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Title: Windyridge
Author: Riley, W.
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 "Windyridge" ***

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WINDYRIDGE


BY

W. RILEY



HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED

YORK STREET, ST. JAMES'S

LONDON S.W.1.

1915



_POPULAR EDITION._



_Printed in Great Britain by Love & Malcomson, Ltd.,
  London and Redhill._



CONTENTS


CHAPTER

      I.  THE CALL OF THE HEATHER
     II.  FARMER GOODENOUGH STATES HIS TERMS
    III.  GRACE MEETS THE SQUIRE
     IV.  THE STUDIO
      V.  FARMER BROWN IS PHOTOGRAPHED
     VI.  OVER THE MOOR TO ROMANTON
    VII.  THE CYNIC DISCOURSES ON WOMAN
   VIII.  CHRISTMAS DAY AT WINDYRIDGE
     IX.  MRS. BROWN EXPLAINS
      X.  INTRODUCES WIDOW ROBERTSHAW
     XI.  GINTY RUNS AWAY
    XII.  THE CYNIC EXAGGERATES
   XIII.  WHITSUNTIDE EXPERIENCES
    XIV.  BARJONA FALLS INTO THE TRAP
     XV.  ROSE ARRIVES
    XVI.  THE CYNIC SPEAKS IN PARABLES
   XVII.  GRACE BECOMES DEJECTED
  XVIII.  CARRIER TED RECEIVES NOTICE TO QUIT
    XIX.  BARJONA'S DOWNFALL
     XX.  THE CYNIC'S RENUNCIATION
    XXI.  AT ZERMATT
   XXII.  THE HEATHER PULLS
  XXIII.  THE PARABLE OF THE HEATHER
   XXIV.  ROGER TREFFIT INTRODUCES "MISS TERRY"
    XXV.  THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL
   XXVI.  THE CYNIC BRINGS NEWS OF GINTY
  XXVII.  MOTHER HUBBARD HEARS THE CALL
 XXVIII.  IN THE CRUCIBLE
   XXIX.  THE GREAT STORM
    XXX.  CALM AFTER STORM



WINDYRIDGE


CHAPTER I

THE CALL OF THE HEATHER

I am beginning to-day a new volume in the book of my life.  I wrote the
Prologue to it yesterday when I chanced upon this hamlet, and my Inner
Self peremptorily bade me take up my abode here.  My Inner Self often
insists upon a course which has neither rhyme nor reason to recommend
it, but as I am a woman I can plead instinct as the explanation--or
shall I say the excuse?--of my eccentric conduct.  Yet I don't think I
have ever been quite so mad before as I fully realise that I am now,
and the delight of it all is that I don't care and I don't repent,
although twenty-four hours have passed since I impulsively asked the
price of my cottage, and found that I could have it, studio and all,
for a yearly rental of ten pounds.  I have never been a tenant "on my
own" before, and the knowledge that I am not going back to the attic
bedroom and the hard "easy" chairs of the Chelsea lodging-house which
has been my home for the last three years fills me with a great joy.  I
feel as if I should suffocate if I were to go back, but it is my soul
which would be smothered.  Subconsciously I have been panting for
Windyridge for months, and my soul recognised the place and leaped to
the discovery instantaneously.

Yet how strange it all seems: how ridiculously fantastic!  I cannot get
away from that thought, and I am constantly asking myself whether
Providence or Fate, or any other power with a capital letter at the
beginning, is directing the move for my good, or whether it is just
whimsicalness on my part, self-originated and self-explanatory--the
explanation being that I am mad, as I said before.

When I look back on the events of the last three days and realise that
I have crossed my Rubicon and burned my boats behind me, and that I had
no conscious intention of doing anything of the kind when I set out, I
just gasp.  If I had stayed to reason with myself I should never have
had the courage to pack a few things into a bag and take a third-class
ticket for Airlee at King's Cross, with the avowed intention of hearing
a Yorkshire choir sing in a summer festival.  Yet it seems almost
prophetic as I recall the incident that I declined to take a return
ticket, though, to be sure, there was no advantage in doing so: no
reduction, I mean.  Whether there was an advantage remains to be seen;
I verily believe I should have returned rather than have wasted that
return half.  I dislike waste.

That was on Tuesday; on Wednesday I went to the Town Hall and entered a
new world.  It cost me a good deal in coin of the realm--much more than
I had dreamed of--but I got it all back in the currency of heaven
before I came away.  It may have been my excitable temperament--for my
mother, I remember, used to condone my faults by explaining that I was
"highly-strung," whatever that may mean--or it may have been the
Yorkshire blood in my veins which turned to fever heat as the vast
volume of sweet sound rose and fell; one thing is certain, I lost
myself completely, and did not find myself again until I discovered
that the room was almost bare of people, and realised by the
good-humoured glances of the few who remained that I appeared to be
more vacant than the room, and was making myself foolishly conspicuous
by remaining seated with my head in my hands and that far-away look in
my eyes which tells of "yonderliness."

To be quite candid, I am not quite sure that I _did_ find myself; I
suspect some tenant moved out and another moved in that afternoon, and
I am disposed to think that Airlee explains Windyridge.  If I were to
attempt to put down in cold words what I heard or what I felt I should
fail, and it would seem very ordinary and uninspiring, so I shall not
make the attempt.  But when I got outside, the noise of the busy city
grated on my senses, and the atmosphere--which was really not bad, for
the day was bright and sunny--seemed heavy and stifling.  I longed for
something which I had not previously cared about; I did not understand
my yearnings--I do not yet--but I wanted to get away from the wooden
pavements, and the granite banks, and the brick warehouses, and the
huge hotels, and the smoke and bustle and din, and lay my head in the
lap of Nature, and think.

I slept a little, I am sure, but I tossed about a good deal in the cosy
little bed of the modest hotel where I took lodging, and when morning
came I found my Inner Self still harping on the same string, and more
vigorously than ever.  Perhaps, if I had been sensible, I should have
gone straight to the station, and by this time have been going through
the old routine in Bloomsbury and Chelsea, instead of which I made my
way into the street after breakfast, and asked a kind-faced clergyman
which tramcar would take me farthest away from the turmoil.  He was a
fatherly man, but his answers were so vague, and he seemed in so much
doubt of their reliability, that I disregarded them and accosted a
bright young workman who crossed the square a moment later.  "A good
long ride?" he repeated; "right into the country, eh?  Take this car
and go to the far end."  With this he led me to one which bore the
fateful sign "Fawkshill."

It was a lovely day even in the city, warm but not muggy.  When I had
found an outside seat at the extreme front of the upper deck of the
car, the greater part of which was covered, and redolent of tobacco
fumes, I made up my mind to enjoy the breeze and the experience.  So
far as I knew it was just a parenthesis in a chapter of my life, not
the beginning of a new volume.  In the background of my thoughts there
was always Chelsea, though I affected to forget it.  Meantime, in the
foreground, there was a good deal to make even Chelsea attractive by
comparison.

We made our way slowly along the grimy road, with its rows of
monotonously uninteresting warehouses, and its endless drays filled
with the city's merchandise.  When the warehouses ended the grime
remained.  We passed street after street of brick-built cottages, over
which spread a canopy of smoke from a hundred factory chimneys.  When
the country was reached--if the bleak and sad-looking fields could be
called country--the mill chimneys were just as evident.  They were
everywhere, even on the horizon, and my spirits sank.  The villages
through which we passed were just suburbs, with the thumb-print of the
city on them all.  Every cottage, every villa, spoke of the mill or the
shop.  As we neared the terminus I found to my dismay that so far from
leaving these things behind we were entering a prosperous-looking
little town which was just Airlee on a smaller scale, with its full
quota of smoke-producing factories.  How I blamed myself for following
the advice of the young workman and regretted that I had not trusted
the parson!

I had an early lunch at a confectioner's and then wandered, aimlessly
enough, up a quiet road which led away from the town and the
tram-lines.  It was not very promising at first, but when I had passed
the last row of houses and found myself hemmed in by green, moss-grown
walls, my spirits rose.  By and by I reached cross-roads and a broad,
white highway, which was manifestly one of the great arteries of this
thriving district.  It had no attractions for me and I crossed it, and
continued my upward path.  A sign-post told me that I was on my way to
Windyridge.

I was now in a rather pleasant country road, but one which certainly
could boast few attractions.  Yet I was attracted, perhaps because I
could see so little in front of me, perhaps because I could not see a
single factory chimney, look where I would.

Fifteen minutes after leaving Fawkshill I had reached the brow of the
hill, and my spirits rose with a bound.  Just in front of me, on a
rising knoll, some fine sycamores and beeches clustered together,
guarding the approach to a grey, ivy-coated hall.  The rooks cawed
dismally in the highest branches of the sycamores, the leaves of which
were already beginning to fall.  Autumn, apparently, lays her hand in
good time upon the foliage in these northern regions, for some of the
trees had already grown ruddy at her touch.

When I came to the bend of the road I think my heart stood still for a
second or two.  There in front of me and to my left--almost, as it
seemed, at my feet--were the heather-covered moors, gloriously purple,
and the tears came into my eyes.  I could not help it; it was so
unexpected, and it unlocked too suddenly the chamber where a memory was
preserved--a hallowed, never-to-be-forgotten memory.

Years ago, and long before his sufferings ended, my father was leaning
back in his chair one day, his hand clasping its arms, as his custom
was, when there came into his eyes a look of inexpressible longing,
almost of pain.  I went and knelt by his side, and passed my hand
gently through his hair, and asked, "What is it, dad dear?"  He drew my
face to his and answered sadly--it was little more than a whisper, for
he was very weak,--"It was the heather calling me, lassie; I felt its
sweet breath upon my cheek for a moment, and longed to fall upon its
comfortable breast.  But it cannot be; it cannot be!"

That was ten years ago, and now the heather was to call me and I was to
respond to the call.  How long I stood there, with the tear-drops
dimming my vision, I do not know, but presently I became conscious of a
village street, if the few houses which straggled back from the roadway
could with any propriety be termed a village.  I walked along the path
and drank in every sight and sound, and thirsted for more.  I thought,
in the intoxication of that hour, that peace and contentment must be
the portion of every dweller in that quiet spot.  I know it will not be
so, of course.  I suppose sorrow and heartache may inhabit that quaint
one-storeyed cottage from which the wreath of blue smoke curls so
lazily; that the seeds of greed and falsehood and discontent may thrive
and grow here, and be just as hateful and hideous as the flowers which
fill the gardens around me are bright and beautiful.  But for the
moment I did not realise this.

A woman was washing the flags at her cottage door, and she smiled upon
me as I passed.  It was my first human welcome to the moors.  At the
sound of my footsteps a whole regiment of hens flew from the hilly
field which was their pasture, and perched in line upon the wall to
give me greeting.

I saw no sign of church or inn; no shop save a blacksmith's, and that
was closed.  The cottage windows and the little white curtains behind
them were spotlessly clean.  Within, I caught a glimpse here and there
of shining steel and polished brass which sparkled in the firelight;
and the comfort and cosiness of it all appealed to me strongly.

I do not think there are more than a score houses in the village, but
before I had come to the end of the street my soul had made the
discovery I referred to just now.  "Surely," I said to myself, "it is
good to be here; this people shall be my people."

It was doubtless a mad thing to say, but I was prospered in my madness.
At the extreme end of the village, just past the little Methodist
chapel which by its newness struck a jarring note in the otherwise
perfect harmony, I saw a long, low building, of one storey like most of
its fellows, roofed with stone, and fronted by a large garden.  It was
separated by a field-length from its nearest neighbour, and the field
was just the side of a hill, nothing more.  Two doors gave access to
the building, which was apparently unevenly divided into two cottages,
for a couple of windows appertained to the one door and one only to the
other.  A board at the bottom of the garden and abutting upon the road
conveyed the information that this "Desirable cottage" was "to let,
furnished."

Then and there I gave hostages to fortune.  If that cottage was to be
had for a sum which came within the limits of my slender purse, it
should be mine from that hour.  For I saw at a glance that it faced the
moors and the sunset; and I vowed that the windows should be always
open, so that the breath of the heather might have free entrance.

I pushed aside the little green gate and walked up the tiny path amid a
profusion of flowers whose names are as yet unknown to me.  I promise
myself to know them all ere long: to know their habits and their
humours: to learn their secrets and the story of their lives; but that
is for the future.  Something almost as sweet and dainty as the flowers
claimed my attention first.

At the sound of the creaking gate, a dear old lady appeared at the door
of the doll's house which was joined to my cottage and advanced to meet
me.  She had the pleasantest of faces, and was pink and pretty in spite
of her sixty odd years.  She wore a cap with strings, in the style of
long ago: it was a rather jaunty cap and not devoid of colour.  A faded
shawl hung loosely around her shoulders, and a white apron protected
her neat black frock.  I saw at once that she was a nervous little
body, yet there was dignity as well as deference in the face which
looked smilingly into mine.  But the manner of her address took my
heart by storm.  I had never been accosted in this way before, and I
nearly took the old lady in my arms and kissed her.  I have done since!

"Yes, love!" she said.  It was not an inquiry exactly, though there may
have been the faintest note of interrogation in her voice.  It was as
though I had told her of my desire to rent the cottage, and she was
expressing a gratified assent.

"I see this little house is to let," I began; "may I look at it, and
will you tell me all about it?"

"To be sure, love," was the reply.  "Now, just come inside my cottage
and rest yourself, and I'll pour you out a cup of tea if you're in no
hurry, for there's sure to be someone passing who will tell Reuben
Goodenough to come hither."

"How sweet of you!" I replied.  "A cup of tea will be like the nectar
of the gods.  I will drink it thankfully."

The inside of that room was a revelation to me.  It was, oh, so very,
very small--the smallest living-room I am sure that I ever set eyes
upon--but so marvellously clean, and so comfortably homelike that I
uttered an exclamation of surprise and delight as I crossed the
threshold.

The ceiling was of oak, with deep, broad, uneven beams of the same
material, all dark and glossy with age.  The stone floor was covered
for the most part with druggeting, whilst a thick rug composed of small
cuttings of black cloth with a design in scarlet was laid before the
ample hearth.  An old oak sideboard, or dresser, nearly filled the wall
facing the window, and on its open shelves was an array of china which
would make some people I know break the tenth commandment.  A
magnificent grandfather's clock, also in oak, with wonderful carving,
ticked importantly in one corner, and a capacious cupboard filled
another.

The wall decorations consisted of a bright but battered copper
warming-pan, which hung perpendicularly from the ceiling, looking like
the immense pendulum of some giant clock; and three "pictures" which
aroused my interest.  Two of them were framed examples of their owner's
skill in needlework, as evidenced by the inscription, carefully worked
in coloured wool--"Mary Jackson, her work, aged 13."  The letters of
the alphabet, and the numerals from 1 to 20, with certain enigmatical
figures which I took to represent flowers, completed the one effort,
whilst familiar texts of Scripture, after the style of "Thou God Seest
Me," made up the other.

The third frame was of mahogany like the others, and contained a
collection of deep, black-edged funeral cards of ancient date.

But the fireplace!  My father's description of a real, old-fashioned
Yorkshire range was understood now for the first time, as I saw the
high mantelpiece, the deep oven and the wide-mouthed grate and chimney,
in which the yellow flames were dancing merrily, covering the whole
room with the amber glow which made it so warm and enticing.  Through
an open door I caught sight of a white counterpane, and found that
there was, after all, a wee bedroom built out at the back.

Drawn quite close to the hearthrug was a round deal table covered with
a snowy cloth.  Two minutes later I was seated there, sipping tea and
eating toast, deliciously crisp and hot, and taking my new friend into
my confidence.

I confess it pleased me to find that my mad proposal was all as natural
as the sunshine to her.  The dear old soul never uttered one word of
warning or suggestion.  She was delighted with the scheme I rapidly
evolved and ready to be my willing helper.  I won her affection at once
when I told her that I was a "Yorkshireman," and she took me to her
heart and begged me to let her "mother" me.  I lost my own mother
before I had learned to value her, and I think I shall like to be
"mothered," though I shall be thirty-five in April.

God bless Mother Hubbard!  I must tell how I took the cottage to-morrow.



CHAPTER II

FARMER GOODENOUGH STATES HIS TERMS

A fee of one penny, paid in advance, lent wings to the feet of the
small boy who was pressed into my service, and before many minutes had
passed Farmer Goodenough appeared upon the scene.

He shook hands with me, after Mother Hubbard had performed the ceremony
of introduction, and I can feel the warmth of his greeting in my right
hand yet.  I shall be careful in future when I get to close grips with
big, horny-handed Yorkshire farmers.

I almost regretted that I had felt it necessary to explain the
situation to him when I heard his hearty and somewhat patronising
laugh, but Mother Hubbard's previous treatment had emboldened me.

"Well, I do declare, Miss..." he hesitated and looked at me
inquiringly, for my hostess had not mentioned my name.

"Grace Holden is my name, and I am unmarried," I said in reply.

"Oh!" he answered--only he pronounced it "Aw!"

"Well now, miss, you must excuse _me_, for I mostly speaks straight and
no offence meant, and I hope none taken; but isn't this just a little
bit daft-like?   'Marry in 'aste an' repent at leisure,' as t' Owd Book
says.  I'm thinkin' this'll be summat o' t' same sort.  Hadn't you
better sleep on it, think ye?  It'll happen be a mucky day to-morrow,
an' Windyridge 'll hev t' polish ta'en off it."

I have written this down with Mother Hubbard's assistance, and I
required a little help from her at the time in the interpretation of
it.  But the farmer's candour pleased me.

"If the rent is more than I can afford to pay I shall return to London
early to-morrow," I said; "but if it is within my means I shall
certainly stay--at any rate for twelve months," I added guardedly.

"Now look you here, miss," returned the farmer; "I've got this cottage
to let, an' if you take it for three months, _or_ for six months, _or_
for twelve months--for three months _or_ for six months _or_ for twelve
months you'll hev it to pay for.  Right's right, an' a bargain's a
bargain all the world over.  Frenchman, Scotchman _or_ Yorkshireman, a
bargain's a bargain.  But nob'dy shall say 'at Reuben Goodenough took
advantage of a woman.  I won't let you this cottage, if you like it so
as never, an' whether you can afford it or no, not until to-morrow I
won't.  An' I'll tell you why.

"You've just come an' seen Windyridge when all t' glory o' t'
sunshine's on it, an' t' birds is singin' an' t' flowers is bloomin';
but it isn't allus like that.  Not 'at I'm runnin' Windyridge down.
_I_'m content here, but then I were born here, an' my work's here, an'
t' missus an' t' youngsters were brought up here.  But when you've
slept on it you'll happen see different.  Now you've no 'casion to
speak"--as I was about to protest--"I've made up my mind, an' I'm as
stupid as a mule when I set myself, an' there can be no harm done by
waiting a toathree hours.  Come, I'll show you what I can let you have
for a ten-pun' note a year, if so be as you decide to take it at t'
finish."

He unlocked the door and stepped aside to let us enter.  The kitchen
was almost a duplicate of Mother Hubbard's, but longer.  There were the
same oak rafters, the same oak sideboard, the same huge fireplace, the
same cupboard.  A horrible contrivance of cocoa-matting covered the
floor, and a hearthrug, neatly folded, was conspicuous in one corner.
A bedroom, of ample size for one woman of modest requirements, opened
out of the kitchen, and I saw at a glance that I might have as cosy a
home as Mother Hubbard herself.  My mind was made up; but then so was
Farmer Goodenough's, and as I looked at the square jaw and the thin
lips I was convinced that this man with the good-natured face was not
to be moved from his resolution.

"I shall take the cottage for twelve months," I said; "but I recognise
the force of your objection, and I will not ask you to make out an
agreement until to-morrow--to-morrow morning.

"But I claim to be a Yorkshirewoman, and so can be just a wee bit
stupid myself, and you know the proverb says, 'When a woman says she
will, she _will_, you may depend on 't.'  Tell me, though, is not ten
pounds per annum a very low rental, seeing that the cottage is
furnished?"

"Low enough," he answered, "sadly too low; but it's as much as I can
get.  I charge fifteen shillin' a week in summer time, but then it
never lets for more'n three months at t' outside, an' for t' rest o' t'
year it 'ud go to rack an' ruin if I didn't put fires in it now an'
then, an' get Mrs. 'Ubbard here to look after it.  So I reckon it'll
pay me as well to have someone in for a twelvemonth, even if I make no
more money.  But, miss"--he hesitated a moment, and thrust his hands
deep into his trousers' pockets, whilst his eyes, as I thought, became
tender and fatherly--"you must excuse _me_; I'm a deal older nor you,
an' though I haven't knocked about t' world much, I've learned a thing
or two i' my time, an' I have it on my mind to warn you.  What t' Owd
Book says is true: 'As you make your bed, so you must lie on 't,' an'
it's uncommon hard an' lumpy at times.  You know your own business
best, an' I will say 'at I like t' look on you, an' it 'ud be a good
thing for Mrs. 'Ubbard here to have you for a neighbour, but--think it
well over, an' don't do nowt daft."

I suppose some people would not have liked it, but I did, and I told
him so.  And really it had the opposite effect from that he intended,
for it showed me that I might have at least two friends in Windyridge,
and that one of them would not be wanting in candour.

These preliminaries settled, the farmer handed the key to Mother
Hubbard, so that it would be handy for me, as he explained, IF I should
turn up again in the morning, and prepared to take his departure.  Just
as he reached the gate, however, he turned back.

"I should ha' said 'at you're welcome to t' use o' t' paddock.  If so
be as you care to keep a few hens there's pasture enough for 'em an'
nob'dy hurt.  An' if you want a greenhouse"--he laughed heartily--"why,
here you are!"

He motioned that I should follow him, and I stepped through a gate in
the wall into the hilly field which he called the paddock.  There,
firmly secured to the end of the house, was a structure of wood and
glass which seemed out of all proportion to the size of the cottage.

"What in the world is this?" I exclaimed, but my landlord only laughed
the louder.

"Now then, what d'ye think of that, eh?  Kind o' Crystal Palace, that
is.  Strikes me I should ha' put this cottage in t' _Airlee
Mercury_--'Desirable country residence with conservatory.  Apply,
Goodenough, Windyridge.'  Them 'at takes t' cottage gets t'
conserva_tory_ thrown in at t' same rent.  It was put up by t' last
tenant wi' my consent, an' he was as daft as----"

"As I am?" I suggested.

"Well, he _proved_ hisself daft.  He kep' hens i' one part an' flowers
in t' other, but he neither fed t' hens nor t' flowers, bein' one o'
them menseless creatures 'at gets their heads buried i' books, an'
forgets their own meals, let alone t' meals o' them 'at can't sing out
for 'em.  T' upshot of it all was he left t' cottage an' made me a
present of all t' bag o' tricks."

Then and there the idea of my studio had its birth.  With a very little
alteration I saw that I could easily adapt it to photographic purposes;
and I was more determined than before--if that were possible--to take
possession of my Yorkshire home.  I know people will laugh and call me
madder than ever.  It does seem rather ridiculous to fit up a studio in
a village of perhaps a hundred inhabitants, but my Inner Self urges it,
and I am going to live by faith and not by sight.  I am irrational, I
know, but I just don't care.  I have got a theory of life--not a very
definite one just now, though it is getting clearer--and I am sure I am
taking a right step, though I could not explain it if I wished, and I
don't wish.

Mother Hubbard was tearful when I wished her good-night, and it was as
an antidote to pessimism that I took the dear old soul into my arms and
bade her stifle her tears and look confidently for my return.  Farmer
Goodenough's worldly wisdom had convinced her that the anticipations of
a quarter-hour ago had been ill-founded.  She had counted only too
prematurely on my companionship, but the farmer's words had led her to
see how unreasonable it was.  She was stricken with remorse, too, at
the selfishness of her conduct.

"You see, love," she explained, as we sought her cottage again and drew
our chairs up to the fire--she had turned back her skirt lest the heat
should scorch it--"I was just thinking about myself.  I'm a lonely old
woman, love, and it's only natural I should like the company of a nice,
friendly young lady like yourself; but that's just selfishness.  You
must think over what Reuben has said, and don't do anything rash,
but----"

"Mother Hubbard," I said, "you need not crumple your apron by turning
it into a handkerchief, nor wet it by shedding useless tears.  And I'm
not a hair-brained young lady, fresh from school, but a sensible woman
of thirty-five.  Mark my word!  At twelve o'clock to-morrow I shall be
with you again, and I shall have lunch with you; and you'll oblige me
by airing my bed for me, and getting things ship-shape, for to-morrow
night I shall be your next-door neighbour."

I went back to Airlee by train from Fawkshill.  I had noticed the
railway as I came in the morning, and I felt that the tram would be too
slow.  As a matter of fact it took nearly as long and cost me more
money.  But my mind was full of Windyridge and I was oblivious to
everything else.  When I reached the coffee-room of the hotel I was
calmer, for somehow the old familiar sights and sounds of the city
threw my cottage into the background, and I was able to view the
situation dispassionately.

Had I been a fool?  Was not Farmer Goodenough right, after all; and had
not his sound common sense saved me from committing myself to a rash
and quixotic adventure?

"Grace Holden," I said, "you have got to face this question, and not
make an ass of yourself.  Weigh up the pros and cons.  Get pencil and
paper and make your calculations and strike your balance, and don't for
goodness' sake be emotional."

Then my Inner Self said with great distinctness, "Grace Holden, the
heather has called you!  Listen to it!"  And I went to bed and slept
the sleep of the just.

My first sensation on awaking was one of exhilaration.  Not a single
cloud of doubt or apprehension appeared upon the sky of my hopes; on
the contrary, it was rosy bright with the promise of success.  I like
to trust my intuitions, for it seems to me you treat them unfairly and
do not give them a chance of developing upon really strong lines if you
don't do so.  Intuitions are bound to become weak and flabby if you are
always coddling them and hesitating whether to let them feel their
feet.  An intuition that comes to you deprecatingly, and hints that it
does not expect to be trusted, is a useless thing that is dying of
starvation.  _My_ intuitions are healthy and reliable because I believe
in them and treat them as advisers, and am becomingly deferential.
It's nice to feel that your Inner Self likes you too well to lead you
astray.

I wrote several letters and chuckled to myself when I thought of the
effect they would produce in certain quarters.  I am just a nonentity,
of course, in the city of London, and nobody outside of it ever heard
of me so far as I know, and I am my own mistress, without a relative of
any kind to lay a restraining hand upon my actions; yet there are just
two or three people who will be interested in this new phase of madness.

I can see Madam Rusty adjust her pince-nez and scan the postmark
carefully before unfolding my note.  And I dare bet anything that the
glasses will fly the full length of the chain when she finds she has to
pack up my belongings and despatch them to Windyridge.  I always carry
my cheque book with me in case of emergencies, so I have sent her a
blank cheque "under five pounds" to cover her charges.  I guess there
won't be much change out of that when madam has filled it in.

And Rose!  I wonder what Rose will say.  I think she will be rather
sorry, but she has many other friends and will soon console herself.
And, after all, she _did_ say I was "_swanky_"; but I daresay I shall
ask her down some day, and I am sure she will attend to the little
matters I have mentioned.

I paid my bill, and by ten o'clock was once more in the Fawkshill car;
but I went inside this time, and closed my eyes and dreamed dreams.  I
got rid of the factory chimneys that way.

It was approaching twelve when I walked up the garden path to my new
abode, and heard the joyful "Yes, love!" of my new mother.  She could
not forbear giving me one peep into my own cottage as we passed the
door.  A cheerful fire was blazing in the grate, the rug was in its
place, the mattress and all its belongings were heaped around the
hearth, and the clock upon the wall was ticking away in homeliest
fashion and preparing to strike the noontide hour.  There was not a
speck of dust anywhere.  Evidently Mother Hubbard had been up early and
had worked with a will, and I was touched by this evidence of her
faith, and glad that I had proved worthy of it.

"But what will Farmer Goodenough say?" I asked jocularly, as we
discussed the appetising ham and eggs which she had prepared in her own
kitchen.

"Reuben?  Oh, I take no notice of him, love.  He called out as he
passed, whilst I was in the garden this morning, that I was to remember
that he had not yet let you the house, and that we might never see your
face again; but I said, 'For shame!  Reuben Goodenough,' though I will
admit I was glad to see you, love.  And now we'll just go in together
and get everything made tidy.  Bless you!  I'm glad you've come.  I
think the Lord must have sent you to cheer a lonely old woman."



CHAPTER II

GRACE MEETS THE SQUIRE

I have spent my first Sunday in Windyridge, and have made a new
acquaintance.  I believe I shall soon feel at home here, for the
villagers do not appear to resent the presence of a stranger, and there
is no sign of the Cranford spirit, perhaps because there is an entire
lack of the Cranford society.

My adventure befell me as I walked back from church in the morning.  It
was too far for Mother Hubbard to accompany me to Fawkshill if she had
wished to do so, but she has no leanings in the direction of the
Establishment, being, as I have discovered, a staunch dissenter.  She
has asked me to go with her to the little Methodist chapel one day, but
I put her off with a caress.

I was as full of the joy of life as a healthy woman can be, whose
church-going garments are two hundred miles away, and I filled my lungs
again and again with the sweet moorland air as I sauntered leisurely up
the village street.  A delightful breeze was blowing from the west, and
I knew that my hair would be all about my ears before I reached the
church; but that was a small matter, for who was there to care or
criticise?  The village rested in the calm of the Sabbath: no sound of
human voice or human feet disturbed its quiet.  But the cocks crowed
proudly from their elevated perches by the roadside, and the rooks
cawed noisily in the sycamores as they saw their lofty homes rocked to
and fro in the swell of the wind.  I stood for a moment or two to watch
the behaviour of the trees when Boreas, rude as ever, flung himself
upon them.  How irritable and angry they became!  How they shook their
branches and shrieked their defiance, trembling all the time through
every stem and leaf!

As I passed the entrance gate at the farther end of the Hall grounds a
carriage was leaving it, and I caught sight of an old gentleman sitting
alone within.  I guessed him to be the owner of the place and dubbed
him the Squire, and I was right, except as to the title, which I find
he disavows.

I must have dawdled away more time than I realised, for they were well
on with the prayers when I entered the church, but I will guard against
that in future, for I pride myself on my methodical and punctual
habits.  But hurrying makes one hot, and churches are often chilly, as
this one was!  I was glad when the service was over and I could get out
into the sunshine again.

The squire's carriage passed me on its homeward way soon after I had
left the church, but when I reached the cross-roads I saw that its
owner must have sent it forward and decided to continue the journey on
foot, for he was standing at the bend of the lane in conversation with
Farmer Goodenough.

The latter smiled as I approached and half raised his cap; and the
squire turned and saluted me with grave politeness.

"Mornin', Miss 'Olden, mornin'," said my landlord.  "So you've
exchanged the 'eath for the 'assock, in a manner o' speakin'," and he
laughed loudly at his alliterative success.  "Well, well, some must
pray an' some must work.  'There's a time for everything,' as t' Owd
Book says; that's it, isn't it, sir, eh?" and without waiting for an
answer Farmer Goodenough strode off.  In a few seconds, however, he was
back.

"Excuse me, miss, but I should ha' made you two known to each other.
Miss 'Olden, this is Mr. Evans of the 'All, an' this is my new tenant,
sir; a lady from London, Miss 'Olden, who's taken the cottage for
twelve months for a sort of a whim, as far as I can make out."  He
touched his cap, and turned on his heel once more.

The situation was amusing and a little embarrassing, but I was left in
no suspense.  The old gentleman smiled and looked down into my eyes.
He is a fine old man, something over seventy years of age, I should
say, but very erect, with deep, rather cold eyes, surmounted by bushy
eyebrows, and a head of thick, steely-grey hair.  One glance at his
face told me that he was a man of intellect and culture.

"We may as well be companions, Miss Holden, if you do not object," he
said smilingly.  "I should like to ascertain for myself whether the
village report is true, for I may inform you that I have heard all that
my butler can tell me, which means all that he can ascertain by shrewd
and persistent inquiry."

"I am flattered by the attention of my neighbours," I replied, "and I
can quite understand that in a little place like this the advent of a
stranger will create a mild sensation, but I was not aware that there
was anything so dreadful as a 'report' in circulation.  The knowledge
makes me uneasy; can you relieve my anxiety?"

He was walking along with his hands holding the lapels of his jacket,
his light overcoat blowing about behind him, and he looked quizzically
at me for a moment or two before he replied:

"I think you are able to take it in good part, for--if you will permit
me to say so--I judge that you have too much common sense to be easily
offended, and therefore I will admit that the villagers are prepared to
look upon you as slightly 'daft,' to use their own expression.  They
cannot understand how, on any other supposition, you should act on a
momentary impulse and leave the excitements of the metropolis for the
simple life of a tiny village.  I need hardly say that I realise that
this is distinctly your own affair, and I am not asking you to give me
your confidence, but you will not mind my telling you in what light the
village regards this somewhat--unusual conduct."

I laughed.  Goodness knows I am not touchy, and the opinion of my
neighbours only amused me.  But somehow I felt that I must justify my
action to the squire, and my Inner Self put on her defensive armour in
readiness for the battle.  I seemed to know that this rather stern old
man would regard my action as childish,--and indeed the scheme could
not be regarded as reasonable; it was simply intuitive, and who can
defend an intuition?  I therefore replied:

"You have certainly relieved my disquietude.  I thought the villagers
might have conceived the notion that I was a fugitive from justice, and
had a good reason for hiding myself in an out-of-the-way place.  If
they consider me inoffensive in my daftness I am quite content; for,
after all, there are hundreds of people of much wider experience who
would be not a whit more lenient in their judgment.  In fact, I suspect
that you yourself would endorse it emphatically, especially when I
admit that the premise is correct from which the conclusion is drawn."

"You invite my interest," he returned, "but your silence will be a
sufficient rebuke if my inquiries over-step the bounds of your
indulgence.  You tell me that the premise is correct.  I understand,
therefore, that you admit that you have acted on mere impulse; that, in
fact, our friend Goodenough was speaking truly when he called it
bluntly a 'whim.'"

"I am not skilled in dialectics," I said, feeling rather proud of the
word all the same, and mightily astonished at my coolness; "but I
should not call it a whim, but rather an intuition.  I suppose there is
a difference?"

He bent his brows together and paused in his walk; then he replied:

"Yes: there is a distinct difference.  I cannot deny or disregard the
power of the mind to discern truth without reasoning, but the two have
so much in common that I think a whim may sometimes be mistaken for an
intuition.  Can you prove to me that this was an intuition?"

"No," I said, and I think it was a wise answer; at any rate it seemed
to please him; "nobody could do that.  Time alone can justify my action
even to myself.  I am going to be on the lookout for the proof daily."

He smiled again.  "You know what would have been said if a man had done
this?" he said deliberately; "it would be asked, Who is the woman?"

I blushed furiously, and hated myself for it, though he was nearly old
enough to have been my grandfather.  "I always feel glad that Eve did
not blame the other sex," I replied, "and, in spite of the annoying
colour in my face, I can say with a clear conscience that there is no
man in the case at all."

"Do not be grieved with me," he said, just as calmly as ever.  "I
realised that I was taking a big risk, but I wished to clear the ground
at the outset.  I have done so, but I hesitate to venture further."

His tone was so very kindly that I, too, determined to take a big risk,
though I half feared he would not understand, or understanding would be
amused.  So I told him something of my life in London, and how its
problems had perplexed and depressed me, and I told him of the heather
and how it had called me; and I think something of the passion of life
shook my voice as I spoke, and I expressed more than I had realised
myself until then.

He listened with grave and fixed attention, and did not reply at once.
Then, halting again in his walk, though only for a second, he said:

"Miss Holden, subconscious influences have been at work upon you for
some time past.  You have experienced the loneliness which is never so
hard to bear as when one is jostled by the crowd.  I gather that the
wickedness of London--its injustice and inequalities--have been
weighing upon your spirits, and you feel for the moment like some
escaped bird which has gained the freedom of the woods after beating
its wings for many weary months against the bars of its city cage.  You
may have done well to escape, but beware of false ideals, and beware of
the inevitable reaction when you discover the wickedness of the
village, and learn that injustice and vice and slander, and a hundred
other hateful things, are not peculiar to city life."

"But surely," I Interposed, "the overcrowding, and the sweating and the
awful, awful wretchedness of the poor are wanting here."

"My dear young lady," he said, "I suppose you think that the devil is a
city gentleman whose attention is so much occupied with great concerns
that he has had no time to discover so insignificant a place as
Windyridge.  You will find out your mistake.  There are times when he
is very active here, but he has wit enough to vary his methods as
occasion requires.

"Sometimes, as Scripture and experience have shown you, he goes about
as a roaring lion, and there is no mistaking his presence; but at other
times he masquerades as an angel of light.  You speak of the evils you
know, and it may be admitted that most of these are absent from
Windyridge, at any rate in their aggravated forms.  But analyse these
various evils which have caused you to chafe against your environment,
and you will find that selfishness is at the root of them all, and
selfishness flourishes even in the soil which breeds the moorland
heather.

"Don't let this discourage you, however," he continued, as he held out
his hand, for we had now reached the gateway of the Hall; "the devil
has not undisputed possession here or elsewhere, and Windyridge may
help you to strike the eternal balance.

"Come to see me sometimes; I am an unconventional old man, and you need
not hesitate.  I can at least lend you good books, and give you advice
from an experience dearly bought."

He grasped the collar of his coat again and walked slowly up the drive.

Dinner had been waiting quite ten minutes when I reached home, and I
found Mother Hubbard in a state of apprehension, partly lest some evil
should have befallen me, and partly lest the Yorkshire pudding, whose
acquaintance I was to make for the first time, should be so spoiled as
to prejudice my appreciation of its excellences from the beginning.

But no such untoward event occurred, and my appetite enabled me to do
full justice to Mother Hubbard's preparations.  We have come to a
convenient and economical arrangement by which we are to share
supplies, Mother Hubbard being appointed cook, and I housemaid to the
two establishments.  In her delight at the prospect of my companionship
the dear old lady was prepared to unite the two offices in her one
person, but this was an impossible proposition, as I promptly pointed
out.  She might be prime minister, but not the entire Cabinet.

So we shall take our meals together in her cottage or in mine, as may
be most convenient, and I think I shall be able to spare her some of
the delightful drudgery which is harming her body whilst it leaves her
spirit untouched.  Not that I shall ever be able to maintain the
spotless cleanliness which she guards as jealously as a reputation; and
I cannot help thinking that her unwillingness to consent to this part
of the bargain was due in some degree to doubts of my competency.  But
I am willing to be taught and corrected, and I will encourage her not
to spare the rod.



CHAPTER IV

THE STUDIO

I have been here a whole week, and as for being busy, I think the
proverbial bee would have to give me points.  Monday was occupied with
a variety of odd jobs which were individually insignificant enough but
meant a good deal in the aggregate.  First of all I attended to
household duties under the keen but kindly supervision of Mother
Hubbard, and acquitted myself fairly well.

Then I turned my attention to the studio and drew up my plans for its
equipment.  A young girl from the village readily undertook the work of
cleaning, and the muscle she put into it was a revelation to me after
my experience of the leisurely ways of London charwomen!  I soon
discovered that she is a sworn enemy of every form of dirt--or "muck"
as she prefers to call it--that she has a profound contempt for all
modern cleansing substances and mechanical methods, and a supreme and
unshakable belief in the virtues of soft soap, the scrubbing-brush, and
"elbow-grease."

Four hours of "Sar'-Ann" brought joy to my heart and sweetness to my
studio.

Then, with some difficulty, for he was at work in the fields, I found a
sturdy and very diffident young man who has had some experience of
carpentry, and who can also wield a paint-brush.  To him I explained my
requirements, and also handed over the plan I had prepared.  He stood
chewing the neb of his cap, and repeated in most irritating fashion:
"Aw, yes 'm" whenever I paused to plumb the depths of his intelligence;
but would only promise to do his best.  As a matter of fact his "best"
is not at all bad.

Sar'-Ann informed me in his presence, when he showed a little
difficulty in understanding one of my requirements, that he was "gurt
and gawmless," whereat he blushed furiously, and most unnecessarily so
far as I was concerned, for the description was Greek to me.  His
awkwardness disappears, I find, when my back is turned; and he is
really a very capable workman, and he and Sar'-Ann between them have
made my studio most presentable.

But I am anticipating.

Tuesday morning brought me a small budget of letters and several
parcels.  I opened Madam Rusty's first, with some mischievous
anticipation of its contents.  I knew the sort of thing I might expect:
the quasi-dignified remonstrance, the pained surprise, and the final
submission to the will of an inscrutable providence which had seen fit
to relieve me of my senses and her of a great responsibility.

I leaned back in my chair, put my feet upon thy fender, and prepared
for a good time.  The precise, angular handwriting was as plain as the
estimable lady herself, and no difficulty in decipherment impeded my
progress.


"MY DEAR MISS HOLDEN," it ran,

"I have received your most extraordinary communication, which I have
perused with mingled feelings of astonishment, sorrow and dismay.  I am
astonished that you should leave my house, where I am sure you have
been surrounded by every home comfort, without a single expression of
your intention to do so, or one word of explanation or farewell to
myself or your fellow-boarders.  Conduct of this kind I have never
experienced before, and you must pardon me saying that next to an
actual elopement it seems to me the most indelicate thing a young
person in your position could do.  And I am sorry because I feel sure
there is more behind all this than you have been willing to inform me
of, and I do think I have not deserved to be deceived, for I can
honestly say that I have endeavoured to act a mother's part towards
you; and as to any little differences we have had and complaints and so
on, I did not think you had an unforgiving spirit.  Not that one
expects gratitude from one's boarders in the ordinary way, which being
human is unlikely, but there are exceptions, of which I thought you
were one.  But if you believe me I am dismayed when I think of you
going out into these wild parts which I have always understood are as
bad as a foreign country, and without anyone to look after you, and no
buses and policemen, and what you would do in case of fire I don't
know.  However, they do say that providence takes care of babies and
drunken people and the insane, and we can only hope for the best.  I
know it's no use trying to persuade you different, for if there's one
thing about you that is known to all the boarders it is that you are
self-willed, and you must excuse me telling the plain truth, seeing
that it is said for your good.  So I have had your things packed up,
and Carter Patersons have taken them away to-day.  You will find it all
in the bill enclosed, and I have filled in the cheque accordingly.  Of
course if you change your mind I shall try to accommodate you if I am
not full up.  I cannot help signing myself

"Yours sorrowfully,
  "MARTHA RUSSEN.

"N.B.--I may say that the other boarders are very shocked."


Poor old Rusty!  She is really not half a bad sort, and I am glad to
have known her: almost as glad as I am to get away from her.  It is my
misfortune, I suppose, to be "nervy," and the sound and sight of Madam
in these latter days was enough to bring on an attack.

I turned to the letter from Rose, which was short, sharp and
sisterly--sisterly, I mean, in its shameless candour and freedom from
reserve.  Rose rather affects the rôle of the superior person, and has
patronised me ever since I discovered her.  This is what she wrote:

"MY DEAR GRACE,

"I am not sure that I ought not to write '_disgrace_.'  I always have
said that you are as mad as the March hare in 'Alice' and now I am sure
of it.  Your letter has not one line of sense in it from beginning to
end except that in which you suggest that I may come to see you some
time.  So I may, if the funds ever run to it.  It will be an education
to do so.  I would go to see you in your native haunts just as I would
go to see any other natural freak in which I might be interested.  But
I won't pay ordinary railway fare, so that's flat.  If the railway
companies won't reduce their charges by running cheap excursions as
they do for other exhibitions, I shall not come.  For if you are not an
exhibition (of crass folly) I don't know what an exhibition is.
However, you have a bit of money and a trade (sorry!  I mean a
profession) at your finger-ends, so I can only hope you'll not starve
whilst your native air is bringing you to your senses.  I will see to
your various commissions, and if I can be of further use to you up here,

"I am, as I have ever been,

"Your humble, but not always obedient servant,
  "ROSE."


This concluded what may be termed the social portion of my
correspondence, and I took up the other letters with less zest.  One, a
mere formal acknowledgment of my changed address, was from the bankers
who have the privilege of taking care of my money, and who have never
manifested any sense of oppression under the responsibility.
Nevertheless, two hundred and forty odd pounds is something to fall
back upon, and it looms large when it represents savings; and in any
case it is all I have except the interest which comes to me from a few
small investments--all that was rescued from the wreck of my father's
fortunes.  Well, well!  I am a good deal richer than some very wealthy
people I have met.

Two others were business communications from firms which give me
employment, and I may frankly admit that I was just a little relieved
to find that distance was not going to affect our relationships.  Not
that I had been actually uneasy on that score, for I have discernment
enough to know my own value.  I am not a genius, but what I _can_ do is
_well_ done; and I have lived long enough to discover that that counts
for much in these days.  The parcels which accompanied the letters
contained sufficient work for a month at least.

Then came a letter from Shuter and Lenz with all sorts of suggestions
for the furnishing of my studio.  The consideration of this occupied a
couple of hours, but my list was made out at last, and I expect I shall
receive the bulk of the goods before the end of next week.  Transit
between London and Windyridge is quick--much more so than I
anticipated, for my boxes were delivered during the afternoon, and I
spent the rest of the day and some part of the night in unpacking them.
It was no easy matter to find storage for my small possessions, but I
accomplished it in the end, and arranged all my household goods to the
best possible advantage.

Since then I have been sewing for all I am worth.  The joint
establishments do not boast the possession of a sewing machine, so I
have had to make my studio curtains by hand.  Mother Hubbard was
delighted to be able to help in this department, and between us we
finished them yesterday, and with Ginty's assistance I have hung them
to-day!  "Ginty" is the carpenter.  The "g" is hard and the name is
unusual, but I am inclined to doubt whether it was ever bestowed upon
him by his godparents in baptism.  I suspect Sar'-Ann of having a hand
in that nomenclature.

If my landlord could see my studio now he would hardly recognise his
conserva_tory_.  One end has been boarded off for a dark-room, and the
whole has been neatly painted slate colour.  When my few backgrounds
and accessories arrive I shall have a very presentable studio indeed.

Ginty is now engaged painting the outside in white and buff, and he is
then going to make me a board which will be placed at the bottom of the
garden to inform all and sundry that "Grace Holden is prepared to do
all kinds of photographic work at reasonable prices."  I don't
anticipate that barriers will be needed to keep back the crowd.

How tired I am, and yet how wonderfully fresh and buoyant!  My limbs
tremble and my head aches, but my soul just skips within me.  I have
had a week in which to repent, and I have never come within sight of
repentance.  And yet I have seen no more of Windyridge.  I have not
been near the heather.  I have not even climbed to the top of the hill
behind my cottage in order to look over the other side.  I have wanted
to, but I dare not; I am terrified lest there should be factory
chimneys in close proximity.

Once or twice it has been warm enough for me to stretch myself full
length upon the grass, and I have lain awhile in blissful contemplation
of the work of the Great Architect in the high vault of His cathedral.
That always rests me, always fills me with a sense of mystery, always
gives me somehow or other a feeling of peace and of partnership.  I
rise up feeling that I must do my best to make the world beautiful, and
use all my abilities--such as they are--to bring gladness into the
lives of other people.  I cannot make clouds and sunsets, but I can
paint miniatures, and I can take portraits (or I think I can), and
these things make some homes bright and some folk happy.  But I must
not moralise.

More often I bring out the deck-chair, which is one of my luxuries, and
sit in front of the cottage with Mother Hubbard as a companion.  She is
splendid company.  If I encourage her she will tell me interesting
stories of her youth and married life, or repeat the gossip of the
village; for none is better versed than she in all the doings of the
countryside.  If, however, I wish to be quiet she sits silently by my
side, as only a real friend can.  But whether she talks or is silent
her knitting needles never stop their musical clatter.  What she does
with all the stockings is beyond my knowledge, but I believe Sar'-Ann
could tell me if she would, and I am sure all this knitting contributes
no little to Mother Hubbard's happiness.

So I lean back in my chair and feast upon the scene before me and am
satisfied.  I wonder if it would appeal to many as it does to me.
Probably not, for, after all, I suppose there are many more beautiful
places than Windyridge, but I have never travelled and so cannot
compare them.  Then again, this is Yorkshire and I am "Yorkshire," and
that explains something.  Still, I ought to try to write down what it
is that impresses me, so I will paint as well as I can the picture that
is spread before me as I sit.

