AUTHOR OF MARY BARTON.
PUBLISHED BY HARPER & BROTHERS,
No. 82 CLIFF STREET.
Ir you take the turn to the left, after you pass
the lyke-gate at Combehurst Church, you will come
to the wooden bridge over the brook; keep along
the field-path which mounts higher and higher, and,
in half a mile or so, you will be in a breezy upland
field, almost large enough to be called a down, where
sheep pasture on the short, fine, elastic turf. You
look down on Combehurst and its beautiful church-
spire. After the field is crossed, you come to a com-
mon, richly colored with the golden gorse and the
purple heather, which in summer-time send out their
warm scents into the quiet air. The swelling waves
of the upland make a near horizon against the sky ;
the line is only broken in one place by a small grove
of Scotch firs, which always look black and shadowed
even at mid-day, when all the rest of the landscape
seems bathed in sunlight. The lark quivers and
sings high up in the air; too highâ€”in too dazzling
4 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
a region for you to see her. Look! she drops into
sight ; but, as if loth to leave the heavenly radiance,
she balances herself and floats in the ether. Now
she falls suddenly right into her nest, hidden among
the ling, unseen except by the eyes of Heaven, and
the small bright insects that run hither and thither
on the elastic flower-stalks, With something like
the sudden drop of the lark, the path goes down a
green abrupt descent; and in a basin, surrounded
by the grassy hills, there stands a dwelling, which
is neither cottage nor house, but something between
the two in size. Nor yet is it a farm, though sur-
rounded by living things. It is, or rather it was, at
the time of which I Speak, the dwelling of Mrs,
Browne, the widow of the late curate of Combehurst.
There she lived with her faithful old servant and
her only children, a boy and girl. They were as se-
cluded in their green hollow as the households in
the German forest-tales. Once a week they emerged
and crossed the common, catching on its summit the
first sounds of the sweet-toned bells, calling them to
church. Mrs. Browne walked first, holding Edwardâ€™s
hand. Old Nancy followed with Maggie; but they
were all one party, and all talked together in a sub-
dued and quiet tone, as beseemed the day. They
had not much to say, their lives were too unbroken ;
for, excepting on Sundays, the widow and her chil-
dren never went to Combehurst, Most people would
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 5
have thought the little town a quiet, dreamy place ;
but to those two children it seemed the world; and
after they had crossed the bridge, they each clasped
more tightly the hands which they held, and looked
shyly up from beneath their drooped eyelids when
spoken to by any of their motherâ€™s friends. Mrs.
Browne was regularly asked: by some one to stay to
dinner after morning church, and as regularly de-
clined, rather to the timid childrenâ€™s relief ; although
in the week-days they sometimes spoke together in
a low voice of the pleasure it would be to them if
mamma would go and dine at Mr. Buxtonâ€™s, where the
little girl in white and that great tall boy lived. In-
stead of staying there, or anywhere else, on Sundays,
Mrs. Browne thought it her duty to go and ery over
her husbandâ€™s grave. The custom had arisen out of
true sorrow for his loss, for a kinder husband, and
more worthy man, had never lived; but the sim-
plicity of her sorrow had been destroyed by the ob-
servation of others on the mode of its manifestation.
They made way for her to cross the grass toward
his grave ; and she, fancying that it was expected of
her, fell into the habit I have mentioned. Her chil-
dren, holding each a hand, felt awed and uncomforta-
ble, and were sensitively conscious how often they
were pointed out, as a mourning group, to observation.
â€œI wish it would always rain on Sundays,â€ said
Hidward one day to Maggie, in a garden conference.
6 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œWhy ?â€ asked she,
â€œ Because then we bustle out of church, and get
home as fast as we can, to save mammaâ€™s crape ; and
we have not to go and cry over papa.â€
â€œT donâ€™t ery,â€ said Maggie. â€œDo you ?â€
Edward looked round before he answered, to see
if they were quite alone, and then said:
â€œNo; I was sorry a long time about papa, but one
canâ€™t go on being sorry forever, Perhaps grown-up
â€œ Mamma can,â€ said little Maggie. â€œSometimes I
am very sorry too; when I am by myself, or playing
with you, or when I am wakened up by the moon.
light in our room. Do you ever waken and fancy
you heard papa calling you? Ido sometimes; and
then I'am very sorry to think we shall never hear
him calling us again.â€
â€œAh, itâ€™s different with me, you know. He used
to call me to lessons,â€
â€œSometimes he called me when he was displeased
with me. But I always dream that he was calling
us in his own kind voice, as he used to do when he
wanted us to walk with him, or to show us something
Edward was silent, playing with something on the
ground. At last he looked round again, and, having
convinced himself that they could not be overheard,
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. T
_ Maggieâ€”sometimes I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m sorry that
papa is deadâ€”when Iâ€™m naughty, you know; he
would have been so angry with me if he had been
here ; and I thinkâ€”only sometimes, you know, Iâ€™m
rather glad he is not.â€
â€œOh, Edward! you donâ€™t mean to say so, I know.
Donâ€™t let us talk about him. We canâ€™t talk rightly,
weâ€™re such little children. Donâ€™t, Edward, please.â€
_ Poor little Maggieâ€™s eyes filled with tears ; and she
never spoke again to Edward, or indeed to any one,
about her dead father. As she grew older, her life
became more actively busy. The cottage and small
outbuildings, and the garden and field, were their
own ; and on the produce they depended for much of
their support. The cow, the pig, and the poultry took
up much of Nancyâ€™s time. Mrs. Browne and Mag-
gie had to doa great deal of the house-work; and
when the beds were made, and the rooms swept and
dusted, and the preparations for dinner ready, then,
if there was any time, Maggie sat down to her les-
sons. Ned, who prided himself considerably on his
sex, had been sitting all the morning, in his fatherâ€™s
arm-chair, in the little book-room, â€œ studying,â€ as he
chose to call it. Sometimes Maggie would pop her
head in, with a request that he would help her to
carry the great pitcher of water up-stairs, or do some
other little household service ; with which request
he occasionally complied, but with so many com-
s THE MOORLAND Corracr,
plaints about the interruption, that at last she told
him she would never ask him again. Gently as this
was said, he yet felt it asa reproach, and tried te
â€œ You see, Maggie, 2 man must be educated to be
gentleman. Now, if 4 woman knows how to keep
a house, thatâ€™s all that is wanted from her. Qo my
time is of more consequenee than yours. Mamma
says Iâ€™m to go to college, and be a clergyman ; so I
must get on with my Latin,â€
Maggie submitted in silence ; and almost felt it
a8 an act of gracious condescension when, a morning
or two afterwards, he came to meet her as she was
toiling in from the well, carrying the great brown
jug full of spring-water ready for dinner. Â« Here,â€
said he, â€œlet us put it in the shade behind the horse-
mount. Oh, Maggie! look what youâ€™ve done! Spilt
it all, with not turning quickly enough when I told
you. Now you may fetch it again for yourself, for
Tâ€™ll have nothing to do with it,â€
â€œI did not understand you in time,â€ said she,
Softly. But he had turned away, and gone back in
offended dignity to the house. Maggie had nothing to
do but return to the well, and fill it again. The spring
was some distance off, in a little rocky dell. It was
80 cool after her hot walk, that she sat down in the
Shadow of the gray limestone rock, and looked at
the ferns, wet with the dripping water. She felt sad,
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 9
she knew not why. â€œI think Ned is sometimes very
cross,â€ thought she. â€œI did not understand he was
carrying it there. Perhaps I am clumsy. Mamma
says Iam; and Ned says] am. Nancy never says
so, and papa never said so. I wish I could help
being clumsy and stupid. Ned says all women are
so. LwishI wasnota woman. It must be a fine
thing tobe aman. Oh dear! I must go up the
field again with this heavy pitcher, and my arms do
so ache!â€ She rose and climbed the steep brae.
As she went she heard her motherâ€™s voice.
â€œ Maggie! Maggie! thereâ€™s no water for dinner,
and the potatoes are quite boiled. Where is that
They had begun dinner, before she came down
from brushing her hair and washing her hands. She
was hurried and tired.
â€œ Mother,â€ said Ned, â€œ maynâ€™t I have some butter
to these potatoes, as there is cold meat? They are
â€œCertainly, my dear. Maggie, go and fetch a pat
of butter out of the dairy.â€
Maggie went from her untouched dinner without
Â« Here, stop, you child !â€ said Naney, turning her
back in the passage. â€œYou go to your dinner, Iâ€™ll
fetch the butter. Youâ€™ve been running about enough
10 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Maggie durst not g0 back without it, but she
Stood in the passage till Nancy returned ; and then
she put up her mouth to be kissed by the kind rough
â€œThou â€™rt a sweet one,â€ said N ancy to herself, ag
she turned into the kitchen ; and Maggie went back
enforced the most dainty neatness of stitches. Thug
every hour in its circle brought a duty to be ful-
filled; but duties fulfilled are ag pleasures to the
memory, and little Maggie always thought those
early childish days most happy, and remembered
them only as filled with careless contentment,
Yet, at the time, they had their cares,
In fine summer days Maggie sat out of doors at
flowers. If the court had itg clustering noisettes,
and fraxinellas, and Sweetbriar, and great tall white
lilies, the moorland had its little creeping scented
rose, its straggling honeysuckle, and an abundance
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 11
of yellow cistus; and here and there a gray rock
cropped out of the ground, and over it the yellow
stone-crop and scarlet-leaved craneâ€™s-bill grew luxu-
riantly. Such a rock was Maggieâ€™s seat. I believe
she considered it her own, and loved it accordingly ;
although its real owner was a great lord, who lived
far away, and had never seen the moor, much less
the piece of gray rock, in his life.
The afternoon of the day which I have begun to
tell you about, she was sitting there, and singing to
herself as she worked: she was within call of home,
and could hear all home sounds, with their shrillness
softened down. Between her and it, Edward was
amusing himself; he often called upon her for sym-
â€™ pathy, which she as readily gave.
Â«IT wonder how men make their boats steady ; 1
have taken mine to the pond, and she has toppled
over every time I sent her in.â€
Â« Has it ?â€”thatâ€™s very tiresome! Would it do to
put a little weight in it, to keep it down ?â€
Â« How often must I tell you to call a ship â€˜her ;â€™
and there you will go on sayingâ€”itâ€”it !â€
After this correction of his sister, Master Edward
did not like the condescension of acknowledging her
suggestion to be a good one ; 80 he went silently to
the house in search of the requisite ballast; but not
being able to find anything suitable, he came back to.
his turfy hillock, littered round with chips of wood,
12 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE,
and tried to insert Some pebbles into hig vessel ; but
they stuck fast, and he wag obliged to ask again,
what could I put in?â€
Maggie thought a moment,
â€œ Would shot do 2â€ asked she.
â€œIt would be the very thing; but where can [
get any 2â€
â€œ There is some that was left of papaâ€™s, It is in
the right-hand Corner of the second drawer of the
bureau, wrapped up in a newspaper.â€
â€œ What a plague! I can Temember your â€˜geo.
onds,â€™ and â€˜Tight-hands,â€™ and fiddle-faddlesâ€ He
Worked on at hig pebbles, They would not do.
â€œT think if you were 800d-natured, Maggie, you
might go for me.â€
â€œOh, Ned! Iâ€™ve all this long seam to do, Mamma
said I must finish it before tea ; and -that I might
Play a little if [ had done it first,â€ said Maggie,
rather Plaintively ; for it was a rea] pain to her to
refuse a request. :
â€œTt would not take you five minutes,â€
Maggie thought a little. The time would only be
taken out of her playing, which, after all, did not
signify; while Edward was Teally busy about his
ship. She Tose, and clambered up the steep grassy
slope, slippery with the heat,
Before she had found the paper of shot, she heard
WHE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 13
ther motherâ€™s voice calling, in a sort of hushed hur-
ried loudness, as if anxious to be heard by one per-
son, yet not by anotherâ€”* Edward, Edward, come
home quickly. Hereâ€™s Mr. Buxton coming along
the Fell-Lane;â€”heâ€™s coming here, as sure as six-
pence; come, Edward, come.â€
Maggie saw Edward put down his ship and come.
At his motherâ€™s bidding it certainly was; but he
strove to make this as little apparent as he could,
â€˜by sauntering up the slope, with his hands in his
pockets, in a very independent and nÃ©ghgÃ© style.
Maggie had no time to watch longer; for now she
was called too, and down stairs she ran.
â€œHere, Maggie,â€ said her mother, in a nervous
hurry ;â€”â€œhelp Nancy to get a tray ready all in a
minute. I do believe hereâ€™s Mr. Buxton coming to
call. Oh, Edward! go and brush your hair, and put
on your Sunday jacket; hereâ€™s Mr. Buxton just
coming round, I'll only run up and change my cap ;
and you say you'll come up and tell me, Nancy; all
proper, you know.â€
Â«To be sure, maâ€™am. Iâ€™ve lived in families afore
now,â€ said Nancy, gruffly.
â€œOh, yes, I know you have. Be sure you bring
in the cowslip wine. I wish I could have stayed to
decant some port.â€
Nancy and Maggie bustled about, in and out of
the kitchen and dairy; and were so deep in their
14 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
preparations for Mr. Buxtonâ€™s reception that they
were not aware of the very presence of that gentle-
man himself on the scene. He had found the front
door open, as is the wont in country places, and had
walked in ; first Stopping at the empty parlor, and
then finding his way to the place where voices and
sounds proclaimed that there were inhabitants, So
he stood there, stooping a little under the low-brow-
ed lintels of the kitchen door, and looking large, and
red, and warm, but with a pleased and almost amus-
ed expression of face. .
â€œLord bless me, sir! what a start you gave me |
said Nancy, as she suddenly caught sight of him,
â€˜Tl go and tell my missus in a minute that youâ€™re
Off she went, leaving Maggie alone with the great,
tall, broad gentleman, smiling at her from his frame
in the door-way, but never speaking. She went on
dusting a Wine-glass most assiduously,
â€œWell done, little girl,â€ came out a fine strong
voice at last. â€œNow I think that will do. Come
and show me the parlor where I may sit down, for
Iâ€™ve had a long walk, and am very tired.â€
Maggie took him into the parlor, which was
always cool and fresh in the hottest weather. Tt
was scented by a great beau-pot filled with roses ;
and, besides, the casement was open to the fragrant
court. Mr. Buxton was so large, and the parlor
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 15
so small, that when he was once in, Maggie thought
when he went away, he could carry the room on his
back, as a snail does its house.
â€œAnd so, you are a notable little woman, are
you?â€ said he, after he had stretched himself (a
very unnecessary proceeding), and unbuttoned his
waistcoat, Maggie stood near the door, uncertain
whether to go or to stay. â€œ How bright and clean
you were making that glass! Do you think you
could get me some water to fill it? Mind, it must
be that very glass I saw you polishing. I shall know
Maggie was thankful to escape out of the room;
and in the passage she met her mother, who had
made time to change her gown as well as her cap.
Before Nancy would allow the little girl to return
with the glass of water, she smoothed her short-cut
glossy hair ; it was all that was needed to make her
look delicately neat. Maggie was conscientious in
trying to find out the identical glass ; but I am afraid
Nancy was not quite so truthful in avouching that
one of the six, exactly similar, which were now placed
on the tray, was the same she had found on the
dresser, when she came back from telling her mis-
tress of Mr. Buxtonâ€™s arrival.
Maggie carried in the water, with a shy pride in
the clearness of the glass. Her mother was sitting
on the edge of her chair, speaking in unusually fine
16 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
language, and with a higher pitched voice than com:
mon. Edward, in all his Sunday glory, was stand-
ing by Mr. Buxton, looking happy and conscious.
But when Maggie came in, Mr. Buxton made room
for her between Edward and himself, and, while she
went on talking, lifted her on to his knee. She sat
there as on a pinnacle of honor; but as she durst
not nestle up to him, a cuair would have been the
more comfortable seat,
Â« As founderâ€™s ling; t have a right of presentation;
and for my dear old friendâ€™s sakeâ€ (here Mrs.
Browne wiped her eyes), â€œ I am truly glad of it; my
young friend will have a little form of examination
to go through; and then we shall see him carrying
every prize before him, I have no doubt. Thank
you, just a little of your sparkling cowslip wine.
Ah! this gingerbread is like the gingerbread I had
when I was a boy. My little lady here must learn
the receipt, and make me some. Will she?â€
â€œ Speak to Mr. Buxton, child, who is kind to your
brother. You will make him some gingerbread, I
â€œIf I may,â€ said Maggie, hanging down her head.
- â€œQr, I'll tell you what. â€˜Suppose you come to my
house, and teach us how to make it there; and then,
you know, we could always be making gingerbread
when we were not eating it. That would be best, I
think. Must I ask mamma to bring you down to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. ay
Combehurst, and let us all get acquainted together ?
T have a great boy and a little girl at home, who will
like to see you, Iâ€™m sure. And we have got a pony
for you to ride on, and a peacock and guinea fowls,
and I donâ€™t know what all. Come, madam, let me
persuade you. School begins in three weeks. Let
us fix a day before then.â€
â€œDo mamma,â€ said Edward.
â€œIT am not in spirits for visiting,â€™ Mrs. Browne
answered. But the quick children detected a hesi-
tation in her manner of saying the oft spoken words,
and had hopes, if only Mr. Buxton would persevere
in his invitation.
â€œ Your not visiting is the very reason why you are
not in spirits. A little change, and a few neighborly
faces, would do you good, Iâ€™ll be bound. Besides,
for the childrenâ€™s sake you should not live too se-
cluded a life. Young people should see a little of
Mrs. Browne was much obliged to Mr. Buxton
for giving her so decent an excuse for following her
inclination, which, it must be owned, tended to the
acceptance of the invitation. So, â€œfor the childrenâ€™s
sake,â€ she consented. But she sighed, as if making
â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ said Mr. Buxton. â€œ Now for
It was fixed that they should go on that day
18 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
week; and after some further conversation about the
school at which Edward was to be placed, and some
more jokes about Maggieâ€™s notability, and an inquiry
if she would come and live with him the next time
he wanted a housemaid, Mr. Buxton took his leave.
His visit had been an event; and they made no
great attempt at settling again that day to any of
their usual employments. In the first place, Nancy
came in to hear and discuss all the proposed plans.
Ned, who was uncertain whether to like or dislike
the prospect of school, was very much offended by the
old servantâ€™s remark, on first hearing of the project.
â€œTtâ€™s time for him. Heâ€™ll learn his place there,
which, it strikes me, he and others too are apt to
forget at home.â€
Then followed discussions and arrangements re-
specting his clothes. And then they came to the
plan of spending a day at Mr. Buxtonâ€™s, which Mrs.
Browne was rather shy of mentioning, having a sort
of an idea of inconstancy and guilt connected with
the thought of mingling with the world again. How-
ever, Nancy approved: â€œIt was quite right,â€ and
â€œ just as it should be,â€ and â€œ good for the children.â€
â€œYes; it was on their account I did it, Nancy,â€
said Mrs. Browne.
â€œ How many children has Mr. Buxton?â€ asked
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 19
â€œOnly one. Frank, I think, they callhim. But
you must say Master Buxton; be sure.â€
â€œ Who is the little girl, then,â€ asked Maggie,
â€œwho sits with them in church ?â€
â€œOh! thatâ€™s little Miss Harvey, his niece, and a
â€œThey do say he never forgave her mother till
the day of her death,â€ remarked Nancy.
â€œThen they tell stories, Nancy!â€ replied Mrs.
Browne (it was she herself who had said it; but
that was before Mr. Buxtonâ€™s call). For dâ€™ye think
his sister would have left him guardian to her child,
if they were not on good terms ?â€
â€œWell! I only know what folks say. And, for
sure, he took a spite at Mr. Harvey for no reason on
earth ; and every one knows he never spoke to him.â€
â€œ He speaks very kindly and pleasantly,â€ put in
â€œ Ay; and Iâ€™m not saying but what he is a very
good, kind man in the main. But he has his whims,
and keeps hold on â€™em when heâ€™s got â€™em. Thereâ€™s
them pies burning, and Iâ€™m talking here !â€
When Nancy had returned to her kitchen, Mrs.
Browne called Maggie up stairs, to examine what
clothes would be needed for Edward.. And when
they were up, she tried on the black satin gown,
which had been her visiting dress ever since she was
married, and which she intended should replace the
20 â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
old, worn-out bombazine on the day of the visit to
Â« Ror Mrs. Buxton is a real born lady,â€ said she ;
â€œand I should like to be well dressed, to do her
â€œTJ did not know there was a Mrs. Buxton,â€ said
Maggie. â€œShe is never at church.â€
â€œNo; she is but delicate and weakly, and never
leaves the house. I think her maid told me she
never left her room now.â€
The Buxton family, root and branch, formed the
piÃ©ce de rÃ©sistance in the conversation between Mrs.
Browne and her children for the next week. As the
day drew near, Maggie almost wished to stay at
home, so impressed was she with the awfulness of the
visit. Edward felt bold in the idea of a new suit of
clothes, which had been ordered for the occasion, and
for school afterwards. Mrs. Browne remembered
having heard the rector say, â€œ A woman never looked
so lady-like as when she wore black satin,â€ and kept
her spirits up with that observation; but when she
saw how worn it was at the elbows, she felt rather
depressed, and unequal to visiting. Still, for her
childrenâ€™s sake, she would do much.
After her long dayâ€™s work was ended, Nancy sat
up at her sewing. She had found out that among
all the preparations, none were going on for Margaret;
and she had used her influence over her mistress (who
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 91
half-liked and half-feared, and entirely depended
upon her) to obtain from her an old gown, which she
had taken to pieces, and washed and scoured, and
was now making up, in a way a little old-fashioned
to be sure; but, on the whole, it looked so nice when
completed and put on, that Mrs. Browne gave Mag-
gie a strict lecture about taking great care of such a
handsome frock, and forgot that she had considered
the gown from which it had been made as worn out
and done for.
At length they were dressed, and Nancy stood on
the court-steps, shading her eyes, and looking after
them, as they climbed the heathery slope leading to
. [wish sheâ€™d take her hand sometimes, just to let
her know the feel of her motherâ€™s hand. Perhaps
she will, at least after Master Edward goes to
As they went along, Mrs. Browne gave the chil-
dren a few rules respecting manners and etiquette.
â€œ Maggie! you must sit as upright as ever you
can; make your back flat, child, and donâ€™t poke. If
I cough, you must draw up. I shall cough whenever
I see you do anything wrong, and I shall be looking
at you all day ; so remember. You hold yourself
very well, Edward. If Mr. Buxton asks you, you
may have a glass of wine, because youâ€™re a boy.
But mind and say, â€˜ Your good health, sir, before
you drink it.â€
Â«Td rather not have the wine if Iâ€™m to say that,â€
said Edward, bluntly.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 93
â€œQh, nonsense | my dear. You'd wish to be like
a gentleman, Iâ€™m sure.â€
Edward muttered something which was inaudible.
His mother went onâ€”
â€œOf course you'll never think of being helped
more than twice. Twice of meat, twice of pudding,
is the genteel thing. You may take less, but never
Â« Qh, mamma! how beautiful Combehurst spire is,
with that dark cloud behind it !â€ exclaimed Maggie,
as they came in sight of the town.
Â«â€œ You've no business with Combehurst spire when
Iâ€™m speaking to you. Iâ€™m talking myself out of
breath to teach you how to behave, and there you go
looking after clouds, and such like rubbish. Iâ€™m
ashamed of you.â€
Although Maggie walked quietly by her motherâ€™s
side all the rest of the way, Mrs. Browne was too
much offended to resume her instructions on good-
breeding. Maggie might be helped three times if
she liked: she had done with her.
They were very early. When they drew near the
bridge, they were met by a tall, fine-looking boy,
leading a beautiful little Shetland pony, with a side-
saddle onit. He came up to Mrs. Browne, and ad-
â€œMy father thought your little girl would be
24 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
tired, and he told me to bring my cousin Erminiaâ€™s
pony for her. Itâ€™s as quiet as can be.â€
Now this was rather provoking to Mrs. Browne,
as she chose to consider Maggie in disgrace. How-
ever, there was no help for it: all she could do was
to spoil the enjoyment as far as possible, by looking
and speaking in a cold manner, which often chilled
Maggieâ€™s little heart, and took all the zest out of the
pleasure now. It was in vain that Frank Buxton
made the pony trot and canter; she still looked sad
â€œLittle dull thing!â€ he thought; but he was as
kind and considerate as a gentlemanly boy could be.
â€˜ At last they reached Mr. Buxtonâ€™s house. It
was in the main street, and the front door opened
upon it bya flight of steps. Wide on each side
extended the stone-coped windows. It was in reality
a mansion, and needed not the neighboring contrast
of the cottages on either side to make it look impos-
ing. When they went in, they entered a large hall,
cool even on that burning July day, with a black
and white flag floor, and old settees round the walls,
and great jars of curious china, which were filled
with pot-pourrie. The dusky gloom was pleasant,
after the glare of the street outside; and the requi-
site light and cheerfulness were given by the peep
into the garden, framed, as it were, by the large
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 25
doorway that opened into it. There were roses, and
sweet-peas, and poppiesâ€”a rich mass of color, which
looked well, set in the somewhat sombre coolness of |
the hall. All the house told of wealthâ€”wealth
which had accumulated for generations, and which
was shown in a sort of comfortable, grand, unosten-
tatious way. Mr. Buxtonâ€™s ancestors had been yeo-
men ; but, two or three generations back, they might,
if ambitious, have taken their place as country gen-
try, so much had the value of their property increased,
and so great had been the amount of their savings.
