Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Women's Genre Fiction Project

Woman Against Woman, an electronic edition

by Florence Marryat [Marryat, Florence, 1837-1899]

date: [18--]
source publisher: Gall & Inglis
collection: Genre Fiction

Table of Contents

<< chapter 15 chapter 37 >>

Display page layout

CHAPTER XVI.
IN THE MARRIED QUARTERS.

WHEN Caroline Wilson left Mrs. Arundel, to return to the Aldershot Camp, she had a long walk before her, although the lodgings of that lady were on the outskirts of the town of Farnborough. But Mrs. Wilson was used to " roughing " it, and thought little of the daily exercise which she took in attending upon her mistress's children. She had accompanied her husband to India and several other foreign stations, and had lived with him in almost every barrack-town in England; and the soldier's wife who has had a little experience of | | 168 that sort need not be very particular afterwards. And, to say the truth, although this woman carried at times a foul tongue in her head for her neighbours, and was universally disliked wherever she went by the other inmates of the barracks, she was generally submissive enough to her husband, Sergeant Wilson, and made him a good, hard-working, and non-complaining wife. People said that Wilson (a mild enough man in general to women) must possess some mysterious influence by which he swayed and subdued such a known virago as the partner of his bosom; and they were right. Her husband was about the only creature on earth that Caroline really feared; and although she gave him occasionally what she termed "the rough side of her tongue," she invariably got the worst of the argument, and was bound over to keep the peace for some time afterwards. The secret of his power over her was this: Caroline Wilson had been born to better things than travelling on a baggage-wagon, or helping to wash clothes for the men of a regiment; and in her girlish days, when she was the eldest daughter of Mr. Greenaway, of the firm of Puddle, Greenaway, and Holt, silk mercers, of St. Paul's Churchyard, and waited behind the counter of her father's shop, in a black silk dress and innumerable ringlets, she would have scorned the idea of ever "taking up" with a private soldier; for be it known that private soldiers, in the class of life from which "young ladies " such as Caroline Greenaway spring, are much looked down upon by the fair sex, and considered very inferior, notwithstanding their inches, bearing, and constant association with their officers, to the so-called gentlemen who skip about mercers' shops, and serve out ribbons to customers, with radish fingers and chestnut nails. But Miss Caroline Greenaway's notions, like those of many of her sex, had to be brought lower before she could settle herself in marriage; still, it was a matter of supreme wonder to all the "young ladies" at Messrs. Puddle, Greenaway, and Holt's establishment, when, after a sojourn on her part in the country, it was formally announced to them, by Miss Caroline herself, that she was about to bestow her hand in matrimony upon a private soldier; and "Well, I never!" did good duty on those premises for many a succeeding hour. True, that Miss Caroline was no longer a young girl, eight-and-twenty | | 169 years having passed over her head, and thinned the abundant ringlets which she was wont to shake across the counter at the gentlemen customers. True, also, that she had had a disappointment (some gave it a harsher name) several years before, since which time she had been less assured and lively, sharper, and crosser-grained than she had been thitherto. But still, "a private!" "a common soldier!" the young women exclaimed, forgetting, as they did so, that privates and common soldiers are made of the same stuff, and, in many case, much better stuff, than either themselves or their progenitors. But then they wear clothing provided by Government, instead of black cloth coats and trousers, bought with their own money, and silk dresses and gold chains, procured-God knows how! And this is, after all, the crying sin for which their own class condemns them as unclean. However, their animadversions against the servants of the Queen had to be dropped altogether, or only given vent to in furtive whispers, by the hirelings of the establishment in question, after Caroline Greenaway had made up her mind to throw in her lot with one of the military, for she was resolute in her choice, and could hold her own with the best of them when so inclined. But the Greenaways felt the marriage to be a lowering of caste on their part, and although, for reasons best known to themselves, they consented so to dispose of their eldest daughter, and even hurried the preperations for the marriage, which took place very quietly in the country, they seldom alluded to the circumstance afterwards; and since that time Caroline Wilson had