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enough to mislead at a distance) my dear father-Master George, as you call him; for whose sake you are bound to tell me everything you know. Now try to think-do please try your very best for my sake."
"That I will, Miss; that I will, with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength, as I used to have to say, with my hands behind my back, afore education were invented. Only please you to stand with your chin put out, Miss, and your profield towards me. That is what brings it up, and nothing else at all, Miss. Only, not to say a word of any sort to hurry me. A tracherous and a deep thing is the memory and the remembrance."
Mr. Stixon's memory was so deep that there seemed to be no bottom to it, or, at any rate, what lay there took a very long time to get at. And I waited, with more impatience than hope, the utterance of his researches.
"I got it now; I got it all, Miss, clear as any pictur'!" the old man cried out, at the very moment when I was about to say "please to leave off; I am sure it is too much for you." "Not a pictur' in all of our gallery, Miss, two and fifty of 'em, so clear as I see that there man, dark as it was, and a heavy wind a blowing. What you call them things, Miss, if you please, as comes with the sun, like a face upon the water? Wicked things done again the will of the Lord, and He makes them fade out afterwards."
"Perhaps you mean photographs. Is that the word?" "The very word, and no mistake. A sinful trespass on the works of God, to tickle the vanity of gals. But he never spread himself abroad like them. They shows all their ear-rings, and their necks, and smiles. But he never would have shown his nose, if he could help it, that stormy night when I come to do my duty. He come into this house without so much as a 'by your leave' to nobody, and vexed me terrible accordingly. It was in the old lord's time, you know, Miss, a one of the true sort, as would have things respectful, and knock down any man as soon as look. And it put me quite upon the touch-and-go, being responsible for all the footman's works, and a young boy promoted in the face of my opinion, having my own son worth a dozen of him. This made me look at the nature of things, Miss, and find it on my conscience to be after everybody."
"Yes, Stixon, yes! Now do go on. You must always have been, not only after, but a very long way after everybody."
"Miss Erma, if you throw me out, every word goes promiscuous. In a heffort of the mind like this it is every word, or no word. Now, did I see him come along the big passage-a 'currydoor' they call it now, though no more curry in it than there is door? No, I never seed him come along the passage, and that made it more reproachful. He come out of a green-baize door-the very place I can point out to you, and the self-same door, Miss, though false to the accuracy of the mind that knows it, by reason of having been covered up red, and all the brass buttons lost
to it in them new-fangled upholsteries. Not that I see him come through, if you please, but the sway of the door, being double-jointed, was enough to show legs had been there. And knowing that my lord's private room was there, made me put out my legs quite wonderful.”
"Oh, do please to put out your words half as quickly."
"No, Miss, no. I were lissome in those days, though not so very stiff at this time of speaking, and bound to be guarded in the guidance of the tongue. And now, Miss, I think if you please to hear the rest tomorrow, I could tell it better."
A more outrageous idea than this was never presented to me. Even if I could have tried to wait, this dreadful old man might have made up his mind not to open his lips in the morning; or, if he would speak, there might be nothing left to say. His memory was nursed up now, and my only chance was to keep it so. Therefore I begged him to please to go on, and no more would I interrupt him. And I longed to be ten years older, so as not to speak when needless.
