Mrs. Alexander.

Barbara: lady's maid and peeress online

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case any information as to the present state of the property
was required.

It was a solemn function, but not without its touch of the


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Barbara: Lady's Maid and Peeress

grotesque, Constance thought. She felt very sad and hopeless
in passing through the ranks of those who voluntarily fol-
lowed her aunt to the grave that morning. She recognised
Mr. Musgrave and both his sons; even more, she had ex-
changed a glance with Alan, an unutterably sad and tender
glance, and in her heart she then bade him farewell.

But Mr. Sidford was skimming rapidly over the endless
repetitions prefacing the dispositions of the testatrix. First
came the legacies to her servants who had lived the greater
part of their lives in her service ; then a small one in token
of sincere regard to the rector ; next a thousand pounds to
her r Estrange cousin, whereat the old man's face beamed, a
hundred pounds to each executor, a similar sum to " my agent,
Mr. Jonathan Morris." After came the larger bequests : " To
my niece, Constance Elizabeth Morton, the sum of twenty
thousand pounds, always provided that she marries within
six months of my decease the gentleman I designed for her,
whose name I have told to my executors. If she refuses
to comply with this condition, she is to receive a yearly
income of two hundred and fifty pounds, derived from my
Indian railway stock, and the twenty thousand pounds shall
go with the family estates to my successor. To my cousin,

Louisa, wife of John Quentin, Esq., D Street, London,

I give and bequeath the sum of five thousand pounds, now
invested in Great Western shares." The voice continued,
but Constance lost the sense. The attempt to force her into
a marriage, now so detestable, by means of a bribe vexed and
distressed her. She did not wish to think of her aunt save
with gratitude and kindness. As for the pittance of two hun-
dred and fifty pounds, that did not seem to her ignorance a
ac 305

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poor provision. She could make it do but, alas ! it would
not enable her to keep Barbara."

At last the voice ceased, and a pause ensued. Then, to
the surprise of all present, Morris stood up and took off his
spectacles, with which he began to fidget nervously. His
rugged face was very colourless, and his words, in the strong
north country accent which Constance knew so well, came
slowly but steadily. She observed that he gave one deliberate
look full of hatred to Vivian, who was leaning back easily in
an arm-chair, with rather a bored expression, as if the whole
thing was a twice-told tale to him.

"I have something to state/' began Morris, "before this
meeting separates, which concerns more or less all those
present. I have long been burthened with a secret which,
in deference to the wishes of the last Lord Glengarvon, and
from respect and regard to the lady whom we mourn to-day,
I have kept for more than twenty years. It is this. The
late Lord Glengarvon left a legitimate daughter who will
dispute Mr. Vivian's right to the title and estates which have
apparently devolved upon him."

This extraordinary announcement was received in astonished
silence, a look of incredulity creeping over the faces of his
hearers, except that of the London solicitor, whose experi-
ence of surprises was no doubt vast. Vivian simply raised his
eyebrows. "Go on, Mr. Morris," he said, civilly. "I
should like to hear some particulars corroborating this
strange assertion."

"It will be twenty years ago in July next," Morris went
on, "that I was up in London on some business of the late
lord's, — for he was then in considerable difficulties, — and


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having procured him a sum of money which he greatly needed,
he was very pleased. With his usual kindness and condescen-
sion, he asked me to come down and dine with him in a cot-
tage he had for the summer on the river below Richmond.
To my surprise I found a lady established there, — a nice,
quiet woman, — not pretty, but soft and sweet, and sensible in
her way of talking. My lord seemed very happy, and sent
for t his little girl' to show me. I was amazed to see how
fond and proud he seemed of the child. I was a good deal
distressed, knowing he could ill afford such entanglements.
After dinner he said he would tell me the whole story and
prove his complete confidence in me. So he did. First, he
confessed he had married this girl a year before, away in some
East-end church; that she was of very humble origin, but
most respectable ; that her own people thought she had gone
wrong with some ordinary racing man; and now he had
grown so fond of her and the child that he wanted to make
some sort of provision for them with my help."

