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Title: Felix Holt, The Radical
Author: Eliot, George, 1819-1880
Language: English
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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 "Felix Holt, The Radical" ***

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    [Illustration: ESTHER LYON.]



    FELIX HOLT, THE RADICAL


    BY GEORGE ELIOT


    Upon the midlands now the industrious muse doth fall,
    The shires which we the heart of England well may call.

        *       *       *       *       *

    My native country thou, which so brave spirits hast bred,
    If there be virtues yet remaining in the earth,
    Or any good of thine thou bred'st into my birth,
    Accept it as thine own, whilst now I sing of thee,
    Of all thy later brood the unworthiest though I be.

                                           --DRAYTON; _Polyolbion_.


    _WITH ILLUSTRATIONS_


    BOSTON
    DE WOLFE, FISKE & COMPANY
    361 AND 365 WASHINGTON STREET



FELIX HOLT, THE RADICAL.



INTRODUCTION.


Five-and-thirty years ago the glory had not yet departed from the old
coach roads: the great roadside inns were still brilliant with
well-polished tankards, the smiling glances of pretty barmaids, and the
repartees of jocose hostlers; the mail still announced itself by the
merry notes of the horn; the hedge-cutter or the rick-thatcher might
still know the exact hour by the unfailing yet otherwise meteoric
apparition of the pea-green Tally-ho or the yellow Independent; and
elderly gentlemen in pony-chaises, quartering nervously to make way for
the rolling, swinging swiftness, had not ceased to remark that times
were finely changed since they used to see the pack-horses and hear the
tinkling of their bells on this very highway.

In those days there were pocket boroughs, a Birmingham unrepresented in
Parliament and compelled to make strong representations out of it,
unrepealed corn-laws, three-and-sixpenny letters, a brawny and
many-breeding pauperism, and other departed evils; but there were some
pleasant things, too, which have also departed. _Non omnia grandior ætas
quæ fugiamus habet_, says the wise goddess: you have not the best of it
in all things, O youngsters! the elderly man has his enviable memories,
and not the least of them is the memory of a long journey in mid-spring
or autumn on the outside of a stage coach. Posterity may be shot, like a
bullet through a tube, by atmospheric pressure, from Winchester to
Newcastle: that is a fine result to have among our hopes; but the slow,
old fashioned way of getting from one end of our country to the other is
the better thing to have in the memory. The tube-journey can never lend
much to picture and narrative; it is as barren as an exclamatory O!
Whereas, the happy outside passenger, seated on the box from the dawn to
the gloaming, gathered enough stories of English life, enough of English
labors in town and country, enough aspects of earth and sky, to make
episodes for a modern Odyssey. Suppose only that his journey took him
through that central plain, watered at one extremity by the Avon, at the
other by the Trent. As the morning silvered the meadows with their long
lines of bushy willows marking the water-courses, or burnished the
golden corn-ricks clustered near the long roofs of some midland
homestead, he saw the full-uddered cows driven from their pasture to the
early milking. Perhaps it was the shepherd, head-servant of the farm,
who drove them, his sheep-dog following with a heedless, unofficial air,
as of a beadle in undress. The shepherd, with a slow and slouching walk,
timed by the walk of grazing beasts, moved aside, as if unwillingly,
throwing out a monosyllabic hint to his cattle; his glance, accustomed
to rest on things very near the earth, seemed to lift itself with
difficulty to the coachman. Mail or stage coach for him belonged to the
mysterious distant system of things called "Gover'ment," which, whatever
it might be, was no business of his, any more than the most outlying
nebula or the coal-sacks of the southern hemisphere: his solar system
was the parish; the master's temper and the casualties of lambing-time
were his region of storms. He cut his bread and bacon with his
pocket-knife, and felt no bitterness except in the matter of pauper
laborers and the bad-luck that sent contrarious seasons and the
sheep-rot. He and his cows were soon left behind, and the homestead,
too, with its pond overhung by elder-trees, its untidy kitchen-garden
and cone-shaped yew-tree arbor. But everywhere the bushy hedgerows
wasted the land with their straggling beauty, shrouded the grassy
borders of the pastures with catkined hazels, and tossed their long
blackberry branches on the corn-fields. Perhaps they were white with
May, or starred with pale pink dog-roses; perhaps the urchins were
already nutting among them, or gathering the plenteous crabs. It was
worth the journey only to see those hedgerows, the liberal homes of
unmarketable beauty--of the purple blossomed, ruby-berried nightshade,
of the wild convolvulus climbing and spreading in tendriled strength
till it made a great curtain of pale-green hearts and white trumpets, of
the many-tubed honey-suckle which, in its most delicate fragrance, hid a
charm more subtle and penetrating than beauty. Even if it were winter,
the hedgerows showed their coral, the scarlet haws, the deep-crimson
hips, with lingering brown leaves to make a resting-place for the jewels
of the hoar-frost. Such hedgerows were often as tall as the laborers'
cottages dotted along the lanes, or clustered into a small hamlet, their
little dingy windows telling, like thick-filmed eyes, of nothing but the
darkness within. The passenger on the coach-box, bowled along above
such a hamlet, saw chiefly the roofs of it: probably it turned its back
on the road, and seemed to lie away from everything but its own patch of
earth and sky, away from the parish church by long fields and green
lanes, away from all intercourse except that of tramps. If its face
could be seen, it was most likely dirty; but the dirt was Protestant
dirt, and the big, bold, gin-breathing tramps were Protestant tramps.
There was no sign of superstition near, no crucifix or image to indicate
a misguided reverence: the inhabitants were probably so free from
superstition that they were in much less awe of the parson than of the
overseer. Yet they were saved from the excess of Protestantism by not
knowing how to read, and by the absence of handlooms and mines to be the
pioneers of Dissent: they were kept safely in the _via media_ of
indifference, and could have registered themselves in the census by a
big black mark as members of the Church of England.

But there were trim cheerful villages too, with a neat or handsome
parsonage and gray church set in the midst; there was the pleasant
tinkle of the blacksmith's anvil, the patient cart horses waiting at his
door; the basket-maker peeling his willow wands in the sunshine; the
wheelwright putting his last touch to a blue cart with red wheels; here
and there a cottage with bright transparent windows showing pots full of
blooming balsams or geraniums, and little gardens in front all double
daisies or dark wallflowers; at the well, clean and comely women
carrying yoked buckets, and toward the free school small Britons
dawdling on, and handling their marbles in the pockets of unpatched
corduroys adorned with brass buttons. The land around was rich and
marly, great corn-stacks stood in the rick-yards--for the rick-burners
had not found their way hither; the homesteads were those of rich
farmers who paid no rent, or had the rare advantage of a lease, and
could afford to keep the corn till prices had risen. The coach would be
sure to overtake some of them on their way to their outlying fields or
to the market-town, sitting heavily on their well-groomed horses, or
weighing down one side of an olive-green gig. They probably thought of
the coach with some contempt, as an accommodation for people who had not
their own gigs, or who, wanting to travel to London and such distant
places, belonged to the trading and less solid part of the nation. The
passenger on the box could see that this was the district of protuberant
optimists, sure that old England was the best of all possible countries,
and that if there were any facts which had not fallen under their own
observation, they were facts not worth observing: the district of clean
little market-towns without manufactures, of fat livings, an
aristocratic clergy, and low poor-rates. But as the day wore on the
scene would change: the land would begin to be blackened with coal-pits,
the rattle of handlooms to be heard in hamlets and villages. Here were
powerful men walking queerly with knees bent outward from squatting in
the mine, going home to throw themselves down in their blackened flannel
and sleep through the daylight, then rise and spend much of their high
wages at the ale-house with their fellows of the Benefit Club; here the
pale eager faces of the handloom-weavers, men and women, haggard from
sitting up late at night to finish the week's work, hardly begun till
the Wednesday. Everywhere the cottages and the small children were
dirty, for the languid mothers gave their strength to the loom; pious
Dissenting women, perhaps, who took life patiently, and thought that
salvation depended chiefly on predestination, and not at all on
cleanliness. The gables of Dissenting chapels now made a visible sign of
religion, and of a meeting-place to counterbalance the ale-house, even
in the hamlets; but if a couple of old termagants were seen tearing each
other's caps, it was a safe conclusion that, if they had not received
the sacraments of the Church, they had not at least given in to
schismatic rites, and were free from the errors of Voluntaryism. The
breath of the manufacturing town, which made a cloudy day and a red
gloom by night on the horizon, diffused itself over all the surrounding
country, filling the air with eager unrest. Here was a population not
convinced that old England was as good as possible; here were
multitudinous men and women aware that their religion was not exactly
the religion of their rulers, who might therefore be better than they
were, and who, if better, might alter many things which now made the
world perhaps more painful than it need be, and certainly more sinful.
Yet there were the gray steeples too, and the churchyards, with their
grassy mounds and venerable headstones, sleeping in the sunlight; there
were broad fields and homesteads, and fine old woods covering a rising
ground, or stretching far by the roadside, allowing only peeps at the
park and mansion which they shut in from the working day world. In these
midland districts the traveller passed rapidly from one phase of English
life to another: after looking down on a village dingy with coal-dust,
noisy with the shaking of looms, he might skirt a parish all of fields,
high hedges, and deep rutted lanes; after the coach had rattled over the
pavement of a manufacturing town, the scenes of riots and trades-union
meetings, it would take him in another ten minutes into a rural region,
where the neighborhood of the town was only felt in the advantages of a
near market for corn, cheese, and hay, and where men with a considerable
banking account were accustomed to say that "they never meddled with
politics themselves." The busy scenes of the shuttle and the wheel, of
the roaring furnace, of the shaft and the pulley, seemed to make but
crowded nests in the midst of the large-spaced, slow-moving life of
homesteads and far-away cottages and oak-sheltered parks. Looking at the
dwellings scattered amongst the woody flats and the plowed uplands,
under the low gray sky which overhung them with an unchanging stillness
as if Time itself were pausing, it was easy for the traveller to
conceive that town and country had no pulse in common, except where the
handlooms made a far-reaching straggling fringe about the great centres
of manufacture; that till the agitation about the Catholics in '29,
rural Englishmen had hardly known more of Catholics than of the fossil
mammals; and that their notion of Reform was a confused combination of
rick-burners, trades-unions, Nottingham riots, and in general whatever
required the calling out of the yeomanry. It was still easier to see
that, for the most part, they resisted the rotation of crops and stood
by their fallows: and the coachman would perhaps tell how in one parish
an innovating farmer, who talked of Sir Humphrey Davy, had been fairly
driven out by popular dislike, as if he had been a confounded Radical;
and how, the parson having one Sunday preached from the words, "Break up
your fallow-ground," the people thought he had made the text out of his
own head, otherwise it would never have come "so pat" on a matter of
business; but when they found it in the Bible at home, some said it was
an argument for fallows (else why should the Bible mention fallows?),
but a few of the weaker sort were shaken, and thought it was an argument
that fallows should be done away with, else the Bible would have said,
"Let your fallows lie"; and the next morning the parson had a stroke of
apoplexy, which, as coincident with a dispute about fallows, so set the
parish against the innovating farmer and the rotation of crops, that he
could stand his ground no longer, and transferred his lease.

