We will now turn to a certain
still, cold, cloudy afternoon
about the commencement of December,
when the first fall of snow lay
thinly scattered over the blighted
fields and frozen roads, or stored
more thickly in the hollows of
the deep cart-ruts and footsteps
of men and horses impressed in
the now petrified mire of last
month's drenching rains. I remember
it well, for I was walking home
from the vicarage with no less
remarkable a personage than Miss
Eliza Millward by my side. I
had been to call upon her father,
- a sacrifice to civility undertaken
entirely to please my mother,
not myself, for I hated to go
near the house; not merely on
account of my antipathy to the
once so bewitching Eliza, but
because I had not half forgiven
the old gentleman himself for
his ill opinion of Mrs. Huntingdon;
for though now constrained to
acknowledge himself mistaken
in his former judgment, he still
maintained that she had done
wrong to leave her husband; it
was a violation of her sacred
duties as a wife, and a tempting
of Providence by laying herself
open to temptation; and nothing
short of bodily ill-usage (and
that of no trifling nature) could
excuse such a step - nor even
that, for in such a case she
ought to appeal to the laws for
protection. But it was not of
him I intended to speak; it was
of his daughter Eliza. Just as
I was taking leave of the vicar,
she entered the room, ready equipped
for a walk.
'I was just coming to see,
your sister, Mr. Markham,' said
she; 'and so, if you have no
objection, I'll accompany you
home. I like company when I'm
walking out - don't you?'
'Yes, when it's agreeable.'
'That of course,' rejoined
the young lady, smiling archly.
So we proceeded together.
'Shall I find Rose at home,
do you think?' said she, as we
closed the garden gate, and set
our faces towards Linden-Car.
'I believe so.'
'I trust I shall, for I've
a little bit of news for her
- if you haven't forestalled
'Yes: do you know what Mr.
Lawrence is gone for?' She looked
up anxiously for my reply.
'Is he gone?' said I; and her
'Ah! then he hasn't told you
about his sister?'
'What of her?' I demanded in
terror, lest some evil should
have befallen her.
'Oh, Mr. Markham, how you blush!'
cried she, with a tormenting
laugh. 'Ha, ha, you have not
forgotten her yet. But you had
better be quick about it, I can
tell you, for - alas, alas! -
she's going to be married next
'No, Miss Eliza, that's false.'
'Do you charge me with a falsehood,
'You are misinformed.'
'Am I? Do you know better,
'I think I do.'
makes you look
so pale then?'
said she, smiling
delight at my emotion. 'Is it
anger at poor me for telling
such a fib? Well, I only "tell
the tale as 'twas told to me:" I
don't vouch for the truth of
it; but at the same time, I don't
see what reason Sarah should
have for deceiving me, or her
informant for deceiving her;
and that was what she told me
the footman told her:- that Mrs.
Huntingdon was going to be married
on Thursday, and Mr. Lawrence
was gone to the wedding. She
did tell me the name of the gentleman,
but I've forgotten that. Perhaps
you can assist me to remember
it. Is there not some one that
lives near - or frequently visits
the neighbourhood, that has long
been attached to her? - a Mr.
- oh, dear! Mr. - '
'Hargrave?' suggested I, with
a bitter smile.
'You're right,' cried she;
'that was the very name.'
'Impossible, Miss Eliza!' I
exclaimed, in a tone that made
'Well, you know, that's what
they told me,' said she, composedly
staring me in the face. And then
she broke out into a long shrill
laugh that put me to my wit's
end with fury.
'Really you must excuse me,'
cried she. 'I know it's very
rude, but ha, ha, ha! - did you
think to marry her yourself?
Dear, dear, what a pity! - ha,
ha, ha! Gracious, Mr. Markham,
are you going to faint? Oh, mercy!
shall I call this man? Here,
Jacob - ' But checking the word
on her lips, I seized her arm
and gave it, I think, a pretty
severe squeeze, for she shrank
into herself with a faint cry
of pain or terror; but the spirit
within her was not subdued: instantly
rallying, she continued, with
well-feigned concern, 'What can
I do for you? Will you have some
water - some brandy? I daresay
they have some in the public-house
down there, if you'll let me
'Have done with this nonsense!'
cried I, sternly. She looked
confounded - almost frightened
again, for a moment. 'You know
I hate such jests,' I continued.
