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his lordship is thoroughly used to it. It is my certain knowledge that for seven years now he has never had seven minutes free from painseven minutes all of a heap, I mean. Some do say, Miss, as the Lord doeth everything according to His righteousness, that the reason is not so very far to seek."
I asked him what he meant, though I ought, perhaps, to have put a stop to his loquacity; and he pretended not to hear, which made me ask him all the more.
"A better man never lived than my lord," he answered, with a little shock at my misprision; "but it has been said among censoorous persons that nobody ever had no luck as came in suddenly to a property and a high state of life, on the top of the heads of a family of seven."
"What a poor superstition!" I cried, though I was not quite sure of its being a wicked one; "but what is your master's malady, Stixon? Surely there might be something done to relieve his violent pain, even if there is no real cure for it?"
"No, Miss, nothing can be done. The doctors have exorced themselves. They tried this, thai, and the other, but nature only flew worse against them. 'Tis a thing as was never heard of till the Constitooshon was knocked on the head and to pieces by the Reform Bill. And though they couldn't cure it, they done what they could do, Miss. They discovered a very good name for it-they christened it the 'New-rager !'"
In the morning, when I was called again to see my afflicted cousin― Stixon junior having gladly gone to explain things for me at Bruntsea -little as I knew of any bodily pain (except hunger, or thirst, or weariness, and once in my life a headache), I stood before Lord Castlewood with a deference and humility such as I had never felt before towards any human being. Not only because he bore perpetual pain in the two degrees of night and day-the day being dark, and the night jet-black-without a murmur or an evil word; not only because through the whole of this he had kept his mind clear and his love of knowledge bright; not even because he had managed, like Job, to love God through the whole of it. All these were good reasons for very great and very high respect of any man; and when there was no claim whatever on his part to any such feeling it needs must come. learned another thing, high respect at once became what might be called deep reverence. And this came to pass in a simple, and, as anyone must confess, quite inevitable way.
But when I
It was not to be supposed that I could sit the whole of my first evening in that house without a soul to speak to. So far as my dignity
and sense of right permitted, I wore out Mr. Stixon, so far as he would go, not asking him anything that the very worst-minded person could call "inquisitive," but allowing him to talk, as he seemed to like to do, while he waited upon me, and alternately lamented my hapless history, and my hopeless want of taste.
"Ah, your father, the Captain, now, he would have knowed what this is! You've no right to his eyes, Miss Erma, without his tongue and palate. No more of this, Miss! and done for you a-purpose! Well, cook will be put out and no mistake! I better not let her see it go down anyhow." And the worthy man tearfully put some dainty by, perhaps without any view to his own supper.
Lord Castlewood spoke to me about a Mrs. Price-the housekeeper, is she not?" I asked at last, being so accustomed to like what I could get, that the number of dishes wearied me.
"Oh, yes, Miss," said Stixon very shortly, as if that description exhausted Mrs. Price.
"If she is not too busy I should like to see her as soon as these things are all taken away. I mean if she is not a stranger, and if she would like to see me?"
"No new-comers here," Mr. Stixon replied; "" we all works our way up regular, the same as my lad is beginning for to do. New-fangled ways is not accepted here. We puts the reforming spirits scrubbing of the steps till their knuckles is cracked and their knees like a bean. The old lord was the man for discipline-your grandfather, if you please, Miss. He catched me when I were about that high—————
"Excuse me, Mr. Stixon, but would he have encouraged you to talk as you so very kindly talk to me, instead of answering a question?
I thought that poor Stixon would have been upset by this, and was angry with myself for saying it. But instead of being hurt, he only smiled and touched his forehead.
"Well, now, you did remind me uncommon of him then, Miss. I could have heard the old lord speak almost, though he were always harsh and distant. And as I was going for to say he catched me fifty years agone next Lammas tide; a pear tree of an early sort it was, you may see the very tree if you please to stand here, Miss, though the pears is quite altered now, and scarcely fit to eat. Well, I was running off, with my cap chockful, Miss
"Please to keep that story for another time," I said; "I shall be most happy to hear it then. But I have a particular wish, if you please, to see Mrs. Price before dark, unless there is any good reason why I should not."