The coachman was an excellent travelling companion and commentator on
the landscape: he could tell the names of sites and persons, and explain
the meaning of groups, as well as the shade of Virgil in a more
memorable journey; he had as many stories about parishes, and the men
and women in them, as the Wanderer in the "Excursion," only his style
was different. His view of life had originally been genial, such as
became a man who was well warmed within and without, and held a position
of easy, undisputed authority; but the recent initiation of railways had
embittered him: he now, as in a perpetual vision, saw the ruined country
strewn with shattered limbs, and regarded Mr. Huskisson's death as a
proof of God's anger against Stephenson. "Why, every inn on the road
would be shut up!" and at that word the coachman looked before him with
the blank gaze of one who had driven his coach to the outermost edge of
the universe, and saw his leaders plunging into the abyss. Still he
would soon relapse from the high prophetic strain to the familiar one of
narrative. He knew whose the land was wherever he drove; what noblemen
had half-ruined themselves by gambling; who made handsome returns of
rent; and who was at daggers-drawn with his eldest son. He perhaps
remembered the fathers of actual baronets, and knew stories of their
extravagant or stingy housekeeping; whom they had married, whom they had
horsewhipped, whether they were particular about preserving their game,
and whether they had had much to do with canal companies. About any
actual landed proprietor he could also tell whether he was a Reformer or
an Anti-Reformer. That was a distinction which had "turned up" in latter
times, and along with it the paradox, very puzzling to the coachman's
mind, that there were men of old family and large estate who voted for
the Bill. He did not grapple with the paradox; he let it pass, with all
the discreetness of an experienced theologian or learned scholiast,
preferring to point his whip at some object which could raise no
questions.

No such paradox troubled our coachman when, leaving the town of Treby
Magna behind him, he drove between the hedges for a mile or so, crossed
the queer long bridge over the river Lapp, and then put his horses to a
swift gallop up the hill by the low-nestled village of Little Treby,
till they were on the fine level road, skirted on one side by grand
larches, oaks, and wych elms, which sometimes opened so far as to let
the traveller see that there was a park behind them.

How many times in the year, as the coach rolled past the
neglected-looking lodges which interrupted the screen of trees, and
showed the river winding through a finely-timbered park, had the
coachman answered the same questions, or told the same things without
being questioned! That?--oh, that was Transome Court, a place there had
been a fine sight of lawsuits about. Generations back, the heir of the
Transome name had somehow bargained away the estate, and it fell to the
Durfeys, very distant connections, who only called themselves Transomes
because they had got the estate. But the Durfeys' claim had been
disputed over and over again; and the coachman, if he had been asked,
would have said, though he might have to fall down dead the next minute,
that property didn't always get into the right hands. However, the
lawyers had found their luck in it; and people who inherited estates
that were lawed about often lived in them as poorly as a mouse in a
hollow cheese; and, by what he could make out, that had been the way
with these present Durfeys, or Transomes, as they called themselves. As
for Mr. Transome, he was as poor, half-witted a fellow as you'd wish to
see; but _she_ was master, had come of a high family, and had a
spirit--you might see it in her eye and the way she sat her horse. Forty
years ago, when she came into this country, they said she was a pictur';
but her family was poor, and so she took up with a hatchet-faced fellow
like this Transome. And the eldest son had been just such another as his
father, only worse--a wild sort of half-natural, who got into bad
company. They said his mother hated him and wished him dead; for she'd
got another son, quite of a different cut, who had gone to foreign parts
when he was a youngster, and she wanted her favorite to be heir. But
heir or no heir, Lawyer Jermyn had had _his_ picking out of the estate.
Not a door in his big house but what was the finest polished oak, all
got off the Transome estate. If anybody liked to believe he paid for it,
they were welcome. However, Lawyer Jermyn had sat on that box-seat many
and many a time. He had made the wills of most people thereabout. The
coachman would not say that Lawyer Jermyn was not the man he would
choose to make his own will some day. It was not so well for a lawyer to
be over-honest, else he might not be up to other people's tricks. And as
for the Transome business, there had been ins and outs in time gone by,
so that you couldn't look into it straight backward. At this Mr. Sampson
(everybody in North Loamshire knew Sampson's coach) would screw his
features into a grimace expressive of entire neutrality, and appear to
aim his whip at a particular spot on the horse's flank. If the passenger
was curious for further knowledge concerning the Transome affairs,
Sampson would shake his head and say there had been fine stories in his
time; but he never condescended to state what the stories were. Some
attributed this reticence to a wise incredulity, others to a want of
memory, others to simple ignorance. But at least Sampson was right in
saying that there had been fine stories--meaning, ironically, stories
not altogether creditable to the parties concerned.

And such stories often come to be fine in a sense that is not ironical.
For there is seldom any wrong-doing which does not carry along with it
some downfall of blindly-climbing hopes, some hard entail of suffering,
some quickly-satiated desire that survives, with the life in death of
old paralytic vice, to see itself cursed by its woeful progeny--some
tragic mark of kinship in the one brief life to the far-stretching life
that went before, and to the life that is to come after, such as has
raised the pity and terror of men ever since they began to discern
between will and destiny. But these things are often unknown to the
world; for there is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations
that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying
existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of
murder; robberies that leave man or woman forever beggared of peace and
joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer--committed to no sound except that
of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the
face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears.
Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into
no human ear.

The poets have told us of a dolorous enchanted forest in the under
world. The thorn-bushes there, and the thick-barked stems, have human
histories hidden in them; the power of unuttered cries dwells in the
passionless-seeming branches, and the red warm blood is darkly feeding
the quivering nerves of a sleepless memory that watches through all
dreams. These things are a parable.



CHAPTER I.

    He left me when the down upon his lip
    Lay like the shadow of a hovering kiss.
    "Beautiful mother, do not grieve," he said;
    "I will be great, and build our fortunes high.
    And you shall wear the longest train at court,
    And look so queenly, all the lords shall say,
    'She is a royal changeling: there is some crown
    Lacks the right head, since hers wears naught but braids.'"
    O, he is coming now--but I am gray:
    And he----


On the first of September, in the memorable year 1832, some one was
expected at Transome Court. As early as two o'clock in the afternoon the
aged lodge-keeper had opened the heavy gate, green as the tree trunks
were green with nature's powdery paint, deposited year after year.
Already in the village of Little Treby, which lay on the side of a steep
hill not far off the lodge-gates, the elder matrons sat in their best
gowns at the few cottage doors bordering the road, that they might be
ready to get up and make their courtesy when a travelling carriage
should come in sight; and beyond the village several small boys were
stationed on the look-out, intending to run a race to the barn-like old
church, where the sexton waited in the belfry ready to set the one bell
in joyful agitation just at the right moment.

The old lodge-keeper had opened the gate and left it in the charge of
his lame wife, because he was wanted at the Court to sweep away the
leaves, and perhaps to help in the stables. For though Transome Court
was a large mansion, built in the fashion of Queen Anne's time, with a
park and grounds as fine as any to be seen in Loamshire, there were very
few servants about it. Especially, it seemed, there must be a lack of
gardeners; for, except on the terrace surrounded with a stone parapet in
front of the house, where there was a parterre, kept with some neatness,
grass had spread itself over the gravel walks, and over all the low
mounds once carefully cut as black beds for the shrubs and larger
plants. Many of the windows had the shutters closed, and under the grand
Scotch fir that stooped toward one corner, the brown fir-needles of many
years lay in a small stone balcony in front of two such darkened
windows. All round, both near and far, there were grand trees,
motionless in the still sunshine, and, like all large motionless things,
seemed to add to the stillness. Here and there a leaf fluttered down;
petals fell in a silent shower; a heavy moth fluttered by, and, when it
settled, seemed to fall wearily; the tiny birds alighted on the walks,
and hopped about in perfect tranquillity; even a stray rabbit sat
nibbling a leaf that was to its liking, in the middle of a grassy space,
with an air that seemed quite impudent in so timid a creature. No sound
was to be heard louder than a sleepy hum, and the soft monotony of
running water hurrying on to the river that divided the park. Standing
on the south or east side of the house, you would never have guessed
that an arrival was expected.

But on the west side, where the carriage entrance was, the gates under
the stone archway were thrown open; and so was the double door of the
entrance-hall, letting in the warm light on the scagliola pillars, the
marble statues, and the broad stone staircase, with its matting worn
into large holes. And, stronger sign of expectation than all, from one
of the doors that surrounded the entrance-hall, there came forth from
time to time a lady, who walked lightly over the polished stone floor,
and stood on the door-steps and watched and listened. She walked
lightly, for her figure was slim and finely formed, though she was
between fifty and sixty. She was a tall, proud-looking woman, with
abundant gray hair, dark eyes and eyebrows, and a somewhat eagle-like
yet not unfeminine face. Her tight-fitting black dress was much worn;
the fine lace of her cuffs and collar, and of the small veil that fell
backward over her high comb, was visibly mended; but rare jewels flashed
on her hands, which lay on her folded black-clad arms like finely-cut
onyx cameos.

