B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon.

The Duchess of Rosemary Lane online

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A Novel.




F. V. WHITE & CO.,



The Prologue.

Part The First. - Spring

Part The Second. - Summer

Part The Third. - Autumn

Part The Fourth. - Winter

- - - - -

Part The First. - The Child

Part The Second. - The Woman



The Prologue.

"We see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose;
And on old Hymen's chin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set."


It is a lovely morning in April. The last drops of a radiant shower
have fallen, and Nature is smiling through her tears, as might a happy
maiden in the sparkling face of her lover, who, suddenly and
unexpectedly, has brought her joyful tidings. The titlark and the
whitethroat, and other feathered visitors of spring, are flying hither
and thither in glad delight, singing their blithest songs, and
carrying rays of sunlight on their wings to illumine the summer nests
which they are building. Joyously busy are these graceful citizens of
the woods, and proud of their work; they chirp, and twitter, and
exchange glad greetings, as they fly hither and thither, and when they
rest from their labour of love on the sprays of the common beech, they
seem to be sitting in bell-shaped thrones of emerald, while the dew
upon the flowers of the silver birch glitters like drops of molten
gold in the eye of the sun.

Surrounded by these and myriad other evidences of spring, stands a
fair and beautiful girl, herself in the spring of life. The name of
the place is appropriate to her and to the season. Springfield is an
enclosed park of forty acres, the beauties of which are jealously
hidden from vulgar gaze. It is the most picturesque portion of an
important estate, at present in the possession of Lady Josephine
Temple, who lies sick in the quaint old house yonder, built in the
Elizabethan style, the designs for which are said to have been
prepared by John of Padua. But John of Padua and all the historical
associations of the house are as dead letters to Lady Temple, who has
sufficient food for contemplation in her own immediate affairs and
condition. The blinds of the room in which she lies are drawn down for
the express purpose of shutting out the day, in accordance with the
ancient formula, which provided that the sick should be depressed and
weakened by dim light and silence, instead of cheered and strengthened
by sunlight and cheerfulness.

To beautiful Nelly Marston, as she stands by the quaint old windows in
the laughing sunlight, with diamond drops of rain glistening in her
bonny brown hair, and on her lashes, -

"The April in her eyes; it is love's spring,
And these the showers to bring it on," -

to her comes, with a bashful air upon him, the son of the head
gardener of Springfield, a young man of twenty-five or thereabouts,
fairly handsome, fairly well-made, and, through the long services of
his father, fairly well-to-do in the world. He has in his hand some
loose flowers, and a small bouquet of lilies of the valley, arranged
in good taste, and looking, with their white petals and their
background of exquisitely green leaves, like turrets of ivory carved
out one above another, built up on emerald mountains. The young man,
with a world of admiration expressed in his manner, holds out the
lilies to Miss Nelly Marston, with a shyness that would have been
comical in one so strong had his earnestness allowed scope for any
quality less strong than itself.

"May I offer you these, miss?"

As though he were offering her his heart, which, indeed, he was ready
and eager to do, but lacked the courage.

"Thank you, John," she says, turning the flowers this way and that,
with as dainty a coquetting with man and flower - though she does not
look at _him_ - as well could be. Then she selects two or three of the
lilies, and places them in her brown hair, where they rest like white
doves in an autumn forest. John's heart is full as he sees his flowers
thus disposed. Nelly, then, inhales the fresh air, demonstratively, as
though it were nectar. "What a lovely morning! And yet it was blowing
last night, almost like winter."

"Ah, you heard the wind, miss," responds the young gardener, delighted
at the opportunity of exchanging a few words with the girl who had but
lately come to Springfield, and who had taken his heart captive the
moment his eyes rested on her fair face. A thrill actually runs
through his foolish heart at the thought that he and she were awake at
the same moment listening to the wind. "It is a good sign, miss, for

"I have heard you are weather-wise, John," says Nelly Marston, with a
little laugh sweeter to the young fellow than the sweetest chime of
bells, or the sweetest music of birds. "Harvest-time is far off. In
what way is it a good sign?"

