The Maidens' Lodge None of Self and All of Thee, (in the Reign of Queen Anne)
By Emily Sarah Holt The story opens in 1712, and is a story of the habits, customs, loves and hates of a gentle family of those days. We pay particular attention to two young women, Rhoda and Phoebe. Of course your reviewer never did live in those days, but the style of life of these minor grandees seems to ring true, as one would expect of this skilled author. As with her other historical novels, the reader seems to feel pulled into the contemporary scene of those days and that class: their foolish airs and graces, their ambition, in most cases, to marry at or above their "station".
Amid a welter of other minor grandees appears one Mr Welles, who is said to be well placed with an income of three thousand pounds a year, to be compared with one of the players in the story, a curate with 21 pounds a year with which to bring up his large brood. But he turns out to be greedy, and makes a bid for one of the two young women, who, he imagines, is to inherit a large and valuable estate. But he has made a mistake, and much of the latter part of the book deals with the way in which he tries to recover his position, and is, of course, rebuffed. NH
THE MAIDENS' LODGE NONE OF SELF AND ALL OF THEE, (IN THE REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE)
BY EMILY SARAH HOLT
PHOEBE ARRIVES AT WHITE-LADIES.
"The sailing of a cloud hath Providence to its pilot."
Martin Farquhar Tupper.
In the handsome parlour of Cressingham Abbey, commonly called White-Ladies, on a dull afternoon in January, 1712, sat Madam and her granddaughter, Rhoda, sipping tea.
Madam—and nothing else, her dependants would have thought it an impertinence to call her Mrs Furnival. Never was Empress of all the Russias more despotic in her wide domain than Madam in her narrow one.
As to Mr Furnival—for there had been such a person, though it was a good while since—he was a mere appendage to Madam's greatness—useful in the way of collecting rents and seeing to repairs, and capable of being put away when done with. He was a little, meek, unobtrusive man, fully (and happily) convinced of his own insignificance, and ready to sink himself in his superb wife as he might receive orders. He had been required to change his name as a condition of alliance with the heiress of Cressingham, and had done so with as much readiness as he would in similar circumstances have changed his coat. It was about fourteen years since this humble individual had ceased to be the head servant of Madam; and it was Madam's wont to hint, when she condescended to refer to him at all, that her marriage with him had been the one occasion in her life wherein she had failed to act with her usual infallibility.
It had been a supreme disappointment to Madam that both her children were of the inferior sex. Mrs Catherine to some extent resembled her father, having no thoughts nor opinions of her own, but being capable of moulding like wax; and like wax her mother moulded her. She married, under Madam's orders, at the age of twenty, the heir of the neighbouring estate—a young gentleman of blood and fortune, with few brains and fewer principles—and died two years thereafter, leaving behind her a baby daughter only a week old, whom her careless father was glad enough to resign to Madam, in order to get her out of his way.
The younger of Madam's daughters, despite her sister's passive obedience, had been the mother's favourite. Her obedience was by no means passive. She inherited all her mother's self-will, and more than her mother's impulsiveness. Much the handsomer of the two, she was dressed up, flattered, indulged, and petted in every way. Nothing was too good for Anne, until one winter day, shortly after Catherine's marriage, when the family assembled round the breakfast table, and Anne was found missing. A note was brought to Madam that evening by one of Mr Peveril's under-gardeners, in which Anne gaily confessed that she had taken her destiny into her own hands, and had that morning been married to the Reverend Charles Latrobe, family chaplain to her brother-in-law, Mr Peveril. She hoped that her mother would not be annoyed, and would receive her and her bridegroom with the usual cordiality exhibited at weddings.
Madam's, face was a study for a painter. Had Anne Furnival searched through her whole acquaintance, and selected that one man who would be least acceptable at Cressingham, she could not have succeeded better.
A chaplain! the son of a French Huguenot refugee, concerned in trade!— every item, in Madam's eyes, was a lower deep beyond the previous one. It was considered in those days that the natural wife for a family chaplain was the lady's maid. That so mean a creature should presume to lift his eyes to the sister of his patroness, was monstrous beyond endurance. And a Frenchman!—when Madam looked upon all foreigners as nuisances whose removal served for practice to the British fleet, and boasted that she could not speak a word of French, with as much complacency as would have answered for laying claim to a perfect knowledge of all the European tongues. And a tradesman's son! A tradesman, and a gentleman, in her eyes, were terms as incompatible as a blue rose or a vermilion cat. For a man to soil his fingers with sale, barter or manufacture, was destructive of all pretension not only to birth, but to manners.
On the head of her innocent spouse Madam's fury had been outpoured in no measured terms. Receive the hussy, she vehemently declared, she would not! She should never set foot in that house again. From this moment she had but one daughter.
Two years afterwards, on the evening of Catherine's funeral, and of the transference of baby Rhoda to the care of her grandmother, a young woman, shabbily dressed, carrying an infant, and looking tired and careworn, made her way to the back door of the Abbey. She asked for an interview with Madam.
"I cannot disturb Madam," said the grey-haired servant, not unkindly; "her daughter was buried this morning. You must come again, my good woman."
"Must I so, Baxter?" replied the applicant. "Tell her she has one daughter left. Surely, if ever she will see me, it were to-night."
"Eh, Mrs Anne!" exclaimed the man, who remembered her as a baby in arms. "Your pardon, Madam, that I knew you not sooner. Well, I cannot tell! but come what will, it shall never be said that I turned my young mistress from her mother's door. If I lose my place by it, I'll take in your name to Madam."
The answer he received was short and stern. "My daughter was buried this morning. I will not see the woman."
Baxter softened it a little in repeating it to Mrs Latrobe. But he could not soften the hard fact that her mother refused to see her. She was turning away, when suddenly she lifted her head and held out her child to him.
"Take it to her! 'Tis a boy."
Mrs Latrobe knew Madam. If a grandchild of the nobler sex produced no effect upon her, no more could be hoped. Baxter carried the child in, but he shook his grey head when he brought it back. He did not repeat the message this time.
"I'll have nought to do with that beggar tradesfellow's brats!" said Madam, in a fury.
"Mrs Anne, there's one bit of comfort," said old Baxter, in a whisper. "Master slipped out as soon as I told of you, and I saw him cross the field towards the church. Go you that way, and meet him."
She did not speak another word, but she clasped the child tight to her bosom, and hurried away. As she passed a narrow outlet at the end of the Abbey Church, close to the road, Mr Furnival shambled out and met her.
"Eh, Nancy, poor soul, God bless thee!" faltered the poor father, who was nearly as much to be pitied as his child. "She'll not see thee, my girl. And she'll blow me up for coming. But that's nothing—it comes every day for something. Look here, child," and Mr Furnival emptied all his pockets, and poured gold and silver into Anne's thin hand. "I can do no more. Poor child! poor child! But if thou art in trouble, my girl, send to me at any time, and I'll pawn my coat for thee if I can do no better."
"Father," said Mrs Latrobe, in an unsteady voice, "I am sorry I was ever an undutiful child to you."
The emphasis was terribly significant.
So they parted, with much admiration of the grandson, and Mr Furnival trotted back to his penance; for Madam kept him very short of money, and required from him an account of every shilling. The storm which he anticipated broke even a little more severely than he expected; but he bore it quietly, and went to bed when it was over.
Since that night nothing whatever had been heard of Mrs Latrobe until four months before the story opens. When Mr Furnival was on his death-bed, he braved his wife's anger by naming the disowned daughter. His last words were, "Perpetua, seek out Anne!"
Madam sat listening to him with lips firmly set, and without words. It was not till he was past speech that she gave him any answer.
"Jack," she said at last, to the pleading eyes which were more eloquent than the hushed voice had been, "look you here. I will not seek the girl out. She has made her bed, and let her lie on it! But I will do this for you—and I should never have done that without your asking and praying me now. If she comes or sends to me, I will not refuse her some help. I shall please myself what sort. But I won't turn her quite away, for your sake."
The pleading eyes turned to grateful ones. An hour later, and Madam was a widow.
Fourteen years passed, during which Rhoda grew up into a maiden of nineteen years, always in the custody of her grandmother. Her father had fallen in one of the Duke of Marlborough's battles, and before his death had been compelled to sell Peveril Manor to liquidate his gambling debts. He left nothing for Rhoda beyond his exquisite wardrobe and jewellery, a service of gold plate, and a number of unpaid bills, which Madam flatly refused to take upon herself, and defied the unhappy tradesmen to impose upon Rhoda. She did, however, keep the plate and jewels; and by way of a sop to Cerberus, allowed the "beggarly craftsmen," whom she so heartily despised, to sell and divide the proceeds of the wardrobe.
When the fourteen years were at an end, on an afternoon in September, a letter was brought to the Abbey for Madam. Its bearer was a respectable, looking middle-aged woman. Madam ordered her to have some refreshment, while she read the letter. Rhoda noticed that her hand shook as she held it, and wondered what it could be about. Letters were unusual and important documents in those days. But it was the signature that had startled Madam—"Anne Latrobe."
Mrs Latrobe wrote in a strain of suffering, penitence, and entreaty. She was in sore trouble. Her husband was dead; of her five children only one was living. She herself was capable of taking a situation as lady's maid—a higher position then than now—and she knew of one lady who was willing to engage her, if she could provide otherwise for Phoebe. Phoebe was the second of her children, and was now seventeen. She expressed her sorrow for the undutiful behaviour of which she had been guilty towards both parents; and she besought in all ignorance the father who had been dead for fourteen years, to plead with Madam, to help her, in any way she pleased, to put Phoebe into some respectable place where she could earn her own living. Mrs Latrobe described her as a "quiet, meek, good girl,—far better than ever I was,"—and said that she would be satisfied with any arrangement which would effect the end proposed.
For some minutes Madam sat gazing out of the window, yet seeing nothing, with the letter lying open before her. Her promise to her dead husband bound her to answer favourably. What should she do with Phoebe? After some time of absolute silence, she startled Rhoda with the question,—
"Child, how old are you?"