Meantime Mrs. Transome went to the door-steps, watching and listening in
vain. Each time she returned to the same room; it was a moderate-sized
comfortable room, with low ebony bookshelves round it, and it formed an
ante-room to a large library, of which a glimpse could be seen through
an open doorway, partly obstructed by a heavy tapestry curtain drawn on
one side. There was a great deal of tarnished gilding and dinginess on
the walls and furniture of this smaller room, but the pictures above the
bookcases were all of a cheerful kind: portraits in pastel of
pearly-skinned ladies with hair-powder, blue ribbons, and low bodices; a
splendid portrait in oils of a Transome in the gorgeous dress of the
Restoration; another of a Transome in his boyhood, with his hand on the
neck of a small pony; and a large Flemish battle-piece, where war seemed
only a picturesque blue-and-red accident in a vast sunny expanse of
plain and sky. Probably such cheerful pictures had been chosen because
this was Mrs. Transome's usual sitting-room: it was certainly for this
reason that, near the chair in which she seated herself each time she
re-entered, there hung a picture of a youthful face which bore a strong
resemblance to her own: a beardless but masculine face, with rich brown
hair hanging low on the forehead, and undulating beside each cheek down
to the loose white cravat. Near this same chair were her writing table,
with vellum-covered account-books on it, the cabinet in which she kept
her neatly-arranged drugs, her basket for her embroidery, a folio volume
of architectural engravings from which she took her embroidery-patterns,
a number of the "North Loamshire Herald," and the cushion for her fat
Blenheim, which was too old and sleepy to notice its mistress's
restlessness. For, just now, Mrs. Transome could not abridge the sunny
tedium of the day by the feeble interest of her usual indoor
occupations. Her consciousness was absorbed by memories and prospects,
and except that she walked to the entrance-door to look out, she sat
motionless with folded arms, involuntarily from time to time turning
toward the portrait close by her, and as often, when its young brown
eyes met hers, turning away again with self-checking resolution.

At last, prompted by some sudden thought or by some sound, she rose and
went hastily beyond the tapestry curtain into the library. She paused
near the door without speaking: apparently she only wished to see that
no harm was being done. A man nearer seventy than sixty was in the act
of ranging on a large library-table a series of shallow drawers, some of
them containing dried insects, others mineralogical specimens. His pale
mild eyes, receding lower jaw, and slight frame, could never have
expressed much vigor, either bodily or mental; but he had now the
unevenness of gait and feebleness of gesture which tell of a past
paralytic seizure. His threadbare clothes were thoroughly brushed: his
soft white hair was carefully parted and arranged: he was not a
neglected-looking old man; and at his side a fine black retriever, also
old, sat on its haunches, and watched him as he went to and fro. But
when Mrs. Transome appeared within the doorway, her husband paused in
his work and shrank like a timid animal looked at in a cage where flight
was impossible. He was conscious of a troublesome intention, for which
he had been rebuked before--that of disturbing all his specimens with a
view to a new arrangement.

After an interval, in which his wife stood perfectly still, observing
him, he began to put back the drawers in their places in the row of
cabinets which extended under the bookshelves at one end of the
library. When they were all put back and closed, Mrs. Transome turned
away, and the frightened old man seated himself with Nimrod the
retriever on an ottoman. Peeping at him again, a few minutes after, she
saw that he had his arm round Nimrod's neck, and was uttering his
thoughts to the dog in a loud whisper, as little children do to any
object near them when they believe themselves unwatched.

At last the sound of the church-bell reached Mrs. Transome's ear, and
she knew that before long the sound of wheels must be within hearing;
but she did not at once start up and walk to the entrance-door. She sat
still, quivering and listening; her lips became pale, her hands were
cold and trembling. Was her son really coming? She was far beyond fifty;
and since her early gladness in this best-loved boy, the harvest of her
life had been scanty. Could it be that now--when her hair was gray, when
sight had become one of the day's fatigues, when her young
accomplishments seemed almost ludicrous, like the tone of her first
harpsichord and the words of the song long browned with age--she was
going to reap an assured joy? to feel that the doubtful deeds of her
life were justified by the result, since a kind Providence had
sanctioned them?--to be no longer tacitly pitied by her neighbors for
her lack of money, her imbecile husband, her graceless eldest-born, and
the loneliness of her life; but to have at her side a rich, clever,
possibly a tender, son? Yes; but there were the fifteen years of
separation, and all that had happened in that long time to throw her
into the background of her son's memory and affection. And yet--did not
men sometimes become more filial in their feeling when experience had
mellowed them, and they had themselves become fathers? Still, if Mrs.
Transome had expected only her son, she would have trembled less; she
expected a little grandson also: and there were reasons why she had not
been enraptured when her son had written to her only when he was on the
eve of returning that he already had an heir born to him.

But the facts must be accepted as they stood, and, after all, the chief
thing was to have her son back again. Such pride, such affection, such
hopes as she cherished in this fifty-sixth year of her life, must find
their gratification in him--or nowhere. Once more she glanced at the
portrait. The young brown eyes seemed to dwell on her pleasantly; but,
turning from it with a sort of impatience, and saying aloud, "Of course
he will be altered!" she rose almost with difficulty, and walked more
slowly than before across the hall to the entrance-door.

Already the sound of wheels was loud upon the gravel. The momentary
surprise of seeing that it was only a post-chaise, without a servant or
much luggage, that was passing under the stone archway and then wheeling
round against the flight of stone steps, was at once merged in the sense
that there was a dark face under a red travelling-cap looking at her
from the window. She saw nothing else; she was not even conscious that
the small group of her own servants had mustered, or that old Hickes the
butler had come forward to open the chaise door. She heard herself
called "Mother!" and felt a light kiss on each cheek; but stronger than
all that sensation was the consciousness which no previous thought could
prepare her for, that this son who had come back to her was a stranger.
Three minutes before, she had fancied that, in spite of all changes
wrought by fifteen years of separation, she should clasp her son again
as she had done at their parting; but in the moment when their eyes met,
the sense of strangeness came upon her like a terror. It was not hard to
understand that she was agitated, and the son led her across the hall to
the sitting-room, closing the door behind them. Then he turned toward
her and said, smiling--

"You would not have known me, eh, mother?"

It was perhaps the truth. If she had seen him in a crowd, she might have
looked at him without recognition--not, however, without startled
wonder; for though the likeness to herself was no longer striking, the
years had overlaid it with another likeness which would have arrested
her. Before she answered him, his eyes, with a keen restlessness, as
unlike as possible to the lingering gaze of the portrait, had travelled
quickly over the room, alighting on her as she said--

"Everything is changed, Harold. I am an old woman, you see."

"But straighter and more upright than some of the young ones!" said
Harold; inwardly, however, feeling that age had made his mother's face
very anxious and eager. "The old women at Smyrna are like sacks. You've
not got clumsy and shapeless. How is it I have the trick of getting
fat?" (Here Harold lifted his arm and spread out his plump hand.) "I
remember my father was as thin as a herring. How is my father? Where is
he?"

Mrs. Transome just pointed to the curtained doorway, and let her son
pass through it alone. She was not given to tears: but now, under the
pressure of emotion that could find no other vent, they burst forth. She
took care that they should be silent tears, and before Harold came out
of the library again they were dried. Mrs. Transome had not the feminine
tendency to seek influence through pathos; she had been used to rule in
virtue of acknowledged superiority. The consciousness that she had to
make her son's acquaintance, and that her knowledge of the youth of
nineteen might help her little in interpreting the man of thirty-four,
had fallen like lead on her soul; but in this new acquaintance of theirs
she cared especially that her son, who had seen a strange world, should
feel that he was come home to a mother who was to be consulted on all
things, and who could supply his lack of the local experience necessary
to an English landholder. Her part in life had been that of the clever
sinner, and she was equipped with the views, the reasons, and the habits
which belonged to that character; life would have little meaning for her
if she were to be gently thrust aside as a harmless elderly woman. And
besides, there were secrets which her son must never know. So, by the
time Harold came from the library again, the traces of tears were not
discernible, except to a very careful observer. And he did not observe
his mother carefully; his eyes only glanced at her on their way to the
_North Loamshire Herald_, lying on the table near her, which he took up
with his left hand, as he said--

"Gad! what a wreck poor father is! Paralysis, eh? Terribly shrunk and
shaken--crawls about among his books and beetles as usual, though. Well,
it's a slow and easy death. But he's not much over sixty-five, is he?"

"Sixty-seven, counting by birthdays; but your father was born old, I
think," said Mrs. Transome, a little flushed with the determination not
to show any unasked for feeling. Her son did not notice her. All the
time he had been speaking his eyes had been running down the columns of
the newspaper.

"But your little boy, Harold--where is he? How is it he has not come
with you?"

"Oh, I left him behind, in town," said Harold, still looking at the
paper. "My man Dominic will bring him, with the rest of the luggage. Ah,
I see it is young Debarry, and not my old friend Sir Maximus, who is
offering himself as candidate for North Loamshire."

"Yes. You did not answer me when I wrote to you to London about your
standing. There is no other Tory candidate spoken of, and you would
have all the Debarry interest."

"I hardly think that," said Harold, significantly.

"Why? Jermyn says a Tory candidate can never be got in without it."

"But I shall not be a Tory candidate."

Mrs. Transome felt something like an electric shock.

"What then?" she said, almost sharply. "You will not call yourself a
Whig?"

"God forbid! I'm a Radical."

Mrs. Transome's limbs tottered; she sank into a chair. Here was a
distinct confirmation of the vague but strong feeling that her son was a
stranger to her. Here was a revelation to which it seemed almost as
impossible to adjust her hopes and notions of a dignified life as if her
son had said that he had been converted to Mahometanism at Smyrna, and
had four wives, instead of one son, shortly to arrive under the care of
Dominic. For the moment she had a sickening feeling that it was of no
use that the long-delayed good fortune had come at last--all of no use
though the unloved Durfey was dead and buried, and though Harold had
come home with plenty of money. There were rich Radicals, she was aware,
as there were rich Jews and Dissenters, but she had never thought of
them as county people. Sir Francis Burdett had been generally regarded
as a madman. It was better to ask no questions, but silently to prepare
herself for anything else there might be to come.

