George in the carriage, and whispered
how much she should dislike it if he
kept a pack of fox-hounds near their
dwelling-place. Never, never should
she drive to that house in state again,
her husband by her side. Oh, the
contrast it presented, — that time and
this ! Now she was approaching it
like the criminal that the world thought
her, hiding her face with her vail, —
hiding herself, so far as she might, from
She reached the door, and paused
ere she rang : her pulses were throb-
bing wildly, her heart beat as if it
would burst its bounds. The nearer
that the interview drew, the more
formidable did it appear, the less able
herself to face it. The temptation
came over her — to go back. It as-
sailed her very strongly, and she
might have yielded to it, but for the
thought of Thomas Godolphin.
She rang at the bell, — a timid ring.
One of those rings that seem to an-
nounce the self-humble applicant, —
and who was the wife of George Go-
dolphin now, that she should proclaim
herself with pomp and clatter ? A
man settling himself into his green
livery coat opened the door.
" Is Lord Averil within F"
The servant was a stranger, and did
not know her. He may have thought
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
it curious that a lady, who spoke in a
low tone, and scarcely raised her eyes
through her vail, should come there
alone to inquire after Lord Averil.
He resumed, rather pertly:
" His lordship walked out an hour
ago with the colonel. It's quite un-
beknown what time they may come
In her shrinking dread of the inter-
view, it almost seemed a relief.
Strange to say, so fully absorbed had
she been in the anticipated pain, that
the contingency of his being out had
not crossed her mind. The man stood
with the door in his hand, half open,
half closed : had he invited her to
walk in and sit down, she might have
done so, for the sake of the rest. But
he did not.
Retracing her steps down the path,
she branched off into a dark walk,
overshadowed by trees, just within
the entrance-gate, and sat down upon
a bench. Now, the reaction was com-
ing : the disappointment : all that
mental agony, all that weary way of
fatigue, and not to see him I It must
all be gone over again on the morrow.
She threw her hot vail back ; she
pressed her throbbing forehead against
the thick trunk of the old oak-tree :
and in that same moment some one
entered the gate on his way to the
house, saw her, and turned short
round to approach her. It was Lord
Was the moment really come ?
Every drop of blood in her body
seemed to rush to her heart, and send
it on with a tumultuous bound, —
every sense of the mind seemed to
leave her, — every fear that the im-
agination can conjure up, seemed to
rise up in menace. She rose to her
feet and gazed at him, her sight par-
tially leaving her, her face changing
to a ghastly whiteness.
But when he hastened forward and
caught her hands in the deepest re-
spect and sympathy ; when he bent
over her, saying some confused words
— confused to her ear — of surpi*ise at
seeing her, of pity for her apparent
illness j when he addressed her with
every token of the old kindness, the
consideration of bygone days, then
the revulsion of feeling overcame her,
and Maria burst into a flood of dis-
tressing tears, and sobbed passion-
" I am fatigued with the walk," she
said, with a lame attempt at apology
when her emotion was subsiding. "I
came over to speak to you, Lord
Averil. I — I — have something to ask
"But you should not have walked,"
he answered, in a kind tone of remon-
strance. "Why did you not drop me
a note ? I would have come to you."
She felt as one about to faint. She
had taken off her gloves, her small,
white hands were unconsciously writh-
ing themselves together in her lap,
showing how great was her inward
pain ; her trembling lips, pale with
agitation, refused to bring out their
" I want you to be merciful to my
husband. Not to prosecute."
The gasping words were breathed
in a whisper ; the rushing tide of
shame changed her face to crimson.
Lord Averil did not for the moment
answer, and the delay, the fear of
non-success imparted to her some-
what of courage.
"For Thomas's sake," she said. "I
ask it for Thomas's sake."
"My dear Mrs. Godolphin," he was
beginning, but she interrupted him,
her tone changing to one of desperate
" Oh, be merciful, be merciful ! Be
merciful to my husband, Lord Averil,
for his brother's sake. Nay — for
George's own sake, for my sake, for
my poor child's sake, Meta's. He can
never come back to Prior's Ash, un-
less you will be merciful to him ; he
cannot come now, and Thomas has
to go through all the worry and the
misery, and it is killing him. Mr.
Snow came to me this morning and
said it was killing him ; and said that
George must come back if he would
save his brother's life : and I spoke to
Mr. Hurde, and he said there was
nothing to prevent his coming back,
THE SHADOW OF ASIILYDYAT
except the danger from Lord Averil.
