While standing thus, absorbed
in my gloomy reverie, a gentleman's
carriage came round the corner
of the road. I did not look at
it; and had it rolled quietly
by me, I should not have remembered
the fact of its appearance at
all; but a tiny voice from within
it roused me by exclaiming, 'Mamma,
mamma, here's Mr. Markham!'
I did not hear the reply, but
presently the same voice answered,
'It is indeed, mamma - look for
I did not raise my eyes, but
I suppose mamma looked, for a
clear melodious voice, whose
tones thrilled through my nerves,
exclaimed, 'Oh, aunt! here's
Mr. Markham, Arthur's friend!
There was such evidence of
joyous though suppressed excitement
in the utterance of those few
words - especially that tremulous,
'Oh, aunt' - that it threw me
almost off my guard. The carriage
stopped immediately, and I looked
up and met the eye of a pale,
grave, elderly lady surveying
me from the open window. She
bowed, and so did I, and then
she withdrew her head, while
Arthur screamed to the footman
to let him out; but before that
functionary could descend from
his box a hand was silently put
forth from the carriage window.
I knew that hand, though a black
glove concealed its delicate
whiteness and half its fair proportions,
and quickly seizing it, I pressed
it in my own - ardently for a
moment, but instantly recollecting
myself, I dropped it, and it
was immediately withdrawn.
'Were you coming to see us,
or only passing by?' asked the
low voice of its owner, who,
I felt, was attentively surveying
my countenance from behind the
thick black veil which, with
the shadowing panels, entirely
concealed her own from me.
'I - I came to see the place,'
'The place,' repeated she,
in a tone which betokened more
displeasure or disappointment
'Will you not enter it, then?'
'If you wish it.'
'Can you doubt?'
'Yes, yes! he must enter,'
cried Arthur, running round from
the other door; and seizing my
hand in both his, he shook it
'Do you remember me, sir?'
'Yes, full well, my little
man, altered though you are,'
replied I, surveying the comparatively
tall, slim young gentleman, with
his mother's image visibly stamped
upon his fair, intelligent features,
in spite of the blue eyes beaming
with gladness, and the bright
locks clustering beneath his
'Am I not grown?' said he,
stretching himself up to his
'Grown! three inches, upon
'I was seven last birthday,'
was the proud rejoinder. 'In
seven years more I shall be as
tall as you nearly.'
'Arthur,' said his mother,
'tell him to come in. Go on,
There was a touch of sadness
as well as coldness in her voice,
but I knew not to what to ascribe
it. The carriage drove on and
entered the gates before us.
My little companion led me up
the park, discoursing merrily
all the way. Arrived at the hall-door,
I paused on the steps and looked
round me, waiting to recover
my composure, if possible - or,
at any rate, to remember my new-formed
resolutions and the principles
on which they were founded; and
it was not till Arthur had been
for some time gently pulling
my coat, and repeating his invitations
to enter, that I at length consented
to accompany him into the apartment
where the ladies awaited us.
Helen eyed me as I entered
with a kind of gentle, serious
scrutiny, and politely asked
after Mrs. Markham and Rose.
I respectfully answered her inquiries.
Mrs. Maxwell begged me to be
seated, observing it was rather
cold, but she supposed I had
not travelled far that morning.
'Not quite twenty miles,' I
'Not on foot!'
'No, Madam, by coach.'
'Here's Rachel, sir,' said
Arthur, the only truly happy
one amongst us, directing my
attention to that worthy individual,
who had just entered to take
her mistress's things. She vouchsafed
me an almost friendly smile of
recognition - a favour that demanded,
at least, a civil salutation
on my part, which was accordingly
given and respectfully returned
- she had seen the error of her
former estimation of my character.
Helen was divested
of her lugubrious
her heavy winter cloak, &c.,
she looked so like herself that
I knew not how to bear it. I
was particularly glad to see
her beautiful black hair, unstinted
still, and unconcealed in its
'Mamma has left off her widow's
cap in honour of uncle's marriage,'
observed Arthur, reading my looks
with a child's mingled simplicity
and quickness of observation.