Morris then went on to describe Lord Glengarvon's reluc-
tance to disturb or disinherit his sister in favour of a daughter
who might be none the happier for the burthen of rank and
riches. At last they contrived to settle a small sum in
Morris's name as trustee for the use of the late baron's
daughter. After this he began to fail in health and spirits,
and constantly spoke to Morris about his uneasiness respecting
the future of his little girl. Morris grew familiar with the
child and the mother, who had many of the superstitions of
her class, and was convinced her baby would be lucky because
she had a large brown mole between her left shoulder and her
neck, and drew Morris's attention to it. A few months be-


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fore Lord Glengarvon died he was at Homburg, from whence
he wrote a long letter to his confidant full of his wife and
child, begging Morris to stand by them, for he felt he had
not much longer to live, and expressing regret for his own
cowardliness in not declaring their true status. He could
not, however, he confessed, brave his sister's anger and dis-
appointment, as her heart was bound up in the honour and
glory of the family. Soon after his return from the Conti-
nent Lord Glengarvon died, rather suddenly at the last, in
his London rooms, away from his unhappy wife. She sur-
vived him between three and four years, during which time
Morris remitted her her small income and went to see her at
intervals ; but she, too, was withdrawn from the troubles of
life, having lived in the strictest seclusion, and never knowing
her husband's rank.

She had no one to whose care she could confide her child
save an elder sister, whom she had not seen since she left her
home. This sister Morris succeeded in bringing to the
dying woman's bedside, and with some difficulty she was per-
suaded to take charge of the child, accepting the poor
mother's assurances of the little creature's legitimacy for
what she considered they were worth, and largely influenced
by the promise of a fair sum for board and lodging and a
situation in London for her husband. This Morris succeeded
in procuring. So the heiress of Glengarvon was brought up
hardly, though respectably, and considered herself fortunate
in having been early taught a good trade. Morris never quite
lost sight of her, though he took care she did not see him.
For a long time he said his conscience pricked him, but so
long as the late baroness lived he would make no sign. Now


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he was determined to tell the whole truth, and leave the
matter in the hands of the present company, who were the
best judges of what was best for the honour of the family.
Morris's statement was shorter and more rigidly restricted to
facts than the above, but to Constance, at least, those facts
seemed overwhelming. The first to break silence was Sidford,
who said, in a dry tone, —

"It is an extraordinary story; but of course it shall be
enquired into. We shall need very strong proof, Mr. Morris,
of such an unexpected claim."

" Pray under what name has this young lady been brought
up, and where is she to be found ?" asked Vivian, quietly.

" She is called Barbara West, and she is in this house."

" Barbara ! ' ' repeated Vivian, with a cynical laugh, — " Bar-
bara, lady's maid and peeress !"


Having unburthened his mind, Morris looked round and
said very deliberately to Vivian, —

" Do you wish to ask me any questions at present ?"

"I certainly do not," said Vivian.

"Nor I," added Mr. Sidford. "But I do ask you to put
the extraordinary statement you have just made on paper, de-
tailing the proofs you have to show, and let us consider how
to deal with the matter."

"I am prepared for this proposal," returned Morris, draw-
ing a long, thick envelope from his black bag and handing it
to Sidford. " I presume you do not require any further ex-
planations touching the leases and general management of the


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property. If so, every one knows where I am to be found,
and I am always at your service. I suppose that, until you
have decided on your line of action, this matter had better be
kept profoundly dark."

"Of course, of course," said the London lawyer, hastily,
whereupon Morris made a rusty sort of bow, and left the
room. Then a moment's silence fell upon all those present, —
but a sigh, a rustle, an undefined expression of relief, passed
through the party assembled. Then Vivian exclaimed, —

" This is an extraordinary turn of affairs, eh?"

"It seems to me like a rather barefaced plot to extract
money," said Sidford.

" Not on Barbara's part, that I am quite sure," cried Con-
stance. "She is perfectly innocent of everything, I am

" You know the young woman, then, Miss Morton?"

" She has been my maid for two years. Such a nice, good

The chain of silence having been loosened, every one talked
together eagerly, — the old squire's voice making itself heard
above every one's, denouncing, in most unparliamentary lan-
guage, the plot, the cunning of that snuffy old blackguard
Morris, and everything connected with that poor, weak fellow,
Glengarvon. Mrs. Quentin rose to leave the room, and Con-
stance followed her example.

