attempt to dispute her mistress's will,
and she dressed herself and Meta and
But no sooner had they gone than
they were back again, and Mrs. Bond
with them, for they had discerned that
respected lady sailing along, almost
immediately after quitting the house.
Yery steady on her legs was Mrs.
Bond to-day : her face had a pinched
look, and her thin shawl and wretched
old black gown were drawn tight
round her to protect her, so far as
might be, from the early winter's
cold. Margery eyed her critically,
and with a sniff which really might
have been taken to express a sort of
satisfaction, crossed the road, holding
Meta by the hand.
"Now, Dame Bond! where be vou
off to ?"
Dame Bond, of humble mind when
not exalted by extraneous adjuncts,
dropped a curtsey to Margery and an-
other to Miss Meta. She heered the
ladies at t'other end of the town was
a putting down the names for the coal
charity a'ready, and she was a-going
to see if she couldn't get hers put down
among 'em, — they refused her last
year. Goodness know'd as she'd need
"Well, Mrs. George Godolphin
wants to speak to you, so you'd bet-
ter come to her at once," said Mar-
gery. "And take care of your beha-
viour when you be in her presence,"
she sharply added.
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
There was not altogether need to
give that injunction to-day. Mrs.
Bond, on her meekest and civilest be-
havior, stood before Maria, who rose
up from her sofa, and kindly invited
her to a chair. Then she put two
sovereigns in her hand.
" It is the first instalment of my
debt to you, Mrs. Bond. If I live, I
will pay it you all, but it will be by
degrees. * And perhaps that is the
best way that you could receive it. I
wish I could have given you some be-
Mrs. Bond burst into tears, — not
the crocodile tears that she was some-
what in the habit of favoring the
world with when not entirely herself,
but real, genuine tears of gratitude.
She had given up all hope of the ten
pounds, did not look to receive a pen-
ny-piece of it, and the joy overcame
her. Her conscience pricked her a
little also, for she remembered sundry
hard words she had at one time lib-
erally regaled her neighbors' ears with,
touching Mrs. George Godolphin. In
her grateful repentance, she could
have knelt at Maria's feet, — hunger
and other ills of poverty had tended
to subdue her spirit.
" May the good Lord bless and re-
pay ye, ma'am, — and send you a safe
journey to the far-off place where I
hear ye be a-going !"
"Yes, I shall go if lam well enough,"
replied Maria. " It is from there that
I shall send you home some money
from time to time as I can. Have you
been well lately ?"
"As well as pretty nigh clamming
'11 let me be, ma'am. Things has gone
hard with me : many a day I've not
had as much as a mouldy crust. But
this -'11 set me up again, and, ma'am,
1*11 never cease to pray for ye."
" Don't spend it in — in — you know,
Mrs. Bond," Maria ventured timidly
to advise, in a lowered voice.
Mrs. Bond shook her head and
turned up her eyes by way of express-
ing a very powerful negative. Prob-
ably she did not feel altogether com-
fortable in the subject, for she hastened
to quit it.
" Have ye heard the news about old
Jekyl, ma'am ?"
"No. What news?"
" He be dead. He went off at one
o'clock this a'ternoon. He fretted
continual after his money, folks says,
and it wore him down to a skeleton.
He couldn't a-bear to be living upon
his sons, and Jonathan, he don't earn
enough for himself now, and the old
'un felt it."
Somebody else was feeling it. Fret-
ting continually after his money ! —
that money which might never have
been placed in the bank but for her !
Poor Maria pressed her fingers
upon her aching forehead ; and Mrs.
Bond plunged into another item of
"Them Hardings be bankrups."
" Harding the undertaker ?" cried
" They be, ma'am. The shop were
shut up as close as a dungeon when I
come by it just now, and a man, what
was standing there a-staring at it, said
as he heered it 'ud go hard with 'em.
There ain't nothing but trouble in the
world now, ma'am, for some."
No, nothing but trouble for some, —
Maria felt the truth to her heart of
hearts. The remembrance of the in-
terview she had held with Mrs. Hard-
ing, and what had been said at it, was
very present to her.
Perhaps it was well that a diver-
tisement occurred. Miss Meta, who
had been up-stairs with Margery to
have her things taken off, came in in
her usual flying fashion, went straight
up to the visitor, and leaned her
pretty arm upon the snuffy black
" W^hen shall I come and see the
" The parrot ! Lawks bless the
child ! I haven't got the parrot now,
I haven't had him for this many a
day. I couldn't let Mm clam," she
continued, turning to Maria. " I was
a clamming myself, ma'am, and I
sold him, cage and all, just as he
" Where is he ?" asked Meta, look-
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
" Where he went," lucidly explained
Mrs. Bond. " It were the lady up at
the tother end o' the town, beyond the
parson's, what bought him, ma'am.
