Dorothy Forster, by Walter Besant

Chapter xix.

My Decision.

Just as Mr. Forster’s visit to Dilston is by some pretended to have had a political meaning, so Lord Derwentwater’s visit to Bamborough in the following June is also wrongly so described, as will immediately become apparent. In truth, there was in neither any political or rebellious intentions whatever; but as at Dilston the Radcliffe cousins assembled to keep their Christmas and New Year with the Earl, so at Bamborough the Protestant gentlemen, including those who then and afterwards remained well affected to the Hanover usurpation, gathered together to meet Lord Derwentwater. People in the south cannot understand how Protestants and Catholics can meet in Northumberland without immediately falling to loggerheads and quarrelling about the Pope. And it seems the belief of the common sort in London that the appearance of a Catholic should be the signal for the throwing of brickbats, dead cats, and stones at his head. This kind of piety we do not understand. Alas! it was my unhappiness during this time of company, when everyone expected smiles and a face of joy, to feel that such a reply would have to be given to my lord as would fill two hearts with unhappiness. I carried Lady Crewe’s letter with me always, not for comfort, but for support, for it afforded me small consolation to know that I had the permission or license of the Church to make myself unhappy. Father Howard, on the other hand, would have given me authority to be happy. I perceived, too, that Mr. Hilyard had fully divined my secret, because he now sat glum, and looked at me with eyes full of pity, though he spoke not for a time. This is a grievous thing for a young woman who hath a great secret, to find that a third person has guessed it; for then must she either confess it to that person, in which case she blabs the secret of another, or she must go on pretending to hide what has already been discovered, like an ostrich with her eggs, or the pelican who is said to bury her head in the sand, and so to think that all is concealed. Mr. Hilyard gave no sign of his discovery save by tell-tale eyes, which, dissimulator of looks though he was, could not hide from me the truth that he knew my trouble and sorrow.

A day or two before my lord arrived, he began, Tom being present, to speak very briskly about badgers, otters, cub-foxes, seafowl, and other things with which his lordship might be amused; and presently, Tom having withdrawn, he said to me gravely:

‘Miss Dorothy, I would that I could hope to see the roses return to your cheeks when my lord comes. Believe me, those others who love you (in thine own station and with the respect due) take it greatly to heart that they see you thus going in sorrow and trouble.’

At these kind words I began to cry and lament.

‘Nay,’ he said, ‘there is, be assured, no man in the world worth your tears. And there is remedy for those who will find it, as is shown in the “Remedium Amoris.” Cressida forsook Troilus for Diomede; Paris left Oenone for Helen; Helen preferred, to the tender care of the best of husbands, Paris and the flouts of the Trojan ladies; one Cupid is painted contending with another, because one love driveth out another.’

‘I know not,’ I replied, ‘how there can be two loves in one life. These are idle words, Mr. Hilyard. What is Helen or Cressida to me?’

‘It were much to be desired,’ said Mr. Hilyard, without replying to this question, ‘that the passion of love could be treated as copiously and minutely by ingenious women as it hath been by men, who have written all the love-stories and poems on love, so that the world may very well learn the miseries caused by that passion in men, and its incitements, growth, violence, and remedies. Yet for women there has been nothing (a few fragments by Sappho excepted) written by themselves to tell of the origin, symptoms, and strength of the passion, nor how it differs from the corresponding emotion in men. So that, though physicians may very well understand the existence of the disease (if it be a disease), even though it exhibit to outward view less violent symptoms than in men, they are apt to treat it as if it were the same in kind, whereas (as I conceive and in my poor judgment) it is by no means of the same kind. This I could make manifest to you, had you the patience to listen.’

‘Indeed, sir,’ I said, ‘I doubt not that you are a very learned person; but suffer me, pray, to know my own heart without your interpretation.’

