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´╗┐Title: Joyce Morrell's Harvest - The Annals of Selwick Hall
Author: Holt, Emily Sarah, 1836-1893
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Joyce Morrell's Harvest - The Annals of Selwick Hall" ***

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Joyce Morrell's Harvest, by Emily Sarah Holt.

________________________________________________________________________
This book is one of a series involving the same late sixteenth century
family.  Its predecessor is "Lettice Eden", and its successor is "It
might have been."  Readers may find a little difficulty with the
language, for it is written in Elizabethan English, though that won't
bother you if you are familiar with the plays of Shakespeare.

Three young teenage girls, and their aunt Joyce are chatting together
one evening, when one of the girls suggests they might all try to keep a
journal.  The idea is scoffed at, because, it was said, nothing ever
happens in their neck of the woods.  A few exaggerated examples of the
daily events that might be recorded were given, but nonetheless, they
applied to their father for the paper, pens and ink, that they would
need, and set to work, taking it in turns to write up the journal.

It is slightly annoying that every proper name is written in italics,
which your reviewer found rather unusual, but you can get used to
anything, and once you have done that it doesn't seem too bad.

The author was said to be a good historian, and so you will find the
book informative and interesting, as the great issues of the day are
discussed, many of them being of a religious nature.

________________________________________________________________________
JOYCE MORRELL'S HARVEST, BY EMILY SARAH HOLT.



PREFACE.

Those to whom "Lettice Eden" is an old friend will meet with many
acquaintances in these pages.  The lesson is partly of the same type--
the difference between that which seems, and that which is; between the
gold which will stand the fire, and the imitation which the flame will
dissolve in a moment; between the true diamond, small though it be,
which is worth a fortune, and the glittering paste which is worth little
more than nothing.

But here there is a further lesson beyond this.  It is one which God
takes great pains to teach us, and which we, alas! are very slow to
learn.  "Tarry thou the Lord's leisure."  In the dim eyes of frail
children of earth, God's steps are often very slow.  We are too apt to
forget that they are very sure.  But He will not be hurried: He has
eternity to work in, "If we ask anything according to His will, He
heareth us."  How many of us, who fancied their prayers unheard because
they could not see the answer, may find that answer, rich, abundant,
eternal, in that Land where they shall know as they are known!  Let us
wait for God.  We shall find some day that it was worth while.



CHAPTER ONE.

THE DWELLERS AT SELWICK HALL.

"He would be on the mountain's top, without the toil and travail of the
climbing."--Tupper.

             SELWICK HALL, LAKE DERWENTWATER, OCTOBER YE FIRST, MDLXXIX.
It came about, as I have oft noted things to do, after a metely deal of
talk, yet right suddenly in the end.

Aunt _Joyce_, _Milly_, _Edith_, and I, were in the long gallery.  We had
been talking a while touching olden times (whereof Aunt _Joyce_ is a
rare hand at telling of stories), and _Mother's_ chronicle she was wont
to keep, and hath shown us, and such like matter.  When all at once
quoth _Edith_--

"Why should not _we_ keep a chronicle?"

"Ay, why not?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, busied with her sewing.

_Milly_ fell a-laughing.

"Dear heart, _Edith_, and what should we put in a chronicle?" saith she.
"`_Monday_, the cat washed her face.  _Tuesday_, it rained.
_Wednesday_, _Nell_ made a tansy pudding.  _Thursday_, I lost my temper.
_Friday_, I found it again.  _Saturday_, _Edith_ looked in the mirror,
and Aunt _Joyce_ made an end of a piece of sewing.'  Good lack, it shall
be a rare jolly book!"

"Nay, I would never set down such stuff as that," answered _Edith_.

"Why, what else is there?" saith _Milly_.  "We have dwelt hither ever
since we were born, saving when we go to visit Aunt _Joyce_, and one day
is the very cut of an other.  Saving when Master _Stuyvesant_ came
hither, nought never happened in this house since I was born."

"Would'st love better a life wherein matters should happen, _Milly_?"
saith Aunt _Joyce_, looking up at her, with a manner of face that I
knew.  It was a little mirthful, yet sorrowful withal.

"Ay, I would so!" quoth she.

"Child," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer, "`happy is the man that hath no
history.'"

"But things do happen, _Milly_," saith _Edith_.  "Thou hast forgot
_Anstace_ her wedding."

"_That_ something happening!" pouts _Milly_.  "Stupid humdrum business!
Do but think, to wed a man that dwelleth the next door, which thou hast
known all thy life!  Why, I would as lief not be wed at all, very nigh."

"It seemed to suit _Anstace_," puts in _Edith_.

"Aught should do that."

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, something drily, "`godliness is great riches,
if a man be content with that he hath.'"  [Note 1.]

"Easy enough, trow, when you have plenty," quoth _Milly_.

"Nay, it is hardest then," saith she.  "`Much would have more.'"

"What wist Aunt _Joyce_ thereabout?" murmurs _Milly_, so that I could
just hear.  "She never lacked nought she wanted."

"Getting oldish, _Milly_, but not going deaf, thank God," saith Aunt
_Joyce_, of her dry fashion.  "Nay, child, thou art out there.  Time was
when I desired one thing, far beyond all other things in this world, and
did not get it."

"Never, _Aunt_?"

"Never, _Milly_."  And a somewhat pained look came into her face, that
is wont to seem so calm.

"What was it, Aunt _Joyce_, sweet heart?"

"Well, I took it for fine gold, and it turned out to be pinchbeck,"
saith she.  "There's a deal of that sort of stuff in this world."

Methought _Milly_ feared to ask further, and all was still till _Edith_
saith--

"Would you avise us, Aunt _Joyce_, to keep a chronicle, even though
things did not happen?"

"Things will happen, trust me," she made answer.  "Ay, dear maids,
methinks it should be profitable for you."

"Now, Aunt _Joyce_, I would you had not said that!"

"Why, _Milly_?"

"By reason that things which be profitable be alway dry and gloomsome."

"Not alway, _Lettice Eden's_ daughter."

I could not help but smile when Aunt _Joyce_ said this.  For indeed,
_Mother_ hath oft told us how, when she was a young maid like _Milly_,
she did sorely hate all gloom and sorrowfulness, nor could not abide for
to think thereon.  And _Milly_ is much of that turn.

"Then which of us shall keep the grand chronicle?" saith _Edith_, when
we had made an end of laughing.

"Why not all of you?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "Let each keep it a month
a-piece, turn about."

"And you, Aunt _Joyce_?"

"Nay, I will keep no chronicles.  I would not mind an' I writ my
thoughts down of the last page, when it was finished."

"But who shall read it?" said I.

"There spake _Nell_!" quoth _Milly_.  "`Who shall read it?'  Why, all
the world, for sure, from the Queen's Majesty down to Cat and Kitling."

These be our two serving-maids, _Kate_ and _Caitlin_, which _Milly_ doth
affect dearly to call Cat and Kitling.  And truly the names come pat,
the rather that _Kate_ is tall and big, and fair of complexion, she
being _Westmoreland_ born; while _Caitlin_, which is _Cumberland_ born,
is little and wiry, and of dark complexion.  "The Queen's Majesty shall
have other fish to fry, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "And so shall
_Kate_ and _Caitlin_,--if they could read."

"But who is to make a beginning of this mighty chronicle?" saith
_Edith_.  "Some other than I, as I do trust, for I would never know what
to set down first."

"Let _Nell_ begin, then, as she is eldest of the three," quoth Aunt
_Joyce_.

So here am I, making this same beginning of the family chronicle.  For
when _Father_ and _Mother_ heard thereof, both laughed at the first, and
afterward grew sad.  Then saith _Mother_--

"Methinks, dear hearts, it shall be well for you,--at the least, an' ye
keep it truly.  Let each set down what verily she doth think."

"And not what she reckons she ought to think," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Then, _Father_, will it please you give us some pens and paper?" said
I.  "For I see not how, elsewise, we shall write a chronicle."

"That speech is right, _Nell_!" puts in _Milly_.

"Why, if we dwelt on the banks of the _Nile_, in _Egypt_," saith
_Father_, "reeds and bulrushes should serve your turn: or, were ye old
_Romans_, a waxen tablet and iron stylus.  But for _English_ maidens
dwelling by Lake _Derwentwater_, I count paper and pens shall be
wanted--and ink too, belike.  Thou shalt have thy need supplied,
_Nell_!"

And as this morning, when he came into the parlour where we sat
a-sewing, what should _Father_ set down afore me, in the stead of the
sheets of rough paper I looked to see, but this beautiful book, all full
of fair blank paper ready to be writ in,--and an whole bundle of pens,
with a great inkhorn.  _Milly_ fell a-laughing.

"Oh dear, dear!" saith she.  "Be we three to write up all those?
Verily, _Father_, under your good pleasure, but methinks you should pen
a good half of this chronicle yourself."

"Nay, not so much as one line," saith he, "saving those few I have writ
already on the first leaf.  Let _Nell_ read them aloud."

So I read them, as I set them down here, for without I do copy them,
cannot I put in what was said.

"_Fees and Charges of the Chronicle of Selwick Hall_.--_Imprimis, to be
writ, turn about, by a month at each, by Helen, Milisent, and Editha
Louvaine_."

_Milly_ was stuffing her kerchief into her mouth to let her from
laughing right out.

"_Item, the said Helen to begin the said book_.

"_Item, for every blot therein made, one penny to the poor_."

"Oh, good lack!" from _Milly_.

"I care not, so _Father_ give us the pennies," from _Edith_.

"I reckon that is what men call a dividing of labour," saith _Father_ in
his dry way.  "I to pay the pennies, and _Edith_ to make the blots.
Nay, my maid: the two must come of one hand."

"Then both of yours, _Father_," saith _Milly_, saucily.

"_Item, for every unkind sentence touching an other, two pence to the
poor_."

"Lack-a-daisy!" cries _Milly_; "I shall be ruined!"

"Truth for once," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"I am sorry to hear it, my maid," saith _Father_.

"_Item, for every sentence disrespectful to any in lawful authority over
the writer thereof, sixpence to the poor_."

"_Father_," quoth _Milly_, "by how much mean you to increase mine income
while this book is a-writing?"

_Father_ smiled, but made no further answer.

"_Item, for a gap of so much as one week, without a line herein writ,
two pence to the poor_."

"That is it which shall work my ruin," saith _Edith_, a-laughing.

"Therein art thou convict of laziness," quoth _Father_.

"_Item, on the ending of the said book, each of them that hath writ the
same shall read over her own part therein from the beginning: and for so
many times as she hath gainsaid her own words therein writ, shall
forfeit each time one penny to the poor_."

"That will bring both _Edith_ and me to beggary," quoth _Milly_, "Only
_Nell_ shall come off scot-free.  _Father_, have you writ nought that
will catch her?"

"_Item, the said book shall, when ended, but not aforetime, be open to
the reading of Aubrey Louvaine, Lettice Louvaine, Joyce Morrell, and
Anstace Banaster_."

"And none else?  Alack the day!" saith _Milly_.

"I said not whom else," quoth _Father_.  "Be that as it like you."

But I know well what should like me,--and that were, not so much as one
pair of eyes beyond.  _Milly_, I dare reckon--but if I go on it shall
cost me two pence, so I will forbear.

"Well!" saith _Edith_, "one thing will I say, your leave granted,
_Father_: and that is, I am fain you shall not read my part till it be
done.  I would lief be at my wisest on the last page."

"Dear heart!  I look to be wise on no page," cries _Milly_.

"Nay," said I, "I would trust to be wise on all."

"There spake our _Nell_!" cries _Milly_.  "I could swear it were she,
though mine eyes were shut close."

"This book doth somewhat divert me, _Joyce_," quoth _Father_, looking at
her.  "Here be three writers, of whom one shall be wise on each page,
and one on none, and one on the last only.  I reckon it shall be
pleasant reading."

"And I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "they shall be reasonable true to
themselves an' it be thus."

"And I," saith _Milly_, "that my pages shall be the pleasantest of any."

"_Ergo_," quoth _Father_, "wisdom is displeasant matter.  So it is,
_Milly_,--to unwise folks."

"Then, _Father_, of a surety my chronicling shall ill please you," saith
she, a-laughing.

_Father_ arose, and laid his hand upon _Milly's_ head as he passed by
her.

"The wise can love the unwise, my maid," saith he.  "How could the only
wise God love any one of us else?"

                                            SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II.
_Milly_ saith, and _Edith_ likewise, that I must needs set down somewhat
touching all us,--who we be, and how many, and our names, and such like.
Truly, it seemeth me somewhat lost labour, if none but ourselves are to
read the same.  But as _Milly_ will have it the Queen's Majesty and all
her Council shall be highly diverted thereby (though little, as
methinks, they should care to know of us), I reckon, to please these my
sisters, I must needs do their bidding.

We therefore, that dwell in _Selwick_ Hall, be Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_,
the owner thereof (that is _Father_), and Dame _Lettice_ his wife, and
us their daughters, _Helen, Milisent_, and _Editha_.  Moreover, there is
Aunt _Joyce Morrell_, that dwelleth in _Oxfordshire_, at _Minster
Lovel_, but doth once every five year tarry six months with us, and we
with her the like: so that we see each the other once in every two or
three years.  'Tis but a week Aunt _Joyce_ hath been hither, so all the
six months be to run.  And here I should note she is not truly our aunt,
but _Father's_ cousin, her mother being sister unto his mother: but
_Father_ had never no brother nor sister, and was bred up along, with
these his cousins, Aunt _Joyce_ and Aunt _Anstace_, after whom mine
eldest sister hath her name: but Aunt _Anstace_ hath been dead these
many years, afore any of us were born.  I would I had known her; for to
hear them talk of her,--_Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_,--I
could well-nigh think her an angel in human flesh.  Now, wherefore is
it, for I have oft-times marvelled, that we speak more tenderly and
reverently of folk that be dead, than of the living?  Were I to die a
young maid, should _Milly_ (that loves to mock me now) tell her children
henceforward of their Aunt _Helen_, as though she had been somewhat
better than other women?  May-be.  If we could only use folks we love,
while they do live, with the like loving reverence as we shall do after
they be dead, if we overlive them!  Wherefore do we not so?  We do seem
for to forget then all that we loved not in them.  Could we not essay to
do the same a little sooner?

And when _Milly_ cometh hither in her reading, as sure as her name is
_Milisent_, shall she say,--"Now, Mistress _Nell_, there you go,
a-riding your high horse of philosophy!  Prithee, keep to common earth."

Beside those I have named, in the house dwelleth Mynheer _Floris
Stuyvesant_, a _Dutch_ gentleman that did flee from his country when the
persecution was in _Holland_, eleven years gone: and _Father_, which had
a little known him aforetime when he made the grand tour, did most
gladly welcome him hither, and made him (of his own desire) governor to
_Ned_ and _Wat_, our brothers.  These our brothers dwell not now at
home, for _Wat_ is squire unto my very good Lord of _Oxenford_, that is
_Father's_ kinsman: and _Ned_ is at sea with Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_.  We
therefore see them but rarely.  Then, beyond, there is likewise in the
house Mistress _Elizabeth Wolvercot_, that is a cousin of _Mother_, whom
all we do alway call Cousin _Bess_; she dwelleth with us at all times.
Also be _Kate_ and _Caitlin_, of whom I have aforetime spoken: and old
_Matthias_, our serving-man; and the boy, _Adam_ o' Bill's o' old
Mall's.

And here I should note that once were two of us more, _Aubrey_ and
_Julian_: of whom _Aubrey_ died a babe, three years afore I was born,
and _Julian_ a little maid of eleven years, between _Milly's_ birth and
_Edith's_.  I mind her well, for she was two years elder than I, so that
I was nine years old when she departed; but _Milly_, that was only
three, cannot remember her.

Our eldest of all, _Anstace_, is wife unto Master _Henry Banaster_, and
dwelleth (as _Milly_ saith) next door, he having the estate joining
_Father's_ own.  She hath two children, _Aubrey_, that is of seven
years, and _Cicely_, that is four; beside her eldest, _Lettice_, which
did decease in the cradle.

I reckon I have told all now, without I name the cows, which be _Daisy_,
and _Molly_, and _Buttercup_, and _Rose_, and _Ladybird_, and _June_;
and the great house-dog, which is _Clover_; and the cat, which is a
_Spanish_ cat [a tortoise-shell cat, then a rarity], her name _Hermosa_
(the which _Ned_ gave her, saying a _Spanish_ cat should have a
_Spanish_ name, and _Hermosa_ signifieth beautiful in that tongue), but
_Caitlin_ will make it _Moses_, and methinks she is called _Moses_ more
than aught else.  She hath two kits, that be parti-coloured like
herself, their names (given of _Milly) Dan_ and _Nan_.

And now I feel well-nigh sure I have said all.

Nay, and forgat the horses!  _Milly_ will laugh at me, for she dearly
loveth an horse.  We have six riding-horses, with two baggage-horses,
but only four of them have names,--to wit, _Father's_, that is
_Favelle_, because he is favel-colour [chestnut]; and _Mother's,
Garnet_; and mine, _Cowslip_; and the last, that _Milly_ or _Edith_ doth
commonly ride when we journey, is called _Starlight_.

And now I have verily told every thing.

(_At this point the handwriting of the chronicle changes_.)

'Tis not yet my turn to write, but needs must, or it shall cause me to
split in twain with laughter.  Here is our _Nell_, reckoning three times
o'er that she hath told all, and finding somewhat fresh every time, and
with all her telling, hath set down never a note of what we be like, nor
so much as the colour of one of our eyes.  So, having gat hold of her
chronicle, I shall do it for her.  I dare reckon she was feared it
should cost her two pence each one.  But nothing venture, nothing have;
and _Mother_ laid down that we should write our true thoughts.  So what
I think shall I write; and how to make _Father's_ two pence rhyme with
_Mother's_ avisement, I leave to Mistress _Nell_ and her philosophy.

_Father_ is a gentleman of metely good height, and well-presenced, but
something heavy built: of a dark brown hair, a broad white brow, and
dark grey eyes that be rare sweet and lovesome.  Of old time was he
squire of the body unto my right noble Lord of _Surrey_, that was
execute in old King _Henry's_ days.  Moreover, he is of far kin (yet not
so far, neither) unto my most worthy Lord of _Oxenford_.  Now, sithence
I am to write my thoughts, I must say that I would _Father_ had a better
nose.  I cannot speak very truth and set down that I did ever admire
_Father's_ nose.  But he hath good white teeth, and a right pleasant
smile, the which go far to make amends for his nose.

_Mother_ was right fair when she was a young maid, and is none so ill
now.  She is graceful of carriage, very fair of complexion, and hath the
sweetest, shining golden hair was ever seen.  Her eyes be pale grey
[blue], right like the sky.

Of us three maids, _Edith_ is best-favoured, and all that see her do say
she is right the very picture of _Mother_, when she was young.  Next her
am I; for though I say it, I am a deal fairer than either _Anstace_ or
_Nell_, both which favour [resemble] _Father_, though _Nell_ is the
liker, by reason she hath his mind as well as his face.  Now, _Nell_ is
all ways slower than _Edith_ and me, and nothing like so well-favoured.

But for beauty, the least I did ever see in any man is in Mynheer
_Stuyvesant_, which hath a flat nose and a stoop in the shoulders, and
is high and thin as a scarecrow.  Cousin _Bess_ is metely well,--she is
rosy and throddy [plump].  For Aunt _Joyce_, I do stand in some fear of
her sharp speeches, and will say nought of her, saving that (which she
can not deny) she hath rosy cheeks and dark brown hair (yet not so dark
as _Father's_), and was, I guess, a comely young maid when she were none
elder than we.  As for _Ned_ and _Wat, Ned_ is the better-favoured, he
having _Mother's_ nose and the rest of him _Father_; but _Wat_ (which
favoureth _Mother_ of his colouring, yet is not so comely) a deal the
courtlier.

Now when they shall all come to read this same, trow, shall they know
their own portraits? or shall they every one cry out, "This is not me!"

So now I leave the rest to Mistress _Helen_, till it shall come to me
next month, when I will say what I think yet again.

                                             SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE V.
(_In Helen's handwriting_.)

Dear heart, but what hath _Milly_ been a-doing!  I could not think last
night where was my book, but I was rare sleepy, and let it a-be.  And
here this morrow do I find a good two pages all scribbled o'er of
_Milly's_ writing.  Well! 'tis not my fault, so I trust shall not be my
blame.

And it is true, as _Milly_ saith, that she is better-favoured than I.
As for _Anstace_, I wis not, only I know and am well assured, that I am
least comely of the four.  But she should never have writ what she did
touching _Father's_ nose, and if it cost me two pence, that must I say.
I do love every bit of _Father_, right down to the tip of his nose, and
I never thought if it were well-favoured or no.  'Tis _Father_, and that
is all for me.  And so should it be for _Milly_,--though it be two pence
more to say so.

                                            SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE VI.
We had been sat at our sewing a good hour this morrow,--that is,
_Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, and we three maids,--when all at once
_Milly_ casts hers down with a sigh fetched from ever so far.

"Weary of sewing, _Milly_?" saith _Mother_ with a smile.

"Ay--no--not right that, _Mother_," quoth she.  "But here have I been
this hour gone, a-wishing I had been a man, till it seemed me as if I
could not abide for to be a woman no longer."

"The general end of impossible wishes," saith _Mother_, laughing a
little.

"Well!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, a-biting off her thread, "in all my wishing
never yet wished I that."

"Wherefore is it, _Milly_?" saith _Mother_.

"Oh, a man has more of his own way than a woman," _Milly_ makes answer.
"And he can make some noise in the world.  He is not tied down to stupid
humdrum matters, such like as sewing, and cooking, and distilling, and
picking of flowers, with a song or twain by now and then to cheer you.
A man can preach and fight and write books and make folk listen."

"I misdoubt if thou art right, _Milly_, to say that a man hath the more
of his own way always," saith _Mother_.  "Methinks there be many women
get much of that."

"Then a man is not tied down to one corner.  He can go and see the
world," saith _Milly_.

"In short," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "the moral of thy words, Milly,
is--`Untie me.'"

"I wish I were so!" mutters _Milly_.

"And what should happen next?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, I reckon I could not do much without money," answereth _Milly_.

"Oh, grant all that," quoth Aunt _Joyce_,--"money, and leave, and all
needed, and Mistress _Milisent_ setting forth to do according to her
will.  What then?"

"Well, I would first go up to _London_," saith she, "and cut some figure
in the Court."

Aunt _Joyce_ gave a dry little laugh.

"There be figures of more shapes than one, _Milly_," saith she.
"Howbeit--what next?"

"Why, then, methinks, I would go to the wars."

"And bring back as many heads, arms, and legs, as thou tookest thither?"

"Oh, for sure," saith _Milly_.  "I would not be killed."

"Just.  Very well,--Mistress _Milisent_ back from the wars, and covered
with glory.  And then?"

"Well--methinks I would love to be a judge for a bit."

"Dry work," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "And then a bishop?"

"Ay, if you will."

"And then?"

"Why, I might as well be a king, while I went about it."

"Quite as well.  I am astonished thou hast come thither no sooner.  And
then?"

"Well,--I know not what then.  You drive one on, Aunt _Joyce_.
Methinks, then, I would come home and see you all, and recount mine
aventures."

"Oh, mightily obliged to your Highness!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "I had
thought, when your Majesty were thus up at top of the tree, you should
forget utterly so mean a place as _Selwick_ Hall, and the contemptible
things that inhabit there.  And then?"

"Come, I will make an end," saith _Milly_, laughing.  "I reckon I should
be a bit wearied by then, and fain to bide at home and take mine ease."

"And pray, what hindereth that your Grace should do that now?" saith
Aunt _Joyce_, looking up with a comical face.

"Well, but I am not aweary, and have no aventures to tell," _Milly_
makes answer.

"Go into the garden and jump five hundred times, _Milly_, and I will
warrant thee to be aweary and thankful for rest.  And as to aventures,--
eh, my maid, my maid!"  And Aunt _Joyce_ and _Mother_ smiled one upon
the other.

"Now, _Mother_ and _Aunt_, may I say what I think?" cries Milly.

"Prithee, so do, my maid."

"Then, why do you folks that be no longer young, ever damp and chill
young folks that would fain see the world and have some jollity?"

"By reason, _Milly_, that we have been through the world, and we know it
to be a damp place and a cold."

"But all folks do not find it so?"

"God have mercy on them that do not!"

"Now, _Aunt_, what mean you?"

"Dear heart, the brighter the colour of the poisoned sweetmeat, the more
like is the babe to put in his mouth."

"Your parable is above me, Aunt _Joyce_."

"_Milly_, a maiden must give her heart to something.  The Lord's word
unto us all is, Give Me thine heart.  But most of us will try every
thing else first.  And every thing else doth chill and disappoint us.
Yet thou never sawest man nor Woman that had given the heart to God,
which could ever say with truth that disappointment had come of it."

"I reckon they should be unready to confess the same," saith she.

"They be ready enough to confess it of other things," quoth Aunt
_Joyce_.  "But few folks will learn by the blunders of any but their own
selves.  I would thou didst."

"By whose blunders would you have me learn, _Aunt_?" saith _Milly_ in
her saucy fashion that is yet so bright and coaxing that she rarely gets
flitten [scolded] for the same.

"By those of whomsoever thou seest to blunder," quoth she.

"That must needs be thee, _Edith_," saith _Milly_ in a demure voice.
"For it standeth with reason, as thou very well wist, that I shall never
see mine elders to make no blunders of no sort whatever."

"Thou art a saucy baggage, _Milly_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "That shall
cost thee six pence an' it go down in the chronicle."

"Oh, 'tis not yet my turn for to write, _Aunt_.  And I am well assured
_Nell_ shall pay no sixpences."

"Fewer than thou, I dare guess," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Who has been to
visit old _Jack Benn_ this week?"

"Not I, _Aunt_," quoth _Edith_, somewhat wearily, as if she feared Aunt
_Joyce_ should bid her go.

"Oh, I'll go and see him!" cries _Milly_.  "There is nought one half so
diverting in all the vale as old _Jack_.  _Aunt_, be all _Brownists_ as
queer as he?"

"Nay, I reckon _Jack_ hath some queer notions of his own, apart from his
_Brownery_," quoth she.  "But, _Milly_,--be diverted as much as thou
wilt, but let not the old man see that thou art a-laughing at him."

"All right, _Aunt_!" saith _Milly_, cheerily.  "Come, _Nell_.  _Edith_
shall bide at home, that can I see."

So _Milly_ and I set forth to visit old _Jack_, and _Mother_ gave us a
bottle of cordial water, and a little basket of fresh eggs, for to take
withal.

He dwells all alone, doth old _Jack_, in a mud cot part-way up the
mountain, that he did build himself, ere the aches in his bones 'gan
trouble him, that he might scantly work.  He is one of those queer folk
that call themselves _Brownists_, and would fain have some better
religion than they may find at church.  _Jack_ is nigh alway reading of
his Bible, but never no man could so much as guess the strange meanings
he brings forth of the words.  I reckon, as Aunt _Joyce_ saith, there is
more _Jack_ than _Brownist_ in them.

We found _Jack_ sitting in the porch, his great Bible on his knees.  He
looked up when he heard our voices.

"Get out!" saith he.  "I never want no women folk."

'Tis not oft we have fairer greeting of _Jack_.

"Nay, truly, _Jack_," saith _Milly_ right demurely.  "They be a rare bad
handful,--nigh as ill as men folk.  What thou lackest is eggs and
cordial water, the which women can carry as well as jackasses."

She held forth her basket as she spake.

"Humph!" grunts old _Jack_.  "I'd liever have the jackasses."

"I am assured thou wouldst," quoth _Milly_.  "Each loveth best his own
kind."

Old _Jack_ was fingering of the eggs.

"They be all hens' eggs!"

"So they be," saith _Milly_.  "I dare guess, thou shouldst have loved
goose eggs better."

"Ducks'," answereth old _Jack_.

"The ducks be gone a-swimming," saith she.

I now drew forth my bottle of cordial water, the which the old man took
off me with never a thank you, and after smelling thereto, set of the
ground at his side.

"What art reading, _Jack_?" saith _Milly_.

"What _Paul's_ got to say again' th' law," quoth he.  "'Tis a rare ill
thing th' law, Mistress _Milisent_.  And so be magistrates, and
catchpolls [constables] and all the lawyer folk.  Rascals, Mistress
_Milisent_,--all rascals, every man Jack of 'em.  Do but read _Paul_,
and you shall see so much."

"Saith the Apostle so?" quoth _Milly_, and gave me a look which nigh
o'erset me.

"He saith `the law is not given unto a righteous man,' so how can they
be aught but ill folk that be alway a-poking in it?  Tell me that,
Mistress.  If `birds of a feather will flock together,' then a chap
that's shaking hands every day wi' th' law mun be an ill un, and no
mistake."

"Go to, _Jack_: it signifies not that," _Milly_ makes answer.  "Saint
_Paul_ meant that the law of God was given for the sake of ill men, not
good men.  The laws of _England_ be other matter."

"Get out wi' ye!" saith _Jack_.  "Do ye think I wis not what _Paul_
means as well as a woman?  It says th' law, and it means th' law.  And
if he'd signified as you say, he'd have said as th' law wasn't given
again' a righteous man, not to him.  You gi'e o'er comin' a-rumpagin'
like yon."

For me, I scarce knew which way to look, to let me from laughing.  But
_Milly_ goes on, sad as any judge.

"Well, but if lawyers be thus bad, _Jack_--though my sister's husband is
a lawyer, mind thou--"

"He's a rascal, then!" breaks in _Jack_.  "They're all rascals, every
wastrel [an unprincipled, good-for-nothing fellow] of 'em."

"But what fashion of folk be better?" saith _Milly_.  "Thou seest,
_Jack_, we maids be nigh old enough for wedding, and I would fain know
the manner of man a woman were best to wed."

"Best let 'em all a-be," growls _Jack_.  "Women's always snarin' o' men.
Women's bad uns.  Howbeit, you lasses down at th' Hall are th' better
end, I reckon."

"Oh, thank you, _Jack_!" cries _Milly_ with much warmth.  "Now do tell
me--shall I wed with a chirurgeon?"

"And take p'ison when he's had enough of you," quoth _Jack_.  "Nay,
never go in for one o' them chaps.  They kills folks all th' day, and
lies a-thinkin' how to do it all th' night."

"A soldier, then?" saith _Milly_.

"Hired murderers," saith _Jack_.

"Come, _Jack_, thou art hard on a poor maid.  Thou wilt leave me ne'er a
one.  Oh, ay, there is the parson."

"What!" shrieks forth _Jack_.  "One o' they _Babylonian_ mass-mongers?
Hypocrites, wolves in sheep's clothing a-pretending for to be shepherds!
Old _'Zekiel_, he's summut to say touching them.  You get home, and
just read his thirty-fourth chapter; and wed one o' them wastrels at
after, if ye can!  Now then, get ye forth; I've had enough o' women.  I
telled ye so."

"Fare thee well, _Jack_," quoth _Milly_ in mocking tribulation.  "I see
how it is,--I shall be forced to wed a lead-miner."

I was verily thankful that _Milly_ did come away, for I could bear no
longer.  We ran fast down the steep track, and once at the bottom, we
laughed till the tears ran down.  When we were something composed, said
I--

"Shall we look in on old _Isaac Crewdson_?"

"Gramercy, not this morrow," quoth _Milly_.  "_Jack's_ enough for one
day.  Old _Isaac_ alway gives me the horrors.  I cannot do with him atop
of _Jack_."

So we came home.  But if _Milly_ love it not, then will I go by myself
to see old _Isaac_, for he liketh me well.

                                            SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE IX.
Aunt _Joyce_ went with me yesterday to see _Isaac_.  We found him of the
chimney-corner, whence he seldom stirreth, being now infirm.  Old _Mary_
had but then made an end of her washing, and she was a-folding the clean
raiment to put by.  I ran into the garden and gathered sprigs of
rosemary, whereof they have a fine thriving bush.

"Do tell me, _Mall_," said I, "how thou orderest matters, for to have
thy rosemary thrive thus?  Our bush is right stunted to compare withal."

"I never did nought to it," quoth old _Mall_, somewhat crustily.  She is
_Jack Benn's_ sister, and truly they be something like.

"Eh, Mistress _Nell_, dunna ye know?" saith _Isaac_, laughing feebly.
"Th' rosemary always thrives well where th' missis is th' master.  Did
ye never hear yon saying?"

"Shut up wi' thy foolish saws!" saith _Mall_, a-turning round on him.
"He's a power of proverbs and saws, Mistress _Nell_, and he's for ever
and the day after a-thrustin' of 'em in.  There's no wit i' such work."

"Eh, but there's a deal o' wit in some o' they old saws!"  _Isaac_ makes
answer, of his slow fashion.  "Look ye now,--`_Brag's_ a good dog, but
_Holdfast's_ better'--there's a true sayin' for ye.  Then again look
ye,--`He that will have a hare to breakfast must hunt o'er night.'  And
`A grunting horse and a groaning wife never fails their master.'  Eh,
but that's true!"  And old _Isaac_ laughed, of his feeble fashion, yet
again.

"There be some men like to make groaning wives," quoth _Mall_, crustily.
"They sit i' th' chimney-corner at their ease, and put ne'er a hand to
the work."

"That is not thy case, _Mall_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, cheerily.  "So long
as he were able, I am well assured _Isaac_ took his share of the work.
And now ye be both infirm and stiff of the joints, what say ye to a good
sharp lass that should save your old bones?  I know one that should come
but for her meat,--a good stirring maid that should not let the grass
grow under her feet.  What sayest, _Mall_?"

"What, me?" saith _Mall_.  "Eh, you'd best ask th' master.  I am none
th' master here, howso the rosemary may thrive.  I would say she should
ne'er earn the salt to her porridge; but I'm of no signification in this
house, as I well wis.  You'd best ask o' them as is."

"Why, then, we mun gi'e th' porridge in," quoth _Isaac_.  "Come, _Mall_,
thou know'st better, lass."

But old _Mary_, muttering somewhat we might not well hear, went forth to
fetch in a fresh armful of linen from the hedge.

"What hath put her out, _Isaac_?" asks Aunt _Joyce_.

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, there's no telling!" saith he.  "'Tis not so much
as puts her in.  She's easy put out, is _Mall_: and 'tis no good on
earth essaying to pull her in again.  You'd best let her be.  She'll
come in of hersen, when she's weary of threapin'."  [Grumbling,
fault-finding.]

"I reckon thou art weary first, most times," saith _Aunt_.

"Well!  I've ay kept a good heart up," quo' he.  "`The still sow eateth
all the draff,' ye ken.  I've bore wi' _Mall_ for fifty year, and it
comes easier than it might to an other man.  And the Lord has bore wi'
me for seventy odd.  If He can bear wi' me a bit longer, I reckon I can
wi' _Mall_."

Aunt _Joyce_ smiled on old _Isaac_ as she rose up.

"Ay, Goodman, that is the best way for to take it," saith she.  "And
now, _Nell_, we must hurry home, for I see a mighty black cloud o'er
yonder."

So we home, bidding God be wi' ye to old _Mall_, in passing, and had but
a grunt in answer: but we won home afore the rain, and found _Father_
and _Mynheer_ a-talking in the great chamber, and _Mother_ above, laying
of sweet herbs in the linen with _Edith_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Passages from the New Testament are quoted from Cranmer's or
the Geneva version, both then in common use.



CHAPTER TWO.

WHEREIN IDEAS DIFFER.

"O man, little hast thou learned of truth in things most true."--Martin
Farquhar Tupper.

(_In Helen's handwriting_.)

                                          SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER THE XII.
Well!  _Milly_ saith nought never happens in this house.  Lack-a-daisy!
but I would fain it were so!

One may love one's friends, and must one's enemies, _Father_ saith.  But
how should one feel towards them that be nowise enemies, for they mean
right kindly, and yet not friends, seeing they make your life a burden
unto you?

Now, all our lives have I known Master _Lewthwaite_, of _Mere Lea_, and
Mistress _Lewthwaite_ his wife, and their lads and lasses, _Nym, Jack_,
and _Robin_, and _Alice_ and _Blanche_.  Many a game at hunt the slipper
and blind man's buff have we had at _Mere Lea_, and I would have said
yet may, had not a thing happed this morrow which I would right fain
should ne'er have happened while the world stood.

What in all this world should have made _Nym_ so to do cannot I so much
as conceive.  He might have found a deal fairer lasses.  Why, our
_Milly_ and _Edith_ are ever so much better-favoured.  But to want me!--
nor only that, but to come with so pitiful a tale, that he should go
straight to ruin an' I would not wed with him; that I was the only maid
in all the world that should serve against the same; and that if I
refused, all his sins thereafter should be laid at my door!  Heard any
ever the like?

And I have no list to wed with _Nym_.  I like him--as a dozen other
lads: but that is all.  And meseems that before I could think to leave
_Father_ and _Mother_ and all, and go away with a man for all my life,
he must be as the whole world to me, or I could never do it.  I cannot
think what _Nym_ would be at.  And he saith it shall be my blame and my
sin, if I do it not.  _Must_ I wed _Nym Lewthwaite_?

I sat and pondered drearily o'er my trouble for a season, and then went
to look for Aunt _Joyce_, whom I found in the long gallery, at her
sewing in a window.

"Well, _Nell_, what hast ado, maid?" saith she.

"Pray you, Aunt _Joyce_, tell me a thing," said I.

"That will I, with a very good will, my maid," saith she.

"Aunt _Joyce_, if a man were to come to you and entreat you to wed with
him, by reason that he could not (should he say) keep in the right way
without you did help him, and that, you refusing, you should be
blameworthy of all his after sins--what should you say to him?"

I listened right earnestly for her answer.  I was woeful 'feared she
should say, "Wed with him, _Nell_, for sure, and thus save him."

"Say?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, looking up, with (it seemed me) somewhat like
laughter in her eyes.  "Fetch him a good buffet of his ear, forsooth,
and ask at him by what right he called himself a man."

"Then you should not think you bound to save him, _Aunt_?"

"Poor weak creature!  Not I," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "But whatso, Nell?
Hast had any such a simpleton at thee?"

"_Aunt_," said I, "'tis _Nym Lewthwaite_, who saith an' I wed him not,
he shall go straight to ruin, and that I must answer unto God for all
his sins if so be."

"Ask him where he found that in the Bible," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Take
no thought about him, _Nell_.  Trust me, if a man cannot keep straight
without thee, he will not keep straight with thee.  Poor limping soul!
to come halting up and plead with a weak woman to leave him put his hand
on her shoulder, to help him o'er the stones!  `Carry me, prithee, good
Mistress, o'er this rough place.'  Use thine own two legs, would I say
to him, and be ashamed of thy meanness.  And I dare be sworn he calls
himself one of the nobler sex," ends Aunt _Joyce_ with a snort of scorn.

"O _Aunt_, I am so thankful you see it thus!" said I, drawing a long
breath.  "I was so afeard you should bid me do as _Nym_ would."

"Nay, not this while," quoth she, of her dry fashion.  "When we lack
stuff for to mend the foul roads, _Nell_, we'll find somewhat fitter to
break up than thee.  If young _Lewthwaite_ harry thee again, send him to
me.  He'll not want to see me twice, I'll warrant."

"I was 'feared I was wicked to shrink from it, _Aunt_," I made answer.
"_Nym_ said so.  He said 'twas all self-loving and seeking of mine ease
that alone did make me for to hesitate; and that if I had loved God and
my neighbour better than myself, I would have strake hands with him at
once.  And I was 'feared lest it should be true."

"Ay, it is none so difficult to paint black white," saith Aunt _Joyce_.
"'Tis alway the self-lovers that cry out upon the unkindliness of other
folks.  And thou art one of them, _Nell_, my maid, that be prone to
reckon that must needs be right which goes against the grain.  There be
that make self-denial run of all fours in that fashion.  They think duty
and pleasure must needs be enemies.  Why, child, they are the best
friends in the world.  Only _Duty_ is the elder sister, and is jealous
to be put first.  Run thou after _Duty_, and see if _Pleasure_ come not
running after thee to beseech thee of better acquaintance.  But run
after _Pleasure_, and she'll fly thee.  She's a rare bashful one."

"Then you count it not wrong that one should desire to be happy,
_Aunt_?"

"The Lord seems not to count it so, _Nell_.  He had scarce, methinks,
told us so much touching the happiness of Heaven, had He meant us to
think it ill to be happy.  But remember, maid, she that findeth her
happiness in God hath it alway ready to her hand; while she that findeth
her happiness in this world must wait till it come to seek her."

"I would I were as good as _Father_!" said I; and I believe I fetched a
sigh.

"Go a little higher, _Nell_, while thou art a-climbing," quoth Aunt
_Joyce_.  "`I would I were as good as _Christ_.'"

"Eh, _Aunt_, but who could?" said I.

"None," she made answer.  "But, _Nell_, he that shoots up into the sky
is more like to rise than he that aims at a holly-bush."

"Methinks _Father_ is higher than I am ever like to get," said I.

"And if thou overtop him," she made answer, "all shall see it but
thyself.  Climb on, _Nell_.  Thou wilt not grow giddy so long as thine
eyes be turned above."

I am so glad that Aunt _Joyce_ seeth thus touching _Nym_!

                                            SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE II.
There goeth my first two pence for a blank week.  In good sooth, I have
been in ill case to write.  This weary _Nym_ would in no wise leave me
be, but went to _Anstace_ and _Hal_, and gat their instance [persuaded
them to intercede] unto _Father_ and _Mother_.  Which did send for me,
and would know at me if I list to wed with _Nym_ or no.  And verily, so
bashful am I, and afeared to speak when I am took on the sudden thus,
that I count they gat not much of me, but were something troubled to
make out what I would be at.  Nor wis I what should have befallen (not
for that _Father_ nor _Mother_ were ever so little hard unto me, good
lack! but only that I was stupid), had not Aunt _Joyce_ come in, who no
sooner saw how matters stood than she up and spake for me.

"Now, _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_," saith she, "both of you, fall
a-catechising me in the stead of _Nell_.  The maid hath no list to wed
with _Nym Lewthwaite_, and hath told me so much aforetime.  Leave her
be, and send him away the other side of _Jericho_, where he belongs, and
let him, an' he list, fetch back a _Syrian_ maiden with a horn o'er her
forehead and a ring of her nose."

"Wherefore didst thou not tell us so much, _Nell_, my lass?" saith
_Father_ right kindlily, laying of his hand on my shoulder.

But in the stead of answering him thankfully, as a dutiful daughter
should, what did I but burst forth o' crying, as though he had been
angered with me: yea, nor might I stop the same, but went on, truly I
knew not wherefore, till _Mother_ came up and put her arms around me,
and hushed me as she wont to do when I was a little child.

"The poor child is o'erwrought," quoth she, tenderly.  "Let us leave her
be, _Aubrey_, till she calms down.--There, come to me and have it out,
my _Nelly_, and none shall trouble thee, trust me."

Lack-a-daisy!  I sobbed all the harder for a season, but in time I
calmed down, as _Mother_ says, and when so were, I prayed her of pardon
for that I could be so foolish.

"Nay, my lass," saith she, "we be made of body and soul, and either
comes uppermost at times.  'Tis no good trying to live with one, which
so it be."

"Ah, the old monks made that blunder," saith _Father_, "and thought they
could live with souls only, or well-nigh so.  And there be scores of
other that essay to live with nought but bodies.  A man that starves his
body is ill off, but a man that starves his soul is yet worser.  No is
it thus, _Mynheer_?"

Mynheer van _Stuyvesant_ had come in while _Father_ was a-speaking.

"Ah!" saith he, "there be in my country certain called _Mennonites_,
that do starve their natures of yonder fashion."

"Which half of them,--body or soul?" saith _Father_.

"Nay, I would say both two," he makes answer.  "They run right to the
further end of every matter.  Because they read in their Bibles that `in
the multitude of words there wanteth not sin,' therefore they do forbid
all speech that is not of very necessity,--even a word more than needful
is sin in their eyes.  If you shall say, `Sit you down in that chair to
your comfort,' there are eight words more than you need.  You see?--
there are eight sins.  `Sit' were enough.  So, one mouthful more bread
than you need--no, no!--that is a sin.  One drop of syrup to your
bread--not at all!  You could eat your bread without syrup.  All that is
joyous, all that is comfortable, all that you like to do--all so many
sins.  Those are the _Mennonites_."

"What sinful men they must be!" saith _Father_.

"Good lack, Master _Stuyvesant_, but think you all those folks tarried
in _Holland_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Marry, I could count you a round
dozen I have met in this country.  And they _be_ trying, I warrant you.
My fingers have itched to shake them ere now."

"How do they serve them when they would get them wed?" saith _Father_.
"Quoth Master _John_ to Mistress _Bess_, `Wed me' and no more?--and
saith she, `Ay' and no more?  A kiss, I ween, shall be a sin, for 'tis
no wise necessary."

I could not help to laugh, and so did Aunt _Joyce_ and _Mother_.

"Wed!" makes answer _Mynheer_, "the _Mennonites_ wed?  Why, 'tis the
biggest of all their sins, the wedding."

"There'll not be many of them, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"More than you should think," saith he.  "There be to join them every
year."

"Well, I'll not join them this bout," quoth she.

"Now, wherein doth that differ from the old monks?" saith _Father_, as
in meditation.  "Be we setting up monasteries for _Protestants_
already?"

_Mynheer_ shrugged up his shoulders.  "They say, the _Mennonites_," he
made answer, "that all pleasing of self is contrary unto God's Word.  I
must do nothing that pleases me.  Are there two dishes for my dinner?  I
like this, I like not that.  Good!  I take that I love not.  Elsewise, I
please me.  A Christian man must not please himself--he must please God.
And (they say) he cannot please both."

"Ah, therein lieth the fallacy," saith _Father_.  "All pleasing of self
counter unto God, no doubt, is forbidden in Holy Scripture.  But surely
I am not bid to avoid doing God's commandments, if He command a thing I
like?"

"Why, at that rate," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "one should never search God's
Word, nor pray unto Him,--except such as did not love it.  Methinks
these _Mennonites_ stand o' their heads, with their heels in air."

"Ah, but they say it is God's command that thou shalt not please
thyself," saith _Mynheer_.  "Therefore, that which pleases thee cannot
be His will.  You see?"

"They do but run the old monks' notions to ground," quoth _Father_.
"They go a bit further--that is all.  I take it that whensoever my will
is contrary unto God's, my will must go down.  But when my will runneth
alongside of His, surely I am at liberty to take as much pleasure in
doing His will as I may?  `Ye have been called unto liberty,' saith
_Paul_: `only, let not your liberty be an occasion to the flesh, but in
love serve one another.'"

"And if serving one another be pleasant unto thee, then give o'er,"
quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "Good lack, this world doth hold some fools!"

"Pure truth, _Joyce_," saith _Father_.  "Yet, for that of monks, in good
sooth I do look to see them back, only under other guise.  Monachism is
human nature: and human nature will out.  If he make not way at one
door, trust him to creep forth of an other."

