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Marshall, Emma / Her Season in Bath A Story of Bygone Days
Her Season in Bath

_A STORY OF BYGONE DAYS_

BY EMMA MARSHALL

AUTHOR OF "BRISTOL DIAMONDS," "THE TOWER ON THE CLIFF," ETC., ETC.


"One loving hour
Full many years of sorrow can dispense.
A dram of sweet is worth a pound of sour."

SPENSER


LONDON
SEELEY & CO., ESSEX STREET, STRAND
1889


[Illustration]




CONTENTS.


I. COIFFEUR

II. THE TIDE OF FASHION

III. ANOTHER SIDE OF THE PICTURE

IV. MUSIC

V. GRISELDA! GRISELDA!

VI. GRAVE AND GAY

VII. THE VASE OF PARNASSUS

VIII. ON THE TRACK

IX. WATCHED!

X. A PROPOSAL

XI. A LETTER

XII. DISCOVERED

XIII. THE PLOT THICKENS

XIV. BRAWLS

XV. CHALLENGED

XVI. IN THE EARLY MORNING

XVII. THE BITTER END

XVIII. IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW

XIX. TEN YEARS LATER--1790




Her Season in Bath




CHAPTER I.

COIFFEUR.


It was the height of the Bath season in 1779, and there was scarcely any
part of the city which did not feel the effect of the great tide of
amusement and pleasure, which set in year by year with ever-increasing
force, and made the streets, and parades, and terraces alive with
gaily-dressed fashionable ladies and their attendant beaux.

The chair-men had a fine trade, so had the mantua-makers and
dressmakers, to say nothing of the hairdressers, who were skilled in the
art of building up the powdered bastions, which rose on many a fair
young head, and made the slender neck which supported them bend like a
lily-stalk with their weight. Such head-gear was appropriate for the
maze of the stately minuet and Saraband, but would be a serious
inconvenience if worn now-a-days, when the whirl of the waltz seems to
grow ever faster and faster, and the "last square" remaining in favour
is often turned into a romp, which bears the name of "Polka Lancers."
There was a certain grace and poetry in those old-world dances, and
they belonged to an age when there was less hurry and bustle, and all
locomotion was leisurely; when our great-grandmothers did not rush madly
through the country, and through Europe, as if speed was the one thing
to attain in travelling, and breathless haste the great charm of travel.

And not of travel only. Three or four "at homes" got through in one
afternoon, is a cause of mighty exultation; and a dinner followed by an
evening reunion, for which music or recitations are the excuse, to wind
up with a ball lasting till day-dawn, is spoken of as an achievement of
which any gentlewoman, young or old, may feel proud.

The two ladies who were seated with their maid in attendance in a large
well-furnished apartment in North Parade on a chill December morning in
the year 1779, awaiting the arrival of the hairdresser, had certainly no
sign of haste or impatience in their manner. The impatience was kept in
reserve, in the case of the elder lady, for Mr. Perkyns and his
attendant, for Lady Betty had now passed her _première jeunesse_, and
was extremely careful that every roll should be in its right place, and
every patch placed in the precise spot which was most becoming. Lady
Betty's morning-gown was of flowered taffety, and open in front
displayed a short under-skirt of yellow satin, from which two very small
feet peeped, or rather were displayed, as they were crossed upon a high
square footstool.

"Griselda, can't you be amusing? What are you dreaming about, child?"

The young lady thus addressed started as if she had indeed been awakened
from a dream, and said:

"I beg your pardon, Lady Betty; I did not hear what you said."

"No, you never hear at the right moment. Your ears are sharp enough at
the wrong. I never saw the like last evening at Mrs. Colebrook's
reunion. You looked all ears, then."

"It was lovely music--it was divine!" Griselda said earnestly, and then,
almost instantly checking the burst of enthusiasm which she knew would
find no response, she said:

"Will you carry out your intention of paying a visit in King Street? Mr.
and Miss Herschel receive guests to-morrow forenoon."

"Indeed, I vow I have but little inclination that way, but we will see.
But, Griselda, take my word for it, you are playing your cards
ill--staring like one daft at that singer who is no beauty, and
forgetting to acknowledge Sir Maxwell Danby last evening when he made
you that low bow. Why, child, don't you know he is a great catch?"

Griselda's cheeks flushed crimson.

"Your ladyship forgets we are not alone."

"Ha! ha! as if my waiting-maid was not in all my little secrets. No
love-story is new to her, is it, Graves?"

