Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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London :

A. and G. A. Spottiswoode,







' Pitch tliy behaviour low; thy projects high." — George Herbert.




i Tin; Author of this work notifies t/iat she reserves the right of
translating it. ]


'.ml <;. A. Spottiswoode,
Ni w -street-Square.





It was not till Katharine found herself in the
fly, driving over to Maplestead, at nearly ten
o'clock at night, to intrude herself, as it were, into
Colonel Forbes' household, that she fully felt what
she was doing, and realised that the step she had
taken might be considered a liberty. In her affection
for Jane, and her intense anxiety, she had put aside
every consideration but that of usefulness, and
neither her mother nor Mr. Fowler had suggested
any tangible objection to her plan, both taking it
for granted that she, who was so intimate with Mrs.
Forbes, must be equally welcome to her husband.
But Katharine knew well that this was not the
case. There are few things we learn more quickly
than the fact of not being cordially liked. It is
almost an instinct; and Katharine had seen enough
of Colonel Forbes to understand the little changes
in his manner to different persons. For some
reason or other she was sure that neither she nor
any of her relations possessed his hearty good-will,
and how then would he feel when she presented her-
self to him, uncalled for, and forced him to be under
an obligation to her? The thought made her very
uneasy. It was too late to go back, or she might
have been tempted to do so; she could only satisfy
herself by insisting upon Mr. Fowler's going to

5- Q Q *^Q


Colonel Forbes to sound him as to his possible
objections before she saw him. If he put aside
the idea of having any one but a regular nurse, or
seemed annoyed at the mention of her name, Mr.
Fowler was not even to say that she was there,
but to allow her to go back to Rilworth in the same
fly which had brougbt them over. The precaution
seemed very unnecessary to Mr. Fowler, who had
but one idea in his head, that of finding a nurse for
the time being; but when Katharine said it must
be, he bad no reason to object, and the matter being
thus settled, both threw themselves back in the
carriage, and relapsed into silence during the re-
mainder of their short drive to Maplestead.

" The Colonel will think I have gone off com-
fortably to-bed, and forgotten him ; " said Mr.
Fowler, taking out his watch, as they stopped at
the lodge-gate, and making the old woman who
opened it hold up her lamp, that he might see the
time. " A quarter-past ten, I declare. Any news
from the house, granny ? " he added, addressing the
woman. — " None that I've heard of, sir, except
that the great London doctor be come." — " Pshaw !
drive on ;" and Mr. Fowler put his head out of
the window to look at the lights in the house. It
struck Katharine forcibly that he was very anxious,
much more anxious than he had said, yet she could
not make up her mind to ask him ; and he might not
have acknowledged it if she had ; medical men are
always very cautious. He jumped out of the fly
as soon as it stopped, and seemed as if he could
scarcely wait with ordinary patience till the door
was opened. " Has your mistress had any sleep?"
was his first question to the footman. " Yes, sir, for
more than an hour." — "Good." He went back to
Katharine: "You had better come in at once, it
will be much the shortest way." — " No, indeed; I


assure you I know best ; and remember you don't
say a word of my being bere till you bave sounded
the matter." It was not tbe moment to dispute the
point, and Mr. Fowler went in. " Won't you get
out, ma'am?" said the footman, coming up to the car-
riage, and supposing that Katharine was tbe nurse.
— " No, thank you, I will wait here for Mr. Fowler.
Please shut the door." The man obeyed, thinking it
rather odd ; and Katharine sat back in the carriage
to avoid observation, and listened for sounds in the
house — the shutting of doors, the murmur of voices,
and especially the return of Mr. Fowler's footsteps.
She tried to be patient and to tbink that it was
quite natural be should stay so long, but she could
not help feeling uneasy. She had not seriously con-
templated the possibility of being obliged to go back,
it was only a kind of necessary precaution which
made her send Mr. Fowler before her ; but now she
began to trouble herself with all kinds of fancies,
especially the fear that Colonel Forbes would be so
seriously annoyed as to put a stop to her seeing any
more of Jane for the future. She was inclined to be
unreasonable, as anxious people generally are ; but
she was put out of her suspense at last. Mr. Fowler
came back alone. Katharine caught a glimpse of
his face by the lamp in the hall ; and saw he looked
much discomposed. " There, come in," he muttered,
in an angry tone, letting down the steps of the fly
himself. " See if I put myself out of my way for
any one again in a hurry. The Colonel shall hire
a nurse himself next time." — " But does he not like
my coming ? Are you quite sure I ought ? " said Ka-
tharine, drawing back. Mr. Fowler made no reply,
except by holding out his hand to help her out of the
carriage. Two footmen were in the hall, who stared
at her rather unceremoniously, and did not seem to
know at all what they were to do with her. Katha-