'Jests indeed! I wasn't jesting!'
'You were laughing, at all
events; and I don't like to be
laughed at,' returned I, making
violent efforts to speak with
proper dignity and composure,
and to say nothing but what was
coherent and sensible. 'And since
you are in such a merry mood,
Miss Eliza, you must be good
enough company for yourself;
and therefore I shall leave you
to finish your walk alone - for,
now I think of it, I have business
elsewhere; so good-evening.'
With that I left her (smothering
her malicious laughter) and turned
aside into the fields, springing
up the bank, and pushing through
the nearest gap in the hedge.
Determined at once to prove the
truth - or rather the falsehood
- of her story, I hastened to
Woodford as fast as my legs could
carry me; first veering round
by a circuitous course, but the
moment I was out of sight of
my fair tormentor cutting away
across the country, just as a
bird might fly, over pasture-land,
and fallow, and stubble, and
lane, clearing hedges and ditches
and hurdles, till I came to the
young squire's gates. Never till
now had I known the full fervour
of my love - the full strength
of my hopes, not wholly crushed
even in my hours of deepest despondency,
always tenaciously clinging to
the thought that one day she
might be mine, or, if not that,
at least that something of my
memory, some slight remembrance
of our friendship and our love,
would be for ever cherished in
her heart. I marched up to the
door, determined, if I saw the
master, to question him boldly
concerning his sister, to wait
and hesitate no longer, but cast
false delicacy and stupid pride
behind my back, and know my fate
'Is Mr. Lawrence at home?'
I eagerly asked of the servant
that opened the door.
'No, sir, master went yesterday,'
replied he, looking very alert.
'To Grassdale, sir - wasn't
you aware, sir? He's very close,
is master,' said the fellow,
with a foolish, simpering grin.
'I suppose, sir - '
But I turned and left him,
without waiting to hear what
he supposed. I was not going
to stand there to expose my tortured
feelings to the insolent laughter
and impertinent curiosity of
a fellow like that.
But what was to be done now?
Could it be possible that she
had left me for that man? I could
not believe it. Me she might
forsake, but not to give herself
to him! Well, I would know the
truth; to no concerns of daily
life could I attend while this
tempest of doubt and dread, of
jealousy and rage, distracted
me. I would take the morning
coach from L- (the evening one
would be already gone), and fly
to Grassdale - I must be there
before the marriage. And why?
Because a thought struck me that
perhaps I might prevent it -
that if I did not, she and I
might both lament it to the latest
moment of our lives. It struck
me that someone might have belied
me to her: perhaps her brother;
yes, no doubt her brother had
persuaded her that I was false
and faithless, and taking advantage
of her natural indignation, and
perhaps her desponding carelessness
about her future life, had urged
her, artfully, cruelly, on to
this other marriage, in order
to secure her from me. If this
was the case, and if she should
only discover her mistake when
too late to repair it - to what
a life of misery and vain regret
might she be doomed as well as
me; and what remorse for me to
think my foolish scruples had
induced it all! Oh, I must see
her - she must know my truth
even if I told it at the church
door! I might pass for a madman
or an impertinent fool - even
she might be offended at such
an interruption, or at least
might tell me it was now too
late. But if I could save her,
if she might be mine! - it was
too rapturous a thought!
Winged by this hope, and goaded
by these fears, I hurried homewards
to prepare for my departure on
the morrow. I told my mother
that urgent business which admitted
no delay, but which I could not
then explain, called me away.
My deep anxiety and serious
preoccupation could not be concealed
from her maternal eyes; and I
had much ado to calm her apprehensions
of some disastrous mystery.
That night there came a heavy
fall of snow, which so retarded
the progress of the coaches on
the following day that I was
almost driven to distraction.
I travelled all night, of course,
for this was Wednesday: to-morrow
morning, doubtless, the marriage
would take place. But the night
was long and dark: the snow heavily
clogged the wheels and balled
the horses' feet; the animals
were consumedly lazy; the coachman
most execrably cautious; the
passengers confoundedly apathetic
in their supine indifference
to the rate of our progression.