"Nineteen, Madam," answered Rhoda, in much surprise.
"Two years!" responded Madam,—which words were an enigma to her granddaughter.
But as Rhoda was of a romantic temperament, and the central luminary of her sphere was Rhoda Peveril, visions began to dance before her of some eligible suitor, whom Madam was going to put off for two years. She was more perplexed than ever with the next question.
"Would you like a companion, child?"
"Very much, Madam." Anything which was a change was welcome to Rhoda.
"I think I will," said Madam. "Ring the bell."
I have already stated that Madam was impulsive. When her old butler came in—a man who looked the embodiment of awful respectability—she said, "Send that woman here."
The woman appeared accordingly, and stood courtesying just within the door.
"Your name, my good woman?" asked Madam, condescendingly.
"An't please you, Molly Bell, Madam."
"Whence come you, Molly?"
"An't please you, from Bristol, Madam."
"How came you?"
"An't please you, on foot, Madam; but I got a lift in a carrier's cart for a matter of ten miles."
"Do you know the gentlewoman that writ the letter you brought?"
"Oh, ay, Mistress Latrobe! The Lord be thanked, Madam, that ever I did know her, and her good master, the Reverend, that's gone to the good place."
"You are sure of that?" demanded Madam; but the covert satire was lost on Molly Bell.
"Sure!" exclaimed she; adding, very innocently, "You can never have known Mr Latrobe, Madam, to ask that; not of late years, leastwise."
"I never did," said Madam, rather grimly. "And do you know Mrs Phoebe?"
"Dear heart, Madam!" said Molly, laughing softly, "but how queer it do sound, for sure, to hear you say Mrs Phoebe! She's always been Miss Phoebe with us all these years; and we hadn't begun like to think she was growing up. Oh, dear, yes, Madam, I knew them all—Master Charles, and Miss Phoebe, and Master Jack, and Miss Perry, and Miss Kitty."
"Miss Perry?" said Madam, in an interrogative tone.
"Miss Perpetua, Madam—we always called her Miss Perry for short. A dear little blessed child she was!"
Rhoda saw the kind which held the letter tremble again.
"And they are all dead but Miss Phoebe?"
"It's a mercy Miss Phoebe wasn't taken too," said Molly, shaking her head. "They died of the fever, in one fortnight's time—Miss Perry went the first; and then Master Jack, and then Master Charles, and the Reverend himself, and Miss Kitty last of all. Miss Phoebe was down like all of 'em, and the doctor did say he couldn't ha' pulled her through but for her dear good mother. She never had her gown off, Madam, night nor day, just a-going from one sick bed to another; and they all died in her arms. I wonder she didn't lie down and die herself at last. I do think it was Miss Phoebe beginning to get better as kept her in life."
If anything could have startled Rhoda, it was those two words. She recognised her aunt's name, and knew now of whom they were speaking.
Had Molly been retained as counsel for Mrs Latrobe, she could hardly have spoken more judiciously than she did. She went on now,—
"And, O Madam! when all was done, and the five coffins carried out, she says to me, Mrs Latrobe says, 'Molly,' she says, 'I'd ought to be very thankful. I haven't been a good child,' she says, 'to my father and mother. But they'll never pay me back my bitter ways,' she says. And I'm right sure, Madam, as Miss Phoebe never will, for she's that sweet and good, she is! So you see, Madam, Mrs Latrobe, she's had her troubles, and if so be she's sent to you for comfort, Madam, I take the liberty to hope as you'll give her a bit."
"You can go back to the kitchen, Molly," said Madam, in what was for her a very gracious tone. "I will order you a night's lodging here, and to-morrow one of my carters, who is going to Gloucester, shall take you so far on your way. I will give you a letter to carry."
"Thank you kindly, Madam!"
And with half a dozen courtesies, one for Rhoda, and the rest for Madam, Molly retreated, well pleased. Madam sat down and wrote her letter. This was Madam's letter, written in an amiable frame of mind:—
"Daughter,—I have yowr leter. Your father is ded thise foreteen yeres. I promissed him as he lay a dyeing yt wou'd doe some thing for you. You have nott desarv'd itt, but I am sory to here of your troble. If you will sende youre childe to mee, I will doe so mutch for yow as too brede her upp with my granedor Roda, yowr sistar Catterin's child. I wou'd not have yow mistak my meaneing, wch is nott that shee shou'd be plac'd on a levell with her cosin, for Roada is a jantlewoman, and yt is moar than she can say. But to be Rodes wating mayd, and serve her in her chamber, and bere her cumpany when she hath need. I will give the girle too sutes of close by the yere, and some tims a shillinge in her pockit, and good lodgeing and enow of victle. And if shee be obediant and humbel, and order her self as I wou'd she may, I will besyde al this give her if shee mary her weding close and her weddying diner,—yt is, if she mary to my minde,—and if noe, thenn shee may go whissel for anie thing I will doe for her. It is moar than she cou'd look for anie whear els. You will bee a foole to say Noe.
"Lett the girle come when you goe to your place. There is a carrer goes from Bristoll to Teukesburry, and a mann with an horse shal mete her at the Bell."
Be not horrified, accomplished modern reader, at Madam's orthography. She spelt fairly well—for a lady in 1712.
An interval of about two months followed, and then came another letter from Mrs Latrobe. She wrote in a most grateful strain; she was evidently even more surprised than pleased with the offer for Phoebe. There was a reference of penitent love to her father; a promise that Phoebe should be at Cressingham on or as near as possible to the twenty-ninth of January; and warm thanks for her mother's undeserved kindness, more especially for the consideration which had prompted the promise that Phoebe should be met at Tewkesbury, instead of being left to find her way alone in the dark through the two miles which lay between that town and Cressingham.
So, on the afternoon of that twenty-ninth of January, an hour after the man and horses had started, Madam and Rhoda sat in the Abbey parlour, sipping their tea, and both meditating on the subject of Phoebe.
Madam, as became a widow, was attired in black. A stiff black bombazine petticoat was surmounted by a black silk gown adorned with flowers in raised embroidery, and the train of the gown was pulled through the pocket-hole of the petticoat. At that time, ladies of all ages wore their dresses low and square at the neck, edged with a tucker of nett or lace; the sleeves ended at the elbows with a little white ruffle of similar material to the tucker. In London, the low head-dress was coming into fashion; but country ladies still wore the high commode, a superb erection of lace and muslin, from one to three feet in height. Long black silk mittens were drawn up to meet the sleeves. The shoes reached nearly to the ankles, and were finished with large silver buckles.
Rhoda was much smarter. She wore a cotton gown—for when all cotton gowns were imported from India, they were rare and costly articles—of an involved shawl-like pattern, in which the prevailing colour was red. Underneath was a petticoat of dark blue quilted silk. Her commode was brightened by blue ribbons; she wore no mittens; and her shoe-buckles rivalled those of her grandmother. Rhoda's figure was good, but her face was commonplace. She was neither pretty nor ugly, neither intellectual nor stupid-looking. Of course she wore powder (as also did Madam); but if her hair had been released from its influence, it would have been perceived that there was about it a slight, very slight, tinge of red.
The coming of her cousin was an event of the deepest interest to Rhoda, for she had been ever since her birth absolutely without any society of her own age. Never having had an opportunity of measuring herself by other girls, Rhoda imagined herself a most learned and accomplished young person. It would be such a triumph to see Phoebe find it out, and such a pleasure to receive—with a becoming deprecation which meant nothing—the admiration of one so far her inferior. Rhoda had dipped into a score or two of her grandfather's books, had picked up sundry fine words and technical phrases, with a smattering of knowledge, or what would pass for it; and she sat radiant in the contemplation of the delightful future which was to exalt herself and overawe Phoebe.
So lost was she in her own imaginations, that she neither heard Madam ring her little hand-bell, nor was conscious that the horses had trotted past the window, until Sukey, one of Madam's maids, came in answer to the bell, and courtesying, said, "An it please you, Madam, Mrs Phoebe Latrobe."
Rhoda lifted her eyes eagerly, and saw her cousin. The first item which she noticed was that Phoebe's figure was by no means so good as her own, her shoulders being so high as almost to reach deformity; the next point was that the expression of Phoebe's face was remarkably sweet; the third was that Phoebe's dress was particularly shabby. It was a brown stuff, worn threadbare, too short for the fashion, and without any of the flounces and furbelows then common. Over it was tied a plain white linen apron—aprons were then worn both in and out of doors—and Phoebe's walking costume consisted of a worn black mantua or pelisse, and a hood, brown like the dress, which was the shabbiest of all. The manner of the wearer, however, while extremely modest and void of self-assertion, was not at all awkward nor disconcerted. She courtesied, first to her grandmother, then to her cousin, and stood waiting within the door till she was called forward.
"Come hither, child!" said Madam.
Phoebe walked forward to her, and dropped another courtesy. Madam put two fingers under Phoebe's chin, and lifting up the young face, studied it intently. What she saw there seemed to please her.
"You'll do, child," she said, letting Phoebe go. "Be a good maid, and obedient, and you shall find me your friend. Sit down, and loose your hood. Rhode, pour her a dish of tea."
And this was Madam's welcome to her granddaughter.
Phoebe obeyed her instructions with no words but "Thank you, Madam." Her voice was gentle and low. If the tears burned under her eyelids, no one knew it but herself.
"Take Phoebe upstairs, Rhoda, to your chamber," said Madam, when the new-comer had finished her tea. "I see, child, your new clothes had better not be long a-coming."
"I have a better gown than this, Madam, in my trunk," she answered.
"Well, I am glad of it," said Madam shortly.
Rhoda led her cousin up the wide stone staircase, and into a pretty room, low but comfortable, fitted with a large bed, a washstand, a wardrobe, and a dressing-table. The two girls were to occupy it together. And here Rhoda's tongue, always restrained in her grandmother's presence, felt itself at liberty, and behaved accordingly. A new cousin to catechise was a happiness that did not occur every day.
