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´╗┐Title: Scenes of Clerical Life
Author: Eliot, George, 1819-1880
Language: English
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GEORGE ELIOT

Scenes of Clerical Life



INTRODUCTION BY GRACE RHYS



DENT London

EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY

All rights reserved

Printed in Great Britain

This edition was first published in Everyman's Library in 1910



INTRODUCTION


George Eliot, or Mary Ann Evans, was born at Arbury Farm, in the parish
of Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, on the 22nd of November, 1819. She was
the fifth and last child of her father by his second wife--of that father
whose sound sense and integrity she so keenly appreciated, and who was to
a certain extent the original of her famous characters of Adam Bede and
Caleb Garth.

Both during and after her schooldays George Eliot's history was that of a
mind continually out-growing its conditions. She became an excellent
housewife and a devoted daughter, but her nature was too large for so
cramped a life. 'You may try,' she writes in Daniel Deronda, 'but you can
never imagine what it is to have a man's force of genius in you, and to
suffer the slavery of being a girl.'

While her powers were growing she necessarily passed through many phases.
She became deeply religious, and wrote poetry, pious and sweet, fair of
its kind. Music was a passion with her; in a characteristic letter
written at the age of twenty to a friend she tries but fails to describe
her experience on hearing the 'Messiah' of Birmingham: 'With a stupid,
warm stove, I cannot do better than ask you to read, if accessible,
Wordsworth's short poem on the "Power of Sound."' There you have a
concise history of George Eliot's life at this period, divided as it was
between music, literature, and damson cheese.

Sixteen years of mental work and effort then lay between her and her
first achievement; years during which she read industriously and thought
more than she read. The classics, French, German, and Italian literature,
she laid them all under contribution. She had besides the art of
fortunate friendship: her mind naturally chose out the greater
intelligences among those she encountered; it was through a warm and
enduring friendship with Herbert Spencer that she met at last with George
Henry Lewes whose wife she became.

In this way she served no trifling apprenticeship. Natural genius,
experience of life, culture, and great companionship had joined to make
her what she was, a philosopher both natural and developed; and, what is
more rare, a philosopher with a sense of humour and a perception of the
dramatic. Thus when her chance came she was fully equipped to meet it.

It came when, at the age of thirty-six she began to write 'Amos Barton,'
her first attempt at fiction, and one that fixed her career. The story
appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine,' and was followed by 'Mr. Gilfil's
Love Story' and 'Janet's Repentance.' Of the three, 'Mr. Gilfil's Love
Story' is perhaps the most finished and artistic; while 'Amos Barton' has
qualities of humour and tenderness that have not often been equalled.
'Janet's Repentance,' strong though it is, and containing the remarkable
sketch of Mr. Tryan, is perhaps less surely attractive.

The stories, all three of them, have a particular value as records of an
English country life that is rapidly passing away. Moreover, it is
country life seen through the medium of a powerful and right-judging
personality. It is her intimate and thorough knowledge of big things and
small, of literature and damson cheese, enabling her and us to see all
round her characters, that provides these characters with their ample
background of light and shade.

It is well to realise that since George Eliot's day the fashion of
writing, the temper of the modern mind, are quite changed; it is a
curious fact that the more sophisticated we become the simpler grows our
speech. Nowadays we talk as nearly as we may in words of one syllable.
Our style is stripped more and more of its Latinity. Our writers are more
and more in love with French methods--with the delicate clearness of
short phrases in which every word tells; with the rejection of all
intellectual ambulations round about a subject. To the fanatics of this
modern method the style of George Eliot appears strange, impossible. It
does not occur to them that her method has virtues which lack to theirs.
They may give us a little laboured masterpiece of art in which the vital
principle is wanting. George Eliot was great because she gave us passages
from life as it was lived in her day which will be vital so long as they
are sympathetically read.

George Eliot can be simple enough when she goes straight forward with her
narrative, as, for instance, in the scene of Milly Barton's death; then
her English is clear and sweet for she writes from the heart. But take
the opening chapter of the same story, and then you find her
philosophical Latinity in full swing: the curious and interesting thing
being that this otherwise ponderous work, which is quite of a sort to
alarm a Frenchman, is entirely suffused by humour, and enshrines moreover
the most charming character studies.

These lively and acute portraits drawn from English country life give its
abiding value to George Eliot's work. Take the character of Mr. Pilgrim
the doctor who 'is never so comfortable as when relaxing his professional
legs in one of those excellent farmhouses where the mice are sleek and
the mistress sickly;' or of Mrs. Hackit, 'a thin woman with a chronic
liver complaint which would have secured her Mr. Pilgrim's entire regard
and unreserved good word, even if he had not been in awe of her tongue.'

Or take Mrs. Patten, 'a pretty little old woman of eighty, with a close
cap and tiny flat white curls round her face,' whose function is
'quiescence in an easy-chair under the sense of compound interest
gradually accumulating,' and who 'does her malevolence gently;' or Mr.
Hackit, a shrewd, substantial man, 'who was fond of soothing the
acerbities of the feminine mind by a jocose compliment.' Where but in
George Eliot would you get a tea-party described with such charming
acceptance of whim?

George Eliot wrote poems at various times which showed she never could
have won fame as a poet; but there are moments of her prose that prove
she shared at times the poet's vision. Such a moment is that when the
half broken-hearted little Catarina looks out on a windy night landscape
lit by moonlight: 'The trees are harassed by that tossing motion when
they would like to be at rest; the shivering grass makes her quake with
sympathetic cold; the willows by the pool, _bent low and white under that
invisible harshness_, seem agitated and helpless like herself.' The
italicised sentence represents the high-water mark of George Eliot's
prose; that passage alone should vindicate her imaginative power.

G. R.



                              CONTENTS

                  The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton

                  Mr. Gilfil's Love Story

                  Janet's Repentance



SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE



THE SAD FORTUNES OF THE REV. AMOS BARTON



Chapter 1


Shepperton Church was a very different-looking building five-and-twenty
years ago. To be sure, its substantial stone tower looks at you through
its intelligent eye, the clock, with the friendly expression of former
days; but in everything else what changes! Now there is a wide span of
slated roof flanking the old steeple; the windows are tall and
symmetrical; the outer doors are resplendent with oak-graining, the inner
doors reverentially noiseless with a garment of red baize; and the walls,
you are convinced, no lichen will ever again effect a settlement on--they
are smooth and innutrient as the summit of the Rev. Amos Barton's head,
after ten years of baldness and supererogatory soap. Pass through the
baize doors and you will see the nave filled with well-shaped benches,
understood to be free seats; while in certain eligible corners, less
directly under the fire of the clergyman's eye, there are pews reserved
for the Shepperton gentility. Ample galleries are supported on iron
pillars, and in one of them stands the crowning glory, the very clasp or
aigrette of Shepperton church-adornment--namely, an organ, not very much
out of repair, on which a collector of small rents, differentiated by the
force of circumstances into an organist, will accompany the alacrity of
your departure after the blessing, by a sacred minuet or an easy
'Gloria'.

Immense improvement! says the well-regulated mind, which unintermittingly
rejoices in the New Police, the Tithe Commutation Act, the penny-post,
and all guarantees of human advancement, and has no moments when
conservative-reforming intellect takes a nap, while imagination does a
little Toryism by the sly, revelling in regret that dear, old, brown,
crumbling, picturesque inefficiency is everywhere giving place to
spick-and-span new-painted, new-varnished efficiency, which will yield
endless diagrams, plans, elevations, and sections, but alas! no picture.
Mine, I fear, is not a well-regulated mind: it has an occasional
tenderness for old abuses; it lingers with a certain fondness over the
days of nasal clerks and top-booted parsons, and has a sigh for the
departed shades of vulgar errors. So it is not surprising that I recall
with a fond sadness Shepperton Church as it was in the old days, with its
outer coat of rough stucco, its red-tiled roof, its heterogeneous windows
patched with desultory bits of painted glass, and its little flight of
steps with their wooden rail running up the outer wall, and leading to
the school-children's gallery.

Then inside, what dear old quaintnesses! which I began to look at with
delight, even when I was so crude a members of the congregation, that my
nurse found it necessary to provide for the reinforcement of my
devotional patience by smuggling bread-and-butter into the sacred
edifice. There was the chancel, guarded by two little cherubims looking
uncomfortably squeezed between arch and wall, and adorned with the
escutcheons of the Oldinport family, which showed me inexhaustible
possibilities of meaning in their blood-red hands, their death's-heads
and cross-bones, their leopards' paws, and Maltese crosses. There were
inscriptions on the panels of the singing-gallery, telling of
benefactions to the poor of Shepperton, with an involuted elegance of
capitals and final flourishes, which my alphabetic erudition traced with
ever-new delight. No benches in those days; but huge roomy pews, round
which devout church-goers sat during 'lessons', trying to look anywhere
else than into each other's eyes. No low partitions allowing you, with a
dreary absence of contrast and mystery, to see everything at all moments;
but tall dark panels, under whose shadow I sank with a sense of
retirement through the Litany, only to feel with more intensity my burst
into the conspicuousness of public life when I was made to stand up on
the seat during the psalms or the singing. And the singing was no
mechanical affair of official routine; it had a drama. As the moment of
psalmody approached, by some process to me as mysterious and untraceable
as the opening of the flowers or the breaking-out of the stars, a slate
appeared in front of the gallery, advertising in bold characters the
psalm about to be sung, lest the sonorous announcement of the clerk
should still leave the bucolic mind in doubt on that head. Then followed
the migration of the clerk to the gallery, where, in company with a
bassoon, two key-bugles, a carpenter understood to have an amazing power
of singing 'counter', and two lesser musical stars, he formed the
complement of a choir regarded in Shepperton as one of distinguished
attraction, occasionally known to draw hearers from the next parish. The
innovation of hymn-books was as yet undreamed of; even the New Version
was regarded with a sort of melancholy tolerance, as part of the common
degeneracy in a time when prices had dwindled, and a cotton gown was no
longer stout enough to last a lifetime; for the lyrical taste of the best
heads in Shepperton had been formed on Sternhold and Hopkins. But the
greatest triumphs of the Shepperton choir were reserved for the Sundays
when the slate announced an ANTHEM, with a dignified abstinence from
particularization, both words and music lying far beyond the reach of the
most ambitious amateur in the congregation: an anthem in which the
key-bugles always ran away at a great pace, while the bassoon every now
and then boomed a flying shot after them.

As for the clergyman, Mr. Gilfil, an excellent old gentleman, who smoked
very long pipes and preached very short sermons, I must not speak of him,
or I might be tempted to tell the story of his life, which had its little
romance, as most lives have between the ages of teetotum and tobacco. And
at present I am concerned with quite another sort of clergyman--the Rev.
Amos Barton, who did not come to Shepperton until long after Mr. Gilfil
had departed this life--until after an interval in which Evangelicalism
and the Catholic Question had begun to agitate the rustic mind with
controversial debates. A Popish blacksmith had produced a strong
Protestant reaction by declaring that, as soon as the Emancipation Bill
was passed, he should do a great stroke of business in gridirons; and the
disinclination of the Shepperton parishioners generally to dim the unique
glory of St Lawrence, rendered the Church and Constitution an affair of
their business and bosoms. A zealous Evangelical preacher had made the
old sounding-board vibrate with quite a different sort of elocution from
Mr. Gilfil's; the hymn-book had almost superseded the Old and New
Versions; and the great square pews were crowded with new faces from
distant corners of the parish--perhaps from Dissenting chapels.

You are not imagining, I hope, that Amos Barton was the incumbent of
Shepperton. He was no such thing. Those were days when a man could hold
three small livings, starve a curate a-piece on two of them, and live
badly himself on the third. It was so with the Vicar of Shepperton; a
vicar given to bricks and mortar, and thereby running into debt far away
in a northern county--who executed his vicarial functions towards
Shepperton by pocketing the sum of thirty-five pounds ten per annum, the
net surplus remaining to him from the proceeds of that living, after the
disbursement of eighty pounds as the annual stipend of his curate. And
now, pray, can you solve me the following problem? Given a man with a
wife and six children: let him be obliged always to exhibit himself when
outside his own door in a suit of black broadcloth, such as will not
undermine the foundations of the Establishment by a paltry plebeian
glossiness or an unseemly whiteness at the edges; in a snowy cravat,
which is a serious investment of labour in the hemming, starching, and
ironing departments; and in a hat which shows no symptom of taking to the
hideous doctrine of expediency, and shaping itself according to
circumstances; let him have a parish large enough to create an external
necessity for abundant shoe-leather, and an internal necessity for
abundant beef and mutton, as well as poor enough to require frequent
priestly consolation in the shape of shillings and sixpences; and,
lastly, let him be compelled, by his own pride and other people's, to
dress his wife and children with gentility from bonnet-strings to
shoe-strings. By what process of division can the sum of eighty pounds
per annum be made to yield a quotient which will cover that man's weekly
expenses? This was the problem presented by the position of the Rev. Amos
Barton, as curate of Shepperton, rather more than twenty years ago.

What was thought of this problem, and of the man who had to work it out,
by some of the well-to-do inhabitants of Shepperton, two years or more
after Mr. Barton's arrival among them, you shall hear, if you will
accompany me to Cross Farm, and to the fireside of Mrs. Patten, a
childless old lady, who had got rich chiefly by the negative process of
spending nothing. Mrs. Patten's passive accumulation of wealth, through
all sorts of 'bad times', on the farm of which she had been sole tenant
since her husband's death, her epigrammatic neighbour, Mrs. Hackit,
sarcastically accounted for by supposing that 'sixpences grew on the
bents of Cross Farm;' while Mr. Hackit, expressing his views more
literally, reminded his wife that 'money breeds money'. Mr. and Mrs.
Hackit, from the neighbouring farm, are Mrs. Patten's guests this
evening; so is Mr. Pilgrim, the doctor from the nearest market-town, who,
though occasionally affecting aristocratic airs, and giving late dinners
with enigmatic side-dishes and poisonous port, is never so comfortable as
when he is relaxing his professional legs in one of those excellent
farmhouses where the mice are sleek and the mistress sickly. And he is at
this moment in clover.

For the flickering of Mrs. Patten's bright fire is reflected in her
bright copper tea-kettle, the home-made muffins glisten with an inviting
succulence, and Mrs. Patten's niece, a single lady of fifty, who has
refused the most ineligible offers out of devotion to her aged aunt, is
pouring the rich cream into the fragrant tea with a discreet liberality.

Reader! _did_ you ever taste such a cup of tea as Miss Gibbs is this
moment handing to Mr. Pilgrim? Do you know the dulcet strength, the
animating blandness of tea sufficiently blended with real farmhouse
cream? No--most likely you are a miserable town-bred reader, who think of
cream as a thinnish white fluid, delivered in infinitesimal pennyworths
down area steps; or perhaps, from a presentiment of calves' brains, you
refrain from any lacteal addition, and rasp your tongue with unmitigated
bohea. You have a vague idea of a milch cow as probably a white-plaster
animal standing in a butterman's window, and you know nothing of the
sweet history of genuine cream, such as Miss Gibbs's: how it was this
morning in the udders of the large sleek beasts, as they stood lowing a
patient entreaty under the milking-shed; how it fell with a pleasant
rhythm into Betty's pail, sending a delicious incense into the cool air;
how it was carried into that temple of moist cleanliness, the dairy,
where it quietly separated itself from the meaner elements of milk, and
lay in mellowed whiteness, ready for the skimming-dish which transferred
it to Miss Gibbs's glass cream-jug. If I am right in my conjecture, you
are unacquainted with the highest possibilities of tea; and Mr. Pilgrim,
who is holding that cup in his hands, has an idea beyond you.

Mrs. Hackit declines cream; she has so long abstained from it with an eye
to the weekly butter-money, that abstinence, wedded to habit, has
begotten aversion. She is a thin woman with a chronic liver-complaint,
which would have secured her Mr. Pilgrim's entire regard and unreserved
good word, even if he had not been in awe of her tongue, which was as
sharp as his own lancet. She has brought her knitting--no frivolous fancy
knitting, but a substantial woollen stocking; the click-click of her
knitting-needles is the running accompaniment to all her conversation,
and in her utmost enjoyment of spoiling a friend's self-satisfaction, she
was never known to spoil a stocking. Mrs. Patten does not admire this
excessive click-clicking activity. Quiescence in an easy-chair, under the
sense of compound interest perpetually accumulating, has long seemed an
ample function to her, and she does her malevolence gently. She is a
pretty little old woman of eighty, with a close cap and tiny flat white
curls round her face, as natty and unsoiled and invariable as the waxen
image of a little old lady under a glass-case; once a lady's-maid, and
married for her beauty. She used to adore her husband, and now she adores
her money, cherishing a quiet blood-relation's hatred for her niece,
Janet Gibbs, who, she knows, expects a large legacy, and whom she is
determined to disappoint. Her money shall all go in a lump to a distant
relation of her husband's, and Janet shall be saved the trouble of
pretending to cry, by finding that she is left with a miserable pittance.

Mrs. Patten has more respect for her neighbour Mr. Hackit than for most
people. Mr. Hackit is a shrewd substantial man, whose advice about crops
is always worth listening to, and who is too well off to want to borrow
money.

And now that we are snug and warm with this little tea-party, while it is
freezing with February bitterness outside, we will listen to what they
are talking about.

'So,' said Mr. Pilgrim, with his mouth only half empty of muffin, 'you
had a row in Shepperton Church last Sunday. I was at Jim Hood's, the
bassoon-man's, this morning, attending his wife, and he swears he'll be
revenged on the parson--a confounded, methodistical, meddlesome chap, who
must be putting his finger in every pie. What was it all about?'

'O, a passill o' nonsense,' said Mr. Hackit, sticking one thumb between
the buttons of his capacious waistcoat, and retaining a pinch of snuff
with the other--for he was but moderately given to 'the cups that cheer
but not inebriate', and had already finished his tea; 'they began to sing
the wedding psalm for a new-married couple, as pretty a psalm an' as
pretty a tune as any in the prayer-book. It's been sung for every
new-married couple since I was a boy. And what can be better?' Here Mr.
Hackit stretched out his left arm, threw back his head, and broke into
melody--

     'O what a happy thing it is,
     And joyful for to see,
     Brethren to dwell together in
     Friendship and unity.

But Mr. Barton is all for th' hymns, and a sort o' music as I can't join
in at all.'

'And so,' said Mr. Pilgrim, recalling Mr. Hackit from lyrical
reminiscences to narrative, 'he called out Silence! did he? when he got
into the pulpit; and gave a hymn out himself to some meeting-house tune?'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Hackit, stooping towards the candle to pick up a stitch,
'and turned as red as a turkey-cock. I often say, when he preaches about
meekness, he gives himself a slap in the face. He's like me--he's got a
temper of his own.'

'Rather a low-bred fellow, I think, Barton,' said Mr. Pilgrim, who hated
the Reverend Amos for two reasons--because he had called in a new doctor,
recently settled in Shepperton; and because, being himself a dabbler in
drugs, he had the credit of having cured a patient of Mr. Pilgrim's.
'They say his father was a Dissenting shoemaker; and he's half a
Dissenter himself. Why, doesn't he preach extempore in that cottage up
here, of a Sunday evening?'

'Tchuh!'--this was Mr. Hackit's favourite interjection--'that preaching
without book's no good, only when a man has a gift, and has the Bible at
his fingers' ends. It was all very well for Parry--he'd a gift; and in my
youth I've heard the Ranters out o' doors in Yorkshire go on for an hour
or two on end, without ever sticking fast a minute. There was one clever
chap, I remember, as used to say, "You're like the woodpigeon; it says
do, do, do all day, and never sets about any work itself." That's
bringing it home to people. But our parson's no gift at all that way; he
can preach as good a sermon as need be heard when he writes it down. But
when he tries to preach wi'out book, he rambles about, and doesn't stick
to his text; and every now and then he flounders about like a sheep as
has cast itself, and can't get on'ts legs again. You wouldn't like that,
Mrs. Patten, if you was to go to church now?'

'Eh, dear,' said Mrs. Patten, falling back in her chair, and lifting up
her little withered hands, 'what 'ud Mr. Gilfil say, if he was worthy to
know the changes as have come about i' the Church these last ten years? I
don't understand these new sort o' doctrines. When Mr. Barton comes to
see me, he talks about nothing but my sins and my need o' marcy. Now, Mr.
Hackit, I've never been a sinner. From the fust beginning, when I went
into service, I al'ys did my duty by my emplyers. I was a good wife as
any in the county--never aggravated my husband. The cheese-factor used to
say my cheese was al'ys to be depended on. I've known women, as their
cheeses swelled a shame to be seen, when their husbands had counted on
the cheese-money to make up their rent; and yet they'd three gowns to my
one. If I'm not to be saved, I know a many as are in a bad way. But it's
well for me as I can't go to church any longer, for if th' old singers
are to be done away with, there'll be nothing left as it was in Mr.
Patten's time; and what's more, I hear you've settled to pull the church
down and build it up new?'

Now the fact was that the Rev. Amos Barton, on his last visit to Mrs.
Patten, had urged her to enlarge her promised subscription of twenty
pounds, representing to her that she was only a steward of her riches,
and that she could not spend them more for the glory of God than by
giving a heavy subscription towards the rebuilding of Shepperton
Church--a practical precept which was not likely to smooth the way to her
acceptance of his theological doctrine. Mr. Hackit, who had more
doctrinal enlightenment than Mrs. Patten, had been a little shocked by
the heathenism of her speech, and was glad of the new turn given to the
subject by this question, addressed to him as church-warden and an
authority in all parochial matters.

'Ah,' he answered, 'the parson's bothered us into it at last, and we're
to begin pulling down this spring. But we haven't got money enough yet. I
was for waiting till we'd made up the sum, and, for my part, I think the
congregation's fell off o' late; though Mr. Barton says that's because
there's been no room for the people when they've come. You see, the
congregation got so large in Parry's time, the people stood in the
aisles; but there's never any crowd now, as I can see.'

'Well,' said Mrs. Hackit, whose good-nature began to act now that it was
a little in contradiction with the dominant tone of the conversation,
'_I_ like Mr. Barton. I think he's a good sort o' man, for all he's not
overburthen'd i' th' upper storey; and his wife's as nice a lady-like
woman as I'd wish to see. How nice she keeps her children! and little
enough money to do't with; and a delicate creatur'--six children, and
another a-coming. I don't know how they make both ends meet, I'm sure,
now her aunt has left 'em. But I sent 'em a cheese and a sack o' potatoes
last week; that's something towards filling the little mouths.'

'Ah!' said Mr. Hackit, 'and my wife makes Mr. Barton a good stiff glass
o' brandy-and-water, when he comes into supper after his cottage
preaching. The parson likes it; it puts a bit o' colour into 'is face,
and makes him look a deal handsomer.'

This allusion to brandy-and-water suggested to Miss Gibbs the
introduction of the liquor decanters, now that the tea was cleared away;
for in bucolic society five-and-twenty years ago, the human animal of the
male sex was understood to be perpetually athirst, and 'something to
drink' was as necessary a 'condition of thought' as Time and Space.

'Now, that cottage preaching,' said Mr. Pilgrim, mixing himself a strong
glass of 'cold without,' 'I was talking about it to our Parson Ely the
other day, and he doesn't approve of it at all. He said it did as much
harm as good to give a too familiar aspect to religious teaching. That
was what Ely said--it does as much harm as good to give a too familiar
aspect to religious teaching.'

Mr. Pilgrim generally spoke with an intermittent kind of splutter;
indeed, one of his patients had observed that it was a pity such a clever
man had a 'pediment' in his speech. But when he came to what he conceived
the pith of his argument or the point of his joke, he mouthed out his
words with slow emphasis; as a hen, when advertising her accouchement,
passes at irregular intervals from pianissimo semiquavers to fortissimo
crotchets. He thought this speech of Mr. Ely's particularly metaphysical
and profound, and the more decisive of the question because it was a
generality which represented no particulars to his mind.

'Well, I don't know about that,' said Mrs. Hackit, who had always the
courage of her opinion, 'but I know, some of our labourers and
stockingers as used never to come to church, come to the cottage, and
that's better than never hearing anything good from week's end to week's
end. And there's that Track Society's as Mr. Barton has begun--I've seen
more o' the poor people with going tracking, than all the time I've lived
in the parish before. And there'd need be something done among 'em; for
the drinking at them Benefit Clubs is shameful. There's hardly a steady
man or steady woman either, but what's a dissenter.'

During this speech of Mrs. Hackit's, Mr. Pilgrim had emitted a succession
of little snorts, something like the treble grunts of a guinea-pig, which
were always with him the sign of suppressed disapproval. But he never
contradicted Mrs. Hackit--a woman whose 'pot-luck' was always to be
relied on, and who on her side had unlimited reliance on bleeding,
blistering, and draughts.

Mrs. Patten, however, felt equal disapprobation, and had no reasons for
suppressing it.

'Well,' she remarked, 'I've heared of no good from interfering with one's
neighbours, poor or rich. And I hate the sight o' women going about
trapesing from house to house in all weathers, wet or dry, and coming in
with their petticoats dagged and their shoes all over mud. Janet wanted
to join in the tracking, but I told her I'd have nobody tracking out o'
my house; when I'm gone, she may do as she likes. I never dagged my
petticoats in _my_ life, and I've no opinion o' that sort o' religion.'

'No,' said Mr. Hackit, who was fond of soothing the acerbities of the
feminine mind with a jocose compliment, 'you held your petticoats so
high, to show your tight ankles: it isn't everybody as likes to show her
ankles.'

This joke met with general acceptance, even from the snubbed Janet, whose
ankles were only tight in the sense of looking extremely squeezed by her
boots. But Janet seemed always to identify herself with her aunt's
personality, holding her own under protest.

Under cover of the general laughter the gentlemen replenished their
glasses, Mr. Pilgrim attempting to give his the character of a
stirrup-cup by observing that he 'must be going'. Miss Gibbs seized this
opportunity of telling Mrs. Hackit that she suspected Betty, the
dairymaid, of frying the best bacon for the shepherd, when he sat up with
her to 'help brew'; whereupon Mrs. Hackit replied that she had always
thought Betty false; and Mrs. Patten said there was no bacon stolen when
_she_ was able to manage. Mr. Hackit, who often complained that he 'never
saw the like to women with their maids--he never had any trouble with his
men', avoided listening to this discussion, by raising the question of
vetches with Mr. Pilgrim. The stream of conversation had thus diverged:
and no more was said about the Rev. Amos Barton, who is the main object
of interest to us just now. So we may leave Cross Farm without waiting
till Mrs. Hackit, resolutely donning her clogs and wrappings, renders it
incumbent on Mr. Pilgrim also to fulfil his frequent threat of going.



Chapter 2


It was happy for the Rev. Amos Barton that he did not, like us, overhear
the conversation recorded in the last chapter. Indeed, what mortal is
there of us, who would find his satisfaction enhanced by an opportunity
of comparing the picture he presents to himself of his own doings, with
the picture they make on the mental retina of his neighbours? We are poor
plants buoyed up by the air-vessels of our own conceit: alas for us, if
we get a few pinches that empty us of that windy self-subsistence! The
very capacity for good would go out of us. For, tell the most impassioned
orator, suddenly, that his wig is awry, or his shirt-lap hanging out, and
that he is tickling people by the oddity of his person, instead of
thrilling them by the energy of his periods, and you would infallibly dry
up the spring of his eloquence. That is a deep and wide saying, that no
miracle can be wrought without faith--without the worker's faith in
himself, as well as the recipient's faith in him. And the greater part of
the worker's faith in himself is made up of the faith that others believe
in him.

Let me be persuaded that my neighbour Jenkins considers me a blockhead,
and I shall never shine in conversation with him any more. Let me
discover that the lovely Phoebe thinks my squint intolerable, and I shall
never be able to fix her blandly with my disengaged eye again. Thank
heaven, then, that a little illusion is left to us, to enable us to be
useful and agreeable--that we don't know exactly what our friends think
of us--that the world is not made of looking-glass, to show us just the
figure we are making, and just what is going on behind our backs! By the
help of dear friendly illusion, we are able to dream that we are charming
and our faces wear a becoming air of self-possession; we are able to
dream that other men admire our talents--and our benignity is
undisturbed; we are able to dream that we are doing much good--and we do
a little. Thus it was with Amos Barton on that very Thursday evening,
when he was the subject of the conversation at Cross Farm. He had been
dining at Mr. Farquhar's, the secondary squire of the parish, and,
stimulated by unwonted gravies and port-wine, had been delivering his
opinion on affairs parochial and otherwise with considerable animation.
And he was now returning home in the moonlight--a little chill, it is
true, for he had just now no greatcoat compatible with clerical dignity,
and a fur boa round one's neck, with a waterproof cape over one's
shoulders, doesn't frighten away the cold from one's legs; but entirely
unsuspicious, not only of Mr. Hackit's estimate of his oratorical powers,
but also of the critical remarks passed on him by the Misses Farquhar as
soon as the drawing-room door had closed behind him. Miss Julia had
observed that she _never_ heard any one sniff so frightfully as Mr.
Barton did--she had a great mind to offer him her pocket-handkerchief;
and Miss Arabella wondered why he always said he was going _for_ to do a
thing. He, excellent man! was meditating fresh pastoral exertions on the
morrow; he would set on foot his lending library; in which he had
introduced some books that would be a pretty sharp blow to the
Dissenters--one especially, purporting to be written by a working man
who, out of pure zeal for the welfare of his class, took the trouble to
warn them in this way against those hypocritical thieves, the Dissenting
preachers. The Rev. Amos Barton profoundly believed in the existence of
that working man, and had thoughts of writing to him. Dissent, he
considered, would have its head bruised in Shepperton, for did he not
attack it in two ways? He preached Low-Church doctrine--as evangelical as
anything to be heard in the Independent Chapel; and he made a High-Church
assertion of ecclesiastical powers and functions. Clearly, the Dissenters
would feel that 'the parson' was too many for them. Nothing like a man
who combines shrewdness with energy. The wisdom of the serpent, Mr.
Barton considered, was one of his strong points.

Look at him as he winds through the little churchyard! The silver light
that falls aslant on church and tomb, enables you to see his slim black
figure, made all the slimmer by tight pantaloons, as it flits past the
pale gravestones. He walks with a quick step, and is now rapping with
sharp decision at the vicarage door. It is opened without delay by the
nurse, cook, and housemaid, all at once--that is to say, by the robust
maid-of-all-work, Nanny; and as Mr. Barton hangs up his hat in the
passage, you see that a narrow face of no particular complexion--even the
small-pox that has attacked it seems to have been of a mongrel,
indefinite kind--with features of no particular shape, and an eye of no
particular expression is surmounted by a slope of baldness gently rising
from brow to crown. You judge him, rightly, to be about forty. The house
is quiet, for it is half-past ten, and the children have long been gone
to bed. He opens the sitting-room door, but instead of seeing his wife,
as he expected, stitching with the nimblest of fingers by the light of
one candle, he finds her dispensing with the light of a candle
altogether. She is softly pacing up and down by the red firelight,
holding in her arms little Walter, the year-old baby, who looks over her
shoulder with large wide-open eyes, while the patient mother pats his
back with her soft hand, and glances with a sigh at the heap of large and
small stockings lying unmended on the table.

She was a lovely woman--Mrs. Amos Barton, a large, fair, gentle Madonna,
with thick, close, chestnut curls beside her well-rounded cheeks, and
with large, tender, short-sighted eyes. The flowing lines of her tall
figure made the limpest dress look graceful, and her old frayed black
silk seemed to repose on her bust and limbs with a placid elegance and
sense of distinction, in strong contrast with the uneasy sense of being
no fit, that seemed to express itself in the rustling of Mrs. Farquhar's
_gros de Naples_. The caps she wore would have been pronounced, when off
her head, utterly heavy and hideous--for in those days even fashionable
caps were large and floppy; but surmounting her long arched neck, and
mingling their borders of cheap lace and ribbon with her chestnut curls,
they seemed miracles of successful millinery. Among strangers she was shy
and tremulous as a girl of fifteen; she blushed crimson if any one
appealed to her opinion; yet that tall, graceful, substantial presence
was so imposing in its mildness, that men spoke to her with an agreeable
sensation of timidity.

Soothing, unspeakable charm of gentle womanhood! which supersedes all
acquisitions, all accomplishments. You would never have asked, at any
period of Mrs. Amos Barton's life, if she sketched or played the piano.
You would even perhaps have been rather scandalized if she had descended
from the serene dignity of _being_ to the assiduous unrest of _doing_.
Happy the man, you would have thought, whose eye will rest on her in the
pauses of his fireside reading--whose hot aching forehead will be soothed
by the contact of her cool soft hand who will recover himself from
dejection at his mistakes and failures in the loving light of her
unreproaching eyes! You would not, perhaps, have anticipated that this
bliss would fall to the share of precisely such a man as Amos Barton,
whom you have already surmised not to have the refined sensibilities for
which you might have imagined Mrs. Barton's qualities to be destined by
pre-established harmony. But I, for one, do not grudge Amos Barton this
sweet wife. I have all my life had a sympathy for mongrel ungainly dogs,
who are nobody's pets; and I would rather surprise one of them by a pat
and a pleasant morsel, than meet the condescending advances of the
loveliest Skye-terrier who has his cushion by my lady's chair. That, to
be sure, is not the way of the world: if it happens to see a fellow of
fine proportions and aristocratic mien, who makes no _faux pas_, and wins
golden opinions from all sorts of men, it straightway picks out for him
the loveliest of unmarried women, and says, _There_ would be a proper
match! Not at all, say I: let that successful, well-shapen, discreet and
able gentleman put up with something less than the best in the
matrimonial department; and let the sweet woman go to make sunshine and a
soft pillow for the poor devil whose legs are not models, whose efforts
are often blunders, and who in general gets more kicks than halfpence.
She--the sweet woman--will like it as well; for her sublime capacity of
loving will have all the more scope; and I venture to say, Mrs. Barton's
nature would never have grown half so angelic if she had married the man
you would perhaps have had in your eye for her--a man with sufficient
income and abundant personal eclat. Besides, Amos was an affectionate
husband, and, in his way, valued his wife as his best treasure.

But now he has shut the door behind him, and said, 'Well, Milly!'

'Well, dear!' was the corresponding greeting, made eloquent by a smile.

'So that young rascal won't go to sleep! Can't you give him to Nanny?'

'Why, Nanny has been busy ironing this evening; but I think I'll take him
to her now.' And Mrs. Barton glided towards the kitchen, while her
husband ran up-stairs to put on his maize-coloured dressing-gown, in
which costume he was quietly filling his long pipe when his wife returned
to the sitting-room. Maize is a colour that decidedly did _not_ suit his
complexion, and it is one that soon soils; why, then, did Mr. Barton
select it for domestic wear? Perhaps because he had a knack of hitting on
the wrong thing in garb as well as in grammar.

Mrs. Barton now lighted her candle, and seated herself before her heap of
stockings. She had something disagreeable to tell her husband, but she
would not enter on it at once. 'Have you had a nice evening, dear?'

'Yes, pretty well. Ely was there to dinner, but went away rather early.
Miss Arabella is setting her cap at him with a vengeance. But I don't
think he's much smitten. I've a notion Ely's engaged to some one at a
distance, and will astonish all the ladies who are languishing for him
here, by bringing home his bride one of these days. Ely's a sly dog;
he'll like that.'

'Did the Farquhars say anything about the singing last Sunday?'

'Yes; Farquhar said he thought it was time there was some improvement in
the choir. But he was rather scandalized at my setting the tune of
"Lydia." He says he's always hearing it as he passes the Independent
meeting.' Here Mr. Barton laughed--he had a way of laughing at criticisms
that other people thought damaging--and thereby showed the remainder of a
set of teeth which, like the remnants of the Old Guard, were few in
number, and very much the worse for wear. 'But,' he continued, 'Mrs.
Farquhar talked the most about Mr. Bridmain and the Countess. She has
taken up all the gossip about them, and wanted to convert me to her
opinion, but I told her pretty strongly what I thought.'

'Dear me! why will people take so much pains to find out evil about
others? I have had a note from the Countess since you went, asking us to
dine with them on Friday.'

Here Mrs. Barton reached the note from the mantelpiece, and gave it to
her husband. We will look over his shoulder while he reads it:--

"Sweetest Milly, Bring your lovely face with your husband to dine with us
on Friday at seven--do. If not, I will be sulky with you till Sunday,
when I shall be obliged to see you, and shall long to kiss you that very
moment. Yours, according to your answer,

Caroline Czerlaski."

'Just like her, isn't it?' said Mrs. Barton. 'I suppose we can go?'

'Yes; I have no engagement. The Clerical Meeting is tomorrow, you know.'

'And, dear, Woods the butcher called, to say he must have some money next
week. He has a payment to make up.'

This announcement made Mr. Barton thoughtful. He puffed more rapidly, and
looked at the fire.

'I think I must ask Hackit to lend me twenty pounds, for it is nearly two
months till Lady-day, and we can't give Woods our last shilling.'

'I hardly like you to ask Mr. Hackit, dear--he and Mrs. Hackit have been
so very kind to us; they have sent us so many things lately.'

'Then I must ask Oldinport. I'm going to write to him tomorrow morning,
for to tell him the arrangement I've been thinking of about having
service in the workhouse while the church is being enlarged. If he agrees
to attend service there once or twice, the other people will come. Net
the large fish, and you're sure to have the small fry.'

'I wish we could do without borrowing money, and yet I don't see how we
can. Poor Fred must have some new shoes; I couldn't let him go to Mrs.
Bond's yesterday because his toes were peeping out, dear child! and I
can't let him walk anywhere except in the garden. He must have a pair
before Sunday. Really, boots and shoes are the greatest trouble of my
life. Everything else one can turn and turn about, and make old look like
new; but there's no coaxing boots and shoes to look better than they
are.'

Mrs. Barton was playfully undervaluing her skill in metamorphosing boots
and shoes. She had at that moment on her feet a pair of slippers which
had long ago lived through the prunella phase of their existence, and
were now running a respectable career as black silk slippers, having been
neatly covered with that material by Mrs. Barton's own neat fingers.
Wonderful fingers those! they were never empty; for if she went to spend
a few hours with a friendly parishioner, out came her thimble and a piece
of calico or muslin, which, before she left, had become a mysterious
little garment with all sorts of hemmed ins and outs. She was even trying
to persuade her husband to leave off tight pantaloons, because if he
would wear the ordinary gun-cases, she knew she could make them so well
that no one would suspect the sex of the tailor.

But by this time Mr. Barton has finished his pipe, the candle begins to
burn low, and Mrs. Barton goes to see if Nanny has succeeded in lulling
Walter to sleep. Nanny is that moment putting him in the little cot by
his mother's bedside; the head, with its thin wavelets of brown hair,
indents the little pillow; and a tiny, waxen, dimpled fist hides the rosy
lips, for baby is given to the infantile peccadillo of thumb-sucking. So
Nanny could now join in the short evening prayer, and all could go to
bed. Mrs. Barton carried up-stairs the remainder of her heap of
stockings, and laid them on a table close to her bedside, where also she
placed a warm shawl, removing her candle, before she put it out, to a tin
socket fixed at the head of her bed. Her body was very weary, but her
heart was not heavy, in spite of Mr. Woods the butcher, and the
transitory nature of shoe-leather; for her heart so overflowed with love,
she felt sure she was near a fountain of love that would care for husband
and babes better than she could foresee; so she was soon asleep. But
about half-past five o'clock in the morning, if there were any angels
watching round her bed--and angels might be glad of such an office they
saw Mrs. Barton rise up quietly, careful not to disturb the slumbering
Amos, who was snoring the snore of the just, light her candle, prop
herself upright with the pillows, throw the warm shawl round her
shoulders, and renew her attack on the heap of undarned stockings. She
darned away until she heard Nanny stirring, and then drowsiness came with
the dawn; the candle was put out, and she sank into a doze. But at nine
o'clock she was at the breakfast-table, busy cutting bread-and-butter for
five hungry mouths, while Nanny, baby on one arm, in rosy cheeks, fat
neck, and night-gown, brought in a jug of hot milk-and-water. Nearest her
mother sits the nine-year-old Patty, the eldest child, whose sweet fair
face is already rather grave sometimes, and who always wants to run
up-stairs to save mamma's legs, which get so tired of an evening. Then
there are four other blond heads--two boys and two girls, gradually
decreasing in size down to Chubby, who is making a round O of her mouth
to receive a bit of papa's 'baton'. Papa's attention was divided between
petting Chubby, rebuking the noisy Fred, which he did with a somewhat
excessive sharpness, and eating his own breakfast. He had not yet looked
at Mamma, and did not know that her cheek was paler than usual. But Patty
whispered, 'Mamma, have you the headache?'

Happily coal was cheap in the neighbourhood of Shepperton, and Mr. Hackit
would any time let his horses draw a load for 'the parson' without
charge; so there was a blazing fire in the sitting-room, and not without
need, for the vicarage garden, as they looked out on it from the
bow-window, was hard with black frost, and the sky had the white woolly
look that portends snow.

Breakfast over, Mr. Barton mounted to his study, and occupied himself in
the first place with his letter to Mr. Oldinport. It was very much the
same sort of letter as most clergymen would have written under the same
circumstances, except that instead of perambulate, the Rev. Amos wrote
preambulate, and instead of 'if haply', 'if happily', the contingency
indicated being the reverse of happy. Mr. Barton had not the gift of
perfect accuracy in English orthography and syntax, which was
unfortunate, as he was known not to be a Hebrew scholar, and not in the
least suspected of being an accomplished Grecian. These lapses, in a man
who had gone through the Eleusinian mysteries of a university education,
surprised the young ladies of his parish extremely; especially the Misses
Farquhar, whom he had once addressed in a letter as Dear Mads.,
apparently an abbreviation for Madams. The persons least surprised at the
Rev. Amos's deficiencies were his clerical brethren, who had gone through
the mysteries themselves.

At eleven o'clock, Mr. Barton walked forth in cape and boa, with the
sleet driving in his face, to read prayers at the workhouse,
euphemistically called the 'College'. The College was a huge square stone
building, standing on the best apology for an elevation of ground that
could be seen for about ten miles around Shepperton. A flat ugly district
this; depressing enough to look at even on the brightest days. The roads
are black with coal-dust, the brick houses dingy with smoke; and at that
time--the time of handloom weavers--every other cottage had a loom at its
window, where you might see a pale, sickly-looking man or woman pressing
a narrow chest against a board, and doing a sort of treadmill work with
legs and arms. A troublesome district for a clergyman; at least to one
who, like Amos Barton, understood the 'cure of souls' in something more
than an official sense; for over and above the rustic stupidity furnished
by the farm-labourers, the miners brought obstreperous animalism, and the
weavers in an acrid Radicalism and Dissent. Indeed, Mrs. Hackit often
observed that the colliers, who many of them earned better wages than Mr.
Barton, 'passed their time in doing nothing but swilling ale and smoking,
like the beasts that perish' (speaking, we may presume, in a remotely
analogical sense); and in some of the alehouse corners the drink was
flavoured by a dingy kind of infidelity, something like rinsings of Tom
Paine in ditch-water. A certain amount of religious excitement created by
the popular preaching of Mr. Parry, Amos's predecessor, had nearly died
out, and the religious life of Shepperton was falling back towards
low-water mark. Here, you perceive, was a terrible stronghold of Satan;
and you may well pity the Rev. Amos Barton, who had to stand
single-handed and summon it to surrender. We read, indeed, that the walls
of Jericho fell down before the sound of trumpets; but we nowhere hear
that those trumpets were hoarse and feeble. Doubtless they were trumpets
that gave forth clear ringing tones, and sent a mighty vibration through
brick and mortar. But the oratory of the Rev. Amos resembled rather a
Belgian railway-horn, which shows praiseworthy intentions inadequately
fulfilled. He often missed the right note both in public and private
exhortation, and got a little angry in consequence. For though Amos
thought himself strong, he did not _feel_ himself strong. Nature had
given him the opinion, but not the sensation. Without that opinion he
would probably never have worn cambric bands, but would have been an
excellent cabinetmaker and deacon of an Independent church, as his father
was before him (he was not a shoemaker, as Mr. Pilgrim had reported). He
might then have sniffed long and loud in the corner of his pew in Gun
Street Chapel; he might have indulged in halting rhetoric at
prayer-meetings, and have spoken faulty English in private life; and
these little infirmities would not have prevented him, honest faithful
man that he was, from being a shining light in the dissenting circle of
Bridgeport. A tallow dip, of the long-eight description, is an excellent
thing in the kitchen candlestick, and Betty's nose and eye are not
sensitive to the difference between it and the finest wax; it is only
when you stick it in the silver candlestick, and introduce it into the
drawing-room, that it seems plebeian, dim, and ineffectual. Alas for the
worthy man who, like that candle, gets himself into the wrong place! It
is only the very largest souls who will be able to appreciate and pity
him--who will discern and love sincerity of purpose amid all the bungling
feebleness of achievement.

But now Amos Barton has made his way through the sleet as far as the
College, has thrown off his hat, cape, and boa, and is reading, in the
dreary stone-floored dining-room, a portion of the morning service to the
inmates seated on the benches before him. Remember, the New Poor-law had
not yet come into operation, and Mr. Barton was not acting as paid
chaplain of the Union, but as the pastor who had the cure of all souls in
his parish, pauper as well as other. After the prayers he always
addressed to them a short discourse on some subject suggested by the
lesson for the day, striving if by this means some edifying matter might
find its way into the pauper mind and conscience--perhaps a task as
trying as you could well imagine to the faith and patience of any honest
clergyman. For, on the very first bench, these were the faces on which
his eye had to rest, watching whether there was any stirring under the
stagnant surface.

Right in front of him--probably because he was stone-deaf, and it was
deemed more edifying to hear nothing at a short distance than at a long
one--sat 'Old Maxum', as he was familiarly called, his real patronymic
remaining a mystery to most persons. A fine philological sense discerns
in this cognomen an indication that the pauper patriarch had once been
considered pithy and sententious in his speech; but now the weight of
ninety-five years lay heavy on his tongue as well as in his ears, and he
sat before the clergyman with protruded chin, and munching mouth, and
eyes that seemed to look at emptiness.

Next to him sat Poll Fodge--known to the magistracy of her county as Mary
Higgins--a one-eyed woman, with a scarred and seamy face, the most
notorious rebel in the workhouse, said to have once thrown her broth over
the master's coat-tails, and who, in spite of nature's apparent
safeguards against that contingency, had contributed to the perpetuation
of the Fodge characteristics in the person of a small boy, who was
behaving naughtily on one of the back benches. Miss Fodge fixed her one
sore eye on Mr. Barton with a sort of hardy defiance.

Beyond this member of the softer sex, at the end of the bench, sat 'Silly
Jim', a young man afflicted with hydrocephalus, who rolled his head from
side to side, and gazed at the point of his nose. These were the
supporters of Old Maxum on his right.

On his left sat Mr. Fitchett, a tall fellow, who had once been a footman
in the Oldinport family, and in that giddy elevation had enunciated a
contemptuous opinion of boiled beef, which had been traditionally handed
down in Shepperton as the direct cause of his ultimate reduction to
pauper commons. His calves were now shrunken, and his hair was grey
without the aid of powder; but he still carried his chin as if he were
conscious of a stiff cravat; he set his dilapidated hat on with a knowing
inclination towards the left ear; and when he was on field-work, he
carted and uncarted the manure with a sort of flunkey grace, the ghost of
that jaunty demeanour with which he used to usher in my lady's morning
visitors. The flunkey nature was nowhere completely subdued but in his
stomach, and he still divided society into gentry, gentry's flunkeys, and
the people who provided for them. A clergyman without a flunkey was an
anomaly, belonging to neither of these classes. Mr. Fitchett had an
irrepressible tendency to drowsiness under spiritual instruction, and in
the recurrent regularity with which he dozed off until he nodded and
awaked himself, he looked not unlike a piece of mechanism, ingeniously
contrived for measuring the length of Mr. Barton's discourse.

Perfectly wide-awake, on the contrary, was his left-hand neighbour, Mrs.
Brick, one of those hard undying old women, to whom age seems to have
given a network of wrinkles, as a coat of magic armour against the
attacks of winters, warm or cold. The point on which Mrs. Brick was still
sensitive--the theme on which you might possibly excite her hope and
fear--was snuff. It seemed to be an embalming powder, helping her soul to
do the office of salt.

And now, eke out an audience of which this front benchful was a sample,
with a certain number of refractory children, over whom Mr. Spratt, the
master of the workhouse, exercised an irate surveillance, and I think you
will admit that the university-taught clergyman, whose office it is to
bring home the gospel to a handful of such souls, has a sufficiently hard
task. For, to have any chance of success, short of miraculous
intervention, he must bring his geographical, chronological, exegetical
mind pretty nearly to the pauper point of view, or of no view; he must
have some approximate conception of the mode in which the doctrines that
have so much vitality in the plenum of his own brain will comport
themselves _in vacuo_--that is to say, in a brain that is neither
geographical, chronological, nor exegetical. It is a flexible imagination
that can take such a leap as that, and an adroit tongue that can adapt
its speech to so unfamiliar a position. The Rev. Amos Barton had neither
that flexible imagination, nor that adroit tongue. He talked of Israel
and its sins, of chosen vessels, of the Paschal lamb, of blood as a
medium of reconciliation; and he strove in this way to convey religious
truth within reach of the Fodge and Fitchett mind. This very morning, the
first lesson was the twelfth chapter of Exodus, and Mr. Barton's
exposition turned on unleavened bread. Nothing in the world more suited
to the simple understanding than instruction through familiar types and
symbols! But there is always this danger attending it, that the interest
or comprehension of your hearers may stop short precisely at the point
where your spiritual interpretation begins. And Mr. Barton this morning
succeeded in carrying the pauper imagination to the dough-tub, but
unfortunately was not able to carry it upwards from that well-known
object to the unknown truths which it was intended to shadow forth.

Alas! a natural incapacity for teaching, finished by keeping 'terms' at
Cambridge, where there are able mathematicians, and butter is sold by the
yard, is not apparently the medium through which Christian doctrine will
distil as welcome dew on withered souls.

And so, while the sleet outside was turning to unquestionable snow, and
the stony dining-room looked darker and drearier, and Mr. Fitchett was
nodding his lowest, and Mr. Spratt was boxing the boys' ears with a
constant _rinforzando_, as he felt more keenly the approach of
dinner-time, Mr. Barton wound up his exhortation with something of the
February chill at his heart as well as his feet. Mr. Fitchett, thoroughly
roused now the instruction was at an end, obsequiously and gracefully
advanced to help Mr. Barton in putting on his cape, while Mrs. Brick
rubbed her withered forefinger round and round her little shoe-shaped
snuff-box, vainly seeking for the fraction of a pinch. I can't help
thinking that if Mr. Barton had shaken into that little box a small
portion of Scotch high-dried, he might have produced something more like
an amiable emotion in Mrs. Brick's mind than anything she had felt under
his morning's exposition of the unleavened bread. But our good Amos
laboured under a deficiency of small tact as well as of small cash; and
when he observed the action of the old woman's forefinger, he said, in
his brusque way, 'So your snuff is all gone, eh?'

Mrs. Brick's eyes twinkled with the visionary hope that the parson might
be intending to replenish her box, at least mediately, through the
present of a small copper.

'Ah, well! you'll soon be going where there is no more snuff. You'll be
in need of mercy then. You must remember that you may have to seek for
mercy and not find it, just as you're seeking for snuff.'

At the first sentence of this admonition, the twinkle subsided from Mrs.
Brick's eyes. The lid of her box went 'click!' and her heart was shut up
at the same moment.

But now Mr. Barton's attention was called for by Mr. Spratt, who was
dragging a small and unwilling boy from the rear. Mr. Spratt was a
small-featured, small-statured man, with a remarkable power of language,
mitigated by hesitation, who piqued himself on expressing unexceptionable
sentiments in unexceptional language on all occasions.

'Mr. Barton, sir--aw--aw--excuse my trespassing on your time--aw--to beg
that you will administer a rebuke to this boy; he is--aw--aw--most
inveterate in ill-behaviour during service-time.'

The inveterate culprit was a boy of seven, vainly contending against
'candles' at his nose by feeble sniffing. But no sooner had Mr. Spratt
uttered his impeachment, than Miss Fodge rushed forward and placed
herself between Mr. Barton and the accused.

'That's _my_ child, Muster Barton,' she exclaimed, further manifesting
her maternal instincts by applying her apron to her offspring's nose.
'He's al'ys a-findin' faut wi' him, and a-poundin' him for nothin'. Let
him goo an' eat his roost goose as is a-smellin' up in our noses while
we're a-swallering them greasy broth, an' let my boy alooan.'

Mr. Spratt's small eyes flashed, and he was in danger of uttering
sentiments not unexceptionable before the clergyman; but Mr. Barton,
foreseeing that a prolongation of this episode would not be to
edification, said 'Silence!' in his severest tones.

'Let me hear no abuse. Your boy is not likely to behave well, if you set
him the example of being saucy.' Then stooping down to Master Fodge, and
taking him by the shoulder, 'Do you like being beaten?'

'No-a.'

'Then what a silly boy you are to be naughty. If you were not naughty,
you wouldn't be beaten. But if you are naughty, God will be angry, as
well as Mr. Spratt; and God can burn you for ever. That will be worse
than being beaten.'

Master Fodge's countenance was neither affirmative nor negative of this
proposition.

'But,' continued Mr. Barton, 'if you will be a good boy, God will love
you, and you will grow up to be a good man. Now, let me hear next
Thursday that you have been a good boy.'

Master Fodge had no distinct vision of the benefit that would accrue to
him from this change of courses. But Mr. Barton, being aware that Miss
Fodge had touched on a delicate subject in alluding to the roast goose,
was determined to witness no more polemics between her and Mr. Spratt,
so, saying good morning to the latter, he hastily left the College.

The snow was falling in thicker and thicker flakes, and already the
vicarage-garden was cloaked in white as he passed through the gate. Mrs.
Barton heard him open the door, and ran out of the sitting-room to meet
him.

'I'm afraid your feet are very wet, dear. What a terrible morning! Let me
take your hat. Your slippers are at the fire.'

Mr. Barton was feeling a little cold and cross. It is difficult, when you
have been doing disagreeable duties, without praise, on a snowy day, to
attend to the very minor morals. So he showed no recognition of Milly's
attentions, but simply said, 'Fetch me my dressing-gown, will you?'

'It is down, dear. I thought you wouldn't go into the study, because you
said you would letter and number the books for the Lending Library. Patty
and I have been covering them, and they are all ready in the
sitting-room.'

'Oh, I can't do those this morning,' said Mr. Barton, as he took off his
boots and put his feet into the slippers Milly had brought him; 'you must
put them away into the parlour.'

The sitting-room was also the day nursery and schoolroom; and while
Mamma's back was turned, Dickey, the second boy, had insisted on
superseding Chubby in the guidance of a headless horse, of the
red-wafered species, which she was drawing round the room, so that when
Papa opened the door Chubby was giving tongue energetically.

'Milly, some of these children must go away. I want to be quiet.'

'Yes, dear. Hush, Chubby; go with Patty, and see what Nanny is getting
for our dinner. Now, Fred and Sophy and Dickey, help me to carry these
books into the parlour. There are three for Dickey. Carry them steadily.'

Papa meanwhile settled himself in his easy-chair, and took up a work on
Episcopacy, which he had from the Clerical Book Society; thinking he
would finish it and return it this afternoon, as he was going to the
Clerical Meeting at Milby Vicarage, where the Book Society had its
headquarters.

The Clerical Meetings and Book Society, which had been founded some eight
or ten months, had had a noticeable effect on the Rev. Amos Barton. When
he first came to Shepperton he was simply an evangelical clergyman, whose
Christian experiences had commenced under the teaching of the Rev. Mr.
Johns, of Gun Street Chapel, and had been consolidated at Cambridge under
the influence of Mr. Simeon. John Newton and Thomas Scott were his
doctrinal ideals; he would have taken in the "Christian Observer" and the
"Record," if he could have afforded it; his anecdotes were chiefly of the
pious-jocose kind, current in dissenting circles; and he thought an
Episcopalian Establishment unobjectionable.

But by this time the effect of the Tractarian agitation was beginning to
be felt in backward provincial regions, and the Tractarian satire on the
Low-Church party was beginning to tell even on those who disavowed or
resisted Tractarian doctrines. The vibration of an intellectual movement
was felt from the golden head to the miry toes of the Establishment; and
so it came to pass that, in the district round Milby, the market-town
close to Shepperton, the clergy had agreed to have a clerical meeting
every month, wherein they would exercise their intellects by discussing
theological and ecclesiastical questions, and cement their brotherly love
by discussing a good dinner. A Book Society naturally suggested itself as
an adjunct of this agreeable plan; and thus, you perceive, there was
provision made for ample friction of the clerical mind.

Now, the Rev. Amos Barton was one of those men who have a decided will
and opinion of their own; he held himself bolt upright, and had no
self-distrust. He would march very determinedly along the road he thought
best; but then it was wonderfully easy to convince him which was the best
road. And so a very little unwonted reading and unwonted discussion made
him see that an Episcopalian Establishment was much more than
unobjectionable, and on many other points he began to feel that he held
opinions a little too far-sighted and profound to be crudely and suddenly
communicated to ordinary minds. He was like an onion that has been rubbed
with spices; the strong original odour was blended with something new and
foreign. The Low-Church onion still offended refined High Church
nostrils, and the new spice was unwelcome to the palate of the genuine
onion-eater.

We will not accompany him to the Clerical Meeting today, because we shall
probably want to go thither some day when he will be absent. And just now
I am bent on introducing you to Mr. Bridmain and the Countess Czerlaski,
with whom Mr. and Mrs. Barton are invited to dine tomorrow.



Chapter 3


Outside, the moon is shedding its cold light on the cold snow, and the
white-bearded fir-trees round Camp Villa are casting a blue shadow across
the white ground, while the Rev. Amos Barton, and his wife are audibly
crushing the crisp snow beneath their feet, as, about seven o'clock on
Friday evening, they approach the door of the above-named desirable
country residence, containing dining, breakfast, and drawing rooms, etc.,
situated only half a mile from the market-town of Milby.

Inside, there is a bright fire in the drawing-room, casting a pleasant
but uncertain light on the delicate silk dress of a lady who is reclining
behind a screen in the corner of the sofa, and allowing you to discern
that the hair of the gentleman who is seated in the arm-chair opposite,
with a newspaper over his knees, is becoming decidedly grey. A little
'King Charles', with a crimson ribbon round his neck, who has been lying
curled up in the very middle of the hearth-rug, has just discovered that
that zone is too hot for him, and is jumping on the sofa, evidently with
the intention of accommodating his person on the silk gown. On the table
there are two wax-candles, which will be lighted as soon as the expected
knock is heard at the door.

The knock is heard, the candles are lighted, and presently Mr. and Mrs.
Barton are ushered in--Mr. Barton erect and clerical, in a faultless tie
and shining cranium; Mrs. Barton graceful in a newly-turned black silk.

'Now this is charming of you,' said the Countess Czerlaski, advancing to
meet them, and embracing Milly with careful elegance. 'I am really
ashamed of my selfishness in asking my friends to come and see me in this
frightful weather.' Then, giving her hand to Amos, 'And you, Mr. Barton,
whose time is so precious! But I am doing a good deed in drawing you away
from your labours. I have a plot to prevent you from martyrizing
yourself.'

While this greeting was going forward, Mr. Bridmain, and Jet the spaniel,
looked on with the air of actors who had no idea of by-play. Mr.
Bridmain, a stiff and rather thick-set man, gave his welcome with a
laboured cordiality. It was astonishing how very little he resembled his
beautiful sister.

For the Countess Czerlaski was undeniably beautiful. As she seated
herself by Mrs. Barton on the sofa, Milly's eyes, indeed, rested--must it
be confessed?--chiefly on the details of the tasteful dress, the rich
silk of a pinkish lilac hue (the Countess always wore delicate colours in
an evening), the black lace pelerine, and the black lace veil falling at
the back of the small closely-braided head. For Milly had one
weakness--don't love her any the less for it, it was a pretty woman's
weakness--she was fond of dress; and often, when she was making up her
own economical millinery, she had romantic visions how nice it would be
to put on really handsome stylish things--to have very stiff balloon
sleeves, for example, without which a woman's dress was nought in those
days. You and I, too, reader, have our weakness, have we not? which makes
us think foolish things now and then. Perhaps it may lie in an excessive
admiration for small hands and feet, a tall lithe figure, large dark
eyes, and dark silken braided hair. All these the Countess possessed, and
she had, moreover, a delicately-formed nose, the least bit curved, and a
clear brunette complexion. Her mouth it must be admitted, receded too
much from her nose and chin and to a prophetic eye threatened
'nut-crackers' in advanced age. But by the light of fire and wax candles
that age seemed very far off indeed, and you would have said that the
Countess was not more than thirty.

Look at the two women on the sofa together! The large, fair, mild-eyed
Milly is timid even in friendship: it is not easy to her to speak of the
affection of which her heart is full. The lithe, dark, thin-lipped
Countess is racking her small brain for caressing words and charming
exaggerations.

'And how are all the cherubs at home?' said the Countess, stooping to
pick up Jet, and without waiting for an answer. 'I have been kept
in-doors by a cold ever since Sunday, or I should not have rested without
seeing you. What have you done with those wretched singers, Mr. Barton?'

'O, we have got a new choir together, which will go on very well with a
little practice. I was quite determined that the old set of singers
should be dismissed. I had given orders that they should not sing the
wedding psalm, as they call it, again, to make a new-married couple look
ridiculous, and they sang it in defiance of me. I could put them into the
Ecclesiastical Court, if I chose for to do so, for lifting up their
voices in church in opposition to the clergyman.'

'And a most wholesome discipline that would be,' said the Countess,
'indeed, you are too patient and forbearing, Mr. Barton. For my part, _I_
lose _my_ temper when I see how far you are from being appreciated in
that miserable Shepperton.'

If, as is probable, Mr. Barton felt at a loss what to say in reply to the
insinuated compliment, it was a relief to him that dinner was announced
just then, and that he had to offer his arm to the Countess.

As Mr. Bridmain was leading Mrs. Barton to the dining-room, he observed,
'The weather is very severe.'

'Very, indeed,' said Milly.

Mr. Bridmain studied conversation as an art. To ladies he spoke of the
weather, and was accustomed to consider it under three points of view: as
a question of climate in general, comparing England with other countries
in this respect; as a personal question, inquiring how it affected his
lady interlocutor in particular; and as a question of probabilities,
discussing whether there would be a change or a continuance of the
present atmospheric conditions. To gentlemen he talked politics, and he
read two daily papers expressly to qualify himself for this function. Mr.
Barton thought him a man of considerable political information, but not
of lively parts.

'And so you are always to hold your Clerical Meetings at Mr. Ely's?' said
the Countess, between her spoonfuls of soup. (The soup was a little
over-spiced. Mrs. Short of Camp Villa, who was in the habit of letting
her best apartments, gave only moderate wages to her cook.)

'Yes,' said Mr. Barton; 'Milby is a central place, and there are many
conveniences in having only one point of meeting.'

'Well,' continued the Countess, 'every one seems to agree in giving the
precedence to Mr. Ely. For my part, I _cannot_ admire him. His preaching
is too cold for me. It has no fervour--no heart. I often say to my
brother, it is a great comfort to me that Shepperton Church is not too
far off for us to go to; don't I, Edmund?'

'Yes,' answered Mr. Bridmain; 'they show us into such a bad pew at
Milby--just where there is a draught from that door. I caught a stiff
neck the first time I went there.'

'O, it is the cold in the pulpit that affects me, not the cold in the
pew. I was writing to my friend Lady Porter this morning, and telling her
all about my feelings. She and I think alike on such matters. She is most
anxious that when Sir William has an opportunity of giving away the
living at their place, Dippley, they should have a thoroughly zealous
clever man there. I have been describing a certain friend of mine to her,
who, I think, would be just to her mind. And there is such a pretty
rectory, Milly; shouldn't I like to see you the mistress of it?'

Milly smiled and blushed slightly. The Rev. Amos blushed very red, and
gave a little embarrassed laugh--he could rarely keep his muscles within
the limits of a smile. At this moment John, the man-servant, approached
Mrs. Barton with a gravy-tureen, and also with a slight odour of the
stable, which usually adhered to him through his in-door functions. John
was rather nervous; and the Countess happening to speak to him at this
inopportune moment, the tureen slipped and emptied itself on Mrs.
Barton's newly-turned black silk.

'O, horror! Tell Alice to come directly and rub Mrs. Barton's dress,'
said the Countess to the trembling John, carefully abstaining from
approaching the gravy-sprinkled spot on the floor with her own lilac
silk. But Mr. Bridmain, who had a strictly private interest in silks,
good-naturedly jumped up and applied his napkin at once to Mrs. Barton's
gown.

Milly felt a little inward anguish, but no ill-temper, and tried to make
light of the matter for the sake of John as well as others. The Countess
felt inwardly thankful that her own delicate silk had escaped, but threw
out lavish interjections of distress and indignation.

'Dear saint that you are,' she said, when Milly laughed, and suggested
that, as her silk was not very glossy to begin with, the dim patch would
not be much seen; 'you don't mind about these things, I know. Just the
same sort of thing happened to me at the Princess Wengstein's one day, on
a pink satin. I was in an agony. But you are so indifferent to dress; and
well you may be. It is you who make dress pretty, and not dress that
makes you pretty.'

Alice, the buxom lady's-maid, wearing a much better dress than Mrs.
Barton's, now appeared to take Mr. Bridmain's place in retrieving the
mischief, and after a great amount of supplementary rubbing, composure
was restored, and the business of dining was continued. When John was
recounting his accident to the cook in the kitchen, he observed, 'Mrs.
Barton's a hamable woman; I'd a deal sooner ha' throwed the gravy o'er
the Countess's fine gownd. But laws! what tantrums she'd ha' been in
arter the visitors was gone.'

'You'd a deal sooner not ha' throwed it down at all, _I_ should think,'
responded the unsympathetic cook, to whom John did _not_ make love. 'Who
d'you think's to mek gravy anuff, if you're to baste people's gownds wi'
it?'

'Well,' suggested John, humbly, 'you should wet the bottom of the _duree_
a bit, to hold it from slippin'.'

'Wet your granny!' returned the cook; a retort which she probably
regarded in the light of a _reductio ad absurdum_, and which in fact
reduced John to silence.

Later on in the evening, while John was removing the teathings from the
drawing-room, and brushing the crumbs from the table-cloth with an
accompanying hiss, such as he was wont to encourage himself with in
rubbing down Mr. Bridmain's horse, the Rev. Amos Barton drew from his
pocket a thin green-covered pamphlet, and, presenting it to the Countess,
said,--'You were pleased, I think, with my sermon on Christmas Day. It
has been printed in "The Pulpit," and I thought you might like a copy.'

'That indeed I shall. I shall quite value the opportunity of reading that
sermon. There was such depth in it!--such argument! It was not a sermon
to be heard only once. I am delighted that it should become generally
known, as it will be now it is printed in "The Pulpit."'

'Yes,' said Milly, innocently, 'I was so pleased with the editor's
letter.' And she drew out her little pocket-book, where she carefully
treasured the editorial autograph, while Mr. Barton laughed and blushed,
and said, 'Nonsense, Milly!'

'You see,' she said, giving the letter to the Countess, 'I am very proud
of the praise my husband gets.'

The sermon in question, by the by, was an extremely argumentative one on
the Incarnation; which, as it was preached to a congregation not one of
whom had any doubt of that doctrine, and to whom the Socinians therein
confuted were as unknown as the Arimaspians, was exceedingly well adapted
to trouble and confuse the Sheppertonian mind.

'Ah,' said the Countess, returning the editor's letter, 'he may well say
he will be glad of other sermons from the same source. But I would rather
you should publish your sermons in an independent volume, Mr. Barton; it
would be so desirable to have them in that shape. For instance, I could
send a copy to the Dean of Radborough. And there is Lord Blarney, whom I
knew before he was chancellor. I was a special favourite of his, and you
can't think what sweet things he used to say to me. I shall not resist
the temptation to write to him one of these days _sans facon_, and tell
him how he ought to dispose of the next vacant living in his gift.'

Whether Jet the spaniel, being a much more knowing dog than was
suspected, wished to express his disapproval of the Countess's last
speech, as not accordant with his ideas of wisdom and veracity, I cannot
say; but at this moment he jumped off her lap, and, turning his back upon
her, placed one paw on the fender, and held the other up to warm, as if
affecting to abstract himself from the current of conversation.

But now Mr. Bridmain brought out the chess-board, and Mr. Barton accepted
his challenge to play a game, with immense satisfaction. The Rev. Amos
was very fond of chess, as most people are who can continue through many
years to create interesting vicissitudes in the game, by taking
long-meditated moves with their knights, and subsequently discovering
that they have thereby exposed their queen.

Chess is a silent game; and the Countess's chat with Milly is in quite an
under-tone--probably relating to women's matters that it would be
impertinent for us to listen to; so we will leave Camp Villa, and proceed
to Milby Vicarage, where Mr. Farquhar has sat out two other guests with
whom he has been dining at Mr. Ely's, and is now rather wearying that
reverend gentleman by his protracted small-talk.

Mr. Ely was a tall, dark-haired, distinguished-looking man of
three-and-thirty. By the laity of Milby and its neighbourhood he was
regarded as a man of quite remarkable powers and learning, who must make
a considerable sensation in London pulpits and drawing-rooms on his
occasional visit to the metropolis; and by his brother clergy he was
regarded as a discreet and agreeable fellow. Mr. Ely never got into a
warm discussion; he suggested what might be thought, but rarely said what
he thought himself; he never let either men or women see that he was
laughing at them, and he never gave any one an opportunity of laughing at
_him_. In one thing only he was injudicious. He parted his dark wavy hair
down the middle; and as his head was rather flat than otherwise, that
style of coiffure was not advantageous to him.

Mr. Farquhar, though not a parishioner of Mr. Ely's, was one of his
warmest admirers, and thought he would make an unexceptionable
son-in-law, in spite of his being of no particular 'family'. Mr. Farquhar
was susceptible on the point of 'blood'--his own circulating fluid, which
animated a short and somewhat flabby person, being, he considered, of
very superior quality.

'By the by,' he said, with a certain pomposity counteracted by a lisp,
'what an ath Barton makth of himthelf, about that Bridmain and the
Counteth, ath she callth herthelf. After you were gone the other evening,
Mithith Farquhar wath telling him the general opinion about them in the
neighbourhood, and he got quite red and angry. Bleth your thoul, he
believth the whole thtory about her Polish huthband and hith wonderful
ethcapeth; and ath for her--why, he thinkth her perfection, a woman of
motht refined fellingth, and no end of thtuff.'

Mr. Ely smiled. 'Some people would say our friend Barton was not the best
judge of refinement. Perhaps the lady flatters him a little, and we men
are susceptible. She goes to Shepperton Church every Sunday--drawn there,
let us suppose, by Mr. Barton's eloquence.'

'Pshaw,' said Mr. Farquhar: 'Now, to my mind, you have only to look at
that woman to thee what she ith--throwing her eyth about when she comth
into church, and drething in a way to attract attention. I should thay,
she'th tired of her brother Bridmain, and looking out for another brother
with a thtronger family likeneth. Mithith Farquhar ith very fond of
Mithith Barton, and ith quite dithtrethed that she should athothiate with
thuch a woman, tho she attacked him on the thubject purpothly. But I tell
her it'th of no uthe, with a pig-headed fellow like him. Barton'th
well-meaning enough, but _tho_ contheited. I've left off giving him my
advithe.'

Mr. Ely smiled inwardly and said to himself, 'What a punishment!' But to
Mr. Farquhar he said, 'Barton might be more judicious, it must be
confessed.' He was getting tired, and did not want to develop the
subject.

'Why, nobody vithit-th them but the Bartonth,' continued Mr. Farquhar,
'and why should thuch people come here, unleth they had particular
reathonth for preferring a neighbourhood where they are not known? Pooh!
it lookth bad on the very fathe of it. _You_ called on them, now; how did
you find them?'

'O!--Mr. Bridmain strikes me as a common sort of man, who is making an
effort to seem wise and well-bred. He comes down on one tremendously with
political information, and seems knowing about the king of the French.
The Countess is certainly a handsome woman, but she puts on the grand air
a little too powerfully. Woodcock was immensely taken with her, and
insisted on his wife's calling on her and asking her to dinner; but I
think Mrs. Woodcock turned restive after the first visit, and wouldn't
invite her again.'

'Ha, ha! Woodcock hath alwayth a thoft place in hith heart for a pretty
fathe. It'th odd how he came to marry that plain woman, and no fortune
either.'

'Mysteries of the tender passion,' said Mr. Ely. 'I am not initiated yet,
you know.'

Here Mr. Farquhar's carriage was announced, and as we have not found his
conversation particularly brilliant under the stimulus of Mr. Ely's
exceptional presence, we will not accompany him home to the less exciting
atmosphere of domestic life.

Mr. Ely threw himself with a sense of relief into his easiest chair, set
his feet on the hobs, and in this attitude of bachelor enjoyment began to
read Bishop Jebb's Memoirs.



Chapter 4


I am by no means sure that if the good people of Milby had known the
truth about the Countess Czerlaski, they would not have been considerably
disappointed to find that it was very far from being as bad as they
imagined. Nice distinctions are troublesome. It is so much easier to say
that a thing is black, than to discriminate the particular shade of
brown, blue, or green, to which it really belongs. It is so much easier
to make up your mind that your neighbour is good for nothing, than to
enter into all the circumstances that would oblige you to modify that
opinion.

Besides, think of all the virtuous declamation, all the penetrating
observation, which had been built up entirely on the fundamental position
that the Countess was a very objectionable person indeed, and which would
be utterly overturned and nullified by the destruction of that premiss.
Mrs. Phipps, the banker's wife, and Mrs. Landor, the attorney's wife, had
invested part of their reputation for acuteness in the supposition that
Mr. Bridmain was not the Countess's brother. Moreover, Miss Phipps was
conscious that if the Countess was not a disreputable person, she, Miss
Phipps, had no compensating superiority in virtue to set against the
other lady's manifest superiority in personal charms. Miss Phipps's
stumpy figure and unsuccessful attire, instead of looking down from a
mount of virtue with an aureole round its head, would then be seen on the
same level and in the same light as the Countess Czerlaski's Diana-like
form and well-chosen drapery. Miss Phipps, for her part, didn't like
dressing for effect--she had always avoided that style of appearance
which was calculated to create a sensation.

Then what amusing innuendoes of the Milby gentlemen over their wine would
have been entirely frustrated and reduced to nought, if you had told them
that the Countess had really been guilty of no misdemeanours which
demanded her exclusion from strictly respectable society; that her
husband had been the veritable Count Czerlaski, who had had wonderful
escapes, as she said, and who, as she did _not_ say, but as was said in
certain circulars once folded by her fair hands, had subsequently given
dancing lessons in the metropolis; that Mr. Bridmain was neither more nor
less than her half-brother, who, by unimpeached integrity and industry,
had won a partnership in a silk-manufactory, and thereby a moderate
fortune, that enabled him to retire, as you see, to study politics, the
weather, and the art of conversation at his leisure. Mr. Bridmain, in
fact, quadragenarian bachelor as he was, felt extremely well pleased to
receive his sister in her widowhood, and to shine in the reflected light
of her beauty and title. Every man who is not a monster, a mathematician,
or a mad philosopher, is the slave of some woman or other. Mr. Bridmain
had put his neck under the yoke of his handsome sister, and though his
soul was a very little one--of the smallest description indeed--he would
not have ventured to call it his own. He might be slightly recalcitrant
now and then, as is the habit of long-eared pachyderms, under the thong
of the fair Countess's tongue; but there seemed little probability that
he would ever get his neck loose. Still, a bachelor's heart is an
outlying fortress that some fair enemy may any day take either by storm
or stratagem; and there was always the possibility that Mr. Bridmain's
first nuptials might occur before the Countess was quite sure of her
second. As it was, however, he submitted to all his sister's caprices,
never grumbled because her dress and her maid formed a considerable item
beyond her own little income of sixty pounds per annum, and consented to
lead with her a migratory life, as personages on the debatable ground
between aristocracy and commonalty, instead of settling in some spot
where his five hundred a-year might have won him the definite dignity of
a parochial magnate.

The Countess had her views in choosing a quiet provincial place like
Milby. After three years of widowhood, she had brought her feelings to
contemplate giving a successor to her lamented Czerlaski, whose fine
whiskers, fine air, and romantic fortunes had won her heart ten years
ago, when, as pretty Caroline Bridmain, in the full bloom of
five-and-twenty, she was governess to Lady Porter's daughters, whom he
initiated into the mysteries of the _pas de bas_, and the lancers'
quadrilles. She had had seven years of sufficiently happy matrimony with
Czerlaski, who had taken her to Paris and Germany, and introduced her
there to many of his old friends with large titles and small fortunes. So
that the fair Caroline had had considerable experience of life, and had
gathered therefrom, not, indeed, any very ripe and comprehensive wisdom,
but much external polish, and certain practical conclusions of a very
decided kind. One of these conclusions was, that there were things more
solid in life than fine whiskers and a title, and that, in accepting a
second husband, she would regard these items as quite subordinate to a
carriage and a settlement. Now, she had ascertained, by tentative
residences, that the kind of bite she was angling for was difficult to be
met with at watering-places, which were already preoccupied with
abundance of angling beauties, and were chiefly stocked with men whose
whiskers might be dyed, and whose incomes were still more problematic; so
she had determined on trying a neighbourhood where people were extremely
well acquainted with each other's affairs, and where the women were
mostly ill-dressed and ugly. Mr. Bridmain's slow brain had adopted his
sister's views, and it seemed to him that a woman so handsome and
distinguished as the Countess must certainly make a match that might lift
himself into the region of county celebrities, and give him at least a
sort of cousinship to the quarter-sessions.

All this, which was the simple truth, would have seemed extremely flat to
the gossips of Milby, who had made up their minds to something much more
exciting. There was nothing here so very detestable. It is true, the
Countess was a little vain, a little ambitious, a little selfish, a
little shallow and frivolous, a little given to white lies.--But who
considers such slight blemishes, such moral pimples as these,
disqualifications for entering into the most respectable society! Indeed,
the severest ladies in Milby would have been perfectly aware that these
characteristics would have created no wide distinction between the
Countess Czerlaski and themselves; and since it was clear there _was_ a
wide distinction--why, it must lie in the possession of some vices from
which they were undeniably free.

Hence it came to pass that Milby respectability refused to recognize the
Countess Czerlaski, in spite of her assiduous church-going, and the deep
disgust she was known to have expressed at the extreme paucity of the
congregations on Ash-Wednesdays. So she began to feel that she had
miscalculated the advantages of a neighbourhood where people are well
acquainted with each other's private affairs. Under these circumstances,
you will imagine how welcome was the perfect credence and admiration she
met with from Mr. and Mrs. Barton. She had been especially irritated by
Mr. Ely's behaviour to her; she felt sure that he was not in the least
struck with her beauty, that he quizzed her conversation, and that he
spoke of her with a sneer. A woman always knows where she is utterly
powerless, and shuns a coldly satirical eye as she would shun a Gorgon.
And she was especially eager for clerical notice and friendship, not
merely because that is quite the most respectable countenance to be
obtained in society, but because she really cared about religious
matters, and had an uneasy sense that she was not altogether safe in that
quarter. She had serious intentions of becoming _quite_ pious--without
any reserves--when she had once got her carriage and settlement. Let us
do this one sly trick, says Ulysses to Neoptolemus, and we will be
perfectly honest ever after--

     [Greek: all edu gar toi ktema tes uikes labien
             tolma dikaioi d' authis ekphanoumetha.]

The Countess did not quote Sophocles, but she said to herself, 'Only this
little bit of pretence and vanity, and then I will be _quite_ good, and
make myself quite safe for another world.'

And as she had by no means such fine taste and insight in theological
teaching as in costume, the Rev. Amos Barton seemed to her a man not only
of learning--_that_ is always understood with a clergyman--but of much
power as a spiritual director. As for Milly, the Countess really loved
her as well as the preoccupied state of her affections would allow. For
you have already perceived that there was one being to whom the Countess
was absorbingly devoted, and to whose desires she made everything else
subservient--namely, Caroline Czerlaski, _nee_ Bridmain.

Thus there was really not much affectation in her sweet speeches and
attentions to Mr. and Mrs. Barton. Still their friendship by no means
adequately represented the object she had in view when she came to Milby,
and it had been for some time clear to her that she must suggest a new
change of residence to her brother.

The thing we look forward to often comes to pass, but never precisely in
the way we have imagined to ourselves. The Countess did actually leave
Camp Villa before many months were past, but under circumstances which
had not at all entered into her contemplation.



Chapter 5


The Rev. Amos Barton, whose sad fortunes I have undertaken to relate,
was, you perceive, in no respect an ideal or exceptional character; and
perhaps I am doing a bold thing to bespeak your sympathy on behalf of a
man who was so very far from remarkable,--a man whose virtues were not
heroic, and who had no undetected crime within his breast; who had not
the slightest mystery hanging about him, but was palpably and
unmistakably commonplace; who was not even in love, but had had that
complaint favourably many years ago. 'An utterly uninteresting
character!' I think I hear a lady reader exclaim--Mrs. Farthingale, for
example, who prefers the ideal in fiction; to whom tragedy means ermine
tippets, adultery, and murder; and comedy, the adventures of some
personage who is quite a 'character'.

But, my dear madam, it is so very large a majority of your
fellow-countrymen that are of this insignificant stamp. At least eighty
out of a hundred of your adult male fellow-Britons returned in the last
census are neither extraordinarily silly, nor extraordinarily wicked, nor
extraordinarily wise; their eyes are neither deep and liquid with
sentiment, nor sparkling with suppressed witticisms; they have probably
had no hairbreadth escapes or thrilling adventures; their brains are
certainly not pregnant with genius, and their passions have not
manifested themselves at all after the fashion of a volcano. They are
simply men of complexions more or less muddy, whose conversation is more
or less bald and disjointed. Yet these commonplace people--many of
them--bear a conscience, and have felt the sublime prompting to do the
painful right; they have their unspoken sorrows, and their sacred joys;
their hearts have perhaps gone out towards their first-born, and they
have mourned over the irreclaimable dead. Nay, is there not a pathos in
their very insignificance--in our comparison of their dim and narrow
existence with the glorious possibilities of that human nature which they
share?

Depend upon it, you would gain unspeakably if you would learn with me to
see some of the poetry and the pathos, the tragedy and the comedy, lying
in the experience of a human soul that looks out through dull grey eyes,
and that speaks in a voice of quite ordinary tones. In that case, I
should have no fear of your not caring to know what farther befell the
Rev. Amos Barton, or of your thinking the homely details I have to tell
at all beneath your attention. As it is, you can, if you please, decline
to pursue my story farther; and you will easily find reading more to your
taste, since I learn from the newspapers that many remarkable novels,
full of striking situations, thrilling incidents, and eloquent writing,
have appeared only within the last season.

Meanwhile, readers who have begun to feel an interest in the Rev. Amos
Barton and his wife, will be glad to learn that Mr. Oldinport lent the
twenty pounds. But twenty pounds are soon exhausted when twelve are due
as back payment to the butcher, and when the possession of eight extra
sovereigns in February weather is an irresistible temptation to order a
new greatcoat. And though Mr. Bridmain so far departed from the necessary
economy entailed on him by the Countess's elegant toilette and expensive
maid, as to choose a handsome black silk, stiff, as his experienced eye
discerned, with the genuine strength of its own texture, and not with the
factitious strength of gum, and present it to Mrs. Barton, in retrieval
of the accident that had occurred at his table, yet, dear me--as every
husband has heard--what is the present of a gown when you are deficiently
furnished with the et-ceteras of apparel, and when, moreover, there are
six children whose wear and tear of clothes is something incredible to
the non-maternal mind?

Indeed, the equation of income and expenditure was offering new and
constantly accumulating difficulties to Mr. and Mrs. Barton; for shortly
after the birth of little Walter, Milly's aunt, who had lived with her
ever since her marriage, had withdrawn herself, her furniture, and her
yearly income, to the household of another niece; prompted to that step,
very probably, by a slight 'tiff' with the Rev. Amos, which occurred
while Milly was upstairs, and proved one too many for the elderly lady's
patience and magnanimity. Mr. Barton's temper was a little warm, but, on
the other hand, elderly maiden ladies are known to be susceptible; so we
will not suppose that all the blame lay on his side--the less so, as he
had every motive for humouring an inmate whose presence kept the wolf
from the door. It was now nearly a year since Miss Jackson's departure,
and, to a fine ear, the howl of the wolf was audibly approaching.

It was a sad thing, too, that when the last snow had melted, when the
purple and yellow crocuses were coming up in the garden, and the old
church was already half pulled down, Milly had an illness which made her
lips look pale, and rendered it absolutely necessary that she should not
exert herself for some time. Mr. Brand, the Shepperton doctor so
obnoxious to Mr. Pilgrim, ordered her to drink port-wine, and it was
quite necessary to have a charwoman very often, to assist Nanny in all
the extra work that fell upon her.

Mrs. Hackit, who hardly ever paid a visit to any one but her oldest and
nearest neighbour, Mrs. Patten, now took the unusual step of calling at
the vicarage one morning; and the tears came into her unsentimental eyes
as she saw Milly seated pale and feeble in the parlour, unable to
persevere in sewing the pinafore that lay on the table beside her. Little
Dickey, a boisterous boy of five, with large pink cheeks and sturdy legs,
was having his turn to sit with Mamma, and was squatting quiet as a mouse
at her knee, holding her soft white hand between his little red
black-nailed fists. He was a boy whom Mrs. Hackit, in a severe mood, had
pronounced 'stocky' (a word that etymologically in all probability,
conveys some allusion to an instrument of punishment for the refractory);
but seeing him thus subdued into goodness, she smiled at him with her
kindest smile, and stooping down, suggested a kiss--a favour which Dicky
resolutely declined.