They, however, continued to live in the old farm till
Mr. Buxtonâ€™s grandfather built the house in Combe-
hurst of which I am speaking, and then he felt
rather ashamed of what he had done ; it seemed like
stepping out of his position. He and his wife always
sat in the best kitchen; and it was only after his
sonâ€™s marriage that the entertaining rooms were fur-
nished. Even then they were kept with closed shut-
ters and bagged-up furniture during the lifetime of
the old couple, who, nevertheless, took a pride in
adding to the rich-fashioned ornaments and grand
old china of the apartments. But they died, and
were gathered to their fathers, and young Mr. and
Mrs. Buxton (aged respectively fifty-one and forty-
five) reigned in their stead. They had the good
taste to make no sudden change; but gradually the
rooms assumed an inhabited appearance, and their
26 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
son and daughter grew up in the enjoyment of great
wealth, and no small degree of refinement. But as
yet they held back modestly from putting them-
selves in any way on a level with the county peo-
ple. Lawrence Buxton was sent to the same school
as his father had been before him; and the notion
of his going to college to complete his education
was, after some deliberation, negatived. In process
of time he succeeded his father, and married a sweet,
gentle lady, of a decayed and very poor county
family, by whom he had one boy before she fell into
delicate health. His sister had married a man
whose character was worse than his fortune, and. had
been left a widow. Everybody thought her hus
bandâ€™s death a blessing; but she loved him, in spite
of negligence and many grosser faults ; and so, not
many years after, she died, leaving her little daugh-
ter to her brotherâ€™s care, with many a broken-voiced
entreaty that he would never speak a word against
the dead father of her child. So the little Erminia
was taken home by her self-reproaching uncle, who
felt now how hardly he had acted towards his sister
in breaking off all communication with her on her
â€œWhere is Erminia, Frank?â€ asked his father,
speaking over Maggieâ€™s shoulder, while he still held
her hand. â€œI want to take Mrs. Browne to your
THE MOORLAND: COTTAGE. QT
mother. I told Erminia to be here to welcome this
_ little girl.â€
â€œIll take her to Minnie; I think sheâ€™s in the
garden. I'll come back to you,â€ nodding to Hd-
ward, â€œdirectly, and then we will go to the rab-
So Frank and Maggie left the great lofty room,
full of strange rare things, and rich with books, and
went into the sunny scented garden, which stretched
far and wide behind the house. Down one of the
walks, with a hedge of roses on either side, came
a little tripping fairy, with long golden ringlets,
and a complexion like a china rose. With the
deep blue of the summer sky behind her, Maggie
thought she looked like an angel. She neither
hastened nor slackened her pace when she saw them,
but came on with the same dainty light prancing
â€œ Make haste, Minnie,â€ cried Frank.
But Minnie stopped to gather a rose.
â€œDonâ€™t stay with me,â€ said Maggie, softly, al-
though she had held his hand like that of a friend,
and did not feel that the little fairyâ€™s manner was
particularly cordial or gracious. Frank took her at
her word, and ran off to Edward.
Erminia came a little quicker when she saw that
Maggie was left alone; but for some time after they
were together, they had nothing to say to each other.
28 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Erminia was easily impressed by the pomps and
vanities of the world ; and Maggieâ€™s new handsome
frock seemed to her made of old ironed brown silk.
And though Maggieâ€™s voice was soft, with a silver
ringing sound in it, she pronounced her words in
Nancy's broad country way. Her hair was cut short
all round ; her shoes were thick, and clumped as she
walked. Erminia patronized her, and thought her-
self very kind and condescending ; but they were
not particularly friendly. The visit promised to be
more honorable than agreeable, and Maggie almost
wished herself at home again. Dinner-time came.
Mrs. Buxton dined in her own room. Mr. Buxton
was hearty, and jovial, and pressing ; he almost
scolded Maggie because she would not take more
than twice of his favorite pudding: but she remem-
bered what her mother had said, and that she would
be watched all day ; and this gave her a little prim,
quaint manner, very different from her usual soft
charming unconsciousness. She fancied that Ed-
ward and Master Buxton were just as little at their
ease with each other as she and Miss Harvey. Per-
haps this feeling on the part of the boys made all
four children unite after dinner.
Â« Let us go to the swing in the shrubbery,â€ said
Frank, after a little consideration ; and off they ran.
Frank proposed that he and Edward should swing
the two little girls; and for a time all went on very
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 29
well. But by-and-by Edward thought. that Maggie
had had enough, and that he should like a turn;
-and Maggie, at his first word, got out.
â€œDonâ€™t you like swinging?â€ asked Erminia.
â€œYes! but Edward would like it now.â€ And
Edward accordingly took her place. Frank turned
away, and would not swing him. Maggie strove
hard to do it, but he was heavy, and the swing bent
unevenly. He scolded her for what she could not
help, and at last jumped out so roughly, that the
seat hit Maggieâ€™s face, and knocked her down. When
she got up, her lips quivered with pain, but she did
not ery; she only looked anxiously at her frock.
There was a great rent across the front breadth.
Then she did shed tearsâ€”tears of fright. What
would her mother say ?
Erminia saw her crying.
Â« Are you hurt?â€ said she, kindly. â€œOh, how
your cheek is swelled! What a rude, cross hoy
your brother is !â€
â€œTJ did not know he was going to jump out. I am
not crying because I am hurt, but because of this
great rent in my nice new frock. Mamma will be so
â€œTs it a new frock?â€ asked Erminia.
â€œTt is a new one for me. Nancy has sat up
several nights to make it. Oh! what shall I do?â€
Erminiaâ€™s little heart was softened by such exces-
80 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
sive poverty. A best frock made of shabby old silk!
She put her arms round Maggieâ€™s neck, and saidâ€”
â€œ Come with me; we will go to my auntâ€™s dress-
ing-room, and Dawson will give me some silk, and
I'll help you to mend it.â€
â€œ Thatâ€™s a kind little Minnie,â€ said Frank. Ned
had turned sulkily away. I do not think the boys
were ever cordial again that day ; for, as Frank said
to his mother, â€œ Ned might have said he was sorry ;
but he is a regular tyrant to that little brown mouse
of a sister of his.â€ |
Erminia and Maggie went, with their arms round
each otherâ€™s necks, to Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s dressing-room.
The misfortune had made them friends. Mrs. Bux-
ton lay on the sofa; so fair and white and colorless,
in her muslin dressing-gown, that when Maggie first
saw the lady lying with her eyes shut, her heart gave
a start, for she thought she was dead. But she
opened her large languid eyes, and called them to
her, and listened to their story with interest.
â€œ Dawson is at tea. Look, Minnie, in my work-
box; there is some silk there. Take off your frock,
my dear, and bring it here, and let me see how it
can be mended.â€
â€œ Aunt Buxton,â€™ whispered Erminia, â€œdo let me
give her one of my frocks. This is such an old
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 31
â€œNo, love. Iâ€™ll tell you why afterwards,â€ answered
She looked at the rent, and arranged it nicely for
the little girls to mend. Erminia helped Maggie
with right good will. As they sat on the floor, Mrs.
Buxton thought what a pretty contrast they made ;
Erminia, dazzlingly fair, with her golden ringlets,
and her pale-blue frock ; Maggieâ€™s little round white
shoulders peeping out of her petticoat ; her brown
hair as glossy and smooth as the nuts that it resem-
bled in color; her long black eye-lashes drooping
over her clear smooth cheek, which would have given
the idea of delicacy, but for the coral lips that spoke
of perfect health: and when she glanced up, she
showed long, liquid, dark-gray eyes. The deep red
of the curtain behind, threw out these two little
figures well. :
Dawson came up. She was a grave elderly person,
of whom Erminia was far more afraid than she was
of her aunt; but at Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s desire she fin-
ished mending the frock for Maggie. $
â€œMr, Buxton has asked some of your mammaâ€™s
old friends to tea, as I am not able to go down. But
I think, Dawson, I must have these two little girls
to tea with me. Can you be very quiet, my dears ;
or shall you think it dull ?â€
They gladly accepted the invitation; and Erminia
promised all sorts of fanciful promises as to quiet-
82 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
ness; and went about on her tiptoes in such @
labored manner, that Mrs. Buxton begged her at
last not to try and be quiet, as she made much less
noise when she did not. It was the happiest part
of the day to Maggie. Something in herself was
go much in harmony with Mrs, Buxtonâ€™s sweet re-
signed gentleness, that it answered like an echo,
and the two understood each other strangely well.
They seemed like old friends. Maggie, who was
reserved at home because no one cared to hear
what she had to say, opened out, and told Erminia
and Mrs. Buxton all about her way of spending her
day, and described her home.
â€œHow odd!â€ said Erminia. â€œI have ridden
that way on Abdel-Kadr, and never seen your
Â«Tt is like the place the Sleeping Beauty lived
in; people sometimes seem to go round it and round
it, and never find it. But unless you follow a little
sheep-track, which seems to end at a gray piece of
rock, you may come within a stoneâ€™s throw of the
chimneys and never see them. I think you would
think it so pretty. Do you ever come that way,
Â«â€œ No, love,â€ answered Mrs. Buxton.
Â« But will you some time?â€
â€œTam afraid I shall never be able to go out
again,â€ said Mrs. Buxton, in a voice which, though
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 33
low, was very cheerful, Maggie thought how sad a
lot was here before her ; and by-and-by she took a.
little stool, and sat by Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s sofa, and stole
her hand into hers.
Mrs. Browne was in full tide of pride and happi-
ness down stairs. Mr. Buxton had a number of
jokes; which would have become dull from repeti-
tion (for he worked a merry idea threadbare before
he would let it go), had it not been for his jovial
blandness and good-nature. He liked to make peo-
ple happy, and, as far as bodily wants went, he had
a quick perception of what was required. He sat
like a king (for, excepting the rector, there was not
another gentleman of his standing at- Combehurst),
among six or seven ladies, who laughed merrily at
all his sayings, and evidently thought Mrs. Browne
had been highly honored in having been asked to
dinner as well as to tea. In the evening, the car-
riage was ordered to take her as far as a carriage
could go; and there was a little mysterious hand~.
shaking between her host. and herself on taking
leave, which made her very curious for the lights of
home by which to examine a bit of rustling paper
that had been put in her hand with some stam-
mered-out words about Edward.:
When every one had gone, there was a little
gathering in Mrs, Buxtonâ€™s dressing-room. Hus-
34 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
band, son and niece, all came to give her their opin-
ions on the day and the visitors.
Â«Good Mrs. Browne is a little tiresome,â€ said Mr.
Buxton, yawning. Living in that moorland hole,
I suppose. However, I think she has enjoyed her
day; and weâ€™ll ask her down now and then, for
Browneâ€™s sake. Poor Browne! what a good man
he was !â€
â€˜I donâ€™t like that boy at all,â€ said Frank. â€œI
beg youll not ask him again while Iâ€™m at home: he
is so selfish and self-important; and yet heâ€™s a bit
snobbish now and then. Mother! I know what you
mean by that look. Well! if I am self-important
sometimes, Iâ€™m not a snob.â€
Â«Little Maggie is very nice,â€ said Erminia.
Â« What a pity she has not a new frock! Was not
she good about it, Frank, when she tore it â€
_& Yes, sheâ€™s a nice little thing enough, if she does
not get all spirit cowed out of her by that brother.
Iâ€™m thankful that he is going to school.â€ )
When Mrs. Browne heard where Maggie had
drank tea, she was offended. She had only sat
with Mrs. Buxton for an hour before dinner. If
Mrs. Buxton could bear the noise of children, shÃ©
could not think why she shut herself up in that
room, and gave herself such airs. She supposed it
was because she was the granddaughter of Sir
Henry Biddulph that she took upon herself to have
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 85
such whims, and not sit:at the head of her table, or
make tea for her company in a civil decent way.
Poor Mr. Buxton! What a sad life for a merry,
light-hearted man to have such a wife! It was a
good thing for him to have agreeable society some-
times. She thought he looked a deal better for see-
ing his friends. He must be sadly moped with that
(If she had been clairvoyante at that moment,
she might have seen Mr. Buxton tenderly chafing
his wifeâ€™s hands, and feeling in his innermost soul a
wonder how one so saint-like could ever have learnt
to love such a boor as he was; it was the wonderful
mysterious blessing of his life. So little do we
know of the inner truths of the households, where
we come and go like intimate guests !)
Maggie could not bear to hear Mrs. Buxton
spoken of as a fine lady assuming illness, Her
heart beat hard as she spoke. â€œMamma! I am
sure she is really ill. Her lips kept going so white;
and her hand was so burning hot all the time that
I held it.â€
â€œHave you been holding Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s hand ?
Where were your manners? You are a little for-
ward creature, and ever were. But donâ€™t pretend
to know better than your elders. It is no use
telling me Mrs. Buxton is ill, and she able to bear
the noise of children.â€
36 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
J think they are all a pack of set-up people, -
and that Frank Buxton is the worst of all,â€ said
Maggieâ€™s heart sank within her to hear this cold,
unkind way of talking over the friends who had
done so much to make their day happy. She had
never before ventured into the world, and did not
know how common and universal is the custom of
picking to pieces those with whom we have just
been associating ; and so it pained her. She was a
little depressed, too, with the idea that she should
never see Mrs. Buxton and the lovely Erminia
again. Because no future visit or intercourse had
been spoken about, she fancied it would never take
place; and she felt like the man in the Arabian
Nights, who caught a glimpse of the precious
stones and dazzling glories of the cavern, which
was immediately after closed, and shut up into the
semblance of hard, barren rock. She tried to re-
call the house. Deep blue, crimson red, warm
brown draperies, were so striking after the light
chintzes of her own house; and the effect of a suite
of rooms opening out of each other was something
quite new to the little girl; the apartments seemed
to melt away into vague distance, like the dim end-
ings of the arched aisles in church. But most of
all she tried to recall Mrs, Buxtonâ€™s face; and
Nancy had at last to put away her work, and come
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 87
to bed, in order to soothe the poor child, who was
crying at the thought that Mrs. Buxton would soon
die, and that she should never see her again.
Nancy loved Maggie dearly, and felt no jealousy of
this warm admiration of the unknown lady, She
listened to her story and -her fears till the sobs
were hushed ; and the moon fell through the case-
â€˜ment on the white closed eyelids of one, who still
sighed in her sleep,
In three weeks, the day came for Edwardâ€™s de-
parture. A great cake and a parcel of gingerbread
soothed his sorrows on leaving home.
Â«Donâ€™t cry, Maggie!â€ said he to her on the last
morning ; â€œyou see I donâ€™t. Christmas will soon
be here, and I dare say I shall find time to write
to you now and then. Did Nancy put any citron
in the cake ?â€
Maggie wished she might accompany her mother
to Combehurst to see Edward off by the coach ; but
it was not to be. She went with them, without her
bonnet, as far as her mother would allow her; and
then she sat down, and watched their progress for a
long, long way. She was startled by the sound of a
horseâ€™s feet, softly trampling through the long
heather. It was Frank Buxtonâ€™s.
â€œMy father thought Mrs. Browne would like to
see the Woodchester Herald. Is Edward gone?â€
said he, noticing her sad face.
â€œYes! he is just gone down the hill to the coach.
I dare say you can see him crossing the bridge,
-THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 39
soon. I did so want to have gone with him,â€
answered she, looking wistfully toward the town.
Frank felt sorry for her, left alone to gaze after
her brother, whom, strange as it was, she evidently
regretted. After a minuteâ€™s silence, he saidâ€”
â€œYou liked riding the other day. Would you
like a ride now? Rhoda is very gentle, if you can
sit on my saddle. Look! Iâ€™ll shorten the stirrup.
There now; thereâ€™s a brave little girl! Ill lead
her very carefully. Why, Erminia durst not ride
without a side-saddle! I'll tell you what; I'll
bring the newspaper every Wednesday till I go to
school, and you shall have a ride. Only I wish we
had a side-saddle for Rhoda. Or, if Erminia will
let me, Iâ€™ll bring Abdel-Kadr, the little Shetland
you rode the other day.â€
â€œBut will Mr. Buxton let you?â€ asked Maggie,
half delightedâ€”half afraid.
â€œ Oh, my father! to be sure he will. I have him
in very good order.â€â€™ |
Maggie was rather puzzled by this-way of speak-
â€œ When do you go to school ?â€ asked she.
â€œToward the end of August; I donâ€™t know the
â€œDoes Erminia go to school ?â€
â€œNo. I believe she will soon though, if mamma
40 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
does not get better.â€ Maggie liked the change of
voice, as he spoke of his mother. |
â€œThere, little lady! now jump down. Famous !
youve a deal of spirit, you little brown mouse.â€ â€”
Nancy came out, with a wondering look, to re-
â€œTt is Mr. Frank Buxton,â€ said she, by way + of
an introduction. â€œHe has brought mamma the
â€œWill you walk in, sir, and rest? I can tie up
â€œNo, thank you,â€ said he, â€œI must be off.
Donâ€™t forget, little Mousey, that you are to he
ready for another ride next Wednesday.â€ And
away he went.
It needed a good deal of Nancyâ€™s diplomaey to
procure Maggie this pleasure; although I don z
know why Mrs. Browne should have denied it, for
the circle they went was always within sight of the
knoll in front of the house, if any one cared enough
about the matter to mount it, and leok after them.
Frank and Maggie got great friends in these rides.
Her fearlessness delighted and surprised him, she
had seemed so cowed and timid at first. But she
was only so with people, as he found out before his
holidays ended. He saw her shrink from par
ticular looks and inflexions of voice of her motherâ€™s;
and learnt to read them, and dislike Mrs, Browne
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 41
accordingly, notwithstanding all her sugary manner
toward himself. The result of his observations he
communicated to his mother, and in consequence,
he was the bearer of a most civil and ceremonious
message from Mrs. Buxton to Mrs. Browne, to the
effect that the former would be much obliged to the
latter if she would allow Maggie to ride down
occasionally with the groom, who would bring the
newspapers on the Wednesdays (now Frank was
going to school), and to spend the afternoon with
Erminia. Mrs. Browne consented, proud of the
honor, and yet a little annoyed that no mention
was made of herself. When Frank had bid good-
bye, and fairly disappeared, she turned to Maggie.
â€œYou must not set yourself up if you go among
these fine folks. It is their way of showing atten-
tion to your father and myself. And you must
mind and work doubly hard on Thursdays to mak
up for playing on Wednesdays.â€ |
Maggie was in a flush of sudden color, and a hap-
py palpitation of her fluttering little heart. She
could hardly feel any sorrow that the kind Frank
was going away, so brimful was she of the thoughts
of seeing his mother; who had grown strangely asso-
ciated in her dreams, both sleeping and waking, with
. the still calm marble effigies that lay for ever clasp-
Ang their hands in prayer on the. altar-tombs in
Combehurst church. All the week was one happy
42, THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
season of anticipation. She was afraid her mother
was secretly irritated at her natural rejoicing ; and
so she did not speak to her about it, but she kept
awake till Nancy came to bed, and poured into her
sympathiing ears every detail, real or imaginary,
of her past or future intercourse with Mrs. Buxton,
and the old servant listened with interest, and fell
into the custom of picturing the future with the ease
and simplicity of a child.
â€œ Suppose, Nancy ! only suppose, you wan that
she did die. I donâ€™t mean really die, but go into a
trance like death; she looked as if she was in one
when [ first saw her; I would not leave her, but I
would sit by her, and watch her, and watch her.â€
â€œ Her lips would be always fresh and red,â€ inter-
â€œYes, I know you â€™ve told me before how they
keep redâ€”I should look at them quite steadily; I
would try never to go to sleep.â€
â€œThe great thing would be to have air-holes left
in the coffin.â€ But Nancy felt the little girl creep
close to her at the grim suggestion, and, with the
tact of love, she changed the subject.
â€œOr supposing we could hear of a doctor who
could charm away illness. There were such in my
young â€˜days; but I donâ€™t think people are so know-
ledgeable now. Peggy Jackson, that lived near us
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 43
when I was a girl, was cured of a waste by a
â€œ What is a waste, Nancy ?â€
â€œTt is just a pining away. Food does not nourish
nor drink strengthen them, but they just fade off, and
grow thinner and thinner, till their shadow looks
gray instead of black at noonday ; but he cured her
in no time by a charm.â€
â€œ Qh, if we could find him.â€
â€œ Lass, heâ€™s dead, and sheâ€™s dead, too, long ago!â€
While Maggie was in imagination going over
moor and fell, into the hollows of the distant mys-
terious hills, where she imagined all strange beasts
and weird people to haunt, she fell asleep.
Such were the fanciful thoughts which were en-
gendered in the little girlâ€™s mind by her secluded
and solitary life. It was more solitary than ever,
now that Edward was gone to school. The house
missed his loud cheerful voice, and bursting pre-
sence. There seemed much less to be done, now
that his numerous wants no longer called for minis-
tration and attendance. Maggie did her task of
work on her own gray rock; but as it was sooner
finished, now that he was not there to interrupt and
call her off, she used to stray up the Fell Lane at
the back of the house; a little steep stony lane, more
like stairs cut in the rock than what we, in the level
land, call a lane: it reached on to the wide and open
44 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
moor, and near its termination there was a knotted
thorn-tree; the only tree for apparent miles. Here
the sheep crouched under the storms, or stood and
shaded themselves in the noontide heat. The ground
was brown with their cleft round foot-marks; and
tufts of wool were hung on the lower part of the
stem, like votive offerings on some shrine. Here
Maggie used to come and sit and dream in any
scarce half-hour of leisure. Here she came to cry,
when her little heart was overfull at her motherâ€™s
sharp fault-finding, or when bidden to keep out of
the way, and not be troublesome. She used to look
over the swelling expanse of moor, and the tears
were dried up by the soft low-blowing wind which
came sighing along it. She forgot her little home
griefs to wonder why a brown-purple shadow always
streaked one particular part in the fullest sunlight ;
why the cloud-shadows always seemed to be wafted
with a sidelong motion; or she would imagine what
lay beyond those old gray holy hills, which seemed
to bear up the white clouds of Heaven on which the
angels flew abroad. Or she would look straight up
through the quivering air, as long as she could bear
its white dazzling, to try and see Godâ€™s throne in that
unfathomable and infinite depth of blue. She thought
she should se? it blaze forth sudden and glorious, if
she were but full of faith, She always came down
from the thorn, comforted, and meekly gentle.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 45
- But there was danger of the child becoming
dreamy, and finding her pleasure in life in reverie,
not in action, or endurance, or the holy rest which
comes after both, and prepares for further striving
or bearing. Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s kindness prevented this
danger just in time. It was partly out of interest in
Maggie, but also partly to give Erminia a com-
panion, that she wished the former to come down to
When she was on these visits, she received no
regular instruction ; and yet all the knowledge, and
most of the strength of her character, was derived
from these occasional hours. It is true her mother
had given her daily lessons in reading, writing, and
arithmetic; but both teacher and taught felt these
more as painful duties to be gone through, than un-
derstood them as means to anend. The â€œThere!
child ; now thatâ€™s done with,â€ of relief, from Mrs,
Browne, was heartily echoed in Maggieâ€™s breast, as
the dull routine was concluded. |
Mrs. Buxton did not make a set labor of teach-
ing; I suppose she felt that much was learned from
her superintendence, but she never thought of doing
or saying anything with a latent idea of its indirect
effect upon the little girls, her companions, She was
simply herself; she even confessed (where the con-
fession was called for) to short-comings, to faults,
and never denied the force of temptations, either of
46 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
those which beset little children, or of those which
occasionally assailed herself. Pure, simple, and
truthful to the heartâ€™s core, her life, in its uneventful
hours and days, spoke many homilies. Maggie, who
was grave, imaginative, and somewhat quaint, took
pains in finding words to express the thoughts to
which her solitary life had given rise, secure of Mrs.
Buxtonâ€™s ready understanding and sympathy.
â€œ You are so like a cloud,â€ said she to Mrs. Buxton.
â€œUp. at the Thorn-tree, it was quite curious how the
clouds used to shape themselves, just according as I
was glad or sorry. I have seen the same clouds,
that, when I came up first, looked like a heap of lit-
tle snow-hillocks over babiesâ€™ graves, turn, as soon
as I grew happier, to a sort of long bright row of
angels. And you seem always to have had some sor-
row when I am sad, and turn bright and hopeful as
soon as I grow glad. Dear Mrs. Buxton! I wish
Nancy knew you.â€
The gay, volatile, wilful, warm-hearted Erminia
was less earnest in all things. Her childhood had
been passed amid the distractions of wealth; and
passionately bent upon the attainment of some object
at one moment, the next found her angry at being
reminded of the vanished anxiety she had shown but
a moment before. Her life was a shattered mirror ;
every part dazzling and brilliant, but wanting the
coherency and perfection of a whole. Mrs, Buxton
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 47
strove to bring her to a sense of the beauty of com-
pleteness, and the relation which qualities and objects
bear to each other; but in all her striving she re-
tained hold of the golden clue of sympathy. She
would enter into Erminiaâ€™s eagerness, if the object
of it varied twenty times a day; but by-and-by, in
her own mild, sweet, suggestive way, she would place
all these objects in their right and fitting places, as
they were worthy of desire. I do not know how it
was, but all discords, and disordered fragments,
seemed to fall into harmony and order before her
She had no wish to make the two little girls into
the same kind of pattern character. They were
diverse as the lily and the rose. But she tried to
give stability and earnestness to Erminia; while she
aimed to direct Maggieâ€™s imagination, so as to make
it a great minister to high ends, instead of simply
contributing to the vividness and duration of a
She told her tales of saints and martyrs, and all
holy heroines, who forgot themselves, and strove only
â€˜to be â€œ ministers of Him, to do His pleasure.â€ The
tears glistened in the eyes of hearer and speaker,
while she spoke in her low, faint voice, which was
almost choked at times when she came to the noblest
part of all.
But when she found that Maggie was in danger .
48 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. |
of becoming too little a dweller in the present, from
the habit of anticipating the occasion for some great
heroic action, she spoke of other heroines. She told
her how, though the lives of these women of old were
only known to us through some striking glorious
deed, they yet must have built up the temple of their
perfection by many noiseless stories; how, by small
daily offerings laid on the altar, they must have ob-
tained their beautiful strength for the crowning
sacrifice, And then she would turn and speak of
those whose names will never be blazoned on earth
â€”some poor maid-servant, or hard-worked artisan,
or weary governessâ€”who have gone on through life
quietly, with holy purposes in their hearts, to which
they gave up pleasure and ease, in a soft, still, suc-
cession of resolute days. She quoted those lines of
* All may have, f
If they dare choose, a glorious life, or grave.â€
And Maggieâ€™s mother was disappointed because Mrs.
Buxton had never offered to teach her â€œto play on
the piano,â€ which was to her the very head and front
of a genteel education. Maggie, in all her time of
yearning to become Joan of Arc, or some great
heroine, was unconscious that she herself showed no
little heroism, in bearing meekly what she did every
day from her mother. It was hard to be questioned
about Mrs. Buxton, and then to have her answers
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 49
turned into subjects for contempt, and fault-finding
with that sweet ladyâ€™s ways.
When Ned came home for the holidays, he had
much to tell. His mother listened for hours to his
tales; and proudly marked all that she could note
of his progress in learning. His copy-books and
writing-flourishes were a sight to behold; and, his
account-books contained towers and pyramids of
â€œAy, ay!â€ said Mr. Buxton, when they were
shown to him ; â€œ this is grand! when I was a boy I
could make a flying eagle with one stroke of my pen,
but I never could do all this. And yet I thought
myself a fine fellow, I warrant you. And these
sums! why man! I must make you my agent. I
need one, Iâ€™m sure; for though I get an accoufitant
every two or three years to do up my books, they
somehow have the knack of getting wrong again.
