Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald.

Never forgotten, a story online

. (page 30 of 43)
Online LibraryPercy Hetherington FitzgeraldNever forgotten, a story → online text (page 30 of 43)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" I should only crowd you too," he said, with a bow to Mrs.
Fermor. " Don't let me interfere with your arrangements."

Mrs. Fermor was just saying, " But, Charles, Charles ! I want

to explain " when he turned and walked away. She threw

herself back, and bit her red lips. " Very well," she said. " Let
him go ! I wish I had told him openly that I had asked Mr.
Romaine in. Why should I not ? I am not a child, and if he
treats me this way "

She drove home, and came again that night for her first vigil.
She was in a tremor of excitement. A great business was before
her. She had dressed herself for the task, and got lamps, books,
fire, arm-chair, everything, ready with earnest preparation. By
ten or eleven she was sitting there alone the attendant with
the curled volutes had resigned, wounded, not to say angry a
little faithful sentry, with bright wakeful eyes, in an arm-chair
sentry-box. She was determined not to sleep on her post.
Pauline was tossing there beside her. The crisis the medical
visitor had wished for was at hand ; but presently she became
quiet and seemed to sleep. Joy and hope filled Mrs. Fermor's
heart. Her trust and affection had increased with her attend-
ance. She had never read the "wicked " Laurence Sterne, or
she might have seen in his gay Sentimental Travels that " You
take a withering twig and put it in the ground ; and then you
water it, because you have planted it." But Mr. Romaine had
lent her a transcendental French romance, called " L' Amour
Spirituel." (Alas! did she not occasionally lift her eyes rue-
fully, and strain them backwards to the days of " Roger le
Gargon ?") And this was so dreary and "spiritual " in its sense
of the peculiar relations of those who loved each other all
through its pages, that the long-lashed eyelids began to droop,
and by one o'clock the sentry was sleeping soundly on her
post.

She woke up suddenly, startled by the sound of some one
talking. There was Pauline, sitting half up in her bed, her long
rich hair down over her shoulders like a veil, her eyes flashing
like glowing coals, and her arms beating back the curtains beside
her. In terror, Mrs. Fermor half ran towards the door then
came back thinking how late it was, and tried to soothe her.
The glowing eyes fixed themselves suddenly on her. The
fingers pointed at her trembling.



A Night Seen 6. 305

" Send for her," said Pauline; "quick send for her, and see
when she comes, keep her until I come down to her."

" Send for whom ?" said Mrs. Fermor, soothing her. " For
whom, darling? Lie down, do, dearest there."

" Keep her!" said Pauline, struggling, " until I come down
to her. I wish to settle with her and with them all. But
with her and her husband first."

A little terrified, again she tried to soothe her. "Do lie
down," she said ; "you must, indeed."

" I must tell you," said Pauline, confidentially. " They don't
suspect and she, the wife, actually thinks I have a sort of affec-
tion for her." And Pauline laughed.

Greatly alarmed, Mrs. Fermor let her go, and shrunk away.
" But who do you mean?" she said.

"Fermor the Fermors," she said, mournfully; "he who
destroyed her our Violet put her to death with his own
hands took away her sweet life. Was it not a cruel and most
dreadful murder? Was it not? And yet they hang people
every day. But listen to me. I can tell you something. We
are. on their track his and his wife's."

" But what harm has she done you ? " said the other.

" Harm ! " said Pauline, with a half shriek. " Who are you
that ask me? Come closer. I can tell you," added Pauline,
slowly and doubtfully, " there is something about you very like
her! Ah!" she said, again beating the curtains, "she is not
far off! Send her to me quick, or I shall get up and find her
myself."

Dreadfully shocked and terrified, Mrs. Fermor ran to the bell
- and rang it. In a very short time the brother and some of the
servants were in the room. But Mrs. Fermor did not watch
again.

The doctor was right. The crisis had come and was past.
Pauline began to recover. In three weeks, he said, rubbing
his hands, "We are gaining strength, eh?" And certainly,
accepting that community of expression, it must be said there
was a sort of strength in which he had gained sensibly since the
commencement of her illness. Later on he said, " I don't see
why we should not be kept up by the strongest beef- tea and
generous port wine?" Later on still, he said, "I .think we
shall do we are pretty sure to do;" and, accepting the com-
munity of the expression as before, it must be said that he had
done very well indeed.

He had said, " We might be got down for an hour or two to

x



306 Never Forgotten.

the drawing-room, but mind, we mustn't over-do it ; " and
Pauline, in consequence, had come down, and was sitting in the
drawing-room.



