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I touched my cap, thinking it would only bought Mary Hanne's squaller for ten bob, distress him, and check the stream of his and wery good interest it'd ha' paid me benevolence towards the next wayfarer, if for my money. This 'ere good lady al'ays I explained his error. So much to account gives five bob to a squaller, they tells me. for the fact that when I entered the tap. I s'pose she's never a child of 'er own, eh ?” room of the little public at Hapsbury, and
Here the fellow scratched his found three men over their pipes and beer, head, and added, after a pause, “she's be two of whom were unmistakably tramps, a loanesome life, folks say; but the squoire the third a boosy labourer, they viewed be foine and rich, any ways. Eb, but me without suspicion, and continued to money be a foine thing." discourse freely, as before one of their own " And be 'im as charitable as 'er ?! caste. The tramps were bound for Notting- asked the second tramp; and turning to ham, Hapsbury lying on the high road, I his fellow-labourer, he murmured somefound, between that city and L., which thing in a low voice, of which I only I had just left. The discussion, as I caught the words,“ distressed hoperatives. entered, was as to the relative excellence of But the spark of cupidity, if kindled, was various roads. At first I understood this quickly extinguished. to refer to their paving, which in some 1.1 “Noa, noa. You'll not be gettin' the parts of the country is but bad walk- blind side o' th’squoire. It be th' missis as ing. It was, however, as I soon learnt, the be for the givin'. He be all for argyfying; moral rather than the physical aspect of the and when he lost his tri'le 'gain th' village, king's highway, which the worthy couple | 'bout th' path, he were that riled, he never had under consideration.
give us nothin' no moure. They tells me “Nottingham to Leicester's a betterer as th' parson's tried to stan' up again him road nor this. I left ten crosses and three for t’ argyfy, but it warn't no good; he double crosses behind me the last time as I wouldn't give a ha’porth to th’ school done that 'ere road,” said one speaker, look, along o' that 'ere path.” ing round with an air of satisfaction, not This was a dark saying to me, and as anmixed with pride.
the conversation changed soon after, I took “ Besides dots?” asked the other. advantage of the landlord's entry to ask
“Besides dots. They're the softest for a bedroom, and to order some dinner. ’earted lot you ever see.
It's true that this But as I saw from his face that my appear’ere way, there's one 'ouse as is always ance did not inspire him with much confi. good for five crosses.”
dence (which was what I wanted, at that What do that mean ?” asked the moment, more even than the bed or dinner), boosy labourer, taking the pipe from his I followed him into the passage, and takmouth, his leaden eye lighted up with a ing some money from my pocket, I showed gleam of curiosity.
it him, and said : “Why, every cross is a tizzy, to be sure, “Though I wear & shabby coat, I will and a tizzy's a sixpence, if you don't pay my way-don't be afraid.” know," said the first speaker, with an air And upon mine host protesting that noof profound contempt for bucolic igno- thing was further from his thoughts, we
drifted into an amicable discourse, which I “ And what's dots ?”
