Charles digested this dish in solitude.

He was furious with Reginald; but as Richard Bassett's remonstrance was intended to insult him, he wrote back as follows:


"SIR--I am deeply grieved that a son of mine should descend to look in at your windows, or to write anything whatever upon your door; and I will take care it shall never recur.

"Yours obediently,



This little correspondence was salutary; it fanned the coals of hatred between the cousins.


Reckless Reginald soon found he had caught a Tartar in his new master.

That gentleman punished him severely for every breach of discipline. The study was a cool dark room, with one window looking north, and that window barred. Here he locked up the erratic youth for hours at a time, upon the slightest escapade.

Reginald wrote a honeyed letter to Sir Charles, bewailing his lot, and praying to be removed.

Sir Charles replied sternly, and sent him a copy of Mr. Richard Bassett's letter. He wrote to Mr. Beecher at the same time, expressing his full approval.

Thus disciplined, the boy began to change; he became moody, sullen, silent, and even sleepy. This was the less wonderful, that he generally escaped at night to a gypsy camp, and courted a gypsy girl, who was nearly as handsome as himself, besides being older, and far more knowing.

His tongue went like a mill, and the whole tribe soon knew all about him and his parents.

One morning the servants got up supernaturally early, to wash. Mr. Reginald was detected stealing back to his roost, and reported to the master.

Mr. Beecher had him up directly, locked him into the study alone, put the other students into the drawing-room, and erected bars to his bedroom window.

A few days of this, and he pined like a bird in a cage.

A few more, and his gypsy girl came fortune-telling to the servants, and wormed out the truth.

Then she came at night under his window, and made him a signal. He told her his hard case, and told her also a resolution he had come to. She informed the tribe. The tribe consulted. A keen saw was flung up to him; in two nights he was through the bars; the third he was free, and joined his sable friends.

They struck their tents, and decamped with horses, asses, tents, and baggage, and were many miles away by daybreak, without troubling turnpikes.

The boy left not a line behind him, and Mr. Beecher half hoped he might come back; still he sent to the nearest station, and telegraphed to Huntercombe.

Sir Charles mounted a fleet horse, and rode off at once into Cambridgeshire. He set inquiries on foot, and learned that the boy had been seen consorting with a tribe of gypsies. He heard, also, that these were rather high gypsies, many of them foreigners; and that they dealt in horses, and had a farrier; and that one or two of the girls were handsome, and also singers.

Sir Charles telegraphed for detectives from London; wrote to the mayors of towns; advertised, with full description and large reward, and brought such pressure to bear upon the Egyptians, that the band begin to fear: they consulted, and took measures for their own security; none too soon, for, they being encamped on Grey's Common in Oxfordshire, Sir Charles and the rural police rode into the camp and demanded young Hopeful.

They were equal to the occasion; at first they knew nothing of the matter, and, with injured innocence, invited a full inspection.

The invitation was accepted.

Then, all of a sudden, one of the women affected to be struck with an idea. "It is the young gentleman who wanted to join us in Cambridgeshire."

Then all their throats opened at once. "Yes, gentleman, there was a lovely young gentleman wanted to come with us; but we wouldn't have him. What could we do with him?"

Sir Charles left them under surveillance, and continued his researches, telegraphing Lady Bassett twice every day.

A dark stranger came into Huntercombe village, no longer young, but still a striking figure: had once, no doubt, been superlatively handsome. Even now, his long hair was black and his eye could glitter: but his life had impregnated his noble features with hardness and meanness; his large black eye was restless, keen, and servile: an excellent figure for a painter, though; born in Spain, he was not afraid of color, had a red cap on his snaky black hair, and a striped waistcoat.

He inquired for Mr. Meyrick's farm.

He soon found his way thither, and asked for Mrs. Meyrick.

The female servant who opened the door ran her eye up and down him, and said, bruskly, "What do you want with her, my man? because she is busy."

"Oh, she will see me, miss."

Softened by the "miss," the girl laughed, and said, "What makes you think that, my man?"

"Give her this, miss," said the gypsy, "and she will come to me."

He held her out a dirty crumpled piece of paper.

Sally, whose hands were wet from the tub, whipped her hand under the corner of her checkered apron, and so took the note with a finger and thumb operating through the linen. By this means she avoided two evils--her fingers did not wet the letter, and the letter did not dirty her fingers.

She took it into the kitchen to her mistress, whose arms were deep in a wash-tub.

Mrs. Meyrick had played the fine lady at first starting, and for six months would not put her hand to anything. But those twin cajolers of the female heart, Dignity and Laziness, made her so utterly wretched, that she returned to her old habits of work, only she combined with it the sweets of domination.

Sally came in and said, "It's an old gypsy, which he have brought you this."

Mrs. Meyrick instantly wiped the soapsuds from her brown but shapely arms, and, whipping a wet hand under her apron, took the note just as Sally had. It contained these words only:


"NURSE--The old Romance will tell you all about me.



She had no sooner read it than she took her sleeves down, and whipped her shawl off a peg and put it on, and took off her apron--and all for an old gypsy. No stranger must take her for anything but a lady.

Thus embellished in a turn of the hand, she went hastily to the door.

She and the gypsy both started at sight of each other, and Mrs. Meyrick screamed.


"Why, what brings you here, old man?" said she, panting. The gypsy answered with oily sweetness, "The little gentleman sent me, my dear. Why, you look like a queen."

"Hush!" said Mrs. Meyrick.--"Come in here."

She made the old gypsy sit down, and she sat close to him.

"Speak low, daddy," said she, "and tell me all about my boy, my beautiful boy."

The old gypsy told Mrs. Meyrick the wrongs of Reginald that had driven him to this; and she fell to crying and lamenting, and inveighing against all concerned--schoolmaster, Sir Charles, Lady Bassett, and the gypsies. Them the old man defended, and assured her the young gentleman was in good hands, and would be made a little king of, all the more that Keturah had told them there was gypsy blood in him.

Mrs. Meyrick resented this loudly, and then returned to her grief.

When she had indulged that grief for a long time, she felt a natural desire to quarrel with somebody, and she actually put on her bonnet, and was going to the Hall to give Lady Bassett a bit of her mind, for she said that lady had never shown the feelings of a woman for the lamb.

But she thought better of it, and postponed the visit. "I shall be sure to say something I shall be sorry for after," said she; so she sat down again, and returned to her grief.

Nor could she ever shake it off as thoroughly as she had done any other trouble in her life.

Months after this, she said to Sally, with a burst of tears, "I never nursed but one, and I shall never nurse another; and now he is across the seas."

She kept the old gypsy at the farm; or, to speak more correctly, she made the farm his headquarters. She assigned him the only bedroom he would accept, viz., a cattle-shed, open on one side. She used often to have him into her room when she was alone; she gave him some of her husband's clothes, and made him wear a decent hat; by these means she effaced, in some degree, his nationality, and then she compelled her servants to call him "the foreign gent."

The foreign gent was very apt to disappear in fine weather, but rain soon drove him back to her fireside, and hunger to her flesh-pots.

On the very day the foreign gent came to Meyrick's farm Lady Bassett had a letter by post from Reginald.


"DEAR MAMMA--I am gone with the gypsies across the water. I am sorry to leave you. You are the right sort: but they tormented me so with their books and their dark rooms. It is very unfortunate to be a boy. When I am a man, I shall be too old to be tormented, and then I will come back.

"Your dutiful son,



Lady Bassett telegraphed Sir Charles, and he returned to Huntercombe, looking old, sad, and worn.

Lady Bassett set herself to comfort and cheer him, and this was her gentle office for many a long month.

She was the more fit for it, that her own health and spirits revived the moment Reginald left the country with his friends the gypsies; the color crept back to her cheek, her spirits revived, and she looked as handsome, and almost as young, as when she married. She tasted tranquillity. Year after year went by without any news of Reginald, and the hope grew that he would never cross her threshold again, and Compton be Sir Charles's heir without any more trouble.


OUR story now makes a bold skip. Compton Bassett was fourteen years old, a youth highly cultivated in mind and trained in body, but not very tall, and rather effeminate looking, because he was so fair and his skin so white.

For all that, he was one of the bowlers in the Wolcombe Eleven, whose cricket-ground was the very meadow in which he had erst gathered cowslips with Ruperta Bassett; and he had a canoe, which he carried to adjacent streams, however narrow, and paddled it with singular skill and vigor. A neighboring miller, suffering under drought, was heard to say, "There ain't water enough to float a duck; nought can swim but the dab-chicks and Muster Bassett."

He was also a pedestrian, and got his father to take long walks with him, and leave the horses to eat their oats in peace.

In these walks young master botanized and geologized his own father, and Sir Charles gave him a little politics, history, and English poetry, in return. He had a tutor fresh from Oxford for the classics.

One day, returning with his father from a walk, they met a young lady walking toward them from the village; she was tall, and a superb brunette.

Now it was rather a rare thing to see a lady walking through that village, so both Sir Charles and his son looked keenly at her as she came toward them.

Compton turned crimson, and raised his hat to her rather awkwardly.

Sir Charles, who did not know the lady from Eve, saluted her, nevertheless, and with infinite grace; for Sir Charles, in his youth, had lived with some of the elite of French society, and those gentlemen bow to the person whom their companion bows to. Sir Charles had imported this excellent trait of politeness, and always practiced it, though not the custom in England, the more the pity.

As soon as the young lady had passed and was out of hearing, Sir Charles said to Compton, "Who is that lovely girl? Why, how the boy is blushing!"

"Oh, papa!"

"Well, what is the matter?"

"Don't you see? It is herself come back from school."

"I have no doubt it is herself, and not her sister, but who is herself?"

"Ruperta Bassett."

"Richard Bassett's daughter! impossible. That young lady looks seventeen or eighteen years of age."

"Yes, but it is Ruperta. There's nobody like her. Papa!"


"I suppose I may speak to her now."

"What for?"

"She is so beautiful."

"That she really is. And therefore I advise you to have nothing to say to her. You are not children now, you know. Were you to renew that intimacy, you might be tempted to fall in love with her. I don't say you would be so mad, for you are a sensible boy; but still, after that little business in the wood--"

"But suppose I did fall in love with her?"

"Then that would be a great misfortune. Don't you know that her father is my enemy? If you were to make any advances to that young lady, he would seize the opportunity to affront you, and me through you."

This silenced Compton, for he was an obedient youth.

But in the evening he got to his mother and coaxed her to take his part.

Now Lady Bassett felt the truth of all her husband had said; but she had a positive wish the young people should be on friendly terms, at all events; she wanted the family feud to die with the generation it had afflicted. She promised, therefore, to speak to Sir Charles; and so great was her influence that she actually obtained terms for Compton: he might speak to Miss Bassett, if he would realize the whole situation, and be very discreet, and not revive that absurd familiarity into which, their childhood had been betrayed.

She communicated this to him, and warned him at the same time that even this concession had been granted somewhat reluctantly, and in consideration of his invariable good conduct; it would be immediately withdrawn upon the slightest indiscretion.

"Oh, I will be discretion itself," said Compton; but the warmth with which he kissed his mother gave her some doubts. However, she was prepared to risk something. She had her own views in this matter.

When he had got this limited permission, Master Compton was not much nearer the mark; for he was not to call on the young lady, and she did not often walk in the village.

But he often thought of her, her loving, sprightly ways seven years ago, and the blaze of beauty with which she had returned.

At last, one Sunday afternoon, she came to church alone. When the congregation dispersed, he followed her, and came up with her, but his heart beat violently.