"Have you no black gown?" was the first thing which Rhoda demanded of Phoebe.
"Oh, yes," said Phoebe. "I wear black for my father, and all of them."
Heedless of what she might have noticed—the tremor of Phoebe's voice— Rhoda went on with her catechism.
"How long has your father been dead?"
"Did you like him?"
"Like him!" Phoebe seemed to have no words to answer.
"I never knew anything about mine," went on Rhoda. "He lived till I was thirteen; and I never saw him. Only think!"
Phoebe gave a little shake of her head, as if her thoughts were too much for her.
"And my mother died when I was a week old; and I never had any brother or sister," pursued Rhoda.
"Then you never had any one to love? Poor Cousin!" said Phoebe, looking at Rhoda with deep compassion.
"Love! Oh, I don't know that I want it," said Rhoda lightly. "How is Aunt Anne, and where is she?"
"Mother?" Phoebe's voice shook again. "She is going to live with a gentlewoman at the Bath. She stayed till I was gone."
"Well, you know," was the next remark of Rhoda, whose ideas were not at all neatly put in order, "you'll have to wear a black gown to-morrow. It is King Charles."
"Yes, I know," said Phoebe.
"Was your father a Dissenter?" queried Rhoda.
"No," said Phoebe, looking rather surprised.
"Because I can tell you, Madam hates Dissenters," said Rhoda. "She would as soon have a crocodile to dinner. Why didn't you come in your black gown?"
"It is my best," answered Phoebe. "I cannot afford to spoil it."
"What do you think of Madam?"
Phoebe shrank from this question. "I can hardly think anything yet."
"Oh dear, I wish to-morrow were over!" said Rhoda with an artificial shiver. "I do hate the thirtieth of January. I wish it never came. We have to go to church, and there is only tea and bread and butter for dinner, and we must not divert ourselves with anything. I'll show you the ruins, and read you some of my poetry. Did you not know I writ poetry?"
"No," replied Phoebe. "But will that not be diverting ourselves?"
"Oh, but we can't always be miserable!" said Rhoda. "Besides, what good does it do? It is none to King Charles: and I'm sure it never does me good. Oh, and we will go and see the Maidens' Lodge, and make acquaintance with the old gentlewomen."
"The Maidens' Lodge, what is that?"
"Why, about ten years ago Madam built six little houses, and called it the Maidens' Lodge; a sort of better-most kind of alms-houses, you know, for six old gentlewomen—at least, I dare say they are not all old, but some of them are. (Mrs Vane does not think she is, at any rate.) You can't see them from this window; they are on the other side of the church."
"And are they all filled?"
"All but one, just now. I protest I don't know why Madam built them. I guess she thought it was good works. I should have thought it would have been better works to have sent for Aunt Anne, as well as you; but don't you tell her I said so!"
"Don't be afraid," said Phoebe, smiling. "I trust I am not a pick-thank. But don't you think, when you would not have a thing said again, it were better not to say it at the first?"
[Note: A meddlesome mischief-maker.]
"Oh, stuff! I can't always be such a prig as that!"
Phoebe was unpacking a trunk of very modest dimensions, and Rhoda, perched on a corner of the bed, sat and watched her.
"Is that your best gown?"
"Yes," said Phoebe, lifting it carefully out.
"How many have you?"
"This and that."
"Only two? How poor Aunt Anne must be!"
"We have always been poor."
"Have you always lived in Bristol?"
"No. We used to live at the Bath when I was a child. Father was curate at the Abbey Church."
"How much did he get?"
"Twenty-five pounds a year."
"That wasn't much for seven of you."
"It was not," returned Phoebe, significantly.
"What can you do?" asked Rhoda, suddenly. "Can you write poetry?"
"I never tried, so I cannot tell," said Phoebe.
"Can you sing?"
"And play on anything?"
"No. I cannot do much. I can sew pretty well, and knit in four different ways; I don't cook much—I mean, I don't know how to make many things, but I always try to be nice in all I can do. I can read and write, and keep accounts."
"Can you dance a jig?—and embroider, and work tapestry?"
"No, I don't know anything of that."
"Can't work tapestry! Why, Phoebe!"
"You see, there never was any time," said Phoebe, apologetically. "Of course, I helped mother with the cooking and sewing; and then there were the children to see to, and I learned Perry and Kitty to read and sew. Then there were all the salves and physic for the poor folk. We could not afford much in that way, but we did what we could."
"Well, I wouldn't marry a parson; that's flat!" said Rhoda. "Fancy spending all your days a-making salves and boluses! Fiddle-faddle!"
Phoebe gave a little laugh. "I was not always making salves," she said.
"Had you any pets? We have a parrot; I believe she's near as old as Madam. I want a monkey, but Madam won't hear of it."
"We never had but one," said Phoebe, the quiver coming again into her voice, "and—it died."
"What was it?"
"A little dog."
"I don't much care for dogs," said Rhoda. "Mrs Vane is the one for pets; that is, whenever they are modish. She carries dormice in her pocket, and keeps a lapdog and a squirrel. When the mode goes out, she gives the thing away, and gets something newer."
"Oh, dear!" said Phoebe. "I could never give my friends away."
"Oh, it is not always to friends," said Rhoda, misunderstanding her. "She gave one of her cats to a tailor at Tewkesbury."
"But the creatures are your friends," said Phoebe. "How can you bear to give them away?"
"Cats, and dogs, and squirrels—friends!" answered Rhoda, laughing. "Why, Phoebe, what a droll creature you are!"
"They would be my friends," responded Phoebe.
"I vow, I'd like to see you make a friend of Mrs Vane's Cupid!" exclaimed Rhoda, laughing. "He is the most spiteful little brute I ever set eyes on. He thinks his teeth were made to bite everybody, and his tail wasn't made to wag."
"Poor little thing! I don't wonder, if he has a mistress who would give him away because it was not the mode to keep him."
"I never saw a maid so droll!" said Rhoda, still laughing; "'twill never serve to be so mighty nice, that I can tell you. Why, you talk as if those creatures had feelings, like we have!"
"And so they have," said Phoebe, warming up a little.
"You are mightily mistaken," returned Rhoda.
"Why do they bark, and bite, and wag their tails, then?" said Phoebe, unanswerably. "It means something."
"Why, what does it signify if they have?" demanded Rhoda, not very consistently. "I say, Phoebe, is that your best hood? How shabby you go!"
"Yes," answered Phoebe, quietly.
"How much pin-money do you mean to stand for?" was Rhoda's next startling question.
"How much what?" said astonished Phoebe, dropping the gloves she was taking out of her trunk.
"How much pin-money will you make your husband give you?"
"I've not got one!" was Phoebe's very innocent response.
"Well, you'll have one some day, of course," said Rhoda. "I mean to have five hundred, at least."
"Pounds?" gasped Phoebe.
"Of course!" laughed Rhoda. "I tell you, I mean to be a modish gentlewoman, as good as ever Mrs Vane; and I'll have a knight at least. Oh, you'll see, one of these days. I can manage Madam, when I determine on it. Phoebe, there's the supper bell. Come on."
And quite regardless of the treasonable language in which she had just been indulging, Rhoda danced down into the parlour, becoming suddenly sober as she crossed the threshold.
Phoebe followed, and unless her face much belied her thoughts, she was a good deal puzzled by her new cousin.
"Ah, be not sad, although thy lot be cast Far from the flock, and in a distant waste: No shepherds' tents within thy view appear, Yet the Chief Shepherd is for ever near."
The Abbey Church of White-Ladies, to which allusion has already been made, was not in any condition for Divine Service, being only a beautiful ruin. When Madam went to church, therefore, she drove two miles to Tewkesbury.
At nine o'clock punctually, the great lumbering coach was drawn to the door by the two heavy Flanders mares, with long black tails which almost touched the ground. Madam, in a superb costume of black satin, trimmed with dark fur and white lace, took her seat in the place of honour. Rhoda, in a satin gown and hood, with a silk petticoat, all black, as became the day, sat on the small seat at one side of the door. But Rhoda sat with her face to the horses, while the yet lower place opposite was reserved for Phoebe, in her unpretending mourning. The great coach rumbled off, out of the grand gates, always opened when Madam was present, past the ruins of the Abbey Church, and drew up before a row of six little houses, fronted by six little gardens. They were built on a very minute scale, exactly alike, each containing four small rooms—kitchen, parlour, and two bedrooms over, with a little lean-to scullery at the back. On the mid-most coping-stone appeared a lofty inscription to the effect that—
"The Maidens' Lodge was built to the Praise and Glory of God, by the pious care of Mistress Perpetua Furnival, Widow, for the lodging of six decayed gentlewomen, Spinsters, of Good Birth and Quality,—A.D. 1702."
It occurred to Phoebe, as she sat reading the inscription, that it might have been pleasanter to the decayed gentlewomen in question not to have their indigence quite so openly proclaimed to the world, even though coupled with good birth and quality, and redounding to the fame of Mistress Perpetua Furnival. But Phoebe had not much time to meditate; for the door of the first little house opened, and down the gravel walk, towards the carriage, came the neatest and nicest of little old ladies, attired, like everybody that day, in black, and carrying a silver-headed cane, on which she leaned as if it really were needed to support her. She was one of those rare persons, a pretty old woman. Her complexion was still as fair and delicate as a painting on china, her blue eyes clear and expressive. Of course, in days when everyone wore powder, hair was of one colour—white.
"This is Mrs Dolly Jennings," whispered Rhoda to Phoebe; "she is the eldest of the maidens, and she is about seventy. I believe she is some manner of cousin to the Duke—not very near, you know."
The Duke, in 1712, of course, meant the Duke of Marlborough.
"Good morning, Madam," said Mrs Jennings, in a cheerful yet gentle voice, when she reached the carriage.
