Read CHAPTER VIII - ON THE TRACK of Her Season in Bath A Story of Bygone Days, free online book, by Emma Marshall, on

Griselda had been much surprised at the applause which followed the reading of her verses.  They were called for a second time, and elicited great praise.

“They are vastly pretty, and full of feeling!” exclaimed Lady Betty the next morning.  “I declare, Griselda, you are without an atom of sentiment; you sat listening to them with a face like a marble statue.  It is well for you that you are not a victim to sentiment as I am.  I vow I could weep at the notion of the sorrowful soul who wrote those impassioned couplets which were read before the five stanzas, so much admired.  Ah!” Lady Betty continued, with a yawn-for it was her yawning-time between her first and second visit to the Pump Room-“ah! it is well for some folks that they are callous.  I am all impatience to get a copy of those rhymes for Lord Basingstoke; and-entre nous, ma chère, entre nous-when do you propose to accept Sir Maxwell Danby’s suit?  He formally asked my permission to address you.  It would be a good match, and -”

“I have not the slightest intention, Aunt Betty, of listening to Sir Maxwell Danby’s proposal.”

Griselda always gave Lady Betty that title when angry.

“Oh! how high and mighty we are!  But I would have you to know, miss, I cannot afford to keep you for ever.  I am now embarrassed, and a dun has been here this very morning; so I advise you not to overlook Sir Maxwell Danby’s offer.”

“If there were not another man in the world I would not marry Sir Maxwell,” Griselda said, rising.  “I will consider other matters, and tell you of my decision.”

“You silly child!  Where are you going, pray?”

“To my own chamber.”

“You must be powdered for the ball to-night.  I promised Sir Maxwell he should have his opportunity at my Lady Westover’s dance.  Perkyns is coming at four o’clock.  You must be powdered.  It is not the mode to appear in full toilette, with your hair as it was dressed last night.  That gold band may suit some faces, but not yours.  Do you hear, miss?”

“I hear,” Griselda said; “and I repeat I do not go with your ladyship to Lady Westover’s ball.”

“The minx!-the impudent little baggage!  You shall repent your saucy words.  But you’ll come round, see if you don’t, if you hear that pale-faced fellow Travers is to be of the company.  Yes; go and ask his old mother about it-go!”

Griselda shut the door with a sharp bang, which made Lady Betty call loudly for her salts, and brought Graves from the inner room.

“Such impudence!  I won’t stand it-the little baggage!  She shall marry Sir Maxwell Danby, or I wash my hands of her.”

Graves calmly held the salts to her mistress’s nose:  they were strong, and Lady Betty called out: 

“Not too near!  Oh! oh!  I am not faint;” and immediately went off into hysterical crying, which, for obvious reasons, was tearless.

Meanwhile, Griselda had gone to her room; and, putting on a long black pelisse and a wide hat with a drooping feather, set well over her eyes, she left the house, carrying in a large satchel, which was fastened to her side, the box containing the jewels she wanted to sell.

At first she thought she would go to consult Mrs. Travers in her difficulty.  She was determined to run no risk of meeting Sir Maxwell Danby; and if Lady Betty persisted in backing up his suit, she would leave her; but where, where should she go?

An open door in King Street attracted her, and she saw Mr. and Miss Herschel passing in, each carrying some favourite and precious musical instrument.  They were in all the bustle of removal, doing this, as they did everything else, with resolute determination to be as earnest as possible in accomplishing their purpose.

Miss Herschel, in her short black gown and work-a-day apron with wide pockets and her close black hood, did not see, or if she saw did not recognise, Griselda.  She was giving directions to her servant, enforced with many strong expressions; and as she went backwards and forwards from the door to a cart lined with straw, she was wholly unconscious of anyone standing by.

Griselda could not help watching, with interest and admiration, the swift firm steps of this able and practical woman, as she went about her business, intent only on clearing the house in Rivers Street, and filling the house in King Street, as quickly as possible.

“She is too busy to speak to me now,” Griselda thought.

Mr. Herschel now came hurriedly out, exclaiming: 

“The two brass screws, Lina, for the seven-foot mirror!  They are missing!” and then he disappeared in the direction of the house they were leaving.

Fortunately it was a bright winter noon, and everything favoured the flitting, which was accomplished in a very short time.  But we who have in these days any experience of removals-and happy those who have not that experience-know how patience and temper are apt to fail, as the hopeless chaos of the new house is only a degree less hopeless than that of the old house we are leaving.  We have vans, and packers, and helpers at command, unknown in the days of Mr. and Miss Herschel; for at the close of the last century few, indeed, were the removals from house to house.  As a rule, people gathered round them their “household gods,” and handed them down to their children in the house where they had been born and brought up.  Removal from one part of England to another was not to be thought of at that time, when roads were bad and conveyances rare, and a distance of twenty miles more difficult to accomplish than that of two or three hundred in our own time.  Mr. Herschel’s reason for taking the house in King Street was that the garden behind it afforded room for the great experiment then always looming before him-the casting of the great mirror for the thirty-foot reflector.

