September 1st. - No Mr. Huntingdon
yet. Perhaps he will stay among
his friends till Christmas; and
then, next spring, he will be
off again. If he continue this
plan, I shall be able to stay
at Grassdale well enough - that
is, I shall be able to stay,
and that is enough; even an occasional
bevy of friends at the shooting
season may be borne, if Arthur
get so firmly attached to me,
so well established in good sense
and principles before they come
that I shall be able, by reason
and affection, to keep him pure
from their contaminations. Vain
hope, I fear! but still, till
such a time of trial comes I
will forbear to think of my quiet
the beloved old hall.
Mr. and Mrs. Hattersley have
been staying at the Grove a fortnight:
and as Mr. Hargrave is still
absent, and the weather was remarkably
fine, I never passed a day without
seeing my two friends, Milicent
and Esther, either there or here.
On one occasion, when Mr. Hattersley
had driven them over to Grassdale
in the phaeton, with little Helen
and Ralph, and we were all enjoying
ourselves in the garden - I had
a few minutes' conversation with
that gentleman, while the ladies
were amusing themselves with
'Do you want to hear anything
of your husband, Mrs. Huntingdon?'
'No, unless you can tell me
when to expect him home.'
'I can't. - You don't want
him, do you?' said he, with a
'Well, I think you're better
without him, sure enough - for
my part, I'm downright weary
of him. I told him I'd leave
him if he didn't mend his manners,
and he wouldn't; so I left him.
You see, I'm a better man than
you think me; and, what's more,
I have serious thoughts of washing
my hands of him entirely, and
the whole set of 'em, and comporting
myself from this day forward
with all decency and sobriety,
as a Christian and the father
of a family should do. What do
you think of that?'
'It is a resolution you ought
to have formed long ago.'
'Well, I'm not thirty yet;
it isn't too late, is it?'
'No; it is never too late to
reform, as long as you have the
sense to desire it, and the strength
to execute your purpose.'
'Well, to tell you the truth,
I've thought of it often and
often before; but he's such devilish
good company, is Huntingdon,
after all. You can't imagine
what a jovial good fellow he
is when he's not fairly drunk,
only just primed or half-seas-over.
We all have a bit of a liking
for him at the bottom of our
hearts, though we can't respect
'But should you wish yourself
to be like him?'
'No, I'd rather be like myself,
bad as I am.'
'You can't continue as bad
as you are without getting worse
and more brutalised every day,
and therefore more like him.'
I could not help smiling at
the comical, half-angry, half-
confounded look he put on at
this rather unusual mode of address.
'Never mind my plain speaking,'
said I; 'it is from the best
of motives. But tell me, should
you wish your sons to be like
Mr. Huntingdon - or even like
'Hang it! no.'
'Should you wish your daughter
to despise you - or, at least,
to feel no vestige of respect
for you, and no affection but
what is mingled with the bitterest
'Oh, no! I couldn't stand that.'
'And, finally, should you wish
your wife to be ready to sink
into the earth when she hears
you mentioned; and to loathe
the very sound of your voice,
and shudder at your approach?'
'She never will; she likes
me all the same, whatever I do.'
'Impossible, Mr. Hattersley!
you mistake her quiet submission
'Fire and fury - '
'Now don't burst into a tempest
at that. I don't mean to say
she does not love you - she does,
I know, a great deal better than
you deserve; but I am quite sure,
that if you behave better, she
will love you more, and if you
behave worse, she will love you
less and less, till all is lost
in fear, aversion, and bitterness
of soul, if not in secret hatred
and contempt. But, dropping the
subject of affection, should
you wish to be the tyrant of
her life - to take away all the
sunshine from her existence,
and make her thoroughly miserable?'
'Of course not; and I don't,
and I'm not going to.'
'You have done more towards
it than you suppose.'
'Pooh, pooh! she's not the
susceptible, anxious, worriting
creature you imagine: she's a
little meek, peaceable, affectionate
body; apt to be rather sulky
at times, but quiet and cool
in the main, and ready to take
things as they come.'
'Think of what she was five
years ago, when you married her,
and what she is now.'
'I know she was a little plump
lassie then, with a pretty pink
and white face: now she's a poor
little bit of a creature, fading
and melting away like a snow-wreath.
But hang it! - that's not my
'What is the cause of it then?
Not years, for she's only five-and-
'It's her own delicate health,
and confound it, madam! what
would you make of me? - and the
children, to be sure, that worry
her to death between them.'