The person thus referred to, who had been engaged in plaiting ruffles
with a small iron, and sprinkling the fine lace with a few drops of
starched water as she did so, on hearing her name, turned her head in
the direction of her mistress, and said:

"Did you speak, my lady?"

"_You_ know--_you_ know, Graves. You know all about my billets-doux, and
my pretty gentlemen."

If Melia, otherwise Amelia Graves, knew, her face showed no sign of
intelligence. It was a stolid face, hard and plain-featured, and she was
a strange mixture of devotion to her frivolous mistress, and strong
disapproval of that mistress's ways and behaviour. The real devotion and
affection for a family she had served for many years, often gained the
day, when she turned over in her mind the possibility of leaving a
service which involved so much of the world and its customs, which she
was the indirect means of encouraging by her continuous attention to all
the finery and gauds, in which Lady Betty Longueville delighted.

Lady Betty was the widow of a rich gentleman, to whom she had been
married but a few years, when death ended what could not have ever been
more than a _mariage de convenance_. An orphan niece of Mr.
Longueville's, the child of a sister who had made what was considered a
_mésalliance_, had been left to Lady Betty as a legacy, and was
particularly mentioned in Mr. Longueville's concise will. His estate in
Ireland devolved on the next heir, but Mr. Longueville had accumulated a
pretty little fortune, which he had the power to settle on his wife. The
estate was entailed, but the money was his to leave as he chose. Lady
Betty had fully grasped the situation before she had accepted Mr.
Longueville's proposal, and the understanding that Griselda Mainwaring
was to be thrown into the bargain was rather agreeable than otherwise.
Strange to say, Mr. Longueville did not leave Griselda any money, and
simply stated that his niece, Griselda Mainwaring, the only issue of the
unhappy marriage of his sister, Dorothy Mainwaring, _née_ Longueville,
was to be companion to his widow, and maintained by her, Lady Betty
Longueville, for the term of her natural life.

It did not seem to have struck Mr. Longueville that either Lady Betty or
Griselda might marry, and Griselda was thus left as one of the bits of
blue china or old plate, which, being not included in the entail, fell
to Lady Betty with the "household effects, goods and chattels."

Perhaps the feeling that she was a mere "chattel" weighed at times on
the tall and stately Griselda, whose grave eyes had ever a wistful
expression in them, as if they were looking out on some distant time,
where, behind the veil, the hopes and fears of youth, lay hidden.

Griselda was outwardly calm and even dignified in her manner. She moved
with a peculiar grace, and formed a marked contrast in all ways to the
little vivacious Lady Betty, whose grand ambition was to be thought
young, and who understood only too well how to cast swift glances from
behind her fan upon the gay beaux, who haunted the city of Bath at that
time. For although the palmiest days of the Pump Room, under the
dominion of Beau Nash, were now long past, still in 1779 Bath held her
own, and was frequented by hundreds for health, to be regained by means
of its healing waters, and by thousands for pleasure and amusement.

Amongst these thousands, Lady Betty Longueville was one of the foremost
in the race; and she spent her energies and her talents on "making a
sensation," and drawing to her net the most desirable of the idle beaux
who danced, and flirted, and led the gay and aimless life of men of
fashion.

Graves was presently interrupted by a tap at the door; and, putting down
the lace, she went to open it, and found the hairdresser and his
assistant waiting on the landing for admission.

The hairdresser made a low bow, and begged ten thousand pardons for
being late; but her ladyship must know that the ball to-night in
Wiltshire's Rooms was to be _the_ ball of the season, and that he and
his man had been dressing heads since early dawn.

"That is no news to me, Perkyns. Am I not one of the chief patronesses
of the ball? Have I not been besieged for cards? Tell me something more
like news than that."

The assistant having spread out a large array of bottles, and brushes,
and flasks on a side-table cleared for the purpose, Mr. Perkyns wasted
no more time in excuses; he began operations at once on the lady's head,
while Griselda was left to the hands of the assistant.

Lady Betty was far too much engrossed with her own appearance to take
much heed of Griselda's; and it was not till something like a discussion
was heard between the young lady and the "artist" that she said sharply:

"What are you talking about, Griselda? Pray, make no fuss!--you will
look well enough. A little less curl on the right side, Perkyns. Oh!
that bow is awry; and I will _not_ have the knot of ribbon so low. I
said so last week."

"The top-knots are not worn so high, my lady. Lady Cremorne's is quite
two inches lower than the point you indicate."

"Folly to talk of _her_!--a giant who might be a female Goliath! As if
_her_ mode was any rule for mine! I am _petite_, and need height. Thank
goodness, I am not a huge mass of bone and flesh, like my Lady
Cremorne!"

