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Said Lucy as she went from the door, "Thank Heaven, they have insulted me!"
This does not sound logical, but that is only because the logic is so subtle and swift. She meant something of this kind: "I am of a yielding nature; I might have sacrificed myself to retain their affection; but they have roused a vice of mine, my pride, against them, so now I shall be immovable in right, thanks to my wicked pride. Thank Heaven, they have insulted me!" She then laid her head upon her bed and moaned, for she was stricken to the heart. Then she rose and wrote a hasty note, and, putting it in her bosom, came downstairs and looked for Captain Kenealy. He proved to be in the billiard-room, playing the spotted ball against the plain one. "Oh, Captain Kenealy, I am come to try your friendship; you said I might command you."
"Then will you mount my pony, and ride with this to Mrs. Wilson, to that farm where I kept you waiting so long, and you were not angry as anyone else would have been?"
"But not a soul must see it, or know where you are gone."
"All raight, Miss Fountain. Don't you be fraightened; I'm close as the grave, and I'll be there in less than haelf an hour."
"Yes; but don't hurt my dear pony either; don't beat him; and, above all, don't come back without an answer."
"I'll bring you an answer in an hour and twenty minutes." The captain looked at his watch, and went out with a smartness that contrasted happily with his slowness of speech.
Lucy went back to her own room and locked herself in, and with trembling hands began to pack up her jewels and some of her clothes. But when it came to this, wounded pride was sorely taxed by a host of reminiscences and tender regrets, and every now and then the tears suddenly gushed and fell upon her poor hands as she put things out, or patted them flat, to wander on the world.
While she is thus sorrowfully employed, let me try and give an outline of the feelings that had now for some time been secretly growing in her, since without their co-operation she would never have been driven to the strange step she now meditated.
Lucy was a very unselfish and very intelligent girl. The first trait had long blinded her to something; the second had lately helped to open her eyes.
If ever you find a person quick to discover selfishness in others, be sure that person is selfish; for it is only the selfish who come into habitual collision with selfishness, and feel how sharp-pointed a thing it is. When Unselfish meets Selfish, each acts after his kind; Unselfish gives way, Selfish holds his course, and so neither is thwarted, and neither finds out the other's character.
Lucy, then, of herself, would never have discovered her relatives' egotism. But they helped her, and she was too bright not to see anything that was properly pointed out to her.
When Fountain kept showing and proving Mrs. Bazalgette's egotism, and Mrs. Bazalgette kept showing and proving Mr. Fountain's egotism, Lucy ended by seeing both their egotisms, as clearly as either could desire; and, as she despised egotism, she lost her respect for both these people, and let them convince her they were both persons against whom she must be on her guard.
This was the direct result of their mines and countermines heretofore narrated, but not the only result. It followed indirectly, but inevitably, that the present holy alliance failed. Lucy had not forgotten the past; and to her this seemed not a holy, but an unholy, hollow, and empty alliance.
"They hate one another," said she, "but it seems they hate me worse, since they can hide their mutual dislike to combine against poor me."
Another thing: Lucy was one of those women who thirst for love, and, though not vain enough to be always showing they think they ought to be beloved, have quite secret amour propre enough to feel at the bottom of their hearts that they were sent here to that end, and that it is a folly and a shame not to love them more or less.
If ever Madame Ristori plays "Maria Stuarda" within a mile of you, go and see her. Don't chatter: you can do that at home; attend to the scene; the worst play ever played is not so unimproving as chit-chat. Then, when the scaffold is even now erected, and the poor queen, pale and tearful, palpitates in death's grasp, you shall see her suddenly illumined with a strange joy, and hear her say, with a marvelous burst of feminine triumph,
"I have been amata molto!!!"
Uttered, under a scaffold, as the Italian utters it, this line is a revelation of womanhood.
The English virgin of our humbler tale had a soul full of this feeling, only she had never learned to set the love of sex above other loves; but, mark you, for that very reason, a mortal insult to her heart from her beloved relatives was as mortifying, humiliating and unpardonable as is, to other high-spirited girls, an insult from their favored lover.
What could she do more than she had done to win their love? No, their hearts were inaccessible to her.
"They wish to get rid of me. Well, they shall. They refuse me their houses. Well, I will show them the value of their houses to me. It was their hearts I clung to, not their houses."
A tap came to Lucy's door.
"Who is that? I am busy."
"Oh, miss!" said an agitated voice, "may I speak to you--the captain!"