CHAPTER THE FIFTY-FIFTH.

AN EXPEDITION.

N Miss Manuel was recovered or convalescent, some
letters which she asked for eagerly were brought to her.
She picked out three with the Beaumaris postmark three in the
handwriting of Young Brett and opened them eagerly. They
were in the shape of a sort of journal, and full of details. The
honest youth, not very fluent with his pen, had sat up many
nights writing everything with a fulness that he thought would
give pleasure. He had gone into the work with enthusiasm,
and what follows is a short history of his adventures.

It had been a wintry journey down to Bangor. At Bangor
he got on board a sail ferry-boat, and made a stormy passage
across with a " stiff" breeze, shipping seas every moment.
"There is a long pier of wood," wrote Young Brett, "more
like a plank than a pier, by Jove!" (even in writing he could
not keep clear of his favourite god), "and the wind was blowing
so hard, and there was no rail to hold on by, and the sea was
washing over your feet. I give you my honour, Miss Manuel,
this thing was a quarter of a mile long. I never saw such fun !
There was an old Welsh clergyman's hat that was caught by
the wind, and went flying away like a bird. I could have
laughed, only the poor old soul looked so distressed. And you
would have laughed, Miss Manuel, to have seen us all tottering
along that plank, some of us screaming, some of us laughing,
and some of us stopping short altogether, and afraid to go back
or forwards. There was a young woman, too, with children and
baskets, and she was dreadfully embarrassed between the baskets
aiid the children. Just as we were half-way across, and close to
me pier, I heard a scream in front, and I saw a little child in a
red cloak fall half over the edge of the plank, and there was a
wave coming, and the wind blowing," &c.

Young Brett went on to say that he caught hold of the child
by the hand, just as if he had stooped down to lift up any child



An Expedition. 307

that had tumbled on the gravel in a square. But the truth was,
he had jumped forward along the edge of the slippery " stage/'
shot past a man who was in front of him, and with much
danger and a thorough wetting had caught hold of this little
child. He raised her up, and carried her carefully and tenderly
all the rest of the journey. The boat went " swirling" through
the water, shipping a sea now and again, to his great delight -,
but he had the red-cloaked little girl on his knee all the time,
and laughed for her, which she could understand, and talked
English for her, which she could not, and finally set her down
on dry land.

The woman a handsome young Welshwoman was deeply
grateful 5 not so much for the little service, for which she would
have nodded her thanks to one of her own station, but for
i'oung Brett's manner, which caused the feeling of every one
he came in contact with to take some shape of affection, slight
or strong. It was so with the cabman who took him but two
streets away 5 with the porter who carried his portmanteau from
the train to the cab ; with the people who got in at one station
and got out in ten minutes. Every one felt that he was good,
and this young Welshwoman had the same feeling.

Landing, he with great delight got into one of the light
carriages drawn by a pair of donkeys, and drove away gaily to
Beaumaris. " I really felt ashamed," he wrote, " to see myself
drawn by the little creatures, but the boy who drove gave me
their biography at length, and seemed quite fond of them.
Besides, they were very strong, and we trundled along quite
cheerfully. But I was thinking if Showers, or Slack, or any of
our fellows had seen me! Luckily it was dark."

Most Welsh travellers have seen the little old-fashioned, dun-
coloured, remote, unfriended, pocket town called Beaumaris,
which we come to along the river, and which we see jutting out
before us into the water, with a sort of sham air of a tiny fortified
town, with a dull resemblance to a miniature Ostend. The
little dun High-street, through which no carriages travel, and
whose little dun houses seem toy-houses j the general air as if
the streets were diligently swept up every morning like a
hearth ; and the quiet slumber that reigned over the men and
women, and the lone common at the edge of the sea, contri-
buted to make rather a dispiriting impression on Young Brett as
he entered triumphantly drawn by his donkeys. It was all out
of the season, it being the depth of winter. The little town
seemed to be laid up in ordinary, stripped, unfurnished, like a



308 Never Forgotten.

ship out of commission. Young Brett drove to the hotel of the
place, and was received with a little surprise. The rooms had a
mouldy air 5 but he was made welcome. To one of his temper
these were dispiriting influences, but he manfully struggled
against them, and kept thinking of the friend whose mission he
had come down to fulfil. Later, he was sitting at some dinner
in the coffee-room, when a gentleman, rubbing his hands toge-
ther softly, came gliding in. " God bless me!" said Young
Brett, starting up ; " Major Carter, what do you do here ?"