Mamma looked grave and Mrs. Maxwell
shook her head. 'And aunt Maxwell
is never going to leave off hers,'
persisted the naughty boy; but
when he saw that his pertness
was seriously displeasing and
painful to his aunt, he went
and silently put his arm round
her neck, kissed her cheek, and
withdrew to the recess of one
of the great bay-windows, where
he quietly amused himself with
his dog, while Mrs. Maxwell gravely
discussed with me the interesting
topics of the weather, the season,
and the roads. I considered her
presence very useful as a check
upon my natural impulses - an
antidote to those emotions of
tumultuous excitement which would
otherwise have carried me away
against my reason and my will;
but just then I felt the restraint
almost intolerable, and I had
the greatest difficulty in forcing
myself to attend to her remarks
and answer them with ordinary
politeness; for I was sensible
that Helen was standing within
a few feet of me beside the fire.
I dared not look at her, but
I felt her eye was upon me, and
from one hasty, furtive glance,
I thought her cheek was slightly
flushed, and that her fingers,
as she played with her watch-chain,
were agitated with that restless,
trembling motion which betokens
'Tell me,' said she, availing
herself of the first pause in
the attempted conversation between
her aunt and me, and speaking
fast and low, with her eyes bent
on the gold chain - for I now
ventured another glance - 'Tell
me how you all are at Linden-hope
- has nothing happened since
I left you?'
'I believe not.'
'Nobody dead? nobody married?'
'Or - or expecting to marry?
- No old ties dissolved or new
ones formed? no old friends forgotten
She dropped her voice so low
in the last sentence that no
one could have caught the concluding
words but myself, and at the
same time turned her eyes upon
me with a dawning smile, most
sweetly melancholy, and a look
of timid though keen inquiry
that made my cheeks tingle with
'I believe not,' I answered.
'Certainly not, if others are
as little changed as I.' Her
face glowed in sympathy with
'And you really did not mean
to call?' she exclaimed.
'I feared to intrude.'
'To intrude!' cried she, with
an impatient gesture. 'What -
' but as if suddenly recollecting
her aunt's presence, she checked
herself, and, turning to that
lady, continued - 'Why, aunt,
this man is my brother's close
friend, and was my own intimate
acquaintance (for a few short
months at least), and professed
a great attachment to my boy
- and when he passes the house,
so many scores of miles from
his home, he declines to look
in for fear of intruding!'
'Mr. Markham is over-modest,'
observed Mrs. Maxwell.
said her niece - 'over - well,
it's no matter.' And turning
from me, she seated herself in
a chair beside the table, and
pulling a book to her by the
cover, began to turn over the
leaves in an energetic kind of
'If I had known,' said I, 'that
you would have honoured me by
remembering me as an intimate
acquaintance, I most likely should
not have denied myself the pleasure
of calling upon you, but I thought
you had forgotten me long ago.'
'You judged of others by yourself,'
muttered she without raising
her eyes from the book, but reddening
as she spoke, and hastily turning
over a dozen leaves at once.
There was a pause, of which
Arthur thought he might venture
to avail himself to introduce
his handsome young setter, and
show me how wonderfully it was
grown and improved, and to ask
after the welfare of its father
Sancho. Mrs. Maxwell then withdrew
to take off her things. Helen
immediately pushed the book from
her, and after silently surveying
her son, his friend, and his
dog for a few moments, she dismissed
the former from the room under
pretence of wishing him to fetch
his last new book to show me.
The child obeyed with alacrity;
but I continued caressing the
dog. The silence might have lasted
till its master's return, had
it depended on me to break it;
but, in half a minute or less,
my hostess impatiently rose,
and, taking her former station
on the rug between me and the
chimney corner, earnestly exclaimed
'Gilbert, what is the matter
with you? - why are you so changed?
It is a very indiscreet question,
I know,' she hastened to add:
'perhaps a very rude one - don't
answer it if you think so - but
I hate mysteries and concealments.'