"What captain? "inquired Lucy, without opening the door.
"I will come out to you. Now. Has Captain Kenealy returned already?"
"La! no, miss. He haven't been anywhere as I know of. He had them about him as couldn't spare him."
"Something is the matter, Jane. What is it?"
Jane lowered her voice mysteriously. "Well, miss, the captain is--in trouble."
"Oh, dear, what has happened?"
"Well, the fact is, miss, the captain's--took"
"I cannot understand you. Pray speak intelligibly."
"Captain Kenealy arrested! Oh, Heaven! for what crime?"
"La, miss, no crime at all--leastways not so considered by the gentry. He is only took in payment of them beautiful reg-mentals. However, black or red, he is always well put on. I am sure he looks just out of a band-box; and I got it all out of one of the men as it's a army tailor, which he wrote again and again, and sent his bill, and the captain he took no notice; then the tailor he sent him a writ, and the captain he took no notice; then the tailor he lawed him, but the captain he kep' on a taking no more notice nor if it was a dog a barking, and then a putting all them ere barks one after another in a letter, and sending them by the post; so the end is, the captain is arrested; and now he behooves to attend a bit to what is a going on around an about him, as the saying is, and so he is waiting to pay you his respects before he starts for Bridewell."
"My fatal advice! I ruin all my friends."
"Keep dark," says he; "don't tell a soul except Miss Fountain."
"Where is he? Oh?"
Jane offered to show her that, and took her to the stable yard. Arriving with a face full of tender pity and concern, Lucy was not a little surprised to find the victim smoking cigars in the center of his smoking captors. The men touched their hats, and Captain Kenealy said: "Isn't it a boa, Miss Fountain? they won't let me do your little commission. In London they will go anywhere with a fellaa."
"London ye knows," explained the assistant, "but this here is full of hins and houts, and folyidge."
"Oh, sir," cried Lucy to the best-dressed captor, "surely you will not be so cruel as to take a gentleman like Captain Kenealy to prison?"
"Very sorry, marm, but we 'ave no hoption: takes 'em every day; don't we, Bill?"
"But, sir, as it is only for money, can you not be induced by--by--money--"
"Bill, lady's going to pay the debtancosts. Show her the ticket. Debt eighty pund, costs seven pund eighteen six."
"What! will you liberate him if I pay you eighty-eight pounds?"
"Well, marm, to oblige you we will; won't we, Bill?"
He winked. Bill nodded.
"Then pray stay here a minute, and this shall be arranged to your entire satisfaction"; and she glided swiftly away, followed by Jane, wriggling.
"Quite the lady, Bill."
"Kevite. Captn is in luck. Hare ve to be at the vedding, capn?"
"Dem your impudence! I'll cross-buttock yah!"
"Hold your tongue, Bill--queering a gent. Draw it mild, captain. Debtancosts ain't paid yet. Here they come, though."
Lucy returned swiftly, holding aloft a slip of paper.
"There, sir, that is a check for 90 pounds; it is the same thing as money, you are doubtless aware." The man took it and inspected it keenly.
Very sorry, marm, but can't take it. It's a lady's check."
"What! is it not written properly?"
"Beautiful, marm. But when we takes these beautiful-wrote checks to the bank, the cry is always, 'No assets.'"
"But Uncle Bazalgette said everybody would give me money for it."
"What! is Mr. Bazalgette your uncle, marm? then you go to him, and get his check in place of yours, and the captain will be free as the birds in the hair."
"Oh, thank you, sir," cried Lucy, and the next minute she was in Mr. Bazalgette's study. "Uncle, don't be angry with me: it is for no unworthy purpose; only don't ask me; it might mortify another; but would you give me a check of your own for mine? They will not receive mine."
Mr. Bazalgette looked grave, and even sad; but he sat quietly down without a word, and drew her a check, taking hers, which he locked in his desk. The tears were in Lucy's eyes at his gravity and his delicacy. "Some day I will tell you," said she. "I have nothing to reproach myself, indeed--indeed."
"Make the rogue--or jade--give you a receipt," groaned Bazalgette.
"All right, marm, this time. Captain, the world is hall before you where to chewse. But this is for ninety, marm;" and he put his hand very slowly into his pocket.
"Do me the favor to keep the rest for your trouble, sir."
