Your own, ever and ever, and always,
I shall try and get this given to you as you leave the theatre. If it should fall into other hands, I don’t much care. I’m not in the least ashamed of what I am doing; and I hope that you are not.’
THE DELIVERY OF THE LAMB
It is hoped that a certain quarter of lamb will not have been forgotten— a quarter of lamb that was sent as a peace-offering from Exeter to Nuncombe Putney by the hands of Miss Stanbury’s Martha, not with purposes of corruption, not intended to buy back the allegiance of Dorothy, folded delicately and temptingly in one of the best table napkins, with no idea of bribery, but sent as presents used to be sent of old in the trains of great ambassadors as signs of friendship and marks of true respect. Miss Stanbury was, no doubt, most anxious that her niece should return to her, but was not, herself, low spirited enough to conceive that a quarter of lamb could be efficacious in procuring such return. If it might be that Dorothy’s heart could be touched by mention of the weariness of her aunt’s solitary life; and if, therefore, she would return, it would be very well; but it could not be well unless the offer should come from Dorothy herself. All of which Martha had been made to understand by her mistress, considerable ingenuity having been exercised in the matter on each side.
On her arrival at Lessboro’, Martha had hired a fly, and been driven out to Nuncombe Putney; but she felt, she knew not why, a dislike to be taken in her carriage to the door of the cottage; and was put down in the middle of the village, from whence she walked out to Mrs Stanbury’s abode, with the basket upon her arm. It was a good half mile, and the lamb was heavy, for Miss Stanbury had suggested that a bottle of sherry should be put in under the napkin and Martha was becoming tired of her burden, when whom should she see on the road before her but Brooke Burgess! As she said herself afterwards, it immediately occurred to her, ‘that all the fat was in the fire.’ Here had this young man come down, passing through Exeter without even a visit to Miss Stanbury, and had clandestinely sought out the young woman whom he wasn’t to marry; and here was the young woman herself flying in her aunt’s face, when one scratch of a pen might ruin them both! Martha entertained a sacred, awful, overcoming feeling about her mistress’s will. That she was to have something herself she supposed, and her anxiety was not on that score; but she had heard so much about it, had realised so fully the great power which Miss Stanbury possessed, and had had her own feelings so rudely invaded by alterations in Miss Stanbury’s plans, that she had come to entertain an idea that all persons around her should continually bear that will in their memory. Hugh had undoubtedly been her favourite, and, could