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sure of that. But every one of them foreigners-excuse me, sir, you are an Englishman ?”
“I am,” replied the Major, pulling up his little whiskers; “I am so, madam, and nothing you can say will in any way hurt my feelings. I am above nationalities.”
“ Just so, sir; then you will feel with me when I say that they foreigners is dreadful. Oh, the day that I ever married one of 'em- but there, I ought to be ashamed of myself, and my lord's daughter facing me.”
“Do you know me?” I asked, with hot colour in my face, and my eyes, I dare say, glistening; are you sure that
know me? And then please to tell me how.”
As I spoke I was taking off the close silk bonnet which I had worn for travelling, and my hair, having caught in a pin, fell round me, and before I could put it up, or even think of it, I lay in the great arms of Betsy Bowen, as I used to lie when I was a little baby, and when my father was in his own land, with a home and wife and seven little
And to think of this made me keep her company in crying, and it was some time before we did anything else.
“Well, well,” said the Major, who detested scenes, except when he had made them ; “I shall be off. You are in good hands; and the cabman pulled out his watch when we stopped. So did I. But he is sure to beat me. They draw the minute hand on with a magnet, I am told, while the watch hangs on their badge, and they can swear they never opened it. Wonderful age, very wonderful age, since the time when
you and I were young, ma'am.” Yes, sir, to be sure, sir !” Mrs. Strouss replied, as she wiped her
! eyes to speak of things ; “but the most wonderfullest of all things, don't you think, is the going of the time, sir ? No cabby can make it go faster while he waits, or slower while he is a-driving, than the minds inside of us manage it. Why, sir, it were only like yesterday that this here tall, elegant, royal young lady was a-lying on my breast, and what a hand she was to kick! And I said that her hair was sure to grow like this. If I was to tell you only half what comes across me-
“If you did, ma'am, the cabman would make his fortune, and I should lose mine, which is more than I can afford. Erema, after dinner I shall look you up. I know a good woman when I see her, Mrs. Strouss, which does not happen every day. I can trust Miss Castlewood with you. Good-bye, good-bye for the present.”
It was the first time he had ever called me by my proper name, and that made me all the more pleased with it.
“You see, sir, why I were obliged to lock him in,” cried the "good woman,” following to the door, to clear every blur from her virtues ; “ for his own sake I done it, for I felt my cry a-coming, and to see me cry-Lord bless you, the effect upon him is to call out for a walkingstick and a pint of beer.”
“ All right, ma'am, all right!" the Major answered in a tone which appeared to me unfeeling; "cabman, are you asleep there? Bring the lady's bag this moment."
As the cab disappeared without my even knowing where to find that good protector again in this vast maze of millions, I could not help letting a little cold fear encroach on the warmth of my outburst. I had heard so much in America of the dark, subtle places of London, and the wicked things that happen all along the Thames, discovered or invented by great writers of their own, that the neighbourhood of the docks and the thought of rats (to which I could never grow accustomed) made me look, with a flash perhaps of doubt, at my new old friend.
“ You are not sure of me, Miss Erema," said Mrs. Strouss, without taking offence; after all that has happened, who can blame it on you? But
your father was not so suspicious, Miss. It might have been better for him if he had, according, leastways, to my belief, which a team of wild horses will never drag out.”
“Oh, only let me hear you talk of that!" I exclaimed, forgetting all other things; "you know more about it than anybody I have ever met with, except my own father, who would never tell a word.”
“ And quite right he was, miss, according to his views. But come to my little room, unless you are afraid. I can tell you some things that your father never knew."
“ Afraid ! do you think I am a baby still? But I cannot bear that Mr. Strouss should be locked up on my account.”
“ Then be shall come out,” said Mrs. Strouss, looking at me very pleasantly; " that was just like your father, Miss Erema. But I fall into the foreign ways, being so much with the foreigners.” Whether she thought it the custom among “foreigners” for wives to lock their husbands in back kitchens was more than she ever took the trouble to explain. But she walked away in her stout, firm manner, and presently returned with Mr. Strouss, who seemed to be quite contented, and made me a bow with a very placid smile.
“He is harmless; his ideas are most grand and good,” his wife explained to me, with a nod at him; “ but I could not have you in with the gentleman, Hans. He always makes mistakes with the gentlemen, miss, but with the ladies he behaves quite well.”
“Ycs, yes, with the ladies I am nearly always goot," Herr Strouss replied, with diffidence; "the ladies comprehend me right, all right, because I am so habitual with my wife. But the gentlemans in London have no comprehension of me."
“ Then the loss is on their side,” I answered with a smile; and he said, “Yes, yes, they lose vere much by me.”
Now I scarcely know whether it would be more clear to put into narrative what I heard from Betsy Bowen, now Wilhelmina Strouss, or to let her tell the whole in her own words, exactly as she herself told it then to me. The story was so dark and sad—or at least to myself it so appeared—that even the little breaks and turns of lighter thought or livelier manner, which could scarcely fail to vary now and then the speaker's voice, seemed almost to grate and jar upon its sombre monotone. On the other hand, by omitting these, and departing from her homely style, I might do more of harm than good through failing to convey impressions, or even facts, so accurately. Whereas the gist, and core, and pivot of my father's life and fate are so involved (though not evolved), that I would not miss a single point for: want of time or diligence. Therefore let me not deny Mrs. Strouss, my nurse, the right to put her words in her own way. And before she began to do this, she took the trouble to have everything cleared away, and the trays brought down, that her boarders (chiefly German) might leave their plates and be driven to their pipes.
