Read CHAPTER IV - MUSIC of Her Season in Bath A Story of Bygone Days, free online book, by Emma Marshall, on

Griselda Mainwaring was up very much earlier than Lady Betty on all occasions, but on the morning after the ball in Wiltshire’s Rooms she was dressed and in the sitting-room before her ladyship had made any sign of lifting her heavy head from the pillow.  Heavy, indeed, as she had been too cross and too tired to allow Graves to touch the erection of powder and puff, which had cost Mr. Perkyns so many sighs.

Griselda had taken down her own hair without help, and had shaken the powder out of its heavy masses-no easy task, and requiring great patience.

“I will forswear powder henceforth,” she said, as she looked at herself in the glass.  “Lady Betty says truly, powder must go with paint.  I will have neither.”

So the long, abundant tresses were left to their own sweet will, their lustre dimmed by the remains of the powder at the top, but the under tresses were falling in all their rippling beauty over her shoulders.

Amelia Graves brought her a cup of chocolate and some finger-biscuits, saying: 

“Her ladyship has already had two breakfasts, and after the last has gone off to sleep again.”

“I hope she will remember she promised to go to Mr. Herschel’s musical reunion,” Griselda said.  “If not, Graves, I must go alone; I must indeed.  You will send the boy Zack for a chair, won’t you?”

“More of the gay world!  Ah, my dear, I do pity you.”

“Gay world!  Well, I know nothing that lifts one above it as music does.  I am no longer the pleasure-seeker then?”

Graves shook her head, and, getting a long wrapper, she covered Griselda with it, and began to comb and brush the hair which nearly touched the floor as it hung over the back of the chair.

“Come, I will gather the hair up for you.  Well, it’s a natural gift coming from God, and the Word says long hair is a glory to a woman, or I’d say it ought to be cut close.  It is like your poor mother’s, poor lady!” It was very seldom that Graves or anyone else referred to the sister of Mr. Longueville, who had disgraced herself by a mésalliance.  “Poor thing!-ah, poor thing! it all came of her love of the world and the lust of the flesh.”

Griselda’s proud nature always felt a pain like a sword-thrust when her dead mother was spoken of.

“Don’t talk of her, Graves, unless you can speak kindly.  You know I told you this the other day.”

“Well, I don’t wish to be unkind; but when a lady of high birth marries a wretched playwright, a buffoon -”

“Stop!” Griselda exclaimed.  “No more of this.  If you can be neither respectful nor kind, say no more.”

“Well, my dear, there are times when I see your mother over again in you, and I tremble,” said poor Graves, “yes, I shudder.  If a bad man got hold of you, what then?  I have my fears.  It’s out of love I speak.”

Griselda was touched at once.

“I know it-I know, dear old Graves,” she said.  “There are few enough to care about me, or whether bad or good men are in my company.  That is true, and I am glad you care,” she added, springing up, and, throwing off the wrapper, she bent her stately head and kissed the lined, rugged cheek, down which a single tear was silently falling.  “Dear old ’Melia, I am sure you love me, and I will keep out of the hands of bad men and women too.  I want to go to-day to see a good, brave woman who sings divinely, and whose whole life is devoted to her brother-a wonderful musician.”

“Musician, yes.  Music-music -”

“But, to other things also; Mr. Herschel studies the wonders of the heavens, and is measuring the mountains in the moon and searching star-depths.”

“A pack of nonsense!” said Graves, recovering herself from the passing wave of sentiment which had swept over her.  “A pack of nonsense!  I take the stars as God set them in the heavens-to give light with the moon-and I want to know no more than the Word teaches me.  The sun to rule by day, the moon and stars to rule by night.  There!  I hear her ladyship.  Yes, I’ll order the chair-maybe two; but you’ll dine first?  Her ladyship said she should dine at two-late enough.”

“Well, make haste and get her up, and stroke her the right way.”

“Ah, that’s not easy.  There’s always a crop of bristles sticking up after a night’s work like the last.  It’s the way of the natural man, and we must just put up with it.”

There could be no doubt that when Lady Betty at last presented herself from the room opening from the drawing-room she was in a bad mood, and Griselda said “her chance of getting to the Herschels’ was remote if it depended on her will.”

Lady Betty yawned and grumbled, and taxed Griselda with stupidity; and said by her airs she had affronted one of the best friends she, a poor widow, had.

“Sir Maxwell won’t stand to be flouted by you, miss-a man of ton like him; and you-well, I do not tell tales, or I might ruin your chance of matrimony.”

Griselda’s eyes flashed angrily; and then, recovering herself, she said: 

“At what hour shall we order the chairs?”

