+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

in part, the girl's sudden revulsion of
feeling; but she knew that it would wear off,
and believed that it had better not be expressed.
When Dulcy's head was on her pillow she
recieved her maternal benedictions, and left her.
As Dulcy was quite alone, and no spy peered
into her chamber, we have no actual evidence
that she passed half the night in miserable tears;
but this is very probable, for she was unfit to
appear at breakfast the next morning, and for
two days nobody calling at the house saw her,
not even Sir John Seamer.

When she reappeared, it was to find that
her urgent plea for secrecy had not been
respected, and to receive the congratulations of
friends, envious, surprised, curious, and
compassionate, with a serenity which struck nobody
with so much wonder as it struck herself. Any
little unreality which she had tried to retain
about her fate was completely dissipated, and
she saw her future very distinctly before her:
Lady Seamer of Netherloup, wife of Sir John
Seamer, the wealthiest landowner in the county,
a man passionately fond of her, likely to
surround her with every luxury and indulgence her
heart could desire, mentally and morally her
inferior, but not evil-spoken of by his class,
though not much looked up to either; a
position many young women would have embraced
with triumphant delightwhich had often, in
fact, been secretly coveted by herself. That
was, when it was seen through the illusion of
distance and improbability; nearer at hand, its
colours were far more sombre than attractive.

She knew a good deal about Sir John Seamer,
and she knew all the particulars of his disastrous
family history, which people spoke low about
when they spoke at all. Netherloup Hall was
but three miles from Avenham, where she had
been brought up by her mother, and in a country
neighbourhood, gossip, especially romantic gossip,
is the current coin of domestic society. Dulcy
liked to hear her nurse tell of the curse of the
Seamers, who had driven the nuns from Netherloup
centuries ago, and got wrongful possession
of their estates, which had never brought them
luck, but only murder, disgrace in battle, early
death at home, or a drivelling old age;
and then the chronicler would prove her words
by asking, with awful solemnity, who lives
in the high-walled garden on the edge of
the park, where nobody ever passed by from
year's end to year's end?—who but Sir Reginald
Seamer, who had been Bedlam-mad since his
marriagealmost nay, some folks said before it?
His one son had been cashiered from the army for
cowardice, and was living obscurely somewhere
abroad, and his grandson reigned with his frigid
mother in the old hall alone. All this was
happening when Dulcy Digby was a girl, and she
heard whispers of it, as children do; and when
John came, to Avenham to play with her
brothers, she used to watch him timidly from a
distance with a suspicious fear, lest the curse of
his people might also have fallen on him, and
that he might suddenly spring at her and
strangle her.

But all this nonsense faded from her mind as
she grew up to womanhood. The high-walled
garden lost its wretched prisoner, and a sumptuous
tablet to his memory appeared on the chancel
wall of Netherloup Church; then the disgraced
son died in a drunken gambling-house brawl at
Homburg, and John became Sir John, a young
man of importance in his county by reason of
his large landed property, if for nothing else.
He was about three-and-twenty then, and not
ill-lookingfar from it. He had a frame of
muscular power, and a broad fair face,
rather vacuously good natured in its ordinary
expression, but with certain indications,
nevertheless, that he did, now and then, give himself
over to the demon, and suffer himself to be
carried away by paroxysms of brutal rage. The
servants, when he was a boy, used to give awful
accounts of him, but as he grew up open-handed
and generous to a proverb, they forgave him
rough words, and contented themselves with
shaking their heads when alluding to him, and
saying he was " every bit a Netherloup Seamer."

Sir John was just out of mourning for his
mother when he made his proposal to Dulcy
Digby. He had always liked her, but the late
Lady Seamer detested Mrs. Digby as a scheming
woman on the look-out to entrap an unwary
heir for her handsome, clever, portionless daughter,
and she had too much influence over her
son's mind while she lived for him to dream of
acting in opposition to her expressed desires.
But when she was gone, Sir John, being thrown
entirely on his own resources, naturally sought
the society of those with whom he was on the
friendliest footing. He disliked forms and
ceremonies, he disliked, in fact, whatever gave him
trouble, and finding a ready welcome whenever
he presented himself at Avenham, he soon
became a daily visitor there. Mrs. Digby flattered
him, and if Dulcy did not flatter him too, she
did something very much akin to it, in never
discouraging him. She had every opportunity of
seeing and knowing what his natural disposition
was, and when she accepted his proposal, we
must believe that she did so with her eyes open,
and laid her accounts of what she might have to
do and endure against the obvious advantages
of a rich match.

Mrs. Digby carried her daughter down to
Avenham as soon as her engagement had gained
sufficient notoriety to make it binding. Until
Dulcy had been repeatedly congratulated, and
had as repeatedly acquiesced in her approaching
elevation, her mother had a lurking distrust that
she might suddenly give way to her feelings of
fear and repulsion and break with Sir John; but
George Milner did not cross her path any more:
he, had gone to do some mountaineering. There
was a fuss of friends, and a fuss of ordering
finery, and there were presents and a hundred
things besides, to distract her attention, and
about the middle of September, the proudest day
of Mrs. Digby's life, arrived, and at Avenham
Church, in the face of a crowded and respectable
congregation and a small army of friends, she
gave her daughter to Sir John Seamer of