Showing the great advantages to be derived from patronage.
I left old Nanny, and arrived at my mother's house in time for breakfast. I did not, however, find her in a very good humor; something had evidently ruffled her. Virginia also, who welcomed me most cordially, was taciturn and grave. My mother made but one observation during our repast.
"Well, Tom," said she, "you've found out what it is to wish to marry for love. I only wish it may be a lesson to others."
To this evident attack upon Virginia, at the expense of my feelings, I made no reply, and soon afterward my mother went to superintend her establishment, leaving me and my sister alone.
"Tom," said she, "I hope by this time you are no longer suffering from your late cruel disappointment. I have felt for you, I assure you, and, assuring you of that, will not again revert to the subject. Let her be blotted from your memory as soon as possible."
"Be it so, my dear Virginia; but you are grave, and my mother is evidently out of humor. You must explain this."
"That is easily done. I have made a sad mistake. I was so much annoyed at my mother's system toward me that I ventured, without her knowledge, to write to Lady Hercules, requesting her protection and influence to procure me some situation as a companion to a lady, amanuensis, or reader. It appears that her ladyship was not very sincere in her professions when we had an interview with her; at all events, her reply was anything but satisfactory, and, unfortunately, it was addressed to my mother and not to me. You can have no idea of my mother's indignation upon the receipt of it, and she has not been sparing in her reproaches to me for having written without her knowledge, and having, by so doing, subjected her to such a mortification. I certainly am sorry to have done so. As for her ladyship's answer, it would have been to me more a subject of mirth than any other feeling. It has, however, proved the cause of much annoyance from my mother's continually harping upon it."
"Have you the letter of Lady Hercules?"
"I have a copy of it, which I took, intending to have sent it to you the next time that I wrote. I will bring it down if you will wait a minute."
When Virginia returned she put the following epistle into my hand:
MRS. SAUNDERS—I have received a letter from your daughter, which, I presume, was forwarded as a specimen of her penmanship; otherwise it was your duty to have addressed me yourself. I said to you, when I met you at Greenwich, that you were educating your daughter above her condition in life, and I now repeat it. My patronage is extended only to those who are not above their situations, which, I am sorry to observe, most people are now. Nevertheless, as I did say that I would exert my influence in your daughter's behalf, in consequence of your having been a decent, well-behaved menial to me, I have made inquiry among my acquaintances, and find that I may be, possibly, able to place her with my friend, Lady Towser, as a 'boudoir-assistant.' I have said possibly, as I am by no means sure that she will be equal to the situation, and the number of applicants are very numerous. The inclosed paper from Lady Towser will give you an idea of what will be requisite:
"Morning, up at 6, and nicely dressed; come in in list shoes, and wait at bedside, in case Lady Towser should be troubled with her morning cough, to hand the emulsion, etc. At 9, to call and assist to dress Lady Towser's head tirewoman; follow her to Lady T.'s chamber, and obey orders. Breakfast in housekeeper's room. After breakfast assist housemaid to dust ornaments, and on Saturdays and Wednesdays, wash, comb, and examine dogs; other days comb and examine them only; clean and feed macaw, cockatoo, and parrot, also canary and other birds; bring up dogs' dinners, and prevent them fighting at meals. After dogs' dinners read to Lady T., if required; if not, get up collars and flounces, laces, etc., for Lady T. and Lady T.'s tirewoman. After your own dinner assist housekeeper as required in the still-room; fine needlework; repair clothes before they go to wash; dress and brush Lady T.'s perukes; walk out with dogs if weather is fine, and be careful to prevent their making any acquaintances whatever.
"Evening—Read to Lady T., write notes, look over bills, and keep general accounts; if not wanted, to make herself useful in housekeeper's room, and obey all orders received from her or head tirewoman. At night see that the hot water is ready for Lady T.'s feet, and wait for her retiring to bed; wash Lady T.'s feet, and cut corns, as required; read Lady T. to sleep, or, if not required to read, wait till she is certain that Lady T. is so.
"Now the only points in which I think your daughter may fail is in properly washing, combing, and examining the dogs, and cutting her ladyship's corns; but surely she can practice a little of both, as she will not be wanted for a month. There can be no difficulty about the first; and as for the latter, as all people in your rank of life have corns, she may practice upon yours or her father's. At all events, there can be no want of corns in Greenwich Hospital among the pensioners. I am desired to say that Lady T. gives no wages the first year; and you will be expected to send your daughter neatly fitted out, that she may be able to remain in the room when there is company. If this offer will not suit, I can do nothing more; the difficulty of patronage increases every day. You will send an answer.
