Just As I Am | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1900 onward | Audiobook | 9/11



chapter 44 of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 44 a paragon of cops Morton saw mr. jab early next day and told him his desire to possess a perfect specimen of the genus cob hmm have you any fancy about color ask the surgeon who knew the pedigree and merits of almost every horse within 20 miles of Oscorp I'm not particular as to that but I should like a gray mmm Gray's are more subject to heart disease than any other kind of horse said mr. Jeb with a surgical air I think I would risk that if I saw a perfect gray well I fancy I know where to put my hand upon the very thing you want but the man who owns him will ask a stiff ish price I am willing to give a good price if I can get value for my money mr. Jeb then proceeded to relate the biography of the animal in question how he had been bred by a gentleman farmer whose place was three miles on the other side of Highclere how from his earliest Colt hood upwards he had been a thing of beauty and a joy to all the neighborhood how his legs were stronger than crowbars and his hind quarters a marvel of muscular development mr. Jeb gave the technical names to every joint as he ran over the cobs perfections but you'll have to give a long price for him he concluded shaking his head solemnly however you won't mind that 50 pounds more or less won't matter to you is he good tempered asked Morton could a lady drive him Oh baby caught an infant of two years old he'd have nothing to do but sit behind him and hold the reins gentle as a sheep Manos perfect and why does his owner want to sell him asked Morton rather suspiciously Oh simply because he bred him to sell the man is not exactly a dealer but has some fine grassland and he makes money by horses when he can he's kept this cob longer than he intended because he's too good for the neighborhood nobody about here will give the price missus Aspinall wanted him but missus Aspinall wanted to skin my friend Tilbury and to burry wasn't to be had I'd rather the cob eat his head off three times over he said to me and I'd be chewed out of him well I should like to see the cob said Morten of course you would I'll Drive you over to toe breeze this afternoon if you'll go I think I'd better Drive you over said Morton aware that mr. Jeb's horses were generally screws the gentlemen knowing what was good but not being able to afford himself the luxury of possession I'll Drive you in my dog cart and you must come back too tangly to dine if you've nothing better to do with yourself but not a word about the car before my womenkind I want the business kept quiet for the present whom precisely replied Jeb I never talked about business before ladies the wheels of domestic life go so much smoother when the deer creatures are kept in a state of happy ignorant the two gentlemen were at Alderwood farm by five o'clock and mr. Tilbury being forewarned by a telegram from his friend the surgeon was at home to receive them he had the smart knowing air peculiar to men who make money out of horse flesh but he seemed honest with all and the cob was obviously an honest horse he was undoubtedly handsome handsome as paint mr. Jeff called him and he went through his paces without committing the smallest indiscretion he had a kind I and lovingly reciprocated every attention that was shown him I only wish I could afford to keep him for myself said Mr Tobruk gazing admiringly at the animal but by can't he's too good for me the cops appearance being in every way satisfactory his purchase was only a question of figures and Morton Blake was inclined to be liberal he offered mr. Tilbury a check for only twenty pounds less than asked whereas that gentleman had provided himself with a wide margin for bargaining and could very well have afforded to abate 40 the purchase was agreed on the spot a provided always that the veterinary examination should prove satisfactory oh I'm not afraid of that said mr. Tilbury with conscious rectitude and what do you call him asked Martin Tommy answered the farmer I'm not fanciful about naming my stock if I breed a horse I call him Tommy and all my mares are Polly BAE Polly or brown Polly gray Tommy or Rome Tommy as the case may be it saves a world of trouble the cob was to be examined by the Highclere veteran research in that evening and sent over to tangley next morning Morton had telegraphed to mr. Delina to put the carriage in hand immediately trusting to the coachbuilders own taste to turn out a perfect article so the whole business was in a fair way to completion it seems strange that so small a matter as this should have served to divert Morton's mind from that gloomy brooding upon one painful theme which had darkened his life for the last six months yet so it was his thoughts were full of Lizzy and her delight at receiving a gift so unexpected and so acceptable as the Carbon carriage must needs be he had seen her trudged forth cheerily on many a sultry summer morning to walk four or five miles along a dusty road on some errand of charity while his sisters drove off to Highclere to make some frivolous purchase in millinery or fancy work which they chose to consider indispensable to their existence oh so sorry I can't drive you to your poor woman Lizzy tiny would say with that beaming good nature which is the happy gift of some selfish people another time I might be going that way but I know you were door walking and now Lizzy would have her own carriage and would be independent of these fine ladies he was quite impatient for the arrival of the cobb next morning and could hardly eat his breakfast so full were his thoughts of Lizzy and the pleasure in store for her he was not going to wait the carriage but had made up his mind to present the cop immediately Lizzie was devotedly fond of animals and would cherish and idolize him without doubt I dare say RT is right he said to himself glancing at Lizzie who was pouring out tea at the other end of the table fresh and bright looking in her neat blue and white print gown a garment which gave the laundry maids little trouble and contrasted curiously with the cambric frills pleating stuffings and embroidery of the breakfast gowns affected by tiny and her aysia that's one very nice point in Lizzie's character said tiny complacently on one occasion she knows her place and never tries to imitate us the blue and white striped gown neatly fitting the neat figure just short enough to show the neat little foot in its blue stocking and cromwell shoe the useful scissors and pincushion hanging from the black waistband the black silk apron and plain linen color gave Lizzie the look of a Parisian Drizzt in the days when de mousse a Gris zetz and the Cartier Lawton were in their glory morton looked at her with frank brotherly admiration what a bright face it was to see at a breakfast table dark eyes full of mind and expression dark hair neatly brushed back from the wide full brow and a complexion rosy with the healthful bloom that comes from an active life spent chiefly in the open air andrew came in just as breakfast was finished and made a confidential announcement in his master's ear girls cried morton rising hastily i've bought a cob and i want you to come and look at him tiny and Horatio were on their feet instantly but Lizzie went on quietly with her knitting which she carried about with her and proceeded with at all odd moments like mrs. Peyser is he for saddle as tiny with an idea that he might carry her to hounds next winter no for harness come Lizzie you must see him too I want your opinion most especially since when has Lizzie become a great authority upon horse flesh as Theresa with a sneer she was very fond of Miss Hartman as she told everybody in her place but that place was a lowly one and Horatius jealousy was up in arms at the idea of Liz's opinion being deferred to by the master of the house Oh people who are very fond of horses are generally pretty good judges of them and said Morton carelessly I'm particularly anxious to know what Lizzie thinks of this one I can't imagine what you want with another horse exclaimed her racier captious Lee your hunters are kept to be looked at and you work your dog carthorse so little that he's generally as wild as a hawk oh never mind that hoary this new animal is a particular fancy of mine and I don't think you will any of you find fault with him they were on their way to the stable yard while this conversation was going on and had by this time arrived on the scene where gray Tommy was to show his paces the stable yard was by no means a bad place on a warm summer morning the windows of stables and Coachman's rooms and saddle room all bright with flowers stalks fuchsias geraniums and mignonette the yard as clean as a spinsters best parlor the groom's lounging at open doors in their cool morning attire the dogs straining at their chains the horses rattling their head stalls in the dusky interior of the stables and the morning sunlight agreeably tempered by the shadow of old limes and maples which stretched their big branches across the wall that divided the stables from the shrubbery a smart-looking groom had led over the cob and now with an air of pride pulled off his clothing and exhibited him to his new owner Tommy was in that lustrous and preternaturally sleek condition to which an accomplished dealer and nobody else is able to bring a horse he arched his handsome neck and bent his beautiful head shyly and then looked around with a startled air as knowing that he was among strangers Lizzie Hardman went straight up to him and patted his nose and made much of him she would have done the same for any old wagon horse on the farm having an intense love the acquire a stress to breed or beauty well Lizzy how do you like him ask Morten smiling at her as she stood with her wavy brown hair resting on the Cubs plump net and her hand caressing his velvet muzzle horse and girl made a pretty picture in the morning light and mortal thought how nice it would be to have some photograph just at this moment I'm not the least bit of a judge as you all know answered Lizzy without taking her eyes off the cop but I think him absolutely beautiful a paragon of Cubs then suppose we call him paragon instead of tommy said Morten and then going close up to her he added I am very glad you like him Lizzy for I want you to be his mistress you're a very active young lady always going here there and everywhere on some good office I want you to accept the cop and a carriage I'm having built for him as a small souvenir of all your goodness to me while I was ill nothing I can do nothing I can say could ever be enough to prove my gratitude but the Cobb may just serve to remind you that I have been grateful the girl looked at him in sheer amazement as if she could hardly believe her ears then tears rushed to her eyes she tried to speak and could not and then she turned on her heel and ran across the yard and into the house as fast as her feet could carry her what in the name of all that's reasonable is the matter with Lizzy ejaculated her aja who would not be near enough to hear what Morton had said has she gone suddenly mad if this is the effect of her love of horses she'd better keep out of the stables oh it's nothing answered Morton laughing in a somewhat embarrassed manner the dear girl is needlessly sensitive to the smallest kindness the cop is a present for her and she's quite overcome at the idea of possessing him tiny came a step forward from the spot where she