"As you please, my lady--as you please. But it is my duty to keep my
patronesses up to the high-water mark of fashion."

"I dare say folks with no taste may need your advice; but as I am
blessed with the power of knowing what I like--and with the will to
have it, too--I insist on the top-knot being at least two inches
higher."

"Very good--very good, my lady. What is it, Samuel?"--for the assistant
now approached.

"Shall I proceed to Sydney Place, sir? I have finished this young lady's
coiffure."

"Finished!--impossible! Why, child, come here; let me see! Why, you are
not made up!--no rouge, nor a touch to your eyebrows!"

"I do not desire it, madam; I do not desire to be painted. I have
requested the hairdresser to refrain----"

"Well, you will look a fright for your pains by night! Nonsense, child!
powder must have paint. However, take your own way, you wilful puss! I
have no more to say."

"I have done my best to persuade the lady," Sam said; "but it is
useless--it is in vain;" and, with a sigh, he began to gather together
the cosmetics and the little pots and bottles, and prepared for
departure.

Mr. Perkyns turned from the contemplation of the top-knots to give a
passing glance at Mistress Mainwaring. He shrugged his shoulders, and
murmured:

"A pity that what is so fair should not be made still fairer! But do not
stand wasting precious time, Samuel; proceed to Sydney Place, and
announce my speedy arrival. You can leave me what is needful, and I will
follow and bring the smaller bag. Be quick, Samuel; and do not go to
sleep--on a day like this, of all days!"

Samuel obeyed, and took leave; while Griselda, after a passing glance at
her head and shoulders in the mirror, retired to her own room on the
upper story, and, taking a violin from a case, began to draw the bow
over the strings.

"If only I could make you sing to me as their fiddles sang last night!
If only I had a voice like that sister of Mr. Herschel's! Ah! that song
from the 'Messiah'--if only I could play it!" And then, after several
attempts, Griselda did bring out the air of the song which, perhaps of
all others, fastens on ear and heart alike in that sublime oratorio:

"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd."

"So poor it sounds!" Griselda said; "so poor! I _will_ get to Mr.
Herschel's, and ask if he will teach me to play and sing. I will. Why
not? Ah, it is the money! She dresses me, and keeps me; and that is all.
She would do nothing else. But I have bought you, you dear violin!"
Griselda said, pressing her lips to the silent instrument, where the
music, unattainable for her, lay hidden. "I have bought you, and I will
keep you; and, who knows? I may one day make you tell me all that is in
your heart. Oh that I were not at her beck and call to do her bidding;
speak to those she chooses; and have nothing to say to those she thinks
beneath her! Ah me! Alack! alack!"

Griselda's meditations were interrupted by a sharp knock at the door;
and Graves came in with a bouquet in her hand, tied with pale primrose
ribbon.

"That is for you, Mistress Griselda. The gentleman brought it himself;
'and,' says he, 'give it to the young lady in private.' And then he had
the impudence to offer me a crown-piece! Says I, 'I don't hold, sir,
with sly ways; and I don't want your money.' Then he looked uncommon
foolish, and said I was quite right; he hated sly ways. He only
meant--well, _I_ knew what he meant--that I was not to let my lady know
you had the '_buket_;' but I just took it straight into the room, and
said, 'Here's a _buket_ for Mistress Grisel;' and, what do you think?
she was in one of her tantrums with Mr. Perkyns, who vowed he would not
take down her hair again; and there she was, screaming at him, and you
might have had fifty _bukets_, and she wouldn't have cared. Ah, my dear
Mistress Griselda, these vanities and sinful pleasures are just Satan's
yoke. They bring a lot of misery, and his slaves are made to feel the
pricks. Better be servants to a good master--better be children of the
Lord--than slaves of sin. It's all alike," as she gave the violin-case a
touch with her foot; "it's all sin and wickedness--plays, and balls, and
music, and----"

"Nonsense, Graves! Never tell me music is wrong. Why, you sing hymns at
Lady Huntingdon's Chapel--_that_ is music!"

"I don't hold with _that_ altogether; but hymns is one thing, and
foolish love-songs another. I am trembling for you, my dear; I am
trembling for you, with your flowers and your finery. The service of the
world is hard bondage."

Griselda had now put away her violin, and had taken up the flowers which
she had allowed to lie on the table, till her treasured possession was
in safety; and, as Graves departed, she said, as she saw a note hidden
in the centre of the bouquet:

"I am sure I don't care for these flowers; you may take them down to her
ladyship, if you please."