"I was just closing my letter when Lady Scrimmage came in; she tells me that Lady Towser is suited, and that you have no hopes of this situation. I have done my best. Lady Scrimmage has, however, informed me that she thinks she can, upon my recommendation, do something for you in Greenwich, as she deals largely with a highly respectable and fashionable milliner of the same name as your own, and with whom it would be of the greatest advantage to your daughter to be placed as an apprentice, or something of that sort. This is an opportunity not to be lost, and I therefore have requested Lady S. to write immediately, and I trust by my patronage, she will gain a most enviable situation."
"That postscript is admirable," observed I, "and ought to have put my mother in a good humor. Is she not called by Lady Hercules 'highly respectable and fashionable'?"
"Very true," replied Virginia; "but my mother cannot get over the first part of the letter, in which she is mentioned as 'a decent and well-behaved menial.' She has since received a note from Lady Scrimmage, requesting her to take me in some capacity or another, adding, by way of postscript, 'You know you need not keep her if you do not like—it is very easy to send her away for idleness or impertinence; but I wish to oblige Lady Hercules, and so, pray, at all events, write and say that you will try her."
"And what has my mother said in reply?"
"She did not show me the answer; but, from what I have collected from her conversation, she has written a most haughty, and, I presume it will be said, a most impertinent letter to both the ladies; the one to Lady Scrimmage accompanied with her bill, which has not been paid these three years. I am sorry that my mother has been annoyed. My father, to whom I related what had taken place, told me that my mother was very ill treated by Lady Hercules, and that she had smothered her resentment with the hopes of benefiting her children by her patronage; but that was at a time when she little expected to be so prosperous as she is now."
"It is all true, my dear girl; I recollect my father telling me the whole story. However, I presume my mother, now that she can venture upon defiance, has not failed to resort to it."
"That I am convinced of. I only hope that she will carry her indignation against great people so far as not to court them as she has done, and abandon all her ridiculous ideas of making a match for me. After all, she has my welfare sincerely at heart, and, although mistaken in the means of securing it, I cannot but feel that she is actuated solely by her love for me."
We then changed the conversation to Janet, about whom I could now speak calmly; after which I narrated to her what had occurred during the night, and my intention to consult with my father and Anderson upon the subject.
Virginia then left me that she might assist her mother, and I hastened to my father's ward, where I found him, and, after our first greeting, requested that he would accompany me to Anderson's office, as I had something to communicate to them both. As I walked along with my father I perceived Spicer at a corner with his foot on a stone step and his hand to his knee, as if in pain. At last he turned round and saw us. I walked up to him, and he appeared a little confused as he said, "Ah! Tom, is that you? I did not know you were at Greenwich."
"I came here last night," replied I; "and I must be off again soon. Are you lame?"
"Lame! No; what should make me lame?" replied he, walking by the side of us as if he were not so.
I looked at his coat, and perceived that the third button on the right side was missing.
"You've lost a button, Spicer," observed I.
"So I have," replied he; and, as we had now arrived at Anderson's door, my father and I turned from him to walk in and wished him good-by.
Anderson was in his office, and as soon as the door was closed I communicated to them what had occurred during the night, expressing my conviction that Spicer was the party who had attempted the murder. In corroboration I reminded my father of the loss of the button from Spicer's coat, and produced the one which Nanny had torn off.
"This is something more than suspicion," observed Anderson; "but if, as you say, old Nanny will not give evidence against him, I know not what can be done. Did you say that the old woman wanted to speak with me?"
"Yes, and I really wish that you would call there oftener."
"Well," replied Anderson, "I'll go, Tom; but, to be plain with you, I do not think that I can be of much use there. I have been several times. She will gossip as long as you please; but if you would talk seriously, she turns a deaf ear. You see, Tom, there's little to be gained when you have to contend with such a besetting sin as avarice. It is so powerful, especially in old age, that it absorbs all other feelings. Still it is my duty, and it is also my sincere wish, to call her to a proper sense of her condition. The poor old creature is, like myself, not very far from the grave; and, when once in it, it will be too late. I will go, Tom, and most thankful shall I be if, with God's help, I may prove of service to her."
We then left old Anderson to his duties, and my father went home with me. We had a long conversation relative to my sister, as well as about my own affairs. I had intended to have remained some days at Greenwich, but this was the first time that I had been there since Janet's desertion, and the sight of everything so reminded me of her, and made everything so hateful to me, that I became very melancholy. My mother was, moreover, very cross, and my sister anything but comfortable; and, on the third day, having received a letter from Bramble, stating that he had arrived at Deal, and that the easterly winds having again set in, they talked, of setting out again in the galley, I made this an excuse for leaving; and for the first time did I quit Greenwich without regret.