"When April blows his horn, it's good for hay and corn. An old saying,

"As old, I dare say, as that April showers make May flowers." (Nelly
Marston is almost as pleased as the young gardener himself at the
opportunity for conversation. She finds Springfield very dull. Every
soul in it, with the exception of the mistress, is a servant, and Lady
Temple, a childless widow, is not remarkable for cheerfulness or
lively manners. There is no one at Springfield with whom the girl can
associate.) "These lilies are very, very pretty, John! What is that
flower you have in your hand, that one with the spotted leaves?"

"This, miss? It isn't very handsome, but I can't resist picking a bit
when I first catch sight of it in the spring hedges, because it
reminds me of the time when I was a little un, and when me and the
others used to play at lords-and-ladies with it. It's almost a
medicine flower, too, miss, the cuckoo-pint."

"The cuckoo-pint! Is lords-and-ladies another name for it?"

"Not a proper name, miss, but that's what we used to call it. It's
come down to us in that way."

"And the cuckoo flower, too! I have heard of the cuckoo flower, of
course, but never of the cuckoo-pint. Lords-and-ladies! Give it to me,
John, will you?"

"With pleasure, miss," answers the delighted and palpitating John.
"I'll pick you a bunch of them, if you like, miss."

"Yes, do! But - I am a very curious person, John, always wanting to
know things - _why_ is it called lords-and-ladies?"

"I don't exactly know, miss, except, perhaps, that it changes more
than any other flower."

"And lords-and-ladies do that?"

"It isn't for me to say, miss. I only repeat what I have heard.
There's other names for it. If you'll allow me, miss." John's nerves
tingle as he takes the flower from the girl's hand, and in doing so,
touches her fingers. The contact of her soft flesh with his is a
concentrated bliss to him, and sets his sensitive soul on fire. "You
see, I pull down this hood" - (he suits the action to the word, and
turns down the outer leaf) - "and here's the Parson in his Pulpit. You
might fancy 'twas something like it, miss."

"You must not make fun of parsons, John. My father was one."

John, who is a staunch church-goer, and by no means irreverently
inclined, is instantly imbued with a deeper reverence than ever for
parsons, and says apologetically,

"Tis not making fun of them, miss, to liken them to flowers. If I was
to liken them to medicine bottles, now, with the white labels tied
round their necks, 'twould be different; but I wouldn't go so far as

Nelly Marston laughs, the likeness of medicine bottles to the clergy
is so clearly apparent.

"It is a long stretch either way, John. I must go in now. Don't forget
to pick me a bunch of lords-and-ladies!"

"I'll not forget, miss."

The happy young gardener touches his cap, and walks away with a blithe
heart, to search at once among the hedges for this particular species
of the arum. Be sure that none but the very finest specimens will meet
with his approval. From this day forth the cuckoo-pint holds a
curiously-tender place in his memory, and the season

"When daisies pied, and violets blue,
And lady-smocks, all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight,"

never comes round without bringing with it a vision of himself and a
fair and beautiful girl by the old house at Springfield, she with
white lilies and cuckoo flowers in her hands, and he standing before
her, with a heart pulsing with love and adoration.

Nelly Marston would have stopped a longer time conversing with him,
had she not seen a maid approaching her from the house to summon her
to Lady Temple's room.

"I have been waiting for you, Miss Marston," says the sick lady, in a
peevish tone, as the girl enters, "and wondering where you were. What
have you in your hand? Flowers! Send them away. You know I am
expressly forbidden to have flowers about me. Stay. What are they?
Don't bring them too close."

"Only a few lilies of the valley, Lady Temple, that the gardener's son
gave me."

"And you have some in your hair, too - that the gardener's son gave
you! And those other flowers, the yellow ones?"

"This is the cuckoo flower - the cuckoo pint, rather. Lords-and-ladies,
he called it."

"And that's why you choose it, I suppose. So you have been gossiping
with the gardener's son! You are like your mother, I am afraid."

"My mother, Lady Temple," says the girl proudly, straightening her
slight figure, "during her lifetime, always spoke of you with respect
and affection. I shall be glad if you will explain the meaning of your
words - if they have a meaning."

"There, there, don't worry me, Miss Marston. I am not strong enough
for scenes. It seems to be a bright morning."