'I am not changed, Helen -
unfortunately I am as keen and
passionate as ever - it is not
I, it is circumstances that are
'What circumstances? Do tell
me!' Her cheek was blanched with
the very anguish of anxiety -
could it be with the fear that
I had rashly pledged my faith
'I'll tell you at once,' said
I. 'I will confess that I came
here for the purpose of seeing
you (not without some monitory
misgivings at my own presumption,
and fears that I should be as
little welcome as expected when
I came), but I did not know that
this estate was yours until enlightened
on the subject of your inheritance
by the conversation of two fellow-passengers
in the last stage of my journey;
and then I saw at once the folly
of the hopes I had cherished,
and the madness of retaining
them a moment longer; and though
I alighted at your gates, I determined
not to enter within them; I lingered
a few minutes to see the place,
but was fully resolved to return
to M- without seeing its mistress.'
'And if my aunt and I had not
been just returning from our
morning drive, I should have
seen and heard no more of you?'
'I thought it would be better
for both that we should not meet,'
replied I, as calmly as I could,
but not daring to speak above
my breath, from conscious inability
to steady my voice, and not daring
to look in her face lest my firmness
should forsake me altogether.
'I thought an interview would
only disturb your peace and madden
me. But I am glad, now, of this
opportunity of seeing you once
more and knowing that you have
not forgotten me, and of assuring
you that I shall never cease
to remember you.'
There was a moment's pause.
Mrs. Huntingdon moved away, and
stood in the recess of the window.
Did she regard this as an intimation
that modesty alone prevented
me from asking her hand? and
was she considering how to repulse
me with the smallest injury to
my feelings? Before I could speak
to relieve her from such a perplexity,
she broke the silence herself
by suddenly turning towards me
and observing -
'You might have had such an
opportunity before - as far,
I mean, as regards assuring me
of your kindly recollections,
and yourself of mine, if you
had written to me.'
'I would have done so, but
I did not know your address,
and did not like to ask your
brother, because I thought he
would object to my writing; but
this would not have deterred
me for a moment, if I could have
ventured to believe that you
expected to hear from me, or
even wasted a thought upon your
unhappy friend; but your silence
naturally led me to conclude
'Did you expect me to write
to you, then?'
'No, Helen - Mrs. Huntingdon,'
said I, blushing at the implied
imputation, 'certainly not; but
if you had sent me a message
through your brother, or even
asked him about me now and then
'I did ask about you frequently.
I was not going to do more,'
continued she, smiling, 'so long
as you continued to restrict
yourself to a few polite inquiries
about my health.'
'Your brother never told me
that you had mentioned my name.'
'Did you ever ask him?'
'No; for I saw he did not wish
to be questioned about you, or
to afford the slightest encouragement
or assistance to my too obstinate
attachment.' Helen did not reply.
'And he was perfectly right,'
added I. But she remained in
silence, looking out upon the
snowy lawn. 'Oh, I will relieve
her of my presence,' thought
I; and immediately I rose and
advanced to take leave, with
a most heroic resolution - but
pride was at the bottom of it,
or it could not have carried
'Are you going already?' said
she, taking the hand I offered,
and not immediately letting it
'Why should I stay any longer?'
'Wait till Arthur comes, at
Only too glad to obey, I stood
and leant against the opposite
side of the window.
'You told me you were not changed,'
said my companion: 'you are -
very much so.'
'No, Mrs. Huntingdon, I only
ought to be.'
'Do you mean to maintain that
you have the same regard for
me that you had when last we
'I have; but it would be wrong
to talk of it now.'
'It was wrong to talk of it
then, Gilbert; it would not now
- unless to do so would be to
violate the truth.'