" Well, of all the coincidences in the world, my young
friend!" said the major, casting up his eyes devoutly. " It looks
like a providence, that we two, of all men in the world, and
here, of all places in the world "

" I don't know about the coincidence," said Young Brett,
bluntly. " I don't understand it."

"This was my home for a long time," said the major. "I
had good reason, unhappily, to connect rre with this place. I
ought to remember it. You may be sure it is no pleasure to
me to revisit it. But now let me ask you, my young friend,
what brings you down here, eh ?"

"Business," he said, without hesitation. "Welsh business,
major. Travelling makes one hungry, as you see.'*

"Welsh business?" said the major, slowly, and looking at
him steadily. " For a friend, I suppose, not for yourself?"

"Common, every-day sort of thing," said Young Brett, help-
ing himself. "A little confidential 5 you understand. Other-
wise "

" I dare say, now," said Major Carter, looking at him still,
" where it was a lady who could not herself so conveniently
travel, and who had a smart, handy, enthusiastic young fellow
she could send in her stead, to use his eyes and pry about, and
pick up facts to try and slander and ruin a man who has never
done him any harm, eh ? That's an honourable and a gentle-
manly duty to be employed on. Eh, Mr. Brett?"

Young Brett coloured. "I don't understand; that is, I do
understand," he added, hastily.

"As I say," continued the major, "you are a gentleman, and
have always been above dirty work. Your friend, Miss Manuel,
hates me, and you know why. Because I interfered to save a
friend from a match that I considered was unsuited for him.
He would have embittered the life of that poor girl. She
would have been in her grave now ; you know she would. The
girl that he has married he is making wretched. And for this,



An Expedition 309

Miss Manuel has marked me; I know it; she is determined to
harass me in every way she can. I could not believe such vin-
dictiveness in a Christian lady. I say it is shocking."

Young Brett's cheeks kindled. " Do you speak of Miss
Manuel ?" he said. " Those words do not apply to her; to her
least of any one in the world. I can't sit by, Major Carter, and
have her so spoken of j I will not, indeed. She is above all
that miles above it. If ever," continued Young Brett, with
a trembling voice, " there was a woman noble, and generous,
and devoted on this earth, it is she ! "

" I know she has a friend in you," answered the major,
quickly, " and your defence of her is honourable to you. But
tell me this : Is it noble or generous to lead astray a young girl
a young wife to put her in the power of a cold, scheming
man of the world hand her over to him urge him on all to
punish the man who left her sister ? Just watch for yourself.
Is this devoted or noble ? I declare and I don't set up to be
squeamish it seems to me devilish."

Greatly excited, Young Brett said, " If you mean this to
apply to Miss Manuel, in her name I deny it altogether. I
could not believe that you could mean to utter such horrible
slanders. I won't have them I won't hear them, Major
Carter."

" Good," said the major. " We will say no more about it, as
you desire it. Your warmth does you honour. Of course it is
excusable in her: she loved her sister; but I implore of you
reflect a moment before you go on. ] have had troubles enough
in my life, and want to end my days peaceably. Good God ! "
continued the major, walking up and down, "it is awful to
think of. That any woman should venture on so terrible a
track and, my dear boy, I don't think you know the full force
of what you are required to do."

Young Brett looked at him wondering, and still in distress.
He had some qualms of conscience, and the picture of the old
soldier buffeting wearily through life, and wishing to end his
days in calm, affected him a little.

"Are you staying in this house?"

" I have to go up by the night train," answered the major.
" I had some business here too. I daresay you'll find it out
before you go. Lucky fellow you ! You will have a comfort-
able bed here, and a comfortable sleep. A capital house. I
know it of old. Think of the poor traveller tumbling on the
cushions, as you turn round on your side to go off into a com*



3io Never Forgotten.

fortable snooze. You are not angry with me ? Advice from a
man of the world, and from an old man of the world, is always
useful. Good-bye."



CHAPTER THE FIFTY-SIXTH

BRETT'S DISCOVERIES.