Leastways her daughter did, — sister
to her what was once to have married
Mr. Godolphin. It's a white house."
"Lady Sarah Grame's," said Ma-
ria. " Did she buy the parrot ?"
"Miss did; that cross-looking
daughter of her'n. She see him as
she was a going by my door one day,
ma'am, and she stopped and looked at
him, and asked me what I'd sell him
for. Well, on the spur of the moment,
I said five shilling; for I'd not a half-
penny in the place to buy him food,
and for days and days he had had only
what the neighbors brought him, — but
it warn't half his worth. And miss
was all wild to. buy him, but her
mother wasn't; she didn't want
screeching birds in her house, she
said ; and they had. a desperate qua'r-
rcl in my kitchen afore they went
away. Didn't she call her mother
names ! She's a vixen, that daughter,
if ever there were one. But she got
her will, for, an hour or two after that,
a young woman came down for the
parrot with the five shillings in her
hand. And there's where he is."
"I shall have twenty parrots when
I go to India," struck in Meta.
" What a sight o' food they'll eat !"
ejaculated Mrs. Bond. " That there
one o' mine eats his fill now. I made
bold one day to go up and ask after
him, and the two young women in the
kitchen took me to the room to see
him, the ladies being out, and he had
got his tin stuffed full o' seed. He
knoAved me again, he did, and
screeched out to. be heerd a mile off.
The young women said that what
with his screeching and the two ladies
quarrelling, the house weren't a bear-
Meta's large eyes were wide open
in wondering speculation. " Why do
they quarrel ?" she asked.
" 'Cause it's their natur," returned
Mrs. Bond. " The one what had
the sweet natur was took, and the
two cranky ones was left. Them
young women said that miss a'most
druv t'other, my lady, mad with her
temper, and they expected nothing
less but there'd be blows some day.
A fine disgraceful thing to say o'
born ladies, ain't it, ma'am ?"
Maria in her delicacy of feeling
would not iudorse the remark of
Dame Bond. But the state of things
at Lady Sarah Grame's was perfectly
well known at Prior's Ash. Do you
remember an observation made by
Mr. Snow to Thomas Godolphin,
when he was speaking of Lady
Sarah's cruel unkindness to Ethel !
" She'll be brought to her senses, un-
less I am mistaken : she has lost her
treasure and kept her bane. A year
or two more, and that's what Sarah
Anne will be."
It was precisely what Sarah Anne
Grame had become, — her mother's
bane. A miserable bane ! to herself,
to her mother, to all about her. And
the " screeching" parrot had only
added a little more noise to an already
too noisy house.
Mrs. Bond curtseyed herself out.
She met Margery in the passage, and
stopped to whisper.
" I say ! how ill she do look !"
"Who looks ill?" was the ungra-
Mrs. Bond gave her head a nod
sideways towards the parlor-door.
"The missis. Her. face looks more
as if it had got death writ in it, nor
" Perhaps you'll walk on your road,
Dame Bond, and keep your opinions
till they're asked for," was the tart
reply of Margery.
But in point of fact the ominous
words had darted into the faithful ser-
vant's heart, piercing it as a poisoned
arrow. It seemed such a confirma-
tion of her own fears.
THE SHADOW OF AS II L YD Y AT,
COMMOTION AT ASHLYDYAT.
A few days went on, and they
wrought a rapid change in Mrs.
George Godolphin. She grew weak-
er and weaker : she grew — -it was ap-
parent now to Mr. Snow as it was to
Margery — nearer and nearer to that
vault in the churchyard of All Souls.
There could no longer be any inde-
cision or uncertainty as to her taking
the voyage : the probabilities were,
that before the ship was ready to sail
all sailing in this world for Maria
would be over. And rumors, faint,
doubtful, very much discredited ru-
mors of this state of things, began to
circulate in Prior's Ash.
Discredited because people were so
unprepared for it. Mrs. George Go-
dolphin had been delicate since the
birth of her baby, as was known to
everybody, but not a soul, relatives,
friends, or strangers, had cast a sus-
picion to danger. On the contrary,
it was supposed that she was about to
depart on that Indian voyage : and
ill-natured spirits jerked up their
heads and said it was fine to be Mrs.
