Lucy Ellen Guernsey.

The Foster-Sisters : or, Lucy Corbet's chronicle online

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" She is a violent Jacobite."

" Aye, I daresay she would like well enough to
go to Edinbro' herself. How does my niece Debo-
rah like such a partisan to her cause ? "

" Not very well, aunt, I can't but fancy her*zeal
for the prince has cooled a good deal, since my lady
came to the Hall."

" She should remember that loyalty, like poverty,
makes us acquainted with strange bed-fellows!"
eaid the old lady smiling. " Well, bairn, you are
safe for the present, and the future is in better
hands than ours."




CHAPTER XXY.

THE DOCTOR FROM NEWCASTLE.

|ADY Thornyhaugh turned out a true
prophet. Amabel slept long and heavily,
and when she waked she was unable to
rise! The old lady came up to see her, and pro-
nounced at once that she was in for some sort of
fever.

The disease did not seem very violent at first.
Amabel was wandering at times, but she always
knew my voice and was as docile as a child. She
had bad nights and slept a good deal in the day-
time. She had no appetite, and would take nothing
but tea, to the great annoyance of Mrs. Alice, who
held tea to be a new-fangled poison ; and ranked it
with a broken covenant, a toleration of sectaries,
and all the other crying evils of the time. All the
vils then existing in the kingdoms were attributed
by her to one of two causes a broken covenant,
and the iniquitous union between England and Scot-
land. I cannot say I have to this day a very clear
notion of this same covenant, though I heard of it.
till I wished either that it had not been made at all,
or that it had been broken more effectually and
blown out of remembrance.

(499)



500 The Foster-Sisters.

But, day by day, Amabel grew more feeble and
wasted, till at last she could not raise her head from
the pillow, or her hand to her head. One day she
called me to her bed-side

" Lucy ! " said she in a whisper : " I am going
to die."

I could not contradict her. I believed it too,
though I dared not dwell on the thought for a
moment.

" I know my aunt and Mrs. Alice think so ! " she
continued. " I should be content, Lucy, only for
you. My life has not been long, but I have learned
that this world is a sad place for motherless girls."

" You must not talk, my dearest, you will exhaust
yourself ! " was all I could say.

" It will not hurt her ! " said Lady Thornyhaugh,
in a whisper from behind the curtain. " Let her
say her say and ease her mind."

" I am ready to go ! " repeated Amabel : " but
Oh, Lucy ! I want to see my father and Walter. I
want to see my father once more to tell him to
warn him "

Her voice failed for a moment. I gave her a lit-
tle wine and she went on

" Lucy, if I never see him again, tell him that I
could not help acting as I did. If he ever feels
sorry, tell him that I forgive him where there is
anything to forgive. And tell Walter I always
loved him; tell him to go on as he is doing. We
shall meet again."

S{\e could say no more, and for some hours we



The Doctor from Neivcastle. 501

thought she would never speak again. The doctor,
a sensible man, gave as very little hope.

" The disease is mostly of the mind, but it is
wearing out the body ! " said he : " If she could be
thoroughly roused and the current of her thoughts
changed, it would give her the best chance."

Lady Thornyhaugh followed the doctor from the
room, and had a somewhat lengthened conference
with him, in the course of which I was surprised to
hear the doctor laugh.

" The very thing, madam ! " I heard him say :
" I would go for him myself, if I could leave my
patients."

" Who would the doctor go for ? " I asked, when
Lady Thornyhaugh came back.

" Another doctor! " said she: "I have sent off
an express for him. I have also sent for her father,
but I doubt the messenger finding him. Take com-
fort, bairn, the case is not desperate. In the multi-
tude of counselors there is safety, and I have known
muckle good come from a change of doctors. But
don't say a word to Amabel if she rouses up."

The days went on to three or four, and still Ama-
bel seemed to grow weaker. She lay most of the
time in a sort of trance, now and then rousing to
take a spoonful of tea or milk. I read to her from
the Bible and Prayer-Book, and the look of her face
seemed to show that she heard and liked the words,
and sometimes I sung softly, " Jesus, Lover of my
Soul ! " and others of Mr. Wesley's hymns. I was
thus engaged one day, when I heard the trampling



502 The Foster-Sisters.

of horses' 1 feet, and the usual noises of a traveler's
arrival. Amabel opened her eyes.

" Lucy, he is come ! " she whispered.

" Who has come, dearest ! " I asked, rejoicing to
hear the voice I almost thought I should never hear
again.