But Graves was gone.

A girl of twenty was not likely to be absolutely without curiosity, and,
though Griselda tore the scented, three-cornered billet open, and read
the contents with some eagerness, her face was flushed and her lip
curled as she did so.

"To the fairest of the fair! These poor flowers came from one who lives
on her smile and hungers for her presence, with the prayer that she will
grant him one dance to-night--if but _one_----"

Then there was a curious tangle of letters, which were twisted in the
form of a heart, the letter "G" being in the shape of a dart which had
pierced it.

Griselda tore the note in pieces, and said:

"Why does he not send his ridiculous billets to the person who wants
them? I hate him, and his finery, and his flattery. I know not which is
worse."


Hours were early in the eighteenth century, and by seven o'clock the two
ladies met in the dining-parlour of the house in North Parade ready for
the ball, and awaiting the arrival of the sedan-chairs, which were
attended by Lady Betty's own man.

Lady Betty had recovered her good temper, and her rose-coloured sacque,
with its short-elbow sleeves and long puckered gloves, was quite to her
mind. The satin skirt was toned down by lamp-light, and the diamond
buckles on her dainty shoes glistened and gleamed as she went through a
step of the minuet, with her fan held in the most approved fashion.

"Upon my word, we are a pretty pair to-night! But, do you know, Carteret
vowed he thought I was younger than you were at the last ball! Fancy! I,
a widow, not quite fat, fair, and forty, but in my thirties I freely
allow! Child, you look as pale as a ghost! But it is a vastly pretty
gown. Lucky for you it did not suit my complexion; dead white never
does. But perhaps you are too white--all white. For my part I vow I like
colour. Your servant, madam! How do you fancy my new curtshey?" and the
little lady went through elaborate steps with her tiny twinkling feet,
and made a bow, which, however, she was careful should not be too low to
run any risk of disarranging her high coiffure, the erection of which
had cost so much trouble and sorrow of heart.




CHAPTER II.

THE TIDE OF FASHION.


Wiltshire's Rooms were illuminated by many wax-candles, shedding a
softened and subdued light over the gay crowd which assembled there on
this December night. Lady Betty was soon surrounded by her admirers, and
showing off her dainty figure in the minuet and Saraband.

There were three apartments in Wiltshire's Rooms--one for cards and
conversation or scandal, as the case might be, and one for refreshments,
and the larger one for dancing.

Griselda was left very much to herself by her gay chaperon, and it was
well for her that she had so much self-respect, and a bearing and manner
wonderfully composed for her years. She was anxious to make her escape
from the ball-room to the inner room beyond; and she was just seating
herself on a lounge, as she hoped, out of sight, when a young man made
his way to her, and, leaning over the back of the sofa, said:

"I could not get near you at the concert at Mrs. Colebrook's last
evening. Nor could I even be so happy as to speak to you afterwards.
Less happy than another, madam, I accounted myself."

Though the speaker was dressed like the other fashionable beaux who
haunted the balls and reunions at Bath, and adopted the usual formality
of address as he spake to Griselda, there was yet something which
separated him a little from the rest. His clear blue eyes knew no guile,
and there was an air of refinement about him which inspired Griselda
with confidence. While she shrank from the bold flatteries and broad
jests of many of the gentlemen to whom she had been introduced by Lady
Betty, she did not feel the same aversion to this young Mr. Travers. He
had come for his health to take the Bath waters, and a certain delicacy
about his appearance gave him an attraction in Griselda's eye.

Lady Betty Longueville called him dull and stupid, and had declared that
a man whose greatest delight was scraping on a violoncello, ought to
have respect to other folk's feelings who detested the sound. Music
accompanied by a good voice, or music like the band at Wiltshire's and
the Pump Room, was one thing, but dreary moans and groans on the
violoncello another.

"You were pleased with the music last evening, Mistress Mainwaring?" Mr.
Travers was saying.

"Yes; oh yes! Do you think, sir, Lady Betty and myself might venture to
pay our respects to Mr. and Miss Herschel?"

"Indeed, I feel sure they will be proud to receive your visit. To-morrow
afternoon there is a rehearsal and a reception in Rivers Street. I
myself hope to be present; and may I hope to have the honour of meeting
you there?"

"I will do my best, sir. But I am by no means an independent personage;
I am merely an appendage--a chattel, if you like the word better."

"Nay, I like neither word," the young man said; "they do not suit you.
But to return to the visit to-morrow. Could you not make it alone?"

Griselda shook her head, and then laughing, said:

"It depends on the temperature."