‘For the cure of love in young men,’ he went on, ‘there are prescribed many things of little service in the case of the other sex. For instance, fasting, exercise, study, the use of lettuce, melons, water-lilies, and rue, combined (in obstinate cases) with flogging. None of these remedies seem convenient or apt for a woman; indeed, for a true remedium amoris I think there is nothing absolutely sovereign for a woman, except the comprehension or the discovery that the object of her passion, on account of some vitium or defect which he may possess in mind or body, is among his fellows contemptible or mean. Others think that a woman is most easily cured by the knowledge of her lover’s infidelity or loss of affection; but this produces jealousy, and jealousy incites to revenge, or even madness. Wherefore, Miss Dorothy, I would recommend to all young ladies who are in love that they should steadily keep before their imaginations the imperfections of their lovers.’

‘Oh, sir,’ I cried, ‘this talk is trifling! You have found out my secret and shamed me. You know that I love a man whom I cannot marry. Let that be enough. Why tease me with this foolish prating of lettuce and water-lilies? My lord may —— nay, he must —— go away and find another woman for his wife. This must I bear without jealousy or revenge, as a Christian woman should, because there is no help for it. But that I should think upon his defects, who hath none! Fie, Mr. Hilyard! I thought not you could say anything so foolish and so cruel.’

‘Forgive me,’ he replied, seeing that I was now moved to anger.

‘Why, after this foolish talk about fickle women (I may not have been so beautiful as Helen, but I have certainly been more constant), and about the symptoms of love (as if any woman who respects herself would talk to a man about her thoughts and hopes), and about love’s remedies and lettuces (as if what one eats and drinks could alter the affections of the heart!)—— after all this talk, I say, to advise me that I should fix my mind on my lord’s imperfections —— of all men the least imperfect!’

‘Forgive me, Miss Dorothy. I know of no defects in his lordship, except that he hath made you unhappy with loving you —— a thing which he could not help, unless he had been the most insensible of men. Yet I would venture on anything if I could only restore the merry face of my mistress. Did you take counsel with any —— any in authority?’

Here he blushed and looked shamefaced; I know not why.

‘Lady Crewe hath written to me, enjoining me, in the name of the Bishop, to proceed no farther.’

‘Yet your happiness is more to me —— I mean, to yourself —— even than the order of the Bishop. Wherefore, Miss Dorothy’ (he endeavoured to speak boldly, but failed, and spoke in some confusion, like unto one who first would open up his mind as regards a horrid crime)——‘wherefore let us consider that case of conscience which you once laid before me again. It may be that —— we shall see —— the Bishop may not thoroughly understand. There are excuses’ (he seemed feeling about for them). ‘It may very well be argued that a young gentlewoman, such as you described in your questions, might be considered as an exceptional case; for not only her own, but also her lover’s happiness, is concerned. And he a great nobleman. And though we hold a purer form of faith, yet it cannot be denied that the Catholics have a most venerable ——’

‘Oh, Mr. Hilyard,’ I interrupted, ‘your arguments come too late!’

‘If you are unhappy,’ he replied, ‘how much more I, who am the cause!’

‘You the cause?’

‘Yes,’ he hung his head; ‘because —— because —— well, if I had given a different reply to that question.’

He sighed again, and went away; but looked as if there was something still on his mind, if he dared to say it out. And still he was silent, and behaved like one with a burden on his conscience when in my company. But this did not at all prevent him from being in good voice, and with a cheerful countenance, such as becomes a man who is happy and of a clear conscience, when Mr. Forster had visitors and the drinking and singing began. However, I had long ceased to wonder at the variations in this man, all for virtue in the morning, with a conscience tender, and converse pious and sincere. Yet in the evening, virtue forgotten, folly made welcome, and revelry proclaimed with wicked and idle songs.

The month of June is the spring of Northumberland, and a most beautiful time it is, when every morning yields a new surprise, and the dullest heart cannot but rejoice in the long days and the warm sunshine, after the cold east winds of April and May. In June the very sands upon the shore below the castle show of brighter hue, while the hedges are gay with flowers, and the trees are all glorious with their new finery of leaf. Nowhere, Mr. Hilyard assures me, are the leaves of the trees more large and full, or the flowers of field, hedge, and ditch more varied, than in this favoured country. It is in this month that a young lover should woo his mistress; it was in this month that Lord Derwentwater came to pay his court to one who was, alas! bidden to say him nay.