I was too much agitated to
speak; but, without waiting for
an answer, she turned away her
glistening eye and crimson cheek,
and threw up the window and looked
out, whether to calm her own,
excited feelings, or to relieve
her embarrassment, or only to
pluck that beautiful half-blown
Christmas-rose that grew upon
the little shrub without, just
peeping from the snow that had
hitherto, no doubt, defended
it from the frost, and was now
melting away in the sun. Pluck
it, however, she did, and having
gently dashed the glittering
powder from its leaves, approached
it to her lips and said:
'This rose is not so fragrant
as a summer flower, but it has
stood through hardships none
of them could bear: the cold
rain of winter has sufficed to
nourish it, and its faint sun
to warm it; the bleak winds have
not blanched it, or broken its
stem, and the keen frost has
not blighted it. Look, Gilbert,
it is still fresh and blooming
as a flower can be, with the
cold snow even now on its petals.
- Will you have it?'
I held out my hand: I dared
not speak lest my emotion should
overmaster me. She laid the rose
across my palm, but I scarcely
closed my fingers upon it, so
deeply was I absorbed in thinking
what might be the meaning of
her words, and what I ought to
do or say upon the occasion;
whether to give way to my feelings
or restrain them still. Misconstruing
this hesitation into indifference
- or reluctance even - to accept
her gift, Helen suddenly snatched
it from my hand, threw it out
on to the snow, shut down the
window with an emphasis, and
withdrew to the fire.
'Helen, what means this?' I
cried, electrified at this startling
change in her demeanour.
'You did not understand my
gift,' said she - 'or, what is
worse, you despised it. I'm sorry
I gave it you; but since I did
make such a mistake, the only
remedy I could think of was to
take it away.'
'You misunderstood me cruelly,'
I replied, and in a minute I
had opened the window again,
leaped out, picked up the flower,
brought it in, and presented
it to her, imploring her to give
it me again, and I would keep
it for ever for her sake, and
prize it more highly than anything
in the world I possessed.
'And will this content you?'
said she, as she took it in her
'It shall,' I answered.
'There, then; take it.'
I pressed it earnestly to my
lips, and put it in my bosom,
Mrs. Huntingdon looking on with
a half-sarcastic smile.
'Now, are you going?' said
'I will if - if I must.'
'You are changed,' persisted
she - 'you are grown either very
proud or very indifferent.'
'I am neither, Helen - Mrs.
Huntingdon. If you could see
my heart - '
'You must be one, - if not
both. And why Mrs. Huntingdon?
- why not Helen, as before?'
'Helen, then - dear Helen!'
I murmured. I was in an agony
of mingled love, hope, delight,
uncertainty, and suspense.
'The rose I gave you was an
emblem of my heart,' said she;
'would you take it away and leave
me here alone?'
'Would you give me your hand
too, if I asked it?'
'Have I not said enough?' she
answered, with a most enchanting
smile. I snatched her hand, and
would have fervently kissed it,
but suddenly checked myself,
and said, -
'But have you considered the
'Hardly, I think, or I should
not have offered myself to one
too proud to take me, or too
indifferent to make his affection
outweigh my worldly goods.'
Stupid blockhead that I was!
- I trembled to clasp her in
my arms, but dared not believe
in so much joy, and yet restrained
myself to say, -
'But if you should repent!'
'It would be your fault,' she
replied: 'I never shall, unless
you bitterly disappoint me. If
you have not sufficient confidence
in my affection to believe this,
let me alone.'
'My darling angel - my own
Helen,' cried I, now passionately
kissing the hand I still retained,
and throwing my left arm around
her, 'you never shall repent,
if it depend on me alone. But
have you thought of your aunt?'
I trembled for the answer, and
clasped her closer to my heart
in the instinctive dread of losing
my new- found treasure.
'My aunt must not know of it
yet,' said she. 'She would think
it a rash, wild step, because
she could not imagine how well
I know you; but she must know
you herself, and learn to like
you. You must leave us now, after
lunch, and come again in spring,
and make a longer stay, and cultivate
her acquaintance, and I know
you will like each other.'
'And then you will be mine,'
said I, printing a kiss upon
her lips, and another, and another;
for I was as daring and impetuous
now as I had been backward and
'No - in another year,' replied
she, gently disengaging herself
from my embrace, but still fondly
clasping my hand.