And then I made my mind up to come
" I shall not prosecute him, Mrs.
George Godolphin. My long friend-
ship with his brother debars it. He
may come back to-morrow, in perfect
assurance that he has nothing to fear
" It is true ? — I may rely upon you ?"
" Indeed you may. I have never
had a thought of prosecuting. I can-
not describe to you the pain that it
has been productive of to me : I mean
the affair altogether, not my particular
loss : but that pain would be greatly
increased were I to bring myself to
prosecute one bearing the name of
Godolphin. I am sorry for George ;
deeply sorry for him. Report says
that he has allowed himself to fall in-
to bad hands, and could not extricate
The worst was over ; the best
known : and Maria leaned against the
friendly trunk and untied her bonnet-
strings, and wiped the moisture from
her now-pallid face. Exhaustion was
now supervening. Lord Averil rose
and held out his arm to her.
" Let me take you to the house and
give you a glass of sherry."
" I could not take it, thank you. I
would rather not go to the house."
" Colonel Max will be very glad to
see you. I have but just parted with
him. He went round by the stables."
She shook her head. "I do not
like to see any one now."
The subdued words, the saddened
tone seemed to speak volumes. Lord
Averil glanced down at her compas-
sionately. " This has been a grievous
trial to you, Mrs. Godolphin."
"Yes," she answered, very quietly.
Had she spoken but a word of what
it had really been to her, emotion
might have broken forth.
" But you must not let it affect you
too greatly," he remonstrated. "As I
fear it is doing "
"I can't help it," she whispered.
" I knew nothing of it, and it came
upon me like a clap of thunder. I
never had so much as a suspicion thnt
any thing was going wrong : had
people asked me what bank was the
most stable throughout the kingdonj,
I should have said ours. I never
suspected evil : and yet the blame is
being cast to me. Lord Averil, I — I
— did not know about those bonds."
"No, no," he warmly answered.
"You need not tell me that. I wish
you could let the trouble pass over
The trouble ! She clasped her
hands to pain. "Don't speak of it,"
she wailed. "At times it seems more
than I can bear. But for Meta, I
should be glad to die."
What was Lord Averil to answer ?
He could only give her the earnest
sympathy of his whole heart. "A man
who can bring deliberately this misery
upon the wife of his bosom deserves
hanging," was his bitter thought.
"What are you. going to do ?" he
asked. " Surely not to attempt to
walk back ?"
" I shall take my time over it," she
answered. "It is not much of a
" Too much for you at present," he
gravely said. " Let me send you home
in one of Colonel Max's carriages."
"No, oh no," she quickly answered.
" Indeed I have not miscalculated my
strength : I can walk perfectly well,
and would prefer to do so."
"Then you will come into the house
and take a rest first."
"I had rather not. Let me sit
here a little longer : it is resting me."
" I will be back immediately," he
said, walking from her very quickly,
and plunging into a narrow path
which was a short cut to the house.
When he reappeared he bore a glass
of wine and biscuit on a plate.
She drank the wine. The biscuit
she put back with a shiver. "I never
can eat any thing now," she said, lift-
ing her eyes to his to beseech his par-
When she at length rose, Lord
Averil took her hand and laid it within
his arm. She supposed he meant to
escort her to the gate.
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT,
" I have not said a word of thanks
to you," she murmured, when they
reached it. " I am very, very grateful
to you, very sensible of your kindness ;
but I cannot speak of it. My heart
She had halted and held out her
hand in farewell. Lord Averil did
not release her, but walked on. " If
you will walk home, Mrs. George Go-
dolphin, you must at least allow my
arm to help you."
" I could not; indeed I could not,"
she said, stopping resolutely, though
the teal's were dropping from her eyes.
" I must go back alone, — I would
Lord Averil yielded partially. The
first part of the road was lonely, and
he must see her so far. " I should
have called on Thomas Godolphin
before this, but I have been away,"
he remarked, as they went on. "I
will go and see him, — perhaps this
" He will be so thankful to hear of
this ! It will be like a renewed lease
of life. They have been fearful at
An exceedingly vexed expression
crossed Lord Averil's lips. " I thought
they had known me better at Ashly-
dyat," he said. " Thomas, at any rate.
