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

Griselda shrank from meeting Lady Betty after the stormy scene of the previous day, and Graves brought her breakfast to her own room.

“Did you send my letter, Graves?”


“Surely, by a safe hand?”

“I hope you don’t think David’s unsafe!” was the short reply.

“Graves, why are you so gloomy-like the day?  Oh!” she said, turning to the window, which was blurred with a driving mist of rain-“oh! there ought to be sunshine everywhere to suit me to-day.”

“There’s not likely to be a ray of sun to-day.  Bath folks say that if the weather once sets in like this, it goes on rain, rain -”

“Well, it can’t last for ever-nothing does.”

“No; that’s true,” said Graves.

Griselda now settled herself to her breakfast with the appetite of youth; and, as Graves left the room, she said: 

“Bring the letter the instant it comes, Graves-the answer to my letter, I mean; or perhaps Mr. Travers may come himself.”

But the day wore on, and Griselda waited and watched in vain.  She tried to occupy herself with her violin; she made a fair copy of her verses, and smiled as she thought, that waiting-her waiting-had at last been crowned with reward.

Then she fell into dreams of her past life; the dull dreary round at Longueville Park; her uncle’s long illness; her dependence for education on the library and its store of books, and the good offices of the clergyman of the little parish, who gave her lessons in Latin, and such Italian as he knew.  Needlecraft and embroidery she had learned from his wife; and she was an accomplished needlewoman.

It was a haphazard education, but Griselda’s natural gifts made her able to adapt it to her needs; and she was a self-cultured woman, who lived her own life apart from the frivolity of Lady Betty, to whom, as she said, she was simply an appendage.

Then there was the closing of Longueville Park till the heir returned from the Grand Tour; for, in spite of Lady Betty’s wiles and effusive letters, the heir made it very evident that he did not desire her to remain at the Park till his return in a year or two, as Lady Betty fondly hoped.

Then the little widow made the best of the circumstances, and set forth with David and Graves to see the world.

This was two years ago now, and the interval had been filled up with a few months in Dublin, a short sojourn at the Bristol Hot Wells, and then, in the October of 1779, the house on the North Parade, Bath, was taken, where Lady Betty emerged from her weeds, dropping them as the butterfly drops the chrysalis, and floating off into the world of fashion, with Griselda as her “sweet friend,” and “pet,” and protegee, but never as her “niece.”

From time to time Griselda gave up meditation, and stationed herself at the window.  The small panes, set in thick frames, were dim with moisture.  The fields before her, which stretched to the hills, were reeking with damp.  The hills themselves, and the houses and terraces which the day before had laughed in the sunshine, were now hidden, or only seen gray and black through the driving rain.

No grand chariots, with red-coated post-boys, swept round the corner from South Parade, drawing up with a flourish at a door near.  Very few people were out in the dim wet streets, and only a few disconsolate patients were conveyed at intervals by drenched and surly chair-men to and from the Pump Room, the water dripping from the roofs of the chairs, and the men’s feet making a dull sound on the wet pavements, or on the miry road below.

Soon a panic seized Griselda that perhaps that letter had been a little premature.  Was it possible that Leslie Travers could think her unmaidenly to write as she had done?

The thought was torture, and the torture grew more and more hard to bear, as the leaden hours passed.

At the dinner-hour Graves appeared.

“Have you brought it-the letter?”

“No; I’ve brought a message from her ladyship-that Sir Maxwell Danby is below, and dines here; and you are to go downstairs.”

“I will not go downstairs-I will not see him,” Griselda said passionately.  “Say, Graves, please, that I am unwell, and desire to remain in my room.”

“My poor child!-my poor child!” Graves said.  “I think you had best go-I do, indeed!”

“You would not say so if you knew. No; I will not go.  Make my apologies, and say what is true-that I am not well.  But, Graves, that letter-did you send it?”

“I have told you so, Miss Griselda.  I speak the truth, as you ought to know.”

“Did David take it?”

