Rosa Easton was her papa’s
pet. She was allowed to do anything or everything, without the fear of
contradiction. Educated at home from her earliest childhood, lacking the
careful guardianship of a mother—for Mrs Easton had died in giving birth
to her—and her vanity being constantly flattered by her waiting women, it
would indeed have been remarkable, if Rosa could have been other than a
self-willed being. Although not remarkably handsome, she was called a
perfect Venus by her flatterers; although possessed of a mind not over
well cultivated, she was made to believe that she had the intellect of a
Joanna Baillie. As she advanced in years, however, she began to see the
folly of all this nonsense; and, betaking herself to the constant study of
books, by the time she reached one-and-twenty, there was not a better
informed young woman for many miles round. Reading, however, could not
entirely subdue those hurtful notions, which had been erewhile implanted
in her breast, whence had sprung up self-will, a hasty temper, and
a thousand other "ills that flesh is heir to." Had her station been lowly,
as it was otherwise, with such headstrong passions, and a heart accessible
to flattery, the chances are great that she would have fallen an easy prey
to the machinations of the seducer. Even as she was, the undisputed
heiress of her father’s wealth, she would have been in some danger, had
she not fortunately met with a young man named Walter Gifford, a
steady-minded young man, who would have scorned—so he himself said—to pay
his addresses to any girl otherwise than on honourable terms.
Notwithstanding her capture of such a rara avis, her father
was quite opposed to the notion of such a connexion terminating in a
wedding. He urged the necessity of his daughter’s looking out for a
husband who would raise her in the world’s eye, and not throw herself away
upon a fellow without a profession; and, although the fellow kept a
valet de chambre, whose means, he was informed, were barely sufficient
to keep himself in food and raiment, he ended by forbidding Gifford’s
future visits to his house—nay, more, that she should drop his
acquaintance. But Rosa had been too much humoured in every trifle during
her bygone years to submit quietly to the will of another, even though
that other was her father; and the more he urged her to break off the
connexion, the more obstinate did she become. She contrived, in spite of
her father’s prohibition, to see Walter Gifford. Their meetings were
clandestine; and, on such occasions, they did not fail to vow eternal
constancy, and to assert that all the fathers in the world should not
prevent them from marrying each other. Once Gifford proposed an elopement;
but when Rosa informed him that, until her father’s death, she was only a
dependant upon his bounty, the steady-minded young man took a second
thought of the matter, and dared say, after all, that it would be better
not to be too precipitate.
At length Rosa’s father did
die. Rosa wept a good deal, deluging at least half-a-dozen cambric
pocket-handkerchiefs with her tears; but the thoughts of coming into
immediate possession of Woodland Lodge, and all the old man’s wealth,
after some short time, put a stop to her grief on his account for ever. It
was buried in his grave with the last spadeful of mould thrown in by the
There being no bar now to
her union with Gifford, Rosa Easton, after a fortnight spent in the
solitude of her chamber, for decency’s sake, wrote him a letter, desiring
his presence on the morrow at Woodland Lodge.
The morrow morning came, as morrow
mornings will come, all in due time. Rosa was up half-an-hour
before her wont, having passed a rather sleepless night; and what young
girl under similar circumstances would not have passed a sleepless
night? Drawing the curtain of her bedroom window half aside, she looked
forth upon the green lawn which lay in front of the cottage. The calm
sunbeams of the early day were reposing on it; she thought she had never
seen it look so pretty before. The tall trees too, which bordered it,
seemed to wear a more lively aspect than usual; even the very ducks and
geese, which, from time to time, waddled by, were, in her eyes, as so many
birds of paradise. When we are pleased with ourselves, everything else in
our estimation assumes
la couleur de rose.
The entrance of Rosa’s "own maid,"
Bridget, brought her from the window—Bridget was in her confidence, as all
young ladies’ "own maids" invariably are, and, being well aware that her
mistress expected Mr Gifford that day at Woodland Lodge, she took more
than ordinary pains with her aforesaid mistress’s toilette. More than
ordinary attention was bestowed on Rosa’s curls, the while Bridget chatted
away about things in general, and nothing in particular, to the great
edification of Rosa. There was, however, a something mysterious about her
manner, that morning, quite perceptible to Rosa. It seemed as if she had
something of terrible import to reveal, yet withheld it, for the fear of
something more terrible still—her mistress’
s anger. After a little, a very little coaxing, Rosa got the secret
out of her. Bridget whispered it into her ear, and, oh! how suddenly her
colour changed to a deathly paleness, as she started from the
rush-bottomed chair, whereon she had been for the last half hour
deposited, while undergoing the ordeal of the curling tongs.
