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fall little short of insanity. And it would seem that one was coming on now.
Mr. Carlton came in with little Benja, fondly leading him; and, advancing to his wife, would have embraced her. To say exactly what next occurred, he could not. A fiendish expression of face, a torrent of invectives, such as he had never heard from the lips of refined woman, himself thrust rudely aside, and Benja hurled to the ground with a blow, was all he could afterwards remember. And when the violence had expended itself, she sunk upon a sofa, pale, trembling, and hysterical.
Mr. Carlton raised his child, soothed him to composure, and sent him to Honour. He uttered no reproach to his wife, but stood in silence, his back turned towards her, and his forehead pressed against one of the window-panes, as if looking at the outside prospect.
She began to utter reproaches now, sobbing violently—that all his affection was lavished upon Benja, and he possessed none for her child. He replied coldly, without turning round. That his affection was as lively for one child as for the other: he was conscious of no difference, and hoped he should never make any : but an infant of five months old, who cried at his approach, could not yet be made to him the companion that Benja was.
She retorted by impassioned words. Partly of regret for the violence her "quick feelings" had caused her to display, of expressions of love for him and for their child, and of reproach that he did not regard it so tenderly as he ought. But Mr. Carlton heard her not: his thoughts were far away, cast back into the past.
The injunction, nay, the prayer, of his dying wife was present to him: " When the months, the years, go by, and you think of another wife, oh choose one that will be a mother to my child! Be not ensnared by beauty, be not ensnared by wealth, be not ensnared by specious deceit; but take one who will be to him the mother that I would have been."
Bitterly, bitterly the prayer came back to him. How had he fulfilled it ? He glanced round at the form lying there behind him, distorted with evil passions, and could have wailed aloud in the anguish of his remorseful heart.
IV. AGAIN the years went by, bringing changes to Alnwick. On a gloomy November day, in the general sitting-room, sat Mrs. Carlton. But, alas ! she wore widows' weeds, betraying the melancholy fact that her husband, so universally loved and respected during life, was no more. Alnwick Hall, with all its wealth and dignity, had become the property of Master Benja; and she, she, the arrogant Charlotte Carlton, was only there on sufferance; a home accorded her in it as the personal guardian of the child. It was a thorn that eat into her ill-regulated heart, and rankled there. Another thought also had place in it-a wicked thought, a diabolical thought, carrying danger in its train. In the first waking of the early morning, in the broad glare and bustle of noonday, and in the midnight solitude, it was ever thrusting itself forward-that if Benja were no longer living, her child would be the inheritor.
Let us hope that accident was the first suggestor of this idea to Mrs. Carlton. She would whisper to herself that it was—for she could not
conceal from her own heart the errors that were suffered to find admittance there. About twelve months previously, or rather more, Benja had fallen into the lake, when a party of them were in the pleasure-boat. He was insensible when he was rescued, and several voices called out that he was dead. The wild beating of Mrs. Carlton's bosom, not with sorrow, at this announcement, laid bare a tale that perhaps she had not understood before. · She sat there now in her drawing-room, waiting for the two boys. It was their birthday, the 10th of November. A somewhat singular coincidence it was, that both children should have been born on the same day of the year; but the fact was so. They came into the room together; Benja, with his nobly intelligent countenance, and George, with his shower of fair curls, and pretty ways. He was a lovely child, but spoiled and wilful, his mother so doted on and indulged him. Benja was five, George three, that day; and they were attired alike, in mourning dresses of a handsome make and texture. They were to dine at two o'clock, and Mrs. Carlton had promised to forego her usual late dinner and to make it with them.
A present had arrived for Benja in the morning ; a handsome gold watch, which must have cost twenty or thirty guineas. It was from one of his guardians, old General Carlton, who was also a distant relation. The general had never married, and knew far less about children than he did about Hottentots, so no doubt thought a gold watch was a suitable plaything for a young gentleman of five. Benja, however, was highly pleased with the costly toy, and he came in to dinner displaying it from his belt, Honour having hung it round his neck with a piece of black watered ribbon. The key, serving also for a seal, and on which Master Benja's crest and initials were engraved, was attached to it by a short gold chain. Benja thought he should never be tired of rattling it.