"But, _Aubrey_, the Church is reformed.  There is no room for monks and
nuns, and such rubbish," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"The Church is reformed,--ay," saith he: "but human nature is not.  That
shall not be until we see the King in His beauty,--whether by our going
to Him in death, or by His coming to us in the clouds of heaven."

"Dear heart, man!--be not alway on the watch for black clouds," quoth
she.  "As well turn _Mennonite_ at once."

"Well, `sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,'" _Father_ makes
answer: "and so far thou art right, _Joyce_.  Yet it is well we should
remember, at times, that we be not yet in Heaven."

"`At times!'" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, with a laugh.  "What a blessed life
must be thine, if those that be about thee suffer thee to forget the
same save `at times'!  I never made that blunder yet, I can tell thee."

And so she and I away, and left all laughing.

                                          SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXII.
This afternoon come _Hal_ and _Anstace_, with their childre.  _Milly_
soon carried off the childre, for she is a very child herself, and can
lake [play] with childre a deal better than I: and _Hal_ went (said he)
to seek _Father_, with whom I found him an hour later in the great
chamber, and both right deep in public matter, whereof I do love to hear
them talk at times, but _Milly_ and _Edith_ be no wise compatient [the
lost adjective of compassion] therewith.  _Anstace_ came with me to our
chamber, and said she had list for a good chat.

"Whereof be we to chat?" said I, something laughing.

"Oh, there is plenty," saith she.  "We shall not be done with the
childre this hour."

"Thou wilt not, _Anstace_," said I, "for in very deed all mothers do
love rarely to talk over their childre, and I need not save thee.  But I
am no great talker, as thou well wist."

"That do I," saith she: "for of all young maids ever I saw, thou hast
the least list [inclination] to discourse.  But, _Nell_, I want to know
somewhat of thee.  What ails thee at _Nym Lewthwaite_?"

"Why, nothing at all," I made answer: "save that I do right heartily
desire him to leave me be."

"Good sooth, but I thought it a rare chance for thee," quoth she: "and I
was fair astonied when _Edith_ told me thou wouldst have none ado with
him.  But thou must mind thy shooting, _Nell_: if thou pitchest all
thine arrows over high, thou wilt catch nought."

"I want to pitch no arrows," said I.

"Well, but I do desire thee to conceive," saith she, "that too much
niceness is not good for a young maid.  'Tis all very well to go
a-picking and a-choosing ere thou art twenty: but trust me, _Nell_, by
the time thou comest to thirty, thou shouldst be thankful to take any
man that will have thee."

"Nay!" said I, "that shall I not."

"Eh, but thou wilt," quoth she, "yea, if it were _Nym Lewthwaite_."

"I won't!" said I.

_Anstace_ fell a-laughing.  "Then thou wilt have to go without!" saith
she.

"Well," said I, "that could I do, may-be, nor break my heart o'er it
neither.  But to take any that should have me,--_Anstace_, I would as
soon sell me for a slave."

"Come, _Nell_!--where didst pick up such notions?" quoth she.

"Verily, I might answer thee, of the Queen's Majesty," said I: "and if I
be not in good company enough, search thou for better.  Only, for pity's
sake, Sister _Anstace_, do let me a-be."

"Eh, I'll let thee be," saith she, and wagged her head and laughed.
"But in good sooth, _Nell_, thou art a right queer body.  And if it
should please the Queen's Highness to wed with _Mounseer_ [Note 1], as
'tis thought of many it shall, then thou wilt be out of her company, and
I shall be in.  What shalt thou do then for company?"

"Marry, I can content me with Aunt _Joyce_ and Cousin _Bess_," quoth I,
"and none so bad neither."

So at after that we gat to other discourse, and after a while, when
_Milly_ came in with the childre, we all went down into the great
chamber, where _Father_, and _Hal_, and _Mynheer_, were yet at their
weighty debates.  Cousin _Bess_ was sat in the window, a-sewing on some
flannel: and Aunt _Joyce_, in the same window, but the other corner, was
busied with tapestry-work, being a cushion that she is fashioning for a
_Christmas_ gift for some dame that is her friend at _Minster Lovel_.
'Tis well-nigh done; and when it shall be finished, it shall go hence by
old _Postlethwaite_ the carrier; for six weeks is not too much betwixt
here and _Minster Lovel_.

As we came in, I heard _Father_ to say--

"Truly, there is no end of the diverse fantasy of men's minds."  And
then he brought forth some _Latin_, which I conceived not: but
whispering unto Aunt _Joyce_ (which is something learned in that tongue)
to say what it were, she made answer, "So many men, so many minds."
[_Quot homines, tot sententiae_.]

"Ha!" saith _Mynheer_.  "Was it not that which the Emperor _Charles_ did
discover with his clocks and watches?  He was very curious in clocks and
watches--the Emperor _Charles_ the Fifth--you know?--and in his chamber
at the Monastery of _San Yuste_ he had so many.  And watching them each
day, he found they went not all at one.  The big clock was five minutes
to twelve when the little watch was two minutes past.  So he tried to
make them at one: but they would not.  No, no! the big clock and the
little watch, they go their own way.  Then said the Emperor, `Now I see
something I saw not aforetime.  I thought I could make these clocks go
together, but no!  Yet they are only the work of men like me.  Ah, the
foolish man to think that I could compel men to think all alike, who are
the work of the great God.'  You see?"

"If His Majesty had seen it a bit sooner," quoth _Hal_, "there should
have been spared some ill work both in _Spain_ and the Low Countries."

_Mynheer_ saith, "Ah!" more than once, and wagged his head right sadly.

"Why," quoth _Hal_, something earnestly, "mind you not, some dozen years
gone, of the stir was made all over this realm, when the ministers were
appointed to wear their surplices at all times of their ministration,
and no longer to minister in gowns ne cloaks, with their hats on, as
they had been wont?  Yea, what tumult had we then against the order
taken by the Queen and Council, and against the Archbishop and Bishops
for consenting thereto!  And, all said, what was the mighty ado about?
Why, whether a man should wear a black gown or a white.  Heard one ever
such stuff?"

"Ah, _Hal_, that shall scantly serve," saith _Father_.  "Mind, I pray
thee, that the question to the eyes of these men was somewhat far
otherwise.  Thou wouldst not say that _Adam_ and _Eva_ were turned forth
of _Paradise_ by reason they plucked an apple?"

"But, I pray you, Sir _Aubrey_, what was the question?" saith _Mynheer_.
"For I do not well know, as I fain should."

"Look you," quoth _Father_, "in the beginning of the Book of Common
Prayer, and you shall find a rubric, that `such ornaments of the church
and of the ministers thereof, at all times of their ministration, shall
be retained and be in use, as were in this Church of _England_, by the
authority of Parliament, in the second year of King _Edward_ the
Sixth.'"

"But they were not retained," breaks in _Hal_, that will alway be first
to speak of aught.

(Lack-a-day! shall that cost me two pence?)

"They were not retained," repeateth _Father_, "but the clergy took to
ministering in their gowns and other common apparel, such as they ware
every day, with no manner of vestments of no sort.  Whereupon, such
negligence being thought unseemly, it pleased the Queen's Majesty,
sitting in her Council, and with consent of the Archbishop and Bishops,
to issue certain injunctions for the better ordering of the Church: to
wit, that at all times of their ministration the clergy should wear a
decent white surplice, and no other vestment, nor should minister in
their common apparel as aforetime."

"Then the rubric touching the garments as worn under King _Edward_ was
done away?" saith _Mynheer_.

"Done away completely," quoth _Hal_, afore _Father_ could speak.

"But not by Parliament?" answers _Mynheer_.

"Good lack, what matter?" saith _Hal_.  "The Queen's Majesty is supreme
in this Church of _England_.  If she issue her injunctions through her
great Council, or her little Council, or her Bishops, they are all one,
so they be her true injunctions."

"These were issued through the Bishops," saith _Father_, "though
determined on in the Privy Council."

"Then did the ministers not obey?" asks _Mynheer_.

"Many did.  But some counted the surplice a return towards Popery, and
utterly refused to wear it.  I mind [remember] there was a burying at
that time at Saint _Giles'_ Church in _London_, without [outside]
_Cripplegate_, where were six clerks that ware the white surplice: and
Master _Crowley_, the Vicar, stood in the church door to withstand their
entering, saying that no such superstitious rags of _Rome_ should come
into his church.  There should have been a bitter tumult there, had not
the clerks had the wit to give way and tarry withoutside the door.  And
about the same time, a _Scots_ minister did preach in _London_ right
vehemently against the order taken for the apparel of ministers.  Why,
at Saint _Mildred's_ in _Bread_ Street, where a minister that had
conformed was brought of the worshipful of that parish for the communion
service, he was so withstood by the minister of the church and his
adherents, that the Deputy of the Ward and other were fain to stand
beside him in the chancel to defend him during the service, or the
parson and his side should have plucked him down with violence.  And at
long last," saith _Father_, laughing, "the _Scots_ minister that had so
inveighed against them was brought to conform; but no sooner did he show
himself in the pulpit of Saint _Margaret Pattens_ in a surplice, than
divers wives rose up and pulled him forth of the pulpit, tearing his
surplice and scratting his face right willingly."

"Eh, good lack!" cries _Mynheer_.  "Your women, they keep silence in the
churches after such a manner?"

"There was not much silence that morrow, I warrant," quoth _Hal_,
laughing right merrily.

"Eh, my gentlemen, I pray you of pardon," saith Cousin _Bess_, looking
up earnestly from her flannel, "but had I been in yon church I'd have
done the like thing.  I'd none have scrat his face, but I'd have rent a
good tear in that surplice."

"Thou didst not so, _Bess_, the last _Sunday_ morrow," quoth _Father_,
laughing as he turned to look at her.

"Nay, 'tis all done and settled by now," saith she.  "I should but get
took up for brawling.  But I warrant you, that flying white thing
sticketh sore in my throat, and ever did.  An' I had my way, no parson
should minister but in his common coat."

"But that were unseemly and undecent, _Bess_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"Nay, Mistress _Joyce_, but methinks 'tis a deal decenter," answers she.
"Wherefore, if a man can speak to me of earthly things in a black gown,
must he needs don a white when he cometh to speak to me of heavenly
things?  There is no wit in such stuff."

"See you, _Mynheer_," saith _Father_, again laughing, "even here in
_Selwick_ Hall, where I trust we be little given to quarrel, yet the
clocks keep not all one time."

"Eh!  No!" saith _Mynheer_, shrugging of his shoulders and smiling.
"The gentlewomen, they be very determined in their own opinions."

"Well, I own, I like to see things decent," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "I
desire not to have back the Popish albs and such like superstitious
gauds--not I: but I do like to see a parson in a clean white surplice,
and I would be right sorry were it laid aside."

Cousin _Bess_ said nought, but wagged her head, and tare her flannel in
twain.

"Now, I dare be bound, _Bess_, thou countest me gone half-way back to
_Rome_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"That were nigh the _Via Mala_," quoth _Father_.

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, I'll judge no man, nor no woman," makes answer
Cousin _Bess_.  "The Lord looketh on the heart; and 'tis well for us He
doth, for if we were judged by what other folk think of us, I reckon we
should none of us come so well off.  But them white flying kites be rags
of _Popery_, that _will_ I say,--yea, and stand to."

"Which side be you, _Father_?" asks _Anstace_.

"Well, my lass," saith he, "though I see not, mine own self, the Pope
and all his Cardinals to lurk in the folds of Dr _Meade's_ white
surplice, and I am bound to say his tall, portly figure carrieth it off
rarely, yet I do right heartily respect _Bess_ her scruple, and desire
to abstain from that which she counteth the beginnings of _evil_."

"Now, I warrant you, _Bess_ shall reckon that, of carrying it off well,
to be the lust of the eye," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "She's a bit of a
_Mennonite_, is _Bess_."

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, pray you, give me not such an ill word!" saith
Cousin _Bess_, reproachfully.  "I never cared for Mammon, not I.  I'd be
thankful for a crust of bread and a cup of water, and say grace o'er him
with _Amen_."

We all laughed, and _Father_ saith--

"Nay, _Bess_, thou takest _Joyce_ wrong.  In that of the _Mennonites_,
she would say certain men of whom _Mynheer_ told us a few days gone,
that should think all things pleasurable and easeful to be wrong."

"Good lack, Mistress _Joyce_, but I'm none so bad as that!" saith
_Bess_.  "I'm sure, when I make gruel for whoso it be, I leave no lumps
in, nor let it burn neither."

"No, dear heart, thou art only a _Mennonite_ to thyself, not to other
folk," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Thou shouldst be right well content of a
board for thy bed, but if any one of us had the blanket creased under
our backs, it should cost thee thy night's rest.  I know thee, _Bess
Wolvercot_."

"Well, and I do dearly love to see folk comfortable," quoth she.  "As
for me, what recketh?  I thank the Lord, my health is good enough; and a
very fool were I to grumble at every bit of discomfort.  Why, only do
think, Mistress _Joyce_, how much worser I might have been off!  Had I
been born of that country I heard Master _Banaster_ a-telling of, where
they never see the sun but of the summer, and dwell of huts full o'
smoke, with ne'er a chimney--why, I never could see if my face were
clean, nor my table rubbed bright.  Eh, but I wouldn't like that fashion
of living!"

"They have no tables in _Greenland_ for to rub, _Bess_," quoth _Hal_.

"Nor o'er many clean faces, I take it," saith _Father_.

"Ah! did you hear, Sir," saith _Mynheer_, "of Mynheer _Heningsen's_
voyage to _Greenland_ the last year?"

"I have not, _Mynheer_," saith _Father_.  "Pray you, what was notable
therein?"

"Ah! he was not far from the coast of _Greenland_, when he found the
ship go out of her course.  He turned the rudder, or how you say, to
guide the ship--I am not sea-learned, I ask your pardon if I mistake--
but the ship would not move.  Then they found, beneath a sunken rock,
and it was--how you say?--magnetical, that drew to it the iron of the
ship.  Then Mynheer _Heningsen_, he look to his charts, for he know no
rock just there.  And what think you he found?  Why, two hundred years
back, exactly--in the year of our Lord 1380, there were certain
_Venetians_, the brothers _Zeni_, sailing in these seas, and they
brought word home to _Venice_ that on this very spot, where _Heningsen_
found nothing but a sunken rock, they found a beautiful large island,
where were one hundred villages, inhabited by _Christian_ people, in a
state of great civility [civilisation], but so simple and guileless that
hardly you can conceive.  Think you! nothing now but a sunken rock."

"But what name hath the island?" asks _Hal_.

"No name at all.  No eyes ever saw it but the brothers _Zeni_ of
_Venice_."

"Nay, _Mynheer_, I cry you mercy," saith _Father_ of his thoughtful
fashion.  "If the brothers _Zeni_ told truth (as I mean to signify no
doubt), there was One that saw it, from the time when He pronounced all
things very good, to the day when some convulsion of nature, whatso it
were, by His commandment engulfed that fair isle in the waters.
`Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He,--in heaven, and in earth, and
in the sea, and in all deep places.'  Not one hair from the head of
those unknown _Christians_, that were _Christians_ in truth, perished in
those North waters.  We shall know it when we meet them in the Land that
is very far off."

                                          SELWICK HALL, OCTOBER YE XXXI.
Mine hand was so weary when I was come to the last sentence afore this,
that I set down no more.  Truly, there was little at after that
demerited the same.

And now I be come to the end of my month, I have been a-reading over
what I writ, to see how much I must needs pay.  There be but two blots,
the which shall be so many pence: and two blank spaces of one week or
over, the which at two pence each brings the account to sixpence.  I
cannot perceive that I have at any time writ disrespectfully of my
betters--which, I take it, be _Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_,
and Cousin _Bess_, and Mynheer _Stuyvesant_, But for speaking unkindly
of other, I fear I am not blameless.  I can count six two-pences, which
shall be one shilling and sixpence.  I must try and do better when my
month cometh round again.  Verily, I had not thought that I should speak
unkindly six times in one month!  'Tis well to find out a body's faults.

So now I pass my book over to _Milly_--and do right earnestly desire
that she may be less faultful than I.  What poor infirm things be we, in
very sooth!

Note 1.  Francois Duke of Anjou, who visited the Queen in September,
1579, to urge his suit.  Elizabeth hesitated for some time before she
gave a decided negative.



CHAPTER THREE.

MILISENT MAKES A FRIEND.

  "The inward depths of that deceitful fount
  Where many a sin lies sleeping, but not dead."

(_In Milisent's handwriting_.)

                                        SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE FIRST.
Things be alway going awry with me.  Elsewise, this jolly book should
ne'er have come into my hands first of a _Sunday_.  I would love dearly
to read o'er what my philosophical sister hath writ, and comment on the
same: but I reckon I must tarry till to-morrow.

Now, _Mother_ said I was to write what I thought, and I mean to do the
same.  As to the pennies and the two-pences, they may count up
themselves, for all I care.  They'll not outrun half-a-crown, I reckon:
and having paid the same at my month end, I shall just worry the life
out of _Father_ till he give me an other.  So here goes it!

Well, the first thing I think is,--Why must everything pleasant be set
aside while _Monday_?  _Father_ saith happiness and wickedness be not
alike, though (quoth he) some folk think so much.  Now, it seems me that
happiness and holiness should be the same thing.  Why should a matter
not be right simply by reason that I like it?  I want to know, and I
will ask somebody, some of these days.

Howbeit, of one thing am I assured,--namely, that it cannot be wicked to
write on _Sunday_ what it is not wicked to do.  So I shall tell what we
did.

Now, there some folk are so queer!  They will take down a gown, and
shake out the folds, and talk an half-hour o'er it,--how this gimp
should be better to run that way, and next week the bottom must needs be
fresh bound: all of a _Sunday_.  But to stick a neeld in, and make the
gimp run that way, and fresh bind the bottom,--good lack! they should
count you a very heathen an' you asked them.  Now, I want to know how
the one is a bit better than the other.  I cannot see a pin to choose
betwixt them.

Well! we gat out of bed this morrow--I reckon that is the first thing,
beyond opening one's eyes.

_Nell_ is alway the first up, and _Edith_ the last.  She is rare hard to
wake, is _Edith_; or rather, not to wake, but to make her rise up when
she is woke.  She takes a deal of shaking and talking to, some mornings
specially.  _Nell_ does the talking, and I do the shaking: and I warrant
you, I give it her.

Howbeit, we were all up, at long last--and if one of us be late of a
_Sunday_ morrow, _Father_ looks as if we had brake his heart.  Our
_Sunday_ gowns at this season be of green satin, of sixteen shillings
the yard,--eh, good lack! should I have set that down of a _Sunday_?
Well, never mind; 'tis now done--and furred with pampilion [an unknown
species of fur].  Our out-door hoods be black velvet: and in this gear
went we to church, at _Keswick_.  And I would with all mine heart we had
a church nearer unto us than three weary miles, though every body saith
'tis mighty near.  _Father_ rid on _Favelle_, with _Edith_ behind him;
and _Mother_ on _Garnet_, behind Master _Stuyvesant_; and _Nell_ and I
on _Cowslip_; and Aunt _Joyce_ of her own hackney, that is called
_Hermit_, with old _Matthias_.  Cousin _Bess_ come ambling after, on
_Starlight_, with _Adam_ afore her: and behind trudged _Kate_ and
_Kitling_.  And by the same token, _Moses_ came a-mewing to the door to
see us depart.

So came we to the church, and there found afore us my Lord _Dilston_ and
his following, that had rowed over from _Lord's Island_, whereon of old
time the Barons of _Dilston_ [the Radcliffes, subsequently created Earls
of Derwentwater] have had an house (I am mindful of strangers the which
shall read our chronicle, which is more, I reckon, than _Nell_ shall
have been), and in good sooth, but Mistress _Jane_ is fair of face, and
I do love to look upon her.  Well, of course, _Father_ being but a
knight, we stood of one side to let pass a baron: and when all they were
gone up, went up we, in due order, _Father_ handing _Mother_, and
_Mynheer_ with Aunt _Joyce_, and then Cousin _Bess_ and we three maids.
And there was Dr _Meade_ with his white rag of _Popery_ (as Cousin
_Bess_ will have it) a-flying behind him as he came from the vestry: and
I might not forbear to give a little pinch to _Edith_ as I saw it fly.
'Tis to no good to pinch _Nell_, for she doth but kill me with a look.
And there, of either side (which I had nigh forgot), stood the common
folk, the townsfolk, and the lead-miners from _Vicar's Island_
[anciently belonging to Fountains Abbey] and such like, all a-gaping and
a-staring on us as we went by, to see the baron and the knight.  And eh,
but I do love to be gaped on!  'Tis the best bit of all the _Sunday_,
for me.

(Now, _Mother_, you said I was to write what I thought.)

Then come matins, which one has to sit through, of course: the only good
matter being the chants.  I can sing out, and I do.  Then come the
sermon, which is unto me sore weariness, and I gape through it as I best
may.  Dear heart, what matter is it to me if _Peter_ were ever at _Rome_
or no, or if Saint _James_ and _Paul_ do both say the same thing
touching faith and works?  We have all faith--say we not the Creed every
_Sunday_? and what would you have more?  And as to works, I hate good
works.  Good works always means doing the very thing you would rather
not.  'Tis good works to carry a pudding to old _Nanny Crewdson_ through
a lane where I nigh lose my shoes in the mire, right at the time when I
want to bide at home and play the virginals.  Or 'tis sitting of a chair
and reading of _Luther's_ Commentary on the _Galatians_ to one of my
betters, when my very toes be tingling to be out in the sunshine.  Good
lack, but I do owe a pretty penny to Master Doctor _Luther_ for that
commentary!  I have had to sit and read it a good score of times when it
should have done me marvellous ease to have boxed his ears with it.  Had
I been Mistress _Katherine_, it should have gone hard with me but I
would have pulled Master Doctor out of his study, and made him lake with
little _Jack_ and _Maudlin_, in the stead of toiling o'er yon old musty
commentary.  _Nell_ saith she loveth to read it.  In good sooth, but I
wish she may!

Well! matins o'er, come the communion, for which all tarried but
_Edith_; she, not being yet confirmed, is alway packed off ere it begin.
And when that were o'er--and I do love the last _Amen_ of all--went all
we to dinner with Mistress _Huthwaite_, at whose house we do ever dine
of a _Sunday_: and mighty late it is of a communion _Sunday_; and I am
well-nigh famished ere I break bread.  And for dinner was corned beef
and carrots, and for drink sherris-sack and muscadel.  Then, at three o'
the clock, all we again to church: and by the same token, if Dr _Meade_
gave us not two full hours of a sermon, then will I sell my gold chain
for two pence.  And at after church, in the porch were my Lord _Dilston_
and fair Mistress _Jane_; and my Lord was pleased to take _Father_ by
the hand, and _Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_ likewise; but did but kiss us
maids.  [Note 1.]  But Mistress _Jane_ took us all three by the hand,
and did say unto me that she would fain be better acquainted.  And in
very deed, it should be a feather in my cap were I to come unto close
friendship with my Lord _Dilston_ his daughter, as I do right heartily
trust I may.  Nor, after all, were it any such great preferment for me,
that am daughter unto Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_ of _Selwick_ Hall, Knight,
which is cousin unto my right honourable Lord the Earl of _Oxenford_,
and not so far off neither.  For my most honourable Lord, Sir _Aubrey de
Vere_, sometime Earl of _Oxenford_, was great-great-great-grandfather
unto my Lord that now is: and his sister, my Lady _Margaret_, wife to
Sir _Nicholas Louvaine_, was great-great-grandmother unto _Father_: so
they twain be cousins but four and an half times removed: and, good
lack, what is this?  Surely, I need not to plume me upon Mistress _Jane
Radcliffe_ her notice and favour.  If the _Radcliffes_ be an old house,
as in very deed they be, so be the _Veres_ and the _Louvaines_ both: to
say nought of the _Edens_, that have dwelt in _Kent-dale_ these thousand
years at the least.  But one thing will I never own, and that is of
Mynheer _Stuyvesant_, which shall say, and hold to it like a leech, that
our family be all _Dutch_ folk.  He will have it that the _Louvaines_
must needs have sprung from _Louvain_ in the Low Countries; but of all
things doth he make me mad [angry: a word still used in the north of
England] when he saith the great House of _Vere_ is _Dutch_ of origin.
For he will have it a weir to catch fish, when all the world doth know
that _Veritas_ is _Latin_ for truth, and _Vere_ cometh of that, or else
of _vir_, as though it should say, one that is verily a man, and no base
coward loon.  And 'tis all foolishness for to say, as doth _Mynheer_,
that the old _Romans_ had no surnames like ours, but only the name of
the family, such like as _Cornelius_ or _Julius_, which ran more akin
unto our _Christian_ names.  I believe it not, and I won't.  Why, was
there not an Emperor, or a Prince at the least, that was called _Lucius
Verus_? and what is that but _Vere_?  'Tis as plain as the barber's
pole, for all _Mynheer_, and that will I say.

Howbeit, I am forgetting my business, and well-nigh that it is _Sunday_.
So have back.  Church over, all we come home, in the very order as we
went: and in the hall come _Moses_ a-purring to us, and a-rubbing of her
head against _Nell_; and there was _Dan_ a-turning round and round after
his tail, and _Nan_, that had a ball of paper, on her back a-laking
therewith.  _So_ we to doff our hoods, and then down into the hall,
where was supper served: for it was over late for four-hours [Note 2],
and of a communion _Sunday_ we never get none.  Then _Nell_ to read a
chapter from Master Doctor _Luther_ his magnifical commentary: and by
the mass, I was glad it was not me.  Then--(Eh, happy woman be my dole!
but if _Father_ shall see that last line, it shall be a broad shilling
out of my pocket at the least.  He is most mighty nice, is _Father_,
touching that make of talk.  I believe I catched it up of old
_Matthias_.  I must in very deed essay to leave it off; and I do own,
'tis not over seemly to swear of a _Sunday_, for I suppose it is
swearing, though 'tis not profane talk.  Come, _Father_, you must
o'erlook it this once: and I will never do so no more--at the least, not
till the next time.)

Well then, had we a chapter of _Luke_, and a long prayer of _Father_:
and I am sore afeared I missed a good ten minutes thereof, for I wis not
well what happed, nor how I gat there, but assuredly I was a-dancing
with my Lord of _Oxenford_, and the Queen's Majesty and my Lord
_Dilston_ a-looking on, and Mistress _Jane_ as black as thunder, because
I danced better than she.  I reckon _Father's_ stopping woke me, and I
said _Amen_ as well as any body.  Then the Hundredth Psalm, _Nell_
a-playing on the virginals: and then (best of all) the blessing, and
then with good-night all round, to bed.  I reckon my nap at prayers had
made me something wakeful, for I heard both _Nell_ and _Edith_ asleep
afore me.

                                          SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE III.
Now have I read o'er every line my philosophical sister hath writ: and
very nigh smothered me o' laughing at divers parts.  The long discourses
she putteth in, touching all manner of dreary matters!  I warrant, you
shall not see me to deal with the Queen's Majesty's injunctions touching
the apparel of parsons, nor with the _Dutch Mennonites_, nor with
philosophical questions touching folks' thoughts and characters, nor no
such rubbish.  I like sunlight, I do.  Catch me a-setting down Master
_Stuyvesant_ his dreary speeches!  (I go not further, for then should it
cost me sixpence: but Master _Stuyvesant_ hath no authority over me, so
I may say what I will of him for two pence.)  But it seemeth me, for all
her soberness and her killing looks, that Mistress _Helena_ is something
diverted with my speeches, else had she not put so many in.  But I ought
not to have said what I did, quotha, touching _Father's_ nose!  Ought I
not, forsooth?  Mistress _Helena_, that shall cost you two pence, and I
shall be fain to see the fine paid.

(Eh, lack-a-day! but that shall cost me two pence!  Dear heart, whatever
was _Father_ a-thinking of?  I shall be as clean ruined as the velvet
doublet that _Ned_ dropped in the fish-pond!)

It seemeth me _Father_ must have desired to make a good box for the
poor.  I would it had not been at my cost.

One thing is plain,--that Mistress _Nell_ keeps a conscience.  I scarce
think I do.  There is a cushion full of pins somewhere down near my
stomach, and now and then I get a prick: but I do but cry pish and turn
the pin end into the cushion.  _Nell_, on the contrary, pulleth forth
the pin and looketh on it, holding it in all lights.  But there was one
time, I mind, that I did not cry pish, and methinks every pin in the
cushion had set a-work to prick me hard.  'Twas ever so long gone, when
_Wat_ and I dressed up the mop in a white sheet, and set it on the
stairs for to make _Anstace_ and _Nell_ scream forth, a-taking it for a
ghost: but as ill luck would have it, the first came by was _Mother_,
with _Edith_ in her arms, that was then but a babe, and it so frighted
her she went white as the very sheet, and dropped down of a dead faint,
and what should have come of _Edith_ I wis not, had not _Anstace_, that
came after, been quick to catch at her.  Eh, but in all my life never
saw I _Father_ as he then were!  It was long time ere _Mother_ come to,
and until after said he never a word, for he was all busied with her:
but when she was come to herself and well at ease,--my word! but he did
serve out _Wat_ and me!  _Wat_ gat the worst, by reason he was the
elder, and had (said _Father_) played the serpent to mine _Eva_: but I
warrant you I forgat not that birch rod for a week or twain.  Good lack!
we never frighted nobody again.

And after all, I do think _Father's_ talk was worser than the
fustigation [whipping].  How he did insense it into us, that we might
have been the death of our mother and sister both, and how it was rare
wicked and cruel to seek to fright any, and had been known to turn
folks' heads ere this!  You see, _Father_, I have not forgot it, and I
reckon I never shall.

But one thing _Father_ alway doth, and so belike do all in this house,
which I hear not other folks' elders for to do.  When _Alice Lewthwaite_
gets chidden, Mistress _Lewthwaite_ saith such matters be unseemly, or
undutiful, and such like.  But _Father_, he must needs pull forth his
Bible, and give you chapter and verse for every word he saith.  And it
makes things look so much worser, some how.  'Tis like being judged of
God instead of men.  And where Mistress _Lewthwaite_ talks of faults,
_Father_ and _Mother_ say sins.  And it makes ever so much difference,
to my thinking, whether a matter be but a fault you need be told of, or
a sin that you must repent.  Then, Mistress _Lewthwaite_ (and I have
noted it in other) always takes things as they touch her, whereas
_Father_ and _Mother_ do look on them rather as they touch God.  And it
doth seem ever so much more awfuller thus.  Methinks it should be a
sight comfortabler world if men had no consciences, and could do as it
listed them at all times without those pin-pricks.  I am well assured
folks should mostly do right.  I should, at any rate.  'Tis but
exceeding seldom I do aught wrong, and then mostly because I am teased
with forbiddance of the same.  I should never have touched the
fire-fork, when I was a little maid, and nigh got the house a-fire, had
not old Dame _Conyers_, that was my godmother, bidden me not do the
same.  Had she but held her peace, I should ne'er have thought thereon.
Folks do not well to put matters into childre's heads, and then if aught
go wrong the childre get the blame.  And in this world things be ever
a-going wrong.  But wherefore must I be blamed for that, forsooth?  'Tis
the things go wrong, not me.  I should be a very angel for goodness if
only folks gave o'er a putting of me out, and gainsaying of me, and
forbidding things to be done.  In good sooth, 'tis hard on a poor maid
that cannot be suffered to be as good as she should, were she but let
a-be.

                                           SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE VI.
Yesterday, the afternoon was so fair and sunshine, that _Edith_ and I
(_Mother_ giving us leave) rowed o'er to Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, where
_Edith_ sat her down of a great stone, and said she would draw the
lake's picture in little.  So I, having no list to stand behind and look
on, went off to see if I could find aught, such as a squirrel or a pie,
to divert me withal.  As for _Adam_, which had rowed us o'er, he
gathered up his nose and his heels all of a lump on the grass, and in
five minutes he was snoring like an owl.  For me, I wandered on a while,
and went all over the ruins of the hermitage, and could find nought to
look at save one robin, that sat on a bough and stared at me.  After a
while I sat me down, and I reckon I should have been a-snoring like
_Adam_ afore long, but I heard a little bruit [noise] that caused me
turn mine head, and all suddenly I was aware of a right goodly
gentleman, and well clad, that leaned against a tree, and gazed upon me,
yet with mighty respect and courtesy.  He was something past his youth,
yet right comely to look to; of a fair hair and beard, and soft eyes,
grey [blue] as the sky.  Truly, I was something fluttered, for he ware a
brave velvet jerkin, and a gold chain as thick as Master _Mayor's_.  And
while I meditated if I should speak unto him or no, he spake first.  "I
pray you, fair my Mistress, or Madam [then restricted to noble ladies
and knights' wives] if so be, of your good pleasure, to do a stranger to
wit of the name of this charming isle?"

"Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, Sir," quoth I.  "Of old time, as 'tis said,
Saint _Hubert_ had an hermitage hereon: the ruins whereof you may see
down yonder."

"Truly, the isle is better accommodated at this present," saith he, and
smiled one of the comeliest smiles ever saw I on a man's face.  "And who
was Saint _Hubert_, if it please my fair damosel?"

"In good sooth, Sir, that know I not," said I; "save that he were one of
the old saints, now done away."

"If the old saints be done away," saith he, "thank goodness, the new at
least be left."

Good lack! but I wist not what to answer to so courtly compliments, and
the better liked I my neighbour every minute.  Methought I had never
seen a gentleman so grand and amiable, not to say of so good words.

"And, I pray you, sweet Mistress," saith he, yet a-leaning against the
tree, which was an oak, and I could find it again this minute: "is it
lawful for the snared bird to request the name of the fowler?"

"Sir, I pray you of pardon," I made answer, and I could not help to
laugh a little, "but I am all unused to so courtly and flattering words.
May it please you to put what you would say into something plainer
_English_?"

"Surely," saith he, "the rose is not unaccustomed to the delightsome
inhalation of her fragrance.  Well, fairest Mistress, may I know your
name?  Is that _English_ plain enough to do you a pleasure?"

"Sir," quoth I, "my name is _Milisent Louvaine_, to serve you."

"Truly," saith he, "and it shall serve me right well to know so
mellifluous a name.  [Note 3.]  And what dwelling is honoured by being
your fair home, my honey-sweet damsel?"

"Sir," said I, "I dwell at _Selwick_ Hall, o'er the lake in yonder
quarter."

"It must be a delightsome dwelling," he made answer.  "And--elders have
you, fairest Mistress?"

"I thank the Lord, ay, Sir.  Sir _Aubrey Louvaine_ is my father, and
Dame _Lettice_, sometime named _Eden_, my mother."

"_Lettice Eden_!" saith he, and methought something sorrowfully, as
though _Mother's_ old name should have waked some regrets within him.
"I do mind me, long time gone, of a fair maiden of that name, that was
with my sometime Lady of _Surrey_, and might now and then be seen at the
Court with her lady, or with the fair Lady of _Richmond_, her lord's
sister.  Could it have been the same, I marvel?"

"Sir," said I, "I cast no doubt thereon.  My mother was bower-maiden
unto my Lady of _Surrey_, afore she were wed."

"Ah!" saith he, and fetched a great sigh.  "She was the fairest maiden
that ever mine eyes beheld.  At the least--I thought so yesterday."

"My sister is more like her than I," I did observe.  "She is round by
yonder, a-playing the painter."

"Ah," quoth he, something carelessly, "I did see a young damsel, sitting
of a stone o'er yonder.  Very fair, in good sooth: yet I have seen
fairer,--even within the compass of Saint _Hubert's_ Isle.  And I do
marvel that she should be regarded as favouring my good Lady your mother
more than you, sweet Mistress _Milisent_."

I was astonished, for I know _Edith_ is reckoned best-favoured of all
us, and most like to _Mother_.  But well as it liked me to sit and
listen, methought, somehow, I had better get me up and return to
_Edith_.

"Alas!" saith he, when he saw me rise, "miserable man, am I driving
hence the fairest floweret of the isle?"

"Not in no wise, Sir," answered I; "but I count it time to return, and
my sister shall be coming to look for me."

"Then, sweet Mistress, give me leave to hand you o'er these rough
paths."

So I put mine hand into his, which was shapely, and well cased in fair
_Spanish_ leather; and as we walked, he asked me of divers matters; as,
how many brothers I had, and if they dwelt at home; and if _Father_ were
at home; and the number and names of my sisters, and such like; all
which I told him.  Moreover, he would know if we had any guests; which,
with much more, seeing he had been of old time acquainted with _Mother_,
I told.  Only I forgat to make mention of Aunt _Joyce_.

So at long last--for he, being unacquainted with the Isle, took the
longest way round, and I thought it good manners not to check him--at
long last come we to _Edith_, which was gat up from her stone, and was
putting by her paper and pencils in the bag which she had brought for
them.

"We shall be something late for four-hours, _Milly_," saith she.
"Prithee, wake _Adam_, whilst I make an end."

Off went I and gave _Adam_ a good shake, and coming back, found _Edith_
in discourse with my gentleman.  I cannot tell why, but I would as lief
he had not conversed with any but me.

"Sir," said I, "may we set you down of the lakeside?"

"No, I thank you much," saith he: and lifting his bonnet from his head,
I saw how gleaming golden was yet his hair.  "I have a boat o'er the
other side.  Farewell, my sweet mistresses both: I trust we shall meet
again.  Methinks I owe it you, howbeit, to tell you my name.  I am Sir
_Edwin Tregarvon_, of _Cornwall_, and very much your servant."

So away went he, with a graceful mien: and we home o'er the lake.  All
the way _Edith_ saith nought but--"_Milly_, where didst thou pick up thy
_cavaliero_?"

"Nay," said I, "he it was who picked me up.  He was leaning of a tree,
of t'other side, over against _Borrowdale_: and I sat me down of a log,
and saw him not till he spake."

_Edith_ said no more at that time.  But in the even, when we were
doffing us, and _Nell_ was not yet come up, quoth she--

"_Milly_, is Sir _Edwin_ something free to ask questions?"

"Oh, meterly," [tolerably] said I.

"I trust thou gavest him not o'er full answers."

"Oh, nought of import," said I.  "Beside, _Edith_, he is an old friend
of _Mother_."

"Is he so?" quoth she.  "Then we can ask _Mother_ touching him."

Now, I could not have told any wherefore, but I had no list to ask
_Mother_, nor had I told her so much as one word touching him.  I
believe I was half afeared she might forbid me to encourage him in talk.
I trust _Edith_ shall forget the same, for she hath not an over good
memory.

                                           SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE IX.
I well-nigh do wish I had not writ down that same o' _Friday_ last.
Howbeit, there is no penalty against tearing out o' leaves: and that
must I do, if need be.  Meanwhile, I will go right forward with my
chronicling.

I did verily think I saw Sir _Edwin_ part-way up the hill behind us o'
_Saturday_ even: but o' _Sunday_ he was not in church, for I looked for
him.  I reckon he must have left this vicinage, or he should scarce run
the risk of a twenty pound fine [the penalty per month for
non-attendance at the parish church], without he be fairly a-rolling in
riches, as his gold chain looked not unlike.

Thank goodness, _Edith_ hath forgot to say aught to _Mother_, and 'tis
not like she shall think on now.

                                          SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XII.
_Mother_ bid me, this morrow, carry a basket of eggs and a spice-cake
[the northern name for a plum-cake] to old _Jack_.  They were ducks'
eggs, for I had told her what _Jack_ said the last time we visited him.
I bade _Edith_ go with me [Note 4], but she would not, the day being
somewhat foul.  I did never see a maid so unwilling to mire her shoes as
our _Edith_.  So I all alone up to _Jack Benn's_: which saw me from his
hut door, and gave me his customary courteous welcome.

"There's a woman a-coming!" quoth he.  "Get away wi' ye!  I hate women."

"Nay, _Jack_," said I; "thou alway savest me, as thou wist.  Here be
eggs for thee--ducks', every one: and a spice-cake, which I know thou
lovest."

"I love nought so much as I hate women," saith he.  But he took the cake
and the eggs off me, notwithstanding.  "They're fleshly folk, is women,"
quoth old _Jack_.

"Nay, what signifiest?" said I.  "Women have no more flesh than men, I
reckon."

"Mistress _Milisent_, does thou wit what _Paul_ says to th' _Romans_,
touching th' flesh and th' spirit?"

"Oh ay, _Jack_, I have read it afore now."

"Well, and does thou mind how he threaps again' th' flesh?"

"To be sure," said I.

"Now look ye here," saith he.  "Here's my hand,"--and he reacheth forth
a great brown paw.  "Does thou see it?"

"Ay, I am thankful I have eyes good enough for that, _Jack_!"

"Well--this hand's made o' flesh, does thou wit?"

"I reckon so much, _Jack_."

"Good.  Well, _Paul_ he says we're none to mind th' things o' th' flesh,
but only th' things o' th' spirit.  Your spirit's your thoughts and
meditations like.  And that's why women's such ill uns--because they are
alway minding th' things o' th' flesh: scrubbing, and washing, and
baking, and sewing, and such like.  And it stands to reason, Mistress
_Milisent_, that what ye do wi' th' flesh mun be th' things o' th'
flesh.  Does thou see?"

"Well, _Jack_, I am afeared I do not entirely."

"Get thee gone!" saith he.  "Women never can see nought.  They're ill
uns, I tell ye--they're ill uns!"

"But, _Jack_, the sins of the flesh have nought to do with cooking and
washing."

"Does thou think I dunna know better nor a woman?  Thee be off, or I'll
let fly th' broom at thee."

"_Jack_, thou art a very uncivil companion," said I; but I gathered up
my gown for to go.

"I never were civil to a woman yet," saith he, "and I hope I never shall
be.  That's a sin I'll none have to answer for."

"In very deed it is, _Jack_," said I, "and I will bear witness for thee
to that end if need be.  Farewell."

So away turned I from the grim old man, but had not run many steps down
ere I was aware of an hand, very different from _Jack's_, held forth to
me, and a voice saluting me in exceeding diverse language.

"Fairest Mistress _Milisent_, well met this cloudy morrow!  I see the
flowers be out, though the sun shine not.  Give me leave, I pray you, to
aid your graceful steps down this rough hill-side."

So down the hill with me came Sir _Edwin_, and mighty pleasant discourse
had we--all the fairer for coming after _Jack_.  And much he told me of
his estate in _Cornwall_, where he hath a fair castle, built of old
time, and mines like to ours, saving they be tin, not lead.  And these
_Cornish_ mines, as he told me, were worked of old time by the _Jews_:
but when I did demand of him how _Jews_ should come to work them, that
(quoth he) could he not say.  And at times, in these mines, deep down in
the old workings, do they hear the ghosts of them that worked them a
thousand years ago, a-knocking with the pickaxe; and when they do break
into the ancient workings, they come on the olden pickaxes of stags'
horn, used of these old _Jews_ and _Romans_, that did labour in these
mines of old time.

"Good lack!" cried I: "and be these the very pickaxes used of these
ghosts?  Verily, I would be feared for to touch them."

"Nay, the tools themselves be no ghosts," saith he, laughing: "and I do
ensure you, fair my mistress, I have seen and handled divers thereof."

Then he told me, moreover, of a new custom is risen up in the Queen's
Majesty's Court: for right courtly discourse he hath, and the names of
dukes and earls do fly about in his talk as though he were hand and
glove with every man of them.  I do love to hear such discourse, and
that right dearly.  Many a time have I essayed for to win _Mother_ to
enter into talk touching those days when she dwelt in _Surrey_ Place
with my good Lady Countess of _Surrey_: but I wis not well wherefore,
she ever seemeth to have no list to talk of that time.  She will tell us
of her 'prisonment in the _Counter_, and how _Father_ brought the little
shell for to comfort her, and at after how he fetched her out, and rode
away with her and had a care of her, when as she was let forth: but even
in that there seems me like as there should be a gap, which she never
filleth up.  I marvel if there were somewhat of that time the which she
would not we should know.  [Note 5.]  I did once whisper a word of this
make unto _Nell_: but Mistress _Helena_, that doth alway the right and
meet thing, did seem so mighty shocked that I should desire to ferret
forth somewhat that _Mother_ had no list for me to know, that I let her
a-be.  But for all that would I dearly love to know it.  I do take
delight in digging up of other folks' secrets, as much as in keeping of
mine own.

Howbeit, here am I a great way off from Sir _Edwin_ and his discourse of
the new Court custom, the which hath name _Euphuism_, and is a right
fair conceit, whereby divers gentlemen and gentlewomen do swear
friendship unto one the other, by divers quaint names the which they do
confer.  Thus the Queen's Majesty herself is pleased to honour some of
her servants, as my Lord of _Burleigh_, who is her _Spirit_, and Sir
_Walter Raleigh_ her _Water_, and Mr Vice-Chamberlain [Sir Christopher
Hatton] her _Sheep_, and Mr Secretary [Sir Francis Walsingham] her
_Moon_.  Sir _Edwin_ saith he had himself such a friendship with some
mighty great lady, whose name he would not utter, (though I did my best
to provoke him thereto) he calling her his _Discretion_, and she naming
him her _Fortitude_.  Which is pleasant and witty matter.  [Note 6.]

"And," quoth Sir _Edwin_, "mine honey-sweet Mistress, if it may stand
with your pleasure, let us two follow the Court fashion.  You shall be
mine _Amiability_, [loveliness, not loveableness], and (if it shall
please you) shall call me your _Protection_.  Have I well said, my
fairest?"

"Indeed, Sir, and I thank you," I made answer, "and should you do me so
much honour, it should like me right well."

By this time we were come to the turn nigh the garden gate, and I dared
not be seen with Sir _Edwin_ no nearer the house.  The which he seemed
to guess, and would there take his leave: demanding of me which road led
the shortest way to _Kirkstone_ Pass.  So I home, and into our chamber
to doff my raiment, where, as ill luck would have it, was _Nell_.  Now,
our chamber window is the only one in all the house whence the path to
_Jack's_ hut can be seen: wherefore I reckoned me fairly safe.  But how
did mine heart jump into my mouth when _Nell_ saith, as I was a-folding
of my kerchief--

"Who was that with thee, _Milly_?"

Well, I do hope it was not wicked that I should answer,--"A gentleman,
_Nell_, that would know his shortest way to _Kirkstone_ Pass."  In good
sooth, it was a right true answer: for Sir _Edwin_ is a gentleman, and
he did ask me which were the shortest way thereto.  But, good lack! it
seemed me as all the pins that ever were in a cushion started o'
pricking me when I thus spake.  Yet what ill had I done, forsooth?  I
had said no falsehood: only shut _Nell's_ mouth, for she asked no
further.  And, dear heart, may I not make so much as a friend to divert
me withal, but I must send round the town-crier to proclaim the same?
After I had writ thus much, down come I to the great chamber, where I
found _Anstace_ and _Hal_ come; and _Hal_, with _Father_ and _Mynheer_,
were fallen of mighty grave discourse touching the news of late come,
that the Pope hath pretended to deprive the Queen's Majesty of all right
to _Ireland_.  Well-a-day! as though Her Majesty should think to let go
_Ireland_ or any other land because a foreign bishop should bid her!
Methinks this companion the Pope must needs be clean wood [mad].