And now Graves hesitated a little: 

“I gave it to his care as soon as I went down this morning; but -”

“But what?”

“The gentleman has been here, and David was ordered to refuse him admittance.  I must take your message; there’s the bell ringing again.”

Griselda stood where Graves left her, her hands clasped together, and exclaimed: 

“What shall I do?-wait till he writes?  He will surely write!  Oh, that I had someone to consult!  Shall I leave the house?-shall I go to Mrs. Travers?  No; I would not force myself on her-or anyone.  I must wait.  Surely my poor little rhymes were prophetic!  Waiting and watching -”

Again Graves appeared with a tray, on which was Griselda’s dinner.  A little three-cornered note lay on the napkin.

Griselda snatched it up, and read, in Lady Betty’s thin, straggling, pointed handwriting: 

     “Do not atempt to shew your face, miss, till you have made a
     propar apollgey, and have declared your readynes to meet the
     gentleman who has done you the honour of adressing you.

     “B.  L.”

Lady Betty’s spelling was, to say the least of it, eccentric; and Griselda smiled as she crumpled up the note and tossed it into the fire.

“Very well, I am a prisoner then till my true knight comes to set me free.  Make my compliments to her ladyship, and say, Graves, that I am obedient to her orders, and have no intention of showing my face.”

“My dear,” Graves said, “pray to the Lord to help you; you will need His help.”

“What do you mean?  Speak out, Graves.”

But again Graves left the room, murmuring to herself: 

“I have not the heart to tell her, yet she must surely know; she must be told.”

The long, slow hours passed, and twilight deepened early, for the sky only showed a lurid glow in the west for a few minutes at sunset, and then the rain and mist swept over the city, and nothing was to be seen from the window but the dim light of an oil-lamp here and there, and the flare of the link-boys’ torches as they passed in attendance on chairs, or lighted pedestrians across the road for a fee of a halfpenny.

At the accustomed hour Lady Betty set off to the Assembly Room, and the house being quiet, Griselda came out of her room.

David was in attendance with his mistress, and only the woman who let the house and cooked for the family was at home with her daughter.

Griselda heard her voice raised to reproach her daughter, who acted as servant to the establishment, and she caught the words:  “Shut the door, Sarah Anne!  Send the young rascal away!-a little thief, no doubt!”

Griselda ran downstairs, impelled by some hidden instinct, and feeling sure that the messenger came from Crown Alley.

The door was partially open, and Sarah Anne was evidently trying to shut it against an effort to keep it open.

Then Griselda heard a voice pleading-a musical boyish voice: 

“Let the young lady know I’m here; pray do.”

And now Graves came from the back of the house, and exclaimed, as Griselda was trying to admit the boy: 

“Go back into the dining-parlour, Miss Griselda.  Go; I’ll speak to the boy.”

But Brian Bellis had pushed the door open, and now stood under the dull glow of the lamp hanging over the entrance.

“Madam,” he said, addressing Griselda, “I am sent to tell you that Mr. Lamartine is dying; he can’t last till morning, and he craves to see you.  For Norah’s sake, madam, I beg you to come.  I am Brian Bellis, you know-Norah’s only friend.  I beg you to come.”

“Yes, I will come.”

“He has something to tell you.  He says he cannot die till he has told you.”

“I will come.  Stand back, Graves; what do you mean?”

For Graves had laid her hand on Griselda’s arm as she turned to go upstairs to get her cloak and hood.

“You must not go to Crown Alley at this time of night; wait till morning.”

“No, I will not wait; it may be too late to-morrow.”

Poor Graves almost groaned in the agony of her spirit.  “My dear-my poor dear,” she said, “you are not fit to go and see a man like him die.”

“Do not listen to her,” Brian Bellis said; “do not listen-for Norah’s sake.”

Griselda freed herself from Graves’s hand and ran upstairs, returning presently in her long cloak and a caleche well pulled over her face.