held very little communication with her own family. But if the employés f the linendraper's establishment had been astonished at a young woman, who had looked for something so much higher, bestowing her hand upon a private soldier, the bridegroom, Thomas Wilson himself was no less surprised at the condescension of the act. He had met Miss Greenaway at the house of a mutual friend in the country, and had it not been that she had greatly encouraged him, would never have ventured to make her a downright proposal of marriage. But, with her advances, he began to consider her qualification for the office she aspired to: she was older than himself, certainly, having had five or six years the start of him in life; but men in his station think that circumstance | | 170 rather an advantage than otherwise; then she was so very "genteel"—so much more so than ho had dared to hope for in a wife—it would be so pleasant to present Mrs. Wilson to the other women in his barracks, and feel that she was superior to them all. She was a clever woman, also, and Wilson being a sensible man, knew the advantages of a good understanding when brought to bear upon every-day matters; and at this period of her life, too, Caroline Greenaway, with her bright black eyes, fresh complexion, and trim figure, was anything but bad-looking. And so, Thomas Wilson being a steady, good soldier, and a credit to his regiment, easily procured the consent of his commanding-officer to such an undeniably correct match; and the banns were published without out loss of time, the ceremony completed, and he took home his bride to Chatham Barracks. But here, after a while, a change came over the comfort his married life promised to afford him. Mrs. Wilson had been introduced to the various members of the 3rd Royal Bays, pronounced "a very respectable-looking woman" by the officers, "a devilish fine figure" by the men, and "too much of a lady for us," by the women, and had settled down, apparently, with the greatest good-will to the new life surrounding her. But alas! for the peace of poor Wilson! There is a certain clause in our English Marriage Laws which is a warning to all would-be husbands to look before they leap—a clause by which, should they find, after the fatal deed is over, that their lady-wives have, previous to acquaintanceship with themselves, been frail as well as fair, and, instead of dropping them at the door of the Foundling Hospital, been sufficiently imprudent as to keep any little pledges they may possess of their former affection under their own control, they (the husbands) are bound down to support such little pledges as if they were their own (which is hard), and bound over to keep the peace as well towards their mothers, which is harder still. But then, the ordinance of matrimony is not one to be rushed into blindfold, and they who do so deserve to be taken in. Thomas Wilson had been so rash. He had known nothing of the former life of Miss Caroline Greenaway away when he first saw and wooed her (or suffered her to woo him) in that country visit; and he had married her | | 171 on her bare word that she was free to become the wife of an honest man. And when he found out, some three months afterwards, that a certain little girl was living in that very country place, who claimed his wife as mother, and had done so for the last five years, his fury knew no bounds. Caroline told him the tale, first with a great show of bravado, knowing his helplessness—afterwards, frightened at his rage, with many tears. The child's father was dead, and had been for some time past,—so far, so good; but Wilson never quite forgave his wife the scrape into which she had led him. He tried to keep the fact a secret from his fellow-comrades; but he always fancied that their wives and themselves knew it as well as he did. He was obliged to support the child, and, as he had none of his own, he felt it no burden except upon his heart. He refused to see her or to have her home, and the little girl had continued to remain where she had been brought up; but he scarcely ever forgot that she existed, or that he had been duped. The love which might have flourished between him and his wife was withered to the very root the day he heard that news, and never showed any signs of life afterwards. But, after all, Caroline was a good wife to him. She did everything that he required from her. She took the money he gave her for the child's support thankfully, and almost humbly. Her submission arose from two reasons. In the first place, she was thoroughly afraid of her husband; for, like all bullies, she was a coward, and his rage, when he discovered her treachery towards him, had been so great that she had never forgotten it; and in the second, she had loved, with all the vehemence of her nature, the father of her child. He had never cared for her (she knew that now); he had thoroughly deceived