" My father ! I heard his voice. He will be in
time. Let him come up ! Go and bring him."

I stopped a few minutes in my own room to com-
pose myself, for the very thought of meeting Sir
Julius roused such a tempest of indignation in my
oreast that I could hardly breathe. When I went
down to the sitting-room, I found Sir Julius walking
up and down the room, evidently overwhelmed with
grief and embarrassment, while my lady seated in
her great chair was laying down the law to him,
and Mrs. Alice behind her stood regarding him as
though he were the breaker of the covenant, the
author of the union, and the gypsy who stole her
ducks, all rolled into one.

" But you must allow, aunt, that I had a right to
bestow my daughter in marriage according to my
own will ! " said he, making a feeble effort to justify
himself.

" I allow no such thing, nephew. You had no
right to make your child miserable, by giving her to
a bad man and one that she detested. You know
this Bulmer to be a bad man ! "

" Well, he was a friend to my lady, and she was
set on the match."

" And you let her rule you ! And you allow this



The Doctor from Newcastle. 503

same friend of hers to stay at your house in your
absence and give orders to your servants and shut
your daughter up in her own room and half starve
her, while you are sent away on a wild-goose chase
and made the scorn of the whole country."

Sir Julius turned red and white, and seemed not
to know what to say.

"Well, Lucy Corbet, what is it?" said Lady
Thornyhaugh, turning to me.

"Amabel is awake, madam!" said I. I could
not bring myself to speak to Sir Julius. " She
knows her father is here, and desires to see him,
and I do not think there is any time to be lost."

" She is not so bad as that, surely ! " said Sir
Julius, turning pale.

u She is at death's door ! " was the answer. " I
have sent for another doctor from Newcastle. If
he fails, all hope is over."

Amabel did, indeed, look like a body from which
the breath had departed, as we entered the room.
She smiled faintly as her father kissed her, but did
not try to speak. I gave her a little wine and she
opened her eyes and fixed them on Sir Julius with a
look which must have gone to his heart, it was so
full of love and of sorrow.

"Daughter, don't you know me?" said he, al-
most choked with grief, yet striving to command
himself. " Speak to me, my love ! Do you not
know me ? "

She made a faint sign of assent, and pressed his
hand, but she could not speak.



504 The Foster-Sisters.

"Oh, my child, my dear dutiful child, whom I
have left to be murdered ! " exclaimed the poor
man, now really cut to the heart, " only live and you
shall never be troubled about this matter again."

She smiled again, and made an effort to speak,
but in vain. Her eyes closed, and it seemed as
though every faint breath must be the last. As we
stood round her, sounds below announced the arri-
val of another guest.

"The doctor from Newcastle, but I doubt he
comes too late," whispered the old lady. She left
the room as she spoke.

In a minute a man's hasty foot was heard on the
stairs. Amabel opened her eyes and looked eagerly
toward the door.

"He has come!" she whispered. "Thank God."

The door opened and Mr. Cheriton entered in his
riding gear, just as he had dismounted, and stained
with travel. He went straight to the bed, without
giving so much as a look at any one of us, and took
Amabel in his arms.

" My love, my precious one. Amabel, you MUST
live for me ! No one shall part us, more."

" No, Amabel, no one shall part you more ! " said
Sir Julius, speaking now with real dignity and feel-
ing. " I have been cruel, and I have been misled
by others, but my eyes are opened. Will you not
try to live for your father and for the husband of
jour choice ? "

" I will try ! " said Amabel, speaking more cheer-
ily than she had done for several days. The old



The Doctor from Newcastle. 505

lady made a sign, and we stole out of the room and
left the lovers together.

"Aweel, Lucy Corbet, what think you of my
doctor from Newcastle ? " asked the old lady when
we were in her parlor once more. " Has he not
been worth more than all the bitters and bark for
our patient ? "

"Then you sent for Mr. Cheriton!" said Sir
Julius, rather dubiously.

" I suppose, nephew, I can invite what guests I
please to my own house ! " answered the old lady,
drawing herself up.

"Of course, of course, aunt, you have done the
best thing possible, and just what I should have
proposed, had I been here ! " said Sir Julius. " I
am very much obliged to you."

" It's a pity you had not thought as much before
matters came to this pass ! " muttered the old lady,
who was rather apt to think aloud. " But, however,
all's well that ends well, only remember, nephew,
that you have given your consent to the wedding of
these young ones, and cannot in honor withdraw a
second time."