Those quarries, Mrs. Browne, which every one says
are so valuable, and for the stone out of which I
receive orders amounting to hundreds of pounds,
what dâ€™ye think was the profit I made last year, ac-
cording to my books ?â€
â€œYâ€™m sure I donâ€™t know, sir; something very
great, Iâ€™ve no doubt.â€
â€œ Just seven-pence three farthings,â€ said he, burst-
ing into a fit of merry laughter, such as another
man would have kept for the announcement of enor-
50 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
mous profits. â€œ But I must manage things differently
soon. Frank will want money when he goes to Ox-
ford, and he shall have it. Iâ€™m but a rough sort of
fellow, but Frank shall take his place as a gentle-
man. Aha, Miss Maggie! and whereâ€™s my ginger-
bread? There you go, creeping up to Mrs. Buxton
on a Wednesday, and have never taught Cook how
to make gingerbread yet. Well, Ned! and how are
the classics going on? Fine fellow, that â€”â€” Let
me see, how does it begin?
(Arma, virumque cano, Troje qui primus ab oris.â€™
Thatâ€™s pretty well, I think, considering Iâ€™ve
never opened him since I left school thirty years
ago. To be sure, I spent six hours a day at it when
Iwas there. Come now, I'll puzzle you. Can you
construe this ?
â€œ Infir dealis, inoak noneis; inmud eelis, inclay noneis.â€™ â€â€™
â€œTo be sure I can,â€ said Edward, with a little
contempt in his tone. â€œCan you do this, sir?
Â«Â¢ Apud in is almi des ire,
Mimis tres i neve require,
Alo veri findit a gestis,
His miseri ne ver at restis.â€™â€™
But though Edward had made much progress,
and gained three prizes, his moral training had been
little attended to. He was more tyrannical than
ever, both to his mother and Maggie. It was a
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 51
drawn battle between him and N ancy, and they kept
aloof from each other as much as possible. Maggie
fell into her old humble way of submitting to his
will, as long as it did not go against her conscience ;
but that, being daily enlightened by her habits of
pious aspiring thought, would not allow her to be
so utterly obedient as formerly. In addition to his
imperiousness, he had learned to affix the idea of
cleverness to various artifices and subterfuges, which
utterly revolted her by their meannegs,
â€œYou are go set up, by being intimate with
Erminia, that you wonâ€™t do a thing I tell you ;
you're as selfish and self-willed asâ€ he made
a pause. Maggie was ready to cry.
â€œI will do anything, N ed, that is right.â€
â€œWell! and I tell you this is right.â€
â€œ How can it be?â€ said she, sadly, almost wishing
to be convinced.
â€œ Howâ€”why it is, and thatâ€™s enough for you.
You must always have a reason for everything now.
Youâ€™re not half go nice as you were. Unless one
chops logic with you, and convinces you by a long
argument, youâ€™ll do nothing. Be obedient, I tell
you. That is what a woman has to be.â€
â€œI could be obedient to Some people, without
knowing their Teasons, even though they told me to
do silly things,â€ said Maggie, half to herself.
52 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œJT should like to know to whom,â€ said Edward,
â€œTo Don Quixote,â€ answered she, seriously ; for,
indeed, he was present in her mind just then, and
his noble, tender, melancholy character had made a
strong impression there.
Edward stared at her for a moment, and then
burst into a loud fit of laughter. It had the good
effect of restoring him to a better frame of mind.
He had such an excellent joke against his sister,
that he could not be angry with her. He called her
Sancho Panza all the rest of the holidays, though
she protested against it, saying she could not bear
the Squire, and disliked being called by his name.
Frank and Edward seemed to have a mutual antip-
athy to each other, and the coldness between them
was rather increased than diminished by all Mr.
Buxtonâ€™s efforts to bring them together. â€œCome,
Frank, my lad!â€ said he, â€œdonâ€™t be so stiff with
Ned. His father was a dear friend of mine, and
Iâ€™ve set my heart on seeing you friends. You'll
have it in your power to help him on in the world.â€
- But Frank answered, â€œ He is not quite honorable,
sir. I canâ€™t bear a boy who is not quite honorable.
Boys brought up at those private schools are so full
of tricks !â€
â€œ Nay, my lad, there thouâ€™rt wrong. I was brought
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 53
up at a private school, and no one can say I ever
dirtied my hands with a trick in my life. Good old
Mr. Thompson would have flogged the life out of a
boy who did anything mean or underhand.â€
Summers and winters came and went, with little
to mark them, except the growth of the trees, and
the quiet progress of young creatures. Erminia was
sent to school somewhere in France, to receive more
regular instruction than she could have in the house
with her invalid aunt. But she came home once a
year, more lovely and elegant and dainty than ever ;
and Maggie thought, with truth, that ripening years
were softening down her volatility, and that her
auntâ€™s dewlike sayings had quietly sunk deep, and
fertilized the soil. That aunt was fading away.
Maggieâ€™s devotion added materially to her happi-
ness; and both she and Maggie never forgot that
this devotion was to be in all things subservient to
the duty which she owed to her mother. :
â€œ My love,â€ Mrs. Buxton had more than once said,
â€œyou must always recollect that your first duty is
toward your mother. You know how glad I am to
see you; but I shall always understand how it is, if
you do not come. She may often want you when
neither you nor I can anticipate it.â€
â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 55
Mrs. Browne had no great wish to keep Maggie
at home, though she liked to grumble at her going.
Still she felt that it was best, in every way, to keep
on good terms with such valuable friends; and she
appreciated, in some small degree, the advantage
which her intimacy at the house was to Maggie.
But yet she could not restrain a few complaints, nor
withhold from her, on her return, a recapitulation of
all the things which might have been done if she
had only been at home, and the number of times
that she had been wanted ; but when she found that
Maggie quietly gave up her next Wednesdayâ€™s visit
as soon as she was made aware of any necessity for
her presence at home, her mother left off grumbling,
and took little or no notice of her absence.
When the time came for Edward to leave school,
he announced that he had no intention of taking
orders, but meant to become an attorney.
â€œJtâ€™s'such slow work,â€ said he to his mother.
â€œ One toils away for four or five years, and then one
gets a curacy of seventy pounds a-year, and no end
of work to do for the money. Now the work is not
much harder in a lawyer's office, and if one has oneâ€™s
wits about one, there are hundreds and thousands
a-year to be picked up with mighty little trouble.â€
Mrs. Browne was very sorry for this determination.
She had a great desire to see her son a clergyman,
like his father. She did not consider whether his
56 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE,
character was fitted for so sacred an office; she
rather thought that the profession itself, when once
assumed, would purify the character; but, in fact,
his fitness or unfitness for holy orders entered little
into her mind. She had a respect for the profession,
and his father had belonged to it.
â€œT had rather see you a curate at seventy pounds
a-year, than an attorney with seven hundred,â€ replied
she. â€œ And you know your father was always asked
to dine everywhereâ€”to places where I know they
would not have asked Mr. Bish, of Woodchester, and
he makes his thousand a-year. Besides, Mr. Bux-
ton has the next presentation to Combehurst, and
you would stand a good chance for your fatherâ€™s
sake. And in the mean time you should liye here,
if your curacy was any way near.â€
â€œI dare say! Catch me burying myself here
again. My dear mother, itâ€™s a very respectable place
for you and Maggie to live in, and I dare say you
donâ€™t find it dull; but the idea of my quietly sitting
down here is something too absurd !â€
â€œPapa did, and was very happy,â€ said Maggie.
â€œYes! after he had been at Oxford,â€ replied
Edward, a little nonplussed by this reference to one
whose memory even the most selfish and thoughtless
must have held in respect,
â€œWell! and you know you would have to go to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.Â» 5T
_ â€œ Maggie! I wish you would not interfere between
my mother and me. I want to have it settled and
done with, and that it will never be if you keep
meddling, Now, mother, donâ€™t you see how much
better it will be for me to go into Mr. Bishâ€™s office ?
Harry Bish has spoken to his father about it.â€
' Mrs. Browne sighed. â€”
â€œ What will Mr. Buxton say?â€ asked she, dolefully,
â€œSay! Why donâ€™t you see it was he who
first put it into my head, by telling me that first
Christmas holidays, that I should be his agent,
That would be something, would it not? Harry
Bish says he thinks a thousand a-year might be
made of it.â€
His loud, decided, rapid talking overpowered Mrs,
Browne ; but she resigned herself to his wishes with
more regret than she had ever done before. It was
not the first case in which fluent declamation has
taken the place of argument.
Edward was articled to Mr. Bish, and thus gained
his point. There was no one with power to resist
his wishes, except his mother and Mr. Buxton.
The former had long acknowledged her sonâ€™s will as
her law; and the latter, though surprised and almost
disappointed at a change of purpose which he had
never anticipated in his plans for Edwardâ€™s benefit,
gave his consent, and even advanced some of the
money requisite for the premium,
58 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Maggie looked upon this change with mingled
feelings. She had always from a child pictured
Edward to herself as taking her fatherâ€™s place.
When she had thought of him as a man, it was as
contemplative, grave, and gentle, as she remembered
her father. With all a childâ€™s deficiency of reason-
ing power, she had never considered how impossible
it was that a selfish, vain, and impatient boy could
become a meek, humble, and pious man, merely by
adopting a profession in which such qualities are re-
quired. But now, at sixteen, she was beginning to
understand all this, Not by any process of thought,
but by something more like a correct feeling, she
perceived that Edward would never be the true minis-
ter of Christ. So, more glad and thankful than sorry,
though sorrow mingled with her sentiments, she
learned the decision that he was to be an attorney.
Frank Buxton all this time was growing up into
a young man. The hopes both of father and
mother were bound up in him; and, according to
the difference in their characters was the difference
in their hopes. It seemed, indeed, probable that
Mr. Buxton, who was singularly void of worldliness
or ambition for himself, would become worldly and
ambitious for his son. His hopes for Frank were
all for honor and distinction here. Mrs. Buxtonâ€™s
hopes were prayers. She was fading away, as light
fades into darkness on a summer evening. No one
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 59
seemed to remark the gradual progress; but she
was fully conscious of it herself. The last time
that Frank was at home from college before her
death, she knew that she should never see him
again; and when he gaily left the house, with a
cheerfulness, which was partly assumed, she dragged
herself with languid steps into a room at the front
of the house, from which she could watch him down
the long, straggling little street, that led to the inn
from which the coach started. As he went along,
he turned to look back at his home; and there he
saw his motherâ€™s white figure gazing after him. He
could not see. her wistful eyes, but he made her
poor heart give a leap of joy by turning round and
running back for one more kiss and one more bless-
When he next came home, it was at the sudden
summons of her death.
His father was as one distracted. He could not
speak of the lost angel without sudden bursts of
tears, and oftentimes of self-upbraiding, which dis-
turbed the calm, still, holy ideas, which Frank liked
to associate with her. He ceased speaking to him,
therefore, about their mutual loss; and it was a cer-
tain kind of relief to both when he did so; but he
longed for some one to whom he might talk of his
mother, with the quiet reverence of intense and
trustful affection. He thought of Maggie, of whom
60 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
he had seen but little of late; for when he had
been at Combehurst, she had felt that Mrs. Buxton
required her presence less, and had remained more
at home. Possibly Mrs. Buxton regretted this;
but she never said anything. She, far-looking, as
one who was near death, foresaw that, probably, if
Maggie and her son met often in her sick-room,
feelings might arise which would militate against
her husbandâ€™s hopes and plans, and which, therefore,
she ought not to allow to spring up. But she had
been unable to refrain from expressing her grati-
tude to Maggie for many hours of tranquil happi-
ness, and had unconsciously dropped many sen-
tences which made Frank feel, that, in the little
â€˜brown mouse of former years, he was likely to meet
with one who could tell him much of the inner his-
tory of his mother in her last days, and to whom
he could speak of her without calling out the pas-
sionate sorrow which was so little in unison with
Accordingly, one afternoon, late in the autumn,
he rode up to Mrs. Browneâ€™s. The air on the
heights was so still, that nothing seemed to stir,
Now and then a yellow leaf came floating down
from the trees, detached from no outward violence,
but only because its life had reached its full limit
and then ceased. Looking down on the distant
sheltered woods, they were gorgeous in orange and
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 61
crimson, but their splendor was felt to be the sign
of the decaying and dying year. Even without an
inward sorrow, there was a grand solemnity in the
season which impressed the mind, and hushed it
into tranquil thought. Frank rode slowly along,
and quietly dismounted at the old horse-mount, be-
side which there was an iron bridle-ring fixed in the
gray stone wall. He saw the casement of the
parlor-window open, and Maggieâ€™s head bent down
over her work. She looked up as he entered the
court, and his footsteps sounded on the flag-walk.
She came round and opened the door. As she
Stood in the door-way, speaking, he was struck by
her resemblance to some old painting. He had
seen her young, calm face, shining out with great
peacefulness, and the large, grave, thoughtful eyes,
giving the character to the features which otherwise
they might, from their very regularity, have wanted.
Her brown dress had the exact tint which a painter
would have admired. The slanting mellow sunlight
fell upon her as she stood ; and the vine-leaves,
already frost-tinted, made a rich, warm border, as
they hung over the old house-door.
â€œMamma is not well; she is gone to lie down.
How are you? How is Mr. Buxton 2â€
â€œWe are both pretty well; quite well, in fact, as
far as regards health. May I come in? I want to
talk to you, Maggie !â€
62 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
She opened the little parlor-door, and they went
in; but for a tithe they were both silent. They
could not speak of her who was with them, present
in their thoughts. Maggie shut the casement, and
put a log of wood on the fire. She.sat. down with
her back to the window; but as the flame sprang
up, and blazed at the touch of the dry wood, Frank
saw that her face was wet with quiet tears. Still
her voice was even and gentle, as she answered his
questions. She seemed to understand what were
the very things he would care most to hear. She
spoke of his motherâ€™s last days; and without any
word of praise (which, indeed, would have been im-
pertinence), she showed such a just and true appre-
ciation of her who was dead and gone, that he felt
as if he could listen forever to the sweet-dropping
words. They were balm to his sore heart. He
had thought it possible that the suddenness of her
death might have made her life incomplete, in that
she might have departed without being able to ex-
press wishes and projects, which would now have
the sacred force of commands, But he found that
Maggie, though she had never intruded herself as
such, had been the depository of many little
thoughts and plans; or, if they were not expressed
to her, she knew that Mr. Buxton or Dawson was
aware of what they were, though, in their violence
* of early grief, they had forgotten to name them.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE., 63
The flickering brightness of the flame had died
away; the gloom of evening had â€˜gathered into the
room, through the open door of which the kitchen
fire sent a ruddy glow, distinctly marked against
carpet and wall. Frank still sat, with his head
buried in his hands against the table, listening.
_. â€œTell me more,â€ he said, at every pause.
â€œT think I have told you all now,â€™ said Maggie,
at last. â€œ At least, it is all I recollect at present;
but if I think of anything more, I will be sure and
. Â«Thank you; do.â€ He was silent for some
â€œ Krminia is coming home at Christmas. She is
not to go back to Paris again. She will live with
us. I hope you and she will be great friends,
â€œQh yes,â€ replied she. â€œI think we are already.
At least we were last Christmas. You know it is
a year since I have seen her.â€
â€œYes; she went to Switzerland with Mademoi-
selle Michel, instead of coming home the last time.
Maggie, I must go, now. My father will be wait-
ing dinner for me.â€
â€œDinner! I was going to ask if you would not
stay to tea. I hear mamma stirring about in her
room. And Nancy is getting things ready, I see.
Let me go and tell mamma. She will not be
64 â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
pleased unless she sees you. She has been very
sorry for you all,â€ added she, dropping her voice.
Before he could answer, she ran up stairs.
Mrs. Browne came down.
Â«Oh, Mr. Frank! Have you been sitting in
the dark? Maggie, you ought to have rung for can-
dles! Ah! Mr. Frank, youâ€™ve had a sad loss since
I saw you hereâ€”let me seeâ€”in the last week of
September. But she was always a sad invalid ; and
no doubt your loss is her gain. Poor Mr. Buxton,
too! How is he? When one thinks of him, and
of her years of illness, it seems like a happy
She could have gone on for any length of time,
but Frank could not bear this ruffling up of his
soothed grief, and told her that his father was ex-
pecting him home to dinner.
Â« Ah! Tam sure you must not disappoint him.
He'll want a little cheerful company more than
ever now. You must not let him dwell on it, Mr.
Frank, but turn his thoughts another way by
always talking of other things. I am sure if I had
some one to speak to me in a cheerful, pleasant
way, when poor dear Mr. Browne died, I should
never have fretted after him as I did; but the
children were too young, and there was no one to
come and divert me with any news. If Iâ€™d. been
living in Combehurst, I am sure I should not have
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 65
let my grief get the better of me as I did. Could
you get up a quiet rubber in the evenings, do you
But Frank had shaken hands and was gone. As
he rode home he thought much of sorrow, and the
different ways of bearing it. He decided that it
was sent by God for some holy purpose, and to call
out into existence some higher good; and he
thought that if it were faithfully taken as His
decree, there would be no passionate, despairing re-
sistance to it; nor yet, if it were trustfully acknow-
ledged to have some wise end, should we dare to
baulk it, and defraud it by putting it on one side,
and, by seeking the distractions of worldly things,
not let it do its full work. And then he returned
to his conversation with Maggie. That had been
real comfort to him. What an advantage it would
be to Erminia to have such a girl for a friend and
companion |! |
It was rather strange that, having this thought,
and having been struck, as I said, with Maggieâ€™s:
appearance while she stood in the doorway (and I
may add that this impression of her unobtrusive
beauty had been deepened by several succeeding in-
terviews), he should reply as he did to Erminiaâ€™s re-
mark, on first seeing Maggie after her return from
â€œHow lovely Maggie is growing! Why, I had
66 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
no idea she would ever turn out pretty. Sweet-
looking she always was; but now her style of beau-
ty makes her positively distinguished. Frank!
speak! is not she beautiful ?â€
â€œDo you think so?â€ answered he, with a kind of
lazy indifference, exceedingly gratifying to his
father, who was listening with some eagerness to
his answer. That day, after dinner, Mr. Buxton
began to ask his opinion of Erminiaâ€™s appearance.
Frank answered at onceâ€”
Â«â€œ She is a dazzling little creature. Her complex-
ion looks as if it were made of cherries and milk;
and, it must be owned, the little lady has studied
the art of dress to some purpose in Paris.â€
Mr. Buxton was nearer happiness at this reply
than he had ever been since his wifeâ€™s death ; for the
only way he could devise to satisfy his reproachful
conscience towards his neglected and unhappy sister,
was to plan a marriage between his son and her
child. He rubbed his hands, and drank two extra
glasses of wine.
Â«â€œ We'll have the Brownes to dinner, as usual, next
Thursday,â€ said he, â€œI am sure your mother would
have been hurt if we had omitted it; it is now nine
years since they began to come, and they have never
missed one Christmas since. Do you see any ob-
jection, Frank ?â€
â€œ None at all, sir,â€ answered he. â€œI intend to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 67
go up to town soon after Christmas, for a week or
ten days, on my way to Cambridge. Can I do any-
thing for you ?â€
â€œWell, I donâ€™t know. I think I shall go up my-
self some day soon. I canâ€™t understand all these
lawyer's letters, about the purchase of the Newbridge
estate ; and I fancy I could make more sense out of
it all, if I saw Mr. Hodgson.â€
â€œI wish you would adopt my plan, of having an
agent, sir. Your affairs are really so complicated
now, that they would take up the time of an expert
man of business. I am sure all those tenants at
Dumford ought to be seen after.â€
â€œT do see after them. Thereâ€™s never a one that
dares cheat me, or that would cheat me if they
could. Most of them have lived under the Buxtons
for generations. They know that if they dared to
take advantage of me, I should come down upon
them pretty smartly.â€
â€œDo you rely upon their attachment to your
familyâ€”or on their idea of your severity ?â€
â€œOn both. They stand me instead of much
trouble in account-keeping, and those eternal lawyersâ€™
letters some people are always dispatching to their
tenants. When Iâ€™m cheated, Frank, I give you
leave to make me have an agent, but not till then.
Thereâ€™s my little Erminia singing away, and nobody
to hear her.â€
a ee ee ere
Curistmas-pay was strange and sad. Mrs. Bux-
ton had always contrived to be in the drawing-room,
ready to receive them all after dinner. Mr. Buxton
tried to do away with his thoughts of her by much
talking; but every now and then he looked wistfully
toward the door. Erminia exerted herself to be as
lively as she could, in order, if possible, to fill up the
vacuum. Edward, who had come over from Wood-
chester for a walk, had a good deal to say ; and was,
unconsciously, a great assistance with his never-end-
ing flow of rather clever small-talk. His mother
felt proud of her son, and his new waistcoat, which
was far more conspicuously of the latest fashion than
Frankâ€™s could be said to be. After dinner, when
Mr. Buxton and the two young men were left alone,
Edward launched out still more. He thought he was
impressing Frank with his knowledge of the world,
and the worldâ€™s ways. But he was doing all in his
power to repel one who had never been much attract-
ed toward him. Worldly success was his standard
of merit. The end seemed with him to justify the
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 69
means; 1f a man prospered, it was not necessary to
scrutinize his conduct too closely. The law was
viewed in its lowest aspect; and yet with a certain
cleverness, which preserved Edward from being
intellectually contemptible. Frank had entertained
some idea of studying for a barrister himself: not
so much as a means of livelihood as to gain some
idea of the code which makes and shows a nationâ€™s
conscience: but Edwardâ€™s details of the ways in
which the letter so often baffles the spirit, made
him recoil. With some anger against himself,
for viewing the profession with disgust, because it
was degraded by those who embraced it, instead of
looking upon it as what might be ennobled and
purified into a vast intelligence by high and pure-
minded men, he got up abruptly and left the room.
The girls were sitting over the drawing-room fire,
with unlighted candles on the table, talking, he felt,
about his mother; but when he came in they rose,
and changed their tone. Erminia went to the piano,
and sang her newest and choicest French airs. Frank
was gloomy and silent; but when she changed into
more solemn music his mood was softened. Maggieâ€™s
simple and hearty admiration, untinged by the slight-
est shade of envy for Erminiaâ€™s accomplishments,
charmed him. The one appeared to him the perfec-
tion of elegant art, the other of graceful nature,
When he looked at Maggie, and thought of the
70 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
moorland home from which she had never wandered,
the mysteriously beautiful lines of Wordsworth
seemed to become sun-clear to him.
Â« And she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place
Where rivulets dance their wayward round,
And beauty born of murmuring sound
Shall pass into her face.â€
Mr. Buxton, in the dining-room, was really getting
to take an interest in Edwardâ€™s puzzling cases.
They were like tricks at cards. A quick motion,
and out of the unpromising heap, all confused to-
gether, presto! the right card turned up. Edward
stated his case, so that there did not seem a loophole
for the desired verdict; but, through some conjura-
tion, it always came uppermost at last. He hada
graphic way of relating things; and, as he did not
spare epithets in his designation of the opposing
party, Mr. Buxton took it upon trust that the de-
fendant or the prosecutor (as it might happen) was a
â€œ pettifogging knave,â€ or a â€œmiserly curmudgeon,â€
and rejoiced accordingly in the triumph over him
gained by the ready wit of â€œour governor,â€ Mr.
Bish. At last he became so deeply impressed with
Edwardâ€™s knowledge of law, as to consult him about
some cottage property he had in Woodchester.
- Â«TJ rather think there are twenty-one cottages, and
they donâ€™t bring me in four pounds a-year ; and out
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 71
of that I have to pay for collecting. Would there be
any chance of selling them? They are in Doughty-
street ; a bad neighborhood, I fear.â€
â€œVery bad,â€ was Edwardâ€™s prompt reply. â€œ But
if you are really anxious to effect a sale, I have no
doubt I could find a purchaser in a short time.â€
â€œTY should be very much obliged to you,â€ said
Mr. Buxton. â€œYou would be doing me a kindness.
If you meet with a purchaser, and can manage the
affair, I would rather that you drew out the deeds for
the transfer of the property. It would be the be-
ginning of business for you; and I only hope I
should bring you good luck.â€
Of course Edward could do this; and when they
left the table, it was with a feeling on his side that he
was a step nearer to the agency which he coveted ;
and with a happy consciousness on Mr. Buxtonâ€™s of
having put a few pounds in the way of a deserving
and remarkably clever young man.
Since Edward had left home, Maggie bad gradu-
ally, but surely, been gaining in importance. Her
judgment and her untiring unselfishness could not
fail to make way. Her mother had some respect for,
and great dependence on her ; but still it was hardly
affection that she felt for her; or if it was, it was a
dull and torpid kind of feeling, compared with the
fond love and exulting pride which she took in
Edward. When he came back for occasional holi-
72 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
days, his motherâ€™s face was radiant with happiness,
and her manner toward him was even more caress-
ing than he approved of When Maggie saw him
repel the hand that fain would have stroked his hair
as in childish days, a longing came into her heart for
some of these uncared-for tokens of her motherâ€™ 8
love. Otherwise she meekly sank back into her old
secondary place, content to have her judgment
slighted and her wishes unasked as long as he
stayed. At times she was now beginning to disap-
prove and regret some things in him; his flashiness
of manner jarred against her taste; and a deeper,
graver feeling was called out by his coiden want of
quick moral perception. â€œSmart and clever,â€ or
â€œslow and dull,â€ took with him the place of â€œright
and wrong.â€ Little as he thought it, he was him-
self narrow-minded and dull; slow and blind to per-
ceive the beauty and eternal wisdom of simple good-
ness. | |
Erminia and Maggie became great friends. Er-
minia used to beg for Maggie, until she herself put
a stop to the practice ; as she saw her mother yielded
more frequently than was convenient, for the honor
of having her daughter a visitor at Mr. Buxtonâ€™s,
about which she could talk to her few acquaintances
who persevered in calling at the cottage. Then Hr-
minia volunteered a visit of some days to Maggie,
and Mrs. Browneâ€™s pride was redoubled; but she
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 73
made so many preparations, and so much fuss, and
gave herself so much trouble, that she was positively
ill during Erminiaâ€™s stay; and Maggie felt that she
must henceforward deny herself the pleasure of hay-
ing her friend for a guest, as her mother could not
be persuaded from attempting to provide things in
the same abundance and style as that to which Er-
minia was â€˜accustomed at home ; whereas, as Nancy
shrewdly observed, the young lady did not know if
she was eating jelly, or porridge, or whether the
plates were common delf or the best China, so
long as she was with her dear Miss M aggie. Spring
went, and summer came. Frank had gone to and
fro between Cambridge and Combehurst, drawn by
motives of which he felt the force, but into which he
did not care to examine. Edward had sold the prop-
erty of Mr. Buxton; and he, pleased with the pos-
session of half the purchase money (the remainder of.
which was to be paid by instalments), and happy in
the idea that his son came over so frequently to see
Erminia, had amply rewarded the young attorney
for his services,
One summerâ€™s day, as hot as day could be, Maggie
had been busy all morning ; for the weather was so
sultry that she would not allow either N ancy or her
mother to exert themselves much, She had gone
down with the old brown pitcher, coeval with her-
self, to the spring for water; and while it was trick-
74 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
ling, and making a tinkling music, she sat down on
the ground. The air was so still that she heard the
distant wood-pigeons cooing; and round about her
the bees were murmuring busily among the cluster-
. ing heath. From some little touch of sympathy with
these low sounds of pleasant harmony, she began to
try and hum some of Erminiaâ€™s airs. She never
sang out loud, or put words to her songs; but her
voice was very sweet, and it was a great pleasure to
herself to let it go into music. Just as her jug was
filled, she was startled by Frankâ€™s sudden appearance.
