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´╗┐Title: Shining Ferry
Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
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 "Shining Ferry" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



SHINING FERRY.

by

ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH ("Q").



1910

This e-text was prepared from a reprint of a version published in 1905.



CONTENTS

   BOOK I.

      I.      ROSEWARNE OF HALL.

      II.     FATHERS AND CHILDREN.

      III.    ROSEWARNE'S PILGRIMAGE.

      IV.     ROSEWARNE'S PENANCE.

      V.      THE CLOSE OF A STEWARDSHIP.

      VI.     THE RAFTERS.

      VII.    THE HEIRS OF HALL.

   BOOK II.

      VIII.   HESTER ARRIVES.

      IX.     MR. SAMUEL'S POLICY.

      X.      NUNCEY.

      XI.     HESTER IS ACCEPTED.

      XII.    THE OPENING DAY.

      XIII.   TOM TREVARTHEN INTERVENES.

      XIV.    MR. SAM IS MAGNANIMOUS.

      XV.     MYRA IN DISGRACE.

   BOOK III.

      XVI.    AUNT BUTSON CLOSES SCHOOL.

      XVII.   PETER BENNEY'S DISMISSAL.

      XVIII.  RIGHT OF FERRY.

      XIX.    THE INTERCEDERS.

      XX.     AN OUTBURST.

      XXI.    MR. BENNY GETS PROMOTION.

      XXII.   CLEM IS LOST TO MYRA.

      XXIII.  HESTER WRITES A LOVE LETTER.

      XXIV.   THE RESCUE.

      XXV.    BUT TOM CAN WRITE.

      XXVI.   MESSENGERS.

      XXVII.  HOME.



CHAPTER I.


ROSEWARNE OF HALL.

John Rosewarne sat in his counting-house at Hall, dictating a letter to
his confidential clerk.  The letter ran--

    "Dear Sir,--In answer to yours of the 6th inst., I beg to inform you
     that in consequence of an arrangement with the Swedish firms, by
     which barrel-staves will be trimmed and finished to three standard
     lengths before shipment, we are enabled to offer an additional
     discount of five per cent, for the coming season on orders of five
     thousand staves and upwards.  Such orders, however, should reach us
     before the fishery begins, as we hold ourselves free to raise the
     price at any time after 1st July.  A consignment is expected from the
     Baltic within the next fortnight."

The little clerk looked up.  His glance inquired, "Is that all?"

"Wait a minute."  His master seemed to be reflecting; then leaning back in
his chair and gripping its arms while he stared out of the bow-window
before him, he resumed his dictation--

    "I hope to be in Plymouth on Wednesday next, and that you will hold
     yourself ready for a call between two and three in the afternoon at
     your office."

"I beg your pardon, sir," the clerk interposed, "but Mr. Samuel closes
early on Wednesdays.

"I know it.  Go on, please--

    "I have some matters to discuss alone with you, and they may take a
     considerable time.  Kindly let me know by return if the date
     suggested is inconvenient."

"That will do."  He held out his hand for the paper, and signed it,
"Yours truly, John Rosewarne," while the clerk addressed the envelope.
This concluded their day's work.

Rosewarne pulled out his watch, consulted it, and fell again to staring
out of the open window.  A climbing Banksia rose overgrew the sill and ran
up the mullions, its clusters of nankeen buds stirred by the breeze and
nodding against the pale sunset sky.  Beyond the garden lay a small
orchard fringed with elms; and below this the slope fell so steeply down
to the harbourthat the elm-tops concealed its shipping and all but the
chimney-smoke of a busy little town on its farther shore.  High over this
smoke the rooks were trailing westward and homeward.

Rosewarne heard the clank of mallets in a shipbuilding yard below.
Then five o'clock struck from the church tower across the water, and the
mallets ceased; but far down by the harbour's mouth the crew of a
foreign-bound ship sang at the windlass--

     Good-bye, fare-ye-well--Good-bye, fare-ye-well!

[In the original text a short length of musical score is shown]

The vessel belonged to him.  He controlled most of the shipping and a good
half of the harbour's trade.  As for the town at his feet, had you
examined his ledgers you might fancy its smoke ascending to him as
incense.  He sat with his strong hand resting on the arms of his chair,
with the last gold of daylight touching his white hair and the lines of
his firm, clean-shaven face, and overlooked his local world and his
possessions.  If they brought him happiness, he did not smile.

He aroused himself with a kind of shake of the shoulders, and stretched
out a hand to ring, as his custom was after the day's work, for a draught
of cider.

"Eh?  Anything more?" he asked; for the little clerk, having gathered up
his papers, had advanced close to the corner of the writing-table, and
waited there with an air of apology.

"I beg your pardon, sir--the 28th of May.  I had no opportunity this
morning, but if I may take the liberty."--

"My birthday, Benny?  So it is; and, begad, I believe you're the only soul
to remember it.  Stay a moment."--

He rang the bell, and ordered the maidservant to bring in a full jug of
cider and two glasses.  At the signal, a small Italian greyhound, who had
been awaiting it, came forward fawning from her lair in the corner, and,
encouraged by a snap of the fingers, leapt up to her master's knee.

"May God send you many, sir, and His mercy follow you all your days!" said
little Mr. Benny, with sudden fervour.  Relapsing at once into his
ordinary manner, he produced a scrap of paper and tendered it shyly.
"If you will think it appropriate," he explained.

"The usual compliment?  Hand it over, man."  Mr. Rosewarne took the paper
and read--

    "Another year, another milestone past;
     Dear sir, I hope it will not be the last:
     But more I hope that, when the road is trod,
     You find the Inn, and sit you down with God."

"Thank you, Benny.  Your own composition?"

"I ventured to consult my brother, sir.  The idea--if I may so call it--
was mine, however."

Mr. Rosewarne leant forward, and picking up a pen, docketed the paper with
the day of the month and the year.  He then pulled out a drawer on the
left-hand side of his knee-hole table, selected a packet labelled
"Complimentary, P. B."--his clerk's initials--slipped the new verses under
the elastic band containing similar contributions of twenty years,
replaced the packet, and shut the drawer.  The little greyhound, displaced
by these operations, sprang again to his knees, and he fell to fondling
her ears.

"I do not think there will be many more miles, Benny," said he, reaching
for the cider-jug.  "But let us drink to the rest of the way."

"A great many, I hope, sir," remonstrated Mr. Benny.  "And, sir--talking
about milestones--you will be pleased to hear that Mrs. Benny was confined
this morning.  A fine boy."

"That must be the ninth at least."

"The eleventh, sir--six girls and five boys: besides three buried."

"Good Lord!"

"They bring their love with them, sir, as the saying is."

"And as the saying also is, Benny, it would be more to the purpose if they
brought their boots and shoes.  Man, you must have a nerve, to trust
Providence as you do!"

"It's a struggle, sir, as you can guess; but except to your kindness in
employing me, I am beholden to no man.  I say it humbly--the Lord has been
kind to me."

Rosewarne looked up for a moment and with a curious eagerness, as though
on the point of putting a question.  He suppressed it, however.

"It seems to me," he said slowly, "in this question of many children or
few there's a natural conflict between the private man and the citizen;
yes, that's how I put it--a natural conflict.  I don't believe in Malthus
or any talk about over-population.  A nation can't breed too many sons.
Sons are her strength, and if she is to whip her rivals it will be by the
big battalions.  Therefore, as I argue it out, a good citizen should beget
many children.  But now turn to the private side of it.  A man wants to do
the best for his own; and whatever his income, he can do better for two
children than for half a dozen.  To be sure, he mayn't turn 'em out as he
intended."--

Here Rosewarne paused for a while unwittingly, as his eyes fell on the
packet of letters in Mr. Benny's hand.  The uppermost--the business
letter which he had just signed--was addressed to his only son.

"--But all the same," he went on, "he has fitted them out and given them
a better chance in the struggle for life.  The devil takes the hindmost
in this world, Benny.  I'd like to lend you a book of Darwin's--the
biggest book of this century, and a new gospel for the next to think out.
The conclusion is that the spoils go to the strongest.  You may help a man
for the use you can make of him, but in the end every man's your natural
enemy."

"A terrible gospel, sir!  I shall have to get along with the old one,
which says, 'Bear ye one another's burdens.'"

"I won't lend you the book.  'Twouldn't be fair to a man of your age, with
eleven children.  And after all, as I said, the new gospel has a place for
patriots.  They breed the raw material by which a nation crushes all
rivals; then, when the fighting is over, along comes your man with money
and a trained wit, and collars the spoils."

Mr. Benny stood shuffling his weight from one foot to the other.
"Even if yours were the last word in this world, sir, there's another to
reckon with."

"And meanwhile you're on pins and needles to be off to your wife's
bedside.  Very well, man--drink up your cider; and many thanks for your
good wishes!"

As Mr. Benny hurried towards the wicket-gate and the street leading down
to the ferry, he caught sight, across the hedge, of two children seated
together in a corner of the garden on the step of a summer arbour, and
paused to wave a hand to them.

They were a girl and a boy--the girl about eight years old and the boy a
year or so younger--and the pair were occupied in making a garland such as
children carry about on May-morning--two barrel-hoops fixed crosswise and
mounted on a pole.  The girl had laid the pole across her lap, and was
binding the hoops with ferns and wild hyacinths, wallflowers, and garden
tulips, talking the while with the boy, who bent his head close by hers
and seemed to peer into the flowers.  But in fact he was blind.

"You're late!" the girl called to Mr. Benny.  At the sound of her voice,
the boy too waved a hand to him.

"It's your grandfather's birthday, and I've been drinking his health."
He beckoned them over to the hedge.  "And it's another person's birthday,"
he announced mysteriously.

"Bless the man! you don't tell me you've gone and got another!" exclaimed
the girl.

Mr. Benny nodded, no whit abashed.

"Boy or girl?"

"Boy."

"What is he like?" asked the boy.  His blindness came from some defect of
the optic nerve, and did not affect the beauty of his eyes, which were
curiously reflective (as though they looked inwards), and in colour a deep
violet-grey.

"I hadn't much time to take stock of him this morning," Mr. Benny
confessed; "but the doctor said he was a fine one."  He nodded at the
garland.  "Birthday present for your grandfather?" he asked.

"Grandfather doesn't bother himself about us," the girl answered.
"Besides, what would he do with it?"

"I know--I know.  It's better be unmannerly than troublesome, as they say;
and you'd like to please him, but feel too shy to offer it.  That's like
me.  I had it on my tongue just now to ask him to stand godfather--the
child's birthday being the same as his own.  'Twas the honour of it I
wanted; but like as not (thought I) he'll set it down that I'm fishing for
something else, and when it didn't strike him to offer I felt I couldn't
mention it."

"_I'll_ ask him, if you like."

"Not on any account!  No, please, you mustn't!  Promise me."

"Very well."

"I oughtn't to have mentioned it, but,"--Mr. Benny rubbed the back of his
head.  "You don't know how it is--no, of course you wouldn't; somehow,
when a child's born, I want to be talking all day."

"Like a hen.  Well, run along home, and some day you shall ask us to tea
with it."

But Mr. Benny had reached the wicket.  It slammed behind him, and he ran
down the street to the ferry at a round trot.  He might have spared his
haste, for he had to cool his heels for a good ten minutes on the slipway,
and fill up the time in telling his news to half a dozen workmen gathered
there and awaiting the boat.  Old Nicky Vro, the ferryman, had pulled the
same leisurable stroke for forty years now, and was not to be hurried.

The workmen were carpenters, all engaged upon the new schoolhouse above
the hill, and returning from their day's job.  They discussed the building
as Nicky Vro tided them over.  Its fittings, they agreed, were something
out of the common.

"'Tis the old man's whim," said one.  "He's all for education now, and the
latest improvements.  'Capability'--that's his word."

"A poor lookout it'll be for Aunt Butson and her Infant School."

"He'll offer her the new place, maybe," it was suggested.

But all laughed at this.  "What? with his notions?  He's a darned sight
more likely to offer her Nicky's job, here!"

Nicky smiled complacently in his half-witted way.  "That's a joke, too,"
said he.  He knew himself to be necessary to the ferry.

He pulled on--still with the same digging stroke which he could not have
altered for a fortune--while his passengers discussed Rosewarne and
Rosewarne's ways.

"Tis a hungry gleaning where he've a-reaped," said the man who had spoken
of capability; "but I don't blame the old Greek--not I.  'Do or be done,
miss doing and be done for'--that's the world's motto nowadays; and if I
hadn't learnt it for myself, I've a son in America to write it home.
Here we be all in a heap, and the lucky one levers himself a-top."

Mr. Benny said good-night to them on the landing-slip, and broke into a
trot for home.

"'Tisn't true," he kept repeating to himself, almost fiercely for so mild
a little man.  "'Tisn't true, whatever it sounds.  There's another world;
and in this one--don't I _know_ it?--there's love, love, love!"



CHAPTER II.


FATHERS AND CHILDREN.

John Rosewarne fetched his hat and staff from the hall, and started on his
customary stroll around the farm-buildings, with the small greyhound
trotting daintily at his heels.

The lands of Hall march with those of a far larger estate, to which they
once belonged, and of which Hall itself had once been the chief seat.
The house--a grey stone building with two wings and a heavy porch midway
between them--dated from 1592, and had received its shape of a capital E
in compliment to Queen Elizabeth.  King Charles himself had lodged in it
for a day during the Civil War, and while inspecting the guns on a
terraced walk above the harbour, had narrowly escaped a shot fired across
from the town where Essex's troops lay in force.  The shot killed a poor
fisherman beside him, and His Majesty that afternoon gave thanks for his
own preservation in the private chapel of Hall.  In those days, the porch
and all the main windows looked seaward upon this chapel across half an
acre of green-sward, but the Rosewarnes had since converted the lawn into
a farmyard and the shrine into a cow-byre.  Above it ran a line of tall
elms screening a lane used by the farm-carts, and above this again a great
field of arable rounded itself against the sky.

From the top of Parc-an-hal--so the field was named--the eye travelled
over a goodly prospect: sea and harbour; wide stretches of cultivated land
intersected by sunken woodlands which marked the winding creeks of the
river; other woodlands yet more distant, embowering the great mansion of
Damelioc; the purple rise of a down capped by a monument commemorating
ancient battles.  The scene held old and deeply written meanings for
Rosewarne, as he gazed over it in the descending twilight--meanings he had
spent his life to acquire, and other meanings born with him in his blood.


Once upon a time there lived a wicked nobleman.  He owned Damelioc, and
had also for his pleasure the house and estate of Hall, whence his family
had moved to their lordlier mansion two generations before his birth.
Being exiled to the country from the Court of Queen Anne, he cast about
for some civilised way of passing the time, and one day, as he lounged at
church in his great pew, his eye fell on Rachel Rosewarne, a gipsy-looking
girl, sitting under the gallery.  This Rachel's father was a fisherman,
tall of stature, who planted himself one night in the road as my lord
galloped homeward to Damelioc.  The horse shied, and the rider was thrown.
Rosewarne picked him up, dusted his lace coat carefully, and led him aside
into this very field of Parc-an-hal.  No one knows what talk they held
there, but on his lordship's dying, in 1712, of wounds received in a duel
in Hyde Park, Rachel Rosewarne produced a deed, which the widow's lawyers
did not contest, and entered Hall as its mistress, with her son Charles--
then five years old.

Rachel Rosewarne died in 1760 at the age of seventy-six, leaving a grim
reputation, which survived for another hundred years in the talk of the
countryside.  While she lived, her grip on the estate never relaxed.
Her son grew up a mere hind upon the home-farm.  When he reached
twenty-five, she saddled her grey horse, rode over to Looe, and returned
with a maid for him--one of the Mayows, a pale, submissive creature--whom
he duly married.  She made the young couple no allowance, but kept them at
Hall as her pensioners.  In the year 1747, Charles (by this time a man of
forty) had the temerity to get religion from the Rev. John Wesley.
The great preacher had assembled a crowd on the green by the cross-roads
beyond Parc-an-hal.  Charles Rosewarne, who was stalling the cattle after
milking-time, heard the outcries, and strolled up the road to look.
Two hours later he returned, fell on his knees in the outer kitchen, and
began to wrestle for his soul, the farm-maids standing around and crying
with fright.  But half to hour later his mother returned from Liskeard
market, strode into the kitchen in her riding-skirt, and took him by the
collar.  "You base-born mongrel!" she called out.  "You barn-straw whelp!
What has the Lord to do with one of your breed?"  She dragged him to his
feet and laid her horse-whip over head and shoulders.  Madam had more than
once used that whip upon an idling labourer in the fields.

She died, leaving the estate in good order and clear of debt.  Charles
Rosewarne enjoyed his inheritance just eleven years, and, dying in 1771 of
_angina pectoris_, left two married daughters and a son, Nicholas, on whom
the estate was entailed, subject to a small annual charge for maintaining
his mother.

In this Nicholas all the family passions broke out afresh.  He had been
the one living creature for whom Madam Rachel's flinty breast had nursed a
spark of love, and at fourteen he had rewarded her by trying to set fire
to her skirts as she dozed in her chair.  At nineteen, in a fit of
drunkenness, he struck his father.  He married a tap-room girl from
St. Austell, and beat her.  She gave him two sons: the elder (named
Nicholas, after his father), a gentle boy, very bony in limb, after the
fashion of the Rosewarnes; the younger, Michael, an epileptic.  His mother
had been turned out of doors one night in a north-westerly gale, and had
lain till morning in a cold pew of the disused chapel, whereby the child
came to birth prematurely.  This happened in 1771, the year that Nicholas
took possession of the estate.  He treated his old mother even worse,
being fierce with her because of the small annual charge.  She grew blind
and demented toward the end, and was given a room in the west wing, over
the counting-house.  Nicholas removed the door-handle on the inside, and
the wainscot there still showed a dull smear, rubbed by the poor
creature's shoulder as she trotted round and round; also marks upon the
door, where her fingers had grabbled for the missing handle.  There were
dreadful legends of this Nicholas--one in particular of a dark foreigner
who had been landed, heavily ironed, from a passing ship, and had found
hospitality at Hall.  The ship (so the story went) was a pirate, and the
man so monstrously wicked that even her crew could not endure him.
During his sojourn the cards and drink were going at Hall night and day,
and every night found Nicholas mad-drunk.  He began to mortgage, and
whispers went abroad of worse ways of meeting his losses; of ships lured
upon the rocks, and half-drowned sailors knocked upon the head, or chopped
at with axes.

All this came to an end in the great thunderstorm of 1778, when the
harvesters, running for shelter to the kitchen, found Nicholas lying in
the middle of the floor with his mouth twisted and eyeballs staring.
They were lifting the body, when a cry from the women fetched them to the
windows, in time to catch a glimpse of the foreigner sneaking away under
cover of the low west wall.  As he broke into a run the lightning flashed
upon the corners of a brass-bound box he carried under his arm.  One or
two gave chase, but the rain met them on the outer threshold in a deluge,
and in the blind confusion of it he made off, nor was seen again.

Thus died Nicholas Rosewarne, and was followed to the grave by one mourner
only--his epileptic child, Michael.  The heir, Nicholas II., had taken the
king's shilling to be quit of his home, and was out in Philadelphia,
fighting under Sir Henry Clinton.  He returned in 1780 with a shattered
knee-pan and a young wife he had married abroad.  She died within a year
of her arrival at Hall in giving birth to a son, who was christened
Martin.

The loss of her and the ruinous state of the family finances completely
broke the spirit of this younger Nicholas.  He dismissed the servants and
worked in the fields and gardens about his fine house as a common market
gardener.  On fair-days at Liskeard or St. Austell the ex-soldier,
prematurely aged, might have been seen in the market-place, standing as
nearly at 'Attention' as his knee-pan allowed beside a specimen apple
tree, which he held to his shoulder like a musket.  Thus he kept sentry-go
against hard Fortune--a tall man with a patient face.  Thanks to a natural
gift for gardening, and the rare fertility of the slopes below Hall, he
managed to pay interest on the mortgages and support the family at home--
his sad-browed mother, his brother Michael, and his son Martin.  And he
lived to taste his reward, for his son Martin had a financial genius.

This genius awoke in Martin Rosewarne one Sunday, in his fifteenth year,
as he sat beside his father in the family pew and listened to a dull
sermon on the Parable of the Talents.  He was a just child, and he could
not understand the crime of that servant who had hidden his talent in a
napkin.  In fault he must be, for the Bible said so.

The boy spent that afternoon in an apple-loft of the deserted chapel, and
by evening he had hit on a discovery which, new in those days, now informs
the whole of commerce--that it is more profitable to trade on borrowed
capital than upon one's own.

He put it thus: "Let me, not knowing the meaning of a 'talent,' put it at
100 pounds.  Now, if the good and faithful servant adventured five
talents, or 500 pounds, at ten per cent, he made 50 pounds a year.
But if the servant with one talent can borrow four others, he has the same
capital of 500 pounds.  Suppose him to borrow at five per cent. and make
ten like the other, he pays 20 pounds profit in interest, and has thirty
per cent, left on the talent he started with."

"Father," said the boy that night at supper, "what ought the wicked
servant to have done with his talent?"

"Parson told you that plain enough, if you'd a-been listening."

"But what do _you_ think?"

"I don't need to think when the Bible tells me.  'Thou wicked and slothful
servant,' it says, 'thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers,
and then I should have received mine own with usury.'"

"That means he ought to have lent it?"

"Yes, sure."

"Well, now," said the boy, nodding, "_I_ think he ought to have borrowed."

Nicholas stared at his son gloomily.  "Setting yourself up agen' the
Scriptures, hey?  It's time you were a-bed."

"But, father."--

The ex-soldier seldom gave way to passion, but now he banged his fist down
on the table.  "Go to bed!" he shouted.  "Talk to _me_ of borrowing!
Don't my shoulders ache wi' the curse of it?"

Martin took his discovery off and nursed it.  By and by another grew out
of it: If the wicked servant be making thirty per cent, against the
other's ten, he can afford for a time to abate some of his profit, lower
his prices, and, by underselling, drive the other out of the market.

He grew up a tall and taciturn lad, pondering his thoughts while he dug
and planted with his father in the kitchen-gardens.  For this from the age
of eighteen he received a small wage, which he carefully put aside.
Then in 1800 his uncle Michael died, and left him a legacy of 50 pounds.
He invested it in the privateering trade, in which the harbour did a brisk
business just then.  Three years later his father suffered a stroke of
paralysis--a slight one, but it confined him to his room for some weeks.
Meanwhile, Martin took charge.

"I've been looking into your accounts," he announced one day, as soon as
his father could bear talking to.

"Then you've been taking an infernal liberty."

"I see you've cleared off two of the mortgages--on the home estate here
and the Nanscawne property.  You're making, one way and another, close on
500 pounds a year, half of which goes to paying up interest and reducing
the principal by degrees."

"That's about it."

"And to my knowledge three of your tenants are making from 200 to 400
pounds by growing corn, which you might grow yourself.  Was ever such
folly?  Look at the price corn is making."

"Look at the labour.  How can I afford it?"

"By borrowing again on the uncumbered property."

"Your old lidden again?  I take my oath I'll never raise a penny on Hall
so long as I live!  With blood and sweat I've paid off that mortgage, and
I'll set my curse on you if you renew it when I'm gone."

"We'll try the other, then.  Your father raised 1500 pounds on the
Nanscawne lands, and spent it on cards and ropery.  We'll raise the same
money, and double it in three years.  If we don't--well, I've made 500
pounds of my own, and I'll engage to hand you over every farthing of it."

"Well," his father gave in, "gain or loss, it will fall on you, and pretty
soon.  I wasn't built for a long span; my father's sins have made life
bitter to me, and I thank God the end's near.  But if you have 500 pounds
to spare, I can't see why you drive me afield to borrow."

"To teach you a lesson, perhaps.  As soon as you're fit for it, we'll
drive over to Damelioc, and have a try with the new owner.  He'll jump at
us.  The two properties went together once, and when he hears our tale,
he'll say to himself, 'Oho! here's a chance to get 'em together again.'
He'll think, of course, that you are in difficulties.  But mind you stand
out, and don't you pay more than five per cent."

Here it must be explained that the great Damelioc estates, after passing
through several hands, had come in 1801 to an Irishman, a Mr. Eustatius
Burke, who had made no small part of his fortune by voting for the Union.
Mr. Burke, as Martin rightly guessed, would have given something more than
the value of Hall to add it to Damelioc; and so, when Nicholas Rosewarne
drove over and petitioned for a loan of 1500 pounds, he lent with
alacrity.  He knew enough of the situation to be thoroughly deceived.
After Nanscawne, he would reach his hand out upon Hall itself.  He lent
the sum at five per cent, and dreamed of an early foreclosure.

Armed with ready money, the two Rosewarnes called in the leases of their
fields, hired labourers, sowed corn, harvested, and sold at war prices.
They bought land--still upon mortgage--on the other side of the harbour,
and at the close of the great year 1812 (when the price of wheat soared
far above 6 pounds a quarter) Nicholas Rosewarne died a moderately rich
man.  By this time Martin had started a victualling yard in the town, a
shipbuilding yard, and an emporium near the Barbican, Plymouth, where he
purveyed ships' stores and slop-clothing for merchant seamen.  He made
money, too, as agent for most of the smuggling companies along the coast,
although he embarked little of his own wealth in the business, and never
assisted in an actual run of the goods.  He had ceased to borrow actively
now, for other people's money came to him unsought, to be used.

The Rosewarnes, as large employers of labour, paid away considerable sums
weekly in wages.  But those were times of paper money.  All coin was
scarce, and in some villages a piece of gold would not be seen in a
twelvemonth.  Martin and his father paid for labour in part by orders on
their own shops; for the rest, and at first for convenience rather than
profit, they set up a bank and issued their own notes--those for one or
two pounds payable at their own house, and those for larger sums by their
London agent.  At first these notes would be cashed at once.  By and by
they began to pass as ordinary tender.  Before long, people who possessed
a heap of this paper learnt that the Rosewarnes would give them interest
for it as well as for money, and bethought them that, if hoarded, it ran
the risk of robbery, besides being unproductive.  Timidly and at long
intervals men came to Martin and asked him to take charge of their wealth.
He agreed, of course.  'Use the money of others' was still his motto.
So Rosewarne's became a deposit bank.

To the end Nicholas imperfectly understood these operations.  By a clause
in his will he begged his son as a favour to pay off every penny of
mortgage money.  On the morning after the funeral, Martin stuffed three
stout rolls of bank-notes into his pocket, and rode over to Damelioc.
Mr. Burke had for six years been Lord Killiow, in the peerage of Ireland,
and for two years a Privy Councillor.  He received Martin affably.
He recognised that this yeoman-looking fellow had been too clever for him,
and bore no malice.

"I've a proposition to make to you, Rosewarne," said he, as he signed the
receipts.  "You are a vastly clever man, and I judge you to be
trustworthy.  For my part, I hate lawyers "--

"Amen!" put in Martin.

"And I thought of asking you to act as my steward at a salary.  It won't
take up a great deal of your time," urged his lordship; for Martin had
walked to the long window, and stood there, gazing out over the park, with
his hands clasped beneath his coat-tails.

"As for that, I've time to spare," answered Martin.  "Banking's the
easiest business in the world.  When it's hard, it's wrong.  But would you
give me a free hand?"

"I cannot bind my brother Patrick, if that's what you mean.  When I'm in
the grave he must act according to his folly.  If he chooses to dismiss
you."--

"I'll chance that.  But you are asking a good deal of me.  Your brother is
an incurable gambler.  He owes something like 20,000 pounds at this
moment--money borrowed mainly on _post obits_."

"You are well posted."

"I have reason to be.  Man--my lord, I mean--he will want money, and
what's to prevent me adding Damelioc to Hall, as you would have added Hall
to Damelioc?"

"There's the boy, Rosewarne.  I can tie up the estate on the boy."

Martin Rosewarne smiled.  "Your brother's is a good boy," he said.
"You can tie up the money with him.  Or you may make me steward, and I'll
give you my word he shall not be ousted."

Eustatius, first Lord Killiow, died in 1822, and his brother, Patrick
Henry, succeeded to the title and estates.  Martin Rosewarne retained his
stewardship.  To be sure he made an obliging steward.  He saw that the man
must go his own gait, and also that he was drinking himself to death.
So where a timid treasurer would have closed the purse-strings, he
unloosed them.  He cut down timber, he raised mortgages as soon as asked--
all to hasten the end.  Thus encouraged, the second Lord Killiow ran his
constitution to a standstill, and succumbed in 1832.  The heir was at that
time an undergraduate at Christchurch, Oxford, and already the author of a
treatise of one hundred and fifty pages on _The Limits of the Human
Intelligence_.  On leaving the University he put on a white hat and buff
waistcoat, and made violent speeches against the Reform Bill.  Later, he
sobered down into a 'philosophic' Radical; became Commissioner of Works;
married an actress in London, Polly Wilkins by name; and died a year
later, in 1850, at Rome, of malarial fever, leaving no heir.
Lady Killiow--whom we shall meet--buried him decently, and returned to
spend the rest of her days in seclusion at Damelioc, committing all
business to her steward, John Rosewarne.

For Martin Rosewarne had taken to wife in 1814 a yeoman's daughter from
the Meneage district, west of Falmouth, and the issue of that marriage was
a daughter, who grew up to marry a ship's captain, against her parents'
wishes, and a son, John, whom his father had set himself to train in his
own ideas of business.

In intellect the boy inherited his father's strength, if something less
than his originality.  But in temper, as well as in size of frame and
limb, he threatened at first to be a throw-back to Nicholas, his
great-grandfather of evil memory.  All that his father could teach he
learnt aptly.  But his passions were his own, and from fifteen to eighteen
a devil seemed to possess the lad.  He had no sooner mastered the banking
business than he flatly refused to cross the bank's threshold.  For two
years he dissipated all his early promise in hunting, horse-breaking,
wrestling at fairs, prize-fighting, drinking, gaming, sparking.
Then, on a day after a furious quarrel at home, he disappeared, and for
another three years his parents had never a word of him.

It was rumoured afterwards that he had enlisted, following his
grandfather's example, and had spent at least some part of these
wander-years as private in a West India regiment.  At any rate, one fine
morning in 1838 he returned, bringing with him a wife and an infant son,
and it appeared that somehow he had exorcised, or at least chained, his
devil.  He settled down quietly at Hall, where meanwhile business had been
prospering, and where now it put forth new vigour.

It was John who foresaw the decline in agriculture, and turned his
father's attention from wheat-growing to mining.  He opened up the granite
and china-clay on the moorland beyond the town, and a railway line to
bring these and other minerals down to the coast.  He built ships, and in
times of depression he bought them up, and made them pay good interest on
their low prices.  He bought up the sean-boats for miles along the coast,
and took the pilchard-fishery into his hands.  Regularly in the early
spring a fleet sailed for the Mediterranean with fish for the Spaniards
and Italians to eat during Lent.  Larger ships--tall three-masters--took
emigrants to America, and returned with timber for his building-yards,
mines, and clay-works.  The banking business had been sold by his father
not long before the great panic of 1825.

In this same year 1825 John lost his first wife.  After a short interval
he sought and found a second--this time a lady of good family on the
shores of the Tamar.  She bore him a daughter, Anne, who grew up to make
an unhappy match, and died untimely.  The children at play in the garden
were hers.  Her mother survived her five years.


As men count prosperity, John Rosewarne had lived prosperously.  He had a
philosophy, too, to steel him against the blows of fate, and behind his
philosophy a great natural courage.  Nevertheless, as he gazed across his
acres for the last time--knowing well that it might be the last--and
across them to Damelioc, the wider acres of his stewardship, his eyes for
one weak moment grew dim.  He had reached the stile at the summit of
Parc-an-hal, and was leaning there, when he felt a cool, damp touch upon
his fingers.  The little greyhound, puzzled at his standing there so long
motionless, had reached up on her hind legs, and was licking his hand
affectionately.

He frowned, pushed her off, and started to descend the hill.  Night was
falling fast, with a heavy dew.  The children had left their play and
crept to bed.  They never sought him to say good-night.

He returned slowly, leaning on his staff, went to his room, lit the lamp,
and spent a couple of hours with his papers.  This had become his nightly
habit of late.

On Wednesday he arose early, packed a hand-bag, crossed the ferry, and
took train for Plymouth.



CHAPTER III.


ROSEWARNE'S PILGRIMAGE.

From the railway station at Plymouth John Rosewarne walked straight to
Lockyer Street, to a house with a brass plate on the door, and on the
brass plate the name of a physician famous throughout the West of England.

The doctor had just come to the end of his morning consultations, and
received Rosewarne at once.  The pair talked for five minutes on
indifferent matters, then of Paris, and the terrible doings of the
Commune--for this was the month of May 1871.  At length Rosewarne stood
up.

"Best get it over," said he.

The doctor felt his pulse, took the stethoscope and listened, tapped and
sounded him, back and chest, then listened again.

"Worse?" asked Rosewarne.

"It is worse," answered the doctor gravely.

"I knew it.  One or two in my family have died in the same way.  The pains
are sharper of late, and more frequent."

"You keep that little phial handy?"

Rosewarne showed where it lay, close at hand in his watch-pocket.

"How long?" he asked.

"A few months, perhaps."  The doctor seemed to hesitate.

"And you won't answer for _that_?"

"With care.  It is folly for a man like you to be overworking."

Rosewarne laughed grimly.  "You're right there, and I've often enough
asked myself why I do it.  To what end, good Lord!  But I'm taking no
care, all the same.  Good-bye."

"Good-bye, my friend."  The doctor did not remonstrate further.
He knew his man.

From Lockyer Street Rosewarne walked to his hotel, ordered a beef-steak
and a pint of champagne, and lunched leisurably.  Lunch over, he lit a
cigar, and strolled in the direction of the Barbican.  The streets were
full of holiday-keepers, and he counted a dozen brakes full of workers
pouring out of town to breathe the air of Dartmoor on this fine afternoon.
He himself was conscious of elation.

"I'll drink it regularly," he muttered to himself.  "It's hard if a man
with maybe a month more to live cannot afford himself champagne."

The air in Southside Street differed from that of Dartmoor, being stuffy,
not to say malodorous.  He rapped on the door of a dingy office, and it
was opened by his son, Mr. Samuel Rosewarne.

"How d'ye do, Sam?" he nodded, not offering to shake hands.  "All alone?
That's right.  I hope, by the way, I'm not depriving you of a holiday?"

"I seldom take a holiday," Mr. Sam answered.

The old man eyed him ironically.  Mr. Sam wore a black suit, with some
show of dingy white shirt-front, relieved by a wisp of black cravat and
two onyx studs.  His coat-cuffs were long and frayed, and his elastic-side
boots creaked as he led the way to the office.

In the office the old man came to business at once.  "First of all," said
he, with a nod toward the safe, "I'd like a glance into your books."

"Certainly, sir," answered Mr. Sam, after a moment's hesitation.
He unlocked the safe.  "Do you wish to take the books in order?  You will
find it a long business."

"Man, I don't propose to audit your accounts.  If you let me pick and
choose, half an hour will tell me all I want."

Well knowing that his son detested the smell of tobacco, he pulled out
another cigar and lit it.  "You can open the window," said he, "if you
prefer the smell of your street.  Is this the pass-book?"

For about three-quarters of an hour he ransacked the ledgers, tracking
casual entries from one to another apparently at random.  His fingers
raced through the pages.  Now and again he looked up to put a sharp
question; and paused, drumming on the table while Mr. Sam explained.
Once he said, "Bad debt?  Not a bit; the man was right enough, if you had
made inquiries."

"I _did_ make inquiries."

"Ay, into his balance.  So you pinched him at the wrong moment, and
pinched out ninepence in the pound.  Why the devil couldn't you have
learnt something of the _man?  He_ was all right.  If you'd done that, you
might have recovered every penny, earned his gratitude, and done dashed
good business."

He shut the ledger with a slam.  "Lock 'em up," he commanded, lighting a
fresh cigar, "and come up to the Hoe for a stroll.  Where the deuce did
you pick up that hat?"

"Bankrupt stock."

"I thought so.  Maybe you've invested in a full suit of mourning for _me_,
at the same time?"

"No, sir."

"Why not?  The books are all right.  You've no range.  Still, within your
scope you're efficient.  You'll get to your goal, such as it is.  You wear
a hat that makes me ill, but in some way you and your hat will represent
the survival of the fittest.  What's the boy like?"

"He ails at times, sir--being without a mother's care.  I am having him
privately instructed.  He has some youthful stirrings toward grace."

Old Rosewarne swung round at a standstill.  "Grace?" he echoed, for the
moment supposing it the name of a girl.  Then perceiving his mistake, he
broke out into a short laugh; but the laugh ended bitterly, and his face
twitched with pain.

"Look here, Sam; I'm going to leave you the money.  Don't stare--and
don't, I beg, madden me with your thanks."--

"I'm sure, sir."--

"You'll get it because I can't help myself.  There's your half-sister's
children at home; but of what use to me is a girl or a blind boy?
You are narrow--narrow as the grave: but I find that, like the grave, you
are inevitable; and, like the grave, you keep what you get.  For the kind
of finance that was the true game of manhood to your grandfather and me,
you have no capacity whatever.  No, I cannot explain.  Finance?  Why, you
haven't even a _sense_ of it.  Yet in a way you are capable.  You will
make the money yield interest, and will keep the race going.  That is what
I look to--you will keep the race going.  Now I want to speak about that
boy of yours.  Do me the only favour I have ever asked you--send him to a
public school, and afterwards to college, and let him have his fling."

Sam thought his father must have gone mad.  "What, sir!  After all you
have said of such places! 'Dens of idleness,' 'sinks of iniquity'--I have
heard you scores of times!"

"I spoke as a fool.  'Twas my punishment, perhaps, to believe it; but,
Lord!"--he eyed his son up and down--"to think my punishment should take
this form!"  He caught Sam's arm suddenly and wheeled him about in face of
a glass shop-front.  "Man, look at yourself!  Make the boy something
different from _that!_  Do what I'd have done for you if ever you had
given me a chance.  Turn him loose among gentlemen; don't be afraid if he
idles and wastes money; let him riot out his youth if he will--he'll be
learning all the time, learning something you don't know how to teach, and
maybe when his purse is emptied he'll come back to you a gentleman.
I tell you there's no difference in the world like that between a
gentleman and a man who's not a gentleman.  Money can't buy it; and, after
the start, money can't change or hide it.  The thing is there, or it
isn't."

"Whatever the thing is," said Sam sullenly, "you are asking me to peril my
son's soul for it."

They had reached the Hoe by this time.  John Rosewarne dropped upon a
bench and sat resting both hands on his staff and gazing over the
twinkling waters of the Sound.

"Anne married a gentleman," pursued Sam.

"Ay, and a rake.  A-ah!" muttered the old man after a moment, drawing a
long breath, "if only that boy of hers weren't blind!  But he doesn't
carry the name, while _you_."--He broke off with a savage laugh.
"What's that you said a moment ago?--something about immortal souls."

"I said there's a world beyond this, and,"--

"Is there?  That's what I'm concerned to know just now.  And_ you?_
What are you proposing to do when you get there?"  He withdrew his eyes
from the bright seascape and let them travel slowly over his son.  "_You!_
sitting there like a blot on God's sunshine!  By what right should you
expect another world, who have cut such a figure in this one?  I have
known love and lust, and drink and hard work and hard fighting; I have
been down in the depths, and again I have known moments to make a man
smack his hands together for joy to be alive and doing.  But you?
What kind of man are you, you son of mine?  What do you live for?  Why did
you marry?  And what did you and your poor woman find to talk about?"

Whatever bullying Sam suffered, he had his revenge in this--that he and no
other man could exasperate his father to weakness.  He rubbed his thin
side whiskers now and muttered something about 'an acceptable sacrifice.'

The old man jabbed viciously at the gravel with his staff.  "And your
religion?" he broke forth again.  "What is it?  In some secret way it
satisfies you--but how?  I look into the Bible, and I find that the whole
of religion rests on a man's giving himself away to help others.
I don't believe in it myself; I believe in the exact contrary.
Still there the thing is, set out in black and white.  It upsets law and
soldiering and nine-tenths of men's doings in trade: to me it's folly; but
so it stands, honest as daylight.  When did _you_ help a man down on his
luck? or forgive your debtor?  You'll get my money because you never did
aught of the kind.  Yet somehow you're a Christian, and prate of your mean
life as an acceptable sacrifice.  In my belief you're a Christian
precisely because Christianity--how you work it out I don't know--will
give you a sanction for any dirty trick that comes in your way.  When good
feeling, or even common honour, denies you, there's always a text
somewhere to oil your conscience."

"I've one, sir, on which I can rely--'Be just, and fear not.'"

"I'll test it.  You'll have my money; on which you hardly dared to count,
eh?  Be honest."

"Only on so much of it as is entailed, sir."

For a while John Rosewarne sat silent, with his eyes on the horizon.

"That," said he at length, "is just what you could not count on."
He turned and looked Sam squarely in the face.  "You were born out of
wedlock, my son."

Sam's hand gripped the iron arm of the bench.  The muscles of his face
scarcely moved, but its sallow tint changed, under his father's eyes, to a
sickly drab.

"Ay," pursued the old man, "I am sorry for you at this moment; but you
mustn't look for apologies and repentance and that sort of thing.
The fact is, I never could feel about it in that way.  I was young and
fairly wild, and it happened.  One doesn't think of possible injury to
someone who doesn't yet exist.  But that, I grant you, doesn't make it any
the less an injury.  Now what have you to say?"

"The sins of the fathers."--

"--Are visited on the children: quite so.  Afterwards we did our best, and
married.  No one knows; no one has ever guessed; and the proof would be
hard to trace.  In case of accident, I give you Port Royal for a clue."

Sam rose and stood for a moment staring gloomily down on the gravel.
"Why did you tell me, then?" he broke out.  "What need was there to tell?"

His father winced, for the first time.  "I see your point.  Why didn't I,
you ask, having played the game so far, play it out?  Why couldn't I take
my secret with me into the last darkness, and be judged for it--my own
sole sin and complete?  Well, but there's the blind child.  By law the
house and home estate would he his.  I might have kept silence, to be
sure, and let him be robbed; but somehow I couldn't.  I've a conscience
somewhere, I suppose."

"Have you?" Sam flamed out, with sudden spirit.  "A nice sort of
conscience it must be!  I call it cowardice, this dragging me in to help
you compensate the child.  Conscience?  If you had one, you wouldn't be
shifting the responsibility on to mine."

"You are mistaken," said his father calmly.  "And by the way, I advise you
not to take that tone with me.  It may all be very proper under the
circumstances; but there's the simple fact that I won't stand it.
You're mistaken," he repeated.  "I mean to settle the compensation alone,
without consulting you; though, by George! if 'tweren't for pitying the
poor child, I'd like to leave it to you as a religious man, and watch you
developing your reasons for giving him nothing."

"And it was you," muttered Sam, with a kind of stony wonder, "who advised
me just now to let my son run wild!"

"I did, and I do."  John Rosewarne stood up and gripped his staff.
"By the way, too," he said, "your mother was a good woman."

"I don't want to hear anything about it."

"I know; but I wanted to tell you.  Good-bye."

He turned abruptly and went his way down the hill.  As he went, his lips
moved.  He was talking not to himself, but to an unseen companion--

"Mary!  Mary!--that this should be the fruit of our sowing!"



CHAPTER IV.


ROSEWARNE'S PENANCE.

Beside the winding Avon above Warwick bridge there stretches a flat
meadow, along the brink of which on a summer evening you may often count a
score of anglers seated and watching their floats; decent citizens of
Warwick, with a sprinkling of redcoats from the garrison.  They say that
two-thirds of the Trappist brotherhood are ex-soldiers; and perhaps if we
knew the reason we might also know why angling has a peculiar fascination
for the military.

Angling was but a pretext, however, with a young corporal of the 6th
Regiment, who sat a few yards away on John Rosewarne's right, and smoked
his pipe, and cast frequent furtive glances, now along the river path,
now back and across the meadow where another path led from the town.
Each of these glances ended in a resentful stare at his too-near
neighbour, who fished on unregarding.

"Is this a favourite corner of yours?" the corporal asked after a while,
with meaning.

"I have fished on this exact spot for thirty-five years," answered John
Rosewarne, not lifting his eyes from the float.

The corporal whistled.  "Thirty-five years!  It's queer, now, that I never
set eyes on you before--and I come here pretty often."

Rosewarne let a full minute go by before he answered again.
"There's nothing queer about it, Unless you've been stationed long in
Warwick."

"Best part of a year."

"Quite so: I fish in Avon once a year only."

"Belong to the town?"

"No; nor within two hundred miles of it."

"You must think better of the sport than I do, to come all that distance."

John Rosewarne lifted his eyes for the first time and turned them upon the
young man.

"_What_ sport?" he asked.

"Eh?  Why, fishing, to be sure.  What else?" stammered the corporal,
taken aback.

"Tut!" said the old man curtly.  "Here she comes.  Now, what are you going
to do?"

Without waiting for an answer, he bent his gaze on the float again, and
kept it fastened there, as a pretty shop-girl came strolling along the
river path.  She had taken off her hat, of broad-brimmed straw with
artificial poppies and cornflowers, and swung it in her hand as she came.
Her eyes roamed the landscape carelessly, avoiding only that particular
spot where the corporal, as she approached, scrambled to his feet; then,
her start of surprise was admirable.

"Oh, it's _you!_  Good-evening."

"Good-evening, miss."

"Why, whoever--!  It seems to me you spend most of your time fishing."

She paused, gathering in her skirt a little--and this obviously was the
cue for a gallant soldier.  The corporal began, indeed, to wind up his
line, but with a foolish grin and a glance at Rosewarne's back.

"It keeps beautiful weather," he answered at length.

"_I_ call it sultry."  She held out her hat with a little deprecating
laugh.  "I took it off for the sake of fresh air," she explained. Then, as
he stood stock-still, a flush crept up her cheek to her pretty forehead.

"Well, good-evening; I won't interrupt you by talking," she said, and
began to move away.

Come to think of it, it _do_ look like thunder, "the corporal remarked to
Rosewarne, staring after her and then up at the sky.

"If you had eyes in your head, you'd have seen that without her telling
you.  That cloud yonder has been rising against the wind for an hour.
Look you along the bank, how every man Jack is unjointing his rod and
making for home.  Go, and leave me in peace!"

He did not turn his head even when the corporal, having packed together
his gear, wished him good-night and hurried after the print frock as it
vanished in the twilit shadows.  One or two of the departing anglers
paused as they went by to promise him that a storm was imminent and the
fish had ceased feeding.  He thanked them, yet sat on--solitary, in the
leaden dusk.

The scene he had just witnessed--how it called up the irremediable past,
with all the memories which had drawn him hither, summer after summer!
And yet how common it was and minutely unimportant! Nightly by the banks
of Avon couples had been courting--thousands in these thirty-five years--
each of them dreaming, poor fools, that their moment's passion held the
world in its hands.  But the world teemed with rivers ten times lordlier
than Avon--rivers stretching out in an endless map, with bridges on which
lovers met and whispered, with banks down which they went with linked arms
into the shadows--

    "Were I but young for thee, as I hae been,
     We should hae been gallopin' doun in yon green,
     And linkin' it owre the lily-white lea--
     And wow gin I were but young for thee!"

He had been young, and had loved and wronged a woman, and bitterly
repented.  He had married her, and marriage had killed neither love nor
remorse.  The woman was dead long since: he had married again, but never
forgotten her nor ceased to repent.  She, a pretty tradesman's daughter of
Warwick, had collected her savings and taken ship for the West Indies,
trusting to his word, facing a winter's passage in the sole hope that he
would right her.  Until the day of embarking she had never seen the sea;
and the sea, after buffeting her to the verge of death, in the end
betrayed her.  A gale delayed the ship, and in the height of it her child
was born.  Rosewarne, a private soldier, went to his captain, as soon as
she was landed, made a clean breast of it, and married her.  But it was
too late. She lived to return with him to England; but he knew well enough
when she died that her sufferings on the passage out, and the abiding
anguish of her shame, had killed her.  A common tale!  Men and women still
go the way of their instinct, by which the race survives. "All the rivers
run into the sea, and yet the sea is not full. The thing that hath been,
it is that which shall be, and that which is done is that which shall be
done."

A tale as common as sunset!  Yet upon all rivers and upon every bridge and
willow-walk along their courses the indifferent sun shines for each pair
of fools with a difference, lighting their passion with a separate flame.
The woman was dead; and he--he that had been young--sat face to face with
death.

He leaned forward, oblivious of the clouded dusk, with his half-shut eyes
watching the grey gleam of the river; but his mind's eye saw the shadowy
mead behind him, and a girlish figure crossing it with feet that seemed to
faint, holding her back from doom, yet to be impelled against their will.

They drew nearer.  He heard their step, and faced about with a start.
An actual woman stood there on the river path, most like in the dusk to
that other of thirty-five years ago; but whereas _she_ had worn a print
frock, this one was clad in total black.

"Mr. Rosewarne,"--she began; but her words came to a halt, checked by a
near flash of lightning and by what it revealed.

He was in the act of rising--had risen, in fact, on one knee--when a spasm
of pain took him, and his hand went up to his breast.  For a moment he
knelt so, turning on her a face of anguish; then sank and dropped in a
heap at her feet.

Quick as thought she was down on her knees beside him, and, slipping an
arm beneath his head, drew it upon her lap.  While with swift fingers she
loosened his collar and neckcloth, a peal of thunder rumbled out, and the
first large raindrops fell splashing on her hand.  She recalled that last
gesture of his, and with sudden inspiration searched in his breast-pocket,
found and drew out a small phial, uncorked it, and forced the liquid
between his teeth before they clenched in a second spasm.  Two or three
sharp flashes followed the first.  In the glare of them her eyes searched
along the river-bank, if haply help might be near; but all the anglers had
departed.  Rosewarne's face stared up at her, blue as a dead man's in the
dazzling light.  At first it seemed to twitch with each opening of the
heavens; but this must have been a trick of eyesight, for his head lay
quiet against her arm as she raised him a little, shielding him against
the torrential rain which now hissed down, in ten seconds drenching her to
the skin, blotting out river and meadow in a sheet of grey.  It forced her
to stoop her shoulders, and, so covering him, she put out a hand and laid
it over his heart.  Yes, it beat, though feebly.  Once more she picked up
the phial and gave him to drink, and in a little while he stirred feebly
and found his voice.

"Rain?  Is it rain?" he muttered.

"Yes; but I can spread my skirt over you.  It will keep off a little.
Are you better?"

"Better?  Yes, better.  Let me feel the rain--it does me good."
He lay silent for a minute or so.  "I shall be right again in a few
minutes.  Did you find the phial?"

"Yes."

"Good girl.  It was touch and go."  By and by he made a movement to sit
up.  "Let us get home quickly.  You can throw the rod into the river.
I shan't want it again."

But she stood up, and, groping for the rod, drew the float ashore, and
untackled it, still in the hissing rain.  The storm, after a brief lull,
had redoubled its rage.  The darkness opened and shut as with a rapidly
moving slide, the white battlements of Caesar's Tower gleaming and
vanishing above the castle elms, and reappearing while their fierce
candour yet blinded the eye.  The thunder-peals, blending, wrapped Warwick
as with one roar of artillery.  Rosewarne had risen, and stood panting.
He grasped her shoulder.  "Come!" he commanded.  The girl, dazzled by the
lightning, puzzled by his sudden renewal of strength, turned and peered at
him.  He declined her arm. They walked back across the sodden meadow to
the town, over the roofs of which, as the storm passed away northward, the
lightning yet glimmered at intervals, turning the gaslights to a dirty
orange.