QTILL under the impression that his office was a little
"shabby," Young Brett had to reassure himself pretty
often. Was not all that Miss Manuel wished, to hear how
a quiet lady died ? He spoke to a waiter that night about
Major Carter. An admirable gentleman, said the waiter, known
and much liked in the place. They were all sorry when he
left. He was so gay and cheerful, and could tell such nice
stories. And Mrs. Carter? A good woman, too, but "soft"
and quiet by no means to come near the major. What did
she die of ? Oh, ill for a long time ; regular break up. Began
with a cold. In fact, only for the major, who took such care,
and sat up and slaved himself night after night, she would have
been dead months before. A good charitable man gay and
pleasant, too. (As if the charitable were not usually gifted with
these qualities.) Where did he live, and the lady die? At
Griffiths's, in the main street.

In the morning he saw the little dun town better, its tiny
street, its house or two, whose second story projected over on
pillars, and made a sort of summer-house below. He found
that his hotel had one front which looked into the little main
street, and another, heavy, massive, and of a chilling iron-grey,
that made part of a terrace, and looked out across a little com-
mon upon the sea. This was now a cheerless prospect ; and
the iron-grey face was as rough arid well scored with ill usage
from the weather, as that of an old storm-beaten pilot.

He set off to Griffiths's. There were miniature shops, where
they seemed to sell nothing but glass pickle-bottles full of sweets
and lozenges, and in which articles a brisk trade must have been
done. He found his way to a narrow yellow strip of a house,
in the front bedroom of which Mrs. Carter had died. He
knocked. It was opened by a tall bony woman. She stood
with it half open, so that her figure, with the door, made up a



Young Brett's Discoveries. 311

perfect and satisfactory obstruction. Young Brett said cheer-
fully that he wished to see Mrs. Griffiths.

" About what ? " said the other, sharply. " On what ? ' '

"Well," said Young Brett, "about lodgings."

"There are no lodgings to let here, nor won't be," said the
woman, preparing to close the door.

" But," said Young Brett, " I want to see Mrs. Griffiths."

"Well, what o 1 that?" said the woman, yet more sharply.
"I tell you we let no lodgings, and won't let them."

Brett, still good humoured and never to be put out of
temper, said this was provoking, and that it couldn't be helped.
That he was a stranger in the place, and could he this he put
at a venture see Mr. Griffiths ?

"No you can't no, nor him neither," she said, not so
sharply now. "We don't waste our time in this place j and
you, young man, don't waste yours."

" You won't let me in, that's evident," said Young Brett,
laughing.

"What is it? " said a voice behind the woman, and a hard-
lined face, that had been in the world some sixty years, appeared
on the shoulder of the woman. Said the woman : " He wants
lodgings. Only think ! Why, there's the hotel! "

The sixty years' face had sharp eyes and ragged hair. The
sharp eyes twinkled. " Lodgings," it said. "Well, we might,
you know. It ain't our custom. But if a good thing offered "

The woman turned on him. "Always for money," she said,
wickedly. " You would sell your soul, and all our souls, for a
tester. I tell you no."

"And you think money is to be picked up in the street,'' he
said. " Here is a gentleman who will make us a good offer, I
know he will. And it is hard, precious hard in my own
house, too."

"Ah, go in," she said, with a rough good humour. "Don't
let us be exposing our fights in the street. It can't be done,"
she said to Brett. " Very sorry not to have you, sir. But we
don't like to put ourselves out. And I have a hundred things

to do; so " She closed the door, making it finish what she

was saying.

Young Brett went his way a little gloomy. " I can do no
more," he thought, "if they wont let me in, or tell me any-
thing." But he felt a little ashamed of coming back to Miss
Manuel so unsuccessful. So he set off to take a walk in the
grounds of the old castle next the town.



2 12 Never Forgotten.

Some one "showed" it to him ; i.e. received a shilling. And
Brett was walking briskly about to warm himself, when he
came suddenly on a woman with two children. He recollected
the woman at once.

te Oh, sir," she said, " I came to look for yon. I heard a gen-
tleman had been at our house, and I was sure it was the same."

"What, at Griffiths's? " said Young Brett. "And this is the
little woman that nearly fell into the water? You must take
care another time, little woman." He doted on children, and
most children that he met were seen "toddling" to him with
their little hands extended. This little child of the red cloak
he stooped down and kissed. The mother looked at him with
beaming eyes. She was young and fresh, and had a soft interest
in her face.

" Oh, indeed, sir," she said, "we are so grateful to you. And
you thought so little of it."

"Nonsense," said Young Brett, colouring, as he always did at
praise. " You make me uncomfortable. So you were at
Griffiths's?"

"I am their daughter-in-law," said she, "and live with
them. My husband is dead. That little one there was his
favourite."