"Oh no, Miss Erma, no reason at all. Only please to bear in mind, Miss, that she is a coorous woman. She is that jealous, and I might say
"Then she is capable of speaking for herself."
"You are right, Miss, there, and no mistake. She can speak for
herself and for fifty others; words enough, I mean, for all of them. But I would not have her know for all the world that I said it."
"Then if you do not send her to me at once, the first thing I shall do will be to tell her."
'Oh, no, Miss, none of your family would do that; that never has been done anonymous."
I assured him that my threat was not in earnest, but of pure impatience. And having no motive but downright jealousy for keeping Mrs. Price from me, he made up his mind at last to let her come. But he told me to be careful what I said; I must not expect it to be at all like talking to himself, for instance.
The housekeeper came up at last, by dint of my persistence, and she stopped in the doorway and made me a curtsey, which put me out of countenance, for nobody ever does that in America, and scarcely anyone in England now, except in country dancing. Instead of being as described by Stixon, Mrs. Price was of a very quiet, sensible, and respectful kind. She was rather short, but looked rather tall, from her even walk and way of carrying her head. Her figure was neat, and her face clearspoken, with straight pretty eyebrows, and calm bright eyes. I felt that I could tell her almost anything, and she would think before she talked of it. And in my strong want of some woman to advise with-Betsy Bowen being very good but very narrow, and Mrs. Hockin a mere echo of the Major until he contradicted her, and Suan Isco, with her fine, large views, five thousand miles out of sight just now-this was a state of things to enhance the value of any good countenance feminine.
At any rate, I was so glad to see her, that being still ungraduated in the steps of rank (though beginning to like a good footing there), I ran up and took her by both hands, and fetched her out of her grand curtsey and into a low chair. At this she was surprised, as one quick glance showed; and she thought me, perhaps, what is called in England "an impulsive creature." This put me again upon my dignity, for I never have been in any way like that, and I clearly perceived that she ought to understand a little more distinctly my character.
It is easy to begin with this intention, but very hard indeed to keep it up when anybody of nice ways and looks is sitting with a proper deferential power of listening, and liking one's young ideas, which multiply and magnify themselves at each demand. So after some general talk about the weather, the country, the house, and so on, we came to the people of the house, or at any rate the chief person. And I asked her a few quiet questions about Lord Castlewood's health and habits, and anything else she might like to tell me. For many things had seemed to me a little strange and out of the usual course, and on that account worthy to be spoken of without common curiosity. Mrs. Price told me that there were many things generally divulged and credited, which therefore lay in her power to communicate without any derogation from her office. Being pleased with these larger words (which I always have trouble in pro
nouncing) I asked her whether there was anything else. And she answered yes, but unhappily of a nature to which it was scarcely desirable to allude in my presence. I told her that this was not satisfactory, and I might say quite the opposite; that having "alluded" to whatever it might be, she was bound to tell me all about it. That I had lived in very many countries, in all of which wrong things continually went on, of which I continually heard just in that sort of way and no more. Enough to make one uncomfortable, but not enough to keep one instructed and vigilant as to things that ought to be avoided. Upon this she yielded either to my arguments or to her own dislike of unreasonable silence, and gave me the following account of the misfortunes of Lord Castlewood :—
Herbert William Castlewood was the third son of Dean Castlewood, a younger brother of my grandfather, and was born in the year 1806. He was older, therefore, than my father, but still (even before my father's birth, which provided a direct heir) there were many lives betwixt him and the family estates. And his father, having as yet no promotion in the Church, found it hard to bring up his children. The eldest son got a commission in the Army, and the second entered the Navy, while Herbert was placed in a bank at Bristol, not at all the sort of life which he would have chosen. But being of a gentle, unselfish nature, as well as a weak constitution, he put up with his state in life, and did his best to give satisfaction.
