My Lady Ludlow, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Chapter XII.

I am ashamed to say what feeling became strongest in my mind about this time; next to the sympathy we all of us felt for my dear lady in her deep sorrow, I mean; for that was greater and stronger than anything else, however contradictory you may think it, when you hear all.

It might arise from my being so far from well at the time, which produced a diseased mind in a diseased body; but I was absolutely jealous for my father’s memory, when I saw how many signs of grief there were for my lord’s death, he having done next to nothing for the village and parish, which now changed, as it were, its daily course of life, because his lordship died in a far-off city. My father had spent the best years of his manhood in labouring hard, body and soul, for the people amongst whom he lived. His family, of course, claimed the first place in his heart; he would have been good for little, even in the way of benevolence, if they had not. But close after them he cared for his parishioners, and neighbours. And yet, when he died, though the church-bells tolled, and smote upon our hearts with hard, fresh pain at every beat, the sounds of every-day life still went on, close pressing around us — carts and carriages, street-cries, distant barrel-organs (the kindly neighbours kept them out of our street): life, active, noisy life, pressed on our acute consciousness of Death, and jarred upon it as on a quick nerve.

And when we went to church — my father’s own church — though the pulpit cushions were black, and many of the congregation had put on some humble sign of mourning, yet it did not alter the whole material aspect of the place. And yet what was Lord Ludlow’s relation to Hanbury, compared to my father’s work and place in-?

O! it was very wicked in me! I think if I had seen my lady — if I had dared to ask to go to her, I should not have felt so miserable, so discontented. But she sat in her own room, hung with black, all, even over the shutters. She saw no light but that which was artificial — candles, lamps, and the like — for more than a month. Only Adams went near her. Mr. Gray was not admitted, though he called daily. Even Mrs. Medlicott did not see her for near a fortnight. The sight of my lady’s griefs, or rather the recollection of it, made Mrs. Medlicott talk far more than was her wont. She told us, with many tears, and much gesticulation, even speaking German at times, when her English would not flow, that my lady sat there, a white figure in the middle of the darkened room; a shaded lamp near her, the light of which fell on an open Bible — the great family Bible. It was not open at any chapter or consoling verse; but at the page whereon were registered the births of her nine children. Five had died in infancy — sacrificed to the cruel system which forbade the mother to suckle her babies. Four had lived longer; Urian had been the first to die, Ughtred–Mortimar, Earl Ludlow, the last.

My lady did not cry, Mrs. Medlicott said. She was quite composed; very still, very silent. She put aside everything that savoured of mere business: sent people to Mr. Horner for that. But she was proudly alive to every possible form which might do honour to the last of her race.

In those days, expresses were slow things, and forms still slower. Before my lady’s directions could reach Vienna, my lord was buried. There was some talk (so Mrs. Medlicott said) about taking the body up, and bringing him to Hanbury. But his executors — connections on the Ludlow side — demurred to this. If he were removed to England, he must be carried on to Scotland, and interred with his Monkshaven forefathers. My lady, deeply hurt, withdrew from the discussion, before it degenerated to an unseemly contest. But all the more, for this understood mortification of my lady’s, did the whole village and estate of Hanbury assume every outward sign of mourning. The church bells tolled morning and evening. The church itself was draped in black inside. Hatchments were placed everywhere, where hatchments could be put. All the tenantry spoke in hushed voices for more than a week, scarcely daring to observe that all flesh, even that of an Earl Ludlow, and the last of the Hanburys, was but grass after all. The very Fighting Lion closed its front door, front shutters it had none, and those who needed drink stole in at the back, and were silent and maudlin over their cups, instead of riotous and noisy. Miss Galindo’s eyes were swollen up with crying, and she told me, with a fresh burst of tears, that even hump-backed Sally had been found sobbing over her Bible, and using a pocket-handkerchief for the first time in her life; her aprons having hitherto stood her in the necessary stead, but not being sufficiently in accordance with etiquette to be used when mourning over an earl’s premature decease.