'Now _do_ you take nourishing things enough?' was one of Mrs. Hackit's
first questions, and Milly endeavoured to make it appear that no woman
was ever so much in danger of being over-fed and led into self-indulgent
habits as herself. But Mrs. Hackit gathered one fact from her replies,
namely, that Mr. Brand had ordered port-wine.

While this conversation was going forward, Dickey had been furtively
stroking and kissing the soft white hand; so that at last, when a pause
came, his mother said, smilingly, 'Why are you kissing my hand, Dickey?'

'It id to yovely,' answered Dickey, who, you observe, was decidedly
backward in his pronunciation.

Mrs. Hackit remembered this little scene in after days, and thought with
peculiar tenderness and pity of the 'stocky boy'.

The next day there came a hamper with Mrs. Hackit's respects; and on
being opened it was found to contain half-a-dozen of port-wine and two
couples of fowls. Mrs. Farquhar, too, was very kind; insisted on Mrs.
Barton's rejecting all arrowroot but hers, which was genuine Indian, and
carried away Sophy and Fred to stay with her a fortnight. These and other
good-natured attentions made the trouble of Milly's illness more
bearable; but they could not prevent it from swelling expenses, and Mr.
Barton began to have serious thoughts of representing his case to a
certain charity for the relief of needy curates.

Altogether, as matters stood in Shepperton, the parishioners were more
likely to have a strong sense that the clergyman needed their material
aid, than that they needed his spiritual aid,--not the best state of
things in this age and country, where faith in men solely on the ground
of their spiritual gifts has considerably diminished, and especially
unfavourable to the influence of the Rev. Amos, whose spiritual gifts
would not have had a very commanding power even in an age of faith.

But, you ask, did not the Countess Czerlaski pay any attention to her
friends all this time? To be sure she did. She was indefatigable in
visiting her 'sweet Milly', and sitting with her for hours together. It
may seem remarkable to you that she neither thought of taking away any of
the children, nor of providing for any of Milly's probable wants; but
ladies of rank and of luxurious habits, you know, cannot be expected to
surmise the details of poverty. She put a great deal of eau-de-Cologne on
Mrs. Barton's pocket-handkerchief, rearranged her pillow and footstool,
kissed her cheeks, wrapped her in a soft warm shawl from her own
shoulders, and amused her with stories of the life she had seen abroad.
When Mr. Barton joined them she talked of Tractarianism, of her
determination not to re-enter the vortex of fashionable life, and of her
anxiety to see him in a sphere large enough for his talents. Milly
thought her sprightliness and affectionate warmth quite charming, and was
very fond of her; while the Rev. Amos had a vague consciousness that he
had risen into aristocratic life, and only associated with his
middle-class parishioners in a pastoral and parenthetic manner.

However, as the days brightened, Milly's cheeks and lips brightened too;
and in a few weeks she was almost as active as ever, though watchful eyes
might have seen that activity was not easy to her. Mrs. Hackit's eyes
were of that kind, and one day, when Mr. and Mrs. Barton had been dining
with her for the first time since Milly's illness, she observed to her
husband--'That poor thing's dreadful weak an' delicate; she won't stan'
havin' many more children.

Mr. Barton, meanwhile, had been indefatigable in his vocation. He had
preached two extemporary sermons every Sunday at the workhouse, where a
room had been fitted up for divine service, pending the alterations in
the church; and had walked the same evening to a cottage at one or other
extremity of his parish to deliver another sermon, still more
extemporary, in an atmosphere impregnated with spring-flowers and
perspiration. After all these labours you will easily conceive that he
was considerably exhausted by half-past nine o'clock in the evening, and
that a supper at a friendly parishioner's, with a glass, or even two
glasses, of brandy-and-water after it, was a welcome reinforcement. Mr.
Barton was not at all an ascetic; he thought the benefits of fasting were
entirely confined to the Old Testament dispensation; he was fond of
relaxing himself with a little gossip; indeed, Miss Bond, and other
ladies of enthusiastic views, sometimes regretted that Mr. Barton did not
more uninterruptedly exhibit a superiority to the things of the flesh.
Thin ladies, who take little exercise, and whose livers are not strong
enough to bear stimulants, are so extremely critical about one's personal
habits! And, after all, the Rev. Amos never came near the borders of a
vice. His very faults were middling--he was not _very_ ungrammatical. It
was not in his nature to be superlative in anything; unless, indeed, he
was superlatively middling, the quintessential extract of mediocrity. If
there was any one point on which he showed an inclination to be
excessive, it was confidence in his own shrewdness and ability in
practical matters, so that he was very full of plans which were something
like his moves in chess--admirably well calculated, supposing the state
of the case were otherwise. For example, that notable plan of introducing
anti-dissenting books into his Lending Library did not in the least
appear to have bruised the head of Dissent, though it had certainly made
Dissent strongly inclined to bite the Rev. Amos's heel. Again, he vexed
the souls of his churchwardens and influential parishioners by his
fertile suggestiveness as to what it would be well for them to do in the
matter of the church repairs, and other ecclesiastical secularities.

'I never saw the like to parsons,' Mr. Hackit said one day in
conversation with his brother churchwarden, Mr. Bond; 'they're al'ys for
meddling with business, an they know no more about it than my black
filly.'

'Ah,' said Mr. Bond, 'they're too high learnt to have much common-sense.'

'Well,' remarked Mr. Hackit, in a modest and dubious tone, as if throwing
out a hypothesis which might be considered bold, 'I should say that's a
bad sort of eddication as makes folks onreasonable.'

So that, you perceive, Mr. Barton's popularity was in that precarious
condition, in that toppling and contingent state, in which a very slight
push from a malignant destiny would utterly upset it. That push was not
long in being given, as you shall hear.

One fine May morning, when Amos was out on his parochial visits, and the
sunlight was streaming through the bow-window of the sitting-room, where
Milly was seated at her sewing, occasionally looking up to glance at the
children playing in the garden, there came a loud rap at the door, which
she at once recognized as the Countess's, and that well-dressed lady
presently entered the sitting-room, with her veil drawn over her face.
Milly was not at all surprised or sorry to see her; but when the Countess
threw up her veil, and showed that her eyes were red and swollen, she was
both surprised and sorry.

'What can be the matter, dear Caroline?'

Caroline threw down Jet, who gave a little yelp; then she threw her arms
round Milly's neck, and began to sob; then she threw herself on the sofa,
and begged for a glass of water; then she threw off her bonnet and shawl;
and by the time Milly's imagination had exhausted itself in conjuring up
calamities, she said,--'Dear, how shall I tell you? I am the most
wretched woman. To be deceived by a brother to whom I have been so
devoted--to see him degrading himself--giving himself utterly to the
dogs!'

'What can it be?' said Milly, who began to picture to herself the sober
Mr. Bridmain taking to brandy and betting.

'He is going to be married--to marry my own maid, that deceitful Alice,
to whom I have been the most indulgent mistress. Did you ever hear of
anything so disgraceful? so mortifying? so disreputable?'

'And has he only just told you of it?' said Milly, who, having really
heard of worse conduct, even in her innocent life, avoided a direct
answer.

'Told me of it! he had not even the grace to do that. I went into the
dining-room suddenly and found him kissing her--disgusting at his time of
life, is it not?--and when I reproved her for allowing such liberties,
she turned round saucily, and said she was engaged to be married to my
brother, and she saw no shame in allowing him to kiss her. Edmund is a
miserable coward, you know, and looked frightened; but when she asked him
to say whether it was not so, he tried to summon up courage and say yes.
I left the room in disgust, and this morning I have been questioning
Edmund, and find that he is bent on marrying this woman, and that he has
been putting off telling me--because he was ashamed of himself, I
suppose. I couldn't possibly stay in the house after this, with my own
maid turned mistress. And now, Milly, I am come to throw myself on your
charity for a week or two. _Will_ you take me in?'

'That we will,' said Milly, 'if you will only put up with our poor rooms
and way of living. It will be delightful to have you!'

'It will soothe me to be with you and Mr. Barton a little while. I feel
quite unable to go among my other friends just at present. What those two
wretched people will do I don't know--leave the neighbourhood at once, I
hope. I entreated my brother to do so, before he disgraced himself.'

When Amos came home, he joined his cordial welcome and sympathy to
Milly's. By-and-by the Countess's formidable boxes, which she had
carefully packed before her indignation drove her away from Camp Villa,
arrived at the vicarage, and were deposited in the spare bedroom, and in
two closets, not spare, which Milly emptied for their reception. A week
afterwards, the excellent apartments at Camp Villa, comprising dining and
drawing rooms, three bedrooms and a dressing-room, were again to let, and
Mr. Bridmain's sudden departure, together with the Countess Czerlaski's
installation as a visitor at Shepperton Vicarage, became a topic of
general conversation in the neighbourhood. The keen-sighted virtue of
Milby and Shepperton saw in all this a confirmation of its worst
suspicions, and pitied the Rev. Amos Barton's gullibility.

But when week after week, and month after month, slipped by without
witnessing the Countess's departure--when summer and harvest had fled,
and still left her behind them occupying the spare bedroom and the
closets, and also a large proportion of Mrs. Barton's time and attention,
new surmises of a very evil kind were added to the old rumours, and began
to take the form of settled convictions in the minds even of Mr. Barton's
most friendly parishioners.

And now, here is an opportunity for an accomplished writer to
apostrophize calumny, to quote Virgil, and to show that he is acquainted
with the most ingenious things which have been said on that subject in
polite literature.

But what is opportunity to the man who can't use it? An undefecundated
egg, which the waves of time wash away into nonentity. So, as my memory
is ill-furnished, and my notebook still worse, I am unable to show myself
either erudite or eloquent apropos of the calumny whereof the Rev. Amos
Barton was the victim. I can only ask my reader,--did you ever upset your
ink-bottle, and watch, in helpless agony, the rapid spread of Stygian
blackness over your fair manuscript or fairer table-cover? With a like
inky swiftness did gossip now blacken the reputation of the Rev. Amos
Barton, causing the unfriendly to scorn and even the friendly to stand
aloof, at a time when difficulties of another kind were fast thickening
around him.



Chapter 6


One November morning, at least six months after the Countess Czerlaski
had taken up her residence at the vicarage, Mrs. Hackit heard that her
neighbour Mrs. Patten had an attack of her old complaint, vaguely called
'the spasms'. Accordingly, about eleven o'clock, she put on her velvet
bonnet and cloth cloak, with a long boa and muff large enough to stow a
prize baby in; for Mrs. Hackit regulated her costume by the calendar, and
brought out her furs on the first of November; whatever might be the
temperature. She was not a woman weakly to accommodate herself to
shilly-shally proceedings. If the season didn't know what it ought to do,
Mrs. Hackit did. In her best days, it was always sharp weather at
'Gunpowder Plot', and she didn't like new fashions.

And this morning the weather was very rationally in accordance with her
costume, for as she made her way through the fields to Cross Farm, the
yellow leaves on the hedge-girt elms, which showed bright and golden
against the long-hanging purple clouds, were being scattered across the
grassy path by the coldest of November winds. 'Ah,' Mrs. Hackit thought
to herself, 'I daresay we shall have a sharp pinch this winter, and if we
do, I shouldn't wonder if it takes the old lady off. They say a green
Yule makes a fat churchyard; but so does a white Yule too, for that
matter. When the stool's rotten enough, no matter who sits on it.'

However, on her arrival at Cross Farm, the prospect of Mrs. Patten's
decease was again thrown into the dim distance in her imagination, for
Miss Janet Gibbs met her with the news that Mrs. Patten was much better,
and led her, without any preliminary announcement, to the old lady's
bedroom. Janet had scarcely reached the end of her circumstantial
narrative how the attack came on and what were her aunt's sensations--a
narrative to which Mrs. Patten, in her neatly-plaited nightcap, seemed to
listen with a contemptuous resignation to her niece's historical
inaccuracy, contenting herself with occasionally confounding Janet by a
shake of the head--when the clatter of a horse's hoofs on the yard
pavement announced the arrival of Mr. Pilgrim, whose large, top-booted
person presently made its appearance upstairs. He found Mrs. Patten going
on so well that there was no need to look solemn. He might glide from
condolence into gossip without offence, and the temptation of having Mrs.
Hackit's ear was irresistible.

'What a disgraceful business this is turning out of your parson's,' was
the remark with which he made this agreeable transition, throwing himself
back in the chair from which he had been leaning towards the patient.
'Eh, dear me!' said Mrs. Hackit, 'disgraceful enough. I stuck to Mr.
Barton as long as I could, for his wife's sake; but I can't countenance
such goings-on. It's hateful to see that woman coming with 'em to service
of a Sunday, and if Mr. Hackit wasn't churchwarden and I didn't think it
wrong to forsake one's own parish, I should go to Knebley Church. There's
a many parish'ners as do.'

'I used to think Barton was only a fool,' observed Mr. Pilgrim, in a tone
which implied that he was conscious of having been weakly charitable. 'I
thought he was imposed upon and led away by those people when they first
came. But that's impossible now.'

'O, it's as plain as the nose in your face,' said Mrs. Hackit,
unreflectingly, not perceiving the equivoque in her comparison--'comin'
to Milby, like a sparrow perchin' on a bough, as I may say, with her
brother, as she called him; and then all on a sudden the brother goes off
with himself, and she throws herself on the Bartons. Though what could
make her take up with a poor notomise of a parson, as hasn't got enough
to keep wife and children, there's One above knows--_I_ don't.'

'Mr. Barton may have attractions we don't know of,' said Mr. Pilgrim, who
piqued himself on a talent for sarcasm. 'The Countess has no maid now,
and they say Mr. Barton is handy in assisting at her toilette--laces her
boots, and so forth.'

'Tilette, be fiddled!' said Mrs. Hackit, with indignant boldness of
metaphor; 'an' there's that poor thing a-sewing her fingers to the bone
for them children--an' another comin' on. What she must have to go
through! It goes to my heart to turn my back on her. But she's i' the
wrong to let herself be put upon i' that manner.'

'Ah! I was talking to Mrs. Farquhar about that the other day. She said,
"I think Mrs. Barton a v-e-r-y w-e-a-k w-o-m-a-n".' (Mr. Pilgrim gave
this quotation with slow emphasis, as if he thought Mrs. Farquhar had
uttered a remarkable sentiment.) 'They find it impossible to invite her
to their house while she has that equivocal person staying with her.'

'Well!' remarked Miss Gibbs, 'if I was a wife, nothing should induce me
to bear what Mrs. Barton does.'

'Yes, it's fine talking,' said Mrs. Patten, from her pillow; 'old maids'
husbands are al'ys well-managed. If you was a wife you'd be as foolish as
your betters, belike.'

'All my wonder is,' observed Mrs. Hackit, 'how the Bartons make both ends
meet. You may depend on it, _she's_ got nothing to give 'em; for I
understand as he's been having money from some clergy charity. They said
at fust as she stuffed Mr. Barton wi' notions about her writing to the
Chancellor an' her fine friends, to give him a living. Howiver, I don't
know what's true an' what's false. Mr. Barton keeps away from our house
now, for I gave him a bit o' my mind one day. Maybe he's ashamed of
himself. He seems to me to look dreadful thin an' harassed of a Sunday.'

'O, he must be aware he's getting into bad odour everywhere. The clergy
are quite disgusted with his folly. They say Carpe would be glad to get
Barton out of the curacy if he could; but he can't do that without coming
to Shepperton himself, as Barton's a licensed curate; and he wouldn't
like that, I suppose.'

At this moment Mrs. Patten showed signs of uneasiness, which recalled Mr.
Pilgrim to professional attentions; and Mrs. Hackit, observing that it
was Thursday, and she must see after the butter, said good-bye, promising
to look in again soon, and bring her knitting.

This Thursday, by the by, is the first in the month--the day on which the
Clerical Meeting is held at Milby Vicarage; and as the Rev. Amos Barton
has reasons for not attending, he will very likely be a subject of
conversation amongst his clerical brethren Suppose we go there, and hear
whether Mr. Pilgrim has reported their opinion correctly.

There is not a numerous party today, for it is a season of sore throats
and catarrhs; so that the exegetical and theological discussions, which
are the preliminary of dining, have not been quite so spirited as usual;
and although a question relative to the Epistle of Jude has not been
quite cleared up, the striking of six by the church clock, and the
simultaneous announcement of dinner, are sounds that no one feels to be
importunate.

Pleasant (when one is not in the least bilious) to enter a comfortable
dining-room, where the closely-drawn red curtains glow with the double
light of fire and candle, where glass and silver are glittering on the
pure damask, and a soup-tureen gives a hint of the fragrance that will
presently rush out to inundate your hungry senses, and prepare them, by
the delicate visitation of atoms, for the keen gusto of ampler contact!
Especially if you have confidence in the dinner-giving capacity of your
host--if you know that he is not a man who entertains grovelling views of
eating and drinking as a mere satisfaction of hunger and thirst, and,
dead to all the finer influences of the palate, expects his guest to be
brilliant on ill-flavoured gravies and the cheapest Marsala. Mr. Ely was
particularly worthy of such confidence, and his virtues as an Amphitryon
had probably contributed quite as much as the central situation of Milby
to the selection of his house as a clerical rendezvous. He looks
particularly graceful at the head of his table, and, indeed, on all
occasions where he acts as president or moderator: he is a man who seems
to listen well, and is an excellent amalgam of dissimilar ingredients.

At the other end of the table, as 'Vice', sits Mr. Fellowes, rector and
magistrate, a man of imposing appearance, with a mellifluous voice and
the readiest of tongues. Mr. Fellowes once obtained a living by the
persuasive charms of his conversation, and the fluency with which he
interpreted the opinions of an obese and stammering baronet, so as to
give that elderly gentleman a very pleasing perception of his own wisdom.
Mr. Fellowes is a very successful man, and has the highest character
everywhere except in his own parish, where, doubtless because his
parishioners happen to be quarrelsome people, he is always at fierce feud
with a farmer or two, a colliery proprietor, a grocer who was once
churchwarden, and a tailor who formerly officiated as clerk.

At Mr. Ely's right hand you see a very small man with a sallow and
somewhat puffy face, whose hair is brushed straight up, evidently with
the intention of giving him a height somewhat less disproportionate to
his sense of his own importance than the measure of five feet three
accorded him by an oversight of nature. This is Rev. Archibald Duke, a
very dyspeptic and evangelical man, who takes the gloomiest view of
mankind and their prospects, and thinks the immense sale of the 'Pickwick
Papers,' recently completed, one of the strongest proofs of original sin.
Unfortunately, though Mr. Duke was not burdened with a family, his yearly
expenditure was apt considerably to exceed his income; and the unpleasant
circumstances resulting from this, together with heavy meat-breakfasts,
may probably have contributed to his desponding views of the world
generally.

Next to him is seated Mr. Furness, a tall young man, with blond hair and
whiskers, who was plucked at Cambridge entirely owing to his genius; at
least I know that he soon afterwards published a volume of poems, which
were considered remarkably beautiful by many young ladies of his
acquaintance. Mr. Furness preached his own sermons, as any one of
tolerable critical acumen might have certified by comparing them with his
poems: in both, there was an exuberance of metaphor and simile entirely
original, and not in the least borrowed from any resemblance in the
things compared.

On Mr. Furness's left you see Mr. Pugh, another young curate, of much
less marked characteristics. He had not published any poems; he had not
even been plucked; he had neat black whiskers and a pale complexion; read
prayers and a sermon twice every Sunday, and might be seen any day
sallying forth on his parochial duties in a white tie, a well-brushed
hat, a perfect suit of black, and well-polished boots--an equipment which
he probably supposed hieroglyphically to represent the spirit of
Christianity to the parishioners of Whittlecombe.

Mr. Pugh's _vis-a-vis_ is the Rev. Martin Cleves, a man about forty
--middle-sized, broad-shouldered, with a negligently-tied cravat, large
irregular features, and a large head, thickly covered with lanky brown
hair. To a superficial glance, Mr. Cleves is the plainest and least
clerical-looking of the party; yet, strange to say, _there_ is the true
parish priest, the pastor beloved, consulted, relied on by his flock; a
clergyman who is not associated with the undertaker, but thought of as
the surest helper under a difficulty, as a monitor who is encouraging
rather than severe. Mr. Cleves has the wonderful art of preaching sermons
which the wheelwright and the blacksmith can understand; not because he
talks condescending twaddle, but because he can call a spade a spade, and
knows how to disencumber ideas of their wordy frippery. Look at him more
attentively, and you will see that his face is a very interesting one
--that there is a great deal of humour and feeling playing in his grey
eyes, and about the corners of his roughly-cut mouth: a man, you observe,
who has most likely sprung from the harder-working section of the middle
class, and has hereditary sympathies with the checkered life of the
people. He gets together the working men in his parish on a Monday
evening, and gives them a sort of conversational lecture on useful
practical matters, telling them stories, or reading some select passages
from an agreeable book, and commenting on them; and if you were to ask
the first labourer or artisan in Tripplegate what sort of man the parson
was, he would say,--'a uncommon knowin', sensable, free-spoken gentleman;
very kind an' good-natur'd too'. Yet for all this, he is perhaps the best
Grecian of the party, if we except Mr. Baird, the young man on his left.

Mr. Baird has since gained considerable celebrity as an original writer
and metropolitan lecturer, but at that time he used to preach in a little
church something like a barn, to a congregation consisting of three rich
farmers and their servants, about fifteen labourers, and the due
proportion of women and children. The rich farmers understood him to be
'very high learnt;' but if you had interrogated them for a more precise
description, they would have said that he was 'a thinnish-faced man, with
a sort o' cast in his eye, like'.

Seven, altogether: a delightful number for a dinner-party, supposing the
units to be delightful, but everything depends on that. During dinner Mr.
Fellowes took the lead in the conversation, which set strongly in the
direction of mangold-wurzel and the rotation of crops; for Mr. Fellowes
and Mr. Cleves cultivated their own glebes. Mr. Ely, too, had some
agricultural notions, and even the Rev. Archibald Duke was made alive to
that class of mundane subjects by the possession of some potato-ground.
The two young curates talked a little aside during these discussions,
which had imperfect interest for their unbeneficed minds; and the
transcendental and near-sighted Mr. Baird seemed to listen somewhat
abstractedly, knowing little more of potatoes and mangold-wurzel than
that they were some form of the 'Conditioned'.

'What a hobby farming is with Lord Watling!' said Mr. Fellowes, when the
cloth was being drawn. 'I went over his farm at Tetterley with him last
summer. It is really a model farm; first-rate dairy, grazing and wheat
land, and such splendid farm-buildings! An expensive hobby, though. He
sinks a good deal of money there, I fancy. He has a great whim for black
cattle, and he sends that drunken old Scotch bailiff of his to Scotland
every year, with hundreds in his pocket, to buy these beasts.'

'By the by,' said Mr. Ely, 'do you know who is the man to whom Lord
Watling has given the Bramhill living?'

'A man named Sargent. I knew him at Oxford. His brother is a lawyer, and
was very useful to Lord Watling in that ugly Brounsell affair. That's why
Sargent got the living.'

'Sargent,' said Mr. Ely. 'I know him. Isn't he a showy, talkative fellow;
has written travels in Mesopotamia, or something of that sort?'

'That's the man.'

'He was at Witherington once, as Bagshawe's curate. He got into rather
bad odour there, through some scandal about a flirtation, I think.'

'Talking of scandal,' returned Mr. Fellowes, 'have you heard the last
story about Barton? Nisbett was telling me the other day that he dines
alone with the Countess at six, while Mrs. Barton is in the kitchen
acting as cook.'

'Rather an apocryphal authority, Nisbett,' said Mr. Ely.

'Ah,' said Mr. Cleves, with good-natured humour twinkling in his eyes,
'depend upon it, that is a corrupt version. The original text is, that
they all dined together _with_ six--meaning six children--and that Mrs.
Barton is an excellent cook.'

'I wish dining alone together may be the worst of that sad business,'
said the Rev. Archibald Duke, in a tone implying that his wish was a
strong figure of speech.

'Well,' said Mr. Fellowes, filling his glass and looking jocose, 'Barton
is certain either the greatest gull in existence, or he has some cunning
secret,--some philtre or other to make himself charming in the eyes of a
fair lady. It isn't all of us that can make conquests when our ugliness
is past its bloom.'

'The lady seemed to have made a conquest of him at the very outset,' said
Mr. Ely. 'I was immensely amused one night at Granby's when he was
telling us her story about her husband's adventures. He said, "When she
told me the tale, I felt I don't know how,--I felt it from the crown of
my head to the sole of my feet."'

Mr. Ely gave these words dramatically, imitating the Rev. Amos's fervour
and symbolic action, and every one laughed except Mr. Duke, whose
after-dinner view of things was not apt to be jovial. He said,--'I think
some of us ought to remonstrate with Mr. Barton on the scandal he is
causing. He is not only imperilling his own soul, but the souls of his
flock.'

'Depend upon it,' said Mr. Cleves, 'there is some simple explanation of
the whole affair, if we only happened to know it. Barton has always
impressed me as a right-minded man, who has the knack of doing himself
injustice by his manner.'

'Now I never liked Barton,' said Mr. Fellowes. 'He's not a gentleman.
Why, he used to be on terms of intimacy with that canting Prior, who died
a little while ago;--a fellow who soaked himself with spirits, and talked
of the Gospel through an inflamed nose.'

'The Countess has given him more refined tastes, I daresay,' said Mr.
Ely.

'Well,' observed Mr. Cleves, 'the poor fellow must have a hard pull to
get along, with his small income and large family. Let us hope the
Countess does something towards making the pot boil.'

'Not she,' said Mr. Duke; 'there are greater signs of poverty about them
than ever.'

'Well, come,' returned Mr. Cleves, who could be caustic sometimes, and
who was not at all fond of his reverend brother, Mr. Duke, 'that's
something in Barton's favour at all events. He might be poor _without_
showing signs of poverty.'

Mr. Duke turned rather yellow, which was his way of blushing, and Mr. Ely
came to his relief by observing,--'They're making a very good piece of
work of Shepperton Church. Dolby, the architect, who has it in hand, is a
very clever fellow.'

'It's he who has been doing Coppleton Church,' said Mr. Furness. 'They've
got it in excellent order for the visitation.'

This mention of the visitation suggested the Bishop, and thus opened a
wide duct, which entirely diverted the stream of animadversion from that
small pipe--that capillary vessel, the Rev. Amos Barton.

The talk of the clergy about their Bishop belongs to the esoteric part of
their profession; so we will at once quit the dining-room at Milby
Vicarage, lest we should happen to overhear remarks unsuited to the lay
understanding, and perhaps dangerous to our repose of mind.



Chapter 7


I dare say the long residence of the Countess Czerlaski at Shepperton
Vicarage is very puzzling to you also, dear reader, as well as to Mr.
Barton's clerical brethren; the more so, as I hope you are not in the
least inclined to put that very evil interpretation on it which evidently
found acceptance with the sallow and dyspeptic Mr. Duke, and with the
florid and highly peptic Mr. Fellowes. You have seen enough, I trust, of
the Rev. Amos Barton, to be convinced that he was more apt to fall into a
blunder than into a sin--more apt to be deceived than to incur a
necessity for being deceitful: and if you have a keen eye for
physiognomy, you will have detected that the Countess Czerlaski loved
herself far too well to get entangled in an unprofitable vice.

How then, you will say, could this fine lady choose to quarter herself on
the establishment of a poor curate, where the carpets were probably
falling into holes, where the attendance was limited to a maid of all
work, and where six children were running loose from eight o'clock in the
morning till eight o'clock in the evening? Surely you must be
misrepresenting the facts.

Heaven forbid! For not having a lofty imagination, as you perceive, and
being unable to invent thrilling incidents for your amusement, my only
merit must lie in the truth with which I represent to you the humble
experience of an ordinary fellow-mortal. I wish to stir your sympathy
with commonplace troubles--to win your tears for real sorrow: sorrow such
as may live next door to you--such as walks neither in rags nor in
velvet, but in very ordinary decent apparel.

Therefore, that you may dismiss your suspicions of my veracity, I will
beg you to consider, that at the time the Countess Czerlaski left Camp
Villa in dudgeon, she had only twenty pounds in her pocket, being about
one-third of the income she possessed independently of her brother. You
will then perceive that she was in the extremely inconvenient predicament
of having quarrelled, not indeed with her bread and cheese, but certainly
with her chicken and tart--a predicament all the more inconvenient to
her, because the habit of idleness had quite unfitted her for earning
those necessary superfluities, and because, with all her fascinations,
she had not secured any enthusiastic friends whose houses were open to
her, and who were dying to see her. Thus she had completely checkmated
herself, unless she could resolve on one unpleasant move--namely, to
humble herself to her brother, and recognize his wife. This seemed quite
impossible to her as long as she entertained the hope that he would make
the first advances; and in this flattering hope she remained month after
month at Shepperton Vicarage, gracefully overlooking the deficiencies of
accommodation, and feeling that she was really behaving charmingly. 'Who
indeed,' she thought to herself, 'could do otherwise, with a lovely,
gentle creature like Milly? I shall really be sorry to leave the poor
thing.'

So, though she lay in bed till ten, and came down to a separate breakfast
at eleven, she kindly consented to dine as early as five, when a hot
joint was prepared, which coldly furnished forth the children's table the
next day; she considerately prevented Milly from devoting herself too
closely to the children, by insisting on reading, talking, and walking
with her; and she even began to embroider a cap for the next baby, which
must certainly be a girl, and be named Caroline.

After the first month or two of her residence at the Vicarage, the Rev.
Amos Barton became aware--as, indeed, it was unavoidable that he
should--of the strong disapprobation it drew upon him, and the change of
feeling towards him which it was producing in his kindest parishioners.
But, in the first place, he still believed in the Countess as a charming
and influential woman, disposed to befriend him, and, in any case, he
could hardly hint departure to a lady guest who had been kind to him and
his, and who might any day spontaneously announce the termination of her
visit; in the second place, he was conscious of his own innocence, and
felt some contemptuous indignation towards people who were ready to
imagine evil of him; and, lastly, he had, as I have already intimated, a
strong will of his own, so that a certain obstinacy and defiance mingled
itself with his other feelings on the subject.

The one unpleasant consequence which was not to be evaded or counteracted
by any mere mental state, was the increasing drain on his slender purse
for household expenses, to meet which the remittance he had received from
the clerical charity threatened to be quite inadequate. Slander may be
defeated by equanimity; but courageous thoughts will not pay your baker's
hill, and fortitude is nowhere considered legal tender for beef. Month
after month the financial aspect of the Rev. Amos's affairs became more
and more serious to him, and month after month, too, wore away more and
more of that armour of indignation and defiance with which he had at
first defended himself from the harsh looks of faces that were once the
friendliest.

But quite the heaviest pressure of the trouble fell on Milly--on gentle,
uncomplaining Milly--whose delicate body was becoming daily less fit for
all the many things that had to be done between rising up and lying down.
At first, she thought the Countess's visit would not last long, and she
was quite glad to incur extra exertion for the sake of making her friend
comfortable. I can hardly bear to think of all the rough work she did
with those lovely hands--all by the sly, without letting her husband know
anything about it, and husbands are not clairvoyant: how she salted
bacon, ironed shirts and cravats, put patches on patches, and re-darned
darns. Then there was the task of mending and eking out baby-linen in
prospect, and the problem perpetually suggesting itself how she and Nanny
should manage when there was another baby, as there would be before very
many months were past.

When time glided on, and the Countess's visit did not end, Milly was not
blind to any phase of their position. She knew of the slander; she was
aware of the keeping aloof of old friends; but these she felt almost
entirely on her husband's account. A loving woman's world lies within the
four walls of her own home; and it is only through her husband that she
is in any electric communication with the world beyond. Mrs. Simpkins may
have looked scornfully at her, but baby crows and holds out his little
arms none the less blithely; Mrs. Tomkins may have left off calling on
her, but her husband comes home none the less to receive her care and
caresses; it has been wet and gloomy out of doors today, but she has
looked well after the shirt buttons, has cut out baby's pinafores, and
half finished Willy's blouse.

So it was with Milly. She was only vexed that her husband should be
vexed--only wounded because he was misconceived. But the difficulty about
ways and means she felt in quite a different manner. Her rectitude was
alarmed lest they should have to make tradesmen wait for their money; her
motherly love dreaded the diminution of comforts for the children; and
the sense of her own failing health gave exaggerated force to these
fears.

Milly could no longer shut her eyes to the fact, that the Countess was
inconsiderate, if she did not allow herself to entertain severer
thoughts; and she began to feel that it would soon be a duty to tell her
frankly that they really could not afford to have her visit farther
prolonged. But a process was going forward in two other minds, which
ultimately saved Milly from having to perform this painful task.

In the first place, the Countess was getting weary of Shepperton--weary
of waiting for her brother's overtures which never came; so, one fine
morning, she reflected that forgiveness was a Christian duty, that a
sister should be placable, that Mr. Bridmain must feel the need of her
advice, to which he had been accustomed for three years, and that very
likely 'that woman' didn't make the poor man happy. In this amiable frame
of mind she wrote a very affectionate appeal, and addressed it to Mr.
Bridmain, through his banker.

Another mind that was being wrought up to a climax was Nanny's, the
maid-of-all-work, who had a warm heart and a still warmer temper. Nanny
adored her mistress: she had been heard to say, that she was 'ready to
kiss the ground as the missis trod on'; and Walter, she considered, was
_her_ baby, of whom she was as jealous as a lover. But she had, from the
first, very slight admiration for the Countess Czerlaski. That lady, from
Nanny's point of view, was a personage always 'drawed out i' fine
clothes', the chief result of whose existence was to cause additional
bed-making, carrying of hot water, laying of table-cloths, and cooking of
dinners. It was a perpetually heightening 'aggravation' to Nanny that she
and her mistress had to 'slave' more than ever, because there was this
fine lady in the house.

'An, she pays nothin' for't neither,' observed Nanny to Mr. Jacob Tomms,
a young gentleman in the tailoring line, who occasionally--simply out of
a taste for dialogue--looked into the vicarage kitchen of an evening. 'I
know the master's shorter o' money than iver, an' it meks no end o'
difference i' th' housekeepin'--her bein' here, besides bein' obliged to
have a charwoman constant.'

'There's fine stories i' the village about her,' said Mr. Tomms. 'They
say as Muster Barton's great wi' her, or else she'd niver stop here.'

'Then they say a passill o' lies, an' you ought to be ashamed to go an'
tell 'em o'er again. Do you think as the master, as has got a wife like
the missis, 'ud go running arter a stuck-up piece o' goods like that
Countess, as isn't fit to black the missis's shoes? I'm none so fond o'
the master, but I know better on him nor that.'

'Well, I didn't b'lieve it,' said Mr. Tomms, humbly.

'B'lieve it? you'd ha' been a ninny if yer did. An' she's a nasty, stingy
thing, that Countess. She's niver giv me a sixpence nor an old rag
neither, sin' here's she's been. A-lyin' a bed an a-comin' down to
breakfast when other folks wants their dinner!'

If such was the state of Nanny's mind as early as the end of August, when
this dialogue with Mr. Tomms occurred, you may imagine what it must have
been by the beginning of November, and that at that time a very slight
spark might any day cause the long-smouldering anger to flame forth in
open indignation.

That spark happened to fall the very morning that Mrs. Hackit paid the
visit to Mrs. Patten, recorded in the last chapter. Nanny's dislike of
the Countess extended to the innocent dog Jet, whom she 'couldn't a-bear
to see made a fuss wi' like a Christian. An' the little ouzle must be
washed, too, ivery Saturday, as if there wasn't children enoo to wash,
wi'out washin' dogs.'

Now this particular morning it happened that Milly was quite too poorly
to get up, and Mr. Barton observed to Nanny, on going out, that he would
call and tell Mr. Brand to come. These circumstances were already enough
to make Nanny anxious and susceptible. But the Countess, comfortably
ignorant of them, came down as usual about eleven o'clock to her separate
breakfast, which stood ready for her at that hour in the parlour; the
kettle singing on the hob that she might make her own tea. There was a
little jug of cream, taken according to custom from last night's milk,
and specially saved for the Countess's breakfast. Jet always awaited his
mistress at her bedroom door, and it was her habit to carry him down
stairs.

'Now, my little Jet,' she said, putting him down gently on the
hearth-rug, 'you shall have a nice, nice breakfast.'

Jet indicated that he thought that observation extremely pertinent and
well-timed, by immediately raising himself on his hind-legs, and the
Countess emptied the cream-jug into the saucer. Now there was usually a
small jug of milk standing on the tray by the side of the cream, and
destined for Jet's breakfast, but this morning Nanny, being 'moithered',
had forgotten that part of the arrangements, so that when the Countess
had made her tea, she perceived there was no second jug, and rang the
bell. Nanny appeared, looking very red and heated--the fact was, she had
been 'doing up' the kitchen fire, and that is a sort of work which by no
means conduces to blandness of temper. 'Nanny, you have forgotten Jet's
milk; will you bring me some more cream, please?'

This was just a little too much for Nanny's forbearance. 'Yes, I dare
say. Here am I wi' my hands full o' the children an' the dinner, and
missis ill a-bed, and Mr. Brand a-comin'; and I must run o'er the village
to get more cream, 'cause you've give it to that nasty little
blackamoor.'

'Is Mrs. Barton ill?'

'Ill--yes--I should think she is ill, an' much you care. She's likely to
be ill, moithered as _she_ is from mornin' to night, wi' folks as had
better be elsewhere.'

'What do you mean by behaving in this way?'

'Mean? Why I mean as the missis is a slavin' her life out an' a-sittin'
up o'nights, for folks as are better able to wait of _her_, i'stid o'
lyin' a-bed an' doin' nothin' all the blessed day, but mek work.'

'Leave the room and don't be insolent.'

'Insolent! I'd better be insolent than like what some folks is,--a-livin'
on other folks, an' bringin' a bad name on 'em into the bargain.'

Here Nanny flung out of the room, leaving the lady to digest this
unexpected breakfast at her leisure.

The Countess was stunned for a few minutes, but when she began to recall
Nanny's words, there was no possibility of avoiding very unpleasant
conclusions from them, or of failing to see her position at the Vicarage
in an entirely new light. The interpretation too of Nanny's allusion to a
'bad name' did not lie out of the reach of the Countess's imagination,
and she saw the necessity of quitting Shepperton without delay. Still,
she would like to wait for her brother's letter--no--she would ask Milly
to forward it to her--still better, she would go at once to London,
inquire her brother's address at his banker's, and go to see him without
preliminary.

She went up to Milly's room, and, after kisses and inquiries, said--'I
find, on consideration, dear Milly, from the letter I had yesterday, that
I must bid you good-bye and go up to London at once. But you must not let
me leave you ill, you naughty thing.'

'Oh no,' said Milly, who felt as if a load had been taken off her back,
'I shall be very well in an hour or two. Indeed, I'm much better now. You
will want me to help you to pack. But you won't go for two or three
days?'

'Yes, I must go to-morrow. But I shall not let you help me to pack, so
don't entertain any unreasonable projects, but lie still. Mr. Brand is
coming, Nanny says.'

The news was not an unpleasant surprise to Mr. Barton when he came home,
though he was able to express more regret at the idea of parting than
Milly could summon to her lips. He retained more of his original feeling
for the Countess than Milly did, for women never betray themselves to men
as they do to each other; and the Rev. Amos had not a keen instinct for
character. But he felt that he was being relieved from a difficulty, and
in the way that was easiest for him. Neither he nor Milly suspected that
it was Nanny who had cut the knot for them, for the Countess took care to
give no sign on that subject. As for Nanny, she was perfectly aware of
the relation between cause and effect in the affair, and secretly
chuckled over her outburst of 'sauce' as the best morning's work she had
ever done.

So, on Friday morning, a fly was seen standing at the Vicarage gate with
the Countess's boxes packed upon it; and presently that lady herself was
seen getting into the vehicle. After a last shake of the hand to Mr.
Barton, and last kisses to Milly and the children, the door was closed;
and as the fly rolled off, the little party at the Vicarage gate caught a
last glimpse of the handsome Countess leaning and waving kisses from the
carriage window. Jet's little black phiz was also seen, and doubtless he
had his thoughts and feelings on the occasion, but he kept them strictly
within his own bosom.

The schoolmistress opposite witnessed this departure, and lost no time in
telling it to the schoolmaster, who again communicated the news to the
landlord of 'The Jolly Colliers', at the close of the morning
school-hours. Nanny poured the joyful tidings into the ear of Mr.
Farquhar's footman, who happened to call with a letter, and Mr. Brand
carried them to all the patients he visited that morning, after calling
on Mrs. Barton. So that, before Sunday, it was very generally known in
Shepperton parish that the Countess Czerlaski had left the Vicarage.

The Countess had left, but alas, the bills she had contributed to swell
still remained; so did the exiguity of the children's clothing, which
also was partly an indirect consequence of her presence; and so, too, did
the coolness and alienation in the parishioners, which could not at once
vanish before the fact of her departure. The Rev. Amos was not
exculpated--the past was not expunged. But what was worse than all,
Milly's health gave frequent cause for alarm, and the prospect of baby's
birth was overshadowed by more than the usual fears. The birth came
prematurely, about six weeks after the Countess's departure, but Mr.
Brand gave favourable reports to all inquirers on the following day,
which was Saturday. On Sunday, after morning service, Mrs. Hackit called
at the Vicarage to inquire how Mrs. Barton was, and was invited up-stairs
to see her. Milly lay placid and lovely in her feebleness, and held out
her hand to Mrs. Hackit with a beaming smile. It was very pleasant to her
to see her old friend unreserved and cordial once more. The seven months'
baby was very tiny and very red, but 'handsome is that handsome does'--he
was pronounced to be 'doing well', and Mrs. Hackit went home gladdened at
heart to think that the perilous hour was over.



Chapter 8


The following Wednesday, when Mr. and Mrs. Hackit were seated comfortably
by their bright hearth, enjoying the long afternoon afforded by an early
dinner, Rachel, the housemaid, came in and said,--'If you please 'm, the
shepherd says, have you heard as Mrs. Barton's wuss, and not expected to
live?'

Mrs. Hackit turned pale, and hurried out to question the shepherd, who,
she found, had heard the sad news at an ale-house in the village. Mr.
Hackit followed her out and said, 'Thee'dst better have the pony-chaise,
and go directly.'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Hackit, too much overcome to utter any exclamations.
'Rachel, come an' help me on wi' my things.'

When her husband was wrapping her cloak round her feet in the
pony-chaise, she said,--'If I don't come home to-night, I shall send back
the pony-chaise, and you'll know I'm wanted there.'

'Yes, yes.'

It was a bright frosty day, and by the time Mrs. Hackit arrived at the
Vicarage, the sun was near its setting. There was a carriage and pair
standing at the gate, which she recognized as Dr Madeley's, the physician
from Rotherby. She entered at the kitchen door that she might avoid
knocking, and quietly question Nanny. No one was in the kitchen, but,
passing on, she saw the sitting-room door open, and Nanny, with Walter in
her arms, removing the knives and forks, which had been laid for dinner
three hours ago.

'Master says he can't eat no dinner,' was Nanny's first word. 'He's never
tasted nothin' sin' yesterday mornin', but a cup o' tea.'

'When was your missis took worse?'

'O' Monday night. They sent for Dr Madeley i' the middle o' the day
yisterday, an' he's here again now.'

'Is the baby alive?'

'No, it died last night. The children's all at Mrs. Bond's. She come and
took 'em away last night, but the master says they must be fetched soon.
He's up-stairs now, wi' Dr Madeley and Mr. Brand.'

At this moment Mrs. Hackit heard the sound of a heavy, slow foot, in the
passage; and presently Amos Barton entered, with dry despairing eyes,
haggard and unshaven. He expected to find the sitting-room as he left it,
with nothing to meet his eyes but Milly's work-basket in the corner of
the sofa, and the children's toys overturned in the bow-window. But when
he saw Mrs. Hackit come towards him with answering sorrow in her face,
the pent-up fountain of tears was opened; he threw himself on the sofa,
hid his face, and sobbed aloud.

'Bear up, Mr. Barton,' Mrs. Hackit ventured to say at last; 'bear up, for
the sake o' them dear children.'

'The children,' said Amos, starting up. 'They must be sent for. Some one
must fetch them. Milly will want to ...'

He couldn't finish the sentence, but Mrs. Hackit understood him, and
said, 'I'll send the man with the pony-carriage for 'em.'

She went out to give the order, and encountered Dr Madeley and Mr. Brand,
who were just going.

Mr. Brand said: 'I am very glad to see you are here, Mrs. Hackit. No time
must be lost in sending for the children. Mrs. Barton wants to see them.'

'Do you quite give her up then?'

'She can hardly live through the night. She begged us to tell her how
long she had to live; and then asked for the children.'

The pony-carriage was sent; and Mrs. Hackit, returning to Mr. Barton,
said she would like to go up-stairs now. He went up-stairs with her and
opened the door. The chamber fronted the west; the sun was just setting,
and the red light fell full upon the bed, where Milly lay with the hand
of death visibly upon her. The feather-bed had been removed, and she lay
low on a mattress, with her head slightly raised by pillows. Her long
fair neck seemed to be struggling with a painful effort; her features
were pallid and pinched, and her eyes were closed. There was no one in
the room but the nurse, and the mistress of the free school, who had come
to give her help from the beginning of the change.

Amos and Mrs. Hackit stood beside the bed, and Milly opened her eyes.

'My darling, Mrs. Hackit is come to see you.'

Milly smiled and looked at her with that strange, far-off look which
belongs to ebbing life.

'Are the children coming?' she said, painfully.

'Yes, they will be here directly.'

She closed her eyes again.

Presently the pony-carriage was heard; and Amos, motioning to Mrs. Hackit
to follow him, left the room. On their way downstairs she suggested that
the carriage should remain to take them away again afterwards, and Amos
assented.

There they stood in the melancholy sitting-room--the five sweet children,
from Patty to Chubby--all, with their mother's eyes--all, except Patty,
looking up with a vague fear at their father as he entered. Patty
understood the great sorrow that was come upon them, and tried to check
her sobs as she heard her papa's footsteps.

'My children,' said Amos, taking Chubby in his arms, 'God is going to
take away your dear mamma from us. She wants to see you to say good-bye.
You must try to be very good and not cry.'

He could say no more, but turned round to see if Nanny was there with
Walter, and then led the way up-stairs, leading Dickey with the other
hand. Mrs. Hackit followed with Sophy and Patty, and then came Nanny with
Walter and Fred.

It seemed as if Milly had heard the little footsteps on the stairs, for
when Amos entered her eyes were wide open, eagerly looking towards the
door. They all stood by the bedside--Amos nearest to her, holding Chubby
and Dickey. But she motioned for Patty to come first, and clasping the
poor pale child by the hand, said,--'Patty, I'm going away from you. Love
your papa. Comfort him; and take care of your little brothers and
sisters. God will help you.'

Patty stood perfectly quiet, and said, 'Yes, mamma.'

The mother motioned with her pallid lips for the dear child to lean
towards her and kiss her; and then Patty's great anguish overcame her,
and she burst into sobs. Amos drew her towards him and pressed her head
gently to him, while Milly beckoned Fred and Sophy, and said to them more
faintly,--'Patty will try to be your mamma when I am gone, my darlings.
You will be good and not vex her.'

They leaned towards her, and she stroked their fair heads, and kissed
their tear-stained cheeks. They cried because mamma was ill and papa
looked so unhappy; but they thought, perhaps next week things would be as
they used to be again.

The little ones were lifted on the bed to kiss her. Little Walter said,
'Mamma, mamma', and stretched out his fat arms and smiled; and Chubby
seemed gravely wondering; but Dickey, who had been looking fixedly at
her, with lip hanging down, ever since he came into the room, now seemed
suddenly pierced with the idea that mamma was going away somewhere; his
little heart swelled and he cried aloud.

Then Mrs. Hackit and Nanny took them all away. Patty at first begged to
stay at home and not go to Mrs. Bond's again; but when Nanny reminded her
that she had better go to take care of the younger ones, she submitted at
once, and they were all packed in the pony-carriage once more.

Milly kept her eyes shut for some time after the children were gone. Amos
had sunk on his knees, and was holding her hand while he watched her
face. By-and-by she opened her eyes, and, drawing him close to her,
whispered slowly,--'My dear--dear--husband--you have been--very--good to
me. You--have--made me--very--happy.'

She spoke no more for many hours. They watched her breathing becoming
more and more difficult, until evening deepened into night, and until
midnight was past. About half-past twelve she seemed to be trying to
speak, and they leaned to catch her words. 'Music--music--didn't you hear
it?'

Amos knelt by the bed and held her hand in his. He did not believe in his
sorrow. It was a bad dream. He did not know when she was gone. But Mr.
Brand, whom Mrs. Hackit had sent for before twelve o'clock, thinking that
Mr. Barton might probably need his help, now came up to him, and
said,--'She feels no more pain now. Come, my dear sir, come with me.'

'She isn't _dead_?' shrieked the poor desolate man, struggling to shake
off Mr. Brand, who had taken him by the arm. But his weary weakened frame
was not equal to resistance, and he was dragged out of the room.



Chapter 9


They laid her in the grave--the sweet mother with her baby in her
arms--while the Christmas snow lay thick upon the graves. It was Mr.
Cleves who buried her. On the first news of Mr. Barton's calamity, he had
ridden over from Tripplegate to beg that he might be made of some use,
and his silent grasp of Amos's hand had penetrated like the painful
thrill of life-recovering warmth to the poor benumbed heart of the
stricken man.

The snow lay thick upon the graves, and the day was cold and dreary; but
there was many a sad eye watching that black procession as it passed from
the vicarage to the church, and from the church to the open grave. There
were men and women standing in that churchyard who had bandied vulgar
jests about their pastor, and who had lightly charged him with sin; but
now, when they saw him following the coffin, pale and haggard, he was
consecrated anew by his great sorrow, and they looked at him with
respectful pity.

All the children were there, for Amos had willed it so, thinking that
some dim memory of that sacred moment might remain even with little
Walter, and link itself with what he would hear of his sweet mother in
after years. He himself led Patty and Dickey; then came Sophy and Fred;
Mr. Brand had begged to carry Chubby, and Nanny followed with Walter.
They made a circle round the grave while the coffin was being lowered.
Patty alone of all the children felt that mamma was in that coffin, and
that a new and sadder life had begun for papa and herself. She was pale
and trembling, but she clasped his hand more firmly as the coffin went
down, and gave no sob. Fred and Sophy, though they were only two and
three years younger, and though they had seen mamma in her coffin, seemed
to themselves to be looking at some strange show. They had not learned to
decipher that terrible handwriting of human destiny, illness and death.
Dickey had rebelled against his black clothes, until he was told that it
would be naughty to mamma not to put them on, when he at once submitted;
and now, though he had heard Nanny say that mamma was in heaven, he had a
vague notion that she would come home again tomorrow, and say he had been
a good boy and let him empty her work-box. He stood close to his father,
with great rosy cheeks, and wide open blue eyes, looking first up at Mr.
Cleves and then down at the coffin, and thinking he and Chubby would play
at that when they got home.

The burial was over, and Amos turned with his children to re-enter the
house--the house where, an hour ago, Milly's dear body lay, where the
windows were half darkened, and sorrow seemed to have a hallowed precinct
for itself, shut out from the world. But now she was gone; the broad
snow-reflected daylight was in all the rooms; the Vicarage again seemed
part of the common working-day world, and Amos, for the first time, felt
that he was alone--that day after day, month after month, year after
year, would have to be lived through without Milly's love. Spring would
come, and she would not be there; summer, and she would not be there; and
he would never have her again with him by the fireside in the long
evenings. The seasons all seemed irksome to his thoughts; and how dreary
the sunshiny days that would be sure to come! She was gone from him; and
he could never show her his love any more, never make up for omissions in
the past by filling future days with tenderness.

O the anguish of that thought that we can never atone to our dead for the
stinted affection we gave them, for the light answers we returned to
their plaints or their pleadings, for the little reverence we showed to
that sacred human soul that lived so close to us, and was the divinest
thing God had given us to know.

Amos Barton had been an affectionate husband, and while Milly was with
him, he was never visited by the thought that perhaps his sympathy with
her was not quick and watchful enough; but now he re-lived all their life
together, with that terrible keenness of memory and imagination which
bereavement gives, and he felt as if his very love needed a pardon for
its poverty and selfishness.

No outward solace could counteract the bitterness of this inward woe. But
outward solace came. Cold faces looked kind again, and parishioners
turned over in their minds what they could best do to help their pastor.
Mr. Oldinport wrote to express his sympathy, and enclosed another
twenty-pound note, begging that he might be permitted to contribute in
this way to the relief of Mr. Barton's mind from pecuniary anxieties,
under the pressure of a grief which all his parishioners must share; and
offering his interest towards placing the two eldest girls in a school
expressly founded for clergymen's daughters. Mr. Cleves succeeded in
collecting thirty pounds among his richer clerical brethren, and, adding
ten pounds himself, sent the sum to Amos, with the kindest and most
delicate words of Christian fellowship and manly friendship. Miss Jackson
forgot old grievances, and came to stay some months with Milly's
children, bringing such material aid as she could spare from her small
income. These were substantial helps, which relieved Amos from the
pressure of his money difficulties; and the friendly attentions, the kind
pressure of the hand, the cordial looks he met with everywhere in his
parish, made him feel that the fatal frost which had settled on his
pastoral duties, during the Countess's residence at the Vicarage, was
completely thawed, and that the hearts of his parishioners were once more
open to him. No one breathed the Countess's name now; for Milly's memory
hallowed her husband, as of old the place was hallowed on which an angel
from God had alighted.

When the spring came, Mrs. Hackit begged that she might have Dickey to
stay with her, and great was the enlargement of Dickey's experience from
that visit. Every morning he was allowed--being well wrapt up as to his
chest by Mrs. Hackit's own hands, but very bare and red as to his
legs--to run loose in the cow and poultry yard, to persecute the
turkey-cock by satirical imitations of his gobble-gobble, and to put
difficult questions to the groom as to the reasons why horses had four
legs, and other transcendental matters. Then Mr. Hackit would take Dickey
up on horseback when he rode round his farm, and Mrs. Hackit had a large
plumcake in cut, ready to meet incidental attacks of hunger. So that
Dickey had considerably modified his views as to the desirability of Mrs.
Hackit's kisses.

The Misses Farquhar made particular pets of Fred and Sophy, to whom they
undertook to give lessons twice a-week in writing and geography; and Mrs.
Farquhar devised many treats for the little ones. Patty's treat was to
stay at home, or walk about with her papa; and when he sat by the fire in
an evening, after the other children were gone to bed, she would bring a
stool, and, placing it against his feet, would sit down upon it and lean
her head against his knee. Then his hand would rest on that fair head,
and he would feel that Milly's love was not quite gone out of his life.

So the time wore on till it was May again, and the church was quite
finished and reopened in all its new splendour, and Mr. Barton was
devoting himself with more vigour than ever to his parochial duties. But
one morning--it was a very bright morning, and evil tidings sometimes
like to fly in the finest weather--there came a letter for Mr. Barton,
addressed in the Vicar's handwriting. Amos opened it with some
anxiety--somehow or other he had a presentiment of evil. The letter
contained the announcement that Mr. Carpe had resolved on coming to
reside at Shepperton, and that, consequently, in six months from that
time Mr. Barton's duties as curate in that parish would be closed.

O, it was hard! Just when Shepperton had become the place where he most
wished to stay--where he had friends who knew his sorrows--where he lived
close to Milly's grave. To part from that grave seemed like parting with
Milly a second time; for Amos was one who clung to all the material links
between his mind and the past. His imagination was not vivid, and
required the stimulus of actual perception.

It roused some bitter feeling, too, to think that Mr. Carpe's wish to
reside at Shepperton was merely a pretext for removing Mr. Barton, in
order that he might ultimately give the curacy of Shepperton to his own
brother-in-law, who was known to be wanting a new position.

Still, it must be borne; and the painful business of seeking another
curacy must be set about without loss of time. After the lapse of some
months, Amos was obliged to renounce the hope of getting one at all near
Shepperton, and he at length resigned himself to accepting one in a
distant county. The parish was in a large manufacturing town, where his
walks would lie among noisy streets and dingy alleys, and where the
children would have no garden to play in, no pleasant farm-houses to
visit.

It was another blow inflicted on the bruised man.



Chapter 10


At length the dreaded week was come, when Amos and his children must
leave Shepperton. There was general regret among the parishioners at his
departure: not that any one of them thought his spiritual gifts
pre-eminent, or was conscious of great edification from his ministry. But
his recent troubles had called out their better sympathies, and that is
always a source of love. Amos failed to touch the spring of goodness by
his sermons, but he touched it effectually by his sorrows; and there was
now a real bond between him and his flock.

'My heart aches for them poor motherless children,' said Mrs. Hackit to
her husband, 'a-going among strangers, and into a nasty town, where
there's no good victuals to be had, and you must pay dear to get bad
uns.'

Mrs. Hackit had a vague notion of a town life as a combination of dirty
backyards, measly pork, and dingy linen.

The same sort of sympathy was strong among the poorer class of
parishioners. Old stiff-jointed Mr. Tozer, who was still able to earn a
little by gardening 'jobs', stopped Mrs. Cramp, the charwoman, on her way
home from the Vicarage, where she had been helping Nanny to pack up the
day before the departure, and inquired very particularly into Mr.
Barton's prospects.

'Ah, poor mon,' he was heard to say, 'I'm sorry for un. He hedn't much
here, but he'll be wuss off theer. Half a loaf's better nor ne'er un.'

The sad good-byes had all been said before that last evening; and after
all the packing was done and all the arrangements were made, Amos felt
the oppression of that blank interval in which one has nothing left to
think of but the dreary future--the separation from the loved and
familiar, and the chilling entrance on the new and strange. In every
parting there is an image of death.

Soon after ten o'clock, when he had sent Nanny to bed, that she might
have a good night's rest before the fatigues of the morrow, he stole
softly out to pay a last visit to Milly's grave. It was a moonless night,
but the sky was thick with stars, and their light was enough to show that
the grass had grown long on the grave, and that there was a tombstone
telling in bright letters, on a dark ground, that beneath were deposited
the remains of Amelia, the beloved wife of Amos Barton, who died in the
thirty-fifth year of her age, leaving a husband and six children to
lament her loss. The final words of the inscription were, 'Thy will be
done.'

The husband was now advancing towards the dear mound from which he was so
soon to be parted, perhaps for ever. He stood a few minutes reading over
and over again the words on the tombstone, as if to assure himself that
all the happy and unhappy past was a reality. For love is frightened at
the intervals of insensibility and callousness that encroach by little
and little on the dominion of grief, and it makes efforts to recall the
keenness of the first anguish.

Gradually, as his eye dwelt on the words, 'Amelia, the beloved wife,' the
waves of feeling swelled within his soul, and he threw himself on the
grave, clasping it with his arms, and kissing the cold turf.

'Milly, Milly, dost thou hear me? I didn't love thee enough--I wasn't
tender enough to thee--but I think of it all now.'

The sobs came and choked his utterance, and the warm tears fell.



CONCLUSION


Only once again in his life has Amos Barton visited Milly's grave. It was
in the calm and softened light of an autumnal afternoon, and he was not
alone. He held on his arm a young woman, with a sweet, grave face, which
strongly recalled the expression of Mrs. Barton's, but was less lovely in
form and colour. She was about thirty, but there were some premature
lines round her mouth and eyes, which told of early anxiety.

Amos himself was much changed. His thin circlet of hair was nearly white,
and his walk was no longer firm and upright. But his glance was calm, and
even cheerful, and his neat linen told of a woman's care. Milly did not
take all her love from the earth when she died. She had left some of it
in Patty's heart.

All the other children were now grown up, and had gone their several
ways. Dickey, you will be glad to hear, had shown remarkable talents as
an engineer. His cheeks are still ruddy, in spite of mixed mathematics,
and his eyes are still large and blue; but in other respects his person
would present no marks of identification for his friend Mrs. Hackit, if
she were to see him; especially now that her eyes must be grown very dim,
with the wear of more than twenty additional years. He is nearly six feet
high, and has a proportionately broad chest; he wears spectacles, and
rubs his large white hands through a mass of shaggy brown hair. But I am
sure you have no doubt that Mr. Richard Barton is a thoroughly good
fellow, as well as a man of talent, and you will be glad any day to shake
hands with him, for his own sake as well as his mother's.

Patty alone remains by her father's side, and makes the evening sunshine
of his life.



MR. GILFIL'S LOVE STORY



Chapter 1


When old Mr. Gilfil died, thirty years ago, there was general sorrow in
Shepperton; and if black cloth had not been hung round the pulpit and
reading-desk, by order of his nephew and principal legatee, the
parishioners would certainly have subscribed the necessary sum out of
their own pockets, rather than allow such a tribute of respect to be
wanting. All the farmers' wives brought out their black bombasines; and
Mrs. Jennings, at the Wharf, by appearing the first Sunday after Mr.
Gilfil's death in her salmon-coloured ribbons and green shawl, excited
the severest remark. To be sure, Mrs. Jennings was a new-comer, and
town-bred, so that she could hardly be expected to have very clear
notions of what was proper; but, as Mrs. Higgins observed in an undertone
to Mrs. Parrot when they were coming out of church, 'Her husband, who'd
been born i' the parish, might ha' told her better.' An unreadiness to
put on black on all available occasions, or too great an alacrity in
putting it off, argued, in Mrs. Higgins's opinion, a dangerous levity of
character, and an unnatural insensibility to the essential fitness of
things.

'Some folks can't a-bear to put off their colours,' she remarked; 'but
that was never the way i' _my_ family. Why, Mrs. Parrot, from the time I
was married, till Mr. Higgins died, nine years ago come Candlemas, I
niver was out o' black two year together!'

'Ah,' said Mrs. Parrot, who was conscious of inferiority in this respect,
'there isn't many families as have had so many deaths as yours, Mrs.
Higgins.'

Mrs. Higgins, who was an elderly widow, 'well left', reflected with
complacency that Mrs. Parrot's observation was no more than just, and
that Mrs. Jennings very likely belonged to a family which had had no
funerals to speak of.

Even dirty Dame Fripp, who was a very rare church-goer, had been to Mrs.
Hackit to beg a bit of old crape, and with this sign of grief pinned on
her little coal-scuttle bonnet, was seen dropping her curtsy opposite the
reading-desk. This manifestation of respect towards Mr. Gilfil's memory
on the part of Dame Fripp had no theological bearing whatever. It was due
to an event which had occurred some years back, and which, I am sorry to
say, had left that grimy old lady as indifferent to the means of grace as
ever. Dame Fripp kept leeches, and was understood to have such remarkable
influence over those wilful animals in inducing them to bite under the
most unpromising circumstances, that though her own leeches were usually
rejected, from a suspicion that they had lost their appetite, she herself
was constantly called in to apply the more lively individuals furnished
from Mr. Pilgrim's surgery, when, as was very often the case, one of that
clever man's paying patients was attacked with inflammation. Thus Dame
Fripp, in addition to 'property' supposed to yield her no less than
half-a-crown a-week, was in the receipt of professional fees, the gross
amount of which was vaguely estimated by her neighbours as 'pouns an'
pouns'. Moreover, she drove a brisk trade in lollipop with epicurean
urchins, who recklessly purchased that luxury at the rate of two hundred
per cent. Nevertheless, with all these notorious sources of income, the
shameless old woman constantly pleaded poverty, and begged for scraps at
Mrs. Hackit's, who, though she always said Mrs. Fripp was 'as false as
two folks', and no better than a miser and a heathen, had yet a leaning
towards her as an old neighbour.

'There's that case-hardened old Judy a-coming after the tea-leaves
again,' Mrs. Hackit would say; 'an' I'm fool enough to give 'em her,
though Sally wants 'em all the while to sweep the floors with!'

Such was Dame Fripp, whom Mr. Gilfil, riding leisurely in top-boots and
spurs from doing duty at Knebley one warm Sunday afternoon, observed
sitting in the dry ditch near her cottage, and by her side a large pig,
who, with that ease and confidence belonging to perfect friendship, was
lying with his head in her lap, and making no effort to play the
agreeable beyond an occasional grunt.

'Why, Mrs. Fripp,' said the Vicar, 'I didn't know you had such a fine
pig. You'll have some rare flitches at Christmas!'

'Eh, God forbid! My son gev him me two 'ear ago, an' he's been company to
me iver sin'. I couldn't find i' my heart to part wi'm, if I niver knowed
the taste o' bacon-fat again.'

'Why, he'll eat his head off, and yours too. How can you go on keeping a
pig, and making nothing by him?'

'O, he picks a bit hisself wi' rootin', and I dooant mind doing wi'out to
gi' him summat. A bit o' company's meat an' drink too, an' he follers me
about, and grunts when I spake to'm, just like a Christian.'

Mr. Gilfil laughed, and I am obliged to admit that he said good-bye to
Dame Fripp without asking her why she had not been to church, or making
the slightest effort for her spiritual edification. But the next day he
ordered his man David to take her a great piece of bacon, with a message,
saying, the parson wanted to make sure that Mrs. Fripp would know the
taste of bacon-fat again. So, when Mr. Gilfil died, Dame Fripp manifested
her gratitude and reverence in the simply dingy fashion I have mentioned.

You already suspect that the Vicar did not shine in the more spiritual
functions of his office; and indeed, the utmost I can say for him in this
respect is, that he performed those functions with undeviating attention
to brevity and despatch. He had a large heap of short sermons, rather
yellow and worn at the edges, from which he took two every Sunday,
securing perfect impartiality in the selection by taking them as they
came, without reference to topics; and having preached one of these
sermons at Shepperton in the morning, he mounted his horse and rode
hastily with the other in his pocket to Knebley, where he officiated in a
wonderful little church, with a checkered pavement which had once rung to
the iron tread of military monks, with coats of arms in clusters on the
lofty roof, marble warriors and their wives without noses occupying a
large proportion of the area, and the twelve apostles, with their heads
very much on one side, holding didactic ribbons, painted in fresco on the
walls. Here, in an absence of mind to which he was prone, Mr. Gilfil
would sometimes forget to take off his spurs before putting on his
surplice, and only become aware of the omission by feeling something
mysteriously tugging at the skirts of that garment as he stepped into the
reading-desk. But the Knebley farmers would as soon have thought of
criticizing the moon as their pastor. He belonged to the course of
nature, like markets and toll-gates and dirty bank-notes; and being a
vicar, his claim on their veneration had never been counteracted by an
exasperating claim on their pockets. Some of them, who did not indulge in
the superfluity of a covered cart without springs, had dined half an hour
earlier than usual--that is to say, at twelve o'clock--in order to have
time for their long walk through miry lanes, and present themselves duly
in their places at two o'clock, when Mr. Oldinport and Lady Felicia, to
whom Knebley Church was a sort of family temple, made their way among the
bows and curtsies of their dependants to a carved and canopied pew in the
chancel, diffusing as they went a delicate odour of Indian roses on the
unsusceptible nostrils of the congregation.

The farmers' wives and children sat on the dark oaken benches, but the
husbands usually chose the distinctive dignity of a stall under one of
the twelve apostles, where, when the alternation of prayers and responses
had given place to the agreeable monotony of the sermon, Paterfamilias
might be seen or heard sinking into a pleasant doze, from which he
infallibly woke up at the sound of the concluding doxology. And then they
made their way back again through the miry lanes, perhaps almost as much
the better for this simple weekly tribute to what they knew of good and
right, as many a more wakeful and critical congregation of the present
day.

Mr. Gilfil, too, used to make his way home in the later years of his
life, for he had given up the habit of dining at Knebley Abbey on a
Sunday, having, I am sorry to say, had a very bitter quarrel with Mr.
Oldinport, the cousin and predecessor of the Mr. Oldinport who flourished
in the Rev. Amos Barton's time. That quarrel was a sad pity, for the two
had had many a good day's hunting together when they were younger, and in
those friendly times not a few members of the hunt envied Mr. Oldinport
the excellent terms he was on with his vicar; for, as Sir Jasper Sitwell
observed, 'next to a man's wife, there's nobody can be such an infernal
plague to you as a parson, always under your nose on your own estate.'

I fancy the original difference which led to the rupture was very slight;
but Mr. Gilfil was of an extremely caustic turn, his satire having a
flavour of originality which was quite wanting in his sermons; and as Mr.
Oldinport's armour of conscious virtue presented some considerable and
conspicuous gaps, the Vicar's keen-edged retorts probably made a few
incisions too deep to be forgiven. Such, at least, was the view of the
case presented by Mr. Hackit, who knew as much of the matter as any third
person. For, the very week after the quarrel, when presiding at the
annual dinner of the Association for the Prosecution of Felons, held at
the Oldinport Arms, he contributed an additional zest to the conviviality
on that occasion by informing the company that 'the parson had given the
squire a lick with the rough side of his tongue.' The detection of the
person or persons who had driven off Mr. Parrot's heifer, could hardly
have been more welcome news to the Shepperton tenantry, with whom Mr.
Oldinport was in the worst odour as a landlord, having kept up his rents
in spite of falling prices, and not being in the least stung to emulation
by paragraphs in the provincial newspapers, stating that the Honourable
Augustus Purwell, or Viscount Blethers, had made a return of ten per cent
on their last rent-day. The fact was, Mr. Oldinport had not the slightest
intention of standing for Parliament, whereas he had the strongest
intention of adding to his unentailed estate. Hence, to the Shepperton
farmers it was as good as lemon with their grog to know that the Vicar
had thrown out sarcasms against the Squire's charities, as little better
than those of the man who stole a goose, and gave away the giblets in
alms. For Shepperton, you observe, was in a state of Attic culture
compared with Knebley; it had turnpike roads and a public opinion,
whereas, in the Boeotian Knebley, men's minds and waggons alike moved in
the deepest of ruts, and the landlord was only grumbled at as a necessary
and unalterable evil, like the weather, the weevils, and the turnip-fly.

Thus in Shepperton this breach with Mr. Oldinport tended only to heighten
that good understanding which the Vicar had always enjoyed with the rest
of his parishioners, from the generation whose children he had christened
a quarter of a century before, down to that hopeful generation
represented by little Tommy Bond, who had recently quitted frocks and
trousers for the severe simplicity of a tight suit of corduroys, relieved
by numerous brass buttons. Tommy was a saucy boy, impervious to all
impressions of reverence, and excessively addicted to humming-tops and
marbles, with which recreative resources he was in the habit of
immoderately distending the pockets of his corduroys. One day, spinning
his top on the garden-walk, and seeing the Vicar advance directly towards
it, at that exciting moment when it was beginning to 'sleep'
magnificently, he shouted out with all the force of his lungs--'Stop!
don't knock my top down, now!' From that day 'little Corduroys' had been
an especial favourite with Mr. Gilfil, who delighted to provoke his ready
scorn and wonder by putting questions which gave Tommy the meanest
opinion of his intellect.

'Well, little Corduroys, have they milked the geese today?'

'Milked the geese! why, they don't milk the geese, you silly!'

'No! dear heart! why, how do the goslings live, then?'

The nutriment of goslings rather transcending Tommy's observations in
natural history, he feigned to understand this question in an exclamatory
rather than an interrogatory sense, and became absorbed in winding up his
top.

'Ah, I see you don't know how the goslings live! But did you notice how
it rained sugar-plums yesterday?' (Here Tommy became attentive.) 'Why,
they fell into my pocket as I rode along. You look in my pocket and see
if they didn't.' Tommy, without waiting to discuss the alleged
antecedent, lost no time in ascertaining the presence of the agreeable
consequent, for he had a well-founded belief in the advantages of diving
into the Vicar's pocket. Mr. Gilfil called it his wonderful pocket,
because, as he delighted to tell the 'young shavers' and 'two-shoes'--so
he called all little boys and girls--whenever he put pennies into it,
they turned into sugar-plums or gingerbread, or some other nice thing.
Indeed, little Bessie Parrot, a flaxen-headed 'two-shoes', very white and
fat as to her neck, always had the admirable directness and sincerity to
salute him with the question--'What zoo dot in zoo pottet?'

You can imagine, then, that the christening dinners were none the less
merry for the presence of the parson. The farmers relished his society
particularly, for he could not only smoke his pipe, and season the
details of parish affairs with abundance of caustic jokes and proverbs,
but, as Mr. Bond often said, no man knew more than the Vicar about the
breed of cows and horses. He had grazing-land of his own about five miles
off, which a bailiff, ostensibly a tenant, farmed under his direction;
and to ride backwards and forwards, and look after the buying and selling
of stock, was the old gentleman's chief relaxation, now his hunting days
were over. To hear him discussing the respective merits of the Devonshire
breed and the short-horns, or the last foolish decision of the
magistrates about a pauper, a superficial observer might have seen little
difference, beyond his superior shrewdness, between the Vicar and his
bucolic parishioners; for it was his habit to approximate his accent and
mode of speech to theirs, doubtless because he thought it a mere
frustration of the purposes of language to talk of 'shear-hogs' and
'ewes' to men who habitually said 'sharrags' and 'yowes'. Nevertheless
the farmers themselves were perfectly aware of the distinction between
them and the parson, and had not at all the less belief in him as a
gentleman and a clergyman for his easy speech and familiar manners. Mrs.
Parrot smoothed her apron and set her cap right with the utmost
solicitude when she saw the Vicar coming, made him her deepest curtsy,
and every Christmas had a fat turkey ready to send him with her 'duty'
And in the most gossiping colloquies with Mr. Gilfil, you might have
observed that both men and women 'minded their words', and never became
indifferent to his approbation.

The same respect attended him in his strictly clerical functions. The
benefits of baptism were supposed to be somehow bound up with Mr.
Gilfil's personality, so metaphysical a distinction as that between a man
and his office being, as yet, quite foreign to the mind of a good
Shepperton Churchman, savouring, he would have thought, of Dissent on the
very face of it. Miss Selina Parrot put off her marriage a whole month
when Mr. Gilfil had an attack of rheumatism, rather than be married in a
makeshift manner by the Milby curate.

'We've had a very good sermon this morning', was the frequent remark,
after hearing one of the old yellow series, heard with all the more
satisfaction because it had been heard for the twentieth time; for to
minds on the Shepperton level it is repetition, not novelty, that
produces the strongest effect; and phrases, like tunes, are a long time
making themselves at home in the brain.

Mr. Gilfil's sermons, as you may imagine, were not of a highly doctrinal,
still less of a polemical, cast. They perhaps did not search the
conscience very powerfully; for you remember that to Mrs. Patten, who had
listened to them thirty years, the announcement that she was a sinner
appeared an uncivil heresy; but, on the other hand, they made no
unreasonable demand on the Shepperton intellect--amounting, indeed, to
little more than an expansion of the concise thesis, that those who do
wrong will find it the worse for them, and those who do well will find it
the better for them; the nature of wrong-doing being exposed in special
sermons against lying, backbiting, anger, slothfulness, and the like; and
well-doing being interpreted as honesty, truthfulness, charity, industry,
and other common virtues, lying quite on the surface of life, and having
very little to do with deep spiritual doctrine. Mrs. Patten understood
that if she turned out ill-crushed cheeses, a just retribution awaited
her; though, I fear, she made no particular application of the sermon on
backbiting. Mrs. Hackit expressed herself greatly edified by the sermon
on honesty, the allusion to the unjust weight and deceitful balance
having a peculiar lucidity for her, owing to a recent dispute with her
grocer; but I am not aware that she ever appeared to be much struck by
the sermon on anger.

As to any suspicion that Mr. Gilfil did not dispense the pure Gospel, or
any strictures on his doctrine and mode of delivery, such thoughts never
visited the minds of the Shepperton parishioners--of those very
parishioners who, ten or fifteen years later, showed themselves extremely
critical of Mr. Barton's discourses and demeanour. But in the interim
they had tasted that dangerous fruit of the tree of knowledge--innovation
which is well known to open the eyes, even in an uncomfortable manner. At
present, to find fault with the sermon was regarded as almost equivalent
to finding fault with religion itself. One Sunday, Mr. Hackit's nephew,
Master Tom Stokes, a flippant town youth, greatly scandalized his
excellent relatives by declaring that he could write as good a sermon as
Mr. Gilfil's; whereupon Mr. Hackit sought to reduce the presumptuous
youth to utter confusion, by offering him a sovereign if he would fulfil
his vaunt. The sermon was written, however; and though it was not
admitted to be anywhere within reach of Mr. Gilfil's. It was yet so
astonishingly like a sermon, having a text, three divisions, and a
concluding exhortation beginning 'And now, my brethren', that the
sovereign, though denied formally, was bestowed informally, and the
sermon was pronounced, when Master Stokes's back was turned, to be 'an
uncommon cliver thing'.

The Rev. Mr. Pickard, indeed, of the Independent Meeting, had stated, in
a sermon preached at Rotheby, for the reduction of a debt on New Zion,
built, with an exuberance of faith and a deficiency of funds, by seceders
from the original Zion, that he lived in a parish where the Vicar was
very 'dark', and in the prayers he addressed to his own congregation, he
was in the habit of comprehensively alluding to the parishioners outside
the chapel walls, as those who, 'Gallio-like, cared for none of these
things'. But I need hardly say that no church-goer ever came within
earshot of Mr. Pickard.

It was not to the Shepperton farmers only that Mr. Gilfil's society was
acceptable; he was a welcome guest at some of the best houses in that
part of the country. Old Sir Jasper Sitwell would have been glad to see
him every week; and if you had seen him conducting Lady Sitwell in to
dinner, or had heard him talking to her with quaint yet graceful
gallantry, you would have inferred that the earlier period of his life
had been passed in more stately society than could be found in
Shepperton, and that his slipshod chat and homely manners were but like
weather-stains on a fine old block of marble, allowing you still to see
here and there the fineness of the grain, and the delicacy of the
original tint. But in his later years these visits became a little too
troublesome to the old gentleman, and he was rarely to be found anywhere
of an evening beyond the bounds of his own parish--most frequently,
indeed, by the side of his own sitting-room fire, smoking his pipe, and
maintaining the pleasing antithesis of dryness and moisture by an
occasional sip of gin-and-water.

Here I am aware that I have run the risk of alienating all my refined
lady-readers, and utterly annihilating any curiosity they may have felt
to know the details of Mr. Gilfil's love-story. 'Gin-and-water! foh! you
may as well ask us to interest ourselves in the romance of a
tallow-chandler, who mingles the image of his beloved with short dips and
moulds.'

But in the first place, dear ladies, allow me to plead that
gin-and-water, like obesity, or baldness, or the gout, does not exclude a
vast amount of antecedent romance, any more than the neatly-executed
'fronts' which you may some day wear, will exclude your present
possession of less expensive braids. Alas, alas! we poor mortals are
often little better than wood-ashes--there is small sign of the sap, and
the leafy freshness, and the bursting buds that were once there; but
wherever we see wood-ashes, we know that all that early fullness of life
must have been. I, at least, hardly ever look at a bent old man, or a
wizened old woman, but I see also, with my mind's eye, that Past of which
they are the shrunken remnant, and the unfinished romance of rosy cheeks
and bright eyes seems sometimes of feeble interest and significance,
compared with that drama of hope and love which has long ago reached its
catastrophe, and left the poor soul, like a dim and dusty stage, with all
its sweet garden-scenes and fair perspectives overturned and thrust out
of sight.

In the second place, let me assure you that Mr. Gilfil's potations of
gin-and-water were quite moderate. His nose was not rubicund; on the
contrary, his white hair hung around a pale and venerable face. He drank
it chiefly, I believe, because it was cheap; and here I find myself
alighting on another of the Vicar's weaknesses, which, if I had cared to
paint a flattering portrait rather than a faithful one, I might have
chosen to suppress. It is undeniable that, as the years advanced, Mr.
Gilfil became, as Mr. Hackit observed, more and more 'close-fisted',
though the growing propensity showed itself rather in the parsimony of
his personal habits, than in withholding help from the needy. He was
saving--so he represented the matter to himself--for a nephew, the only
son of a sister who had been the dearest object, all but one, in his
life. 'The lad,' he thought, 'will have a nice little fortune to begin
life with, and will bring his pretty young wife some day to see the spot
where his old uncle lies. It will perhaps be all the better for his
hearth that mine was lonely.'

Mr. Gilfil was a bachelor, then?

That is the conclusion to which you would probably have come if you had
entered his sitting-room, where the bare tables, the large old-fashioned
horse-hair chairs, and the threadbare Turkey carpet perpetually fumigated
with tobacco, seemed to tell a story of wifeless existence that was
contradicted by no portrait, no piece of embroidery, no faded bit of
pretty triviality, hinting of taper-fingers and small feminine ambitions.
And it was here that Mr. Gilfil passed his evenings, seldom with other
society than that of Ponto, his old brown setter, who, stretched out at
full length on the rug with his nose between his fore-paws, would wrinkle
his brows and lift up his eyelids every now and then, to exchange a
glance of mutual understanding with his master. But there was a chamber
in Shepperton Vicarage which told a different story from that bare and
cheerless dining-room--a chamber never entered by any one besides Mr.
Gilfil and old Martha the housekeeper, who, with David her husband as
groom and gardener, formed the Vicar's entire establishment. The blinds
of this chamber were always down, except once a-quarter, when Martha
entered that she might air and clean it. She always asked Mr. Gilfil for
the key, which he kept locked up in his bureau, and returned it to him
when she had finished her task.

It was a touching sight that the daylight streamed in upon, as Martha
drew aside the blinds and thick curtains, and opened the Gothic casement
of the oriel window! On the little dressing-table there was a dainty
looking-glass in a carved and gilt frame; bits of wax-candle were still
in the branched sockets at the sides, and on one of these branches hung a
little black lace kerchief; a faded satin pin-cushion, with the pins
rusted in it, a scent-bottle, and a large green fan, lay on the table;
and on a dressing-box by the side of the glass was a work-basket, and an
unfinished baby-cap, yellow with age, lying in it. Two gowns, of a
fashion long forgotten, were hanging on nails against the door, and a
pair of tiny red slippers, with a bit of tarnished silver embroidery on
them, were standing at the foot of the bed. Two or three water-colour
drawings, views of Naples, hung upon the walls; and over the mantelpiece,
above some bits of rare old china, two miniatures in oval frames. One of
these miniatures represented a young man about seven-and-twenty, with a
sanguine complexion, full lips, and clear candid grey eyes. The other was
the likeness of a girl probably not more than eighteen, with small
features, thin cheeks, a pale southern-looking complexion, and large dark
eyes. The gentleman wore powder; the lady had her dark hair gathered away
from her face, and a little cap, with a cherry-coloured bow, set on the
top of her head--a coquettish head-dress, but the eyes spoke of sadness
rather than of coquetry.

Such were the things that Martha had dusted and let the air upon, four
times a-year, ever since she was a blooming lass of twenty; and she was
now, in this last decade of Mr. Gilfil's life, unquestionably on the
wrong side of fifty. Such was the locked-up chamber in Mr. Gilfil's
house: a sort of visible symbol of the secret chamber in his heart, where
he had long turned the key on early hopes and early sorrows, shutting up
for ever all the passion and the poetry of his life.

There were not many people in the parish, besides Martha, who had any
very distinct remembrance of Mr. Gilfil's wife, or indeed who knew
anything of her, beyond the fact that there was a marble tablet, with a
Latin inscription in memory of her, over the vicarage pew. The
parishioners who were old enough to remember her arrival were not
generally gifted with descriptive powers, and the utmost you could gather
from them was, that Mrs. Gilfil looked like a 'furriner, wi' such eyes,
you can't think, an' a voice as went through you when she sung at
church.' The one exception was Mrs. Patten, whose strong memory and taste
for personal narrative made her a great source of oral tradition in
Shepperton. Mr. Hackit, who had not come into the parish until ten years
after Mrs. Gilfil's death, would often put old questions to Mrs. Patten
for the sake of getting the old answers, which pleased him in the same
way as passages from a favourite book, or the scenes of a familiar play,
please more accomplished people.

'Ah, you remember well the Sunday as Mrs. Gilfil first come to church,
eh, Mrs. Patten?'

'To be sure I do. It was a fine bright Sunday as ever was seen, just at
the beginnin' o' hay harvest. Mr. Tarbett preached that day, and Mr.
Gilfil sat i' the pew with his wife. I think I see him now, a-leading her
up the aisle, an' her head not reachin' much above his elber: a little
pale woman, with eyes as black as sloes, an' yet lookin' blank-like, as
if she see'd nothing with 'em.'

'I warrant she had her weddin' clothes on?' said Mr. Hackit.

'Nothin' partikler smart--on'y a white hat tied down under her chin, an'
a white Indy muslin gown. But you don't know what Mr. Gilfil was in those
times. He was fine an' altered before you come into the parish. He'd a
fresh colour then, an' a bright look wi' his eyes, as did your heart good
to see. He looked rare and happy that Sunday; but somehow, I'd a feelin'
as it wouldn't last long. I've no opinion o' furriners, Mr. Hackit, for
I've travelled i' their country with my lady in my time, an' seen enough
o' their victuals an' their nasty ways.'

'Mrs. Gilfil come from It'ly, didn't she?'

'I reckon she did, but I niver could rightly hear about that. Mr. Gilfil
was niver to be spoke to about her, and nobody else hereabout knowed
anythin'. Howiver, she must ha' come over pretty young, for she spoke
English as well as you an' me. It's them Italians as has such fine
voices, an' Mrs. Gilfil sung, you never heared the like. He brought her
here to have tea with me one afternoon, and says he, in his jovial way,
"Now, Mrs. Patten, I want Mrs. Gilfil to see the neatest house, and drink
the best cup o' tea, in all Shepperton; you must show her your dairy and
your cheese-room, and then she shall sing you a song." An' so she did;
an' her voice seemed sometimes to fill the room; an' then it went low an'
soft, as if it was whisperin' close to your heart like.'

'You never heared her again, I reckon?'

'No; she was sickly then, and she died in a few months after. She wasn't
in the parish much more nor half a year altogether. She didn't seem
lively that afternoon, an' I could see she didn't care about the dairy,
nor the cheeses, on'y she pretended, to please him. As for him, I niver
see'd a man so wrapt up in a woman. He looked at her as if he was
worshippin' her, an' as if he wanted to lift her off the ground ivery
minute, to save her the trouble o' walkin'. Poor man, poor man! It had
like to ha' killed him when she died, though he niver gev way, but went
on ridin' about and preachin'. But he was wore to a shadder, an' his eyes
used to look as dead--you wouldn't ha' knowed 'em.'

