Read CHAPTER XVIII - IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW of Her Season in Bath A Story of Bygone Days, free online book, by Emma Marshall, on

It was late on that memorable Sunday evening when Griselda watched her opportunity, and rising from her bed, dressed, and went downstairs.

Only the servant was in the house, for the Herschels were gone to the evening service in the Octagon Chapel, and had not yet returned.

Griselda let herself quietly out, and, with slow and faltering steps, reached the door of the house, where, as everyone believed, Leslie Travers lay dying of his wounds.

It was with a trembling hand that she knocked at the door, which was after a pause opened by old Giles.

“I am come,” she faltered, “to see Mrs. Travers.”

Giles shook his head.

“My lady can see no one,” he said; “she is in sore trouble.”

“Tell me, please, how the gentleman is who was-who was wounded in a duel.”

“As bad as he can be,” was the short reply; “he won’t live till morning.”

“I want to see Mrs. Travers, if only for a moment-I want to see Mrs. Travers.  I am Miss Mainwaring,” she urged.

Giles had not known up to this moment whom he was addressing, for Griselda had only been in that house once, and she had drawn her hood over her face.

When he heard the name, Giles made an exclamation of horror, and said: 

“My lady won’t see you!  You are the last one she’d wish to look upon.  It was an evil day for my young master that he ever looked on your face!”

“Oh! you are very cruel-very hard-hearted!” Griselda said; and with a sob turned away.

As she was leaving the door, a young voice she knew greeted her.

It was Brian Bellis’.

“Madam,” he said, “I have come to tell you that Norah-poor little Norah-is safe at my aunt’s house in John Street.  I took her there after the funeral, and she is made welcome; it would melt a heart of stone to see her.  Will you come and comfort her?”

“Comfort her!  I am in need of comfort myself.  Yes, I will come.  No one wants me-no one cares!”

I care, madam,” Brian said.  “Is the gentleman dead?  It is said in the town that he is dead of his wound.”

“No, no, he is alive, but dying,” said Griselda.  “Take me to poor little Norah-my poor little sister!  And then will you go for me to North Parade-see, Graves, the good waiting-woman-and ask her to bring me my possessions, for I shall never return thither; I am homeless and helpless.”

“No, madam-no,” the boy said; “my aunts will receive you-I feel sure they will.”

Then they walked on silently towards John Street, and there the Miss Hoblyns were awaiting her arrival.  They had not reached the pinnacle of their fame at this time, for it was not till the Duchess of York, in 1795, visited their establishment that they became the rage.  But they were kind-hearted women, of a superior type to the ordinary class of mantua-maker and milliner of those times.  Gentlewomen by nature, if not by birth.

Brian, the son of their dead sister, was their idol, and they found it hard to refuse any request he made.  When the poor desolate child had been led to their home from her father’s grave, their hearts had gone out to her, and they gave Brian leave to fetch the sister of whom he spoke.

Great, indeed, was these good women’s surprise, when, as Griselda dropped her hood and cloak, they recognised the beautiful young lady, on whom they had waited at Lady Betty Longueville’s, and who had done such credit to their skill in altering the white paduasoy which Lady Betty had discarded, and which Griselda wore when she had been the admired belle of the great ball in Wiltshire’s Rooms.  How was it possible she could be the sister of the orphan child, and the daughter of an actor, who had died sunk in the depths of misery and poverty?

But they asked no questions, and, taking poor Griselda’s hand, led her to the room where, on a couch drawn near the fire, the child lay, asleep.

Worn out with watching and sorrow, this sufferer for the sins of another had fallen into a profound slumber, and Griselda, as she looked on the pale face, about which a tangle of golden curls lay in wild confusion, stooped and kissed her sister.

The child stirred-as she did so, opened her eyes for a moment, smiled, and said: 

“My beautiful lady!  I am glad you are come.”

Then Griselda lifted her in her arms, and pressing her close, shed the first tears which she had shed since the night before, when she had first heard of Leslie Travers’s peril, incurred for her sake.

Norah was soon asleep again, and the kind women threw a covering over both sisters, and left them together with the tact and sympathy which is the outcome of a noble nature, whether it is found in a milliner or a marchioness.

It certainly was not found in Lady Betty Longueville.

When Graves went to her with the tidings that Brian Bellis brought, she flew into one of her “hysterical tantrums,” as Graves and David called them.

“Yes, Graves,” Lady Betty screamed, “pack up the minx’s things; I am well quit of her.  Let ’em all go,” she said; “but take nothing of mine-I would not give her a groat-spoiling my Bath season like this-treating my friend, Sir Maxwell, with contempt-forcing him to send that insolent puppy a challenge.  Disgracing me-disgracing her poor departed uncle-lowering me in the eyes of society-she, the child of a common actor, with whom her wretched mother ran away.  Oh!  I never wish to set eyes on her again!”