_Hal_, moreover, is well pleased that the Common Council of _London_
should forbid all plays in the City, the which, as he will have it, be
ill and foolish matter.  Truly, it maketh little matter to me here in
_Derwent_ dale: but methinks, if I dwelt in _London_ town, I should be
but little pleased therewith.  Why should folk not divert them?

Being aweary of Master _Hal's_ grave discourse, went I over to
_Anstace_, whom I found mighty busied of more lighter matter,--to wit,
the sumptuary laws of late set forth against long cloaks and wide ruffs,
which do ill please her, for _Anstace_ loveth to ruffle it of a good
ruff.  Thence gat she to their _Cicely_, which is but ill at ease, and
Dr _Bell_ was fetched to her this last even: who saith that on _Friday_
and _Saturday_ the sign [of the Zodiac] shall be in the heart, and from
_Sunday_ to _Tuesday_ in the stomach, during which time it shall be no
safe dealing with physic preservative, whereof he reckoneth her need to
be: so she must needs tarry until _Wednesday_ come seven-night, and from
that time to fifteen days forward shall be passing good.

Howbeit, we gat back ere long to the fashions, whereof _Anstace_ had of
late a parcel of news from her husband's sister, Mistress _Parker_, that
dwelleth but fifty miles from _London_, and is an useful sister for to
have.  As to the newest fashion of sleeves (quoth she), nothing is more
certain than the uncertainty; and likewise of hoods.  Cypress, saith
she, is out of fashion (the which hath put me right out of conceit with
my cypress kirtle that was made but last year), and napped taffeta is
now thought but serving-man-like.  All this, and a deal more, _Anstace_
told us, as we sat in the compassed window [bay window].

Dr _Meade's_ hour-glass is broke of the sexton.  I am fain to hear the
same, if it shall cut his sermons shorter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  At this time, shaking hands indicated warmer cordiality than
the kiss, which last was the common form of greeting amongst all
classes.

Note 2.  Four-hours answered to afternoon tea, and was usually served,
as its name denotes, at four o'clock.

Note 3.  Millicent has really no connection with Melissa, though many
persons have supposed so.  It comes, through Milisent and Melisende,
from the Gothic _Amala-suinde_, which signifies Heavenly wisdom.

Note 4.  Bade is the imperfect, and bidden the participle, of bid, to
invite, as well as of bid, to command.

Note 5.  The reader who wishes for more light on this point than was
allowed to Milisent, will find it in "Lettice Eden."

Note 6.  At this time "pleasant" meant humorous, and "witty" meant
intellectual.  This curious child's play termed Euphuism, to which grave
men and sedate women did not hesitate to lower themselves, was peculiar
to the age of Elizabeth, than whom never was a human creature at once so
great and so small.



CHAPTER FOUR.

IN BY-PATH MEADOW.

  "I thought that I was strong, Lord,
      And did not need Thine arm;
  Though dangers thronged around me,
      My heart felt no alarm:
  I thought I nothing needed--
      Riches, nor dress, nor sight:
  And on I walked in darkness,
      And still I thought it light."

                                           SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XV.
I have but now read o'er what I writ these last few days, and have
meditated much whether I should go on to tell of Sir _Edwin_, for it
shall ne'er serve to have folk read the same.  And methinketh it best
for to go straight on, and at the end, if need be, tear out the leaves.
For it doth me a mighty pleasure to write and think upon the same: and I
can make some excuse when I come to it.

  Though Mistress _Nell_,
  I guess right well,
      Of neatness should be heedful:
  Yet I will tear
  The leaves out fair,
      If it shall so be needful.

There! who saith I cannot write poesy?

This morrow again (I being but just without the garden gate), I met with
my _Protection_, who doffed his plumed bonnet and saluted me as his most
fair _Amiability_.  I do see him most days, though but for a minute: and
in truth I think long from one time to another.  Coming back, I
meditated what I should say to Mistress _Nell_ (that loveth somewhat too
much to meddle) should she have caught sight of him: for it shall not
serve every time to send him to _Kirkstone_.  Nor, of course, could I
think to tell a lie thereabout.  So I called to mind that he had once
asked me what name we called the eye-bright in these parts, though it
were not this morrow, but I should not need to say that, and it should
be no lie, seeing he did say so much.  Metrusteth the cushion should not
prick me for that, and right sure am I there should be no need.

                                         SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XVII.
Truly, as saith the old saw, 'tis best not to halloo till thou be out of
the wood.  This very afternoon, what should _Edith_ say, without one
word of warning, as we were sat a-sewing, but--

"_Mother_, do you mind a gentleman, by name _Tregarvon_?"

"What name saidst, _Edith_?" asks _Mother_.

"_Tregarvon_," quoth she.  "Sir _Edwin Tregarvon_, of _Cornwall_."

"Nay, I never knew no gentleman of that name," saith _Mother_.  "Where
heardst of him, child?"

"'Twas when we went o'er to Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, _Mother_," she made
answer,--"what day were it, _Milly_?--about ten days gone--"

"Aye, I mind it," saith _Mother_.

"Well, while I sat of the rock a-drawing, come up a gentleman to me,"
saith she, "and asked at me if _Louvaine_ were not my name.  (Why, then,
he knew us! thought I.)  I said `Aye,' and he went on to ask me if
_Father_ were at home, for he had list to have speech of him: and he
said he knew you, _Mother_, of old time, when you were Mistress
_Lettice_.  I told him _Father_ was at home, and he desired to know what
time should be the best to find him: when I told him the early morrow,
for he was oft away in the afternoon.  And then--"

"Well, my lass?" saith _Mother_, for _Edith_ was at a point.

"Well, _Mother_, methinks I had better tell you," saith she, a-looking
up, "for I cannot be easy till I have so done, and I wis well you will
not lay to my charge a thing that was no blame of mine.  So--then he
'gan to speak of a fashion that little liked me, and I am assured should
have liked you no better: commending my drawing, and mine hair, and mine
eyes, and all such matter as that: till at the last I said unto him,
`Sir, I pray you of pardon, but I am not used to such like talk, and in
truth I know not what to answer.  If your aim be to find favour with me,
you were best hold your peace from such words.'  For, see you, _Mother_,
I thought he might have some petition unto _Father_, and might take a
fantasy that I could win _Father_ to grant him, and so would the rather
if he talked such matter as should flatter my foolish vanity.  As though
_Father_ should be one to be swayed by such a fantasy as that!  But
then, of course, he did not know _Father_.  I trust I did not aught to
your displeasance, _Mother_?"

"So far as I can judge, dear child, thou didst very well," saith
_Mother_: "and I am right glad thou wert thus discreet for thy years.
But what said he in answer?"

"Oh, he tarried not after that," quoth she: "he did only mutter somewhat
that methought should be to ask pardon, and then went off in another
minute."

_Mother_ laid down her work with a glow in her eyes.

"O _Edith_!" saith she: "I am so thankful thou art not,"--but all
suddenly she shut up tight, and the glow went out of her _eyes_ and into
her cheeks.  I never know what that signifieth: and I have seen it to
hap aforetime.  But she took up her sewing again, and said no more, till
she saith all at once right the thing which I desired her not to say.

"Did this gentleman speak with thee, _Milly_?"

I made my voice as cool and heedless as I could.

"Well, _Mother_, I reckon it was the same that I saw leaning against a
tree at the other side of the isle, which spake to me and asked me what
the isle was called, and who Saint _Hubert_ were.  He told me, the same
as _Edith_, that he had known you aforetime."

"Didst get a poem unto thy sweet eyes, _Milly_?" saith _Edith_,
laughing.

"Nay," said I, "mine eyes be not so sweet as thine."

"Did he ask at thee if _Father_ were at home?"

"Ay, he asked that."

Herein told I no falsehood, for that day he said not a word touching
mine eyes.

Then Cousin _Bess_ looks up.  Cousin _Bess_ was by, but not Aunt
_Joyce_.

"What manner of man, my lasses?" saith she.

I left _Edith_ to make answer.

"Why," saith she, "I reckon he might be ten years younger than _Father_,
or may-be more: and--"

"Oh, not a young man, then?" saith _Mother_, as though she were fain it
so were.

"Oh, nay," quoth _Edith_: "but well-favoured, and of a fair hair and
beard."

"And clad of a dark green velvet jerkin," saith Cousin _Bess_, "and
tawny hose, with a rare white feather in 's velvet bonnet?"

"That is he," saith _Edith_.

"Good lack, then!"

Cousin _Bess_ makes answer, "but he up to me only yester-morrow on the
_Keswick_ road, as I come back from _Isaac's_.  My word, but he doth
desire for to see Sir _Aubrey_ some, for he asked at us all three if he
were at home."

"Was he a man thou shouldest feel to trust, _Bess_?" asks _Mother_.

"Trust!" saith she.  "I'd none trust yon dandified companion, not for to
sell a sucking-pig."

Dear heart, but what queer things doth she say at times!  I would Cousin
_Bess_ were somewhat more civiler.  To think of a gentleman such as he
is, a-selling of pigs!  Yet I must say I was not o'er well pleased to
hear of his complimenting of _Edith_: though, 'tis true, that was ere he
had seen me.

"What like is he, _Bess_?" saith _Mother_.  "I would know the thought he
gave to thee."

"Marry, the first were that he was like to have no wife, or she should
have amended a corner of his rare slashed sleeve, that was ravelling
forth o' the stitching," saith she.  "And the second were, that he were
like the folk in this vicinage, with his golden hair and grey eyen.  And
the third, that he were not, for that his speech was not of these parts.
And the fourth, that his satin slashed sleeves and his silver buckles
of his shoes must have cost him a pretty penny.  And the last, that I'd
be fain to see the back of him."

"Any more betwixt, _Cousin_?" saith _Edith_, laughing.

"Eh, there was a cart-load betwixt," saith she.  "I mattered him nought,
I warrant you."

"Well, neither did I, o'er much," saith _Edith_.

Dear heart, thought I, but where were their eyes, both twain, that they
saw not the lovesomeness and gentilesse of that my gallant _Protection_?
But as for Cousin _Bess_, she never had no high fantasies.  All her
likings be what the _French_ call _bourgeois_.  But I was something
surprised that _Edith_ should make no count of him.  I marvel if she
meant the same.

"Well, there must needs be some blunder," saith _Mother_, when we had
sat silent a while: "for I never knew no man of that name, nor no
gentleman of _Cornwall_, to boot."

"May-be he minds you, _Mother_, though you knew not him," quoth _Edith_.

"Soothly," saith she, "there were knights in the Court, whose names I
knew not: but if they saw me so much as thrice, methinks that were all--
and never spake word unto me."

"See you now, Cousin _Lettice_," saith _Bess_, "if this man wanted
somewhat of you, he'd be fain enough to make out that he had known you
any way he might."

"Ay, very like," saith _Mother_.

"And if he come up to the door, like an honest companion, and desire
speech of Sir _Aubrey_, well, he may be a decent man, for all his
slashed sleeves and flying feathers: but if not so, then I write him
down no better than he should be, though what he is after it passeth my
wit to see."

"I do believe," quoth _Edith_, a-laughing, "that Cousin _Bess_ hates
every thing that flies.  What with Dr _Meade's_ surplice, and Sir
_Edwin's_ long feather--verily, I would marvel what shall come a-flying
next."

"Nay, my lass, I love the song-birds as well as any," saith Cousin
_Bess_: "'tis only I am not compatient with matter flying that is not
meant to fly.  If God Almighty had meant men and women to fly, He'd have
put wings on them.  And I never can see why men should deck themselves
out o' birds' feathers, without they be poor savages that take coloured
beads to be worth so much as gold angels.  And as for yon surplice, 'tis
a rag o' _Popery_--that's what it is: and I'd as lief tell Dr _Meade_
so as an other man.  I did tell Mistress _Meade_ so, t' other day: but,
poor soul! she could not see it a whit.  'Twas but a decent garment that
the priest must needs bear, and such like.  And `Mistress _Meade_,' says
I, `I'll tell you what it is,' says I: `you are none grounded well in
_Hebrews_,' says I.  `Either Dr _Meade's_ no priest, or else the Lord
isn't,' says I: `so you may pick and choose,' says I.  Eh dear! but she
looked on me as if I'd spake some ill words o' the Queen's Majesty--not
a bit less.  And `Mistress _Wolvercot_,' says she, `what ever do you
mean?' says she.  `Well, Mistress _Meade_,' says I, `that's what I
mean--that there can be no _Christian_ priests so long as _Christ_ our
Lord is alive: so if Dr _Meade's_ a priest, He must be dead.  And if
so,' says I, `why then, I don't see how there can be no _Christians_ of
no sort, priests or no,' says I.  `Why, Mistress _Wolvercot_!' says she,
`you must have lost your wits.'  `Well,' says I, `some folks has: but I
don't rightly think I'm one,'--and so home I came."

_Edith_ was rarely taken, and laughed merrily.  For me, I was so glad to
see the talk win round to Mistress _Meade_, that I was fain to join.

"Thou art right, _Bess_," saith _Mother_.

"Why," saith she, "I'm with _Paul_: and he's good company enough for me,
though may-be, being but a tent-maker by trade, he'd scarce be meet for
Dr _Meade_.  I thought we'd done with bishops and priests and such
like, I can tell you, when the Church were reformed: but, eh dear!
they're a coming up again every bit as bad as them aforetime.  I cannot
see why they kept no bishops.  Lawn sleeves, forsooth! and rochets! and
cassocks! and them square caps,--they're uncommon like the Beast!  I
make no count of 'em."

"And rochets can fly!" cries _Edith_ merrily.

"Why, Cousin _Bess_," said I, "you shall be a _Brownist_ in a week or
twain."

"Nay, I'll be ruled by the law: but I reckon I may call out if it
pinches," saith she.

So, with mirth, we ended the matter: and thankful was I when the talk
were o'er.

                                          SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XIX.
I do keep my book right needfully locked up, for I would not for all the
world that _Nell_ nor _Edith_ should read this last fortnight.  Yester
even, just as it grew to dusk, met I with my _Protection_ outside the
garden door, that would fain win me to meet with him some whither on the
hills, where (said he) we might talk more freely.  But so feared was I
to vex _Father_ and _Mother_ that this I did deny, though I could see it
vexed him, and it went to mine heart to do thus.  And he asked at me if
I loved him not, and did very hard press me to say that I would love
him: for he saith he loveth me better than all the world.  Yet that
would I not fully grant him, but plagued him a bit thereon.  'Tis rare
fun plaguing a man.  But methought I would try this even if I could not
wring a fashion of consent out of _Father_, without his knowing the
same: so when none was there but he and I and _Moses_, quoth I--

"_Father_, is it ever wrong to love any?"

"`Love is of God,'" he made answer.  "Surely no."

And therewith should I have been content, and flattered me that I had
_Father's_ assent to the loving of my _Protection_: but as ill luck
would have it, he, that was going forth of the chamber, tarried, with
the door in his hand, to say--

"But mind that it be very love, my maid.  That is not love, but unlove,
which will help a friend to break God's commandments."

I had liefer he had let that last alone.  It sticketh in my throat
somewhat.  Yet have I _Father's_ consent to loving: and surely none need
break God's commandments because they love each other.  'Tis no breaking
thereof for me to meet and talk with Sir _Edwin_--of that am I as
certain as that my name is _Milisent_.  And I have not told a single lie
about it, sithence my good _Protection_ revealed in mine ear the right
way not to tell lies: namely, should _Mother_ ask me, "_Milly_, hast
thou seen again that gentleman?" that I should say out loud, "No,
_Mother_,"--and whisper to myself, under my breath, "this morrow,"--the
which should make it perfectly true.  And right glad was I to hear of
this most neat and delicate way of saving the truth, and yet not
uttering your secrets.

                                         SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXII.
If Mistress _Helena Louvaine_ could ever hold her peace from saying just
the very matter that I would give her a broad shilling to be quiet on!
Here, now, this even, when all we were sat in hall, what should she
begin with, but--

"_Father_, there is a thing I would ask at you."

"Say on, my maid," quoth he, right kindly as his wont is: for _Father_
is alway ready to counsel us maids, whensoever we may desire it.

"Then, _Father_," saith she, "what is falsehood?  Where doth it begin
and end?  Put a case that I am talking with _Alice Lewthwaite_, and she
shall ask me somewhat that I list not to tell her.  Should I commit sin,
if I told her but the half?"

"Hardly plain enough, my maid," saith _Father_.  "As to where falsehood
begins and ends,--it begins in thine heart: but where it ends, who shall
tell but God?  But set forth thy case something plainer."

"Well," saith she, "suppose, _Father_, that _Mother_ or you had showed
to me that _Wat_ was coming home, but had (for some cause you wist, and
I not) bidden me not to tell the same.  If _Alice_ should say `Hast
heard aught of late touching _Wat_, _Nell_?' must I say to her plain, `I
cannot answer thee,'--the which should show her there was a secret: or
should there be no ill to say `Not to-day,' or `Nought much,' or some
such matter as that?"

"Should there be any wrong in that, _Father_?" saith _Edith_, as though
she could not think there should.

"Dear hearts," saith _Father_, "I cannot but think a man's heart is gone
something wrong when he begins to meddle with casuistry.  The very
minute that _Adam_ fell from innocence, he took refuge in casuistry.
There was not one word of untruth in what he said to the Lord: he was
afraid, and he did hide himself.  Yet there was deception, for it was
not all the truth--no, nor the half.  As methinks, 'tis alway safest to
tell out the plain truth, and leave the rest to God."

"_Jack Lewthwaite_ said once," quoth _Edith_, "that at the grammar
school at _Kendal_, where he was, there was a lad that should speak out
to the master that which served his turn, and whisper the rest into his
cap; yet did he maintain stoutly that he told the whole truth.  What
should you call that, _Father_?"

"A shift got straight from the father of lies," he made answer.  "Trust
me, that lad shall come to no good, without he repent and change his
course."

Then Aunt _Joyce_ said somewhat that moved the discourse other whither:
but I had heard enough to make me rare diseaseful.  When I thought I had
hit on so excellent a fashion of telling the truth, and yet hiding my
secrets, to have _Father_ say such things came straight from _Satan_!
It liketh me not at all.  I would _Nell_ would let things a-be!

                                         SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXIV.
My good _Protection_ tells me 'tis country fashion to count such matter
deceit, and should never obtain in the Court at all.  And he asked me if
_Father_ were not given to be a little _Puritan_--he smiling the while
as though to be a _Puritan_ were somewhat not over well-liked of the
great.  Then I told him that I knew not well his meaning, for that word
was strange unto me.  So he said that word _Puritan_ was of late come
up, to denote certain precise folk that did desire for to be better than
their neighbours, and most of them only to make a talk, and get
themselves well accounted of by such common minds as should take them at
their own appraisement.

"Not, of course," saith he, "that such could ever be the case with a
gentleman of Sir _Audrey's_ worshipfulness, and with such an angel in
his house to guard him from all ill."

I did not well like this, for I would alway have _Father_ right well
accounted of, and not thought to fall into mean country ways.  But then
'gan he to talk of mine eyes, which he is ever a-praising, and after a
while I forgat my disease.

Still, I cannot right away with what _Father_ said.  If only _Father_
and _Mother_ could know all about this matter, and really consent
thereto, I would be a deal happier.  But my _Protection_ saith that were
contrary unto all custom of love-matters, and they must well know the
same: for in all matters where the elders do wit and order the same
themselves, 'tis always stupid and humdrum for the young folks, and no
romance left therein at all.

"It should suit well with Mistress _Nell_," saith he, "from what I do
hear touching her conditions [disposition]: but never were meet for the
noble and generous soul of my fairest _Amiability_, that is far above
all such mean things."

So I reckon, if the same always be, I must be content, and not trouble
me touching _Father's_ and _Mother's_ knowing.  But I do marvel if
_Father_ and _Mother_ did the like their own selves, for I know they
married o' love.  Howbeit, _Mother_ had none elders then living, nor
_Father_ neither, now I come to think thereon: wherefore with them 'twas
other matter.

Sithence I writ that last, come _Alice_ and _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and
their _Robin_, to four-hours: and mighty strange it is how folk be for
ever a-saying things as though they wist what I were a-thinking.  Here
_Blanche_ saith to _Nell_, that she would account that no jolly wedding
where her elders had ordered all for her, but would fain choose for
herself.

"I would likewise fain have my choice go along therewith," saith _Nell_,
"and so, doubtless, would every maid: nor do I think that any father and
mother should desire otherwise.  But thou signifiest not, surely,
_Blanche_, that thou shouldst love to order the whole matter thine own
self, apart from thine elders' pleasure altogether?"

"Ay, but I would," saith she: "it should have a deal better zest."

"It should have a deal less honesty!" saith _Nell_ with some heat--heat,
that is, for _Nell_.

"Honesty!" quoth _Blanche_: "soft you now [gently],--what dishonesty
should be therein?"

"Nay, _Blanche_, measure such dealing thyself by God's ell-wand of the
Fifth Commandment, and judge if it were honouring thine elders as He bid
thee."

"I do vow, _Nell_, thou art a _Puritan_!"

"By the which I know not what thou meanest," saith _Nell_, as cool as a
marble image.

"Why, 'tis a new word of late come up," quoth _Blanche_.  "They do call
all sad, precise, humdrum folk, _Puritans_."

"Who be `they'?" asks _Nell_.

"Why, all manner of folks--great folk in especial," saith she.

"Come, _Blanche_!" saith _Edith_, "where hast thou jostled with great
folk?"

"An' I have not," quoth she, something hotly, "I reckon I may have
talked with some that have."

"No great folk--my Lord _Dilston_ except--ever come to _Derwent-side_,"
saith _Edith_.

"And could I not discourse with my Lord _Dilston_, if it so pleased him
and me?" quoth _Blanche_, yet something angered.

"Come, my maids, fall not out," saith _Alice_.  "Thou well wist,
_Blanche_, thou hast had no talk with my Lord _Dilston_, that is known
all o'er for the bashfullest and silentest man with women ever was.  I
do marvel how he e'er gat wed, without his elders did order it for him."

Well, at this we all laughed, and _Alice_ turned the talk aside to other
matter, for I think she saw that _Blanche's_ temper (which is ne'er that
of an angel) were giving way.

I cannot help to be somewhat diseaseful, for it seemeth me as though
_Blanche_ might hint at Sir _Edwin_.  And I do trust he hath not been
a-flattering of her.  She is metely well-looking,--good of stature, and
a fair fresh face, grey eyen, and fair hair, as have the greater part of
maids about here, but her nose turns up too much for beauty.  She is not
for to compare with me nor _Edith_.

I must ask at Sir _Edwin_ to-morrow if he wist aught of _Blanche_.  If I
find him double-tongued--good lack! but methinks I would ne'er see him
no more, though it should break mine heart--as I cast no doubt it
should.

                                          SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXV.
'Tis all well, and _Blanche_ could not have meant to hint at my
_Protection_.  I asked at him if he knew one _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and
he seemed fair astonied, and said he knew no such an one, nor that any
of that name dwelt in all the vale.  Then I told him wherefore I had
asked it.  And he said that to think I was jealous of any for him did
him uttermost honour and pleasance, but did his fairest _Amiability_
(quo' he) think he could so much as look on any other face at after
hers?

Then I asked at him (as I had often desired to wit) where he were of a
_Sunday_, for that he never came to church.  And he told me that he had
an old friend, a parson, dwelling on _Winander-side_, and he did alway
abide with him o'er the _Sunday_.  Moreover he was something feared
(saith he) to be seen at _Keswick_ church, lest _Father_ should get
scent of him, wherefore he did deny himself the delight it had been
(quoth he) to feast his eyes on the fair face of his most sweet
_Amiability_.

"Then," said I, laughing, "you did not desire for to see _Father_ at the
first?"

"Soft you now!" saith he, and laughed too.  "`All is fair in love and
war.'"

"I doubt if _Father_ should say the same," said I.

"Well, see you," quoth he, "Sir _Aubrey_ is a right excellent gentleman,
yet hath he some precise notions which obtain not at Court and in such
like company.  A man cannot square all his dealings by the Bible and the
parsons, without he go out of the world.  And here away in the country,
where every man hath known you from your cradle, it is easier to ride of
an hobby than in Town, where you must do like other folk or else be
counted singular and ridiculous.  No brave and gallant man would run the
risk of being thought singular."

"Why, _Father's_ notion is right the contrary," said I.  "I have heard
him to say divers times that 'tis the cowards which dare not be laughed
at, and that it takes a right brave man to dare to be thought singular."

"Exactly!" saith he.  "That is right the _Puritan_ talk, as I had the
honour to tell you aforetime.  You should never hear no gentleman of the
Court to say no such a thing."

"But," said I, "speak they alway the most truth in the Court?"

This seemed to divert him rarely.  He laughed for a minute as though he
should ne'er give o'er.

"My fairest _Amiability_," saith he, "had I but thee in the Court, as is
the only place meet for thee, then shouldst thou see how admired of
every creature were thy wondrous wit and most incomparable beauties.
Why, I dare be sworn on all the books in _Cumberland_, thou shouldest be
of the Queen's Majesty's maids in one week's time.  And of the delights
and jollities of that life, dwelling here in a corner of _England_, thou
canst not so much as cast an idea."  Methought that should be right
rare.

                                        SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXVII.
With Aunt _Joyce_ this morrow to visit old _Nanny Crewdson_, that is
brother's widow to _Isaac_, and dwelleth in a cot up _Thirlmere_ way.  I
would fain have avoided the same an' I might, for I never took no list
in visiting poor folk, and sithence I have wist my right noble
_Protection_ do I take lesser than ever.  In very deed, all relish is
gone for me out of every thing but him and the jolly Court doings
whereof he tells me.  And I am ever so much happier than I was of old,
with nought but humdrum matter; only that now and then, for a short
while, I am a deal more miserabler.  I cannot conceive what it is that
cometh o'er me at those times.  'Tis like as if I were dancing on
flowers, and some unseen hand did now and then push aside the flowers,
and I saw a great and horrible black gulf underneath, and that one false
step should cast me down therein.  Nor will any thing comfort me, at
those times, but to talk with my _Protection_, that can alway dispel the
gloom.  But the things around, that I have been bred up in, do grow more
and more distasteful unto me than ever.

Howbeit, I am feared to show folk the same, so when Aunt _Joyce_ called
me to come with her to _Nanny_, I made none ado, but tied on mine hood
and went.

We found old _Nanny_--that is too infirm for aught but to sit of a chair
in the sunshine--so doing by the window, beside her a little table, and
thereon a great Bible open, with her spectacles of her nose, that she
pulled off and wiped, and set down of the book to keep her place.

"Well, _Nanny_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "`Sitting down under His shadow,'
dear heart?"

"Ay, Mistress _Joyce_," saith she, "and `with great delight.'"

I marvel if old folk do really like to read the Bible.  I never did.
And the older I grow, the lesser doth it like me.  Can they mean it,
trow?  If they do, then I suppose I shall like it when I am as old as
_Nanny_.  But, good lack! what gloomsome manner of life must that be,
wherein one shall find one's diversion in reading of the Bible!

I know _Father_ and _Mother_ would say clean contrary.  But they, see
you, were bred up never to see a Bible in _English_ till they were
grown: which is as different as can be to the like of us maids, that
never knew the day when it lay not of the hall table.  But therein runs
my pen too fast, for _Anstace_ can well remember Queen _Mary's_ time,
though _Nell_ scarce can do so,--only some few matters here and there.

So then Aunt _Joyce_ and _Nan_ fell a-talking,--and scarce so much as a
word could I conceive.  [Note 1.]  They might well-nigh as good have
talked _Greek_ for me.  Yet one matter will I set down the which I mean
to think o'er--some time, when I am come to divert me with the Bible,
and am as old as _Nanny_.  Not now, of course.

"Where art reading, _Nanny_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"In _Esaias_, Mistress _Joyce_.  Fifty-eighth chapter, first and second
verses.  There's fine reading in _Esaias_."

"Ay, _Nan_, there is," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "But what toucheth it?  I am
ill set to remember chapter and verse."

"Well, Mistress, first it saith, `Show My people their transgression.'
And i' th' very next verse,--`Yet they seek me daily,'--nay, there's
more--`they take delight in approaching to God.'"

"Well, _Nan_?  That reads strange,--no doth it?"

"Ah, it doth, Mistress _Joyce_.  But I think, look ye, there's a deal i'
th' word _approaching_.  See ye, it saith not they take delight to get
near.  Nay, folk o' that make has a care not to get too near.  They'll
lay down a chalk line, and they'll stop outside on't.  If they'd only
come near enough, th' light 'd burn up all them transgressions: but, ye
see, that wouldn't just suit 'em.  These is folk that wants to have th'
Lord--a tidy way from 'em--and keep th' transgressions too.  Eh,
Mistress, but when a man can pray right through th' hundred and
thirty-ninth Psalm, his heart's middlin' perfect wi' the Lord.
Otherwise, he'll boggle at them last verses.  We don't want Him to
search us when we know He'll find yon wedge o' gold and yon _Babylonish_
garment if He do.  Nay, we don't so!"

Now, I know not o'er well what old _Nan_ meaneth: but this do I know--
that whenever I turn o'er the _Psalter_, I ever try to get yon Psalm
betwixt two leaves, and turn them o'er both together, so that I see not
a word on't.  I reckon _Nan_ should say my heart was not perfect by a
great way.  Well, may-be she'd be none so far out.

                                         SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE XXIX.
To-morrow shall be the last day of my month, and _Tuesday_ even must I
give up the book to _Edith_.  I shall not tear out the leaves till the
last minute, and I will keep them when I do.

I do never see nought of my _Protection_ of a _Sunday_, but all other
days meet I him now (whenas I can) in the little copse that lieth
_Thirlmere_ way, not so far from _Nanny's_ hut.  Last even was he
essaying to win me for to wed him (as he hath done afore) without
_Father_ and _Mother_ knowing.  I have ever held off till now: but I am
not so sure I shall do it much longer.  He saith he wist a _Popish_
priest that should do it: and it so done, _Father_ and _Mother_ must
needs come in and give us leave to be wed rightly in church.  But I will
consider of the same a day or twain longer.

As to setting down what we do of a _Sunday_, 'tis alway the same o'er
again, so it should be to no good.  Once is enough for all.

                                         SELWICK HALL, NOVEMBER YE LAST.
Such a fright have I had this morrow, I may scantly hold my pen.  I set
forth for the copse where I do meet with my _Protection_, and had
well-nigh reached it,--verily, I could discern him coming through the
trees to meet me--when from _Nanny's_ hut, right upon us, who should
come out save _Father_, and _Mother_, and _Edith_, their own selves.  I
cast but a glint to him that he should not note me, and walked on to
meet them.

"Why, _Milly_!" saith _Mother_.  "I wist not thou wert coming this way,
child."

"Under your pleasure, _Mother_, no more did I of you," said I.

"Why, _Milly_, do but look at yon gentleman!" saith _Edith_, as he
passed by us, taking no note of us at all.  "Is it not the same we met
on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle?"

"Is it so?" said I, making believe to look after him, the rather since
it gave me an excuse to turn my back on them.  "He bears a green
jerkin,--otherwise--"

Wherein I am very sure I said _no_ falsity, as whatso _Father_ might
say.

"I do think it is the same," saith _Edith_.  "Came he ever to speak with
you, _Father_?"

"Nay, my lass, I mind him not," saith _Father_.

"He is not ill-looking," saith _Mother_.

"May-be not," quoth _Father_.  "Thou art a better judge of such matters
than I, dear heart.  I only note the way a man's soul looketh out of his
eyes, not the colour of the eyes whence it looketh."

"Now, _Father_, under your good leave, that is not well said," _Edith_
makes answer: "for you have your own self the fairest eyes ever a man's
soul looked forth of."

_Father_ laughs at this, and doffs his cap merrily.

"Your very humble servant, Mistress _Editha Louvaine_," quoth he: "when
I do desire to send forth to the world a book of all my beauties,
learning, and virtues, I will bid you to write therein touching mine
eyes.  They serve me well to see withal, I thank God, and beyond that
issue have I never troubled me regarding them."

"And how liked you the manner of Sir _Edwin Tregarvon's_ soul looking
forth, _Father_?" saith _Edith_, also laughing.

"Why, that could I not see," quoth he, "for he keeping his eyes bent
upon the ground, it did not look forth.  But I cannot say his face
altogether pleased me."

How mighty strange is it that all they--and in especial _Father_, that I
have alway reckoned so wise--should have so little discernment!

Well, methought, as they were there, I must needs come home with them:
and this afternoon, if I can steal hence without any seeing me, will I
go yet again to the copse, to see if I may find my _Protection_: for I
have well-nigh granted the privy wedding he hath pled so hard for, and
this morrow we thought to order the inwards thereof [settle the
details].  As next _Sunday_ at even, saith he, I am to steal forth of
the garden door, and he shall meet me in the lane with an hackney and
two or three serving-men for guard: and so go we forth to _Ambleside_,
where the priest shall join our hands, and then come back and entreat
_Father_ and _Mother's_ pardon and blessing.  I dare be bound there
shall be much commotion, and some displeasant speeches; but I trust all
shall blow o'er in time: and after all (as saith my _Protection_) when
there is no hope that _Father_ and _Mother_ should give us leave
aforehand, what else can we do?

Verily, it is a sore trouble that elders will stand thus in young folks'
way that do love each other.  And my _Protection_ is not so much elder
than I.  In the stead of only ten or fifteen years younger than
_Father_, he is twenty-five well reckoned, having but four-and-thirty
years: and I was twenty my last birthday, which is two months gone.  And
if he look (as he alloweth) something elder than his years, it is, as he
hath told me, but trouble and sorrow, of which he hath known much.  My
poor _Protection_! in good sooth, I am sorry for his trouble.

I shall not tear out my leaves afore I am back, and meantime, I do keep
the book right heedfully under lock and key.

As for any paying of two-pences, that is o'er for me now; so there were
no good to reckon them up.  My noble _Protection_ saith, when he hath
but once gat me safe to the Court, then shall I have a silken gown every
day I do live, and jewelling so much as ever I shall desire.  He will
set off his _Amiability_ (quoth he) that all shall see and wonder at
her.  Though I count _Father_ doth love me, yet am I sure, my
_Protection_ loveth me a deal the more.  'Tis only fitting, therefore,
that I cleave to him rather.

Now must I go forth and see if I may meet with him.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The words _understand_ and _conceive_ have changed places since
the days of Elizabeth.  To understand then meant to originate an idea:
to conceive, to realise an imparted thought.



CHAPTER FIVE.

AUNT JOYCE SPOILS THE GAME.

  "We shun two paths, my maiden,
      When strangers' way we tell--
  That which ourselves we know not,
      That which we know too well.

  "I `never knew!'  Thou think'st it?
      Well!  Better so, to-day.
  The years lie thick and mossy
      O'er that long-silent way.

  "The roses there are withered,
      The thorns are tipped with pain:
  Thou wonderest if I tell thee
      `Walk not that way again?'

  "Oh eyes that see no further
      Than this world's glare and din!
  I warn thee from that pathway
      Because I slipped therein.

  "So, leave the veil up-hanging!
      And tell the world outside--
  `She cannot understand me--
      She nothing has to hide!'"

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

                                       SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE FIRST.
I would have fain let be the records of this sad first day that this
chronicle is come to mine hand.  But _Father_ and _Mother_ do desire me
to set down honestly what hath happed, the which therefore I must essay
to do.

It was of long time that I had noted a strange difference in _Milly_,
and had talked with _Nell_ thereabout, more than once or twice.  Though
_Milisent_ is by four years elder than I, yet she had alway been the one
of us most loving frolicsome merriment.  But now it seemed me as though
she had grown up over my head, all at once.  Not that she was less
mirthful at times: nay, rather more, if aught.  But at other times she
seemed an other maid, and not our _Milly_ at all.  It was not our
_Milly's_ wont to sit with her hands of her lap, a-gazing from the
window; nor to answer sharp and short when one spake to her; nor to
appear all unrestful, as though she were in disease of mind.  And at
last, _Nell_ thinking less thereof than I, I made up my mind to speak
with Aunt _Joyce_, that I knew was wise and witty [sensible], and if
there were aught gone wrong, should take it less hard than _Mother_, and
could break the same to _Mother_ more gentler than we.  To say truth, I
was feared--and yet I scarce knew why--of that man we met on Saint
_Hubert's_ Isle.  I had noted that _Milly_ never named him, though he
were somewhat cause of mirth betwixt _Helen_ and me: and when an other
so did, she seemed as though she essayed to speak as careless as ever
she could.  This liked me not: nor did it like me that twice I had met
_Milly_ coming from the garden, and she went red as fire when she saw
me.  From all this I feared some secret matter that should not be: and
as yester-morrow, when we were come from _Nanny's_, I brake my mind to
Aunt _Joyce_.

Aunt _Joyce_ did not cry "Pish!" nor fault me for conceiving foolish
fantasies, as I was something feared she might.  On the contrary part,
she heard me very kindly and heedfully, laying down her work to give
better ear.  When I had done, she saith--

"Tell me, _Edith_, what like is this man."

I told her so well as I could.

"And how oft hast thou seen him?"

"Three times, _Aunt_.  The first on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle, whereof you
know: the second, I met him once in the lane behind the garden, as I was
a-coming home from _Isaac Crewdson's_: and the last, this morrow, just
as we came out of _Nanny's_ door, we met _Milisent_, full face: and a
minute at after, this Sir _Edwin_ passed us on the road."

"Took he any note of you, either time?"

"When he met me alone, he doffed his cap and smiled, but spake not.
This morrow he took no note of any one."

"_Could_ she be going to meet him?" saith Aunt _Joyce_ in a low and very
troubled voice.

"In good sooth, _Aunt_," said I, "you have put into words my very fear,
which I did scarce dare to think right out."

"_Edith_," saith she, "is _Milly_ within, or no?"

"She was tying on her hood a moment since, as though she meant to go
forth.  I saw her through a chink of the door, which was not close shut,
as I passed by."

"Come thou with me quickly," saith Aunt _Joyce_, and rose up.  "We will
follow her.  'Tis no treachery to lay snare for a traitor, if it be as I
fear.  And 'tis not she that is the traitor, poor child--poor, foolish
child!"

We walked quickly, for our aim was to keep _Milisent_ but just in view,
yet not to let her see us.  She was walking fast, too, and she took the
road to _Nanny's_, but turned off just ere she were there, into the
little shaw that lieth by the way.  We followed quietly, till we could
hear voices: then Aunt _Joyce_ stayed her behind a poplar-tree, and made
me a sign to be still.

"All things be now ordered, my fairest," I heard a voice say which
methought was Sir _Edwin's_: and peeping heedfully round the poplar, I
caught a glimpse of his side-face, enough to be sure it were he.  Aunt
_Joyce_ could see him likewise.  "All things be ordered," quoth he:
"remember, nine o' the clock on _Sunday_ night."

"But thou wilt not fail me?" saith _Milisent's_ voice in answer.

"Fail thee!" he made answer.  "My sweetest of maids, impossible!"

"I feel afeared," she saith again.  "I would they had wist at home.  I
cannot be sure 'tis right."

"Nay, sweet heart, call not up these old ghosts I have laid so oft
already," saith he.  "Sir _Aubrey's Puritan_ notions should never
suffer him to give thee leave afore: but when done, he shall right soon
o'erlook all, and all shall go merry as a marriage bell.  Seest thou, we
do him in truth a great kindness, sith he should be feared to give
consent, and yet would fain so do if his conscience should allow."

"Would he?" asks _Milly_, in something a troubled tone.

"Would he!"  Sir _Edwin_ makes answer.  "Would he have his daughter a
right great lady at the Court?  Why, of course he would.  Every man
would that were not a born fool.  My honey-sweet _Milisent_, let not
such vain scruples terrify thee.  They are but shadows, I do ensure
thee."

"I think thus when I am with thee," saith she, smiling up in his face:
"but when not--"

"Sweet heart," saith he, bending his goodly head, "_not_ is well-nigh
over, and then thy cruel _Puritan_ scruples shall never trouble thee
more."

"It is as we feared," I whispered into the ear of Aunt _Joyce_, whose
face was turned from me: but when she turned her head, I was terrified.
I never in my life saw Aunt _Joyce_ look as she did then.  Out of her
cheeks and lips every drop of blood seemed driven, and her eyes were
blazing fire.  When she whispered back, it was through her set teeth.

"`As!'  Far worse.  Worser than thou wist.  Is this the man?"

"This is Sir _Edwin_!"

Without another word Aunt _Joyce_ stalked forth, and had _Milisent_ by
the arm ere she found time to scream.  Then she shrieked and shrank, but
Aunt _Joyce_ held her fast.

"Get you gone!" was all she said to Sir _Edwin_.

"Nay, Mistress, tell me rather by what right--"

"Right!"  Aunt _Joyce_ loosed her hold of _Milisent_, and went and stood
right before him.  "Right!--from you to me!"

"Mistress, I cry you mercy, but we be entire strangers."

"Be we?" she made answer, with more bitterness in her voice than ever I
heard therein.  "Be we such strangers?  What! think you I know you not,
_Leonard Norris_?  You counted on the change of all these years to hide
you from _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_, and you counted safely enough.  They
would not know you if they stood here.  But did you fancy years could
hide you from _Joyce Morrell_?  Traitor! a woman will know the man she
has loved, though his own mother were to pass him by unnoted."

Sir _Edwin_ uttered not a word, but stood gazing on Aunt _Joyce_ as
though she had bound him by a spell.

She turned back to us a moment.  "_Milisent_ and _Edith_, go home!" she
saith.  "_Milisent_, thank God that He hath saved thee from the very
jaws of Hell--from a man worser than any fiend.  _Edith_, tell thy
father what hath happed, but say nought of all this to thy mother.  I
shall follow you anon.  I have yet more ado with him here.  Make thy
mind easy, child--he'll not harm _me_.  Now go."

_Milisent_ needed no persuasions.  She seemed as though Aunt _Joyce's_
words had stunned her, and she followed me like a dog.  We spake no word
to each other all the way.  When we reached home, _Milly_ went straight
up to her own chamber: and I, being mindful of Aunt _Joyce's_ bidding,
went in search of _Father_, whom I found at his books in his closet.

Ah me, but what sore work it were to tell him!  I might scarce bear to
see the sorrowful changes wrought in his face.  But when I came to tell
how Aunt _Joyce_ had called this gentleman by the name of _Leonard
Norris_, for one minute his eyes blazed out like hers.  Then they went
very dark and troubled, and he hid his face in his hands till I had made
an end of my sad story.

"And I would fain not have been she that told you, _Father_," said I,
"but Aunt _Joyce_ bade me so to do."

"I must have heard it from some lips, daughter," he saith sorrowfully.
"But have a care thou say no word to thy mother.  She must hear it from
none but me.  My poor _Lettice_!--and my poor _Milisent_, my poor,
foolish, duped child!"

I left him then, for I thought he would desire it, and went up to
_Milly_.  She had cast off her hood and tippet, and lay on her bed, her
face turned to the wall.

"Dost lack aught, _Milly_?" said I.

"Nay," was all she said.

"Shall I bide with thee?"

"Nay."

Nor one word more might I get out of her.  So I left her likewise, and
came down to the little parlour, where I sat me to my sewing.

It was about an hour after that I heard Aunt _Joyce's_ firm tread on the
gravel.  She came into the parlour, and looked around as though to see
who were there.  Then she saith--

"None but thee, _Edith_?  Where are the rest?"

There was a break in her voice, such as folk have when they have been
sore troubled.

"I have been alone this hour, _Aunt_.  _Milly_ is in our chamber, and
_Father_ I left in his closet.  Whither _Mother_ and _Nell_ be I know
not."

"Hast told him?"

"Ay, and he said only himself must tell _Mother_."

"I knew he would.  God help her!"

"You think she shall take it very hard, _Aunt_?"

"_Edith_," saith Aunt _Joyce_ softly, "there is more to take hard than
thou wist.  And we know not well yet all the ill he may have wrought to
_Milisent_."

Then away went she, and I heard her to rap on the door of _Father's_
closet.  For me, I sat and sewed a while longer: and yet none coming, I
went up to our chamber, partly that I should wash mine hands, and partly
to see what was come of _Milly_.

She still lay on the bed, but her face turned somewhat more toward me,
and by her shut eyes and even breathing I could guess that she slept.  I
sat me down in the window to wait, when mine hands were washen: for I
thought some should come after a while, and may-be should not count it
right that I left _Milisent_ all alone.  I guess it were a good
half-hour I there sat, and _Milly_ slept on.  At the last come _Mother_,
her eyes very red as though she had wept much.

"Doth she sleep, _Edith_?" she whispered.

I said, "Ay, _Mother_: she hath slept this half-hour or more."

"Poor child!" she saith.  "If only I could have wist sooner!  How much I
might have saved her!  O poor child!"

The water welled up in her eyes again, and she went away, something in
haste.  I had thought _Mother_ should be angered, and I was something
astonied to see how soft she were toward _Milly_.  A while after, Aunt
_Joyce_ come in: but _Milly_ slept on.

"I am fain to see that," saith she, nodding her head toward the bed.  "A
good sign.  Yet I would I knew exactly how she hath taken it."

"I am afeared she may be angered, Aunt _Joyce_, to be thus served of one
she trusted."

"I hope so much.  'Twill be the best thing she can be.  The question is
what she loved--whether himself or his flattering of herself.  She'll
soon get over the last, for it shall be nought worser with her than hurt
vanity."

"Not the first, _Aunt_?"

"I do not know, _Edith_," she saith, and crushed in her lips.  "That
hangs on what sort of woman she be.  There shall be a wound, in either
case: but with some it gets cicatrised over and sound again with time,
and with other some it tarries an open issue for ever.  It hangs all on
the manner of woman."

"What should it be with you, Aunt _Joyce_?" said I, though I were
something feared of mine own venturesomeness.

"What it _is_, _Edith_," she made answer, crushing in her lips again,
"is the open issue, bandaged o'er so that none knows it is there save He
to whose eyes all things be open.  Child, there be some things in life
wherein the only safe confidant thou canst have is _Jesu Christ_.  I say
so much, by reason that thine elders think it best--and I likewise--that
ye maids should be told somewhat more than ye have heard aforetime.  Ay,
I give full assent thereto.  I only held out for one thing--that I, not
your mother, should be she that were to tell it."

We were silent a moment, and then _Milisent_ stirred in her sleep.  Aunt
_Joyce_ went to her.

"Awake, my dear heart?" saith she.

_Milly_ sat up, and pushed aside her hair from her face, the which was
flushed and sullen.

"Aunt _Joyce_, may the Lord forgive you for this day's work!" saith she.

I was fair astonied that she should dare thus to speak.  But Aunt
_Joyce_ was in no wise angered.

"Amen!" she saith, as softly as might be spoken.  "Had I no worser sins
to answer for, methinks I should stand the judgment."

"No worser!"  _Milisent_ blazed forth.  "What, you think it a light
matter to part two hearts that love well and truly?"

"Nay, truly, I think it right solemn matter," saith Aunt _Joyce_, still
softly.  "And if aught graver can be, _Milly_, it is to part two whereof
the one loveth well, and the other--may God forgive us all!"