He came for no other purpose —— though it was given out that he came to stay with Tom Forster, to visit his property in the north of the county (in right of this the north transept of Bamborough Church belonging to him), to talk politics, and whatever the people pleased —— he came, I say, with no other object than to see me, and to remind me that the six months had come to an end.

On the first day, and on the second, and on the third, there was no opportunity for private discourse between us, because there was no moment when so honoured a guest was left alone to follow his own course unattended; one gentleman after another being presented to his lordship, and continual amusements (whereof great men must become wearied) being provided for him. But still he followed me with eyes full of love, and still I trembled, thinking of what was to come, and how I should find the courage to say it.

The first day he explored, with a great company, the dismantled and ruinous chambers of the great castle, Mr. Hilyard going with the party in order to discourse upon the history and antiquities of the place, to describe its sieges, and to enlarge upon the greatness of the Forsters, so that some gentlemen present of equally good family wished that they, too, had in their own houses an Oxford scholar who could keep their accounts, rehearse, as if he were a great historian, the ancient glories of their line, and in the evening sing, and act, and play the buffoon for them to laugh. Truly a valuable servant, a Phoenix of stewards! Lord Derwentwater spoke in great admiration of this venerable pile, compared with which, he said, his own ruined castle of Langley was small and insignificant. He also made some very pertinent remarks about the decay of great families, and the passage of estates into the female line, and congratulated Mr. Forster the Elder (of Etherston) on the happy circumstances which still preserved this great monument for the original and parent stock, not knowing the truth, that the place belonged to none other than Lord Crewe.

In the evening there was a very splendid supper; not, truly, so fine as could be given at Dilston, but a banquet to simple gentlemen, and there was great havoc among the bottles, though as usual his lordship begged early to be excused, on the ground that though his heart was Northumbrian, his head was still French, and could not endure the generous potations of his friends. They would have been better pleased had he remained toasting and drinking with them, until all were laid on the floor together. In this manner, Indeed, many of them proved the friendliness with which they regarded his lordship.

The next day a party was made up to go a-shooting among the wild birds of the Staples and the Farnes, though there is little sport where the birds are so plentiful and so tame that it is mere slaughter and butchery. That seems to me true sport when a pheasant is discerned among the bushes, and presently put up; or a covey of partridges rises among the turnips, or a fox is made to stake his swiftness and cunning against the swiftness of the hounds; but it is a poor thing indeed to stand upon a rock and shoot among a flying crowd of birds who have no fear of man.

On the morning of the fourth day, Lord Derwentwater rose early, and finding me already up and dressed, surprised me by asking for a dish of chocolate. The habit of drinking chocolate in the morning, although it hath found great favour (surely it is a most delightful and wholesome beverage) among the ladies, is as yet little esteemed by the gentlemen of the north. To these last a tankard of small-ale is considered better for the composing of the stomach and the satisfying of thirst.

‘You shall have, my lord,’ I said, ‘as fine a dish of chocolate as if you were at St. Germain’s itself.’

I begged him to wait a few minutes only, and ran quickly and called Jenny, my maid, to help me. Then, though my heart was beating, I made the chocolate with my own hands, strong, hot, and foaming, while Jenny spread a white cloth and laid the table in the garden under a walnut-tree. When the chocolate was ready I found a new scone made of the finest meal, boiled two or three eggs, and spread all out, with cream and yellow butter from the dairy, and a dish of last year’s honey.

‘Your breakfast is ready, my lord,’ I said, like a waiting-maid. ‘But you must take it in the garden, where I have laid it for you.’

He followed me, and protested that he had neither expected nor deserved so great an honour as to be served by Miss Dorothy.

‘I am pleased,’ I said, ‘and honoured in doing so small a service for your lordship, if you can eat eggs and honey and drink chocolate, instead of pressed beef and beer.’