"Nice little woman!" Brett took her up, and put heron
his shoulder. " What does she like ? Go-carts and dolls, and
Noah's arks? I suppose they sell those sort of things some-
where?"

" O no, no, sir ; you are too kind. But," she went on, with
some hesitation, " you wanted lodgings, you said."

" Why er no, not exactly," said Young Brett, setting the
little girl down. " I wanted to see somebody or to hear
something you know more than the lodgings. Wasn't there
a Mrs. Carter staying with you?"

The woman looked round with alarm. "Ah, I thought it
was that," she said.

"Why?" said Young Brett, wondering.

" You wished to hear about all that. And I have been
expecting it this long time back."

"Then I dare say you know all about it," said he, eagerly,-
" that is, if there is anything to know."

She shook her head. " Something not much. It is a long
story, and a sad story, and a curious story, sir. If you wish to
learn it all, you should stay here some time, and see people who
ought to be seen. You should take our lodgings."



Youxg Brett's Discoveries. 313

Young Brett looked at her astonished. "This is all mys-
terious," he said. " I did want to take your lodgings, but they
won't let me take them.'*

" Oh, they will," she said. " He will. He is moaning over
the loss of so much money at this very moment. If you come
again, sir, in the morning "

"But," said he, "this is all so odd j and if I were to go to
your house, I don't know 1 ought to be back in London."

" Some one should look to it," the young woman said.

" It ? What ? " echoed Young Brett.

"Her illness," said she, mysteriously. "It was very long,
and very miserable, and "

" How did she die?" said Young Brett, eagerly.

She shook her head. " I was kept away shut out. Poor
gentle lady, she fancied me a little, and someway he took care
always not to let me near her. He suspected me."

" Suspected!" said Young B^rett, a little bewildered. " Sus-
pected what? and why should he suspect?"

The young woman shook her head and looked round. "He
himself has been here, at our house. He knew that some one
was coming, and told them. He has great influence with Mrs.
Griffiths. But I say," she went on, with greater vehemence,
" some one should look after it ! You should stay here some
days. There are people to be seen that know a great deal. I
can tell nothing, because I know but little ; but you are clever,
and can use your eyes and head."

" Who am I to see?" said Young Brett.

They talked some time longer, and she told him then went
away.

There was a dingy apothecary's shop there, languid as regards
business ; its bottles, medicines, and apparatus appearing under
a delicate film of blue mould. The dispenser himself, as seen
through a dusty pane, seemed to be suffering under the same
powdery mite-eaten blight.

Young Brett walked into the shop briskly, and asked to see
Doctor Jones. A boy came out from behind the dusty glass
door of a back parlour, with hope in his face ; but Young Brett,
fresh, clean, and full of bright health, quickly dissipated all
illusion. The boy's face fell. Doctor Jones appeared presently,
a stooping, grey-haired, trembling old man, with a face of
crushed and crumpled parchment. It was turned very shyly and
suspiciously on the young officer. With his off-hand way, Young
Brett said he wanted a box of cough lozenges. He did not say



314 Never Forgotten.

for a cough. Some such old fossils were discovered in a pigeon-
hole and given to him. Then he began to talk pleasantly with
the old man about the place, and about those who lived there.

There was a fire in the back parlour, and Doctor Jones, shiver-
ing a good deal, asked, "Would he come in and sit down?"
Brett went in gladly, and had soon, with his usual charm,
recommended himself. Gradually he came to the subject that
was in his mind, and mentioned the name of Major Carter.

The old man started back, and looked at him steadfastly, with
his hands clasping the knobs of his chair. " Why do you mention
him P" he said, quickly. " What do you want to know ? "

" I ?" said Young Brett. " I know him already have known
him ever so long. I knew his wife, too, poor lady ! "

Old Doctor Jones squeezed his eyes to look yet more suspi-
ciously at his visitor. " Why do you talk to me about her?" he
said. " It is all so long ago : it is better to let the whole thing
be forgotten. 1 don't want to think of it. That is if I was to
be thinking of all the people I have attended, and what they
suffered, what pleasant thoughts and pleasant dreams I should
have!"

"So you attended Mrs. Carter?" said Young Brett, with
blunt interest. " I want to hear about that illness. I am most
anxious to know all about poor Mrs. Carter, and how she "

Suddenly the dirty glass door was opened by a fresh, pink-
looking, red-haired young man, with quick eyes, who stood with



Online LibraryPercy Hetherington FitzgeraldNever forgotten, a story → online text (page 30 of 43)