Instead of assisting me to bully
the several coachmen and urge
them forward, they merely stared
and grinned at my impatience:
one fellow even ventured to rally
me upon it - but I silenced him
with a look that quelled him
for the rest of the journey;
and when, at the last stage,
I would have taken the reins
into my own hand, they all with
one accord opposed it.
It was broad daylight when
we entered M- and drew up at
the 'Rose and Crown.' I alighted
and called aloud for a post-chaise
to Grassdale. There was none
to be had: the only one in the
town was under repair. 'A gig,
then - a fly - car - anything
- only be quick!' There was a
gig, but not a horse to spare.
I sent into the town to seek
one: but they were such an intolerable
time about it that I could wait
no longer - I thought my own
feet could carry me sooner; and
bidding them send the conveyance
after me, if it were ready within
an hour, I set off as fast as
I could walk. The distance was
little more than six miles, but
the road was strange, and I had
to keep stopping to inquire my
way; hallooing to carters and
clodhoppers, and frequently invading
the cottages, for there were
few abroad that winter's morning;
sometimes knocking up the lazy
people from their beds, for where
so little work was to be done,
perhaps so little food and fire
to be had, they cared not to
curtail their slumbers. I had
no time to think of them, however;
aching with weariness and desperation,
I hurried on. The gig did not
overtake me: and it was well
I had not waited for it; vexatious
rather, that I had been fool
enough to wait so long.
At length, however, I entered
the neighbourhood of Grassdale.
I approached the little rural
church - but lo! there stood
a train of carriages before it;
it needed not the white favours
bedecking the servants and horses,
nor the merry voices of the village
idlers assembled to witness the
show, to apprise me that there
was a wedding within. I ran in
among them, demanding, with breathless
eagerness, had the ceremony long
commenced? They only gaped and
stared. In my desperation, I
pushed past them, and was about
to enter the churchyard gate,
when a group of ragged urchins,
that had been hanging like bees
to the window, suddenly dropped
off and made a rush for the porch,
vociferating in the uncouth dialect
of their country something which
signified, 'It's over - they're
If Eliza Millward had seen
me then she might indeed have
been delighted. I grasped the
gate-post for support, and stood
intently gazing towards the door
to take my last look on my soul's
delight, my first on that detested
mortal who had torn her from
my heart, and doomed her, I was
certain, to a life of misery
and hollow, vain repining - for
what happiness could she enjoy
with him? I did not wish to shock
her with my presence now, but
I had not power to move away.
Forth came the bride and bridegroom.
Him I saw not; I had eyes for
none but her. A long veil shrouded
half her graceful form, but did
not hide it; I could see that
while she carried her head erect,
her eyes were bent upon the ground,
and her face and neck were suffused
with a crimson blush; but every
feature was radiant with smiles,
and gleaming through the misty
whiteness of her veil were clusters
of golden ringlets! Oh, heavens!
it was not my Helen! The first
glimpse made me start - but my
eyes were darkened with exhaustion
and despair. Dare I trust them?
'Yes - it is not she! It was
a younger, slighter, rosier beauty
- lovely indeed, but with far
less dignity and depth of soul
- without that indefinable grace,
that keenly spiritual yet gentle
charm, that ineffable power to
attract and subjugate the heart
- my heart at least. I looked
at the bridegroom - it was Frederick
Lawrence! I wiped away the cold
drops that were trickling down
my forehead, and stepped back
as he approached; but, his eyes
fell upon me, and he knew me,
altered as my appearance must
'Is that you, Markham?' said
he, startled and confounded at
the apparition - perhaps, too,
at the wildness of my looks.
'Yes, Lawrence; is that you?'
I mustered the presence of mind
He smiled and coloured, as
if half-proud and half-ashamed
of his identity; and if he had
reason to be proud of the sweet
lady on his arm, he had no less
cause to be ashamed of having
concealed his good fortune so
'Allow me to introduce you
to my bride,' said he, endeavouring
to hide his embarrassment by
an assumption of careless gaiety.
'Esther, this is Mr. Markham;
my friend Markham, Mrs. Lawrence,
late Miss Hargrave.'
I bowed to the bride, and vehemently
wrung the bridegroom's hand.