"What mean you now?" saith _Milisent_ of the same fashion.  "Is it my
love you doubt, or his?"

"_Milisent Louvaine_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "if thou be alive twenty
years hence, thou shalt thank God from thy very heart-root that thou
wert stayed on that road to-day."

"Oh ay, that is what folk always say!" murmurs she, and laid her down
again.  "`Thou wilt thank me twenty years hence,' quoth they, every
stinging stroke of the birch.  And they look for us beaten hounds to
crede it, forsooth!"

"Ay--when the twenty years be over."

"I am little like to thank you at twenty years' end," saith _Milly_
sullenly, "for I count I shall die of heart-break afore twenty weeks."

"No, _Milly_, I think not."

"And much you care!"

Then I saw Aunt _Joyce's_ face alter--terribly.

"_Milisent_," she said, "if I had not cared, I should scantly have gone
of set purpose through that which wrung every fibre of my heart, ay, to
the heart's core."

"It wrung me more than you," _Milisent_ makes answer, of the same
bitter, angered tone as aforetime.

Aunt _Joyce_ turned away from the bed, and I saw pain and choler strive
for a moment in her eyes.  Then the choler fell back, and the pain
abode.

"Poor child!  She cannot conceive it."  She said nought sterner; and she
came and sat in the window alongside of me.

"I tell you, Aunt _Joyce_,"--and _Milisent_ sat up again, and let
herself down, and came and stood before us--"I tell you, you have ruined
my life!"

"My maid," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer, with sore trouble in her voice,
"thine elders will fain have thee and thy sisters told a tale the which
we have alway kept from you until now.  It was better hidden, unless you
needed the lesson.  But now they think it shall profit thee, and may-be
save _Helen_ and _Edith_ from making any like blunder.  And--well, I
have granted it.  Only I stood out for one point--that I myself should
be the one to tell it you.  Wait till thou hast heard that story, the
which I will tell thee to-morrow.  And at after thou hast heard it,--
then tell me, _Milly_, whether I cared for thee this morrow, or whether
the hand that hath ruined thy life were the hand of _Joyce Morrell_."

"Oh, but you were cruel, cruel!" sobbed _Milly_.  "I loved him so!"

"So did I, _Milisent_," saith Aunt _Joyce_ very softly, "long ere you
maids were born.  Loved him so fondly, trusted him so wholly, clung to
him so faithfully, that mine eyes had to be torn open before I would see
the truth--that even now, after all these years, it is like thrusting a
dagger into my soul to tell you verily who and what he is.  Ay, child, I
loved that man in mine early maidenhood, better than ever thou didst or
wouldst have done.  Dost thou think it was easy to stand up to the face
that I had loved, and to play the avenging angel toward his perfidy?  If
thou dost, thou mayest know much of foolishness and fantasy, but very
little of true and real love."

_Milisent_ seemed something startled and cowed.  Then all suddenly she
saith,--"But, Aunt _Joyce_!  He told me he were only of four-and-thirty
years."

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed bitterly.

"Wert so poor an innocent as to crede that, _Milly_?" saith she.  "He is
a year elder than thy father.  But I grant, he looks by far younger than
he is.  And I reckon he 'bated ten years or so of what he looked.  He
alway looked young," she saith, the softened tone coming back into her
voice.  "Men with fair hair like his, mostly do, until all at once they
break into aged men.  And he hath kept him well, with washes and
unguents."

It was strange to hear how the softness and the bitterness strave
together in her voice.  I count it were by reason they so strave in her
heart.

"Wait till to-morrow, _Milly_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, arising.  "Thou
shalt hear then of my weary walk through the thorns, and judge for
thyself if I had done well to leave thee to the like."

_Milly_ sobbed again, but methought something more softly.

"We were to have been wed o' _Sunday_ even," saith she, "by a _Popish_
priest, right as good as in church,--and then to have come home and won
_Father_ and _Mother_ to forgive us and bless us.  Then all had been
smooth and sweet, and we should have lived happy ever after."

Oh, but what pitifulness was there in Aunt _Joyce's_ smile!

"Should you?" saith she, in a tone which seemed to me like the biggest
nay ever printed in a book.  "Poor innocent child!  A _Popish_ priest
cannot lawfully wed any, and evening is out of the canonical hours.
Wist thou not that such marriage should ne'er have held good in law?"

"It might have been good in God's sight, trow," saith she, something
perversely.

"Nay!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "When men go to, of set purpose, to break
the laws of their country,--without it be in obedience to His plain
command,--I see not how the Lord shall hold them guiltless.  So he
promised to bring thee home to ask pardon, did he?  Poor, trusting,
deluded child!  Thou shouldst never have come home, _Milly_--unless it
had been a year or twain hence, a forlorn, heart-broken, wretched thing.
Well, we could have forgiven thee and comforted thee then--as we will
now."

I am right weary a-writing, and will stay mine hand till I set down
_Aunt's_ story to-morrow.

                                       SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE SECOND.
I marvel when I can make an end of writing, or when matters shall have
done happening.  For early this morrow, ere breakfast were well over,
come a quick rap of the door, which _Caitlin_ opened, and in come _Alice
Lewthwaite_.  Not a bit like herself looked she, with a scarf but just
cast o'er her head, and all out of breath, as though she had come forth
all suddenly, and had run fast and far.  We had made most of us an end
of eating, but were yet sat at the table.

"_Alice_, dear heart, what aileth thee?" saith _Mother_, and rose up.

"Lady _Lettice_, do pray you tell me," panteth she, "if you have seen or
heard aught of our _Blanche_?"

"Nay, _Alice_, in no wise," saith _Mother_.

"Lack the day!" quoth she, "then our fears be true."

"What fears, dear heart?"  I think _Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt
_Joyce_, asked at her all together.

"I would as lief say nought, saving to my Lady, and Mistress _Joyce_,"
she saith: so they bare her away, and what happed at that time I cannot
say, saving that _Father_ himself took _Alice_ home, and did seem
greatly concerned at her trouble.  Well, this was scantly o'er ere a
messenger come with a letter to _Mother_, whereon she had no sooner cast
her eyes than she brake forth with a cry of pleasure.  Then, _Father_
desiring to know what it were, she told us all that certain right dear
and old friends of hers, the which she had not seen of many years, were
but now at the _Salutation_ Inn at _Ambleside_, and would fain come on
and tarry a season here if it should suit with _Mother's_ conveniency to
have them.

"And right fain should I be," saith she; and so said _Father_ likewise.

Then _Mother_ told us who were these her old friends: to wit, Sir
_Robert Stafford_ and his lady, which was of old time one Mistress
_Dulcibel Fenton_, of far kin unto my Lady _Norris_, that was _Mother's_
mistress of old days at _Minster Lovel_: and moreover, one Mistress
_Martin_, a widow that is sister unto Sir _Robert_, and was _Mother's_
fellow when she served my dear-worthy Lady of _Surrey_.  So _Father_
saith he would ride o'er himself to _Ambleside_, and give them better
welcome than to send but a letter back: and _Mother_ did desire her most
loving commendations unto them all, and bade us all be hasteful and help
to make ready the guest-chambers.  So right busy were we all the morrow,
and no time for no tales of no sort: but in the afternoon, when all was
done, Aunt _Joyce_ had us three up into her chamber, and bade us sit and
listen.

"For it is a sorrowful story I have to tell," saith she: and added, as
though she spake to herself,--"ay, and it were best got o'er ere
_Dulcie_ cometh."

So we sat all in the window-seat, _Milly_ in the midst, and Aunt _Joyce_
afore us in a great cushioned chair.

"When I was of your years, _Milly_," saith she, "I dwelt--where I now do
at _Minster Lovel_, with my father and my sister _Anstace_.  Our mother
was dead, and our baby brother _Walter_; and of us there had never been
more.  But we had two cousins--one _Aubrey Louvaine_, the son of our
mother's sister,--you wot who he is," she saith, and smiled: "and the
other, the son of our father's sister dwelt at _Oxford_ with his mother,
a widow, and his name was--_Leonard Norris_."

The name was so long a-coming that I marvelled if she meant to tell us.

"I do not desire to make my tale longer than need is, dear hearts,"
pursueth she, "and therefore I will but tell you that in course of time,
with assent of my father and his mother, my cousin _Leonard_ and I were
troth-plight.  I loved him, methinks, as well as it was in woman to love
man: and--I thought he loved me.  I never knew a man who had such a
tongue to cajole a woman's heart.  He could talk in such a fashion that
thou shouldst feel perfectly assured that he loved thee with all his
heart, and none but thee: and ere the sun had set, he should have given
the very same certainty to _Nan_ at the farm, and to _Mall_ down in the
glen.  I believe he did rarely make love to so little as one woman at
once.  He liked--he once told your father so much--a choice of strings
for his bow.  But of all this, at first, lost in my happy love, I knew
nothing.  My love to him was so true and perfect, that the very notion
that his could be lesser than so never entered mine head.  It was
_Anstace_ who saw the clouds gathering before any other--_Anstace_, to
whom, in her helpless suffering, God gave a strange power of reading
hearts.  There came a strange maiden on the scene--a beautiful maiden,
with fair eyes and gleaming hair--and _Leonard's_ heart was gone from me
for ever.  Gone!--had it ever come?  I cannot tell.  May-be some little
corner of his heart was mine, once on a time--I doubt if I had more.  He
had every corner and every throb of mine.  Howbeit, when this maid--"

"How was she called, Aunt _Joyce_?" saith _Milly_, in rather an hard
voice.

Aunt _Joyce_ did not make answer for a moment: and, looking up on her, I
saw drawn brows and flushed cheeks.

"Never mind that, _Milly_.  I shall call her _Mary_.  It was not her
name.  Well, when this maid first came to visit us, and I brought her
above to my sister, that as ye know might never arise from the couch
whereon she lay--I something marvelled to see how quick from her face to
mine went _Anstace'_ eyes, and back again to her.  I knew, long after,
what had been her thought.  She had no faith in _Leonard_, and she
guessed quick enough that this face should draw him away from me.  She
tried to prepare me as she saw it coming.  But I was blind and deaf.  I
shut mine eyes tight, and put my fingers in mine ears.  I would not face
the cruel truth.  For _Mary_ herself, I am well assured she meant me no
ill, nor did she see that any ill was wrought till all were o'er.  She
did but divert her with _Leonard's_ words, caring less for him than for
them.  She was vain, and loved flatteries, and he saw it, and gave her
them by the bushel.  She was a child laking with a firebrand, and never
knew what it were until she burnt her fingers.  And at last, maids, mine
eyes were forced open.  _Leonard_ himself told me, and in so many words,
what I had refused to hear from others,--that he loved well enough the
gold that was like to be mine, but he did not love me.  There were
bitter words on both sides, but mine were bitterest.  And so, at last,
we parted.  I could show you the flag on which he stood when I saw his
face for the last time--the last, until I saw it yester-morrow.  Others
had seen him, and knew him not, through the changes of years.  Even your
father did not know him, though they had been bred up well-nigh as
brothers.  But mine eyes were sharper.  I had not borne that face in
mine heart, and seen it in my dreams, for all these years, that I should
look on him and not know it.  I knew the look in his eyes, the poise of
his head, the smile on his lips, too well--too well!  I reckon that
between that day and this, a thousand women may have had that smile upon
them.  But I thought of the day when I had it--when it was the one light
of life to me--for I had not then beheld the Light of the World.
_Milly_, didst thou think me cruel yester-morrow?--cold, and hard, and
stern?  Ah, men do think a woman so,--and women at times likewise--think
her words hard, when she has to crush her heart down ere she can speak
any word at all--think her eyes icy cold, when behind them are a storm
of passionate tears that must not be shed then, and she has to keep the
key hard turned lest they burst the door open.  Ah, young maids, you
look upon me as who should say, that I am an old woman from whom such
words are strange to you.  They be fit only for a young lass's lips,
forsooth?  Childre, you wis not yet that the hot love of youth is nought
to be compared to the yearning love of age,--that the maid that loveth a
man whom she first met a month since cannot bear the rushlight unto her
that has shrined him in her heart for thirty years."

Aunt _Joyce_ tarried a moment, and drew a long breath.  Then she saith
in a voice that was calmer and lower--

"_Anstace_ told me I loved not the _Leonard_ that was, but only he that
should have been.  But I have prayed God day and night, and I will go on
yet praying, that the man of my love may be the _Leonard_ that yet shall
be,--that some day he may turn back to God and me, and remember the true
heart that poured all that love upon him.  If it be so, let the Lord
order how, and where, and when.  For if I may know that it is, when I
come into His presence above, I can finish my journey here without the
knowledge."

"But it were better to know it, Aunt _Joyce_?" saith _Helen_ tenderly.
Methinks the tale had stirred her heart very much.

"It were happier, _Nelly_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ softly.  "God knoweth
whether it were best.  If it be so, He will give it me.--And now is the
hardest part of my tale to tell.  For after a while, _Milly_,
this--_Mary_--came to see what _Leonard_ meant, and methinks she came
about the same time to the certainty that she loved one who was not
_Leonard_.  When he had parted from me he sought her, and there was much
bitterness betwixt them.  At the last she utterly denied him, and shut
the door betwixt him and her: for the which he never forgave her, but at
a later time, when in the persecutions under King _Henry_ she came into
his power, he used her as cruelly as he might then dare to go.  I
reckon, had it been under _Queen Mary_, he should have been content with
nought less than her blood.  But it pleased the good Lord to deliver
her, he getting him entangled in some briars of politics that you should
little care to hear: and so when she was freed forth of prison, he was
shut up therein."

"Then, Aunt _Joyce_, is he a _Papist_?" saith _Helen_, of a startled
fashion.

"Ay, _Nell_, he is a black _Papist_.  When we all came forth of
_Babylon_, he tarried therein."

"And what came of her you called _Mary_, if it please you, _Aunt_?"
quoth I.

"She was wed to one that dwelt at a distance from those parts, _Edith_,"
saith Aunt _Joyce_, in the constrained tone wherein she had begun her
story.  "And sithence then have I heard at times of _Leonard_, though
never meeting him,--but alway as of one that was journeying from bad to
worse--winning hearts and then breaking them.  Since Queen _Elizabeth_
came in, howbeit, heard I never word of him at all: and I knew not if he
were in life or no, till I set eyes on his face yesterday."

We were all silent till Aunt _Joyce_ saith gently--

"Well, _Milly_,--should we have been more kinder if we had let thee
alone to break thine heart, thinkest?"

"It runneth not to a certainty that mine should be broke, because others
were," mutters _Milly_ stubbornly.

"Thou countest, then, that he which had been false to a thousand maids
should be true to the one over?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a pitying
smile.  "Well, such a thing may be possible,--once in a thousand times.
Hardly oftener, methinks, my child.  But none is so blind as she that
will not see.  I must leave the Lord to open thine eyes,--for I wis He
had to do it for me."

And Aunt _Joyce_ rose up and went away.

"I marvel who it were she called _Mary_," said I.

"Essay not to guess, dear heart," saith _Helen_ quickly.  "'Tis plain
Aunt _Joyce_ would not have us know."

"Why, she told us, or as good," quoth _Milisent_, in that bitter fashion
she hath had to-day and yesterday.  "Said she not, at the first, that
`it were well to get the tale o'er ere _Dulcie_ should come'?  'Tis my
Lady _Stafford_, of course."

"I am not so sure of that," saith _Helen_, in a low voice: and methought
she had guessed at some other, but would not say out [Note 1].  "I think
we were better to go down now."

So down went we all to the great chamber, and there found, with
_Mother_, Mistress _Lewthwaite_, that was, as was plain to see, in a
mighty taking [much agitated].

"Dear heart, Lady _Lettice_, but I never looked for this!" she crieth,
wiping of her eyes with her kerchief.  "I wis we have been less stricter
than you in breeding up our maids: but to think that one of them should
bring this like of a misfortune on us!  For _Blanche_ is gone to be
undone, of that am I sure.  Truth to tell, yonder Sir _Francis Everett_
so took me with his fine ways and goodly looks and comely apparel and
well-chosen words,--ay, and my master too--that we never thought to
caution the maids against him.  Now, it turns out that _Alice_ had some
glint of what were passing: but she never betrayed _Blanche_, thinking
it should not be to her honour; and me,--why, I ne'er so much as dreamed
of any ill in store."

"What name said you?" quoth _Mother_, that was trying to comfort her.

"_Everett_," saith she; "Sir _Francis Everett_, he said his name were,
of _Woodbridge_, in the county of _Suffolk_, where he hath a great
estate, and spendeth a thousand pound by the year.  And a well-looked
man he was, not o'er young, belike, but rare goodly his hair fair and
his eyen shining grey,--somewhat like to yours, my Lady."

_Helen_ and I looked on each other, and I saw the same thought was in
both our minds.  And looking then upon _Mother_, I reckoned it had come
to her likewise.  At _Milisent_ I dared not look, though I saw _Helen_
glance at her.

"And now," continueth Mistress _Lewthwaite_, "here do I hear that at
_Grasmere_ Farm he gave out himself to be one Master _Tregarvon_, of
_Devon_; and up in _Borrowdale_, he hath been playing the gallant to two
or three maids by the name of Sir _Thomas Brooke_ of _Warwickshire_: and
the saints know which is his right one.  He's a bad one, Lady _Lettice_!
And after all, here is your Mistress _Bess_, she saith she is as sure
as that her name is _Wolvercot_, that no one of all these names is his
own.  She reckons him to be some young gentleman that she once wist,
down in the shires,--marry, what said she was his name, now?  I cannot
just call to mind.  She should ne'er have guessed at him, quoth she, but
she saw him do somewhat this young man were wont to do, and were
something singular therein--I mind not what it were.  Dear heart, but
this fray touching our _Blanche_ hath drove aught else out of mine head!
But Mistress _Bess_ said _he_ were a bad one, and no mistake."

"Is _Blanche_ gone off with him, Mistress _Lewthwaite_?" saith _Helen_.

"That is right what she is, _Nell_, and ill luck go with her," quoth
Mistress _Lewthwaite_: "for it will, that know I.  God shall never bless
no undutiful childre,--of that am I well assured."

"Nay, friend, curse not your own child!" saith _Mother_, with a little
shudder.

"Eh, poor lass, I never meant to curse her," quoth she: "she'll get
curse enough from him she's gone withal.  She has made her bed, and she
must lie on it.  And a jolly hard one it shall be, by my troth!"

Here come Cousin _Bess_ and Aunt _Joyce_ into the chamber, and a deal
more talk was had of them all: but at the last Mistress _Lewthwaite_
rose up, and went away.  But just ere she went, saith she to _Milisent_
and me, that were sat together of one side of the chamber--

"Eh, my maids, but you twain should thank God and your good father and
mother! for if you had been bred up with less care, this companion,
whatso his name be, should have essayed to beguile you as I am a
_Cumberland_ woman.  A pair of comely young lasses like you should have
been a great catch for him, I reckon."

"Ah, Mistress mine," saith Cousin _Bess_, "when lasses take as much care
of their own selves as their elders of them, we shall catch larks by the
sky falling, _I_ reckon."

"You are right, Mistress _Bess_," saith she: and so away hied she.

No sooner was Mistress _Lewthwaite_ gone, than _Mother_ saith,--"_Bess_,
who didst thou account this man to be?  Mistress _Lewthwaite_ saith thou
didst guess it to be one thou hadst known down in the shires, but she
had forgat the name."

I saw Cousin _Bess_ look toward Aunt _Joyce_ with a question in her
eyes: and if ever I read _English_ in eyes, what _Aunt's_ said
was,--"Have a care!"  Then Cousin _Bess_ saith, very quiet--

"It was a gentleman in _Oxford_ town, Cousin _Lettice_, that I was wont
to hear of from our _Nell_ when she dwelt yonder."

"Oh, so?" saith _Mother_: and thus the matter ended.

But at after, in the even, when _Father_ and Aunt _Joyce_ and I were by
ourselves a little season in the hall, I heard Aunt _Joyce_ say, very
soft--

"_Aubrey_, didst thou give her the name?"

Methought _Father_ shook his head.

"I dared not, _Joyce_," saith he.  "She was so sore troubled touching--
the other matter."

"I thought so," quoth _Aunt_.  "Then I will beware that I utter it not."

"But _Edith_ knows," answereth _Father_ in a low voice.

"The maids all know," saith she.  "I did not reckon thou wouldest keep
it from her."

"I should not, but,"--and _Father_ paused.  "Thou wist, _Joyce_, how she
setteth her heart on all things."

"I am afeared, _Aubrey_, she shall have to know sooner or later.
Mistress _Lewthwaite_ did all but utter it to her this morning, only I
thank God her memory failed her just at the right minute."

"We were better to tell her than that," saith _Father_, and leaned his
head upon his hand as though he took thought.

Then _Mother_ and _Helen_ came in, and no more was said.

                                      SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE FOURTH.
I had no time to write yestereven, for we were late abed, it being nigh
nine o' the clock ere we came up; and all the day too busy.  My Lady
_Stafford_ and Sir _Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_ did return with
_Father_--the which I set not down in his right place at my last
writing,--and yesterday we gat acquaint and showed them the vicinage and
such like.  As to-morrow, _Mother_ shall carry them to wait on my Lord
_Dilston_.

Sir _Robert Stafford_ is a personable gentleman, much of _Father's_
years; his nose something high, yet not greatly so, and his hair and
beard now turning grey, but have been dark.  Mistress _Martin_ his
sister (that when _Mother_ wist her was Mistress _Grissel Stafford_) is
much like to him in her face, but some years the younger of the twain,
though her hair be the greyer.  My Lady _Stafford_, howbeit, hath not a
grey hair of her head, and hath more ruddiness of her face than Mistress
_Martin_, being to my thought the comelier dame of the twain.  _Mother_,
nathless, saith that Mistress _Grissel_ was wont to be the fairer when
all were maids, and that she hath wist much trouble, the which hath thus
consumed her early lovesomeness.  For her husband, Captain _Martin_,
that was an officer of _Calais_, coming home after that town was lost in
Queen _Mary's_ time, was attaint of heresy and taken of Bishop _Bonner_,
he lying long in prison, and should have been brent at the stake had not
Queen _Mary's_ dying (under God's gracious ordering) saved him
therefrom.  And all these months was Mistress _Martin_ in dread disease,
never knowing from one week to another what should be the end thereof.
And indeed he lived not long after, but two or three years.  Sir _Robert
Stafford_, on the other part, was a wiser man; for no sooner was it
right apparent, on Queen _Mary's_ incoming, how matters should turn,
than he and his dame and their two daughters gat them over seas and
dwelt in foreign parts all the days that Queen _Mary_ reigned.  And in
_Dutchland_ [Germany] were both their daughters wedded, the one unto a
noble of that country, by name the Count of _Rothenthal_, and the other
unto a priest, an Englishman that took refuge also in those parts, by
name Master _Francis Digby_, that now hath a living in _Somerset_.

Medoubteth if _Mother_ be told who Sir _Edwin Tregarvon_ were.
_Milly_ 'bideth yet in the sulks, and when she shall come thereout will
I not venture to guess.  _Alice Lewthwaite_ come over this afternoon but
for a moment, on her way to her aunt's, Mistress _Rigg_, and saith no
word is yet heard of their _Blanche_, whom her father saith he will
leather while he can lay on if she do return, while her mother is all
for killing the fatted calf and receiving her back with welcome.

                                           SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE V.
This morrow we set forth for _Lord's Island_, a goodly company--to wit,
_Father_, and _Mother_, and Sir _Robert_ and my Lady _Stafford_, and
Mistress _Martin_, and _Milisent_, and me.  Too many were we for _Adam_
to row, and thought to take old _Matthias_, had not _Robin Lewthwaite_
chanced on us the last minute, and craved leave to take an oar, saying
it should be a jolly pleasance for him to spend the day on _Lord's
Island_.  So _Father_ took the second oar, and _Adam_ steered, and all
we got well across, thanks to God.  We landed, _Father_ gave his hand to
my Lady _Stafford_, and Sir _Robert_ to _Mother_, and _Robin_, pulling a
face at _Milly_ and me (for I wis well he had liever have been with us),
his to Mistress _Martin_.

"Well, _Edith_," saith _Milly_, the pleasantest she hath spoken of late,
"I reckon I must be thy _cavaliero_."

"Will you have my cap, _Milisent_?" saith _Robin_, o'er his shoulder.

"Thanks, I reckon I shall manage without," quoth she.

"Well, have a care you demean yourself as a _cavaliero_ should," saith
he.  "Tell her she is the fairest maid in all the realm, and you shall
die o' despair an' you get not a glance from her sweet eyes."

"Nay, I'll leave that for you," saith _Milly_.

"Good.  I will do mine utmost to mind it the next opportunity," quoth
_Robin_.

So, with mirth, come we up to _Dilston_ Hall.

My Lord was within, said the old serving-man, and so likewise were
Mistress _Jane_ and Mistress _Cicely_: so he led us across the hall,
that is set with divers coloured stones, of a fashion they have in
_Italy_, and into a pleasant chamber, where Mistress _Cicely_ was sat at
her frame a-work, and rose up right lovingly to welcome us.  Mistress
_Jane_, said she, was in the garden: but my Lord come in the next
minute, and was right pleasant unto us after his sad and bashful
fashion, for never saw I a man like him, as bashful as any maid.  Then
Mistress _Jane_ come anon, and bare us--to wit, _Milisent_ and me--away
to her own chamber, where she gave us sweet cakes and muscadel; and
Mistress _Cicely_ came too.  And a jolly time should we have had, had it
not come into Mistress _Cicely's_ head to ask at us if it were true that
_Blanche Lewthwaite_ was gone away with some gallant.  I had need to say
Ay, for _Milisent_ kept her mouth close shut.

"And who were he?" quoth Mistress _Jane_.  I answered that so far as we
heard he had passed by divers names, all about this vicinage: but the
name whereby he had called himself at _Mere Lea_ (which is Master
_Lewthwaite's_) was _Everett_.

"I warrant you, _Jane_," saith Mistress _Cicely_, "'tis the same
_Everett_ Farmer _Benson_ was so wroth with, for making up to his
_Margaret_.  He said if ever he came nigh his house again, he should go
thence with a bullet more than he brought.  A man past his youth, was
he, _Edith_, with fair shining hair--no grey in it--and mighty sweet
spoken?"

"Ay, that is he," said I, "or I mistake, Madam."

"Dear heart, but what an ill one must he be!" quoth Mistress _Jane_.
"Why he made old _Nanny's_ grand-daughter _Doll_ reckon he meant to wed
her, and promised to give her a silver chain for her neck this next
_Sunday_!"

All this while sat _Milisent_ still and spake never a word.  I gat
discourse turned so soon as ever I might.  Then after a little while
went we down to hall, and good mirth was had of the young gentlewomen
with _Robin_ and me: but all the while _Milisent_ very still, so that at
last Mistress _Cicely_ noted it, and asked her if her head ached.  She
said ay: and she looked like it.  So, soon after came we thence, and
crossed the lake again, and so home.  _Milly_ yet very silent all the
even: not as though she sulked, as of late, but rather as though she
meditated right sadly.

                                          SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE VII.
This morrow, I being in Aunt _Joyce's_ chamber, helping her to lay by
the new-washed linen, come _Milisent_ in very softly.

"Aunt _Joyce_," she saith, "I would fain have speech of you."

"Shall I give thee leave [go away and leave you], _Milly_?" said I,
arising, for I was knelt of the floor, before the bottom drawer.

"Nay, _Edith_," she makes answer: "thou knowest my faults, and it is but
meet thou shouldst hear my confession."

Her voice choked somewhat, and Aunt _Joyce_ saith lovingly, "Dost think,
then, thou hast been foolish, dear child?"

"I can hardly tell about foolish, _Aunt_," saith she, casting down her
eyes, "but methinks I have been sinful.  Will you forgive me mine hard
words and evil deeds?"

"Ay, dear heart, right willingly.  And I shall not gainsay thee,
_Milly_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sadly: "for `the thought of foolishness is
sin,' and God calls many a thing sin whereof we men think but too
lightly.  Yet, bethink thee that `if any man sin, we have an Advocate
with the Father.'  Now, dear heart, if thou wilt be ruled by me, thou
wilt `arise and go to thy father' and thy mother, and say to them right
as did the prodigal, that thou hast sinned against Heaven and in their
sight.  I think neither of them is so much angered as sorrowful and
pitying: yet, if there be any anger in them, trust me, that were the way
to disarm it.  Come back, _Milly_--first to God, and then to them.  Thou
shalt find fatherly welcome from either."

_Milly_ still hid her face.

"Aunt _Joyce_," she saith, "I dare not say I have come _back_ to God,
for I have been doubting this morrow if I were ever near Him.  But I
think I have _come_.  So now I may go to _Father_ and _Mother_."

Aunt _Joyce_ kissed her lovingly, and carried her off.  Of course I know
not what happed betwixt _Father_ and _Mother_, and _Milly_, but I know
that _Milly_ looks a deal happier, and yet sadder [graver], than she
hath done of many days: and that both _Father_ and _Mother_ be very
tender unto her, as to one that had been lost and is found.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Helen guessed rightly.  As the readers of "Lettice Eden" will
know, the "Mary" of the tale was her mother.



CHAPTER SIX.

CHRISTMAS CHEER.

  "Then opened wide the baron's hall
  To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
  All hailed with uncontrolled delight,
  And general voice, the happy night
  That to the cottage, as the crown,
  Brought tidings of salvation down."

  Scott.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

                                            SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE X.
Here have I been a-thinking I should scantly write a word when my month
was come, and already, with but ten days thereof, have I filled half as
much paper as either _Helen_ or _Milisent_.  But in good sooth, I do
trust the next ten days shall not be so full of things happening as
these last.  Nathless, I do love to have things happen, after a fashion:
but I would have them to be alway pleasant things.  And when things
happen, they be so oft unpleasant.

Now, if one might order one's own life, methinks it should be a right
pleasant thing.  For I reckon I should not go a-fooling, like as some
lasses do.  Mine head is not all stuffed with gallants, nor yet with
velvet and gold.  But I would love to be great.  Not great like a
duchess, just a name and no more: but to make a name for myself, and to
have folks talk of me, how good and how clever I were.  That is what I
would fain be thought--good and clever.  I take no care to be thought
fair, nor in high place; howbeit, I desire not to be ugly nor no lower
down than I am.  But I am quite content with mine own place, only I feel
within me that I could do great things.

And how can a woman do great things, without she be rare high in place,
such like as the Queen's Majesty, or my Lady Duchess of _Suffolk_?  Or
how could I ever look to do great things, here in _Derwent_ dale?  Oh, I
do envy our _Wat_ and _Ned_, by reason they can go about the world and
o'er the seas, and make themselves famous.

And, somehow, in a woman's life everything seems so little.  'Tis just
cooking and eating; washing linen and soiling of it; going to bed and
rising again.  Always doing things and then undoing them, and alway the
same things over and over again.  It seems as if nought would ever stay
done.  If one makes a new gown, 'tis but that it may be worn out, and
then shall another be wanted.  I would the world could give o'er going
on, and every thing getting worn out and done with.

Other folks do not seem to feel thus.  I reckon _Helen_ never does, not
one bit.  Some be so much easier satisfied than other.  I count them the
happiest.

I cannot tell how it is, but I do never feel satisfied.  'Tis as though
there were wings within me, that must ever of their nature be stretching
upward and onward.  Where should they end, an' they might go forward?
Would there be any end?  Can one be satisfied, ever?

I believe _Anstace_ and _Helen_ are satisfied, but then 'tis their
nature to be content with things as they be.  I do not know about
_Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_.  I misdoubt if it be altogether their nature.
But then neither do they seem always satisfied.  _Father_ doth so: and
his nature is high enough.  I think I shall ask _Father_.  As for Cousin
_Bess_, an' I were to ask at her, she should conceive me never a whit.
'Tis her nature to cook and darn and scour, and to look complacently on
her cake and her mended hole and her cleaned chamber, and never trouble
herself to think that they shall lack doing o'er again to-morrow.
Chambers are like to need cleansing, and what were women made for save
to keep them clean?  That is Cousin _Bess_, right out.  For Master
_Stuyvesant_, methinks he is right the other way, and rather counts the
world a dirty place and full of holes, that there shall be no good in
neither cleansing nor mending.  And I look not on matters in that light.
Methinks it were better to cleanse the chamber, if only one could keep
it from being dirtied at after.  I shall see what _Father_ saith.

                                         SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE XII.
Yester even, as we were sat in the great chamber,--there was _Mother_
and _Helen_ at their wheels, and Aunt _Joyce_ and my Lady _Stafford_
a-sewing, and Mistress _Martin_ and _Milisent_ and me at the broidery,--
and _Father_ had but just beat Sir _Robert_ in a game of the chess, and
_Mynheer_, one foot upon his other knee, was deep in a great book which
thereon rested,--and fresh logs were thrown of the fire by _Kate_, which
sent forth upward a shower of pleasant sparkles, and methought as I
glanced around the chamber, that all looked rare pleasant and
comfortable, and we ought to thank God therefore.  When all had been
silent a short while, out came I with my question, well-nigh ere I
myself wist it were out--

"_Father_, are you satisfied?"

"A mighty question, my maid," saith he,--while _Helen_ looked up in
surprise, and Aunt _Joyce_ and Mistress _Martin_ and _Milisent_ fell
a-laughing.  "With what?  The past, the present, or the future?" quoth
_Father_.

"With things, _Father_," said I.  "With life and every thing."

"Ah, _Edith_, hast thou come to that?" saith my Lady _Stafford_: and she
exchanged smiles with _Mother_.

"_Daughter_," _Father_ makes answer, "methinks no man is ever satisfied
with life, until he be first satisfied with God.  The furthest he can go
in that direction, is not to think if he be satisfied or no.  A man may
be well pleased with lesser things: but to be satisfied, that can he
not."

"`Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,'" quoth _Mother_,
softly.

"Ay," saith Sir _Robert_; "and wit you, Mistress _Edith_, what cometh at
times to men adrift of the ocean, when all their fresh water is spent?"

"Why, surely, they should find water in plenty in the sea, Sir," said I.

"Right so do they," saith he: "and 'tis a quality of the sea-water, that
if a man athirst doth once taste the same, his thirst becometh so great
that he drinketh thereof again and again, the thirst worsening with
every draught, until at last it drives him mad."

"An apt image of the pleasures of this world," answers _Father_.  "Ah,
how is all nature as God's picture-book, given to help His dull childer
over their tasks!"

"But, _Father_,"--said I, and stayed.

"Well, my maid?" he answers of his kindly fashion.

"I cry you mercy, _Father_, if I speak foolishly; but it seems me that
pious folk be not alway satisfied.  They make as much fume as other folk
when things go as they would not have them."

"The angels do not so, I reckon," saith _Mynheer_, a-looking up.

"We are not angels yet," quoth _Father_, a little drily.  "Truth, my
maid: and we ought to repent thereof, seeing such practices but too oft
cause the enemy to blaspheme, and put stumbling-blocks in the way of
weak brethren.  Ay, and from what we read in God's Word, it should seem
as though all murmuring and repining--not sorrowing, mark thou; but
murmuring--went for far heavier sin in His eyes than it doth commonly in
ours.  We count it a light matter if we grumble when things go awry, and
matters do seem as if they were bent on turning forth right as we would
not have them.  Let us remember, for ourselves, that such displeaseth
the Lord.  He reckons it unbelief and mistrust.  `How long,' saith He
unto Moses, `will this people provoke Me? and how long will it be ere
they believe Me?'  Howbeit, as for our neighbours, we need not judge
them.  And indeed, such matters depend much on men's complexions [Note
1], and some find it a deal easier to control them than other.  And
after all, _Edith_, there is a sense wherein no man can ever be fully
satisfied in this life.  We were meant to aspire; and if we were
entirely content with present things, then should we grovel.  To submit
cheerfully is one thing: to be fully gratified, so that no desire is
left, is an other.  We shall not be that, methinks, till we reach
Heaven."

"Shall we so, even there?" saith Sir _Robert_.  "It hath alway seemed to
me that when _Diogenes_ did define his gods as `they that had no wants,'
he pointed to a very miserable set of creatures.  Is it not human nature
that the thing present shall fall short of the thing prospective?"

"The _in posse_ is better than the _in esse_?" saith _Father_.  "Well,
it should seem so, in this dispensation.  But how, in the next world,
our powers may be extended, and our souls in some degree suffer change,
that we can be fully satisfied and yet be alway aspiring--I reckon we
cannot now understand.  I only gather from Scripture that it shall be
thus.  You and I know very little, _Robin_, of what shall be in Heaven."

"Ah, true,--true!" saith Sir _Robert_.

"It hath struck me at times," saith _Father_, "that while it may seem
strange to the young and eager soul, yet it is better understood as one
grows older,--how the account of Heaven given us in Scripture is nearly
all in negations.  God and ourselves are the two matters positive.  The
rest are nays: there shall be no pain, no crying, no sorrow, no night,
no death, no curse.  And though youth would oft have it all yea, yet nay
suits age the better.  An old man and weary feels the thought of active
bliss at times too much for him.  It wearies him to think of perpetual
singing and constant flying.  It is rest he needs--it is peace."

"Well, _Father_," saith _Milisent_, looking up, "I hope it is not wicked
of me, but I never did enjoy the prospect of sitting of a cloud and
singing _Hallelujah_ for ever and ever."

"Right what I was wont to think at thy years, _Milly_," saith _Mother_,
a-laughing.

"Dear hearts," saith _Father_, "there is in God's Word a word for the
smallest need of every one of us, if we will only take the pain to
search and find it there.  `They had no rest day neither night,'
[Cranmer's version of Revelations chapter four verse 8]--that is for the
eager, active soul that longs to be up and doing.  And `they rest from
their labours,'--that is for the weary heart that is too tired for
rapture."

"Yet doth not that latter class of texts, think you," saith Sir
_Robert_, "refer mainly to the rest of the body in the grave?"

"Well, it may be so," answers _Father_: "yet, look you, the rest of the
grave must be something that _will rest us_."

"What is thy notion, _Aubrey_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "of the state of the
soul betwixt death and resurrection?"

"My notion, _Joyce_," saith _Father_, "is that _Scripture_ giveth us no
very plain note thereon.  I conclude, therefore, that it shall be time
to know when we come to it.  This only do I see--that all the passages
which speak thereof as `sleep,' `forgetfulness,' and the like, be in the
Old Testament: and all those--nay, let me correct myself--most of those
which speak thereof as of a condition of conscious bliss, `being with
_Christ_,' and so, are in the New.  There I find the matter: and there,
under your good pleasure, will I leave it."

"Well, that should seem," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "as if the condition of
souls had been altered by the coming of our Lord."

"By His death, rather, as methinks, if so be.  It may be so.  I dare not
be positive either way."

"Has it never seemed strange to you, _Louvaine_," saith Sir _Robert_,
"how little we be told in God's Word touching all those mysteries
whereon men's minds will ever be busying themselves--to all appearance,
so long as the world lasts?  This matter of our talk--the origin of
evil--free-will and sovereign grace--and the like.  Why are we told no
more?"

"Why," saith _Father_, with that twinkle in his eyes which means fun, "I
am one of the meaner intelligences of the universe, and I wis not.  If
you can find any whither the Angel _Gabriel_, you may ask at him if he
can untie your knots."

"Now, _Aubrey_, that is right what mads me!" breaks in Aunt _Joyce_.
"Sir _Robert_ asks why we be told no more, and thine answer is but to
repeat that we be told no more.  Do, man, give a plain answer to a plain
question."

"Nay, now thou aft like old Lawyer _Pearson_?" quoth _Father_.  "`I wis
not, Master,' saith the witness.  `Ay, but will you swear?' saith he.
`Why,' quoth the witness, `how can I swear when I wis not?'  `Nay, but
you must swear one way or an other,' saith he.  Under thy leave,
_Joyce_, I do decline to swear either way, seeing I wis not."

Aunt _Joyce_ gives a little stamp of her foot.  "What on earth is the
good of men, when they wit no more than women?" quoth she: whereat all
laughed.

"Ah, some women have great wits," saith _Father_.

"Give o'er thy mocking, _Aubrey_!" answers she.  "Tell us plain, what
notion thou hast, and be not so strict tied to chapter and verse."

"Of what worth shall then be my notions?  Well," saith _Father_, "I have
given them on the one matter.  As for the origin of evil, I find the
origin of mine evil in mine own heart, and no further can I get except
to _Satan_."

"Ay, but I would fain reach over _Satan_," saith she.

"That shall we not do without _Satan_ overreaching us," quoth _Father_.
"Well, then--as to free-will and grace, I find both.  `Whosoever will,
take of the water of life,'--and `Yet will ye not come unto Me that ye
might have life.'  But also I find, `No man can come to Me, except the
Father draw him;' and that faith cometh `Not of yourselves; it is the
gift of God.'"

"Come, tarry not there!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "How dost thou reconcile
them?"

"Why, I don't reconcile them," quoth he.

"Ay, but do!" she makes answer.

"Well," saith he, "if thou wilt come and visit me, _Joyce_, an hundred
years hence, at the sign of the _Burnt-Sacrifice_, in _Amethyst_ Lane,
in the _New Jerusalem_, I will see if I can do it for thee then."

"_Aubrey Louvaine_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, "thou art--"

"Not yet there," he answers.  "I am fully aware of it."

"The wearifullest tease ever I saw, when it liketh thee!" saith she.

"Dost thou know, _Joyce_," quoth _Mother_, laughing merrily, "I found
out that afore I was wed.  He did play right cruelly on mine eagerness
once or twice."

"Good lack! then why didst thou wed him?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

_Mother_ laughed at this, and _Father_ made a merry answer, which turned
the discourse to other matter, and were not worth to set down.  So we
gat not back to our sad talk, but all ended with mirth.

This morrow come o'er _Robin Lewthwaite_, with a couple of rare fowl and
his mother's loving commendations for _Mother_.  He saith nothing is yet
at all heard of their _Blanche_, and he shook his head right sorrowfully
when I asked at him if he thought aught should be.  It seemed so strange
a thing to see _Robin_ sorrowful.

                                          SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XVI.
This morrow, my Lady _Stafford_, Aunt _Joyce_, and I, were sat at our
work alone in the great chamber.  _Milly_ was gone with _Mother_
a-visiting poor folk, and Sir _Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_, with
_Helen_ for guide, were away towards _Thirlmere_,--my Lady _Stafford_
denying to go withal, by reason she had an ill rheum catched yesterday
amongst the snowy lanes.  All at once, up looks my Lady, and she saith--

"_Joyce_, what is this I heard yestereven of old _Mall Crewdson_,
touching one _Everett_, or _Tregarvon_--she wist not rightly which his
name were--that hath done a deal of mischief in these parts of late?
What manner of mischief?--for old _Mary_ was very mysterious.  May-be I
do not well to ask afore _Edith_?"

"Ay, _Dulcie_, well enough," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sadly, "for _Edith_
knows the worst she can already.  And if you knew the worst you could--"

"Why, what is it?" quoth she.

"_Leonard_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, curtly.

"_Leonard_!"  Every drop of blood seemed gone out of my Lady's face.  "I
thought he was dead, years gone."

"So did not I," Aunt _Joyce_ made low answer.

"No, I wis thou never didst," saith my Lady, tenderly.  "So thy love is
still alive, _Joyce_?  Poor heart!"

"My heart is," she saith.  "As for love, it is poor stuff if it can
die."

"There is a deal of poor stuff abroad, then," quoth her Ladyship.  "In
very deed, so it is.  So he is yet at his old work?"

Aunt _Joyce_ only bent her head.

"Well, it were not possible to wish he had kept to the new," pursueth
she.  "I do fear there were some brent in _Smithfield_, that had been
alive at this day but for him.  But ever since Queen _Mary_ died hath he
kept him so quiet, that in very deed I never now reckoned him amongst
the living.  Where is he now?"

"God wot," saith Aunt _Joyce_, huskily.

My Lady was silent awhile: and then she saith--

"Well, may-be better so.  But _Joyce_, doth _Lettice_ know?"

"That _Tregarvon_ were he?  Not without _Aubrey_ hath told her these
last ten days: and her face saith not so."

"No, it doth not," my Lady makes answer.  "But Sir _Aubrey_ wist, then?
His face is not wont to talk unless he will."

"In no wise," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Ay, _Dulcibel_; I had to tell him."

"Thou?" saith my Lady, pityingly.

"None knew him but me," made she answer, and her voice grew very
troubled.  "Not even _Aubrey_, nor _Lettice_.  _Bess_ guessed at him
after awhile, but not till she had seen him divers times.  But for me
one glimpse was enough."

Aunt _Joyce's_ work was still now.

"Hadst thou surmised aforetime that it were he?"

Aunt _Joyce_ shook her head.

"No need for surmising, _Dulcie_," she said.  "If I were laid in my
grave for a year and a day, I should know his step upon the mould above
me."

"My poor _Joyce_!" softly quoth my Lady _Stafford_.  "Even God hath no
stronger word than `passing the love of women.'  Yet a woman's love
lasts not out to that in most cases."

"Her heart lasts not out, thou meanest," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Hearts
are weak, _Dulcie_, but love is immortal."

"And hast thou still hope--for him, _Joyce_?" answereth my Lady.  "I
lost the last atom of mine, years gone."

"Hope of his ultimate salvation?  Ay--as long as life lasts.  I shall
give over hoping for it when I see it."

"But," saith my Lady slowly, as though she scarce liked to say the same,
"how if thou never wert to see it?"

  "`Between the stirrup and the ground,
  Mercy I sought, mercy I found.'

"Thou wist that epitaph, _Dulcie_, on him that lost life by a fall from
the saddle.  My seeing it were comfort, but no necessity.  I could go on
hoping that God had seen it."

Aunt _Joyce_ arose and left the chamber.  Then saith my Lady _Stafford_
to me--

"There goes a strong soul.  There be women such as she: but they are not
to be picked, like blackberries, off every bramble.  _Edith_, young
folks are apt to think love a mere matter of youth and of matrimony.
They cannot make a deeper blunder.  The longer love lasts, the stronger
it groweth."

"Always, my Lady?" said I.

"Ay," saith she.  "That is, if it be love."

We wrought a while without more talk: when suddenly saith my Lady
_Stafford_:--

"_Edith_, didst thou see this _Tregarvon_, or how he called himself?"

"Ay, Madam," said I.  "He made up to me one morrow, when my sister
_Milisent_ and I were on Saint _Hubert's_ Isle in the mere yonder, and I
was sat, a-drawing, of a stone."

"Ay so?" quoth she, with some earnestness in her voice.  "And what
then?"

"I think he took not much of me, Madam," said I.

My Lady _Stafford_ smiled, yet methought somewhat pensively.

"May I wit what he said to thee, _Edith_?"

"Oh, a parcel of stuff touching mine hair and mine eyes, and the like,"
said I.  "I knew well enough what colours mine hair and eyes were of,
without his telling me.  Could I dress mine hair every morrow afore the
mirror, and not see?"