If it was this way out of the Hall, “you might work it by the rule of three,” as Miss Galindo used to say, and judge what it was in the Hall. We none of us spoke but in a whisper: we tried not to eat; and indeed the shock had been so really great, and we did really care so much for my lady, that for some days we had but little appetite. But after that, I fear our sympathy grew weaker, while our flesh grew stronger. But we still spoke low, and our hearts ached whenever we thought of my lady sitting there alone in the darkened room, with the light ever falling on that one solemn page.

We wished, O how I wished that she would see Mr. Gray! But Adams said, she thought my lady ought to have a bishop come to see her. Still no one had authority enough to send for one.

Mr. Horner all this time was suffering as much as any one. He was too faithful a servant of the great Hanbury family, though now the family had dwindled down to a fragile old lady, not to mourn acutely over its probable extinction. He had, besides, a deeper sympathy and reverence with, and for, my lady, in all things, than probably he ever cared to show, for his manners were always measured and cold. He suffered from sorrow. He also suffered from wrong. My lord’s executors kept writing to him continually. My lady refused to listen to mere business, saying she intrusted all to him. But the “all” was more complicated than I ever thoroughly understood. As far as I comprehended the case, it was something of this kind:— There had been a mortgage raised on my lady’s property of Hanbury, to enable my lord, her husband, to spend money in cultivating his Scotch estates, after some new fashion that required capital. As long as my lord, her son, lived, who was to succeed to both the estates after her death, this did not signify; so she had said and felt; and she had refused to take any steps to secure the repayment of capital, or even the payment of the interest of the mortgage from the possible representatives and possessors of the Scotch estates, to the possible owner of the Hanbury property; saying it ill became her to calculate on the contingency of her son’s death.

But he had died childless, unmarried. The heir of the Monkshaven property was an Edinburgh advocate, a far-away kinsman of my lord’s: the Hanbury property, at my lady’s death, would go to the descendants of a third son of the Squire Hanbury in the days of Queen Anne.

This complication of affairs was most grievous to Mr. Horner. He had always been opposed to the mortgage; had hated the payment of the interest, as obliging my lady to practise certain economies which, though she took care to make them as personal as possible, he disliked as derogatory to the family. Poor Mr. Horner! He was so cold and hard in his manner, so curt and decisive in his speech, that I don’t think we any of us did him justice. Miss Galindo was almost the first, at this time, to speak a kind word of him, or to take thought of him at all, any farther than to get out of his way when we saw him approaching.

“I don’t think Mr. Horner is well,” she said one day; about three weeks after we had heard of my lord’s death. “He sits resting his head on his hand, and hardly hears me when I speak to him.”

But I thought no more of it, as Miss Galindo did not name it again. My lady came amongst us once more. From elderly she had become old; a little, frail, old lady, in heavy black drapery, never speaking about nor alluding to her great sorrow; quieter, gentler, paler than ever before; and her eyes dim with much weeping, never witnessed by mortal.

She had seen Mr. Gray at the expiration of the month of deep retirement. But I do not think that even to him she had said one word of her own particular individual sorrow. All mention of it seemed buried deep for evermore. One day, Mr. Horner sent word that he was too much indisposed to attend to his usual business at the Hall; but he wrote down some directions and requests to Miss Galindo, saying that he would be at his office early the next morning. The next morning he was dead.

Miss Galindo told my lady. Miss Galindo herself cried plentifully, but my lady, although very much distressed, could not cry. It seemed a physical impossibility, as if she had shed all the tears in her power. Moreover, I almost think her wonder was far greater that she herself lived than that Mr. Horner died. It was almost natural that so faithful a servant should break his heart, when the family he belonged to lost their stay, their heir, and their last hope.

Yes! Mr. Horner was a faithful servant. I do not think there are many so faithful now; but perhaps that is an old woman’s fancy of mine. When his will came to be examined, it was discovered that, soon after Harry Gregson’s accident, Mr. Horner had left the few thousands (three, I think,) of which he was possessed, in trust for Harry’s benefit, desiring his executors to see that the lad was well educated in certain things, for which Mr. Horner had thought that he had shown especial aptitude; and there was a kind of implied apology to my lady in one sentence where he stated that Harry’s lameness would prevent his being ever able to gain his living by the exercise of any mere bodily faculties, “as had been wished by a lady whose wishes” he, the testator, “was bound to regard.”