'Another year! Oh, Helen, I
could not wait so long!'
'Where is your fidelity?'
'I mean I could not endure
the misery of so long a separation.'
'It would not be a separation:
we will write every day: my spirit
shall be always with you, and
sometimes you shall see me with
your bodily eye. I will not be
such a hypocrite as to pretend
that I desire to wait so long
myself, but as my marriage is
to please myself, alone, I ought
to consult my friends about the
time of it.'
'Your friends will disapprove.'
'They will not greatly disapprove,
dear Gilbert,' said she, earnestly
kissing my hand; 'they cannot,
when they know you, or, if they
could, they would not be true
friends - I should not care for
their estrangement. Now are you
satisfied?' She looked up in
my face with a smile of ineffable
'Can I be otherwise, with your
love? And you do love me, Helen?'
said I, not doubting the fact,
but wishing to hear it confirmed
by her own acknowledgment.
'If you loved as I do,' she
earnestly replied, 'you would
not have so nearly lost me -
these scruples of false delicacy
and pride would never thus have
troubled you - you would have
seen that the greatest worldly
distinctions and discrepancies
of rank, birth, and fortune are
as dust in the balance compared
with the unity of accordant thoughts
and feelings, and truly loving,
sympathising hearts and souls.'
'But this is too much happiness,'
said I, embracing her again;
'I have not deserved it, Helen
- I dare not believe in such
felicity: and the longer I have
to wait, the greater will be
my dread that something will
intervene to snatch you from
me - and think, a thousand things
may happen in a year! - I shall
be in one long fever of restless
terror and impatience all the
time. And besides, winter is
such a dreary season.'
'I thought so too,' replied
she gravely: 'I would not be
married in winter - in December,
at least,' she added, with a
shudder - for in that month had
occurred both the ill-starred
marriage that had bound her to
her former husband, and the terrible
death that released her - 'and
therefore I said another year,
'No, no - next autumn, perhaps.'
'Well, the close of summer.
There now! be satisfied.'
While she was speaking Arthur
re-entered the room - good boy
for keeping out so long.
'Mamma, I couldn't find the
book in either of the places
you told me to look for it' (there
was a conscious something in
mamma's smile that seemed to
say, 'No, dear, I knew you could
not'), 'but Rachel got it for
me at last. Look, Mr. Markham,
a natural history, with all kinds
of birds and beasts in it, and
the reading as nice as the pictures!'
In great good humour I sat
down to examine the book, and
drew the little fellow between
my knees. Had he come a minute
before I should have received
him less graciously, but now
I affectionately stroked his
curling looks, and even kissed
his ivory forehead: he was my
own Helen's son, and therefore
mine; and as such I have ever
since regarded him. That pretty
child is now a fine young man:
he has realised his mother's
brightest expectations, and is
at present residing in Grassdale
Manor with his young wife - the
merry little Helen Hattersley
I had not looked through half
the book before Mrs. Maxwell
appeared to invite me into the
other room to lunch. That lady's
cool, distant manners rather
chilled me at first; but I did
my best to propitiate her, and
not entirely without success,
I think, even in that first short
visit; for when I talked cheerfully
to her, she gradually became
more kind and cordial, and when
I departed she bade me a gracious
adieu, hoping ere long to have
the pleasure of seeing me again.
'But you must not go till you
have seen the conservatory, my
aunt's winter garden,' said Helen,
as I advanced to take leave of
her, with as much philosophy
and self-command as I could summon
to my aid.
I gladly availed myself of
such a respite, and followed
her into a large and beautiful
conservatory, plentifully furnished
with flowers, considering the
season - but, of course, I had
little attention to spare for
them. It was not, however, for
any tender colloquy that my companion
had brought me there:-
'My aunt is particularly fond
of flowers,' she observed, 'and
she is fond of Staningley too:
I brought you here to offer a
petition in her behalf, that
this may be her home as long
as she lives, and - if it be
not our home likewise - that
I may often see her and be with
her; for I fear she will be sorry
to lose me; and though she leads
a retired and contemplative life,
she is apt to get low- spirited
if left too much alone.'