her; but he had been a gentleman by birth, and he was dead. The first circumstance kept alive her admiration for him—the second her pity; and where a woman both admires and pities, one need not look far for her love. She doted on the child for the sake of the young, gallant, dead father, and her little Martha was the only thing she cared for in the world. She had often wished since her marriage that she might have had another child, and then Wilson would have known What a parent's feelings were; but years passed away, and | | 172 still Martha's was the only voice to call her "mother." She heard it sometimes. Whilst in England, her husband would occasionally say to her when he got his pay, "Caroline, my girl, here's a pound for you. You can take a couple of days' holiday, and go and spend it." He never asked afterwards where she had been. He knew as well as if she had told him, that her two days were invariably spent in the little country place where he had first met her, and in the company of her child. In the meanwhile he was rising steadily from one grade to another, until three good-conduct stripes showed upon his arm, and he was promoted to be sergeant. Rachel mentioned to Cecil Craven, in the first part of this story, that Wilson was a pet of her father's, and Dr. Browne's opinion of the man was a universal one. He was the "pet" of the whole regiment, the "pattern" man, respected and indulged by his officers, and a general favourite amongst the men, who considered him one of the luckiest fellows going, to have a smart wife to accompany him everywhere, and neither chick nor child to bother him. But it was some fifteen years or more since Thomas Wilson had committed the folly of the marriage for which his friends envied him, and most of the men who had been in the 3rd then had died, exchanged, or been invalided, and Sergeant Wilson himself, being a hale and stalwart fellow, was about the only one who had been in the corps when that event took place. His wife, as I have said before, had accompanied him readily on every foreign service to which the regiment had been appointed, and he had promised her once (whilst she nursed him during an attack of cholera in Gibraltar) that he would let her have Martha home to live with her when they should next return to England. In the meanwhile the child had shot up into a woman, and been for the last three years apprenticed to the dressmaking trade in London, being, at the time that the 3rd Royal Bays reached Aldershot, about twenty years of age. She had never since her birth received any notice from the Greenaways; and this fact aggravated her mother to such an extent that she had stopped even the slight communication she had hitherto maintained with her family. Martha had been sent for from London on the arrival of the regiment in England, and installed in the Aldershot Barracks; and her putative father, finding that she was a very handsome, blooming young | | 173 woman, had sunk some of his prejudices against her, although his reception could scarcely have been termed cordial, and was very willing that she should take her mother's place in keeping his barrack-room comfortable, whilst the latter was away on service in Mrs. Arundel's family. This has been a long explanation, but it is necessary to the better understanding of the circumstances which led to the coming events of my story. As Caroline Wilson walked homewards from Farnborough on the evening in question, her heart beat quite fast at the anticipation of the meeting with her daughter. She had seen little of her during her lifetime, and then been afraid openly to show her affection; but now, for the first time, Martha seemed her own. The 3rd had not yet thoroughly settled down, and some of the regiment were placed anywhere until the head-quarters arrived. The Wilsons had one room allotted them, a large whitewashed room, in that part of the permanent barracks which was kept for the married men. It was nearly nine o'clock when Caroline Wilson arrived there. She went up the general staircase, and through the long passage, expecting on her arrival to find Martha putting the place tidy, and the sergeant himself enjoying his pipe after his evening meal. It had usually been so on her nightly return home during the short time they had been in England; but it was not so to-night. The room looked thoroughly untidy; the hearth was unswept, even the beds unmade, and the partition which screened off that of the girl's, and which was usually put up by that time in the evening, was still resting in its place against the wall. The sergeant himself, in his shirt and trousers, was sitting by the fireplace, smoking, with his elbows on his knees, looking thoroughly out of humour,—altogether the whole barrack was resounding with various tunes played upon various instruments, and noisy choruses, accompanied by much clapping of hands and laughter.