"Good morning, Mrs Dorothy. I am glad I see you well enough to accompany me to church."
"You are very good, Madam," was the reply, as Mrs Dorothy clambered up into the lumbering vehicle; "I thank God my rheumatic pains are as few and easy to-day as an old woman of threescore and ten need look for."
"You are a great age, Mrs Dorothy," observed Madam.
"Yes, Madam, I thank God," returned Mrs Dorothy, as cheerfully as before.
While Phoebe was meditating on this last answer, the second Maiden appeared from Number Two. She was an entire contrast to the first, being tall, sharp, featured, florid, high-nosed, and generally angular.
"Mrs Jane Talbot," whispered Rhoda.
Mrs Jane, having offered her civilities to Madam, climbed also into the coach, and placed herself beside Mrs Dorothy.
"Marcella begs you will allow her excuses, Madam, for she is indisposed this morning," said Mrs Jane, in a quick, sharp voice, which made Phoebe doubt if all her angularity were outside.
While Madam was expressing her regret at this news, the doors of Numbers Five and Six opened simultaneously, and two ladies emerged, who were, in their way, as much a contrast as Mrs Jane and Mrs Dorothy. Number Six reached the carriage first. She was a pleasant, comfortable looking woman of about fifty years of age, with a round face and healthy complexion, and a manner which, while kindly, was dignified and self-possessed.
"Good morning, my Lady Betty!" said the three voices.
Phoebe then perceived that the seat of honour, beside Madam, had been reserved for Lady Betty. But Number Five followed, and she was so singular a figure that Phoebe's attention was at once diverted to her.
She looked about the age of Lady Betty, but having evidently been a beauty in her younger days she was greatly indisposed to resign that character. Though it was a sharp January morning, her neck was unprotected by the warm tippet which all the other ladies wore. There was nothing to keep her warm in that quarter except a necklace. Large ear-rings depended from her ears, half a dozen rings were worn outside her gloves, a long chatelaine hung from her neck to her waist, to which were attached a bunch of trinkets of all shapes and sizes. She was laced very tight, and her poor nose was conscious of it, as it showed by blushing at the enormity. Under her left arm was a very small, very fat, very blunt-nosed Dutch pug. Phoebe at once guessed that the lady was Mrs Vane, and that the pug was Cupid.
"Well, Clarissa!" said Mrs Jane, as the new-comer took her seat at the door opposite Rhoda; "pity you hadn't a nose-ring!"
Mrs Vane made no answer beyond an affected smile, but Cupid growled at Mrs Jane, whom he did not seem to hold in high esteem. The coach, with a good effort on the part of the horses, got under way, and rumbled off towards Tewkesbury.
"And how does Sir Richard, my Lady Betty?" inquired Madam, with much cordiality.
"Oh, extremely well, I thank you," answered Lady Betty. "So well, indeed, now, that he talks of a journey to London, and a month at the Bath on his way thence."
"What takes him to London?" asked Mrs Jane.
"'Tis for the maids he thinks to go. He would have Betty and Gatty have a season's polishing; and for Molly—poor little soul!—he is wishful to have her touched."
"Is she as ill for the evil as ever, poor child?"
"Oh, indeed, yes! 'Tis a thousand pities; and such sprightly parts as she discovers!"
[Note: So clever as she is.]
"'Tis a mercy for such as she that the Queen doth touch," said Mrs Jane. "King William never did."
"Is that no mistake?" gently suggested Lady Betty.
"Never dared," came rather grimly from Madam.
"Well, maybe," said Mrs Jane. "But I protest I cannot see why Queen Mary should not have done it, as well as her sister."
"I own I cannot but very much doubt," returned Madam, severely, "that any good consequence should follow."
By which it will be perceived that Madam was an uncompromising Jacobite. Mrs Jane had no particular convictions, but she liked to talk Whig, because all around were Tories. Lady Betty was a Hanoverian Tory—that is, what would be termed an extreme Tory in the present day, but attached to the Protestant Succession. Mrs Clarissa was whatever she found it the fashion to be. As to Mrs Dorothy, she held private opinions, but she never allowed them to appear, well knowing that they would be far from acceptable to Madam. And since Mrs Dorothy was sometimes constrained unwillingly to differ from Madam on points which she deemed essential, she was careful not to vex her on subjects which she considered indifferent.
Rhoda was rather disappointed to find that Phoebe showed no astonished admiration of Tewkesbury Abbey. She forgot that the Abbey Church at Bath, and Saint Mary Redcliffe at Bristol, had been familiar to Phoebe from her infancy. The porch was lined with beggars, who showered blessings upon Madam, in grateful anticipation of shillings to come. But Madam passed grandly on, and paid no attention to them.
The church and the service were about equally chilly. Being a fast-day, the organ was silent; but all the responding was left to the choir, the congregation seemingly supposing it as little their concern as Cupid thought it his—who curled himself up comfortably, and went to sleep. The gentlemen appeared to be amusing themselves by staring at the ladies; the ladies either returned the compliment slily behind their fans, or exchanged courtesies with each other. There was a long, long bidding prayer, and a sermon which might have been fitly prefaced by the announcement, "Let us talk to the praise and glory of Charles the First!" It was over at last. The gentlemen put down their eye-glasses, the ladies yawned and furled their fans; there was a great deal of bowing, and courtesying, and complimenting—Mr William informing Mrs Betty that the sun had come out solely to do her honour, and Mrs Betty retorting with a delicate blow from her fan, and, "What a mad fellow are you!" At last these also were over; and the ladies from Cressingham remounted the family coach, nearly in the same order as they came—the variation being that Phoebe found herself seated opposite Mrs Clarissa Vane.
"Might I pat him?" said Phoebe, diffidently.
"If you want to be bit, do!" snapped Mrs Jane.
"Oh deah, yes!" languishingly responded Mrs Clarissa. "He neveh bites, does 'e, the pwetty deah!"
"Heyday! Doesn't 'e, the pwetty deah!" observed Mrs Jane, in such exact imitation of her friend's affected tones as sorely to try Phoebe's gravity.
Lady Betty laughed openly, but added, "Mind what you are about, child."
"Poor doggie!" softly said Phoebe.
Cupid's response was the slightest oscillation of the extreme point of his tail. But when Phoebe attempted to stroke him, to the surprise of all parties, instead of snapping at her, as he was expected to do, Cupid only wagged rather more decidedly; and when Phoebe proceeded to rub his head and ears, he actually gave her, not a bite of resentment, but a lick of friendliness.
"Deah! the sweet little deah! 'E's vewy good!" said his mistress.
The gentle reader is requested not to suppose that the elision of Mrs Clarissa's poor letter H, as well as R, proceeded either from ignorance or vulgarity—except so far as vulgarity lies in blindly following fashion. Mrs Clarissa's only mistake was that, like most country ladies, she was rather behind the age. The dropping of H and other letters had been fashionable in the metropolis some eight years before.
"Clarissa, what a goose are you!" said Mrs Jane.
"Come, Jenny, don't you bite!" put in Lady Betty. "Cupid has set you a better example than so."
"I'll not bite Clarissa, I thank you," was Mrs Jane's rather spiteful answer. "It would want more than one fast-day to bring me to that. Couldn't fancy the paint. And don't think I could digest the patches."
Lady Betty appeared to enjoy Mrs Jane's very uncivil speeches; while Cupid's mistress remained untouched by them, being one of those persons who affect not to hear anything to which they do not choose to respond.
"Well, Rhoda, child," said Lady Betty, as the coach neared home, "'tis no good, I guess, to bid you drink tea on a fast-day?"
"Oh, but I am coming, my Lady Betty," answered Rhoda, briskly. "I mean to drink a dish with every one of you."
"I shan't give you anything to eat," interpolated Mrs Jane. "Never do to be guzzling on a fast-day. You won't get any sugar from me, neither."
"Never mind, Mrs Jane," said Rhoda. "Mrs Dolly will give me something, I know. And I shall visit her first."
Mrs Dorothy assented by a benevolent smile.
"I hope, child, you will not forget it is a fast-day," said Madam, gravely, "and not go about to divert yourself in an improper manner."
"Oh no, Madam!" said Rhoda, drawing in her horns.
No sooner was dinner over—and as Rhoda had predicted, there was nothing except boiled potatoes and bread and butter—than Rhoda pounced on Phoebe, and somewhat authoritatively bade her come upstairs. Madam had composed herself in her easy chair, with the "Eikon Basilike" in her hand.
"Will Madam not be lonely?" asked Phoebe, timidly, as she followed Rhoda.
"Lonely? Oh, no! She'll be asleep in a minute," said Rhoda.
"I thought she was going to read," suggested Phoebe.
"She fancies so," said Rhoda, laughing. "I never knew her try yet but she went to sleep directly."
Unlocking a closet door which stood in their bedroom, and climbing on a chair to reach the top shelf, Rhoda produced a small volume bound in red sheepskin, which she introduced to Phoebe's notice with a rather grandiloquent air.
"Now, Phoebe! There's my Book of Poems!"
Phoebe opened the book, and her eye fell on a few lines of faint, delicate writing, on the fly-leaf.
"To Rhoda Peveril, with her Aunt Margaret's love."
"Oh, you have an aunt!" said Phoebe.
"I have two somewhere," said Rhoda. "They are good for nothing. They never give me anything."
Phoebe looked up with a rather surprised air. "They seem to do, sometimes," she observed, pointing to the book.
"Well, that one did," answered Rhoda; "one or two little things like that; but she is dead. The others are just a pair of spiteful old cats."
Phoebe's look of astonishment deepened.
"They must be very different from my aunt, then. I have only one, but I would not call her names for the world. She loves me, and I love her."
"Why, what are aunts good for but to be called names?" was the amiable response. "But now listen, Phoebe. I am going to read you a piece of my poetry. You see, our old church is dedicated to Saint Ursula; and there is an image in the church, which they say is Saint Ursula—it has such a charming face! Madam doesn't think 'tis charming, but I do. So you see, this poem is to that image."