At length Maria would not allow
him to go farther, and Lord Averil
clasped her hand in both of his:" Pro-
mise me to try and keep up your
spirits," he said. " For your hus-
"Yes; as well as I can," she re-
plied, in a broken tone. " Thank you !
thank you ever, Lord Averil !"
She called in at the rectory as she
passed it, and sat for a while with her
father and mother. But it was pain
to her to do so. The bitter wrong
inflicted upon them by her husband,
was making itself heard in her heart
in loud reproaches. The bitter wrong
of another kind dealt out to herself by
him, was all too present then. They
knew how she had idolized him ; they
must have known how blindly mis-
placed that idolatry was ; and the
red flush mounted to Maria's brow at
Oh, if she could but redeem the
past, so far as they were concerned !
It seemed that that would be enough.
If she could but restore peace and
comfort to their home, refund to her
father what he had lost, how thankful
she should be ! She would move
heaven and earth if that might accom-
plish it, — she would spend her own
days in the workhouse, — pass them
by a roadside hedge, and think noth-
ing of it, — if by those means she could
remove the wrong done. She lifted
her eyes to the blue sky, almost ask-
ing that a miracle might be wrought,
to repair the injury which had been
dealt out to her father. Ah me ! If
Heaven repaired all the injuries in-
flicted by man upon man, it would
surely have no time for other works
of mercy !
A SHOW IN THE STREETS OF PRIOR'S ASH.
Barely had Maria departed and
closed the rectory-gate behind her,
when she encountered a stylish vehicle
as high as a mountain, dashing along
at an alarming pace, with a couple of
frantic dogs behind it. It was that
" turn out" you have heard of, belong-
ing to Mrs. Charlotte Pain. Mrs.
Charlotte Pain was in it, resplendent
as the sun, dazzling the admiring eyes
of Prior's Ash in a gown of pink moire
antique, and a head gear which ap-
peared to be composed of pink and
white feathers and a glittering silver
aigrette, its form altogether not unlike
a French gendarme's hat, if you have
the pleasure of knowing that awe-
giving article. At the sight of Maria
she pulled the horses up with a jerk :
upon which ensued some skirmishing
and scattering abroad of dust, the
animals, both horses and dogs, not
approving of so summary a check ;
but Charlotte was resolute, and her
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT,
whip effective. She then flung the
reins to the groom who sat beside her,
jumped out, and held out her hand to
Maria accepted it. The revelation
gratuitously bestowed on her by-
Margery was beating its words upon
her memory, and her brow, face, and
in ck had flushed to a glowing crim-
son. Some might have flung the
offered hand aside, and picked up
their skirts with a jerk, and sailed
away with an air : but Maria was a
" How well you look !" exclaimed
Charlotte, regarding her in some sur-
prise. " Perhaps you are warm ? I
say, Mrs. George" — dropping her voice
to a whisper — " where do you think
I am bound to ?"
" I cannot tell."
" To see Lord Averil. He is back
again, and stopping at old Max's. I
am going to badger him out of a
promise not to hurt George Godolpbin,
— about those rubbishing bonds, you
know. I won't leave him until I get
" Yes," said Maria.
" I will have it. Or — war to the
knife, my lord ! I should like to see
him, or anybody else, attempt to re-
fuse me any thing I stood out for,"
she added, with a triumphantly saucy
glance, meant for the absent viscount.
" Poor George has nobody here to
fight his battles for him, and he can't
return to enter on them in person ; so
it's well that some friend should do it.
They are saying in the town this
morning, that Averil has returned
for the purpose of prosecuting : I
mean to cut his prosecuting claws
" It is a mistake," said Maria.
" Lord Averil has no intention of
" How do you know ?" bluntly asked
" I have just seen him."
" You don't mean to say you have
been over to old Max's ?" exclaimed
Charlotte, opening her brilliant black
eves very wide.
""Yes I have."
"You quiet sly-boots ! You have
never walked there and back ?"
" I don't feel very tired. I have
been resting with mamma for half an
"And he's safe — Averil ?" eagerly
" Quite safe. Remember his long
friendship with Thomas Goldolphin."
" Oh, my dear, men forget friend-
ship when their pockets are in ques-
tion," was the light remark of Char-
lotte. " You are sure, though, Averil's
not deceiving you ? I don't much
think he is one to do a dirty trick of
that sort, but I have lived long enough
to learn that you must prove a man
before you trust him."
" Lord Averil is not deceiving me,"
quietly answered Maria. " He has
given me a message for my hus-
" Then there's no necessity for my
going to him," said Charlotte. " Let
me drive you home, Mrs. George Go-
dolphin. I am sure you are fatigued.