had been standing gracefully posed at aunt Doris side and contemplated her brother with her eyes open to their widest extent this time it is you her going mad she exclaimed that cop pointing at the animal with extended finger that cop a present for Lizzie Hardman you must be dreaming I never felt myself wider awake and what in Mercy's name will she do with him well I don't suppose she'll put him in her pocket or wish to keep him in the drawing room retorted Morton lightly I should imagine she'll sit in the carriage I've ordered for her and drive him and as she goes about a good deal chiefly to do good to other people and as she can rarely get the loan of your carriage I imagine she will find him uncommon ly useful tiny gave a long sigh and looked at her Asia parecía echoed the sigh and returned the look with interest aunty said tiny with charming insolence I had no idea there was madness in the family you ought to have told us four then we might have been prepared for this outbreak of cobs and shades you seem to forget what reason I have to be grateful to Lizzie and how very small an expression of my gratitude this little offering is Oh a mere trifle like a pair of gloves or a pocket handkerchief exclaimed tiny with an angry toss of her head all I can say is you never gave me a horse and that you were extremely disagreeable when I asked you to let me ride butterfly to hounds I think you are both disagreeable and ill-bred tiny said Dora Blake I could not have believed that you could be capable of such an exhibition of bad feeling o course aunty I always knew that Lizzie was your favorite but I thought eraser and I stood first in Morton's estimation you are utterly unreasonable and provoking tiny said Morton walking away and I'm not in the mood to argue you out of your folly the groom's had happily retired into the background with the cob while this discussion was in progress tiny and Horatio went into the shrubbery their cheeks crimson to talk over Morton's absurd conduct miss Blake went straight to Lizzie's room she found the girl crying as if her heart were broken and almost hysterical I deal dizzy this is too foolish and I know it isn't idea and said Lizzie strangling a final sob with a great effort how Morton how you all must despise me but indeed I couldn't help it the surprise the idea that he had thought so much of my poultry services his delicate consideration in choosing the very present which I should most delight in it quite overcame me I could not for the life of me of help making a fool of myself and now I will sit down quietly and write Morton a few lines thanking him as well as I can for his dear gift o lovely creature and to be my very own oh it's too much my poor child do you think you are of less value in this house than the rest of us and that your pleasure ought not to be considered oh dear aunty I know that I'm here through your charity you've done everything in the world to make me forget that fact but the fact remains all the same what right if I to horses and carriages and to all the luxuries I enjoy non whatever I owe everything to your bounty I won't hear such a word Lizzie you are my niece my daughter by adoption I took your life into my keeping when you were almost a baby and I took upon myself the duty of making you happy and I have been completely happy with you dearest I'm always wondering why Providence has been so good to me and you are always proving your gratitude to Providence by your goodness to other people Lizzie don't write to Morton dear that would be ever so much too formal just go down to his study and tell him quietly that you are pleased with his gift I will said Lizzie looking as if it were a tremendous ordeal who I surely you're not afraid of him afraid of him no but I am afraid of my own feelings the words were most innocently spoken yet they set Dora Blake wondering oh god forbid that this attention of Morton's should prove cruel kindness she thought but my Lizzy is too strong minded for any idle sentiment she would never care for a man who did not care for her Lizzy ran down to the hall opened the study door and looked in Morton was not at his desk in his usual absorbed attitude with books and papers about him he was standing by the open window looking idly out at the garden where the butterflies were skimming across the roses and the bees humming drowsily in the big white lilies Morton I've come to thank you for your gift I was so surprised just now that I could find no words to express my gratitude my dear Lizzy gratitude is all on my side I am deeply obliged by your goodness to me and the cop is the most trifling expression of my regard had I followed my own inclination I should have offered you something better worth having but I thought perhaps you might imagine I wanted to extinguish the obligation and believe me I do not I am willing to be your debtor to the end of my life there is no debt faltered Lizzy pale and grave and with a troubled air which Morton could not help seeing can you suppose that I was not glad to be of some small use in this house where my life has been made so pleasant I shall love the cobb paragon I think you said he was to be called with all my heart love him and make him work for you remember you are to be his sole mistress he shall have the loose box at the end of the yard and Thomas who is a kind of protege of my aunt's I believe shall be your own particular groom Lizzy murmured a few more words of thankfulness and then gladly made her escape touched beyond measure by Morton's kindness and in nowise for seeing the pain it was to bring upon her but it was not long before the evil effects of Morton's gush of gratitude became painfully obvious to the innocent Paragons mistress Clementine and her race resented Lizzie's possession of the cob as if it had been an act of arrogance and self-assertion upon her own part they kept some slight curb upon their tongues before aunt Dora they were careful not to push their insolence too far in the hearing of their brother but when they had poor Lizzie all to themselves they gave full vent to their jealous displeasure in hints and innuendos which were a great deal worse to bear than the plain of speech Lizzie possessed more than the common share of self-command she had schooled herself in years gone by to enjoy a good deal of quiet insolence from the sisters who in the white frock and blue sash period of their existence had taken pains to assert their superiority to their aunts dependent all in the most amiable and affectionate manner loving their dear Lizzie fondly in her place as they grew up selfishness and self assertion had become the habit of their minds encouraged by their aunts unselfishness and Lizzie's willingness to take the lowest place it had seemed to them the most natural thing in the world a part of the original scheme of creation as it were that they should enjoy all the luxuries of life and that Lizzie should do without them they even went so far as to declare that they envied her her simpler tastes and her more active habits her love of long walks and indifference to evening parties I really think you could go through life wearing cotton gloves and hardly mind said tiny with contemptuous wonder I really believed I could and said Lizzie who had made away with a quarters allowance in buying a widow's only son his discharge from the Hazara regiment in which he had foolishly enlisted well dear you may wear them as long as you please provided you don't put them on when you're coming out with me replied tiny playfully the very sight of a cotton glove sets my teeth on edge the new carriage from avonmore arrived at tangley about a week after the advent of the cob it was a Park Phaeton a marvel of neatness combined with elegance the coloring subdued and sober the alkalyn perfect grace well my dear Morton said Horatio with a sigh when the avonmore carriage had been surveyed by the assembled family if you suppose that after seeing this I am ever again going to drive that rattletrap of ashes you were good enough to bestow upon your sisters six years ago you are vastly mistaken I have not the least objection to your giving mr. talena an order for a carriage tomorrow my dear Horatio there is plenty of room on the premises and you can afford to gratify any whim of that kind a disinclination to spend her own money when she could possibly have her desires gratified at anybody else's expense was a marked characteristic of Horatius practical mind indeed it was perhaps in this line that her business capacity showed itself the sisters each possessed a handsome sum in the funds but while tiny selfishness took the form of a lavish expenditure on her own whims and fancies and generally landed her in end solvency before the half year was out her a Shias regard for her own interest was demonstrated by her strict prudence and had enabled her already to make various small investments on her own account so Morton's sisters went on driving their chestnut ponies and the carriage which had been elegant enough in its day but which had a shabby air when contrasted with mr. Dunnan des masterpiece and envied rankled in their breasts and black care held on behind as they drove Paragon proved worthy of his name he was as sensible as a Christian said the groom's and they might have gone so far as to say that he was more sensible than many Christians for he had a placid nature did his work cheerfully and trotted along the country lanes at an honest equal pace like a cop who was glad to earn his salt the better paragon behaved the more angry hoooray sir and Clementine felt about him if he had turned out a screw if he had been a confirmed shipper and had back to the pony carriage into a ditch if Lizzie had been utterly unable to drive him they might have become reconciled to the Cobbs existence and might have looked upon the whole business as a subject for good-humoured ridicule but as it was the angry fire in each girlish breast suppressed and smoldering grew every day fiercer and more ready to burst into flame at length came the conflagration miss Blake had driven her with a high clear to lunch with lady resident and Lizzie was alone with the two girls the afternoon had turned out wet whereby Clementine who had prepared an elaborate costume for a lawn party and was denied the delight of exhibiting herself in it was in a fretful and dissatisfied mood thinking that the world in a general way had gone wrong the rain was a steady downpour offering no hope of cessation or diminution a cold uncomfortable rain which made all the world look one dull gray I never felt so shivering in my life said tiny with a wistful glance at an arrangement in ferns and Peacock's feathers which occupied the place of the winter logs why don't we have a fire why must we sit shivering just because it happens to be July I don't think the housemaids would like it faltered Lizzie who had learnt from aunt Dora to be very considerate of the servants I will not have my ferns and feathers disturbed for anyone said her aysia who always claimed possession of any article which her hands had helped to arrange or her mind to plan i labored for a whole day in getting up a nice effect and I won't have the fireplace touched you Leigh but indeed cried tiny you mean you looked on while other people worked and then claimed the merit of the whole transaction of the Peacocks feathers were my own particular idea protested Horatio oh of course nobody but a strong minded creature like you would ever have brought such unlucky things into the house I haven't had a