"Why, what's the matter, Wilson?" exclaimed his wife, as she caught sight of his forlorn figure. "Haven't you had your tea?"

"How am I to get my tea, I should like to know," he replied, roughly, "when there ain't a woman about the place as belongs to me?"

"Why, where's Martha?" inquired Mrs. Wilson, as she | | 174 disencumbered herself of her bonnet and shawl, and hung them up against the wall.

"The devil knows," replied her husband. "I've never set eyes on her since eleven o'clock this morning."

"Mercy on us," ejaculated Mrs. Wilson, "haven't you asked any one about the barracks for tidings of her?"

"Not I," he rejoined, sulkily; "she's none of mine."

This last observation nettled Mrs. Wilson.

"Well, you needn't let the whole barrack know it," she replied angrily, as she left the room to make inquiries of the other women about her girl.

But Martha was with none of them, nor had she been, and not a few heads were tossed as her mother asked the neighbours of her whereabouts; for "Miss Wilson" was a great deal too pretty for her propinquity to please the matrons of the 3rd Royal Bays, whose husbands had already expressed their admiration of the new-comer's charms more freely than they liked. Only little Mrs. Tomkins, whose marriage had taken place two days before, and who as yet feared no rival, was found willing to afford the necessary information. She had seen Martha Wilson, she said, as she stood blushing at her open door, at about ten o'clock that morning, when the orderly brought round the letters; for the girl had received one, and when she read it, had asked Mrs. Tomkins to tell her father, when he came in from drill, that she was going out, and should not be back until the evening. "But I didn't see her go," was the finale of Mrs. Tomkins's speech, "and I suppose that drove it clean out of my head, for I never thought to mention it to the sergeant till now. I hope it ain't of any consequence;" and with this apology for her forgetfulness, withdrew again to the company of the enamoured Tomkins.

Mrs. Wilson returned to her own room rather vexed at the thoughtlessness of her daughter, and rather fearful of the remarks of her husband, but still quite prepared to take the part of the former against the latter.

"Girls will be girls!" she remarked with assumed carelessness, as she re-entered the presence of her lord. "Mrs. Tomkins says she thinks Martha went out for a walk this morning; but what's kept her till now I can't think. I only hope it isn't an accident."

| | 175

"Accident!" growled the sergeant; "I wonder what accident is likely to befall a hearty lass like that? but I ain't going to keep her here for nothing, and so I shall tell her when next we meet. I've been alone all day;" and he attacked his pipe again with savage energy. Mrs. Wilson wisely made him, for the present, no answer, but directed her attention to setting out the tea-table, making the kettle boil, and putting the room in order for the night. She was quite ready to defend her daughter, but she was mortally afraid of making the sergeant's anger against her worse if she tried to find excuses for her absence. The stone staircase which led to the soldiers' dormitories was so frequently traversed, that one footstep upon it was not discernible from another; and, consequently, in about a quarter of an hour more, the object of their discussion, Martha herself, stood in the doorway, regarding them before they had become aware of her approach. She was, without doubt, a very handsome girl, straight as a young poplar, with a well-defined figure—a brilliant complexion, and dark eyes and hair; the only feature which deteriorated from the beauty of her face being her mouth, which was large and coarse, with full, red lips. But with all her good looks, there was still overshadowing the countenance of Martha Wilson (as she was called) the same expression of vindictiveness which characterized that of her mother, with this point of redemption only, that she did not appear sly. Bad-tempered and passionate she certainly was; vindictive and revengeful she might be; but there were no signs of craftiness in that voluptuous mouth, nor in the full, wide-open eyes which surmounted it. The girl was dressed fashionably for her station in life, and rather showily—as milliners' apprentices love to appear—apeing the costumes, by the making of which they gain their bread. Her little black-net bonnet was set far off her head, whilst a cheap scarlet rose showed on one side of her blooming cheeks; her shawl was half falling off her shoulders and light-flowered muslin dress, exposing well to view the proportions of her ample bust, and not too delicately-shaped waist. She did not appear in the least abashed as she stood in the open door-way, and surveyed the sergeant and his wife; on the contrary, she seemed in a very good-humoured mood, for she | | 176 smiled readily as she caught her mother's eye, displaying all her large white teeth in the action.