"But a chair is at your disposal. I can commend to you two steady men
who would convey you to Rivers Street."

But Griselda shook her head.

"I was not thinking of wind and weather, sir; but of the mood in which
my lady finds herself!"

A bright smile seemed to show that Griselda's point was understood.

"The Lady Betty is your aunt?"

"Hush, sir!--not that word. I am forbidden to call her 'aunt,' it smacks
of age and does not seem appropriate. I was Mr. Longueville's niece,
and, as I told you, I am a chattel left to Lady Betty for the term
of--well, my natural life, I suppose."

"Nay, that word might be well altered to the term of your unmarried
life, Mistress Griselda."

Griselda grew her calm, almost haughty, self at once, and her companion
hastened to say:

"You must see and know Mr. and Miss Herschel. Now, at this moment, while
all this gaiety goes on, they are in silence--their eyes, their thoughts
far away from all this folly and babble."

"Are they so wrapt in their production of music?" Griselda asked.

"I said they were at this moment engrossed in silence, for the music of
the spheres is beyond the hearing of mortal ears; it is towards this,
their whole being--brother and sister alike--is concentrated, at this
very moment, I will dare to say. Mr. Herschel and his sister lead a
double existence--the one in making music the power to uplift them
towards the grand aim of their lives, which is to discover new glories
amongst the mysteries of the stars, new worlds, it may be. What do I
say? These things are not new, only new to eyes which are opened by the
help of science, but in themselves old--old as eternity!"

"I am a stranger in Bath," Griselda said. "I have never heard of these
things--never. I listened enchanted to Miss Herschel's voice last night,
to her brother's solo performance on the harpsichord, but of the rest I
knew nothing. It is wonderful all you say; tell me more."

But while Leslie Travers and Griselda had been so engrossed with their
conversation as to be oblivious of anything beside, a stealthy step had
been skirting the card-room, passing the tables where dowagers and old
beaux sat at écarté, and other card games, with fierce, hungry
eagerness, till at last Sir Maxwell Danby wheeled round, and, bowing low
before Griselda, begged to lead her to the minuet now being formed in
the ball-room.

"I do not dance to-night, sir," Griselda said. "I thank you for the
honour you do me."

Down came Sir Maxwell's head, bowing lower than before, as he murmured:

"Then if I may not have the felicity of a dance, at least give me the
pleasure of conducting you to supper. Several tables are occupied
already, and let me hope that this request will not be refused."

While Sir Maxwell had been speaking Mr. Travers had left his position at
the back of the lounge, and had also come to the front and faced
Griselda.

The two men exchanged a cold and formal salutation, and then Sir Maxwell
seated himself carelessly on the vacant place by Griselda's side, which
Mr. Travers would not have thought he was on sufficiently intimate terms
to do, and throwing his arm over the elbow of the sofa with easy grace,
and crossing his silk-stockinged legs, so that the brilliants on the
buckles of his pointed shoe flashed in the light, he said:

"I will await your pleasure, fair lady, and let us have a little
agreeable chat before we repair to supper."

"I think, sir," said Griselda, rising, "I will rejoin Lady Betty."

"The minuet is formed by this time, and her ladyship is performing her
part to perfection, I doubt not. Let me advise you to remain here, or
allow me to take you to supper."

Griselda gave a quick glance towards Mr. Travers, but he was gone. She
felt she must do one of two things: remain where she was till the dance
was over, or repair to the refreshment-room with her companion.

On the whole it seemed better to remain. Two ladies whom she knew
slightly were seated at the card-table nearest her, and there might
perhaps be a chance of joining them when the game was over. For another
quartette was waiting till the table was free.

"You look charming," Sir Maxwell began; "but why no colour to relieve
this whiteness? I vow I feel as if I, a poor mortal, full of sins and
frailties, was not worthy to touch so angelic a creature."

Griselda was one of those women who do not soften and melt, nor even get
confused, under flattery. It has the very opposite effect, and she said
in a low, but decided voice:

"There are topics less distasteful to me than personalities, sir;
perhaps you may select one."

"Ah! you are cruel, I see. Well, I will only touch one more personality.
Why--why do I see no choice exotics in your hand, or on your breast? the
colour would have enhanced your beauty, and relieved my heart of a
burden."

Griselda made no reply to this, but, rising with the dignity she knew so
well how to command, she walked towards the open door of the next room,
and said:

"Mr. Travers, will you be so good as to take me to the ball-room that I
may rejoin Lady Betty Longueville?"