B 2


rine sat down, whilst Mr. Fowler went up to one of
the men, and bepran talking to him in an under voice.
She grew more and more annoyed. Colonel Forbes
ought certainly, she felt, to have had the civility to
come and speak to her. If it had not been for Jane
she would have been tempted to return even then,
but the thought cf her overpowered everything ;
"Perhaps you will come this way into the house-
keeper's room," said one of the servants, speaking
civilly, and opening a door for her to pass. Katha-
rine looked entreatingly at Mr. Fowler — she wanted
very much to be told what Colonel Forbes had said;
— but Mr. Fowler was buttoning up his great-coat,
preparatory, as it seemed, to his return to Rilworth.
Katharine went back to him, and asked him what
she was to do. " What you are told, I suppose,"
was his reply ; " you need not ask me, you are
under Dr. Lowe now." — " But won't you stay, won't
you introduce me to Dr. Lowe, and just tell him who
I am?" said Katharine. — "Not I, trust me; if he
takes it all upon himself, he shall have it his own
way, lean tell him. Good night. I suppose we shall
see you back at Rilworth some time to-morrow ? "
He hurried from her before she had time to ask
another question, and the fly drove off.

Katharine stood for a moment irresolute and con-
fused ; but the footman was still holding the door
open for her, and there was nothing to be done but
to follow where he led the way — to the house-
keeper's room. It was empty, but a cheerful, bright
fire was blazing in it. " The housekeeper is ill, I
am sorry to hear," observed Katharine, thinking it
necessary to make some remark to her attendant. —
" Yes, Miss, she has kept her bed these three days
with a bad cold on the chest." lie was going away
as Katharine sat down by the fire; but she detained
him with another question: "Is Dr. Lowe at


liberty? I should very much like to see him." — " I
can't say, miss. I will inquire." And Katharine
was left alone.

It was a feeling of despair at her uncomfortable
position which had made her ask for Dr. Lowe.
She was not at all certain what it would be right
to say to him when he came. How differently she
was treated now to what she would have been if
Jane could have had any idea that she was there !
Katharine was obliged to remember this, to remind
herself that there was no lady at the head of affairs
just then, and that men were often awkward and
seemingly forgetful without meaning to be so, in
order to be in any way patient. She made up her
mind at last to be brave — not to care what was
said or done to her, but to think only of what she
could say and do for other people ; and, as a preli-
minary step, not to be shy with Dr. Lowe, but tell
him why she was come, and ask him to make her
useful. — A heavy tread along the passage, rather
firm and stately too — Katharine hoped that Dr.
Lowe would not behave in a cold or abrupt manner,
and frighten her, or she should not be able to ex-
plain her meaning. Her heart beat quite fast when
the door opened ; it stopped for a second from a
feeling which was nearly akin to fear, when she
saw Colonel Forbes.

His face w r as grave, but not anxious, at least so
Katharine interpreted its expression ; and he came
up to her and shook hands, and said she had
taken a great deal of trouble so late at night ; but
there was an indescribable most painful coldness
of manner, which froze every idea that Katharine
might previously have possessed. " Mrs. Forbes
will be much obliged, I am sure," he added, as if he
were making a great effort to be civil. " We hope
to-morrow to have a regular nurse ; and to-night

