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The Cottagers of Glenburnie
Chapter V. Mrs Mason's Story Concluded

AS soon as the doctors thought it safe for me to speak to them, the children were brought to see me ; and you may imagine what joy it gave me to embrace the little darlings, and to hear them tell me that they knew I had saved their lives; and that God had permitted me to save them, because He loved me for being good. Pretty little creatures ! I shall never forget how their fond expressions went to my heart. They were attended by Peggy, who was sent for by my lady, and taken back into her service as soon as she learned all the history of the impositions practised by Dickens to get her away.

1 was, however, grieved by the bad accounts of my lady's health. She continued poorly, and my lord thinking she would be better in the country, took a furnished house at Richmond, about eight miles from London, where she was shortly afterwards delivered of a dead child. Her recovery was long doubtful; and by the doctor's advice, my lord went with her to spend the summer at Clifton, near the Bristol hot-wells, which seemed to me like a sentence of death; for it is there that people who have consumptions are, if able to afford it, sent to die. But it pleased God that my lady should not be taken from her family so soon.

By the time that I was able to go to Clifton, which was about the middle of July, I found her restored almost to her usual health. I could then only walk on crutches, but I was so wearied of doing nothing that I was very anxious to resume my duty; and as I had one of my lord's carriages to travel in, I could suffer nothing from the journey.

I was extremely anxious before leaving London to see Sally, who had been represented to me as suffering under all the horrors of remorse, on account of the misfortunes she had occasioned; but it was not till after many messages that I could prevail on her to come to me. She, however, came at length; and began, as soon as she saw me, to profess her sorrow for what I had suffered, and to beg my forgiveness. She wept bitterly ; and, hoping that her heart was touched by penitence, I endeavoured to comfort her, by expatiating on the mercies of God, and on the hopes that were held forth in the gospel to those who truly repented of their sins.

It was a language she did not understand, for she had been brought up in deplorable ignorance; and told me she had never heard anybody speak of such things, but a neighbour, who was a Methodist, and that she thought it had been all Tabernacle talk. It was very melancholy to hear a woman in whom the greatest of all possible trusts had been reposed, acknowledge herself thus ignorant of all the doctrines of Christianity. What wonder that her moral conduct should have been so bad; for on what foundation can the moral conduct of one in her station, or indeed in any station, rest, when you take away the fear of God?

Hoping that I might by my instructions make some impression upon her mind, I spared no pains with this unfortunate creature; and might, I really believe, have succeeded in confirming her good resolutions, had she not been laid hold of by some enthusiasts, who laboured at what they called her conversion. Before any good habit had been formed, and while her mind was yet in a state of profound ignorance, her imagination was so warmed by their discourses, as to make her boast of being in a state of grace; and before I left London, her divine raptures were quoted by some of these pious visionaries as a proof of saintship. But, alas! the fire of zeal was soon exhausted; and the poor creature being destitute of solid principle, and considering herself in a state of reprobation, flew to the society of her former associates, as a resource from thought. The consequences were dreadful: she was soon plunged into vice, and died in misery; but this did not come to my knowledge for several years.

On going to Clifton, I was received by my lord and lady more like a friend than a servant. They indeed told me that I was to be as a servant no longer: for that I was henceforth to be English governess to their children, with a salary of thirty pounds a-year. A Swiss governess for the young ladies had been already some weeks with them ; and though, I confess, I had a sort of prejudice against her at first, on account of her being a foreigner, I soon found that she was a person of great integrity, and had a truly pious and amiable mind. She was as agreeably disappointed in me as I was in her; for she thought it impossible that a person could be so suddenly raised, without assuming some airs of arrogance and self-conceit. But I had seen enough of this to be upon my guard, lest my heart should be puffed up; and had always thought it a base thing in persons, who saw themselves regarded more than others, to take advantage of it for the indulgence of their own capricious humours. For twelve years Mademoiselle and I went on hand in hand, labouring for the good of our pupils; and had the pleasure of seeing them grow up, under our eyes, promising to be blessings to the land, and the pleasure and glory of all their connections.

My lord and lady doated on their children; and well they might, for never were any like them. The young ladies, so graceful, so sweet-tempered, and so accomplished ! and the young gentlemen, so well behaved, and at the same time so clever, that all their masters said, they learned better and faster than any scholars they had. Lady Charlotte was very handsome, and had many admirers, before she was eighteen ; but she had no liking to any of them, and said, she should never marry any one whom she could not look up to as a friend and guide. She was just nineteen when young Sir William Bandon came to spend the Christmas holidays at the Park ; and I soon perceived, by the -way she spoke of him, that his attentions were agreeable to her. We went up to town, and Sir William soon after declared himself. My lord was highly pleased with his character ; so that everything was soon agreed on, and the marriage was to take place at Easter; but, alas ! before Easter, my lord was carried off by a fever of less than a fortnight's duration.

By this event, all our joy was changed into mourning. I could not have felt more if I had lost a father. He was, indeed, as a father to all his dependants. A friend to the poor; and in his conduct, an example to poor and rich. He had great influence; and he made it his business to exert it for the glory of God, and the good of society. O what a change did his death occasion, succeeded as he was by one so little like himself!

Lord Lintop had indeed never been a comfortable son to him ; but my lord left him no excuse, for he was the kindest and best of fathers. My lady, too, had, from the time he was a boy, done all in her power to gain his affections; but he had an inveterate prejudice against her, on account of her being a stepmother—a prejudice which, I verily believe, was first sown in the nursery by his maid, Jenny Thomson, who used always to threaten him with a stepmother as with a monster—and he never got the better of the impression. He was indeed of a cold and reserved temper, and had a very narrow heart. Much inclined to avarice, except upon his own pleasures, and they were all of the selfish sort.