But there was a codicil in the will, dated since Lord Ludlow’s death — feebly written by Mr. Horner himself, as if in preparation only for some more formal manner of bequest: or, perhaps, only as a mere temporary arrangement till he could see a lawyer, and have a fresh will made. In this he revoked his previous bequest to Harry Gregson. He only left two hundred pounds to Mr Gray to be used, as that gentleman thought best, for Henry Gregson’s benefit. With this one exception, he bequeathed all the rest of his savings to my lady, with a hope that they might form a nest-egg, as it were, towards the paying off of the mortgage which had been such a grief to him during his life. I may not repeat all this in lawyer’s phrase; I heard it through Miss Galindo, and she might make mistakes. Though, indeed, she was very clear-headed, and soon earned the respect of Mr. Smithson, my lady’s lawyer from Warwick. Mr. Smithson knew Miss Galindo a little before, both personally and by reputation; but I don’t think he was prepared to find her installed as steward’s clerk, and, at first, he was inclined to treat her, in this capacity, with polite contempt. But Miss Galindo was both a lady and a spirited, sensible woman, and she could put aside her self-indulgence in eccentricity of speech and manner whenever she chose. Nay more; she was usually so talkative, that if she had not been amusing and warm-hearted, one might have thought her wearisome occasionally. But to meet Mr. Smithson she came out daily in her Sunday gown; she said no more than was required in answer to his questions; her books and papers were in thorough order, and methodically kept; her statements of matters-of-fact accurate, and to be relied on. She was amusingly conscious of her victory over his contempt of a woman-clerk and his preconceived opinion of her unpractical eccentricity.

“Let me alone,” said she, one day when she came in to sit awhile with me. “That man is a good man — a sensible man — and I have no doubt he is a good lawyer; but he can’t fathom women yet. I make no doubt he’ll go back to Warwick, and never give credit again to those people who made him think me half-cracked to begin with. O, my dear, he did! He showed it twenty times worse than my poor dear master ever did. It was a form to be gone through to please my lady, and, for her sake, he would hear my statements and see my books. It was keeping a woman out of harm’s way, at any rate, to let her fancy herself useful. I read the man. And, I am thankful to say, he cannot read me. At least, only one side of me. When I see an end to be gained, I can behave myself accordingly. Here was a man who thought that a woman in a black silk gown was a respectable, orderly kind of person; and I was a woman in a black silk gown. He believed that a woman could not write straight lines, and required a man to tell her that two and two made four. I was not above ruling my books, and had Cocker a little more at my fingers’ ends than he had. But my greatest triumph has been holding my tongue. He would have thought nothing of my books, or my sums, or my black silk gown, if I had spoken unasked. So I have buried more sense in my bosom these ten days than ever I have uttered in the whole course of my life before. I have been so curt, so abrupt, so abominably dull, that I’ll answer for it he thinks me worthy to be a man. But I must go back to him, my dear, so good-bye to conversation and you.”

But though Mr. Smithson might be satisfied with Miss Galindo, I am afraid she was the only part of the affair with which he was content. Everything else went wrong. I could not say who told me so — but the conviction of this seemed to pervade the house. I never knew how much we had all looked up to the silent, gruff Mr. Horner for decisions, until he was gone. My lady herself was a pretty good woman of business, as women of business go. Her father, seeing that she would be the heiress of the Hanbury property, had given her a training which was thought unusual in those days, and she liked to feel herself queen regnant, and to have to decide in all cases between herself and her tenantry. But, perhaps, Mr. Horner would have done it more wisely; not but what she always attended to him at last. She would begin by saying, pretty clearly and promptly, what she would have done, and what she would not have done. If Mr. Horner approved of it, he bowed, and set about obeying her directly; if he disapproved of it, he bowed, and lingered so long before he obeyed her, that she forced his opinion out of him with her “Well, Mr. Horner! and what have you to say against it?” For she always understood his silence as well as if he had spoken. But the estate was pressed for ready money, and Mr. Horner had grown gloomy and languid since the death of his wife, and even his own personal affairs were not in the order in which they had been a year or two before, for his old clerk had gradually become superannuated, or, at any rate, unable by the superfluity of his own energy and wit to supply the spirit that was wanting in Mr. Horner.