At the summit of the High Street, hard by the Leycester Hospital, they
came to the doorway of a small shuttered shop, over which by the light of
a street lamp one could read the legend, "J. Marvin, Secondhand
Bookseller."  The girl opened the door with a latchkey. An oil lamp burned
in an office at the back of the shop--if that can be spoken of as a
separate room which was, in fact, entirely walled off with books laid flat
and rising in stacks from the floor. The place, in fact, suggested a cave
or den rather than a shop, with stalagmites of piled literature and a
subtle pervading odour of dust and decayed leather.  The girl, after
shutting the bolts behind her, led the way cautiously, and, crossing a
passage at the rear of the shop, opened a door upon a far more cheerful
scene.  Here, in a neat parlour hung with old prints and mezzotints and
water-colours, a hanging lamp shed its rays on a China bowl heaped with
Warwickshire roses, and on a white cloth and a table spread for supper.

"H'm!" grunted Rosewarne, glancing in through the doorway, while she lit a
candle for him at the foot of the stairs.  "Your father and I used to sup
in the kitchen, with old Selina to wait on us."

"But since there is no longer any Selina!  I had to pension her off, poor
old soul, and she is gone to the almshouse."

She handed him the light.

"Now, if you will go up to your room, I will fetch the hot water, and then
you must give me your change of clothes.  They shall be warmed for a few
minutes at the kitchen fire, and you shall have them hot-and-hot."

"It seems to me that while all this is doing, you will stand an excellent
chance of rheumatic fever."

"Oh, I shall be all right," she announced cheerfully.  "No--don't look at
me, please.  I know very well that the dye has run out of these crapes,
and my face is beautifully streaked with black! Can you walk upstairs
alone?  Very well.  And if you feel another attack coming, you are to call
me at once."

She must have been expeditious; for when he came downstairs again he found
her awaiting him in the parlour, clad in a frock of duffel-grey, which,
with her damp, closely plaited hair, gave her a Quakerish look.  Yet the
frock became her; the natural wave of her hair, defying moisture, showed
here and there rebelliously, and her cheeks glowed after a vigorous
towelling.

Rosewarne drew from under his coat a bottle of champagne, and set it on
the table, where the lamp's ray fell full on its gold foil. Her eyes
opened wide; for he had always visited this house in his oldest clothes
and passed for a poor man.

"Since you insist upon the parlour," said he, "I must try to live up to
it."  He produced a knife from his pocket, with a pair of nippers, and
began to cut the wire.  "Why are you wearing grey?" he demanded.

She flushed.  "This is my school frock.  I have only one suit of mourning
as yet."

"And you sent away Selina.  You wanted money, I suppose?"

"No," she answered, after a moment, meeting his eyes frankly; "at least,
not in the way you mean.  The doctor's bills were heavy, and for years
father had done business enough to keep the roof over him and no more.
So at first there was--well, a pinch.  The books will sell, of course; two
honest men are already bidding for them--one at Birmingham and the other
at Bristol.  But meanwhile I must pinch a little or run in debt.
I hate debt."

"And afterwards?"  Rosewarne broke off sharply, with a glance around the
table.  "But, excuse me, you have laid for one only."

"If it is your pleasure, Mr. Rosewarne."--

"Say that I claim it as an honour, Miss Hester," he answered, with a
mock-serious bow.

She laughed, and ran off to the pantry.

"And afterwards?" he resumed, as they seated themselves.

"Afterwards?  Oh, I go back to the teaching.  I like it, you know."

He brimmed her glass with champagne, then filled his own. "You saved my
life just now, Miss Hester; and life is good to look forward to, even when
a very little remains.  I drink to your happiness."

"Thank you, sir."

"How old are you?"

"I shall be twenty-five in August."

"And how long have you been teaching?"

"Eight years."

"Ah! is it eight years since I came and missed you?  I remember, the last
time we three supped together--you and your father and I--I remember
taking note of you, and telling myself, 'She will be married before I
return next year.'  Why haven't you married?"

It was the essence of Hester Marvin's charm that she dealt straightly with
all people.

"It takes two to make even that quarrel," she answered frankly and gaily.
"Will you believe that nobody has ever asked me?"

"Make light of it if you will, but I bid you to beware.  You were a
good-looking missie, and you have grown--yes, one can say it without
making you simper--into a more than good-looking woman.  But the days slip
by, child, and your looks will slip away with them.  You are wasting your
life in worrying over other folk's children.  Those eyes of yours were
meant for children of your own.  What's more, you are muddling the world's
work.  Which do you teach now--boys or girls?"

"Girls for the most part; but I have a class of small boys."

"And what do you teach 'em--I mean, as the first and most important
thing?"

Hester knit her brows for a moment before answering.  "Well, I suppose, to
be honourable to one another and gentle to their sisters."

"Just so.  In other words, you relieve a mother of her proper duty. Who
but a mother ought to teach a boy those things, if he's ever to learn 'em?
That's what I call muddling the world's work. By the time a boy gets to
school he ought to be ripe for a harder lesson, and learn that life's a
fight in which brains and toil bring a man to the top.  As for girls,
one-half of present-day teaching is time and money thrown away.  Teach
'em to be wives and mothers--to sew and cook."--

"Does your supper displease you, Mr. Rosewarne?"

He set down knife and fork with a comical stare around the board.

"Eh?  No--but did you really--?"

Their eyes met, and they both broke into a laugh.

"I should very much like to know," said Hester, resting her elbows on the
table and gazing at him over her folded hands, "if _you_ have treated life
as a fight in which men get the better of their neighbours."

He eyed her with sudden, sharp suspicion.

"You have at any rate a woman's curiosity," said he.  "When you wrote to
me that your father was dead, but that I might have, for the last time, my
usual lodging here, had you any reason to suppose me a rich man?"

"I think," answered Hester slowly, after a pause, "that I must have spoken
so as to hurt you somehow.  If so, I am sorry; but you must hear now just
why I wrote.  I knew that, ever since I was born, and long before, you had
come once a year and lodged here for a night. I knew that you came because
my father was the parish clerk and let you spend the night in St Mary's
Church; and I know that, though he allowed it secretly, you did no harm
there, else he would never have allowed it.  Now he is dead, and meanwhile
I keep the keys by the parson's wish until a new parish clerk is
appointed.  And so I wrote, thinking to serve you for one year more as my
father had served you for many."

"I thank you, Miss Hester, and I beg your pardon.  Yet there is a question
I need to ask, though you may very properly refuse to answer it.
Beyond my name and address and my yearly visits, what do you know of me?"

"Nothing at all."

"You must have wondered why I should do this strange thing, year by year?"

"To wonder is not to be inquisitive.  Of course I have wondered; but I
supposed that you came to strengthen yourself in some purpose, or to keep
alive a memory--of someone dear to you, perhaps.  Into what has brought
you to us year after year I have no wish at all to pry. But there is a
look on your face--and when children come to me with that look they are
unhappy with some secret, and want to be understood without having to tell
all particulars.  A schoolmistress gets to know that look, and recognises
it sometimes in grown-up folk, even in quite old persons.  Yes, and there
is another look on your face.  You are not strong enough to go alone to
the church to-night, and you know it."

"I am going, I tell you."

He had pushed back his chair, and answered her, after a long pause, during
which he watched her removing the cloth.

"To-morrow you may have recovered; but to-night you are faint from that
attack.  If you really must go, will you not let me go too, and take my
promise neither to look nor to listen?"

"Get me the key," he commanded, and walked obstinately to the door.
But there his strength betrayed him.  He put out a hand against the jamb.
"I am no better than a child," he groaned, and turned weakly to her.
"Come if you will, girl.  There is nothing to see, nothing to overhear."

She fetched cloak and bonnet and found the great keys.  He and she stepped
out by a back entrance upon a lane leading to the church. The storm had
passed.  Aloft, in a clear space of the sky, the moon rode and a few stars
shone down whitely, as if with freshly washed faces.  Hester carried a
dark lantern under her cloak; but, within, the church was light enough for
Rosewarne to grope his way to his accustomed pew.  Hester saw him take his
seat there, and choosing a pew at some distance, in the shadow of the
south aisle, dropped on her knees.

Nothing happened.  The tall figure in the chancel sat motionless.
Rosewarne did not even pray--since he did not believe in God. But because
a woman, now long dead, had believed and had implored him to believe also,
that they two might one day meet in heaven, he consecrated this night to
her, sitting in the habitation of her faith, keeping his gaze upon that
spot in the darkness where on a bright Sunday morning a young soldier had
caught sight of her and met her eyes for the first time.  Year after year
he had kept this vigil, concentrating his thought upon her and her faith;
but never for an instant had that faith come near to touching him, except
with a sentimental pity which he rejected, despising it; never had he come
near to piercing the well of that mysterious comfort and releasing its
waters.  To him the dust of the great dead yonder in the Beauchamp
Chapel--dust of men and women who had died in faith--was dust merely,
arid, unbedewed by any promise of a life beyond. They had played their
parts, and great tombs and canopies covered their final nothingness.
This was the last time he would watch, and to-night he knew there was less
chance than ever of any miracle; for weariness weighed on him, and the
thought of coming annihilation held no terror, but only an invitation to
be at rest.

From the tower overhead the airy chimes floated over Warwick, beating out
a homely tune to mingle with homely dreams.  He sat on, nor stirred.


The June dawn broke, with the twittering of birds in the churchyard.
He stood up and stretched himself, with a frown for the painted windows
with their unreal saints and martyrs.  His footsteps as he walked down the
aisle did not arouse the girl, who slept in the corner of the pew, with
her loosened hair pencilling, as the dawn touched it, lines of red-gold
light upon the dark panels.  Her face was pale, and sleep gave it a
childlike beauty.  He understood, as he stooped and touched her shoulder,
why the apparition of her on the river-bank had so startled him.

"Come, child," he said; "the night is over."



CHAPTER V.


THE CLOSE OF A STEWARDSHIP.

A strange impatience haunted Rosewarne on his homeward journey; an almost
intolerable longing to arrive and get something over--he scarcely knew
what.  When at length he stood on the ferry slipway, with but a furlong or
two of water between him and home, the very tranquillity of the scene
irritated him subtly--the slow strength of the evening tide, the few ships
idle at their moorings, the familiar hush of the town resting after its
day's business.  He tapped his foot on the cobbles as though this fretful
action could quicken Uncle Nicky Vro, who came rowing across deliberately
as ever, working his boat down the farther shore and then allowing the
tide to slant it upstream to the landing-place.

"Eh?  So 'tis you?" was Nicky's greeting.  "Well, and I hope that you've
enjoyed your holiday--not that I know, for my part, what a holiday means."

"It's time you took one, then," Rosewarne answered.

The old man chuckled.  "Pretty things would happen if I did!  'Took a day
off, one time, to marry my old woman, and another to bury her, and that's
all in five-and-forty year.  Not a day's sickness in all that time, thank
the Lord!"

Rosewarne watched the old fellow's feeble digging stroke.  "I preach
capability," he said to himself, "and this is the sort of thing I allow!"
His gaze travelled from the oar to the oarsman.  "You're getting past your
work, all the same," he said aloud.  "What does it feel like?"

"Eh?"

"To give up life little by little.  Some men run till they drop--are still
running strong, maybe, when the grave opens at their feet, and in they go.
With you 'tis more like the crumbling of rotten timber; a little dribble
of sawdust day by day to show where the worms are boring.  What does it
feel like?"

"I don't feel it at all," Nicky answered cheerfully.  "Folks tell me from
time to time that I'm getting past.  My own opinion is, they're in a
greater hurry to get to market than of yore.  'Competition '--that's a cry
sprung up since my young days: it used to be 'Religion,' and 'Nicholas
Vro, be you a saved man?'  The ferry must ply, week-day or Sabbath: I put
it to you, What time have I got to be a saved man?  The Lord is good, says
I.  Now I'll tell you a fancy of mine about Him.  One day He'll come down
to the slip calling 'Over!' and whiles I put Him across--scores of times
I've a-seen myself doing it, and 'tis always in the cool of the evening
after a spell of summer weather--He'll speak up like a gentleman, and ask,
'Nicholas Vro, how long have you been a-working this here boat?'
'Lord,' I'll answer, 'for maybe a matter of fifty year, calm or blow,
week-days and Sabbaths alike; and that's the reason your Honour has missed
me up to church, as you may have noticed.'  'You must be middlin' tired of
it,' He'll say: and I shall answer up, 'Lord, if you say so, I don't
contradict 'ee; but 'tis no bad billet for a man given to chat with his
naybours and talk over the latest news and be sociable, and warning to
leave don't come from me.'  'You'd best give me over they oars, all the
same,' He'll say; and with that I shall hand 'em over and be rowed across
to a better world."

Rosewarne was not listening.  "Surely, man, the tide's slack enough by
this time!" he interrupted, his irritation again overcoming him.
"You needn't be fetching across sideways, like a crab."

Nicky Rested on his oars, and stared at him for a moment.  As if Rosewarne
or any man alive could teach _him_ how to pull the ferry!  He disdained to
argue.

"Talking about news," said he, resuming his stroke, "the _Virtuous Lady_
arrived yesterday, and began to unload this morning.  You can see her
top-m'sts down yonder, over the town quay."

"Has Mrs. Purchase been ashore?"  Mrs. Purchase was Rosewarne's only
sister, who had married a merchant skipper and sailed with him ever since
in the _Virtuous Lady_, in which she held a preponderance of the shares.

"Came ashore this very afternoon in a bonnet as large as St. Paul's, with
two-thirds of a great hummingbird a-top.  She's balancing up the freight
accounts at this moment with Peter Benny.  Indeed, master, you'll find a
plenty of folk have been inquiring for 'ee.  There's the parson for one.
To my knowledge he've been down three times to ask when you'd be back, and
if you'd forgotten the School Managers' meeting, that's fixed for
to-morrow."  Uncle Nicky brought his boat at length to shore.
"And there's Aun' Butson in terror that you'll be bringing in some
stranger to teach the children, and at her door half the day listening for
your footstep, to petition 'ee."

Somehow Rosewarne had promised himself that the restlessness would leave
him as soon as he reached his own side of the water.  He stepped ashore
and began to walk up the slipway at a brisk pace; and then on a sudden his
brain harked backward to Uncle Nicky's talk, to which a minute before he
had listened so inattentively.  In his hurry he had let an opportunity
pass.  The old man had talked of death; had been on the point of saying
something important, perhaps--for all that concerned death and men's views
of death had become important now.  He halted and turned irresolutely.
But the moment had gone by.

"Good-night!" he called back, and resumed his way up the village street.

Uncle Nicky, bending to replace a worn thole-pin with a new one, dropped
the pair with a clatter.  In all his experience Rosewarne had never before
flung him a salutation.

"And a minute ago trying to tell me how to work the ferry!" the old man
muttered, staring after him.  "The man must be ailing."

As a hunted deer puts the water between him and the hounds, Rosewarne had
hoped to shake off his worry at the ferry-crossing.  But no; it dogged him
yet as he mounted the hill.  Only, as a dreamer may suffer the horror of
nightmare, yet know all the while that it is a dream, he felt the
impatience and knew it for a vain thing.  All his life he had been
hurrying desperately, and all his life the true moments had offered
themselves and been left ungrasped.

Before the doorway of a cottage halfway up the hill an old woman
waited to intercept him--Aunt Butson, the village schoolmistress.
She was a spinster well over sixty, and lodged with a widow woman, Sarah
Trevarthen, to whom the cottage belonged.

Rosewarne frowned at the sight of her.  She wore her best cap and shawl,
and her cheeks were flushed.  Behind her in the doorway sat a young
sailor, with a cage on the ground beside him and a parrot perched on his
forefinger close against his cheek.  He glanced up with a shy, very
good-natured smile, touched his forelock to Rosewarne, and went on
whispering to the bird.

Aunt Butson stepped out into the roadway.  "Good-evening, Mr. Rosewarne,
and glad to see you back and in health!"  She dropped him a curtsey.
"If you've a minute to spare, sir."--

Confound the woman!--he had no minutes to spare.  Still frowning, he
looked over her head at the young sailor, Sarah Trevarthen's boy Tom,
home from his Baltic voyage in the _Virtuous Lady_.  Yes, it was Tom
Trevarthen, now a man grown.  Rosewarne remembered him as a child in
frocks, tumbling about the roadway; as an urchin straddling a stick; as a
lad home (with this same parrot) from his first voyage.  Who, in a world
moving at such a pace, could have a minute to spare?

Aunt Butson had plunged into her petition, and was voluble.  It concerned
the new schools, of course.  "She had taught reading, writing, and
ciphering for close on forty years.  All the children in the village, and
nine-tenths of their parents for that matter, owed their education to her.
A little she could do, too, in navigation--as Mr. Rosewarne well knew:
enough to prepare a lad for schoolmaster Penrose across the water.
Mr. Penrose would rather teach two boys from her school than one from any
other parish.  Surely--surely--the new Board wouldn't take the bread out
of an old woman's mouth and drive her to the workhouse?  She didn't
believe, as some did, in this new-fangled education, and wouldn't pretend
to.  Arithmetic up to practice-sums and good writing and spelling--
anything up to five syllables--were education enough to her mind for any
child that knew his station in life.  The rest of it only bred Radicals.
Still, let her have a trial at least; let them decide to-morrow to give
her a chance; 'twould be no more than neighbourly.  Her ways might be
old-fashioned; but she could learn.  And with Mrs. Trevarthen to keep the
grand new schoolroom dusted--if they would give her the job--and look
after the fires and lighting."--

Rosewarne pretended to listen.  The poor soul was inefficient, and he knew
it: beneath all her flow of speech ran an undercurrent of wrath against
the new learning and all its works.  Poverty--sheer terror of a dwindling
cupboard and the workhouse to follow--drove her to plead with that which
she hated worse than the plague.  He heard, and all the while his mind was
miles away from her petition; for some chance word or words let fall by
her had seemed for an instant to offer him a clue.  Somewhere in the past
these words had made part of a phrase or sentence which, could he but find
it again, would resolve all this brooding trouble.  He searched his
memory--in vain; the words drew together like dancers in a figure, and
then, on the edge of combining, fell apart and were lost.

Aloud he kept saying, "You mustn't count on it.  Some provision will be
made for you, no doubt--in these days one must march with the times."
This was all the comfort she could win from him, and the poor old creature
gazed after him forlornly when at length he broke from her and went his
way up the hill.

He reached the entrance-gate.  As it clashed behind him, two children at
play in the garden lifted their heads.  The girl whispered to the boy,
and the pair stole away out of sight.  From the porch the small greyhound
caught sight of him, and, bounding to him, fawned about his feet.
In the counting-house he found his sister closeted with Mr. Benny, and a
pile of bills on the table between.  Mrs. Purchase rose and greeted him
with a little pecking kiss.  She was a cheerful body, by some five or six
years his junior, with a handsome weather-tanned face, eyes wrinkled at
the corners like a seaman's, and two troubles in the world--the first
being that she had borne no children.  She shared her husband's voyaging,
kept the ship's accounts, was known to all on board as "The Bos'un," and
when battened under hatches in foul weather spent her time in trimming the
most wonderful bonnets.  Her coquetry stopped short at bonnets.
To-day indeed--the weather being warm--in lieu of bodice she had slipped
on a grey alpaca coat of her husband's.

"Good-evening, John!"  She plunged at once into a narrative of the passage
home--how they had picked up a slant off Heligoland and carried it with
them well past the Wight; how on this side of Portland they had met with
slight and baffling head-winds, and for two days had done little more than
drift with the tides.  The vessel was foul with weed, and must go into
dock.  "You could graze a cow on her for a fortnight," Mrs. Purchase
declared.  "Benny and I have just finished checking the bills.
You'd like to run through them?"

"Let be," said Rosewarne.  "I'll cast an eye over them to-night maybe."
He stepped to the bell-rope and rang for his jug of cider.

Some touch of fatigue in the movement, some slight greyness in his face,
caught Mrs. Purchase's sisterly eye.

"It's my belief you're unwell, John."

"Weary, my dear Hannah--weary; that's all."  He turned to the little
clerk.  "That will do for to-night, Benny.  You can leave all the papers
as they are, just putting these bills together in a heap.  Is that the
correspondence?  Very well; I'll deal with it."

"In all my life I never heard you own to feeling tired," persisted Mrs.
Purchase, as Mr. Benny closed the door behind him.  "You may take my word
for it, you're unwell; been sleeping in some damp bed, belike."

Rosewarne moved to the window and gazed out across the garden.
Down by the yew-hedge, where a narrow path of turf wound in and out among
beds of tall Madonna lilies and Canterbury bells, the two children were
playing a solemn game of follow-my-leader, the blind boy close on his
sister's heels, she turning again and again to watch that he came to no
harm.

"I wonder if that boy could be trained and made fit for something?" mused
Rosewarne aloud.

"Eh?  Is it Clem?"  She had followed and stood now by his elbow.
"My dear man, he has the brains of the family!  Leave Myra to teach him
for a while.  See how she's teaching him now, although she doesn't know
it; and that goes on from morning to night."

"Where's the use of it?  What's a blind man, at the best?"

"What God means him to be.  If God means him to do better--ay, or to see
clearer--than other men, 'tisn't a pair of darkened eyes will prevent it."

"Woman's argument, Hannah.  I take you on your own ground--God could cure
the child's eyes; but God doesn't, you see.  On the contrary, God chose to
blind 'em.  If I'd your religion, it would teach me that Clem's misfortune
was a punishment designed--the sins of the fathers."--

"Ay, you're a hard man, like your father and mine.  Haven't I cause to
know it?  Hadn't _she_ cause to know it--the mother of that pretty pair?"

"She made her bed."

"--And lies in it, poor soul.  But I tell you, John, there's a worse
blindness than Clem's, and you and father have suffered from it.
I mean the blindness of thinking you know God's business so much better
than God that you take it out of His hands.  'Punishment,' you say, and
'sins of the fathers'?  I'd have you beware how you visit the past on poor
Clem, or happen you may find some day that out of the sins of his fathers
you have chosen your own to lay on him."

Rosewarne turned on her with a harsh glance of suspicion.  No, her eyes
were candid--she had spoken so by chance--she did not guess.

Had he been blind all his life?  It was certain that now at the last his
eyes saw the world differently, and all things in it.  Those children
yonder--a hundred times from this window he had watched them at play
without heeding.  To-night they moved against the dark yew-hedge like
figures in a toy theatre, withdrawn within a shadowy world of their own,
celebrating a ritual in which he had no concern.  The same instant
revealed their beauty and removed them beyond his reach.  Did he wish to
make amends?  He could not tell.  He only knew it was too late.  The world
was slipping away from him--these children with it--dissolving into the
shadow that climbed about him.

Next morning he saddled his horse and rode.  His way led him past the new
school-buildings; and he reined up for a minute, while his eyes dwelt on
them with a certain pride.  As chairman of the new School Board he had
chosen the architect, supervised the plans, and seen to it that the
contractor used none but the best material.  The school would compare with
any in the Duchy, and should have a teacher worthy of it--one to open the
children's eyes and proclaim and inculcate the doctrine of progress.
John Rosewarne was a patriot in his unemotional way.  He hated the drift
of the rural population into the towns, foreseeing that it sapped the
strength of England.  He despised it too; his own experience telling him
that a countryman might amass wealth if he had brains and used them.
As for the brainless herd, they should be kept on the land at all cost, to
grow strong, breed strong children, and, when the inevitable hour came, be
used as fighters to defend England's wealth.

He rode on pondering, past uplands where the larks sang and the mowers
whetted their scythes; down between honeysuckle-hedges to a small village
glassing itself in the head waters of a creek, asleep, since all its grown
inhabitants had climbed the hill to toil in the hay-harvest, and silent
but for a few clucking fowls and a murmur of voices within the infants'
school; thence across a bridge, and up and along a winding valley to the
park gates at Damelioc.  Beyond these the valley narrowed to a sylvan
gorge, and the speckless carriage-road mounted under forest trees
alongside a river tumbling in miniature cascades, swirling under mossy
footbridges, here and there artfully delayed to form a trout-pool, or as
artfully veiled by thickets of trailing wild roses and Traveller's Joy.
For a mile and more he rode upward under soft green shadows, then lifted
his eyes to wide daylight as the coombe opened suddenly upon a noble
home-park, smooth as a lawn, rising in waves among the folds of the hills
to a high plateau whence Damelioc House looked seaward--a house of wide
prospect and in aspect stately, classical in plan, magnificently filling
the eye with its bold straight lines and ample symmetries prolonged in
terraces and rows of statues interset with pointed yews.

The mistress of this palace gave him audience as usual in her
blue-and-white morning-room, from the ceiling of which, from the centre of
a painting, "The Nuptials of Venus and Vulcan," her own youthful face
smiled down, her husband having for a whim instructed the painter to
depict the goddess in her likeness.  It smiled down now on a little
shrunken lady huddled deep in an easy-chair.  Only her dark eyes kept some
of their old expressiveness, and her voice an echo of its old full tone.

She asked Rosewarne a polite question or two concerning his holiday, and
they fell at once to ordinary talk--of repairs, rents, game, and
live-stock generally, the hiring of a couple of under-keepers, the
likeliest tenant for a park-lodge which had fallen empty; of investments
too, and the money market, since Rosewarne was her man of business as well
as steward.

Lady Killiow trusted him absolutely; but only because she had long since
proved him.  He on his part yielded her the deepest respect, both for her
sagacity in business and for the fine self-command with which she, an
actress of obscure birth, had put the stage behind her, assumed her rank,
and borne it through all these years with something more than adequacy.
John Rosewarne, like a true Briton, venerated rank, and had a Briton's
instinct for the behaviour proper to rank.  About his mistress there could
be no question.  She was a great lady to the last drop of her blood.

His devotion to her had a touch of high chivalry.  It came of long
service; of pity for her early widowhood, for her childlessness, for the
fate ordaining that all these great possessions must be inherited by
strangers; but most of all it was coloured by a memory of which he had
never dared, and would never dare, to speak.

He had seen her on the stage.  Once, in his wild days, and not long before
he enlisted, he had spent a week in Plymouth, where she was acting, the
one star in a touring company.  Night after night she had laid a spell on
him; it was not Rosalind, not Imogen, not Mrs. Haller, not Lady Teazle,
that he watched from the pit; but one divine woman passing from avatar to
avatar.  So, when the last night revealed her as Lady Macbeth, as little
could he condemn her of guilt as understand her remorse.  He saw her
suffering because for so splendid a creature nothing less could be decreed
by the jealous gods.  It tortured him; and when the officer announced her
death, for the moment he could believe no less.  'The queen, my lord, is
dead.'  'She should have died hereafter.'  How well he remembered the
words and Macbeth's reply--those two strokes upon the heart, strokes of a
muffled bell following the outcry of women.

He was no reader of poetry.  He had bought the book afterwards, and flung
it away; it tangled him in words, but showed him nothing of the woman he
sought.

Yet to-day, as he stood before Lady Killiow discussing the petty question
of a lease, the scene and words flashed upon him together, and he grasped
the clue for which his brain had been searching yesterday while he
listened to old Mrs. Butson.  It was Lady Killiow who called the lease a
'petty' one, and that word unlocked his memory.  "This petty pace--

    "To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
     Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
     To the last syllable of recorded time--
     And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
     The way to dusty death."

"I beg your pardon," said Lady Killiow, lifting her eyes to him in some
astonishment--for he had muttered a word or two--and meeting his fixed
stare.  "You are not attending, I believe."

"Excuse me, my lady.  It is true that I have not been well of late--and
that reminds me:  in case of illness, my son will post down from Plymouth.
He holds himself ready at call.  If I may say it, you will find him less
of a fool than he looks."

Lady Killiow put up her hands with a little laugh, half comfortable, half
wistful.  "My good Mr. Rosewarne, I am a very old woman!  In a short while
you may do as you like; but until I am gone, please understand that you
cannot possibly fall ill."

He bowed with a grave smile.  Of his mistress's grateful affection he took
away these light words only: but they were enough.


He had thought by this visit to Damelioc to lay his demon of restlessness;
had supposed this monthly account of his stewardship, punctually rendered,
to be the business weighing on his mind.  But no: as he passed out through
the park gates, the imp perched itself again behind his crupper, urging
him forward, tormenting him with the same vague sense of duty neglected
and clamorous.

Towards evening it grew so nearly intolerable that he had much ado to sit
patiently and preside at the School Board meeting, convened, as usual, in
the great parlour at Hall.  All the Board was there: the Clerk, Mr. Benny,
and the six Managers; two Churchmen, three Dissenters, and himself--a
Gallio with a casting vote.  He was used to reflecting cynically that
these opponents trusted him precisely because he cared less than a
tinker's curse for their creeds, and reconciled all religious differences
in a broad, impartial contempt.  But to-night, as Parson Endicott
approached the crucial difficulty--the choice of a new teacher--with all
the wariness of a practised committee-man, laying his innocent parallels
and bringing up his guns under cover of a pleasant disavowal to which the
three Dissenters responded with "Hear, hear!" John Rosewarne listened not
at all, nor to the fence of debate that followed as Church and Dissent
grew heated and their friction struck out the familiar sparks--
'sectarian,' 'undoctrinal,' 'arrogance,' 'broad-mindedness.'  At length
came the equally familiar pause, when the exhausted combatants turned by
consent and waited on their chairman.  He sat tapping his fingers upon the
polished mahogany, watching the reflected candle-lights along its surface,
wondering when these fretful voices would cease, these warring atoms
release him to obey the summons of his soul--still incomprehensible, still
urgent.

Their sudden hush recalled him with a start.  He had heard nothing of
their debate.  Slowly he lifted his eyes and let them rest upon Mr. Benny,
who sat on his right, patiently waiting to take down the next entry for
the minutes.

"If you will trust me," he said, "I can find you a teacher--a woman--whom
you will all accept."

He had spoken without premeditation, and paused now, doubtful of the sound
of his own voice.  The five Managers were looking at him with respectful
attention.  Apparently, then, he was speaking sense; and he spoke on,
still wondering by what will (not his own) the words came.

"If you leave her and the children alone, I think her religion will not
trouble you.  She is accustomed to boys, and teaches them to be honourable
to one another and gentle to their sisters."

He paused again and drummed with his fingers on the table.  He heard the
voices break out again, and gathered that the majority assented.
Mechanically he put the resolution, declared it carried, and closed the
meeting; as mechanically he shook hands with all the Managers and wished
them good-night.  "And on your way, Benny, you may tell the maids they may
go to bed.  I'll blow out the candles myself."

When all had taken their leave he sat for a while, still staring at the
reflected lights along the board.  Then he arose and passed into his
counting-house, where an oil lamp burned upon his writing-table.

He took pen and paper and wrote, addressed the letter, sealed it
carefully, and leaned back in his chair, studying the address.

"There is to-morrow," he muttered.  "I can reconsider it before post-time
to-morrow."

But the restlessness had vanished and left in its stead a deep peace.
If Death waited for him in the next room, he felt that he could go quietly
now and take it by the hand.  He remembered the candles still burning
there, and stood up with a slight shiver--a characteristic shake of his
broad shoulders.  As he did so his eyes fell again upon the addressed
letter.  He turned them slowly to the door--and there, between him and the
lights on the long table, a vision moved towards him--the figure of a girl
dressed all in black.  His hand went up to the phial in his breast-pocket,
but paused half-way as he gazed into the face and met her eyes. . . .



CHAPTER VI.


THE RAFTERS.

Two children came stealing downstairs in the early dawn, carrying their
boots in their hands, whispering, lifting their faces as if listening for
some sound to come from the upper floors.  But the whole house kept
silence.

Their plan was to escape by one of the windows on the ground floor.
Tiptoeing along the hall to the door of the great parlour, Myra
noiselessly lifted the latch (all the doors in the house had old-fashioned
latches) and peeped in.  The candles on the long table had burned
themselves out, and the shuttered room lay in darkness save for one long
glint of light along the mahogany table-top.  It came from the half-open
doorway in the far corner, beyond which, in the counting-house, a ghost of
a flame yet trembled in Rosewarne's lamp.


Myra caught at Clem's arm and drew him back into the hall.  For the moment
terror overcame her--terror of something sinister within--of their
grandfather sitting there like Giant Pope in the story, waiting to catch
them.  She hurried Clem along to the kitchen-passage, which opened out of
the hall at right angles to the front door and close beside it.
The front door had a fanlight through which fell one broken sunray,
filtered to a pale green by the honeysuckle of the porch; and reaching it,
she caught her breath in a new alarm.  The bolts were drawn.

After a furtive glance behind her, she peered more closely, holding Clem
fast by the sleeve.  Yes, certainly the bolts were drawn, and the key had
not been turned in the lock.  Very cautiously she tried the heavy latch.
The door opened easily--though with a creak that fetched her heart into
her mouth.

But there was no going back.  Whatever might be the explanation of the
unbolted door, they were free now, at large in the dewy morning with the
world at their feet.  The brightness of it dazzled Myra.  It broke on
Clem's ears with the dinning of innumerable birds.

They took hands and hurried down the gravel path.  Did ever Madonna
lilies, did ever clove carnations smell as did these, lifting their heads
from their morning bath?  Yet field challenged garden with the fragrance
of new-mown hay wafted down through the elms from Parc-an-hal, that great
meadow.

On the low wall by the garden-gate Myra found a seat for Clem, helped him
to lace his boots, and then did on her own.

"What's the time?" Clem demanded.

"I don't know, but he'll be coming soon.  It can't be four o'clock yet, or
we should hear Jim Tregay knocking about the milk-pails."

The boy sat silent, nursing his knee, drinking in a thousand scents and
sounds.  Myra watched the great humble-bees staggering from flower to
flower, blundering among their dew-filled cups.  She drew down a lily-stem
gently, and guided her brother's hand so that it held one heady fellow
imprisoned, buzzing under his palm and tickling it.  Clem laughed aloud.

"Listen!"

A lad came whistling Up the road from the village.  It was Tom Trevarthen,
and the sunshine glinted on his silver earrings.

"Good-morning, missy!  Good-morning, Master Clem!  I'm good as my word,
you see; though be sure I never reckoned to find 'ee up and out at this
hour."

"Myra woke me," said Clem.  "I believe she keeps a clock in her head."

"When I want to wake up at any particular hour, I just do it," Myra
announced calmly.  "Have they begun the rafting?"

"Bless your life, they've been working all night.  There's one raft
finished, and the other ought to be ready in a couple or three hours, to
save the tide across the bay."

"I don't hear them singing."

"'Tisn't allowed.  The Bo--your Aunt Hannah, I mean--says she don't mind
what happens to sea, but she won't have her nights in harbour disturbed.
Old Billy Daddo hadn't laid hands on the first balk before he began to
pipe, 'O for a thousand tongues to sing,' starting on the very first hymn
in the collection like as if he meant to sing right through it.  He hadn't
got to 'music in the sinner's ears' before the old woman pushed her face
overside by the starboard cathead, nightcap and all--in that time she must
ha' nipped out of her berth, up the companion, and along the length of the
deck--and says she, 'I ben't no sinner, William Daddo, but a staid woman
that likes her sleep and means to have it.'  'Why, missus,' says Billy,
'you'll surely lev' a man ask a blessing on his labours!'  'Ask quiet
then,' she says, 'or you'll get slops.'  Since then they be all as mute as
mice."

Myra took Clem's hand, and the three hurried down the hill and through the
sleeping village to the ferry-slip, where Tom had a ship's boat ready.
In fifty strokes he brought her alongside the barque where the rafters--
twenty-five or thirty--were at work, busy as flies.  The _Virtuous Lady_
had been towed up overnight from her first anchorage to a berth under Hall
gardens, and a hatch opened in her bows, through which the long balks of
timber were thrust by the stevedores at work in the hold and received by a
gang outside, who floated them off to be laid raftwise and lashed together
with chains.  The sun, already working around to the south, gilded the
barque's top-gallant masts and yards, and flung a stream of gold along the
raft already finished and moored in midstream.  But the great hull lay as
yet in the cool shadow of the hillside over which the larks sang.

Tom Trevarthen found the children a corner on the half-finished raft, out
of the way of the workmen, and a spare tarpaulin to keep their clothes
dry; and there they sat happily, the boy listening and Myra explaining,
until Mrs. Purchase, having slept her sleep and dressed herself (partly),
emerged on deck with a teapot to fill at the cook's galley, and, looking
over the bulwarks, caught sight of them.

"Hullo!  You don't tell me that Susannah,"--this was the housekeeper at
Hall--"allows you abroad at this hour!"

Now the risk of Susannah's discovering their escape and pursuing was the
one bitter drop in the cup of these truants' happiness.  Susannah--a
middle-aged, ill-favoured spinster, daughter of a yeoman-farmer, with
whose second wife she could not agree--scorned the sea and all sailors.
Once, as a girl, she had committed her ample person to a sailing boat,
and, thank God! that one lesson had been enough.  Ships came and went
under the windows of Hall, but in the children's eyes they and their crews
belonged to an unknown world.  Things real to them were the farm and farm
stock, harvests and harvest-homes, the waggoners' teams, byres, orchards,
garden, and cool dairy.  Ships' captains arrived out of fairyland
sometimes, and crossed the straw-littered townplace to hold audience with
their grandfather; magic odours of hemp and pitch, magic chanty songs and
clanking of windlasses called to them up the hill; but until this morning
they had never dared to obey the call.  Had Clem been as other boys--.
But, being blind, he trusted to Myra, and Myra was a girl.

"Come aboard and have a drink of something cordial!" continued Mrs.
Purchase, holding the teapot aloft.  She walked forward and looked down on
the workers.  "Now you may sing, boys, if't pleases 'ee."

"Thank'ee, ma'am," answered up Billy Daddo; "then lev' us make a start
with Wrestling Jacob, Part Two--"

    'Lame as I am, I take the prey'--

"'Tis a pleasant old tune and never comes amiss, but for choice o' seasons
give me the dew o' the mornin'."

He pitched the note in high falsetto, and after a couple of bars five or
six near comrades joined in together--

    "Speak to me now, for I am weak,
        But confident in self-despair:
     Speak to my heart, in blessings speak;
        Be conquer'd by my instant prayer!
     Speak, or thou never hence shall move,
        And tell me if thy name is Love."

Billy Daddo's gang hailed from a parish, three miles up the coast, noted
for containing "but one man that couldn't preach, and that was the
parson."  Their fellow-labourers--the crew of the barque and half-a-score
longshoremen belonging to the port--heard without thought of deriding.
Though themselves unconverted--for life in a town, especially in a seaport
town, makes men curious and critical rather than intense, and life in a
ship ruled by Mrs. Purchase did not encourage visionaries--they were
accustomed to the fervours of the redeemed.

    "'Tis Love! 'tis Love! thou diedst for me:
      I hear thy whisper in my heart--!"

"Brayvo! 'tis workin'! 'tis workin'!  Give it tongue, brother Langman!"
cried Billy, as a stevedore within the hold broke forth into a stentorian
bass that made the ship rumble--

    "The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
        Pure universal Love thou art:
     To me, to me thy bowels move,
        Thy nature and thy name is Love!"

Meanwhile young Tom Trevarthen had brought the children under the vessel's
side, and was helping Clem up the ladder.  Mrs. Purchase greeted them with
a kiss apiece, and carried them off to the cabin, where they found Mr.
Purchase eating bread and cream.

Skipper Purchase, a smart seaman in his day and a first-class navigator,
had for a year or two been gradually weakening in the head; a decline
which his wife noted, though she kept her anxiety to herself.
She foresaw with a pang the end of their voyaging, and watched him
narrowly, having made a compact with herself to interfere before he
imperilled the _Virtuous Lady_.  Hitherto, however, his wits had
unfailingly cleared to meet an emergency.  While she could count upon
this, she knew herself competent to rule the ship in all ordinary weather.

"Help yourselves to cream," said Mr. Purchase, after giving them
good-morning.  "Clever men tell me there's more nourishment in a pound o'
cream than in an ox.  Now that may seem marvellous in your eyes?"
He paused with a wavering, absent-minded smile.  "'Tis the most nourishing
food in the animal, vegetable, or mineral kingdoms,--unless you count
parsnips."

"T'cht!" his wife put in briskly, banging down a couple of clean teacups
on the swing-table.  "Children don't want a passel o' science in their
insides.  Milk or weak tea, my dears?"

"I don't know," the skipper went on after another long pause, bringing his
Uncertain eyes to bear on Clem, "if you've ever taken note what
astonishing things folks used to eat in the Bible.  There's locusts, and
wild honey, and unleavened bread--I made out a list of oddments one time.
Nebbycannezzar don't count, of course; but Ezekiel took down a whole book
in the shape of a roll."

Mrs. Purchase signed to Myra to pay no heed, and engaged Clem in a sort of
quick-firing catechism on the cabin fittings, their positions and uses.
The boy, who had been on board but once in his life before, stretched out
a hand and touched each article as she named it.

"The lamp, now?"

Clem reached up at once and laid his fingers on it, gently as a butterfly
alights on a flower.

"How does it swing?"

"On gimbals."

"Eh? and what may gimbals be?"

"There's a ring fastened here,"--the boy's fingers found it--"and swinging
to and fro; and inside the ring is a bar, holding the lamp so that it tips
to and fro crossways to the ring.  You weight the bottom of the lamp, and
then it keeps plumb upright however the ship moves."

"Wunnerful memory you've got, to be sure--and your gran'father tells me
you can't even read!"

"But he knows his letters," Myra announced proudly; "and when the new
teacher comes he's to go to school with me.  Susannah says so."

"How in the world did you teach'n his letters, child?"

"I cut them on the match-boarding inside the summer-house, and he traces
them out with his fingers.  If you go up you can see for yourself--the
whole lot from A to Ampassy!  He never makes a mistake--do you, Clem?
And I've begun to cut out 'Our Father,' but it's slow work."

"Did ever you hear tell!" Mrs. Purchase turned to her husband, who had
come out of his reverie and sat regarding Clem with something like lively
interest.  He had, in fact, opened his mouth to utter a scriptural
quotation, but, checked on the verge of it, dropped back into pensiveness.

At this point Mrs. Purchase's practised ear told her that the stevedores
were ceasing work, and she bustled up the ladder to summon her crew to
swab decks.  The old man, left alone with the children, leaned forward,
jerked a thumb after her, and said impressively, "I named her myself."

"Who?  Aunt Hannah?" stammered Myra, taken aback.

"No, the ship.  I named her after your aunt.  'Who can find a virtuous
woman?' says Solomon.  'I can,' says I; 'and, what's more, I done it: only
I changed the word to lady, as more becoming to one of her haveage.
Proverbs thirty-one, fourteen--turn it up when you get home, and you'll
find these words: 'She is like the merchant ships, she bringeth her food
from afar.'"

"Uncle," put in Myra breathlessly, "I want you to listen for a moment!
Clem and I have run away this morning, and by this time Susannah will have
found it out and be searching.  If she sends down here, couldn't you hide
us--just for a little while?  The--the fact is, we've set our hearts on
going with the rafts.  There's no danger in this weather, and Tom
Trevarthen has promised to look after us.  I don't dare to ask Aunt
Hannah; but if you could have a boat ready just when the rafts are
starting, and hide us somewhere till then."--

Mr. Purchase did not seem to hear, but rose and opened a small Dutch
corner-cupboard, inlaid with parrots and tulips, and darkly varnished.
From it he took a large Bible.

"I'll show you the text I was speaking of."

"But, uncle."--

"They'm washing-down already," said he, lifting his head to the sound of
rushing water on deck.  "Your aunt will be back in a moment, and 'tis time
for prayers."

Sure enough, at that instant the feet and ankles of Mrs. Purchase appeared
on the ladder.  "Tide's on the turn," she announced.  "Keep your seats, my
dears; the Lord knows there's no room to kneel, and He makes allowance."
She set a small packed basket on the table, and turned to her husband.
"You'll have to pray short, too, if the children are going with the
rafts."

"Going?--Oh, Aunt Hannah!"

"Why, I'd a notion you _wanted_ to!  To be sure, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong,
and 'tisn' the first time; but young Tom Trevarthen didn' seem to reckon
so.  There, get your prayers over and cut along; I'll make it all right
with your grandfather and Susannah."


Ah, but it was bliss, and blissful to remember!  The rafts dropped down
past the town quay, past the old lock-houses, past the ivied fort at the
harbour's mouth, and out to the open sea that twinkled for leagues under
the faint northerly breeze, dazzling Myra's eyes.  Tom Trevarthen grinned
as he tugged at an enormous sweep with two other men, Methodists both, and
sang with them and with Billy Daddo, who steered with another sweep,
rigged aft upon a crutch--

    "Praise ye the Lord!  'Tis good to raise
     Your hearts and voices in His praise."--

"Now what should put it in my noddle to take up with that old hemn?" asked
Billy aloud, coming to a halt at the close of the first verse and
scratching his head.  "'Tidn' one of my first fav'rites--nothing in it
about the Blood o' the Lamb--an' I can't call to mind havin' pitched it
for years.  Well, never mind!  The Lord hev done it with some purpose, you
may be sure."

"I call it a very pretty hymn," said Myra, for he seemed to be addressing
her.  "And isn't it reason enough that you're glad to be alive?"

"But I bain't," Billy argued, shaking his head.  "You wouldn' understand
it at your age, missy; but as a saved soul I counts the days.  Long after
I was a man grown, the very sound of 'He comes, He comes! the Judge
severe,' or 'Terrible thought, shall I alone,' used to put me all of a
twitter.  Now they be but weak meat, is you might say.  'Ah, lovely
appearance of death'--that's more in my line--

    "Ah, lovely appearance of death!
        What sight upon earth is so fair?
     Not all the gay pageants that breathe
        Can with a dead body compare."--

"Don't!"  Myra put both hands up to her ears.  "Oh, please don't, Mr.
Daddo! And I call it wicked to stand arguing when the Lord, as you say,
put a cheerfuller tune in your head."

"Well, here goes, then!"  Billy resumed "Praise ye the Lord."  At the
fifth verse his face began to kindle--

    "What is the creature's skill or force?
        The sprightly man, or warlike horse?
     The piercing wit, the active limb,
        Are all too mean delights to Him.
     But saints are lovely in His sight,
        He views His children with delight;
     He sees their hope, he knows their fear,
        And looks and loves His image there."

"Ay, now," he broke out, "to think I didn' remember that verse about
children when I started to sing!  And 'twas of you, missy, and the young
master here the dear Lord was thinkin' all the time!"

He dropped his eyes and, leaning back against the handle of the sweep,
suddenly burst into prayer.  "Suffer little children, O dear Jesus! suffer
little children.  Have mercy on these two tender lambs, and so bring them,
blessed Lord, to Thy fold!"

As his fervour took hold of him he left the sweep to do its own steering,
and strode up and down the raft, picking his way from balk to balk,
skipping aside now and again as the water rose between them under his
weight and overflowed his shoes.  To Myra, unaccustomed to be prayed for
aloud and by name, the whole performance was absurd and embarrassing.
She blushed hotly under the eyes of the other men, and glanced at Clem,
expecting him to be no less perturbed.

But Clem did not hear.  The two children had taken off their boots, and he
sat with the water playing over his naked insteps and his eyes turned
southward to the horizon as if indeed he saw.  With his blind gaze
fastened there he seemed to wait patiently until Billy's prayer exhausted
itself and Billy returned to the steering; and then his lips too began to
move, and he broke into a curious song.

It frightened Myra, who had never heard the like of it; for it had no
words, but was just a sing-song--a chant, low at first, then rising shrill
and clear and strong, and reaching out as though to challenge the waters
twinkling between raft and horizon.  Through it there ran a note of high
courage touched with tremulous yearning--yearning to escape yonder and be
free.

She touched his hand.  So well she loved and understood him, that even
this strange outbreak she could interpret, though it caught her at
unawares.  For the moment he did not feel the touch; he was far away.
He had forgotten her--alas!--with his blindness.  She belonged to his
weakness, not to his strength.  For the while he dwelt in the vision of
his true manhood, which only his one infirmity forbade his inheriting; and
she had no place in it.

He came back to reality with a pitiful break and quaver of the voice, and
turned his eyes helplessly toward her.  She answered his gaze timidly, as
though he could see her.  She was searching his eyes for tears.  But there
was no trace of tears in them.  He took the food she handed him from Aunt
Purchase's basket; and, having eaten, laid his head in her lap and fell
asleep.

Slowly under the noonday heat and through the long afternoon the two rafts
moved across the bay, towing each its boat in which the rafters would
return in the cool of the evening.


But the children did not return in them; for on the quay, where the balks
were due, to be warped ashore unlashed and conveyed inland to the mines,
stood Jim Tregay waiting with their grandfather's blood-mare Actress
harnessed in a spring-cart.  How came Jim here, at this distance from
home?

"Been waiting for you these two hours!" he called to the children.
"Jump into the boat there and come ashore.  You'm wanted to home, and at
once!"



CHAPTER VII.


THE HEIRS OF HALL.

They landed and clambered into the spring-cart.

"Nothing wrong at home, I hope?" called Tom Trevarthen from the quay's
edge, as he pushed off to scull back to the raft.

"Oh, this is Susannah's nonsense, you may be sure!" called back Myra.
"I suppose she carried her tales to grandfather, and he packed you off
after us, Jim Tregay?  Well, you needn't look so glum about it.
Aunt Hannah gave us leave, and told Tom to look after us, and we've had a
heavenly day, so Susannah may scold till she's tired."

"Hold the reins for a moment, Miss Myra, if you please."
Jim left the mare's head and walked down the quay, holding up his hand to
delay the young sailor, who slewed his boat round, and brought her
alongside again.  The pair were whispering together.  Myra heard a sharp
exclamation, and in a moment Tom Trevarthen was sculling away for dear
life.  Jim ran back, jumped into the cart, and took the reins.

"But what is he shouting?" asked Myra, as the mare's hoofs struck and slid
on the cobbles and the cart seemed to spring forward beneath her.
She clutched her brother as they swayed past mooring-posts, barrels, coils
of rope, and with a wild lurch around the tollman's house at the
quay-head, breasted the steep village street.  "What's he shouting?" she
demanded again.

Jim made no answer, but, letting the reins lie loose, flicked Actress
smartly with the whip.  Even a child could tell that no horse ought to be
put at a hill in this fashion.  Faces appeared at cottage doors--faces
Myra had never seen in her life--gazing with a look she could not
understand.  All the faces, too, seemed to wear this look.

"What has happened?"

At the top of the hill, on a smoother road, the mare settled down to a
steady gallop.  Jim Tregay turned himself half-about in his seat.

"From battle and murder and from sudden death--good Lord, deliver us!"

"Oh, Jim, be kind and tell us!"

"Your grandfather, missy--the old maister!  They found 'en in the
counting-house this mornin' dead as a nail!"

Myra, with an arm about Clem and her disengaged hand gripping the light
rail of the cart, strove to fix her mind, to bring her brain to work upon
Jim's words.  But they seemed to spin past her with the hedgerows and the
rushing wind in her ears.  A terrible blow had fallen.  Why could she not
feel it?  Why did she sit idly wondering, when even a dumb creature like
Actress seemed to understand and put forth all her fleetness?

"Who sent you for us?  Susannah?"

"Susannah's no better than a daft woman.  Peter Benny sent me.
He took down the news to Mrs. Purchase, and she told him where you was
gone.  He called out the horse-boat and packed me across the ferry
instanter."

Myra gazed along the ridge of the mare's back to her heaving shoulders.

"Clem!" she whispered.

"Yes," said the boy slowly, "I am trying to understand.  Why are we going
so fast?"

So he too found it difficult.  In truth their grandfather had stood
outside their lives, a stern, towering shadow from the touch of which
they crept away to nestle in each other's love.  Because his presence
brooded indoors they had never felt happy of the house.  Because he
seldom set foot in the garden they had made the garden their playground,
their real nursery; the garden, and on wet days the barn, the hay-lofts,
the apple-lofts, any Alsatia beyond the rules, where they could run free
and lift their voices.  He had never been unkind, but merely neglectful,
unsmiling, coldly deterrent, unapproachable.   They knew, of course,
that he was great, that grown men and women stood in awe of him.