"Married!" she exclaimed—"Gifford married! No, no—it
cannot be!" She said this with the air and accent of one who makes the
wish a father to the thought.
"La, ma’am!" said Bridget, "that’s all you knows of
them men creturs! Ah, if you had had only the half of my experience! But
it’s no use talking; you never will be quite so experienced in sich
matters as your humble servant—and pity that so good a lady should!"
"Come, now, Biddy," said
her mistress, coaxingly, "do confess that this marriage has been got up by
yourself on purpose to tease me."
"Ah, no, ma’am!" was the
reply—"would that it were! But, alas!"—here she heaved a deep sigh, and
turned the whites of her eyes heavenward—"alas! ‘tis too true!"
"True! How know you of it?
Whence your information? Speak, child!" almost screamed Miss Rosa.
"So I will, ma’am," said
Bridget, twiddling the corner of her apron Francais—"So I will, ma’am, if
you’ll only give me time. You see, the case stands thus:—Our Martha has a
small love-affair with Mister Billy Simpkins, Mr Gifford’s valley—so
called from being sich a low situation. Well, of course, our
Martha agreed to correspond with Mister Billy Simpkins, from whom she
yesterday received sich a sweet billet—so like himself!—containing
the information I have jist communicated."
"And that billet?" inquired
Rosa, who had hung breathlessly on Bridget’s syllables.
"Is in Martha’s possession,
ma’am; but, I dare say, she would lend it to me for a short time—I’ll run
and fetch it."
And away she bundled out of
the room, without waiting for her mistress’s consent to the business. Rosa
paced her chamber for nearly five minutes, at the expiration of which time
her patience was fairly exhausted, and away she ran down-stairs to look
for Bridget and Mr Simpkins’s love-letter. She had just got the length of
the parlour-door, when out bounced Bridget from the kitchen, with the
longed-for prize in her hand.
"Here it is, ma’am!" she
cried, holding it up. "Martha was rather unwilling to let me have it."
"Make haste, then; give it
me!" exclaimed the young lady, at the same time snatching the epistle--a
three-cornered one, on perfumed paper—from Bridget, and running into the
parlour, with Bridget at her heels. She tried to decipher the pothooks and
hangers which met her gaze on opening it; but she found herself unable for
"I’m all trepidation," she
said; "I can’t read it. Do you, Biddy!"
Bridget took the note from
her mistress; and, in a clear, distinct voice, read as follows:--
"MY DEAR MARTHA,—This kums to let you no that i am in
good helth at this present writting, hopping that yow ar in the same, my
dear Martha. i hop yow got the small packet of tee safe, wat i sent yow
direc from the hingine house, at Edinboro. Wen i see it so neetly paked, i
sed—wat do you think?—Well, I sed it wood soot you gist to a T. i
‘m not a vane man, but i thinks as how that air’s werry clever—don’t you?
O! wen shall wee 2 take tee agen together? By the by, tawkin of
tee, our young master’s married—and to ‘oom, think ye? To no less a person
than Patty Primrose, the grocer’s daughter."
"Oh! the wretch!"
ejaculated Bridget, by way of parenthesis, when she arrived at this
particular point; and she was preparing to proceed with the remainder of
the billetdoux, when her mistress interrupted her.
"Biddy!" she cried, "why
will you go on so? Put up the fatal missive, put it up. I have heard
enough to convince me of Walter Gifford’s unworthiness. Oh! villain,
villain! thus to blight the hopes of her who, fondly trusting to thine
honour, gave up to thee her young affections."
So saying, as long as the
sentimental fit was upon her. Rosa Easton sat down to her harp, and
carolled forth these words to the beautiful air of
Durandarte and Bellerma:--
"All my dreams of joy have perish’d,
Snowlike from the mountain height;
Slowly, surely were they cherish’d,
But fleet and sure has been their flight.
