Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie
IT is, happily, not only in fairy tales that things
some times fall out as one could wish, that anxieties are allayed, mistakes
explained away, friends reconciled; that people inherit large fortunes,
or are found out in their nefarious schemes; that long-lost children are
discovered disguised in soot, that vessels come safely sailing into port
after the storm; and that young folks who have been faithful to one another
are married off at last. Some of these young couples are not only happily
married, but they also begin life in pleasant palaces tastefully decorated,
and with all the latest improvements; with convenient cupboards, bath-rooms,
back staircases, speaking-tubes, lifts from one story to another, hot
and cold water laid on; while outside lie well-kept parks, and gardens,
and flower-beds; and from the muslin-veiled windows they can see the sheep
browsing; the long shadowy grass, deer starting across the sunny glades,
swans floating on the rivers, and sailing through the lilies and tall
lithe reeds. There are fruit-gardens, too, where great purple plums are
sunning on the walls, and cucumbers lying asleep among their cool dark
leaves. 1'here are glass-houses where heavy dropping bunches of grapes
are hanging, so that one need only open one's mouth for them to fall into
it all ready cooked and sweetened. Sometimes, in addition to all these
good things, the young couple possess all the gracious gifts of youth,
beauty, gay and amiable dispositions. Some one said, the other day, that
it seemed as if Fate scarcely knew what she was doing, when she lavished
with such profusion every gift and delight upon one pair of heads, while
others were left bald, shorn, unheeded, dishevelled, forgotten, dishonoured.
And yet the world would be almost too sad to bear, if one did not sometimes
see happiness somewhere. One would scarcely believe in its possible existence,
if there was nobody young, fortunate, prosperous, delighted; nobody to
think of with satisfaction, and to envy a little. The sight of great happiness
and prosperity is like listening to harmonious music, or looking at beautiful
pictures, at certain times of one's life. It seems to suggest possibilities,
it sets sad folks longing; hut while they are wishing, still, may be,
a little reproachfully, they realize the existence of what perhaps they
had doubted before. Fate has been hard to them, but there is compensation
even in this life, they tell themselves. Which of us knows when his turn
may come? Happiness is a fact: it does lie within some people's grasp.
To this or that young fairy couple, age, trial, and trouble may be in
store; but now at least the present is golden; the innocent delights and
triumphs of youth and nature are theirs.
I could not help moralizing a little in this way, when
we were staying with young Lulworth and his wife the other day, coming
direct from the struggling dull atmosphere of home to the golden placidity
of Lulworth farm. They drove us over to Cliffe Court-another oasis, so
it seemed to me, in the arid plains of life. Cliffe Court is a charming,
cheerful, Italian-looking house, standing on a hill in the midst of a
fiery furnace of geraniums and flower-beds. "It belongs to young
Sir Charles Richardson. He is six-and-twenty, and the handsomest man in
the county," said Frank.
"Oh, no, Frank; you are joking, surely," said
Cecilia; and then she stared, and then blushed in her odd way. She still
stared sometimes when she was shy, as she used to do before she married.
So much of her former habits Cecilia had also retained,
that as the clock struck eight every morning a great punctual breakfast-bell
used to ring in the outer hail. The dining-room casement was wide open
upon the beds of roses, the tea was made, Cecilia in her crisp white morning
dress, and with all her wavy bronze hair curling about her face, was waiting
to pour it out, the eggs were boiled, the bacon was frizzling hot upon
the plate to a moment; there was no law allowed, not a minute's grace
for anybody, no matter how lazy. They had been married a little more than
two years, and were quite established in their country home. I wish I
could perform some incantation like those of my friends the fairies, and
conjure up the old farm bodily with a magic wave of my pen, or by drawing
a triangle with a circle through it upon the paper the enchanters do.
The most remarkable things about the farm were its curious
and beautiful old chimneys-indeed the whole county of Sussex is celebrated
for them, and the meanest little cottages have noble-looking stacks all
ornamented, carved and weather-beaten. There were gables also, and stony
mullioned windows, and ancient steps with rusty rings hanging to them,
affixed there to fasten the bridles of horses that would have run away
several hundred years ago, if this precaution had not been taken. And
then there were storehouses and ricks and barns, all piled with the abundance
of the harvest. The farmyard was alive with young fowls and cocks and
hens; and guinea-hens, those gentle little dowagers, went about glistening
in silver and grey, and Cecilia's geese came clamouring to meet her. I
can see it all as I think about it. The old walls are all carved and ornamented,
sometimes by art and work of man's hand, sometimes by time and lovely
little natural mosses. House-leeks grow in clumps upon the thatch, a pretty
girl is peeping through a lattice window, a door is open while a rush
of sweet morning scent comes through the shining oaken passage from the
herb- garden and orchard behind. Cows with their soft brown eyes and cautious
tread are passing on their way to a field across the road. A white horse
waiting by his stable-door shakes his head and whinnies.
Frank and Cecilia took us for a walk after breakfast the
first morning we came. We were taken to the stables first and the cow-houses,
and then we passed out through a gate into a field, and crossing the field
we got into a copse which skirted it, and so by many a lovely little winding
path into the woods. Young Lulworth took our delight and admiration as
a personal compliment. It was all Lulworth property as far as we could
see. I thought it must be strangely delightful to be the possessor of
such beautiful hills, mist, sunshine and shadow, violet tones, song of
birds, and shimmer of foliage; but Frank, I believe, looked at his future
prospects from a material point of view. "You see it ain't the poetic
part of it which pays," he said. But he appreciated it nevertheless,
for Cecilia came out of the woods that morning, all decked out with great
convolvulus leaves, changed to gold, which Frank had gathered as we went
along and given to her. This year all the leaves were turning to such
beautiful colours that people remarked upon it, and said they never remembered
such a glowing autumn; even the year when Frank came to Dorlicote was
not to compare to it. Browns and russet, and bright amber and gold flecks,
berries, red leaves, a lovely blaze and glitter in the woods along the
lanes and beyond the fields and copses. All the hills were melting with
lovely colour in the clear warm autumn air, and the little nut-wood paths
seemed like Aladdin's wonderful gardens, where precious stones hung to
the trees; there was a twinkle and crisp shimmer, yellow leaves and golden
light, yellow light and golden leaves, red hawthorn, convolvulus-berries,
holly-berries beginning to glow, and heaped-up clustering purple blackberries.
The sloe-berries, or snowy blackthorn fruit, with their soft gloom of
colour, were over, and this was the last feast of the year. On the trees
the apples hung red and bright, the pears seemed ready to drop from their
branches and walls, the wheat was stacked, the sky looked violet behind
the yellow ricks. A blackbird was singing like a ripple of water, somebody
said. It is hard to refrain from writing of all these lovely things, though
it almost is an impertinence to attempt to set them down on paper in long
lists, like one of Messrs Rippon and Burton's circulars. As we were walking
along the high-road on our way back to the farm, we passed a long pale
melancholy-looking man riding a big horse, with a little sweet-faced creature
about sixteen who was cantering beside him.
He took off his hat, the little girl kissed her hand as
they passed, nodding a gay triumphant nod, and then we watched them down
the hill, and disappearing at the end of the lane.