" I have no wish to withdraw at all ! " returned
Sir Julius, peevishly. " I wonder why every one
takes me for a weak fool with no mind of my own."

" 'Tis a wonder indeed ! " said the old lady gravely.
"But you must have refreshment after your ride.
Alice, will you see if the meal is ready ? "

Before dinner was served Mr. Cheriton came down
stairs, looking pale and worn enough, but very
happy.



The Foster-Sisters.

" She has taken half a cup of broth, and is sleep-
ing quietly!" said he. "I hope the crisis is safely
past, but she is very weak."

"We must try to strengthen her!" said Lady
Thornyhaugh.

" I bring a petition from her to her father ! " con-
tinued Mr. Cheriton. " I trust he will not refuse."

"'Tis a wonder if I do ! " said Sir Julius, giving
Mr. Cheriton his hand with great cordiality.
"What is it?"

It was neither more nor less than that Amabel
and Mr. Cheriton should be married then and there.

" She wishes at least to bear my name, she says,
and that " wife of Walter Cheriton " may be on her
tombstone ! " said the poor young man, his eyes
overflowing in spite of himself. " Surely, Sir, you
will not refuse what may be her last request."

"No, indeed'" replied Sir Julius. "She shall
have her own way in everything, if she will only
try to get well, and after all, once they are married,
there will be no more to be said," he added, speaking
more to himself than to us. Then aloud

" But where to find a clergyman ! "

"A minister is not far to seek!" said Lady
Thornyhaugh. Here is good Mr. Craig, not half a
mile away. I can send man and horse for him at
once if you say so."

" But he is a Presbyterian ! " said Sir Julius rather
perplexed.

" He is the best I can give you, however ! " an-
swered the old lady. , " We have no other kind in



The Doctor from Newcastle. 507

these parts, unless you like to wait till I can send
to Edinbro* for one of your non-juring sort. If you
do not like mice you should not take up your house
with the owl you ken. Mr. Craig has visited your
daughter many times during her illness and she has
found comfort in his prayers. I fancy she will not
object to take her husband at his hands."

" Do not let there be any needless delay ! " said
Mr. Cheriton, earnestly. " Amabel is so weak that
a little agitation may make all the difference in the
world."

" Don't be alarmed ! " said Lady Thornyhaugh.
We will manage the matter. "Nephew, is it your
pleasure that I send for this good man ? "

" Of course ! Send at once ! " replied Sir Julius.
" I only trust that the fatigue of the ceremony may
not be too much for my daughter."

" Never fear ! She will not die from getting her
own way ! " answered Lady Thornyhaugh. " I will
send Alick, directly."

Within an hour, Walter Cheriton and Amabel
Leighton were wedded.

" Thank you, dear father ! " said Amabel, sinking
back, when we had all kissed her.

" Now, I am ready to go ! "

" Hoot, toot, bairn ! You are just ready to stay ! "
said the old lady. " Would you go and leave your
good man so soon, after you have had all this fash
to get him ? Go down now all of you, and leave
this child to Alice and me for awhile. She will be
the better of rest and quie,t, and you will be muckle
the better of your dinners."



508 The Foster-Sisters.

" But I fear I must return to Edinburgh, to-night,
aunt ! " said Sir Julius, hesitating."

" You will do nothing of the kind ! " said Lady
Thornyhaugh, positively. " Would you leave the
bairn before she is able to talk five minutes with
you ? Na, na ! Your place is here just now. Yon
lad at Edinbro' can want you well enough, and
maybe you will think better of it and go home."

I do not think the prospect of going home was
very enticing to Sir Julius, after all that had hap-
pened, but he readily agreed to stay a few days till
it should be seen what turn Amabel would take.
Now that the thing was done, I believe he was
glad to have her made happy in her own way. He
was not altogether a bad man. He might even
have been a good one if he had always lived with
good people. The trouble was that he had abso-
lutely no mind of his own.

The next day Amabel was decidedly better, and
on the third she was able to sit up. Sir Julius be-
gan to talk of returning to Edinburgh, though, as I
thought, not with any particular enthusiasm, when
news arrived which changed all his plans. Old
Robert came riding posthaste with letters from Mrs.
Deborah, and startling letters they were. The Hall
had taken fire a few days after we left it and was
almost entirely destroyed. No one had been hurt,
but my lady had disappeared, and it was believed
that she had perished in the flames.



CHAPTER XXVI.




THE END.

IRS. DEBORAH'S letters contained a de-
tailed account of the catastrophe.