"Will you go to your rooms, Harold, and see if there is anything you
would like to have altered?"

"Yes, let us go," said Harold, throwing down the newspaper, in which he
had been rapidly reading almost every advertisement while his mother had
been going through her sharp inward struggle. "Uncle Lingon is on the
bench still, I see," he went on, as he followed her across the hall; "is
he at home--will he be here this evening?"

"He says you must go to the rectory when you want to see him. You must
remember you have come back to a family with old-fashioned notions. Your
uncle thought I ought to have you to myself in the first hour or two. He
remembered that I had not seen my son for fifteen years."

"Ah, by Jove! fifteen years--so it is!" said Harold, taking his mother's
hand and drawing it under his arm; for he had perceived that her words
were charged with an intention. "And you are as straight as an arrow
still; you will carry the shawls I have brought you as well as ever."

They walked up the broad stone steps together in silence. Under the
shock of discovering her son's Radicalism, Mrs. Transome had no impulse
to say one thing rather than another; as in a man who had just been
branded on the forehead all wonted motives would be uprooted. Harold, on
his side, had no wish opposed to filial kindness, but his busy thoughts
were determined by habits which had no reference to any woman's
feelings; and even if he could have conceived what his mother's feeling
was, his mind, after that momentary arrest, would have darted forward on
its usual course.

"I have given you the south rooms, Harold," said Mrs. Transome, as they
passed along a corridor lit from above and lined with old family
pictures. "I thought they would suit you best, as they all open into
each other, and this middle one will make a pleasant sitting-room for
you."

"Gad! the furniture is in a bad state," said Harold, glancing around at
the middle room which they had just entered; "the moths seem to have got
into the carpets and hangings."

"I had no choice except moths or tenants who would pay rent," said Mrs.
Transome. "We have been too poor to keep servants for uninhabited
rooms."

"What! you've been rather pinched, eh?"

"You find us living as we have been living these twelve years."

"Ah, you've had Durfey's debts as well as the lawsuits--confound them!
It will make a hole in sixty thousand pounds to pay off the mortgages.
However, he's gone now, poor fellow; and I suppose I should have spent
more in buying an English estate some time or other. I always meant to
be an Englishman, and thrash a lord or two who thrashed me at Eton."

"I hardly thought you could have meant that, Harold, when I found you
had married a foreign wife."

"Would you have had me wait for a consumptive lackadaisical
Englishwoman, who would have hung all her relations around my neck? I
hate English wives; they want to give their opinion about everything.
They interfere with a man's life. I shall not marry again."

Mrs. Transome bit her lip, and turned away to draw up a blind. She would
not reply to words which showed how completely any conception of herself
and her feelings was excluded from her son's inward world.

As she turned round again she said, "I suppose you have been used to
great luxury; these rooms look miserable to you, but you can soon make
any alterations you like."

"Oh, I must have a private sitting-room fitted up for myself
down-stairs. And the rest are bedrooms, I suppose," he went on, opening
a side-door. "Ah, I can sleep here a night or two. But there's a bedroom
down-stairs, with an ante-room, I remember, that would do for my man
Dominic and the little boy. I should like to have that."

"Your father has slept there for years. He will be like a distracted
insect, and never know where to go, if you alter the track he has to
walk in."

"That's a pity. I hate going up-stairs."

"There is the steward's room: it is not used, and might be turned into a
bedroom. I can't offer you my room, for I sleep up-stairs." (Mrs.
Transome's tongue could be a whip upon occasion, but the lash had not
fallen on a sensitive spot.)

"No; I'm determined not to sleep up-stairs. We'll see about the
steward's room to-morrow, and I dare say I shall find a closet of some
sort for Dominic. It's a nuisance he had to stay behind, for I shall
have nobody to cook for me. Ah, there's the old river I used to fish in.
I often thought, when I was at Smyrna, that I would buy a park with a
river through it as much like the Lapp as possible. Gad, what fine oaks
those are opposite! Some of them must come down, though."

"I've held every tree sacred on the demesne, as I told you, Harold. I
trusted to your getting the estate some time, and releasing it; and I
determined to keep it worth releasing. A park without fine timber is no
better than a beauty without teeth and hair."

"Bravo, mother!" said Harold, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Ah,
you've had to worry yourself about things that don't properly belong to
a woman--my father being weakly. We'll set all that right. You shall
have nothing to do now but to be grandmamma on satin cushions."

"You must excuse me from the satin cushions. That is a part of the old
woman's duty I am not prepared for. I am used to be chief bailiff, and
to sit in the saddle two or three hours every day. There are two farms
on our hands besides the Home Farm."

"Phew-ew! Jermyn manages the estate badly, then. That will not last
under _my_ reign," said Harold, turning on his heel and feeling in his
pockets for the keys of his portmanteaus, which had been brought up.

"Perhaps when you've been in England a little longer," said Mrs.
Transome, coloring as if she had been a girl, "you will understand
better the difficulty there is in letting farms these times."

"I understand the difficulty perfectly, mother. To let farms, a man must
have the sense to see what will make them inviting to farmers, and to
get sense supplied on demand is just the most difficult transaction I
know of. I suppose if I ring there's some fellow who can act as valet
and learn to attend to my hookah?"

"There is Hickes the butler, and there is Jabez the footman; those are
all the men in the house. They were here when you left."

"Oh, I remember Jabez--he was a dolt. I'll have old Hickes. He was a
neat little machine of a butler; his words used to come like the clicks
of an engine. He must be an old machine now, though."

"You seem to remember some things about home wonderfully well, Harold."

"Never forget places and people--how they look and what can be done with
them. All the country round here lies like a map in my brain. A deuced
pretty country too; but the people were a stupid set of old Whigs and
Tories. I suppose they are much as they were."

"I am, at least, Harold. You are the first of your family that ever
talked of being a Radical. I did not think I was taking care of our old
oaks for that. I always thought Radicals' houses stood staring above
poor sticks of young trees and iron hurdles."

"Yes, but the Radical sticks are growing, mother, and half the Tory oaks
are rotting," said Harold, with gay carelessness. "You've arranged for
Jermyn to be early to-morrow?"

"He will be here to breakfast at nine. But I leave you to Hickes now; we
dine in an hour."

Mrs. Transome went away and shut herself in her own dressing-room. It
had come to pass now--this meeting with the son who had been the object
of so much longing; whom she had longed for before he was born, for whom
she had sinned, from whom she had wrenched herself with pain at their
parting, and whose coming again had been the one great hope of her
years. The moment was gone by; there had been no ecstasy, no gladness
even; hardly half an hour had passed, and few words had been spoken,
yet with that quickness in weaving new futures which belongs to women
whose actions have kept them in habitual fear of consequences, Mrs.
Transome thought she saw with all the clearness of demonstration that
her son's return had not been a good for her in the sense of making her
any happier.

She stood before a tall mirror, going close to it and looking at her
face with hard scrutiny, as if it were unrelated to herself. No elderly
face can be handsome, looked at in that way; every little detail is
startlingly prominent, and the effect of the whole is lost. She saw the
dried-up complexion, and the deep lines of bitter discontent about the
mouth.

"I am a hag!" she said to herself (she was accustomed to give her
thoughts a very sharp outline), "an ugly old woman who happens to be his
mother. That is what he sees in me, as I see a stranger in him. I shall
count for nothing. I was foolish to expect anything else."

She turned away from the mirror and walked up and down her room.

"What a likeness!" she said, in a loud whisper; "yet, perhaps, no one
will see it besides me."

