Sir Jasper was always the best of masters to me and to all of us; and he had that kind of way with him, masterful and gentle at the same time, like as if he was kind to you for his own pleasure, and ordering you about for your own good, that I believe any of us would have cut our hand off at the wrist if he had told us to.
Lady Breynton had been dead this many a year. She hadn’t come to her husband with her hands empty. They say that Sir Jasper had been very wild in his youth, and that my Lady’s money had come in very handy to pull the old place together again. She worshipped the ground Sir Jasper walked on, as most women did that he ever said a kind word to. But it never seemed to me that he took to her as much as you might have expected a warm-hearted gentleman like him to do. But he took to her baby wonderful. I was nurse to that baby from the first, and a fine handsome little chap he was, and when my Lady died he was wholly given over to my care. And I loved the child; indeed, I did love him, and should have loved him to the end but for one thing, and that comes in its own place in my story. But even those who loved young Jasper best couldn’t help seeing he hadn’t his father’s winning ways. And when he grew up to man’s estate, he was as wild as his father had been before him. But his wild ways were the ways that make young men enemies, not friends, and out of all that came to the house, for the hunting, or the shooting, or what not, I used to think there wasn’t one would have held out a hand to my young master if he had been in want of it. And yet I loved him because I had brought him up, and I never had a child of my own. I never wished to be married, but I used to wish that little Jasper had been my own child. I could have had an authority over him then that I hadn’t as his nurse, and perhaps it might have all turned out differently.
There were many tales about Sir Jasper, but I didn’t think it was my place to listen to them.
Only, when it’s your own eyes, it’s different, and I couldn’t help seeing how like young Robert, the under-gamekeeper, was to the Family. He had their black, curly hair, and merry Irish eyes, and he, if you please, had just Sir Jasper’s winning ways.
Why he was taken on as gamekeeper no one could make out, for when he first came up to the Hall to ask the master for a job, they tell me he knew no more of gamekeeping than I do of Latin. Young Robert was a steady chap, and used to read and write of an evening instead of spending a jolly hour or two at the Dove and Branch, as most young fellows do, and as, indeed, my young master did too often. And Sir Jasper, he gave him books without end and good advice, and would have him so often about him he set everybody’s tongue wagging to a tune more merry than wise. And young Robert loved the master, of course. Who didn’t?
Well, there came a day when the Lord above saw fit to put out the sunshine like as if it had been a bedroom candle; for Sir Jasper, he was brought back from the hunting-field with his back broke.