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The Queen of Hearts

Brother Griffith's Story Of A Plot In Private Life
CHAPTER I.
THE first place I got when I began going out to service was not a very profitable one. I
certainly gained the advantage of learning my business thoroughly, but I never had my
due in the matter of wages. My master was made a bankrupt, and his servants suffered
with the rest of his creditors
My second situation, however, amply compensated me for my want of luck in the first. I
had the good fortune to enter the service of Mr. and Mrs. Norcross. My master was a very
rich gentleman. He had the Darrock house and lands in Cumberland, an estate also in
Yorkshire, and a very large property in Jamaica, which produced, at that time and for
some years afterward, a great income. Out in the West Indies he met with a pretty young
lady, a governess in an English family, and, taking a violent fancy to her, married her,
though she was a good five-and-twenty years younger than himself. After the wedding
they came to England, and it was at this time that I was lucky enough to be engaged by
them as a servant.
I lived with my new master and mistress three years. They had no children. At the end of
that period Mr. Norcross died. He was sharp enough to foresee that his young widow
would marry again, and he bequeathed his property so that it all went to Mrs. Norcross
first, and then to any children she might have by a second marriage, and, failing that, to
relations and friends of his own. I did not suffer by my master's death, for his widow kept
me in her service. I had attended on Mr. Norcross all through his last illness, and had
made myself useful enough to win my mistress's favor and gratitude. Besides me she also
retained her maid in her service--a quadroon woman named Josephine, whom she
brought with her from the West Indies. Even at that time I disliked the half-breed's
wheedling manners, and her cruel, tawny face, and wondered how my mistress could be
so fond of her as she was. Time showed that I was right in distrusting this woman. I shall
have much more to say about her when I get further advanced with my story.
Meanwhile I have next to relate that my mistress broke up the rest of her establishment,
and, taking me and the lady's maid with her, went to travel on the Continent.
Among other wonderful places we visited Paris, Genoa, Venice, Florence, Rome, and
Naples, staying in some of those cities for months together. The fame of my mistress's
riches followed her wherever she went; and there were plenty of gentlemen, foreigners as
well as Englishmen, who were anxious enough to get into her good graces and to prevail
on her to marry them. Nobody succeeded, however, in producing any very strong or
lasting impression on her; and when we came back to England, after more than two years
of absence, Mrs. Norcross was still a widow, and showed no signs of wanting to change
her condition.
 
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