"I am quite glad to see Ella Ashford out riding with
her father again," said Lulworth, holding the garden gate open for
us to pass in.
"Mrs Ashford called here a day or two ago with her
daughter," said Cecilia. "They're going to stay at the Ravenhill,
she told me. I thought Colonel Ashford was gone too. I suppose he is come
"Of course he is," said Frank, "since we
have just seen him with Ella, and of course his wife is away for the same
"The child has grown very thin," said H.
"She has a difficult temper," said Cecilia-who,
once she got an idea into her soft, silly head, did not easily get rid
of it again. "She is a great anxiety to poor Mrs Ashford. She is
very different, she tells me, to Julia and Lisette Garnier, her own daughters."
"I knew them when they were children," said
H. "We used to see a great deal of Mrs Ashford when she was first
a widow, and I went to her second wedding."
We were at Paris one year-ten years before the time I am writing of-and
Mrs Garnier lived over us, in a tiny little apartment. She was very poor,
and very grandly dressed, and she used to come rustling in to see us.
Rustling is hardly the word, she was much too graceful and womanly a person
to rustle; her long silk gowns used to ripple, and wave, and flow away
as she came and went; and her beautiful eyes used to fill with tears as
she drank her tea and confided her troubles to us. H. never liked her;
but I must confess to a very kindly feeling for the poor, gentle, beautiful,
forlorn young creature, so passionately lamenting the loss she had sustained
in Major-General Garnier. He had left her very badly off, although she
was well connected, and Lady Jane Peppercorne, her cousin, had offered
her and her two little girls a home at Ravenhill, she used to tell us
in her eplore manner. I do not know why she never availed herself of the
offer. She said once that she would not be doing justice to her precious
little ones, to whom she devoted herself with the assistance of an experienced
attendant. My impression is, that the little ones used to scrub one another's
little ugly faces, and plait one another's little light Chinese-looking
tails, while the experienced attendant laced and dressed and adorned and
scented and powdered their mamma. She really was a beautiful young woman,
and would have looked quite charming if she had left herself alone for
a single instant, but she was always posing. She had dark bright eyes;
she had a lovely little arched mouth; and hands so white, so soft, so
covered with rings, that one felt that it was indeed a privilege when
she said, "Oh, how do you do?" and extended two or three gentle
confiding fingers. At first she went nowhere except to church, and to
walk in the retired paths of the Parc de Monçeau, although she
took in Galignani and used to read the lists of arrivals. But by degrees
she began to- chiefly to please me, she said-go out a little, to make
a few acquaintances. One day I was walking with her down the Champs Elysees
when she suddenly started and looked up at a tall, melancholy-looking
gentleman who was passing, and who stared at her very hard; and soon after
that it was that she began telling me she had determined to make an effort
for her children's sake, and to go a little more into society. She wanted
me to take her to Madame de Girouette's, where she heard I was going one
evening, and where she believed she should meet an old friend of hers,
whom she particularly wished to see again. Would I help her? Would I he
so very good? Of course I was ready to do anything I could. She came punctual
to her time, all grey moire and black lace; a remise was sent for, and
we set off, jogging along the crowded streets, with our two lamps lighted,
and a surly man, in a red waistcoat and an oilskin hat, to drive us to
the Rue de Lille. All the way there, Mrs Garnier was strange, silent,
nervous, excited. Her eyes were like two shining craters, I thought, when
we arrived, and as we climbed up the interminable flights of stairs. I
guessed which was the old friend in a minute: a tall, well-looking, sick-looking
man with a grey moustache, standing by himself in a corner.
I spent a curious evening, distracted between Madame de
Girouette's small talk, to which I was supposed to be listening, and Mrs
Garnier's murmured conversation with her old friend in the corner, to
which I was vainly endeavouring not to attend.
"My dear, imagine a bouillon, surmounted with little
tiny flutings all round the bottom, and then three ruches, alternating
with three little volants, with great choux at regular intervals; over
this a tunic, caught up at the side by a jardinière, a ceinture
a la Bébé."
"When you left us I was a child, weak, foolish, easily
frightened and influenced. It nearly broke my heart. Look me in the face,
if you can, and tell me you do not believe me," I heard Mrs Garnier
murmuring in a low thrilling whisper. She did not mean me to hear it,
but she was too absorbed in what she was saying to think of all the people
round about her.
"Ah, Lydia, what does it matter now?" the friend
answered in a sad voice, which touched me somehow. "We have both
been wrecked in our ventures, and life has not much left far either of
"It is cut en biasis," Madame de Girouette went
on; "the pieces which are taken out at one end are let in at the
other: the effect is quite charming, and the economy is immense."
"For you, you married the person you loved,"
Lydia Garnier was answering; "for me, out of the wreck, I have at
least my children, and a remembrance, and a friend-is it so? Ah, Henry,
have I not at least a friend?"
"Everybody wants one," said Madame de Girouette,
concluding her conversation, "and they cannot be made fast enough
to supply the demand. I am promised mine to wear to-morrow at the opening
of the salon, but I am afraid that you have no chance. How the poor thing
is over-worked--her magazin is crowded--I believe she will leave it all
in charge of her premiere demoiselle, and retire to her campagne as soon
as the season is over."
"And you will come and see me, will you not,"
said the widow, as we went away, looking up at her friend. I do not know
to this day if she was acting. I believe, to do her justice, that she
was only acting what she really felt, as many of us do at times.
I took Mrs Garnier home as I had agreed. I did not ask
any questions. I met Colonel Ashford on the stairs next day, and I was
not surprised when, about a week after, Mrs Garnier flitted into the drawing-room
early one morning, and sinking down at my feet in a careless attitude,
seized my hand, and said that she had come for counsel, for advice She
had had an offer from a person whom she respected, Colonel Ashford, whom
I might have remarked that night at Madame de Girouette's; would I-would
I give her my candid opinion; for her children's sake, did I not think
it would be well to think seriously?"
"And for your own, too, my dear," said I. "Colonel
Ashford is in Parliament, he is very well off. I believe you will be making
an excellent marriage. Accept him by all means."
"Dear friend, since this is your real heart-felt
opinion, I value your judgment too highly not to act by its dictates.
Once, years ago, there was thought of this between me and Henry. I will
now confide to you, my heart has never failed from its early devotion.
A cruel fate separated us. I married. He married. We are brought together
as by a miracle, but our three children will never know the loss of their
parents' love," etc. etc. Glance, hand pressure, etc. etc. then a
long, soft, irritating kiss. I felt for the first time in my life inclined
to box her ears.
