October 5th. - Esther Hargrave
is getting a fine girl. She is
not out of the school-room yet,
but her mother frequently brings
her over to call in the mornings
when the gentlemen are out, and
sometimes she spends an hour
or two in company with her sister
and me, and the children; and
when we go to the Grove, I always
contrive to see her, and talk
more to her than to any one else,
for I am very much attached to
my little friend, and so is she
to me. I wonder what she can
see to like in me though, for
I am no longer the happy, lively
girl I used to be; but she has
no other society, save that of
her uncongenial mother, and her
governess (as artificial and
conventional a person as that
prudent mother could procure
to rectify the pupil's natural
qualities), and, now and then,
her subdued, quiet sister. I
often wonder what will be her
lot in life, and so does she;
but her speculations on the future
are full of buoyant hope; so
were mine once. I shudder to
think of her being awakened,
like me, to a sense of their
delusive vanity. It seems as
if I should feel her disappointment,
even more deeply than my own.
I feel almost as if I were born
for such a fate, but she is so
joyous and fresh, so light of
heart and free of spirit, and
so guileless and unsuspecting
too. Oh, it would be cruel to
make her feel as I feel now,
and know what I have known!
Her sister trembles for her
too. Yesterday morning, one of
October's brightest, loveliest
days, Milicent and I were in
the garden enjoying a brief half-hour
together with our children, while
Annabella was lying on the drawing-room
sofa, deep in the last new novel.
We had been romping with the
little creatures, almost as merry
and wild as themselves, and now
paused in the shade of the tall
copper beech, to recover breath
and rectify our hair, disordered
by the rough play and the frolicsome
breeze, while they toddled together
along the broad, sunny walk;
my Arthur supporting the feebler
steps of her little Helen, and
sagaciously pointing out to her
the brightest beauties of the
border as they passed, with semi-articulate
prattle, that did as well for
her as any other mode of discourse.
From laughing at the pretty sight,
we began to talk of the children's
future life; and that made us
thoughtful. We both relapsed
into silent musing as we slowly
proceeded up the walk; and I
suppose Milicent, by a train
of associations, was led to think
of her sister.
'Helen,' said she, 'you often
see Esther, don't you?'
'Not very often.'
'But you have more frequent
opportunities of meeting her
than I have; and she loves you,
I know, and reverences you too:
there is nobody's opinion she
thinks so much of; and she says
you have more sense than mamma.'
'That is because she is self-willed,
and my opinions more generally
coincide with her own than your
mamma's. But what then, Milicent?'
'Well, since you have so much
influence with her, I wish you
would seriously impress it upon
her, never, on any account, or
for anybody's persuasion, to
marry for the sake of money,
or rank, or establishment, or
any earthly thing, but true affection
and well- grounded esteem.'
'There is no necessity for
that,' said I, 'for we have had
some discourse on that subject
already, and I assure you her
ideas of love and matrimony are
as romantic as any one could
'But romantic notions will
not do: I want her to have true
'Very right: but in my judgment,
what the world stigmatises as
romantic, is often more nearly
allied to the truth than is commonly
supposed; for, if the generous
ideas of youth are too often
over- clouded by the sordid views
of after-life, that scarcely
proves them to be false.'
'Well, but if you think her
ideas are what they ought to
be, strengthen them, will you?
and confirm them, as far as you
can; for I had romantic notions
once, and - I don't mean to say
that I regret my lot, for I am
quite sure I don't, but - '
'I understand you,' said I;
'you are contented for yourself,
but you would not have your sister
to suffer the same as you.'
'No - or worse. She might have
far worse to suffer than I, for
I am really contented, Helen,
though you mayn't think it: I
speak the solemn truth in saying
that I would not exchange my
husband for any man on earth,
if I might do it by the plucking
of this leaf.'
'Well, I believe you: now that
you have him, you would not exchange
him for another; but then you
would gladly exchange some of
his qualities for those of better
'Yes: just as I would gladly
exchange some of my own qualities
for those of better women; for
neither he nor I are perfect,
and I desire his improvement
as earnestly as my own. And he
will improve, don't you think
so, Helen? he's only six-and-twenty
'He may,' I answered,
'He will, he WILL!' repeated
'Excuse the faintness of my
acquiescence, Milicent, I would
not discourage your hopes for
the world, but mine have been
so often disappointed, that I
am become as cold and doubtful
in my expectations as the flattest
'And yet you do hope, still,
even for Mr. Huntingdon?'
do, I confess, "even" for
him; for it seems as if life
and hope must cease together.