"Miss Bassett!" said he, timidly.

She stopped, and turned her eyes on him; he blushed up to the temples. She blushed too, but not quite so much.

"I am afraid you don't remember me," said the boy, sadly.

"Yes, I do, sir," said Ruperta, shyly.

"How you are grown!"

"Yes, sir."

"You are taller than I am, and more beautiful than ever."

No answer, but a blush.

"You are not angry with me for speaking to you?"

"No, sir."

"I wouldn't offend you."

"I am not offended. Only--"

"Oh, Miss Bassett, of course I know you will never be--we shall never be--like we used."

A very deep blush, and dead silence.

"You are a grown-up young lady, and I am only a boy still, somehow. But it would have been hard if I might not even speak to you. Would it not?"

"Yes," said the young lady, but after some hesitation, and only in a whisper.

"I wonder where you walk to. I have never seen you out but once."

No reply to this little feeler.

Then, at last, Compton was discouraged, partly by her beauty and size, partly by her taciturnity.

He was silent in return, and so, in a state of mutual constraint, they reached the gate of Highmore.

"Good-by," said Compton reluctantly.


"Won't you shake hands?"

She blushed, and put out her hand halfway. He took it and shook it, and so they parted.

Compton said to his mother disconsolately, "Mamma, it is all over. I have seen her, and spoken to her; but she has gone off dreadfully."

"Why, what is the matter?"

"She is all changed. She is so stupid and dignified got to be. She has not a word to say to a fellow."

"Perhaps she is more reserved; that is natural. She is a young lady now."

"Then it is a great pity she did not stay as she was. Oh, the bright little darling! Who'd think she could ever turn into a great, stupid, dignified thing? She is as tall as you, mamma."

"Indeed! She has made use of her time. Well, dear, don't take too much notice of her, and then you will find she will not be nearly so shy."

"Too much notice! I shall never speak to her again--perhaps."

"I would not be violent, one way or the other. Why not treat her like any other acquaintance?"

Next Sunday afternoon she came to church alone.

In spite of his resolution, Mr. Compton tried her a second time. Horror! she was all monosyllables and blushes again.

Compton began to find it too up-hill. At last, when they reached Highmore gate, he lost his patience, and said, "I see how it is. I have lost my sweet playmate forever. Good-by, Ruperta; I won't trouble you any more." And he held out his hand to the young lady for a final farewell.

Ruperta whipped both her hands behind her back like a school-girl, and then, recovering her dignity, cast one swift glance of gentle reproach, then suddenly assuming vast stateliness, marched into Highmore like the mother of a family. These three changes of manner she effected all in less than two seconds.

Poor Compton went away sorely puzzled by this female kaleidoscope, but not a little alarmed and concerned at having mortally offended so much feminine dignity.

After that he did not venture to accost her for some time, but he cast a few sheep's-eyes at her in church.

Now Ruperta had told her mother all; and her mother had not forbidden her to speak to Compton, but had insisted on reserve and discretion.

She now told her mother she thought he would not speak to her any more, she had snubbed him so.

"Dear me!" said Mrs. Bassett, "why did you do that? Can you not be polite and nothing more?"

"No, mamma."

"Why not? He is very amiable. Everybody says so."

"He is. But I keep remembering what a forward girl I was, and I am afraid he has not forgotten it either, and that makes me hate the poor little fellow; no, not hate him; but keep him off. I dare say he thinks me a cross, ill-tempered thing; and I am very unkind to him, but I can't help it."

"Never mind," said Mrs. Bassett; "that is much better than to be too forward. Papa would never forgive that."

By-and-by there was a cricket-match in the farmer's meadow, Highcombe and Huntercombe eleven against the town of Staveleigh. All clubs liked to play at Huntercombe, because Sir Charles found the tents and the dinner, and the young farmers drank his champagne to their hearts' content.

Ruperta took her maid and went to see the match. They found it going against Huntercombe. The score as follows--

Staveleigh. First innings, a hundred and forty-eight runs.

Huntercombe eighty-eight.

Staveleigh. Second innings, sixty runs, and only one wicket down; and Johnson and Wright, two of their best men, well in, and masters of the bowling.

This being communicated to Ruperta, she became excited, and her soul in the game.

The batters went on knocking the balls about, and scored thirteen more before the young lady's eyes.

"Oh, dear!" said she, "what is that boy about? Why doesn't he bowl? They pretend he is a capital bowler."

At this time Compton was standing long-field on, only farther from the wicket than usual.

Johnson, at the wicket bowled to, being a hard but not very scientific hitter, lifted a half volley ball right over the bowler's head, a hit for four, but a skyscraper. Compton started the moment he hit, and, running with prodigious velocity, caught the ball descending, within a few yards of Ruperta; but, to get at it, he was obliged to throw himself forward into the air; he rolled upon the grass, but held the ball in sight all the while.

Mr. Johnson was out, and loud acclamations rent the sky.

Compton rose, and saw Ruperta clapping her hands close by.

She left off and blushed, directly he saw her. He blushed too, and touched his cap to her, with an air half manly, half sheepish, but did not speak to her.

This was the last ball of the over, and, as the ball was now to be delivered from the other wicket, Compton took the place of long-leg.

The third ball was overpitched to leg, and Wright, who, like most country players, hit freely to leg, turned half, and caught this ball exactly right, and sent it whizzing for five.

But the very force of the stroke was fatal to him; the ball went at first bound right into Compton's hands, who instantly flung it back, like a catapult, at Wright's wicket.

Wright, having hit for five, and being unable to see what had become of the ball, started to run, as a matter of course.

But the other batsman, seeing the ball go right into long-leg's hands like a bullet, cried, "Back!"

Wright turned, and would have got back to his wicket if the ball had required handling by the wicket-keeper; but, by a mixture of skill with luck, it came right at the wicket. Seeing which, the wicket-keeper very judiciously let it alone, and it carried off the bails just half a second before Mr. Wright grounded his bat.

"How's that, umpire?" cried the wicket-keeper.

"Out!" said the Staveleigh umpire, who judged at that end.

Up went the ball into the air, amid great excitement of the natives.

Ruperta, carried away by the general enthusiasm, nodded all sparkling to Compton, and that made his heart beat and his soul aspire. So next over he claimed his rights, and took the ball. Luck still befriended him: he bowled four wickets in twelve overs; the wicket-keeper stumped a fifth: the rest were "the tail," and disposed of for a few runs, and the total was no more than Huntercombe's first innings.

Our hero then took the bat, and made forty-seven runs before he was disposed of, five wickets down for a hundred and ten runs. The match was not won yet, nor sure to be; but the situation was reversed.

On going out, he was loudly applauded; and Ruperta naturally felt proud of her admirer.

Being now free, he came to her irresolutely with some iced champagne.

Ruperta declined, with thanks; but he looked so imploringly that she sipped a little, and said, warmly, "I hope we shall win: and, if we do, I know whom we shall have to thank."

"And so do I: you, Miss Bassett."

"Me? Why, what have I done in the matter?"

"You brought us luck, for one thing. You put us on our mettle. Staveleigh shall never beat me, with you looking on."

Ruperta blushed a little, for the boy's eyes beamed with fire.

"If I believed that," said she, "I should hire myself out at the next match, and charge twelve pairs of gloves."

"You may believe it, then; ask anybody whether our luck did not change the moment you came."

"Then I am afraid it will go now, for I am going."

"You will lose us the match if you do," said Compton.

"I can't help it: now you are out, it is rather insipid. There, you see I can pay compliments as well as you."

Then she made a graceful inclination and moved away.

Compton felt his heart ache at parting. He took a thought and ran quickly to a certain part of the field.

Ruperta and her attendant walked very slowly homeward.

Compton caught them just at their own gate. "Cousin!" said he, imploringly, and held her out a nosegay of cowslips only.

At that the memories rushed back on her, and the girl seemed literally to melt. She gave him one look full of womanly sensibility and winning tenderness, and said, softly, "Thank you, cousin."

Compton went away on wings: the ice was broken.

But the next time he met her it had frozen again apparently: to be sure she was alone; and young ladies will be bolder when they have another person of their own sex with them.


Mr. Angelo called on Sir Charles Bassett to complain of a serious grievance.

Mr. Angelo had become zealous and eloquent, but what are eloquence and zeal against sex? A handsome woman had preached for ten minutes upon a little mound outside the village, and had announced she should say a few parting words next Sunday evening at six o'clock.

Mr. Angelo complained of this to Lady Bassett.

Lady Bassett referred him to Sir Charles.

Mr. Angelo asked that magistrate to enforce the law against conventicles.

Sir Charles said he thought the Act did not apply.

"Well, but," said Angelo, "it is on your ground she is going to preach."

"I am the proprietor, but the tenant is the owner in law. He could warn me off his ground. I have no power."

"I fear you have no inclination," said Angelo, nettled.

"Not much, to tell the truth," replied Sir Charles coolly. "Does it matter so very much who sows the good seed, or whether it is flung abroad from a pulpit or a grassy knoll?"

"That is begging the question, Sir Charles. Why assume that it is good seed? it is more likely to be tares than wheat in this case."

"And is not that begging the question? Well, I will make it my business to know: and if she preaches sedition, or heresy, or bad morals, I will strain my power a little to silence her. More than that I really cannot promise you. The day is gone by for intolerance."

"Intolerance is a bad thing; but the absence of all conviction is worse, and that is what we are coming to."

"Not quite that: but the nation has tasted liberty; and now every man assumes to do what is right in his own eyes."

"That mean's what is wrong in his neighbor's."

Sir Charles thought this neat, and laughed good-humoredly: he asked the rector to dine on Sunday at half-past seven. "I shall know more about it by that time," said he.

They dined early on Sunday, at Highmore, and Ruperta took her maid for a walk in the afternoon, and came back in time to hear the female preacher.

Half the village was there already, and presently the preacher walked to her station.

To Ruperta's surprise, she was a lady, richly dressed, tall and handsome, but with features rather too commanding. She had a glove on her left hand, and a little Bible in her right hand, which was large, but white, and finely formed.

She delivered a short prayer, and opened her text:

"Walk honestly; not in strife and envying."

Just as the text was given out, Ruperta's maid pinched her, and the young lady, looking up, saw her father coming to see what was the matter. Maid was for hiding, but Ruperta made a wry face, blushed, and stood her ground. "How can he scold me, when he comes himself?" she whispered.

During the sermon, of which, short as it was, I can only afford to give the outline, in crept Compton Bassett, and got within three or four of Ruperta.

Finally Sir Charles Bassett came up, in accordance with his promise to Angelo.

The perfect preacher deals in generalities, but strikes them home with a few personalities.

Most clerical preachers deal only in generalities, and that is ineffective, especially to uncultivated minds.

Mrs. Marsh, as might be expected from her sex, went a little too much the other way.

After a few sensible words, pointing out the misery in houses, and the harm done to the soul, by a quarrelsome spirit, she lamented there was too much of it in Huntercombe: with this opening she went into personalities: reminded them of the fight between two farm servants last week, one of whom was laid up at that moment in consequence. "And," said she, "even when it does not come to fighting, it poisons your lives and offends your Redeemer."

Then she went into the causes, and she said Drunkenness and Detraction were the chief causes of strife and contention.