Day after day Mr. Smithson seemed to grow more fidgety, more annoyed at the state of affairs. Like every one else employed by Lady Ludlow, as far as I could learn, he had an hereditary tie to the Hanbury family. As long as the Smithsons had been lawyers, they had been lawyers to the Hanburys; always coming in on all great family occasions, and better able to understand the characters, and connect the links of what had once been a large and scattered family, than any individual thereof had ever been.

As long as a man was at the head of the Hanburys, the lawyers had simply acted as servants, and had only given their advice when it was required. But they had assumed a different position on the memorable occasion of the mortgage: they had remonstrated against it. My lady had resented this remonstrance, and a slight, unspoken coolness had existed between her and the father of this Mr. Smithson ever since.

I was very sorry for my lady. Mr. Smithson was inclined to blame Mr. Horner for the disorderly state in which he found some of the outlying farms, and for the deficiencies in the annual payment of rents. Mr. Smithson had too much good feeling to put this blame into words; but my lady’s quick instinct led her to reply to a thought, the existence of which she perceived; and she quietly told the truth, and explained how she had interfered repeatedly to prevent Mr. Horner from taking certain desirable steps, which were discordant to her hereditary sense of right and wrong between landlord and tenant. She also spoke of the want of ready money as a misfortune that could be remedied, by more economical personal expenditure on her own part; by which individual saving, it was possible that a reduction of fifty pounds a year might have been accomplished. But as soon as Mr. Smithson touched on larger economies, such as either affected the welfare of others, or the honour and standing of the great House of Hanbury, she was inflexible. Her establishment consisted of somewhere about forty servants, of whom nearly as many as twenty were unable to perform their work properly, and yet would have been hurt if they had been dismissed; so they had the credit of fulfilling duties, while my lady paid and kept their substitutes. Mr. Smithson made a calculation, and would have saved some hundreds a year by pensioning off these old servants. But my lady would not hear of it. Then, again, I know privately that he urged her to allow some of us to return to our homes. Bitterly we should have regretted the separation from Lady Ludlow; but we would have gone back gladly, had we known at the time that her circumstances required it: but she would not listen to the proposal for a moment.

“If I cannot act justly towards every one, I will give up a plan which has been a source of much satisfaction; at least, I will not carry it out to such an extent in future. But to these young ladies, who do me the favour to live with me at present, I stand pledged. I cannot go back from my word, Mr. Smithson. We had better talk no more of this.”

As she spoke, she entered the room where I lay. She and Mr. Smithson were coming for some papers contained in the bureau. They did not know I was there, and Mr. Smithson started a little when he saw me, as he must have been aware that I had overheard something. But my lady did not change a muscle of her face. All the world might overhear her kind, just, pure sayings, and she had no fear of their misconstruction. She came up to me, and kissed me on the forehead, and then went to search for the required papers.

“I rode over the Connington farms yesterday, my lady. I must say I was quite grieved to see the condition they are in; all the land that is not waste is utterly exhausted with working successive white crops. Not a pinch of manure laid on the ground for years. I must say that a greater contrast could never have been presented than that between Harding’s farm and the next fields — fences in perfect order, rotation crops, sheep eating down the turnips on the waste lands — everything that could be desired.”

“Whose farm is that?” asked my lady.

“Why, I am sorry to say, it was on none of your ladyship’s that I saw such good methods adopted. I hoped it was, I stopped my horse to inquire. A queer-looking man, sitting on his horse like a tailor, watching his men with a couple of the sharpest eyes I ever saw, and dropping his h’s at every word, answered my question, and told me it was his. I could not go on asking him who he was; but I fell into conversation with him, and I gathered that he had earned some money in trade in Birmingham, and had bought the estate (five hundred acres, I think he said,) on which he was born, and now was setting himself to cultivate it in downright earnest, going to Holkham and Woburn, and half the country over, to get himself up on the subject.”

“It would be Brooke, that dissenting baker from Birmingham,” said my lady in her most icy tone. “Mr. Smithson, I am sorry I have been detaining you so long, but I think these are the letters you wished to see.”

If her ladyship thought by this speech to quench Mr. Smithson she was mistaken. Mr. Smithson just looked at the letters, and went on with the old subject.