George Godolphin, to tumble upon
her legs again and go out to lead a
grand life in India, after ruining half
Prior's Ash. How she was mis-
judged ! how many more unhappy
wives have been, and will be again,
misjudged by the world !
One dreary afternoon, as the dusk
was coming on, Margery, not stop-
ping, or perhaps not caring to put any
thiug upon herself, but having hastily
wrapped up Miss Meta, Avent quickly
down the garden-path, leading that
excitable and chattering demoiselle fey
the hand. Curious news had reached
the ears of Margery. Their landlady's
son had come in, describing the town
as being in a strange commotion in
consequence of something which had
happened at Ashlydyat. Rumor set
it down as nothing less than murder ;
and according to the boy's account, all
Prior's Ash was flocking up to the
place to see and to hear.
Margery turned wrathful at the
news. Murder at Ashlydyat ! The
young gentleman was too big to be
boxed or shaken for saying it, but he
persisted in his story, and Margery
in her curiosity went out to see with
her own eyes. " The people are run-
ning past the top of this road in
crowds," he said to her.
. Not in "crowds," certainly. Tongues
are exaggeratory as rumor is false.
When Margery reached the top of the
road, several idlers undoubtedly were
hastening past in the direction of Ash-
lydyat, but not so very many. Mar-
gery, pouncing upon one and upon
another, contrived to obtain a pretty
correct account of the actual facts.
For some days past, workmen had
been employed, digging up the Dark
Plain by the orders of Lord Averil.
As he had told Cecil weeks before, his
intention was completely to renovate
it ; to do away entirely with its past
ill-character and send its superstition
to the winds. The archway was being
taken down, the gorse-bushes were
being uprooted, the whole surface, in
fact, was being dug up. He intended
to build an extensive summer-house
where the archway had been, and to
make the plain a flower-garden, a
playground for children when they
should be born to Ashlydyat : and it
appeared that in digging that after-
noon under the archway, the men had
come upon a human skeleton, or
rather upon the bones of what had
once been a skeleton. This was the
whole foundation for the rumor and
As Margery stood, about to turn
home again, vexed for having been
brought out in the cold for nothing
more, and intending to give a few
complimentary thanks for it to the
young man who had been the means
of sending her, she was accosted by
Mr. Crosse. That gentleman, whose
residence was situated about three miles
from Prior's Ash, had been living at
it since his return, the night you saw
him coming from the rail when he
was met by Charlotte Pain. He had
been frequently at Ashlydyat, had
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
been a closer friend of Thomas Go-
dolphin's than ever; but not the
slightest notice had he taken of George
or his wife. His opinion of George
was about as bad as it could be, and
he did not seek to conceal it. How
he would have reconciled himself to
meet him at the funeral, it is impos-
sible to say, but circumstances pre-
vented Mr. Crosse's attendance at it.
For a day or two before Thomas Go-
dolphin's death and a week after it, he
was laid up with gout, and unable to
leave his house. Now he was out
" How d'ye do, Margery ?" he said,
lifting up Meta at the same time to
kiss her ; for the young lady had been
an uncommon favorite of his in the
old days at the bank, and he used to
lavish presents upon her, just for the
sake of watching her delight at their
reception. "Are you going up to
Ashlydyat with the rest ?"
" Not I, the simpletons I" was Mar-
gery's free rejoinder. " I'll be bound
it's nothing but the bones of some
poor old donkey that they've found, —
the animals used to stray sometimes
on to the Dark Plain. And me to
have been brought out from home by
their folly, leaving my mistress all
alone ! — and she not in a state to be
" Is she ill ?" asked Mr. Crosse.
" 111 !" returned Margery, not at all
pleased at the question. "Yes, sir,
she is ill. I thought everybody knew
" When does she start for India ?"
" She don't start at all. She'll be
starting soon fur a place a little bit
nearer. Here ! you run on and open
the gate," added Margery, whisking
Meta from Mr. Crosse's hand and
sending her down the lane out of hear-
ing. " She'll soon be where Mr.
Thomas Godolphin is, sir, instead of
being marched off in a ship to India,"
continued the woman, turning to Mr.
He felt greatly shocked. In his
own mind, he, as many others, had
associated Maria with her husband,
in regard to the summer's work, in a
lofty, scornful, hold-myself-off sort of
way: but' it did shock him to hear
that she was in fear of death. It is
most wonderful how our feelings
towards others soften when we find
they and their shortcomings are about
to be taken from us to a more merci-
"But what is the matter with her,
Margery ?" Mr. Crosse asked ; for it
happened that he had not heard the
ominous rumors that were beginning
to circulate in Prior's Ash.
