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Memoirs of a Highland Lady
Chapter XXII. 1829-1830


MR GARDINER and Mary had removed to a house in the Fort in Rampart Row, where they were engaged in packing up their effects, having determined on going home to England. We were all distressed at this strange resolution; he was in good health, she no worse in India than at home, and the child was thriving, so that to throw up the service when he was so near the top seemed a pity. However, they had decided on going; they took their passage in a small Liverpool merchantman, three hundred tons, and waited only to see me married. The last week of their stay, having sold all they did not mean to carry home, they removed to the Retreat, which I was glad of for all their sakes.

Ten days before our marriage, news arrived of the death of my Colonel's brother, which made him possessor of the Irish estate, then valued at £I2oo a year. My Colonel wished me to put on mourning for his brother on reaching Satara, so my wardrobe had no addition with the exception of three pretty new gowns sent out luckily by the London dressmaker for me, with a pelisse and hat and feathers for my mother, which she, not fancying, made over to me.

My father gave me twenty gold mohurs on my wedding morning, and as uncle Edward had also given me a present, I felt rich for the first time in my life; and I never felt poor again, and though circumstances reduced our future income infinitely below our expectations, we so managed it that we have never owed what we could not pay, nor ever known what it was to be pressed for money.

My Colonel was married in his staff uniform, which we thought became him better than his cavalry light grey. There was a large party of relations, a few friends, and the good Bishop, then only Mr Carr, married us. My mother, who had become reconciled to my choice, outraged all propriety by going with me to the Cathedral; both she and I wished it, as I was to proceed across the bay immediately after the ceremony. So it all took place, how, I know not, for with the awfulness of the step I was taking, the separation from my father and mother, and the parting for an indefinite time from dear Mary, I was bewildered all that morning, and hardly knew what I was doing till I found myself in the boat sailing away among the islands, far away from every one but him who was to be in lieu of all to me for evermore.

In the month of October, asthma, to which for many years my husband had been subject, attacked him seriously. Night after night he spent In an easy chair smoking stramonlum and appearing to suffer painfully. As the fit became worse instead of better, Dr Bird, who had returned to his duties, advised change of air, not to Poonah but to Bombay, to leave the high ground at once and descend to the coast for a while. He told me privately the stomach and liver were deranged from long residence in a tropical climate and that our best plan would be to return home. This neither of us wished, and we suggested the Neilgherrles; he said they were only a makeshift, present ease, but no remedy. So we proceeded to Bombay, where we took up our residence with my father and mother.

Colonel Smith felt better for a day or two, and then he got ill again. Dr Eckford recommended a consultation, so Dr M'Adam and Dr Penny were called in, and they decided for a voyage home. Whether they were right or wrong, who can say? They were so uneasy about him that they asked for a private interview with me, and told me he was in serious ill-health, had been too long in that climate, that another season could not but go very hard with him, that a stay in the Neilgherries was only a palliative, not a cure, and that, in short, were he not to sail for England they could not answer for the consequences.

My father was unwilling to lose us from India. He went again to Dr M'Adam, and on returning told me there was nothing for it but the voyage home. I must own I was very sorry. We had made up our minds to remain three years longer, and this sudden retirement from place and pay was a disappointment.

After many inquiries, visits to many ships in harbour, and careful search as to their commanders, we decided to sail in the Childe Harold, a new, swift vessel beautifully fitted up, commanded by Captain West, an old experienced lieutenant in the Royal Navy. He was to make a coasting voyage, which was particularly recommended for my husband.

This settled, we furnished one of the poop cabins without much cost, as my father made over to us a good deal of our former cabin furniture. The small cabin next ours was taken for little Willy Anderson and his maid, who was to act as mine. The Colonel engaged a native male attendant, as when a violent fit of asthma attacked him he was totally helpless. The small cabin opposite was taken by Dr Eckford, who had resolved to pay a short visit to the Cape. We had thus prepared for as much comfort as a homeward voyage admits of; it is rarely as pleasant as a voyage out, for, in general, health and spirits are wanting to those who are leaving their occupation behind them.

My last sight of my father was in the cabin of the Childe Harold, where he and my mother left me late on the evening of the 4th of November; he lingered behind her one moment to fold me to his heart again, neither of us speaking, and then he vanished from my sight for ever. Long I sat listening to the stroke of the oars which carried them back in the darkness to their desolate home. It was a dreary parting.

Very early in the morning of some day towards the end of April 1830 we anchored in the roads off Portsmouth. Most of the gentlemen called boats and went ashore. Captain West returned with delicious things for breakfast, fresh eggs, butter, cream, fine bread; how we enjoyed the feast I It gave us strength for our preparations.

Our two servants bestirred themselves; Malek was to remain on board in charge of our heavy luggage; Mary, with the trunks selected, was to land with us. The Colonel was the difficulty; for a week past he had not been able to move hand or foot without bringing on a spasm. They had said at Bombay that he would not live to reach home. They said at sea that he would die on the voyage. It seemed this last day as if we should never get him safe ashore.