“Now, my lady, it struck me that if you had such a man to take poor Horner’s place, he would work the rents and the land round most satisfactorily. I should not despair of inducing this very man to undertake the work. I should not mind speaking to him myself on the subject, for we got capital friends over a snack of luncheon that he asked me to share with him.”

Lady Ludlow fixed her eyes on Mr. Smithson as he spoke, and never took them off his face until he had ended. She was silent a minute before she answered.

“You are very good, Mr. Smithson, but I need not trouble you with any such arrangements. I am going to write this afternoon to Captain James, a friend of one of my sons, who has, I hear, been severely wounded at Trafalgar, to request him to honour me by accepting Mr. Horner’s situation.”

“A Captain James! A captain in the navy! going to manage your ladyship’s estate!”

“If he will be so kind. I shall esteem it a condescension on his part; but I hear that he will have to resign his profession, his state of health is so bad, and a country life is especially prescribed for him. I am in some hopes of tempting him here, as I learn he has but little to depend on if he gives up his profession.”

“A Captain James! an invalid captain!”

“You think I am asking too great a favour,” continued my lady. (I never could tell how far it was simplicity, or how far a kind of innocent malice, that made her misinterpret Mr. Smithson’s words and looks as she did.) “But he is not a post-captain, only a commander, and his pension will be but small. I may be able, by offering him country air and a healthy occupation, to restore him to health.”

“Occupation! My lady, may I ask how a sailor is to manage land? Why, your tenants will laugh him to scorn.”

“My tenants, I trust, will not behave so ill as to laugh at any one I choose to set over them. Captain James has had experience in managing men. He has remarkable practical talents, and great common sense, as I hear from every one. But, whatever he may be, the affair rests between him and myself. I can only say I shall esteem myself fortunate if he comes.”

There was no more to be said, after my lady spoke in this manner. I had heard her mention Captain James before, as a middy who had been very kind to her son Urian. I thought I remembered then, that she had mentioned that his family circumstances were not very prosperous. But, I confess, that little as I knew of the management of land, I quite sided with Mr. Smithson. He, silently prohibited from again speaking to my lady on the subject, opened his mind to Miss Galindo, from whom I was pretty sure to hear all the opinions and news of the household and village. She had taken a great fancy to me, because she said I talked so agreeably. I believe it was because I listened so well.

“Well, have you heard the news,” she began, “about this Captain James? A sailor — with a wooden leg, I have no doubt. What would the poor, dear, deceased master have said to it, if he had known who was to be his successor! My dear, I have often thought of the postman’s bringing me a letter as one of the pleasures I shall miss in heaven. But, really, I think Mr. Horner may be thankful he has got out of the reach of news; or else he would hear of Mr. Smithson’s having made up to the Birmingham baker, and of his one-legged captain, coming to dot-and-go-one over the estate. I suppose he will look after the labourers through a spy-glass. I only hope he won’t stick in the mud with his wooden leg; for I, for one, won’t help him out. Yes, I would,” said she, correcting herself; “I would, for my lady’s sake.”

“But are you sure he has a wooden leg?” asked I. “I heard Lady Ludlow tell Mr. Smithson about him, and she only spoke of him as wounded.”

“Well, sailors are almost always wounded in the leg. Look at Greenwich Hospital! I should say there were twenty one-legged pensioners to one without an arm there. But say he has got half-a-dozen legs: what has he to do with managing land? I shall think him very impudent if he comes, taking advantage of my lady’s kind heart.”

However, come he did. In a month from that time, the carriage was sent to meet Captain James; just as three years before it had been sent to meet me. His coming had been so much talked about that we were all as curious as possible to see him, and to know how so unusual an experiment, as it seemed to us, would answer. But, before I tell you anything about our new agent, I must speak of something quite as interesting, and I really think quite as important. And this was my lady’s making friends with Harry Gregson. I do believe she did it for Mr. Horner’s sake; but, of course, I can only conjecture why my lady did anything. But I heard one day, from Mary Legard, that my lady had sent for Harry to come and see her, if he was well enough to walk so far; and the next day he was shown into the room he had been in once before under such unlucky circumstances.