She dealt briefly but dramatically with Drunkenness, and then lashed Detraction, as follows:

"Every class has its vices, and Detraction is the vice of the poor. You are ever so much vainer than your betters: you are eaten up with vanity, and never give your neighbor a good word. I have been in thirty houses, and in not one of those houses has any poor man or poor woman spoken one honest word in praise of a neighbor. So do not flatter yourselves this is a Christian village, for it is not. The only excuse to be made for you, and I fear it is not one that God will accept on His judgment-day, is that your betters set you a bad example instead of a good one. The two principal people in this village are kinsfolk, yet enemies, and have been enemies for twenty years. That's a nice example for two Christian gentlemen to set to poor people, who, they may be sure, will copy their sins, if they copy nothing else.

"They go to church regularly, and believe in the Bible, and yet they defy both Church and Bible.

"Now I should like to ask those gentlemen a question. How do they mean to manage in Heaven? When the baronet comes to that happy place, where all is love, will the squire walk out? Or do they think to quarrel there, and so get turned out, both of them? I don't wonder at your smiling; but it is a serious consideration, for all that. The soul of man is immortal: and what is the soul? it is not a substantial thing, like the body; it is a bundle of thoughts and feelings: the thoughts we die with in this world, we shall wake up with them in the next. Yet here are two Christians loading their immortal souls with immortal hate. What a waste of feeling, if it must all be flung off together with the body, lest it drag the souls of both down to bottomless perdition.

"And what do they gain in this world?--irritation, ill-health, and misery. It is a fact that no man ever reached a great old age who hated his neighbor; still less a good old age; for, if men would look honestly into their own hearts, they would own that to hate is to be miserable.

"I believe no men commit a sin for many years without some special warnings; and to neglect these, is one sin more added to their account. Such a warning, or rather, I should say, such a pleading of Divine love, those two gentlemen have had. Do you remember, about eight years ago, two children were lost on one day, out of different houses in this village?" (A murmur from the crowd.)

"Perhaps some of you here present were instrumental, under God, in finding that pretty pair." (A louder murmur.)

"Oh, don't be afraid to answer me. Preaching is only a way of speaking; and I'm only a woman that is speaking to you for your good. Tell me--we are not in church, tied up by stait-laced rules to keep men and women from getting within arm's-length of one another's souls--tell me, who saw those two lost children?"

"I, I, I, I, I," roared several voices in reply.

"Is it true, as a good woman tells me, that the innocent darlings had each an arm round the other's neck?"


"And little coronets of flowers, to match their hair?" (That was the girl's doing.)


"And the little boy had played the man, and taken off his tippet to put round the little lady?"

"Ay!" with a burst of enthusiasm from the assembled rustics.

"I think I see them myself; and the torches lighting up the dewy leaves overhead, and that Divine picture of innocent love. Well, which was the prettiest sight, and the fittest for heaven--the hatred of the parents, or the affection of the children?

"And now mark what a weapon hatred is, in the Devil's hands. There are only two people in this parish on whom that sight was wasted; and those two being gentlemen, and men of education, would have been more affected by it than humble folk, if Hell had not been in their hearts, for Hate comes from Hell, and takes men down to the place it comes from.

"Do you, then, shun, in that one thing, the example of your betters: and I hope those children will shun it too. A father is to be treated with great veneration, but above all is our Heavenly Father and His law; and that law, what is it?--what has it been this eighteen hundred years and more? Why, Love.

"Would you be happy in this world, and fit your souls to dwell hereafter even in the meanest of the many mansions prepared above, you must, above all things, be charitable. You must not run your neighbor down behind his back, or God will hate you: you must not wound him to his face, or God will hate you. You must overlook a fault or two, and see a man's bright side, and then God will love you. If you won't do that much for your neighbor, why, in Heaven's name, should God overlook a multitude of sins in you?

"Nothing goes to heaven surer than Charity, and nothing is so fit to sit in heaven. St. Paul had many things to be proud of and to praise in himself--things that the world is more apt to admire than Christian charity, the sweetest, but humblest of all the Christian graces: St. Paul, I say, was a bulwark of learning, an anchor of faith, a rock of constancy, a thunder-bolt of zeal: yet see how he bestows the palm.

"'Knowledge puffeth up: but charity edifieth. Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth; but prophecies--they shall fail; tongues--they shall cease; knowledge--it shall vanish away. And now abideth Faith, Hope, Charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.'"

The fair orator delivered these words with such fire, such feeling, such trumpet tones and heartfelt eloquence, that for the first time those immortal words sounded in these village ears true oracles of God.

Then, without pause, she went on. "So let us lift our hearts in earnest prayer to God that, in this world of thorns, and tempers, and trials, and troubles, and cares, He will give us the best cure for all--the great sweetener of this mortal life--the sure forerunner of Heaven--His most excellent gift of charity." Then, in one generous burst, she prayed for love divine, and there was many a sigh and many a tear, and at the close an "Amen!" such as, alas! we shall never, I fear, hear burst from a hundred bosoms where men repeat beautiful but stale words and call it prayer.

The preacher retired, but the people still lingered spell-bound, and then arose that buzz which shows that the words have gone home.

As for Richard Bassett, he had turned on his heel, indignant, as soon as the preacher's admonitions came his way.

Sir Charles Bassett stood his ground rather longer, being steeled by the conviction that the quarrel was none of his seeking. Moreover, he was not aware what a good friend this woman had been to him, nor what a good wife she had been to Marsh this seventeen years. His mind, therefore, made a clear leap from Rhoda Somerset, the vixen of Hyde Park and Mayfair, to this preacher, and he could not help smiling; than which a worse frame for receiving unpalatable truths can hardly be conceived. And so the elders were obdurate. But Compton and Ruperta had no armor of old age, egotism, or prejudice to turn the darts of honest eloquence. They listened, as to the voice of an angel; they gazed, as on the face of an angel; and when those silvery accents ceased, they turned toward each other and came toward each other, with the sweet enthusiasm that became their years. "Oh, Cousin Ruperta!" quavered Compton. '"Oh, Cousin Compton!" cried Ruperta, the tears trickling down her lovely cheeks.

They could not say any more for ever so long.

Ruperta spoke first. She gave a final gulp, and said, "I will go and speak to her, and thank her."

"Oh, Miss Ruperta, we shall be too late for tea," suggested the maid.

"Tea!" said Ruperta. "Our souls are before our tea! I must speak to her, or else my heart will choke me and kill me. I will go--and so will Compton."

"Oh, yes!" said Compton.

And they hurried after the preacher.

They came up with her flushed and panting; and now it was Compton's turn to be shy--the lady was so tall and stately too.

But Ruperta was not much afraid of anything in petticoats. "Oh, madam," said she, "if you please, may we speak to you?"

Mrs. Marsh turned round, and her somewhat aquiline features softened instantly at the two specimens of beauty and innocence that had run after her.

"Certainly, my young friends;" and she smiled maternally on them. She had children of her own.

"Who do you think we are? We are the two naughty children you preached about so beautifully."

"What! you the babes in the wood?"

"Yes, madam. It was a long, long while ago, and we are fifteen now--are we not, Cousin Compton?"

"Yes, madam."

"And we are both so unhappy at our parents' quarreling. At least I am."

"And so am I."

"And we came to thank you. Didn't we, Compton?"

"Yes, Ruperta."

"And to ask your advice. How are we to make our parents be friends? Old people will not be advised by young ones. They look down on us so; it is dreadful."

"My dear young lady," said Mrs. Marsh, "I will try and answer you: but let me sit down a minute; for, after preaching, I am apt to feel a little exhausted. Now, sit beside me, and give me each a hand, if you please.

"Well, my dears, I have been teaching you a lesson; and now you teach me one, and that is, how much easier it is to preach reconciliation and charity than it is to practice it under certain circumstances. However, my advice to you is first to pray to God for wisdom in this thing, and then to watch every opportunity. Dissuade your parents from every unkind act: don't be afraid to speak--with the word of God at your back. I know that you have no easy task before you. Sir Charles Bassett and Mr. Bassett were both among my hearers, and both turned their backs on me, and went away unsoftened; they would not give me a chance; would not hear me to an end, and I am not a wordy preacher neither."

Here an interruption occurred. Ruperta, so shy and cold with Compton, flung her arms round Mrs. Marsh's neck, with the tears in her eyes, and kissed her eagerly.

"Yes, my dear," said Mrs. Marsh, after kissing her in turn, "I was a little mortified. But that was very weak and foolish. I am sorry, for their own sakes, they would not stay; it was the word of God: but they saw only the unworthy instrument. Well, then, my dears, you have a hard task; but you must work upon your mothers, and win them to charity."

"Ah! that will be easy enough. My mother has never approved this unhappy quarrel."

"No more has mine."

"Is it so? Then you must try and get the two ladies to speak to each other. But something tells me that a way will be opened. Have patience; have faith; and do not mind a check or two; but persevere, remembering that 'blessed are the peace-makers.'"

She then rose, and they took leave of her.

"Give me a kiss, children," said she. "You have done me a world of good. My own heart often flags on the road, and you have warmed and comforted it. God bless you!"

And so they parted.

Compton and Ruperta walked homeward. Ruperta was very thoughtful, and Compton could only get monosyllables out of her. This discouraged, and at last vexed him.

"What have I done," said he, "that you will speak to anybody but me?"

"Don't be cross, child," said she; "but answer me a question. Did you put your tippet round me in that wood?"

"I suppose so."

"Oh, then you don't remember doing it, eh?"

"No; that I don't."

"Then what makes you think you did?"

"Because they say so. Because I must have been such an awful cad if I didn't. And I was always much fonder of you than you were of me. My tippet! I'd give my head sooner than any harm should come to you, Ruperta!"

Ruperta made no reply, but, being now at Highmore, she put out her hand to him, and turned her head away. He kissed her hand devotedly, and so they parted.

Compton told Lady Bassett all that happened, and Ruperta told Mrs. Bassett.

Those ladies readily promised to be on the side of peace, but they feared it could only be the work of time, and said so.

By-and-by Compton got impatient, and told Ruperta he had thought of a way to compel their fathers to be friends. "I am afraid you won't like the idea at first," said he; "but the more you think of it, the more you will see it is the surest way of all."

"Well, but what is it?"

"You must let me marry you."

Ruperta stared, and began to blush crimson.

"Will you, cousin?"

"Of course not, child. The idea!"

"Oh, Ruperta," cried the boy in dismay, "surely you don't mean to marry anybody else but me!"

"Would that make you very unhappy, then?"

"You know it would, wretched for my life."

"I should not like to do that. But I disapprove of early marriages. I mean to wait till I'm nineteen; and that is three years nearly."

"It is a fearful time; but if you will promise not to marry anybody else, I suppose I shall live through it."

Ruperta, though she made light of Compton's offer, was very proud of it (it was her first). She told her mother directly.

Mrs. Bassett sighed, and said that was too blessed a thing ever to happen.

"Why not?" said Ruperta.

"How could it," said Mrs. Bassett, "with everybody against it but poor little me!"

"Compton assures me that Lady Bassett wishes it."

"Indeed! But Sir Charles and papa, Ruperta?"

"Oh, Compton must talk Sir Charles over, and I will persuade papa. I'll begin this evening, when he comes home from London."

Accordingly, as he was sitting alone in the dining-room sipping his glass of port, Ruperta slipped away from her mother's side and found him.

His face brightened at the sight of her; for he was extremely fond and proud of this girl, for whom he would not have the bells rung when she was born.

She came and hung round his neck a little, and kissed him, and said softly, "Dear papa, I have something to tell you. I have had a proposal."

Richard Bassett stared.

"What, of marriage?"

Ruperta nodded archly.

