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66 What then?”
My dear Sir Simeon,” said I, solemnly, “ I think I see the truth, though you have either been unwil. ling, or not had the courage, to tell it me. Your housekeeper is more to you than she seems, and you cannot get rid of her if you would. Is it not so ?”
“ Perhaps you are right,” returned he, with emotion, for he trembled. 6. The bonds, which how you discovered, I cannot guess, are to an immense amount, and are of consequence even to my fortune.”
“ Bonds !” cried I in my turn, and asked his meaning
“Why you just now alluded to them, and they are for full five thousand pounds."
" I was both amazed and alarmed at the equivoque thus discovered, which confirmed my suspicions, though to what extent was as yet not quite clear. I therefore entreated him, by our old friendship, to conceal nothing, but reveal his whole case, whatever it was, in order not to deceive ourselves as to the remedy.
“I believe you to be a true friend,” said he in return, “ and I shall, perhaps, be relieved of a burthen by confiding every thing to you. I am then--"
“ Married !" exclaimed I; “married to your housekeeper ?”
“ No, thank heaven !" replied he; “not yet.” “ Something worse then.” “ No! nor that-not yet." I then gathered from him that his shyness, combined with his too great love of ease, having driven him out of all society with his equals, yet not liking to be perpetually alone, he had admitted his housekeeper to a more familiar companionship than her situation as a menial warranted ;--that she had first made his tea; then carved for him at dinner, and for that purpose sat down at table, when it would have been cruel not to have allowed her to eat a bit with him : then, as he was often ill with colds, she generally warmed his bed, tucked him up in it, aired his nightcap, and gave him his whey ;—“all which,” said he, “ she did at first in a manner so motherly, or rather so sisterly-for, indeed, she is only a year or two, or perhaps three, older than myself
Here he paused.
“ Why not,” observed I, “ say at once, so conjugally ; for that is what I perceive is coming ?”
“Well, whatever it was,"continued he, “the having her so constantly with me, as I may say, at bed and board, and no one to divert my thoughts from her, I began to conceive a great regard for her.” “Out of gratitude, I suppose ?"
Why, no doubt at first. And then she was so extremely gentle and respectful (very different, I own, from what she is now), that I began to think how comfortable a still closer intimacy would be; so after a few months going on in this way, I offered her" “ Not marriage, you say
?" “ Not positively, according to our forms, but what in Germany, you know, is called a left-handed one, and this I thought she might accept.”
66 And did, no doubt,” said I.
“ Why, no. She indeed appeared greatly shocked at first; nay, absolutely indignant ; and vowed she would leave me, whatever it cost her : that she did not think I would have taken such advantage of her attachment to me; and she shed so many tears, and was in such grief, for many days preparing to leave me, that I was at my wit's end how to keep her. In short, she was so determined on quitting me, and I felt what a loss she would be to me so severely, that though my pride would not allow me, and I would not bind myself to marry her according to law, and she was positive against any other arrangement, it ended in my giving her a bond never to marry any one else as long as she remained in my service.”
I was astounded and grieved at such an instance of folly, such want of energy, in my poor friend, but could not help asking, as Mrs. Mary was so immaculate, what was the consideration given for so improvident a bond ?
66 None,” said he, “but that she should continue to reside with me in quality of housekeeper, and not marry herself. Half also of the penalty was to be forfeited, if I should dismiss her my service, even though I did not marry.”
Gracious heaven ! thought I, to what may not sloth and cowardice conduct us ! But as I really wished to know how an evidently artful, but uninstructed menial could have so entangled a man of understanding, whose only weakness was in his nerves, I asked if all this arrangement proceeded from Mrs.
Mary alone, assisted as it might be by his own weakness ; in short, whether she had not had some coadjutor in weaving this net for him ?
Why certainly,” replied he, “ she had, and a powerful one too, in her brother, one Quick, a lawyer at Ryegate, whom she consulted several times on my proposal of a left-handed marriage, about which he was very loud and angry, and threatened to expose me, of which I had a horror. Had it not been for him, I perhaps should have succeeded, and at any rate have escaped this bond.”
“ And what may be the bent (I will not say the determination) of your mind, upon this lamentable crisis, which you have well denominated a thraldom ?”
Certainly not to marry her,” returned he; “ for you have no notion, Sir, how different she is from what she was at first. She was then all calmness and submission, quite a lamb. She is now a tiger cat.”
Why not dismiss her ?” said I. “ Put a bold face upon it; you are rich enough, and the worst it can come to is to pay the half penalty.” " It will never do,” said he.
Why ?” “ Because the thought of it will break her heart, which, for all her fits of passion, is I am sure attached
She will cry by the hour, and I own I cannot withstand her tears."
“ Pardon me,” said I, affected, but indignant at this weakness of a good nature, “ if I say that there is no hope for you, and you must be abandoned to your fate.”
“ That is hard," said he with a sigh,“ but it cannot be helped.”
We then began to move homewards, but were soon met by the gardener's boy, whom Mrs. Mary had sent to find his master; for it was far too late for him to remain out, she said, and that if it had not been for the strange gentleman, she would have come herself.
“ You see,” said Sir Simeon, not displeased, “ how really she loves me.”
“ Or her own empire over you," observed I.
“ Hush, for God's sake,” replied he, as we entered the house.
At the tea-table, where Mrs. Mary now presided without scruple, unopposed by Sir Simeon, she took upon herself to give me a lecture for keeping him out so late, though it was August, and only eight o'clock. People, she said, who did not know other people's constitutions, ought not to treat them as if they were the same as themselves. 66 I have no doubt," added she, “ that Sir Simeon will have his lumbago again by sauntering in that damp glen, and then who is to blame for it ?"
In this talk at a person, I found Mrs. Mary quite an adept; for, during the evening, and all the rest of the time that I staid with my friend, she never addressed herself directly, either to him or me. It was always "some folks do this,” and “some folks ought to know that ;' with many other innuendoes, in which she shewed considerable ingenuity.
It however, to me, became at least a serious annoyance; for, whether she feared a rival influence with