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and gave her hand to Captain Ruddock, of the Royal Marines, a gentleman nearly twice her own age, who, after some forty years' service by land and sea, had managed to realise a tolerable sum of money, and now came to the conclusion that it was time for him to enjoy it.
Everybody said that Miss Martha had thrown herself away; that she might have married anybody she chose, and a hundred other things that people will say whenever an unexpected marriage takes place, but the lady herself did not appear to think her choice a bad one. Captain Ruddock was very fond of his wife, she had everything her own way, and for a whole twelvemonth they lived together in the most exemplary manner. So attentive, indeed, was Mrs. Ruddock to her husband, that, perhaps, she cherished him too much, and over-cherishing is sometimes as fatal as neglect. It proved so in this instance; for Captain Ruddock, who had weathered the breezes of the Baltic and faced the glowing tropics unharmed, succumbed suddenly one day beneath a slight attack of cold, for which the remedial brandy-and-water, administered by his tender wife, did not prove efficacious. He had time, however, to make his will the day before his death, --being so advised by Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones, who happened to be down from London on a visit, aud kindly drew up the document,—and he showed his sense of Mrs. Ruddock's unremitting affection by leaving her all he possessed, -not an immense fortune, it is true, but a very comfortable income, upon which, in the country, a very fair establishment could be kept up.
But, now that she was a widow, Mrs. Ruddock discovered that ber native town did not agree with her. Her nerves had been shaken, and, to use her own phrase, the air of Wales was “ too much for her,”—so she decided upon going abroad, with her sister Rosina, for whom a single life appeared to possess the greatest charm, as her companion.
Having settled her affairs, which she placed in the hands of her friend and adviser, Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones, Mrs. Ruddock proceeded to the Continent. Boulogne, Brussels, and Paris severally detained her for some time, and in each of these places she contracted a great number of very agreeable acquaintances. So very agreeable, indeed, were they, that, had she been so disposed, Mrs. Ruddock at any moment within the first year of her widowhood might have thrown aside her weeds. There was “ the Major" at Boulogne, “the Baron" at Brussels, and “the Count" at Paris, all of whom vowed that she was the most delightful woman in the world, and laid their lives and fortunes at her feet. But their lives were not much to her taste, and their fortunes being nowhere, she declined the proffered honours. Rosina, too, might have married equally well, it being taken for granted that her dot was worth looking after, but the suitors did not meet her view of the case either, and, like her prototype, the "fair Vestal throned by the West,” she continued "in maiden meditation fancy free.”
In a certain class of life—not the highest in rank—where people have to form their circle, the selection is not always made with perfect judg. ment, particularly on the Continent. You may become intimate with the fascinating Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton, whose charming young family have no legal right to call them father and mother, and have quasi brothers and sisters elsewhere; you may give dinners to the irresistible Colonel Montagu, who plays so well at écarté,--so well that the club in Pall Mall, from which he suddenly withdrew, still mourns the day when he
was first connected with it; you may mix freely with the Reverend Cavendish Howard, who is excessively fond of " mixing freely" for himself, and left his cassock at home ; you may dote
6 that dear Countess de Hauteville," who isn't a countess, and has a habit of borrowing five hundred francs, which she never repays; you may indulge in plenty of this kind of society, but if you do, neither your manners nor your morals will be much improved in the long run.
It so happened that birds of the plumage just described—very gay and very glittering—were exactly those that most attracted the large and “splendid” Mrs. Ruddock, and the nearly as large and quite as “splendid" Rosina Morgan :-splendid, that is to say, in the eyes of those who like a dash of audacity as the substitute for naïveté, and a dash of rouge as the succedaneum to natural colour when the latter begins to fade.
But Paris was not the limit of their travels: there were the inevitable baths beyond the Rhine, and also the inevitable Italy, with the “Rome and Naples" which some folks fancy are cities having no connexion with the mother country. If this were a political and not a geographical idea, it might not be altogether wrong. But to resume : Mrs. Ruddock and Miss Rosina Morgan travelled everywhere,
--were seen wherever the situ. ation was public, -- were known by a sobriquet not altogether flattering, —and though no one could actually accuse them of having lost their characters, the cameleon hue which their reputations wore depended very much upon locality-or charitable construction.
Four or five years of this kind of life were past, and as many more might have succeeded, but for an unforeseen contretemps.
Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones, who was now pushing his parliamentary agency, and feeling his way on speculative ground, and who had carie blanche from Mrs. Ruddock for the removal of her capital whenever he deemed it advisable for her interests, made a move on her account in canal shares—or something of that sort—and the result was not such as to justify his known reputation for sagacity. The speculation, in factso he wrote-turned out quite contrary to his expectations; it was, to tell the truth, an absolute failure : he was a heavy loser himself, and his “ dearest Martha” (they were on those terms of friendship) was, he feared, all but ruined. She must return home immediately, and he would see what could be realised by the sale of a very small landed property, the joint inheritance of the sisters, which was left, -—and all he could add from his own little store he would freely give : he was almost a heart-broken man, and scarcely knew what he wrote, but he begged her to keep up her courage.
Martha had plenty of that article in her composition, and though the drifting tears made furrows of the broadest on her painted cheek while she read her friend and adviser's letter, she adopted the counsel he offered, and returned at once to London.
The interview between the sisters and Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones was affecting : it seemed so at least, for he could not repress his emotion for full five minutes - a very long time for a lawyer. When, however, he was himself again, and they were able, as he said, “ to discuss the matter calmly,” his shrewd intellect soon hit upon a plan for enabling his “ dearest Martha” and “dear Rosina" to secure a very genteel independence. He had ascertained that the landed property already mentioned would fetch a certain sun—"say a thousand pounds;" well, he would
add another thousand, it was as much as he could do to scrape it together,—but then he had his professional prospects, and besides, he didn't care for himself; with this money he proposed to buy a house at Cotswoldham,—there was a choice of two or three at the Mart,—all highly eligible, --it might be furnished handsomely for “say, so much ;” and when the establishment was fairly mounted, -it should be his “dearest" Martha's and dear” Rosina's altogether,-he would only have a mortgage claim for the amount of his advance; when all this was done-and he began now to see his way quite clearly-why, as a boarding house of first-rate character, it would be a fortune to them in five years, or ten at the very outside.
People who have no alternative but submission are very soon persuaded. Besides, there was something in the scheme which harmonised with the personal habits and general views of the ladies. To a boardinghouse life, as guests, they had long been accustomed. With fewer personal attractions than-the sisters flattered themselves—they possessed, they had witnessed some very remarkable successes in the boarding-house line; a native, talent for maneuvring, improved by continental practice, might advantageously be brought into play; no shrinking delicacy of sentiment need interfere; they had many friends of the very sort to be serviceable in such a case ; and, to sum up all, if they could no longer spend money without the trouble of making it, they were ready-as the opportunity best offered—to turn the project to account.
Some of the conclusions at which they arrived were partly original, partly suggested, but they made them all their own by adoption; and much to contentment of Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones, the interview ended by the complete adhesion of his fair clients. He was not a man to linger long when once he had resolved on doing a thing, and the acquisition by private contract of the house at Cotswoldham was soon accomplished. Neither did the ladies loiter over the work which lay before them. They had been accustomed to make a dash wherever they went, and the present was not the time to forego the practice. The simple stereotyped announcement that the “Board and Residence” which they offered “combined all the comforts of home with cheerful society," was much too tame for their purposeor that of Mr. Meredyth Powell Jones, who directed all their movements. The “ shining town” was no terra incognita to Mrs. Ruddock: both herself and Rosina had passed more than one season there before the advent of the defunct Captain of Marines, and there were people in Cotswoldham who still retained a very lively remembrance of “the handsome Morgans.”
That remembrance the sisters determined to revive and improve upon, and when the advertisement appeared announcing that
“CHATEAU BELMONT" would shortly be opened as a boarding-house, “ on a system hitherto unattempted in England,” and it was known in addition who were its conductors, the shining town of Cotswoldham experienced a sensation to which it had been a stranger since the palmy days of the Great Bashaw who was once its lord and master.
BY CHARLES WILLIAM JAYNE.
Oh, lovely lady, bent o'er book, They clap their hands and make a face
Rich produce of some fertile brain, (What care they for the strap or Student with careworn, anxious look,
cord !), Seeking immortal truth to gain, And point to our old trysting-place, Statesman, and priest, and poet true, Down by the house of Mother Ford.
Quaint Hiawatha, gentle Maud, Listen the while I sing to you
For there we often met to plan In humble praise of Mother Ford.