moment's peace since you did it my last new gown but one was an utter failure my cruel work at a standstill because no fancy shop in the universe can match my wall and in short everything at sixes and sevens why not have fire in the workroom tiny suggested lizzie good-naturedly we might all go up there for afternoon tea it would be ever so snug and comfortable the workroom was an upstairs den which had once been the schoolroom a good sized airy room enough but the repository for all the shabbiest furniture in the house here Lizzie worked for her Dorcas society sometimes made a gown for herself and often assisted the maid in altering a ball dress for the frivolous tiny or making a cheap costume for the economical Horatio it was a very comfortable room but it was very shabby and it had of late years been in some manner Lizzie's own particular domain oh thank you for the brilliant suggestion said tiny no your room is very nice no doubt but I like rather more elegant surroundings and as long as I am allowed to occupy the drawing-room I shall do so even if her raciest selfishness in your consideration for the housemates deny me the comfort of a fire I don't suppose we shall long enjoy the right to call any room in the manor house our own Oh what can you mean asked Lizzie looking up laughingly from her work what domestic revolution are you anticipating do you think Morton is going to turn the manor house into a full-on story or a convalescent hospital oh no I believe his madness will take another turn answer tiny tilting her chair so as to command a good view of her in steps set off by the madam and go boot which she was to have exhibited at the garden party his lunacy will take a matrimonial form the malicious intention of the words was unmistakable Lizzie's bright young face crimsoned I don't think you need have any apprehension on that score your brother is not likely to forget Miss Courtney for a long time to come she said quietly oh if he will after himself I dare say he might prove a bright example of constancy and go down to his grave a bachelor but is it not Thackeray who says that any young woman may marry any young man provided that she makes up her mind to have him I believe a curry knew the seamy side of human nature too well to be mistaken very likely and said Lizzy trying to be cool and indifferent in her tone though her cheeks were poppy red but I'm not aware that any young woman has made up her mind about Morten are you not cry Lee then you must be more simple than a cheap face dressed in shepherdess I know who has made up her mind to have him when a young woman forgoes rest and sleep and food and comfort to walked by a young man sick bed when she hangs about him in his convalescence like a mother over a sick baby when she follows him and flatters him and fosters his fans and his crotchets and openly patently adores him before the eyes of all people when she by so doing establishes a claim upon his gratitude which culminates in cops and carriages don't you think the lookers-on must be very blind and very dense if they cannot see how the play is going to end Lizzy Hardman started to her feet pale as death her eyes flashing a whole lap full of baby garments scattered on the carpet her figure as young frame trembling from head to foot what she exclaimed are you mean enough face enough fine enough to think that when I was doing what I knew and felt to be my duty I was trying to worm myself into your brother's affection in order that he might in some weak moment asked me to be his wife I am NOT going to beat about the bush if tiny is that is precisely what we both think you're doing said her Asya then I'll not live under the same roof with you another day cried Lizzy gathering up the baby petticoats and Cotton's and scissors which she had flung down in her off Oh does that mean we are to go said Horacio with her strong-minded heir you know what it means well enough you are the mistresses of this house and I am a pauper dependent upon your aunt's bounty you've made me feel in a hundred ways which have wounded my self-respect and only your dear aunt's lover and her voice faltered a little here and morton's kindness have reconciled me to my position but you have now made it unbearable goodbye and where are you going that's my business I am going away from tangley Manor answered Lizzie proudly as she walked towards the door oh and what are we to do with your Cobb as Tiny is he to be sent after you by the carrier Lizzie deigned no reply to this flippant question she had shut the door before Tiny's last sentence was ended the two girls looked at each other in silence for half a minute or so with something like consternation in their faces do you think she means to go as tiny of course not she thinks she'll frighten us by getting into a passion and that we shall apologize and let her carry on her artful scheme to the end if she really were to go you know there would be no end of a row without dora and even morton might be angry said tiny looking frightened and feeling that she'd gone too far oh she won't leave tangley you little simpleton reply to racier confidently she knows a great deal too well on which side her bread is buttered there are some people who would eat their bread without butter when their pride is at stake muse tiny and I have a notion that Lizzie is proud though she has contrived to keep her pride under till this afternoon she will not go assert it Horatio I tell you my dear a person in her position always studies self-interest before anything of course she knows that aren't Dora means to leave her decently provided for she would not risk offending ante and then where is she to go do you suppose to her vulgar factory people at Blackfoot why she couldn't not enjoy them for an hour after having lived with us don't alarm yourself clementine she will go to her room and Sulc for the rest of the day I dare say and tomorrow we shall have a tearful apology I hope it will all come right faltered the Cowardly tiny I have a good mind to go to her room and make it up with her if you were to degrade yourself in such a way I would never speak to you again exclaimed her aysia do you want old Hardman's daughter fee or sister-in-law it would come to that if you went and humbled yourself to her if she does go it would be a very good riddance I'm not afraid of Mort and if you are and I will bear the brunt of his displeasure when he finds his devoted nurse and flatterer and amanuensis missing and if she doesn't claim paragon I shall ride him said tiny he will carry me beautifully end of chapter 44 chapter 45 of Justice I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 45 what is the key to the enigma there was some trepidation in clementines breast when she returned to the drawing room after dressing for dinner and found Dora Blake sitting at her favorite window reading the morning paper while morton walked up and down the open space on the other side of the room well auntie dear did you enjoy your day with the old fogies at Highclere inquired tiny with an attempt at her accustomed sprightliness I always enjoy myself with old friends answered miss Blake oh you're such a devoted old dear I find sir Nathaniel dreadfully heavy in hand what's become of Lucy asked miss Blake I went to her room just now and found it empty is she out Oh hardly in such weather as this I should think said morton paragon is in his stable and ready to kick it to pieces in his exuberant freshness I've just been offering him the consolation of a bunch of clover then where can she be exclaimed miss Blake wonderingly the gong will sound in a minute and she's always a pattern of punctuality the gong sounded almost immediately but miss Hardman did not appear Clementine felt herself turning pale Horatio reared her head ready for a fight both felt that a crisis was at hand as they crossed the hall to the dining room Andrew slid up to Aunt Dora with a secret insinuating air and offered her a letter on a salver good heavens she exclaimed it's from Lizzie whatever can the girl mean by writing to me is Miss Hardman upstairs and no mom she went out two hours ago on fort and in such weather she heard her waterproof mom and a hand bag a bag where could she be going some sick person must have said for her said miss Blake opening the letter my dearest friend forgive me for taking a step which I feel unavoidable I am obliged to leave tangley and forever pray do not suppose that my love for you is one I owe to the less because I feel myself compelled to live the rest of my life away from you I shall never forget your goodness and I hope you'll let me see you as often as we can meet without inflicting trouble upon you or humiliation upon me when I can think and write more calmly I will try to explain my conduct but I cannot now I feel that you will trust me well enough to be sure I shall do nothing wrong and nothing foolish I'm going to find a home among respectable working people the only kind of home to which I am entitled I have one favor to ask you and that is to tell no one at tangley the contents of this letter you're always loving always grateful Lizzy they had all seated themselves at the dinner table before aunt Dora opened her letter and every I had been upon her as she read her face was clouded over with a look of the deepest displeasure before she came to the bottom of the page but she said never a word and put the letter quietly in her pocket as if there were nothing particular in the communication Morton said grace and began to dispense the soup and pray how does Lizzy explain her mysterious disappearance he asked carelessly the indifference of his tone was reassuring to his sisters who had been goaded to desperation by the idea that he was really falling in love with their aunt's protege quite satisfactorily she's gone to see some of her blackford friends on Fort with a handbag and at a moment's notice exclaimed Morton what in heaven's name could have induced her to behave in such a way oh no doubt there was a good reason for her conduct she is not a person to act upon a foolish impulse her letter is too hurried to explain her motives but I feel sure that what she has done was wisely done I've a good mind to go after her directly I've dined and see what it all means said Morten with a great deal more concern than his sister's light what's her address in Blackfoot she has not given me any address replied aunt Dora quietly no address no explanation the thing is incredible she promises to write me a full account of her movements shortly pray don't flurry yourself Morten Lizzy is a thoroughly sensible girl and knows how to take care of herself if she were as wise as Minerva I should still say that she acted foolishly today replied Morten staring blankly at a dish of salmon cutlets without the least idea that Andrew was waiting for him to distribute them why could she not consult me or you before she went off to these unknown relations why could she not drive to the station imagine her trumping to Highclere through the mud and rain with a bag on her arm it's too absurd if you don't mean to eat any dinner yourself Morten you may at least let us get on with ours said her Asia with subdued displeasure she was a young lady never wanting in the courage of her opinions she was prepared to defend her treatment of Miss Hardman should she be called upon to do so the dinner proceeded but in a very uncomfortable manner Andrew the butler was one of those old servants who know the family affairs almost better than the family themselves know them his subordinate