And is he so much worse, Milicent,
than Mr. Hattersley?'
'Well, to give you my candid
opinion, I think there is no
comparison between them. But
you mustn't be offended, Helen,
for you know I always speak my
mind, and you may speak yours
too. I sha'n't care.'
'I am not offended, love; and
my opinion is, that if there
be a comparison made between
the two, the difference, for
the most part, is certainly in
Milicent's own heart told her
how much it cost me to make this
acknowledgment; and, with a childlike
impulse, she expressed her sympathy
by suddenly kissing my cheek,
without a word of reply, and
then turning quickly away, caught
up her baby, and hid her face
in its frock. How odd it is that
we so often weep for each other's
distresses, when we shed not
a tear for our own! Her heart
had been full enough of her own
sorrows, but it overflowed at
the idea of mine; and I, too,
shed tears at the sight of her
sympathetic emotion, though I
had not wept for myself for many
It was one rainy day last week;
most of the company were killing
time in the billiard-room, but
Milicent and I were with little
Arthur and Helen in the library,
and between our books, our children,
and each other, we expected to
make out a very agreeable morning.
We had not been thus secluded
above two hours, however, when
Mr. Hattersley came in, attracted,
I suppose, by the voice of his
child, as he was crossing the
hall, for he is prodigiously
fond of her, and she of him.
He was redolent of the stables,
where he had been regaling himself
with the company of his fellow-creatures
the horses ever since breakfast.
But that was no matter to my
little namesake; as soon as the
colossal person of her father
darkened the door, she uttered
a shrill scream of delight, and,
quitting her mother's side, ran
crowing towards him, balancing
her course with outstretched
arms, and embracing his knee,
threw back her head and laughed
in his face. He might well look
smilingly down upon those small,
fair features, radiant with innocent
mirth, those clear blue shining
eyes, and that soft flaxen hair
cast back upon the little ivory
neck and shoulders. Did he not
think how unworthy he was of
such a possession? I fear no
such idea crossed his mind. He
caught her up, and there followed
some minutes of very rough play,
during which it is difficult
to say whether the father or
the daughter laughed and shouted
the loudest. At length, however,
the boisterous pastime terminated,
suddenly, as might be expected:
the little one was hurt, and
began to cry; and the ungentle
play-fellow tossed it into its
mother's lap, bidding her 'make
all straight.' As happy to return
to that gentle comforter as it
had been to leave her, the child
nestled in her arms, and hushed
its cries in a moment; and sinking
its little weary head on her
bosom, soon dropped asleep.
Meantime Mr. Hattersley strode
up to the fire, and interposing
his height and breadth between
us and it, stood with arms akimbo,
expanding his chest, and gazing
round him as if the house and
all its appurtenances and contents
were his own undisputed possessions.
'Deuced bad weather this!'
he began. 'There'll be no shooting
to- day, I guess.' Then, suddenly
lifting up his voice, he regaled
us with a few bars of a rollicking
song, which abruptly ceasing,
he finished the tune with a whistle,
and then continued:- 'I say,
Mrs. Huntingdon, what a fine
stud your husband has! not large,
but good. I've been looking at
them a bit this morning; and
upon my word, Black Boss, and
Grey Tom, and that young Nimrod
are the finest animals I've seen
for many a day!' Then followed
a particular discussion of their
various merits, succeeded by
a sketch of the great things
he intended to do in the horse-jockey
line, when his old governor thought
proper to quit the stage. 'Not
that I wish him to close his
accounts,' added he: 'the old
Trojan is welcome to keep his
books open as long as he pleases
'I hope so, indeed, Mr. Hattersley.'
'Oh, yes! It's only my way
of talking. The event must come
some time, and so I look to the
bright side of it: that's the
right plan - isn't it, Mrs. H.?
What are you two doing here?
By-the-by, where's Lady Lowborough?'
'In the billiard-room.'
'What a splendid creature she
is!' continued he, fixing his
eyes on his wife, who changed
colour, and looked more and more
disconcerted as he proceeded.
'What a noble figure she has;
and what magnificent black eyes;
and what a fine spirit of her
own; and what a tongue of her
own, too, when she likes to use
it. I perfectly adore her! But
never mind, Milicent: I wouldn't
have her for my wife, not if
she'd a kingdom for her dowry!
I'm better satisfied with the
one I have. Now then! what do
you look so sulky for? don't
you believe me?'
'Yes, I believe you,' murmured
she, in a tone of half sad, half
sullen resignation, as she turned
away to stroke the hair of her
sleeping infant, that she had
laid on the sofa beside her.