When at length Jim Tregay reined up in the roadway above the ferry, they
found a vehicle at a stand there, with a rough-coated grey horse in a
lather of sweat; and peering over the wall from her perch in the
spring-cart, Myra spied Mr. Benny on the slipway below, in converse
with a tall, black-coated man who held by the hand a black-coated boy.
As a child, she naturally let her gaze rest longer on the boy than on the
man; but by and by, as she led Clem down the slipway, she found herself
staring at the two with almost equal distaste.

Little Mr. Benny ran up the slipway to meet the children.  His eyes were
red, and it was with difficulty that he controlled his voice.

"My dears," he began, taking Myra by the hand and clasping it between his
palms, "my poor dears, a blow indeed! a terrible blow!  Your uncle--dear
me, I believe you have never met!  Let me present you to your uncle,
Mr. Samuel, and your cousin, Master Calvin Rosewarne.  These are the
children, Mr. Samuel--Miss Myra and Master Clem--and, as I was saying, I
sent a trap to fetch them home with all speed."

The man in black shook hands with the children gloomily.  Myra noted that
his whiskers were black and straggling, and that, though his upper lip was
long, it did not hide his prominent yellow teeth.  As for the boy, he
shook hands as if Under protest, and fell at once to staring hard at Clem.
He had a pasty-white face, which looked the unhealthier for being
surmounted by a natty velveteen cap with a patent-leather up-and-down
peak, and he wore a black overcoat, like a minister's, knickerbockers,
grey woollen stockings, and spring-side boots, the tags of which he had
neglected to turn in.

"You sent for them?" asked Mr. Samuel sourly as he shook hands, turning a
fishy eye upon Mr. Benny.  "Why did you send for them?"

"Eh?" stammered Mr. Benny.  "Their poor grandfather, Mr. Samuel!  I could
not have forgiven myself.  It was, after telegraphing to you, my first
thought."

"I can't see with what object you sent for them," persisted Mr. Samuel,
and pulled at his ragged whiskers.  "Were they--er--away on a visit?
staying with friends?  If so, I should have thought they were much better
left till after the funeral."

He shifted his gaze from Mr. Benny and fixed it on Myra, who flushed
hotly.  What right had this Mr. Samuel to be interfering and taking
charge?

"We were not staying with friends," she answered, "or paying any visit.
Clem and I have never slept away from home in our lives.  We have been
across the bay with the rafts--that's all; and Aunt Hannah gave Us leave."

He ignored her display of temper.  "You've been let run wild, you two, I
daresay," he replied, in a tone almost rallying.  "I guess you have had
matters pretty much your own way."

Poor Myra!  This was the first whole holiday she and Clem had ever taken.
But how could she tell him?  She gulped down her tears--she was glad he
had turned away without perceiving them--clutched Clem's hand in silence,
and followed down to the boat, which Uncle Vro was bringing alongside.

As the party settled themselves in the sternsheets Master Calvin fixed his
pale, gooseberry-coloured eyes on hers.

"You needn't show temper," he said slowly, with the air of a young
ruminant animal.

"I'm not showing temper!" Myra retorted in a tone which certainly belied
her.

"Yes, you are; and you've told a fib, which only makes things worse."
He smiled complacently at having beaten her in argument, and Myra thought
she had never met such an insufferable boy in her life.

He transferred his unblinking stare to Clem, and for half a minute took
stock of him silently.  "Is he blind," he asked aloud, "or only
pretending?"

Myra's face flamed now.  A little more, and she had boxed his ears; but
she checked herself and, caressing the back of Clem's hand, answered with
grave irony, "He _was_ blind, up to a minute ago; but now, since seeing
you, he prefers to be pretending."

Master Calvin considered this for almost a minute.  "That's rude," he
announced at length decisively.

But meanwhile other passengers in the boat had found time to get
themselves at loggerheads.

"Your servant, Master Samuel!" began old Nicky affably, as he fell to his
oars.  "I hope I see 'ee well, though 'tis a sad wind that blows 'ee here.
Ay, there's a prophet gone this day from Israel!"

Mr. Samuel frowned.  "Good-evening," he answered coldly, and added, with
an effort to be polite, "I seem to know your face, too."

"He-he!"  Uncle Nicky leaned on his oars with a senile chuckle.
"Know my face, dost-a?  Ought to, be sure, for I be the same Nicholas Vro
that ferried 'ee back and forth in the old days afore your father's
stomach soured against 'ee.  Dostn't-a mind that evening I put 'ee across
with your trunks for the last time?  'Never take on, Master Sam,' said I--
for all the parish knew and talked of your differences--'give the old
man time, and you'll be coming home for the Christmas holidays as welcome
as flowers in May.'  'Not me,' says you; 'my father's is a house o' wrath,
and there's no place for me.'  A mort o' tide-water have runned up an'
down since you spoke they words; but here be I, Nicholas Vro, takin' 'ee
back home as I promised.  Many times I've a-pictered 'ee, hearing you was
grown prosperous and a married man and had took up with religion.
I won't say that years have bettered your appearance; 'tisn't their way.
But I'd ha' picked out your face in a crowd--or your cheeld's, for that
matter.  He features you wonderful."

"I remember you now," said Mr. Sam.  "You haven't grown any less talkative
in all these years."  He turned to Mr. Benny.  "Your telegram was sent off
at nine-forty-five.  Was that as early as possible?"

"I can say 'yes' to that, Mr. Samuel.  Of course I had to begin by
quieting the servants--they were scared out of their wits, and it took me
some time to coax them out of their alarm.  Then, taking boat, I rowed
down to the post-office, stopping only at the barque yonder, to break the
news to Mrs. Purchase.  She put on her bonnet at once and was rowed
ashore.  'Twas from her, too, I learned the whereabouts of Miss Myra and
Master Clem; for up at the house they could not be found, and this had
thrown Miss Susannah into worse hysterics--she could only imagine some new
disaster.  At first I was minded to send a boat after them, but by this
time the rafts were a good two miles beyond the harbour, and Mrs. Purchase
said, 'No, they can do no good, poor dears; let them have their few hours'
pleasure.'  From the barque I pulled straight to the post-office, and sent
off the telegram, and--dear me, yes--at the same time I posted a letter.
I had found it, ready stamped, lying on the floor by my poor master's
feet.  It must have dropped from his hand; no doubt he had just finished
writing it when the end came."

"But why such a hurry to post it?"

"It was marked 'Private and Immediate.'"

"For whom?"

Mr. Benny hesitated. "You will excuse me, Mr. Samuel."--

"Confidential?"

"As a matter of fact, sir, when Mr. Rosewarne marked his letters so I made
it a rule never to read the address.  But this one--coming upon it as I
did--I couldn't help."--

"You prefer to keep the address to yourself?"

"With your leave, sir."

Mr. Samuel eyed him sharply.  "Quite right!" he said curtly, with a glance
at Uncle Vro; but the old man was not listening.

"Lord! and I mind his second marriage!" he muttered.  "A proper lady she
was, from up Tamar-way.  He brought her home across water, and that's
unlucky, they say; but he never minded luck.  Firm as a nail he ever was,
and put me in mind of the nail in Isaiah: 'As a nail in a sure place I
will fasten him, and they shall hang upon him all the glory of his
father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small
quantity, from the vessels of cups even to all the vessels of flagons.'
But the offspring and the issue, my dears," he went on, addressing Clem
and Myra, "was but your poor mother.  Well-a-well, weak or strong, we go
in our time!"

As they landed and climbed the hill, Mr. Sam spoke with Peter Benny aside.

"They may ask about that letter at the inquest.  You have thought of the
inquest, of course?"

"If they do, I must answer them."

"So far as you know, there was nothing in it to cause strong emotion--
nothing to account--?"

"Dear me, no," answered Mr. Benny, staring at him in mild astonishment;
"so far as I know, nothing whatever."


After packing Susannah off to her room with a Bible and a smelling-bottle,
Mrs. Purchase had set herself to reduce the household to order.
"'Tisn't in nature to think of death," confessed Martha the dairy-girl,
"when you'm worrited from pillar to post by a woman in creaky boots."

Above and beside her creaky boots Aunt Hannah had a cheerful, incurable
habit of slamming every door she passed through.  It came, she would
explain, of living on shipboard where cabin was divided from cabin either
by a simple curtain or by sliding panels.  Be this is it may, she kept the
house of mourning re-echoing that day "like a labouring ship with a cargo
of tinware," to quote Martha again, whose speech derived many forcible
idioms from her father, the mate of a coaster.

Nevertheless--and although it appeared to induce a steady breeze through
the house, rising to a moderate gale when meals were toward--Aunt Hannah's
presence acted like a tonic on all.  She presented to Mr. Sam a
weather-ruddied cheek, receiving his kiss on what, in so round a face as
hers, might pass for the point of the jaw.  In saluting Master Calvin she
had perforce to take the offensive, and did so with equal aplomb.
After a rapid survey of some three seconds she picked off his velveteen
cap and kissed him accurately in the centre of the forehead.

"I meant to do it on the top of his head," she informed Myra later,
"but the ghastly child was smothered in bear's-grease.  Lord knows that,
as 'twas, I very nearly slipped in my thumb and kissed _that_, as I've
heard tell that folks do in the witness-box."

Myra did not understand the allusion; but from the first she divined that
her aunt misliked Master Calvin and found that mislike consolatory.

"As for these two," the good lady announced, indicating brother and
sister, "I allow to myself they'll be best out of the way till the
funeral.  I've been through the clothes-press, and put up their
night-clothes and a few odd items in a hand-bag. 'Siah will be here at
eight-thirty sharp, to take 'em aboard with him.  For my part, I reckon to
sleep here to-night and look after things till that fool Susannah comes to
her senses.  And as for you, Peter Benny, you'll stay supper, I hope, for
there's supper ready and waiting to be dished--a roast leg of lamb, with
green peas.  It puts me in mind of Easter Day," she added inconsequently.
"You may remember, Sam, that your poor father always stickled for a roast
leg of lamb at Easter.  He was a good Christian to that extent, I thank
the Lord!"

"And I thank _you_, ma'am," protested Mr. Benny, "but I couldn't touch a
morsel--indeed I couldn't, though you offer it so kindly."

"To my knowledge, you've not eaten enough to-day to keep a mouse alive.
Well, if you won't, you won't; but I've been through the garden, and
there's a dish of strawberries to take home to your wife."


Mrs. Purchase could not know--good soul--that in removing the two children
to shipboard, to spare them the ugly preparations for the funeral, she was
connecting their grandfather's death in their minds for ever with the most
delightful holiday in life.  Yet so it was.  Punctually at half-past eight
Mr. Purchase appeared and escorted them on board the _Virtuous Lady_; and
so, out-tired with their long day, drugged and drowsed by strong salt air
and sunshine and the swift homeward drive, they came at nightfall, and as
knights and princesses come in fairy tales, to the palace of enchantment.
As they drew close, its walls towered up terribly and overhung them,
lightless, forbidding; but far aloft the riding-lamp flamed like a star,
and Myra clapped her hands as she reached the deck and peered down
into a marvellous doll's-house fitted with couches, muslin blinds,
and brass-locked cupboards that twinkled in the lamplight.
There was a stateroom, too, with a half-drawn red curtain in place of a
door, and beyond the curtain a glimpse of two beds, one above the other,
with white sheets turned back and ready for the sleepers--at once like and
deliciously unlike the beds at home.  The children, having unpacked their
bag and undressed, knelt down side by side as usual in their white
night-rails.  But Myra could not pray, although she repeated the words
with Clem.  Her eyes wandered among marvels.  The lower bed (assigned to
Clem by reason of his blindness) was not only a bed but a chest of
drawers.

    "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
     Look upon a little child;
     Pity my simplicity."--

Her fingers felt and tried the brass handles.  Yes, a real chest of
drawers!  And the washstand folded up in a box, and in place of a chair
was a rack with netting in which to lay their garments for the night!
"God bless dear Clem, and grandfather."--What was she saying?
Their grandfather was dead, and praying for dead people was wicked.
Susannah had once caught her praying for her mother, and had told her that
it was wicked, with a decisiveness that closed all argument.  None the
less she had prayed for her mother since then--once or twice, perhaps half
a dozen times--though slily and in a terror of being punished tor it and
sent to hell.  "And Susannah, and Martha, and Elizabeth Jane,"--this was
the housemaid--"and Peter Benny, and Jim Tregay, and all kind friends and
relations,"--including Uncle Sam and that odious boy of his?  Well, they
might go down in the list; but she wouldn't pretend to like them.

"Ready, my dears?" asked Uncle Purchase from outside.  "Sing out when
you're in bed, and I'll come and dowse the lights."

He did so, and stood for a moment hesitating, scarcely visible in the
faint radiance cast through the doorway by the lamp in his own cabin.
Maybe the proper thing would be to give them a kiss apiece?  He could not
be sure, being a childless man.  He ended by saying good-night so gruffly
that Myra fancied he must be in a bad temper.

"Clem!" she whispered, after lying still for a while, staring into
darkness.  "Clem!"

But Clem was already sound asleep.

She sighed and turned on her pillow.  She had wanted to discuss with him a
thought that vexed her.  Did folks love one another when they grew up?
And, if so, how did they manage it, seeing that so few grownups had
anything lovable about them?  Clem and she, of course, would go on loving
each other always; but that was different.  When one grown-up person died,
were the others really sorry?  No one seemed sorry for her grandfather--no
one--except, perhaps, Peter Benny. . . .


For two days the children lived an enchanted life, interrupted only by a
visit to Miss de Gruchy, the dressmaker across the water, and by a
miserable two hours in which they were supposed to entertain their Cousin
Calvin, who had been sent to play with them.  The boy--he was about a year
older than Myra--greeted them with an air of high importance.

"I've seen the corp!" he announced in an ogreish whisper.

Myra had the sense to guess that if she gave any sign of horror he would
only show off the more and tease her.  She met him, therefore, on his own
ground.

"Well, you needn't think _we_ want to, because we don't!"

"Oh, they'll show it to you before they screw it down.  But I saw it
first!"

For the next forty-eight hours this awful possibility darkened her
delight.  For it _was_ a possibility.  Grown people did such monstrous
unaccountable things, there was no saying what they might not be up to
next.  And here, for once, was an ordeal Clem could not share with her.
He was blind.  Alone, if it must be, she must endure it.

She did not feel safe until the coffin had been actually packed in the
hearse and the long procession started.  To her dismay, they had parted
her from Clem.   He rode in the first coach beside Aunt Hannah and
_vis-a-vis_ with her Uncle Samuel and Cousin Calvin; she in the second
with Mr. Purchase, Peter Benny, and Mr. Tulse the lawyer, a large-headed,
pallid man, with a strong, clean-shaven face and an air of having attended
so many funerals that he paid this one no particular attention.
His careless gentility obviously impressed Mr. Purchase, who mopped his
forehead at half-minute intervals and as frequently remarked that the day
was hot even for the time of year.  Mr. Benny was solicitous to know if
Mr. Tulse preferred the window up or down.  Mr. Tulse preferred it down,
and took snuff in such profusion that by and by Myra could not distinguish
the floating particles from the dust which entered from the roadway,
stirred up by the feet of the crowd backing to let the carriages pass.
Myra had never seen, never dreamed of, such a crowd.  It lined both sides
of the road almost to the church gate--and from Hall to the church was a
good mile and a half; lines of freemasons with their aprons, lines of
foresters in green sashes, lines of coastguards, of fishermen in blue
jerseys crossed with the black-and-white mourning ribbons of the local
Benevolent Club; here and there groups of staring children, some holding
tightly by their mothers' hands; here and there a belated gig, quartering
to give way or falling back to take up its place in the rear of the line.
The sun beat down on the roof of the coach drawing a powerful odour of
camphor from its cushions.  For years after the scent of camphor recalled
all the moving pageant and the figure of Mr. Tulse seated in face of her
and abstractedly taking snuff.  But at the time, and until they drew up at
the churchyard gate, she was wondering why the ships in the harbour had
dressed themselves in gay bunting.  The flags were all half-masted, of
course; but she had not observed this, nor, if she had, would she have
known the meaning of it.

In the great family pew she found herself by Clem's side, listening to the
lesson, of which a few words and sentences somehow remained in her memory;
and again, as they trooped out, Clem's hand was in hers.  But to the
ceremony she paid little attention.  The grave had been dug hard by the
south-east corner of the churchyard, close by a hedge of thorn, on the
farther side of which the ground fell steeply to a narrow coombe.
The bright sun, sinking behind the battlements of the church tower,
flung their shadow so that a part cut across the parson's dazzling
surplice, while a part fell and continued the pattern on the hillside
across the valley.  And while the parson recited high over the tower a
lark sang.

Someone asked her if she wished to look down on the coffin in its bed.
She shrank away, fearing for the moment that the trick of which she had
stood in dread for two days was to be played on her now at the last.

But the mysterious doings of her elders were not yet at an end, for no
sooner had they reached home again than she and Clem were hustled into the
parlour, to find Mr. Tulse seated at the head of the long table with a
paper in his hand, and Mr. Samuel in a chair by the empty fireplace with
Cousin Calvin beside him.  Aunt Hannah disposed herself between the two
children with her back to a window, and Uncle Purchase, having closed the
door with extraordinary caution, dropped upon the edge of a chair and sat
as if ready to jump up at call and expel any intruder.

Mr. Tulse glanced around with that quiet, well-bred air of his which
seemed to take everything for granted.  Having satisfied himself that all
were assembled, he cleared his throat and began to read.  His manner and
intonation suggested family prayers; and Myra, not doubting that this must
be some kind of postscript to the burial service for the private
consolation of the family, let her mind wander.  The word 'testament' in
the first sentence seemed to make this certain, and the sentence or two
that followed had a polysyllabic vagueness which by habit she connected
with the offices of religion.  The strained look on Aunt Hannah's face
drew her attention away from Mr. Tulse and his recital.  Her ear had been
caught, too, by a low whining sound in the next room.  By and by she heard
him speak her own name--hers and Clem's together--and glanced around
nervously.  She had a particular dislike of being prayed for by name.
It made her blush and gave her a curious sinking sensation in the pit of
the stomach.  Her eyes, as it happened, came to rest on her Uncle
Samuel's, who withdrew his gaze at once and stared into the fireplace.

A moment later Mr. Tulse brought his reading to an end.  There was a
pause, broken by someone's pushing hack a chair.  She gazed around
inquiringly, thinking that this perhaps might be a signal for all to
kneel.

Her aunt had risen, and stood for a moment with twitching face,
challenging a look from Mr. Samuel, who continued to stare at the shavings
in the fireplace.

Whatever Mrs. Purchase had on her lips to say to him, she controlled
herself.  But she turned upon Myra and Clem, and her eyes filled.

"My poor dears!" she said, stretching out both hands.  "My poor, poor
dears!"

Myra thought it passing strange that, if she and Clem were to be pitied
for losing their grandfather, Aunt Hannah should have waited till now.
She paid, however, little heed to this, but ran past her aunt's
outstretched arms to the door of the counting-house.  Within, on the rug
beside the empty chair, weak with voluntary starvation, lay stretched the
little greyhound, and whined for her master.



BOOK II.



CHAPTER VIII.


HESTER ARRIVES.

Hester Marvin stood on the windy platform gazing after the train.
Her limbs were cramped and stiff after the long night journey; the grey
morning hour discouraged her; and the landscape--a stretch of grey-green
marsh with a horizon-line of slate-roofed cottages terminated by a single
factory chimney--was not one to raise the spirits.  Even the breeze
blowing across the marsh had an unfamiliar edge.   She felt it, and
shivered.

She had been the only passenger to alight here from the train, which had
brought her almost all the way from the Midlands; and as it steamed off,
its smoke blown level along the carriage roofs, her gaze followed it
wistfully, almost forlornly, with a sense of lost companionship.
She knew this to be absurd, and yet she felt it.

Between the chimney and this ridge the train passed out of sight; but
still her gaze followed the long curve of the metals across the marsh.
They stretched away, and with them the country seemed to expand and
flatten itself, yielding to the sky an altogether disproportionate share
of the prospect--at any rate in eyes accustomed to the close elms and
crooked hedgerows of Warwickshire.

She withdrew her gaze at last, and glancing up the long platform spied her
solitary trunk, as absurdly forlorn as herself.  A tall man--the
stationmaster--bent over it, examining the label, and she walked towards
him, glancing up as she passed the station clock.

"No use your looking at _him_," said the station-master, straightening
himself up in time to observe the glance.  "He never kept time yet, and
don't mean to begin.   Breaks my heart, he do."

"How far is it from here to Troy?"

"Three miles and a half, we reckon it; but you may call it four, counting
the hills."

"Oh, there are hills, are there?" said Hester, and looking around she
blushed; for indeed the country was hilly on three sides of her and flat
only in the direction whither she had been staring after the train.

The stationmaster did not observe her confusion.  "Were you expecting
anyone to meet you, miss?" he asked.

"Yes, from Troy.  A Mr. Benny--Mr. Peter Benny."  She felt for the letter
in her pocket.

The stationmaster's smile broadened.  "Peter Benny?  To be sure--a
punctual man, too, but with a terrible long family.  And when a man has a
long family, and leaves these little things to 'em--But someone will be
here, miss, sooner or later.  And this will be your luggage?"

"Three miles and a half, you say?--or four at the most?"  Hester stood
considering, while her eyes wandered across to a siding beyond the
up-platform, where three men stood in talk before a goods van.
Two of them were porters; the third--a young fellow in blue jersey, blue
cloth trousers, and a peaked cap--was apparently persuading them to open
the van, which they no sooner did than he leapt inside.   Hester heard him
calling from within the van and the two porters laughing.  "Four miles?"
She turned to the station-master again.  "I can walk that easily.
You have a cloak-room, I suppose, where I can leave my trunk?"

"I'll take it home with me, miss, for safety: that is, if you're really
bent on walking."  He jerked his thumb toward a cottage on the slope
behind.  "No favour at all.  I'm just going back to breakfast, and it
won't take me a minute to fetch out a barrow and run it home.
Whoever comes for your luggage will know where to call.  You'd best give
me your handbag too."

"Thank you, but I can carry that easily."

"The Bennys always turn up sooner or later," he went on musingly.
"If they miss one train, they catch the next.  Really, miss, there's no
occasion to walk.  But if you must, and I may make so bold, why not step
over to my house and have a cup of tea before starting?  The kettle's on
the boil, and my wife would make you welcome.  We've a refreshment-room
here in the station," he added apologetically, "but it don't open till the
nine-twenty-seven."

Hester thanked him again, but would not accept the invitation.  He fetched
the barrow for her trunk, and walked some little distance with her,
wheeling it.  Where their ways parted he gave her the minutest directions,
and stood in the middle of the roadway to watch her safely past her first
turning.

The aspect of the land was strange to her yet, but the stationmaster's
kindness had made it less unhomely.  The road ran under the base of a hill
to her left, between it and the marsh.  It rose a little before reaching
the line of slate-roofed cottages; and as she mounted this rise the wind
met her more strongly, and with more of that tonic sharpness she had
shrunk from a while ago.  It was shrewd, yet she felt that it was also
wholesome.  Above the cottage roofs she now perceived many masts of
vessels clustered near the base of the tall chimney.  She bent her head
against the breeze.  When she raised it again after a short stiff climb,
she looked--and for the first time in her life--upon the open sea.

It stretched--another straight line--beyond the cottage roofs, in colour a
pale, unvaried grey-blue; and her first sensation was wonder at its bare
simplicity.  She rested her bag upon the low hedge, and stood beside it at
gaze, her body bent forward to meet the wind.

For five minutes and more she stood there, so completely absorbed that the
sound of footsteps on the road drew near and passed her unheard.
A few paces beyond they came to a halt.

"Begging your pardon, miss, but that bag is heavy for you," said a voice.

She turned with a start, and, as she did so, was aware of a scent about
her, not strong, but deliciously clean and fragrant.  It came from a tuft
of wild thyme on which her palm had been pressing while she leaned.

"Thank you, it is not heavy," she answered, in some confusion.
"I--I just rested it here while I looked out to sea."

She knew him at once for the blue-jerseyed young man she had seen in talk
with the porters; and apparently he had prevailed, for he stooped under
the weight of a great burden, in which Hester recognised a blackboard, an
easel, a coloured globe, and sundry articles of school furniture very
cleverly lashed together and slung across his shoulder by a stout cord.
He was smiling, and she smiled too, moved perhaps by the sight of these
familiar objects in a strange land.

"If you'm bound for Troy, you may so well let me carry it, miss.
There's a terrible steep hill to go up, and a pound or two's weight won't
make no difference to what I got here."

She had taken up her bag resolutely and was moving on.  The young man--it
was most awkward--also moved on, and in step with her.  She compressed
her lip, wondering how to hint that she did not desire his company.
A glance told her that he was entirely without guile, that he had made his
offer in mere good-nature.  How might she dismiss him and yet avoid
hurting his feelings?

"They argued me down at the station," he went on.  "Would have it the
traps couldn' possibly be in the van.  But I wasn't going to have my walk
for nothing if I could help it.  'Give me leave to look,' said I; and I
was right, you see!"

He nodded his head as triumphantly as his burden allowed.  It weighed him
down, and the stoop gave his eyes, when he smiled, an innocent roguish
slant.  Hester noted that he wore rings in his brown ears, and somehow
these ornaments made him appear the more boyish.

"But what are you doing with a blackboard and easel?" she asked.

"They're for old Mother Butson.  She lives with my mother and keeps
school.  Tidy little outlay for her, all this parcel! but she must move
with the times, poor soul."

"Then hers is not a Board School?--since she is buying these things for
herself."

"Board School?  Not a bit of it.  You're right there, miss: we're the
Opposition."  He laughed, showing two rows of white regular teeth.

"Are you a teacher too?"

She had no sooner asked the question than she knew it to be ridiculous.
A teacher, in blue jersey and earrings!  He laughed, more merrily than
ever.

"Me, miss?  My name's Trevarthen--Tom Trevarthen: and I'm a seaman;
ordinary till last voyage, but now A.B."  He said this with pride: of what
it meant she had not the ghost of a notion.  "A man don't need scholarship
in my way o' life; but, being on shore for a spell, you see, miss,
I'm helping the old gal to fight the School Board.  'Tis hard on her,
too."

"What is hard?" Hester asked, her professional interest aroused.

"Why, to have the bread taken out of her mouth at her time of life.
She sent in an application, but the Board wouldn't look at it.
Old Rosewarne, they say, had another teacher in his eye, and got her
appointed--some up-country body.  Ne'er a man on the Board had the pluck
to say 'Bo' when _he_ opened his mouth."

"Rosewarne?"  Hester came to a halt.

"That bag is too heavy for you, miss.  Hand it over--do'ee now!"

"Are you talking of Mr. John Rosewarne?"

"Ay, Rosewarne of Hall--he did it.  If you was a friend of his, miss, I
beg your pardon; but a raspin' old tyrant he was.  Sing small, you might
be let off and call yourself lucky; stand up to 'en, and he'd have you
down and your face in the dust if it cost a fortune."

"Wait a moment, please!" Hester commanded, halting for breath.  They had
reached a steep hill, and the tall hedgerows shut out the sea; but its far
roar sounded in her ears.  She nodded toward the bundle on his shoulders.
"Are those things meant to fight the new schoolmistress?"

"That's of it.  The old woman has pluck enough for a hunderd.  But, as I
tell her, she may get the billet now, after all, since the old fellow's
gone, and Mr. Sam--they do say--favours the Dissenters."

"I don't understand.  'Gone'?  Who is gone?"

"Why, old Rosewarne.   Who else?"

"You are not telling me that Mr.  Rosewarne is dead?"

"Beggin' your pardon, miss--but he's dead, and buried last Saturday.
There!  I han't upset you, have I?  I took it for certain that everyone
knew.  And you seeming an acquaintance of his, and being, so to speak, in
black."--

"But I heard from him only last Thursday--less than a week ago!"
Hester's hand went to her pocket.  To be sure she possessed, with
Rosewarne's letter, a second from a Mr. Peter Benny, acknowledging her
acceptance of the post, and promising that she should be met on her
arrival, on the day and hour suggested by her.  But Mr. Benny's letter had
been cautiously worded, and said nothing of his master's death.

The young sailor had come to a halt with her, evidently puzzled, and for
the fourth time at least was holding out a hand to relieve her of her bag.

"No!" she said.  "You must walk on, please; I am the new schoolmistress."

It took him aback, but not in the way she had expected.  His face became
grave at once, but still wore its puzzled look, into which by degrees
there crept another look of pity.

"You can't know what you'm doing then, miss; I'm sure of that.
They haven't told you.  She's a very old woman, and 'tis all the bread she
has."

He stared at her, seeking reassurance.

"You are certainly right, so far: I have tumbled, it seems, into
mysteries.  But for aught I know, I _am_ the new schoolmistress, and we
are enemies, it seems.  Now will you walk ahead, or shall I?"

Still he paused, considering her face.

"But if you knew what a shame it is!" he stammered.  "And you look good,
too!"

With a movement of the hand she begged him to leave her and walk ahead.
But as she did so she caught sound of hoofs and wheels on the road above.
They drew apart to let the vehicle pass, she to one side of the road, the
young sailor to the other.  A light spring-cart came lurching round the
corner; and its driver, glancing from one to the other, drew rein sharply,
dragging the rough-coated cob back with a slither on the splashboard, and
bringing him to a stand between them.



CHAPTER IX.


MR. SAMUEL'S POLICY.

Hester's letter accepting the teachership had put Mr. Sam in something of
a quandary.  It came addressed, of course, to his father, and as his
father's heir and executor he had opened it.

"'Hester Marvin'?"  He read the signature and pondered, pulling his ragged
whisker.  "So that was the name on the letter you posted?"  (No question
had been asked about it at the inquest.)

"That was the name, sir," said Mr. Benny.

"Who is she?  How did my father come to select her?"

Mr. Benny had not a notion.

"By her tone, they must have been pretty well acquainted," continued Mr.
Sam, still pondering.  "She signs herself 'Yours very truly,' and hopes he
has been feeling better since his return.  You know absolutely nothing
about her?"

"Absolutely nothing, sir."

"I wish,"--Mr. Sam began, but checked himself.  What he really wished was
that Mr. Benny had used less haste in posting the letter--had intercepted
it, in short.  But he did not like to say this aloud.  "I wish," he went
on, "I knew exactly what the old man wrote; how far it committed us,
I mean."  And by 'us' again, he meant the Board of Managers, upon which he
had no doubt of being elected to replace his father.

"You may be sure, sir," answered Mr. Benny, "that he made her a definite
offer.  My dear master was never one to make two bites of a cherry."

"Well, we must let her come, and find out, if we can, how far we're
committed.  Better write at once and fix a date--say next Thursday.
You needn't say anything about my father's death.  Just make it a formal
letter, and sign your own name; you may add 'Clerk of the School Board.'"

"Can I rightly do that, sir?"  Mr. Benny hesitated.

"Why not?  You _are_ the clerk, aren't you?  As clerk, you answer her
simply in the way of business.  There's no need to call a meeting of the
Board over such a trifle; though, if you wish, I'll explain it personally
to the Managers.  We may have a dozen cases like this before we get into
working order--small odds and ends which require, nevertheless, to be
dealt with promptly.  We must do what's best, and risk small
irregularities."

Mr. Benny, not quite convinced, fell to composing his letter.
Mr. Sam leaned back in his chair and mused, tapping his long teeth with a
paper-knife.  He wondered what kind of a woman this Hester Marvin might
be, and of what religious 'persuasion.'  In a week or two he would succeed
to his father's place on the Board.  There would be no opposition, and it
seemed to him natural and right that there should be none.  Was he not by
far the richest man in the parish?  Samuel Rosewarne studied his Bible
devoutly; but he did not seek it for anything which might stand in the way
of his own will or his private advantage.  When he came upon a text
condemning riches, for instance, or definitely bidding him to forgive a
debtor, he told himself that Christ was speaking figuratively, or was, at
any rate, not to be taken literally, and with that he passed on to
something more comfortable.  He did not, of course, really believe this,
but he had to tell himself so; for otherwise he would have to alter his
whole way of life, or confess himself an irreligious man.  But he was, on
the contrary, a highly religious man, and he had no disposition to alter
his life.

He hated the Church of England, too, because he perceived it to be full of
abuses; and he supposed that the best way to counteract these abuses was
to put a spoke in the Church's wheel wherever and whenever he could.
In this he but copied the adversary--Parson Endicott, for example--who
hated Dissent, perceiving that it rested on self-assertiveness,
encouraging unlearned men to be opinionative in error.  Perceiving this,
Parson Endicott supposed himself to be combating error by snatching at
every advantage, great or small, which exalted the supremacy of his Church
and left Dissent the worse in any bargain.  To neither of these men, both
confident in their 'cause,' did it occur for a moment to leave that cause
to the energy of its own truth.

The parson, however, was not likely to bring forward an opposition
candidate; for that would conflict with a second principle of conduct,
the principle of siding with the rich on all possible occasions.
By doing this in his small way he furthered at once the cause of stable
government--that is to say, the rule of the poor by the wealthy--and the
cause of his own Church, which (he fully believed) in these times depends
for existence upon mendicancy.  Therefore Mr. Samuel would certainly be
elected; and counting on this, he felt sorry to have missed the chance of
giving the teachership, by his casting vote, to one of his own sect--some
broad-minded, undenominational person who would teach the little ones to
abhor all that savoured of popery.  To be sure, this Hester Marvin might
be such a person.  On the other hand, his father had been capable of
choosing some Jew, Turk, infidel, or heretic, or even papist.  It remained
to discover, first, what kind of woman this Hester Marvin might be; and
next, whether or not the terms of her engagement amounted to a contract.

"By the way," said Mr. Sam, as Mr. Benny sat pursing his lips over the
letter, "you take in a lodger now and then, I believe?"

"Now and then," Mr. Benny assented, looking up and biting the end of his
quill.  He did not understand the drift of the question.  "Now and then,
sir," he repeated; "when my wife's health allows."

"Then add a line, telling her she shall be met at the station, and that
you will put her up."

"But, Mr. Samuel, I could scarcely bring myself to offer."--

"Tut, man; you don't ask her to pay.  I'll see to that.  Merely say that
you hope she will be your guest until she finds suitable lodgings."

"That is very kind of you, sir."

"Not at all."  He reached out a hand for Mr. Benny's letter, read it
through, and nodded.  "Yes, that will do; seal it up and let it go by next
post.  My father had great confidence in you, Benny."

"He ever did me that great honour, sir."

"I hope we shall get on together equally well.  I daresay we shall."

"It comforts me to hear you say so, sir.  When a man gets up in years--
with a long family depending on him."--

"Of course, if this Miss Marvin should happen to give you further
particulars of my father's offer, so much the better," said Mr. Sam
negligently.


As the little man went down the hill toward the ferry he was pounced upon
by Mother Butson, who regularly now watched for him and waylaid him on his
way home.

"Hold hard, Peter Benny--it's no use your trying to slip by now!"

"I wasn't, Mrs. Butson; indeed, now, I wasn't!" he protested; though
indeed this waylaying had become a torment to him.

"Well, and what have they decided?"  The poor old soul asked it fiercely,
yet trembled while waiting for his answer, almost hoping that he would
have none.

Mr. Benny longed to say that nothing was decided; but the letter in his
pocket seemed to be burning against his ribs.  He was a truthful man.

"It don't lie with me, Mrs. Butson; I'm only the clerk, and take my
orders.  But I must warn you not to be too hopeful.  The person that Mr.
Rosewarne selected will come down and be interviewed.  That's only right
and proper."

All the village knew by this time what had happened at the last Board
meeting.

"Coming, is she?  Then 'tis true what I've heard, that the old varmint
went straight from the meetin' and wrote off to the woman, and that the
hand of God struck 'en dead in his chair.  Say what you will,"--the cracked
voice shrilled up triumphantly--"'tis a judgment!  What's the woman's
name?"

"That I'm not allowed to tell you.  And look here, Mrs. Butson--you
mustn't use such talk of my poor dead master; indeed you mustn't."
He looked past her appealingly and at Mrs. Trevarthen, who had come to her
doorway to listen.

"I said what I chose to 'en while he was alive, and I'll say what I choose
now.  You was always a poor span'el, Peter Benny; but John Rosewarne never
fo'ced _me_ to lick his boots.  'Poor dead master!'" she mimicked.
"Iss fay!--dead enough now, and poor, he that ground the poor!"
At once she began to fawn.  "But Mr. Sam'll see justice done.
You'll speak a word for me to Mr. Sam?  He's a professin' Christian, and
like as not when this woman shows herself she'll turn out to be some
red-hot atheist or Jesuit.  To bring the like o' they here was just the
dirty trick that old heathen of yours would enjoy.  Some blasphemy it must
ha' been, or the hand o' God'd never have struck 'en as it did."

"Folks are saying," put in Mrs. Trevarthen from the doorway, "that Sall
here ill-wished 'en.  But she didn't.  'Twas his own sins compassed his
end.  Look to your ways, Peter Benny!  Your master was an unbeliever and
an oppressor, and now he's in hell-fire."

Mr. Benny put his hands to his ears and ran from these terrible women.
For the moment they had both believed what they said, and yet old
Rosewarne's belief or unbelief had nothing to do with their hatred.
They gloated because he had been removed in the act of doing that which
would certainly impoverish them.  They, neither less nor more than Mr. Sam
and Parson Endicott, made identical the will of God with their own wants.

Peter Benny as he crossed the ferry would have been uneasier and unhappier
had he understood Mr. Sam's parting words.  He had not understood them
because he had never laid a scheme against man, woman, or child in his
life.  Still he was uneasy and unhappy enough: first, because it hurt him
that anyone should speak as these old women had spoken of his dead master;
next, because he really felt sorry for them, and was carrying a letter to
their hurt; again because, in spite of Mr. Sam's reassuring words, he
could not shake off a sense of having exceeded his duties by signing that
letter without consulting the Board; and lastly, because in his confusion
he had forgotten his wife's state of health, and must break to the poor
woman, just arisen from bed and nursing a three-weeks'-old baby, that he
had invited a lodger.  Now that he came to think of it, there was not a
spare bedroom in the house!



CHAPTER X.


NUNCEY.

The driver of the spring-cart was a brown-skinned, bright-eyed,
and exceedingly pretty damsel of eighteen or twenty, in a pink print
frock with a large crimson rose pinned in its bodice, and a pink
sun-bonnet, under the pent of which her dark hair curtained her
temples in two ample rippling bands.

"Why, hullo!"  She reined up.  Hester and the young sailor had fallen
apart to let her pass, and from her perch she stared down from one
side of the road to the other with a puzzled, jolly smile.
"Mornin', Tom!"

"Mornin', Nuncey!"

"Sakes alive!  What be carryin' there 'pon your back?"

"School furnitcher."

The girl's eyes wandered from the bundle to Hester, and grew wide
with surmise.

"You don't mean to tell me you're the new schoolmistress!"

"Yes, I'm Hester Marvin."

"And I pictered 'ee a frump!  But, my dear soul," she asked with
sudden solemnity, "what makes 'ee do it?"

"Do what?"

"Why, teach school?  I al'ays reckoned that a trade for old persons--
toteling poor bodies, 'most past any use except to worrit the
children."

"And so 'tis," put in the young sailor angrily.

"Han't been crossed in love, have 'ee?  But there! what be I clackin'
about, when better fit I was askin' your pardon for bein' so late?
I'm sent to fetch you over to Troy.  Ought to have been here more'n a
half-hour ago; but when you've five children to wash an' dress an' get
breakfast for an' see their boots is shined, and after that to catch the
hoss and put'n to cart--well, you'll have to forgive it.  That's your
luggage Tom's carryin', I s'pose?--and a funny passel of traps school
teachers travel with, I will say. You must be clever, though; else
you couldn't have coaxed Tom Trevarthen to shoulder such a load.
He wouldn't lift his little finger for _me_."  She shot this
unrighteous shaft with a mischievous side-glance, and laughed.
She had beautiful teeth, and laughing became her mightily.

"But that is not my luggage."

"Not your luggage!  Then where--Hullo! have you two been quarrellin'?
Well, I never!  You can't have lost much time about it."

"I left my trunk at the station," Hester went on, flushing yet redder
with annoyance.

"And this here belongs to Mother Butson," declared Tom Trevarthen,
red also.  "I'm fetchin' it home for her."

"Then take and pitch it into the tail of the trap; and you, my dear,
hand up your bag and climb up alongside o' me.  We'll drive back to
station, fetch your trunk, and be back in time to overtake Tom at the
top o' the hill and give him a lift home.  There's plenty room for
three on the seat--that is, by squeezin' a bit."

"You're very kind, Nuncey," said Tom Trevarthen sullenly.  "But I'll
not take a lift alongside o' _she_; and I'll not trouble you with my
load, neither."

"Please yourself, you foolish mortal, you.  But--I declare! You
_must_ have had a tiff!"

"No tiff at all," corrected Tom, sturdily wrathful.  "It's despise
her I do--comin' here and drivin' an old 'ooman to the workhouse!"

He turned on his heel and trudged away stubbornly up the hill.

Nuncey gazed back at him for a moment over her shoulder.

"Never saw Tom in such a tear in all my life," she commented
cheerfully.  "Take 'en all the week round, you couldn't find a
better-natered boy.  Well, jump up, my dear, and we'll fit and get
your trunk.  He may be cured of his sulks by time we overtake 'en."

Undoubtedly Hester had excuses enough for feeling hurt and annoyed;
yet what mainly hurt and annoyed her (though she would not confess
it) was that this sailor and this girl had each taken her as one on
equal terms with themselves.  She was a sensible girl, by far too
sensible to nurse on second thoughts a conceit that she was their
superior simply because she spoke better English.  Yet habit had
taught her to expect some degree of deference from those who spoke
incorrectly; and we are all touchier upon our vaguely reasoned claims
than upon those of which we have perfect assurance.

"J'p, Pleasant!" Nuncey called to the grey horse, flicking him
lightly with the whip.  The ill-balanced trap seesawed down the
slope, and soon was spinning along the cliff-road, across which the
wind blew with such force that Hester caught at her hat.

"Never mind a bit of breeze, my dear.  And as for the touch of damp,
'tis nobbut the pride o' the mornin'.  All for heat and pilchar's, as
the saying is: we shall have it broiling hot afore noon.  Now I come
to think of it, 'tis high time we made our introductions.  I'm Nuncey
Benny--that's short for Annunciation. This here hoss and trap belongs
to my mother.  She's a regrater when in health; but there's a baby
come.  That makes eleven of us. You'll find us a houseful."

"Your father was kind enough to offer me,"--began Hester.

"Iss," broke in Nuncey; "father's kind, whatever else he may be. As
for considerin' where to stow you, that never crossed his head. You
mustn't think, my dear, that you bain't welcome.  Only--well, I may
so well get it over soon as late--you'll have to put up with a bed in
the room with me.  Shall you mind?"

"Of course I shall not mind," said Hester, conquered at once.

"Well, that's uncommon nice of you; and I don't mind tellin' 'ee 'tis
the second load you've a-lifted off my mind.  For, to start with, I
made sure you was goin' to be a frump."

"But why?"

Nuncey had no time to explain, for they were now arrived at the
stationmaster's cottage.  The station-master himself welcomed them at
the door, wiping his mouth.

"You'll step in and have a dish of tea, the both of you.  It'll take
off the edge of the mornin'."

Nuncey declined, after a glance at Hester, and at once fell to
discussing the weather with the station-master while he hoisted in
the trunk. Two of Hester's earliest discoveries in this strange land
were that everyone talked about the weather, and everyone addressed
everyone else as 'My dear.'

"Well, so long!" said the stationmaster.  "Wind's going round wi' the
sun, I see, same as yesterday.  We're in for a hot spell, you mark my
words."

"So long!" Nuncey shook the reins, and they started again. "Is that
how sleeves are wearin', up the country?" she asked, after two or
three glances at Hester's jacket.

"They are worn fuller than this, mostly," Hester answered gravely.
"But you mustn't take me for an authority."

"I can see so far into a brick wall as most.  Don't tell me! You're
one to think twice about your clothes, for all you look so modest.
Boots like yours cost more than I can spend on mine in a month o'
Sundays; iss, and a trifle o' vanity thrown in.  You've a very pretty
foot--an' I like your face--an' your way o' dressin', if you weren't
so sad-coloured.  What's that for, makin' so bold?"

"It's for my father."

"There now, I'm sorry!--Always was a clumsy fool, and always will be.
I thought it might be for old Rosewarne, you bein' hand-in-glove with
him."

"But I scarcely knew him.  It was only just now I heard the news."--
Hester broke off, colouring again with annoyance.  What did these
people mean, that they persisted in taking for granted her complicity
in some mysterious plot?

By and by, at the top of the hill, they overtook the young sailor.

"Got over your sulks, Tom?" inquired Nuncey cheerfully.  "If so,
climb up and be sociable--there's plenty room."

But Tom shook his head without answering, though he drew close to the
hedge to let the trap pass.  It is difficult to look dignified with a
blackboard, an easel, and a coloured globe on one's back.  The globe
absurdly reminded Hester of a picture of Atlas in one of her
schoolbooks, and she could not help a smile.  A moment later she
would have given all her pocket-money to recall that smile, for he
had glanced up, glowering, and observed it.

Nuncey laughed outright.

"But all the same," she remarked meditatively as they drove on,
"I like the lad for't.  'Tisn' everyone would do so much for the sake
of an old 'ooman that never has a good word to fling at nobody, and
maybe spanked 'en blue when he was a tacker and went to school wi'
her.  He's terrible simple; and decent, too, for a sailor. I reckon
there's a many think Mother Butson hardly used that wouldn't crack their
backs for her as he's a-doing."

"He spoke to me," said Hester, "quite as if I were doing a wickedness
in coming--as if, at least, I were selfish and unjust.  And I never
heard of this Mother Butson till half an hour ago!  Do _you_ think
I'm unjust?"

"Well," Nuncey answered judiciously, "if any person had asked me that
an hour ago, I'd have agreed with Tom.  But 'tis different now I've
seen your face."


Nuncey and the stationmaster were wise weather prophets.  Here on the
uplands the grey veil of morning fell apart, and dissolved so
suddenly that before Hester had time to wonder the miracle was
accomplished.  A flood of sunshine broke over the ripening cornfields
to right and left; the song of larks rang forth almost with a shout;
beyond the golden ridges of the wheat the grey vapour faded as breath
off a mirror, and lo! a clear line divided the turquoise sky from a
sea of intensest iris-blue.  As she watched the transformation her
heart gave a lift, and the past few hours fell from her like an evil
dream.  The stuffy compartment, the blear-eyed lamp, the train's roar
and rattle, the forlorn arrival on the windy platform--all slipped away
into a remote past.  She had passed the gates of fear and entered an
enchanted land.

As she looked abroad upon it she marvelled at a hundred differences
between it and her native Midlands.  It was wilder--infinitely
wilder--than Warwickshire, and at the same time less unkempt; far
more savage in outline, yet in detail sober almost to tidiness. It
seemed to acknowledge the hand of some great unknown gardener; and
this gardener was, of course, the sea-breeze now filling her lungs
and bracing her strength.  The shaven, landward-bending thorns and
hollies, the close-trimmed hedgerow, the clean-swept highroad, alike
proclaimed its tireless attentions.   It favoured its own plants,
too--the tamarisk on the hedge, the fuchsia and myrtle in the cottage
garden.  As the spring-cart nid-nodded down the hill towards Troy,
the grey roofs of the town broke upon Hester's sight beyond a cloud
of fuchsia blossoms in a garden at the angle of the road.

So steep was the hill, and so closely these roofs and chimneys
huddled against it, that Hester leaned back with a catch of the
breath that set Nuncey laughing.  For the moment she verily supposed
herself on the edge of a precipice.  She caught one glimpse of a blue
water and the masts of shipping, and clutched at the cart-rail as the
old grey began to slither at a businesslike jog-trot down a street so
narrow that, to make way for them, passers-by on foot ran hastily to
the nearest doorways, whence one and all nodded good-naturedly at
Nuncey.  Of some houses the doors were reached by steep flights of
steps tunnelled through the solid rock; of others by wooden stairways
leading to balconies painted blue or green and adorned with
pot-plants--geraniums, fuchsias, lemon-verbenas--on ledges imminent over
Hester's head.  The most of the passers-by were women carrying pails
of water, or country folks with baskets of market stuff. The whole
street seemed to be cleaning up and taking in provisions for the day,
and all amid a buzz of public gossip, one housewife pausing on her
balcony as she shook a duster, and leaning over to discuss market
prices with her neighbour chaffering below. The cross-fire of talk
died down as the dealers dispersed, snatching up their wares from
under the wheels of the spring-cart, while the women took long,
silent stock of Hester's appearance and dress. Behind her it broke
forth again, louder than ever.

At the foot of the hill they swung round a corner, and passing a
public-house and the rails of the parish church, threaded their way
round two more corners, and entered a street scarcely less narrow
than the other, but level.  Here Nuncey drew up before an ope through
which Hester caught another glimpse of blue-green water.  They had
arrived.

A grinning lad lifted out Hester's trunk and bore it down the ope to
a green-painted doorway, where a rosy-faced, extremely solemn child
stared out on the world over a green-painted board, fixed across with
the evident purpose of confining him to the house.  Having despatched
this urchin to warn his mother that 'the furriner was come,' the lad
heaved his burden over the board, dumped it down inside with a bang,
and returned, still grinning amiably, to take charge of horse and
cart.

"If you want to know t'other from which in our family," said Nuncey,
"there's nothing like beginning early.  This is Shake."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Father had him christened Shakespeare, but we call him Shake for
short.  It sounds more natural, somehow.  And this here is Robert
Burns," she went on, leading the way to the green-painted doorway
where the small urchin had resumed his survey of the world beyond
home.  "That's another of father's inventions; but the poor cheeld
pulled down the kettle when he was eighteen months old and scalded
hisself all over, so he's gone by his full name ever since. Mother!"
Nuncey called aloud, stepping over the barrier. "Here's the new
school-teacher!"

A middle-aged, fair-haired woman, with a benign but puzzled smile,
appeared in the passage, holding a baby at the breast.

"You're kindly welcome, my dear; that is, if you'll excuse my hair
being in curl-papers.  Dear me, now!" Mrs. Benny regarded Hester with
a look of honest perplexity.  "And I was expectin' an older-lookin'
person altogether!"

Hester followed her into a kitchen which, though untidy and dim,
struck her as more than passably clean; and it crossed her mind at
once that its cleanliness must be due to Nuncey and its untidiness to
Mrs. Benny. The dimness was induced by a crowd of geraniums in the
window and a large bird-cage blocking out the light above them.
A second large bird-cage hung from a rafter in the middle of the
ceiling.

"And you've been travellin' all night?  You must be pinin' for a dish
of tea."--

But here a voice screamed out close to Hester's ear--

"What's your name?  What's your name?  Oh, rock and roll me over,
what's your darned name?"

"Hester Marv--" she had begun to answer in a fright, when Nuncey
broke out laughing.

"Don't 'ee be afraid of 'en--'tis only the parrot;" and Hester
laughed too, recovering herself at sight of a grey and scarlet bird
eyeing her with angry inquisitiveness from the cage over Mrs. Benny's
head.  Her gaze wandered apprehensively to the second cage by the
window.

"Oh, _he_ won't speak!" Nuncey assured her.  "He's only a cat."

"A cat?"

"Iss.  He ate the last parrot afore this one, and I reckon he died of
it.  Father had 'en stuffed and put 'en in the cage instead.  Just go
and look for yourself; he's as natural as life."

"I was thinkin' a ham rasher," suggested Mrs. Benny, with her kindly,
unsettled smile.  "Nuncey, will you hold the baby, or shall I?"

"You give me the frying-pan," commanded Nuncey, turning up her
sleeves.  "What's the matter with _you_, Robert Burns?  And what's
become of your manners?" she demanded of the urchin who had followed
them in from the passage, and now stood gripping Hester's skirts and
gazing up at her, as she in turn gazed up at the absurd cat in the
parrot's cage.

"What great eyes she've got!" exclaimed Robert Burns in an
awe-stricken voice.