The little Garniers certainly gained by the bargain, and
the colonel sat down to write home to his little daughter, and tell her
Poor little Ella, I wonder what sort of anxieties Mrs Ashford had caused
to her before she had been Ella's father's wife a year. Miss Ashford made
the best of it. She was a cheery, happy little creature, looking at everything
from the sunny side, adoring her father, running wild out of doors, but
with an odd turn for house-keeping, and order and method at home. Indeed,
for the last two years, ever since she was twelve years old, she had kept
her father's house. Languid, gentle, easily impressed, Colonel Ashford
was quite curiously influenced by this little daughter. She could make
him come and go, and like and dislike. I think it was Ella who sent him
into Parliament: she could not bear Sir Rainham Richardson, their next
neighbour, to be an M.P., and an oracle, while her father was only a retired
colonel. Her ways and her sayings were a strange and pretty mixture of
childishness and precociousness. She would be ordering dinner, seeing
that the fires were alight in the study and dining-room, writing notes
to save her father trouble (Colonel Ashford hated trouble), in her cramped,
crooked, girlish hand; the next minute she was perhaps flying, agile-footed,
round and round the old hall, skipping up and down the oak stairs, laughing
out like a child as she played with her puppy, and dangled a little ball
of string under his black nose. Puff, with a youthful hark, would seize
the ball and go scuttling down the corridors with his prize, while Ella
pursued him with her quick flying feet. She could sing charmingly, with
a clear, true, piping voice, like a bird's, and she used to dance to her
own singing in the prettiest way imaginable. Her dancing was really remarkable:
she had the most beautiful feet and hands, and as she seesawed in time,
still singing and moving in rhythm, any one seeing her could not fail
to have been struck by the weird-like little accomplishment. Some girls
have a passion for dancing-boys have a hundred other ways and means of
giving vent to their activity and exercising their youthful limbs, and
putting out their eager young strength; but girls have no such chances;
they are condemned to walk through life for the most part quietly, soberly,
putting a curb on the life and vitality which is in them. They long to
throw it out, they would like to have wings to fly like a bird, and so
they dance sometimes with all their hearts, and might, and energy. People
rarely talk of the poetry of dancing, but there is something in it of
the real inspiration of art. The music plays, the heart beats time, the
movements flow as naturally as the branches of a tree go waving in the
One day a naughty boy, who had run away, for a lark, from
his tutor and his schoolroom at Cliffe, hard by, and who was hiding in
a ditch, happened to see Ella alone in a field. She was looking up at
the sky and down at the pretty scarlet and white pimpernels, and listening
to the birds; suddenly she felt so strong and so light, and as if she
must jump about a little, she was so happy; and so she did, shaking her
pretty golden mane, waving her poppies high over head, and singing higher
and higher, like one of the larks that were floating in mid air. The naughty
boy was much frightened, and firmly believed that he had seen a fairy.
"She was all in white," he said afterwards,
in an aggrieved tone of voice. "She'd no hat, or anything; she bounded
six foot into the air. You never saw anything like it."
Master Richardson's guilty conscience had something to
do with his alarm. When his friend made a few facetious inquiries he answered
quite sulkily,-"Black pudden? she offered me no pudden or anything
else. I only wish you had been there, that's all, then you'd believe a
fellow when he says a thing, instead of always chaffing."
Ella gave up her dancing after the new wife came to Ash
Place. It was all so different; she was not allowed any more to run out
into the fields alone. She supposed it was very nice having two young
companions like Lisette and Julia, and at first, in her kindly way, the
child did the honours of her own home, showed them the way which led to
her rabbits, her most secret bird's nest, the old ivy-grown smugglers'
hole in the hollow. Lisette and Julia went trotting about in their frill
trowsers and Chinese tails of hair, examining everything, making their
calculations, saving nothing, taking it all in (poor little Ella was rather
puzzled, and could not make them out). Meantime her new mother was gracefully
wandering over the house on her husband's arm, and standing in attitudes,
admiring the view from the windows, and asking gentle little indifferent
questions, to all of which Colonel Ashford replied unsuspectingly enough.
"And so you give the child an allowance? Is she not
very young for one? And is this Ella's room? how prettily it is furnished."
"She did it all herself," said her father, smiling.
"Look at her rocking-horse, and her dolls' house, and her tidy little
The house-keeping books were in a little pile on the table;
a very suspicious- looking doll was lying on the bed, so were a pile of
towels, half marked, but neatly folded; there was a bird singing in a
cage, a squirrel, a little aged dog- Puffs grandmother-asleep on a cushion,
some sea-anemones in a glass, gaping with their horrid mouths, strings
of birds' eggs were suspended, and whips were hanging up on the walls.
There was a great bunch of flowers in the window, and a long daisy-chain
fastened up in festoons round the glass; and then on the toilette-table
there were one or two valuable trinkets set out in their little cases.
"Dear me," said Mrs Ashford, "is it not
a pity to leave such temptation in the way of the servants? Little careless
thing-had I not better keep them for her, Henry? they are very beautiful."
And Mrs Ashford softly collected Ella's treasures in her long white hands.
'Ella has some very valuable things," Colonel Ashford
said. "She keeps them locked up in a strong box, I believe; yes,
there it is in the corner."
"It had much better come into my closet," Mrs
Ashford said. "Oh, how heavy! Come here, strong-arm, and help me."
Colonel Ashford obediently took up the box as he was bid.
"And I think I may as well finish marking the dusters,"
said Mrs Ashford, looking round the room as she collected them all in
her apron. "The books, of course, are now my duty. I think Ella will
not be sorry to be relieved of her cares. Do you know, dear, I think I
am glad, for her sake, that you married me, as well as for my own. I think
she has had too much put upon her, is a little too decided, too prononcée
for one so young. One would not wish to see her grow up before the time.
Let them remain young and careless while they can, Henry."
So when Ella came back to mark the dusters that she had
been hemming, because Mrs Milton was in a hurry for them and the housemaid
had hurt her eye, they were gone, and so were her neat little books that
she had taken such pride in, and had been winding up before she gave them
to Mrs Ashford to keep in future; so was her pretty coral necklace that
she wore of an evening; and her pearls with the diamond clasp; and her
beautiful clear carbuncle brooch that she was so fond of, and her little
gold clasp bracelet. Although Eliza and Susan had lived with them all
her life long, they had never taken her things, poor Ella thought, a little
bitterly. "Quite unsuitable, at your age, dearest," Mrs Ashford
murmured, kissing her fondly.
And Ella never got them back any more. Many and many other
things there were she never got back, poor child. Ah me! treasures dearer
to her than the pretty coral necklace and the gold clasp bracelet-liberty,
confidence-the tender atmosphere of admiring love in which she had always
lived, the first place in her father's heart. That should never be hers
again some one had determined.
The only excuse for Mrs Ashford is that she was very much
in love with her husband, and so selfishly attached to him that she grudged
the very care and devotion which little Ella had spent upon her father
all these years past. Every fresh proof of thought and depth of feeling
in such a childish little creature hurt and vexed the other woman. Ella
must be taught her place, this lady determined, not in so many words.
Alas! if we could always set our evil thoughts and schemes to words, it
would perhaps be well with us, and better far than drifting, unconscious,
and unwarned, into nameless evil, unowned to oneself, scarcely recognized.