All this time Mrs. Abbott and her daughter Sarah Anne had watched the scene with curious eyes, and a small boy who ran errands and turned the spit in the kitchen, cleaned knives, and performed a variety of such menial offices, had, all unperceived, been watching from the top of the stairs leading to the basement and offices.

The boy had his own reasons for watching.  A bit of gold was already in his pocket which had been given him by a fine gentleman who had stopped him in the morning as he was running off at David’s command, with Griselda’s letter to King Street.

Another bit of gold was promised this hopeful young personage if he kept a watch on the proceedings of the beautiful young lady who lived with Lady Betty Longueville.  This boy, who was familiarly called “Zach,” was only too pleased to be thus employed.  He had, in fact, given up the letter to this smart gentleman, who was Sir Maxwell Danby’s valet, and who had also been well-paid for acting spy on many like occasions.  It was the most natural thing in the world for him to stop Zach, ask to look at the letter, slip a half-guinea into his hand, and tell him he would convey it to Mr. Travers, as he had a message for him from his master, and that he might go about his daily business and hold his tongue.  The letter would reach its destination-he need not trouble himself about it; and the bait held out of another piece of gold for further information if wanted, depended on his keeping silence; if he did this, his fortune was made.

So those little lynx eyes of Master Zach’s were very wide open indeed, and he saw Graves make a final effort to prevent the young lady from going off with Brian Bellis.

It was ineffectual, for Griselda said proudly: 

“Do not interfere, Graves; I will not suffer you to do so.”

“Then I must come along with you,” poor Graves said, and getting near to Griselda, she seized her hand, and putting her mouth close to her face, whispered something which seemed to turn the graceful figure standing ready for departure into stone.

She put out her hand and supported herself against the back of a tall chair which stood near, but beyond this she never moved, till poor Graves, in a duffle-cloak with many capes and a large black beaver bonnet, returned, ready to accompany her on her errand.  Then she took the hand which hung passive at Griselda’s side.

“I am ready, my dear-I am ready,” Graves said.  “Show the way, boy.  Have you a torch handy?”

“No, madam; but I can find the way in the dark.”

Then Mrs. Abbott called Zach.

“Quick, Zach! quick! light a torch, and light these ladies on their way; or shall he call a chair, madam?”

“No,” Griselda said, starting as if from a dream; “no.  Now, Graves!” Then pulling her hood over her face, and taking Graves’s offered arm, she said to Brian:  “Lead the way; I am ready.”

Zach trotted along with the link in his hand, keeping close to Brian, and the two women followed.  Neither spoke till they were well within the shadow of the Alley, from which a noisy party of women and girls were coming out.

Brian, who was in advance, stopped, and Griselda stopped also.

“Are you sure?” she asked in a low voice-“are you sure?  Is there no mistake?”

“There is no mistake.  I wish there was-oh!  I wish there was!”

Griselda seemed to be gathering strength now, for she left Graves’s arm, and followed Brian up the long narrow flight of stairs.  The child Norah had heard the sound of coming feet on the creaking staircase, and opened the door of the attic, saying: 

“He is quieter now.”  Then, with a sob:  “Oh!  Brian, Brian! you have been such a long, long time; and have you brought her-the lady-the young lady?”

“Yes, I am here,” Griselda said; “yes.  How is your -”

The word died away on her lips-that word that ought to bring with it nothing but tender feeling of respect and love-that word which we use when we speak of the highest and the best guardian for life and death-“Father!”

Yes, that wild haggard man, who had sunk back in a lethargy after long incoherent ravings, was the father of the beautiful woman who, unfastening her cloak, let it fall from her on the floor of that wretched room; and, kneeling, clasped her hands, and cried, in the bitterness of her soul: 

“Oh, that it was not true!  Can it be true?  Graves-Graves, tell me it is a frightful dream, and not reality!”

“My poor dear!” said Graves, in a choked voice, kneeling by Griselda’s side, and putting her strong arm round her to support her.  “My poor dear!  I wish I could tell you it was a dream; but bear up, and put your trust in the Lord.  It may be that He may save yonder poor creature as He saved the thief, in the hour of death.”