"Wilson, who has been here since the
fire, says that her lady was like a distracted
woman when she missed her step-daughter and dis-
covered that she was nowhere concealed in the house.
No one could imagine how she had escaped, as there
was no door left unfastened to Amabel's room. Even
when they discovered the door of communication
with the haunted room, they had no thought of her
escaping in that way, as both it and that leading to
the secret stairs were fastened on the other side
and could hardly be broken open. The servants
did not scruple to declare that their young lady had
been spirited away, and they so threatened the
French waiting-woman that she was glad to take
refuge in her mistress' apartment. There had been
a terrible scene between Lord Bulmer and Lady
Leighton when it was at last made certain that
Amabel was neither at Highbeck nor at the Little
House. He accused Lady Leighton of playing him
false and conniving at the young lady's escape, and

(509)



510 The Fjster-Sisters.

she wept and declared her innocence and begged
him to have pity on her ; but he at last flung away
from her, leaving her grovelling on the ground,
mounted his horse and followed by his servants
rode away to Newcastle." This was Wilson's ac-
count. How she gained her knowledge I don't
know, but she was not likely to lack any which
could be got by eavesdropping or peeping through
key-holes. "My lady was very ill for two or three
days, and Wilson waited on her, the other woman
not daring to come in the way of her fellow-serv-
ants. At last Lady Leighton received a letter
which seemed to calm her spirits a little, and she
told Wilson in the evening to go to bed and leave
her, as she felt like having a quiet night. At about
two o'clock, Wilson was awakened by the smoke
and heat, and hurrying down found her lady's room
wrapped in flames. She searched it at the risk of
her life, and at the expense of some terrible burns,
but could find nothing of her mistress. The serv-
ants and such men as were left about the place
worked like heroes, and Mr. Lethbridge specially
distinguished himself by his coolness and daring,
but a high wind was blowing and the flames defied
all their efforts. The servants all escaped except
the French woman, who, like her mistress, could not
be found. No bodies had been discovered, but the
east wing had fallen in, and they might be buried
under the ruins."

"I cannot help thinking there may be another
solution of the matter," Mrs. Deborah wrote in a



The End. 511

private note to me; "but I have never hinted at
such a thing to my brother in the letters I have sent
him, nor have I mentioned it to Wilson, who, poor
creature, is about distracted with grief for her mis-
tress, for whom she risked her life. She rushed into
the building again and again, and Mr. Lethbridge
liardly rescued her just before the walls fell in. The
silver, the family paper-chest, and some few other
things, were saved by Richard and the other men.
A part of the west wing is all that is left of
Highbeck."

There was no more talk of returning to Edinburgh
Sir Julius at once took horse for Northumberland,
accompanied, at Amabel's own desire, by Mr. Cheri-
ton. She was now out of all danger, and gaining
every day. Sir Julius thought of nothing but that
his wife had indeed perished, and no one was so
cruel as to suggest any thing else to him, especially
as, the ruins being explored, the charred remains of
a skeleton were indeed found beneath them. Mr.
Cheriton, who was not quite so certain, made inqui-
ries of his own, but could learn nothing beyond the
fact that Lord Bulmer had gone abroad, intending,
it was said, to remain some years, and taking no one
with him but a young French servant whom he had
hired in London. Sir Julius put his family into the
deepest mourning, and buried the poor remains with
every solemnity. Then, putting all his business into
Mr. Thirlwall's hands, he also went over to Holland,
thinking, I imagine, that he was best out of the
way till the matter of his little journey north was
forgotten.



512 The Foster-Sisters.

Amabel recovered rapidly, and by the time the
snow-drops were in blossom she was able to return
with her husband to Newcastle. They were very
earnest to have me take up my abode with them,
and I consented to make them a visit, though I had
no mind it should be a very long one. I think young
married people are best left to themselves to shake
down together. But I could not refuse to help her
settle in her new home.

We found every thing in the best of order thanks
to the old house-keeper and Mrs. Thorpe and the
house was over-running with the gifts brought in by
Mr. Cheriton's parishioners. Mrs. Thorpe was the
same, and yet not the same. There was an odd sort
of consciousness and shyness about her, especially
when she told me that she had thoughts of giving
up her shop.

"You see I can live well enough without it," said
she, " and I am tired of being at every one's beck
and call."

"And have you met Father Brousseau lately ? "
asked Amabel. "You wrote us last winter that he
had been to see you two or three times."