And so the years went by. Julia and Lisette grew up into
two great tall fashionable bouncing young ladies; they pierced their ears,
turned up their pigtails, and dressed very elegantly. Lisette used to
wear a coral necklace, Julia was partial to a clear carbuncle brooch her
mother gave her. Little Ella, too, grew up like a little green plant springing
up through the mild spring rains and the summer sunshine, taller and prettier
and sadder every year. And yet perhaps it was as well after all that early
in life she had to learn to be content with a very little share of its
bounties; she might have been spoilt and over indulged if things had gone
on as they began, if nothing had ever thwarted her, and if all her life
she had had her own way. She was a bright smiling little thing for all
her worries, with a sweet little face; indeed her beauty was so remarkable,
and her manner so simple and charming, that Julia and Lisette, who were
a year or two her elders, used to complain to their mother nobody ever
noticed them when Ella was by. Lady Jane Peppercorne, their own cousin,
was always noticing her, and actually gave her a potato off her own plate
the other day.
"I fear she is a very forward, designing girl. I
shall not think of taking her out in London this year," Mrs Ashford
said, with some asperity; "nor shall I allow her to appear at our
croquet party next week. She is far too young to be brought out."
So Ella was desired to remain in her own room on this
occasion. She nearly cried, poor little thing, but what could she do;
her father was away, and when he came back Mrs Ashford would be sure to
explain everything to him. Mrs Ashford had explained life to him in so
strangely ingenious a manner that he had got to see it in a very topsy-turvy
fashion. Some things she had explained away altogether, some she had distorted
and twisted, poor little Ella had been explained and explained, until
there was scarcely anything of her left at all. Poor child, she sometimes
used to think she had not a single friend in the world, but she would
chide herself for such fancies: it must be fancy. Her father loved her
as much as ever, but he was engrossed by business, and it was not to be
expected he should show what he felt before Julia and Lisette, who might
be hurt. And then Ella would put all her drawers in order, or sew a seam,
or go out and pull up a bedful of weeds to chase such morbid fancies out
of her mind.
Lady Jane Peppercorne, of whom mention has been already
made, had two houses, one in Onslow Square, another at Hampstead. She
was very rich, she had never married, and was consequently far more sentimental
than ladies of her standing usually are. She was a flighty old lady, and
lived sometimes at one house, sometimes at the other, sometimes at hotels
here and there, as the fancy seized her. She was very kind as well as
flighty, and was constantly doing generous things, and trying to help
anyone who seemed to be in trouble or who appeared to wish for anything
she had it in her power to grant.
So when Mrs Ashford said,-"Oh, Lady Jane, pity me!
My husband says he cannot afford to take me to town this year. I should
so like to go, for the dear girls' sake of course-" Lady Jane gave
a little grunt, and said,-"I will lend you my house in Onslow Square,
if you like-that is, if you keep my room ready for me in case I want to
come up at any time. But I daresay you won't care for such an unfashionable
quarter of the world."
"Oh, Lady Jane, how exceedingly kind, how very delightful
and unexpected!" cried Mrs Ashford, who had been hoping for it all
the time, and who hastened to communicate the news to Lisette and Julia.
"I shall want a regular outfit, mamma," said
Julia, who was fond of dress. "Perhaps we shall meet young Mr Richardson
"I shall be snapped up directly by some one, I expect,"
said Lisette, who was very vain, and thought herself irresistible.
"Am I to come too?" asked Ella, timidly, from
the other end of the room, looking up from her sewing.
"I do not know," replied her stepmother, curtly,
and Ella sighed a little wistfully, and went on stitching.
"At what age shall you let me come out?" she
presently asked, shyly.
"When you are fit to be trusted in the world, and
have cured your unruly temper," said Mrs Ashford. Ella's eyes filled
with tears, and she blushed up; but her father came into the room, and
she smiled through her tears, and thought to herself that since her temper
was so bad, she had better begin to rule it that very instant. . . . When
Mrs Ashford began to explain to her husband, however, how much better
it would be for Ella to remain in the country, the child's wistful glance
met his, and for once he insisted that she should not be left behind.
It is a bright May morning after a night of rain, and although this is
London and not the country any more, Onslow Square looks bright and clean.
Lady Jane has had the house smartly done up: clean chintz, striped blinds,
a balcony full of mignonette. She has kept two little rooms for herself
and her maid, but all the rest of the house is at the Ashfords' disposal.
Everybody is satisfied, and Ella is enchanted with her little room upstairs.
Mrs Ashford is making lists of visits and dinner-parties and milliners'
addresses; Lisette is looking out of a window at some carriages which
are passing; the children and nurses are sitting under the trees in the
square; Julia is looking at herself in the glass and practising her court
curtseys; and Ella is in the back room arranging a great heap of books
in a bookcase. "I should so like to go to the Palace, mamma,"
she says, looking up with a smudgy face, for the books were all dirty
and covered with dust. "Do you think there will be room for me?"
Ella had no proper pride, as it is called, and always
used to take it for granted she was wanted, and that some accident prevented
her from going with the others. "I am sorry there is no room for
you, Ella," said Mrs Ashford, in her deep voice; "I have asked
Mr Richardson to come with us, and if he fails, I promised to call for
the Countess Bricabrac. Pray, if you do not care for walking in the square
this afternoon, see that my maid puts my things properly away in the cupboards,
as well as Julia's and Lisette's, and help her to fold the dresses, because
it is impossible for one person to manage these long trains unassisted."
"Very well," said Ella, cheerfully. "I
hope you will have a pleasant day. How nice it must be to be going."
"I wish you would learn not to wish for everything
and anything that you happen to hear about, Ella," said Mrs Ashford.
"And, by the way, if you find any visitors coming, go away, for I
cannot allow you to be seen in this dirty state."
"There's a ring," said Ella, gathering some
of the books together. "Good-by."
Young Mr Richardson, who was announced immediately after,
passed a pretty maid-servant, carrying a great pile of folios, upon the
stairs. She looked so little fitted for the task that he involuntarily
stopped and said, "Can I assist you?" The little maid smiled
and shook her head, without speaking. "What a charming little creature!"
thought Mr Richardson. He came to say that he and his friend, Jack Prettyman,
were going to ride down together, and would join the ladies at the Palace.
"We are to pick Colonel Ashford up at his club,"
Mrs Ashford said, "and Madame de Bricabrac. I shall count upon you
then." And the young ladies waved him gracious an re from the balcony.
"Oh! don't you like white waistcoats, Julia?"
said Lisette, as she watched him down the street.
They are gone. Ella went up to help with the dresses,
but presently the maid said in her rude way that she must go down to dinner,
and she could not have anybody messing the things about while she was
away. Carter hated having a "spy" set over her, as she called
Miss Ashford. The poor little spy went back to the drawing-room. She was
too melancholy and out of spirits to dress herself and go out. Her face
was still smudgy, and she had cried a little over Lisette's pink tarlatane.
Her heart sank down, down, down. She did so long for a little fun and
delight, and laughter and happiness. She knew her father would say, "Where
is Ella?" and her mother would answer, "Oh, I really cannot
account for Ella's fancies. She was sulky this morning again. I cannot
manage her strange tempers."
The poor child chanced to see her shabby face and frock
and tear-stained cheeks in one of the tall glasses over the gilt tables.
It was very silly, but the woebegone little face touched her so; she was
so sorry for it that all of a sudden she burst out sob, sob, sob, crying.