She threw herself into a chair, and sat with a fixed look, seeing
nothing that was actually present, but inwardly seeing with painful
vividness what had been present with her a little more than thirty years
ago--the little round-limbed creature that had been leaning against her
knees, and stamping tiny feet, and looking up at her with gurgling
laughter. She had thought that the possession of this child would give
unity to her life, and make some gladness through the changing years
that would grow as fruit out of these early maternal caresses. But
nothing had come just as she had wished. The mother's early raptures had
lasted but a short time, and even while they lasted there had grown up
in the midst of them a hungry desire, like a black poisonous plant
feeding in the sunlight,--the desire that her first, rickety, ugly,
imbecile child should die, and leave room for her darling, of whom she
could be proud. Such desires make life a hideous lottery, where everyday
may turn up a blank; where men and women who have the softest beds and
the most delicate eating, who have a very large share of that sky and
earth which some are born to have no more of than the fraction to be got
in a crowded entry, yet grow haggard, fevered, and restless, like those
who watch in other lotteries. Day after day, year after year, had
yielded blanks; new cares had come, bringing other desires for results
quite beyond her grasp, which must also be watched for in the lottery;
and all the while the round-limbed pet had been growing into a strong
youth, who liked many things better than his mother's caresses, and who
had a much keener consciousness of his independent existence than of his
relation to her: the lizard's egg, that white rounded passive
prettiness, had become a brown, darting, determined lizard. The mother's
love is at first an absorbing delight, blunting all other sensibilities;
it is an expansion of the animal existence; it enlarges the imagined
range for self to move in: but in after years it can only continue to be
joy on the same terms as other long-lived love--that is, by much
suppression of self, and power of living in the experience of another.
Mrs. Transome had darkly felt the pressure of that unchangeable fact.
Yet she had clung to the belief that somehow the possession of this son
was the best thing she lived for; to believe otherwise would have made
her memory too ghastly a companion. Some time or other, by some means,
the estate she was struggling to save from the grasp of the law would be
Harold's. Somehow the hated Durfey, the imbecile eldest, who seemed to
have become tenacious of a despicable squandering life, would be got rid
of; vice might kill him. Meanwhile the estate was burdened: there was no
good prospect for any heir. Harold must go and make a career for himself
and this was what he was bent on, with a precocious clearness of
perception as to the conditions on which he could hope for any
advantages in life. Like most energetic natures, he had a strong faith
in his luck; he had been gay at their parting, and had promised to make
his fortune; and in spite of past disappointments, Harold's possible
fortune still made some ground for his mother to plant her hopes in. His
luck had not failed him; yet nothing had turned out according to her
expectations. Her life had been like a spoiled shabby pleasure-day, in
which the music and the processions are all missed, and nothing is left
at evening but the weariness of striving after what has been failed of.
Harold had gone with the Embassy to Constantinople, under the patronage
of a high relative, his mother's cousin; he was to be diplomatist, and
work his way upward in public life. But his luck had taken another
shape: he had saved the life of an Armenian banker, who in gratitude had
offered him a prospect which his practical mind had preferred to the
problematic promises of diplomacy and high-born cousinship. Harold had
become a merchant and banker at Smyrna; and let the years pass without
caring to find the possibility of visiting his early home, and had shown
no eagerness to make his life at all familiar to his mother, asking for
letters about England, but writing scantily about himself. Mrs. Transome
had kept up the habit of writing to her son, but gradually the
unfruitful years had dulled her hopes and yearnings; increasing
anxieties about money had worried her, and she was more sure of being
fretted by bad news about her dissolute eldest son than of hearing
anything to cheer her from Harold. She had begun to live merely in small
immediate cares and occupations, and like all eager-minded women who
advance in life without any activity of tenderness or any large
sympathy, she had contracted small rigid habits of thinking and acting,
she had her "ways" which must not be crossed, and had learned to fill up
the great void of life with giving small orders to tenants, insisting on
medicines for infirm cottagers, winning small triumphs in bargains and
personal economies, and parrying ill-natured remarks of Lady Debarry's
by lancet-edged epigrams. So her life had gone on till more than a year
ago, when that desire which had been so hungry when she was a blooming
young mother, was at last fulfilled--at last, when her hair was gray,
and her face looked bitter, restless, and unenjoying, like her life. The
news came from Jersey that Durfey, the imbecile son, was dead. _Now_
Harold was heir to the estate; now the wealth he had gained could
release the land from its burdens; now he would think it worth while to
return home. A change had come over her life, and the sunlight breaking
the clouds at evening was pleasant, though the sun must sink before
long. Hopes, affections, the sweeter part of her memories, started from
their wintry sleep, and it once more seemed a great good to have had a
second son who in some ways had cost her dearly. But again there were
conditions she had not reckoned on. When the good tidings had been sent
to Harold, and he had announced that he would return so soon as he could
wind up his affairs, he had for the first time informed his mother that
he had been married, that his Greek wife was no longer living, but that
he should bring home a little boy, the finest and most desirable of
heirs and grandsons. Harold seated in his distant Smyrna home considered
that he was taking a rational view of what things must have become by
this time at the old place in England, when he figured his mother as a
good elderly lady, who would necessarily be delighted with the
possession on any terms of a healthy grandchild, and would not mind
much about the particulars of a long-concealed marriage.

Mrs. Transome had torn up that letter in a rage. But in the months which
had elapsed before Harold could actually arrive, she had prepared
herself as well as she could to suppress all reproaches or queries which
her son might resent, and to acquiesce in his evident wishes. The return
was still looked for with longing; affection and satisfied pride would
again warm her later years. She was ignorant what sort of man Harold had
become now, and of course he must be changed in many ways; but though
she told herself this, still the image that she knew, the image fondness
clung to, necessarily prevailed over the negatives insisted on by her
reason.

And so it was, that when she had moved to the door to meet him, she had
been sure that she should clasp her son again, and feel that he was the
same who had been her boy, her little one, the loved child of her
passionate youth. An hour seemed to have changed everything for her. A
woman's hopes are woven of sunbeams; a shadow annihilates them. The
shadow which had fallen over Mrs. Transome in this first interview with
her son was the presentiment of her powerlessness. If things went wrong,
if Harold got unpleasantly disposed in a certain direction where her
chief dread had always lain, she seemed to foresee that her words would
be of no avail. The keenness of her anxiety in this matter had served as
insight; and Harold's rapidity, decision, and indifference to any
impressions in others, which did not further or impede his own purposes,
had made themselves felt by her as much as she would have felt the
unmanageable strength of a great bird which had alighted near her, and
allowed her to stroke its wing for a moment because food lay near her.

Under the cold weight of these thoughts Mrs. Transome shivered. That
physical reaction roused her from her reverie, and she could now hear
the gentle knocking at the door to which she had been deaf before.
Notwithstanding her activity and the fewness of her servants, she had
never dressed herself without aid; nor would that small, neat,
exquisitely clean old woman who now presented herself have wished that
her labor should be saved at the expense of such a sacrifice on her
lady's part. The small old woman was Mrs. Hickes, the butler's wife, who
acted as housekeeper, lady's-maid, and superintendent of the
kitchen--the large stony scene of inconsiderable cooking. Forty years
ago she had entered Mrs. Transome's service, when that lady was
beautiful Miss Lingon, and her mistress still called her Denner, as she
had done in the old days.

"The bell has rung, then, Denner, without my hearing it?" said Mrs.
Transome, rising.

"Yes, madam," said Denner, reaching from a wardrobe an old black velvet
dress trimmed with much-mended point, in which Mrs. Transome was wont to
look queenly of an evening.

Denner had still strong eyes of that short-sighted kind which sees
through the narrowest chink between the eyelashes. The physical contrast
between the tall, eagle-faced, dark-eyed lady, and the little peering
waiting woman, who had been round-featured and of pale mealy complexion
from her youth up, had doubtless had a strong influence in determining
Denner's feeling toward her mistress, which was of that worshipful sort
paid to a goddess in ages when it was not thought necessary or likely
that a goddess should be very moral. There were different orders of
beings--so ran Denner's creed--and she belonged to another order than
that to which her mistress belonged. She had a mind as sharp as a
needle, and would have seen through and through the ridiculous
pretensions of a born servant who did not submissively accept the rigid
fate which had given her born superiors. She would have called such
pretensions the wrigglings of a worm that tried to walk on its tail.
There was a tacit understanding that Denner knew all her mistress's
secrets, and her speech was plain and unflattering; yet with wonderful
subtlety of instinct she never said anything which Mrs. Transome could
feel humiliated by, as by familiarity from a servant who knew too much.
Denner identified her own dignity with that of her mistress. She was a
hard-headed godless little woman, but with a character to be reckoned on
as you reckon on the qualities of iron.

Peering into Mrs. Transome's face she saw clearly that the meeting with
the son had been a disappointment in some way. She spoke with a refined
accent, in a low quick, monotonous tone--

"Mr. Harold is dressed; he shook me by the hand in the corridor, and was
very pleasant."

"What an alteration, Denner! No likeness to me now."

"Handsome, though, spite of his being so browned and stout. There's a
fine presence about Mr. Harold. I remember you used to say, madam, there
were some people you would always know were in the room though they
stood round a corner, and others you might never see till you ran
against them. That's as true as truth. And as for likenesses,
thirty-five and sixty are not much alike, only to people's memories."

Mrs. Transome knew perfectly that Denner had divined her thoughts.

"I don't know how things will go on now, but it seems something too good
to happen that they will go on well. I am afraid of ever expecting
anything good again."

"That's weakness, madam. Things don't happen because they're bad or
good, else all eggs would be addled or none at all, and at the most it
is but six to the dozen. There's good chances and bad chances, and
nobody's luck is pulled only by one string."

"What a woman you are, Denner! You talk like a French infidel. It seems
to me you are afraid of nothing. I have been full of fears all my
life--always seeing something or other hanging over me that I couldn't
bear to happen."

"Well, madam, put a good face on it, and don't seem to be on the look-out
for crows, else you'll set other people watching. Here you have a rich
son come home, and the debts will all be paid, and you have your health
and can ride about, and you've such a face and figure, and will have if
you live to be eighty, that everybody is cap in hand to you before they
know you who are; let me fasten up your veil a little higher: there's a
good deal of pleasure in life for you yet."

"Nonsense! there's no pleasure for old women, unless they get it out of
tormenting other people. What are your pleasures, Denner--besides being
a slave to me?"

"Oh, there's pleasure in knowing one's not a fool, like half the people
one sees about. And managing one's husband is some pleasure; and doing
all one's business well. Why, if I've only got some orange flowers to
candy, I shouldn't like to die till I see them all right. Then there's
the sunshine now and then; I like that as the cats do. I look upon it,
life is like our game at whist, when Banks and his wife come to the
still-room of an evening. I don't enjoy the game much, but I like to
play my cards well, and see what will be the end of it; and I want to
see you make the best of your hand, madam, for your luck has been mine
these forty years now. But I must go and see how Kitty dishes up the
dinner, unless you have any more commands."

"No, Denner; I am going down immediately."