She thought he was at Cambridge, and, from some
cause or other, her face, usually so faint in color, be-
came the most vivid scarlet. They were both too.
conscious to speak. Maggie stooped (murmuring
some words of surprise) to take up her pitcher.
â€œ Donâ€™t go yet, Maggie,â€ said he, putting his hand
on hers to stop her; but, somehow, when that pur-
pose was effected, he forgot to take it off again, â€œI
have come all the way from Cambridge to see you.
I could not bear suspense any longer. I grew so
impatient for certainty of some kind, that I went up
to town last night, in order to feel myself on my way
to you, even though I knew I could not be here a
_ bit earlier to-day for doing so. Maggieâ€”dear Mag-
gie! how you are trembling! Have I frightened
you? Nancy told me you were here; but it was
very thoughtless to come so suddenly upon you.â€
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 75
It was not the suddenness of his coming; it was
the suddenness of her own heart, which leaped up
with the feelings called out by his words. She went
very white, and sat down on the ground as before.
But she rose again immediately, and stood, with
drooping, averted head. He had dropped her hand,
but now sought to take it again.
â€œ Maggie, darling, may I speak?â€ Her lips moved,
he saw, but he could not hear. A pang of affright
ran through him that, perhaps, she did not wish to
listen. â€œMay I speak to you?â€ he asked again,
quite timidly. She tried to make her voice sound,
but it would not; so she looked round. Her soft
gray eyes were eloquent in that one glance. And,
happier than his words, passionate and tender as
they were, could tell, he spoke till her trembling was
changed into bright flashing blushes, and even a shy
smile hovered about her lips, and dimpled her cheeks.
The water bubbled over the pitcher unheeded. At
last she remembered all the work-a-day world. She
lifted up the jug, and would have hurried home, but
Frank decidedly took it from her.
â€œ Henceforward,â€ said he, â€œI have a right to carry
your burdens.â€ So with one arm round her waist
and with the other carrying the water, they climbed
the steep turfy slope. Near the top she wanted to
take it again.
76 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œ Mamma will not like it. Mamma will think it
â€œWhy, dearest, if I saw Nancy carrying it up this
slope I would take it from her. It would be strange
if a man did not carry it for any woman. But you
must let me tell your mother of my right to help
you. It is your dinner-time, is it not? I may come
in to dinner as one of the family, may not I, Maggie?â€
â€œ No,â€ she said softly. For she longed to be alone ;
and she dreaded being overwhelmed by the expres-
sion of her motherâ€™s feelings, weak and agitated as
she felt herself. â€œ Not to-day.â€ ,
â€œ Not to-day!â€ said he, reproachfully. â€œ You are
very hard upon me. Let me come to tea. If you
~ will, I will leave you now. Let me come to early
tea. I must speak to my father. He does not know
I am here. I may come to tea. At what time is it?
Three o'clock. Oh, I know you drink tea at some
strange early hour ; perhaps it is at two. I will take
care to be in time.â€
â€œ Donâ€™t come till-five, please. I must tell mamma ;
and I want some time to think. It does seem so like
adream. Do go, please.â€
â€œ Well! if I must, I must. But I donâ€™t feel as if
I were in a dream, but in some real blessed heaven,
so long as I see you.â€
At last he went. Nancy was awaiting Maggie, at
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 77
- Bless us and save us, bairn! what a time it has
taken thee to get the water. Is the spring dry with
the hot weather ?â€
Maggie ran past her. All dinner-time she heard
her motherâ€™s voice in long-continued lamentation
about something. She answered at random, and
startled her mother by asserting that she thought
â€œitâ€ was very good; the said â€œitâ€ being milk turned
sour by thunder. Mrs. Browne spoke quite sharply,
â€œNo one is so particular as you, Maggie. I have
known you drink water, day after day, for breakfast,
when you were a little girl, because your cup of milk
had a drowned fly in it; and now you tell me you
â€˜ donâ€™t care for this, and donâ€™t mind that, just as if
you could eat up all the things which are spoiled by
the heat. I declare my head aches so, I shall go and
lie down as soon as ever dinner is over.
If this was her plan, Maggie thought she had no
time to lose in making her confession. Frank would
be here before her mother got up again to tea. But
she dreaded speaking about her happiness; it seemed
as yet so cobweb-like, as if a touch would spoil its
â€œMamma, just wait a minute. Just sit down in
your chair while I tell you something. Please, dear
mamma.â€ She took a stool, and sat at her motherâ€™s
feet ; and then she began to turn the wedding-ring
78 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
on Mrs. Browneâ€™s hand, looking down and never
speaking, till the latter became impatient.
â€œWhat is it you have got to say, child? Do make
haste, for I want to go up-stairs.â€
With a great jerk of resolution, Maggie saidâ€”
â€œMamma, Frank Buxton has asked me to marry
She hid her face in her motherâ€™s lap for an in-
stant; and then she lifted it up, as brimful of the
light of happiness as is the cup of a water-lily of the
â€œ Maggieâ€”you donâ€™t say so,â€ said her mother, half
incredulously. â€œIt canâ€™t be, for heâ€™s at Cambridge,
and itâ€™s not post-day. What do you mean?â€
â€œ He came this morning, mother, when I was down
at the well; and we fixed that I was to speak to you;
and he asked if he might come again for tea.â€
â€œDear! dear! and the milk all gone sour? We
should have had milk of our own, if Edward had not
persuaded me against buying another cow.â€
â€œT donâ€™t think Mr. Buxton will mind it much,â€
said Maggie, dimpling up, as she remembered, half
unconsciously, how little he had seemed to care for.
anything but herself.
â€œWhy, what a thing it is for you!â€ said Mrs.
Browne, quite roused up from her languor and her
hhead-ache. â€œEverybody said he was engaged to
Miss Erminia. Are you quite sure you made no
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 79
mistake, child? What did he say? Young men are
so fond of making fine speeches ; and young women
are so silly in fancying they mean something. I
once knew a girl who thought that a gentleman who
sent her mother a present of a sucking-pig, did it as
a delicate way of making her an offer. Tell me his
But Maggie blushed, and either would not or could
not. So Mrs. Browne began againâ€”
â€œWell, if youâ€™re sure, youâ€™re sure. I wonder
how he brought his father round. So long as he and
Erminia have been planned for each other! That
very first day we ever dined there after your fatherâ€™s
death, Mr. Buxton as good as told me all about it.
I fancied they were only waiting till they were out
of mourning.â€ |
All this was news to Maggie. She had never
thought that either Erminia or Frank was particu-
larly fond of the other ; still less had she had any
idea of Mr. Buxtonâ€™s plans for them. Her motherâ€™s
surprise at her engagement jarred a little upon her
too: it had become so natural, even in these last two
hours, to feel that she belonged to him. But there
were more discords to come. Mrs. Browne began
again, half in soliloquy :
â€œT should think he would have four thousand
a-year. He did not tell you, love, did he, if they had
still that bad property in the canal, that his father
80. THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
complained about? But he will have four thousand.
Why, you'll have your carriage, Maggie. Well! I
hope Mr. Buxton has taken it kindly, because he'll
have a deal to do with the settlements, Iâ€™m sure I
thought he was engaged to Erminia.â€
Ringing changes on these subjects all the after-
noon, Mrs. Browne sat with Maggie. She occasion-
ally wandered off to speak about Edward, and how
favorably his future prospects would be advanced
by the engagement.
â€œLet me seeâ€”thereâ€™s the house in Combehurst :
the rent of that would be a hundred and fifty a-year,
but we'll not reckon that. But thereâ€™s the quar-
riesâ€ (she was reckoning upon her fingers in default
of a slate, for which she had vainly searched), â€œwe "ll
call them two hundred a-year, for I donâ€™t believe
Mr. Buxtonâ€™s stories about their only bringing him
in sevenpence; and thereâ€™s N ewbridge, thatâ€™s cer-
tainly thirteen hundredâ€” where had I got to,
â€œDear mamma, do go and lie down for a little ;
you look quite flushed,â€ said Maggie, softly.
Was this the manner to view her betrothal with
such a man as Frank? Her motherâ€™s remarks de-
pressed her more than she could have thought it
possible ; the excitement of the morning was having
its reaction, and she longed to go up to the solitude
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 81
under the thorn-tree, where she had hoped to spend
a quiet, thoughtful afternoon.
Nancy came in to replace glasses and spoons in
the cupboard. By some accident, the careful old
servant broke one of the former. She looked up
quickly at her mistress, who usually visited all
such offences with no small portion of rebuke.
â€œ Never mind, Nancy,â€ said Mrs. Browne. â€œ Itâ€™s
only an old tumbler; and Maggieâ€™s going to be mar-
ried, and we must buy a new set for the wedding-
Nancy looked at both, bewildered ; at last a light
dawned into her mind, and her face looked shrewdly
and knowingly back at Mrs. Browne. Then she
said, very quietly,
â€œT think I'll take the next pitcher to the well my-
self, and try my luck. To think how sorry I was for
Miss Maggie this morning! â€˜ Poor thing, says I to
myself, â€˜to be kept all this time at that confounded
wellâ€™ (for Iâ€™ll not deny that I swear a bit to myself
at timesâ€”it sweetens the blood), â€˜and she so tired.â€™
I eâ€™en thought Iâ€™d go help her; but I reckon sheâ€™d
some other help. May I take a guess at the young
â€œFour thousand a-year! Nancy;â€ said Mrs.
â€œAnd a blithe look, and a warm, kind heartâ€”
and a free stepâ€”and a noble way with him to rich
82 _ HE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
and poorâ€”aye, aye, I know the name. No need to
alter all my neat M. Bâ€™s., done in turkey-red cotton.
Well, well! every oneâ€™s turn comes sometime, but
â€˜mineâ€™s rather long a-coming.â€
The faithful old servant came up to Maggie, and
put her hand caressingly on her shoulder. Maggie
threw her arms round her* neck, and kissed the
brown, withered face.
â€œGod bless thee, bairn,â€ said Nancy, solemnly.
It brought the low music of peace back into the
still recesses of Maggieâ€™s heart. She began to look
out for her lover; half-hidden behind the muslin
â€œwindow curtain, which waved gently to and fro in
the afternoon breezes. She heard a firm, buoyant
step, and had only time to catch one glimpse of his
face, before moving away. But that one glance
made her think that the hours which had elapsed
since she saw him had not been serene to him any
more than to her. |
When he entered the parlor, his fate was glad
and bright. He went up in a frank, rejoicing way
to Mrs. Browne; who was evidently rather puzzled
how to receive himâ€”whether as Maggieâ€™s betrothed,
or as the son of the greatest man of her acquaint-
â€œT am sure, sir,â€ said she, â€œwe are all very much
obliged to you for the honor you have done our,
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 83
He looked rather perplexed as to the nature of
the honor which he had conferred without knowing
it; but as the light dawned upon him, he made
answer in a frank, merry way, which was yet full of.
respect for his future mother-in-lawâ€”
â€œAnd I am sure I am truly grateful for the
honor one of your family has done me.â€
When Nancy brought in tea she was dressed in
her fine-weather Sunday gown; the first time it had
ever been worn out of church, and the walk to and
After tea, Frank asked Maggie if she would walk
out with him; and accordingly they climbed the Fell-
Lane and went out upon the moors, which seemed
vast and boundless as their love.
â€œHave you told your father?â€ asked Maggie; a
dim anxiety lurking in her heart.
â€œYes,â€ said Frank, He did not go on; and she
feared to ask, although she longed to know, how
Mr. Buxton had received the intelligence.
â€œWhat did he say?â€ at length she inquired.
â€œQh! it was evidently a new idea to him that I
was attached to you; and he does not take up a new
idea speedily. He has had some notion, it seems,
that Erminia and I were to make a match of it ;
but she and I agreed, when we talked it over, that
we should never have fallen in love with each other
if there had not been another human being in the
84 â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
world. Erminia is a little sensible creature, and
says she does not wonder at any man falling in love
with you. Nay, Maggie, donâ€™t hang your head so
down ; let me have a glimpse of your face.â€
â€œT am sorry your father does not like it,â€ said
Maggie, sorrowfully. â€˜
â€œSo am I. But we must give him time to get
reconciled. Never fear but he will like it in the
long run; he has too much good taste and good feel-
ing. He must like you.â€
Frank did not choose to tell even Maggie how
violently his father had set himself against their
engagement. He was surprised and annoyed at
first to find how decidedly his father was possessed
with the idea that he was to marry his cousin, and
that she, at any rate, was attached to him, whatever
his feelings might be toward her; but after he had
gone frankly to Erminia and told her all, he found
that she was as ignorant of her uncleâ€™s plans for her
as he had been; and almost as glad at any event
which should frustrate them.
* Indeed she came to the moorland cottage on the
following day, after Frank had returned to Cam-
bridge. She had left her horse in charge of the
groom, near the fir-trees on the heights, and came
running down the slope in her habit. Maggie went
out to meet her, with just a little wonder at her
heart if-what Frank had said could possibly be true;
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 85
and that Erminia, living in the house with him,
could have remained indifferent to him. Hrminia
threw her arms round her neck, and they sat down
together on the court-steps.
â€œT durst not ride down that hill; and Jem is
holding my horse, so I may not stay very long; now
begin, Maggie, at once, and go into a rhapsody about
Frank. Is not he a charming fellow? Oh! I am
so glad. Now donâ€™t sit smiling and blushing there
to yourself; but tell me a great deal about it. I
have so wanted to know somebody that was in love,
that I might hear what it was like; and the minute
I could, I came off here. Frank is only just gone.
He has had another long talk with my uncle, since
he came back from you this morning; but I am
afraid he has not made much way yet.â€
Maggie sighed. â€œI donâ€™t wonder at his not
thinking me good enough for Frank.â€
â€œNo! the difficulty would be to find any one he
did think fit for his paragon of a son.â€
â€œ He thought you were, dearest Erminia.â€â€™
â€œSo Frank has told you that, has he? I suppose
we shall have no more family secrets now,â€ said
Erminia, laughing. â€œBut I can assure you I had a
strong rival in lady Adela Castlemayne, the Duke
of Wightâ€™s daughter; she was the most beautiful
lady my uncle had ever seen (he only saw her in the
Grand Stand at Woodchester races, and never spoke
86 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE:
a word to her in his life). And if she would have
had Frank, my uncle would still have been dissatis-
fied as long as the Princess Victoria was unmarried ;
none would have been good enough while a better
remained. But Maggie,â€ said she, smiling up into
her friendâ€™s face, â€œI think it would have made you
laugh, for all you look as if a kiss would shake the
tears out of your eyes, if you could have seen my
uncleâ€™s manner to me all day. He will have it that
I am suffering from an unrequited attachment; so
he watched me and watched me over breakfast; and
at last, when I had eaten a whole nest-full of eggs,
and I donâ€™t know how many pieces of toast, he rang
the bell and asked for some potted charr. I was
quite unconscious that it was for me, and I did not
want it when it came; so he sighed ina most melan-
choly manner, and said, â€˜My poor Erminia!â€™ If
Frank had not been there, and looking dreadfully
miserable, I am sure I should have laughed out.â€
â€œDid Frank look miserable?â€ said Maggie, anx-
â€œ Phere now! you donâ€™t care for anything but the
mention of his name.â€
â€œBut did he look unhappy?â€ persisted Maggie.
â€œT canâ€™t say he looked happy, dear Mousey; but
it was quite different when he came back from
seeing you. You know you always had the art of
stilling any personâ€™s trouble. You and my aunt
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 87
Buxton are the only two I ever knew with that
â€œT am so sorry he has any trouble to be stilled,â€
â€œAnd I think it will do him a world of good;
Think how successful his life has been! the honors
he got at Eton! his picture taken, and I donâ€™t
know what! and at Cambridge just the same way
of going on. He would be insufferably imperious
in a few years, if he did not. meet with a few
â€œ Imperious !â€”oh Erminia, how can you say. so.?â€
â€œ Because itâ€™s the truth. He happens to have
very good dispositions; and therefore his strong-will
is not either disagreeable, or offensive ; but once. let
him become possessed by a wrong wish, and you
would then see how vehement and imperious he
would bÃ©. Depend upon it, my uncleâ€™s resistance is
a capital thing for him. As dear sweet Aunt Bux-
ton would have said,â€˜ There is a holy purpose in it.;'
and as Aunt Buxton would not have said, but as I,
a â€˜fool, rush in where angels fear to tread, I decide
that the purpose is to teach Master Frank patience
â€œ Erminia â€” how could you helpâ€ â€” and there
â€œT know what you mean; how could I help falling
in love with him? I think he has not mystery and
88 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
reserve enough for me. I should like a man with
some deep, impenetrable darkness around him ; some-
thing one could always keep wondering about. Be-
sides, think what clashing of wills there would have
been! My uncle was very short-sighted in his plan ;
but I donâ€™t think he thought so much about the fit-
ness of our characters and ways, as the fitness of our
â€œFor shame, Erminia! No one cares less for
money than Mr. Buxton !â€
â€œThere â€™s a good little daughter-in-law elect! But
seriously, I do think he is beginning to care for
money ; not in the least for himself, but as a means
of aggrandizement for Frank. I have observed,
since I came home at Christmas, a growing anxiety
to make the most of his property ; a thing he never
cared about before. I donâ€™t think he is aware of it
himself ; but from one or two little things I have
noticed, I should not wonder if he ends in being
avaricious in his old age.â€ Erminia sighed.
Maggie had almost a sympathy with the father,
who sought what he imagined to be for the good of
his son, and that son, Frank. Although she was as
convinced as Erminia, that money could not really
help any one to happiness, she could not at the
instant resist sayingâ€”
â€œOh! how I wish I had a fortune! 1 should so
like to give it all to him.â€
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 89
â€œNow Maggie! donâ€™t be silly! I never heard
you wish for anything different from what was, be-
fore, so I shall take this opportunity of lecturing
you on your folly. No! I wonâ€™t either, for you
look sadly tired with all your agitation; and besides
I must go, or Jem will be wondering what has
become of me. Dearest cousin-in-law, I shall come
very often to see you; and perhaps I shall give you
my lecture yet.â€
Ir was true of Mr. Buxton, as well as of his son,
that he had the seeds of imperiousness in him,
His life had not been such as to call them out into
view. With more wealth than he required; with a
gentle wife, who if she ruled him never showed it, or
was conscious of the fact herself; looked up to by
his neighbors, a simple affectionate set of people,
whose fathers had lived near his father and grand-
father in the same kindly relation, receiving benefits
cordially given, and requiting them with good will
and respectful attention: such had been the circum-
stances surrounding him; and until his son grew
out of childhood, there had not seemed a wish which
he had it not in his power to gratify as soon as form-
ed. Again, when Frank was at school and at college,
all went on prosperously ; he gained honors enough
to satisfy a far more ambitious father. Indeed, it
was the honors he gained that stimulated his fatherâ€™s
ambition. He received letters from tutors, and head-
masters, prophesying that, if Frank chose, he might
rise to the â€œhighest honors in church or state ad
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE: 9L
and the idea thus suggested, vague as it was, remain-
ed, and filled Mr. Buxtonâ€™s mind; and, for the
first time in his life, made him wish that his own
career had been such as would have led him to form
connections among the great and powerful. But, as
it was, his shyness and gÃ©ne, from being unaccustomed
to society, had made him averse to Frankâ€™s occasional
requests that he might bring such and such a school-
fellow, or college-chum, home on a visit. Now he
regretted this, on account of the want of those con-
nections which might thus have been formed; and,
in his visions, he turned to marriage as the best way
of remedying this. Erminia was right in saying
that her uncle had thought of Lady Adela Castle-
mayne for an instant; though how the little witch
had found it out I cannot say, as the idea had been
dismissed immediately from his mind. He was
wise enough to see its utter vanity, as long as his
son remained undistinguished. But his hope was
this. If Frank married Erminia, their united
property (she being her fatherâ€™s heiress) would jus-
tify him in standing for the shire; or if he could
marry the daughter of some leading personage in the
county, it might lead to the same step; and thus at
once he would obtain a position in parliament, where
his, great talents would have scope and verge enough.
Of these two visions, the favorite one (for his sisterâ€™s
gake) was that of marriage with Erminia.
92 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
And, in the midst of all this, fell, like a bomb-
shell, the intelligence of his engagement with Mag-
gie Browne ; a good sweet little girl enough, but
without fortune or connection â€” without, as far as
Mr. Buxton knew, the least power, or capability, or
spirit, with which to help Frank on in his career to
eminence in the land! He resolved to consider it
asa boyish fancy, easily to be suppressed ; and pooh-
poohed it down, to Frank, accordingly. He remarked
his sonâ€™s set lips, and quiet determined brow, al-
though he never spoke in a more respectful tone,
than while thus steadily opposing his father. If he
had shown more violence of manner, he would have
irritated him less; but, as it was, it was the most
miserable interview that had ever taken place be-
tween the father and son.
Mr. Buxton tried to calm himself down with be-
lieving that Frank would change his mind, if he saw
more of the world ; but, somehow, he had a prophe-
sying distrust of this.idea internally. The worst
was, there was no fault to be found with Maggie
herself, although she might want the accomplish-
ments he desired to see in his sonâ€™s wife. Her con-
nections, too, were so perfectly respectable (though
humble enough in comparison with Mr. Buxtonâ€™s
soaring wishes), that there was nothing to be objected
to on that score ; her position was the great offence.
In proportion to his want of any reason but this one,
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 93
for disapproving of the engagement, was his annoy-
ance under it. He assumed a reserve toward
Frank; which was so unusual a restraint upon his
open, genial disposition, that it seemed to make him
irritable toward all others in contact with him, ex-
cepting Erminia. He found it difficult to behave
rightly to Maggie. Like all habitually cordial per-
sons, he went into the opposite extreme, when he
wanted to show a little coolness. However angry
he might be with the events of which she was the
cause, she was too innocent and meek to justify him
in being more than cool; but his awkwardness was
so great, that many a man of the world has met his
greatest enemy, each knowing the otherâ€™s hatred,
with less freezing distance of manner than Mr. Bux-
tonâ€™s to Maggie. While she went simply on in her
own path, loving him the more through all, for old
kindnessâ€™ sake, and because he was Frankâ€™s father, |
he shunned meeting her with such evident and pain-
ful anxiety, that at last she tried to spare him the
encounter, and hurried out of church, or lingered
behind all, in order to avoid the only chance they
now had of being forced to speak ; for she no longer
went to the dear house in Combehurst, though
Erminia came to see her more than ever.
Mrs. Browne was perplexed and annoyed beyond
measure. She upbraided Mr. Buxton to every one
but Maggie. To her she saidâ€”â€œ Any one in their
94 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
senses might have foreseen what had happened, and
would have thought well about it, before they went
and fell in love with a young man of such expecta-
tions as Mr. Frank Buxton.â€
In the middle of all this dismay, Edward came
over from Woodchester for a day or two. He had
been told of the engagement, in a letter from Mag-
gie herself; but it was too sacred a subject for her
to enlarge upon to him; and Mrs. Browne was no
letter writer. So this was his first greeting to Mag-
gie; after kissing herâ€”
â€œWell, Sancho, youâ€™ve done famously for your-
self. As soon as I got your letter I said to Harry
Bishâ€”â€˜ Still waters run deep ; here â€™s my little sister
Maggie, as quiet a creature as ever lived, has man-
aged to catch young Buxton, who has five thousand
a-year if heâ€™s a penny.â€™ Donâ€™t go so red, Maggie.
Harry was sure to hear of it soon from some one,
and I see no use in keeping it secret, for it gives con-
sequence to us all.â€
â€œMr. Buxton is quite put out about it,â€ said Mrs.
Brown, querulously ; â€œand Iâ€™m sure he need not be,
for heâ€™s enough of money, if thatâ€™s what he wants;
and Maggieâ€™s father was a clergyman, and Iâ€™ve seen
â€˜yeoman,â€™ with my own eyes, on old Mr. Buxtonâ€™s
(Mr. Lawrenceâ€™s fatherâ€™s) carts ; and a clergyman is
above a yeoman any day. But if Maggie had had
any thought for other people, she'd never have gone
HE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 95
and engaged herself, when she might have been sure
it would give offence. We are never asked down to
dinner now. Iâ€™ve never broken bread there since
Â« Whew ! said Edward to this. It was a dis-
appointed whistle; but he â€˜soon cheered up. â€œI
thought I could have lentâ€™a hand in screwing old
Buxton up about the settlements; but I see itâ€™s not
come to that yet. Still I'll go and see the old gen-
tleman. Iâ€™m a bit of a favorite of his, and Iâ€™ve no
doubt I can turn him round.â€ ,
Â« Pray, Edward, donâ€™t go,â€ said Maggie. â€œ Frank
and Tare content to wait; and Iâ€™m sure we would
yather not have any one speak to Mr. Buxton, upon
a subject which evidently gives him â€˜so much pain;
please, Edward, donâ€™t !â€
â€œWell, well. Only I must go about this property
of his. Besides, I donâ€™t mean to get into disgrace ;
â€˜go I shanâ€™t seem to know anything about it, if it
would make him angry. I want to keep on good
terms, because of the agency. So, perhaps, I shall
shake my head, and think it great presumption in
you, Maggie, to have thought of becoming his daugh-
ter-in-law. If I can do you no good, I may as well
do myself some.â€
Â«I â€˜hope you won't mention me at all,â€ she re-
â€˜One comfort (and almost the only one arising
96 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
from Edwardâ€™s visit) was, that she could now often
be spared to go up to the thorn-tree, and calm down
her anxiety, and bring all discords into peace, under
the sweet influences of nature. Mrs. Buxton had
tried to teach her the force of the lovely truth, that
the â€œmelodies of the everlasting chimeâ€ may abide
in the hearts of those who ply their daily task in
towns, and crowded populous places ; and that soli-
tude is not needed by the faithful for them to feel
the immediate presence of God; nor utter stillness
of human sound necessary, before they can hear the
music of His angelsâ€™ footsteps ; but, as yet, her soul
was a young disciple; and she felt it easier to speak
to Him, and come to Him for help, sitting lonely,
with wild moors swelling and darkening around her,
and not a creature in sight but the white specks of
distant sheep, and the birds that shun the haunts of
men, floating in the still mid-air.