'Well, then, what makes you
so cross? Come here, Milly, and
tell me why you can't be satisfied
with my assurance.'
She went, and putting her little
hand within his arm, looked up
in his face, and said softly,
'What does it amount to, Ralph?
Only to this, that though you
admire Annabella so much, and
for qualities that I don't possess,
you would still rather have me
than her for your wife, which
merely proves that you don't
think it necessary to love your
wife; you are satisfied if she
can keep your house, and take
care of your child. But I'm not
cross; I'm only sorry; for,'
added she, in a low, tremulous
accent, withdrawing her hand
from his arm, and bending her
looks on the rug, 'if you don't
love me, you don't, and it can't
'Very true; but who told you
I didn't? Did I say I loved Annabella?'
'You said you adored her.'
'True, but adoration isn't
love. I adore Annabella, but
I don't love her; and I love
thee, Milicent, but I don't adore
thee.' In proof of his affection,
he clutched a handful of her
light brown ringlets, and appeared
to twist them unmercifully.
'Do you really, Ralph?' murmured
she, with a faint smile beaming
through her tears, just putting
up her hand to his, in token
that he pulled rather too hard.
'To be sure I do,' responded
he: 'only you bother me rather,
'I bother you!' cried she,
in very natural surprise.
'Yes, you - but only by your
exceeding goodness. When a boy
has been eating raisins and sugar-plums
all day, he longs for a squeeze
of sour orange by way of a change.
And did you never, Milly, observe
the sands on the sea-shore; how
nice and smooth they look, and
how soft and easy they feel to
the foot? But if you plod along,
for half an hour, over this soft,
easy carpet - giving way at every
step, yielding the more the harder
you press, - you'll find it rather
wearisome work, and be glad enough
to come to a bit of good, firm
rock, that won't budge an inch
whether you stand, walk, or stamp
upon it; and, though it be hard
as the nether millstone, you'll
find it the easier footing after
'I know what you mean, Ralph,'
said she, nervously playing with
her watchguard and tracing the
figure on the rug with the point
of her tiny foot - 'I know what
you mean: but I thought you always
liked to be yielded to, and I
can't alter now.'
'I do like it,' replied he,
bringing her to him by another
tug at her hair. 'You mustn't
mind my talk, Milly. A man must
have something to grumble about;
and if he can't complain that
his wife harries him to death
with her perversity and ill-humour,
he must complain that she wears
him out with her kindness and
'But why complain at all, unless
because you are tired and dissatisfied?'
'To excuse my own failings,
to be sure. Do you think I'll
bear all the burden of my sins
on my own shoulders, as long
as there's another ready to help
me, with none of her own to carry?'
'There is no such one on earth,'
said she seriously; and then,
taking his hand from her head,
she kissed it with an air of
genuine devotion, and tripped
away to the door.
'What now?' said he. 'Where
are you going?'
'To tidy my hair,' she answered,
smiling through her disordered
locks; 'you've made it all come
'Off with you then! - An excellent
little woman,' he remarked when
she was gone, 'but a thought
too soft - she almost melts in
one's hands. I positively think
I ill-use her sometimes, when
I've taken too much - but I can't
help it, for she never complains,
either at the time or after.
I suppose she doesn't mind it.'
'I can enlighten you on that
subject, Mr. Hattersley,' said
I: 'she does mind it; and some
other things she minds still
more, which yet you may never
hear her complain of.'
do you know?
- does she
with a sudden spark of fury ready
to burst into a flame if I should
'No,' I replied; 'but I have
known her longer and studied
her more closely than you have
done. - And I can tell you, Mr.
Hattersley, that Milicent loves
you more than you deserve, and
that you have it in your power
to make her very happy, instead
of which you are her evil genius,
and, I will venture to say, there
is not a single day passes in
which you do not inflict upon
her some pang that you might
spare her if you would.'
'Well - it's not my fault,'
said he, gazing carelessly up
at the ceiling and plunging his
hands into his pockets: 'if my
ongoings don't suit her, she
should tell me so.'
'Is she not exactly the wife
you wanted? Did you not tell
Mr. Huntingdon you must have
one that would submit to anything
without a murmur, and never blame
you, whatever you did?'