"So then, Miss Erma, if I must go on," resumed the well-coaxed Stixon, "if my duty to the family driveth me to an 'arrowing subjeck, no words can more justly tell what come to pass than my language to my wife. She were alive then, the poor dear hangel, and the mother of seven children, which made me, by your leave comparing humble roofs with grandeur, a little stiff to him upstairs, as come in on the top of seven. For I said to my wife, when I went home-sleeping out of the house, you see, Miss, till the Lord was pleased to dissolve matrimony-'Polly,' I said, when I took home my supper, 'you may take my word for it there is something queer.' Not another word did I mean to tell her, as behoved my dooty. Howsoever, no peace was my lot till I made a clean bosom of it, only putting her first on the Testament, and even that not safe with most of them. And from that night not a soul has heard a word till it comes to you, Miss. He come striding along, with his face muffled up, for all the world like a bugglar, and no more heed did he pay to me than if I was one of the pedestals. But I were in front of him at the door, and to slip out so was against all orders. So in front of him I stands, with my hand upon the handles, and meaning to have a word with him, to know who he was, and such like, and how he comes there, and what he had been seeking, with the spoons, and the forks, and the gravies on my mind. And right I would have been in a court of law (if the lawyers was put out of it) for my hefforts in that situation. And then, what you think he done, Miss? So far from entering into any conversation with me, or hitting at me, like a man-which would have done good to think of-he send out one hand to the bottom of my vestas they call it now in all the best livery tailors-and afore I could reason on it, there I was a lying on a star in six colours of marble. When I come to think on it, it was but a push directed to a part of my system, and not a hit under the belt, the like of which no Briton would think of delivering. Nevertheless, there was no differ in what came to me, Miss, and my spirit was roused, as if I had been hit foul by one of
the prizemen. No time to get up, but I let out one foot at his long legs as a' was slipping through the door; and so nearly did I fetch him over that he let go his muffle to balance himself with the jamb, and same moment a strong rush of wind laid bare the whole of his wicked face to For a bad wicked face it was, as ever I did see; whether by reason of the kick I give, and a splinter in the shin, or by habit of the mind, a proud, and 'aughty, and owdacious face, and, as I said to my poor wife, reminded me a little of our Master George; not in his ordinary aspect, to be sure, but as Master George might look if he was going to the devil. Pray excoose me, Miss, for bad words, but no good ones will do justice. And so off he goes, after one look at me on the ground, not worth considering, with his chin stuck up, as if the air was not good enough to be breathed perpendiklar like."
"And of course you followed him?" I exclaimed, perceiving that Stixon would allow me now to speak. "Without any delay you went after him?"
"Miss Erma, you forget what my dooty was. My dooty was to stay by the door and make it fast, as custodian of all this mansion. No little coorosity, or private resentment, could 'a borne me out in doing so. As an outraged man I was up for rushing out; but as a trusted official, and responsible head-footman, Miss-for I were not butler till nine months after that my dooty was to put the big bolt in."
"And you did it, without even looking out, to see if he tried to set the house on fire! Oh, Stixon, I fear that you were frightened."
"Now, Miss Erma, I calls it ungrateful, after all my hefforts to obleege you, to put a bad construction upon me. You hurts me, Miss, in my tenderest parts, as I never thought Master George's darter would 'a doed. But there, they be none of them as they used to be! Master George would 'a said, if he ever had heard it, 'Stixon, my man, you have acted for the best, and showed a sound discretion. Stixon,' he would have said, 'here's a George and Dragon in reward of your gallant conduck.' Ah, that sort of manliness is died out now!"
This grated at first upon my feelings, because it seemed tainted with selfishness, and it did not entirely agree with my own recollections of my father. But still Mr. Stixon must have suffered severely in that conflict, and to blame him for not showing rashness was to misunderstand his position. And so, before putting any other questions to him, I felt in my pocket for a new half-sovereign, which I hoped would
Mr. Stixon received it in an absent manner, as if he were still in the struggle of his story, and too full of duty to be thankful. Yet I saw that he did not quite realise the truth of a nobly philosophic proverb"the half is more than the whole." Nevertheless, he stowed away his half, in harmony with a good old English saying.
"Now, when you were able to get up at last," I inquired, with tender interest, "what did you see, and what did you do, and what conclusion did you come to?"
"I come to the conclusion, Miss, that I were hurt considerable. Coorosity on my part were quenched by the way as I had to rub myself. But a man is a man; and the last thing to complain of is the exercise of his functions. And when I come round I went off to his lordship, as if I had heared his bell ring. All of us knew better than to speak till him beginning, for he were not what they now call 'halfable,' but very much to the contrary. So he says, 'You door-skulker, what do you want there?' And I see that he got his hot leg up, certain to fly to bad language. According, I asked, with my breath in my hand, if he pleased to see any young man there just now, by reason that such likes had been observated going out in some direction. But his lordship roared to me to go in another direction, not fit for young ladies. My old lord was up to every word of English; but his present lordship is the hopposite extreme."