"Trouble's a pleasure, marm. It is not often we gets a tip for taking a gent. Ve are funk shin hairies as is not depreciated, mam, and the more genteel we takes 'em the rougher they cuts; and the very women no more like you nor dark to light; but flies at us like ryal Bengal tigers, through taking of us for the creditors."
"Verehas we hare honly servants of the ke veen;" suggested No. 2, hashing his mistress's English.
"Stow your gab, Bill, and mizzle. Let the captain thank the lady. Good-day, marm."
"Oh, my poor friend, what language! and my ill advice threw you into their company!"
Captain Kenealy told her, in his brief way, that the circumstance was one of no import, except in so far as it had impeded his discharge of his duty to her. He then mounted the pony, which had been waiting for him more than half an hour.
"But it is five o'clock," said Lucy; "you will be too late for dinner."
"Dinner be dem--d," drawled the man of action, and rode off like a flash.
"It is to be, then," said Lucy, and her heart ebbed. It had ebbed and flowed a good many times in the last hour or two.
Captain Kenealy reappeared in the middle of dinner. Lucy scanned his face, but it was like the outside of a copy-book, and she was on thorns. Being too late, he lost his place near her at dinner, and she could not whisper to him. However, when the ladies retired he opened the door, and Lucy let fall a word at his feet: "Come up before the rest."
Acting on this order, Kenealy came up, and found Lucy playing sad tunes softly on the piano and Mrs. Bazalgette absent. She was trying something on upstairs. He gave Lucy a note from Mrs. Wilson. She opened it, and the joyful color suffused her cheek, and she held out her hand to him; but, as she turned her head away mighty prettily at the same time, she did not see the captain was proffering a second document, and she was a little surprised when, instead of a warm grasp, all friendship and no love, a piece of paper was shoved into her delicate palm. She took it; looked first at Kenealy, then at it, and was sore puzzled.
The document was in Kenealy's handwriting, and at first Lucy thought it must be intended as a mere specimen of caligraphy; for not only was it beautifully written, but in letters of various sizes. There were three gigantic vowels, I. O. U. There were little wee notifications of time and place, and other particulars of medium size. The general result was that Henry Kenealy O'd Lucy Fountain ninety pound for value received per loan. Lucy caught at the meaning. "But, my dear friend," said she, innocently, "you mistake. I did not lend it you; I meant to give it you. Will you not accept it? Are we not friends?"
"Much oblaiged. Couldn't do it. Dishonable."
"Oh, pray do not let me wound your pride. I know what it is to have one's pride wounded; call it a loan if you wish. But, dear friend, what am I to do with this?"
"When you want the money, order your man of business to present it to me, and, if I don't pay, lock me up, for I shall deserve it."
"I think I understand. This is a memorandum--a sort of reminder."
"Then clearly I am not the person to whom it should be given. No; if you want to be reminded of this mighty matter, put this in your desk; if it gets into mine, you will never see it again; I will give you fair warning. There--hide it--quick--here they come."
They did come, all but Mr. Bazalgette, who was at work in his study. Mr. Talboys came up to the piano and said gravely, "Miss Fountain, are you aware of the fate of the lugger--of the boat we went out in?"
Indeed I am. I have sent the poor widow some clothes and a little money."
"I have only just been informed of it," said Mr. Talboys, "and I feel under considerable obligations to Mr. Dodd."
"The feeling does you credit."
"Should you meet him, will you do me the honor to express my gratitude to him?"
"I would, with pleasure, Mr. Talboys, but there is no chance whatever of my seeing Mr. Dodd. His sister is staying in Market Street, No. 80, and if you would call on them or write to them, it would be a kindness, and I think they would both feel it."
"Humph!" said Talboys, doubtfully. Here a servant stepped up to Miss Fountain. "Master would be glad to see you in his study, miss."
"I have got something for you, Lucy. I know what it is, so run away with it, and read it in your own room, for I am busy." He handed her a long sealed packet. She took it, trembling, and flew to her own room with it, like a hawk carrying off a little bird to its nest. She broke the enormous seal and took out the inclosure. It was David Dodd's commission. He was captain of the Rajah, the new ship of eleven hundred tons' burden.
While she gazes at it with dilating eye and throbbing heart, I may as well undeceive the reader. This was not really effected in forty-eight hours. Bazalgette only pretended that, partly out of fun, partly out of nobility. Ever since a certain interview in his study with David Dodd, who was a man after his own heart, he had taken a note, and had worked for him with "the Company;" for Bazalgette was one of those rare men who reduce performance to a certainty long before they promise. His promises were like pie-crust made to be eaten, and eaten hot.