"Well, mother!" she exclaimed; "how are you?"

"Lor, Martha!" said Caroline Wilson, starting as the girl addressed her; "how late you are, my dear! Where have you been to?"

But before Martha could answer the question, the sergeant caught up her theme.

"How are you?" he said, mimicking her salutation; "is that all you've got to say to your mother when you've absented yourself from duty for a whole day without leave. Ain't you ashamed of yourself to see her a setting out that tea-table, and to know that it hasn't been set out till this hour, when you ought to have been here to do it at five o'clock? If you ain't ashamed you ought to be."

For though Wilson was used to dine at the sergeants' mess with the rest of the non-commissioned officers, he was always sorely put out if his old woman had not a cup of tea ready for him afterwards, at the hour that he loved to take it.

All the good-humour vanished from Martha's face as the above remarks reached her ear; her lips pouted, and her eyes (so like her mother's when she was angry) grew dark and sullen.

"No, I ain't," she said, decisively, as she threw her bonnet and shawl upon the bed; "it's mother's business to do it, not mine. I didn't know I had been brought here to be a slave to anybody."

"And I am sure nobody wants you to be so, Martha," interposed her mother, with a view to domestic peace. "Come, sit down, and have your tea."

"That she shan't!" ejaculated the sergeant, rising in his anger, pipe in hand, and advancing towards the tea-table; "that gal don't sit down and take crust of mine till she has asked your pardon for giving you the trouble of laying it, and mine, for stopping out all this time without leave. I'll have no gals running off from this room and amusing themselves—God knows how—for the whole of a summer's day. Now, Miss Martha, you know what you've got to do, and the best thing you can do, is to do it."

Fire was flashing from beneath the girl's lowered brows; | | 177 and her return look at the sergeant was one of unmitigated defiance.

"And that I wont," she replied, with a toss of her angry head. "I've never asked pardon of any one yet, as I can remember, and I ain't going to begin with you, I can tell you." And she looked as if she meant what she said.

"Caroline," said the sergeant, almost trembling with his rage, "there's your daughter, and if you don't wish to see me put her out of this room to-night with these two hands, you'd better bring her to reason. I've borne a good deal from you at times, but——" (and here a good round oath slipped out of the enraged man's mouth) "if I'm going to bear it again from any one, let alone such as her."

Caroline Wilson saw that something serious would happen if she did not interfere, and therefore she attempted to coax her daughter into a semblance of submission, by saying—

"Come, Martha, my girl, just tell your father as you're sorry, and wont do it again, and that will set us all right in a couple of words."

But here Sergeant Wilson again interposed.

"Her father! I'm no father of hers! Don't go sticking any lies of that sort down that gal's throat, Caroline, or as sure as there's a heaven above us, I'll let the whole barrack know what she and her mother is."

But Mrs. Wilson was to be cowed no longer.

"I know you ain't," she retorted; "her father was a better man than you any day. He was none of your low sort who find fault for nothing at all, and then threaten to turn helpless women from their doors when they don't mean it."

"Don't I mean it, by——!" returned the sergeant. "Caroline, will that gal of yours say where she's bin the whole of this day, and ask pardon for the trouble she's given, or not?"

The "gal," whom it did not appear worth while to take into this discussion, had until now stood a little apart, returning the glances, which were alternately directed to her by the sergeant and his wife, with a haughty, impudent look, as if she would show how little she cared about their quarrel or themselves. But this time she chose to give her own answer.

"No, I wont," she said, defiantly; "I wont say where I've | | 178 been or why; nor I wont ask your pardon, neither. I'm not a slave, nor a blackamoor, and there's plenty as I could go to this night as would be glad to see me, and keep me better than you will ever do."