'True, but we shouldn't always
have what we want: it spoils
the best of us, doesn't it? How
can I help playing the deuce
when I see it's all one to her
whether I behave like a Christian
or like a scoundrel, such as
nature made me? and how can I
help teasing her when she's so
invitingly meek and mim, when
she lies down like a spaniel
at my feet and never so much
as squeaks to tell me that's
'If you are a tyrant by nature,
the temptation is strong, I allow;
but no generous mind delights
to oppress the weak, but rather
to cherish and protect.'
her; but it's
so confounded flat to be always
cherishing and protecting; and
then, how can I tell that I am
oppressing her when she "melts
away and makes no sign"? I sometimes
think she has no feeling at all;
and then I go on till she cries,
and that satisfies me.'
'Then you do delight to oppress
'I don't, I tell you! only
when I'm in a bad humour, or
a particularly good one, and
want to afflict for the pleasure
of comforting; or when she looks
flat and wants shaking up a bit.
And sometimes she provokes me
by crying for nothing, and won't
tell me what it's for; and then,
I allow, it enrages me past bearing,
especially when I'm not my own
is no doubt
case on such occasions,' said
I. 'But in future, Mr. Hattersley,
when you see her looking flat,
or crying for "nothing" (as you
call it), ascribe it all to yourself:
be assured it is something you
have done amiss, or your general
misconduct, that distresses her.'
'I don't believe it. If it
were, she should tell me so:
I don't like that way of moping
and fretting in silence, and
saying nothing: it's not honest.
How can she expect me to mend
my ways at that rate?'
'Perhaps she gives you credit
for having more sense than you
possess, and deludes herself
with the hope that you will one
day see your own errors and repair
them, if left to your own reflection.'
'None of your sneers, Mrs.
Huntingdon. I have the sense
to see that I'm not always quite
correct, but sometimes I think
that's no great matter, as long
as I injure nobody but myself
'It is a great matter,' interrupted
I, 'both to yourself (as you
will hereafter find to your cost)
and to all connected with you,
most especially your wife. But,
indeed, it is nonsense to talk
about injuring no one but yourself:
it is impossible to injure yourself,
especially by such acts as we
allude to, without injuring hundreds,
if not thousands, besides, in
a greater or less, degree, either
by the evil you do or the good
you leave undone.'
'And as I was saying,' continued
he, 'or would have said if you
hadn't taken me up so short,
I sometimes think I should do
better if I were joined to one
that would always remind me when
I was wrong, and give me a motive
for doing good and eschewing
evil, by decidedly showing her
approval of the one and disapproval
of the other.'
'If you had no higher motive
than the approval of your fellow-
mortal, it would do you little
'Well, but if I had a mate
that would not always be yielding,
and always equally kind, but
that would have the spirit to
stand at bay now and then, and
honestly tell me her mind at
all times, such a one as yourself
for instance. Now, if I went
on with you as I do with her
when I'm in London, you'd make
the house too hot to hold me
at times, I'll be sworn.'
'You mistake me: I'm no termagant.'
'Well, all the better for that,
for I can't stand contradiction,
in a general way, and I'm as
fond of my own will as another;
only I think too much of it doesn't
answer for any man.'
I would never
a cause, but
I would always let you know what
I thought of your conduct; and
if you oppressed me, in body,
mind, or estate, you should at
least have no reason to suppose "I
didn't mind it."'
'I know that, my lady; and
I think if my little wife were
to follow the same plan, it would
be better for us both.'
'I'll tell her.'
'No, no, let her be; there's
much to be said on both sides,
and, now I think upon it, Huntingdon
often regrets that you are not
more like her, scoundrelly dog
that he is, and you see, after
all, you can't reform him: he's
ten times worse than I. He's
afraid of you, to be sure; that
is, he's always on his best behaviour
in your presence - but - '
'I wonder what his worst behaviour
is like, then?' I could not forbear
'Why, to tell you the truth,
it's very bad indeed - isn't
it, Hargrave?' said he, addressing
that gentleman, who had entered
the room unperceived by me, for
I was now standing near the fire,
with my back to the door. 'Isn't
Huntingdon,' he continued, 'as
great a reprobate as ever was
'His lady will not hear him
censured with impunity,' replied
Mr. Hargrave, coming forward;
'but I must say, I thank God
I am not such another.'
it would become
said I, 'to
what you are, and say, "God be
merciful to me a sinner."'
'You are severe,' returned
he, bowing slightly and drawing
himself up with a proud yet injured
air. Hattersley laughed, and
clapped him on the shoulder.
Moving from under his hand with
a gesture of insulted dignity,
Mr. Hargrave took himself away
to the other end of the rug.
'Isn't it a shame, Mrs. Huntingdon?'
cried his brother-in-law; 'I
struck Walter Hargrave when I
was drunk, the second night after
we came, and he's turned a cold
shoulder on me ever since; though
I asked his pardon the very morning
after it was done!'