Adventures which hereafter gave
A strength and courage to the man, I know the haughty world will sneer, The power a heartless world to And wonder that I dare essay
brave. To catch its aye unwilling ear
Let the fierce wasp and squirrel say With aught but what is vain or gay; If safely were their treasures stored, But truth is such a sacred thing,
Or in defiance borne away He sins who keeps it as a hoard, By those two boys of Mother Ford. And 'tis a pleasant truth I sing, The world has known a Mother Ford. Ah, she was proud of her two boys :
The learning, which she never knew Time was that Brother Jim and I, But them adorned, increased her joys, When the long holidays had come,
And made her somewhat reverenced Would put our heavy learning by,
too. And turn our steps to happy home; See, there she stands beside the gate, There welcome, but not wanted, though Such welcome, sure, was never heard
Well with our wish did it accord As that which in her joy elate When mother kissed and bade us go Is poured on us by Mother Ford. And spend those days with Mother Ford.
Our little chairs beside the fire,
The china mugs, our names thereon; To hoop-to hoop-away, away, Moreover, what boys most admire, We leave the busy town afar,
A huge sweet cake to feast upon; Nor for a moment turn or stay The teapot with its antique lid,
Till in those happy haunts we are; And cups and saucers on the board : Where freedom and the heath-robed “Some witch has told you we were hills,
bid The hawthorn lanes and mossy
To come to you now, Mother Ford.” sward, And the old weather-beaten mills She smiles: we prattle, eat, and drink, Surround the house of Mother Ford.
Tell all our schoolboy news at once :
How Jim was thrashed for squirting Oh, happy days! I often dy
ink, In memory back to you again,
And I because I was a dunce; And find therein a luxury,
How, breaking up, we broke the cane, A pleasure almost to a pain,
And bolstered all who sneaked and When, to the world as yet unknown,
snored, I thanked my God I was no Lord, And hoped they'd not come back Nought but a poor innkeeper's son,
again And foster-child to M Ford. Oh, those were days with Mother
Ford! We near the little village-school :
The door is open-in we look, Time's changes! Ah! how many a friend And from the scholar and the fool Is growing haughty, rich, and cold, Down drops the dog-eared spelling. Whose dignity it might offend book.
To offer the embrace of old. of
E'en Brother Jim is now estranged— She'd let us chalk her well-scrubbed We parted at an angry word ;
floors, But there is one has never changed, Or, if we wished, at marbles play; And never will—dear Mother Ford. Or sing us one of those old songs
The world no longer can applaudWhat though our playmates might be For lovers' tears and maidens' wrongs rude,
Are foolish themes now, Mother What though we wandered out afar Ford. O’er hill and dale, through brake and wood,
In winter nights we round the fire Returning with the evening star, Would draw, and watch her cheerful No heavy look or threat she gave,
face, No dire complaint against us scored, And list with cars that never tire But as should honest friend behave To tales she told of other days, Did she-God bless you, Mother When humble folk, with scanty means, Ford !
Who ne'er above their station
soared, God bless
let us taste In youth the pleasures of the free,
Were happier far than kings and
queensAnd taught us not to chide in haste
At least so thought dear Mother When others would unshackled be.
Ford. Moreover, how devoid of guile,
If artless tongues their joys record, Where in my happy youth I strayed To give a sympathising smile,
Amid the haunts of solitude, Such as your own was, Mother Ford. Or with my bold companions played
Beside the thick-leaved hawthorn In danger oft she was our aid:
wood, Jim while “a-fishing” near drowned,
A rail has bared his iron breast, And, though with life she nearly paid
And through that scene incessant The venture, dragged him from the
Of the earth's wisest and its best, I, unto pestilence a prey,
But none can equal Mother Ford. Awoke at last to health restored, But found her health had flown away
On the green hill, where oft I laid Too kind a nurse was Mother Ford. Man has his world-famed palace made,
And gazed into the summer sky, I've known her scarcc with plenty
And kings and queens walked wonblest:
deringly; She gave without a stinting hand,
Yet not more valued is it now And if a neighbour was distrest,
Because with such attractions stored, 'Twas her who comforted and Than that of old upon its brow planned:
I roamed a child with Mother Ford. The
poor, the sick, the sad at heart Ne’er unto her in vain implored ;
Yes, Mother Ford, those halcyon days Right well she played the Christian's
Shall still be treasured in my heart, part
And in my memory find a place, A true disciple, Mother Ford. With memory only to depart;
And thou to whom so much I owe, On rainy days, when close in-doors Hereafter great be thy reward, We were compelled to make our And long may I be spared to know stay,
So true a friend as Mother Fürd !