"Then go to them," shouted the sergeant; "for you shan't stop here and give a loose to your tongue whenever you please; I've had enough of that from your mother."

But at this point Mrs. Wilson was thoroughly alarmed.

"You wouldn't leave your mother, Martha, would you?" she said; "when it isn't more than ten days since we've met each other; and I have longed for this time for years." Something in her mother's voice touched the girl's nature, and she replied, more quietly, though not less sullenly—

"Well, it isn't my fault, mother, anyway; it's the fault of that man there. I've got friends in London—where you left me to be brought up—as I care for; and if I can't go and see 'em when and how I choose—without questions being asked, and pardons being given every time—why I'd rather go back to my dressmaking at once, for this isn't the sort of life to suit me."

"If you think," said Sergeant Wilson, deigning again to address Martha herself, "that I'll have a gal under my care—be she mine or not—running up and down to London—or any other place—just when she chooses, and carrying on any sort of game she likes, you're very much mistaken. If you lives in these barracks along with your mother and self (which I'm sorry I ever gave her leave to bring you home) you shan't go to disgrace the regiment to which we belong. If you've got respectable friends in London, well and good; when it's convenient, your mother or I will take you up there for to see 'em; but you don't go alone again, so don't think it; and you don't leave this room either without giving us notice that you are going out, and why: for you come of a bad stock," he added, as a final pleasantry, "and I doubt you're no more to be trusted than your mother was before you."

It was the second time the subject had been mentioned that evening; and the girl, although low bred and born, had some feelings in her akin to those of others. She turned rather pale now as she twisted round her figure so as to confront her mother's gaze.

| | 179

"Mother," she said, "is that truth or not? Ain't this man my father?"

The wretched woman had hoped to keep her shameful secret from her daughter, but she saw no help now but to confess the truth to her.

"No, he's not, Martha," she replied, with a show of bravado. "It's just as well you should know it as not. This man's my husband, bad luck to him; but we haven't been married more than fifteen years. Your father was a gentleman, my girl, born and bred. You might have known you didn't come from such blood as common soldiers are made of."

"So he ain't my father," repeated Martha, as if the surprise of the discovery had for the moment quite subdued her. "I'm glad you've told me, mother, for I couldn't have felt to him as one, anyway."

"Couldn't have felt to me as one? you young hussy," returned the sergeant. "I wouldn't own such as you for my daughter. Get out of my room, will you, and your mother may go after you, if she chooses. I'll stand this sort of thing no longer, and that I tell you."

"Wilson, you're not in earnest?" screamed the mother. "I've been very hasty, Wilson, I know I have, and said a lot of things that I shouldn't have said, but you drove me to it. You wouldn't really turn a girl like this out of your room, and at night, too? It's dark, Wilson; think of that." In her agony for her daughter, and the fear of losing her, Caroline Wilson forgot her own rage, and would have humbled herself in the dust before her husband. But the girl herself prevented it.

"'Tain't of no use, mother," she said, "for I wouldn't stay here for a thousand pounds. I ain't none of his, and now I knows it I wont be beholden to him for a crust of bread I can get my own living, never fear;" and she commenced to reassume her bonnet and shawl as she spoke.

"Martha, my dear, listen to me," urged her mother. "Wilson, you'll never let her go, a young thing like that, and not a roof to turn to. Wilson, you're a man; keep her by us till to-morrow morning."

"Caroline," said the sergeant, solemnly; "if your daughter will do now what I've asked of her before—beg my pardon | | 180 for her fault, and say she wont repeat it, I'll be ready to look it over, and keep her here, not only till to-morrow morning, but as long as she chooses to stay along of us. But I've passed my word, and it can't be arranged otherwise."

"Martha, my dear," said the mother, turning to the girl herself, "do as he asks you; it is only a word, my dear, and everything will be right and comfortable between us again."

