Those were four miserable months,
alternating between intense anxiety,
despair, and indignation, pity
for him and pity for myself.
And yet, through all, I was not
wholly comfortless: I had my
darling, sinless, inoffensive
little one to console me; but
even this consolation was embittered
by the constantly-recurring thought,
'How shall I teach him hereafter
to respect his father, and yet
to avoid his example?'
But I remembered that I had
brought all these afflictions,
in a manner wilfully, upon myself;
and I determined to bear them
without a murmur. At the same
time I resolved not to give myself
up to misery for the transgressions
of another, and endeavoured to
divert myself as much as I could;
and besides the companionship
of my child, and my dear, faithful
Rachel, who evidently guessed
my sorrows and felt for them,
though she was too discreet to
allude to them, I had my books
and pencil, my domestic affairs,
and the welfare and comfort of
Arthur's poor tenants and labourers
to attend to: and I sometimes
sought and obtained amusement
in the company of my young friend
Esther Hargrave: occasionally
I rode over to see her, and once
or twice I had her to spend the
day with me at the Manor. Mrs.
Hargrave did not visit London
that season: having no daughter
to marry, she thought it as well
to stay at home and economise;
and, for a wonder, Walter came
down to join her in the beginning
of June, and stayed till near
the close of August.
The first time I saw him was
on a sweet, warm evening, when
I was sauntering in the park
with little Arthur and Rachel,
who is head- nurse and lady's-maid
in one - for, with my secluded
life and tolerably active habits,
I require but little attendance,
and as she had nursed me and
coveted to nurse my child, and
was moreover so very trustworthy,
I preferred committing the important
charge to her, with a young nursery-maid
under her directions, to engaging
any one else: besides, it saves
money; and since I have made
acquaintance with Arthur's affairs,
I have learnt to regard that
as no trifling recommendation;
for, by my own desire, nearly
the whole of the income of my
fortune is devoted, for years
to come, to the paying off of
his debts, and the money he contrives
to squander away in London is
incomprehensible. But to return
to Mr. Hargrave. I was standing
with Rachel beside the water,
amusing the laughing baby in
her arms with a twig of willow
laden with golden catkins, when,
greatly to my surprise, he entered
the park, mounted on his costly
black hunter, and crossed over
the grass to meet me. He saluted
me with a very fine compliment,
delicately worded, and modestly
delivered withal, which he had
doubtless concocted as he rode
along. He told me he had brought
a message from his mother, who,
as he was riding that way, had
desired him to call at the Manor
and beg the pleasure of my company
to a friendly family dinner to-morrow.
'There is no one to meet but
ourselves,' said he; 'but Esther
is very anxious to see you; and
my mother fears you will feel
solitary in this great house
so much alone, and wishes she
could persuade you to give her
the pleasure of your company
more frequently, and make yourself
at home in our more humble dwelling,
till Mr. Huntingdon's return
shall render this a little more
conducive to your comfort.'
'She is very kind,' I answered,
'but I am not alone, you see;
- and those whose time is fully
occupied seldom complain of solitude.'
'Will you not come to-morrow,
then? She will be sadly disappointed
if you refuse.'
I did not relish being thus
compassionated for my loneliness;
but, however, I promised to come.
'What a sweet evening this
is!' observed he, looking round
upon the sunny park, with its
imposing swell and slope, its
placid water, and majestic clumps
of trees. 'And what a paradise
you live in!'
'It is a lovely evening,' answered
I; and I sighed to think how
little I had felt its loveliness,
and how little of a paradise
sweet Grassdale was to me - how
still less to the voluntary exile
from its scenes. Whether Mr.
Hargrave divined my thoughts,
I cannot tell, but, with a half-hesitating,
sympathising seriousness of tone
and manner, he asked if I had
lately heard from Mr. Huntingdon.
'Not lately,' I replied.
'I thought not,' he muttered,
as if to himself, looking thoughtfully
on the ground.
'Are you not lately returned
from London?' I asked.
'And did you see him there?'
'Yes - I saw him.'
'Was he well?'
'Yes - that is,' said he, with
increasing hesitation and an
appearance of suppressed indignation,
'he was as well as - as he deserved
to be, but under circumstances
I should have deemed incredible
for a man so favoured as he is.'
He here looked up and pointed
the sentence with a serious bow
to me. I suppose my face was
'Pardon me, Mrs. Huntingdon,'
he continued, 'but I cannot suppress
my indignation when I behold
such infatuated blindness and
perversion of taste; - but, perhaps,
you are not aware - ' He paused.
'I am aware of nothing, sir
- except that he delays his coming
longer than I expected; and if,
at present, he prefers the society
of his friends to that of his
wife, and the dissipations of
the town to the quiet of country
life, I suppose I have those
friends to thank for it. Their
tastes and occupations are similar
to his, and I don't see why his
conduct should awaken either
their indignation or surprise.'
'You wrong me cruelly,' answered
he. 'I have shared but little
of Mr. Huntingdon's society for
the last few weeks; and as for
his tastes and occupations, they
are quite beyond me - lonely
wanderer as I am. Where I have
but sipped and tasted, he drains
the cup to the dregs; and if
ever for a moment I have sought
to drown the voice of reflection
in madness and folly, or if I
have wasted too much of my time
and talents among reckless and
dissipated companions, God knows
I would gladly renounce them
entirely and for ever, if I had
but half the blessings that man
so thanklessly casts behind his
back - but half the inducements
to virtue and domestic, orderly
habits that he despises - but
such a home, and such a partner
to share it! It is infamous!'
he muttered, between his teeth.