Graves coughed significantly.

“She was left to your ladyship for maintenance,” she said.

“How dare you speak like that to me?  Leave the room instantly.  And, mind, I disown the baggage-the ungrateful hussy-when she might have been my Lady Danby-and-and-of use to me, repaying me for all my kindness these many years-for, let me tell you, Graves, Danby Place is a fine mansion, and she might have been mistress of it-the idiot-the fool!  I wash my hands of her-she may go where she lists-but let me never see her face again!”

Graves listened to this tirade with her accustomed composure, and went to Griselda’s room to do her lady’s bidding.

She gathered together a few things which Griselda might immediately need, and gave them, with the violin, to Brian.  The old leather case she would not trust out of her sight, and, hastily putting on her cloak and huge caleche, she said she would follow the boy to John Street.

As they left the house, Zach was peeping out from behind the door, and Brian shook his fist at him.

“I would like to thrash you-you wicked little spy-you!”

But Zach had the gold-pieces in his pocket, and only made a grimace in return to Brian’s threatening gesture.

Graves’ heart was touched, perhaps, as it had never been touched before, when she saw Griselda lying on the couch, with Norah asleep in her arms.

Griselda was not asleep, and looking up to Graves, said, in a piteous voice: 

“Oh, dear Graves, I am alone now!-there is no one belonging to me but this child-we must hold together.  Kiss her, Graves-gently, she may wake.  Poor, poor little Norah!  I have forgotten her in this day’s misery.  Speak to the kind people here, and ask them to let me stay with them-I can pay them.  I can work for them-I was always clever with my needle.”

“Here is your box of jewels, my poor dear, I brought them myself; the boy has brought your clothes and a gown for to-morrow.”

“You forget, you forget, Graves-I must have a black gown for my father, and-for him-my only love.  Oh!  Graves-do hearts break?  I feel as if mine must break-and that I must die.”

Graves struggled in vain with her tears:  they chased each other down her furrowed cheeks.

“Trust in the Lord, my dear.  There may be a bow in the dark cloud-who can tell?”

Then Graves went to the Miss Hoblyns, who had considerately left Griselda and the child alone together, and she arranged a bedroom at the back of the house, and placed her young mistress’s possessions in some order.

“The young lady will be able to pay for her lodgings and board, madam,” Graves said, “and for the child’s also.  She has already sold some jewels, and -”

But Miss Hoblyn waved her hand, as if to say she wanted nothing else said just then, and Graves proceeded to light a fire, and make the room allotted to Griselda’s use as comfortable as circumstances allowed; and then, wringing Miss Hoblyn’s delicate hand in her large work-worn fingers, she hastened back to North Parade.

There was no immediate need for Griselda to put on a mourning garment.  Distress of mind, and the long, long walk in the cold chill air of January to Claverton Down, had the effect of throwing her into an illness-a fever-which attacked her brain, and rendered her unconscious of all troubles, past and present, for some time.

It was touching to see how the child, so prematurely old, and so well accustomed to privation and nursing of the sick, took up her place by her sister’s bed, and proved the most efficient of little nurses-as nursing was understood in those days.

Griselda was certainly an instance of a patient suffering more from the remedy than the disease.  The doctor-Mr. Cheyne-who was called in, let blood several times from her arm, cut off her beautiful hair, and blistered the back of her head, and brought her to the very verge of the grave.  She took no heed of any one who came and went, or she would have seen Caroline Herschel by her bed every day, and would have known that many little delicacies were brought by her hand.  She was immersed in ever-increasing musical engagements, for, besides the preparation for the oratorio to be performed during Lent, she actually copied with her own hand the scores of the “Messiah” and “Judas Maccabaeus” in parts for an orchestra of nearly one hundred performers; and in the vocal parts of Samson, Caroline Herschel instructed the treble singers, of whom she was now amongst the first.

Very few women of these days have gone through the amount of hard continuous labour which Caroline Herschel did; and when we are tempted to think highly of the increasing number of women, qualified by culture and natural gifts to fight the battle of life for themselves, we must not forget that the end of the eighteenth century produced a goodly list of able and distinguished women.

Perhaps Caroline Herschel has hardly received the prominent place she deserves in that list, and yet it would be hard to trace a life more useful and more loyally devoted to serve in the cause of science-a service which in her case, and that of her distinguished brother, was encompassed with difficulties, that would have daunted the courage of less steadfast souls.