'She brought him no fortune?'

'Not she. All Mr. Gilfil's property come by his mother's side. There was
blood an' money too, there. It's a thousand pities as he married i' that
way--a fine man like him, as might ha' had the pick o' the county, an'
had his grandchildren about him now. An' him so fond o' children, too.'

In this manner Mrs. Patten usually wound up her reminiscences of the
Vicar's wife, of whom, you perceive, she knew but little. It was clear
that the communicative old lady had nothing to tell of Mrs. Gilfil's
history previous to her arrival in Shepperton, and that she was
unacquainted with Mr. Gilfil's love-story.

But I, dear reader, am quite as communicative as Mrs. Patten, and much
better informed; so that, if you care to know more about the Vicar's
courtship and marriage, you need only carry your imagination back to the
latter end of the last century, and your attention forward into the next
chapter.



Chapter 2


It is the evening of the 21st of June 1788. The day has been bright and
sultry, and the sun will still be more than an hour above the horizon,
but his rays, broken by the leafy fretwork of the elms that border the
park, no longer prevent two ladies from carrying out their cushions and
embroidery, and seating themselves to work on the lawn in front of
Cheverel Manor. The soft turf gives way even under the fairy tread of the
younger lady, whose small stature and slim figure rest on the tiniest of
full-grown feet. She trips along before the elder, carrying the cushions,
which she places in the favourite spot, just on the slope by a clump of
laurels, where they can see the sunbeams sparkling among the
water-lilies, and can be themselves seen from the dining-room windows.
She has deposited the cushions, and now turns round, so that you may have
a full view of her as she stands waiting the slower advance of the elder
lady. You are at once arrested by her large dark eyes, which, in their
inexpressive unconscious beauty, resemble the eyes of a fawn, and it is
only by an effort of attention that you notice the absence of bloom on
her young cheek, and the southern yellowish tint of her small neck and
face, rising above the little black lace kerchief which prevents the too
immediate comparison of her skin with her white muslin gown. Her large
eyes seem all the more striking because the dark hair is gathered away
from her face, under a little cap set at the top of her head, with a
cherry-coloured bow on one side.

The elder lady, who is advancing towards the cushions, is cast in a very
different mould of womanhood. She is tall, and looks the taller because
her powdered hair is turned backward over a toupee, and surmounted by
lace and ribbons. She is nearly fifty, but her complexion is still fresh
and beautiful, with the beauty of an auburn blond; her proud pouting
lips, and her head thrown a little backward as she walks, give an
expression of hauteur which is not contradicted by the cold grey eye. The
tucked-in kerchief, rising full over the low tight bodice of her blue
dress, sets off the majestic form of her bust, and she treads the lawn as
if she were one of Sir Joshua Reynolds' stately ladies, who had suddenly
stepped from her frame to enjoy the evening cool.

'Put the cushions lower, Caterina, that we may not have so much sun upon
us,' she called out, in a tone of authority, when still at some distance.
Caterina obeyed, and they sat down, making two bright patches of red and
white and blue on the green background of the laurels and the lawn, which
would look none the less pretty in a picture because one of the women's
hearts was rather cold and the other rather sad.

And a charming picture Cheverel Manor would have made that evening, if
some English Watteau had been there to paint it: the castellated house of
grey-tinted stone, with the flickering sunbeams sending dashes of golden
light across the many-shaped panes in the mullioned windows, and a great
beech leaning athwart one of the flanking towers, and breaking, with its
dark flattened boughs, the too formal symmetry of the front; the broad
gravel-walk winding on the right, by a row of tall pines, alongside the
pool--on the left branching out among swelling grassy mounds, surmounted
by clumps of trees, where the red trunk of the Scotch fir glows in the
descending sunlight against the bright green of limes and acacias; the
great pool, where a pair of swans are swimming lazily with one leg tucked
under a wing, and where the open water-lilies lie calmly accepting the
kisses of the fluttering light-sparkles; the lawn, with its smooth
emerald greenness, sloping down to the rougher and browner herbage of the
park, from which it is invisibly fenced by a little stream that winds
away from the pool, and disappears under a wooden bridge in the distant
pleasure-ground; and on this lawn our two ladies, whose part in the
landscape the painter, standing at a favourable point of view in the
park, would represent with a few little dabs of red and white and blue.

Seen from the great Gothic windows of the dining-room, they had much more
definiteness of outline, and were distinctly visible to the three
gentlemen sipping their claret there, as two fair women in whom all three
had a personal interest. These gentlemen were a group worth considering
attentively; but any one entering that dining-room for the first time,
would perhaps have had his attention even more strongly arrested by the
room itself, which was so bare of furniture that it impressed one with
its architectural beauty like a cathedral. A piece of matting stretched
from door to door, a bit of worn carpet under the dining-table, and a
sideboard in a deep recess, did not detain the eye for a moment from the
lofty groined ceiling, with its richly-carved pendants, all of creamy
white, relieved here and there by touches of gold. On one side, this
lofty ceiling was supported by pillars and arches, beyond which a lower
ceiling, a miniature copy of the higher one, covered the square
projection which, with its three large pointed windows, formed the
central feature of the building. The room looked less like a place to
dine in than a piece of space enclosed simply for the sake of beautiful
outline; and the small dining-table, with the party round it, seemed an
odd and insignificant accident, rather than anything connected with the
original purpose of the apartment.

But, examined closely, that group was far from insignificant; for the
eldest, who was reading in the newspaper the last portentous proceedings
of the French parliaments, and turning with occasional comments to his
young companions, was as fine a specimen of the old English gentleman as
could well have been found in those venerable days of cocked-hats and
pigtails. His dark eyes sparkled under projecting brows, made more
prominent by bushy grizzled eyebrows; but any apprehension of severity
excited by these penetrating eyes, and by a somewhat aquiline nose, was
allayed by the good-natured lines about the mouth, which retained all its
teeth and its vigour of expression in spite of sixty winters. The
forehead sloped a little from the projecting brows, and its peaked
outline was made conspicuous by the arrangement of the profusely-powdered
hair, drawn backward and gathered into a pigtail. He sat in a small hard
chair, which did not admit the slightest approach to a lounge, and which
showed to advantage the flatness of his back and the breadth of his
chest. In fact, Sir Christopher Cheverel was a splendid old gentleman, as
any one may see who enters the saloon at Cheverel Manor, where his
full-length portrait, taken when he was fifty, hangs side by side with
that of his wife, the stately lady seated on the lawn.

Looking at Sir Christopher, you would at once have been inclined to hope
that he had a full-grown son and heir; but perhaps you would have wished
that it might not prove to be the young man on his right hand, in whom a
certain resemblance to the Baronet, in the contour of the nose and brow,
seemed to indicate a family relationship. If this young man had been less
elegant in his person, he would have been remarked for the elegance of
his dress. But the perfections of his slim well-proportioned figure were
so striking that no one but a tailor could notice the perfections of his
velvet coat; and his small white hands, with their blue veins and taper
fingers, quite eclipsed the beauty of his lace ruffles. The face,
however--it was difficult to say why--was certainly not pleasing. Nothing
could be more delicate than the blond complexion--its bloom set off by
the powdered hair--than the veined overhanging eye-lids, which gave an
indolent expression to the hazel eyes; nothing more finely cut than the
transparent nostril and the short upper-lip. Perhaps the chin and lower
jaw were too small for an irreproachable profile, but the defect was on
the side of that delicacy and _finesse_ which was the distinctive
characteristic of the whole person, and which was carried out in the
clear brown arch of the eyebrows, and the marble smoothness of the
sloping forehead. Impossible to say that this face was not eminently
handsome; yet, for the majority both of men and women, it was destitute
of charm. Women disliked eyes that seemed to be indolently accepting
admiration instead of rendering it; and men, especially if they had a
tendency to clumsiness in the nose and ankles, were inclined to think
this Antinous in a pig-tail a 'confounded puppy'. I fancy that was
frequently the inward interjection of the Rev. Maynard Gilfil, who was
seated on the opposite side of the dining-table, though Mr. Gilfil's legs
and profile were not at all of a kind to make him peculiarly alive to the
impertinence and frivolity of personal advantages. His healthy open face
and robust limbs were after an excellent pattern for everyday wear, and,
in the opinion of Mr. Bates, the north-country gardener, would have
become regimentals 'a fain saight' better than the 'peaky' features and
slight form of Captain Wybrow, notwithstanding that this young gentleman,
as Sir Christopher's nephew and destined heir, had the strongest
hereditary claim on the gardener's respect, and was undeniably
'clean-limbed'. But alas! human longings are perversely obstinate; and to
the man whose mouth is watering for a peach, it is of no use to offer the
largest vegetable marrow. Mr. Gilfil was not sensitive to Mr. Bates's
opinion, whereas he was sensitive to the opinion of another person, who
by no means shared Mr. Bates's preference.

Who the other person was it would not have required a very keen observer
to guess, from a certain eagerness in Mr. Gilfil's glance as that little
figure in white tripped along the lawn with the cushions. Captain Wybrow,
too, was looking in the same direction, but his handsome face remained
handsome--and nothing more.

'Ah,' said Sir Christopher, looking up from his paper, 'there's my lady.
Ring for coffee, Anthony; we'll go and join her, and the little monkey
Tina shall give us a song.'

The coffee presently appeared, brought not as usual by the footman, in
scarlet and drab, but by the old butler, in threadbare but well-brushed
black, who, as he was placing it on the table, said--'If you please, Sir
Christopher, there's the widow Hartopp a-crying i' the still room, and
begs leave to see your honour.'

'I have given Markham full orders about the widow Hartopp,' said Sir
Christopher, in a sharp decided tone. 'I have nothing to say to her.'

'Your honour,' pleaded the butler, rubbing his hands, and putting on an
additional coating of humility, 'the poor woman's dreadful overcome, and
says she can't sleep a wink this blessed night without seeing your
honour, and she begs you to pardon the great freedom she's took to come
at this time. She cries fit to break her heart.'

'Ay, ay; water pays no tax. Well, show her into the library.'

Coffee despatched, the two young men walked out through the open window,
and joined the ladies on the lawn, while Sir Christopher made his way to
the library, solemnly followed by Rupert, his pet bloodhound, who, in his
habitual place at the Baronet's right hand, behaved with great urbanity
during dinner; but when the cloth was drawn, invariably disappeared under
the table, apparently regarding the claret-jug as a mere human weakness,
which he winked at, but refused to sanction.

The library lay but three steps from the dining-room, on the other side
of a cloistered and matted passage. The oriel window was overshadowed by
the great beech, and this, with the flat heavily-carved ceiling and the
dark hue of the old books that lined the walls, made the room look
sombre, especially on entering it from the dining-room, with its aerial
curves and cream-coloured fretwork touched with gold. As Sir Christopher
opened the door, a jet of brighter light fell on a woman in a widow's
dress, who stood in the middle of the room, and made the deepest of
curtsies as he entered. She was a buxom woman approaching forty, her eyes
red with the tears which had evidently been absorbed by the handkerchief
gathered into a damp ball in her right hand.

'Now. Mrs. Hartopp,' said Sir Christopher, taking out his gold snuff-box
and tapping the lid, 'what have you to say to me? Markham has delivered
you a notice to quit, I suppose?'

'O yis, your honour, an' that's the reason why I've come. I hope your
honour 'll think better on it, an' not turn me an' my poor children out
o' the farm, where my husband al'ys paid his rent as reglar as the day
come.'

'Nonsense! I should like to know what good it will do you and your
children to stay on a farm and lose every farthing your husband has left
you, instead of selling your stock and going into some little place where
you can keep your money together. It is very well known to every tenant
of mine that I never allow widows to stay on their husbands' farms.'

'O, Sir Christifer, if you _would_ consider--when I've sold the hay, an'
corn, an' all the live things, an' paid the debts, an' put the money out
to use, I shall have hardly enough to keep our souls an' bodies together.
An' how can I rear my boys and put 'em 'prentice? They must go for
dey-labourers, an' their father a man wi' as good belongings as any on
your honour's estate, an' niver threshed his wheat afore it was well i'
the rick, nor sold the straw off his farm, nor nothin'. Ask all the
farmers round if there was a stiddier, soberer man than my husband as
attended Ripstone market. An' he says, "Bessie," says he--them was his
last words--"you'll mek a shift to manage the farm, if Sir Christifer
'ull let you stay on."'

'Pooh, pooh!' said Sir Christopher, Mrs. Hartopp's sobs having
interrupted her pleadings, 'now listen to me, and try to understand a
little common sense. You are about as able to manage the farm as your
best milch cow. You'll be obliged to have some managing man, who will
either cheat you out of your money or wheedle you into marrying him.'

'O, your honour, I was never that sort o' woman, an' nobody has known it
on me.'

'Very likely not, because you were never a widow before. A woman's always
silly enough, but she's never quite as great a fool as she can be until
she puts on a widow's cap. Now, just ask yourself how much the better you
will be for staying on your farm at the end of four years, when you've
got through your money, and let your farm run down, and are in arrears
for half your rent; or, perhaps, have got some great hulky fellow for a
husband, who swears at you and kicks your children.'

'Indeed, Sir Christifer, I know a deal o' farmin,' an' was brought up i'
the thick on it, as you may say. An' there was my husband's great-aunt
managed a farm for twenty year, an' left legacies to all her nephys an'
nieces, an' even to my husband, as was then a babe unborn.'

'Psha! a woman six feet high, with a squint and sharp elbows, I
daresay--a man in petticoats. Not a rosy-cheeked widow like you, Mrs.
Hartopp.'

'Indeed, your honour, I never heard of her squintin', an' they said as
she might ha' been married o'er and o'er again, to people as had no call
to hanker after her money.'

'Ay, ay, that's what you all think. Every man that looks at you wants to
marry you, and would like you the better the more children you have and
the less money. But it is useless to talk and cry. I have good reasons
for my plans, and never alter them. What you have to do is to take the
best of your stock, and to look out for some little place to go to, when
you leave The Hollows. Now, go back to Mrs. Bellamy's room, and ask her
to give you a dish of tea.'

Mrs. Hartopp, understanding from Sir Christopher's tone that he was not
to be shaken, curtsied low and left the library, while the Baronet,
seating himself at his desk in the oriel window, wrote the following
letter:

Mr. Markham,--Take no steps about letting Crowsfoot Cottage, as I intend
to put in the widow Hartopp when she leaves her farm; and if you will be
here at eleven on Saturday morning, I will ride round with you, and
settle about making some repairs, and see about adding a bit of land to
the take, as she will want to keep a cow and some pigs.--Yours
faithfully,

Christopher Cheverel

After ringing the bell and ordering this letter to be sent, Sir
Christopher walked out to join the party on the lawn. But finding the
cushions deserted, he walked on to the eastern front of the building,
where, by the side of the grand entrance, was the large bow-window of the
saloon, opening on to the gravel-sweep, and looking towards a long vista
of undulating turf, bordered by tall trees, which, seeming to unite
itself with the green of the meadows and a grassy road through a
plantation, only terminated with the Gothic arch of a gateway in the far
distance. The bow-window was open, and Sir Christopher, stepping in,
found the group he sought, examining the progress of the unfinished
ceiling. It was in the same style of florid pointed Gothic as the
dining-room, but more elaborate in its tracery, which was like petrified
lace-work picked out with delicate and varied colouring. About a fourth
of its still remained uncoloured, and under this part were scaffolding,
ladders, and tools; otherwise the spacious saloon was empty of furniture,
and seemed to be a grand Gothic canopy for the group of five human
figures standing in the centre.

'Francesco has been getting on a little better the last day or two,' said
Sir Christopher, as he joined the party: 'he's a sad lazy dog, and I
fancy he has a knack of sleeping as he stands, with his brushes in his
hands. But I must spur him on, or we may not have the scaffolding cleared
away before the bride comes, if you show dexterous generalship in your
wooing, eh, Anthony? and take your Magdeburg quickly.'

'Ah, sir, a siege is known to be one of the most tedious operations in
war,' said Captain Wybrow, with an easy smile.

'Not when there's a traitor within the walls in the shape of a soft
heart. And that there will be, if Beatrice has her mother's tenderness as
well as her mother's beauty.'

'What do you think, Sir Christopher,' said Lady Cheverel, who seemed to
wince a little under her husband's reminiscences, 'of hanging Guercino's
"Sibyl" over that door when we put up the pictures? It is rather lost in
my sitting-room.'

'Very good, my love,' answered Sir Christopher, in a tone of
punctiliously polite affection; 'if you like to part with the ornament
from your own room, it will show admirably here. Our portraits, by Sir
Joshua, will hang opposite the window, and the "Transfiguration" at that
end. You see, Anthony, I am leaving no good places on the walls for you
and your wife. We shall turn you with your faces to the wall in the
gallery, and you may take your revenge on us by-and-by.'

While this conversation was going on, Mr. Gilfil turned to Caterina and
said,--'I like the view from this window better than any other in the
house.'

She made no answer, and he saw that her eyes were filling with tears; so
he added, 'Suppose we walk out a little; Sir Christopher and my lady seem
to be occupied.'

Caterina complied silently, and they turned down one of the gravel walks
that led, after many windings under tall trees and among grassy openings,
to a large enclosed flower-garden. Their walk was perfectly silent, for
Maynard Gilfil knew that Caterina's thoughts were not with him, and she
had been long used to make him endure the weight of those moods which she
carefully hid from others. They reached the flower-garden, and turned
mechanically in at the gate that opened, through a high thick hedge, on
an expanse of brilliant colour, which, after the green shades they had
passed through, startled the eye like flames. The effect was assisted by
an undulation of the ground, which gradually descended from the
entrance-gate, and then rose again towards the opposite end, crowned by
an orangery. The flowers were glowing with their evening splendours;
verbenas and heliotropes were sending up their finest incense. It seemed
a gala where all was happiness and brilliancy, and misery could find no
sympathy. This was the effect it had on Caterina. As she wound among the
beds of gold and blue and pink, where the flowers seemed to be looking at
her with wondering elf-like eyes, knowing nothing of sorrow, the feeling
of isolation in her wretchedness overcame her, and the tears, which had
been before trickling slowly down her pale cheeks, now gushed forth
accompanied with sobs. And yet there was a loving human being close
beside her, whose heart was aching for hers, who was possessed by the
feeling that she was miserable, and that he was helpless to soothe her.
But she was too much irritated by the idea that his wishes were different
from hers, that he rather regretted the folly of her hopes than the
probability of their disappointment, to take any comfort in his sympathy.
Caterina, like the rest of us, turned away from sympathy which she
suspected to be mingled with criticism, as the child turns away from the
sweetmeat in which it suspects imperceptible medicine.

'Dear Caterina, I think I hear voices,' said Mr. Gilfil; 'they may be
coming this way.'

She checked herself like one accustomed to conceal her emotions, and ran
rapidly to the other end of the garden, where she seemed occupied in
selecting a rose. Presently Lady Cheverel entered, leaning on the arm of
Captain Wybrow, and followed by Sir Christopher. The party stopped to
admire the tiers of geraniums near the gate; and in the mean time
Caterina tripped back with a moss rose-bud in her hand, and, going up to
Sir Christopher, said--'There, Padroncello--there is a nice rose for your
button-hole.'

'Ah, you black-eyed monkey,' he said, fondly stroking her cheek; 'so you
have been running off with Maynard, either to torment or coax him an inch
or two deeper into love. Come, come, I want you to sing us "_Ho perduto_"
before we sit down to picquet. Anthony goes tomorrow, you know; you must
warble him into the right sentimental lover's mood, that he may acquit
himself well at Bath.' He put her little arm under his, and calling to
Lady Cheverel, 'Come, Henrietta!' led the way towards the house.

The party entered the drawing-room, which, with its oriel window,
corresponded to the library in the other wing, and had also a flat
ceiling heavy with carving and blazonry; but the window being unshaded,
and the walls hung with full-length portraits of knights and dames in
scarlet, white, and gold, it had not the sombre effect of the library.
Here hung the portrait of Sir Anthony Cheverel, who in the reign of
Charles II. was the renovator of the family splendour, which had suffered
some declension from the early brilliancy of that Chevreuil who came over
with the Conqueror. A very imposing personage was this Sir Anthony,
standing with one arm akimbo, and one fine leg and foot advanced,
evidently with a view to the gratification of his contemporaries and
posterity. You might have taken off his splendid peruke, and his scarlet
cloak, which was thrown backward from his shoulders, without annihilating
the dignity of his appearance. And he had known how to choose a wife,
too, for his lady, hanging opposite to him, with her sunny brown hair
drawn away in bands from her mild grave face, and falling in two large
rich curls on her snowy gently-sloping neck, which shamed the harsher hue
and outline of her white satin robe, was a fit mother of 'large-acred'
heirs.

In this room tea was served; and here, every evening, as regularly as the
great clock in the court-yard with deliberate bass tones struck nine, Sir
Christopher and Lady Cheverel sat down to picquet until half-past ten,
when Mr. Gilfil read prayers to the assembled household in the chapel.

But now it was not near nine, and Caterina must sit down to the
harpsichord and sing Sir Christopher's favourite airs from Gluck's
'Orfeo', an opera which, for the happiness of that generation, was then
to be heard on the London stage. It happened this evening that the
sentiment of these airs, '_Che faro senza Eurydice?_' and '_Ho perduto il
bel sembiante_', in both of which the singer pours out his yearning after
his lost love, came very close to Caterina's own feeling. But her
emotion, instead of being a hindrance to her singing, gave her additional
power. Her singing was what she could do best; it was her one point of
superiority, in which it was probable she would excel the highborn beauty
whom Anthony was to woo; and her love, her jealousy, her pride, her
rebellion against her destiny, made one stream of passion which welled
forth in the deep rich tones of her voice. She had a rare contralto,
which Lady Cheverel, who had high musical taste, had been careful to
preserve her from straining.

'Excellent, Caterina,' said Lady Cheverel, as there was a pause after the
wonderful linked sweetness of '_Che faro_'. 'I never heard you sing that
so well. Once more!'

It was repeated; and then came, 'Ho perduto', which Sir Christopher
encored, in spite of the clock, just striking nine. When the last note
was dying out he said--'There's a clever black-eyed monkey. Now bring out
the table for picquet.'

Caterina drew out the table and placed the cards; then, with her rapid
fairy suddenness of motion, threw herself on her knees, and clasped Sir
Christopher's knee. He bent down, stroked her cheek and smiled.

'Caterina, that is foolish,' said Lady Cheverel. 'I wish you would leave
off those stage-players' antics.'

She jumped up, arranged the music on the harpsichord, and then, seeing
the Baronet and his lady seated at picquet, quietly glided out of the
room.

Captain Wybrow had been leaning near the harpsichord during the singing,
and the chaplain had thrown himself on a sofa at the end of the room.
They both now took up a book. Mr. Gilfil chose the last number of the
'Gentleman's Magazine'; Captain Wybrow, stretched on an ottoman near the
door, opened 'Faublas'; and there was perfect silence in the room which,
ten minutes before, was vibrating to the passionate tones of Caterina.

She had made her way along the cloistered passages, now lighted here and
there by a small oil-lamp, to the grand-staircase, which led directly to
a gallery running along the whole eastern side of the building, where it
was her habit to walk when she wished to be alone. The bright moonlight
was streaming through the windows, throwing into strange light and shadow
the heterogeneous objects that lined the long walls Greek statues and
busts of Roman emperors; low cabinets filled with curiosities, natural
and antiquarian; tropical birds and huge horns of beasts; Hindoo gods and
strange shells; swords and daggers, and bits of chain-armour; Roman lamps
and tiny models of Greek temples; and, above all these, queer old family
portraits--of little boys and girls, once the hope of the Cheverels, with
close-shaven heads imprisoned in stiff ruffs--of faded, pink-faced
ladies, with rudimentary features and highly-developed head-dresses--of
gallant gentlemen, with high hips, high shoulders, and red pointed
beards.

Here, on rainy days, Sir Christopher and his lady took their promenade,
and here billiards were played; but, in the evening, it was forsaken by
all except Caterina--and, sometimes, one other person.

She paced up and down in the moonlight, her pale face and thin
white-robed form making her look like the ghost of some former Lady
Cheverel come to revisit the glimpses of the moon.

By-and-by she paused opposite the broad window above the portico, and
looked out on the long vista of turf and trees now stretching chill and
saddened in the moonlight.

Suddenly a breath of warmth and roses seemed to float towards her, and an
arm stole gently round her waist, while a soft hand took up her tiny
fingers. Caterina felt an electric thrill, and was motionless for one
long moment; then she pushed away the arm and hand, and, turning round,
lifted up to the face that hung over her eyes full of tenderness and
reproach. The fawn-like unconsciousness was gone, and in that one look
were the ground tones of poor little Caterina's nature--intense love and
fierce jealousy.

'Why do you push me away, Tina?' said Captain Wybrow in a half-whisper;
'are you angry with me for what a hard fate puts upon me? Would you have
me cross my uncle--who has done so much for us both--in his dearest wish?
You know I have duties--we both have duties--before which feeling must be
sacrificed.'

'Yes, yes,' said Caterina, stamping her foot, and turning away her head;
'don't tell me what I know already.'

There was a voice speaking in Caterina's mind to which she had never yet
given vent. That voice said continually. 'Why did he make me love
him--why did he let me know he loved me, if he knew all the while that he
couldn't brave everything for my sake?' Then love answered, 'He was led
on by the feeling of the moment, as you have been, Caterina; and now you
ought to help him to do what is right.' Then the voice rejoined, 'It was
a slight matter to him. He doesn't much mind giving you up. He will soon
love that beautiful woman, and forget a poor little pale thing like you.'

Thus love, anger, and jealousy were struggling in that young soul.

'Besides, Tina,' continued Captain Wybrow in still gentler tones, 'I
shall not succeed. Miss Assher very likely prefers some one else; and you
know I have the best will in the world to fail. I shall come back a
hapless bachelor--perhaps to find you already married to the good-looking
chaplain, who is over head and ears in love with you. Poor Sir
Christopher has made up his mind that you're to have Gilfil.

'Why will you speak so? You speak from your own want of feeling. Go away
from me.'

'Don't let us part in anger, Tina. All this may pass away. It's as likely
as not that I may never marry any one at all. These palpitations may
carry me off, and you may have the satisfaction of knowing that I shall
never be anybody's bride-groom. Who knows what may happen? I may be my
own master before I get into the bonds of holy matrimony, and be able to
choose my little singing-bird. Why should we distress ourselves before
the time?'

'It is easy to talk so when you are not feeling,' said Caterina, the
tears flowing fast. 'It is bad to bear now, whatever may come after. But
you don't care about my misery.'

'Don't I, Tina?' said Anthony in his tenderest tones, again stealing his
arm round her waist, and drawing her towards him. Poor Tina was the slave
of this voice and touch. Grief and resentment, retrospect and foreboding,
vanished--all life before and after melted away in the bliss of that
moment, as Anthony pressed his lips to hers.

Captain Wybrow thought, 'Poor little Tina! it would make her very happy
to have me. But she is a mad little thing.'

At that moment a loud bell startled Caterina from her trance of bliss. It
was the summons to prayers in the chapel, and she hastened away, leaving
Captain Wybrow to follow slowly.

It was a pretty sight, that family assembled to worship in the little
chapel, where a couple of wax-candles threw a mild faint light on the
figures kneeling there. In the desk was Mr. Gilfil, with his face a shade
graver than usual. On his right hand, kneeling on their red velvet
cushions, were the master and mistress of the household, in their elderly
dignified beauty. On his left, the youthful grace of Anthony and
Caterina, in all the striking contrast of their colouring--he, with his
exquisite outline and rounded fairness, like an Olympian god; she, dark
and tiny, like a gypsy changeling. Then there were the domestics kneeling
on red-covered forms,--the women headed by Mrs. Bellamy, the natty little
old housekeeper, in snowy cap and apron, and Mrs. Sharp, my lady's maid,
of somewhat vinegar aspect and flaunting attire; the men by Mr. Bellamy
the butler, and Mr. Warren, Sir Christopher's venerable valet.

A few collects from the Evening Service was what Mr. Gilfil habitually
read, ending with the simple petition, 'Lighten our darkness.'

And then they all rose, the servants turning to curtsy and bow as they
went out. The family returned to the drawing-room, said good-night to
each other, and dispersed--all to speedy slumber except two. Caterina
only cried herself to sleep after the clock had struck twelve. Mr. Gilfil
lay awake still longer, thinking that very likely Caterina was crying.

Captain Wybrow, having dismissed his valet at eleven, was soon in a soft
slumber, his face looking like a fine cameo in high relief on the
slightly indented pillow.



Chapter 3


The last chapter has given the discerning reader sufficient insight into
the state of things at Cheverel Manor in the summer of 1788. In that
summer, we know, the great nation of France was agitated by conflicting
thoughts and passions, which were but the beginning of sorrows. And in
our Caterina's little breast, too, there were terrible struggles. The
poor bird was beginning to flutter and vainly dash its soft breast
against the hard iron bars of the inevitable, and we see too plainly the
danger, if that anguish should go on heightening instead of being
allayed, that the palpitating heart may be fatally bruised.

Meanwhile, if, as I hope, you feel some interest in Caterina and her
friends at Cheverel Manor, you are perhaps asking, How came she to be
there? How was it that this tiny, dark-eyed child of the south, whose
face was immediately suggestive of olive-covered hills and taper-lit
shrines, came to have her home in that stately English manor-house, by
the side of the blonde matron, Lady Cheverel--almost as if a humming-bird
were found perched on one of the elm-trees in the park, by the side of
her ladyship's handsomest pouter-pigeon? Speaking good English, too, and
joining in Protestant prayers! Surely she must have been adopted and
brought over to England at a very early age. She was.

During Sir Christopher's last visit to Italy with his lady, fifteen years
before, they resided for some time at Milan, where Sir Christopher, who
was an enthusiast for Gothic architecture, and was then entertaining the
project of metamorphosing his plain brick family mansion into the model
of a Gothic manor-house, was bent on studying the details of that marble
miracle, the Cathedral. Here Lady Cheverel, as at other Italian cities
where she made any protracted stay, engaged a _maestro_ to give her
lessons in singing, for she had then not only fine musical taste, but a
fine soprano voice. Those were days when very rich people used manuscript
music, and many a man who resembled Jean Jacques in nothing else,
resembled him in getting a livelihood 'a copier la musique a tant la
page'. Lady Cheverel having need of this service, Maestro Albani told her
he would send her a poveraccio of his acquaintance, whose manuscript was
the neatest and most correct he knew of. Unhappily, the poveraccio was
not always in his best wits, and was sometimes rather slow in
consequence; but it would be a work of Christian charity worthy of the
beautiful Signora to employ poor Sarti.

The next morning, Mrs. Sharp, then a blooming abigail of
three-and-thirty, entered her lady's private room and said, 'If you
please, my lady, there's the frowsiest, shabbiest man you ever saw,
outside, and he's told Mr. Warren as the singing-master sent him to see
your ladyship. But I think you'll hardly like him to come in here. Belike
he's only a beggar.'

'O yes, show him in immediately.'

Mrs. Sharp retired, muttering something about 'fleas and worse'. She had
the smallest possible admiration for fair Ausonia and its natives, and
even her profound deference for Sir Christopher and her lady could not
prevent her from expressing her amazement at the infatuation of
gentlefolks in choosing to sojourn among 'Papises, in countries where
there was no getting to air a bit o' linen, and where the people smelt o'
garlick fit to knock you down.'

However she presently reappeared, ushering in a small meagre man, sallow
and dingy, with a restless wandering look in his dull eyes, and an
excessive timidity about his deep reverences, which gave him the air of a
man who had been long a solitary prisoner. Yet through all this squalor
and wretchedness there were some traces discernible of comparative youth
and former good looks. Lady Cheverel, though not very tender-hearted,
still less sentimental, was essentially kind, and liked to dispense
benefits like a goddess, who looks down benignly on the halt, the maimed,
and the blind that approach her shrine. She was smitten with some
compassion at the sight of poor Sarti, who struck her as the mere
battered wreck of a vessel that might have once floated gaily enough on
its outward voyage to the sound of pipes and tabors. She spoke gently as
she pointed out to him the operatic selections she wished him to copy,
and he seemed to sun himself in her auburn, radiant presence, so that
when he made his exit with the music-books under his arm, his bow, though
not less reverent, was less timid.

It was ten years at least since Sarti had seen anything so bright and
stately and beautiful as Lady Cheverel. For the time was far off in which
he had trod the stage in satin and feathers, the _primo tenore_ of one
short season. He had completely lost his voice in the following winter,
and had ever since been little better than a cracked fiddle, which is
good for nothing but firewood. For, like many Italian singers, he was too
ignorant to teach, and if it had not been for his one talent of
penmanship, he and his young helpless wife might have starved. Then, just
after their third child was born, fever came, swept away the sickly
mother and the two eldest children, and attacked Sarti himself, who rose
from his sick-bed with enfeebled brain and muscle, and a tiny baby on his
hands, scarcely four months old. He lodged over a fruit-shop kept by a
stout virago, loud of tongue and irate in temper, but who had had
children born to her, and so had taken care of the tiny yellow,
black-eyed _bambinetto_, and tended Sarti himself through his sickness.
Here he continued to live, earning a meagre subsistence for himself and
his little one by the work of copying music, put into his hands chiefly
by Maestro Albani. He seemed to exist for nothing but the child: he
tended it, he dandled it, he chatted to it, living with it alone in his
one room above the fruit-shop, only asking his landlady to take care of
the marmoset during his short absences in fetching and carrying home
work. Customers frequenting that fruit-shop might often see the tiny
Caterina seated on the floor with her legs in a heap of pease, which it
was her delight to kick about; or perhaps deposited, like a kitten, in a
large basket out of harm's way.

Sometimes, however, Sarti left his little one with another kind of
protectress. He was very regular in his devotions, which he paid thrice
a-week in the great cathedral, carrying Caterina with him. Here, when the
high morning sun was warming the myriad glittering pinnacles without, and
struggling against the massive gloom within, the shadow of a man with a
child on his arm might be seen flitting across the more stationary
shadows of pillar and mullion, and making its way towards a little tinsel
Madonna hanging in a retired spot near the choir. Amid all the
sublimities of the mighty cathedral, poor Sarti had fixed on this tinsel
Madonna as the symbol of divine mercy and protection,--just as a child,
in the presence of a great landscape, sees none of the glories of wood
and sky, but sets its heart on a floating feather or insect that happens
to be on a level with its eye. Here, then, Sarti worshipped and prayed,
setting Caterina on the floor by his side; and now and then, when the
cathedral lay near some place where he had to call, and did not like to
take her, he would leave her there in front of the tinsel Madonna, where
she would sit, perfectly good, amusing herself with low crowing noises
and see-sawings of her tiny body. And when Sarti came back, he always
found that the Blessed Mother had taken good care of Caterina.

That was briefly the history of Sarti, who fulfilled so well the orders
Lady Cheverel gave him, that she sent him away again with a stock of new
work. But this time, week after week passed, and he neither reappeared
nor sent home the music intrusted to him. Lady Cheverel began to be
anxious, and was thinking of sending Warren to inquire at the address
Sarti had given her, when one day, as she was equipped for driving out,
the valet brought in a small piece of paper, which, he said, had been
left for her ladyship by a man who was carrying fruit. The paper
contained only three tremulous lines, in Italian:--'Will the
Eccelentissima, for the love of God, have pity on a dying man, and come
to him?'

Lady Cheverel recognized the handwriting as Sarti's in spite of its
tremulousness, and, going down to her carriage, ordered the Milanese
coachman to drive to Strada Quinquagesima, Numero 10. The coach stopped
in a dirty narrow street opposite La Pazzini's fruit-shop, and that large
specimen of womanhood immediately presented herself at the door, to the
extreme disgust of Mrs. Sharp, who remarked privately to Mr. Warren that
La Pazzini was a 'hijeous porpis'. The fruit-woman, however, was all
smiles and deep curtsies to the Eccelentissima, who, not very well
understanding her Milanese dialect, abbreviated the conversation by
asking to be shown at once to Signor Sarti. La Pazzini preceded her up
the dark narrow stairs, and opened a door through which she begged her
ladyship to enter. Directly opposite the door lay Sarti, on a low
miserable bed. His eyes were glazed, and no movement indicated that he
was conscious of their entrance.

On the foot of the bed was seated a tiny child, apparently not three
years old, her head covered by a linen cap, her feet clothed with leather
boots, above which her little yellow legs showed thin and naked. A frock,
made of what had once been a gay flowered silk, was her only other
garment. Her large dark eyes shone from out her queer little face, like
two precious stones in a grotesque image carved in old ivory. She held an
empty medicine-bottle in her hand, and was amusing herself with putting
the cork in and drawing it out again, to hear how it would pop.

La Pazzini went up to the bed and said, 'Ecco la nobilissima donna;' but
directly after screamed out, 'Holy mother! he is dead!'

It was so. The entreaty had not been sent in time for Sarti to carry out
his project of asking the great English lady to take care of his
Caterina. That was the thought which haunted his feeble brain as soon as
he began to fear that his illness would end in death. She had wealth--she
was kind--she would surely do something for the poor orphan. And so, at
last, he sent that scrap of paper which won the fulfilment of his prayer,
though he did not live to utter it. Lady Cheverel gave La Pazzini money
that the last decencies might be paid to the dead man, and carried away
Caterina, meaning to consult Sir Christopher as to what should be done
with her. Even Mrs. Sharp had been so smitten with pity by the scene she
had witnessed when she was summoned up-stairs to fetch Caterina, as to
shed a small tear, though she was not at all subject to that weakness;
indeed, she abstained from it on principle, because, as she often said,
it was known to be the worst thing in the world for the eyes.

On the way back to her hotel, Lady Cheverel turned over various projects
in her mind regarding Caterina, but at last one gained the preference
over all the rest. Why should they not take the child to England, and
bring her up there? They had been married twelve years, yet Cheverel
Manor was cheered by no children's voices, and the old house would be all
the better for a little of that music. Besides, it would be a Christian
work to train this little Papist into a good Protestant, and graft as
much English fruit as possible on the Italian stem.

Sir Christopher listened to this plan with hearty acquiescence. He loved
children, and took at once to the little black-eyed monkey--his name for
Caterina all through her short life. But neither he nor Lady Cheverel had
any idea of adopting her as their daughter, and giving her their own rank
in life. They were much too English and aristocratic to think of anything
so romantic. No! the child would be brought up at Cheverel Manor as a
protegee, to be ultimately useful, perhaps, in sorting worsteds, keeping
accounts, reading aloud, and otherwise supplying the place of spectacles
when her ladyship's eyes should wax dim.

So Mrs. Sharp had to procure new clothes, to replace the linen cap,
flowered frock, and leathern boots; and now, strange to say, little
Caterina, who had suffered many unconscious evils in her existence of
thirty moons, first began to know conscious troubles. 'Ignorance,' says
Ajax, 'is a painless evil;' so, I should think, is dirt, considering the
merry faces that go along with it. At any rate, cleanliness is sometimes
a painful good, as any one can vouch who has had his face washed the
wrong way, by a pitiless hand with a gold ring on the third finger. If
you, reader, have not known that initiatory anguish, it is idle to expect
that you will form any approximate conception of what Caterina endured
under Mrs. Sharp's new dispensation of soap-and-water. Happily, this
purgatory came presently to be associated in her tiny brain with a
passage straightway to a seat of bliss--the sofa in Lady Cheverel's
sitting-room, where there were toys to be broken, a ride was to be had on
Sir Christopher's knee, and a spaniel of resigned temper was prepared to
undergo small tortures without flinching.



Chapter 4


In three months from the time of Caterina's adoption--namely, in the late
autumn of 1773--the chimneys of Cheverel Manor were sending up unwonted
smoke, and the servants were awaiting in excitement the return of their
master and mistress after a two years' absence. Great was the
astonishment of Mrs. Bellamy, the housekeeper, when Mr. Warren lifted a
little black-eyed child out of the carriage, and great was Mrs. Sharp's
sense of superior information and experience, as she detailed Caterina's
history, interspersed with copious comments, to the rest of the upper
servants that evening, as they were taking a comfortable glass of grog
together in the housekeeper's room.

A pleasant room it was as any party need desire to muster in on a cold
November evening. The fireplace alone was a picture: a wide and deep
recess with a low brick altar in the middle, where great logs of dry wood
sent myriad sparks up the dark chimney-throat; and over the front of this
recess a large wooden entablature bearing this motto, finely carved in
old English letters, 'Fear God and honour the King'. And beyond the
party, who formed a half-moon with their chairs and well-furnished table
round this bright fireplace, what a space of chiaroscuro for the
imagination to revel in! Stretching across the far end of the room, what
an oak table, high enough surely for Homer's gods, standing on four
massive legs, bossed and bulging like sculptured urns! and, lining the
distant wall, what vast cupboards, suggestive of inexhaustible apricot
jam and promiscuous butler's perquisites! A stray picture or two had
found their way down there, and made agreeable patches of dark brown on
the buff-coloured walls. High over the loud-resounding double door hung
one which, from some indications of a face looming out of blackness,
might, by a great synthetic effort, be pronounced a Magdalen.
Considerably lower down hung the similitude of a hat and feathers, with
portions of a ruff, stated by Mrs. Bellamy to represent Sir Francis
Bacon, who invented gunpowder, and, in her opinion, 'might ha' been
better emplyed.'

But this evening the mind is but slightly arrested by the great Verulam,
and is in the humour to think a dead philosopher less interesting than a
living gardener, who sits conspicuous in the half-circle round the
fireplace. Mr. Bates is habitually a guest in the housekeeper's room of
an evening, preferring the social pleasures there--the feast of gossip
and the flow of grog--to a bachelor's chair in his charming thatched
cottage on a little island, where every sound is remote, but the cawing
of rooks and the screaming of wild geese, poetic sounds, doubtless, but,
humanly speaking, not convivial.

Mr. Bates was by no means an average person, to be passed without special
notice. He was a sturdy Yorkshireman, approaching forty, whose face
Nature seemed to have coloured when she was in a hurry, and had no time
to attend to _nuances_, for every inch of him visible above his neckcloth
was of one impartial redness; so that when he was at some distance your
imagination was at liberty to place his lips anywhere between his nose
and chin. Seen closer, his lips were discerned to be of a peculiar cut,
and I fancy this had something to do with the peculiarity of his dialect,
which, as we shall see, was individual rather than provincial. Mr. Bates
was further distinguished from the common herd by a perpetual blinking of
the eyes; and this, together with the red-rose tint of his complexion,
and a way he had of hanging his head forward, and rolling it from side to
side as he walked, gave him the air of a Bacchus in a blue apron, who, in
the present reduced circumstances of Olympus, had taken to the management
of his own vines. Yet, as gluttons are often thin, so sober men are often
rubicund; and Mr. Bates was sober, with that manly, British,
churchman-like sobriety which can carry a few glasses of grog without any
perceptible clarification of ideas.

'Dang my boottons!' observed Mr. Bates, who, at the conclusion of Mrs.
Sharp's narrative, felt himself urged to his strongest interjection,
'it's what I shouldn't ha' looked for from Sir Cristhifer an' my ledy, to
bring a furrin child into the coonthry; an' depend on't, whether you an'
me lives to see't or noo, it'll coom to soom harm. The first sitiation
iver I held--it was a hold hancient habbey, wi' the biggest orchard o'
apples an' pears you ever see--there was a French valet, an' he stool
silk stoockins, an' shirts, an' rings, an' iverythin' he could ley his
hands on, an' run awey at last wi' th' missis's jewl-box. They're all
alaike, them furriners. It roons i' th' blood.'

'Well,' said Mrs. Sharp, with the air of a person who held liberal views,
but knew where to draw the line, 'I'm not a-going to defend the
furriners, for I've as good reason to know what they are as most folks,
an' nobody'll ever hear me say but what they're next door to heathens,
and the hile they eat wi' their victuals is enough to turn any
Christian's stomach. But for all that--an' for all as the trouble in
respect o' washin' and managin' has fell upo' me through the journey--I
can't say but what I think as my Lady an' Sir Cristifer's done a right
thing by a hinnicent child as doesn't know its right hand from its left,
i' bringing it where it'll learn to speak summat better nor gibberish,
and be brought up i' the true religion. For as for them furrin churches
as Sir Cristifer is so unaccountable mad after, wi' pictures o' men an'
women a-showing themselves just for all the world as God made 'em. I
think, for my part, as it's welly a sin to go into 'em.'

'You're likely to have more foreigners, however,' said Mr. Warren, who
liked to provoke the gardener, 'for Sir Christopher has engaged some
Italian workmen to help in the alterations in the house.'

'Olterations!' exclaimed Mrs. Bellamy, in alarm. 'What olterations!'

'Why,' answered Mr. Warren, 'Sir Christopher, as I understand, is going
to make a new thing of the old Manor-house both inside and out. And he's
got portfolios full of plans and pictures coming. It is to be cased with
stone, in the Gothic style--pretty near like the churches, you know, as
far as I can make out; and the ceilings are to be beyond anything that's
been seen in the country. Sir Christopher's been giving a deal of study
to it.'

'Dear heart alive!' said Mrs. Bellamy, 'we shall be pisoned wi' lime an'
plaster, an' hev the house full o' workmen colloguing wi' the maids, an'
makin' no end o' mischief.'

'That ye may ley your life on, Mrs. Bellamy,' said Mr. Bates. 'Howiver,
I'll noot denay that the Goothic stayle's prithy anoof, an' it's
woonderful how near them stoon-carvers cuts oot the shapes o' the pine
apples, an' shamrucks, an' rooses. I dare sey Sir Cristhifer'll meck a
naice thing o' the Manor, an' there woon't be many gentlemen's houses i'
the coonthry as'll coom up to't, wi' sich a garden an' pleasure-groons
an' wall-fruit as King George maight be prood on.'

'Well, I can't think as the house can be better nor it is, Gothic or no
Gothic,' said Mrs. Bellamy; 'an' I've done the picklin' and preservin' in
it fourteen year Michaelmas was a three weeks. But what does my lady say
to't?'

'My lady knows better than cross Sir Cristifer in what he's set his mind
on,' said Mr. Bellamy, who objected to the critical tone of the
conversation. 'Sir Cristifer'll hev his own way, _that_ you may tek your
oath. An' i' the right on't too. He's a gentleman born, an's got the
money. But come, Mester Bates, fill your glass, an' we'll drink health
an' happiness to his honour an' my lady, and then you shall give us a
song. Sir Cristifer doesn't come hum from Italy ivery night.'

This demonstrable position was accepted without hesitation as ground for
a toast; but Mr. Bates, apparently thinking that his song was not an
equally reasonable sequence, ignored the second part of Mr. Bellamy's
proposal. So Mrs. Sharp, who had been heard to say that she had no
thoughts at all of marrying Mr. Bates, though he was 'a sensable
fresh-coloured man as many a woman 'ud snap at for a husband,' enforced
Mr. Bellamy's appeal.

'Come, Mr. Bates, let us hear "Roy's Wife." I'd rether hear a good old
song like that, nor all the fine Italian toodlin.'

Mr. Bates, urged thus flatteringly, stuck his thumbs into the armholes of
his waistcoat, threw himself back in his chair with his head in that
position in which he could look directly towards the zenith, and struck
up a remarkably _staccato_ rendering of 'Roy's Wife of Aldivalloch'. This
melody may certainly be taxed with excessive iteration, but that was
precisely its highest recommendation to the present audience, who found
it all the easier to swell the chorus. Nor did it at all diminish their
pleasure that the only particular concerning 'Roy's Wife', which Mr.
Bates's enunciation allowed them to gather, was that she 'chated'
him,--whether in the matter of garden stuff or of some other commodity,
or why her name should, in consequence, be repeatedly reiterated with
exultation, remaining an agreeable mystery.

Mr. Bates's song formed the climax of the evening's good-fellowship, and
the party soon after dispersed--Mrs. Bellamy perhaps to dream of
quicklime flying among her preserving-pans, or of love-sick housemaids
reckless of unswept corners--and Mrs. Sharp to sink into pleasant visions
of independent housekeeping in Mr. Bates's cottage, with no bells to
answer, and with fruit and vegetables_ ad libitum_.

Caterina soon conquered all prejudices against her foreign blood; for
what prejudices will hold out against helplessness and broken prattle?
She became the pet of the household, thrusting Sir Christopher's
favourite bloodhound of that day, Mrs. Bellamy's two canaries, and Mr.
Bates's largest Dorking hen, into a merely secondary position. The
consequence was, that in the space of a summer's day she went through a
great cycle of experiences, commencing with the somewhat acidulated
goodwill of Mrs. Sharp's nursery discipline. Then came the grave luxury
of her ladyship's sitting-room, and, perhaps, the dignity of a ride on
Sir Christopher's knee, sometimes followed by a visit with him to the
stables, where Caterina soon learned to hear without crying the baying of
the chained bloodhounds, and say, with ostentatious bravery, clinging to
Sir Christopher's leg all the while, 'Dey not hurt Tina.' Then Mrs.
Bellamy would perhaps be going out to gather the rose-leaves and
lavender, and Tina was made proud and happy by being allowed to carry a
handful in her pinafore; happier still, when they were spread out on
sheets to dry, so that she could sit down like a frog among them, and
have them poured over her in fragrant showers. Another frequent pleasure
was to take a journey with Mr. Bates through the kitchen-gardens and the
hothouses, where the rich bunches of green and purple grapes hung from
the roof, far out of reach of the tiny yellow hand that could not help
stretching itself out towards them; though the hand was sure at last to
be satisfied with some delicate-flavoured fruit or sweet-scented flower.
Indeed, in the long monotonous leisure of that great country-house, you
may be sure there was always some one who had nothing better to do than
to play with Tina. So that the little southern bird had its northern nest
lined with tenderness, and caresses, and pretty things. A loving
sensitive nature was too likely, under such nurture, to have its
susceptibility heightened into unfitness for an encounter with any harder
experience; all the more, because there were gleams of fierce resistance
to any discipline that had a harsh or unloving aspect. For the only thing
in which Caterina showed any precocity was a certain ingenuity in
vindictiveness. When she was five years old she had revenged herself for
an unpleasant prohibition by pouring the ink into Mrs. Sharp's
work-basket; and once, when Lady Cheverel took her doll from her, because
she was affectionately licking the paint off its face, the little minx
straightway climbed on a chair and threw down a flower-vase that stood on
a bracket. This was almost the only instance in which her anger overcame
her awe of Lady Cheverel, who had the ascendancy always belonging to
kindness that never melts into caresses, and is severely but uniformly
beneficent.

By-and-by the happy monotony of Cheverel Manor was broken in upon in the
way Mr. Warren had announced. The roads through the park were cut up by
waggons carrying loads of stone from a neighbouring quarry, the green
courtyard became dusty with lime, and the peaceful house rang with the
sound of tools. For the next ten years Sir Christopher was occupied with
the architectural metamorphosis of his old family mansion; thus
anticipating, through the prompting of his individual taste, that general
reaction from the insipid imitation of the Palladian style, towards a
restoration of the Gothic, which marked the close of the eighteenth
century. This was the object he had set his heart on, with a singleness
of determination which was regarded with not a little contempt by his
fox-hunting neighbours, who wondered greatly that a man with some of the
best blood in England in his veins, should be mean enough to economize in
his cellar, and reduce his stud to two old coach-horses and a hack, for
the sake of riding a hobby, and playing the architect. Their wives did
not see so much to blame in the matter of the cellar and stables, but
they were eloquent in pity for poor Lady Cheverel, who had to live in no
more than three rooms at once, and who must be distracted with noises,
and have her constitution undermined by unhealthy smells. It was as bad
as having a husband with an asthma. Why did not Sir Christopher take a
house for her at Bath, or, at least, if he must spend his time in
overlooking workmen, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Manor? This
pity was quite gratuitous, as the most plentiful pity always is; for
though Lady Cheverel did not share her husband's architectural
enthusiasm, she had too rigorous a view of a wife's duties, and too
profound a deference for Sir Christopher, to regard submission as a
grievance. As for Sir Christopher, he was perfectly indifferent to
criticism. 'An obstinate, crotchety man,' said his neighbours. But I, who
have seen Cheverel Manor, as he bequeathed it to his heirs, rather
attribute that unswerving architectural purpose of his, conceived and
carried out through long years of systematic personal exertion, to
something of the fervour of genius, as well as inflexibility of will; and
in walking through those rooms, with their splendid ceilings and their
meagre furniture, which tell how all the spare money had been absorbed
before personal comfort was thought of, I have felt that there dwelt in
this old English baronet some of that sublime spirit which distinguishes
art from luxury, and worships beauty apart from self-indulgence.

While Cheverel Manor was growing from ugliness into beauty, Caterina too
was growing from a little yellow bantling into a whiter maiden, with no
positive beauty indeed, but with a certain light airy grace, which, with
her large appealing dark eyes, and a voice that, in its low-toned
tenderness, recalled the love-notes of the stock-dove, gave her a more
than usual charm. Unlike the building, however, Caterina's development
was the result of no systematic or careful appliances. She grew up very
much like the primroses, which the gardener is not sorry to see within
his enclosure, but takes no pains to cultivate. Lady Cheverel taught her
to read and write, and say her catechism; Mr. Warren, being a good
accountant, gave her lessons in arithmetic, by her ladyship's desire; and
Mrs. Sharp initiated her in all the mysteries of the needle. But, for a
long time, there was no thought of giving her any more elaborate
education. It is very likely that to her dying day Caterina thought the
earth stood still, and that the sun and stars moved round it; but so, for
the matter of that, did Helen, and Dido, and Desdemona, and Juliet;
whence I hope you will not think my Caterina less worthy to be a heroine
on that account. The truth is, that, with one exception, her only talent
lay in loving; and there, it is probable, the most astronomical of women
could not have surpassed her. Orphan and protegee though she was, this
supreme talent of hers found plenty of exercise at Cheverel Manor, and
Caterina had more people to love than many a small lady and gentleman
affluent in silver mugs and blood relations. I think the first place in
her childish heart was given to Sir Christopher, for little girls are apt
to attach themselves to the finest-looking gentleman at hand, especially
as he seldom has anything to do with discipline. Next to the Baronet came
Dorcas, the merry rosy-cheeked damsel who was Mrs. Sharp's lieutenant in
the nursery, and thus played the part of the raisins in a dose of senna.
It was a black day for Caterina when Dorcas married the coachman, and
went, with a great sense of elevation in the world, to preside over a
'public' in the noisy town of Sloppeter. A little china-box, bearing the
motto 'Though lost to sight, to memory dear', which Dorcas sent her as a
remembrance, was among Caterina's treasures ten years after.

The one other exceptional talent, you already guess, was music. When the
fact that Caterina had a remarkable ear for music, and a still more
remarkable voice, attracted Lady Cheverel's notice, the discovery was
very welcome both to her and Sir Christopher. Her musical education
became at once an object of interest. Lady Cheverel devoted much time to
it; and the rapidity of Tina's progress surpassing all hopes, an Italian
singing-master was engaged, for several years, to spend some months
together at Cheverel Manor. This unexpected gift made a great alteration
in Caterina's position. After those first years in which little girls are
petted like puppies and kittens, there comes a time when it seems less
obvious what they can be good for, especially when, like Caterina, they
give no particular promise of cleverness or beauty; and it is not
surprising that in that uninteresting period there was no particular plan
formed as to her future position. She could always help Mrs. Sharp,
supposing she were fit for nothing else, as she grew up; but now, this
rare gift of song endeared her to Lady Cheverel, who loved music above
all things, and it associated her at once with the pleasures of the
drawing-room. Insensibly she came to be regarded as one of the family,
and the servants began to understand that Miss Sarti was to be a lady
after all.

'And the raight on't too,' said Mr. Bates, 'for she hasn't the cut of a
gell as must work for her bread; she's as nesh an' dilicate as a
paich-blossom--welly laike a linnet, wi' on'y joost body anoof to hold
her voice.'

But long before Tina had reached this stage of her history, a new era had
begun for her, in the arrival of a younger companion than any she had
hitherto known. When she was no more than seven, a ward of Sir
Christopher's--a lad of fifteen, Maynard Gilfil by name--began to spend
his vacations at Cheverel Manor, and found there no playfellow so much to
his mind as Caterina. Maynard was an affectionate lad, who retained a
propensity to white rabbits, pet squirrels, and guinea-pigs, perhaps a
little beyond the age at which young gentlemen usually look down on such
pleasures as puerile. He was also much given to fishing, and to
carpentry, considered as a fine art, without any base view to utility.
And in all these pleasures it was his delight to have Caterina as his
companion, to call her little pet names, answer her wondering questions,
and have her toddling after him as you may have seen a Blenheim spaniel
trotting after a large setter. Whenever Maynard went back to school,
there was a little scene of parting.

'You won't forget me, Tina, before I come back again? I shall leave you
all the whip-cord we've made; and don't you let Guinea die. Come, give me
a kiss, and promise not to forget me.'

As the years wore on, and Maynard passed from school to college, and from
a slim lad to a stalwart young man, their companionship in the vacations
necessarily took a different form, but it retained a brotherly and
sisterly familiarity. With Maynard the boyish affection had insensibly
grown into ardent love. Among all the many kinds of first love, that
which begins in childish companionship is the strongest and most
enduring: when passion comes to unite its force to long affection, love
is at its spring-tide. And Maynard Gilfil's love was of a kind to make
him prefer being tormented by Caterina to any pleasure, apart from her,
which the most benevolent magician could have devised for him. It is the
way with those tall large-limbed men, from Samson downwards. As for Tina,
the little minx was perfectly well aware that Maynard was her slave; he
was the one person in the world whom she did as she pleased with; and I
need not tell you that this was a symptom of her being perfectly
heart-whole so far as he was concerned: for a passionate woman's love is
always overshadowed by fear.

Maynard Gilfil did not deceive himself in his interpretation of
Caterina's feelings, but he nursed the hope that some time or other she
would at least care enough for him to accept his love. So he waited
patiently for the day when he might venture to say, 'Caterina, I love
you!' You see, he would have been content with very little, being one of
those men who pass through life without making the least clamour about
themselves; thinking neither the cut of his coat, nor the flavour of his
soup, nor the precise depth of a servant's bow, at all momentous. He
thought--foolishly enough, as lovers _will_ think--that it was a good
augury for him when he came to be domesticated at Cheverel Manor in the
quality of chaplain there, and curate of a neighbouring parish; judging
falsely, from his own case, that habit and affection were the likeliest
avenues to love. Sir Christopher satisfied several feelings in installing
Maynard as chaplain in his house. He liked the old-fashioned dignity of
that domestic appendage; he liked his ward's companionship; and, as
Maynard had some private fortune, he might take life easily in that
agreeable home, keeping his hunter, and observing a mild regimen of
clerical duty, until the Cumbermoor living should fall in, when he might
be settled for life in the neighbourhood of the manor. 'With Caterina for
a wife, too,' Sir Christopher soon began to think; for though the good
Baronet was not at all quick to suspect what was unpleasant and opposed
to his views of fitness, he was quick to see what would dovetail with his
own plans; and he had first guessed, and then ascertained, by direct
inquiry, the state of Maynard's feelings. He at once leaped to the
conclusion that Caterina was of the same mind, or at least would be, when
she was old enough. But these were too early days for anything definite
to be said or done.

Meanwhile, new circumstances were arising, which, though they made no
change in Sir Christopher's plans and prospects, converted Mr. Gilfil's
hopes into anxieties, and made it clear to him not only that Caterina's
heart was never likely to be his, but that it was given entirely to
another.

Once or twice in Caterina's childhood, there had been another boy-visitor
at the manor, younger than Maynard Gilfil--a beautiful boy with brown
curls and splendid clothes, on whom Caterina had looked with shy
admiration. This was Anthony Wybrow, the son of Sir Christopher's
youngest sister, and chosen heir of Cheverel Manor. The Baronet had
sacrificed a large sum, and even straitened the resources by which he was
to carry out his architectural schemes, for the sake of removing the
entail from his estate, and making this boy his heir--moved to the step,
I am sorry to say, by an implacable quarrel with his elder sister; for a
power of forgiveness was not among Sir Christopher's virtues. At length,
on the death of Anthony's mother, when he was no longer a curly-headed
boy, but a tall young man, with a captain's commission, Cheverel Manor
became _his_ home too, whenever he was absent from his regiment. Caterina
was then a little woman, between sixteen and seventeen, and I need not
spend many words in explaining what you perceive to be the most natural
thing in the world.

There was little company kept at the Manor, and Captain Wybrow would have
been much duller if Caterina had not been there. It was pleasant to pay
her attentions--to speak to her in gentle tones, to see her little
flutter of pleasure, the blush that just lit up her pale cheek, and the
momentary timid glance of her dark eyes, when he praised her singing,
leaning at her side over the piano. Pleasant, too, to cut out that
chaplain with his large calves! What idle man can withstand
the temptation of a woman to fascinate, and another man to
eclipse?--especially when it is quite clear to himself that he means no
mischief, and shall leave everything to come right again by-and-by? At
the end of eighteen months, however, during which Captain Wybrow had
spent much of his time at the Manor, he found that matters had reached a
point which he had not at all contemplated. Gentle tones had led to
tender words, and tender words had called forth a response of looks which
made it impossible not to carry on the _crescendo_ of love-making. To
find one's self adored by a little, graceful, dark-eyed, sweet-singing
woman, whom no one need despise, is an agreeable sensation, comparable to
smoking the finest Latakia, and also imposes some return of tenderness as
a duty.

Perhaps you think that Captain Wybrow, who knew that it would be
ridiculous to dream of his marrying Caterina, must have been a reckless
libertine to win her affections in this manner! Not at all. He was a
young man of calm passions, who was rarely led into any conduct of which
he could not give a plausible account to himself; and the tiny fragile
Caterina was a woman who touched the imagination and the affections
rather than the senses. He really felt very kindly towards her, and would
very likely have loved her--if he had been able to love any one. But
nature had not endowed him with that capability. She had given him an
admirable figure, the whitest of hands, the most delicate of nostrils,
and a large amount of serene self-satisfaction; but, as if to save such a
delicate piece of work from any risk of being shattered, she had guarded
him from the liability to a strong emotion. There was no list of youthful
misdemeanours on record against him, and Sir Christopher and Lady
Cheverel thought him the best of nephews, the most satisfactory of heirs,
full of grateful deference to themselves, and, above all things, guided
by a sense of duty. Captain Wybrow always did the thing easiest and most
agreeable to him from a sense of duty: he dressed expensively, because it
was a duty he owed to his position; from a sense of duty he adapted
himself to Sir Christopher's inflexible will, which it would have been
troublesome as well as useless to resist; and, being of a delicate
constitution, he took care of his health from a sense of duty. His health
was the only point on which he gave anxiety to his friends; and it was
owing to this that Sir Christopher wished to see his nephew early
married, the more so as a match after the Baronet's own heart appeared
immediately attainable. Anthony had seen and admired Miss Assher, the
only child of a lady who had been Sir Christopher's earliest love, but
who, as things will happen in this world, had married another baronet
instead of him. Miss Assher's father was now dead, and she was in
possession of a pretty estate. If, as was probable, she should prove
susceptible to the merits of Anthony's person and character, nothing
could make Sir Christopher so happy as to see a marriage which might be
expected to secure the inheritance of Cheverel Manor from getting into
the wrong hands. Anthony had already been kindly received by Lady Assher
as the nephew of her early friend; why should he not go to Bath, where
she and her daughter were then residing, follow up the acquaintance, and
win a handsome, well-born, and sufficiently wealthy bride?

Sir Christopher's wishes were communicated to his nephew, who at once
intimated his willingness to comply with them--from a sense of duty.
Caterina was tenderly informed by her lover of the sacrifice demanded
from them both; and three days afterwards occurred the parting scene you
have witnessed in the gallery, on the eve of Captain Wybrow's departure
for Bath.



Chapter 5


The inexorable ticking of the clock is like the throb of pain to
sensations made keen by a sickening fear. And so it is with the great
clockwork of nature. Daisies and buttercups give way to the brown waving
grasses, tinged with the warm red sorrel; the waving grasses are swept
away, and the meadows lie like emeralds set in the bushy hedgerows; the
tawny-tipped corn begins to bow with the weight of the full ear; the
reapers are bending amongst it, and it soon stands in sheaves, then
presently, the patches of yellow stubble lie side by side with streaks of
dark-red earth, which the plough is turning up in preparation for the
new-thrashed seed. And this passage from beauty to beauty, which to the
happy is like the flow of a melody, measures for many a human heart the
approach of foreseen anguish--seems hurrying on the moment when the
shadow of dread will be followed up by the reality of despair.

How cruelly hasty that summer of 1788 seemed to Caterina! Surely the
roses vanished earlier, and the berries on the mountain-ash were more
impatient to redden, and bring on the autumn, when she would be face to
face with her misery, and witness Anthony giving all his gentle tones,
tender words, and soft looks to another.

Before the end of July, Captain Wybrow had written word that Lady Assher
and her daughter were about to fly from the heat and gaiety of Bath to
the shady quiet of their place at Farleigh, and that he was invited to
join the party there. His letters implied that he was on an excellent
footing with both the ladies, and gave no hint of a rival; so that Sir
Christopher was more than usually bright and cheerful after reading them.
At length, towards the close of August, came the announcement that
Captain Wybrow was an accepted lover, and after much complimentary and
congratulatory correspondence between the two families, it was understood
that in September Lady Assher and her daughter would pay a visit to
Cheverel Manor, when Beatrice would make the acquaintance of her future
relatives, and all needful arrangements could be discussed. Captain
Wybrow would remain at Farleigh till then, and accompany the ladies on
their journey.

In the interval, every one at Cheverel Manor had something to do by way
of preparing for the visitors. Sir Christopher was occupied in
consultations with his steward and lawyer, and in giving orders to every
one else, especially in spurring on Francesco to finish the saloon. Mr.
Gilfil had the responsibility of procuring a lady's horse, Miss Assher
being a great rider. Lady Cheverel had unwonted calls to make and
invitations to deliver. Mr. Bates's turf, and gravel, and flower-beds
were always at such a point of neatness and finish that nothing
extraordinary could be done in the garden, except a little extraordinary
scolding of the under-gardener, and this addition Mr. Bates did not
neglect.

Happily for Caterina, she too had her task, to fill up the long dreary
daytime: it was to finish a chair-cushion which would complete the set of
embroidered covers for the drawing-room, Lady Cheverel's year-long work,
and the only noteworthy bit of furniture in the Manor. Over this
embroidery she sat with cold lips and a palpitating heart, thankful that
this miserable sensation throughout the daytime seemed to counteract the
tendency to tears which returned with night and solitude. She was most
frightened when Sir Christopher approached her. The Baronet's eye was
brighter and his step more elastic than ever, and it seemed to him that
only the most leaden or churlish souls could be otherwise than brisk and
exulting in a world where everything went so well. Dear old gentleman! he
had gone through life a little flushed with the power of his will, and
now his latest plan was succeeding, and Cheverel Manor would be inherited
by a grand-nephew, whom he might even yet live to see a fine young fellow
with at least the down on his chin. Why not? one is still young at sixty.

Sir Christopher had always something playful to say to Caterina.

'Now, little monkey, you must be in your best voice: you're the minstrel
of the Manor, you know, and be sure you have a pretty gown and a new
ribbon. You must not be dressed in russet, though you are a
singing-bird.' Or perhaps, 'It is your turn to be courted next, Tina. But
don't you learn any naughty proud airs. I must have Maynard let off
easily.'

Caterina's affection for the old Baronet helped her to summon up a smile
as he stroked her cheek and looked at her kindly, but that was the moment
at which she felt it most difficult not to burst out crying. Lady
Cheverel's conversation and presence were less trying; for her ladyship
felt no more than calm satisfaction in this family event; and besides,
she was further sobered by a little jealousy at Sir Christopher's
anticipation of pleasure in seeing Lady Assher, enshrined in his memory
as a mild-eyed beauty of sixteen, with whom he had exchanged locks before
he went on his first travels. Lady Cheverel would have died rather than
confess it, but she couldn't help hoping that he would be disappointed in
Lady Assher, and rather ashamed of having called her so charming.

Mr. Gilfil watched Caterina through these days with mixed feelings. Her
suffering went to his heart; but, even for her sake, he was glad that a
love which could never come to good should be no longer fed by false
hopes; and how could he help saying to himself, 'Perhaps, after a while,
Caterina will be tired of fretting about that cold-hearted puppy, and
then . . .'

At length the much-expected day arrived, and the brightest of September
suns was lighting up the yellowing lime-trees, as about five o'clock Lady
Assher's carriage drove under the portico. Caterina, seated at work in
her own room, heard the rolling of the wheels, followed presently by the
opening and shutting of doors, and the sound of voices in the corridors.
Remembering that the dinner-hour was six, and that Lady Cheverel had
desired her to be in the drawing-room early, she started up to dress, and
was delighted to find herself feeling suddenly brave and strong.
Curiosity to see Miss Assher--the thought that Anthony was in the
house--the wish not to look unattractive, were feelings that brought
some colour to her lips, and made it easy to attend to her toilette.
They would ask her to sing this evening, and she would sing well. Miss
Assher should not think her utterly insignificant. So she put on her
grey silk gown and her cherry coloured ribbon with as much care as if
she had been herself the betrothed; not forgetting the pair of round
pearl earrings which Sir Christopher had told Lady Cheverel to give her,
because Tina's little ears were so pretty.

Quick as she had been, she found Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel in the
drawing-room chatting with Mr. Gilfil, and telling him how handsome Miss
Assher was, but how entirely unlike her mother--apparently resembling her
father only.

'Aha!' said Sir Christopher, as he turned to look at Caterina, 'what do
you think of this, Maynard? Did you ever see Tina look so pretty before?
Why, that little grey gown has been made out of a bit of my
lady's, hasn't it? It doesn't take anything much larger than a
pocket-handkerchief to dress the little monkey.'

Lady Cheverel, too, serenely radiant in the assurance a single glance had
given her of Lady Assher's inferiority, smiled approval, and Caterina was
in one of those moods of self possession and indifference which come as
the ebb-tide between the struggles of passion. She retired to the piano,
and busied herself with arranging her music, not at all insensible to the
pleasure of being looked at with admiration the while, and thinking that,
the next time the door opened, Captain Wybrow would enter, and she would
speak to him quite cheerfully. But when she heard him come in, and the
scent of roses floated towards her, her heart gave one great leap. She
knew nothing till he was pressing her hand, and saying, in the old easy
way, 'Well, Caterina, how do you do? You look quite blooming.'

She felt her cheeks reddening with anger that he could speak and look
with such perfect nonchalance. Ah! he was too deeply in love with some
one else to remember anything he had felt for _her_. But the next moment
she was conscious of her folly;--'as if he could show any feeling then!'
This conflict of emotions stretched into a long interval the few moments
that elapsed before the door opened again, and her own attention, as well
as that of all the rest, was absorbed by the entrance of the two ladies.

The daughter was the more striking, from the contrast she presented to
her mother, a round-shouldered, middle-sized woman, who had once had the
transient pink-and-white beauty of a blonde, with ill-defined features
and early embonpoint. Miss Assher was tall, and gracefully though
substantially formed, carrying herself with an air of mingled
graciousness and self-confidence; her dark-brown hair, untouched by
powder, hanging in bushy curls round her face, and falling in long thick
ringlets nearly to her waist. The brilliant carmine tint of her
well-rounded cheeks, and the finely-cut outline of her straight nose,
produced an impression of splendid beauty, in spite of commonplace brown
eyes, a narrow forehead, and thin lips. She was in mourning, and the dead
black of her crape dress, relieved here and there by jet ornaments, gave
the fullest effect to her complexion, and to the rounded whiteness of her
arms, bare from the elbow. The first coup d'oeil was dazzling, and as she
stood looking down with a gracious smile on Caterina, whom Lady Cheverel
was presenting to her, the poor little thing seemed to herself to feel,
for the first time, all the folly of her former dream.

'We are enchanted with your place, Sir Christopher,' said Lady Assher,
with a feeble kind of pompousness, which she seemed to be copying from
some one else: 'I'm sure your nephew must have thought Farleigh
wretchedly out of order. Poor Sir John was so very careless about keeping
up the house and grounds. I often talked to him about it, but he said,
"Pooh pooh! as long as my friends find a good dinner and a good bottle of
wine, they won't care about my ceilings being rather smoky." He was so
very hospitable, was Sir John.'

'I think the view of the house from the park, just after we passed the
bridge, particularly fine,' said Miss Assher, interposing rather eagerly,
as if she feared her mother might be making infelicitous speeches, 'and
the pleasure of the first glimpse was all the greater because Anthony
would describe nothing to us beforehand. He would not spoil our first
impressions by raising false ideas. I long to go over the house, Sir
Christopher, and learn the history of all your architectural designs,
which Anthony says have cost you so much time and study.'

'Take care how you set an old man talking about the past, my dear,' said
the Baronet; 'I hope we shall find something pleasanter for you to do
than turning over my old plans and pictures. Our friend Mr. Gilfil here
has found a beautiful mare for you and you can scour the country to your
heart's content. Anthony has sent us word what a horsewoman you are.'

Miss Assher turned to Mr. Gilfil with her most beaming smile, and
expressed her thanks with the elaborate graciousness of a person who
means to be thought charming, and is sure of success.

'Pray do not thank me,' said Mr. Gilfil, 'till you have tried the mare.
She has been ridden by Lady Sara Linter for the last two years; but one
lady's taste may not be like another's in horses, any more than in other
matters.'

While this conversation was passing, Captain Wybrow was leaning against
the mantelpiece, contenting himself with responding from under his
indolent eyelids to the glances Miss Assher was constantly directing
towards him as she spoke. 'She is very much in love with him,' thought
Caterina. But she was relieved that Anthony remained passive in his
attentions. She thought, too, that he was looking paler and more languid
than usual. 'If he didn't love her very much--if he sometimes thought of
the past with regret, I think I could bear it all, and be glad to see Sir
Christopher made happy.'

During dinner there was a little incident which confirmed these thoughts.
When the sweets were on the table, there was a mould of jelly just
opposite Captain Wybrow, and being inclined to take some himself, he
first invited Miss Assher, who coloured, and said, in rather a sharper
key than usual, 'Have you not learned by this time that I never take
jelly?'

'Don't you?' said Captain Wybrow, whose perceptions were not acute enough
for him to notice the difference of a semitone. 'I should have thought
you were fond of it. There was always some on the table at Farleigh, I
think.'

'You don't seem to take much interest in my likes and dislikes.'

'I'm too much possessed by the happy thought that you like me,' was the
_ex officio_ reply, in silvery tones.

This little episode was unnoticed by every one but Caterina. Sir
Christopher was listening with polite attention to Lady Assher's history
of her last man-cook, who was first-rate at gravies, and for that reason
pleased Sir John--he was so particular about his gravies, was Sir John:
and so they kept the man six years in spite of his bad pastry. Lady
Cheverel and Mr. Gilfil were smiling at Rupert the bloodhound, who had
pushed his great head under his master's arm, and was taking a survey of
the dishes, after snuffing at the contents of the Baronet's plate.

When the ladies were in the drawing-room again, Lady Assher was soon deep
in a statement to Lady Cheverel of her views about burying people in
woollen.

'To be sure, you must have a woollen dress, because it's the law, you
know; but that need hinder no one from putting linen underneath. I always
used to say, "If Sir John died tomorrow, I would bury him in his shirt;"
and I did. And let me advise you to do so by Sir Christopher. You never
saw Sir John, Lady Cheverel. He was a large tall man, with a nose just
like Beatrice, and so very particular about his shirts.'

Miss Assher, meanwhile, had seated herself by Caterina, and, with that
smiling affability which seems to say, 'I am really not at all proud,
though you might expect it of me,' said,--'Anthony tells me you sing so
very beautifully. I hope we shall hear you this evening.'

'O yes,' said Caterina, quietly, without smiling; 'I always sing when I
am wanted to sing.'

'I envy you such a charming talent. Do you know, I have no ear; I cannot
hum the smallest tune, and I delight in music so. Is it not unfortunate?
But I shall have quite a treat while I am here; Captain Wybrow says you
will give us some music every day.'

'I should have thought you wouldn't care about music if you had no ear,'
said Caterina, becoming epigrammatic by force of grave simplicity.

'O, I assure you, I doat on it; and Anthony is so fond of it; it would be
so delightful if I could play and sing to him; though he says he likes me
best not to sing, because it doesn't belong to his idea of me. What style
of music do you like best?'

'I don't know. I like all beautiful music.'

'And are you as fond of riding as of music?'

'No; I never ride. I think I should be very frightened.'

'O no! indeed you would not, after a little practice. I have never been
in the least timid. I think Anthony is more afraid for me than I am for
myself; and since I have been riding with him, I have been obliged to be
more careful, because he is so nervous about me.'

Caterina made no reply; but she said to herself, 'I wish she would go
away and not talk to me. She only wants me to admire her good-nature, and
to talk about Anthony.'

Miss Assher was thinking at the same time, 'This Miss Sarti seems a
stupid little thing. Those musical people often are. But she is prettier
than I expected; Anthony said she was not pretty.'

Happily at this moment Lady Assher called her daughter's attention to the
embroidered cushions, and Miss Assher, walking to the opposite sofa, was
soon in conversation with Lady Cheverel about tapestry and embroidery in
general, while her mother, feeling herself superseded there, came and
placed herself beside Caterina.

'I hear you are the most beautiful singer,' was of course the opening
remark. 'All Italians sing so beautifully. I travelled in Italy with Sir
John when we were first married, and we went to Venice, where they go
about in gondolas, you know. You don't wear powder, I see. No more will
Beatrice; though many people think her curls would look all the better
for powder. She has so much hair, hasn't she? Our last maid dressed it
much better than this; but, do you know, she wore Beatrice's stockings
before they went to the wash, and we couldn't keep her after that, could
we?'

Caterina, accepting the question as a mere bit of rhetorical effect,
thought it superfluous to reply, till Lady Assher repeated, 'Could we,
now?' as if Tina's sanction were essential to her repose of mind. After a
faint 'No', she went on.

'Maids are so very troublesome, and Beatrice is so particular, you can't
imagine. I often say to her, "My dear, you can't have perfection." That
very gown she has on--to be sure, it fits her beautifully now--but it has
been unmade and made up again twice. But she is like poor Sir John--he
was so very particular about his own things, was Sir John. Is Lady
Cheverel particular?'

'Rather. But Mrs. Sharp has been her maid twenty years.'

'I wish there was any chance of our keeping Griffin twenty years. But I
am afraid we shall have to part with her because her health is so
delicate; and she is so obstinate, she will not take bitters as I want
her. _You_ look delicate, now. Let me recommend you to take camomile tea
in a morning, fasting. Beatrice is so strong and healthy, she never takes
any medicine; but if I had had twenty girls, and they had been delicate,
I should have given them all camomile tea. It strengthens the
constitution beyond anything. Now, will you promise me to take camomile
tea?'

'Thank you: I'm not at all ill,' said Caterina. 'I've always been pale
and thin.'

Lady Assher was sure camomile tea would make all the difference in the
world--Caterina must see if it wouldn't--and then went dribbling on like
a leaky shower-bath, until the early entrance of the gentlemen created a
diversion, and she fastened on Sir Christopher, who probably began to
think that, for poetical purposes, it would be better not to meet one's
first love again, after a lapse of forty years.

Captain Wybrow, of course, joined his aunt and Miss Assher, and Mr.
Gilfil tried to relieve Caterina from the awkwardness of sitting aloof
and dumb, by telling her how a friend of his had broken his arm and
staked his horse that morning, not at all appearing to heed that she
hardly listened, and was looking towards the other side of the room. One
of the tortures of jealousy is, that it can never turn its eyes away from
the thing that pains it.

'By-and-by every one felt the need of a relief from chit-chat--Sir
Christopher perhaps the most of all--and it was he who made the
acceptable proposition--

'Come, Tina, are we to have no music to-night before we sit down to
cards? Your ladyship plays at cards, I think?' he added, recollecting
himself, and turning to Lady Assher.

'O yes! Poor dear Sir John would have a whist-table every night.'

Caterina sat down to the harpsichord at once, and had no sooner begun to
sing than she perceived with delight that Captain Wybrow was gliding
towards the harpsichord, and soon standing in the old place. This
consciousness gave fresh strength to her voice; and when she noticed that
Miss Assher presently followed him with that air of ostentatious
admiration which belongs to the absence of real enjoyment, her closing
_bravura_ was none the worse for being animated by a little triumphant
contempt.

'Why, you are in better voice than ever, Caterina,' said Captain Wybrow,
when she had ended. 'This is rather different from Miss Hibbert's small
piping that we used to be glad of at Farleigh, is it not, Beatrice?'

'Indeed it is. You are a most enviable creature,
Miss Sarti--Caterina--may I not call you Caterina? for I have heard
Anthony speak of you so often, I seem to know you quite well. You will
let me call you Caterina?'

'O yes, every one calls me Caterina, only when they call me Tina.'

'Come, come, more singing, more singing, little monkey,' Sir Christopher
called out from the other side of the room. 'We have not had half enough
yet.'

Caterina was ready enough to obey, for while she was singing she was
queen of the room, and Miss Assher was reduced to grimacing admiration.
Alas! you see what jealousy was doing in this poor young soul. Caterina,
who had passed her life as a little unobtrusive singing-bird, nestling so
fondly under the wings that were outstretched for her, her heart beating
only to the peaceful rhythm of love, or fluttering with some easily
stifled fear, had begun to know the fierce palpitations of triumph and
hatred.

When the singing was over, Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel sat down to
whist with Lady Assher and Mr. Gilfil, and Caterina placed herself at the
Baronet's elbow, as if to watch the game, that she might not appear to
thrust herself on the pair of lovers. At first she was glowing with her
little triumph, and felt the strength of pride; but her eye _would_ steal
to the opposite side of the fireplace, where Captain Wybrow had seated
himself close to Miss Assher, and was leaning with his arm over the back
of the chair, in the most lover-like position. Caterina began to feel a
choking sensation. She could see, almost without looking, that he was
taking up her arm to examine her bracelet; their heads were bending close
together, her curls touching his cheek--now he was putting his lips to
her hand. Caterina felt her cheeks burn--she could sit no longer. She got
up, pretended to be gliding about in search of something, and at length
slipped out of the room.

Outside, she took a candle, and, hurrying along the passages and up the
stairs to her own room, locked the door.

'O, I cannot bear it, I cannot bear it!' the poor thing burst out aloud,
clasping her little fingers, and pressing them back against her forehead,
as if she wanted to break them.

Then she walked hurriedly up and down the room.

'And this must go on for days and days, and I must see it.'

She looked about nervously for something to clutch. There was a muslin
kerchief lying on the table; she took it up and tore it into shreds as
she walked up and down, and then pressed it into hard balls in her hand.

'And Anthony,' she thought, 'he can do this without caring for what I
feel. O, he can forget everything: how he used to say he loved me--how he
used to take my hand in his as we walked--how he used to stand near me in
the evenings for the sake of looking into my eyes.'

'Oh, it is cruel, it is cruel!' she burst out again aloud, as all those
love-moments in the past returned upon her. Then the tears gushed forth,
she threw herself on her knees by the bed, and sobbed bitterly.

She did not know how long she had been there, till she was startled by
the prayer-bell; when, thinking Lady Cheverel might perhaps send some one
to inquire after her, she rose, and began hastily to undress, that there
might be no possibility of her going down again. She had hardly
unfastened her hair, and thrown a loose gown about her, before there was
a knock at the door, and Mrs. Sharp's voice said--'Miss Tina, my lady
wants to know if you're ill.'

Caterina opened the door and said, 'Thank you, dear Mrs. Sharp; I have a
bad headache; please tell my lady I felt it come on after singing.'
'Then, goodness me! why arn't you in bed, istid o' standing shivering
there, fit to catch your death? Come, let me fasten up your hair and tuck
you up warm.'

'O no, thank you; I shall really be in bed very soon. Good-night, dear
Sharpy; don't scold; I will be good, and get into bed.'

Caterina kissed her old friend coaxingly, but Mrs. Sharp was not to be
'come over' in that way, and insisted on seeing her former charge in bed,
taking away the candle which the poor child had wanted to keep as a
companion. But it was impossible to lie there long with that beating
heart; and the little white figure was soon out of bed again, seeking
relief in the very sense of chill and uncomfort. It was light enough for
her to see about her room, for the moon, nearly at full, was riding high
in the heavens among scattered hurrying clouds. Caterina drew aside the
window-curtain; and, sitting with her forehead pressed against the cold
pane, looked out on the wide stretch of park and lawn.

How dreary the moonlight is! robbed of all its tenderness and repose by
the hard driving wind. The trees are harassed by that tossing motion,
when they would like to be at rest; the shivering grass makes her quake
with sympathetic cold; and the willows by the pool, bent low and white
under that invisible harshness, seem agitated and helpless like herself.
But she loves the scene the better for its sadness: there is some pity in
it. It is not like that hard unfeeling happiness of lovers, flaunting in
the eyes of misery.

She set her teeth tight against the window-frame, and the tears fell
thick and fast. She was so thankful she could cry, for the mad passion
she had felt when her eyes were dry frightened her. If that dreadful
feeling were to come on when Lady Cheverel was present, she should never
be able to contain herself.

Then there was Sir Christopher--so good to her--so happy about Anthony's
marriage; and all the while she had these wicked feelings.

'O, I cannot help it, I cannot help it!' she said in a loud whisper
between her sobs. 'O God, have pity upon me!'

In this way Tina wore out the long hours of the windy moon-light, till at
last, with weary aching limbs, she lay down in bed again, and slept from
mere exhaustion.

While this poor little heart was being bruised with a weight too heavy
for it, Nature was holding on her calm inexorable way, in unmoved and
terrible beauty. The stars were rushing in their eternal courses; the
tides swelled to the level of the last expectant weed; the sun was making
brilliant day to busy nations on the other side of the swift earth. The
stream of human thought and deed was hurrying and broadening onward. The
astronomer was at his telescope; the great ships were labouring over the
waves; the toiling eagerness of commerce, the fierce spirit of
revolution, were only ebbing in brief rest; and sleepless statesmen were
dreading the possible crisis of the morrow. What were our little Tina and
her trouble in this mighty torrent, rushing from one awful unknown to
another? Lighter than the smallest centre of quivering life in the
waterdrop, hidden and uncared for as the pulse of anguish in the breast
of the tiniest bird that has fluttered down to its nest with the
long-sought food, and has found the nest torn and empty.