led gradually to the subject of Squire “ Dots is brownies, as we call 'em Ridgway and “his lady.” I learnt that sometimes, that's pence. We don't make the state of feeling between the squire and much account hov a road as 'as got nothin' his village was anything but pleasant, but dots along the palin's. Now this 'ere owing to a right of way across his park, lady's one o' the right sort, poor thing. I which he had vainly endeavoured to stop s'pose she's kep' in a kind o’prison, for ap. This path led directly under the scores and scores o' times as I come this window of Mrs. Ridgway's boudoir, and way, she's al’ays at that same winder, and was a poisoned thorn in the side of the exshe's always good for 'alf-a-crown. Indeed, clusive “man of taste.” Mine host was of for any chap as 'as a squaller" opinion that to the pale, lonely lady, sitting
“What's a squaller ?” said the rustic, for ever at her window, and debarred, by the resolved to satisfy his legitimate thirst for existing feud, from even visiting the poor, information, regardless of the traveller's the sight of the labourer, plodding home
wards after his day's work, of the rosy milkWhy, bless your 'eart, a squaller's a maid, laden with the spoil of the heavybrat as squalls, to be sure. I might ha' | uddered kine, of even the foot-sore tramp,
trailing his weary steps through the cool it, and the soft line of hills in the distance, I grass, with a sense of thankfulness after the made a few random strokes, hoping that hot flinty road, were pleasant breaks in the she I sought might be attracted presently monotony of her day, which she would have to the window. I had not stood thus five been sorry to lose. But however this might minutes when I heard a step upon the be, Mr. Ridgway, with that smooth im- gravel behind me, and, turning, I saw a placability (which I knew so well), had powdered footman approaching." It is all never forgiven the obstinate resistance up now," I thought; “ I am going to be which the village had made to the infringe- warned that, though there is a right of ment of their right. From that day. Mr. way, there is no right of standing to sketch Ridgway declined to do anything further for in front of the house.' And I shut my the poor, for the school, or for the church; book. Imagine my surprise when the ser
l he forbade his wife's going into the village ; vant thus addressed me: he cut off his establishment, as far as prac- “Mr. Ridgway has sent me to ask, sir, ticable, from all communication with his if your name is not Lattrell? If so, he humbler neighbours, as he discouraged it hopes you will walk in.” with the richer ones, and all this he did I never felt more confused. Of course deliberately, without heat, or visible ex. I acceded ; but when I reflected upon my pression of anger. The parish had tried appearance, and remembered how I had conclusions with him, he said to the good limped and slouched, and that the lynxvicar militant, who returned to the charge eyed master here had detected me from his repeatedly; he, Mr. Ridgway, was a man window under this masquerade, I confess I of peace, and they had desired war; they was ashamed of meeting him. My only had made their election—it was well; he course was boldness, and a statement of had nothing more to say to them. And such portion of the truth as I could tell. from this ultimatum nothing would move My conductor led me through the great him.
hall, with its marble pavement, and busts What I had heard, both in the tap-room of the Roman emperors along the walls, and from the landlord, gave me plenty to into a small morning-room, hung entirely think of that night. I made up my mind with rare engravings in narrow black that I would not leave the neighbourhood frames. A table, with a Sèvres chocolate till I had seen and spoken to Assunta; but service on it, stood near the fire, and before how was this to be managed ? Mine host it, sipping his breakfast, in a black quilted had given me to understand that, unless satin dressing-gown, stood the master of the Mr. Ridgway was in the humour to receive house. The window, through which he had company, the doors were shut against every seen me, was in front of him, as he stood visitor to his wife. I resolved to recon- with his back to the fireplace, and to his noitre the ground before making any at- right was a door leading into the library. tempt, and early in the forenoon of the fol. He looked as young as ever, and, with that lowing day I started to walk across the silver-electro-plated smile of his, held out park by the public path in question. On two fingers, saying: approaching the stately Italian palace, with “Ben venuto, Signor Pittore. By a its sky-line of marble balustrade, broken curious coincidence you were by busts and urns, I pulled my cap further thoughts five minutes before I saw you over my face, and, disguising my gait with out of the window. What brings you to a stoop and a limp, I crept slowly past our fens ? Not a study of the picturesque, the angle of the house, in which was the I imagine ?" window which had been described to me. “I am on a short walking tour, having On the other side of the path was a broad left my heavy luggage at L. I was desheet of water, upon which this window con- bating in my mind whether I could vensequently looked, and just beyond it came ture to present myself here, in this mendithe great portico and flight of steps. The cant's guise, Mr. Ridgway, when”