Things went on smoothly during dinner, but when the dessert had been some time on the table, and the boys had eaten as much as they could, they slipped from their chairs, never at rest, child-like, and began to look out for some amusement. Mrs. Carlton was cracking walnuts, a favourite fruit of hers, and drinking port wine. She had partaken of two sorts with her dinner; sherry, her usual drink at that meal ; and Champagne, in honour of the boys' birthday. She was become fond of wine, and it was whispered, in the servants' hall, that she sometimes indulged in it more than was seemly.
“Let me have the watch on now," began Georgie. “ You will break it," answered Benja.
“Me shan't break it,” lisped George. “Mamma, Benja won't let me have his watch.”
“Don't ask him, my darling," said the mother. “I will buy you a better one than his.”
“But me want that,” retorted Master George, resolutely, who had a will of his own. “Me won't break it, Benja.”
Benja possessed one of the kindest hearts breathing. He looked at his watch, thinking he should not like it to be broken, and then he looked at Georgie, who stood turning up his pretty face, eagerly declaring he would take care of it. In another moment, he had hung the watch round George's neck.
This did for a time, but, presently, the little fellow took the watch off, and tried to open it.
“Don't do that,” interposed Benja, “ you will spoil it. Give it back to me."
“ No,” said Master George, positively.
“Give him his watch, George, my dearest,” interrupted Mrs. Carlton, looking with a most evil expression at Benja. “Let him keep it to himself if he chooses : he is made up of selfishness."
Benja, child as he was, knew this to be unjust, but he uttered no further remonstrance ; he was always timid in the presence of Mrs. Carlton. So Georgie thought he could go further, with impunity, and, taking firm hold of the short gold chain, swung the watch round and round, after the manner of a rattle.
“Oh mamma, mamma!" cried Benja, in an agony, running to Mrs. Carlton, and laying his hands upon her knee,“ do not let him spoil my watch! See what he is doing with it!”
She pushed him rudely from her, with a gesture of dislike and contempt. And Benja, finding he could get no redress where it ought to have been afforded, ran back to Georgie, and caught hold of him as he was flying to his mother for protection. Baffled and angry, the naughty, spoiled child dashed the watch far from him, on the floor, shattering the glass to atoms.
Benja was, by nature, a sweet-tempered child, and he had been kept under by Mrs. Carlton, but this was more than he could bear. He burst into a loud fit of weeping, and struck at Master Georgie with all his might: now his face, now his chest; anywhere, in fact, that his infantine pugilistic skill could hit.
Up rose Mrs. Carlton, her face inflamed and her voice shrieking. Never had Benja seen her in so violent a passion since that everremembered day when she had hurled him to the ground in the presence of his father. She shook him, she struck him, she tore his hair, she kicked him, she battered his head against the table, and his beautiful birthday dress she tore nearly to pieces. The boy screamed with pain, Georgie screamed with terror; and Honour, who happened to be passing the door, came rushing in. Mrs. Carlton had probably controlled her temper better, had she partaken of less wine.
“Good Heavens !” uttered Honour, in alarm, 6 you will kill him! What is it? what has he done ?”
“I did nothing," sobbed Benja, hysterically, struggling desperately to release himself from the violence of Mrs. Carlton. “Georgie spoilt my watch for the purpose, and I hit him for it.”
“ How can you for shame treat him in such a manner, ma'am?" exclaimed Honour indignantly, her own passion rising, and speaking to her mistress as she had never dared to speak before. “Poor orphan child ! with nobody to protect him! How can you reconcile it to the memory of my dead master?"
“ Take him out of my sight," uttered Mrs. Carlton, imperiously, “and to-morrow morning you quit my service. I never permit insolence, and you have been tolerated here too long."
She thrust Benja towards Honour as she spoke, the pieces of glass
cracking under her feet. The servant picked up the watch, with a jerk, and clasping the sobbing boy tenderly in her arms, quitted the room and went up-stairs.
“It's a burning shame!” she broke forth, sitting herself down by the nursery fire, and dashing the coals about with the poker, as if she would have dashed them all out of the grate, whilst she held Benja to her with the other hand—“it's a burning shame that he should be so treated ! If she does turn me away, I'll go every step of the way to London, and tell all I know to your guardians, Benja: if I don't do it, may the Lord never prosper me !”
Poor little ill-treated child! He lay there in her lap, smarting with the pain of the blows, his trembling heart feeling as if it would burst.
“Let the worst come to the worst, my precious lamb, it can only be for a few years,” began Honour again. “I know master left orders, in his will, that at ten years old you were to go to Eton.”