" Excuse me," said Mr. Sidford, rising, as did also the other
men. " But before you go, let me entreat that no hint of this
curious revelation passes your lips. Young ladies are some-
times a little too confidential with their favourite maids, and
this should be most carefully avoided."


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Barbara: Lady's Maid and Peeress

" I promise you to keep silence, Mr. Sidford, — more espe-
cially as I should not like to disturb Barbara with any hint of
possibilities which I am sure will turn out a delusion.' ' So
saying, Constance followed Mrs. Quentin (who had hardly
spokep since Morris had made his startling speech) to the
room which the late mistress of the house had used as her
study, or rather her office, for there she had transacted all her
business. The windows looked west, and already the sunlight
was streaming in with startling brilliancy through the bare,
unshaded, unopened windows. The glare and dust and look
of neglect pained Constance. "My poor aunt hated the
strong afternoon light so much!" she exclaimed, drawing
down the blinds. " What a relief to get away from that
dreadful room and those solemn men ! Dear Mrs. Quentin,
what do you think of all this?"

" Think ! That is what I cannot do ! It is overwhelm-
ing I"

" But it cannot be true ! It is impossible !"

"I do not know, Constance There have been incidents
quite as extraordinary in the family histories of the nobility
and gentry; it is not impossible, but it is improbable. I
hope this girl's legitimacy may be disproved. Of course, it
would be a great disappointment to Rex, and a very doubtful
benefit to Barbara herself. It would be far better for her to
be treated as Lord Glengarvon's illegitimate daughter, and
given a good dower to enable her to make a respectable mar-
riage in her own station, — and that, I am sure, Rex would give. "

"I dare say you are right. But if it is true ! Just think
of my poor aunt having ruled here by mistake all these years !
It is enough to make her turn in her grave I"


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" All I hope is that they will go quietly and sensibly about
ascertaining the truth, and not make a cause celebre of the
case. There is no family history that will stand the pitiless
raking up of a trial at law, and poor Glengarvon's life was not
too creditable."

As she spoke, Constance thought what good excuse Vivian
had for avoiding a rigid scrutiny of his past. Here the dooi
opened, and Barbara, neat, composed, and looking unusually
well in her black garments, came into the room.

" If you please, Miss Constance, shall I bring some tea ?
and will you have it here or in your own room?"

"Have it in your own room, Constance," said Mrs.
Quentin, quickly, while she looked searchingly at Barbara.

"Very well, 'm," said that young person, and disappeared.

"Come," said Mrs. Quentin, "let us go into the picture
gallery and look at Glengarvon's picture. I want to see if
I can trace any likeness to Barbara; there is nothing very
marked or we might have noticed it before. But in such
things we see very little we do not look for."

On reaching the gallery both stood silently before the late
lord's picture for some minutes, then Constance said, "There
is a look of Barbara about the eyes ; indeed, they are quite
like ; so is the shape of the face."

" It is, but that is all. The T Estranges are by no means a
handsome or refined-looking race. Glengarvon looks both
weak and common. Barbara's face is infinitely stronger and
more intelligent ; but she is thoroughly middle-class in aspect.
The sort of likeness between her and her supposed father could
only be found if sought for. Come, let us have some tea.
Tea always brightens my brain."


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Seated in Constance Morton's little morning-room, the
friends soon began to discuss the future.

" You must come and stay with us, Constance. It was too
cruel of your aunt to leave you such a miserable income.
Why, you cannot live on it. You must really marry some
one ; but you need not be in a hurry about it."

" Two hundred and fifty pounds a year seems a good deal
of money," said Constance, dreamily. "How much is it a
month ?"

" You really are frightfully ignorant of business and money.
Two hundred and fifty pounds is just twenty pounds sixteen
shillings and eightpence a month. How in the world are you
to pay rent and food and dress" (in a high key) " and all the
hundred and one things living requires out of such a pittance !
I dare say Rex will give you part of that twenty thousand
pounds you would have had if you would marry him. I really
wish you would. It would end all your difficulties — and
mine; for I think you know, Constance, I should not be
quite happy if you were miserable."