First of all, as a fitting foreground, the garden--past its best, I can
see, but still gay with all the wild profusion of Flora's providing;
plants whose names are as yet unknown to me, but which are a constant
delight to sight and smell.  Then the road, with its border of cool,
green grass, winding down into the valley between hedges of hawthorn
and holly--ragged, untidy hedges, brown and green where the sun catches
them, blue-grey and confused in the shadows.  Beyond them a stretch of
fields--meadow and pasture, and the brown and kindly face of Mother
Earth dipping steeply down to meet the trees which fill the narrow
valley, and are just beginning to catch the colours of the sunset.
Footpaths cross the fields, and I see at times those who tread them and
climb the stiles between the rough grey walls; and I promise myself
many a good time there, but not yet.

On the other side, beyond the trees, the climb is stiffer, and the
hills rise, as it sometimes seems, into the low-lying clouds.  I can
see a few houses under the shelter of a clump of chestnuts and
sycamores, the farthest outposts of their comrades in the valley, but
far above them rises the moor, the glorious moor, heather-clad, wild,
and, but for the winding roads, as God made it.  Far away to the west
it stretches, and when the day is clear I catch the glow of the gorse
and the daily decreasing hint of purple on the horizon miles away; but
in these autumn days the distance is often wrapped in a diaphanous
shawl of mist, which yet lends a charm to the glories it half conceals.

High up the hill to the left is the village of Marsland, with its
squat, grey church, which I must visit one day; and farther away
still--for I must be candid at all costs--there are a few factory
chimneys, but they are too distant to be obtrusive.

Such is my picture: would that I could paint it better.  Looking upon
it my spirit bathes and is refreshed.



CHAPTER V

FARMER BROWN IS PHOTOGRAPHED

My studio is complete at last, and I have already had one customer, not
counting Mother Hubbard, who had the privilege of performing the
opening ceremony, and who was my first sitter.  I insisted upon that,
all the more because the dear old soul had never been photographed
before in her life, and was disposed to regard the transaction in the
light of an adventure.

She is altogether too gentle and pliant to oppose her will to mine on
anything less important than a matter of principle, but I could see
that she was grievously disappointed when I would not let her put on
her very best garment, a remarkable black satin dress in the fashion of
a past generation, which she keeps in lavender and tissue paper at the
bottom of the special drawer which is full of memories and fading
grandeur.

I wanted her just as she was, with the shawl loose upon her shoulders,
and the knitting-needles in her hand, and that pleasant expression of
countenance which makes all soulful people fall in love with her at
first sight.

I succeeded in the end, and the delight of the old lady when I showed
her a rough print a day or two later was good to see.

"But I wish you could have taken me in my satin, love, and with the
lace collar.  Matthew always thought I looked nice in them."

"You look nice in anything," I replied, "and I am sure your husband
thought so; but _I_ want the dear old Mother Hubbard of to-day; for, do
you know, I am going to send you to a big News Agency, and if you are
accepted you and I will make holiday, and do it right royally."

But my real customer arrived on the second Wednesday in October.  My
board had been in position for several days, and had attracted a good
deal of curiosity but no clients, which was as much as one had a right
to expect.  I knew, of course, that sitters would be rare, but I had my
own plans for turning the studio to profitable use, and I did not
worry.  "Everything comes to him who waits."

I was busy with my miniatures, and was just deciding to lay them aside
for a time and do a little re-touching on Mother Hubbard's negatives,
when I happened to glance out of the window, and saw an elderly man
stop to read my board.  He stood quite a long time looking at it, and
then turned in at the gate.

I went to the door to meet him, and asked if he would like me to take
his portrait, and he replied: "Ay, if it doesn't cost too much, I
should."

I led the way into the studio and asked him to sit down, but he would
not do so until we had discussed terms.  I soon satisfied him on this
point, for, of course, high charges in Windyridge would be ridiculous,
and then I inquired how he would like to be "taken."

"I shan't make much of a picter, miss," he said, "but there's them
'at'll like to look at my face, such as it is.  If you can make ought
o' my head and shoulders it'll do nicely."

I looked at him as I made my preparations, and was puzzled.  He was a
tall man, somewhat bent and grey, his face tanned with exposure to the
weather.  It was clean shaven, and there was character in the set of
his features--the firm mouth, the square jaw, and the brown eyes.  They
were dreamy eyes just now, and I wondered why, and was surprised that
he should seem so natural and free from constraint.  I judged him to be
a farmer clad in his Sunday clothes, but why he should be so garbed on
a bright afternoon in mid-week I could not guess.  That he was no
resident in the village was certain, for by this time I know them all;
or rather I should say that I can recognise them all--to know them is
another thing.

He gave me no trouble, except that I had some difficulty in driving the
sad look away from his eyes.  It went at last, however, though only
momentarily, yet in that moment I got my negative.  It was in this way.

"Cheer up!" I said, when I was ready for the exposure.  "Your friends
would think me a poor photographer if I should send them home such a
sad-looking portrait."

"Ay, right enough," he agreed; "that 'ud never do.  But I'm not much of
a hand at looking lively."

"I want to do you justice for my own sake as well as yours," I said.
"Now if _I_ wanted to have a pleasing expression I should just think of
the moors, radiant in gold, and the cloud-shadows playing leap-frog
over them, and that would be sufficient."

"Ay, ay, I can follow that," he said; and before the glow left his eyes
I had gained my point.

"Shall I post the proof to you?" I asked.  He did not understand, and I
explained.

"No, no," he replied; "if you're satisfied 'at they'll do it'll be
right to me, miss.  This is your line, not mine, and there's nobody at
our end 'at knows ought much about photygraphs.  And there's one thing
more 'at I want to say, only I hardly know how to say it.  But it comes
to this: I don't want you to send any o' these photygraphs home until
you hear from Dr. Trempest.  When he lets you know, just send 'em on,
and put a bit of a note in, like, to say 'at they're paid for.  It'll
none be so long--a matter o' five weeks, maybe."

He unbuttoned a capacious pocket and drew out a bag of money, from
which he carefully counted out the amount of my bill, but when I
offered him a receipt he declined to take it.

"Nay, nay," he said, "I want nowt o' that sort.  I can trust you; but
you'll have 'em ready when t' time comes, won't you?"

I assured him confidently, and as he turned to leave I expressed the
hope that he would like the prints when he saw them.  Then it all came
out.

"I shall never see 'em.  I shall be on t' moorside, with t'
cloud-shadows you talk about playing loup-frog aboon me by then.
That's why I wanted t' photygraphs.  I only thought on 't when I passed
t' board, but there's them at home 'at 'll be glad to have 'em when I'm
gone."

Tears filled my eyes, for I am a woman as well as a photographer, and I
felt that I was face to face with a tragedy.

"Cannot you tell me about it?" I asked.  "Believe me, I am very sorry.
Perhaps I could help.  But please don't say anything if you would
rather not."

"There's not much to tell," he responded, "but what there is 'll soon
be all round t' moorside.  You see, I've lived at yon farm, two miles
off, all my life, and I'm well known, and folks talk a good deal in
these country places, where there isn't much going on.

"I walked into Fawkshill to see Dr. Trempest this morning, and he's
been with me to Airlee to see a big doctor there--one o' these
consulting men--and he gives me a month or happen five weeks at t'
outside.  There's nought can be done.  Summat growing i' t' inside 'at
can't be fairly got at, and we shall have to make t' best on 't.  But
it'll be a sad tale for t' missus and t' lass, and telling 'em is a job
I don't care for.

"You see, we none of us thought it was ought much 'at ailed me, for
I've always been a worker, and I haven't missed many meals i' five and
fifty year, and it comes a bit sudden-like at t' finish."

What could I say?  I saw it all and felt the pity of it.  God knows I
would have helped him if I could.  The old wave of emotion which used
to sweep over me so often surged forward again; and again I was
powerless in the presence of the enemy.

I said something of this, but my friend shook his head in protest.

"Nay, but I don't look at it i' that way.  I'm no preacher, but there's
One above 'at knows better than us, and I wouldn't like to think 'at t'
Old Enemy 'ad ought to do wi' it.  I've always been one to work wi' my
hands, and book-learning hasn't been o' much account to me, but there's
_one_ Book, miss, 'at I have read in, and it says, 'O death, where is
thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory?  Thanks be to God which
giveth _us_ the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.'"

I sat with my head in my hands for a long time after Farmer Brown had
left, and when at length I raised my eyes the shadows had left the
moor, and I saw that the sun would set in a clear sky.



CHAPTER VI

OVER THE MOOR TO ROMANTON

We have had our promised holiday, Mother Hubbard and I, and a right
royal one.  On those rare occasions when work may be laid aside and
hard-earned coin expended upon the gratification of the senses, our
younger neighbours turn their steps to Airlee or Broadbeck, and seek
the excitements of the picture palace or the music-hall; their elders
are seldom drawn from the village unless to the solemn festivities of a
"burying."

We spent our day in the great alfresco palace of Nature, amid pictures
of God's painting, and returned at night, tired in body, but with heart
and soul and brain refreshed by unseen dews of heaven's own distilling.

Fortunately we have had a spell of fine, dry weather, with occasional
strong winds--at least, they were strong to me, but the folk about here
dismiss them contemptuously as "a bit of a blow."  Had the weather been
wet Mother Hubbard's cherished desire to "take me across the moor" to
Romanton would have had to be postponed indefinitely.

We were to drive as far as "Uncle Ned's" in Mr. Higgins' market cart,
Mr. Higgins having volunteered to "give us a lift," as it was "nowt out
of his way."

We started early, before the morning mists had forsaken the valleys,
and whilst night's kindly tears still sparkled on the face of the
meadows.  It was good to lean back, my hand in Mother Hubbard's and my
feet resting on the baskets in the bottom of the cart, and drink in
sight and sound and crisp morning air.

What a peaceful world it was!  I thought for a moment of the mad rush
of petrol-driven buses along Holtorn, and the surging tide of sombre
humanity which filled the footpaths there.  This had been the familiar
moving picture of my morning experience for more years than I care to
remember, and now--this.  Beyond, the meadows and the shawl of mist in
the valley, a long stretch of gold and golden-brown where gorse and
bracken company together, the one in its vigorous and glowing prime,
the other in the ruddy evening of its days, but not a whit less
resplendent.

Overhead, a grey-blue sky, with the grey just now predominating, but a
sky of promise, according to Mr. Higgins, with never a hint of
breakdown.  By and by the blue was to conquer, and the sportive winds
were to let loose and drive before them the whitest and fleeciest of
clouds, but always far up in high heaven.

In the distance, just that delightful haze which the members of our
Photographic Society so often referred to as "atmosphere"--a mighty
word, full of mystic meaning.

Here and there we pass a clump of trees, heavily hung with bright
scarlet berries, whose abundance, our conductor informs us, foretells a
winter of unusual severity.  "That's t' way Providence provides for t'
birds," he says.  It may be so, though I daresay naturalists would
offer another explanation.  All the same, it is pleasing to see how the
blackbirds and thrushes enjoy the feast, though they have already
stripped some of the trees bare, and to that extent have spoiled the
picture.

Mr. Higgins was not disposed to leave us to the uninterrupted enjoyment
of the landscape.  He is a thick-set little man, on the wrong side of
sixty, I should judge, with a clean top lip and a rather heavy beard;
and I suspect that the hair upon his head is growing scanty, but that
is a suspicion founded upon the flimsiest of evidence, as I have never
yet seen him without the old brown hat which does service Sundays and
weekdays alike.

He jogged along by the side of the steady mare, who never varied her
four-miles-an-hour pace, and who, I am sure, treated her master's
reiterated injunction to "come up" with cool contempt; but he fell back
occasionally to jerk a few disjointed remarks towards the occupants of
the cart.

"Fox," he said, inclining his head vaguely in the direction of a lonely
farm away on the hillside to the right.  "Caught him yesterda' ... been
playin' Old 'Arry wi' t' fowls ... shot him ... good riddance."

We made no comment beyond a polite and inquiring "Oh?" and he continued
to be communicative.

"Just swore, did Jake ... swore an' stamped about ... but t' missus ...
now there's a woman for you ... she played Old 'Arry wi' him ... set a
trap herself ... caught him."

Mother Hubbard ventured to surmise that it was the fox which had been
captured and not the husband, and Mr. Higgins acquiesced.

"Nought like women for ... settin' traps," he continued, with a
chuckle, shaking his head slowly for emphasis; "they're all alike ...
barrin' they don't catch foxes...  Man-traps mostly ... aye, man-traps."

"That is just like Barjona, love," Mother Hubbard whispered; "he has
never a good word for the women."

"You have managed to evade them so far, Mr. Higgins?" I suggested
meekly.

"Nay ... bad job ... bad job ... been as big a fool as most ... dead
this many a year ... dead an' buried twenty year ... wide awake now ...
old fox now ... no traps ... no, no, no!"

He strode forward to the mare's side again, but I saw him wagging his
head for many a minute as he chewed the cud of his reflections.
Meanwhile Mother Hubbard, with some hesitation and many an apprehensive
look ahead, told me something of his story.

"His mother was a very religious woman, love, but she was no scholar,
though she knew her Bible well.  And you know, love, the best of people
have generally their little fads and failings, and she _would_ call all
her boys after the twelve Apostles.  At least, love, you understand,
she had four sons--not twelve--but she called the first John because he
was the beloved disciple, and the next James because he was John's
brother.  Then came Andrew and afterwards Simon Barjona.  They do
say--but you know, love, how people talk--that she would have liked
eleven boys, missing out Judas because he was a thief and betrayed his
Master, but she had only nine children, and five of them were girls.

"I have heard my husband say, love, that when they came to christen the
youngest boy the minister was quite angry, and would not have the
'Barjona,' but the mother was much bent on it, and would not substitute
Peter, which was what the parson suggested.  Anyhow, she registered him
in his full name."

"Which name was he called by?" I inquired.

"Oh, Barjona, love, always.  And behind his back he is Barjona yet,
though he likes to be called Mr. Higgins.  But you may give a man a
good name when you cannot give him a good nature, and he might as well
have been christened Buonaparte for all it has done for him.  Oh yes,
love, he is close-fisted, is Barjona, and it is said that his wife was
so tired of his nagging ways that she was quite pleased to go.  I'm
sure I thank the Lord that I am not Mrs. Higgins, though they do say in
the village that Widow Robertshaw would have had him this many a year
back."

"But he is an old fox now," I remarked, "and avoids the trap."

It lacked still a couple of hours of noon when Mr. Higgins deposited us
at Uncle Ned's lonely hostelry, and drove off in the company of the
tired mare and his own complacent thoughts.  Ten minutes later I had
completely forgotten his existence in the joy of a new experience.

I was there at last!  The moors of which I had dreamed so long were a
conscious reality.  Before me, and on either hand, they stretched until
they touched the grey of the sky.  The glory of the heather was gone,
though sufficient colour lingered in the faded little bells to give a
warm glow to the landscape, and to hint of former splendour.  My heart
ached a wee bit to think that I had come so late, but why should I
grudge Nature's silent children their hour of rest?  The morning will
come when they will again fling aside the garb of night and deck
themselves in purple.  Besides, there was the gorse, regal amid the
sombre browns and olives and neutral tints of the vegetation; and there
were green little pools and treacherous-looking bogs, and the uneven,
stony pathway which made a thin, grey dividing line as far as the eye
could see.  What more could the heart of man desire?

How sweet the breath of the air was as it covered my cheeks with its
caresses!  I _tasted_ the fragrance of it, and it gave buoyancy to my
body, and the wings of a dove to my soul.  I flew back down the years
to the dingy sitting-room which held my sacred memories, and saw dear
old dad painting his moorland pictures in the glowing embers on the
hearth; and I flew upwards to the realms which eye hath not seen, and
was glad to remember that the moors are not included amongst the things
that are not to be.

Then, characteristically, my mood changed.  The sense of desolation got
hold of me.  I looked for sound of throbbing life and found none: only
tokens of a great, an irresistible Power.  It may seem strange, but in
the silence of that vast wilderness I felt, as I had never felt before,
that there must be a God, and that He must be all-powerful.  I have not
tried to analyse the emotion, but I know my heart began to beat as
though I were in the presence of Majesty, and a great awe brooded over
my spirit.

Suddenly there was a fluttering of wings in the tangled undergrowth a
few yards away, and as my soul came back to earth I saw a hawk swoop
down and seize its prey, and then I choked.  "If I take the wings of
the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth," I said to
myself, "I cannot escape the tragedy of life and death--the mystery of
suffering."

Mother Hubbard put an arm around my waist and looked questioningly into
my eyes, her own being bright with tears.  I put my hands upon her
cheeks and kissed her.

"Grace Holden is a goose," I said.  "How many hours have I been
standing still or floating about in vacancy?  I believe my dear old
Mother Hubbard thought her companion had flown away and left only her
chrysalis behind!"

We moved on, and my spirits came out with the sun and the blue sky.
After all, I fear I am an emotional creature, for I am my father's
daughter, but I think my mother must have been a very practical woman,
and bequeathed to me somewhat of the counterpoise, because on the whole
I am sure I have more common sense than dreaminess.

We had the moor pretty much to ourselves except for the game, which we
rarely saw, and the snipe which frequented the swamps.  The one
outstanding recollection of the remainder of our two hours' tramp is of
a young couple (of human beings, not snipe) who came sauntering along,
sucking oranges and throwing the peel on the heath.  It seemed like
sacrilege, and I went hot with indignation.

"I feel as if I could swear and stamp around, like the ineffective
Jake," I exclaimed.

"Yes, love," said Mother Hubbard, but I doubt if she understood.

Mother Hubbard was in excellent trim, and I am beginning to think that
there must be a good deal of reserve force in her delicate-looking
little body.  She led me to the brow of the hill whence one gets an
unexpected view of the enchanting beauty of the Romanton valley, and
said "There!" with such an air of proud proprietorship, as if she had
ordered the show for my special gratification, that I laughed outright.

I negotiated the steep downward path with difficulty, but she went
steadily on with the assurance of familiarity, pausing at intervals to
point out the more notable landmarks.

We had lunch at one of the large hotels, and if Rose had seen the
spread I ordered she would have had good cause to charge me with
"swankiness," but I was having a "day out," and such occurrences at
Windyridge are destined to be uncommon.  Besides, no fewer than three
magazines are going to print my old lady's picture, so the agents have
sent me thirty shillings--quite a decent sum, and one which you simply
_cannot_ spend on a day's frolicking in these regions.

When it was over Mother Hubbard showed me all the lions of the place;
and after we had drunk a refreshing cup of tea at a café that would do
no discredit to Buckingham Palace Road we set out on the return journey.

I was tired already, but I soon forgot the flesh in the spirit
sensations that flooded me.  We were now traversing the miniature high
road which skirts the edge of the moor, and reveals a scene of quiet
pastoral beauty along its entire length which is simply charming.  I
cannot adequately describe it, but I know that viewed in the opalescent
light of the early setting sun it was just a fairy wonderland.

The valley is beautifully wooded, and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
together were not so gorgeously arrayed as were the trees on the
farther side.  A white thread of river gleamed for a while through the
meadows, but was soon lost in the haze of evening.

Comfortable grey farms and red-tiled villas lent a homely look to the
landscape, and at intervals we passed pretty cottages with
old-fashioned gardens, where the men smoked pipes and stood about in
their shirt-sleeves, whilst the women lounged in the gateways with an
eye to the children whose bed-time was come all too soon for the
unwilling spirit.

And, best of all, my journey ended with a great discovery.  We had
climbed a steep hill, and after a last long look back over my fairy
valley I set my face to the dull and level fields.  Two hundred yards
farther and my astonished eyes saw down below--the back of my own
cottage!


That night no vision of factory chimneys disturbed the serenity of my
sleep, for a haunting fear had been dispelled.



CHAPTER VII

THE CYNIC DISCOURSES ON WOMAN

"Woman," said the Cynic sententiously, "may be divided into five parts:
the Domestic woman, the Social woman, the Woman with a Mission, the New
Woman, and the Widow."

"Nonsense!" snapped the vicar's wife, "the widow may be any one of the
rest.  The mere accident of widowhood cannot affect her special
characteristics.  The worst of you smart men is that you entirely
divorce verity from vivacity.  The domestic woman is still a domestic
woman, though she become a widow."

"No," returned the Cynic, "the widow is a thing apart, if I may so
designate any of your captivating sex.  Domestic she may still be in a
certain or uncertain subordinate sense, just as the social woman or the
woman with a mission may have a strain of domesticity in her make-up;
but when all has been said she is still in a separate class; she is, in
fact--a widow."

"I remember reading somewhere," I remarked, "that a little widow is a
dangerous thing.  Manifestly the author of that brilliant epigram was
of your way of thinking.  He would probably have classed her as an
explosive."

He turned to me and smiled mockingly.

"I think all men who have seriously studied the subject, as I have,
must have formed a similar opinion.  The widow is dangerous because she
is a widow.  She has tasted of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
She knows the weak places in man's defensive armour.  She has acquired
skill in generalship which enables her to win her battles.  Added to
all this is the pathos of her position, which is an asset of no
inconsiderable value.  She knows to a tick of time when to allure by
smiles and melt by tears, and woe to the man who thinketh he standeth
when she proposes his downfall."

"My dear Derwent," interposed the squire from the other side the
hearth; "you speak, no doubt, from a ripe experience, if an outside
one, and no one here will question your authority; but surely the new
woman and the woman with a mission may be bracketed together."

The squire was leaning back in a comfortable saddle-bag, one leg thrown
easily over the other and his hands clasped behind his head.  A
tolerant half-smile hung about the corners of his lips and lurked in
the shadows of his eyes.  He has a grand face, and it shows to
perfection on an occasion like this.

The vicar sat near him.  He is a spare, rather cadaverous man, who
lives among Egyptian mummies and Assyrian tablets and palimpsests and
first editions, and knows nothing of any statesman later than Cardinal
Wolsey.  An open book of antiquities lay upon his knee, and his
finger-tips were pressed together upon it, but the eyes which blinked
over the top of his gold-rimmed spectacles were fixed upon space, and
the Cynic's vapourings were as unheeded as yesterday.

The vicar's wife is the very antithesis of her husband.  She is a
plump, round-faced little body, and was tidily dressed in a black silk
of quite modern style with just a trace of elegance, and a berthe of
fine old lace which made me break the tenth commandment every time I
looked at her.  She was evidently on the best of terms with herself,
and stood in no awe of anybody, and least of all of the Cynic, whom she
regarded with a half-affectionate, half-contemptuous air.  She had a
way of tossing her head and pursing her lips when he was more than
usually aggressive that obviously amused him.  I had soon found out
that they were old antagonists.

The Cynic himself puzzled me.  I scarcely dared to look at him very
closely, for I had the feeling that none of my movements escaped his
notice, and I had not been able to decide whether his age was thirty or
fifty.  He is of average height and build, and was somewhat carelessly
dressed, I thought.  His dinner jacket seemed rather loose, and his
starched shirt was decidedly crumpled.  I wondered who looked after his
ménage.

His hands are clean and shapely, and he knows where to put them, which
is generally an indication of good breeding and always of a lack of
self-consciousness, and from their condition I judged that he earned
his bread in the sweat of his brain rather than of his brow.

As to his face--well, I liked it.  It is dark, but frank and open, and
he has a good mouth, which can be seen, because he is clean shaven, and
his teeth are also good.  But then in these degenerate days anyone who
has attained middle life may have good teeth: it is all a matter of
money.

I think it is the eyes that make the face, however.  They are deep grey
and remarkably luminous, and on this occasion they simply bubbled over
with mischievousness.  His smile was never very pronounced, and always
more or less satirical, but his eyes flashed and sparkled when he was
roused, though they had looked kindly and even plaintive when he
arrived, and before he was warmed.  He is the sort of man who can do
all his talking with his eyes.

A high forehead is surmounted by a mass of hair--once black, but
rapidly turning grey--which he evidently treats as of no importance,
for it lies, as the children say, "anyhow."  But how old he is--I give
it up.

He passed his hand through his hair now, with a quick involuntary
movement, as he turned to the squire.

"You may bracket the new woman and the woman with a mission together,
but you can never make them one.  That they have some things in common
is nothing to the point.  The new woman, as I understand her, has no
mission, not even a commission.  The new woman is Protest, embodied and
at present skirted, but with a protest against the skirt.  Her most
longed-for goal is the Unattainable, and if by some chance she should
reach it she would be dismayed and annoyed.  Meantime, with the vision
before her eyes of the table of the gods, she cries aloud that she is
forced to feed on husks, and as she must hug something, hugs a
grievance."

"Philip Derwent," interposed the vicar's wife, "you are in danger of
becoming vulgar."

"Vulgarity, madam," he rejoined, "is in these days the brand of
refinement.  It is only your truly refined man who has the courage to
be vulgar in polite society.  No other dares to call a spade a spade or
a lie a lie.  Those who wish to be considered refined speak of the one
as an 'agricultural implement' and of the other as a 'terminological
inexactitude.'  But to return to our sheep who are clamouring for
wolves' clothing----"

"Really, Philip!" protested the vicar's wife, pursing her lips more
emphatically than ever.

"The latest incarnation of Protest, if I may so speak, takes the form
of a demand for the suffrage, and is accompanied by much beating of
drums and----"

"Smashing of windows," I ventured.

He bowed.  "And smashing of windows.  By and by they will get their
desire."

"And so have fulfilled their mission," the squire smiled.

"By no means; they have no mission; they have simply a hunger, or
rather a pain which goes away when their appetite is stayed, and comes
on again before the meal has been well digested.  Then they go forth
once more seeking whom or what they may devour."

"Tell us of the woman with a mission," I pleaded.

"Miss Holden is anxious to discover in what category she is to be
classed," laughed the squire.  "You are treading on dangerous ground,
Derwent.  Let me advise you to proceed warily."

"Mr. Evans, when a boy at school I learned the Latin maxim--'Truth is
often attended with danger,' but I am sure Miss Holden will be merciful
towards its humble votary."

I smiled and he continued: "The woman with a mission, Miss Holden, is
an altogether superior creature.  She may be adorable; on the other
hand she may be a nuisance and a bore.  Everything depends on the
mission--and the woman."

"A safe answer, Philip," sneered the vicar's wife, and the squire
smiled.

"There is no other safe way, madam, than the way of Truth, and I am
treading it now.  Even if the woman be a nuisance, even if the mission
be unworthy, she who makes it hers may be ennobled.  Let us assume that
she believes with all her heart that she has been sent into the world
for one definite purpose--shall we say to work for the abatement of the
smoke nuisance?  That involves, amongst other things----"

"Depriving poor weak man of his chief solace--tobacco," snapped the
vicar's wife.

"Exactly.  Now see how this strengthens her character, and calls out
qualities of endurance and self-sacrifice.  The poor weak man, her
husband, deprived of his chief solace, tobacco, turns to peppermints,
moroseness and bad language.  His courtesy is changed to boorishness,
his placidity to snappishness.  All this is trying to his wife, but
being a woman with a mission she regards these things philosophically
as incidental to a transition period, and she bears her cross with
ever-increasing gentleness and----"

"Drives her husband to the devil and herself into the widows'
compartment," interrupted the vicar's wife, with disgust in her voice.
"Miss Holden, do you sing?"

"I have no music," I replied, "but may I 'say a piece' instead, as the
village children put it?"  I turned to the Cynic and made him a mock
curtsey:

              "Small blame is ours
  For this unsexing of ourselves, and worse
  Effeminising of the male.  We were
  Content, sir, till you starved us, heart and brain.
  All we have done, or wise or otherwise
  Traced to the root was done for love of you.
  Let us taboo all vain comparisons,
  And go forth as God meant us, hand in hand.
  Companions, mates and comrades evermore;
  Two parts of one divinely ordained whole."


"Bravo!" said the squire, and the vicar murmured, "Thank you," very
politely.  The Cynic laughed and rose from his chair.

"I will take it lying down," he said.  "Mr. Evans, may I look in the
cabinet and see if there is anything Miss Holden can sing?"

I had to do it, because the cabinet contained all the Scotch songs I
love so well.  I was my own accompanist, _faute de mieux_, but the
Cynic turned the leaves, and contributed a couple of songs himself.  He
talks better than he sings.  The squire wanted us to try a duet, and
the vicar's wife was also very pressing, but one has to draw the line
somewhere.  The only pieces we both knew were so sentimental that my
sense of humour would have tripped me up, I know, and I should have
come a cropper.

Just as coffee was brought in the squire asked me if I would sing for
him, "Oh wert thou in the cauld blast."  I saw he really wanted it, so
I found the music, though I had to choke back the lump in my throat.  I
had never sung it since that memorable evening when we sat
together--dad and I--on the eve of his death, and he had begged for it
with his eyes.  "I know, dad, dear," I said; "I must close with your
favourite," and he whispered, "For the last time, lassie."  And so it
had been.

The tears fell as I sang, and the Hall and its inmates faded from my
view.  The Cynic must have left my side, for when at length I ventured
to look round he was across the room examining a curio.  But the squire
rose and thanked me in a very low voice, and his own eyes were bright
with tears that did not fall.

Soon after, the vicar's carriage came, and the Cynic accepted the offer
of a lift to the cross-roads.  I left at the same time, but the squire
insisted on accompanying me.  Under cover of the darkness he remarked:

"That was my wife's song.  It gave me much pleasure and some pain to
hear it again; but it hurt you?"

I told him why, and he said quite simply, "Then we have another bond in
common."

"Another?" I inquired, but he did not explain; instead he asked:

"How fares your ideal?  Have you met him of the cloven foot in
Windyridge yet?"

"I fear I brought him with me," I replied, "and I fancy I have seen his
footprints in the village.  All the same, I do not yet regret my
decision.  I am very happy here and have forgotten some of my London
nightmares, and am no longer 'tossed by storm and flood.'  My Inner
Self and I are on the best of terms."

He sighed.  "Far be it from me to discourage you; and indeed I am glad
that the moors have brought you peace.  To brood over wrongs we cannot
put right is morbid and unhealthy; it saps our vitality and makes us
unfit for the conflicts we have to wage.  And yet how easy it is for us
to let this consideration lead us to the bypath meadows of indifference
and self-indulgence.  You remember Tennyson:

  "'Is it well that while we range with Science, glorying in the Time,
  City children soak and blacken soul and sense in city slime?'


"I have led a strenuous life, and taken some part in the battle, but
now I have degenerated into a Lotus-eater, with no heart for the fray,
'Lame and old and past my time, and passing now into the night.'"

"Nay," I said, "let me quote Clough in answer to your Tennyson:

  "'Say not the struggle nought availeth,
    The labour and the wounds are vain.
  The enemy faints not nor faileth,
    And as things have been they remain,

  'For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
    Seem here no painful inch to gain,
  Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
    Comes silent, flooding in, the main.'


"You are no Lotus-eater: no shirker.  You are just resting in the
garden in the evening of a well-spent day, and that is right."

"For me there is no rest," he replied.  "To-morrow I go to Biarritz,
and thence wherever my fancy or my doctor's instructions send me; but I
shall carry with me the burdens of the village.  It is selfish of me to
tell you this, for I would not make you sad, but I am a lonely man, and
I am going away alone, and somewhat against my will, but Trempest
insists.

"I think it has done me good to unburden myself to you, and I will say
only this one word more.  Always, when I return, there has been some
tragedy, great or small, which I think I might have hindered."

"Surely not," I murmured, "in so small a place."

He rested his arm upon my garden gate and smiled.  "A week ago I
witnessed a terrible encounter between two redbreasts in the lane
yonder.  They are very tenacious of their rights, and one of them, I
imagine, was a trespasser from the other side the hedge.  They are
country birds, yet very pugnacious, and the little breasts of these two
throbbed with passion.  But when I came near them they flew away, and I
hope forgot their differences.  I never even raised a stick--my mere
presence was sufficient.  And therein is a parable.  Good-night, Miss
Holden, and au revoir!"

He opened the gate, raised his hat, and was gone.



CHAPTER VIII

CHRISTMAS DAY AT WINDYRIDGE

Christmas has come and gone, and so far not a flake of snow has fallen.
Rain there has been in abundance, and in the distance dense banks of
fog, but no frost to speak of, and none of the atmospheric conditions I
have always associated with a northern Yuletide.

Christmas Day itself, however, proved enjoyable if not wildly exciting.
The air was "soft," as the natives say, and the sun was shining mistily
when I stepped into the garden, now bare of attractions save for the
Christmas roses, whose pure white petals bowed their heads in kindly
greeting to the wrinkled face of Earth, their mother.  The starlings
were whistling as cheerily as if spring was come, and a solitary
missel-thrush was diligently practising a Christmas ditty on the bare
branches of the hawthorn.

"A merry Christmas, Mother Hubbard!" I called through the open window,
with such unwonted vigour that the old lady, whose toilet was not
completed, flung a shawl hastily around her shoulders, only to be
reassured by my hearty laugh.

Over the breakfast table we drew up the day's programme.  It was no
difficult task.  Mother Hubbard would occupy the morning in preparing
the great dinner, and from these preparations I was to be rigorously
excluded.  To my old friend this was a holy-day, but one to be marked
by a sacrificial offering of exceptional magnitude, she being the High
Priestess who alone might enter into the mysteries; but I did not mind,
seeing that I was to be allowed to do my part in consuming the
sacrifice.

The afternoon was to be devoted to rest, and in the evening we were to
go to Farmer Goodenough's, where the youngsters were already wild in
anticipation of the glories of a Christmas-tree.

So I was dismissed to "make the beds" and dust my own room, and having
done this I went to church in the temple which is not made with hands.
I had intended going to Fawkshill, but the angels of God met me on the
way, and turned me aside into the fields which lead to Marsland.  When
I reached the wood I knelt on the soft, thick carpet of fallen leaves
and said my prayers amid the solitude, with the running brook for music
and all Nature for priest.

What a loud voice Nature has to those who have ears to hear, yet withal
how sweet and forceful.  They tell us that if our faculties were less
dull we should hear in every stem and twig and blade of grass the
throbbing of the engines and the whir and clatter of the looms which go
on day and night unceasingly.  It is well for us that we are not so
highly tuned, but it is also well if our spiritual perceptions are keen
enough to find tongues in trees and sermons in stones, and to interpret
their language.  I am but a dunce as yet, but I have learned one thing
since I came to this northern school--I have learned to listen, and I
am beginning to understand something of what God has to teach us by the
mouth of his dumb prophets.  Anyhow, I went home with peace in my heart
and goodwill to all men; also with a mighty hunger.

The menu was roast turkey and plum pudding, to be followed by cheese
and dessert, but on this occasion there was no "following."  Imagine
two domesticated women, and one of them--the little one--with the
appetite and capacity of a pet canary, seated opposite a bird like that
the squire had sent us, which had meat enough upon it to serve a
Polytechnic party; and imagine the same couple, having done their duty
womanfully upon the bird, confronted with a plum pudding of the
dimensions Mother Hubbard's sense of proportion had judged necessary,
and one of the twain compelled either to eat to repletion or to wound
the feelings of the pudding's author--and then say whether in your
opinion cheese and dessert were not works of supererogation!

After we had cleared the things away and drawn our rocking chairs up to
the fire, the old clock ticked us off to sleep in five minutes; and
then that part of me which it is not polite to mention took its revenge
for having been made to work overtime on a holiday.  I dreamed!

I was running away from Chelsea in the dead of night, clothed in my
night-dress and holding my bedroom slippers in my hand.  A great fear
was upon me that I should be discovered and frustrated in my purpose;
and as I strove to turn the heavy key in the lock my heart thumped
against my chest and the perspiration poured down my face.  At first
the bolt resisted my efforts, but at length it shot back with a great
noise, which awakened Madam Rusty, who opened her bedroom window as I
rushed out on to the pavement and cried "Murder!" at the same time
emptying the contents of the water jug upon me.

Fear gave wings to my feet and I fled, followed by a howling crowd
which grew bigger every moment and gained on me rapidly.  By this time
I realised that I was carrying madam's best silver tea-pot under my
arm, and I wanted to drop it but dared not.

Then I found myself in the lane at Windyridge, with the squire dressed
as a policeman keeping back the crowd, whilst Mother Hubbard, without
her bodice, as I had seen her in the morning, took my hand--and the
tea-pot--and hurried me towards the cottage.  It was just in sight when
Madam Rusty jumped out of a doorway in her night-cap and dressing-gown
and shouted 'Bo!' waving her arms about wildly, and as I hesitated
which way to turn she flung herself upon me and seized my hair in both
her hands.  As I screamed wildly, I saw the Cynic leap the wall in his
golf suit, and woke just in time to save myself considerable
embarrassment.

"What was it, love?" inquired Mother Hubbard, who had been aroused by
my screams and was genuinely alarmed.

"I don't quite know," I replied; "but I think the turkey was
quarrelsome and could not quite hit it with the plum pudding."

Mother Hubbard composed herself to sleep again; and in order to prevent
a repetition of my unhappy experience I got my books and proceeded to
do my accounts.

I have not been idle by any means during these months, and my balance
is quite satisfactory.  I have painted quite a number of miniatures,
and have prepared and sold several floral designs for book covers and
decorative purposes.  I see plainly that I am not likely to starve if
health is vouchsafed to me, and I was never more contented in my life.
I wonder, though, what it really is that makes me so.  It cannot be
sufficiency of work merely, for that was never lacking in the London
days; and as for friends, I have, besides Mother Hubbard, only Farmer
Goodenough and the squire, and he is away and likely to be for months.
I think it is the sense of "aliveness" that makes me happy.  Some folk
would call my life mere existence, but I feel as if I never really
lived until now; and I hanker after neither theatres, nor whist-drives,
nor picture-shows, nor parties.

Parties!  Why, we have parties in Windyridge, and the motherkin and I
went to one that evening.  We put on our best bibs and tuckers--not our
very best, but I wore my blue voile with the oriental trimmings which
even Rose used to admit set off my figure to advantage, and Mother
Hubbard donned the famous black satin, and added to its glories the
soft Shetland shawl which I had given her that morning.

Tea was prepared in the spacious kitchen, which had room enough and to
spare for the fifteen people of all ages who were assembled there.  It
is a kitchen lifted bodily out of a story book, without one single
alteration.  The room is low, so that Farmer Goodenough touches the
beams quite easily when he raises his hand, and his head only just
clears the hams which are suspended from them; and it is panelled all
the way round in oak.  There are oak doors, oak cupboards, oak settles
and tables, and an oak dresser, all with the polish of old age upon
them and with much quaint carving; all of which is calculated to drive
a connoisseur to covetousness and mental arithmetic.  An immense fire
roared up the great chimney, and its flames were reflected in the
polished case of the mahogany grandfather's clock, which seemed to me
rather out of place amongst so much oak, but which, with slow dignity,
ticked off the time in one corner.

On the far side of the room, near the deeply recessed window, was the
Christmas-tree--a huge tree for that low room, and gay with glittering
glass ornaments in many grotesque shapes, brightly coloured toys, and
wax candles, as yet unlighted.

The younger members of the party were gathered near it in a little
group, whispering excitedly, and pointing out objects of delight with
every one of which each individual had made himself familiar hours
before.

Grandpa Goodenough, a hale old man of eighty, and to be distinguished
from Grand_father_ Goodenough, his son, smoked a long clay pipe from
his place on the settle near the hearth, and smiled on everybody.  His
daughter-in-law, who looked much too young to be a grandmother, bustled
about in the scullery, being assisted in her activities by her eldest
daughter, Ruth, and her son Ben's wife, Susie, and obstructed by her
husband who, with a sincere desire to be useful, contrived to be always
in the most inconvenient place at the most awkward time.

Mother Hubbard and I had been invited to step into the parlour, but
preferred the more homely atmosphere of the kitchen, so we took our
seats on the settle, opposite to that occupied by Grandpa.

By and by tea was ready and we were instructed to "pull our chairs up"
and "reach to."  What a time we had!  If tables ever do groan that one
ought to have done so, for it had a heavy load which we were all
expected to lighten, but nobody seemed to think it might be necessary
to press anybody to eat.

"Now you know you're all welcome," said Farmer Goodenough heartily,
when the youngest grandchild had asked what I took to be a blessing.
"We're not allus botherin' folks to have some more when there's plenty
before 'em, an' all they've got to do is to reach out for 't; but if
you don't all have a good tea it's your own fault, an' don't blame
_me_.  'Let us eat, drink, an' be merry,' as t' Owd Book bids us."

The way the ham disappeared was a revelation to me.  Farmer Goodenough
stood to carve, and after a while took off his coat, apparently in
order that he might be able to mop his face with his shirt sleeves and
so not seriously interrupt his operations.  Plates followed each other
in unbroken succession, until at last the good man threw down the knife
and fork and pushed back his chair.

"Well, this beats all!" he said.  "Amos, lad, thee take hold.  Thou's
had a fair innings: give thy dad a chance."

Where the little Goodenoughs put the ham and the sponge cake, the tarts
and the trifle, the red jelly and the yellow jelly and the jelly with
the pine-apple in it I do not pretend to know.  They expanded visibly,
and when the youngest grandchild, a cherubic infant of three, leaned
back and sighed, and whispered with tears in his voice, "Reggie can't
eat no more, muvver," I felt relieved.

It was over at last and the table cleared in a twinkling.  Ben whisked
away the remnants of the ham into the larder.  The women folk carried
the crockery into the scullery, and whilst they were engaged in washing
it up the boys disappeared into remote places with the fragments of the
feast, and Mother Hubbard swept the crumbs away and folded the cloth.

"Now," said Reggie, with another little sigh, but with just a suspicion
of sunshine in his eyes, "now we'se goin' to p'ay, an 'ave ze pwesents
off ze Kwismastwee."

And so we did.  Amos, as the eldest son at home, lit the candles, and
Grandpa distributed the gifts, which were insignificant enough from the
monetary point of view, but weighted in every case with the affection
and goodwill of the burly farmer and his wife.  There was even a box of
chocolates for me, and with its aid I succeeded in winning the heart of
the melancholy Reggie.

Then came the games.  I wish Rose and the boarders at No. 8 could have
seen the demure Miss Holden of former days walking round and round a
big circle, one hand in Reggie's and the other clasped by a red-cheeked
farmer, whilst a dozen voices sang, and hers as loudly as any:

  "The farmer's dog was in the yard,
  And Bingo was his name-O!"


Then came the mad scramble of "Shy Widow" and the embarrassments of the
"Postman's Knock," though nobody had letters for me, except Reggie, who
had one--very sticky and perfumed with chocolate--and Susie's little
daughter, Maud, who gave me three, very shyly, but accompanied by an
affectionate hug, which I returned.  After this, crackers, with all
their accompaniments of paper caps and aprons, and by the time these
had been worn and exchanged and torn the youngsters were clamouring for
supper.  Supper!  Ye gods!

When this repast was ended and the younger members of the party had
been packed off to bed--for only Mother Hubbard and I were to leave the
farmer's hospitable home that night--some of the grown-ups proposed a
dance.

Grandpa shook his head in protest.  "Nay, nay," he said in his thin,
piping voice; "I don't hold wi' dancin'.  Never did.  You were never
browt up to dance, Reuben, you weren't."

"Reyt enough, father," responded his son, "but you know things has
changed sin' I were a lad.  You remember what t' Owd Book says; I don't
just rightly call t' words to mind, but summat about t' owd order
changin'.  We mun let t' young uns have a bit of a fling."

"They danced in t' Bible, grandpa," said Rebecca saucily.

"Well, they may ha' done," rejoined the old man, retiring to the
settle; "but I weren't browt up i' that way, an' your father weren't
neither.  I were allus taught 'at it were a sort of a devil's game,
were dancing."

However, dance they did, and I played for them, doing my best with the
crazy old box-o'-music in the parlour; and as I glanced through the
open door I saw that Grandpa was following it all with great interest,
beating time the while, in uncertain fashion, with head and hand.



CHAPTER IX

MRS. BROWN EXPLAINS

There was a funeral in the village on the Wednesday of last week.  On
the previous Sunday Mother Hubbard had assured me with great solemnity
that something of the sort was going to happen, for had not a solitary
magpie perched upon our garden wall and waved his handsome tail in full
view of the window for at least a minute?  What connection there was
between his visit and the calamity which it foretold was not clear to
me, but it appears that the magpie is a bird of omen, and there is an
old rhyme which in these parts is considered oracular:

  "One for sorrow,
    And two for mirth;
  Three for a wedding
    And four for a birth."


However that may be, it is a fact that in the late afternoon Dr.
Trempest called to inform me that Farmer Brown was dead.

"He has lasted twice as long as anyone could have foreseen," he said.
"Poor chap, it's a mercy it's all over."

The whole countryside was inches deep in snow when they buried him in
the little God's acre that clings to the side of the hill at the point
where the roads diverge.  The grave-digger had a hard task, for we had
had a fortnight of severe frost; but he bent to his work with the grim
persistence of the man who knows that the last enemy is a hard master,
and that there must be no tarrying in his service.

All the village turned out to the funeral, and there was a great crowd
of invited mourners.  It struck me as strange that so many coaches
should be provided and that the last sad rites should partake of the
nature of a public spectacle, for surely when we have given our loved
ones into God's keeping it is most seemly to lay all that is human of
them in the lap of earth reverently and with simplicity; but the
Yorkshire folk make it an occasion of display, fearing, perhaps, to
dishonour their dead, and dreading even more the criticism and
displeasure of their neighbours.

When the grave had been filled in and the upturned earth was covered
with the evergreens and wreaths which loving hands had brought and left
there, I went and stood beside the grave and thought of Farmer Brown's
parting words.  I suppose it is heretical to pray for the dead, but I
did it.

Yesterday I went to see Mrs. Brown, taking the photographs and a framed
enlargement with me.  It was a hard tramp, and my arms ached before the
journey's end was reached, but I am wonderfully "fit" just now, and I
thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  Well--perhaps I must modify that.  There
was always present with me the anticipation of a depressing scene, and
that marred the enjoyment somewhat, though it could not destroy it.

Yet to feel the sting of a north-easterly wind on one's cheek, and the
sensation of crunching snow beneath one's feet, with a bright blue sky
overhead and the far-away smell of spring in one's nostrils, was to
experience something of the joy of life.

Here and there great drifts of snow were piled up against the banks and
walls, and I knew that sheep and even men were sometimes lost in them,
but I was safe enough, for the road was fairly well trodden, and when I
left it and climbed the stile into the fields leading to the farm the
track was quite discernible.

It is a mistake to anticipate, and to dread what lies behind the veil
is folly.  Mrs. Brown taught me that in a very few moments.  There was
no gloom about the kitchen where she and her daughter Jane, were busily
engaged in household duties, though somehow one felt that sorrow dwelt
there as a guest.

I explained the purpose of my visit, and the mother's eyes grew dim
with tears.

"He never breathed a word," she said; "but that was just Greenwood to
nowt.  He was allus tryin' to do someb'dy a good turn, but so as they
shouldn't know it, and it was just like the dear lad to think o' them
he was goin' to leave, an' try to pleasure 'em."

"Perhaps you would rather open the parcels yourselves when I am gone,"
I suggested, but the widow shook her head.

"Nay, I'd like to see them whilst you're here, miss, if you don't mind.
Jane, love, put the kettle on an' make a cup of tea for the young lady.
I will confess 'at I had fret just a bit 'cos we haven't any picture of
father, except one 'at was took soon after we were wed, and that's over
thirty year sin'; and I can't tell you how glad I shall be to 'ave 'em."

I had done my best, and I will admit that the enlargement pleased _me_,
but I was ill prepared for the effect it produced upon the widow and
the daughter.  The girl was in her twenties, and looked matter-of-fact
enough, but the moment she saw it she took the frame in her hands,
pressed her lips to the glass, and cried with a dry sob, "Oh, dad,
dear, I cannot bear it!" and then knelt down on the broad fender and
prepared some toast.

But her mother placed the picture against the big Bible on the high
drawers and gazed steadily at it for a moment or two, after which she
came up to me where I was standing, and throwing her arms around my
neck drew my head on to her shoulder, for she is a tall woman, and
kissed me again and again.  But only one or two big tears fell upon my
cheek, and she wiped them away hastily with her apron.

"I can't help it, miss," she said, "you'll not take offence, I'm sure.
But I can't do anything but love you for what you've done for me an'
Jane.  You've brought more comfort to this house than I ever thought
the Lord 'ud send us, an' I hope He'll pay you back a hundredfold, for
I cannot."

I wonder why one should feel so warm and virtuous for having done one's
duty.  I had put my heart into the work, as I always do--for who would
be a mere mechanic whom God meant for a craftsman?--but the farmer had
paid me the price I asked, and the whole transaction had been conducted
on strict business lines.  What right had I to be pleased with the
super-payment of love?  But I was.

Over the teacups Mrs. Brown opened her heart to me.  Jane had gone away
to the dairy, and I think her mother spoke more freely in her absence,
or perhaps the feeling of strangeness had by that time been dispelled.
I saw it did her good to talk and I rarely interrupted her.  She sat
with her cup on her knee, and her eyes fixed, for the most part, upon
the hearth.