was his nephew an honest rustic supposed to have no more comprehension of or interest in passing events than if he had been a cellar rat or a plate warmer so there was no restraint upon conversation on account of the presence of these two a yet conversation flagged woefully aunt Dora looked pale and unhappy and could hardly eat anything the two girls indulged in brief spurts of unnatural vivacity Morton was obviously out of temper he neither ate nor drank but vented his ill-humour in abuse of the dinner viola again he ejaculated savagely none for me hideously indigestible what can vicar's mean by ducks and veal is she going out of her mind I cannot understand her conduct did she go by the Omnibus do you think are you talking of the cook or of Lizzy asked her a seer Lizzy of course she must have caught the austell bus at the crossroads silly girl as if she couldn't have gone in the braum she might not wish to appropriate all the carriages said tiny spitefully and to leave no address how are we to send her letters or her luggage she must have been beside herself when she went aunty can you offer any explanation of her conduct I don't think we need discuss it at this moment and said miss Blake quietly feeling that this one particular subject should be kept sacred even from the confidential Andrew Morton piston jord and flunk himself back in his chair turning at Stony eye upon the tart and pudding which were offered him and refusing to be comforted with salad or cheese straws Clementine nibbled her cheese straw and trifled with her glass of claret just as if dinner were going on in the most cheerful manner and to Morton's impatience it seemed an hour or so before Andrew had solemnly scraped up the last crumb in his silver shovel and had reconciled his mind to the necessity of leaving the room at last however he was gone and the family were alone at the festive board where the decanters and Derby fruit dishes reflected themselves in the shining oak just as they had done when Geoffrey Blake first dined in his new house Morton lent with folded arms on the table and looked straight at his aunt now he said decidedly the servants are gone and we can have this matter out what is the key to the enigma Lizzy would never dream of leaving this house in such a manner without some powerful motive what is that motive has she been summoned away to some relatives deathbed has she been called away to nurse someone her letter does not say so what are the reason can she possibly have please let me see her letter I don't think I should be justified in showing you the letter it is written hurriedly and with evident agitation and was intended for my eyes alone do you think I shall find fault with a spelling or because the eyes are not dotted that's Morton with an angry laugh I have a right to see that letter I really cannot recognize that right Morton and said Dora Blake with just the faintest ray of pleasure in her countenance which till this moment had been full of care Lizzie is all the world to me but she can be very little to you although you have been good enough to give her the shelter of your roof just as you would have done had she been a pet dog of mine what nonsense you talk cried Morton jumping up from his chair I have no patience with such absurdity she is a great deal to me my adopted sister my companion my true and faithful friend very little to me indeed why she's been my right hand for the last three months I shall hardly know what to do with myself without her tiny and Horatio looked at each other across the table the elder red and the younger pale with vexation their worst fears were confirmed that ridiculous gift of Carbon carriage was only the forerunner of other more fateful offerings their brothers hearts hand and fortune Horatio took up the gauntlet what I think you might contrive to exist without an adopted sister when Providence has blessed you with two actual sisters who are just sufficiently well educated to read aloud and write from dictation she said with an injured air but neither of which sisters would put herself out of the way for the space of one summer morning to oblige me answered Morton because a real sister has no motive for such toad eating cried Clementine bristling with offended dignity because a real sister has no end to gain by flattery and civility I dare say if I were a penniless dependant like Lizzie Hardman I might be capable of just as much mean in the hope of getting a rich husband though I'm sure I should hate myself for it Morton's eyes flashed honest indignation at his sister as he listened to her viperous speech I think I can understand now why Lizzie went off all in a hurry he exclaimed the letter please aunt Dora he had walked round the table and was standing by his aunt's side holding out his hand for the letter with an authoritative heir she gave it him without a word there is not a syllable about a summons from her blackford friends he said when he had slowly read the letter and she talks about leaving tangley forever she could only have come to such a decision because she was wretched here and a week ago she was the gayest and brightest of us all full of life and spirits as happy as the day was long had she any quarrel with you aunty quarrel with me why the dear child never displeased me in her life she is all that is good and yet she deserts she would a moment's notice that seems extraordinary but I think your sisters may be able to explain it said Dora I think so too said Morten glancing angrily at Clementine I left you both in the drawing-room with Lizzy after luncheon you must know what put into her head to go off in this way I only know that she got into a furious passionate something that Holly or I said to her mere chaff and bounced out of the room like a termagant answer tiny with an innocent air she is usually so good tempered surely chaff as you elegantly call it could never have provoked her into leaving aunt Dora oh she's very sweet tempered too you said her Asia perch is not quite so amiable to us how dare you say anything so unjust and untrue her Asia exclaimed miss Blake I know how Lizzy has borne with you both oh then there has been need of forbearance on Lizzy's part Morton inquired determined to sift this social mystery to the bottom I know that Lizzie has been made to feel her dependent position here ever since she was old enough to be sensitive said aunt Dora then my sister's have been very despicable cried Morton indignantly dependent indeed when she has been the most valuable person in the house after you aunt Dora valuable in the house and out of it the mainspring of other people's comfort and that she should be tyrannized over by two young ladies who have not an unselfish thought whose rule of life is the indulgence of their own whims it is shameful and I am ashamed of having such sisters the two girls rose simultaneously as if they had been moved by the same clockwork I think it is we who ought to have gone away exclaimed Teresa evidently we're not wanted here and the sooner we find another home the better it is fortunate for us that Papa has left as incomes which at least make us independent I suppose even we may be allowed the use of the braum to drive us to Highclere tomorrow morning you can make fools of yourselves in any manner most agreeable to you answered Morton coolly as he went out through one of the French windows that opened onto the lawn he had never been more angry he had hardly ever been more agitated his sense of right and justice was outraged by the thing that had been done it called him to think that he had two such vulgar young women for his sisters I suppose it is an innate Kaddish 'no switch must come out somewhere he said to himself in bitterness of spirit the taint of the gutter the original sin of low birth and then he thought of Lizzie his faithful nurse his sympathizing companion the only woman who had entered into all his plans and understood his views Dulce had been very fond of him as a lover but she had not cared a jot about him as a political economist cultured and well-read as she was in the whole range of elegant and imaginative literature she was horribly uninformed about the needs and the sufferings of mankind the government of the landing she lived she considered political economy as a dry as dust something outside the circle of her life and thoughts like logarithms was Sanskrit and she had always yawned a little when her lover expounded his philanthropic theories Lizzie had shown herself so intelligent not pretending an interest but really feeling it helping him with ideas as well as with sympathy telling him without scruple the weak points in his schemes the flaws in his arguments she had forced him to respect her as well as be grateful to her and now she had been driven out of his house goaded to desperation by the malicious speech of two unmannerly girls so greater wrong was not to be permitted it must be set right somehow and immediately he roamed about the garden for half an hour feeling that he could hardly endure existence in the house that held his vixen ish sisters and he wasted half an hour in the stable devoting the greater part of the time to fondling the cop who had been bedded down for the night and stood up to his knees in gold and straw it was striking nine when Morten went slowly back to the house where the lamps had only just been taken into the sitting rooms he did not go to the drawing-room but to his aunt Dora's room feeling that she was likely to prefer solitude to the Society of her nieces his instinct had not mislead him miss Blake was at her Davenport writing in the soft light of her shaded lamp auntie what are you going to do about Lizzie asked Morton seating himself near his aunt and coming to the point at once I am at this moment writing to her uncle Joseph Hardman I fancy she must have gone to his house I can think of no other place to which she could go what is Joseph Hardman a mechanic he's employed at a firmly I believe Lizzie's two sisters were brought up by his wife and her brother lives with his uncle too I believe that Lizzie in her quiet unobtrusive way has always been very good to her uncle and his wife as well as to her brother and sisters Morton looked at his watch it would be too late Telegraph even if I were to ride too high clear on the fastest horse in the stable he said with a sigh ever so much too late but the letter will do as well as a telegram there's no need for desperate hurry Lucia is such a thoroughly sensible girl that she is sure to manage her life properly even away from us but there is need for hurry cried Morten impetuously she must not think that you and I consent to her leaving tangley not for a day not for an hour longer than can be helped she must not be allowed to suppose that she has been turned out of doors my poor Lizzy the gentlest most self-denying creature he was almost unmanned at the thought of how badly she'd been treated and his eyes were moist as he started up from his chair and began to pace the room have you the remotest notion of what it is my sister's dislike in her or why they've treated her so infamously he asked presently infamously is rather too strong a word said his aunt smiling at his fear means they have never been particularly kind to her and they've always taken pains to let her feel the distinction between her position and their own in spite of all I could do to bring them up on a perfectly equal footing perhaps they've resented my affection for her though heaven knows my heart is big enough to hold all three since your