"Well, _Edith_," saith she, "methinks he did not take much of thee.  I
would I could have seen him,"--and her voice grew sadder.  "Not that my
voice should have had any potency with him: that had it never yet.  But
I would fain have noted how far the years had changed him, and if--if
there seemed any more hope of his amendment than of old time.  There was
a time when in all _Oxfordshire_ he was allowed the goodliest man, and I
fear he was not far from being likewise the worst."

Here come in _Mother_, and my Lady _Stafford_ changed the discourse
right quickly.  I saw I must say no more.  But I am well assured Aunt
_Joyce's Mary_ was never my Lady _Stafford_.  Who methinks it were it
should serve no good end to set down.

                                          SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XIX.
As we sat this even of the great chamber, saith _Father_:--

"_Stafford_, do you remember our talk some days gone, touching what
manner of life there should be in Heaven?"

"That do I well," Sir _Robert_ made answer.

"Well," quoth _Father_, "I have fallen to think more thereupon.  And the
thought comes to me--wherefore account we always that we shall do but
one thing there, and that all shall do the same?  Here is _Milisent_--
ay, and _Lettice_ too--that think they should be weary to sit of a cloud
and sing for ever and ever."

"Truly, so should I, methinks," saith Sir _Robert_.

"So should we all, I cast no doubt," answers _Father_, "if our capacity
for fatigue did extend into that life.  But why expect the same thing
over and over?  It is not so on earth.  I am not reading, nor is
_Lettice_ sewing, nor _Milisent_ broidering, with no intermission, from
the morning to the night.  Neither do we all the same fashion of work."

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, somewhat eagerly; "but the work done here
below is needful, _Aubrey_.  There shall be no necessity for nought
there."

"Art avised o' that, _Joyce_?" saith _Father_.

"Why," saith she, "dost look for brooms and dusters in Heaven?  Shall
_Bess_ and I sweep out the gold streets, thinkest, or fetch a pan to
seethe the fruits of the Tree of Life?"

"One would think," saith Sir _Robert_, "if all be allegorical, as some
wise doctors do say, that they should be shadowy brooms that swept
parabolical streets."

"Allegorical fiddlesticks!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "I did never walk yet
o'er a parabolical paving, nor sat me down to rest me of an allegorical
chair.  Am I to be allegorical, forsooth?  You be a poor comforter, Sir
_Robert_."

"Soft you now!" saith _Father_.  "I enter a _caveat_, as lawyers have
it.  Methinks I have walked for some years o'er a parabolical paving,
and rested me in many an allegorical chair.  Thou minglest somewhat too
much the spiritual and the material, _Joyce_."

"I count I take thee, _Audrey_," saith she: "thou wouldst say that the
allegorical city is for the dwelling of the spirit, and the real for the
body.  But, pray you, if my spirit have a dwelling in thine allegorical
city--"

"Nay, I said not the city were allegorical," quoth he.  "Burden not me
withal, for in truth I do believe it very real."

"No, that was Sir _Robert_," saith she, "so I will ask at him, as shall
be but fair.  Where, I pray you, is my body to be, Sir, whilst my soul
dwelleth in your parabolical city?"

"There shall be a spiritual body, my mistress," makes he answer,
smiling.

"Truth," quoth she, "but I reckon it must be somewhere.  It seems me, to
my small wit, that if my soul and my spiritual body be to dwell in an
allegorical city, then I must needs be allegorical also.  And I warrant
you, that should not like me a whit."

"Let us not mingle differences," saith _Father_.  "Be the spiritual and
the allegorical but one thing?"

"Nay, I believe there be two," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "'tis Sir _Robert_
here would have them alike."

"But how would you define them?" saith Sir _Robert_ to _Father_.

"Thus," he made answer.  "The spiritual is that which is real, as fully
as the material: but it is invisible.  The allegorical is that which is
shadowy and doth but exist in the fantasy.  If I say of these my
daughters, they be my jewels, I speak allegorically: for they be not
gems, but maidens.  But I do not love them in an allegory, but in
reality.  Love is a moral and spiritual matter, but no allegory.  So,
Heaven is a spiritual place, but methinks not an allegorical one."

"But the _New Jerusalem_--the Golden City which lieth four-square--that
is allegorical, surely!"

"We shall see when we are there," saith _Father_.  "I think not."

Sir _Robert_ pursed up his lips as though he could no wise allow the
same.

"Mind you, _Robin_," saith _Father_, "I say not that there may not be
allegory touching some of the details.  I reckon the pearls of the
twelve gates were never found in earthly oysters: nor do I account that
the gold of the streets was molten in an earthly furnace.  No more, when
_Edith_ saith she will run and fetch a thing, should I think to accuse
her of falsehood if I saw that she walked, and ran not.  'Tis never well
to fetch a parable down on all fours.  You and I use allegory always in
our common talk."

"Ay," quoth Sir _Robert_: "but you reckon they _be_ pearls, and gold?"

"I will tell you when I have seen them," saith _Father_, and smiled.
"Either they be gold and pearls, or they be that to which, in our
earthly minds, gold and pearls come the nearest.  Why, my friend, we be
all but lisping children to God.  Think you one moment, and tell me if
every word we use touching Him hath not in it more or less of parable?
We call Him Father, and King, and Master, and Guide, and Lord.  Is not
every one of these taken from earthly relationships, and doth it not
presuppose a something which is to be found on earth?  We have no better
wits than to do so here.  If God would teach us that we know not, it
must be by talking to us touching things we do know.  Did not you the
same with your children when they were babes?  How far we may be able to
penetrate, when we be truly men, grown up unto the measure of the
stature of the fulness of _Christ_, verily I cannot tell.  Only I do see
that not only all _Scripture_, but all analogy, pointeth to a time when
we shall emerge from this caterpillar state, and spread our wings as
butterflies in the sunshine.  Nay, there is yet a better image in
nature.  The grub of the dragon-fly dwelleth in the waters, and cannot
live in the air till it come forth into the final state.  Tell me then,
I pray you, how shall this water-grub conceive the notion of flying
through the air?  Supposing you able to talk with him, could you
represent the same unto him other than by the conceit of gliding through
water with most delightsome swiftness and directness?  To talk of an
element wherein he had no experience should be simply so much nonsense
to him.  Now, it may be--take me not, I pray you, as meaning it must
be--that all that shall be found in Heaven differs as greatly from what
is found on earth as the water differs from the air.  Concerning these
matters, I take it, God teaches us by likening them to such things as we
know that shall give the best conceit of them to our minds.  Here on
earth, the fairest and most costly matter is gold and gems.  Well, He
would have us know that the heavenly city is builded of the fairest and
most precious matter.  But that the matter is real, and that the city is
builded of somewhat, that will I yield to none.  To do other were to
make it a fairy tale, Heaven in cloud-land, and God Himself but the
shadow of a dream.  The only difference I can see is, that we should
never awake from the dream, but should go on dreaming it for ever."

"O _Louvaine_!" saith Sir _Robert_.  "I can never allow of matter in
Heaven.  All there is spiritual."

"Now, what mean you by matter?" saith _Father_.  "Matter is a term of
this world.  I argue not for matter in Heaven as opposed to spirit, but
for reality as opposed to allegory."

"You'll be out of my depth next plunge," saith Sir _Robert_, merrily.

"We shall both be out of our depth, _Robin_, ere long, and under your
leave there will we leave it.  But I see you are a bit of a _Manichee_."

"That is out of my depth, at any rate," quoth he.  "I am but ill read in
ancient controversies, though I know you dabble in them."

"Why, I have dipped my fingers into a good parcel of matters in my
time," saith _Father_.  "But the _Manichees_, old friend, were men that
did maintain the inherent evil of matter.  All things, with them, were
wicked that had to do therewith.  Wherein, though they knew it not, they
were much akin to the _Indian_ mystics of _Buddha_, that do set their
whole happiness in the attaining of _Nirvana_."

"What is that?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Is it an _India_ goddess, or
something good to eat?"

"It is," quoth _Father_, "the condition of having no ideas."

"Good lack!" saith she, "then daft _Madge_ is nearest perfection of us
all."

"Perhaps she is, in sober truth," _Father_ makes answer.

"Meseemeth," whispers _Milisent_ to me, "that _Jack Benn_ is a
_Manichee_."

"'Tis strange," saith _Father_, as in meditation, "how those old
heresies shall be continually re-born under new names: nor only that,
but how in the heart of every man and woman there is by nature a leaning
unto some form of heresy.  Here is _Robin Stafford_ a _Manichee_: and
_Bess_ a _Mennonite_: and my Lady _Stafford_ (if I mistake not) a
_Stoic_: and _Mynheer_ somewhat given to be a _Cynic_: and _Lettice_ and
_Milisent_, methinks, are by their nature _Epicureans_.  Mistress
_Martin_, it seemeth me, should be an _Essene_: and what shall we call
thee, _Edith_?"

"Aught but a _Pharisee_, _Father_," said I, laughing.

"Nay, thou art no _Pharisee_," saith he.  "But that they were a nation
and not a sect, I should write thee down a _Sybarite_.  _Nell_ is as
near a _Pharisee_ as we have one in the chamber; yet methinketh it were
to insult her to give her such a name."

"Go on," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "I'm waiting."

"What, for thine own class?"

"Mine and thine," saith she.

_Father's_ eyes did shine with fun.  "Well, _Joyce_, to tell truth, I am
somewhat puzzled to class thee: but I am disposed to put thee amongst
the _Brownists_."

"What on earth for?" saith she.

"Why," quoth he, "because thou hast a mighty notion of having things
thine own way."

"Sir _Robert_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "pray you, box my cousin's ears for
me, as you sit convenient.--And what art thou thine own self, thou
caitiff?"

"A _Bonus Homo_," answers _Father_, right sadly: whereat all that did
know _Latin_ fell a-laughing.  And I, asking at my Lady _Stafford_, she
told me that _Bonus Homo_ is to say Good Man, and was in past time the
name of a certain Order of friars, that had carried down the truth of
the Gospel from the first ages in a certain part lying betwixt _Italy_
and _France_.

"_Nell_," saith _Father_, "I did thee wrong to call thee a _Pharisee_:
thou art rather a _Herodian_."

"But I pray you, Sir _Aubrey_, what did you mean by the name you gave
me?" saith Mistress _Martin_.  "For I would fain wit my faults, that I
may go about to amend them: and as at this present I am none the wiser."

"The _Essenes_," saith he, "Mistress _Martin_, were a sect of the Jews,
so extreme orthodox that they did deny to perform sacrifice or worship
in the Temple, seeing there they should have to mingle themselves with
other sects, and with wicked men that brought not their sacrifices
rightly.  Moreover, they would neither eat flesh-meat nor drink wine:
and they believed not that there were so much as one good woman in the
whole world."

"Then I cry you mercy, Sir _Aubrey_," quoth she, "but if so be,
assuredly I am not of them.  I do most heartily believe in good women,
whereof methinks I can see four afore me, at the very least, this
instant moment: nor have I yet abjured neither wine nor flesh-meat."

"Oh no, the details be different," saith he: "yet I dare be bold to say,
you have a conceit of a perfect Church, whereinto no untrue man should
ever be suffered to enter."

"Ay, that have I," said she.  "Methinks the Church of _England_ is too
comprehensive, and should be drawn on stricter lines."

"And therein are you an _Essene_," answereth _Father_.

"Oh, _Grissel_ would fain have every man close examined," saith Sir
_Robert_, "and only admitted unto the Lord's Supper by the clergy after
right strict dealing."

"Were you alway of this manner of thought, Mistress _Martin_?" asks
_Father_.

"I trow not," said she.  "As one gets on in life, you see, one doth
perceive many difficulties and differences that one noted not
aforetime."

"One is more apt to fall into ruts, that I know," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "I
had ado enough, and yet have, to keep me out of them."

"A man is apt to do one of two things," saith _Father_: "either to fall
into a rut, or to leave the road altogether.  Either his charity
contracteth, and he can see none right that walk not in his rut; or else
his charity breaketh all bounds, and he would have all to be right,
which way soever they walk."

"Why, those be the two ends of the pole," quoth Sir _Robert_, "and, I
warrant you, you shall find _Grissel_ right at the end, which so it be.
She hath a conceit that a man cannot be too right, nor that, if a thing
be good, you cannot have too much thereof."

"Ah, that hangeth on the thing," saith _Father_.  "You cannot have too
much faith nor charity, but you may get too much syllabub.  Methinks
that is scantly the true rendering thereof.  Have not the proportions
much to do withal?  If a man's faith outrun his charity, behold him at
the one end of your pole; but if his charity outrun his faith, here is
he at the other.  Now faith and charity should keep pace.  Let either
get afore the other, and the man is no longer a perfect man; but a man
with one limb grown out, and another shrivelled up."

"But, Sir _Aubrey_," quoth Mistress _Martin_, "can a man be too holy, or
too happy?"

"Surely not, Mistress _Martin_," saith he.  "But look you, God is the
fountain and pattern of both: and in Him all attributes are at once in
utmost perfection, and in strictest proportion.  We sons of _Adam_,
since his fall, be gone out of proportion.  And note you, for it is
worthy note--that nothing short of revelation did ever yet conceive of a
perfect God.  The gods of the heathen were altogether such as
themselves.  Even very _Christians_, with revelation to guide them, are
ever starting aside like a broken bow in their conceits of God.  Either
they would have Him all justice and no mercy, or else all mercy and no
justice: and the looser they hold by the revelation God has made of
Himself, the dimmer and the more out of proportion be their thoughts of
God.  The most men frame a God unto themselves, and be assured that he
shall be like themselves--that the sins which he holds in abhorrence
shall be the sins whereto they are not prone."

"Are we not, in fine," saith Sir _Robert_, "so far gone from original
righteousness, that our imperfect nature hath lost power to imagine
perfection?"

"Not a doubt thereof," saith _Father_.  "Look you but abroad in the
world.  You shall find pride lauded and called high spirit and
nobleness: covetousness is prudence and good thrift: flattery and
conformity to the world are good nature and kindliness.  Every blast
from Hell hath been renamed after one of the breezes of Heaven."

There was silence so long after this that I reckoned the discourse were
o'er.  When all suddenly saith Sir _Robert_:--

"_Louvaine_, have you much hope for the future--whether of the Church or
of the world?"

"All hope in God: none out of Him."

"Nay, come closer," saith Sir _Robert_.  "What shall hap in the next few
reigns?"

"`I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until He come whose right it is:
and I will give it Him.'  There is our pole-star, _Robin_: and I see no
other stars.  `This same _Jesus_ shall so come.'  `Even so, come, Lord
_Jesus_!'"

"Yet may He not be said to `come' by the Spirit shed abroad in the
hearts of men, and so the world be regenerated?"

"Find that in God's Word, _Robin_, afore He comes, and I will welcome it
with all my heart," answers _Father_.  "I could never see it there.  I
see there a mighty spread of knowledge, and civility [civilisation], and
communications of men--as hath been since the invention of printing, and
may be destined to spread yet much further abroad.  But knowledge is not
faith, nor is civility _Christianity_.  And, in fine, He is to come as
He went.  He did not go invisibly in the hearts of men."

"But `the kingdom of God is within you.'"

"Ay, in the sense wherein the word is there used.  The power of
_Christ_, at that time, was to be a power over men's hearts, not an
outward show of regality: but `He shall so come in like manner as ye
have seen Him go,' is a very different matter."

"Oh, of course we look for our Lord's advent in His own person," quoth
Sir _Robert_: "but I cannot think He will come to a sin-stained earth.
It were not suitable to His dignity.  The way of the Lord must be
prepared."

"We shall see, when He comes," gently answereth _Father_.  "But if He
_had_ not deigned to come to a sin-stained earth, what should have come
either of _Robin Stafford_ or of _Aubrey Louvaine_?"

                                        SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER YE XXIII.
Four nights hath it taken me to write that last piece, for all the days
have we been right busy making ready for _Christmas_.  There be in the
buttery now thirty great spice-cakes, and an hundred mince pies, and a
mighty bowl of plum-porridge [plum-pudding without the cloth] ready for
the boiling, and four barons of beef, and a great sight of carrots and
winter greens, and two great cheeses, and a parcel of sugar-candy for
the childre, and store of sherris-sack and claret, and _Rhenish_ wine,
and muscadel.  As to the barrels of ale, and the raisins of _Corance_
[currants] and the apples, and the conserves and codiniac [quince
marmalade], and such like, I will not tarry to count them.  And to-day,
and yet again it shall be to-morrow, have _Mother_ and Aunt _Joyce_, and
we three maids, trudged all the vicinage, bidding our neighbours to the
Hall on _Christmas_ Eve and for the even of _Christmas_ Day.  And as
to-night am I well aweary, for _Thirlmere_ side fell to my share, and I
was this morrow as far as old _Madge's_ bidding her and young _Madge_,
and that is six miles well reckoned.  _Father_ saith alway that though
it be our duty at all times, yet is it more specially at _Christmas_, to
bid the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind: so we have
them alway of _Christmas_ night, and of _Christmas_ Eve have we a
somewhat selecter gathering, of our own kin and close friends and such
like: only Master _Banaster_ and _Anstace_ come both times.  Then on New
Year's Day have we alway a great sort of childre, and merry games and
music and such like.  But the last night of the old year will _Father_
have no gatherings nor merrymaking.  He saith 'tis a right solemn time;
and as each one of us came to the age of fourteen years have we parted
at nine o' the clock as usual, but not on that night for bed.  Every one
sitteth by him or herself in a separate chamber, with a Bible or some
portion thereof open afore.  There do we read and pray and meditate
until half-past eleven, at which time all we gather in the great
chamber.  Then _Father_ reads first the 139th _Psalm_, and then that
piece in the _Revelation_ touching all the dead standing afore God: and
he prayeth a while, until about five minutes afore the year end.  Then
all gather in the great window toward _Keswick_, and tarry as still as
death until Master _Cridge_ ring the great bell on _Lord_ Island, so
soon as he hear the chimes of _Keswick_ Church.  Then, no sooner hath
the bell died away, which telleth to all around that the New Year is
born, then _Father_ striketh up, and all we join in, the 100th _Psalm_--
to wit, "All people that on earth do dwell."

And when the last note of the _Amen_ dieth, then we kiss one another,
and each wisheth the other a happy new year and God's blessing therein:
and so away to bed.

I reckon I shall not have no time to write again until _Christmas_ Day
is well over.

"_Father_," said I last night to him--we were us two alone that
minute--"_Father_, do you love _Christmas_?"

He looked on me and smiled.

"I love to see my childre glad, dear maid," saith he: "and I love to
feast my poor neighbours, that at other times get little feasting
enough.  But _Christmas_ is the childre's festival, _Edith_: for it is
the festival of untroubled hearts and eyes that have no tears behind
them.  For the weary hearts and the tearful eyes the true feast is
_Easter_.  The one is a hope: the other is a victory.  There are no
clouds o'er the blue sky in the first: the storm is over, and the sun is
out again, in the last.  `We believe in the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.'  But we are apt to believe in the
resurrection the most truly when the grave hath been lately open: and
the life of the world to come is the gladdest thought to them for whom
the life of the world that is seems not much to live for."

                                      SELWICK HALL, DECEMBER THE XXVIII.
"Well, _Edith_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ to me last night, "thou hast had a
rare time of it!"

"I have, _Aunt_," said I: "yet I warrant you, I was not sorry to have
_Sunday_ come at after."

Eh, but I was weary when I gat me abed on _Christmas_ night, and it were
ten o'clock well told ere I so did.  _Helen_ and _Milisent_ were later
yet: but _Mother_ packed me off, saying that growing maids should not
tarry up late: and when I found me withinside the blankets, I warrant
you, but I was thankful!

I reckon, being now something rested, I must set down all that we did:
and first for _Christmas_ Eve.

_Hal_ and _Anstace_ came early (their childre were bidden to _Keswick_
unto a childre's gathering): then about three o' the clock, Master and
Mistress _Lewthwaite_, with _Alice, Nym, Jack_, and _Robin_ (and by the
same token, _Nym_ played the despairing gallant that I could not choose
but laugh, his hat awry and his ruff all o' one side, and a bombasted
[padded] doublet that made him look twice his own size).  And methought
it a sore pity to miss _Blanche_, that was wont to be merriest of us all
(when as she were in a good humour) and so _Alice_ said unto me, while
the water stood in her eyes.  A little while after come Doctor and
Mistress _Meade_, and their _Isabel_: then old Mistress _Rigg_, and her
three tall daughters, Mrs _Martha_, Mrs _Katherine_, and Mrs _Anne_:
then Farmer _Benson_ and his dame, and their _Margaret_ and _Agnes_; and
Master _Coward_, with their _Tom_ and _Susan_; and Master and Mistress
_Armstrong_, with their _Ben_, _Nicholas_, and _Gillian_.  Last of all
come Master _Park_ and Master _Murthwaite_, both together, and their
mistresses, with the young folk,--_Hugh_ and _Austin Park_, and
_Dudley_, _Faith_, and _Temperance Murthwaite_.  So our four-and-thirty
guests, with ourselves, thirteen, made in all a goodly company of
forty-seven.

First, when all were come in and had doffed their out-door raiment, and
greeting over, we sat us down to supper: where one of the barons of
beef, and plum-porridge, and apple-pies, and chicken-pies, and syllabub,
and all manner of good things: but in very deed I might scarce eat my
supper for laughing at _Nym Lewthwaite_, that was sat right over against
me, and did scarce taste aught, but spent the time in gazing
lack-a-daisically on our _Helen_, and fetching great sighs with his hand
laid of his heart.  Supper o'er, we first had snap-dragon, then hot
cockles, then blindman's buff, then hunt the weasel.  We pausing to take
breath at after, _Father_ called us to sing; so we gathered all in the
great chamber, and first _Mynheer_ sang a _Dutch_ song, and then Sir
_Robert_ and Mistress _Martin_ a rare part-song, touching the beauties
of spring-time.  Then sang Farmer _Benson_, Master _Armstrong_, and
_Ben_ and _Agnes_, "The hunt is up," which was delightsome to hear.
Then Aunt _Joyce_ would sing "Pastime with good company," and would
needs have _Milisent_ and me and _Robin Lewthwaite_ to help her.  After
this _Jack Lewthwaite_ and _Nick Armstrong_ made us to laugh well, by
singing "The cramp is in my purse full sore."  The music ended with a
sweet glee of _Faith_ and _Temperance Murthwaite_ (something sober, but
I know it liked _Father_ none the worse) and the old _English_ song of
"Summer is ycumen in," sung of _Father_ and Sir _Robert_, our _Helen_,
and _Isabel Meade_.  Then we sat around the fire till rear-supper, and
had "Questions and Commands," and cried forfeits, and wound up with "I
love my love."  And some were rare witty and mirthful in that last,
particularly Sir _Robert_, who did treat his love to oranges and
orfevery in the _Orcades_ [Hebrides] (and _Father_ said he marvelled how
he gat them there), and Aunt _Joyce_, who said her love was _Benjamin
Breakrope_, and he came from the Tower of _Babel_.  Then, after that,
fell we a-telling stories: and a right brave one of _Father_, out of one
of his old Chronicles, how Queen _Philippa_ gat a pardon from her lord
for the six gentlemen of _Calais_: and a merry, of Dr _Meade_, touching
King _John_ and the Abbot of _Canterbury_, and the three questions that
the King did ask at the Abbot's gardener (he playing his master), and
the witty answers he made unto him.  Then would Master _Armstrong_ tell
a tale; and an awesome ghost-story it were, that made my flesh creep,
and _Milisent_ whispered in mine ear that she should sleep never a wink
at after it.

"Eh!" saith Farmer _Benson_, and fetched an heavy sigh: "ghosts be ill
matter of an house."

"Saw you e'er a ghost, Farmer _Benson_?" saith _Dudley Murthwaite_.

"Nay, lad," quoth he: "I've had too much good daylight work in my time
to lie awake a-seeing ghosts when night cometh."

"Ah, but I've seen a ghost," saith _Austin Park_.

"Oh, where?" cried a dozen together.

"Why, it was but night afore last," saith he, "up by the old white-thorn
that was strake of the lightning, come two years last Midsummer, just at
yon reach o' the lake that comes up higher than the rest."

"Ay, ay," saith Farmer _Benson_: "and what like were it, Master
_Austin_?"

"A woman all in white, with her head cut off," quoth he.

"Said she aught to thee?"

"Nay, I gave her no chance; I took to my heels," quoth he.

"Now, _Austin_, that should I ne'er have done," saith Aunt _Joyce_, who
believes in ghosts never a whit.  "I would have stood my ground, for I
did never yet behold a ghost, and would dearly love to do it: and do but
think how curious it should be to find out what she spake withal, that
had her head cut off."

"Mistress _Joyce_, had you found you, as I did, close to a blasted tree,
and been met of a white woman with no head, I'll lay you aught you will
you'd never have run no faster," saith _Austin_ in an injured tone.

"That should I _not_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_ boldly.  "I shall win my
fortune at that game, _Austin_, if thou deny not thy debts of honour.
Why, man o' life, what harm should a blasted tree do me?  Had the
lightning struck it that minute while I stood there, then might there
have been some danger: but because the lightning struck it two years
gone, how should it hurt me now?  And as to a woman with no head, that
would I tarry to believe till I had stripped off her white sheet and
seen for myself."

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_," cries old Mistress _Rigg_, "but sure you should
never dare to touch a ghost?"

"There be not many things, save sin, Mistress _Rigg_, that I should not
dare to do an' it liked me.  I have run after a thief with a poker: ay,
and I have handled a Popish catchpoll, in Queen _Mary's_ days, that he
never came near my house no more.  And wherefore, I pray you tell me,
should I be more feared of a spirit without a body than of a spirit
within the body?--_Austin_, if thou meet the ghost again, prithee bid
her come up to _Selwick_ Hall and ask for _Joyce Morrell_, for I would
give forty shillings to have a good talk with her.  Only think, how much
a ghost could tell a body!"

"Lack-a-day, Mistress _Joyce_, I'll neither make nor meddle with her!"
cries _Austin_.

"Poor weak soul!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  Whereat many laughed.

So, after a while, sat we down to rear-supper; and at after that,
gathered in small groups, twos and threes and the like, and talked: and
I with _Isabel Meade_, and _Temperance Murthwaite_, and _Austin Park_,
had some rare merriment touching divers matters.  When all at once I
heard Aunt _Joyce_ say--

"Well, but what ill were there in asking questions of spirits, if they
might visit the earth?"

"The ill for which _Adam_ was turned forth of _Eden_," saith _Father_:
"disobedience to a plain command of God.  Look in the xviii chapter of
_Deuteronomy_, and you shall see necromancy forbidden by name.  That is,
communication with such as be dead."

"But that were for religion, Sir _Aubrey_," saith Master _Coward_.
"This, look you, were but matter of curiousness."

"That is to say, it was _Eva's_ sin rather than _Adam's_," _Father_
makes answer.  "Surely, that which is forbid as solemn matter of
religion, should be rather forbid as mere matter of curiousness."

"But was that aught more than a ceremonial law of the _Jews_, no longer
binding upon _Christians_?" saith Sir _Robert_.

"Nay, then, turn you to _Paul's_ Epistle to _Timothy_," quoth _Father_,
"where among the doctrines taught by them that shall depart from the
faith, he doth enumerate `doctrines of devils,'--or, as the _Greek_ hath
it, of demons.  Now these demons were but dead men, whom the _Pagans_
held to be go-betweens for living men with their gods.  So this, see
you, is a two-edged sword, forbidding all communication with the dead,
whether as saints to be invoked, or as visitants to be questioned."

"Nobody's like to question 'em save Mistress _Joyce_," saith Farmer
_Benson_, of his husky voice, which alway soundeth as though he should
have an ill rheum of his throat.

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed.  "Nay, I were but joking," quoth she: "but I
warrant you, if I meet _Austin's_ white woman without a head, I'll see
if she be ghost or no."

"But what think you, Sir _Aubrey_--wherefore was such communication
forbid?" saith Master _Murthwaite_.

"God wot," saith _Father_.  "I am not of His council-chamber.  My
Master's plain word is enough for me."

"One might think that a warning from beyond the grave should have so
solemn an effect on a sinner."

"Nay, we be told right contrary.  `If they hear not _Moses_ and the
prophets, neither will they believe though one rise from death again.'
How much rather when One hath risen from the dead, and they have refused
to hear Him?"

Then arose Dr _Meade_, that was discoursing with _Mynheer_ of a corner,
and prayers were had.  After which a grace-cup, and then all took their
leave, Master _Park_ being last to go as to come.  And just ere he was
through the door, saith _Austin_ to Aunt _Joyce_, a-laughing--

"You'll mind to let me know, Mistress _Joyce_, what the ghost saith to
you.  I can stand it second-hand, may-be."

"That's a jolly hearing, from one of the stronger sex to one of the
weaker!" quoth she.  "Well said, thou mocking companion: I will give
thee to wit--a piece of my mind, if no more."

_Christmas-Day_, of course, all to church: and in the even sat down to
supper seventy-six, all but ourselves poor men and women and childre.
And two of the barons of beef, and six bowls of plum-porridge, and one
hundred pies of divers kinds,--to say nought of lesser dishes, that
_Milly_ counted up to eighty.  Then after, snap-dragon, whereat was much
mirth; and singing of _Christmas_ carols, and games with the childre.
And all away looking mighty pleased.

Daft _Madge_ would know of me if the angels lived o' plum-porridge.  I
told her I thought not so.

"It is like to be somewhat rare good," quoth she.  "The Lord's so rich,
look you,--main richer nor Sir _Aubrey_.  If t' servant gives poor folk
plum-porridge, what'll t' Master give?"

_Father_ answered her, for he was close by--

"`Fat things full of marrow, wines on the lees well refined.'"

"Eh, that sounds good!" saith she, a-licking of her lips.  "And that's
for t' hungry folk, Master?"

"It is only for hungry folk," saith he.  "'Tis not thrown away on the
full ones.  `Whosoever will, take,' saith the Lord, who gives the
feast."

"Eh, then I shall get some!" saith she, a-laughing all o'er her face, as
she doth when she is pleased at aught.  "You'll be sure and let me know
when 'tis, Master?  I'll come, if 'tis snow up to t' knees all t' way."

"The Lord will be sure and let thee know, _Madge_, when 'tis ready,"
saith _Father_; for he hath oft said that little as poor _Madge_ can
conceive, he is assured she is one of God's childre.

"Oh, if 'tis _Him_ to let me know, 't'll be all right," saith _Madge_,
smiling and drawing of her cloak around her.  "He'll not forget
_Madge_--not He.  He come down o' purpose to die for _me_, you know."

_Father_ saith, as _Madge_ trudged away in her clogs after old _Madge_,
her grandmother--

"Ah, rich _Madge_--not poor!  May-be thine shall be the most abundant
entrance of any in this chamber."

I am at the end of my month, and as to-morrow I hand the book to
_Helen_.  But I dare not count up my two-pences, for I am feared they be
so many.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  Complexion, at this date, signified temperament, not colour.
The Middle Age physicians divided the complexions of mankind into four--
the lymphatic, the sanguine, the nervous, and the bilious: and their
treatment was always grounded on these considerations.  Colour of skin,
hair, and eyes, being considered symptomatic of complexion, the word was
readily transferred from one to the other.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

AUNT JOYCE TACKLES A GHOST.

  "'Twas but one little drop of sin
  We saw this morning enter in,
  And lo! at eventide the world is drowned."

  Keble.

(_In Helen's handwriting_.)

                                            SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE IV.
Dear heart, but I ne'er thought our _Edith_ should have filled so much
paper!  Yet it doth seem me she is more livelier at writing than at
household duties.  I have watched her pen a-flying of a night (for she
can write twice as fast as I, she writing of the new _Italian_ hand, and
I but the old _English_) [Note 1] till I marvelled whate'er she found to
say.  And methinks she hath, likewise, a better memory than I, for I
reckon I should have made some mighty blunder in all these long talks
which she hath set down so pat.

I had no time to write afore to-day, nor much now: for o' New Year's Day
had we all the childre of all the vicinage, and I were fair run off my
feet, first a-making ready, and then a-playing games.  Then was there a
'stowing away of such matter as should not be wanted again o' Twelfth
Night.  Trust me, but after Twelfth Night we shall have some jolly work!

Dear heart! but how much hath happed since the last line I writ in this
book, and 'tis but two months gone.  I do see, as saith the wise man,
that we verily wit not what a day may bring forth.

Our _Milly_ is coming back something to her old self, though methinks
she hath learned an hard lesson, and shall ne'er be so light and foolish
as aforetime.  I trust this is not unkindly to say, for in very deed I
mean it not so.  But more and more hear we of all sides touching this
Master _Norris_ (as Aunt _Joyce_ saith is his true name), which doth
plainly show him a right evil man, and that if our poor _Milly_ had
trusted to his fair words, she should soon have had cause to repent her
bitterly thereof.  Why, there is scarce a well-favoured maid in all
_Derwentdale_, nor _Borrowdale_, that hath not token to show of him, and
an heap of besugared flatteries for to tell.  Eh, but what an ill world
is this we live in!--and how thankful should young maids be that have a
good home to shelter them in, and a loving father and mother to defend
them from harm!  Trust me, but I never knew how ill place was the world.

Nor did I ever truly conceive aforetime of Aunt _Joyce_.  Methought that
for her, being rich and well to do, the wheels of life had run rare
smooth: and that 'twas but a short way to the bottom of her mind and
heart.  And all suddenly an hand uplifts the corner of a curtain that I
had taken no note of, and lo! a mighty deep that I never guessed to be
there.  Is it thus with all folks, I do marvel?--and if we could look
into the inwards of them that seem as though nought were in them, should
we find great dreary caverns, or vast mines of wealth?  Yet for all this
is Aunt _Joyce_ ever bright and cheery, and ready to do all kindly
service for whoso it be that needeth it.  And 'tis harder to carry an
heavy burden that it shall not show under your cloak, than to heave it
up on your shoulder.  I did alway love Aunt _Joyce_, but never better,
methinks, than sithence I have known somewhat more of her inner mind.
Poor hasty spirits that we be, how do we misjudge other folk!  But now I
must tarry in my chronicling, for I hear _Anstace'_ voice below, and I
reckon she is come to help in making ready for Twelfth Night.

                                          SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE VIII.
Well!  Twelfth Night is o'er, and the most of things 'stowed away, and
all come back to our common ways.  Sixty-eight guests had we, grown folk
and childre, and I shall not essay, as I see _Edith_ hath done rarely,
to set down all their names; only there were most of those that come on
_Christmas_ Eve, but not Dr _Meade_ and his folks, he being bidden of
my Lord _Dilston_.  Much merriment was there a-drawing of king and
queen, and it o'er, behold, _Dudley Murthwaite_ was King, and _Mother_
was Queen.  So _Father_ (which had drawn the Chamberlain) right
courtlily hands _Mother_ up to the throne, that was set at the further
end of the great chamber, all laughing rarely to see how well 'twas
done: and _Martha Rigg, Agnes Benson, Gillian Armstrong_, and our
_Milly_, that had drawn the Maids of Honour, did dispose themselves
behind her.  Aunt _Joyce_ was Mother of the Maids, and she said she
would have a care to rule them with a rod of iron.  So she armed her
with the poker, and shaked it at each one that tittered, till the most
were a-holding of their sides with laughter.  _Jack Lewthwaite_ drew the
Chancellor, and right well he carried him.  Ere their Majesties
abdicated, and the Court dispersed, had we rare mirth, for Aunt _Joyce_
laid afore the throne a 'plaint of one of her maids for treason, which
was _Gillian_, that could no way keep her countenance: and 'twas
solemnly decreed of their Majesties, and ratified of the Chancellor,
that the said prisoner be put in fetters, and made to drink poison: the
which fetters were a long piece of silver lace that had come off a gown
of _Mother's_, and the poison a glass of syllabub, which Mr Chancellor
brought to the prisoner, that screamed and begged for mercy, but had it
not--and hard work had _Gillian_ to beg for mercy, for she was laughing
till she could scarce utter no words.  Howbeit, this o'er, all we
gathered around the fire, and played at divers sitting games.  And as we
were in the midst of "I love my love," and had but just finished R,--
afore _Margaret Benson_, that was next, could begin with S,--behold, a
strange voice behind, yet no strange one, crieth out loud and cheery--

"I love my love with an S, because she is sweet; I hate her with S,
because she is sulky: I took her to the sign of the _Ship_, and treated
her to sprats and seaweed; her name is _Sophonisba Suckabob_, and she
comes from _San Sebastian_."

Well, we turned round all and looked on him that had spoke, but in good
sooth not one of us knew the bright fresh face, until _Mother_ cries
out,--"_Ned_!  _Ned_, my boy!" and then, I warrant you, there was some
kissing and hand-shaking, ay, more than a little.

"Fleet ahoy!" saith _Ned_.  "Haven't seen so many crafts in the old
harbour, for never so long."

"Why, _Ned_, hast thou forgot 'tis Twelfth Night?" says _Milly_.

"So 'tis," quoth _Ned_.  "Shall I dance you a hornpipe?"

So after all the greeting was done, _Ned_ sat down next to _Mother_: but
we gat no further a-loving of our loves that night, for all wanted to
hear _Ned_, that is but now come back from the _Spanish_ seas: and
divers tales he told that were rare taking, and one or twain that did
make my flesh creep: but truly his sea-talk is rare hard to conceive.
When all at once saith _Ned_:--

"Have you a ghost cruising these parts?"

"Eh, _Ned_, hast thou seen her?" cries _Austin Park_.

"Who's her?" saith _Ned_.  "I've seen a craft with a white hull and all
sails up, in the copse nigh old _Nanny's_."

"Couldst thou make it thy conveniency to speak _English, Ned_?" saith
_Father_.  "That is the language we talk in _Derwentdale_."

_Ned_ laughed, and saith, "I'll endeavour myself; but 'tis none so easy
to drop it.  Well, who or what is it?"

"'Tis a ghost," saith _Austin_; "and folks laughed at me when I said I
had seen it: may-be they'll give o'er now."

"Why didst not send a buck-shot through her?" quoth _Ned_.

"Good lack!  I had no arms," saith _Austin_: "and what good should come
o' shooting a ghost?"

"Make you first sure she is a ghost," saith _Father_: "for it should be
right little good that should come of shooting a woman."

This was all said that night; and we brake up at nine o' the clock, and
away hied our guests.

But yestereven, as I was a-crossing of the hall, just after the dusk
fell, what should I see but Aunt _Joyce_, clad in hood, cloak, and
pattens, drawing back of the bolt from the garden door: and I ran to
help her.

"Why, Aunt _Joyce_, whither go you so late?" said I.  "But may-be I do
ill to ask."

"Nay, thou dost not so, child," saith she: "and I will take thee into my
secret, for I can trust thee.  _Nell_, I am going to see the ghost."

"Aunt _Joyce_," was all I could utter.

"Ay," saith she, "I will: for my mind misgives me that this is no ghost,
but a living woman: and a woman that it should be well had an other
woman to speak unto her.  Be not afeared, dear heart; I am not running
afore I am sent.  It was said to me last night, `Go in this thy might.'
And when the Lord sends men on His errands, He pays the charges."

"But if you should be hurt, _Aunt_!" cried I.

"Well, what so?" saith she.  "He were a poor soldier that were afeared
to be hurt in his King's battles.  But if it be as I think, _Nell_,
there is no fear thereof.  And if there were, mine ease is of less
moment than a sinner's soul.  Nay, dear maid, take thine heart to thee
[cheer up].  There is more with me than all the constables in
_Cumberland_.  `Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He,--in heaven,
and in the earth, and in the seas, and in all deep places.'  I am not
afeared, _Nell_."

And away trudged she, without an other word.  But I sat on thorns till,
about seven o' the clock, she came into the great chamber, her hood and
cloak doffed.

"Why, _Joyce_, I had lost thee," saith _Mother_, looking up brightly
from her sewing.

"I would rather thou hadst lost me than the Lord, _Lettice_: and if thou
hadst not, methinks He had found me wanting," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Now,
dear hearts, list me.  I have much trust in you, _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_,
or I had not dared to do as I have done this night.  I have brought into
your house a woman that is a sinner.  Will you turn her forth of the
doors to die in the snow without, or will you let her 'bide till she
hath had time to behold Him that sitteth as guest at your banquet, and,
I would hope, to wash His feet with tears, and wipe them with the hairs
of her head?"

"O _Joyce_, let her 'bide!" crieth _Mother_, and the tears ran down her
cheeks.

"Amen!" saith _Father_, gently.

"But who is she?" saith _Mother_, as if something fearfully.

"She is,"--Aunt _Joyce's_ voice was very husky--"she is what our
_Milisent_ would have been, if the Lord had not stayed her right at the
last minute."

So then I knew that _Blanche Lewthwaite_ was found at last.

There were none in the chamber, as it happed, but _Father_, _Mother_,
and me, when _Aunt_ came in.

"And what hath she to say?" asks _Mother_.

"She will not talk of the past," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "and, God wot, I
shall not ask her."

"Is she very 'shamed and sorrowful?"

"Never a whit.  She is more angered than aught else."

"Angered!--with whom?"

"With _Providence_, I take it," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, something drily.
"She counts a miracle should have been wrought for her to hinder her
from sinning, and that since it were not, there can be no blame laid at
her door."

"So hard as that!" saith _Mother_.

"May-be not all through," Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer.  "The crust seems
thick at present: but there may be a soft spot deep down below.  I shall
work till I find it."

"Is she not softened toward thee?" asks _Father_.

"Me!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a bitter little laugh.  "Why, so far as I
can make out, I am but one step fairer than _Providence_ in her eyes.  I
gat not much flattery this even, I can tell you--no more than I had of
_Milly_ a month gone.  Nay, _Aubrey_.  He that would save a sinner
against his will must not expect thanks from him."

"Shall I go to her, _Joyce_?" saith _Mother_, and rose up.

"As thou wilt, _Lettice_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Only, an' thou so dost,
look not for any fair words save out of thine own mouth.  She is in the
green chamber.  I locked her in."

"Hath she had to eat?" saith _Mother_.

"Ay; I saw to that ere I came below."

_Mother_ went forth of the chamber.

"May I see her, Aunt _Joyce_," said I, "or must I not?"

"Better not at this present, _Nell_," she made answer.  "But--I am not
sure that it were not well for _Milly_."

When _Mother_ came down again, she saith in a despairing voice, and
spreading forth her hands--

"O _Joyce_, she is as hard as a stone!"

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_, quietly.  "So, I reckon, was _Peter_, until
the Lord turned and looked upon him.  That melted him, _Lettice_.  Leave
us take _Blanche_ to the Lord."

"Sin is the most hardening thing in the world, dear heart," saith
_Father_, sadly.

So here is poor _Blanche_, locked of the green chamber, with Aunt
_Joyce_ for her waiting-maid, for none other will she have to enter--not
even _Mother_, for her one talk with _Blanche_ hath sore distressed her.

"Wait a while, _Lettice_," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "I will bid thee when I
reckon any good should come of it."

_Milisent_ hath been told, and seemeth much touched therewith: but none
of us have yet seen _Blanche_.  Poor heart! may the good Lord have mercy
upon her!

                                           SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XII.
_Mother_, and I with her, went up this morrow to _Mere Lea_, to do
Mistress _Lewthwaite_ to wit touching _Blanche_.  We found her right
busy a-making of pies, and _Alice_ by her paring of apples.  She gave us
good welcome, and we sat us down, and talked a short while of other
matter.  Then saith _Mother_:--

"Suffer me to ask at you, Mistress _Lewthwaite_, if you have heard ever
any news of _Blanche_?"

Mistress _Lewthwaite_ shaked her head sorrowfully.

"Nay, not we," saith she.  "It should be a good day we did.  Albeit, her
father is sore angered: yet methinks if he did verily stand face to face
with the child, he should not be so hard on her as he talks now."

"Then I hope the good day is coming," saith _Mother_.  "For methinks,
neighbour, we have heard somewhat."

Mistress _Lewthwaite_ left her pastry of the board, and come up to
_Mother_.

"Eh, Lady _Lettice_, what have you heard?  Tell me quick, now!"

"My poor heart, I saw her last night."

"Where is the child?"

"With us, at _Selwick_ Hall.  _Joyce_ found her, wandering about, and
hiding in copses, and she brought her in."

"And what hath happed, Lady _Lettice_?"

"We have not asked her."

"Not asked her!" saith Mistress _Lewthwaite_, in manifest amazement; and
_Alice_ looked up with the like.

"We know," saith _Mother_, "but such matter as it hath liked her to tell
us: the which is, that she was wed to this gentleman of a _Popish_
priest, which as you know is not good in law: and that after she had
bidden with him but a fortnight, they quarrelled, and he left her."

"Ah, she ne'er had a good temper, hadn't _Blanche_," saith her mother.
"Well, poor heart!  I'll not quarrel with her.  We're all sinners, I
reckon.  The lass may come home when she will, for all me; and I'll do
mine utmost to peace her father.  We haven't so much time o' this world,
nor so much happiness, that we need wrangle and make matters worser."

For Mistress _Lewthwaite_ is herself a right easy-going woman: 'tis her
father of whom _Blanche_ hath her temper.  But _Alice_ saith to me, that
sat right at the end of the board where she was a-work--

"All very well, methinks, for my fine mistress to come hither a-prinking
and a-pranking of her, and looking to be took back as if nought had
happened.  If I had the word to say, she'd not come home in no hurry, I
warrant you.  She should lie on her bed as she'd made it."

"O _Alice_!" said I, "but sure, thou wilt be right glad to have
_Blanche_ back?"

"Shall I so?" saith she, and tossed her head.  "Thank you for nothing,
_Nell Louvaine_.  I'm a decent maid that have alway carried me belike,
and I go not about to say `sister' to one that brought disgrace on her
name."

"_Alice_, art thou about to play the _Pharisee_?" said I, for I was sore
troubled.  I had ever thought _Alice_ right sorry after _Blanche_, and
it did astonish me to hear such words of her.

"Let my fine Lady _Everett_ play the publican first, then," quoth she.

I scarce wist what to say, yet I would have said more, but that _Mother_
rose up to depart at this time.  But I am so astonied at _Alice_.  While
so _Blanche_ were lost, she did seem quite soft toward her; and now she
is found, here is _Alice_ grown hard as a board, and all of a minute, as
it were.  Had it been our _Milly_ (which I do thank God from mine
heart-root it is not) I think I would not have been thus towards her.  I
know I am but sinful and not to be trusted for the right, as much or
more than other: but I do _think_ I should not so do.

Yet is there one matter that I comprehend not, nor never shall, neither
of _Milly_ nor of any other.  To think of a maid leaving of father and
mother, and her home, and her brethren and sisters, to go away with a
fine-spoken man that she had not known a month, all by reason he spake
some flattering words--in good sooth, but 'tis a marvel unto me.  Truly,
I might conceive the same in case a maid were rare ill-usen at home--
were her father ever harsh unto her, and her mother all day a-nagging at
her--then, if the man should show him no mere flatterer, but a true
friend, would I not stick to the days she had known him.  And yet, as
methinks, it should be a strange case wherein a true man should not go
boldly and honestly to the maid's father, and ask her of him, with no
hole-and-corner work.  But to think of so leaving _our_ father and
mother, that never in all their lives did deny us any good thing that
was meet for us, and that have loved us and cared for us all, from the
day we were born unto this day--to go away from them with a strange
flatterer--nay, this passeth me by many a mile.