The lad looked pale enough, as he stood propping himself up on his crutch, and the instant my lady saw him, she bade John Footman place a stool for him to sit down upon while she spoke to him. It might be his paleness that gave his whole face a more refined and gentle look; but I suspect it was that the boy was apt to take impressions, and that Mr. Horner’s grave, dignified ways, and Mr. Gray’s tender and quiet manners, had altered him; and then the thoughts of illness and death seem to turn many of us into gentlemen, and gentlewomen, as long as such thoughts are in our minds. We cannot speak loudly or angrily at such times; we are not apt to be eager about mere worldly things, for our very awe at our quickened sense of the nearness of the invisible world, makes us calm and serene about the petty trifles of today. At least, I know that was the explanation Mr. Gray once gave me of what we all thought the great improvement in Harry Gregson’s way of behaving.

My lady hesitated so long about what she had best say, that Harry grew a little frightened at her silence. A few months ago it would have surprised me more than it did now; but since my lord her son’s death, she had seemed altered in many ways — more uncertain and distrustful of herself, as it were.

At last she said, and I think the tears were in her eyes: “My poor little fellow, you have had a narrow escape with your life since I saw you last.”

To this there was nothing to be said but “Yes;” and again there was silence.

“And you have lost a good, kind friend, in Mr. Horner.”

The boy’s lips worked, and I think he said, “Please, don’t.” But I can’t be sure; at any rate, my lady went on:

“And so have I — a good, kind friend, he was to both of us; and to you he wished to show his kindness in even a more generous way than he has done. Mr. Gray has told you about his legacy to you, has he not?”

There was no sign of eager joy on the lad’s face, as if he realised the power and pleasure of having what to him must have seemed like a fortune.

“Mr. Gray said as how he had left me a matter of money.”

“Yes, he has left you two hundred pounds.”

“But I would rather have had him alive, my lady,” he burst out, sobbing as if his heart would break.

“My lad, I believe you. We would rather have had our dead alive, would we not? and there is nothing in money that can comfort us for their loss. But you know — Mr. Gray has told you — who has appointed all our times to die. Mr. Horner was a good, just man; and has done well and kindly, both by me and you. You perhaps do not know” (and now I understood what my lady had been making up her mind to say to Harry, all the time she was hesitating how to begin) “that Mr. Horner, at one time, meant to leave you a great deal more; probably all he had, with the exception of a legacy to his old clerk, Morrison. But he knew that this estate — on which my forefathers had lived for six hundred years — was in debt, and that I had no immediate chance of paying off this debt; and yet he felt that it was a very sad thing for an old property like this to belong in part to those other men, who had lent the money. You understand me, I think, my little man?” said she, questioning Harry’s face.

He had left off crying, and was trying to understand, with all his might and main; and I think he had got a pretty good general idea of the state of affairs; though probably he was puzzled by the term “the estate being in debt.” But he was sufficiently interested to want my lady to go on; and he nodded his head at her, to signify this to her.

“So Mr. Horner took the money which he once meant to be yours, and has left the greater part of it to me, with the intention of helping me to pay off this debt I have told you about. It will go a long way, and I shall try hard to save the rest, and then I shall die happy in leaving the land free from debt.” She paused. “But I shall not die happy in thinking of you. I do not know if having money, or even having a great estate and much honour, is a good thing for any of us. But God sees fit that some of us should be called to this condition, and it is our duty then to stand by our posts, like brave soldiers. Now, Mr. Horner intended you to have this money first. I shall only call it borrowing from you, Harry Gregson, if I take it and use it to pay off the debt. I shall pay Mr. Gray interest on this money, because he is to stand as your guardian, as it were, till you come of age; and he must fix what ought to be done with it, so as to fit you for spending the principal rightly when the estate can repay it you. I suppose, now, it will be right for you to be educated. That will be another snare that will come with your money. But have courage, Harry. Both education and money may be used rightly, if we only pray against the temptations they bring with them.”

Harry could make no answer, though I am sure he understood it all. My lady wanted to get him to talk to her a little, by way of becoming acquainted with what was passing in his mind; and she asked him what he would like to have done with his money, if he could have part of it now? To such a simple question, involving no talk about feelings, his answer came readily enough.