"Oh, how nice it must be to be loved and cherished, and very happy,"
she thought. "Oh, I could be so good if they would only love me."
She could not bear to think more directly of her father's change of feeling.
She sat down on the floor, as she had a way of doing, all in a little
heap, staring at the empty grate. The fire had burnt out, and no one had
thought of relighting it. For a few minutes her tears overflowed, and
she cried and cried in two rivulets down her black little face. She thought
how forlorn she was, what a dull life she led, how alone she lived-such
a rush of regret and misery overpowered her, that she hid her face in
her hands, unconscious of anything else but her own sadness.
She did not hear the bell ring, nor a carriage stop, nor
Lady Jane's footsteps. That lady came across the room and stood looking
at her. "Why, my dear little creature, what is the matter?"
said Lady Jane at last. "Crying? don't you know it is very naughty
to cry, no matter how bad things are? Are they all gone-are you all alone?"
Ella jumped up quite startled, blushed, wiped her tears
in a smudge. "I thought nobody would see me cry," she said,
"for they are all gone to the Crystal Palace."
And did they leave you behind quite by yourself?"
the old lady asked.
"They were so sorry they had no room for me,"
said good-natured little Ella. She could not bear to hear people blamed.
"They had promised Madame de Bricabrac."
"Is that all?" said Lady Jane, in her kind imperious
way. "Why, I have driven in from Hampstead on purpose to go there
too. There's a great flower-show to day, and you know I am a first-rate
gardener. I've brought up a great hamper of things. Put on your bonnet,
wash your face, and come along directly. I've plenty of room. Who is that
talking in that rude way?" for at that instant Carter called out
with a sniff from the drawing-room door, without looking in,-
"Now then, Miss Ella, you can come and help me fold
them dresses. I'm in a
Carter was much discomposed when, instead of her victim,
Lady Jane appeared, irate, dignified.
"Go upstairs directly, and do not forget yourself
again," said the old lady.
"Oh, I think I ought to go and fold up the dresses,"
said Ella, hesitating, flushing, blushing, and looking more than grateful.
"How very very kind of you to think of me. I'm afraid they wouldn't
afraid I've no bonnet. Oh, thank you, I-but--
"Nonsense, child," said Lady Jane; "my
maid shall help that woman. Here," ringing the bell violently, to
the footman, "what have you done with the hamper I brought up? let
me see it unpacked here immediately. Can't trust those people, my dear-always
see to everything myself."
All sorts of delicious things, scents, colours, spring-flowers
and vegetables came out of the hamper in delightful confusion. It was
a hamper full of treasures-sweet, bright, delicious-tasted-asparagus,
daffodillies, bluebells, salads, cauliflowers, hot-house flowers, cowslips
from the fields, azaleas. Ella's natty little fingers arranged them all
about the room in plates and in vases so perfectly and so quickly, that
old Lady Jane cried out in admiration, -
"Why, you would be a first-rate girl, if you didn't
cry. Here, you John, get some bowls and trays for the vegetables, green
pease, strawberries; and oh, here's a cucumber and a nice little early
pumpkin. I had it forced, my dear. Your stepmother tells me she is passionately
fond of pumpkins. Here, John, take all this down to the cook; tell her
to put it in a cool larder, and order the carriage and horses round directly.
Now then," to Ella, briskly, "go and put your things on, and
come along with me. I'll make matters straight. I always do. There, go
directly. I can't have the horses kept. Raton, my coachman, is terrible
if he is kept waiting me to death by his driving when he is put out."
Ella did not hesitate a moment longer; she rushed upstairs;
her little feet flew as they used to do formerly. She came down in a minute,
panting, rapturous, with shining hair and a bright face, in her very best
Sunday frock, cloak, and hat. Shabby enough they were, hut she was too
happy, too excited, to think about the deficiencies in her toilet.
"Dear me, this will never do, I see," said the
old lady, looking at her disapprovingly; but she smiled so kindly as she
spoke, that Ella was not a bit frightened.
"Indeed, I have no other," she said.
"John," cried the old lady, "where is my
maid? Desire her to come and speak to me directly. Now then, sir!"
All her servants knew her ways much too well not to fly
at her commands. A maid appeared as if by magic.
"Now, Batter, be quick; get that blue and silver
bournous of mine from the box upstairs-it will look very nice; and a pair
of grey kid gloves, Batter; and let me see, my dear, you wouldn't look
well in a brocade. No, that grey satin skirt, Batter; her own white bodice
will do, and we can buy a bonnet as we go along. Now, quick; am I to be
kept waiting all day?"
Ella in a moment found herself transformed somehow into
the most magnificent lady she had seen for many a day. It was like a dream,
she could hardly believe it; she saw herself move majestically, sweeping
in silken robes across the very same pier-glass, where a few minutes before
she had looked at the wretched little melancholy creature, crying with
a dirty face, and watched the sad tears flowing....
"Now then-now then," cried Lady Jane, who was
always saying "Now then," and urging people on my page-are the
outriders there? They are all workhouse boys, my dear; they came to me
as thin and starved as church mice, and then I fatten them up and get
'em situations. I always go with outriders. One's obliged to keep up a
certain dignity in these Chartist days-- universal reform-suffrage--vote
by ballot. I've no patience with Mr Gladstone, and it all rests with us
to keep ourselves well aloof. Get in, get in! Drive to Sydenham, if you
Lady Jane's manners entirely changed when she spoke to
Raton. And it is a fact that coachmen from their tall boxes rule with
a very high hand, and most ladies tremble before them. Raton looked very
alarming in his wig, with his shoebuckles and great red face.
What a fairy tale it was! There was little Ella sitting
in this lovely chariot, galloping down the Brompton Road, with all the
little boys cheering and hurrahing; and the little outriders clattering
on ahead, and the old lady sitting bolt upright as pleased as Punch. She
really had been going to Sydenham; but I think if she had not, she would
have set off instantly, if she thought she would make anybody happy by
so doing. They stopped at a shop in the Brompton Road-the wondering shop-woman
"A white bonnet, if you please," said Lady Jane.
"That will do very well. 1-lere, child, put it on, and mind you don't
crease the strings." And then away and away they went once more through
the town, the squares, over the bridges. They saw the ships and steamers
coming down the silver Thames, but the carriage never stopped: the outriders
paid the tolls and clattered on ahead. They rolled along pleasant country
lanes and fields, villas and country houses, road-side inns, and pedestrians,
and crawling carts and carriages. At the end of three-quarters of an hour,
during which it seemed to Ella as if the whole gay cortege had been flying
through the air, they suddenly stopped at last, at the great gates of
a Crystal Palace blazing in the sun, and standing on a hill. A crowd was
looking on. All sorts of grand people were driving up in their carriages;
splendid ladies were passing in. Two gentlemen in white waistcoats were
dismounting from their horses just as Ella and Lady Jane were arriving.
They rushed up to the carriage-door, and helped them to the ground.
"And pray, sir, who are you?" said Lady Jane,
as soon as she was safely deposited on her two little flat feet with the
funny old-fashioned shoes.