B 3


we could have managed. I really regret that you
should have troubled yourself." — " I Avas told that
the housekeeper was ill," said Katharine, in an
apologetic tone, " and Mr. Fowler thought the
lady's maid inexperienced." — An under smile of
satire, and perhaps annoyance, played round Colonel
Forbes' mouth : " Mr. Fowler is very good ; he
makes himself a little too anxious, as country
doctors very often do. They have not so much
practice as London physicians, and of course do
not understand symptoms in the same way. Dr.
Lowe assures me that the attack will soon go off,
and all we shall require will be care." — " Then
perhaps I can be of no use," said Katharine, a little
proudly. — " Oh ! no, indeed, I could not on any ac-
count take upon myself to say that. No doubt, as
you are so kindly anxious, Dr. Lowe will find some
work for you ; unless, which perhaps I should
recommend after your drive, you may think it
better to have some tea and go to-bed. I will give
the servants orders to wait upon you. You will
excuse my remaining any longer myself. I must
go and see whether I am wanted. Good night ! "
And he shook hands again. Poor Katharine ! how
heartily she wished herself back again in her own
home ; and what an earnest resolution she made
never again to obtrude her services where she was
not perfectly certain they were needed !

But Colonel Forbes was no sooner gone than
another visitor appeared in the housekeeper's room,
and the current of Katharine's ideas was completely
changed. A liasty, determined knock at the door
was immediately followed by the entrance of Dr.
Lowe, a quick-eyed, quick-mannered, yet cordial
and kind-hearted individual, who seemed to under-
stand Katharine and all her concerns by intuition ;
and assured her twice in one breath that he was


very glad she was come, very glad indeed — the
case required great care. His good friend Colonel
Forbes had been perhaps a little too much alarmed ;
a little— but there must be a great deal of watch-
fulness still. " And I may sit up to-night then ?"
said Katharine, much relieved. — " To-night, and
to-morrow night, and as many nights as you please,
only don't knock yourself up. There will be work
enough for a good while to come," he added, speak-
ing more to himself. "Now, are you ready ?" And
before Katharine had time to answer, he led the
way upstairs. Katharine expected to find Colonel
Forbes in his wife's room ; but Jane's only attendant
was one of the housemaids. There were signs, how-
ever, of Colonel Forbes' having been there ; for an
open book and a paper-knife were lying in the
great arm-chair, and it was to be supposed there-
fore that he meant to return. Katharine, how-
ever, did not think about that ; she had neither eye
nor thought for anything but Jane's pale, suffering
face, of which she caught a glimpse as she entered
the room. Dr. Lowe motioned to her to keep at a
distance, and then he went up to the bed, and said,
" We have brought you an old friend, Mrs. Forbes,
I hope you will be glad to see her." Jane looked
up at him with an expression of face which showed
that she only half-comprehended his meaning ; but
when he added " Miss Ashton,"a gleam of pleasure
lightened up her face, and her eye glanced rapidly
round the room. Katharine sat down by her, and
took off her bonnet, and said she was going to
stay; and Jane seemed satisfied then, and sank
back into the same almost torpid state. Yet she
was still conscious who was near, for when
Katharine moved again, wishing to go into the
next room, and receive her instructions for the
night from Dr. Lowe, Jane was disturbed, and

b 4


put out her band to stop her, and was only quieted
by the assurance, twice given, that she would re-
turn immediately. The directions were very
simple, merely to give medicine at certain hours,
and to call Dr. Lowe if the pain returned. There
Avas no fear, it seemed, of anything like imme-
diate danger, though there was a necessity for
great care. Dr. Lowe gave all necessary instruc-
tions in his own peculiar department ; the house-
maid gave all requisite information in every other ;
Katharine was provided with wine and biscuits
in case of needing them herself, r.nd then both
the physician and the servant wished her good
night, and left her.

No one said anything about Colonel Forbes — no
one suggested whether he would or would not re-
turn. His ways were evidently a mystery not to
be inquired into.

Katharine took possession of the seat opposite to
the empty arm-chair, which she did not liketo occupy,
though it had rather a ghastly look, it was so like
Colonel Forbes himself; and if she had not been
expecting him to enter, she would probably have
fallen into a reverie. There was some excitement
in the novelty of her position, and she was not as
anxious as she had thought she should be. Dr. Lowe's
manner had inspired her with hope and confidence.
She. did not think that anything startling or ter-
rible was going to happen then, and yet she did
feel as if in some way she had turned over a new
and important page of the volume of her earthly
life. Her thoughts wandered back to her first
acquaintance with Jane, — the first time that she
had ever heard of her. That had been at Miss
Richardson's, when a rumour reached the school
that a new young lady was coming amongst them.
Katharine could remember Jane's introduction:


the shy, timid glance — the words spoken so low
they could scarcely be heard— the frightened look
of appeal to Miss Richardson's protection, when one
or two of the elder girls made careless personal
observations about her. How little she could have
imagined then that the most powerful influence to
be exercised over her in life was to proceed from
one so shrinking and humble ! Yet so it was ;
Jane's earnestness had awakened Katharine's, and
the effects of that awakening were to be felt in life,
in death, and beyond death in eternity !