                                           SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XVI.
This morrow, as I was sat a-work alone in the great chamber, come my
Lady _Stafford_, with her broidery in her hand, and sat her down beside
me.  And ere many minutes were passed, saith she--

"_Helen_, I have been to see _Blanche_."

"And is she still so hard, my Lady?" said I.

"I should not call her mood hard," saith she.  "I think she is very,
very sorry, and would fain not have us see it.  But," she paused a
moment, and then went on, "it is the worldly sorrow which causeth
death."

"Your Ladyship would say?"

"She is right sorry for my Lady _Everett_, for the great lady she
thought to have been, and the grand life she looked to lead: but for
_Blanche Lewthwaite_ as a sinner before God, methinks she is not sorry
at all."

"'Tis a sad case," said I.

My Lady _Stafford_ gave me no answer, and when I looked up at her, I saw
her dark eyes fastened on the white clouds which were floating softly
across the blue, and her eyes so full that they all-to [nearly] ran
o'er.

"_Helen_," she saith, "hast thou any idea what is sin?"

"Truly, Madam, I think so," I made answer.

"I marvel," she pursueth, "if there ever were man or woman yet, that
could see it as God seeth it.  It may be that unto Him all the evil that
_Blanche_ hath done--and 'tis an evil with many sides to it--is a lesser
thing than the pride and unbelief which will not give her leave to own
that she hath done it.  And for what others have done--"

All suddenly, her Ladyship brake off, and hiding her face in her
kerchief, she brake into such a passion of weeping tears as methought I
had scarce seen in any woman aforetime.

"O my God, my God!" she sobbeth through her tears, "how true is it that
`man knows the beginnings of sin, but who boundeth the issues thereof!'"
[Note 2.]

I felt that my Lady's trouble, the cause whereof was unknown to me, lay
far beyond any words, specially of me: and I could but keep respectful
silence till she grew calm.  When so were, quoth she--

"Dost marvel at my tears, _Helen_?"

"In no wise, Madam," said I: "for I reckoned there were some cause for
them, beyond my weak sight."

"Cause!" saith she--"ay, _Helen_, cause more than thou wist.  Dost know
that this _Leonard Norris_--the man that hath wrought all this
mischief--and more beside than thou or I can tell--is my brother, of the
father's side?"

"Madam!" cried I in amaze.

"Ay," saith she sorrowfully: "and that is not all, _Helen_, by very
much.  For our father was just such an other: and not only are the sins,
but the leanings and temptations of the fathers, visited upon the
children.  And I thought, _Helen_, beyond that--of a quiet grave in
unconsecrate ground, wherein, now nigh fifty years agone, they laid one
that had not sinned against the light like to _Blanche Lewthwaite_, yet
to whom the world was harder than it is like to be to her.  She was
lawfully wed, _Helen_, but she stood pledged to convent vows, and the
Church cursed her and flung her forth as a loathsome thing.  Her life
for twelve years thereafter was a daily dying, whereto death came at
last as a hope and a mercy.  I reckon the angels drew not their white
robes aside, lest her soiled feet should brush them as she passed up to
the Judgment Bar.  And methinks her sentence from the Judge should be no
worser than one He gave in the days of His flesh--`Thy sins be forgiven
thee: go in peace.'  The Church cast her out, but not the Cross.  There
was no room for her in the churchyard: but methinks there was enough in
the Sepulchre on _Golgotha_!"

Oh, but how sorry I felt for this poor soul! and I saw she was one whom
her Ladyship had loved well.

"There was a time, _Helen_," she went on, "when it seemed to me
uttermost misery that no prayers should be permitted for her soul.
Think thou with what comfort I found in God's Word that none were needed
for her.  Ah, these _Papists_ will tell you of the happiness of their
priests' fatherly care, and the sweetness of absolution: but they tell
you not of the agony of despair to them to whom absolution is denied,
and for whom the Church and the priest have no words save curses.  I
have seen it, _Helen_.  Well for them whom it drives straight to Him
that is high above all Churches, and who hath mercy on whom He will have
mercy.  Praise be to His holy name, that the furthest bounds of men's
forbearance touch not the `uttermost' of God."

When my Lady thus spake, it came upon my mind all of a sudden, to ask at
her somewhat the which had troubled me of long time.  I marvel wherefore
it should be, that it doth alway seem easier to carry one's knots and
griefs unto them that be not the nearest and dearest, than unto them
that be.  Is it by reason that courtesy ordereth that they shall list
the better, and not be so like to snub a body?--yet that can scarce be
so with me, that am alway gently entreated both of _Father_ and
_Mother_.  Or is it that one would not show ignorance or mistakings
afore them one loves, nor have them hereafter cast in one's teeth, as
might be if one were o'erheard of one's sist--Good lack! but methought I
were bettered of saying unkindly things.  I will stay me, not by reason
that it should cost me two pence, but because I do desire to please God
and do the right.

Well, so I said unto my Lady, "Madam, I pray you pardon me if I speak
not well, but there is one place of Holy Writ that doth sore pose and
trouble me.  It is that of Saint _Paul_, which saith, that if they that
were once enlightened shall fall away, there shall be no hope to renew
them again.  That doth alway seem to me so awful a word!--to think of
one that had sinned longing for forgiveness, and yet must not have it--I
cannot understand how it should be, when _Christ_ liveth to save to the
uttermost!"

"Nor any other," saith she.  "Dear _Helen_, thou readest it wrong, as I
believe many do.  The Apostle saith not, there is no renewing to
_pardon_: he saith, there is no renewing to _repentance_.  With them
that have sinned against light, the language of whose hearts is, `I have
loved idols, and after them I will _go_,'--these have no desire of
remission.  They do not wish to be forgiven.  But these, dear maid, are
not they that long for pardon and are willing to turn from sin.  That is
repentance.  So long as a sinner can repent, so long can he receive
pardon.  The sinner that doth long for forgiveness which God can not or
will not give him, is a monster was never found yet in this world or
that which is to come."

Right comfortable did I think these words.  I never should have dared
(as _Milly_ saith touching the 139th Psalm) to have turned o'er the two
leaves together that I might not see this sixth chapter of _Hebrews_:
yet did I never see it without a diseaseful creeping feeling, belike,
coming o'er me.  And I am sore afeared lest I may have come nigh, at
times, to wishing that Saint _Paul_ had not writ the same.

"Yet mark thou, _Helen_," again saith my Lady, "there is a difference
betwixt remission of sin and remission of penalty.  Every sinner should
be glad enough to part with his punishment: but no sinner was ever yet
willing to part with his sin but under the promptings of God's Spirit.
And that is but a sorry repentance which would fain keep the sin, if
only it might without incurring penalty."

"Madam, you do cause sin to look very awful," said I.

"That is how God would have thee see it, _Helen_," saith she.
"Remember, He hates sin not for His own sake only, but for thy sake.
Ah, dear maid, when some sin, or some matter that perhaps scarce seems
sin to thee, yet makes a cloud to rise up betwixt God and thee--when
this shall creep into thy very bosom, and nestle himself there warm and
close, and be unto thee as a precious jewel--remember, if so be, that
`it is better _for thee_ to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than
thou shouldst, having two hands, or two feet, be cast into everlasting
fire.'  He that said that, _Helen_, knew what Hell was."

                                           SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XXI.
_Blanche_ is gone home at last.  Aunt _Joyce_ and I went thither this
last night with her, her mother having wrung consent from her father
that she should come.  For all that was the scene distressful, for
Master _Lewthwaite_ kept not in divers sharp speeches, and _Blanche_
(that is sore wanting in reverence to her elders) would answer back as
she should not: but at the last Mistress _Lewthwaite_ gat them peaced,
and _Alice_ and _Blanche_ went off together.  _Alice_ behaved better
than my fears.  But, dear heart, to my thinking, how hard and proud is
_Blanche_!  Why, she would brazen it out that she hath done none ill of
no kind.  The good Lord open her eyes!

When we came out from _Mere Lea_, and were come down the garden path,
Aunt _Joyce_ stood a moment on the hill-side, her eyes lift up to the
still stars.

"Good Lord!" then saith she, "how hard be we poor sinful men and women,
each to other, and how much more forbearing art Thou against whom we
have sinned!  Make Thou Thy servants more like Thyself!"

And then away, with a quick foot, and never an other word spake she till
we gat us home.

                                         SELWICK HALL, JANUARY YE XXVII.
When I come to read o'er that I have writ, I find I have said rare
little touching _Ned_.  And in very deed it is not that I meant to keep
him out, for _Ned_ is my very hero, and my true thought is that never
yet were young man so brave and good, nor so well-favoured.  I must say
I would I could conceive his talk better: for 'tis all so stuffed with
sea-words that I would fain have an interpreter.  _Ned_ laughs when I
say this.

"Well," saith he, "'tis the strangest thing in the world you should not
conceive me.  'Tis all along of you being maids, I reckon."

"Nay," say I, "'tis by reason we were ne'er at sea."

"Well, how any human creature can be a landlubber," saith _Ned_, "when
he might have a good boat and a stiff capful o' wind, passeth me
rarely."

"Why," quoth _Father_, that had listed us in silence till now, "if we
were all sailors and mermen, _Ned_, how wouldst come by a sea-biscuit or
a lump of salt meat?  There should be none to sow nor reap, if the land
were deserted."

"Oh ay, 'tis best some should love it," saith _Ned_.  "But how they so
should, that is it passeth me."

"'Tis a strange matter," saith _Father_, "that we men should be all of
us unable to guess how other men can affect that we love not.  I dare be
bound that _Wat_ should say what passed him was that any man which might
dwell on the land should take to the sea."

"_Wat_!" saith Ned, curling of his lip.  "I saw him, Sir, and spent two
days in his company, when we touched at _London_ some eight months gone.
Why, he is--Nay, I wis not what he is like.  All the popinjays in the
South Seas be fools to him."

"Is he so fine, _Ned_?" asks _Milly_.

"Fine!" saith _Ned_.  "Go to, I have some whither an inventory of his
Lordship's garments, the which I set down for the mirth of you maids.  I
gat the true names of _Wat_, look you."

And he pulleth forth a great bundle of papers from his pocket, and after
some search lighteth on the right.

"Now then, hearken, all of you," saith _Ned_.  "_Imprimis_, on his
head--when it is on, but as every minute off it cometh to every creature
he meeteth, 'tis not much--a _French_-fashioned beaver, guarded of a set
of gold buttons enamelled with black--cost, eight pound."

"For a hat!" cries _Milly_.

"Tarry a bit," saith _Ned_; "I am not in port yet by a thousand knots.
Then in this hat was a white curled ostrich feather, six shillings.
Below, a gown of tawny velvet, wherein were six yards, _London_ measure,
of four-and-twenty shillings the yard: and guarded with some make of fur
(I forgat to ask him the name of that), two dozen skins, eight pence
each: cost of this goodly gown, six pound, ten shillings, and four
pence."

"Eh!" cried _Milly_ and _Edith_ together.

"Bide a bit!" saith _Ned_.  "_Item_, a doublet, of black satin of
sixteen shillings the yard, with points of three and sixpence the dozen.
_Item_, a pair of hose of popinjay green (they be well called popinjay)
of thirty shillings.  _Item_, cross-garters of scarlet--how's that?"
quoth _Ned_, scratching his forehead with a pencil: "I must have forgat
the price o' them.  Boots o' red _Spanish_ leather, nine shillings.
Gloves of _Cordova_, well scented, ten pence.  Gold rings of 's ears,
three shilling the pair."

"Rings!  Of his ears!" cries Cousin _Bess_, that was sat in the window
at her sewing, as she mostly is of an afternoon.  "And prithee, what
cost the one of his nose?"

"He hasn't bought that yet," saith _Ned_ drily.

"It'll come soon, I reckon," quoth she.

"Then, o'er all, a mighty gold chain, as thick as a cart-rope.  But
that, as he told me, was given to him: so 'tis not fair to put it of the
price.  Eh, good lack!  I well-nigh forgat the sleeves--green velvet,
slashed of mallard-colour satin; and guarded o' silver lace--three
pound, eight shillings, and four pence."

"Hast made an end, _Ned_?" saith _Edith_.

"Well, I reckon I may cast anchor," saith _Ned_, looking o'er to the
other side of his paper.

"Favour me with the total, _Ned_," quoth _Father_.

"Twenty-three pound, two and six pence, Sir, I make it," saith _Ned_.
"I am not so sure _Wat_ could.  He saith figuring is only fit for
shop-folk."

"Is thrift only fit for shop-folk too?" asks _Father_.

"I'll warrant you _Wat_ thinks so, Sir," answers _Ned_.

"What have thy garments cost this last year, _Ned_?" pursueth _Father_.

"Eh, five pound would buy mine any year," quoth he.

"And so I reckon would ten mine," saith _Father_.  "What be _Wat's_
wages now?--is he any thing bettered?"

"Sixteen pound the year, Sir, as he told me."

"I guess shop-folk should be something put to it to take twenty-three
out of sixteen," quoth _Father_.

"And prithee, _Ned_, how many such suits hath my young gentleman in his
wardrobe?"

"That cannot I say certainly, Sir: but I would guess six or seven,"
_Ned_ makes answer.  "But, dear heart! you wit not the half hath to come
of that sixteen pound: beyond clothes, there be presents, many and rich
(this last new year but one girdle of seven pound;) pomanders [perfumed
balls, which served as scent-bottles], and boxes of orange comfits, and
cups of tamarisk wood, and _aqua mirabilis_, and song books, and
virginals [the predecessor of the piano] and viols [violins], and his
portrait in little, and playing tables [backgammon], and speculation
glasses [probably magnifying glasses], and cinnamon water, and
sugar-candy, and fine _Venice_ paper for his letters, and
pouncet-boxes--"

"Take breath, _Ned_," saith _Father_.  "How many letters doth _Wat_
write by the year?"

"They be love-letters, on the _Venice_ paper," quoth _Ned_.  "In good
sooth, I wis not, Sir: only I saw them flying hither and thither as
thick as Mother _Carey's_ chickens."

"Is he troth-plight?" saith _Father_, very seriously.

"Not that I heard," _Ned_ makes answer.  "He had two or three strings to
his bow, I guess.  One a right handsome young lady, daughter unto my
Lord of _Sheffield_, that had taken up with him the new fashion called
_Euphuism_."

"Prithee interpret, _Ned_," saith _Father_, "for that passeth my weak
head."

I saw _Milly_ to blush, and cast down her eyes of her tapestry-work: and
I guessed she wist what it were.

"'Tis a rare diversion, Sir, come up of late," answers _Ned_: "whereby,
when a gentlewoman and a gentleman be in treaty of love,--or without the
same, being but friends--they do agree to call each other by certain
dainty and fantastical names: as the one shall be _Perfection_, and the
other _Hardihood_: or, the one _Sweetness_, and the other _Fortitude_:
and the like.  I prayed _Wat_ to show me how it were, or else had I wist
no more than a baker how to reef a sail.  The names whereby he and his
lady do call each other be, she his _Excellency_, and he her _Courage_."

"Be these men and women grown?" quoth _Father_.

"Nay, sure!" cries Cousin _Bess_.

"Every one, Sir," saith _Ned_, a-laughing.

"And, poor souls! can they find nought better to do?" quoth _Father_.

"They have not yet, it seems," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Are you ne'er mocking of us, think you?" saith Cousin _Bess_ to _Ned_.

"Never a whit!" crieth he.  "Eh, Cousin _Bess_, I could tell you queerer
matters than that."

"Nay, I'll hear none, o' my good will," saith she.  "_Paul_ saith we be
to think on whatsoever things be lovely: and I reckon he wasn't like to
mean on a parcel o' big babes, playing at make-believe."

"They have nought else to do, it appears," quoth _Father_.

"Dear heart!" saith she.  "Could they ne'er buy a bale of flannel, and
make some doublets and petticoats for the poor?  He must be a poor silly
companion that shall call a woman _Excellency_, when she hath done
nought all her life but to pluck roses and finger her gold chain.
Where's her excellency, belike?"

"Things were ill enough in the Court of old," saith _Father_, "but it
doth seem me we were scantly so brainless of old time as this.  I shall
send a letter to my cousin of _Oxenford_ touching _Walter_.  He must not
be suffered to drift into--"

_Father_ did not end his sentence.  But methought I could guess
reasonable well how it should have been finished.

Verily, I am troubled touching _Wat_, and will pray for him, that he may
be preserved safe from the snares of the world, the flesh, and the
Devil.  Oh, what a blessed place must Heaven be, seeing there shall be
none of them!

One thing, howbeit, doth much comfort me,--and that is, that _Ned_ is
true and staunch as ever to the early training he had of _Father_ and
_Mother_ out of God's Word.  Some folk might think him careless and too
fond of laughter, and fun, and the like: but I know _Ned_--of early days
I was ever his secret fellow--and I am well assured his heart is right
and true.  He shall 'bide with us until Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ his next
voyage out to the _Spanish_ seas, but we know not yet when that shall
be.  He had intended to make the coast of _Virginia_ this last time, but
was beat back by the tempest.  'Tis said that when he goeth, his brother
of the mother's side, Sir _Walter Raleigh_, shall go with him.  This Sir
_Walter_, saith _Ned_, is a young gentleman that hath but eight and
twenty years, yet is already of much note in the Court.  He hath a rare
intelligence and a merry wit.  Aunt _Joyce_ was mightily taken by one
tale that _Ned_ told us of him,--how that, being at the house of some
gentleman in the country, where the mistress of the house was mightily
set up and precise, one morrow, this Sir _Walter_, that was a-donning
[dressing] himself, did hear the said his precise and delicate hostess,
without his door, to ask at her servants, "Be the pigs served?"  No
sooner had they met below, than saith Sir _Walter_, "Madam, be the pigs
served?"

But my Lady, that moved not a muscle of her face, replied as calm as you
will, "You know best, Sir, whether you have had your breakfast."  Aunt
_Joyce_ did laugh o'er this, and said Sir _Walter_ demerited to have as
good given him as he brought.

"I do like," quoth she, "a woman that can stand up to a man!"

"I can credit it, _Joyce_," saith _Father_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The English hand was the running hand of the old black letter,
and was a very crabbed and tedious piece of work.  The Italian hand,
which came in about this time, has lasted until the present day, though
its latest variety has lost much of the old clearness and beauty.  It
was at its best in the reign of James the First, of which period some
specimens of writing have been preserved, exquisitely beautiful, and as
legible as copper-plate.  Most lovely is the youthful hand of his eldest
daughter: the cacography of her later years is, alas! something
horrible.  Queen Elizabeth could write the Italian hand (and did it to
perfection), but she has left on record that she did not like doing it.

Note 2.  These were the last words of Francesco Spira, an Italian lawyer
and a pervert, whose terrible death, in the agonies of remorse and
despair, made a deep and lasting impression on the Protestants of
England.



CHAPTER EIGHT.

HOW TWO WENT IN AT THE GATE.

              "All the foolish work
  Of fancy, and the bitter close of all."

  Tennyson.

  "On all the sweet smile falleth
      Of Him who loveth so,
  But to one the sweet voice calleth,
      `Arise, and let us go;
  They wait to welcome thee,
  This night, at Home, with Me.'"

  "B.M."

(_In Milisent's handwriting_.)

                                           SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE II.
This day was called of old time _Candlemas_, by reason of the great
number of candles, saith _Father_, which were brent afore the altar at
the Purification of Saint _Mary_.  Being an holy day, all we to church
this morrow, after the which I was avised to begin my chronicling.

And afore I set down anything else, 'tis meet I should say that I do now
see plain how I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.  I
would not think now to tear forth those pages I writ this last
_November_, though they be such a record of folly and sin as few maids
should need to set down.  I would rather keep them, that I may see in
future days all the ill that was once in _Milisent Louvaine_, and all
the great mercy and goodness which the Lord my God did show me.

Oh, the bitter anger that was in mine heart that night toward dear Aunt
_Joyce_!--who, next unto _Father_ and _Mother_, hath been to me as an
angel of God.  For had she not stopped me in my madness, where and what
had I been to-night?  I can scarce bear to think on it.  Perchance I
feel it the more, sith I am ever put in mind thereof by the woefully
changed face of poor _Blanche_--_Blanche_, but three months gone the
merriest of us all, and now looking as though she should never know a
day's merriment again.  Her whole life seems ruined: and Dr _Bell_, the
chirurgeon at _Keswick_, told _Mother_ but yesterday that _Blanche_
should not live long.  She hath, said he, a leaning of her nature toward
the consumption of the lungs, the which was greatly worsened by those
days that she hid in the copse, fearing to come home, until Aunt _Joyce_
went to her.

And to think that I might have been thus now--with nought but a wasted
life to look back on, and nought to look forward to but a rapid and
early death!  And to know well, as I do know, that I have but mine own
headstrong foolery to thank for the danger, and am far from having any
wisdom of mine to thank for the rescue.  Verily, I should be the
humblest of women, all the days of my life.

Oh, when will young maids learn, without needing to have it brent into
them of hot irons, that they which have dwelt forty or sixty years in
this world be like to know more about its ways than they that have lived
but twenty; or that their own fathers and mothers, which have loved and
cared for them since they lay in the cradle, be not like to wreck their
happiness, even for a while, without they have good cause!  Of force, I
know 'tis not every maid hath such a father and mother as we--thank God
for the same!--but I do think, nevertheless, there be few mothers that
be good women at all, which should not be willing to have their
daughters bring their sorrows and joys to them, rather than pour them
into the ear of the first man that will flatter them.  I have learned,
from Aunt _Joyce_, that there is oft a deal more in folk than other folk
reckon, and that if we come not on the soft spot in a woman's heart,
'tis very commonly by reason that we dig not deep enough.  Howbeit, Aunt
_Joyce_ saith there be women that have no hearts.  The good Lord keep
them out of my path, if His will be!

                                            SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE V.
This morrow, we maids were sat a-work in the great chamber, where was
Aunt _Joyce_ a-work likewise, and _Mother_ coming in and out on her
occasions.  _Father_ was there, but he was wrapped in a great book that
lay afore him.  I cannot well mind how we gat on the matter, but Aunt
_Joyce_ 'gan speak of the blunders that men do commonly make when they
speak of women.

"Why," saith she, "we might be an other sort of animal altogether,
instead of the one half of themselves.  Do but look you what I have
heard men to say in my life.  A woman's first desire is to be wed;
that's not true but of some women, and they be the least worthy of the
sex.  A woman can never keep a secret: that's not true but of some.  A
woman can never take a joke: that's as big a falsehood as _Westminster_
Abbey.  A woman cannot understand reason and logic: that's as big an one
as all _England_.  Any woman can keep a house or manage a babe: heyday,
can she so?  I know better.  Poor loons, what should they say if we made
as great blunders touching them?  And an other thing I will tell you
which hath oft-times diverted me: 'tis the queer ways whereby a man will
look to win favour of a woman.  Nine men of every ten will suppose they
shall be liked of a woman for telling her (in substance) that she is as
good as if she had not been one.  Now, that should set the man that did
it out of my grace for ever and ever."

"How mean you, _Aunt_, an' it like you?" saith _Nell_.

"Why, look you here," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "But this last week, said I
to Master _Coward_, touching somewhat he had said, `But,' said I, `that
were not just.'  Quoth he, `How, my mistress!--you a woman, and love
justice?'  Again: there was once a companion would fain have won me to
wed him.  When I said `Nay,' (and meant it), quoth he, `Oh, a maid doth
never say yea at the first.'  And I do believe that both these thought
to flatter me.  If they had but known how I longed to shake them!  For
look you what the words meant.  A woman is never just: a woman is never
sincere.  And the dolts reckon it shall please us to know that they take
us for such fools!  Verily, I would give a pretty penny but to make them
conceive that the scrap of flattery which they do offer to my particular
is utterly swamped in the vast affront which they give to my sex in the
general.  But you shall rarely see a man to guess that.  Moreover, there
be two other points.  Mark you how a man shall serve a woman, if he come
to know that she hath the tongues [knows the classical languages].  Doth
he take it as he should with an other man?  Never a whit.  He treats the
matter as though an horse should read _English_, or a cat play the
spinnet.  What right hath he to account my brains so much worser than
his (I being the same creature as he) that I cannot learn aught he can?
`So mean-brained a thing as a woman to know as much as any man!'  I
grant you, he shall not say such words: but he shall say words that mean
it.  And then, forsooth, he shall reckon he hath paid me a compliment!
I trow no woman should have brains as dull as that.  And do tell me,
belike, why a man that can talk right good sense to his fellows, shall
no sooner turn him around to a woman, than he shall begin to chatter the
veriest nonsense?  It doth seem me, that a man never thinks of any woman
but the lowest quality.  He counts her loving, if you will; but alway
foolish, frothy, witless.  He'll take every one of you for that make of
woman, till he find the contrary.  Oh, these men! these men!"

"Ah!" saith _Father_.  "I feel myself one of the inferior sex."

"_Aubrey_, what business hast thou hearkening?" quoth she.  "I thought
thou wert lost in yonder big book."

"I found myself again, some minutes gone," saith _Father_.  "But thou
wist, 'tis an old saw that listeners do never hear any good of
themselves."

"I didn't mean thee, man!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Present company always
excepted."

"Methought I was reckoned absent company," saith _Father_, with a
twinkle in his eyes, and lifting his big book from the table.  "Howbeit,
I am not too proud to learn."

"Even from a woman?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "Thou art the pearl of men, if
so be."

_Father_ laughed, and carried off his book, pausing at the door to
observe--"There is some truth in much thou hast said, _Joyce_."

"Lack-a-day, what an acknowledgment from a man!" cries Aunt _Joyce_.
"Yet 'tis fenced round, look you.  `There is _some_ truth in _much_' I
have said.  Ah, go thy ways, my good _Aubrey_; thou art the best man
ever I knew: but, alack! thou art a man, after all."

"Why, Aunt _Joyce_," saith _Edith_, who was laughing rarely, "what
should we do, think you, if there were no men?"

"I would do some way, thou shouldst see," saith Aunt _Joyce_, sturdily.

And so she let the matter drop; or should so have done, but _Nell_
saith--

"I reckon we all, both men and women, have in us a touch of our father,
old _Adam_!"

"And our mother, old _Eva_," said I.

"You say well, childre," quoth Aunt _Joyce_: "and she that hath the
biggest touch of any I know is a certain old woman of _Oxfordshire_, by
name _Joyce Morrell_."

Up springeth _Edith_, and giveth Aunt _Joyce_ a great hug.

"She is the best, sweetest, dearest old woman (if so be) ever I knew,"
saith she.  "I except not even _Mother_, for I count not her an old
woman."

Aunt _Joyce_ laughed, and paid _Edith_ back her hug with usury.

Then, when _Edith_ was set down again to her work, Aunt _Joyce_ saith--

"_Anstace_ was wont to say--my _Anstace_, not yours, my maids--that she
which did commonly put herself in the lowest place should the seldomest
find her out of her reckoning."

                                          SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY THE IX.
Come Dr _Bell_ this morrow to let us blood, as is alway done of the
spring-time.  I do never love these blood-letting days, sith for a
se'nnight after I do feel weak as water.  But I reckon it must needs be,
to keep away fever and plague and such like, the which should be worser
than blood-letting a deal.  All we were blooded, down to _Adam_; and Dr
_Bell_ rode away, by sixteen shillings the richer man, which is a deal
for a chirurgeon to earn but of one morrow.  Aunt _Joyce_ saith she
marvelleth if in time to come physicians cannot discover some herb or
the like that shall purify folks' blood without having it run out of
them like water from a tap.  I would, if so be, that they might make
haste and find the same.

_Father_ hath writ to his cousin my Lord of _Oxenford_, praying him to
give leave for _Wat_ to visit us at home.  'Tis four years sithence he
were here; and _Father_ hath been wont to say that shall be a rare
well-writ letter which shall (in common cases) do half the good of a
talk face to face.  I can see he is somewhat diseaseful touching _Wat_,
lest he should slide into ill ways.

We do hear of old _Nanny_, that cometh by nows and thens for waste
victuals, that daft _Madge_ is something sick.  Her grandmother reckons
she caught an ill rheum that even of _Christmas_ Day when she were here:
but _Madge_ herself will strongly deny the same, saying (poor maid!)
that she never could take nought ill at _Selwick_ Hall, for never nought
but good (saith she) came to her there.  _Mother_ would go to visit her,
but she hath an evil rheum herself, and _Father_ saith she must tarry at
home this sharp frost: so Aunt _Joyce_ and I be to go this afternoon,
and carry her a basket of comfortable things.

                                            SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE X.
A rare basket that was _Mother_ packed yester-morrow for daft _Madge_.
First went in a piece of beef, and then a goodly string of salt ling
(for _Lent_ is nigh at hand [Note 1]), a little bottle of cinnamon
water, divers pots of conserves and honey, a roll of butter, a
half-dozen of eggs (which at this present are ill to come by, for the
hens will scarce lay this frost weather); and two of the new foreign
fruit called oranges [first introduced in 1568], which have been of late
brought from abroad, and _Ned_ did bring unto _Mother_ a little basket
of them.

We had an ill walk, for there hath been frost after snow, and the roads
be slippy as they were greased with butter.  Howbeit, we come at last
safe to _Madge's_ door, and there found daft _Madge_ in a great chair
afore the fire, propped up of pillows, and old _Madge_ her grandmother
sat a-sewing, with her horn-glasses across her nose, and by her old
_Isaac Crewdson_, that is daft _Madge_ her grandfather of the other
side.  She smiled all o'er her face when she saw us, and did feebly clap
her hands, as she is wont to do when rare pleased.

"Good morrow, _Madge_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "See thou, my Lady
_Lettice_ hath sent thee a basket of good things, to strengthen thee up
a bit."

_Madge_ took Aunt _Joyce's_ hand, and kissed it.

"They'll be good, but your faces be better," saith she.

Old _Madge_ gat her up, and bustled about, unpacking of the basket, and
crying out o' pleasure as she came to each thing and told what it were.
But daft _Madge_ seemed not much to care what were therein, though she
was ever wont dearly to love sweets, there being (I reckon) so few
pleasures she had wit for.  Only she sat still, gazing from Aunt _Joyce_
to me, and smiling on us.

"What art thinking, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

For, natural [idiot] though she be, _Madge_ is alway thinking.  'Tis
very nigh as though there were a soul within her which tried hard to see
through the smoked glass of her poor brains.  Nay, I take it, so there
is.

"I were thinking," saith she, "a-looking on your faces, what like it'll
be to see His Face."

_Madge_ hath rarely any name for God.  It is mostly "He."

"Wouldst love to see it, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Shall," quoth she, "right soon.  He sent me word, Mistress _Joyce_,
yestereven."

"Ay," saith old _Isaac_, "she reckons she's going."

"Wilt be glad, _Madge_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, softly.

"Glad!" she makes answer.  "Eh, Mistress _Joyce_--glad!  Why, 'twill be
better than plum-porridge!"

Poor _Madge_!--she took the best symbol she had wit for.

"Ay, my lass, it'll be better nor aught down here," saith old _Isaac_.
"Plum-porridge and feather beds'll be nought to what they've getten up
yonder.--You see, Mistress _Joyce_, we mun tell her by what she knows,
poor maid!"

"Ay, thou sayest well, _Isaac_," Aunt _Joyce_ made reply.  "_Madge_, thy
mother's up yonder."

"I know!" she saith, a-smiling.  "She'll come to th' gate when I knock.
He'll sure send her to meet me.  She'll know 'tis me, ye ken.  It'd
never do if some other maid gave my name, and got let in by mistake for
me.  He'll send somebody as knows me to see I get in right.  Don't ye
see, that's why we keep a-going one at once?  Somebody mun be always
there that'll ken th' new ones."

"I reckon the Lord will ken them, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Oh ay, He'll ken 'em, sure enough," saith _Madge_.  "But then, ye see,
they'd feel lonely like if they waited to see any body they knew till
they got right up to th' fur end: and th' angels 'd be stoppin' 'em and
wanting to make sure all were right.  That wouldn't be pleasant.  So
He'll send one o' them as knows 'em, and then th' angels 'll be
satisfied, and not be stoppin' of 'em."

Aunt _Joyce_ did not smile at poor _Madge's_ queer notions.  She saith
at times that God Himself teaches them that men cannot teach.  And at
after, quoth she, that it were but _Madge_ her way of saying, "He careth
for you."

"Dost thou think she is going, _Isaac_?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  For old
_Isaac_ is an herb-gatherer, or were while he could; and he wist a deal
of physic.

"Now, _Gaffer_, thou'lt never say nay!" cries _Madge_ faintly, as though
it should trouble her sore if he thought she would live through it.

"I'll say nought o' th' sort, _Madge_," said _Isaac_.  "Ay, Mistress
_Joyce_.  She's been coming to the Lord this ever so long: and now, I
take it, she's going to Him."

"That's right!" saith _Madge_, with a comforted look, and laying of her
head back on her pillows.  "It would be sore to get right up to th'
gate, and then an angel as one didn't know just put his head forth, and
say, `Th' Master says 'tis too soon, _Madge_: thou must not come in yet.
Thou'lt have to walk a bit outside.'  Eh, but I wouldn't like yon!"

"He'll not leave thee outside, I reckon," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Eh, I hope not!" quoth _Madge_, as regretfully.  "I do want to see Him
so.  I'd like to see if He looks rested like after all He bare for a
poor daft maid.  And I want to know if them bad places is all healed up
in His hands and feet, and hurt Him no more now.  I'd like to see for
myself, ye ken."

"Ay, _Madge_, they're healed long ago," saith _Isaac_.

"Well, I count so," saith she, "for 'tis a parcel o' _Sundays_ since
first time thou told me of 'em: still, I'd like to see for myself."

"Thou'lt see for thyself," saith _Isaac_.  "Th' Lord's just th' same up
yonder that He were down here."

"Well, I reckon so," quoth _Madge_, in a tone of wonder.  "Amn't I th'
same maid up at th' Hall as I am here?"

"Ay, but I mean He's as good as ever He were," _Isaac_ makes answer.
"He were right good, He were, to yon poor gaumering [silly] _Thomas_,--
eh, but he were a troublesome chap, was _Thomas_!  He said he wouldn't
believe it were th' Lord without he stuck his hand right into th' bad
place of His side.  He were a hard one to deal wi', was yon _Thomas_."

"Did He let him stick it in?" saith _Madge_, opening her eyes.

"Yea, He told him to come and stick't in, if he could not believe
without: but he mun have been a dizard [foolish man], that he couldn't--
that's what I think," quoth old _Isaac_.

"Was he daft?" saith _Madge_.

"Well, nay, I reckon not," saith he.

"I'll tell ye how it were," saith she.  "His soul was daft--that's it--
right th' inside of him, ye ken."

"Ay, I reckon thou'rt about right," quoth _Isaac_.

"Well, I wouldn't have wanted that," saith she.  "I'd have wist by His
face and the way He said `Good morrow, _Thomas_!'  I'd never have wanted
to hurt Him more to see whether it were Him.  So He'd rather be hurt
than leave _Thomas_ a-wondering!  Well--it were just like Him."

"He's better than men be, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, tenderly.

"That's none so much to say, Mistress _Joyce_," saith _Madge_.  "Men's
bad uns.  And some's rare bad uns.  So's women, belike.  I'd liever ha'
th' door betwixt."

_Madge_ hath alway had a strange fantasy to shut the half-door betwixt
her and them she loveth not.  There be very few she will let come
withinside.  I reckon them that may might be counted of her fingers.

"Well, _Madge_, there shall be no need to shut to the door in Heaven,"
saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "The gates be never shut by day; and there is no
night there."

"They've no night!  Eh, that's best thing ever you told me yet!" quoth
_Madge_.  "I canna 'bide th' dark.  It'll be right bonnie, it will!"

Softly Aunt _Joyce_ made answer.  "`Thine eyes shall see the King in His
beauty; they shall behold the Land that is very far off.'"

_Madge's_ head came up from the pillow.  "Eh, that's grand!  And that's
Him?"

"Ay, my maid."

"Ay, that's like," saith she.  "It couldn't be nobody else.  And Him
that could make th' roses and lilies mun be good to look at.  'Tisn't
always so now: but I reckon they've things tidy up yon.  They'll fit
like, ye ken.  But, Mistress _Joyce_, do ye tell me, will us be any
wiser up yon?"

I saw the water in Aunt _Joyce's_ eyes, as she arose; and she bent down
and kissed _Madge_ on the brow.

"Dear heart," quoth she, "thou shalt know Him then as well as He knows
thee.  Is that plenty, _Madge_?"

"I reckon 'tis a bit o' t'other side," saith _Madge_, with her eyes
gleaming.  But when I came to kiss her the next minute, quoth
she--"Mistress _Milisent_, saw ye e'er Mistress _Joyce_ when she had
doffed her?"

"Ay, _Madge_," said I, marvelling what notion was now in her poor brain.

"And," saith she, "be there any wings a-growing out of her shoulders?
Do tell me.  I'd like to know how big they were by now."

"Nay, _Madge_; I never saw any."

"No did ye?" quoth she, in a disappointed tone.  "I thought they'd have
been middling grown by now.  But may-be He keeps th' wings till we've
got yon?  Ay, I reckon that's it.  She'll have 'em all right, some day."

And _Madge_ seemed satisfied.

                                          SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XVI.
Yester-morn, Dr _Bell_ being at church, _Mother_ was avised to ask him,
if it might stand with his conveniency, to look in on _Madge_ the next
time he rideth that way, and see if aught might be done for her.  He
saith in answer that he should be a-riding to _Thirlmere_ early this
morrow, and would so do: and this even, on his way home, he came in
hither to tell _Mother_ his thought thereon.  'Tis even as we feared,
for he saith there is no doubt that _Madge_ is dying, nor shall she
overlive many days.  But right sorry were we to hear him say that he did
marvel if she or _Blanche Lewthwaite_ should go the first.

"Why, Doctor!" saith _Mother_, "I never reckoned _Blanche_ so far gone
as that."

"May-be not when you saw her, Lady _Lettice_," saith he.  "But--women be
so perverse!  Why, the poor wretch might have lived till this summer
next following, or even (though I scarce think it) have tided o'er
another winter, but she must needs take it into her foolish head to rush
forth into the garden, to say a last word to somebody, a frosty bitter
even some ten days back, with never so much as a kerchief tied o'er her
head; and now is she laid of her bed, as was the only thing like, and
may scarce breathe with the inflammation of her lungs.  She _may_ win
through, but verily I look not for it."

"Poor heart!  I will go and see her," saith _Mother_.

"Ay, do so," saith he.  "Poor foolish soul!--as foolish in regard of her
health as of her happiness."

This even, I being the first in our chamber, was but making ready my
gown with a clean partlet [ruff] for to-morrow, when _Mother_ come in.

"_Milly_," she saith, "I shall go (if the Lord will) to see _Blanche_
to-morrow, and I would have thee go withal."

I guess _Mother_ saw that I did somewhat shrink from the thought.  In
truth, though I have seen _Blanche_ in church, and know how she looketh,
yet I have never yet spoke with her sithence she came home, and I feel
fearful, as though I were going into a chamber where was somewhat might
hurt me.

"My _Milisent_," saith _Mother_--and that is what she calls me at her
tenderest--"I would not hurt thee but for thine own good.  And I know,
dear heart, that few matters do more good than for a sinner to be shown
that whereto he might have come, if the Lord had not hedged up his way
with thorns.  'Tis not alway--I might say 'tis not often--that we be
permitted to see whither the way should have led that the Father would
not have us to take.  And, my dear heart, thou art of thy nature so like
thy foolish mother, that I can judge well what should be good for thee."

"Nay, _Mother_, dear heart!  I pray you, call not yourself names," said
I, kissing her hand.

"I shall be of my nature foolish, _Milly_, whether I do so call myself
or no," saith _Mother_, laughing.

"And truly, the older I grow, the more foolish I think myself in my
young days."

"Shall I so do, _Mother_, when I am come to your years?" said I, also
laughing.

"I hope so, _Milly_," saith she.  "I am afeared, if no, thy wisdom shall
then be small."

                                         SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XVII.
I have seen _Blanche Lewthwaite_, and I do feel to-night as though I
should never laugh again.  Verily, O my God, the way of the
transgressors is hard!

She lies of her bed, scarce able to speak, and that but of an hoarse
whisper.  Dr _Bell_ hath given order that she shall not be suffered to
talk but to make known her wants or to relieve her mind, though folk may
talk to her so long as they weary her not.  We came in, brought of
_Alice_, and _Mother_ sat down by the bed, while I sat in the window
with _Alice_.

_Blanche_ looked up at _Mother_ when she spake some kindly words unto
her.

"I am going, Lady _Lettice_!" was the first thing she said.

"I do trust, dear heart, if the Lord will, Dr _Bell's_ skill may yet
avail for thee," saith _Mother_.  "But if not, _Blanche_--"

_Blanche_ interrupted her impatiently, with a question whereof the tone,
yet more than the words, made my blood run cold.

"_Whither_ am I going?"

"Dear _Blanche_," said _Mother_, "the Lord _Jesus Christ_ is as good and
as able to-day as ever He were."

There was a little impatient movement of her head.

"Too late!"

"Never too late for Him," saith _Mother_.

"Too late for me," _Blanche_ made answer.  "You mind the text--last
_Sunday_.  I loved idols--after them I _would_ go!"

She spoke with terrible pauses, caused by that hard, labouring breath.

_Mother_ answered, as I knew, from the Word of God.

"`Yet return again to me,' saith the Lord."

"I cannot return.  I never came."

"Then `come unto Me, all ye that are weary and laden.'  `The Son of Man
is come to seek and to save that which was lost.'"

_Blanche_ made no answer.  She only lay still, her eyes fixed on
_Mother_, which did essay for to show her by God's Word that she might
yet be saved if she so would.  Methought when _Mother_ stayed, and rose
to kiss her as she came thence, that surely _Blanche_ could want no
more.  Her only word to _Mother_ was--

"Thanks."

Then she beckoned to me, and I came and kissed her.  _Mother_ was gone
to speak with Mistress _Lewthwaite_, and _Alice_ withal.  _Blanche_ and
I were alone.

"Close!" she said: and I bent mine ear to her lips.  "Very kind--Lady
_Lettice_.  But--too late."

"O _Blanche_!"  I was beginning: but her thin weak hand on mine arm
stayed further speech.

"Hush!  _Milisent_--thank God--thou art not as I.  Thank God--and keep
clean.  Too late for me.  Good-bye."

"O _Blanche_, _Blanche_!"  I sobbed through my tears.  The look in her
eyes was dreadful to me.  "The Lord would fain have thee saved, and
wherefore dost thou say `too late'?"

"I want it not," she whispered.

"_Blanche_," I cried in horror.  "What canst thou mean?  Not want to be
saved from Hell!  Not want to go to Heaven!"

"From Hell--ay.  But not--to go to Heaven."

"But there is none other place!" cried I.

"I know.  Would there were!"

I believe I stood and gazed on her in amaze.  I could not think what
were her meaning, and I marvelled if she were not feather-brained
[wandering, light-headed] somewhat.

"God is in Heaven," she said.  "I do not want God.  Nor He me."

I could not tell what to say.  I was too horrified.

"There was a time," saith _Blanche_, in that dreadful whisper, which
seemed me hoarser than ever, "He would--have saved me--then.  But I
would not.  Now--too late.  Thanks!  Go--good-bye."

And then _Mother_ called me.

I think that hoarse whisper will ring in mine ears, and those awful eyes
will haunt me, till the day I die.  And this might have been my portion!

No word of all this said I to _Mother_.  As Aunt _Joyce_ saith, she
picks up everything with her heart, and _Father_ hath alway bidden us
maids to spare her such trouble as we may--which same he ever doth
himself.  But I found my Lady _Stafford_ in the little chamber, and I
threw me down on the floor at her feet, and gave my tears leave to have
their way.  My Lady always seemeth to conceive any in trouble, and she
worketh not at you to comfort you afore you be ready to be comforted.
She only stroked mine head once or twice, as though to show me that she
felt for me: until I pushed back my tears, and could look up and tell
her what it were that troubled me.

"What ought I to have said, my Lady?" quoth I.

"No words of thine, _Milisent_," she made answer.  "That valley of the
shadow is below the sound of any comfort of men.  The words that will
reach down there are the words of God.  And not always they."

"But--O my Lady, think you the poor soul can be right--that it is too
late for her?"

"There is only One that can answer thee that question," she saith.  "Let
us cry mightily unto Him.  So long as there is life, there may be hope.
There be on whom even in this world the Lord seems to have shut His
door.  But I think they be commonly hardened sinners, that have resisted
His good Spirit through years of sinning.  There is no unforgivable sin
save that hard unbelief which will not be forgiven.  Dear _Milisent_,
let us remember His word, that if two of us shall agree on earth as
touching anything they shall ask, it shall be done.  And He willeth not
the death of a sinner."

We made that compact: and ever sithence mine heart hath been, as it
were, crying out to God for poor _Blanche_.  I cannot tell if it be
foolish to feel thus or no, but it doth seem as though I were verily
guilty touching her; as though the saving of me had been the loss of
her.  O Lord God, have mercy upon her!

                                         SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXII.
This cold even were we maids and _Ned_ bidden to a gathering at Master
_Murthwaite's_, it being _Temperance_ her birthday, and she is now two
and twenty years of age.  We had meant for to call on our way at _Mere
Lea_, to ask how was _Blanche_, but we were so late of starting (I need
not blame any) that there was no time left, and we had to foot it at a
good pace.  Master _Murthwaite_ dwells about half a mile on this side of
_Keswick_, so we had a middling good walk.  There come, we found
_Gillian Armstrong_ and her brethren, but none from _Mere Lea_.
_Gillian_ said her mother had been thither yester-morn, when she
reckoned _Blanche_ to be something better: and they were begun to hope
(though Dr _Bell_ would not yet say so much) that she might tide o'er
her malady.  A pleasant even was it, but quiet: for Master _Murthwaite_
is a strong _Puritan_ (as folk do now begin to call them that be strict
in religion,) and loveth not no manner of noisy mirth: nor do I think
any of us were o'er inclined to vex him in that matter.  I was not,
leastwise.  We brake up about eight of the clock, or a little past, and
set forth of our way home.  Not many yards, howbeit, were we gone, when
a sound struck on our ears that made my blood run chill.  From the old
church at _Keswick_ came the low deep toll of the passing bell.

"One,--two!"--then a pause.  A woman.

There were only two women, so far as I knew, that it was like to be.  I
counted every stroke with my breath held.  Would it pause at the
nineteen which should point to daft _Madge_, or go on to the twenty-one
which should mean _Blanche Lewthwaite_?

"Eighteen--nineteen--twenty--twenty-one!"

Then the bell stopped.

"O _Ned_, it is _Blanche_!" cries _Edith_.

"Ay, I reckon so," saith _Ned_, sadly.