She sometimes longed to go to Mr. Buxton and
tell him how much she could sympathize with him,
if his dislike to her engagement arose from his
thinking her unworthy of his son. Frankâ€™s charac-
ter seemed to her grand in its promise. With vehe-
ment impulses and natural gifts, craving worthy
employment, his will sat supreme over all, like a
young emperor calmly seated on his throne, whose
fiery generals and wise counsellors stand alike ready
to obey him. But if marriage were to be made by
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 97
due measurement and balance of character, and if
others, with their scales, were to be the judges, what
would become of all the beautiful services rendered
by the loyalty of true love? Where would be the
raising up of the weak by the strong? or the patient
endurance ? or the gracious trust of herâ€”
â€œ Whose faith is fixt and cannot move ;
She darkly feels him great and wise,
She dwells on him with faithful eyes,
â€˜I cannot understand: I love.â€™ â€
Edwardâ€™s manners and conduct caused her more
real anxiety than anything else. Indeed, no other
thoughtfulness could be called anxiety compared to
this. His faults, she could not but perceive, were
strengthening with his strength, and growing with
his growth. She could not help wondering whence
he obtained the money to pay for his dress, which she
thought was of a very expensive kind. She heard
him also incidentally allude to â€œruns up to town,â€ of
which, at the time, neither she nor her mother had
been made aware. He seemed confused when she
questioned him about these, although he tried to
laugh it off; and asked her how she, a country girl,
cooped up among one set of people, could have any
idea of the life it was necessary for a man to lead
whoâ€œ had any hope of getting on in the world.â€ He Â©
must have acquaintances and connections, and see
something of life,and make an appearance. She was
98 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
silenced, but not satisfied. Nor was she at ease with
regard to his health, He looked ill, and worn ; and,
when he was not rattling and laughing, his face fell
into a shape of anxiety and uneasiness, which was
new to her in it. He reminded her painfully of an
old German engraving she had seen in Mrs. Bux-
tonâ€™s portfolio, called, â€œ Pleasure digging a Grave ;â€
Pleasure being represented by a ghastly figure of
a young man, eagerly industrious over his dismal
A few days after he went away, Nancy came to
her in her bed-room. |
â€œ Miss Maggie,â€ said she, â€œmay I just speak a
word?â€ But when the permission was given, she
Â« Itâ€™s none of my business, to be sure,â€ said she at
last: â€œ only, you see, Iâ€™ve lived with your mother
ever since she was married; and I care a deal for
both you and Master Edward. And I think he
drains Missus of her money; and it makes me not
easy. in my mind, You did not know of it, but he
had his fatherâ€™s old watch when he was over last
time but one; I thought he was of an age to have a
watch, and that it was all natural, But, I reckon
heâ€™s sold it, and got that gimerack one instead.
Thatâ€™s perhaps natural too. Young folks like young
fashions. But, this time, I think he has taken away
your motherâ€™s watch ; at least, Iâ€™ve never seen it
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 99
since he went. And this morning she spoke to me
about. my wages. Iâ€™m sure Iâ€™ve never asked for
them, nor troubled her ; but I'll own itâ€™s now near
on to twelve months since she paid me; and she was
as regular:as clock-work till then. Now, Miss Maggie
donâ€™t look so sorry, or I shall wish I had never spok-
en, Poor Missus seemed sadly put about, and said
something as I did not try to hear; for I was so
vexed she should think I needed apologies, and them
sort of things. Iâ€™d rather live with you without
wages than have her look so shame-faced as she did
this morning. Idonâ€™t want a bit for money, my
dear; Iâ€™ve a deal in the Bank. But Iâ€™m afeard
Master Edward is spending too much, and pinching
Maggie was very sorry indeed. Her mother had
never told her anything of all this, so it was evi-
dently a painful subject to her; and Maggie deter-
mined (after lying awake half the night) that she
would write to Edward, and remonstrate with him;
and that in every personal and household expense,
she would be, more than ever, rigidly economical.
The full, free, natural intercourse between her
lover and herself, could not fail to be checked by Mr.
Buxtonâ€™s aversion to the engagement, Hrank came
over for some time in the early autumn. He had left
Cambridge, and intended to enter himself at the
Temple as soon as the vacation was ended, -He had
100 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
not been very long at home before Maggie was made
aware, partly through Erminia, who had no notion of
discreet silence on any point, and partly by her own
observation, of the increasing estrangement between
father and son. Mr. Buxton was reserved with
Frank for the first time in his life; and Frank was
depressed and annoyed at his fatherâ€™s obstinate repe-
tition of the same sentence, in answer to all his ar-
guments in favor of his engagement â€” arguments
which were overwhelming to himself, and which
it required an effort of patience on his part to go
over and recapitulate, so obvious was the conclu-
sion; and then to have the same answer forever,
the same words evenâ€”
â€œFrank ! itâ€™s no use talking. I donâ€™t approve of
the engagement ; and never shall.â€
He would snatch up his hat, and hurry off to
Maggie to be soothed. His father knew where he
was gone without being told; and was jealous of Â©
her influence over the son who had long been his
first and paramount object in life.
He needed not have been jealous. However
angry and indignant Frank was when he went up
to the moorland cottage, Maggie almost persuaded
him, befpngpbalf an hour had elapsed, that his father
was but unreasonable from his extreme affection.
Still she saw that such frequent differences would
weaken the bond between father and son; and, ac-
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 101
cordingly, she urged Frank to accept an invitation
â€œYou told me,â€ said she, â€œthat Mr. Buxton will
have it, it is but a boyâ€™s attachment ; and that when
you have seen other people, you will change your
mind ; now do try how far you can stand the effects
of absence.â€ She said it playfully, but he was in a
humor to be vexed.
â€œWhat nonsense, Maggie! You donâ€™t care for
all this delay yourself ; and you take up my fatherâ€™s
bad reasons as if you believed them.â€
â€œT donâ€™t believe them; but still they may be
â€œ How should you like it, Maggie, if I urged you
to go about and see something of society, and try
if you could not find some one you liked better?
It is more probable in your case than in mine; for
you have never been from home, and I have been
half over Europe.â€
â€œYou are very much afraid, are not you, Frank?â€
said she, her face bright with blushes, and her gray
eyes smiling up at him. â€œTI have a great idea that
if I could see that Harry Bish that Edward is
always talking about, I should be charmed. He
must wear such beautiful waistcoats! 4: you
think I had better see him before our engagement
is quite, quite final ?â€
But Frank would not smile. In fact, like all
102 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
angry persons, he found fresh matter for offence in
every sentence. She did not consider the engage-
ment as quite final: thus he chose to understand
her playful speech. He would not answer. She
spoke again :
â€œDear Frank, you are not angry with me, are
you? It is nonsense to think that we are to go
about the world, picking and choosing men and
women, as if they were fruit, and we were to gather
the best; as if there was not something in our own
hearts which, if we listen to it conscientiously, will
tell us at once when we have met the one of all
others. There now, am I sensible? I suppose I
am, for your grim features are relaxing into a smile.
Thatâ€™s right. But now listen to this. I think
your father would come round sooner, if he were
not irritated every day by the knowledge of your
visits to me. If you went away, he would know
that we should write to each other, yet he would
forget the exact time when; but now he knows as
well as I do where you are when you are up here;
and I fancy, from what Erminia says, it makes him
angry the whole time you are away.â€
Frank was silent, At last he said: â€œIt is rather
provoking to be obliged to acknowledge that there
is some truth in what you say. But even if I
would, I am not sure that I could go. My father
does not speak to me about his affairs, as he used to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE: 403.
do; so I was rather surprised yesterday to hear him
say to Erminia (though Iâ€™m sure he meant the in-
formation for me), that he had engaged an agent.â€
â€œThen there will be the less occasion for you to
be at home. He won't want your help in his ac-
Â«ve given him little enough of that. I have
long wanted him to have somebody to look after his
affairs. They are very complicated, and he is very
careless. But I believe my signature will be wanted
for some new leases; at least he told me so.â€
Â«That need not take you long,â€ said Maggie.
â€œNot the mere signing. But I want to know
something more about the property, and the pro-
posed tenants. I believe this Mr. Henry that my
father has engaged, is a very hard sort of man.
He is what is called scrupulously honest and honor-
able; but I fear a little too much inclined to drive
hard bargains for his client. Now I want to be
convineed to the contrary, if I can, before I leaveâ€™
my father in his hands. So, you cruel judge, you
won't transport me yet, will you â€
â€œNo,â€ said Maggie, overjoyed at her own deei-
sion, and blushing her delight that her reason was
convinced it was right for Frank to stay a little
longer. . |
The next dayâ€™s post brought her a letter from
Edward. There was not a word in it about her in-
104 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
quiry or remonstrance ; it might never have been
written, or never received ; but a few hurried anx-
ious lines, asking her to write by return of post,
and say if it was really true that Mr. Buxton had
engaged an agent. â€œItâ€™s a confounded shabby
trick if he has, after what he said to me long ago.
I cannot tell you how much I depend on your com-
plying with my request. Once more, write directly.
If Nancy cannot take the letter to the post, run
down to Combehurst with it yourself. 1 must have
an answer to-morrow, and every particular as to
whoâ€”when to be appointed, &c. But I canâ€™t be-
lieve the report to be true.â€
Maggie asked Frank if she might name what he
had told her the day before to her brother. He
â€œOh, yes, certainly, if he cares to know. Of
course, you will not say anything about my own
opinion of Mr. Henry. He is coming to-morrow,
and I shall be able to judge how far I am right.â€
Tue next day Mr. Henry came. He was a quiet,
stern-looking man, of considerable intelligence and
refinement, and so much taste for music as to charm
Erminia, who had rather dreaded his visit. But all
the amenities of life were put aside when he entered
Mr. Buxtonâ€™s sanctumâ€”his â€œ office,â€ as he called
the room where he received his tenants and business
people. Frank thought Mr. Henry was scarce com-
monly civil in the open evidence of his surprise and
contempt for the habits, of which the disorderly
books and ledgers were but too visible signs. Mr.
Buxton himself felt more like a school-boy, bringing
up an imperfect lesson, than he had ever done since
he was thirteen. -
Â«The only wonder, my good sir, is that you have
any property left; that you have not been cheated
out of every farthing.â€
Â«Jl answer for it,â€ said Mr. Buxton, in reply,
Â« that youâ€™ll not find any cheating has been going on.
106 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
They dared not, sir; they know I should make an
example of the first rogue I found out.â€
Mr. Henry lifted up his eyebrows, but did not
Â« Besides, sir, most of these men have lived for
generations under the Buxtons. Iâ€™d give you my
life, they would not cheat me.â€
Mr. Henry coldly saidâ€”
Â«J imagine a close examination of these books by
some accountant will be the best proof of the honesty
of these said tenants. If you will allow me, I will
write to a clever fellow I know, and desire him to
come down and try and regulate this mass of papers.â€
â€œ Anythingâ€”anything you like,â€ said Mr. Buxton,
only too glad to escape from the lawyer's cold, con-
temptuous way of treating the subject.
The accountant came; and he and Mr. Henry
were deeply engaged in the office for several days.
Mr. Buxton was bewildered by the questions they
asked him. Mr. Henry examined him in the worry-
ing way in which an unwilling witness is made to give
evidence. Many a time and oft did he heartily wish
he had gone on in the old course to the end of his
life, instead of putting himself into an agentâ€™s hands;
but he comforted himself by thinking that, at any
rate, they would be convinced he had never allowed
himself to be cheated or imposed upon, although he
did not make any parade of exactitude.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 107
What was his dismay when, one morning, Mr.
Henry sent to request his presence, and, with a cold,
clear voice, read aloud an admirably drawn up state-
ment, informing the poor landlord of the defalcations,
nay more, the impositions of those whom he had
trusted. If he had been alone, he would have burst
into tears, to find how his confidence had. been abused.
But as it was, he became passionately angry.
Â«JT 1] prosecute them, sir. Not a man shall escape.
I'll make them pay back every farthing, I will. And
damages, too. Crayston, did you say, sir? Was that
one of the names? Why, that is the very Crayston
who was bailiff under my father for years. The .
scoundrel! And I set him up in my best farm
when he married. And heâ€™s been swindling me,
_ Mr. Henry ran over the items of the accountâ€”
W421], 13s. 43d. Part of this I fear we cannot
recover â€"â€” |
He was going on, but Mr. Buxton broke in: â€œ But
T will recover it. Ill have every farthing of it. I'll
go to law with the viper. I donâ€™t care for money, but
I hate ingratitude.â€
- Â«Tf you like, I will take counselâ€™s opinion on the
ease,â€ said Mr. Henry, coolly.
Â«Take anything you please, sir. Why, this Cray-
ston was the first man that set me on a horseâ€”and
to.think of his cheating me !â€ '
108 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
A few days after this conversation, Frank came
on his usual visit to Maggie.
â€œCan you come up to the thorn-tree, dearest ?â€
said he. â€œIt is a lovely day, and I want the solace
of a quiet hourâ€™s talk with you.â€
So they went, and sat in silence some time, look-
ing at the calm and still blue air about the summits
of the hills, where never tumult of the world came to
disturb the peace, and the quiet of whose heights was
never broken by the loud passionate cries of men.
â€œT am glad you like my thorn-tree,â€ said Maggie.
â€œ T like the view from it. The thought of the soli-
tude which must be among the hollows of those hills
pleases me particularly to-day. Oh, Maggie! it is
one of the times when I get depressed about men
and the world. We have had such sorrow, and such
revelations, and remorse, and passion at home to-day.
Crayston (my fatherâ€™s old tenant) has come over. It
seemsâ€”I am afraid there is no doubt of itâ€”he has
been peculating to a large amount. My father has
been too careless, and has placed his dependents in
great temptation ; and Craystonâ€”he is an old man,
with a large extravagant familyâ€”has yielded. He
has been served with notice of my fatherâ€™s intention
to prosecute him; and came over to confess all, and
ask for forgiveness, and time to pay back what he
could. A month ago, my father would have listened
to him, I think ; but now, he is stung by Mr. Henryâ€™s
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 109
sayings, and gave way to a furious passion. It has
been a most distressing morning. The worst side of
everybody seems to have come out. Even Crayston,
with all his penitence and appearance of candor, had
to be questioned closely by Mr. Henry before he
would tell the whole truth. Good God! that money
should have such power to corrupt men. It was all
for money, and moneyâ€™s worth, that this degradation
has taken place. As for Mr. Henry, to save his
client money, and to protect money, he does not
careâ€”he does not even perceiveâ€”how he induces
deterioration of character. He has been encouraging
my father in measures which I cannot call anything
but vindictive. Crayston is to be made an example
of, they say. As if my father had not half the sin on
his own head! As if he had rightly discharged his
duties as a rich man! Money was as dross to him ;
but he ought to have remembered how it might be |
as life itself to many, and be craved after, and
coveted, till the black longing got the better of prin-
ciple, as it has done with this poor Crayston. They
say the man was once so truthful, and now his self-
respect is gone; and he has evidently lost the very
nature of truth. I dread riches. I dread the responsi-
bility of them. At any rate, I wish I had begun life
as a poor boy, and worked my way up to competence.
Then I could understand and remember the tempta
tions of poverty. Iam afraid of my own heart be-
110 â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
coming hardened as my fatherâ€™s is. You have no
notion of his passionate severity to-day, Maggie! It
â€˜was quite a new thing even to me!â€
â€œTt will only be for a short time,â€ said she. â€œ He
must be much grieved about this man.â€
â€œTf I thought I could ever grow as hard and in-
different to the abject entreaties of a criminal as my
father has been this morningâ€”one whom he has
helped to make, tooâ€”I would go off to Australia at
once. Indeed, Maggie, I think it would be the best
thing we could do. My heart aches about the mys-
terious corruptions and evils of an old state of society
such as we have in Englandâ€”â€”What do you say,
Maggie? Would you go?â€
She was silentâ€”thinking.
â€œT would go with you directly, if it were right,â€
said she, at last. â€œBut would it be? I think it
would be rather cowardly. I feel what you say ; but
donâ€™t you think it would be braver to stay, and en-
dure much depression and anxiety of mind, for the
sake of the good those always can do who see evils
clearly. I am speaking all this time as if neither you
nor I had any home duties, but were free to do as
â€œWhat can you or I do? We are less than drops
in the ocean, as far as our influence can go to re-
model a nation ?â€
â€œ As for that,â€ said Maggie, laughing, â€œI canâ€™t re-
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 111
model Nancyâ€™s old-fashioned ways; so Iâ€™ve never
yet planned how to remodel a nation.â€
â€œThen what did you mean by the good those
always can do who see evils clearly? The evils I
see are those of a nation whose god is money.â€
â€œThat is just because you have come away from a
distressing scene. To-morrow you will hear or read
of some heroic action meeting with a nationâ€™s sym-
pathy, and you will rejoice and be proud of your
â€œStill I shall see the evils of her complex state of
society keenly ; and where is the good I can do?â€
â€œOh! I canâ€™t tell in a minute. But cannot you
bravely face these evils, and learn their nature and
causes; and then has God given you no powers to
apply to the discovery of their remedy? Dear Frank,
think! It may be very little you can doâ€”and you
may never see the effect of it, any more than the
widow saw the world-wide effect of her mite. Then
if all the good and thoughtful men run away from
us to some new country, what are we to do with our
poor dear Old England ?â€
â€œOh, you must run away with the good, thoughtful
menâ€”(I mean to consider that as a compliment to
myself, Maggie!) Will you let me wish I had been
horn poor, if I am to stay in England? I should not
then be liable to this fault into which I see the rich
men fall, of forgetting the trials of the poor.â€
112 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œTam not sure whether, if you had been poor, you
might not have fallen into an exactly parallel fault,
and forgotten the trials of the rich. It is so difficult
to understand the errors into which their position
makes all men liable to fall. Do you remember a
story inâ€˜ Kvenings at Home,â€™ called the Transmigra-
tions of Indra? Well! when I was a child, I used
to wish I might be transmigrated (is that the right
word?) into an American slave-owner for a little
while, just that I might understand how he must
suffer, and be sorely puzzled, and pray and long to
be freed from his odious wealth, till at last he grew
hardened to its nature ;â€”and since then, I have
wished to be the Emperor of Russia, for the same
reason. Ah! you may laugh; but that is only
because I have not explained myself properly.â€
â€œT was only smiling to think how ambitious any
one might suppose you were who did not know you.â€
â€œT donâ€™t see any ambition in itâ€”I donâ€™t think of
the stationâ€”I only want sorely to see the â€˜ Whatâ€™s
resistedâ€™ of Burns, in order that I may have more
charity for those who seem to me to have been the
cause of such infinite woe and misery.â€
â€œ** Whatâ€™s done we partly may compute ;
But know not whatâ€™s resisted,â€™ â€
repeated Frank musingly. After some time he
began again :
â€œBut, Maggie, I donâ€™t give up this wish of mine
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. | 113-
to go to Australiaâ€”Canada, if you like it betterâ€”
anywhere where there is a newer and purer state of
â€œ The great objection seems to be your duty, as an
only child, to your father. It is different to the case
of one out of a large family.â€
~ â€œYT wish I were one in twenty, then I might marry
where I liked to-morrow.â€
â€œTt would take two peopleâ€™s consent to such a
rapid measure,â€ said Maggie, laughing. â€œBut now
I am going to wish a wish, which it wonâ€™t require a
fairy godmother to gratify. Look, Frank, do you see
in the middle of that dark brown purple streak of
moor a yellow gleam of light? It is a pond, I think,
that at this time of the year catches a slanting beam
of the sun. It canâ€™t be very far off. I have wished
to go to it every autumn. Will you go with me now?
We shall have time before tea.â€
Frankâ€™s dissatisfaction with the stern measures
that, urged on by Mr. Henry, his father took against
all who had imposed upon his carelessness as a land-
lord, increased rather than diminished. He spoke
warmly to him on the subject, but without avail. He
remonstrated with Mr. Henry, and told him how he
felt that, had his father controlled his careless nature,
and been an exact, vigilant landlord, these tenantry
would never have had the great temptation to do
him wrong ; and that therefore he considered some
114 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
allowance should be made for them, and some oppor-
tunity given them to redeem their characters, which
would be blasted and hardened for ever by the pub-
licity of a law-suit. But Mr. Henry only raised his
eyebrows and made answer :
Â« T like to see these notions in a young man, sir.
I had them myself at your age. I believe I had
great ideas then, on the subject of temptation and
the force of circumstances ; and was as Quixotic as
any one about reforming rogues. But my experience
has convinced me that roguery is innate. Nothing
but outward force can control it, and keep it within
bounds. â€˜The terrors of the law must be that out-
ward force. I admire your kindness of heart; and
sn three-and-twenty we do not look for the wisdom
and experience of forty or fifty.â€ |
Frank was indignant at being set aside as al
unripe youth. He disapproved so strongly of all
these measures, and of so much that was now going
on at home under Mr. Henryâ€™s influence, that he
â€˜determined to pay his long promised visit to Scot-
land; and Maggie, sad at heart to see how he was
suffering, encouraged him in his determination.
Arter he was gone, there came a November of
the most dreary and characteristic kind. There
was incessant rain, and closing-in mists, without a
gleam of sunshine to light up the drops of water,
and make the wet stems and branches of the trees
glisten. Every color seemed dimmed and darkened
and the crisp autumnal glory of leaves fell soddened
tothe ground. The latest flowers rotted away with.
out ever coming to their bloom; and it looked as if
the heavy monotonous sky had drawn closer and
closer, and shut in the little moorland cottage as
with a shroud. In doors, things were no more
cheerful. Maggie saw that her mother was depress-
ed, and she thought that Edwardâ€™s extravagance
must be the occasion. Oftentimes she wondered
how far she might speak on the subject; and once
or twice she drew near it in conversation; but her
mother winced away, and Maggie could not as yet
see any decided good to be gained from encountering
116 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
such pain. To herself it would have been a relief
to have known the truthâ€”the worst, as far as her
mother knew it; but she was not in the habit of
thinking of herself. She only tried, by long tender
attention, to cheer and comfort her mother; and
she and Nancy strove in every way to reduce the
household expenditure, for there was little ready
money to meet it. Maggie wrote regularly to
Edward; but since the note inquiring about the
agency, she had never heard from him. Whether
her mother received letters she did not know; but
at any rate she did not express anxiety, though her
looks and manner betrayed that she was ill at ease.
Tt was almost a relief to Maggie when some change
was given to her thoughts by Nancy's becoming ill.
The damp gloomy weather brought on some kind of
rheumatic attack, which obliged the old servant to
keep her bed. Formerly, in such an emergency,
they would have engaged some cottagerâ€™s wife to come
and do the house-work; but now it seemed tacitly
understood that they could not afford it. Even when
Nancy grew worse, and required attendance in theÂ»
night, Maggie still persisted in her daily occupations.
She was wise enough to rest when and how she could;
and, with a little forethought, she hoped to be able
to go through this weary time without any bad effect.
One morning (it was on the second of December ;
and even the change of name in the month, although
â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 117
it brought no change of circumstances or weather,
was a relief(â€”December brought glad tidings even in
its very name), one morning, dim and dreary, Maggie
had looked at the clock on leaving Nancyâ€™s room,
and finding it was not yet half-past five, and knowing
that her mother and Nancy were both asleep, she
determined to lie down and rest for an hour before
getting up to light the fires. She did not mean to
go to sleep; but she was tired out and fell intoa
sound slumber. When she awoke it was with a
start. It was still dark; but she had a clear idea
of being wakened by some distinct, rattling noise.
There it was once moreâ€”against the window, like a
shower of shot. She went to the lattice, and opened
it to look out. She had that strange consciousness,
not to be described, of the near neighborhood of
some human creature, although she neither saw nor
heard any one for the first instant. Then Edward
spoke in a hoarse whisper, right below the window,
standing on the flower-beds.
â€œMaggie! Maggie! Come down and let me in.
For your life, donâ€™t make any noise. No one â€˜must
Maggie turned sick. Something was wrong, evi-
dently ; and she was weak and weary. However,
she stole down the old creaking stairs, and undid
the heavy bolt, and let her brother in. She felt that
his dress was quite wet, and she led him, with can-
118 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
tious steps, into the kitchen, and shut the door, and
stirred the fire, before she spoke. He sank into a
chair, as if worn out with fatigue. She stood, ex-
pecting some explanation. But when she saw he
could not speak, she hastened to make him a cup of
tea; and, stooping down, took off his wet boots, and
helped him off with his coat, and brought her own
plaid to wrap round him. All this time her heart
sunk lower and lower. He allowed her to do what
she liked, as if he were an automaton ; his head and
his arms hung loosely down, and his eyes were fixed,
in a glaring way, on the fire. When she brought
him some tea, he spoke for the first time ; she could
not hear what he said till he repeated it, 80 husky
was his voice.
Â« Have you no brandy 2â€
She had the key of the little wine-cellar, and
fetched up some. But as she took a tea-spoon to
measure it out, he tremblingly clutched at the bottle,
and shook down a quantity into the empty tea-cup,
and drank it off at one gulp. He fell back again in
his chair ; but in a few minutes he roused himself,
and seemed stronger.
Â« Edward, dear Edward, what is the matter ?â€
said Maggie, at last; for he got up, and was stag-
gering toward the outer door, as if he were going
once. more into the rain, and dismal morning-
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 119
He looked at her fiercely, as she laid her hand on
â€œConfound you! Donâ€™t touch me. Iâ€™ll not be
kept here, to be caught and hung!â€
For an instant she thought he was mad. |
â€œCaught and hung!â€ she echoed. â€œMy poor
Edward ! what do you mean ?â€
He sat down suddenly on a chair, close by him,
_ and covered his face with his hands. When he spoke,
his voice was feeble and imploring.