Chapter 6


The next morning, when Caterina was waked from her heavy sleep by Martha
bringing in the warm water, the sun was shining, the wind had abated, and
those hours of suffering in the night seemed unreal and dreamlike, in
spite of weary limbs and aching eyes. She got up and began to dress with
a strange feeling of insensibility, as if nothing could make her cry
again; and she even felt a sort of longing to be down-stairs in the midst
of company, that she might get rid of this benumbed condition by contact.

There are few of us that are not rather ashamed of our sins and follies
as we look out on the blessed morning sunlight, which comes to us like a
bright-winged angel beckoning us to quit the old path of vanity that
stretches its dreary length behind us; and Tina, little as she knew about
doctrines and theories, seemed to herself to have been both foolish and
wicked yesterday. Today she would try to be good; and when she knelt down
to say her short prayer--the very form she had learned by heart when she
was ten years old--she added, 'O God, help me to bear it!'

That day the prayer seemed to be answered, for after some remarks on her
pale looks at breakfast, Caterina passed the morning quietly, Miss Assher
and Captain Wybrow being out on a riding excursion. In the evening there
was a dinner-party, and after Caterina had sung a little, Lady Cheverel
remembering that she was ailing, sent her to bed, where she soon sank
into a deep sleep. Body and mind must renew their force to suffer as well
as to enjoy.

On the morrow, however, it was rainy, and every one must stay in-doors;
so it was resolved that the guests should be taken over the house by Sir
Christopher, to hear the story of the architectural alterations, the
family portraits, and the family relics. All the party, except Mr.
Gilfil, were in the drawing-room when the proposition was made; and when
Miss Assher rose to go, she looked towards Captain Wybrow, expecting to
see him rise too; but he kept his seat near the fire, turning his eyes
towards the newspaper which he had been holding unread in his hand.

'Are you not coming, Anthony?' said Lady Cheverel, noticing Miss Assher's
look of expectation.

'I think not, if you'll excuse me,' he answered, rising and opening the
door; 'I feel a little chilled this morning, and I am afraid of the cold
rooms and draughts.'

Miss Assher reddened, but said nothing, and passed on, Lady Cheverel
accompanying her.

Caterina was seated at work in the oriel window. It was the first time
she and Anthony had been alone together, and she had thought before that
he wished to avoid her. But now, surely, he wanted to speak to her--he
wanted to say something kind. Presently he rose from his seat near the
fire, and placed himself on the ottoman opposite to her.

'Well, Tina, and how have you been all this long time?' Both the tone and
the words were an offence to her; the tone was so different from the old
one, the words were so cold and unmeaning. She answered, with a little
bitterness,--'I think you needn't ask. It doesn't make much difference to
you.'

'Is that the kindest thing you have to say to me after my long absence?'

'I don't know why you should expect me to say kind things.'

Captain Wybrow was silent. He wished very much to avoid allusions to the
past or comments on the present. And yet he wished to be well with
Caterina. He would have liked to caress her, make her presents, and have
her think him very kind to her. But these women are plaguy perverse!
There's no bringing them to look rationally at anything. At last he said,
'I hoped you would think all the better of me, Tina, for doing as I have
done, instead of bearing malice towards me. I hoped you would see that it
is the best thing for every one--the best for your happiness too.'

'O pray don't make love to Miss Assher for the sake of my happiness,'
answered Tina.

At this moment the door opened, and Miss Assher entered, to fetch her
reticule, which lay on the harpsichord. She gave a keen glance at
Caterina, whose face was flushed, and saying to Captain Wybrow with a
slight sneer, 'Since you are so chill I wonder you like to sit in the
window,' left the room again immediately.

The lover did not appear much discomposed, but sat quiet a little longer,
and then, seating himself on the music-stool, drew it near to Caterina,
and, taking her hand, said, 'Come, Tina, look kindly at me, and let us be
friends. I shall always be your friend.'

'Thank you,' said Caterina, drawing away her hand. 'You are very
generous. But pray move away. Miss Assher may come in again.'

'Miss Assher be hanged!' said Anthony, feeling the fascination of old
habit returning on him in his proximity to Caterina. He put his arm round
her waist, and leaned his cheek down to hers. The lips couldn't help
meeting after that; but the next moment, with heart swelling and tears
rising, Caterina burst away from him, and rushed out of the room.



Chapter 7


Caterina tore herself from Anthony with the desperate effort of one who
has just self-recollection enough left to be conscious that the fumes of
charcoal will master his senses unless he bursts a way for himself to the
fresh air; but when she reached her own room, she was still too
intoxicated with that momentary revival of old emotions, too much
agitated by the sudden return of tenderness in her lover, to know whether
pain or pleasure predominated. It was as if a miracle had happened in her
little world of feeling, and made the future all vague--a dim morning
haze of possibilities, instead of the sombre wintry daylight and clear
rigid outline of painful certainty.

She felt the need of rapid movement. She must walk out in spite of the
rain. Happily, there was a thin place in the curtain of clouds which
seemed to promise that now, about noon, the day had a mind to clear up.
Caterina thought to herself, 'I will walk to the Mosslands, and carry Mr.
Bates the comforter I have made for him, and then Lady Cheverel will not
wonder so much at my going out.' At the hall door she found Rupert, the
old bloodhound, stationed on the mat, with the determination that the
first person who was sensible enough to take a walk that morning should
have the honour of his approbation and society. As he thrust his great
black and tawny head under her hand, and wagged his tail with vigorous
eloquence, and reached the climax of his welcome by jumping up to lick
her face, which was at a convenient licking height for him, Caterina felt
quite grateful to the old dog for his friendliness. Animals are such
agreeable friends--they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.

The 'Mosslands' was a remote part of the grounds, encircled by the little
stream issuing from the pool; and certainly, for a wet day, Caterina
could hardly have chosen a less suitable walk, for though the rain was
abating, and presently ceased altogether, there was still a smart shower
falling from the trees which arched over the greater part of her way. But
she found just the desired relief from her feverish excitement in
labouring along the wet paths with an umbrella that made her arm ache.
This amount of exertion was to her tiny body what a day's hunting often
was to Mr. Gilfil, who at times had _his_ fits of jealousy and sadness to
get rid of, and wisely had recourse to nature's innocent opium--fatigue.

When Caterina reached the pretty arched wooden bridge which formed the
only entrance to the Mosslands for any but webbed feet, the sun had
mastered the clouds, and was shining through the boughs of the tall elms
that made a deep nest for the gardener's cottage--turning the raindrops
into diamonds, and inviting the nasturtium flowers creeping over the
porch and low-thatched roof to lift up their flame-coloured heads once
more. The rooks were cawing with many-voiced monotony, apparently--by a
remarkable approximation to human intelligence--finding great
conversational resources in the change of weather. The mossy turf,
studded with the broad blades of marsh-loving plants, told that Mr.
Bates's nest was rather damp in the best of weather; but he was of
opinion that a little external moisture would hurt no man who was not
perversely neglectful of that obvious and providential antidote,
rum-and-water.

Caterina loved this nest. Every object in it, every sound that haunted
it, had been familiar to her from the days when she had been carried
thither on Mr. Bates's arm, making little cawing noises to imitate the
rooks, clapping her hands at the green frogs leaping in the moist grass,
and fixing grave eyes on the gardener's fowls cluck-clucking under their
pens. And now the spot looked prettier to her than ever; it was so out of
the way of Miss Assher, with her brilliant beauty, and personal claims,
and small civil remarks. She thought Mr. Bates would not be come into his
dinner yet, so she would sit down and wait for him.

But she was mistaken. Mr. Bates was seated in his arm-chair, with his
pocket-handkerchief thrown over his face, as the most eligible mode of
passing away those superfluous hours between meals when the weather
drives a man in-doors. Roused by the furious barking of his chained
bulldog, he descried his little favourite approaching, and forthwith
presented himself at the doorway, looking disproportionately tall
compared with the height of his cottage. The bulldog, meanwhile, unbent
from the severity of his official demeanour, and commenced a friendly
interchange of ideas with Rupert.

Mr. Bates's hair was now grey, but his frame was none the less stalwart,
and his face looked all the redder, making an artistic contrast with the
deep blue of his cotton neckerchief, and of his linen apron twisted into
a girdle round his waist.

'Why, dang my boottons, Miss Tiny,' he exclaimed, 'hoo coom ye to coom
oot dabblin' your faet laike a little Muscovy duck, sich a day as this?
Not but what ai'm delaighted to sae ye. Here Hesther,' he called to his
old humpbacked house-keeper, 'tek the young ledy's oombrella an' spread
it oot to dray. Coom, coom in, Miss Tiny, an' set ye doon by the faire
an' dray yer faet, an' hev summat warm to kape ye from ketchin' coold.'

Mr. Bates led the way, stooping under the doorplaces, into his small
sitting-room, and, shaking the patchwork cushion in his arm-chair, moved
it to within a good roasting distance of the blazing fire.

'Thank you, uncle Bates' (Caterina kept up her childish epithets for her
friends, and this was one of them); 'not quite so close to the fire, for
I am warm with walking.'

'Eh, but yer shoes are faine an' wet, an' ye must put up yer faet on the
fender. Rare big faet, baint 'em?--aboot the saize of a good big spoon. I
woonder ye can mek a shift to stan' on 'em. Now, what'll ye hev to warm
yer insaide?--a drop o' hot elder wain, now?'

'No, not anything to drink, thank you; it isn't very long since
breakfast,' said Caterina, drawing out the comforter from her deep
pocket. Pockets were capacious in those days. 'Look here, uncle Bates,
here is what I came to bring you. I made it on purpose for you. You must
wear it this winter, and give your red one to old Brooks.'

'Eh, Miss Tiny, this _is_ a beauty. An' ye made it all wi' yer little
fingers for an old feller laike mae! I tek it very kaind on ye, an' I
belave ye I'll wear it, and be prood on't too. These sthraipes, blue an'
whaite, now, they mek it uncommon pritty.'

'Yes, that will suit your complexion, you know, better than the old
scarlet one. I know Mrs. Sharp will be more in love with you than ever
when she sees you in the new one.'

'My complexion, ye little roogue! ye're a laughin' at me. But talkin' o'
complexions, what a beautiful colour the bride as is to be has on her
cheeks! Dang my boottons! she looks faine and handsome o' hossback--sits
as upraight as a dart, wi' a figure like a statty! Misthress Sharp has
promised to put me behaind one o' the doors when the ladies are comin'
doon to dinner, so as I may sae the young un i' full dress, wi' all her
curls an' that. Misthress Sharp says she's almost beautifuller nor my
ledy was when she was yoong; an' I think ye'll noot faind man i' the
counthry as'll coom up to that.'

'Yes, Miss Assher is very handsome,' said Caterina, rather faintly,
feeling the sense of her own insignificance returning at this picture of
the impression Miss Assher made on others.

'Well, an' I hope she's good too, an'll mek a good naice to Sir
Cristhifer an' my ledy. Misthress Griffin, the maid, says as she's rether
tatchy and find-fautin' aboot her cloothes, laike. But she's yoong--she's
yoong; that'll wear off when she's got a hoosband, an' children, an'
summat else to think on. Sir Cristhifer's fain an' delaighted, I can see.
He says to me th' other mornin', says he, "Well, Bates, what do you think
of your young misthress as is to be?" An' I says, "Whay, yer honour, I
think she's as fain a lass as iver I set eyes on; an' I wish the Captain
luck in a fain family, an' your honour laife an' health to see't." Mr.
Warren says as the masther's all for forrardin' the weddin', an' it'll
very laike be afore the autumn's oot.'

As Mr. Bates ran on, Caterina felt something like a painful contraction
at her heart. 'Yes,' she said, rising, 'I dare say it will. Sir
Christopher is very anxious for it. But I must go, uncle Bates; Lady
Cheverel will be wanting me, and it is your dinner-time.'

'Nay, my dinner doon't sinnify a bit; but I moosn't kaep ye if my ledy
wants ye. Though I hevn't thanked ye half anoof for the comfiter--the
wrapraskil, as they call't. My feckins, it's a beauty. But ye look very
whaite and sadly, Miss Tiny; I doubt ye're poorly; an' this walking i'
th' wet isn't good for ye.'

'O yes, it is indeed,' said Caterina, hastening out, and taking up her
umbrella from the kitchen floor. 'I must really go now; so good-bye.'

She tripped off, calling Rupert, while the good gardener, his hands
thrust deep in his pockets, stood looking after her and shaking his head
with rather a melancholy air.

'She gets moor nesh and dillicat than iver,' he said, half to himself and
half to Hester. 'I shouldn't woonder if she fades away laike them
cyclamens as I transplanted. She puts me i' maind on 'em somehow, hangin'
on their little thin stalks, so whaite an' tinder.'

The poor little thing made her way back, no longer hungering for the cold
moist air as a counteractive of inward excitement, but with a chill at
her heart which made the outward chill only depressing. The golden
sunlight beamed through the dripping boughs like a Shechinah, or visible
divine presence, and the birds were chirping and trilling their new
autumnal songs so sweetly, it seemed as if their throats, as well as the
air, were all the clearer for the rain; but Caterina moved through all
this joy and beauty like a poor wounded leveret painfully dragging its
little body through the sweet clover-tufts--for it, sweet in vain. Mr.
Bates's words about Sir Christopher's joy, Miss Assher's beauty, and the
nearness of the wedding, had come upon her like the pressure of a cold
hand, rousing her from confused dozing to a perception of hard, familiar
realities. It is so with emotional natures whose thoughts are no more
than the fleeting shadows cast by feeling: to them words are facts, and
even when known to be false, have a mastery over their smiles and tears.
Caterina entered her own room again, with no other change from her former
state of despondency and wretchedness than an additional sense of injury
from Anthony. His behaviour towards her in the morning was a new wrong.
To snatch a caress when she justly claimed an expression of penitence, of
regret, of sympathy, was to make more light of her than ever.



Chapter 8


That evening Miss Assher seemed to carry herself with unusual
haughtiness, and was coldly observant of Caterina. There was unmistakably
thunder in the air. Captain Wybrow appeared to take the matter very
easily, and was inclined to brave it out by paying more than ordinary
attention to Caterina. Mr. Gilfil had induced her to play a game at
draughts with him, Lady Assher being seated at picquet with Sir
Christopher, and Miss Assher in determined conversation with Lady
Cheverel. Anthony, thus left as an odd unit, sauntered up to Caterina's
chair, and leaned behind her, watching the game. Tina, with all the
remembrances of the morning thick upon her, felt her cheeks becoming more
and more crimson, and at last said impatiently, 'I wish you would go
away.'

This happened directly under the view of Miss Assher, who saw Caterina's
reddening cheeks, saw that she said something impatiently, and that
Captain Wybrow moved away in consequence. There was another person, too,
who had noticed this incident with strong interest, and who was moreover
aware that Miss Assher not only saw, but keenly observed what was
passing. That other person was Mr. Gilfil, and he drew some painful
conclusions which heightened his anxiety for Caterina.

The next morning, in spite of the fine weather, Miss Assher declined
riding, and Lady Cheverel, perceiving that there was something wrong
between the lovers, took care that they should be left together in the
drawing-room. Miss Assher, seated on the sofa near the fire, was busy
with some fancy-work, in which she seemed bent on making great progress
this morning. Captain Wybrow sat opposite with a newspaper in his hand,
from which he obligingly read extracts with an elaborately easy air,
wilfully unconscious of the contemptuous silence with which she pursued
her filigree work. At length he put down the paper, which he could no
longer pretend not to have exhausted, and Miss Assher then said,--'You
seem to be on very intimate terms with Miss Sarti.'

'With Tina? oh yes; she has always been the pet of the house, you know.
We have been quite brother and sister together.'

'Sisters don't generally colour so very deeply when their brothers
approach them.'

'Does she colour? I never noticed it. But she's a timid little thing.'

'It would be much better if you would not be so hypocritical, Captain
Wybrow. I am confident there has been some flirtation between you. Miss
Sarti, in her position, would never speak to you with the petulance she
did last night, if you had not given her some kind of claim on you.'

'My dear Beatrice, now do be reasonable; do ask yourself what earthly
probability there is that I should think of flirting with poor little
Tina. _Is_ there anything about her to attract that sort of attention?
She is more child than woman. One thinks of her as a little girl to be
petted and played with.'

'Pray, what were you playing at with her yesterday morning, when I came
in unexpectedly, and her cheeks were flushed, and her hands trembling?

'Yesterday morning?--O, I remember. You know I always tease her about
Gilfil, who is over head and ears in love with her; and she is angry at
that,--perhaps, because she likes him. They were old playfellows years
before I came here, and Sir Christopher has set his heart on their
marrying.'

'Captain Wybrow, you are very false. It had nothing to do with Mr. Gilfil
that she coloured last night when you leaned over her chair. You might
just as well be candid. If your own mind is not made up, pray do no
violence to yourself. I am quite ready to give way to Miss Sarti's
superior attractions. Understand that, so far as I am concerned, you are
perfectly at liberty. I decline any share in the affection of a man who
forfeits my respect by duplicity.'

In saying this Miss Assher rose, and was sweeping haughtily out of the
room, when Captain Wybrow placed himself before her, and took her hand.
'Dear, dear Beatrice, be patient; do not judge me so rashly. Sit down
again, sweet,' he added in a pleading voice, pressing both her hands
between his, and leading her back to the sofa, where he sat down beside
her. Miss Assher was not unwilling to be led back or to listen, but she
retained her cold and haughty expression.

'Can you not trust me, Beatrice? Can you not believe me, although there
may be things I am unable to explain?'

'Why should there be anything you are unable to explain? An honourable
man will not be placed in circumstances which he cannot explain to the
woman he seeks to make his wife. He will not ask her to _believe_ that he
acts properly; he will let her _know_ that he does so. Let me go, sir.'

She attempted to rise, but he passed his hand round her waist and
detained her.

'Now, Beatrice dear,' he said imploringly, 'can you not understand that
there are things a man doesn't like to talk about--secrets that he must
keep for the sake of others, and not for his own sake? Everything that
relates to myself you may ask me, but do not ask me to tell other
people's secrets. Don't you understand me?'

'O yes,' said Miss Assher scornfully, 'I understand. Whenever you make
love to a woman--that is her secret, which you are bound to keep for her.
But it is folly to be talking in this way, Captain Wybrow. It is very
plain that there is some relation more than friendship between you and
Miss Sarti. Since you cannot explain that relation, there is no more to
be said between us.'

'Confound it, Beatrice! you'll drive me mad. Can a fellow help a girl's
falling in love with him? Such things are always happening, but men don't
talk of them. These fancies will spring up without the slightest
foundation, especially when a woman sees few people; they die out again
when there is no encouragement. If you could like me, you ought not to be
surprised that other people can; you ought to think the better of them
for it.'

'You mean to say, then, that Miss Sarti is in love with you, without your
ever having made love to her.'

'Do not press me to say such things, dearest. It is enough that you know
I love you--that I am devoted to you. You naughty queen, you, you know
there is no chance for any one else where you are. You are only
tormenting me, to prove your power over me. But don't be too cruel; for
you know they say I have another heart-disease besides love, and these
scenes bring on terrible palpitations.'

'But I must have an answer to this one question,' said Miss Assher, a
little softened: 'Has there been, or is there, any love on your side
towards Miss Sarti? I have nothing to do with her feelings, but I have a
right to know yours.'

'I like Tina very much; who would not like such a little simple thing?
You would not wish me not to like her? But love--that is a very different
affair. One has a brotherly affection for such a woman as Tina; but it is
another sort of woman that one loves.'

These last words were made doubly significant by a look of tenderness,
and a kiss imprinted on the hand Captain Wybrow held in his. Miss Assher
was conquered. It was so far from probable that Anthony should love that
pale insignificant little thing--so highly probable that he should adore
the beautiful Miss Assher. On the whole, it was rather gratifying that
other women should be languishing for her handsome lover; he really was
an exquisite creature. Poor Miss Sarti! Well, she would get over it.

Captain Wybrow saw his advantage. 'Come, sweet love,' he continued, 'let
us talk no more about unpleasant things. You will keep Tina's secret, and
be very kind to her--won't you?--for my sake. But you will ride out now?
See what a glorious day it is for riding. Let me order the horses. I'm
terribly in want of the air. Come, give me one forgiving kiss, and say
you will go.'

Miss Assher complied with the double request, and then went to equip
herself for the ride, while her lover walked to the stables.



Chapter 9


Meanwhile Mr. Gilfil, who had a heavy weight on his mind, had watched for
the moment when, the two elder ladies having driven out, Caterina would
probably be alone in Lady Cheverel's sitting-room. He went up and knocked
at the door.

'Come in,' said the sweet mellow voice, always thrilling to him as the
sound of rippling water to the thirsty.

He entered and found Caterina standing in some confusion as if she had
been startled from a reverie. She felt relieved when she saw it was
Maynard, but, the next moment, felt a little pettish that he should have
come to interrupt and frighten her.

'Oh, it is you, Maynard! Do you want Lady Cheverel?'

'No, Caterina,' he answered gravely; 'I want you. I have something very
particular to say to you. Will you let me sit down with you for half an
hour?'

'Yes, dear old preacher,' said Caterina, sitting down with an air of
weariness; 'what is it?'

Mr. Gilfil placed himself opposite to her, and said, 'I hope you will not
be hurt, Caterina, by what I am going to say to you. I do not speak from
any other feelings than real affection and anxiety for you. I put
everything else out of the question. You know you are more to me than all
the world; but I will not thrust before you a feeling which you are
unable to return. I speak to you as a brother--the old Maynard that used
to scold you for getting your fishing-line tangled ten years ago. You
will not believe that I have any mean, selfish motive in mentioning
things that are painful to you?'

'No; I know you are very good,' said Caterina, abstractedly.

'From what I saw yesterday evening,' Mr. Gilfil went on, hesitating and
colouring slightly, 'I am led to fear--pray forgive me if I am wrong,
Caterina--that you--that Captain Wybrow is base enough still to trifle
with your feelings, that he still allows himself to behave to you as no
man ought who is the declared lover of another woman.'

'What do you mean, Maynard?' said Caterina, with anger flashing from her
eyes. 'Do you mean that I let him make love to me? What right have you to
think that of me? What do you mean that you saw yesterday evening?'

'Do not be angry, Caterina. I don't suspect you of doing wrong. I only
suspect that heartless puppy of behaving so as to keep awake feelings in
you that not only destroy your own peace of mind, but may lead to very
bad consequences with regard to others. I want to warn you that Miss
Assher has her eyes open on what passes between you and Captain Wybrow,
and I feel sure she is getting jealous of you. Pray be very careful,
Caterina, and try to behave with politeness and indifference to him. You
must see by this time that he is not worth the feeling you have given
him. He's more disturbed at his pulse beating one too many in a minute,
than at all the misery he has caused you by his foolish tritling.'

'You ought not to speak so of him, Maynard,' said Caterina, passionately.
'He is not what you think. He _did_ care for me; he _did_ love me; only
he wanted to do what his uncle wished.'

'O to be sure! I know it is only from the most virtuous motives that he
does what is convenient to himself.'

Mr. Gilfil paused. He felt that he was getting irritated, and defeating
his own object. Presently he continued in a calm and affectionate tone.

'I will say no more about what I think of him, Caterina. But whether he
loved you or not, his position now with Miss Assher is such that any love
you may cherish for him can bring nothing but misery. God knows, I don't
expect you to leave off loving him at a moment's notice. Time and
absence, and trying to do what is right, are the only cures. If it were
not that Sir Christopher and Lady Cheverel would be displeased and
puzzled at your wishing to leave home just now, I would beg you to pay a
visit to my sister. She and her husband are good creatures, and would
make their house a home to you. But I could not urge the thing just now
without giving a special reason; and what is most of all to be dreaded is
the raising of any suspicion in Sir Christopher's mind of what has
happened in the past, or of your present feelings. You think so too,
don't you, Tina?'

Mr. Gilfil paused again, but Caterina said nothing. She was looking away
from him, out of the window, and her eyes were filling with tears. He
rose, and, advancing a little towards her, held out his hand and said,
--'Forgive me, Caterina, for intruding on your feelings in this way. I
was so afraid you might not be aware how Miss Assher watched you.
Remember, I entreat you, that the peace of the whole family depends on
your power of governing yourself. Only say you forgive me before I go.'

'Dear, good Maynard,' she said, stretching out her little hand, and
taking two of his large fingers in her grasp, while her tears flowed
fast; 'I am very cross to you. But my heart is breaking. I don't know
what I do. Good-bye.'

He stooped down, kissed the little hand, and then left the room.

'The cursed scoundrel!' he muttered between his teeth, as he closed the
door behind him. 'If it were not for Sir Christopher, I should like to
pound him into paste to poison puppies like himself.'



Chapter 10


That evening Captain Wybrow, returning from a long ride with Miss Assher,
went up to his dressing-room, and seated himself with an air of
considerable lassitude before his mirror. The reflection there presented
of his exquisite self was certainly paler and more worn than usual, and
might excuse the anxiety with which he first felt his pulse, and then
laid his hand on his heart.

'It's a devil of a position this for a man to be in,' was the train of
his thought, as he kept his eyes fixed on the glass, while he leaned back
in his chair, and crossed his hands behind his head; 'between two jealous
women, and both of them as ready to take fire as tinder. And in my state
of health, too! I should be glad enough to run away from the whole
affair, and go off to some lotos-eating place or other where there are no
women, or only women who are too sleepy to be jealous. Here am I, doing
nothing to please myself, trying to do the best thing for everybody else,
and all the comfort I get is to have fire shot at me from women's eyes,
and venom spirted at me from women's tongues. If Beatrice takes another
jealous fit into her head--and it's likely enough, Tina is so
unmanageable--I don't know what storm she may raise. And any hitch in
this marriage, especially of that sort, might be a fatal business for the
old gentleman. I wouldn't have such a blow fall upon him for a great
deal. Besides, a man must be married some time in his life, and I could
hardly do better than marry Beatrice. She's an uncommonly fine woman, and
I'm really very fond of her; and as I shall let her have her own way, her
temper won't signify much. I wish the wedding was over and done with, for
this fuss doesn't suit me at all. I haven't been half so well lately.
That scene about Tina this morning quite upset me. Poor little Tina! What
a little simpleton it was, to set her heart on me in that way! But she
ought to see how impossible it is that things should be different. If she
would but understand how kindly I feel towards her, and make up her mind
to look on me as a friend;--but that it what one never can get a woman to
do. Beatrice is very good-natured; I'm sure she would be kind to the
little thing. It would be a great comfort if Tina would take to Gilfil,
if it were only in anger against me. He'd make her a capital husband, and
I should like to see the little grass-hopper happy. If I had been in a
different position, I would certainly have married her myself: hut that
was out of the question with my responsibilities to Sir Christopher. I
think a little persuasion from my uncle would bring her to accept Gilfil;
I know she would never be able to oppose my uncle's wishes. And if they
were once married, she's such a loving little thing, she would soon be
billing and cooing with him as if she had never known me. It would
certainly be the best thing for her happiness if that marriage were
hastened. Heigho! Those are lucky fellows that have no women falling in
love with them. It's a confounded responsibility.'

At this point in his meditations he turned his head a little, so as to
get a three-quarter view of his face. Clearly it was the '_dono infelice
della bellezza_' that laid these onerous duties upon him--an idea which
naturally suggested that he should ring for his valet.

For the next few days, however, there was such a cessation of threatening
symptoms as to allay the anxiety both of Captain Wybrow and Mr. Gilfil.
All earthly things have their lull: even on nights when the most
unappeasable wind is raging, there will be a moment of stillness before
it crashes among the boughs again, and storms against the windows, and
howls like a thousand lost demons through the keyholes.

Miss Assher appeared to be in the highest good-humour; Captain Wybrow was
more assiduous than usual, and was very circumspect in his behaviour to
Caterina, on whom Miss Assher bestowed unwonted attentions. The weather
was brilliant; there were riding excursions in the mornings and
dinner-parties in the evenings. Consultations in the library between Sir
Christopher and Lady Assher seemed to be leading to a satisfactory
result; and it was understood that this visit at Cheverel Manor would
terminate in another fortnight, when the preparations for the wedding
would be carried forward with all despatch at Farleigh. The Baronet
seemed every day more radiant. Accustomed to view people who entered into
his plans by the pleasant light which his own strong will and bright
hopefulness were always casting on the future, he saw nothing hut
personal charms and promising domestic qualities in Miss Assher, whose
quickness of eye and taste in externals formed a real ground of sympathy
between her and Sir Christopher. Lady Cheverel's enthusiasm never rose
above the temperate mark of calm satisfaction, and, having quite her
share of the critical acumen which characterizes the mutual estimates of
the fair sex, she had a more moderate opinion of Miss Assher's qualities.
She suspected that the fair Beatrice had a sharp and imperious temper;
and being herself, on principle and by habitual self-command, the most
deferential of wives, she noticed with disapproval Miss Assher's
occasional air of authority towards Captain Wybrow. A proud woman who has
learned to submit, carries all her pride to the reinforcement of her
submission, and looks down with severe superiority on all feminine
assumption as 'unbecoming'. Lady Cheverel, however, confined her
criticisms to the privacy of her own thoughts, and, with a reticence
which I fear may seem incredible, did not use them as a means of
disturbing her husband's complacency.

And Caterina? How did she pass these sunny autumn days, in which the
skies seemed to be smiling on the family gladness? To her the change in
Miss Assher's manner was unaccountable. Those compassionate attentions,
those smiling condescensions, were torture to Caterina, who was
constantly tempted to repulse them with anger. She thought, 'Perhaps
Anthony has told her to be kind to poor Tina.' This was an insult. He
ought to have known that the mere presence of Miss Assher was painful to
her, that Miss Assher's smiles scorched her, that Miss Assher's kind
words were like poison stings inflaming her to madness. And he--Anthony
--he was evidently repenting of the tenderness he had been betrayed into
that morning in the drawing-room. He was cold and distant and civil to
her, to ward off Beatrice's suspicions, and Beatrice could be so gracious
now, because she was sure of Anthony's entire devotion. Well! and so it
ought to be--and she ought not to wish it otherwise. And yet--oh, he
_was_ cruel to her. She could never have behaved so to him. To make her
love him so--to speak such tender words--to give her such caresses, and
then to behave as if such things had never been. He had given her the
poison that seemed so sweet while she was drinking it, and now it was in
her blood, and she was helpless.'

With this tempest pent up in her bosom, the poor child went up to her
room every night, and there it all burst forth. There, with loud whispers
and sobs, restlessly pacing up and down, lying on the hard floor,
courting cold and weariness, she told to the pitiful listening night the
anguish which she could pour into no mortal ear. But always sleep came at
last, and always in the morning the reactive calm that enabled her to
live through the day.

It is amazing how long a young frame will go on battling with this sort
of secret wretchedness, and yet show no traces of the conflict for any
but sympathetic eyes. The very delicacy of Caterina's usual appearance,
her natural paleness and habitually quiet mouse-like ways, made any
symptoms of fatigue and suffering less noticeable. And her singing--the
one thing in which she ceased to be passive, and became prominent--lost
none of its energy. She herself sometimes wondered how it was that,
whether she felt sad or angry, crushed with the sense of Anthony's
indifference, or burning with impatience under Miss Assher's attentions,
it was always a relief to her to sing. Those full deep notes she sent
forth seemed to be lifting the pain from her heart--seemed to be carrying
away the madness from her brain.

Thus Lady Cheverel noticed no change in Caterina, and it was only Mr.
Gilfil who discerned with anxiety the feverish spot that sometimes rose
on her cheek, the deepening violet tint under her eyes, and the strange
absent glance, the unhealthy glitter of the beautiful eyes themselves.
But those agitated nights were producing a more fatal effect than was
represented by these slight outward changes.



Chapter 11


The following Sunday, the morning being rainy, it was determined that the
family should not go to Cumbermoor Church as usual, but that Mr. Gilfil,
who had only an afternoon service at his curacy, should conduct the
morning service in the chapel.

Just before the appointed hour of eleven, Caterina came down into the
drawing-room, looking so unusually ill as to call forth an anxious
inquiry from Lady Cheverel, who, on learning that she had a severe
headache, insisted that she should not attend service, and at once packed
her up comfortably on a sofa near the fire, putting a volume of
Tillotson's Sermons into her hands--as appropriate reading, if Caterina
should feel equal to that means of edification.

Excellent medicine for the mind are the good Archbishop's sermons, but a
medicine, unhappily, not suited to Tina's case. She sat with the book
open on her knees, her dark eyes fixed vacantly on the portrait of that
handsome Lady Cheverel, wife of the notable Sir Anthony. She gazed at the
picture without thinking of it, and the fair blonde dame seemed to look
down on her with that benignant unconcern, that mild wonder, with which
happy self-possessed women are apt to look down on their agitated and
weaker sisters.

Caterina was thinking of the near future--of the wedding that was so soon
to come--of all she would have to live through in the next months.

'I wish I could be very ill, and die before then,' she thought. 'When
people get very ill, they don't mind about things. Poor Patty Richards
looked so happy when she was in a decline. She didn't seem to care any
more about her lover that she was engaged to be married to, and she liked
the smell of the flowers so, that I used to take her. O, if I could but
like anything--if I could but think about anything else! If these
dreadful feelings would go away, I wouldn't mind about not being happy. I
wouldn't want anything--and I could do what would please Sir Christopher
and Lady Cheverel. But when that rage and anger comes into me, I don't
know what to do. I don't feel the ground under me; I only feel my head
and heart beating, and it seems as if I must do something dreadful. O! I
wonder if any one ever felt like me before. I must be very wicked. But
God will have pity on me; He knows all I have to bear.'

In this way the time wore on till Tina heard the sound of voices along
the passage, and became conscious that the volume of Tillotson had
slipped on the floor. She had only just picked it up, and seen with alarm
that the pages were bent, when Lady Assher, Beatrice, and Captain Wybrow
entered, all with that brisk and cheerful air which a sermon is often
observed to produce when it is quite finished.

Lady Assher at once came and seated herself by Caterina. Her ladyship had
been considerably refreshed by a doze, and was in great force for
monologue.

'Well, my dear Miss Sarti, and how do you feel now?--a little better, I
see. I thought you would be, sitting quietly here. These headaches, now,
are all from weakness. You must not over-exert yourself, and you must
take bitters. I used to have just the same sort of headaches when I was
your age, and old Dr Samson used to say to my mother, "Madam, what your
daughter suffers from is weakness." He was such a curious old man, was Dr
Samson. But I wish you could have heard the sermon this morning. Such an
excellent sermon! It was about the ten virgins: five of them were
foolish, and five were clever, you know; and Mr. Gilfil explained all
that. What a very pleasant young man he is! so very quiet and agreeable,
and such a good hand at whist. I wish we had him at Farleigh. Sir John
would have liked him beyond anything; he is so good-tempered at cards,
and he was such a man for cards, was Sir John. And our rector is a very
irritable man; he can't bear to lose his money at cards. I don't think a
clergyman ought to mind about losing his money; do you?--do you now?'

'O pray, Lady Assher,' interposed Beatrice, in her usual tone of
superiority, 'do not weary poor Caterina with such uninteresting
questions. Your head seems very bad still, dear,' she continued, in a
condoling tone, to Caterina; 'do take my vinaigrette, and keep it in your
pocket. It will perhaps refresh you now and then.'

'No, thank you,' answered Caterina; 'I will not take it away from you.'

'Indeed, dear, I never use it; you must take it,' Miss Assher persisted,
holding it close to Tina's hand. Tina coloured deeply, pushed the
vinaigrette away with some impatience, and said, 'Thank you, I never use
those things. I don't like vinaigrettes.'

Miss Assher returned the vinaigrette to her pocket in surprise and
haughty silence, and Captain Wybrow, who had looked on in some alarm,
said hastily, 'See! it is quite bright out of doors now. There is time
for a walk before luncheon. Come, Beatrice, put on your hat and cloak,
and let us have half an hour's walk on the gravel.'

'Yes, do, my dear,' said Lady Assher, 'and I will go and see if Sir
Christopher is having his walk in the gallery.'

As soon as the door had closed behind the two ladies, Captain Wybrow,
standing with his back to the fire, turned towards Caterina, and said in
a tone of earnest remonstrance, 'My dear Caterina. Let me beg of you to
exercise more control over your feelings; you are really rude to Miss
Assher, and I can see that she is quite hurt. Consider how strange your
behaviour must appear to her. She will wonder what can be the cause of
it. Come, dear Tina,' he added, approaching her, and attempting to take
her hand; 'for your own sake let me entreat you to receive her attentions
politely. She really feels very kindly towards you, and I should be so
happy to see you friends.'

Caterina was already in such a state of diseased susceptibility that the
most innocent words from Captain Wybrow would have been irritating to
her, as the whirr of the most delicate wing will afflict a nervous
patient. But this tone of benevolent remonstrance was intolerable. He had
inflicted a great and unrepented injury on her, and now he assumed an air
of benevolence towards her. This was a new outrage. His profession of
goodwill was insolence.

Caterina snatched away her hand and said indignantly, 'Leave me to
myself, Captain Wybrow! I do not disturb you.'

'Caterina, why will you be so violent--so unjust to me? It is for you
that I feel anxious. Miss Assher has already noticed how strange your
behaviour is both to her and me, and it puts me into a very difficult
position. What can I say to her?'

'Say?' Caterina burst forth with intense bitterness, rising, and moving
towards the door; 'say that I am a poor silly girl, and have fallen in
love with you, and am jealous of her; but that you have never had any
feeling but pity for me--you have never behaved with anything more than
friendliness to me. Tell her that, and she will think all the better of
you.'

Tina uttered this as the bitterest sarcasm her ideas would furnish her
with, not having the faintest suspicion that the sarcasm derived any of
its bitterness from truth. Underneath all her sense of wrong, which was
rather instinctive than reflective--underneath all the madness of
her jealousy, and her ungovernable impulses of resentment and
vindictiveness--underneath all this scorching passion there were still
left some hidden crystal dews of trust, of self-reproof, of belief that
Anthony was trying to do the right. Love had not all gone to feed the
fires of hatred. Tina still trusted that Anthony felt more for her than
he seemed to feel; she was still far from suspecting him of a wrong
which a woman resents even more than inconstancy. And she threw out this
taunt simply as the most intense expression she could find for the anger
of the moment.

As she stood nearly in the middle of the room, her little body trembling
under the shock of passions too strong for it, her very lips pale, and
her eyes gleaming, the door opened, and Miss Assher appeared, tall,
blooming, and splendid, in her walking costume. As she entered, her face
wore the smile appropriate to the exits and entrances of a young lady who
feels that her presence is an interesting fact; but the next moment she
looked at Caterina with grave surprise, and then threw a glance of angry
suspicion at Captain Wybrow, who wore an air of weariness and vexation.

'Perhaps you are too much engaged to walk out, Captain Wybrow? I will go
alone.'

'No, no, I am coming,' he answered, hurrying towards her, and leading her
out of the room; leaving poor Caterina to feel all the reaction of shame
and self-reproach after her outburst of passion.



Chapter 12


'Pray, what is likely to be the next scene in the drama between you and
Miss Sarti?' said Miss Assher to Captain Wybrow as soon as they were out
on the gravel. 'It would be agreeable to have some idea of what is
coming.'

Captain Wybrow was silent. He felt out of humour, wearied, annoyed. There
come moments when one almost determines never again to oppose anything
but dead silence to an angry woman. 'Now then, confound it,' he said to
himself, 'I'm going to be battered on the other flank.' He looked
resolutely at the horizon, with something more like a frown on his face
than Beatrice had ever seen there.

After a pause of two or three minutes, she continued in a still haughtier
tone, 'I suppose you are aware, Captain Wybrow, that I expect an
explanation of what I have just seen.'

'I have no explanation, my dear Beatrice,' he answered at last, making a
strong effort over himself, 'except what I have already given you. I
hoped you would never recur to the subject.'

'Your explanation, however, is very far from satisfactory. I can only say
that the airs Miss Sarti thinks herself entitled to put on towards you,
are quite incompatible with your position as regards me. And her
behaviour to me is most insulting. I shall certainly not stay in the
house under such circumstances, and mamma must state the reasons to Sir
Christopher.'

'Beatrice,' said Captain Wybrow, his irritation giving way to alarm, 'I
beseech you to be patient, and exercise your good feelings in this
affair. It is very painful, I know, but I am sure you would be grieved to
injure poor Caterina--to bring down my uncle's anger upon her. Consider
what a poor little dependent thing she is.'

'It is very adroit of you to make these evasions, but do not suppose that
they deceive me. Miss Sarti would never dare to behave to you as she
does, if you had not flirted with her, or made love to her. I suppose she
considers your engagement to me a breach of faith to her. I am much
obliged to you, certainly, for making me Miss Sarti's rival. You have
told me a falsehood, Captain Wybrow.'

'Beatrice, I solemnly declare to you that Caterina is nothing more to me
than a girl I naturally feel kindly to--as a favourite of my uncle's, and
a nice little thing enough. I should be glad to see her married to Gilfil
to-morrow; that's a good proof that I'm not in love with her, I should
think. As to the past, I may have shown her little attentions, which she
has exaggerated and misinterpreted. What man is not liable to that sort
of thing?'

'But what can she found her behaviour on? What had she been saying to you
this morning to make her tremble and turn pale in that way?'

'O, I don't know. I just said something about her behaving peevishly.
With that Italian blood of hers, there's no knowing how she may take what
one says. She's a fierce little thing, though she seems so quiet
generally.'

'But she ought to be made to know how unbecoming and indelicate her
conduct is. For my part, I wonder Lady Cheverel has not noticed her short
answers and the airs she puts on.'

'Let me beg of you, Beatrice, not to hint anything of the kind to Lady
Cheverel. You must have observed how strict my aunt is. It never enters
her head that a girl can be in love with a man who has not made her an
offer.'

'Well, I shall let Miss Sarti know myself that I have observed her
conduct. It will be only a charity to her.'

'Nay, dear, that will be doing nothing but harm. Caterina's temper is
peculiar. The best thing you can do will be to leave her to herself as
much as possible. It will all wear off. I've no doubt she'll be married
to Gilfil before long. Girls' fancies are easily diverted from one object
to another. By jove, what a rate my heart is galloping at! These
confounded palpitations get worse instead of better.'

Thus ended the conversation, so far as it concerned Caterina, not without
leaving a distinct resolution in Captain Wybrow's mind--a resolution
carried into effect the next day, when he was in the library with Sir
Christopher for the purpose of discussing some arrangements about the
approaching marriage.

'By the by,' he said carelessly, when the business came to a pause, and
he was sauntering round the room with his hands in his coat-pockets,
surveying the backs of the books that lined the walls, 'when is the
wedding between Gilfil and Caterina to come off, sir? I've a
fellow-feeling for a poor devil so many fathoms deep in love as Maynard.
Why shouldn't their marriage happen as soon as ours? I suppose he has
come to an understanding with Tina?'

'Why,' said Sir Christopher, 'I did think of letting the thing be until
old Crichley died; he can't hold out very long, poor fellow; and then
Maynard might have entered into matrimony and the rectory both at once.
But, after all, that really is no good reason for waiting. There is no
need for them to leave the Manor when they are married. The little monkey
is quite old enough. It would be pretty to see her a matron, with a baby
about the size of a kitten in her arms.'

'I think that system of waiting is always bad. And if I can further any
settlement you would like to make on Caterina, I shall be delighted to
carry out your wishes.'

'My dear boy, that's very good of you; but Maynard will have enough; and
from what I know of him--and I know him well--I think he would rather
provide for Caterina himself. However, now you have put this matter into
my head, I begin to blame myself for not having thought of it before.
I've been so wrapt up in Beatrice and you, you rascal, that I had really
forgotten poor Maynard. And he's older than you--it's high time he was
settled in life as a family man.'

Sir Christopher paused, took snuff in a meditative manner, and presently
said, more to himself than to Anthony, who was humming a tune at the far
end of the room, 'Yes, yes. It will be a capital plan to finish off all
our family business at once.'

Riding out with Miss Assher the same morning, Captain Wybrow mentioned to
her incidentally, that Sir Christopher was anxious to bring about the
wedding between Gilfil and Caterina as soon as possible, and that he, for
his part, should do all he could to further the affair. It would be the
best thing in the world for Tina, in whose welfare he was really
interested.

With Sir Christopher there was never any long interval between purpose
and execution. He made up his mind promptly, and he acted promptly. On
rising from luncheon, he said to Mr. Gilfil, 'Come with me into the
library, Maynard. I want to have a word with you.'

'Maynard, my boy,' he began, as soon as they were seated, tapping his
snuff-box, and looking radiant at the idea of the unexpected pleasure he
was about to give, 'why shouldn't we have two happy couples instead of
one, before the autumn is over, eh?'

'Eh?' he repeated, after a moment's pause, lengthening out the
monosyllable, taking a slow pinch, and looking up at Maynard with a sly
smile.

'I'm not quite sure that I understand you, sir,' answered Mr. Gilfil, who
felt annoyed at the consciousness that he was turning pale.

'Not understand me, you rogue? You know very well whose happiness lies
nearest to my heart after Anthony's. You know you let me into your
secrets long ago, so there's no confession to make. Tina's quite old
enough to be a grave little wife now; and though the Rectory's not ready
for you, that's no matter. My lady and I shall feel all the more
comfortable for having you with us. We should miss our little
singing-bird if we lost her all at once.'

Mr. Gilfil felt himself in a painfully difficult position. He dreaded
that Sir Christopher should surmise or discover the true state of
Caterina's feelings, and yet he was obliged to make those feelings the
ground of his reply.

'My dear sir,' he at last said with some effort, 'you will not suppose
that I am not alive to your goodness--that I am not grateful for your
fatherly interest in my happiness; but I fear that Caterina's feelings
towards me are not such as to warrant the hope that she would accept a
proposal of marriage from me.'

'Have you ever asked her?'

'No, sir. But we often know these things too well without asking.'

'Pooh, pooh! the little monkey _must_ love you. Why, you were her first
playfellow; and I remember she used to cry if you cut your finger.
Besides, she has always silently admitted that you were her lover. You
know I have always spoken of you to her in that light. I took it for
granted you had settled the business between yourselves; so did Anthony.
Anthony thinks she's in love with you, and he has young eyes, which are
apt enough to see clearly in these matters. He was talking to me about it
this morning, and pleased me very much by the friendly interest he showed
in you and Tina.'

The blood--more than was wanted--rushed back to Mr. Gilfil's face; he set
his teeth and clenched his hands in the effort to repress a burst of
indignation. Sir Christopher noticed the flush, but thought it indicated
the fluctuation of hope and fear about Caterina. He went on:--'You're too
modest by half, Maynard. A fellow who can take a five-barred gate as you
can, ought not to be so faint-hearted. If you can't speak to her
yourself, leave me to talk to her.'

'Sir Christopher,' said poor Maynard earnestly, 'I shall really feel it
the greatest kindness you can possibly show me not to mention this
subject to Caterina at present. I think such a proposal, made
prematurely, might only alienate her from me.'

Sir Christopher was getting a little displeased at this contradiction.
His tone became a little sharper as he said, 'Have you any grounds to
state for this opinion, beyond your general notion that Tina is not
enough in love with you?'

'I can state none beyond my own very strong impression that she does not
love me well enough to marry me.'

'Then I think that ground is worth nothing at all. I am tolerably correct
in my judgement of people; and if I am not very much deceived in Tina,
she looks forward to nothing else but to your being her husband. Leave me
to manage the matter as I think best. You may rely on me that I shall do
no harm to your cause, Maynard.'

Mr. Gilfil, afraid to say more, yet wretched in the prospect of what
might result from Sir Christopher's determination, quitted the library in
a state of mingled indignation against Captain Wybrow, and distress for
himself and Caterina. What would she think of him? She might suppose that
_he_ had instigated or sanctioned Sir Christopher's proceeding. He should
perhaps not have an opportunity of speaking to her on the subject in
time; he would write her a note, and carry it up to her room after the
dressing-bell had rung. No; that would agitate her, and unfit her for
appearing at dinner, and passing the evening calmly. He would defer it
till bed-time. After prayers, he contrived to lead her back to the
drawing-room, and to put a letter in her hand. She carried it up to her
own room, wondering, and there read,--

'Dear Caterina, Do not suspect for a moment that anything Sir Christopher
may say to you about our marriage has been prompted by me. I have done
all I dare do to dissuade him from urging the subject, and have only been
prevented from speaking more strongly by the dread of provoking questions
which I could not answer without causing you fresh misery. I write this,
both to prepare you for anything Sir Christopher may say, and to assure
you--but I hope you already believe it--that your feelings are sacred to
me. I would rather part with the dearest hope of my life than be the
means of adding to your trouble.

'It is Captain Wybrow who has prompted Sir Christopher to take up the
subject at this moment. I tell you this, to save you from hearing it
suddenly when you are with Sir Christopher. You see now what sort of
stuff that dastard's heart is made of. Trust in me always, dearest
Caterina, as--whatever may come--your faithful friend and brother,

'Maynard Gilfil.'

Caterina was at first too terribly stung by the words about Captain
Wybrow to think of the difficulty which threatened her--to think either
of what Sir Christopher would say to her, or of what she could say in
reply. Bitter sense of injury, fierce resentment, left no room for fear.
With the poisoned garment upon him, the victim writhes under the
torture--he has no thought of the coming death.

Anthony could do this!--Of this there could be no explanation but the
coolest contempt for her feelings, the basest sacrifice of all the
consideration and tenderness he owed her to the ease of his position with
Miss Assher. No. It was worse than that: it was deliberate, gratuitous
cruelty. He wanted to show her how he despised her; he wanted to make her
feel her folly in having ever believed that he loved her.

The last crystal drops of trust and tenderness, she thought, were dried
up; all was parched, fiery hatred. Now she need no longer check her
resentment by the fear of doing him an injustice: he _had_ trifled with
her, as Maynard had said; he _had_ been reckless of her; and now he was
base and cruel. She had cause enough for her bitterness and anger; they
were not so wicked as they had seemed to her.

As these thoughts were hurrying after each other like so many sharp
throbs of fevered pain, she shed no tear. She paced restlessly to and
fro, as her habit was--her hands clenched, her eyes gleaming fiercely and
wandering uneasily, as if in search of something on which she might throw
herself like a tigress.

'If I could speak to him,' she whispered, 'and tell him I hate him, I
despise him, I loathe him!'

Suddenly, as if a new thought had struck her, she drew a key from her
pocket, and, unlocking an inlaid desk where she stored up her keepsakes,
took from it a small miniature. It was in a very slight gold frame, with
a ring to it, as if intended to be worn on a chain; and under the glass
at the back were two locks of hair, one dark and the other auburn,
arranged in a fantastic knot. It was Anthony's secret present to her a
year ago a copy he had had made specially for her. For the last month she
had not taken it from its hiding-place: there was no need to heighten the
vividness of the past. But now she clutched it fiercely, and dashed it
across the room against the bare hearth-stone.

Will she crush it under her feet, and grind it under her high-heeled
shoe, till every trace of those false cruel features is gone? Ah, no! She
rushed across the room; but when she saw the little treasure she had
cherished so fondly, so often smothered with kisses, so often laid under
her pillow, and remembered with the first return of consciousness in the
morning--when she saw this one visible relic of the too happy past lying
with the glass shivered, the hair fallen out, the thin ivory cracked,
there was a revulsion of the overstrained feeling: relenting came, and
she burst into tears.

Look at her stooping down to gather up her treasure, searching for the
hair and replacing it, and then mournfully examining the crack that
disfigures the once-loved image. Alas! there is no glass now to guard
either the hair or the portrait; but see how carefully she wraps delicate
paper round it, and locks it up again in its old place. Poor child! God
send the relenting may always come before the worst irrevocable deed!

This action had quieted her, and she sat down to read Maynard's letter
again. She read it two or three times without seeming to take in the
sense; her apprehension was dulled by the passion of the last hour, and
she found it difficult to call up the ideas suggested by the words. At
last she began to have a distinct conception of the impending interview
with Sir Christopher. The idea of displeasing the Baronet, of whom every
one at the Manor stood in awe, frightened her so much that she thought it
would be impossible to resist his wish. He believed that she loved
Maynard; he had always spoken as if he were quite sure of it. How could
she tell him he was deceived--and what if he were to ask her whether she
loved anybody else? To have Sir Christopher looking angrily at her, was
more than she could bear, even in imagination. He had always been so good
to her! Then she began to think of the pain she might give him, and the
more selfish distress of fear gave way to the distress of affection.
Unselfish tears began to flow, and sorrowful gratitude to Sir Christopher
helped to awaken her sensibility to Mr. Gilfil's tenderness and
generosity.

'Dear, good Maynard!--what a poor return I make him! If I could but have
loved him instead--but I can never love or care for anything again. My
heart is broken.'



Chapter 13


The next morning the dreaded moment came. Caterina, stupified by the
suffering of the previous night, with that dull mental aching which
follows on acute anguish, was in Lady Cheverel's sitting-room, copying
out some charity lists, when her ladyship came in, and said,--'Tina, Sir
Christopher wants you; go down into the library.'

She went down trembling. As soon as she entered, Sir Christopher, who was
seated near his writing-table, said, 'Now, little monkey, come and sit
down by me; I have something to tell you.'

Caterina took a footstool, and seated herself on it at the Baronet's
feet. It was her habit to sit on these low stools, and in this way she
could hide her face better. She put her little arm round his leg, and
leaned her cheek against his knee.

'Why, you seem out of spirits this morning, Tina. What's the matter, eh?'

'Nothing, Padroncello; only my head is bad.'

'Poor monkey! Well, now, wouldn't it do the head good if I were to
promise you a good husband, and smart little wedding-gowns, and by-and-by
a house of your own, where you would be a little mistress, and
Padroncello would come and see you sometimes?'

'O no, no! I shouldn't like ever to be married. Let me always stay with
you!'

'Pooh, pooh, little simpleton. I shall get old and tiresome, and there
will be Anthony's children putting your nose out of joint. You will want
some one to love you best of all, and you must have children of your own
to love. I can't have you withering away into an old maid. I hate old
maids: they make me dismal to look at them. I never see Sharp without
shuddering. My little black-eyed monkey was never meant for anything so
ugly. And there's Maynard Gilfil the best man in the county, worth his
weight in gold, heavy as he is; he loves you better than his eyes. And
you love him too, you silly monkey, whatever you may say about not being
married.'

'No, no, dear Padroncello, do not say so; I could not marry him.'

'Why not, you foolish child? You don't know your own mind. Why, it is
plain to everybody that you love him. My lady has all along said she was
sure you loved him--she has seen what little princess airs you put on to
him; and Anthony too, he thinks you are in love with Gilfil. Come, what
has made you take it into your head that you wouldn't like to marry him?'

Caterina was now sobbing too deeply to make any answer. Sir Christopher
patted her on the back and said, 'Come, come; why, Tina, you are not well
this morning. Go and rest, little one. You will see things in quite
another light when you are well. Think over what I have said, and
remember there is nothing, after Anthony's marriage, that I have set my
heart on so much as seeing you and Maynard settled for life. I must have
no whims and follies--no nonsense.' This was said with a slight severity;
but he presently added, in a soothing tone, There, there, stop crying,
and be a good little monkey. Go and lie down and get to sleep.'

Caterina slipped from the stool on to her knees, took the old Baronet's
hand, covered it with tears and kisses, and then ran out of the room.

Before the evening, Captain Wybrow had heard from his uncle the result of
the interview with Caterina. He thought, 'If I could have a long quiet
talk with her, I could perhaps persuade her to look more reasonably at
things. But there's no speaking to her in the house without being
interrupted, and I can hardly see her anywhere else without Beatrice's
finding it out.' At last he determined to make it a matter of confidence
with Miss Assher--to tell her that he wished to talk to Caterina quietly
for the sake of bringing her to a calmer state of mind, and persuade her
to listen to Gilfil's affection. He was very much pleased with this
judicious and candid plan, and in the course of the evening he had
arranged with himself the time and place of meeting, and had communicated
his purpose to Miss Assher, who gave her entire approval. Anthony, she
thought, would do well to speak plainly and seriously to Miss Sarti. He
was really very patient and kind to her, considering how she behaved.

Tina had kept her room all that day, and had been carefully tended as an
invalid, Sir Christopher having told her ladyship how matters stood. This
tendance was so irksome to Caterina, she felt so uneasy under attentions
and kindness that were based on a misconception, that she exerted herself
to appear at breakfast the next morning, and declared herself well,
though head and heart were throbbing. To be confined in her own room was
intolerable; it was wretched enough to be looked at and spoken to, but it
was more wretched to be left alone. She was frightened at her own
sensations: she was frightened at the imperious vividness with which
pictures of the past and future thrust themselves on her imagination. And
there was another feeling, too, which made her want to be down-stairs and
moving about. Perhaps she might have an opportunity of speaking to
Captain Wybrow alone--of speaking those words of hatred and scorn that
burned on her tongue. That opportunity offered itself in a very
unexpected manner.

Lady Cheverel having sent Caterina out of the drawing-room to fetch some
patterns of embroidery from her sitting-room, Captain Wybrow presently
walked out after her, and met her as she was returning down stairs.

'Caterina,' he said, laying his hand on her arm as she was hurrying on
without looking at him, 'will you meet me in the Rookery at twelve
o'clock? I must speak to you, and we shall be in privacy there. I cannot
speak to you in the house.'

To his surprise, there was a flash of pleasure across her face; she
answered shortly and decidedly, 'Yes', then snatched her arm away from
him, and passed down stairs.

Miss Assher was this morning busy winding silks, being bent on emulating
Lady Cheverel's embroidery, and Lady Assher chose the passive amusement
of holding the skeins. Lady Cheverel had now all her working apparatus
about her, and Caterina, thinking she was not wanted, went away and sat
down to the harpsichord in the sitting-room. It seemed as if playing
massive chords--bringing out volumes of sound, would be the easiest way
of passing the long feverish moments before twelve o'clock. Handel's
Messiah stood open on the desk, at the chorus 'All we like sheep', and
Caterina threw herself at once into the impetuous intricacies of that
magnificent fugue. In her happiest moments she could never have played it
so well: for now all the passion that made her misery was hurled by a
convulsive effort into her music, just as pain gives new force to the
clutch of the sinking wrestler, and as terror gives farsounding intensity
to the shriek of the feeble.

But at half-past eleven she was interrupted by Lady Cheverel, who said,
'Tina, go down, will you, and hold Miss Assher's silks for her. Lady
Assher and I have decided on having our drive before luncheon.'

Caterina went down, wondering how she should escape from the drawing-room
in time to be in the Rookery at twelve. Nothing should prevent her from
going; nothing should rob her of this one precious moment--perhaps the
last--when she could speak out the thoughts that were in her. After that,
she would be passive; she would bear anything.

But she had scarcely sat down with a skein of yellow silk on her hands,
when Miss Assher said, graciously,--'I know you have an engagement with
Captain Wybrow this morning. You must not let me detain you beyond the
time.'

'So he has been talking to her about me,' thought Caterina. Her hands
began to tremble as she held the skein.

Miss Assher continued in the same gracious tone: 'It is tedious work
holding these skeins. I am sure I am very much obliged to you.'

'No, you are not obliged to me,' said Caterina, completely mastered by
her irritation; 'I have only done it because Lady Cheverel told me.'

The moment was come when Miss Assher could no longer suppress her long
latent desire to 'let Miss Sarti know the impropriety of her conduct.'
With the malicious anger that assumes the tone of compassion, she said,
--'Miss Sarti, I am really sorry for you, that you are not able to
control yourself better. This giving way to unwarrantable feelings is
lowering you--it is indeed.'

'What unwarrantable feelings?' said Caterina, letting her hands fall, and
fixing her great dark eyes steadily on Miss Assher. 'It is quite
unnecessary for me to say more. You must be conscious what I mean. Only
summon a sense of duty to your aid. You are paining Captain Wybrow
extremely by your want of self-control.'

'Did he tell you I pained him?'

'Yes, indeed, he did. He is very much hurt that you should behave to me
as if you had a sort of enmity towards me. He would like you to make a
friend of me. I assure you we both feel very kindly towards you, and are
sorry you should cherish such feelings.'

'He is very good,' said Caterina, bitterly. 'What feelings did he say I
cherished?'

This bitter tone increased Miss Assher's irritation. There was still a
lurking suspicion in her mind, though she would not admit it to herself,
that Captain Wybrow had told her a falsehood about his conduct and
feelings towards Caterina. It was this suspicion, more even than the
anger of the moment, which urged her to say something that would test the
truth of his statement. That she would be humiliating Caterina at the
same time, was only an additional temptation.

'These are things I do not like to talk of, Miss Sarti. I cannot even
understand how a woman can indulge a passion for a man who has never
given her the least ground for it, as Captain Wybrow assures me is the
case.'

'He told you that, did he?' said Caterina, in clear low tones, her lips
turning white as she rose from her chair.

'Yes, indeed, he did. He was bound to tell it me after your strange
behaviour.'

Caterina said nothing, but turned round suddenly and left the room.

See how she rushes noiselessly, like a pale meteor, along the passages
and up the gallery stairs! Those gleaming eyes, those bloodless lips,
that swift silent tread, make her look like the incarnation of a fierce
purpose, rather than a woman. The mid-day sun is shining on the armour in
the gallery, making mimic suns on bossed sword-hilts and the angles of
polished breast-plates. Yes, there are sharp weapons in the gallery.
There is a dagger in that cabinet; she knows it well. And as a dragon-fly
wheels in its flight to alight for an instant on a leaf, she darts to the
cabinet, takes out the dagger, and thrusts it into her pocket. In three
minutes more she is out, in hat and cloak, on the gravel-walk, hurrying
along towards the thick shades of the distant Rookery. She threads the
windings of the plantations, not feeling the golden leaves that rain upon
her, not feeling the earth beneath her feet. Her hand is in her pocket,
clenching the handle of the dagger, which she holds half out of its
sheath.

She has reached the Rookery, and is under the gloom of the interlacing
boughs. Her heart throbs as if it would burst her bosom--as if every next
leap must be its last. Wait, wait, O heart!--till she has done this one
deed. He will be there--he will be before her in a moment. He will come
towards her with that false smile, thinking she does not know his
baseness--she will plunge that dagger into his heart.

Poor child! poor child! she who used to cry to have the fish put back
into the water--who never willingly killed the smallest living
thing--dreams now, in the madness of her passion, that she can kill the
man whose very voice unnerves her.

But what is that lying among the dank leaves on the path three yards
before her?

Good God! it is he--lying motionless--his hat fallen off. He is ill,
then--he has fainted. Her hand lets go the dagger, and she rushes towards
him. His eyes are fixed; he does not see her. She sinks down on her
knees, takes the dear head in her arms, and kisses the cold forehead.

'Anthony, Anthony! speak to me--it is Tina--speak to me! O God, he is
dead!'



Chapter 14


'Yes, Maynard,' said Sir Christopher, chatting with Mr. Gilfil in the
library, 'it really is a remarkable thing that I never in my life laid a
plan, and failed to carry it out. I lay my plans well, and I never swerve
from them--that's it. A strong will is the only magic. And next to
striking out one's plans, the pleasantest thing in the world is to see
them well accomplished. This year, now, will be the happiest of my life,
all but the year '53, when I came into possession of the Manor, and
married Henrietta. The last touch is given to the old house; Anthony's
marriage--the thing I had nearest my heart--is settled to my entire
satisfaction; and by-and-by you will be buying a little wedding-ring for
Tina's finger. Don't shake your head in that forlorn way;--when I make
prophecies they generally come to pass. But there's a quarter after
twelve striking. I must be riding to the High Ash to meet Markham about
felling some timber. My old oaks will have to groan for this wedding,
but'--

The door burst open, and Caterina, ghastly and panting, her eyes
distended with terror, rushed in, threw her arms round Sir Christopher's
neck, and gasping out--'Anthony ... the Rookery ... dead ... in the
Rookery', fell fainting on the floor.

In a moment Sir Christopher was out of the room, and Mr. Gilfil was
bending to raise Caterina in his arms. As he lifted her from the ground
he felt something hard and heavy in her pocket. What could it be? The
weight of it would be enough to hurt her as she lay. He carried her to
the sofa, put his hand in her pocket, and drew forth the dagger.

Maynard shuddered. Did she mean to kill herself, then, or ... or ... a
horrible suspicion forced itself upon him. 'Dead--in the Rookery.' He
hated himself for the thought that prompted him to draw the dagger from
its sheath. No! there was no trace of blood, and he was ready to kiss the
good steel for its innocence. He thrust the weapon into his own pocket;
he would restore it as soon as possible to its well-known place in the
gallery. Yet, why had Caterina taken this dagger? What was it that had
happened in the Rookery? Was it only a delirious vision of hers?

He was afraid to ring--afraid to summon any one to Caterina's assistance.
What might she not say when she awoke from this fainting fit? She might
be raving. He could not leave her, and yet he felt as if he were guilty
for not following Sir Christopher to see what was the truth. It took but
a moment to think and feel all this, but that moment seemed such a long
agony to him that he began to reproach himself for letting it pass
without seeking some means of reviving Caterina. Happily the decanter of
water on Sir Christopher's table was untouched. He would at least try the
effect of throwing that water over her. She might revive without his
needing to call any one else. Meanwhile Sir Christopher was hurrying at
his utmost speed towards the Rookery; his face, so lately bright and
confident, now agitated by a vague dread. The deep alarmed bark of
Rupert, who ran by his side, had struck the ear of Mr. Bates, then on his
way homeward, as something unwonted, and, hastening in the direction of
the sound, he met the Baronet just as he was approaching the entrance of
the Rookery. Sir Christopher's look was enough. Mr. Bates said nothing,
but hurried along by his side, while Rupert dashed forward among the dead
leaves with his nose to the ground. They had scarcely lost sight of him a
minute when a change in the tone of his bark told them that he had found
something, and in another instant he was leaping back over one of the
large planted mounds. They turned aside to ascend the mound, Rupert
leading them; the tumultuous cawing of the rooks, the very rustling of
the leaves, as their feet plunged among them, falling like an evil omen
on the Baronet's ear.

They had reached the summit of the mound, and had begun to descend. Sir
Christopher saw something purple down on the path below among the yellow
leaves. Rupert was already beside it, but Sir Christopher could not move
faster. A tremor had taken hold of the firm limbs. Rupert came back and
licked the trembling hand, as if to say 'Courage!' and then was down
again snuffing the body. Yes, it was a body ... Anthony's body. There was
the white hand with its diamond-ring clutching the dark leaves. His eyes
were half open, but did not heed the gleam of sunlight that darted itself
directly on them from between the boughs.

Still he might only have fainted; it might only be a fit. Sir Christopher
knelt down, unfastened the cravat, unfastened the waistcoat, and laid his
hand on the heart. It might be syncope; it might not--it could not be
death. No! that thought must be kept far off.

'Go, Bates, get help; we'll carry him to your cottage. Send some one to
the house to tell Mr. Gilfil and Warren. Bid them send off for Doctor
Hart, and break it to my lady and Miss Assher that Anthony is ill.'

Mr. Bates hastened away, and the Baronet was left alone kneeling beside
the body. The young and supple limbs, the rounded cheeks, the delicate
ripe lips, the smooth white hands, were lying cold and rigid; and the
aged face was bending over them in silent anguish; the aged deep-veined
hands were seeking with tremulous inquiring touches for some symptom that
life was not irrevocably gone.

Rupert was there too, waiting and watching; licking first the dead and
then the living hands; then running off on Mr. Bates's track as if he
would follow and hasten his return, but in a moment turning back again,
unable to quit the scene of his master's sorrow.



Chapter 15


It is a wonderful moment, the first time we stand by one who has fainted,
and witness the fresh birth of consciousness spreading itself over the
blank features, like the rising sunlight on the alpine summits that lay
ghastly and dead under the leaden twilight. A slight shudder, and the
frost-bound eyes recover their liquid light; for an instant they show the
inward semi-consciousness of an infant's; then, with a little start, they
open wider and begin to look; the present is visible, but only as a
strange writing, and the interpreter Memory is not yet there.

Mr. Gilfil felt a trembling joy as this change passed over Caterina's
face. He bent over her, rubbing her chill hands, and looking at her with
tender pity as her dark eyes opened on him wonderingly. He thought there
might be some wine in the dining-room close by. He left the room, and
Caterina's eyes turned towards the window--towards Sir Christopher's
chair. There was the link at which the chain of consciousness had
snapped, and the events of the morning were beginning to recur dimly like
a half-remembered dream, when Maynard returned with some wine. He raised
her, and she drank it; but still she was silent, seeming lost in the
attempt to recover the past, when the door opened, and Mr. Warren
appeared with looks that announced terrible tidings. Mr. Gilfil, dreading
lest he should tell them in Caterina's presence, hurried towards him with
his finger on his lips, and drew him away into the dining-room on the
opposite side of the passage.

Caterina, revived by the stimulant, was now recovering the full
consciousness of the scene in the Rookery. Anthony was lying there dead;
she had left him to tell Sir Christopher; she must go and see what they
were doing with him; perhaps he was not really dead--only in a trance;
people did fall into trances sometimes. While Mr. Gilfil was telling
Warren how it would be best to break the news to Lady Cheverel and Miss
Assher, anxious himself to return to Caterina, the poor child had made
her way feebly to the great entrance-door, which stood open. Her strength
increased as she moved and breathed the fresh air, and with every
increase of strength came increased vividness of emotion, increased
yearning to be where her thought was--in the Rookery with Anthony. She
walked more and more swiftly, and at last, gathering the artificial
strength of passionate excitement, began to run.

But now she heard the tread of heavy steps, and under the yellow shade
near the wooden bridge she saw men slowly carrying something. Soon she
was face to face with them. Anthony was no longer in the Rookery: they
were carrying him stretched on a door, and there behind him was Sir
Christopher, with the firmly-set mouth, the deathly paleness, and the
concentrated expression of suffering in the eye, which mark the
suppressed grief of the strong man. The sight of this face, on which
Caterina had never before beheld the signs of anguish, caused a rush of
new feeling which for the moment submerged all the rest. She went gently
up to him, put her little hand in his, and walked in silence by his side.
Sir Christopher could not tell her to leave him, and so she went on with
that sad procession to Mr. Bates's cottage in the Mosslands, and sat
there in silence, waiting and watching to know if Anthony were really
dead. She had not yet missed the dagger from her pocket; she had not yet
even thought of it. At the sight of Anthony lying dead, her nature had
rebounded from its new bias of resentment and hatred to the old sweet
habit of love. The earliest and the longest has still the mastery over
us; and the only past that linked itself with those glazed unconscious
eyes, was the past when they beamed on her with tenderness. She forgot
the interval of wrong and jealousy and hatred--all his cruelty, and all
her thoughts of revenge--as the exile forgets the stormy passage that lay
between home and happiness and the dreary land in which he finds himself
desolate.



Chapter 16


Before night all hope was gone. Dr Hart had said it was death; Anthony's
body had been carried to the house, and every one there knew the calamity
that had fallen on them.

Caterina had been questioned by Dr Hart, and had answered briefly that
she found Anthony lying in the Rookery. That she should have been walking
there just at that time was not a coincidence to raise conjectures in any
one besides Mr. Gilfil. Except in answering this question, she had not
broken her silence. She sat mute in a corner of the gardener's kitchen
shaking her head when Maynard entreated her to return with him, and
apparently unable to think of anything but the possibility that Anthony
might revive, until she saw them carrying away the body to the house.
Then she followed by Sir Christopher's side again, so quietly, that even
Dr Hart did not object to her presence.

It was decided to lay the body in the library until after the coroner's
inquest to-morrow; and when Caterina saw the door finally closed, she
turned up the gallery stairs on her way to her own room, the place where
she felt at home with her sorrows. It was the first time she had been in
the gallery since that terrible moment in the morning, and now the spot
and the objects around began to reawaken her half-stunned memory. The
armour was no longer glittering in the sunlight, but there it hung dead
and sombre above the cabinet from which she had taken the dagger. Yes!
now it all came back to her--all the wretchedness and all the sin. But
where was the dagger now? She felt in her pocket; it was not there. Could
it have been her fancy--all that about the dagger? She looked in the
cabinet; it was not there. Alas! no; it could not have been her fancy,
and she _was_ guilty of that wickedness. But where could the dagger be
now? Could it have fallen out of her pocket? She heard steps ascending
the stairs, and hurried on to her room, where, kneeling by the bed, and
burying her face to shut out the hateful light, she tried to recall every
feeling and incident of the morning.

It all came back; everything Anthony had done, and everything she had
felt for the last month--for many months--ever since that June evening
when he had last spoken to her in the gallery. She looked back on her
storms of passion, her jealousy and hatred of Miss Assher, her thoughts
of revenge on Anthony. O how wicked she had been! It was she who had been
sinning; it was she who had driven him to do and say those things that
had made her so angry. And if he had wronged her, what had she been on
the verge of doing to him? She was too wicked ever to be pardoned. She
would like to confess how wicked she had been, that they might punish
her; she would like to humble herself to the dust before every
one--before Miss Assher even. Sir Christopher would send her away--would
never see her again, if he knew all; and she would be happier to be
punished and frowned on, than to be treated tenderly while she had that
guilty secret in her breast. But then, if Sir Christopher were to know
all, it would add to his sorrow, and make him more wretched than ever.
No! she could not confess it--she should have to tell about Anthony. But
she could not stay at the Manor; she must go away; she could not bear Sir
Christopher's eye, could not bear the sight of all these things that
reminded her of Anthony and of her sin. Perhaps she should die soon: she
felt very feeble; there could not be much life in her. She would go away
and live humbly, and pray to God to pardon her, and let her die.

The poor child never thought of suicide. No sooner was the storm of anger
passed than the tenderness and timidity of her nature returned, and she
could do nothing but love and mourn. Her inexperience prevented her from
imagining the consequences of her disappearance from the Manor; she
foresaw none of the terrible details of alarm and distress and search
that must ensue. 'They will think I am dead,' she said to herself, 'and
by-and-by they will forget me, and Maynard will get happy again, and love
some one else.'

She was roused from her absorption by a knock at the door. Mrs. Bellamy
was there. She had come by Mr. Gilfil's request to see how Miss Sarti
was, and to bring her some food and wine.

'You look sadly, my dear,' said the old housekeeper, 'an' you're all of a
quake wi' cold. Get you to bed, now do. Martha shall come an' warm it,
an' light your fire. See now, here's some nice arrowroot, wi' a drop o'
wine in it. Take that, an' it'll warm you. I must go down again, for I
can't awhile to stay. There's so many things to see to; an' Miss Assher's
in hysterics constant, an' her maid's ill i' bed--a poor creachy
thing--an' Mrs. Sharp's wanted every minute. But I'll send Martha up, an'
do you get ready to go to bed, there's a dear child, an' take care o'
yourself.'

'Thank you, dear mammy,' said Tina, kissing the little old woman's
wrinkled cheek; 'I shall eat the arrowroot, and don't trouble about me
any more to-night. I shall do very well when Martha has lighted my fire.
Tell Mr. Gilfil I'm better. I shall go to bed by-and-by, so don't you
come up again, because you may only disturb me.'

'Well, well, take care o' yourself, there's a good child, an' God send
you may sleep.'

Caterina took the arrowroot quite eagerly, while Martha was lighting her
fire. She wanted to get strength for her journey, and she kept the plate
of biscuits by her that she might put some in her pocket. Her whole mind
was now bent on going away from the Manor, and she was thinking of all
the ways and means her little life's experience could suggest.

It was dusk now; she must wait till early dawn, for she was too timid to
go away in the dark, but she must make her escape before any one was up
in the house. There would be people watching Anthony in the library, but
she could make her way out of a small door leading into the garden,
against the drawing-room on the other side of the house.

She laid her cloak, bonnet, and veil ready; then she lighted a candle,
opened her desk, and took out the broken portrait wrapped in paper. She
folded it again in two little notes of Anthony's, written in pencil, and
placed it in her bosom. There was the little china box, too--Dorcas's
present, the pearl ear-rings, and a silk purse, with fifteen
seven-shilling pieces in it, the presents Sir Christopher had made her on
her birthday, ever since she had been at the Manor. Should she take the
earrings and the seven-shilling pieces? She could not bear to part with
them; it seemed as if they had some of Sir Christopher's love in them.
She would like them to be buried with her. She fastened the little round
earrings in her ears, and put the purse with Dorcas's box in her pocket.
She had another purse there, and she took it out to count her money, for
she would never spend her seven-shilling pieces. She had a guinea and
eight shillings; that would be plenty.

So now she sat down to wait for the morning, afraid to lay herself on the
bed lest she should sleep too long. If she could but see Anthony once
more and kiss his cold forehead! But that could not be. She did not
deserve it. She must go away from him, away from Sir Christopher, and
Lady Cheverel, and Maynard, and everybody who had been kind to her, and
thought her good while she was so wicked.



Chapter 17


Some of Mrs. Sharp's earliest thoughts, the next morning, were given to
Caterina whom she had not been able to visit the evening before, and
whom, from a nearly equal mixture of affection and self-importance, she
did not at all like resigning to Mrs. Bellamy's care. At half-past eight
o'clock she went up to Tina's room, bent on benevolent dictation as to
doses and diet and lying in bed. But on opening the door she found the
bed smooth and empty. Evidently it had not been slept in. What could this
mean? Had she sat up all night, and was she gone out to walk? The poor
thing's head might be touched by what had happened yesterday; it was such
a shock--finding Captain Wybrow in that way; she was perhaps gone out of
her mind. Mrs. Sharp looked anxiously in the place where Tina kept her
hat and cloak; they were not there, so that she had had at least the
presence of mind to put them on. Still the good woman felt greatly
alarmed, and hastened away to tell Mr. Gilfil, who, she knew, was in his
study.

'Mr. Gilfil,' she said, as soon as she had closed the door behind her,
'my mind misgives me dreadful about Miss Sarti.'

'What is it?' said poor Maynard, with a horrible fear that Caterina had
betrayed something about the dagger.

'She's not in her room, an' her bed's not been slept in this night, an'
her hat an' cloak's gone.'

For a minute or two Mr. Gilfil was unable to speak. He felt sure the
worst had come: Caterina had destroyed herself. The strong man suddenly
looked so ill and helpless that Mrs. Sharp began to be frightened at the
effect of her abruptness.

'O, sir, I'm grieved to my heart to shock you so; but I didn't know who
else to go to.'

'No, no, you were quite right.'

He gathered some strength from his very despair. It was all over, and he
had nothing now to do but to suffer and to help the suffering. He went on
in a firmer voice--'Be sure not to breathe a word about it to any one. We
must not alarm Lady Cheverel and Sir Christopher. Miss Sarti may be only
walking in the garden. She was terribly excited by what she saw
yesterday, and perhaps was unable to lie down from restlessness. Just go
quietly through the empty rooms, and see whether she is in the house. I
will go and look for her in the grounds.'

He went down, and, to avoid giving any alarm in the house, walked at once
towards the Mosslands in search of Mr. Bates, whom he met returning from
his breakfast. To the gardener he confided his fear about Caterina,
assigning as a reason for this fear the probability that the shock she
had undergone yesterday had unhinged her mind, and begging him to send
men in search of her through the gardens and park, and inquire if she had
been seen at the lodges; and if she were not found or heard of in this
way, to lose no time in dragging the waters round the Manor.

'God forbid it should be so, Bates, but we shall be the easier for having
searched everywhere.'

'Troost to mae, troost to mae, Mr. Gilfil. Eh! but I'd ha' worked for
day-wage all the rest o' my life, rether than anythin' should ha'
happened to her.'

The good gardener, in deep distress, strode away to the stables that he
might send the grooms on horseback through the park.

Mr. Gilfil's next thought was to search the Rookery: she might be
haunting the scene of Captain Wybrow's death. He went hastily over every
mound, looked round every large tree, and followed every winding of the
walks. In reality he had little hope of finding her there; but the bare
possibility fenced off for a time the fatal conviction that Caterina's
body would be found in the water. When the Rookery had been searched in
vain, he walked fast to the border of the little stream that bounded one
side of the grounds. The stream was almost everywhere hidden among trees,
and there was one place where it was broader and deeper than
elsewhere--she would be more likely to come to that spot than to the
pool. He hurried along with strained eyes, his imagination continually
creating what he dreaded to see.

There is something white behind that overhanging bough. His knees tremble
under him. He seems to see part of her dress caught on a branch, and her
dear dead face upturned. O God, give strength to thy creature, on whom
thou hast laid this great agony! He is nearly up to the bough, and the
white object is moving. It is a waterfowl, that spreads its wings and
flies away screaming. He hardly knows whether it is a relief or a
disappointment that she is not there. The conviction that she is dead
presses its cold weight upon him none the less heavily.

As he reached the great pool in front of the Manor, he saw Mr. Bates,
with a group of men already there, preparing for the dreadful search
which could only displace his vague despair by a definite horror; for the
gardener, in his restless anxiety, had been unable to defer this until
other means of search had proved vain. The pool was not now laughing with
sparkles among the water-lilies. It looked black and cruel under the
sombre sky, as if its cold depths held relentlessly all the murdered hope
and joy of Maynard Gilfil's life.

Thoughts of the sad consequences for others as well as himself were
crowding on his mind. The blinds and shutters were all closed in front of
the Manor, and it was not likely that Sir Christopher would be aware of
anything that was passing outside; but Mr. Gilfil felt that Caterina's
disappearance could not long be concealed from him. The coroner's inquest
would be held shortly; she would be inquired for, and then it would be
inevitable that the Baronet should know all.



Chapter 18


At twelve o'clock, when all search and inquiry had been in vain, and the
coroner was expected every moment, Mr. Gilfil could no longer defer the
hard duty of revealing this fresh calamity to Sir Christopher, who must
otherwise have it discovered to him abruptly.

The Baronet was seated in his dressing-room, where the dark
window-curtains were drawn so as to admit only a sombre light. It was the
first time Mr. Gilfil had had an interview with him this morning, and he
was struck to see how a single day and night of grief had aged the fine
old man. The lines in his brow and about his mouth were deepened; his
complexion looked dull and withered; there was a swollen ridge under his
eyes; and the eyes themselves, which used to cast so keen a glance on the
present, had the vacant expression which tells that vision is no longer a
sense, but a memory.

He held out his hand to Maynard, who pressed it, and sat down beside him
in silence. Sir Christopher's heart began to swell at this unspoken
sympathy; the tears would rise, would roll in great drops down his
cheeks. The first tears he had shed since boyhood were for Anthony.

Maynard felt as if his tongue were glued to the roof of his mouth. He
could not speak first: he must wait until Sir Christopher said something
which might lead on to the cruel words that must be spoken.

At last the Baronet mastered himself enough to say, 'I'm very weak,
Maynard--God help me! I didn't think anything would unman me in this way;
but I'd built everything on that lad. Perhaps I've been wrong in not
forgiving my sister. She lost one of _her_ sons a little while ago. I've
been too proud and obstinate.'

'We can hardly learn humility and tenderness enough except by suffering,'
said Maynard; 'and God sees we are in need of suffering, for it is
falling more and more heavily on us. We have a new trouble this morning.'

'Tina?' said Sir Christopher, looking up anxiously--'is Tina ill?'

'I am in dreadful uncertainty about her. She was very much agitated
yesterday--and with her delicate health--I am afraid to think what turn
the agitation may have taken.'

'Is she delirious, poor dear little one?'

'God only knows how she is. We are unable to find her. When Mrs. Sharp
went up to her room this morning, it was empty. She had not been in bed.
Her hat and cloak were gone. I have had search made for her
everywhere--in the house and garden, in the park, and--in the water. No
one has seen her since Martha went up to light her fire at seven o'clock
in the evening.'

While Mr. Gilfil was speaking, Sir Christopher's eyes, which were eagerly
turned on him, recovered some of their old keenness, and some sudden
painful emotion, as at a new thought, flitted rapidly across his already
agitated face, like the shadow of a dark cloud over the waves. When the
pause came, he laid his hand on Mr. Gilfil's arm, and said in a lower
voice,--'Maynard, did that poor thing love Anthony?'

'She did.'

Maynard hesitated after these words, struggling between his reluctance to
inflict a yet deeper wound on Sir Christopher, and his determination that
no injustice should be done to Caterina. Sir Christopher's eyes were
still fixed on him in solemn inquiry, and his own sunk towards the
ground, while he tried to find the words that would tell the truth least
cruelly.

'You must not have any wrong thoughts about Tina,' he said at length. 'I
must tell you now, for her sake, what nothing but this should ever have
caused to pass my lips. Captain Wybrow won her affections by attentions
which, in his position, he was bound not to show her. Before his marriage
was talked of, he had behaved to her like a lover.'

Sir Christopher relaxed his hold of Maynard's arm, and looked away from
him. He was silent for some minutes, evidently attempting to master
himself, so as to be able to speak calmly.

'I must see Henrietta immediately,' he said at last, with something of
his old sharp decision; 'she must know all; but we must keep it from
every one else as far as possible. My dear boy,' he continued in a kinder
tone, 'the heaviest burthen has fallen on you. But we may find her yet;
we must not despair: there has not been time enough for us to be certain.
Poor dear little one! God help me! I thought I saw everything, and was
stone-blind all the while.'



Chapter 19


The sad slow week was gone by at last. At the coroner's inquest a verdict
of sudden death had been pronounced. Dr Hart, acquainted with Captain
Wybrow's previous state of health, had given his opinion that death had
been imminent from long-established disease of the heart, though it had
probably been accelerated by some unusual emotion. Miss Assher was the
only person who positively knew the motive that had led Captain Wybrow to
the Rookery; but she had not mentioned Caterina's name, and all painful
details or inquiries were studiously kept from her. Mr. Gilfil and Sir
Christopher, however, knew enough to conjecture that the fatal agitation
was due to an appointed meeting with Caterina.