" Thank you, dear Mrs. Quentin. You comfort me, and I
am very miserable just now."

"That will pass, believe me."

" I hope so ; but at present I cannot look beyond."

They talked long together, with many a break and many a
pause, till Mrs. Quentin went in search of her husband, and
to try and find out what was contained in the long formidable
document which Mr. Sidford was in the act of unfolding
when she and Constance left the room. But she returned
unsuccessful. The conference still continued with closed


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At last Vivian himself appeared. He looked much as usual,
but for a dark, determined knitting of the brow.

"Tea!" he exclaimed; "give me some. It is just what I

"You shall have some fresh," said Constance, ringing.

Barbara came almost at once, and Vivian looked searchingly
at her. When she left the room he laughed.

" I hope my lady the baroness will make me a good strong
cup. By Jove ! what an extraordinary turn affairs have taken !
By the way, Lou, you need not tremble for your five thousand.
Whatever happens to the freehold lands and hereditaments of
Glengarvon, our late respected kinswoman had a right to dis-
pose of her savings and investments. Constance, you do not
suppose I am going to swallow up all that respectable lump of
money, which ought to be yours unconditionally ? Trust me,
you shall not be screwed down to that wretched stipend !"

"I know you are very generous, but I shall have quite
enough, and it is time enough to talk about such things."

Here Barbara re-entered with the tea, and Vivian could not
resist talking to her.

"You are not a Northshire girl, I believe?" smiling

" No, sir — I mean, my lord," she returned, greatly surprised.

"Don't 'my lord* me just yet. 'There's many a slip/
you know. Where do you come from, then?"

" I was born in Sussex, sir, but I scarcely remember it. I
consider myself a Londoner."

" That's good enough for any one. Tell the cook to let us
have dinner half an hour earlier. Some of our guests, as well
as myself, want to catch the mail train to London."


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Barbara: Lady's Maid and Peeress

' * What ? To-night ?' ' asked Mrs. Quentin.

" Yes ; there's no time to be lost. Things look very queer.
I want the most strict examination to be made into this extraor-
dinary story. You know it may be true, and should it stand
the test, I shall not fight to enrich the lawyers. I can do
without Glengarvon. What shall you do?" to his sister.
" Don't stay here to petrify yourselves. Come to town, and
be on the spot to know what's going on. Bring the baroness
with you, and keep her under your eye. li she succeeds,
she'll want a good deal more help and looking after than ever
she did as plain Barbara West."

"That's true, Rex."

"I am afraid," said Constance, holding out her hand foV
his cup, " that you have an enemy in Mr. Morris. For some
reason or other he dislikes you. I am sure he does."

"Oh! pooh! that is a mere fancy." He paused, and sat
thinking for a minute, and then resumed, —

" I shall discuss many matters with you, I hope, Constance,
when we meet in town. You will not refuse to hear

" Mrs. Quentin is so kind as to say I must stay awhile with
her. Of course I feel very lonely just now. I could not stay
here, and yet it breaks my heart to leave Glengarvon."

A host of painful thoughts crowded on her ; and feeling she
could not restrain her tears, she rose and hastily left the

" It is a shame," said Vivian, looking after her.

"What?" asked his sister.

"That she should be left such a wretched pittance. You
know she will not take anything from me."


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Barbara: Lady's Maid and Peeress

" There is no knowing how things may turn out. M
" What an infernal old rascal Morris is !"

Vivian gone, Mrs. Quentin grew impatient to return to
town, especially as her husband's brief leave of absence
obliged him to return without her. As soon, therefore, as she
had carried out some directions given her by her brother, and
regulated various matters to keep the household going, she
fixed an early day for their journey.