"He seemed to suffer terrible towards the end," she said, "but he allus
put a good face on it an' tried to keep it from us.  But choose how he
suffered you never 'eard one word of complaint, an' he wouldn't let us
say ought hard against Him above.  And yet, you know, he was never what
you might call a church member, an' he wasn't one 'at went regular to
either church or chapel.  You see, it's a matter o' two mile to t'
chapel at Windyridge, an' t' nearest church 'll be gettin' on for four
mile away.

"An' he wasn't one 'at spoke a deal about religion, neither, nobbut he
wouldn't hear anybody speak a word agen it.  There isn't a labourer or
a farmer or t' doctor himself 'at 'ud use a bad word i' front o'
Greenwood, an' he never did himself.  He used to sit i' that
high-backed chair where you're sittin' now, every night of his life,
wi' that big Bible on his knee, an' read in it, but he never read it
out loud, an' what Scripture we got we'd to read for ourselves.  Nobbut
he'd quote it now an' then, like, when there were any 'casion.

"I've thought often sin' he came home that day an' told us what were
goin' to happen, an' especially sin' he were laid up, 'at it 'ud maybe
have been better if he'd read it up for us all to hear, an' talked
about it a bit, but it wasn't his way, wasn't that.  He was same as he
couldn't, but I wonder sometimes if it 'ud have saved us this trouble."

"But could anything really have saved it?" I inquired.  "He told me it
was something internal which could not be accounted for."

"Ah, miss," she replied, "there's a kind of illness 'at you can't get
any doctor to cure, but Greenwood's illness could be accounted for when
you know all.  It's true enough 'at there wasn't a stronger nor
likelier man i' t' West Ridin' than my 'usband, nor a steadier.  And he
never ailed owt, never.  Day in an' day out he did his work wi' t' best
on 'em, an' took all his meals hearty.  But he lived wi' a great big
wound in his inside this last ten year for all that, an' they can say
what they like, but I know if he hadn't had that sore in his soul he'd
never have had that bad place in his body.

"You can't go by appearances, miss.  My husband was right enough in his
body, but he was sick at heart.  It's not easy tellin', but I can tell
you, though I'm sure I don't know why.  We never had but two children,
Jane an' her brother Joseph.  My husband was called after his
mother--her name was Greenwood afore she was married--so we called our
lad Joseph after his grandfather.  He came within a year of our gettin'
wed, and a brighter little lad never breathed.  Eh! he was that bonny
an' sweet ...

"How is it, miss, 'at some grows up so crook'd an' others i' t' same
family never gives you a minute's trouble?  Our Jane has been a comfort
to us both all her life, but Joe has broke our rest many a hundred
nights.  He was same as he took t' wrong road from bein' a little lad
o' twelve.  He would go his own road, an' it was allus t' wrong road.
He'd work if it pleased him, an' he wouldn't if it didn't, an' you
could neither coax him nor thrash him into it.  His father tried both
ways, an' I'm sure I did all I could.  An' the way he sauced his father
you wouldn't believe for a young lad.

"He had his good points, too, for he wouldn't lie to save his own skin
or anybody else's, an' he was as honest as they make 'em.  But he was
self-willed and 'eadstrong past all tellin'.  He used to laugh about
the devil, an' say it was all bosh an' old wives' tales, but if ever a
man was possessed wi' one our Joseph was when he were nineteen.

"There isn't a church for four mile; no, but there are two drink shops
easy enough to get at.  Oh, miss, why do they let the devil set traps
to catch the souls o' men?  They can't keep him out of us, God knows,
but they've no need to build places for him to live in, and license him
to do his devil's work.  O Lord, why didn't You save our Joe?

"He came home drunk the day he was nineteen, an' his father was just
full up wi' grief an' vexation.  An' men don't bear wi' it same as
women do.  He put the Bible down on the table, Greenwood did, an' he
went up to t' lad, an' he said:

"'I won't have it, Joe.  I've told you afore an' I tell you again, if
you're goin' to come home drunk ye'll sleep in t' barn, for I won't
have you in t' house.'

"Oh, I can't bide to think of it, but Joe swore a great oath, an'
clenched his fist an' hit his father in t' body; an' then Greenwood
seized him by t' coat collar an' flung him in t' yard, an' locked t'
door agen him.  I shall never forget it.  I cried an' begged him to go
out to t' lad, but he wouldn't.  He said he could sleep in t' barn, but
until he were sober he shouldn't come into t' house.

"Well, I said no more, but crept upstairs to bed an' sobbed for an
hour, an' then I heard Greenwood shouting 'at t' barn was afire.  We
all rushed out, an' there was soon plenty of 'elp, but we lost two cows
an' a lot o' hay that night; but worse than that, we lost our Joe.  Not
'at he were burned or ought o' that sort.  He fired t' barn an' made
off, an' his father never tried to follow him.  But from that day to
this we've never heard one word of our lad.

"I can hear them beasts roaring with pain in the night yet, but you
know, miss, that was soon over, an' they got their release.  But it's
different wi' us.  We aren't beasts.  Greenwood could bear pain.  He
made nought o' the blow, though it was a savage 'un, but it was the
thought of it 'at hurt him, an' the thought of him 'at did it, an'
wondering what had come of him.  Pain's nought; any woman can bide
pain--an' God knows 'at we have to do, oft enough--but when your soul
gets hurt there's no putting any ointment on _it_, an' there's no
doctor in t' world can do you any good.

"God?  Oh yes, miss, I know, but I don't understand.  I believe
Greenwood did, an' he went home peaceful, if not happy; an' I'm not
murmuring.  I believe the Lord 'll work it all out i' time, but it's a
puzzle.  I should ha' lost heart an' hope but for Greenwood; but I'm
goin' to hold on for his sake an' Jane's--an' for our Joe's."


As I walked home the lingering sun cast long, black shadows athwart the
snow, but the shadows were only on the surface, and did not soil the
purity of the mantle which God had thrown over the earth.



CHAPTER X

INTRODUCES WIDOW ROBERTSHAW

I have been having quite an exciting time lately.  If you have never
lived in a small hamlet of a hundred souls or thereabouts, with smaller
tributary hamlets dropped down in the funniest and most unlikely places
within easy walking distance, you do not know how very full of
excitement life can be.  Why, when I was living at No. 8 nobody
displayed very much emotion when the jeweller at the end of the street
suffered "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" as the result of
the undesired patronage of connoisseurs in diamonds; and even when we
learned that the poor man had been found gagged and bound to his office
chair and more dead than alive, the languid interest of the company was
sufficiently expressed in the "Hard luck!" of the gentlemen, and the
"What a shame!" of the ladies.

"That's the fire-engine," someone would remark, as the horses dashed
past to the clang of the warning bell; but we sent up our plates for a
second helping of boiled mutton with never a thought as to the
destination and fate of the brave fellows who might be about to risk
their lives in a grim struggle with flame and smoke.

Murders and assassinations and suicides were discussed, if they had
been conducted respectably, with the same air of commiseration as was
employed when a fellow-boarder complained of headache; if they were not
respectable we did not discuss them at all.  It took a first-class
society scandal to really stir us, and then we gathered in groups and
became thoroughly interested--the women, I mean, of course.  The men
were just as interested but not so ready to admit it, and professed to
be debating politics.  I sometimes wonder if what the Psalmist said in
his haste might not have been affirmed more leisurely.  However, that
is nothing to the point; ordinarily, there is no denying the fact that
we were bored, or perhaps I ought to adopt the modern expression and
say "blasé."

Here in Windyridge that word and its significance are unknown.

When old Mrs. Smithies' sow had a litter of seventeen pigs we all threw
down our work and went across to congratulate her, and stopped each
other in the street to discuss the momentous event, and to speculate on
the difference it would make in that worthy lady's fortunes.

On the other hand, when old Woodman's dog, Cæsar, was reported to have
gone mad, we were wildly excited for the space of one whole day, and
spent our time in telling each other what dreadful things _might_ have
happened if he had not been securely chained up from the moment the
symptoms became ominous; and recalling lurid and highly-imaginative
stories of men who, as the result of dog-bites, had foamed at the
mouth, and had to be roped down to their beds.  Which reminded someone
else of the bull that old Green used to have, away yonder past Uncle
Ned's, which went mad one Whitsuntide, and tore along the road three
good miles to Windyridge, roaring furiously, and scattering the school
children, who were assembled for the treat, in all directions; and
badly goring this very dog Cæsar, who had pluckily charged him.

This week's excitements began on Monday, when young Smiddles, who had
been "gas-acting," according to his mother, ran his fist through the
window-pane, and cut his arm very badly and even dangerously.
Smiddles' roaring must have rivalled that of old Green's bull, and,
supplemented by his mother's screams, it served to rouse the whole
village.

Smiddles' sister, a buxom young woman of plain appearance but sound
sense, threatened to box the sufferer's ears if he did not "stop that
din," and though much alarmed at the flow of blood, made some efforts
to staunch it with her apron.

I had already gained an ill-deserved reputation for surgery,
principally on account of the possession of a medicine chest and an
"Ambulance" certificate, and my services were speedily requisitioned by
the fleet-footed son of the next door neighbour, who bade me come at
once, as "Smiddles' lad" was "bleeding to death on t' hearthstone."

After I had prevented the realisation of this fatality by means of a
tight bandage, and made the patient as comfortable as a sling permits,
I despatched the mercuric youth to summon Dr. Trempest, as I was afraid
some stitches would be necessary, and went out to find the street
buzzing with excitement, and my humble self regarded as only slightly
less than super-human.

No sooner had this sensation died down than the village thermometer
rose, two days later, to fever heat on the report that little Willie
Jones had ventured to test the ice upon the huge water-butt which
occupied a slightly elevated position at the end of his father's house
and was "drownded dead for sure."

Not a soul in the village knew what course to pursue under the
circumstances, and every eager helper might have avowed with truth and
sincerity that he had done the things he ought not to have done, and
left undone the things he ought to have done; and it was fortunate for
poor little Willie that my First Aid lessons had qualified me for
dealing with an emergency of this kind.

Farmer Goodenough and I worked hard for an hour, and my arms ached with
the effort, but at length the reluctant engine began to move, throbbing
fitfully but with increasing strength; and hot flannels and heated
bricks, with judicious but energetic rubbing, completed the treatment
and brought life and colour back again, so that when the doctor arrived
there was little left to be done.

I believe I was excited myself when it was all over, and if my head had
not been fixed very solidly upon my shoulders it would certainly have
been turned that day by the ridiculous and extravagant eulogies of my
neighbours.

Then followed the great blizzard.  I suppose our cousins across the
water would have small respect for such an unpretentious specimen as we
experienced, but to me it was a revelation of what old Mother Nature
can do when she clenches her teeth and puts her hand to it.

A bright but grey sky overhung the earth when I set out soon after
dinner for a brisk constitutional, and I never for a moment anticipated
any change in the conditions.  For some weeks past we had had
alternations of frost and snow and thaw, and for several days the bare,
brown earth had been frozen hard, and the roadway was furrowed as a
field, with ice filling every rut and wrinkle.

It was an ideal day for a sharp walk, provided one's organs were sound
and one's limbs supple, and though a thousand needles pricked my cheeks
and hands, and my ears smarted with the pinching they got, my whole
body was soon aglow and I revelled in the encounter.

I took the downward road which winds slowly round to Marsland, and
tried to discover the heralds of spring.  On such a day everybody
should be an optimist.  I think I generally am as regards myself,
whatever the weather may be like, but I must admit that so far I have
had little cause for being anything else.  It is only when I begin to
dwell on the miseries of other people, and the wrongs which it seems
impossible to put right, that the black mood settles upon me.

But on this particular day I felt on good terms with the world, and
thought of the sunny days which lay ahead, and of the coming morning,
when the heather bells would feel the warm breath of summer upon their
face, and open their eyes in loving response to her kiss.

And here and there in the shelter of the hedges, and by the banks of
the ice-bound stream where the bridge crosses it I found the heralds I
sought--tiny shoots of green pushing their way through the hard soil or
the warm coverlet of faded leaves.  By and by the icy fingers will have
to relax their grasp, and the woods and hedgerows will be gay with the
little fairy creatures, who dress so daintily in colours of a hundred
hues for our enjoyment, and who smile, perhaps, to think what a limited
monarchy King Frost maintains after all.

I am well known by now, and every farmer's boy who passes me exchanges
greetings, sometimes with a half-hearted movement of the hand in the
direction of the cap, but oftener with the smile of recognition which
betokens comradeship.  For our relations are on the most cordial
footing of strict equality; we are all workmen, each after his kind,
servants of one Master; and if God gives us grace to use our
opportunities as we ought we may all enter, even now, into the joy of
the Lord.  There is a vast difference, as I have learned, between
servility and respectfulness, and I believe I am as much respected as
the squire, though with less reason: and nobody is unduly deferential
even to him.

The good women in the cluster of cottages down the lane waved their
hands as I passed, and a couple of maidens of tender years, one fair,
the other with raven locks, ran out and seized each an arm, and
escorted me a hundred yards along my way.

I sat on the bridge for a while at the foot of the hill, and it may
have been the network of trees in the little wood which hid from my
eyes the approaching storm.  For with the suddenness of a panther it
sprang upon me.  There had been a fairly stiff breeze at my back, which
had helped me along famously, taking toll of my ears for its fee, but
now, as if its playful humour had been changed to madness, it lashed me
mercilessly with knotted whips of frozen rain.

Expecting every minute to reach the shelter of a farm I hurried
forward, whilst the storm howled and raged behind and about me.  It was
well for me that the storm was at my back, for my face was entirely
unprotected and the sleet was driven past me in straight, almost
horizontal lines, which obliterated the landscape in a moment, and
stung my neck so that I could have cried with pain.  When I had rounded
the bend and climbed the stiff ascent my plight was worse.  There was
no protection of any kind and my face suffered so terribly that I began
to be alarmed.  To add to my difficulties every landmark had been
blotted out, and the road itself was becoming indistinguishable from
the low-lying edge of moor over which it wound.

Like ten thousand shrouded demons let loose to work destruction the
wind hissed and shrieked and roared, and tore across my path with a
force I could scarcely resist.  Ten minutes after its commencement I
was treading ankle-deep in snow, and I could see that drifts were
beginning to form where the road had been brought below the level of
the rising and lumpy moor.  I would have given much to have been
sitting by Mother Hubbard's side, listening to the click of the
needles, but I was indeed thankful that she had not accompanied me.

After the first sensation of alarm and dismay the novelty of the
situation began to appeal to me.  One can get accustomed even to being
thrashed by the genii of the air, and I became conscious of a certain
exhilaration which was almost pleasant, even whilst I was ardently
longing for the sight of a friendly roof.

I know now that I missed the broad road, and took a narrower one which
sloped down at an acute angle, but I was unconscious of this at the
time, and was only grateful to find some protection from the high wall
upon my left.  I know also that I had passed two or three farms where I
might have been hospitably received, but no fog could have proved a
thicker curtain than that impenetrable veil of driven snow, and I never
even guessed at their existence.

The moor now began to rise steeply upon my right, and as I stumbled
forward, holding my hat upon my head with both hands, I suddenly found
myself upon hard ground again, with scarcely a trace of snow to be
seen, and with a whole row of cottages on one side of the road, in
which blazing fires offered me a warm welcome.  I could hardly realise
that I had found refuge.

The roadway was only wide enough to accommodate a good-sized dray, and
was separated from the houses by the narrowest of footpaths, and
flanked on the right by the bare side of the hill, which rose
precipitously from the ground, to be soon concealed in the mantle of
the storm.  Seen indistinctly as I saw it then it appeared more like a
railway cutting than anything else, and I could only marvel at the
eccentricity of man in erecting houses in such an unpromising locality.
However, for the mariner in danger of shipwreck to criticise the
harbour of refuge in which he finds himself is mean ingratitude.

"Nay, to be sure!"  The ejaculation came from the mouth of a comely
woman of considerable proportions who filled up the doorway of the
cottage opposite to which I was standing.  She wore a brown skirt
protected by a holland apron, and surmounted by a paisley blouse
bearing a fawn design on a ground of crudest green.  The sleeves of the
blouse buttoned and were turned back to the elbow, and as two hooks
were loose at the neck I felt justified in assuming that my new
acquaintance was an enemy of constraint.  Her feet were encased in
carpet slippers of shameless masculinity, and a black belt encircled
her ample waist, which at this moment was partly hidden by the
outstretched fingers of her hands, as she stood, arms akimbo, in the
doorway.

Her face, plump, pleasant and rosy, had for its principal feature two
merry, twinkling eyes, which sparkled with humour as she gazed upon me;
and her hair, which was beginning to turn grey, was drawn tightly back
and coiled in one large plait upon the crown.  Altogether she was a
very homely, approachable woman, who had seen, as I judged, some fifty
summers, and I hailed her appearance with joy.

"Nay, to be sure!" she repeated; "are ye Lot's wife? or has t' lads,
young monkeys, planted a snow man at my door?  Here, bide a bit while I
brush ye down, an' then come inside wi' ye."

I laughed, and submitted to the operation, vigorously performed in the
street, and then followed my rescuer indoors.

All my explanations were greeted with the same expressive utterance.
"To be sures" came as thickly as currants in a Yorkshire tea-cake.  We
were unknown to each other by sight--for I was now, I found, in
Marsland Gap, with the valley between me and Windyridge--but my fame
had preceded me.

"Well, to be sure!  So you're t' young lady what takes fotygraphs up at
Windyridge.  Why, bless ye, I can show ye t' very house ye live in, an'
t' glass place where I reckon ye take yer fotygraphs from this window
in t' scullery.  Nay, to be sure! it's that wild ye cannot see an arm's
length.  Well, well, let's hev yer wet things off, for ye're fair
steamin' afore that fire."

I protested in vain.  My hat and coat had already been removed, and now
my hostess insisted that my dress skirt should be hung upon the
clothes-horse to dry.  Oh, Rose, Rose! what would you not have given to
see me ten minutes later clad in a garment which was reasonable enough
as to length, but which had to be pinned in a great overlapping fold
half round my body?  I looked at myself and roared, whilst the owner of
the dress shook her sides with merriment.  All the same, I had found
the inn of the Good Samaritan, and my stay there did not even cost me
the two pence of the story.

What do you think we had for tea?  Muffins, toasted cheese, home-made
jam and "spice cake"!  I helped to "wash-up," and as the storm
continued with unabated fury I resigned myself cheerfully to the snug
rocking-chair and the glowing hearth.  Thoughts of Mother Hubbard's
anxiety worried me a little, but I hoped she would realise that I had
found shelter.

"You have not told me your name yet," I began, when we were comfortably
settled, I with my hands idle upon my lap, and she with a heap of
"mending" upon her knee.

"Well, to be sure! so I haven't," she replied.  "Maria Robertsha' 's my
name, an' it's a name I'm noan ashamed on.  Not but what I'd change it
if someb'dy 'ud give me a better.  It's all right livin' by yerself if
ye can't 'elp it; an' to be sure, when ye live by yerself ye know what
comp'ny ye keep; but them can 'ave it 'at likes for me."

"Then do you live here quite alone?" I inquired.

"Barring the cat, I do.  I did 'ave a parrot one time, 'cos it's nasty
temper seemed to make it more 'omelike; but t' lads, young imps, taught
it all sorts o' indecent stuff, which made it as I 'ad to part wi' it,
an' it was nearly like losing a 'usband a second time.  It used to be
that gruff an' masterful you wouldn't think!  No, I reckon nowt o'
livin' by mysen."

"It is not good that man should be alone," I quoted.

"It's worse for woman," she said, "an' yet, to be sure, I don't know,
for a woman 'at is a woman can allus make shift somehow, an' doesn't
stand pullin' a long face an' cussin' providence.  But men are poor
menseless creatures when they're left to theirsens; an' it allus caps
me to think 'at they call theirsens 'lords o' creation,' an' yet 'as to
fetch a woman to sew a gallus button on, an' 'ud let t' 'ouse get lost
i' muck afore they'd clean it.  Suppose a man lived 'ere by hissen, do
you think this kitchen 'ud look like this?"

"I am very sure it would not," I replied, "and it wouldn't if some
women lived here."

"Well, anyway, it just goes to prove 'at men need women to look after
'em, but for all that it's bad enough for a woman to be alone.  To be
sure, she's a poor sort 'at hasn't more about 'er nor a man, an' it
isn't 'at she's flayed o' bein' by hersen or can't manage for hersen,
or owt o' that.  No, no.  But there's summat short, for all that.  Ye
can take it from me, miss, 'at Eve 'ud sooner have been driven out o'
Eden wi' her 'usband, nor have been left there to fend for hersen.
Women doesn't want to be t' boss: they want to be bossed, or anyway
they like t' man to think 'at he's bossin' 'em.  An' they like 'im to
come in wi' his great dirty boots spreadin' t' muck all ovver t' floor,
an' puttin' 'em on t' scoured 'earthstone, so as they can 'call' 'im
an' clear up after 'im.

"Oh, aye, to be sure, an' they like to see 'im light his pipe an' then
fratch wi' 'im for fillin' t' 'ouse wi' smoke; an' even if he knocks ye
about a bit now an' then, he sidles up to ye at after, an' 'appen puts
'is arms round ye, an'--an' makes a fool of hissen; but ye feel t' want
on it when ye've been used to 't."

"But we cannot all have husbands," I objected; "there are not enough of
the other sex to go round."

"To be sure, that's so," she consented; "but that doesn't alter t' fact
'at we want 'em, does it?  But I'd tax all t' men 'at isn't married,
the selfish beggars.  The Almighty meant 'em to pair off.  Two an' two
they went into t' ark, an' two an' two they should go yet if I'd my
way.  It's nature.  An' I never could see yet why t' wimmen should 'ave
to sit quiet an' wait for t' men to come an' ask for 'em.  A woman
knows better by 'alf what man 'ud suit 'er, an' 'er 'im, than t' man
knows.  She knows without knowing how she knows; whereas t' man just
sees a pretty face, an' some dainty little feet i' 'igh-heeled boots,
an' some frizzy 'air, 'at she's bought as like as not at a barber's,
an' there ye are!  But where are ye in toathree years' time?  Aye, to
be sure, where are ye then?"

"Perhaps if conventionality had permitted, your state might have been
changed again by now," I suggested slyly.

"Well, now, to be sure, Miss Holden," she replied, drawing her chair a
little nearer to mine, and laying one hand upon my lap for emphasis, "I
thought after Robertsha' died 'at it were a case of 'once bitten, twice
shy,' for there were odd times when he filled up the cup, so to speak.
But, ye know, I missed 'im; an' though it's twelve year sin' come
Shrove-tide, I miss 'im yet; an' if I had the askin' I've known for a
long time who it 'ud be 'at 'ud take his place; but ye see I 'aven't,
so I bide as I am."

I thought of the old fox, Simon Barjona, and laughed inwardly as well
as outwardly.  Widow Robertshaw little realised that I knew her secret.

Outside the storm raged furiously.  The snow lay thick upon the ground,
moist as it fell, but frozen in a moment, and to venture out seemed in
my case impossible.  We held a council of ways and means which resulted
in the production of a young man of strong build from a cottage a few
doors away, who smiled at the storm and readily undertook, in exchange
for a shilling, coin of the realm--to convey a note to Mother Hubbard,
describing my predicament.

I enjoyed Widow Robertshaw's hospitality, perforce, for two days, and
when I returned home it was in Mr. Higgins' market cart, he having
called in the Gap "casual-like" to see how Mrs. Robertshaw was "going
on."



CHAPTER XI

GINTY RUNS AWAY

What a curious medley life is!  How crowded with dramatic situations
and sudden anti-climaxes!  Even in Windyridge the programme of
existence is as varied and full of interest as that of any picture
palace.  We have all the combinations of tragedy and pathos and humour,
and he who has eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to feel need
not complain of the monotony of the village, nor pine for the
manufactured excitements of the metropolis.

A letter with a foreign postmark and an Egyptian stamp was handed to me
on Monday morning, and I have been excited and troubled ever since,
though it brought me a great joy.  The handwriting was unfamiliar, but
when I turned to the signature I found it was from the squire, and I
began to read it eagerly.  I was astonished to find how small and
particularly neat his handwriting is.

The letter ran thus, omitting certain descriptive and unimportant
paragraphs:


"Assouan, Upper Nile,
  "_March_ 12_th_, 19--.

"DEAR MISS HOLDEN,

"I wonder if I might claim an old man's privilege and call you 'Grace'?
I should like to do so, for do you know there is not one of your sex in
the wide world whom I have a right to address by the Christian name,
and, what is perhaps more noteworthy, there is no other whose
permission I have the least desire to ask.  But somehow or other I am
longing for kinsfolk to-day, and the sensation is almost inexpressibly
acute, so much so that I actually feel the pain of loneliness, and that
'Inner Self' in which, I remember, you trust so completely, cries out
for sympathy and companionship.  If I mistake not we have common ideals
and aspirations--you and I--which make us kin, and I am disposed to
'stretch out lame hands of faith' in your direction if haply I may find
you and draw your soul to mine.  So if it be your will, let us be
friends, and do you send across the seas and deserts those mysterious
waves of kindly feeling which will vibrate upon the heart of the
solitary old man, to whom earth's messages of love come but seldom--now.

"Have I ever told you that I have not a relative on earth, and that I
have outlived all my own friends?  I sometimes feel to be like these
old monuments on the banks of Nile, which stand calm and impassive
whilst the children of this age picnic around their ruins; yet I am no
patriarch, for I have not much overstepped the natural span of man's
existence.  I hope you may never experience the sensation, but the fact
that you are yourself amongst earth's lone ones is not the least of the
links that connect you to me.

"I stayed some weeks in Biarritz ... but the weather turned cold and
wet, and the doctors bade me journey to Egypt.  It is an unknown land
to my material senses, but not to my spiritual.  Every stone preaches
to me of the familiar past.  I have always revelled in ancient history
and have kept abreast of modern discovery and research.  For a while I
enjoyed the company of my imagination, and we trod together the courts
and temple corridors of the mighty kings of ancient days, and
reconstructed their history.  Sometimes, for brief periods, I have
interesting conversations with men who are learned in all this lore;
but imagination and learning are but cold companions, and I am longing
for a hand-grasp and the look of love--longing, like the modern woman
of whom Derwent speaks--for the unattainable.

"I am half ashamed of myself for writing in this strain, and half
afraid of bringing a shadow over the spirit of the gentle soul whose
sympathy I seek; but you must not worry on my account, for I am neither
morbid nor unhappy, though sadness usually walks by my side.  Indeed,
life is strangely and even unaccountably dear to me just now, though I
am perfectly sure that the 'call' is not far away, and when it comes I
shall pass behind the curtain and face the unknown without fear and
without regret.

"Of late I have caught myself wondering whether I shall ever return
home and see the brown and purple moors again, and the homely people
whom I love; and when the thought that I may not do so grips me I have
just one overwhelming desire--a curious desire for the 'archæological
old fossil' I am generally taken to be.  Perhaps I am becoming weak and
sentimental, but when the time comes and I have to go, I want someone
who cares for me to 'see me off.'  I should like my eyes to close to
the sound of a woman's voice, I should like to feel the touch of a
woman's hand, and maybe the kiss of a woman's lips; and I should like a
few verses of Scripture and a simple hymn.

"I am an old fool, but the thought brings sweetness and peace with it;
and it is as a father to a daughter that I ask this boon of you: When I
hear the summons, will you come to me?  Whether I am at home or abroad
will you do me this service for love's sake?  I have no claim upon
anyone, and certainly none upon you, but my heart calls for you, and I
believe yours will answer the call.

"For the present, letters addressed to the British Post Office, Cairo,
will be forwarded to me, for I have no fixed address, but I shall look
eagerly for your reply.  Let me say in one word that I shall make
provision for the expense of your journey if I should send for you, and
I shall not send unless the call is clear.

"And now tell me of Windyridge....  Write to me when you can: give me
all the news; tell me how the great quest for peace progresses, and
believe that I am ever,

"Your very sincere friend,
  "GEORGE EVANS."


Womanlike, I watered this missive with my tears, but they were April
showers, after all, with great patches of blue sky in between, and
plenty of warm sunshine; for it was sweet to know that I was cared for
and that someone wanted me.

I hope none would mistake me.  I am an emotional goose at times, I
know, but thank goodness! I am no sentimentalist.  I am not possessed
with the idea that the squire wants to marry me and leave me his
fortune, for I am perfectly sure that he does not.  I heard his voice
the night before he went away, and it told me the secret of his
fidelity.  Besides, I wouldn't marry him if he did want it, for though
my heart tells me that I have loved him instinctively from the first
day of our acquaintance, and I love him now more than ever, it also
tells me that the affection is filial and nothing more.  What more
should it be?  It is all the more likely to be unselfish and sincere on
both sides that it has nothing of passion in it.  You see, unlike Widow
Robertshaw, I am not eager to change my state.

As to my decision, I did not hesitate for one moment.  When he needs me
I will go to him and, God helping me, I will act a daughter's part.
Act?  Nay, rather, I will do a daughter's loving duty.

I wrote him yesterday, telling him all the news of the little world of
Windyridge, but painting the shadows lightly.  In truth, they are heavy
and full of gloom just now.

I had just commenced work in my studio after reading the squire's
letter when Sar'-Ann burst in upon me, and throwing herself into one of
my ornamental chairs commenced to cry and sob hysterically, holding her
apron to her eyes and rocking her body to and fro in a frenzy of
abandonment.  I saw there was trouble of some sort, but recognised at
the same time the need of firmness.

"Sar'-Ann," I said, "you will break that chair if you carry on in that
fashion.  Restrain yourself, and tell me what is the matter."

Restraint and Sar'-Ann, however, were strangers to each other, and her
only response was to redouble her groans, until I lost patience.

"If you don't stop this noise, Sar'-Ann," I threatened, "I will get you
a strong dose of sal-volatile and make you drink it.  Do you hear?"

She did hear.  Sal-volatile, as a remedy, had been unknown in
Windyridge before my advent, but the few who had experienced it had not
remained silent witnesses to its power, so that the very dread of the
strange drug had been known to perform miraculously sudden cures in
certain cases; and "that sally-stuff o' Miss Holden's" had become a
word to charm with.

Sar'-Ann's groans subsided, but her breast heaved heavily, and her
apron still concealed her face.

"Cannot you speak, child?" I asked.  "What is the matter?  If you want
me to help you, you must do more than sob and cry.  Now come!"

"It's Ginty!" she stammered; "he's run away an' robbed his mother of
every penny, an' brokken her heart an' mine.  Oh, Ginty!  Ginty!
Whatever shall I do?" and the rocking and sobbing began again.

I got the sal-volatile this time and forced her to swallow it, taking
no heed of her protests.  Mother Hubbard came in, too, and added her
entreaties to my commands; and after a while she became calmer, and
then the whole story came out.

Ginty had been mixing in bad company for some months past.  Somewhere
in the hollow of the moors a couple of miles away he had stumbled one
Sunday upon a gambling school, conducted, I imagine, by city rogues who
come out here to avoid the police, and had been threatened with
violence for his unwelcome intrusion.  He had purchased immunity by
joining the school, and, unknown to everybody except Sar'-Ann, he had
visited it, Sunday by Sunday, with unfailing regularity, for the greed
of gain soon got hold of him.  Sometimes he had won small sums, but
more often he had lost all his wages and even pledged his credit, until
he had not known where to turn for money.

"I gave 'im all I had," said Sar'-Ann, "an' I begged him to drop it,
but he said he couldn't, an' he'd only to go on long enough to be sure
to get it all back an' more to it.  An' now, oh dear! oh dear! he's
robbed his poor mother an' made off; an' whatever I'm goin' to do I
don't know.  O God!  I wish I was dead!"

I left Mother Hubbard to console the stricken girl, fearing in my heart
that she had not revealed the extent of her trouble, and went straight
to Ginty's cottage, where a half-dozen women were doing their best to
comfort the poor mother, bereaved of her only support by what was worse
than death.  Children were there, too, their fingers in their mouths
and their eyes wide with wonder, staring vacantly at the object of
universal commiseration, and silent in the presence of a sorrow they
could feel but not understand.

The little garden was gay from end to end with multi-coloured crocuses,
and two or three men stood looking at them, not daring to venture
within the house, but ready to offer help if required.  One of them
muttered: "Bad job, this, miss!" as I passed; and the rest moved their
heads in affirmation.

Ginty's mother was seated at the little round table, her head in her
hands, and her eyes fixed upon an old cash box in front of her.  The
lid was thrown back and the box was empty.  The picture told its own
story; and to complete it a framed photograph of Ginty, which I had
given him only a few weeks previously, hung upon the wall opposite, so
that the author and his work were closely associated.

The women turned as I entered, and began to explain and discuss the
situation before the poor woman who was its victim, in that seemingly
callous manner with which the poor cloak and yet express their sympathy.

"Them's best off as has no bairns," said the blacksmith's wife; "ye
moil an' toil for 'em, an' bring 'em up through their teethin' an' all
make o' ailments, an' lay down yer varry life for 'em, an' this is how
they pay you back in t' end."

"Ay," said Sar'-Ann's mother, "shoo'll hev to be thankful 'at it's no
worse.  So far as I know he's ta'en nob'dy's money but 'er's, so I
don't suppose t' police 'll be after 'im.  Eh! but it's a sad job an'
all, an' he were bahn to wed our Sar'-Ann in a toathree week.  Well,
it's a rare good job for 'er 'at it's happened afore they were wed,
rayther than at after."

"But whativver is shoo goin' to do now 'at Ginty's gone?" inquired the
next door neighbour, Susannah; "Ginty kept 'er, an' _shoo_ can't do
nowt, not wi' them rheumatics in her legs, an' all that pile o' money
gone.  Nay, 'Lizabeth, lass, I nivver thowt ye'd scraped so mich
together.  It 'ud ha' served ye nicely for yer old age, but ye sud ha'
put it in a bank.  Whativver ye're bahn to do now, God only knows."

"We must see what can be done," I interposed.  "We must all be her
friends now that this trouble has come upon her, and do not let us add
to her distress by our discussion.  You will let us help you, won't
you?" I asked.

She did not speak or move, but just stared stonily into the empty box;
one would have said that she had not even heard.

I withdrew my hand as Susannah came forward.  Susannah is a good woman,
with a kind heart, and had known 'Lizabeth all her life.  She knelt
down on the stone floor and put an arm around her neighbour's waist.

"'Lizabeth, lass!  Ye munnot tak' on like this.  'E'll be comin' back
i' now.  It's 'appen nowt but a bit of a marlackin', an' ye shall come
an' live wi' us while 'e turns up.  Now what say ye?"

The mother's mouth set hard and her brow contracted.

"I shall go into t' work'us, Susannah; where else should I go?"

There was a murmur of dissent, broken by Susannah's:

"No, no, lass, nowt o' t' sort.  Ye'll come an' live wi' us; one mouth
more 'll none mak' that difference, an' Mr. Evans 'll be back i' now
an' put things straight for ye."

"Do ye think, Susannah, 'at your lasses 'll want to live wi' a thief's
mother, an' do ye think 'at I'll let 'em?  Ginty's a thief, an' all t'
worse thief because he's robbed his own mother, an' left 'er to starve.
But I won't be beholden to none of ye; I never 'ave been, an' I never
will be.  I've worked hard while I could work, an' I've saved what I
could an' lived careful, so as I wouldn't need to be beholden to
nob'dy; an' if Ginty has robbed me of my all 'e shall 'ave a pauper for
his mother, an' 'e shall 'ear tell of 'er in a pauper's grave.  I thank
ye kindly, neighbours, but ye must all go an' leave me, for I amn't
wantin' any comp'ny just now."

I saw that I could not be of service just then, so I came away with
some of the other women, intending to go again on the morrow.  But
though I went immediately after breakfast I found that she had gone.

"She was off afore I'd well got t' fire lit," said Mrs. Smithies, who
was my informant; "I looked across an' chanced to see 'er open t' door
and pull it to behind 'er.  She didn't lock it nor nowt, just like
snecked it.  She had a bundle in a red handkercher in 'er 'and, an'
such a 'ard look on her face, an' she never once glanced be'ind nor at
all them grand flowers, but just kept 'er eyes straight afore 'er.

"But I runs out an' I says: 'Nay 'Lizabeth, wherever are ye off, like?'
An' she says, 'I'm off to t' workus, so good-bye, 'Becca; an' if
there's ought in t' 'ouse after t' landlord's paid, you neighbours are
all welcome to 't.'  Not 'at I'd touch ought there is, miss, unless it
were that chiney ornament on t' mantelpiece, which I could like if it
were goin' a-beggin'.

"Well, I couldn't 'elp cryin' a bit, an' I axed 'er if she wouldn't
change 'er mind, but she were same as if she were turned to stone.  So
I went up t' road wi' her a bit, just a piece beyond t' 'All gates, an'
there she turned me back.  'Good-bye, 'Becca,' she says, 'an' thank God
on yer knees 'at ye've no son to rob his mother!  An' if my lad ever
comes back, tell 'im he'll find _his_ mother in a pauper's grave.'"


I walked down the fields into the sanctuary of the wood, where
understanding is sometimes to be found and freedom from painful
thoughts.  It was bitterly cold, but the sky was blue, so that in the
clear atmosphere every twig stood out with microscopic sharpness, and
it was impossible to miss the note of hope in the song of new-born
spring.

The trees were for the most part bare of colour--oak and elm and beech
were alike in the grey garb of winter--but the sycamores had burst
their buds and were clad in living green that delighted the eye and
quickened the pulse, whilst great blotches of yellow celandine blazed
in the sunshine of the open spaces like cloth of gold.

But the wood was voiceless at first to the question of my heart, and I
told myself that the "Why?" of life is unanswerable.  Then suddenly
there came into my mind the familiar words of Tennyson:

  "Behold, we know not anything;
    I can but trust that good shall fall
    At last--far off--at last, to all,
  And every winter change to spring,"

and at a bound my Inner Self found firm ground again.

"Grace," I said, "have you forgotten the closing verse of a preceding
stanza?" and I repeated aloud:

  "So fret not, like an idle girl,
    That life is dash'd with flecks of sin.
    Abide: thy wealth is gathered in
  When time hath sundered shell from pearl,"

and I determined to conquer my morbid tendencies and take a broader
outlook on life.  "An idle girl!"  That stuck.  "Ineffective depression
is a kind of idleness," I said to myself, "and I will kill it with
industry."

In obedience to this impulse I rose to my feet, and saw Farmer
Goodenough crossing the brook just below.  He smiled a greeting as he
came up, and we walked homewards together.

"Now I durst bet a new bonnet to a new hat, Miss 'Olden," he began,
"that I can guess at twice why you've come down 'ere, an' I'll throw
one guess away.  You're on what I should call in a manner o' speakin' a
'mopin' expedition;' now isn't that so?"

"But I don't wear bonnets, my dear sir," I rejoined; "and if you should
win a new hat you wouldn't wear it, being of such conservative
leanings.  Nevertheless, I am going to plead guilty to your indictment,
and I hope I shall be let off with nothing worse than a lecture."

"Nay, it's none for me to lecture anybody, for I know as little about
the rights o' things as I know about bonnets, but I've lived long
enough to know 'at' man's born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards,'
as t' Owd Book puts it; an' if you're goin' to fret your heart out
every time it comes your way you'll spend your life in a mournin' coach.

"'Cordin' to my way o' thinkin', Miss 'Olden, so long as human natur's
what it is you'll never get rid o' sufferin' an' trouble, an' what good
does it do to worrit yourself to death over what you can't mend?  If
you could mend it ever so little it 'ud be another matter.  Now look at
it i' this way.  We can all choose our own road when it comes to a
question o' right an' wrong, an' we should be in a poor way if we
couldn't.  My plough goes where t' horse pulls it, an' t' horse goes
where I guide it.  Now, neither t' plough nor t' horse has any
responsibility, so to speak; but I'd rather be a man an' have t' power
to choose where I go, even if I go wrong, nor be a beast or a machine.

"Now yon lad has gone wrong, an' I'm sorry for 'im, but accordin' to t'
Owd Book it's no use cryin' over spilt milk, an' both 'im an' us 'll
have to make t' best on 't.  So will Sar'-Ann; so will Ginty's mother.
Ginty knows he's done wrong, an' he's known t' difference between right
an' wrong all along t' road.  He's chosen, an' chosen badly, poor lad,
an' he's sufferin' for it, wherever he is, an' 'e'll have to sup more
sorrow still, there's no doubt about it, an' a bitter cup it'll be.

"But don't you see, this same bitter cup is med'cine for t' lad at same
time.  He's gone into t' far country now, but like t' other prodigal
he'll come to himself, as t' Owd Book says, one o' these days, an' we
shall have to leave him there till that time comes.

"But now, take t' lad's mother.  She's chosen her own way an' all.
Ginty's sin were greediness an' love o' money, an' his mother's sin is
pride.  We haven't all t' same nature, an' I'm not settin' up for a
preacher, for Reuben Goodenough doesn't live up to his name by a long
chalk, so I'm not judgin' t' woman, like a Pharisee.

"But I know this, if she'd just ha' let t' neighbours 'elp her a bit,
her 'eart wouldn't have been so sore, and t' blow 'ud have been
lightened for her.  We're a roughish lot i' Windyridge, but there isn't
many 'at wouldn't have made shift to help t' owd woman as well as they
could, but she couldn't stomach bein' helped.

"An' there's a taste o' revenge in it too, unless I'm sadly mista'en.
She thinks she'll pay t' lad out better wi' goin' to t' workus nor
ought else she could do; an' she likes to believe 'at he'll be
'eart-brokken if she's put in a pauper's grave.

"That's how I size things up.  All this trouble needn't have been, but
it is there, an' you an' me has no 'casion to mope over it.  Mopin'
won't help neither of 'em, but I daresay we can both 'elp 'em a bit if
we try.  I'm goin' to see if I can hear ought o' t' lad, an' if I do I
shall follow 'im up; an' I shall do my best to bring a bit o' sense to
his mother.  An' if you'll excuse me, miss--well, you're a woman.  Try
what a word o' prayer now an' again 'll do for 'em, i'stead o' frettin'
over 'em; an' 'be strong an' of a good courage.'  That's in t' Owd
Book, an' it's good advice."



CHAPTER XII

THE CYNIC EXAGGERATES

Easter is past and spring has burst upon us in all her glory.  The
landscape is painted in the freshest and daintiest tints: the beeches
are a sight to make glad the heart of man; the chestnuts with their
cones of cream and pink look in the distance like huge,
newly-replenished candelabra; the slender birches, decked in silvery
white and vivid green, stand gracefully erect, veritable "ladies of the
woods," as Coleridge called them.  Here and there a blackthorn bends
beneath its burden of snowy blossom, and calls a challenge to the
hedgerows which have wakened late, and are slow in their dressing.

Occasionally primroses may be seen, though they are not common in these
parts; but on the banks of the lower lane modest violets peep out shyly
from the shadows, and the dull purple flowers of a species of nettle
offer their bashful welcome to spring.  The gardens are gorgeous with
daffodils, and the woods with celandine and wild hyacinth; whilst our
humble friends, the buttercups, daisies, and dandelions, have sprung up
in abundance, the merry children of field and wayside charming us all
with their simple beauty.

I spend almost all my leisure time in watching the birds, an occupation
which is in itself a never-failing delight, and I puzzle myself with
questions which no man can answer, but which are imperatively asked all
the same.

Who guides these flocks of tiny travellers, who have journeyed by
trackless routes from distant lands hundreds of miles away, depending
only on the strength of their own wings, and the mysterious vital power
with which God has endowed them?  How do they recognise the familiar
haunts of a year ago?  How do they know that the woods in these
northern regions are ready for habitation?

I give it up; but I love to see them approach from the distance like a
swiftly-moving cloud, and disappear into the haze again after circling
over the trees which surround the Hall; and I love to walk through the
meadows and see how my feathered brothers and sisters are making the
most of the sunshine and the softened soil.

The blackbird is in full song now, and it darts past, me with its
chirpy "tuck-tuck-tuck"; whilst the lark soars upwards into the azure
with quivering song, full-throated, inimitable.

The sagacious rooks have been busy for days past with household cares,
and have gone about thieving (with a clear conscience, I trust) for
strictly domestic purposes; and the thrushes are just as industrious in
their search for dainties hidden in Mother Earth.

East winds prevail, and rheumatism holds some of my neighbours in
prison and in torment, but to me they bring exhilaration, a voracious
appetite, and the joy of life.  Mother Hubbard looks upon me with
loving envy and sighs for the days that are beyond recall.

Poor Mother Hubbard!  The hard winter has tried her severely, but she
never complains and is always sweet and cheerful, and promises herself
and me that she will be all right when summer comes.  I hope so, for
she has grown inexpressibly dear to her adopted daughter whom she does
her level best to spoil, and if we were parted now we should miss each
other sorely.

I have discovered that she is an excellent chaperon, and enjoys the
rôle beyond my power of description.  What a remarkable little woman
she is!  She knows that I keep a record of my experiences, and has got
it into her head that I am writing a book, and she is therefore always
on the look-out for the appearance of the hero.  She has given me to
understand that if she can only be in at the _dénouement_, when the
hero leads the blushing bride to the altar amid the ill-restrained
murmur of admiration from the crowd, she will be then ready to depart
in peace.  Needless to say, it is _I_ who am to be the blushing bride!
It is no doubt a very pleasing fancy, but I am afraid the dear old lady
will have to find contentment in an abstraction.

What amuses me most is her well-founded misgiving as to my ability to
deal adequately with such a situation in my "book."

"You are not very romantic, love," she said to me one evening, when she
had been making unusually large demands upon her imagination, to my
considerable amusement, "and I don't think you will ever be equal to
the greatest writers unless you cultivate that side of your nature.
You know, love, you are rather practical and common-sense and all that
sort of thing, and the men might not know how very nice you are."  She
came across and kissed me, hoping I did not mind her candour.

"You see, love, I was always rather romantic myself, and I think I
could help you a bit; though, of course, I am not clever like you.  But
I could just tell you what I think ought to be put in, and you could
find suitable language for it....  Now you're laughing at me!"

I believe she thought the hero had arrived when the Cynic turned up on
Easter Monday.

It was a truly beautiful day, typically April, except that the showers
were wanting, and the much-abused clerk who controls the Weather
Department must have been unusually complaisant when he crowded so many
pleasing features into his holiday programme.  Until the long shadows
began to creep across the fields it was warm enough to sit out in the
sunshine, whilst there was just sufficient "bite" in the air to make
exercise agreeable.

Every cottage garden had on its gala clothing and smiled a friendly
welcome to the passer-by, and a sky that was almost really blue bent
over a landscape of meadow, moor, and wood that was a perfect fantasy
in every delicate shade of green.  And the beasts of the field and the
fowls of the air lifted up their voices in their several degrees of
melody.

It had been a glorious Easter Day, and perhaps on that account I had
risen early on the Monday and gone out bareheaded to catch the Spirit
of the Morning.  Farmer Goodenough passed as I stood at the gate, and
threw one of his hearty greetings over his shoulder without pausing in
his walk.

"Look out for customers to-day, Miss 'Olden!  There'll be scores in t'
village this afternoon from Broadbeck way."

"But suppose I don't want them, Mr. Goodenough," I replied; "it's
holiday to-day."

"That 'ud be a sin," he shouted; "'make hay while t' sun shines,' as t'
Owd Book says, holiday or no holiday."

There was sense in this.  Customers had so far been scarce enough, for
I had been favoured with the patronage of only three paying sitters,
although I had been established in business for eight months.  My total
takings from the portraiture branch had not totalled thirty shillings;
and if my neighbours had not grown accustomed to it, the sign at the
bottom of the garden must have appeared very ridiculous indeed.  I
therefore anticipated the arrival of excursionists with no little eager
interest.

Half a dozen houses in the village had got out brand new boards
indicating that Teas were provided within, and I knew that from this
date forward until the autumn a very brisk trade would be done on sunny
Saturday afternoons and holidays.

Soon after half-past twelve I caught sight of the advance guard
approaching.  The footpaths between Windyridge and Marsland Moor became
dotted with microscopic moving figures which materialised usually into
male and female, walking two and two, even as they went into the ark,
as Widow Robertshaw might have observed.

When they reached the village street the sight of my studio seemed to
astonish them and tickle their fancy.  "In the spring a young man's
fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love"--and portraiture.  Quite a
group of young people gathered about my sign before two o'clock, and
from that time until five I never sat down for one minute.  As fast as
I bowed out one couple another entered, amid a fusillade of
good-humoured chaff and curtly-expressed injunctions to "be quick about
it."  I took so much money, comparatively speaking, in three short
hours that I began to see visions and dream dreams--but the Cynic
dispelled them.