The young man's face betrayed his pleasure at the request made to him,
and the discomfiture of his rival--rather I should say the hoped-for
discomfiture, for Sir Maxwell Danby was not the man to show that he had
the worst in any encounter. He was at Griselda's side in an instant, and
was walking, or rather I should say ambling, towards Lady Betty, and,
ignoring Mr. Travers's presence, said:

"Your ladyship's fair ward is weary, nay, pining for your company, my
lady."

Lady Betty shrugged her shoulders, and said:

"I vow, sir, she has enough of my company, and I of hers! Now, Griselda,
do not look so mightily affronted; it is the truth. Let us all go to
supper; and make up a pleasant little party. You won't refuse, Mr.
Travers, I am sure."

"With all my heart I accede to your plan, Lady Betty," Sir Maxwell said,
"though I see your late partner is darting shafts of angry jealousy at
me from his dark eyes."

So saying, Sir Maxwell led the way with Lady Betty on his arm, and
Griselda and Mr. Travers followed, but not before Griselda caught the
words:

"Upon my honour, she acts youth to perfection; but she is forty-five if
she is a day. Did you ever behold such airs and graces?"

Griselda felt her cheek burn with shame and indignation also, for had
she not heard Lady Betty say that young Lord Basingstoke was one of her
most devoted admirers? and yet she was clearly only a subject of
merriment, and the cause of that loud unmusical laughter which followed
the words. But Griselda had passed out of hearing before Lord
Basingstoke's friend inquired:


"Who is the other? She looks like a 'Millerite' and an authoress. He
would be a brave man to indulge in loose talk with her. Upon my word,
she walks like a tragedy queen!"

"There'll be the story of Wilson and Macaulay told over again. We shall
have her statue put up to worship!"

"I don't know what you are talking about," said the young lord, with a
yawn.

"My dear fellow, have you never heard of Madam Macaulay, the writer of
nine huge volumes of history, who deserted the reverend Dr. Wilson and
married a young spark named Graham? She is Mrs. Graham now; has retired
from the gay scenes of Bath with her young Scot, who feeds on oat-cakes
and such-like abominations."

"Lady Betty will be following suit--not the white lady," said the young
lord. "I think I'll try and get an introduction," he said, "and lead her
through the 'contre danse.'"

"You won't get the introduction from Lady Betty. I'll lay a wager she
will be too wary to give it; but I must look after my partner, so
ta-ta!"

Truly the world is a stage, across which the generations of men come and
go! Assemblies of to-day at Bath and Clifton, and other places of
fashionable resort, may wear a different aspect in all outward things,
but the salient points are the same. Idle men and foolish women vie with
each other in the parts they play. Age wears the guise of youth, and
vanity hopes that the semblance passes for the reality.

Literary women may not write as Mrs. Macaulay did nine volumes of
ill-digested and shallow history, and become thereby famous, and it
would be hard to match the profane folly of a clergyman like Dr. Wilson,
who in his infatuation erected a statue to this woman in his own church
of St. Stephen's, Walbrook, adorned as the Goddess of Liberty--an
infatuation which we must charitably suppose was madness. Nor would such
a woman be the rage now at Bath or anywhere else.

Lady Miller was of a higher order of womanhood. She created a literary
circle in a beautiful villa at Batheaston, inviting her friends to
contribute poems and deposit them in a vase from Frascati.

It may seem to us ridiculous that successful contributors should be
crowned by Lady Miller with all due solemnity with myrtle wreaths. But
there is surely the same spirit abroad at the close of the nineteenth as
marked the last years of the eighteenth century. The pretenders are not
dead. They have not vanished out of the land. There are the Lady Bettys
who put on the guise of youth, and the Mrs. Macaulays who put on the
appearance of great literary talent. They pose as authorities on
literature and politics, and they are often centres of a _côterie_ who
are fully as subservient as that which Lady Miller gathered round her in
her villa at Batheaston. They may not kneel to receive a laurel crown
from the hands of their patroness; but, none the less, they carry
themselves with the air of those who are superior to common folk, and
can afford to look down from a vantage-ground on their brothers and
sisters in the field of literature, who, making no effort to secure a
hearing, sometimes gain one, and win hearts also. It may be when the
memory of many has perished with their work, that those who have
laboured with a true heart for the good of others, and not for their own
praise and fame, may, being dead, yet speak to generations yet to come.





CHAPTER III.

ANOTHER SIDE OF THE PICTURE.