Phoebe looked rather puzzled, but did not answer.
"Now, I would have you criticise, Phoebe," said Rhoda, condescendingly, using a word she had picked up from one of her grandfather's books.
"I don't know what that is," said Phoebe.
"Well, it means, if you hear anything you don't like, say so."
"Very well," replied Phoebe, quietly.
And Rhoda began to read, with the style of a rhetorician—as she supposed—
"Step softly, nearer as ye tread To this shrine of the royal dead! This Abbey's hallowed unto one, Daughter of Britain's ancient throne,— History names her one sole thing, The daughter of a British King."
Rhoda paused, and looked at her cousin—ostensibly for criticism, really for admiration. If Phoebe had said exactly what she thought, it would have been that her ear was cruelly outraged: but Phoebe was not accustomed to the sharp speeches which passed for wit with Rhoda. She fell back on a matter of fact.
"Does history say nothing more about her?"
"Of course it does! It says the Vandals martyred her. Phoebe, you can't criticise poetry as if it were prose."
It struck Phoebe that Rhoda's poetry was very like prose; but she said meekly, "Please go on. I ask your pardon."
So Rhoda went on—
"Her glorious line has passed away— The wild dream of a by-gone day! We know not from what throne she sprang, Britain is silent in her song—"
"What's the matter?" asked Rhoda, interrupting herself.
"I ask your pardon," said Phoebe again. "But—will song do with sprang? And if Ursula was a real person, as I thought she had been, she wasn't a wild dream, was she?"
"Phoebe, I do believe you haven't a bit of taste!" said Rhoda. "I'll try you with one more verse, and then—
"O wake her not! Ages have passed Since her fair eyelids closed at last."
"I should think, then, you would find it difficult to wake her," remarked Phoebe: but Rhoda went on as if she had not heard it,—
"For twice six hundred years, 'tis said, Hath rested 'neath yon tomb her head,— That head which soft reposed of old On couch of satin and of gold."
"Dear!" was Phoebe's comment. "I didn't know they had satin sofas twelve hundred years ago."
"'Tis no earthly use reading poetry to you!" exclaimed Rhoda, throwing down the book. "You haven't one bit of feeling for it, no more than if it were a sermon I was reading! Tie your hood on, and make haste, and we'll go and see the Maidens."
Phoebe seemed rather troubled to have annoyed her cousin, though she evidently did not perceive how it had been effected. The girls tied on their hoods, and Rhoda, who was not really ill-natured, soon recovered herself when she got into the fresh air.
"Now, while we are going across the Park," she said, "I will tell you something about the old gentlewomen. I couldn't this morning, you know, more than their names, because there was Madam listening. But now, hark! Mrs Dolly Jennings—the one who came in first, you know, and sat over against Lady Betty—I don't know what kin she is, but there is some kin between her and the Duchess of Marlborough. She is the oldest of the Maidens, and the best one to tell a story—except she falls to preaching, and then 'tis tiresome. Do you like sermons, Phoebe?"
"It all depends who preaches them," said Phoebe.
"Well, of course it does," said Rhoda. "I don't like anyone but Dr Harris—he has such white hands!"
"He does not preach about them, does he?" said Phoebe, apparently puzzled as to the connection.
"Oh, he nourishes them about, and discovers so many elegancies!" answered Rhoda.
"But how does that make him preach better?"
"Why, Phoebe, how stupid you are! But you must not interrupt me in that way, or I shall never be done. Mrs Dolly, you see, is seventy or more; and in her youth she was in the great world. So she has all manner of stories, and she'll always tell them when you ask her. I only wish she did not preach! Well, then, Mrs Jane Talbot—that one with the high nose, that sat next Mrs Dolly in the coach—she has lively parts enough, and that turn makes her very agreeable. I don't care for her sister, Mrs Marcella, that lives next her—she's always having some distemper, and I don't like sick people. Mrs Clarissa Vane is the least well-born of all of them; but she's been a toast, you see, and she fancies herself charming, poor old thing! As for Lady Betty—weren't you surprised? I believe Madam pays her a good lot to live there; it gives the place an air, you know. She is Sir Richard Delawarr's aunt, and he is the great man all about here—all the land that way belongs to him, as far as you can see. He is of very good family—an old Norman house. They are thought a great deal of, you know."
"But isn't that strange?" said Phoebe, meditatively. "If Sir Richard is thought more of because his forefathers came from France six hundred years ago, why is my grandfather thought less of because he came from France thirty years ago?"
"O Phoebe! It is not the same thing at all!"
"But why is it not the same thing?" gently persisted Phoebe.
"Oh, nonsense!" said Rhoda, cutting the knot peremptorily. "Phoebe, can you speak French?"
"Have a care you don't let Madam hear you! Who taught you?—your father?"
"Yes. He said it was our own language."
"Why, you don't mean to say he was proud of being a Frenchman?" cried Rhoda, in amazement.
"I think he was, if he was proud of anything," answered Phoebe. "He loved France very dearly. He thought it the grandest country in the world."
And Phoebe's voice trembled a little. Evidently her father was in her eyes a hero, and all that he had loved was sacred.
"But, Phoebe! not greater than England? He couldn't!" cried Rhoda, to whom such an idea seemed an impossibility.
"He was fond of England, too," said Phoebe. "He said she had sheltered us when our own country cast us off, and we should love her and be very thankful to her. But he loved France the best."
Rhoda tried to accept this incredible proposition.
"Well! 'tis queer!" she said at last. "Proud of being a Frenchman! What would Madam say?"
"'Tis only like Sir Richard Delawarr, is it?"
"Phoebe, you've no sense!"
"Well, perhaps I haven't," said Phoebe meekly, as they turned in at the gate of Number One.
Mrs Dolly Jennings was ready for her guests, in her little parlour, with the most delicate and transparent china set out upon the little tea-table, and the smallest and brightest of copper kettles singing on the hob.
"Well, you thought I meant it, Mrs Dolly!" exclaimed Rhoda laughingly, as the girls entered.
"I always think people mean what they say, child, until I find they don't," said Mrs Dorothy. "Welcome, Miss Phoebe, my dear!"
"Oh, would you please to call me Phoebe?" said the owner of that name, blushing.
"So I will, my dear," replied Mrs Dorothy, who was busy now pouring out the tea. "Mrs Rhoda, take a chair, child, and help yourself to bread and butter."
Rhoda obeyed, and did not pass the plate to Phoebe.
"Mrs Dolly," she said, interspersing her words with occasional bites, "I am really concerned about Phoebe. She hasn't the least bit of sense."
"Indeed, child," quietly responded Mrs Dorothy, while Phoebe coloured painfully. "How doth she show it?"
"Why, she doesn't care a straw for poetry?"
"Is it poetry you engaged her with?"
"What do you mean?" said Rhoda, rather pettishly. "It was my poetry."
"Eh, dear!" said Mrs Dorothy, but there was a little indication of fun about her mouth. "Perhaps, my dear, you write lyrics, and your cousin hath more fancy for epical poetry."
"She doesn't care for any sort, I'm sure," said Rhoda.
"What say you to this heavy charge, Phoebe?" inquired little Mrs Dorothy, with a cheery smile.
"I like some poetry," replied Phoebe, bashfully.
"What kind?" blurted out Rhoda, apparently rather affronted.
Phoebe coloured, and hesitated. "I like the old hymns the Huguenots used to sing," she said, "such us dear father taught me."
"Hymns aren't poetry!" said Rhoda, contemptuously.
"That is true enough of some hymns, child," answered Mrs Dorothy. "But, Phoebe, my dear, will you let us hear one of your hymns?"
"They are in French," whispered Phoebe.
"They will do for me in French, my dear," replied Mrs Dorothy.
Rhoda stared in manifest astonishment. Phoebe struggled for a moment with her natural shyness, and then she began:—
"Mon sort n'est pas a plaindre, Il est a desirer; Je n'ai plus rien a craindre, Car Dieu est mon Berger."
"My lot asks no complaining, But joy and confidence; I have no fear remaining, For God is my Defence."
But the familiar words evidently brought with them a rush of associations which was too much for Phoebe. She burst in tears, and covered her face with her hands.
"What on earth are you crying for?" asked Rhoda.
"Thank you, my dear," said Mrs Dorothy. "The verse is enough for a day, and the truth which is in it is enough for a life."
"I ask your pardon!" sobbed Phoebe, when she could speak at all. "But I used to sing it—to dear father, and when he was gone I said it to poor mother. And they are all gone now!"
"Oh, don't bother!" said Rhoda. "My papa's dead, and my mamma too; but you'll not see me crying over it."
Rhoda pronounced the words "Pappa," and "Mamma," as is done in America to this day.
"You never knew your parents, Mrs Rhoda," said the little old lady, ever ready to cast oil on the troubled waters. "Phoebe, dear child, wouldst thou wish them all back again?"
"No; oh, no! I could not be so unkind," said Phoebe, wiping her eyes. "But only a year ago, there were seven of us. It seems so hard!"
"I say, Phoebe, if you mean to cry and take on," said Rhoda, springing up and drinking off her tea, "you'll give me the spleen. I hate to be hipped. I shall be off to Mrs Jane. Come along!"
"Go yourself, Mrs Rhoda, my dear, and leave your cousin to recover, if tears be your aversion."
"Why, aren't they all our aversions?" said Rhoda, outraging grammar. "You don't need to pretend, Mrs Dolly! I never saw you cry in my life."
"Ah, child!" said Mrs Dorothy, as if she meant to indicate that there had been more of her life than could be seen from Rhoda's standing-point. "But you'll do well to take an old woman's counsel, my dear. Run off to Mrs Jane, and divert yourself half an hour; and when you return, your cousin will have passed her trouble, and I will have a Story to tell you both. I know you like stories."
"Come, I'll go, for a story when I came back," said Rhoda; "but I meant to take Phoebe. Can't she wipe her eyes and come?"