The previous afternoon was very breezy, with dashes of rain,
and bright sunshine between the showers. Feeling it might
be long before she should again see the sweet wild moors,
Constance wrapped herself in her rain cloak, and, leaving
Barbara deep in packing, she wandered away to the cairn, and
sat under its shelter for some time, living the past over again,
but shrinking from the future. Fond though she was of Bar-
bara, it seemed a kind of desecration that she should sit in her
Aunt Elizabeth's seat, — fill her place she never could; and
even if the extraordinary story told by Morris proved untrue,
incapable of proof, she must before long part with her kind,
devoted attendant. Then, as ever, her thoughts came round
to Alan Musgrave. Was he near her, and yet so far— so im-
measurably out of her reach ? Something panting beside her
startled her from her dreams, and, turning, she saw the fine
old dog, who greeted her with overpowering demonstrations.
Behind him stood the elder Musgrave, — a fine specimen of the
northern farmer.

"Oh, Mr. Musgrave, I am so glad to see you!" standing
up and stretching out both hands to greet him.

" My dear young leddy, and it just warms my heart to see


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you and hear your voice, though we have drifted away from
each other these years past. But I do hope from all I hear
that you'll be mistress here for many a year after I am dead
and gone."

" No, Mr. Musgrave, I do not think that will be. How is
Mrs. Musgrave ? I hoped she would have come to see me.
It has been a sad, sad time."

" She has been poorly and low, though greatly rejoiced to
have her boy back, and we are all proud of him."

" Of course you are, and I was proud of my playfellow
when I met him at the Duchess of G s."

" Well, he has just taken his mother away south for a bit.
My eldest boy, Humphry, is going to wed a Devonshire lass
with bonnie black een ; but I'm not going to leave the farm, —
the master's eye is sore needed at this season. So the misses
and Alan they started the day before yesterday. He'll not
come back again, but I am going to say good-bye to him in
Lunnon. He's going back in July, sooner than he need ;
but when he reads the papers and gets letters from his brother
officers, it sets him mad to be among the fighting again. He
says there's lots to be done out there yet before things are
settled down."

" He will be coming back to you Sir Alan Musgrave some
day !" exclaimed Constance, her eyes lighting up, and a soft,
sad smile playing round her mouth.

"Faith, he'll not be the first Sir Alan in the family, my
doo," said the farmer, proudly. "We fought with the
Douglases in the old days in many a Border fray !"

" I know that, Mr. Musgrave. Which way are you going?
Walk part of the way home with me." Which he readily


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did, asking and answering questions, and evidently thinking
it sure that she would return to them as Lady Glengarvon.
When they parted, Constance hurried homeward, overwhelmed
with a bitterness too deep for tears.

He was gone,— quite gone, — she should never see him again.
How sternly resolute he was ! No tender weakness influenced
him. He had grown hard ! Yes, certainly he had. In his
place she could not have acted like him. Oh, to see him
once, only once more !

But would it not be but a renewal of pain and under-
mining of strength? She was herself contemptibly weak.
So to compose herself she turned aside to the stables, where
she bade farewell to her old shaggy pony, now degraded to
carry the boy who brought the post-bag twice a day and do
various service in the garden. Then she had to take leave of
the dogs. Her own especial favourite had died the winter
before, so that heart-break was spared her. The hen-wife
came next, and one or two decrepit, old hangers-on, who did
what they could in the farmyard. Constance was surprised to
find how certainly they all looked forward to her return as
mistress of the mansion, and what pleasure the prospect
seemed to give them.

She said little to disturb their impression ; it was no matter,
— nothing was any matter.

The next morning early they bade a long good-bye to Glen-
garvon and returned to London.

D Street was now the nearest and only approach to

home that remained to her, and the next month or six weeks
were full of interest and excitement even to Constance, for
whom at that time life had lost much of its colour. The ex-


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amination of the proofs brought forward by Morris in favour
of Barbara's rights was being prosecuted with great care, and
Constance could not help admiring Vivian's serenity under
the rather trying circumstances.

"It is really impossible to stay any longer in town," said
Mrs. Quentin, one dull, oppressive evening, as she sat fanning
herself after dinner.

Their only guests were Constance, now one of the family,
and Vivian, who was much less frequently in the house than
formerly. " Tell me, Rex, how are matters going? I have
heard nothing for several days."

" Against me," said Vivian. "In fact, I have very little
doubt in my mind that your 'maid, Barbara/ Constance, is
Baroness Glengarvon. I shall not make any fight. I do not

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