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staircase, and that she would leave a light still
burning in the dressin'-room, and go down, and
out by way of the garden passage, as we called
it, at the end of which was a side-door, very
easy to open, and almost out of hearing of any
one in the house.

The nursery clock struck eleven, and still I
heard my mistress in the dressin'-room; but I
knew she must be going soon now. Presently
there was a sound as if she had risen from her
chair, and I fancied she was listening to hear if
all was still. Then I heard the door from the
dressin'-room into the bedroom shut very

That was the moment for me to get up. I did
get up; and, taking the sleeping child in my
arms, I went softly, without my shoes, out into
the landing (for I had left my door ajar as my
mistress had done hers), and down the broad
staircase, along the hall, and into the garden
passage before she had left her room. The baby
still slept, and I stood quite still, close by the
garden door. In less than ten minutes my
mistress, with a candle in her hand, came down
the passage too. She was dressed completely,
with a bonnet on. She came so hurriedly, so
fearfully, and so often looking back, and I stood
so much in shadow, in a corner of the doorway,
that she didn't see me until she was within a
yard or two from me. But, when she did see
me, and saw in my face that I knew or guessed
all, and when, above everything, I held the little
sleeping baby towards her in my outstretched
arms, as though it were the real bar, the real
chain, which was to hold her back, she stopped,
and, with a strong shiver, sank down powerless
on the stone floor of the passage at my feet. I
had seized the candle as it fell from out her
trembling hand, and set it on a bracket fastened
to the wall. Then I kissed her, and cried over
her, and said I was sure she would not go. She
would let me take a letter out to himwe never
spoke his name then, nor afterwardsbut she
would never go and leave the dear, dear baby!
Down in that stone passage, in the dead of night
(for it was long past the appointed hour), when
all the house were dreaming and at rest, my
dear lady and I wept and sobbed together; and
all the while the Tempter waited in the moon-
light, among the fir-trees, for her who would
never come!

My dears, I can never tell you all that passed
between my lady and me that night. The whole
thing has always been a secret, ever since,
from all the world; and, even now, when the
chief actors in it are dead, I have named no

I only tell you that, by God's mercy working
on her heart, and by the unexpected sight of her
litile child at the last moment before the awful
step would have been taken, she was saved. She
loved the Tempter, and, by that bitterness, found
out, too late, that she had never loved her
husband. But I thank God she was saved from
a bitterness greater still; known alone to a
wretched mother who forsakes her innocent
baby, and leaves for it only the memory of her
name ruined and disgraced!

She lived, after that terrible night and the
illness it cost her were passed, to be cheerful in
trying to do her duty, and in time, after a sort,
even happy; for she had more children, and
loved them as only a dreary wife, with a
neglectful, unsuitable husband can. But she died
young, after allno doubt it was for the best
and no one but I ever knew what a great struggle
her life had been.

That is my story, my dears. I pray that you
may never have to experience what that poor
lady had.

We all sat very still, and cried quietly. I
think we all felt of whom the story was told,
but nurse had said it was a secret, and we
never afterwards, even to each other, hazarded a

It had its effect. Bella did not marry Mr.
Joachim. That unsuitable engagement went off,
as a dark, unwholesome night will go off before
the rising sun. When my Aunt Dorothea came,
a better and healthier life began for all of us:
for she was a delightful woman, who, in the course
of her useful life chequered with many a trial,
had gathered stores of wisdom, sympathy, and
kindliness, which she exercised abundantly for
her nieces' advantage. We are all married now,
and, I am thankful to say, congenially and
happily. Our father, and our Aunt Dorothea,
lie in their quiet graves in the village churchyard;
but Nurse Parket survives them all. Very old,
but very active, she is the delight of our little
children. She lives with me, as the eldest of her
nurslings, but often stays with the others, and
particularly with Bella, whom she loves as
tenderly as she loves me. She often tells my
children, and Bella's children, stories that we
both well remember, but the one I have
recorded she has never told again; nor have I,
nor has Bella, ever, in all our long talks with
Nurse Parket, referred to it by a single word.


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