There was not a cloud in the sky on that December night, and the "host
of heaven" shone with extra-ordinary brilliancy. The moon, at her full,
was shedding her pure silvery light upon the terraces and crescents
of the fair city of the West, and there were yet many people passing to
and fro in the streets. The link-boys had but scant custom that night,
and the chair-men found waiting for the ladies at Wiltshire's Rooms less
irksome than when, as so often happened, they had to stand in bitter
cold and darkness long after the hour appointed for them to take up
their burdens and carry them to their respective homes.

In a room in Rivers Street a woman sat busily at work, with a mass of
papers before her--musical scores and printed matter, from which she was
making swift copy with her firm, decided hand. She was so absorbed in
the business in hand, that she did not feel the weariness of the task
before her. Copying catalogues and tables could not be said to be an
interesting task; but Caroline Herschel never weighed in the balance the
nature of her work, whether it was pleasant or the reverse. It was her
work, and she must do it; and it was service for one she loved best in
the world, and therefore no thought of her own likes or dislikes was
allowed to enter into the matter. Presently a voice was heard calling
her name:

"Caroline--quick!"

The pen was laid down at once, and Miss Herschel ran upstairs to the
upper story to her brother.

"Help me to carry the telescope into the street. The moon is just in
front of the houses. Carry the stand and the instrument. Be careful! I
will follow with the rest."

"In the street?" Caroline asked. "Will you not be disturbed by
passers-by?"

"Nothing disturbs me," was the reply. "I answer no questions, so folks
tire of putting them. It is such a glorious night--there may not be
another like it for months; and the moon is clearer than I have seen her
since I had the seven-foot reflector."

As William Herschel spoke, he was preparing to carry the precious
reflector downstairs--that outcome of many a night-watch, and many a
weary hour of purely manual labour. Turning the lathe and polishing
mirrors was, however, but a small part of his unflagging perseverance.
This perseverance had evolved the larger instrument from a small
telescope, bought for a trifle from an optician at Bath. That telescope
had first kindled the desire in William Herschel's mind to produce one
which should surpass all its predecessors, and help him to scan more
perfectly those "star-strewn skies," and discover in them treasures to
make known to future ages, and be linked for ever with his name.
Caroline Herschel was his right hand. She was his apprentice in the
workshop--his reader when the polishing went on; and often, when William
had not even a moment to spare for food, she would stand over him, and
feed him as he worked with morsels of some dish prepared by her own
hand.

"You have copied the score for Ronzini, Caroline?"

"I have nearly finished it."

"And you have practised that quick passage in the song in 'Judas
Maccabæus'?"

"Yes; but I will do so again before to-morrow. It is our reception-day,
you remember."

"Yes; where is Alexander?"

"He is at the Ball at Wiltshire's. He was at work all the morning, you
know," Caroline said, in an apologetic tone.

"Work is not Alex's meat and drink; he likes play."

In a few minutes the telescope was adjusted on the pavement before the
house; and the faithful sister, having thrown a thick shawl over her
head, stood patiently by her brother's side, handing him all he wanted,
writing down measurements, though her fingers were blue with cold, and
the light of the little hand-lanthorn she had placed on the doorstep
scarcely sufficed for her purpose.

At last all was ready, and then silence followed--profound
silence--while the brother's eyes swept the heavens, and scanned the
surface of that pale, mysterious satellite of our earth, whose familiar
face looks down on us month by month, and by whose wax and wane we
measure our passing time by a sure and unfailing guide.

Caroline Herschel took no notice of the few bystanders who paused to
wonder what the gentleman was doing. She stood waiting for his word to
note down in her book the calculation of the height of the particular
mountain in the moon to which the telescope was directed.

Presently he exclaimed, "I have it!--write."

And as Caroline turned to enter the figures dictated to her, a gentleman
who was passing paused.

"May I be allowed to look into that telescope, madam?" he asked.

Caroline only replied in a low voice:

"Wait, sir; he has not finished. He is in the midst of an abstruse
problem."

"I have it--I have it!" was the next exclamation. "Write. It is the
highest of the range. There is snow on it--and--yes, I am pretty sure.
Now, Caroline, we will mount again, and I will make some observations on
the nebulæ--the night is so glorious."

"William, this gentleman asks if he may be allowed to look into the
telescope."

"Certainly--certainly, sir. Have you never seen her by the help of a
reflector before?"

"No, never; that is to say, by the help of any instrument so gigantic as
this."

William Herschel tossed back his then abundant hair, and said:

"Gigantic!--nay, sir; the giant is to come. This is the pigmy, but now
stand here, and I will adjust the lens to your sight--so! Do you see?"


"Wonderful!" was the exclamation after a minute's silence. "Wonderful!
May I, sir, introduce myself as Dr. Watson, and may I follow up this
acquaintance by a call to-morrow?"