"/ don't know what's the matter
with her," returned Margery. "I
don't believe old Snow knows it,
either. I suppose the worry and mis-
fortunes have been too much for her,
— that she couldn't bear up again 'em.
They fell upon nobody, unless it was
Mr. Thomas Godolphin, as they have
fell upon her, and she's just one to
break her heart over 'em. She and
him have been expiating another's
folly: he is in his grave, and she's
a-going to it,"
Mr. Crosse walked mechanically
by the side of Margery down the lane.
It was not his way, and perhaps he
was unconscious that he took it ; he
walked by her side, listening.
" He'll have to go by himself now,
— and me to have been getting up all
my cotton gowns for the start ! Serve
him right ! for ever thinking of taking
out that dear little lamb amid ele-
phants and savages !"
Mr. Crosse was perfectly aware
that Margery alluded to her master, —
his own bete noire since the explosion.
But he did not choose to descant upon
his gracelessness to Margery. " Can
nothing be done for Mrs. George Go-
dolphin ?" he asked.
" I expect not, sir. There's nothing
the matter with her that can belaid hold
of," resentfully spoke Margery, " no
malady to treat. Snow says he can't
do any thing, and he brought Dr.
Beale in the other day ; and it seems
he can't do nothing, either."
Meta had gained the gate, flung it
open in obedience to orders, and now
came running back. Mr. Crosse took
her hand and went on with her. Was
TUE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
he purposing to pay a visit to George
Godolphin's wife ? It seemed so.
It was quite dusk when they en-
tered. Maria was lying on the sofa,
with a warm woolen coverlid drawn
over her. There was no light in the
room save that given out by the fire,
but its blaze fell directly on her face.
Mr. Crosse stood and looked at it,
shocked at the ravages, at the tale it
told. All kinds of unpleasant pricks
were sending their darts through his
conscience. He had been holding
himself aloof in his assumed superi-
ority, his haughty condemnation,
while she had been going to the grave
with her breaking heart.
Had she wanted things that money
could procure ? had she wanted food?
Mr. Crosse actually began to ask him-
self the question, as the wan aspect
of the white face grew and grew upon
him : and in the moment he quite
loathed the thought of his well-stored
coffers. He remembered what a good,
loving, gentle woman this wife of
George Godolphin's had always been,
this dutiful daughter of All Souls'
pastor : and for the first time Mr.
Crosse began to separate her from her
husband's misdoings, to awake to the
conviction that the burden and sorrow
laid upon her had been enough to
bear, without the world meting out
its harsh measure of blame by way of
He sat down quite humbly, saying
" hush" to Meta. Maria had dropped
into one of those delirious sleeps :
they came on more frequently now,
and would visit her at the dusk hour of
the evening as well as at night ; and
the noise of their entrance had failed
to arouse her. Margery, however,
came bustling in.
"It's Mr. Crosse, ma'am."
She partially awoke. Only partially :
turned on the pillow, opened her eyes,
and held out her hand. He leaned
over her, and spoke in a very kind
voice as he took it.
" I am so sorry to see you like this,
Mrs George Godolphin. I had no
idea you were so ill. Is there any
thing I can do for you ?"
"If I could pay Mrs. Bond," she
answered. " She is so poor ! If I
could but pay her before the ship
Mr. Crosse saw the state of things
instantly, — that she was under the in-
fluence of some vivid dream. Mar-
gery spoke in a louder key, and ad-
vanced to shake up the sofa pillow.
"You'd be better sitting up, ma'am.
It's Mr. Crosse : don't you know him ?
Me and the child met him out there,
and he come in with us to see you."
It had the desired effect, completely
arousing her : and Maria, a faint hec-
tic of surprise coming into her cheeks,
sat up and let him take her hand. " I
am glad to have the opportunity of
seeing you once again," she said.
" Why did you not send and tell me
how ill you were ?" burst forth Mr.
Crosse, forgetting how exceedingly ill
such a procedure would have accorded
with his own line of holding aloft in
She shook her head. " I might,
had things been as they used to be.
But people do not care to come near
"And it was not your fault !" cried
Mr. Crosse in his heat, in his self-re-
" No, it was not my fault," she sadly
answered, believing he had spoken it
as a question. " I knew nothing about
it any more than the greatest stranger.