‘It is the food of the gods,’ he replied, ‘or, at least, of Arcadia shepherds. Dorothy, was there ever in Arcadia such a shepherdess?’

One knows not what might have been said further had not Mr. Hilyard appeared abruptly, taking the early air in a morning-gown, ragged and worn. He would have retired, seeing his lordship, but I bade him stay.

‘Here is another of our shepherds,’ I said. ‘But fie, Mr. Hilyard! Do shepherds in Arcadia wear ragged gowns when they rise in the morning to see great noblemen?’

‘Mr. Hilyard will not allow anyone to forget him,’ said his lordship kindly. ‘He discourses learnedly by day on history and antiquity, and in the evening he displays the powers of the most accomplished mime. I thank you, sir, for your exertions in both capacities. Especially, let me say, for the former.’

‘My lord,’ said Mr. Hilyard, ‘I am like the nightingale. My pipe is kept for the evening. By day I am at the commands of Miss Dorothy.’

‘Then, sir, truly you ought to be the happiest of men.’

‘My lord,’ replied Mr. Hilyard gravely, ‘I have the kindest and best of mistresses, who hath ever treated me with a consideration I should be the basest wretch not to feel and acknowledge. In this house there is not one who doth not daily pray for her happiness, and I, who am the most unworthy, pray the most continually.’

So saying, he bowed low and left the garden, for which I thanked him in my heart, knowing why he did so; and yet trembled, because I remembered my weakness at Dilston, and that I would need to keep careful watch over my words, to discipline my inclinations, and to submit myself and my will wholly to the authority of the Bishop.

Then were we left alone in the garden, whither in the early morning none ever came, except sometimes the gardener. The place was well fitted for our talk, being a bower surrounded on two sides by a hawthorn hedge, now all in blossom and at its sweetest; on the third side having an elderberry-tree, just preparing to flower, and looking upon the bowling-green. Often in the warm evenings the gentlemen would take their tobacco after supper in this retreat.

‘Will your lordship first eat your breakfast?’ I said, when Mr. Hilyard left us. ‘I hope you will find the chocolate to your liking. Let me give you a little more cream; the eggs are new laid this morning; the air should sharpen your appetite’—— talking fast, so that he might be tempted to go on eating, and forget for a moment what was in his mind. But he pushed the plate from him.

‘Dorothy,’ he cried, ‘you think that I can eat when I have found at last an opportunity to speak with you? For what reason, think you, did I come here? Was it to shoot birds on the islands? Was it to drink the Prince’s health?’

‘Alas! my lord, can you not refrain for a little while? Oh, let me be happy for a short half-hour in serving you! Let me talk of other things —— of Dilston. Is your brother, Mr. Frank, well and cheerful? Is Mr. Charles still in good spirits? How is the good Mr. Howard?’

‘No, Dorothy, I cannot refrain. I must tell you —— because I came here to tell you —— that I love you more and more. I think upon your image by day and by night. Five months of meditation have made me only more thy slave. My dear, give me life, or bid me go away and die.’

Now, Heaven guard the religion of a poor weak woman!

Then, while he fell upon his knee and kissed my hand as he had done at Dilston, the same strange weakness fell upon me, like a swoon or fainting-fit; my knees trembled as I stood; my heart began to beat fast, my eyes swam, and I said nothing. Oh! so overwhelming and so strong is this passion in man that it carries away a woman, too, like a straw in a current. And all this while his voice fell upon my ear like music.

‘Oh, Dorothy, Dorothy! there is nowhere in this world so divine a face; there are no blue eyes like thine, my dear; there is no voice so sweet as thine; there are no such soft brown curls, no cheeks so red and white, no lips so rosy. Oh, my dear! if I was in love with thee at Christmas, I am ten times more in love at Midsummer.’