As Mrs. Transome descended the stone staircase in her old black velvet
and point, her appearance justified Denner's personal compliment. She
had that high-born, imperious air which would have marked her as an
object of hatred and reviling by a revolutionary mob. Her person was too
typical of social distinctions to be passed by with indifference by any
one: it would have fitted an empress in her own right, who had had to
rule in spite of faction, to dare the violation of treaties and dread
retributive invasions, to grasp after new territories, to be defiant in
desperate circumstances, and to feel a woman's hunger of the heart
forever unsatisfied. Yet Mrs. Transome's cares and occupations had not
been at all of an imperial sort. For thirty years she had led the
monotonous, narrowing life which used to be the lot of our poorer
gentry; who never went to town, and were probably not on speaking terms
with two out of the five families whose parks lay within the distance of
a drive. When she was young she had been thought wonderfully clever and
accomplished, and had been rather ambitious of intellectual
superiority--had secretly picked out for private reading the higher
parts of dangerous French authors--and in company had been able to talk
of Mr. Burke's style, or of Chateaubriand's eloquence--had laughed at
the Lyrical Ballads, and admired Mr. Southey's Thalaba. She always
thought that the dangerous French writers were wicked and that her
reading of them was a sin; but many sinful things were highly agreeable
to her, and many things which she did not doubt to be good and true were
dull and meaningless. She found ridicule of Biblical characters very
amusing, and she was interested in stories of illicit passion; but she
believed all the while that truth and safety lay in due attendance on
prayers and sermons, in the admirable doctrines and ritual of the Church
of England, equally remote from Puritanism and Popery; in fact, in such
a view of this world and the next as would preserve the existing
arrangements of English society quite unshaken, keeping down the
obtrusiveness of the vulgar and the discontent of the poor. The history
of the Jews, she knew, ought to be preferred to any profane history; the
Pagans, of course, were vicious, and their religions quite nonsensical,
considered as religions--but classical learning came from the Pagans;
the Greeks were famous for sculpture; the Italians for painting; the
middle ages were dark and Papistical; but now Christianity went hand in
hand with civilization, and the providential government of the world,
though a little confused and entangled in foreign countries, in our
favored land was clearly seen to be carried forward on Tory and Church
of England principles, sustained by the succession of the House of
Brunswick, and by sound English divines. For Miss Lingon had had a
superior governess, who held that a woman should be able to write a good
letter, and to express herself with propriety on general subjects. And
it is astonishing how effective this education appeared in a handsome
girl, who sat supremely well on horseback, sang and played a little,
painted small figures in water-colors, had a naughty sparkle in her eyes
when she made a daring quotation, and an air of serious dignity when she
recited something from her store of correct opinions. But however such a
stock of ideas may be made to tell in elegant society, and during a few
seasons in town, no amount of bloom and beauty can make them a perennial
source of interest in things not personal; and the notion that what is
true and, in general, good for mankind, is stupid and drug-like, is not
a safe theoretic basis in circumstances of temptation and difficulty.
Mrs. Transome had been in her bloom before this century began, and in
the long painful years since then, what she had once regarded as her
knowledge and accomplishments had become as valueless as old-fashioned
stucco ornaments, of which the substance was never worth anything, while
the form is no longer to the taste of any living mortal. Crosses,
mortifications, money-cares, conscious blame-worthiness, had changed the
aspect of the world for her; there was anxiety in the morning sunlight;
there was unkind triumph or disapproving pity in the glances of greeting
neighbors; there was advancing age, and a contracting prospect in the
changing seasons as they came and went. And what could then sweeten the
days to a hungry, much-exacting self like Mrs. Transome's? Under
protracted ill every living creature will find something that makes a
comparative ease, and even when life seems woven of pain, will convert
the fainter pang into a desire. Mrs. Transome, whose imperious will had
availed little to ward off the great evils of her life, found the opiate
for her discontent in the exertion of her will about smaller things. She
was not cruel, and could not enjoy thoroughly what she called the old
woman's pleasure of tormenting; but she liked every little sign of power
her lot had left her. She liked that a tenant should stand bareheaded
below her as she sat on horseback. She liked to insist that work done
without her orders should be undone from beginning to end. She liked to
be courtesied and bowed to by all the congregation as she walked up the
little barn of a church. She liked to change a laborer's medicine
fetched from the doctor, and substitute a prescription of her own. If
she had only been more haggard and less majestic, those who had glimpses
of her outward life might have said she was a tyrannical, griping
harridan, with a tongue like a razor. No one said exactly that; but they
never said anything like the full truth about her, or divined what was
hidden under that outward life--a woman's keen sensibility and dread,
which lay screened behind all her petty habits and narrow notions, as
some quivering thing with eyes and throbbing heart may lie crouching
behind withered rubbish. The sensibility and dread had palpitated all
the faster in the prospect of her son's return; and now that she had
seen him, she said to herself, in her bitter way, "It is a lucky eel
that escapes skinning. The best happiness I shall ever know, will be to
escape the worst misery."



CHAPTER II.

    A jolly parson of the good old stock,
    By birth a gentleman, yet homely too,
    Suiting his phrase to Hodge and Margery
    Whom he once christened, and has married since,
    A little lax in doctrine and in life.
    Not thinking God was captious in such things
    As what a man might drink on holidays,
    But holding true religion was to do
    As you'd be done by--which could never mean
    That he should preach three sermons in a week.


Harold Transome did not choose to spend the whole evening with his
mother. It was his habit to compress a great deal of effective
conversation into a short space of time, asking rapidly all the
questions he wanted to get answered, and diluting no subject with
irrelevancies, paraphrase, or repetitions. He volunteered no information
about himself and his past life at Smyrna, but answered pleasantly
enough, though briefly, whenever his mother asked for any detail. He was
evidently ill-satisfied as to his palate, trying red pepper to
everything, then asking if there were any relishing sauces in the house,
and when Hickes brought various home-filled bottles, trying several,
finding them failures, and finally falling back from his plate in
despair. Yet he remained good-humored, saying something to his father
now and then for the sake of being kind, and looking on with a pitying
shrug as he saw him watch Hickes cutting his food. Mrs. Transome thought
with some bitterness that Harold showed more feeling for her feeble
husband who had never cared in the least about him, than for her, who
had given him more than the usual share of mother's love. An hour after
dinner, Harold, who had already been turning over the leaves of his
mother's account-books, said--

"I shall just cross the park to the parsonage to see my uncle Lingon."

"Very well. He can answer more questions for you."

"Yes," said Harold, quite deaf to the innuendo, and accepting the words
as a simple statement of the fact. "I want to hear all about the game
and the North Loamshire hunt. I'm fond of sport; we had a great deal of
it at Smyrna, and it keeps down my fat."

The Reverend John Lingon became very talkative over his second bottle of
port, which was opened on his nephew's arrival. He was not curious about
the manners of Smyrna, or about Harold's experience, but he unbosomed
himself very freely as to what he himself liked and disliked, which of
the farmers he suspected of killing the foxes, what game he had bagged
that very morning, what spot he would recommend as a new cover, and the
comparative flatness of all existing sport compared with cock-fighting,
under which Old England had been prosperous and glorious, while, so far
as he could see, it had gained little by the abolition of a practice
which sharpened the faculties of men, gratified the instincts of the
fowl, and carried out the designs of heaven in its admirable device of
spurs. From these main topics, which made his points of departure and
return, he rambled easily enough at any new suggestion or query; so that
when Harold got home at a late hour, he was conscious of having gathered
from amidst the pompous full-toned triviality of his uncle's chat some
impressions, which were of practical importance. Among the rector's
dislikes, it appeared, was Mr. Matthew Jermyn.

"A fat-handed, glib-tongued fellow, with a scented cambric handkerchief;
one of your educated low-bred fellows; a foundling who got his Latin for
nothing at Christ's Hospital; one of your middle-class upstarts who want
to rank with gentlemen, and think they'll do it with kid gloves and new
furniture."

But since Harold meant to stand for the county, Mr. Lingon was equally
emphatic as to the necessity of his not quarrelling with Jermyn till the
election was over. Jermyn must be his agent; Harold must wink hard till
he found himself safely returned; and even then it might be well to let
Jermyn drop gently and raise no scandal. He himself had no quarrel with
the fellow: a clergyman should have no quarrels, and he made it a point
to be able to take wine with any man he met at table. And as to the
estate, and his sister's going too much by Jermyn's advice, he never
meddled with business: it was not his duty as a clergyman. That, he
considered, was the meaning of Melchisedec and the tithe, a subject,
into which he had gone to some depth thirty years ago, when he preached
the Visitation sermon.

The discovery that Harold meant to stand on the Liberal side--nay, that
he boldly declared himself a Radical--was rather startling; but to his
uncle's good-humor, beatified by the sipping of port-wine, nothing could
seem highly objectionable, provided it did not disturb that operation.
In the course of half an hour he had brought himself to see that
anything really worthy to be called British Toryism had been entirely
extinct since the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel had passed the
Catholic Emancipation Bill; that Whiggery, with its rights of man
stopping short at ten-pound householders, and its policy of pacifying a
wild beast with a bite, was a ridiculous monstrosity; that therefore,
since an honest man could not call himself a Tory, which it was, in
fact, as impossible to be now as to fight for the old Pretender, and
could still less become that execrable monstrosity a Whig, there
remained but one course open to him. "Why, lad, if the world was turned
into a swamp, I suppose we should leave off shoes and stockings, and
walk about like cranes"--whence it followed plainly enough that, in
these hopeless times, nothing was left to men of sense and good family
but to retard the national ruin by declaring themselves Radicals, and
take the inevitable process of changing everything out of the hands of
beggarly demagogues and purse-proud tradesmen. It is true the rector was
helped to this chain of reasoning by Harold's remarks; but he soon
became quite ardent in asserting the conclusion.

"If the mob can't be turned back, a man of family must try and head the
mob, and save a few homes and hearths, and keep the country up on its
last legs as long as he can. And you're a man of family, my lad--dash
it! You're a Lingon, whatever else you may be, and I'll stand by you.
I've no great interest; I'm a poor parson. I've been forced to give up
hunting; my pointers and a glass of good wine are the only decencies
becoming my station that I can allow myself. But I'll give you my
countenance--I'll stick to you as my nephew. There's no need for me to
change sides exactly. I was born a Tory, and I shall never be a bishop.
But if anybody says you're in the wrong, I shall say, 'My nephew is in
the right; he has turned Radical to save his country. If William Pitt
had been living now he'd have done the same; for what did he say when he
was dying? Not 'Oh, save my party!' but 'Oh, save my country, heaven!'
That was what they dinned in our ears about Peel and the Duke; and now
I'll turn it round upon them. They shall be hoist with their own petard.
Yes, yes, I'll stand by you."

Harold did not feel sure that his uncle would thoroughly retain this
satisfactory thread of argument in the uninspired hours of the morning;
but the old gentleman was sure to take the facts easily in the end, and
there was no fear of family coolness or quarrelling on this side. Harold
was glad of it. He was not to be turned aside from any course he had
chosen; but he disliked all quarrelling as an unpleasant expenditure of
energy that could have no good practical result. He was at once active
and luxurious; fond of mastery, and good-natured enough to wish that
every one about him should like his mastery; not caring greatly to know
other people's thoughts, and ready to despise them as blockheads if
their thoughts differed from his, and yet solicitous that they should
have no colorable reason for slight thoughts about _him_. The blockheads
must be forced to respect him. Hence, in proportion as he foresaw his
equals in the neighborhood would be indignant with him for his political
choice, he cared keenly about making a good figure before them in every
other way. His conduct as a landholder was to be judicious, his
establishment was to be kept up generously, his imbecile father treated
with careful regard, his family relations entirely without scandal. He
knew that affairs had been unpleasant in his youth--that there had been
ugly lawsuits--and that his scapegrace brother Durfey had helped to
lower still farther the depressed condition of the family. All this must
be retrieved, now that events had made Harold the head of the Transome
name.