"'All the better to see you with,'" quoted Hester, laughing and
looking down on him.

"That's in _Red Riding Hood_.  She knows about stories!"  The child
clapped his hands.

"Well," put in Mrs. Benny, seating herself with a sigh as the ham rasher
began to frizzle, "you may say what you like about education, but mothers
ought to thank the Lord for it.  Sometimes, as 'tis, I feel as if the
whole world was on my shoulders, and I can't be responsible for it any
longer; but what would happen if 'twasn't for the school bell at nine
o'clock there's no knowing. You'd like a wash, my dear?"

"I should indeed," answered Hester.

"Sometimes I loses count," went on Mrs. Benny, not pursuing her
invitation, but standing with a faraway gaze bent upon the geraniums
in the window; "but there's eleven of 'em, and three buried, and five
at school this moment.  I began with two boys--two years between
each--and then came Nuncey.  There's four years between her and
Shake, but after that you may allow two years to each again, quite
like Jacob's ladder."

"Lord bless 'ee, mother!" interrupted Nuncey, glancing up from the
frying-pan, "she don't want to be told I'm singular.  She've found
out that already.  Here's the kettle boilin'--fit and give her a cup
of tea, and take her upstairs.  'Tis near upon half-past nine
already, and at half-past ten father was to be here to fetch her
across to see Mr. Samuel--though, for my part, I hold 'twould be more
Christian to put her to bed and let her sleep the forenoon out."


When Hester descended to breakfast Mr. Benny had already arrived; and
he too could not help showing astonishment at her youthful
appearance.

"But twenty-five is not so young, after all," she maintained,
laughing.  "I feel my years, I assure you.  Why are you all in
conspiracy to add to them?"

"The late Mr. Rosewarne had given us no particulars," began Mr. Benny.

"He wrote at length to me about the school and his hopes for it."

"You knew him, then, Miss Marvin?"

"He was, in a fashion, a friend of my father's.  He used to visit us
regularly once a year.--But let me show you his letter."

"Not on any account!" Mr. Benny put up a flurried hand.  "It--it
wouldn't be right."  He said it almost sharply.  Hester, puzzled to
know what offence she had nearly committed, and in some degree hurt
by his tone, thrust the letter back in her pocket.



CHAPTER XI.


HESTER IS ACCEPTED.

"Well?" Mr. Sam lifted his eyes from his writing-table.

"Miss Marvin has arrived, sir, and is waiting in the morning-parlour,"
Mr. Benny announced.

"Let her wait a moment.  I suppose she takes the line that we've
definitely engaged her?"

"I don't know, sir, that she takes what you might call a line; but there's
no doubt she believes herself engaged.  She talks very frankly, and is
altogether a nice, pleasant-spoken young person."

"You didn't happen to find out what my father wrote to her?"

"Of her own accord she offered to show me his letter."

"Well, and what did it say?"

"I didn't read it, sir."

"You didn't read it?" Mr. Sam repeated in slow astonishment.

"No, sir.  I felt it wasn't fair to her," said Mr. Benny.

His employer regarded him for a moment with sourly meditative eyes.

"You had best show her in at once," he commanded sharply.

He reseated himself, and did not rise when Hester entered, but slewed his
chair around, nodded gloomily in response to her slight bow, and, tapping
his knees with a paper-knife, treated her to a long, deliberate stare.

"Take a seat, please."

Hester obeyed with a quiet 'Thank you.'

"You have come, I believe, in answer to a letter of my father's?
Might I ask you what he said, exactly?"

Hester's hand went towards her pocket, but paused.  She had taken an
instant aversion from this man.

"My father," he went on, noting her hesitation, "has since died suddenly,
as you know.  His affairs are in some confusion, of course."
This was untrue, but Mr. Sam had no consciousness of telling a lie.
The phrase was commonly used of dead men's affairs.  "In this matter of
your engagement, for instance, I am moving in the dark.  I can find no
record of it among his papers."

"I answered him, sir; but my letter arrived, it seems, after his death.
Mr. Benny replied to it."

"Yes, to be sure, I saw your letter, but it did not tell me how far the
negotiations had gone."

"You are one of the Managers, sir?"

"Well, not precisely; but you will find that makes little difference.
I am to be placed on the Board as my father's successor."

"The offer was quite definite," said Hester calmly.  "I would show you the
letter, but some parts of it are private."

"Now why in the world was she ready to show it to Benny?" he asked
himself.  Aloud he said, "You were a friend, then, of my father's?
Is it for him, may I ask, that you wear mourning?"

"No, sir; for my own father.  Mr. Rosewarne and he were friends--oh, for
many years.  I asked about it once, when I was quite a girl, and why
Mr. Rosewarne came to visit us once every year as he did.  My father told
me that it had begun in a quarrel, when they were young men; it may have
been when my father served in the army, in the barracks at Warwick.
I don't remember that he said so, yet somehow I have always had an idea
that the quarrel went back to that time; but he said that they had hated
one another, and made friends after a long time, and that your father had
the most to forgive, being in the wrong.  I remember those words, because
they sounded so queer to me and I could not understand them.  When I was
eighteen, I went out to get my living, and did not see Mr. Rosewarne for
many years until the other day, though he came regularly."

"The other day?"  Mr. Sam stared at her blankly.

"On the 5th.  Mr. Rosewarne always paid his visit on the 5th of June."

"I don't understand you in the least.  A minute ago you told me that your
father was dead!"

"Yes; he died almost two months ago.  But Mr. Rosewarne wrote and asked
leave to come, since it was for the last time."

"Your mother entertained him?"

Hester shook her head.  "I have no mother.  He came as my guest, and that
evening--for he never spent more than one night with us--we talked for a
long while.  He knew, of course, that I was a schoolmistress; and he began
to mock at some things in which I believe very deeply.  He did it to try
me, perhaps.  I don't know whether he came meaning to try me, or seeing me
alone in the world, and making ready to leave the old home, he suddenly
took this notion into his head.  At any rate, I did not guess for a
moment; and when he spoke scorn of girls' teaching, I answered him--too
hotly, I thought at the time; but it seems that he forgave me."
She rose.  "I have told you all this, sir, because you say you are in the
dark.  I am here because Mr. Rosewarne offered me the post.  But you seem
disposed to deny this; and so in fairness I must consult a friend, if I
can find one, or a lawyer perhaps, before showing you the letter."

"Wait a moment, please."  Hester's story had held a light as it were,
though but a faint one, to an unexplored passage in old Rosewarne's life;
and to Mr. Sam every unexplored corner in that life was now to be
suspected.  "You jump to conclusions, Miss Marvin.  I merely meant to say
that as my father's executor I have to use reasonable caution.
Might I inquire your age?  Excuse me, I know that ladies--"

"I am twenty-five," she struck in sharply.

"Married, or unmarried?"

"Unmarried."

"You will excuse me for saying that I am surprised.  A young person of
your attractiveness--"

"Have you any more questions, sir?"

"Eh?--ah, to be sure!  Qualifications?"

Hester briefly enumerated these.  He did not appear to be listening, but
sat eyeing her abstractedly, while he rattled the point of the paper-knife
between his Upper and lower teeth.

"Yes, yes--quite satisfactory.  Religious views?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Religious views?"

"If you really think that a necessary question, I was baptised and brought
up in the Church of England."

"Not a bigoted Churchwoman, I hope?"

"Not bigoted, I certainly hope," Hester answered demurely.

"I feel sure of it," said Mr. Sam, rising gallantly.  "In the matter of
so-called apostolic succession, for instance--"

But here there came a tap at the door, and Elizabeth Jane, the housemaid,
announced that Parson Endicott had called.  "Show him in," ordered Mr. Sam
promptly, and at the same time--having suddenly made up his mind--he flung
Hester an insufferably confidential glance, which seemed to say, "Never
mind _him_; you and I are in the same boat."

Parson Endicott suffered from shortness of sight and a high parsonic
manner.  He paused on the threshold to wipe his eyeglasses, adjusted them
on his nose, and gazing around the room, cleared his throat as if about to
address a congregation.

"Good-day, parson."  Mr. Sam saluted him amiably, still without rising.
"You've come in the nick of time.  I have just been chatting with Miss
Marvin here--our new schoolmistress."

Hester divined that, for some reason, Mr. Samuel had decided to accept her
claim; and that for some reason equally occult he meant to give the
clergyman no choice but to accept it.

"Indeed?--er--yes, to be sure, I am pleased to make your acquaintance,
Miss Marvin," said Parson Endicott mellifluously, with a glance which
seemed to distinguish Hester kindly from the ordinary furniture of the
room.  This was his habitual way of showing cordial goodwill to his social
inferiors, and the poor man had lived to the age of fifty-six without
guessing that they invariably saw through it.  Having bestowed this glance
of kindness upon Hester, he turned to Mr. Sam with another, which plainly
asked how far (as one person of importance conferring with another) he
might take it that the creature before them was a satisfactory creature.

"You're in luck's way," said Mr. Sam, answering this look.  "She's a
Churchwoman."

"My dear Mr. Rosewarne,"--Parson Endicott pressed the finger-tips of both
hands together, holding them in front of his stomach--"I am gratified--
deeply gratified; but you must not suppose for one moment--h'm--whatever
my faults, I take some credit to myself for broad-mindedness.
A Churchwoman, eh?"--he beamed on Hester--"and in other respects, I hope,
satisfactory?"

"Quite."  Mr. Sam turned to Hester.  "Would you mind running over your
qualifications again?  To tell the truth, I've forgotten 'em."

Hester, with an acute sense of shame, again rehearsed the list.

"Quite so," said Parson Endicott, who had obviously not been listening.
He turned to Mr. Sam with inquiry in his eye.  "I think, perhaps--if Miss
Marvin--"

"I daresay she won't mind stepping into the next room," said Mr. Sam,
turning his back on her, and calmly reseating himself.  The parson glanced
at Hester with polite inquiry, and, as she bowed, stepped to open the door
for her.  With head bent to hide the flush on her cheeks, she passed out
into the great parlour.

Now the great parlour overlooked the garden through three tall windows,
of which Susannah had drawn down the blinds half-way and opened the lower
sashes, so that the room seemed to Hester deliciously fresh and cool.
It was filled, too, with the fragrance of a jarful of peonies, set
accurately in the middle of the long bare table; and she stood for a
moment--her sight yet misty with indignant, wounded pride--staring at the
reflection of their crimson blooms in the polished mahogany.

These two men were intolerable: and yet they only translated into meaner
terms the opinion which everyone in this strange country seemed to have
formed of her.  She thought of the young sailor, of Nuncey, of Mr. Benny.
All these were simple souls, and patently willing to believe the best of a
fellow-creature; yet each in a different way had treated her with
suspicion, as though she were here to seek her own interests, and with a
selfish disregard of others'.  The young sailor had openly and hotly
accused her of it.  Nuncey and her father, though kind, and even
delicately eager to make her welcome, as clearly held some disapproval in
reserve--were puzzled somehow to account for her.  And she was guiltless.
She had come in response to a plain invitation, thinking only of good work
to be done.  No; what she found intolerable was not these two men, but the
whole situation.

She turned with a start.  Something had flown in through the open midmost
window, and fallen with a thud on the floor a few yards from her feet.

She stepped across and stooped to examine it.  It was the upper half of a
tattered and somewhat grimy rag doll.

To account for this apparition we must cross the garden, to the
summer-house, where Myra and Clem had hidden themselves away from
the heat with a book, and, for the twentieth time perhaps, were lost in
the adventures of Jack the Tinker and the Giant Blunderbuss.
As a rule Myra would read a portion of the story, and the pair then fell
to acting it over together.  In this way Clem had slain, in the course of
his young life, many scores of giants, wizards, dragons, and other enemies
of mankind, his sister the while keeping watch over his blindness, and
calling to him when and where to deliver the deadly stroke.
But to-day the heat disinclined them for these dramatic exertions, and
they sat quiet, even on reaching the point at which Jack the Tinker, his
friend Tom, the good-natured giant, and Tom's children, young Tom and
Jane, fare forth with slings for their famous hunting.

"'They soon knocked down as many kids, hares, and rabbits as they desired.
They caught some colts, placed the children on two of them and the game on
the others, and home they went.'"

Myra glanced up at Clem, for this was a passage which ever called to him
like a trumpet.  But to-day Clem spread out both hands, protesting.

"'On their return, whilst waiting for supper, Jack wandered around the
castle, and was struck by seeing a window which he had not before
observed.  Jack was resolved to discover the room to which this window
belonged; so he very carefully noticed its position and then threw his
hammer in through it, that he might be certain of the spot when he found
his tool inside the castle.   The next day, after dinner.'"--

"Wait a moment, Clem dear!"

"Oh, but we _must!_"  Clem had jumped to his feet.

"It's too dreadfully hot.  Very well, then; but wait for the end.

"'The next day, after dinner, when Tom was having his snooze, Jack took
Tom's wife Jane with him, and they began a search for the hammer near the
spot where Jack supposed the window should be; but they saw no signs of
one in any part of the walls.  They discovered, however, a strangely
fashioned worm-eaten oak hanging-press.  They carefully examined this, but
found nothing.  At last Jack, striking the back of it with his fist, was
convinced from the sound that the wall behind it was hollow.  He and Jane
went steadily to work, and with some exertion they moved the press aside
and disclosed a stone door.  They opened this, and there was Jack's hammer
lying amidst a pile of bones, evidently the relics of some of old
Blunderbuss's wives, whom he had imprisoned in the wall and left to perish
there!'"

Myra shut the book with a slam, and, groping beneath the seat of the
summer-house, found and handed to Clem the torso of an old rag doll,
which, because it might be thrown against a window without breaking the
glass, served as their wonted substitute for the Tinker's hammer.


"O-oh!" cried Myra, clutching at Clem and drawing him back from the sudden
apparition in the window; and so for a dozen seconds she and Hester stared
at one another.

"Good-morning!"

"Good-morning!" Myra hesitated a moment.  "Though I don't know who you
are.  Oh, but yes I do!  You're the new teacher, and it's no use your
pretending."

"Am I pretending?" asked Hester.

"Yes; but I know what to do."  The child nodded her head defiantly and
made an elaborate sign of the cross, first over Clem and then upon the
front of her own bodice.  "That's against witches," she announced.

"Please don't take me for a witch!"  It was absurd, but really Hester
began to wonder where these misunderstandings would end.  The look, too,
on the boy's face puzzled her.

"I always wondered," said Myra, unmoved, "if the new teacher would turn
out a witch.  Witches always start by making themselves into young and
beautiful ladies; that's their trick.  Whoever heard of a teacher being a
young and beautiful lady?"

"Well," answered Hester, between a sigh and a smile, "a compliment's a
compliment, however it comes.  I am the witch, then; and who may you be?--
Hansel and Grethel, I suppose?  I don't think, though, that Hansel really
believes me a witch, by the way he's looking at me."

"He isn't looking at you at all.  Come away, Clem!"  She led the boy away
by the hand, which he gave to her obediently, but left him when half-way
across the turf and came swiftly back.  "He wasn't looking at you.
He's blind."

"Ah, poor child!  I am sorry--please tell me your name, and believe that I
am sorry."

"If you were sorry, you'd go away, and not come teaching here."
Myra delivered this Parthian shaft over her shoulder as she walked off.
At the same moment Hester heard a door open in the room behind her, and
Parson Endicott came forth from the counting-house.

"Ah--er--Miss Marvin "--He paused with a lift of his eyebrows at the sight
of the rag doll in Hester's hand.  She, on her part, felt a sudden
hysterical desire to laugh wildly.

"It--it isn't mine!" she managed to say in a faint voice and with a catch
in her throat.

"I had not supposed so," Parson Endicott answered gravely.  "I came to
tell you, Miss Marvin, that Mr. Samuel Rosewarne and I have agreed to
recognise your claim.  By so doing we shall be piously observing his
father's wishes, and--er--I anticipate no opposition from my
fellow-members on the Board.  The school--you have already paid it a
visit, perhaps?  No?  It will, I venture to think, exceed your
expectations.  The school is furnished and ready.  I suggest--if the other
Managers consent--that we open it formally on Tuesday next, with a short
religious service, consecrating, so to speak, your future labours.
Yours is a wonderful sphere of usefulness, Miss Marvin; and may I say what
pleasure it gives me to learn that you are a Churchwoman.  A regular
communicant, I hope?"

Hester was silent.  She disliked this man, and saw no reason to be hurried
into making any confession to him.

"It is a point upon which I am accustomed to lay great stress.  In these
days, with schismatics on all hands to contend against, it behoves all
members of the true Church to show a bold and united front."  He leaned
his head on one side and looked at her interrogatively.  "Do you play the
harmonium?" he asked.

But at this point Mr. Sam thrust his head out through the counting-house
doorway, and the parson coughed discreetly, as much as to say that the
answer might wait.

"Well, Miss Marvin," said Mr. Sam jocosely, "we've fixed it up for you
between us!"

Hester thanked them both briefly, and wished them good-day.

"She dresses respectably," said the parson, when the two were left alone.
"I detect a certain earnestness in her, though I cannot say as yet how far
it is based on genuine religious principles."

"She is more comely than I expected," said Mr. Sam.


At the ferry Hester found Nuncey awaiting her with a boat-load of the
Benny children.

"I reckoned you'd be here just-about-now," Nuncey hailed her.
"Come'st along for a bathe wi' the children!  I've a-brought a bathin'
suit for 'ee."

"But I can't swim," Hester answered in alarm, and added, as she stepped
into the boat, "Nuncey, don't laugh at me, but until to-day I had never
seen the sea in my life."

Nuncey looked her up and down quizzically.  "And I've never seen Lunnon!
Never mind, my dear; 'tisn' too late to begin.  There's none of this crew
knows how to swim but me and Tenny here," she pointed out a boy of eleven
or twelve.  "We'll just row out to harbour's mouth; there's a cove where
we can put the littlest ones to paddle.  And after that I'll larn 'ee how
to strike out and use your legs, if you've a mind to.  It'll do 'ee good
to kick a bit, I'll wage, after a dose of Mister Sam.  Well, and how did
you like 'en?"

"I didn't like him at all." Hester almost broke down.  "Please, Nuncey, be
good to me!  It--it seems as everyone was banded against me to-day,
to think badly of me."

"Be good to 'ee?  Why, to be sure I will!  Sit 'ee down and unlace your
boots, while me and Tenny pulls.  Care killed the cat--'cos why?
He wouldn't wash it off in salt water."

They rowed down past the quays and out beyond the ancient fort at the
harbour's mouth.  On the opposite shore a reef of rock ran out, and on the
ridge stood a white wooden cross, "put up," so Nuncey informed her,
"because Pontius Pilate landed here one time."  Beyond this ridge they
found a shingly beach secluded from the town, warmed by the full rays of
the westering sun.  There they undressed, one and all, and for half an
hour were completely happy.  To be sure, Hester's happiness contained a
fair admixture of fright when Nuncey took her hand and led her out till
the water rose more than waist-high about her.

"Now trust to me; lean forward, and see if you can't lift your feet off
the ground," said Nuncey, slipping a hand under her breast.  Hester tried
her hardest to be brave, and although no swimming was accomplished that
day, the trial ended in peals of laughter.  She splashed ashore at length,
gleeful, refreshed in body and mind, and resolved to make herself as good
a swimmer as Nuncey, who swam like a duck.



CHAPTER XII.


THE OPENING DAY.

It often happens, when a number of persons meet together for some purpose
in itself unselfish, that there prevails in the assembly a spirit of its
own, recognisably good, surprising even the pettiest with a sudden glow in
their hearts, and a sudden revelation that the world is a cheerfuller
place than in their daily lives they take it for.  This cheerful
congregational spirit I take to flow from a far deeper source than the
emotion, for example, which a great preacher commands in his audience.
It may be--indeed, usually is--accompanied by very poor oratory.
The occasion may be trivial as you please; that it be unselfish will
suffice to unlock the goodness within men, who, if often worse than they
believe, and usually than they make believe, are always better than they
know.

This spirit prevailed at the school opening, and because of it Hester felt
happy and confident during the little function, and ever afterwards
remembered it with pleasure.  For the moment Church and Dissent seemed to
forget their meannesses and jealousies.  The morning sun shone without;
the breeze played through the open windows with a thousand hedgerow
scents; the two score of children ranged by their desks, fresh-faced and
in their cleanest clothes, suggested thoughts innocent and deep as the
gospel story; and if Parson Endicott was long-winded, and Mr. Sam spoke
tunelessly and accompanied his performance on the bones, so to speak--that
is, by pulling at his knuckles till the joints cracked--consolation soon
followed.  For third and last came the turn of the Inspector, who had
halted on his progress through the county to attend a ceremony of the kind
in which he took delight.  He had lately been transferred from the Charity
Commission to this new work, and it fell to him at a time when the selfish
ambitions die down, and in their place, if a man's heart be sound, there
springs up a fatherly tenderness for the young, with a passionate desire
to help them.  Hester could not guess that this grave and courteous
gentleman, grey-haired, clean shaven, scholarly in his accent, neat even
to primness in his dress, spoke with a vision before him of an England to
be made happy by making its children happy, that the roots of the few
simple thoughts he uttered were watered by ideal springs--

    "I will not cease from mental fight,
        Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
     Till we have built Jerusalem
        In England's green and pleasant land."

Simple as the thoughts were, and directly spoken, the children gazed at
him with set faces, not appearing to kindle with any understanding; and
yet, after the manner of children, they were secreting a seed here and
there, to germinate in their dark little minds later on, as in due time
Hester discovered.  She herself, seated at the harmonium, felt a lift of
the heart and mist gathering over her sight at the close of his quiet
peroration, and a tear fell as she stretched out her hands over the
opening chords of the 'Old Hundredth.'  All sang it with a will, and
Parson Endicott with an unction he usually reserved for 'The Church's One
Foundation.'

With a brief prayer and the benediction the ceremony ended, and while the
elders filed out the Inspector walked over for a few words with Hester.

"Ever since I learnt your name, Miss Marvin--excuse me, it is not a common
one--I have been wanting to ask you a question.  I used to have an old
friend--Jeremy Marvin--who lived at Warwick, and found for me some scores
of old books in his time.  I was wondering--"

"He was my father, sir."

"Indeed?  Then, please, you must let me shake hands with his daughter.
Yes, yes,"--with a glance down at her black skirt--"I heard of his death,
and with a real sense of bereavement."

"I have addressed and posted many a parcel to you, sir, in the days before
I left home to earn my living."

"And you weren't going to tell me that?  You left me to find out--yes,
yes; 'formidable Inspector,' and that sort of thing, eh?  I'm not an ogre,
though.  Now this little discovery has just put the finishing touch to a
delightful morning!"

Hester, encouraged by his smile, laughed merrily, and so did he; less at
the spoken words than because of the good gladness brimming their hearts.

"But tell me," he went on, becoming serious again, "if a child, out of
shyness, hid from you a small secret of that sort, you would be sorry--eh?
And you would rightly be sorry, because by missing that little of his
entire trust you had by so much fallen short of being a perfect teacher."

"And two of these children," thought Hester, with a glance at Clem and
Myra, "solemnly believe I am a witch!"


As the Inspector went down the hill towards the ferry, he overtook another
and older acquaintance in an old college friend.  This was Sir George
Dinham of Troy, who had attended the ceremony uninvited, and greatly to
the awe of everyone assembled--the Inspector and Hester alone excepted.
Indeed, his presence had bidden fair at the start to upset the
proceedings; for Parson Endicott and Mr. Sam had both approached him hat
in hand, and begged him, not without servility, to preside.  This proposal
he had declined with his habitual shy, melancholy smile, and shrunk away
to a back row of the audience.  In his great house over Troy he lived a
recluse: a scholar, a childless man, the last of his race, rarely seen by
the townsfolk, of whom two-thirds at least were his tenants.  He had heard
of the Inspector's coming, and some ray of remembered affection had
enticed him forth from his shell, to listen.  Now, at the sound of the
Inspector's footstep on the road behind him, he turned and waited, leaning
on his stick.  The two men had not met since a Commemoration Ball when
young Dinham led his friend proudly up to a beautiful girl, his bride that
was to be.  She died a bare six weeks later; and from that day her lover
had buried himself with his woe.

"George!"

"How d'ye do, Jack? I had to turn out to listen, you see--_ecce quam
sempiterna vox juventutis!_  You have improved on your old debating style,
having, as I gather, found belief."

The Inspector flushed.  "Ah, you gathered that?"

"Yes, I haven't lost the knack of understanding those I once understood.
Not that it needed anything of the sort.  Man, you were admirably
straight--and gentle, too--you that used to be intolerant.  You mustn't
think, though, that I'm convinced; I can't afford to be."

"You mean--?"

"I mean that, if you are right, I ought to be a sun worshipper, and sit
daily at dawn on top of my tower yonder, warming my hands against the glow
of children's faces, trooping to school.  Whereas the little beggars run
wild and rob my orchards, and I don't remember at this moment my parish
schoolmaster's name."

The Inspector bethought him of the broken bridge in his friend's life--the
bridge by which men cross over from self into love of a new generation--
and was silent.

"But look here," Sir George went on, "the fun was your preaching the
doctrine in that temple.  You didn't know the man who built it.  He died a
week or two ago; a man of character, I tell you, and a big fellow, too, in
his way."

"I have heard of this Rosewarne.  All I know of him is that he's to be
thanked for the best-fitted school, for its size, in all Cornwall.
I'm not talking of expense merely; he used thought, down to the details.
When you begin to study these things, you recognise thought, down to the
raising or lowering of a desk, or the screws in a cupboard.  You don't get
your fittings right by giving _carte blanche_ to a wholesale firm."

"Of course you don't.  But what, think you, had the man in view? I tell
you, Jack, you are a fossil beside him.  You talk of making good citizens,
quite in the old Hellenic style.  Oh yes, I recognised the incurable
Aristotle in your exhortation, though you _did_ address it to two score of
rustic British children.  But, my dear fellow, you are a philosopher in a
barbarian's court, and your barbarian has been reading his Darwin.
Where you see a troop of little angels--"

"_Non Angeli sed Angli_," the Inspector put in, with a smile.

"Where you behold a vision, then, of little English citizens growing up to
serve the State, he saw a horde of little struggle-for-lifers climbing on
each other's backs; and these fellows--that son of his, and the parson--
will follow his line by instinct.  They don't reason; but Darwin and the
rest have flung them on the scent of selfishness, and they have a rare
nose for self.  Struggle-for-life or struggle-for-creed, the scent is the
same, and they're hot upon it."

"Think of these last fifty years of noble reform.  Is England going back
upon herself--upon the spirit, for instance, that raised Italy, freed the
slave, and cared for the factory child?"

"To be sure she will.  She has found a creed to vindicate the human brute,
and the next generation--mark my words--will be predatory.  Within twenty
years we shall be told that it is inevitable the weak should suffer to
enrich the strong; we shall accept the assurance, and our poets will hymn
it passionately."

"If that day should ever come, we can still die fighting it.  But I trust
to Knowledge to do her own work.  You remember that sentence in the
_Laws_, 'Many a victory has been and will be suicidal to the victors, but
education is never suicidal'?  Nor will you persuade me easily that the
new mistress up yonder,"--the Inspector nodded back at the school
building--"is going to train her children to be little beasts of prey."

"The girl with the Madonna face?  No; you're right there.  But the
Managers will find a short way with her; she'll go."

"She turns out to be the daughter of an old friend of mine, Marvin of
Warwick, the second-hand bookseller."

"Marvin?  Jeremiah Marvin?  Why, I must have received his catalogues by
the score."

"Jeremy," his friend corrected him.  "He was christened Jeremiah, to be
sure, and told me once it was the handiest name on earth, and could be
made to express anything, 'from the lugubrious, sir, to the rollicking.
In my young days, sir,'--for he had been a soldier in his time--'I was
Corporal Jerry.  Corporal Jerry Marvin!  How's that for a name?  Jeremiah
I hold in reserve against the blows of destiny or promotion to a better
world.  But Jeremy, sir, as I think you'll allow, is the only wear for a
second-hand bookseller.'  A whimsical fellow!"

"He is dead, then?"

"Yes, he died a few weeks since; and poorly-off, I'm afraid.  He had a
habit of reading the books he vended.  Look here, George,"--the Inspector
halted in the middle of the roadway--"I want you to do me a favour, or
rather, to promise one."

"What is it?"

"I want you to promise that, if these fellows get rid of Miss Marvin, you
will see that she suffers no harsh treatment from them.  I can find her
another post, no doubt; but there may be an interval in which you can
help."

"Very well," Sir George answered, after a pause.  "I can manage that.
But they'll eject her, you may bet."



CHAPTER XIII.


TOM TREVARTHEN INTERVENES.

When the company had departed Hester arranged her small troop at their
desks--boys and girls and 'infants'--and made them a speech.  It was a
very short speech, asking for their affection, and somehow she found
herself addressing it to Myra, whose dark eyes rested on her with a stare
of unyielding suspicion.  On hearing that the two children were to attend
the Board School, Aunt Purchase had broken out into vehement protest, the
exact purport of which Myra did not comprehend.  But she gathered that a
wrong of some kind was being done to her and (this was more important) to
Clem, and she connected it with the loss of their liberty.  Until this
moment she had known no schooling.  Her grandmother in stray hours had
taught her the alphabet and some simple reading, and the rest of her
knowledge she had picked up for herself.  She well remembered the last of
these stray hours.  It fell on a midsummer evening, three years before,
when she and Clem--then a child of four--had spent a long day riding to
and fro in the hay waggons.  Now Mrs. Rosewarne for the last few years of
her life, and indeed ever since Myra could remember, had been a cripple,
confined to the house or to her small garden, save only when she entered
an ancient covered vehicle (called 'the Car') and was jogged into Liskeard
to visit her dressmaker, or over to Damelioc to attend one of Lady
Killiow's famous rose fetes.  It was the hour of sunset, then, and in the
shadow of the hedge old Pleasant, the waggon-horse, having Clem on his
back, stood tethered, released from his work, contentedly cropping the
rank grass between the clusters of meadow-sweet, and whisking his tail to
brush off the flies.   The horse-flies had been pestilent all day, and
Myra was weaving a frontlet of green hazel twigs to slip under Pleasant's
headstall, when she happened to turn and caught sight of her grandmother
standing by the upper gate, leaning on her ivory-headed staff, and shading
her eyes against the level sun.  No one ever knew how the old lady had
found strength to walk the distance from the house--for walked it she had.
It may have been that some sudden fright impelled her; some unreasoning
panic for the children's safety.  Old Rosewarne, seated on horseback and
watching the rick-makers in the far corner, caught sight of her, cantered
across to the gate, dismounted there, and led her home on his arm; and the
children had followed.  So far as Myra could remember, nothing came of
this apparition--nothing except that she found herself, a little later,
seated in her grandmother's dressing-room and reading aloud; and this must
have happened soon after they reached home, for while she read she heard
the fowls settling themselves to roost in the hen-house beneath the open
window.  Three weeks later Mrs. Rosewarne was dead--had faded out like a
shadow; and since then the children had run wild, no one constraining them
to tasks.

She sat with eyes fixed sullenly on Hester, and fingers ready at any
moment to make the sign of the cross.  To the other children she paid no
heed; they were merely so many victims entrapped, ready to be changed into
birds and put into cages, as in _Jorinda and Jorindel_.  "Why was this
woman separating the girls from the boys?  She should not take away Clem.
Let her try!"  Hester had too much tact.  Having marshalled the others,
she set a pen and copy-book before Myra, and bending over Clem, asked him
in the gentlest voice to sit and wait; she would come back to him in a
moment (she promised) and with a pretty game for him to play.

"Don't you listen to a single word she says," Myra whispered; but Clem had
already taken his seat.

Hester had sent for a book of letters in raised type for the blind boy.
Before setting him down to this, however, she wished to try the suppleness
and accuracy of his touch with some simple reed-plaiting.

The reeds lay within the cupboard across the room.  She went to fetch
them, and at this moment the schoolroom door opened behind her.

She heard the lift of the latch, and turned with a smile.  But the smile
faded almost at once as she recognised her visitor.  It was Tom
Trevarthen, and he entered with a grin and a defiant, jaunty swagger which
did not at all become him.

In an instant she scented danger, and felt her cheeks paling; but she
lifted her head none the less, looking him straight in the eyes.

"I beg your pardon.  Are you in search of someone?"

"Seems I'm too late for the speechifying," said the young sailor, avoiding
her gaze, and winking at two or three elder boys on the back benches.
"Well, never mind; must do a little speechifyin' of my own, I suppose.
By your leave, miss," he added, seating himself on the end of a form and
fanning himself with his seaman's cap, which he had duly doffed on
entering.

"I think," said Hester quietly, and prayed that he might not hear the
tremble in her voice, "I think you have come on purpose to annoy, and that
you do not like the business."

"It's this way, miss.  I've no grudge at all against _you_, except to
wonder how such a gentle-spoken young lady can have the heart to come here
ruinin' an old 'ooman that never done you a ha'p'orth of harm in her
life."  He was looking at her firmly now, with a rising colour in his tan
cheeks, and Hester's heart sank as she noted his growing confidence.
"But I've told 'ee that a'ready," he said, and turned to the boys again.
"What I wonder at more is _you_, Billy Sweet--an' _you_, Dave Polseath--
an' _you_, Rekkub Johns--that'll be growin' up for men in a year or two.
Seems to me there's some spirit gone out o' this here parish since I used
to be larrupped for minchin'.  Seems to me a passel o' boys in my day
would have had summat to say afore they sat here quiet, helpin' to steal
the bread out of an old 'ooman's mouth, an' runnin' to heel for a
furriner."

The boys glanced at one another and grinned, then at the intruder, lastly
at Hester.  Her look held them, and some habit of discipline learnt from
the old woman they were being invited to champion.  One or two began
shuffling in their seats.

But it was Myra who led the rebellion.  She stepped to Tom's side at once,
and cried she, pointing a finger at Hester, "She's a witch!  Look at
her--she's a witch!  I know now why Aunt Hannah called it a burning shame.
She's robbing Mother Butson, and she's a witch and ought to be burnt.
Come along, Clem!"

Hester, turning from the child between pain and disgust, intent only on
holding the bigger boys in check while she could, did not note that Clem
made no movement to obey his sister.

"Well done, Miss Myra!--though you needn't talk vindictive.  There's no
need to harm _her_.  Now look here, boys!  Mother Butson gives you a
holiday, and sent me up with the message.  What do 'ee say to it?"

"Stop!"  Hester lifted a hand against the now certain mutiny.  "Your name
is Trevarthen, I believe?"

"Tom Trevarthen, miss."

"Then, Tom Trevarthen, you are a poor coward.  Now do your worst and go
your way.  You have heard the truth."

"'Tidn' best a man said that to me," answered Tom, with a lowering brow.

"A man?" she replied, with a short laugh of contempt which in her own ears
sounded like a sob.  "There were men here just now; but you waited till
they were gone!"

"No, miss; I did not, you'll excuse me.  I only knew the school was to
open to-day.  I came ashore half an hour ago, and walked up here across
the fields."  He stood for a second or two meditatively twisting his round
cap between his hands.  "We'll play fair, though," he said, and faced
round on the benches.  "Sorry to disappoint 'ee, boys, but you must do
without your holiday, after all.  This here is a man's job, as Miss Marvin
says, and 'tis for men to settle it.  Only,"--he turned upon Hester again--
"you must name your man quick.  My ship sails early in the week; let alone
that there's cruel wrong being done, and the sooner 'tis righted the
better."

Hester's hand went up to her throat.  Was this extraordinary youth
actually proposing a wager of battle?  His eyes rested on hers seriously;
his demeanour had become entirely courteous.

"Ah," she gasped, "but cannot you see that the mischief is done!
You behave shamefully, and now you talk childishly.  You have made these
children disloyal, and what hold can I have on them except through their
loyalty?  You have thrown me back at the start--I cannot bear to think how
far--and you talk as if some foolish violence could mend this for me!
Please--please go away!  I have no patience to argue with you."

"Yes, go away!" broke in a shrill treble voice.  It was Clem's.  The child
had risen from his bench and stood up, gripping the desk in front and
trembling.

"Clem dear, you don't understand--" began Myra.

"Yes, I do understand!"  For the first time in his life his will clashed
with hers.  "Tom Trevarthen is wrong, and ought to go away."

"She's a nasty, deceitful witch!"

"She's not a witch!"  The child's eyes turned towards Hester, as if
seeking to behold her and be assured.  "You're not a witch, are you?" he
asked; and at the question Hester's tears, so long held back, brimmed
over.

Before she could answer him the door opened, and Mr. Sam stood in the
entry with Mrs. Purchase close behind his shoulder, in a sky-blue and
orange bonnet.

"Eh? Hullo! what's all this?" demanded Mr. Sam, staring around the
schoolroom; and Mrs. Purchase, bustling in and mopping her face, paused
too to stare.

For a moment no one spoke.  Mr. Sam's eyes passed over Tom Trevarthen in
slow, indignant wonder, and rested on Hester's flushed cheeks and
tear-reddened lids.

"Why, whatever on earth is Tom Trevarthen doin' here?" cried Mrs.
Purchase.

"I've a-come here, ma'am," spoke up Tom, kindling, "to say a word against
a cruel shame; for shame it is, to take the food away from a poor old
'ooman's mouth!"

"Meanin' Mother Butson?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"An' your way to set things right is to come here and browbeat a poor girl
before the children till her eyes be pink as garden daisies!  Go'st 'way
home, thou sorry fool!  I'm ashamed of 'ee!"

"As for that, ma'am, I did wrong," Tom admitted sullenly, "and I beg her
pardon for't.  But it don't alter the hurt to Mother Butson."

"You're mistaken, my friend," broke in Mr. Sam, in his rasping voice.
"To be sure you haven't closed Mother Butson's school for her, because
'tis closed already.  Twopence a week is the lowest she could ever charge,
to earn a living, and I leave to judge how many sensible folks will be
paying twopence a week for her ignorance when they can get sound teaching
up here for a penny.  But a worse thing you've done for her.  She lodges
with your mother, I believe?  Very well; you can go home and tell your
mother to get rid of her lodger.  Eh, what are you staring at?"

The young man had fallen back, and stared from face to face, incredulous.
There was a bewildered horror in his eyes, and it cut Hester to the heart.
Her own eyes sank as he challenged them.

"No, Sam--no!" Mrs. Purchase interposed.  "Don't 'ee go to punish the lad
that way.  He've made a mistake; but he's a well-meanin' lad for all, and
I'll wage he'll tell you he's sorry."

"Well-meaning, is it, to come here bullying a young lady?  Sorry, is he? I
promise he'll be sorrier before I've done.  Answer me, sir.  Did Mrs.
Butson know of your visit here to-day?"

"I told her I was coming," Tom answered dully.

"That settles it.  Heaven is my witness," said Mr. Sam, with sudden
unction, "I was willing to let the old woman wind up her affairs in peace.
But mutiny I don't stand, nor molesting.  You go home, sir, to your
mother, and tell her my words.  I give her till Saturday--"

The words ended in a squeal as Tom, with a sharp intake of breath like a
sob, sprang and gripped him by the throat, bearing him back and
overturning Hester's desk with a crash.  One or two of the girls began to
scream.  The boys scrambled on top of their forms, craning, round-eyed
with excitement.  The little ones stood up with white faces, shrinking
with terror, as Hester ran and placed herself between them and the
struggle.

"You cur! You miserable--dirty--cur!" panted Tom, shaking Mr. Sam to and
fro.  "Leave me alone, missus!"--for Mrs. Purchase was attempting to
clutch him by the collar.  "Leave me deal with him, I tell you!
Stand clear, there!"

With a sharp thrust he loosened his hold, and Mr. Sam went flying
backwards, missed his footing, and fell, his head striking the corner of a
form with a thud.

"Get up! Up on your legs, and have it out like a man!"

But Mr. Sam lay where he had fallen in a heap, with the blood oozing from
an ugly cut across the left temple.

"Get up?" vociferated Mrs. Purchase.  "Lucky for you if he ever gets up!
You've gone nigh to killing 'en, mean it or no.  Out of my sight, you
hot-headed young fool!  Be off to the ship, pack up your kit, and run.
'Tis a jailin' matter, this; and now you've done for yourself as well as
your mother."

For a moment the young man stared at her, not seeming to comprehend.
"Eh, missus?" he muttered.  "Be you agen' me too?"

Mrs. Purchase positively laughed, and a weird cackling sound it made in
Hester's ears as she bent to support one of the smaller girls, who had
fainted.  "Agen' you?  Take an' look around on your mornin's work!
You've struck down my brother's son, Tom Trevarthen--isn't that enough?
Go an' pack your kit; I'll have no jail-birds aboard my ship."

He turned and went.  On the way his foot encountered Mr. Sam's tall silk
hat, and he kicked it viciously through the doorway before him.


"Tom!"

Until the call had been repeated twice behind him Tom Trevarthen did not
hear.  When, after a stupid stare at his hands (as though there had been
blood on his knuckles), he turned to the voice, he saw Myra speeding
bareheaded to overtake him.  She beckoned him to stop.

"What will you do, Tom?" she panted, as he waited for her to come up.

"Me, missy?  Well, I hadn't given it a thought; but now you mention it, I
s'pose I'd better cut.  'Tis a police job, most like, as your aunt said.
But never you mind for me."

The name of the police sounded terribly in Myra's ears.

"The _Good Intent_ will be sailing to-night; I heard Peter Benny say so,"
she suggested; "and the _Mary Rowett_ to-morrow, if the weather holds."

Tom Trevarthen nodded.  "That's so, missy.  Old man Hancock of the
_Good Intent_ wants a hand, to my knowledge.  I'll try 'en, or else walk
to Falmouth.  Don't you fret for me," he repeated.

They had reached the gate of Hall, over which a gigantic chestnut spread
its branches.  As Myra faced Tom Trevarthen a laugh sounded overhead; and,
looking up, she saw Master Calvin's legs and elastic-sided boots depending
from a green bough.

"Hullo, Myra!" Master Calvin called down.  "How d'you get on up at the
Board School?"

"_He_ don't go to Board School," said Tom Trevarthen, jerking his thumb up
towards the bough.  "In training to be a gentleman, _he_ is; not like
Master Clem.  Well, good-bye, missy!"

Myra watched him down the road, and, as he disappeared at the bend, flung
a glance up at the chestnut tree.

"Come down," she commanded, in no loud voice, but firmly.

"Shan't."

"What are you doing up there?"  She sniffed the air, her sense of smell
alive to a strange scent in it.  "You nasty, horrid boy, you're smoking!"

"I'm not," answered Master Calvin untruthfully, concealing a pipe.
"I'm up here pretending to be Zacchaeus."

Myra without more ado pushed open the gate and went up the path to the
house.  In less than two minutes she was back again.

"Come down."

"Shan't."

"Very well.  I'm going to Zacchaeus you."

"What's that in your hand?"

"It's grandfather's powder-flask; and I've a box of matches, too."



CHAPTER XIV.


MR. SAM IS MAGNANIMOUS.

Hester's cupboard contained a small case of plasters, lint, ointments,
etc., for childish cuts and bruises.  She despatched a couple of boys to
the playground pump to fetch water, and then glanced at Mrs. Purchase
interrogatively.

"Better send for a doctor, I suppose?" said Mrs. Purchase.

"I think, if we bathe the wound, we can tell better what's necessary.
Will _you_--?"

"I reckon the job's more in your line.  You've the look o' one able to
nurse--yes, and you've the trick of it, I see," Mrs. Purchase went on, as
Hester knelt, lifted the sufferer's head, and motioned to the boys to set
down their basin of water beside her.  "I'll clear the children out to the
playground and keep 'em quiet.  Call, if you want anything; I'll be close
outside."  The good lady shepherded them forth with brisk authority;
not for nothing had she commanded a ship these thirty years.
"But, Lord!" she muttered, "to think of me playing schoolmistress!
What'll I do, I wonder, if these varmints of boys break ship and run
home?"

She might have spared herself this anxiety.  The children were all agog to
see the drama out.  Would Mr. Samuel recover?  And, if not, what would be
done to Tom Trevarthen?  They discussed this in eager groups.  If any of
them had an impulse to run downhill and cry the news through the village,
Mrs. Purchase's determined slamming and bolting of the playground gate
restrained it--that, and perhaps a thought that by running with the news
they would start the hue-and-cry after Tom.

Hester, having sponged away the blood, found that the cut on Mr. Sam's
temple was nothing to need a doctor, but could be set right by cleansing
and a few strips of plaster.  Doubtless the fall had stunned him, and
doubtless he must be in some pain.  Yet when at length he groaned and
opened his eyes she could not repress a suspicion (although she hated
herself for it) that in some degree he had been shamming.

"Do not move, please," she commanded gently, snipping at the plaster with
her scissors.  "A couple of strips more, then a bandage, and you will soon
be feeling better."

His eyes rolled and fixed themselves on her.  "A ministering angel," he
muttered.  She caught the words, and turned her head aside with a flush of
annoyance.

"You have an ugly bruise," she told him sharply.  "I am going to put a
cool compress on it.  You had better close your eyes, or some of the water
will be trickling into them."

He closed them obediently, but asked, "He has gone?"

"Yes."

"Then _you_ are safe at least, thank God!"

Yes, he had taken his hurt in protecting her; and yet something in his
tone caused her to glance, and as if for protection, to the doorway.

"You are comely," he went on slowly, opening his eyes again, and again
rolling that embarrassing gaze upon her.  "Your fingers, too, have the
gift of healing."

She could not tell him with what repugnance she brought them to touch him.
Having fastened the bandage firmly, she turned again to the doorway to
summon Mrs. Purchase, but checked herself.

"I want to ask you a favour," she began in a hesitating voice.

"You may ask it confidently."

"I want you to forgive--no, not forgive; that is the wrong word--to be
generous, and not to punish."

Mr. Samuel blinked.  "Let him off?"  he asked.  "Why?  What's your
motive?"

"I don't know that there's any motive."  She met his eyes frankly enough,
but with a musing air as if considering a new suggestion.  "No; it's just
a wish, no more.   An hour ago it seemed to me that everyone was eager and
happy; that there would always be pleasure in looking back upon our
opening day."  Her voice trembled a little.  "Now this has happened, to
spoil all; and yet something may be saved if we bear no malice, but take
up the work again, and show that we waste no time or thought on
punishment, being determined only to win."

"You are asking a great deal of me," he answered.  Nevertheless he had
instantly resolved to grant her wish, and for many reasons.  "I suppose
you know the matter is serious enough for a warrant?  Still, if I shall
oblige you by declining to prosecute--"


"But please don't put it in that way!" she interrupted.

"I really don't see how else to put it."  He paused, as if requiring her
to suggest a better.  "The point is, you want me to let the fellow off--
eh?  Well then, I will."

"Thank you," said Hester, with a sigh.

Mr. Sam smiled.  After being shaken like a rat, a man needs to retrieve
his self-respect, and he was retrieving his famously.  He could see
himself in a magnanimous light:  he had laid the girl under an obligation;
he had avoided public action which would, to be sure, have given him
revenge, but at much cost of dignity; and, for the rest, he had still
plenty of ways to get even with Master Tom Trevarthen.

Hester had a mind to tell him that he misconstrued her; that merely to
abstain from pursuing the lad with warrant or summons neither fulfilled
her request nor touched the kernel of it.  But while she cast about for
words Mrs. Purchase thrust a cheerful head in at the doorway.

"Hullo, that's famous!" she exclaimed at sight of the bandaging.
"You're a clever woman, my dear; and now I'll ask you to bring your
cleverness outside here and take these children off my hands.
W'st, you little numskulls!"--she turned and addressed them--"keep quiet,
I say, with your mountains out of molehills!  There's no one killed nor
hurt; only a foolish lad lost his temper, and he'll smart for it, and I
hope it'll be a warning to you."  She poked her head in through the
doorway again.  "Come along, Sam, and show yourself.  And as for you, my
dear," she went on hurriedly, lowering her voice, "better get 'em back to
their work as if nought had happened.  I'll bide a while with you till you
have 'em in hand again."

"Thank you," said Hester; "but that wouldn't help me in the long-run.
I must manage them alone."

"You mean that?"

"Yes; but I thank you none the less."

"And you're right.  You're a plucky woman."  She turned to Mr. Sam
briskly.  "Well, take my arm and put on as light a face as you can.
Here's your hat--I've smoothed out the worst of the dents.  Eh? Bain't
goin' to make a speech, surely!"

Mr. Sam, leaning slightly on his aunt's arm, pulled himself up on the
threshold and surveyed the children's wondering faces.

"Boys and girls," he said, "our opening day has been spoilt by a scene on
which I won't dwell, because I desire you not to dwell on it.  If you
treat it lightly, as I intend to do, bearing no malice, we shall show the
world all the more clearly that we are in earnest about things which
really matter."

He cleared his throat and looked around with a challenging smile at
Hester, who watched him, wondering to hear her own words so cleverly
repeated.

"We wish," he proceeded, "to remember our opening day as a pleasant one.
Miss Marvin especially wishes to look back on it with pleasure; and I
think we all ought to help her.  Now if I say no more about this foolish
young man--whom I could punish very severely--will you promise me to go
back to your books?  To-day, as you know, is a half-holiday; but there
remains an hour for work before you disperse.  I want your word that you
will employ it well, and honestly try to do all that Miss Marvin tells
you."

He paused again, and chose to take a slight murmur among the children for
their assent.

"I thank you.  There is an old saying that he who conquers himself
performs a greater feat than he who takes a city.  Some of us, Miss
Marvin, may hereafter associate the lesson with this our opening day."

He seemed to await some reply to this; but Hester could not speak, even to
thank him.  Her spirit recoiled from him; she could not reconcile egoism
so inordinate with such cleverness in turning it to account.  She watched
him with a certain fascination, as one watches some trained monster in a
show displaying its deformity for public applause.   He shook hands with
her and made his exit, not without dignity, leaning on Mrs. Purchase's arm
and turning at the playground gate to wave farewell.

It is doubtful if the children understood his speech.  But they were awed.
At the word of command they trooped into school, settled themselves at
their desks, and took up their interrupted lessons with a docility at
which Hester wondered, since for the moment she herself had lost all power
to interest or amuse them.

For her that was a dreadful hour.  A couple of humble-bees zoomed against
the window pane, and the sound, with the ticking of the schoolroom clock,
took possession of her brain.  Z-zoom!  Tick-tack, tick-tack!
Would lesson-time never come to an end?  She went about automatically
correcting sums, copies, exercises, because the sight of the pencilled
words or figures steadied her faculties, whereas she felt that if she
called the children up in class her wits would wander and all answers come
alike to her, right or wrong.  Her will, too, had fallen into a strange
drowsiness.  She wanted the window open, to get rid of the humble-bees;
a word to one of the elder boys and it would be done.  Yet the minutes
passed and the word remained unspoken.  So a sick man will lie and debate
with himself so small a thing as the lifting of a hand.

At length the clock hands pointed to five minutes to noon.  She ordered
books to be shut and slates to be put away; and going to the harmonium,
gave out the hymn, "Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing."  The Managers had
agreed upon this hymn; the Nonconformist majority insisting, however, that
the concluding 'Amen' should be omitted.  Omitted accordingly it was on
the slips of paper printed for school use.

    "Lord, dismiss us with Thy blessing,
        Thanks for mercies past receive;
     Pardon all their faults confessing;
        Time that's lost may all retrieve;
            May Thy children
        Ne'er again Thy Spirit grieve."

The children, released from the dull strain of watching the clock, sang
with spirit.  Hester played on, inattentive to the words.  At the end,
without considering what she did, she pressed down the chords of the
'Amen,' and the singers joined in, all unaware of transgressing.

In the silence that followed she suddenly remembered her instructions to
omit the word, and sat for a moment flushed and confused.  But the deed
was done.  The children stood shuffling their feet, awaiting the signal of
dismissal.

"You may go," she said.  "We will do better to-morrow."

