She was one of those good women whom Nature provides to receive the burden of other people’s secrets, as the reeds did long ago, only that no chance wind could steal them away, and send them singing into strange ears.
You may still see her snuggery in Mardykes Hall, though the housekeeper’s room is now in a different part of the house.
Mrs. Julaper’s room was in the oldest quarter of that old house. It was wainscoted, in black panels, up to the ceiling, which was stuccoed over in the fanciful diagrams of James the First’s time. Several dingy portraits, banished from time to time from other statelier rooms, found a temporary abode in this quiet spot, where they had come finally to settle and drop out of remembrance. There is a lady in white satin and a ruff; a gentleman whose legs have faded out of view, with a peaked beard, and a hawk on his wrist. There is another in a black periwig lost in the dark background, and with a steel cuirass, the gleam of which out of the darkness strikes the eye, and a scarf is dimly discoverable across it. This is that foolish Sir Guy Mardykes, who crossed the Border and joined Dundee, and was shot through the temple at Killiecrankie and whom more prudent and whiggish scions of the Mardykes family removed forthwith from his place in the Hall, and found a retirement here, from which he has not since emerged.
At the far end of this snug room is a second door, on opening which you find yourself looking down upon the great kitchen, with a little balcony before you, from which the housekeeper used to issue her commands to the cook, and exercise a sovereign supervision.
There is a shelf on which Mrs Julaper had her Bible, her Whole Duty of Man, and her Pilgrim’s Progress; and, in a file beside them, her books of housewifery, and among them volumes of MS. recipes, cookery-books, and some too on surgery and medicine, as practised by the Ladies Bountiful of the Elizabethan age, for which an antiquarian would nowadays give an eye or a hand.
Gentle half-foolish Philip Feltram would tell the story of his wrongs, and weep and wish he was dead; and kind Mrs. Julaper, who remembered him a child, would comfort him with cold pie and cherry-brandy, or a cup of coffee, or some little dainty.
“O, ma’am, I’m tired of my life. What’s the good of living, if a poor devil is never let alone, and called worse names than a dog? Would not it be better, Mrs. Julaper, to be dead? Wouldn’t it be better, ma’am? I think so; I think it night and day. I’m always thinking the same thing. I don’t care, I’ll just tell him what I think, and have it off my mind. I’ll tell him I can’t live and bear it longer.”
“There now, don’t you be frettin’; but just sip this, and remember you’re not to judge a friend by a wry word. He does not mean it, not he. They all had a rough side to their tongue now and again; but no one minded that. I don’t, nor you needn’t, no more than other folk; for the tongue, be it never so bitin’, it can’t draw blood, mind ye, and hard words break no bones; and I’ll make a cup o’ tea—ye like a cup o’ tea—and we’ll take a cup together, and ye’ll chirp up a bit, and see how pleasant and ruddy the sun shines on the lake this evening.”