"I don't want nothing to be right nor comfortable," responded the girl, still making arrangements for her departure. "As I've said before, I ain't a black, and I shan't ask that man's pardon, nor any one's."

"Then go to the devil with you!" exclaimed the sergeant, fairly roused and indignant at the girl's insolence.

"Not I," she shouted, throwing back a parting word at him, "for fear of meeting you there." She flounced down the barrack stairs as she spoke, but before she had reached the bottom step, her mother, with her walking-things hastily thrown about her, was by her side.

"Martha, dear, where are you going to?" she said, as she joined her daughter.

"Heaven knows and cares," she said, "for I don't."

A shudder ran through Caroline Wilson's frame as she heard the reckless words, and remembered what recklessness had ended in for her own blighted youth. As they passed out of the barrack gate, the bugle sounded "All lights out." The large camp was suddenly wrapt in darkness, and ten strokes pealed out from some clock near at hand.

"I shan't get back into camp to-night," said Caroline Wilson, as she heard the sound, "and so I shall go into Farnborough with you, my girl, and get Mrs. Bennett" (Mrs. Bennett being the landlady of Mrs. Arundel's lodgings) "to put us up till the morning."

When the two women had, after dint of a good deal of perseverance, roused the sleepy servant-girl at the lodgings aforesaid, and upon relating a piteous tale of their being shut out of barracks by mistake, gained her mistress's consent to their passing the remainder of the night upon her kitchen floor, the mother had time to give over the vituperative abuse of her husband, which she had kept up all the way from Aldershot to Farnborough, and consider seriously with her | | 181 daughter what was to be done for her in the future. Martha had said she would return to the dressmaking trade, but there were difficulties in the way of that plan, for the time of her apprenticeship was up, and as an assistant she would have to board out of the establishment, which project required more ready money than her mother could at present command, for of course assistance from the sergeant was not now to be depended on.

"Would you mind service, Martha?" inquired her mother, presently; and Martha said—no, she shouldn't, not if it was a good place, and she could get a holiday now and then.

"Mrs. Arundel wants me to go and live with her at Weybridge," said Mrs. Wilson, "and I refused on your account; but if you fancy it, Martha, and I could get you into a house like the Court, now, which is close to Laburnum Cottage, or whatever they call the place, I could see after you a bit, and know that you weren't put upon in any way, and were happy, and so on; for I haven't got anything but you, my dear, to care for, and to think about."

Her daughter was quite agreeable to the plan. She wouldn't mind trying service, or anything, so long as she wasn't asked to go back to the barracks, for she wouldn't do that, " not for ever so;" she'd starve first.

And so it was arranged between them, before the morning, that Mrs. Wilson should accept Mrs. Arundel's offers of further service, by which means she would continue to have a little money of her own, and be able to see her daughter, and benefit her. And to this plan Caroline knew the sergeant would not be likely to raise any objection, for he was only too glad when he could get her tongue out of his quarters and his pay to himself. The only stipulation he ever made when she expressed a desire to leave him for service, was that she should support herself. "For as I have to pay a woman to do your work," he used to say, "you must see, Caroline, that that is only fair."

But during the vigil held by the two women in that dark little kitchen, Caroline ventured once to put a question to her daughter relative to the subject of the evening's quarrel.

"You'll tell me, Martha, deary," she said, "me, who am your own mother, what took you to London to-day, and kept | | 182 you there, wont you? Was it anything to do with the letter that Mrs. Tomkins said she saw you receive this morning?"

But Martha wasn't to be cajoled out of her secret, even by her own mother.

"That's my business," she said, in reply; "and mother, if you don't want to quarrel with me, as that man in the barracks did, I think you'll hold your tongue on the subject, and not bother me with any more questions. For I ain't a sieve; and when I choose to keep a thing to myself, I keeps it."

<< chapter 15 chapter 37 >>