"It is very fresh and lovely out of doors. Spring is come in real
earnest. The apple-blossoms look beautiful - - "

"And I lie here," interrupts Lady Temple querulously, "shut out from
it all, shut out from it all! I have never had any happiness in my
life, never! Shall I never rise from this horrible bed?" She gazes at
Nelly Marston, envious of the girl's youth and brightness. "I suppose,
Miss Marston, if you were mistress of this house and grounds, you
think you could be very happy?"

"I think so, Lady Temple. I should not require much else."

"You would!" cried Lady Temple, fiercely. "One thing. Love! That is
what your mother sacrificed herself for, the fool!"

"Why speak of her in that way," asks the girl, in a quiet tone, but
with a bright colour in her face which shows how deeply she resents
the words of her mistress, "before her daughter? She was your friend,
remember. You say you have never had happiness in your life. I am
sorry for you, and I am glad to think that my mother had much."

"There, there! Be still. Your mother was a good creature, and no one's
enemy but her own. What are those shadows on the blind?"

"Swallows, Lady Temple. I lay awake for a long time this morning,
watching them. They are building nests just outside my window."

"Never mind them," says Lady Temple, fretfully. "Listen to me, Miss
Marston. I am not quite alone in the world. I have relatives who love
me very much just now - oh, yes, very much just now, when they think I
have not long to live! But only one shall darken my doors. My nephew,
Mr. Temple, will be here in a few days; you must see that his rooms
are ready for him when he arrives. Give me his letter. There it is, on
my dressing-table. What have you dropped? What are you looking at?"

"A portrait, Lady Temple. It slipped from the envelope. Is it Mr.
Temple's picture?"

"Yes, yes; give it to me. It is a handsome face, is it not, Miss
Marston? Now sit down, and do not annoy me any longer. When I am
asleep, go softly, and see to Mr. Temple's rooms. _He_ will have this
house when I am gone, if he does not thwart me. But I will take
care - I will take care - - "

The sentence is not finished, and there is silence in the sick room.
Lady Temple dozes, and Nelly Marston sits quietly by the window,
stealthily raising a corner of the blind now and then, to catch a
glimpse of the sun and the beautiful grounds upon which it shines.


The moon shines on a rippling brook in Springfield, and the summer
flowers are sleeping. But even in sleep the foxglove lights up the
underwood, and the clover retains the sunset's crimson fire. It is a
beautiful and peaceful night; an odorous stillness is in the air, and

"the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold."

The shadows of gently-undulating branches and the delicate traceries
of the feather-grass - so subtly sensitive that in the stillest night
its bells are tremulous; mayhap in response to fairy whisperings - are
reflected in the stream which reflects also the shadow of Nelly
Marston, who is bending low to look at her fair face in the depths
made luminous by stars. As with sparkling eyes she stoops lower and
lower in half-sportive, half-earnest admiration of herself, her face
rises in the water to greet her, until the smiling lips of flesh
almost kiss their shadow.

As she gazes, another shadow bends over hers, blotting the fairer
vision, and a strong arm is thrown around her waist.

"Why, Nelly - Miss Marston! Are you about to play Ophelia in my aunt's
pretty brook?"

The girl starts to her feet, and swiftly releases herself from his
embrace. Not far from them, but unseen by either, stands the
gardener's son, watching them. _Their_ breasts are stirred by emotions
which bring an agitated pleasure to them; _his_ is stirred by darker

"I was simply," replies Nelly, with burning blushes in her face,
"bending over the water to - to - - "

And pauses for lack of words.

Mr. Temple assists her.

"To look at your pretty face, or perhaps to kiss yourself, as a spirit
might. Labour thrown away, Miss Marston, and most certainly
unprofitable, if what the poet says is true:

"Some there be that shadows kiss;
Such have but a shadow's bliss."

Nelly Marston regains her composure.

"We did not expect you to-night, Mr. Temple."

"Then I should be all the more welcome," he answers gaily. "I am
starving, Nelly - - "

She checks him by a look.

"I beg your pardon. Miss Nelly Marston, I am starving with hunger. I
have not had a morsel of food in my mouth since the morning."