Griselda passed on without even getting a smile of recognition from Miss Herschel, so thoroughly engrossed was she with the business in hand; and a sense of loneliness came over her, as she said to herself: 

“How could I expect Miss Herschel to recognise me, especially in this thick pelisse and hat?  I must not expect my concerns to be of importance to her or to anyone.”

And as this thought passed through her mind, she became conscious that to someone, at least, her concerns were of importance; for Leslie Travers had seen her from the window of his mother’s house, and had thrown his cloak over his shoulders without delay, and, with his hat looped up at one side in his hand, advanced, saying: 

“This is a happy chance!  I am anxious to see you; and, if you will, I would fain tell you more of a visit I paid to the poor people in Crown Alley.  It is a pitiable case!”

“And I want to see them,” Griselda said, “and to help the child with the angelic face.  I have in my bag the trinkets I spoke of.  Will you take me at once to a shop in the Abbey Churchyard, and inquire for me the price they will fetch?  I want also,” she said hurriedly, “to consult you, or rather your mother, as to what I should do.  I cannot-I cannot live any longer with Lady Betty, unless she promises to protect me from the man I detest!”

Leslie Travers’s face kindled with delight.

“Come at once to my mother, at N in this street.  She will be proud to receive you,” he said eagerly.

“I must not act hastily,” Griselda said.  “I left Lady Betty in anger this morning; but I have reason to be angry.”

“You have indeed, if you are forced into the company of a man like Sir Maxwell Danby.  From him I would fain protect you.  But,” he said, checking himself, “I am at your service now about the trinkets, or shall we pay a visit to the poor folks first?  It is, I warn you, a sad spectacle-can you bear it?  I have questioned Mr. Palmer of the theatre, and he says the man (Lamartine) is a man of genius, but a reprobate.  He has for some time made his living on the stage, and when not in drink is a wonderful actor.  But he is subject to desperate fits of drunkenness, and on his arrival here from Bristol he broke out in one, and falling down the stairs at the theatre after the second rehearsal, injured himself so terribly that he cannot live.”

“And the child!-the sweet, innocent child?” Griselda asked.

“The child is the daughter of a young girl employed about the theatre, whom Lamartine married some years ago.  She died of burns from her dress catching fire at the Bristol Theatre, where she was acting and getting a fair living.  That is the story.  The man is by no means a deserving character.  Shall we visit him to-day?”

“Yes,” Griselda said; “I wish to see the child.”

It was now near the hour when it was fashionable to resort to the baths for the second time before the dinner hour, which was generally at two o’clock; and as Griselda and Mr. Travers passed the Pump Room they met several acquaintances.

It was no uncommon thing for the beaux to conduct the ladies to the baths, drink the water with them, and lounge away an hour or two while the band played; and, one by one, those who had been bathing came, well muffled in wraps, to the chairs waiting to convey them to their apartments.

But eyes, which were by no means kindly eyes, were upon Griselda, and as Sir Maxwell Danby stood at the entrance of the Pump Room he made a low bow, to which Griselda responded with a stately inclination of her head.

“Whither away, my fair lady, with that puppy?” thought he.  “Ha!  I will be on your scent, and maybe find out something.  A silversmith’s shop!  Ah! to buy the ring, forsooth!  Ah! ha!”

“What amuses you, Danby?” asked a man of the same type as Sir Maxwell.  “Let me have the benefit of the joke, for I am bored to death dancing attendance on my wife and girls.”

“Come down with me, and I will show you the finest girl in Bath and the biggest puppy.  They have disappeared within that shop.  We may follow.”

“What are you turned spy for?” asked his companion.

“Who said I had turned spy?” asked Sir Maxwell angrily.  “Please yourself!” and he went down the street, and turned into the jeweller’s shop as if by accident just as Griselda had laid her trinkets on the counter and the master of the shop was examining them.

Sir Maxwell retired to the further end of the shop and asked to see some snuff-boxes, where he was presently joined by his friend.  Sir Maxwell threw himself into one of his easy attitudes, and, while pretending to listen to the shopman, who had displayed a variety of little pocket snuff-boxes in dainty leather cases, he was taking in the fact that Griselda was selling her necklace and gold ornaments.

As soon as the transaction was over, Sir Maxwell made a sign to his companion, and, leaving all the snuff-boxes, he loftily waved away the master of the shop, who was advancing to inquire which he would prefer, and left in time to see which way Griselda went.

“To Crown Alley-a low place!  By Jove! this is a queer notion.  And with that jackanapes, too, who sets up for being so pious!  We won’t follow them further,” he said, taking out an elaborately-chased snuff-box and offering it to his friend.  “We won’t follow them-this is enough.”

“You are that fair lady’s devoted slave, so report says.  What are you about, Danby, to let another get before you?  It is not like you!”

“No, it is not like me; you are right, sir.  But I am not beaten out of the field yet.  Crown Alley, forsooth! haunted by the scum of the theatre!  Ah! ha!  We must unearth this rat from its hole, and I am the man to do it!”

“You are well fitted for the business, I must say,” was the rejoinder, with a laugh.