"Is that all you have to tell me, Stixon! Did you never see that fearful man again? Did you never even hear of him?"
"Never, Miss, never! And to nobody but you have I ever told all as I told now. But you seems to be born to hear it all."
Ir was true enough that Stixon now had nothing more to tell, but what he had told already seemed of very great importance, confirming strongly, as it did, the description given me by Jacob Rigg. And even the butler's concluding words—that I seemed born to hear it all-comforted me like some good omen, and cheered me forward to make them true. Not that I could, in my sad and dangerous enterprise, always be confident. Some little spirit I must have had, and some resolve to be faithful, according to the power of a very common mind, admiring but never claiming courage. For I never did feel in any kind of way any gift of inspiration, or even the fitness of a quick strong mind for working out deeds of justice. There were many good ladies in America then, and now there are some in England, perceiving so clearly their own superiority as to run about largely proclaiming it. How often I longed to be a little more like these, equal to men in achievements of the body, and very far beyond them in questions of the mind!
However, it was useless to regret my lacks, and foolish, perhaps, to think of them. To do my very best with what little gifts I had was more to the purpose, and more sensible. Taking in lonely perplexity now this dim yet exciting view of things, I resolved, right or wrong, to abide at the place where the only chance was of pursuing my search. I was pledged, as perhaps has been said before, to keep from every one excepting faithful Betsy, and above all from Lord Castlewood, the
unexpected little tale wrung out of Mr. Stixon. That promise had been given without any thought, in my eagerness to hear everything, and probably some people would have thought of it no more. But the trusty butler was so scared when I asked him to release me from it, so penitent also at his own indiscretion, which never would have overcome him (as he said in the morning) only for the thunderstorm, that, instead of getting off, I was quite obliged to renew and confirm my
Therefore, in truth, I had no chance left but to go back to Shoxford and do my best, meeting all dark perils with the shield of right spread over me. And a great thing now in my favour was to feel some confidence again in the guidance of kind Wisdom. The sense of this never had abandoned me so much as to make me miserable about it; but still I had never tried to shelter under it, and stay there faithfully, as the best of people do. And even now I was not brought to such a happy attitude, although delivered by these little gleams of light from the dark void of fatalism, into which so many bitter blows had once been driving me.
However, before setting off again, I made one more attempt upon Lord Castlewood, longing to know whether his suspicions would help me at all to identify the figure which had frightened both the sexton and the butler. That the person was one and the same, I did not for a moment call in question, any more than I doubted that he was the man upon whose head rested the blood of us. But why he should be allowed to go scot free while another bore his brand, and many others died for him, and why all my most just and righteous efforts to discover him should receive, if not discouragement, at any rate most lukewarm aid— these and several other questions were as dark as ever.
"You must not return to Shoxford, my cousin," Lord Castlewood said to me that day, after a plain though courteous refusal to enlighten me even with a mere surmise, except upon the condition before rejected. "I cannot allow you to be there without strict supervision and protection. You will not, perhaps, be aware of it, as perhaps you have not been before; but a careful watch will be kept on you. I merely tell you this that you may not make mistakes, and confound friendly vigilance with the spying of an enemy. Erema, you will be looked after."
I could not help being grateful for his kindness, and really, try as I might to be fearless, it would be a great comfort to have some one to protect me. On the other hand, how would this bear upon my own freedom of looking about, my desire to make my own occasions, and the need of going everywhere? Could these be kept to my liking at all while an unknown power lay in kind regard of me? Considering these things, I begged my cousin to leave me to my own devices, for that I was afraid of nobody on earth while only seeking justice, and that England must be worse than the worst parts of America if any harm to me could be apprehended at quiet times, and in such a quiet place.
VOL. XXIV. NO. 210.