All search and inquiry after her had been fruitless, and were the more
likely to be so because they were carried on under the prepossession that
she had committed suicide. No one noticed the absence of the trifles she
had taken from her desk; no one knew of the likeness, or that she had
hoarded her seven-shilling pieces, and it was not remarkable that she
should have happened to be wearing the pearl earrings. She had left the
house, they thought, taking nothing with her; it seemed impossible she
could have gone far; and she must have been in a state of mental
excitement, that made it too probable she had only gone to seek relief in
death. The same places within three or four miles of the Manor were
searched again and again--every pond, every ditch in the neighbourhood
was examined.

Sometimes Maynard thought that death might have come on unsought, from
cold and exhaustion; and not a day passed but he wandered through the
neighbouring woods, turning up the heaps of dead leaves, as if it were
possible her dear body could be hidden there. Then another horrible
thought recurred, and before each night came he had been again through
all the uninhabited rooms of the house, to satisfy himself once more that
she was not hidden behind some cabinet, or door, or curtain--that he
should not find her there with madness in her eyes, looking and looking,
and yet not seeing him.

But at last those five long days and nights were at an end, the funeral
was over, and the carriages were returning through the park. When they
had set out, a heavy rain was falling; but now the clouds were breaking
up, and a gleam of sunshine was sparkling among the dripping boughs under
which they were passing. This gleam fell upon a man on horseback who was
jogging slowly along, and whom Mr. Gilfil recognized, in spite of
diminished rotundity, as Daniel Knott, the coachman who had married the
rosy-cheeked Dorcas ten years before.

Every new incident suggested the same thought to Mr. Gilfil; and his eye
no sooner fell on Knott than he said to himself 'Can he be come to tell
us anything about Caterina?' Then he remembered that Caterina had been
very fond of Dorcas, and that she always had some present ready to send
her when Knott paid an occasional visit to the Manor. Could Tina have
gone to Dorcas? But his heart sank again as he thought, very likely Knott
had only come because he had heard of Captain Wybrow's death, and wanted
to know how his old master had borne the blow.

As soon as the carriage reached the house, he went up to his study and
walked about nervously, longing, but afraid, to go down and speak to
Knott, lest his faint hope should be dissipated. Any one looking at that
face, usually so full of calm goodwill, would have seen that the last
week's suffering had left deep traces. By day he had been riding or
wandering incessantly, either searching for Caterina himself, or
directing inquiries to be made by others. By night he had not known
sleep--only intermittent dozing, in which he seemed to be finding
Caterina dead, and woke up with a start from this unreal agony to the
real anguish of believing that he should see her no more. The clear grey
eyes looked sunken and restless, the full careless lips had a strange
tension about them, and the brow, formerly so smooth and open, was
contracted as if with pain. He had not lost the object of a few months'
passion; he had lost the being who was bound up with his power of loving,
as the brook we played by or the flowers we gathered in childhood are
bound up with our sense of beauty. Love meant nothing for him but to love
Caterina. For years, the thought of her had been present in everything,
like the air and the light; and now she was gone, it seemed as if all
pleasure had lost its vehicle: the sky, the earth, the daily ride, the
daily talk might be there, but the loveliness and the joy that were in
them had gone for ever.

Presently, as he still paced backwards and forwards, he heard steps along
the corridor, and there was a knock at his door. His voice trembled as he
said 'Come in', and the rush of renewed hope was hardly distinguishable
from pain when he saw Warren enter with Daniel Knott behind him.

'Knott is come, sir, with news of Miss Sarti. I thought it best to bring
him to you first.'

Mr. Gilfil could not help going up to the old coachman and wringing his
hand; but he was unable to speak, and only motioned to him to take a
chair, while Warren left the room. He hung upon Daniel's moon-face, and
listened to his small piping voice, with the same solemn yearning
expectation with which he would have given ear to the most awful
messenger from the land of shades.

'It war Dorkis, sir, would hev me come; but we knowed nothin' o' what's
happened at the Manor. She's frightened out on her wits about Miss Sarti,
an' she would hev me saddle Blackbird this mornin', an' leave the
ploughin', to come an' let Sir Christifer an' my lady know. P'raps you've
heared, sir, we don't keep the Cross Keys at Sloppeter now; a uncle o'
mine died three 'ear ago, an' left me a leggicy. He was bailiff to Squire
Ramble, as hed them there big farms on his hans; an' so we took a little
farm o' forty acres or thereabouts, becos Dorkis didn't like the public
when she got moithered wi' children. As pritty a place as iver you see,
sir, wi' water at the back convenent for the cattle.'

'For God's sake,' said Maynard, 'tell me what it is about Miss Sarti.
Don't stay to tell me anything else now.'

'Well, sir,' said Knott, rather frightened by the parson's vehemence,
'she come t' our house i' the carrier's cart o' Wednesday, when it was
welly nine o'clock at night; and Dorkis run out, for she heared the cart
stop, an' Miss Sarti throwed her arms roun' Dorkis's neck an' says, "Tek
me in, Dorkis, tek me in," an' went off into a swoond, like. An' Dorkis
calls out to me,--"Dannel," she calls--an' I run out and carried the
young miss in, an' she come roun' arter a hit, an' opened her eyes, and
Dorkis got her to drink a spoonful o' rum-an'-water--we've got some
capital rum as we brought from the Cross Keys, and Dorkis won't let
nobody drink it. She says she keeps it for sickness; but for my part, I
think it's a pity to drink good rum when your mouth's out o' taste; you
may just as well hev doctor's stuff. However, Dorkis got her to bed, an'
there she's lay iver sin', stoopid like, an' niver speaks, an' on'y teks
little bits an' sups when Dorkis coaxes her. An' we begun to be
frightened, and couldn't think what had made her come away from the
Manor, and Dorkis was afeared there was summat wrong. So this mornin' she
could hold no longer, an' would hev no nay but I must come an' see; an'
so I've rode twenty mile upo' Blackbird, as thinks all the while he's
a-ploughin', an' turns sharp roun', every thirty yards, as if he was at
the end of a furrow. I've hed a sore time wi' him, I can tell you, sir.'

'God bless you, Knott, for coming!' said Mr. Gilfil, wringing the old
coachman's hand again. 'Now go down and have something and rest yourself.
You will stay here to-night, and by-and-by I shall come to you to learn
the nearest way to your house. I shall get ready to ride there
immediately, when I have spoken to Sir Christopher.'

In an hour from that time Mr. Gilfil was galloping on a stout mare
towards the little muddy village of Callam, five miles beyond Sloppeter.
Once more he saw some gladness in the afternoon sunlight; once more it
was a pleasure to see the hedgerow trees flying past him, and to be
conscious of a 'good seat' while his black Kitty bounded beneath him, and
the air whistled to the rhythm of her pace. Caterina was not dead; he had
found her; his love and tenderness and long-suffering seemed so strong,
they must recall her to life and happiness.

After that week of despair, the rebound was so violent that it carried
his hopes at once as far as the utmost mark they had ever reached.
Caterina would come to love him at last; she would be his. They had been
carried through all that dark and weary way that she might know the depth
of his love. How he would cherish her--his little bird with the timid
bright eye, and the sweet throat that trembled with love and music! She
would nestle against him, and the poor little breast which had been so
ruffled and bruised should be safe for evermore. In the love of a brave
and faithful man there is always a strain of maternal tenderness; he
gives out again those beams of protecting fondness which were shed on him
as he lay on his mother's knee. It was twilight as he entered the village
of Callam, and, asking a homeward-bound labourer the way to Daniel
Knott's, learned that it was by the church, which showed its stumpy
ivy-clad spire on a slight elevation of ground; a useful addition to the
means of identifying that desirable homestead afforded by Daniel's
description--'the prittiest place iver you see'--though a small cow-yard
full of excellent manure, and leading right up to the door, without any
frivolous interruption from garden or railing, might perhaps have been
enough to make that description unmistakably specific.

Mr. Gilfil had no sooner reached the gate leading into the cow-yard, than
he was descried by a flaxen-haired lad of nine, prematurely invested with
the _toga virilis_, or smock-frock, who ran forward to let in the unusual
visitor. In a moment Dorcas was at the door, the roses on her cheeks
apparently all the redder for the three pair of cheeks which formed a
group round her, and for the very fat baby who stared in her arms, and
sucked a long crust with calm relish.

'Is it Mr. Gilfil, sir?' said Dorcas, curtsying low as he made his way
through the damp straw, after tying up his horse.

'Yes, Dorcas; I'm grown out of your knowledge. How is Miss Sarti?'

'Just for all the world the same, sir, as I suppose Dannel's told you;
for I reckon you've come from the Manor, though you're come uncommon
quick, to be sure.'

'Yes, he got to the Manor about one o'clock, and I set off as soon as I
could. She's not worse, is she?'

'No change, sir, for better or wuss. Will you please to walk in, sir? She
lies there takin' no notice o' nothin', no more nor a baby as is on'y a
week old, an' looks at me as blank as if she didn't know me. O what can
it be, Mr. Gilfil? How come she to leave the Manor? How's his honour an'
my lady?'

'In great trouble, Dorcas. Captain Wybrow, Sir Christopher's nephew, you
know, has died suddenly. Miss Sarti found him lying dead, and I think the
shock has affected her mind.'

'Eh, dear! that fine young gentlemen as was to be th' heir, as Dannel
told me about. I remember seein' him when he was a little un, a-visitin'
at the Manor. Well-a-day, what a grief to his honour and my lady. But
that poor Miss Tina--an' she found him a-lyin' dead? O dear, O dear!'

Dorcas had led the way into the best kitchen, as charming a room as best
kitchens used to be in farmhouses which had no parlours--the fire
reflected in a bright row of pewter plates and dishes; the sand-scoured
deal tables so clean you longed to stroke them; the salt-coffer in one
chimney-corner, and a three-cornered chair in the other, the walls behind
handsomely tapestried with flitches of bacon, and the ceiling ornamented
with pendent hams.

'Sit ye down, sir--do,' said Dorcas, moving the three-cornered chair,
'an' let me get you somethin' after your long journey. Here, Becky, come
an' tek the baby.'

Becky, a red-armed damsel, emerged from the adjoining back-kitchen, and
possessed herself of baby, whose feelings or fat made him conveniently
apathetic under the transference.

'What'll you please to tek, sir, as I can give you? I'll get you a rasher
o' bacon i' no time, an' I've got some tea, or be-like you'd tek a glass
o' rum-an'-water. I know we've got nothin' as you're used t' eat and
drink; but such as I hev, sir, I shall be proud to give you.'

'Thank you, Dorcas; I can't eat or drink anything. I'm not hungry or
tired. Let us talk about Tina. Has she spoken at all?'

'Niver since the fust words. "Dear Dorkis," says she, "tek me in;" an'
then went off into a faint, an' not a word has she spoken since. I get
her t' eat little bits an' sups o' things, but she teks no notice o'
nothin'. I've took up Bessie wi' me now an' then'--here Dorcas lifted to
her lap a curly-headed little girl of three, who was twisting a corner of
her mother's apron, and opening round eyes at the gentleman--'folks'll
tek notice o' children sometimes when they won't o' nothin' else. An' we
gathered the autumn crocuses out o' th' orchard, and Bessie carried 'em
up in her hand, an' put 'em on the bed. I knowed how fond Miss Tina was
o' flowers an' them things, when she was a little un. But she looked at
Bessie an' the flowers just the same as if she didn't see 'em. It cuts me
to th' heart to look at them eyes o' hers; I think they're bigger nor
iver, an' they look like my poor baby's as died, when it got so thin--O
dear, its little hands you could see thro' 'em. But I've great hopes if
she was to see you, sir, as come from the Manor, it might bring back her
mind, like.'

Maynard had that hope too, but he felt cold mists of fear gathering round
him after the few bright warm hours of joyful confidence which had passed
since he first heard that Caterina was alive. The thought _would_ urge
itself upon him that her mind and body might never recover the strain
that had been put upon them--that her delicate thread of life had already
nearly spun itself out.

'Go now, Dorcas, and see how she is, but don't say anything about my
being here. Perhaps it would be better for me to wait till daylight
before I see her, and yet it would be very hard to pass another night in
this way.'

Dorcas set down little Bessie, and went away. The three other children,
including young Daniel in his smock-frock, were standing opposite to Mr.
Gilfil, watching him still more shyly now they were without their
mother's countenance. He drew little Bessie towards him, and set her on
his knee. She shook her yellow curls out of her eyes, and looked up at
him as she said,--'Zoo tome to tee ze yady? Zoo mek her peak? What zoo do
to her? Tiss her?'

'Do you like to be kissed, Bessie?'

'Det,' said Bessie, immediately ducking down her head very low, in
resistance to the expected rejoinder.

'We've got two pups,' said young Daniel, emboldened by observing the
gentleman's amenities towards Bessie. 'Shall I show 'em yer? One's got
white spots.'

'Yes, let me see them.'

Daniel ran out, and presently reappeared with two blind puppies, eagerly
followed by the mother, affectionate though mongrel, and an exciting
scene was beginning when Dorcas returned and said,--'There's niver any
difference in her hardly. I think you needn't wait, sir. She lies very
still, as she al'ys does. I've put two candle i' the room, so as she may
see you well. You'll please t' excuse the room, sir, an' the cap as she
has on; it's one o' mine.'

Mr. Gilfil nodded silently, and rose to follow her up-stairs. They turned
in at the first door, their footsteps making little noise on the plaster
floor. The red-checkered linen curtains were drawn at the head of the
bed, and Dorcas had placed the candles on this side of the room, so that
the light might not fall oppressively on Caterina's eyes. When she had
opened the door, Dorcas whispered, 'I'd better leave you, sir, I think?'

Mr. Gilfil motioned assent, and advanced beyond the curtain. Caterina lay
with her eyes turned the other way, and seemed unconscious that any one
had entered. Her eyes, as Dorcas had said, looked larger than ever,
perhaps because her face was thinner and paler, and her hair quite
gathered away under one of Dorcas's thick caps. The small hands, too,
that lay listlessly on the outside of the bed-clothes were thinner than
ever. She looked younger than she really was, and any one seeing the tiny
face and hands for the first time might have thought they belonged to a
little girl of twelve, who was being taken away from coming instead of
past sorrow.

When Mr. Gilfil advanced and stood opposite to her, the light fell full
upon his face. A slight startled expression came over Caterina's eyes;
she looked at him earnestly for a few moments, then lifted up her hand as
if to beckon him to stoop down towards her, and whispered 'Maynard!'

He seated himself on the bed, and stooped down towards her. She whispered
again--'Maynard, did you see the dagger?'

He followed his first impulse in answering her, and it was a wise one.

'Yes,' he whispered, 'I found it in your pocket, and put it back again in
the cabinet.'

He took her hand in his and held it gently, awaiting what she would say
next. His heart swelled so with thankfulness that she had recognized him,
he could hardly repress a sob. Gradually her eyes became softer and less
intense in their gaze. The tears were slowly gathering, and presently
some large hot drops rolled down her cheek. Then the flood-gates were
opened, and the heart-easing stream gushed forth; deep sobs came; and for
nearly an hour she lay without speaking, while the heavy icy pressure
that withheld her misery from utterance was thus melting away. How
precious these tears were to Maynard, who day after day had been
shuddering at the continually recurring image of Tina with the dry
scorching stare of insanity!

By degrees the sobs subsided, she began to breathe calmly, and lay quiet
with her eyes shut. Patiently Maynard sat, not heeding the flight of the
hours, not heeding the old clock that ticked loudly on the landing. But
when it was nearly ten, Dorcas, impatiently anxious to know the result of
Mr. Gilfil's appearance, could not help stepping in on tip-toe. Without
moving, he whispered in her ear to supply him with candles, see that the
cow-boy had shaken down his mare, and go to bed--he would watch with
Caterina--a great change had come over her.

Before long, Tina's lips began to move. 'Maynard,' she whispered again.
He leaned towards her, and she went on.

'You know how wicked I am, then? You know what I meant to do with the
dagger?'

'Did you mean to kill yourself, Tina?'

She shook her head slowly, and then was silent for a long while. At last,
looking at him with solemn eyes, she whispered, 'To kill _him_.'

'Tina, my loved one, you would never have done it. God saw your whole
heart; He knows you would never harm a living thing. He watches over His
children, and will not let them do things they would pray with their
whole hearts not to do. It was the angry thought of a moment, and He
forgives you.'

She sank into silence again till it was nearly midnight. The weary
enfeebled spirit seemed to be making its slow way with difficulty through
the windings of thought; and when she began to whisper again, it was in
reply to Maynard's words.

'But I had had such wicked feelings for a long while. I was so angry, and
I hated Miss Assher so, and I didn't care what came to anybody, because I
was so miserable myself. I was full of bad passions. No one else was ever
so wicked.'

'Yes, Tina, many are just as wicked. I often have very wicked feelings,
and am tempted to do wrong things; but then my body is stronger than
yours, and I can hide my feelings and resist them better. They do not
master me so. You have seen the little birds when they are very young and
just begin to fly, how all their feathers are ruffled when they are
frightened or angry; they have no power over themselves left, and might
fall into a pit from mere fright. You were like one of those little
birds. Your sorrow and suffering had taken such hold of you, you hardly
knew what you did.'

He would not speak long. Lest he should tire her, and oppress her with
too many thoughts. Long pauses seemed needful for her before she could
concentrate her feelings in short words.

'But when I meant to do it,' was the next thing she whispered, 'it was as
bad as if I had done it.'

'No, my Tina,' answered Maynard slowly, waiting a little between each
sentence; 'we mean to do wicked things that we never could do, just as we
mean to do good or clever things that we never could do. Our thoughts are
often worse than we are, just as they are often better than we are. And
God sees us as we are altogether, not in separate feelings or actions, as
our fellow-men see us. We are always doing each other injustice, and
thinking better or worse of each other than we deserve, because we only
hear and see separate words and actions. We don't see each other's whole
nature. But God sees that you could not have committed that crime.'

Caterina shook her head slowly, and was silent. After a while,--'I don't
know,' she said; 'I seemed to see him coming towards me, just as he would
really have looked, and I meant--I meant to do it.'

'But when you saw him--tell me how it was, Tina?'

'I saw him lying on the ground and thought he was ill. I don't know how
it was then; I forgot everything. I knelt down and spoke to him, and--and
he took no notice of me, and his eyes were fixed, and I began to think he
was dead.'

'And you have never felt angry since?'

'O no, no; it is I who have been more wicked than any one; it is I who
have been wrong all through.'

'No, Tina; the fault has not all been yours; _he_ was wrong; he gave you
provocation. And wrong makes wrong. When people use us ill, we can hardly
help having ill feeling towards them. But that second wrong is more
excusable. I am more sinful than you, Tina; I have often had very bad
feelings towards Captain Wybrow; and if he had provoked me as he did you,
I should perhaps have done something more wicked.'

'O, it was not so wrong in him; he didn't know how he hurt me. How was it
likely he could love me as I loved him? And how could he marry a poor
little thing like me?'

Maynard made no reply to this, and there was again silence, till Tina
said, 'Then I was so deceitful; they didn't know how wicked I was.
Padroncello didn't know; his good little monkey he used to call me; and
if he had known, O how naughty he would have thought me!'

'My Tina, we have all our secret sins; and if we knew ourselves, we
should not judge each other harshly. Sir Christopher himself has felt,
since this trouble came upon him, that he has been too severe and
obstinate.'

In this way--in these broken confessions and answering words of
comfort--the hours wore on, from the deep black night to the chill early
twilight, and from early twilight to the first yellow streak of morning
parting the purple cloud. Mr. Gilfil felt as if in the long hours of that
night the bond that united his love for ever and alone to Caterina had
acquired fresh strength and sanctity. It is so with the human relations
that rest on the deep emotional sympathy of affection: every new day and
night of joy or sorrow is a new ground, a new consecration, for the love
that is nourished by memories as well as hopes--the love to which
perpetual repetition is not a weariness but a want, and to which a
separated joy is the beginning of pain.

The cocks began to crow; the gate swung; there was a tramp of footsteps
in the yard, and Mr. Gilfil heard Dorcas stirring. These sounds seemed to
affect Caterina, for she looked anxiously at him and said, 'Maynard, are
you going away?'

'No, I shall stay here at Callam until you are better, and then you will
go away too.'

'Never to the Manor again, O no! I shall live poorly, and get my own
bread.'

'Well, dearest, you shall do what you would like best. But I wish you
could go to sleep now. Try to rest quietly, and by-and-by you will
perhaps sit up a little. God has kept you in life in spite of all this
sorrow; it will be sinful not to try and make the best of His gift. Dear
Tina, you will try;--and little Bessie brought you some crocuses once,
you didn't notice the poor little thing; but you _will_ notice her when
she comes again, will you not?'

'I will try,' whispered Tina humbly, and then closed her eyes.

By the time the sun was above the horizon, scattering the clouds, and
shining with pleasant morning warmth through the little leaded window,
Caterina was asleep. Maynard gently loosed the tiny hand, cheered Dorcas
with the good news, and made his way to the village inn, with a thankful
heart that Tina had been so far herself again. Evidently the sight of him
had blended naturally with the memories in which her mind was absorbed,
and she had been led on to an unburthening of herself that might be the
beginning of a complete restoration. But her body was so enfeebled--her
soul so bruised--that the utmost tenderness and care would be necessary.
The next thing to be done was to send tidings to Sir Christopher and Lady
Cheverel; then to write and summon his sister, under whose care he had
determined to place Caterina. The Manor, even if she had been wishing to
return thither, would, he knew, be the most undesirable home for her at
present: every scene, every object there, was associated with still
unallayed anguish. If she were domesticated for a time with his mild
gentle sister, who had a peaceful home and a prattling little boy, Tina
might attach herself anew to life, and recover, partly at least, the
shock that had been given to her constitution. When he had written his
letters and taken a hasty breakfast, he was soon in his saddle again, on
his way to Sloppeter, where he would post them, and seek out a medical
man, to whom he might confide the moral causes of Caterina's enfeebled
condition.



Chapter 20


In less than a week from that time, Caterina was persuaded to travel in a
comfortable carriage, under the care of Mr. Gilfil and his sister, Mrs.
Heron, whose soft blue eyes and mild manners were very soothing to the
poor bruised child--the more so as they had an air of sisterly equality
which was quite new to her. Under Lady Cheverel's uncaressing
authoritative goodwill, Tina had always retained a certain constraint and
awe; and there was a sweetness before unknown in having a young and
gentle woman, like an elder sister, bending over her caressingly, and
speaking in low loving tones.

Maynard was almost angry with himself for feeling happy while Tina's mind
and body were still trembling on the verge of irrecoverable decline; but
the new delight of acting as her guardian angel, of being with her every
hour of the day, of devising everything for her comfort, of watching for
a ray of returning interest in her eyes, was too absorbing to leave room
for alarm or regret.

On the third day the carriage drove up to the door of Foxholm Parsonage,
where the Rev. Arthur Heron presented himself on the door-step, eager to
greet his returning Lucy, and holding by the hand a broad-chested
tawny-haired boy of five, who was smacking a miniature hunting-whip with
great vigour.

Nowhere was there a lawn more smooth-shaven, walks better swept, or a
porch more prettily festooned with creepers, than at Foxholm Parsonage,
standing snugly sheltered by beeches and chestnuts half-way down the
pretty green hill which was surmounted by the church, and overlooking a
village that straggled at its ease among pastures and meadows, surrounded
by wild hedgerows and broad shadowing trees, as yet unthreatened by
improved methods of farming.

Brightly the fire shone in the great parlour, and brightly in the little
pink bedroom, which was to be Caterina's, because it looked away from the
churchyard, and on to a farm homestead, with its little cluster of
beehive ricks, and placid groups of cows, and cheerful matin sounds of
healthy labour. Mrs. Heron, with the instinct of a delicate, impressible
woman, had written to her husband to have this room prepared for
Caterina. Contented speckled hens, industriously scratching for the
rarely-found corn, may sometimes do more for a sick heart than a grove of
nightingales; there is something irresistibly calming in the
unsentimental cheeriness of top-knotted pullets, unpetted sheep-dogs, and
patient cart-horses enjoying a drink of muddy water.

In such a home as this parsonage, a nest of comfort, without any of the
stateliness that would carry a suggestion of Cheverel Manor, Mr. Gilfil
was not unreasonable in hoping that Caterina might gradually shake off
the haunting vision of the past, and recover from the languor and
feebleness which were the physical sign of that vision's blighting
presence. The next thing to be done was to arrange an exchange of duties
with Mr. Heron's curate, that Maynard might be constantly near Caterina,
and watch over her progress. She seemed to like him to be with her, to
look uneasily for his return; and though she seldom spoke to him, she was
most contented when he sat by her, and held her tiny hand in his large
protecting grasp. But Oswald, _alias_ Ozzy, the broad-chested boy, was
perhaps her most beneficial companion. With something of his uncle's
person, he had inherited also his uncle's early taste for a domestic
menagerie, and was very imperative in demanding Tina's sympathy in the
welfare of his guinea-pigs, squirrels, and dormice. With him she seemed
now and then to have gleams of her childhood coming athwart the leaden
clouds, and many hours of winter went by the more easily for being spent
in Ozzy's nursery.

Mrs. Heron was not musical, and had no instrument; but one of Mr.
Gilfil's cares was to procure a harpsichord, and have it placed in the
drawing-room, always open, in the hope that some day the spirit of music
would be reawakened in Caterina, and she would be attracted towards the
instrument. But the winter was almost gone by, and he had waited in vain.
The utmost improvement in Tina had not gone beyond passiveness and
acquiescence--a quiet grateful smile, compliance with Oswald's whims, and
an increasing consciousness of what was being said and done around her.
Sometimes she would take up a bit of woman's work, but she seemed too
languid to persevere in it; her fingers soon dropped, and she relapsed
into motionless reverie.

At last--it was one of those bright days in the end of February, when the
sun is shining with a promise of approaching spring. Maynard had been
walking with her and Oswald round the garden to look at the snowdrops,
and she was resting on the sofa after the walk. Ozzy, roaming about the
room in quest of a forbidden pleasure, came to the harpsichord, and
struck the handle of his whip on a deep bass note.

The vibration rushed through Caterina like an electric shock: it seemed
as if at that instant a new soul were entering into her, and filling her
with a deeper, more significant life. She looked round, rose from the
sofa, and walked to the harpsichord. In a moment her fingers were
wandering with their old sweet method among the keys, and her soul was
floating in its true familiar element of delicious sound, as the
water-plant that lies withered and shrunken on the ground expands into
freedom and beauty when once more bathed in its native flood.

Maynard thanked God. An active power was re-awakened, and must make a new
epoch in Caterina's recovery.

Presently there were low liquid notes blending themselves with the harder
tones of the instrument, and gradually the pure voice swelled into
predominance. Little Ozzy stood in the middle of the room, with his mouth
open and his legs very wide apart, struck with something like awe at this
new power in 'Tin-Tin,' as he called her, whom he had been accustomed to
think of as a playfellow not at all clever, and very much in need of his
instruction on many subjects. A genie soaring with broad wings out of his
milkjug would not have been more astonishing.

Caterina was singing the very air from the _Orfeo_ which we heard her
singing so many months ago at the beginning of her sorrows. It was '_Ho
perduto_', Sir Christopher's favourite, and its notes seemed to carry on
their wings all the tenderest memories of her life, when Cheverel Manor
was still an untroubled home. The long happy days of childhood and
girlhood recovered all their rightful predominance over the short
interval of sin and sorrow.

She paused, and burst into tears--the first tears she had shed since she
had been at Foxholm. Maynard could not help hurrying towards her, putting
his arm round her, and leaning down to kiss her hair. She nestled to him,
and put up her little mouth to be kissed.

The delicate-tendrilled plant must have something to cling to. The soul
that was born anew to music was born anew to love.



Chapter 21


On the 30th of May 1790, a very pretty sight was seen by the villagers
assembled near the door of Foxholm Church. The sun was bright upon the
dewy grass, the air was alive with the murmur of bees and the trilling of
birds, the bushy blossoming chestnuts and the foamy flowering hedgerows
seemed to be crowding round to learn why the church-bells were ringing so
merrily, as Maynard Gilfil, his face bright with happiness, walked out of
the old Gothic doorway with Tina on his arm. The little face was still
pale, and there was a subdued melancholy in it, as of one who sups with
friends for the last time, and has his ear open for the signal that will
call him away. But the tiny hand rested with the pressure of contented
affection on Maynard's arm, and the dark eyes met his downward glance
with timid answering love.

There was no train of bridesmaids; only pretty Mrs. Heron leaning on the
arm of a dark-haired young man hitherto unknown in Foxholm, and holding
by the other hand little Ozzy, who exulted less in his new velvet cap and
tunic, than in the notion that he was bridesman to Tin-Tin.

Last of all came a couple whom the villagers eyed yet more eagerly than
the bride and bridegroom: a fine old gentleman, who looked round with
keen glances that cowed the conscious scapegraces among them, and a
stately lady in blue-and-white silk robes, who must surely be like Queen
Charlotte.

'Well, that theer's whut I coal a pictur,' said old 'Mester' Ford, a true
Staffordshire patriarch, who leaned on a stick and held his head very
much on one side, with the air of a man who had little hope of the
present generation, but would at all events give it the benefit of his
criticism. 'Th' yoong men noo-a-deys, the're poor squashy things--the'
looke well anoof, but the' woon't wear, the' woon't wear. Theer's ne'er
un'll carry his 'ears like that Sir Cris'fer Chuvrell.'

'Ull bet ye two pots,' said another of the seniors, 'as that yoongster
a-walkin' wi' th' parson's wife 'll be Sir Cris'fer's son--he fevours
him.'

'Nay, yae'll bet that wi' as big a fule as yersen; hae's noo son at all.
As I oonderstan', hae's the nevey as is' t' heir th' esteate. The
coochman as puts oop at th' White Hoss tellt me as theer war another
nevey, a deal finer chap t' looke at nor this un, as died in a fit, all
on a soodden, an' soo this here yoong un's got upo' th' perch istid.'

At the church gate Mr. Bates was standing in a new suit, ready to speak
words of good omen as the bride and bridegroom approached. He had come
all the way from Cheverel Manor on purpose to see Miss Tina happy once
more, and would have been in a state of unmixed joy but for the
inferiority of the wedding nosegays to what he could have furnished from
the garden at the Manor.

'God A'maighty bless ye both, an' send ye long laife an' happiness,' were
the good gardener's rather tremulous words.

'Thank you, uncle Bates; always remember Tina,' said the sweet low voice,
which fell on Mr. Bates's ear for the last time.

The wedding journey was to be a circuitous route to Shepperton, where Mr.
Gilfil had been for several months inducted as vicar. This small living
had been given him through the interest of an old friend who had some
claim on the gratitude of the Oldinport family; and it was a satisfaction
both to Maynard and Sir Christopher that a home to which he might take
Caterina had thus readily presented itself at a distance from Cheverel
Manor. For it had never yet been thought safe that she should revisit the
scene of her sufferings, her health continuing too delicate to encourage
the slightest risk of painful excitement. In a year or two, perhaps, by
the time old Mr. Crichley, the rector of Cumbermoor, should have left a
world of gout, and when Caterina would very likely be a happy mother,
Maynard might safely take up his abode at Cumbermoor, and Tina would feel
nothing but content at seeing a new 'little black-eyed monkey' running up
and down the gallery and gardens of the Manor. A mother dreads no
memories--those shadows have all melted away in the dawn of baby's smile.

In these hopes, and in the enjoyment of Tina's nestling affection, Mr.
Gilfil tasted a few months of perfect happiness. She had come to lean
entirely on his love, and to find life sweet for his sake. Her continual
languor and want of active interest was a natural consequence of bodily
feebleness, and the prospect of her becoming a mother was a new ground
for hoping the best. But the delicate plant had been too deeply bruised,
and in the struggle to put forth a blossom it died.

Tina died, and Maynard Gilfil's love went with her into deep silence for
evermore.



EPILOGUE


This was Mr. Gilfil's love-story, which lay far back from the time when
he sat, worn and grey, by his lonely fireside in Shepperton Vicarage.
Rich brown locks, passionate love, and deep early sorrow, strangely
different as they seem from the scanty white hairs, the apathetic
content, and the unexpectant quiescence of old age, are but part of the
same life's journey; as the bright Italian plains, with the sweet _Addio_
of their beckoning maidens, are part of the same day's travel that brings
us to the other side of the mountain, between the sombre rocky walls and
among the guttural voices of the Valais.

To those who were familiar only with the grey-haired Vicar, jogging
leisurely along on his old chestnut cob, it would perhaps have been hard
to believe that he had ever been the Maynard Gilfil who, with a heart
full of passion and tenderness, had urged his black Kitty to her swiftest
gallop on the way to Callam, or that the old gentleman of caustic tongue,
and bucolic tastes, and sparing habits, had known all the deep secrets of
devoted love, had struggled through its days and nights of anguish, and
trembled under its unspeakable joys.

And indeed the Mr. Gilfil of those late Shepperton days had more of the
knots and ruggedness of poor human nature than there lay any clear hint
of in the open-eyed loving Maynard. But it is with men as with trees: if
you lop off their finest branches, into which they were pouring their
young life-juice, the wounds will be healed over with some rough boss,
some odd excrescence; and what might have been a grand tree expanding
into liberal shade, is but a whimsical misshapen trunk. Many an
irritating fault, many an unlovely oddity, has come of a hard sorrow,
which has crushed and maimed the nature just when it was expanding into
plenteous beauty; and the trivial erring life which we visit with our
harsh blame, may be but as the unsteady motion of a man whose best limb
is withered.

And so the dear old Vicar, though he had something of the knotted
whimsical character of the poor lopped oak, had yet been sketched out by
nature as a noble tree. The heart of him was sound, the grain was of the
finest; and in the grey-haired man who filled his pocket with sugar-plums
for the little children, whose most biting words were directed against
the evil doing of the rich man, and who, with all his social pipes and
slipshod talk, never sank below the highest level of his parishioners'
respect, there was the main trunk of the same brave, faithful, tender
nature that had poured out the finest, freshest forces of its
life-current in a first and only love--the love of Tina.



JANET'S REPENTANCE



Chapter 1


'No!' said lawyer Dempster, in a loud, rasping, oratorical tone,
struggling against chronic huskiness, 'as long as my Maker grants me
power of voice and power of intellect, I will take every legal means to
resist the introduction of demoralizing, methodistical doctrine into this
parish; I will not supinely suffer an insult to be inflicted on our
venerable pastor, who has given us sound instruction for half a century.'

It was very warm everywhere that evening, but especially in the bar of
the Red Lion at Milby, where Mr. Dempster was seated mixing his third
glass of brandy-and-water. He was a tall and rather massive man, and the
front half of his large surface was so well dredged' with snuff, that the
cat, having inadvertently come near him, had been seized with a severe
fit of sneezing--an accident which, being cruelly misunderstood, had
caused her to be driven contumeliously from the bar. Mr. Dempster
habitually held his chin tucked in, and his head hanging forward, weighed
down, perhaps, by a preponderant occiput and a bulging forehead, between
which his closely-clipped coronal surface lay like a flat and new-mown
table-land. The only other observable features were puffy cheeks and a
protruding yet lipless mouth. Of his nose I can only say that it was
snuffy; and as Mr. Dempster was never caught in the act of looking at
anything in particular, it would have been difficult to swear to the
colour of his eyes.

'Well! I'll not stick at giving myself trouble to put down such
hypocritical cant,' said Mr. Tomlinson, the rich miller. 'I know well
enough what your Sunday evening lectures are good for--for wenches to
meet their sweethearts, and brew mischief. There's work enough with the
servant-maids as it is--such as I never heard the like of in my mother's
time, and it's all along o' your schooling and newfangled plans. Give me
a servant as can nayther read nor write, I say, and doesn't know the year
o' the Lord as she was born in. I should like to know what good those
Sunday schools have done, now. Why, the boys used to go a birds-nesting
of a Sunday morning; and a capital thing too--ask any farmer; and very
pretty it was to see the strings o' heggs hanging up in poor people's
houses. You'll not see 'em nowhere now.'

'Pooh!' said Mr. Luke Byles, who piqued himself on his reading, and was
in the habit of asking casual acquaintances if they knew anything of
Hobbes; 'it is right enough that the lower orders should be instructed.
But this sectarianism within the Church ought to be put down. In point of
fact, these Evangelicals are not Churchmen at all; they're no better than
Presbyterians.'

'Presbyterians? what are they?' inquired Mr. Tomlinson, who often said
his father had given him 'no eddication, and he didn't care who knowed
it; he could buy up most o' th' eddicated men he'd ever come across.'

'The Presbyterians,' said Mr. Dempster, in rather a louder tone than
before, holding that every appeal for information must naturally be
addressed to him, 'are a sect founded in the reign of Charles I., by a
man named John Presbyter, who hatched all the brood of Dissenting vermin
that crawl about in dirty alleys, and circumvent the lord of the manor in
order to get a few yards of ground for their pigeon-house conventicles.'

'No, no, Dempster,' said Mr. Luke Byles, 'you're out there.
Presbyterianism is derived from the word presbyter, meaning an elder.'

'Don't contradict _me_, sir!' stormed Dempster. 'I say the word
presbyterian is derived from John Presbyter, a miserable fanatic who wore
a suit of leather, and went about from town to village, and from village
to hamlet, inoculating the vulgar with the asinine virus of dissent.'

'Come, Byles, that seems a deal more likely,' said Mr. Tomlinson, in a
conciliatory tone, apparently of opinion that history was a process of
ingenious guessing.

'It's not a question of likelihood; it's a known fact. I could fetch you
my Encyclopaedia, and show it you this moment.'

'I don't care a straw, sir, either for you or your Encyclopaedia,' said
Mr. Dempster; 'a farrago of false information, of which you picked up an
imperfect copy in a cargo of waste paper. Will you tell _me_, sir, that I
don't know the origin of Presbyterianism? I, sir, a man known through the
county, intrusted with the affairs of half a score parishes; while you,
sir, are ignored by the very fleas that infest the miserable alley in
which you were bred.'

A loud and general laugh, with 'You'd better let him alone Byles';
'You'll not get the better of Dempster in a hurry', drowned the retort of
the too well-informed Mr. Byles, who, white with rage, rose and walked
out of the bar.

'A meddlesome, upstart, Jacobinical fellow, gentlemen', continued Mr.
Dempster. 'I was determined to be rid of him. What does he mean by
thrusting himself into our company? A man with about as much principle as
he has property, which, to my knowledge, is considerably less than none.
An insolvent atheist, gentlemen. A deistical prater, fit to sit in the
chimney-corner of a pot-house, and make blasphemous comments on the one
greasy newspaper fingered by beer-swilling tinkers. I will not suffer in
my company a man who speaks lightly of religion. The signature of a
fellow like Byles would be a blot on our protest.'

'And how do you get on with your signatures?' said Mr. Pilgrim, the
doctor, who had presented his large top-booted person within the bar
while Mr. Dempster was speaking. Mr. Pilgrim had just returned from one
of his long day's rounds among the farm-houses, in the course of which he
had sat down to two hearty meals that might have been mistaken for
dinners if he had not declared them to be 'snaps'; and as each snap had
been followed by a few glasses of 'mixture'; containing a less liberal
proportion of water than the articles he himself labelled with that
broadly generic name, he was in that condition which his groom indicated
with poetic ambiguity by saying that 'master had been in the sunshine'.
Under these circumstances, after a hard day, in which he had really had
no regular meal, it seemed a natural relaxation to step into the bar of
the Red Lion, where, as it was Saturday evening, he should be sure to
find Dempster, and hear the latest news about the protest against the
evening lecture.

'Have you hooked Ben Landor yet?' he continued, as he took two chairs,
one for his body, and the other for his right leg.

'No,' said Mr. Budd, the churchwarden, shaking his head; 'Ben Landor has
a way of keeping himself neutral in everything, and he doesn't like to
oppose his father. Old Landor is a regular Tryanite. But we haven't got
your name yet, Pilgrim.'

'Tut tut, Budd,' said Mr. Dempster, sarcastically, 'you don't expect
Pilgrim to sign? He's got a dozen Tryanite livers under his treatment.
Nothing like cant and methodism for producing a superfluity of bile.'

'O, I thought, as Pratt had declared himself a Tryanite, we should be
sure to get Pilgrim on our side.'

Mr. Pilgrim was not a man to sit quiet under a sarcasm, nature having
endowed him with a considerable share of self-defensive wit. In his most
sober moments he had an impediment in his speech, and as copious
gin-and-water stimulated not the speech but the impediment, he had time
to make his retort sufficiently bitter.

'Why, to tell you the truth, Budd,' he spluttered, 'there's a report all
over the town that Deb Traunter swears you shall take her with you as one
of the delegates, and they say there's to be a fine crowd at your door
the morning you start, to see the row. Knowing your tenderness for that
member of the fair sex, I thought you might find it impossible to deny
her. I hang back a little from signing on that account, as Prendergast
might not take the protest well if Deb Traunter went with you.'

Mr. Budd was a small, sleek-headed bachelor of five-and-forty, whose
scandalous life had long furnished his more moral neighbours with an
after-dinner joke. He had no other striking characteristic, except that
he was a currier of choleric temperament, so that you might wonder why he
had been chosen as clergyman's churchwarden, if I did not tell you that
he had recently been elected through Mr. Dempster's exertions, in order
that his zeal against the threatened evening lecture might be backed by
the dignity of office.

'Come, come, Pilgrim,' said Mr. Tomlinson, covering Mr. Budd's retreat,
'you know you like to wear the crier's coat,' green o' one side and red
o' the other. You've been to hear Tryan preach at Paddiford Common--you
know you have.'

'To be sure I have; and a capital sermon too. It's a pity you were not
there. It was addressed to those "void of understanding."'

'No, no, you'll never catch me there,' returned Mr. Tomlinson, not in the
least stung: 'he preaches without book, they say, just like a Dissenter.
It must be a rambling sort of a concern.'

'That's not the worst,' said Mr. Dempster; 'he preaches against good
works; says good works are not necessary to salvation--a sectarian,
antinomian, anabaptist doctrine. Tell a man he is not to be saved by his
works, and you open the flood-gates of all immorality. You see it in all
these canting innovators; they're all bad ones by the sly; smooth-faced,
drawling, hypocritical fellows, who pretend ginger isn't hot in their
mouths, and cry down all innocent pleasures; their hearts are all the
blacker for their sanctimonious outsides. Haven't we been warned against
those who make clean the outside of the cup and the platter? There's this
Tryan, now, he goes about praying with old women, and singing with
charity children; but what has he really got his eye on all the while? A
domineering ambitious Jesuit, gentlemen; all he wants is to get his foot
far enough into the parish to step into Crewe's shoes when the old
gentleman dies. Depend upon it, whenever you see a man pretending to be
better than his neighbours, that man has either some cunning end to
serve, or his heart is rotten with spiritual pride.'

As if to guarantee himself against this awful sin, Mr. Dempster seized
his glass of brandy-and-water, and tossed off the contents with even
greater rapidity than usual.

'Have you fixed on your third delegate yet?' said Mr. Pilgrim, whose
taste was for detail rather than for dissertation.

'That's the man,' answered Dempster, pointing to Mr. Tomlinson. 'We start
for Elmstoke Rectory on Tuesday morning; so, if you mean to give us your
signature, you must make up your mind pretty quickly, Pilgrim.'

Mr. Pilgrim did not in the least mean it, so he only said, 'I shouldn't
wonder if Tryan turns out too many for you, after all. He's got a
well-oiled tongue of his own, and has perhaps talked over Prendergast
into a determination to stand by him.'

'Ve-ry little fear of that,' said Dempster, in a confident tone.
'I'll soon bring him round. Tryan has got his match. I've plenty of rods
in pickle for Tryan.'

At this moment Boots entered the bar, and put a letter into the lawyer's
hands, saying, 'There's Trower's man just come into the yard wi' a gig,
sir, an' he's brought this here letter.'

Mr. Dempster read the letter and said, 'Tell him to turn the gig--I'll be
with him in a minute. Here, run to Gruby's and get this snuff-box filled
--quick!'

'Trower's worse, I suppose; eh, Dempster? Wants you to alter his will,
eh?' said Mr. Pilgrim.

'Business--business--business--I don't know exactly what,' answered the
cautious Dempster, rising deliberately from his chair, thrusting on his
low-crowned hat, and walking with a slow but not unsteady step out of the
bar.

'I never see Dempster's equal; if I did I'll be shot,' said Mr.
Tomlinson, looking after the lawyer admiringly. 'Why, he's drunk the best
part of a bottle o' brandy since here we've been sitting, and I'll bet a
guinea, when he's got to Trower's his head'll be as clear as mine. He
knows more about law when he's drunk than all the rest on 'em when
they're sober.'

'Ay, and other things too, besides law,' said Mr. Budd. 'Did you notice
how he took up Byles about the Presbyterians? Bless your heart, he knows
everything, Dempster does. He studied very hard when he was a young man.'



Chapter 2


The conversation just recorded is not, I am aware, remarkably refined or
witty; but if it had been, it could hardly have taken place in Milby when
Mr. Dempster flourished there, and old Mr. Crewe, the curate, was yet
alive.

More than a quarter of a century has slipped by since then, and in the
interval Milby has advanced at as rapid a pace as other market-towns in
her Majesty's dominions. By this time it has a handsome railway station,
where the drowsy London traveller may look out by the brilliant gas-light
and see perfectly sober papas and husbands alighting with their
leatherbags after transacting their day's business at the county town.
There is a resident rector, who appeals to the consciences of his hearers
with all the immense advantages of a divine who keeps his own carriage;
the church is enlarged by at least five hundred sittings; and the grammar
school, conducted on reformed principles, has its upper forms crowded
with the genteel youth of Milby. The gentlemen there fall into no other
excess at dinner-parties than the perfectly well-bred and virtuous excess
of stupidity; and though the ladies are still said sometimes to take too
much upon themselves, they are never known to take too much in any other
way. The conversation is sometimes quite literary, for there is a
flourishing book-club, and many of the younger ladies have carried their
studies so far as to have forgotten a little German. In short, Milby is
now a refined, moral, and enlightened town; no more resembling the Milby
of former days than the huge, long-skirted, drab great-coat that
embarrassed the ankles of our grandfathers resembled the light paletot in
which we tread jauntily through the muddiest streets, or than the
bottle-nosed Britons, rejoicing over a tankard, in the old sign of the
Two Travellers at Milby, resembled the severe-looking gentleman in straps
and high collars whom a modern artist has represented as sipping the
imaginary port of that well-known commercial house.

But pray, reader, dismiss from your mind all the refined and fashionable
ideas associated with this advanced state of things, and transport your
imagination to a time when Milby had no gas-lights; when the mail drove
up dusty or bespattered to the door of the Red Lion; when old Mr. Crewe,
the curate, in a brown Brutus wig, delivered inaudible sermons on a
Sunday, and on a week-day imparted the education of a gentleman--that is
to say, an arduous inacquaintance with Latin through the medium of the
Eton Grammar--to three pupils in the upper grammar-school.

If you had passed through Milby on the coach at that time, you would have
had no idea what important people lived there, and how very high a sense
of rank was prevalent among them. It was a dingy-looking town, with a
strong smell of tanning up one street and a great shaking of hand-looms
up another; and even in that focus of aristocracy, Friar's Gate, the
houses would not have seemed very imposing to the hasty and superficial
glance of a passenger. You might still less have suspected that the
figure in light fustian and large grey whiskers, leaning against the
grocer's door-post in High Street, was no less a person than Mr. Lowme,
one of the most aristocratic men in Milby, said to have been 'brought up
a gentleman', and to have had the gay habits accordant with that station,
keeping his harriers and other expensive animals. He was now quite an
elderly Lothario, reduced to the most economical sins; the prominent form
of his gaiety being this of lounging at Mr. Gruby's door, embarrassing
the servant-maids who came for grocery, and talking scandal with the rare
passers-by. Still, it was generally understood that Mr. Lowme belonged to
the highest circle of Milby society; his sons and daughters held up their
heads very high indeed; and in spite of his condescending way of chatting
and drinking with inferior people, he would himself have scorned any
closer identification with them. It must be admitted that he was of some
service to the town in this station at Mr. Gruby's door, for he and Mr.
Landor's Newfoundland dog, who stretched himself and gaped on the
opposite causeway, took something from the lifeless air that belonged to
the High Street on every day except Saturday.

Certainly, in spite of three assemblies and a charity ball in the winter,
the occasional advent of a ventriloquist, or a company of itinerant
players, some of whom were very highly thought of in London, and the
annual three-days' fair in June, Milby might be considered dull by people
of a hypochondriacal temperament; and perhaps this was one reason why
many of the middle-aged inhabitants, male and female, often found it
impossible to keep up their spirits without a very abundant supply of
stimulants. It is true there were several substantial men who had a
reputation for exceptional sobriety, so that Milby habits were really not
as bad as possible; and no one is warranted in saying that old Mr.
Crewe's flock could not have been worse without any clergyman at all.

The well-dressed parishioners generally were very regular church-goers,
and to the younger ladies and gentlemen I am inclined to think that the
Sunday morning service was the most exciting event of the week; for few
places could present a more brilliant show of out-door toilettes than
might be seen issuing from Milby church at one o'clock. There were the
four tall Miss Pittmans, old lawyer Pittman's daughters, with cannon
curls surmounted by large hats, and long, drooping ostrich feathers of
parrot green. There was Miss Phipps, with a crimson bonnet, very much
tilted up behind, and a cockade of stiff feathers on the summit. There
was Miss Landor, the belle of Milby, clad regally in purple and ermine,
with a plume of feathers neither drooping nor erect, but maintaining a
discreet medium. There were the three Miss Tomlinsons, who imitated Miss
Landor, and also wore ermine and feathers; but their beauty was
considered of a coarse order, and their square forms were quite unsuited
to the round tippet which fell with such remarkable grace on Miss
Landor's sloping shoulders. Looking at this plumed procession of ladies,
you would have formed rather a high idea of Milby wealth; yet there was
only one close carriage in the place, and that was old Mr. Landor's, the
banker, who, I think, never drove more than one horse. These
sumptuously-attired ladies flashed past the vulgar eye in one-horse
chaises, by no means of a superior build.

The young gentlemen, too, were not without their little Sunday displays
of costume, of a limited masculine kind. Mr. Eustace Landor, being nearly
of age, had recently acquired a diamond ring, together with the habit of
rubbing his hand through his hair. He was tall and dark, and thus had an
advantage which Mr. Alfred Phipps, who, like his sister, was blond and
stumpy, found it difficult to overtake, even by the severest attention to
shirt-studs, and the particular shade of brown that was best relieved by
gilt buttons.

The respect for the Sabbath, manifested in this attention to costume, was
unhappily counterbalanced by considerable levity of behaviour during the
prayers and sermon; for the young ladies and gentlemen of Milby were of a
very satirical turn, Miss Landor especially being considered remarkably
clever, and a terrible quiz; and the large congregation necessarily
containing many persons inferior in dress and demeanour to the
distinguished aristocratic minority, divine service offered irresistible
temptations to joking, through the medium of telegraphic communications
from the galleries to the aisles and back again. I remember blushing very
much, and thinking Miss Landor was laughing at me, because I was
appearing in coat-tails for the first time, when I saw her look down
slyly towards where I sat, and then turn with a titter to handsome Mr.
Bob Lowme, who had such beautiful whiskers meeting under his chin. But
perhaps she was not thinking of me, after all; for our pew was near the
pulpit, and there was almost always something funny about old Mr. Crewe.
His brown wig was hardly ever put on quite right, and he had a way of
raising his voice for three or four words, and lowering it again to a
mumble, so that we could scarcely make out a word he said; though, as my
mother observed, that was of no consequence in the prayers, since every
one had a prayer-book; and as for the sermon, she continued with some
causticity, we all of us heard more of it than we could remember when we
got home.

This youthful generation was not particularly literary. The young ladies
who frizzed their hair, and gathered it all into large barricades in
front of their heads, leaving their occipital region exposed without
ornament, as if that, being a back view, was of no consequence, dreamed
as little that their daughters would read a selection of German poetry,
and be able to express an admiration for Schiller, as that they would
turn all their hair the other way--that instead of threatening us with
barricades in front, they would be most killing in retreat,

     'And, like the Parthian, wound us as they fly.'

Those charming well-frizzed ladies spoke French indeed with considerable
facility, unshackled by any timid regard to idiom, and were in the habit
of conducting conversations in that language in the presence of their
less instructed elders; for according to the standard of those backward
days, their education had been very lavish, such young ladies as Miss
Landor, Miss Phipps, and the Miss Pittmans, having been 'finished' at
distant and expensive schools.

Old lawyer Pittman had once been a very important person indeed, having
in his earlier days managed the affairs of several gentlemen in those
parts, who had subsequently been obliged to sell everything and leave the
country, in which crisis Mr. Pittman accommodatingly stepped in as a
purchaser of their estates, taking on himself the risk and trouble of a
more leisurely sale; which, however, happened to turn out very much to
his advantage. Such opportunities occur quite unexpectedly in the way of
business. But I think Mr. Pittman must have been unlucky in his later
speculations, for now, in his old age, he had not the reputation of being
very rich; and though he rode slowly to his office in Milby every morning
on an old white hackney, he had to resign the chief profits, as well as
the active business of the firm, to his younger partner, Dempster. No one
in Milby considered old Pittman a virtuous man, and the elder townspeople
were not at all backward in narrating the least advantageous portions of
his biography in a very round unvarnished manner. Yet I could never
observe that they trusted him any the less, or liked him any the worse.
Indeed, Pittman and Dempster were the popular lawyers of Milby and its
neighbourhood, and Mr. Benjamin Landor, whom no one had anything
particular to say against, had a very meagre business in comparison.
Hardly a landholder, hardly a farmer, hardly a parish within ten miles of
Milby, whose affairs were not under the legal guardianship of Pittman and
Dempster; and I think the clients were proud of their lawyers'
unscrupulousness, as the patrons of the fancy's are proud of their
champion's 'condition'. It was not, to be sure, the thing for ordinary
life, but it was the thing to be bet on in a lawyer. Dempster's talent in
'bringing through' a client was a very common topic of conversation with
the farmers, over an incidental glass of grog at the Red Lion. 'He's a
long-headed feller, Dempster; why, it shows yer what a headpiece Dempster
has, as he can drink a bottle o' brandy at a sittin', an' yit see further
through a stone wall when he's done, than other folks 'll see through a
glass winder.' Even Mr. Jerome, chief member of the congregation at Salem
Chapel, an elderly man of very strict life, was one of Dempster's
clients, and had quite an exceptional indulgence for his attorney's
foibles, perhaps attributing them to the inevitable incompatibility of
law and gospel.

The standard of morality at Milby, you perceive, was not inconveniently
high in those good old times, and an ingenuous vice or two was what every
man expected of his neighbour. Old Mr. Crewe, the curate, for example,
was allowed to enjoy his avarice in comfort, without fear of sarcastic
parish demagogues; and his flock liked him all the better for having
scraped together a large fortune out of his school and curacy, and the
proceeds of the three thousand pounds he had with his little deaf wife.
It was clear he must be a learned man, for he had once had a large
private school in connection with the grammar school, and had even
numbered a young nobleman or two among his pupils. The fact that he read
nothing at all now, and that his mind seemed absorbed in the commonest
matters, was doubtless due to his having exhausted the resources of
erudition earlier in life. It is true he was not spoken of in terms of
high respect, and old Crewe's stingy housekeeping was a frequent subject
of jesting; but this was a good old-fashioned characteristic in a parson
who had been part of Milby life for half a century: it was like the dents
and disfigurements in an old family tankard, which no one would like to
part with for a smart new piece of plate fresh from Birmingham. The
parishioners saw no reason at all why it should be desirable to venerate
the parson or any one else; they were much more comfortable to look down
a little on their fellow-creatures.

Even the Dissent in Milby was then of a lax and indifferent kind. The
doctrine of adult baptism, struggling under a heavy load of debt, had let
off half its chapel area as a ribbon-shop; and Methodism was only to be
detected, as you detect curious larvae, by diligent search in dirty
corners. The Independents were the only Dissenters of whose existence
Milby gentility was at all conscious, and it had a vague idea that the
salient points of their creed were prayer without book, red brick, and
hypocrisy. The Independent chapel, known as Salem, stood red and
conspicuous in a broad street; more than one pew-holder kept a
brass-bound gig; and Mr. Jerome, a retired corn-factor, and the most
eminent member of the congregation, was one of the richest men in the
parish. But in spite of this apparent prosperity, together with the usual
amount of extemporaneous preaching mitigated by furtive notes, Salem
belied its name, and was not always the abode of peace. For some reason
or other, it was unfortunate in the choice of its ministers. The Rev. Mr.
Horner, elected with brilliant hopes, was discovered to be given to
tippling and quarrelling with his wife; the Rev. Mr. Rose's doctrine was
a little too 'high', verging on antinomianism; the Rev. Mr. Stickney's
gift as a preacher was found to be less striking on a more extended
acquaintance; and the Rev. Mr. Smith, a distinguished minister much
sought after in the iron districts, with a talent for poetry, became
objectionable from an inclination to exchange verses with the young
ladies of his congregation. It was reasonably argued that such verses as
Mr. Smith's must take a long time for their composition, and the habit
alluded to might intrench seriously on his pastoral duties. These
reverend gentlemen, one and all, gave it as their opinion that the Salem
church members were among the least enlightened of the Lord's people, and
that Milby was a low place, where they would have found it a severe lot
to have their lines fall for any long period; though to see the smart and
crowded congregation assembled on occasion of the annual charity sermon,
any one might have supposed that the minister of Salem had rather a
brilliant position in the ranks of Dissent. Several Church families used
to attend on that occasion, for Milby, in those uninstructed days, had
not yet heard that the schismatic ministers of Salem were obviously
typified by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and many Church people there were
of opinion that Dissent might be a weakness, but, after all, had no great
harm in it. These lax Episcopalians were, I believe, chiefly
tradespeople, who held that, inasmuch as Congregationalism consumed
candles, it ought to be supported, and accordingly made a point of
presenting themselves at Salem for the afternoon charity sermon, with the
expectation of being asked to hold a plate. Mr. Pilgrim, too, was always
there with his half-sovereign; for as there was no Dissenting doctor in
Milby, Mr. Pilgrim looked with great tolerance on all shades of religious
opinion that did not include a belief in cures by miracle.

On this point he had the concurrence of Mr. Pratt, the only other medical
man of the same standing in Milby. Otherwise, it was remarkable how
strongly these two clever men were contrasted. Pratt was middle-sized,
insinuating, and silvery-voiced; Pilgrim was tall, heavy, rough-mannered,
and spluttering. Both were considered to have great powers of
conversation, but Pratt's anecdotes were of the fine old crusted quality
to be procured only of Joe Miller; Pilgrim's had the full fruity flavour
of the most recent scandal. Pratt elegantly referred all diseases to
debility, and, with a proper contempt for symptomatic treatment, went to
the root of the matter with port wine and bark; Pilgrim was persuaded
that the evil principle in the human system was plethora, and he made war
against it with cupping, blistering, and cathartics. They had both been
long established in Milby, and as each had a sufficient practice, there
was no very malignant rivalry between them; on the contrary, they had
that sort of friendly contempt for each other which is always conducive
to a good understanding between professional men; and when any new
surgeon attempted, in an ill-advised hour, to settle himself in the town,
it was strikingly demonstrated how slight and trivial are theoretic
differences compared with the broad basis of common human feeling. There
was the most perfect unanimity between Pratt and Pilgrim in the
determination to drive away the obnoxious and too probably unqualified
intruder as soon as possible. Whether the first wonderful cure he
effected was on a patient of Pratt's or of Pilgrim's, one was as ready as
the other to pull the interloper by the nose, and both alike directed
their remarkable powers of conversation towards making the town too hot
for him. But by their respective patients these two distinguished men
were pitted against each other with great virulence. Mrs. Lowme could not
conceal her amazement that Mrs. Phipps should trust her life in the hands
of Pratt, who let her feed herself up to that degree, it was really
shocking to hear how short her breath was; and Mrs. Phipps had no
patience with Mrs. Lowme, living, as she did, on tea and broth, and
looking as yellow as any crow-flower, and yet letting Pilgrim bleed and
blister her and give her lowering medicine till her clothes hung on her
like a scarecrow's. On the whole, perhaps, Mr. Pilgrim's reputation was
at the higher pitch, and when any lady under Mr. Pratt's care was doing
ill, she was half disposed to think that a little more active treatment'
might suit her better. But without very definite provocation no one would
take so serious a step as to part with the family doctor, for in those
remote days there were few varieties of human hatred more formidable than
the medical. The doctor's estimate, even of a confiding patient, was apt
to rise and fall with the entries in the day-book; and I have known Mr.
Pilgrim discover the most unexpected virtues in a patient seized with a
promising illness. At such times you might have been glad to perceive
that there were some of Mr. Pilgrim's fellow-creatures of whom he
entertained a high opinion, and that he was liable to the amiable
weakness of a too admiring estimate. A good inflammation fired his
enthusiasm, and a lingering dropsy dissolved him into charity. Doubtless
this _crescendo_ of benevolence was partly due to feelings not at all
represented by the entries in the day-book; for in Mr. Pilgrim's heart,
too, there was a latent store of tenderness and pity which flowed forth
at the sight of suffering. Gradually, however, as his patients became
convalescent, his view of their characters became more dispassionate;
when they could relish mutton-chops, he began to admit that they had
foibles, and by the time they had swallowed their last dose of tonic, he
was alive to their most inexcusable faults. After this, the thermometer
of his regard rested at the moderate point of friendly back-biting, which
sufficed to make him agreeable in his morning visits to the amiable and
worthy persons who were yet far from convalescent.

Pratt's patients were profoundly uninteresting to Pilgrim: their very
diseases were despicable, and he would hardly have thought their bodies
worth dissecting. But of all Pratt's patients, Mr. Jerome was the one on
whom Mr. Pilgrim heaped the most unmitigated contempt. In spite of the
surgeon's wise tolerance, Dissent became odious to him in the person of
Mr. Jerome. Perhaps it was because that old gentleman, being rich, and
having very large yearly bills for medical attendance on himself and his
wife, nevertheless employed Pratt--neglected all the advantages of
'active treatment', and paid away his money without getting his system
lowered. On any other ground it is hard to explain a feeling of hostility
to Mr. Jerome, who was an excellent old gentleman, expressing a great
deal of goodwill towards his neighbours, not only in imperfect English,
but in loans of money to the ostensibly rich, and in sacks of potatoes to
the obviously poor.

Assuredly Milby had that salt of goodness which keeps the world together,
in greater abundance than was visible on the surface: innocent babes were
born there, sweetening their parents' hearts with simple joys; men and
women withering in disappointed worldliness, or bloated with sensual
ease, had better moments in which they pressed the hand of suffering with
sympathy, and were moved to deeds of neighbourly kindness. In church and
in chapel there were honest-hearted worshippers who strove to keep a
conscience void of offence; and even up the dimmest alleys you might have
found here and there a Wesleyan to whom Methodism was the vehicle of
peace on earth and goodwill to men. To a superficial glance, Milby was
nothing but dreary prose: a dingy town, surrounded by flat fields, lopped
elms, and sprawling manufacturing villages, which crept on and on with
their weaving-shops, till they threatened to graft themselves on the
town. But the sweet spring came to Milby notwithstanding: the elm-tops
were red with buds; the churchyard was starred with daisies; the lark
showered his love-music on the flat fields; the rainbows hung over the
dingy town, clothing the very roofs and chimneys in a strange
transfiguring beauty. And so it was with the human life there, which at
first seemed a dismal mixture of griping worldliness, vanity, ostrich
feathers, and the fumes of brandy: looking closer, you found some purity,
gentleness, and unselfishness, as you may have observed a scented
geranium giving forth its wholesome odours amidst blasphemy and gin in a
noisy pot-house. Little deaf Mrs. Crewe would often carry half her own
spare dinner to the sick and hungry; Miss Phipps, with her cockade of red
feathers, had a filial heart, and lighted her father's pipe with a
pleasant smile; and there were grey-haired men in drab gaiters, not at
all noticeable as you passed them in the street, whose integrity had been
the basis of their rich neighbour's wealth.

Such as the place was, the people there were entirely contented with it.
They fancied life must be but a dull affair for that large portion of
mankind who were necessarily shut out from an acquaintance with Milby
families, and that it must be an advantage to London and Liverpool that
Milby gentlemen occasionally visited those places on business. But the
inhabitants became more intensely conscious of the value they set upon
all their advantages, when innovation made its appearance in the person
of the Rev. Mr. Tryan, the new curate, at the chapel-of-ease on Paddiford
Common. It was soon notorious in Milby that Mr. Tryan held peculiar
opinions; that he preached extempore; that he was founding a religious
lending library in his remote corner of the parish; that he expounded the
Scriptures in cottages; and that his preaching was attracting the
Dissenters, and filling the very aisles of his church. The rumour sprang
up that Evangelicalism had invaded Milby parish--a murrain or blight all
the more terrible, because its nature was but dimly conjectured. Perhaps
Milby was one of the last spots to be reached by the wave of a new
movement and it was only now, when the tide was just on the turn, that
the limpets there got a sprinkling. Mr. Tryan was the first Evangelical
clergyman who had risen above the Milby horizon: hitherto that obnoxious
adjective had been unknown to the townspeople of any gentility; and there
were even many Dissenters who considered 'evangelical' simply a sort of
baptismal name to the magazine which circulated among the congregation of
Salem Chapel. But now, at length, the disease had been imported, when the
parishioners were expecting it as little as the innocent Red Indians
expected smallpox. As long as Mr. Tryan's hearers were confined to
Paddiford Common--which, by the by, was hardly recognizable as a common
at all, but was a dismal district where you heard the rattle of the
handloom, and breathed the smoke of coal-pits--the 'canting parson' could
be treated as a joke. Not so when a number of single ladies in the town
appeared to be infected, and even one or two men of substantial property,
with old Mr. Landor, the banker, at their head, seemed to be 'giving in'
to the new movement--when Mr. Tryan was known to be well received in
several good houses, where he was in the habit of finishing the evening
with exhortation and prayer. Evangelicalism was no longer a nuisance
existing merely in by-corners, which any well-clad person could avoid; it
was invading the very drawing-rooms, mingling itself with the comfortable
fumes of port-wine and brandy, threatening to deaden with its murky
breath all the splendour of the ostrich feathers, and to stifle Milby
ingenuousness, not pretending to be better than its neighbours, with a
cloud of cant and lugubrious hypocrisy. The alarm reached its climax when
it was reported that Mr. Tryan was endeavouring to obtain authority from
Mr. Prendergast, the non-resident rector, to establish a Sunday evening
lecture in the parish church, on the ground that old Mr. Crewe did not
preach the Gospel.

It now first appeared how surprisingly high a value Milby in general set
on the ministrations of Mr. Crewe; how convinced it was that Mr. Crewe
was the model of a parish priest, and his sermons the soundest and most
edifying that had ever remained unheard by a church-going population. All
allusions to his brown wig were suppressed, and by a rhetorical figure
his name was associated with venerable grey hairs; the attempted
intrusion of Mr. Tryan was an insult to a man deep in years and learning;
moreover, it was an insolent effort to thrust himself forward in a parish
where he was clearly distasteful to the superior portion of its
inhabitants. The town was divided into two zealous parties, the Tryanites
and anti-Tryanites; and by the exertions of the eloquent Dempster, the
anti-Tryanite virulence was soon developed into an organized opposition.
A protest against the meditated evening lecture was framed by that
orthodox attorney, and, after being numerously signed, was to be carried
to Mr. Prendergast by three delegates representing the intellect,
morality, and wealth of Milby. The intellect, you perceive, was to be
personified in Mr. Dempster, the morality in Mr. Budd, and the wealth in
Mr. Tomlinson; and the distinguished triad was to set out on its great
mission, as we have seen, on the third day from that warm Saturday
evening when the conversation recorded in the previous chapter took place
in the bar of the Red Lion.



Chapter 3


It was quite as warm on the following Thursday evening, when Mr. Dempster
and his colleagues were to return from their mission to Elmstoke Rectory;
but it was much pleasanter in Mrs. Linnet's parlour than in the bar of
the Red Lion. Through the open window came the scent of mignonette and
honeysuckle; the grass-plot in front of the house was shaded by a little
plantation of Gueldres roses, syringas, and laburnums; the noise of looms
and carts and unmelodious voices reached the ear simply as an agreeable
murmur, for Mrs. Linnet's house was situated quite on the outskirts of
Paddiford Common; and the only sound likely to disturb the serenity of
the feminine party assembled there, was the occasional buzz of intrusive
wasps, apparently mistaking each lady's head for a sugar-basin. No
sugar-basin was visible in Mrs. Linnet's parlour, for the time of tea was
not yet, and the round table was littered with books which the ladies
were covering with black canvass as a reinforcement of the new Paddiford
Lending Library. Miss Linnet, whose manuscript was the neatest type of
zigzag, was seated at a small table apart, writing on green paper
tickets, which were to be pasted on the covers. Miss Linnet had other
accomplishments besides that of a neat manuscript, and an index to some
of them might be found in the ornaments of the room. She had always
combined a love of serious and poetical reading with her skill in
fancy-work, and the neatly-bound copies of Dryden's 'Virgil,' Hannah
More's 'Sacred Dramas,' Falconer's 'Shipwreck,' Mason 'On
Self-Knowledge,' 'Rasselas,' and Burke 'On the Sublime and Beautiful,'
which were the chief ornaments of the bookcase, were all inscribed with
her name, and had been bought with her pocket-money when she was in her
teens. It must have been at least fifteen years since the latest of those
purchases, but Miss Linnet's skill in fancy-work appeared to have gone
through more numerous phases than her literary taste; for the japanned
boxes, the alum and sealing-wax baskets, the fan-dolls, the 'transferred'
landscapes on the fire-screens, and the recent bouquets of wax-flowers,
showed a disparity in freshness which made them referable to widely
different periods. Wax-flowers presuppose delicate fingers and robust
patience, but there are still many points of mind and person which they
leave vague and problematic; so I must tell you that Miss Linnet had dark
ringlets, a sallow complexion, and an amiable disposition. As to her
features, there was not much to criticize in them, for she had little
nose, less lip, and no eyebrow; and as to her intellect, her friend Mrs.
Pettifer often said: 'She didn't know a more sensible person to talk to
than Mary Linnet. There was no one she liked better to come and take a
quiet cup of tea with her, and read a little of Klopstock's 'Messiah.'
Mary Linnet had often told her a great deal of her mind when they were
sitting together: she said there were many things to bear in every
condition of life, and nothing should induce her to marry without a
prospect of happiness. Once, when Mrs. Pettifer admired her wax-flowers,
she said, "Ah, Mrs. Pettifer, think of the beauties of nature!" She
always spoke very prettily, did Mary Linnet; very different, indeed, from
Rebecca.'

Miss Rebecca Linnet, indeed, was not a general favourite. While most
people thought it a pity that a sensible woman like Mary had not found a
good husband--and even her female friends said nothing more ill-natured
of her, than that her face was like a piece of putty with two Scotch
pebbles stuck in it--Rebecca was always spoken of sarcastically, and it
was a customary kind of banter with young ladies to recommend her as a
wife to any gentleman they happened to be flirting with--her fat, her
finery, and her thick ankles sufficing to give piquancy to the joke,
notwithstanding the absence of novelty. Miss Rebecca, however, possessed
the accomplishment of music, and her singing of 'Oh no, we never mention
her', and 'The Soldier's Tear', was so desirable an accession to the
pleasures of a tea-party that no one cared to offend her, especially as
Rebecca had a high spirit of her own, and in spite of her expansively
rounded contour, had a particularly sharp tongue. Her reading had been
more extensive than her sister's, embracing most of the fiction in Mr.
Procter's circulating library, and nothing but an acquaintance with the
course of her studies could afford a clue to the rapid transitions in her
dress, which were suggested by the style of beauty, whether sentimental,
sprightly, or severe, possessed by the heroine of the three volumes
actually in perusal. A piece of lace, which drooped round the edge of her
white bonnet one week, had been rejected by the next; and her cheeks,
which, on Whitsunday, loomed through a Turnerian haze of network, were,
on Trinity Sunday, seen reposing in distinct red outline on her shelving
bust, like the sun on a fog-bank. The black velvet, meeting with a
crystal clasp, which one evening encircled her head, had on another
descended to her neck, and on a third to her waist, suggesting to an
active imagination either a magical contraction of the ornament, or a
fearful ratio of expansion in Miss Rebecca's person. With this constant
application of art to dress, she could have had little time for
fancy-work, even if she had not been destitute of her sister's taste for
that delightful and truly feminine occupation. And here, at least, you
perceive the justice of the Milby opinion as to the relative suitability
of the two Miss Linnets for matrimony. When a man is happy enough to win
the affections of a sweet girl, who can soothe his cares with _crochet_,
and respond to all his most cherished ideas with beaded urn-rugs and
chair-covers in German wool, he has, at least, a guarantee of domestic
comfort, whatever trials may await him out of doors. What a resource it
is under fatigue and irritation to have your drawing-room well supplied
with small mats, which would always be ready if you ever wanted to set
anything on them! And what styptic for a bleeding heart can equal copious
squares of _crochet_, which are useful for slipping down the moment you
touch them? How our fathers managed without _crochet_ is the wonder; but
I believe some small and feeble substitute existed in their time under
the name of 'tatting'. Rebecca Linnet, however, had neglected tatting as
well as other forms of fancy-work. At school, to be sure, she had spent a
great deal of time in acquiring flower-painting, according to the
ingenious method then fashionable, of applying the shapes of leaves and
flowers cut out in cardboard, and scrubbing a brush over the surface thus
conveniently marked out; but even the spill-cases and hand-screens which
were her last half-year's performances in that way were not considered
eminently successful, and had long been consigned to the retirement of
the best bedroom. Thus there was a good deal of family unlikeness between
Rebecca and her sister, and I am afraid there was also a little family
dislike; but Mary's disapproval had usually been kept imprisoned behind
her thin lips, for Rebecca was not only of a headstrong disposition, but
was her mother's pet; the old lady being herself stout, and preferring a
more showy style of cap than she could prevail on her daughter Mary to
make up for her.

But I have been describing Miss Rebecca as she was in former days only,
for her appearance this evening, as she sits pasting on the green
tickets, is in striking contrast with what it was three or four months
ago. Her plain grey gingham dress and plain white collar could never have
belonged to her ward-robe before that date; and though she is not reduced
in size, and her brown hair will do nothing but hang in crisp ringlets
down her large cheeks, there is a change in her air and expression which
seems to shed a softened light over her person, and make her look like a
peony in the shade, instead of the same flower flaunting in a parterre in
the hot sunlight.

No one could deny that Evangelicalism had wrought a change for the better
in Rebecca Linnet's person--not even Miss Pratt, the thin stiff lady in
spectacles, seated opposite to her, who always had a peculiar repulsion
for 'females with a gross habit of body'. Miss Pratt was an old maid; but
that is a no more definite description than if I had said she was in the
autumn of life. Was it autumn when the orchards are fragrant with apples,
or autumn when the oaks are brown, or autumn when the last yellow leaves
are fluttering in the chill breeze? The young ladies in Milby would have
told you that the Miss Linnets were old maids; but the Miss Linnets were
to Miss Pratt what the apple-scented September is to the bare, nipping
days of late November. The Miss Linnets were in that temperate zone of
old-maidism, when a woman will not say but that if a man of suitable
years and character were to offer himself, she might be induced to tread
the remainder of life's vale in company with him; Miss Pratt was in that
arctic region where a woman is confident that at no time of life would
she have consented to give up her liberty, and that she has never seen
the man whom she would engage to honour and obey. If the Miss Linnets
were old maids, they were old maids with natural ringlets and embonpoint,
not to say obesity; Miss Pratt was an old maid with a cap, a braided
'front', a backbone and appendages. Miss Pratt was the one blue-stocking
of Milby, possessing, she said, no less than five hundred volumes,
competent, as her brother the doctor often observed, to conduct a
conversation on any topic whatever, and occasionally dabbling a little in
authorship, though it was understood that she had never put forth the
full powers of her mind in print. Her 'Letters to a Young Man on his
Entrance into Life', and 'De Courcy, or the Rash Promise, a Tale for
Youth', were mere trifles which she had been induced to publish because
they were calculated for popular utility, but they were nothing to what
she had for years had by her in manuscript. Her latest production had
been Six Stanzas, addressed to the Rev. Edgar Tryan, printed on glazed
paper with a neat border, and beginning, 'Forward, young wrestler for the
truth!'

Miss Pratt having kept her brother's house during his long widowhood, his
daughter, Miss Eliza, had had the advantage of being educated by her
aunt, and thus of imbibing a very strong antipathy to all that remarkable
woman's tastes and opinions. The silent handsome girl of two-and-twenty,
who is covering the 'Memoirs of Felix Neff,' is Miss Eliza Pratt; and the
small elderly lady in dowdy clothing, who is also working diligently, is
Mrs. Pettifer, a superior-minded widow, much valued in Milby, being such
a very respectable person to have in the house in case of illness, and of
quite too good a family to receive any money-payment--you could always
send her garden-stuff that would make her ample amends. Miss Pratt has
enough to do in commenting on the heap of volumes before her, feeling it
a responsibility entailed on her by her great powers of mind to leave
nothing without the advantage of her opinion. Whatever was good must be
sprinkled with the chrism of her approval; whatever was evil must be
blighted by her condemnation.

'Upon my word,' she said, in a deliberate high voice, as if she were
dictating to an amanuensis, 'it is a most admirable selection of works
for popular reading, this that our excellent Mr. Tryan has made. I do not
know whether, if the task had been confided to me, I could have made a
selection, combining in a higher degree religious instruction and
edification with a due admixture of the purer species of amusement. This
story of 'Father Clement' is a library in itself on the errors of
Romanism. I have ever considered fiction a suitable form for conveying
moral and religious instruction, as I have shown in my little work 'De
Courcy,' which, as a very clever writer in the Crompton 'Argus' said at
the time of its appearance, is the light vehicle of a weighty moral.'

'One 'ud think,' said Mrs. Linnet, who also had her spectacles on, but
chiefly for the purpose of seeing what the others were doing, 'there
didn't want much to drive people away from a religion as makes 'em walk
barefoot over stone floors, like that girl in Father Clement--sending the
blood up to the head frightful. Anybody might see that was an unnat'ral
creed.'

'Yes,' said Miss Pratt, 'but asceticism is not the root of the error, as
Mr. Tryan was telling us the other evening--it is the denial of the great
doctrine of justification by faith. Much as I had reflected on all
subjects in the course of my life, I am indebted to Mr. Tryan for opening
my eyes to the full importance of that cardinal doctrine of the
Reformation. From a child I had a deep sense of religion, but in my early
days the Gospel light was obscured in the English Church, notwithstanding
the possession of our incomparable Liturgy, than which I know no human
composition more faultless and sublime. As I tell Eliza I was not blest
as she is at the age of two-and-twenty, in knowing a clergyman who unites
all that is great and admirable in intellect with the highest spiritual
gifts. I am no contemptible judge of a man's acquirements, and I assure
you I have tested Mr. Tryan's by questions which are a pretty severe
touchstone. It is true, I sometimes carry him a little beyond the depth
of the other listeners. Profound learning,' continued Miss Pratt,
shutting her spectacles, and tapping them on the book before her, 'has
not many to estimate it in Milby.'

'Miss Pratt,' said Rebecca, 'will you please give me Scott's "Force of
Truth?" There--that small book lying against the "Life of Legh
Richmond."'

'That's a book I'm very fond of--the "Life of Legh Richmond,"' said Mrs.
Linnet. 'He found out all about that woman at Tutbury as pretended to
live without eating. Stuff and nonsense!'

Mrs. Linnet had become a reader of religious books since Mr. Tryan's
advent, and as she was in the habit of confining her perusal to the
purely secular portions, which bore a very small proportion to the whole,
she could make rapid progress through a large number of volumes. On
taking up the biography of a celebrated preacher, she immediately turned
to the end to see what disease he died of; and if his legs swelled, as
her own occasionally did, she felt a stronger interest in ascertaining
any earlier facts in the history of the dropsical divine--whether he had
ever fallen off a stage coach, whether he had married more than one wife,
and, in general, any adventures or repartees recorded of him previous to
the epoch of his conversion. She then glanced over the letters and diary,
and wherever there was a predominance of Zion, the River of Life, and
notes of exclamation, she turned over to the next page; but any passage
in which she saw such promising nouns as 'small-pox', 'pony', or 'boots
and shoes', at once arrested her.

'It is half-past six now,' said Miss Linnet, looking at her watch as the
servant appeared with the tea-tray. 'I suppose the delegates are come
back by this time. If Mr. Tryan had not so kindly promised to call and
let us know, I should hardly rest without walking to Milby myself to know
what answer they have brought back. It is a great privilege for us, Mr.
Tryan living at Mrs. Wagstaff's, for he is often able to take us on his
way backwards and forwards into the town.'

'I wonder if there's another man in the world who has been brought up as
Mr. Tryan has, that would choose to live in those small close rooms on
the common, among heaps of dirty cottages, for the sake of being near the
poor people,' said Mrs. Pettifer. 'I'm afraid he hurts his health by it;
he looks to me far from strong.'

'Ah,' said Miss Pratt, 'I understand he is of a highly respectable family
indeed, in Huntingdonshire. I heard him myself speak of his father's
carriage--quite incidentally, you know--and Eliza tells me what very fine
cambric handkerchiefs he uses. My eyes are not good enough to see such
things, but I know what breeding is as well as most people, and it is
easy to see that Mr. Tryan is quite _comme il faw_, to use a French
expression.'

'I should like to tell him better nor use fine cambric i' this place,
where there's such washing, it's a shame to be seen,' said Mrs. Linnet;
'he'll get 'em tore to pieces. Good lawn 'ud be far better. I saw what a
colour his linen looked at the sacrament last Sunday. Mary's making him a
black silk case to hold his bands, but I told her she'd more need wash
'em for him.'

'O mother!' said Rebecca, with solemn severity, 'pray don't think of
pocket-handkerchiefs and linen, when we are talking of such a man. And at
this moment, too, when he is perhaps having to bear a heavy blow. We have
more need to help him by prayer, as Aaron and Hur held up the hands of
Moses. We don't know but wickedness may have triumphed, and Mr.
Prendergast may have consented to forbid the lecture. There have been
dispensations quite as mysterious, and Satan is evidently putting forth
all his strength to resist the entrance of the Gospel into Milby Church.'

'You niver spoke a truer word than that, my dear,' said Mrs. Linnet, who
accepted all religious phrases, but was extremely rationalistic in her
interpretation; 'for if iver Old Harry appeared in a human form, it's
that Dempster. It was all through him as we got cheated out o' Pye's
Croft, making out as the title wasn't good. Such lawyer's villany! As if
paying good money wasn't title enough to anything. If your father as is
dead and gone had been worthy to know it! But he'll have a fall some day,
Dempster will. Mark my words.'

'Ah, out of his carriage, you mean,' said Miss Pratt, who, in the
movement occasioned by the clearing of the table, had lost the first part
of Mrs. Linnet's speech. 'It certainly is alarming to see him driving
home from Rotherby, flogging his galloping horse like a madman. My
brother has often said he expected every Thursday evening to be called in
to set some of Dempster's bones; but I suppose he may drop that
expectation now, for we are given to understand from good authority that
he has forbidden his wife to call my brother in again either to herself
or her mother. He swears no Tryanite doctor shall attend his family. I
have reason to believe that Pilgrim was called in to Mrs. Dempster's
mother the other day.'

'Poor Mrs. Raynor! she's glad to do anything for the sake of peace and
quietness,' said Mrs. Pettifer; 'but it's no trifle at her time of life
to part with a doctor who knows her constitution.'

'What trouble that poor woman has to bear in her old age!' said Mary
Linnet, 'to see her daughter leading such a life!--an only daughter, too,
that she doats on.'

'Yes, indeed,' said Miss Pratt. 'We, of course, know more about it than
most people, my brother having attended the family so many years. For my
part, I never thought well of the marriage; and I endeavoured to dissuade
my brother when Mrs. Raynor asked him to give Janet away at the wedding.
'If you will take my advice, Richard,' I said, 'you will have nothing to
do with that marriage.' And he has seen the justice of my opinion since.
Mrs. Raynor herself was against the connection at first; but she always
spoiled Janet, and I fear, too, she was won over by a foolish pride in
having her daughter marry a professional man. I fear it was so. No one
but myself, I think, foresaw the extent of the evil.'

'Well,' said Mrs. Pettifer, 'Janet had nothing to look forward to but
being a governess; and it was hard for Mrs. Raynor to have to work at
millinering--a woman well brought up, and her husband a man who held his
head as high as any man in Thurston. And it isn't everybody that sees
everything fifteen years beforehand. Robert Dempster was the cleverest
man in Milby; and there weren't many young men fit to talk to Janet.'

'It is a thousand pities,' said Miss Pratt, choosing to ignore Mrs.
Pettifer's slight sarcasm, 'for I certainly did consider Janet Raynor the
most promising young woman of my acquaintance;--a little too much lifted
up, perhaps, by her superior education, and too much given to satire, but
able to express herself very well indeed about any book I recommended to
her perusal. There is no young woman in Milby now who can be compared
with what Janet was when she was married, either in mind or person. I
consider Miss Landor far, far below her. Indeed, I cannot say much for
the mental superiority of the young ladies in our first families. They
are superficial--very superficial.'

'She made the handsomest bride that ever came out of Milby church, too,'
said Mrs. Pettifer. 'Such a very fine figure! And it showed off her white
poplin so well. And what a pretty smile Janet always had! Poor thing, she
keeps that now for all her old friends. I never see her but she has
something pretty to say to me--living in the same street, you know, I
can't help seeing her often, though I've never been to the house since
Dempster broke out on me in one of his drunken fits. She comes to me
sometimes, poor thing, looking so strange, anybody passing her in the
street may see plain enough what's the matter; but she's always got some
little good-natured plan in her head for all that. Only last night I met
her, I saw five yards off she wasn't fit to be out; but she had a basin
in her hand, full of something she was carrying to Sally Martin, the
deformed girl that's in a consumption.'