"To a child like you? Scandalous! No, for, after all, you look nineteen or twenty. And who is the highwayman that thinks to rob me of my precious girl?"

"Well, papa, whoever he is, he will have to wait three years, and so I told him. It is my cousin Compton."

"What!" cried Richard Bassett, so loudly that the girl started back dismayed. "That little monkey have the impudence to offer marriage to my daughter? Surely, Ruperta, you have offered him no encouragement?"


"Your mother promised me nothing but common civility should pass between you and that young gentleman."

"She promised for me, but she could not promise for him--poor little fellow!"

"Marry a son of the man who has robbed and insulted your father!"

"Oh, papa! is it so? Are you sure you did not begin?"

"If you can think that, it is useless to say more. I thought ill-fortune had done its worst; but no; blow upon blow, and wound upon wound. Don't spare me, child. Nobody else has, and why should you? Marry my enemy's son, his younger son, and break your father's heart."

At this, what could a sensitive girl of sixteen do but burst out crying, and promise, round her father's neck, never to marry any one whom he disliked.

When she had made this promise, her father fondled and petted her, and his tenderness consoled her, for she was not passionately in love with her cousin.

Yet she cried a good deal over the letter in which she communicated this to Compton.

He lay in wait for her; but she baffled him for three weeks.

After that she relaxed her vigilance, for she had no real wish to avoid him, and was curious to see whether she had cured him.

He met her; and his conduct took her by surprise. He was pale, and looked very wretched.

He said solemnly, "Were you jesting with me when you promised to marry no one but me?"

"No, Compton. But you know I could never marry you without papa's consent."

"Of course not; but, what I fear, he might wish you to marry somebody else."

"Then I should refuse. I will never break my word to you, cousin. I am not in love with you, you are too young for that--but somehow I feel I could not make you unhappy. Can't you trust my word? You might. I come of the same people as you. Why do you look so pale?--we are very unhappy."

Then the tears began to steal down her cheeks; and Compton's soon followed.

Compton consulted his mother. She told him, with a sigh, she was powerless. Sir Charles might yield to her, but she had no power to influence Mr. Bassett at present. "The time may come," said she. She could not take a very serious view of this amour, except with regard to its pacific results. So Mr. Bassett's opposition chilled her in the matter.

While things were so, something occurred that drove all these minor things out of her distracted heart.

One summer evening, as she and Sir Charles and Compton sat at dinner, a servant came in to say there was a stranger at the door, and he called himself Bassett.

"What is he like?" said Lady Bassett, turning pale.

"He looks like a foreigner, my lady. He says he is Mr. Bassett," repeated the man, with a scandalized air.

Sir Charles got up directly, and hurried to the hall door. Compton followed to the door only and looked.

Sure enough it was Reginald, full-grown, and bold, as handsome as ever, and darker than ever.

In that moment his misconduct in running away never occurred either to Sir Charles or Compton; all was eager and tremulous welcome. The hall rang with joy. They almost carried him into the dining-room.

The first thing they saw was a train of violet-colored velvet, half hidden by the table.

Compton ran forward with a cry of dismay.

It was Lady Bassett, in a dead swoon, her face as white as her neck and arms, and these as white and smooth as satin.


LADY BASSETT was carried to her room, and did not reappear. She kept her own apartments, and her health declined so rapidly that Sir Charles sent for Dr. Willis. He prescribed for the body, but the disease lay in the mind. Martyr to an inward struggle, she pined visibly, and her beautiful eyes began to shine like stars, preternaturally large. She was in a frightful condition: she longed to tell the truth and end it all; but then she must lose her adored husband's respect, and perhaps his love; and she had not the courage. She saw no way out of it but to die and leave her confession; and, as she felt that the agony of her soul was killing her by degrees, she drew a somber resignation from that.

She declined to see Reginald. She could not bear the sight of him.

Compton came to her many times a day, with a face full of concern, and even terror. But she would not talk to him of herself.

He brought her all the news he heard, having no other way to cheer her.

One day he told her there were robbers about. Two farmhouses had been robbed, a thing not known in these parts for many years.

Lady Bassett shuddered, but said nothing.

But by-and-by her beloved son came to her in distress with a grief of his own.

Ruperta Bassett was now the beauty of the county, and it seems Mr. Rutland had danced with her at her first ball, and been violently smitten with her; he had called more than once at Highmore, and his attentions were directly encouraged by Mr. Bassett. Now Mr. Rutland was heir to a peerage, and also to considerable estates in the county.

Compton was sick at heart, and, being young, saw his life about to be blighted; so now he was pale and woe-begone, and told her the sad news with such deep sighs, and imploring, tearful eyes, that all the mother rose in arms. "Ah!" said she, "they say to themselves that I am down, and cannot fight for my child; but I would fight for him on the edge of the grave. Let me think all by myself, dear. Come back to me in an hour. I shall do something. Your mother is a very cunning woman--for those she loves."

Compton kissed her gown--a favorite action of his, for he worshiped her--and went away.

The invalid laid her hollow cheek upon her wasted hand, and thought with all her might. By degrees her extraordinary brain developed a twofold plan of action; and she proceeded to execute the first part, being the least difficult, though even that was not easy, and brought a vivid blush to her wasted cheek.

She wrote to Mrs. Bassett.


"MADAM--I am very ill, and life is uncertain. Something tells me you, like me, regret the unhappy feud between our houses. If this is so, it would be a consolation to me to take you by the hand and exchange a few words, as we already have a few kind looks.

"Yours respectfully,



She showed this letter to Compton, and told him he might send a servant with it to Highmore at once.

"Oh, mamma!" said he, "I never thought you would do that: how good you are! You couldn't ask Ruperta, could you? Just in a little postscript, you know."

Lady Bassett shook her head.

"That would not be wise, my dear. Let me hook that fish for you, not frighten her away."

Great was the astonishment at Highmore when a blazing footman knocked at the door and handed Jessie the letter with assumed nonchalance, then stalked away, concealing with professional art his own astonishment at what he had done.

It was no business of Jessie's to take letters into the drawing-room; she would have deposited any other letter on the hall table; but she brought this one in, and, standing at the door, exclaimed, "Here a letter fr' Huntercombe!"

Richard Bassett, Mrs. Bassett, and Ruperta, all turned upon her with one accord.

"From where?"

"Fr' Huntercombe itsel'. Et isna for you, nor for you, missy. Et's for the mesterress."

She marched proudly up to Mrs. Bassett and laid the letter down on the table; then drew back a step or two, and, being Scotch, coolly waited to hear the contents. Richard Basset, being English, told her she need not stay.

Mrs. Bassett cast a bewildered look at her husband and daughter, then opened the letter quietly; read it quietly; and, having read it, took out her handkerchief and began to cry quietly.

Ruperta cried, "Oh, mamma!" and in a moment had one long arm round her mother's neck, while the other hand seized the letter, and she read it aloud, cheek to cheek; but, before she got to an end, her mother's tears infected her, and she must whimper too.

"Here are a couple of geese," said Richard Bassett. "Can't you write a civil reply to a civil letter without sniveling? I'll answer the letter for you."

"No!" said Mrs. Bassett.

Richard was amazed: Ruperta ditto.

The little woman had never dealt in "Noes," least of all to her husband; and besides this was such a plump "No." It came out of her mouth like a marble.

I think the sound surprised even herself a little, for she proceeded to justify it at once. "I have been a better wife than a Christian this many years. But there's a limit. And, Richard, I should never have married you if you had told me we were to be at war all our lives with our next neighbor, that everybody respects. To live in the country, and not speak to our only neighbor, that is a life I never would have left my father's house for. Not that I complain: if you have been bitter to them, you have always been good and kind to me; and I hope I have done my best to deserve it; but when a sick lady, and perhaps dying, holds out her hand to me---write her one of your cold-blooded letters! That I WON'T. Reply? my reply will be just putting on my bonnet and going to her this afternoon. It is Passion-week, too; and that's not a week to play the heathen. Poor lady! I've seen in her sweet eyes this many years that she would gladly be friends with me; and she never passed me close but she bowed to me, in church or out, even when we were at daggers drawn. She is a lady, a real lady, every inch. But it is not that altogether. No, if a sick woman called me to her bedside this week, I'd go, whether she wrote from Huntercombe Hall or the poorest house in the place; else how could I hope my Saviour would come to my bedside at my last hour?"

This honest burst, from a meek lady who never talked nonsense, to be sure, but seldom went into eloquence, staggered Richard Bassett, and enraptured Ruperta so, that she flung both arms round her mother's neck, and cried, "Oh, mamma! I always thought you were the best woman in England, and now I know it."

"Well, well, well," said Richard, kindly enough; then to Ruperta, "Did I ever say she was not the best woman in England? So you need not set up your throats neck and neck at me, like two geese at a fox. Unfortunately, she is the simplest woman in England, as well as the best, and she is going to visit the cunningest. That Lady Bassett will turn our mother inside out in no time. I wish you would go with her; you are a shrewd girl."

"My daughter will not go till she is asked," said Mrs. Bassett, firmly.

"In that case," said Richard, dryly, "let us hope the Lord will protect you, since it is for love of Him you go into a she-fox's den."

No reply was vouchsafed to this aspiration, the words being the words of faith, but the voice the voice of skepticism.

Mrs. Bassett put on her bonnet, and went to Huntercombe Hall.

After a very short delay she was ushered upstairs, to the room where Lady Bassett was lying on a sofa.

Lady Bassett heard her coming, and rose to receive her.

She made Mrs. Bassett a court courtesy so graceful and profound that it rather frightened the little woman. Seeing which, Lady Bassett changed her style, and came forward, extending both hands with admirable grace, and gentle amity, not overdone.

Mrs. Bassett gave her both hands, and they looked full at each other in silence, till the eyes of both ladies began to fill.

"You would have come--like this--years ago--at a word?" faltered Lady Bassett.

"Yes," gulped Mrs. Bassett.

Then there was another long pause.

"Oh, Lady Bassett, what a life! It is a wonder it has not killed us both."

"It will kill one of us."

"Not if I can help it."

"God bless you for saying so! Dear madam, sit by me, and let me hold the hand I might have had years ago, if I had had the courage."

"Why should you take the blame?" said Mrs. Bassett. "We have both been good wives: too obedient, perhaps. But to have to choose between a husband's commands and God's law, that is a terrible thing for any poor woman."

"It is, indeed."

Then there was another silence, and an awkward pause. Mrs. Bassett broke it, with some hesitation. "I hope, Lady Bassett, your present illness is not in any way--I hope you do not fear anything more from my husband?"

"Oh, Mrs. Bassett! how can I help fearing it--especially if we provoke him? Mr. Reginald Bassett has returned, and you know he once gave your husband cause for just resentment."

"Well, but he is older now, and has more sense. Even if he should, Ruperta and I must try and keep the peace."

"Ruperta! I wish I had asked you to bring her with you. But I feared to ask too much at once."

"I'll send her to you to-morrow, Lady Bassett."

"No, bring her."

"Then tell me your hour."

"Yes, and I will send somebody out of the way. I want you both to myself."


While this conversation was going on at Huntercombe, Richard Bassett, being left alone with his daughter, proceeded to work with his usual skill upon her young mind.

He reminded her of Mr. Rutland's prospects, and said he hoped to see her a countess, and the loveliest jewel of the Peerage.

He then told her Mr. Rutland was coming to stay a day or two next week, and requested her to receive him graciously.

She promised that at once.

"That," said he, "will be a much better match for you than the younger son of Sir Charles Bassett. However, my girl is too proud to go into a family where she is not welcome."