, , " gardens, terraces, and fountains were all on “Never mind, my dear sir. I hate exthe other side of the house. I looked up at planations, don't you? They never explain the window, there was no one to be seen; I anything. I am very glad to see you, no lingered, I looked back, and then I turned matter what
here— and walked past it again. At last I bethought you are the very man I want. You have me of my sketch-book, and, taking it out, I arrived very opportunely to give me a turned my back to the house, and facing piece of advice; but, first, will you have the water, with the chestnut-wood behind some breakfast? There are lobster cnt
lets, and pâté de foie gras,” said he, taking wise I prefer my own society, and that of up a slip of paper on the breakfast tray, my books. In them, I daily make acand then added with a laugh, “Not that I quaintances far pleasanter than any I find often eat anything myself at this hour, about here.” but their existence is thus notified to me.” Not a word about his wife. I could not
I said I had breakfasted three hours keep silence. “And Mrs. Ridgway. Does since; and then I asked for Mrs. Ridgway. not she find it lonely without any society ?” She was well, he replied, and reverted at “I do not understand any one but a fool once to the subject which was evidently feeling lonely," he said, in rather a freezing uppermost in his mind. He had purchased tone. “Mrs. Ridgway is a person of cultia ceiling, by Giulio Romano, out of a vation. She has her books and her music. palace at Genoa, and it had lately arrived The visits of a set of gossiping women at Hapsbury. It had received some damage could not-ought not-to be any pleasure in the transit. Whether to have it re- to her. Silence is better for her than to touched and varnished before it was put listen to evil speaking, lying, and slanderup, or wait to see the effect when it was ing, which is what the ladies of England up, and how much restoration would be indulge in during their morning visits.” needed, were points on which he wished After this it was clear to me that the for professional advice. My careful studies gossip of the county was in some measure for years in our National Gallery, and the the cause (but in what way I could not attention I had bestowed upon such sub- then perceive) of the existing state of jects, rendered me competent to give an things at Hapsbury. Mr. Ridgway had opinion; and I followed Mr. Ridgway into gained all he had wanted ; the county had the crimson saloon, where the canvas re- flocked to his house ; how could its idle presenting the Fall of Phaeton was stretched tongues affect him now? upon the floor. The result of the exami. "Does Mrs. Ridgway take any
interest nation and discussion that ensued was all in your poorer neighbours ?” I asked, prethat I need here repeat. In my judgment, sently, anxious to elicit something from my the less the picture was touched the better, host on this head. and the very small amount of reparation “I have been obliged to interdict all that requisite, I believed I could do myself, as sentimental visiting of cottages which has well as, and without the risk of, its being lately come into fashion among fine ladies,” subjected to another journey to London. was his reply. “ The poor here are an Mr. Ridgway was delighted; it was just ignorant, obstinate race. I have washed what he wished, and I, of course, very my hands of them some time ago. Any gladly acceded to his invitation to remain pettifogging lawyer, or low radical parson, at Hapsbury until the work was who will talk to them of their rights, can pleted. A dog-cart was sent over to L. for twist them round his finger. As Butler my things, and in the course of a couple of says: hours I found myself, to my astonishment, I
And what they're confidently told,
By no sense else can be control'd. regularly installed in the house, to effect an entry into which, that morning, had They were advised to resist me, and I hope seemed to me a matter of some difficulty. they value the advice now," he added, with Still, I did not see its mistress. Mr. Ridg- a smile. I said no more. way remained with me, and conversed The day closed in, and the dressingbrilliantly, but he never alluded to his wife, gong for dinner sounded. I hurried down and when at last I asked point blank to the Spanish drawing-room, that famed if I might be allowed to pay my respects apartment hung with Cordova leather, and to Mrs. Ridgway, he only replied, “Oh, adorned with some of the masterpieces of you will see her by-and-bye.” In the Velasquez and Murillo, and there, as I had course of conversation I ventured to say hoped, I found Assunta, and alone. But oh, that I heard he led a very secluded life, how changed ! Nothing remained of the rarely admitting visitors.