'But she is just as bitter against Mr. Tryan as her husband is, I
understand,' said Rebecca. 'Her heart is very much set against the truth,
for I understand she bought Mr. Tryan's sermons on purpose to ridicule
them to Mrs. Crewe.

'Well, poor thing,' said Mrs. Pettifer, 'you know she stands up for
everything her husband says and does. She never will admit to anybody
that he is not a good husband.'

'That is her pride,' said Miss Pratt. 'She married him in opposition to
the advice of her best friends, and now she is not willing to admit that
she was wrong. Why, even to my brother--and a medical attendant, you
know, can hardly fail to be acquainted with family secrets--she has
always pretended to have the highest respect for her husband's qualities.
Poor Mrs. Raynor, however, is very well aware that every one knows the
real state of things. Latterly, she has not even avoided the subject with
me. The very last time I called on her she said, "Have you been to see my
poor daughter?" and burst into tears.'

'Pride or no pride,' said Mrs. Pettifer, 'I shall always stand up for
Janet Dempster. She sat up with me night after night when I had that
attack of rheumatic fever six years ago. There's great excuses for her.
When a woman can't think of her husband coming home without trembling,
it's enough to make her drink something to blunt her feelings--and no
children either, to keep her from it. You and me might do the same, if we
were in her place.'

'Speak for yourself, Mrs. Pettifer,' said Miss Pratt. 'Under no
circumstances can I imagine myself resorting to a practice so degrading.
A woman should find support in her own strength of mind.'

'I think,' said Rebecca, who considered Miss Pratt still very blind in
spiritual things, notwithstanding her assumption of enlightenment, 'she
will find poor support if she trusts only to her own strength. She must
seek aid elsewhere than in herself.'

Happily the removal of the tea-things just then created a little
confusion, which aided Miss Pratt to repress her resentment at Rebecca's
presumption in correcting her--a person like Rebecca Linnet! who six
months ago was as flighty and vain a woman as Miss Pratt had ever known
--so very unconscious of her unfortunate person!

The ladies had scarcely been seated at their work another hour, when the
sun was sinking, and the clouds that flecked the sky to the very zenith
were every moment taking on a brighter gold. The gate of the little
garden opened, and Miss Linnet, seated at her small table near the
window, saw Mr. Tryan enter.

'There is Mr. Tryan,' she said, and her pale cheek was lighted up with a
little blush that would have made her look more attractive to almost any
one except Miss Eliza Pratt, whose fine grey eyes allowed few things to
escape her silent observation. 'Mary Linnet gets more and more in love
with Mr. Tryan,' thought Miss Eliza; 'it is really pitiable to see such
feelings in a woman of her age, with those old-maidish little ringlets. I
daresay she flatters herself Mr. Tryan may fall in love with her, because
he makes her useful among the poor.' At the same time, Miss Eliza, as she
bent her handsome head and large cannon curls with apparent calmness over
her work, felt a considerable internal flutter when she heard the knock
at the door. Rebecca had less self-command. She felt too much agitated to
go on with her pasting, and clutched the leg of the table to counteract
the trembling in her hands.

Poor women's hearts! Heaven forbid that I should laugh at you, and make
cheap jests on your susceptibility towards the clerical sex, as if it had
nothing deeper or more lovely in it than the mere vulgar angling for a
husband. Even in these enlightened days, many a curate who, considered
abstractedly, is nothing more than a sleek bimanous animal in a white
neck-cloth, with views more or less Anglican, and furtively addicted to
the flute, is adored by a girl who has coarse brothers, or by a solitary
woman who would like to be a helpmate in good works beyond her own means,
simply because he seems to them the model of refinement and of public
usefulness. What wonder, then, that in Milby society, such as I have told
you it was a very long while ago, a zealous evangelical clergyman, aged
thirty-three, called forth all the little agitations that belong to the
divine necessity of loving, implanted in the Miss Linnets, with their
seven or eight lustrums and their unfashionable ringlets, no less than in
Miss Eliza Pratt, with her youthful bloom and her ample cannon curls.

But Mr. Tryan has entered the room, and the strange light from the golden
sky falling on his light-brown hair, which is brushed high up round his
head, makes it look almost like an aureole. His grey eyes, too, shine
with unwonted brilliancy this evening. They were not remarkable eyes, but
they accorded completely in their changing light with the changing
expression of his person, which indicated the paradoxical character often
observable in a large-limbed sanguine blond; at once mild and irritable,
gentle and overbearing, indolent and resolute, self-conscious and dreamy.
Except that the well-filled lips had something of the artificially
compressed look which is often the sign of a struggle to keep the dragon
undermost, and that the complexion was rather pallid, giving the idea of
imperfect health, Mr. Tryan's face in repose was that of an ordinary
whiskerless blond, and it seemed difficult to refer a certain air of
distinction about him to anything in particular, unless it were his
delicate hands and well-shapen feet.

It was a great anomaly to the Milby mind that a canting evangelical
parson, who would take tea with tradespeople, and make friends of vulgar
women like the Linnets, should have so much the air of a gentleman, and
be so little like the splay-footed Mr. Stickney of Salem, to whom he
approximated so closely in doctrine. And this want of correspondence
between the physique and the creed had excited no less surprise in the
larger town of Laxeter, where Mr. Tryan had formerly held a curacy; for
of the two other Low Church clergymen in the neighbourhood, one was a
Welshman of globose figure and unctuous complexion, and the other a man
of atrabiliar aspect, with lank black hair, and a redundance of limp
cravat--in fact, the sort of thing you might expect in men who
distributed the publications of the Religious Tract Society, and
introduced Dissenting hymns into the Church.

Mr. Tryan shook hands with Mrs. Linnet, bowed with rather a preoccupied
air to the other ladies, and seated himself in the large horse-hair
easy-chair which had been drawn forward for him, while the ladies ceased
from their work, and fixed their eyes on him, awaiting the news he had
to tell them.

'It seems,' he began, in a low and silvery tone, 'I need a lesson of
patience; there has been something wrong in my thought or action about
this evening lecture. I have been too much bent on doing good to Milby
after my own plan--too reliant on my own wisdom.'

Mr. Tryan paused. He was struggling against inward irritation.

'The delegates are come back, then?' 'Has Mr. Prendergast given way?'
'Has Dempster succeeded?'--were the eager questions of three ladies at
once.

'Yes; the town is in an uproar. As we were sitting in Mr. Landor's
drawing-room we heard a loud cheering, and presently Mr. Thrupp, the
clerk at the bank, who had been waiting at the Red Lion to hear the
result, came to let us know. He said Dempster had been making a speech to
the mob out the window. They were distributing drink to the people, and
hoisting placards in great letters,--"Down with the Tryanites!" "Down
with cant!" They had a hideous caricature of me being tripped-up and
pitched head-foremost out of the pulpit. Good old Mr. Landor would insist
on sending me round in the carriage; he thought I should not be safe from
the mob; but I got down at the Crossways. The row was evidently
preconcerted by Dempster before he set out. He made sure of succeeding.'

Mr. Tryan's utterance had been getting rather louder and more rapid in
the course of this speech, and he now added, in the energetic
chest-voice, which, both in and out of the pulpit, alternated
continually with his more silvery notes,--'But his triumph will be a
short one. If he thinks he can intimidate me by obloquy or threats, he
has mistaken the man he has to deal with. Mr. Dempster and his
colleagues will find themselves checkmated after all. Mr. Prendergast
has been false to his own conscience in this business. He knows as well
as I do that he is throwing away the souls of the people by leaving
things as they are in the parish. But I shall appeal to the Bishop--I am
confident of his sympathy.'

'The Bishop will be coming shortly, I suppose,' said Miss Pratt, 'to hold
a confirmation?'

'Yes; but I shall write to him at once, and lay the case before him.
Indeed, I must hurry away now, for I have many matters to attend to. You,
ladies, have been kindly helping me with your labours, I see,' continued
Mr. Tryan, politely, glancing at the canvass-covered books as he rose
from his seat. Then, turning to Mary Linnet: 'Our library is really
getting on, I think. You and your sister have quite a heavy task of
distribution now.'

Poor Rebecca felt it very hard to bear that Mr. Tryan did not turn
towards her too. If he knew how much she entered into his feelings about
the lecture, and the interest she took in the library. Well! perhaps it
was her lot to be overlooked--and it might be a token of mercy. Even a
good man might not always know the heart that was most with him. But the
next moment poor Mary had a pang, when Mr. Tryan turned to Miss Eliza
Pratt, and the preoccupied expression of his face melted into that
beaming timidity with which a man almost always addresses a pretty woman.

'I have to thank you, too, Miss Eliza, for seconding me so well in your
visits to Joseph Mercer. The old man tells me how precious he finds your
reading to him, now he is no longer able to go to church.'

Miss Eliza only answered by a blush, which made her look all the
handsomer, but her aunt said,--'Yes, Mr. Tryan, I have ever inculcated on
my dear Eliza the importance of spending her leisure in being useful to
her fellow-creatures. Your example and instruction have been quite in the
spirit of the system which I have always pursued, though we are indebted
to you for a clearer view of the motives that should actuate us in our
pursuit of good works. Not that I can accuse myself of having ever had a
self-righteous spirit, but my humility was rather instinctive than based
on a firm ground of doctrinal knowledge, such as you so admirably impart
to us.'

Mrs. Linnet's usual entreaty that Mr. Tryan would 'have something--some
wine and water and a biscuit', was just here a welcome relief from the
necessity of answering Miss Pratt's oration.

'Not anything, my dear Mrs. Linnet, thank you. You forget what a
Rechabite I am. By the by, when I went this morning to see a poor girl in
Butcher's Lane, whom I had heard of as being in a consumption, I found
Mrs. Dempster there. I had often met her in the street, but did not know
it was Mrs. Dempster. It seems she goes among the poor a good deal. She
is really an interesting-looking woman. I was quite surprised, for I have
heard the worst account of her habits--that she is almost as bad as her
husband. She went out hastily as soon as I entered. But' (apologetically)
'I am keeping you all standing, and I must really hurry away. Mrs.
Pettifer, I have not had the pleasure of calling on you for some time; I
shall take an early opportunity of going your way. Good evening, good
evening.'



Chapter 4


Mr. Tryan was right in saying that the 'row' in Milby had been
preconcerted by Dempster. The placards and the caricature were prepared
before the departure of the delegates; and it had been settled that Mat
Paine, Dempster's clerk, should ride out on Thursday morning to meet them
at Whitlow, the last place where they would change horses, that he might
gallop back and prepare an ovation for the triumvirate in case of their
success. Dempster had determined to dine at Whitlow: so that Mat Paine
was in Milby again two hours before the entrance of the delegates, and
had time to send a whisper up the back streets that there was promise of
a 'spree' in the Bridge Way, as well as to assemble two knots of picked
men--one to feed the flame of orthodox zeal with gin-and-water, at the
Green Man, near High Street; the other to solidify their church
principles with heady beer at the Bear and Ragged Staff in the Bridge
Way.

The Bridge Way was an irregular straggling street, where the town fringed
off raggedly into the Whitlow road: rows of new red-brick houses, in
which ribbon-looms were rattling behind long lines of window, alternating
with old, half-thatched, half-tiled cottages--one of those dismal wide
streets where dirt and misery have no long shadows thrown on them to
soften their ugliness. Here, about half-past five o'clock, Silly Caleb,
an idiot well known in Dog Lane, but more of a stranger in the Bridge
Way, was seen slouching along with a string of boys hooting at his heels;
presently another group, for the most part out at elbows, came briskly in
the same direction, looking round them with an air of expectation; and at
no long interval, Deb Traunter, in a pink flounced gown and floating
ribbons, was observed talking with great affability to two men in
seal-skin caps and fustian, who formed her cortege. The Bridge Way began
to have a presentiment of something in the wind. Phib Cook left her
evening wash-tub and appeared at her door in soap-suds, a bonnet-poke,
and general dampness; three narrow-chested ribbon-weavers, in rusty black
streaked with shreds of many-coloured silk, sauntered out with their
hands in their pockets; and Molly Beale, a brawny old virago, descrying
wiry Dame Ricketts peeping out from her entry, seized the opportunity of
renewing the morning's skirmish. In short, the Bridge Way was in that
state of excitement which is understood to announce a 'demonstration' on
the part of the British public; and the afflux of remote townsmen
increasing, there was soon so large a crowd that it was time for Bill
Powers, a plethoric Goliath, who presided over the knot of beer-drinkers
at the Bear and Ragged Staff, to issue forth with his companions, and,
like the enunciator of the ancient myth, make the assemblage distinctly
conscious of the common sentiment that had drawn them together. The
expectation of the delegates' chaise, added to the fight between Molly
Beale and Dame Ricketts, and the ill-advised appearance of a lean
bull-terrier, were a sufficient safety-valve to the popular excitement
during the remaining quarter of an hour; at the end of which the chaise
was seen approaching along the Whitlow road, with oak boughs ornamenting
the horses' heads; and, to quote the account of this interesting scene
which was sent to the _Rotherby Guardian_, 'loud cheers immediately
testified to the sympathy of the honest fellows collected there, with the
public-spirited exertions of their fellow-townsmen.' Bill Powers, whose
bloodshot eyes, bent hat, and protuberant altitude, marked him out as the
natural leader of the assemblage, undertook to interpret the common
sentiment by stopping the chaise, advancing to the door with raised hat,
and begging to know of Mr. Dempster, whether the Rector had forbidden the
'canting lecture'.

'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Dempster. 'Keep up a jolly good hurray.'

No public duty could have been more easy and agreeable to Mr. Powers and
his associates, and the chorus swelled all the way to the High Street,
where, by a mysterious coincidence often observable in these spontaneous
'demonstrations', large placards on long poles were observed to shoot
upwards from among the crowd, principally in the direction of Tucker's
Lane, where the Green Man was situated. One bore, 'Down with the
Tryanites!' another, 'No Cant!' another, 'Long live our venerable
Curate!' and one in still larger letters, 'Sound Church Principles and no
Hypocrisy!' But a still more remarkable impromptu was a huge caricature
of Mr. Tryan in gown and band, with an enormous aureole of yellow hair
and upturned eyes, standing on the pulpit stairs and trying to pull down
old Mr. Crewe. Groans, yells, and hisses--hisses, yells, and groans--only
stemmed by the appearance of another caricature representing Mr. Tryan
being pitched head-foremost from the pulpit stairs by a hand which the
artist, either from subtilty of intention or want of space, had left
unindicated. In the midst of the tremendous cheering that saluted this
piece of symbolical art, the chaise had reached the door of the Red Lion,
and loud cries of 'Dempster for ever!' with a feebler cheer now and then
for Tomlinson and Budd, were presently responded to by the appearance of
the public-spirited attorney at the large upper window, where also were
visible a little in the background the small sleek head of Mr. Budd, and
the blinking countenance of Mr. Tomlinson.

Mr. Dempster held his hat in his hand, and poked his head forward with a
butting motion by way of bow. A storm of cheers subsided at last into
dropping sounds of 'Silence!' 'Hear him!' 'Go it, Dempster!' and the
lawyer's rasping voice became distinctly audible.

'Fellow-townsmen! It gives us the sincerest pleasure--I speak for my
respected colleagues as well as myself--to witness these strong proofs of
your attachment to the principles of our excellent Church, and your zeal
for the honour of our venerable pastor. But it is no more than I expected
of you. I know you well. I've known you for the last twenty years to be
as honest and respectable a set of ratepayers as any in this county. Your
hearts are sound to the core! No man had better try to thrust his cant
and hypocrisy down _your_ throats. You're used to wash them with liquor
of a better flavour. This is the proudest moment in my own life, and I
think I may say in that of my colleagues, in which I have to tell you
that our exertions in the cause of sound religion and manly morality have
been crowned with success. Yes, my fellow-townsmen! I have the
gratification of announcing to you thus formally what you have already
learned indirectly. The pulpit from which our venerable pastor has fed us
with sound doctrine for half a century is not to be invaded by a
fanatical, sectarian, double-faced, Jesuitical interloper! We are not to
have our young people demoralized and corrupted by the temptations to
vice, notoriously connected with Sunday evening lectures! We are not to
have a preacher obtruding himself upon us, who decries good works, and
sneaks into our homes perverting the faith of our wives and daughters! We
are not to be poisoned with doctrines which damp every innocent
enjoyment, and pick a poor man's pocket of the sixpence with which he
might buy himself a cheerful glass after a hard day's work, under
pretence of paying for bibles to send to the Chicktaws!

'But I'm not going to waste your valuable time with unnecessary words. I
am a man of deeds' ('Ay, damn you, that you are, and you charge well for
'em too,' said a voice from the crowd, probably that of a gentleman who
was immediately afterwards observed with his hat crushed over his head.)
'I shall always be at the service of my fellow-townsmen, and whoever
dares to hector over you, or interfere with your innocent pleasures,
shall have an account to settle with Robert Dempster.

'Now, my boys! you can't do better than disperse and carry the good news
to all your fellow-townsmen, whose hearts are as sound as your own. Let
some of you go one way and some another, that every man, woman, and child
in Milby may know what you know yourselves. But before we part, let us
have three cheers for True Religion, and down with Cant!'

When the last cheer was dying, Mr. Dempster closed the window, and the
judiciously-instructed placards and caricatures moved off in divers
directions, followed by larger or smaller divisions of the crowd. The
greatest attraction apparently lay in the direction of Dog Lane, the
outlet towards Paddiford Common, whither the caricatures were moving; and
you foresee, of course, that those works of symbolical art were consumed
with a liberal expenditure of dry gorse-bushes and vague shouting.

After these great public exertions, it was natural that Mr. Dempster and
his colleagues should feel more in need than usual of a little social
relaxation; and a party of their friends was already beginning to
assemble in the large parlour of the Red Lion, convened partly by their
own curiosity, and partly by the invaluable Mat Paine. The most capacious
punch-bowl was put in requisition; and that born gentleman, Mr. Lowme,
seated opposite Mr. Dempster as 'Vice', undertook to brew the punch,
defying the criticisms of the envious men out of office, who with the
readiness of irresponsibility, ignorantly suggested more lemons. The
social festivities were continued till long past midnight, when several
friends of sound religion were conveyed home with some difficulty, one of
them showing a dogged determination to seat himself in the gutter.

Mr. Dempster had done as much justice to the punch as any of the party;
and his friend Boots, though aware that the lawyer could 'carry his
liquor like Old Nick'. with whose social demeanour Boots seemed to be
particularly well acquainted, nevertheless thought it might be as well to
see so good a customer in safety to his own door, and walked quietly
behind his elbow out of the inn-yard. Dempster, however, soon became
aware of him, stopped short, and, turning slowly round upon him,
recognized the well-known drab waistcoat sleeves, conspicuous enough in
the starlight.

'You twopenny scoundrel! What do you mean by dogging a professional man's
footsteps in this way? I'll break every bone in your skin if you attempt
to track me, like a beastly cur sniffing at one's pocket. Do you think a
gentleman will make his way home any the better for having the scent of
your blacking-bottle thrust up his nostrils?'

Boots slunk back, in more amusement than ill-humour, thinking the
lawyer's 'rum talk' was doubtless part and parcel of his professional
ability; and Mr. Dempster pursued his slow way alone.

His house lay in Orchard Street, which opened on the prettiest outskirt
of the town--the church, the parsonage, and a long stretch of green
fields. It was an old-fashioned house, with an overhanging upper storey;
outside, it had a face of rough stucco, and casement windows with green
frames and shutters; inside, it was full of long passages, and rooms with
low ceilings. There was a large heavy knocker on the green door, and
though Mr. Dempster carried a latch-key, he sometimes chose to use the
knocker. He chose to do so now. The thunder resounded through Orchard
Street, and, after a single minute, there was a second clap louder than
the first. Another minute, and still the door was not opened; whereupon
Mr. Dempster, muttering, took out his latch-key, and, with less
difficulty than might have been expected, thrust it into the door. When
he opened the door the passage was dark.

'Janet!' in the loudest rasping tone, was the next sound that rang
through the house.

'Janet!' again--before a slow step was heard on the stairs, and a distant
light began to flicker on the wall of the passage.

'Curse you! you creeping idiot! Come faster, can't you?'

Yet a few seconds, and the figure of a tall woman, holding aslant a
heavy-plated drawing-room candlestick, appeared at the turning of the
passage that led to the broader entrance.

She had on a light dress which sat loosely about her figure, but did not
disguise its liberal, graceful outline. A heavy mass of straight
jet-black hair had escaped from its fastening, and hung over her
shoulders. Her grandly-cut features, pale with the natural paleness of a
brunette, had premature lines about them, telling that the years had been
lengthened by sorrow, and the delicately-curved nostril, which seemed
made to quiver with the proud consciousness of power and beauty, must
have quivered to the heart-piercing griefs which had given that worn look
to the corners of the mouth. Her wide open black eyes had a strangely
fixed, sightless gaze, as she paused at the turning, and stood silent
before her husband.

'I'll teach you to keep me waiting in the dark, you pale staring fool!'
he said, advancing with his slow drunken step. 'What, you've been
drinking again, have you? I'll beat you into your senses.'

He laid his hand with a firm grip on her shoulder, turned her round, and
pushed her slowly before him along the passage and through the
dining-room door, which stood open on their left hand.

There was a portrait of Janet's mother, a grey-haired, dark-eyed old
woman, in a neatly fluted cap, hanging over the mantelpiece. Surely the
aged eyes take on a look of anguish as they see Janet--not trembling, no!
it would be better if she trembled--standing stupidly unmoved in her
great beauty while the heavy arm is lifted to strike her. The blow falls
--another--and another. Surely the mother hears that cry--'O Robert!
pity! pity!'

Poor grey-haired woman! Was it for this you suffered a mother's pangs in
your lone widowhood five-and-thirty years ago? Was it for this you kept
the little worn morocco shoes Janet had first run in, and kissed them day
by day when she was away from you, a tall girl at school? Was it for this
you looked proudly at her when she came back to you in her rich pale
beauty, like a tall white arum that has just unfolded its grand pure
curves to the sun?

The mother lies sleepless and praying in her lonely house, weeping the
difficult tears of age, because she dreads this may be a cruel night for
her child.

She too has a picture over her mantelpiece, drawn in chalk by Janet long
years ago. She looked at it before she went to bed. It is a head bowed
beneath a cross, and wearing a crown of thorns.



Chapter 5


It was half-past nine o'clock in the morning. The midsummer sun was
already warm on the roofs and weathercocks of Milby. The church-bells
were ringing, and many families were conscious of Sunday sensations,
chiefly referable to the fact that the daughters had come down to
breakfast in their best frocks, and with their hair particularly well
dressed. For it was not Sunday, but Wednesday; and though the Bishop was
going to hold a Confirmation, and to decide whether or not there should
be a Sunday evening lecture in Milby, the sunbeams had the usual
working-day look to the haymakers already long out in the fields, and to
laggard weavers just 'setting up' their week's 'piece'. The notion of its
being Sunday was the strongest in young ladies like Miss Phipps, who was
going to accompany her younger sister to the confirmation, and to wear a
'sweetly pretty' transparent bonnet with marabout feathers on the
interesting occasion, thus throwing into relief the suitable simplicity
of her sister's attire, who was, of course, to appear in a new white
frock; or in the pupils at Miss Townley's, who were absolved from all
lessons, and were going to church to see the Bishop, and to hear the
Honourable and Reverend Mr. Prendergast, the rector, read prayers--a high
intellectual treat, as Miss Townley assured them. It seemed only natural
that a rector, who was honourable, should read better than old Mr. Crewe,
who was only a curate, and not honourable; and when little Clara Robins
wondered why some clergymen were rectors and others not, Ellen Marriott
assured her with great confidence that it was only the clever men who
were made rectors. Ellen Marriott was going to be confirmed. She was a
short, fair, plump girl, with blue eyes and sandy hair, which was this
morning arranged in taller cannon curls than usual, for the reception of
the Episcopal benediction, and some of the young ladies thought her the
prettiest girl in the school; but others gave the preference to her
rival, Maria Gardner, who was much taller, and had a lovely 'crop' of
dark-brown ringlets, and who, being also about to take upon herself the
vows made in her name at her baptism, had oiled and twisted her ringlets
with especial care. As she seated herself at the breakfast-table before
Miss Townley's entrance to dispense the weak coffee, her crop excited so
strong a sensation that Ellen Marriott was at length impelled to look at
it, and to say with suppressed but bitter sarcasm, 'Is that Miss
Gardner's head?' 'Yes,' said Maria, amiable and stuttering, and no match
for Ellen in retort; 'th--th--this is my head.' 'Then I don't admire it
at all!' was the crushing rejoinder of Ellen, followed by a murmur of
approval among her friends. Young ladies, I suppose, exhaust their sac of
venom in this way at school. That is the reason why they have such a
harmless tooth for each other in after life.

The only other candidate for confirmation at Miss Townley's was Mary
Dunn, a draper's daughter in Milby and a distant relation of the Miss
Linnets. Her pale lanky hair could never be coaxed into permanent curl,
and this morning the heat had brought it down to its natural condition of
lankiness earlier than usual. But that was not what made her sit
melancholy and apart at the lower end of the form. Her parents were
admirers of Mr. Tryan, and had been persuaded, by the Miss Linnets'
influence, to insist that their daughter should be prepared for
confirmation by him, over and above the preparation given to Miss
Townley's pupils by Mr. Crewe. Poor Mary Dunn! I am afraid she thought it
too heavy a price to pay for these spiritual advantages, to be excluded
from every game at ball to be obliged to walk with none but little
girls--in fact, to be the object of an aversion that nothing short of an
incessant supply of plumcakes would have neutralized. And Mrs. Dunn was
of opinion that plumcake was unwholesome. The anti-Tryanite spirit, you
perceive, was very strong at Miss Townley's, imported probably by day
scholars, as well as encouraged by the fact that that clever woman was
herself strongly opposed to innovation, and remarked every Sunday that
Mr. Crewe had preached an 'excellent discourse'. Poor Mary Dunn dreaded
the moment when school-hours would be over, for then she was sure to be
the butt of those very explicit remarks which, in young ladies' as well
as young gentlemen's seminaries, constitute the most subtle and delicate
form of the innuendo. 'I'd never be a Tryanite, would you?' 'O here comes
the lady that knows so much more about religion than we do!' 'Some people
think themselves so very pious!'

It is really surprising that young ladies should not be thought competent
to the same curriculum as young gentlemen. I observe that their powers of
sarcasm are quite equal; and if there had been a genteel academy for
young gentlemen at Milby, I am inclined to think that, notwithstanding
Euclid and the classics, the party spirit there would not have exhibited
itself in more pungent irony, or more incisive satire, than was heard in
Miss Townley's seminary. But there was no such academy, the existence of
the grammar-school under Mr. Crewe's superintendence probably
discouraging speculations of that kind; and the genteel youths of Milby
were chiefly come home for the midsummer holidays from distant schools.
Several of us had just assumed coat-tails, and the assumption of new
responsibilities apparently following as a matter of course, we were
among the candidates for confirmation. I wish I could say that the
solemnity of our feelings was on a level with the solemnity of the
occasion; but unimaginative boys find it difficult to recognize
apostolical institutions in their developed form, and I fear our chief
emotion concerning the ceremony was a sense of sheepishness, and our
chief opinion, the speculative and heretical position, that it ought to
be confined to the girls. It was a pity, you will say; but it is the way
with us men in other crises, that come a long while after confirmation.
The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing
but sand; the angels come to visit us, and we only know them when they
are gone.

But, as I said, the morning was sunny, the bells were ringing, the ladies
of Milby were dressed in their Sunday garments.

And who is this bright-looking woman walking with hasty step along
Orchard Street so early, with a large nosegay in her hand? Can it be
Janet Dempster, on whom we looked with such deep pity, one sad midnight,
hardly a fortnight ago? Yes; no other woman in Milby has those searching
black eyes, that tall graceful unconstrained figure, set off by her
simple muslin dress and black lace shawl, that massy black hair now so
neatly braided in glossy contrast with the white satin ribbons of her
modest cap and bonnet. No other woman has that sweet speaking smile, with
which she nods to Jonathan Lamb, the old parish clerk. And, ah!--now she
comes nearer--there are those sad lines about the mouth and eyes on which
that sweet smile plays like sunbeams on the storm-beaten beauty of the
full and ripened corn.

She is turning out of Orchard Street, and making her way as fast as she
can to her mother's house, a pleasant cottage facing a roadside meadow,
from which the hay is being carried. Mrs. Raynor has had her breakfast,
and is seated in her arm-chair reading, when Janet opens the door,
saying, in her most playful voice,--'Please, mother, I'm come to show
myself to you before I go to the Parsonage. Have I put on my pretty cap
and bonnet to satisfy you?'

Mrs. Raynor looked over her spectacles, and met her daughter's glance
with eyes as dark and loving as her own. She was a much smaller woman
than Janet, both in figure and feature, the chief resemblance lying in
the eyes and the clear brunette complexion. The mother's hair had long
been grey, and was gathered under the neatest of caps, made by her own
clever fingers, as all Janet's caps and bonnets were too. They were
well-practised fingers, for Mrs. Raynor had supported herself in her
widowhood by keeping a millinery establishment, and in this way had
earned money enough to give her daughter what was then thought a
first-rate education, as well as to save a sum which, eked out by her
son-in-law, sufficed to support her in her solitary old age. Always the
same clean, neat old lady, dressed in black silk, was Mrs. Raynor: a
patient, brave woman, who bowed with resignation under the burden of
remembered sorrow, and bore with meek fortitude the new load that the new
days brought with them.

'Your bonnet wants pulling a trifle forwarder, my child,' she said,
smiling, and taking off her spectacles, while Janet at once knelt down
before her, and waited to be 'set to rights', as she would have done when
she was a child. 'You're going straight to Mrs. Crewe's, I suppose? Are
those flowers to garnish the dishes?'

'No, indeed, mother. This is a nosegay for the middle of the table. I've
sent up the dinner-service and the ham we had cooked at our house
yesterday, and Betty is coming directly with the garnish and the plate.
We shall get our good Mrs. Crewe through her troubles famously. Dear tiny
woman! You should have seen her lift up her hands yesterday, and pray
heaven to take her before ever she should have another collation to get
ready for the Bishop. She said, "It's bad enough to have the Archdeacon,
though he doesn't want half so many jelly-glasses. I wouldn't mind,
Janet, if it was to feed all the old hungry cripples in Milby; but so
much trouble and expense for people who eat too much every day of their
lives!" We had such a cleaning and furbishing-up of the sitting-room
yesterday! Nothing will ever do away with the smell of Mr. Crewe's pipes,
you know; but we have thrown it into the background, with yellow soap and
dry lavender. And now I must run away. You will come to church, mother?'

'Yes, my dear, I wouldn't lose such a pretty sight. It does my old eyes
good to see so many fresh young faces. Is your husband going?'

'Yes, Robert will be there. I've made him as neat as a new pin this
morning, and he says the Bishop will think him too buckish by half. I
took him into Mammy Dempster's room to show himself. We hear Tryan is
making sure of the Bishop's support; but we shall see. I would give my
crooked guinea, and all the luck it will ever bring me, to have him
beaten, for I can't endure the sight of the man coming to harass dear old
Mr. and Mrs. Crewe in their last days. Preaching the Gospel indeed! That
is the best Gospel that makes everybody happy and comfortable, isn't it,
mother?'

'Ah, child, I'm afraid there's no Gospel will do that here below.'

'Well, I can do something to comfort Mrs. Crewe, at least; so give me a
kiss, and good-bye till church-time.'

The mother leaned back in her chair when Janet was gone, and sank into a
painful reverie. When our life is a continuous trial, the moments of
respite seem only to substitute the heaviness of dread for the heaviness
of actual suffering: the curtain of cloud seems parted an instant only
that we may measure all its horror as it hangs low, black, and imminent,
in contrast with the transient brightness; the water drops that visit the
parched lips in the desert bear with them only the keen imagination of
thirst. Janet looked glad and tender now--but what scene of misery was
coming next? She was too like the cistus flowers in the little garden
before the window, that, with the shades of evening, might lie with the
delicate white and glossy dark of their petals trampled in the roadside
dust. When the sun had sunk, and the twilight was deepening, Janet might
be sitting there, heated, maddened, sobbing out her griefs with selfish
passion, and wildly wishing herself dead.

Mrs. Raynor had been reading about the lost sheep, and the joy there is
in heaven over the sinner that repenteth. Surely the eternal love she
believed in through all the sadness of her lot, would not leave her child
to wander farther and farther into the wilderness till here was no
turning--the child so lovely, so pitiful to others, so good, till she was
goaded into sin by woman's bitterest sorrows! Mrs. Raynor had her faith
and her spiritual comforts, though she was not in the least evangelical
and knew nothing of doctrinal zeal. I fear most of Mr. Tryan's hearers
would have considered her destitute of saving knowledge, and I am quite
sure she had no well-defined views on justification. Nevertheless, she
read her Bible a great deal, and thought she found divine lessons
there--how to bear the cross meekly, and be merciful. Let us hope that
there is a saving ignorance, and that Mrs. Raynor was justified without
knowing exactly how.

She tried to have hope and trust, though it was hard to believe that the
future would be anything else than the harvest of the seed that was being
sown before her eyes. But always there is seed being sown silently and
unseen, and everywhere there come sweet flowers without our foresight or
labour. We reap what we sow, but Nature has love over and above that
justice, and gives us shadow and blossom and fruit that spring from no
planting of ours.



Chapter 6


Most people must have agreed with Mrs. Raynor that the Confirmation that
day was a pretty sight, at least when those slight girlish forms and fair
young faces moved in a white rivulet along the aisles, and flowed into
kneeling semicircles under the light of the great chancel window,
softened by patches of dark old painted glass; and one would think that
to look on while a pair of venerable hands pressed such young heads, and
a venerable face looked upward for a blessing on them, would be very
likely to make the heart swell gently, and to moisten the eyes. Yet I
remember the eyes seemed very dry in Milby Church that day,
notwithstanding that the Bishop was an old man, and probably venerable
(for though he was not an eminent Grecian, he was the brother of a Whig
lord); and I think the eyes must have remained dry, because he had small
delicate womanish hands adorned with ruffles, and, instead of laying them
on the girls' heads, just let them hover over each in quick succession,
as if it were not etiquette to touch them, and as if the laying on of
hands were like the theatrical embrace--part of the play, and not to be
really believed in. To be sure there were a great many heads, and the
Bishop's time was limited. Moreover, a wig can, under no circumstances,
be affecting, except in rare cases of illusion; and copious lawn-sleeves
cannot be expected to go directly to any heart except a washerwoman's.

I know, Ned Phipps, who knelt against me, and I am sure made me behave
much worse than I should have done without him, whispered that he thought
the Bishop was a 'guy', and I certainly remember thinking that Mr.
Prendergast looked much more dignified with his plain white surplice and
black hair. He was a tall commanding man, and read the Liturgy in a
strikingly sonorous and uniform voice, which I tried to imitate the next
Sunday at home, until my little sister began to cry, and said I was
'yoaring at her'.

Mr. Tryan sat in a pew near the pulpit with several other clergymen. He
looked pale, and rubbed his hand over his face and pushed back his hair
oftener than usual. Standing in the aisle close to him, and repeating the
responses with edifying loudness, was Mr. Budd, churchwarden and
delegate, with a white staff in his hand and a backward bend of his small
head and person, such as, I suppose, he considered suitable to a friend
of sound religion. Conspicuous in the gallery, too, was the tall figure
of Mr. Dempster, whose professional avocations rarely allowed him to
occupy his place at church.

'There's Dempster,' said Mrs. Linnet to her daughter Mary, 'looking more
respectable than usual, I declare. He's got a fine speech by heart to
make to the Bishop, I'll answer for it. But he'll be pretty well
sprinkled with snuff before service is over, and the Bishop won't be able
to listen to him for sneezing, that's one comfort.'

At length the last stage in the long ceremony was over, the large
assembly streamed warm and weary into the open afternoon sunshine, and
the Bishop retired to the Parsonage, where, after honouring Mrs. Crewe's
collation, he was to give audience to the delegates and Mr. Tryan on the
great question of the evening lecture.

Between five and six o'clock the Parsonage was once more as quiet as
usual under the shadow of its tall elms, and the only traces of the
Bishop's recent presence there were the wheel marks on the gravel, and
the long table with its garnished dishes awry, its damask sprinkled with
crumbs, and its decanters without their stoppers. Mr. Crewe was already
calmly smoking his pipe in the opposite sitting-room, and Janet was
agreeing with Mrs. Crewe that some of the blanc-mange would be a nice
thing to take to Sally Martin, while the little old lady herself had a
spoon in her hand ready to gather the crumbs into a plate, that she might
scatter them on the gravel for the little birds.

Before that time, the Bishop's carriage had been seen driving through the
High Street on its way to Lord Trufford's, where he was to dine. The
question of the lecture was decided, then?

The nature of the decision may be gathered from the following
conversation which took place in the bar of the Red Lion that evening.

'So you're done, eh, Dempster?' was Mr. Pilgrim's observation, uttered
with some gusto. He was not glad Mr. Tryan had gained his point, but he
was not sorry Dempster was disappointed.

'Done, sir? Not at all. It is what I anticipated. I knew we had nothing
else to expect in these days, when the Church is infested by a set of men
who are only fit to give out hymns from an empty cask, to tunes set by a
journeyman cobbler. But I was not the less to exert myself in the cause
of sound Churchmanship for the good of the town. Any coward can fight a
battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to
fight when he's sure of losing. That's my way, sir; and there are many
victories worse than a defeat, as Mr. Tryan shall learn to his cost.'

'He must be a poor shuperannyated sort of a bishop, that's my opinion,'
said Mr. Tomlinson, 'to go along with a sneaking Methodist like Tryan.
And, for my part, I think we should be as well wi'out bishops, if they're
no wiser than that. Where's the use o' havin' thousands a-year an' livin'
in a pallis, if they don't stick to the Church?'

'No. There you're going out of your depth, Tomlinson,' said Mr. Dempster.
'No one shall hear me say a word against Episcopacy--it is a safeguard of
the Church; we must have ranks and dignities there as well as everywhere
else. No, sir! Episcopacy is a good thing; but it may happen that a
bishop is not a good thing. Just as brandy is a good thing, though this
particular brandy is British, and tastes like sugared rain-water caught
down the chimney. Here, Ratcliffe, let me have something to drink, a
little less like a decoction of sugar and soot.'

'_I_ said nothing again' Episcopacy,' returned Mr. Tomlinson. 'I only
said I thought we should do as well wi'out bishops; an' I'll say it again
for the matter o' that. Bishops never brought any grist to my mill.'

'Do you know when the lectures are to begin?' said Mr. Pilgrim.

'They are to _begin_ on Sunday next,' said Mr. Dempster, in a significant
tone; 'but I think it will not take a long-sighted prophet to foresee the
end of them. It strikes me Mr. Tryan will be looking out for another
curacy shortly.'

'He'll not get many Milby people to go and hear his lectures after a
while, I'll bet a guinea,' observed Mr. Budd. 'I know I'll not keep a
single workman on my ground who either goes to the lecture himself or
lets anybody belonging to him go.'

'Nor me nayther,' said Mr. Tomlinson. 'No Tryanite shall touch a sack or
drive a waggon o' mine, that you may depend on. An' I know more besides
me as are o' the same mind.'

'Tryan has a good many friends in the town, though, and friends that are
likely to stand by him too,' said Mr. Pilgrim. 'I should say it would be
as well to let him and his lectures alone. If he goes on preaching as he
does, with such a constitution as his, he'll get a relaxed throat
by-and-by, and you'll be rid of him without any trouble.'

'We'll not allow him to do himself that injury,' said Mr. Dempster.
'Since his health is not good, we'll persuade him to try change of air.
Depend upon it, he'll find the climate of Milby too hot for him.'



Chapter 7


Mr. Dempster did not stay long at the Red Lion that evening. He was
summoned home to meet Mr. Armstrong, a wealthy client, and as he was kept
in consultation till a late hour, it happened that this was one of the
nights on which Mr. Dempster went to bed tolerably sober. Thus the day,
which had been one of Janets happiest, because it had been spent by her
in helping her dear old friend Mrs. Crewe, ended for her with unusual
quietude; and as a bright sunset promises a fair morning, so a calm lying
down is a good augury for a calm waking. Mr. Dempster, on the Thursday
morning, was in one of his best humours, and though perhaps some of the
good-humour might result from the prospect of a lucrative and exciting
bit of business in Mr. Armstrong's probable lawsuit, the greater part of
it was doubtless due to those stirrings of the more kindly, healthy sap
of human feeling, by which goodness tries to get the upper hand in us
whenever it seems to have the slightest chance--on Sunday mornings,
perhaps, when we are set free from the grinding hurry of the week, and
take the little three-year old on our knee at breakfast to share our egg
and muffin; in moments of trouble, when death visits our roof or illness
makes us dependent on the tending hand of a slighted wife; in quiet talks
with an aged mother, of the days when we stood at her knee with our first
picture-book, or wrote her loving letters from school. In the man whose
childhood has known caresses there is always a fibre of memory that can
be touched to gentle issues, and Mr. Dempster, whom you have hitherto
seen only as the orator of the Red Lion, and the drunken tyrant of a
dreary midnight home, was the first-born darling son of a fair little
mother. That mother was living still, and her own large black easy-chair,
where she sat knitting through the livelong day, was now set ready for
her at the breakfast-table, by her son's side, a sleek tortoise-shell cat
acting as provisional incumbent.

'Good morning, Mamsey! why, you're looking as fresh as a daisy this
morning. You're getting young again', said Mr. Dempster, looking up from
his newspaper when the little old lady entered. A very little old lady
she was, with a pale, scarcely wrinkled face, hair of that peculiar white
which tells that the locks have once been blond, a natty pure white cap
on her head, and a white shawl pinned over her shoulders. You saw at a
glance that she had been a mignonne blonde, strangely unlike her tall,
ugly, dingy-complexioned son; unlike her daughter-in-law, too, whose
large-featured brunette beauty seemed always thrown into higher relief by
the white presence of little Mamsey. The unlikeness between Janet and her
mother-in-law went deeper than outline and complexion, and indeed there
was little sympathy between them, for old Mrs. Dempster had not yet
learned to believe that her son, Robert, would have gone wrong if he had
married the right woman--a meek woman like herself, who would have borne
him children, and been a deft, orderly housekeeper. In spite of Janet's
tenderness and attention to her, she had had little love for her
daughter-in-law from the first, and had witnessed the sad growth of
home-misery through long years, always with a disposition to lay the
blame on the wife rather than on the husband, and to reproach Mrs. Raynor
for encouraging her daughter's faults by a too exclusive sympathy. But
old Mrs. Dempster had that rare gift of silence and passivity which often
supplies the absence of mental strength; and, whatever were her thoughts,
she said no word to aggravate the domestic discord. Patient and mute she
sat at her knitting through many a scene of quarrel and anguish;
resolutely she appeared unconscious of the sounds that reached her ears,
and the facts she divined after she had retired to her bed; mutely she
witnessed poor Janet's faults, only registering them as a balance of
excuse on the side of her son. The hard, astute, domineering attorney was
still that little old woman's pet, as he had been when she watched with
triumphant pride his first tumbling effort to march alone across the
nursery floor. 'See what a good son he is to me!' she often thought.
'Never gave me a harsh word. And so he might have been a good husband.'

O it is piteous--that sorrow of aged women! In early youth, perhaps, they
said to themselves, 'I shall be happy when I have a husband to love me
best of all'; then, when the husband was too careless, 'My child will
comfort me'; then, through the mother's watching and toil, 'My child will
repay me all when it grows up.' And at last, after the long journey of
years has been wearily travelled through, the mother's heart is weighed
down by a heavier burthen, and no hope remains but the grave.

But this morning old Mrs. Dempster sat down in her easy-chair without any
painful, suppressed remembrance of the pre-ceding night.

'I declare mammy looks younger than Mrs. Crewe, who is only sixty-five,'
said Janet. 'Mrs. Crewe will come to see you today, mammy, and tell you
all about her troubles with the Bishop and the collation. She'll bring
her knitting, and you'll have a regular gossip together.'

'The gossip will be all on one side, then, for Mrs. Crewe gets so very
deaf, I can't make her hear a word. And if I motion to her, she always
understands me wrong.'

'O, she will have so much to tell you today, you will not want to speak
yourself. You, who have patience to knit those wonderful counterpanes,
mammy, must not be impatient with dear Mrs. Crewe. Good old lady! I can't
bear her to think she's ever tiresome to people, and you know she's very
ready to fancy herself in the way. I think she would like to shrink up to
the size of a mouse, that she might run about and do people good without
their noticing her.'

'It isn't patience I want, God knows; it's lungs to speak loud enough.
But you'll be at home yourself, I suppose, this morning; and you can talk
to her for me.'

'No, mammy; I promised poor Mrs. Lowme to go and sit with her. She's
confined to her room, and both the Miss Lowmes are out; so I'm going to
read the newspaper to her and amuse her.'

'Couldn't you go another morning? As Mr. Armstrong and that other
gentleman are coming to dinner, I should think it would be better to stay
at home. Can you trust Betty to see to everything? She's new to the
place.'

'O I couldn't disappoint Mrs. Lowme; I promised her. Betty will do very
well, no fear.'

Old Mrs. Dempster was silent after this, and began to sip her tea. The
breakfast went on without further conversation for some time, Mr.
Dempster being absorbed in the papers. At length, when he was running
over the advertisements, his eye seemed to be caught by something that
suggested a new thought to him. He presently thumped the table with an
air of exultation, and, said turning to Janet,--'I've a capital idea,
Gypsy!' (that was his name for his dark-eyed wife when he was in an
extraordinarily good humour), 'and you shall help me. It's just what
you're up to.'

'What is it?' said Janet, her face beaming at the sound of the pet name,
now heard so seldom. 'Anything to do with conveyancing?'

'It's a bit of fun worth a dozen fees--a plan for raising a laugh against
Tryan and his gang of hypocrites.'

'What is it? Nothing that wants a needle and thread hope, else I must go
and tease mother.'

'No, nothing sharper than your wit--except mine. I'll tell you what it
is. We'll get up a programme of the Sunday evening lecture, like a
play-bill, you know--"Grand Performance of the celebrated Mountebank,"
and so on. We'll bring in the Tryanites--old Landor and the rest--in
appropriate characters. Proctor shall print it, and we'll circulate it in
the town. It will be a capital hit.'

'Bravo!' said Janet, clapping her hands. She would just then have
pretended to like almost anything, in her pleasure at being appealed to
by her husband, and she really did like to laugh at the Tryanites. 'We'll
set about it directly, and sketch it out before you go to the office.
I've got Tryan's sermons up-stairs, but I don't think there's anything in
them we can use. I've only just looked into them; they're not at all what
I expected--dull, stupid things--nothing of the roaring
fire-and-brimstone sort that I expected.'

'Roaring? No; Tryan's as soft as a sucking dove--one of your
honey-mouthed hypocrites. Plenty of devil and malice in him, though, I
could see that, while he was talking to the Bishop; but as smooth as a
snake outside. He's beginning a single-handed fight with me, I can
see--persuading my clients away from me. We shall see who will be the
first to cry _peccavi_. Milby will do better without Mr. Tryan than
without Robert Dempster, I fancy! and Milby shall never be flooded with
cant as long as I can raise a breakwater against it. But now, get the
breakfast things cleared away, and let us set about the play-bill. Come,
mamsey, come and have a walk with me round the garden, and let us see how
the cucumbers are getting on. I've never taken you round the garden for
an age. Come, you don't want a bonnet. It's like walking in a greenhouse
this morning.'

'But she will want a parasol,' said Janet. 'There's one on the stand
against the garden-door, Robert.'

The little old lady took her son's arm with placid pleasure. She could
barely reach it so as to rest upon it, but he inclined a little towards
her, and accommodated his heavy long-limbed steps to her feeble pace. The
cat chose to sun herself too, and walked close beside them, with tail
erect, rubbing her sleek sides against their legs,--too well fed to be
excited by the twittering birds. The garden was of the grassy, shady
kind, often seen attached to old houses in provincial towns; the
apple-trees had had time to spread their branches very wide, the shrubs
and hardy perennial plants had grown into a luxuriance that required
constant trimming to prevent them from intruding on the space for
walking. But the farther end, which united with green fields, was open
and sunny.

It was rather sad, and yet pretty, to see that little group passing out
of the shadow into the sunshine, and out of the sunshine into the shadow
again: sad, because this tenderness of the son for the mother was hardly
more than a nucleus of healthy life in an organ hardening by disease,
because the man who was linked in this way with an innocent past, had
become callous in worldliness, fevered by sensuality, enslaved by chance
impulses; pretty, because it showed how hard it is to kill the deep-down
fibrous roots of human love and goodness--how the man from whom we make
it our pride to shrink, has yet a close brotherhood with us through some
of our most sacred feelings.

As they were returning to the house, Janet met them, and said, 'Now,
Robert, the writing things are ready. I shall be clerk, and Mat Paine can
copy it out after.'

Mammy once more deposited in her arm-chair, with her knitting in her
hand, and the cat purring at her elbow, Janet seated herself at the
table, while Mr. Dempster placed himself near her, took out his
snuff-box, and plentifully suffusing himself with the inspiring powder,
began to dictate.

What he dictated, we shall see by-and-by.



Chapter 8


The next day, Friday, at five o'clock by the sun-dial, the large
bow-window of Mrs. Jerome's parlour was open; and that lady herself was
seated within its ample semicircle, having a table before her on which
her best tea-tray, her best china, and her best urn-rug had already been
standing in readiness for half an hour. Mrs. Jerome's best tea-service
was of delicate white fluted china, with gold sprigs upon it--as pretty a
tea-service as you need wish to see, and quite good enough for chimney
ornaments; indeed, as the cups were without handles, most visitors who
had the distinction of taking tea out of them, wished that such charming
china had already been promoted to that honorary position. Mrs. Jerome
was like her china, handsome and old-fashioned. She was a buxom lady of
sixty, in an elaborate lace cap fastened by a frill under her chin, a
dark, well-curled front concealing her forehead, a snowy neckerchief
exhibiting its ample folds as far as her waist, and a stiff grey silk
gown. She had a clean damask napkin pinned before her to guard her dress
during the process of tea-making; her favourite geraniums in the
bow-window were looking as healthy as she could desire; her own handsome
portrait, painted when she was twenty years younger, was smiling down on
her with agreeable flattery; and altogether she seemed to be in as
peaceful and pleasant a position as a buxom, well-drest elderly lady need
desire. But, as in so many other cases, appearances were deceptive. Her
mind was greatly perturbed and her temper ruffled by the fact that it was
more than a quarter past five even by the losing timepiece, that it was
half-past by her large gold watch, which she held in her hand as if she
were counting the pulse of the afternoon, and that, by the kitchen clock,
which she felt sure was not an hour too fast, it had already struck six.
The lapse of time was rendered the more unendurable to Mrs. Jerome by her
wonder that Mr. Jerome could stay out in the garden with Lizzie in that
thoughtless way, taking it so easily that tea-time was long past, and
that, after all the trouble of getting down the best tea-things, Mr.
Tryan would not come.

This honour had been shown to Mr. Tryan, not at all because Mrs. Jerome
had any high appreciation of his doctrine or of his exemplary activity as
a pastor, but simply because he was a 'Church clergyman', and as such was
regarded by her with the same sort of exceptional respect that a white
woman who had married a native of the Society Islands might be supposed
to feel towards a white-skinned visitor from the land of her youth. For
Mrs. Jerome had been reared a Churchwoman, and having attained the age of
thirty before she was married, had felt the greatest repugnance in the
first instance to renouncing the religious forms in which she had been
brought up. 'You know,' she said in confidence to her Church
acquaintances, 'I wouldn't give no ear at all to Mr. Jerome at fust; but
after all, I begun to think as there was a maeny things worse nor goin'
to chapel, an' you'd better do that nor not pay your way. Mr. Jerome had
a very pleasant manner with him, an' there was niver another as kept a
gig, an' 'ud make a settlement on me like him, chapel or no chapel. It
seemed very odd to me for a long while, the preachin' without book, an'
the stannin' up to one long prayer, istid o' changin' your postur. But
la! there's nothin' as you mayn't get used to i' time; you can al'ys sit
down, you know, before the prayer's done. The ministers say pretty nigh
the same things as the Church parsons, by what I could iver make out, an'
we're out o' chapel i' the mornin' a deal sooner nor they're out o'
church. An' as for pews, ourn's is a deal comfortabler nor aeny i' Milby
Church.'

Mrs. Jerome, you perceive, had not a keen susceptibility to shades of
doctrine, and it is probable that, after listening to Dissenting
eloquence for thirty years, she might safely have re-entered the
Establishment without performing any spiritual quarantine. Her mind,
apparently, was of that non-porous flinty character which is not in the
least danger from surrounding damp. But on the question of getting start
of the sun on the day's business, and clearing her conscience of the
necessary sum of meals and the consequent 'washing up' as soon as
possible, so that the family might be well in bed at nine, Mrs. Jerome
_was_ susceptible; and the present lingering pace of things, united with
Mr. Jerome's unaccountable obliviousness, was not to be borne any longer.
So she rang the bell for Sally.

'Goodness me, Sally! go into the garden an' see after your master. Tell
him it's goin' on for six, an' Mr. Tryan 'ull niver think o' comin' now,
an' it's time we got tea over. An' he's lettin' Lizzie stain her frock, I
expect, among them strawberry beds. Mek her come in this minute.'

No wonder Mr. Jerome was tempted to linger in the garden, for though the
house was pretty and well deserved its name--'the White House', the tall
damask roses that clustered over the porch being thrown into relief by
rough stucco of the most brilliant white, yet the garden and orchards
were Mr. Jerome's glory, as well they might be; and there was nothing in
which he had a more innocent pride--peace to a good man's memory! all his
pride was innocent--than in conducting a hitherto uninitiated visitor
over his grounds, and making him in some degree aware of the incomparable
advantages possessed by the inhabitants of the White House in the matter
of red-streaked apples, russets, northern greens (excellent for baking),
swan-egg pears, and early vegetables, to say nothing of flowering
'srubs,' pink hawthorns, lavender bushes more than ever Mrs. Jerome could
use, and, in short, a superabundance of everything that a person retired
from business could desire to possess himself or to share with his
friends. The garden was one of those old-fashioned paradises which hardly
exist any longer except as memories of our childhood: no finical
separation between flower and kitchen garden there; no monotony of
enjoyment for one sense to the exclusion of another; but a charming
paradisiacal mingling of all that was pleasant to the eyes and good for
food. The rich flower-border running along every walk, with its endless
succession of spring flowers, anemones, auriculas, wall-flowers,
sweet-williams, campanulas, snapdragons, and tiger-lilies, had its taller
beauties, such as moss and Provence roses, varied with espalier
apple-trees; the crimson of a carnation was carried out in the lurking
crimson of the neighbouring strawberry-beds; you gathered a moss-rose one
moment and a bunch of currants the next; you were in a delicious
fluctuation between the scent of jasmine and the juice of gooseberries.
Then what a high wall at one end, flanked by a summer-house so lofty,
that after ascending its long flight of steps you could see perfectly
well there was no view worth looking at; what alcoves and garden-seats in
all directions; and along one side, what a hedge, tall, and firm, and
unbroken, like a green wall!

It was near this hedge that Mr. Jerome was standing when Sally found him.
He had set down the basket of strawberries on the gravel, and had lifted
up little Lizzie in his arms to look at a bird's nest. Lizzie peeped, and
then looked at her grandpa with round blue eyes, and then peeped again.

'D'ye see it, Lizzie?' he whispered.

'Yes,' she whispered in return, putting her lips very near grandpa's
face. At this moment Sally appeared.

'Eh, eh, Sally, what's the matter? Is Mr. Tryan come?'

'No, sir, an' Missis says she's sure he won't come now, an' she wants you
to come in an' hev tea. Dear heart, Miss Lizzie, you've stained your
pinafore, an' I shouldn't wonder if it's gone through to your frock.
There'll be fine work! Come alonk wi' me, do.'

'Nay, nay, nay, we've done no harm, we've done no harm, hev we, Lizzie?
The wash-tub'll make all right again.'

Sally, regarding the wash-tub from a different point of view, looked
sourly serious, and hurried away with Lizzie, who trotted submissively
along, her little head in eclipse under a large nankin bonnet, while Mr.
Jerome followed leisurely with his full broad shoulders in rather a
stooping posture, and his large good-natured features and white locks
shaded by a broad-brimmed hat.

'Mr. Jerome, I wonder at you,' said Mrs. Jerome, in a tone of indignant
remonstrance, evidently sustained by a deep sense of injury, as her
husband opened the parlour door. 'When will you leave off invitin' people
to meals an' not lettin' 'em know the time? I'll answer for't, you niver
said a word to Mr. Tryan as we should take tea at five o'clock. It's just
like you!'

'Nay, nay, Susan,' answered the husband in a soothing tone, 'there's
nothin' amiss. I told Mr. Tryan as we took tea at five punctial; mayhap
summat's a detainin' on him. He's a deal to do, an' to think on,
remember.'

'Why, it's struck six i' the kitchen a'ready. It's nonsense to look for
him comin' now. So you may's well ring for th' urn. Now Sally's got th'
heater in the fire, we may's well hev th' urn in, though he doesn't come.
I niver see'd the like o' you, Mr. Jerome, for axin' people an' givin' me
the trouble o' gettin' things down an' hevin' crumpets made, an' after
all they don't come. I shall hev to wash every one o' these tea-things
myself, for there's no trustin' Sally--she'd break a fortin i' crockery
i' no time!'

'But why will you give yourself sich trouble, Susan? Our everyday
tea-things would ha' done as well for Mr. Tryan, an' they're a deal
convenenter to hold.'

'Yes, that's just your way, Mr. Jerome, you're al'ys a-findin' faut wi'
my chany, because I bought it myself afore I was married. But let me tell
you, I knowed how to choose chany if I didn't know how to choose a
husband. An' where's Lizzie? You've niver left her i' the garden by
herself, with her white frock on an' clean stockins?'

'Be easy, my dear Susan, be easy; Lizzie's come in wi' Sally. She's
hevin' her pinafore took off, I'll be bound. Ah! there's Mr. Tryan
a-comin' through the gate.'

Mrs. Jerome began hastily to adjust her damask napkin and the expression
of her countenance for the reception of the clergyman, and Mr. Jerome
went out to meet his guest, whom he greeted outside the door.

'Mr. Tryan, how do you do, Mr. Tryan? Welcome to the White House! I'm
glad to see you, sir--I'm glad to see you.'

If you had heard the tone of mingled good-will, veneration, and
condolence in which this greeting was uttered, even without seeing the
face that completely harmonized with it, you would have no difficulty in
inferring the ground-notes of Mr. Jerome's character. To a fine ear that
tone said as plainly as possible--'Whatever recommends itself to me,
Thomas Jerome, as piety and goodness, shall have my love and honour. Ah,
friends, this pleasant world is a sad one, too, isn't it? Let us help one
another, let us help one another.' And it was entirely owing to this
basis of character, not at all from any clear and precise doctrinal
discrimination, that Mr. Jerome had very early in life become a
Dissenter. In his boyish days he had been thrown where Dissent seemed to
have the balance of piety, purity, and good works on its side, and to
become a Dissenter seemed to him identical with choosing God instead of
mammon. That race of Dissenters is extinct in these days, when opinion
has got far ahead of feeling, and every chapel-going youth can fill our
ears with the advantages of the Voluntary system, the corruptions of a
State Church, and the Scriptural evidence that the first Christians were
Congregationalists. Mr. Jerome knew nothing of this theoretic basis for
Dissent, and in the utmost extent of his polemical discussion he had not
gone further than to question whether a Christian man was bound in
conscience to distinguish Christmas and Easter by any peculiar observance
beyond the eating of mince-pies and cheese-cakes. It seemed to him that
all seasons were alike good for thanking God, departing from evil and
doing well, whereas it might be desirable to restrict the period for
indulging in unwholesome forms of pastry. Mr. Jerome's dissent being of
this simple, non-polemical kind, it is easy to understand that the report
he heard of Mr. Tryan as a good man and a powerful preacher, who was
stirring the hearts of the people, had been enough to attract him to the
Paddiford Church, and that having felt himself more edified there than he
had of late been under Mr. Stickney's discourses at Salem, he had driven
thither repeatedly in the Sunday afternoons, and had sought an
opportunity of making Mr. Tryan's acquaintance. The evening lecture was a
subject of warm interest with him, and the opposition Mr. Tryan met with
gave that interest a strong tinge of partisanship; for there was a store
of irascibility in Mr. Jerome's nature which must find a vent somewhere,
and in so kindly and upright a man could only find it in indignation
against those whom he held to be enemies of truth and goodness. Mr. Tryan
had not hitherto been to the White House, but yesterday, meeting Mr.
Jerome in the street, he had at once accepted the invitation to tea,
saying there was something he wished to talk about. He appeared worn and
fatigued now, and after shaking hands with Mrs. Jerome, threw himself
into a chair and looked out on the pretty garden with an air of relief.

'What a nice place you have here, Mr. Jerome! I've not seen anything so
quiet and pretty since I came to Milby. On Paddiford Common, where I
live, you know, the bushes are all sprinkled with soot, and there's never
any quiet except in the dead of night.'

'Dear heart! dear heart! That's very bad--and for you, too, as hev to
study. Wouldn't it be better for you to be somewhere more out i' the
country like?'

'O no! I should lose so much time in going to and fro, and besides I like
to be _among_ the people. I've no face to go and preach resignation to
those poor things in their smoky air and comfortless homes, when I come
straight from every luxury myself. There are many things quite lawful for
other men, which a clergyman must forego if he would do any good in a
manufacturing population like this.'

Here the preparations for tea were crowned by the simultaneous appearance
of Lizzie and the crumpet. It is a pretty surprise, when one visits an
elderly couple, to see a little figure enter in a white frock with a
blond head as smooth as satin, round blue eyes, and a cheek like an apple
blossom. A toddling little girl is a centre of common feeling which makes
the most dissimilar people understand each other; and Mr. Tryan looked at
Lizzie with that quiet pleasure which is always genuine.

'Here we are, here we are!' said proud grandpapa. 'You didn't think we'd
got such a little gell as this, did you, Mr. Tryan? Why, it seems but th'
other day since her mother was just such another. This is our little
Lizzie, this is. Come an' shake hands wi' Mr. Tryan, Lizzie; come.'

Lizzie advanced without hesitation, and put out one hand, while she
fingered her coral necklace with the other, and looked up into Mr.
Tryan's face with a reconnoitring gaze. He stroked the satin head, and
said in his gentlest voice, 'How do you do, Lizzie? will you give me a
kiss?' She put up her little bud of a mouth, and then retreating a little
and glancing down at her frock, said,--'Dit id my noo fock. I put it on
'tod you wad toming. Tally taid you wouldn't 'ook at it.'

'Hush, hush, Lizzie, little gells must be seen and not heard,' said Mrs.
Jerome; while grandpapa, winking significantly, and looking radiant with
delight at Lizzie's extraordinary promise of cleverness, set her up on
her high cane-chair by the side of grandma, who lost no time in shielding
the beauties of the new frock with a napkin.

'Well now, Mr. Tryan,' said Mr. Jerome, in a very serious tone, when tea
had been distributed, 'let me hear how you're a-goin' on about the
lectur. When I was i' the town yisterday, I heared as there was
pessecutin' schemes a-bein' laid again' you. I fear me those raskills 'll
mek things very onpleasant to you.'

'I've no doubt they will attempt it; indeed, I quite expect there will be
a regular mob got up on Sunday evening, as there was when the delegates
returned, on purpose to annoy me and the congregation on our way to
church.'

'Ah, they're capible o' anything, such men as Dempster an' Budd; an'
Tomlinson backs 'em wi' money, though he can't wi' brains. Howiver,
Dempster's lost one client by his wicked doins, an' I'm deceived if he
won't lose more nor one. I little thought, Mr. Tryan, when I put my
affairs into his hands twenty 'ear ago this Michaelmas, as he was to turn
out a pessecutor o' religion. I niver lighted on a cliverer, promisiner
young man nor he was then. They talked of his bein' fond of a extry glass
now an' then, but niver nothin' like what he's come to since. An' it's
head-piece you must look for in a lawyer, Mr. Tryan, it's head-piece. His
wife, too, was al'ys an uncommon favourite o' mine--poor thing! I hear
sad stories about her now. But she's druv to it, she's druv to it, Mr.
Tryan. A tender-hearted woman to the poor, she is, as iver lived; an' as
pretty-spoken a woman as you need wish to talk to. Yes! I'd al'ys a
likin' for Dempster an' his wife, spite o' iverything. But as soon as
iver I heared o' that dilegate business, I says, says I, that man shall
hev no more to do wi' my affairs. It may put me t' inconvenience, but
I'll encourage no man as pessecutes religion.'

'He is evidently the brain and hand of the persecution,' said Mr. Tryan.
'There may be a strong feeling against me in a large number of the
inhabitants--it must be so from the great ignorance of spiritual things
in this place. But I fancy there would have been no formal opposition to
the lecture, if Dempster had not planned it. I am not myself the least
alarmed at anything he can do; he will find I am not to be cowed or
driven away by insult or personal danger. God has sent me to this place,
and, by His blessing, I'll not shrink from anything I may have to
encounter in doing His work among the people. But I feel it right to call
on all those who know the value of the Gospel, to stand by me publicly. I
think--and Mr. Landor agrees with me--that it will be well for my friends
to proceed with me in a body to the church on Sunday evening. Dempster,
you know, has pretended that almost all the respectable inhabitants are
opposed to the lecture. Now, I wish that falsehood to be visibly
contradicted. What do you think of the plan? I have today been to see
several of my friends, who will make a point of being there to accompany
me, and will communicate with others on the subject.'

'I'll mek one, Mr. Tryan, I'll mek one. You shall not be wantin' in any
support as I can give. Before you come to it, sir, Milby was a dead an'
dark place; you are the fust man i' the Church to my knowledge as has
brought the word o' God home to the people; an' I'll stan' by you, sir,
I'll stan' by you. I'm a Dissenter, Mr. Tryan; I've been a Dissenter ever
sin' I was fifteen 'ear old; but show me good i' the Church, an' I'm a
Churchman too. When I was a boy I lived at Tilston; you mayn't know the
place; the best part o' the land there belonged to Squire Sandeman; he'd
a club-foot, had Squire Sandeman--lost a deal o' money by canal shares.
Well, sir, as I was sayin', I lived at Tilston, an' the rector there was
a terrible drinkin', fox-huntin' man; you niver see'd such a parish i'
your time for wickedness; Milby's nothin' to it. Well, sir, my father was
a workin' man, an' couldn't afford to gi' me ony eddication, so I went to
a night-school as was kep by a Dissenter, one Jacob Wright; an' it was
from that man, sir, as I got my little schoolin' an' my knowledge o'
religion. I went to chapel wi' Jacob--he was a good man was Jacob--an' to
chapel I've been iver since. But I'm no enemy o' the Church, sir, when
the Church brings light to the ignorant and the sinful; an' that's what
you're a-doin', Mr. Tryan. Yes, sir, I'll stan' by you. I'll go to church
wi' you o' Sunday evenin'.'

'You'd far better stay at home, Mr. Jerome, if I may give my opinion,'
interposed Mrs. Jerome. 'It's not as I hevn't ivery respect for you, Mr.
Tryan, but Mr. Jerome 'ull do you no good by his interferin'. Dissenters
are not at all looked on i' Milby, an' he's as nervous as iver he can be;
he'll come back as ill as ill, an' niver let me hev a wink o' sleep all
night.'

Mrs. Jerome had been frightened at the mention of a mob, and her
retrospective regard for the religious communion of her youth by no means
inspired her with the temper of a martyr. Her husband looked at her with
an expression of tender and grieved remonstrance, which might have been
that of the patient patriarch on the memorable occasion when he rebuked
his wife.

'Susan, Susan, let me beg on you not to oppose me, and put
stumblin'-blocks i' the way o' doing' what's right. I can't give up my
conscience, let me give up what else I may.'

'Perhaps,' said Mr. Tryan, feeling slightly uncomfortable, 'since you are
not very strong, my dear sir, it will be well, as Mrs. Jerome suggests,
that you should not run the risk of any excitement.'

'Say no more, Mr. Tryan. I'll stan' by you, sir. It's my duty. It's the
cause o' God, sir; it's the cause o' God.'

Mr. Tryan obeyed his impulse of admiration and gratitude, and put out his
hand to the white-haired old man, saying, 'Thank you, Mr. Jerome, thank
you.'

Mr. Jerome grasped the proffered hand in silence, and then threw himself
back in his chair, casting a regretful look at his wife, which seemed to
say, 'Why don't you feel with me, Susan?'

The sympathy of this simple-minded old man was more precious to Mr. Tryan
than any mere onlooker could have imagined. To persons possessing a great
deal of that facile psychology which prejudges individuals by means of
formulae, and casts them, without further trouble, into duly lettered
pigeon-holes, the Evangelical curate might seem to be doing simply what
all other men like to do--carrying out objects which were identified not
only with his theory, which is but a kind of secondary egoism, but also
with the primary egoism of his feelings. Opposition may become sweet to a
man when he has christened it persecution: a self-obtrusive, over-hasty
reformer complacently disclaiming all merit, while his friends call him a
martyr, has not in reality a career the most arduous to the fleshly mind.
But Mr. Tryan was not cast in the mould of the gratuitous martyr. With a
power of persistence which had been often blamed as obstinacy, he had an
acute sensibility to the very hatred or ridicule he did not flinch from
provoking. Every form of disapproval jarred him painfully; and, though he
fronted his opponents manfully, and often with considerable warmth of
temper, he had no pugnacious pleasure in the contest. It was one of the
weaknesses of his nature to be too keenly alive to every harsh wind of
opinion; to wince under the frowns of the foolish; to be irritated by the
injustice of those who could not possibly have the elements indispensable
for judging him rightly; and with all this acute sensibility to blame,
this dependence on sympathy, he had for years been constrained into a
position of antagonism. No wonder, then, that good old Mr. Jerome's
cordial words were balm to him. He had often been thankful to an old
woman for saying 'God bless you'; to a little child for smiling at him;
to a dog for submitting to be patted by him.

Tea being over by this time, Mr. Tryan proposed a walk in the garden as a
means of dissipating all recollection of the recent conjugal dissidence
Little Lizzie's appeal, 'Me go, gandpa!' could not be rejected, so she
was duly bonneted and pinafored, and then they turned out into the
evening sunshine. Not Mrs. Jerome, however; she had a deeply-meditated
plan of retiring _ad interim_ to the kitchen and washing up the best
teathings, as a mode of getting forward with the sadly-retarded business
of the day.

'This way, Mr. Tryan, this way,' said the old gentleman; 'I must take you
to my pastur fust, an' show you our cow--the best milker i' the county.
An' see here at these backbuildins, how convenent the dairy is; I planned
it ivery bit myself. An' here I've got my little carpenter's shop an' my
blacksmith's shop; I do no end o' jobs here myself. I niver could bear to
be idle, Mr. Tryan; I must al'ys be at somethin' or other. It was time
for me to lay by business an mek room for younger folks. I'd got money
enough, wi' only one daughter to leave it to, an' I says to myself, says
I, it's time to leave off moitherin' myself wi' this world so much, an'
give more time to thinkin' of another. But there's a many hours atween
getting up an' lyin' down, an' thoughts are no cumber; you can move about
wi' a good many on 'em in your head. See, here's the pastur.'

A very pretty pasture it was, where the large-spotted short-horned cow
quietly chewed the cud as she lay and looked sleepily at her admirers--a
daintily-trimmed hedge all round, dotted here and there with a
mountain-ash or a cherry-tree.

'I've a good bit more land besides this, worth your while to look at, but
mayhap it's further nor you'd like to walk now. Bless you! I've welly an'
acre o' potato-ground yonders; I've a good big family to supply, you
know.' (Here Mr. Jerome winked and smiled significantly.) 'An' that puts
me i' mind, Mr. Tryan, o' summat I wanted to say to you. Clergymen like
you, I know, see a deal more poverty an' that, than other folks, an' hev
a many claims on 'em more nor they can well meet; an' if you'll mek use
o' my purse any time, or let me know where I can be o' any help, I'll tek
it very kind on you.'

'Thank you, Mr. Jerome, I will do so, I promise you. I saw a sad case
yesterday; a collier--a fine broad-chested fellow about thirty--was
killed by the falling of a wall in the Paddiford colliery. I was in one
of the cottages near, when they brought him home on a door, and the
shriek of the wife has been ringing in my ears ever since. There are
three little children. Happily the woman has her loom, so she will be
able to keep out of the workhouse; but she looks very delicate.'

'Give me her name, Mr. Tryan,' said Mr. Jerome, drawing out his
pocket-book. 'I'll call an' see her.'

Deep was the fountain of pity in the good old man's heart! He often ate
his dinner stintingly, oppressed by the thought that there were men,
women, and children, with no dinner to sit down to, and would relieve his
mind by going out in the afternoon to look for some need that he could
supply, some honest struggle in which he could lend a helping hand. That
any living being should want, was his chief sorrow; that any rational
being should waste, was the next. Sally, indeed, having been scolded by
master for a too lavish use of sticks in lighting the kitchen fire, and
various instances of recklessness with regard to candle ends, considered
him 'as mean as aenythink;' but he had as kindly a warmth as the morning
sunlight, and, like the sunlight, his goodness shone on all that came in
his way, from the saucy rosy-cheeked lad whom he delighted to make happy
with a Christmas box, to the pallid sufferers up dim entries, languishing
under the tardy death of want and misery.

It was very pleasant to Mr. Tryan to listen to the simple chat of the old
man--to walk in the shade of the incomparable orchard, and hear the story
of the crops yielded by the red-streaked apple-tree, and the quite
embarrassing plentifulness of the summer-pears--to drink-in the sweet
evening breath of the garden, as they sat in the alcove--and so, for a
short interval, to feel the strain of his pastoral task relaxed.

Perhaps he felt the return to that task through the dusty roads all the
more painfully, perhaps something in that quiet shady home had reminded
him of the time before he had taken on him the yoke of self-denial. The
strongest heart will faint sometimes under the feeling that enemies are
bitter, and that friends only know half its sorrows. The most resolute
soul will now and then cast back a yearning look in treading the rough
mountain-path, away from the greensward and laughing voices of the
valley. However it was, in the nine o'clock twilight that evening, when
Mr. Tryan had entered his small study and turned the key in the door, he
threw himself into the chair before his writing-table, and, heedless of
the papers there, leaned his face low on his hand, and moaned heavily.

It is apt to be so in this life, I think. While we are coldly discussing
a man's career, sneering at his mistakes, blaming his rashness, and
labelling his opinions--'he is Evangelical and narrow', or
'Latitudinarian and Pantheistic' or 'Anglican and supercilious'--that
man, in his solitude, is perhaps shedding hot tears because his sacrifice
is a hard one, because strength and patience are failing him to speak the
difficult word, and do the difficult deed.



Chapter 9


Mr. Tryan showed no such symptoms of weakness on the critical Sunday. He
unhesitatingly rejected the suggestion that he should be taken to church
in Mr. Landor's carriage--a proposition which that gentleman made as an
amendment on the original plan, when the rumours of meditated insult
became alarming. Mr. Tryan declared he would have no precautions taken,
but would simply trust in God and his good cause. Some of his more timid
friends thought this conduct rather defiant than wise, and reflecting
that a mob has great talents for impromptu, and that legal redress is
imperfect satisfaction for having one's head broken with a brickbat, were
beginning to question their consciences very closely as to whether it was
not a duty they owed to their families to stay at home on Sunday evening.
These timorous persons, however, were in a small minority, and the
generality of Mr. Tryan's friends and hearers rather exulted in an
opportunity of braving insult for the sake of a preacher to whom they
were attached on personal as well as doctrinal grounds. Miss Pratt spoke
of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, and observed that the present crisis
afforded an occasion for emulating their heroism even in these degenerate
times; while less highly instructed persons, whose memories were not well
stored with precedents, simply expressed their determination, as Mr.
Jerome had done, to 'stan' by' the preacher and his cause, believing it
to be the 'cause of God'.

On Sunday evening, then, at a quarter past six, Mr. Tryan, setting out
from Mr. Landor's with a party of his friends who had assembled there,
was soon joined by two other groups from Mr. Pratt's and Mr. Dunn's; and
stray persons on their way to church naturally falling into rank behind
this leading file, by the time they reached the entrance of Orchard
Street, Mr. Tryan's friends formed a considerable procession, walking
three or four abreast. It was in Orchard Street, and towards the church
gates, that the chief crowd was collected; and at Mr. Dempster's
drawing-room window, on the upper floor, a more select assembly of
Anti-Tryanites were gathered to witness the entertaining spectacle of the
Tryanites walking to church amidst the jeers and hootings of the crowd.

To prompt the popular wit with appropriate sobriquets, numerous copies of
Mr. Dempster's play-bill were posted on the walls, in suitably large and
emphatic type. As it is possible that the most industrious collector of
mural literature may not have been fortunate enough to possess himself of
this production, which ought by all means to be preserved amongst the
materials of our provincial religious history, I subjoin a faithful copy.



                   GRAND ENTERTAINMENT!!!

          To be given at Milby on Sunday evening next, by the

                 FAMOUS COMEDIAN, TRY-IT-ON!

          And his first-rate company, including not only an

                UNPARALLELED CAST FOR COMEDY!

     But a Large Collection of _reclaimed and converted Animals_:
                     Among the rest
               A Bear, who used to _dance!_

             A Parrot, once given to swearing!!

                    _A Polygamous Pig!!!_
                           and
        A Monkey who used to _catch fleas on a Sunday!!!!_

                       Together with a
                 Pair of _regenerated_ LINNETS!
             With an entirely new song, and _plumage_.

                       MR. TRY-IT-ON

   Will first pass through the streets, in procession, with his
   unrivalled Company warranted to have their _eyes turned up higher_,
   and the _corners of their mouths turned down lower_, than any other
   company of Mountebanks in this circuit!

                       AFTER WHICH

   The Theatre will be opened, and the entertainment will
                commence at HALF-PAST SIX

                  When will be presented
      A piece, never before performed on any stage, entitled

                THE WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING;
                               _or_
                 THE METHODIST IN A MASK

   Mr. Boanerges Soft Sawder,  .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON.
   Old Ten-per-cent Godly,  .  .  .  .  .  MR. GANDER.
   Dr. Feedemup,   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  MR. TONIC.
   Mr. Lime-Twig Lady-winner,  .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON.
     Miss Piety Bait-the-hook, .  .  .  .  MISS TONIC.
     Angelica,  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  MISS SERAPHINA TONIC.

                          After which
         A miscellaneous Musical Interlude, commencing with
                The _Lamentations of Jerom-iah!_
                      In nasal recitative.
                       To be followed by
               The favourite Cackling Quartette,
             by Two Hen-birds who are _no chickens!_

      The well-known counter-tenor, Mr. Done, and a _Gander_,
      lineally descended from the Goose that laid golden eggs!
                       To conclude with a
                       GRAND CHORUS by the
             Entire Orchestra of Converted Animals!!

But owing to the unavoidable absence (from illness) of the _Bulldog, who
has left off fighting_, Mr. Tonic has kindly undertaken, at a moment's
notice, to supply the '_bark!_'

                  The whole to conclude with a
                     _Screaming Farce of_
                     THE PULPIT SNATCHER

   Mr. Saintly Smooth-face,  .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!
   Mr. Worming Sneaker,   .  .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!
   Mr. All-grace No-works,   .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!
   Mr. Elect-and-Chosen Apewell,   .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!
   Mr. Malevolent Prayerful, .  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!!
   Mr. Foist-himself Everywhere,   .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!!!
   Mr. Flout-the-aged Upstart,  .  .  .  MR. TRY-IT-ON!!!!!!!

Admission Free. _A Collection_ will be made at the Doors.
                      _Vivat Rex!_



This satire, though it presents the keenest edge of Milby wit, does not
strike you as lacerating, I imagine. But hatred is like fire--it makes
even light rubbish deadly. And Mr. Dempster's sarcasms were not merely
visible on the walls; they were reflected in the derisive glances, and
audible in the jeering voices of the crowd. Through this pelting shower
of nicknames and bad puns, with an _ad libitum_ accompaniment of groans,
howls, hisses, and hee-haws, but of no heavier missiles, Mr. Tryan walked
pale and composed, giving his arm to old Mr. Landor, whose step was
feeble. On the other side of him was Mr. Jerome, who still walked firmly,
though his shoulders were slightly bowed.

Outwardly Mr. Tryan was composed, but inwardly he was suffering acutely
from these tones of hatred and scorn. However strong his consciousness of
right, he found it no stronger armour against such weapons as derisive
glances and virulent words, than against stones and clubs: his conscience
was in repose, but his sensibility was bruised.

Once more only did the Evangelical curate pass up Orchard Street followed
by a train of friends; once more only was there a crowd assembled to
witness his entrance through the church gates. But that second time no
voice was heard above a whisper, and the whispers were words of sorrow
and blessing. That second time, Janet Dempster was not looking on in
scorn and merriment; her eyes were worn with grief and watching, and she
was following her beloved friend and pastor to the grave.



Chapter 10


History, we know, is apt to repeat herself, and to foist very old
incidents upon us with only a slight change of costume. From the time of
Xerxes downwards, we have seen generals playing the braggadocio at the
outset of their campaigns, and conquering the enemy with the greatest
ease in after-dinner speeches. But events are apt to be in disgusting
discrepancy with the anticipations of the most ingenious tacticians; the
difficulties of the expedition are ridiculously at variance with able
calculations; the enemy has the impudence not to fall into confusion as
had been reasonably expected of him; the mind of the gallant general
begins to be distracted by news of intrigues against him at home, and,
notwithstanding the handsome compliments he paid to Providence as his
undoubted patron before setting out, there seems every probability that
the _Te Deums_ will be all on the other side.

So it fell out with Mr. Dempster in his memorable campaign against the
Tryanites. After all the premature triumph of the return from Elmstoke,
the battle of the Evening Lecture had been lost; the enemy was in
possession of the field; and the utmost hope remaining was, that by a
harassing guerilla warfare he might be driven to evacuate the country.

For some time this sort of warfare was kept up with considerable spirit.
The shafts of Milby ridicule were made more formidable by being poisoned
with calumny; and very ugly stories, narrated with circumstantial
minuteness, were soon in circulation concerning Mr. Tryan and his
hearers, from which stories it was plainly deducible that Evangelicalism
led by a necessary consequence to hypocritical indulgence in vice. Some
old friendships were broken asunder, and there were near relations who
felt that religious differences, unmitigated by any prospect of a legacy,
were a sufficient ground for exhibiting their family antipathy. Mr. Budd
harangued his workmen, and threatened them with dismissal if they or
their families were known to attend the evening lecture; and Mr.
Tomlinson, on discovering that his foreman was a rank Tryanite, blustered
to a great extent, and would have cashiered that valuable functionary on
the spot, if such a retributive procedure had not been inconvenient.

On the whole, however, at the end of a few months, the balance of
substantial loss was on the side of the Anti-Tryanites. Mr. Pratt,
indeed, had lost a patient or two besides Mr. Dempster's family; but as
it was evident that Evangelicalism had not dried up the stream of his
anecdote, or in the least altered his view of any lady's constitution, it
is probable that a change accompanied by so few outward and visible
signs, was rather the pretext than the ground of his dismissal in those
additional cases. Mr. Dunn was threatened with the loss of several good
customers, Mrs. Phipps and Mrs. Lowme having set the example of ordering
him to send in his bill; and the draper began to look forward to his next
stock-taking with an anxiety which was but slightly mitigated by the
parallel his wife suggested between his own case and that of Shadrach,
Meshech, and Abednego, who were thrust into a burning fiery furnace. For,
as he observed to her the next morning, with that perspicacity which
belongs to the period of shaving, whereas their deliverance consisted in
the fact that their linen and woollen goods were not consumed, his own
deliverance lay in precisely the opposite result. But convenience, that
admirable branch system from the main line of self-interest, makes us all
fellow-helpers in spite of adverse resolutions. It is probable that no
speculative or theological hatred would be ultimately strong enough to
resist the persuasive power of convenience: that a latitudinarian baker,
whose bread was honourably free from alum, would command the custom of
any dyspeptic Puseyite; that an Arminian with the toothache would prefer
a skilful Calvinistic dentist to a bungler stanch against the doctrines
of Election and Final Perseverance, who would be likely to break the
tooth in his head; and that a Plymouth Brother, who had a well furnished
grocery shop in a favourable vicinage, would occasionally have the
pleasure of furnishing sugar or vinegar to orthodox families that found
themselves unexpectedly 'out of' those indispensable commodities. In this
persuasive power of convenience lay Mr. Dunn's ultimate security from
martyrdom. His drapery was the best in Milby; the comfortable use and
wont of procuring satisfactory articles at a moment's notice proved too
strong for Anti-Tryanite zeal; and the draper could soon look forward to
his next stock-taking without the support of a Scriptural parallel.

On the other hand, Mr. Dempster had lost his excellent client, Mr.
Jerome--a loss which galled him out of proportion to the mere monetary
deficit it represented. The attorney loved money, but he loved power
still better. He had always been proud of having early won the confidence
of a conventicle-goer, and of being able to 'turn the prop of Salem round
his thumb'. Like most other men, too, he had a certain kindness towards
those who had employed him when he was only starting in life; and just as
we do not like to part with an old weather-glass from our study, or a
two-feet ruler that we have carried in our pocket ever since we began
business, so Mr. Dempster did not like having to erase his old client's
name from the accustomed drawer in the bureau. Our habitual life is like
a wall hung with pictures, which has been shone on by the suns of many
years: take one of the pictures away, and it leaves a definite blank
space, to which our eyes can never turn without a sensation of
discomfort. Nay, the involuntary loss of any familiar object almost
always brings a chill as from an evil omen; it seems to be the first
finger-shadow of advancing death.

From all these causes combined, Mr. Dempster could never think of his
lost client without strong irritation, and the very sight of Mr. Jerome
passing in the street was wormwood to him.