I never saw any one change counten-
ance as you do. A few minutes ago
you looked vulgarly hot, and now you
are pale enough for the grave. Step
in. James, you must change to the
Step into that formidably high thing,
and sit by Mrs. Charlotte Pain's side,
and dash through Prior's Ash ! Maria
wondered whether the gossips of
Prior's Ash — who, as it seemed, had
made so free with gay George's name
— or Margery, would stare the most.
She declined the invitation.
" You are afraid," cried Charlotte.
" Well, it's a great misfortune, these
timid temperaments, but I suppose
they can't be cured. Kate Verrall's
another coward : but she's not as bad
as you. Toss me my parasol, James."
James handed his mistress a charm-
ing toy of pink moire antique silk
and point-lace, mounted on a handle
of carved ivory. Charlotte put it up
before her face, and turned to accom-
Maria put her parasol up before
her face thankful that it might servo
to shield it, if only partially, from the
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
curious eyes of Prior's Ash. Re-
membering the compliments that
Prior's Ash had been kind enough to
pass on her " simplicity," she would
not exactly have chosen her present
companion to walk through the streets
with. Dame Bond, with her unsteady
steps and her snuffy-black gown,
would have been preferable of the
" But," thought Maria in her gene-
rosity, striving to thrust that other
unpleasant feeling clown deep in her
heart, to lose sight of it, "it is really
kind of Mrs. Pain to be seen thus
publicly with me. Other ladies
would be ashamed of me now, I sup-
They stepped on. Maria with her
parasol so close to her face that there
was a danger of her running against
people ; Charlotte turning herself
from side to side, flirting the costly
little pink toy as one flirts a fan, bow-
ing and scraping to all she met. The
dogs snarled and barked behind ; the
carriage pranced and curvetted by
their side ; the unhappy James having
his hands full with the horses, which
took a high standing, and refused to
recognize any controlling mastership
save that of Mrs. Charlotte Pain.
Altogether, it was a more conspicu-
ous progress than Maria would have
chosen : but we are let in for great-
ness sometimes, you know, against
our will. Thus they arrived at the
bank, and Maria held out her hand to
Charlotte. She could not be other-
wise than courteous, no matter to
" I am coming in," said Charlotte,
bluntly. " Take care what you are
about with the horses, James."
Maria led the way to the dining-
room. All was as it used to be in
that charming room ; furniture, pic-
tures, elegant trifles for show or for
use ; all was the same : save — that
those things belonged not now to
Maria and her husband, but were
noted down as the property of others,
— soon, soon to be put up for sale !
Charlotte's rich moire antique came
to an anchor on a sofa, and she untied
the string of the gendarme hat, and
pushed it-back on her head.
"I am going to leave Prior Ash."
" To leave Prior's Ash !" repeated
Maria. " When ?"
"Within a week of this Lady
Godolphin's coming back to the
"But — Lady Godolphin cannot come
back to it without giving you due
notice to quit ?" debated Maria.
"It's all arranged," said Charlotte,
opening her mouth with a loud yawn.
" Lady Godolphin wrote to Verrall,
and the arrangements have been
agreed upon amicably. Lady Godol-
phin foregoes a certain portion of rent,
and we go out immediate!}'. I am
very glad, do you know. I had made
my mind up not to stay. As to the
Verralls, it may be said that they
virtually took leave of the Folly long
ago. Uncommonly glad I shall be to
leave it," repeated Charlotte, with
" Who'd care to stay at Prior's Ash,
after all this bother ? You and
George will be leaving it for London,
you know, — and I hope it won't be
long first. You must make me useful
up there, Mrs. George. I'll "
" Who told you we were going to
leave for London ?" interrupted Maria,
" Nobody told me. But of course
you will. Do you suppose George
Godolphin will care to stop amongst
this set ? Not he. He'd see Prior's
Ash promenading first. What tie
has he here, now Ashlydyat's gone ?
Yerrall talks of buying a hunting-box
" Does he," replied Maria, mechani-
cally, her thoughts buried elsewhere.
" Buying or hiring one. 7 should
hire ; and then there's no bother if
you want to make a flitting. But
Verrall is one who takes nobody's
counsel but his own. What a worry
it will be !" added Charlotte, after a
Maria raised her eyes. She did not
understand the question.