When their voices had died away down the road she closed the harmonium
softly, and fell to walking to and fro, musing, tidying up the schoolroom
by fits and starts.  She wanted to sit down and have a good cry; but
always as the tears came near to flowing she fell to work afresh and
checked them.  Not until the room looked neat again did she remember that
she was hungry.  Nuncey had cooked a pasty for her, and she fetched it
from the cupboard, where it lay in a basket covered by a spotless white
cloth.  As she did so, her eyes fell on a damp spot on the floor, where,
after bandaging Mr. Sam, she had carefully washed out the stain of his
blood.

She looked at her hands.  They were clean; and yet having set down the
basket on the desk, and turned her stool so that she might not see the
spot on the floor, she continued to stare at them, and from them to the
white cloth.  A while she stood thus, irresolute, still listening to the
bees zooming against the pane.  Then with a sudden effort of will she
walked out and across the yard, to the pump in the far corner.

She was stooping to raise the pump handle, but straightened herself up
again at the sound--as it seemed to her--of a muffled sob.

She looked behind her and around.  The playground was empty, the air
across its gravelled surface quivering under the noonday heat.
She listened.

Two long minutes passed before the sound was repeated; and this time she
knew it for the sob of a child.  It came from behind an angle of the
building which hid a strip of the playground from view.  She ran thither
at once, and as she turned the corner her eyes fell on little Clem.

She had missed him from his place when the children returned to the
schoolroom.  His sister, she supposed, had taken him home.

He stood sentry now in the shade under the north wall of the building.
He stood there so resolutely that, for the instant, Hester could scarcely
believe the sobs had come from him.  But he had heard her coming; and the
face he turned to her, though tearless, was woefully twisted and
twitching.

"My poor child!"

He stretched out both hands.

"Where is Myra?  I want Myra, please!"



CHAPTER XV.


MYRA IN DISGRACE.

Myra was in her bedroom, under lock and key; and this is how it had
happened.

"What put it into your head to make that speech?" asked Mrs. Purchase, as
she and Mr. Sam wended their way back to Hall.  In form the question was
addressed to her nephew; in tone, to herself.

Mr. Sam paused as if for breath, and plucking down a wisp of honeysuckle
from the hedgerow, sniffed at it to gain time.

"I don't like talking about such things," he answered; "but it came into
my head to do my Master's bidding: 'Bless them that curse you, do good to
them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.'"

"Fiddlestick-end!" said Mrs. Purchase.

"I assure you--"

"If you don't mean to get upsides with Tom Trevarthen, I'm a Dutchman.
'Forgive your enemies' may be gospel teaching, but I never knew a
Rosewarne to practise it.  You're a clever fellow, nephew Sam, and that
speech saved your face, as the Yankees say; but somehow I've a notion its
cleverness didn't end there.  I saw the schoolmistress watching you--did
she put you up to it?"

"I don't mind telling you that she had interceded with me."

"I like the cut of that girl's jib," Mrs. Purchase announced after a
pause.  "She's good-looking, and she has pluck.  But I don't take back
what I said, that it's a wrong you're doing to Clem and Myra, putting them
to school with all the riff-raff of the parish."

"That's the kind of objection one learns to expect from a Radical," her
nephew answered drily.

"'Tis a queer thing, now," she mused, "that ever since I married 'Siah the
family will have me to be a Radical; and 'tis the queerer, because ne'er
one of 'ee knows what a Radical is or ought to be.  S'pose I do hold that
all mankind and all womankind has equal rights under the Lord--that don't
mean they're all alike, do it? or that I can't tell a man from a woman, or
my lord from a scavenger?  D'ee reckon that we'm all-fellows-to-football
aboard the _Virtuous Lady_, and the fo'c'sle hands mess aft?"

"They would if you were consistent," answered Mr. Sam, with positiveness.

She sighed impatiently.  "There's times you make me long to wring your
stiff neck.  But I'll take your own consistency, as you call it.
I don't notice you send that precious boy o' yourn to the Board School;
and yet if 'tis good enough for Clem and Myra, 'tis good enough for any
Rosewarne."

"Calvin has received a superior education.  Yet I don't mind telling you
that, if I find Miss Marvin competent, I propose asking her to teach him
privately."

"O--oh!"  Mrs. Purchase pursed up her lips and eyed him askance.
"Such a nice-looking girl, too!"

Mr. Sam flushed beneath his sallow skin.  He was about to command her
angrily to mind her own business, when the air between the hedgerows, and
even the road beneath his feet, shook with a dull and distant detonation.

"Sakes alive!" cried Mrs. Purchase.  "Don't tell me that's the
powder-ship, up the river!"

"It didn't come up from the river--it came from Hall!"  He gripped her arm
with sudden excitement; then, as she began to protest, "Don't talk, woman,
but help me along!  It came from Hall, I tell you!"


Master Calvin defied Myra bravely enough while she threatened, and even
while she piled a little heap of gunpowder under the sycamore and
ostentatiously sprinkled a train of it across the roadway.  He supposed
that she intended only to frighten him.

Nor would any mischief have happened had he kept his perch.  The heap of
gunpowder was too small to do serious damage--though he may well be
excused for misdoubting this.  But when Myra struck a match and challenged
him for the last time, he called to her not to play the fool, and began to
scramble down for dear life.  In truth, for two or three minutes he had
been feeling strangely giddy, and to make matters worse, was suddenly
conscious of a horrible burning pain in his side.

So intolerable was the pain, that he clutched at it with one hand; and
missing his hold with the other, slipped and hung dangling over the
powder, supported only by the bough under the crook of his armpit.
At that instant, while he struggled to recover his balance, Myra was
horrified to see smoke curling about his jacket; a fiery shred of tobacco
and jacket-lining dropped from his plucking fingers.  She had flung away
her match and was running forward--the burning stuff fell so slowly, there
was almost time to catch it--when the ground at her feet leapt up with a
flame and a bang, and Master Calvin thudded down upon the explosion.

She ran to him.  He was not dead, for at once he began screaming at the
pitch of his voice; but his features were black, his smallclothes torn,
and his legs writhed in a terrifying way.  His screams sank to groans as
she beat out the smouldering fire in his jacket-lining; and for a while
she could get no other answer from him.  By and by she lost patience, and
shook him by the shoulder.

"Oh, get Up for goodness' sake!  I believe you're more frightened than
hurt; but if you're really hurt, sit up and tell me what's the matter."

"Let me alone," groaned Calvin.  "I want to die."

"Fiddlesticks--'want to die'!  Come along to the pump and wash yourself."

"You're a wicked girl!  You tried to kill me!"

"I didn't.  I wanted to frighten you, and--and I'm sorry; but you fired
the powder yourself with your nasty pipe, and you've burnt a hole in your
pocket.  You'd best come along and get washed and changed before your
father catches you.  It looks to me you've lost one of your eyebrows, but
the other one's so pale I daresay 'twon't be noticed.  Or I might give you
a pair with a piece of burnt cork."

It was while she stood considering this that Mr. Sam and her aunt made
their appearance round the corner of the road.

"Whatever in the round world have you children been doin'?" panted Mrs.
Purchase, and wound up with a gasp at sight of Calvin's face.

"I believe I'm going to die!"  The boy began to writhe again.

"What has happened?" his father demanded, with a shake in the voice,
stooping to lift him.

"She--she tried to kill me!" Calvin pointed at her with vindictive finger,
and at once clasped both hands over his stomach.

"I did not," retorted Myra.

"Ask her who brought the powder and laid a train right under me!  Ask her
what she's doing with that box of matches!"

"Is that true?" Mr. Sam demanded again, straightening himself up and
fixing a terrible stare on Myra.

The girl's face hardened.  "Yes, I brought the powder."  She pointed to
the flask lying in the roadway.

"You dare to tell me that you did this deliberately?"

"I never did it at all."

"Yes, she did!" almost screamed the boy.  "She put the powder here; she
owns up to it."

Myra shrugged her shoulders and turned away.  "Very well; he's telling a
nasty fib, but you can believe him if you like."

"Stop a minute, miss."  Mr. Sam strode across to her.  "You don't get off
in that fashion, I promise you!"

She looked up at him sidewise, under lowered brows.  "Are you going to
beat me?" she asked quietly.

The question took Mr. Sam aback.  "You deserve a whipping if ever a girl
did," he answered, after a second or two.  "First, it seems, you almost
succeed in killing your cousin, and then you tell a falsehood about it."

"I have told you the truth.  I put the powder there.  As for meaning to
kill him, that's nonsense, and he knows it.  I didn't even mean to hurt
him, though he deserves it."

"Deserves it!" echoed Mr. Sam.

"Yes, for robbing Clem."

"Sam--Sam!"  Mrs. Purchase thrust herself between them.  "What's the
matter?  Don't go for to hurt the child!"

"What--what does she mean, then?"  He had stretched out a hand to grip
Myra by the shoulder, but fell back with a yellow face.

"Tom Trevarthen told me."  Myra pointed from father to son.  "He says
you're no better than a pair of robbers."

"Myra," said her aunt quietly, "go to your room at once.  On your own
confession you have done wickedly, and must be punished."

"Very well, Aunt Hannah."

"I must attend to Calvin first; but I will come to you by and by.
Until then you are not to leave your room.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, Aunt Hannah."

She turned and walked towards the house.

"And now," said Mrs. Purchase, after a glance at Mr. Sam's face,
"let's see what bones are broken."

She bent over Calvin, but looked up almost immediately, as Mr. Sam uttered
a sharp exclamation.

"What's this?" he asked, stooping to pick up a briar pipe.

Master Calvin blinked, and turned his head aside from Mrs. Purchase's
curious gaze.

"I think it belongs to Tom Trevarthen," he mumbled.

"How on the airth did Tom Trevarthen come to drop a pipe here, and walk
off 'ithout troubling to pick it up?  If 'twas a hairpin, now," said Mrs.
Purchase, not very lucidly, "one could understand it."

"I--I'm going to be ill," wailed the wretched Calvin, with a spasmodic
heave of the shoulders.

"Well," his aunt commented grimly after a moment, "you told the truth that
time, anyway."


Having conveyed him to the house and put him, with Susannah's help, to
bed, Aunt Hannah went off to Myra's room, but descended after a few
minutes in search of Mr. Sam, whom she found pacing the garden walk.

"Well?" he asked.

"I've told her the punishment--bread and water, and to keep her room all
day.  She says nothing against it, and I think she's sorry about the
powder; but I can get no sense into her until her mind's set at rest about
Clem."

"What about him?"

"Why, the poor child's left behind at the school."

"Is that all?  Miss Marvin will bring him home, no doubt."

"So I told her.  But it seems she don't trust Miss Marvin--hates her, in
fact."

"The child must be crazed."

"Couldn't you send Peter Benny?"

"Oh, certainly, if you wish it."  Mr. Sam went indoors to the
counting-house, where Mr. Benny jumped up from his desk in alarm at sight
of the bandages.

"Mercy on us, sir--you have met with an accident?"

"A trifle.  Are you busy just now?"

Mr. Benny blushed.  "I might answer in your words sir--a trifle.
Indeed, I hope, sir, you will not think it a liberty; but the late Mr.
Rosewarne used very kindly to allow it when no business happened to be
doing."

His employer stared at him blankly.

"On birthdays and such occasions," pursued Mr. Benny.  "And by the way,
sir, might I ask you to favour me with the date of your birthday?
Your dear father's was the 28th of May."  Mr. Sam's stare lost its
blankness, and became one of sharp suspicion.

"What have you to do with my birthday, pray?"

"Nothing, sir--nothing, unless it pleases you.  Some of our best and
greatest men, sir, as I am well aware--the late Duke of Wellington, for
instance--have had a distaste for poetry; not that my verses deserve any
such name."

"Oh!" said Mr. Sam, his brow clearing, "you were talking of verses?
I've no objection, so long as you don't ask me to read them."  He paused,
as Mr. Benny's face lengthened dejectedly.  "I mean no reflection on
yours, Benny."

"I thank you, sir."

"Shakespeare--and I am told you can't get better poetry than
Shakespeare's--doesn't please me at all.  I tried him once, on a friend's
recommendation, and came on a passage which I don't hesitate to call
lascivious.  I told my friend so, and advised him to be more careful in
the reading he recommended.  He was a minister of the gospel, too.
I destroyed the book: one can't be too careful, with children about the
house."

"I assure you, sir--"

"I don't suggest for a moment that you would be guilty of any such
expressions as Shakespeare uses.  We live in a different age.
Still, poetry, as such, gives me no pleasure.  I believe very firmly,
Benny--as you may have gathered--in another world, and that we shall be
held strictly to account there for all we do or say in this one."

"Yes, sir."

"If you will wait a moment, I have a note to write.  You will deliver it,
please, to Mrs. Trevarthen on your way home.  But first I wish you to walk
up to the school and fetch Master Clem."

Mr. Benny, absorbed in poetical composition, had either failed to hear the
explosion at the gate, or had heard and paid no heed to it.  He wondered
why Master Clem should need to be fetched from school.

"And Miss Myra?" he suggested.

"Miss Myra has been sent to her room in disgrace," said Mr. Sam.

Mr. Benny asked no further questions, but pocketed the letter which Mr.
Sam indited, and fetched his hat.  As it happened, however, at the gate he
met Hester leading Clem by the hand; and receiving the child from her,
handed him over to Susannah.

"You are going home?" he asked, as he rejoined Hester at the gate.
They were already warm friends.

"I am on my way.  And you?"

"We'll cross the ferry together, if you'll wait a moment while I deliver a
note at Mrs. Trevarthen's."

Mrs. Trevarthen was at her door.  She took the note, and, before opening
it, looked at Hester curiously.

"You know what's inside of it, I reckon?" she said, turning to Mr. Benny.

"Not a word."

"My eyes are bad," said Mrs. Trevarthen, who, as a matter of fact, could
not read.

Mr. Benny knew this, and knew also that Mrs. Trevarthen as a rule employed
Aunt Butson to write her few letters and decipher the few that came to
her.

"The light's bad for the time of year," he said.  "Shall I read it for
you, missus?"

"No; let _her_ read it," answered the old woman, holding out the letter to
Hester.  Hester took it and read--

    "Madam,--This is to inform you that the rent of my cottage, at present
     occupied by you on a monthly tenancy at 9 pounds per annum, will from
     the first of next month be raised to 15 pounds per annum; also that
     the tenancy will not, after that date, carry with it a permission to
     let lodgings.--Yours truly,      S. ROSEWARNE."


In the silence that followed Mrs. Trevarthen fixed her bright beady eyes
steadily on Hester.  "You've driven forth my son from me," she said at
length, "and you're driving forth my lodger, and there's nobbut the
almshouse left.  Never a day's worry has my son Tom given to me, and never
a ha'p'orth o' harm have we done to you.  A foreigner you are and a
stranger; the lad made me promise not to curse 'ee, and I won't.  But get
out of my sight, and the Lord deliver us from temptation!--Amen."

Poor Mr. Benny, who had written half a dozen enthusiastic verses on the
opening of the new school, crushed them down in his pocket.  He had been
so proud of them, too!

They ran--

    "This morning the weather was wreathed in smiles.
        And we, correspondingly gay,
     Assembled together from several miles
        To welcome our Opening Day."

    "The children were plastic in body and mind.
        Their faces and pinafores clean;
     And persons scholastic, in accents refined.
        With eloquence pointed the scene."

    "Blest scene! as its features we fondly recall,
        Come let us give thanks to the Lord!
     The Parents, the Teacher, the Managers all,
        Including the Clerk to the Board!"



BOOK III.



CHAPTER XVI.


AUNT BUTSON CLOSES SCHOOL.

Next morning when Hester arrived at the school she found Mr. Sam waiting
for her, with Myra, Clem, and a lanky, freckled youth of about sixteen,
whom he introduced as Archelaus Libby.  She could not help a smile at this
odd name, and the young man himself seemed  to be conscious of its
absurdity.  He blushed, held out his hand and withdrew it again, dropped
his hat and caught it awkwardly between his knees.  Myra (who had made the
sign of the cross as Hester entered) stood and regarded him with a cold,
contemptuous interest.  Her uncle presented the poor fellow with a
proprietary wave of the hand, as though he had been a dumb animal recently
purchased.

"I telegraphed to Liskeard on my own responsibility.  The Managers may
take me to task; but I felt it to be imperative that you should have a
male teacher to support you, and at once.  At all costs we must prevent a
repetition of such scenes as yesterday's."

Doubtless he had done Hester a service, and she tried to express her
thanks, but did not succeed very well.  To begin with, her spirit being
roused, she desired no help; and to judge by Mr. Archelaus Libby's looks,
the help he could give promised to be ineffective.  She did not say this,
of course; and he gazed at her so wistfully that she reproached herself
for thinking it.

Mr. Sam had no such scruples.  "I telegraphed to Liskeard," he repeated.
"There was no time for a personal interview."  (He paused, with a
deprecating wave of the hand, as who shall say, "And this is what they
sent.")  "If," he continued, "you find him unequal to maintaining
discipline, we--ha--must take other steps.  In other respects I find him
satisfactory.  He tells me he is of the Baptist persuasion, a believer in
Total Immersion."

Hester saw Myra's mouth twitching.  She herself broke into merry laughter.

"I hope it won't be necessary to go that length," she answered.
"We will do our best, at any rate."  She held out her hand again, and
Archelaus Libby grasped it warmly.


On the whole, Archelaus Libby's best proved to be better than she had
expected.  The boys made a butt of him from the beginning, but could get
no real advantage over one who laughed with them at his own discomfitures.
He belonged to those meek ones who (it is promised) shall inherit the
earth; and indeed, as the possessor of a two-guinea microscope--bought, as
he explained to Hester, with his first earnings--he believed himself to
inherit it already.  This microscope, and the wonders he showed them under
it, earned no little respect from the children.  Also he had, without
being aware of it, an extraordinary gift of mental arithmetic, and would
rattle out the quotients of long compound division sums at alarming speed
and with a rapid clicking sound at the back of his throat, as though some
preternatural machinery were at work there.  But most of all he conquered
by sheer love of his kind and of every living creature.  The lad seemed to
brim over with love: he never arrived at forgiving anyone, being incapable
of believing that anyone meant to offend.  From the first he yielded to
Hester a canine devotion which was inconvenient because it rendered him
dumb.

Within a week Hester felt sure of herself and of the school, and confided
her joy to Mr. Benny, who always met her at the ferry and accompanied her
home to tea; for she was now installed as a lodger with the Benny
household, greatly to Nuncey's delight.  After tea Mr. Benny always
withdrew to a little office overhanging the tideway; a wooden, felt-roofed
shed in which he earned money from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m. by writing letters
for seamen.  In this interval the two girls walked or bathed, returning in
time to put the children to bed and help Mrs. Benny with the supper.
They talked much, but seldom about the school--all the cares of which
Hester left behind her at the ferry crossing.

"And that's what I like about you," Nuncey confided.  "You don't give
yourself airs like other schoolmistresses."

"How many others do you know?" asked Hester.

"None; but I know what I'm talkin' about.  You know more about poetry and
such-like than Dad; I daresay you know as much as Uncle Josh; and yet no
one would think it, to look at you."

"Thank you." Hester dropped her a curtsey.  "And who is Uncle Josh?"

"He's Dad's brother, and well known in London.  I believe he writes for
the papers; 'connected with the press'--that's how Dad puts it.
When Dad writes a poem he hasn't time to polish it; so he sends it up to
Uncle Josh, and it comes back beautifully polished by return of post.
Now do you know what I want?" asked Nuncey, falling back and eyeing her.

"What?"

"Guess."

"Really I can't."  Hester knew by this time that Nuncey's thoughts moved
without apparent connection.

"I want to see you out of mourning--well, in half-mourning, then.
It ought to be pale grey, and there's a lilac ribbon in Bonaday's shop at
this moment.  You needn't pretend you don't care about these things, for
I know better."

After supper, and on their way to and from the ferry, Mr. Benny would talk
readily enough about the school.  But on one point--the tribulation it was
bringing upon Aunt Butson--he kept silence; for the thought of it made him
unhappy.  He knew that Hester was innocent, but he could not wholly acquit
himself of complicity in the poor old woman's fate.  Mr. Benny had a
troublesome and tender conscience in all matters that concerned his duty
towards his neighbour.  The School Board was driving Mrs. Butson out of
employ, taking away her scanty earnings; and he was Clerk to the School
Board.  To be sure, if he resigned to-morrow, another man would take his
place, and Mrs. Butson be not one penny the better.  Mr. Benny saw this,
yet it did not ease his conscience wholly.

Hester, too, kept silence.  Her way to the school led her past the little
shanty (originally a carpenter's workshop) in which Aunt Butson taught.
It stood a stone's-throw back from the village street, partly concealed by
a clump of elms; but once or twice she had heard and spied children at
play between the trees there--children with faces unfamiliar to her--and
gathered that the old woman still kept her door open.  As the days went by
the date for raising Mrs. Trevarthen's rent, and the cottage still showed
every sign of habitation, she took it for granted that Mr. Sam had
relented--possibly in obedience to his promise not to persecute the young
sailor.  She did not know that, in serving his notice without consulting
Peter Benny, Mr. Sam had made a trifling mistake; that Mrs. Trevarthen
held her cottage on a quarterly tenancy, and could neither have her rent
raised nor be evicted before Michaelmas.  Hester would have been puzzled
to say precisely what sealed her lips from inquiry.  Partly, no doubt, she
shrank from discovering a fresh obligation to Mr. Sam, whose unctuous
handshake she was learning to detest.  Tom Trevarthen had disappeared.
His mother kept house unmolested.  Why not let sleeping dogs lie?
For the rest, the school absorbed most of her thoughts, and paid back
interest in cheerfulness.  The children were beginning to show signs of
loyalty, and a teacher who has won loyalty has won everything.  Myra alone
stood aloof, sullen, impervious to kindness.

In truth, Myra was suffering.  For the first time in their lives her will
and Clem's had come into conflict; and Clem's revealed itself as
unexpectedly, almost hopelessly, stubborn.  That the  _Virtuous Lady_ had
sailed for Quebec, carrying away Aunt Hannah, the one other person in the
world who understood her, made little difference.  A hundred Aunt Hannahs
could not console her for this loss--for a loss she called it.
"The woman is taking him from me!"  She cried the words aloud to herself
on her lonely walks, making the cattle in the fields, the horses in the
stable, the small greyhound, even the fields and trees, confidants in her
woe.  "She is stealing you from me," she reproached Clem; "and you can't
see that she is a witch!  You don't love me any longer!"  "I love you
better than ever," protested poor Clem.  "No, you don't, or you would
choose between us.  Say 'I hate her!'"  But Clem shook his head.
"I don't hate her; and besides, she isn't a witch."

She had been forbidden to speak to Calvin for a week.  "My dear man," she
answered Mr. Sam, to his no small astonishment, "do you think _I_ want to
talk to the pimply creature?  He tells fibs; and besides, he's a robber."

"You are a wicked child; and if you persist in this talk, I shall have to
punish you."

"Are you going to beat me?  Beat away.  But it's true."

He did not beat her; but one day, meeting Hester on the hill as she walked
to school, he went so far as to suggest that Myra's spirit needed taming.
She had been allowed to run loose, and her behaviour at home caused him
many searchings of heart.  He made no doubt that her behaviour in school
was scarcely more satisfactory.

Hester admitted that he surmised correctly.

He had never been blessed with a daughter of his own, and hardly knew what
to do with an unruly girl.  Might he leave the matter in Miss Marvin's
hands?

"If," said Hester, "you are speaking of her behaviour in school, you
certainly may.  She is jealous, poor child, because her brother has taken
a fancy to be fond of me.  In her place I should be furious.  But I think
we are going to be friends."

"Some form of punishment--if I might suggest--"

"I don't know of any that meets the case," Hester answered gravely.

"I have often,"--he fastened on her that gaze of his which she most of all
disliked--"I have oftentimes, of late especially, felt even Calvin to be a
responsibility, without a mother's care."  He went on from this to the
suggestion he had hinted to Mrs. Purchase.  Would Miss Marvin be prepared
(for an honorarium) to give his son private lessons?  Could she afford the
time?  "I shrink from exposing him to influences, so often malign, of a
boarding-school.  What I should most of all desire for him is a steady,
sympathetic home influence, a--may I say it?--a motherly influence."

Hester at this moment, averting her eyes, was aware of an old woman a few
yards away, coming up the road; a woman erect as a soldier, with strong,
almost mannish features, and eyes that glared at her fiercely from under a
washed-out blue sunbonnet.  Mr. Sam gave her good-morning as she went by,
but she neither answered nor seemed to hear him.

"Who is she?" Hester had almost asked, when the woman turned aside into a
path leading to the shed among the elms.

"She'll have to shut up shop next week," said Mr. Sam, following Hester's
gaze.  "I declare, Miss Marvin, one would think the old woman had
ill-wished you, by the way you are staring after her.  Don't believe in
witchcraft, I hope?"

"I have never seen her till now, and I do feel sorry for her."

"She's not fit to teach, and never was."

"She's setting me a lesson in punctuality, at any rate," said Hester,
forcing a little laugh, glad of an excuse to end the conversation.
But along the road and at intervals during the first and second
lesson-hours the face of Mrs. Butson haunted her.

In the hour before dinner, while she sat among the little ones correcting
their copy-books, the door-latch clicked, and she looked up with a start--
to see the woman herself standing upon the threshold!  Archelaus Libby,
who had been chalking on the blackboard at lightning speed a line of
figures for his mental arithmetic class, turned to announce them, and
paused with a click in his throat which seemed to answer that of the
latch.  In the sudden hush Hester felt her cheek paling.  Somehow she
missed the courage with which she had met Tom Trevarthen.

"Good-morning!" said Mrs. Butson harshly.  "'Tisn't forbidden to come in,
I hope?"

"Good-morning," Hester found voice to answer.  "You may come in, and
welcome, if you wish us well."

"I'm Sarah Butson.  As for wishing well or ill to 'ee, we'll leave that
alone.  I've come to listen, not to interrup'."  She advanced into the
room and pointed a finger at Archelaus Libby.  "Is that your male teacher?
He bain't much to look at, but I'm told he's terrible for sums."

"You shall judge for yourself.  Go on with your lesson, Archelaus; and
you, Mrs. Butson, take a seat if you will."

"No; I'll stand." Mrs. Butson shut her jaws firmly and treated the small
scholars around her to a fierce, unwavering stare.  Many winced,
remembering her mercies of old.  "Go on, young man," she commanded
Archelaus.

He plunged into figures again, nervously at first.  Soon he recovered his
volubility, and, calling on one of the elder boys to name two rows of
figures for division, wrote them out and dashed down the quotient; then
flung in the working at top speed, showing how the quotient was obtained;
next rubbed out all but the original divisor and dividend, and, swinging
round upon the boys, raced them through the sum, his throat clicking as he
appealed from one boy to another, urging them to answer faster and faster
yet.  "Yes, yes--but try to multiply in double figures--twice sixteen,
thirty-two: it's no harder than four times eight--the tables don't really
stop at twelve times.  Now then--seventy-eight into three-twenty-six?
You--you--you--what's that, Sunny Pascoe?  Four times?  Right--how many
over?  Fourteen.  Now then, bring down the next figure, and that makes the
new dividend."

Mrs. Butson passed her hand over Hester's desk.  "You keep 'em well
dusted," she observed, turning her back upon Archelaus and his
calculations.  Her angry-looking eyes travelled over desks, floor, walls,
and the maps upon the walls, then back to the children.

"How many?" she asked.

"We have sixty-eight on the books."

"How many here to-day?"

"Sixty-six.  There are two absent, with certificates.  Would you like me
to call the roll?"

"No.  You've got 'em in hand, too, I see."  She picked up a copy-book from
the desk before her, examined it for a moment, and laid it down.
"You like this work?" she asked, turning her eyes suddenly upon Hester.

"How else could one do it at all?"

"I hate it--yes, hate it," the old woman went on.  "Though 'twas my
living, I've hated it always.  Yet I taught 'em well--you cross the ferry
and ask schoolmaster Penrose if I did not.  I taught 'em well; but you
beat me--fair and square you do.  Only there'll come a time--I warn you--
when the hope and pride'll die out of you, and you'll wake an' wonder how
to live out the day.  I don't know much, but I know that time must come to
all teachers.  They never can tell when 'tis coming.  After some holiday,
belike, it catches 'em sudden.  The new lot of children be no worse than
the last, but they get treated worse because the teacher's come to end of
tether.  You take my advice and marry before that time comes."

"I don't think I shall ever marry."

"Oh yes, you will!"  Aunt Butson's eyes seemed to burn into Hester's.
"You're driving me out to work in the fields; but, marry or not, you'll
give me all the revenge I look for."  The old woman hunched her shoulders
and made abruptly for the door.  As it slammed behind her a weight seemed
to fall upon Hester's heart and a sudden shadow across her day.


Down in the little cottage Aunt Butson found Mrs. Trevarthen standing
beside a half-filled packing-case and contemplating a pair of enormous
china spaniels which adorned the chimney-piece, one on either side of
Chinese junk crusted with sea-shells.

"What's to be done with 'em?" Mrs. Trevarthen asked.  "They'll take up
more room than they're worth, and I doubt they'll fetch next to nothing if
I leave 'em behind for the sale.  My old man got 'em off a pedlar fellow
for two-and-threepence apiece, back-along when we first set up house.
A terrible extravagance, as I told 'en at the time; but he took such a
fancy to the things, I never had the heart to say what I thought about
their looks."

"You can leave 'em bide," answered Aunt Butson.  "Unpack that there case
agen an' turn it over to me.  I'm goin' to quit."

"There's too much red-tape about the Widows' Houses," Mrs. Trevarthen
pursued.  "The Matron says, if I want to bring Tom's parrot, I must speak
to Sir George an get leave:  'tis agen the rules, seemingly."

"Be quiet with your parrot, an' listen to me!  I'm goin' to shut up
school, an' quit.  Go an' make your peace wi' that Judas Rosewarne: tell
'en you're gettin' the rids of me, an' he'll let you down easy enough."

Mrs. Trevarthen for a moment did not seem to hear, but stood meditatively
fingering the china ornaments.  Suddenly she swung round upon her lodger.

"You're goin' to give in?  After all your talk, you're goin' to let that
slave-driver ride roughshod over you?"

"My dear,"--Aunt Butson hunched her shoulders--"'tis no manner of good.
Who's goin' to pay me tuppence a week, when that smooth-featured girl up
the hill teaches ten times better for a penny?  I've been up there to see,
and I ben't a fool.  She teaches ten times better than ever I did in my
life.  How many children do 'ee think turned up this mornin'?  Five.
And I've taught five-an'-thirty at one time.  I sent 'em away; told 'em to
come again to-morrow, and take word to their fathers and mothers to step
around at twelve o'clock.  They'll think 'tis to come to an arrangement
about the fees; but what I have to tell is that the school's wound up."

"You may do as it pleases you, Sally Butson.  You may go, if you choose,
and ask Rosewarne to put his foot on your neck.  But if you think I make
any terms with 'en, you're mistaken.  He've a-driven my Tom from home an'
employ; he've a-cast a good son out o' my sight and knowledge, and fo'ced
'en, for all I know, into wicked courses--for Tom's like his father before
'en; you can lead 'en by a thread, but against ill-usage he'll turn mad.
Will I forgive Rosewarne for this?  He may put out the fire in my grate
and fling my bed into the street, and I'll laugh and call it a little
thing; but for what he've a-done to the son of a widow I'll put on him the
curse of a widow, and not all his wrath shall buy it off by an ounce or
shorten it by one inch."

Mrs. Trevarthen--ordinarily a mild-tempered woman--shook with her passion
as an aspen shakes and whitens in the wind.  Aunt Butson laid a hand on
her shoulder.

"There--there!  Put on the kettle, my dear, and let's have a drink of tea.
It takes a woman different when she've a-got children.  But it don't
follow, because I'm a single woman, I can't read a lad's fortune.
You mark my words, Tom'll fall on his feet."


Early next morning Mrs. Butson left the cottage with a small pile of
books, disinterred from the depths of the box which contained all her
belongings--cheap books in gaudy covers of red, blue, and green cloth,
lavishly gilded without, execrably printed within: _The Wide, Wide World;
Caspar; Poor John, or Nature's Gentleman; The Parents' Assistant_.
Her system of education recognised merit, but rewarded it sparingly.
As a rule, she had distributed three prizes per annum, before the
Christmas holidays, and at a total cost of two shillings and sixpence.
To-day she spread out no fewer than ten upon her desk, covering them out
of sight with a duster before her scholars arrived.

A few minutes before nine she heard them at play outside among the elms,
and at nine o'clock punctually called them in to work by ringing her
handbell--the clapper of which (vain extravagance!) had recently been
shortened by the village tinsmith to prevent its wearing the metal
unequally.  Five scholars answered its summons--'Thaniel Langmaid, Maudie
Hosken, Ivy Nancarrow, Jane Ann Toy and her four-year-old brother Luke.
Their fathers, one and all, though dwelling in the village, were employed
in trades on the other side of the ferry, and therefore could risk
offending Mr. Rosewarne; but their independence had not yet translated
itself into steady payment of the fees, and Mr. Toy (for example)
notoriously practised dilatoriness of payment as part of his scheme of
life.

Without a twitch of her fierce features she ranged up her attenuated
class, distributed the well-thumbed books--with a horn-book for little
Luke Toy--and for two hours taught them with the same joyless severity
under which their fathers and mothers had suffered.  For spelling 'lamb'
without the final b, Ivy Nancarrow underwent the punishment invariably
meted out for such errors--mounted the dunce's bench, and wore the dunce's
cap; nor did 'Thaniel Langmaid's knuckles escape the ruler when he dropped
a blot upon his copy, 'Comparisons are Odious'--a proposition of which he
understood the meaning not at all.  The cane and the birch-rod on Mrs.
Butson's desk served her now but as insignia.  She had not wielded them as
weapons of justice since the day (four years ago) when a struggle with Ivy
Nancarrow's elder brother had taught her that her natural strength was
abating.

At twelve o'clock she told the children to close their books, dismissed
them to play, and sat down to await the invited company.

Mr. Toy was the first to arrive.  He came straight from the jetties--that
is to say, as straight as a stevedore can be expected to come at noon on
Saturday, after receiving his week's pay.  He wore his accustomed mask of
clay-dust, and smelt powerfully of beer, two pints of which he had
consumed in an unsocial hurry at the Ferry Inn on his way.

"Good-morning."  Mrs. Butson welcomed him with a nod.  "Your wife is
coming, I hope?"

"You bet she is," Mr. Toy answered cheerfully, smacking the coins in his
trousers pocket.  "She don't miss looking me up this day of the week."
Recollecting that certain of the shillings he so lightly jingled were due
to Mrs. Butson, he suddenly grew confused, and his embarrassment was not
lightened by the entrance of Maudie Hosken's parents.  Mr. Hosken tilled a
small freehold garden in his spare hours, and Mr. Toy owed him four
shillings and sixpence for potatoes, and had reason to believe that Mrs.
Hosken took a stern view of the debt.

Next came Mrs. Langmaid, a seaman's widow, and lastly Mrs. Toy, who noted
that all the others had made themselves tidy for the ceremony, and at once
began to apologise for her husband's appearance.

Aunt Butson cut her short, however, by ringing the school bell, and
marshalling her five pupils back to their seats.  The parents dropped
themselves here and there among the many empty benches in the rear, and
the schoolmistress, after rapping the desk with her cane, from force of
habit, mounted the platform, uncovered the row of books, and began to
arrange them with hands that trembled a little.

"Friends and neighbours, the reason I've called 'ee together is for a
prize-giving.  I'll have to say a word or two when that's done; but just
now a prize-giving it is, and we'd best get to business.  Girls: Maudie
Hosken, first prize for good conduct; Ivy Nancarrow, consolation prize,
ditto; Jane Ann Toy, extra consolation prize, ditto.  Step up, girls, and
take your books."

Until Mrs. Hosken leaned forward and nudged her daughter in the back, the
children did not budge, so bewildered were they by these sudden awards.
When Maudie, however, picked up courage, the other two bravely bore her
company, and each received a book.

"Boys: 'Thaniel Langmaid, first prize for good conduct; Luke Toy,
consolation prize for ditto."

"Seemin' to me," remarked Mr. Toy audibly, nudging his wife, "there's a
deal o' consolation for our small family."

"Hush!" answered his wife.  "There's as much gilt 'pon Lukey's book as
'pon any; an' 'tis almost as big."

"Girls: English prize, Ivy Nancarrow--and I hope that in futur', whoever
teaches her, she won't think L-A-M spells 'lamb.'  Sums and geography
prize, Maudie Hosken; junior prize, Jane Ann Toy."

"Boys: General knowledge, 'Thaniel Langmaid; general improvement, Luke
Toy."

"That makes four altogether."  Mr. Toy jingled his shillings furtively.
"Look here, Selina," he whispered, "we'll have to pay the old 'ooman
something on account.  How else to get out o' this, I don't see."

"An' now, friends an' neighbours," began Aunt Butson resolutely,
"I've a-fetched 'ee together to say that 'tis all over; the school's come
to an end.  You've stuck by me while you could, and I thank you kindly.
But 'tis hard for one of my age to fight with tyrants, and tyrants and
Government together be too much for me.  I've a-taught this here village
for getting-up three generations.  Lord knows I never loved the work; but
Lord knows I was willing to go on with it till He called me home.
Take a look at thicky there blackboard an' easel, bought but the other
week; and here's a globe now, cost me fifteen shillin'--an' what'll I do
with it?"  She detached it from its frame, and before passing it round for
inspection, held it between her trembling palms.  "Here be all the nations
o' the earth, civilised and uncivilised; and here be I, Sarah Butson, with
no place upon it, after next Monday, to lay my head."

She looked up with fierce, tearless eyes, and looking up, caught sight of
Mr. Samuel Rosewarne in the doorway.

"Oh, good-morning, Mrs. Butson!" nodded Mr. Sam easily.  "I looked in to
see if you'd collected your school-fees this week, as the law requires.
You are doing so, it seems?"

"Rosewarne--"  Mrs. Butson stepped down from her platform, globe in hand.

"Eh?  I beg your pardon?"  But before the mischief in her eyes he turned
and fled.

She followed him to the door.

"Take _that_, you thievin' Pharisee!"

The globe missed his head by a few inches, and went flying down the
roadway toward the ferry.  Aunt Butson strode back among her astonished
audience.

"That's my last word to _he_," she said, panting; "and here's my last to
you."  She picked up her chalk, advanced to the blackboard, and wrote
rapidly, in bold, clear hand--

                         BLAST ALL EDUCATION!

"You may go, friends," said she.  "I'd like to be alone, if you please."



CHAPTER XVII.


PETER BENNY'S DISMISSAL.

Although Master Calvin Rosewarne, by telling tales, first set the
persecution going against Nicky Vro, he did so without any special
malevolence.  It was an instance of Satan's finding mischief for idle
hands.  The child, in fact, had no playmates, and little to do; and
happening to pass Mrs. Trevarthen's cottage as her household stuff and
sticks of furniture were being removed in a hand-cart, he followed
downhill to the ferry to watch the transhipment.

Some minutes later, Mrs. Trevarthen, having locked her door for the
last time, laid the key under a geranium-pot on the window-sill.
There was no sentiment in her leave-taking.  A few late blossoms showed on
the jasmine which, from a cutting planted by her in the year of Tom's
birth, had over-run and smothered the cottage to its very chimney.
Her Michaelmas daisies and perennial phloxes--flowers of her anxious
care--were in full bloom.  But the old soul had no eyes for them, now at
the last, being flustered by the importance of her journey and the thought
of many things, hastily packed, which might take harm in crossing the
ferry.  Mr. Toy (a neighbourly fellow with all his failings, and one of
that not innumerous class of men who delight in any labour, so it be
unprofitable) had undertaken to load the ferry-boat; but having in mere
exuberance of good-nature imbibed more beer than was good for him, he
could not be trusted with the chinaware.

Neighbours appeared at every doorway--the more emotional ones with red
eyes--to wish Mrs. Trevarthen good-bye.  She answered them tremulously;
but her mind, all the way down the street, ran on a hamper of chinaware,
the cover of which she could not remember to have tied.  Her left arm
rested in Aunt Butson's (who carried the parrot's cage swathed in an old
petticoat); on her right she bore a covered basket.

At the slip Mr. Toy handed her on board.  He himself would cross later in
the horse-boat, with his handcart and the heavier luggage.

"Better count the parcels, missus," he advised.  "There's fifteen, as I
make out; and Mr. Vro'll hand 'em out careful 'pon t'other side.
You'd best wait there till I come across with the rest."

Instead of taking her seat at once, Mrs. Trevarthen stood for a moment
bewildered amid the packages crowding the thwarts and the sternsheets; and
most unfortunately Old Vro selected this moment to thrust off from shore
with his paddle.  The impetus took her at unawares, and she fell forward;
her basket struck against the boat's gunwale, its cover flew open, and
forth from it, half-demented with fright, sprang her tabby cat,
Methuselah.  The poor brute lit upon the parrot's cage, which happened to
be balanced upon an unstable pile of cooking utensils at the end of Nicky
Vro's thwart.  Cat, cage and parrot, a gridiron, two cake tins, a bundle
of skewers, and a cullender, went overboard in one rattling avalanche, and
Master Calvin laughed aloud from the shore.

Nicky Vro, with a wild clutch, grabbed hold of the cage before it sank,
and dragged it and the screaming bird out of danger.  The gridiron and
skewers went down at once--luckily in four feet of water, whence they
could be recovered at low-ebb.  The cullender sank slowly and with
dignity.  The cat headed straight for shore, and, defying all attempts of
Mr. Toy and Aunt Butson to head him off, slipped between them and dashed
up the hill on a bee-line for home.  Master Calvin, seated astride the low
wall above the slipway, almost rolled off his perch with laughter.
Uncle Vro, cage in hand, turned on him with sudden fury.

"Better fit you was at your lessons," he called back, shaking his fist,
"than grinning there at your father's dirty work!  Toy, run an' pull the
ears of 'en!--'twon't be noticed if you pull 'em an inch longer than they
be."

The boy, as Mr. Toy ran towards him with a face that meant business,
dropped off the wall on its far side, and charged up the hill for home in
a terror scarcely less urgent than Methuselah's.  Nor did he feel safe
until, at the gate of Hall, he tumbled into his father's arms and panted
out his story.


"Talked about my 'dirty work,' did he?" mused Mr. Sam, pulling at his
under-lip.  He wheeled about and walked straight to the counting-house,
where Mr. Benny sat addressing Michaelmas bills.

"Put those aside for a moment," he commanded.  "I want a letter written."

Mr. Benny took a sheet of notepaper from the rack, dipped his pen, and
looked up attentively.

"It's for the ferryman below here--Old Vro, as you call him.  Write that
after Saturday next his services will not be required."

Mr. Benny laid down his pen slowly and stared at his master.

"I beg your pardon, sir--you can't mean that you're dismissing him?"

"Why not?"

"What, old Nicky Vro?"  Mr. Benny shook his head, as much as to say that
the thing could not be done.

"He has been grossly impudent.  Apart from that, his incompetence is a
scandal, and I have wondered more than once how my father put up with it.
In justice to the public using the ferry, and to Lady Killiow as owner of
the ferry rights--But, excuse me, I prefer not to argue the matter.
He must go.  Will you, please, write the letter, and deliver it when you
cross the ferry at dinner-time."

"But, indeed, Mr. Samuel--you must forgive me, sir--old Nicky may be
cantankerous at times, but he means no harm to any living soul.
The passengers make allowances: he's a part of the ferry, as you might
say.  As for impudence--if he really has been impudent--will you let me
talk to him, sir?  I'll engage he asks pardon and promises not to offend
again.  But think, before in your anger you turn him adrift--where can the
old man go, but to the workhouse?  What can he have saved, on twelve
shillings a week?  For every twelve shillings he's earned Lady Killiow
three to five pounds, week by week, these forty years; and not one penny
of it, I'll undertake to say, has he kept back from her ladyship.
What wage is it, after all, for the years of a man's strength that now,
with a few more years to live, he should lose it?"

"Have you done?"

Mr. Benny stood up.  "I should never have done, sir, until you listened to
me."

"You refuse to write the letter?"

"I humbly beg you, sir, not to ask me to write it."

"But I do ask you to write it."

Mr. Benny thrust both hands nervously beneath his coat-tails, walked to
the window and stood for a second or two, staring out upon the garden.
His cheeks were flushed.  He had arrived at one of those moments in life
which prove a man; but of heroism he was not conscious at all.

"I am very sorry, Mr. Samuel," said he, turning again to the table.
"If your father had told me to write such a letter, I should have used an
old servant's liberty and warned him that he was acting unjustly.
Though it made him angry, he would have understood.  But I see, sir, that
I have no right to argue with you; and so let us have no more words.
I cannot write what you wish."

"My father," answered Mr. Sam, wagging a finger at him, "tolerated many
things I do not propose to tolerate.  He suffered this old dotard to annoy
the public, though long past work.  I am not surprised to learn that he
suffered you to forget your place."

Mr. Benny gathered up his papers without answering.

"Look here, Benny," Mr. Sam resumed, after watching him for a while,
"I don't wish to be hard on you; I only require obedience.  It's a bit
foolish of you--eh?--to be quarrelling with your bread and butter."

"May be, sir."

"If you leave me, I wish it to be understood that 'tis by your own
choice."

The little man met his master's eyes now with a look of something like
contempt.  "If that salves your conscience, sir, by all means have it so.
But if 'tis to be plain truth between us, you want a younger clerk."

"Did I ever complain of your incompetence?"

"My incompetence, sir?  'Tis my competence you surely mean?  I reckon no
man can be sure of being a good servant till he has learnt to advise for
his master's good against his master's will."


"What's the matter with 'ee, Peter?" asked Nicky Vro as he rowed Mr. Benny
across the ferry at dinnertime.  "You're looking as downcast as a gib
cat."

"I was wondering," answered Mr. Benny gently, "how many times we two have
crossed this ferry together."

Nicky Vro pondered.  "Now that's the sort o' question I leave alone o' set
purpose, and I'll tell 'ee for why.  One night, years ago, and just as we
was off to bed, my poor wife says to me, 'I wonder how many times you've
crossed the ferry, first and last.'  'Hundreds and thousands,' I says,
just like _so_.  She'd a-put the question in idleness, an' in idleness I
answered it.   Will you believe it?--between twelve and one in the morning
I woke up with my head full o' figgers.  Not another wink o' sleep could I
get, neither.  Soon as ever I shook up the bolster an' settled down for
another try, I see'd myself whiskin' back and forth over this here piece
o' water like a piston-rod in a steamship, and off I started countin' for
dear life.  Count?  I tell you it lasted for nights, and by the end o' the
week I had to see the doctor about it.  I was losin' flesh.  Doctor, he
gave me a bottle o' trade--very flat-tasted stuff it was, price half a
crown, with a sediment if you let it stand; and after a few days the
trouble wore off.  They tell me there's a new pupil teacher up to the
school can answer questions like that while you're countin' his buttons.
I've seen the fellow: a pigeon-chested poor creatur', with his calves put
on the wrong way.  I'd a mind to tell 'en that with figgers, as with other
walks o' life, a man's first business is to look after his own.
But I didn't like to, he looked so harmless.  Puttin' one thing with
another, Peter Benny, I'd advise you to leave these speckilations alone.
Be it a thousand times or ten thousand, there's only one time that counts
--the last; and only the Lord A'mighty knows when that'll be."

Mr. Benny sighed.  "When the Lord sets a man free of his labour, Nicky,
He does it gently.  But we have to deal with an earthly master, we two,
and his mercies aren't so gentle."

Nicky Vro nodded.  "You'm thinkin' of they two poor souls up the hill.
A proper tyrant Mister Sam can be, and so I told that ugly-featured boy of
his, when I put Mrs. Trevarthen across this mornin'.  'Twas a shame, too,
to lose my temper with the cheeld; for a cat couldn't help laughin'--
supposin' he wasn't the partickler cat consarned."  The old man told the
story, chuckling wheezily.

"You went too far, Nicky.  I have the best reasons for knowing that you
went too far.  Now listen to me.  As soon as you get back, hitch up your
boat, walk straight up to Hall, and tell Mr. Sam that you're sorry."

"Well, so I am in a way, though the fellow do turn my stomach.
Still there wasn' no sense in rappin' out on the boy."

"It doesn't help the old woman, you know," said Mr. Benny, and sighed
again, bethinking himself how vain had been his own protest.

"Not a bit," assented Mr. Vro cheerfully.  "Well, I'll go back and make it
up with the varmint.  I reckon he means to give me a bad few minutes; but
'tis foolish to quarrel when folks can't do without one another, and so
I'll tell 'en."


Half an hour ago Mr. Benny had been a brave man, but as he neared his home
a sudden cowardice seized him.  It was not that he shirked breaking the
news to his wife; nay, he fiercely desired to tell her, and get the worst
over.  But in imagination he saw the children seated around the table, all
hungry as hunters for the meal which, under God's grace, he had never yet
failed to earn; and the thought that they might soon hunger and not be
fed, for a moment unmanned him.  He hurried past the ope leading to his
door.  The dinner-hour's quiet rested on the little town, and there was no
one in the street to observe him as he halted by the church-gate,
half-minded to return.  The gate stood open, and as he glanced up at the
tower the clock there rang out its familiar chime.  He passed up the path,
entered, and cast himself on his knees.

For half an hour he knelt, and, although he prayed but by fits and starts,
by degrees peace grew within him and possessed his soul.  He waited until
the clock struck two--by which time the children would be back at school--
and walked resolutely homeward.

Mrs. Benny and Nuncey were alone in the kitchen, where the board had been
cleared of all but the tablecloth and his own knife and fork.  They cried
out together upon his dilatoriness; but while his wife turned to fetch his
dinner from the oven, Nuncey took a step forward, scanning his face.

"Father?"

He put out a hand as he dropped into his seat, and stared along the empty
table.

"I am dismissed."

Mrs. Benny faced about, felt for a chair, and sat down trembling.
Nuncey took her father's hand.

"Tell us all about it," she commanded; and he told them.

His wife cast her apron over her head.

"But he'll take you back," she moaned.  "If you go to 'en and ask 'en
properly, he'll surely take you back!"

"Don't be foolish, mother."  Nuncey laid a hand on her father's shoulder,
and he looked up at her with brimming eyes.  "'Tis Rosewarne that shall
send to us before we go to him!"

She patted the tired shoulders, now bent again over the table.

"But what a brave little father it is, after all!"



CHAPTER XVIII.


RIGHT OF FERRY.

"What's the matter with Benny?" asked Nicky Vro as he rowed Hester across
that evening.  They were alone in the boat.  "The man seemed queer in his
manner this morning, like as if he was sickenin' for something, and this
afternoon I han't seen fur nor feather of 'en."  He dug away with his
paddles, and resumed with a chuckle, after a dozen strokes, "The man
hasn't been quarrellin' with his bread and butter, I hope?  I went up to
see Mr. Sam on a little business o' my own after dinner, and he fairly
snapped my nose off--called me an impident old fool, and gave me the sack.
Iss fay, he did!  I wasn't goin' to argue with the man.  'You'll think
better o' this to-morrow,' I said, and with that I comed away.
Something must have occurred to put 'en out before he talked that nonsense
to _me_."

Next morning, Hester--who meanwhile had learned the truth--found the old
fellow in the same cheerful, incredulous frame of mind.  She might have
told him how serious was his case; but it is improbable that she could
have convinced him, and, moreover, Mr. Benny, before confiding to her the
reason of his own dismissal, had made her promise to keep it a secret.

By Saturday, however, it was generally known that Mr. Sam had found some
excuse or other to get rid of his father's confidential clerk.  Now Mr.
Benny had hitherto brought down Nicky's weekly wages on Saturday evenings
as he crossed by the ferry.  This week no Mr. Benny appeared, nor any
messenger from Hall; and consequently on Sunday morning early Nicky donned
a clean shirt-front and marched up to the house to claim his due.