"Much too proud for that," said Ruperta.

He left her smarting under that suggestion.

While he was smoking his cigar in the garden, Mrs. Bassett came home. She was in raptures with Lady Bassett, and told her daughter all that had passed; and, in conclusion, that she had promised Lady Bassett to take her to Huntercombe to-morrow.

"Me, dear!" cried Ruperta; "why, what can she want of me?"

"All I know is, her ladyship wishes very much to see you. In my opinion, you will be very welcome to poor Lady Bassett."

"Is she very ill?"

Mrs. Bassett shook her head. "She is much changed. She says she should be better if we were all at peace; but I don't know."

"Oh, mamma, I wish it was to-morrow."

They went to Huntercombe next day; and, ill as she was, Lady Bassett received them charmingly. She was startled by Ruperta's beauty and womanly appearance, but too well bred to show it, or say it all in a moment. She spoke to the mother first; but presently took occasion to turn to the daughter, and to say, "May I hope, Miss Bassett, that you are on the side of peace, like your dear mother and myself?"

"I am," said Ruperta, firmly; "I always was--especially after that beautiful sermon, you know, mamma."

Says the proud mother, "You might tell Lady Bassett you think it is your mission to reunite your father and Sir Charles."

"Mamma!" said Ruperta, reproachfully. That was to stop her mouth. "If you tell all the wild things I say to you, her ladyship will think me very presumptuous."

"No, no," said Lady Bassett, "enthusiasm is not presumption. Enthusiasm is beautiful, and the brightest flower of youth."

"I am glad you think so, Lady Bassett; for people who have no enthusiasm seem very hard and mean to me."

"And so they are," said Lady Bassett warmly.

But I have no time to record the full details of the conversation. I can only present the general result. Lady Bassett thought Ruperta a beautiful and noble girl, that any house might be proud to adopt; and Ruperta was charmed by Lady Bassett's exquisite manners, and touched and interested by her pale yet still beautiful face and eyes. They made friends; but it was not till the third visit, when many kind things had passed between them, that Lady Bassett ventured on the subject she had at heart. "My dear," said she to Ruperta, "when I first saw you, I wondered at my son Compton's audacity in loving a young lady so much more advanced than himself; but now I must be frank with you; I think the poor boy's audacity was only a proper courage. He has all my sympathy, and, if he is not quite indifferent to you, let me just put in my word, and say there is not a young lady in the world I could bear for my daughter-in-law, now I have seen and talked with you, my dear."

"Thank you, Lady Bassett," said Mrs. Bassett; "and, since you have said so much, let me speak my mind. So long as your son is attached to my daughter, I could never welcome any other son-in-law. I HAVE GOT THE TIPPET."

Lady Bassett looked at Ruperta, for an explanation. Ruperta only blushed, and looked uncomfortable. She hated all allusion to the feats of her childhood.

Mrs. Bassett saw Lady Bassett's look of perplexity, and said, eagerly, "You never missed it? All the better. I thought I would keep it, for a peacemaker partly."

"My dear friend," said Lady Bassett, "you are speaking riddles to me; what tippet?"

"The tippet your son took off his own shoulders, and put it round my girl, that terrible night they were lost in the wood. Forgive me keeping it, Lady Bassett--I know I was little better than a thief; but it was only a tippet to you, and to me it was much more. Ah! Lady Bassett, I have loved your darling boy ever since; you can't wonder, you are a mother;" and, turning suddenly on Ruperta, "why do you keep saying he is only a boy? If he was man enough to do that at seven years of age, he must have a manly heart. No; I couldn't bear the sight of any other son-in-law; and when you are a mother you'll understand many things, and, for one, you'll-- under--stand--why I'm so--fool--ish; seeing the sweet boy's mother ready--to cry--too--oh! oh! oh!"

Lady Bassett held out her arms to her, and the mothers had a sweet cry together in each other's arms.

Ruperta's eyes were wet at this; but she told her mother she ought not to agitate Lady Bassett, and she so ill.

"And that is true, my good, sensible girl," said Mrs. Bassett; "but it has lain in my heart these nine years, and I could not keep it to myself any longer. But you are a beauty and a spoiled child, and so I suppose you think nothing of his giving you his tippet to keep you warm."

"Don't say that, mamma," said Ruperta, reproachfully. "I spoke to dear Compton about it not long ago. He had forgotten all about it, even."

"All the more to his credit; but don't you ever forget it, my own girl."

"I never will, mamma."

By degrees the three became so unreserved that Ruperta was gently urged to declare her real sentiments.

By this time the young beauty was quite cured of her fear lest she should be an unwelcome daughter-in-law; but there was an obstacle in her own mind. She was a frank, courageous girl; but this appeal tried her hard.

She blushed, fixed her eyes steadily on the ground, and said, pretty firmly and very slowly, "I had always a great affection for my cousin Compton; and so I have now. But I am not in love with him. He is but a boy; now I--"

A glance at the large mirror, and a superb smile of beauty and conscious womanhood, completed the sentence.

"He will get older every day," said Mrs. Bassett.

"And so shall I."

"But you will not look older, and he will. You have come to your full growth. He hasn't."

"I agree with the dear girl," said Lady Bassett, adroitly. "Compton, with his fair hair, looks so young, it would be ridiculous at present. But it is possible to be engaged, and wait a proper time for marriage; what I fear is, lest you should be tempted by some other offer. To speak plainly, I hear that Mr. Rutland pays his addresses to you, and visits at Highmore."

"Yes, he has been there twice."

"He is welcome to your father; and his prospects are dazzling; and he is not a boy, for he has long mustaches."

"I am not dazzled by his mustaches, and still less by his prospects," said the fair young beauty.

"You are an extraordinary girl."

"That she is," said Mrs. Bassett. "Her father has no more power over her than I have."

"Oh, mamma! am I a disobedient girl, then?"

"No, no. Only in this one thing, I see you will go your own way."

Lady Bassett put in her word. "Well, but this one thing is the happiness or misery of her whole life. I cannot blame her for looking well before she leaps."

A grateful look from Ruperta's glorious eyes repaid the speaker.

"But," said Lady Bassett, tenderly, "it is something to have two mothers when you marry, instead of one; and you would have two, my love; I would try and live for you."

This touched Ruperta to the heart; she curled round Lady Bassett's neck, and they kissed each other like mother and daughter.

"This is too great a temptation," said Ruperta. "Yes; I will engage myself to Cousin Compton, if papa's consent can be obtained. Without his consent I could not marry any one."

"Nobody can obtain it, if you cannot," said Mrs. Bassett.

Ruperta shook her head. "Mark my words, mamma, it will take me years to gain it. Papa is as obstinate as a mule. To be sure, I am as obstinate as fifty."

"It shall not take years, nor yet months," said Lady Bassett. "I know Mr. Bassett's objection, and I will remove it, cost me what it may."

This speech surprised the other two ladies so, they made no reply.

Said Lady Bassett firmly, "Do you pledge yourself to me, if I can obtain Mr. Bassett's consent?"

"I do," said Ruperta. "But--"

"You think my power with your father must be smaller than yours. I hope to show you you are mistaken."

The ladies rose to go: Lady Bassett took leave of them thus: "Good-by, my most valued friend, and sister in sorrow; good-by, my dear daughter."


At the gate of Huntercombe, whom should they meet but Compton Bassett, looking very pale and unhappy.

He was upon honor not to speak to Ruperta; but he gazed on her with a wistful and terrified look that was very touching. She gave him a soft pitying smile in return, that drove him almost wild with hope.

That night Richard Bassett sat in his chair, gloomy.

When his wife and daughter spoke to him in their soft accents, he returned short, surly answers. Evidently a storm was brewing.

At last it burst. He had heard of Ruperta's repeated visits to Huntercombe Hall. "You are not dealing fairly with me, you two," said he. "I allowed you to go once to see a woman that says she is very ill; but I warned you she was the cunningest woman in creation, and would make a fool of you both; and now I find you are always going. This will not do. She is netting two simple birds that I have the care of. Now, listen to me; I forbid you two ever to set foot in that house again. Do you hear me?"

"We hear you, papa," said Mrs. Bassett, quietly; "we must be deaf, if we did not."

Ruperta kept her countenance with difficulty.

"It is not a request, it is a command."

Mrs. Bassett for once in her life fired up. "And a most tyrannical one," said she.

Ruperta put her hand before her mother's mouth, then turned to her father.

"There was no need to express your wish so harshly, papa. We shall obey."

Then she whispered her mother, "And Mr. Rutland shall pay for it."

Mrs. Bassett communicated this behest to Lady Bassett in a letter.

Then Lady Bassett summoned all her courage, and sent for her son Compton. "Compton," said she, "I must speak to Reginald. Can you find him?"

"Oh yes, I can find him. I am sorry to say anybody can find him at this time of day."

"Why, where is he?"

"I hardly like to tell you."

"Do you think his peculiarities have escaped me?"

"At the public-house."

"Ask him to come to me."


Compton went to the public-house, and there, to his no small disgust, found Mr. Reginald Bassett playing the fiddle, and four people, men and women, dancing to the sound, while one or two more smoked and looked on.

Compton restrained himself till the end of that dance, and then stepped up to Reginald and whispered him, "Mamma wants to see you directly."

"Tell her I'm busy."

"I shall tell her nothing of the kind. You know she is very ill, and has not seen you yet; and now she wants to. So come along at once, like a good fellow."

"Youngster," said Reginald, "it is a rule with me never to leave a young woman for an old one."

"Not for your mother?"

"No, nor my grandmother either."

"Then you were born without a heart. But you shall come, whether you like it or not--though I have to drag you there by the throat."

"Learn to spell 'able' first."

"I'll spell it on your head, if you don't come."

"Oh, that is the game, young un, is it?"


"Well, don't let us have a shindy on the bricks; there is a nice little paddock outside. Come out there and I'll give you a lesson."

"Thank you; I don't feel inclined to assist you in degrading our family."

"Chaps that are afraid to fight shouldn't threaten. Come now, the first knock-down blow shall settle it. If I win, you stay here and dance with us. If you win, I go to the old woman."

Compton consented, somewhat reluctantly; but to do him justice, his reluctance arose entirely from his sense of relationship, and not from any fear of his senior.

The young gentlemen took off their coats, and proceeded to spar without any further ceremony.

Reginald, whose agility was greater than his courage, danced about on the tips of his toes, and succeeded in planting a tap or two on Compton's cheek.

Compton smarted under these, and presently, in following his antagonist, who fought like a shadow, he saw Ruperta and her mother looking horror-stricken over the palings.

Infuriated with Reginald for this exposure, he rushed in at him, received a severe cut over the eye, but dealt him with his mighty Anglo-Saxon arm a full straightforward smasher on the forehead, which knocked him head over heels like a nine-pin.

That active young man picked himself up wondrous slowly; rheumatism seemed to have suddenly seized his well-oiled joints; he then addressed his antagonist, in his most ingratiating tones--"All right, sir," said he. "You are the best man. I'll go to the old lady this minute."

"I'll see you go," said Compton, sternly; "and mind I can run as well as hit: so none of your gypsy tricks with me."

Then he came sheepishly to the palings and said, "It is not my fault, Miss Bassett; he would not come to mamma without, and she wants to speak to him."

"Oh! he is hurt! he is wounded!" cried Ruperta. "Come here to me."

He came to her, and she pressed her white handkerchief tenderly on his eyebrow; it was bleeding a little.