A chair was prepared, he was carried out to it, laid on it, lowered to the boat, lifted up and settled among cushions. We were about half an hour rowing in, and we landed by the same steps on the same quay, and we had secured rooms at the same hotel looking on the harbour, from which I had started two years and a half before for India. The captain had taken the rooms in the morning as the nearest to the water and so the most convenient for the poor Colonel. What was our amazement when the boat struck, to see him rise unassisted, walk up the steps, and along the quay in his large cloak, and seat himself in the little parlour without a gasp! We ordered what seemed to us the most luxurious of repasts, tea, bread and butter, and muffins; we even played whist, and when we went to bed, the Colonel lay down and slept till morning, the first time he had ventured on such an indulgence for six weeks. I was too happy to sleep.

Next day I walked about the town with my colonel and found it piercingly cold on the Ramparts. Before going out I had written to Jane to say we should be with her next day. Dear Jane, she was watching at the gate when we reached Malshanger.

The party assembled at Maishanger consisted of Mary, her husband, and two children, Tom having been born the previous January, William, aunt Bourne, and her stepdaughter, Henrietta. Aunt Bourne had been at Maishanger all along; her rich and happy marriage had ended in a second widowhood, and she was left the charge of a stepdaughter, who was to her all that her own daughter could have been. Henrietta was particularly attractive in looks and manners, and took to us all. Poor little Willy Anderson, who cried bitterly on leaving his "auntie," was to be delivered to Miss Elphick in Kensington; she had given up the governess line, having her mother to provide for, and was trying to establish a sort of infant boarding-school, which, poor soul, she never succeeded in making a profitable speculation.

The Gardiners had taken a cottage at a pretty village three miles off down the hill, surrounding the parish church which we attended; they took it for six months. It was an old, good-sized farm cottage, with a porch, and a draw-well, and latticed windows, and a new front, with large rooms, and large windows looking on a flower-garden. Their voyage in that little boat had been very boisterous; they escaped shipwreck by a mere chance; instead of landing at Liverpool they were stranded on the coast of Galloway, landed in boats, started with half their luggage for London, in postchaises, and after a London lodging took a house at Ham, to be near Mr Gardiner's aunt, Miss Porter; then they tried Cheltenham, and at last responded to Jane's proposal of this cottage. A few days sufficed to settle them most comfortably. They were very happy there, always cheerful, everything nice about them, the children merry, dear little things. Jane and I often drove in the basket-carriage with "Goody," and while she wandered through the village visiting the poor people who shared her bounties, I sat by Mary's work-table in the window opening on the garden, where Mr Gardiner delighted in being busy, little Janie in her white frock and blue sash trotting about the room, and baby Tommy on my knee.

All parties were anxious that my Colonel and I should settle in that neighbourhood; there was a desirable place, Tangier, to be let, but we could not take it. The sharp air disagreed with him, and besides, duty and his early attachments recalled him to his own green isle. In London he was comparatively well; asthma attacked him directly he returned to us. It was plain he could not stay at Maishanger, so he left us for Dublin.

My sisters and I had a subject of anxiety in William's engagement to Sally Siddons; about this time she came on a visit to Mary, her sister Elizabeth followed to Maishanger; William, of course, was with his affianced. The news of their engagement had not reached Bombay when we sailed. I met it in England, I must say, with dismay. I feared my mother would give way to a violence of disapproval that would make all concerned very uncomfortable, and that would upset my father. Very anxiously we all awaited our Indian letters, Jane, Mary, and I were grave, William in a fever, Sally calm. Mrs Siddons had written to my father detailing the progress of the attachment, which she would not sanction without his consent. She touched on William's faults of character, but believed them to have been redeemed by the way in which he had supported adversity. William was keeping his terms at the Temple, Lord Gleneig having obtained permission for him to proceed as a barrister to Bengal. The last paragraph of Mrs Siddons' letter did probably no harm; it stated that Sally's fortune would be at least ten thousand pounds.

My father received this letter alone, and alone he determined to consider it before venturing to inform my mother. He passed a sleepless night, and when at dawn he made up his mind to rouse his sleeping partner with the news, he found he might have saved himself all perturbation; my mother had heard nothing for a long while that had given her so much pleasure! A most cordial invitation to William and his wife accompanied the consent to the marriage; Jane gave a grand dinner, Colonel Pennington produced champagne, and an evening of happy family cheerfulness followed.

On the 3rd of July my baby girl was born. I had a peep of my husband on his way from Dublin to London, and he returned only to take me away, being ordered by his doctor to Cheltenham for a course of the waters. He came back in a pretty britchka that he and William had chosen for me; Annie N— and these two travelling together in it. After a few days we packed up and packed off', and then indeed I felt I was gone out from among my own kindred, and had set up independently—a husband—a baby—an end indeed of Eliza Grant.


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