"I make it a rule," said Mr. Sam, "to dispense no moneys on the Sabbath."

"The ferry charges double on the Sabbath, as you call it," answered
Nicky, "and always has.  I don't see where your squeamishness begins.
Hows'ever, I'll call to-morrow rather than hurt any man's conscience; only
let's have it clear when the money's to be paid in futur'."

"In future?" echoed Mr. Sam.  "I hoped I had made it clear that after this
week you cease to be ferryman."

"That's a good joke, now," said Nicky.

"I am glad you take it so pleasantly.  Come to me to-morrow, and you shall
be paid; and again next Saturday, after you have chained up for the night.
That, I warn you, will be the last time."

"Oh, you'll think better of it by Saturday!"

That Mr. Sam did not think better of it scarcely needs to be said; and
during the next few days some of Nicky's confidence began to ooze away.
His master made no sign; he could not hear that anyone had been engaged in
his place, or that anyone had been proposed for the job, but this silence
somehow disconcerted rather than reassured him.  He discussed it with his
neighbour Hosken (one of the few small freeholders in the parish, who
along with a cottage and two acres of garden had inherited a deep
ancestral suspicion of the Rosewarnes and all their ways), and between
them the pair devised a plan to meet contingencies.

The ferry closed at eight p.m. during the winter months.  At half-past
eight on Saturday night Nicky again presented himself at Hall, and was
politely received in the counting-house.

"Take a seat," suggested Mr. Sam.

"Thank 'ee, sir," said Nicky, somewhat reassured.  This opening promised
at least that Mr. Sam found the situation worth discussing.  "Thank 'ee,
sir; but 'tis a relief to me to stand, not to mention the trousers."

"Please yourself."  Mr. Sam paused, and appeared to be waiting.

"'Tis nice seasonable weather for the time of year," said Nicky
cheerfully, producing a large canvas bag and reaching forward to lay it on
the writing-table.  It contained his week's takings, mostly in coppers.
"Three pounds, twelve shillings, and ninepence, sir, if you'll count it.
There's one French penny, must have been put upon me just now after dark.
I can't swear to the person, though I can guess.  The last load but one, I
brought across a sailor-looking chap, a bustious, big fellow, with a round
hat like a missionary's, and all the rest of him in sea-cloth.  Thinks I,
'You've broken ship, my friend.'  The man had a drinking face, and
altogether I didn't like his looks.  So, next trip, I warned the constable
across the water, in case he heard of a seaman missing from the west'ard.
But this here French penny I only discovered just now, when I counted up
the day's takings."

"I fancy you must be mistaken," said Mr. Sam.  "The man has a good
character for honesty."

"What?  You know 'en?"

"He is the new tenant of Mrs. Trevarthen's cottage, and has come to take
over the ferry."  In the pause that followed, Mr. Sam counted and arranged
the coins in small stacks.  "Three-twelve-nine, did you say?  Right.
But excuse me, there's one thing you've forgotten."

Nicky understood.  Very slowly he drew a chain from his left trouser
pocket, detached two keys, and laid them on the table.  His face worked,
and for the moment he seemed on the verge of an outburst; but, when he
spoke, it was with dignity, albeit his voice trembled.

"Mr. Samuel, you try to go where the devil can't, between the oak and the
rind.  Your father fought with men of his own size, and gave an' took what
the fightin' brought; but as for you, you fight with women and children,
and old worn-out men, such as the Lord helps because they can't help
themselves.  You han't beat us yet--not by a long way.  I warn you to pray
that the way may be lengthened; for 'tis when you've overcome us, an' the
Lord takes up our cause, that your troubles'll begin."


Small sleep came to Nicky Vro that night.  What troubled him most in the
prospect of the struggle ahead--for a struggle he meant it to be--was his
position as Rosewarne's tenant.  Mean as was his hovel above the ferry--
rented by him at four pounds a year--he clung to it, and Mr. Samuel would
certainly turn him out.  By good luck he paid his rent quarterly, and
could not be evicted before Christmas.  He had talked this over with his
neighbour, Hosken, who had encouraged him to be cheerful.  "Drat it all,
uncle," said Hosken, himself the cheeriest of men, "if the worst comes to
the worst, I'll take you in myself, and give you your meals and a crib."

Nicky shook his head.  "You'd best talk it over with your wife," said he,
"afore you make free with your promises.  She's a good woman, but
afflicted with tidiness.  I doubt my ways be too messy for her."

While he lay on his straw mattress thinking of these things, a distant
gallop of hoofs woke the night, and by and by, with much clattering of
loose stones, a horse came plunging down the village street.

Old Nicky, who slept in his clothes, was out of bed and ready before the
rider drew rein.

"'Tis young Tregenza from Kit's Harbour," he muttered.  "I heard that
his missus was expectin'.  Lord, how a man will ride for his first!
All right! all right!" he sung out, fumbling with the bar as the butt of a
riding-whip rattled on the shutter.  "Be that you, Mr. Tregenza?"

"For the Lord's sake, uncle!" an agitated voice made answer out of the
darkness.

"There, there!  Yours ben't the first case that have happened, my lad, and
you'll ride easier next time.  Hitch up the horse, and I'll have the boat
out in two two's."

"Why can't you fetch out the horse-boat?"

"Because, my son, I ben't the proper ferryman.  You must ride back up the
hill if you want _he_; and even so, I doubt he'll have to knock up the
folks at Hall to get at the keys."

Mr. Tregenza broke out into impatient swearing on all who delayed travel
on the king's highway.

"You may leave your curses, young man, to them with a better right to use
'em.  Thank the Almighty there's a boat to put you across.  Hosken's blue
boat it is; you'll find her ready to launch, down 'pon the slip.  Take her
and pull for the doctor.  Tell 'en 'tis no use his bringing a horse, for
there's no boat to fetch a horse over.  But there's Tank's grey mare up to
the inn.  I'll have her ready saddled for him, if he'll promise to ride
steady and mind the sore 'pon her near shoulder."

All the village had heard the midnight gallop of hoofs; all the village
had guessed accurately who the rider was, and why he rode.  But Nicky's
dismissal was known to a few only.  Soon after daybreak the news of this
spread too, with the circumstance that only Nicky's good-nature had kept
clear the king's highway for a message which above all others needs to be
carried with speed.

Nicky sat complacent off the ferry-slip in Hosken's blue boat when the new
ferryman arrived (twenty minutes late, by reason of his having to fetch
the keys from Hall), and stolidly undid the padlock fastening the official
craft.

"Aw, good-mornin'!" Nicky hailed him.

"Mornin'," said the new ferryman.

"We're in opposition, it seems."

"Darned if I care."  The new ferryman lit his pipe and spat.  "My name's
Elijah Bobe."

"Then, Elijah Bobe, you may as well go home.  'Tis Sunday, and a slack
day; but, were it Saturday and full business, your takings wouldn't cover
your keep."

"Darned if I care," Mr. Bobe repeated.  "I'm paid by the week."  He sucked
at his pipe for a while.  "Ticklish job, ain't it?--interferin' with a
private ferry?" he asked.

But Nicky had taken opinion upon this.  So far as he could discover, the
case lay thus: Of the ferry itself nothing belonged to Lady Killiow but
the slipway on the near shore.  The farther slipway was not precisely
no-man's-land, for the foreshore belonged to the Duchy, and the soil
immediately above it to Sir George Dinham; but here half a dozen separate
interests came into conflict.  Sir George, while asserting ownership of
the land, would do nothing to repair or maintain the slip on it, arguing
very reasonably that he derived no profit from the dues, and that since
these went to Lady Killiow, she was bound to maintain her own
landing-places.  Rosewarne, on the other hand, as Lady Killiow's steward,
flatly refused to execute repairs upon another person's property.
The Duchy, being appealed to, told the two parties (in effect) to fight it
out.  The Highway Board was ready enough to maintain the road down to
high-water mark, but, on legal advice, declined to go farther.
The Harbour Commissioners held that to repair a private ferry was no
business of theirs, and, although the condition of the slipway had for
years been a scandal, refused to meddle.  The whole dispute raised the
nice legal points,  What is a ferry?  Does the term include not only the
boat but access to the boat?  And, incidentally, if anyone broke a leg on
the town shore on his way between highwater mark and the boat, from whom
could he recover damages?

In short, Nicky felt easy enough about landing and embarking his
passengers on the town shore.  Rosewarne could not challenge him without
raising the whole question of the slipway.  But on the near shore he must
act circumspectly.  To be sure the approach to the water here was part of
the king's highway.  The whole village used it, and moored their boats
without let or hindrance off the slip which (since the land belonged to
the Killiow estate) the Rosewarnes had kept in good repair, and without
demur.  But it was clearly understood--and Nicky, a few hours ago, would
have asserted it as stubbornly as anyone--that the sole right of taking a
passenger on board here for hire and conveying him across to the town
appertained to the Killiow ferryman.

As it happened, however, at the back of Nicky's cottage a narrow lane,
public though seldom used, ran down to the waterside, to a shelf of rock
less than a stone's throw from the slip, and, when cleared of weed below
the tide-mark, by no means inconvenient for embarking passengers.
A rusty ring, clamped into the living rock, survived to tell of days
before steam-tugs were invented, when vessels had painfully to warp their
way up and down the river.  Through this ring, no man forbidding him, Mr.
Hosken had run a frape, on which he kept his blue boat, now leased to
Nicky for a nominal rent of sixpence a week.

"And why not use this for your ferry-landing?" Mr. Hosken suggested.
"Rosewarne can't touch ye here."

"Sure?"

"I reckon I ought to know the tithe-maps by heart; and, by them, this
parcel of shore belongs to nobody, unless it be to Her Majesty."

Nicky chuckled with a wheezy cunning.

It happened as he had promised the new ferryman.  Mr. Sam's unpopularity
had been growing in the village since the eviction of Mrs. Trevarthen.
Aunt Butson, after a vain attempt to find labour in the fields, had
followed her to the almshouse across the water.  The cause of Mr. Benny's
dismissal had been freely canvassed and narrowly guessed at.
Against this new stroke of tyranny the public revolted.  Living so far
from their own church and a mile from the nearest chapel, numbers of the
villagers were wont on Sundays to cross over to the town for their
religion, and to-day with one consent they stepped into Nicky's blue boat,
while Mr. Bobe smoked and spat, and regarded them with a lazy interest.
Towards evening the old man jingled a pocketful of coppers.

"Why ever didn't I think o' this before?" he asked aloud.  "Here I've
a-been near upon fifty years earnin' twelve shillings a week, and all the
while might ha' been a rich man and my own master!"

Next day he sought out Mr. Toy, and Mr. Toy obligingly painted and
lettered a board for him, and helped to fix it against the wall of his
hovel overlooking the lane--

                              THIS WAY TO
                            N. VRO   FERRYMAN
                              THE OLD FIRM

Here was defiance indeed, a flaunted banner of revolt!  The villagers, who
had hitherto looked upon the old man as half-witted but harmless, suddenly
discovered him to be a hero, and Mr. Toy gave himself a holiday to stand
beneath the board and explain it to all the country folk coming to use the
ferry.  So well did he succeed that between sunset and sunrise the only
passenger by the official boat was Mr. Sam himself, on his way to seek and
take counsel with Lawyer Tulse.

Of their interview no result appeared for ten days, during which Nicky saw
himself acquiring wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.  Already he
despised what at first had been so terrible, the prospect of being turned
out of house and home.  He could snap his fingers, and let Mr. Sam do his
worst.  He no longer thought of hiring a bedroom; he would rent a small
cottage from Hosken, and perhaps engage a housekeeper.  It is to be feared
that in these days Nicky gave way to boasting; but much may be forgiven to
a man who blossoms out into a hero at eighty.

On the twelfth day of his prosperity, as he rested on his oars off the
town-landing and dreamed of a day when, by purchasing a horse-boat, he
would deprive the official ferry of its only source of revenue, and close
all competition, a seedy-looking man in a frayed overcoat stepped down the
slipway and accosted him.

"Is your name Nicholas Vro?"

"It is; and you'm askin' after the right boat, stranger though you be.
Step aboard, mister."

"Thank you," said the seedy-looking man, "but I don't need to cross.
The fact is, I've a paper to deliver to you."

Nicky, as he did not mind confessing, was 'no scholar'; he could read at
the best with great difficulty, and he had left his spectacles at home.

"What's the meaning o' this?" he asked, turning the document over.

"It's an injunction."

"That makes me no wiser, my son."

"It's a paper to restrain you from plying this ferry for hire pending a
suit Killow _versus_ Vro in which you are named as defendant."

"'Suit'--'verses'?  Darn the fellow, what's to do with verses?  Come to me
with your verses!"  Nicky tossed the injunction contemptuously down in the
sternsheets.

"You'll find 'tis the law," said the stranger warningly.

"The law?  I've a-seen the law, my friend, over to Bodmin, and 'tis a very
different looking chap from you, I can assure 'ee.  The law rides in a
gilt coach with trumpets afore it, and two six-foot fellows up behind in
silk stockings and powder.  The law be that high and mighty it can't even
wear its own nat'ral hair.  And you come to me stinkin' of beer in a
reach-me-down overcoat, and pretend _you_ be the law! You'll be tellin' me
next you're Queen Victoria.  But it shows what a poor kind o' case
Rosewarne must have, that he threatens me wi' such a make-believe."

That Nicky had been alarmed for the moment cannot be denied.
His uneasiness died away, however, as the days passed and nothing
happened.  The paper he stowed away at home in the skivet of his chest,
and very foolishly said nothing about it even to his neighbour Hosken.

Indeed he had almost forgotten it when, just before Christmas, the
stranger appeared again on the slip with another paper.

"Hullo!  More verses?"

"You've to show cause why you shouldn't be committed for contempt."

"Oh, have I?  Well, a man can't help his feelin's, but I'm sorry if I said
anything the other day to hurt yours; for a man can't help his appearance,
neither, up to a point."

"You've none too civil a tongue," answered the stranger, "but I think it a
kindness to warn you.  By continuing to ply this ferry you're showing
contempt for the law, and the law is going to punish you."

Nicky thought this out, but could not understand it at all.  If Mr. Sam
had a legal right to stop him, why hadn't he sent the police, or at least
a 'summons'?  As for going to prison, that only happened to thieves and
criminals.  No man could be locked up for pulling a boat to and fro; the
notion was absurd on the face of it.

Two days later he sought out Mr. Benny, and showed him the documents.

"I wish you'd make head or tail of 'em for me.  They're pretendin' somehow
that Queen Victoria herself is mixed up in it.  God bless her! and me that
have never clapped eyes on her nor wished her aught but in health an'
wealth long to live, Amen."

"Oh, Nicky, Nicky!" Mr. Benny leapt up from his chair.  "What have you
done! and what a criminal fool was I not to keep an eye on you!"

"From all I hear," said Nicky, "you've had enough to do lookin' after
yourself.  Be it true, as I hear tell, that Rosewarne gave you the sack on
my account?"

"Never talk of that," commanded Mr. Benny.  "Go you home now, lock up your
boat, get a night's rest, and expect me early to-morrow morning.
Between this and then I will see what can be done."  But his heart sank as
he glanced again at the date on the document.

Indeed he was too late.  After an ineffectual interview with Mr. Tulse,
the little man rushed off to the ferry, intent on facing Mr. Sam in his
den and pleading for mercy.  But as he reached the slip the official
ferryboat came alongside, and in the sternsheets beside the town policeman
sat Nicky Vro, on his way to Bodmin gaol.



CHAPTER XIX.


THE INTERCEDERS.

"Clem!"

The blind child awoke at the touch of his sister's hand on his shoulder,
and turned drowsily in his bed.

"Eh?  What's the matter?"  A moment later he sat up in alarm and put out a
hand as if to feel the darkness.  "It isn't morning yet!"

"No; but the ground is all covered with snow, and you can't think what
funny lights are dancing over it across the sky.  I've been watching them
for minutes and minutes."

"What sort of lights?"

"I can't tell you, because I never saw the like of them.  Sometimes
they're white, and sometimes they're violet, and then again green and
orange.  They run right across the sky like ribbons waving, and once they
turned to red and lit up the snow as far as I could see."

"You've been catching your death of cold."  Clem could hear her teeth
chattering.

"I'm not so very cold," Myra declared bravely.  "I took off the
counterpane and wrapped it round me.  You'll come, won't you, dear?"

Clem knew why he was summoned.  Two days ago Susannah had told them of an
old woman living at Market Jew who had mixed a pot of green ointment and
touched her eyes with it, and ever afterwards seen the fairies.  At once
Myra, who was naught if not practical, had secreted Susannah's jar of cold
cream (kept to preserve the children's skin from freckles) and a phial of
angelica-water from the store-closet, had stirred these into a beautiful
green paste, and had anointed her own eyes and Clem's with it, using
incantations--

    "Christ walked a little, a little
        Before the sun did rise;
     Christ mixed clay with spittle,
        And cured a blind man's eyes;
     This man, and that man,
        And likewise Bartimee--
     What Christ did for these poor men
        I hope He'll do for me."

The charm, however, had not worked.  Perhaps it needed time to operate,
and the children had despaired too soon.

"Why didn't you come to me at once?" demanded Clem.

"I didn't dare." Myra trembled now, on the verge of putting her hopes to
the touch.  Though these were but pisky-lights, what bliss if Clem should
behold them!  "Besides, I saw a light across the yard in Archelaus Libby's
garret.  I believe he is awake there, with his telescope, and _he_ can't
have tried the ointment.  You won't be terribly disappointed, dear, if--"

He slid out of bed and took her hand.

He was a brave boy; and when she led him to her window and he saw nothing,
his first thought was for her disappointment, to soothe it as well as he
might.

"Tell me about it," he whispered, nestling down on the window-seat and
drawing her head close to his shoulder; for after the pause that destroyed
hope she had broken down, her body shaking with muffled sobs, woeful to
feel and to hear.  Outside, the Northern Lights--the 'merry-dancers'--yet
flickered over the snowy roof-ridges and the snowy uplands beyond.

"I am going to dress," she announced, as the gust of sobbing spent itself.
"If Archelaus Libby is awake, he will tell us what it means."

"Take me with you."

Though prepared to go alone, she had hoped he would ask this, being--to
confess the truth--more than half afraid of the dark landing and passages
below.  The two dressed themselves and crept downstairs.  In the hall,
remembering their former expedition, Myra felt the bolt of the front door
cautiously; but this time it was shut.  They stole down the side-passage
to the kitchen, where a fire burned all night in the great chimney-place
on a bed of white wood ashes.  Kneeling in the faint glow of it they drew
on and laced their boots, then unlatched the kitchen window and dropped
out upon the snow.

Archelaus Libby had been given a garret over the cider house, where he
slept or studied in a perpetual odour of dried russet apples and Spanish
onions.  He was awake and dressed, and welcomed the children gaily by the
light of a tallow candle.  His simple mind found nothing to wonder at in
this nocturnal visit.  Was not the Aurora Borealis performing in all its
splendour?  Then naturally the whole world must be awake with him and
excited.

He showed Myra its wonders through the telescope, discoursing on them with
glee.

"But what does it _mean _?" she asked.

He told her how it was caused, and how a clever man had once made a toy
with a bright lamp, a globe sprinkled with ground glass, and the vapour of
a sponge pressed on hot iron, repeating the phenomenon on a tiny scale.
"We will try it ourselves to-morrow," he promised.

The ribbons of light were playing hide-and-seek behind a distant wooded
hill, now and again so vividly that its outline stood up clear against
them.

"That will be the moors above Damelioc," said Archelaus.  "If you watch
through the glass, you will see the monument there--the one on the
battle-field, you know.  I saw it, just now, plain as plain.  And once I
thought I saw the taller monument, over Bodmin."

"That's where they've put Uncle Vro in gaol."

"I was thinking of him just now, Miss Myra.  It will be cold for him
to-night over there in his cell."

"I wonder if Lady Killiow knows," said Myra musingly.

"They were talking about it in the kitchen to-night," said Archelaus,
"and all agreed that she knew naught about it.  Miss Susannah was saying
that Peter Benny had been across here, bold as a lion, this afternoon, and
spoke up to your uncle about it.  Their voices were so loud that from the
great parlour she heard every word; and Mr. Benny was threatening to tell
Lady Killiow what he was doing in her name, and, what's more, to write up
to his brother and get the whole story in the London papers."

"But _has_ he told her?"

Clem caught his sister suddenly by the arm.  The child was shaking from
head to foot.  "Peter Benny has not told her!  Come away, Myra, and leave
Archelaus to his telescope.  I want you, back at the house!"

"Why, whatever has taken you?" she asked, believing him ill.  Having
wished Archelaus good-night and hurried Clem down the garret stairs, she
repeated her question anxiously.  "Come back to bed, Clem; you're shaking
like a leaf!"

"The lights!" stammered the child.  "I saw them."

"You saw them!" Myra echoed slowly.

"Yes, yes--over Bodmin and over Damelioc.  How far is it to Damelioc?"

"Four or five miles maybe.  But, Clem, you don't mean--"  She stared into
his face by the wan light of the Aurora reflected from the snow.
Reading his resolve, she became practical at once.  "Stay here and don't
stir," she commanded, "while I creep back to the larder and forage."


Dawn overtook them at the lodge-gates of Damelioc; a still dawn, with a
clear, steel-blue sky and the promise of a crisp, bright day.   It had
been freezing all night, and was freezing still; the snow as yet lay like
a fine powder, and so impetuously had they hurried, hand in hand, that
along the uplands they scarcely felt the edge of the windless air.
But here in the valley bottom, under the trees beside the stream, they
passed into a different atmosphere, and shivered.  Here, too, for the
first half-mile--road and sward being covered alike with snow--Myra had
much ado to steer, and would certainly have missed her way but for the
black tumbling stream on her right.  She knew that the drive ran roughly
parallel with it, and never more than a few paces distant from its brink.
Twice in her life she had journeyed with her grandmother in high June to
Lady Killiow's rose-show, and she remembered being allowed to kneel on the
cushions of the 'car' and wonder at the miniature bridges and cascades.
By keeping close beside the water she could not go wrong.

They halted by a bridge below the lake where the woods divided to right
and left at the foot of the great home-park.  A cold fog lay over the
water and the reedy islands where the wild duck and moorhens were just
beginning to stir, but above it a glint or two of sunshine touched the
wintry boughs, and while it grew and ran along them and lit up their snowy
upper surfaces as with diamonds, a full morning beam smote on the facade
of the house itself, high above the slope, uplifted above the fog as it
were a heavenly palace raised upon a base of cloud.

Daunted by the vision, Myra glanced at Clem.  His face was lifted towards
the sunlight.

"The house!" she whispered.  "Oh, Clem, it's ever so much grander than I
remembered!"  She began to describe it to him, while they divided and
munched the crusts she had fetched from Susannah's bread-pan.

"If her palace is as fine as that," said Clem, with great cheerfulness,
"she must be a very great lady, and can easily do what we want."

They took hands again and mounted the curving drive to the terrace and the
cavernous _porte-cochere_, where hung a bell-pull so huge that Myra had to
clasp it in both hands and drag upon it with all her weight.  Far in the
bowels of the house a bell clanged, deep and hollow-voiced as for a
funeral.

A footman answered it--a young giant in blue livery and powder.
Flinging wide the vast door, he stared down upon the visitors, and his
Olympian haughtiness gave way to a broad grin.

"Well, I'm jiggered!" said the footman.

"You may be jiggered or not," answered Myra, with sudden _aplomb_
(a moment before, she had been ready to run), "but we wish to see Lady
Killiow.  Will you announce us, please?"


Two hours later, when the sun had risen above the trees, Sir George Dinham
came riding up through Damelioc Park.  He too came to right a wrong,
having given his promise to Mr. Benny overnight.  He rode slowly,
pondering.  On his way he noted the footprints of two children on the
snow, except by them untrodden; marked how they wandered off here and
there toward the stream, but ever returned, regained the way, and held on
for Damelioc.   He wondered what they might mean.

Lady Killiow received him in her morning-room.  She wore a bonnet and a
long cloak of sables, and was obviously dressed for a drive.  She rose
from before her writing-table, where she was sealing a letter.

"I interrupt you?" said Sir George as they shook hands, and glancing out
of the window he had a glimpse of the heads of a pair of restless bays.
Unheard by him--the snow lying six inches deep before the porch--Lady
Killiow's carriage had come round from the stables a minute after his
arrival.

"But if I guess your errand," she said, "I was merely about to forestall
it.  I am driving to Bodmin."

"You knew nothing, then, of this poor old creature's case?"

"My friend, I hope that you too have only just discovered it, or you would
have warned me."

"I heard of it last night for the first time.  Rosewarne alone is
responsible for the prosecution?"

"He only."  She nodded towards the letter on the writing-table.
"I have asked him to attend here when I return, and explain himself.
Meanwhile--"

"But what can you do?"

"The poor soul is in prison."

"That is where I came to offer my help.  The Assizes are not over.
The same judge who committed him has been delayed there for three days by
a _nisi prius_ suit--an endless West Cornwall will case."

"You did not suppose, surely, that this was happening with any consent of
mine?"

"No," Sir George answered slowly, "I did not.  But do you know, Lady
Killiow, that, without any consent of ours, you and I have nearly been in
litigation over this same wretched ferry?"  He smiled at her surprise.
"Oh, yes, I could help the Radicals to make out a very good case against
us!"

"I learned to trust my old steward.  It seems that I have carried over my
trust too carelessly to this son of his, and with the less excuse because
I dislike the man.  The fact is, I am getting old."

"May I say humbly that you defend yourself before a far worse sinner in
these matters?  And may I say, too, that your care for Damelioc and its
tenantry has always been quoted in my hearing as exemplary?"

"I am not defending myself.  I have been to blame, though," she added with
a twinkle, "I do not propose to confess this to my steward.  I have been
bitterly to blame, and my first business at Bodmin will be to ask this old
man's pardon."

"And after?"

"He must be released, and at once.   Can this be done by withdrawing the
suit? or must there be delays?"

"He must purge his offence, I fear, unless you can persuade the judge to
reconsider it.  If I can help you in this, I would beg for the privilege."

"Thank you, my friend.  I was on the point of asking what you offer.
You had best leave your horse here and take a seat in my carriage."

"But," said Sir George, as she moved to the door, "you have not yet told
me how you learned the news--who was beforehand with me."

"You shall see."  She crossed the corridor, and softly opening a door,
invited him to look within.  There, in the lofty panelled breakfast-room,
at a table reflected as a small white island in a sea of polished floor,
sat Myra and Clem replete and laughing, unembarrassed by the splendid
footman who waited on them, and reckless that the huge bunch of grapes at
which they pulled was of December's growing.

Sir George laughed too as he looked.  "But, good heavens!" said he,
remembering the footprints on the drive, "they must have left home before
daylight!"

"They started in the dead of night, so far as I can gather.  Eh? What is
it?" she asked, turning upon another footman, who had come briskly down
the corridor and halted behind her, obviously with a message.

"Mr. Rosewarne, my lady.  He has just come in by way of the stables.
He has seen the carriage waiting, but asks me to say that he will not
detain your ladyship a minute."

"He has come for the children, no doubt.  Very well; I will see him in the
morning-room."  As the man held open the door for her she motioned to Sir
George to precede her.  "I shall defer discussing Mr. Rosewarne's conduct
with him.  For the moment we have to deal with its results, and you may
wish to ask him some questions."

Mr. Sam never committed himself to horseback, but employed a light gig for
his journeys to and from Damelioc.  The cold drive having reddened his
ears and lent a touch of blue to his nose, his appearance this morning was
more than usually unprepossessing.

"I will not detain your ladyship," he began, repeating the message he had
sent by the footman.  "Ah, Sir George Dinham?  Your servant, Sir George!
My first and chief business was to recover my runaways, whom your ladyship
has so kindly looked after."

"You know why they came?" asked Lady Killiow.

"To tell the truth, I have not yet had an opportunity to question them.
Some freak of the girl's, I should guess.  The young teacher to whom I
give house-room informs me that they were excited last night by an
appearance of the Northern Lights--a very fine display, he tells me.
I regret that, being asleep, I missed it.  He suggested that the pair had
set out to explore the phenomenon; and that, very likely, is the
explanation--more especially as their footprints led me due northward.
My housekeeper tells me that Myra--the elder child--firmly believes a pot
of gold to be buried at the foot of every rainbow.  A singular pair, my
lady! and my late father scarcely improved matters by allowing them to run
wild."

"You are mistaken, Mr. Rosewarne.  Undoubtedly they followed the Northern
Lights; but their purpose you Will hardly guess.  It was to intercede for
an old man of eighty, whom, it appears, I have been cruel enough to lock
up in prison."

Mr. Sam's face expressed annoyance and something more.

"I sincerely trust, my lady, they have not succeeded in distressing you."

"I suppose I may thank Heaven, sir, that they at least succeeded so far."

Her tone completely puzzled Mr. Sam, who detected the displeasure beneath
it, but in all honesty could not decide whether she blamed him or the
children.

"A painful business, my lady.  The poor man was past his work--a nuisance
to himself and to others.  These last scenes of our poor mortality--
often, as it seems to us (could _we_ be the judges), so unduly
protracted--But some steps had to be taken.  The ferry was becoming a
scandal.  I felt called upon to act, and to act firmly.  If I may use the
expression, your ladyship's feelings in the matter would naturally be
those which do honour to your ladyship's sex; they would be, shall I
say--er--"

"Why not say 'womanly,' Mr. Rosewarne?"

"Ha, precisely--womanly.  I did my best to spare them."

"We will talk of that later.  Just now, you will please instruct us how
best to release the poor man, and at once.  May I remind you that the
horses are taking cold?"

"The horses?" Mr. Sam stared from Lady Killiow to Sir George.
"Her ladyship doesn't tell me that she was actually proposing to drive to
Bodmin?"

"I start within five minutes."

"But it is useless!"

"Useless?"

"The man is dead."

"Mr. Rosewarne--"

Mr. Sam drew a telegram from his pocket.  "I received this as I was
leaving home.  The governor of the prison very kindly communicated with me
as soon as the office opened.  The prisoner--as I heard from the policeman
who escorted him--collapsed almost as soon as they admitted him.
I telegraphed at once to the governor, assuring him of my interest in the
case and requesting information.  This is his reply: '_ Vro died
three-thirty this morning.  Doctor supposes senile decay._'  It was
considerate of him to make this addition, for it will satisfy your
ladyship that we acted, though unwillingly, with the plainest possible
justification.  The man was hopelessly past his work."

Sir George, who had been staring out of window, wheeled about abruptly,
lifted his head, and gazed at Mr. Sam for some twenty seconds with a
wondering interest.  Then he turned to Lady Killiow.

"Shall I send back the carriage?"

"Thank you," she said; and he went out, with a glance at her face which
silently expressed many things.

"Mr. Rosewarne," she began, when they were alone, "if I began to say what
I think of this business, a person of your instincts would at once fall to
supposing that I shifted the blame on to your shoulders, which is just the
last thing in the world I mean to do.  But precisely because I am guilty,
and precisely because I accept responsibility for my steward's actions, a
steward who conceals his actions is of no use to me.  You are dismissed."



CHAPTER XX.


AN OUTBURST.

    "I saw the new moon late yestreen,
     Wi' the auld moon in her arm."

"Miss Marvin, does 'yestreen' mean 'last night'?"

"It does."

"Then I wish the fellow would say 'last night,'" grumbled Master Calvin.
"And how could the new moon have the old moon in her arm?"

Hester explained.

"But moons haven't arms."  He pushed the book away pettishly.
"I hate this poetry!  Why can't you teach me what I want?"

"That," said Hester, "is just what I am trying to discover.
Will you tell me what you want?"

To her amazement, he bent his head down upon his arms and broke into
sobbing.  "I don't know what I want!  Everyone hates me, and I--I hate it
all!"

Somehow, Hester--who had started by misliking the child, and only with the
gravest misgivings (yielding to pressure from his father) had consented to
teach him in her spare hours--was beginning to pity him.  This new
feeling, to be sure, suffered from severe and constant checks; for he was
unamiable to the last degree, and seldom awoke a spark of liking but he
killed it again, and within five minutes, by doing or saying something
odious.  He differed from other children, and differed unpleasantly.
He had taken the full tinge of his sanctimonious upbringing; he was
pharisaical, cruel at times, incurably twisted by his father's creed that
wrong becomes right when committed by a pious person from pious motives.
(His mother had once destroyed a cat because she found herself growing
fond of it and believed that a Christian's soul must be weaned of all
earthly affections.)  He appealed to Hester's pity because, with all this,
he was unhappy.

She had been teaching him languidly and inattentively to-day, being
preoccupied with a letter in her pocket; and to this letter, having set
him to learn his verses from Sir Patrick Spens, she let her thoughts
wander.  It ran:--

    "My dear Miss Marvin,--After much hesitation I have decided to
     commit to writing a proposal which has been ripening in my mind
     during our three months' acquaintance.  My age and my
     convictions alike disincline me to set too much store on the
     emotion men call 'love,' which in my experience is illusory as
     the attractions provoking it are superficial.  But as a solitary
     man I have long sighed for the blessings of Christian
     companionship, or a union founded on mutual esteem and fruitful
     in well-doing.  While from the first not insensible to your
     charms of person, I have allowed my inclination to grow because
     I detected in you the superior graces of the mind and a strength
     of character which could not be other than sustaining to the man
     fortunate enough to possess you for a helpmeet.  In short, my
     dear Miss Marvin, you would gratify me in the highest degree by
     consenting to be Mrs. R. I am, as you are probably aware,
     well-to-do.  The circumstances of my being a widower will not,
     I hope, weigh seriously against this proposal in the mind of one
     who, while retaining the personal attractions above mentioned,
     may be reasonably supposed to have set aside the romantic
     illusions of girlhood.  Awaiting your reply, which I trust may
     be favourable, I remain, yours very truly,"
                                      "S. Rosewarne."

    "P.S.--Your exceptional gifts in the handling of children assure
     me that my son Calvin would receive from you a care no less than
     motherly.  He would meet it, I feel equally sure, with a
     responsive affection."


The tone of this letter made Hester tingle as if some of its phrases had
been thongs to scourge her.

Yet it must be answered.

That this odious man should have dared--and yet for weeks she had seen it
coming.  Incredible as she found it that a man from whom every nerve of
her body recoiled with loathing should complacently ignore the signs,
should complacently persevere in assuming himself to be agreeable and in
pressing that assumption, she had to admit that the offer did not take her
wholly by surprise.  What bruised her was the insufferable obtuseness of
the wording.  How was it possible for a human being to sit down in good
faith and pen such sentences without guessing that they hurt or insulted?

Nevertheless she blessed the impulse which had prompted him to write; for
in writing he could be answered.  All day she had gone in dread of meeting
him face to face.

Once or twice, while she pondered her answer, she had glanced up at the
child, as if _he_ could explain his father.  What fatal unhappy gift had
they both, by which in all that they said or did they earned aversion?

When the child broke down, she arose with a pang of self-reproach, crossed
to his chair, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Listen to me, Calvin," she said.  "You have told me one thing you want:
you want people to like instead of disliking you.  Well, the quickest way
is to find out what they want, and do it, forgetting yourself; and then,
perhaps quite suddenly, you will wake up and discover not only that people
like you already, but that you yourself are full of a happiness you can't
explain."

The gust of his sobbing grew calmer by degrees.  He lifted his head a
little, but not to look her in the face.

"Is that puzzling to you?" she asked.  "Well, then, just give it a small
trial in practice, and see how it works.  I want you, for instance, to
learn those verses.  You don't like them; but by learning them you will
please me, and you want to please me.  Try now!"

He pulled the book towards him and bent over it, his head between his
hands.  After three or four minutes he stood up, red-eyed and a little
defiant--

    "'I saw the new moon late yestreen,
       Wi' the auld moon in her arm;
     And if we gang to sea, master,
       I fear we'll come to harm.'"

    "They hadna sail'd a league, a league,
        A league but barely ane--"

Hester listened with eyes withdrawn, in delicacy avoiding to meet his
tear-reddened ones; and just then from the upper floor a scream rang
through the house--a child's scream.

Master Calvin heard it, and broke off with a grin.

"That will be Myra," he announced.  "She's catching it!"

Had she been less distraught, Hester might have marked and sighed over his
sudden relapse into odiousness.  But she had risen with a white face; for
scream folllowed scream overhead, and the sound tortured her.

"You don't tell me,"--she began, putting up both hands to her ears.
"No, no--there has been some accident!  The poor child is calling for
help!"

She ran out of the parlour, up the two flights of stairs and along a dark
winding corridor, still guided by the screams.  At the end of the corridor
she found Susannah, pale, wringing her hands, outside a door which,
however, she made no attempt to enter.

"Oh, miss, he's killing her!"

"Is the door locked?" panted Hester, at the same time flinging her weight
against it as she turned the handle.  It flew open, and she confronted--
not Myra, but Mr. Sam.

He stood between her and the window with an arm uplifted and in his hand a
leathern strap; and while she recoiled for an instant, the strap descended
across the naked back and shoulders of little Clem, who drooped under it
with bowed knees, helpless, his arms extended, his wrists bound together
and lashed to the bed-post.  The child made no sound.  The piercing
screams came not from him, but from an inner room--Myra's bedroom--and
from behind a closed door.

"You shall not!"  Hester flung herself forward, shielding the child from
another blow.  "Oh, what wickedness are you doing!  What horrible
wickedness!"

Mr. Sam had raised his arm again.   The man indeed seemed to be
transported with passion, with sheer lust of cruelty.  It is doubtful if
he had heard her enter.  His dark face twitched distortedly in the fading
light.

"I'll teach him--I'll teach him!" he panted.

"You shall not!" Hester, covering the child's limp body, could not see his
face, but her eyes fell on his little shirt, ripped from neckband to flap,
and lying on the floor as it had been torn from his body and tossed aside.
She called to Susannah, still lingering doubtfully outside upon the mat,
and pointed to the door behind Mr. Sam.  Susannah plucked up courage,
stepped across and turned the key.  An instant later, like a small wild
beast uncaged, Myra came springing and crouched beside her brother, facing
his tormentor with blazing eyes.

Hester, catching sight of the housekeeper's scissors which Susannah wore
at her waist, motioned to her to cut the cords binding Clem's wrists.
Mr. Sam made no effort to oppose her, but stood panting, with one hand
resting on the dressing-table.  Susannah managed indeed to detach the
scissors, but held them out falteringly, as though in sheer terror
declining all responsibility.

"Give them to me, then."

But as Susannah held them out Myra leapt up and, snatching them, dashed
upon her uncle.  His hand still rested palm downwards on the
dressing-table, and she struck at it.  Undoubtedly the child would have
stabbed it through--for, strange to say, he made no effort to fend her off
or to avoid the stroke--had not Hester run in time to push her smartly by
the shoulder in the very act of striking.  As it was the scissor-point
drove into the table, missing him by a bare two inches.  Then and then
only he lifted his hand and stared at it stupidly.  He seemed about to
speak, but turned with a click of the throat--a queer dry sound, as though
a sudden thirst parched him--and walked heavily from the room.
Hester gazed after him and back at the scissors on the dressing-table.
She was reaching forward to pick them up when a cry from Susannah bade her
hurry.  Clem had fainted, his legs doubled beneath him, his head falling
horribly back from his upstretched arms, which still, like ropes, held him
fast to the bed-post.

Twenty minutes later Hester descended the stairs.  Clem was in bed with
his sister's arms about him; and Myra's last look at parting had been one
of dumb gratitude, pitifully asking pardon for old jealousies, old
misunderstandings.  At any other time Hester would have rejoiced over the
winning of a friend.

But the sight of the weals on Clem's back had for the moment killed all
feeling in her but disgust and horror.  So deep was her disgust that the
sight of Master Calvin, whom she surprised in the act of listening outside
the door, scarcely ruffled it afresh.  So complete was her horror that it
left no room for astonishment when, reaching the foot of the stairs, she
found Mr. Sam himself lingering in the hall, apparently awaiting her.

She walked past him with set face.  All the smooth, pietistic phrases of
his letter rang a chime in her brain, to be retorted upon him as soon as
he dared to speak.  But he did not speak.  He looked up, as if awaiting
her; took half a step forward; then drew aside and let her pass.  She went
by with set face, not sparing a look for him.   In the open air she drew a
long breath.


Above all things she desired to consult with Peter Benny.  In this there
was nothing surprising, for everyone in trouble went to Peter Benny.
He himself--honest man--had to admit that the number of confidences which
came his way were, no doubt, extraordinary.  He explained it on the simple
ground that he wrote letters for seamen and made it a rule never to
divulge their secrets.  "Not that anyone would dream of it," he added;
"but my secrecy, happening to be professional, gets its credit
advertised."

It appeared that these professional duties were heavier than usual
to-night.  At any rate, when Hester reached the little cottage by the
quayside, it was to find that he had made a hasty tea and departed for the
office.  In her urgency, after merely telling Mrs. Benny that she would be
back in a few minutes, Hester ran down the court to the office, tapped
hurriedly at the door, and pushed it open.

Within, with his back towards her, erect and naked to the waist under the
rays of an oil lamp swinging from the beam, stood a young man.  The light
falling on his firm shoulders and the muscles along his spine showed the
gleaming flesh tattooed with interwoven patterns, delicate as lacework;
and in the midst, reaching from shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade, a bright
blue tree with a cross above, and beneath it, the figures of Adam and Eve.


As she drew back, Mr. Benny, on the far side of the office, raised his
eyes from a table over which he bent to dip a needle in a saucer of Indian
ink; and at the same moment the young man under the lamp, suddenly aware
of a visitor, faced about with a shy laugh.  It was Tom Trevarthen.
Hester, with a short cry of dismay, backed into the darkness, shutting the
door as she retreated.  When Mr. Benny returned to supper he forbore from
alluding to the incident until Hester--her trouble still unconfided--shook
hands with him for the night.

"I've heard," he said, "folks laugh at sailors for tattooing themselves.
But 'tis done in case they're drowned, that their bodies may be known;
and, if you look at that, 'tis a sacrament surely."

That night Hester awoke from a terrifying dream; and still, as she dreamed
again, she saw a lash descending on a child's naked back, leaving at each
stroke the mark of a cross interwoven with a strange and delicate pattern;
and at each stroke heard a girl's voice which screamed, "It is a
sacrament!"



CHAPTER XXI.


MR. BENNY GETS PROMOTION.

Early next morning, having bound Mr. Benny to secrecy, she told him the
whole story.  At first his face merely expressed horror; but by and by his
forehead lost its puckers.  When she had done, his first comment took her
fairly aback.

"Ay," said he, "I'd half guessed it a'ready.  The poor creature's
afflicted.  It don't stand in nature for a man to deal around cruelty as
he's been doing unless his brain is touched."

"Afflicted is he?" Hester answered indignantly.  "I'm afraid I keep all my
pity for those he afflicts."

"Then you do wrong," replied Mr. Benny, with much gravity.  "That man
wants help if ever a man did."

"He will get none from me, then," she said, and flushed, remembering the
proposal in her pocket.  "I won't endure the sight of him, after
yesterday's work.  I have written a letter resigning my teachership."

"That isn't like you, somehow."  Mr. Benny stood musing.

"Of course," she went on hastily, "I don't give my real reasons.
The letter is addressed to you as Clerk, and you will have to read it to
the Board.  I am ready to fill the post until another teacher can be
found."

"It seemed to me, some while ago, that Mr. Samuel had a fancy for you.
Maybe I'm wrong, my dear; but you won't mind my speaking frankly.
And if I'm right, and he has begun pestering you, I can't blame you for
resigning.  The man isn't safe."

His look carried interrogation at once shy and fatherly.  She forced
herself to meet his eyes and nod the answer which her cheeks already
published.

"It is hateful," she murmured.  "Yes, he asked me to marry him."

"I _told_ you he was afflicted," said Mr. Benny, still with simple
seriousness; then, catching a sudden twinkle in her eyes, "Eh?  What did I
say?  My dear, I didn't mean it that way!"


Mr. Benny had judged at once more charitably and more correctly than
Hester.  Had she looked up yesterday when she passed Mr. Sam at the foot
of the stairs, she might have guessed the truth from his face.

The man was afflicted, and knew it; had suddenly discovered it, and was
afraid of himself--for the moment, abjectly afraid.  All his life he had
been nursing a devil, feeding it on religion, clothing it in
self-righteousness, so carefully touching up its toilet that it passed for
saint rather than devil--especially in his own eyes, trained as they were
in self-deception.  For every action, mean or illiberal or tricky or
downright cruel, he had a justificatory text; for his few defeats a
constant salve in the thought that his vanquishers were carnal men, sons
of Belial, and would find, themselves in hell some day.  He was Dives or
Lazarus as occasion served.  If a plan miscarried, the Lord was chastening
him; if, as oftener happened, it went prosperously, the Lord was looking
after His own; but always the plan itself, being _his_ plan, was certainly
righteous, because he was a righteous man.  A good tree could not bring
forth evil fruit.

But all this while the devil had been growing fat and strong; and now on a
sudden it had burst forth like a giant, mad, uncontrollable, flinging away
disguise, a devil for all to see.   There was no text, even in Solomon,
which could be stretched to excuse tying up a small blind child and
flogging him with a belt.  He had done a thing for which men go to prison.
Worse, he had not been far from a crime for which the law puts men to
death.  In his rage he had been absolutely blind, each blow deadening
prudence, calling for another blow.  If Hester Marvin had not run in,
where would he have ended?

It happened to him now as it has happened to many a man fed upon
conventional religion and accustomed to walk an aisle in public and
eminent godliness.  In the moment that he overbalanced public approval his
whole edifice crumbled and collapsed, leaving him no stay.  He was down
from his eminence--down with the wild beasts; and among them the worst was
the wild beast within him.

He had not philosophy enough even to render account with himself why he
hated the small blind child.  One reason, and perhaps the chief, was that
he had already injured Clem; another, that Clem stood all unconsciously
between his conscience and his son Calvin.  In his fashion Mr. Sam loved
his son, doomed to suffer, if the truth should ever be known, for his
father's bastardy.  But--to his credit perhaps--Mr. Sam forgot all excuses
in sheer terror of himself; terror less of what he had done than of what
he might hereafter do.

In panic of that devil he had placed himself in Hester's way, hoping
against hope that she might help.  He had built some hopes on her, and now
in an hour or two all these hopes were merged in a desperate appeal to be
saved from himself.  He almost forgot that he had written asking her to be
his wife; he could think only that she might possibly be his salvation.
But Hester had passed him by without a glance.  After this, meaning no
cruelty at all, but merely from the instinct of self-preservation (than
which nothing is crueller), he did, as will be seen, the cruellest deed of
his life.


Mr. Benny was one of those rare souls who never dream of asking a favour
for themselves, but can be shamelessly importunate on behalf of a
fellow-creature.  On receipt of Hester's resignation, which she submitted
to him first in private and then sent to him formally through the post, he
panted up the hill to seek an interview with Sir George Dinham.

"Dear me!" said Sir George; "it happens oddly that I was on the point of
sending for you for the first time; and yet you have been my tenant for
close upon twenty years, I believe?"

Mr. Benny might have seized the occasion to urge that his roof leaked and
the quay wall beneath his office badly needed repointing.  For years he
had submissively relieved Sir George of these and other repairs.
But he had come to engage Sir George's interest for Miss Marvin, a young
person who had just thrown up her position as schoolmistress across the
water, in circumstances perfectly honourable to her.  Sir George, perhaps,
would not press to know what those circumstances were; but Mr. Benny had
chanced to hear that the Matron of the Widows' Almshouses had earned her
pension and was resigning, and he ventured to recommend Miss Marvin for
the post.

"And that again is odd," said Sir George, "for I was wondering if the
situation would be agreeable to her."

Mr. Benny could scarcely believe his ears.

"But I think," pursued Sir George, "we had better take one thing at a
time; and I wish to get the first job off my hands, because, strictly
speaking, it is not my business.  Lady Killiow (as you may have heard)
requires a new steward, and has commissioned me to choose him for her.
I had thought of you, Mr. Benny."

"Sir George!"

"Why not?  You were clerk to the late Mr. Rosewarne and enjoyed his
confidence, I believe?"

"Sir George--Sir George!" Mr. Benny could only repeat with stammering
lips.  If, a while ago, he could not believe his ears, just now he felt as
if the sky were tumbling about them.

"There, my friend, go home and think it over.  If you think well of the
offer, be at the ferry at nine o'clock to-morrow.  I will meet you there
with the dogcart, and we can talk matters over on our way to Damelioc.
From Damelioc, after your interview with Lady Killiow, we will drive
straight to Bodmin; for I think you may be able to guess the first task
she will lay upon you as her steward."

But Mr. Benny was too far bewildered.

"She will ask you, if I am not mistaken, to make arrangements for bringing
home old Nicholas Vro's body and burying him where, as he would have said,
he belongs to lie--in his own parish churchyard.  There are no relatives
to be consulted?"

"Neither chick nor child, kith nor kin, Sir George."

"God forgive me, I had come near saying 'so much the better.'
Lady Killiow is a proud woman, as you know, and of a pride that would
rejoice in bearing the fullest blame and making fullest amends.
But her friends can only be glad to get this scandal over and as quietly
as may be.  I have written for the necessary order."


Once before we have seen Mr. Benny tempted to keep a secret from his wife.
This time he would have told, but could not.  He sat down to tea with a
choking breast and a heart so big within him that it left no room for
food.  He strove to eat, but could get no morsel past his lips.
At one moment the news seemed to bubble up within him, and his mouth
opened to shout it aloud; the next, his courage failed at his own vaunting
thoughts, and he reached a hand down to the table-leg, to 'touch wood,'
as humble men do to avert Nemesis if by chance they have let slip a
boastful word.  Once he laughed outright, wildly, at nothing whatever.

Nuncey set down the teapot and eyed her parent with a puzzled frown.
That frown had sat too often on her cheerful face during the past three
months.  In truth, Mr. Benny as a regrater fell disastrously short of
success, being prone to sell at monstrous overweights, which ate up the
profits.  When Nuncey at length forbade him to touch the scales, he gave
away apples to every child that chose to edge around the tail of the cart.

"There's something wrong with father to-night," she said.  "He's like a
thing hurried-in-mind.  What's up with 'ee, my dear?--is it verses?"
She paused with a sudden dark suspicion.  "I see'd William Badgery walkin'
after you down the street.  Don't tell me you've let 'en persuade you into
buying that lot of eggs he was preachin' up for fresh? for, if you have, I
get no shoes this Christmas--that's all.  Fresh?  He've been salting them
down these three months, against the Christmas prices, and no size in 'em
to start with.  I wouldn't sell 'em for sixpence the dozen."

"Shoes?"  Good Lord, what a question these boots and shoes had been for
all these years!  Never a Saturday came round (it seemed to him) but one
or other of the family wanted soleing or heeling.  And henceforth they
could all have shoes to their heart's content--and frocks--and new suits--
and meat on the table without stint--

He set down his cup and rose hurriedly.  In the act of pushing back his
chair he met his wife's eyes.  They were watching him with anxious
concern--not with apparent love; but he alone knew what love lay behind
that look which once or twice of late he had surprised in them.
His own filled with sudden tears.  No, he could not tell her now.
To-night, perhaps, when he and she were alone, he would tell her, as so
often he had told his worries and listened to hers.  He dashed his frayed
cuff across his eyes and fairly bolted from the room.

"It's about Nicky Vro that he's troublin'," said Mrs. Benny.
"Terrible soft-hearted he is; but you ought to know your father better by
this time than to upset 'en so."


An hour later word came to Hester--it was Shake who brought it--that Mr.
Benny would be glad to see her in the office.  She obeyed at once, albeit
with some trepidation when she came to mount the steps and tap at the
door.  She had learnt, however, from Nuncey that certain nights were set
aside for tattooing.  Doubtless this would not be one of them.