We hurried on then to the end of the lane which leads up to _Mere Lea_.
Looking up at the house, whereof the upper windows can be seen, we saw
all dark and closed up: and in _Blanche's_ window, where of late the
light had burned day and night, there was now only pitch darkness.  She
needed no lights now: for she was either in the blessed City where they
need no light of the sun, or else cast forth into the blackness of
darkness for ever.  Oh, which should it be?

"_Milisent_!" said a low, sorrowful voice beside me; and mine hand
clasped _Robin Lewthwaite's_.

"When was it, _Robin_?"

"Two hours gone," he saith, mournfully.

"_Robin_," I could not help whispering, "said she aught comfortable at
the last?"

"She never spake at all for the last six hours," he made answer.  "But
the last word she did say was--the publican's prayer, _Milly_."

"Then there is hope!"  I thought, but I said it not to _Robin_.

So we came home and told the sorrowful tidings.

                                          SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXV.
I was out in the garden this morrow, picking of snowdrops to lay round
_Blanche's_ coffin.  My back was to the gate, when all suddenly I heard
Dr _Bell's_ voice say--"_Milisent_, is that thou?"

I rose up and ran to the gate, where he sat on his horse.

"Well, _Milly_," saith he, "the shutters are up at _Mere Lea_."

"Ay, we know it, Doctor," said I, sadly.

"Poor maid!" saith he.  "A life flung away!  And it might have been so
different!"

I said nought, for the tears burned under mine eyelids, and there was a
lump in my throat that let me from speech.

"I would thou wouldst say, _Milly_," goeth on Dr _Bell_, "to my Lady
and Mistress _Joyce_, that daft _Madge_ (as methinks) shall not pass the
day, and she hath a rare fantasy to see Mistress _Joyce_ once more.  See
if it may be compassed.  Good morrow."

I went in forthwith and sought Aunt _Joyce_, which spake no word, but
went that instant moment and tied on her hood and cloak: and so did I
mine.

'Twas nigh ten o' the clock when we reached old _Madge's_ hut.

We found daft _Madge_ in her bed, and seemingly asleep.  But old _Madge_
said 'twas rather a kind of heaviness, whence she would rouse if any
spake to her.

Aunt _Joyce_ leaned over her and kissed her brow.

"Eh, 'tis Mistress _Joyce_!" saith _Madge_, feebly, as she oped her
eyes.  "That's good.  He's let me have _all_ I wanted."

"Art comfortable, _Madge_?"

"Close to th' gate.  I'm lookin' to see 't open and _Mother_ come out.
Willn't she be pleased?"

Aunt _Joyce_ wiped her eyes, but said nought.

"Say yon again, Mistress _Joyce_," saith _Madge_.

"What, my dear heart?"

"Why, _you_," saith _Madge_.  "Over seeing th' King.  Dinna ye ken?"

"Eh, Mistress _Joyce_, but ye ha' set her up some wi' that," saith old
_Madge_.  "She's talked o' nought else sin', scarce."

Aunt _Joyce_ said it once more.  "`Thine eyes shall see the King in His
beauty: they shall behold the Land that is very far off.'"

"'Tis none so fur off now," quoth _Madge_.  "I've getten a many miles
nearer sin' you were hither."

"I think thou hast, _Madge_," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Ay.  An' 'tis a good place," saith she.  "'Tis a good place here, where
ye can just lie and watch th' gate.  They'll come out, they bonnie folk,
and fetch me in anon: and _Mother's_ safe sure to be one."

"Ah, _Madge_!  Thou wist whither thou goest," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, for sure!" saith she.  "He's none like to send me nowhere else but
where He is.  Dun ye think I'd die for somebody I didn't want?"

She saith not much else, but seemed as though she sank back into that
heavy way she had afore.  But at last, when we were about to depart, she
roused up again a moment.

"God be wi' ye both," said she.  "I'm going th' longer journey, but
there's t' better home at t' end.  May-be I shall come to th' gate to
meet you.  Mind you dunnot miss, Mistress _Milly_.  Mistress _Joyce_,
she's safe."

"I will try not to miss, _Madge_," I answered through my tears, "God
helping me."

"He'll help ye if ye want helpin'," saith Madge.

"Only He'll none carry you if ye willn't come.  Dunna throw away good
gold for dead leaves Mistress _Milly_.  God be wi' ye!"

We left her there--"watching the gate."

                                         SELWICK HALL, FEBRUARY YE XXVI.
This morrow, as I came down the stairs, what should I see but Aunt
_Joyce_, a-shaking the snow from her cloak and pulling off her pattens.

"Why, _Aunt_!" cried I.  "Have you been forth thus early?"

Aunt _Joyce_ turned on me a very solemn face.

"_Milly_," saith she, "_Madge_ is in at the gate."

"O _Aunt_! have you seen her die?"

"I have seen her rise to life," she made answer.  "Child, the Lord grant
to thee and me such a death as hers!  It seemed as though, right at the
last moment, the mist that had veiled it all her earth-time cleared from
the poor brain, and the light poured in on her like a flood.  `The King
in His beauty!  The King in His beauty!' were the last words she spake,
but in such a voice of triumph and gladness as I never heard from her
afore.  O _Milly_, my darling child! how vast the difference between the
being `saved so as by fire,' and the abundant entrance of the good and
faithful servant!  Let us not rest short of it."

And methought, as I followed Aunt _Joyce_ into the breakfast-chamber,
that God helping me, I would not.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  For many years after the Reformation the use of fish was made
compulsory in Lent, from the wish to benefit the fish trade.  A licence
to eat flesh in Lent (obtained from the Queen, not the Pope) cost 40
shillings in 1599.



CHAPTER NINE.

WALTER LEARNS TO SAY NO.

  "Betray mean terror of ridicule,--thou shalt find fools enough to mock
  thee:--

  "But answer thou their laughter with contempt, and the scoffers shall
  lick thy feet."

  Martin Farquhar Tupper.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

                                             SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE II.
Never, methinks, saw I any so changed as our _Milly_ by the illness and
death of poor _Blanche_.  From being the merriest of all us, methinks
she is become well-nigh the saddest.  I count it shall pass in time, but
she is not like _Milisent_ at this present.  All we, indeed, have much
felt the same: but none like her.  I never did reckon her so much to
love _Blanche_.

I have marvelled divers times of late, what did bring _Robin Lewthwaite_
here so oft; and I did somewhat in mine own mind, rhyme his name with
_Milisent's_, for all (as I find on looking) my damsel hath set down
never a time he came.  The which, as methinks, is somewhat significant.
So I was little astonied this afternoon to be asked of _Robin_, as we
two were in the garden, if I reckoned _Milisent_ had any care touching
him.

"Thou wist, _Edith_," saith he, "I did alway love her: but when yon
rogue came in the way betwixt that did end all by the beguilement of our
poor _Blanche_, I well-nigh gave up all hope, for methought she were
fair enchanted by him."

"I think she so were, for a time, _Robin_," said I, "until she saw
verily what manner of man he were: and that it were not truly he that
she had loved, but the man she had accounted him."

"Well," saith _Robin_, "I would like to be the man she accounted him.
Thinkest there is any chance?"

"Thou wist I can but guess," I made answer, "for _Milisent_ is very
close of that matter, though she be right open on other: but I see no
reason, _Robin_, wherefore thou shouldst not win her favour, and I do
ensure thee I wish thee well therein."

"_Edith_, thou art an angel!" crieth he out: and squeezed mine hand till
I wished him the other side the Border.

"Nay!" said I, a-laughing: "what then is _Milly_?"

"Oh, aught thou wilt," saith he, also laughing, "that is sweet, and
fair, and delightsome.  Dost know, _Edith_, our _Nym_ goeth about to be
a soldier?  He shall leave us this next month."

"A soldier!" cried I: for in very deed _Nym_ and a soldier were two
matters that ran not together to my thoughts.  Howbeit, I was not sorry
to hear that _Nym_ should leave this vicinage, and thereby cease
tormenting of our _Helen_.  The way he gazeth on her all the sermon-time
in church should make me fit to poison him, were I she, and desired not
(as I know she doth not) that he should be a-running after me.  But,
_Nym_ a soldier!  I could as soon have looked to see _Moses_ play the
virginals.  Why, he is feared of his own shadow, very nigh: and is
worser for ghosts than even _Austin Park_.  I do trust, if we need any
defence here in _Derwentdale_, either the Queen's Majesty shall not send
_Nym_ to guard us, or else that his men shall have stouter hearts than
he.  An hare were as good as _Nym Lewthwaite_.

Sithence I writ what goeth afore, have we all been rare gladded by
_Walter's_ coming, which was just when the dusk had fallen.  He looketh
right well of his face, and is grown higher, and right well-favoured:
but, eh me, so fine!  I felt well-nigh inclined to lout [courtesy] me
low unto this magnifical gentleman, rather than take him by the hand and
kiss him.  _Ned_ saith--

"The Queen's Highness' barge ahoy!--all lined and padded o' velvet!--and
in the midst the estate [the royal canopy] of cloth of gold!  Off with
your caps, my hearties!"

_Walter_ laughed, and took it very well.  Saith Aunt _Joyce_, when he
come to her--

"_Wat_, how much art thou worth by the yard?"

"Ten thousand pound, _Aunt_," saith he, boldly, and laughing.

"Ha!" saith she, somewhat dry.  "I trust 'tis safe withinside, for I see
it not without."

                                              SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE IV.
Yesterday, being _Sunday_, was nought said touching _Wat_ and his ways:
only all to church, of course, at matins and evensong, but this day no
sermons.  This morrow, after breakfast, as we arose from the table,
saith _Father_:--

"_Walter_, my lad, thou and I must have some talk."

"An' it like you, Sir," saith _Wat_.

"Wouldst thou choose it rather without other ears?"

"Not any way, I thank you, Sir."

"Then," quoth _Father_, drawing of a chair afore the fire, "we may tarry
as we be."

_Walter_ sat him down in the chimney-corner; _Mother_, with her sewing,
on the other side the fire; Aunt _Joyce_ in the place she best loveth,
in the window.  Cousin _Bess_ and _Mynheer_ were gone on their
occasions.  _Ned_ and we three maids were in divers parts of the
chamber; _Ned_ carving of a wooden boat for _Anstace_ her little lad,
and we at our sewing.

"Wilt tell me, _Wat_," saith _Father_, "what years thou hast?"

"Why, Sir," quoth he, "I reckon you know that something better than I;
but I have alway been given to wit that the year of my birth was
Mdlvii."  [1557.]

"The which, sith thou wert born in _July_, makes thee now of two and
twenty years," _Father_ makes answer.

"I believe so much, Sir," saith _Walter_, that looked somewhat diverted
at this beginning.

"And thy wage at this time, from my Lord of _Oxenford_, is sixteen pound
by the year?"  [Note 1.]

"It is so, Sir," quoth _Wat_.

"And what reckonest thy costs to be?"

"In good sooth, Sir, I have not reckoned," saith he.

"Go to--make a guess."

_Wat_ did seem diseased thereat, and fiddled with his chain.  At the
last (_Father_ keeping silence) he saith, looking up, with a flush of
his brow--

"To speak truth, Sir, I dare not."

"Right, my lad," saith _Father_.  "Speak the truth, and let come of it
what will.  But, in very deed, we must come to it, _Wat_.  This matter
is like those wounds that 'tis no good to heal ere they be probed.  Nor
knew I ever a chirurgeon to use the probe without hurting of his
patient.  Howbeit, _Wat_, I will not hurt thee more than is need.  Tell
me, dost thou think that all thy costs, of whatsoever kind, should go
into two hundred pound by the year?"

The red flush on _Wat's_ brow grew deeper.

"I am afeared not, Sir," he made answer, of a low voice.

"Should they go into three?"  _Wat_ hesitated, but seemed more diseased
[uncomfortable] than ever.

"Should four overlap them?"

_Wat_ brake forth.

"_Father_, I would you would scold me--I cannot stand it!  I should feel
an hard whipping by far less than your terrible gentleness.  I know I
have been a downright fool, and I have known it all the time: but what
is a man to do?  The fellows laugh at you if you do not as all the rest.
Then they come to one every day, with, `Here, _Louvaine_, lend me a
sovereign,'--and `Look you, _Louvaine_, pay this bill for me,'--and they
should reckon you the shabbiest companion ever lived, if you did it not,
or if, having done it, you should ask them for it again."

"_Wat_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_ from the window.

"What so, _Aunt_?" quoth he.

"Stand up a minute, and let me look at thee," saith she.

_Walter_ did so, but with a look as though he marvelled what Aunt
_Joyce_ would be at.

"I would judge from thy face," quoth she, "if thou art the right lad
come, or they have changed thee in _London_ town.  Our _Walter_ used to
have his father's eyes and his mother's mouth.  Well, I suppose thou
art: but I should scantly have guessed it from thy talk."

"_Walter_," softly saith _Mother_, "thy father should never have so
dealt when he were of thy years."

"Lack-a-daisy!  I would have thought the world was turning round," quoth
Aunt _Joyce_, "had I ever heard such a speech of _Aubrey_ at any years
whatsoever."

_Father_ listed this with some diversion, as methought from the set of
his lips.

"Well, I am not as good as _Father_," saith _Wat_.

"Amen!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"But, _Aunt_, you are hard on a man.  See you not, all the fellows think
you a coward if you dare not spend freely and act boldly?  Ay, and a
miser belike."

"Is it worser to be thought a coward than to be one?" saith _Father_.

"Who be `all the fellows'?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "My Lord of _Burleigh_
and my Lord _Hunsdon_ and Sir _Francis Walsingham_, I'll warrant you."

"Now, _Aunt_!" saith _Walter_.  "Not grave old men like they!  My Lord
of _Oxenford_, that is best-dressed man of all the Court, and spendeth
an hundred pound by the year in gloves and perfumes only--"

"Eh, _Wat_!" cries _Helen_: and _Mother_,--"_Walter_, my dear boy!"

"'Tis truth, I do ensure you," saith he: "and Sir _Walter Raleigh_, one
of the first wits in all _Europe_: and young _Blount_, that is high in
the Queen's Majesty's favour: and my young Lord of _Essex_, unto whom
she showeth good countenance.  'Tis not possible to lower one's self in
the eyes of such men as these--and assuredly I should were I less
free-handed."

"My word, _Wat_, but thou hast fallen amongst an ill pack of hounds!"
saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Then it is possible, or at least more possible, to lower thyself in our
eyes, _Wat_?" saith _Father_.

"_Father_, you make me to feel 'shamed of myself!" crieth _Wat_.  "Yet,
think you, so should they when I were among them, if I should hold back
from these very deeds."

"Then is there no difference, my son," asks _Father_, still as gentle as
ever, "betwixt being 'shamed for doing the right, and for doing the
wrong?"

"But--pardon me, Sir--you are not in it!" saith _Walter_.  "Do but
think, what it should feel to be counted singular, and as a speckled
bird, unlike all around."

"Well!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, fervently, "I am five and fifty years of age
this morrow; and have in my time done many a foolish deed: but I do
thank Heaven that I was never so left to mine own folly as to feel any
ambition to make one of a row of buttons!"

I laughed--I could not choose.

"You are a woman, _Aunt_," saith _Wat_.  "'Tis different with you."

"I pay you good thanks, Master _Walter Louvaine_," quoth she, "for the
finest compliment was ever paid me yet.  I am a woman (wherefore I thank
God), and therefore (this young gentleman being testimony) have more
bravery of soul than a man.  For that is what thy words come to, Master
_Wat_; though I reckon thou didst not weigh them afore utterance.--Now,
_Aubrey_, what art thou about to do with this lad?"

"I fear there is but one thing to do," saith _Father_, and he fetched an
heavy sigh.  "But let us reach the inwards of the matter first.  I
reckon, _Walter_, thou hast many debts outstanding?"

"I am afeared so, Sir," saith _Wat_,--which, to do him credit, did look
heartily ashamed of himself.

"To what sum shall they reach, thinkest?"

_Wat_ fiddled with his chain, and fidgetted on his seat, and _Father_
had need of some patience (which he showed rarely) ere he gat at the
full figures.  It did then appear that our young gallant should have
debts outstanding to the amount of nigh two thousand pounds.

"But, _Wat_," saith _Helen_, looking sore puzzled, "how _couldst_ thou
spend two thousand pounds when thou hadst but sixty-two in these four
years?"

"Maidens understand not the pledging of credit," saith _Ned_.  "See
thou, _Nell_: I am a shop-keeper, and sell silk gowns; and thou wouldst
have one that should cost an angel--"

"Eh, _Ned_!" crieth she, and all we laughed.

"Thou shalt not buy a silk gown under six angels at the very least.
Leastwise, not clear silk: it should be all full of gum."

"Go to!" saith _Ned_.  "Six angels, then--sixty if thou wilt.  (Dear
heart, what costly matter women be!  I'll don my wife in camlet.)  Well,
in thy purse is but two angels.  How then shalt thou get thy gown?"

"Why, how can I?  I must do without it," saith she.

"Most sweet _Helen_; sure thou earnest straight out of the Garden of
_Eden_!  Dear heart, folks steer not in that quarter now o' days.  Thou
comest to me for the gown, and I set down thy name in my books, that
thou owest me six angels: and away goest thou with the silk, and turnest
forth o' _Sunday_ as fine as a fiddler."

"Well--and then?" saith she.

"Then, with _Christmas_ in cometh my bill: and thou must pay the same."

"But if I have no money?"

"Then I lose six angels."

"_Father_, is that honest?" saith _Helen_.

"If thou hadst no reason to think thou shouldst have the money by
_Christmas_, certainly not, my maid," he made answer.

"Not honest, Sir!" saith _Wat_.

"Is it so?" quoth _Father_.

"Oh, look you, words mean different in the Court," crieth Aunt _Joyce_,
"from what they do in _Derwent_-dale and at _Minster Lovel_.  If we pay
not our debts here, we go to prison; and folks do but say, Served him
right!  But if they pay them not there, why, the poor tailor and
jeweller must feed their starving childre on the sight of my Lord of
_Essex'_ gold lace, and the smell of my Lord of _Oxenford_ his perfumes.
Do but think, what a rare supper they shall have!"

"Now, hearken, _Walter_," saith _Father_.  "I must have thee draw up a
list of all thy debts, what sum, for what purpose, and to whom owing:
likewise a list of all debts due to thee."

"But you would not ask for loans back, Sir?" cries _Wat_.

"That depends on whom they were lent to," answers _Father_.  "If to a
poor man that can scarce pay his way, no.  But if to my cousin of
_Oxenford_ and such like gallants that have plenty wherewith to pay,
then ay."

"They would think it so mean, Sir!" saith _Walter_, diseasefully.

"Let them so do," saith _Father_.  "I shall sleep quite as well."

"But really, Sir, I could not remember all."

"Then set down what thou canst remember."

_Walter_ looked as if he would liefer do aught else.

"And, my son," saith _Father_, so gently that it was right tender, "I
must take thee away from the Court."

"Sir!" crieth _Walter_, in a voice of very despair.

"I can see thou art not he that can stand temptation.  I had hoped
otherwise.  But 'tis plain that this temptation, at the least, hath been
too much for thee."

_Wat's_ face was as though his whole life should be ruined if so were.

"Come, _Wat_, take heart o' grace!" cries _Ned_.  "I wouldn't cruise in
those muddy waters if thou shouldst pay me two thousand pound to do the
same.  Think but of men scenting themselves--with aught but a stiff
sea-breeze.  Pish!  And as to dancing, cap in hand, afore a woman, and
calling her thine _Excellency_, or thy _Floweriness_, or thy
Some-Sort-of-Foolery, why, I'd as lief strike to a _Spanish_ galleon,
very nigh.  When I want a maid to wed me, an' I ever do--at this present
I don't--I shall walk straight up to her like a man, and say, `Mistress
_Cicely_ (or whatso she be named), I love you; will you wed me?'  And if
she cannot see an honest man's love, or will not take it, without all
that flummery, why, she isn't worth a pail o' sea-water: and I can get
along without her, and I will."

"Hurrah for _Ned_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "'Tis a comfort to find we have
one man in the family."

"I trust we may have two, in time," quoth _Father_.  "_Wat_, my lad, I
know this comes hard: and as I count thee not wicked, but weak, I would
fain help thee all I may.  But thou canst not be suffered to forget that
my fortune is but three hundred pound by the year; and I have yet three
daughters to portion.  I could not pay thy debts without calling in that
for which thou hast pledged my credit--for it is mine, _Wat_, rather
than thine, seeing thine own were thus slender."

"But, Sir!" crieth _Wat_, "that were punishing you for mine
extravagance.  I never dreamed of that!"

"Come, he is opening his eyes a bit at last," saith Aunt _Joyce_ to me,
that was next her.

"May-be, _Wat_," saith _Father_, with a kindly smile, "it had been
better if thou hadst dreamed thereof a little sooner.  I think, my boy,
it will be punishment enough for one of thy nature but to 'bide at home,
and to see the straits whereto thou hast put them that love thee best."

"Punishment!" saith Wat, in a low, 'shamed voice.  "Yes, _Father_, the
worst you could devise."

"Well, then we will say no more," saith _Father_.  "Only draw up those
lists, _Walter_, and let me have them quickly."

_Father_ then left the chamber: and _Wat_ threw him down at _Mother's_
knee.

"O _Mother_, _Mother_, if I had but thought sooner!" crieth he.  "If I
could but have stood out when they laughed at me!--for that, in very
deed, were the point.  I did begin with keeping within my wage: and then
all they mocked and flouted me, and told me no youth of any spirit
should do so: and--and I gave way.  Oh, if I had but held on!"

_Mother_ softly stroked _Wat's_ gleaming fair hair, that is so like
hers.

"My boy!" she saith, "didst thou ask for God's strength, or try to hold
on in thine own?"

_Walter_ made no answer in words, but methought I saw the water stand in
his eyes.

When _Mother_ and _Wat_ were both gone forth, Aunt _Joyce_ saith,--"I
cannot verily tell how it is that folk should have a fantasy that 'tis a
shame to be 'feared of doing ill, and no shame at all to be 'feared of
being laughed at.  Why, one day when I were at home, there was little
_Jack Bracher_ a-stealing apples in mine orchard: and _Hewitt_ (that is
Aunt _Joyce's_ chief gardener) caught him and brought him to me.
_Jack_, he sobbed and thrust his knuckles into his eyes, and said it
were all the other lads.  `But what did the other lads to thee?' quoth
I.  `Oh, they dared me!' crieth he.  `They said I durst not take 'em:
and so I had to do it.'  Now, heard you ever such stuff in your born
days?  Why, they might have dared me till this time next year, afore
ever I had turned thief for their daring."

"But then, _Aunt_, you see," saith _Ned_, a twinkle in his eyes, "you
are but a woman.  That alters the case."

"Just so, _Ned_," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, the fun in her eyes as in his: "I
am one of the weaker sex, I know."

"Now, I'll tell you," saith _Ned_, "how they essayed it with me, when I
first joined my ship.  They dared me--my mates, wot you--to go up to the
masthead, afore I had been aboard a day.  `Now, look you here, mates,'
says I.  `When the Admiral bids me, I'll scale every mast in the ship;
and if I break my neck, I shall but have done my duty.  But I'll do
nought because I'm dared, and so that you know.'  Well, believe me who
will, but they cheered me as if I had taken a galleon laden with ducats.
And I've been their white son [favourite] ever since."

"Of course!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "They alway do.  'Tis men which have
no true courage that dare others: and when they come on one that hath,
they hold him the greater hero because 'tis not in themselves to do the
like.  _Ned_, lad, thou art thy father's son.  I know not how _Wat_ gat
changed."

"Well, _Aunt_, I hope I am," saith _Ned_.  "I would liefer copy _Father_
than any man ever I knew."

"Hold thou there, and thou shalt make a fair copy," saith Aunt _Joyce_.

We wrought a while in silence, when Aunt _Joyce_ saith--

"Sure, if men's eyes were not blinded by the sin of their nature, they
should perceive the sheer folly of fearing the lesser thing, and yet
daring the greater.  'Feared of the laughter of fools, that is but as
the crackling of thorns under the pot: and not 'feared of the wrath of
Him that liveth for ever and ever--which is able, when He hath killed,
to destroy body and soul in Hell.  Oh the folly and blindness of human
nature!"

                                             SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE VII.
Was ever any creature so good as this dear Aunt _Joyce_ of ours?  This
morrow, when all were gone on their occasions saving her and _Father_,
and _Nell_ and me, up cometh she to _Father_, that was sat with a book
of his hand, and saith--

"_Aubrey_!"

_Father_ laid down his book, and looked up on her.

"Thou wert so good as to tell us three mornings gone," saith she, "that
thine income was three hundred pound by the year.  Right interesting it
were, for I never knew the figure aforetime."

"Well?" saith _Father_, laughing.

"But I hope," continueth she, "thou didst not forget (what thou didst
know aforetime) that mine is two thousand."

"My dear _Joyce_!" saith _Father_, and held forth his hand.  "My true
sister!  I will not pretend to lack knowledge of thy meaning.  Thou
wouldst have me draw on thee for help to pay _Walter's_ debts--"

"Nay, not so," saith she, "for I would pay them all out.  Look thou, to
do the same at once should inconvenience me but a trifle, and to do it
at twice, nothing at all."

"But, dear _Joyce_, I cannot," quoth he.  "Nay, not for thy sake--I know
thou wouldst little allow such a plea--but for _Walter's_ own.  To do
thus should be something to ease myself, at the cost of a precious
lesson that might last him his whole life."

"I take thy meaning," saith she, "yet I cannot sleep at ease if I do not
somewhat.  Give me leave to help a little, if no more.  Might not that
be done, yet leave _Wat_ his lesson?"

"Well, dear heart, this I promise thee," saith _Father_, "that in case
we go a-begging, we will come first to the _Manor House_ at _Minster
Lovel_."

"After which you shall get no farther," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "But I want
more than that, _Aubrey_.  I would not of my good will tarry to help
till thou and _Lettice_ be gone a-begging.  I can give the maids a
gown-piece by now and then, of course, and so ease my mind enough to get
an half-hour's nap: but what am I to do for a night's rest?"

_Father_ laughed.  "Come, a word in thine ear," saith he.

Aunt _Joyce_ bent her head down, but then pursed up her lips as though
she were but half satisfied at last.

"Will that not serve?" saith _Father_, smiling on her.

"Ay, so far as it goeth," she made answer: "yet it is but an if,
_Aubrey_?"

"Life is a chain of ifs, dear _Joyce_," saith he.

"Truth," saith she, and stood a moment as if meditating.  "Well," saith
she at last, "`half a loaf is better than no bread at all,' so I reckon
I must be content with what I have.  But if I send thee an whole flock
of sheep one day, and to _Lettice_ the next an hundred ells of velvet,
prithee be not astonied."

_Father_ laughed, and said nought of that sort should ever astonish him,
for he knew Aunt _Joyce_ by far too well.

                                              SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE IX.
We were sat this morrow all in the little chamber at work, and I
somewhat marvelled what was ado with _Mother_, for smiles kept ever and
anon flitting across her face, as though she were mighty diverted with
the flax she was spinning: and I guessed her thoughts should be
occupying somewhat that was of mirthful sort.  At last saith Aunt
_Joyce_:--

"_Lettice_, what is thy mind a-laughing at?  I have kept count, and thou
hast smiled eleven times this half-hour.  Come, give us a share, good
fellow."

_Mother_ laughed right out then, and saith--

"Why, _Joyce_, I knew not I was thus observed of a spy.  Howbeit, what
made me smile, that shall you know.  Who is here to list me?"

All the women of the house were there but _Milisent_; of the men none
save _Ned_.

"Aubrey hath had demand made of him for our _Milly_," saith _Mother_.

"Heave he!" cries _Ned_.  "Who wants her?"

"Good lack, lad, hast no eyes in thine head?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.
"_Robin Lewthwaite_, of course.  I can alway tell when young folks be
after that game."

"Eh deary me!" cries Cousin _Bess_.  "Why, I ne'er counted one of our
lasses old enough to be wed.  How doth time slip by, for sure!"

"I scarce looked for _Milly_ to go the first," saith Mistress _Martin_.

I reckon she thought _Nell_ should have come afore, for she is six years
elder than _Milly_: and so she might, would she have taken _Nym
Lewthwaite_, for _Father_ and _Mother_ were so rare good as leave her
choose.  But I would not have taken _Nym_, so I cannot marvel at
_Helen_.

"You see, _Aunt_," saith _Ned_, answering Aunt _Joyce_, "I am not yet up
to the game."

"And what wilt choose by, when thou art?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, with a
little laugh.  "I know a young man that chose his wife for her comely
eyebrows: and an other (save the mark!) by her _French_ hood.  Had I had
no better cause than that last, I would have bought me a _French_ hood
as fair, if I had need to send to _Paternoster_ Row [Note 2] for it, and
feasted mine eyen thereon.  It should not have talked when I desired
quietness, nor have threaped [scolded] at me when I did aught pleased it
not."

"That speech is rare like a man, _Joyce_," saith my Lady _Stafford_.

"Dear heart, _Dulcie_, dost think I count all women angels, by reason I
am one myself?" quoth Aunt _Joyce_.  "I know better, forsooth."

"Methinks, _Aunt_, I shall follow your example," saith _Ned_, winking on
me, that was beside him.  "Women be such ill matter, I'll sheer off from
'em."

"Well, lad, thou mayest do a deal worser," saith Aunt _Joyce_: "yet am I
more afeared of _Wat_ than thee."

"Is _Wat_ the more like to wed a _French_ hood?" saith _Ned_.

"I reckon so much," saith she, "or a box of perfume, or some such
rubbish.  Eh dear, this world!  _Ned_, 'tis a queer place: and the
longer thou livest the queerer shalt thou find it."

"'Tis a very pleasant place, _Aunt_, by your leave," said I.

"Thou art not yet seventeen, _Edith_," saith she: "and thou hast not
seen into all the dusty corners, nor been tangled in the spiders'
webs.--Well, _Lettice_, I reckon _Aubrey_ gave consent?"

"Oh ay," saith _Mother_, "in case _Milisent_ were agreeable."

"And were _Milisent_ agreeable?" asks my Lady _Stafford_.

"I think so much," made answer _Mother_, and smiled.

"None save a blind bat should have asked that," saith Aunt _Joyce_.
"But thou hast worn blinkers, _Dulcie_, ever sith I knew thee.  Eh,
lack-a-daisy! but that is fifty year gone, or not far thence."

"Three lacking," quoth my Lady _Stafford_.

"I'll tell you what, we be growing old women!" saith Aunt _Joyce.  "Ned_
and _Edith_, ye ungracious loons, what do ye a-laughing?"

"I cry you mercy, _Aunt_, I could not help it," said I, when I might
speak: "you said it as though you had discovered the same but that
instant minute."

"Well, I had," saith she.  "And so shall you, afore you come to sixty
years: or if not, woe betide you."

"Dear heart, _Aunt_, there is a long road betwixt sixteen and sixty!"
cried I, yet laughing.

"There is, _Edith_," right grave, Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer.  "A long
stretch of road: and may-be steep hills, child, and heavy moss, and
swollen rivers to ford, and snowstorms to breast on the wild moors.  Ah,
how little ye young things know!  I reckon most folk should count my
life an easy one, beside other: but I would not live it again, an' I
might choose.  Wouldst thou, _Dulcie_?"

"Oh dear, no!" cries my Lady _Stafford_.

"And thou, _Grissel_?"

Mistress _Martin_ shook her head.

"And thou, _Lettice_?"

_Mother_ hesitated a little.  "Some part, I might," she saith.

"Ay, some part: we could all pick out that," returns Aunt _Joyce_.
"What sayest thou, _Bess_?"

"What, to turn back, and begin all o'er again?" quoth Cousin _Bess_.
"Nay, Mistress _Joyce_, I'm none such a dizard as that.  I reckon _Ned_
shall tell you, when a sailor is coming round the corner in sight of
home, 'tis not often he shall desire to sail forth back again."

"Why, we reckon that as ill as may be," saith _Ned_, "not to be able to
make your port, and forced to put to sea again."

"And when the sea hath been stormy," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "and the port
is your own home, and you can see the light gleaming through the
windows?"

"Why, it were well-nigh enough to make an old salt cry," saith _Ned_.

"Ay," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Nay--I would not live it again.  Yet my life
hath not been an hard one--only a little lonely and trying.  _Dulcie_,
here, hath known far sorer sorrows than I.  Yet I shall be glad to get
home, and lay by my travelling-gear."

"But thou hast had sorrow, dear _Joyce_," saith my Lady _Stafford_
gently.

"Did any woman ever reach fifty without it?"  Aunt _Joyce_ makes answer.
"Ay, I have had my sorrows, like other women--and one sorer than ever
any knew.  May-be, _Dulcie_, if the roads were smoother and the rivers
shallower to ford, we should not be so glad when we gat safe home."

"`And so He leadeth them unto the haven where they would be,'" softly
saith Mistress _Martin_.

"Ay, it makes all the difference who leads us when we pass through the
waters," answereth Aunt _Joyce_.  "I mind _Anstace_ once saying that.
Most folks (said she) were content to go down, trusting to very shallow
sticks--to the world, that brake under them like a reed; or to the
strength of their own hearts, that had scantly the pith of a rush.  But
let us get hold with a good grip of _Christ's_ hand, and then the water
may carry us off our feet if it will.  It can never sweep us down the
stream.  It must spend all his force on the Rock of our shelter, before
it can reach us.  `In the great water-floods they shall not come _nigh_
him.'"

"May the good Lord keep us all!" saith _Mother_, looking tenderly on us.

"Amen!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Children, the biting cold and the rough
walking shall be little matter to them that have reached home."

                                            SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XIII.
"_Walter_," saith _Father_ this even, "I have had a letter from my Lord
of _Oxenford_."

"You have so, Sir?" quoth he.  "But not an answer to yours?"

"Ay, an answer to mine, having come down express with the Queen's
Majesty's despatches unto my Lord _Dacre_ of the North."

"But, _Aubrey_, that is quick work!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Why, I reckon
it cannot be over nine days sith thine were writ."

"Nor is it, _Joyce_," saith _Father_: "but look thou, I had rare
opportunities, since mine went with certain letters of my Lord _Dilston_
unto Sir _Francis Walsingham_."

"Well, I never heard no such a thing!" crieth she.  "To send a letter to
_London_ from _Cumberland_, and have back an answer in nine days!"

"'Tis uncommon rapid, surely," saith _Father_.  "Well, _Walter_, my
boy--for thine eyes ask the question, though thy tongue be still--my
Lord of _Oxenford_ hath loosed thee from thine obligations, yet he
speaks very kindlily of thee, as of a servant [Note 3] whom he is right
sorry to lose."

"You told him, _Father_,"--and _Wat_ brake off short.

"I told him, my lad," saith _Father_, laying of his hand upon _Walter's_
shoulder, "that I did desire to have thee to dwell at home a season: and
moreover that I heard divers matters touching the Court ways, which
little liked me."

"Was that all, _Aubrey_?" asks Aunt _Joyce_.

"Touching the cause thereof?  Ay."

Then _Walter_ breaks forth, with that sudden, eager way he hath, which
Aunt _Joyce_ saith is from _Mother_.

"_Father_, I have not deserved such kindness from you!  But I do desire
to say one thing--that I can see now it is better I were thence, though
it was sore trouble to me at the first: and (God helping me) I will
endeavour myself to deserve better in the future than I have done in the
past."

_Father_ held forth his hand, and _Wat_ put his in it.

"God helping thee, my son," saith he gravely.  "I do in very deed trust
the same.  Yet not without it, _Walter_!"

Somewhat like an hour thereafter, when Aunt _Joyce_ and I were alone,
she saith all suddenly, without a word of her thoughts aforetime--

"Ay, the lad is his father's son, after all.  If he only could learn to
spell _Nay_!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  The reader is requested to remember that these sums must be
multiplied by fifteen, to arrive at the equivalents in the present day.

Note 2.  Paternoster Row was the Regent Street of Elizabeth's reign.

Note 3.  The word servant was much more loosely used in the sixteenth
century than at present.  Any lady or gentleman, however well born and
educated, in receipt of a salary from an employer, was termed a servant.
The Queen's Maids of Honour were in service, and their stipends were
termed wages.



CHAPTER TEN.

IN DEEP PLACES.

  "So I go on, not knowing--
      I would not, if I might.
  I would rather walk in the dark with God
      Than go alone in the light:
  I would rather walk with Him by faith
      Than go alone by sight."

  Philip Bliss.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

                                           SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE XVII.
Helen's birthday.  She is this morrow of the age of seven-and-twenty
years, being eldest of all us save _Anstace_.  _Alice Lewthwaite_ counts
it mighty late to tarry unwed, but I do misdoubt of mine own mind if
_Helen_ ever shall wed with any.

From _Father_ she had gift of a new prayer-book, with a chain to hang at
her girdle: and from _Mother_ a comely fan of ostrich feathers, with a
mirror therein set; likewise with a silver chain to hang from the
girdle.  Aunt _Joyce_ shut into her hand, in greeting of her, five gold
_Spanish_ ducats,--a handsome gift, by my troth!  But 'tis ever Aunt
_Joyce's_ way to make goodly gifts.  My Lady _Stafford_ did give a pair
of blue sleeves, [Note 1] broidered in silver, whereon I have seen her
working these weeks past.  Mistress _Martin_, a pair of lovesome white
silk stockings [Note 2].  Sir _Robert_, a silver pouncet-box [a kind of
vinaigrette] filled with scent.  _Anstace_, a broidered girdle of black
silk; and _Hal_, a comfit-box with a little gilt spoon.  _Milisent_, two
dozen of silver buttons; and I, a book of the _Psalms_, the which I wist
_Helen_ desired to have (cost me sixteen pence).  _Ned_ diverted us all
by making her present of a popinjay [parrot], the which he brought with
him, and did set in care of _Faith Murthwaite_ till _Nell's_ birthday
came.  And either _Faith_ or _Ned_ had well trained the same, for no
sooner came the green cover off his cage than up goeth his foot to his
head, with--

"Good morrow, Mistress _Nell_, and much happiness to you!"

All we were mighty taken [amused] with this creature, and I count _Ned_
had no cause to doubt if _Helen_ were pleased or no.  Last came
_Walter_, which bare in his hand a right pretty box of walnut-wood,
lined of red taffeta, and all manner of cunning divisions therein.
Saith he--

"_Helen_, dear heart, I would fain have had a better gift to offer thee,
but being in the conditions I am, I thought it not right for me to spend
one penny even on a gift.  Howbeit, I have not spared labour nor
thought, and I trust thou wilt accept mine offering, valueless though it
be, for in very deed it cometh with no lesser love than the rest."

"Why, _Wat_, dear heart!" crieth _Nell_, her cheeks all flushing, "dost
think that which cost money, should be to me so much as half the value
of thine handiwork, that had cost thee thought and toil!  Nay, verily!
thou couldst have given me nought, hadst thou spent forty pound, that
should have been more pleasant unto me.  Trust me, thy box shall be one
of my best treasures so long as I do live, and I give thee hearty thanks
therefor."

_Walter_ looked right pleased, and saith he, "Well, in very deed I
feared thou shouldst count it worth nought, for even the piece of
taffeta to line the same I asked of _Mother_."

"Nay, verily, not so!" saith she, and kissed him.

To say _Wat_ were last, howbeit, I writ not well, for I forgat
_Mynheer_, and Cousin _Bess_, the which I should not.

Cousin _Bess_ marcheth up to _Nell_ with--"Well, my maid, thou hast this
morrow many goodlier gifts than mine, yet not one more useful.  'Tis
plain and solid, like me."  And forth she holdeth a parcel which, being
oped, did disclose a right warm thick hood of black serge, lined with
flannel and dowlas, mighty comfortable-looking.  _Mynheer_ cometh up
with a courtesy and a scrape that should have beseemed a noble of the
realm, and saith he--

"Mistress _Helena Van Louvaine_--for that is your true name, as I am
assured of certainty--I, a _Dutchman_, have the great honour and
pleasure to offer unto you, a _Dutch_ vrouw, a most precious relic of
your country, being a stool for your feet, made of willow-wood that
groweth by the great dyke which keepeth off from _Holland_ the waters of
the sea.  'Tis true, you be of the _Nether-Land_, and this cometh of the
_Hollow-Land_--for such do the names mean.  Howbeit, do me the favour,
_Domina mea_, to accept this token at the hands of your obeissant
_paedagogus_, that should have had much pleasure in learning you the
_Latin_ tongue, had it been the pleasure of your excellent elders.
Alack that it were not so! for I am assured your scholarship should have
been rare, and your attention thereto of the closest."

_Nell_ kept her countenance (which was more than _Ned_ or _Milly_ could
do), and thanked _Mynheer_ right well, ensuring him that she should
essay to make herself worthy of the great honour of coming of _Dutch_
parentage.

Saith _Father_ drily, "There is time yet, _Mynheer_."

"For what?" saith he.  "To learn Mistress _Helena_ the _Latin_?
Excellent Sir, you rejoice me.  When shall we begin, Mistress
_Helena_?--this morrow?"

_Helen_ laughed now, and quoth she,--"I thank you much, _Mynheer_,
though I am 'feared you reckon mine understanding higher than it
demerit: yet I fear there shall scantly be opportunity this morrow.  I
have divers dishes to cook that shall be cold for this even, and a deal
of flannel-work to do."

"Ah, the dishes and the flannel, they are mine abhorrence!" saith
_Mynheer_.  "They stand alway in the road of the learning."

"Nay, mine old _paedagogus_!" crieth _Ned_.  "I reckon the dishes are
little your abhorrence at supper-time, nor the flannel of a cold night,
when it taketh the form of blankets.  'Tis right well to uphold the
learning, yet without _Nell's_ cates and flannel, your _Latin_ should
come ill off."

"The body is ever in the way of the soul!" saith _Mynheer_.  "Were we
souls without bodies, what need had we of the puddings and the
flannels?"

"Or the _Latin_," sticketh in _Ned_, mischievously.

_Mynheer_ wagged his head at _Ned_.

"_Edward Van Louvaine_, thou wist better."

"Few folks but know better than they do, _Mynheer_," saith _Ned_.  "Yet
think you there shall be lexicons needed to talk with King _David_ or
the Apostle _Paul_ hereafter?"

"I trow not," saith _Father_.

"Dear heart, Master _Stuyvesant_," cries Cousin _Bess_, "but sure the
curse of _Babel_ was an ill thing all o'er!  You would seem to count it
had a silver side to it."

"It had a golden side, my mistress," made he answer.  "Had all men ever
spoken but one tongue, the _paedagogus_ should scarce be needed, and
half the delights of learning had disappeared from the earth."

"Eh, lack-a-day!--but how different can folks look at matters!" saith
Cousin _Bess_.  "Why, I have alway thought it should be a rare jolly
thing when all strange tongues were done away (as I reckon they shall
hereafter), and all folks spake but plain _English_."

"Art so sure it should be _English_, _Bess_?" saith _Father_, smiling.
"What an' it were _Italian_ or _Greek_?"

"Good lack, that could never be!" crieth she.  "Why, do but think the
trouble all men should have."

"Somebody must have it," quoth he.  "I take it, what so were the tongue,
all nations but one should have to learn it."

"I'll not credit it, Sir _Aubrey_," crieth _Bess_, as she trotteth off
to the kitchen.  "It is like to be _English_ that shall become the
common tongue of the earth: it can't be no elsewise!"

_Mynheer_ seemed wonderful taken with this fantasy of Cousin _Bess_.

"How strange a thought that!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"_Bess_ is in good company," answereth _Father_.  "'Tis right the
reasoning of Saint _Cyril_, when he maketh argument that the Temple of
God, wherein the Man of Sin shall sit (as _Paul_ saith), cannot signify
the _Christian_ Church.  But wherefore, good Sir? say you.  Oh, saith
he, because `God forbid it should be this temple wherein we now are!'"

"Well, it is a marvel to me," quoth Aunt _Joyce_, "that some folks seem
to have no brains!"

"Is it so great a marvel?" saith _Father_.

"But they have no wit!" saith she.  "Why, here yestereven was _Caitlin_,
telling me the sun had put the fire out--she'd let it go out, the lazy
tyke as she is!--Then said I, `But how so, _Caitlin_, when there hath
been no sun?'  (You wist how hard it rained all day.) `Ha!' saith she--
and gazed into the black grate, as though it should have helped her to
an other excuse.  Which to all appearance it did, for in a minute quoth
my wiseacre,--`Then an' it like you, Mistress, it was the light.'"

"A lack of power to perceive the relation betwixt cause and effect,"
saith _Father_, drily, "A lack of common sense!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"The uncommonest thing that is," quoth _Father_.

"But wherefore should the sun put the fire out?" saith Sir _Robert_.

"Nay, I'll let alone the whys and the wherefores," quoth she.  "It doth,
and that is enough for me."

_Father_ seemed something diverted in himself, but he said nought more.

All the morrow were we busy in the kitchen, and the afternoon a-work:
but in the even come all the young folks to keep _Nell's_ birthday--to
wit, the _Lewthwaites_, the _Armstrongs_, the _Murthwaites_, the
_Parks_, and so forth.  Of course _Robin_ had no eyes nor ears for aught
but _Milisent_.  And for all Master _Ned_ may say of his being so rare
heart-free, I did think he might have talked lesser with _Faith
Murthwaite_ had it liked him so to do.  I said so unto him at after, but
all I gat of my noble admiral was "Avast there!" the which I took to
mean that he did desire me to hold my peace.  _Wat_ was rare courtly
amongst all us, and had much praise of all the maidens.  Me-wondered if
_Gillian Armstrong_ meant not to set her cap at him.  But I do misdoubt
mine own self if any such rustical maids as be here shall be like to
serve _Walter's_ turn.  I would fain hear more of this daughter of my
Lord of _Sheffield_, that was his _Excellency_, but I am not well
assured if I did well to ask at him or no.

                                              SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XX.
'Tis agreed that Aunt _Joyce_, in the stead of making an end of her
visit when the six months shall close, shall tarry with us until Sir
_Robert_ and his gentlewomen shall travel southward, the which shall be
in an other three weeks' time thereafter.  They look therefore to set
forth in company as about the twentieth of _April_.  I am rare glad (and
so methinks be we all) to keep Aunt _Joyce_ a trifle longer.  She is
like a fresh breeze blowing through the house, and when she is away, as
_Ned_ saith, we are becalmed.  Indeed, I would by my good will have her
here alway.

"Now, _Aunt_," said I, "you shall have time to write your thoughts in
the Chronicle, the which shall end with this month, as 'twas agreed."

"Time!" quoth she.  "And how many pages, my sweet scrivener?"

"Trust me, but I'll leave you plenty," said I.  "Your part shall be a
deal better worth the reading."

"Go to, Mistress _Edith_!" saith she.  "`All the proof of a pudding is
in the eating.'"

"I am sure of that pudding," saith _Milisent_.

"These rash young women!" maketh answer Aunt _Joyce_.  "When thou hast
lived fifty or sixty years in this world, my good maid, thou wilt be a
trifle less sure of most things.  None be so sure that a box is white of
all sides as they that have seen but one.  When thou comest to the
second, and findest it painted grey, thou wilt not be so ready to swear
that the third may not be red."