He was standing in the garden, talking to Mother Hubbard, when I locked
up the studio, and although he was in shorts I recognised him at once,
for thus had I seen him in my dream.  I involuntarily glanced at myself
to make sure that I was correctly garbed and that it was really the
key, and not Madam Rusty's teapot, that I held in my hand.

He came forward smilingly and held out his hand.  "How do you do, Miss
Holden?  I had intended asking you to take my photograph, but
competition for your favour was so keen that the modesty which has
always been my curse forced me to the background."

"If it had forced you to the background you would have entered my
studio, Mr. Derwent," I replied; "all those who have competed
successfully for my favour were not deterred by dread of the
background.  I fear, however, it is now too late to endeavour to
encourage you to overcome your bashfulness."

"Indeed, yes:

  "'The shadows of departing day
  Creep on once more,'

as the poet hath it, and when one has walked eight or nine miles across
the moors the man within cries out for food and drink even more than
for art.  And therefore I have ventured to introduce myself to Mrs.
Hubbard and to inquire if she would make me a cup of tea, and she has
very kindly consented to do so."

I looked at Mother Hubbard, who had sufficient sense of the appropriate
to blush very becomingly.

"You old sinner!" I said, "how dare you impose upon my good nature!
Are there so few neighbours of ours who cater professionally for the
requirements of these 'men within' that we must needs enter into
competition with them?"

Mother Hubbard's nods and winks became so alarmingly expressive,
however, during the course of my speech, that I was in real danger of
becoming confused, so I turned to our guest and extricated myself.

"Be pleased to enter our humble abode, to which we make you heartily
welcome.  And in return for such poor hospitality as we can offer you,
you shall regulate the clock, which has lately developed certain
eccentricities, and nail up the creeper on the gable end.  Then if time
permits you shall rest your limbs on the wicker chair in the garden and
enlighten us as to what is going on in the world of men."

"With all my heart," he agreed, "and I promise to make so good a tea
that the debt will not be easily repaid."

He did pretty well, I must admit, and when it was over Mother Hubbard,
with a self-conscious cough, and a look that was eloquence itself,
expressed her fixed determination to clear away without my help.

"It's just a little fancy I have, love," she protested, as I tied on my
apron; "I really would like to do it all myself.  I am tired of
sitting, and knitting seems to try my eyes to-day."

"Mother Hubbard," I replied, "you are a hypocritical old humbug, and
you are wanting to persuade Mr. Derwent that I am not domesticated,
which is too bad of you.  And you know that I take my share of the
work."

"Really, love," said Mother Hubbard, who was almost in tears at the
denseness of my intelligence, "I'm sure Mr. Derwent will understand my
meaning."

I am only too much afraid that he did, for he looked at me out of the
corners of his eyes and said, with a merry twinkle which was provoking:

"I shall certainly need some information about the clock, and a little
assistance with the creeper.  Miss Holden, you had better yield to Mrs.
Hubbard's wishes."

"If you cannot regulate a clock without a woman standing over you, or
hold a bit of jasmine in one hand and a hammer in the other without a
woman's assistance, you deserve to remain in your ridiculous
background.  You will find the tools in the top drawer of the dresser.
If you will be good enough to get them and go on with your work, Mother
Hubbard and I will soon finish ours."

He grinned, and Mother Hubbard groaned; but before long we were sitting
together in the garden, with the knitting needles making music as usual.

The Cynic leaned back in his chair and watched the blue smoke curl
lazily from his cigarette.  The laughter of the visitors had ceased in
the streets, but the voice of song was wafted occasionally to our ears
from the fields below.  How is it that homeward-bound excursionists
always sing?

"I take it, Miss Holden, that you are a Prototype, which I spell in
capitals.  But I venture to predict that you will not have a large
following.  The modern craze is for kudos, and in this particular the
success of an enterprise like yours is not likely to be remarkable."

"What, exactly, is my enterprise?" I inquired.  "Please interpret me to
myself."

"The surface reading is easy," he replied, "but the significance is
hieroglyphic.  Who can read the riddle of woman's motives?  They are
past finding out, and man can only grope for the meaning with
half-blind observation, having eyes indeed, but seeing not; hearing,
but not understanding."

"As, for instance?" I again inquired.

"I will come to your case shortly," he continued, "and meantime I will
speak in parables.  I went into a fashionable draper's shop the other
day, as I had business with one of the principals.  He was engaged, and
I elected to wait and was accommodated with a seat near the glove
counter.  My experiences were distinctly interesting, but I cannot yet
read the riddle they offered me.  Before I was summoned to the office
three customers had approached the counter at separate times, and the
procedure was in all three cases on approximately similar lines.

"The lady sailed up to the counter, deposited her parcels upon it,
seated herself upon the waiting chair, adjusted her skirt, and then,
turning to the deferential young gentleman whose head was inclined
artistically to one side in the way that is characteristic of the most
genteel establishments, murmured languidly: 'Gloves, please.'

"The deferential young gentleman brought his head to the perpendicular
and replied: 'Gloves!  Yes, madam,' and proceeded to reach down a
half-dozen boxes from the shelves at his back.

"'This, madam,' he said, bringing forth a pair of grey suedes, 'is a
beautiful glove.  One of Flint's very best make, and they are produced
specially for our firm.  Every pair is guaranteed.  We can very
strongly recommend them.'

"The lady took the gloves in her hand, stretched them, and examined
them slowly and critically, whilst the D.Y.G.'s head dropped to the
artistic angle again.

"After having eyed them in silence for a minute or more, and half
conveyed the impression that they were the very gloves she was seeking,
the lady placed them without a word on the counter, and the D.Y.G. with
perfect understanding replaced them in the box.

"He opened another box containing suede gloves in tan.

"'This also is an excellent glove, madam,' he repeated, with all the
precision of a gramophone; 'it is one of our best selling lines, and
its wearing qualities are unsurpassed.  You may buy more expensive
gloves, but none of better value.'

"This pair is subjected to the same slow and critical examination,
after which the lady inquires:

"'What is the price?'

"'The price of these gloves, madam, is seven-and-six.'  Professing to
confirm his statement by minutely examining the ticket, though, of
course, he is perfectly well aware that there is no mistake, he
repeats: 'Yes, madam, seven-and-six.'

"Again the gloves are laid upon the counter, and again the D.Y.G.
replaces the lid and attacks another box!  Meanwhile the lady's gaze is
wandering abstractedly around the shop; picking out an acquaintance
here and there she smiles a recognition; and she seems a little vexed
when a third pair of gloves is placed before her.  The same performance
follows, with the same serenity on both sides, but the price has
dropped to five shillings.

"Then the kids are produced, in all shades and at all prices, and are
in turn deposited upon the counter without comment.

"At last the D.Y.G. has exhausted his stock and his familiar
recitations, but fortunately not his urbanity, and he looks at his
customer with deprecation in his eyes.

"'You had some white kid gloves in the window a week or two ago,' she
murmurs, smiling sweetly; 'ten buttons; they were a special price, I
think.'

"'Two-and-eleven, madam?' he asks, hopefully.

"'I believe they were.  Yes, two-and-eleven,' she responds, as though
consideration had confirmed her recollection; and in two minutes more
her wants are satisfied, and she departs to another counter to the
performance of Scene 2 in the same act."

"And this is typical of woman's methods?" I ask.

"It serves to show," he replies, "how unfathomable her methods are to
mere man.  When _we_ unimaginative mortals enter a shop for a similar
purpose we say:

"'I want a pair of tan kids, seven and three-quarters, about
three-and-six,' and before the current of cold air which came in with
us has circulated round the shop, we are going out with the little
parcel in our pocket.  Now why does not woman do the same?  _You_ don't
know--nobody knows; nobody really wants to know, or to see her act
otherwise."

"It is a very silly exaggeration," I said, "and if it is characteristic
of _your_ methods they are certainly not past finding out."

The Cynic is really a very irritating person.  He has a way of ignoring
your rejoinders which is most annoying, and makes you want to rise up
and shake him.  Besides, it isn't courteous.

"Now to return to your own case, Miss Holden.  It is not typical and
therefore I call it prototypical.  _Why_ you have forsaken London
society (which in this case I spell with a small 's,' to guard against
possible repudiation) is possibly known to yourself, though personally
I doubt it.  Why, having found the hermitage and the simple life, you
have adopted photography as a profession in a village where you will be
fortunate if you make an annual profit of ten pounds is another enigma.
But kudos is not everything, and I see in you the archetype of a race
of women philosophers of whom the world stands sorely in need."

"You talk like a book," I said, "and use mighty big words which in my
case need the interpretation of a dictionary, but I'm afraid they cover
a good deal of rubbish, which is typical, if I may say so, of the
ordinary conversation of the modern smart man."

"Nay," said he, "but I am in downright earnest.  For every effect there
must be an adequate cause.  You may not understand yourself.  The why
and wherefore of your action may be hard to discover, but I was wrong
when I said that it was unfathomable.  Given skill and perseverance,
the most subtle compound must yield its analysis, but it is not given
to every man to submit a woman's actions to the test, and I beg you to
believe that I was not impertinent enough to make any such suggestion."

"Nevertheless," I said, "I may some day allow you to put my actions
into the crucible, and see if you can find my real motives.  I confess
I do not understand myself, and I have nothing to conceal.  I think I
should rather like to be analysed."

"Then I may come again?" he asked.

"You may come to be photographed, of course," I replied.


I wonder how old he is, and what he does!



CHAPTER XIII

WHITSUNTIDE EXPERIENCES

New sensations have elbowed and jostled each other to secure my special
attention this Whitsuntide, until I have been positively alarmed for my
mental equilibrium.  The good people here seem so sedate on ordinary
occasions that one fails to realise that after all there is a good deal
of the peacock and the kitten in the make-up of many of them; but
Whitsuntide reveals this.

The peacock in them manifests itself as they strut up and down in new
clothing of brilliant dye, affecting an unconsciousness and unconcern
which deceives nobody.  The shocks I received during that memorable
Sunday, when the village turned out in its new finery, I still
experience, like the after-tremors of an earthquake.

Pray do not imagine that Windyridge knows nothing of the rule of
fashion.  Every mother's daughter, though not every daughter's mother,
owns her sway and is her devoted subject.  If the imperious Dame bids
her votaries hobble, the Windyridge belle limps awkwardly to and
fro--on Sundays and feast days--in proud and painful obedience,
heedless of the unconcealed sneers and contempt of her elders.  If
headgear after the form of the beehive or the castle of the termite ant
is decreed, she counts it a joy, like any fashionable lady of fortune,
to suffer the eclipse of her good looks under the vilest monstrosity
the milliner's ingenuity can devise.  Ah, me!  How fine a line, after
all, divides Windyridge from Mayfair!

The kitten in them gambols and makes fun whole-heartedly for several
hours at a stretch on the afternoon of Whit Monday, and with such
kindliness and good humour that one cannot help feeling that the world
is very young and one's self not so very old either.

I thought the rain was going to spoil everything.  Day by day for a
week it had come down with a steady determination that seemed to mean
the ruin of holiday prospects.  The foliage certainly looked all the
fresher for it, and the ash took heart to burst its black buds and help
to swell the harmony of the woods.  But these are æsthetic
considerations which do not appeal to people who are looking forward to
a good time--a time of fun and frolic for some, and harvesting of
shekels for others.

When I woke on the Sunday, however, old Father Sol had shaken off his
lethargy, bundled the surly clouds into the store-room, locked the door
and put the key into his pocket, and strolled forth to enjoy the sight
of his welcome.  Meadow, pasture and moor, green hedgerow and brown
road were silvered over with sunshine, and the flowers looked up and
laughed the tears away from their faces, and told themselves that
everything had been for the best; and the cocks crowed lustily from the
walls where they had flown to greet the sun, and all the birds came out
from eave and tree and lowly nest, and sang their doxology in happy and
tuneful notes which told how brimful they were of joy.

Long before church-time it was so hot that the fields were steaming
like drying clothes before the fire, and as I walked back from
Fawkshill after the morning service I felt sure that there need be no
misgiving about the dryness of the grass for the children's treat on
the morrow.  Everybody was concerned for the children!  Young women of
eighteen and young men of the same age had no real concern or interest
in the weather except in so far as it involved disappointment to the
children!  Well, well!  How easily we deceive ourselves, and how
unwilling we are to acknowledge the child within the man!

In the afternoon I went to chapel with Mother Hubbard, and saw and
heard that which made me want to laugh and cry at the same time, and I
really do not know why I should have done either.  My emotions seem to
take holiday sometimes and enjoy themselves in their own peculiar way
without restraint.  Let me set down my experiences.

Do you know what a "sitting-up" is?  If you live in Yorkshire or
Lancashire no doubt you do, but if you are a southerner or a more
northern northerner the probability is that you do not.  When Mother
Hubbard told me that the children were to "sit up" at the chapel on
Whit Sunday I stared at her without understanding.  "Do they usually
stand up or lie down?" I inquired.

Then it occurred to me that this was, perhaps, a metaphorical way of
speaking, and that there was, so to speak, a "rod in pickle" for the
bairns on this special occasion, but why I could not imagine.  Yet I
knew that when an irate Windyridge father undertook to make his lad
"sit up," it usually betokened some little difficulty in sitting at all
until the soreness wore off.

This, however, foreboded nothing of so unpleasant a nature.  When I
entered the light and airy little sanctuary I found thirty or forty
children ranged in rows one above the other, in front of the little
pulpit.  Not many boys were there, and there was nothing specially
attractive about those who were, beyond the attractiveness that lurks
within the face of every cleanly-washed child.  But the girls were a
picture; they were all in white, but most of them had coloured sashes
round their waists, and coloured ribbons in their hair, and one or two
were distinguished by black adornments, betokening the recent visit of
that guest who is so seldom regarded as a friend.

Some of the frocks were new, but most of them were old; and it is safe
to assume that the younger children were wearing what had served the
turn of a past generation of "sitters-up."  In some cases they were so
inadequate to the requirements of the long-limbed, growing maidens who
wore them, that it cannot be denied that the dresses "sat up" even more
than their owners, so that the white cotton stockings were taxed to the
utmost to maintain conventional decency.

To listen to the children's performances, rather than to the address of
the preacher, the chapel was uncomfortably crowded by what the
handbills called "parents, relatives and friends."

The door was wide open, and my eyes often strayed to it before the
service began, for it framed a picture of yellow meadows and waving
trees, of brown moorland and ultramarine sky, with drowsy cattle in the
pastures a hundred feet below, which seemed strangely unfamiliar, and
rather reminiscent of something I had once seen or dreamed of, than of
what I looked upon every day of my life.  The explanation is simple
enough, of course.  I saw just a _panel_ of the landscape, and with
limited vision the eye observed more clearly and found the beauty of
the scene intensified.

But when the prayer was ended--a rather long and wearisome one, to my
thinking, on such a fine day, when all nature was offering praise so
cheerily--the children's part began.

They sang children's hymns, the simple hymns I had sung myself as a
child, which I hope all English-speaking Christian children sing: the
hymns which belong to the English language and to no one church, but
are broad enough to embrace all creeds, and tender enough to move all
hearts, and which must find an echo in the Higher Temple, where
thousands of children stand around the throne of God.

A wee lassie of five stood up to sing alone.  As the thin, childish
voice rose and fell my heart began to beat fast, and I looked at the
fair little head through a veil of tears.  They made an aureole which
transformed Roger Treffit's firstborn into a heavenly cherub, and I was
carried into that exalted state when imperfect speech and neglected
aspirates are forgotten:

  "Jesus, tender Shep'erd 'ear me:
    Bless Thy little lamb to-night;
  Through the darkness be Thou near me;
    Keep me safe till mornin' light."


Was there one present who did not at that moment feel very near to the
sheep-fold of the Good Shepherd?  I am a Churchwoman, and by training
and association inclined to look distrustfully upon Dissent, but that
child's lispingly tuneful prayer taught me that I was in the House of
God; for surely I know at the heart of me that neither in the Catholic
mountain nor the Anglican Jerusalem is God solely to be worshipped, but
wherever men seek Him in spirit and in truth; and this afternoon a
little child was leading us.

  "All this day Thy 'and has led me.
    And I thank Thee for Thy care;
  Thou 'ast clothed me, warmed an' fed me;
    Listen to my evenin' prayer."


It was not evening, for the sun was still high in the heavens and the
shadows short upon the earth; but He with whom the night and the
morning are one day heard and understood, I do not doubt.

Without a pause the sweet voice went on:

  "Let my sins be all forgiven;
    Bless the friends I love so well;
  Take me, when I die, to 'eaven,
    'Appy there with Thee to dwell."


Amen and amen, dear little Lucy!  Surely no stain of sin as yet has
darkened your soul, but the thought of the good Lord who "forgiveth
iniquity, transgression and sin" cannot come to us too soon.  Let it
sink into the plastic wax of your memory and your heart, and harden
into certainty, and then when the time comes for you to die--whether
the day be near or distant--it will be well with you, "happy there with
Thee to dwell!"

There were other solos, but none which moved me like this of little
Lucy's, and there were recitations by two of the boys which affected an
entirely different compartment of my emotions.

They were highly moral pieces, I know, and they exhorted us to a course
of conduct which must have been beneficial if followed; the trouble was
that the eye had so much employment that the ear was neglected and so
missed its opportunities.

Each boy licked his lips vigorously to start with, and then glued his
eyes upon one fixed spot, as if he saw the words in bold type there.
If he did, an invisible compositor had set them up in the west window
for the one lad, and on a corner of the ceiling for the other.  The
swiftness with which the words came out reminded me of a brakeless
gramophone running at top speed; and it made the performers gasp for
breath, which they dared hardly stop to renew lest memory should take
wings and fly away.  I am sure I was relieved when the final bob to the
congregation was reached and the contortions ended.

The address was tedious, like the prayer, but fortunately it was not
long; then the preacher came in to tea, it being Mother Hubbard's turn
to entertain him.

The chapel people take the preachers according to an arranged plan with
which they are all familiar.  My old lady regards the privilege as in
the nature of a heavenly endowment, and she has more than once reminded
me that those who show hospitality to God's ministers sometimes
entertain angels unawares.  No doubt that is so, but the wings were
very, very inconspicuous in the one who ate our buttered toast that
Sunday.

All the same he is, I am sure, a very good man, and a man of large and
cheerful self-sacrifice which calls for admiration and respect, and I
do sincerely honour him; and it is no fault of his that his great big
hands are deeply seamed over their entire surface, and that the
crevices are filled with black.  He works, I discovered, at an
iron-foundry, and I believe his hands were really as clean as soap and
water could make them.  But when all has been said, he need not have
spread them over all the plate whenever he helped himself to another
slice of bread, and he might just as well have taken the first piece he
touched.  I suppose I am squeamish, but I cannot help it.  I found some
amusement in pressing him to eat all he had touched, however, and
seeing that he did it.

His conversation was chiefly remarkable for the use he made of the
phrase "as it were."  Mother Hubbard regards him as a genius, but I
doubt if he is anything more than an intelligent eccentric.  It must
have been his flow of language which got him "on the plan" that is to
say, into the ranks of the local preachers of the Wesleyan Church--for,
like the brook, he could "go on for ever."

He is a tall, heavy man, perhaps fifty years of age, with a mass of
hair upon his head but none upon his face, except where thick eyebrows
hang like brushwood over the twin caverns of his eyes.  As he speaks he
raises his right hand and holds the palm towards you, moving it slowly
to and fro for emphasis, and he measures his words as he goes along.

He was describing his experiences in a new chapel where he had recently
preached, a gothic building, "more like a church, as it were, than a
chapel."

"Ah yes, Mrs. Hubbard," he said (he never addressed me direct, perhaps
because he suspected that I was not one of the confraternity), "I
always mistrust a chapel with a spire to it; and the spirit of
Methodism, as it were, cannot dwell in transepts or chancels.  There is
not the heartiness, not the freedom, which we associate with our
chapels.  The air is heavy, as it were, with the spirit of
sacerdotalism.  Why, ma'am, at this particular chapel--church, they
call it--they had choir stalls, filled with men and boys, and a
liturgical service, as it were.  Ah yes!  No sound of 'Hallelujah!' or
'Praise the Lord!' escaped the lips of the devout worshipper.  They
were stifled stillborn, as it were.  It was cold, ma'am, cold and
formal; John Wesley would never have found his heart strangely warmed
in such an atmosphere.  No!

"And yet, ma'am, there was something in the arrangements that stirred
my feelings, as it were.  Here, on my right hand, were grouped the
scholars; children in the springtime of life, as it were.  Yes! it was
a moving sight, ma'am, to a man of feeling."  (I wickedly thought of
his hands.)  "Life was before them--spread out like a map, as it were,
with nothing but the outline; or like a copy-book which would be soiled
and disfigured with many blots, as it were, before the end was reached.
Yes!

"And on my left were the elders of the flock, gathered there, I was
told, because the acoustic properties, as it were, are excellent in the
transepts: the grey-headed sires, who had almost fought through the
battle and were now awaiting the recall, as it were.  Men and women in
the late evening of life, as it were, who would soon pass behind the
sunset.

"And in front of me were the middle-aged, those who were bearing the
burden and heat of the day, as it were.  Yes! labourers in life's
vineyard; earning their bread in the sweat of their brow, going forth
to their work until the evening, as it were.

"Yes!  And as I looked upon them, young and middle-aged and old, I said
to myself in the language of the preacher: 'All go unto one place; all
are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.'--Ecclesiastes iii. 20,
ma'am."

I got up and went into the garden, and filled my nostrils with the
fragrance which earth was sending to heaven--as it were--and felt
better.

Whit Monday was a hard day for me.  After dinner my Easter experiences
were repeated, and sitters came thick and fast.  I really believe my
work is giving satisfaction, for some of my last holiday customers had
sent their friends to be "taken"; and some called themselves to say
"How d'ye do?"

Nothing eventful transpired, however, and no Cynic turned up to disturb
the serenity of my temper with sarcastic observations upon women, so I
climbed the hill at the back of the house and joined the merry throng
of school-children who were having a jolly time with their elders in a
field at the top.  And there I forgot my tiredness, and romped for a
couple of hours with the wildest of them, having as much of the kitten
in me as most folk.

When the red had finally died out of the western sky the dustman came
round, and the eyes of the little ones grew heavy.  But the grown-ups
were enjoying themselves far too much to think of leaving so soon, so I
gathered the infants around me and told them all the wonderful stories
which had been locked away in the dusty cabinets of my memory.  Not the
ordinary nursery tales, which are as well known in Windyridge as in
Westminster, but some of the simpler records of Greek mythology, and
extracts from the lives of the saints.

Little Lucy came and laid her head upon my shoulder and asked if it was
all true.  I tried to show her the truth that was hidden in the
make-believe, but I fear with small success.  Her eyelids were held
open with difficulty as she continued to question me.

"Is comets true?"

"Comets?" I inquired; "what do you know of comets?"  (One is about due
now, and the children are on the tip-toe of excitement.)

"Dada says they has long tails, an' runs up an' down the sky when I'se
asleep, like little mouseys."

"You are not afraid of them, are you?" I asked.

"Dunno.  I think I is afraid of them, but I always asks God."

"What do you say?" I ventured.

The little head was growing heavier, and it was a very sleepy voice
that murmured:

"God bless ev'ybody ... an' don't let them be 'ungry, so they won't die
... until You makes 'em ... 'cept it be comets an' things."

Now what could anybody make of that?  I carried the child home, and she
did not wake when I undressed her and put her to bed.



CHAPTER XIV

BARJONA FALLS INTO THE TRAP

"Arternoon, miss!"

It certainly was afternoon, for only a few minutes earlier the little
clock in my studio had chimed three, and I was not in the least
expecting visitors, particularly of the paying kind, and was hard at
work upon the accumulated negatives of Whitweek, when the blunt
ejaculation caused me to turn with a start.  My astonished eyes fell
upon a transformed Barjona!

Barjona in a frock coat of modern cut, with a white waistcoat, and
slate-coloured trousers, correctly creased!  Barjona, with a starched
shirt and a satin tie, vividly blue!  Above all, Barjona in a silk hat,
which he was at that moment carefully removing from his head, as though
anxious to prevent the escape of some bird imprisoned within!

It was not a bird, however, that he captured and produced, but an
elaborate "button-hole," properly wired, as one could see at a glance,
and with its stems wrapped in silvered paper; and Barjona chuckled as
he stepped to the mirror and adjusted it in the lapel of his coat.

"Took that out quick, I can tell you....  Gives the show away, that
does ... thought once over I'd throw it in t' gutter ... but I says,
'Nay, it cost fourpence' ... sixpence she asked for it ... sixpence ...
mustn't waste it ... smarten up my photygraph, too....  No, no, mustn't
waste fourpence!"

"Why, Mr. Higgins," I exclaimed, "you must surely have been to a
wedding!  But none of our friends in Windyridge have been getting
married to-day, have they?"

"No, no ... Marsland Gap ... widow-woman ... name o' Robertsha' ... now
Mrs. Higgins ... Mrs. S. B. Higgins ... she's in the trap now," jerking
his head towards the roadway.

This was too much for my gravity.  I had just enough presence of mind
to shake hands with him and offer my congratulations, and then gave way
to uncontrollable laughter.

"It's your own fault, Mr. Higgins," I blurted out at length.  "Last
October you told me that you were too old a fox to be caught again;
there were to be no traps for you, and when you said Mrs. Higgins was
in the trap it amused me vastly."

"Meanin' the cart, of course," he interrupted, looking somewhat
sheepish, but still sufficiently pleased with himself.

"I know," I replied, "but I was just wondering how you come to be
caught in the other trap, the trap of wedlock--you, a man of years and
experience, and pre-eminently a man of caution."

He hung his hat on the support of my reflecting-screen, and passed his
hand thoughtfully over his smooth crown--I had always felt sure that
his head was bald--and I imagined I saw an uneasy look creep into his
eyes.

"It be very cur'ous, Miss Holden," he said, in a confidential tone,
"very cur'ous....  Said to myself many a time ... hunderds of times....
'Don't 'ee be a fool, Simon ... women be kittle cattle,' I says ...
some weepin' sort ... some blusterin' ... but all masterful ... an'
costs a lot o' money ... awful lot o' money to keep up....  Went into
't wi' my eyes open ... oh yes; very cur'ous....  Come to think on 't
... dunno why I done it."

"Don't worry, Mr. Higgins," I said soothingly; "many animals flourish
splendidly in captivity, and if they miss their freedom they never say
anything about it, but look quite sleek and contented.  And I am sure
you have secured a very capable and good-natured wife, and are to be
heartily congratulated.  Now fetch her in and I will be getting the
camera ready."

"Fetch her in?" he inquired.

"Yes, I shall be ready by the time you return, and it will be the work
of only a moment or two to arrange you suitably."

"But she isn't goin' to have 'er photygraph taken," he said, with an
emphatic shake of the head; "only me."

"Do you mean to tell me," I remarked severely, "that you will not be
photographed together on your wedding day?  Mr. Higgins, it is quite
the customary thing, and I certainly never heard of such a procedure as
you are suggesting.  Besides, it costs no more."

"Costs the same? ... for two as for one?"

"Certainly," I replied.

"Taken separate, like?" he continued.

"No, if taken separately the cost would be doubled, but on wedding
occasions the bride and bridegroom are almost invariably photographed
together, and that involves no extra cost."

He thought this over for half a minute and then made up his mind
definitely.

"I'll be taken by myself," he said, "... to match this 'ere."--He drew
from his breast-pocket a rather faded photograph, cabinet size, which
displayed a younger Mrs. Robertshaw in the fashion of a dozen years
before.--"Maria got these ... just afore Robertsha' died ... has best
part of a dozen on 'em .... gave Robertsha' 's away ... pity to waste
these ... 'll do nicely."

"But Mr. Higgins," I protested, "these photographs are faded, and they
are not the Mrs. Higgins of to-day.  Nobody wears that style of dress
now, and she has actually a fringe!  Throw them away, and do as I
propose."

"I see nowt wrong wi' 't," he replied, examining it critically.  "She's
fatter now, an' isn't as good lookin' ... more wrinkles, like....
Makes a nicer pictur, this does ... plenty good enough for 'er."

"Mr. Higgins!" I exclaimed indignantly.

"If--you--please--miss," he said emphatically, "it's me as gives the
order ... one dozen, miss ... to match this 'ere."

There was nothing more to be said, and I took two negatives of the
wretched little man, in the first of which he is shown standing as
erect as nature permits, with the silk hat fixed firmly upon his head,
and one hand in his trousers' pocket, so that the white waistcoat might
not be concealed; and in the second, sitting with one leg thrown over
the other, and the silk hat upon his knee.  It was in vain that I
pointed out that neither pose would correspond with that of his wife,
which was a mere vignetted head and shoulders; Barjona had made up his
mind, and was not to be moved, and I felt thankful, with Mother
Hubbard, that I was not Mrs. Higgins.

I went out to speak to her when the operation had been completed, and
at our approach the neighbours who had been keeping her company smiled
and drew back a little.

"Good-afternoon, Mrs. Higgins," I said.  "I have already congratulated
your husband; let me now wish you much happiness."

"Well, now, to be sure, Miss Holden," she replied, and accompanying the
words with a most decided wink, "that remains to be seen.  But if he
doesn't give me much, he'll 'ave less, I can tell you.  I think we
shall get on when we've settled down a bit; an' anyway, time won't hang
as 'eavy on my 'ands, so to speak."

"Come, lass, we must be going," interrupted Barjona, who had climbed up
beside her.

"As soon as ever I've finished," replied Mrs. Higgins, smiling upon him
sweetly.  Nevertheless, she tightened the reins and prepared to move.

"I'll drive, lass," said Barjona, holding out his hand.

"I'll keep 'em mysen, lad," replied his wife; "I've 'eld 'em all this
time while t' mare was still: I'll 'old 'em now when she's on t' move.
Come up, lass!"

She threw me another portentous wink, and the mare moved slowly down
the lane.

"Poor Barjona!" murmured Mother Hubbard, as we sauntered back to the
cottage.

"I wonder if you are right," I remarked rather viciously.  "I certainly
hope you are.  At present my sympathies lie in the other direction, and
I am disposed to say 'Poor Maria!'"

"Yes, love," said Mother Hubbard, "perhaps she has the worse of the
bargain; but I think the old fox has got into a trap that is going to
hold him very tight this time, and it will nip hard."

"I hope it nips until he squeals," I said impenitently.

This was on the Monday following Whitweek.  The next day brought me a
long, chatty letter from the squire, who feels wonderfully better and
talks of coming home again soon.  He cannot understand why the doctors
always say "not just yet."  He is at Sorrento now, and chaffingly
condoles with me on the remote prospects of a continental trip, at any
rate on his account.  I wonder if he guesses how relieved I am, and how
eagerly I anticipate his home-coming.

In him I seem to have a friend who understands, and I am beginning to
think that is the only real kind of friend.  I have said all along that
I do not understand myself.  I am always coming across odd little
tracts of territory in my nature which surprise me and make me feel
something of an explorer, whereas I cannot help feeling, somehow or
other, that the squire knows all about me, and could make a map of my
character if he chose, with all my moods and whims and angularities
accurately indicated, like so many rivers and mountains.  And so far
from resenting this I am glad of it, because he is so kind and fatherly
with it all, and not a bit superior.  Now the Cynic, although he is no
doubt a mighty clever man, makes you so frightfully conscious of his
cleverness.

By the way, I have made a discovery about him.  He is a barrister, and
quite an eminent one in his way.  I suppose I might have found this out
long ago by asking any of the Windyridge men, but for some occult
reason I have never cared to inquire.  The discovery came about in this
way.

When I had finished reading the squire's letter, and before proceeding
to my work, I took up the _Airlee Despatch_ which Farmer Goodenough had
left with us, solely because it contained a short paragraph on the
"Wedding of a well-known Windyridge character"--no other, in fact, than
our friend Barjona.

As my eyes travelled cursorily over the columns they were arrested by
the following:

"Mr. Philip Derwent, whose brilliant advocacy admittedly secured a
verdict for the plaintiff in the recently concluded case of Lessingham
v. Mainwaring, which has occupied so much space in all the newspapers
recently, is, as most of our readers will know, a native of Broadbeck.
His father, Mr. Stephen Derwent, was engaged in the staple trade of
that town, but was better known for the interest he took in many
religious and philanthropic movements, and in those circles his death
five years ago occasioned a considerable gap.  If report may be relied
upon Mr. Philip Derwent's decision to read for the bar was a
disappointment to his father, but the striking success which has
attended him all through his legal career has sufficiently justified
his choice.  It was a matter of general comment in legal circles during
the recent proceedings that Mr. Derwent more than held his own against
such eminent luminaries as Sir George Ritson and Mr. Montgomery Friend,
who were the King's Counsel opposed to him.  He showed remarkable
versatility in the conduct of his case, and his cross-examinations and
repartees were brilliant in the extreme.  Whether his law is as
reliable as his rhetoric may be open to question, but one looks forward
to his future career with special interest, as he is still on the sunny
side of forty, and is therefore young enough to win many laurels.  His
mother died when he was quite young, and he is himself unmarried."

Why I should have felt low-spirited when I put the paper down I do not
know.  It is just these unexplained "moodinesses" which make me feel so
cross with myself.  The squire's letter had been bright, and the
paragraph about Barjona amusing, and certainly the reference to Mr.
Derwent was ordinary enough.  Still I stared at nothing quite intently
for a few minutes after reading it.  Then I shook myself.

"Grace Holden!" I said, "plunge your face into cold water, and go
straight to your work in the studio.  You have negatives to retouch,
and prints to tone and develop, and nearly a dozen miniatures to paint,
all of which are shamefully overdue; and no amount of wool-gathering
will bring you in the thirty shillings which you have fixed as your
weekly minimum.  Now be a sensible woman, and 'frame,' as your
neighbours say."

So I "framed," thinking the while how contemptuously the Cynic would
smile at my thirty shillings.



CHAPTER XV

ROSE ARRIVES

The surprises of life are sometimes to be counted amongst its
blessings.  I daresay Reuben Goodenough, who is one of the most
religious men I have met--though I am puzzled to know where his
religion comes from, seeing that he rarely visits church or
chapel--would affirm that all life's incidents are to be regarded as
blessings.  "All things work together for good," as "t' Owd Book" says.

He argued this point with me at considerable length one day, and though
he did not convince my head he secured the approval of my heart.  He is
distinctly a philosopher after his kind, with the important advantage
that his philosophy is not too ethereal and transcendent, but designed
for everyday use.  He professes to believe that there are no such
things as "misfortunes," and so takes each day's events calmly.  For
the life of me I cannot see it, but I rather cling to the thought when
the untoward happens.

Be that as it may, the surprise which "struck me all of a heap," to use
a common expression of my neighbours, in the last week of June was a
blessing that one could count at the time.

It was evening, and I was standing in the garden among the roses and
pinks, engaged in removing the few weeds which had escaped Mother
Hubbard's observant eye, and pausing occasionally to wonder which I
admired the more--the stately irises in their magnificent and varied
robes, or the great crimson peonies which made a glorious show in one
corner--when the gate was pushed open, and an elegant young lady, in a
smart, tailor-made costume and a becoming toque, glided towards me.  I
took another look and gasped for breath.

"Well, Grace," said the apparition, holding out a neatly gloved hand,
"one would say that you were astonished to see me."

"Rose, you darling!" I ejaculated, "come and kiss me this minute, and
show me which particular cloud has dropped you at my feet!  My dear
girl, you have stunned me, and I feel that I must pinch you to see if
you are really flesh and blood."

"If there is to be any pinching, my dear Grace, _I_ prefer to do it.
It will prove my corporeal existence just as conclusively, and be less
painful--to me.  So this is Windyridge?"

"Rose!" I exclaimed, "for goodness' sake don't be so absurdly practical
and commonplace, but tell me why you have come, and where you are
staying, and how everybody is at old Rusty's, and how long you are
going to be in the north, and all about yourself, and--and--everything."

"All that will take time," replied Rose calmly, as she removed her
gloves; "but I will answer the more important parts of your questions.
I am staying here, with you.  If you are very nice and kind to me you
will press me to remain ten days with you, and I shall yield to
pressure, after the customary formal and insincere protests.  Then you
will put on your hat and walk with me down to Fawkshill station, and as
there are no cabs to be had there we will bring up my bag between us."

"_That_ we need not do," I said.  "There are half a dozen strong boys
in the village, any one of whom would fetch your belongings for love of
me and threepence of your money."

"Happy Grace!" she sighed; "'love rules the court, the camp, the
grove,' as saith the poet.  Be it even so.  Summon the favoured swain,
discharge his debt, and I will be in thine."

"Rose!  Rose! you are the same incorrigible, pert, saucy girl as of
yore, but you have filled my heart with joy.  I am treading on air and
giddy with delight.  We will have ten days of undiluted rapture.  Come
inside and look round my home.  Mother Hubbard is 'meeting for tickets'
to-night, and will not be back for a good half-hour."

"Meeting for what?" inquired Rose blankly.

"Meeting for tickets," I repeated.  "My dear old lady is a Methodist
class leader, and to 'meet for tickets' is a shibboleth beyond your
untutored comprehension.  But the occasion is one of vast importance to
her, and you are not to make fun of her."

She was pleased with everything and expressed her pleasure readily.  In
spite of her composed manner she is a very dear girl indeed, and though
she is years younger than I am she and I always hit it exactly.  When
she saw the tiny bed and realised that we should have to share it she
laughed merrily.

"_I_ will sleep next to the wall to-night," she said, "because I am
very tired, and it would be annoying to be always falling out.  I shall
sleep so soundly that your bumping the floor will not disturb me, so
you will have nothing to worry about.  Then to-morrow night I will take
the post of danger, and so alternately."

"We might rope ourselves together," I suggested, "and fasten the ends
to a stake outside the window.  I don't think the bumping idea appeals
to me."

But Mother Hubbard planned a better way on her return, and contrived a
simple and ingenious addition to the width of the bed by means of
chairs and pillows, which served our purpose admirably.

Over the supper table Rose told us all about her visit.  "You see, I
have not been quite the thing lately: nervy and irritable and that sort
of nonsense, which the chief charitably construed into an indication of
ill-health.  He was awfully decent about it and suggested that I should
see a doctor.  I told him I was all right, but he insisted, so I saw
Dr. Needham, and he told me I was run down and required bracing air.
'Mountain air would be better than the seaside,' he said.  'You haven't
friends in Scotland or Yorkshire, I suppose?'  Then I thought of you.
'I have a friend who went wrong in her head about twelve months ago,' I
said (or words to that effect), 'and she ran away to the Yorkshire
moors.  She might take me in if I could get off.'  'The very thing,' he
said.  'Will you have any difficulty with your employer?'

"'I don't think so,' I replied; 'not if it is really necessary.  The
chief is a discriminating man, and I believe realises that my services
are invaluable, and he will put up with a little temporary
inconvenience in order to retain them permanently, I imagine.'  You are
accustomed to my modesty, Grace, and will not be surprised that I spoke
with humility.

"Well, he smiled and said he would give me a certificate, so I took the
certificate and my departure and interviewed the chief in his den!  It
was as I had anticipated.  I was to get away at once.  Ten days on the
moors would put the wine of life into my blood.  That was theory.  The
practical assumed the form of a five-pound note, which enables me to
play the part of the grand lady--a rôle for which I was designed by
nature, but which providence spitefully denied me.  I stated my
intentions to the Rusty one, who coldly sent you her regards, but I
determined to take you by surprise, hoping to catch you unprepared and
unadorned, whereas you are neither the one nor the other.  Then I
boarded the two o'clock Scotch express at St. Pancras, changed trains
at Airlee, and _me voilà_!  By the way, what about my bag?"

The bag came all right in due course, and in the days that followed
Rose and I gave ourselves up to enjoyment.  It was like living one's
life twice over to share the delight she showed in her surroundings.
Fortunately I had got abreast of my work, and we ordinarily devoted our
afternoons to business and spent the mornings and evenings in Nature's
wonderland.

During those ten glorious days the sun worked overtime for our special
benefit, and put in seventeen hours with unfailing regularity.  He
smiled so fiercely on Rose's cheeks that she would have justified her
godmother's choice if she had not preferred the hue of the berry, and
turned a rich chestnut.

Mowing was in full swing in the meadows, and we took our forks and
tossed the hay about and drank barley-water with the rest.  We followed
the men whose heads were lost in the loads of hay which they carried on
their backs, and saw how they dropped their burden in the haymow.  We
stood like children, open-mouthed, admiring the skill and industry of
the man who there gathered it up and scattered it evenly round and
round the mow.

We went into Reuben Goodenough's farmyard, and I showed her the barn
owls which have taken up their abode in his pigeon loft, and which live
amicably with their hosts and feed on mice.  We descended the fields to
the woods, which the recent felling has thinned considerably, but which
have all the rank luxuriance of summer, and revelled amid the bracken
and trailing roses.  We stood by the streamlet where the green
dragon-flies flitted in the sunshine, and where millions of midges
hovered in the air to become the prey of the swallows which rushed
through with widely open mouths and took their fill without effort.

We spent hours on the moor, where the heather, alas! had not yet
appeared, but which was a perfect storehouse of novelties and marvels.
Who would have thought, for instance, that the little golden bundles
which cling to the furze, and which we thought were moss, were just so
many colonies of baby spiders?  We watched the merlins, the fierce
cannibals of the moors, which dash upon the smaller birds and are even
bold enough to attack the young grouse at times.  What did we not do!
Where did we not go!  And neither of us suffered from surfeit.

"Grace," said Rose, as we lay on our backs in my paddock, and gazed
upon the white cumulus clouds which floated above, "I withdraw all I
have said about your madness, and I now declare you to be particularly
sane.  If ever I go back to town, which is doubtful, I will describe
your sanity in terms which will relieve the fears of all at No. 8.  My
personal appearance will give colour to my statements, and I shall
probably observe, with the originality which is a mark of genius, that
God made the country and man made the town.  But I have not yet decided
to return, although I took a ten days' ticket.  Your studio seems to
have served its purpose: is there any opening in Windyridge for a
talented stenographer and typist?"

"The prospects would not appear to be exactly dazzling," I replied,
"but I'm willing to keep you here on the off-chance that something may
turn up."

"Some_body_'s turning up," said Rose, hurriedly assuming a sitting
posture, "and we had better get up."

I imitated her example, and saw that the Cynic had leaped the wall and
was coming towards us.

I did the necessary introductions and we sat down again.  "I called,"
said the Cynic, "in the hope that there might be a clock to regulate or
a creeper to nail up, in which case I might earn a cup of tea.  Also,
to make arrangements for my photograph."

"I couldn't expect you to do any work in those clothes," I replied.
"Is this a visit of ceremony, or have you come in your Sunday best in
order to have your portrait taken?  All my local sitters insist upon
putting on the clothes in which they feel and look the least
comfortable."

"No," he said, with a glance at his black trousers--the rest of him was
hidden by a light dust-coat--"the fact is, I am dining with the vicar
and spending the night at the vicarage.  I must go to town on Saturday,
but to-day and to-morrow are free.  I propose, with your gracious
permission, to spend an hour here, walk on to Fawkshill, and return
to-morrow for the dread operation to which I have referred."

"I am afraid it will not be convenient to-morrow," I said; "really I am
very sorry to upset your plans, but Miss Fleming returns to town on
Saturday, and we have promised ourselves a full day on the moors.  Of
course, if you could come very early----"

Rose interrupted.  "Don't let me hinder business, my dear Grace, or I
shall have you on my conscience, and that will be no light burden.  We
can modify our arrangements, of course."

"What about my conscience, in that case?" said the Cynic.  "I am not
really very particular about the photograph, especially in my 'Sunday
best,' and I can easily come up some other day.  But--who is going to
carry the luncheon basket?"

"There is no basket," I returned; "our arrangements are much more
primitive, and the burden grows lighter as the day proceeds.  Moreover,
I don't think it is very nice of you to suggest that the photograph is
of slight importance.  Don't you realise that it is my living?"

"I realise the truth of the poet's assertion that woman is 'uncertain,
coy, and hard to please.'  A moment ago you were declining
business--declining it with an air of polite regret, it is true, but
quite emphatically.  Now, when I not only refuse to disturb your
arrangements, but actually hint an offer of assistance, you scent a
grievance."

Rose was looking very hard at me, and I felt vexed with the man for
placing me in such an awkward position.  And to make matters worse the
consciousness of Rose's stare upset my self-possession, and it was she
who spoke first.

"If Mr. Derwent would join us I think it would be very nice," she said,
so demurely that I stared at her in my turn, "and it would be
an--education for him.  And he certainly could carry the sandwiches and
our wraps, which are a bit of a nuisance."

What could I say?  I was annoyed, but I could only mutter something
incoherent which my companions construed into an assent, and Rose
instructed the Cynic to be at the cottage at ten o'clock in the morning.

To add to my confusion, Mother Hubbard was manifestly excited when we
went in to tea, and she telegraphed all sorts of meaning messages to
Rose when the Cynic's back was turned.  I was cross with myself for
becoming embarrassed, but I hate to be placed in a false position.
What on earth is the Cynic to me?

I thought he was rather subdued and not quite as satirical as usual,
but he was obviously very much taken with Rose, who was quite brilliant
in her cuts and thrusts.  She soon took the Cynic's measure, and I saw
how keenly he enjoyed the encounter.  I left them to it very largely,
much to the disappointment of Mother Hubbard, who developed a series of
short, admonitory coughs, and pressed my foot beneath the table a score
of times in a vain effort to induce me to shine.  It was not my "night
out," and her laudable endeavours simply resulted in a sore foot--the
injured member being mine!

We accompanied him a little way along the road, and when we left him
Rose turned upon me:

"Now 'fess!" she said.

"Rose, don't be a goose!" I replied, whilst the stupid colour flooded
my face; "there is nothing to confess.  I have seen Mr. Derwent only
twice before in my life.  He is little more than a stranger to me."

"A remarkable circumstance, however, my dear Grace, is that you have
never mentioned his name in your rather voluminous correspondence, and
yet you seem to be on familiar and even friendly terms; and our good
friend Mother Hubbard----"

"Mother Hubbard, Rose, is romantic.  The moment the man turned up at
Easter she designated him as my lover.  Let me be quite candid with
you.  If I was not so constituted that blushing comes as naturally to
me as to a ripe cherry you would have had no reason to suspect
anything.  It is the innocent, I would remind you, who blush and look
guilty.  Mr. Derwent is a barrister--a friend of the vicar and of the
squire--and he amuses himself by calling here when he is in the
village--that is all.  And if you are going to be as silly as Mother
Hubbard it is too bad of you."

I felt this was frightfully weak and unconvincing, as the truth so
often is.

"U-m!" said Rose, spreading the ejaculation over ten seconds; "I see.
Then there's nothing more to be said about it.  He isn't a bad sort, is
he?  Why in the world you never mentioned him in your letters I cannot
conceive."

It was too bad of Rose.



CHAPTER XVI

THE CYNIC SPEAKS IN PARABLES

"What makes you call me the Cynic?" he inquired.

It was Rose's fault; she is really incorrigible, and absolutely
heedless of consequences!  If I had dreamed that she would have done
such a thing I would never have told her, but that is the worst of
blanket confidences.  I call them "blanket" confidences because it was
after we had gone to bed, when it was quite dark and Rose was inclined
to be reasonable, that I had explained to her calmly and quite
seriously that I had not mentioned the Cynic in my letters because
there had been no reason to do so; and Rose had accepted the
explanation, like a good girl, and kissed me to show her penitence.
Then I told her of the nickname I had given him, which she thought very
appropriate.  But I would have held my tongue between my teeth if I had
contemplated the possibility of her revealing the secret; and here she
had blurted it out with a laugh, to my utter and dire confusion.

We had had a glorious day, and I must admit that the Cynic had added
not a little to our enjoyment.  He said he would have felt like a fool
to be walking out in black West of Englands, so he had called at the
Hall and got the butler to find up an old shooting jacket of the
squire's, which was much too large for him, but in which he appeared
quite unconcernedly a full ten minutes before the time appointed.

"It isn't a good fit," he remarked with a laugh, "but the other toggery
was impossible for the moors."