â€œ The police are after me, Maggie! What must I
do? Oh! can you hide me? Can you save me?â€
He looked wild, like a hunted creature. Maggie
stood aghast. He went on:
â€œ My mother !â€”Nancy! Where are they? I was
wet through and starving, and I came here. Donâ€™t
let them take me, Maggie, till Iâ€™m stronger, and
can give battle.â€
â€œOh! Edward! Edward! What are you say-
ing?â€ said Maggie, sitting down on the dresser, in
absolute, bewildered â€” â€œWhat have you
â€œTY hardly know. Iâ€™m ina horrid dream. I see
you think Iâ€™m mad; I wish I were. Won't Nancy
come down soon? You must hide me.â€
â€œ Poor Nancy is ill in bed!â€ said Maggie.
â€œ Thank God,â€ said he. â€œ Thereâ€™s one less. But
my mother will be up soon, will she not 2â€
120 â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œNot yet,â€ replied Maggie. â€œ Edward, dear, do
try and tell me what you have done. Why should
the police be after you ?â€
â€œ Why, Maggie,â€ said he with a kind of forced,
unnatural laugh, â€œthey say Iâ€™ve forged.â€
â€œ And have you?â€ asked Maggie, in a still, low
tone of quiet agony.
He did not answer for some time, but sat, looking
on the floor with unwinking eyes. At last he said,
as if speaking to himselfâ€”
â€œIf I have, itâ€™s no more than others have done
before, and never been found out. I was but borrow-
ing money. I meant to repay it. If I had asked
Mr. Buxton, he would have lent it me.â€ ,
â€œMr. Buxton!â€ said Maggie.
â€œYes!â€ answered he, looking sharply and sud-
denly up at her. â€œYour future father-in-law. My
fatherâ€™s old friend. It is he that is hunting me to
death ! No need to look so white and horror-struck,
Maggie! Itâ€™s the way of the world, as I might have
known, if I had not been a blind fool.â€
â€œ Mr. Buxton!â€ she whispered, faintly.
â€œ Oh, Maggie !â€ said he, suddenly throwing him-
self at her feet, â€œsave me! Youcandoit. Write
to Frank, and make him induce his father to let me
off. I-came to see you, my sweet, merciful sister!
I knew you would save me. Good God! What noise
is that? There are steps in the yard !â€ |
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 121
And before she could speak, he had rushed into
the little china closet, which opened out of the par-
lor, and crouched down in the darkness. It was
only the man who brought their morningâ€™s supply of
â€˜milk from a neighboring farm. But when Maggie
opened the kitchen door, she saw how the cold, pale
light of & winterâ€™s day had filled the air.
â€œYouâ€™re late with your shutters to-day, miss,â€
said the man. â€œTI hope Nancy has not been giving
you alla bad night. Says I to Thomas, who came
with me to the gate, â€˜Itâ€™s many a year since I saw
them parlor shutters barred up at half-past eight.â€™ â€
Maggie went, as soon as he was gone, and opened
all the low windows, in order that they might look
as usual. She wondered at her own outward com-
posure, while she felt so dead and sick at heart.
Her mother would soon get up; must she be told 2
Edward spoke to her now and then from his hiding-
place. He dared not go back into the kitchen, into
which the few neighbors they had were apt to come,
on their morningâ€™s way to Combehurst, to ask if they
could do any errands there for Mrs. Browne or
Nancy. Perhaps a quarter of an hour or so had
elapsed since the first alarm, when, as Maggie was
trying to light the parlor fire, in order that the
doctor, when he came, might find all as usual, she
heard the click of the garden gate, and a manâ€™s
step coming along the walk. She ran up stairs to
122 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
wash away the traces of the tears which had been
streaming down her face as she went about her work,
before she opened the door. There, against the
watery light of the rainy day without, stood Mr.
Buxton. He hardly spoke to her, but pushed past
her, and entered the parlor. He sat down, looking
as if he did not know what he was doing. Maggie
tried to keep down her shivering alarm. It was long
since she had seen him; and the old idea of his
kind, genial disposition, had been sadly disturbed
by what she had heard from Frank, of his severe
proceedings against his unworthy tenantry ; and now,
if he was setting the police in search of Edward, he
was indeed to be dreaded ; and with Edward so
close at hand, within earshot! Ifthe china fell! He
would suspect nothing from that; it would only be
her own terror. If her mother came down! But,
with all these thoughts, she was very still, outwardly,
as she sat waiting for him to speak.
â€œHave you heard from your brother lately?â€
asked he, looking up in an angry and disturbed
manner. â€œ But I'll answer for it he has not been
writing home for some time. He could not, with
the guilt he has had on his mind. I'll not believe
in gratitude again. There perhaps was such a thing
once; but now-a-days the more you do for a person,
the surer they are to turn against you, and cheat
you. Now, donâ€™t go white and pale. I know youâ€™re
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 123
a good girl in the main; and Iâ€™ve been lying awake
all night, and Iâ€™ve a deal to say to you. That
scoundrel of a brother of yours !â€
Maggie could not ask (as would have been natural,
if she had been ignorant) what Edward had done,
She knew too well. But Mr. Buxton was too full
of his own thoughts and feelings to notice her much.
â€œDo you know he has been like the rest? Do
you know he has been cheating meâ€”forging my
name? I donâ€™t know what besides. Itâ€™s well for
him that they â€™ve altered the laws, and he canâ€™t be
hung for itâ€ (a dead heavy weight was removed from
Maggieâ€™s mind), â€œbut Mr. Henry is going to trans-
port him. Itâ€™s worse than Crayston. Crayston
only ploughed up the turf, and did not pay rent,
and sold the timber, thinking I should never miss
it. But your brother has gone and forged my name
He had received all the purchase-money, while he
only gave me half, and said the rest was to come
afterward. And the ungrateful scoundrel has
gone and given a forged receipt! You might have
knocked me down with a straw when Mr. Henry
told me about it all last night. â€˜Never talk to me
of virtue and such humbug again,â€™ I said, â€˜Ill never
believe in them. Every one is for what he can get.
However, Mr. Henry wrote to the superintendent
of police at Woodchester ; and has gone over him-
124 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
self this morning to see after it. But to think of
your father having such a son !â€
Â« Oh my poor father!â€ sobbed out Maggie. â€œ How
glad I am you are dead before this disgrace came
upon us |â€ .
â€œYou may well say disgrace. Youâ€™re a good girl
yourself, Maggie. I have always said that. How
Edward has turned out as he has done, I cannot
conceive. But now, Maggie, Iâ€™ve something to say
to you.â€ He moved uneasily about, as if he did not
know how to begin. Maggie was standing leaning
her head against the chimney-piece, longing for her
visitor to go, dreading the next minute, and wishing
to shrink into some dark corner of oblivion where
she might forget all for a time, till she regained
a small portion of the bodily strength that had
been sorely tried of late. Mr. Buxton saw her
white look of anguish, and read it in part, but not
wholly. He was too intent on what he was going to
Â«Iâ€™ve been lying awake all night, thinking. You
see the disgrace it is to you, though you are inno-
cent; and Iâ€™m sure you canâ€™t think of involving
Frank in it.â€
Maggie went to the little sofa, and, kneeling down
by it, hid her face in the cushions. He did not go
on, for he thought she was not listening to him. At
last he saidâ€”
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 125
â€œCome now, be a sensible girl, and face it out.
Iâ€™ve a plan to propose.â€
- â€œT hear,â€ said she, in a dull veiled voice.
â€œWhy, you know how against this engagement I
have always been. Frank is but three-and-twenty,
and does not know his own mind, as I tell him.
Besides, he might marry any one he chose.â€
â€œ He has chosen me,â€ murmured Maggie.
â€œ Of course, of course, But youâ€™ll not think of
keeping him to it, after what has passed. You
would not have such a fine fellow as Frank pointed
at as the brother-in-law of a forger, would you? It
was far from what I wished for him before; but
now! Why youâ€™re glad your father is dead, rather
than he should have lived to see this day; and
rightly too, I think. And you'll not go and dis.
grace Frank. From what Mr. Henry hears, Edward
has been a discredit to you in many ways. Mr.
Henry was at Woodchester yesterday, and he says
if Edward has been fairly entered as an attorney,
his name may be struck off the Rolls for many a
thing he has done. Think of my Frank having his
bright name tarnished by any connection with such
aman! Mr. Henry says, even in a court of law
what has come out about Edward would be excuse
enough for a breach of promise of marriage.â€
Maggie lifted up her wan face; the pupils of her
eyes were dilated, her lips were dead white. She
126 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
looked straight at Mr. Buxton with indignant impa-
Â«Mr, Henry! Mr. Henry! What has Mr. Henry
to do with me ?â€
Mr. Buxton was staggered by the wild, imperious
look, so new upon her mild, sweet face. But he was
resolute for Frankâ€™s sake, and returned to the
charge after a momentâ€™s pause.
â€œMr. Henry is a good friend of mine, who has my
interest at heart. He has known what a subject of
regret your engagement has been to me; though
really my repugnance to it was without cause for-
merly, compared to what it is now. Now be reasona-
ble, my dear. Iâ€™m willing to do something for you
if you will do something for me. You must see what
a stop this sad affair has put to any thoughts be-
tween you and Frank. And you must see what
cause I have to wish to punish Edward for his un-
grateful behavior, to say nothing of the forgery.
Well now! I donâ€™t know what Mr. Henry will say
to me, but I have thought of this. If you â€˜ll write a
letter to Frank, just saying distinctly that, for rea-
sons which must for ever remain a secretâ€™ â€”
â€œRemain a secret from Frank?â€™ said Maggie,
again lifting up her head. â€œ Why?â€
â€œWhy? my dear! You startle me with that man-
ner of yoursâ€”just let me finish out my sentence.
If you'll say that, for reasons which must forever
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 127
remain a secret, you decidedly and unchangeably
give up all connection, all engagement with him
(which, in fact, Edwardâ€™s conduct has as good as put
an end to), Ill go over to Woodchester and tell Mr.
Henry and the police that they need not make fur-
ther search after Edward, for that I wonâ€™t appear
against him. You can save your brother; and you'll
do yourself no harm by writing this letter, for of
course you see your engagement is broken off. For
you never would wish to disgrace Frank.â€
He paused, anxiously awaiting her reply. She
did not speak.
â€œTm sure, if I appear against him, he is as good
as transported,â€ he put in, after a while.
Just at this time there was a little sound of dis-
placed china in the closet. Mr. Buxton did not at-
tend to it, but Maggie heard it. She got up, and
stood quite calm before Mr. Buxton.
â€œYou must go,â€ said she. â€œI know you; and I
know you are not aware of the cruel way in which
you have spoken to me, while asking me to give up
the very hope and marrow of my lifeâ€™â€”she could
not go on for a moment; she was choked up with
â€œIt was the truth, Maggie,â€ said he, somewhat
â€œTt was the truth that made the cruelty of it.
But you did not mean to speak cruelly to me, I
128 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
know. Only it is hard all at once to be called upon
to face the shame and blasted character of one who
was once an innocent child at the same fatherâ€™s
â€œTI may have spoken too plainly,â€ said Mr. Bux-
ton, â€œbut it was necessary to set the plain truth
before you, for my sonâ€™s sake. You will write the
letter I ask ?â€
Her look was wandering and uncertain. Her at-
tention was distracted by sounds which to him had
no meaning; and her judgment she felt was waver-
ing and disturbed.
â€œ T cannot tell. Give me time to think; you sill
do that, Iâ€™m sure. Go now, and leave me alone.
If it is right, God will give me strength to do it,
and perhaps He will comfort me in my desolation.
But I do not knowâ€”I cannot tell. I must have
time to think. Go now, if you please, sir,â€™ said
â€œJT am sure you will see it is a right thing I ask
of you,â€ he persisted.
â€œ Go now,â€ she repeated.
â€œVery well. In two hours, I will come back
again; for your sake, time is precious. Even while
we speak he may be arrested. At eleven, I will
He went away, leaving her sick and dizzy with
the effort to be calm and collected enough to think.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 129
She had forgotten for the moment how near Edward
was; and started when she saw the closet-door open,
and his face put out.
â€œTs he gone? I thought he never would go.
What a time you kept him, Maggie! I was. so
afraid, once, you might sit down to write the letter
in this room; and then I knew he would stop and
worry you with interruptions and advice, so that it
would never be ended; and my back was almost
broken. But you sent him off famously. Why,
Maggie! | Maggie !â€”youâ€™re not going to faint,
His sudden burst out of a. whisper into-a loud
exclamation of surprise, made her rally; but.she
could not stand. She tried to smile, for: he really
â€œTI have been sitting up for many. nightsâ€”-and
now this sorrow!â€ Her -smile died away into a
wailing, feeble cry.
â€œWell, well! itâ€™s over now, you:see. I was
frightened enough myself this morning, I own; and
then you were brave and kind. But I knew you
. could save me, all along.â€
At this moment the door opened, and Â» Mrs.
Browne came in. :
â€œWhy, Edward, dear! who would have thought
of seeing you! This is good of you; what a
pleasant surprise! I often said, you might come
180 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
over for a day from Woodchester. Whatâ€™s the
matter, Maggie, you look so fagged? Sheâ€™s losing
all her beauty, is not she, Edward? Whereâ€™s
breakfast? I thought I should find all ready.
Whatâ€™s the matter? Why donâ€™t you speak?â€
said she, growing anxious at their silence. Maggie
left the explanation to Edward.
Â«â€œ Mother,â€ said he, â€œIâ€™ve been rather a naughty
boy, and got into some trouble; but Maggie is going
to help me out of it, like a good sister.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€ said Mrs. Browne, looking be-
wildered and uneasy.
Â« Ohâ€”I took a little liberty with our friend Mr.
Buxtonâ€™s name; and wrote it down to a receiptâ€”
that was all.â€
Mrs. Browneâ€™s face showed that the light came
but slowly into her mind.
â€œBut thatâ€™s forgeryâ€”is not it?â€ asked she at
length, in terror.
Â« People call it so,â€ said Edward; â€œTI call it bor-
rowing from an old friend, who was always willing
â€œDoes he know ?â€”is he angry?â€ asked Mrs.
â€œYes, he knows; and he blusters a deal. He
was working himself up grandly at first. Maggie!
I was getting rarely frightened, I can tell you.â€
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 181
â€œHas he been here?â€ said Mrs. Browne, in be-
â€œOh, yes! he and Maggie have been having a
long talk, while I was hid in the china-closet. I
would not go over that half-hour again for any mon-
ey. However, he and Maggie came to terms, at
â€œNo, Edward, we did not!â€ said Maggie, in a
low quivering voice.
â€œVery nearly. Sheâ€™s to give up her engagement,
and then he will let me off.â€
â€œDo you mean that Maggie is to give up her
engagement to Mr. Frank Buxton?â€ asked his
â€œYes. It would never have come to anything,
one might see that. Old Buxton would have held
out against it till doomsday. And, sooner or later,
Frank would have grown weary. If Maggie had
had any spirit, she might have worked him up to
marry her before now; and then I should have been
spared even this fright, for they would never have
set the police after Mrs. Frank Buxtonâ€™s brother.â€
â€œWhy, dearest Edward, the police are not after
you, are they?â€ said Mrs. Browne, for the first time
alive to the urgency of the case.
â€œT believe they are though,â€ said Edward. â€œ But
after what Mr. Buxton promised this morning, it
does not signify.â€
132 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Â«He did not promise anything,â€ said Maggie.
Edward turned sharply to her, and looked at her.
Then he went and took hold of her wrists with no
gentle grasp, and spoke to her through his set teeth,
â€œWhat do you mean, Maggie 2â€”what do you
mean ?â€ (giving her a little shake.) â€œ Do you mean
that you'll stick to your lover through thick and thin,
and leave your brother to be transported? Speak,
She looked up at him, and tried to speak, but no
words came out of her dry throat. At last she made
a strong effort.
Â« You must give me time to think. I will do what
is right, by Godâ€™s help.â€
Â« Ag if it was not rightâ€”and such cantâ€”to save
your brother,â€ said he, throwing her hands away in
a passionate manner.
â€œJ must be alone,â€ said Maggie, rising, and try-
ing to stand steadily in the reeling room. She heard
her mother and Edward speaking, but their words
gave her no meaning, and she went out. She was Â«
leaving the house by the kitchen-door, when she re-
membered Nancy, left alone and helpless all through
this long morning; and, ill as she could endure deten-
tion from the solitude she longed to seek, she patiently
fulfilled her small duties, and sought out some break-
fast for the poor old woman.
When she carried it up stairs, Nancy saidâ€”
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 133
â€œThereâ€™s something up. Youâ€™ve trouble in your
sweet face, my darling. Never mind telling meâ€”
only donâ€™t sob so. I'll pray for you, bairn, and God
will help you.â€
â€œThank you, Nancy. Do!â€ and she left the room.
a era ae
Wuen she opened the kitchen-door there was the
same small, mizzling rain that had obscured the
light for weeks, and now it seemed to obscure hope.
She clambered slowly (for indeed she was very feeble)
up the Fell-Lane, and threw herself under the leaf-
less thorn, every small branch and twig of which was
loaded with rain-drops. She did not see the well-
beloved and familiar landscape for her tears, and did
not miss the hills in the distance that were hidden
behind the rain-clouds, and sweeping showers.
Mrs. Browne and Edward sat over the fire. He
told her his own story; making the temptation
strong; the crime a mere trifling, venial error,
which he had been led into, through his idea that he
was to become Mr. Buxtonâ€™s agent.
â€œBut if it is only that,â€™ said Mrs. Browne,
â€œsurely Mr. Buxton will not think of going to law
with you ?â€
â€œTtâ€™s not merely going to law that he will think
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. | 135
of, but trying and transporting me. That Henry he
has got for his agent is as sharp as a needle, and as
hard as a nether mill-stone. And the fellow has ob-
tained such a hold over Mr. Buxton, that he dare
but do what he tells him. I canâ€™t imagine how he
had so much free-will left as to come with his pro-
posal to Maggie ; unless, indeed, Henry knows of itâ€”
or, what is most likely of all, has put him up to it.
Between them they have given that poor fool Cray-
ston a pretty dose of it; and I should have come yet
worse off if it had not been for Maggie. Let me get
clear this time, and I will keep to windward of the
law for the future.â€
â€œTf we sold the cottage we could repay it,â€ said
Mrs. Browne, meditating. â€œ Maggie and I could live
on very little. But you see this property is held in
trust for you two.â€
â€œNay, mother; you must not talk of repaying it.
Depend upon it he will be so glad to have Frank
free from his engagement, that he wonâ€™t think of
asking for the money. And if Mr. Henry says any-
thing about it, we ean tell him itâ€™s not half the
damages they would have had to have given Maggie,
if Frank had been extricated in any other way. I
wish she would come back; I would prime her a
little as to what to say. Keep a look out, mother,
lest Mr. Buxton returns and find me here.â€
â€œJT wish Maggie would come in too,â€ said Mrs.
136 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Browne. â€œIâ€™m afraid she "ll catch cold this damp
day, and then I shall have two to nurse. You think
she ll give it up, donâ€™t you, Edward? If she does not
Iâ€™m afraid of harm coming to you. Had you not
better keep out of the way 2â€ |
â€œItâ€™s fine talking. Where am I to go out of
sight of the police this wet day: without a shilling
in the world too? If youâ€™ll give me some money
I'll be off fast. enough, and make assurance doubly
sure. Iâ€™m not much afraid of Maggie. Sheâ€™s a
little yea-nay thing, and I can always bend her round
to what we want. She had better take care, too,â€
said he, with a desperate look on his face, â€œ for by
Gâ€” I'll make her give up all thoughts of Frank,
rather than be taken and tried. Why! itâ€™s my
chance for all my life; and do you think I'll have
it frustrated for a girlâ€™s whim ?â€
â€œJT think itâ€™s rather hard upon her too,â€ pleaded
his mother, â€œSheâ€™s very fond of him; and it would
have been such a good match for her.â€
â€œPooh! sheâ€™s. not nineteen yet, and has plenty
of time before her to pick up somebody else; while,
donâ€™t you see, if Iâ€™m caught and transported, Iâ€™m
done for for life. Besides Iâ€™ve a notion Frank had
already begun to be tired of the affair; it would
have been broken off in a month or two, without her
gaining anything by it.â€
â€œWell, if you think so,â€ replied Mrs, Browne.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 187
â€œ But Iâ€™m sorry for her. I always told her she was
foolish to think so much about him: but I know
sheâ€™ll fret a deal if itâ€™s given up.â€
â€œOh! sheâ€™ll soon comfort herself with thinking
that she has saved me. I wish sheâ€™d come. It
must be near eleven. I do wish she would come.
Hark! is not that the kitchen-door 2â€ said he, turn-
ing white, and betaking himself once more to the
china-closet. He held it ajar till he heard Maggie
stepping softly and slowly across the floor. She
opened the parlor-door ; and stood looking in, with |
the strange imperceptive gaze of a sleep-walker.
Then she roused herself and saw that he was not
there; so she came in a step or two, and sat down
in her dripping cloak on a chair near the door.
Edward returned, bold now there was no danger.
â€œ Maggie !â€ said he, â€œ what have you fixed to say
to Mr. Burton 2â€
She sighed deeply; and then lifted up her large
innocent eyes to his face.
â€œI cannot give up Frank,â€ saidâ€™ she, in a low,
quiet voice. |
Mrs. Browne threw up her hands and exclaimed
â€œOh Edward, Edward! go awayâ€”lI will give you
all the plate I have; you can sell itâ€”my darling,
â€œNot till I have brought Maggie to reason,â€ said
188 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
he, in a manner as quiet as her own, but with a sub-
dued ferocity in it, which she saw, but which did not
He went up to her, and spoke below his breath.
â€œ Maggie, we were children togetherâ€”we twoâ€”
brother and sister of one blood! Do you give me up
to be put in prisonâ€”in the hulksâ€”among the basest
of criminalsâ€”I donâ€™t know whereâ€”all for the sake
of your own selfish happiness ?â€
She trembled very much; but did not speak or
ery, or make any noise.
â€œYou were always selfish, You always thought
of yourself. But this time I did think you would
have shown how different you could be. But itâ€™s
selfâ€”selfâ€”paramount above all.â€
â€œ Oh Maggie! how can you be so hard-hearted and
selfish ?â€ echoed Mrs. Browne, crying and sobbing.
â€œ Mother!â€ said Maggie, â€œI know that I think
too often and too much of myself. But this time I
thought only of Frank. He loves me; it would break
his heart if I wrote as Mr. Buxton wishes, cutting
our lives asunder, and giving no reason for it.â€
â€œ He loves you so!â€ said Edward, tauntingly. â€œA
manâ€™s love break his heart! Youâ€™ve got some pretty |
notions! Who told you that he loved you so despe-
rately? How do you know it?â€
-â€œ Because I love him so,â€ said she, in a quiet,
earnest voice. â€œI do not know of any other reason ;
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 189
but that is quite sufficient to me. I believe him when
he says he loves me; and I have no right to cause
him the infiniteâ€”the terrible pain, which my own
heart tells me he would feel, if I did what Mr. Bux-
ton wishes me.â€ '
Her manner was so simple and utterly truthful,
that it was as quiet and fearless as a childâ€™s; her
brotherâ€™s fierce looks of anger had no power over
her; and his blustering died away before her into
something of the frightened cowardliness he had
shown in the morning. But Mrs. Browne came up
to Maggie ; and took her hand between both of hers,
which were trembling. â€œ Maggie, you can save
Edward. I know I have not loved you as I should
have done; but I will love and comfort you forever,
if you will but write as Mr. Buxton says. Think!
Perhaps Mr. Frank may not take you at your word,
but may come over and see you, and all may be
right, and yet Edward may be saved. It is only
writing this letter; you need not stick to it.â€
â€œNo!â€ said Edward. â€œA signature, if you can
prove compulsion, is not valid. We will all prove
that you write this letter under compulsion; and if
Frank loves you so desperately, he won't give you up
without a trial to make you change your mind.â€
â€œNo!â€ said Maggie, firmly. â€œIf I write the
letter I abide by it. I will not quibble with my con-
science. Hdward! I will not marryâ€”I will go and
140 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE,
live near you, and. come to you whenever I mayâ€”
and give up my life to you if you are sent to prison;
my mother and I will go, if need beâ€”I do not
know yet what I can do, or cannot do, for you, but
all I can I will; but this one thing I cannot.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™m off!â€ said Edward. â€œ On your death-
bed may you remember this hour, and how you denied
your only brother's request. May you ask my for-
giveness with your dying breath, and may I be there
to deny it you.â€
â€œWait a minute!â€ said Maggie, springing up,
rapidly. â€œ Edward, donâ€™t curse me with such terrible
words till all is done. Mother, I implore you to keep
him here. Hide himâ€”do what you can to conceal
him. I will have one more trial.â€ She snatched up
her bonnet, and was gone, before they had time to
think or speak to arrest her.
On she flew along the Combehurst road. As she
went, the tears fell like rain down her face, and she
talked to herself.
â€œ He should not have said so. No! he should not
have said so.. We were the only two.â€ But still she
pressed on, over the thick, wet, brown heather. She
saw Mr. Buxton coming; and she went still quicker.
The rain had cleared off, and a yellow watery gleam
of sunshine was struggling out. She stopped him,
or he would have passed her unheeded ; little expect-
ing to meet her there.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 141
â€œ T wanted to see you,â€ said she, all at once resum-
ing her composure, and almost assuming a dignified
manner. â€œYou must not go down to our house; we |
have sorrow enough there. Come under these fir-
trees, and let me speak to you.â€
â€œ T hope you have thought of what I-said, and are
willing to do what I asked you.â€
â€œNo!â€ said she. â€œTI have thought and thought.
[ did not think in a selfish spirit, though they say I
did. I prayed first. I could not do that earnestly,
and be selfish, I think. I cannot give up Frank. I
know the disgrace ; and if he, knowing all, thinks fit
to give â€˜me up, I shall never say a word, but bow my
head, and try-and live out my appointed days quietly
and cheerfully. But he is the judge, not you; nor
have I any right to do what you ask me.â€ She
stopped, because the agitation took away her breath,
â€˜He began in acold manner :â€”â€œI am very sorry.