The young man coloured up and bowed. "You don't remember
me, Lady Jane," he said. "Charles Richardson- -I have had the
honour of meeting you at Ash Place, and at Cliffe, my uncle's house. This
is my friend Mr Prettyman."
"This is Mr Richardson, my dear Ella, and that is
Mr Prettyman. Tell them to come hack in a couple of hours" (to the
page), "and desire Raton to see that the horses have a feed. Now
then-yes-give her your arm, and you are going to take me?-very well,"
to the other white waistcoat; and so they went into the Palace.
What are the young princes like now-a-days? Do they wear
diamond aigrettes, swords at their sides, top-boots, and little short
cloaks over one shoulder? The only approach to romance that I can see,
is the flower in their button-hole, and the nice little moustaches and
curly beards in which they delight. But all the same besides the flower
in the button, there is also, I think, a possible flower of sentiment
still growing in the soft hearts of princes in these days, as in the old
days long, long ago.
Charles Richardson was a short ugly little man, very gentlemanlike,
and well-dressed. He was the next heir to a baronetcy; he had a pale face
and a snub nose, and such a fine estate in prospect Court its name was-that
I do not wonder at Miss Lisette's admiration for him. As for Ella, she
thought how kind he had been on the stairs that morning; she thought what
a bright genial smile he had. How charming he looked, she said to herself;
no never, never had she dreamt of any one so nice. She was quite-more
than satisfied, no prince in romance would have seemed to her what this
one was, there actually walking beside her. As for Richardson himself,
it was a case of love at first sight. He had seen many thousand young
ladies in the last few years, but not one of them to compare with this
sweet-faced, ingenuous, tender, bright little creature. He offered her
his arm, and led her along.
Ella observed that he said a few words to his friend;
she little guessed their purport. "You go first," he whispered,
"and if you see the Ashfords get out of the way. I should have to
walk with those girls, and my heart is here transfixed for ever."
. . . "Where have I seen you before?" he went on, talking to
Ella, as they roamed through the beautiful courts and gardens, among fountains
and flowers, and rare objects of art. "Forgive me for asking you,
but I must have met you somewhere long ago, and have never forgotten you.
I am haunted by your face." Ella was too much ashamed to tell him
where and how it was they had met that very morning. She remembered him
perfectly, but she thought he would rush away and leave her, if she told
him that the untidy little scrub upon the stairs had been herself. And
she was so happy: music playing, flowers blooming, the great wonderful
fairy Palace flashing over head; the kind, clever, delightful young man
to escort her; the gay company, the glitter, the perfume, the statues,
the interesting figures of Indians, the dear, dear, kind Lady Jane to
look to for sympathy and for good-humoured little nods of encouragement.
She had never been so happy; she had never known what a wonder the Palace
might be. Her heart was so full. It was all so lovely, so inconceivably
beautiful and delightful, that she was nearly tipsy with delight; her
head turned for an instant, and she clung to young Richardson's protecting
"Are you faint-are you ill?" he said, anxiously.
"Oh, no!" said Ella, "it's only that everything
is so beautiful; it is almost more than I can hear. I-I am not often so
happy; oh, it is so charming! I do not think anything could be so delightful
in all the world." She looked herself so charming and unconscious
as she spoke, looking up with her beautiful face out of her white bonnet,
that the young fellow felt as if he must propose to her, then and there,
off-hand on the very spot; and at the instant he looked up passionately-O
horror! caught sight of the Ashfords, mother, daughters, Madame de Bricabrac,
all in a row, coming right down upon them.
"Prettyman, this way to the right," cried little
Richardson, desperately; and Prettyman, who was a good-natured fellow,
said, "This way, please, Lady Jane; there's some people we want to
avoid over there."
"I'm sure it was," Lisette said. "I knew
the colour of his waistcoat. Who could he have been walking with, I wonder?"
"Some lady of rank, evidently," said Julia.
"I think they went up into the gallery in search of us."
"Let us go into the gallery, dears," said Mrs
Ashford, and away they trudged.
The young men and their companions had gone into the Tropics,
and meanwhile were sitting under a spreading palm-tree, eating pink ices;
while the music played and played more delightfully, and all the air was
full of flowers and waltzes, of delight, of sentiment. To young Richardson
the whole Palace was Ella in everything, in every sound, and flower and
fountain; to Ella, young Richardson seemed an enormous giant, and his
kind little twinkling eyes were shining all round her.
Poor dear! she was so little used to being happy, her
happiness almost overpowered her.
"Are you going to the ball at Guildhall to-morrow?"
Mr Richardson was saying to his unknown princess. "How shall I ever
meet you again? will you not tell me your name? But-"
"I wonder what o'clock it is, and where your mother
can be, Ella," said Lady Jane; "it's very odd we have not met."
"I can't imagine where they can have hid themselves,"
said Julia, very crossly, from the gallery overhead.
"I'm so tired, and I'm ready to drop," said
"Oh, let us sit," groaned Madame de Bricabrac.
"I can walk no more; what does it matter if we do not find your friends?"
"If we take our places at the door," said Lisette,
"we shall be sure to catch them as they pass."
"Perhaps I may be able to go to the ball," said
the princess, doubtfully. "I-I don't know." Lady Jane made believe
not to be listening. The voices in the gallery passed on. Lady Jane having
finished her ice, pulled out her little watch, and gave a scream of terror.
"Heavens! my time is up," she said. "Raton will frighten
me out of my wits, driving home. Come, child, come-come--come. Make haste-thank
these gentlemen for their escort," and she went skurrying along,
a funny little active figure, followed by the breathless young people.
They got to the door at last, where Raton was waiting, looking very ferocious.
"Oh, good-by," said Ella. "Thank you so much," as
Richardson helped her into the chariot.
"And you will not forget me?" he said, in a
low voice. "I shall not need any name to remember you by."
"My name is Ella," she answered, blushing,
and driving off and then Ella flung her arms round Lady Jane, and began
to cry again, and said, "Oh, I have been so happy! so happy! How
good, good of you to make me so happy! Oh, thank you, dear Lady Jane!"
The others came back an hour after them, looking extremely
cross, and were much surprised to find Lady Jane in the drawing-room.
"I am not going back till Wednesday," said the old lady. "I've
several things to do in town. . . . Well, have you had a pleasant day?"
"Not at all," said Mrs Ashford, plaintively.
"The colonel deserted us; we didn't find our young men till just
as we were coming away. We are all very tired, and want some supper of
your delicious fruit, Lady Jane."
"Oh, dear, how tired I am!" said Julia.
"Poor Richardson was in very bad spirits," said
"What a place it is for losing one another,"
said old Lady Jane. "I took Ella there this afternoon, and though
I looked about I couldn't see you anywhere."
"Ella!" cried the other girls, astonished; "was
the there?" . . . But they were too much afraid of Lady Jane to object
That evening, after the others left the room, as Ella
was pouring out the tea, she summoned up courage to ask whether she might
go to the ball at Guildhall with the others next evening. "Pray,
pray, please take me," she implored. Mrs Ashford looked up amazed
at her audacity.