Again I felt the pang, but now with tenfold agony, of the Bishop’s injunction —— ah! why is virtue always so harsh? Again was I tempted, so that if he had, in a way, forced me —— if he had only taken me in his arms and sworn never to let me go till I promised to be of his religion, I must most certainly have yielded. He did not —— sinner that I am, I have never ceased to be sorry that he did not —— therefore religion triumphed, and I remain a Protestant to this hour. Yet at that moment I would have thrown all away —— yes, all —— obedience to my Bishop, to my aunt, the faith in which I had been educated, all to go away with this man and cleave unto him. Never again, never again can I be so tempted; never again could there happen to me temptation like unto this. Kind Heaven will not suffer it more than once in a lifetime.

‘Oh! rise, my lord,’ I cried at last. ‘At least let us talk together reasonably. I am not a goddess; I am a poor weak woman, ignorant and rustic; I am not worthy of your regard. Leave me to my own people.’

He obeyed and rose, but his eyes were wild and his cheek flushed. He walked to and fro for a space, swinging his arms, until he grew composed. Then he came back to me and tried to talk soberly.

He spoke, as he always did, with the greatest modesty about himself. He was fully aware, he said, that an education in France, although it had not made him a Frenchman, very much separated him from his countrymen; so that on his return he found the customs strange to him, and the language, though he spoke English from the cradle, difficult.

‘Moreover,’ he said, ‘I know that my manners are not yours. I have not the frank cordiality of your brother, or the boisterous jollity of his friends; I cannot drink with them; I am not accustomed to their noisy fox-hunting, otter-hunting, badger-baiting; it is strange to me when a gentleman takes a quarterstaff and for half an hour belabours, and is belaboured by, a rustic; in my very dress I lack the simplicity which distinguishes them.’ (Here I could not choose but smile, because it was a kind of nature in the Earl to dress finely; and if fine clothes are not made for such as Lord Derwentwater, for whom should they be made?) ‘Again, I know not rightly how to treat my people. In France they are not considered; they make the roads, plough the land, find the soldiers, pay the taxes, but they are not regarded. A French noble is like a creature of another race, to whom the lower race is born subject. I hear of the English freedom and independence; yet when I come home I am received with ten times the welcome and respect which the French canaille use towards their betters. Here they do not hate the noblesse; on the contrary, they love them. Why, in France a noble thinks little of kicking, beating, and cuffing any man of the lower orders, even if he be a scholar or a poet. Here, gentle or simple, if you strike a man he will return the blow, with the law at his back and no Bastille to fear. So great a thing is liberty! And so hard it is for a gentleman to know how rightly to treat his people! Their friend I would fain be; their equal I cannot be; their oppressor I might be, yet would rather die. How to deserve their love and to retain their respect? Dorothy, let it be your task to teach me!’

‘Alas! my lord, there are many better teachers than myself.’

‘Nay. I have been walking in the village with Mr. Hilyard, and speaking with the people. Everywhere it is the same story —— the goodness of Miss Dorothy: how kind she is to the poor; of what an open hand and tender heart! There are more poor on the Radcliffe estates than at Bamborough; come to them and be their guardian angel.’

I replied, but with trembling voice, that an angel I could never be; and as for going to Dilston, that was impossible, and I must, alas! still remain at the Manor House.

‘There is so great a difference,’ he went on, ‘between the people of France and of England. Here they dance not on a Sunday, nor is there any playing of the pipe; they do not laugh and sing greatly, yet they are better fed and better dressed, and are truly more happy; they seem sad at first, but they are not sad; sometimes they seem surly, yet they may be trusted. Teach me, Dorothy, better to know this brave folk of Northumberland.’

‘Oh, my lord,’ I replied, ‘you are learning every day; you will understand them soon, far better than I could teach you.’

For a reason which you will presently hear, he did not learn to understand them, and with all his virtues never became quite a Northumbrian.

‘And I am separated from the rest, though there are many Catholics in this country, by our religion. This one does not understand in a Catholic country, where the hatred of the faith by Protestants is not comprehended. Men such as myself, who would fain know the true temper of the people, are open to great danger of deceit. Already I perceive that many things currently reported at St. Germain’s were false. In the business of his Highness, we are dependent on our messengers, who may have their own purposes to serve, and may see with eyes of exaggeration.’ He stopped and sighed. ‘For all these reasons, Dorothy, take pity on me.’