“The chairs?-who said I wanted a chair?  I am too worn out-too tired.  I vow I can scarcely endure myself.  However, it might kill time to go to listen to ‘too-ti-toos’ on that horrid big instrument.  When Mr. Herschel played on it the other night, I could think of nothing but a wretch groaning in limbo.  Ah, dear!  Come, read the news; there ought to be something droll in the Bath paper.  I have no appetite.  I am afraid I am no better for the waters.  But I must drag my poor little self up to-morrow, and be at the Pump Room early.  One is sure to hear a little gossip there, thank goodness.”

It was by no means an easy task to prepare the drawing-room at the Herschels’ house for a rehearsal.  Instruments of every kind blocked the way, and these were not all musical instruments.  Then there was the arranging of the parts; the proper disposal of the music; the seats for the guests who might happen to drop in, for these receptions answered, perhaps, to the informal “at home” days of our own society of these later times, when “at home,” written on the ordinary visiting-card, signifies that all who like to come are supposed to be welcome.

Caroline Herschel went about her preparations with the same steady perseverance which characterized everything she did.  Her servant was one of her trials-I must almost say her greatest trial-at this time.  If ever her temper failed her, it was at some misdemeanour of the handmaiden who, for the time, filled the part of general helper in Miss Herschel’s household.

Like most of her countrywomen, neatness and order were indispensable to her comfort; and think, then, what the constant intrusion into every corner of the house of lathes and turning-machines, of compasses and glasses, and mirrors and polishing apparatus must have been!  No wonder that the English or Welsh servant, however willing, failed to meet her mistress’s requirements.

On this occasion she had, with the best intention, bustled about; but had always done precisely the reverse of what she was told to do.

At last, breaking out into German invective, her mistress had given her a rather decided push from the room, and had called Alexander to come to her rescue.

“The slut!  Look at the dust on the harpsichord!  Did I not tell her to remove every speck before it was placed by the window?  I would fifty times sooner do all the work myself.  What would our mother say at all this?”

“Heaven knows!” Alex said, laughing.  “But, sister, the room looks spick and span; and here is an arrival.”

“It is only Mr. Travers; he is to play the second violin.  Entertain him, Alex, while I go and make my toilette.”

Repairing to the humble bedroom, which was really the only space allotted to her-or, rather, that she allotted to herself-she changed her morning-wrapper for a sacque of pale blue, and twisted a ribbon to match it in her fair hair.  As she was descending again to the drawing-room, she heard her brother William’s voice.

“I have concluded the business about the removal to King Street, and we must make the move as soon as possible.”

“Now-at once?”

“Yes; the garden slopes well to the river.  There will be a magnificent sky-line, and room for the great venture.  The casting of the great thirty-foot -”

“Yes, William-yes; but the people are arriving, and you must be in your place downstairs.”

Then Mr. Herschel, with the marvellous power of self-control which distinguished him, laid aside the astronomer and became the musician, playing a solo on the harpsichord to a delighted audience; and then accompanying his sister in the difficult songs in “Judas Maccabaeus,” which hitherto only the beautiful Miss Linley had attempted in Bath society.

In one of the pauses in the performance the door opened, and Alex Herschel went forward to meet Lady Betty Longueville and Miss Mainwaring.  He presented them to his brother and sister; and Lady Betty passed smiling and bowing up the room, while Griselda moved behind her with stately grace and dignity.

But Lady Betty was not the greatest lady in the company; for the Marchioness of Lothian was present, and was making much of Miss Herschel, and complimenting her on the excellence, not only of her singing, but of her pronunciation of English.  The huge Lady Cremorne was also amongst the audience, and flattered the performers; and Lady Betty, wishing to be in the fashion, began to talk of the music as “ravishing,” and especially that “dear, delicious violoncello” of Mr. Herschel’s.

Mr. Travers had some difficulty in keeping his place in the trio which he played with the two Herschels, so attracted was he by the face of the rapt listener who sat opposite him, drinking in the strains of those wonderful instruments, which, under skilful hands, wake the soul’s melodies as nothing else has the power to wake them.

They called Miss Linley “Saint Cecilia.”  Mr. Travers thought “sure there never was one more like a saint than she who is here to-day.”  It was a dream of bliss to him, till a dark shadow awoke him to the reality of a hated presence.

Sir Maxwell Danby and young Lord Basingstoke had appeared, and stood at the farther end of the room-Sir Maxwell fingering his silver snuff-box, and shaking out his handkerchief, edged with lace and heavily perfumed; while Lord Basingstoke looked round as if seeking someone; and Lady Betty, taking it for granted that she was the person he sought, stood up, and beckoned with her fan for him to take a vacant place by her side.

This suited Sir Maxwell’s purpose, and he said: 

“Go forward when the siren calls or beckons.  Don’t be modest, dear boy!  What! must I make the way easy?” whereupon Sir Maxwell bowed, and elbowed his way to the top of the room; and Lord Basingstoke found himself left to Lady Betty, while Sir Maxwell dropped on a chair by Griselda’s side.