Poor little Ella! refused, scorned, snubbed, wounded,
pained, and disappointed. She finished pouring out the tea in silence,
while a few bitter scalding tears dropped from her eyes into the teacups.
Colonel Ashford drank some of them, and asked for more sugar to put into
"There, never mind," he said, kindly. He felt
vexed with his wife, and sorry for the child; but he was, as usual, too
weak to interfere. "You know you are too young to go into the world,
Ella. When your sisters are married, then your turn will come."
Alas! would it ever come? The day's delight had given
her a longing for more; and now she felt the beautiful glittering vision
was only a vision, and over already: the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous
palace; and the charming prince himself- he a vision too? Ah! it was too
sad to think of. Presently Lisette and Julia came back: they had been
upstairs to see about their dresses.
"I shall wear my bird-of-paradise, and my yellow
tarlatane," said Lisette; "gold and purple is such a lovely
"Gobert has sent me a lovely thing," said Julia;
"tricolour flounces all the way up-she has so much taste."
Good old Lady Jane asked her maid next morning if any
dress was being got ready for Miss Ella. Hearing that she was not going,
and that no preparations were being made, she despatched Batter on a secret
mission, and ordered her carriage at nine o'clock that evening. She went
out herself soon after breakfast in a hired brougham, dispensing with
the outriders for once. Ella was hard at work all day for her sisters:
her little fingers quilled, fluted, frilled, pleated, pinned, tacked the
trimmings on their dresses more dexterously than any dressmaker or maid-servant
could do. She looked so pretty, so kind, and so tired, Sc) wistful, as
she came to help them to dress, that Lisette was quite touched, and said,-"Well,
Ella, I shouldn't wonder if, after I am snapped up, you were to get hold
of a husband some day. I daresay some people might think you nice-looking."
"Oh, do you think so really, Lisette?" said
Ella, quite pleased; and then faltering, "Do you think . .. Shall
you see Mr Richardson?"
"Of course I shall," said Lisette. "He
was talking great nonsense yesterday after we found him; saying that he
had met with perfection at last devoted altogether; scarcely spoke to
me at all; but that is the greatest proof of devotion, you know. I know
what he meant very well. I shouldn't be at all surprised if he was to
propose to-night. I don't know whether I shall have him. I'm always afraid
of being thrown away," said Lisette, looking over her shoulder at
Ella longed to send a message, a greeting of some sort,
to Lisette's adorer. Oh, how she envied her; what would she not have given
to be going too?
"What! are not you dressing, child?" said Lady
Jane, coming into the room. "Are they again obliged to call for Madame
de Bricabrac? I had looked up a pair of shoebuckles for you in case you
went; but keep them all the same, they only want a little rubbing up."
"Oh, thank you; how pretty they are; how kind you
are to me," said Ella, sadly. "I-I am not going." And she
gulped down a great sob.
It was just dreadful not to go; the poor child had had
a great draught of delight the day before, and she was aching and sickening
for more, and longing with a passion of longing which is only known to
very young people-she looked quite worn and pale, though she was struggling
with her tears.
"Rub up your shoebuckles will distract you,"
said the old lady, kindly. "They are worth a great deal of money,
though they are only paste; and if you peep in my room you will find a
little pair of slippers to wear them with. I hope they will fit. I could
hardly get any small enough for you." They were the loveliest little
white satin slippers, with satin heels, all embroidered with glass beads;
but small as they were, they were a little loose, only Ella took care
not to say so, as she tried them on.
We all know what is coming, though little Ella had no
idea of it. The ball was at Guildhall, one of the grandest and gayest
that ever was given in the city of London. It was in honour of the beautiful
young Princess, who had just landed on our shores. Princes, ambassadors,
nobles, stars, orders and garters, and decorations, were to be present;
all the grandest, gayest, richest, happiest people in the country, all
the most beautiful ladies and jewels and flowers, were to be there to
do homage to the peerless young bride. The Ashfords had no sooner started,
than Lady Jane, who had been very mysterious all day, and never told anyone
that she had been to the city to procure two enormous golden tickets which
were up in her bedroom, now came, smiling very benevolently, into the
drawing-room. Little Ella was standing out in the balcony with her pale
face and all her hair tumbling down her back. She had been too busy to
put it up, and now she was only thinking of the ball, and picturing the
dear little ugly disappointed face of Prince Richardson, when he should
look about everywhere for her in vain-while she was standing hopelessly
gazing after the receding carriage.
"Well my dear, have you rubbed up the shoebuckles?
That is right," said the old lady. "Now come quick into my room
and see some of my conjuring."
Conjuring! It was the most beautiful white net dress,
frothed and frothed up to the waist, and looped up with long grasses.
The conjuring was her own dear old pearl necklace with the diamond clasp
and a diamond star for her hair. It was a bunch of grasses and delicate
white azaleas for a headdress, and over all the froth a great veil of
flowing white net. The child opened her violet eyes, gasped, screamed,
and began dancing about the room like a mad thing, jumping, bounding,
clapping her hands, all so softly and gaily, and yet so lightly, in such
an ecstasy of delight, that Lady Jane felt she was more than rewarded.
"Ah! there she is at last!" cried Mr Richardson,
who was turning carefully round and round with the energetic Lisette.
"What do you mean?" said Lisette.
Can you fancy her amazement when she looked round and
saw Ella appearing in her snow and sunlight dress, looking so beautiful
that everybody turned to wonder at her, and to admire? As for Ella, she
saw no one, nothing; she was looking up and down, and right and left,
for the kind little pale plain face which she wanted.
"Excuse me one minute, Miss Lisette," said Mr
Richardson, leaving poor Lisette planted in the middle of the room, and
"Are you engaged," Ella heard a breathless voice
saying in her ear, "for the next three, six, twenty dances? I am
so delighted you have come! I thought you were never coming."
Julia had no partner at all, and was standing close by
the entrance with her mother. They were both astounded at the apparition.
Mrs Ashford came forward to make sure that her eyes were not deceiving
her. Could it be-? yes-no, it was Ella! She flicked her fan indignantly
into an alderman's eye, and looked so fierce, that the child began to
"Please forgive me, mamma," said Ella, piteously.
"Forgive you! never," said Mrs Ashford, indignant.
"What does all this mean, pray?" she continued. "Lady Jane,
I really must-" and then she stopped, partly because she was so angry
she could scarcely speak, and partly because she could not afford to quarrel
with Lady Jane until the season was over.
"You really must forgive me, dear Lydia," said
Lady Jane. "She wanted to come so much, I could not resist bringing
Weber's inspiring Last Waltz was being played; the people
and music went waving to and fro like the waves of the sea, sudden sharp
notes of exceeding sweetness sounded, and at the sound the figures all
swayed in harmony. The feet kept unseen measure to the music; the harmonious
rhythm thrilled and controlled them all. The music was like an enchantment,
which kept them moving and swaying in circles and in delightful subsection.
Lassitude, sadness, disappointment, Ella's alarm, all melted away for
the time; pulses beat, and the dancers seesawed to the measure.