Assunta whom I remembered but the eyes, “Are you surprised that I do not choose and they were larger, more intense, than to be bored by all the idiots of a neigh-ever. Those burning orbs in their deep bourhood like this, where there is not a blue hollows, the shrunken cheek, the man who cares for anything but riding bloodless lips, all gave me the impression of after a wretched little animal, with a pack some inward fire consuming the frail lamp of hounds ?" was his rejoinder. “I am that held it. Her fingers seemed almost glad to see any man of cultivation, other transparent, as I took the hand she ex
tended and pressed it respectfully to my gradually into the conversation, but it was lips. She was magnificently dressed in a in vain; she sat there like a figure carved velvet robe, trimmed with fur, after the in stone, that by some mechanism is made fashion of that day, against which the to utter a monosyllable from time to time, yellow white of her face and hands came and that is all. Nothing that was said out in yet more ghastly contrast. She awoke a smile, or any sign of interest on evidently knew of my being in the house, her face; and as soon as the dessert was for she manifested no surprise at seeing me; set upon the table, she rose slowly and left she was very calm, very silent; but a faint the room. We sat late over our wine, for smile flickered on her face as I took her my host showed no inclination to return hand, and then it died out to reappear no to the drawing-room, and I, who was immore. As to myself, I could not speak. patient to return to Assunta, could not of Though I had looked forward to this meet course suggest a move.
We found her siting so long, though I knew I should find ting by the fire. I can see her now, the her sadly changed, the sight of her affected ruddy light upon her velvet dress, a fan of me so painfully that I dared not trust my peacock's feathers in her hand, and the own voice. It was she who broke the silence. golden gloom of the Spanish leather back
“I am glad to see you again. I never ground and richly carved frames. She expected to do so. It seems a long, long did not turn her head, she did not move. time since we met-much longer than it There was something very terrible in this really is.”
apathy. When the clock struck half-past "I have so often wished to hear from ten she got up and took a small Roman you," I at last found voice to say.
lamp from the table. Then she held out “Ah, I never write to any one now !” her hand and turned towards the door. “Not even to Lena?”
Mr. Ridgway gracefully sauntered up, and “Not even to Lena."
held it open for his wife. “And why not? Why cut yourself off "Good-night, Assunta." from all communication with friends who “Good-night." love you so truly ?”
There was no kiss, no touch of any kind. She paused a moment or two, delibera- She looked neither to the right nor to the ting, as it seemed to me, whether she should left, but passed out, and the door closed give the real reason. Then she said quietly: behind her. “ Because I have nothing to tell.”
As soon as we were alone I observed a There was a chilling silence.
change in Mr. Ridgway. He was silent * And Mrs. Fleming and the children- for certainly two or three minutes, passing do you never hear from them ?”
his white hand to and fro across his chin, as "They write when they want anything, he stared into the fire. Suddenly he looked and Mr. Ridgway sends it.”
up into my face, and with an expression She said this impassively, without a upon his own so complicated that I found it tonch of bitterness, or even of regret. It impossible to read it, he said : was as though the springs of feeling were “You have not seen Mrs. Ridgway for all frozen ; and I saw that it would take long some time. How do you think her lookto thaw them. Mr. Ridgway entered, his ing ?” well-turned legs displayed in small-clothes “Very ill. Sadly changed, if you ask and silk stockings, which were then still me, Mr. Ridgway.' worn by a few men; fragrant, and polished “Did she say anything to you before as ivory and ebony from head to foot. I dinner ?-before I came into the room ?” fancied that he gave a quick, penetrating I returned his gaze steadily. “Very glance at Assunta ; but he came forward little.” without any embarrassment of manner, and “Yon observe that she is generally from that moment to the hour of our retiring taciturn. But at times this is not the to rest, he kept up a constant fire of anec- case. You are right, she is ill, Mr. Luttrell, dote and quotation, happily needing but and her malady is one which I fear is inlittle assistance from me. He never ad curable. You are an old friend of hers, and dressed his wife, except to ask what she you are now my guest for the next week at would take (those were the good old days least. It is possible that in the course of of carving at table), and unless I spoke to that time Mrs. Ridgway may speak to you her she remained absolutely silent. I in a manner which renders it advisable that appealed to her for an opinion whenever it you should be prepared to receive what she was possible, in the hope of drawing her says by a knowledge of her condition. Her