illness I think they have been inclined to be jealous of your regard for her and to fancy that you prefer her to them I do infinitely said Morton she is worth a shipload of such girls she's one in a thousand next adults is she is the sweetest woman I ever met but why should they be jealous of a girl whom I regard as an adopted sister miss Blake's heart which had glowed with triumph at the beginning of Morton's speech was somewhat chilled by the conclusion well your gift of the carriage she began Oh surely they're not mean enough to grudge her that I remember Clementine went on about the cob in a very ridiculous way but I thought that was only her I fancy it was just such fun as that which drove Lizzy out of the house a high-spirited sensitive girl would hardly stay in any man's house if she were accused of setting her cap at him answered aunt Dora with eyes bent watchfully on her nephews perturbed countenance setting her cap at me – ridiculous ejaculated Morten why everybody who knows anything about me must know that I've done with all matrimonial schemes the courtship and marriage are a closed volume in the book of my life a young man does sometimes once in a century or so get cured of such a sorrow as yours Morton and find perfect happiness where he least thought to win it I am not that kind of man and Lizzy knows it I've talked more freely to her than to anyone else I've treated her more like a brother than a sister it's not any shame Philander wicked if those girls have teased her with insinuations of that kind there's not the slightest ground for them either in her conduct or mine I know that admitted aunt Dora meekly however I shall go to black for tomorrow and find out this Joseph Hardman's house and bring Lizzy home with me but don't you think that by such an act you might give your sisters some ground for their suspicions asked his aunt what do I care for their suspicions or might you not even compromise Lizzy in the minds of other people you know your own feelings and that she can never be more to you than an adopted sister but other people will insist upon having their own ideas and on disseminating them had you not better let me fetch Lizzie from Blackford oh yes that would be better Lizzie would like that better no doubt I had that plan in my mind when I came in just now if you will go tomorrow dearest auntie and insist on her coming home with you immediately I shall be eternally grateful he gave his aunt a most affectionate hug by way of earnest My dear Morten there's no occasion for gratitude she said smiling up at him in the lamplight I'm much more anxious to have Lizzy home than you can possibly be it is very kind of you to be so warmly interested in her welfare well I should be a brute if I could feel less warmly after all her goodness to me replied Morton end of chapter 45 chapter 46 of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org just as I am by Mary Elizabeth bradden chapter 46 a land of chimneys and smoke lizzy turned her back upon tangley manor that rainy july afternoon with a heavy heart pride gave her a kind of spurious force she had always been a girl of resolute will able to conquer difficulties to set a curb upon feeling to achieve and to enjoy but never in the past had she so much needed courage and determination as she needed them today she had made up her mind that to remain another day in Morton Blake's house would be to sacrifice womanly honor and self-respect she had been openly charged in the grossest words with scheming to win him for her husband her only justification in the eyes of these insolent girls her only possible assertion of her own dignity lay in immediate departure in putting herself out of Morton's reach for the rest of her life or at any rate till I'm old and gray she said to herself as she put on her neat little felt hat and comfortable waterproof Ulster perhaps 30 or 40 years hence when I fought my way through this difficult world and gained a decent position by my own labour I may feel justified in seeking him out and asking him to take up the thread of our broken friendship he'll be famous by that time I hope a cabinet minister the savior of his country perhaps oh how proud I should be of his reputation even when my feelings were blunted by age and hard work her nerves were strong to their utmost tension her brain was in that excited state in which vivid thoughts and fancies follow each other in swiftest succession poor Morton she thought with a sigh as she paused absently in the task of packing her traveling bag I believe he will miss me a little if it was painful to think of leaving Morton how much more bitter must be the thought of leaving her friend and protectress the woman who had given her all a mother's love and thoughtful care all her sisters sympathy and companionship Lizzie dared not let her mind dwell upon the idea of separation from aunt Dora she sustained herself with the hope that their parting need not be lifelong they might meet and be together at times and seasons it was only her severance from Morton which must be lasting not for the world would I let those cruel girls think that I was acting apart that I was only playing at going away she said to herself I must act in such a way as to make them know and feel that I am thorough even in her flurry and confusion of mind she was able to think rationally of the plan of her future life she had received her quarters allowance from Miss Blake only a few days ago and she had the whole amount in hand five and twenty pounds with that sum in her pocket she felt equal to finance the situation until she could find some kind of remunerative employment for her head or her hands without either arrogance or vanity she knew that she was clever with both hands and head it was an unknown thing for her to be setting out on a journey alone and it was with a strange and desolate feeling that she stood at the crossroads bag and umbrella in hand waiting till the Omnibus from Oz Thorpe should come blundering and creaking along the muddy lane and heave to under the signpost yonder the coachman pulling up his horse with a sudden clutch of the reins astonished at the unwonted spectacle of a passenger yes it was strange and dreary to be alone but lovingly as she had leaned on aunt Dora in the past Lizzie Hardman had learned long ago to think and work for herself and she had a brave independent spirit I had rather bear separation from all I loved than be thought capable of meanness she said to herself a jolting half hours progress in the mouldy little omnibus which smelt of poultry yard and stable and then she found herself at the Highclere station an unlovely building offering nothing cheering for the eye to rest upon save the pictured presentment of a newly developed water place unknown to the mind of man but provided with a bay of golden sand a crescent of Italian villas a squadron of gaily painted bathing machines emerald Verger on the very edge of the beach and sky and sea of sapphire hue it remained for the adventurous spirit who tried this happy hunting ground to discover that the Italian villas were still in skeleton while the existing settlement was a squalid fishing village that the drainage was a disgrace to a civilized community the golden sand ass lair and the sapphire sea a delusion Lizzie Hardman looked at the vivid attractions of Saint Clement on the ooze without seeing them and then she walked up and down the dismal little platform and wished that the Oscorp omnibus had not been so over considerate in giving its passengers a wide margin of leisure before the starting of the Train but the bell rang at last and with the help of a friendly Porter Lisi found a comfortable corner in a second-class carriage she had always travelled first-class hitherto but she began her new life in the economic manner in which she would be obliged to continue it I ought to have gone third-class she said to herself as she counted the change out of half a sovereign and found that her ticket had cost her two intendant's but I've never been accustomed to sitting with dirty people I shall have to educate myself down to my altered circumstances perhaps after all when I have once got over the pain of parting from those I love I may be happier as a lonely waif fighting my way in the world then I could ever have been as a dependent in Morton's house oh those girls how they've made me suffer she looked back at her life during the last four years since she and Morton's sisters had grown to womanhood and she almost wondered at herself for her patient endurance of all the petty slights and deliberate snubs that Clementine and her Asia had inflicted upon her I hope I'm not mean-spirited for having borne it all so tamely she thought but no I had auntie's love to make up for all their unkindness it was auntie's pleasure I had to start to have resented such small injuries would have been only temper and false pride they never insulted me until today she sat looking out of the window at a country which was altogether new to her she had never been at Blackford since her infancy aunt Dora had thought it well to make the severance between lizzie and her brother and sisters as complete as possible she was to occupy a different place in the world by and by after her adopted mother's death when she should find herself amply provided for she might be as bountiful as she liked to her family but she could never be one of them education surroundings associations would make a gulf between them there was no pride or hardness in Dora Blake's nature but she felt that half-measures here would be a mistake you must not think me unkind darling she said one day when Lizzie had asked permission to go to Blackfoot and see her brother and sisters who wrote her such nice letters in a copperplate hand with very few faults in spelling and who were always so prettily grateful for her presence but when I took you for my adopted daughter I told your poor father that you were to belong to me entirely that my relations were to be your relations that you were to be a Blake and not a Hardman and that I should hold myself responsible for your prosperity and happiness in life she can never be more than a friend at a distance to her brother and sisters I told him your father was quite willing that it should be so he told me that he gave you to me as a free gift for the love of his father's bosom friend and companion Jeffrey Blake and that you should be as much my own property as if he were a little Negro girl bought in an African marketplace Lizzie had obeyed her adopted mother submitting to be guided by her superior wisdom yet not without regret for the brothers and sisters who were never to have any intimate share in her life all the kindness that it was in her power to show them that she had freely given and her letters had been full of affection for the kindred whose faces she had never seen thus it was that the country between hai clear and black food was new to her and she watched the passing landscape with curious eyes for some time the scenery was purely pastoral low-lying Meadows meandering streams a wooded hillside in the far distance watermills sleepy villages all the poetry of rustic life then the whole character of the scene changed all at once and Lizzi beheld a district which was to her as a new world a sudden revelation of ugliness under a smoke tarnished sky brick fields chemical works tall chimney shafts gas works bone burning works all the hideousness of a manufacturing neighborhood but worst of all was the baneful atmosphere tainted with all the