Mrs. Thorpe blushed like a young girl. "Oh, yes.
Have you not heard ? He has a parish in London,
among the French weavers, where he is doing a great
deal of good."

"I am right glad to hear it," said Amabel. "He
is an excellent man."

" Then, perhaps, you will not be sorry to hear that
he that I in short, we are going to be married !"



The End. 513

said Mrs. Thorpe, smiling, in the midst of her con-
fusion, at our astonishment. "You see he is such a
babe in the woods in respect of English ways, and
needs some one to care for him, and I thought I
could do as much good in that way as any other.
And I always did like the good gentleman ever since
I took care of him when he was so sea-sick coming
over on my brother's vessel."

I saw Amabel nicely settled in her new house, and
then went back to Mrs. Deborah. I tried not to be
selfish, but I must confess I felt rather forlorn.
However, I knew there was no use in repining, and
no sense in it either, seeing that my fate had been
ordered by One wiser than myself, who knew just
what was best for me. So I set to work with all my
might nursing Mrs. Deborah, who was growing very
feeble and helpless from rheumatism, and attending
to the poor folks and teaching in the school, whereby
I got into some trouble with Mr. Lethbridge from
teaching the children one of Mr. Charles Wesley's
hymns. He forgave me afterward, however, and
grew somewhat inconveniently friendly. However,
he got over it, and married a very nice young lady.
I helped Mary Lee prepare her wedding set-out, and
saw her married to Alick, who made her an excellent
husband. I spun a great deal of fine thread, and
made baby-linen for Amabel, whose first child was
named for me. I was quite rich for the time and
place. Sir Julius had directed Mr. Thirlwall to pay
me the rents of the Black Lees, which was in the
hands of an excellent tenant, and I asked no ques-



514 The Foster-Sisters.

tions about the past profits which had gone into Sir
Julius' pockets. Besides, I had a hundred a year
from Mr. Carey. I finished Mrs. Chloe's knitted
quilt, and made one of silk patch-work for Amabel,
which was much admired. I will not say that I was
not somewhat sad and lonely at times, but generally
I was content enough. Amabel was happy as a
woman could well be in this world, with an excellent
husband and lovely, healthy children, and I saw her
two or three times a year. I knew that I was a
great comfort to Mrs. Deborah in her lonely old age,
and that I was useful in the village.

I staid several years with Mrs. Deborah, and laid
her honored head in the grave beside Mrs. Chloe's.
Then, being over five and twenty, and my presence
being needful in Exeter to settle certain business
matters, I made the long journey thither, and staid
with Mr. and Mrs. Carey several months, after
which I came to my present home. It is a very
neat and pretty old house, not large, but convenient
and sunny, in a little valley or coombe opening to
the sea. After I had lived here a year, I put in
practise a plan which had been brewing in my head
for some time. I took into my family five or six
orphan maidens, children of sailors, and with the help
of an excellent worthy woman I made a home for
them; teaching them to read and write, to knit,
spin, and sew, and giving them other learning suita-
ble for their condition, preparing them either for
service or for ruling families of their own. I never
have more than six at one time, and though they



The End. 515

have all sorts of dispositions among them, and are
naughty and troublesome at times like all children,
I have been very happy with them. I have only
one of my original flock left, and she is sister, child,
and servant all in one. I fear that I shall soon lose
her, for Simon Sablot, a fine young man of French
protestant descent, and a ship's carpenter in good
business is looking after her, and I do not think she
is at all averse to him.

Mr. Cheriton in course of time succeeded to the
Carew estate and title, and came to live upon his
lands. This was a great joy to me, as it brought
Amabel once more within my reach. She often
comes to see me, and I have one or other of her
daughters with me for weeks at a time. She has
been a happy woman, though she has had her trou-
bles, particularly in the loss of several of her chil-
dren.

When peace was proclaimed, Walter and Amabel
went abroad and visited our old home in France.
They found the convent quite deserted, save by an
old priest who did duty in the church, and the
court-yard and cemetery so overgrown that they
could hardly find the place where dear Mother Supe-
rior was buried. The community were living and
flourishing in the new house at Fleurs, having re-
ceived several accessions to their numbers. Mother
Prudentia was still superior, and received Amabel
with great affection, though she mourned greatly
over her desertion of the true church. The dear
lady sent me some beautiful lace, and a book of His



516 The Foster- Sisters.

Grace the Archbishop of Cambrais' writings, which



Online LibraryLucy Ellen GuernseyThe Foster-Sisters : or, Lucy Corbet's chronicle → online text (page 30 of 31)