Jermyn must be used for the election, and after that if he must be got
rid of, it would be well to shake him loose quietly; his uncle was
probably right on both these points. But Harold's expectation that he
should want to get rid of Jermyn was founded on other reasons than his
scented handkerchief and his charity-school Latin.

If the lawyer had been presuming on Mrs. Transome's ignorance as a
woman, and on the stupid rakishness of the original heir, the new heir
would prove to him that he had calculated rashly. Otherwise, Harold had
no prejudice against him. In his boyhood and youth he had seen Jermyn
frequenting Transome Court, but had regarded him with that total
indifference with which youngsters are apt to view those who neither
deny them pleasure nor give them any. Jermyn used to smile at him, and
speak to him affably; but Harold, half proud, half shy, got away from
such patronage as soon as possible; he knew Jermyn was a man of
business; his father, his uncle, and Sir Maximus Debarry did not regard
him as a gentleman and their equal. He had known no evil of the man; but
he saw now that if he were really a covetous upstart, there had been a
temptation for him in the management of the Transome affairs; and it was
clear that the estate was in a bad condition.

When Mr. Jermyn was ushered into the breakfast-room the next morning,
Harold found him surprisingly little altered by the fifteen years. He
was gray, but still remarkably handsome; fat, but tall enough to bear
that trial to man's dignity. There was as strong a suggestion of
toilette about him as if he had been five-and-twenty instead of nearly
sixty. He chose always to dress in black, and was especially addicted to
black satin waistcoats, which carried out the general sleekness of his
appearance; and this, together with his white, fat, but
beautifully-shaped hands, which he was in the habit of rubbing gently on
his entrance into a room, gave him very much the air of a lady's
physician. Harold remembered with some amusement his uncle's dislike of
those conspicuous hands; but as his own were soft and dimpled, and as he
too was given to the innocent practice of rubbing those members, his
suspicions were not yet deepened.

"I congratulate you, Mrs. Transome," said Jermyn, with a soft and
deferential smile, "all the more," he added, turning toward Harold, "now
I have the pleasure of actually seeing your son. I am glad to perceive
that an Eastern climate has not been unfavorable to him."

"No," said Harold, shaking Jermyn's hand carelessly, and speaking with
more than his usual brusqueness, "the question is, whether the English
climate will agree with me. It's deuced shifting and damp; and as for
the food, it would be the finest thing in the world for this country if
the southern cooks would change their religion, get persecuted, and fly
to England, as the old silk-weavers did."

"There are plenty of foreign cooks for those who are rich enough to pay
for them, I suppose," said Mrs. Transome, "but they are unpleasant
people to have about one's house."

"Gad! I don't think so," said Harold.

"The old servants are sure to quarrel with them."

"That's no concern of mine. The old servants will have to put up with my
man Dominic, who will show them how to cook and do everything else in a
way that will rather astonish them."

"Old people are not so easily taught to change all their ways, Harold."

"Well, they can give up and watch the young ones," said Harold, thinking
only at that moment of old Mrs. Hickes and Dominic. But his mother was
not thinking of them only.

"You have a valuable servant, it seems," said Jermyn, who understood
Mrs. Transome better than her son did, and wished to smoothen the
current of their dialogue.

"Oh, one of those wonderful southern fellows that make one's life easy.
He's of no country in particular. I don't know whether he's most of a
Jew, a Greek, an Italian, or a Spaniard. He speaks five or six
languages, one as well as another. He's cook, valet, major-domo, and
secretary all in one; and what's more, he's an affectionate fellow--I
can trust to his attachment. That's a sort of human specimen that
doesn't grow here in England, I fancy. I should have been badly off if I
could not have brought Dominic."

They sat down to breakfast with such slight talk as this going on. Each
of the party was preoccupied and uneasy. Harold's mind was busy
constructing probabilities about what he should discover of Jermyn's
mismanagement or dubious application of funds, and the sort of
self-command he must in the worst case exercise in order to use the man
as long as he wanted him. Jermyn was closely observing Harold with an
unpleasant sense that there was an expression of acuteness and
determination about him which would make him formidable. He would
certainly have preferred at that moment that there had been no second
heir of the Transome name to come back upon him from the East. Mrs.
Transome was not observing the two men; rather, her hands were cold, and
her whole person shaken by their presence; she seemed to hear and see
what they said and did with preternatural acuteness, and yet she was
also seeing and hearing what had been said and done many years before,
and feeling a dim terror about the future. There were piteous
sensibilities in this faded woman, who thirty-four years ago, in the
splendor of her bloom, had been imperious to one of these men, and had
rapturously pressed the other as an infant to her bosom, and now knew
that she was of little consequence to either of them.

"Well, what are the prospects about election?" said Harold, as the
breakfast was advancing. "There are two Whigs and one Conservative
likely to be in the field, I know. What is your opinion of the chances?"

Mr. Jermyn had a copious supply of words which often led him into
periphrase, but he cultivated a hesitating stammer, which, with a
handsome impassiveness of face, except when he was smiling at a woman,
or when the latent savageness of his nature was thoroughly roused, he
had found useful in many relations, especially in business. No one could
have found out that he was not at his ease. "My opinion," he replied,
"is in a state of balance at present. This division of the county, you
are aware, contains one manufacturing town of the first magnitude, and
several smaller ones. The manufacturing interest is widely dispersed. So
far--a--there is a presumption--a--in favor of the two Liberal
candidates. Still, with a careful canvass of the agricultural districts,
such as those we have round us at Treby Magna, I think--a--the
auguries--a--would not be unfavorable to the return of a Conservative. A
fourth candidate of good position, who should coalesce with Mr.
Debarry--a----"

Here Mr. Jermyn hesitated for the third time, and Harold broke in.

"That will not be my line of action, so we need not discuss it. If I put
up it will be as a Radical; and I fancy, in any county that would return
Whigs there would be plenty of voters to be combed off by a Radical who
offered himself with good pretensions."

There was the slightest possible quiver discernible across Jermyn's
face. Otherwise he sat as he had done before, with his eyes fixed
abstractedly on the frill of a ham before him, and his hand trifling
with his fork. He did not answer immediately, but, when he did, he
looked round steadily at Harold.

"I'm delighted to perceive that you have kept yourself so thoroughly
acquainted with English politics."

"Oh, of course," said Harold, impatiently. "I'm aware how things have
been going on in England. I always meant to come back ultimately. I
suppose I know the state of Europe as well as if I'd been stationary at
Little Treby for the last fifteen years. If a man goes to the East,
people seem to think he gets turned into something like the one-eyed
calender in the 'Arabian Nights!'"

"Yet I should think there are some things which people who have been
stationary at Little Treby could tell you, Harold," said Mrs. Transome.
"It did not signify about your holding Radical opinions at Smyrna; but
you seem not to imagine how your putting up as a Radical will affect
your position here, and the position of your family. No one will visit
you. And then--the sort of people who will support you! You really have
no idea what an impression it conveys when you say you are a Radical.
There are none of our equals who will not feel that you have disgraced
yourself."

"Pooh!" said Harold, rising and walking along the room.

But Mrs. Transome went on with growing anger in her voice--"It seems to
me that a man owes something to his birth and station, and has no right
to take up this notion or other, just as it suits his fancy; still less
to work at the overthrow of his class. That was what every one said of
Lord Grey, and my family at least is as good as Lord Grey's. You have
wealth now, and might distinguish yourself in the county; and if you had
been true to your colors as a gentleman, you would have had all the
greater opportunity, because the times are so bad. The Debarrys and Lord
Wyvern would have set all the more store by you. For my part, I can't
conceive what good you propose to yourself. I only entreat you to think
again before you take any decided step."

"Mother," said Harold, not angrily or with any raising of his voice, but
in a quick, impatient manner, as if the scene must be got through as
quickly as possible; "it is natural that you should think in this way.
Women, very properly, don't change their views, but keep to the notions
in which they have been brought up. It doesn't signify what they
think--they are not called upon to judge or to act. You must leave me to
take my own course in these matters, which properly belong to men.
Beyond that, I will gratify any wish you may choose to mention. You
shall have a new carriage and a pair of bays all to yourself; you shall
have the house done up in first-rate style, and I am not thinking of
marrying. But let us understand that there shall be no further collision
between us on subjects on which I must be master of my own actions."

"And you will put the crown to the mortifications of my life, Harold. I
don't know who would be a mother if she could foresee what a slight
thing she will be to her son when she is old."

Mrs. Transome here walked out of the room by the nearest way--the glass
door open toward the terrace. Mr. Jermyn had risen too, and his hands
were on the back of his chair. He looked quite impassive: it was not the
first time he had seen Mrs. Transome angry; but now, for the first time,
he thought the outburst of her temper would be useful to him. She, poor
woman, knew quite well that she had been unwise, and that she had been
making herself disagreeable to Harold to no purpose. But half the
sorrows of women would be averted if they could repress the speech they
know to be useless--nay, the speech they have resolved not to utter.
Harold continued his walking a moment longer, and then said to Jermyn--

"You smoke?"

"No, I always defer to the ladies. Mrs. Jermyn is peculiarly sensitive
in such matters, and doesn't like tobacco."

Harold, who, underneath all the tendencies which had made him a Liberal,
had intense personal pride, thought, "Confound the fellow--with his Mrs.
Jermyn! Does he think we are on a footing for me to know anything about
his wife?"

"Well, I took my hookah before breakfast," he said aloud, "so, if you
like, we'll go into the library. My father never gets up till midday, I
find."