"But we can be sure of some things, at any years, _Aunt_," saith
_Milly_.

"Canst thou so?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Ah, child, thou hast not yet been
down into many deep places.  So long as a goat pulls not at his tether,
he may think the whole world lieth afore him when he hath but
half-a-dozen yards.  Let him come to pull, and he will find how short it
is.  There be places, _Milly_, where a man may get to, that he can be
sure of nothing in all the universe save God.  And thou shalt not travel
far, neither, to come to the end of that cord."

"O Aunt _Joyce_, I do never love to hear such talk as that!" saith
_Milly_.  "It causeth one feel so poor and mean."

"Then it causeth thee feel what thou art," saith she.  "'Tis good for a
man to find, at times, how little he can do."

"It may be good, but 'tis mighty displeasant," quoth _Milisent_.

"'Tis very well when it be no worse than displeasant," Aunt _Joyce_
makes answer.  "I thought of places, _Milly_, which were not
displeasant, but awful--where the human soul feels nigh to being shut up
in the blackness of darkness for ever.  Thou wist little of such things
yet.  But most souls which be permitted to soar high aloft be made
likewise to descend deep down.  _David_ went deep enough--may-be deeper
than any other save _Christ_.  Look you, he was appointed to write the
_Psalter_.  Throughout all the ages coming, of his words was the Church
to serve her when she should come into deep places.  There must be
somewhat therein for every _Christian_ soul, and every _Jewish_ belike,
ere _Christ_ came.  And to do that, I reckon _David_ had need to go very
deep down.  He that shall help a man to climb forth of a well must know
whereto the water reacheth, and on which side the steps be.  List
him--`Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord!'  `I am come
into deep places, where the floods overflow me.'"

"But, _Aunt_," said I, yet was I something feared to say it, "was not
that hard on _David_?  It scarce seems just that he should have to go
through all those cruel troubles for our good."

"Ah, _Edith_," saith she, "the Lord payeth His bills in gold of _Ophir_.
I warrant you _David_ felt his deep places sore trying.  But ask thou
at him, when ye meet, if he would have missed them.  He shall see
clearer then when he shall wake up after His likeness, and shall be
satisfied with it."

"What sort of deep places mean you, _Aunt_?" saith _Helen_, looking on
her somewhat earnestly.

"Thou dost well to ask, _Nell_," quoth she, "for there be divers sorts
of depths.  There be mind depths, the which are at times, as _Milly_
saith, displeasant: at other times not displeasant.  But there be soul
depths for the which displeasant is no word.  When the Lord seems to
shut every door in thy face and to leave thee shut up in a well, where
thou canst not breathe, and when thou seest no escape, and when thou
criest and shoutest, He shutteth out thy prayer: when thine heaven above
thee is as brass, and thine earth below thee iron: when it seems as if
no God were, either to hear thee or to do for thee--that is a deep pit
to get in, _Helen_, and not a pleasant one."

"Aunt _Joyce_! can such a feeling be--at the least to one that feareth
God?"

"Ay, it can, _Nelly_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, solemnly, yet with much
tenderness.  "And when thou comest into such a slough as that, may God
have mercy upon thee!"

And methought, looking in Aunt _Joyce's_ eyes, that at some past time of
her life she had been in right such an one.

"It sounds awful!" saith _Milisent_, under her breath.

"It may be," saith Aunt _Joyce_, looking from the window, and after a
fashion as though she spake to herself rather than to us, "that there be
some souls whom the Lord suffers not to pass through such quagmires.
May-be He only leads the strongest souls into the deepest places.  I say
not that there be not deeps beyond any I know.  Yet I know of sloughs
wherein I had been lost and smothered, had He not held mine hand tight,
and watched that the dark waters washed not over mine head too far for
life.  That word, `the fellowship of His passions,' hath a long tether.
For He went down to Hell."

"But, _Aunt_, would you say that meant the place of lost souls?" saith
_Helen_.

"I am wholesomely 'feared of laying down the law, _Nell_," saith Aunt
_Joyce_, "touching such matters as I can but see through a glass darkly.
What He means, He knoweth.  But the place of departed spirits can it
scarce fail to be."

"Aunt _Joyce_," saith _Helen_, laying down her work, "I trust it is not
ill in me to say thus, but in very deed I do alway feel 'feared of what
shall be after death.  If we might but know where we shall be, and with
whom, and what we shall have to do--it all looks so dark!"

"Had it been good for us, we should have known," saith Aunt _Joyce_.
"And two points we do know.  `With _Christ_,' and `far better.'  Is that
not enough for those that are His friends?"

"`If it were not so, I would have told you,'" saith my Lady _Stafford_.

"But not _how_, Madam, an' it please you?" asks _Helen_.

"If there were not room; if there were not happiness."

"I take it," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "if there were not all that for which
my nature doth crave.  But, mark you, my renewed nature."

"Then surely we must know our friends again?" saith _Helen_.

"He was a queer fellow that first questioned that," saith Aunt _Joyce_.
"If I be not to know _Anstace Morrell_, I am well assured I shall not
know her sister _Joyce_!"

"But thereby hangeth a dreadful question, _Joyce_!" answereth my Lady
_Stafford_.  "If we must needs know the souls that be found, how about
them that be missed?"

Aunt _Joyce_ was silent for a moment.  Then saith she--

"The goat doth but hurt himself, _Dulcie_, to pull too hard at the
tether.  Neither thou nor I can turn over the pages of the Book of Life.
It may be that we shall both find souls whom we thought to miss.
May-be, in the very last moment of life, the Lord may save souls that
have been greatly prayed for, though they that be left behind never wit
it till they join the company above.  We poor blindlings must leave that
in His hands unto whom all hearts be open, and who willeth not the death
of any sinner.  `As His majesty is, so is His mercy.'  Of this one thing
am I sure, that no soul shall be found in Hell which should have rather
chosen Heaven.  They shall go `to their own place:' the place they are
fit for, and the place they choose."

"But how can we forget them?" she replieth.

"If we are to forget them," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "the Lord will know how
to compass it.  I have reached the end of my tether, _Dulcie_; and to
pull thereat doth alway hurt me.  I will step back, by thy leave."

As I listed the two voices, both something touched, methought it should
be one soul in especial of whom both were thinking, and I guessed that
were Mr _Leonard Norris_.

"And yet," saith my Lady _Stafford_, "that thought hath its perilous
side, _Joyce_.  'Tis so easy for a man to think he shall be saved at the
last minute, howsoe'er he live."

"Be there any thoughts that have not a perilous side?" saith Aunt
_Joyce_.  "As for that, _Dulcie_, my rule is, to be as easy as ever I
can in my charitable hopes for other folk; and as hard as ever I can on
this old woman _Joyce_, that I do find such rare hard work to pull of
the right road.  I cannot help other folks' lives: but I can see to it
that I make mine own calling sure.  That is the safe side, I reckon."

"The safe side, ay: but men mostly love to walk on the smooth side."

"Why, so do I," quoth Aunt _Joyce_: "but I would be on the side that
shall come forth smooth at the end."

"Ah, if all would but think of that!" saith my Lady, and she fetched a
sigh.

"We should all soon be in Heaven," Aunt _Joyce_ made answer.  "But thou
art right, _Dulcie_.  He that shall leave to look to his chart till the
last hour of his journey is like to reach home very weary and worn, if
he come at all.  He that will go straight on, and reckoneth to get home
after some fashion, is not like to knock at the gate ere it be shut up.
The easiest matter in all the world is to miss Heaven."

                                             SELWICK HALL, MARCH YE XXV.
This morrow, _Milisent_ was avised to ask at _Walter_, in a tone
somewhat satirical, if he wist how his _Excellency_ did.

"Nay, _Milly_, mind me not of my follies, prithee," quoth he, flushing.

"Never cast a man's past ill-deeds in his face, _Milly_," softly saith
_Mother_.  "His conscience (if it be awake) shall mind him of them oft
enough."

"I reckon she shall have forgotten by now how to spell his name," saith
_Father_.  "There be many such at Court."

"Yet they have hearts in the Court, trow?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"A few," quoth _Father_.  "But they mostly come forth thereof.  For one
like my Lady of _Surrey_--(_Lettice_ will conceive me)--there is many a
Lady of _Richmond_."

"Oh, surely not, _Aubrey_!" crieth _Mother_, earnestly.

"True, dear heart," answereth he.  "Let but a woman enter the Court--any
Court--and verily it should seem to change her heart to stone."

"Now, son of _Adam_!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Well, daughter of _Eva_?"  _Father_ makes answer.

"Casting the blame on the women," saith she.  "Right so did _Adam_, and
all his sons have trod of his steps."

"I thought she deserved it," saith _Father_.

"She deserved it a deal less than he!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, in an heat.
"He sinned with his eyes open, and she was deceived of the serpent."

"Look you, she blamed the serpent, belike," saith Sir _Robert_,
laughing.

"I take it, she was an epitome in little of all future women, as _Adam_
of all men to come," saith _Father_.  "But, _Joyce_, methinks _Paul_
scarce beareth thee out."

"I have heard folks to say _Paul_ was not a woman's friend," saith Sir
_Robert_.

"That's not true," quoth Aunt _Joyce_.

"Why, how so, my mistress?"  Sir _Robert_ makes merry answer.  "He bade
them keep silence in the churches, and be subject to the men, and not to
teach: was that over courteous, think you?"

"Call me a _Frenchman_, if I stand that!" crieth Aunt _Joyce_.  "Sir
_Robert Stafford_, be so good as listen to me."

"So I do, with both mine ears, I do ensure you," saith he, laughing.

"Now shall we meet with our demerits!" saith _Father_.  "I pity thee not
o'er much, _Robin_, for thou hast pulled it on thine own head."

"My head will stand it," quoth Sir _Robert_.  "Now then, Mistress
_Joyce_, prithee go to."

Then quoth she, standing afore him--"I know well you can find me places
diverse where _Paul_ did bid wives that they should obey their husbands;
and therein hold I with _Paul_.  But I do defy you in this company to
find me so much as one place wherein he biddeth women to obey men.  And
as for teaching, in his Epistle unto _Titus_, he plainly commandeth that
the aged women shall teach the young ones.  Moreover, I pray you, had
not _Philip_ the evangelist four virgin daughters, which did prophesy--
to wit, preach?  And did not _Priscilla_, no whit less than _Aquila_,
instruct _Apollos_?"

"Mistress _Joyce_, the Queen's Bench lost an eloquent advocate in you."

"That's a man all over!" quoth Aunt _Joyce_, with a little stamp of her
foot.  "When he cannot answer a woman's reasoning, trust him to pay her
a compliment, and reckon that shall serve her turn, poor fool, a deal
better than the other."

Sir _Robert_ laughed as though he were rarely diverted.

"_Dulcie_ may do your bidding an' she list," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "but
trust me, so shall not I."

"Mistress _Joyce_, therein will I trust you as fully as may be," saith
he, yet laughing.  "Yet, I pray you, satisfy my curious fantasy, and
tell me wherein you count _Paul_ a friend to the women?"

"By reason that he told them plainly they were happier unwed," saith
Aunt _Joyce_: "and find me an other man that so reckoneth.  Mark you, he
saith not better, nor holier, nor wiser; but happier.  That is it which
most men will deny."

"Doth it not in any wise depend on the woman?" saith Sir _Robert_, with
a comical set of his lips.  "It depends on the man, a sight more," saith
she.

"But, my mistress, bethink you of the saw--`A man is what a woman makes
him.'"

"Oh, is he so?" crieth Aunt _Joyce_, in scorn.  "She's a deal more what
he makes her.  `A good _Jack_, a good _Gill_!'  Saws cut two ways, Sir
_Robert_."

"Six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other," saith _Father_.

"_Lettice_, come thou and aid me," saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Here be two men
set on one poor woman."

"Nay, I am under obedience, _Joyce_," saith _Mother_, laughing.

"Forsooth, so thou art!" quoth she.  "_Bess_, give me thine help."

"I am beholden to you, Mistress _Joyce_," saith Cousin _Bess_, "but I
love not to meddle in no frays of other folk.  I were alway learned that
women were the meaner sort o' th' twain."

"Go thy ways, thou renegade!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.

"Come, _Joyce_, shall I aid thee?" quoth _Father_.

"Nay, thou hypocrite, I'll not have thee," saith she.  "Thou shouldst
serve me as the wooden horse did the Trojans."  And she added some
_Latin_ words, the which I wist not.  [Note 3.]

  "`_Femme qui parle Latin
  Ne vient jamais a bonne fin_.'"

saith Sir _Robert_ under his voice.

"That is because you like to have it all to yourselves," saith Aunt
_Joyce_, turning upon him.  "There be _few_ men would not fainer have a
woman foolish than learned.  Tell me wherefore?"

"I dispute the major," quoth he, and shaked his head.

"Then I'll tell you," pursueth she.  "Because--to give you _French_ for
your _French_--`_Parmi les aveugles, les borgnes sont rois_.'  You love
to keep atop of us; and it standeth to reason that the lower down we are
the less toil shall you have in climbing."

"`Endless genealogies, which breed doubts more than godly edifying,'"
saith _Father_.  "Are we not landed in somewhat like them?"

"Well, Sir _Robert_, I'll forgive you!" saith Aunt _Joyce_, and held
forth her hand.  "But mark you, I am right and you are wrong, for all
that."

Sir _Robert_ lifted Aunt _Joyce's_ hand to his lips, with ever so much
fun in his eyes, though his mouth were as grave as a whole bench of
judges.

"My mistress," said he, "I have been wed long enough to have learned
never to gainsay a gentlewoman."

"Nay, _Dulcie_ never learned you that!" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "I know her
better.  Your daughters may have done, belike."

Sir _Robert_ did but laugh, and so ended the matter.

                                            SELWICK HALL, MARCH THE XXX.
So here I am come to the last day of our Chronicle--to-morrow being
_Sunday_, when methinks it unseemly to write therein, without it were
some godly meditations that should come more meeter from an elder pen
than mine.  To-morrow even I shall give the book into the hands of Aunt
_Joyce_, that she may read the same, and write her own thoughts thereon:
and thereafter shall _Father_ and _Mother_ and _Anstace_ read it.  There
be yet fifteen leaves left of the book, and metrusteth Aunt _Joyce_
shall fill them every one: for it standeth with reason that her thoughts
should be better worth than of young maids like us.

I wis not well if I have been wise on the last page or no, as _Father
did_ seem diverted to hear me to say I would fain be.  I am something
afeared that I come nearer _Milisent_ her reckoning, and have been wise
on none.  But I dare say that _Helen_ hath fulfilled her hope, and been
wise on all.  Leastwise, Aunt _Joyce_ her wisdom, as I cast no doubt,
shall make up for our shortcomings.

I cannot but feel a little sorry to lay down my pen, and as though I
would fain keep adding another line, not to have done.  Wherefore is it,
I marvel, that all last things (without they be somewhat displeasant) be
so sorrowful?  Though it be a thing that you scarce care aught for, yet
to think that you be doing it for the very last time of all, shall cause
you feel right melancholical.

Well! last times must come, I count.  So farewell, my good red book: and
when the Queen's Majesty come to read thee (as _Milly_ would have it)
may Her Majesty be greatly diverted therewith; and when _Father_ and
_Mother_, may they pardon (as I reckon they shall) all faults and
failings thereof, and in particular, should they find such, any
displeasance done to themselves, more especially of that their loving
and duteous daughter, that writes her name _Editha Louvaine_.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Note 1.  At this time separate articles from the dress, and fastened in
when worn, according to taste.

Note 2.  Silk stockings.  New and costly things, being about two guineas
the pair.

Note 3.  "_Timeo Danaos, ac dona ferentes_."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

THE JOY OF HARVEST.

  "Now that Thy mercies on my head
  The oil of joy for mourning pour,
  Not as I will my steps be led,
  But as Thou wilt for evermore."

  Anna L. Waring.

(_In Joyce Morrell's handwriting_.)

                                          SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE SECOND.
Some ten years gone, when I was tarrying hither, I had set round my
waist a leather thong, at the other end whereof was a very small damsel,
by name _Edith_.  "Gee up, horse!" quoth she: "gee up, I say!" and
accordingly in all obeisance I did gee up, and danced and pranced (like
an old dolt as I am) at the pleasance of that my driver.  It seems me
that Mistress _Edith_ hath said "Gee up!" yet once again, and given the
old brown mare a cut of her whip.  I therefore have no choice but to
prance: and if any into whose hands this book may fall hereafter shall
reckon me a silly old woman, I hereby do them to wit that their account
tallieth to one farthing with the adding of _Joyce Morrell_.

I have read over the writings of these my cousins: and as I am commanded
to write my thoughts on that matter, I must say that methinks but one of
them hath done as she laid out to do.  That _Nell_ hath been wise on
every page will I not deny; at the least, if not, they be right few.
But I reckon _Edith_ hath been wise on more than the last (though not on
all) and hath thus done better than she looked for: while as to _Milly_,
she hath been wise on none of her first writing, and on all of her
second.  Verily, when I came to read that record of _February_, I might
scarce credit that _Milisent_ was she that writ.

Ah, these young maids! how do they cause an elder woman to live o'er her
life again!  To look thereat in one light, it seemeth me as a century
had passed sithence I were as they: and yet turn to an other, and it is
but yestereven since I was smoothing _Anstace'_ pillow, and making tansy
puddings for my father, and walking along the garden, in a dream of
bliss that was never to be, with one I will not name, but who shall
never pass along those garden walks with me, never any more.

And dost thou think it sorrow, young _Edith_, rosebud but just breaking
into bloom, to clasp the hand of aught and say unto it, "Farewell, Last
Time!"  I shall not gainsay thee.  All young things have such moods,
half melancholical, half delightsome, and I know when I was as much
given to them as ever thou art.  But there be sorrows to which there is
no last time that you may know,--no clasping of loving hands, no tender
farewell: only the awful waking to find that you have dreamed a dream,
and the utter blank of life that cometh after.  Our worst sufferings are
not the crushing pain for which all around comfort you and smoothe your
pillow, and try one physic after an other that shall may-be give you
ease.  They are those for which none essayeth to comfort you, and you
could not bear it if they did.  No voice save His that knoweth our frame
can speak comfort then, and oft-times not His even can speak hope.

Ay, and they that account other folk cheery and hopeful,--as I see from
these writings that these maids do of me,--what wit they of the inner
conflict, and the dreary plains of despair we have by times to cross?
It may be that she which crieth sore and telleth out all her griefs,
hath far less a burden to carry than she which bolts the door of her
heart o'er it, so that the world reckoneth her to have no griefs at all.
In good sooth, I have found _Anstace_ right when she said the only safe
confidant for most was _Jesu Christ_.

Well!  It is ever best to let by-gones be by-gones.  Only there be
seasons when they will not be gone, but insist on coming back and
abiding with you for a while.  And one of those seasons is come to me
this eve, after reading of this Chronicle.

Ay, _Joyce Morrell_, thou art but a poor weak soul, and that none
knoweth better than thyself.  Let the world reckon thee such, and
welcome.  And in very deed I would fain have _Christ_ so to reckon me,
for then should He take me in His arms with the little lambs, in the
stead of leaving me to trot on alongside with the strong unweary sheep.

Yes, they call a woman's heart weak that will go on loving, through evil
report and good report,--through the deep snows of long absence, and the
howling storms of no love to meet it, and the black gulfs of utter
unworthiness.

Be it so.  I confess them all.  But I go on hoping against all hope, and
when even hope seems as though it died within me, I go on loving still.

Was it for any love or lovesomeness of mine that God loved me?

O my hope once so bright, my treasure that was mine once, my love that
might have been!  Every morrow and every night I pray God to bring thee
back from that far country whither thou art gone,--home to the Father's
house.  If I may find thee on the road home, well, so much the sweeter
for me.  But if not, let us only meet in the house of the Father, and I
ask no more.

I know thou hast loved many, with that alloyed metal thou dignifiest by
the name.  But with the pure gold of a true heart that God calls love,
none hath ever loved thee as I have,--may-be none hath ever loved thee
but me.

God knoweth,--thee and me.  God careth.  God will provide.  Enough, O
fainting heart!  Get thee back into the clefts of the Rock that is
higher than thou.  Rest, and be still.

                                             SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE III.
I could write no more last night.  It was better to cast one's self on
the sand (as _Ned_ saith men do in the great Desert of _Araby_) and
leave the tempest sweep o'er one's head.  I come back now to the life of
every day--that quiet humdrum life (as _Milly_ hath it) which is so
displeasant to young eager natures, and matcheth so well with them that
be growing old and come to feel the need of rest.  And after all said,
Mistress _Milisent_, a man should live a sorry life and a troublous, if
it had in it no humdrum days.  Human nature could not bear perpetual
sorrow, and as little (in this dispensation at the least) should it
stand unceasing joy.

I fell a-thinking this morrow, how little folks do wit of that which
lieth a-head.  Now, if I were to prophesy (that am no prophet, neither a
prophet's daughter) what should befall these young things my cousins
twenty years hereafter, then would I say that it should find _Ned_
captain of some goodly vessel, and husband of _Faith Murthwaite_ (and
may he have no worser fate befall him!)--and _Wat_, a country gentleman
(but I trust not wed to _Gillian Armstrong)_: and _Nell_, a comely
maiden ministering lovingly unto her father and mother: and _Milisent_
dwelling at _Mere Lea_ with _Robin Lewthwaite_: and _Edith_--nay, I will
leave the fashioning of her way to the Lord, for I see not whither it
lieth.  And very like (an' it be His will I live thus long) when the
time cometh, I shall see may-be not so much as one that hath fulfilled
the purpose I did chalk out for them.  Ay, but the Lord's chalking shall
be a deal better than _Joyce Morrell's_.  I reckon my lines should be
all awry.

For how little hath happed that ever I looked for aforetime!  _Dulcie
Fenton_, that wont to look as though it should be a sin in her to laugh,
had she beheld aught to laugh at, hath blossomed out into an happy,
comfortable matron, with two fair daughters, and an husband that (for a
man) is rare good unto her: and _Lettice Eden_--come, _Anstace_ is to
read this, so will I leave _Lettice_ to conceive for herself what should
have followed.  Both she and _Aubrey_ shall read well enough betwixt the
lines.  And _Joyce Morrell_, that thought once to be--what she is not--
is an humdrum old maid, I trust a bit useful as to cooking and stitchery
and the like, and on whom God hath put a mighty charge of His gold and
goods to minister for Him,--but nought nearer than cousins to give her
love, though that do they most rarely, and God bless their hearts
therefor.  My best treasures be in the good Land--all save one, that the
Good Shepherd is yet looking for over the wild hills: nor hath my life
been an unhappy one, but for that one blank which is there day and
night, and shall be till the Good Shepherd call me by my name to come
and rejoice with Him over the finding of His sheep that is lost.  O
Lord, make no long tarrying!  Yea, make no tarrying, O my God!

                                               SELWICK HALL, APRIL YE V.
_Ned_ hath spoke out at last, like the honest man he is, and done
_Aubrey_ to wit of his desire to wed with _Faith Murthwaite_.  She is a
good maid, and I cast no doubt shall make a good wife.  Scarce so comely
as her sister _Temperance_, may-be, yet she liketh me the better: and
not by no means so fair as _Gillian Armstrong_, which liketh me not at
all.  I would with all mine heart that I could put a spoke in that
lass's wheel the which she rolleth toward our _Walter_: yet this know I,
that if you shall give an hint to a young man that he were best not to
wed with a certain maid, mine head to a porridge-pot but he shall go and
fall o' love with her, out of pure contrariety.  Men be such dolts!
And, worser yet, they will not be ruled by the women, that have all the
wit going.

Master _Murthwaite_, though he say little, as his wont is, is
nevertheless, as I can see, pleased enough (and Mistress _Murthwaite_ a
deal more, and openly) that his lass should have caught our _Ned_.  And
truly our _Ned_ is no ill catch, for he feareth God, and hath a deal of
his father in him, than which I can write no better commendation.  _Wat_
is more like _Lettice_.

Ay me, but is it no strange matter that the last thing ever a man (or
woman) doth seem able to understand, is that `whatsoever a man soweth,
that shall he also reap.'  _That_: not an other thing.  Yet for one that
honestly essayeth to sow that which he would reap, an hundred shall sow
darnel and look confidently to reap fine wheat.  They sow that they have
no desire to reap, and ope their dull eyes in amazement when that cometh
up which they have sown.

How do men pass their lives in endeavours to deceive God!  Because they
be ready to take His gold for tinsel, they reckon He shall leave their
tinsel pass for gold.

Yea, and too oft we know not indeed what we sow.--Here be seeds; what, I
wis not.  Drop them into the earth--they shall come up somewhat.--Then,
when they come up briars and thistles, we stand and gape on them.--Dear
heart, who had thought they should be so?  I looked for primroses and
violets.--Did you so, friend?  But had you not been wiser to ask at the
Husbandman, who wot that you did not?--Good lack! but I thought me wise
enough.--Ay so: that do we all and alway.  Good Lord, who art the Only
Wise, shake our conceits of our own wisdom!

Lack-a-daisy, but how easy is it to fall of a rut in thy journeying!
Here was I but to write my thoughts touching these maids' writings, and
after reading the same, I am fallen of their rut, and am going on to
keep the Chronicle as though I were one of them.  Of a truth, there is
somewhat captivating therein: and _Edith_ saith she shall continue, for
her own diversion, to keep a privy Chronicle.  So be it.  Methinks, as
matter of understanding and natural turn thereto, she is fittest of the
three.  _Nell_ saith she found it no easy matter, and should never think
so to do: while _Milisent_, as I guess, shall for a while to come be
something too much busied living her chronicle, to write it.  For me, I
did once essay to do the same; but it went not, as I mind, beyond a week
or so.  Either there were so much to do there was no time to write it;
or so little that there was nought to write.  I well-nigh would now that
I had kept it up.  For sure such changes in public matters as have
fallen in my life shall the world not see many times o'er again.  When I
was born, in Mdxxv [1525], was King _Harry_ the Eight young and
well-liked of all men, and no living soul so much as dreamed of all the
troubles thereafter to ensue.  Then came the tumult that fell of the
matter of the King's divorce.  (All 'long of a man's obstinateness, for
was not my sometime Lord Cardinal [Wolsey] wont to say that rather than
miss the one half of his will, he would endanger the one half of his
kingdom?  Right the man is that.  A woman should know how to bend
herself to circumstances.)  Then came the troubles o'er Queen _Anne_,
that had her head cut off (and by my troth, I misdoubted alway if she
did deserve the same); and then of the divorce of the Lady _Anne_ of
_Cleve_ (that no _Gospeller_ did ever think to deserve the same); and
then of Queen _Katherine_, whose head was cut off belike--eh me, what
troublous times were then!  Verily, looking back, they seem worser than
at the time they did.  For when things be, there be mixed with all the
troubles little matters that be easy and even delightsome: but to look
back, one doth forget all them, and think only of the great affairs.
And all the time, along with this, kept pace that great ado of religion
which fell out in the purifying of the Church men call the Reformation.
(Though, of a truth, the _Papists_ have of late took up a cry that afore
the Reformation the Church of _England_ was not, and did only then
spring into being.  As good say I was not _Joyce Morrell_ this morrow
until I washed my face.)  Then, when King _Harry_ died--and it was none
too soon for this poor realm--came the goodly days of our young _Josiah_
King _Edward_, which were the true reforming of the Church; that which
went afore were rather playing at reform.  Men's passions were too much
mixed up with it.  But after the blue sky returned the tempest.  Ay me,
those five years of Queen _Mary_, what they be to look back on!
Howbeit, matters were worser in the shires and down south than up
hither.  Old Bishop _Tunstall_ was best of all the _Papist_ Bishops, for
though he flustered much (and as some thought, to save himself from
suspicion of them in power), yet he did little more.  I well-nigh gat
mine head into a noose, for it ne'er was my way to carry my flag furled,
and Father _Slatter_, that was then priest at _Minster Lovel_, as I
know, had my name set of his list of persons suspect.  Once come the
catchpoll to mine house,--I wis not on what business, for, poor man! he
tarried not to tell me when I come at him with the red-hot poker.  I
never wist a man yet, would stand a red-hot poker with a woman behind it
that meant it for him.  Master Catchpoll were wise enough to see that
the penny is well spent that saveth a groat, and he gave me leave to see
little more of him than his flying skirts and the nails of his boots--
and his hat, that he left behind of his hurry, the which I sent down to
my mistress his wife with mine hearty commendations, and hope he had
catched no cold.  I reckon he preferred the risk of that to the surety
of catching a red-hot poker.  But that giving me warning of what might
follow--as a taste of a dish whereof more should be anon laid on my
trencher--up-stairs went I, and made up my little bundle, and the next
night that ever was, away came I of an horse behind old _Dickon_, that
had been sewer ever since _Father_ and _Mother_ were wed, then
five-and-thirty years gone, and Father _Slatter_ might whistle for me,
as I reckon he did when he heard it.  It were an hard journey and a
cold, for it were winter, but the snow was our true friend in covering
all tracks, and at long last came I safe hither, in the middle of the
night, and astonied _Aubrey_ and _Lettice_ more than a little by casting
of snowballs at their chamber window.  At the last come the casement
undone, and _Aubrey's_ voice saith--

"Is there any in trouble?"

"Here is a poor maid, by name _Joyce Morrell_," said I, "that will be in
trouble ere long if thou leave her out in this snowstorm."

Good lack, but was there no ado when my voice were known!  The hall fire
embers were stirren up, and fresh logs cast thereon, and in ten minutes
was I sat afore it of a great chair, with all the blankets in
_Cumberland_ around and over me, and a steaming hot posset-bowl of mine
hand.

It was a mile or so too far, I reckon, for Father _Slatter_ to trudge
after me, and if he had come, I'd have serven him of the poker, or twain
if need be.  I guess he should have loved rather to flounder back
through the snow.

So, by the good hand of my God upon me, came I safe through the reign of
Queen _Mary_; and when Queen _Elizabeth_ came in (whom God long
preserve, unto the comfort of His Church and the welfare of _England_!)
had I not much ado to win back my lands and goods.  Truth to tell, I gat
not all back, but what I lost was a cheap bargain where life lay in the
other scale.  And enough is as good as a feast, any day.

So here lie I now at anchor, becalmed on the high seas.  (If that emblem
hang not together, _Ned_ must amend it when he cometh unto it.)  The day
is neither bright nor dark, but it is a day known to the Lord, and I
have faith to believe that at eventide it shall be light.  I can trust
and wait.

(_In Edith's handwriting_.)

             MINSTER LOVEL MANOR HOUSE, AUGUST THE XXVIII, MDXCI [1591].
When I come, this morrow, to search for my Diurnal Book, the which for
aught I knew I had brought with me from home, what should I find but our
old Chronicle, which I must have catched up in mistake for the same?
And looking therein, I was enticed to read divers pages, and then I fell
a-thinking that as it had so happed, it might be well, seeing a space
was yet left, that I should set down for the childre, whose it shall
some day be, what had come to pass since.  They were the pages Aunt
_Joyce_ writ that I read: and seeing that of them therein named, two
have reached Home already, and the rest of us be eleven years further on
the journey, it shall doubtless make the story more completer to add
these lines.

_Father_, and _Mother_, and Aunt _Joyce_, be all yet alive; the Lord be
heartily thanked therefor!  But _Father's_ hair is now of the hue of the
snow, though _Mother_ hath scantly any silver amongst the gold; and Aunt
_Joyce_ well-nigh matcheth _Father_.  _Hal_ and _Anstace_ be as they
were, with more childre round them.  _Robin_ and _Milisent_ dwell at
_Mere Lea_, with a goodly parcel belike; and _Helen_ (that Aunt _Joyce_
counted should be an old maid) is wife unto _Dudley Murthwaite_, and
dwelleth by _Skiddaw Force_.  _Wat_ is at _Kendal_, grown a good man and
wise, more like to _Father_ than ever we dared hope: but his wife is not
_Gillian Armstrong_, nor any of the maids of this part, but _Frances
Radcliffe_, niece to my Lord _Dilston_ that was, and cousin unto
Mistress _Jane_ and Mistress _Cicely_.  They have four boys and three
maids: but _Nell_ hath only one daughter, that is named _Lettice_ for
_Mother_.

And _Ned_ is not.  We prayed the Lord to bring him safe from that last
voyage to _Virginia_ that ever Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ took; and He set
him safe enough, but in better keeping than ours.  For from that voyage
came safe to _Falmouth_ all the ships save one, and that was the
Admiral's own.  They had crossed the _Atlantic_ through an awful storm,
and the last seen of the Admiral was on the ix of _September_, Mdlxxxiii
[1583], by them in the _Hind_: and when they saw him he was sat of the
stern of his vessel, with his Bible open of his knees: and he was
plainly heard to say,--"Courage, my men!  Heaven is as near by water as
by land."  Then the mist closed again o'er the fleet, and they saw him
no more.  On the xxii of _September_ the fleet reached _Falmouth_: but
when, and where, and how, Sir _Humphrey Gilbert_ and our _Ned_ went
down, He knoweth unto whom the night is as clear as the day, and we
shall know when the sea giveth up her dead.

His young widow, our dear sister _Faith_, dwelleth with us at _Selwick_
Hall: and so doth their one child, little _Aubrey_, the darling of us
all.  I cannot choose but think never were two such sweetings as
_Aubrey_ and his cousin _Lettice Murthwaite_.

I am _Edith Louvaine_ yet.  I know now that I was counted fairest of the
sisters, and they looked for me to wed with confidence.  I am not so
fair now, and I shall never wed.  Had things turned out other than they
have, I will not say I might not have done it.  There is no blame to
any--not even to myself.  It was of God's ordering, and least of all
could I think to blame that.  It is only--and I see no shame to tell
it--that the man who was my one love never loved me, and is happy in the
love of a better than I.  Be it so: I am content.  I had no
love-story,--only a memory that is known to none but me, though it will
never give mine heart leave to open his gates to any love again.  Enough
of that.  It is all the better for our dear _Father_ and _Mother_ that
they have one daughter left to them.

At the time we writ this Chronicle, when I were scarce seventeen years
of age, I mind I had a fantasy running through my brain that I was born
for greatness.  Methinks it came in part of a certain eager restless
spirit that did long to be a-doing, and such little matters as do
commonly fall to women's lot seemed mean and worthless in mine eyes.
But in part (if I must needs confess my folly) I do believe it sprang of
a tale I had heard of _Mother_, touching Queen _Katherine_, the last
wife to King _Harry_ that was, of whom some _Egyptian_ [gypsy] had
prophesied, in her cradle, that she was born for a crown: and ever after
she heard the same, the child (as she then were) was used to scorn
common works, and when bidden to her task, was wont to say,--"My hands
were made to touch crowns and sceptres, not spindles and neelds,"
[needles].  Well, this tale (that _Mother_ told us for our diversion
when we were little maids--for she, being _Kendal_ born, did hear much
touching the Lady _Maud Parr_ and her childre, that dwelt in _Kendal_
Castle) this tale, I say, catched great hold of my fantasy.  Mistress
_Kate Parr_ came to be a queen, according to her previsions of
greatness: and wherefore should not _Editha Louvaine_?  Truly, there was
but little reason in the fantasy, seeing no _Egyptian_ had ever
prophesied of me (should that be of any account, which _Father_ will
ne'er allow), nor could the Queen's Majesty make me a queen by wedding
of me: but methinks pride and fantasy stick not much at logic.  So I
clung in my silly heart to the thought that I was born to be great, and
was capable to do great things, would they but come in my way.

And now I have reached the age of seven and twenty, and they have not
come in my way, nor seem like to do.  The only conquest I am like to
achieve is that over mine own spirit, which _Scripture_ reckoneth better
than taking of a city: and the sole entrance into majesty and glory that
ever I can look for, is to be presented faultless before the presence of
God with exceeding joy.  Ah, _Editha Louvaine_! hast thou any cause for
being downcast at the exchange?

In good sooth, this notion of mine (that I can smile at now) showeth one
thing, to wit, the deal of note that childre be apt to take of little
matters that should seem nought to their elders.  I can ne'er conceive
the light and careless fashion wherein some women go about to breed up a
child.  To me the training of a human soul for the life immortal seems
the most terrible piece of responsibility in the whole world.

And now there is one story left that I must finish, and it is of the
other that hath got Home.

It was five years gone, and a short season after _Helen's_ marriage.
_Mother_ was something diseased, as I think, touching me, for she said I
was pale, and had lost mine appetite (and my sleep belike, though she
wist it not).

'Twas thought that the winters at home were somewhat too severe for mine
health, and 'twas settled that for the winter then coming, I should
tarry with Aunt _Joyce_.  It was easy to compass the matter, for at that
time was _Wat_ of a journey to _London_ on his occasions, and he brought
me, early in _October_, as far as _Minster Lovel_.  As for getting back,
that was left to see to when time should be convenient.  _Father_ gave
me his blessing, and three nobles spending money, and bade me bring back
home a pair of rosier cheeks, saying he should not grudge to pay the
bill: and _Mother_ shed some tears o'er me, and packed up for me much
good gear of her own spinning and knitting, and all bade me farewell
right lovingly.  I o'erheard Cousin _Bess_ say to _Mother_ that the sun
should scant seem to shine till I came back: the which dear _Mother_ did
heartily echo, saying she wist not at all what had come o'er me, but it
was her good hope that a southward winter should make me as an other
maid.

Well!  I could have told her what she wist not, for I was then but new
come out of the discovering that what women commonly reckon the flower
of a woman's life was not for me, and that I must be content to crown
mine head with the common herb of the field.  But I held my peace, and
none wist it but Aunt _Joyce_: for in her presence had I not been a day
when I found that her eyes had read me through.  As we sat by the fire
at even, our two selves, quoth she all suddenly, without an other word
afore it--

"There be alway some dark valleys in a woman's life, _Edith_."

"I reckon so, _Aunt_," said I, essaying to speak lightly.

"Ay, and each one is apt to think she hath no company.  But there be
always footsteps on the road afore us, child.  Nearest of all be His
footsteps that knelt that dark night in _Gethsemane_, with no human
comforting in His agony.  There hath never been any sorrow like to His
sorrow, though each one of us is given to suppose there is none like her
own.  Poor little _Edith_! didst reckon thy face should be any riddle to
me--me, that have been on the road afore thee these forty years?"

I could not help it.  That gentle touch unlocked the sealed fountain,
and I knelt down by Aunt _Joyce_, and threw mine arms around her, and
poured out mine heart like water, with mine head upon her knees.  She
held me to her with one arm, but not a word said she till my tears were
stayed, and I could lift mine head again.

"That will do thee good, child," saith she.  "'Tis what thy body and
mind alike were needing.  (And truly, mine heart, as methought, hath
never felt quite so sore and bound from that day.)  I know all about it,
_Edith_.  I saw it these two years gone, when I was with you at
_Selwick_.  And I began to fear, even then, that there was a dark valley
on the road afore thee, though not so dark as mine.  Ah, dear heart, it
is sore matter to find thy shrine deserted of the idol: yet not half so
sore as to see the idol lie broken at thy feet, and to know
thenceforward that it was nought but a lump of common clay.  No god--
only a lump of clay, that thy foolish heart had thought to be one!
Well! all that lieth behind, and the sooner thou canst turn away and go
on thy journey, the better.  But for what lieth afore, _Edith_, look
onward and look upward.  Heaven will be the brighter because earth was
darker than thou hadst looked for.  _Christ_ will be the dearer Friend,
because the dearest human friend hath failed thine hope.  It is not the
traveller that hath been borne through flowers and sunshine on the soft
cushions of a litter, that is the gladdest to see the lights of home."

"It is nobody's fault," I could not help whispering.

"I know, dear heart!" she saith.  "Thine idol is not broken.  Thank God
for it.  Thou mayest think of him yet as a true man, able to hold up his
head in the sunlight, with no cause to be 'shamed of the love which
stole into thine heart ere thou hadst wist it.  Alas for them to whom
the fairest thought which even hope can compass, is the thought of the
prodigal in the far country, weary at long last of the husks which the
swine do eat, and turning with yearning in his eyes toward the hills
which lie betwixt him and the Father.  O _Edith_, thank God that He hath
spared thee such a sorrow as that!"

It was about six weeks after that even, when one wet morrow, as I was
aiding Aunt _Joyce_ to turn the apples in her store-chamber, and gather
into a basket such as lacked use, that _Barbara_, the cook-maid, come in
with her hands o'er flour, to say--

"Mistress, here at the base door is a poor blind man, begging for broken
victuals.  Would you have me give him that beef-bone you set aside for
broth?"

"A blind man?" saith Aunt _Joyce_.  "Then shall he not go empty.  I am
coming down, _Bab_, and will look to him myself.  Bring him out of the
rain to the kitchen fire, and if he have a dog that leadeth him, find
the poor animal some scraps.--Now, _Edith_, bring thy basket, and I will
take mine."

"He hath no dog, Mistress," saith _Bab_; "'twas a lad that brought him."

"Then the lad may have an apple," saith Aunt _Joyce_, "which the dog
should scantly shake his tail for.  Go and bring them in, _Bab_; I shall
be after thee presently."

So down came we into the kitchen, where was sat the blind man and the
lad.  We set down our baskets, and I gave the lad an apple at a sign
from Aunt _Joyce_, which went toward the blind man and 'gan ask him if
he were of those parts.

He was a comely man of (I would judge) betwixt sixty and seventy years,
and had a long white beard.  He essayed to rise when Aunt _Joyce_ spake.

"Nay, sit still, friend," saith she: "I dare reckon thou art aweary."

"Ay," saith he in a sad tone: "weary of life and all things that be in
it."

"Ay so?" quoth she.  "And how, then, of thine hope for the life beyond,
where they never rest, yet are never weary?"

"Mistress," saith he, "the sinner that hath been pardoned a debt of ten
thousand talents may have peace, but can scarce dare rise to hope."

"I am alway fain when a man reckoneth his debt heavy," saith Aunt
_Joyce_.  "We be mostly so earnest to persuade ourselves that we owe no
farthing beyond an hundred pence."

"I could never persuade myself of that," saith he, shaking his white
head.  "I have plunged too deep in the mire to have any chance to doubt
the conditions of my clothing."

It struck me that his manner of speech was something beyond a common
beggar, and I could not but marvel if he had seen better days.

"And what askest, friend?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, winch turned away from
him and busied herself with casting small twigs on the fire.

"A few waste victuals, if it like you, Mistress.  They will be better
than I deserve."

"And if it like me not?" saith Aunt _Joyce_, suddenly, turning back to
him, and methought there was a little trembling in her voice.

"Then," saith he, "I will trouble you no further."

"Then," saith she, to mine amaze, "I tell thee plainly I will not give
them to such a sinner as thou hast been, by thine own confession."

"Be it so," he saith quietly, bowing his white head.  "I cry you mercy
for having troubled you, and I wish you a good morrow."

"That shalt thou never," came from Aunt _Joyce_, in a voice which was
not hers.  "Didst thou count _I_ was blind?  _Leonard_, _Leonard_!"

And she clasped his hands in hers, and drew him back to the fireside.

"`Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and bring hither the
fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry.  For this my love
was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.'  My God, I
thank Thee!"

And then, out of the white hair and the blind blue eyes, slowly came
back to me the face of that handsome gentleman which had so near
beguiled our _Milisent_ to her undoing, and had wrought such ill in
_Derwentdale_.

"_Joyce_!" he saith, in a greatly agitated voice.  "I would never have
come hither, had I reckoned thou shouldst wit me."

"Thou wert out of thy reckoning, then," she answereth.  "I tell thee, as
I told _Dulcie_ years agone, that were I low laid in my grave, I should
hear thy step upon the mould above me."

"I came," he saith, "but to hear thy voice once afore I die.  Look upon
thy face can I never more.  But I thought to hear the voice of the only
woman which ever loved me in very truth, and unto whom my wrong-doing is
the heaviest sin in all my black calendar."

"Pardoned sin should not be heavy," saith she.

"Nay," quoth Mr _Norris_, "but it is the heaviest of all."

"Come in, _Leonard_," saith Aunt _Joyce_, tenderly.

"Nay, my merciful _Joyce_, let me not trouble thee," saith he, "for if
thou canst not see it in my face, I know in mine heart that I am struck
for death."

"I have seen it," she made answer.  "And thou shalt spend thy last days
no whither but in the Manor House at _Minster Lovel_, nor with any other
nurse nor sister than _Joyce Morrell_.  _Leonard_, for forty years I
have prayed for this day.  Dash not the cup from my lips ere I have well
tasted its sweetness."

I caught a low murmur from Mr _Norris'_ lips, "Passing the love of
women!"  Then he held out his hand, and Aunt _Joyce_ drew it upon her
arm and led him into her privy parlour.

I left them alone till she called me.  To that interview there should be
no third save God.

Nor was it much that I heard at after.  Some dread accident had happed
him, at after which his sight had departed, and his hair had gone white
in a few weeks.  He had counted himself so changed that none should know
him.  I doubt if he should not have been hid safe enough from any eyes
save hers.

He lived about three months thereafter.  Never in all my life saw I man
that spake of his past life with more loathing and contrition.  Even in
death, raptures of thanksgiving had he none.  He could not, as it
seemed, rise above an humble trust that God would be as good as His
word, and that for _Christ's_ sake he that had confessed his sins and
forsaken them should find mercy.

He alway said that it was one word of Aunt _Joyce_ that had given him
even so much hope.  She had said to him, that day in the copse, after
she had sent away _Milisent_ and me,--"I shall never give thee up,
_Leonard_.  I shall never cease praying for thee, till I know thou art
beyond all prayer."

"It was those prayers, _Joyce_, that brought me back," he said.  "After
mine accident, I had been borne into a cot by the way-side, where as I
lay abed in the back chamber, I could not but hear the goodman every day
read the _Scriptures_ to his household.  Those _Scriptures_ seethed in
mine heart, and thy prayers were alway with me.  It was as though they
fitted one into the other.  I thought thou hadst prayed me into that
cot, for I might have been carried into some godless house where no such
thing should have chanced me.  But ever and anon, mixed with God's Word,
I heard thy words, and thy voice seemed as if it called to me,--`Come
back! come back!'  I thought, if there were so much love and mercy in
thee, there must be some left in God."

The night that Mr _Norris_ was buried in the churchyard of _Minster
Lovel_, as we sat again our two selves by the fireside, Aunt _Joyce_
saith to me, or may-be to herself--

"I should think I may go now."

"Whither, _Aunt_?" said I.

"Home, _Edith_," she made answer.  "Home--to _Leonard_ and _Anstace_,
and to _Christ_.  The work that was set me is done.  `_Nunc dimittis,
Domine_!'"

"Dear Aunt _Joyce_," said I, "I want you for ever so long yet."

"If thou verily do, _Edith_," saith she, "I shall have to tarry.  And
surely, she that hath borne forty years' travel in the darkness, can
stand a few days' more journeying in the light.  I know that when the
right time cometh, my Father will not forget me.  The children may by
times feel eager to reach home, but the Father's heart longeth the most
to have them all safe under His shelter."

And very gravely she added--"`They that were ready went in with Him to
the wedding: and the gate was shut up.'"

THE END.





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