"Well, are you coming?" said Reginald, ironically, "or do you like young women better than old ones?"

Compton instantly drew back a little, made two steps, laid his hand on the palings, vaulted over, and followed Reginald.

"That's your boy," said Mrs. Bassett.

Ruperta made no reply, but began to gulp.

"What is the matter, darling?"

"The fighting--the blood"--said Ruperta, sobbing.

Mrs. Bassett drew her on one side, and soon soothed her.

When their gentle bosoms got over their agitation, they rather enjoyed the thing, especially Ruperta: she detested Reginald for his character, and for having insulted her father.

All of a sudden, she cried out, "He has taken my handkerchief. How dare he?" And she affected anger.

"Never mind, dear," said Mrs. Bassett, coolly, "we have got his tippet."


COULD any one have looked through the keyhole at Lady Bassett waiting for Reginald, he would have seen, by the very movements of her body, the terrible agitation of the mind. She rose--she sat down--she walked about with wild energy--she dropped on the sofa, and appeared to give it up as impossible; but ere long that deadly languor gave way to impatient restlessness again.

At last her quick ear heard a footstep in the corridor, accompanied by no rustle of petticoats, and yet the footstep was not Compton's.

Instantly she glanced with momentary terror toward the door.

There was a tap.

She sat down, and said, with a tone from which all agitation was instantly banished, "Come in."

The door opened, and the swarthy Reginald, diabolically handsome, with his black snaky curls, entered the room.

She rose from her chair, and fixed her great eyes on him, as if she would read him soul and body before she ventured to speak.

"Here I am, mamma: sorry to see you look so ill."

"Thank you, my dear," said Lady Bassett, without relaxing for a moment that searching gaze.

She said, still covering him with her eye, "Would you cure me if you could?"

To appreciate this opening, and Lady Bassett's sweet engaging manner, you must understand that this young man was, in her eyes, a sort of black snake. Her flesh crept, with fear and repugnance, at the sight of him. Yet that is how she received him, being a mother defending her favorite son.

"Of course I would," said Reginald. "Just you tell me how."

Excellent words. But the lady's calm infallible eye saw a cunning twinkle in those black twinkling orbs. Young as he was, he was on his guard, and waiting for her. Nor was this surprising: Reginald, naturally intelligent, had accumulated a large stock of low cunning in his travels and adventures with the gypsies, a smooth and cunning people. Lady Bassett's fainting upon his return, his exclusion from her room, and one or two minor circumstances, had set him thinking.

The moment she saw that look, Lady Bassett, with swift tact, glided away from the line she had intended to open, and, after merely thanking him, and saying, "I believe you, dear," though she did not believe him, she resumed, in a very impressive tone, "You see me worse than ever to-day, because my mind is in great trouble. The time is come when I must tell you a secret, which will cause you a bitter disappointment. Why I send for you is, to see whether I cannot do something for you to make you happy, in spite of that cruel disappointment."

Not a word from Reginald.

"Mr. Bassett--forgive me, if you can--for I am the most miserable woman in England--you are not the heir to this place; you are not Sir Charles Bassett's son."

"What!" shouted the young man.

Her fortitude gave way for a moment. She shook her head, in confirmation of what she had said, and hid her burning face and scalding tears in her white and wasted hands.

There was a long silence.

Reginald was asking himself if this could be true, or was it a maneuver to put her favorite Compton over his head.

Lady Bassett looked up, and saw this paltry suspicion in his face. She dried her tears directly, and went to a bureau, unlocked it, and produced the manuscript confession she had prepared for her husband.

She bade Reginald observe the superscription and the date.

When he had done so, she took her scissors and opened it for him.

"Read what I wrote to my beloved husband at a time when I expected soon to appear before my Judge."

She then sank upon the sofa, and lay there like a log; only, from time to time, during the long reading, tears trickled from her eyes.

Reginald read the whole story, and saw the facts must be true: more than that, being young, and a man, he could not entirely resist the charm of a narrative in which a lady told at full the love, the grief, the terror, the sufferings, of her heart, and the terrible temptation under which she had gone astray.

He laid it down at last, and drew a long breath.

"It's a devil of a job for me," said he; "but I can't blame you. You sold that Dick Bassett, and I hate him. But what is to become of me?"

"What I offer you is a life in which you will be happier than you ever could be at Huntercombe. I mean to buy you vast pasture-fields in Australia, and cattle to feed. Those noble pastures will be bounded only by wild forests and hills. You will have swift horses to ride over your own domain, or to gallop hundreds of miles at a stretch, if you like. No confinement there; no fences and boundaries; all as free as air. No monotony: one week you can dig for gold, another you can ride among your flocks, another you can hunt. All this in a climate so delightful that you can lie all night in the open air, without a blanket, under a new firmament of stars, not one of which illumines the dull nights of Europe."

The bait was too tempting. "Well, you are the right sort," cried Reginald.

But presently he began to doubt. "But all that will cost a lot of money."

"It will, but I have a great deal of money."

Reginald thought, and said, suspiciously, "I don't know why you should do all this for me."

"Do you not? What! when I have brought you into this family, and encouraged you in such vast expectations, could I, in honor and common humanity, let you fall into poverty and neglect? No. I have many thousand pounds, all my own, and you will have them all, and perhaps waste them all; but it will take you some time, because, while you are wasting, I shall be saving more for you."

Then there was a pause, each waiting for the other.

Then Lady Bassett said, quietly, and with great apparent composure, "Of course there is a condition attached to all this."

"What is that?"

"I must receive from you a written paper, signed by yourself and by Mrs. Meyrick, acknowledging that you are not Sir Charles's son, but distinctly pledging yourself to keep the secret so long as I continue to furnish you with the means of living. You hesitate. Is it not fair?"

"Well, it looks fair; but it is an awkward thing, signing a paper of that sort."

"You doubt me, sir; you think that, because I have told one great falsehood, from good but erring motives, I may break faith with you. Do not insult me with these doubts, sir. Try and understand that there are ladies and gentlemen in the world, though you prefer gypsies. Have you forgotten that night when you laid me under so deep a debt, and I told you I never would forget it? From that day was I not always your friend? was I not always the one to make excuses for you?"

Reginald assented to that.

"Then trust me. I pledge you my honor that I am this day the best friend you ever had, or ever can have. Refuse to sign that paper, and I shall soon be in my grave, leaving behind me my confession, and other evidence, on which you will be dismissed from this house with ignominy, and without a farthing; for your best friend will be dead, and you will have killed her."

He looked at her full: he said, with a shade of compunction, "I am not a gentleman, but you are a lady. I'll trust you. I'll sign anything you like."

"That confidence becomes you," said Lady Bassett; "and now I have no objection to show you I deserve it. Here is a letter to Mr. Rolfe, by which you may learn I have already placed three thousand pounds to his account, to be laid out by him for your benefit in Australia, where he has many confidential friends; and this is a check for five hundred pounds I drew in your favor yesterday. Do me the favor to take it."

He did her that favor with sparkling eyes.

"Now here is the paper I wish you to sign; but your signature will be of little value to me without Mary Meyrick's."

"Oh, she will sign it directly: I have only to tell her."

"Are you sure? Men can be brought to take a dispassionate view of their own interest, but women are not so wise. Take it, and try her. If she refuses, bring her to me directly. Do you understand? Otherwise, in one fatal hour, her tongue will ruin you, and destroy me."

Impressed with these words, Reginald hurried to Mrs. Meyrick, and told her, in an off-hand way, she must sign that paper directly.

She looked at it and turned very white, but went on her guard directly.

"Sign such a wicked lie as that!" said she. "That I never will. You are his son, and Huntercombe shall be yours. She is an unnatural mother."

"Gammon!" said Reginald. "You might as well say a fox is the son of a gander. Come now; I am not going to let you cut my throat with your tongue. Sign at once, or else come to her this moment and tell her so."

"That I will," said Mary Meyrick, "and give her my mind."


This doughty resolution was a little shaken when she cast eyes upon Lady Bassett, and saw how wan and worn she looked.

She moderated her violence, and said, sullenly, "Sorry to gainsay you, my lady, and you so ill, but this is a paper I never can sign. It would rob him of Huntercombe. I'd sooner cut my hand off at the wrist."

"Nonsense, Mary!" said Lady Bassett, contemptuously.

She then proceeded to reason with her, but it was no use. Mary would not listen to reason, and defied her at last in a loud voice.

"Very well," said Lady Bassett. "Then since you will not do it my way, it shall be done another way. I shall put my confession in Sir Charles's hands, and insist on his dismissing him from the house, and you from your farm. It will kill me, and the money I intended for Reginald I shall leave to Compton."

"These are idle words, my lady. You daren't."

"I dare anything when once I make up my mind to die."

She rang the bell.

Mary Meyrick affected contempt.

A servant came to the door.

"Request Sir Charles to come to me immediately."


"DON'T you be a fool," said Reginald to his nurse.

"Sir Charles will send you to prison for it," said Lady Bassett.

"For what I done along with you?"

"Oh, he will not punish his wife; he will look out for some other victim."

"Sign, you d--d old fool!" cried Reginald, seizing Mary Meyrick roughly by the arm.

Strange to say, Lady Bassett interfered, with a sort of majestic horror. She held up her hand, and said, "Do not dare to lay a finger on her!"

Then Mary burst into tears, and said she would sign the paper.

While she was signing it, Sir Charles's step was heard in the corridor.

He knocked at the door just as she signed. Reginald had signed already.

Lady Bassett put the paper into the manuscript book, and the book into the bureau, and said "Come in," with an appearance of composure belied by her beating heart.

"Here is Mrs. Meyrick, my dear."

In those few seconds so perfect a liar as Mary Meyrick had quite recovered herself.

"If you please, sir," said she, "I be come to ast if you will give us a new lease, for ourn it is run out."

"You had better talk to the steward about that."

"Very well, sir," and she made her courtesy.

Reginald remained, not knowing exactly what to do.

"My dear," said Lady Bassett, "Reginald has come to bid us good-by. He is going to visit Mr. Rolfe, and take his advice, if you have no objection."

"None whatever; and I hope he will treat it with more respect than he does mine."

Reginald shrugged his shoulders, and was going out, when Lady Bassett said, "Won't you kiss me, Reginald, as you are going away?"

He came to her: she kissed him, and whispered in his ear, "Be true to me, as I will be to you."

Then he left her, and she felt like a dead thing, with exhaustion. She lay on the sofa, and Sir Charles sat beside her, and made her drink a glass of wine.

She lay very still that afternoon; but at night she slept: a load was off her mind for the present.

Next day she was so much better she came down to dinner.

What she now hoped was, that entire separation, coupled with the memory of the boy's misdeeds, would cure Sir Charles entirely of his affection for Reginald; and so that, after about twenty years more of conjugal fidelity, she might find courage to reveal to her husband the fault of her youth at a time when all its good results remained to help excuse it, and all its bad results had vanished.

Such was the plan this extraordinary woman conceived, and its success so far had a wonderful effect on her health.

But a couple of days passed, and she did not hear either from Reginald or Mr. Rolfe. That made her a little anxious.

On the third day Compton asked her, with an angry flush on his brow, whether she had not sent Reginald up to London.

"Yes, dear," said Lady Bassett.

"Well, he is not gone, then."


"He is living at his nurse's. I saw him talking to an old gypsy that lives on the farm."

Lady Bassett groaned, but said nothing.

"Never mind, mamma," said Compton. "Your other children must love you all the more."

This news caused Lady Bassett both anxiety and terror. She divined bad faith and all manner of treachery, none the less terrible for being vague.