As my lord died without a will, Lord Lintop immediately entered upon possession of all; my lady having nothing at her disposal but her own fortune, and her jointure, which was, to be sure, very great; yet I thought t a sad thing to see her and her children turned out, as it were, of her own house, and obliged to go to seek a place to lay her head. But to her, alas ! it was of no consequence where she went; the hand of death was on her, and in three months she followed my lord to the grave.

' I find I must pass over this,' said Mrs Mason, wiping the tears from her eyes; ' there is no need of distressing you with an account of all my sorrows. It was the least of them, that I found myself without a home ! I had saved of my wages about one hundred and fifty pounds, which my lord's steward had placed out for me, at five per cent., in the public funds. Lady Charlotte, upon her marriage, presented me with fifty more, and promised to give me twenty pounds a year, until her own brother, Mr Merriton, should come of age. I would have refused the annuity, but she insisted on it, saying, she was ashamed it was so little; but that Lord Longlands taking advantage of a clause in her mother's settlement, had refused paying her fortune till her brother Edward was of age : and then,' said she, ' Mrs Mason,' throwing her arms affectionately round my neck, ' then we may all be happy.' She had written to her brothers, she said ; for I forgot to mention that they had the year before been sent abroad on their travels with their tutor, and are now, I believe, in Switzerland, where Lady Charlotte and Sir William are to see them in their way to Italy. They pressed me to accompany them ; but my lameness was such an obstacle, that I could not think of going to be a burden to them ; and while I hoped that Lady Harriet would be left at home, I wished to stay, that I might be near her, but at length the guardians consented that she should go with her sister; so I was at once bereft of them all.

Thus have I been suddenly, in the course of a few months, deprived of all my earthly comforts, and thrown from a state of ease and luxury, into a state of comparative indigence. But how ungrateful should I be to God, were I to repine ! How rich would my poor mother have thought herself with thirty pounds a year! nay, with the half of that sum. Ill would it then become me to murmur at the wise dispensations of Providence, which have doubtless been ordered not less in wisdom than in mercy. My first thoughts were to go into a lodging in London, and take in needlework, by which I should be able to earn a sufficiency for the supply of all my wants. But, from being unable to take exercise, good air has become so essential to my health, that I dreaded the consequences of being pent up in the unwholesome atmosphere of that immense place; and I had besides such a hankering after my native country, that I wished of all things to return to it.

While I was still hesitating, a young man, who came up to London to seek a situation as a gardener, brought a letter to me from a niece of Jackson's, with whom I had continued to correspond ; and by his conversation concerning all the friends of my youth, increased my desire of revisiting scenes that were still dear to my recollection. He told me of a cottage near Hill Castle that was now empty, and advised me to ask it of the young earl, who could not surely refuse such a trifle to one who had lived so long in the family, and to whom, as he said, the family owed such obligation. But he was mistaken. I petitioned for it, and was refused. Perhaps to soften the refusal, I was at the same time told that Lord Longlands had resolved against having any cottages on the estate, and was to have them all destroyed.

'True,' said Miss Mary, ' It is very true, indeed. iMy father was directed to give orders for that purpose, out took the liberty of remonstrating. All that he could do, however, was to prevent the poor cottars from being turned out for another term ; but they are all to go at Martinmas; and, as fast as their houses are empty, they are to be thrown down. The cottage you wish for is already demolished to the very ground, and has left the place so desolate ! It goes to one's heart to see it. But after refusing it to you, the owner can have no heart. I hope you will never ask another favour from him while you live ?'

'I hope I shall have no need,' replied Mrs Mason. ' But though I should have been thankful for his granting my request, I have no right to resent his refusing me.'

'And I shall thank him for refusing you, if it brings you to live nearer us,' said Miss Mary.

'Though I shall be at double the distance, still it won't be far,' returned Mrs Mason, ' I am to take up my residence at Glenburnie.'

'At Glenburnie !' repeated Miss Mary; ' what place can there be at Glenburnie fit for you to live in?'

'Oh I shall make it fit,' said Mrs Mason ; ' and if I am so happy as to be useful to the good people there, I shall think myself fortunate in my choice. On being refused by Lord Longlands, I gave up all thoughts of settling on his territories, and made inquiries in the neighbourhood of Merriton. Through the friends of the young man I have already mentioned, I heard that the only relation I have in the world was married to one of the small farmers in Glenburnie, and to this couple I applied to take me as a lodger. I had great difficulty in bringing them to the point, as they feared I would not be pleased with the accommodation; but at length I so far succeeded, that I fixed to live with them three months upon trial, and that at the end of that time we should each be at liberty to separate without offence. From all that I have heard, no situation could be more suitable to my purpose. In a place where money is scarce, my income, slender as it is, may be useful. After a life of full employment I could not be happy in idleness; and as these good people have a large family, I shall have among them constant employment n the way that habit has rendered most delightful to me, that of training youth to usefulness and virtue.'

Miss Mary began to express her fears of the trouble which Mrs Mason was about to bring upon her own head, when her father entered; and from the way in which he spoke upon the subject, she soon saw that he had already discussed it, and knew Mrs Mason's determination to be unalterable. They, however, prevailed upon her to remain their guest for another night; and obtained her promise, that if her situation at Glenburnie proved uncomfortable, she would return to Go wan Brae.

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