variety of nausea solders dull with smoke oppressive to the lungs depressing to the spirits thick and slab like the witch's gruel an atmosphere in which hope and joy must surely drop their wings and expire like a pigeon in an exhausted receiver and now the open wastes the brick fields were all gone and the Train was panting it's slow way over the crowded house tops of a dingy city and now it was in the smoke big round terminus doors were slamming Porter shouting and Lizzie Hardman knew that she had reached her destination having nothing but her bag to carry she would not indulge in the luxury of a cab she'd never been in London or any really large town her travels having been confined to sundry excursions to pretty seaside places and to the English lakes with aunt Dora she had therefore no idea of distances and fancied that her uncle Joseph's house could not be far off she asked a porter to direct her to Milton Street well that'll be in the Potteries Anse the man it's a long ish way and he better have a fly oh no thank you I'm a good Walker the man directed her it sounded a long way and after she'd come to the ultimate fuel of his direction she was to inquire of somebody else who would instruct her in the rest of the way the rain was the Sun was setting a magnificent sunset in the country no doubt but here only a lurid patch of red gleaming a thwart a bank of lowering cloud lizzy walked briskly down a long smoky street where shabby shops and shabby a private houses alternated and where the dirtiest children her I had ever beheld were at play in the gutters her soul sank within her at the foul nurse the unlovely sites which greeted her on every side and as she trudged bravely along following the Porter's direction now passing the blackened wall of a factory and now walking beside the slate colored water of a canal she kept repeating wildly with maddening iteration and to the beats of her own footsteps God made the country and man made the town it was a weary way to the district known as the Potteries which seemed to have been so christened for no particular reason save the whim of the Builder in as much as there were no Potter's in the place to Lizzie it seemed the longest walk she had ever taken in the whole course of her life and yet her light footsteps had carried her many a mile by Lane and meadow by Heath and Hill the narrow monotonous streets seemed interminable of the factories and ironworks the bone burning and the soap boiling there appeared no end Lizzie fancied she must have been travelling through that dull gray world for hours when a foundry clock struck the third quarter after 8:00 and she knew that it was only three-quarters of an hour since she had left the terminus and now she was at the end of her journey this was Milton Street in the Potteries evidently a new district a raw bear looking Street tolerably wide tolerably clean and tidy but hideously flat and monotonous never a porch or veranda or jutting window to diversify the plain brick fronts of the square eight roomed houses never a flowering creeper to beautify the dull brickwork Lizzie knocked at the door of 27 her uncle Joseph number her heart beat hard and fast as she stood waiting for admission how would her kindred receive her would they be warm and loving to her in her desolation would they reproach her for having kept herself aloof from them in the past it was a painful ordeal to meet those of her own flesh and blood so near and yet so distant strangers whose faces she had never seen within her memory sisters who would be nestled in the same motherly bosom I hope they'll love me a little in spite of everything she said to herself end of chapter 46 chapter 47 of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by the dorita Nielsen Vancouver BC just as I am by Mary Elizabeth Braden chapter 47 from darkness into light within ten days of that balmy summer afternoon on which Morton Blake had sat beside mrs. greens deathbed and heard from dying lips a story of the past the church bell was toiling heavily upon the sultry July air and a modest funeral train was slowly winding its way across the level fields to the old churchyard they were taking poor tired out Lucie to her last rest the Widder were led the little procession serious for once in his useless frivolous life holding sad sensible mat he by the hand the girl grieved with a sense of new responsibilities but tearless though her pallid cheeks bore the traces of many tears the little ones followed stumbling over the clover and sorrel bloom looking about them with vague wonder as if surprised to see the flowers so bright and the sky so blue while their poor mammy was being carried to the black ugly pit hole of the nature of which last resting place they had derived somewhat pagan views from the conversation of the small servant maid and lastly with the youngest girls chubby hand in hers came dulce wrote in black was sweet mournful face and downcast eyes mr. Hallam and started a little when he saw dulce in the group of humble mourners his heart thrilled at this latest proof of her tenderness her sympathy with all human sorrow this was true Christianity and unconscious imitation of the divine master who never turned from human sorrow who was never deaf to the mourners cry what a lovely world this would be if all women were of her mold he thought death would indeed lose its sting sorrow would be tempered with joy later when they were standing by the open grave and the clods of clay fell with dismal sound upon the coffin lid poor Matty's fortitude suddenly gave way she flung herself down by the edge of the grave with a shrill despairing cry mother mother then Dolci gently raised her from the ground and held her in her arms the streaming eyes hidden on her shoulder till the last sad words had been spoken when she drew the sobbing girl away keeping her arm round her while they walked slowly to the gate oh let me stop let me stop cried Matty I am NOT going to leave her there all alone dear child she is not there she is not alone she is in paradise with the happy souls that rest from their labors waiting for the coming of their God you know she is not there Maddie you know that the soul cannot die that if you do your duty here you will see her and be happy with her in heaven yes I know I know sob Maddie I tried to believe but it is very hard after having seen her in her coffin not to remember that she is lying there in that dark Hall Please Please Miss Courtney let me go back and sit beside her for a little while not today dear we will both go tomorrow and take some flowers for her grave you must come home with me now haven't I better go with the little ones if I mustn't go with her no dear your father will take care of them mr. green will you let Maddy go home with me for an hour or two Oh miss Courtney I'm proud for you to notice her said the impressionable musician with tears in his eyes so Dulce let Maddy across the fields to Fairview comforting her with sweet hopeful words as they went along once Maddy embarrassed her by a sudden question yes miss I know what you are telling me is all true but if it was your father who was lying in that grave do you think the thought of seeing him in heaven after years and years when you are an old woman would make up to you for the loss of him now not just at first perhaps Maddy but I think the hope would be brighter and stronger every day if I could believe that my father were sure of heaven added dosi in a low Oh miss Courtney a gentleman like your Papa would never do anything wrong protested Madi with conviction almost as if she would have said of such is the kingdom of heaven they went into dull seas morning room where the Sun was shining through the stained glass in the old tutor window and where the octagon table stood ready with P things and cakes and strawberries in white china baskets never had Maddie's eyes beheld such a table a feast so delicately tempting yet so Arcadian in its simplicity the brightness of the room with its variety of color dazzled the girl's eyes she forgot even her grief in her wonder at this glimpse of an unknown world the world of wealth and taste Dulce made her little friend sit down in one of the low basket chairs by a tiny tea table and then she waited upon her and petted her that coasts her to eat a few strawberries and to drink a refreshing cup of tea while she was kneeling at Mattie side tempting her language appetite with pound cake and big strawberries scroop opened the door and ushered in mr. helmand Dolci started to her feet instantly and seated herself somewhat shyly at the tea table her cheeks died with unnecessary blushes I have come to bake a cup of tea said mr. Haly Monde and to have a chat with sir Everett if he is at home he is at home but I am taking tea an hour earlier than usual on Mattie's account will you go to papa's study for your talk yes when you have given me some tea well Maddy miss Blake tells me you are going to stay at austere thought with us and that you hope someday to be mistress at our school Maddy smiled faintly at this idea which seemed to her to suggest the wildest ambition miss Blake has been very kind to us she said she is going to let us keep the cottage and we are all to live here instead of going back to poor father and she will call every day to look after us till I am old enough to take care of the little ones quite by myself are you glad to stay here very very glad father will come to see us once a month he says he would come oftener but he can't afford the railway fare you know he is to bring miss Blake as much money as he can to pay for our food and different things and she will make up what is wanted don't worry yourself about money matters Maddy they will be made easy – you said Dolci looking lovingly at the serious little face so aged my premature knowledge and premature care mr. Holloman stayed with them for nearly an hour cheering Maddy by his kindness and exercising as soothing an influence upon Dulcie spirits though she would scarcely have owned as much an indescribable sense of peace stole over her mind as she sat by the open window looking idly across the rich summer landscape and listening to Arthur howl man's voice as he talked of his days experiences in and about Ostler he spent the greater part of every day in visiting among his parish a nurse most thoroughly fulfilling the promise of his first sermon that he would be one with them in their griefs and in their joys he kept his evenings only for his books which were the delight of his life at last he rose very reluctantly and wished dolci goodbye I may not see you when I leave your father he said and though she was longing to ask him to come back to the morning room when his business in the study was over she had not courage to honor the simple request that would have ensured his return there must be something formidable about him though he is so kind she thought for I cannot help feeling afraid of him she had seen him several times since their meeting in Maddie's chamber but he had never troubled her by the slightest allusion to their conversation that day he had been so completely at ease with her so calmly kind that she found it difficult to believe that this was the same man who had so passionately declared his love his perfect tranquility of manner reassured her and though she could not feel quite at her ease in his presence she had no fear of his troubling her peace by pressing his suit any further I hope he will always be my friend she said to herself I will not forfeit his friendship for the world