'And don't think, Mrs. Huntingdon,'
he added aloud, 'that I could
be guilty of inciting him to
persevere in his present pursuits:
on the contrary, I have remonstrated
with him again and again; I have
frequently expressed my surprise
at his conduct, and reminded
him of his duties and his privileges
- but to no purpose; he only
'Enough, Mr. Hargrave; you
ought to be aware that whatever
my husband's faults may be, it
can only aggravate the evil for
me to hear them from a stranger's
'Am I then a stranger?' said
he in a sorrowful tone. 'I am
your nearest neighbour, your
son's godfather, and your husband's
friend; may I not be yours also?'
'Intimate acquaintance must
precede real friendship; I know
but little of you, Mr. Hargrave,
except from report.'
'Have you then forgotten the
six or seven weeks I spent under
your roof last autumn? I have
not forgotten them. And I know
enough of you, Mrs. Huntingdon,
to think that your husband is
the most enviable man in the
world, and I should be the next
if you would deem me worthy of
'If you knew more of me, you
would not think it, or if you
did you would not say it, and
expect me to be flattered by
I stepped backward as I spoke.
He saw that I wished the conversation
to end; and immediately taking
the hint, he gravely bowed, wished
me good-evening, and turned his
horse towards the road. He appeared
grieved and hurt at my unkind
reception of his sympathising
overtures. I was not sure that
I had done right in speaking
so harshly to him; but, at the
time, I had felt irritated -
almost insulted by his conduct;
it seemed as if he was presuming
upon the absence and neglect
of my husband, and insinuating
even more than the truth against
Rachel had moved on, during
our conversation, to some yards'
distance. He rode up to her,
and asked to see the child. He
took it carefully into his arms,
looked upon it with an almost
paternal smile, and I heard him
say, as I approached, -
'And this, too, he has forsaken!'
He then tenderly kissed it,
and restored it to the gratified
'Are you fond of children,
Mr. Hargrave?' said I, a little
softened towards him.
'Not in general,' he replied,
'but that is such a sweet child,
and so like its mother,' he added
in a lower tone.
'You are mistaken there; it
is its father it resembles.'
'Am I not right, nurse?' said
he, appealing to Rachel.
'I think, sir, there's a bit
of both,' she replied.
He departed; and Rachel pronounced
him a very nice gentleman. I
had still my doubts on the subject.
In the course of the following
six weeks I met him several times,
but always, save once, in company
with his mother, or his sister,
or both. When I called on them,
he always happened to be at home,
and, when they called on me,
it was always he that drove them
over in the phaeton. His mother,
evidently, was quite delighted
with his dutiful attentions and
newly-acquired domestic habits.
The time that I met him alone
was on a bright, but not oppressively
hot day, in the beginning of
July: I had taken little Arthur
into the wood that skirts the
park, and there seated him on
the moss- cushioned roots of
an old oak; and, having gathered
a handful of bluebells and wild-roses,
I was kneeling before him, and
presenting them, one by one,
to the grasp of his tiny fingers;
enjoying the heavenly beauty
of the flowers, through the medium
of his smiling eyes: forgetting,
for the moment, all my cares,
laughing at his gleeful laughter,
and delighting myself with his
delight, - when a shadow suddenly
eclipsed the little space of
sunshine on the grass before
us; and looking up, I beheld
Walter Hargrave standing and
gazing upon us.
'Excuse me, Mrs. Huntingdon,'
said he, 'but I was spell-bound;
I had neither the power to come
forward and interrupt you, nor
to withdraw from the contemplation
of such a scene. How vigorous
my little godson grows! and how
merry he is this morning!' He
approached the child, and stooped
to take his hand; but, on seeing
that his caresses were likely
to produce tears and lamentations,
instead of a reciprocation of
friendly demonstrations, he prudently
'What a pleasure and comfort
that little creature must be
to you, Mrs. Huntingdon!' he
observed, with a touch of sadness
in his intonation, as he admiringly
contemplated the infant.
'It is,' replied I; and then
I asked after his mother and
He politely answered my inquiries,
and then returned again to the
subject I wished to avoid; though
with a degree of timidity that
witnessed his fear to offend.
'You have not heard from Huntingdon
lately?' he said.
'Not this week,' I replied.
Not these three weeks, I might
'I had a letter from him this
morning. I wish it were such
a one as I could show to his
lady.' He half drew from his
waistcoat- pocket a letter with
Arthur's still beloved hand on
the address, scowled at it, and
put it back again, adding - 'But
he tells me he is about to return
'He tells me so every time
'Indeed! well, it is like him.
But to me he always avowed it
his intention to stay till the
It struck me like a blow, this
proof of premeditated transgression
and systematic disregard of truth.
'It is only of a piece with
the rest of his conduct,' observed
Mr. Hargrave, thoughtfully regarding
me, and reading, I suppose, my
feelings in my face.
'Then he is really coming next
week?' said I, after a pause.
'You may rely upon it, if the
assurance can give you any pleasure.
And is it possible, Mrs. Huntingdon,
that you can rejoice at his return?'
he exclaimed, attentively perusing
my features again.
'Of course, Mr. Hargrave; is
he not my husband?'
'Oh, Huntingdon; you know not
what you slight!' he passionately
I took up my baby, and, wishing
him good-morning, departed, to
indulge my thoughts unscrutinized,
within the sanctum of my home.
And was I glad? Yes, delighted;
though I was angered by Arthur's
conduct, and though I felt that
he had wronged me, and was determined
he should feel it too.