Lucy came out of her room, and at the same moment issued forth from hers Mrs. Bazalgette in a fine new dress. It was that black glace; silk, divested of gloom by cheerful accessories, in which she had threatened to mourn eternally Lucy's watery fate. Fire flashed from the young lady's eyes at the sight of it. She went down to her uncle, muttering between her ivory teeth: "All the same--all the same;" and her heart flowed. The next minute, at sight of Mr. Bazalgette it ebbed. She came into his room, saying: "Oh, Uncle Bazalgette, it is not to thank you--that I can never do worthily; it is to ask another favor. Do, pray, let me spend this evening with you; let me be where you are. I will be as still as a mouse. See, I have brought some work; or, if you would but let me help you. Indeed, uncle, I am not a fool. I am very quick to learn at the bidding of those I love. Let me write your letters for you, or fold them up, or direct them, or something--do, pray!"
"Oh, the caprices of young ladies! Well, can you write large and plain? Not you."
"I can imitate anything or anybody."
"Imitate this hand then. I'll walk and dictate, you sit and write."
"Oh, how nice!"
"Delicious! The first is to--Hetherington. Now, Lucy, this is a dishonest, ungrateful old rogue, who has made thousands by me, and now wants to let me into a mine, with nothing in it but water. It would suck up twenty thousand pounds as easily as that blotting-paper will suck up our signature."
"Heartless traitor! monster!" cried Lucy.
"Are you ready?"
"Yes," and her eye flashed and the pen was to her a stiletto.
Bazalgette dictated, "My dear Sir--"
"What? to a cheat?"
"Custom, child. I'll have a stamp made. Besides, if we let them see we see through them, they would play closer and closer--"
"My dear Sir--In answer to yours of date 11th instant, I regret to say--that circumstances prevent--my closing--with your obliging--and friendly offer."
They wrote eight letters; and Lucy's quick fingers folded up prospectuses, and her rays brightened the room. When the work was done, she clung round Mr. Bazalgette and caressed him, and seemed strangely unwilling to part with him at all; in fact, it was twelve o'clock, and the drawing-room empty, when they parted.
At one o'clock the whole house was dark except one room, and both windows of that room blazed with light. And it happened there was a spectator of this phenomenon. A man stood upon the grass and eyed those lights as if they were the stars of his destiny.
It was David Dodd. Poor David! he had struck a bargain, and was to command a coasting vessel, and carry wood from the Thames to our southern ports. An irresistible impulse brought him to look, before he sailed, on the place that held the angel who had destroyed his prospects, and whom he loved as much as ever, though he was too proud to court a second refusal.
"She watches, too," thought David, "but it is not for me, as I for her."
At half past one the lights began to dance before his wearied eyes, and presently David, weakened by his late fever, dozed off and forgot all his troubles, and slept as sweetly on the grass as he had often slept on the hard deck, with his head upon a gun.
Luck was against the poor fellow. He had not been unconscious much more than ten minutes when Lucy's window opened and she looked out; and he never saw her. Nor did she see him; for, though the moon was bright, it was not shining on him; he lay within the shadow of a tree. But Lucy did see something--a light upon the turnpike road about forty yards from Mr. Bazalgette's gates. She slipped cautiously down, a band-box in her hand, and, unbolting the door that opened on the garden, issued out, passed within a few yards of Dodd, and went round to the front, and finally reached the turnpike road. There she found Mrs. Wilson, with a light-covered cart and horse, and a lantern. At sight of her Mrs. Wilson put out the light, and they embraced; then they spoke in whispers.
"Come, darling, don't tremble; have you got much more?"
"Oh, yes, several things."
"Look at that, now! But, dear heart, I was the same at your age, and should be now, like enough. Fetch them all, as quick as you like. I am feared to leave Blackbird, or I'd help you down with 'em."
"Is there nobody with you to take care of us?"
"What do you mean--men folk? Not if I know it."
"You are right. You are wise. Oh, how courageous!" And she went back for her finery. And certain it is she had more baggage than I should choose for a forced march.
But all has an end--even a female luggage train; so at last she put out all her lights and came down, stepping like a fairy, with a large basket in her hand.