mr. Holloman found Sir Everett in the book room he was sitting at his writing table in front of the open window books and papers were before him but he was utterly idle looking out at the landscape over which the yellow light was changing to the softer hues of evening he held out his hand to Arthur helmand without a word a curious friendship had grown up between the two men the elder seemed to lean upon the younger as upon a favorite son sir everett the proud solitary man who in 20 years had not made a single friend had given friendship and confidence without stint to the newcomer but there are men of rare qualities of mind and heart who have a magnetic power in winning friendship and it may be that Arthur Helmand was one of these you are not looking well sir Everett he said gently as he slipped into a chair by the baronet's side I am NOT well I am never liked to be well don't let us waste words upon my wretched health but I will talk about it I think you are using yourself very cruelly you ought to be driving about the country with Miss Courtney or basking in the sunshine on your lawn but you shut yourself in this room and brood over your books from morning till midnight I have no wish to lengthen my days not for your daughter's sake not even for Dulce sake we have drifted far apart of late I am no longer necessary to her happiness she will be happier more at peace when I am gone she loves you with all her strength for her sake life ought to be dear to you Oh sir Everett I think you must have read my heart before now you must feel that I could not have been so often in your daughter's society without learning to love her she has grown dearer to me than anything else in life except duty I am a poor man entirely dependent on a profession that may not give me more than bread and cheese till my hair is gray and Dulce is an heiress yet I am so sure of my power to make her happy to guard her from all care and sorrow to make her life bright and fair and fall a meaning for her that I am not ashamed to ask you to help me to win her I am not afraid to offer myself as your son-in-law sir Everett remained silent for some minutes with his head sunk upon his breast in earnest thought I should like you to marry her he said at last with the liberation there was a time when I had what people call higher views I wanted my dear one to be the future Countess of block Marr dean velvel is a fine frank open-hearted fellow and I believe he would have made her a good husband but that is hopeless she doesn't care a straw about him and she never will he is just one of those excellent generous hearted young men who never can win a woman's love if he were a plausible scoundrel he might have a better chance but you yes you would make her happy you would be staunch and true you would love and honor her to the end of your life or hers for her own sake do not speak of her fortune the thought of that has no influence upon me wealth has never given me happiness and it could never of itself make her happy but you and she together would use money as a means of happiness for many yes she would be happy with you I believe Hallam and if the respect she now feels for you could ever deepen into love let her tell me that she loves you and you may marry her as soon afterwards as you like my most urgent prayer is to see her happily married before I die I thank you with all my soul cried Arthur Hallam and grasping sir Everett's hand you are the noblest the most generous minded of men do not thank me till you know more as my daughter's future husband for I believe you may win her if you try there is a page of my history that you ought to know be so good as to see that the door is closed and then come back to your chair I will tell you what I mean the two men were closeted till the gong sounded for dinner Dulcy wondering what had kept her father's guests so long they did not die until eight o'clock at this time of year so as to get the most enjoyment out of the summer weather the Gong has sounded for nearly ten minutes when Sir Everett and Arthur Holly Monde came into the morning-room where dulce was sitting in a despondent attitude before the piano one hand resting idly on the keys the other supporting her drooping head dolci take mr. holliman's arm said her father he is going to spend the evening with us she started up with a brightening face and obeyed her father without a word mr. Holloman saw the lovely change in her countenance and his heart glowed at the thought that she was pleased and cheered by his reappearance there has certainly been a little look of regret in her soft blue eyes when he wished her goodbye Oh Dulce Dossey it is well for you to submit defeat he said to himself as they crossed the hall for I mean you to be mine it was long since there had been such a happy dinner for Dulce yet mr. Holloman was grave and even absent in his manner as if his mind was overcrowded with thought and her father was no brighter than usual the joy and peace in dull seas Hart had arisen within her in some mysterious way she knew not from what source this new sense of gladness came but she could not hide from herself that she was glad she looked across the table shyly and met the curates earnest gaze and her drooping eyelids hardly dared to lift themselves during the rest of the meal yet it seemed to her as if the warmth of that dark glance were on her like sunlight all the time filling her heart with the rapture of life summer after dinner they went back to the warning room and Dulcie was glad to take refuge at her piano how tremendously her fingers touched the first notes of that favorite Nocturne then how the passion of the music added new force to this strange new gladness in her soul to every note seemed to vibrate within her as if the melody were the very breath of her life an emotion of her own mind the room was dimly lighted by two lamps under velvet shades just as much light as made darkness visible dolly played on believing that her father was still seated yonder in his low armchair by the wide tiled hearth where a group of choice ferns replaced the winter logs she has scarcely lifted her eyes from the notes since she had placed herself at the piano but presently while her ends were gliding over the keys in a slow legato movement mr. Holloman seated himself at her side and laid his hands upon hers she looked up startled and blushing and saw that her father's chair was empty and that she and Arthur Holliman were own dough see my darling you are playing exquisitely but for me tonight there is more music in your voice then in all Chopin ever wrote my dearest love look up I have been talking to your father and he has given me leave to win you if I can and I mean to do it he has done more than that he has told me that it will make him happy to see you my wife he can say that cried dolci shuttering away from the arm that would have drawn her to her lover's breasts my father can ask any honourable man to marry his daughter knowing what he knows what I know my dearest he has confided in me he has told me all all yes he has told me the dark secret of his life and I am deeply sorry for him sorry for him yes one cannot help being sorry for him what must I feel who have loved him and being loved by him all these years but will God have compassion upon him as we have can his sin find pardon I can it will if he is sincerely pendant as I believe he is God will assuredly pardon but to let that innocent man suffer was not that a terrible sin it was a sin but I do not believe your father would have let his life be sacrificed had there been no commutation of his sentence remember the penalty Vargas actually paid was only the just punishment of his actual guilt how good you are what a load you have taken off my mind said Dulce yes I know he is pennant 20 years of sorrow that is a long atonement is it not God will accept that atonement love o to thank that to believe that after all I have suffered for the last few months said dole see it is like coming from darkness into light and all see my beloved are you going to leave me in darkness this world would be very dark for me without you my dearest is my case hopeless I fancy tonight that I saw a ray of hope in your eyes her eyelids were lowered obstinately while her left hand strayed idly over the keys lightly touching the melody she had just been playing Arthur helmand put his arm round her waist and drew her head upon his shoulder unruhe proved it nestled there as if it had found its most natural shelter dosie does this mean that I am to be happier than I ever pictured to myself in my wildest dreams it means that I love you dearly faltered Dulcy though I hate myself for being so horribly fickle are you not afraid of marrying such a weathercock I fear nothing but my own unworthiness Dulcy you have made me uh Nutter ibly happy please don't despise me she murmured softly but I am afraid I love you better than ever I loved Morton end of chapter 47 recording by Linda Marie Nielsen Vancouver BC chapter xlviii of just as I am this is a librivox recording all librivox recordings are in the public domain for more information or to volunteer please visit librivox.org recording by Linda Marie Nielsen Vancouver BC just as I am by Mary Elizabeth Braden chapter 48 in the bosom of her family number 25 was the only house which in some wise broke the monotony of Milton Street in the Potteries it was a house of an original character in as much as it had no ground floor where the parlor floor and basement should have been there was an archway leading into a builder's yard the street door opened on a space just large enough to accommodate the doormat and give standing room to the person who entered beyond their rows with startling abruptness a steep flight of uncarpeted wooden stairs a pretty looking girl with an honest face opened the door in answer to Lizzie's knock she was dressed in well-worn stuff gown one of those neutral and sternly aesthetic hues which high art has provided for even the humblest wearers but in spite of high art it was a very ugly gown and assuredly the vivid puse or grassy green ware at modern case shutters would have been more cheerful to look upon in the dull black ford atmosphere the breasts of the young woman's gown was embroidered with a varied selection of pins and needles the latter with threads hanging to them and she had that worn worried look which is apt to be produced by a prolonged application to needlework Mizzy felt that this must be her dressmaking sister but the words she wanted to say died upon her lips somehow and she stood looking at the girl dumbly not knowing how to begin is Miss Hartman at home she faltered at last yes aunts upstairs did you want to see her I think you must be Jessie said Lizzie taking the girl's hand that's my name answer Jessie withdrawing her hand and looking sharply at the stranger whom she began to suspect as a person of weak intellect or perhaps a lunatic what's your business please miss Oh Jessie can't you guess who I am your sister your own sister Lizzie lor cried Jessie giving her an impulsive hug Lizzie my gracious me she shrieked almost hysterically and you've come to see us at last after all these years aunt said you never would you was far too proud but I said you would whenever you got the chance and you have ain't I glad won't I crow over Aunt here at the vivacious Jessie snapped her fingers in mingled derision and delight whoa how glad I am she exclaimed again and Lizzie felt that although vulgar the girl was delightfully affectionate come upstairs Liz and