"Then I shall not tell you a story," responded Mrs Dorothy.
Rhoda laughed, and ran off. Mrs Dorothy let Phoebe have her cry out for a short time. She moved softly about, putting things in order, and then came and sat down by Phoebe on the settle.
"The world is too great for thee, poor child!" she said, tenderly, taking Phoebe's hands in hers. "It is a long way from thy father's grave; but, bethink thee, 'tis no long way from himself, if he is gone to Him that is our Father."
"I know he is," whispered Phoebe.
"And is the Lord thy Shepherd, dear child?"
"I know He is," said Phoebe, again.
"'Mon sort n'est pas a plaindre,'" softly repeated Mrs Dorothy.
"Oh, it is wrong of me!" sobbed Phoebe. "But it does seem so hard. Nobody cares for me any more."
"Nay, my child, 'He careth for thee.'"
"Oh, I know it is so!" was the answer; "but I can't feel it. It all looks so dark and cold. I can't feel it!"
"Poor little child, lost in the dark!" said Mrs Dorothy, gently. "Dear, the Lord must know how very much easier it would be to see. But His especial blessing is spoken on them that have not seen, and yet have believed. 'Tis an honour to thy Father, little Phoebe, to put thine hand in His, and let Him lead thee where He will. Thine earthly father would have liked thee to trust him. Canst thou not trust the heavenly Father?"
Phoebe's tears were falling more softly now.
"Phoebe, little maiden, shall I love thee?"
"Thank you, Mrs Dorothy, but people don't love me," said Phoebe, as if it were a fact, sad, indeed, but incontrovertible. "Only dear father and Perry."
"And thy mother," suggested Mrs Dorothy, in a soothing tone.
"Well—yes—I suppose so," doubtfully admitted Phoebe. "But, you see, poor mother—I had better not talk about it, Mrs Dorothy, if you please."
Mrs Dorothy let the point pass, making a note of it in her own mind. She noticed, too, that Phoebe said, "Dear father" and "poor mother"; yet it was the father who was dead, and the mother was living. The terms, thought Mrs Dorothy, must have some reference to character.
"Little Phoebe," she said, "if it should comfort thee betimes to pour out thine heart to some human creature, come across the Park, and tell thy troubles to me. Thou art but a young traveller; and such mostly long for some company. Yet, bethink thee, my dear, I can but be sorry for thee, while the Lord can help thee. He is the best to trust, child."
"Yes, I know," whispered Phoebe. "You are so good, Mrs Dorothy!"
"Now for the story!" said Rhoda, dancing into the little parlour. "You've had oceans of time to dry your eyes. I have been to Mrs Jane, and Mrs Clarissa, and my Lady Betty; and I've had a dish of tea with each one. I shall turn into a tea-plant presently. Now I'm ready, Mrs Dorothy; go on!"
"What fashion of tale should you like, Mrs Rhoda?"
"Oh, you had better begin at the beginning," said Rhoda. "I don't think I ever heard you tell about when you were a child; you always begin with the Revolution. Go back a little earlier, and let us have your whole history."
Mrs Dorothy paused thoughtfully.
"It won't do me any harm," added Rhoda; "and I can't see why you should care. You're nearly seventy, aren't you?"
Phoebe's shy glance at her cousin might have been interpreted to mean that she did not think her very civil; but Mrs Dorothy did not resent the question.
"Yes, my dear, I am over seventy," she said, quietly. "And I don't know that it would do you any harm. You have to face the world, too, one of these days. Please God, you may have a more guarded entrance into it than I had! Here is a cushion for your back, Mrs Rhoda; and, Phoebe, my dear, here is one for you. Let me reach my knitting, and then you shall hear my story. But it will be a long one."
"So much the better, if 'tis agreeable," answered Rhoda. "I don't care for stories that are over in a minute."
"This will not be over in a day," said Mrs Dorothy.
"All right," responded Rhoda, settling herself as comfortably as she could. "I say, Phoebe, change cushions with me; I'm sure you've got the softer."
And Phoebe obeyed in an instant.
LITTLE MRS. DOROTHY.
"And the thousands come and go All along the crowded street; But they give no ear to the things we know, And they pass with careless feet. For some hearts are hard with gold, And some are crushed in the throng, And some with the pleasures of life are cold— How long, O Lord, how long!"
"If I am to begin at the beginning, my dears," said little Mrs Dorothy, "I must tell you that I was born in a farmhouse, about a mile from Saint Albans, on the last day of the year of our Lord 1641; that my father was the Reverend William Jennings, brother to Sir Edward; and that my mother was Mrs Frances, daughter to Sir Jeremy Charlton."
"Whatever made your father take up with a parson's life?" said Rhoda. "I wouldn't be one for an apron full of money! Surely he was married first, wasn't he?"
"He was married first," answered Mrs Dorothy; "and both his father and my mother's kindred took it extreme ill that he should propose such views to himself,—the rather because he was of an easy fortune, his grandmother having left him some money."
"Would I have been a parson!" exclaimed Rhoda. "I'm too fond of jellies and conserves—nobody better."
"Well, my dear Mrs Rhoda, if you will have me say what I think," resumed Mrs Dorothy.
"You can if you like," interjected Rhoda.
"It does seem to me, and hath ever done so, that the common custom amongst us, which will have the chaplain to rise and withdraw when dessert is served, must be a relique of barbarous times."
Dessert at that time included pies, puddings, and jellies.
"O Mrs Dorothy! you have the drollest notions!"
And Rhoda went off in a long peal of laughter. The idea of any other arrangement struck her as very comical indeed.
"Well, my dear," said Mrs Dorothy, "I hope some day to see it otherwise."
"Oh, how droll it would be!" said Rhoda. "But go on, please, Mrs Dolly."
"Through those troublous times that followed on my birth," resumed the old lady, "I was left for better safety with the farmer at whose house I was born; for my father had shortly after been made parson of a church in London, and 'twas not thought well that so young a child as I then was should be bred up in all the city tumults. My foster-father's name was Lawrence Ingham; and he and his good wife were as father and mother to me."
"But what fashion of breeding could you get at a farmhouse?" demanded Rhoda, with a scornful pout.
"Why, 'twas not there I learned French, child," answered Mrs Dorothy, smiling; "but I learned to read, write, and cast accounts; to cook and distil, to conserve and pickle; with all manner of handiworks—sewing, knitting, broidery, and such like. And I can tell you, my dear, that in all the great world whereunto I afterwards entered I never saw better manners than in that farmhouse. I saw more ceremonies, sure; but not more courtesy and kindly thought for others."
"Why, I thought folks like that had no manners at all!" said Rhoda.
"Then you were mightily mistaken, my dear. Farmer Ingham had two daughters, who were like sisters to me; but they were both older than I. Their names were Grace and Faith. 'Twas a very quiet, peaceful household. We rose with the sun in summer, and before it in winter—"
"Catch me!" interpolated Rhoda.
"And before any other thing might be done, there was reading and prayer in the farmhouse kitchen. All the farm servants trooped in, and took their places in order, the men on the right hand of the master, and the women on the left of the mistress. Then the farmer read a chapter, and afterwards prayed, all joining in 'Our Father' at the end."
"But—he wasn't a parson?" demanded Rhoda, with a perplexed look.
"Oh no, my dear."
"Then how could he pray?" said Rhoda. "He'd no business to read the Prayer-Book; and of course he couldn't pray without it."
"Ah, then he made a mistake," replied Mrs Dorothy very quietly. "He fancied he could."
"But who ever heard of such a thing?" said Rhoda.
"We heard a good deal of it in those days, my dear. Why, child, the Common Prayer was forbid, even in the churches. Nobody used it, save a few here and there, that chose to run the risk of being found out and punished."
"How queer!" cried Rhoda. "Well, go on, Mrs Dolly. I hope the prayers weren't long. I should have wanted my breakfast."
"They were usually about three parts of an hour."
"Ugh!" with a manufactured shudder, came from Rhoda.
"After prayers, for an hour, each went to her calling. Commonly we took it turn about, the girls and I—one with the mistress in the kitchen, one with the maids in the chambers, and the third, if the weather was fine, a-weeding the posies in the garden, or, if wet, at her sewing in the parlour. Then the great bell was rung for breakfast, and we all gathered again in the kitchen. For breakfast were furmety, eggs, and butter, and milk, for the women; cold bakemeats and ale for the men."
"No tea?" asked Rhoda.
"I was near ten years old, child, ere coffee came into England; and tea was some years later. The first coffee-house that ever was in this realm was set up at Oxford, of one Jacobs, a Jew; and about two years after was the first in London. For tea, 'twas said Queen Catherine brought it hither from Portingale; but in truth, I believe 'twas known among us somewhat sooner. But when it came in, for a long time none knew how to use it, except at the coffee-houses. I could tell you a droll tale of a neighbour of Farmer Ingham's, that had a parcel of tea sent her as a great present from London, with a letter that said 'twas all the mode with the quality. And what did she, think you, but boiled it like cabbage, and bade all her neighbours come taste the new greens."
"Did they like them?" asked Rhoda, as well as she could speak for laughing.
"I heard they all thought with their hostess, who said, 'If those were quality greens, the quality were welcome to keep 'em; country folk would rather have cabbage and spinach any day.'"
"Well!" said Rhoda, bridling a little, when her amusement had subsided; "'tis very silly for mean people to ape the quality."
"It is so, my dear," replied Mrs Dorothy, with that extreme quietness which was the nearest her gentle spirit could come to irony. "'Tis silly for any to ape another, be he less or more."
"Why, there can be no communication between them," observed Rhoda, with a toss of her head.
"'Communication,' my dear," said Mrs Dolly. "Yonder's a new word. Where did you pick it up?"
"O Mrs Dolly! you can't be in the mode if you don't pick up all the new words," answered Rhoda more affectedly than ever. She was showing off now, and was entirely in her element.