“What's Eton ?” sobbed Benja.
“ Something very good,” returned Honour, who had no definite idea upon the point herself. “And when you are of age, my darling, all Alnwick will be yours, and she and Master Georgie must turn out of it.”
“Where will they go ?” asked Benja.
“ I don't know where, and it don't matter where,” continued the kindhearted but most injudicious servant. “ You will be the master of all Alnwick, and nobody can live here, unless you choose to let them.”
“Who is the master now?” questioned Benja.
“ You are, my pretty boy, and have been, ever since your papa died ; only she lives in it, and gives orders, because you are not old enough. I think master must have sent his wits a wool-gathering,” added the exasperated Honour, in a sort of soliloquy, “to have left her with any power over the child at all.”
Honour was right in the main. But Mrs. Carlton had played her cards well, during the long illness that had preceded her husband's death: she had made herself appear a perfect angel of gentleness to Benja: and Mr. Carlton had no female relatives with whom he could entrust the boy.
“Don't I hope she'll turn me out to-morrow !” ejaculated Honour, " and won't I go to London in double-quick time! I'll tell them the truth too—that she would commit murder upon him if she dared ; and that it is not safe for him to be left here without somebody to look after him, and be a check upon her.”
Benja remained in her lap, his sobs gradually subsiding. He lay thinking of many things, such as occur to children ; his ideas running from one point to another. Presently he spoke.
“ Honour, when is my church to be finished ?”
“ Suppose I finish it this afternoon !" cried Honour, starting up. “ There's scarcely anything left of it to do: and if I am turned away, it may never get done."
Opening a closet door, she took from it what seemed to be a model of a pretty country church, with its spire. The framework was of wood, and the walls, as Honour called them, of thin white paper. Some coloured, transparent windows had to be pasted on, which was all there was left to do to it, and with a bit of lighted candle inside it at night,
the place to hold which was already made, it would really have a pretty effect. The idea was not Honour's, but taken from something similar she had seen in a threepenny show, recently exhibiting in the village, purporting to be, as the bills expressed it, an “Emporium of foreign curiosities."
Honour collected her materials about her, and soon accomplished her task, and little Benja forgot his troubles in watching her. She had taken off Benja's costly dress, with many a lamentation over its torn state, and had put him on a new tunic of brown-holland, handsomely trimmed with black silk braid, and a white pinafore over that; for she knew he would be getting his hands amongst the paste.
It was dusk before all was completed, and this famous church lighted up. Benja clapped his hands with delight. It was an ingenious, picturesque sight, especially to a child. There was no light in the room, save what was emitted from the fire, and that had burnt low, so the church was shown off in perfection.
“ There ought to be moss all round here," observed Honour, pointing to the projecting board on which the church rested, “but it is too late to do it to-night; and, for the matter of that, I have no moss. If I stop, we will ask the gardener to get some."
Benja did not care for the moss : to his admiring eyes, nothing could improve its present state. He gazed at it on the high drawers, he danced before it as it stood on the table, and he carried it to and fro in the room, obeying Honour's directions to keep it upright and steady. In this manner some time passed, and Honour quitted the nursery to fetch up some things she wanted from the kitchen.
Honour was a great gossip, and the scene she had been a partial witness to in the dining-room, was now related to the eager servants. Questions, comments, and lamentations resounded from all sides. Honour seemed quite unable to tear herself away, and when, with a final effort, she did run up-stairs again, she found, by the hall clock, that she had been away more than half an hour. Turning the handle of the nurserydoor, to enter hastily, she was surprised to find she could not pull it open.
"Master Benja," she called out, "why have you fastened the door ? Come and open it.”
There was no reply. “ He must have got upon a chair, and slipped the button," soliloquised Honour. But at that moment she became conscious of a strong smell of burning, particularly of wool; and, letting the things she carried fall down with a crash, she flew to her mistress's dressing-room, that she might obtain entrance that way, for a door, which Mrs. Carlton had had made when her child was born, communicated the two apartments. She reached it; it was bolted on the dressing-room side ; but that was no unusual occurrence, and Honour opened it.
When Honour left the nursery on her way to the kitchen, she placed the church on the table, telling Benja to look at it until she came back, but not to touch it. Now, to look at a new toy, and not touch, is philosophy beyond a child. Benja soon took the church in his hands, and was parading it carefully before him up and down the room, thinking as he did so of what Honour had said about the house being all his, when Mrs.