have tea or something how peel and fagged you look you gave me such a scare just now I thought you had a wild way with you and that you weren't right in the upper story a loose slate you know as brother bill calls it when a brother's name is William need affection call him bill busy winced a little feeling that no one with such a name would be welcome at tangley Manor Jessie galloped upstairs making a tremendous noise in her high spirits and she said flinging open the door of the back room and ushering in Lindsay here's a rum start do you know who this is mrs. Hartman was pouring over a penny periodical seated on a low wooden stool at an open door which looked out on a clumsy wooden balcony whence a flight of wooden steps descend to the narrow bit of yard which the Builder could spare from his business premises for the accommodation of his tenants the room was a kitchen if she furniture a deal table a dresser of the same wood a much worn and frayed horse chair couch a few oddments in the way of chairs and a very respectable old eight-day clock which pretended to record the movements of the heavenly bodies and the progress of the seasons as well as the hours of the day and night and aiming at too much did nothing correctly truth to say the kitchen was in an advanced stage of litter and mrs. Hartman looked as if she had not brushed her hair for a long time she was a neatly built good-looking woman with sharp black eyes ruddy cheeks and a clever face but the room and the people altogether had an aspect of absolute vulgarity which filled Lizzie's soul with pain yet as her sister was warm-hearted and affectionate she felt that she had reason to be thankful and glad she might have received me coldly and reproached me for having kept aloof from her so long thought Lizzie mrs. Hardman flung aside her cereal and jumped up to do honor to the stranger I suppose is the lady miss pincher recommended she said smiling blandly at the supposed customer no it isn't old lady ain't we clever if somebody I'm better pleased to see than all miss pinchers customers though they was to let me buy all their linings and trimmings and was never to grumble at my charging eighteenpence for sundries it's my sister my sister Liz and ain't we pretty turning the reluctant Lizzie around as on a pivot and haven't we a nice figure and a tweeze a lady from tip to toe oh you dear old Liz I'm that pleased Jessie gave her sister another hug and then began to unbutton Lizzie's Ulster what a stylish cut tailor-made I'll warrant none of your Draper's slumps that's just like our Jess said miss Hardman smiling approval at her elder niece she's all art never was such a girl for art what cried Lizzie delighted do you draw or paint Jessie have you really a taste for art lor no child cried mrs. Hardman we've no hardest here nor we don't want I say your sister jess has art in a thousand there ain't many a sister made to keep her distance as she's been made that would show so much art tonight give me art ejaculated mrs. Hardman there's nothing like it Lizzie began to understand that she must learn a new language in her new home a language of erratic aspirates well my dear said mrs. Hardman I'm glad to see you now you have come better late than never but you'll have to take us in the rough if you'd have wrote or telegrammed to us we'd have things nice for you or as nice as they can be in a working man's house light the fire and get her a cup of tea aunt and don't stand drawing there said Jessie without the least idea of disrespect please don't put yourself out of the way on my account said Lizzie feeling herself an intruder I can do very well without tea a little milk and water and a slice of bread and butter nonsense child you shall have a cozy cup of tea and a nice light cake we'll sit down together and enjoy ourselves a bit Jess and I are regular pegs for tea and hot cake you just run across two bonds and get two penny worth of tea milk Jess before they shut up for the night Jessie whisk our jug off its nail and was halfway down the wooden stairs before this he knew what she was doing mrs. Hartman lighted the fire and gave Lizzie the bellows to blow and then bustle about the kitchen filling the kettle making cakes and setting out the tea tray on a comfortable little round table she did everything with a wonderful out clarity which contrasted curiously with her lazy attitude when Lizzie entered the room she was a woman whose life was spent in spurts of activity and long intervals of idleness her cakes were made and in the oven her kettle was singing gaily the littered appear of the kitchen was reduced to something like tidiness while Lizzie knelt before the fire languidly moving the bellows and wandering at her aunt's quickness Jessie came back with the milk jug after an absence of a quarter of an hour I wonder you stayed away so long when you was so took up with your sister exclaimed mrs. Hartman mrs. bond had got a new baby and they made me go upstairs to look at it such a mite where is my sister Mary asked Lizzie who had been to agitate it to make the inquiry sooner doesn't she live with you now int why of course she does live but she doesn't come home / early of a summer evening when she leaves the workshop she likes to take a walk by the canal with her young men I suppose you know she's keeping company she told me she was engaged faltered busy he's a proofreader at the office of the Blackford Chronicle a very respectable young man my what that young man knows he would make you stare though I suppose you've plenty of book-learning I am very glad she has chosen such a nice person he's getting five and thirty shillings a week already said Jessie and it's to be raised to two pounds very soon and then they're going to get married they'll take a house in monks gate close to the office such sweet little houses only six and six pence a week gasps late on Green Venetians and everything I think our pole is a lucky girl our pole it was almost worse than bill and William is he at home asked Lizzie he's gone to the theatre with father too mr. Mont mercy take Claude Melnick replied mrs. Hartman have you ever seen Mount Mercy's Claude Menaka I never saw a play in my life said Lizzie poor thing well I never me and Jess must take you were rare ones for the theater you can't give us enough of it oh I do love the lady of Lyons side Jess with an aesthetic heir mount mercenary is heavenly as Claud you'd never forget the way he walks a stage was such a grand sweep of his legs and such a graceful bend of his knees and the loveliest hessin boots with gold tassels and his emilich exclaimed mrs. Hardman amlet empty not am lack corrective Jessie you do pronounce names so queerly well I say him as my ear catch ISM Jess I'm no scholar Jess have been taking the hot cakes out of the oven and buttering them while she talked the tea was drawn the candles were lighted they had been sitting in the firelight hitherto the little kitchen with his litter swept out of sight had a comfortable look Jess insisted upon the visitor occupying the armchair a Windsor chair with a chintz covered cushion she poured out the tea and ministered to her sister lovingly busy had eaten a late luncheon at half past one o'clock and had not broken her fast since so the tea and like cake seemed positively delicious and it was nice to be waited upon and made much of by an affectionate sister she wondered at herself for feeling almost at home in this humble kitchen with these kindred of her who murdered the Queen's English so cruelly and all whose ideas were different from her own and it is with people like this my life is to be spent in future she thought as she sipped her tea and that her tired head rest against the back of the chair I have done with refined society with the grace and beauty of life I must be a worker among other workers all of them too busy to cultivate refinement of manners well perhaps it is better to sit in a kitchen where one is loved and thought much of than to inhabit a fine house upon sufferance and have one self-respect wounded 20 times a day and how long have they given you leave to stay with us Liz asked mrs. Hardman when she had finished her first cup of tea and made herself needlessly greasy with a cake I have left tangley for good aunt I want you and my uncle to put me in the way of earning my living answered Lizzy quietly what cried mrs. Hardman you've been and gone and run away from the lady as adopted you and promised your poor father to provide for you and 'some after death you can't have being such a soft as that child I can't believe it of you money isn't everything in the world aunt it's nine-tenths of everything answered mrs. Hardman and you could leave a beautiful home and kind friends all for some Tantrums I suppose Lizzy tried to explain her position without touching on the actual charge that had been brought against her she told her aunt how she had been wounded by the unkindness of Morten sisters how they had accused her of being mean and underhanded in the pursuit of her own interest all tantrums nothing but tantrums explained mrs. Hartman contemptuously of course they was jealous of you that was what you had to look for but what did that matter to you so long as the old lady was fond of you and stood by you you should have given them as good as they brought it's no use talking about it aunt I bore their unkindness as long as I could but today it became just a little too bad she burst into tears and let her head fall on her sister's shoulder that affectionate young person having knelt by her side to caress and comfort her a few minutes before their aunt don't you say another word to her said Jessie don't you see she's right down upset if you go on at her so she'll think she's not welcome here and be sorry she ever came to such nasty relations she's as welcome as the flowers in me and she ought to know that replied mrs. Hardman with dignity as if her personal character were a sufficient guarantee but when I see her flying in the face of her own good fortune I must up and tell her so if I may stay here for a day or two I shall be very grateful said Lizzy meekly a day or two you may stay for a year Liz there's no one will grudge you your bite and sup thank you dear aunt but I will only take advantage of your kindness just for a few days while I look about me and make up my mind how to begin life for myself I have had no quarrel with Miss Blake I love her dearly and shall so love her to my dying day but I can never go back to tangley Manor it strikes me there's a lover at the bottom of this said mrs. Hardman looking earnestly at her niece yes of course there is see how she blushes you're too bad aunt said Jessie ending Lea teasing her like this when she's tired and low nevermind Liz a good night's rest will set you up again and tomorrow you and me will have an eisbock round Blackford and you shall see all the shops won't they be a treat to you after your pokey country lanes end of chapter 48 recording by Linda Marie Neilson Vancouver BC

1 thought on “Just As I Am | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1900 onward | Audiobook | 9/11

  1. Just As I Am | Mary Elizabeth Braddon | Literary Fiction, Published 1900 onward | Audiobook | 9/11

    44: [00:00:00] – XLIV. A Paragon of Cobs

    45: [00:34:22] – XLV. ' What is the Key to the Enigma

    46: [00:56:55] – XLVI. A Land of Chimneys and Smoke

    47: [01:10:50] – XLVII. From Darkness into Light

    48: [01:36:52] – XLVIII. In the bosom of her family

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