Under his guidance we had gone farther than we should otherwise have
ventured, and he had pointed out a hundred beauties and wonders our
untrained eyes would never have seen.  He had interpreted the varying
cries of the curlew, and shown us how intently the gamekeeper listened
to them, so that he might know whether man or beast or bird was
attracting the watcher's notice.  He had pointed out the trustful
little twite, which I should have mistaken for a linnet, and followed
it to its abode, where he told us we should find a single feather stuck
conspicuously in the edge of the nest; and it had been even so.  Our
botanical knowledge would have been greatly increased if we had
remembered all he told us, but though we did not do so we were deeply
interested, for he had none of the air of the schoolmaster, and he did
not expect us to take our lessons very seriously.

And now the day was spent, and our energy, though not our spirits, had
flagged considerably.  We were sitting on the edge of the moor, a mile
or so away from home, and the flush of evening spread over the valley
and the distant hills, turning the landscape into mystery.  The lamp of
the setting sun was flickering out in the west, but the handmaidens of
the night had lit their tiny torches here and there, and they shone
faintly behind the veil of twilight, giving promise of greater radiance
when the time should come for them to go forth to meet the crescent
bride who tarried in her coming.

I was gazing on it dreamily, and breathing out peace and goodwill
towards men when Rose dropped her bomb, and shattered my complacency.

"What makes you call me the Cynic?"  He turned his eyes upon me and
awaited my answer with evident curiosity.

I looked at him in my turn.  He had been bareheaded all day, for he had
left his hat at the Hall, and he was now leaning back against a rock,
his hands clasped behind his head, and the mischievous look I have so
often noticed sparkling in his eyes.  He really is rather a fine man,
and he has certainly a good strong face.  I replied, calmly enough to
outward seeming:

"Because it has seemed to me an apt description."

"I hope not," he replied.  "Cynicism is the small change of shallow
minds.  All the same, it is interesting to be criticised.  I did not
know when I offered to analyse your character that I was being
subjected to the same test."

"Indeed you were not," I protested; "it was an appellation that came to
me spontaneously whilst you were discoursing so luminously on woman a
few months ago, and it is not to be taken seriously.  It was wicked of
Rose to tell you."

Rose laughed and put an arm around me.  "Never mind, old girl," she
said, "I'm going back to-morrow, so you must forgive me."

"I'm afraid you have not distinguished with sufficient care, Miss
Holden, between satire and cynicism.  I daresay there is a strain of
satire in my composition, but I do not plead guilty to cynicism.  A
cynic is a surly, misanthropical man, with a disordered liver and a
contempt for the good things of life."

"Oh, Grace!" murmured Rose in pathetic tones, "how could you!"

"Nonsense!" I said, "I am not going to allow you to pretend to take me
seriously.  Do you think I subjected the word to subtle analysis before
I adopted it?  I tell you it came to me as an inspiration, heaven-born,
doubtless, but if you don't like it pray forget it; and for your
comfort I will add that I have never attached to the word the meaning
you read into it.  I know you have no contempt for art and poetry and
the good things of life.  Now tell us what you see before you?"

I wished to change the subject, and referred simply to the view, as
anyone might have known.  Night was dropping her blue curtain as
gently, as silently, as the nurse spreads the coverlet over the
sleeping babe; but the stupid man professed to misunderstand me.

"I see before me," he replied, "two interesting specimens of the sex
which ruins the peace and creates the paradise of the bulk of mankind.
I would call them charming but for the fear that my candour might be
mistaken for cajolery, which my soul abhorreth."

"Oh, please stop this!" I pleaded, but Rose said: "Let him ramble on,"
and he continued:

"The one whom I judge to be the elder is tall and well proportioned.
She has a fairly deep brow which indicates some intellectual power, but
whether this is modified or intensified by cranial depressions and
protuberances, a mass of dark hair, arranged in a fashion that beggars
my feeble powers of description, hides from my eyes.

"Her mouth is firm, and set above a determined chin, which would lead
me to conclude that she has a will of her own and is accustomed to
exercise it; but her eyes are tender and pleading, and so near the
reservoir of her emotions that the waters readily overflow, and this in
some measure counteracts the qualities of the chin.  She has a pretty
wit and a ready tongue--usually--and has lived long enough to be
convinced of her own powers; rather masterful with the world at large,
but not mistress of herself."

"Thank you!" I interrupted.  He bowed.

"She dresses with taste and has tidy and methodical habits; is ever
ready with sympathy, but would never care deeply for anybody who did
not show her a heap of affection."

"Do I cross your hand with silver?" I inquired.

He ignored my interruption and turned his whimsical gaze upon Rose.

"Her companion, whom I have had fewer opportunities of observing, is
slight, fair, and small of stature.  I should say she might be
scheduled as 'dangerous,' for she flashes most unexpectedly.  She is
rather proud of her self-possession, and delights in appearing cool and
unemotional, but in reality she is neither.  She has simply cultivated
repression for the sake of effect.  She is intense in her likes and
dislikes and quite capable of hating those whom she regards with
aversion, whilst she would apotheosise anyone for whom she really
cared.  Her wit is more brilliant but also more superficial than that
of her friend, and her mental outlook is clearer and consequently more
optimistic.  She prides herself on unconventionality, and is at heart
the slave of conventionalism.  In a word she is a paradox, but a very
agreeable and fascinating one."

"I had much rather be a paradox than a paragon," said Rose; "but after
your very inadequate delineation of my character I am trying to
determine in which pigeon-hole of my carefully concealed emotions I am
to docket you."

"Is that quite true, Miss Fleming?" inquired the Cynic, looking at her
keenly.  "I should have said you made up your mind on that point last
evening."

The tan upon her cheeks and the cloak of twilight covered Rose's
blushes to a large extent, but I am sure the colour deepened, and I am
convinced the Cynic saw it.

He rose and gathered up the wraps.  "It is getting chilly," he
observed; "shall we be moving?"

I turned the conversation into another channel.  "You are going to town
this week-end.  Is most of your time spent there?"

"Yes," he replied, "my work lies in London, though Broadbeck is my
home, and I ran down very often, merely, I believe, to breathe the
murky air and refresh my soul with the Yorkshire burr.  I go back
refreshed without knowing why.  I have no relatives here now, and few
friends, but the few I have, though they do not guess it, are my
greatest comfort."

"Comfort!" ejaculated Rose; "what can you know of the need of comfort?
You, at any rate, are self-centred and self-possessed.  You have
evidently a sufficient income and lots of the good things of life; you
are entirely your own master, and on the high-road to fame; what more
can you want?"

"Much," he replied simply; "and chiefly the sympathy which understands
without explanations, and I get that only amongst my own folk.  Do you
know what that means?  I have all the things you speak of: an
increasing practice, an adequate income, good health, work that brings
its own pleasure, an appreciation of life, consequent, no doubt, upon
all these things, and an ardent longing for the relief which only real
sympathy affords."

"I don't understand," said Rose, "notwithstanding my clear outlook on
life."

"Do you?"  The Cynic turned to me.

"Partially," I replied.  "I can understand that none of these things
satisfies in itself, and that you may have 'all things and abound,' and
yet crave something you cannot work for and earn.  But I should have
thought your profession would have left you little time for sentiment,
even if it afforded scope for it."

"You know, then, what my profession is?"

"You are a barrister, and, as Rose says, on the high-road to fame."

"Well," he replied, "I suppose that is true.  I have as much work as I
can undertake and I am well paid for it.  Success, in that sense, has
come, though slowly, and I am considered by many a lucky fellow.  My
future is said to be full of promise.  I have, in the sense in which
you spoke, 'all things and abound,' and when I step into the arena of
conflict I am conscious of this, and of this only.  In the heat of the
fray the joy of battle comes upon me, and I am oblivious to all else.

"Then comes the after-thought, when the fray is ended and the arena has
been swept clean for the next encounter.  'What lack I yet?'  In the
process of gaining the whole world am I going to lose myself?  And the
throng presses upon me and slaps my back and shakes my hand and shouts,
'Lucky dog!' into my ear, and I smile and look pleased--am
pleased--until my Good Spirit drives me north, where the air is not
soft, but biting, and men speak their minds without circumlocution and
talk to you without deference, and give you a rough but kindly thrust
if they think you need it.  And there I find vision and comfort."

"You are utterly beyond me," said Rose.  "You are soaring in the clouds
miles above my head, and I cannot yet understand why you need comfort."

"Do you remember the young ruler who went away sorrowful?" he replied.
He was looking straight ahead, with a sad, fixed look in his eyes such
as I had not seen there before.  "I wonder if he went north and found a
friend who understood, and from him gained comfort.  You see, he _knew_
that something was lacking, but could not make up his mind to pay the
price of the remedy, and even the Great Physician, whilst He gave the
unwelcome prescription, pitied and loved him.  The world called him a
lucky dog, and he called himself one--with a reservation.  And he
wanted comfort; not the comfort which simply says, 'Buck-up, old man!'
but that which says, 'Brace-up, old man!  If to sell all is the summum
bonum, go, see the broker now and have done with it.'  I wonder if he
went eventually."

This was a new mood, and I glanced at the Cynic curiously.  What had
become of his cynicism?  He was speaking quietly, contemplatively, and
I felt sure there was meaning behind his words.

I said nothing, but Rose shook her head and muttered: "You speak in
parables."

"Let me give you a parable," he continued.  "Once upon a time a certain
boy on leaving school left also a large number of marbles.  These were
claimed by two of his companions, and one of the two took possession of
them.  Then arose a great outcry on the part of him who would have
taken them if he could, and he dragged his fellow before a council of
their peers.  The monitor was judge, and two sharp young fellows who
were good in debate and of ready tongue acted as counsel for the
claimant and his foe respectively.

"In the end judgment was given for the claimant, who carried off
triumphantly the spoils of battle.  And this judgment was given, not
because the defendant had no right to the marbles, but because the lad
who championed his cause was not so glib of speech nor so ready in
argument as the fellow on the other side.  Now it came to pass that the
lad who won the case for his friend discovered soon after, what he had
suspected all along--that the latter had no real claim to the marbles
at all, and that they had been taken unjustly from the lad to whom they
rightfully belonged.  Yet the judgment of the court could not be upset.
What was he to do?"

"Nothing," replied Rose promptly.

"Why?" inquired the Cynic.

"It was the fortune of war," she answered; "the case was properly tried
by an impartial court, and the defendant should have taken care to
secure the services of the smarter advocate.  It would be a lesson to
him for the future.  The world would never get on if everyone worried
about things of that sort."

"And you?" he said, turning to me.

"Was there no chance of reversing the judgment?" I inquired.

"None: it was irrevocable."

"Had the plaintiff's counsel reason to suspect, did you say, that his
client's cause was unjust before the verdict was given?"

"He became practically convinced of it as the case proceeded, but not
absolutely certain.  Yet he fought for his client with might and main."

"Had the plaintiff's counsel any marbles of his own?" I continued.

"He had.  Quite a fair store."

"Sufficient to pay back the lad who had suffered the unjust judgment?"

"About sufficient; no more."

My heart thumped painfully, but I did not hesitate to answer: "I think
he ought to have parted with his own marbles, and so redressed the
wrong and saved his soul."

There was silence for a moment before the Cynic spoke: "I think so,
too."  Then, irrelevantly: "There is something about this northern air
that is very bracing."



CHAPTER XVII

GRACE BECOMES DEJECTED

I had no time to feel depressed after Rose left on Saturday, for the
afternoon brought me more customers than I could well accommodate.

My reputation must have travelled as far as Broadbeck, for the greater
number of my patrons are from that town.  They consist for the most
part of engaged couples, or couples that obviously intend to become
engaged; and whether it is the excellence of my productions, or the low
charges, or just the fun of being photographed by a woman in a hamlet
like Windyridge that attracts them, I have not been able to determine,
and it does not very much matter.  Mother Hubbard, on the other hand,
finds the explanation simple.  I am the most talented of artists, with
all the indifference of the genuine genius to adequate remuneration.

I was thoroughly tired when tea-time came and my day's labours ended,
and was quite ready to be petted and made a fuss of by my dear old
lady.  By the way, the summer has unfortunately not brought back her
old vigour, and I cannot help worrying a little about her, though she
is as bright and optimistic as ever.

I got a long letter from Rose on Monday morning.  It had been written,
of course, on the Sunday, whilst the scent of the moors was still in
her nostrils; but though she feels the change pretty badly I am sure
she is not so depressed as I am.  It must have taken her a heap of time
to fill so many sheets of notepaper with her small, business-like
handwriting.  There were a good many sparkling sentences in the letter,
but I cannot say that I felt particularly cheerful when I had finished
it.

It appears that the Cynic was travelling by the Midland express, and
they were companions all the way from Airlee.  He was already in the
train, which starts from Broadbeck, and he caught sight of her on the
platform.  It seems strange that he should have gone round that way,
for I remember he told us once that he always travelled by Great
Northern, as it is the shorter route.

I fancy he was rather taken with Rose, and I know she liked him very
much, for she said so quite openly.  It would do the Cynic good to be
married, especially as he seems to need comforting, and Rose is one of
the dearest girls in existence, and would make him a good wife--at
least, I hope she would.  And although she has to earn her own living,
she is really very well connected, and had a quite superior education.
It was simply her father's recklessness that threw her on her own
resources, and I should say that her origin is as good as the Cynic's.

And yet I should hardly have thought that she was just his sort.  He is
a man who will make large demands upon his wife if she is to be a real
helpmeet, and he needs to be understood.  I am sure Rose did not
understand him.  But perhaps, after all, she would be very suitable in
one way.  She is ambitious, and would see that he did not hide his
light under a bushel in social circles; though, to be sure, society
might turn up its nose at _her_.  It would worry me terribly if
anything should come of this chance encounter under my chaperonage, and
either party should be unhappy.  It may be undue sensitiveness on my
part, but I feel rather oppressed with a sense of responsibility.

Of course, looking at the matter quite calmly, it seems ridiculous to
be building air-castles like this, but I am _very fond_ of Rose and I
would not for worlds have her marry unsuitably; and I cannot help
respecting the Cynic after what he said the other night.  It would be
just terrible if they were to make a mess of their lives.  Marriage is
such a very serious undertaking, and lots of really sensible people
appear to lose their heads altogether when they come to make the
important choice.  However, it is none of my business, and I won't
refer to it again.

Rose says he was very attentive to her during the journey, and handed
her quite a number of illustrated papers, including some ladies'
journals.  If I were a barrister I should never dream of buying papers
which make their appeal to the other sex; but perhaps he finds it
necessary to the study of human nature.  A man in his profession must
have to be as many-sided as a poet.

I conclude that she did not read the magazines, for she says so much
about their conversation that it is evident there was little
opportunity, and besides, they lunched together in the diner, and that
must have taken up a lot of time.  She admits that she teased him, and
that he seemed to like it, but she does not say what about.  He said
the other day that she was dangerous.  I wonder if he really thought
so, and is on his guard against the danger, for Rose has always been
somewhat of a flirt, and it would hurt a man like him deeply if he
really cared and found she was only playing with him.  He is the sort
that----  But I said I would not refer to it, and here I am doing so.

He told her he hoped to see something of her occasionally, and she was
unconventional enough to hope the same.  They are sure to make
opportunities easily enough when they are both in London.  I feel glad
for Rose, for he is the kind of man who will steady her a bit, but I
hope she----  Oh, bother it!

Madam Rusty received my kind messages, it appears, with apparent
indifference, so Rose waxed eloquent over the Sunday dinner table, and
painted a picture of my surroundings in the most brilliant colours from
the palette of her imagination.  She stimulated the curiosity of the
boarders, who showed a great interest in me and my adventures, and were
eager to know what kind of fare was provided in the wilderness, and
what was the character of the heathen in whose midst I dwelt; to all of
which she replied in a strain of subdued enthusiasm which she assured
me carried conviction.  I was regarded, she informed them, with the
same respect as was naturally accorded to the squire of the place, with
whom I was on terms of extreme intimacy.  Good air and really good food
(Rose emphasised this for madam's benefit) had brought to my cheeks the
glow of health; and my abilities had secured for me a clientele which
would make a West End photographer think sad thoughts.  This, goodness
knows, was true enough.

She went into ecstasies over Mother Hubbard's cooking, and caused the
company to believe that the fatted calf, and all other makes of fatted
beasts and birds of the primest and tenderest quality, appeared upon my
table regularly during her visit.  When I remember the "pot-luck" we
had so often laughed over at dinner-time, my admiration for Rose's
imaginative faculties assumed huge proportions.

The heathen amongst whom I dwelt were, it appears, Nature's gentlefolk,
hating unreality and humbug as they hated the devil.  I think this was
really rather clever of Rose, for it hits off some of my neighbours
exactly, though the devil with whom they are on speaking terms might
possibly seem a mild and blunt-horned personage to some of my London
acquaintances.

There was a good deal more to the same effect, and having driven the
Rusty one to the verge of apoplexy, Rose retired to her own room and
penned her epistle.  Seclusion evidently induced reaction, and she
confessed to the depression I have hinted at.  I don't wonder, poor
girl.  I should hate to be going to work in the crowded city after
having tasted the freedom of the moors.  All the same, there are
compensations if you look for them.  If you have friends who are
congenial you have more opportunities of seeing them in a place like
London.  Everybody goes to London.  Perhaps the Cynic will take her to
see the new play at the St. James's Theatre.  I shall be very glad, I
am sure, if they become firm friends.  My only doubt is of Rose.  She
is so thoughtless and flighty, and might do harm without meaning it....

Oh, bother it again!  I'm going to bed.



CHAPTER XVIII

CARRIER TED RECEIVES NOTICE TO QUIT

I have not been sleeping very well lately, and my dreams have given me
the creeps and left me so irritable that if I had only a considerate
and philanthropic employer like the one Rose patronises I am sure I
should have been sent away somewhere for a change.  Being my own
employer, I stay on and make Mother Hubbard look worried.  And the
worst of it is she does not discuss my state of health as a sensible
woman should, but just pets me and tells me it "will all come right in
the end."  When I ask her what it is that is to come right she smiles
and relapses into silence.  If she were not so gentle and loving and
altogether sweet I should feel inclined to shake her.

Did I not say that the devil had his intimates in Windyridge?  I nod to
him myself just now, but Simon Barjona Higgins has gone into business
with him on quite a large scale, and my friend Maria must surely be
casting longing backward glances in the direction of widowhood.  It
makes one feel that matrimony is a snare which women are fools to enter
with their eyes open; though I suppose all men are not given up to
Satan.

Fancy Rose saying there were no humbugs about here, when such a man as
Barjona flourishes unabashed!  But when I come to think of it, she
didn't quite say that: she simply said that my neighbours hated humbug
as they hate the devil, and Barjona loves them both.  The thought of
him makes me sick, and when I found out what an old Shylock the man is
I went into the studio with a hammer and smashed his negatives into a
hundred pieces, with as much zest as if I had been a militant
suffragette breaking windows in Regent Street under the eyes of a
scandalised policeman.

If nature had been clothed in drab on Wednesday afternoon when the
report of unusual occurrences in the village drew me to the little
group of excited people who were discussing them it would have been
appropriate to the occasion.  But she wasn't--she was dressed in her
gayest and most captivating summer clothing.

I think that in itself is vexing.  Why should nature look so pleased
and happy when people are miserable, and so emphasise the contrast?  If
I am grumpy to begin with it makes me feel ever so much worse to know
that nature is laughing at me, and is just as bright and optimistic as
I am wretched.  And, contrariwise, if I do wake up one morning
determined to "bid dull care begone"--who was it used that expression
recently?--and be merry and cheerful, the skies are sure to be like
lead, and the ram is certain to drip, drip, in that sullen, persistent
fashion that would drive Mark Tapley himself to pessimism.  There is a
law of cussedness, I am convinced, and I believe I have discovered it.
Mother Hubbard says it is my liver, and prescribes pills!

When I joined the group there were so many eager to tell me the story
that it was some time before I could make out its purport.  By the way,
I ought to point out that I am _not_ becoming a gossip, but I am
interested in the news of the village.  We have no _Daily Mail_ to
chronicle our doings, and our methods are therefore necessarily
primitive.  Besides, to hold aloof from one's neighbours is a sign of
what Rose calls "snorkiness."

One of the dearest little cottages in the village is inhabited by a man
called Carrier Ted.  I had never been inside it, but its
picturesqueness appeals to me every time I pass it, and you may often
see visitors leaning over the low wall of the garden and enthusing
about it.  It is just a little one-storeyed, two-roomed cot, not nearly
so big as some gentlemen's motor garages, but large enough for one
occupant, or even for two if their tastes are simple.

The ground rises steeply behind it, and tall trees cover the hill from
base to summit, so that the little white house is quite overshadowed by
them.  I call it a white house, but the walls are almost concealed by
green and yellow and crimson, where the canary creeper and climbing
roses stretch forth their slender arms to embrace the brown, thatched
roof.

The garden is evenly divided into two parts by the flagged footpath
which leads straight to the door, and it is always ablaze with colour
in the summer time; but the arrangement is more orderly than in some of
our Windyridge gardens, for Carrier Ted, albeit old-fashioned in his
tastes, is an epicure in horticulture.  Only a few days ago Rose and I
had stopped to admire his bloom, and especially the wonderful moss
roses which were his especial pride, and to have a word with the old
man whose skill and industry had aroused my friend's enthusiasm.

When I first came to the village I took him to be of weak intellect,
principally, I believe, because he always wore a tall silk hat of
antiquated pattern.  It was a very rough silk of uncertain colour, and
gave one the impression that it was constantly brushed the wrong way;
but whether working in the garden or walking along the road, Carrier
Ted might always be recognised by his peculiar headgear.

But there is no daftness about him really.  He is just a quiet, even
taciturn old man, who is alone in the world and has saved sufficient
money to enable him to spend the evening of life in comfort, and who
finds in his home and garden both business, recreation and religion.
He is a little, bent man, round-faced and ruddy in spite of his eighty
odd years, with thick grey eyebrows, and a half-circle of beard
stretching from ear to ear beneath his chin.  When you praise his
flowers he pauses for a moment, draws his sleeve across his brow in a
confused sort of way, as if to remove perspiration, and smiles.  The
smile and the action always remind me of a bashful child who would like
to be friendly but dare not all at once.  The smile lights up his face
and reveals the angel within him; but he answers only in monosyllables,
and seems relieved when you pass on your way.  It was this man and his
cottage who were the subject of excited conversation.

"It's a burnin' shame, Miss 'Olden, that's what it is!" exclaimed Widow
Smithies, "an' if I'd my way I'd wring that old heathen of a Barjona
his neck for 'im, that I would; the good-for-nowt, graspin' old
money-lender 'at he is."

"He wants hoss-whippin'," said Sar'-Ann's mother, "an' if I were a man
I'd do it!  But our men fowk are no more use nor two penn'orth o' cowd
gin, an' I'll be bound ther' isn't one on 'em 'at'll lift a little
finger agen 'im."

"An' I'm sure anyone 'at can find it in their 'eart to do ought wrong
to poor old Ted isn't fit to bide in t' village," said Martha Treffit;
"an' one 'ud ha' thought wi' 'avin' been in t' same trade, like,
Barjona 'ud never ha' tried to 'urt Ted."

"They may have been in t' same trade, Martha," interposed Susannah,
"but Ted comes off a better pastur' nor ivver Barjona wa' raised on.
'E's as keen as mustard, is Barjona, an' 'ud mor'gage his soul for owt
he took a fancy tul."

"He's as 'ard as iron in his 'eart," snapped Mrs. Smithies, "but as
soft as a boiled turnup in his 'ead.  I'd like to put 'im through t'
wringin' machine, an' squeeze 'im for once, as is so ready to squeeze
other fowk.  'Ere comes Reuben.  What'll Reuben 'ave to say about it, I
wonder?"

Reuben shook his head.  "It's a sad job, neighbours, but law's law, an'
we shall have to make t' best on 't."

"Hark to him!" said Sar'-Ann's mother; "didn't I tell you there isn't a
man in t' village wi' as mich sperrit as a kitlin'?  If Reuben won't do
nowt ye can go bail 'at t' rest 'll noan stir."

"Right's right, an' law's law, all the world over," said Reuben,
shaking his head; "an' it'll be no manner o' use tryin' to persuade
Barjona ought different.  I could easy throw him on t' midden, but that
wouldn't mend matters.  'Ye can take t' horse to t' water, but ye can't
make 'im drink,' as t' Owd Book says.  It'll be a trial to t' owd man,
but Ted 'll have to make up 'is mind to flit."

Reuben walked home with me and gave me a connected account of what had
happened.  "You see, Ted's lived i' yon cottage ever sin' I can
remember, Miss 'Olden.  I mind him bringin' his wife to it, maybe forty
year sin', though I were just a lad at t' time, an' it'll be 'appen
five year sin' she died.  They were neither on 'em chickens when they
were wed, an' they never 'ad any childer; but they allus seemed to get
on right enough, an' I don't know 'at I ever 'eard tell of 'em 'aving a
wrong word wi' one another, or wi' anyone else, for that matter.  They
lived peaceable wi' all men, as t' Owd Book puts it, an' kept
theirselves to theirselves.  But they never really made any friends, as
you may say.  If you looked in you were welcome, but you were never
asked to stop, an' they never called in to see t' neighbours.  His
missis wasn't one o' t' gossipin' sort, an' 'e were away a good deal
wi' his cart; an' so we got into t' 'abit o' leavin' 'em alone.

"She must have been seventy--ay, more than seventy--when she died (I
believe it tells on t' stone, but I never took that much notice), an'
one or two o' t' neighbours did look in during t' time 'at she were
ill, an' did what they could for 'em both, and he were very grateful.
But he made no fuss, an' when they put her away 'e just wiped 'is
sleeve across 'is face, an' walked back an' started diggin' a trench in
t' garden.

"Well, it come out this mornin' 'at Barjona's bought t' cottage, an' it
appears he gave Ted notice to quit last week-end, an' his time 's up on
Saturda'.  They say he's goin' to live there himself, an' I daresay
it's likely enough.  It belonged to a young chap down i' Fawkshill, an'
Barjona has a 'old on him somehow, an' he's forced 'im to sell.  I've
been to see t' chap just now, but Barjona has got it right enough,
deeds an' everything, an' law's law all the world over.  Ted's fair
rooted in t' soil o' that land, but he'll 'ave to shift, an' quick too.
'E's as hard as nails, is Barjona, an' Ted 'll have to clear out on
Saturda'."

"But what a shame!" I remarked; "could not someone be induced to buy it
from Barjona?  Perhaps he would sell at a profit."

"I'm goin' to see him in t' mornin'," replied Reuben, "but I durst bet
a five-pun note to a toothpick 'at he won't sell at any figure.  I know
Barjona.  There's good wheat i' all men, but it's so lost among t'
chaff i' Barjona's case 'at only t' Day o' Judgment 'll find it."

Reuben called the next day to report the fruitlessness of his mission.

"It's no use," he said, and for once the cheerful farmer had become
gloomy; "I haven't got a right hang o' t' words, but t' Owd Book says
summat, if I'm not mista'en, about ye can crush a man's 'ead up in a
mortar wi' a pestle, an' if he's a fool at t' start, he'll be a fool at
t' finish.  Barjona says he's stalled o' livin' down yonder i' Maria's
house in t' Gap, an' he's set 'is 'eart on yon cottage o' Ted's ever
sin' he thought o' gettin' wed again.  He's shut his teeth, an' ye
couldn't prize 'em open wi' a chisel an' hammer."

"Could the squire do anything if I wrote him?" I asked.

"Mr. Evans?  What can 'e do?  T' cottage isn't his.  Law's law, an'
Barjona has t' law on his side.  Ye can't fight agen law.  Ted 'll have
to shift.  It's a pity, but it's no killin' matter, an' 'e'll get over
it i' time."

"Not if he's rooted to the soil," I said; "old plants often die when
transplanted."

"Now look 'ere, Miss 'Olden," he replied kindly; "don't you take on
over this job.  You're too fond o' suppin' sorrow.  We all 'ave our own
crosses to carry, an' it's right 'at we should 'elp to carry other
folkses.  But it's no use carryin' theirs unless you can lighten t'
load for 'em.  Frettin' for owd Ted 'll none make it any easier for
'im.  You want to learn 'ow to be sorry i' reason, without frettin'
yourself to death.  Why aren't ye sorry for Barjona?"

"The miserable old fox!" I exclaimed.

"I dunno but what he's more to be pitied nor Ted," replied Reuben
thoughtfully.  "Now you just study a minute.  Don't ye think the Lord
'll be more sorry to see Barjona's 'eart shrivelled up like a dried
pig-skin, so as it can't beat like other people's, nor what 'E will for
Ted, what's as 'armless as a baby?  If I read t' Owd Book right 'E
allus seemed t' sorriest for them 'at were t' worst.  'E wept over
Lazarus, I know, but 'E didn't fret about him an' his sisters in t'
same way as 'E fret over t' city when 'E wept over it.  You see,
Lazarus 'adn't gone wrong, an' t' city had.  Lazarus an' t' girls had
suffered i' their bodies an' their minds, same as we all 'ave to do,
an' same as Ted is doin', but t' city 'at rejected 'Im was sufferin' in
its soul.

"No, I pity Ted, but I pity Barjona more.  It's t' sick 'at need t'
physician, as t' Owd Book says, an' Barjona's got t' fatal disease o'
greed an' selfishness an' covetousness an' 'ard-'eartedness, wi' all
sorts o' complications, an' it doesn't make me pity 'im any less 'at 'e
doesn't know 'at 'e ails ought.  You never found the Lord ought but
kind to them 'at 'E drave t' devils out of.  Now you think it over, an'
keep your sperrits up."

I have thought it over.  Just now, perhaps, I am not in the mood to
view the case philosophically.  My own feelings reflect the mood of the
village generally.  I don't doubt Barjona's sickness, but my
prescription would be a drastic one, and whipping with scorpions would
be too good for him.  There are some people whom kindness does not
cure, and I imagine Barjona to be one of them.

I would go over to see Maria, but Farmer Goodenough is emphatic that I
ought not to interfere.  "It's ill comin' between married fowk," he
says.  He is sure I should make trouble, and he is very likely right.
I was astonished when I heard that Barjona had left his lodgings and
gone to live in the Gap, for it certainly seems out of the way for his
business; but he has no right to disturb poor old Ted for his own
convenience.  I hope judgment will overtake him speedily.

Did I not say I had a nodding acquaintance with the devil?



CHAPTER XIX

BARJONA'S DOWNFALL

Soon after breakfast on Saturday a furniture cart stopped at Carrier
Ted's gate, and the village turned out _en masse_.  There had been a
heavy downpour of rain during the night, but the sun struggled through
the clouds at breakfast time, and by nine o'clock had gained the
mastery.  It was dirty on the roadway, so the half-dozen neighbourly
men who were piling the household effects on to the cart had to be
careful not to rest them in the mud.

Not that Carrier Ted cared anything about it.  He stood in the garden
with the old silk hat pushed deep down over his brow, and looked
abstractedly at his peonies.  He seemed oblivious to the busy scene
that was being enacted about him: of all the spectators he was the
least moved: he, the most interested of all, was less interested than
any.

By and by Barjona drove up and was greeted with scowls and muttered
imprecations.  Two or three of the women went a step beyond muttering,
and expressed their views in terms that lacked nothing of directness.

"You ought to be ashamed o' yerself, Barjona Higgins!" said one; "yes,
you ought!  To turn the old man out of his 'ome at his time o' life.
You'd turn a corpse out of its coffin, you would!"

Barjona's cold eyes contracted.  "What's wrong now, eh?" he jerked;
"house is mine, isn't it? ....  Paid good money for it....  Can do as I
like wi' my own, can't I? ...  You mind your business; I'll mind mine."

He walked up the path to the house, merely nodding to Ted as he passed;
but Ted did not see him.

After a while he returned and went up to the old man, and shouted in
his ear as though he were deaf, so that we all could hear:

"There'll be a bit o' plasterin' to do ... your expense ... an' there's
a cracked winda-pane ... ye'll pay for that, Ted?"

The old man looked up and passed his sleeve across his brow, then
rubbed his knuckles in his eyes as though awaking from sleep.

"Owt 'at's right, Barjona; owt 'at's right, lad."

Reuben Goodenough's eldest son was passing at the time, with a heavy
fender over his shoulder.  Hearing these words he stopped, and I
thought for a moment that he was going to bring it down on Barjona's
head, but with an angry gesture he moved on and deposited his burden on
the cart.  Then he went up to the new owner and laid a heavy hand on
his shoulder.  How I admired the strong, well-set man, and the man
within him.

"Mr. Higgins," he said, "you can see for yourself 'at Ted isn't fit for
business.  If you've ought to say, say it to me.  I'm actin' for 'im."

There had been no such arrangement, of course, but this provisional
government met with the approval of the crowd.

"That's right, Ben lad, you tak' both t' reins an' t' whip!" shouted
Sar'-Ann's mother; "I'm fain to see there's one man in t' village."

"Now, you look here, Mr. Higgins," continued Ben, thus encouraged,
"ought 'at it's right for Ted to pay shall be paid, but you send your
list an' bill in to me, an' if my father an' me passes it ye'll be
paid, an' if we don't ye won't; so you can put that in your pipe an'
smoke it."

"Keep cool, Ben, keep cool!" said Barjona, who himself was not in the
least ruffled; "only want what's right, you know ... only what's
right....  You or Ted, Ted or you ... all the same to me."

"I feel dead beat, lad," said Ted, who still seemed dazed; "I'll go
inside an' lie down a bit."

Ben motioned to me, and I stepped through the gate and joined them.

"Ted's tired," he said, "and wants to lie down.  Would you mind taking
him across to Susannah's and askin' her to let 'im rest on t' sofa a
bit?"  Then turning to the old man he said: "Go with this lady, Ted: go
with Miss Holden.  We've nearly finished packing all your stuff on t'
cart, you know.  But Susannah 'll get you a sup o' something warm, an'
you can lie down on her sofa, an' Miss Holden 'll talk to you a bit."
He spoke soothingly, as to a child, and the old man turned his eyes
upon me.

"Shoo's a stranger, Ben?"

"Nay, she's lived here a twelvemonth, Ted.  Now come, you go with 'er.
She'll look after you nicely."

He suffered himself to be led away, but when we reached the group about
the gate he would go no farther, but suddenly found tongue, and began
to speak in a ruminating way, looking first at one and then another,
but keeping fast hold of my arm.

"Ye'll none o' ye mind my mother?  No, no, ye're ower young, all o' ye.
It'll be seventy year an' more sin' she died, an' I wor only a lad at
t' time.  That wor her rockin'-chair 'at they're puttin' on t' cart,
an' when I browt my missis 'ome, shoo hed it.  First my mother,
neighbours, an' then t' missis; an' t' owd chair lasts 'em both out,
an' 'll last me out.  I nivver thowt but it 'ud stand there aside o' t'
chimley till they carried me out o' t' door, feet for'most.  T' old
chair 'll feel kind o' lonesome, neighbours, kind o' lonesome, in a
strange kit chin."

"Nivver 'eed, lad," said one of the older women; "ye'll be varry
comfortable down i' t' Clough."

"Aye, happen so," he replied, "but lonesome, neighbours, lonesome.
There isn't a crack i' t' beams but what looked friendly-like, for
we've grown old together; an' all t' furnitur' spake to me abaht old
times, for I niwer shifted 'em out o' their places.  An' them two
chaney orniments o' t' chimley-piece, they wor allus comp'ny, too--Duke
o' Wellington an' Lord Nelson they are.  My mother wor varry proud on
'em i' her time, an' t' missis wor just t' same; an' sin' shoo went
they've allus felt to be comp'ny like.  I doubt they'll nivver look t'
same on another chimley-piece."

"It's a shame 'at 'e's turned ye out, Ted," said Susannah, "an' I 'ope
'e'll 'ave to suffer for it, I do."

"Aye, lass," he replied, "I could ha' liked well to ha' drawn my last
breath i' t' old cottage, I could, for sure.  I think Barjona mud ha'
let me live on i' t' old 'ome.  I shouldn't ha' troubled 'im so
long--not so long."

"Come inside, Ted," said Susannah, whose eyes were filling with tears,
"an' lie down while I get you a sup o' tea."

He appeared not to hear her, however, but stared fixedly at the flagged
footpath and muttered, as he slowly shook his head:

"I shouldn't ha' troubled 'im so long--not so long."

Somebody fetched him a stool, and he sat down outside the gate with his
back against the wall, whilst the women sympathised volubly, arms
akimbo.

It was very pathetic, but no words of comfort came to my lips, though
my heart ached for the silent old man who was leaving behind everything
that counted in life, and who was sure to feel keenly the loss of
familiar faces and friendly looks, even though he had not shown himself
neighbourly.  I said something of the sort to Mother Hubbard, who had
now joined us, but she was doubtful.

"Well, love, I don't know.  Ted has never shown much feeling.  I have
known him nearly all his life, and I don't think he has very deep
feelings, love.  He always seemed friendly with his wife, but not what
you would call affectionate, you know, love.  Of course, one doesn't
know what he really felt when she died, but it didn't seem to trouble
him very much."

"That proves nothing," I replied, with the emphasis born of
observation; "the proverb says that 'still waters run deep,' and it is
never more true than in this connection.  The wailing widower is
usually easily consoled."

"Yes, love, but I have discovered that you are very imaginative, though
at one time I didn't think so, and you may read your own feelings into
Ted's, you know.  I really do think, love, that he has not very deep
feelings."

Soon everything was piled upon the cart, and Ben Goodenough came up to
the old man to inform him that they were ready to leave.

"Now, Ted!" he said, with an assumption of cheerfulness; "we've got
everything on nicely, an' we'll step down with you to t' Clough an' get
'em into their places at t' other end.  You'll want to have a look
round, 'appen, before we leave."

"Aye, Ben lad, I tak' it varry kindly 'at ye're givin' yerself all this
trouble.  It's friendly, lad, friendly.  Aye, I sud like to hev a look
round for t' last time afore we start."

He rose wearily and accompanied Ben up the path.  Barjona was standing
at the door, and all three went in.  They came out before long, and
there were no traces of emotion on Ted's ruddy face.  But as he looked
up and down the garden his lips quivered, though he mastered himself
with an effort.  The gladioli and hollyhocks made a brave show amid the
humbler sweet-williams and marigolds, but they would have to be left.
He stopped opposite the rose-bush.

"Ben, lad," he said, "ye'll do me one more favour, willn't ye?  Get me
a spade off o' t' cart, will ye?  I've left it till t' last minute, for
I can 'ardly bide to root it up, but I munnut leave that tree be'ind."

One of the men had darted off at the mention of the word "spade," and
the beloved implement--the old man's faithful friend--was placed in his
hand.

"Thee an' me's hed monny a grand time together, lad," he said,
apostrophising the spade, "but nivver such a sad job as this afore.  A
sad job, aye, a sad job.  But we've got to do it, lad, ye an' me."

He put his foot upon it and prepared to dig up the tree, when Barjona
interposed.  Every word was clearly heard by the group in the roadway.

"Steady there! ... what ye goin' to do?"

"Nobbut just dig t' tree up, Barjona."

"Leave t' tree alone ... that tree's mine."

Ted looked at him and his hands began to tremble.  "Ye don't meean,
Barjona, 'at ye won't let me tak' t' rose-tree away wi' me?"

"Ye tak' nowt out of t' garden ... all what's rooted in t' soil belongs
to me ... paid good money for it....  Put yer spade away."

"Look 'ere, Mr. Higgins," interrupted Ben, "do you mean to tell me 'at
you're going to prevent Ted takin' a bit of a rose-tree with him?  If
you do, you're a harder-'earted old wretch than I took you for."

Angry murmurs arose from the crowd, but Barjona's jaw stiffened and
there was no hint of yielding in his tone.

"Right's right," he said ... "that rose-tree's mine ... took a
partic'lar fancy to it ... won't part with it for nob'dy."

Ted fumbled in his pocket and produced a wash-leather bag, the neck of
which was tied round with string.  With shaking fingers he felt for a
coin and drew out a half-sovereign.

"I'll pay ye for't, Barjona.  Sitha, I'll give ye ten shillin' for t'
plant."

"Put yer brass back, Ted ... brass willn't buy it ... took my fancy,
that tree has ... you mun buy another."

Sar'-Ann's mother pushed her way through and strode up to the stubborn,
grasping man, and shook her fist in his face.

"You miserable old devil!" she cried.  "Oh, if I were only a man I'd
thrash ye while ever I could stand over ye.  Yes, I would, if they sent
me to gaol for 't.  I wish the earth 'ud open an' swalla' ye up.  But
t' varry worms 'ud turn at ye."

Barjona thrust his hands deep into his trousers' pockets and assumed an
air of weariness.

"Isn't there a man among ye?" continued the infuriated woman.  "Ben,
haven't ye spunk enough to fell 'im to t' ground?  Eh, these men!  God
forgive me 'at I call 'em men!"

She fell back, and burst into hysterical tears, and Ben made another
attempt.

"What the hangment do ye mean by it, Mr. Higgins?  Have ye no 'eart at
all?  Ye'll never miss t' tree.  I'll give you two just as good out of
our own garden, hanged if I won't.  Let him take t' tree, an' we'll be
going."

"He--leaves--that--tree--where--it--is," replied Barjona with emphasis;
"an' ye can all clear out o' this garden....  That tree's mine."

Ben took Ted's arm, but the old man refused to move.  A tear forced its
way out of the corner of his eye, and he drew a red cotton handkerchief
from his trousers' pocket and wiped it away.

"Barjona, lad," he pleaded tremulously, "only just this one tree--nowt
else; just this one tree, there's a good lad."

"I've said my say," replied Barjona.

"Take no notice of him, Ted," said Ben.  "I'll give you one o' t'
grandest rose-trees i' Yorkshire.  Let t' old skinflint have his tree."

"Nay, but I mun hev it, I mun hev it," moaned the old man.  "I mun hev
it, lad; I mun hev it."

I wondered if I could influence Barjona, and I stepped up to him.

"Mr. Higgins, you see how distressed Ted is.  Surely you will not make
the parting more bitter for him.  Think how unpleasant it will be for
you to live among us if you make us all your enemies."

"Much obliged, Miss 'Olden....  If you mind your business ...  I'll
mind mine."

"But why are you so set upon it, Mr. Higgins?"

"'Cos I am ... that's enough ... that plant's mine, an' mine it's goin'
to be."

I turned to Ted.  "Cannot you make up your mind to do without it?" I
asked.  "Do you want it so very much?"

He nodded, and the tears now followed each other fast down his cheeks.
"I mun hev it; I mun hev it," he moaned.

We were all gathered round now; not a soul was left in the roadway, and
the flower-beds were suffering.

"But why?" I persisted.  "What makes you so very anxious to have it?
You shall have another just as fine.  Why do you want this particular
one so badly?"

He shook his head, and raised his sleeve to his brow with the old
nervous, familiar action.

"Cannot you tell me?" I asked.

Then the answer came, low but clearly heard by everybody: "_Shoo_ liked
it!"

The shame of the confession made him shake from head to foot, but the
revelation of unsuspected deeps thrilled us, every one, and set us on
fire with indignation and contempt.

"You heard him!" I said, turning to Barjona.  "Now listen!  I will give
you five pounds for that rose-bush."

"That--tree--will--bide--where--it--is," replied Barjona doggedly.

There was a movement in the crowd as a raging woman forced her way
through.  She was hatless, like the rest of us, but her arms were bare
to the elbows.  Until I noticed the tightly-coiled hair I did not
recognise Barjona's wife, for the usually pleasant face was clouded in
storm.

She strode up to her husband and seized him by the collar of his coat
with both hands.

"You heartless rascal!" she hissed in his ears; "so this is your
blessed secret 'at you've kept for a surprise, is it?  I'll surprise
ye, ye good-for-nowt old Jew.  What do ye mean by it, eh?"  She shook
him as if he had been a lad of ten, and he was helpless in her grip.

"You leave me alone!" he threatened, but all the brag was gone from him.

"Leave--you--alone!" she hissed between her clenched teeth; "I wish to
God I had; but I took ye for better or worse, an' it isn't goin' to be
all worse, I can tell ye!  I hearkened to ye while I could 'earken no
longer.  The Lord gi' me grace to keep my 'ands off o' ye!"

It was a remarkably futile prayer, seeing that she was holding him as
in a vice, and shaking him at intervals.

"D'ye think I'd ever live 'ere, an' let a poor old man like Ted fend
for hisself anywhere?  What do ye take me for?  Ye knew better than to
tell me while ye'd gotten yer dirty work done, but thank the Lord I was
just in time.  'Ere, get away!  I'm stalled o' talkin' to ye!"

She pushed him away roughly, but he made one more sulky struggle for
mastery.

"Are ye t' boss 'ere, or am I?" he growled; "I've bought it ... an'
I'll live in it."

"Will ye?" she said with scorn, "then ye'll live by yersen.  But I'll
show ye who's t' boss.  You may thank the Lord 'at ye've got a wife wi'
a bit o' gumption.  Ye shall be t' master when ye can master yersen.
I'm fair shamed o' ye!  We'll 'appen live 'ere when owt 'appens Ted,
but never as long as 'e wants it; so that's flat!"

The crowd cheered, and Maria brightened visibly.  "Nay, to be sure,
Miss 'Olden, an' friends," she said, "to think 'at any 'usband o' mine
should disgrace hisself an' me i' this fashion!  I never knew a word,
believe me, while 'alf an hour sin' when I chanced across young
Smiddles, an' he let into me right an' left.  I can tell you I didn't
let t' grass grow under my feet afore I set off 'ere.  Don't you fret,
Ted, lad!  Turn ye out?  Not we!  Sitha, Barjona's fair shamed of
hisself, an' well he might be.  Nay, to be sure, I stood at back on ye
all an' hearkened while my blood boiled.  He must ha' been wrong i' his
'ead, Barjona must.  Come, friends, get out o' t' gate, an' we'll carry
t' furnitur' in agen, an' soon hev t' place to rights.  Now you can
stop that mutterin', Barjona, an' just get into t' trap out o' t' road!"

Many willing hands made the task a light one, and in an hour's time the
cottage had assumed its old aspect, and the women had swept and dusted
and given the finishing touches to everything.  Mrs. Higgins was
critical, but expressed herself satisfied at last.  Then she climbed
into the trap and seated herself beside her husband.

"Good-bye, friends," she shouted, as they drove off.  "Don't ye worry.
He can drive t' owd mare, but 'e can't drive me.  I'll bring 'im to 'is
sops!"

"Gosh!" snapped Sar'-Ann's mother, "now that's some bit like!  Gi' me a
woman for mettle an' sperrit I Lord 'elp us, but I reckon nowt o' such
a white-livered lot o' men as we hev i' Windyridge.  She'll mak' a man
o' yon old rascal yet, will Maria!"

As I looked back on my way home I saw that Ted had fetched his rake,
and was busy getting the garden into order again.



CHAPTER XX

THE CYNIC'S RENUNCIATION

Excitements tread upon each other's heels.  After Barjona, the Cynic.
He appeared unexpectedly on Monday morning, and I took the
long-promised photographs, which have turned out very badly; why, I
don't know.  He was not in his Sunday best, so the fault did not lie
there; and his expression was all right, but I could not catch it on
the plate, try as I might.  He was very much amused, and accused me of
looking haggard over the business, which was absurd.  Every
photographer is anxious to secure a satisfactory result, or if he is
not he does not deserve to succeed.  I think really I was afraid of his
waxing sarcastic over my attempts at portraying his features.  He is
not a handsome man, as I may have remarked before, but he is not the
sort that passes unnoticed, and I wanted to secure on the plate the
something that makes people look twice at him; and I failed.  I took
several negatives, but none of them was half as nice as the original;
and yet we are told that photography flatters!

He professed an indifference which I am afraid he felt, and Mother
Hubbard assured him over the dinner-table that there was not the
slightest ground for anxiety.  It will be a long time, I fear, before
he gets the proofs.  He stayed to dinner on his own invitation, and
Mother Hubbard prepared one of her extra special Yorkshire puddings in
his honour.  Fortunately, we had not cooked the beef on the Sunday, or
he would have had to be content with the remains of the cold joint; and
though I should not have minded, I know Mother Hubbard would have been
greatly distressed.

He spoke quite naturally about Rose, and appeared to have enjoyed her
company immensely, but he had not seen her again up to then.

When the meal was over we went out into the garden and sat down, and
somehow or other the sense of quiet and the beauty of the view soothed
me, and I felt less irritable than for days past.  I never get tired of
the dip of green fields and the stretch of moor on the far side of the
wood.

"Can you spare me a full hour, Miss Holden?" he asked.  "I have come
down specially to see you, principally because I have had a letter from
Mr. Evans which in some measure concerns you, and also because I want
to continue the discussion of the parable of the marbles which we were
considering the other evening."