'No, Mr. Hattersley, the children
give her more pleasure than pain:
they are fine, well-dispositioned
children - '
'I know they are - bless them!'
'Then why lay the blame on
them? - I'll tell you what it
is: it's silent fretting and
constant anxiety on your account,
mingled, I suspect, with something
of bodily fear on her own. When
you behave well, she can only
rejoice with trembling; she has
no security, no confidence in
your judgment or principles;
but is continually dreading the
close of such short-lived felicity;
when you behave ill, her causes
of terror and misery are more
than any one can tell but herself.
In patient endurance of evil,
she forgets it is our duty to
admonish our neighbours of their
transgressions. Since you will
mistake her silence for indifference,
come with me, and I'll show you
one or two of her letters - no
breach of confidence, I hope,
since you are her other half.'
He followed me into the library.
I sought out and put into his
hands two of Milicent's letters:
one dated from London, and written
during one of his wildest seasons
of reckless dissipation; the
other in the country, during
a lucid interval. The former
was full of trouble and anguish;
not accusing him, but deeply
regretting his connection with
his profligate companions, abusing
Mr. Grimsby and others, insinuating
bitter things against Mr. Huntingdon,
and most ingeniously throwing
the blame of her husband's misconduct
on to other men's shoulders.
The latter was full of hope and
joy, yet with a trembling consciousness
that this happiness would not
last; praising his goodness to
the skies, but with an evident,
though but half-expressed wish,
that it were based on a surer
foundation than the natural impulses
of the heart, and a half-prophetic
dread of the fall of that house
so founded on the sand, - which
fall had shortly after taken
place, as Hattersley must have
been conscious while he read.
Almost at the commencement
of the first letter I had the
unexpected pleasure of seeing
him blush; but he immediately
turned his back to me, and finished
the perusal at the window. At
the second, I saw him, once or
twice, raise his hand, and hurriedly
pass it across his face. Could
it be to dash away a tear? When
he had done, there was an interval
spent in clearing his throat
and staring out of the window,
and then, after whistling a few
bars of a favourite air, he turned
round, gave me back the letters,
and silently shook me by the
'I've been a cursed rascal,
God knows,' said he, as he gave
it a hearty squeeze, 'but you
see if I don't make amends for
it - d-n me if I don't!'
'Don't curse yourself, Mr.
Hattersley; if God had heard
half your invocations of that
kind, you would have been in
hell long before now - and you
cannot make amends for the past
by doing your duty for the future,
inasmuch as your duty is only
what you owe to your Maker, and
you cannot do more than fulfil
it: another must make amends
for your past delinquencies.
If you intend to reform, invoke
God's blessing, His mercy, and
His aid; not His curse.'
'God help me, then - for I'm
sure I need it. Where's Milicent?'
'She's there, just coming in
with her sister.'
He stepped out at the glass
door, and went to meet them.
I followed at a little distance.
Somewhat to his wife's astonishment,
he lifted her off from the ground,
and saluted her with a hearty
kiss and a strong embrace; then
placing his two hands on her
shoulders, he gave her, I suppose,
a sketch of the great things
he meant to do, for she suddenly
threw her arms round him, and
burst into tears, exclaiming,
- 'Do, do, Ralph - we shall be
so happy! How very, very good
'Nay, not I,' said he, turning
her round, and pushing her towards
me. 'Thank her; it's her doing.'
Milicent flew to thank me,
overflowing with gratitude. I
disclaimed all title to it, telling
her her husband was predisposed
to amendment before I added my
mite of exhortation and encouragement,
and that I had only done what
she might, and ought to have
'Oh, no!' cried she; 'I couldn't
have influenced him, I'm sure,
by anything that I could have
said. I should only have bothered
him by my clumsy efforts at persuasion,
if I had made the attempt.'
'You never tried me, Milly,'
Shortly after they took their
leave. They are now gone on a
visit to Hattersley's father.
After that they will repair to
their country home. I hope his
good resolutions will not fall
through, and poor Milicent will
not be again disappointed. Her
last letter was full of present
bliss, and pleasing anticipations
for the future; but no particular
temptation has yet occurred to
put his virtue to the test. Henceforth,
however, she will doubtless be
somewhat less timid and reserved,
and he more kind and thoughtful.
- Surely, then, her hopes are
not unfounded; and I have one
bright spot, at least, whereon
to rest my thoughts.