mind has lost its balance, and at moments "I fear, from your report,” I said, dryly, she may be said to be absolutely insane." “that nothing can do Mrs. Ridgway any
I was speechless with horror and indig- good. On what subject, may I ask, do nation. I did not believe what he said, you consider that she is a monomaniac ?” though it at once flashed through my mind “Chiefly on the subject of myself; but how plausible the tale might be made to everything relating to the past, to the time look. I felt, however, the absolute neces- when she lived at the Grange, is sure to exsity of mastering my emotion and conceal- cite her. As
your acquaintance with Mrs. ing my real sentiments, if I wished to be Ridgway belongs to that date, Mr. Luttrell, of service to my unhappy friend; and, I hope you will be cautious, in any interfortunately, I had sufficient self-command course you may have with her, not to refer to let my face betray nothing. After a to that time. I may rely on you ?” moment's pause, he continued :
“Mr. Ridgway, you may rely on my “She has happily never needed restraint doing nothing to injure my poor friend, in She is free to do what she likes, subject to whose sad case I feel the deepest interest.” certain restrictions, especially in the matter He talked for some time longer on the of receiving visitors alone. Her hallucina- same topic, and in the same strain. There tions have been such, and her speech so was no affectation of deep feeling; it was wild at times, that some precaution of this the dispassionate tone of a philosopher, kind was necessary. But the servants have who does his best, under existing circumno idea of the truth. It is looked upon as stances, and has made up his mind to every my eccentricity.”
eventuality. And then we parted for the "What medical advice have you had ?” night. To me, I need hardly say, it was a I asked.
sleepless one. So wretched an evening as “ Doctor L. came from London
ex- that I had never passed. I lay awake, repressly, when my suspicions were first volving in my mind how I might arrive at aroused. He said the case was not an un- the truth in this affair, and, if it were poscommon one of monomania. He held out sible, help this dear, unhappy lady. And very little hope of recovery, but said that in the morning I wrote and posted with her state might continue like this for my own hand) the following note: years.”
Hapsbury, Lincolnshire, March 5th. Here was chapter and verse.
I was a
DEAR L.,-Do me a great favour. Ask little staggered, but I knew a brother of Doctor L.'s, and I resolved to test, at all your brother whether he came down to the
above address, eighteen months ago, to give events, the truth of his alleged visit. I said presently: “ Did Doctor L. think a life it be no breach of professional etiquette)
an opinion on Mrs. Ridgway's case, and (if of such absolute seclusion good for a person what did he consider her ailment to be at in this sad condition ?”
that time? You will confer a lasting “She must, above all, be subjected to no excitement. I have occasionally a friend obligation on me if you can send me an
swers to these questions by return of post. or two to stay with me, when she is gene
Yours, ever most faithfully, rally much as you saw her to-night. The
GEOFFREY LUTTRELL. last large party I had was about a year ago. I found it did her more harm than
On the 16th of December, good. She talked very wildly to one of the
A NEW SERIAL STORY will be commenced in ladies, who happened to name that wretched
ALL THE YEAR ROUND, sot, young Walbrooke. After that, I deter
To be continued from week to week until completed, mined to have no more parties.”
entitled THE “ Have you ever communicated with her WICKED WOODS OF TOBEREEVIL. -her friends ?”
BY THE AUTHOR OF “HESTER'S HISTORY." “ She has no family, as you know. Mrs. Walbrooke has been abroad for the last
On MONDAY, the 4th of DECEMBER, three years. I wrote to that poor creature Mrs. Fleming, to say that Assunta was in a highly nervous state, and unable to see
EXTRA DOUBLE NUMBER FOR her, and that, I thought, was sufficient.
CHRISTMAS, 1871, A woman like Mrs. Fleming would do her infinitely more harm than good."
SLAVES OF THE LAMP.
WILL BE PUBLISHED THE
The Right of Translating Articles from ALL THE YEAR ROUND is reserved by the Authors.
Published at the Ofice. 26, Wellington St Strand. Printed by C. WAITING, Beaulort House, Duke St.. Lincoln's Inn Fiolds.