"And pray what are the other new words, my dear?" inquired Mrs Dorothy good-naturedly, and not without a little amusement. "That one sounds very much like the old-fashioned 'commerce.'"
"Well, I don't know them all!" said Rhoda, with an assumption of humility; "but now-o'-days, when you speak of any one's direction, you must say adresse, from the French; and if one is out of spirits, you say he is hipped—that's from hypochondriacal; and a crowd of people is a mob—that's short for mobile; and when a man goes about, and doesn't want to be known, you say he is incog.—that means incognito, which is the Spanish for unknown. Then you say Mr Such-an-one spends to the tune of five hundred a year; and there are a lot of men of his kidney; and I bantered them well about it. Oh, there are lots of new words, Mrs Dolly."
"So it seems, my dear. But are you sure incognito is Spanish?"
"Oh, yes! William Knight told me so," said Rhoda, with another toss of her head.
"I imagined it was Latin," observed Mrs Dorothy. "But 'tis true, I know nought of either tongue."
"Oh, William Knight knows everything," said Rhoda, hyperbolically.
"He must be a very ingenious young man," quietly observed Mrs Dorothy.
"Well, he is," said Rhoda, scarcely perceiving the satire latent in Mrs Dorothy's calm tones.
"I am glad to hear it, my dear," returned the old lady.
"But he's very uppish,—that's pos.," resumed the young one.
"Really, my dear, you are full of new words," said Mrs Dorothy, good-naturedly. "What means 'pos.,' pray you?"
"Why, 'positive,'" said Rhoda, laughing. "And rep. means reputation, and fire means spirit, and smart means sharp, and a concert means a lot of people singing and playing on instruments of music, and an operation means anything you do, and a speculation means—well, it means—it means a speculation, you know."
"Dear, dear!" cried little Mrs Dorothy, holding up her hands. "I protest, my dear, I shall be drove to learn the English tongue anew if this mode go on."
"Well, Mrs Dolly, suppose your tale should go on?" suggested Rhoda. "Heyday! do you know what everybody is saying?—everybody that is anybody, you understand."
"I thought that everybody was somebody," remarked Mrs Dorothy, with a comical set of the lips.
"Oh dear, no!" said Rhoda. "There are ever so many people who are nobody."
"Indeed!" said Mrs Dorothy. "Well, child, what is everybody saying?"
"Why, they say the Duke is not so well with the Queen as he has been. 'Tis thought, I assure you, by many above people."
"Is that one of the new words?" inquired Mrs Dorothy, with a little laugh. "Dear child, what mean you?—the angels?"
"Oh, Mrs Dorothy, you are the oddest creature!" cried Rhoda. "Why, you know very well what I mean. Should you be sorry, Mrs Dolly, if the Duke became inconsiderable?"
"No, my dear. Why should I?"
"Well, I thought—" but Rhoda's thought went no further.
"You thought," quietly continued the old lady, "that I had not had enow of town vanities, and would fain climb a few rungs up the ladder, holding on to folks' skirts. Was that it, child?"
"Well, I don't know," said Rhoda uneasily, for Mrs Dorothy had translated her thought into rather too plain language.
"Ah, my dear, that is because you would love to climb a little yourself," said Mrs Dorothy, smilingly, "and you apprehend no inconveniency from it. But, child, 'tis the weariest work in all the world—except it be climbing from earth to heaven. To climb on men's ladders is mostly as a squirrel climbs in its cage,—round and round; you think yourself going vastly higher, but those that stand on the firm ground and watch you see that you do but go round. But to climb up Jacob's ladder, whereof the Lord stands at the top, it will be other eyes that behold you climbing up, when in your own eyes you have not bettered yourself by a step. Climb as high as you will there, dear maids!—but never mind the ladders that go round. They are infinitely disappointing. I know it, for I have climbed them."
"Well, Mrs Dolly, do go on, now, and tell us all about it, there's a good soul!" said Rhoda.
Little Mrs Dorothy was executing some elaborate knitting. She went on with it for a few seconds in silence.
"I was but sixteen," she said, quietly, "when my mother came to visit me. I could not remember seeing her before: and very frighted was I of the grand gentlewoman, for so she seemed to me, that rustled into the farmhouse kitchen in silken brocade, and a velvet tippet on her neck. She was evenly disappointed with me. She thought me stiff and gloomy; and I thought her strange and full of vanities. 'In three years' time, Dolly,' quoth she, 'thou wilt be nineteen, and I will then have thee up to Town, and thou shalt see somewhat of the world. Thou art not ill-favoured,' quoth she,—'twas my mother that said this, my dears," modestly interpolated Mrs Dorothy,—"and I dare say thou wilt be the Town talk in a week. 'Tis pity there is no better world to have thee into!—and thy father as sour and Puritanical as any till of late, save the mark!—but there, 'we must swim with the tide,' saith she. ''Tis a long lane that has no turning.' Ah me! but the lane had turned ere I was nineteen."
"Why, Mrs Dolly, the Restoration must have been that very year," observed Rhoda.
"That very year," repeated Mrs Dorothy. "'Twas in April I quitted Farmer Ingham's house, and was fetched up to London; and in May came the King in, and was shortly thereafter crowned."
"If it please you," asked Phoebe, speaking for the first time of her own accord, "were you glad to go, Madam?"
"Well, my dear, I was partly glad and partly sorry. I was sorrowful to take leave of mine old friends, little knowing if I should ever see them again or no; yet, like an untried maid, I was mightily set up with the thought of seeing London, and the lions, and Whitehall, and the like. Silly maid that I was! I had better have shed tears for the last than for the first."
"What thought you the finest thing in London?" said Rhoda. "But tell us, what thought you of London altogether?"
"Why, the first thing I thought of was the size and the noise," answered Mrs Dorothy. "It seemed to me such a great overgrown town, so different from Saint Albans; and so many carts and wheelbarrows always rattling over the stones; and so many folks in the streets; and all the strange cries of a morning. I thought my father a very strange, cold man, of whom I was no little afraid; and my mother was sadly disappointed that I did not roll my eyes, and had not been taught to dance."
"Why did they ever leave you at a farmhouse?" inquired Rhoda, rather scornfully.
"I cannot entirely say, my dear; but I think that was mainly my father's doing. My poor father!"
And Mrs Dorothy's handkerchief was hastily passed across her eyes.
"The first night I came," she said, "my mother had a large assembly in her withdrawing-chamber. There were smart-dressed ladies fluttering of their fans, and gentlemen in all the colours of the rainbow; and I, foolish maid! right well pleased when one and another commended my country complexion, or told me something about my fine eyes: when all at once came a heavy hand on my shoulder, and my father saith, 'Dorothy, I would speak with you.' I followed him forth, not a little trembling lest he should be about to chide me; but he led me into his own closet, and shut the door. He bade me sit, and leaning over the fire himself, he said nought for a moment. Then saith he, 'Dorothy, you heard Mr Debenham speak to you?' 'Yes, Sir,' quoth I. 'And what said he, child?' goes on my father, gently. I was something loth to repeat what he had said; for it was what I, in my foolish heart, thought a very fine speech about Mrs Doll's fine eyes, that glistered like stars. Howbeit, my father waited quiet enough; and having been well bred to obey by Farmer Ingham, I brought it out at last. 'Did you believe it, Dorothy?' saith my father. 'Did you think he meant it?' I did but whisper, 'Yes, Sir,' for I could not but feel very much ashamed. 'Then, Dorothy,' saith he, 'the first lesson you will do well to learn in London is that men and women do not always mean it when they flatter you. And he does not. Ah!' saith my father, fetching a great sigh,—''tis easy work for fathers to say such things, but not so for maidens to believe them. There is one other thing I would have you learn, Dorothy.' 'Yes, Sir,' quoth I, when he stayed. He turned him around, and looked in my face with his dark eyes, that seemed to burn into me, and he saith, 'Learn this, Dorothy,—that 'tis the easiest thing in all the world for a man to drift away from God. Ay, or a woman either. You may do it, and never know that you have done it,—for a while, at least. David was two full years ere he found it out. Oh Dorothy, take warning! I was once as innocent as you are. I have drifted from God, oh my child, how far! The Lord keep you from a like fate.' I was fairly affrighted, for his face was terrible. An hour after, I saw him dealing the cards at ombre, with a look as bright and mirthful as though he knew not grief but by name."
Phoebe looked up with eyes full of meaning. "Did he never come back?"
"Dear child," said Mrs Dorothy, turning to her, "hast thou forgot that the Good Shepherd goeth after that which was lost, until He find it? He came back, my dear. But it was through the Great Plague and the Great Fire."
It was evident for a few minutes that Mrs Dorothy was wrestling with painful memories.
"Well, and what then?" said Rhoda, who wanted the story to go on, and was afraid of what she called preaching.
"Well!" resumed the old lady, more lightly, "then, for three days in the week I had a dancing-master come to teach me; and twice in the week a music-master; and all manner of new gowns, and my hair dressed in a multitude of curls; and my mother's maid to teach me French, and see that I carried myself well. And when this had gone on a while, my mother began to carry me a-visiting when she went to see her friends. For above a year she used a hackney coach; but then my father was made Doctor, and had a great church given him that was then all the mode; and my Lady Jennings came up to Town, and finding he had parts, she began to take note of him, and would carry him in her coach to the Court; and my mother would then set up her own coach, the which she did. And at length, the summer before I was one-and-twenty, my Lady Jennings, without the privity of my father, offered my mother to have me a maid to one of the Ladies in Waiting on the Queen. From this place, said she, if I played my cards well, and was liked of them above me, I might come in time to be a Maid of Honour."
"O rare!" exclaimed Rhoda. "And did you, Mrs Dolly?"
"Yes, child," slowly answered Mrs Dorothy. "I did so."
Rhoda's face was sparkling with interest and pleasure. Phoebe's was shadowed with forebodings, of a sad end to come.