And yet in the eyes of the world there were such
barriers between them ! That was the greatest
wonder of all. Katharine looked at the luxurious
chamber in which Jane was lying, and it brought
back in strong contrast the absence of riches and
refinements in her own home ; and she thought of the
polished society in which Jane moved, and felt her-
self admitted more by sufferance than courtesy
into the privacy of her family, since Colonel Forbes
looked down upon her, and his friends would, for
the most part, have thought it beneath them to
notice her ; and yet she could not but feel that Jane
and herself were in heart one. They had been so
in childhood, they were so still ; how was it?

She took up Jane's Bible, which was lying on the
table. It happened to open at St. Paul's epistle to
Philemon, and she read it through ; not with any
particular intention, but because it had first pre-
sented itself; yet it had a special meaning to her at
that time. Onesimus, she had been told, was a
runaway slave, St. Paul was a gentleman by birth
and education; yet was Onesimus to be received
"not now as a servant, but above a servant, a
brother beloved;" a brother, because born to the
same inheritance, and working, though still a ser-
vant in the eyes of man, for the same glorious cause.


If such was Christianity in its early times, such also
must Christianity be still. But the lesson then
principally inculcated by fellowship in suffering
must, in a different state of society, be taught
by fellowship in work. When Jane Sinclair and
Katharine Ashton joined in the same work, they
were unconsciously, yet most firmly, cementing the
tie which the habits of the world would otherwise,
in all probability, have utterly severed. Katharine
wa3 willing to work still, either with Jane or for
her ; they had mutual interests, and it mattered
little what form the service assumed, only that it
was happiness to her to feel that she could be a
comfort to one whom she so truly loved. It was
tliis feeling which gave her self-respect and self-
command. Outward deference to those above her
in society was accorded by her freely; for, although
belonging to things of this world, it was an ob-
ligation rendered sacred by the ordering of God's
Providence, but it could never cause any sense of
humiliation. How could a difference of worldly
rank touch one whose aim was a crown in Heaven?
Not that Katharine could enjoy this feeling of
ease at all times. "Worldly people above her in
rank often made her uncomfortable. She did not
know by what standard they would judge her, and
she was afraid, therefore, of jarring upon them, or
shocking their prejudices. Whatever she said or
did, when with Jane, would she knew be thoroughly
understood ; but it was not so with Colonel Forbes.
It was this doubt which was the great drawback to
the satisfaction she might otherwise have felt in
being now permitted to be of use to Jane in her
illness. Colonel Forbes might, probably he did,
think it an intrusion ; his manner had certainly
been as cold as if she had really taken a great liberty.
Katharine could not feel at all happy in her mind


when she thought he would return to occupy the
great arm-chair; hut the minutes wore away, and
still he did not appear ; and then a new fear took
possession of her ; that he was annoyed at her heing
there, and therefore was absent on purpose. This
was worse even than the other; and she now ex-
pected him as anxiously as before she had dreaded
his coming.

Jane was lying very quiet all this time, as Dr.
Lowe had said she probably would do, from the
effect of opiates ; and Katharine, hoping that she
might be really sleeping, scarcely dared to move for
fear of rousing her. But a sudden opening of the
door did what she had been so much striving to
prevent. Jane started up and asked in a frightened
voice who was there. — Katharine was at her bed-
side in a moment. " Only Colonel Forbes ; he did
not know you were asleep." — " Oh ! " Jane did
not smile, and her head fell back on her pillow.
Colonel Forbes went to the fireplace and made a
sign to Katharine that he wished to speak with her.
He looked disconcerted with himself, and inquired
in a whi.-per if Mrs. Forbes had been asleep long.
"Some time, I hope, sir," replied Katharine; "but
I can't quite say. She has not moved till just this
minute.". She did not mean to reproach him for
want of thought; but it seemed that he so understood
her words, for he said petulantly, " That noisy door
ought to be oiled. I must speak about it to-mor-
row. You say she has had a quiet sleep." — " She
has been lying quiet, sir ; I don't know whether she
has been asleep." — " Please don't whisper," said
Jane, raising her faint voice as loudly as she could.
Colonel Forbes turned abruptly away from Katha-
rine and went up to his wife : " My dear, it is im-
possible not to whisper in a sick room. Let me see
how you are, let me feel your pulse." He laid his