Down went her health again and her short-lived repose.

Meantime Reginald, in reality, was staying at the farm on a little business of his own.

He had concerted an expedition with the foreign gent, and was waiting for a dark and gusty night.

He had undertaken this expedition with mixed motives, spite and greed, especially the latter. He would never have undertaken it with a £500 check in his pocket; but some minds are so constituted they cannot forego a bad design once formed: so Mr. Reginald persisted, though one great motive existed no longer.

On this expedition it is now our lot to accompany him.

The night was favorable, and at about two o'clock Reginald and the foreign gent stood under Richard Bassett's dining-room window, with crape over their eyes, noses and mouths, and all manner of unlawful implements in their pockets.

The foreign gent prized the shutters open with a little crowbar; he then, with a glazier's diamond, soon cut out a small pane, inserted a cunning hand and opened the window.

Then Reginald gave him a leg, and he got into the room.

The agile youth followed him without assistance.

They lighted a sort of bull's-eye, and poured the concentrated light on the cupboard door, behind which lay the treasure of glorious old plate.

Then the foreign gent produced his skeleton keys, and after several ineffective trials, opened the door softly and revealed the glittering booty.

At sight of it the foreign gent could not suppress an ejaculation, but the younger one clapped his hand before his mouth hurriedly.

The foreign gent unrolled a sort of green baize apron he had round him; it was, in reality, a bag.

Into this receptacle the pair conveyed one piece of plate after another with surprising dexterity, rapidity, and noiseless-ness. When it was full, they began to fill the deep pockets of their shooting-jackets.

While thus employed, they heard a rapid footstep, and Richard Bassett opened the door. He was in his trousers and shirt, and had a pistol in his hand.

At sight of him Reginald uttered a cry of dismay; the foreign gent blew out the light.

Richard Bassett, among whose faults want of personal courage was not one, rushed forward and collared Reginald.

But the foreign gent had raised the crowbar to defend himself, and struck him a blow on the head that made him stagger back.

The foreign gent seized this opportunity, and ran at once at the window and jumped at it.

If Reginald had been first, he would have gone through like a cat, but the foreign gent, older, and obstructed by the contents of his pocket, higgled and stuck a few seconds in the window.

That brief delay was fatal; Richard Bassett leveled his pistol deliberately at him, fired, and sent a ball through his shoulder; he fell like a log upon the ground outside.

Richard then leveled another barrel at Reginald, but he howled out for quarter, and was immediately captured, and with the assistance of the brave Jessie, who now came boldly to her master's aid, his hands were tied behind him and he was made prisoner, with the stolen articles in his pocket.

When they were tying him, he whimpered, and said it was only a lark; he never meant to keep anything. He offered a hundred pounds down if they would let him off.

But there was no mercy for him.

Richard Bassett had a candle lighted, and inspected the prisoner. He lifted his crape veil, and said "Oho!"

"You see it was only a lark," said Reginald, and shook in every limb.

Richard Bassett smiled grimly, and said nothing. He gave Jessie strict orders to hold her tongue, and she and he between them took Reginald and locked him up in a small room adjoining the kitchen.

They then went to look for the other burglar.

He had emptied his pockets of all the plate, and crawled away. It is supposed he threw away the plate, either to soften Reginald's offense, or in the belief that he had received his death wound, and should not require silver vessels where he was going.

Bassett picked up the articles and brought them in, and told Jessie to light the fire and make him a cup of coffee.

He replaced all the plate, except the articles left in Reginald's pocket.

Then he went upstairs, and told his wife that burglars had broken into the house, but had taken nothing; she was to give herself no anxiety. He told her no more than this, for his dark and cruel nature had already conceived an idea he did not care to communicate to her, on account of the strong opposition he foresaw from so good a Christian: besides, of late, since her daughter came home to back her, she had spoken her mind more than once.

He kept them then in the dark, and went downstairs again to his coffee.

He sat and sipped it, and, with it, his coming vengeance.

All the defeats and mortifications he had endured from Huntercombe returned to his mind; and now, with one masterstroke he would balance them all.

Yet he felt a little compunction.

Active hostilities had ceased for many years.

Lady Bassett, at all events, had held out the hand to his wife. The blow he meditated was very cruel: would not his wife and daughter say it was barbarous? Would not his own heart, the heart of a father, reproach him afterward?

These misgivings, that would have restrained a less obstinate man, irritated Richard Bassett: he went into a rage, and said aloud, "I must do it: I will do it, come what may."

He told Jessie he valued her much: she should have a black silk gown for her courage and fidelity; but she must not be faithful by halves. She must not breathe one word to any soul in the house that the burglar was there under lock and key; if she did, he should turn her out of the house that moment.

"Hets!" said the woman, "der ye think I canna haud my whist, when the maister bids me? I'm nae great clasher at ony time, for my pairt."

At seven o'clock in the morning he sent a note to Sir Charles Bassett, to say that his house had been attacked last night by two armed burglars; he and his people had captured one, and wished to take him before a magistrate at once, since his house was not a fit place to hold him secure. He concluded Sir Charles would not refuse him the benefit of the law, however obnoxious he might be.

Sir Charles's lips curled with contempt at the man who was not ashamed to put such a doubt on paper.

However, he wrote back a civil line, to say that of course he was at Mr. Bassett's service, and would be in his justice-room at nine o'clock.

Meantime, Mr. Richard Bassett went for the constable and an assistant; but, even to them, he would not say precisely what he wanted them for.

His plan was to march an unknown burglar, with his crape on his face, into Sir Charles's study, give his evidence, and then reveal the son to the father.

Jessie managed to hold her tongue for an hour or two, and nothing occurred at Highmore or in Huntercombe to interfere with Richard Bassett's barbarous revenge.

Meantime, however, something remarkable had occurred at the distance of a mile and a quarter.

Mrs. Meyrick breakfasted habitually at eight o'clock.

Reginald did not appear.

Mrs. Meyrick went to his room, and satisfied herself he had not passed the night there.

Then she went to the foreign gent's shed.

He was not there.

Then she went out, and called loudly to them both.

No answer.

Then she went into the nearest meadow, to see if they were in sight.

The first thing she saw was the foreign gent staggering toward her.

"Drunk!" said she, and went to scold him; but, when she got nearer, she saw at once that something very serious had happened. His dark face was bloodless and awful, and he could hardly drag his limbs along; indeed they had failed him a score of times between Highmore and that place.

Just as she came up with him he sank once more to the ground, and turned up two despairing eyes toward her.

"Oh, daddy! what is it? Where's Reginald? Whatever have they done to you?"

"Brandy!" groaned the wounded man.

She flew into the house, and returned in a moment with a bottle. She put it to his lips.

He revived and told her all, in a few words.

"The young bloke and I went to crack a crib. I'm shot with a bullet. Hide me in that loose hay there; leave me the bottle, and let nobody come nigh me. The beak will be after me very soon."

Then Mrs. Meyrick, being a very strong woman, dragged him to the haystack, and covered him with loose hay.

"Now," said she, trembling, "where's my boy?"

"He's nabbed."


"And he'll be lagged, unless you can beg him off."

Mary Meyrick uttered a piercing scream.

"You wretch! to tempt my boy to this. And him with five hundred pounds in his pocket, and my lady's favor. Oh, why did we not keep our word with her? She was the wisest, and our best friend. But it is all your doing; you are the devil that tempted him, you old villain!"

"Don't miscall me," said the gypsy.

"Not miscall you, when you have run away, and left them to take my boy to jail! No word is bad enough for you, you villain!"

"I'm your father--and a dying man," said the old gypsy, calmly, and folded his hands upon his breast with Oriental composure and decency.

The woman threw herself on her knees.

Forgive me, father--tell me, where is he?"

"Highmore House."

At that simple word her eyes dilated with wild horror, she uttered a loud scream, and flew into the house.

In five minutes she was on her way to Highmore.

She reached that house, knocked hastily at the door, and said she must see Mr. Richard Bassett that moment.

"He is just gone out," said the maid.

"Where to?"

The girl knew her, and began to gossip. "Why, to Huntercombe Hall. What! haven't you heard, Mrs. Meyrick? Master caught a robber last night. Laws! you should have seen him: he have got crape all over his face; and master, and the constable, and Mr. Musters, they be all gone with him to Sir Charles, for to have him committed--the villain! Why, what ails the woman?"

For Mary Meyrick turned her back on the speaker, and rushed away in a moment.

She went through the kitchen at Huntercombe: she was so well known there, nobody objected: she flew up the stairs, and into Lady Bassett's bedroom. "Oh, my lady! my lady!"

Lady Bassett screamed, at her sudden entrance and wild appearance.

Mary Meyrick told her all in a few wild words. She wrung her hands with a great fear.

"It's no time for that," cried Mary, fiercely. "Come down this moment, and save him."

"How can I?"

"You must! You shall!" cried the other. "Don't ask me how. Don't sit wringing your hands, woman. If you are not there in five minutes to save him, I'll tell all."

"Have mercy on me!" cried Lady Bassett. "I gave him money, I sent him away. It's not my fault."

"No matter; he must be saved, or I'll ruin you. I can't stay here: I must be there, and so must you."

She rushed down the stairs, and tried to get into the justice-room, but admission was refused her.

Then she gave a sort of wild snarl, and ran round to the small room adjoining the justice-room. Through this she penetrated, and entered the justice-room, but not in time to prevent the evidence from being laid before Sir Charles.

What took place in the meantime was briefly this: The prisoner, handcuffed now instead of tied, was introduced between the constable and his assistant; the door was locked, and Sir Charles received Mr. Bassett with a ceremonious bow, seated himself, and begged Mr. Bassett to be seated.

"Thank you," said Mr. Bassett, but did not seat himself. He stood before the prisoner and gave his evidence; during which the prisoner's knees were seen to knock together with terror: he was a young man fit for folly, but not for felony.

Said Richard Bassett, "I have a cupboard containing family plate. It is valuable, and some years ago I passed a piece of catgut from the door through the ceiling to a bell at my bedside.

"Very late last night the bell sounded. I flung on my trousers, and went down with a pistol. I caught two burglars in the act of rifling the cupboard. I went to collar one; he struck me on the head with a crowbar--constable, show the crowbar--I staggered, but recovered myself, and fired at one of the burglars: he was just struggling through the window. He fell, and I thought he was dead, but he got away. I secured the other, and here he is--just as he was when I took him. Constable, search his pockets."

The constable did so, and produced therefrom several pieces of silver plate stamped with the Bassett arms.

"My servant here can confirm this," added Mr. Bassett.

"It is not necessary here," said Sir Charles. Then to the criminal, "Have you anything to say?"

"It was only a lark," quavered the poor wretch.

"I would not advise you to say that where you are going."

He then, while writing out the warrant, said, as a matter of course, "Remove his mask."

The constable lifted it, and started back with a shout of dismay and surprise: Jessie screamed.

Sir Charles looked up, and saw in the burglar he was committing for trial his first-born, the heir to his house and his lands.

The pen fell from Sir Charles's fingers, and he stared at the wan face, and wild, imploring eyes that stared at him.

He stared at the lad, and then put his hand to his heart, and that heart seemed to die within him.

There was a silence, and a horror fell on all. Even Richard Bassett quailed at what he had done.

"Ah! cruel man! cruel man!" moaned the broken father. "God judge you for this--as now I must judge my unhappy son. Mr. Bassett, it matters little to you what magistrate commits you, and I must keep my oath. I am--going--to set you an--example, by signing a warrant--"

"No, no, no!" cried a woman's voice, and Mary Meyrick rushed into the room.