Miss Herschel was just beginning to sing the lovely song “Rejoice Greatly;” and Griselda, spell-bound, became unconscious of the presence of Sir Maxwell, or of anyone else.  There was only one person for her just then in the world-nay, it was scarcely the person, but the gift which she possessed.

Caroline Herschel had at this time attained a very high degree of excellence in her art, and Mr. Palmer, the proprietor of the Bath Theatre, had pronounced her likely to be an ornament to the stage.  She never sang in public unless her brother was the conductor, and resolutely declined an engagement offered her for the Birmingham Festival.  Anything apart from him lost its charm, and nothing could tempt her to leave him.  Her singing was but a means to an end, and that end was to help her brother in those aspirations, which reached to the very heavens themselves.

It is the most remarkable instance on record of a love which was wholly pure and unselfish, and yet almost entirely free from anything like romance or sentiment, for Caroline Herschel was an eminently practical person!

At the close of the performance, Mr. Herschel told the audience that he should not be able to receive his friends till January, and then he hoped to resume his reunions in his new house in King Street.

“But,” he added, “my sister and myself can still give lessons to our pupils at their own homes, if so they please.”

“What marvellous people you are!” said Lady Cremorne in her loud, grating voice.  “Most folks when they change their houses are all in a fuss and worry.  You talk of it as if you carried your household gods on your back.”

“So we do, your ladyship,” William Herschel said, with a smile.  “I doubt whether my sister or myself would allow any hands but our own to touch some of our possessions.”

“Your telescopes, and those wonderful mirrors.  Ah! here comes Dr. Watson.  I saw him in the Pump Room this forenoon, and says he, ’I vow I saw the mountains in the moon through a wonderful instrument last night.’”

“And the little man in the moon dancing on the top of it, no doubt,” said a voice.

William Herschel turned upon the dandy, with his lace ruffles and his elegant coat, a look that none might envy, as he said: 

“Sir Maxwell, when you have studied the wonders of the heavens, you will scarce turn them into a childish jest.”

The room was thinning now, and Griselda lingered.  Lady Betty was too much engrossed with trying to ingratiate herself with the Marchioness to take any heed of her, and she had gone down to her chair, conducted by Alexander Herschel, without noticing that Griselda was not following her.

This was Griselda’s opportunity.  She went up to Miss Herschel and said: 

“I want-I long to learn to play on some instrument.  I could never sing like you, but I feel I could make the violin speak.  Will you ask your brother if I may have lessons?”

Caroline Herschel was not a demonstrative person, and she said quietly: 

“My brother will, no doubt, arrange to attend you.  As you heard, Miss Mainwaring, we are soon to be involved in a removal to a house better suited to his purpose.”

“But sure this is a charming room for music, and -”

“I was not then speaking of music, but of my brother’s astronomical work.”

“Ah!  I had heard of that for the first time last night.  It was you, sir”-turning to Mr. Travers-“who spoke of the wonders Mr. Herschel discovered in the sky.  But where is Lady Betty?  I must not linger,” Griselda said, looking round the room, now nearly empty.

“Her ladyship has taken leave, I think.  May I have the honour of seeing you to North Parade?”

“I thank you, sir; but I have a chair in attendance.”

Mr. Travers bowed.

“Then I will act footman, and walk by the side of the chair, with your permission, and feel proud to do so.”

“Then may I hope that Mr. Herschel will give me lessons?” Griselda said.  “But,” she hesitated, “there is one thing I ought to say-I am poor.”


Caroline Herschel allowed the word to escape unawares.

“Yes, you may be astonished; but it is true.  I am a dependent on Lady Betty Longueville.  I was,” with a little ironical laugh, which had a ring of bitterness in it-“I was left by my uncle, Mr. Longueville, to Lady Betty for maintenance.  I am an orphan, and often very lonely.  The world of Bath is new to me.  I know nothing of the ways of fine people such as I meet here.  But I have some trinkets which were my mother’s, and I would gladly sell them, if only,” and she clasped her hands as if praying for a favour to be conferred-“if only I could gain what I most covet-lessons in music.  I have a violin.  I bought it with the money I received for a pearl-brooch.  The necklace which matches this brooch is still mine.  Its price would pay for many lessons.  I would so thankfully sell it to attain this end.”

Griselda, usually so calm and dignified, was changed into an enthusiast by the strong desire kindled within her, to be instructed in the practice of music.

“Here is my brother Alex!” Caroline Herschel said.  “I will refer the matter to him.  This lady, Alex, wishes to become a pupil on the violin.”

“And to sing also,” Griselda said eagerly.

“It can be arranged certainly.  I will let you know more, madam, when I have consulted my brother.”

“There are loud voices below, Alex.  Is anything amiss?”

“Two gentlemen have had an unseemly wrangle,” Alex said, “and in the midst Dr. Watson arrived, and a poor child begging.  It is over now, and your chair waits, Miss Mainwaring.”