'Your manner of asking it,'
returned the other, 'and the
clearness with which you remembered
the whole transaction, showed
you were not too drunk to be
fully conscious of what you were
about, and quite responsible
for the deed.'
'You wanted to interfere between
me and my wife,' grumbled Hattersley,
'and that is enough to provoke
'You justify it, then?' said
his opponent, darting upon him
a most vindictive glance.
'No, I tell you I wouldn't
have done it if I hadn't been
under excitement; and if you
choose to bear malice for it
after all the handsome things
I've said, do so and be d-d!'
'I would refrain from such
language in a lady's presence,
at least,' said Mr. Hargrave,
hiding his anger under a mask
'What have I said?' returned
Hattersley: 'nothing but heaven's
truth. He will be damned, won't
he, Mrs. Huntingdon, if he doesn't
forgive his brother's trespasses?'
'You ought to forgive him,
Mr. Hargrave, since he asks you,'
'Do you say so? Then I will!'
And, smiling almost frankly,
he stepped forward and offered
his hand. It was immediately
clasped in that of his relative,
and the reconciliation was apparently
cordial on both sides.
'The affront,' continued Hargrave,
turning to me, 'owed half its
bitterness to the fact of its
being offered in your presence;
and since you bid me forgive
it, I will, and forget it too.'
'I guess the best return I
can make will be to take myself
off,' muttered Hattersley, with
a broad grin. His companion smiled,
and he left the room. This put
me on my guard. Mr. Hargrave
turned seriously to me, and earnestly
'Dear Mrs. Huntingdon, how
I have longed for, yet dreaded,
this hour! Do not be alarmed,'
he added, for my face was crimson
with anger: 'I am not about to
offend you with any useless entreaties
or complaints. I am not going
to presume to trouble you with
the mention of my own feelings
or your perfections, but I have
something to reveal to you which
you ought to know, and which,
yet, it pains me inexpressibly
'Then don't trouble yourself
to reveal it!'
'But it is of importance -
'If so I shall hear it soon
enough, especially if it is bad
news, as you seem to consider
it. At present I am going to
take the children to the nursery.'
'But can't you ring and send
'No; I want the exercise of
a run to the top of the house.
'But you will return?'
'Not yet; don't wait.'
'Then when may I see you again?'
'At lunch,' said I, departing
with little Helen in one arm
and leading Arthur by the hand.
He turned away, muttering some
sentence of impatient censure
or complaint, in which 'heartless'
was the only distinguishable
'What nonsense is this, Mr.
Hargrave?' said I, pausing in
the doorway. 'What do you mean?'
'Oh, nothing; I did not intend
you should hear my soliloquy.
But the fact is, Mrs. Huntingdon,
I have a disclosure to make,
painful for me to offer as for
you to hear; and I want you to
give me a few minutes of your
attention in private at any time
and place you like to appoint.
It is from no selfish motive
that I ask it, and not for any
cause that could alarm your superhuman
purity: therefore you need not
kill me with that look of cold
and pitiless disdain. I know
too well the feelings with which
the bearers of bad tidings are
commonly regarded not to - '
'What is this wonderful piece
of intelligence?' said I, impatiently
interrupting him. 'If it is anything
of real importance, speak it
in three words before I go.'
'In three words I cannot. Send
those children away and stay
'No; keep your bad tidings
to yourself. I know it is something
I don't want to hear, and something
you would displease me by telling.'
'You have divined too truly,
I fear; but still, since I know
it, I feel it my duty to disclose
it to you.'
'Oh, spare us both the infliction,
and I will exonerate you from
the duty. You have offered to
tell; I have refused to hear:
my ignorance will not be charged
'Be it so: you shall not hear
it from me. But if the blow fall
too suddenly upon you when it
comes, remember I wished to soften
I left him. I was determined
his words should not alarm me.
What could he, of all men, have
to reveal that was of importance
for me to hear? It was no doubt
some exaggerated tale about my
unfortunate husband that he wished
to make the most of to serve
his own bad purposes.
6th. - He has not alluded to
this momentous mystery since,
and I have seen no reason to
repent of my unwillingness to
hear it. The threatened blow
has not been struck yet, and
I do not greatly fear it. At
present I am pleased with Arthur:
he has not positively disgraced
himself for upwards of a fortnight,
and all this last week has been
so very moderate in his indulgence
at table that I can perceive
a marked difference in his general
temper and appearance. Dare I
hope this will continue?