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



OUR old Hall is to be pulled down, and
they are going to build streets on the site. I
said to my sister, "Ethelinda! if they really
pull down Morton Hall, it will be a worse
piece of work than the Repeal of the Corn
Laws." And, after some consideration she
replied, that if she must speak what was on
her mind, she would own that she thought
the Papists had something to do with it;
that they had never forgiven the Morton who
had been with Lord Monteagle when he discovered
the Gunpowder Plot; for we knew
that somewhere in Rome there was a book
kept, and which had been kept for generations,
giving an account of the secret
private history of every English family of
note, and registering the names of those to
whom the Papists owed either grudges or

We were silent for some time; but I am
sure the same thought was in both our minds;
our ancestor, a Sidebotham, had been a
follower of the Morton of that day; it had
always been said in the family that he had
been with his master, when he went with the
Lord Monteagle, and found Guy Fawkes and
his dark lantern under the Parliament House;
and the question flashed across our minds.
Were the Sidebothams marked with a black
mark in that terrible mysterious book which
was kept under lock and key by the Pope
and the Cardinals in Rome? It was terrible;
yet, somehow, rather pleasant to think of.
So many of the misfortunes which had
happened to us through life, and which we
had called "mysterious dispensations," but
which some of our neighbours had attributed
to our want of prudence and foresight, were
accounted for at once, if we were objects of
the deadly hatred of such a powerful order
as the Jesuits; of whom we had lived in
dread ever since we had read the Female
Jesuit. Whether this last idea suggested
what my sister said next I can't tell; we did
know the Female Jesuit's second cousin, so
might be said to have literary connexions,
and from that the startling thought might
spring up in my sister's mind, for, said she,
"Biddy!" (my name is Bridget, and no one
but my sister calls me Biddy) "suppose you
write some account of Morton Hall; we have
known much in our time of the Mortons, and
it will be a shame if they pass away completely
from men's memories while we can
speak or write." I was pleased with the
notion, I confess; but I felt ashamed to agree
to it all at once, though even as I objected for
modesty's sake, it came into my mind how
much I had heard of the old place in its
former days, and how it was perhaps all I
could now do for the Mortons, under whom
our ancestors had lived as tenants for more
than three hundred years. So at last I agreed;
and, for fear of mistakes, I showed it to
Mr. Swinton, our young curate, who has put
it quite in order for me.

Morton Hall is situated about five miles
from the centre of Drumble. It stands on
the outskirts of a village, which, when the
Hall was built, was probably as large as
Drumble in those days; and even I can remember
when there was a long piece of
rather lonely road, with high hedges on
either side, between Morton village and
Drumble. Now it is all street, and Morton
seems but a suburb of the great town near.
Our farm stood where Liverpool Street runs
now; and people used to come snipe-shooting
just where the Baptist Chapel is built.
Our farm must have been older than the
Hall, for we had a date of fourteen hundred
and sixty on one of the cross-beams. My
father was rather proud of this advantage,
for the Hall had no date older than fifteen
hundred and fifty-four; and I remember his
affronting Mrs. Dawson, the housekeeper, by
dwelling too much on this circumstance one
evening when she came to drink tea with my
mother, when Ethelinda and I were mere
children. But my mother, seeing that Mrs.
Dawson would never allow that any house in
the parish could be older than the Hall, and
that she was getting very warm, and almost
insinuating that the Sidebothams had forged
the date to disparage the squire's family, and
set themselves up as having the older blood,
asked Mrs. Dawson to tell us the story of old
Sir John Morton before we went to bed; I
slily reminded my father that Jack, our man,
was not always so careful as might be in
housing the Alderney in good time in the
autumn evenings. So he started up, and went
off to see after Jack; and Mrs. Dawson and