"You will do me great honour, sir; and if you care for music, be with us
to-morrow at three o'clock, when my sister there will discourse some
real melody, if so it should please you. Is it not so, Caroline?"

"There will be more attractive music than mine, brother," Miss Herschel
said.

"I doubt it, if, as I hear," said Dr. Watson, with a low bow, "the
musical world finds in Miss Herschel a worthy successor to the fair
Linley, who has made Sheridan happy--maybe happier than he deserves!"

Caroline Herschel bowed in acknowledgment of the compliment, and said:

"Miss Farinelli carries the palm, sir. Now, brother, shall we return to
the top of the house?"

She was almost numb with cold, but she made no complaint; and when the
telescope with all the instruments had been conveyed to the top story,
she patiently stood far into the night, while her brother swept the
heavens, and took notes of all he said, as his keen glances searched the
star depths, and every now and then exchanged an expression of wonder
and delight with his faithful friend, and the sharer of all his toils
and all his joys.

So, while the gay world of Bath wore away the night in the hot chase for
pleasure, this brother and sister pursued their calm and earnest way
towards the attainment of an end, which has made their names a
watch-word for all patient learners and students of the great mysteries
of the universe, for all time.

"The thirty-foot reflector, Caroline! That is the grand aim. Shall I
ever accomplish it? We must make our move at once, for I must have a
basement where I can work undisturbed. I find the pounding of the loam
will be a work of patience."

"Like all work," Caroline said, as she retired, not to bed, but to the
copying of the score, from which occupation she had been disturbed when
her brother called her.

"Expenses are ahead," she said to herself. "Money--money, we shall want
money for this thirty-foot; and, after all, it may be a vain hope that
we shall produce it. Thirty-foot! Well, music must find the money. Music
is our handle, our talisman which is to turn the common things into
gold."

"Well, Alex, is that you? Have you been playing as usual?"

"Playing, yes; and you had better play too, you look quite an old Frau,
Lina."

"I don't doubt it--not I; a contrast to your painted dames at
Wiltshire's."

"One, at least, was not painted. She is a queen!--she is lovely."

Caroline laughed a little ironical laugh.

"Another flame! Poor Alex! you will sure be consumed ere long."

"You won't laugh when you see her, Lina; and she is coming to-morrow to
listen to your singing. Travers has told me she was raving about your
singing at Madam Colebrook's the other evening, and he is to be here
to-morrow and introduce her."

"He is very obliging, I am sure," said Caroline with another little
laugh. "There is a letter to Ronzini which should be sent by a messenger
early to-morrow to Bristol. Can you write it?"

"It is early to-morrow now," replied Alex. "Stay, good sister. I must to
bed, and you should follow, or you will not be in trim to sing to the
lady fair to-morrow. Come!"

"The bees make the honey, Alex; it would not answer if all were
butterflies. You are one of those who think that folks were made to make
your life pleasant."

"Bees can sting, I see," was Alexander's remark. "But give me a kiss,
Lina; we don't forget our old home-love, do we? Let us hold together."

"I am willing, dear Alex; if I am crabbed at times, make excuses. These
servants are a pest. I could fancy this last is a thief: the odds and
ends vanish, who knows how? Oh! I do long for the German households
which go on oiled wheels, and don't stop and put everyone out--time and
temper too--like these English ones."

"We will all hasten back to Hanover, sister, with the telescopes at our
backs, when----"

"When the thirty-foot mirror is made. Ah!--a----"

This last interjection was prolonged, and turned into a sigh, almost a
groan.

When Alex was gone his sister got up and walked two or three times round
the room, drank a glass of cold water, opened the shutters, and looked
out into the night.

The moon had passed out of the ken of Rivers Street now, but its light
was throwing sharp blue shadows from the roofs of the houses, and the
figure of the watch-man with his multitude of capes as he stood
motionless opposite the window from which Caroline Herschel was looking
out into the night.

Presently the dark shadow of the watchman's figure moved. He sounded his
rattle and walked on, calling in his ringing monotone:

"It is just two o'clock, and a fine frosty morning. All well."

As the sound died away with the watchman's heavy footsteps, Caroline
Herschel closed the shutter, and saying, "I am wide awake now," reseated
herself at the table, and wrote steadily on till the clock from the
Abbey church had struck four, when at last she went to bed.

Her naturally strong physique, her unemotional nature, and her calm and
quiet temper, except when pestered by her domestics' misdemeanours, were
in Caroline Herschel's favour.



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