Now it happened that by this time the moon's position was changed, and only a part of David lay in the shade; his head and shoulders glittered in broad moonlight; and Lucy, taking her farewell of a house where she had spent many happy days, cast her eyes all around to bid good-by, and spied a man lying within a few paces, and looking like a corpse in the silver sheen. She dropped her basket; her knees knocked together with fear, and she flew toward Mrs. Wilson. But she did not go far, for the features, indistinct as they were by distance and pale light, struck her mind, and she stopped and looked timidly over her shoulder. The figure never moved. Then, with beating heart, she went toward him slowly and so stealthily that she would have passed a mouse without disturbing it, and presently she stood by him and looked down on him as he lay.
And as she looked at him lying there, so pale, so uncomplaining, so placid, under her windows, this silent proof of love, and the thought of the raging sea this helpless form had steered her through, and all he had suffered as well as acted for her, made her bosom heave, and stirred all that was woman within her. He loved her still, then, or why was he here? And then the thought that she had done something for him too warmed her heart still more toward him. And there was nothing for her to repel now, for he lay motionless; there was nothing for her to escape--he did not pursue her; nothing to negative--he did not propose anything to her. Her instinct of defense had nothing to lay hold of; so, womanlike, she had a strong impulse to wake him and be kind to him--as kind as she could be without committing herself. But, on the other hand, there was shy, trembling, virgin modesty, and shame that he should detect her making a midnight evasion, and fear of letting him think she loved him.
While she stood thus, with something drawing her on and something drawing her back, and palpitating in every fiber, Mrs. Wilson's voice was heard in low but anxious tones calling her. A feather turned the balanced scale. She must go. Fate had decided for her. She was called. Then the sprites of mischief tempted her to let David know she had been near him. She longed to put his commission into his pocket; but that was impossible. It was at the very bottom of her box. She took out her tablets, wrote the word "Adieu," tore out half the leaf, and, bending over David, attached the little bit of paper by a pin to the tail of his coat. If he had been ever so much awake he could not have felt her doing it; for her hand touching him, and the white paper settling on his coat, was all done as lights a spot of down on still water from the bending neck of a swan.
"No, dear Mrs. Wilson, we must not go yet. I will hold the horse, and you must go back for me for something."
"I'm agreeable. What is it? Why, what is up? How you do pant!"
"I have made a discovery. There is a gentleman lying asleep there on the wet grass."
"Lackadaisy! why, you don't say so."
"It is a friend; and he will catch his death."
"Why, of course he will. He will have had a drop too much, Miss Lucy. I'll wake him, and we will take him along home with us."
"Oh, not for the world, nurse. I would not have him see what I am doing, oh, not for all the world!"
"Where is he?"
"In there, under the great tree."
"Well, you get into the cart, miss, and hold the reins"; and Mrs. Wilson went into the grounds and soon found David.
She put her hand on his shoulder, and he awoke directly, and looked surprised at Mrs. Wilson.
"Are you better, sir?" said the good woman. "Why, if it isn't the handsome gentleman that was so kind to me! Now do ee go in, sir--do ee go in. You will catch your death o' cold." She made sure he was staying at the house.
David looked up at Lucy's windows. "Yes, I will go home, Mrs. Wilson; there is nothing to stay for now"; and he accompanied her to the cart. But Mrs. Wilson remembered Lucy's desire not to be seen; so she said very loud, "I'm sure it's very lucky me and my niece happened to be coming home so late, and see you lying there. Well, one good turn deserves another. Come and see me at my farm; you go through the village of Harrowden, and anybody there will tell you where Dame Wilson do live. I would ask you to-night, but--" she hesitated, and Lucy let down her veil.
"No, thank you, not now; my sister will be fretting as it is. Good-morning"; and his steps were heard retreating as Mrs. Wilson mounted the cart.
"Well, I should have liked to have taken him home and warmed him a bit," said the good woman to Lucy; "it is enough to give him the rheumatics for life. However, he is not the first honest man as has had a drop too much, and taken 's rest without a feather-bed. Alack, miss, why, you are all of a tremble! What ails you? I'm a fool to ask. Ah! well, you'll soon be at home, and naught to vex you. That is right; have a good cry, do. Ay, ay, 'tis hard to be forced to leave our nest. But all places are bright where love abides; and there's honest hearts both here and there, and the same sky above us wherever we wander, and the God of the fatherless above that; and better a peaceful cottage than a palace full of strife." And with many such homely sayings the rustic consoled her nursling on their little journey, not quite in vain.
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