One day, when the old gentleman was coming up Orchard Street on his roan
mare, shaking the bridle, and tickling her flank with the whip as usual,
though there was a perfect mutual understanding that she was not to
quicken her pace, Janet happened to be on her own door-step, and he could
not resist the temptation of stopping to speak to that 'nice little
woman', as he always called her, though she was taller than all the rest
of his feminine acquaintances. Janet, in spite of her disposition to take
her husband's part in all public matters, could bear no malice against
her old friend; so they shook hands.

'Well, Mrs. Dempster, I'm sorry to my heart not to see you sometimes,
that I am,' said Mr. Jerome, in a plaintive tone. 'But if you've got any
poor people as wants help, and you know's deservin', send 'em to me, send
'em to me, just the same.'

'Thank you, Mr. Jerome, that I will. Good-bye.'

Janet made the interview as short as she could, but it was not short
enough to escape the observation of her husband, who, as she feared, was
on his mid-day return from his office at the other end of the street, and
this offence of hers, in speaking to Mr. Jerome, was the frequently
recurring theme of Mr. Dempster's objurgatory domestic eloquence.

Associating the loss of his old client with Mr. Tryan's influence,
Dempster began to know more distinctly why he hated the obnoxious curate.
But a passionate hate, as well as a passionate love, demands some leisure
and mental freedom. Persecution and revenge, like courtship and toadyism,
will not prosper without a considerable expenditure of time and
ingenuity, and these are not to spare with a man whose law-business and
liver are both beginning to show unpleasant symptoms. Such was the
disagreeable turn affairs were taking with Mr. Dempster, and, like the
general distracted by home intrigues, he was too much harassed himself to
lay ingenious plans for harassing the enemy.

Meanwhile, the evening lecture drew larger and larger congregations; not
perhaps attracting many from that select aristocratic circle in which the
Lowmes and Pittmans were predominant, but winning the larger proportion
of Mr. Crewe's morning and afternoon hearers, and thinning Mr. Stickney's
evening audiences at Salem. Evangelicalism was making its way in Milby,
and gradually diffusing its subtle odour into chambers that were bolted
and barred against it. The movement, like all other religious 'revivals',
had a mixed effect. Religious ideas have the fate of melodies, which,
once set afloat in the world, are taken up by all sorts of instruments,
some of them woefully coarse, feeble, or out of tune, until people are in
danger of crying out that the melody itself is detestable. It may be that
some of Mr. Tryan's hearers had gained a religious vocabulary rather than
religious experience; that here and there a weaver's wife, who, a few
months before, had been simply a silly slattern, was converted into that
more complex nuisance, a silly and sanctimonious slattern; that the old
Adam, with the pertinacity of middle age, continued to tell fibs behind
the counter, notwithstanding the new Adam's addiction to Bible-reading
and family prayer: that the children in the Paddiford Sunday school had
their memories crammed with phrases about the blood of cleansing, imputed
righteousness, and justification by faith alone, which an experience
lying principally in chuck-farthing, hop-scotch, parental slappings, and
longings after unattainable lollypop, served rather to darken than to
illustrate; and that at Milby, in those distant days, as in all other
times and places where the mental atmosphere is changing, and men are
inhaling the stimulus of new ideas, folly often mistook itself for
wisdom, ignorance gave itself airs of knowledge, and selfishness, turning
its eyes upward, called itself religion.

Nevertheless, Evangelicalism had brought into palpable existence and
operation in Milby society that idea of duty, that recognition of
something to be lived for beyond the mere satisfaction of self, which is
to the moral life what the addition of a great central ganglion is to
animal life. No man can begin to mould himself on a faith or an idea
without rising to a higher order of experience: a principle of
subordination, of self-mastery, has been introduced into his nature; he
is no longer a mere bundle of impressions, desires, and impulses.
Whatever might be the weaknesses of the ladies who pruned the luxuriance
of their lace and ribbons, cut out garments for the poor, distributed
tracts, quoted Scripture, and defined the true Gospel, they had learned
this--that there was a divine work to be done in life, a rule of goodness
higher than the opinion of their neighbours; and if the notion of a
heaven in reserve for themselves was a little too prominent, yet the
theory of fitness for that heaven consisted in purity of heart, in
Christ-like compassion, in the subduing of selfish desires. They might
give the name of piety to much that was only puritanic egoism; they might
call many things sin that were not sin; but they had at least the feeling
that sin was to be avoided and resisted, and colour-blindness, which may
mistake drab for scarlet, is better than total blindness, which sees no
distinction of colour at all. Miss Rebecca Linnet, in quiet attire, with
a somewhat excessive solemnity of countenance, teaching at the Sunday
school, visiting the poor, and striving after a standard of purity and
goodness, had surely more moral loveliness than in those flaunting
peony-days, when she had no other model than the costumes of the heroines
in the circulating library. Miss Eliza Pratt, listening in rapt attention
to Mr. Tryan's evening lecture, no doubt found evangelical channels for
vanity and egoism; but she was clearly in moral advance of Miss Phipps
giggling under her feathers at old Mr. Crewe's peculiarities of
enunciation. And even elderly fathers and mothers, with minds, like Mrs.
Linnet's, too tough to imbibe much doctrine, were the better for having
their hearts inclined towards the new preacher as a messenger from God.
They became ashamed, perhaps, of their evil tempers, ashamed of their
worldliness, ashamed of their trivial, futile past. The first condition
of human goodness is something to love; the second, something to
reverence. And this latter precious gift was brought to Milby by Mr.
Tryan and Evangelicalism.

Yes, the movement was good, though it had that mixture of folly and evil
which often makes what is good an offence to feeble and fastidious minds,
who want human actions and characters riddled through the sieve of their
own ideas, before they can accord their sympathy or admiration. Such
minds, I daresay, would have found Mr. Tryan's character very much in
need of that riddling process. The blessed work of helping the world
forward, happily does not wait to be done by perfect men; and I should
imagine that neither Luther nor John Bunyan, for example, would have
satisfied the modern demand for an ideal hero, who believes nothing but
what is true, feels nothing but what is exalted, and does nothing but
what is graceful. The real heroes, of God's making, are quite different:
they have their natural heritage of love and conscience which they drew
in with their mother's milk; they know one or two of those deep spiritual
truths which are only to be won by long wrestling with their own sins and
their own sorrows; they have earned faith and strength so far as they
have done genuine work; but the rest is dry barren theory, blank
prejudice, vague hearsay. Their insight is blended with mere opinion;
their sympathy is perhaps confined in narrow conduits of doctrine,
instead of flowing forth with the freedom of a stream that blesses every
weed in its course; obstinacy or self-assertion will often interfuse
itself with their grandest impulses; and their very deeds of
self-sacrifice are sometimes only the rebound of a passionate egoism. So
it was with Mr. Tryan: and any one looking at him with the bird's-eye
glance of a critic might perhaps say that he made the mistake of
identifying Christianity with a too narrow doctrinal system; that he saw
God's work too exclusively in antagonism to the world, the flesh, and the
devil; that his intellectual culture was too limited--and so on; making
Mr. Tryan the text for a wise discourse on the characteristics of the
Evangelical school in his day.

But I am not poised at that lofty height. I am on the level and in the
press with him, as he struggles his way along the stony road, through the
crowd of unloving fellow-men. He is stumbling, perhaps; his heart now
beats fast with dread, now heavily with anguish; his eyes are sometimes
dim with tears, which he makes haste to dash away; he pushes manfully on,
with fluctuating faith and courage, with a sensitive failing body; at
last he falls, the struggle is ended, and the crowd closes over the space
he has left.

'One of the Evangelical clergy, a disciple of Venn,' says the critic from
his bird's-eye station. 'Not a remarkable specimen; the anatomy and
habits of his species have been determined long ago.'

Yet surely, surely the only true knowledge of our fellow-man is that
which enables us to feel with him--which gives us a fine ear for the
heart-pulses that are beating under the mere clothes of circumstance and
opinion. Our subtlest analysis of schools and sects must miss the
essential truth, unless it be lit up by the love that sees in all forms
of human thought and work, the life and death struggles of separate human
beings.



Chapter 11


Mr. Tryan's most unfriendly observers were obliged to admit that he gave
himself no rest. Three sermons on Sunday, a night-school for young men on
Tuesday, a cottage-lecture on Thursday, addresses to school-teachers, and
catechizing of school-children, with pastoral visits, multiplying as his
influence extended beyond his own district of Paddiford Common, would
have been enough to tax severely the powers of a much stronger man. Mr.
Pratt remonstrated with him on his imprudence, but could not prevail on
him so far to economize time and strength as to keep a horse. On some
ground or other, which his friends found difficult to explain to
themselves, Mr. Tryan seemed bent on wearing himself out. His enemies
were at no loss to account for such a course. The Evangelical curate's
selfishness was clearly of too bad a kind to exhibit itself after the
ordinary manner of a sound, respectable selfishness. 'He wants to get the
reputation of a saint,' said one; 'He's eaten up with spiritual pride,'
said another; 'He's got his eye on some fine living, and wants to creep
up the Bishop's sleeve,' said a third.

Mr. Stickney, of Salem, who considered all voluntary discomfort as a
remnant of the legal spirit, pronounced a severe condemnation on this
self-neglect, and expressed his fear that Mr. Tryan was still far from
having attained true Christian liberty. Good Mr. Jerome eagerly seized
this doctrinal view of the subject as a means of enforcing the
suggestions of his own benevolence; and one cloudy afternoon, in the end
of November, he mounted his roan mare with the determination of riding to
Paddiford and 'arguying' the point with Mr. Tryan.

The old gentleman's face looked very mournful as he rode along the dismal
Paddiford lanes, between rows of grimy houses, darkened with hand-looms,
while the black dust was whirled about him by the cold November wind. He
was thinking of the object which had brought him on this afternoon ride,
and his thoughts, according to his habit when alone, found vent every now
and then in audible speech. It seemed to him, as his eyes rested on this
scene of Mr. Tryan's labours, that he could understand the clergyman's
self-privation without resorting to Mr. Stickney's theory of defective
spiritual enlightenment. Do not philosophic doctors tell us that we are
unable to discern so much as a tree, except by an unconscious cunning
which combines many past and separate sensations; that no one sense is
independent of another, so that in the dark we can hardly taste a
fricassee, or tell whether our pipe is alight or not, and the most
intelligent boy, if accommodated with claws or hoofs instead of fingers,
would be likely to remain on the lowest form? If so, it is easy to
understand that our discernment of men's motives must depend on the
completeness of the elements we can bring from our own susceptibility and
our own experience. See to it, friend, before you pronounce a too hasty
judgement, that your own moral sensibilities are not of a hoofed or
clawed character. The keenest eye will not serve, unless you have the
delicate fingers, with their subtle nerve filaments, which elude
scientific lenses, and lose themselves in the invisible world of human
sensations.

As for Mr. Jerome, he drew the elements of his moral vision from the
depths of his veneration and pity. If he himself felt so much for these
poor things to whom life was so dim and meagre, what must the clergyman
feel who had undertaken before God to be their shepherd?

'Ah!' he whispered, interruptedly, 'it's too big a load for his
conscience, poor man! He wants to mek himself their brother, like; can't
abide to preach to the fastin' on a full stomach. Ah! he's better nor we
are, that's it--he's a deal better nor we are.'

Here Mr. Jerome shook his bridle violently, and looked up with an air of
moral courage, as if Mr. Stickney had been present, and liable to take
offence at this conclusion. A few minutes more brought him in front of
Mrs. Wagstaff's, where Mr. Tryan lodged. He had often been here before,
so that the contrast between this ugly square brick house, with its
shabby bit of grass-plot, stared at all round by cottage windows, and his
own pretty white home, set in a paradise of orchard and garden and
pasture was not new to him; but he felt it with fresh force today, as he
slowly fastened his roan by the bridle to the wooden paling, and knocked
at the door. Mr. Tryan was at home, and sent to request that Mr. Jerome
would walk up into his study, as the fire was out in the parlour below.

At the mention of a clergyman's study, perhaps, your too active
imagination conjures up a perfect snuggery, where the general air of
comfort is rescued from a secular character by strong ecclesiastical
suggestions in the shape of the furniture, the pattern of the carpet, and
the prints on the wall; where, if a nap is taken, it is an easy-chair
with a Gothic back, and the very feet rest on a warm and velvety
simulation of church windows; where the pure art of rigorous English
Protestantism smiles above the mantelpiece in the portrait of an eminent
bishop, or a refined Anglican taste is indicated by a German print from
Overbeck; where the walls are lined with choice divinity in sombre
binding, and the light is softened by a screen of boughs with a grey
church in the background.

But I must beg you to dismiss all such scenic prettiness, suitable as
they may be to a clergyman's character and complexion; for I have to
confess that Mr. Tryan's study was a very ugly little room indeed, with
an ugly slapdash pattern on the walls, an ugly carpet on the floor, and
an ugly view of cottage roofs and cabbage-gardens from the window. His
own person his writing-table, and his book-case, were the only objects in
the room that had the slightest air of refinement; and the sole provision
for comfort was a clumsy straight-backed arm-chair covered with faded
chintz. The man who could live in such a room, unconstrained by poverty,
must either have his vision fed from within by an intense passion, or he
must have chosen that least attractive form of self-mortification which
wears no haircloth and has no meagre days, but accepts the vulgar, the
commonplace, and the ugly, whenever the highest duty seems to lie among
them.

'Mr. Tryan, I hope you'll excuse me disturbin' on you,' said Mr. Jerome.
'But I'd summat partickler to say.'

'You don't disturb me at all, Mr. Jerome; I'm very glad to have a visit
from you,' said Mr. Tryan, shaking him heartily by the hand, and offering
him the chintz-covered 'easy' chair; 'it is some time since I've had an
opportunity of seeing you, except on a Sunday.'

'Ah, sir! your time's so taken up, I'm well aware o' that; it's not only
what you hev to do, but it's goin' about from place to place; an' you
don't keep a hoss, Mr. Tryan. You don't take care enough o' yourself--you
don't indeed, an' that's what I come to talk to y' about.'

'That's very good of you, Mr. Jerome; but I assure you I think walking
does me no harm. It is rather a relief to me after speaking or writing.
You know I have no great circuit to make. The farthest distance I have to
walk is to Milby Church, and if ever I want a horse on a Sunday, I hire
Radley's, who lives not many hundred yards from me.'

'Well, but now! the winter's comin' on, an' you'll get wet i' your feet,
an' Pratt tells me as your constitution's dillicate, as anybody may see,
for the matter o' that, wi'out bein' a doctor. An' this is the light I
look at it in, Mr. Tryan: who's to fill up your place, if you was to be
disabled, as I may say? Consider what a valyable life yours is. You've
begun a great work i' Milby, and so you might carry it on, if you'd your
health and strength. The more care you take o' yourself, the longer
you'll live, belike, God willing, to do good to your fellow-creaturs.'

'Why, my dear Mr. Jerome, I think I should not be a long-lived man in any
case; and if I were to take care of myself under the pretext of doing
more good, I should very likely die and leave nothing done after all.'

'Well! but keepin' a hoss wouldn't hinder you from workin'. It 'ud help
you to do more, though Pratt says as it's usin' your voice so constant as
does you the most harm. Now, isn't it--I'm no scholard, Mr. Tryan, an'
I'm not a-goin' to dictate to you--but isn't it a'most a-killin' o'
yourself, to go on a' that way beyond your strength? We mustn't fling
ower lives away.'

'No, not fling them away lightly, but we are permitted to lay down our
lives in a right cause. There are many duties, as you know, Mr. Jerome,
which stand before taking care of our own lives.'

'Ah! I can't arguy wi' you, Mr. Tryan; but what I wanted to say's
this--There's my little chacenut hoss; I should take it quite a kindness
if you'd hev him through the winter an' ride him. I've thought o' sellin'
him a many times, for Mrs. Jerome can't abide him; and what do I want wi'
two nags? But I'm fond o' the little chacenut, an' I shouldn't like to
sell him. So if you'll only ride him for me, you'll do me a kindness--you
will, indeed, Mr. Tryan.'

'Thank you, Mr. Jerome. I promise you to ask for him, when I feel that I
want a nag. There is no man I would more gladly be indebted to than you;
but at present I would rather not have a horse. I should ride him very
little, and it would be an inconvenience to me to keep him rather than
otherwise.'

Mr. Jerome looked troubled and hesitating, as if he had something on his
mind that would not readily shape itself into words. At last he said,
'You'll excuse me, Mr. Tryan, I wouldn't be takin' a liberty, but I know
what great claims you hev on you as a clergyman. Is it th' expense, Mr.
Tryan? is it the money?'

'No, my dear sir. I have much more than a single man needs. My way of
living is quite of my own choosing, and I am doing nothing but what I
feel bound to do, quite apart from money considerations. We cannot judge
for one another, you know; we have each our peculiar weaknesses and
temptations. I quite admit that it might be right for another man to
allow himself more luxuries, and I assure you I think it no superiority
in myself to do without them. On the contrary, if my heart were less
rebellious, and if I were less liable to temptation, I should not need
that sort of self-denial. But,' added Mr. Tryan, holding out his hand to
Mr. Jerome, 'I understand your kindness, and bless you for it. If I want
a horse, I shall ask for the chesnut.'

Mr. Jerome was obliged to rest contented with this promise, and rode home
sorrowfully, reproaching himself with not having said one thing he meant
to say when setting out, and with having 'clean forgot' the arguments he
had intended to quote from Mr. Stickney.

Mr. Jerome's was not the only mind that was seriously disturbed by the
idea that the curate was over-working himself. There were tender women's
hearts in which anxiety about the state of his affections was beginning
to be merged in anxiety about the state of his health. Miss Eliza Pratt
had at one time passed through much sleepless cogitation on the
possibility of Mr. Tryan's being attached to some lady at a distance--at
Laxeter, perhaps, where he had formerly held a curacy; and her fine eyes
kept close watch lest any symptom of engaged affections on his part
should escape her. It seemed an alarming fact that his handkerchiefs were
beautifully marked with hair, until she reflected that he had an
unmarried sister of whom he spoke with much affection as his father's
companion and comforter. Besides, Mr. Tryan had never paid any distant
visit, except one for a few days to his father, and no hint escaped him
of his intending to take a house, or change his mode of living. No! he
could not be engaged, though he might have been disappointed. But this
latter misfortune is one from which a devoted clergyman has been known to
recover, by the aid of a fine pair of grey eyes that beam on him with
affectionate reverence. Before Christmas, however, her cogitations began
to take another turn. She heard her father say very confidently that
'Tryan was consumptive, and if he didn't take more care of himself, his
life would not be worth a year's purchase;' and shame at having
speculated on suppositions that were likely to prove so false, sent poor
Miss Eliza's feelings with all the stronger impetus into the one channel
of sorrowful alarm at the prospect of losing the pastor who had opened to
her a new life of piety and self-subjection. It is a sad weakness in us,
after all, that the thought of a man's death hallows him anew to us; as
if life were not sacred too--as if it were comparatively a light thing to
fail in love and reverence to the brother who has to climb the whole
toilsome steep with us, and all our tears and tenderness were due to the
one who is spared that hard journey.

The Miss Linnets, too, were beginning to take a new view of the future,
entirely uncoloured by jealousy of Miss Eliza Pratt.

'Did you notice,' said Mary, one afternoon when Mrs. Pettifer was taking
tea with them--'did you notice that short dry cough of Mr. Tryan's
yesterday? I think he looks worse and worse every week, and I only wish I
knew his sister; I would write to her about him. I'm sure something
should be done to make him give up part of his work, and he will listen
to no one here.'

'Ah,' said Mrs. Pettifer, 'it's a thousand pities his father and sister
can't come and live with him, if he isn't to marry. But I wish with all
my heart he could have taken to some nice woman as would have made a
comfortable home for him. I used to think he might take to Eliza Pratt;
she's a good girl, and very pretty; but I see no likelihood of it now.'

'No, indeed.' said Rebecca, with some emphasis: 'Mr. Tryan's heart is not
for any woman to win; it is all given to his work; and I could never wish
to see him with a young inexperienced wife who would be a drag on him
instead of a help-mate.'

'He'd need have somebody, young or old,' observed Mrs. Linnet, 'to see as
he wears a flannel wescoat, an' changes his stockins when he comes in.
It's my opinion he's got that cough wi' sittin i' wet shoes and stockins;
an' that Mrs. Wagstaff's a poor addle-headed thing; she doesn't half tek
care on him.'

'O mother!' said Rebecca, 'she's a very pious woman. And I'm sure she
thinks it too great a privilege to have Mr. Tryan with her, not to do the
best she can to make him comfortable. She can't help her rooms being
shabby.'

'I've nothing to say again' her piety, my dear; but I know very well I
shouldn't like her to cook my victual. When a man comes in hungry an'
tired, piety won't feed him, I reckon. Hard carrots 'ull lie heavy on his
stomach, piety or no piety. I called in one day when she was dishin' up
Mr. Tryan's dinner, an' I could see the potatoes was as watery as watery.
It's right enough to be speritial--I'm no enemy to that; but I like my
potatoes mealy. I don't see as anybody 'ull go to heaven the sooner for
not digestin' their dinner--providin' they don't die sooner, as mayhap
Mr. Tryan will, poor dear man!'

'It will be a heavy day for us all when that comes to pass,' said Mrs.
Pettifer. 'We shall never get anybody to fill up _that_ gap. There's the
new clergyman that's just come to Shepperton--Mr. Parry; I saw him the
other day at Mrs. Bond's. He may be a very good man, and a fine preacher;
they say he is; but I thought to myself, What a difference between him
and Mr. Tryan! He's a sharp-sort-of-looking man, and hasn't that feeling
way with him that Mr. Tryan has. What is so wonderful to me in Mr. Tryan
is the way he puts himself on a level with one, and talks to one like a
brother. I'm never afraid of telling him anything. He never seems to look
down on anybody. He knows how to lift up those that are cast down, if
ever man did.'

'Yes,' said Mary. 'And when I see all the faces turned up to him in
Paddiford Church. I often think how hard it would be for any clergyman
who had to come after him; he has made the people love him so.'



Chapter 12


In her occasional visits to her near neighbour Mrs. Pettifer, too old a
friend to be shunned because she was a Tryanite, Janet was obliged
sometimes to hear allusions to Mr. Tryan, and even to listen to his
praises, which she usually met with playful incredulity.

'Ah, well,' she answered one day, 'I like dear old Mr. Crewe and his
pipes a great deal better than your Mr. Tryan and his Gospel. When I was
a little toddle, Mr. and Mrs. Crewe used to let me play about in their
garden, and have a swing between the great elm-trees, because mother had
no garden. I like people who are kind; kindness is my religion; and
that's the reason I like you, dear Mrs. Pettifer, though you are a
Tryanite.'

'But that's Mr. Tryan's religion too--at least partly. There's nobody can
give himself up more to doing good amongst the poor; and he thinks of
their bodies too, as well as their souls.'

'O yes, yes; but then he talks about faith, and grace, and all that,
making people believe they are better than others, and that God loves
them more than He does the rest of the world. I know he has put a great
deal of that into Sally Martin's head, and it has done her no good at
all. She was as nice, honest, patient a girl as need be before; and now
she fancies she has new light and new wisdom. I don't like those
notions.'

'You mistake him, indeed you do, my dear Mrs. Dempster; I wish you'd go
and hear him preach.'

'Hear him preach! Why, you wicked woman, you would persuade me to disobey
my husband, would you? O, shocking! I shall run away from you. Good-bye.'

A few days after this conversation, however, Janet went to Sally Martin's
about three o'clock in the afternoon. The pudding that had been sent in
for herself and 'Mammy,' struck her as just the sort of delicate morsel
the poor consumptive girl would be likely to fancy, and in her usual
impulsive way she had started up from the dinner table at once, put on
her bonnet, and set off with a covered plateful to the neighbouring
street. When she entered the house there was no one to be seen; but in
the little sideroom where Sally lay, Janet heard a voice. It was one she
had not heard before, but she immediately guessed it to be Mr. Tryan's.
Her first impulse was to set down her plate and go away, but Mrs. Martin
might not be in, and then there would be no one to give Sally that
delicious bit of pudding. So she stood still, and was obliged to hear
what Mr. Tryan was saying. He was interrupted by one of the invalid's
violent fits of coughing.

'It is very hard to bear, is it not?' he said when she was still again.
'Yet God seems to support you under it wonderfully. Pray for me, Sally,
that I may have strength too when the hour of great suffering comes. It
is one of my worst weaknesses to shrink from bodily pain, and I think the
time is perhaps not far off when I shall have to bear what you are
bearing. But now I have tired you. We have talked enough. Good-bye.'

Janet was surprised, and forgot her wish not to encounter Mr. Tryan: the
tone and the words were so unlike what she had expected to hear. There
was none of the self-satisfied unction of the teacher, quoting, or
exhorting, or expounding, for the benefit of the hearer, but a simple
appeal for help, a confession of weakness. Mr. Tryan had his deeply-felt
troubles, then? Mr. Tryan, too, like herself, knew what it was to tremble
at a foreseen trial--to shudder at an impending burthen, heavier than he
felt able to bear?

The most brilliant deed of virtue could not have inclined Janet's
good-will towards Mr. Tryan so much as this fellowship in suffering, and
the softening thought was in her eyes when he appeared in the doorway,
pale, weary, and depressed. The sight of Janet standing there with the
entire absence of self-consciousness which belongs to a new and vivid
impression, made him start and pause a little. Their eyes met, and they
looked at each other gravely for a few moments. Then they bowed, and Mr.
Tryan passed out.

There is a power in the direct glance of a sincere and loving human soul,
which will do more to dissipate prejudice and kindle charity than the
most elaborate arguments. The fullest exposition of Mr. Tryan's doctrine
might not have sufficed to convince Janet that he had not an odious
self-complacency in believing himself a peculiar child of God; but one
direct, pathetic look of his had dissociated him with that conception for
ever.

This happened late in the autumn, not long before Sally Martin died.
Janet mentioned her new impression to no one, for she was afraid of
arriving at a still more complete contradiction of her former ideas. We
have all of us considerable regard for our past self, and are not fond of
casting reflections on that respected individual by a total negation of
his opinions. Janet could no longer think of Mr. Tryan without sympathy.
but she still shrank from the idea of becoming his hearer and admirer.
That was a reversal of the past which was as little accordant with her
inclination as her circumstances.

And indeed this interview with Mr. Tryan was soon thrust into the
background of poor Janet's memory by the daily thickening miseries of her
life.



Chapter 13


The loss of Mr. Jerome as a client proved only the beginning of
annoyances to Dempster. That old gentleman had in him the vigorous
remnant of an energy and perseverance which had created his own fortune;
and being, as I have hinted, given to chewing the cud of a righteous
indignation with considerable relish, he was determined to carry on his
retributive war against the persecuting attorney. Having some influence
with Mr. Pryme, who was one of the most substantial rate-payers in the
neighbouring parish of Dingley, and who had himself a complex and
long-standing private account with Dempster, Mr. Jerome stirred up this
gentleman to an investigation of some suspicious points in the attorney's
conduct of the parish affairs. The natural consequence was a personal
quarrel between Dempster and Mr. Pryme; the client demanded his account,
and then followed the old story of an exorbitant lawyer's bill, with the
unpleasant anti-climax of taxing.

These disagreeables, extending over many months, ran along side by side
with the pressing business of Mr. Armstrong's lawsuit, which was
threatening to take a turn rather depreciatory of Dempster's professional
prevision; and it is not surprising that, being thus kept in a constant
state of irritated excitement about his own affairs, he had little time
for the further exhibition of his public spirit, or for rallying the
forlorn hope of sound churchmanship against cant and hypocrisy. Not a few
persons who had a grudge against him, began to remark, with satisfaction,
that 'Dempster's luck was forsaking him'; particularly Mrs. Linnet, who
thought she saw distinctly the gradual ripening of a providential scheme,
whereby a just retribution would be wrought on the man who had deprived
her of Pye's Croft. On the other hand, Dempster's well-satisfied clients.
who were of opinion that the punishment of his wickedness might
conveniently be deferred to another world, noticed with some concern that
he was drinking more than ever, and that both his temper and his driving
were becoming more furious. Unhappily those additional glasses of brandy,
that exasperation of loud-tongued abuse, had other effects than any that
entered into the contemplation of anxious clients: they were the little
super-added symbols that were perpetually raising the sum of home misery.

Poor Janet! how heavily the months rolled on for her, laden with fresh
sorrows as the summer passed into autumn, the autumn into winter, and the
winter into spring again. Every feverish morning, with its blank
listlessness and despair, seemed more hateful than the last; every coming
night more impossible to brave without arming herself in leaden stupor.
The morning light brought no gladness to her: it seemed only to throw its
glare on what had happened in the dim candle-light--on the cruel man
seated immovable in drunken obstinacy by the dead fire and dying lights
in the dining-room, rating her in harsh tones, reiterating old
reproaches--or on a hideous blank of something unremembered, something
that must have made that dark bruise on her shoulder, which aches as she
dressed herself.

Do you wonder how it was that things had come to this pass--what offence
Janet had committed in the early years of marriage to rouse the brutal
hatred of this man? The seeds of things are very small: the hours that
lie between sunrise and the gloom of midnight are travelled through by
tiniest markings of the clock: and Janet, looking back along the fifteen
years of her married life, hardly knew how or where this total misery
began; hardly knew when the sweet wedded love and hope that had set for
ever had ceased to make a twilight of memory and relenting, before the
on-coming of the utter dark.

Old Mrs. Dempster thought she saw the true beginning of it all in Janet's
want of housekeeping skill and exactness. 'Janet,' she said to herself,
'was always running about doing things for other people, and neglecting
her own house. That provokes a man: what use is it for a woman to be
loving, and making a fuss with her husband, if she doesn't take care and
keep his home just as he likes it; if she isn't at hand when he wants
anything done; if she doesn't attend to all his wishes, let them be as
small as they may? That was what I did when I was a wife, though I didn't
make half so much fuss about loving my husband. Then, Janet had no
children.' ... Ah! there Mammy Dempster had touched a true spring, not
perhaps of her son's cruelty, but of half Janet's misery. If she had had
babes to rock to sleep--little ones to kneel in their night-dress and say
their prayers at her knees--sweet boys and girls to put their young arms
round her neck and kiss away her tears, her poor hungry heart would have
been fed with strong love, and might never have needed that fiery poison
to still its cravings. Mighty is the force of motherhood! says the great
tragic poet to us across the ages, finding, as usual, the simplest words
for the sublimest fact--[Greek: deinon to tiktein estin.] It transforms
all things by its vital heat: it turns timidity into fierce courage, and
dreadless defiance into tremulous submission; it turns thoughtlessness
into foresight, and yet stills all anxiety into calm content; it makes
selfishness become self-denial, and gives even to hard vanity the glance
of admiring love. Yes! if Janet had been a mother, she might have been
saved from much sin, and therefore from much of her sorrow.

But do not believe that it was anything either present or wanting in poor
Janet that formed the motive of her husband's cruelty. Cruelty, like
every other vice, requires no motive outside itself--it only requires
opportunity. You do not suppose Dempster had any motive for drinking
beyond the craving for drink; the presence of brandy was the only
necessary condition. And an unloving, tyrannous, brutal man needs no
motive to prompt his cruelty; he needs only the perpetual presence of a
woman he can call his own. A whole park full of tame or timid-eyed
animals to torment at his will would not serve him so well to glut his
lust of torture; they could not feel as one woman does; they could not
throw out the keen retort which whets the edge of hatred.

Janet's bitterness would overflow in ready words; she was not to be made
meek by cruelty; she would repent of nothing in the face of injustice,
though she was subdued in a moment by a word or a look that recalled the
old days of fondness; and in times of comparative calm would often
recover her sweet woman's habit of caressing playful affection. But such
days were become rare, and poor Janet's soul was kept like a vexed sea,
tossed by a new storm before the old waves have fallen. Proud, angry
resistance and sullen endurance were now almost the only alternations she
knew. She would bear it all proudly to the world, but proudly towards him
too; her woman's weakness might shriek a cry for pity under a heavy blow,
but voluntarily she would do nothing to mollify him, unless he first
relented. What had she ever done to him but love him too well--but
believe in him too foolishly? He had no pity on her tender flesh; he
could strike the soft neck he had once asked to kiss. Yet she would not
admit her wretchedness; she had married him blindly, and she would bear
it out to the terrible end, whatever that might be. Better this misery
than the blank that lay for her outside her married home.

But there was one person who heard all the plaints and all the outbursts
of bitterness and despair which Janet was never tempted to pour into any
other ear; and alas! in her worst moments, Janet would throw out wild
reproaches against that patient listener. For the wrong that rouses our
angry passions finds only a medium in us; it passes through us like a
vibration, and we inflict what we have suffered.

Mrs. Raynor saw too clearly all through the winter that things were
getting worse in Orchard Street. She had evidence enough of it in Janet's
visits to her; and, though her own visits to her daughter were so timed
that she saw little of Dempster personally, she noticed many indications
not only that he was drinking to greater excess, but that he was
beginning to lose that physical power of supporting excess which had long
been the admiration of such fine spirits as Mr. Tomlinson. It seemed as
if Dempster had some consciousness of this--some new distrust of himself;
for, before winter was over, it was observed that he had renounced his
habit of driving out alone, and was never seen in his gig without a
servant by his side.

Nemesis is lame, but she is of colossal stature, like the gods; and
sometimes, while her sword is not yet unsheathed, she stretches out her
huge left arm and grasps her victim. The mighty hand is invisible, but
the victim totters under the dire clutch.

The various symptoms that things were getting worse with the Dempsters
afforded Milby gossip something new to say on an old subject. Mrs.
Dempster, every one remarked, looked more miserable than ever, though she
kept up the old pretence of being happy and satisfied. She was scarcely
ever seen, as she used to be, going about on her good-natured errands;
and even old Mrs. Crewe, who had always been wilfully blind to anything
wrong in her favourite Janet, was obliged to admit that she had not
seemed like herself lately. 'The poor thing's out of health,' said the
kind little old lady, in answer to all gossip about Janet; 'her headaches
always were bad, and I know what headaches are; why, they make one quite
delirious sometimes.' Mrs. Phipps, for her part, declared she would never
accept an invitation to Dempster's again; it was getting so very
disagreeable to go there, Mrs. Dempster was often 'so strange'. To be
sure, there were dreadful stories about the way Dempster used his wife;
but in Mrs. Phipps's opinion, it was six of one and half-a-dozen of the
other. Mrs. Dempster had never been like other women; she had always a
flighty way with her, carrying parcels of snuff to old Mrs. Tooke, and
going to drink tea with Mrs. Brinley, the carpenter's wife; and then
never taking care of her clothes, always wearing the same things week-day
or Sunday. A man has a poor look-out with a wife of that sort. Mr.
Phipps, amiable and laconic, wondered how it was women were so fond of
running each other down.

Mr. Pratt having been called in provisionally to a patient of Mr.
Pilgrim's in a case of compound fracture, observed in a friendly colloquy
with his brother surgeon the next day,--'So Dempster has left off driving
himself, I see; he won't end with a broken neck after all. You'll have a
case of meningitis and delirium tremens instead.'

'Ah,' said Mr. Pilgrim, 'he can hardly stand it much longer at the rate
he's going on, one would think. He's been confoundedly cut up about that
business of Armstrong's, I fancy. It may do him some harm, perhaps, but
Dempster must have feathered his nest pretty well; he can afford to lose
a little business.'

'His business will outlast him, that's pretty clear,' said Pratt; 'he'll
run down like a watch with a broken spring one of these days.'

Another prognostic of evil to Dempster came at the beginning of March.
For then little 'Mamsey' died--died suddenly. The housemaid found her
seated motionless in her arm-chair, her knitting fallen down, and the
tortoise-shell cat reposing on it unreproved. The little white old woman
had ended her wintry age of patient sorrow, believing to the last that
'Robert might have been a good husband as he had been a good son.'

When the earth was thrown on Mamsey's coffin, and the son, in crape scarf
and hatband, turned away homeward, his good angel, lingering with
outstretched wing on the edge of the grave, cast one despairing look
after him, and took flight for ever.



Chapter 14


The last week in March--three weeks after old Mrs. Dempster
died--occurred the unpleasant winding-up of affairs between Dempster and
Mr. Pryme, and under this additional source of irritation the attorney's
diurnal drunkenness had taken on its most ill-tempered and brutal phase.
On the Friday morning, before setting out for Rotherby, he told his wife
that he had invited 'four men' to dinner at half-past six that evening.
The previous night had been a terrible one for Janet, and when her
husband broke his grim morning silence to say these few words, she was
looking so blank and listless that he added in a loud sharp key, 'Do you
hear what I say? or must I tell the cook?' She started, and said, 'Yes, I
hear.'

'Then mind and have a dinner provided, and don't go mooning about like
crazy Jane.'

Half an hour afterwards Mrs. Raynor, quietly busy in her kitchen with her
household labours--for she had only a little twelve-year-old girl as a
servant--heard with trembling the rattling of the garden gate and the
opening of the outer door. She knew the step, and in one short moment she
lived beforehand through the coming scene. She hurried out of the
kitchen, and there in the passage, as she had felt, stood Janet, her eyes
worn as if by night-long watching, her dress careless, her step languid.
No cheerful morning greeting to her mother--no kiss. She turned into the
parlour, and, seating herself on the sofa opposite her mother's chair,
looked vacantly at the walls and furniture until the corners of her mouth
began to tremble, and her dark eyes filled with tears that fell unwiped
down her cheeks. The mother sat silently opposite to her, afraid to
speak. She felt sure there was nothing new the matter--sure that the
torrent of words would come sooner or later.

'Mother! why don't you speak to me?' Janet burst out at last; 'you don't
care about my suffering; you are blaming me because I feel--because I am
miserable.'

'My child, I am not blaming you--my heart is bleeding for you. Your head
is bad this morning--you have had a bad night. Let me make you a cup of
tea now. Perhaps you didn't like your breakfast.'

'Yes, that is what you always think, mother. It is the old story, you
think. You don't ask me what it is I have had to bear. You are tired of
hearing me. You are cruel, like the rest; every one is cruel in this
world. Nothing but blame--blame--blame; never any pity. God is cruel to
have sent me into the world to bear all this misery.'

'Janet, Janet, don't say so. It is not for us to judge; we must submit;
we must be thankful for the gift of life.'

'Thankful for life! Why should I be thankful? God has made me with a
heart to feel, and He has sent me nothing but misery. How could I help
it? How could I know what would come? Why didn't you tell me,
mother?--why did you let me marry? You knew what brutes men could be; and
there's no help for me--no hope. I can't kill myself; I've tried; but I
can't leave this world and go to another. There may be no pity for me
there, as there is none here.'

'Janet, my child, there _is_ pity. Have I ever done anything but love
you? And there is pity in God. Hasn't He put pity into your heart for
many a poor sufferer? Where did it come from, if not from Him?'

Janet's nervous irritation now broke out into sobs instead of
complainings; and her mother was thankful, for after that crisis there
would very likely come relenting, and tenderness, and comparative calm.
She went out to make some tea, and when she returned with the tray in her
hands, Janet had dried her eyes and now turned them towards her mother
with a faint attempt to smile; but the poor face, in its sad blurred
beauty, looked all the more piteous.

'Mother will insist upon her tea,' she said, 'and I really think I can
drink a cup. But I must go home directly, for there are people coming to
dinner. Could you go with me and help me, mother?'

Mrs. Raynor was always ready to do that. She went to Orchard Street with
Janet, and remained with her through the day--comforted, as evening
approached, to see her become more cheerful and willing to attend to her
toilette. At half-past five everything was in order; Janet was dressed;
and when the mother had kissed her and said good-bye, she could not help
pausing a moment in sorrowful admiration at the tall rich figure, looking
all the grander for the plainness of the deep mourning dress, and the
noble face with its massy folds of black hair, made matronly by a simple
white cap. Janet had that enduring beauty which belongs to pure majestic
outline and depth of tint. Sorrow and neglect leave their traces on such
beauty, but it thrills us to the last, like a glorious Greek temple,
which, for all the loss it has suffered from time and barbarous hands,
has gained a solemn history, and fills our imagination the more because
it is incomplete to the sense.

It was six o'clock before Dempster returned from Rotherby. He had
evidently drunk a great deal, and was in an angry humour; but Janet, who
had gathered some little courage and forbearance from the consciousness
that she had done her best to-day, was determined to speak pleasantly to
him.

'Robert,' she said gently, as she saw him seat himself in the dining-room
in his dusty snuffy clothes, and take some documents out of his pocket,
'will you not wash and change your dress? It will refresh you.'

'Leave me alone, will you?' said Dempster, in his most brutal tone.

'Do change your coat and waistcoat, they are so dusty. I've laid all your
things out ready.'

'O, you have, have you?' After a few minutes he rose very deliberately
and walked upstairs into his bedroom. Janet had often been scolded before
for not laying out his clothes, and she thought now, not without some
wonder, that this attention of hers had brought him to compliance.

Presently he called out, 'Janet!' and she went upstairs.

'Here! Take that!' he said, as soon as she reached the door, flinging at
her the coat she had laid out. 'Another time, leave me to do as I please,
will you?'

The coat, flung with great force, only brushed her shoulder, and fell
some distance within the drawing-room, the door of which stood open just
opposite. She hastily retreated as she saw the waistcoat coming, and one
by one the clothes she had laid out were all flung into the drawing-room.

Janet's face flushed with anger, and for the first time in her life her
resentment overcame the long cherished pride that made her hide her
griefs from the world. There are moments when by some strange impulse we
contradict our past selves--fatal moments, when a fit of passion, like a
lava stream, lays low the work of half our lives. Janet thought, 'I will
not pick up the clothes; they shall lie there until the visitors come,
and he shall be ashamed of himself.'

There was a knock at the door, and she made haste to seat herself in the
drawing-room, lest the servant should enter and remove the clothes, which
were lying half on the table and half on the ground. Mr. Lowme entered
with a less familiar visitor, a client of Dempster's, and the next moment
Dempster himself came in.

His eye fell at once on the clothes, and then turned for an instant with
a devilish glance of concentrated hatred on Janet, who, still flushed and
excited, affected unconsciousness. After shaking hands with his visitors
he immediately rang the bell.

'Take those clothes away,' he said to the servant, not looking at Janet
again.

During dinner, she kept up her assumed air of indifference, and tried to
seem in high spirits, laughing and talking more than usual. In reality,
she felt as if she had defied a wild beast within the four walls of his
den, and he was crouching backward in preparation for his deadly spring.
Dempster affected to take no notice of her, talked obstreperously, and
drank steadily.

About eleven the party dispersed, with the exception of Mr. Budd, who had
joined them after dinner, and appeared disposed to stay drinking a little
longer. Janet began to hope that he would stay long enough for Dempster
to become heavy and stupid, and so to fall asleep down-stairs, which was
a rare but occasional ending of his nights. She told the servants to sit
up no longer, and she herself undressed and went to bed, trying to cheat
her imagination into the belief that the day was ended for her. But when
she lay down, she became more intensely awake than ever. Everything she
had taken this evening seemed only to stimulate her senses and her
apprehensions to new vividness. Her heart beat violently, and she heard
every sound in the house.

At last, when it was twelve, she heard Mr. Budd go out; she heard the
door slam. Dempster had not moved. Was he asleep? Would he forget? The
minute seemed long, while, with a quickening pulse, she was on the
stretch to catch every sound.

'Janet!' The loud jarring voice seemed to strike her like a hurled
weapon.

'Janet!' he called again, moving out of the dining-room to the foot of
the stairs.

There was a pause of a minute.

'If you don't come, I'll kill you.'

Another pause, and she heard him turn back into the dining-room. He was
gone for a light--perhaps for a weapon. Perhaps he _would_ kill her. Let
him. Life was as hideous as death. For years she had been rushing on to
some unknown but certain horror; and now she was close upon it. She was
almost glad. She was in a state of flushed feverish defiance that
neutralized her woman's terrors.

She heard his heavy step on the stairs; she saw the slowly advancing
light. Then she saw the tall massive figure, and the heavy face, now
fierce with drunken rage. He had nothing but the candle in his hand. He
set it down on the table, and advanced close to the bed.

'So you think you'll defy me, do you? We'll see how long that will last.
Get up, madam; out of bed this instant!'

In the close presence of the dreadful man--of this huge crushing force,
armed with savage will--poor Janet's desperate defiance all forsook her,
and her terrors came back. Trembling she got up, and stood helpless in
her night-dress before her husband.

He seized her with his heavy grasp by the shoulder, and pushed her before
him.

'I'll cool your hot spirit for you! I'll teach you to brave me!'

Slowly he pushed her along before him, down stairs and through the
passage, where a small oil-lamp was still flickering. What was he going
to do to her? She thought every moment he was going to dash her before
him on the ground. But she gave no scream--she only trembled.

He pushed her on to the entrance, and held her firmly in his grasp while
he lifted the latch of the door. Then he opened the door a little way,
thrust her out, and slammed it behind her.

For a short space, it seemed like a deliverance to Janet. The harsh
north-east wind, that blew through her thin night-dress, and sent her
long heavy black hair streaming, seemed like the breath of pity after the
grasp of that threatening monster. But soon the sense of release from an
overpowering terror gave way before the sense of the fate that had really
come upon her.

This, then, was what she had been travelling towards through her long
years of misery! Not yet death. O! if she had been brave enough for it,
death would have been better. The servants slept at the back of the
house; it was impossible to make them hear, so that they might let her in
again quietly, without her husband's knowledge. And she would not have
tried. He had thrust her out, and it should be for ever.

There would have been dead silence in Orchard Street but for the
whistling of the wind and the swirling of the March dust on the pavement.
Thick clouds covered the sky; every door was closed; every window was
dark. No ray of light fell on the tall white figure that stood in lonely
misery on the doorstep; no eye rested on Janet as she sank down on the
cold stone, and looked into the dismal night. She seemed to be looking
into her own blank future.



Chapter 15


The stony street, the bitter north-east wind and darkness--and in the
midst of them a tender woman thrust out from her husband's home in her
thin night-dress, the harsh wind cutting her naked feet, and driving her
long hair away from her half-clad bosom, where the poor heart is crushed
with anguish and despair.

The drowning man, urged by the supreme agony, lives in an instant through
all his happy and unhappy past: when the dark flood has fallen like a
curtain, memory, in a single moment, sees the drama acted over again. And
even in those earlier crises, which are but types of death--when we are
cut off abruptly from the life we have known, when we can no longer
expect tomorrow to resemble yesterday, and find ourselves by some sudden
shock on the confines of the unknown--there is often the same sort of
lightning-flash through the dark and unfrequented chambers of memory.

When Janet sat down shivering on the door-stone, with the door shut upon
her past life, and the future black and unshapen before her as the night,
the scenes of her childhood, her youth and her painful womanhood, rushed
back upon her consciousness, and made one picture with her present
desolation. The petted child taking her newest toy to bed with her--the
young girl, proud in strength and beauty, dreaming that life was an easy
thing, and that it was pitiful weakness to be unhappy--the bride, passing
with trembling joy from the outer court to the inner sanctuary of woman's
life--the wife, beginning her initiation into sorrow, wounded, resenting,
yet still hoping and forgiving--the poor bruised woman, seeking through
weary years the one refuge of despair, oblivion:--Janet seemed to herself
all these in the same moment that she was conscious of being seated on
the cold stone under the shock of a new misery. All her early gladness,
all her bright hopes and illusions, all her gifts of beauty and
affection, served only to darken the riddle of her life; they were the
betraying promises of a cruel destiny which had brought out those sweet
blossoms only that the winds and storms might have a greater work of
desolation, which had nursed her like a pet fawn into tenderness and fond
expectation, only that she might feel a keener terror in the clutch of
the panther. Her mother had sometimes said that troubles were sent to
make us better and draw us nearer to God. What mockery that seemed to
Janet! _Her_ troubles had been sinking her lower from year to year,
pressing upon her like heavy fever-laden vapours, and perverting the very
plenitude of her nature into a deeper source of disease. Her wretchedness
had been a perpetually tightening instrument of torture, which had
gradually absorbed all the other sensibilities of her nature into the
sense of pain and the maddened craving for relief. Oh, if some ray of
hope, of pity, of consolation, would pierce through the horrible gloom,
she might believe _then_ in a Divine love--in a heavenly Father who cared
for His children! But now she had no faith, no trust. There was nothing
she could lean on in the wide world, for her mother was only a
fellow-sufferer in her own lot. The poor patient woman could do little
more than mourn with her daughter: she had humble resignation enough to
sustain her own soul, but she could no more give comfort and fortitude to
Janet, than the withered ivy-covered trunk can bear up its strong,
full-boughed offspring crashing down under an Alpine storm. Janet felt
she was alone: no human soul had measured her anguish, had understood her
self-despair, had entered into her sorrows and her sins with that
deep-sighted sympathy which is wiser than all blame, more potent than all
reproof--such sympathy as had swelled her own heart for many a sufferer.
And if there was any Divine Pity, she could not feel it; it kept aloof
from her, it poured no balm into her wounds, it stretched out no hand to
bear up her weak resolve, to fortify her fainting courage.

Now, in her utmost loneliness, she shed no tear: she sat staring fixedly
into the darkness, while inwardly she gazed at her own past, almost
losing the sense that it was her own, or that she was anything more than
a spectator at a strange and dreadful play.

The loud sound of the church clock, striking one, startled her. She had
not been there more than half an hour, then? And it seemed to her as if
she had been there half the night. She was getting benumbed with cold.
With that strong instinctive dread of pain and death which had made her
recoil from suicide, she started up, and the disagreeable sensation of
resting on her benumbed feet helped to recall her completely to the sense
of the present. The wind was beginning to make rents in the clouds, and
there came every now and then a dim light of stars that frightened her
more than the darkness; it was like a cruel finger pointing her out in
her wretchedness and humiliation; it made her shudder at the thought of
the morning twilight. What could she do? Not go to her mother--not rouse
her in the dead of night to tell her this. Her mother would think she was
a spectre; it would be enough to kill her with horror. And the way there
was so long ... if she should meet some one ... yet she must seek some
shelter, somewhere to hide herself. Five doors off there was Mrs.
Pettifer's; that kind woman would take her in. It was of no use now to be
proud and mind about the world's knowing: she had nothing to wish for,
nothing to care about; only she could not help shuddering at the thought
of braving the morning light, there in the street--she was frightened at
the thought of spending long hours in the cold. Life might mean anguish,
might mean despair; but oh, she must clutch it, though with bleeding
fingers; her feet must cling to the firm earth that the sunlight would
revisit, not slip into the untried abyss, where she might long even for
familiar pains.

Janet trod slowly with her naked feet on the rough pavement, trembling at
the fitful gleams of starlight, and supporting herself by the wall, as
the gusts of wind drove right against her. The very wind was cruel: it
tried to push her back from the door where she wanted to go and knock and
ask for pity.

Mrs. Pettifer's house did not look into Orchard Street: it stood a little
way up a wide passage which opened into the street through an archway.
Janet turned up the archway, and saw a faint light coming from Mrs.
Pettifer's bedroom window. The glimmer of a rushlight from a room where a
friend was lying, was like a ray of mercy to Janet, after that long, long
time of darkness and loneliness; it would not be so dreadful to awake
Mrs. Pettifer as she had thought. Yet she lingered some minutes at the
door before she gathered courage to knock; she felt as if the sound must
betray her to others besides Mrs. Pettifer, though there was no other
dwelling that opened into the passage--only warehouses and outbuildings.
There was no gravel for her to throw up at the window, nothing but heavy
pavement; there was no door-bell; she must knock. Her first rap was very
timid--one feeble fall of the knocker; and then she stood still again for
many minutes; but presently she rallied her courage and knocked several
times together, not loudly, but rapidly, so that Mrs. Pettifer, if she
only heard the sound, could not mistake it. And she _had_ heard it, for
by and by the casement of her window was opened, and Janet perceived that
she was bending out to try and discern who it was at the door.

'It is I, Mrs. Pettifer; it is Janet Dempster. Take me in, for pity's
sake.'

'Merciful God! what has happened?'

'Robert has turned me out. I have been in the cold a long while.'

Mrs. Pettifer said no more, but hurried away from the window, and was
soon at the door with a light in her hand.

'Come in, my poor dear, come in,' said the good woman in a tremulous
voice, drawing Janet within the door. 'Come into my warm bed, and may God
in heaven save and comfort you.'

The pitying eyes, the tender voice, the warm touch, caused a rush of new
feeling in Janet. Her heart swelled, and she burst out suddenly, like a
child, into loud passionate sobs. Mrs. Pettifer could not help crying
with her, but she said, 'Come upstairs, my dear, come. Don't linger in
the cold.'

She drew the poor sobbing thing gently up-stairs, and persuaded her to
get into the warm bed. But it was long before Janet could lie down. She
sat leaning her head on her knees, convulsed by sobs, while the motherly
woman covered her with clothes and held her arms round her to comfort her
with warmth. At last the hysterical passion had exhausted itself, and she
fell back on the pillow; but her throat was still agitated by piteous
after-sobs, such as shake a little child even when it has found a refuge
from its alarms on its mother's lap.

Now Janet was getting quieter, Mrs. Pettifer determined to go down and
make a cup of tea, the first thing a kind old woman thinks of as a solace
and restorative under all calamities. Happily there was no danger of
awaking her servant, a heavy girl of sixteen, who was snoring blissfully
in the attic, and might be kept ignorant of the way in which Mrs.
Dempster had come in. So Mrs. Pettifer busied herself with rousing the
kitchen fire, which was kept in under a huge 'raker'--a possibility by
which the coal of the midland counties atones for all its slowness and
white ashes.

When she carried up the tea, Janet was lying quite still; the spasmodic
agitation had ceased, and she seemed lost in thought; her eyes were fixed
vacantly on the rushlight shade, and all the lines of sorrow were
deepened in her face.

'Now, my dear,' said Mrs. Pettifer, 'let me persuade you to drink a cup
of tea; you'll find it warm you and soothe you very much. Why, dear
heart, your feet are like ice still. Now, do drink this tea, and I'll
wrap 'em up in flannel, and then they'll get warm.'

Janet turned her dark eyes on her old friend and stretched out her arms.
She was too much oppressed to say anything; her suffering lay like a
heavy weight on her power of speech; but she wanted to kiss the good kind
woman. Mrs. Pettifer, setting down the cup, bent towards the sad
beautiful face, and Janet kissed her with earnest sacramental
kisses--such kisses as seal a new and closer bond between the helper
and the helped.

She drank the tea obediently. 'It _does_ warm me,' she said. 'But now you
will get into bed. I shall lie still now.'

Mrs. Pettifer felt it was the best thing she could do to lie down quietly
and say no more. She hoped Janet might go to sleep. As for herself, with
that tendency to wakefulness common to advanced years, she found it
impossible to compose herself to sleep again after this agitating
surprise. She lay listening to the clock, wondering what had led to this
new outrage of Dempster's, praying for the poor thing at her side, and
pitying the mother who would have to hear it all tomorrow.



Chapter 16


Janet lay still, as she had promised; but the tea, which had warmed her
and given her a sense of greater bodily ease, had only heightened the
previous excitement of her brain. Her ideas had a new vividness, which
made her feel as if she had only seen life through a dim haze before; her
thoughts, instead of springing from the action of her own mind, were
external existences, that thrust themselves imperiously upon her like
haunting visions. The future took shape after shape of misery before her,
always ending in her being dragged back again to her old life of terror,
and stupor, and fevered despair. Her husband had so long overshadowed her
life that her imagination could not keep hold of a condition in which
that great dread was absent; and even his absence--what was it? only a
dreary vacant flat, where there was nothing to strive after, nothing to
long for.

At last, the light of morning quenched the rushlight, and Janet's
thoughts became more and more fragmentary and confused. She was every
moment slipping off the level on which she lay thinking, down, down into
some depth from which she tried to rise again with a start. Slumber was
stealing over her weary brain: that uneasy slumber which is only better
than wretched waking, because the life we seemed to live in it determines
no wretched future, because the things we do and suffer in it are but
hateful shadows, and leave no impress that petrifies into an irrevocable
past.

She had scarcely been asleep an hour when her movements became more
violent, her mutterings more frequent and agitated, till at last she
started up with a smothered cry, and looked wildly round her, shaking
with terror.

'Don't be frightened, dear Mrs. Dempster,' said Mrs. Pettifer, who was up
and dressing, 'you are with me, your old friend, Mrs. Pettifer. Nothing
will harm you.'

Janet sank back again on her pillow, still trembling. After lying silent
a little while, she said, 'It was a horrible dream. Dear Mrs. Pettifer,
don't let any one know I am here. Keep it a secret. If he finds out, he
will come and drag me back again.'

'No, my dear, depend on me. I've just thought I shall send the servant
home on a holiday--I've promised her a good while. I'll send her away as
soon as she's had her breakfast, and she'll have no occasion to know
you're here. There's no holding servants' tongues, if you let 'em know
anything. What they don't know, they won't tell; you may trust 'em so
far. But shouldn't you like me to go and fetch your mother?'

'No, not yet, not yet. I can't bear to see her yet.'

'Well, it shall be just as you like. Now try and get to sleep again. I
shall leave you for an hour or two, and send off Phoebe, and then bring
you some breakfast. I'll lock the door behind me, so that the girl mayn't
come in by chance.'

The daylight changes the aspect of misery to us, as of everything else.
In the night it presses on our imagination--the forms it takes are false,
fitful, exaggerated; in broad day it sickens our sense with the dreary
persistence of definite measurable reality. The man who looks with
ghastly horror on all his property aflame in the dead of night, has not
half the sense of destitution he will have in the morning, when he walks
over the ruins lying blackened in the pitiless sunshine. That moment of
intensest depression was come to Janet, when the daylight which showed
her the walls, and chairs, and tables, and all the commonplace reality
that surrounded her, seemed to lay bare the future too, and bring out
into oppressive distinctness all the details of a weary life to be lived
from day to day, with no hope to strengthen her against that evil habit,
which she loathed in retrospect and yet was powerless to resist. Her
husband would never consent to her living away from him: she was become
necessary to his tyranny; he would never willingly loosen his grasp on
her. She had a vague notion of some protection the law might give her, if
she could prove her life in danger from him; but she shrank utterly, as
she had always done, from any active, public resistance or vengeance: she
felt too crushed, too faulty, too liable to reproach, to have the
courage, even if she had had the wish to put herself openly in the
position of a wronged woman seeking redress. She had no strength to
sustain her in a course of self-defence and independence: there was a
darker shadow over her life than the dread of her husband--it was the
shadow of self-despair. The easiest thing would be to go away and hide
herself from him. But then there was her mother: Robert had all her
little property in his hands, and that little was scarcely enough to keep
her in comfort without his aid. If Janet went away alone he would be sure
to persecute her mother; and if she _did_ go away--what then? She must
work to maintain herself; she must exert herself, weary and hopeless as
she was, to begin life afresh. How hard that seemed to her! Janet's
nature did not belie her grand face and form: there was energy, there was
strength in it; but it was the strength of the vine, which must have its
broad leaves and rich clusters borne up by a firm stay. And now she had
nothing to rest on--no faith, no love. If her mother had been very
feeble, aged, or sickly, Janet's deep pity and tenderness might have made
a daughter's duties an interest and a solace; but Mrs. Raynor had never
needed tendance; she had always been giving help to her daughter; she had
always been a sort of humble ministering spirit; and it was one of
Janet's pangs of memory, that instead of being her mother's comfort, she
had been her mother's trial. Everywhere the same sadness! Her life was a
sun-dried, barren tract, where there was no shadow, and where all the
waters were bitter.

No! She suddenly thought--and the thought was like an electric
shock--there was one spot in her memory which seemed to promise her an
untried spring, where the waters might be sweet. That short interview
with Mr. Tryan had come back upon her--his voice, his words, his look,
which told her that he knew sorrow. His words have implied that he
thought his death was near; yet he had a faith which enabled him to
labour--enabled him to give comfort to others. That look of his came back
on her with a vividness greater than it had had for her in reality:
surely he knew more of the secrets of sorrow than other men; perhaps he
had some message of comfort, different from the feeble words she had been
used to hear from others. She was tired, she was sick of that barren
exhortation--Do right, and keep a clear conscience, and God will reward
you, and your troubles will be easier to bear. She wanted _strength_ to
do right--she wanted something to rely on besides her own resolutions;
for was not the path behind her all strewn with _broken_ resolutions? How
could she trust in new ones? She had often heard Mr. Tryan laughed at for
being fond of great sinners. She began to see a new meaning in those
words; he would perhaps understand her helplessness, her wants. If she
could pour out her heart to him! if she could for the first time in her
life unlock all the chambers of her soul!

The impulse to confession almost always requires the presence of a fresh
ear and a fresh heart; and in our moments of spiritual need, the man to
whom we have no tie but our common nature, seems nearer to us than
mother, brother, or friend. Our daily familiar life is but a hiding of
ourselves from each other behind a screen of trivial words and deeds, and
those who sit with us at the same hearth are often the farthest off from
the deep human soul within us, full of unspoken evil and unacted good.

When Mrs. Pettifer came back to her, turning the key and opening the door
very gently, Janet, instead of being asleep, as her good friend had
hoped, was intensely occupied with her new thought. She longed to ask
Mrs. Pettifer if she could see Mr. Tryan; but she was arrested by doubts
and timidity. He might not feel for her--he might be shocked at her
confession--he might talk to her of doctrines she could not understand or
believe. She could not make up her mind yet; but she was too restless
under this mental struggle to remain in bed.

'Mrs. Pettifer,' she said, 'I can't lie here any longer; I must get up.
Will you lend me some clothes?'

Wrapt in such drapery as Mrs. Pettifer could find for her tall figure,
Janet went down into the little parlour, and tried to take some of the
breakfast her friend had prepared for her. But her effort was not a
successful one; her cup of tea and bit of toast were only half finished.
The leaden weight of discouragement pressed upon her more and more
heavily. The wind had fallen, and a drizzling rain had come on; there was
no prospect from Mrs. Pettifer's parlour but a blank wall; and as Janet
looked out at the window, the rain and the smoke-blackened bricks seemed
to blend themselves in sickening identity with her desolation of spirit
and the headachy weariness of her body.

Mrs. Pettifer got through her household work as soon as she could, and
sat down with her sewing, hoping that Janet would perhaps be able to talk
a little of what had passed, and find some relief by unbosoming herself
in that way. But Janet could not speak to her; she was importuned with
the longing to see Mr. Tryan, and yet hesitating to express it.

Two hours passed in this way. The rain went on drizzling, and Janet sat
still, leaning her aching head on her hand, and looking alternately at
the fire and out of the window. She felt this could not last--this
motionless, vacant misery. She must determine on something, she must take
some step; and yet everything was so difficult.

It was one o'clock, and Mrs. Pettifer rose from her seat, saying, 'I must
go and see about dinner.'

The movement and the sound startled Janet from her reverie. It seemed as
if an opportunity were escaping her, and she said hastily, 'Is Mr. Tryan
in the town today, do you think?'

'No, I should think not, being Saturday, you know,' said Mrs. Pettifer,
her face lighting up with pleasure; 'but he _would_ come, if he was sent
for. I can send Jesson's boy with a note to him any time. Should you like
to see him?'

'Yes, I think I should.'

'Then I'll send for him this instant.'



Chapter 17


When Dempster awoke in the morning, he was at no loss to account to
himself for the fact that Janet was not by his side. His hours of
drunkenness were not cut off from his other hours by any blank wall of
oblivion; he remembered what Janet had done to offend him the evening
before, he remembered what he had done to her at midnight, just as he
would have remembered if he had been consulted about a right of road.

The remembrance gave him a definite ground for the extra ill-humour which
had attended his waking every morning this week, but he would not admit
to himself that it cost him any anxiety. 'Pooh,' he said inwardly, 'she
would go straight to her mother's. She's as timid as a hare; and she'll
never let anybody know about it. She'll be back again before night.'

But it would be as well for the servants not to know anything of the
affair: so he collected the clothes she had taken off the night before,
and threw them into a fire-proof closet of which he always kept the key
in his pocket. When he went down stairs he said to the housemaid, 'Mrs.
Dempster is gone to her mother's; bring in the breakfast.'

The servants, accustomed to hear domestic broils, and to see their
mistress put on her bonnet hastily and go to her mother's, thought it
only something a little worse than usual that she should have gone
thither in consequence of a violent quarrel, either at midnight, or in
the early morning before they were up. The housemaid told the cook what
she supposed had happened; the cook shook her head and said, 'Eh, dear,
dear!' but they both expected to see their mistress back again in an hour
or two.

Dempster, on his return home the evening before, had ordered his man, who
lived away from the house, to bring up his horse and gig from the stables
at ten. After breakfast he said to the housemaid, 'No one need sit up for
me to-night; I shall not be at home till tomorrow evening;' and then he
walked to the office to give some orders, expecting, as he returned, to
see the man waiting with his gig. But though the church clock had struck
ten, no gig was there. In Dempster's mood this was more than enough to
exasperate him. He went in to take his accustomed glass of brandy before
setting out, promising himself the satisfaction of presently thundering
at Dawes for being a few minutes behind his time. An outbreak of temper
towards his man was not common with him; for Dempster, like most
tyrannous people, had that dastardly kind of self-restraint which enabled
him to control his temper where it suited his own convenience to do so;
and feeling the value of Dawes, a steady punctual fellow, he not only
gave him high wages, but usually treated him with exceptional civility.
This morning, however, ill-humour got the better of prudence, and
Dempster was determined to rate him soundly; a resolution for which Dawes
gave him much better ground than he expected. Five minutes, ten minutes,
a quarter of an hour, had passed, and Dempster was setting off to the
stables in a back street to see what was the cause of the delay, when
Dawes appeared with the gig.

'What the devil do you keep me here for?' thundered Dempster, 'kicking my
heels like a beggarly tailor waiting for a carrier's cart? I ordered you
to be here at ten. We might have driven to Whitlow by this time.'

'Why, one o' the traces was welly i' two, an' I had to take it to Brady's
to be mended, an' he didn't get it done i' time.'

'Then why didn't you take it to him last night? Because of your damned
laziness, I suppose. Do you think I give you wages for you to choose your
own hours, and come dawdling up a quarter of an hour after my time?'

'Come, give me good words, will yer?' said Dawes, sulkily. 'I'm not lazy,
nor no man shall call me lazy. I know well anuff what you gi' me wages
for; it's for doin' what yer won't find many men as 'ull do.'

'What, you impudent scoundrel,' said Dempster, getting into the gig, 'you
think you're necessary to me, do you? As if a beastly bucket-carrying
idiot like you wasn't to be got any day. Look out for a new master, then,
who'll pay you for not doing as you're bid.'

Dawe's blood was now fairly up. 'I'll look out for a master as has got a
better charicter nor a lyin', bletherin' drunkard, an' I shouldn't hev to
go fur.'

Dempster, furious, snatched the whip from the socket, and gave Dawes a
cut which he meant to fall across his shoulders saying, 'Take that, sir,
and go to hell with you!'

Dawes was in the act of turning with the reins in his hand when the lash
fell, and the cut went across his face. With white lips, he said, 'I'll
have the law on yer for that, lawyer as y'are,' and threw the reins on
the horse's back.

Dempster leaned forward, seized the reins, and drove off.

'Why, there's your friend Dempster driving out without his man again,'
said Mr. Luke Byles, who was chatting with Mr. Budd in the Bridge Way.
'What a fool he is to drive that two-wheeled thing! he'll get pitched on
his head one of these days.'

'Not he,' said Mr. Budd, nodding to Dempster as he passed 'he's got nine
lives, Dempster has.'



Chapter 18


It was dusk, and the candles were lighted before Mr. Tryan knocked at
Mrs. Pettifer's door. Her messenger had brought back word that he was not
at home, and all afternoon Janet had been agitated by the fear that he
would not come; but as soon as that anxiety was removed by the knock at
the door, she felt a sudden rush of doubt and timidity: she trembled and
turned cold.

Mrs. Pettifer went to open the door, and told Mr. Tryan, in as few words
as possible, what had happened in the night. As he laid down his hat and
prepared to enter the parlour, she said, 'I won't go in with you, for I
think perhaps she would rather see you go in alone.'

Janet, wrapped up in a large white shawl which threw her dark face into
startling relief, was seated with her eyes turned anxiously towards the
door when Mr. Tryan entered. He had not seen her since their interview at
Sally Martin's long months ago; and he felt a strong movement of
compassion at the sight of the pain-stricken face which seemed to bear
written on it the signs of all Janet's intervening misery. Her heart gave
a great leap, as her eyes met his once more. No! she had not deceived
herself: there was all the sincerity, all the sadness, all the deep pity
in them her memory had told her of; more than it had told her, for in
proportion as his face had become thinner and more worn, his eyes
appeared to have gathered intensity.

He came forward, and, putting out his hand, said, 'I am so glad you sent
for me--I am so thankful you thought I could be any comfort to you.'
Janet took his hand in silence. She was unable to utter any words of mere
politeness, or even of gratitude; her heart was too full of other words
that had welled up the moment she met his pitying glance, and felt her
doubts fall away.

They sat down opposite each other, and she said in a low voice, while
slow difficult tears gathered in her aching eyes,--'I want to tell you
how unhappy I am--how weak and wicked. I feel no strength to live or die.
I thought you could tell me something that would help me.' She paused.

'Perhaps I can,' Mr. Tryan said, 'for in speaking to me you are speaking
to a fellow-sinner who has needed just the comfort and help you are
needing.'

'And you did find it?'

'Yes; and I trust you will find it.'

'O, I should like to be good and to do right,' Janet burst forth; 'but
indeed, indeed, my lot has been a very hard one. I loved my husband very
dearly when we were married, and I meant to make him happy--I wanted
nothing else. But he began to be angry with me for little things and ...
I don't want to accuse him ... but he drank and got more and more unkind
to me, and then very cruel, and he beat me. And that cut me to the heart.
It made me almost mad sometimes to think all our love had come to that
... I couldn't bear up against it. I had never been used to drink
anything but water. I hated wine and spirits because Robert drank them
so; but one day when I was very wretched, and the wine was standing on
the table, I suddenly ... I can hardly remember how I came to do it ... I
poured some wine into a large glass and drank it. It blunted my feelings.
and made me more indifferent. After that, the temptation was always
coming, and it got stronger and stronger. I was ashamed, and I hated what
I did; but almost while the thought was passing through my mind that I
would never do it again, I did it. It seemed as if there was a demon in
me always making me rush to do what I longed not to do. And I thought all
the more that God was cruel; for if He had not sent me that dreadful
trial, so much worse than other women have to bear, I should not have
done wrong in that way. I suppose it is wicked to think so ... I feel as
if there must be goodness and right above us, but I can't see it, I can't
trust in it. And I have gone on in that way for years and years. At one
time it used to be better now and then, but everything has got worse
lately. I felt sure it must soon end somehow. And last night he turned me
out of doors ... I don't know what to do. I will never go back to that
life again if I can help it; and yet everything else seems so miserable.
I feel sure that demon will always be urging me to satisfy the craving
that comes upon me, and the days will go on as they have done through all
those miserable years. I shall always be doing wrong, and hating myself
after--sinking lower and lower, and knowing that I am sinking. O can you
tell me any way of getting strength? Have you ever known any one like me
that got peace of mind and power to do right? Can you give me any
comfort--any hope?'

While Janet was speaking, she had forgotten everything but her misery and
her yearning for comfort. Her voice had risen from the low tone of timid
distress to an intense pitch of imploring anguish. She clasped her hands
tightly, and looked at Mr. Tryon with eager questioning eyes, with
parted, trembling lips, with the deep horizontal lines of overmastering
pain on her brow. In this artificial life of ours, it is not often we see
a human face with all a heart's agony in it, uncontrolled by
self-consciousness; when we do see it, it startles us as if we had
suddenly waked into the real world of which this everyday one is but a
puppet-show copy. For some moments Mr. Tryan was too deeply moved to
speak.

'Yes, dear Mrs. Dempster,' he said at last, 'there _is_ comfort, there
_is_ hope for you. Believe me there is, for I speak from my own deep and
hard experience.' He paused, as if he had not made up his mind to utter
the words that were urging themselves to his lips. Presently he
continued, 'Ten years ago, I felt as wretched as you do. I think my
wretchedness was even worse than yours, for I had a heavier sin on my
conscience. I had suffered no wrong from others as you have, and I had
injured another irreparably in body and soul. The image of the wrong I
had done pursued me everywhere, and I seemed on the brink of madness. I
hated my life, for I thought, just as you do, that I should go on falling
into temptation and doing more harm in the world; and I dreaded death,
for with that sense of guilt on my soul, I felt that whatever state I
entered on must be one of misery. But a dear friend to whom I opened my
mind showed me it was just such as I--the helpless who feel themselves
helpless--that God specially invites to come to Him, and offers all the
riches of His salvation: not forgiveness only; forgiveness would be worth
little if it left us under the powers of our evil passions; but
strength--that strength which enables us to conquer sin.'

'But,' said Janet, 'I can feel no trust in God. He seems always to have
left me to myself. I have sometimes prayed to Him to help me, and yet
everything has been just the same as before. If you felt like me, how did
you come to have hope and trust?'

'Do not believe that God has left you to yourself. How can you tell but
that the hardest trials you have known have been only the road by which
He was leading you to that complete sense of your own sin and
helplessness, without which you would never have renounced all other
hopes, and trusted in His love alone? I know, dear Mrs. Dempster, I know
it is hard to bear. I would not speak lightly of your sorrows. I feel
that the mystery of our life is great, and at one time it seemed as dark
to me as it does to you.' Mr. Tryan hesitated again. He saw that the
first thing Janet needed was to be assured of sympathy. She must be made
to feel that her anguish was not strange to him; that he entered into the
only half-expressed secrets of her spiritual weakness, before any other
message of consolation could find its way to her heart. The tale of the
Divine Pity was never yet believed from lips that were not felt to be
moved by human pity. And Janet's anguish was not strange to Mr. Tryan. He
had never been in the presence of a sorrow and a self-despair that had
sent so strong a thrill through all the recesses of his saddest
experience; and it is because sympathy is but a living again through our
own past in a new form, that confession often prompts a response of
confession. Mr. Tryan felt this prompting, and his judgement, too, told
him that in obeying it he would be taking the best means of administering
comfort to Janet. Yet he hesitated; as we tremble to let in the daylight
on a chamber of relics which we have never visited except in curtained
silence. But the first impulse triumphed, and he went on. 'I had lived
all my life at a distance from God. My youth was spent in thoughtless
self-indulgence, and all my hopes were of a vain worldly kind. I had no
thought of entering the Church; I looked forward to a political career,
for my father was private secretary to a man high in the Whig Ministry,
and had been promised strong interest in my behalf. At college I lived in
intimacy with the gayest men, even adopting follies and vices for which I
had no taste, out of mere pliancy and the love of standing well with my
companions. You see, I was more guilty even then than you have been, for
I threw away all the rich blessings of untroubled youth and health; I had
no excuse in my outward lot. But while I was at college that event in my
life occurred, which in the end brought on the state of mind I have
mentioned to you--the state of self-reproach and despair, which enables
me to understand to the full what you are suffering; and I tell you the
facts, because I want you to be assured that I am not uttering mere vague
words when I say that I have been raised from as low a depth of sin and
sorrow as that in which you feel yourself to be. At college I had an
attachment to a lovely girl of seventeen; she was very much below my own
station in life, and I never contemplated marrying her; but I induced her
to leave her father's house. I did not mean to forsake her when I left
college, and I quieted all scruples of conscience by promising myself
that I would always take care of poor Lucy. But on my return from a
vacation spent in travelling, I found that Lucy was gone--gone away with
a gentleman, her neighbours said. I was a good deal distressed, but I
tried to persuade myself that no harm would come to her. Soon afterwards
I had an illness which left my health delicate, and made all dissipation
distasteful to me. Life seemed very wearisome and empty, and I looked
with envy on every one who had some great and absorbing object--even on
my cousin who was preparing to go out as a missionary, and whom I had
been used to think a dismal, tedious person, because he was constantly
urging religious subjects upon me. We were living in London then; it was
three years since I had lost sight of Lucy; and one summer evening, about
nine o'clock, as I was walking along Gower Street, I saw a knot of people
on the causeway before me. As I came up to them, I heard one woman say,
"I tell you, she is dead." This awakened my interest, and I pushed my way
within the circle. The body of a woman, dressed in fine clothes, was
lying against a door-step. Her head was bent on one side, and the long
curls had fallen over her cheek. A tremor seized me when I saw the hair:
it was light chestnut--the colour of Lucy's. I knelt down and turned
aside the hair; it was Lucy--dead--with paint on her cheeks. I found out
afterwards that she had taken poison--that she was in the power of a
wicked woman--that the very clothes on her back were not her own. It was
then that my past life burst upon me in all its hideousness. I wished I
had never been born. I couldn't look into the future. Lucy's dead painted
face would follow me there, as it did when I looked back into the
past--as it did when I sat down to table with my friends, when I lay down
in my bed, and when I rose up. There was only one thing that could make
life tolerable to me; that was, to spend all the rest of it in trying to
save others from the ruin I had brought on one. But how was that possible
for me? I had no comfort, no strength, no wisdom in my own soul; how
could I give them to others? My mind was dark, rebellious, at war with
itself and with God.'

Mr. Tryan had been looking away from Janet. His face was towards the
fire, and he was absorbed in the images his memory was recalling. But now
he turned his eyes on her, and they met hers, fixed on him with the look
of rapt expectation, with which one clinging to a slippery summit of a
rock, while the waves are rising higher and higher, watches the boat that
has put from shore to his rescue.

'You see, Mrs. Dempster, how deep my need was. I went on in this way for
months. I was convinced that if I ever got health and comfort, it must be
from religion. I went to hear celebrated preachers, and I read religious
books. But I found nothing that fitted my own need. The faith which puts
the sinner in possession of salvation seemed, as I understood it, to be
quite out of my reach. I had no faith; I only felt utterly wretched,
under the power of habits and dispositions which had wrought hideous
evil. At last, as I told you, I found a friend to whom I opened all my
feelings--to whom I confessed everything. He was a man who had gone
through very deep experience, and could understand the different wants of
different minds. He made it clear to me that the only preparation for
coming to Christ and partaking of his salvation, was that very sense of
guilt and helplessness which was weighing me down. He said, You are weary
and heavy-laden; well, it is you Christ invites to come to him and find
rest. He asks you to cling to him, to lean on him; he does not command
you to walk alone without stumbling. He does not tell you, as your
fellow-men do, that you must first merit his love; he neither condemns
nor reproaches you for the past, he only bids you come to him that you
may have life: he bids you stretch out your hands, and take of the
fulness of his love. You have only to rest on him as a child rests on its
mother's arms, and you will be upborne by his divine strength. That is
what is meant by faith. Your evil habits, you feel, are too strong for
you; you are unable to wrestle with them; you know beforehand you shall
fall. But when once we feel our helplessness in that way, and go to the
Saviour, desiring to be freed from the power as well as the punishment of
sin, we are no longer left to our own strength. As long as we live in
rebellion against God, desiring to have our own will, seeking happiness
in the things of this world, it is as if we shut ourselves up in a
crowded stifling room, where we breathe only poisoned air; but we have
only to walk out under the infinite heavens, and we breathe the pure free
air that gives us health, and strength, and gladness. It is just so with
God's spirit: as soon as we submit ourselves to his will, as soon as we
desire to be united to him, and made pure and holy, it is as if the walls
had fallen down that shut us out from God, and we are fed with his
spirit, which gives us new strength.'

'That is what I want,' said Janet; 'I have left off minding about
pleasure. I think I could be contented in the midst of hardship, if I
felt that God cared for me, and would give me strength to lead a pure
life. But tell me, did you soon find peace and strength?'

'Not perfect peace for a long while, but hope and trust, which is
strength. No sense of pardon for myself could do away with the pain I had
in thinking what I had helped to bring on another. My friend used to urge
upon me that my sin against God was greater than my sin against her;
but--it may be from want of deeper spiritual feeling--that has remained
to this hour the sin which causes me the bitterest pang. I could never
rescue Lucy; but by God's blessing I might rescue other weak and falling
souls; and that was why I entered the Church. I asked for nothing through
the rest of my life but that I might be devoted to God's work, without
swerving in search of pleasure either to the right hand or to the left.
It has been often a hard struggle--but God has been with me--and perhaps
it may not last much longer.'

Mr. Tryan paused. For a moment he had forgotten Janet, and for a moment
she had forgotten her own sorrows. When she recurred to herself, it was
with a new feeling.

'Ah, what a difference between our lives! you have been choosing pain,
and working, and denying yourself; and I have been thinking only of
myself. I was only angry and discontented because I had pain to bear. You
never had that wicked feeling that I have had so often, did you? that God
was cruel to send me trials and temptations worse than others have.'

'Yes, I had; I had very blasphemous thoughts, and I know that spirit of
rebellion must have made the worst part of your lot. You did not feel how
impossible it is for us to judge rightly of God's dealings, and you
opposed yourself to his will. But what do we know? We cannot foretell the
working of the smallest event in our own lot; how can we presume to judge
of things that are so much too high for us? There is nothing that becomes
us but entire submission, perfect resignation. As long as we set up our
own will and our own wisdom against God's, we make that wall between us
and his love which I have spoken of just now. But as soon as we lay
ourselves entirely at his feet, we have enough light given us to guide
our own steps; as the foot-soldier who hears nothing of the councils that
determine the course of the great battle he is in, hears plainly enough
the word of command which he must himself obey. I know, dear Mrs.
Dempster, I know it is hard--the hardest thing of all, perhaps--to flesh
and blood. But carry that difficulty to the Saviour along with all your
other sins and weaknesses, and ask him to pour into you a spirit of
submission. He enters into your struggles; he has drunk the cup of our
suffering to the dregs; he knows the hard wrestling it costs us to say,
"Not my will, but Thine be done."'

'Pray with me,' said Janet--'pray now that I may have light and
strength.'



Chapter 19


Before leaving Janet, Mr. Tryan urged her strongly to send for her
mother.

'Do not wound her,' he said, 'by shutting her out any longer from your
troubles. It is right that you should be with her.'

'Yes, I will send for her,' said Janet. 'But I would rather not go to my
mother's yet, because my husband is sure to think I am there, and he
might come and fetch me. I can't go back to him ... at least, not yet.
Ought I to go back to him?'

'No, certainly not, at present. Something should be done to secure you
from violence. Your mother, I think, should consult some confidential
friend, some man of character and experience, who might mediate between
you and your husband.'

'Yes, I will send for my mother directly. But I will stay here, with Mrs.
Pettifer, till something has been done. I want no one to know where I am,
except you. You will come again, will you not? you will not leave me to
myself?'

'You will not be left to yourself. God is with you. If I have been able
to give you any comfort, it is because His power and love have been
present with us. But I am very thankful that He has chosen to work
through me. I shall see you again tomorrow--not before evening, for it
will be Sunday, you know; but after the evening lecture I shall be at
liberty. You will be in my prayers till then. In the meantime, dear Mrs.
Dempster, open your heart as much as you can to your mother and Mrs.
Pettifer. Cast away from you the pride that makes us shrink from
acknowledging our weakness to our friends. Ask them to help you in
guarding yourself from the least approach of the sin you most dread.
Deprive yourself as far as possible of the very means and opportunity of
committing it. Every effort of that kind made in humility and dependence
is a prayer. Promise me you will do this.'

'Yes, I promise you. I know I have always been too proud; I could never
bear to speak to any one about myself. I have been proud towards my
mother, even; it has always made me angry when she has seemed to take
notice of my faults.'

'Ah, dear Mrs. Dempster, you will never say again that life is blank, and
that there is nothing to live for, will you? See what work there is to be
done in life, both in our own souls and for others. Surely it matters
little whether we have more or less of this world's comfort in these
short years, when God is training us for the eternal enjoyment of his
love. Keep that great end of life before you, and your troubles here will
seem only the small hardships of a journey. Now I must go.'

Mr. Tryan rose and held out his hand. Janet took it and said, 'God has
been very good to me in sending you to me. I will trust in Him. I will
try to do everything you tell me.'

Blessed influence of one true loving human soul on another! Not
calculable by algebra, not deducible by logic, but mysterious, effectual,
mighty as the hidden process by which the tiny seed is quickened, and
bursts forth into tall stem and broad leaf, and glowing tasseled flower.
Ideas are often poor ghosts; our sun-filled eyes cannot discern them;
they pass athwart us in thin vapour, and cannot make themselves felt. But
sometimes they are made flesh; they breathe upon us with warm breath,
they touch us with soft responsive hands, they look at us with sad
sincere eyes, and speak to us in appealing tones; they are clothed in a
living human soul, with all its conflicts, its faith, and its love. Then
their presence is a power, then they shake us like a passion, and we are
drawn after them with gentle compulsion, as flame is drawn to flame.

Janet's dark grand face, still fatigued, had become quite calm, and
looked up, as she sat, with a humble childlike expression at the thin
blond face and slightly sunken grey eyes which now shone with hectic
brightness. She might have been taken for an image of passionate strength
beaten and worn with conflict; and he for an image of the self-renouncing
faith which has soothed that conflict into rest. As he looked at the
sweet submissive face, he remembered its look of despairing anguish, and
his heart was very full as he turned away from her. 'Let me only live to
see this work confirmed, and then ...'

It was nearly ten o'clock when Mr. Tryan left, but Janet was bent on
sending for her mother; so Mrs. Pettifer, as the readiest plan, put on
her bonnet and went herself to fetch Mrs. Raynor. The mother had been too
long used to expect that every fresh week would be more painful than the
last, for Mrs. Pettifer's news to come upon her with the shock of a
surprise. Quietly, without any show of distress, she made up a bundle of
clothes, and, telling her little maid that she should not return home
that night, accompanied Mrs. Pettifer back in silence.

When they entered the parlour, Janet, wearied out, had sunk to sleep in
the large chair, which stood with its back to the door. The noise of the
opening door disturbed her, and she was looking round wonderingly when
Mrs. Raynor came up to her chair, and said, 'It's your mother, Janet.'

'Mother, dear mother!' Janet cried, clasping her closely. 'I have not
been a good tender child to you, but I will be--I will not grieve you any
more.'

The calmness which had withstood a new sorrow was overcome by a new joy,
and the mother burst into tears.