The Jaw must take its course. I would have saved
my son from the pain of all this knowledge; and that
which he will of course feel in the necessity of giving
up his engagement. I would have refused to appear
against your brother, shamefully ungrateful as â€˜he
has been. Now -you cannot wonder that Tact -ac-
cording to my agentâ€™s advice, and prosecute your
brother as if he were-a stranger.â€
He turned to go away. He was so cold and de-
142 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
termined that for a moment Maggie was timid, But
she then laid her hand on his arm.
â€œMr. Buxton,â€ said she, â€œyou will not do what
you threaten. I know you better. Think! My
father was your old friend. That claim is, perhaps,
done away with by Edwardâ€™s conduct. But I do not
believe you can forget it always. If you did fulfill
the menace you uttered just now, there would come
times as you grew older, and life grew fainter and
fainter before youâ€”quiet times of thought, when
you remembered the days of your youth, and the
friends you then had and knew ;â€”you would recol-
lect that one of them had left an only son, who had
done wrongâ€”who had sinnedâ€”sinned against you
in his weaknessâ€”and you would think thenâ€”you
could not help itâ€”how you had forgotten mercy in
justiceâ€”and, as justice required he should be
treated as a felon, you threw him among felonsâ€”
where every glimmering of goodness was darkened
for ever. Edward is, after all, more weak than
wicked ;â€”but he will become wicked if you put him
in prison, and have him transported. God is merci-
fulâ€”we cannot tell or think how merciful. Oh, sir,
I am so sure you will be merciful, and give my
brotherâ€”my poor sinning brotherâ€”a chance, that I
will tell you all, I will throw myself upon your
pity. Edward is even now at homeâ€”miserable and
desperate ;â€”my mother is too much stunned to un-
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 143.
derstand all our wretchednessâ€”for very wretched
we are in our shame.â€
As she spoke the wind arose and shivered in the
wiry leaves of the fir-trees, and there was a moaning
sound as of some Ariel imprisoned in the thick
branches that, tangled overhead, made a shelter for
them. Lither the noise or Mr. Buxtonâ€™s fancy
called up an echo to Maggieâ€™s voiceâ€”a pleading
with her pleadingâ€”a sad tone of regret, distinct
yet blending with her speech, and a falling, dying
sound, as her voice died away in miserable sus-
It might be that, formed as she was by Mrs.
Buxtonâ€™s care and love, her accents and words were
such as that lady, now at rest from all sorrow, would
have used ;â€”somehow, at any rate, the thought
flashed into Mr. Buxtonâ€™s mind, that as Maggie
spoke, his dead wifeâ€™s voice was heard, imploring
mercy in a clear, distinct tone, though faint, as if
separated from him by an infinite distance of space,
At least, this is the account Mr. Buxton would have
given of the manner in which the idea of his wife
became present to him, and what she would have
wished him to do a powerful motive in his conduct,
Words of hers, long ago spoken, and merciful, for-
giving expressions made use of in former days to
soften him in some angry mood, were clearly remem-
bered while Maggie spoke; and their influence was
144 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
perceptible in the change of his: tone, and the waver-
ing of his manner henceforward.
â€œAnd yet you will not save Frank from being
involved: in your disgrace,â€ said he; but more as
if weighing and deliberating on the case than he had
ever spoken â€˜before.
â€œTf Frank wishes it, I will quietly withdraw my-
self out of his sight forever ;â€”I give you my prom-
ise, before God, to do so. I shall not utter one
word of entreaty or complaint. I will try not to
wonder or feel surprise ;â€”I will bless him in every
action of his future lifeâ€”but think how different
would be the disgrace he would voluntarily incur to
my poor motherâ€™s shame, when she wakens up to
know what her child has done! Her very torper
about it now is more painful than words can tell.â€
â€œWhat could Edward do?â€ asked Mr. Buxton.
â€œMr. Henry wonâ€™t hear of my passing over any
â€œOh, you relent !â€ said Maggie, taking his hand,
and pressing it. â€œ What could hedo? He could do
the same, whatever it was, as you thought of his
doing, if I had written that terrible letter.â€
â€œAnd you'll be willing to give it up, if Frank
wishes, when he knows all ?â€ asked Mr. Buxton.
She crossed her hands: and drooped her head, but
â€œWhatever Frank wishes, when he knows all, I
â€˜THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 145
will gladly do. I will speak the truth. I.do. not
" believe that any shame surrounding me, and.not in
â€˜me, will alter Frankâ€™s love one title.â€
â€œWe shall see,â€ said Mr. Buxton. â€œBut what.I
thought of Edwardâ€™s doing, in caseâ€”â€”Well, never â€”
mind ! (seeing how she shrunk back from all mention
of the letter he had asked her to write,)â€”was. to go
to America, out of the way. Then Mr. Henry
would think he had escaped, and need never be told
of my coenivance. I think he would throw up. the
-agency, if he were;.and heâ€™s a very clever man.
If Ned is in England, Mr. Henry will. ferret him
out. And, besides, this affair is so blown,.I donâ€™t
think he. could return to his profession. "What do
you say to this, Maggie ?â€
â€œTwill tell my mother. I must.ask her. .To me
it seems most desirable. Only, I fear he is very ill;
and it seems lonely; but never mind! .We ought
to be thankful to you forever. I cannot tell you
how I hope and trust he will live to show you what
your goodness has made him.â€ :
â€œBut you must lose no time. If Mr. Henry
traces him, I canâ€™t answer for myself. I shall have
no good reason to give, as I should. have had, if, I
could have told him that Frank and you.were to be
- as strangers to.each other. And even then I should
have been afraid, he is such a determined fellow;
but uncommonly clever. Stay!â€ said he, yielding
146 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
to a sudden and inexplicable desire to see Edward,
and discover if his criminality had in any way â€”
changed his outward appearance. â€œIll go with
you. I can hasten .things. If Edward goes, he
must be off, as soon as possible, to Liverpool, and
leave no trace. The next packet sails the day after
to-morrow. I noted it down from the Jimes.â€
Maggie and he sped along the road. He spoke
his thoughts aloud :
â€œT wonder if he will be grateful to me for this,
Not that I ever mean to look for gratitude again.
I mean to try, not to care for anybody but Frank.
â€˜Govern men by outward forceâ€™ says Mr. Henry.
He is an uncommonly clever man, and he says, the
longer he lives, the more he is convinced of the bad-
ness of men. He always looks for it now, even in
those who are the best, apparently.â€
Maggie was too anxious to answer, or even to
attend tohim. At the top of the slope she asked
him to wait while she ran down and told the result
of her conversation with him. Her mother was
alone, looking white and sick. She told her that
Edward had gone into the hay-loft, above the old,
Maggie related the substance of her interview
with Mr. Buxton, and his wish that Edward should
go to America.
â€œTo America!â€ said Mrs. Browne. â€œWhy
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 147
thatâ€™s as far as Botany Bay. Itâ€™s just like trans-
porting him. I thought you â€™d done something for
us, you looked so glad.â€
â€œ Dearest mother, it is something. - He is not to
be subjected to imprisonment or trial. I must go
and tell him, only I must beckon to Mr. Buxton
first. But when he comes, do show him how thank-
ful we are for his mercy to Edward.â€
Mrs. Browne's murmurings, whatever was their
meaning, were lost upon Maggie. She ran through
the court, and up the slope, with the lightness of a
lawn ; for though she was tired in body to an excess
She had never been before in her life, the opening
beam of hope in the dark sky made her spirit con-
quer her flesh for the time.
She did not stop to speak, but turned again ag
s00n as she had signed to Mr. Buxton to follow her.
She left the house-door open for his entrance, and
passed out again through the kitchen into the space
behind, which was partly an uninclosed yard, and
partly rocky common, She ran across the little
green to the shippon, and mounted the ladder into
the dimly-lighted loft. Up in a dark corner Edward
stood, with an old rake in his hand.
â€œT thought it was you, Maggie !â€ said he, heaving
a deep breath of relief. â€œWhat have you done?
Have you agreed to write the letter 2 Youâ€™ve done
something for me, I see by your looks.â€
148 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œVes! I have told Mr. Buxton all. He is
waiting for you in the parlor. Oh! I knew he
could not be so hard!â€ She was out of breath.
â€œÂ¥ donâ€™t understand you!â€ said he. â€œYou've
never been such a fool as to goâ€˜and tell him where
â€œYes, I have. I felt I might trust him. He
has promised not to prosecute you. â€œThe worst is,
he says you must go to America. But comedown,
Ned, and speak to him. You owe him thanks, and
he wants to see you.â€
â€œT canâ€™t go through a scerie. Iâ€™m not up to it.
Besides, are you sure he is not entrapping me to
the police? If I had a farthing of money I would
not trust him, but be off to the moors.â€
â€œQh, Edward! How-do you think he would â€˜do
anything so treacherous and mean? I beg you not
to lose time in distrust. He says himself, if Mr.
Henry comes before you are off, he does not. know
what will be the consequence. The packetâ€™sails for
America in two'days. It is sad for you to have to
go. Perhaps even yet he may think of something
better, though I donâ€™t know how we can ask or ex-
â€œT donâ€™t want anything better,â€ replied he, â€œthan
that I should have money enough to carry meâ€™ to
America. Iâ€™m in more scrapes than this (though
none so bad) in England; and in America there â€™s
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 149
many an opening to fortune.â€ He followed her
down the steps while he spoke. Once in the yellow
light of the watery day, she was struck by. his
ghastly look. Sharp lines of suspicion and cun-
ning seemed to have been stamped upon his face,
making it look older by many years. than his age
warranted, His jaunty evening dress, all weather-
stained.and dirty, added to his forlorn and disrepu-
table appearance ; but. most of allâ€”deepest. of allâ€”
was the impression she received that he was not
long for this world; and oh!: how unfit. for the
next! Still, if time was givenâ€”if he were placed
far away from temptation, she thought. that her
fatherâ€™s son might yet repent, and be saved. She
took his hand, for he was hanging back as they
came near the parlor-door, and led him in. She
looked like some guardian. angel, with her face that
beamed.out trust, and hope, and thankfulness, He,
on the contrary, hung his head in angry, awkward
shame; and half wished he had trusted to his own
wits, and tried to evade the police, rather than haye
been forced into this interview.
His mother came to him; for she loved him all
the more fondly, now he seemed degraded and friend-
less. She could not, or would not, comprehend the
extent of his guilt; and had upbraided: Mr. Buxton
to the top of her bent for thinking of sending him
away: to America. There. was a silence when. he
150 â€œ(THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
came in which was insupportable to him. He looked
up with clouded eyes, that dared not meet Mr.
Â« T am here, sir, to learn what you wish me to do.
Maggie says I am to go to America; if that is where
you want to send me, Iâ€™m ready.â€
Mr. Buxton wished himself away as heartily as
Edward. Mrs. Browneâ€™s upbraidings, just when he
felt that he had done a kind-action, and yielded,
against his judgment, to Maggieâ€™s entreaties, had
made him think himself very ill used. And now
here was Edward speaking in a sullen, savage kind
of way, instead of showing any gratitude. The idea
of Mr. Henryâ€™s stern displeasure loomed in the back-
â€œYes!â€ said he, â€œIâ€™m glad to find you come
into the idea of going to America, Itâ€™s the only
place for you. The sooner you can g0, and the
â€œJT canâ€™t go without money,â€ said Edward, dog-
gedly. â€œIf I had had money, I need not have come
â€œ Oh, Ned! would you have gone without seeing
me?â€ said Mrs. Browne, bursting into tears. â€œ Mr.
Buxton, I cannot let him go to America. Look how
ill he is. He'll die if you send him there.â€
â€œ Mother, donâ€™t give way 60,â€ said Edward, kindly,
taking her hand. â€œIâ€™m not ill, at least not to sigs
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 151
nify. Mr. Buxton is right: America is the only
place for me. To tell the truth, even if Mr. Buxton
is good enoughâ€ (he said this as if unwilling to
_ express any word of thankfulness) â€œ not to prosecute
me, there are others who mayâ€”and will. Iâ€™m safer
out of the country. Give me money enough to get
to Liverpool and pay my passage, and I'll be off this
â€œYou shall not,â€ said Mrs. Browne, holding him
tightly. â€œYou told me this morning you were led
into temptation, and went wrong because you had no
comfortable home, nor any one to care for you, and
make you happy. It will be worse in America.
Youâ€™ll get wrong again, and be away from all who
can help you. Or youâ€™ll die all by yourself, in some
backwood or other. Maggie! you might speak and
help meâ€”how can you stand so still, and let him go
to America without a word !â€
- Maggie looked up bright and steadfast, as if she
saw something beyond the material present. Here
was the opportunity for self-sacrifice of which Mrs,
Buxton had spoken to her in her childish daysâ€”
the time which comes to all, but comes unheeded
and unseen to those whose eyes are not trained to
â€œMother! could you do without me for a time?
If you could, and it would make you easier, and help
Edward toâ€â€”The word on her lips died away; for
152 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
it sÃ©emed to imply a reproach on one who stood in
his shame among them all.
â€œYou would go!â€ said Mrs. Browne, catching at
the unfinished sentence. â€œOh! Maggie, thatâ€™s the
best thing youâ€™ve ever said or done since you were
born. Edward, would not you like to have Maggie
â€œYes,â€ said he, â€œwell enough. It would be far
better for me than going all alone; though I dare say
I could make my way pretty well after atime. If
she went, she might stay till I felt settled, and had
made some friends, and then she could come back.â€
Mr. Buxton was astonished at first by this proposal
of Maggieâ€™s, He could not all at once understand
the difference between what she now offered to do,
and what he had urged upon her only this very
morning. But as he thought about it; he perceived
that what was her own she was willing to sacrifice ;
but that Frankâ€™s heart, once given into her faithful
keeping, she was answerable for it to him and to
God. This light came down upon him slowly; but
when he understood, he admired with almost a won-
* dering admiration. That little timid girl brave
enough to cross the ocean and go to a foreign land,
if she could only help to save her brother !
â€œTâ€™m sure Maggie,â€ said he, turning towards her,
â€œyou are a good, thoughtful little creature. It may
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE: 153
be the saving of Hdwardâ€”lI believe it will. I think
God will bless you for being so devoted.â€
â€œ The expense will be doubled,â€ said Edward.
â€œMy dear boy! never mind the money. I can
get'it advanced upon this cottage.â€
â€œ As for that, Ill advance it,â€ said Mr. Buxton.
â€œ Qould we not,â€ said Maggie, hesitating from her
want of knowledge, â€œ make over the furnitureâ€”papaâ€™s
books, and what little plate we have, to Mr. Buxton
â€”something like pawning themâ€”if he would advance
the requisite money? He, strange as it may seem,
is the only person you can ask in this great strait.â€
And so it was arranged, after some demur on Mr.
Buxtonâ€™s part. But Maggie kept steadily to her
point as soon as she found that it was attainable ; and
Mrs. Browne was equally inflexible, though from a
different feeling. She regarded Mr. Buxton as the
cause of her sonâ€™s banishment, and refused to accept
of any favor from him. If there had been time, in-
deed, she would have preferred obtaining the money
in the same manner from any one else. Edward
brightened up a little when he heard the sum could
be procured; he was almost indifferent how; and,
strangely callous, as Maggie thought, he even propos-
ed to draw up a legal form of assignment. Mr.
Buxton only thought of hurrying on the departure ;
but he could not refrain from expressing his approval
154 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
and admiration of Maggie whenever he came near
her. Before he went, he called her aside.
â€œ My dear, Iâ€™m not sure if Frank can do better
than marry you, after all. Mind! Iâ€™ve not given
it as much thought as I should like. But if you
come back as we plan, next autumn, and he is steady
to you till thenâ€”and Edward is going on wellâ€”
(if he can but keep good, heâ€™ll do, for he is very
sharpâ€”yon is a knowing paper he drew up)â€”why,
Iâ€™ll think about it. Only let Frank see a bit of
the world first. Iâ€™d rather you did not tell him Iâ€™ve
any thoughts of coming round, that he may have a
fair trial; and I'll keep it from Erminia if I can, or
she will let it all out to him. I shall see you to-
morrow at the coach. God bless you, my girl, and
keep you on the great wide sea.â€ He was absolutely
in tears when he went awayâ€”tears of admiring
regret over Maggie.
Tue more Maggie thought, the more she felt sure
that the impulse on which she had acted in proposing
_ to go with her brother was right. She feared there
was little hope for his character, whatever there
might be for his worldly fortune, if he were thrown,
in the condition of mind in which he was now, among
the set of adventurous men who are continually going
over to America in search of an El Dorado to be
discovered by their wits. She knew she had but
little influence over him at present; but she would
not doubt or waver in her hope that patience and love
might work him right at last. She meant to get
some employmentâ€”in teachingâ€”in needleworkâ€”in
a shopâ€”no matter how humbleâ€”and be no burden
to him, and make him a happy home, from which he
should feel no wish to wander. Her chief anxiety
was about her mother. She did not dwell more than
she could help on her long absence from Frank; it
was too sad, and yet too necessary. She meant to
156 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
write and tell him all about herself and Edward.
The only thing which she would keep for some happy
future should be the possible revelation of the pro-
posal which Mr. Buxton had made, that she should
give up her engagement as a condition of his not
There was much sorrowful bustle in the moorland
cottage that day. Erminia brought up a portion of
the money Mr. Buxton was to advance, with an
entreaty that Edward would not show himself out of
his home; and an account of a letter from Mr.
Henry, stating that the Woodchester police believed
him to be in London, and that search was being
made for him there.
Erminia looked very grave and pale. She gave
her message to Mrs. Browne, speaking little beyond
what was absolutely necessary. Then she took Mag-
gie aside, and suddenly burst into tears.
â€œ Maggie, darlingâ€”what is this going to America?
You â€™ve always and always been sacrificing yourself
to your family, and now youâ€™re setting off; nobody
knows where, in some vain hope of reforming Ed-
ward. I wish he was not your brother, that I might
speak of him as I should like.â€
â€œHe has been doing what is very wrong,â€ said
Maggie. â€œBut youâ€”none of youâ€”know his good
pointsâ€”nor how he has been exposed to all sorts of
bad influences, I am sure ; and never had the advan-
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. | 157
tage of a fatherâ€™s training and friendship, which are
so-inestimable to a son. Oh, Minnie! when I re-
member how we two used to kneel down in the
evenings at my fatherâ€™s knee, and say our prayers ;
and - then listen in awe-struck silence to his earnest
blessing, which grew more like a prayer for us as his
life-waned away, I would do anything for Edward
rather than that wrestling agony of supplication
should have been in vain. I think of him as the
little innocent boy, whose arm was round me.as if to
support me in the Awful Presence, whose true name
of Love we had not learned. Minnie! he has had
no proper trainingâ€”no training, I mean, to enable
him to resist temptationâ€”and he:has been thrown
into it without warning or advice. Now he knows
what it is; and I must try, though I am. but an
unknowing girl, to warn and to strengthen him.
Donâ€™t weaken my faith. Who ean do right if we
lose faith in them ?â€
â€œAnd Frank!â€ said Erminia, after a pause.
â€œ Poor Frank !â€
â€œDear Frank !â€ replied Maggie, looking up, and
trying to smile; but, in spite of herself, her eyes
filled with tears. â€œIf I could have asked him, I
know he would approve of what I am going to do.
He would feel it to be right that I should make
every effortâ€”I donâ€™t mean,â€ said she, as the tears
would fall down her cheeks in spite of her quivering
158 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
effort at a smile, â€œ that I should not have liked to
have seen him. But it is no use talking of what one
would have liked. I am writing a long letter to
him at every pause of leisure.â€
â€œAnd Iâ€™m keeping you all this time,â€ said Er-
minia, getting up, yet loth to go. â€œWhen do you
intend to come back? Let us feel there is a fixed
time. America! Why, itâ€™s thousands of miles
away. Oh, Maggie! Maggie!â€
â€œT shall come back the next autumn, [ trust,â€
said Maggie, comforting her friend with many a soft
caress. â€œ Edward will be settled then, I hope. You
were longer in France, Minnie. Frank was longer
away that time he wintered in Italy with Mr. Monro.â€
Erminia went slowly to the door. Then she
turned, right facing Maggie.
â€œMaggie! tell the truth. Has my uncle been
urging you to go? Because if he has, donâ€™t trust
him; it is only to break off your engagement.â€
_ â€œNo, he has not, indeed. It was my own thought
at first. Then in a moment I saw the relief it was
to my motherâ€”my poor mother! Erminia, the
thought of her grief at Edwardâ€™s absence is the trial ;
for my sake, you will come often and often, and com-
fort her in every way you can.â€
â€œYes! that I will; tell me everything I can do
for you.â€ Kissing each other, with long lingering
delay they parted.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 159
Nancy would be informed of the cause of the com-
motion in the house ; and when she had in some de-
gree ascertained its nature, she wasted no time in
asking further questions, but quietly got up and
dressed herself; and appeared among them, weak
and trembling, indeed, but so calm and thoughtful,
that her presence was an infinite help to Maggie.
When day closed in, Edward stole down to the
house once more. He was haggard enough to have
been in anxiety and concealment for a month. But
when his body was refreshed, his spirits rose in a way
inconceivable to Maggie. The Spaniards who went
out with Pizarro were not lured on by more fantastic
notions of the wealth to be acquired in the New
World than he was. He dwelt on these visions in
so brisk and vivid a manner, that he even made his
mother cease her weary weeping (which had lasted
the livelong day, despite all Maggieâ€™s efforts) to look
up and listen to him.
â€œTJ answer for it,â€ said he: â€œbefore long I'll
be an American judge, with miles of cotton planta-
tions.â€ 3 ;
â€œ But in America,â€ sighed out his mother.
â€œ Never mind, mother !â€ said he, with a tenderness
which made Maggieâ€™s heart glad. â€œIf you won't
come over to America to me, why, Iâ€™ll sell them all,
and come back to live in England. People will for-
160 â€œPHE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
get the scrapes that the rich American got into in
â€œYou can pay back Mr. Buxton then,â€ said his
â€œ Oh, yesâ€”of course,â€ replied he, as if falling into
a new and trivial idea.
Thus the evening whiled away. The mother and
son sat, hand in hand, before the little glinting
blazing parlor fire, with the unlighted candles on the
table behind. Maggie, busy in preparations, passed
softly in and out. And when all was done that could
be done before going to Liverpool, where she hoped
to have two days to prepare their outfit more com-
pletely, she stole back to her motherâ€™s side. But her
thoughts would wander off to Frank, â€œ working his
way south through all the hunting-counties,â€ as he
had written her word. If she had not urged his
absence, he would have been here for her to see his
noble face once more; but then, perhaps, she might
never have had the strength to go.
Late, late in the night they separated. Maggie
could not rest, and stole into her motherâ€™s room.
Mrs. Browne had cried herself to sleep, like a child.
Maggie stood and looked at her face, and then knelt
down by the bed and prayed. When she arose, she
saw that her mother was awake, and had been look-
ing at her.
â€œ Maggie dear! youâ€™re a good girl, and I think
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 161
God will hear your prayer whatever it was for. I
cannot tell you what a relief it is to me to think
youâ€™re going with him. It would have broken my
heart else. If Iâ€™ve sometimes not been as kind as I
might have been, I ask your forgiveness, now, my
dear; and I bless you and thank you for going out
with him; for Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s not well and strong, and
will need somebody to take care of him. And you
shanâ€™t lose with Mr. Frank, for as sure as I see him
I'll tell him what a good daughter and sister you've
been; and I shall say, for all he is so rich, I think
he may look long before he finds a wife for him like
our Maggie. I do wish Ned had got that new great-
coat, he says he left behind him at Woodchester.â€
Her mind reverted to her darling son; but Maggie
took her short slumber by her motherâ€™s side, with her
motherâ€™s arms around her; and awoke and felt that
her sleep had been blessed. At the coach-office the
next morning they met Mr. Buxton all ready as if
for a journey, but glancing about him as if in fear of
some coming enemy.
â€œTâ€™m going with you to Liverpool,â€ ~ he.
â€œ Donâ€™t make any ado about it, please. I shall like
to see you off; and I may be of some use to you, and
Erminia begged it of me; and, besides, it will keep
me out of Mr. Henryâ€™s way for a little time, and Iâ€™m
afraid he will find it all out, and think me very weak ;
but you see he made me too hard upon Crayston, so:
162 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
I may take it out in a little soft-heartedness toward
the son of an old friend.â€ â€˜
Just at this moment Erminia came running
through the white morning mist all glowing with
â€œ Maggie,â€ said she, â€œIâ€™m come to take care of
your mother. My uncle says she and Nancy must
come to us for a long, long visit. Or if she would
rather go home, Iâ€™ll go with her till she feels able
to come to us, and do anything I can think of for
her. I will try to be a daughter till you come back,
Maggie; only donâ€™t be long, or Frank and [I shall
break our hearts.â€
Maggie waited till her mother had ended her long
elasping embrace of Edward, who was subdued
enough this morning ; and then, with something like
Esauâ€™s craving for a blessing, she came to bid her
mother good-bye, and received the warm caress she
had longed for for years. In another moment the
coach was away; and before half an hour had
elapsed, Combehurst church-spire had been lost in a
turn of the road.
Edward and Mr. Buxton did not speak to each
other, and Maggie was nearly silent. They reached
Liverpool in the afternoon; and Mr. Buxton, who
had been there once or twice before, took them
directly to some quiet hotel. He was far more
anxious that Edward should not expose himself to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 168
any chance of recognition than Edward himself.
He went down to the Docks to secure berths in the
vessel about to sail the next day, and on his return
he took Maggie out to make the requisite purchases.
â€œDid you pay for us, sir?â€ said Maggie, anxious
to ascertain the amount of money she had left, after
defraying the passage.
â€œYes,â€ replied he, rather confused. â€œ Hrminia
begged me not to tell you about it, but I canâ€™t
manage a secret well. You see she did not like the
idea of your going as steerage-passengers as you
meant to do; and she desired me to take you cabin
places for her. It is no doing of mine, my dear. I
did not think of it; but now I have seen how
crowded the steerage is, I am very glad Erminia
had so much thought. Edward might have roughed
it well enough there, but it would never have done
for you.â€ |
â€œTt was very kind of Erminia,â€ said Maggie,
touched at this consideration of her friend; â€œbutâ€â€”
â€œNow donâ€™t â€˜butâ€™ about it,â€™ interrupted he.