"E’en though faithless man deceive
To delusive hope we cling,
And the tempter will not leave us
Till we perish by its sting.
"Hark! a jocund peal is ringing
Through his halls of pomp and pride;
While despair its course is winging
To my lorn bower to claim its bride.
"Ah! my lonely heart is breaking,
And mine eyes with tears are dim;
Struggling pride its spoil is making,
Yet alters not my love for him."
Having thus given vent to
her feelings in a song, she became more calm, yet for upwards of an hour
afterwards she imposed upon herself the no very amiable task of chewing
the cud of sweet and bitter fancy. At the expiration of that time, up she
rose and pranced about the room, making a determination in her own mind to
marry the first man who would have her.
On a sudden, Bridget burst
into the room, announcing that Mr Gifford had just turned the corner of
the house on his way to the entrance. At first, Rosa resolved not to see
him; but, thinking that he would, from that circumstance, conclude that
she was mortified by his marriage, she desired that he should be shown in,
at the same time requesting Bridget to inform him that she was
also married, for the palpable reason of showing him that there were
other men in the world who thought her worth the having. This fact was
duly communicated to the aforesaid gentleman, with that peculiarly cutting
air in which women delight to say severe things to those who happen to
labour under their displeasure. The steady-minded young man betrayed
considerable emotion but yet he could hardly believe himself to think that
Bridget spoke truth. His first question, therefore, to Rosa, on his
entering the parlour was—"And are you really married ma’am?"
"And if I am sir, what
then?" was the Scotch answer.
"Oh, nothing. But what am I
to understand from so sudden an accident?"
"Draw what conclusions you
please, sir. I will not condescend an explanation. I desire your presence
no further sir; so I beg you will be gone." She waved him towards the
door, and turned towards the window to conceal the tears which gathered in
"Yet ere I go," said
Gifford, as he stood with the handle of the door in his hand, about to
turn it—"Ere I go, I should be glad to learn who—who is the happy
This was a question for
which Rosa was altogether unprepared; but, as she had already gone so far,
she could not retrograde, so she therefore said, with great composure, "Mr
Pigwiggins, sir, is the person whom I have the honour to call husband."
Mr Pigwiggins was a
respectable dealer in slop-basins in the neighbouring town of Dunse. It
was the first name that occurred to her recollection; and, on the spur of
the moment, she gave utterance to it. Then, and only then, did its glaring
absurdity flash upon her; and she could have laughed outright, had not
prudence restrained her. Fortunately, Mr Gifford took it as truth; and,
respectfully bidding her adieu, he was about to depart, when the idea of
sending his compliments to the husband struck him as a capital device for
wounding the finer feelings of Rosa, enhanced by his dwelling upon each
syllable of the name, for a tormenting space of time, with a marked
"Give my compliments to Mr
Pig—wig—gins, ma’am," he exclaimed, with an air of mock solemnity.
"Be so good, Mr Gifford,"
said she, in return, "as give my compliments to the ci-devant
"Primrose, to be sure."
"Madam, I am somewhat at a
loss. I know nothing of the lady you have just mentioned."
"What! not know your own
"Wife!—the devil! Some
gross mistake is here, madam; will you inform me whence you derived your
"You know that hand?"
continued Rosa, producing Martha’s letter.
"I do—’tis that scoundrel,
"And your valet?"
"No; he is no servant of
mine. I turned the rascal off a month ago; and he is now living with that
puppy, Anslow, who has lately become a Benedict."
"This, then, explains all,"
said Rosa, exultingly. "And are you really not married?"
"Whether I am or not can be
of little consequence to you, madam. I leave you to your meditations and
And he was again about to
"O Walter!" cried Rosa,
with a look of intense agony, "will you leave me thus? Not one kind word?
as thy sex!—tax me not with such unmeaning epithets; for ‘tis you only who
have broken those vows we interchanged."
"Nay, nay, Walter; say not
so—’twas but to try you; and I too am free."