“Build a cottage for father, with stairs in it, and give Mr. Gray a school-house. O, father does so want Mr. Gray for to have his wish! Father saw all the stones lying quarried and hewn on Farmer Hale’s land; Mr. Gray had paid for them all himself. And father said he would work night and day, and little Tommy should carry mortar, if the parson would let him, sooner than that he should be fretted and frabbed as he was, with no one giving him a helping hand or a kind word.”

Harry knew nothing of my lady’s part in the affair; that was very clear. My lady kept silence.

“If I might have a piece of my money, I would buy land from Mr. Brooks; he has got a bit to sell just at the corner of Hendon Lane, and I would give it to Mr. Gray; and, perhaps, if your ladyship thinks I may be learned again, I might grow up into the schoolmaster.”

“You are a good boy,” said my lady. “But there are more things to be thought of, in carrying out such a plan, than you are aware of. However, it shall be tried.”

“The school, my lady?” I exclaimed, almost thinking she did not know what she was saying.

“Yes, the school. For Mr. Horner’s sake, for Mr. Gray’s sake, and last, not least, for this lad’s sake, I will give the new plan a trial. Ask Mr. Gray to come up to me this afternoon about the land he wants. He need not go to a Dissenter for it. And tell your father he shall have a good share in the building of it, and Tommy shall carry the mortar.”

“And I may be schoolmaster?” asked Harry, eagerly.

“We’ll see about that,” said my lady, amused. “It will be some time before that plan comes to pass, my little fellow.”

And now to return to Captain James. My first account of him was from Miss Galindo.

“He’s not above thirty; and I must just pack up my pens and my paper, and be off; for it would be the height of impropriety for me to be staying here as his clerk. It was all very well in the old master’s days. But here am I, not fifty till next May, and this young, unmarried man, who is not even a widower! O, there would be no end of gossip. Besides he looks as askance at me as I do at him. My black silk gown had no effect. He’s afraid I shall marry him. But I won’t; he may feel himself quite safe from that. And Mr. Smithson has been recommending a clerk to my lady. She would far rather keep me on; but I can’t stop. I really could not think it proper.”

“What sort of a looking man is he?”

“O, nothing particular. Short, and brown, and sunburnt. I did not think it became me to look at him. Well, now for the nightcaps. I should have grudged any one else doing them, for I have got such a pretty pattern!”

But when it came to Miss Galindo’s leaving, there was a great misunderstanding between her and my lady. Miss Galindo had imagined that my lady had asked her as a favour to copy the letters, and enter the accounts, and had agreed to do the work without the notion of being paid for so doing. She had, now and then, grieved over a very profitable order for needlework passing out of her hands on account of her not having time to do it, because of her occupation at the Hall; but she had never hinted this to my lady, but gone on cheerfully at her writing as long as her clerkship was required. My lady was annoyed that she had not made her intention of paying Miss Galindo more clear, in the first conversation she had had with her; but I suppose that she had been too delicate to be very explicit with regard to money matters; and now Miss Galindo was quite hurt at my lady’s wanting to pay her for what she had done in such right-down good-will.

“No,” Miss Galindo said; “my own dear lady, you may be as angry with me as you like, but don’t offer me money. Think of six-and-twenty years ago, and poor Arthur, and as you were to me then! Besides, I wanted money — I don’t disguise it — for a particular purpose; and when I found that (God bless you for asking me!) I could do you a service, I turned it over in my mind, and I gave up one plan and took up another, and it’s all settled now. Bessy is to leave school and come and live with me. Don’t, please, offer me money again. You don’t know how glad I have been to do anything for you. Have not I, Margaret Dawson? Did you not hear me say, one day, I would cut off my hand for my lady; for am I a stock or a stone, that I should forget kindness? O, I have been so glad to work for you. And now Bessy is coming here; and no one knows anything about her — as if she had done anything wrong, poor child!”

“Dear Miss Galindo,” replied my lady, “I will never ask you to take money again. Only I thought it was quite understood between us. And you know you have taken money for a set of morning wrappers, before now.”

“Yes, my lady; but that was not confidential. Now I was so proud to have something to do for you confidentially.”

“But who is Bessy?” asked my lady. “I do not understand who she is, or why she is to come and live with you. Dear Miss Galindo, you must honour me by being confidential with me in your turn!”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/gaskell/elizabeth/ludlow/chapter12.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17