fingers on her wrist, took out his watch, and,
moving the night-lamp, without seeing that the light
came full upon Jane's face, counted the pulsa-
tions most carefully. " A weak pulse, not so
quick though, by a good deal. Dr. Lowe says we
shall have you better by ten degrees after a night's
rest." — " I hope so," said Jane, perhaps a little de-
spondingly. — "You must keep up your spirits, my
love ; it does not do to look on the dark side of
things. Miss Ashton will tell you that." Katha-
rine, pleased at hearing her name mentioned,
thought she might draw nearer, and she came rather
more within view of Jane. " It is very kind of
Katharine, isn't it ?" said Jane, trying to move, so
that she might see her. — " Very kind indeed, my
love. Pray keep still, nothing can be w^orse for you
than moving about. As Miss Ashton is here I don't
think I shall sit up, she will be a better nurse than
I could be. There is nothing more that I can do
for you, is there?" — "Nothing, thank you, dear
Philip,— only kiss me." He bent down and kissed
her, and Jane kept his hand still in her feeble grasp,
and Katharine half heard the words : " You are not
angry with me now, Philip?" and being certain
that they were not intended for her, moved away.
Colonel Forbes' reply was very short. Katharine
thought she heard a sigh afterwards. He came up
to the fireplace once more, and took up the book
and the paper-knife which were lying in the arm-
chair. " You have everything you require, I hope,
Miss Ashton ? I shall be in the next room if I am
wanted. Good night." A polite bow was answered
by a curtsey from Katharine. She could scarcely
avoid smiling at the hesitation he had about shaking
hands with her.

"Don't you think you shall go to sleep again,
dear Mrs. Forbes?" said Katharine, as she drew


the curtain, so as again to shade Jane's face from
the night-lamp. Jane moved her hand as a sign
that Katharine was to come and sit down by her.
She did not look at all sleepy, though her eyes were
dim, as if tears had lately gathered in them. " It
is so kind! Katharine," she said; "and would you
come again if I were very ill ? " — " Yes, of course,
in a moment ; at any moment ; you might always
depend upon me." — " I don't think I am very ill to-
night," continued Jane. " I was last night — I may
be again." She paused, as if trying to collect her
strength for the next words, and then added, " Ka-
tharine, if I am not very careful I shall have a heart
complaint." She fixed her eyes upon Katharine's
anxious face, but there was no change in it, and
Katharine only said, " Then we must take the
greatest care of you — every one will, you may be
sure." — " Philip does not know it," continued Jane
in a lighter tone. Dr. Lowe will tell him before he
goes, and I may live many years, and I may not

die from that ; only " " One cannot forget such

a possibility," said Katharine. Her voice had a
choking sound, which Jane noticed. " It is not
meant we should forget it," she said, taking Katha-
rine's hand fondly ; " not that it really makes any
difference, we are all under sentence of death ; but
I suppose one can't help feeling differently when
there is a certain danger. Yet it is not my greatest
danger, Katharine," she continued ; " I made Dr.
Lowe tell me all, for I have long had suspicions.
He says I may live to old age if nothing should ag-
gravate the evil at present existing ; but I have
been out of health generally for a long time, and
what would be slight illnesses for others will be
great ones for me. It has been so now." — " Colonel
Forbes will be so careful of you when he knows
the truth," said Katharine, uttering, however, more


her wishes than her convictions, " that you will
be in less danger, humanly speaking, than you
have been."—" Yes." A doubtful " yes," followed
by a pause. " But, Katharine, if I were very
ill at any time, would you really come to me ? "
Her voice was pleading in its earnestness, and Ka-
tharine replied instantly and eagerly, "From the

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellKatharine Ashton (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 32)