Chapter 20


On Sunday morning the rain had ceased, and Janet, looking out of the
bedroom window, saw, above the house-tops, a shining mass of white cloud
rolling under the far-away blue sky. It was going to be a lovely April
day. The fresh sky, left clear and calm after the long vexation of wind
and rain, mingled its mild influence with Janet's new thoughts and
prospects. She felt a buoyant courage that surprised herself, after the
cold crushing weight of despondency which had oppressed her the day
before: she could think even of her husband's rage without the old
overpowering dread. For a delicious hope--the hope of purification and
inward peace--had entered into Janet's soul, and made it spring-time
there as well as in the outer world.

While her mother was brushing and coiling up her thick black hair--a
favourite task, because it seemed to renew the days of her daughter's
girlhood--Janet told how she came to send for Mr. Tryan, how she had
remembered their meeting at Sally Martin's in the autumn, and had felt an
irresistible desire to see him, and tell him her sins and her troubles.

'I see God's goodness now, mother, in ordering it so that we should meet
in that way, to overcome my prejudice against him, and make me feel that
he was good, and then bringing it back to my mind in the depth of my
trouble. You know what foolish things I used to say about him, knowing
nothing of him all the while. And yet he was the man who was to give me
comfort and help when everything else failed me. It is wonderful how I
feel able to speak to him as I never have done to any one before; and how
every word he says to me enters my heart and has a new meaning for me. I
think it must be because he has felt life more deeply than others, and
has a deeper faith. I believe everything he says at once. His words come
to me like rain on the parched ground. It has always seemed to me before
as if I could see behind people's words, as one sees behind a screen; but
in Mr. Tryan it is his very soul that speaks.'

'Well, my dear child, I love and bless him for your sake, if he has given
you any comfort. I never believed the harm people said of him, though I
had no desire to go and hear him, for I am contented with old-fashioned
ways. I find more good teaching than I can practise in reading my Bible
at home, and hearing Mr. Crewe at church. But your wants are different,
my dear, and we are not all led by the same road. That was certainly good
advice of Mr. Tryan's you told me of last night--that we should consult
some one that may interfere for you with your husband; and I have been
turning it over in my mind while I've been lying awake in the night. I
think nobody will do so well as Mr. Benjamin Landor, for we must have a
man that knows the law, and that Robert is rather afraid of. And perhaps
he could bring about an agreement for you to live apart. Your husband's
bound to maintain you, you know; and, if you liked, we could move away
from Milby and live somewhere else.'


'O, mother, we must do nothing yet; I must think about it a little
longer. I have a different feeling this morning from what I had
yesterday. Something seems to tell me that I must go back to Robert some
time--after a little while. I loved him once better than all the world,
and I have never had any children to love. There were things in me that
were wrong, and I should like to make up for them if I can.'

'Well, my dear, I won't persuade you. Think of it a little longer. But
something must be done soon.'

'How I wish I had my bonnet, and shawl, and black gown here!' said Janet,
after a few minutes' silence. 'I should like to go to Paddiford Church
and hear Mr. Tryan. There would be no fear of my meeting Robert, for he
never goes out on a Sunday morning.'

'I'm afraid it would not do for me to go to the house and fetch your
clothes,' said Mrs. Raynor.

'O no, no! I must stay quietly here while you two go to church. I will be
Mrs. Pettifer's maid, and get the dinner ready for her by the time she
comes back. Dear good woman! She was so tender to me when she took me in,
in the night, mother, and all the next day, when I couldn't speak a word
to her to thank her.'



Chapter 21


The servants at Dempster's felt some surprise when the morning, noon, and
evening of Saturday had passed, and still their mistress did not
reappear.

'It's very odd,' said Kitty, the housemaid, as she trimmed her next
week's cap, while Betty, the middle-aged cook, looked on with folded
arms. 'Do you think as Mrs. Raynor was ill, and sent for the missis afore
we was up?'

'O,' said Betty, 'if it had been that, she'd ha' been back'ards an'
for'ards three or four times afore now; leastways, she'd ha' sent little
Ann to let us know.'

'There's summat up more nor usual between her an' the master, that you
may depend on,' said Kitty. 'I know those clothes as was lying i' the
drawing-room yesterday, when the company was come, meant summat. I
shouldn't wonder if that was what they've had a fresh row about. She's
p'raps gone away, an's made up her mind not to come back again.'

'An' i' the right on't, too,' said Betty. 'I'd ha' overrun him long afore
now, if it had been me. I wouldn't stan' bein' mauled as she is by no
husband, not if he was the biggest lord i' the land. It's poor work bein'
a wife at that price: I'd sooner be a cook wi'out perkises, an' hev
roast, an' boil, an' fry, an' bake, all to mind at once. She may well do
as she does. I know I'm glad enough of a drop o' summat myself when I'm
plagued. I feel very low, like, tonight; I think I shall put my beer i'
the saucepan an' warm it.'

'What a one you are for warmin' your beer, Betty! I couldn't abide
it--nasty bitter stuff!'

'It's fine talkin'; if you was a cook you'd know what belongs to bein' a
cook. It's none so nice to hev a sinkin' at your stomach, I can tell you.
You wouldn't think so much o' fine ribbins i' your cap then.'

'Well, well, Betty, don't be grumpy. Liza Thomson, as is at Phipps's,
said to me last Sunday, "I wonder you'll stay at Dempster's," she says,
"such goins-on as there is." But I says, "There's things to put up wi' in
ivery place, an' you may change, an' change, an' not better yourself when
all's said an' done." Lors! why, Liza told me herself as Mrs. Phipps was
as skinny as skinny i' the kitchen, for all they keep so much company;
and as for follyers, she's as cross as a turkey-cock if she finds 'em
out. There's nothin' o' that sort i' the missis. How pretty she come an'
spoke to Job last Sunday! There isn't a good-natur'der woman i' the
world, that's my belief--an' hansome too. I al'ys think there's nobody
looks half so well as the missis when she's got her 'air done nice. Lors!
I wish I'd got long 'air like her--my 'air's a-comin' off dreadful.'

'There'll be fine work to-morrow, I expect,' said Betty, 'when the master
comes home, an' Dawes a-swearin' as he'll niver do a stroke o' work for
him again. It'll be good fun if he sets the justice on him for cuttin'
him wi' the whip; the master'll p'raps get his comb cut for once in his
life!'

'Why, he was in a temper like a fiend this morning,' said Kitty. 'I
daresay it was along o' what had happened wi' the missis. We shall hev a
pretty house wi' him if she doesn't come back--he'll want to be
leatherin' us, I shouldn't wonder. He must hev somethin' t' ill-use when
he's in a passion.'

'I'd tek care he didn't leather me--no, not if he was my husban' ten
times o'er; I'd pour hot drippin' on him sooner. But the missis hasn't a
sperrit like me. He'll mek her come back, you'll see; he'll come round
her somehow. There's no likelihood of her coming hack to-night, though;
so I should think we might fasten the doors and go to bed when we like.'

On Sunday morning, however, Kitty's mind became disturbed by more
definite and alarming conjectures about her mistress. While Betty,
encouraged by the prospect of unwonted leisure, was sitting down to
continue a letter which had long lain unfinished between the leaves of
her Bible, Kitty came running into the kitchen and said,--'Lor! Betty,
I'm all of a tremble; you might knock me down wi' a feather. I've just
looked into the missis's wardrobe, an' there's both her bonnets. She must
ha' gone wi'out her bonnet. An' then I remember as her night-clothes
wasn't on the bed yisterday mornin'; I thought she'd put 'em away to be
washed; but she hedn't, for I've been lookin'. It's my belief he's
murdered her, and shut her up i' that closet as he keeps locked al'ys.
He's capible on't.'

'Lors-ha'-massy, why you'd better run to Mrs. Raynor's an' see if she's
there, arter all. It was p'raps all a lie.'

Mrs. Raynor had returned home to give directions to her little maiden,
when Kitty, with the elaborate manifestation of alarm which servants
delight in, rushed in without knocking, and, holding her hands on her
heart as if the consequences to that organ were likely to be very
serious, said,--'If you please 'm, is the missis here?'

'No, Kitty; why are you come to ask?'

'Because 'm, she's niver been at home since yesterday mornin', since
afore we was up; an' we thought somethin' must ha' happened to her.'

'No, don't be frightened, Kitty. Your mistress is quite safe; I know
where she is. Is your master at home?'

'No 'm; he went out yesterday mornin', an' said he shouldn't be back
afore to-night.'

'Well, Kitty, there's nothing the matter with your mistress. You needn't
say anything to any one about her being away from home. I shall call
presently and fetch her gown and bonnet. She wants them to put on.'

Kitty, perceiving there was a mystery she was not to inquire into,
returned to Orchard Street, really glad to know that her mistress was
safe, but disappointed nevertheless at being told that she was not to be
frightened. She was soon followed by Mrs. Raynor in quest of the gown and
bonnet. The good mother, on learning that Dempster was not at home, had
at once thought that she could gratify Janet's wish to go to Paddiford
Church.

'See, my dear,' she said, as she entered Mrs. Pettifer's parlour; 'I've
brought you your black clothes. Robert's not at home, and is not coming
till this evening. I couldn't find your best black gown, but this will
do. I wouldn't bring anything else, you know; but there can't be any
objection to my fetching clothes to cover you. You can go to Paddiford
Church, now, if you like; and I will go with you.'

'That's a dear mother! Then we'll all three go together. Come and help me
to get ready. Good little Mrs. Crewe! It will vex her sadly that I should
go to hear Mr. Tryan. But I must kiss her, and make it up with her.'

Many eyes were turned on Janet with a look of surprise as she walked up
the aisle of Paddiford Church. She felt a little tremor at the notice she
knew she was exciting, but it was a strong satisfaction to her that she
had been able at once to take a step that would let her neighbours know
her change of feeling towards Mr. Tryan: she had left herself now no room
for proud reluctance or weak hesitation. The walk through the sweet
spring air had stimulated all her fresh hopes, all her yearning desires
after purity, strength, and peace. She thought she should find a new
meaning in the prayers this morning; her full heart, like an overflowing
river, wanted those ready-made channels to pour itself into; and then she
should hear Mr. Tryan again, and his words would fall on her like
precious balm, as they had done last night. There was a liquid brightness
in her eyes as they rested on the mere walls, the pews, the weavers and
colliers in their Sunday clothes. The commonest things seemed to touch
the spring of love within her, just as, when we are suddenly released
from an acute absorbing bodily pain, our heart and senses leap out in new
freedom; we think even the noise of streets harmonious, and are ready to
hug the tradesman who is wrapping up our change. A door had been opened
in Janet's cold dark prison of self-despair, and the golden light of
morning was pouring in its slanting beams through the blessed opening.
There was sunlight in the world; there was a divine love caring for her;
it had given her an earnest of good things: it had been preparing comfort
for her in the very moment when she had thought herself most forsaken.

Mr. Tryan might well rejoice when his eye rested on her as he entered his
desk; but he rejoiced with trembling. He could not look at the sweet
hopeful face without remembering its yesterday's look of agony; and there
was the possibility that that look might return.

Janet's appearance at church was greeted not only by wondering eyes, but
by kind hearts, and after the service several of Mr. Tryan's hearers with
whom she had been on cold terms of late, contrived to come up to her and
take her by the hand.

'Mother,' said Miss Linnet, 'do let us go and speak to Mrs. Dempster I'm
sure there's a great change in her mind towards Mr. Tryan. I noticed how
eagerly she listened to the sermon, and she's come with Mrs. Pettifer,
you see. We ought to go and give her a welcome among us.'

'Why, my dear, we've never spoke friendly these five year. You know she's
been as haughty as anything since I quarrelled with her husband. However,
let bygones be bygones: I've no grudge again' the poor thing, more
particular as she must ha' flew in her husband's face to come an' hear
Mr. Tryan. Yes, let us go an' speak to her.'

The friendly words and looks touched Janet a little too keenly, and Mrs.
Pettifer wisely hurried her home by the least-frequented road. When they
reached home, a violent fit of weeping, followed by continuous lassitude,
showed that the emotions of the morning had overstrained her nerves. She
was suffering, too, from the absence of the long-accustomed stimulus
which she had promised Mr. Tryan not to touch again. The poor thing was
conscious of this, and dreaded her own weakness, as the victim of
intermittent insanity dreads the oncoming of the old illusion.

'Mother,' she whispered, when Mrs. Raynor urged her to lie down and rest
all the afternoon, that she might be the better prepared to see Mr. Tryan
in the evening 'mother, don't let me have anything if I ask for it.'

In the mother's mind there was the same anxiety, and in her it was
mingled with another fear--the fear lest Janet, in her present excited
state of mind, should take some premature step in relation to her
husband, which might lead back to all the former troubles. The hint she
had thrown out in the morning of her wish to return to him after a time,
showed a new eagerness for difficult duties, that only made the
long-saddened sober mother tremble. But as evening approached, Janet's
morning heroism all forsook her: her imagination influenced by physical
depression as well as by mental habits, was haunted by the vision of her
husband's return home, and she began to shudder with the yesterday's
dread. She heard him calling her, she saw him going to her mother's to
look for her, she felt sure he would find her out, and burst in upon her.

'Pray, pray, don't leave me, don't go to church,' she said to Mrs.
Pettifer. 'You and mother both stay with me till Mr. Tryan comes.'

At twenty minutes past six the church bells were ringing for the evening
service, and soon the congregation was streaming along Orchard Street in
the mellow sunset. The street opened toward the west. The red half-sunken
sun shed a solemn splendour on the everyday houses, and crimsoned the
windows of Dempster's projecting upper storey.

Suddenly a loud murmur arose and spread along the stream of church-goers,
and one group after another paused and looked backward. At the far end of
the street, men, accompanied by a miscellaneous group of onlookers, were
slowly carrying something--a body stretched on a door. Slowly they passed
along the middle of the street, lined all the way with awe-struck faces,
till they turned aside and paused in the red sunlight before Dempster's
door.

It was Dempster's body. No one knew whether he was alive or dead.



Chapter 22


It was probably a hard saying to the Pharisees, that 'there is more joy
in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just
persons that need no repentance.' And certain ingenious philosophers of
our own day must surely take offence at a joy so entirely out of
correspondence with arithmetical proportion. But a heart that has been
taught by its own sore struggles to bleed for the woes of another--that
has 'learned pity through suffering'--is likely to find very imperfect
satisfaction in the 'balance of happiness,' 'doctrine of compensations,'
and other short and easy methods of obtaining thorough complacency in the
presence of pain; and for such a heart that saying will not be altogether
dark. The emotions, I have observed, are but slightly influenced by
arithmetical considerations: the mother, when her sweet lisping little
ones have all been taken from her one after another, and she is hanging
over her last dead babe, finds small consolation in the fact that the
tiny dimpled corpse is but one of a necessary average, and that a
thousand other babes brought into the world at the same time are doing
well, and are likely to live; and if you stood beside that mother--if you
knew her pang and shared it--it is probable you would be equally unable
to see a ground of complacency in statistics.

Doubtless a complacency resting on that basis is highly rational; but
emotion, I fear, is obstinately irrational: it insists on caring for
individuals; it absolutely refuses to adopt the quantitative view of
human anguish, and to admit that thirteen happy lives are a set-off
against twelve miserable lives, which leaves a clear balance on the side
of satisfaction. This is the inherent imbecility of feeling, and one must
be a great philosopher to have got quite clear of all that, and to have
emerged into the serene air of pure intellect, in which it is evident
that individuals really exist for no other purpose than that abstractions
may be drawn from them--abstractions that may rise from heaps of ruined
lives like the sweet savour of a sacrifice in the nostrils of
philosophers, and of a philosophic Deity. And so it comes to pass that
for the man who knows sympathy because he has known sorrow, that old, old
saying about the joy of angels over the repentant sinner outweighing
their joy over the ninety-nine just, has a meaning which does not jar
with the language of his own heart. It only tells him, that for angels
too there is a transcendent value in human pain, which refuses to be
settled by equations; that the eyes of angels too are turned away from
the serene happiness of the righteous to bend with yearning pity on the
poor erring soul wandering in the desert where no water is: that for
angels too the misery of one casts so tremendous a shadow as to eclipse
the bliss of ninety-nine.

Mr. Tryan had gone through the initiation of suffering: it is no wonder,
then, that Janet's restoration was the work that lay nearest his heart;
and that, weary as he was in body when he entered the vestry after the
evening service, he was impatient to fulfil the promise of seeing her.
His experience enabled him to divine--what was the fact--that the
hopefulness of the morning would be followed by a return of depression
and discouragement; and his sense of the inward and outward difficulties
in the way of her restoration was so keen, that he could only find relief
from the foreboding it excited by lifting up his heart in prayer. There
are unseen elements which often frustrate our wisest calculations--which
raise up the sufferer from the edge of the grave, contradicting the
prophecies of the clear-sighted physician, and fulfilling the blind
clinging hopes of affection; such unseen elements Mr. Tryan called the
Divine Will, and filled up the margin of ignorance which surrounds all
our knowledge with the feelings of trust and resignation. Perhaps the
profoundest philosophy could hardly fill it up better.

His mind was occupied in this way as he was absently taking off his gown,
when Mr. Landor startled him by entering the vestry and asking abruptly,
'Have you heard the news about Dempster?'

'No,' said Mr. Tryan, anxiously; 'what is it?'

'He has been thrown out of his gig in the Bridge Way, and he was taken up
for dead. They were carrying him home as we were coming to church, and I
stayed behind to see what I could do. I went in to speak to Mrs.
Dempster, and prepare her a little, but she was not at home. Dempster is
not dead, however, he was stunned with the fall. Pilgrim came in a few
minutes, and he says the right leg is broken in two places. It's likely
to be a terrible case, with his state of body. It seems he was more drunk
than usual, and they say he came along the Bridge Way flogging his horse
like a madman, till at last it gave a sudden wheel, and he was pitched
out. The servants said they didn't know where Mrs. Dempster was: she had
been away from home since yesterday morning; but Mrs. Raynor knew.'

'I know where she is,' said Mr. Tryan; 'but I think it will be better for
her not to be told of this just yet.'

'Ah, that was what Pilgrim said, and so I didn't go round to Mrs.
Raynor's. He said it would be all the better if Mrs. Dempster could be
kept out of the house for the present. Do you know if anything new has
happened between Dempster and his wife lately? I was surprised to hear of
her being at Paddiford Church this morning.'

'Yes, something has happened; but I believe she is anxious that the
particulars of his behaviour towards her should not be known. She is at
Mrs. Pettifer's--there is no reason for concealing that, since what has
happened to her husband; and yesterday, when she was in very deep
trouble, she sent for me. I was very thankful she did so: I believe a
great change of feeling has begun in her. But she is at present in that
excitable state of mind--she has been shaken by so many painful emotions
during the last two days, that I think it would be better, for this
evening at least, to guard her from a new shock, if possible. But I am
going now to call upon her, and I shall see how she is.'

'Mr. Tryan,' said Mr. Jerome, who had entered during the dialogue, and
had been standing by, listening with a distressed face, 'I shall take it
as a favour if you'll let me know if iver there's anything I can do for
Mrs. Dempster. Eh, dear, what a world this is! I think I see 'em fifteen
year ago--as happy a young couple as iver was; and now, what it's all
come to! I was in a hurry, like, to punish Dempster for pessecutin', but
there was a stronger hand at work nor mine.'

'Yes, Mr. Jerome; but don't let us rejoice in punishment, even when the
hand of God alone inflicts it. The best of us are but poor wretches just
saved from shipwreck: can we feel anything but awe and pity when we see a
fellow-passenger swallowed by the waves?'

'Right, right, Mr. Tryan. I'm over hot and hasty, that I am. But I beg on
you to tell Mrs. Dempster--I mean, in course, when you've an
opportunity--tell her she's a friend at the White House as she may send
for any hour o' the day.'

'Yes; I shall have an opportunity, I dare say, and I will remember your
wish. I think,' continued Mr. Tryan, turning to Mr. Landor, 'I had better
see Mr. Pilgrim on my way, and learn what is exactly the state of things
by this time. What do you think?'

'By all means: if Mrs. Dempster is to know, there's no one can break the
news to her so well as you. I'll walk with you to Dempster's door. I dare
say Pilgrim is there still. Come, Mr. Jerome, you've got to go our way
too, to fetch your horse.'

Mr. Pilgrim was in the passage giving some directions to his assistant,
when, to his surprise, he saw Mr. Tryan enter. They shook hands; for Mr.
Pilgrim, never having joined the party of the Anti-Tryanites, had no
ground for resisting the growing conviction, that the Evangelical curate
was really a good fellow, though he was a fool for not taking better care
of himself.

'Why, I didn't expect to see you in your old enemy's quarters,' he said
to Mr. Tryan. 'However, it will be a good while before poor Dempster
shows any fight again.'

'I came on Mrs. Dempster's account,' said Mr. Tryan. 'She is staying at
Mrs. Pettifer's; she has had a great shock from some severe domestic
trouble lately, and I think it will be wiser to defer telling her of this
dreadful event for a short time.'

'Why, what has been up, eh?' said Mr. Pilgrim, whose curiosity was at
once awakened. 'She used to be no friend of yours. Has there been some
split between them? It's a new thing for her to turn round on him.'

'O, merely an exaggeration of scenes that must often have happened
before. But the question now is, whether you think there is any immediate
danger of her husband's death; for in that case, I think, from what I
have observed of her feelings, she would be pained afterwards to have
been kept in ignorance.'

'Well, there's no telling in these cases, you know. I don't apprehend
speedy death, and it is not absolutely impossible that we may bring him
round again. At present he's in a state of apoplectic stupor; but if that
subsides, delirium is almost sure to supervene, and we shall have some
painful scenes. It's one of those complicated cases in which the delirium
is likely to be of the worst kind--meningitis and delirium tremens
together--and we may have a good deal of trouble with him. If Mrs.
Dempster were told, I should say it would be desirable to persuade her to
remain out of the house at present. She could do no good, you know. I've
got nurses.'

'Thank you,' said Mr. Tryan. 'That is what I wanted to know. Good-bye.'

When Mrs. Pettifer opened the door for Mr. Tryan, he told her in a few
words what had happened, and begged her to take an opportunity of letting
Mrs. Raynor know, that they might, if possible, concur in preventing a
premature or sudden disclosure of the event to Janet.

'Poor thing!' said Mrs. Pettifer. 'She's not fit to hear any bad news;
she's very low this evening--worn out with feeling; and she's not had
anything to keep her up, as she's been used to. She seems frightened at
the thought of being tempted to take it.'

'Thank God for it; that fear is her greatest security.'

When Mr. Tryan entered the parlour this time, Janet was again awaiting
him eagerly, and her pale sad face was lighted up with a smile as she
rose to meet him. But the next moment she said, with a look of
anxiety,--'How very ill and tired you look! You have been working so
hard all day, and yet you are come to talk to me. O, you are wearing
yourself out. I must go and ask Mrs. Pettifer to come and make you have
some supper. But this is my mother; you have not seen her before, I
think.'

While Mr. Tryan was speaking to Mrs. Raynor, Janet hurried out, and he,
seeing that this good-natured thoughtfulness on his behalf would help to
counteract her depression, was not inclined to oppose her wish, but
accepted the supper Mrs. Pettifer offered him, quietly talking the while
about a clothing club he was going to establish in Paddiford, and the
want of provident habits among the poor.

Presently, however, Mrs. Raynor said she must go home for an hour, to see
how her little maiden was going on, and Mrs. Pettifer left the room with
her to take the opportunity of telling her what had happened to Dempster.
When Janet was left alone with Mr. Tryan, she said,--'I feel so uncertain
what to do about my husband. I am so weak--my feelings change so from
hour to hour. This morning, when I felt so hopeful and happy, I thought I
should like to go back to him, and try to make up for what has been wrong
in me. I thought, now God would help me, and I should have you to teach
and advise me, and I could bear the troubles that would come. But since
then--all this afternoon and evening--I have had the same feelings I used
to have, the same dread of his anger and cruelty, and it seems to me as
if I should never be able to bear it without falling into the same sins,
and doing just what I did before. Yet, if it were settled that I should
live apart from him, I know it would always be a load on my mind that I
had shut myself out from going back to him. It seems a dreadful thing in
life, when any one has been so near to one as a husband for fifteen
years, to part and be nothing to each other any more. Surely that is a
very strong tie, and I feel as if my duty can never lie quite away from
it. It is very difficult to know what to do: what ought I to do?'

'I think it will be well not to take any decisive step yet. Wait until
your mind is calmer. You might remain with your mother for a little
while; I think you have no real ground for fearing any annoyance from
your husband at present; he has put himself too much in the wrong; he
will very likely leave you unmolested for some time. Dismiss this
difficult question from your mind just now, if you can. Every new day may
bring you new grounds for decision, and what is most needful for your
health of mind is repose from that haunting anxiety about the future
which has been preying on you. Cast yourself on God, and trust that He
will direct you; he will make your duty clear to you, if you wait
submissively on Him.'

'Yes; I will wait a little, as you tell me. I will go to my mother's
tomorrow, and pray to be guided rightly. You will pray for me, too.'



Chapter 23


The next morning Janet was so much calmer, and at breakfast spoke so
decidedly of going to her mother's, that Mrs. Pettifer and Mrs. Raynor
agreed it would be wise to let her know by degrees what had befallen her
husband, since as soon as she went out there would be danger of her
meeting some one who would betray the fact. But Mrs. Raynor thought it
would be well first to call at Dempster's, and ascertain how he was: so
she said to Janet,--'My dear, I'll go home first, and see to things, and
get your room ready. You needn't come yet, you know. I shall be back
again in an hour or so, and we can go together.'

'O no,' said Mrs. Pettifer. 'Stay with me till evening. I shall be lost
without you. You needn't go till quite evening.'

Janet had dipped into the 'Life of Henry Martyn,' which Mrs. Pettifer had
from the Paddiford Lending Library, and her interest was so arrested by
that pathetic missionary story, that she readily acquiesced in both
propositions, and Mrs. Raynor set out.

She had been gone more than an hour, and it was nearly twelve o'clock,
when Janet put down her book; and after sitting meditatively for some
minutes with her eyes unconsciously fixed on the opposite wall, she rose,
went to her bedroom, and, hastily putting on her bonnet and shawl, came
down to Mrs. Pettifer, who was busy in the kitchen.

'Mrs. Pettifer,' she said, 'tell mother, when she comes back, I'm gone to
see what has become of those poor Lakins in Butchers Lane. I know they're
half starving, and I've neglected them so, lately. And then, I think,
I'll go on to Mrs. Crewe. I want to see the dear little woman, and tell
her myself about my going to hear Mr. Tryan. She won't feel it half so
much if I tell her myself.'

'Won't you wait till your mother comes, or put it off till tomorrow?'
said Mrs. Pettifer, alarmed. 'You'll hardly be back in time for dinner,
if you get talking to Mrs. Crewe. And you'll have to pass by your
husband's, you know; and yesterday, you were so afraid of seeing him.'

'O, Robert will be shut up at the office now, if he's not gone out of the
town. I must go--I feel I must be doing something for some one--not be a
mere useless log any longer. I've been reading about that wonderful Henry
Martyn; he's just like Mr. Tryan--wearing himself out for other people,
and I sit thinking of nothing but myself. I _must_ go. Good-bye; I shall
be back soon.'

She ran off before Mrs. Pettifer could utter another word of dissuasion,
leaving the good woman in considerable anxiety lest this new impulse of
Janet's should frustrate all precautions to save her from a sudden shock.

Janet having paid her visit in Butcher Lane, turned again into Orchard
Street on her way to Mrs. Crewe's, and was thinking, rather sadly, that
her mother's economical housekeeping would leave no abundant surplus to
be sent to the hungry Lakins, when she saw Mr. Pilgrim in advance of her
on the other side of the street. He was walking at a rapid pace, and when
he reached Dempster's door he turned and entered without knocking.

Janet was startled. Mr. Pilgrim would never enter in that way unless
there were some one very ill in the house. It was her husband; she felt
certain of it at once. Something had happened to him. Without a moment's
pause, she ran across the street, opened the door, and entered. There was
no one in the passage. The dining-room door was wide open--no one was
there. Mr. Pilgrim, then, was already up-stairs. She rushed up at once to
Dempster's room--her own room. The door was open, and she paused in pale
horror at the sight before her, which seemed to stand out only with the
more appalling distinctness because the noonday light was darkened to
twilight in the chamber.

Two strong nurses were using their utmost force to hold Dempster in bed,
while the medical assistant was applying a sponge to his head, and Mr.
Pilgrim was busy adjusting some apparatus in the background. Dempster's
face was purple and swollen, his eyes dilated, and fixed with a look of
dire terror on something he seemed to see approaching him from the iron
closet. He trembled violently, and struggled as if to jump out of bed.

'Let me go, let me go,' he said in a loud, hoarse whisper; 'she's coming
... she's cold ... she's dead ... she'll strangle me with her black hair.
Ah!' he shrieked aloud, 'her hair is all serpents ... they're black
serpents ... they hiss ... they hiss . .. let me go . . . let me go . . .
she wants to drag me with her cold arms ... her arms are serpents ...
they are great white serpents ... they'll twine round me ... she wants to
drag me into the cold water ... her bosom is cold ... it is black ... it
is all serpents ...'

'No, Robert,' Janet cried, in tones of yearning pity, rushing to the side
of the bed, and stretching out her arms towards him, 'no, here is Janet.
She is not dead--she forgives you.'

Dempster's maddened senses seemed to receive some new impression from her
appearance. The terror gave way to rage.

'Ha! you sneaking hypocrite!' he burst out in a grating voice, 'you
threaten me ... you mean to have your revenge on me, do you? Do your
worst! I've got the law on my side ... I know the law ... I'll hunt you
down like a hare ... prove it ... prove that I was tampered with ...
prove that I took the money ... prove it ... you can prove nothing ...
you damned psalm-singing maggots! I'll make a fire under you, and smoke
off the whole pack of you ... I'll sweep you up ... I'll grind you to
powder ... small powder ... (here his voice dropt to a low tone of
shuddering disgust) ... powder on the bed-clothes ... running about ...
black lice ... they are coming in swarms ... Janet! come and take them
away ... curse you! why don't you come? Janet!'

Poor Janet was kneeling by the bed with her face buried in her hands. She
almost wished her worst moment back again rather than this. It seemed as
if her husband was already imprisoned in misery, and she could not reach
him--his ear deaf for ever to the sounds of love and forgiveness. His
sins had made a hard crust round his soul; her pitying voice could not
pierce it.

'Not there, isn't she?' he went on in a defiant tone. 'Why do you ask me
where she is? I'll have every drop of yellow blood out of your veins if
you come questioning me. Your blood is yellow ... in your purse ...
running out of your purse ... What! you're changing it into toads, are
you? They're crawling ... they're flying ... they're flying about my head
... the toads are flying about. Ostler! ostler! bring out my gig ...
bring it out, you lazy beast . . . ha! you'll follow me, will you? ...
you'll fly about my head ... you've got fiery tongues ... Ostler! curse
you! why don't you come? Janet! come and take the toads away ... Janet!'

This last time he uttered her name with such a shriek of terror, that
Janet involuntarily started up from her knees, and stood as if petrified
by the horrible vibration. Dempster stared wildly in silence for some
months; then he spoke again in a hoarse whisper:--'Dead ... is she dead?
She did it, then. She buried herself in the iron chest ... she left her
clothes out, though ... she isn't dead ... why do you pretend she's dead?
... she's coming ... she's coming out of the iron closet ... there are
the black serpents ... stop her ... let me go ... stop her ... she wants
to drag me away into the cold black water ... her bosom is black ... it
is all serpents ... they are getting longer ... the great white serpents
are getting longer ...'

Here Mr. Pilgrim came forward with the apparatus to bind him, but
Dempster's struggles became more and more violent. 'Ostler! ostler!' he
shouted, 'bring out the gig ... give me the whip!'--and bursting loose
from the strong hands that held him, he began to flog the bed-clothes
furiously with his right arm.

'Get along, you lame brute!--sc--sc--sc! that's it! there you go! They
think they've outwitted me, do they? The sneaking idiots! I'll be up with
them by-and-by. I'll make them say the Lord's Prayer backwards ... I'll
pepper them so that the devil shall eat them raw ... sc--sc--sc--we shall
see who'll be the winner yet ... get along, you damned limping beast ...
I'll lay your back open ... I'll ...'

He raised himself with a stronger effort than ever to flog the
bed-clothes, and fell back in convulsions. Janet gave a scream, and sank
on her knees again. She thought he was dead.

As soon as Mr. Pilgrim was able to give her a moment's attention, he came
to her, and, taking her by the arm, attempted to draw her gently out of
the room.

'Now, my dear Mrs. Dempster, let me persuade you not to remain in the
room at present. We shall soon relieve these symptoms, I hope: it is
nothing but the delirium that ordinarily attends such cases.'

'Oh, what is the matter? what brought it on?'

'He fell out of the gig; the right leg is broken. It is a terrible
accident, and I don't disguise that there is considerable danger
attending it, owing to the state of the brain. But Mr. Dempster has a
strong constitution, you know; in a few days these symptoms may be
allayed, and he may do well. Let me beg of you to keep out of the room at
present: you can do no good until Mr. Dempster is better, and able to
know you. But you ought not to be alone; let me advise you to have Mrs.
Raynor with you.'

'Yes, I will send for mother. But you must not object to my being in the
room. I shall be very quiet now, only just at first the shock was so
great; I knew nothing about it. I can help the nurses a great deal; I can
put the cold things to his head. He may be sensible for a moment and know
me. Pray do not say any more against it: my heart is set on being with
him.'

Mr. Pilgrim gave way, and Janet, having sent for her mother and put off
her bonnet and shawl, returned to take her place by the side of her
husband's bed.



Chapter 24


Day after day, with only short intervals of rest, Janet kept her place in
that sad chamber. No wonder the sick-room and the lazaretto have so often
been a refuge from the tossings of intellectual doubt--a place of repose
for the worn and wounded spirit. Here is a duty about which all creeds
and all philosophies are at one: here, at least, the conscience will not
be dogged by doubt, the benign impulse will not be checked by adverse
theory: here you may begin to act without settling one preliminary
question. To moisten the sufferer's parched lips through the long
night-watches, to bear up the drooping head, to lift the helpless limbs,
to divine the want that can find no utterance beyond the feeble motion of
the hand or beseeching glance of the eye--these are offices that demand
no self-questionings, no casuistry, no assent to propositions, no
weighing of consequences. Within the four walls where the stir and glare
of the world are shut out, and every voice is subdued--where a human
being lies prostrate, thrown on the tender mercies of his fellow, the
moral relation of man to man is reduced to its utmost clearness and
simplicity: bigotry cannot confuse it, theory cannot pervert it, passion,
awed into quiescence, can neither pollute nor perturb it. As we bend over
the sick-bed, all the forces of our nature rush towards the channels of
pity, of patience, and of love, and sweep down the miserable choking
drift of our quarrels, our debates, our would-be wisdom, and our
clamorous selfish desires. This blessing of serene freedom from the
importunities of opinion lies in all simple direct acts of mercy, and is
one source of that sweet calm which is often felt by the watcher in the
sick-room, even when the duties there are of a hard and terrible kind.

Something of that benign result was felt by Janet during her tendance in
her husband's chamber. When the first heart-piercing hours were
over--when her horror at his delirium was no longer fresh, she began to
be conscious of her relief from the burden of decision as to her future
course. The question that agitated her, about returning to her husband,
had been solved in a moment; and this illness, after all, might be the
herald of another blessing, just as that dreadful midnight when she stood
an outcast in cold and darkness had been followed by the dawn of a new
hope. Robert would get better; this illness might alter him; he would be
a long time feeble, needing help, walking with a crutch, perhaps. She
would wait on him with such tenderness, such all-forgiving love, that the
old harshness and cruelty must melt away for ever under the
heart-sunshine she would pour around him. Her bosom heaved at the
thought, and delicious tears fell. Janet's was a nature in which hatred
and revenge could find no place; the long bitter years drew half their
bitterness from her ever-living remembrance of the too short years of
love that went before; and the thought that her husband would ever put
her hand to his lips again, and recall the days when they sat on the
grass together, and he laid scarlet poppies on her black hair, and called
her his gypsy queen, seemed to send a tide of loving oblivion over all
the harsh and stony space they had traversed since. The Divine Love that
had already shone upon her would be with her; she would lift up her soul
continually for help; Mr. Tryan, she knew, would pray for her. If she
felt herself failing, she would confess it to him at once; if her feet
began to slip, there was that stay for her to cling to. O she could never
be drawn back into that cold damp vault of sin and despair again; she had
felt the morning sun, she had tasted the sweet pure air of trust and
penitence and submission.

These were the thoughts passing through Janet's mind as she hovered about
her husband's bed, and these were the hopes she poured out to Mr. Tryan
when he called to see her. It was so evident that they were strengthening
her in her new struggle--they shed such a glow of calm enthusiasm over
her face as she spoke of them, that Mr. Tryan could not bear to throw on
them the chill of premonitory doubts, though a previous conversation he
had had with Mr. Pilgrim had convinced him that there was not the
faintest probability of Dempster's recovery. Poor Janet did not know the
significance of the changing symptoms, and when, after the lapse of a
week, the delirium began to lose some of its violence, and to be
interrupted by longer and longer intervals of stupor, she tried to think
that these might be steps on the way to recovery, and she shrank from
questioning Mr. Pilgrim lest he should confirm the fears that began to
get predominance in her mind. But before many days were past, he thought
it right not to allow her to blind herself any longer. One day--it was
just about noon, when bad news always seems most sickening--he led her
from her husband's chamber into the opposite drawing-room, where Mrs.
Raynor was sitting, and said to her, in that low tone of sympathetic
feeling which sometimes gave a sudden air of gentleness to this rough
man--'My dear Mrs. Dempster, it is right in these cases, you know, to be
prepared for the worst. I think I shall be saving you pain by preventing
you from entertaining any false hopes, and Mr. Dempster's state is now
such that I fear we must consider recovery impossible. The affection of
the brain might not have been hopeless, but, you see, there is a terrible
complication; and, I am grieved to say, the broken limb is mortifying.'

Janet listened with a sinking heart. That future of love and forgiveness
would never come then: he was going out of her sight for ever, where her
pity could never reach him. She turned cold, and trembled.

'But do you think he will die,' she said, 'without ever coming to
himself? without ever knowing me?'

'One cannot say that with certainty. It is not impossible that the
cerebral oppression may subside, and that he may become conscious. If
there is anything you would wish to be said or done in that case, it
would be well to be prepared. I should think,' Mr. Pilgrim continued.
turning to Mrs. Raynor, 'Mr. Dempster's affairs are likely to be in
order--his will is ...'

'O, I wouldn't have him troubled about those things,' interrupted Janet,
'he has no relations but quite distant ones--no one but me. I wouldn't
take up the time with that. I only want to ...'

She was unable to finish; she felt her sobs rising, and left the room. 'O
God!' she said, inwardly, 'is not Thy love greater than mine? Have mercy
on him! have mercy on him!'

This happened on Wednesday, ten days after the fatal accident. By the
following Sunday, Dempster was in a state of rapidly increasing
prostration; and when Mr. Pilgrim, who, in turn with his assistant, had
slept in the house from the beginning, came in, about half-past ten, as
usual, he scarcely believed that the feebly struggling life would last
out till morning. For the last few days he had been administering
stimulants to relieve the exhaustion which had succeeded the alternations
of delirium and stupor. This slight office was all that now remained to
be done for the patient; so at eleven o'clock Mr. Pilgrim went to bed,
having given directions to the nurse, and desired her to call him if any
change took place, or if Mrs. Dempster desired his presence.

Janet could not be persuaded to leave the room. She was yearning and
watching for a moment in which her husband's eyes would rest consciously
upon her, and he would know that she had forgiven him.

How changed he was since that terrible Monday, nearly a fortnight ago! He
lay motionless, but for the irregular breathing that stirred his broad
chest and thick muscular neck. His features were no longer purple and
swollen; they were pale, sunken, and haggard. A cold perspiration stood
in beads on the protuberant forehead, and on the wasted hands stretched
motionless on the bed-clothes. It was better to see the hands so, than
convulsively picking the air, as they had been a week ago.

Janet sat on the edge of the bed through the long hours of candle-light,
watching the unconscious half-closed eyes, wiping the perspiration from
the brow and cheeks, and keeping her left hand on the cold unanswering
right hand that lay beside her on the bed-clothes. She was almost as pale
as her dying husband, and there were dark lines under her eyes, for this
was the third night since she had taken off her clothes; but the eager
straining gaze of her dark eyes, and the acute sensibility that lay in
every line about her mouth, made a strange contrast with the blank
unconsciousness and emaciated animalism of the face she was watching.

There was profound stillness in the house. She heard no sound but her
husband's breathing and the ticking of the watch on the mantelpiece. The
candle, placed high up, shed a soft light down on the one object she
cared to see. There was a smell of brandy in the room; it was given to
her husband from time to time; but this smell, which at first had
produced in her a faint shuddering sensation, was now becoming
indifferent to her: she did not even perceive it; she was too unconscious
of herself to feel either temptations or accusations. She only felt that
the husband of her youth was dying; far, far out of her reach, as if she
were standing helpless on the shore, while he was sinking in the black
storm-waves; she only yearned for one moment in which she might satisfy
the deep forgiving pity of her soul by one look of love, one word of
tenderness.

Her sensations and thoughts were so persistent that she could not measure
the hours, and it was a surprise to her when the nurse put out the
candle, and let in the faint morning light. Mrs. Raynor, anxious about
Janet, was already up, and now brought in some fresh coffee for her; and
Mr. Pilgrim having awaked, had hurried on his clothes, and was coming in
to see how Dempster was.

This change from candle-light to morning, this recommencement of the same
round of things that had happened yesterday, was a discouragement rather
than a relief to Janet. She was more conscious of her chill weariness:
the new light thrown on her husband's face seemed to reveal the still
work that death had been doing through the night; she felt her last
lingering hope that he would ever know her again forsake her.

But now, Mr. Pilgrim, having felt the pulse, was putting some brandy in a
tea-spoon between Dempster's lips; the brandy went down, and his
breathing became freer. Janet noticed the change, and her heart beat
faster as she leaned forward to watch him. Suddenly a slight movement,
like the passing away of a shadow, was visible in his face, and he opened
his eyes full on Janet. It was almost like meeting him again on the
resurrection morning, after the night of the grave.

'Robert, do you know me?'

He kept his eyes fixed on her, and there was a faintly perceptible motion
of the lips, as if he wanted to speak.

But the moment of speech was for ever gone--the moment for asking pardon
of her, if he wanted to ask it. Could he read the full forgiveness that
was written in her eyes? She never knew; for, as she was bending to kiss
him, the thick veil of death fell between them, and her lips touched a
corpse.



Chapter 25


The faces looked very hard and unmoved that surrounded Dempster's grave,
while old Mr. Crewe read the burial-service in his low, broken voice. The
pall-bearers were such men as Mr. Pittman, Mr. Lowme, and Mr. Budd--men
whom Dempster had called his friends while he was in life; and worldly
faces never look so worldly as at a funeral. They have the same effect of
grating incongruity as the sound of a coarse voice breaking the solemn
silence of night.

The one face that had sorrow in it was covered by a thick crape-veil, and
the sorrow was suppressed and silent. No one knew how deep it was; for
the thought in most of her neighbours' minds was, that Mrs. Dempster
could hardly have had better fortune than to lose a bad husband who had
left her the compensation of a good income. They found it difficult to
conceive that her husband's death could be felt by her otherwise than as
a deliverance. The person who was most thoroughly convinced that Janet's
grief was deep and real, was Mr. Pilgrim, who in general was not at all
weakly given to a belief in disinterested feeling.

'That woman has a tender heart,' he was frequently heard to observe in
his morning rounds about this time. 'I used to think there was a great
deal of palaver in her, but you may depend upon it there's no pretence
about her. If he'd been the kindest husband in the world she couldn't
have felt more. There's a great deal of good in Mrs. Dempster--a great
deal of good.'

'_I_ always said so,' was Mrs. Lowme's reply, when he made the
observation to her; 'she was always so very full of pretty attentions to
me when I was ill. But they tell me now she's turned Tryanite; if that's
it we shan't agree again. It's very inconsistent in her, I think, turning
round in that way, after being the foremost to laugh at the Tryanite
cant, and especially in a woman of her habits; she should cure herself of
them before she pretends to be over-religious.'

'Well, I think she means to cure herself, do you know,' said Mr. Pilgrim,
whose goodwill towards Janet was just now quite above that temperate
point at which he could indulge his feminine patients with a little
judicious detraction. 'I feel sure she has not taken any stimulants all
through her husband's illness; and she has been constantly in the way of
them. I can see she sometimes suffers a good deal of depression for want
of them--it shows all the more resolution in her. Those cures are rare:
but I've known them happen sometimes with people of strong will.'

Mrs. Lowme took an opportunity of retailing Mr. Pilgrim's conversation to
Mrs. Phipps, who, as a victim of Pratt and plethora, could rarely enjoy
that pleasure at first-hand. Mrs. Phipps was a woman of decided opinions,
though of wheezy utterance.

'For my part,' she remarked, 'I'm glad to hear there's any likelihood of
improvement in Mrs. Dempster, but I think the way things have turned out
seems to show that she was more to blame than people thought she was;
else, why should she feel so much about her husband? And Dempster, I
understand, has left his wife pretty nearly all his property to do as she
likes with; _that_ isn't behaving like such a very bad husband. I don't
believe Mrs. Dempster can have had so much provocation as they pretended.
I've known husbands who've laid plans for tormenting their wives when
they're underground--tying up their money and hindering them from
marrying again. Not that _I_ should ever wish to marry again; I think one
husband in one's life is enough in all conscience';--here she threw a
fierce glance at the amiable Mr. Phipps, who was innocently delighting
himself with the _facetiae_ in the 'Rotherby Guardian,' and thinking the
editor must be a droll fellow--'but it's aggravating to be tied up in
that way. Why, they say Mrs. Dempster will have as good as six hundred
a-year at least. A fine thing for her, that was a poor girl without a
farthing to her fortune. It's well if she doesn't make ducks and drakes
of it somehow.'

Mrs. Phipps's view of Janet, however, was far from being the prevalent
one in Milby. Even neighbours who had no strong personal interest in her,
could hardly see the noble-looking woman in her widow's dress, with a sad
sweet gravity in her face, and not be touched with fresh admiration for
her--and not feel, at least vaguely, that she had entered on a new life
in which it was a sort of desecration to allude to the painful past. And
the old friends who had a real regard for her, but whose cordiality had
been repelled or chilled of late years, now came round her with hearty
demonstrations of affection. Mr. Jerome felt that his happiness had a
substantial addition now he could once more call on that 'nice little
woman Mrs. Dempster', and think of her with rejoicing instead of sorrow.
The Pratts lost no time in returning to the footing of old-established
friendship with Janet and her mother; and Miss Pratt felt it incumbent on
her, on all suitable occasions, to deliver a very emphatic approval of
the remarkable strength of mind she understood Mrs. Dempster to be
exhibiting. The Miss Linnets were eager to meet Mr. Tryan's wishes by
greeting Janet as one who was likely to be a sister in religious feeling
and good works; and Mrs. Linnet was so agreeably surprised by the fact
that Dempster had left his wife the money 'in that handsome way, to do
what she liked with it,' that she even included Dempster himself, and his
villanous discovery of the flaw in her title to Pye's Croft, in her
magnanimous oblivion of past offences. She and Mrs. Jerome agreed over a
friendly cup of tea that there were 'a many husbands as was very fine
spoken an' all that, an' yet all the while kep' a will locked up from
you, as tied you up as tight as anything. I assure _you_,' Mrs. Jerome
continued, dropping her voice in a confidential manner, 'I know no more
to this day about Mr. Jerome's will, nor the child as is unborn. I've no
fears about a income--I'm well aware Mr. Jerome 'ud niver leave me stret
for that; but I should like to hev a thousand or two at my own disposial;
it makes a widow a deal more looked on.'

Perhaps this ground of respect to widows might not be entirely without
its influence on the Milby mind, and might do something towards
conciliating those more aristocratic acquaintances of Janet's, who would
otherwise have been inclined to take the severest view of her apostasy
towards Evangelicalism. Errors look so very ugly in persons of small
means--one feels they are taking quite a liberty in going astray; whereas
people of fortune may naturally indulge in a few delinquencies. 'They've
got the money for it,' as the girl said of her mistress who had made
herself ill with pickled salmon. However it may have been, there was not
an acquaintance of Janet's, in Milby, that did not offer her civilities
in the early days of her widowhood. Even the severe Mrs. Phipps was not
an exception; for heaven knows what would become of our sociality if we
never visited people we speak ill of: we should live, like Egyptian
hermits, in crowded solitude.

Perhaps the attentions most grateful to Janet were those of her old
friend Mrs. Crewe, whose attachment to her favourite proved quite too
strong for any resentment she might be supposed to feel on the score of
Mr. Tryan. The little deaf old lady couldn't do without her accustomed
visitor, whom she had seen grow up from child to woman, always so willing
to chat with her and tell her all the news, though she _was_ deaf; while
other people thought it tiresome to shout in her ear, and irritated her
by recommending ear-trumpets of various construction.

All this friendliness was very precious to Janet. She was conscious of
the aid it gave her in the self-conquest which was the blessing she
prayed for with every fresh morning. The chief strength of her nature lay
in her affection, which coloured all the rest of her mind: it gave a
personal sisterly tenderness to her acts of benevolence; it made her
cling with tenacity to every object that had once stirred her kindly
emotions. Alas! it was unsatisfied, wounded affection that had made her
trouble greater than she could bear. And now there was no check to the
full flow of that plenteous current in her nature--no gnawing secret
anguish--no overhanging terror--no inward shame. Friendly faces beamed on
her; she felt that friendly hearts were approving her, and wishing her
well, and that mild sunshine of goodwill fell beneficently on her new
hopes and efforts, as the clear shining after rain falls on the tender
leaf-buds of spring, and wins them from promise to fulfilment.

And she needed these secondary helps, for her wrestling with her past
self was not always easy. The strong emotions from which the life of a
human being receives a new bias, win their victory as the sea wins his:
though their advance may be sure, they will often, after a mightier wave
than usual, seem to roll back so far as to lose all the ground they had
made. Janet showed the strong bent of her will by taking every outward
precaution against the occurrence of a temptation. Her mother was now her
constant companion, having shut up her little dwelling and come to reside
in Orchard Street; and Janet gave all dangerous keys into her keeping,
entreating her to lock them away in some secret place. Whenever the too
well-known depression and craving threatened her, she would seek a refuge
in what had always been her purest enjoyment--in visiting one of her poor
neighbours, in carrying some food or comfort to a sick-bed, in cheering
with her smile some of the familiar dwellings up the dingy back-lanes.
But the great source of courage, the great help to perseverance, was the
sense that she had a friend and teacher in Mr. Tryan: she could confess
her difficulties to him; she knew he prayed for her; she had always
before her the prospect of soon seeing him, and hearing words of
admonition and comfort, that came to her charged with a divine power such
as she had never found in human words before.

So the time passed, till it was far on in May, nearly a month after her
husband's death, when, as she and her mother were seated peacefully at
breakfast in the dining-room, looking through the open window at the
old-fashioned garden, where the grass-plot was now whitened with
apple-blossoms, a letter was brought in for Mrs. Raynor.

'Why, there's the Thurston post-mark on it,' she said. 'It must be about
your aunt Anna. Ah, so it is, poor thing! she's been taken worse this
last day or two, and has asked them to send for me. That dropsy is
carrying her off at last, I daresay. Poor thing! it will be a happy
release. I must go, my dear--she's your father's last sister--though I am
sorry to leave you. However, perhaps I shall not have to stay more than a
night or two.'

Janet looked distressed as she said, 'Yes, you must go, mother. But I
don't know what I shall do without you. I think I shall run in to Mrs.
Pettifer, and ask her to come and stay with me while you're away. I'm
sure she will.'

At twelve o'clock, Janet, having seen her mother in the coach that was to
carry her to Thurston, called, on her way back, at Mrs. Pettifer's, but
found, to her great disappointment, that her old friend was gone out for
the day. So she wrote on a leaf of her pocket-book an urgent request that
Mrs. Pettifer would come and stay with her while her mother was away;
and, desiring the servant-girl to give it to her mistress as soon as she
came home, walked on to the Vicarage to sit with Mrs. Crewe, thinking to
relieve in this way the feeling of desolateness and undefined fear that
was taking possession of her on being left alone for the first time since
that great crisis in her life. And Mrs. Crewe, too, was not at home!

Janet, with a sense of discouragement for which she rebuked herself as
childish, walked sadly home again; and when she entered the vacant
dining-room, she could not help bursting into tears. It is such vague
undefinable states of susceptibility as this--states of excitement or
depression, half mental, half physical--that determine many a tragedy in
women's lives. Janet could scarcely eat anything at her solitary dinner:
she tried to fix her attention on a book in vain; she walked about the
garden, and felt the very sunshine melancholy.

Between four and five o'clock, old Mr. Pittman called, and joined her in
the garden, where she had been sitting for some time under one of the
great apple-trees, thinking how Robert, in his best moods, used to take
little Mamsey to look at the cucumbers, or to see the Alderney cow with
its calf in the paddock. The tears and sobs had come again at these
thoughts; and when Mr. Pittman approached her, she was feeling languid
and exhausted. But the old gentleman's sight and sensibility were obtuse,
and, to Janet's satisfaction, he showed no consciousness that she was in
grief.

'I have a task to impose upon you, Mrs. Dempster,' he said, with a
certain toothless pomposity habitual to him: 'I want you to look over
those letters again in Dempster's bureau, and see if you can find one
from Poole about the mortgage on those houses at Dingley. It will be
worth twenty pounds, if you can find it; and I don't know where it can
be, if it isn't among those letters in the bureau. I've looked everywhere
at the office for it. I'm going home now, but I'll call again tomorrow,
if you'll be good enough to look in the meantime.'

Janet said she would look directly, and turned with Mr. Pittman into the
house. But the search would take her some time, so he bade her good-bye,
and she went at once to a bureau which stood in a small back-room, where
Dempster used sometimes to write letters and receive people who came on
business out of office hours. She had looked through the contents of the
bureau more than once; but today, on removing the last bundle of letters
from one of the compartments, she saw what she had never seen before, a
small nick in the wood, made in the shape of a thumb-nail, evidently
intended as a means of pushing aside the movable back of the compartment.
In her examination hitherto she had not found such a letter as Mr.
Pittman had described--perhaps there might be more letters behind this
slide. She pushed it back at once, and saw--no letters, but a small
spirit-decanter, half full of pale brandy, Dempster's habitual drink.

An impetuous desire shook Janet through all her members; it seemed to
master her with the inevitable force of strong fumes that flood our
senses before we are aware. Her hand was on the decanter: pale and
excited, she was lifting it out of its niche, when, with a start and a
shudder, she dashed it to the ground, and the room was filled with the
odour of the spirit. Without staying to shut up the bureau, she rushed
out of the room, snatched up her bonnet and mantle which lay in the
dining-room, and hurried out of the house.

Where should she go? In what place would this demon that had re-entered
her be scared back again? She walks rapidly along the street in the
direction of the church. She is soon at the gate of the churchyard; she
passes through it, and makes her way across the graves to a spot she
knows--a spot where the turf was stirred not long ago, where a tomb is to
be erected soon. It is very near the church wall, on the side which now
lies in deep shadow, quite shut out from the rays of the westering sun by
a projecting buttress.

Janet sat down on the ground. It was a sombre spot. A thick hedge,
surmounted by elm-trees, was in front of her; a projecting buttress on
each side. But she wanted to shut out even these objects. Her thick crape
veil was down; but she closed her eyes behind it, and pressed her hands
upon them. She wanted to summon up the vision of the past; she wanted to
lash the demon out of her soul with the stinging memories of the bygone
misery; she wanted to renew the old horror and the old anguish, that she
might throw herself with the more desperate clinging energy at the foot
of the cross, where the Divine Sufferer would impart divine strength. She
tried to recall those first bitter moments of shame, which were like the
shuddering discovery of the leper that the dire taint is upon him; the
deeper and deeper lapse; the on-coming of settled despair; the awful
moments by the bedside of her self-maddened husband. And then she tried
to live through, with a remembrance made more vivid by that contrast, the
blessed hours of hope and joy and peace that had come to her of late,
since her whole soul had been bent towards the attainment of purity and
holiness.

But now, when the paroxysm of temptation was past, dread and despondency
began to thrust themselves, like cold heavy mists, between her and the
heaven to which she wanted to look for light and guidance. The temptation
would come again--that rush of desire might overmaster her the next
time--she would slip back again into that deep slimy pit from which she
had been once rescued, and there might be no deliverance for her more.
Her prayers did not help her, for fear predominated over trust; she had
no confidence that the aid she sought would be given; the idea of her
future fall had grasped her mind too strongly. Alone, in this way, she
was powerless. If she could see Mr. Tryan, if she could confess all to
him, she might gather hope again. She _must_ see him; she must go to him.

Janet rose from the ground, and walked away with a quick resolved step.
She had been seated there a long while, and the sun had already sunk. It
was late for her to walk to Paddiford and go to Mr. Tryan's, where she
had never called before; but there was no other way of seeing him that
evening, and she could not hesitate about it. She walked towards a
footpath through the fields, which would take her to Paddiford without
obliging her to go through the town. The way was rather long, but she
preferred it, because it left less probability of her meeting
acquaintances, and she shrank from having to speak to any one.

The evening red had nearly faded by the time Janet knocked at Mrs.
Wagstaff's door. The good woman looked surprised to see her at that hour;
but Janet's mourning weeds and the painful agitation of her face quickly
brought the second thought, that some urgent trouble had sent her there.

'Mr. Tryan's just come in,' she said. 'If you'll step into the parlour,
I'll go up and tell him you're here. He seemed very tired and poorly.'

At another time Janet would have felt distress at the idea that she was
disturbing Mr. Tryan when he required rest; but now her need was too
great for that: she could feel nothing but a sense of coming relief, when
she heard his step on the stair and saw him enter the room.

He went towards her with a look of anxiety, and said, 'I fear something
is the matter. I fear you are in trouble.'

Then poor Janet poured forth her sad tale of temptation and despondency;
and even while she was confessing she felt half her burden removed. The
act of confiding in human sympathy, the consciousness that a fellow-being
was listening to her with patient pity, prepared her soul for that
stronger leap by which faith grasps the idea of the Divine sympathy. When
Mr. Tryan spoke words of consolation and encouragement, she could now
believe the message of mercy; the water-floods that had threatened to
overwhelm her rolled back again, and life once more spread its
heaven-covered space before her. She had been unable to pray alone; but
now his prayer bore her own soul along with it, as the broad tongue of
flame carries upwards in its vigorous leap the little flickering fire
that could hardly keep alight by itself.

But Mr. Tryan was anxious that Janet should not linger out at this late
hour. When he saw that she was calmed, he said, 'I will walk home with
you now; we can talk on the way.' But Janet's mind was now sufficiently
at liberty for her to notice the signs of feverish weariness in his
appearance, and she would not hear of causing him any further fatigue.

'No, no,' she said, earnestly, 'you will pain me very much--indeed you
will, by going out again to-night on my account. There is no real reason
why I should not go alone.' And when he persisted, fearing that for her
to be seen out so late alone might excite remark, she said imploringly,
with a half sob in her voice, 'What should I--what would others like me
do, if you went from us? _Why_ will you not think more of that, and take
care of yourself?'

He had often had that appeal made to him before, but tonight--from
Janet's lips--it seemed to have a new force for him, and he gave way. At
first, indeed, he only did so on condition that she would let Mrs.
Wagstaff go with her; but Janet had determined to walk home alone. She
preferred solitude; she wished not to have her present feelings
distracted by any conversation.

So she went out into the dewy starlight; and as Mr. Tryan turned away
from her, he felt a stronger wish than ever that his fragile life might
last out for him to see Janet's restoration thoroughly established--to
see her no longer fleeing, struggling, clinging up the steep sides of a
precipice whence she might be any moment hurled back into the depths of
despair, but walking firmly on the level ground of habit. He inwardly
resolved that nothing but a peremptory duty should ever take him from
Milby--that he would not cease to watch over her until life forsook him.

Janet walked on quickly till she turned into the fields; then she
slackened her pace a little, enjoying the sense of solitude which a few
hours before had been intolerable to her. The Divine Presence did not now
seem far off, where she had not wings to reach it; prayer itself seemed
superfluous in those moments of calm trust. The temptation which had so
lately made her shudder before the possibilities of the future, was now a
source of confidence; for had she not been delivered from it? Had not
rescue come in the extremity of danger? Yes; Infinite Love was caring for
her. She felt like a little child whose hand is firmly grasped by its
father, as its frail limbs make their way over the rough ground; if it
should stumble, the father will not let it go.

That walk in the dewy starlight remained for ever in Janet's memory as
one of those baptismal epochs, when the soul, dipped in the sacred waters
of joy and peace, rises from them with new energies, with more
unalterable longings.

When she reached home she found Mrs. Pettifer there, anxious for her
return. After thanking her for coming, Janet only said, 'I have been to
Mr. Tryan's; I wanted to speak to him;' and then remembering how she had
left the bureau and papers, she went into the back-room, where,
apparently, no one had been since she quitted it; for there lay the
fragments of glass, and the room was still full of the hateful odour. How
feeble and miserable the temptation seemed to her at this moment! She
rang for Kitty to come and pick up the fragments and rub the floor, while
she herself replaced the papers and locked up the bureau.

The next morning, when seated at breakfast with Mrs. Pettifer, Janet
said,--'What a dreary unhealthy-looking place that is where Mr. Tryan
lives! I'm sure it must be very bad for him to live there. Do you know,
all this morning, since I've been awake, I've been turning over a little
plan in my mind. I think it a charming one--all the more, because you are
concerned in it.'

'Why, what can that be?'

'You know that house on the Redhill road they call Holly Mount; it is
shut up now. That is Robert's house; at least, it is mine now, and it
stands on one of the healthiest spots about here. Now, I've been settling
in my own mind, that if a dear good woman of my acquaintance, who knows
how to make a home as comfortable and cosy as a bird's nest, were to take
up her abode there, and have Mr. Tryan as a lodger, she would be doing
one of the most useful deeds in all her useful life.'

'You've such a way of wrapping up things in pretty words. You must speak
plainer.'

'In plain words, then, I should like to settle you at Holly Mount. You
would not have to pay any more rent than where you are, and it would be
twenty times pleasanter for you than living up that passage where you see
nothing but a brick wall. And then, as it is not far from Paddiford, I
think Mr. Tryan might be persuaded to lodge with you, instead of in that
musty house, among dead cabbages and smoky cottages. I know you would
like to have him live with you, and you would be such a mother to him.'

'To be sure I should like it; it would be the finest thing in the world
for me. But there'll be furniture wanted. My little bit of furniture
won't fill that house.'

'O, I can put some in out of this house; it is too full; and we can buy
the rest. They tell me I'm to have more money than I shall know what to
do with.'

'I'm almost afraid,' said Mrs. Pettifer, doubtfully, 'Mr. Tryan will
hardly be persuaded. He's been talked to so much about leaving that
place; and he always said he must stay there--he must be among the
people, and there was no other place for him in Paddiford. It cuts me to
the heart to see him getting thinner and thinner, and I've noticed him
quite short o' breath sometimes. Mrs. Linnet will have it, Mrs. Wagstaff
half poisons him with bad cooking. I don't know about that, but he can't
have many comforts. I expect he'll break down all of a sudden some day,
and never be able to preach any more.'

'Well, I shall try my skill with him by and by. I shall be very cunning,
and say nothing to him till all is ready. You and I and mother, when she
comes home, will set to work directly and get the house in order, and
then we'll get you snugly settled in it. I shall see Mr. Pittman today,
and I will tell him what I mean to do. I shall say I wish to have you for
a tenant. Everybody knows I'm very fond of that naughty person, Mrs.
Pettifer; so it will seem the most natural thing in the world. And then I
shall by and by point out to Mr. Tryan that he will be doing you a
service as well as himself by taking up his abode with you. I think I can
prevail upon him; for last night, when he was quite bent on coming out
into the night air, I persuaded him to give it up.'

'Well, I only hope you may, my dear. I don't desire anything better than
to do something towards prolonging Mr. Tryan's life, for I've sad fears
about him.'

'Don't speak of them--I can't bear to think of them. We will only think
about getting the house ready. We shall be as busy as bees. How we shall
want mother's clever fingers! I know the room upstairs that will just do
for Mr. Tryan's study. There shall be no seats in it except a very easy
chair and a very easy sofa, so that he shall be obliged to rest himself
when he comes home.'



Chapter 26


That was the last terrible crisis of temptation Janet had to pass
through. The goodwill of her neighbours, the helpful sympathy of the
friends who shared her religious feelings, the occupations suggested to
her by Mr. Tryan, concurred, with her strong spontaneous impulses towards
works of love and mercy, to fill up her days with quiet social
intercourse and charitable exertion. Besides, her constitution, naturally
healthy and strong, was every week tending, with the gathering force of
habit, to recover its equipoise, and set her free from those physical
solicitations which the smallest habitual vice always leaves behind it.
The prisoner feels where the iron has galled him, long after his fetters
have been loosed.

There were always neighbourly visits to be paid and received; and as the
months wore on, increasing familiarity with Janet's present self began to
efface, even from minds as rigid as Mrs. Phipps's, the unpleasant
impressions that had been left by recent years. Janet was recovering the
popularity which her beauty and sweetness of nature had won for her when
she was a girl; and popularity, as every one knows, is the most complex
and self-multiplying of echoes. Even anti-Tryanite prejudice could not
resist the fact that Janet Dempster was a changed woman--changed as the
dusty, bruised, and sun-withered plant is changed when the soft rains of
heaven have fallen on it--and that this change was due to Mr. Tryan's
influence. The last lingering sneers against the Evangelical curate began
to die out; and though much of the feeling that had prompted them
remained behind, there was an intimidating consciousness that the
expression of such feeling would not be effective--jokes of that sort had
ceased to tickle the Milby mind. Even Mr. Budd and Mr. Tomlinson, when
they saw Mr. Tryan passing pale and worn along the street, had a secret
sense that this man was somehow not that very natural and comprehensible
thing, a humbug--that, in fact, it was impossible to explain him from the
stomach and pocket point of view. Twist and stretch their theory as they
might, it would not fit Mr. Tryan; and so, with that remarkable
resemblance as to mental processes which may frequently be observed to
exist between plain men and philosophers, they concluded that the less
they said about him the better.

Among all Janet's neighbourly pleasures, there was nothing she liked
better than to take an early tea at the White House, and to stroll with
Mr. Jerome round the old-fashioned garden and orchard. There was endless
matter for talk between her and the good old man, for Janet had that
genuine delight in human fellowship which gives an interest to all
personal details that come warm from truthful lips; and, besides, they
had a common interest in good-natured plans for helping their poorer
neighbours. One great object of Mr. Jerome's charities was, as he often
said, 'to keep industrious men an' women off the parish. I'd rether given
ten shillin' an' help a man to stand on his own legs, nor pay
half-a-crown to buy him a parish crutch; it's the ruination on him if he
once goes to the parish. I've see'd many a time, if you help a man wi' a
present in a neeborly way, it sweetens his blood--he thinks it kind on
you; but the parish shillins turn it sour--he niver thinks 'em enough.'
In illustration of this opinion Mr. Jerome had a large store of details
about such persons as Jim Hardy, the coal-carrier, 'as lost his hoss'.
and Sally Butts, 'as hed to sell her mangle, though she was as decent a
woman as need to be'; to the hearing of which details Janet seriously
inclined; and you would hardly desire to see a prettier picture than the
kind-faced white-haired old man telling these fragments of his simple
experience as he walked, with shoulders slightly bent, among the
moss-roses and espalier apple-trees, while Janet in her widow's cap, her
dark eyes bright with interest, went listening by his side, and little
Lizzie, with her nankeen bonnet hanging down her back, toddled on before
them. Mrs. Jerome usually declined these lingering strolls, and often
observed, 'I niver see the like to Mr. Jerome when he's got Mrs. Dempster
to talk to; it sinnifies nothin' to him whether we've tea at four or at
five o'clock; he'd go on till six, if you'd let him alone--he's like off
his head.' However, Mrs. Jerome herself could not deny that Janet was a
very pretty-spoken woman: 'She aly's says, she niver gets sich pikelets'
as mine nowhere; I know that very well--other folks buy 'em at
shops--thick, unwholesome things, you might as well eat a sponge.'

The sight of little Lizzie often stirred in Janet's mind a sense of the
childlessness which had made a fatal blank in her life. She had fleeting
thoughts that perhaps among her husband's distant relatives there might
be some children whom she could help to bring up, some little girl whom
she might adopt; and she promised herself one day or other to hunt out a
second cousin of his--a married woman, of whom he had lost sight for many
years.

But at present her hands and heart were too full for her to carry out
that scheme. To her great disappointment, her project of settling Mrs.
Pettifer at Holly Mount had been delayed by the discovery that some
repairs were necessary in order to make the house habitable, and it was
not till September had set in that she had the satisfaction of seeing her
old friend comfortably installed, and the rooms destined for Mr. Tryan
looking pretty and cosy to her heart's content. She had taken several of
his chief friends into her confidence, and they were warmly wishing
success to her plan for inducing him to quit poor Mrs. Wagstaff's dingy
house and dubious cookery. That he should consent to some such change was
becoming more and more a matter of anxiety to his hearers; for though no
more decided symptoms were yet observable in him than increasing
emaciation, a dry hacking cough, and an occasional shortness of breath,
it was felt that the fulfilment of Mr. Pratt's prediction could not long
be deferred, and that this obstinate persistence in labour and
self-disregard must soon be peremptorily cut short by a total failure of
strength. Any hopes that the influence of Mr. Tryan's father and sister
would prevail on him to change his mode of life--that they would perhaps
come to live with him, or that his sister at least might come to see him,
and that the arguments which had failed from other lips might be more
persuasive from hers--were now quite dissipated. His father had lately
had an attack of paralysis, and could not spare his only daughter's
tendance. On Mr. Tryan's return from a visit to his father, Miss Linnet
was very anxious to know whether his sister had not urged him to try
change of air. From his answers she gathered that Miss Tryan wished him
to give up his curacy and travel, or at least go to the south Devonshire
coast.

'And why will you not do so?' Miss Linnet said; 'you might come back to
us well and strong, and have many years of usefulness before you.'

'No,' he answered quietly, 'I think people attach more importance to such
measures than is warranted. I don't see any good end that is to be served
by going to die at Nice, instead of dying amongst one's friends and one's
work. I cannot leave Milby--at least I will not leave it voluntarily.'

But though he remained immovable on this point, he had been compelled to
give up his afternoon service on the Sunday, and to accept Mr. Parry's
offer of aid in the evening service, as well as to curtail his weekday
labours; and he had even written to Mr. Prendergast to request that he
would appoint another curate to the Paddiford district, on the
understanding that the new curate should receive the salary, but that Mr.
Tryan should co-operate with him as long as he was able. The hopefulness
which is an almost constant attendant on consumption, had not the effect
of deceiving him as to the nature of his malady, or of making him look
forward to ultimate recovery. He believed himself to be consumptive, and
he had not yet felt any desire to escape the early death which he had for
some time contemplated as probable. Even diseased hopes will take their
direction from the strong habitual bias of the mind, and to Mr. Tryan
death had for years seemed nothing else than the laying down of a burden,
under which he sometimes felt himself fainting. He was only sanguine
about his powers of work: he flattered himself that what he was unable to
do one week he should be equal to the next, and he would not admit that
in desisting from any part of his labour he was renouncing it
permanently. He had lately delighted Mr. Jerome by accepting his
long-proffered loan of the 'little chacenut hoss;' and he found so much
benefit from substituting constant riding exercise for walking, that he
began to think he should soon be able to resume some of the work he had
dropped.

That was a happy afternoon for Janet, when, after exerting herself busily
for a week with her mother and Mrs. Pettifer, she saw Holly Mount looking
orderly and comfortable from attic to cellar. It was an old red-brick
house, with two gables in front, and two clipped holly-trees flanking the
garden-gate; a simple, homely-looking place, that quiet people might
easily get fond of; and now it was scoured and polished and carpeted and
furnished so as to look really snug within. When there was nothing more
to be done, Janet delighted herself with contemplating Mr. Tryan's study,
first sitting down in the easy-chair, and then lying for a moment on the
sofa, that she might have a keener sense of the repose he would get from
those well-stuffed articles of furniture, which she had gone to Rotherby
on purpose to choose.

'Now, mother,' she said, when she had finished her survey, 'you have done
your work as well as any fairy-mother or god-mother that ever turned a
pumpkin into a coach and horses. You stay and have tea cosily with Mrs.
Pettifer while I go to Mrs. Linnet's. I want to tell Mary and Rebecca the
good news, that I've got the exciseman to promise that he will take Mrs.
Wagstaff's lodgings when Mr. Tryan leaves. They'll be so pleased to hear
it, because they thought he would make her poverty an objection to his
leaving her.'

'But, my dear child.' said Mrs. Raynor, whose face, always calm, was now
a happy one, 'have a cup of tea with us first. You'll perhaps miss Mrs.
Linnet's tea-time.'

'No, I feel too excited to take tea yet. I'm like a child with a new
baby-house. Walking in the air will do me good.'

So she set out. Holly Mount was about a mile from that outskirt of
Paddiford Common where Mrs. Linnet's house stood nestled among its
laburnums, lilacs, and syringas. Janet's way thither lay for a little
while along the high-road, and then led her into a deep-rutted lane,
which wound through a flat tract of meadow and pasture, while in front
lay smoky Paddiford, and away to the left the mother-town of Milby. There
was no line of silvery willows marking the course of a stream--no group
of Scotch firs with their trunks reddening in the level sunbeams--nothing
to break the flowerless monotony of grass and hedgerow but an occasional
oak or elm, and a few cows sprinkled here and there. A very commonplace
scene, indeed. But what scene was ever commonplace in the descending
sunlight, when colour has awakened from its noonday sleep, and the long
shadows awe us like a disclosed presence? Above all, what scene is
commonplace to the eye that is filled with serene gladness, and brightens
all things with its own joy?

And Janet just now was very happy. As she walked along the rough lane
with a buoyant step, a half smile of innocent, kindly triumph played
about her mouth. She was delighting beforehand in the anticipated success
of her persuasive power, and for the time her painful anxiety about Mr.
Tryan's health was thrown into abeyance. But she had not gone far along
the lane before she heard the sound of a horse advancing at a walking
pace behind her. Without looking back, she turned aside to make way for
it between the ruts, and did not notice that for a moment it had stopped,
and had then come on with a slightly quickened pace. In less than a
minute she heard a well-known voice say, 'Mrs. Dempster'; and, turning,
saw Mr. Tryan close to her, holding his horse by the bridle. It seemed
very natural to her that he should be there. Her mind was so full of his
presence at that moment, that the actual sight of him was only like a
more vivid thought, and she behaved, as we are apt to do when feeling
obliges us to be genuine, with a total forgetfulness of polite forms. She
only looked at him with a slight deepening of the smile that was already
on her face. He said gently, 'Take my arm'; and they walked on a little
way in silence.

It was he who broke it. 'You are going to Paddiford, I suppose?'

The question recalled Janet to the consciousness that this was an
unexpected opportunity for beginning her work of persuasion, and that she
was stupidly neglecting it.

'Yes,' she said, 'I was going to Mrs. Linnet's. I knew Miss Linnet would
like to hear that our friend Mrs. Pettifer is quite settled now in her
new house. She is as fond of Mrs. Pettifer as I am--almost; I won't admit
that any one loves her _quite_ as well, for no one else has such good
reason as I have. But now the dear woman wants a lodger, for you know she
can't afford to live in so large a house by herself. But I knew when I
persuaded her to go there that she would be sure to get one--she's such a
comfortable creature to live with; and I didn't like her to spend all the
rest of her days up that dull passage, being at every one's beck and call
who wanted to make use of her.'

'Yes,' said Mr. Tryan, 'I quite understand your feeling; I don't wonder
at your strong regard for her.'

'Well, but now I want her other friends to second me. There she is, with
three rooms to let, ready furnished, everything in order; and I know some
one, who thinks as well of her as I do, and who would be doing good all
round--to every one that knows him, as well as to Mrs. Pettifer, if he
would go to live with her. He would leave some uncomfortable lodgings,
which another person is already coveting and would take immediately; and
he would go to breathe pure air at Holly Mount, and gladden Mrs.
Pettifer's heart by letting her wait on him; and comfort all his friends,
who are quite miserable about him.'

Mr. Tryan saw it all in a moment--he saw that it had all been done for
his sake. He could not be sorry; he could not say no; he could not resist
the sense that life had a new sweetness for him, and that he should like
it to be prolonged a little--only a little, for the sake of feeling a
stronger security about Janet. When she had finished speaking, she looked
at him with a doubtful, inquiring glance. He was not looking at her; his
eyes were cast downwards; but the expression of his face encouraged her,
and she said, in a half-playful tone of entreaty,--'You _will_ go and
live with her? I know you will. You will come back with me now and see
the house.'

He looked at her then, and smiled. There is an unspeakable blending of
sadness and sweetness in the smile of a face sharpened and paled by slow
consumption. That smile of Mr. Tryan's pierced poor Janet's heart: she
felt in it at once the assurance of grateful affection and the prophecy
of coming death. Her tears rose; they turned round without speaking, and
went back again along the lane.



Chapter 27


In less than a week Mr. Tryan was settled at Holly Mount, and there was
not one of his many attached hearers who did not sincerely rejoice at the
event.

The autumn that year was bright and warm, and at the beginning of
October, Mr. Walsh, the new curate, came. The mild weather, the
relaxation from excessive work, and perhaps another benignant influence,
had for a few weeks a visibly favourable effect on Mr. Tryan. At least he
began to feel new hopes, which sometimes took the guise of new strength.
He thought of the cases in which consumption patients remain nearly
stationary for years, without suffering so as to make their life
burdensome to themselves or to others; and he began to struggle with a
longing that it might be so with him. He struggled with it, because he
felt it to be an indication that earthly affection was beginning to have
too strong a hold on him, and he prayed earnestly for more perfect
submission, and for a more absorbing delight in the Divine Presence as
the chief good. He was conscious that he did not wish for prolonged life
solely that he might reclaim the wanderers and sustain the feeble: he was
conscious of a new yearning for those pure human joys which he had
voluntarily and determinedly banished from his life--for a draught of
that deep affection from which he had been cut off by a dark chasm of
remorse. For now, that affection was within his reach; he saw it there,
like a palm-shadowed well in the desert; he _could_ not desire to die in
sight of it.

And so the autumn rolled gently by in its 'calm decay'. Until November.
Mr. Tryan continued to preach occasionally, to ride about visiting his
flock, and to look in at his schools: but his growing satisfaction in Mr.
Walsh as his successor saved him from too eager exertion and from
worrying anxieties. Janet was with him a great deal now, for she saw that
he liked her to read to him in the lengthening evenings, and it became
the rule for her and her mother to have tea at Holly Mount, where, with
Mrs. Pettifer, and sometimes another friend or two, they brought Mr.
Tryan the unaccustomed enjoyment of companionship by his own fireside.

Janet did not share his new hopes, for she was not only in the habit of
hearing Mr. Pratt's opinion that Mr. Tryan could hardly stand out through
the winter, but she also knew that it was shared by Dr Madely of
Rotherby, whom, at her request, he had consented to call in. It was not
necessary or desirable to tell Mr. Tryan what was revealed by the
stethoscope, but Janet knew the worst.

She felt no rebellion under this prospect of bereavement, but rather a
quiet submissive sorrow. Gratitude that his influence and guidance had
been given her, even if only for a little while--gratitude that she was
permitted to be with him, to take a deeper and deeper impress from daily
communion with him, to be something to him in these last months of his
life, was so strong in her that it almost silenced regret. Janet had
lived through the great tragedy of woman's life. Her keenest personal
emotions had been poured forth in her early love--her wounded affection
with its years of anguish--her agony of unavailing pity over that
deathbed seven months ago. The thought of Mr. Tryan was associated for
her with repose from that conflict of emotion, with trust in the
unchangeable, with the influx of a power to subdue self. To have been
assured of his sympathy, his teaching, his help, all through her life,
would have been to her like a heaven already begun--a deliverance from
fear and danger; but the time was not yet come for her to be conscious
that the hold he had on her heart was any other than that of the
heaven-sent friend who had come to her like the angel in the prison, and
loosed her bonds, and led her by the hand till she could look back on the
dreadful doors that had once closed her in.

Before November was over Mr. Tryan had ceased to go out. A new crisis had
come on: the cough had changed its character, and the worst symptoms
developed themselves so rapidly that Mr. Pratt began to think the end
would arrive sooner than he had expected. Janet became a constant
attendant on him now, and no one could feel that she was performing
anything but a sacred office. She made Holly Mount her home, and, with
her mother and Mrs. Pettifer to help her, she filled the painful days and
nights with every soothing influence that care and tenderness could
devise. There were many visitors to the sick-room, led thither by
venerating affection; and there could hardly be one who did not retain in
after years a vivid remembrance of the scene there--of the pale wasted
form in the easy-chair (for he sat up to the last), of the grey eyes so
full even yet of inquiring kindness, as the thin, almost transparent hand
was held out to give the pressure of welcome; and of the sweet woman,
too, whose dark watchful eyes detected every want, and who supplied the
want with a ready hand.

There were others who would have had the heart and the skill to fill this
place by Mr. Tryan's side, and who would have accepted it as an honour;
but they could not help feeling that God had given it to Janet by a train
of events which were too impressive not to shame all jealousies into
silence.

That sad history which most of us know too well, lasted more than three
months. He was too feeble and suffering for the last few weeks to see any
visitors, but he still sat up through the day. The strange hallucinations
of the disease which had seemed to take a more decided hold on him just
at the fatal crisis, and had made him think he was perhaps getting better
at the very time when death had begun to hurry on with more rapid
movement, had now given way, and left him calmly conscious of the
reality. One afternoon, near the end of February, Janet was moving gently
about the room, in the fire-lit dusk, arranging some things that would be
wanted in the night. There was no one else in the room, and his eyes
followed her as she moved with the firm grace natural to her, while the
bright fire every now and then lit up her face, and gave an unusual glow
to its dark beauty. Even to follow her in this way with his eyes was an
exertion that gave a painful tension to his face; while she looked like
an image of life and strength.

'Janet,' he said presently, in his faint voice--he always called her
Janet now. In a moment she was close to him, bending over him. He opened
his hand as he looked up at her, and she placed hers within it.

'Janet,' he said again, 'you will have a long while to live after I am
gone.'

A sudden pang of fear shot through her. She thought he felt himself
dying, and she sank on her knees at his feet, holding his hand, while she
looked up at him, almost breathless.

'But you will not feel the need of me as you have done ... You have a
sure trust in God ... I shall not look for you in vain at the last.'

'No ... no ... I shall be there ... God will not forsake me.'

She could hardly utter the words, though she was not weeping. She was
waiting with trembling eagerness for anything else he might have to say.

'Let us kiss each other before we part.'

She lifted up her face to his, and the full life-breathing lips met the
wasted dying ones in a sacred kiss of promise.



Chapter 28


It soon came--the blessed day of deliverance, the sad day of bereavement;
and in the second week of March they carried him to the grave. He was
buried as he had desired: there was no hearse, no mourning-coach; his
coffin was borne by twelve of his humbler hearers, who relieved each
other by turns. But he was followed by a long procession of mourning
friends, women as well as men.

Slowly, amid deep silence, the dark stream passed along Orchard Street,
where eighteen months before the Evangelical curate had been saluted with
hooting and hisses. Mr. Jerome and Mr. Landor were the eldest
pall-bearers; and behind the coffin, led by Mr. Tryan's cousin, walked
Janet, in quiet submissive sorrow. She could not feel that he was quite
gone from her; the unseen world lay so very near her--it held all that
had ever stirred the depths of anguish and joy within her.

It was a cloudy morning, and had been raining when they left Holly Mount;
but as they walked, the sun broke out, and the clouds were rolling off in
large masses when they entered the churchyard, and Mr. Walsh's voice was
heard saying, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life'. The faces were not
hard at this funeral; the burial-service was not a hollow form. Every
heart there was filled with the memory of a man who, through a
self-sacrificing life and in a painful death, had been sustained by the
faith which fills that form with breath and substance.

When Janet left the grave, she did not return to Holly Mount; she went to
her home in Orchard Street, where her mother was waiting to receive her.
She said quite calmly, 'Let us walk round the garden, mother.' And they
walked round in silence, with their hands clasped together, looking at
the golden crocuses bright in the spring sunshine. Janet felt a deep
stillness within. She thirsted for no pleasure; she craved no worldly
good. She saw the years to come stretch before her like an autumn
afternoon, filled with resigned memory. Life to her could never more have
any eagerness; it was a solemn service of gratitude and patient effort.
She walked in the presence of unseen witnesses--of the Divine love that
had rescued her, of the human love that waited for its eternal repose
until it had seen her endure to the end.

Janet is living still. Her black hair is grey, and her step is no longer
buoyant; but the sweetness of her smile remains, the love is not gone
from her eyes; and strangers sometimes ask, Who is that noble-looking
elderly woman, that walks about holding a little boy by the hand? The
little boy is the son of Janet's adopted daughter, and Janet in her old
age has children about her knees, and loving young arms round her neck.

There is a simple gravestone in Milby Churchyard, telling that in this
spot lie the remains of Edgar Tryan, for two years officiating curate at
the Paddiford Chapel-of-Ease, in this parish. It is a meagre memorial,
and tells you simply that the man who lies there took upon him,
faithfully or unfaithfully, the office of guide and instructor to his
fellowmen.

But there is another memorial of Edgar Tryan, which bears a fuller
record: it is Janet Dempster, rescued from self-despair, strengthened
with divine hopes, and now looking back on years of purity and helpful
labour. The man who has left such a memorial behind him, must have been
one whose heart beat with true compassion, and whose lips were moved by
fervent faith.



THE END





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enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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