How pretty the landscape looked from our garden!  Cloud shadows were
racing each other across the pastures as I lay back and watched them,
and I thought the view had never been bonnier.

"I am not overworked," I replied, "and I can give up a whole afternoon,
if necessary.  What is the news from the squire?  Nothing serious, I
hope; and yet it must be important to bring you down here specially."

"I hardly know what to say.  Something in his letter conveys the
impression that he is far from well again, though he does not
definitely say so.  But it appears that he has asked you to go out to
him if he becomes seriously ill.  That is so, isn't it?"

"Yes," I answered, "and I have promised to go.  It touches me deeply
that he should want me."

"I don't wonder," he said; but whether at my emotion or the squire's
proposal did not transpire.

"If and when he sends for you," he continued, "he wishes you to
communicate with me, and he asks me to make all the business
arrangements for you.  I need hardly say that it will afford me much
pleasure to do whatever I can.  I will give you my Broadbeck and town
addresses, and if you will wire me whenever you need my services I will
reply at once.  Please don't feel obliged to look anything up for
yourself, as I will see to every detail, and provide all that is
necessary for the journey in accordance with my old friend's
instructions."

"It is extremely good of you," I said, "and very thoughtful on the
squire's part.  I accept your offer gratefully.  But do you think there
is much likelihood of my being sent for?"

"Candidly, I think there is; equally candidly, I hope the necessity may
not arise.  If the end comes whilst he is abroad, a man ought by all
means to be present, for there will be no end of difficulties, and it
will be absolutely necessary for someone to go out.  But that takes
time, and meanwhile the position would not be a pleasant one for you.
I would go to him myself now but for two insuperable difficulties, one
being that certain important duties keep me in London at present, and
the other that Mr. Evans most distinctly does not want me."

"I quite see what you mean," I said; "but if the worst happens, and I
am there at the time, I shall do my best and not mind the
unpleasantness."

"I am sure of that," he returned, "but you don't at all realise what is
involved.  However, we won't discuss this further.  On his account I
should be heartily glad for you to go, and I am relieved that he has
had the good sense to suggest it."

"I regard him very highly," I said.

"You do more: you love him," he remarked, with a sharp, keen glance at
my face.

"Yes, I think I love him," I replied without confusion.  "I could
easily be his daughter; we have much in common."

He said nothing for quite a long time, during which he threw his
cigarette away and lit a pipe.  Then he turned to me:

"Now for my parable."

"Yes," I said; "tell me about it."

"You guessed, of course, that it is a matter that affects me deeply and
seriously?"

"I was afraid so.  I could not be certain, of course, but I felt that
it was much more than an ethical conundrum."

"God knows it was, and He knows, too, that I am grateful to you for the
clear lead you gave, suspecting, as you must have done, that it meant
much to me."

Had I suspected?  I suppose I did, for my heart, I remember, beat
painfully; yet I had not thought much more of it since.  I looked at
him, and saw that his face was white but resolute, and I said
hesitatingly:

"I am sorry if you are in trouble, but Farmer Goodenough thinks that
troubles are blessings in disguise.  I wish I could give you more than
second-hand comfort."

"I am going to tell you exactly where I stand," he said, "and you must
not allow your woman's instinct of comfort to cloud or bias your
judgment.  Goodenough may be right, but if I take the step I
contemplate it will not be because I expect good to result to
myself--though there may be, no doubt, a certain spiritual gain--but
because it is the only course possible to me if I am to retain my
self-respect.

"You will hardly have heard of a rather prominent case in which I
figured recently as counsel for the plaintiff."

"Lessingham _versus_ Mainwaring?" I queried.

"You have heard of it then?  Do you know the details?"

"Not at all.  I simply read in the paper that you had won the case for
your client."

"I see.  Well, it would take too long, and would be too uninteresting
to you to explain everything, but put briefly the case was this.
Mainwaring had got hold of a considerable sum of money--over £7,000, as
a matter of fact--which Lessingham claimed belonged to him.  There were
a great many points which were interesting to lawyers, and when the
plaintiff's brief was offered to me I jumped at it.  A barrister has
often to wait a long time before any plums fall to his share, but this
was a big one, for the other side had engaged two of the most eminent
counsel in the land; and I had a big figure marked on my brief.

"We had a tremendous fight, and in the heat of the forensic duel I lost
sight of everything except the one goal of triumphant and overwhelming
victory.  I have no desire to speak of my accomplishment in terms that
may sound egotistical, but I may say without affectation that I found
all the weak places in the defence and used every talent I could
command to crush my opponents, and I succeeded, and became for a week
one of the most talked-of men in London.  Outwardly collected, I was
inwardly exalted above measure, for I knew what the winning of the case
meant for me.

"I say I knew.  I should have said I thought I knew.  All I realised
was that briefs would now be showered upon me, as they have been--as
they are being.  What I failed to realise was that I should have to
stand at the bar of my own conscience, and be tried by the inexorable
judge whose sentences are without mercy.  That came to pass quickly,
and I was condemned, and on appeal you confirmed the judgment."

"I?  Oh, Mr. Derwent!"

"During the course of the trial I became convinced, or at any rate I
had grave reasons for suspecting that my client was a scoundrel, and
had no right to a penny of the money.  The conviction came in part from
what was revealed to me in conversation with him, and in part from what
came out in evidence, but at the moment I did not care.  I was paid to
win my case, not to secure justice.  That was for the judge and jury.
There was more than that, however.  It was not the lust of gain, but
the lust of glory that obsessed me.  I, Philip Derwent, was going to
defeat Ritson and Friend at whatever cost.

"But, Miss Holden, I have inherited certain qualities which are likely
to put awkward obstacles in the path of ambition.  My father was a good
man.  He was scrupulously, fastidiously honest.  He believed that the
principles of the Sermon on the Mount could and should be practised in
everyday life.  Consequently he never made much money, and was terribly
disappointed when his only son adopted the law as a profession.
Some--not all, but some--of his qualities are in my blood; and the
voice of conscience is always telling me that the father was a better
man than the son, and that, unless I am careful, I shall sell my life
for power and possessions; and I have made up my mind to be careful.

"Well, I have made inquiries--carefully and without hurry--and I now
know for a fact that Mainwaring had every right to that money, and that
Lessingham is a fraud, so that my course is clear.  I have seen
Lessingham, and he laughs in my face.  'You knew it at the time, old
man!' he said; 'and a jolly good thing you've made out of it.'  There
was no chance of putting things right from that quarter."

"But, Mr. Derwent," I interrupted, "surely in your profession this is
an everyday occurrence.  Both sides cannot be right, and both need
legal assistance."

"True," he replied, "and you must quite understand my attitude.  I am
not judging any of my brethren: to their own master they stand or fall.
But for myself, I am not going to support any case, in the future,
which I am not convinced is a just one.  If, after accepting a brief, I
have reason to believe that I am espousing an unjust cause I will throw
it up at whatever sacrifice."

"I am afraid it will mean _great_ sacrifice," I murmured.

"Would you recommend me not to do it?" he asked.

"You must obey your Inner Self, or suffer torment," I replied.

"I must, and I will," he said firmly.  "Now listen to me.  My father
was not, as I have said, a wealthy man, and on his death I inherited
little beyond good principles and good books.  The waiting period for
financial success was long, but latterly I have made money.  I have
£7,000 in the bank, and a good income.  And my judgment agrees with
yours: I must part with my marbles."

"Oh, Mr. Derwent," I exclaimed; "think well before you take so serious
a step!  What is my hasty decision worth?  It was given on the spur of
the moment: it was the immature judgment of an inexperienced woman!"

"It was the spontaneous expression of pure, instinctive truth," he
replied.  "Yet do not feel any sense of responsibility.  I had already
reached the same conclusion: you merely confirmed it, and in doing so
helped and strengthened me--though the decision set back a hope that
had arisen within me."

"But, Mr. Derwent"--I was groping around vainly for a loophole of
escape--"this Mr. Mainwaring, is he poor? does he need the money? will
he use it well?"

"What does that matter?" he replied.  "His wealth or poverty cannot
affect the question of right or wrong.  The money is his by right.  _I_
robbed him of it by forensic cunning and rhetoric, and I will repay
him.  As a matter of fact he is fabulously wealthy, and £7,000 is to
him a mere drop in an ocean.  And he spends his money on horses and
dissipation.  He is a bigger scoundrel than Lessingham, and that is
saying much."

"But what a shame, Mr. Derwent!  It does not seem right."

"It can never be wrong to do right.  Besides, I misled you at the
outset of our conversation--misled you purposely.  I could not change
my mind now if I wished to do so, for I posted Mainwaring a cheque for
the full amount this morning."

I felt ready to cry, but there was as much joy as sorrow in my breast.
I believe I smiled, and I held out my hand, which he grasped and
retained a moment.

At that instant a telegraph boy pushed open the gate and advanced
towards me.

"Miss Holden?" he inquired.

I took the envelope and tore it open.  It contained only a brief
message:


"Zermatt.  _July_ 22_nd._

"Please come soon as possible.  See Derwent.

"EVANS.  Hotel Victoria."


I burst into tears, and went into the house.



CHAPTER XXI

AT ZERMATT

I cannot truthfully say that sad thoughts were uppermost during the
hours that followed.  After all, it was my first trip to the Continent,
and although I am thirty-six years old, and might be expected to have
got over mere juvenile excitements, I confess to a feeling of cheerful
anticipation.  Of course the squire was always in the background of my
thoughts, but I had no sense of apprehension such as sometimes
oppresses one before an approaching calamity.

And it was so nice to have everything arranged for me, and to find
myself in possession of time-tables and railway-coupons and a clear
itinerary of the journey without the slightest effort or inconvenience
on my part.  Undoubtedly man has his uses, if he is a clear-headed,
kind-hearted fellow like the Cynic.

When the whistle sounded and the boat express glided out of Charing
Cross I waved my handkerchief from the window as long as I could see
him, and then settled down into the luxurious cushions and gave myself
up to reflection.  How nice and brotherly he had been all the way to
town, and since!  I do not wonder that Rose enjoyed the journey.  Rose!
I might have let her know that I was leaving by the morning train, but
then she would have had to ask for an hour off; and when she has just
been away for ten days her chief might not have liked it.  Besides, the
Cynic had such a lot of minute instructions and emphatic warnings to
which I was forced to listen attentively.

Then there was Mother Hubbard, who had been set upon accompanying me on
the ground that I ought not to travel alone and unchaperoned; but the
Cynic agreed with me that at my age chaperonage is unnecessary.  I am
not the sort that needs protection; and the little motherkin would
merely have added to my anxieties.

No, though there was a sick and perhaps dying man at the other end, and
though sorrow might soon compass me about, I determined to enjoy the
present moment, and I did.  I enjoyed the breeze upon the Channel, the
glimpses of peasant life in France as the train rushed through the flat
and rather tame country, the dinner in the Northern railway station at
Paris, and the novel experience of the tiny bed which was reserved for
my use on the night journey.  I was travelling in luxury, of course,
and am never likely to repeat the experience.

But my chief enjoyment was one which could be shared by any who had
eyes to see, though they were sitting upright on the bare and narrow
boards of the miserable third-class compartments which I caught sight
of occasionally in the stations when morning came.

The glory of the dawn! of the sun rising behind the mountains, when a
pink flush spread over the sky, dissolving quickly into rose and amber
and azure, delicately pencilled in diverging rays which spread like a
great fan to the zenith!  The crags of a great hill caught the glow,
and the mountain burned with fire.  Below, the grass was gold and
emerald; there were fruit-laden trees in the foreground, and in the
distance, away beyond the belt of low-lying mist and the vague neutral
tints which concealed their bases, were the snow mountains!  I pushed
down the window and gorged myself with the heavenly vision.

There was no time to see Geneva, but the ride along the banks of the
lake and through the fertile Rhone valley was one long, delightful
dream.  Luncheon was provided at Visp, and then began the journey on
the mountain railway which I can never forget.

As the train snorted and grunted up the steep incline I rejoiced to
realise that it could not travel more quickly.  Stream, mountain and
forest; fertile valley, rushing waterfall and lofty precipice--all
contributed to the charm of the experience.  But the rush of the Visp,
as it poured down the narrow gorge, and boiled and fretted in turbulent
cascades which hurled their spray through the windows of the passing
train is the one outstanding remembrance.  It was glorious!  Then the
Matterhorn came in sight for a moment, and just afterwards the toy
train drew up at the toy platform in Zermatt.

The concierge of the Hotel Victoria took my bag and pointed me out to a
diminutive young lady who was standing near.  She at once came forward
and held out her hand, whilst a winning smile spread over her pleasant
face.

"You are Miss Holden, are you not?  I have stepped across to meet you,
so that you might not feel so strange on your arrival.  My husband is a
doctor--Dr. Grey--and he has taken an interest in Mr. Evans, and
continues to do so even though I have fallen in love with the old
gentleman."

I liked the girl straight away.  She is quite young--only just
twenty-three, as she told me frankly, and ever such a little creature,
though she carries herself with the dignity of a duchess--in fact, with
much more dignity than some duchesses I have seen.

"Now that is 'real good' of you, as the Americans whose company I have
just left would say," I replied; "and I think it was very nice of you
to think of it.  Tell me first, please, if Mr. Evans is worse."

"I really cannot say with certainty," she replied; "the Zermatt doctor
thinks he is not going to recover, and my husband says that he will
live for months.  Now my husband, dear, is a _very clever man indeed_,
though he is only young; and although the other man looks very
formidable and wears spectacles I don't believe he is as clever as
Ralph."

I smiled.  "You have known the one doctor longer than the other," I
said.

"Not much, as a doctor," she confided.  "To let you into a secret which
nobody here has discovered, Ralph and I are on our honeymoon, so that
my experience of his medical abilities is limited, but I am sure he is
very clever.  But come! the hotel is only just across the way."

She accompanied me to my room and chatted incessantly whilst I was
endeavouring to remove the grime and grit which the continental engines
deposit so generously upon the traveller behind them.

"There!" she said, as I emptied the water for the third time, and
sponged my face and neck preparatory to a brisk towelling; "you have
emerged at last.  But you will never be quite yourself until you have
washed your hair.  Do it to-night, dear.  I know a splendid way of
tying your head up in a towel so that you can sleep quite comfy."

The squire's face brightened when he saw me.  He was sitting near the
window in a great easy-chair which was almost a couch, and his hair was
whiter than when he left England, and his face was--oh! so thin and
grey; but what a gentleman he looked!  He held out both hands, but I
bent over and kissed him.  If it was a bold thing to do I don't mind.
My Inner Self bade me do it and I obeyed.

He held my face against his for a moment, and neither of us spoke.
Then he said:

"Look at my view, Grace, and tell me if you like it."

I sat on the arm of his chair and looked through the open window.  I
saw before me a scene of peaceful loveliness--a valley, richly green,
with here and there oblong patches of yellow framed in olive hedges: a
narrow valley, girded with mountains whose sides rise steeply to
tremendous heights, jagged, scarped, and streaked with snow: a wooded
valley, too, where sombre trees of fir and pine climb the heights and
spread out into thickets which end only with the rock.  Quaint,
brown-timbered structures, built on piles and with overhanging roofs,
sometimes isolated, sometimes in little groups, were dotted about the
landscape.  A white road wound down the valley, and the yellow waters
of the Visp rushed, torrent-like, along the bottom, to be lost to view
where the land dipped abruptly to the left.

In the far distance mountains of snow lifted up their hoary heads into
the luminous haze; and light clouds, rivalling their whiteness, gave
the illusion of loftier heights still, and led the eye to the brilliant
blue of high heaven.

The sun was behind us, and banks of clouds must have intercepted his
rays from time to time, for the play of light and shade varied like a
kaleidoscope, and the bare, stony flanks of the mountains in the middle
distance shone green or grey or red as the sun caught them.  A rude
bridge crossed the stream away below, and I could just make out some
tourists in Tyrolese caps and with knapsacks on their backs, leaning
over the white rails.

The squire put his arm on mine.  "I will tell you the names of these
giants later.  Meanwhile, tell me, have I chosen well?"

"It is heavenly," I replied.  "I should be content to sit here for
days."

"I am content," he said; "there is grander scenery than this around
Zermatt--grander by far.  At the other end of the valley you will see
and you will glory in the towering masses of crag and snow which the
Matterhorn and Breithorn present.  You will see miles of glaciers and
sparkling waterfalls and a thousand wonders of God's providing; but it
was too cold and massive and hard to suit the mood of a dying man.  I
wanted Nature in a kindlier temper, so I sit by the window and commune
with her, and she is always friendly."

There was a stool in the room, and I drew it up and sat at his feet
with one arm upon his knee, as I used to sit for hours in the days of
old, before my father's death left me solitary; and when the squire
placed a caressing hand upon my shoulder I could have thought that, a
chapter had been re-opened in the sealed pages of my life.

"Who is this Dr. Grey," I inquired, "whose charming little wife met me
at the station, and told me you are not going to die for a long
time?--for which I love her."

He smiled.  "Grey is an optimist, my dear, and a downright good fellow,
and he has picked up a prize in his wife.  They are on their
wedding-tour, as anyone quite unversed in that lore can see at a
glance; and they ought to have left Zermatt a week ago or more but they
have cheerfully stayed on to minister to the physical and mental
necessities of an old man and a stranger.  Not many would have done it,
for they are sacrificing one of the most attractive programmes that
Switzerland offers, for my sake."

"What a lot of good people there are in the world," I said.  "I am
going to like Dr. Grey as much as I like his wife.  He is a big,
strong, well-developed man, of course?"

"Why 'of course?'?" he asked.

"Husbands of tiny wives invariably are; the infinitely small seems to
have a remarkable affinity for the infinitely great."

"Well, he is certainly a strapping fellow, and he is devoted to the wee
woman he has made his wife.  I believe, too, he will get on in his
profession."

"His wife says he is a very clever man indeed," I remarked.

"Does she?  An unbiassed opinion of that kind is valuable.  All the
same, he has done me good, not so much with physic--for I take the
Zermatt man's concoctions--as with his cheery outlook.  I believe he
thinks I am a trickster."

"Do you know what I believe, sir?" I asked.

"No; tell me," he said.

"I believe you are going to get better, and I shall take you back to
Windyridge and the moors."

He sighed then, and laid a hand fondly upon mine.  "Grace, my child, I
will say now what it may be more difficult to say later.  You have
caught me in a good hour, and my weary spirits have been refreshed by
the sight of your face and the sound of your voice; but you must be
prepared for darker experiences.  Sometimes I suffer; often I am
terribly weak and depressed.  Gottlieb, I know, does not expect me to
recover, and my Inner Self (that is your expression, child, and I often
think of it) tells me he is right.  You are too sensible to be unduly
distressed before the time comes, and I want to tell you what I have
planned, and to tell you quite calmly and without emotion.  Death to me
is only a curtain between one room and the next, so that it does not
disturb me to explain to you what I wish to be done when it is raised
for me to pass through.

"Midway in the village you will find some gardens opposite the Mont
Cervin Hotel.  Pass through them and you will reach a little English
church, surrounded by a tiny graveyard.  There lie the bones of men who
have been killed on the mountains, and of others who have found death
instead of life in these health-giving heights.  There is one sunny
spot where I want my body to rest, and the chaplain knows it.  You can
bear to hear me speak of these things, can you?"

Yes, I could bear it.  He spoke so naturally and with such ease that I
hardly realised what it meant: it was unreal, far-off, fallacious.

"At first," he continued, "the idea was repugnant.  I longed to be laid
side by side with my wife in the homeland, but that feeling passed.  It
was nothing more than sentiment, though it was a sentiment that nearly
took me home, in spite of the doctors.  But the more I have thought of
it the more childish it has seemed.  I am conscious of her presence
here, always.  Metaphysicians would explain that easily enough, no
doubt, but to me it is an experience, and what can one want more?  Why,
then, should I run away to Windyridge and Fawkshill in order to find
her, or be carried there for that purpose after death?  No, no.  Heaven
is about me here, and our spirits will meet at once when the silver
thread is loosed which binds me to earth.  Am I right, Grace?"

I was crying a little now, but I could not contradict him.

"Gottlieb shakes his head, but Grey says I may last for months.
Perhaps he is right, but I have no desire to live.  Why should I?  And
where could I end my days more pleasantly than amidst these
masterpieces of the great Architect?"

Mrs. Grey came for me when the dinner bell sounded, and we went down
together.  It has been arranged that I am to lunch with the squire in
his own room, but to have dinner with the rest at a little table which
I share with the Greys.

The doctor is just a great bouncing boy, with merry eyes and thick
brown hair.  He is on good terms with everybody--guests of high degree
and low, waiters, porters, chambermaids--all the cosmopolitan crowd.
He adores his little wife, and it is funny to see so big a man
worshipping at so small a shrine.

I expressed my gratitude to them both as we sat at dinner, and he
laughed--such a hearty, boisterous laugh.

"It's my wife.  Dot wouldn't hear of leaving, and you cannot get a
separation order in these wilds.  She has spent so much time with the
old gentleman that I have been madly jealous for hours at a stretch."

"Don't be untruthful, Ralph," said Mrs. Grey.  "You know perfectly well
that you have spoiled our honeymoon with the simple and sordid motive
of gaining professional experience.  Besides, you are nicest when you
are jealous."

"Am I, by Jove!" he laughed.  "Then 'niceness' will become habitual
with me, for the way all the men look at you fans the flame of my
jealousy.  But this is poor stuff for Miss Holden, and I want to talk
seriously to her."

"What is your candid opinion of Mr. Evans?" I asked.

"He is marked to fall, Miss Holden, but if he can be persuaded to make
the effort to live he need not fall for months, perhaps even for years.
The fact is, he has become indifferent to life, and that is against
him."

"What is really the matter with him?"

"Now, there you corner me," he replied.  "He has a weak heart,
bronchial trouble, some diabetic tendencies and disordered nerves; but
what is really the matter with him I have not discovered.  Can you tell
me?"

"I should have thought all these things were matter enough," I
answered; "but what really ails him, I believe, is what is commonly
termed a 'broken heart.'  He is always mourning the loss of his wife
and always dwelling upon reunion."

"He never told me that," replied the doctor thoughtfully; "I am glad to
know it."

"Why should he remain abroad all this time?" I asked.

"Because he shouldn't!" he replied.  "In my judgment he has been ill
advised; but it is largely his own fault, too.  I think he did well to
leave England for the winter, but he ought to have gone home when the
warm weather came.  His medical advisers have always prescribed change
of scene: told him to go anywhere he liked, and 'buck up' a bit, and he
has gone.  France, Spain, Egypt, Italy, and now Zermatt.  And the old
chap is dying of loneliness.  Gottlieb shakes his mournful old head,
and goes out to arrange with the English chaplain where to bury him.
I'd bury them both!  If you take my advice you'll pet him and make him
think the world is a nice place to live in, and then we'll take him
home, and let old Gottlieb find another tenant for his grave.  If you
will second me we'll have him out of this hole in a week's time."

I felt so cheered, and I will certainly follow his lead.  I wrote a
long, explanatory letter to the Cynic, an apologetic one to Rose, and a
picture postcard, promising a longer communication, to Mother Hubbard,
and then turned in and slept like a top.



CHAPTER XXII

THE HEATHER PULLS

The sensation of dazzling light and the sound of tinkling silvery bells
woke me early, and I jumped up and looked out of the window.  The bells
belonged to a herd of goats which were being driven slowly to pasture.
Stalwart guides, with stout alpenstocks in their hands, and apparently
heavy cloth bags upon their backs, were standing near the hotel and on
the station platform.  Tourists of both sexes were getting ready to
accompany the guides, and there was much loud questioning and emphatic
gesticulation on both sides.  A few mules stood near, presumably for
the use of the ladies.  It was all too provocative, and I flung myself
into my clothes and went out.

If I were writing a guide book I could wax eloquent, I believe, in my
descriptions of Zermatt; but I am not, and I therefore refrain.

The squire was delighted with my enthusiasm, and insisted upon my
"doing" the place thoroughly.  He did not rise until noon, so that my
mornings were always free, and the Greys took me all the shorter
excursions.  One day we had quite a long trip to the top of the Gorner
Grat, whence one gets an unrivalled view of snow peaks and glaciers;
and from thence we walked to the Schwarz See, where the Matterhorn
towers in front of you like an absolute monarch in loneliness and
grandeur.

Oh, those ravines, where the glacier-fed streams rage furiously in
their rapid descent!  Oh, those gorges, in whose depths the pent-up
waters leap onward between high walls of rock to which the precarious
gangway clings where you stand in momentary fear of disaster!  Oh,
those woods, with the steep and stony footpaths, and the sudden
revelation of unsuspected objects: of kine munching the green herbage;
of the women who tend them, working industriously with wool and needle;
of wooden _châlets_ with stone-protected roofs; of trickling cascades
and roaring waterfalls!

Oh, those pastures, green as emerald, soft as velvet, where one might
lie as on a couch of down and feast the eye on mountain and vale and
sky, and never tire!  Oh, those sunsets, and particularly the one which
struck my imagination most, when the sky was not crimson, but
topaz-tinted, and the huge cloud which hung suspended from the neck of
the Matterhorn was changed in a second into beaten gold, as though
touched by the rod of the alchemist; when the Breithorn flushed deep
for a moment at the sun's caress, and the land lay flooded in a
translucent yellow haze that spread like a vapour over the works of God
and man, and turned mere stones and mortar into the fairy palaces of
Eastern fable!

It seems now like a wonderful dream, but, thank God! it is something
much less transient.  For a memory is infinitely better than a dream:
the memory of an experience such as this is a continual feast, whereas
a dream too often excites hopes that may never be realised, and
presents visions of delight which are as elusive as the grapes of
Tantalus.

I stored up every detail for the squire's benefit.  I cultivated my
powers of observation more for his sake than my own, and reaped a
double reward.  All I saw is impressed still upon my brain with
photographic sharpness, and it will be a long, long time before the
image becomes faded or blurred.  But what was better still, I saw the
squire's eyes brighten and the "yonderly" look depart, as he came back
to earth evening by evening and followed the story of my adventures.

I believe he would have been content to stay on indefinitely and give
me as good a time as my heart could have desired, but that would not
have been right.  I had not gone out to enjoy a frolic, and at times I
felt almost ashamed of myself for enjoying life so much.  "Grace
Holden," I said, "you are a very considerable fraud.  Your special rôle
just now is supposed to be that of the ministering angel, whereas you
are flinging away your own time and somebody else's money like an
irresponsible tripper."

Dr. Grey laughed when I told him that I had qualms of conscience on
this score.

"Don't worry," he said; "Providence has her own notions of how angels
can best minister, and I fancy you are carrying out her scheme pretty
successfully, It's three days since the old gentleman spoke a word
about dying, and I'm certain he is not nearly as anxious to be gone as
he was before you came.  But cannot you tempt him back to England by
any means?  My wife and I cannot remain here much longer, and I would
like to help you to take him home."

I did my best, but I made little headway.  The squire seemed to have
lost all desire for home, and had quite made up his mind that his body
would soon be laid to rest amid the eternal snows.  He was constantly
anticipating some further attack which would cut him down without
warning, and Gottlieb seemed to find a mournful satisfaction in
encouraging these forebodings, less perhaps by what he said than by
what he left unsaid.

A tinge of annoyance began to mix with Dr. Grey's laugh, and he spoke
to the squire with a touch of asperity.  He had subjected him again to
a thorough examination, and on its conclusion he broke out:

"Look here, Mr. Evans, I stake my professional reputation upon my
verdict that you are not a dying man physically.  If you die it's your
own fault.  There is no reason why we should not start for home
to-morrow."

The squire took his hand and held it.  "Grey," he said, "has science
taught you that man has an inward voice that sometimes speaks more
authoritatively and convincingly than doctor or parson, and that
insists upon its dicta?  Miss Holden knows it and calls it her 'Inner
Self.'"

"No, sir," he replied, "science has taught me nothing of the kind.  I
am no psychologist, for my business is with the body rather than the
soul.  But science has taught me what the body is and is not able to
accomplish, and whatever your 'Inner Self' may say I am convinced that
your body is quite competent to take that perverse autocrat home if he
will let it.  But it cannot otherwise."

"Intuition is sometimes more powerful than logic," said the squire.
"Grey, you are a good fellow and I owe you a debt of gratitude, but
don't inconvenience yourself on my account.  Go home, if you must, and
believe me, I am sincerely thankful for all your goodness and
attention."

The doctor tackled me again at dinner.  "I'm not going home," he said,
"and I'm not going to let him die without a struggle.  But you'll have
to make that Inner Self of his listen to reason.  Now put your thinking
cap on, and good luck to you."

"I cannot understand him," I replied; "he was always inclined to
melancholy, but he was not morbid and listless as he now shows himself.
He seems sometimes pitiably weak and childish, whereas ordinarily he is
full of shrewd common sense."

"Of course he is," said the doctor, "and will be again.  His Inner Self
is sick just now, consequent upon his long seclusion from friends and
home associations.  It needs to be roused.  If you can once make him
_want_ to go home, his body will take him there hard enough.  I can't
do that: you must.  Can't you tell him you have got to go back?"

I had thought of that.  I had left my work at the busiest season of the
year, and, after all, it was my living.  And there was Mother Hubbard,
who had learned to lean upon me, and had yielded me so willingly to the
more pressing duty.  I owed something to her.  As I thought upon these
things a feeling of homesickness stole over me, and I went in and sat
at the squire's feet.

It was falling dusk, and the cool breath of evening fanned our cheeks
as we sat by the open window and watched the lights twinkling in the
celestial dome, and the mountains growing more black and mysterious
with the advancing night.

"It is very lovely," murmured the squire.

"Yes," I said, "it is.  But close your eyes and I will paint you a more
attractive picture than this.  You will not interrupt me, will you? and
I will try to tell you what I saw not long ago, and what I am aching to
see again."

"No, my child," he replied, pressing my hand fondly "I will be quite
still and you shall paint your picture on my brain."

I hesitated a moment, and I think a wordless, formless prayer for help
ascended to heaven.  I endeavoured to visualise the scene in its
fairest colours, and trembled lest my effort should be in vain.  I
closed my own eyes, too, for I feared distraction.  Then I began:

"I am standing in a country lane, with ragged hedges on either hand.
The hedges are brightly green, for they have been newly washed with the
warm rain of summer, and they sparkle like gems in the bright sunshine
of a glorious morning.  There is a bank of grass, rank, luxurious
grass, on one side of the roadway, and I clamber up to secure a wider
view of the bounties nature has provided.

"There is a merry, frolicsome breeze--a rude one, in truth, for it
winds my skirt about my limbs and blows my hair over my ears and eyes;
and yet I love it, for it means no harm, and its crisp touch braces my
body and gives me the taste of life.

"From my elevated standpoint I see the distant horizon, miles and miles
away.  Far off upon my right the clouds lie in long grey strata, like
closely-piled packs of wool, but on my left the remoter sky is washed
in silver, with here and there a rent revealing wonderfully delicate
tints of blue.

"Overhead the wool-packs have been burst open by the wind which is
tearing them apart and scattering their contents over the deep blue
zenith.  They are dazzlingly white, whether heaped together in massive
bulk, or drawn out--as so many of them are--into transparent fluff
which drifts in the rapid air current like down of thistles.

"The morning is cold and the air is keen, so that the sky-line is
sharply defined and hints a threat of rain.  But who cares about the
evil of the hour after next when there are so many glories to delight
the present sense?  See, the sky-line of which I speak is dusky purple
and reddish-brown, but broad, flat washes of verdigris stretch up to
it, with here and there a yellow patch betokening fields of grain, and
in the foreground meadows and pastures of brighter hue.

"In front of me is a clump of trees--fine, tall trees they are, with
shining grey boles--standing erect and strong in spite of the fury of
the gales.  Sycamore and beech and elm, majestic, beautiful.  I hear
the cawing of the rooks from out the dark shadows.

"I climb over the wall a little farther on and walk fifty paces
forward.  I now see a grey Hall, a dear old place, stone-roofed and
low, with tiny old-world window-panes around which the dark-hued ivy
clings tenaciously.  There are brightly coloured flower-beds in front,
and a green lawn to one side, and a cluster of beeches stands sentinel
before the closed door.  For the door, alas! is closed, and as I look a
thick thundercloud hangs over the house, and I turn away depressed and
seek the sunshine on the other side.

"And now it is waste land upon which my delighted eyes rest, and the
west wind brings to my nostrils the scent of the moors.  Waste land!
Who shall dare to call that russet-coloured hillside with the streaks
of green upon it, waste?  That stretch of country, bracken-covered,
ending in the long expanse of heath which is now violet-purple in tint,
but will soon be glowing and aflame when the heather bursts its
bonds--can that be waste?  Surely not!

"I see tiny cottages from whose chimneys the blue smoke is being
twisted into fantastic forms by the wind's vagaries, and gardens gay
with bloom, and a green-bordered street, and through an open door the
dancing flame on a homely hearth.  It is all very lovely and peaceful,
and when I turn for a last look at the old Hall where the door is
closed, lo! the thunder-cloud has gone, and the sky is blue over the
smokeless stacks, and hope arises within my breast, and I go on my way
with joy and peace in my heart.  That is my picture!"

I stopped and opened my eyes.  A tear was stealing down the squire's
face, and the grasp on my hand had tightened.

"Have you finished, Grace?"

"Yes," I whispered.

"I think I should like to go home," he said.  "I believe I could manage
it, after all."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE PARABLE OF THE HEATHER

We left Zermatt on the following day.  I must say that I entered the
squire's room with some trepidation, but it was quite unnecessary.  He
smiled as I bent over to kiss him, and relieved my apprehension at once.

"It's all right, Grace," he said; "the heather pulls.  You know, don't
you?"

Dr. Grey was splendid.  Motor cars are of no use in Zermatt, except to
bring you there or take you away, so the smell of petrol does not often
draw the tourist's attention from the sublime to the--nauseous; but it
was characteristic of the almost impudent audacity of the man that he
commandeered the only one there was at the Victoria.

"How have you managed it?" I asked, when I learned that we were all to
travel as far as Lausanne in the Marquis d'Olsini's luxurious
automobile.

"Oh, easily enough," he replied in his hearty way; "the marquis is no
end of a decent sort, and when I explained matters, and pointed out
that the car was rusting for want of use, he placed it at my disposal
with the grace and courtliness that distinguish your true Italian
nobleman."

It was a veritable little palace on tyres, and we reached Lausanne
quickly and without inconvenience.  The squire was not a bit worse for
the effort, but the sight of old Gottlieb turning away from the door
when he had bidden us good-bye, with a shrug of the shoulders that said
as plainly as any words could have done that he washed his hands of all
responsibility and was disgusted at the capriciousness of the mad
English, afforded me much delight and remains with me still.

It took us four days to reach Folkestone, and we stayed there a couple
of nights before we went on to London.  Dr. and Mrs. Grey remained with
us until we reached the St. Pancras hotel, where the Cynic was waiting
to receive us.  The squire will see a good deal of the Greys, as the
doctor is a Manchester man and can easily run over.  The Cynic took to
them at once, and Mrs. Grey, or "Dot" as I have learned to call her,
confided to me that my friend was a very nice fellow of whom she would
be desperately afraid.  Fancy any woman being afraid of the Cynic!

Mr. Derwent is, in his way, quite as good an organiser as the doctor,
though he goes about his work so quietly that you hardly realise it.
Instead of our having to change at Airlee he had arranged for a saloon
to be attached to the Scotch express, so that we travelled with the
utmost possible comfort.  The squire was by this time so accustomed to
travelling, and had borne the fatigue of the journey so well, that I
should not have hesitated to accompany him alone, but it was very
pleasant to have the Cynic's company and to feel that he shared the
responsibility.  He seemed pleased to see me, I thought, and
congratulated me warmly on the success of my mission.

"You must thank Dr. Grey for all this," I said; "it was his persistence
that brought Mr. Evans home."

"Nay, child," said the squire, "you and your word pictures sent me
home."

Webster met us at Fawkshill with the pair of bays, and his eyes shone
as he greeted the squire.  It was good to observe the sympathy that
exists between the two as they grasped hands at the station gate.  One
was master and the other servant, but they were just old friends
reunited, and neither of them was ashamed of his emotion.

When we entered the lane the squire closed his eyes.  "I will play at
being a boy again, Grace.  Tell me when we reach the brow of the hill,
so that I may see it all at once."

I knew what he meant, and none of the three spoke a word until Webster
pulled up his horses at my request.  It was nearly five o'clock in the
afternoon, and the warm August sun was well on his way to the west.  A
thin haze hung over the distant hills, but the moors were glorious in
brown and purple, and there was here and there the glint of gorse.

"Now, sir," I said, "look and rejoice!"

He stood up in the carriage and looked around; and as he looked he
filled his lungs with the sweet moorland air.  Then he said, with deep
emotion:

"Thank God for this!--Drive on, Webster, please."

I was anxious to see the motherkin, and leaving the squire to the
companionship of Mr. Derwent I hastened to the cottage.  It would be
more correct to say that I did my best to hasten, but so many of the
villagers stopped me to offer their greetings and inquire the news that
my progress was considerably retarded.

When I was nearing the cottage I met Farmer Goodenough, whose hearty
hand-grasp I accepted cautiously.  After the usual preliminary
questions had been asked and answered his voice became rather grave as
he said:

"Miss 'Olden, I don't want to worry ye, knowing 'at you're an extra
speshul hand at findin' trouble, but I don't altogether like the looks
o' Mrs. Hubbard.  She's gone a bit thin an' worn, in a manner o'
speakin'.  Ye'll excuse me saying ought, I know, but 'a stitch in time
saves nine,' as t' Owd Book puts it."

I thanked him, and hurried home, feeling very troubled and uneasy, but
when the dear old lady came tripping down to meet me my fears retired
into the background.  She was so bright and sweet and altogether
dainty, and she looked so happy and so well, with the pink flush of
pleasure on her cheeks, that I concluded the worthy farmer had for once
deceived himself.

"Yes, love!" she exclaimed, flinging her arms around my neck as I
stooped to kiss her; "but you are so brown, love, and you are really
handsome.  Do come in and have some tea."

She hovered about me all the time I was removing my hat and coat,
anxious to render me service, and seizing every opportunity of stroking
my hands and cheeks.

"You foolish old pussy-cat!" I said at length, as I forced her into her
easy-chair and placed the hot toast before her.  "Give over petting and
spoiling me, and tell me all about yourself--the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth."

She evaded all my questions, however, and insisted that I should
describe for her every incident of my journey.

When we had cleared away the things and drawn our chairs up to the fire
I returned to the attack.  Perhaps she was a little thin, after all,
and there was a tired look about the eyes that I did not like.

"What have you been doing in my absence?" I asked; "not working
yourself to death in the vain attempt to impart a brighter surface to
everything polishable, eh?"

"No, love, I have taken things very easily, and have just kept the
cottages and your studio tidy.  I have spent a good deal of time at
Reuben's, where they have been very kind to me; but I have missed you
very much, love."

"Well, I am back now, and not likely to leave you again for a long
time.  We must have another full day's jaunt on the moors and see the
heather in all its royal magnificence."

Her eyes brightened, but I noticed they fell again, and there was doubt
in her voice as she replied:

"Yes, love.  That will be nice.  I think the heat has been very trying,
and you may find it so, too.  You must take care not to overtire
yourself."

Then I knew that there was something wrong, and was glad that I had not
consented to live at the Hall.  It had been a disappointment to the
squire, but he had not pressed the point when he saw that I was
unwilling, and I had, of course, readily agreed to spend a good deal of
time with him.  I know he would have welcomed my old lady as a
permanent guest for my sake, but she would never have consented to
abandon her own little Hall of Memories, though she would have sought
by every cunning artifice which love could devise to induce me to leave
her, and would have suffered smilingly.  I registered a mental vow that
she should never know, if I could keep the secret from her, and that I
would do all in my power to make her declining days happy.

"Why are you so weary, dear?" I asked.

"Oh, it is nothing, love," she replied.  "It is just the heat.  I shall
be better when the days are cooler.  Indeed, love, I am feeling better
already."

I slept soundly enough, in spite of my new anxiety, but the morrow
brought me no alleviation.  The old lady's vigour was gone, and she
moved about the house without energy.  But her cheerfulness never
failed her, and her patience was something to marvel at.

Dr. Trempest pulled up his horse at the gate and stopped to have a chat
one day, and I took the opportunity of mentioning my uneasiness.

"I'll pop in and look at her," he said.  "Why don't you give her the
same magic physic you've poured down the throat of my old friend Evans?
He's taken on a new lease of life.  I tell you it's a miracle, and he
says you did it, but he won't divulge the secret.  Dear! dear! we old
fogeys are no use at all in competition with the women!  But come,
let's have a look at the old girl."

He walked brusquely in and sat astride a chair, leaning his chin on the
high back, and talked with her for ten minutes.  Then he came out to me
again.

"Can't say much without an examination, but appears to me the
machinery's getting done.  We can none of us last for ever, you know.
Keep her still, if you can, and tell her she needn't be up every two
minutes to flick the dust off the fireirons.  Drive her out, now and
then, and let her have exercise without exertion; and don't you pull a
long face before her or get excited or boisterous."

I pulled a face at _him_, and he grinned as he mounted his horse.
"I'll send her up a bottle," he said; "works wonders, does a bottle, if
it's mixed with faith in them that take it;" and the caustic old man
moved slowly away.

The bottle came, but so far it has wrought no miracle, and there has
crept into my heart the unwelcome suggestion of loss.  I have tried not
to admit it, not to recognise it when admitted, but the attempt is
vain.  Dr. Trempest shakes his head and repeats his sagacious remark
that we can't live for ever, and the squire presses my hand in
sympathy, being too honest to attempt to comfort me with hollow hopes.

Only Mother Hubbard herself is cheerful, and as her physical strength
decreases she appears to gain self-possession and mental vigour.  When
the squire suggested that she should be asked to accompany us on the
drives which he so much enjoys I anticipated considerable opposition,
and felt certain that she would yield most reluctantly, but to my
surprise she consented without demur.

"This is very kind of Mr. Evans, love," she said, "and if you do not
mind having an old woman with you I shall be glad to go."

She did not say much on these excursions, but when she was directly
spoken to she answered without confusion, and was quite unconscious
that she occasionally addressed the squire as "love."  He never
betrayed any consciousness of it, but I once noticed a repressed smile
steal over Webster's face as he sat upon the box.

Now it was that I saw the full beauty of the moorland which had made so
strong an appeal to my father's heart.  I felt my own strangely
stirred, and my two companions were also full of emotion.  I believe it
spoke to each of us with a different voice, and had not quite the same
message for any two of us.  I have hardly analysed my own feelings, but
I think the rich and yet subdued colouring got hold of my imagination,
and the wildness of the scene impressed me powerfully.

I had always known these moors--known them from my childhood; but only
as one knows many things--the moon or the Mauritius, for instance--from
the description of others.  The picture painted for me had been true to
life, but not living; yet it had been sufficiently lifelike to make the
reality strangely familiar.  And now I looked at it with double
vision--through my own eyes and my father's; and the thought of what he
would have felt quickened my perceptions and attuned them to the spirit
of my ancestors.  The moors were sheeted in purple, brightened by
clumps of golden gorse, and I could easily have followed the example of
Linnæus, who, when he first saw the yellow blossom, is said to have
fallen on his knees and praised God for its beauty.

The squire had known the moors always.  To him the scene speaks of
home.  I do not think the actual beauty of it impresses him greatly,
perhaps because of its extreme familiarity, and it does not arouse in
him the same sensation of pleasure or appeal to his artistic sense in
the same degree as the grander scenery he has so lately left behind.

But this _contents_ him as nothing else does or could!  It is as when
one exchanges the gilded chairs of state for the old, familiar
arm-chair which would appear shabby to some people, or the dress shoes
of ceremony for the homely slippers on the hearth.  He admits now that
he is happier than he had ever been abroad, and that he is glad to
spend the late evening of his days amid the friendly scenes of his
youth and manhood.

As for Mother Hubbard, she is quite unconsciously a mixture of poet and
prophet.  Everything speaks to her of God.

"Yes, love," she said quite recently, "'He maketh everything beautiful
in its season;'" and to her the country is always beautiful, because it
is always as God made it.  That is why she loves it so much, I am sure;
and whether it glows and sparkles beneath the hot sun of August or lies
dun and grey under the clouded skies of February it is always full of
charm.  To her, all God's paintings show the hand of the Master,
whether done in monochrome or in the colours of the rainbow, and none
of them fails to satisfy her.

And Nature preaches to her, but the sermons are always comforting to
her soul, for her inward ear has never been trained to catch the gloomy
messages which some of us hear so readily.  But where she finds
consolation I discover disquietude.

The horse had been pulled up at a point where the wide panorama
stretched limitlessly before us, and for a time we had all been
speechless.  I had gathered a tiny bunch of heather and fastened it in
my belt, and now stood, shading my eyes with my hand, as I looked
across the billowy expanse.  The squire had closed his eyes, but his
face showed no trace of weariness, and I knew that he was happy.

Mother Hubbard broke the silence, as she sank back into her seat with a
little sigh, and when I sat down Webster drove slowly on.

"It is nice to think, love, that though you have gathered and taken
away a sprig of heather the landscape is still beautiful.  And yet, you
know, the little flowers you have plucked gave their share of beauty to
the whole, and helped God to do His work.  I think, love, that thought
encourages me when I know that the Lord may soon stretch out His hand
for me.  Your little flowers have not lived in vain.  Only their
neighbours will miss them, but their little world would not have been
quite as beautiful without them."

I think the squire was astonished, but he remained quite still, and I
replied:

"That is very true, dear, but the heather has never thwarted its
Maker's purpose, but has lived the life He designed, and so has
perfectly fulfilled its mission.  With man, alas! it is not so.  He too
often makes a sad bungle of life, and is so full of imperfections that
he cannot add much to the beauty of the landscape."

Mother Hubbard shook her head and pointed to the moors.  "Yet _that_ is
very beautiful, love, isn't it?"

"It is perfect," I replied.

"Perfect, is it?  Look at the little flowers at your waist.  See, one
little bell has been blighted in some way, and there are several which
seem to have been eaten away in parts, and here and there some have
fallen off.  I wonder if you could find a sprig, love, where every bell
and tiny leaf is perfect.  Not many, I think.  Yet you say the view is
perfect, though the parts are full of imperfections."

The squire opened his eyes and bent them gravely upon her, but he did
not speak, and she did not observe him.

"Ah, but, dear Mother Hubbard," I said, "the heather bells cannot help
their imperfections.  The blight and the insect, the claw of bird, the
foot of beast, the hand and heel of man---how can they resist these
things?  But again I say, with man it is not so.  He is the master of
his destiny.  He has freedom of will, and when he fails and falls and
spoils his life it is his own fault."

"Not always, love," the gentle voice replied; "perhaps not often
entirely his own fault.  I used to think like that, but God has given
me clearer vision now.  Here is poor Sar'-Ann, not daring to show her
face outside the door; covered with shame for her own sin and Ginty's.
Oh yes, love, she has spoiled her life.  But think of how she has been
brought up: in a little cottage where there was a big family and only
two rooms; where the father was coarse and the boys--poor little
fellows--imitated him; and the mother, though she has a kind heart, is
vulgar and often thoughtless; where decency has been impossible and
woman's frailty has been made a jest.  It has not been Sar'-Ann's
fault, love, that she has been placed there.  She had no voice in the
selection of her lot.  She might have been in your home and you in
hers.  That little bunch of heather would have been safe yet if it had
not been growing by the roadside where you stood."

"Then God is responsible for Sar'-Ann?" I asked.

"God is her Father, and He loves her very dearly," she replied simply.
"There are lots of questions I cannot answer, love, but I am sure He
will not throw Sar'-Ann away because she has been blighted and stained."

The squire broke in now, and there was just a little tremor in his
voice as he spoke:

"'And when the vessel that he made of the clay was marred in the hands
of the potter he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the
potter to make it.'"

Mother Hubbard's eyes lit up.  "Yes, sir," she said, "and I do not
think he grieved too much because the first design went wrong.  He just
made it again another vessel.  Perhaps he meant at first to make a very
beautiful and graceful vessel, but there were imperfections and flaws
in the material, so he made it into a homely jug; and yet it was
useful."

"Oh, Mother Hubbard!" I said, "there are all sorts of imperfections and
flaws in your logic, and I know people who would shake it to pieces in
a moment."

"Well, love, perhaps so; but they would not shake my faith:

  "'To one fixed ground my spirit clings,
    I know that God is good.'"