Every person there thought he knew Mary Meyrick; yet she was like a stranger to them now. There was that in her heart at that awful moment which transfigured a handsome but vulgar woman into a superior being. Her cheek was pale, her black eyes large, and her mellow voice had a magic power. "You don't know what you are doing!" she cried. "Go no farther, or you will all curse the hand that harmed a hair of his head; you, most of all, Richard Bassett."

Sir Charles, in any other case, would have sent her out of the room; but, in his misery, he caught at the straw.

"Speak out, woman," he said, "and save the wretched boy, if you can. I see no way."

"There are things it is not fit to speak before all the world. Bid those men go, and I'll open your eyes that stay."

Then Richard Bassett foresaw another triumph, so he told the constable and his man they had better retire for a few minutes, "while," said he, with a sneer, "these wonderful revelations are being made."

When they were gone, Mary turned to Richard Bassett, and said "Why do you want him sent to prison?--to spite Sir Charles here, to stab his heart through his son."

Sir Charles groaned aloud.

The woman heard, and thought of many things. She flung herself on her knees, and seized his hand. "Don't you cry, my dear old master; mine is the only heart shall bleed. HE IS NOT YOUR SON."

"What!" cried Sir Charles, in a terrible voice.

"That is no news to me," said Richard. "He is more like the parson than Sir Charles Bassett."

"For shame! for shame!" cried Mary Meyrick. "Oh, it becomes you to give fathers to children when you don't know your own flesh and blood! He is YOUR SON, RICHARD BASSETT."


"My son!" roared Bassett, in utter amazement.

"Ay. I should know; FOR I AM HIS MOTHER."

This astounding statement was uttered with all the majesty of truth, and when she said "I am his mother," the voice turned tender all in a moment.

They were all paralyzed; and, absorbed in this strange revelation, did not hear a tottering footstep: a woman, pale as a corpse, and with eyes glaring large, stood among them, all in a moment, as if a ghost had risen from the earth.

It was Lady Bassett.

At sight of her, Sir Charles awoke from the confusion and amazement into which Mary had thrown him, and said, "Ah--! Bella, do you hear what she says, that he is not our son? What, then, have you agreed with your servant to deceive your husband?"

Lady Bassett gasped, and tried to speak; but before the words would come, the sight of her corpse-like face and miserable agony moved Mary Wells, and she snatched the words out of her mouth.

"What is the use of questioning her? She knows no more than you do. I done it all; and done it for the best. My lady's child died; I hid that from her; for I knew it would kill her, and keep you in a mad-house. I done for the best: I put my live child by her side, and she knew no better. As time went on, and the boy so dark, she suspected; but know it she couldn't till now. My lady, I am his mother, and there stands his cruel father; cruel to me, and cruel to him. But don't you dare to harm him; I've got all your letters, promising me marriage; I'll take them to your wife and daughter, and they shall know it is your own flesh and blood you are sending to prison. Oh, I am mad to threaten him! my darling, speak him fair; he is your father; he may have a bit of nature in his heart somewhere, though I could never find it."

The young man put his hands together, like an Oriental, and said, "Forgive me," then sank at Richard Bassett's knees.

Then Sir Charles, himself much shaken, took his wife's arm and led her, trembling like an aspen leaf, from the room.

Perhaps the prayers of Reginald and the tears of his mother would alone have sufficed to soften Richard Bassett, but the threat of exposure to his wife and daughter did no harm. The three soon came to terms.

Reginald to be liberated on condition of going to London by the next train, and never setting his foot in that parish again. His mother to go with him, and see him off to Australia. She solemnly pledged herself not to reveal the boy's real parentage to any other soul in the world.

This being settled, Richard Bassett called the constable in, and said the young gentleman had satisfied him that it was a practical joke, though a very dangerous one, and he withdrew the charge of felony.

The constable said he must have Sir Charles's authority for that.

A message was sent to Sir Charles. He came. The prisoner was released, and Mary Meyrick took his arm sharply, as much as to say, "Out of my hands you go no more."

Before they left the room, Sir Charles, who was now master of himself, said, with deep feeling, "My poor boy, you can never be a stranger to me. The affection of years cannot be untied in a moment. You see now how folly glides into crime, and crime into punishment. Take this to heart, and never again stray from the paths of honor. Lead an honorable life; and, if you do, write to me as if I was still your father."

They retired, but Richard Bassett lingered, and hung his head.

Sir Charles wondered what this inveterate foe could have to say now.

At last Richard said, half sullenly, yet with a touch of compunction, "Sir Charles, you have been more generous than I was. You have laid me under an obligation."

Sir Charles bowed loftily.

"You would double that obligation if you would prevail on Lady Bassett to keep that old folly of mine secret from my wife and daughter. I am truly ashamed of it; and, whatever my faults may have been, they love and respect me."

"Mr. Bassett," said Sir Charles, "my son Compton must be told that he is my heir; but no details injurious to you shall transpire: you may count on absolute secrecy from Lady Bassett and myself."

"Sir Charles," said Richard Bassett, faltering for a moment, "I am very much obliged to you, and I begin to be sorry we are enemies. Good-morning."

The agitation and terror of this scene nearly killed Lady Bassett on the spot. She lay all that day in a state of utter prostration.

Meantime Sir Charles put this and that together, but said nothing. He spoke cheerfully and philosophically to his wife--said it had been a fearful blow, terrible wrench: but it was all for the best; such a son as that would have broken his heart before long.

"Ah, but your wasted affections!" groaned Lady Bassett; and her tears streamed at the thought.

Sir Charles sighed; but said, after a while, "Is affection ever entirely wasted? My love for that young fool enlarged my heart. There was a time he did me a deal of good."

But next day, having only herself to think of now, Lady Bassett could live no longer under the load of deceit. She told Sir Charles Mary Meyrick had deceived him. "Read this," she said, "and see what your miserable wife has done, who loved you to madness and crime."

Sir Charles looked at her, and saw in her wasted form and her face that, if he did read it, he should kill her; so he played the man: he restrained himself by a mighty effort, and said, "My dear, excuse me; but on this matter I have more faith in Mary Meyrick's exactness than in yours. Besides, I know your heart, and don't care to be told of your errors in judgment, no, not even by yourself. Sorry to offend an authoress; but I decline to read your book, and, more than that, I forbid you the subject entirely for the next thirty years, at least. Let by-gones be by-gones."


That eventful morning Mr. Rutland called and proposed to Ruperta. She declined politely, but firmly.

She told Mrs. Bassett, and Mrs. Bassett told Richard in a nervous way, but his answer surprised her. He said he was very glad of it; Ruperta could do better.

Mrs. Bassett could not resist the pleasure of telling Lady Bassett. She went over on purpose, with her husband's consent.

Lady Bassett asked to see Ruperta. "By all means," said Richard Bassett, graciously.

On her return to Highmore, Ruperta asked leave to go to the Hall every day and nurse Lady Bassett. "They will let her die else," said she. Richard Bassett assented to that, too. Ruperta, for some weeks, almost lived at the Hall, and in this emergency revealed great qualities. As the malevolent small-pox, passing through the gentle cow, comes out the sovereign cow-pox, so, in this gracious nature, her father's vices turned to their kindred virtues; his obstinacy of purpose shone here a noble constancy; his audacity became candor, and his cunning wisdom. Her intelligence saw at once that Lady Bassett was pining to death, and a weak-minded nurse would be fatal: she was all smiles and brightness, and neglected no means to encourage the patient.

With this view, she promised to plight her faith to Compton the moment Lady Bassett should be restored to health; and so, with hopes and smiles, and the novelty of a daughter's love, she fought with death for Lady Bassett, and at last she won the desperate battle.

This did Richard Bassett's daughter for her father's late enemy.

The grateful husband wrote to Bassett, and now acknowledged his obligation.

A civil, mock-modest reply from Richard Bassett.

From this things went on step by step, till at last Compton and Ruperta, at eighteen years of age, were formally betrothed.

Thus the children's love wore out the father's hate.

That love, so troubled at the outset, left, by degrees, the region of romance, and rippled smoothly through green, flowery meadows.

Ruperta showed her lover one more phase of girlhood; she, who had been a precocious and forward child, and then a shy and silent girl, came out now a bright and witty young woman, full of vivacity, modesty, and sensibility. Time cured Compton of his one defect. Ruperta stopped growing at fifteen, but Compton went slowly on; caught her at seventeen, and at nineteen had passed her by a head. He won a scholarship at Oxford, he rowed in college races, and at last in the University race on the Thames.

Ruperta stood, in peerless beauty, dark blue from throat to feet, and saw his boat astern of his rival, saw it come up with, and creep ahead, amid the roars of the multitude. When she saw her lover, with bare corded arms, as brown as a berry, and set teeth, filling his glorious part in that manly struggle within eight yards of her, she confessed he was not a boy now.

But Lady Bassett accepted no such evidence: being pestered to let them marry at twenty years of age, she clogged her consent with one condition--they must live three years at Huntercombe as man and wife.

"No boy of twenty," said she, "can understand a young woman of that age. I must be in the house to prevent a single misunderstanding between my beloved children."

The young people, who both adored her, voted the condition reasonable. They were married, and a wing of the spacious building allotted to them.

For their sakes let us hope that their wedded life, now happily commenced, will furnish me no materials for another tale: the happiest lives are uneventful.

The foreign gent recovered his wound, but acquired rheumatism and a dislike for midnight expeditions.

Reginald galloped a year or two over seven hundred miles of colony, sowing his wild oats as he flew, but is now a prosperous squatter, very fond of sleeping in the open air. England was not big enough for the bold Bohemian. He does very well where he is.

Old Meyrick died, and left his wife a little estate in the next county. Drake asked her hand at the funeral. She married him in six months, and migrated to the estate in question; for Sir Charles refused her a lease of his farm, not choosing to have her near him.

Her new abode was in the next parish to her sister's.

La Marsh set herself to convert Mary, and often exhorted her to penitence; she bore this pretty well for some time, being overawed by old reminiscences of sisterly superiority: but at last her vanity rebelled. "Repent! and Repent!" cried she. "Why you be like a cuckoo, all in one song. One would think I had been and robbed a church. 'Tis all very well for you to repent, as led a fastish life at starting: but I never done nothing as I'm ashamed on."


Richard Bassett said one day to Wheeler, "Old fellow, there is not a worse poison than Hate. It has made me old before my time. And what does it all come to? We might just as well have kept quiet; for my grandson will inherit Huntercombe and Bassett, after all--"

"Thanks to the girl you would not ring the bells for."


Sir Charles and Lady Bassett lead a peaceful life after all their troubles, and renew their youth in their children, of whom Ruperta is one, and as dear as any.

Yet there is a pensive and humble air about Lady Bassett, which shows she still expiates her fault, though she knows it will always be ignored by him for whose sake she sinned.

In summing her up, it may be as well to compare this with the unmixed self-complacency of Mrs. Drake.

You men and women, who judge this Bella Bassett, be firm, and do not let her amiable qualities or her good intentions blind you in a plain matter of right and wrong: be charitable, and ask yourselves how often in your lives you have seen yourselves, or any other human being, resist a terrible temptation.

My experience is, that we resist other people's temptations nobly, and succumb to our own.

So let me end with a line of England's gentlest satirist--

"Heaven be merciful to us all, sinners as we be."


Return to Index for This Novel
Return to Charles Reade Main Page