"The night ere I left home for the Court," pursued the old lady, "my mother held long converse with me. 'Thou art mightily improved, Dolly,' saith she, 'since thy coming to London; but there is yet a stiff soberness about thee, that thou wilt do well to be rid of. Thou shouldst have more ease, child. Do but look at thy cousin Jenny, that is three years younger than thou, and yet how will she rattle to every man that hath a word of compliment to pay her!' But after she had made an end, my father called me into his closet. 'Poor Dorothy!' he said. 'The bloom is not all off the peach yet. But 'tis going, child—'tis fast going. I feared this. Poor Dorothy!'"
"Oh, dear!" said Rhoda. "You were not going to a funeral, Mrs Dolly!"
"Ah, child! maybe, if I had, it had been the better for me. The wise man saith, 'It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting.'"
"But pray, what harm came to you, Mrs Dorothy?"
"No outward bodily harm at all, my dear. Yet even that was no thanks to me. It was 'of the Lord's compassion,' seeing He had a purpose of mercy toward me. But, ah me! what inward and spiritual harm! Mrs Rhoda, my dear, I saw sights and heard sayings those two years I dwelt in the Court which I would give the world, so to speak, only to forget them now."
"What were they, Mrs Dorothy?" asked Rhoda, eagerly sitting up.
"Think you I am likely to tell you, child? No, indeed!"
"But what sort of harm did they to you, Mrs Dolly?"
"Child, I learned to think lightly of sin. People did not talk of sin there at all; the words they used were crime and vice. Every wrong doing was looked on as it affected other men: if it touched your neighbour's purse or person, it was ill; if it only grieved his heart, then 'twas a little matter. But how it touched God was never so much as thought on. There might have been no God in Heaven, so little account was taken of Him there."
"Now do tell us. Mrs Dolly, what the Queen was like, and the King," said Rhoda, yawning. "And how many Maids of Honour were there? Just tell us all about it."
"There were six," replied the old lady, taking up her knitting, which she had dropped in her earnestness a minute before. "And Mrs Sanderson was their mother. I reckon you will scarce know that always a married gentlewoman goeth about with these young damsels, called the Mother of the Maids, whose work it is to see after them."
"And keep them from everything jolly!" exclaimed Rhoda. "Now, that's a shame! Wouldn't it be fun to bamboozle that creature? I protest I should enjoy it!"
"O Mrs Rhoda! Mrs Rhoda!"
"I should, of all things, Mrs Dolly! But now, what were the King and Queen like? Was she very beautiful?"
[Note: Charles the Second and Catherine of Braganza.]
"No," said Mrs Dorothy, "she was not. She had pretty feet, fine eyes, and very lovely hair. 'Twas rich brown on the top of her head, and descending downward it grew into jet black. For the rest, she was but tolerable. In truth, her teeth wronged her by sticking too far out of her mouth; but for that she would have been lovelier by much."
"Horrid!" said Rhoda. "I forget where she came from, Mrs Dolly?"
"She came from Portingale, my dear, being daughter to the King of that country, and her name was Catherine."
"And what was the King like?"
"When he was little, my dear, his mother, Queen Mary, used to say he was so ugly a baby that she was quite ashamed of him. He was better-favoured when he grew a man; he had good eyes, but a large Mouth."
[Note: Queen Mary was Henrietta Maria, always termed Queen Mary during her own reign.]
"He was a black man, was he not?"
By which term Rhoda meant what we now call a dark man.
"Yes, very black and swarthy."
"Where did he commonly live?"
"Mostly at Whitehall or Saint James's. At times he went to Hampton Court, and often, for a change of sir, to Newmarket; now and then to Tunbridge Wells. He was but little at Windsor."
"Did you like him, Mrs Dorothy?"
Phoebe looked up, when no answer came. The expression of Mrs Dorothy's face was a curious mixture of fear, repulsion, and yet amusement.
"No!" she said at length.
"Why not?" demanded Rhoda.
"Well, there were some that did," was the reply, in a rather constrained tone; "and the one that he behaved the worst to loved him the best of all."
"How droll!" said Rhoda. "And who were your friends, then, Mrs Dorothy?"
"That depends, my dear, on what you mean by friends. If you mean them that flattered me, and joked with me, and the like,—why, I had very many; or if you mean them that would take some trouble to push me in the world,—well, there were several of those; but if you mean such as are only true friends, that would have cast one thought to my real welfare, whether I should go to Heaven or Hell,—I had but one of that sort."
"And who was your one friend, Mrs Dolly?" asked Rhoda, pursing up her lips a little.
"The King's Scots cook, my dear," quietly replied Mrs Dorothy.
"The what?" shrieked Rhoda, going into convulsions of laughter.
"Ah, you may laugh, Mrs Rhoda. You know there's an old saying, 'Let them laugh that win.' If ever an old sinner like me enters the gates of Heaven, so far as the human means are concerned, I shall owe it, first of all, to old David Armstrong."
"Will you please to tell us about him, Madam?" rather timidly asked Phoebe.
"With all my heart, my dear. Dear old Davie! Methinks I see him now. Picture to yourselves, my dears, a short man, something stooping in the shoulders, with sharp features and iron-grey hair; always dressed in his white cooking garb, and a white cap over his frizzled locks. But before I tell you what I knew of old Davie, methinks I had better tell you a tale of him that will give you some diversion, without I mistake."
"Oh do, Mrs Dolly?" cried Rhoda, who feared nothing so much as too great seriousness in her friend's stones.
"Well," said Mrs Dorothy, "then you must know, my dears, that once upon a time the King and Queen were at dinner, and with them, amongst others, my Lord Rochester, who was at that time a very wild gallant. He died, indeed, very penitent, and, I trust, a saved man; but let that be. They were sat after dinner, and my Lord Rochester passes the bottle about to his next neighbour. 'Come, man!' saith the King, in his rollicksome way, 'take a glass of that which cheereth God and man, as Scripture saith.' My Lord Rochester at once bets the King forty pound that there was no such saying in Scripture. The King referreth all to the Queen's chaplain, that happened to be the only parson then present; but saith again, that though he could not name the place, yet he was as certain to have read it in Scripture as that his name was Charles, 'What thinks your Majesty?' quoth my Lord Rochester, turning to the Queen. She, very modestly—"
"But, Mrs Dolly, was not the Queen a Papist? What would she know about the Bible?"
"So she was, my dear. But they have a Bible of their own, that they allow the reading of to certain persons. And I dare say she was one. However, my Lord Rochester asked her, for I heard him; and she said, very womanly, that she was unfit to decide such matters, but she could not think there to be any such passage in the Bible."
"Why, there isn't!" rashly interpolated Rhoda.
Mrs Dorothy smiled, but did not contradict her.
"Then up spoke the Queen's chaplain, and gave his voice like his mistress, that there was no such passage; and several others of them at the table said they thought the like. So the King, swearing his wonted oath, cried out for some to bring a Bible, that he might search and see."
"O Mrs Dolly! what was his favourite oath?"
"I do not see, my dear, that it would do you any good to know it. Well, the Bible, as matters went, was not to be had. King, Queen, chaplain, and courtiers, there was not a man nor woman at the table that owned to possessing a Bible."
"How shocking!" said Phoebe, under her breath.
"Very shocking, my dear," assented Mrs Dorothy. "But all at once my Lord Rochester cries out, 'Please your Majesty, I'll lay you forty shillings there's one man in this palace that has a Bible! He cut me short for swearing in the yard a month since. That's old David, your Majesty's Scots cook. If you'll send for him—' 'Done!' says the King. 'Killigrew, root out old Davie, and tell him to come here, and bring his Bible with him.' So away went Mr Killigrew, the King's favourite page; and ere long back he comes, and old Davie with him, and under Davie's arm a great brown book. 'Here he is, Sire, Bible and all!' says Mr Killigrew. 'Come forward, Davie, and be hanged!' says the King. 'I'll come forward, Sire, at your Majesty's bidding,' says Davie, 'and gin ye order it, and I ha'e deservit it, I can be hangit,' saith he, mighty dry; 'but under your Majesty's pleasure I'll just tak' the liberty to ask, Sire, what are ye wantin' wi' the Buik?"
"Oh, how queer you talk, Mrs Dolly!"
"As David talked, my dear. He was a Scot, you know. Well, the King gave a hearty laugh; and says he, 'Oh, come forward, Davie, and fear nothing. We'll not hang you, and we want no hurt to your darling book.' 'Atweel, Sire,' says Davie, 'and I'd ha'e been gey sorry gin ye had meant to hurt my buik, seein' it was my mither's, and I set store by it for her sake; but trust me, Sire, I'd ha'e been a hantle sorrier gin ye had meant onie disrespect to the Lord's Buik. I'll no stand by, wi' a' honour to your Majesty, an' see I lichtlied.'"
"What does that mean, Mrs Dolly?"
"Set light by, my dear. Well, the King laughed again, but I think Davie's words a little sobered him, for he spoke kindly enough, that no harm should be done, nor was any disrespect intended; 'but,' saith he, 'my Lord Rochester and I fell a-disputing if certain words were in the Bible or no; and as you are the only man here like to have one, I sent for you.' Davie looks, quiet enough, round all the table; and he says, under his breath, 'The only man here like to have a Bible! Ay, your Majesty, I ken weel eneuch that I ha'e my habitation among the tents o' Kedar. Atweel, Sire, an' I'll be pleasit to answer onie sic question, gin ye please to tell me the words.' My Lord Rochester saith, '"Wine, which cheereth God and man." Are such words as those in the Bible, David?' Neither yea nor nay said old Davie: but he turned over the leaves of his Bible for a moment, and then, clearing his voice, and first doffing his cook's cap (which he had but lifted a minute for the King), he read from the Book of Judges, Jotham's parable of the trees. 'Twas a little while ere any spoke: then said the Queen's chaplain, swearing a great oath, that he could not but be infinitely surprised to find there to be such words in the Bible."