This calm courage generally has its reward, and in the year 1842, not very long before the death of my grandfather at Shoxford, Mr. Herbert Castlewood, being well-connected, well-behaved, diligent, and pleasing, obtained a partnership in the firm, which was, perhaps, the foremost in the west of England. His two elder brothers happened then to be at home, Major and Commander Castlewood, each of whom had seen very hard service, and found it still harder slavery to make both ends meet, although bachelors. But, returning full of glory, they found one thing harder still, and that was to extract any cash from their father, the highly venerated Dean, who in that respect if in no other very closely resembled the head of the family. Therefore these brave men resolved to go and see their Bristol brother, to whom they were tenderly attached, and who now must have money enough and to spare. So they wrote to their brother to meet them on the platform, scarcely believing that they could be there in so short a time from London; for they never had travelled by rail before, and they set forth in wonderful spirits, and laughed at the strange, giddy rush of the travelling, and made bets with each other about punctual time (for trains kept much better time while new), and, as long as they could time it, they kept time to a second. But, sad to relate, they wanted no chronometers when they arrived at Bristol, both being killed at a blow, with their watches still going, and a smile on their faces. For the train had run into a wall of Bath stone, and several of the passengers were not killed.
The sight of his two brothers carried out like this, after so many years
of not seeing them, was too much for Mr. Herbert Castlewood's nerves, which always had been delicate. And he shivered all the more from reproach of conscience, having made up his mind not to lend them any money, as a practical banker was compelled to do. And from that very moment he began to feel great pain.
Mrs. Price assured me that the doctors all agreed that nothing but change of climate could restore Mr. Castlewood's tone and system, and being full of art (though so simple, as she said, which she could not entirely reconcile) he set off for Italy, and there he stopped, with the good leave of his partners, being now valued highly as heir to the Dean, who was known to have put a good trifle together. And in Italy my father must have found him, as related by Mr. Shovelin, and there received kindness and comfort in his trouble, if trouble so deep could be comforted.
Now I wondered and eagerly yearned to know whether my father, at such a time, and in such a state of loneliness, might not have been led to impart to his cousin, and host, and protector the dark mystery which lay at the bottom of his own conduct. Knowing how resolute and stern he was, and doubtless then embittered by the wreck of love and life, I thought it more probable that he had kept silence even towards so near a relative, especially as he had seen very little of his cousin Herbert till he had found him thus. Moreover, my grandfather and the Dean had spent little brotherly love on each other, having had a lifelong feud about a copyhold furze-brake of nearly three quarters of an acre, as Betsy remembered to have heard her master say.
To go on, however, with what Mrs. Price was saying. She knew scarcely anything about my father, because she was too young at that time to be called into the counsels of the servants' hall, for she scarcely was thirty-five yet, as she declared, and she certainly did not look forty. But all about the present Lord Castlewood she knew better than anybody else perhaps, because she had been in the service of his wife, and indeed her chief attendant. Then, having spoken of her master's wife, Mrs. Price caught herself up, and thenceforth called her only his "lady."
Mr. Herbert Castlewood, who had minded his business for so many years, and kept himself aloof from ladies, spending all his leisure in good literature, at this time of life and in this state of health (for the shock he had received struck inwards), fell into an accident tenfold worse, the fatal accident of love. And this malady raged the more powerfully with him on account of breaking out so late in life. In one of the picture galleries at Florence, or some such place, Mrs. Price declared, be met with a lady who made all the pictures look cold, and dull, and dead to him. A lovely young creature she must have been (as even Mrs. Price, who detested her, acknowledged), and to the eyes of a learned but not keen man as good as lovely. My father was gone to look after me, and fetch me out of England; but even if he had been there, perhaps he scarcely could have stopped it; for this Mr. Castlewood, although so quiet, had the family fault of tenacity.