Four seamen sat within by the stove and under the light of the swinging
lamp, smoking, patiently awaiting their turn.  In the fog of tobacco
smoke, which almost took Hester's breath away, they rose politely and
saluted her.  Big, shy boys they seemed to her, with the whites of their
eyes extraordinarily clear against their swarthy complexions.  Somehow she
felt at home with them instantly, and no more afraid than if they had been
children in her school.

One of them called Mr. Benny from the tiny inner office, or cupboard,
where he conducted his confidential business, and the little man came
running out in a flurry with one hand grasping a handkerchief and the
other nervously thrust in his dishevelled hair.

"You will forgive me, my dear, for sending?  The truth is, I am at my
wits' end to-night and cannot concentrate myself.  I have heard news
to-day--no, nothing to distress me--on the contrary."--He gazed round
helplessly.  "It has upset me, though.  I was wondering if you will be
very kind and help me?"

"Help you?" echoed Hester.  "Oh, Mr. Benny, you surely don't ask me to
write your letters for you!"

"Not if you would find it distasteful, my dear."

"But I don't know; I assure you I haven't an idea how to do it!"

"You would find it come easy, for that matter."  Mr. Benny drew a quill
pen from behind his right ear, eyed its point dejectedly for a moment, and
replaced it.  "But, of course, if you feel like that, we'll say no more
about it, and I'm sorry to have troubled you."

"If it's merely writing down from dictation--"

"You will find it a little more than _that_," Mr. Benny admitted.

Hester looked around on the faces of the seamen.  They said nothing; they
even watched her with sympathy, as though, while dumbly backing Mr.
Benny's petition, they felt him to be asking too much; yet she divined
that they were disappointed.

"I will try," she said with sudden resolve, and their approving murmur at
once rewarded her.  "Only you must be patient, and forgive my mistakes."

"That's a very good lass," said one of them aloud, as Mr. Benny shook her
by the hand and led her triumphantly to the little inner office.
Hester heard the words, and in spite of nervousness was glad that she had
chosen to be brave.

The inner office contained a desk, a stool, and a deal chair.  These, with
a swinging lamp, a shelf of books, and a Band of Hope Almanack, completed
its furniture.  Indeed, it had room for no more, and its narrow dimensions
were dwarfed just now by an enormous black-bearded seaman seated in the
chair by the window, which stood open to the darkness.  Although the month
was December, the wind blew softly from the southwest, and night had
closed in with a fine warm drizzle of rain.  Beyond the window the
riding-lights of the vessels at anchor shone across the gently heaving
tide.

The black-bearded seaman made a motion to rise, but realising that this
would seriously displace the furniture, contented himself with a
'Good-evening, miss,' and dropped back in his seat.

"Good-evening," answered Hester.  "Mr. Benny here has asked me to take his
place.  I hope you don't mind?"

"Lord bless you, I like it."

"But I shall make a poor hand of it, I'm afraid."

The man eyed her solemnly for five or six seconds, slowly turned the quid
of tobacco in his cheek, and spat out of window.  "We'll get along
famous," he said.

"He likes the window open," explained Mr. Benny, "because--"

"I see."  Hester nodded.

"But I'll run and fetch a cloak for you."  Without waiting for an answer,
Mr. Benny hurried from the office.

To be deserted thus was more than Hester had bargained for, and for a
moment she felt helplessly dismayed.  A sheet of paper, half-covered with
writing, lay on the desk, and she put out a hand for it.

"Is this your letter?  Perhaps you'll allow me to read it and see how far
you and Mr. Benny have gone."

"That's the way.  Only you mustn' give me no credit for it: I sits and
looks on.  'Never take a hand in a business you don't know'--that's my
motto."

Hester wished devoutly that it had also been hers.  She picked up the
paper and read--

    "Dear Wife,--This comes hoping to find you in health as it leaves me
     at present, and the children hearty.  We made a good passage, and
     arrived at Troy on the 14th inst., a romantic little harbour
     picturesquely situated on the south coast of Cornwall.
     Once a flourishing port, second only to London and Bristol, and still
     retaining in its ivy-clad fort some vestiges of its former glories,
     it requires the eye of imagination to summon back the days when
     (as Hals tells us) it manned and sent forth more than forty ships to
     the siege of Calais, A.D. 1347--"

Hester glanced at her client dubiously.

"That's all right, ain't it?" he asked.

"Ye--es."

"Far as I remember, it tallies with the last letter he fixed up for me.
Something about 'grey old walls' there was, too."

"Yes, that comes two sentences below--

    "Confronted with these evidences of decay, the visitor instinctively
     exclaims to himself, 'If these grey old walls could speak, what a
     tale might they not unfold!'--"

"So he've put that in again?  There's what you might call a sameness about
Benny, though he _do_ write different to anybody else."

"And here are more dates, and an epitaph from one of the tombstones in the
churchyard!  Indeed, Mr."--

"Salt.  Tobias Salt--_and_ by natur'."

"Indeed, Mr. Salt, I can't write a letter like this.  To begin with, I
haven't the knowledge."

"The Lord forbid!"

"But I suppose your wife likes to read about these things?"

"She can't read a word, bless you.  She gets the parson to spell it out to
her, or the seamen's missionary.  Yarmouth our home is."

"She likes to hear about them, then?"

"What?  Sarah?  Lord love ye, miss, you should see the woman!"
Mr. Salt chuckled heavily, and wound up by sending a squirt of
tobacco-juice out into darkness.  "Mother of eight children, she is, and
makes 'em toe the mark at school and Sunday school.  A woman like that
don't bother about grey old walls."

"You are proud of her, I see."

"Ought to be, I reckon.  Why, to-day she can pick up two three-gallon
pitchers o' water and heft 'em along for a mile and more without turning a
hair."

"And the children?  How old are they?"

"Eldest just turned eleven."

"Why, then he must be able to read?"

"'Tisn't a he, 'tis a her.  Ay, I reckon 'Melia Jane should read well
before this."

Hester took a fresh sheet of paper and began to write.

"Listen to this, please," she said after a few sentences, "and tell me if
it will do--"

    "Dear Wife,--This comes hoping to find you in health, as it leaves me
     at present, and the children hearty.  I am sending this from Troy,
     and I daresay you will take it to some friend to read; but tell
     Amelia Jane, with my love, that in future she shall read her father's
     letters to you.  She must be getting a scholar by this time; and if
     there's anything she can't explain, why you can take it to a friend
     afterwards.  We reached this port last Tuesday (the 14th) after a
     good passage--"

"Now tell me about your passage, please."

At first Mr. Salt could only tell her that the passage had been a good
one, as passages go.  But by feeding him with a suggestion or two, as men
feed a pump with a little water to make it work, by and by she found
herself listening to information in a flood.  Now and then she interposed
a question, asking mainly about his wife and the home at Yarmouth.
She had picked up her pen again, and he, absorbed in his confidences, did
not perceive at what a rate she was making it travel over the paper.

The door opened, and Mr. Benny reappeared with a shawl on his arm.
He glanced around nervously.  "Mr. Salt, Mr. Salt! I put it to you, this
isn't quite fair.  A fine talk I can hear you're having; but our friends
outside are getting impatient, and want to know when you'll let Miss
Marvin begin."

"All right, boss.  I've had a yarn here that's worth all the money.
Here's your shilling for it, and the letter can stand over till
to-morrow."

"But I've written it!" Hester exclaimed.

"Written it!"  Mr. Salt's jaw dropped in amazement.

"I don't know if it will do.  Shall I read it over?"

"Well, but this beats conjuring!"  The reading ended, Mr. Salt slapped his
massive thigh.

"You have done very well, my dear," said Mr. Benny; "very well indeed.
You have caught, as I might say, the note.  Now I myself have great
difficulty in being literary and at the same time catching the note."

There was something in the little man's confession--so modest, so generous
withal--which drew tears to her eyes, though her own elation may have had
some share in them.

"Though there's one thing she've forgotten," said Mr. Salt, with a
twinkle.  "My poor Sarah will get shock enough over this letter as 'tis;
but she'll get a worse one if we leave out the money order."

The order having been made out in form, ready for him to take to the post
office, Mr. Salt bade farewell.  They could hear him extolling, on his way
through the outer office, the talent of the operator within.

"I feel like a dentist!" whispered Hester, turning to Mr. Benny with a
smile.  The little man was looking at her wistfully.

"Shall I call in the next?" he asked.  "I am afraid, my dear, you are
finding this a longer job than you bargained for."

"But I am enjoying it," she protested.  "That is, if--Mr. Benny, you are
not annoyed by his foolish praises?"

"My dear," he answered gravely, "they say that all literary persons are
jealous.  If I were jealous it would not be because Mr. Salt praised you,
but because my own sense tells me that you do better than I what I have
been doing for twenty years."

"If you feel like that, I won't write another letter," declared Hester.

"That would be very foolish, my dear.  And now I will tell you another
thing.  Suppose that this discovery hurt me a little, yet see how good God
is in keeping back all these years until a moment when my heart happens to
be so full of good news that it forgets the soreness in a moment; and
again, how wise in gently correcting and reminding me of weakness when I
might be puffing myself up and believing that all my good fortune came of
my own merit."

"What is your good news, dear Mr. Benny?"

"You shall hear later on when I have told my wife."


More than an hour later, having dismissed her clients (for the last of
whom she had to compose a love-letter, the first she had written in her
life), Hester stepped across to the cottage to announce that her work was
over and ask if she might now turn down the lamps and rake out the stove.

The Bennys' kitchen at first glance was uninhabited; and yet, as she
opened the door, she had heard voices within.  Dropping her eyes to a
lower level, she halted on the threshold and would have withdrawn without
noise.  In the penumbra beyond the circle of the lamp and the white
tablecloth Mr. and Mrs. Benny, Nuncey, and Shake were kneeling by their
chairs on the limeash, giving thanks.

While Hester hesitated, the little man lifted his head, and, catching
sight of her, sprang to his feet.  "Step ye in, my dear, and join with us!
For you, too, have news to hear and be thankful for."

"But tell me your own good news and let me first be thankful for that."

"Do'ee really feel like that towards us?" asked Nuncey, rising and coming
forward with joy and eager love in her eyes.

"I ought to, surely, after these months of kindness."

"Well, then--but first of all I must kiss 'ee, you dear thing!--well,
then, Dad's been offered Damelioc stewardship, and you're to be Mistress
of the Widows' Houses, and we're all going to be rich as Creases for ever
and ever, Amen!"

"Croesus, my dear--besides, we're going to be nothing of the sort,"
protested her father.

Nuncey swept down upon him, caught him in her strong embrace, implanted a
sound kiss on the top of his head, and held him at arms' length with a
hand on either shoulder.

"You're a dear little well-to-do father, and the best in the world.
But oh! you've come nigh breaking my heart these three months--for a worse
regrater there never was, an' couldn' be!"

"Upon my word," said Mr. Benny, glancing over her shoulder at Hester with
a twinkle, "I seem to be getting good fortune with a heap of chastening."



CHAPTER XXII.


CLEM IS LOST TO MYRA.

The post of 'Mistress' to the Widows' Houses was a somewhat singular one.
The hospital itself had been founded in 1634 by an ancestor of Sir George
Dinham's, and dedicated to St. Peter, as a retreat for eleven poor women,
widows of husbands drowned at sea.  From a narrow cobbled lane, behind the
parish church and in the shadow of its tower, you passed into a
quadrangle, two sides of which were formed by the lodgings, twelve in
number (the twelfth occupied by the caretaker, or Mistress), the other two
by the wash-house and store-buildings.  In the centre of this courtyard
stood a leaden pump, approached by four pebbled paths between radiating
beds of flowers--Provence roses, Madonna lilies, and old perennials and
biennials such as honesty, sweet-william, snapdragon, the pink and white
everlasting pea, with bushes of fuchsia, southernwood, and rosemary.
Along the first floor of the alms-buildings ran a deep open gallery, or
upstairs cloister, where in warm weather the old women sat and knitted or
gossiped in the shade.

The rule restricting admission to the widows of drowned mariners had been
gradually relaxed during the last fifty years, and was now a dead letter;
aged spinsters even, such as Aunt Butson, being received in default of
applicants with better title.  Also Sir George's father, having once on a
time been called upon to depose a caretaker for ill-using the inmates, had
replaced her by a gentlewoman; and thinking to safeguard them in future by
increasing the dignity of the post, had rebuilt and enlarged the new
Mistress's lodgings, and increased her salary by endowment to eighty
pounds per annum.

All this Sir George explained very delicately to Hester, on the morning of
Nicky Vro's funeral, having called at the school to seek an interview on
his way back from the churchyard.

"But I am not a decayed gentlewoman," Hester objected; "at least, not yet.
I shall be standing in the way of someone who really wants this post,
while I am strong and able to earn my living.  Also--please do not think
me ungrateful or conceited--to teach is my calling, and I take a pride in
it."

"From all I hear, you have a right to take pride in it.  But may I say
that these objections occurred to me and that I have a scheme for removing
them--a very happy scheme, if you will help.  Now, in the first place,
will you put the personal question out of sight and consider my scheme on
its merits?  And next, will you, in advising me, take account of my
ignorance?"

Hester smiled.  "I know," she said, "that kindness can be cunning.
I am going to be on my guard."

"Well, but listen at any rate," he pleaded, with an eager stammer.
"Won't you agree with me that the education you give these children here
is dreadfully wasteful?"

She glanced at him keenly.  "If you are taking the ordinary ratepayer's
view--" she began.

"I am not taking the ordinary ratepayer's view, except to this extent--
that I think the ratepayers' and taxpayers' money should be spent to the
best advantage.  But is it?--either here or in any parish in England?"

"No, it is not."

"Will you tell me why, Miss Marvin?"

"Because," answered Hester, "we do a little good and then refuse to follow
it up.  If we were to take a child and say, 'You shall be a farm
labourer,' or 'You shall be a domestic servant, and in due time marry a
labourer and rear his family; 'and if, content with this, we were to teach
these children just enough for their fate--the boy to plough and work a
threshing machine and touch his cap to his betters, the girl to cook and
sew and keep house on sixteen shillings a week--why, then there might be
something to say for us.  We have not the heart to do this, and yet in
effect we do more cruelly.  We are not tyrants enough to take a child of
eight and label him for life: we start him on a kind of education which
seems to offer him a chance; and then, just as the prospect should be
opening, we suddenly lose interest in him, wash our hands of him, turn him
adrift.  Some few--a very few--have the grit to push on, unhelped by us,
and grasp their opportunity.  But for one of these a thousand and more
fall back on their fate, and of our teaching the one thing they keep is
discontent.  We have built a porch, to nowhere.  We invest millions; and
just as our investment begins to repay us splendidly, we sell out, share
by share.  That is why I think sometimes, Sir George, in my bitterness,
that education in England must be the most wasteful thing in the world."

"If, in this corner of England, someone were to set himself to fight this
waste, would you help?"

"As Mistress of the Widows' Houses?"

Sir George laughed.  "As Mistress of the Widows' Houses--and of a school
attached.  I am thinking of a Charterhouse or a Christ's Hospital in a
small way; a foundation, that is, to include the old charity and a new and
efficient school; modern education worked on lines of the old collegiate
mediaeval systems--eh, Miss Marvin?  To me, a high Tory, those old
foundations are still our best models."

"Three or four of them have survived," said Hester gravely, and with as
little of irony as she could contrive.  "Forgive me, Sir George--once more
I am going to speak ungratefully--but though neglect be our chief curse
just now, a worse may follow when rich folks wake up and endow education
in a hurry."

"You condemn me offhand for a faddist?"

"If you would only see that these things need an apprenticeship!
Take this very combination of school and hospital.  Three or four have
survived, and are lodged in picturesque buildings, where they keep
picturesque old customs, and seem to you very noble and venerable.
So indeed they are.  But what of the hundreds that have perished?
And of these survivors can you tell me one in which either the school or
the alms-house has not gone to the wall?  The school, we will say, grows
into an expensive one for the sons of rich men; the almshouse dwindles
from a college for poor gentlemen down to a home into which wealthy men
job their retired servants.  I grant you that our modern attempts to
combine almsgiving with teaching are not much better as a rule--are,
perhaps, even a little worse.  If you have ever walked through one of our
public orphanages, for instance--"

Sir George's face fell.  "I have never visited one, Miss Marvin, and I
subscribe perhaps to half a dozen--out of sheer laziness, and because to
subscribe comes easier than to say 'No.'  Yes; I am an incurable amateur,
and you are right, no doubt, in laughing at my scheme and refusing to look
at it."

"But I don't, Sir George.  I even think it may succeed, as it deserves,
and reward your kindness.  Yes, and I have been arguing against myself as
much as against you, to warn myself against hoping too much.  For there
must be disappointments."

"What disappointments?"

"Well, to begin with, you rich folks are impatient; you expect your money
to buy success at once and of itself.  And then you expect gratitude."

"I do not," Sir George asserted stoutly.

"At least," said Hester, "it is only too plain that you are not getting
it."  She dropped him a small deprecatory curtsey and laughed.
"And yet I _am_ grateful."

"Yes," he answered gravely; "I understand.  But since you do not quite
despise my scheme, will you come and discuss it with me, believing only
that I am in earnest?"

So it was arranged that Hester should call on him next evening and go
through the plans he had been preparing for a week past.  That such an
interview defied convention scarcely crossed her mind or his, Sir George
being one of those men who can neglect convention because their essential
honour stands above question.  He received her in his library, and for an
hour they talked as might two men of business in friendly committee for
some public good.

"By the way," said he, glancing up from his papers, "you were talking
yesterday of public orphanages.  Have you heard that your little friend
Clem--the blind child--has been packed off to one?"

"To an orphanage?" Hester echoed.  "The children were not at school
to-day, but I had not heard a sound of this."

"It is true; for I happened to call in at the station this morning, and
there on the platform I met Rosewarne with the child.  The man was taking
his ticket to Paddington--a single ticket half-fare; and overhearing this
as we stood together by the booking-office, I made bold to ask him a few
questions.  The child was to travel alone, in charge of the guard; to be
met at the journey's end, I suppose, by an official, and taken out to the
orphanage--I forget its name--an institution for the blind somewhere out
in the south-eastern suburbs."

"Poor Myra!"

"'Poor Clem!' I should rather say.  He was not crying over it, but he
looked pretty forlorn and white, and his blindness made it pitiable.
I call it brutal; the man at least might have travelled up for company.
A journey of three hundred miles!"

Nevertheless, Hester chiefly pitied Myra.  As for Clem, the news relieved
her mind in part; since after witnessing Mr. Sam's outburst, she had more
than once shivered at the thought of child and uncle continuing to live
under one roof.


Poor Myra had spent the day pacing up and down her room like a caged
beast.  The fate decreed and overhanging Clem had been concealed from her.
Had it been less incredible, instinct surely would have wakened her
suspicions before the last moment.  At the last moment Susannah, having to
dress the child for his journey, met inquiries with the half-hearted lie
that he was bound on a trip to Plymouth with his uncle, to meet Aunt
Hannah, and return after a day or two in the _Virtuous Lady_.  Susannah--
weak soul--had furthered the conspiracy because she too had begun to fear
for Clem, and wished him well clear of his uncle's roof.  She acted
'for the best,' but broke down in the act of tearing the children asunder,
and told her lie shamefacedly.  The result was that Mr. Sam, hearing
Myra's screams overhead as he paced the hall, had rushed upstairs, caught
her by both wrists as she clung to her brother, forced her into her own
bedroom, and turned and pocketed the key.

Four times since, in that interminable day of anguish, Susannah had come
pleading and whimpering to the door with food.  Mr. Sam, on returning from
the station, had given her the key with instructions to release the girl
on a promise of good behaviour.

"Be sensible, Miss Myra--now, do! 'Tis to a home he's gone, where he'll be
looked after and taught and tended, and you'll see him every holidays.
A fine building, sure 'nough!  Look, I've brought you a picture of it!"

Susannah, defying instructions, had unlocked and opened the door.
Myra snatched the paper from her--it was, in fact, a prospectus of the
institution--crumpled it up and thrust it in her pocket.  With that, the
last gust of her passion seemed to spend itself.  She turned, and walking
straight to the window-seat, coiled herself among the cushions with face
averted and chin upon hand.  To Susannah the traitress she deigned no
word.

Thrice again Susannah came pleading, each time with a tray and something
to tempt Myra's appetite.  Myra did not turn her head.  Departing for the
fourth time, Susannah left the door ajar.  The siege, then, was raised,
the imprisonment over.  Myra listened to her footsteps descending the
stairs, walked to the door, shifted the key from the outer to the inner
keyhole, and locked herself in.  By this time the wintry dusk had begun to
fall.  Resuming her seat by the window, she fell to watching the courtyard
again, her body motionless, her small brain working.

Dusk had deepened to darkness in the courtyard when she heard a footfall
she recognised.  It was Archelaus Libby's, on his way home from school to
his loft, to deposit his books there and wash before seeking his tea in
the kitchen.

Myra straightened her body, and opened the window softly.

"Archelaus!" she called as loudly as she dared.

"Miss Myra?"  The footsteps halted.

"Hush, Archelaus, and come nearer.  I want you to do something for me."

"Yes, Miss Myra."

"It may get you into trouble.  I want you to fetch the short ladder from
under the linhay, and fix it against the window here, without making a
noise."

For a moment he made no answer.  But he had understood; for she heard him
walking away toward the linhay, and by and by he returned panting, and
sloped the ladder against the sill as she bade him.  By this time Myra had
found a plateful of biscuits, and crammed her pocket full, and was ready
to descend.

"But what is the meaning of it?" asked Archelaus, as she clambered down to
him.

"They have stolen away Clem, and this morning they locked me in.  Now take
the ladder back and hang it in its place, and I will thank you for ever
and ever."

"But I don't understand!" protested Archelaus.  "Stolen away Master Clem?
Who has stolen him?  And what are you going to do?"

"I am going to find him--that's all," said Myra, and ran off into the
darkness.

She could reckon on two friends in the world--Mr. Benny and Tom
Trevarthen.  Aunt Hannah was far away, and Miss Marvin (though now
forgiven, and indeed worshipped for having interfered to protect Clem from
his flogging) could not be counted on for effective help.

Tom Trevarthen and Mr. Benny--it was on Tom that she pinned her hope; for
Tom (she had heard) was shipped on board the _One-and-All_ schooner; and
the _One-and-All_ was ready to sail for London; and somewhere near
London--so the paper in her pocket had told her--lay the dreadful place in
which Clem was hidden.  She could find the vessel; the _One-and-All_ was
moored--or had been moored last night--at the buoy under the hill, ready
for sea.  But to find the vessel and to find Tom Trevarthen were two very
different things.  To begin with, Tom would be useless unless she
contrived to speak with him alone; to row straight to the schooner and
hail her would spoil all.  Moreover, on the night before sailing he would,
most likely, be enjoying himself ashore.  But where?  Peter Benny might be
able to tell.  Peter Benny had a wonderful knack of knowing the movements
of every seaman in the port.

She ran down the dark street to the alley over which poor Nicky Vro's
signboard yet glimmered in the light of the oil lamp at the entrance.
The cottage still lacked a tenant, and it had been nobody's business to
take the board down.  On the frape at the alley's end his ferryboat lay
moored as he had left it.  Myra tugged at the rope and drew the boat in.

As it drew alongside out of the darkness she leapt on board and cast off.
The paddles, as she laboriously shipped them between the thole-pins, were
unconscionably heavy; she knew little of rowing, and nothing of
double-sculling.  But the tide helped her.  By pulling now one paddle, now
another, she worked the boat across and down towards the ladder and the
quay-door at the end of Mr. Benny's yard.

Nearing it, she found herself in slack water, and the boat became more
manageable, giving her time between the strokes to glance over her
shoulder and scan the dark shadow under the longshore wall, where each
garden and alley-way had its quay-door and its ladder reaching down into
the tide.  Now the most of these quay-doors were painted green or blue,
but Mr. Benny's a light grey, which in the darkness should have made it
easily discernible.  Yet for some while she could not find it.

Suddenly, as she threaded her way along, scarcely using her paddles now
except to fend off the boats which, lying peaceably at their moorings,
seemed to crowd around with intent to impede her, a schooner's masts and
spars loomed up before her high against the inky night.  Then she
understood.  The vessel--her name, the _One-and-All_, in white letters on
her forward bulwarks, glimmered into sight as Myra passed--lay warped
alongside the wall, with her foreyard braced aslant to avoid chafing the
roof of Mr. Benny's office, and her mainmast and standing rigging all but
entirely hiding Mr. Benny's quay-door, the approach to which she
completely obstructed.  A little above her forestay a small window,
uncurtained and brightly lit, broke the long stretch of featureless black
wall.  This was the window of Mr. Benny's inner office, and within, as she
checked her way, catching at the gunwale of one among the tethered boats,
Myra could see the upper half of a hanging lamp and the shadow of its
reflector on the smoky ceiling.

Mr. Benny would be seated under that lamp, no doubt.  But how could she
reach him?

The _One-and-All_ lay head-to-stream, and so deep in the water that the
tide all but washed her bulwarks, still grey with the dust of china-stone
as she had come from her loading.  Nowadays no British ship so
scandalously overladen would be allowed to put to sea; but the
Plimsoll-mark had not yet been invented to save seamen from their
employers.

She lay so low that Myra, peering into the darkness, could almost see
across decks to the farther bulwarks; and the decks were deserted.
She mounted no riding-lamp, and no glimmer of light showed from hatchway,
deckhouse, or galley.

Minutes passed, and, as still no sign of life appeared on board, Myra grew
bolder and pushed across for a nearer view.  Yes; the deck was deserted,
and only the deck intervened between her and Mr. Benny's quay-door, by the
sill of which the tide ran lapping and sucking at the crevices of the
wall.  She hardened her heart.  Even if her footstep gave the alarm below,
she could dash across and through the doorway before being seized or even
detected.  She laid both hands on the clay-dusted bulwarks and hoisted
herself gently.  The boat--she had done with it--slipped away noiselessly
from under her and away into darkness.

She had meant to clear the ship with a rush; but as her feet touched the
deck her courage failed her, and she tiptoed forward stealthily, gaining
the shadow of the deckhouse and pausing there.

And there, in the act of crouching to spring across the few remaining
yards, she drew back, crouching lower yet; for, noiseless as she, the dark
form of a man had stepped forward and framed itself in the grey glimmering
doorway.

For an instant she made sure that he was about to step on board.  But many
seconds passed, and still he waited there--as it seemed to her, in the
attitude of a man listening; though to what he listened she could not
guess.  She herself heard no sound but the lapping of the tide.

By and by, gripping the ladder-rail and setting one foot against the
_One-and-All's_ bulwarks to steady himself, the man leaned outboard and
sideways until a faint edge of light from the office window fell on his
upturned face.

It was the face of her uncle.

Fascinated by terror, following his gaze--by instinct seeking for help, if
any might be found--Myra lifted her face to the window.  That too was
darkened for the instant by a man's form; and as he crossed the room to
the chair beside the desk, she recognised Tom Trevarthen.



CHAPTER XXIII.


HESTER WRITES A LOVE-LETTER.

Mr. Salt must have been preaching Hester's talent at large among seamen of
the port, for when she returned from her interview with Sir George
Mr. Benny met her at the kitchen door with news that no less than six
sailors awaited her in the office, and that two or three had been
patiently expecting her for an hour at least.

"Tis a great tax on you, my dear, and I tried to reason wi' them; but they
wouldn't take 'No' for an answer.  What's more, when I retire from the
business I shan't be honestly able to sell you the goodwill of it,
for they won't have my services at any price."

Hester laughed.  "You won't even get me to bid," she assured him.
"We shall soon be too busy for letter-writing, and must close the office;
but to-night I suppose we cannot disappoint them."

So, with a sigh of resignation and an envious glance at the cosy fire,
she turned and stepped briskly down the courtyard to the office.
There, as Mr. Benny had promised, she found six expectant mariners, and
for an hour wrote busily, rapidly.  Either she was growing cleverer at the
business, or her talk with Sir George had keyed her to this happy pitch.
She felt--it happens sometimes, if rarely, to most of us--in tune with all
the world; and in those illuminated hours we feel as if our
fellow-creatures could bring us no secret too obscure for our
understanding, no trouble hopeless of our help.  "The light of the body is
the eye; if, therefore, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full
of light."  Hester found herself divining without effort what her clients
wished her to write, and as easily translating the inarticulate message
into words.  It was superfluous for them to thank her as they did; her own
inner voice told her she had done well.

At length they were gone, and she followed them so far as the outer
office, to rake out the fire and tidy up for the night.  As she stooped
over the stove she was startled by a noise from the inner room--a noise as
of someone moving the window-sash.  But how could this be?  Perhaps the
sash-cord had parted, letting the pane slip down with a run--

It did not occur to her, though startled for the moment, to be afraid, or
even to suspect any cause for fear.  Her mind was still busy with this
practical explanation when she opened the door and her eyes fell on Tom
Trevarthen.

His back was turned towards her as he closed the window by which he had
just entered; but he faced about with a smile, ignoring the alarm in her
face and the hand she put out against the door-jamb for support.

"Good-evenin', miss!  You'll excuse my coming by the shortest way--"

"But--but _how_ did you come?" she gasped.

He laughed.  "Easy enough: I swung myself up by the schooner's forestay.
Eh?  Didn't you know the _One-and-All's_ moored here just underneath?
Then I must ha' given you a rare fright."

"Yes," said Hester, slowly getting back her composure, "you certainly
frightened me; and I call it a very silly trick."

She said it with a sudden vehemence which surprised herself.  It brought
the colour back to her face, too.  The young sailor stared at her.

"Well," he said admiringly, "you have a temper!  But there's times when
_you_ make mistakes, I reckon."

She supposed him to allude to her unhappy intrusion upon the tattooing.
Her colour deepened to a hot and lively red, and between shame and scorn
she turned and walked from him into the outer office.

"Nay, now!"  He followed her, suppliant.  "Nay, now!" he repeated, as one
might coax a child.  "Simme I can't open my mouth 'ithout angering you,
Miss Marvin; an' yet, ignorant as I be, 'tis plain to me you don't mean no
hurt."

Now Hester had meant to walk straight out of the office and leave him.
It would be hard to say precisely on what second thought she checked
herself and, picking up the poker, sedulously resumed her raking-out of
the stove.  Partly, no doubt, she repented of having taken offence when he
meant none.  He had been innocent, and her suspicion of him recoiled back
in self-contempt.  It was a relief to hear him in turn accusing her
unjustly.  It gave her fresh ground, on which she really could defend
herself.

"Hurt?" she echoed half defiantly, stooping and raking at the cinders.

"Why, of course, you hurt," he insisted.  "'Tis so queer to me you can't
see it.  Just reckon up all the harm this Rosewarne have a-done and is
doing: Mother Butson's school closed, and the poor soul bedridden with
rheumatics, all through being forced to seek field-work, at her time o'
life and in this autumn's weather!  My old mother driven into a
charity-house.  Nicky Vro dead in Bodmin gaol.  Where was the fair play?
Master Clem, I hear, parted from his sister and packed off this very day
to a home in London--lucky if 'tis better'n a gaol--"

"Do you accuse _me_ of all these wrongs?"

"No, I don't.  But in most of 'em you've been mixed up, and in all of 'em
you might have used power over the man.  Where have you put in an oar
except to make matters worse?"

It was on her lips to tell him that she had resigned the teachership; but
she forbore.

"Do you know," she answered quietly, "that half-truths may be worse than
lies, and a charge which is half-true the most cruelly unjust?  We will
agree that I have done more harm here than good.  But do you accuse me of
doing it wilfully, selfishly?"

"That's where I can't make you out," he said.  "I can't even make out your
doing wrong at all.  Thinks I sometimes, ''Tis all a mistake.  Go, look at
her face, all made for goodness if ever a face was; try her once more, an'
you'll be sorry for thinkin' ill of her.'  That's the way of it.  But then
I come and find you mixed up in this miserable business, and all that's
kind in you seems to harden, and all that's straight to run crooked.
There's times I think you couldn't do wrong if you weren't so sure of
doing right; and there's times, when I hear of your being kind to the
school-children, I think it must be some curst ill-luck of my own that
brings us always ath'art-hawse."

Beneath the lamplight his eyes searched hers appealingly, as a child's
might; yet Hester wondered rather at the note of manliness in his voice--a
new note to her, but an assured one.  Whatever the cause, Tom Trevarthen
was a lad no longer.

"Why should you suppose," she asked, "that I have power over Mr.
Rosewarne?"

"Haven't you?"

The simple question confounded her, and she blushed again, as one detected
in an untruth.  It was as Tom said; some perverse fate impelled her at
every turn to show at her worst before him.

"Good Lord!" he said slowly, watching her face.  "You don't tell me you're
going to marry him!"

She should have obeyed her first impulse and said 'No' hotly.  The word
was on her lips when a second wave of indignation swelled within her and
swept over the first, drowning it, and, with it, her speech.  What right
had he to question her, or what concern with her affairs?  She threw back
her head proudly, to look him in the face and ask him this.  But he had
turned from her.

His disgust angered her, and once more she changed her impulse for the
worse.

"It seems," said she contemptuously, "that you reserve the right of making
terms with Mr. Rosewarne."

He turned at the door of the inner office and regarded her for a moment
with a dark frown.

"What do you mean by that?"  His voice betrayed the strain on his
self-command.

"Mr. Rosewarne owns the _One-and-All_, does he not?  If, after what has
happened, you accept his wages, you might well be a little less censorious
of other folk's conduct."

If the shaft hit, he made no sign for the moment.  "I reckon," he
answered, with queer deliberateness, "your knowledge of ships and
shipowners don't amount to much, else you wouldn't talk of Rosewarne's
doing me a favour."  He paused and laughed, not aloud but grimly.
"The _One-and-All's_ insured, Miss Marvin, and pretty heavily over her
value.  I'd take it as a kindness if you found someone fool enough to
insure _me_ for a trip in her."

"I don't understand."

"No, I reckon you don't.  They finished loading her last night, and we
moored her out in the channel, ready for the tug this morning.
Before midnight she was leaking there like a basket, and by seven this
morning she was leaking worse than a five-barred gate.  The tug had just
time to pluck us alongside here, or she'd have sunk at her moorings; and
when we'd warped her steady and the tide left her, the water poured out of
a hole I could shove my hand through--not the seams, mark you, though they
leaked bad enough--but a hole where the china-stone had fairly knocked her
open; and the timber all round it as rotten as cheese.  All day, between
tides, they've been sheathing it over, and packing the worst places in her
seams; and to-night the crew, being all Troy men, are taking one more
sleep ashore than they bargained for.  They want it, too, after their
spell at the pumps."

"Then why are you left on board?"

"Mainly because I've no home to go to; and somebody must act
night-watchman.  The skipper himself has bustled ashore with the rest.
I reckon this morning's work scared him a bit, hand-in-glove though he is
with Rosewarne; but he must be recovering, because just before stepping
off he warned me against putting up the riding-light.  There's no chance
of anyone fouling us where we lie, and we can save two-penn'orth of oil."

"But you don't tell me Mr. Rosewarne sends his ships to sea, knowing them
to be rotten?"

He hunched his shoulders.  "Maybe he does; maybe he don't.  It don't
matter to me, the man's going to hell or not.  But you seem to think I
take his wages as a favour."

"Then why do you take them at all, at such a risk?"

"Because," he burst out, "you've come here and driven my mother to an
almshouse, and I must earn money to get her out of it.  If I'd a-known you
was coming here with your education, I'd have picked up some of it and
been prepared for you.  A mate's certificate doesn't mean much in these
days.  Men like Rosewarne want a skipper who'll earn insurance-money and
save oil.  Still, I could have tried.  But, like a fool, I was young and
in a good berth, and let my chances slip; and then you came along and
spoilt all."

"Did you seek me out to-night to tell me this?" she steadied herself to
ask.

He lowered his eyes.  "I want you to write a letter for me," he said, and
added, after a pause.  "That's what comes of wanting education."

Another and a very awkward pause followed.  This discovery of his
illiteracy shocked and hurt her inexpressibly.   She could not even say
why.  Good sense warned her even in the instant of disappointment that a
man might not know how to read or write and yet be none the less a good
man and trustworthy.  And even though the prejudice of her calling made
her treat the defect too seriously, why in Tom Trevarthen should that
shock her which in other seamen she took as a matter of course?

Yet in her shame for him she could lift her eyes; and he still kept his
lowered upon the floor.

"To whom do you want me to write?" she asked.

"It's to a girl," he answered doggedly; and the words seemed to call up a
dark flush in his face, which a moment before had been unwontedly pale--
though this she did not perceive.

"A girl?"

"That's so; a girl, miss, if you don't mind--a girl as it happens I'm fond
of."

"A love-letter?  Is that what you mean?"

"If you don't mind, Miss Marvin?"

"Why on earth should I mind?" she asked, with a heat unintelligible to
herself as to him.

A suspicion crossed her mind that the young woman might not be
over-respectable; but she dismissed it.  If the message were such as she
could indite, she had no warrant to inquire further; and yet, "Is it quite
fair to her?" she added.

The question plainly confused him.  "Fair, miss?"

"You told me a minute ago that you found it hard to earn money for your
mother; and now it seems you think of marrying."

"No, miss," said he simply; "I can't think of it at all.  And that's
partly what I want to tell her."

Hester frowned.  "It's queer you should come to me, whom you accuse of
interfering to your harm.  If I am guilty on other counts, I am guilty too
of coming between you and this young woman."

He smiled faintly.  "And that's true in a way," he allowed; "but you'll
see I don't bear malice.  The letter'll prove that, if so be you'll kindly
write it for me."

He said it appealingly, with his hand on the doorhandle.  She bent her
head in consent.  Flinging the door open, he stood aside to let her pass.


It was a moment later as he crossed over to the client's chair that Myra
caught sight of him from the schooner's deck.  The child cowered back into
the shadow of the deck-house, her eyes intent again on the listener
leaning out from the quay-door.  He could not even see what she had seen;
and if Tom was in talk with anyone inside her own ears caught no sound of
it.  Nevertheless her uncle's attitude left no room to doubt that he was
playing the spy, and trying, at least, to listen.


"What name?" asked Hester, dipping her pen.

"What name?  Eh, to be sure,"--Tom Trevarthen hesitated for a moment.
"Put down Harriet Sands."  She glanced up, and he nodded.  "Yes, that'll
do--Harriet Sands, of Runcorn."

"She must have some nearer address than that.  Runcorn is a large town, is
it not?"

He pondered, or seemed to ponder.  "Then we'll put down 'Sailors' Return
Inn, Quay Street, Runcorn.'  That'll find her, as likely as anywhere."

Hester wrote the address and glanced up inquiringly; but his eyes were
fastened on the desk where her hand rested, and on the virgin sheet of
notepaper placed ready for use.

"A public-house?  It wanted only that!" she told herself.  Aloud she said,
"'My dearest Harriet'--Is that how you begin?"

He appeared to consider this slowly.  "I suppose so," he answered at
length, with a shade of disappointment in his voice.

"And next, I suppose, you say, 'This comes hoping to find you well as it
leaves me at present.'"

"Don't 'ee--don't 'ee, co!" he implored her almost with a cry of pain; and
then, scarcely giving her time to be ashamed of her levity, he broke out,
"They tell me you can guess a man's thoughts and write 'em down a'most
before he speaks.  Why won't you guess 'em for me?  Write to her that when
we parted she was unkind; but be she unkind for ever and ever, in my
thoughts she will be the best woman in the world.  Tell her that whatever
she may do amiss, in my eyes she'll last on as the angel God A'mighty
meant her to be, and all because I love her and can't help it.  Say that
to her, and say that there's degrees between us never to be crossed, and I
know it, and have never a hope to win level with her; but this once I will
speak and be silent all the rest o' my days.  Tell her that there's bars
between us, but the only real one is her own self; that for nothing would
she be beyond my reach but for being the woman she is."

Hester laid down the pen and looked up at him with eyes at once dim and
shining.

"I cannot write this," she said, her lips stammering on the words.
"I am not worthy--I laughed at you."

"Tell her," he went on, "that I'm a common seaman, earnin' two pound a
month, with no book-learning and no hopes to rise; tell her that I've an
old mother to keep--that for years to come there's no chance of my
marryin'; and then tell her I'm glad of it, for it keeps me free to think
only of her.  Write all that down, Miss Marvin."

"I cannot," she protested.

Very gently but firmly he laid a brown strong hand over hers as it rested
on the letter.  In a second he withdrew it, but in that second she felt
herself mastered, commanded.  She took up the pen and wrote.


"I have used your own words and none of mine," she said, when she had
finished.  "Shall I read them over to you?"

"No."  He took the letter, folded it, and placed it in the envelope she
handed him.  "Why didn't you put it into better words?" he asked.

"Because I could not.  Trust a woman to know what a woman likes.
If I were this--this Harriet."--Her voice faltered and came to a halt.

"Yes?"  He waited for her to continue.

"Why, then, that letter would make me a proud woman."

"Though it came from a common sailor?"

"She would not think first of that.  She would be proud to be so loved."

"Thank you," said he slowly, and, drawing a shilling from his pocket, laid
it on the desk.  "Good-night and good-bye, Miss Marvin."

He moved to the window and flung up the sash.  Seated astride the ledge,
he looked back at her with a smile which seemed to say, "At last we are
friends!"  The next moment he had reached out a hand, caught hold of the
_One-and-All's_ forestay, and swung himself out into the darkness.

Hester, standing alone in the little office, heard a soft sliding sound
which puzzled her, followed by the light thud of his feet as he dropped
upon deck.  She leaned out for a moment before closing the window.
All was silent below, save for the lap of the tide between the schooner
and the quay-wall.


As Tom Trevarthen opened the window and leaned out to grasp the forestay,
Myra, still cowering by the deck-house, saw her uncle swing himself
hurriedly back into the shadow of the quay-door.  She too retreated a
pace; and with that, her foot striking against the low coaming of an open
hatchway, with a clutch at air she pitched backward and down into the
vessel's hold.

She did not fall far, the _One-and-All_ being loaded to within a foot or
two of the hatches.  Her tumble sent her sprawling upon a heap of loose
china-clay.  She felt it sliding under her and herself sliding with it,
softly, down into darkness.  She was bruised.  She had wrenched her
shoulder terribly, but she clenched her teeth and kept back the cry she
had all but uttered.

The sliding ceased, and she tried to raise herself on an elbow out of the
choking smother of clay-dust.  The effort sent a stab of pain through her,
exquisite, excruciating.  She dropped forward upon her face, and there in
the darkness she fainted.


Hester, having closed the window, put out the lights quietly, pausing in
the outer office for a glance at the raked-out stove.  Outside, as she
locked the door behind her, she paused again at the head of the step for
an upward look at the sky, where, beyond the clouds, a small star or two
twinkled in the dark square of Pegasus.  She never knew how close in that
instant she stood to death.  Within six paces of her crouched a man made
desperate by the worst of terrors--terror of himself; and maddened by the
worst of all provocatives--jealousy.

He had come to her on a forlorn hope, believing that she only--if any
helper in the world--could be his salvation from the devil within him.
Not in cruelty, but in fear--which can be crueller than cruelty itself--he
had packed off the helpless blind boy beyond his reach.  He had promised
himself that by dismissing the temptation he could lay the devil at a
stroke and finally.  On his way back from the station he had heard
whispered within him the horrible truth: that he was a lost man, without
self-control.

He had sought her merely by the instinct of self-preservation.  She had
cowed and mastered him once.  In awful consciousness of his infirmity he
craved only to be mastered again, to be soothed, quieted.  He nodded to
the men and women he passed in the streets.  They saw nothing amiss with
him--nothing more than his habitual straight-lipped visage and ill-fitting
clothes.

He had dogged her to the office and listened outside for one, two, three
hours.  In the end, as he believed, he had caught her at tryst with his
worst enemy--with the man who had knocked him down and humiliated him.
Yet in his instant need he hated Tom Trevarthen less as a rival in love,
less from remembered humiliation, than as a robber of the sole plank which
might have saved him from drowning.

So long had the pair been closeted together that a saner jealousy might
have suggested more evil suspicions.  His jealousy passed these by as of
no account.  He could think only of his need and its foiled chance: his
need was more urgent than any love.  He had come for help, and found her
colloguing with his enemy.

In his abject rage he could easily have done her violence and as easily
have run forward and cried her pity.  Between the two impulses he crouched
irresolute and let her pass.

Hester came down the steps slowly, passed within a yard of him, and as
slowly went up the dark courtyard.  For the last time she paused, with her
hand on Mr. Benny's door-latch; and this was what she said there to
herself, silently--

"But why Harriet?--of all the hateful names!"



CHAPTER XXIV.


THE RESCUE.

"Style," said Mr. Joshua Benny, "has been defined as a gift of saying
anything, of striking any note in the scale of human feelings, without
impropriety.  We cannot all have distinction, Mr. Parker--what I may call
the _je ne sais quoi_"--

Mr. Joshua put this with a fine modesty, the distinction of his own style
being proverbial--in Spendilove's Press Supply Bureau at any rate.  He
might have added with a wave of the hand, "You see to what it has advanced
me!" for whereas the rest of Spendilove's literary men toiled in two
gangs, one on either side of a long high-pitched desk, and wrote slashing
leaders for the provincial press, Mr. Joshua exercised his lightness of
touch upon 'picturesque middles' in a sort of loose-box partitioned off
from the main office by screens of opaque glass.  This den--he spoke of it
as his 'scriptorium'--had a window looking out upon an elevated railway,
along which the trains of the London, Chatham, and Dover line banged and
rattled all day long.  For Spendilove's (as it was called by its
familiars) inhabited the second floor of a building close to the foot of
Ludgate Hill.  The noise no longer disturbed Mr. Joshua, except when an
engine halted just outside to blow off steam.

Mr. Joshua leaned back in his writing-chair, tapped a galley proof with
admonitory forefinger, and gazed over his spectacles upon Mr. Parker--a
weedy youth with a complexion suggestive of uncooked pastry.

"We cannot all have distinction, Mr. Parker, nor can it be acquired by
effort.  Vigour we may cultivate, and clearness we must; it is essential.
On a level with these I should place propriety.  Propriety teaches us to
regulate our speech by the occasion; to be incisive at times and at times
urbane; to adapt the 'how' to the 'when,' as I might put it.  I do not
think--I really do not think--that Christmas Eve is a happily chosen
moment for calling Mr. Disraeli 'a Jew adventurer.'"

"Mr. Makins, sir, who wrote yesterday's Liberal leader for the syndicate,
wound up by saying the time had gone by for mincing our opinion of the
front Opposition Bench.  He warned me last night, when I took over his
job, to pitch it strong.  He had it on good authority that the
constituencies have been a good deal shaken by Mr. Gladstone's Army
Purchase _coup_, and some straight talk is needed to pull them together,
in the eastern counties especially."

"You are young to the work, Mr. Parker.  You may depend upon it--you may
take it from me--that Spendilove's will not fail in straight talking, on
either side of the question.  But we must observe what our Gallic
neighbours term _les convenances_.  By the way, has Makins gone off for
the holidays?"

"He was to have gone off last night, sir; but he turned up this morning to
write Sam Collins's 'Tory Squire' column for the _Northern Guardian_, and
a syndicate-middle on 'Christmas Cheer in the Good Old Times.'
Collins sent him a wire late last night; his wife is down with pneumonia."

"Tut, tut--send him to me.  A good-hearted fellow, Makins!  Tell him I've
a dozen old articles that will fix him up with 'Christmas Cheer' in less
than twenty minutes.  I keep them indexed.  And if he wants it illustrated
I can look him out a dozen blocks to take his choice from--'Bringing in
the Boar's Head,' and that sort of thing."

"I beg your pardon, sir, but before I send him there's a party of four in
the lower office waiting to see you--one of them a child--and seafaring
folk by their talk.  They walked in while I was sitting alone there,
finishing off my article, and not a word would they tell of their business
but that they must speak to you in private.  It's my belief they've come
straight off a wreck, and with a paragraph at least."

"Seafaring folk, do you say?"  It was a cherished hope of Mr. Joshua
Benny's that one of these days Spendilove's would attract private
information to its door, and not confine itself to decorating so much of
the world's news as had already become common property.

"They asked for you, sir, as 'Mr. Joshua Benny, the great writer.'"

"Dear me, I hope you have not kept them waiting long?  Show them up,
please; and--here, wait a moment--on your way you can take Makins an
armful of my commonplace books--eighteen sixty-three to seven; that will
do.  Tell him to look through the indexes himself; he'll find what he
wants under 'Yule.'"

If Mr. Joshua's visitors had come, as Mr. Parker surmised, straight off a
wreck, the first to file into his office had assuredly salved from
calamity a wonderful headgear.  This was Mrs. Purchase, in a bonnet
crowned with a bunch of glass grapes; and by the hand she led Myra, who
carried one arm in a sling.  The child's features were pinched and pale,
and her eyes unnaturally bright.  Behind followed Mr. Purchase and Tom
Trevarthen, holding their caps, and looking around uneasily for a mat to
wipe their shoes on.

No such shyness troubled Mrs. Purchase.  "Good-morning!" she began
briskly, holding out a hand.

Mr. Joshua took it helplessly, his eyes for the moment riveted on her
bonnet.  It bore no traces of exposure to sea-water, and he transferred
his scrutiny to the child.

"You don't remember me," pursued Mrs. Purchase cheerfully.  "But I'd have
picked you out from a thousand, though I han't seen you since you was _so_
high."  She spread out a palm some three feet or less from the floor.
"I'm Hannah Purchase, that used to be Hannah Rosewarne, daughter of John
Rosewarne of Hall.  You know now who I be, I reckon; and this here's my
niece, and that there's my husband.  The young man in the doorway ain't no
relation; but he comes from Hall too.  He's Sal Trevarthen's son.
You remember Sal Trevarthen?"

"Ah, yes--yes, to be sure.  Delighted to see you, madam--delighted,"
stammered Mr. Joshua, who, however, as yet showed signs only of
bewilderment.  "And you wish to see me?"--

"Wish to see you?  Man alive, we've been hunting all Fleet Street for you!
Talk about rabbit warrens!  Well, when 'tis over 'tis over, as Joan said
by her wedding, and here we be at last."

She paused and looked around.

"Place wants dusting," she observed.  "Never married, did 'ee? I reckoned
I'd never heard of your marrying.  Your brother now has eleven of 'em--
children, I mean; and yet you feature him wonderful, though fuller in the
face.  But the Lord's ways be past finding out."

"Amen," said her husband, paying his customary tribute to a scriptural
quotation, and added, "They don't keep over many chairs in this office."
He addressed this observation to Tom Trevarthen with an impartial air as
one announcing a scientific discovery.

"Thank you," said Mrs. Purchase, seating herself in a chair which Mr.
Joshua made haste to provide.  "You will oblige me by paying no attention
to 'Siah.  Well, as I was saying, it's a mercy the Lord has made you the
man you be; for we're in want of your help, all four of us."

"If I can be of service,"--Mr. Joshua murmured.

"I remember," said Mrs. Purchase, arranging her bonnet with an air of one
coming to business, "when I was a little girl, reading in a history book
about a man called Bucket, who fell in love with a black woman in foreign
parts; or she may have been brown or whitey-brown for all I can remember
at this distance of time.  But, anyway, he was parted from her, and came
home to London here, and all she knew about him was his name 'Bucket.'
Well, she took ship and kept on saying 'Bucket' till somewhere in London
she found him.  And if that happened once, it ought to be able to happen
again, especially in these days of newspapers, and when we've got the
address."

Mrs. Purchase produced a crumpled slip of paper, and handed it to Mr.
Joshua, who adjusted his spectacles.

"An institution for the blind, and near Bexley, apparently."
He glanced up in mild interrogation.

"What sort of place is it?  Nice goings-on there, I'll promise you; and if
'tis better than penal servitude I shall be surprised, seeing that Sam
Rosewarne is hand-in-glove with it.  Never you mind, my dear," she added,
turning to Myra, who shivered, holding her hand.  "We'll get him out of
it, or there's no law in England."