"There will be no difficulty in reviving your fainting soul, Mr.
Temple," she says, with a desperate attempt to imitate his light
manner; "but Lady Temple must not know you are here. 'Miss Marston,'
she said to me this afternoon, my nephew will be absent for some time.
He will write to me regularly. Directly his letters arrive, let me
have them. If I am asleep place them at once by my side.'"

Mr. Temple, a handsome, graceful man, not less than thirty-five years
of age, interposes with a merry laugh.

"I posted one to her ladyship three hours ago, twenty miles from this

"All the more reason," says Nelly Marston seriously, "why she should
not know you are in Springfield."

He tries to stop her remonstrance by, "Now, my dear Mother Hubbard!"
but she will not listen to him.

"Lady Temple unfortunately magnifies the smallest trifles into serious
vexations. She is very, very fretful" - this with a little weary
sigh - "and the doctor says it is most important she should not be
annoyed in any way. Mr. Temple, if she suspects you are in the house
to-night, she will never forgive you."

"And houses, lands, and money," he rejoins, with a careless shrug of
his shoulders, "would melt away into such airy distances that, though
my limbs were quickened with mercury, I should never be able to
overtake them. But what are all these when weighed against love - - "

Flushed and palpitating, Nelly finds strength to interrupt him.

"Mr. Temple, I must not listen to you. I am not ignorant of the reason
why your aunt sent you away - for you _were_ sent, you know!" she adds,
somewhat saucily.

"Oh, yes, I know I was sent away. I am sure I did not want to go."

"Twice to-day Lady Temple has spoken seriously to me - I leave you to
guess upon what subject. Mr. Temple, you know what my position is. I
am a dependent, without parents, without friends, without money.
Sometimes when I look into the future, and think of what would become
of me if I were thrown upon the world, I tremble with fear."

"And yet you have a strong will of your own," he mutters, not in the
most amiable tone; but in another instant he relapses into his lighter

There is a moment's hesitation on her part, as though her strong will
were about to desert her; but she, also, succeeds in controlling

"No, I am weak, very, very weak; but for my own sake I must strive to
be strong. And now I will leave you, please. No; do not walk with me
to the house. We shall be seen, and the servants will talk."

"Let them talk!" he cries impetuously.

She looks him steadily in the face.

"If they do, Mr. Temple, who will suffer - you or I?"

"You don't understand me, Nelly - nay, I _will_ call you Nelly when no
one is by to hear! - I will answer for their discretion; but indeed and
indeed, we shall not be seen!"

While he speaks, she is walking towards the house, and he is by her
side. After them, through the path where the shadows lie, steals the
gardener's son, quivering with excitement. If he could but hear what
these two were saying to each other! He loves Nelly Marston with all
the strength of his nature. He not only loves her; he respects her.
The very ground she walks upon is sacred in his eyes. Until lately he
had fed hopefully upon small crumbs of comfort which the girl,
wittingly or unwittingly, had given him. Nelly had spoken pleasantly
to him; Nelly had smiled upon him as she tripped past him; Nelly wore
a flower he gave her. But he had never found the courage to open his
heart to her, she being in his estimation so far above him, and now he
fears that a rival has stepped in, and that what he yearns for with
all his soul is slipping from him.

"Mr. Temple," says Nelly, when they are near the house, "you said just
now that you were starving of hunger. You had best bribe one of the
servants, and get something to eat. Then I should advise you to quit
Springfield, and not return till you are sent for."

"Should you!" he replies, defiantly and yet beseechingly. "Advice is a
cheap gift. _You_ would not send for me, I warrant."

"By what right should I?"

"Hungry for food I am," he says, "but I have another kind of hunger
upon me which makes me regardless of that."

"Indeed!" she exclaims, with a pretty gesture of surprise.

"Nelly, you are merciless. You see that I am starving of love for you,
and you systematically - - "

She stays to hear no more, and gliding from him, passes into the
house. But he, stung by her avoidance of him, steps swiftly after her,
and before she is aware of his presence, stands with her in the sick
chamber, where Lady Temple lies sleeping.

Within this man is working the instinct of our common nature. The more
difficult to win becomes the prize - without question of its worth: the
measure of difficulty gauges that - the more ardent is he in its
pursuit, and the greater value it assumes. And being piqued in this
instance, all the forces of his intellect come to his aid.