'By all means, dearest Helen!
- do what you will with your
own. I should not dream of wishing
your aunt to leave the place
under any circumstances; and
we will live either here or elsewhere
as you and she may determine,
and you shall see her as often
as you like. I know she must
be pained to part with you, and
I am willing to make any reparation
in my power. I love her for your
sake, and her happiness shall
be as dear to me as that of my
'Thank you, darling! you shall
have a kiss for that. Good-by.
There now - there, Gilbert -
let me go - here's Arthur; don't
astonish his infantile brain
with your madness.'
* * * * *
But it is time to bring my
narrative to a close. Any one
but you would say I had made
it too long already. But for
your satisfaction I will add
a few words more; because I know
you will have a fellow-feeling
for the old lady, and will wish
to know the last of her history.
I did come again in spring, and,
agreeably to Helen's injunctions,
did my best to cultivate her
acquaintance. She received me
very kindly, having been, doubtless,
already prepared to think highly
of my character by her niece's
too favourable report. I turned
my best side out, of course,
and we got along marvellously
well together. When my ambitious
intentions were made known to
her, she took it more sensibly
than I had ventured to hope.
Her only remark on the subject,
in my hearing, was -
'And so, Mr. Markham, you are
going to rob me of my niece,
I understand. Well! I hope God
will prosper your union, and
make my dear girl happy at last.
Could she have been contented
to remain single, I own I should
have been better satisfied; but
if she must marry again, I know
of no one, now living and of
a suitable age, to whom I would
more willingly resign her than
yourself, or who would be more
likely to appreciate her worth
and make, her truly happy, as
far as I can tell.'
Of course I was delighted with
the compliment, and hoped to
show her that she was not mistaken
in her favourable judgment.
'I have, however, one request
to offer,' continued she. 'It
seems I am still to look on Staningley
as my home: I wish you to make
it yours likewise, for Helen
is attached to the place and
to me - as I am to her. There
are painful associations connected
with Grassdale, which she cannot
easily overcome; and I shall
not molest you with my company
or interference here: I am a
very quiet person, and shall
keep my own apartments, and attend
to my own concerns, and only
see you now and then.'
Of course I most readily consented
to this; and we lived in the
greatest harmony with our dear
aunt until the day of her death,
which melancholy event took place
a few years after - melancholy,
not to herself (for it came quietly
upon her, and she was glad to
reach her journey's end), but
only to the few loving friends
and grateful dependents she left
To return, however, to my own
affairs: I was married in summer,
on a glorious August morning.
It took the whole eight months,
and all Helen's kindness and
goodness to boot, to overcome
my mother's prejudices against
my bride-elect, and to reconcile
her to the idea of my leaving
Linden Grange and living so far
away. Yet she was gratified at
her son's good fortune after
all, and proudly attributed it
all to his own superior merits
and endowments. I bequeathed
the farm to Fergus, with better
hopes of its prosperity than
I should have had a year ago
under similar circumstances;
for he had lately fallen in love
with the Vicar of L-'s eldest
daughter - a lady whose superiority
had roused his latent virtues,
and stimulated him to the most
surprising exertions, not only
to gain her affection and esteem,
and to obtain a fortune sufficient
to aspire to her hand, but to
render himself worthy of her,
in his own eyes, as well as in
those of her parents; and in
the end he was successful, as
you already know. As for myself,
I need not tell you how happily
my Helen and I have lived together,
and how blessed we still are
in each other's society, and
in the promising young scions
that are growing up about us.
We are just now looking forward
to the advent of you and Rose,
for the time of your annual visit
draws nigh, when you must leave
your dusty, smoky, noisy, toiling,
striving city for a season of
invigorating relaxation and social
retirement with us.
Till then, farewell,
STANINGLEY: June 10TH, 1847.