The blow fell upon me as startlingly
as it fell upon the rest."
" I am going in the ship, Mr. Crosse.
I am going to ride upon an elephant
and to have parrots. I'm going to
take my dolls."
He laid his hand kindly upon the
chattering child : but he turned to
Maria, his voice dropping to a whis-
per. "What shall you do with her?
Shall you send her out without you V
The question struck upon the one
chord of her heart that for the last day
or two, since her own hopeless state
grew more palpable, had been strung
to the utmost tension. What was to
become of Meta, — of the cherished
child whom she must leave behind
her ? Her face grew moist, her bosom
THE SHADOW OF ASHLYDYAT.
heaved, and she suddenly pressed her
hands upon it as if they could still its
wild and painful beating. Mr. Crosse,
blaming himself for asking it, blaming
himself for many other things, took
her hands within his and said he would
come in and see her in the morning,
she seemed so fatigued then.
But, low as the question had been
put, Miss Meta heard it,— heard it and
understood its purport. Pely upon it,
children understand far more than we
give them credit for. She entwined
her pretty arms within her mamma's
dress as Mr. Crosse went out, and
raised her wondering eyes.
"What did he mean? You are
coming too, mamma !•','
She drew the little upturned face
close to hers, she laid her white cheek
upon the golden hair. The very ex-
cess of pain that was rending her
aching heart caused her to speak with
ttimatUral stillness. Not that she could
speak at first ; a minute or two had to
be given to master her emotion.
" I am afraid not, Meta. I think
God is going to take me."
The child made no reply. Her ear-
nest eyes were kept wide open with
the same wondering stare. " What
will papa do ?" she presently asked.
Maria hastily passed her hand across
her brow, as if that recalled another
phaseof the pain. Meta's little heart be-
gan to swell, and the tears burst forth.
"Don't go, mamma! Don't go
away from papa and Meta ! I shall
be afraid of the elephants without
She pressed the child closer and
closer to her beating heart. Oh, the
pain, the pain ! — the pain. of the part-
ing that was so soon to come ! How
she beat down its outward signs, how
she continued to speak calmly, sur-
" Meta, darling, I think I have lately
been getting in spirit nearer and nearer
to God, — as Uncle Thomas got near
to Him ; and I see tilings in a different
light from what I had used to see
them. I do not suppose you will go
out now ; but if you should, God will
take care of you amidst the elephants
and all other dangers. I am asking
Him always ; and I know He will take
charge of you here Himself, and bring
you to me when your life is over.
There are times, Meta, as I lie here
alone, when God seems to be quite
close to me, and I have learned that
there is no friend on earth like Him.
Meta, when my heart is ready to
break at leaving you, it is he who
whispers to me that I may trust all to
Him. He is listening to me now,
darling; He is quite close; He sees
every one of your tears ; He knows
that I can scarcely say this to you for
my aching pain, and He will be a more
loving protector to my little mother-
less girl than I could have been. I
shall be up there in heaven, waiting
for you and looking down upon you,
and God will be taking care of you on
Meta turned her eyes to the uncur-
tained window, looking up to the win-
ter evening sky. " Has heaven got
windows ?" she asked.
" I think it has. I think that God
lets us look down on the clear ones we
have left. At least, — at least it is
pleasant to think so when we are about
to leave them. Meta, darling, it can
do you no harm to think so. When
mamma shall be gone to that better
place, and you are left alone here, you
can look up often and think of the
time that you will be going there. It
will soon come."
Perhaps it was as well that they
were interrupted : these moments are
too painful to be much prolonged.
Meta was sobbing with all her might,
when her attention was diverted by a
clash and dash at the gate. A car-
riage had bowled down the lane and
drawn up at it, almost with the com-
motion that used to attend the dashing
visits to the bank of Mrs. Charlotte
Pain. A more sober equipage this,
however, with its mourning appoint-
ments, although it bore a coronet on
its panels. The footman descended
to open the door, and one lady stepped
out of it.
" It is Aunt Cecil," called out Meta.
She rubbed the tears from her pretty
THE SHADOW OF ASIILYDYAT
cheeks, her grief forgotten, childlike,
in the new excitement, and flew out
to meet Lady Averil. Maria, trying
to look her best, rose from the sofa
and tottered forward to receive her.
Meta was pounced upon by Margery
and carried off to have her tumbled
hair smoothed ; and Lady Averil came
She threw back her crape vail to
kiss Maria. She had come down from
Ashlydyat on purpose to tell her the
news of the bones being found : there