While Leslie Travers lay on the borderland between life and death, all unconscious that the woman he loved so well was also treading the path through that dim mysterious valley of the shadow, the favourite scheme on which William Herschel set so many hopes failed!

The house in King Street had been taken with the view of building a furnace on the lower floor, which was on a level with the garden.

Here the musician, in the full tide of professional duties, would, between the lessons he was giving to the ladies of Bath, run in to see how the workmen were progressing.  Here Sir William Watson, Colonel Walsh, and other philosophical friends would meet, and Sir William Watson was only disappointed that the noble-hearted musician and astronomer would not hear of any pecuniary assistance.

At last the day came when all was in readiness.  The metal was in the furnace, and the mould prepared, when a leakage caused the red-hot metal to pour out on the floor, tearing up the stones, and scattering them in every direction, William and Alexander Herschel and the workmen having to rush away for their lives.

William Herschel fell exhausted on a heap of brickbats, and for the time the dearest scheme of his heart, in the construction of the large telescope, had to be abandoned.

“Success next time, and greater care to secure it,” was all he said; and he hastened to have the rubbish cleared away, recompense the workmen for their lost labour, and that very night “sweep the heavens” with his old instrument, and enter into the most animated conversation on the nebulae with his chief and constant friend, Sir William Watson.

Everyone must have noticed how quickly events, whether sorrowful or joyful, are forgotten.

The wonder-wave which rolls over a city or town, at the report of any great mercantile failure, or the discovery of dishonest dealing in a man who has held a responsible position, soon ebbs!

This is even more true of private griefs affecting families and individuals.  Griefs which leave a lifelong scar on the few, or on one sufferer, are speedily forgotten by the outside world.

This ebb and flow, a poet has well said, is the law to which we must all bow.  None can escape from it.

Pity, however sincere, is soon exhausted, and fresh cares of bereavement and loss, or sorrow, start up to excite a passing sympathy, while others are crowded out and forgotten.

The duel between Sir Maxwell Danby and Leslie Travers was a nine days’ wonder.  It was the favourite topic in the Pump Room for that time, but scarcely longer.  At first it was reported that Leslie Travers was dead; then, indeed, there were conjectures about Sir Maxwell’s escape, and wonderment as to whether he would be pursued and captured, as Count Rice had been, and tried for murder.

But when it was found that Leslie Travers was likely to live, the interest in the matter visibly declined.

Lady Betty reappeared in the Pump Room and at the balls, and to all inquiries said Miss Mainwaring had left her, that she was no relation to her, and that she had very properly considered it better to return to the station in life whence dear Mr. Longueville, in the nobleness of his heart, had rescued her!

Lent came, and was followed by a bright Easter.  The Bath season was over, and the principal event of that season was almost forgotten.

The elite left the City of the West, or if they remained, there were no public assemblies at which they might display their jewels and varied costumes.

It is needless to say that Lady Betty took her departure, as it was considered “the mode” to do so; and report said young Lord Basingstoke had made it evident that he had no serious intentions, by leaving Bath some time before the vivacious little widow deserted N, North Parade.

Perhaps few noticed, or made more than a passing remark of wonder, when a paragraph in the Bath Gazette announced the marriage of Leslie Travers, of the Grange, county Lincoln, to Griselda, daughter of Adolphus Mainwaring, and Phyllis, his wife.

The bride had walked to the Abbey church one fair May morning in her ordinary dress, accompanied by her faithful friend Miss Herschel, and the Miss Hoblyns, and Norah.  There were present with the bridegroom his mother and Brian Bellis.  Thus so small a wedding-party was not likely to attract attention.

A great change had passed over both bride and bridegroom since that January day when they had sealed their betrothal in the old Abbey church.

The brilliant beauty of Griselda had faded, and there were traces of long illness on her sweet face.  Leslie Travers’s lithe figure was bent, and he walked slowly and with none of the elasticity of youth.  He had been given back to his mother’s prayers, contrary to the hopes or expectations of the surgeons, who had watched over him with unremitting care; but the duel had left an indelible mark on him.

The chariot to take the bride and bridegroom was waiting at the door, and here the “Good-byes” were said.

Mrs. Travers felt Griselda’s clinging arms round her as she whispered: 

“I will try to be a good daughter to you, madam.  I pray you love me a little, for his sake!”

“I love you for your own, my child,” was the reply; “and I will cherish and comfort this little one till we meet again”-for poor Norah was convulsed with weeping, and only the promise of a home at the Grange with her sister could console her.

And so the curtain falls, and the bridegroom and the bride pass out of our sight; but we must take one farewell look at them when years have gone by, and see how the promise of their early love had been fulfilled.