" The packing-up of the things at
THE S FI A D O W OF ASI1LYDYAT
the Folly," explained Charlotte. "We
begin to-morrow morning. I must
be at the head of it, for it's of no use
trusting that sort of work entirely to
servants. Bon jour, petite coquette !
Et les ponpees ?"
The diversion was caused by the
flying entrance of Miss Meta. The
young lady was not yet particularly
well up in the Gallic language, and
only half understood. She went
straight up to Mrs. Pain, threw her
soft, sweet eyes right into that lady's
flashing black ones, rested her pretty
arms upon the moire antique, and
spoke out with her accustomed bold-
" Where are the dogs now ?"
" Chained down in the pit-hole,"
responded Mrs. Pain.
" Margery says there is no pit-hole,
and the dogs were not chained down,"
" Margery's nothing but an old
woman : don't you believe her. If
she tells stories again we'll chain her
down with the dogs."
" Two of the dogs are outside,"
said Meta, >,
" Not the same clogs, child," re-
turned Mrs. Pain, with cool equani-
mity. " They are street-dogs, those
" They are with the carriage," per-
sisted Meta. " They are barking
" Are they barking ? They can
see Margery's face at the nursery
window, and are frightened at it.
Dogs always bark at ugly old women's
faces. You tell Margery so."
" Margery's not ugly."
" You innocent little simpleton !
She's ugly enough to frighten the
How long the colloquy might have
continued it is hard to say ; certainly
Meta would not be the one to give in ;
but it was interrupted by Margery
herself. A note had just been deliv-
ered at the house for Mrs. George Go-
dolphin, and Margery, who probably
was glad of the excuse for entering,
brought it in. She never looked at
all towards Mrs. Pain ; she came
straight up to her mistress, apparently
ignoring Charlotte's presence, but you
should have seen the expression of
her face. The coronet on the seal
of the letter imparted a suspicion to
Maria that it came from Lord Averil,
and her heart sunk within her. Could
he be withdrawing his promise of
" Who brought this ?" she asked, in
a subdued tone.
"A servant on horseback, ma'am."
Charlotte had started up, catching
at her feathers, for Pierce was at the
dining-room door now, saying that
the horses were alarmingly restive.
" Good-afternoon, Mrs. George Godol-
phin,"she called out, unceremoniously,
as she hastened away. " I'll come
and spend a quiet hour with you be-
fore I leave for town. Adieu, petite
diablesse ! I'd have you up to-mor-
row for a farewell visit, but that I'm
afraid you might get nailed down with
the furniture in some of the packing-
Away she went. Meta was hasten-
ing after her, but was caught up by
Margery with a gasp and a sob, — as if
she had been saving her from some im-
minent danger. Maria opened the
letter with trembling fingers.
" My dear Mrs. Godolphin : — It
has occurred to me, since I parted
from you, that you may wish to have
the subject of our conversation con-
firmed in writing. I hereby assure
you that I shall take no legal proceed-
ings whatever against your husband
on account of my lost bonds, and you
may tell him from me that he need
not, on that score, remain away from
"I hope you have reached home
without too much fatigue.
"Believe me, ever sincerely yours,
" How kind he is !" burst involun-
tarily from Maria's lips.
The words were drowned in a noise
outside. Charlotte had contrived to
ascend to her seat in spite of the
dancing horses. She stood up in the
THE SHADOW OF A S II L Y D Y A T .
high carriage, as George Godolphin
had once done at that same door, and
by dint of strength and skill she sub-
dued them to control. Turning their
fiery heads, scattering the assembled
multitude right and left, nodding
pleasantly to the applause vouchsafed
her, Mrs. Charlotte Pain and the turn-
out disappeared with a clatter, amidst
the rolling of wheels, the barking of
dogs, and the intense admiration of the
Miss Godolphin sat at one of the
windows facing the west in their home
at Ashlydyat, — soon to be their home
no more. Her cheek rested pensively
on her fingers, as she thought — oh,
with what bitterness ! — of the griev-
ous past. ' She had been universally
ridiculed for paying heed to the super-
stitious traditions attaching to the
house, and yet how strangely they
appeared to be working themselves
out. [t had begun — Janet seemed to
think the ruin had begun — with the
departure of her father, Sir George,
from Ashlydyat; and the tradition
went that when the head of the Go-
dolphins should voluntarily abandon
Ashlydyat, the ruin would follow.
Had Sir George's departure brought