All that evening young Richardson danced with Ella and
with no one else: they scarcely knew how the time went. It was a fairy
world: they were flying and swimming in melody-the fairy hours went by
to music, in light, in delightful companionship. Ella did not care for
Mrs Ashford's darkening looks, for anything that might happen: she was
so happy in the moment, she almost forgot to look for Lady Jane's sympathetic
"You must meet me in the ladies' cloak-room punctually
at half-past eleven," her patroness had whispered to her. "I
cannot keep Raton, with his had cough, out after twelve o'clock. Mind
you are punctual, for I have promised not to keep him waiting."
"Yes, yes, dear Lady Jane," said Ella, and away
she danced again to the music. And time went on, and Julia had no partners;
and Colonel Ashford came up to his wife, saying,-"I'm so glad you
arranged for Ella too," he said. "How nice she is looking! What
is the matter with Julia; why don't she dance?" Tumty, tumty, tumty,
went the instruments. And meanwhile Mr Richardson was saying,-"Your
dancing puts me in mind of a fairy I once saw in a field at Cliffe long
ago. Nobody would ever believe me, but I did see one."
"A fairy-what was she like?" asked Ella.
"She was very like you," said Mr Richardson,
laughing. "I do believe it was you, and that was the time when I
saw you before."
"No, it was not," said Ella, blushing, and feeling she ought
to confess. "I will tell you," she said, "if you will promise
to dance one more dance with me, after you know-Only one."
"Then you, too, remember," he cried, eagerly.
"One more dance?- twenty-for ever and ever. Ah, you must know, you
must guess the feeling in my heart .
"Listen first," said Ella, trembling very much
and waltzing on very slowly. "It was only the other day-" The
clock struck three-quarters.
"Ella, I am going," said Lady Jane, tapping
her on the shoulder. "Come along, my dear-"
"One word!" cried Richardson, eagerly.
"You can stay with your mother if you like,"
the old lady went on, preoccupied-she was thinking of her coachman's ire-"
but I advise you to come with mc."
"Oh, pray, pray stay!" said young Richardson;
"where is your mother? Let me go and ask her?"
"You had better go yourself, Ella," said old
Lady Jane. "Will you give me your arm to the door, Mr Richardson?"
Ella went up to Mrs Ashford-she was bold with happiness
to-night, and made her request. "Stay with me? certainly not, it
is quite out of the question. You do me great honour," said the lady,
laughing sarcastically. "Lady Jane brought you, Lady Jane must take
you back," said the stepmother. "Follow your chaperone if you
please, I have no room for you in my brougham. Go directly, Miss!"
said Mrs Ashford, so savagely that the poor child was quite frightened,
and set off running after the other two. She would have caught them up,
but at that instant Lisette-who had at last secured a partner-came waltzing
up in such a violent, angry way, that she bumped right up against the
little flying maiden and nearly knocked her down. Ella gave a low cry
of pain: they had trodden on her foot roughly --they had wounded her;
her little satin slipper had come off. Poor Ella stooped and tried to
pull at the slipper, but other couples came surging up, and she was alone,
and frightened, and obliged to shuffle a little way out of the crowd before
she could get it on. The poor little frightened thing thought she never
should get through the crowd. She made the best of her way to the cloak-room:
it seemed to her as if she had been hours getting there. At last she reached
it, only to see, to her dismay, as she went in at one door the other two
going out of another a long way off! She called, but they did not hear
her, and at the same moment St Paul's great clock began slowly to strike
twelve. "My cloak, my cloak, anything, please," she cried in
great agitation and anxiety; and a stupid, bewildered maid hastily threw
a shabby old shawl over her shoulders-it belonged to some assistant in
the place. Little Ella, more and more frightened, pulled it up as she
hurried along the blocked passages and corridors all lined with red and
thronged with people. They all stared at her in surprise as she flew along.
Presently her net tunic caught in a doorway and tore into a long ragged
shred which trailed after her. In her agitation her comb fell out of her
hair-she looked all scared and frightened- nobody would have recognized
the beautiful triumphal princess of half an hour before. She heard the
linkmen calling, "Peppercorne's carriage stops the way!" and
she hurried faster and faster down the endless passages and steps, and
at last, just as she got to the doorway-O horror! she saw the carriage
and outriders going gleaming off in the moonlight, while every thing else
looked black, dark, and terrible.
"Stop, stop, please stop!" cried little Ella,
rushing out into the street through the amazed footmen and linkmen. "Stop!
stop!" she cried, flying past Richardson himself, who could hardly
believe his eyes. Raton only whipped his horses, and Ella saw them disappearing
into gloom in the distance in a sort of agony of despair. She was excited
beyond measure, and exaggerated all her feelings. What was to he done?
Go back?-that was impossible; walk home?- she did not know her way. Was
it fancy?-was not somebody following her? She felt quite desperate in
the moonlight and darkness. At that instant it seemed to her like a fairy
chariot coming to her rescue, when a cabman, who was slowly passing, stopped
and said, "Cab, mum?"
"Yes! oh, yes! To Onslow Square," cried Ella,
jumping in and shutting the door in delight and relief. She drove off
just as the bewildered little Richardson, who had followed her, reached
the spot. He came up in time only to see the cab drive off, and to pick
up something which was lying shining on the pavement. It was one of the
diamond buckles which had fallen from her shoe as she jumped in. This
little diamond buckle might, perhaps, have led to her identification if
young Richardson had not taken the precaution of ascertaining from old
Lady Jane Ella's name and address.
He sent a servant next morning with a little parcel and
a note to inquire whether one of the ladies had lost what was enclosed,
and whether Colonel Ashford would see him at one o'clock on business.
"Dear me, what a pretty little buckle!" said
Lisette, trying it on her large flat foot. "It looks very nice, don't
it, Julia? I think I guess-don't you?-what he is coming for. I shall say
"It's too small for you. It would do better for me,"
said Julia, contemplating her own long slipper, embellished with the diamonds.
"It is not ours. We must send it back, I suppose."
"A shoebuckle?" said Ella, coming in from the
kitchen, where she had been superintending preserves in her little brown
frock. "Let me see it. Oh, how glad I am; it is mine. Look here!"
and she pulled the fellow out of her pocket. "Lady Jane gave them
And so the prince arrived before luncheon, and was closeted
with Colonel Ashford, who gladly gave his consent to what he wanted. And
when Mrs Ashford began to explain things to him, as was her way, he did
not listen to a single word she said. He was so absorbed wondering when
Ella was coming into the room. He thought once he heard a little rustle
on the stairs outside, and he jumped up and rushed to the door. It was
Ella, sure enough, in her shabby little gown. Then he knew where and when
he had seen her before.
"Ella, why did you run away from me last night?"
he said. "You see I have followed you after all."
They were so good, so happy, so devoted to one another,
that even Lisette and Julia relented. Dear little couple; good luck go
with them, happiness, content and plenty. There was something quite touching
in their youth, tenderness, and simplicity; and as they drove off in their
carriage for the honeymoon, Lady Jane flung the very identical satin slipper
after them which Ella should have lost at the ball.
Ritchie, Anne Isabella Thackeray. "Cinderella."
Five Old Friends and a Young Prince. London: Smith, Elder, 1868.