‘My lord, if pity be of any use, from my very heart would I give you that pity.’

‘If you give it, show it, Dorothy; give me, as well, your hand.’

I made no answer. It was too much for me to bear, that he, so noble and so good, should sue thus humbly for so small a thing.

‘Let me see with those sweet English eyes,’ he said. ‘Let me be taught by that voice, which is all the music I care to hear.’

‘Oh, my lord, it cannot be! Nay, do not force a poor girl against her conscience. First, I am a simple gentlewoman, and know not the manners of the Court. What would her ladyship, your mother, say of such a match?’

‘It needs not,’ he answered, ‘to consider my mother’s objections, if she have any. She is now with her third husband, and has no longer any right to be consulted. That is not your reason, Dorothy.’

Like all women, I played round the point as if I would escape it.

‘Next, my lord, you want one who in manner and appearance would adorn the high place to which you raise your Countess.’

Here, indeed, he vehemently protested that there never had been, and never would be, one more beautiful, more gracious, more worthy of the highest rank than the fair Dorothy.

‘And yet,’ he said, ‘these are not your reasons. Why, for your sake would I give up rank and dignities, with all my possessions —— happy with you if I had to go to the plantations of Virginia, or the savage wilds of New England.’

‘No, my lord; those are not my reasons. Alas! I have but one reason. Father Howard instructed me six months ago what that reason would be.’

‘Dorothy, have you not listened to his arguments?’

‘Indeed, my lord, I have read them all, and with a heart willing to be convinced, Heaven knows! Why, what should I have to reply when a scholar tells me this and that? How can a poor woman do more than obey authority and trust in the Lord? Yet just as your own honour keeps you to the faith in which you were trained, so does mine forbid me to leave my own save by permission and authority of those who are my natural pastors and masters. For if I did, I believe I should have no more, as long as I live, any rest or comfort in my conscience.’

He made no reply at first to this.

‘It is your honour, my lord, as you have yourself told me. Would it be to my honour if I, being too ignorant to decide on these grave questions, were to abandon the faith of my people, presumptuously give them the lie, and assure so great a scholar as the Lord Bishop of Durham that he is wrong? Can I do this thing, my lord, even for your sake?’

‘Is this, then,’ he asked sadly, ‘the only thing which stands between us? Good God! that we should part because priests cannot agree!’

‘Yes,’ I said; ‘there is nothing else, believe me. Can your lordship think that I am insensible to the offer of so much nobleness —— so far greater than any merit of mine? But yet it is an obstacle which cannot be overcome.’

‘Nay; but for my sake, Dorothy, listen to Mr. Howard. He will place before you, so plainly that there shall be no manner of doubt possible, reasons which shall compel you, without thinking of me at all, to come into the true Church. I would have no pretended convert. I do not ask you to listen to any arguments of mine; for, indeed, I am not a Doctor of Divinity —— I know not how to defend the Church. There are others who pray daily at the altar for thy conversion. When I came from Dilston, my aunt, whose heart you have won —— I mean the Lady Mary —— whispered to me, “Bring her back with you; Mr. Howard is ready to resolve her doubts, and I will pray for her.’”

I shook my head. There was more than a Mass between us. If it had been only a Mass, Mr. Howard might easily have removed all scruples with ease, because Love would have gone before to clear the way. There was, besides, the tall and venerable form of the Lord Bishop. He seemed at this moment to stand before me, upright as a dart, warning me with a frown, which made me tremble, not to sell my conscience for a wedding-ring.

‘Shall we say,’ Lord Derwentwater went on, ‘that your learning and reason are more than a match for Mr. Howard and all the Church? If it be so, then come and convert him and all of us. Only come and listen to him.’