And Nelly? Well, loving him already, she loves him the more because of
his persistence, and because of the value he by his recklessness
appears to place upon her.

"O Mr. Temple," she whispers, deeply agitated, "how can you so
compromise me? Go, for Heaven's sake, before she wakes!'

"On one condition," he answers, lowering his voice to the pitch of
hers; "that you meet me by the brook in an hour from this."

"Anything - anything! - but go!"

"You promise, then?"

"Yes, yes - I promise."

He is about to seal the promise, she being at his mercy, when Lady
Temple moves restlessly, and opens her eyes. He has barely time to
slip behind the curtains at the head of the bed before the sick lady

"Is that you, Miss Marston?"

"Yes, Lady Temple."

"I thought I heard voices!"

"I have this moment come in."

"I went to sleep without taking my medicine, Miss Marston. Why did you
let me go to sleep without it?"

"You fell asleep suddenly, Lady Temple, and I thought it best not to
wake you."

"Give it to me now."

Nelly takes a bottle from a table at the head of the bed, pours out
the medicine, and gives it to the sick lady. As she replaces the
bottle, Mr. Temple, with unthinking and cruel audacity, seizes her
hand, and kisses it. Lady Temple, with the medicine at her lips does
not drink, but gazes suspiciously at Nelly, who cannot keep the colour
from her cheeks.

"What sound is that?" asks Lady Temple. "What makes your face so red,
Miss Marston?"

Nelly busies herself - her hand being released - about the pillows, and

"You should not gaze at me so strangely. You are full of fancies
to-night, Lady Temple."

"Maybe, maybe. Hold up the candle, so that I may see the room - higher,

Her inquisitive eyes peer before her, but she sees nothing to verify
her suspicions, Mr. Temple being safely concealed behind the curtains.

"That will do, Miss Marston. Put down the candle - the glare hurts my
eyes. Full of fancies!" she murmurs. "It is true I see shadows; I hear
voices: I am not certain at times whether I am awake or asleep. But
what I said to you to-day," she exclaims in a louder tone, "is no
fancy, Miss Marston."

"There is no occasion for you to repeat it, Lady Temple."

"I am the best judge of that, Miss Marston, and I do not intend to be
misunderstood. I tell you now, plainly, that I sent my nephew away
because I saw what was going on between you."

"Lady Temple!" cries Nelly indignantly.

"You must not agitate me, Miss Marston. Oblige me by holding this
glass while I speak. If you wish to leave the house, you may do so."

"It is so generous and good of you to threaten me!" says the girl
scornfully; "knowing my position. If I had any shelter but this, I
would not stop with you another day."

"You are only showing your ingratitude, Miss Marston, I do not
threaten you, and I will not be contradicted. I promised your mother
before she died that you should have a home here while I live, and I
will not turn you away. If you go, you go of your own accord. I tell
you again I know perfectly well what is stirring within that busy head
of yours. You are like your mother, no better, and no worse, and I
knew her well enough; never content, never content unless every man
she saw was at her feet."

"And yet," says Nelly more quietly, "you have spoken slightingly of
her more than once because she sacrificed herself, as you term it, for

"Yes, she was caught at last, and was punished."

"It was a happy punishment, then. She would not have changed her lot
with yours, Lady Temple."

"She was punished, I tell you. As you will be, if you do not take
care. You will live to prove it, if you are not mindful of yourself.
You have a pretty face - psha! we are women and no one but ourselves
hears what I say. I had a pretty face once, and I knew its power, and
used it as you wish to do. But not with my nephew, Miss Marston, mark
that! You have all the world to choose from, with the exception of my
nephew. And you fancy you know him, I have no doubt - simpleton! You
know as much as a baby of the world and of men of the world. Take an
old woman's counsel - marry in your own station - - "

"My mother was a lady," interrupts Nelly, with a curl of her lip, "and
I am one."

"Pooh! Nonsense! You have no money. You are a poor girl, and no
lady - as ladies go," she adds unconsciously uttering a truism in her
attempt to soften the effect of her words. "There's the gardener's
son. You can't do better than marry him. His father has been all his

Online LibraryB. L. (Benjamin Leopold) FarjeonThe Duchess of Rosemary Lane → online text (page 1 of 24)