â€œ Krminia is very rich, and has more money than
she knows what to do with. Iâ€™m only vexed I did
not think of it myself. For Maggie, though I may
have my own ways of thinking on some points, I
eanâ€™t be blind to your goodness.â€
All evening Mr. Buxton was busy, and busy on
their behalf. Even Edward, when he saw the at-
164 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
_tention that was being paid to his physical comfort,
felt a kind of penitence; and, after choking once or
twice in the attempt, conquered his pride (such I
call it for want of a better word) so far as to express
some regret for his past conduct, and some gratitude
for Mr. Buxtonâ€™s present kindness, He did it
awkwardly enough, but it pleased Mr. Buxton.
â€œ Wellâ€”wellâ€”thatâ€™s all very right,â€™ said he,
reddening from his own uncomfortableness of feel-
ing. â€œ Now donâ€™t say any more about it, but do your
best in America; donâ€™t let me feel I â€™ve been a fool
in letting you off. I know Mr. Henry will think
me so. And, above all, take care of Maggie.
Mind what she says, and youâ€™re sure to go right.â€
He asked them to go on board early the next
day, as he had promised Erminia to see them there,
and yet wished to return as soon ashe could. It
was evident that he hoped, by making his absence
as short as possible, to prevent Mr. Henryâ€™s ever
knowing that he had left home, or in any way con-
nived at Edwardâ€™s escape.
So, although the vessel was not to sail till the
afternoonâ€™s tide, they left the hotel soon after break-
fast, and went to the â€œAnna-Maria.â€ They were
among the first passengers on board. Mr. Buxton
took Maggie down to her cabin. She then saw the
reason of his business the evening before. Every
store that could be provided was there. A number
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 165
of books lay on the little tableâ€”books just suited
to Maggieâ€™s taste. â€œThere!â€ said he, rubbing his
hands. â€œDonâ€™t thank me. Itâ€™s all Erminiaâ€™s
doing. She gave me the list of books. Iâ€™ve not
got all; but I think theyâ€™ll be enough. Just write
me one line, Maggie, to say Iâ€™ve done my best.â€
Maggie wrote with tears in her eyesâ€”tears of
love toward the generous Erminia. -A few minutes -
more and Mr. Buxton was gone. Maggie watched
him as long as she could see him ; and as his portly
figure disappeared among the crowd on the pier,
her heart sank within her.
Kdwardâ€™s, on the contrary, rose at his absence.
The only one, cognisant of his shame and ill-doing,
was gone. A new life lay before him, the opening
of which was made agreeable to him, by the position
in which he found himself placed, as a cabin-passen-
ger; with many comforts provided for him; for
although Maggieâ€™s wants had been the principal
object of Mr. Buxtonâ€™s attention, Edward was not
He was soon among the sailors, talking away in a
rather consequential manner. He grew acquainted
with the remainder of the cabin-passengers, at least
those who arrived before the final bustle began ; and
kept bringing his sister such little pieces of news as
he could collect.
166 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€˜â€˜ Maggie, they say we are likely to have a good
start, and a fine moonlight night.â€â€ Away again he
â€œT say, Maggie, thereâ€™s an uncommonly pretty
girl come on board, with those old people in black.
Gone down into the cabin, now; I wish you would
scrape up an acquaintance with her, and give mea
Se ee ee a
Macctz sat on deck, wrapped in her duffel-cloak .
the old familiar cloak, which had been her wrap in
many a happy walk in the haunts near her moorland
home. The weather was not cold for the time of
year, but still it was chilly to any one that was sta-
tionary. But she wanted â€˜to look her last on the
shoals of English people, who crowded backward
and forward, like ants, on the pier. Happy people !
who might stay among their loved ones. The mock-
ing demons gathered round her, as they gather
round all who sacrifice self, tempting. A crowd of
suggestive doubts pressed upon her. â€œWas it really
necessary that she should go with Edward? Could
she do him any real good? Would he be in any
way influenced by her?â€ Then the demon tried
another description of doubt. â€œHad it ever been
her duty to go? She was leaving her mother alone:
She was giving Frank much present sorrow. It was
not even yet too late!â€™ She could not endure
longer; and replied to her own tempting heart.
168 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œT was right to hope for Edward ; I am right to
give him the chance of steadiness which my presence
will give. Iam doing what my mother earnestly
wished me to do; and what to the last she felt
relieved by my doing. I know Frank will feel sor-
row, because I myself have such an aching heart;
but if I had asked him whether I was not right in
going, he would have been too truthful not to have
said yes. I have tried to do right, and though I
may fail, and evil may seem to arise rather than
good out of my endeavor, yet still I will submit to
my failure, and try and say â€˜Godâ€™s will be done !?
If only I might have seen 'rank once more, and told
him all face to face !â€
To do away with such thoughts, she determined no
longer to sit gazing, and tempted by the shore; and,
giving one look to the land which contained her
lover, she went down below, and busied herself, even
through her blinding tears, in trying to arrange her
own cabin, and Edwardâ€™s, She heard boat after
boat arrive loaded with passengers. She learnt from
Edward, who came down to tell her the fact, that
there were upwards of two hundred steerage passen-
gers. She felt the tremulous shake which announced
that the ship was loosed from her moorings, and
being tugged down the river. She wrapped her
self up once more, and came on deck, and sat down
among the many who were looking their last look at
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 169
England. The early winter evening was darkening
in, and shutting out the Welsh coast, the hills of
which were like the hills of home. She was thank-
ful when she became too ill to think and remember.
Exhausted and still, she did not know whether she
was sleeping or waking; or whether she had slept
since she had thrown herself down on her cot, when
suddenly, there was a great rush, and then Edward
stood like lightning by her, pulling her up by the
â€œThe ship is on fireâ€”to the deck, Maggie! Fire !
Fire!â€ he shouted, like a maniac, while he dragged
her up the stairsâ€”as if the cry of Fire could sum-
mon human aid on the great deep. And the cry
was echoed up to heaven by all that crowd in an
accent of despair.
They stood huddled together, dressed and un-
dressed; now in red lurid light, showing ghastly
faces of terrorâ€”now in white wreaths of smokeâ€”as
far away from the steerage as they could press; for
there, up from the hold, rose columns of smoke, and
now and then a fierce blaze leaped out, exultingâ€”
higher and higher every time; while from each
crevice on that part of the deck issued harbingers of
the terrible destruction that awaited them.
_ The sailors were lowering the boats; and above
them stood the captain, as calm as if he were on his
own hearth at homeâ€”his home where he never more
170 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
should be. His voice was lowâ€”was lower; but as
clear as a bell in its distinctness ; as wise in its direc-
tions as collected thought could make it. Some of
the steerage passengers were helping ; but more were
dumb and motionless with affright. In that dead
silence was heard a low wail of sorrow, as of numbers
whose power was crushed out of them by that awful
terror. Edward still held his clutch of Margaretâ€™s
â€œ Be ready !â€ said he, in a fierce whisper.
The fire sprung up along the main-mast, and did
not sink or disappear again. They knew then that
all the mad efforts made by some few below to extin-
guish it were in vain ; and then went up the prayers
of hundreds, in mortal agony of fear :â€”
â€œLord! have mercy upon us !â€
Not in quiet calm of village church did ever such
a pitiful cry go up to heaven; it was like one voiceâ€”
like the day of judgment in the presence of the
And after that there was no more silence; but a
confusion of terrible farewells, and wild cries of af-
fright, and purposeless rushes hither and thither.
The boats were down, rocking on the sea, The
captain spoke :
â€œPut the children in first; they are the most
One or two stout sailors stood in the boats to
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 171
yeceive them. Edward drew nearer and nearer to
the gangway, pulling Maggie with him. She was
almost pressed to death, and stifled. Close in her
ear, she heard a woman praying to herself. She,
poor creature, knew of no presence but Gods in that
awful hour, and spoke in a.low voice to Him.
Â«My heartâ€™s darlings are taken away from me.
Faith! faith! Oh, my great God! I will die in
peace, if Thou wilt but grant me faith in this terri-
ble hour, to feel that Thou wilt take care of my poor
orphans. Hush! dearest Billy,â€ she cried out shrill
to a little fellow in the boat, waiting for his mother ;
and the change in her voice, from despair to a kind
of cheerfulness, showed what a motherâ€™s love can do.
â€œ Mother will come soon. Hide his face, Anne, and
wrap your shawl tight round him.â€ And then her
voice sank down again in the same low, wild prayer
for faith. Maggie could not turn to see her face,
but took the hand which hung near her. The woman
clutched at it with the grasp of a vice; but went on
praying, as if unconscious. Just then the, crowd
gave way a little. The captain had said, that the
women were to go next; but they were too frenzied
to obey his directions, and now pressed backward
and forward. â€˜The sailors, with mute, stern obedi-
ence, strove to follow out the captainâ€™s directions.
Edward pulled Maggie, and she kept her hold on
172 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
the mother. The mate, at the head of the gangway,
pushed him back.
â€œ Only women are to go !â€â€
â€œ There are are men there.â€
â€œ Three, to manage the boat.â€
â€œCome on, Maggie! while thereâ€™s room for us,â€
said he, unheeding. But Maggie drew back, and
put the motherâ€™s hand into the mateâ€™s. â€œ Save her
first !â€ said she. The woman did not know of any-
thing, but that her children were there ; it was only
in after days, and quiet hours, that she remembered
the young creature who pushed her forward to join
her fatherless children, and, by losing her place in
the crowd, was jostledâ€”where, she did not knowâ€”
but dreamed until her dying day. Edward pressed
on, unaware that Maggy was not close behind him.
He was deaf to reproaches ; and, heedless of the hand
stretched out to hold him back, Sprang toward the
boat. The men there pushed her offâ€”full and more
than full as she was; and overboard he fell into the
sullen heaving waters. |
His last shout had been on Maggieâ€™s nameâ€”a
name she never thought to hear again on earth, as
she was pressed back, sick and suffocating. But sud-
denly a voice rang out above all confused voices and
moaning hungry waves, and above the roaring fire.
â€œ Maggie, Maggie! My Maggie !â€
Out of the steerage side of the crowd a tall figure
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 1738
issued forth, begrimed with smoke. She could not
see, but she knew. As a tame bird flutters to the
human breast of its protector when affrighted by
some mortal foe, so Maggie fluttered and cowered
into his arms, And, for a moment, there was no
more terror or thought of danger in the hearts of
those twain, but.only infinite and absolute peace.
She had no wonder how he came there: it was
enough that he was there. He first thought of the
destruction that was present with them. He was as
calm and composed as if they sat beneath the thorn-
tree on the still moorlands, far away. He took her,
without a word, to the end of the quarter-deck. He
lashed her to a piece of spar. She never spoke:
â€œMaggie,â€ he said, â€œmy only chance is to throw
you overboard. This spar will keep you floating. At
first, you will go downâ€”deep, deep down. Keep
your mouth and eyes shut. I shall be there when
you come up. By Godâ€™s help, I will struggle bravely
She looked up; and by the flashing light he could
see a trusting, loving smile upon her face. And he
smiled back at her; a grave, beautiful look, fit to
wear on his face in heaven. He helped her to the
side of the vessel, away from the falling burning
pieces of mast. Then for a moment he paused.
Â«â€œTfâ€” Maggie, I may be throwing you in to
174 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
death.â€ He put his hand before his eyes. The
strong man lost courage. Then she spokeâ€”
â€œT am not afraid ; God is with us, whether we live
or die!â€ She looked as quiet and happy as a child
on its motherâ€™s breast! and so before he lost heart
again, he heaved her up, and threw her as far as he
could over into the glaring, dizzying water; and
straight leaped after her. She came up with an in-
voluntary look of terror on her face; but when she
saw him by the red glare of the burning ship, close
by her side, she shut her eyes, and looked as if peace-
fully going to sleep. He swam, guiding the spar.
â€œT think we are near Llandudno. I know we
have passed the little Ormesâ€™ head.â€ That was all
he said; but she did not speak.
He swam out of the heat and fierce blaze of light
into the quiet, dark waters ; and then into the moonâ€™s
path. It might be half an hour before he got into
that silver stream. When the beams fell down upon
them he looked at Maggie. Her head rested on the
spar, quite still. He could not bear it. â€œMaggieâ€”
dear heart! speak !â€
With a great effort she was called back from the
borders of death by that voice, and opened her filmy
eyes, which looked abroad as if she could see nothing
nearer than the gleaming lights of Heaven. She let
the lids fall softly again. He was as if alone in the
wide world with God.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 175
â€œ A quarter of an hour more and all is over,â€
thought he. â€œThe people at Llandudno must see
our burning ship, and will come out in their boats.â€
He kept in the line of light, although it did not lead
him direct to the shore, in order that they might be
seen. He swam with desperation. One moment he
thought he had heard her last gasp rattle through
the rush of the waters; and all strength was gone,
and he lay on the waves as if he himself must die,
and go with her spirit straight through that purple
lift to heaven; the next he heard the splash of oars,
and raised himself and cried aloud. The boatmen
took them inâ€”and examined her by the lantern
â€”and spoke in Welshâ€”and shook their heads.
Frank threw himself on his knees, and prayed them
to take her to land. They did not know his words,
but they understood his prayer. He kissed her lips
â€”he chafed her handsâ€”he wrung the water out of
her hairâ€”he held her feet against his warm breast.
â€œ She is not dead,â€ he kept saying to the men, as
he saw their sorrowful, pitying looks.
The kind people at Llandudno had made ready
their own humble beds, with every appliance of com-
fort they could think of, as soon as they understood
the nature of the calamity which had befallen the ship
on their coasts. Frank walked, dripping, bareheaded,
by the body of his Margaret, which was borne by
some men along the rocky sloping shore.
176 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
â€œShe is not dead!â€ he said. He stopped at the
first house they came to. It belonged to a kind-
hearted woman. They laid Maggie in her bed, and
got the village doctor to come and see her.
â€œ There is life still,â€ said he, gravely.
â€œT knew it,â€ said Frank. But it felled him to the
ground. He sank first in prayer, and then in insen-
sibility. The doctor did everything. All that night
long he passed to and fro from house to house; for
several had swum to Llandudno. Others, it was
thought, had gone to Abergele.
In the morning Frank was recovered enough to
write to his father, by Maggieâ€™s bedside. He sent
the letter off to Conway by a little bright-looking
Welsh boy. Late in the afternoon she awoke.
In a moment or two she looked eagerly round her,
as if gathering in her breath; and then she covered
her head and sobbed.
â€œWhere is Edward 2?â€ asked she.
â€œWe do not know,â€ said Frank, gravely. â€œTI
have been round the village, and seen every survivor
here ; he is not among them, but he may be at some
other place along the coast.â€
She was silent, reading in his eyes his fearsâ€”his
At last she asked again.
â€œJT cannot understand it. My head is not clear.
There are such rushing noises init, How came you
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 177
there?â€ She shuddered involuntarily as she recalled
the terrible where.
For an instant he dreaded, for her sake, to recall
the circumstances of the night before ; but then he
understood how her mind would dwell upon them
until she was satisfied.
â€œYou remember writing to me, love, telling me
all. I got your letterâ€”I donâ€™t know how long agoâ€”
yesterday, I think. Yes! in the evening. You
could not think, Maggie, I would let you go alone to
America. I wonâ€™t speak against Edward, poor fel-
low! but we must both allow that he was not the
person to watch over you as such a treasure should be
watched over. I thought I would go with you. I
hardly know if I meant to make myself known to you
all at once, for I had no wish to have much to do
with your brother. I see now that it was selfish in
me. Well! there was nothing to be done, after
receiving your letter, but to set off for Liverpool
straight, and join you. And after that decision was
made, my spirits rose, for the old talks about Canada
and Australia came to my mind, and this seemed
like a realization of them. Besides, Maggie, I sus-
pectedâ€”I even suspect nowâ€”that my father had
something to do with your going with Edward ?â€
â€œIndeed, Frank !â€ said she, earnestly, â€œ you are
mistaken ; I cannot tell you all now; but he was so
good and kind at last. He never urged me to go;
178 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
though, I believe, he did tell me it would be the
saving of Edward.â€
â€œ Donâ€™t agitate yourself, love. I trust there will
be time enough, some happy day at home, to tell me
all. And till then, I will believe that my father did
not in any way suggest this voyage. But youâ€™ll
allow that, after all that has passed, it was not un-
natural in me to suppose so. I only told Middleton
I was obliged to leave him by the next train. It
was not till [ was fairly off, that I began to reckon
up what money I had with me. I doubt even if I
was sorry to find it was so little. I should have to
put forth my energies and fight my way, as I had
often wanted todo. I remember, I thought how hap-
py you and I would be, striving together as poor peo-
ple â€˜ in that new world which is the old.â€™ Then you
had told me you were going in the steerage; and
that was all suitable to my desires for myself.â€
â€œIt was Erminiaâ€™s kindness that. prevented our
going there. She asked your father to take us cabin
places unknown to me.â€
â€œDid she? dear Erminia! it is just like her.
I could almost laugh to remember the eagerness
with which I doffed my signs of wealth, and put on
those of poverty. I sold my watch when I got into
Liverpoolâ€”yesterday, I believeâ€”but it seems like
months ago. And I rigged myself out at a slop-shop
with suitable clothes for a steerage passenger.
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 179
Maggie! you never told me the name of the vessel
you were going to sail in !â€
â€œT did not know it till I got to Liverpool. All
Mr. Buxton said was, that some ship sailed on the
â€œT concluded it must be the Anna-Maria, (poor
Anna-Maria!) and I had no time to lose. She had
just heaved her anchor when I came on board.
Donâ€™t you recollect a boat hailing her at the last mo-
ment? There were three of us in her.â€
â€œNo! I was below in my cabinâ€”trying not to
think,â€ said she, coloring a little.
Â« Well! as soon as I got on board it began to
grow. dark, or, perhaps, it was the fog on the river ;
at any rate, instead of being able to single out your
figure at once, Maggieâ€”it is one among a thousandâ€”
I had to go peering into every womanâ€™s face; and
many were below. I went between decks, and by-
and-by I was afraid I had mistaken the vessel; I
sat downâ€”I had no spirit to stand; and every time
the door opened I roused up and lookedâ€”but you
never came. I was thinking what to do; whether
to be put on shore in Ireland, or to go on to New
York, and wait for you there ;â€”it was the worst
time of all, for I had nothing to do; and the sus-
pense was horrible. I might have known,â€ said he,
smiling, â€œmy little Emperor of Russia was not one
to be a steerage passenger.â€
180 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. Â©
- But Maggie was too much shaken to smile; and
the thought of Edward lay heavy upon her mind. |
â€œThen the fire broke out ; how, or why, I suppose
will never be ascertained. It was at our end of the
vessel. I thanked God, then, that you were not
there. The second mate wanted some one to go
down with him to bring up the gunpowder, and
throw it overboard. I had nothing to do, and I
went. We wrapped it up in wet sails, but it was a
ticklish piece of work, and took time. When we
had got it overboard, the flames were gathering far
and wide. I donâ€™t remember what I did until I
heard Edwardâ€™s voice speaking your name.â€
It was decided that the next morning they should
set off homeward, striving on their way to obtain
tidings of Edward. Frank would have given hia
only valuable, (his motherâ€™s diamond-guard, which
he wore constantly,) as a pledge for some advance
of money; but the kind Welsh people would not
have it. They had not much spare cash, but what
they had they readily lent to the survivors of the
Anna-Maria. Dressed in the homely country garb
of the people, Frank and Maggie set off in their car.
It was a clear, frosty morning; the first that winter.
The road soon lay high up on the cliffs along the
coast. They looked down on the sea rocking below.
At every village they stopped, and Frank inquired,
and made the driver inguire in Welsh; but no
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 181
tidings gained they of Edward; though here and
there Maggie watched Frank into some cottage or
other, going to see a dead body, beloved by some
one: and when he came out, solemn and grave, their
sad eyes met, and she knew it was not he they
sought, without needing words.
At Abergele they stopped to rest ; and because,
being a larger place, it would need a longer search,
Maggie lay down on the sofa, for she was very weak,
and shut her eyes, and tried not to see forever and
ever that mad struggling crowd lighted by the red
Frank came back in an hour or so; and soft
behind himâ€”laboriously treading on tiptoeâ€”Mr.
Buxton followed. He was evidently choking down
his sobs; but when he saw the white wan figure of
Maggie, he held out his arms.
â€œ My dear! my daughter !â€ he said, â€œGod bless
you!â€ He could not speak moreâ€”he was fairly
erying; but he put her hand in Frankâ€™s and kept
holding them both.
â€œMy father,â€™ said Frank, speaking in a husky
voice, while his eyes filled with tears, â€œhad heard
of it before he received my letter. I might have
known that the lighthouse signals would take it fast
to Liverpool. I had written a few lines to him
saying I was going to you; happily they never
reachedâ€”that was spared to my dear father.â€
182 THE MOORLAND COTTAGE.
Maggie saw the look of restored confidence that
passed between father and son.
â€œMy mother?â€ said she at last.
â€œShe is here,â€ said they both at once, with sad
â€œOh, where? Why did not you tell me?â€ ex-
claimed she, starting up. But their faces told her
â€œ Edward is drownedâ€”is dead,â€ said she, reading
There was no answer.
â€œ Let me go to my mother.â€
â€œ Maggie, she is with him. His body was washed
ashore last night. My father and she heard of it as
they came along. Can you bear to see her? She
will not leave him.â€
â€œTake me to her,â€™ Maggie answered.
They led her into a bed-room. Stretched on the
bed lay Edward, but now so full of hope and world-
Mrs. Browne looked round, and saw Maggie,
She did not get up from her place by his head ; nor
did she long avert her gaze from his poor face. But
she held Maggieâ€™s hand, as the girl knelt by her, and
spoke to her in a hushed voice, undisturbed by tears.
Her miserable heart could not find that relief
â€œHe is dead !â€”he is gone !â€”he will never come
back again! If he had gone to Americaâ€”it might
THE MOORLAND COTTAGE. 183
-have been years firstâ€”but he would have come back
to me. But now he will never come back again ;â€”
Her voice died away, as the wailings of the night-
wind die in the distance; and there was silenceâ€”
silence more sad and hopeless than any passionate
words of grief.
And to this day it is the same. She prizes her
dead son more than a thousand living daughters,
happy and prosperous as 1s Maggie nowâ€”rich in the
love of many. If Maggie did not show such rever-
ence to her motherâ€™s faithful sorrows, others might
wonder at her refusal to be comforted by that sweet
daughter. But Maggie treats her with such tender
sympathy, never thinking of herself or her own
claims, that Frank, Erminia, Mr. Buxton, Nancy,
and all, are reverent and sympathizing too.
Over both old and young the memory of one who
is dead broods like a doveâ€”of one who could do but
little during her lifetimeâ€”who was doomed only to
â€œstand and waitâ€â€” who was meekly content to be
gentle, holy, patient, and undefiledâ€”the memory of
the invalid Mrs. Buxton.
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12mo, Muslin, gilt edges, 60 cents; Muslin, 50 cents.
Homes and Haunts of the British Poets.
By Witu1am Howirr. With numerous Illustrations.
2 vols. 12mo, Muslin, $3 00.
History of Wonderful Inventions.
Illustrated by numerous Engravings. 12mo, Muslin,
75 cents; Paper, 50 cents.
The Valley of the Mississippi.
History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley
of the Mississippi, by the three great European Powers,
Spain, France, and Great Britain; and the subsequent
Occupation, Settlement, and Extension of Civil Gov-
ernment by the United States, until the year 1846. By
Joun W. Monerre, Esq. Maps. 2 vols. 8vo, Muslin,
$5 00; Sheep, $5 50.
Life and Writings of Cassius M. Clay ;
Including Speeches and Addresses. Edited, with a
Preface and Memoir, by Horace Gree.ty. With Por-
trait. 8vo, Muslin, $1 50.
IN COURSE OF PUBLICATION
By Barger out Brothers, Bem York.
*,* Each Volume of this Series is printed and bound
uniform with the other Volumes, and is adorned with a
richly-illuminated title-page and numerous Engravings.
12mo, Muslin, plain edges, 60 cents per volume; Muslin,
gilt edges, 75 cents per volume.
ary Queen of Scots.
This history is given here minute in every point of real interest, and
without the encumbrance of useless opinions. There is no sentence
thrown awayâ€”no time lost in mere ornament. Perhaps no book extant
containing so few pages, can be said to convey so many genuine historical
facts. There is here no-attempt to glaze over recorded truth, or win the
reader by sophistry to opinions merely those of the author. The pure,
simple history of Queen Mary is placed before the reader, and each one
is left to form an unbiased opinion from events impartially recorded there.
One great and most valuable feature in this little work is a map of Scot-
land, with many engravings of the royal castles and wild scenes connect-
ed with Maryâ€™s history. There is also a beautiful portrait of the Queen,
and a richly illuminated title-page sech as only the Harpers can get uo
Full of instructive and heart-stirring incident, displayed by the hana
of a master. We doubt whether old Queen Bess ever before had somuch
justice done to her within the same compass. Such a pen as Jacob Ab-
bott wields, especially in this department of our literature, has no right
to lie still â€”Albany Express.
2 Abbottâ€™s Historical Series.
Charles the Frat.
We incline to think that there never was before so much said about
this unfortunate monarch in so short a space ; so much to the purpose ,
with so much impartiality ; and in sucha style as just suits those for
whom it is designedâ€”the â€œ two millionsâ€ of young persons in the United
States, who ought to be supplied with such works as these. The en-
gravings represent the prominent persons and places of the history, and
are well executed. The portrait of John Hampden is charming. The
antique title-page is rich.â€” Southern Christian Advocate.
PGannthal the Carthagiata.
Anew volume of the series projected by the skillful book-manufacturer,
Mr. Abbott, who displays no little tact in engaging the attention of that
marvellous body â€œthe reading publicâ€ in old scholastic topics hitherto
almost exclusively the property of the learned. The latter, with their
ingenious implements of lexicons and scholia, will be in no danger of be-
ing superseded, however, while the least-furnished reader may gain
something from the attractively-printed and easily-perused volumes of
Mr. Abbott. The story of Hannibal is well adapted for popular treatment,
and loses nothing for this purpose in the present explanatory and picto-
rial version.â€”Literary World.
in a style copious and yet forcible, with an expression singularly clear
and happy, and in language exceedingly chaste and at times very beau
tiful, he has given us a plain, unvarnished narrative of facts, as he him
self says, unclogged by individual reflections which would â€œâ€˜ only encum-
ber rather than enforce.â€ The present work wants none of the interest
inseparably connecting itself with the preceding numbers of the same
series, but is characterized throughout by the same peculiar beauties,
riveting the attention and deeply engraving on the mind the informatios
wth which they every where teem.â€”LEvening Mirror.
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