Nothing could exceed the
joy of Gifford, when he heard this. He snatched Rosa to his arms, and
covered her cheeks with kisses, while he sighed forth his wish that she
would consent to become his wife. And she did become his wife; and a day
of regret it was to her, in after life, that on which she placed her hand
in his, and vowed to love and obey him; for, not long after their
marriage, Gifford threw aside the mask, and appeared in his true
character. He had never loved Rosa—indeed, love was quite a stranger to
his bosom— and it was only for her wealth that he had wooed her. This soon
became apparent; for he treated her with coldness and neglect.
Tired to death by a
residence at Woodland Cottage for the space of six months after his
marriage, Walter Gifford proposed to his wife that they should visit
London. To this Rosa was by no means averse; yet if she had been, it would
have mattered little; the result would have been precisely the same, for
she had no power to act against her husband’s will, so completely had he
obtained the mastery over her.
To London, therefore, they
proceeded, with all possible despatch. Rosa had never before been within
the walls of that vast and wealthy city, and the excitement attendant on a
first visit to it was sufficient to buoy up her spirits for nearly a whole
fortnight. In the company of her husband she visited many of the public
places during the first week; but after that, if she wished to go
anywhere, she must either do so alone, or with his footman to attend her,
he himself preferring the society of any one else to that of his wife.
One evening when he had "dropped in for an hour"—
solus, as usual—to witness the representation of a new ballet at the
Opera House, he was struck with the pretty face and "the ankle neatly
turned" of one of the figurantes. An introduction was easily procured;
and, after a very short while, the fair lady was fixed in an elegant
residence near Storey’s Gate, with her carriage, servants, and the other
paraphernalia of a "good settlement."
The frequency of Gifford’s
visits to this lady, necessarily curtailed the allowance of time he would
otherwise have expended in his wife’s company. His repeated absences— now
extended to whole nights as well as days—awakened suspicions in the bosom
of Rosa. The result was dissension. He came one evening, attended by a
person habited as a coachman, and whose face was most carefully concealed
by means of a slouch hat. Gifford, with an oath, ordered his wife to dress
for a journey, while he himself proceeded to pack up her wearing apparel.
In silence, Rosa obeyed.
A coach was waiting at the
door, and Gifford desired her to enter it. A moment afterwards, the coach
was moving rapidly onward. For two days they travelled without stopping,
save but to change horses and refresh themselves. To Rosa’s oft-repeated
inquiry of, "Where are we going?" she could obtain no answer from her
mysterious conductor. She remarked, too, that when he left the coach, if
but for an instant, he fastened the door so as to prevent her escape. At
length they stopped at a solitary cottage on the borders of a moor, and
Rosa was given to understand that she was to be left here. The only inmate
was an old woman, taciturn and hard of heart. Every night was Rosa locked
within her chamber, and during the day she could not stir out without
being followed and carefully watched by this old she Cerberus.
At length she found ways
and means to effect her escape. It was in the night time she left the
cottage. Her first step was to return to London, and learn from her
husband the cause of his inhuman conduct. After a weary journey of eight
days, she found herself again within sound of Bow-bells. Unaware of the
present residence of Gifford, day by day did she watch, in the most
frequented streets, to catch a glimpse of him. She was fortunate enough,
in the end, to espy the very man who had acted in the capacity of
coachman; and, with stealthy steps, she followed him. She saw him enter a
splendid mansion in the vicinity of Storey’s Gate. She approached the door
and read on the plate the name of "Mademoiselle Garbuzzie." This was
enough. That very night, by the aid of Gifford’s footman, whom she bribed
to the act, she gained admission to the house. Taking her station behind
the window-curtains of the drawing-room, she patiently awaited the arrival
of her husband and his paramour. About eleven o’clock, Gifford entered the
room alone, pale and breathless. He rung the bell with violence. The
"Has Mademoiselle Garbuzzie
been here this afternoon?"
"Yes, sir!" said his man;
"and she and Mr Wallace went away together. She left this note for you,
sir." The man withdrew.
"Curses light upon her,"
exclaimed Gifford, after reading the note. "She is gone at last with
all—all, and left me almost a beggar!" He sunk into a chair, overcome with
rage and vexation. After a while he went on—"But I will not live to meet
the sneers of the world. This pistol shall"--
"Hold!" cried his wife,
rushing forward and catching his arm. He was awe-struck. He fell on his
knees, imploring her forgiveness. It was granted; and a few days saw them
again at Woodland Cottage.