‘Oh, I must not!’ I replied. ‘My lord, I have my own people to consider, as well as my own conscience. I doubt not —— I am a very weak woman —— that the reasons of Mr. Howard, and the prayers of Lady Mary, and my own inclination would speedily effect the conversion which you desire. Yet I am strictly admonished by the Bishop, Lord Crewe, that I already belong to a Church with authority, and that it is the Church of my father and mother.’

‘Dorothy, it is for love! By Heaven, if you love me as I love you, no priest, be he bishop or not, shall stand between us! Keep your own religion then, my dear; worship how you please. It must surely be a true religion which such an angel would profess. Go to your own Church —— have your own priest; I will never interfere. Only suffer me to have mine.’

Then, indeed, was I for a moment overwhelmed, and felt as if, after all my doubts, heaven itself were opening to me. Each to keep his own religion! Why, what could be a happier settlement? And love to remain! Ah, happy ending!

Yet I know now full well that, had I yielded, there would have been worse trouble before me, and the misery of being torn from my lover’s arms when I thought myself folded securely there for ever. No one, on either side, would have allowed the marriage; either I must be received into the Catholic religion, which the Bishop and Lady Crewe, to say nothing of my father and Tom, would never permit, or Lord Derwentwater must come over to the Protestants —— a thing which his people would, with all their powers, oppose.

I was saved by timely, nay, providential, reason. I thought of the dismal condition of parents who agree not in religion, and would each fain bring up the children in different ways, which must be intolerable to a mother; and of the dreadful thing to live with a man whom you fondly love, but concerning whose soul and ultimate fate you tremble continually; and to see your innocent children torn from the true Fold, and brought up in the way of superstition and error. All this I thought upon quickly, and without time to give it words; and then I strengthened my courage (though heart beat and lips were dry, and hands trembled and knees were sinking), and begged my lord, humbly, to go away and leave me, because I could bear the vehemence of his pleadings no longer. But, I added, I should never —— no, not if my days were prolonged far beyond the earthly span —— never forget the honour he had done me, and would pray for him night and morning, that he might obtain a wife worthy of him, and children brave and strong, with a long and happy life, and all the best and most precious gifts —— yea, and more —— that the Lord hath ever vouchsafed to man. Then, being an honourable gentleman, although so torn and distracted by his passion, he desisted, doing and saying no more than to stoop and kiss me upon my forehead, with a ——

‘Farewell, sweet Dorothy! Now must I go —— whither, and what to do, I know not, and care no longer.’

So I was left alone, and, sitting down, could weep and cry to my heart’s content.

How long I sat there I know not; but presently I heard a step in the garden, and Mr. Hilyard returned.

‘I met my lord,’ he said. ‘Distraction was in his look: he hath mounted his horse and ridden away. Oh! Miss Dorothy, my poor mistress, forgive me! it is my fault —— my doing —— all.’

He threw himself upon his knees.

‘Drive me away,’ he said; ‘I deserve nothing less. For it was none but I who wrote to Lady Crewe and told her of my lord’s passion and your doubt. Had it not been for that letter, the Bishop would have known nothing, and long before he could interfere you might have been received in Dilston Chapel. You have been my friend and benefactress, and this is my gratitude. Let me call him back. Why, we need not go to Mr. Howard; I know all his arguments. In half an hour I will convert you myself. In a quarter of an hour I will convince you. I will even ask to be received with you, so as to remain in your service. Be it on my head! It is the least that I can do.’

I bade him be silent, and leave me alone. Yet he was so repentant, and so strangely moved, that I gave him my hand in token of forgiveness, and told him that there was nothing to forgive.

Sometimes, since, I have blamed him for meddling. But, had he not informed Lady Crewe, the thing must have been told her by another, and, sooner or later, the whole business must be opened before her. Besides, he was but doing his duty to his mistress. Yet I have often wondered why, when my lord had me, so to speak, in a melting mood —— when my heart was torn to pieces with pity and with love —— he did not carry me away straight to the altar, when I might have been converted, received, baptized, confessed, and even married all in an hour, and before there was time to remember the Bishop at all.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/besant/walter/dorothy-forster/chapter19.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32