"Stick to that, Mrs. Hubbard," said the squire earnestly; "never let go
that belief.  Faith is greater far than logic.  I would sooner doubt
God's existence than His goodness.  Problems of sin and suffering have
oppressed my brain and heart all my life, but like you I have got
clearer vision during these later days.  The clouds often disperse
towards the sunset, and my mental horizon is undimmed now.  You and I
cannot explain life's mysteries, but God can, and meanwhile I hold

  "'That nothing walks with aimless feet;
    That not one life shall be destroyed,
    Or cast as rubbish to the void,
  When God hath made the pile complete.'"


"Tennyson was not Paul," I remarked.

"Why should he have been?" he asked.  "He was a Christian seer, none
the less, and he had the heavenly vision."

"But you cannot call his theology orthodox," I persisted; "is it in any
sense Biblical?"

"Whence came his vision and inspiration if not from God?" he replied.
Then he turned to Mother Hubbard: "Thank you, thank you much," he said;
"I shall not forget your parable of the heather."



CHAPTER XXIV

ROGER TREFFIT INTRODUCES "MISS TERRY"

I had a letter from Rose this morning.  The lucky girl has got another
holiday and is apparently having a fine time at Eastbourne.  She says
the chief insisted that her trip north was not a holiday, but a tonic.
If so, it was a very palatable one, I am sure, from the way she took
it.  Whilst, therefore, I am exposing plates and developing negatives,
she is enjoying refreshing sea-breezes, and listening to good music.
It appears her chief recommended Eastbourne, and I gather from her
letter that he is there himself with his family.

So is the Cynic!  The courts are closed for the most part, but he told
me a while ago that there were one or two Old Bailey cases in which he
was interested which would prevent him from going very far away, and he
is taking week-ends on the south coast.  It is curious that he should
have hit upon Eastbourne--quite by accident, Rose assures me--and that
they should have met so early.  I am not surprised that they should
have been together for a long ramble over the downs, though I imagine
they would have liked it better without the presence of a third party.
Rose is not very clear about it, but apparently there were three of
them.  What a nuisance for them both!

The Cynic does not expect to be in Windyridge again before the end of
this month.  I always think September seems a particularly long month,
and yet it has only thirty days.

Meantime the village is affording me further opportunities of studying
Mother Hubbard's theories of human nature and discovering the germ of
goodness in things evil.  It is a difficult hunt!

Little Lucy Treffit's father has come home, and the fact has a good
deal of significance for Lucy and her mother.  I cannot bear the sight
of the silly man.  He struts about the village as though he were doing
us a favour to grace it with his presence.  He puts a thumb in each
arm-hole of his waistcoat, wears a constant smile on his flabby face
when in public, and nods at everybody as he passes, in the most
condescending way imaginable.

He is quite an under-sized man, but broad all the way down; it looks as
though at some time in his life, when he may have been very soft and
putty-like, a heavy hand had been placed on his head, and he had been
compressed into a foot less height.  What gives reality to the
impression is the extreme length of his trousers, which hang over his
boots in folds.

The delight of his eyes and the joy of his heart is neither wife nor
child, but a smooth-haired terrier which brings in the living, such as
it is.

During the summer months Roger and his dog frequent the popular seaside
resorts and give beach entertainments of "an 'igh-class character" to
quote Roger himself.  In the winter months they secure engagements at
music-halls, bazaars, school-entertainments and the like, when the
income is more precarious.

Ordinarily the man is not home until October, but unfortunately the
dog's health broke down in the latter part of August, and Roger came
home to save the cost of lodgings, and to get drink on credit.  For,
almost alone among the villagers, this man gets drunk day by day with
marked consistency; and if he is irritating when sober he is nothing
less than contemptible when intoxicated.  He then becomes more suave
than ever, and his mouth curves into a smile which reaches his ears,
but he is more stupid and obstinate than the proverbial mule.  And the
worst of it is he drinks at home, for the nearest inn is above a mile
away, so his unhappy wife has a rough time of it.  Yet he is not
actively unkind to her; he does not beat her body--he merely starves
and wounds her soul.

She is a thin, wasted woman, about thirty years old, I suppose, of more
than average intelligence, and one of the best needlewomen I have ever
seen.  She does beautiful work for which she is wretchedly paid, but it
serves to keep the home together.  I cannot help thinking that she is
suffering from some serious disease, but she herself refuses to harbour
any such thought.  I am very much interested in her and little Lucy,
and during the summer have paid them many a visit and been cheered by
the little girl's delightful prattle.

They live in a very poor house, and a most peculiar one.  It is
two-storeyed, but unusually narrow, and the only window in the upper
room is a fixture in the roof.  It really is remarkable that in a place
like Windyridge so many of the windows cannot be opened, either because
they were so constructed at first, or because their owners have painted
and varnished them until they are glued fast.

The stones in the walls are loose in many places and the stone slabs on
the roof lie about at various angles, and seem to invite the thin, tall
chimney-stack--and why it should be so tall I have never been able to
surmise--to fall down and send them flying.  It is a mean, rickety
house, not worth the cost of repair.

Inside, however, it is as clean and comfortable as any other in the
village.  The floor is spotless, the deal tables are white as soap and
water can make them, the steel fender and fire-irons shine like
mirrors, and the short curtains at the window might always have come
straight from the laundry.

I did not know Roger had come home when I raised the latch and entered
the house, after the usual perfunctory knock, the other day, and I
apologised for my unceremonious entrance with some confusion.

Roger waved his hand loftily.  "Quite all right, ma'am; quite all
right.  Miss Terry, oblige me by getting the lady a chair."

The dog rose to its feet and with its nose and forepaws pushed a chair
from the wall in the direction of the fireplace.

"Thank you, Miss Terry," remarked the man, "I am much obliged to you.
Pray be seated, ma'am."

I was interested, in spite of myself.  "Yours is a very remarkable dog,
Mr. Treffit," I said.

"Yes'm; very much so indeed.  Miss Terry is the name I gave 'er,
because she is a 'mystery.'  See?  Ha! ha!  Very good that, eh?
Mystery--Miss Terry.  Miss Terry and me, ma'am, has appeared before the
nobility, clergy and gentry of a dozen counties."

I expressed polite astonishment and inquired for Mrs. Treffit.

"My wife, ma'am, is upstairs in the chamber.  If you want her I will
send for her.  Miss Terry, will you convey my respects to the missis,
and ask her to step this way?"  The request was accompanied by a
significant gesture in the direction of the narrow staircase, and the
dog, with an inclination of the head which might have been intended for
a bow, bounded up the steps and returned with its mistress.  Its
mistress?  No, I withdraw the word--with its master's wife.

She coughed a good deal as she came down, and I suggested that a short
walk in the sunshine would do her good, but she shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Miss 'Olden, but I'm that busy I couldn't leave just now.
I was wonderin' if you'd mind comin' upstairs while I get on with my
work."

"Sit down a bit, can't you?" said the man; "I want Miss Terry to show
this lady some of her tricks.  You're always in such a desperate hurry,
you are."

"Someb'dy has to be in a 'urry," she replied, "when there's naught
comin' in, an' three mouths to feed, to say nothin' of the dog, which
costs nearly as much as all t' rest put together."

"You leave the dog alone," he growled; "Miss Terry brings in as much as
all t' rest put together, doesn't she?"

"I say nought against her," she answered wearily; "t' dog's right
enough, but she's bringin' nought in now."

She sat down, however, at my side, and Miss Terry proceeded to justify
her name.  She dressed herself in a queer little hobble-skirt costume,
put on a hat and veil, raised a sunshade, and moved about the room in
the most amusing way.  She fetched a miniature bedstead, undressed and
put herself to bed in a manner calculated to bring down the house every
time.  She removed the handkerchief (a very dirty one, by the way) from
her master's pocket, sneezed, wiped her nose, and then replaced it
without apparently arousing its owner's attention.  She drank out of
his glass, simulated intoxication, and fell into a seemingly drunken
sleep, with much exaggerated snoring.

And all the time Roger Treffit stood or sat, as circumstances required,
addressing the dog in the politest and most deferential terms, with the
smug smile of satisfaction threatening to cut the chin entirely, from
his face.

"Now, Miss Terry," he said in conclusion, "you must not overtire
yourself.  We are very grateful for the hentertainment you have
pervided.  Have the goodness to step up to the lady and say good-bye."

The dog extended a paw, and Martha and I were permitted to withdraw.

"It really is a very clever dog," I remarked, when we were alone in the
prison-like bedroom.

"It's a very good dog, too," she replied; "it 'ud look after me more
nor he would if he'd let it.  It 'asn't a bit o' vice about it, an' I
only wish I could say as much for its master."

"Why are you sitting up here in this wretched loft, where the light is
so poor for such fine work?"

"To be out of his way, an' that's the truth," she replied bitterly.  "I
shall go down when Lucy comes in from t' school, and not afore.  I've
never no peace nor pleasure when he's at 'ome."

"He doesn't ill-treat you, does he?"

"No, but I cannot bear to see him all t' day through, soakin', soakin'.
He can always walk straight, however much he takes, but 'e gets that
nasty by tea-time there's no bidin' in t' 'ouse with 'im.  And he
natters so when I cough, an' I can't help coughin'.  It's nought much,
an' I've got used to it, but it vexes 'im, an' he says it worries t'
dog."

"He's a brute!" I said; "anybody can see that he thinks more of his dog
than of you."

"Well, you see, his dog's his business.  I don't know 'at he's worse
nor lots more 'at makes their business into their god, but it isn't
always easy to bide.  An' when I get to t' far end I answer back, an'
that makes fireworks.  I wish he wor at Blackpool yet."

At that moment a loud report rang through the house, and I sprang from
my seat in alarm.

"It's nothin'," said Martha; "there's nought to be frightened of.  He's
teachin' t' dog some new fool's trick with a pistol, but I don't
believe there's a bullet in it.  He nearly frightened me an' our Lucy
out of our wits t' first time he did it."

I sat down again, but my heart was still beating violently.  "I fear I
couldn't live with such a companion," I said.

"You'd 'ave to, if you were i' my shoes," she replied.  "I'm tied up to
'im, ain't I?  Tell me what _you'd_ do.  You couldn't get a divorce
even if you'd plenty o' money, for he never bothers wi' other women.
An' t' court wouldn't give me an order, 'cos he doesn't thrash me; an'
t' vicar's wife says 'at it was for better or worse 'at I took 'im, an'
I must kill him wi' kindness.  But kindness doesn't kill 'im; nought
does.  Oh God, if it wasn't for our Lucy I'd be glad to go where he
couldn't follow."

"You won't think I am preaching, will you, dear," I said, "if I ask you
if you have tried really hard to make him love you?  I don't quite know
what you could do, but there must be some way of reaching his heart.
And think how happy you would all be if you could change his heart and
win his love."

"Miss 'Olden, there comes a time when you give up tryin', becos you
fair 'aven't strength an' 'eart to go on.  I've done all I could for
that man.  He's asked nought of me I 'aven't let 'im 'ave.  I'm the
mother of his child, an' I've tried to learn t' little lass to be as
good as she's bonny, bless her! an' I keep her as neat as I know how;
an' he thinks more o' t' dog.  I've worked early an' late to keep t'
'ome together, an' he's never once found it ought but tidy, for I get
up afore he wakes to scrub and polish.  I've gone without food to give
'im luxuries, an' he never says so much as 'Thank ye'; but he thanks t'
dog for every trick he's trained it to.  I've smiled on 'im when my
heart's been like lead, an' talked cheerful when it 'ud 'a done me good
to cry--an' all for what?  Not for curses: not for kicks.  I could
stand curses an' kicks when he wor i' drink, if he'd love me an' be
sorry when he wor sober.  No, after all I've done for 'im he just takes
no notice of me.  I'm his woman, not his wife, an' I'm too
broken-hearted now to try any more."

One solitary tear stole down her cheek--a tiny tear, as though the
fountain from which it had escaped were nearly dry; and she did not
stop to wipe it away.

I bent over and kissed her.  "The darkest night ends in day," I said.
"Don't lose heart or hope.  I cannot preach to you, and I fear if I
were in your place I should not do so well as you.  I should lose my
temper as well as my spirits.  But don't let love die if you can help
it.  I suppose you loved him once?"

"Yes, I loved him once," she said.

"And you still love him?" I ventured.

"No, I don't.  I neither love 'im nor 'ate 'im.  But I love his child.
That's our Lucy's voice.  I must be goin' down now."



CHAPTER XXV

THE RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL

I have been one whole year in Windyridge, and like a good business
woman I have taken stock and endeavoured to get out a balance sheet in
regular "Profit and Loss" fashion.  I am afraid a professional
accountant would heap scorn upon it, as my methods are not those taught
in the arithmetics; but that consideration does not concern me.

My net profits from the portraiture branch amount to the huge sum of
nine pounds, eighteen shillings and sevenpence.  If these figures were
to be published I do not think they would attract competitors to
Windyridge, and I can see plainly that I shall not recoup my initial
outlay on the studio for several years.  But that matters little, as my
London firms have kept me well supplied with work, and would give me a
great deal more if I were willing to take it.

But I am _not_ willing.  Man does not live by bread alone, nor by
painting miniatures and designing book illustrations, and I am
determined to live and not just exist, and I _have_ lived during these
twelve months.  And even from the monetary point of view I am better
off than I was when I came, because if I have lost in the way of income
I have gained by a saving in expenditure.  You simply cannot spend
money in Windyridge, and, what is more, the things best worth having
cannot be bought with money.

These "more excellent" things appear upon another page in my balance
sheet--a page which would make the professional auditor gasp for breath.

My experiences have made me a richer woman, though not a more important
personage to my bankers.  I am healthier and happier than I was a year
ago.  I have a living interest in an entire community, and an entire
community has a living interest in me.  And I have a few real friends
in various stations of life, each of whom would do a great deal for me,
and each of whom has taught me several valuable lessons without fee or
reward.  The moors and the glens, too, have had me to school and opened
to me their secret stores of knowledge, and who shall compute the worth
of that education?  As a result, I have a saner outlook and a truer
judgment, and that counts for much in my case.  Undoubtedly the balance
is on the right side, and I have no regrets as I turn and look back
along the track of the year.

The anniversary day itself was marked by an incident of uncommon
interest.  The weather was atrocious, and in marked contrast to that of
the previous year on the corresponding date.  Had such conditions
prevailed when I first saw Windyridge the village would not have known
me as one of its householders.

It rained as though the floodgates of heaven had been opened and got
rusted fast.  For three days there had been one endless downpour, but
on the fateful Wednesday it degenerated into a miserable, depressing
drizzle which gave me the blues.  The distance disappeared behind an
impenetrable wall of mist, and the horizon was the hedge of the field
fifty yards away.  The drip, drip, drip from a leak in the glazing of
my studio so got on my nerves that in the afternoon I put on my strong
boots and a waterproof and set out for a walk.

But though the rain could not conquer me the sticky mud did.  After
covering a mile in half an hour I was so tired with the exertion that I
turned back, and was relieved when the distance has been almost covered
and only a few hundred yards separated me from the cottage.

I had had the road to myself so far, but as I came down the hill which
skirts the graveyard I saw a stranger in the act of opening the gate
and entering.  At the same moment, apparently, he caught sight of me,
and we scrutinised each other with interest as the distance between us
lessened.

He was a well-dressed young fellow of about thirty, with a stern
expression on an otherwise rather pleasing face.  His mouth was hidden
by a heavy moustache, but I liked his eyes, which had a frank look in
them.  His rather long raincoat was dripping wet, and he had no other
protection from the rain, for he carried in his hand a stout stick of
peculiar shape.  His hands and face were brown from exposure, and I
took him to be a prosperous, intelligent farmer.

He raised his hat at my approach.  "I am sorry to detain you, even for
a moment, in this rain," he said, "but I wondered if you could tell me
whether anyone of the name of Brown--Greenwood Brown--is buried here."

Oh! thought I, you have come back, have you?  But I merely replied:

"Yes, Mr. Brown's grave is near the top of the hill.  I will show you
which it is."

"Please do not put yourself to that trouble," he protested; "if you
will be good enough to direct me I shall be able to find it."

"You could not identify it," I said, "for there is no stone, but just a
grassy mound, like many of the rest.  Let me point it out to you, and
then I will go on my way."

He made no further objection, but held the gate open for me to enter.
There are no paths, and he protested again when he saw me plunge into
the long, wet grass, but I laughed at his fears and led the way to the
spot where all that was mortal of poor Farmer Brown lay beneath the sod.

"This is his grave," I said, and he thanked me with another courteous
inclination of the head.  As I turned to leave he asked a further
question.

"Can you tell me if any of his people still live in this neighbourhood?
I--I have a message for them."

"If you will call at my cottage," I replied, indicating the little
house a stone's-throw away, "I will tell you all I know.  Pray do not
stay too long in the rain.  You have no umbrella."

"Thank you," he said, "I shall take no harm, and I will call at your
house shortly, as you are so very kind."

I left him, but I could not forbear looking from the window in Mother
Hubbard's bedroom, and I could distinctly see him standing with head
bent and uncovered in an attitude of deep dejection over his father's
grave.  I had no misgiving on that point.  In spite of the thick
moustache the likeness was too strong to admit of doubt.

I went into the studio and brought out the copy of Farmer Brown's
portrait which I had retained, and placed it on the chest of drawers
where he could hardly fail to see it; but I said nothing to Mother
Hubbard, who was laying the cloth for tea.  The kettle was boiling when
he came in, and I fetched a third cup and saucer and invited him to the
table.

I could see that reluctance struggled with desire, but Mother Hubbard's
added entreaties turned the scale, and he removed his soaking overcoat
with many apologies for the trouble he was causing.

He drank his tea, but appeared to have little appetite for the crisp
buttered toast which Mother Hubbard pressed upon him, and he took a
rather absent part in the desultory conversation which accompanied the
meal.  I did not think it right to reveal the curiosity I felt, but
after a while he made an opening.

"I only heard of Farmer Brown's death as I entered the village," he
said.  "I met a boy, of whom I inquired, and he told me the farmer was
buried here in the beginning of the year."

Mother Hubbard put on her glasses and looked at him with a new
interest, and removed them again in a minute or two as if satisfied.

"He died early in January," I said; "did you know him?"

"Yes," he said, and there was no sign of emotion in his voice or face;
"but I have not seen him for several years.  He had a wife and
daughter; are they living, and still at the old place?  I forgot to ask
the boy."

I thought it curious that he should have overlooked so natural a
question, if, as seemed likely, he had come to the neighbourhood with
the intention of finding them; but after all, the explanation lay upon
the surface--he manifestly did not wish to arouse too much curiosity.

"Yes, they are still at the farm, and both are well," I replied; "I
often see them.  If you knew the farmer you will perhaps recognise his
photograph.  It was taken only a little while before he died."

I got up and handed it to him, and I saw his mouth twitch at the
corners as he took the card in his hand.  All the same he examined it
critically, and his voice was still firm as he replied:

"He had evidently aged a good deal since I knew him, but I am sure it
was a good likeness."

"It was trouble that aged him, Joe," broke in Mother Hubbard's gentle
voice; "the good Lord overrules all things for good, but it was you who
brought his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave."

There was a mild severity of tone which astonished me and revealed
Mother Hubbard in a new light, but I was too interested in the change
which came over the startled man's face to think much of it at the time.

"So you recognise me," he said.  "I thought your face was familiar,
though the young lady's is not so.  Well, everybody will know of my
return soon, so I need not complain that you have anticipated the news
by a few hours.  Yes, the prodigal has come home, but too late to
receive his father's blessing."

"Not too late to receive _a_ Father's blessing, Joe," replied Mother
Hubbard; "not too late to find forgiveness and reconciliation if you
have come in the right spirit; but too late to bring the joy-light into
your earthly father's eyes: too late to hear the welcome he would have
offered you."

"I do not ask nor deserve to be spared," he said, with some dignity,
"and my first explanations shall be offered to those who have most
right to them.  But this I will say, for I can see that you speak with
sincerity.  I came back to seek forgiveness and to find peace, but I am
justly punished for my sin in that I forfeit both.  You have not said
much, but you have said enough to let me realise that the curse of Cain
is upon me."

"It is not," said Mother Hubbard calmly and with firmness; "your father
would have told you so.  Go home to your mother, and you will find in
her forgiveness and love a dim reflection of the forgiveness and love
of God, and peace will follow."

He rested one elbow upon the table and leaned his head upon his hand,
whilst his fingers tapped a mechanical tune upon his forehead, but he
did not speak for several minutes--nor did we.  Then he rose and took
the still damp overcoat from the clothes-horse before the fire, and
said as he put it on:

"Since I left home I have had many hard tasks to perform, But the
hardest of them all now lies before me, and though I have made some
little money I would give every penny I possess if the past could be
undone and that grey-haired man brought back to life.  I am accounted a
bold man, but I would sooner face a lion in the Rhodesian jungle than
my mother and sister on yonder farm."

"Go in peace!" said the little mother.  "God stands by the side of
every man who does his duty, and your mother, remember, is about to
experience a great joy.  Let them see that you love them both, and that
you loved your father too, and that will heal the wound more quickly
than anything else."

He shook Mother Hubbard's hand, bowed to me, and stepped out into the
rain; and I watched him walk briskly forward until the mist swallowed
him up.

Two days afterwards I heard the sequel.  The rain had cleared away and
the roads were fairly dry when I set off with the intention of walking
as far as Uncle Ned's.  Before I had gone very far I overtook Farmer
Goodenough, who was journeying in the same direction, and almost
immediately afterwards we met Jane Brown.

"I was just comin' to see you, Miss Holden," she said, "but as you're
going my way I'll walk back with you if you'll let me.  Mother wants to
know if you can take our photographs--hers and Joe's and mine--on
Monday."

I told her it would be quite convenient, and Farmer Goodenough began to
question her about her brother's home-coming.  I hardly expected much
response, for Jane is not usually very communicative, but on this
occasion she was full of talk.

"I came o' purpose to say my say," she explained, "for I must either
talk or burst."

We encouraged the former alternative, and she began: "If you want to be
made a fuss of, and have people lay down their lives for you, you
mustn't stop at 'ome and do your duty; you must go wrong.  Only you
mustn't go wrong just a little bit: you must go the whole hog an' be a
rank wrong 'un--kill your father or summat o' that sort--and then when
you come back you'll be hugged an' kissed an' petted till it's fair
sickenin'."

"Gently, lass, gently!" said Farmer Goodenough; "that sounds just a
trifle bitter."

"I may well be bitter; you'd be bitter if you saw what I see," she
replied.

I endeavoured to turn the conversation and to satisfy my curiosity.
"Where has your brother been, and what has he been doing all these
years?" I inquired.

"Oh, he tells a tale like a story-book," she replied impatiently.  "I'm
bound to believe him, I suppose, because whatever else he was he wasn't
a liar, but it's more like a fairy tale than ought else.  After he hit
father an' ran away he got to Liverpool, an' worked his passage on a
boat to Cape Town, an' for a long time he got more kicks than
ha'pence--and serve him right, too, _I_ say.  He tried first one thing
an' then another, and landed up in Rhodesia at last, an' sought work
from a man who employed a lot o' labour.  He says he wouldn't have been
taken on if the gentleman hadn't spotted him for a Yorkshireman.
'Thou'rt Yorkshir', lad?' he said; an' our Joe said: 'Aye! bred an'
born.'  'Let's hear ta talk a bit o' t' owd tongue, lad,' he said;
'aw've heeard nowt on 't for twelve yeear, an' t' missis willn't hev it
spokken i' t' haase.'

"Well, of course, Joe entered into t' spirit of it, an' the old
gentleman was delighted, an' gave him a job, an' he always had to speak
broad Yorkshire unless the missis was there.  It wasn't exactly a farm,
but they grew fruit an' vegetables and kept poultry an' pigs an' bees
an' such like, and it was just to our Joe's taste.  I won't deny but
what he's clever, and he was always steady an' honest.  He says the old
gentleman took to him an' gave him every chance, an' t' missis liked
him too, because he always spoke so polite an' proper.  An' then he
fell in love wi' one o' t' daughters, an' they were married last year,
an' by what I can make out he's a sort of a partner in t' business now.
Anyway, he says it's his wife 'at brought him to see what a wrong 'un
he'd been, and when he'd told 'em all t' tale nothing 'ud do but he was
to come to England and make it up with his father.  So he's come, an'
mother blubbers over him, an' holds his 'and, an' strokes his 'air till
I'm out of all patience."

Farmer Goodenough looked grave, but he did not speak, so I said: "Isn't
this rather unworthy of you, Jane?  Your mother is naturally glad to
see her boy back again, and if she had not been here you would have
welcomed him just as cordially."

"Would I?" she replied.  "No fear!  He gave father ten years of sorrow
an' brought him to 'is grave.  I loved my dad too well to forgive his
murderer that easy.  He's taken no notice of us all this time, an'
while he's been makin' money an' courtin' a rich girl we might all have
been in t' workhouse for ought he knew or cared.  And then he's to come
home, an' it's to be all right straight off, an' we must have t' best
counterpane on t' bed, an' t' china tea-service out 'at were my
grandmother's, an' we must go slobberin' round his neck the minute he
puts his head in at t' door.  Bah! it makes me sick.  You've only got
to be a prodigal, as I say, an' then you can have t' fatted calf killed
for you."

"Now look you here, lass," said Farmer Goodenough kindly, "I've said
nought so far, 'cos it does you good to talk.  It's poor policy to bung
t' kettle up when t' water's boilin', but I think ye've let off enough
steam now to keep from burstin', so we'll just look into this matter,
an' see what we can make on 't."

"Oh, I know you of old, Reuben Goodenough," replied the girl; "you'd be
every bit as bad as my mother."

"You'll be every bit as bad yerself, lass, when ye've as much sense;
but now just let me ask you a question or two.  T' Owd Book says, if I
remember right, when t' father came out to talk to t' sulky brother:
'It was meet to make merry an' be glad,' an' I take that to mean 'at it
was t' right an' proper thing to do.  Now why were they glad, think ye?"

"Just because he'd come home," replied Jane bitterly, "an' his brother,
like me, had never gone away.  I don't wonder 'at he was sulky.  But
that prodigal hadn't killed his father."

"Well, now, Jane," replied the farmer, "'cordin' to my way o' sizin'
that tale up, you've got hold of a wrong notion altogether.  I don't
know what t' parsons 'ud make of it, but it seems to me 'at t' owd man
was glad, not so much because t' lad had come back, but because he'd
come to hisself, an' that's a very deal different thing."

"I don't see no difference," said Jane.

"You will do if you think a minute, lass.  Suppose a lad loses his
senses an' runs away from 'ome, an' comes back one fine day as mad as
ever.  There'll be as much sorrow as joy, won't there, think ye, in
that 'ome?  But suppose while he's away his reason comes back to 'im,
an' he gets cured, an' as soon as he's cured he says: 'I must go 'ome
to t' owd folks,' an' he goes, an' they see 'at he's in his right mind,
don't you think they'll make merry an' be glad?  Wouldn't you?"

"Our Joe didn't lose his senses," the girl replied sullenly; "he was as
clear-headed then as he is now.  It's a different thing when they're
mad."

"Nay, lass," he replied, "but unless I'm sadly mista'en all sin is a
sort o' madness.  You said just now 'at Joe went wrong.  Now where did
he go wrong--I mean what part of 'im?"

Jane made no reply.

"You'd say he was wrong in his 'ead to have treated his father as he
did, but if 'is 'ead wasn't wrong 'is 'eart was, an' that's a worse
kind o' madness.  Doesn't t' Owd Book talk about 'em bein' possessed
wi' devils?  They mightn't be t' sort 'at has 'orns on, but they were
t' sort 'at tormented 'em into wrong-doin', an' surely it was summat o'
that sort 'at got hold o' your Joe.  Now, if his wife has brought him
to hisself, an' he's come 'ome to say he's sorry, 'it was meet to make
merry an' be glad.'"

"It's hard on them that don't go wrong," said Jane.

"Well, now, how is it 'ard on them?" asked the farmer.  "Talkin' quite
straight, where does t' 'ardship come in?"

"Well, mother doesn't cry round _my_ neck, an' stroke my hands, an'
make a big fuss," replied the girl, "an' it's hard to see her thinkin'
a deal more o' one 'at's done her so much wrong."

"Now you know better, Jane.  Your mother thinks no more o' your Joe
than she does o' you, only, as you say, she makes more fuss of him 'cos
he's come round.  It 'ud 'a been just t' same supposin' he'd been ill
for ten year an' then got better.  You'd ha' made a fuss over 'im then
as well as your mother, an' you wouldn't ha' thought 'at your mother
loved 'im more than you, if she did fuss over 'im a bit.  Now you just
look at it i' this way: Joe's been mad--clean daft--but he's come to
hisself, an' it's 'meet to make merry an' be glad.'"

Jane is not at all a bad sort.  She gave a little laugh as she said:

"Eh, Reuben!  I never heard such a man for talkin'.  However, I daresay
you're right, an' my bark's worse than my bite, anyway.  I was just
feelin' full up when I came out, but I'm better now.  I'll see if I can
manage not to be jealous, for we shan't have 'im long.  He's in a hurry
to be back to his precious wife, an' he wants mother an' me to go with
him, but mother says she'll have her bones laid aside father's, so
he'll have to go by himself."


I took the photographs this morning, and was pleased to find that the
reconciliation between brother and sister was complete.  In the
afternoon I went into the graveyard and found some beautiful flowers on
Farmer Brown's grave, and a man was taking measurements for a stone.
He told me that there was to be a curious inscription following the
usual particulars, and fumbling in his pocket he drew forth a piece of
paper on which I read these words:

"A foolish son is a grief to his father."

"A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE CYNIC BRINGS NEWS OF GINTY

It is the middle of October, and autumn is manifested on every side.
It makes me rather sad, for bound up with these marvellous sunset tints
which ravish the eye there is decay and death.  The woods are carpeted
in russet and gold; the green of the fields is dull and faded; every
breath of wind helps to strip the trees a little barer; and as though
Nature could not, unaided, work destruction fast enough, the hand of
man is stretched forth to strip the glowing bracken from the moors, and
great gaps on the hillsides tell of his handiwork.

I know, of course, that Nature is kindly and beneficent, and that death
in this connection is a misnomer.  I know that after the falling leaf
and the bare branch and twig there will come the glory of spring, the
glory of bursting bud and fragrant flower; but though that mitigates
the feeling of sadness it does not entirely dispel it.  The flowers and
the foliage, the heather and the bracken have been my companions during
these sunny days of summer, and it is hard to lose them, though only
for a while.

And when I look on dear old Mother Hubbard, as she sits quietly by the
fire, with her needles clicking ever more slowly, and the calm of a
peaceful eventide deepening upon her face, my heart sinks within me,
and I dare not look forward to the wintry months that lie ahead.  What
Windyridge will be to me when her sun sinks behind the hill I will not
try to realise.  I attempt to be cheerful, but my words mock me and my
laugh rings hollow, and she, good soul, reads me through and through.
I know I do not deceive her, and my Inner Self warns me that one of
these days the motherkin will have it out with me and make me face
realities, and I stand in dread of that hour.

The squire, on the other hand, looks far better than when he came home.
He is still feeble, and he has his bad days, but the light in his eyes
is not the light of sunset.  Dr. Trempest means to be convincing,
though he is merely vague when he assures the squire that he will
"outlive some of us yet."  I am glad he is better, for I cannot be with
him as much as I should if Mother Hubbard did not claim my devotion.

I had tea with him and the Cynic on Sunday afternoon when some of her
chapel friends were keeping Mother Hubbard company.

The Cynic was in the garden when I reached the Hall, and he told me
that the squire was asleep in the library, so we drew two deck-chairs
into the sunshine and sat down for an hour on the lawn.

He lit a cigarette, clasped his hands behind his head, and began:

"Well, I suppose you will want to know what is being done in the City
of Destruction from which you fled so precipitately.  I have not
noticed any tendency on your part to stop your ears to its sounds,
though you may not hanker after its fleshpots."

"Do not be horrid," I replied; "and if you are going to be cynical I
will go in and chat with the housekeeper.  I am not particularly
anxious to know what is happening in your City of Destruction."

He elevated his eyebrows.  "Miss Fleming, for instance?" he queried.

"Of course I shall be glad to hear of Rose.  I always am.  And that
reminds me that her letters are few and unsatisfactory.  Have you seen
anything of her since the holidays?"

"Yes," he replied, "we have met several times; once at the house of a
mutual friend, once at Olympia, and I believe twice at the theatre."

"Do people 'meet' at the theatre?" I inquired.

"They do if they arrange to do so, and keep their appointments," he
replied provokingly.  "I am fortunate in being acquainted with some of
Miss Fleming's friends.  I am sorry her letters leave something to be
desired, but you need not be uneasy; she herself is as lively and
fascinating as ever."

I should have liked to ask him who the friends were, for Rose has never
mentioned them, and she had none who could possibly have been in the
Cynic's set in the old days; but friends can generally be found when
the occasion demands them.  I said nothing, of course, and he looked at
me quizzically.

"Your comments," he remarked, "if I may quote, are 'few and
unsatisfactory.'"

It was true, but he need not have noticed it.  The fact is, I had
nothing to say at the moment.  That being the case there was plainly
nothing for it but to abuse _him_.

"You are the Cynic to-day," I said, "and I foresee that you are going
to sharpen your wit upon poor me.  But I am not in the mood.  You see,
it is Sunday, and in Windyridge we are subdued and not brilliant on
Sundays."

Perhaps his ear caught the weariness in my voice, for I was feeling
tired and depressed; at any rate his tone changed immediately.

"I saw at once you were off colour," he said, "and I was making a
clumsy attempt to buck you up; but, seriously, have you no questions
you wish to ask me about the old place?"

"I should like to know how matters are progressing with you," I said.
"I often wonder what the world thinks of your pronunciation."

"The world knows nothing of it.  I have never mentioned what I have
done to anyone but you, and I do not propose to do so.  As for
myself--but what makes you wonder?  Are you afraid I may have repented?"

"No," I replied, "you will never repent, you are not that sort.  Not
for one moment have I doubted your steadfastness."

"Thank you," he said simply; and then, after a moment's pause:

"I don't think it is anything to my credit.  If I had been differently
constituted the sacrifice would have entailed suffering, even if it had
not proved too great for me.  It was a lot of money, and if money is in
any sense a man's god it must hurt him to lose so much.  My god may be
equally base, but it is not golden.  In that respect I am like those
ancient Athenians of whom Plato speaks, who 'bare lightly the burden of
gold and of possessions,' though I fear I am not like them in despising
all things except virtue.  Besides, even now I am not exactly poor, for
I have a good income."

"I have thirty shillings a week on the average," I interposed, "and I
consider myself quite well to do."

"Exactly," he replied; "you and I take pleasure in our work for its own
sake, and we are each paid, I suppose, fair value for what we do.
Having food and clothing and a roof to shelter us we have all that is
necessary, but we have luxuries thrown in--true friendships, for
instance, which money cannot purchase.  In my own case I am hoping to
be quite wealthy if things turn out as I am beginning to dare to
expect."

"I am glad to hear it," I said; "I am sure you deserve to succeed, and
I trust you will be very happy in the possession of wealth when your
expectation is realised."

He laughed, but with some constraint, I thought, and then said:

"We shall have to go in presently, Miss Holden, and before we do so,
and whilst we are not likely to be interrupted, I have something to say
to you which I find it difficult to mention."

I believe the colour left my face, and I know my stupid heart lost
control of its beats again.  His voice was so grave that I felt sure he
had some communication to make which I should not relish, though I
could not guess at its nature.  I controlled myself with an effort, and
encouraged him to proceed with an inquiring "Oh?"

He looked down at his boots for a moment and then continued:

"If it had not been for this I should not have come here this week-end,
but I wanted to tell you what I have done, and to give you a message
from one in whom you are interested.  I have hesitated because I fear
it may give you pain, though in one way it does not concern you in the
slightest degree."

Why anything should give me pain which did not concern me was puzzling,
and I wished the man would get to the story and skip the introduction.
I never could bear to have news "broken gently" to me, it always seems
like a mere prolongation of the agony; but I did not dare to interrupt.

"I had to be in attendance at the Central Criminal Court last Tuesday,"
he continued; "and the case in which I was interested was delayed by
one in which the prisoner on trial was a young fellow whom you know."

It was very silly of me, but the revulsion of feeling was so great that
I nearly cried, though goodness only knows what I had been expecting.
The Cynic saw my emotion and mistook it for sympathy.

"I was afraid it would trouble you," he said kindly, "but you must not
worry about it.

"The charge was quite an ordinary one and I had scarcely listened to
the case at all, for my mind was occupied with what was to follow, but
I heard sufficient to know that the man was one of a gang of sharpers,
and that he had been caught red-handed whilst his companions had
escaped.  He had no one to defend him, but the judge nominated a junior
who was present to be his counsel, and the lad did his best for him.
But the youth had been in trouble before, and it was likely to go hard
with him.  All at once my neighbour nudged me: 'He's meaning you,
Derwent,' he said.

"'What's that?' I asked.

"'I have just asked the prisoner if he has anyone who can speak to his
character, and he says you know him slightly,' said the recorder with a
smile.

"'To the best of my knowledge I never saw the man in my life before,' I
replied.

"'Yes, you have, Mr. Derwent,' the prisoner said in a low voice--and
you will understand what silence there was in the court--'you have seen
me working at Windyridge 'All, sir, afore I sank to this.  You
remember, sir, I was allus known as Ginty.'"

I started, and the Cynic continued: "I looked at him closely then, and
saw that it was indeed he, Ginty, ten years older than he was a year
ago: haggard, seamed with lines of care, unkempt, but, unless I am
mistaken, not altogether hardened.

"I turned to the recorder.  'I do know the prisoner, sir,' I said, 'but
I did not recognise him, and therefore I have not paid attention to the
case;' and as briefly as I could I told the court how he had been led
astray.  It was you, Miss Holden, who described it all so graphically,
you may remember, and I repeated the story as you told it, and I
pleaded hard for the young chap.  He got off with three months, which
was less than might have been expected."

"Poor Ginty!" I interrupted.  "I wonder if his mother will hear of it.
I suppose news of that kind rarely filters through the walls of a
workhouse?"

"No walls are impervious to bad news," he replied, "but Ginty's concern
was less for his mother than for his sweetheart, Sarah Ann.  At bottom
I believe Ginty is penitent, and would like to break with the rogues
who have led him on; but the poor beggar is weak-willed, and the easy
prey of his blustering companions.  I managed to get an interview with
him, and he wished me to ask you to tell the girl everything, and to
beg her to pity and forgive him; and he promises to turn over a new
leaf, and will marry her eventually if she is willing."

"Sarah Ann must not be told at present," I replied; "she is far from
well, and the shock might be too much for her.  She is a highly
emotional girl, who would go into violent hysterics incontinently."

"Well," he said, "I can leave the matter to your discretion.  I have
fulfilled my promise, and I am sure you will do what is best.  Would it
be possible to tell the girl's mother?--if she has a mother."

"She has a mother," I answered, "but she is a woman entirely destitute
of tact.  To tell her would be to publish the news to the whole
village, and to have it conveyed to Sarah Ann in the crudest manner
conceivable.  I think it will be best to hold back the message until I
have a fitting opportunity of delivering it to the girl herself.  But
believe me, the present time is most inopportune."

"I do believe you," he said, "and I suppose it is hardly likely that
information will reach the village in any other way.  'Ill news flies
fast,' but the case was too insignificant to be reported in the
provincial papers.  Anyhow, we must take the risk, and you can deliver
your soul of the message when you think fit.  I am sorry to have laid
this burden upon you."

"I accept it willingly," I said, "and am glad that I can be of service
to these poor young folk."


I had a pleasant evening with the squire and the Cynic, both of whom
were at their best in discussing disendowments, in regard to which they
held opposite views.  The squire showed the possession of a wealth of
knowledge which aroused my admiration, and he was so courteous in
argument, so magnanimous and altogether gentlemanly, that I could have
hugged him for very pride; but I am bound to say that I think the Cynic
had the best of it.  He is just as generous and courtly as the squire,
and he is absolutely sure of his facts and figures; but when he does
corner his opponent he does not gloat over him.  In my judgment--and I
am sure I am impartial, for I like them both so much--he was more
convincing than the squire; but then I don't think I ever met a more
convincing speaker.  Of course I have met very few good speakers, but I
doubt if there are many to surpass Mr. Derwent.

He took me home about ten o'clock, and I saw that the village had got
some new excitement, but the Cynic's presence barred me from
participating in it.  At the cottage, however, I learned everything,
for a gossip had, as usual, hastened to tell Mother Hubbard the news,
and she was still discussing it on my arrival, though my invalid ought
to have been in bed.

Nobody in Windyridge takes a Sunday newspaper, but a visitor from
Airlee had left a _News of the World_ at Smiddles's, and after his
departure Smiddles had glanced down its columns and found a report of
Ginty's trial and sentence.  Mrs. Smiddles, bursting with importance,
hurried off to impart the information to Sar'-Ann's mother.  Sar'-Ann's
mother, as might have been anticipated, had expressed her opinion of
Ginty's moral character in loud and emphatic language which echoed
round the village and awakened a like response.

I closed the door wearily on the woman and went to bed, for it was too
late to see Sar'-Ann that night.  I wish I had made the endeavour now,
for with the morning there came news that distressed me terribly.
Sar'-Ann's baby had been born at midnight, and poor Sar'-Ann was dead!



CHAPTER XXVII

MOTHER HUBBARD HEARS THE CALL

The world is very drab to-day, as I look out of my bedroom window at
the Hall and once more open the book in which I set down the
experiences of my pilgrimage.  I am living in luxury again, a luxury
which has, alas! more of permanency in it than before.  The little room
in which I am writing is charming in the daintiness of its colouring
and the simplicity of its furnishings.  There is just a suspicion of
pink in the creamy wallpaper, and the deeper cream of the woodwork.
The bed, like the dressing table and the chairs, is in satinwood,
beautifully inlaid, and the wardrobe is an enormous cavern in the wall,
with mirrored doors behind which my few belongings hang suspended like
ghostly stalactites.  The floor is nearly covered with a Wilton rug,
and the rest of it is polished until it looks like glass.  A few choice
etchings and engravings hang upon the walls--Elaine dreaming of
Lancelot, Dante bending over the dead body of Beatrice, Helen of Troy,
and similar subjects, with two of Leader's landscapes.  The counterpane
gleams, snowy white, beneath the lovely satin eider-down, which gives a
splash of colour to the room; and the room is _mine_!

Mine!  Yes, but the world is very drab all the same.  The sky is grey
to its farthest limits--an unrelieved greyness which presses upon one's
spirits.  The landscape is grey, with no solitary touch of brightness
in it until you come to the lawn in front of my window, where there is
a gorgeous display of chrysanthemums.  The cawing of the rooks is a
shade more mournful than usual, and the grey smoke from the stacks
above my head floats languidly on the heavy air.

And for the moment I would have it so, for it harmonises with my mood
and gives me the inspiration I need in order to write down the
occurrences of these later days.  It is not that I am morbid or
downcast; I am sad, but not depressed; the outlook is not black--it is
just drab.

I suppose if anyone were to read what I have written thus far they
would guess the truth--that my dear old Mother Hubbard has been taken
from me.  We laid her to rest a week ago in the little plot of ground
which must ever henceforward be very dear to me, and my heart hungers
for the sound of her voice and the sight of her kindly face.  But I
cannot doubt that for her it is "far better," so I will not stoop to
self-pity.

And, after all, there is not a streak of grey in the picture I have to
reproduce.  As I live over again those few last days of companionship I
feel the curtains to be drawn back from the windows of my soul; I
experience the freshness of a heaven-born zephyr.  I find myself
smiling as one only smiles when memory is pleasing and there is deep
content, and I say to myself: "Thank God, it was indeed 'sunset and
evening star' and there was no 'moaning of the bar' when the spirit of
the gentle motherkin 'put out to sea,' and she went forth to meet her
'Pilot face to face.'"

I think the shock of Sar'-Ann's death upset her, for, like her Master,
she was easily touched with the feeling of other people's infirmities,
and though outwardly she was unexcited I knew that the deeps within her
were stirred.

We always slept together now, for I was uneasy when I was not with her.
For months past my cottage had been rarely used except as a bedroom,
but now I abandoned it altogether and had my bed brought into Mother
Hubbard's cottage and placed in the living-room, quite near to her own,
so that I could hear her breathing.  Far into the night I would lie
awake and watch the dying embers on the hearth, and the light growing
fainter upon the walls, and listen for any sound of change.

Each morning she rose at the same hour, dressed with the same care, and
sought to follow the old, familiar routine; but she did not demur when
I placed her in her chair and assumed the air and authority of
commander-in-chief.

"I must work while it is day, love," she said, smiling up at me in the
way which always provoked a caress.

"Martha, Martha," I always replied, "thou art anxious and troubled
about many things: but one thing is needful, and that in your case is
rest."

She drew my head on to her breast one day as I said this for the
hundredth time--I had knelt down upon the rug, and mockingly held her
prisoner--and she said very, very softly:

"Grace love, I am going to give in.  The voice within tells me you are
right, and I do not fret.  'In quietness and in confidence shall be
your strength.'  It is because I am so strong in spirit that I do not
recognise how weak I am in body; but I think, love, I am beginning to
realise it now.  And as I have you to look after me I have much to
thank God for.  Do you know, Grace love, I am sure the Lord sent you to
Windyridge for my sake.  It is wonderful how He makes things work
together for the good of many.  He knew this poor old Martha would soon
need somebody to pet her and look after her, so he sent you to be an
angel of comfort."

"Well," I said, as cheerfully as I could with my spirit in chains, "He
has paid me good wages, and I have a royal reward.  Why, my own cup is
filled to overflowing, 'good measure, pressed down, running
over'--isn't that the correct quotation?  I wouldn't have missed these
twelve months of Mother-Hubbardism for a king's ransom."

She pressed my head still more closely to her.  "Are you very busy this
morning, love?" she asked.  "I feel that I can talk to you just now if
you have time to listen, and it will do me good to speak."

It had come at last, and I braced myself to meet it.  "What have you
got to say to me, motherkin?  Speak on.  I am very comfy, and my work
will wait."

"Yes, love," she said--and it was so unlike her to acquiesce so readily
that my heart grew heavier still--"work can wait, but the tide of life
waits for no man, and there is something I want to say before the flood
bears me away."

"Are you feeling worse, dear?" I asked; "would you like me to ask Dr.
Trempest to call?  I can telephone from the Hall."

"No, love," the gentle voice replied, "I am past his aid.  I shall slip
away some day without pain; that is borne in upon me, and I am
thankful, for your sake as well as for my own.  The doctor will just
call to see me in the usual way, but you will not have to send fer him.
No; I just want to discuss one or two things with you, love, whilst my
mind is clear and my strength sufficient.  And you are going to be my
own cheerful, business-like Grace, aren't you, love?"'

"Yes," I said, swallowing my lump, and summoning my resources.

"Well, now, love, I want to make my will, and you shall do it for me
when we have talked about it.  I have neither chick nor child, and if I
have relatives I don't know them, and once over I thought of leaving
all I have to you, love, for you have been more than a daughter to me;
but after thinking it over I am not going to do so."

"It was sweet of you to think of it, dear," I said, "but I really do
not need it, and I am glad you have changed your mind.  Tell me."

She stroked my face with a slow, patting movement as she continued:
"You won't need it, love.  You have a little of your own, and you are
young and can work; but I would have added my little to yours if that
had been all, but I _know_ you will not need it, and I am glad.  But
you will like to have something which I have valued, and you shall have
whatever I hold most dear."

She paused a moment or two, but I knew she would not wish me to speak
just then.

"There are three things, love, which are very precious to me," she
continued; "one is the ring which Matthew gave me when he asked me to
be his wife.  I have never worn it since he died, but it is in the
little silver box in my cap drawer.  I want you to wear it, love, in
remembrance of me.  Then there is the little box itself.  Besides the
ring, it contains my class tickets--tickets of membership, you know,
love; I have them all from the very first, and Matthew bought the
little box for me to put them in, and he called it my 'Ark.'  I am so
pleased to think that you will have it, but I would like the tickets to
be buried with me."

She broke off and laughed.  "That sounds silly, love, doesn't it?  It
looks as if I thought the tickets would help me to the next world; but,
of course, I didn't mean that.  They are just bits of printed paper,
but I don't want them to be burned or thrown into the rubbish heap,
that's all.

"Last and dearest of all, there's my Bible.  It wouldn't fetch a penny
anywhere, for it's old and yellow and thumbed, and the back is loose;
but its value to me, love, is just priceless, and I should hardly die
happy unless someone had it who would love it too.  Now that's your
share."