“If you please, Miss Castlewood,” Mrs. Strouss said grandly, “ do you, or do you not, approve of the presence of 'my man,' as he calls himself ?-an improper expression, in my opinion; such, however, is their nature. He can hold his tongue as well as any man, though none of them are very sure at that. And he knows pretty nigh as much as I do, so far as his English can put things together, being better accustomed in German. For when we were courting I was fain to tell him all, not to join him under any false pretences, Miss, which might give him grounds against me."
“Yes, yes, it is all vere goot and true-so goot and true as can be."
“ And you might find him come very handy, my dear, to run of any kind of messages. He can do that very well, I assure you, Miss—better than any Englishman."
Seeing that he wished to stay, and that she desired it, I begged him to stop, though it would have been more to my liking to hear the tale alone.
“Then sit by the door, Hans, and keep off the draught,” said his Wilhelmina, kindly. “He is not very tall, Miss, but he has good shoulders ; I scarcely know what I should do without him. Well, now, to begin at the very beginning : I am a Welshwoman, as you may have heard. My father was a farmer near Abergavenny, holding land under Sir Watkin Williams, an old friend of your family. My father had too many girls, and my mother scarcely knew what to do with the lot of us. So some of us went out to service, while the boys stayed at home to work the land. One of my sisters was lady's maid to Lady Williams, Sir Watkin's wife, at the time when your father came visiting there for the shooting of the moorfowl, soon after his marriage with your mother. . What a sweet good lady your mother was ! I never saw the like before or since. No sooner did I set eyes upon her, but she so took my fancy that I would have gone round the world with her. We Welsh are a very hot people, they say—not cold blooded, as the English are. So, wise or foolish, right, wrong, or what might be, nothing would do for me but to take service, if I could, under Mrs. Castlewood. Your father was called Captain Castlewood then-as fine a young man as ever clinked a spur, but without any boast or conceit about him; and they said that your grandfather, the old lord, kept him very close and spare, although he was the only son. Now this must have been let me see, how long ago -about five-and-twenty years, I think. How old are you now, Miss Erema? I can keep the weeks better than the years, Miss.”
“I was eighteen on my last birthday. But never mind about the time-go on."
“But the time makes all the difference, Miss, although, at the time, we may never think so. Well, then, it must have been better than sixand-twenty year agone; for though you came pretty fast, in the Lord's will, there was eight years between you and the first-born babe, who was only just a-thinking of when I begin to tell. But to come back to myself, as was- -mother had got too many of us still, and she was glad enough to let me go, however much she might cry over it, as soon as Lady Williams got me the place. My place was to wait upon the lady first, and make myself generally useful, as they say. But it was not very long before I was wanted in other more important ways, and having been brought up among so many children, they found me very handy with the little ones; and being in a poor way, as they were then-for people, I mean, of their birth and place—they were glad enough soon to make head-nurse of me, although I was under two-and-twenty.
“ We did not live at the old lord's place, which is under the hills looking on the river Thames; but we had a quiet little house in Hampshire; for the captain was still with his regiment, and only came to and fro to us. But a happier little place there could not be, with the flowers, and the cow, and the birds all day, and the children running gradually according to their age, and the pretty brook shining in the valley. And as to the paying of their way, it is true that neither of them was a great manager. The captain could not bear to keep his pretty wife close ; and she, poor thing, was trying always to surprise him with other presents, besides all the beautiful babies.
But they never were in debt all round, as the liars said when the trouble burst; and if they owed two or three hundred pounds, who could justly blame them? "For the old lord, instead of going on as he should, and widening his purse to the number of the mouths, was niggling at them always for offence or excuse, to take away what little he allowed them. The captain had his pay, which would go in one hand, and the lady had a little
money of her own; but still it was cruel for brought-up people to have nothing better to go on with. Not that the old lord was a miser neither; but it was said, and how far true I know not, that he never would forgive your father for marrying the daughter of a man he hated. And some went so far as to say that, if he could have done it, he would have cut your father out of all the old family estates. But such a thing never could I believe of a nobleman having his own flesh and blood.
“But, money or no money, rich or poor, your father and mother, I assure you, my dear, were as happy as the day was long. For they loved one another and their children dearly, and they did not care for any mixing with the world. The captain had enough of that when put away in quarters; likewise his wife could do without it better and better at every birth, though once she had been the very gayest of the gay, which you never will be, Miss Erema.
“Now, my dear, you look so sad and so 'solid,' as we used to say, that if I can go on at all I must have something ready. I am quite an old nurse now, remember. Hans, go across the square, and turn on the left hand round the corner, and then three more streets towards the right, and you see one going towards the left, and you go about seven doors down it, and then you see a corner with a lamp-post.”
“ Vilhelmina, I do see de lamp-post at de every corner.”
“ That will teach you to look more bright, Hans. Then you find a shop window with three blue bottles, and a green one in the middle."
“How can be any middle to three, without it is one of them ?”
“ Then let it be two of them. How you contradict me! Take this little bottle, and the man with a gold braid round a cap, and a tassel with a tail to it, will fill it for fourpence when you tell him who you are.”
“Yes, yes; I do now comprehend. You send me vhere I never find de vay, because I am in de vay, Vilhelmina !”
I was most thankful to Mrs. Strouss for sending her husband (however good and kind-hearted he might be) to wander among many shops of chemists, rather than to keep his eyes on me, while I listened to things that were almost sure to make me want my eyes my own. My nurse had seen, as any good nurse must, that, grown and formed as I might be, the nature of the little child that cries for its mother was in
“It is very sad now," Mrs. Strouss began again, without replying to my grateful glance; " Miss Erema, it is so sad that I wish I had never begun with it. But I see by your eyes—so like your father's, but softer, my dear, and less troublesome—that you will have the whole of it_out, as he would with me once when I told him a story for the sake