Mr. Joshua, still hopelessly fogged, wheeled his chair round to the
bookcase behind him, and took down a Directory, with a smaller reference
work upon Hospitals and Charitable Institutions.

"H'm," said he, coming to a halt as he turned the pages; "here it
is--'Huntingdon Orphanage for the Blind'--'mainly supported by voluntary
contributions'--address, 52 Conyers Road, Bexley, S.E.  It seems to have
an influential list of patrons, mainly Dissenters, as I should guess."

"It may keep 'em," said Mrs. Purchase, "so long as you get that poor child
out of it."

"My dear lady, if you would be more explicit!" cried Mr. Joshua.
"To what poor child do you allude?  And what is the help you ask of me?"

"If the worst comes to the worst, you can denounce 'em." Mrs. Purchase
untied her bonnet strings, and then slowly crossed her legs--an unfeminine
habit of hers.  "Tis like a story out of a book," she pursued.  "This very
morning as we was moored a little above Deptford in the _Virtuous Lady_--
that's my husband's ship--and me making the coffee for breakfast as usual,
comes off a boy with a telegram, saying, 'Meet me and Miss Myra by the
foot of the Monument.  Most important.--Tom Trevarthen.'  You might have
knocked me down with a feather, and even then I couldn't make head nor
tail of it."

To this extent her experience seemed to be repeating itself in Mr. Joshua.

"For to begin with," she went on, "how did I know that Tom Trevarthen was
in London? let alone that last time we met we parted in anger.   But he'd
picked us out among the shipping as he was towed up last night in the
_One-and-All_ to anchor in the Pool.  And I defy anyone to guess that he'd
got Myra here on board, who's my own niece by a second marriage, and
shipped herself as a stowaway, but was hurt by a fall down the hold, and
might have lain there and starved to death, poor child--and all for love
of her brother that his uncle had shipped off to a blind orphanage.
But there's a providence, Mr. Benny, that watches over children--and you
may lay to that."  Mrs. Purchase took breath.  "Well, naturally, as you
may guess, my first thought was to set it down for a hoax, though not in
the best of taste.  But with Myra's name staring me in the face in the
telegram, and blood being thicker than water, on second thoughts I
told 'Siah to put on his best clothes and come to the Monument with me,
not saying more for fear of upsetting him.  'Why the Monument?' says
'Siah.  'Why not?' says I; 'it was put up against the Roman Catholics.'
So that determined him; and I wanted company, for in London you can't be
too careful.   Sure enough, when we got to it, there was Tom waiting, with
this poor child holding his hand; and then the whole story came out.
'But what's to be done?' I said, for my very flesh rebelled against such
cruelty to the child, let alone that he was flogged black and blue at
home.  And then Tom Trevarthen had a thought even cleverer than his
telegram.  'Peter Benny,' says he, 'has a brother here in London connected
with the press; the press can do anything, and by Peter's account his
brother can do anything with the press.  If we can only find him, our
job's as good as done.' So we hailed a cab, and told the man to drive us
to the _Shipping Gazette_.  But I reckon we must have started someways at
the wrong end, for the _Shipping Gazette_ passed us on to a place called
the _Times_, where they kept us waiting forty minutes, and then said they
didn't know you, but advised us to try the _Cheshire Cheese_, where I
asked for the editor, and this caused another delay.  But a gentleman
there drinkin' whisky-and-water said he'd heard of you in connection with
the _Christian World_, and the _Christian World_ gave us over to a
policeman, who brought us here; and now the question is, what would you
advise?"

"I should advise," said Mr. Joshua, pulling out his watch, "your coming
off to lunch with me."

"You're a practical man, I see," said Mrs. Purchase, "and I say again 'tis
a pity you never married.  We'll leave the whole affair in your hands."


In his published writings Mr. Joshua had often descanted on the power of
the Fourth Estate; and in his addresses to young aspirants he ever laid
stress on the crucial faculty of sifting out the essentials, whether in
narrative or argument, from whatever was of secondary importance,
circumstantial, or irrelevant.  The confidence and accuracy with which
Mrs. Purchase challenged him to put his faith and his method into instant
practice, staggered him not a little.  He felt himself hit, so to speak,
with both barrels.

It will be allowed that he rose to the test admirably.  Under an arch of
the railway bridge at the foot of Ludgate Hill there is a restaurant where
you may eat and drink and hear all the while the trains rumbling over your
head.  To this he led the party; and while Mrs. Purchase talked, he sifted
out with professional skill the main points of her story, and discovered
what she required of him.  To be sure, the Power of the Press remained to
be vindicated, and as yet he was far from seeing his way clear.  The woman
required him to storm the doors of an orphanage and rescue without parley
the body of a child consigned to it by a legal guardian (which was
absurd); or if not instantly successful, to cow the officials with threats
of exposure (which again was absurd; since, for aught he knew, the
institution thoroughly deserved the subscriptions of the public).

Yet while his own heart sank, the confidence of his guests, and their
belief in him, sensibly increased.  He had chosen this particular
restaurant not deliberately, but with the instinct of a born journalist;
for it is the first secret of journalism to appear to be moving at high
speed even when standing absolutely still, and here in the purlieus of the
clanging station, amid the thunder of trains and the rush of hundreds of
feet to bookstalls and ticket-offices; here where the clash of knives and
forks and plates mingled with the rumble of cabs and the calls of porters
and newspaper boys, the impression of activity was irresistible.  Here, as
Mrs. Purchase had declared, was a practical man.  Their business promised
well with all these wheels in motion.

"And now," said Mr. Joshua, as he paid the bill, "we will take the train
for Bexley, and see."

In his own heart he hoped that a visit to the Orphanage would satisfy
them.  He would seek the governor or matron in charge; they would be
allowed an interview with the child, and finding him in good hands,
contented and well cared for, would shed some natural tears perhaps, but
return cheerful and reassured.  This was as much as Mr. Joshua dared to
hope.  While piecing together Mrs. Purchase's narrative he had been
sincerely touched--good man--by some of its details; particularly when Tom
Trevarthen struck in and related how on the second night out of port he
had been kept awake by a faint persistent knocking on the bulkhead
separating the fo'c'sle from the schooner's hold; how he had drawn his
shipmates' attention to it; how he had persuaded the skipper to uncover
one of the hatches; and how he had descended with a lantern and found poor
Myra half dead with sickness and hunger.  Mr. Joshua did not understand
children; but he had a good heart nevertheless.  He eyed Myra from time to
time with a sympathetic curiosity, shy and almost timid, as the train
swung out over the points, and the child, nestling down in a corner by the
window, gazed out across the murky suburbs with eyes which, devouring the
distance, regarded him not at all.

The child did not doubt.  She followed with the others as he shepherded
them through the station to the train which came, as if to his call, from
among half a dozen others, all ready at hand.  He was a magician,
benevolent as any in her fairy-tales, and when all was over she would
thank him, even with tears.  But just now she could think only of Clem and
her journey's end.  Clem!--Clem!--the train clanked out his name over and
over.  Would these lines of dingy houses, factories, smoky gardens,
rubbish-heaps, broken palings, never come to an end?

They trailed past the window in meaningless procession; empty phenomena,
and as dull as they were empty.  But the glorious golden certainty lay
beyond.  "Just look to the poor mite!" whispered Mrs. Purchase, nudging
her husband.  Myra's ears caught the words distinctly, but Myra did not
hear.

Bexley at last! with two or three cabs outside the station.  Later on she
remembered them, and the colour of the horse in the one which Mr. Joshua
chose, and the driver's face, and Mr. Joshua leaning out of the window and
shouting directions.  She remembered also the mist on the glass window of
the four-wheeler, and the foggy houses, detached and semi-detached,
looming behind their roadway walls and naked fences of privet; the
clapping sound of the horse, trotting with one loose shoe; Aunt Hannah's
clutch at her arm as they drew up in the early dusk before a gate with a
clump of evergreens on either side; and a glimpse of a tall red-brick
building as Mr. Joshua opened the door and alighted.

He was gone, and they sat in the cab, and waited for him a tedious while.
She did not understand.  Why should they wait now, with Clem so near at
hand?  But she was patient, not doubting at all of the result.

He came running back at length, and radiant.  As though the issue had ever
been in doubt!  The cab moved through the gateway and halted before a low
flight of steps, and everyone clambered out.  The dusk had deepened, and
she blinked as she stepped into a lighted hall.  A tall man met them
there; whispered, or seemed to whisper, a moment with Mr. Joshua; and
beckoned them to follow.  They followed him, turning to the right down a
long corridor not so brightly lit as the hall had been.  At the end he
halted for a moment and gently opened a door.

They passed through it into what, for a moment, seemed to be total
darkness.  They stood, in fact, at the head of a tall platform of many
steps, semicircular in shape, looking down upon a long hall, unlit as yet
(for the blind need no lamps); and below, on the floor of the hall, ranged
at their desks in the fading light, sat row upon row of children.
The murmur of many voices rose from that shadowy throng, as Myra, shaking
off Aunt Hannah's grasp, stepped forward to the edge of the platform with
both arms extended, her hurt forgotten.

"MYRA!"

The opening of the door could scarcely have been audible amid the murmur
below.  She herself had stretched out her arms, uttering no sound, not yet
discerning him among the dim murmuring shadows.  What telegraphy of love
reached, and on the instant, that one child in the throng and fetched him
to his feet, crying out her name?  And he was blind.  From the way he ran
to her, heeding no obstacles, stumbling against desks, breaking his shins
cruelly against the steps of the platform as he stretched up both hands to
her, all might see that he was blind.  Yet he came, as she had known he
would come.

"CLEM!"

They were in each other's arms, sobbing, laughing, crooning soft words
together, but only these articulate--

"You knew me?"

"Yes, you have come--I knew you would come!"

"Now I ask you," said Aunt Hannah to the Matron, who, unobserved by the
visitors, had followed them down the corridor, "I don't know you from
Adam, ma'am, but I ask you, as a Christian woman, if you'd part them two
lambs?  And, if so, how?"

The Matron's answer went near to abashing her; for the Matron turned out
to be not only a Christian woman, as challenged, but an extremely
tender-hearted one.

"I like the child," she answered.  "I like him so much that I'd be
thankful if you could get him removed; for, to tell the truth, he's ailing
here.  We try to feed him well, and we try to make him happy; but he's
losing flesh, and he's not happy.  Indeed we are not tyrants, ma'am, and
if it pleases you his sister shall stay with him overnight, and I promise
to take care of her; but he came to us from his legal guardian, and
without leave we can't give him up."

It was at this point that inspiration came to Mr. Joshua.

"Why not a telegram?" he suggested.  "As his aunt, ma'am, you might
suggest a sea voyage for the child, and leave it to me to word it
strongly."

"If I wasn't a married woman," said Mrs. Purchase, "I could openly bless
the hour I made your acquaintance."

Between the despatch of Mr. Joshua's telegram and the receipt of his
answer there was weary waiting for all but the two children.
They, content in the moment's bliss, secure of the future, being reunited,
neither asked nor doubted.

Yet they missed something--the glad, astounded surprise of their elders as
Mr. Joshua, having taken the yellow envelope from Mrs. Purchase, whose
courage failed her, broke it open, and read aloud, "_Leave child in your
hands.  Only do not bring him home_."

It was a happy party that travelled back that night to Blackfriars; and
Mr. Joshua, after shaking hands with everybody many times over, and
promising to eat his Christmas dinner on board the _Virtuous Lady_, walked
homeward to his solitary lodgings elate, treading the frosty pavement with
an unaccustomed springiness of step.  He had vindicated the Power of the
Press.



CHAPTER XXV.


BUT TOM CAN WRITE.

"A letter for you, Mrs. Trevarthen!"

Spring had come.  The flight and finding of Myra had long since ceased to
be a nine days' wonder, and she and Clem and Tom Trevarthen--received back
into favour, and in some danger of being petted by Mrs. Purchase, who had
never been known to pet a seaman--were shipmates now on board the
_Virtuous Lady_, and had passed for many weeks now beyond ken of the
little port.  A new schoolmistress reigned in Hester's stead, since
Hester, with the New Year, had taken over the care of the Widows' Houses.
In his counting-house at Hall Samuel Rosewarne sat day after day
transacting his business without a clerk, speaking seldom, shunned by
all--even by his own son; a man afraid of himself.  Susannah declared that
the house was like a tomb, and vowed regularly on Monday mornings to give
'warning' at the next week-end.  The villagers, accustomed to the
Rosewarne tyranny for generations, had found it hard to believe in their
release.  Lady Killiow was little more than a name to them, Rosewarne a
very present steward and master of their lives; and at first, when Peter
Benny engaged workmen to pull down Nicky Vro's cottage and erect a modest
office on its site, they admired his temerity, but awoke each morning to
fresh wonder that no thunderbolt from Hall had descended during the night
and razed his work to the ground.  The new ferryman had vanished too, paid
off and discharged for flagrant drunkenness, and his place was taken by
old Billy Daddo the Methodist--a change so comfortable and (when you come
to think of it) a choice so happy, that the villagers, after the shock of
surprise, could hardly believe they had not suggested it.  If they did not
quite forget Nicky and his sorrows--if in place of Nicky's pagan chatter
they listened to Billy's earnest, gentle discourse, and might hardly cross
to meal or market without being reminded of God--why, after all, the word
of God was good hearing, and everyone ought to take an interest in it.
Stop your ears for a moment, and you could almost believe 'twas Nicky come
back to life again.  Nobody could deny the man was cheerful and civil.
He rowed a stroke, too, amazingly like Nicky's.

As for Rosewarne, in the revulsion of their fears they began to despise
him.  They Had done better to pity him.

Across the water, in her lodging in the Widows' Houses, Hester found work
to be done which, to her surprise, kept her busier than she had ever been
in her life before--so busy that the quiet quadrangle seemed to hold no
room for news of the world without.  She found that, if she were to
satisfy her conscience in the service of these old women, she could seldom
save more than an hour's leisure from the short spring days; and in that
hour maybe Sir George would call with his plans, or she would put on her
bonnet and walk down the hill for a call on the Bennys and a chat with
Nuncey.  But oftener it was Nuncey who came for a gossip; Nuncey having
sold her cart and retired from business.

Spring had come.  Within the almshouse quadrangle, around the leaden pump,
the daffodils were in flower and the tulip buds swelling.  A blast from
the first of those golden trumpets could hardly have startled her more
than did her first sight of it flaunting in the sun.  It had stolen upon
her like a thief.


"A letter for you, Mrs. Trevarthen!"

The postman, as he crossed the quadrangle to the Matron's door, glanced up
and spied Mrs. Trevarthen bending over a wash-tub in the widows' gallery.
He pulled a letter from his pocket and held it aloft gaily.

"I'll run up the steps with it if you can't reach."

"No need to trouble you, my dear, if you'll wait a moment."

Mrs. Trevarthen dried her hands in her coarse apron, leaned over the
balustrade, and just contrived to reach the letter with her finger-tips.
They were bleached with soap and warm water, and they trembled a little.

"'Tis from your son Tom, I reckon," said the postman, while she examined
the envelope.  "Foreign paper and the Quebec postmark."

"From Tom?  O' course 'tis from Tom!  Get along with 'ee do!  What other
man would be writing to me at my time o' life?"

The postman walked on, laughing.  Mrs. Trevarthen stood for some while
irresolute, holding the envelope between finger and thumb, and glancing
from it to a closed door at the back of the gallery.  A slant low sun-ray
almost reached to the threshold, and was cut short there by the shadow of
the gallery eaves.

"Best not disturb her, I s'pose," said the old woman, with a sigh.
She laid the letter down, but very reluctantly, beside the wash-tub, and
plunged both hands among the suds again.  "Quebec!" The word recalled a
silly old song of the sailors; she had heard her boy hum it again and
again--

    "Was you ever to Quebec,
        Bonnie lassie, bonnie lassie?
     Was you ever to Quebec,
     Rousing timber over the deck."--

A door opened at the end of the gallery, and Hester came through.

"Good-morning, Mrs. Trevarthen!"

"'Mornin', my dear."

These two were friends now on the common ground of nursing Aunt Butson,
who had been bedridden almost from the day of her admission to the
almshouse, her gaunt frame twisted with dire rheumatics.

Hester, arriving to take up her duties and finding Mrs. Trevarthen outworn
with nursing, had packed her off to rest and taken her place by the
invalid's bedside.  In this service she had been faithful ever since; and
it was no light one, for affliction did not chasten Mrs. Butson's caustic
tongue.

"Is she still sleeping?"  Hester glanced at the door.

"Ay, ever since you left.  Her pains have wore her out, belike.
A terrible night!  Why didn' you call me sooner?"

"You have a letter, I see."

Mrs. Trevarthen nodded, obviously embarrassed.  "Keeping it for _her_, I
was," she explained.  "She do dearly like to look my letters over.
She gets none of her own, you see."

But Hester was not deceived, having observed (without appearing to detect
it) Mrs. Trevarthen's difficulty with the written instructions on the
medicine bottles.

"But she will not wake for some time, we'll hope; and you haven't even
broken the seal!  If you would like me to read it to you--it would save
your eyes; and I am very discreet--really I am."

Mrs. Trevarthen hesitated.  "My eyes be bad, sure enough," she said,
weakening.  "But you mustn't blame me if you come across a word or two you
don't like."

"I shall remember no more of it than you choose," said Hester, slightly
puzzled.

"My Tom han't ever said a word agen' you, and the odds are he'll say
nothing now.  Still, there's the chance, and you can't rightly blame him."

"Tom?"  Hester's eyes opened wide.

"I know my own boy's writing, I should hope!" said Mrs. Trevarthen, with
pardonable pride.  "And good writing it is.  Sally Butson says she never
taught a boy whose hand did her more credit.  But what's the matter?
You'm as pale as a sheet almost!"

"I--I didn't know,"--stammered Hester, and checked herself.

"You've been over-tiring yourself, and to-night you'll just go off to bed
early and leave the nursing to me.  What didn' you know?  That Tom was a
scholar?  A handsome scholar he'd have been, but for going to sea early
when his father died.  I wonder sometimes if he worries over it and the
chances he missed.  But Quebec's the postmark; and that means he's right
and safe, thank the Lord!  I don't fret so long as he's aboard a
well-found ship.  'Twas his signing aboard the _One-and-All_--'
Rosewarne's coffin,' they call her--that nigh broke me.  He didn' let me
know till two nights afore he sailed.  'Beggars can't be choosers,' he
said; and afterwards I found out from Peter Benny that he'd covered his
poor body with tattoo marks--his body that I've a-washed hundreds o'
times, and loved to feel his legs kickin' agen' me.  Beautiful skin he had
as a child; soft as satin the feel of it, and not a blemish anywhere.
'Tis hard to think of it criss-crossed with them nasty marks.  But there!
thank the Lord God he's safe, this passage!  Read me what he says, there's
a kind soul; but you'll have to bear a child afore you know what I've
a-been going through wi' that letter starin' me in the face."

Hester, resting a shoulder against one of the oaken pillars of the
gallery, where the sunshine touched her face with colour, broke the seal.

"Here is an enclosure--a post-office order for fifty shillings."

"God bless him! 'tis Welcome; though I could have made shift at a pinch.
Peter Benny manages these things for me," said Mrs. Trevarthen, folding it
lengthwise and inserting it between the buttons of her bodice.  What she
meant was that Mr. Benny as a rule attested her mark and brought her the
money from the post-office.  But Hester, busy with her own thoughts,
scarcely heard.  Why had Tom Trevarthen pretended to her that he could not
write?  Why had he trapped her into writing a letter for him--and to this
Harriet, whoever she might be?  She unfolded the letter and read, in bold,
clear penmanship--

                               Quebec, 14th February 1872.

    "My dear Mother,--This is to enclose what I can, and to tell you we
     arrived yesterday after a fair passage, and dropped hook in the Basin
     below Quebec; all on board well and hearty, including Miss Myra and
     Master Clem.  But between ourselves the old man won't last many more
     trips.  His head is weakening, and Mrs. Purchase, though she won't
     own to it, is fairly worn with watching him.  We hadn't scarcely
     cleared the Channel before we ran into dirty weather, with the wind
     to N.W. and rising.  We looked, of course, for the old man to
     shorten sail and send her along easy, he being noted for caution.
     But not a bit of it.   The second day out he comes forward to me,
     that stood cocking an eye aloft and waiting for him to speak, and
     says he, 'This is not at all what I expected, but the Lord will
     provide;' and with that he pulled out a Bible from his pocket and
     tapped it, looking at me very knowing, and so walked aft and shut
     himself up in his cabin.  Not another glimpse did we get of him for
     thirty-six hours, and no message on earth could fetch him up or
     persuade him to let us take a stitch off her.  As for old Hewitt,
     that has been mate of her these fifteen years, and forgotten all he
     ever knew, except to do what he's told, not a rag would he shift on
     his own responsibility.  There she was, with a new foretop-sail never
     stretched before, and almost all her canvas less than two years old,
     playing the mischief with it all, let alone putting the ship in
     danger.  At last, when she was fairly smothering herself and her
     topmasts bending like whips, up he pops, Bible in hand, and says he,
     with a look aloft and around, like a man more hurt than angry,
     'Heavenly Father, this won't do!  This here's a pretty state of
     things, Heavenly Father!' When the boys had eased her down a bit--at
     the risk of their lives it was--and the old man had disappeared below
     again, Mrs. Purchase came crawling aft to me in the wheelhouse, wet
     as a drowned rat; and there we had a talk--very confidential, though
     'twas mostly carried on by shouting.  The upshot was, she couldn't
     trust the old man's head.  In his best days he'd have threaded the
     _Virtuous Lady_ through a needle, and was capable yet; but with this
     craze upon him he was just as capable of casting the ship away for
     the fun of it.  As for Hewitt, we found out his quality in the fogs
     of the Banks, when the skipper struck work again and let the
     dead-reckoning go to glory, telling us to consider the lilies.
     Hewitt took it over, and in two days had worked us south of our
     course by eighty odd miles.  By the Lord's mercy, on the third day we
     could take our bearings, and so hauled up and fetch the Gulf; and
     here we are right and tight, and Mrs. Purchase gone ashore to ship a
     navigating officer for the passage home.  But mates' certificates
     don't run cheap in these parts, as they do on Tower Hill, and the
     pilots tell me she'll be lucky if she gets what she wants for love or
     money.

    "Dear mother, remember me to all the folks, and give my love to Granny
     Butson.  Master Clem is putting on flesh wonderful, and I reckon the
     pair of them are in no hurry to get home to school.

    "Talking of that, I would like to hear how the school gets along, and
     Miss Marvin--"

"Eh?" Mrs. Trevarthen interrupted.  "Why, come to think of it, he's never
heard of your coming to look after us, but reckons you'm still at the
school-mistressing.  And you standing there and reading out his very
words!  I call that a proper joke."

     "--And that limb of ugliness, Rosewarne.  But by the time this
     reaches you we shall be loaded and ready for sailing; so no news can
     I hear till I get home, and perhaps it is lucky.  Good-bye now.
     If the world went right, it is not you would be living in the Widows'
     Houses, nor I that would be finding it hard to forgive folks; but as
     Nicky Vro used to say, 'Must thank the Lord, I reckon, that we be so
     well as we be.'  No more at present from your loving son,"
                                                    "Tom."

"I don't understand the tail-end o' that," said Mrs. Trevarthen.  "Would
you mind reading it over again, my dear?--Well, well, you needn't to flush
up so, that he finds it hard to forgive folks.  Meanin' you, d'ee think?
He don't speak unkindly of any but Rosewarne; and I don't mind that I've
heard news of that varmint for a month past.  Have you?"

Hester did not answer--scarcely even heard.  The hand in which she held
the letter fell limp at her side as she stood gazing across the quadrangle
facing the sun, but with a soft, new-born light in her eyes, that did not
owe its kindling there.  Why had he played this trick on her?  She could
not explain, and yet she understood.  For her he had meant that letter--
yes, she was sure of it!  To her, as though for another, he had spoken
those words--she remembered every one of them.  He had not dared to speak
directly.  And he had made her write them down.  Foolish boy that he was,
he had been cunning.  Did she forgive him?  She could not help forgiving;
but it was foolish--foolish!

She put on her bonnet that evening and walked down to see Nuncey and have
a talk with her; not to confide her secret, but simply because her elated
spirit craved for a talk.

Greatly to her disappointment, Nuncey was out; nor could Mrs. Benny tell
where the girl had gone, unless (hazarding a guess) she had crossed the
ferry to her father's fine new office, to discuss fittings and furniture.
Nuncey had dropped into the habit, since the days began to lengthen, of
crossing the ferry after tea-time.

Hester decided to walk as far as the Passage Slip, on the chance of
meeting her.  Somewhat to her surprise, as she passed Broad Quay she
almost ran into Master Calvin Rosewarne, idling there with his hands in
his pockets, and apparently at a loose end.

"Calvin!  Why, whatever are you doing here, on this side of the water?"

The boy--he had not the manners to take off his cap--eyed her for a moment
with an air half suspicious and half defiant.  "That's telling," he
answered darkly, and added, after a pause, "Were you looking for anyone?"

"I was hoping to meet Nuncey Benny.  She has gone across to her father's
new office--or so Mrs. Benny thinks."

The boy grinned.  "She won't be coming this way just yet, and she's not at
the new office.  But I'll tell you where to find her, if you'll let me
come along with you."

On their way to the ferry he looked up once or twice askance at her, as if
half-minded to speak; but it was not until old Daddo had landed them on
the farther shore that he seemed to find his tongue.

"Look here," he said abruptly, halting in the roadway, and regarding her
from under lowering brows; "the last time you took me in lessons you told
me to think less of myself and more of other people.  Didn't you, now?"

"Well?" said Hester, preoccupied, dimly remembering that talk.

"Well, you seemed to forget your own teaching pretty easily when you
walked out of Hall and left me there on the stream.  Nice company you left
me to, didn't you?"

"Your father,"--began Hester lamely.

"We won't talk of Dad.  He's altered--I don't know how.  I can't get on
with him, though he's the only person hereabouts that don't hate me;
I'll give him _that_ credit.  But I ask you, wasn't it pretty rough on a
chap to haul him over the coals for selfishness, and then march out and
leave him without another thought?  And that's what you did."

"I am sorry."  Hester's conscience accused her, and she was contrite.
The child must have found life desperately dull.

"I forgive you," said Master Calvin, magnanimously, and resumed his walk.
"I forgive you on condition you'll do a small job for me.  When Myra turns
up again--and sooner or later she'll turn up--I want you to give her a
message."

"Very well; but why not give it yourself?"

"She don't speak to me, you know," he answered, stooping to pick up a
stone and bowl it down the hill.  It scattered a trio of ducks, gathered a
few yards below and cluttering with their bills in the village stream, and
he laughed as they waddled off in panic.  "That's how I'm left to amuse
myself," he said after a moment apologetically, but again half defiantly.
"You've to tell Myra," he went on, picking up another stone, eyeing for an
aim, and dropping it, "that I like her pluck, but she needn't have been in
such a hurry to teach the head of the family.  Will you remember that?"

"I will, although I don't know what you mean by it."

"Never you mind, but take her that message; Myra will understand."

He stepped ahead a few paces, as if unwilling to be questioned further.
They passed the gate of Hall.  Beyond it, at the foot of the Jacob's
Ladder leading up to Parc-an-Hal, he whispered to her to halt, climbed
with great caution, and disappeared behind the hedge of the great meadow;
but by and by he came stealing back and beckoned to her.

"It's all right," he whispered; "only step softly."

Keeping close alongside the lower hedge, he led the way towards the great
rick at the far corner of the field.

As they drew close to it he caught her arm and pulled her aside, pointing
to her shadow, which the level sun had all but thrown beyond the rick.

"But what is the meaning of it?"

The question was on her lips when her ear caught the note of a voice--
Nuncey's voice--and these words, low, and yet distinct--

"At the call 'Attention!' the whole body and head must be held erect, the
chin slightly dropped, chest well open, shoulders square to the front,
eyes looking straight forward.  The arms must hang easily, with fingers
and thumbs straight, close to one another and touching the thighs; the
feet turned out at right angles or nearly.  Now, please--'Tention!"--(a
pause)--"You break my heart, you do!  Eyes, I said, looking _straight
forward_; and the weight of the body ought to rest on the front part of
the foot--not tilted back on your heels and looking like a china cat in a
thunderstorm.  Now try again, that's a dear!"

Hester gazed around wildly at Calvin, who was twisting himself in silent
contortions of mirth.

"Take a peep!" he gasped.  "She's courting Archelaus Libby, and teaching
him to look like a man."

"You odious child!"  Hester, ashamed of her life to have been trapped into
eavesdropping, and yet doubting her ears, strode past the edge of the rick
and into full view.

Nuncey drew back with a cry.

"Hester Marvin!"

Hester's eyes travelled past her and rested on Archelaus.  He, rigid at
attention, caught and held there spellbound, merely rolled a pair of
agonized eyes.

"Nuncey!  Archelaus!  What on earth are you two doing?"

"Learnin' him to be a Volunteer, be sure!" answered Nuncey, her face the
colour of a peony.  After an instant she dropped her eyes, her cheeks
confessing the truth.

"But--but why?"  Hester stared from one to the other.

"If he'd only be like other men!" protested Nuncey.

Hester ran to her with a happy laugh.  "But you wouldn't wish him like
other men!"

"I do, and I don't."  Nuncey eluded her embrace, having caught the sound
of ribald laughter on the other side of the rick.  Darting around, she was
in time to catch Master Calvin two cuffs, right and left, upon the ears.
He broke for the gate and she pursued, but presently returned breathless.

"'Tis wonderful to me," she said, eyeing Archelaus critically and sternly,
"how ever I come to listen to him.  But he softened me by talking about
_you_.  He's a deal more clever than he seems, and I believe at this
moment he likes you best."

"I don't!" said Archelaus firmly; "begging your pardon, Miss Marvin."

"I am sure you don't," laughed Hester.

"Well, anyway, I'll have to tell father now," said Nuncey; "for that imp
of a boy will be putting it all round the parish."

But here Archelaus asserted himself.  "That's my business," he said
quietly.  "It isn't any man's 'yes' or 'no' I'm afraid of, Miss Marvin,
having stood up to _her_."



CHAPTER XXVI.


MESSENGERS.

In Cornwall, they say, the cuckoo brings a gale of wind with him; and of
all gales in the year this is the one most dreaded by gardeners and
cidermen, for it catches the fruit trees in the height of their blossoming
season, and in its short rage wrecks a whole year's promise.

Such a gale overtook the _Virtuous Lady_, homeward bound, in mid-Atlantic.
For two days and a night she ran before it; but this of course is a
seaman's phrase, and actually, fast as the wind hurled her forward, she
lagged back against it until she wallowed in its wake, and her crew gave
thanks and crept below to their bunks, too dog-weary to put off their
sodden clothes.

The gale passed on and struck our south-western coast, devastating the
orchards of Cornwall and Devon and carpeting them with unborn fruit--
_dulcis vitae ex-sortes_.  Amid this unthrifty waste and hard by, off Berry
Head, the schooner _One-and-All_ foundered and went down, not prematurely.

Foreseeing the end, her master had given orders to lower the whale-boat.
The schooner might be apple-rotten, as her crew declared, but she carried
a whale-boat which had inspired confidence for years and induced many a
hesitating hand to sign articles; a seaworthy boat, to begin with, and by
her owner's and master's care made as nearly unsinkable as might be,
cork-fendered, fitted bow and stern with air tanks, well found in all her
gear.  Woe betide the seaman who abstracted an inch of rope from her to
patch up the schooner's crazy rigging, or who left a life-belt lying loose
around the deck or a rowlock unrestored to its due place after the weekly
scrub-down!

The crew, then, launched the boat--half filling her in the process--and,
tumbling in, pulled for the lee of the high land between Berry Head and
Brixham.  The master took the helm.  He was steering without one backward
look at the abandoned ship, when the oarsmen ceased pulling, all together,
with a cry of dismay.

On the schooner's deck stood a child, waving his arms despairingly.

How he came there they could not tell, nor who he was.  The master, not
understanding their outcry, cursed and shouted to them to pull on.
But already the starboard oars were holding water and the bowman bringing
her around head-to-sea.

"Good Lord deliver us!"

The master carried a pair of binoculars, slung in a leathern case about
his shoulders inside his oilskin coat.

They had been given to him by public subscription many years before, with
a purse of gold, as a reward for saving life at sea.  Since then he had
forgotten in whisky-drinking and money-getting all the generous courage of
his youth.  His business for many years had been to play with human life
for his own and his owner's profit, with no care but to keep on the right
side of the law.  The noble impulse which had earned him this testimonial
was dead within him; to recover it he must have been born again.
He might even, by keeping his pumps going and facing out the peril for
another couple of hours, have run the _One-and-All_ into Torbay and saved
her; but he had not wanted to save her.  Nevertheless, when he had run
down to collect his few treasures from the cabin, these binoculars were
his first and chiefest thought, for they attached him to something in his
base career which had been noble.  So careful was he, so fearful of facing
eternity and judgment--if drown he must--without them, that, although the
time was short and the danger instant, and the man by this time a coward,
he had stripped off oilskin coat and pea-jacket to indue them again and
button them over his treasure.

Yet either his hands were numb or the sea-water had penetrated these wraps
and damped the tag of the leathern case, making it difficult to open.
When at length he tugged the binoculars free and sighted them, it was to
catch one glimpse, and the last, of the child waving from the bulwarks.

"Good Lord deliver us!"

A high-crested wave blotted out the schooner's hull.  She seemed to sink
behind it, almost to midway of her main shrouds.  She would lift again
into sight as that terrible wave went by--

But she did not.  The wave went by, but no portion of her hull appeared.
With a slow lurch forward she was gone, and the seas ran over her as
though she and her iniquity had never been.

In that one glimpse through his binoculars the master, and he alone of the
crew, had recognised the child--Calvin Rosewarne, his owner's son.


To their credit, the men pulled back for the spot where the _One-and-All_
had gone down.  Not till an hour's battling had taught them the
hopelessness of a search hopeless from the first did they turn the boat
and head again for Brixham.


The news, telegraphed from Brixham, began to spread through Troy soon
after midday.  Since the law allowed it, over-insurance was accepted by
public opinion in the port almost as a matter of ordinary business;
almost, but not quite.  In his heart every citizen knew it to be damnable,
and voices had been raised in public calling it damnable.  Men and women
who would have risked nothing to amend the law so far felt the public
conscience agreeing with their own that they talked freely of Rosewarne's
punishment as a judgment of God.  Folks in the street canvassed the news,
insensibly sinking their voices as they stared across the water at the elm
trees of Hall.  Behind those elms lay a house, and within that house would
be sitting a man overwhelmed by God's vengeance.

In the late afternoon a messenger knocked at Hester's door with a letter.
It was brought to her where she sat, with Mrs. Trevarthen, by Aunt
Butson's bedside, and it said--

    "I wish to speak with you this evening, if you are willing."
                                      "--S. Rosewarne."

She rose at once, silently, with a glance at her two companions.  They had
not spoken since close upon an hour.  When first the news came the old
woman on the bed had raised herself upon her elbow, struggled a moment for
utterance, and burst into a paean of triumphant hatred, horrible to hear.
Mrs. Trevarthen sat like one stunned.  "Hush 'ee, Sarah!  Hush 'ee, that's
a good soul!" she murmured once and again in feeble protest.  At length
Hester, unable to endure it longer, had risen, taken the invalid by one
shoulder and forced her gently back upon the pillow.

"Tell me to go," she said, "and I will leave you and not return.  But to
more of this I will not listen.  I believed you an ill-used woman; but you
are far less wronged than wicked if you can rejoice in the death of a
child."

Since then the invalid had lain quiet, staring up at the ceiling.  She did
not know--nor did Mrs. Trevarthen know--whose letter Hester held in her
hand.  But now, as Hester moved towards the door, a weak voice from the
bed entreated her--

"You won't leave me! I didn't mean that about the child--I didn't,
really!"

"She didn't mean it," echoed Mrs. Trevarthen.

"I know--I know," said Hester, and stretched out both arms in sudden
weariness, almost despair.  "But oh! why in this world of burdens can we
not cast away hate, the worst and wilfullest?"

It seemed to her that in her own mind during these few weeks a light had
been steadily growing, illuminating many things she had been wont to
puzzle over or habitually to pass by as teasing and obscure.  She saw the
whole world constructed on one purpose, that all living creatures should
love and help one another to be happy.  Even such a man as Rosewarne found
a place in it, as one to be pitied because he erred against this light.
Yes, and even the death of this child had a place in the scheme, since,
calling for pity, it called for one of the divinest exercises of love.
She marvelled, as she crossed in the ferry-boat, why the passengers, one
and all, discussed it as a direct visitation upon Rosewarne, as though
Rosewarne had offended against some agreement in which they and God
Almighty stood together, and they had left the fellow in God's hands with
a confidence which yet allowed them room to admire the dramatic neatness
of His methods.  She longed to tell them that they were all mistaken, and
her eyes sought old Daddo's, who alone took no part in this talk.
But old Daddo pulled his stroke without seeming to listen, his brow
puckered a little, his eyes bent on the boat's wake abstractedly as though
he communed with an inward vision.

At the front door of Hall Susannah met her, white and tearful.

"I heard that he'd sent for you."  Susannah sank her voice almost to a
whisper.  "He's in the counting-house.  You be'n't afeard?"

"Why should I be afraid?"

"I don't know.  He's that strange.  For months now he've a-been strange;
but for two days he've a-sat there, wi'out food or drink, and the door
locked most of the time.  Not for worlds would I step into that room
alone."

"For two days?"

"Ever since he opened the poor child's letter; for a letter there was,
though the Lord knows what was in it.  You're sure you be'n't afeard?"

Hester stepped past her and through the great parlour, and tapped gently
on the counting-house door.  Her knock was answered by the sound of a key
turning in the lock, and Rosewarne opened to her.

At the moment she could not see his face, for a lamp on the writing-table
behind silhouetted him in black shadow.  Her eyes wandered over the room's
disarray, and all her senses quailed together in its exhausted atmosphere.

He closed the door, but did not lock it again, motioned her to a chair,
and dropped heavily into his accustomed seat by the writing-table,
where for a while his fingers played nervously with the scattered papers.
Now by the lamplight she noted the extreme greyness of his face and the
hard brilliance of his eyes, usually so dull and fish-like.

"I am much obliged to you for coming," he began in a level, almost
business-like tone, but without looking up.  "There are some questions I
want to ask.  You have heard the news, of course?"

"Everyone has heard.  I am sorry--so sorry!  It is terrible."

"Thank you," said he, with a slight inclination of the head, as though
acknowledging some remark of small and ordinary politeness.  "Perhaps you
would like to see this?"  He picked up a crumpled sheet of notepaper,
smoothed out the creases, and handed it to her.  Taking it, she read this,
written in a childish, ill-formed hand--

    "Dear Father,--When this reaches you I shall be at sea.   I hope you
     won't mind very much, as it runs in the family, and some of those
     that done it have turned out best.  I don't get any good staying at
     home.  I love you and you love me, but nobody else does, and nobody
     understands.  I thought Miss Marvin understood, but she went away and
     forgot.  Never mind, it will be all right when I am a man.
     I will come back, for you mustn't think I don't love you."
                                   "--Your affect. son,"
                                               "C. Rosewarne."

As Hester looked up she found Mr. Samuel's eyes fixed on her for the first
time, and fixed on her curiously.

"You don't approve, perhaps, of cousins marrying?" he asked slowly.

Was the man mad, as Susannah had hinted?

"I--I don't understand you, Mr. Rosewarne."

"Your mother had an only sister--an elder sister--who went out to
Dominica, and there married a common soldier.  Did you know this?"

"I knew that my mother had a sister, and that there had been some
disgrace.  My father never spoke of it, and my mother died when I was very
young; but in some way--as children do--I came to know."

"I thought you might know more, but it does not matter now.  My father was
that common soldier, and the disgrace did not lie in her marrying him.
Before the marriage--I have a copy here of the entry in the register--a
child was born.  Yes, stare at me well, Cousin Hester, stare at me, your
cousin, though born in bastardy!"

His eyes seemed to force her backward, and she leaned back, clasping the
arms of her chair.

"I learnt this a short while before my father died.  I had only his word
for it--he gave me no particulars; but I have hunted them up, and he told
me the truth.  Knowing them, I concealed them for the sake of the child
that was drowned to-day; otherwise, the estate being entailed, his
inheritance would have passed to Clem, and he and I were interlopers.
Are you one of those who believe that God has punished me by drowning my
son?  You have better grounds than the rest for believing it."

"No," said Hester, after a long pause, remembering what thoughts had been
in her mind as she crossed the ferry.

"Why not?"

"The child had done no evil.  God is just, or God does not exist.  He must
have had some other purpose than to punish you."

"You are right.  He may have used that purpose to afflict me yet the
more--though I don't believe it; but my true punishment--my worse
punishment--began long before.  Cousin, cousin, you see clearly!
How often might you have helped me during these months I have been in
hell!  Can you think how a man feels who is afraid of himself?
No, you cannot; but I say to you there is no worse hell, and through that
hell I have been walking since the day I went near to killing Clem.
You saved me that once, and then you turned and left me.  I wanted you--
no, not to marry me!  When a man fears himself he thinks no more of
affection.  I wanted you, I craved for you, to save me--to save me again
and again, and as often as the madness mastered me.  A word from you would
have made me docile as a child.  I should have done you no hurt.
On your walks and about your lodging at night I have dogged you for that
word, afraid to show myself, afraid to knock and demand it.  By this time
I had discovered you were my cousin.  'Blood is thicker than water'--over
and over I told myself this.  'Sooner or later,' I said, 'the voice in our
blood will whisper to her, and she will turn and help my need.'  But you
never turned, and why?  Because you were in love, and if fear is selfish,
love is selfish too!"

He paused for breath, eyeing her with a gloomy, bitter smile.
"Oh, there's no harm in my knowing your secret," he went on.  "I'm past
hating Tom Trevarthen, and past all jealousy.  All I ever asked was that
he should spare you to help me--a cup of cold water for a tongue in hell;
I didn't want your love.  But that's where the selfishness of love comes
in.  It can't spare even what it doesn't need for itself.  It wants the
whole world to be happy; but when the unhappy cry to it, it doesn't hear."

Hester stood up, her eyes brimming.  "You are right," she said, "I did not
hear.  I never guessed at all.  Tell me now that I can help."

"It is too late," he answered.  "I no longer want your help."

"Surely to-day, if ever, you need your neighbours' pity and their
prayers?"

He laughed aloud.  "That shows how little you understand!  You and my
precious neighbours think of me as brooding here, mourning for my lost
boy.  I tell you I am glad--yes, glad!  _This_ is no part of God's
punishment!  It was the future I feared: He has taken it from me.
I can suffer at ease now, knowing the end.  See now, I have confessed to
you the wrong I did that blind child, and the confession has eased me.
I could not have confessed it yesterday--the burden of living grows
lighter, you perceive.  I don't repent; it doesn't seem to me that I have
any use for repentance.  If what I have done deserves punishment in
another world, I must suffer it; but I know it cannot be half what I have
suffered of late.  No, cousin, I need you no longer.  There is no sting to
rankle, now that hope--hope for my boy--has gone.  I can rest quiet now,
with my own damnation."

She put out a hand, protesting, but he turned from her--they were standing
face to face--and opening the door, stood aside to let her pass.

"I thank you for coming," he said gravely.  "What I have told you--about
the inheritance, I mean--will be no secret after the next few days."

She halted and looked at him inquiringly.  "It will be a secret safe with
me," she said.   Her eyes still searched his.

For the second time he laughed.  "The children will be home in a few days;
I wait here till then.  That is all I meant."


In the dusk by the ferry-slip old Daddo stood ready to push off.
Hester was the only passenger, for it was Saturday, and on Saturdays, at
this hour, all the traffic flowed away from the town, returning from
market to the country.

Her eyes were red, and it may be that old Daddo noted this, for midway
across, and without any warning, he rested on his oars, scanning her
earnestly.

"You have been calling on Rosewarne, miss?--making so bold."

She nodded.

"I see'd you looking t'ards me just now as we crossed.  I see'd you glance
up as _they_, in their foolishness, was reckoning they knew the mind o'
God.  Tell me, miss, how he bears it?"

"He bears it; but without hope, for his trouble goes deeper."



CHAPTER XXVII.


HOME.

Mr. Benny, arriving next morning at the ferry to cross over to his office,
opened his eyes very wide indeed to see the boat waiting by the slip and
his late master, Samuel Rosewarne, standing solitary within it, holding on
to a shore-ring by the boat-hook.

"But whatever has become of Daddo?"  Mr. Benny's gaze, travelling round,
rested for one moment of wild suspicion on the door of the 'Sailor's
Return,' hard by.

"With your leave he has given up his place to me for a while," said
Rosewarne slowly.  "I have come to ask you that favour, Mr. Benny."

The little man stepped on board, wondering, nor till half-way across could
he find speech.

"It hurts me to see you doing this, sir; it does indeed.  If old Nicky Vro
could look down and see you so demeaning yourself, you can't think but
he'd say 'twas too much."

"I did Nicky Vro an injury once, and a mortal one.  But I never gave him
licence to know, on earth or in heaven, what my conscience requires.
It requires this, Mr. Benny; and unless you forbid it, we'll say no more."

The common opinion on both shores was that grief had turned Rosewarne's
brain.  He had prepared himself against laughter; but no one laughed: and
though, as the news spread, curiosity brought many to the shores to see,
the groups dispersed as the boat approached.  Public penance is a rare
thing in these days, and all found it easier to believe that the man was
mad.  Some read the Lord's retributive hand again in the form his madness
took.

In silence he took the passengers' coppers or handed them their change.
Few men had ever opened talk with Rosewarne, and none were bold enough to
attempt it in the three days during which he plied the ferry.

"You left him lonely to his sinning; leave him alone now," said old Daddo,
tilling his cottage-garden up the hill, to the neighbours who leaned
across his fence questioning him about his share in the strange business.
His advice was idle; they could not help themselves.  Something in
Rosewarne's face forbade speech.

On the evening of the third day he saw the signal for which he waited--the
smoke of a tug rising above the low roofs on the town quay, and above the
smoke the top-gallants and royals of a tall vessel pencilled against the
sunset's glow.  With his eyes upon the vision he rowed to shore and
silently as ever took the fees of his passengers and gave them their
change; then, having made fast the boat, he walked up to Mr. Benny's
office.

"You have done me one service," he said.  "I ask you to do me a second.
The _Virtuous Lady_ has come into port; in five minutes or less she will
drop anchor.  Take boat and pull to her.  Tell Mrs. Purchase that I have
gone up the hill to Hall, and will be waiting there; and if you can
persuade her, bring her ashore in your boat."

Mr. Benny reached up for his hat.

"Say that I am waiting to speak with her alone.  On no account must she
bring the children."


Up in the Widows' Houses, high above the murmur of the little port, no ear
caught the splash as the _Virtuous Lady's_ anchor found and held her to
home again.  In Aunt Butson's room Hester sat and read aloud to her
patient.  The book was the Book of Proverbs, from which Aunt Butson
professed that she, for her part, derived more comfort than from all the
four Gospels put together.  For an hour Hester read on steadily, and then,
warned by the sound of regular breathing, glanced at the bed and shut the
Bible.

Rising, she paused for a moment, watching the sleeper, opened and closed
the door behind her gently, and bent her steps towards Mrs. Trevarthen's
room, at the far end of the gallery; but on the way her eyes fell on a
group of daffodils in bloom below, in the quadrangle.  Two flights of
stairs led up from the quadrangle, one at either end of the gallery; and
stepping back to the head of that one which mounted not far from Aunt
Butson's door, she descended and plucked a handful of the flowers.
Returning to the gallery by the other stairway, she was more than a little
surprised to see Mrs. Trevarthen's door, at the head of it, almost wide
open.  For Mrs. Trevarthen, worn-out and weary, had left her only an hour
ago under a solemn promise to go straight to bed, and Hester had been
minded to arrange these flowers for her while she slept.

"Mrs. Trevarthen!" she called indignantly from the stair-head.
"Mrs. Trevarthen!  What did you promise me?"

A tall figure, dark against the farther window, rose from its stooping
posture over the bed where Mrs. Trevarthen lay, turned, and confronted her
in the doorway with a glad and wondering stare.

"Miss Marvin!"

"Tom! oh, Tom!" cried his mother's voice within.  "To think I haven't told
you!  But you give me no time!"

A minute later, as Hester walked away along the gallery, she heard his
step following.

"But why wouldn't you come in?" he demanded, and went on before she could
answer, "To think of your being Matron here!  But of course mother had no
time to reach me with a letter."

"She gave me yours to read," said Hester mischievously; whereat Tom
flushed and looked away and laughed.  "Tell me," she went on.  "What did
she answer?"

"She?  Who?"

"Why, Harriet--wasn't that her name?"

"There's no such person."

"What?  Do you mean to say it was all a trick, and there's no Harriet
Sands in existence?"

"You're wrong now.  There _is_ a Harriet Sands, and she belongs to Runcorn
too; only she's a ship."

"A ship! And the letter you made me write--it almost made me cry, too--was
_that_ meant only for a ship?"

"No, it was not--but you're laughing at me."  He turned almost savagely,
and catching sight of something in her eyes, stood still.  "If you only
knew---_do_ you know?"

"I wish I did--I think I do."

He caught at her hands and clasped them over the daffodils.


"If ever I'm a widow," said a panting voice a few paces away, "if ever I'm
a widow (which the Lord forbid!), I'll end my days on a ground floor 'pon
the flat.  Companion-ladders is bad enough when you've a man to look
after; but when you've put 'en away and can take your meals easy, to chase
a bereaved woman up a hill like the side of a house, an' _then_ up a flight
of stairs, for five shillings a week and all found--O-oh!"

Mrs. Purchase halted at the stair-head; and it is a question which of
three faces was redder.

"O-oh!" repeated Mrs. Purchase.  "Here come I with news enough to upset a
town, and simmin' to me here's a pair that won't value it more'n a rush.
Well-a-well!  Am I to go away, my dears, or wish 'ee fortune?  You're a
sly fellow too, Tom Trevarthen, to go and get hold of a schoolmistress,
when 'tis only a little schoolin' you want to get a certificate and be
master of a ship.  That's the honest truth, my dear,"--she turned to
Hester.  "'Twas he that worked the _Virtuous Lady_ home, and if you can
teach 'en navigation to pass the board, he shall have her and you too.
Do I mean it?  Iss, fay, I mean it.  I'm hauled ashore.  'Tis 'Lord, now
lettest Thou Thy servant,' with Hannah Purchase."

Late that evening Clem and Myra walked hand in hand, hushed, through the
unkempt garden--their garden now, though to their childish intelligence no
more theirs than it had always been.  They might lift their voices now and
run shouting with no one to rebuke them.  They understood this, yet
somehow they did not put it to the proof.  Home was home, and the old
constraint a part of it.

Late that same evening Samuel Rosewarne passed down the streets of
Plymouth and unlatched the door of a dingy house which, empty of human
love, of childhood, of friendship, was yet his home and the tolerable
refuge of his soul.  He no longer feared himself.  He could face the
future.  He could live out his life.


THE END.


     *     *     *     *     *     *


Transcriber's note:

The following corrections were made to the text.

Chapter IV
   'a petty tradesman's daughter of Warwick'
   to 'a pretty tradesman's daughter of Warwick'

Chapter VI
   'You'm wanted at home, and to once!"
   to 'You'm wanted to home, and at once!"
   (The Cornish tend to say--He's to Truro rather than--He's at Truro)

Chapter XV
   'C let us give thanks to the lord'
   to 'Come let us give thanks to the lord'

Chapter XXIII
   'They why are you left on board?'
   to 'Then why are you left on board'

Chapter XXIV
   'I hall be surprised'
   to 'I shall be surprised'

Chapter XXV
   'but simply because her elate spirit craved for a talk'
   to 'but simply because her elated spirit craved for a talk'





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