'Why did you not tell me of
this?' I said, reproachfully,
pretending a resentment I did
not feel (for in truth I was
almost wild with joy to find
myself so happily mistaken, and
overflowing with affection to
him for this and for the base
injustice I felt that I had done
him in my mind - he might have
wronged me, but not to that extent;
and as I had hated him like a
demon for the last forty hours,
the reaction from such a feeling
was so great that I could pardon
all offences for the moment -
and love him in spite of them
'I did tell you,' said he,
with an air of guilty confusion;
'you received my letter?'
'The one announcing my intended
'I never received the most
distant hint of such an intention.'
'It must have crossed you on
your way then - it should have
reached you yesterday morning
- it was rather late, I acknowledge.
But what brought you here, then,
if you received no information?'
It was now my turn to be confounded;
but the young lady, who had been
busily patting the snow with
her foot during our short sotto-
voce colloquy, very opportunely
came to my assistance by pinching
her companion's arm and whispering
a suggestion that his friend
should be invited to step into
the carriage and go with them;
it being scarcely agreeable to
stand there among so many gazers,
and keeping their friends waiting
into the bargain.
'And so cold as it is too!'
said he, glancing with dismay
at her slight drapery, and immediately
handing her into the carriage.
'Markham, will you come? We are
going to Paris, but we can drop
you anywhere between this and
'No, thank you. Good-by - I
needn't wish you a pleasant journey;
but I shall expect a very handsome
apology, some time, mind, and
scores of letters, before we
He shook my hand, and hastened
to take his place beside his
lady. This was no time or place
for explanation or discourse:
we had already stood long enough
to excite the wonder of the village
sight-seers, and perhaps the
wrath of the attendant bridal
party; though, of course, all
this passed in a much shorter
time than I have taken to relate,
or even than you will take to
read it. I stood beside the carriage,
and, the window being down, I
saw my happy friend fondly encircle
his companion's waist with his
arm, while she rested her glowing
cheek on his shoulder, looking
the very impersonation of loving,
trusting bliss. In the interval
between the footman's closing
the door and taking his place
behind she raised her smiling
brown eyes to his face, observing,
playfully, - 'I fear you must
think me very insensible, Frederick:
I know it is the custom for ladies
to cry on these occasions, but
I couldn't squeeze a tear for
He only answered with a kiss,
and pressed her still closer
to his bosom.
'But what is this?' he murmured.
'Why, Esther, you're crying now!'
'Oh, it's nothing - it's only
too much happiness - and the
wish,' sobbed she, 'that our
dear Helen were as happy as ourselves.'
'Bless you for that wish!'
I inwardly responded, as the
carriage rolled away - 'and heaven
grant it be not wholly vain!'
I thought a cloud had suddenly
darkened her husband's face as
she spoke. What did he think?
Could he grudge such happiness
to his dear sister and his friend
as he now felt himself? At such
a moment it was impossible. The
contrast between her fate and
his must darken his bliss for
a time. Perhaps, too, he thought
of me: perhaps he regretted the
part he had had in preventing
our union, by omitting to help
us, if not by actually plotting
against us. I exonerated him
from that charge now, and deeply
lamented my former ungenerous
suspicions; but he had wronged
us, still - I hoped, I trusted
that he had. He had not attempted
to cheek the course of our love
by actually damming up the streams
in their passage, but he had
passively watched the two currents
wandering through life's arid
wilderness, declining to clear
away the obstructions that divided
them, and secretly hoping that
both would lose themselves in
the sand before they could be
joined in one. And meantime he
had been quietly proceeding with
his own affairs; perhaps, his
heart and head had been so full
of his fair lady that he had
had but little thought to spare
for others. Doubtless he had
made his first acquaintance with
her - his first intimate acquaintance
at least - during his three months'
sojourn at F-, for I now recollected
that he had once casually let
fall an intimation that his aunt
and sister had a young friend
staying with them at the time,
and this accounted for at least
one-half his silence about all
transactions there. Now, too,
I saw a reason for many little
things that had slightly puzzled
me before; among the rest, for
sundry departures from Woodford,
and absences more or less prolonged,
for which he never satisfactorily
accounted, and concerning which
he hated to be questioned on
his return. Well might the servant
say his master was 'very close.'
But why this strange reserve
to me? Partly, from that remarkable
idiosyncrasy to which I have
before alluded; partly, perhaps,
from tenderness to my feelings,
or fear to disturb my philosophy
by touching upon the infectious
theme of love.