I drew her hand to my lips and kissed it; she knew what I was feeling.

"Give Reuben the old grandfather's clock.  It is oak and will match his
furniture, and he can give his mahogany one to Ben.  Reuben has always
admired the clock, and he will be pleased I remembered him.  Let my
clothes go to any of the neighbours who are poor and need them.  And
the lamp which his scholars gave Matthew when his health failed and he
had to give up teaching-----"

She paused, and I held my peace.  It was a chaste and artistic
production in brass, which had always seemed to me rather out of place
amid its homely surroundings, and I should not have been sorry if it
had been amongst the treasures to be bequeathed to me...

"Yes, dear," I said at length, "the lamp?"

"I want you to ask Mr. Derwent, love, to accept the lamp.  He admired
it very much, and he has been so very nice to me; and give him the
china, too.

"You will not live here alone, Grace, when I am gone.  Mr. Evans will
want you, and you will not have to deny him then as you have done
previously for my sake.  These old eyes have seen more, love, than you
have realised, and I am very grateful.  The Lord bless you!

"Both the cottages are mine.  I bought this one when Matthew died, and
Reuben sold me the other one, just as it stands, whilst you were away,
and we arranged to keep it a secret for a while.  Then there will be
about £1,500 in the bank and Building Society when everything has been
paid.  I have thought a great deal about what to do with it, and I am
going to leave both the cottages, with all the furniture, for the use
of poor widows who otherwise might have to go to the workhouse; and the
interest on the money will keep them from want.

"I haven't much head for business, but a lawyer will work it out all
right.  You see, love, I was left comfortably off by Matthew, and I
think the Lord would like me to remember that all widows are not so
fortunate; and I don't want to forget that it is His money I have to
dispose of."

The tears came into my eyes now and I could not speak.  The sun was
shining brightly outside, but within that humble room there was a
radiance that outshone that of the sun, even the reflected splendour of
heaven.

After a while she continued: "I want you and Reuben to decide who are
to live in the cottages, but I should like Ginty's mother to have the
first offer, love, and I think she will not refuse for my sake; and you
must arrange about the other.  You will see Lawyer Simpson in
Fawkshill, love, and tell him all this.  Go this afternoon, for I shall
be restless now until all is done.  And now let me tell you what no
lawyer need know."

Again she rested for a while and then continued:

"They are sure to want a service at the chapel, for I am the oldest
member, and a class leader.  But I do so dislike doleful singing, so I
have been thinking it over and I have put down on a paper which you
will find in my Bible the hymns which I should like to have sung.  Ask
them to sing first 'My God, the spring of all my joys,' to the tune of
'Lydia.'  You won't know the tune, love, for it is a very old-fashioned
one, but I have always liked it, and it goes with a rare swing.  Then I
_must_ have 'Jesu, Lover of my soul' to 'Hollingside,' for that is the
hymn of my experience; and to conclude with let them sing a child's
hymn.  I'm afraid you will laugh at me, Grace, but I would like to have
'There is a better world, they say.'  I think these will be sufficient,
and they are all very cheerful hymns and tunes."

"And the minister?" I asked, for her calmness was infectious.

"Oh, either of them, love," she said; "they are both good men, and they
must arrange to suit their own convenience.  Now give me a kiss.  I am
so glad to have got this done, and though I am tired I feel ever so
much better."

I saw the lawyer in the afternoon, and he called with the draft on the
following day, and by the next it had been signed, witnessed and
completed.

Mother Hubbard did not go to chapel on the Sunday, but on the Thursday
she expressed her fixed determination to take her class.  I protested
in vain; the motherkin had made up her mind.

"I must, love; it is laid upon me, and I am not at all excited."

"But, dear," I urged, "I shall worry terribly whilst you are out of my
care.  You are not fit to go--you are not strong enough."

"It is only a step, love," she replied, "and the evening is warm; why
need you worry when you can come with me?"

She had never suggested this before--indeed, when I had laughingly
suggested it she had been visibly alarmed, and I admit that the idea
was not attractive.  Somehow or other I distrusted the Methodist class
meeting.  But my love for the class leader prevailed.

"Very well," I said; "if you go, I go too."

We went together and found eight or nine women of various ages
assembled in the little vestry.  Mother Hubbard took her seat at the
table, and I sat next to Widow Smithies, who moved up to make room for
me.

We sang a hymn, and then Mother Hubbard prayed--prayed in a gentle
voice which had much humility in it, but an assured confidence which
showed her to be on intimate terms with her Lord; and when she had
finished I read the 103rd Psalm at her request, and we sang again.

Then she spoke, and her voice gathered strength as she proceeded.  I
cannot write down all she said, but some of the sentences are burned
into my memory, though the connections have escaped me.

"We will not have an experience meeting to-night, my friends, because I
want to speak to you, and God has given me strength to do so.  I am
weak in body, but my spirit was never stronger.  It is the spirit which
is the real life, so I was never more alive.  I have thought a good
deal lately on those words:

"'Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall
utterly fall.  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and
not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.'

"'They that wait upon the Lord' shall do this.  Not just the strong and
powerful, but poor, weak old women like me; aye, those weaker still who
are helpless on sick-beds; the paralysed and lame who cannot walk at
all--all these shall 'renew their strength.'  They are unable even to
totter to the old pew in the house of God, so weak and shaky is their
poor human frame; aye, but they shall 'mount up with wings as eagles.'
The eagle is a strong bird; it makes its nest on the cliffs of high
mountains, it soars up and up into the clouds, and it can carry sheep
in its talons, so great is its strength.  And, do you realise it? they
that wait upon the Lord are like that.  Weak and worn out in body, but

  "'Strong in the strength which God supplies
    Through His Eternal Son.'


"My friends, I thank God that in that sense I am strong to-night; and
do you think that when I am so strong I am going to die?  Never!  Life
is going to be fuller, richer, more abundant."

I gazed upon Mother Hubbard in astonishment.  She was not excited, but
she was exalted.  No earthly light was in her eyes, no earthly strength
was in those triumphant tones.  Death had laid his hand upon her but
she shook him off and spoke like a conqueror.  I looked at her members,
and saw that every eye was fixed upon her, and that reverential fear
held them immovable.  There was a clock over the mantelpiece, and it
ticked away slowly, solemnly, but no other sound disturbed the
stillness.

"I have heard some of you speak often of your crosses, and God knows
how heavy some of them have been, and how I have pitied and tried to
help you.  You will not think I am boasting when I say that I have had
crosses to carry, too, but I have always endeavoured to make light of
them, and I am so glad of that to-night.  Because, dear friends, I
realise very clearly now that to carry a cross that is laid upon us is
to help the Master.  I think Simon was a strong, kindly man, who was
glad to carry the cross for Christ's sake.  I like to think of him as
pushing his way through the crowd and saying: 'Let me help the Master:
I will gladly carry it for Him.'  And I want to say this: that all
through my life when I have tried to carry my cross cheerfully the
Master has always taken the heavier end--always!

"You will go on having crosses to carry so long as ever you love the
Lord Jesus Christ; but remember this--all troubles are not crosses.
God has nothing to do with lots of our troubles.  Indeed, I am not sure
that what we call a trouble is ever a cross.  That only is a cross
which we carry for His sake.  It is a privilege to carry a cross, and
we ought to be glad when we are selected.

"'But suppose we fall under it?' some of you may say.  Listen: 'They
that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.'  You forgot that.
'When I am weak then I am strong.'  Why?  Because the good Lord never
asks us to carry a cross without giving us strength for the burden.
His grace is always sufficient for us.  Never forget my words--they are
perhaps the last I shall speak as your leader, and oh, my dear friends,
how my heart yearns over you! how very dear to me is your truest
welfare!--no trouble need ever o'erwhelm you, no temptation need ever
cause you to fall, no weakness of the body need ever affect the
strength of the soul, no darkness of earth need ever shut out the light
of heaven, because--listen, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the
end of the world'!"

She paused, and the women, unaccustomed to self-control, were sobbing
audibly into their handkerchiefs, and Mother Hubbard noticed it.

"We will not sing a closing hymn," she said; "let us pray."

The women knelt; but she merely leaned forward, with her hands clasped
on the table in front of her, and commended them all to God.  She
prayed for each of them individually, using their Christian names, and
remembering all their families and family difficulties.  She prayed for
the absent ones, for the toilworn and the sick; and she prayed for
me--and may God in His mercy answer that prayer, then shall my life be
blessed indeed.

When she had pronounced the benediction in a very low voice we rose
from our knees, and saw her with her face uplifted to heaven, and the
calm of heaven spread over it, like the clear golden calm of a
cloudless sunset.  Then, slowly, the head dropped upon her hands; and
when at length we tried to rouse her we found that she was beyond our
call.



CHAPTER XXVIII

IN THE CRUCIBLE

Despite the squire's protests I remained in my own cottage until the
Monday when Mother Hubbard's frail body was laid to rest in the little
graveyard.  There was nothing to fear, and I felt that I could not
leave her there alone.  She would have rebuked me, I know, and would
have read me the lesson of the cocoon and the butterfly; but I am most
contented when I trust implicitly to my instincts, and my Inner Self
bade me stay.

Practically all the village turned out to the funeral, and the chapel
was crowded to its utmost capacity.  It was a cheerful service, too, in
spite of our tears, for the ministers and members had caught her
spirit, and "Lydia" was sung with a vigour and heartiness which I
should have liked the dear old lady to witness.  Perhaps she did: who
knows?

The squire and I occupied the position of chief mourners, but the
entire village sorrowed, as those only sorrow who have lost a friend
that cannot be replaced.  There is no other Mother Hubbard here, and
how much she will be missed when trouble sits by the hearths of the
people only time can make known.

When all was over I went straight to my new home at the Hall, and
entered into possession of the lovely room which had been prepared for
me.  Every morning and afternoon I go to my work at the studio, but
without the zest which makes duty a delight.  The squire would like me
to abandon the studio altogether and do my regular work at the Hall,
but I cannot quite reconcile myself to the idea.  After all, the studio
is there, and as the weeks go by I shall lose the sense of desolation
which is now associated with the place, and which hangs like lead upon
the wings of my spirit.

Yet what cause for gratitude is mine!  Though I have lost one true
friend another is here to comfort and cheer me with never-failing
insight and sympathy.  How I enjoy these long evenings in the library,
the quiet talks in the firelight, the hour which follows the lighting
of the lamp, when I read aloud from the squire's favourite authors or
the learned quarterlies; and best of all, the comments and discussions
which enable me to plumb the depths of his mind and make me marvel at
the extent of his knowledge.  He likes me to sit on a stool at his feet
as I did, ages ago, at Zermatt, resting my arm or book upon his knee
and within easy reach of his caressing hand.  Whatever I may have lost
by coming to Windyridge I have certainly found affection, and I am
woman enough to value it above all my losses.

So far, Mr. Derwent has come down each week-end and has remained at the
Hall over the Sunday.  For some reason which he does not explain the
squire seems rather amused with him just now, and indulges occasionally
in a mild form of banter which leaves the younger man quite unruffled.
He asks him how he can possibly tear himself away so often from the
attractions and duties of the metropolis; and I cannot help thinking
that he suspects the existence of an attractive force there.  I wonder
if the Cynic has told him anything of Rose.  For myself, I am not
surprised that he comes to Broadbeck for the week-ends, because the
habit is ingrained in him, and bachelors of his age do not readily
abandon old customs.

We had a very interesting evening on Saturday.  The vicar is away on a
stone-hunt of some kind, so his wife came to dinner, and gave spice to
the conversation, as she invariably does.  I am always delighted when
she forms one of the company that includes the Cynic, for she is
refreshingly blunt and frank with him, and he does not get all his own
way.  And at the same time he seems to enjoy drawing her out--I suppose
he would say "pulling her leg," if she were not a lady.

On this particular occasion she attacked him the moment we were
comfortably settled in the library, and for a long time the battle was
a mere duel of wits.  She was extremely scornful because he had chosen
to remain a bachelor, and he defended himself with more than his usual
cynicism.

Something had been said about the growing spirit of brotherhood, when
she broke in:

"Bah! don't talk to me about your altruism or any other 'ism.  In these
days you men make high-sounding phrases take the place of principle.
If I know anything of the meaning of words altruism is the very
opposite of selfishness--and who is more selfish than your bachelor?"

The Cynic blew a thin column of smoke towards the ceiling and spoke
languidly:

"Stevenson says--I mean R. L., of course--that if you wish the pick of
men and women you must take a good bachelor and a good wife."

"Stuff and nonsense!" replied the vicar's wife; "if there were such a
thing as a good bachelor I should say that he got amongst the pick of
men only when he took to himself a good wife.  But who ever yet saw or
knew a 'good' bachelor?  It's a contradiction of terms.  Mind you, I
don't call boys bachelors; bachelors are men who might be married if
they would, but they won't.  Good men are unselfish, and bachelors are
brazenly self-centred, and usually unbearably conceited.  And you are
as bad as any of them, Philip."

"Veritatis simplex oratio est," muttered the Cynic.

"Didn't I say so?" ejaculated the vicar's wife triumphantly.  "It is a
sure sign of conceit when a man hurls a bit of school Latin at his
ignorant opponent and so scores a paltry advantage."  She pursed her
lips in scorn.

"I beg your pardon," replied the Cynic calmly;.  "I got the quotation
from a cyclopædia, but I will substitute a line from an English poet
which accurately expresses the same meaning:

  "'How sweet the words of truth, breathed from the lips of love!'

But is there no excuse for me and others in like case?  Are we
unmarried men sinners above all the rest?  Granted that we are selfish,
conceited, corrupt and vile, is there yet no place for us in the
universe? no lonely corner in the vineyard where we can work with
profit to the State?"

"I suppose you think you work 'with profit to the State,'" returned the
vicar's wife with a curl of the lip, "when you persuade one of His
Majesty's judges to send some poor wretch to gaol, where he will be
provided for at the country's expense whilst his wife and children are
left to starve.  You would be of far more use to it, let me tell you,
if you became the father of a family and----"

The Cynic held up his hand: "The prey of some conceited bachelor who
should wickedly persuade one of His Majesty's judges to send me to
gaol, whilst my wife and children were left to starve.  The reasoning
does not seem very clear.  If I had remained a bachelor I might have
become a wretch, and I might have suffered imprisonment, but at least
my sins would not have been visited upon the innocent heads of wife and
children.  And then it occurs to me that I have known bachelors to be
sent to gaol at the instance of married men who persuaded the judges to
send them there.  No, no, madam, you are too deep for me!  I give it
up!"

"Rubbish!" snorted the vicar's wife, "you evade the issue, which is
simple enough.  Are--bachelors--selfish--or--are--they--not?"

The Cynic shook his head mournfully.  "They are more to be pitied than
blamed, believe me.  They are too often the sport of cruel Fate--tossed
here and there upon the wave of Circumstance--unable, alas! and not
unwilling to find safety in the Harbour of Matrimony.  Their lot is
indeed a sad one.  Don't call them hard names, but drop for them--and
me--the silent tear of sympathy."

"Oh, of course," broke in the vicar's wife, "I knew that dodge was sure
to be employed sooner or later.  I was on the watch for it.  It is the
old excuse that there is nobody to marry.  The wave of Circumstance
does not toss you into the arms of some captivating nymph, and so you
remain all at sea--more ornamental, perhaps, but hardly more useful
than a cork on the ocean.  If you really wanted to get into the Harbour
of Matrimony, let me tell you, you would turn about and swim there,
instead of blaming Fate for not rolling you in on the crest of a wave."

We laughed, and the Cynic said: "After all, madam, selfishness is not
confined to those who have no intention of marrying.  When your good
husband took to himself the most charming of her sex he doubtless
grudged every smile that was thrown to his rivals.  Altruism, as you
very sagaciously remarked a moment or two ago, is the very antithesis
of selfishness, and hence it is unpopular except as an ideal for
others.  The popular altruist is he who denies himself to minister to
my selfishness.  We are all selfish, with certain rare exceptions--to
be found, fortunately, within the circle of my friends."

"I am sure I am selfish," I interjected; "I wonder if that is because I
am unmarried."

"My dear," said the vicar's wife, "your case is not on all fours with
Philip's and other bachelors'.  _You_ are the sport of Fate, and not
these men who can easily find some woman silly enough to have them, but
who prefer their own selfish ease and comfort, and then entreat
sympathy, forsooth!  When women are unmarried it is rarely their own
fault."

"All this is very puzzling," drawled the Cynic.  "I am groping in the
darkness with a sincere desire to find light, and no success rewards my
patient efforts.  I hear that it is silliness on the women's part to
accept our offers, and still we are blamed for saving them from
themselves.  No doubt you are right, but to me it seems inconsistent."

"Bother your casuistry!" replied the vicar's wife, dismissing him with
a wave of the hand.  "Philip, you make me tired.  What makes you sure
you are selfish, dear?  I have seen no signs of it."

The question was addressed to me, and I answered: "I am beginning to
think it was selfishness that brought me here, and I am not sure that
it is not selfishness which keeps me here.  At the same time I have no
wish to leave, and the question arises, Is it only the disagreeable
which is right?  Is selfishness never excusable?"

"In other words," remarked the Cynic, whose eyes were closed, "is not
vice, after all, and at any rate sometimes, a modified form of virtue?"

"Listen to him!" exclaimed the vicar's wife; "the embodiment of
selfishness is about to proclaim himself the apostle of morality.  The
unfettered lord of creation will expound to a slave of circumstance the
ethical order of the universe, for the instruction of her mind and the
good of her soul."

"The fact is," continued the Cynic, without heeding the interruption,
"Miss Holden, like many other sensitive people of both sexes, has a
faulty conception of what selfishness is.  There are many people who
imagine that it is sinful to be happy, and a sign of grace to be
miserable, which is about as sensible as to believe that it is an
indication of good health when you are irritable and out of sorts.  To
be selfish is to be careless of the interests of others, and Miss
Holden is certainly not that."

"It is good of you to say so," I said, "but I sometimes wonder if I am
not shirking duty and evading responsibility by enjoying myself here."

The squire gave my hand an affectionate squeeze, but only his eyes
spoke; and the vicar's wife turned to me.

"What brought you up here, dear?  I don't think I ever knew."

"I am sure I don't," I replied, and before I had time to continue the
Cynic leaned forward and looked at me.

"I know," he said.

"You once promised to explain me to myself," I said, smiling, "Is this
the day and the hour?"

"That is for you to say," he replied.  "You may object to analysis in
public.  True, there are some advantages from your point of view.  You
will have one of your own sex to hold a brief for you, and a very
partial judge to guarantee fair play."

"I do not mind," I replied; and the squire smiled contentedly.

The Cynic threw his cigarette into the fire and began: "As I understand
the case, before you left London your duties kept your hands busily
employed during working hours, but allowed you ample opportunity for
the consideration of those social problems in which for the previous
year or two you had been deeply interested, and a certain portion of
your leisure was devoted to social and philanthropic work?"

I assented with a nod.

"Very well.  Yielding to what appeared to be a sudden impulse, but to
what was in reality the well-considered action of your subconscious
self, you bound your burden of cares upon your back and fled from your
City of Destruction."

"Like a coward," I interposed, "afraid to play the game of life because
of its hazards.  I might have remained and faced the problems and
helped to fight the foe I loathed."

"I will come to that shortly," he said, and every trace of irony had
left his voice; "at present I am considering why your subconscious self
decided upon this line of action.  The world's sorrows were oppressing
you like a nightmare.  Do you know that few of us can meet sorrow face
to face and day by day and retain our strength, and particularly if we
seek to meet it unprepared, unschooled?  One of two things usually
happens: we become hardened, or we go mad.  From these alternatives it
is sometimes wise to flee, and then flight is not cowardice, but
prudence."

"I certainly obeyed my Inner Self," I said, "but is there not such a
thing as a false conscience?"

"Your 'Inner Self' did not betray you," he continued.  "Unwittingly you
sought, not oblivion, but enlightenment and preparation.  All earnest
reformers are driven of the Spirit into the wilderness."

"Yes, but for what purpose, Derwent?" interposed the squire; "to be
tempted of the devil?"

"To face the tempter, sir.  To test their own armour in private
conflict before they go forth to strike down the public foe.  To
discover the devil's strength, his powers and his limitations, before
they match themselves against legions.  To discover their own strength
and limitations, too.  The first essential in successful warfare is to
know yourself and your enemy, and you gain that knowledge in solitude.
It was so with Jesus, with Paul, with Savonarola, with scores of other
reformers.  Miss Holden was driven into the wilderness--if you care to
put it so--for a similar purpose."

"But ought one to avoid opportunities of usefulness?" I urged.  "I was
in the fray and I withdrew from it."

"A raw soldier, invalided home, though you did not know it," he
continued, "and sent into the country for rest and renewal, and quiet
preparation for effective service.  Here you have gained your
perspective.  You survey the field of battle from the heights, and yet
you have come in contact with the enemy at close quarters, too, and you
know his tactics.  You will face the problems of sin and suffering and
social injustice again, but with new heart and less of despair."

"You are too generous, I fear.  I should like to think that my motives
were so pure, but----"

"What is motive?  Motive is what excites to action.  Your motive was
not less pure because it was intuitive and unrecognised.  But let me
ask you: What idea are you disposed to think you left unaccomplished?
What object ought you to have pursued?"

I thought a moment before I replied: "It seems to me that when there is
so much sin and suffering in the world we should try to alleviate it,
and to remedy the wrongs from which so much of it springs.  And from
these things I fled, though I knew that the labourers were few."

"You fled from the devil, did you?  And you found Windyridge a Paradise
from which he was barred!"

I remained silent.

"London has no monopoly of sin and suffering.  Evil has not a merely
local habitation.  If it was a wile of the devil to remove you out of
his way it has been singularly unsuccessful, I conclude, for I
understand you have found him vigorously at work here all the time.
Have you then discovered no opportunities of service and usefulness in
the wilderness?"

"If happiness is gained by administering it to others," said the squire
with some emotion; "if to break up the hard ground of the heart and sow
in it the seed of peace is to defeat the devil and his aims, then has
Miss Holden reached her ideal and earned her happiness.  I told her a
year ago that the devil was a familiar presence in this village, but I
thank God, as others do and have done, that she has helped to thwart
him."

Perhaps I ought not to write all this down, for it has the savour of
vanity and conceit, but I do not see how I can well avoid doing so.
There are times when the heart speaks rather than the judgment, and the
squire's heart is very warm towards me; and though I would not doubt
his sincerity it is certain that he is not impartial where I am
concerned.

The Cynic looked pleased.  "I quite agree, sir," he said; "Miss Holden
has used her opportunities--not simply those which presented
themselves, but those which she has sought and found, which is higher
service.  Hence, I conclude that the policy of her subconscious self
has been justified, and that she is absolved from any charge of
selfishness."

"Really, Philip!" said the vicar's wife, "your eloquence has almost
deprived me of the power of speech, which you will acknowledge is no
mean achievement.  I thought I was appointed counsel for the defence
and that you were to prefer the indictment and prove Miss Holden guilty
of some heinous crime.  _My_ office has been a sinecure, for a better
piece of special pleading for the defence I have never listened to."

"I must be fair at all costs," he replied; "Miss Holden had no
misgivings, I imagine, when she came here at first.  Doubts arose, as
they so often do with the conscientious, when the venture prospered.
The martyr spirit distrusts itself when there is no sign of rack and
faggot.  I seek now to reveal Miss Holden to herself."

"You are wonderfully sure of yourself," returned his opponent, "but let
us be fair to our pretensions.  If you are for the defence let me be
for the prosecution.  Does one serve his country better when he leaves
the thick of the fray to study maps and tactics?  If one has the
opportunity to live is it sufficient to vegetate?  For every
opportunity of usefulness that Windyridge can offer London can provide
a score, and Miss Holden's lot was cast in London.  Is she living her
life?  That, I take it, is her problem."

"Yes," I said, "it is something like that."

"I accept your challenge," replied the Cynic, "and I agree that it is
not what we do but what we are capable of doing that counts.  But the
most effective workman is not he who undertakes the largest variety of
jobs, but he who puts himself into his work.  You speak of vegetating,
and you ask if Miss Holden is living her life.  What is life?  The man
who rises early and retires late, and spends the intervening hours in
one unceasing rush does not know the meaning of life; whereas the
farmer who goes slowly and steadily along the track of the hours, or
the student who devotes only a portion of his time to his books and
spends the rest in recreation, or the business man who declines to
sacrifice himself upon the altar of Mammon--these men live.  And it is
the man who lives who benefits his fellows.  To visit the sick, to
clothe the naked, to dole out sympathy and charity to the poor is noble
work, but it is not necessarily the most effective way of helping them.
The man who sits down to study the problem of prevention--the root
causes of misery and injustice--and who discovers and publishes the
remedy, is the truer and more valuable friend, though he never enter a
slum or do volunteer work in a soup kitchen."

"And whilst we are diagnosing the conditions rather than the case the
patient dies," said the vicar's wife.  "We stop our sick visiting and
our soup kitchens, and bid the people suffer and starve in patience
whilst we retire into our studies to theorise over causes."

"To refer to your illustration of a moment ago, my dear madam, the
battle need not stop because one or two men of insight retire to serve
their country by studying maps and tactics.  We need not chain up the
Good Samaritan, but we shall be of far greater service to humanity if,
instead of forming a league for the supply of oil and wine and
plasters, we inaugurate measures to clear the road of robbers.  'This
ought ye to do and not to leave the other undone.'"

"You admit, then, that some may find their opportunity of service in
work of this baser sort?"

"No work is base which is done with a pure motive and done well.  All I
contend for is that when instinct bids any of us withdraw for a time,
or even altogether, it is wise to trust our instincts.  If Miss Holden
had devoted herself to a life of pleasure and selfish isolation she
might have been charged with cowardly flight from duty.  We all know
she has done nothing of the kind, and therefore I say her intuition was
trustworthy, and she must not accuse herself of selfishness."

"I agree with all my heart," said the vicar's wife; "but the problems
which she left unsolved are no nearer solution."

"How do you know that?" he asked.  "The war may be nearer its end
because your unheroic soldier sheathed his sword and put on his
thinking-cap.  That unsoldier-like action may have saved the lives of
thousands and brought about an honourable peace.  I do not know that
Miss Holden has done much to solve the general problem, but I dare
assert that she views it more clearly, and could face it more
confidently than she could have done a year ago--that is to say, she
has solved her own problem."

"There is some truth in that," I said.  "Windyridge has given me
clearer vision, and I am more optimistic on that account.  Mr. Evans
told me on the occasion of our first meeting that I should find human
nature the same here as elsewhere, and that is so.  But the type is
larger in the village than it is in the town, and I can read and
understand it better.  Yet one thing town and country alike have proved
to me, and that is what you, Mr. Evans, asserted so confidently--that
selfishness is the root of sin.  How are we to conquer that?"

"Only by patient effort," replied the squire.  "Shallow reformers are
eager to try hasty and ill-considered measures.  Zealous converts,
whose eyes have been suddenly opened to the anomalies and injustices of
society, are angry and impatient because the wheels of progress revolve
so slowly, and they become rebellious and sometimes anarchical.  And
their discontent is a sign of life, and it is good in its way, but
ordinarily it is ineffective.  You may blow up the Council House in
Jericho because the councillors have not done their duty, and you may
shoot the robbers because they have wounded the traveller, and the
zealous reformer will commend you and say: 'Now we are beginning to
make things move!'  But the man who goes to work to destroy the seeds
of greed and selfishness, so that men will no longer either need or
covet the possessions of others, is the real reformer; but reformation
is a plant of slow growth.  Yet everyone who sows the antidote to
selfishness in the heart of his neighbour is to be accounted a
reformer."

The vicar's carriage was announced at that moment and the conversation
was interrupted.

"We will continue it next week, sir," said the Cynic, "if you will
allow me to pay you another visit.  I cannot be here until the evening
of Saturday; may I stay the week-end?"

"Certainly," said the squire with a smile, "if your engagements permit.
I think we must all realise that you seek to carry your theory of life
into practice."

That was on Saturday.  The Cynic left by the early train this morning,
and he had no sooner gone than the post brought me a letter from Rose.
It was short and sweet--very sweet indeed.


"MY DEAR GRACE,

"Congratulate me!  I am engaged to be married to the best of men, _not
excepting your Cynic_.  You will blame me for keeping it quiet, but how
can I tell what is going to happen beforehand?  Besides, you don't tell
me!

"I am to marry my chief, who is henceforward to be known to you and me
as 'Stephen.'  He is two or three years older than I am; good-looking,
of course, or he wouldn't have appealed to me, and over head and ears
in love with

"Your very affectionate and somewhat intoxicated

"ROSE.

"PS.--He has known your Cynic for years, but he (I mean your Cynic) is
too good a sportsman to spoil the fun.

"PPS.--It is a beautiful ring--diamonds!"


I am delighted to think that Rose is so happy, and can excuse the
brevity of the communication under the circumstances.  But I _am_
surprised.  I never dreamed that her chief was young and unmarried.
Why she should always say "your" Cynic, however, and underline it, too,
I cannot understand.  I wish ...



CHAPTER XXIX

THE GREAT STORM

My book is nearly full, and I do not think I shall begin another, for
my time is likely to be fully occupied now.  But I must set down the
events of the last week-end and tell of the wonderful climacteric that
I have passed through.  Then the curtain may be allowed to fall on my
unimportant experiences.

They have not been unimportant to me, and my recent adventures have
provided sufficient excitement to keep the tongues of the villagers
busy for months.

Incidentally I have discovered that Windyridge does not belie its name,
but that the storm fiend makes it the stage for some of his most
outrageous escapades.

We had samples of all the different kinds of weather England provides
last week--rain, snow, sleet, light breezes, fleecy clouds sailing
slowly across the blue, dull and threatening times when the skies were
leaden.

Saturday was the gloomiest day of all.  It was gusty from the
beginning, but until the afternoon the wind was only sportive, and
contented itself with rude schoolboy pranks.  By five o'clock, however,
its mood had changed and its force increased fourfold, and by six
o'clock it had cast off all restraint and become a tempest.

Whilst I remained in the Hall I hardly realised its fury, for the house
is well built and shielded from the full force of the northerly winds.
It was when I ventured out to visit Martha Treffit soon after dinner
that I became aware of it.

The squire had left the table with a severe headache, and retired to
his own room where, with drawn blinds and absolute quietude, he usually
finds ease, and I was left to my own devices and the tender mercies of
the Cynic, when he should arrive.

But his train was not due until eight, and it would take him a good
thirty minutes to walk from the station, so I had more than an hour at
my disposal, and I was anxious to find out how little Lucy was
progressing.  She had been under the care of the doctor for several
days, and was still in bed and very feverish.

I put on my ulster, wound a wrap about my head, and stepped out on to
the drive, and it was then that I became aware of the raging elements
around me.

The wind blew bitingly from the north, charged with smarting pellets of
sleet.  I had known strong winds before, but never anything like this.
It howled and roared, it hissed and shrieked; it was as much as I could
do to force my way forward against the pressure of its onrush; but
though my head was bent I saw that every bush and shrub was shaken as
by some gigantic Titan, and that the tall and naked trees swayed
towards me with groans that sounded human and ominous.

On the topmost branches, black bundles which I knew to be deserted
nests were rocked violently to and fro, like anchored boats in the
trough of a storm-lashed sea.  The night was grim and black, save when
for a brief moment the full moon gleamed down upon the angry scene from
the torn rifts of the scurrying clouds.

The thought crossed my mind that it might be wiser to return, but Fate
or Providence urged me forward, and I laughed at my fears and set my
shoulder to the storm.

Phew! if it was a gale along the drive it was a hurricane in the
village street, and a hot-headed, impetuous hurricane, too.  Pausing
for a second in its mad rush it leaped upon one the next moment with a
sudden fury that seemed almost devilish and was well-nigh irresistible.
Twice I was flung against the wall, but as I was hugging it pretty
closely I suffered no harm.  As I struggled onward the wind was in my
teeth; a dozen steps farther and it leaped the wall on my right with a
roar, like a pack of hounds in full cry, and tore down the fields with
reckless velocity to hurl itself into the black mystery of the wood.

Not a soul was to be seen, but the clatter of a dislodged slate upon
the pavement brought a frightened woman to the door of one of the
cottages, and I stepped inside for a moment's breathing-space.

"Lord!  Miss 'Olden, is it you?" she said.  "I don't know how you dare
stir out.  I'm a'most flayed to death to stay in t' 'ouse by myself,
but my master is off wi' most o' t' other men to Gordon's farm to give
'em a hand."

"What is the matter there?" I inquired.

"Ye 'aven't 'eard, then?  They say 'at t' wind's uprooted t' big
sycamore an' flung it again' one o' t' barns, or summat, an' it's like
to fall in, so they've gone to see what can be done."

I did my best to encourage her and then made what haste I could to the
house of Roger Treffit, which stood lank and dark against the black
sky.  As it was Saturday night I hoped that Roger would be away, but it
was his voice that bade me enter, and the dog rose to give me welcome.

The fire roared up the chimney and the wind met it there with answering
roar.  Roger was sitting with his feet stretched out to the blaze, one
arm resting upon the table and encircling a half-empty whiskey bottle.
In his right hand he held a tumbler nearly full of spirits.  I saw at a
glance that he was very drunk, but I believed him to be harmless.

"Is Mrs. Treffit upstairs? may I go to her at once?" I asked.

"Quite all right, ma'am, quite all right.  Show lady ... way, Miss
T'ry....  Missis ill ... kid ill ... Miss T'ry ill ... ev'yb'dy ill.
Doctor says mus' keep kid quiet, mus'n' disturb 'er.  Won't let 'em
disturb 'er, I won't....  Go forw'd, ma'am."

He rose steadily enough, and held the door open for me to pass through,
and I heard him mutter as he returned to his chair:

"Won't let 'em disturb 'er, I won't."

Martha greeted me in her usual sadly-cordial fashion, and motioned me
to a chair near the bed where the little one lay, flushed and asleep.

"She's a bit better," she whispered, "but she's to be kept quiet, an'
whatever I do I haven't to miss 'er med'cine every hour.  But he says
wi' care an' good nursin' she'll pull through."

"And how is your cough?" I asked.

"Oh, about as usual," she replied indifferently.  "I have to cough into
my apron when Lucy's asleep, but I should soon be right enough if I'd
nought to worrit about.  It's yon chap downstairs 'at 'll be t' death
of us both."

"Has he no engagement to-night?  I thought he was never free on
Saturdays."

"It's t' dog.  She's poorly again, an' he can't work her.  My opinion
is 'at t' poor brute's about done, an' I believe Roger knows it an'
it's drivin' 'im mad.  He drinks t' day through, an' in a bit there'll
be nought for us but t' work'us, for I can't keep 'im i' whiskey; an'
whativver's goin' to come o' our poor little Lucy I don't know.  I've
been lookin' at her as she lay there, Miss 'Olden, so sweet an' pretty,
like a little angel, an' I a'most asked the Lord to take 'er out of all
t' trouble, but I couldn't bide to lose 'er."

The overwrought woman buried her face in her apron and sobbed
convulsively--deep-drawn, quiet sobs which told of her soul's agony.  A
solitary candle was burning upon the dressing-table, and the room
looked eerie in the half darkness.  Outside the storm was at its
height, and in the stillness which neither of us broke I heard it
shriek with the shrillness which one associates with spirits in torment.

But it was the savage thrust of the wind that frightened me most, and
the heavy and repeated thuds which struck the end of the house like the
battering blows of a heavy ram.  It is no exaggeration to say that the
house rocked, and I began to fear lest it should collapse.  I
remembered what a shaky, decrepit structure it was, and I turned to
Martha to see if she shared my alarm.

She caught the question in my eyes: "I think it's safe enough," she
said; "it allus rocks a bit in a 'igh wind.  I've got while I take no
notice of it."

Poor woman!  There was a storm within her breast which dwarfed the
tempest outside into insignificance; but I held my breath again and
again, and tried in vain to stay the tumultuous beatings of my heart as
the mad wind rained blow after blow upon the quivering walls with a
persistency and ever growing fury which seemed to make disaster
inevitable.

By and by I could stand it no longer.  "Are you sure the house is safe,
Martha?" I asked.  "Listen to the wind now; it makes me shudder to hear
it, and the wall on yonder side absolutely heaves.  Had we not better
wrap Lucy up well, and take her downstairs?"

"You aren't used to it, Miss 'Olden, an' it's gettin' on your nerves.
You needn't fear.  I've seen it like this oft enough afore.  But you
ought to be gettin' back 'ome, for it's hardly a fit night for you to
be out."

I was reluctant to leave, and yet I saw that I was likely to do more
harm than good if I remained, so I said good-night and left her; but at
the foot of the narrow staircase I found my way blocked and the door
barred.  Angry voices came from within the room, and my knocks were
unheard or unheeded.  Roger's back appeared to be against the door, and
I put my ear to it and listened.

They were mostly women's voices, and their angry tone convinced me that
they had been protesting in vain.

"Don't be a fool, Roger!  I tell you t' stack 'll fall in another
minute, an' where 'll you all be then?  Oppen t' door, an' let's bring
your Martha an' Lucy out, or ye'll all be killed!"

"Ye shan't disturb 'er," said the maudlin voice on the other side the
door; "doct'r said mus'n' disturb 'er ... keep 'er quiet ... won't let
anyb'dy disturb 'er."

"Can't you understand, you gawmless fool," shouted another woman, "'at
t' chimley's rockin' an' swayin', an' is bound to come down on t' top
on us all while we're standin' 'ere?  Oppen t' door, you drunken
beggar, an' let your missis an' child come out!"

"I'll shoot anyb'dy 'at disturbs 'er," stuttered Roger; "hang me if I
don't.  Doct'r said mus'n be disturbed ... won't have 'er disturbed.
Clear, all of ye!"

There was a sound of sudden movement, and I gathered that Roger had
raised his weapon.  Sick at heart I groped my way upstairs again and
discussed the situation with Martha.

She was alarmed in good earnest now, as much for my sake as for Lucy's,
and we went down and battered the door in vain.  We could hear voices
faintly, but the crowd was evidently in the road, and Roger was still
guarding the door.

We returned to the bedroom, and Martha flung herself upon her knees and
broke into fervent prayer to God.

What happened afterwards has been told me since.  Afraid of the
tottering chimney-stack, and cowed by Roger's revolver, the group of
women and boys had fallen back into the road, when Barjona appeared
upon the scene with his cart.

With one accord the women rushed up to him and explained the peril of
Roger and his family, and the drunken man's insane refusal of help and
warning.

A glance above showed Barjona that their fears were only too well
founded, and--let me say it to his credit--he did not hesitate for a
moment.  "Can only die once," he muttered, and without another word he
seized his whip and strode towards the house.  As he entered the door
Roger covered him with his weapon and defied him to advance, but with a
hoarse growl the sturdy old man flung himself forward, lashed his whip
around the legs of the drunken man, and as the revolver discharged
itself harmlessly into the air, he seized his opponent round the waist,
and with super-human strength hurled him into the corner, where he lay
stupefied, if not senseless.

The faithful dog sprang at his master's assailant, but he kicked it
quickly aside.  It was the work of a moment to draw back the heavy bolt
and rush up the creaking stairs.

"Out with you!" he cried ... "Out at once!  ... no time to lose ... t'
chimney's fallin' ...  Bring Lucy, Martha ...  I'll go down an' watch
Roger.  'Urry up, now!"

We needed no second admonition.  Barjona hurried down the steps, and
Martha darted to the bed, seized her child and a blanket, and followed
him.  I had almost reached the foot of the stairs when I remembered the
medicine on which so much depended, and I ran back to fetch it.  As I
did so I thought I heard a warning cry from the street, and fear gave
wings to my feet.  But it was too late.

Just as I reached the dressing-table there came a fearful crash, and
through an opening in the roof an avalanche of stones and tiles and
mortar descended with terrific force.  Then, to the accompaniment of an
awful roar, a dark and heavy mass hurled itself through the gap, and
the crunch of broken beam and splintered wood told where it had
disappeared into the room below.  A pit opened almost at my feet, and
there came up a blinding, suffocating mist of dust, like the breath of
a smouldering volcano.

One whole end of the house fell over into the field, and I felt the
floor slope away beneath me as I made an agonised clutch at the
framework of the bed.  Loosened stones fell upon and around me in
showers, but I was conscious of no pain.  Choked and terrified,
however, and certain that my last hour had come, I lost my senses and
fell upon the littered bed in a swoon.

I came back to semi-consciousness in a land of shadows.  I thought I
was in Egypt, lying among the ruins of the great Nile temples about
which I had been reading to the squire only a day or two before.
Overhead the moon was looking down, full orbed, and tattered clouds
were racing along the path of the skies.  The jagged piles of masonry
were the giant walls of Philae, and the roar of the wind was the rush
of waters over the great dam.  It was not unpleasant to lie there and
dream, and listen to the spirit voices which came indistinctly from the
pillared courts.

Then the figure of a man bent over me and an arm was placed beneath my
neck, and a familiar voice whispered in tones that sounded anguished,
and oh! so distant:

"Grace, my darling!  Speak to me!"

I tried to speak, but could only smile and lean upon his arm in deep
content, and the figure bent over me and placed his cheek against my
lips, and laid a hand upon my heart, and seemed to cry for help; but
the cry was faint and indistinct, like that of a distant echo.

Then another form appeared--taller and more stalwart--and I felt myself
raised from the ground and carried to the top of the masonry, where
formless hands grasped me, and I sank--sank--with a feeling that I was
descending into the bowels of the earth--into oblivion again.

When I next awoke my mind was clearer, but I was still dazed.  I half
opened my eyes and found myself in my own bed, with the housekeeper
seated at my side, and Dr. Trempest and the squire talking together in
quiet tones by the fire.

"How in thunder did they get her down?" the doctor was asking.

"Derwent heard the story as he got to the Hall and he fetched a short
ladder and climbed up as far as he could, and did some wonderful
gymnastics," replied the squire; "but Goodenough's sons came hurrying
up with longer ladders, and they lashed three together side by side,
and managed in that way.  Derwent couldn't lift her, but Ben Goodenough
has the strength of an ox.  But it was a tough job in a high wind on a
rickety floor."

"Well, it's a miracle, that's all I can say.  I must go see Martha
Treffit's child now, but I'll look in to-morrow, early on."

"You are sure there is no cause for anxiety?" inquired the squire
anxiously; "she will come round all right?"

"As right as a bobbin," replied the doctor cheerfully.  "There's only
the least bit of concussion.  She was more frightened than hurt.  I'll
send her up a bottle when I get back."

"You needn't trouble," I ejaculated; "it won't be mixed with faith this
time."

"She'll do!" chuckled the doctor, and he turned to me: "Go to sleep now
and behave yourself."



CHAPTER XXX

CALM AFTER STORM

Of course the Cynic had to explain, because he did not realise at first
how shadowy the whole occurrence had been to me.  You see, I really was
not fully conscious at the time, and might easily have concluded that I
had dreamt it.

However, he is _my_ Cynic now, really, so I can talk quite freely to
him; and I tell him that after he called me "darling" and whilst he was
trying to make sure that I still breathed, he kissed me; but he says
that convinces him that I really was dreaming.  But we have agreed not
to quarrel about it, as one more or less doesn't much matter.

His professional duties must be pretty elastic, for it is now Wednesday
and he has not gone back; though, to be sure, he has done a fair amount
of pleading in a local court and has won the first part of his case and
seems likely to be successful in the next.  A remarkable thing about
these bachelors who have waited so long is that they cannot afford to
wait the least bit longer.  They are no sooner engaged than they must
be married.  But in this instance things are going to be done decently
and in order.  The squire says we do not know each other well enough
yet, and suggests two years as the term of our engagement, but I think
we shall compromise on four months.

"What about my studio, Philip?" I asked this morning.  "I have not seen
it for days, and it is as dear to me as a lover."

"Is it?" he said; "can you bear to walk as far?"

"Why, of course," I replied; "I'm all right now."

"You'll have to take my arm," he remarked; "you are only shaky yet."

It was merely an excuse, but I did it to please him.  Of course all the
village knows what has happened, and a dozen friendly folk nodded, or
smiled or shouted their congratulations according to the measure of
their intimacy or reserve.

When we came in sight of my cottage the studio was nowhere to be seen,
and, greatly surprised, I turned to the Cynic for an explanation, but
he merely pressed my arm and said:

"Farmer Goodenough is there.  He will tell you all about it."

I held my peace until we entered the field and stood by my late
landlord's side.  Explanation was unnecessary, for the field was still
littered with splintered wood and broken glass, though much of it had
been cleared away.

"So you're about again, miss!  Well, I'm downright glad to see you."
Then, indicating the _débris_ with an inclination of the head: "I've
sorted out all 'at seemed to be worth ought.  All t' glass picturs 'at
weren't reight smashed I've put into a box an' ta'en into t' 'ouse.
But there isn't much left.  Them 'at saw it say 'at t' stewdio cut up
t' paddock like a hairyplane, an' it must ha' collapsed in t' same way."

"It knew it was doomed," remarked the Cynic, "supplanted--and it
promptly put an end to itself."

"Well, never mind, miss," put in Reuben, "there's nought to fret about.
'Off wi' the old love an' on with the new!'  I'd nearly put that down
to t' Owd Book, but I should ha' been mista'en.  However, ye've made a
good swop, an' I don't know which on ye's got t' best o' t' bargain."

"I have, Reuben," said the Cynic heartily.

I wasn't going to contradict him, of course, though I know he is
"mista'en."

"I was just thinkin', miss, if it's all t' same to you," continued the
farmer, "'at it 'ud be a charity to let Martha an' her little lass have
your cottage.  You see----"

"But you forget they are only for widows, Mr. Goodenough," I
interrupted.

He glanced quickly at Philip.  "They haven't told you then, miss?
Well, it's out now.  Martha is a widow.  Barjona got clear by t' skin
of his teeth, but Roger an' t' dog were killed on t' spot; an' though
it sounds a 'ard sayin', it's no loss to Martha an' Lucy.  Are we to
let 'em have t' cottage, think ye?"

I agreed, of course; but the tragic death of Roger had saddened me, and
as usual Reuben noticed my clouded expression.

"Now don't you take on, miss.  You'll 'ave to leave these things to
them above.  After all, as t' Owd Book says, 'It's an ill wind 'at
blows nobody iny good,' an' t' storm has blown you two into one
another's arms an' Martha into t' cottage, in a manner o' speakin'; so
we must look on t' cheerful side.  However, I must be stirring."

He raised his cap and left us, and I turned to the Cynic.

"Philip," I said, and I know the tears filled my eyes, "the sight of
the cottage brings back to me sweet memories of dear old Mother
Hubbard.  How delighted she would have been to welcome us!  How pleased
she would have been if she had known!"

"She did know, Grace," he replied.  "I called to see her when you were
away, and the good soul spoke to me about you in such loving terms that
I could not help making her my confidante; and do you know, she asked
if she might kiss me before I left.  She hoped to live to see the
consummation, but if that were denied her she bade me tell you how
earnestly she had prayed for our happiness, and how fervently she had
longed to see us united."

Now I have reached the very last line in my book.  How could I end it
better than with Mother Hubbard's blessing?



THE END



======================================================================


_SOME EARLY PRESS OPINIONS_

WINDYRIDGE

_Pall Mall Gazette_.--"'Windyridge' can be heartily recommended."

_Saturday Review_.--"Oh, 'Windyridge' were paradise enow."

_Academy_.--"'Windyridge'is an arresting, fascinating book, one to read
and read again."

_Atheneum_.--"There is a quaint charm about this story of a Yorkshire
village."

_Nation_.--"'Windyridge' is a book that should give genuine pleasure to
tens of thousands of people."

_Methodist Recorder_.--"A White Novel....  This book has real vital
qualities and we can heartily recommend it."

_Outlook_.--"A revelation of how much pleasure can be got from the
perusal of a sincere and simple description of the real things of life."

_Bookman_.--"The story has an atmosphere and a curious charm of its own
that are not easy to define; there is a sort of dream-magic about it; a
delicate lavender-like fragrance."

_Globe_.--"A Notable New Novel....  Few who take it up will care to lay
it down before the last page is reached.  It is a novel of the genus to
which 'Cranford' belongs, and we are not sure that it may not challenge
comparison with Mrs. Gaskell's classic."

_Standard of Empire_.--"Here is a book about which one prophecy may be
made with safety: it will be read, quoted, and enthusiastically admired
by a multitude of people; and that for the simple reason that it will
appeal to the hearts of the multitude.... 'Windyridge' will be much
talked of and read this autumn; and its publishers are to be
congratulated."





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