"Sit down, sit down," said Harold, as they entered the handsome,
spacious library. But he himself continued to stand before a map of the
county which he had opened from a series of rollers occupying a
compartment among the bookshelves. "The first question, Mr. Jermyn, now
you know my intentions, is, whether you will undertake to be my agent in
this election, and help me through? There's no time to be lost, and I
don't want to lose my chance, as I may not have another for seven years.
I understand," he went on, flashing a look straight at Jermyn, "that you
have not taken any conspicuous course in politics, and I know that
Labron is agent for the Debarrys."

"Oh--a--my dear sir--a man necessarily has his political convictions,
but of what use is it for a professional man--a--of some education, to
talk of them in a little country town? There really is no comprehension
of public questions in such places. Party feeling, indeed, was quite
asleep here before the agitation about the Catholic Relief Bill. It is
true that I concurred with our incumbent in getting up a petition
against the Reform Bill, but I did not state my reasons. The weak points
in that Bill are--a--too palpable, and I fancy you and I should not
differ much on that head. The fact is, when I knew that you were to come
back to us, I kept myself in reserve, though I was much pressed by the
friends of Sir James Clement, the Ministerial candidate, who is----"

"However, you will act for me--that's settled?" said Harold.

"Certainly," said Jermyn, inwardly irritated by Harold's rapid manner of
cutting him short.

"Which of the Liberal candidates, as they call themselves, has the
better chance, eh?"

"I was going to observe that Sir James Clement has not so good a
chance as Mr. Garstin, supposing that a third Liberal candidate
presents himself. There are two senses in which a politician can be
liberal"--here Mr. Jermyn smiled--"Sir James Clement is a poor baronet,
hoping for an appointment, and can't be expected to be liberal in that
wider sense which commands majorities."

"I wish this man were not so much of a talker," thought Harold, "he'll
bore me. We shall see," he said aloud, "what can be done in the way of
combination. I'll come down to your office after one o'clock if it will
suit you?"

"Perfectly."

"Ah, and you'll have all the lists and papers and necessary information
ready for me there. I must get up a dinner for the tenants, and we can
invite whom we like besides the tenants. Just now, I'm going over one of
the farms on hand with the bailiff. By the way, that's a desperately bad
business, having three farms unlet--how comes that about, eh?"

"That is precisely what I wanted to say a few words about to you. You
have observed already how strongly Mrs. Transome takes certain things to
heart. You can imagine that she has been severely tried in many ways.
Mr. Transome's want of health; Mr. Durfey's habits--a----"

"Yes, yes."

"She is a woman for whom I naturally entertain the highest respect, and
she has had hardly any gratification for many years, except the sense of
having affairs to a certain extent in her own hands. She objects to
changes; she will not have a new style of tenants; she likes the old
stock of farmers who milk their own cows, and send their younger
daughters out to service: all this makes it difficult to do the best
with the estate. I am aware things are not as they ought to be, for, in
point of fact, improved agricultural management is a matter in which I
take considerable interest, and the farm which I myself hold on the
estate you will see, I think, to be in a superior condition. But Mrs.
Transome is a woman of strong feeling, and I would urge you, my dear
sir, to make the changes which you have, but which I had not the right
to insist on, as little painful to her as possible."

"I shall know what to do, sir, never fear," said Harold, much offended.

"You will pardon, I hope, a perhaps undue freedom of suggestion from a
man of my age, who has been so long in a close connection with the
family affairs--a--I have never considered that connection simply in a
light of business--a----"

"Damn him, I'll soon let him know that _I_ do," thought Harold. But in
proportion as he found Jermyn's manners annoying, he felt the necessity
of controlling himself. He despised all persons who defeated their own
projects by the indulgence of momentary impulses.

"I understand, I understand," he said aloud. "You've had more awkward
business on your hands than usually falls to the share of a family
lawyer. We shall set everything right by degrees. But now as to the
canvassing. I've made arrangements with a first-rate man in London, who
understands these matters thoroughly--a solicitor, of course--he has
carried no end of men into Parliament. I'll engage him to meet us at
Duffield--say when?"

The conversation after this was driven carefully clear of all angles,
and ended with determined amicableness. When Harold, in his ride an hour
or two afterward, encountered his uncle shouldering a gun, and followed
by one black and one liver-spotted pointer, his muscular person with its
red eagle face set off by a velveteen jacket and leather leggings, Mr.
Lingon's first question was--

"Well, lad, how have you got on with Jermyn?"

"Oh, I don't think I shall like the fellow. He's a sort of amateur
gentleman. But I must make use of him. I expect whatever I get out of
him will only be something short of fair pay for what he has got out of
us. But I shall see."

"Ay, ay, use his gun to bring down your game, and after that, beat the
thief with the butt end. That's wisdom and justice and pleasure all in
one--talking between ourselves as uncle and nephew. But I say, Harold, I
was going to tell you, now I come to think of it, this is rather a
nasty business, your calling yourself a Radical. I've been turning it
over in after-dinner speeches, but it looks awkward--it's not what
people are used to--it wants a good deal of Latin to make it go down. I
shall be worried about it at the sessions, and I can think of nothing
neat enough to carry about in my pocket by way of answer."

"Nonsense, uncle! I remember what a good speechifier you always were;
you'll never be at a loss. You only want a few more evenings to think of
it."

"But you'll not be attacking the Church and the institutions of the
country--you'll not be going those lengths; you'll keep up the bulwarks,
and so on, eh?"

"No, I shan't attack the Church, only the incomes of the bishops,
perhaps, to make them eke out the incomes of the poor clergy."

"Well, well, I have no objection to that. Nobody likes our bishop: he's
all Greek and greediness; too proud to dine with his own father. You may
pepper the bishops a little. But you'll respect the constitution handed
down, etc.--and you'll rally round the throne--and the King, God bless
him, and the usual toasts, eh?"

"Of course, of course. I am a Radical only in rooting out abuses."

"That's the word I wanted, my lad!" said the vicar, slapping Harold's
knee. "That's a spool to wind a speech on. Abuses is the very word; and
if anybody shows himself offended, he'll put the cap on for himself."

"I remove the rotten timbers," said Harold, inwardly amused, "and
substitute fresh oak, that's all."

"Well done, my boy! By George, you'll be a speaker! But I say, Harold, I
hope you've got a little Latin left. This young Debarry is a tremendous
fellow at the classics, and walks on stilts to any length. He's one of
the new Conservatives. Old Sir Maximus doesn't understand him at all."

"That won't do at the hustings," said Harold. "He'll get knocked off his
stilts pretty quickly there."

"Bless me! it's astonishing how well you're up in the affairs of the
country, my boy. But rub up a few quotations--'_Quod turpe bonis decebat
Crispinum_'--and that sort of thing--just to show Debarry what you could
do if you liked. But you want to ride on?"

"Yes; I have an appointment at Treby. Good-bye."

"He's a cleverish chap," muttered the vicar, as Harold rode away. "When
he's had plenty of English exercise, and brought out his knuckle a bit,
he'll be a Lingon again as he used to be. I must go and see how Arabella
takes his being a Radical. It's a little awkward; but a clergyman must
keep peace in a family. Confound it! I'm not bound to love Toryism
better than my own flesh and blood, and the manor I shoot over. That's a
heathenish, Brutus-like sort of thing, as if Providence couldn't take
care of the country without my quarrelling with my own sister's son!"



CHAPTER III.

    'Twas town, yet country too: you felt the warmth
    Of clustering houses in the wintry time:
    Supped with a friend, and went by lantern home.
    Yet from your chamber window you could hear
    The tiny bleat of new-yeaned lambs, or see
    The children bend beside the hedgerow banks
    To pluck the primroses.


Treby Magna, on which the Reform Bill had thrust the new honor of being
a polling-place, had been, at the beginning of the century, quite a
typical old market-town, lying in pleasant sleepiness among green
pastures, with a rush-fringed river meandering through them. Its
principal street had various handsome and tall-windowed brick houses
with walled gardens behind them; and at the end, where it widened into
the market-place, there was the cheerful rough-stuccoed front of that
excellent inn, the Marquis of Granby, where the farmers put up their
gigs, not only on fair and market days, but on exceptional Sundays when
they came to church. And the church was one of those fine old English
structures worth travelling to see, standing in a broad churchyard with
a line of solemn yew-trees beside it, and lifting a majestic tower and
spire far above the red-and-purple roofs of the town. It was not large
enough to hold all the parishioners of a parish which stretched over
distant villages and hamlets; but then they were never so unreasonable
as to wish to be all in at once, and had never complained that the space
of a large side-chapel was taken up by the tombs of the Debarrys, and
shut in by a handsome iron screen. For when the black Benedictines
ceased to pray and chant in this church, when the Blessed Virgin and St.
Gregory were expelled, the Debarrys, as lords of the manor, naturally
came next to Providence and took the place of the saints. Long before
that time, indeed, there had been a Sir Maximus Debarry who had been at
the fortifying of the old castle, which now stood in ruins in the midst
of the green pastures, and with its sheltering wall toward the north
made an excellent strawyard for the pigs of Wace & Co., brewers of the
celebrated Treby beer. Wace & Co. did not stand alone in the town as
prosperous traders on a large scale, to say nothing of those who had
retired from business; and in no country town of the same small size as
Treby was there a larger proportion of families who had handsome sets of
china without handles, hereditary punch-bowls, and large silver ladles
with a Queen Anne's guinea in the centre. Such people naturally took tea
and supped together frequently; and as there was no professional man or
tradesman in Treby who was not connected by business, if not by blood,
with the farmers of the district, the richer sort of these were much
invited, and gave invitations in their turn. They played at whist, ate
and drank generously, praised Mr. Pitt and the war as keeping up prices
and religion, and were very humorous about each other's property, having
much the same coy pleasure in allusions to their secret ability to
purchase, as blushing lasses sometimes have in jokes about their secret
preferences. The rector was always of the Debarry family, associated
only with county people, and was much respected for his affability; a
clergyman who would have taken tea with the townspeople would have given
a dangerous shock to the mind of a Treby churchman.

Such was the old-fashioned, grazing, brewing, wool-packing,
cheese-loading life of Treby Magna, until there befell new conditions,
complicating its relation with the rest of the world, and gradually
awakening in it that higher consciousness which is known to bring higher
pains. First came the canal; next, the working of the coal-mines at
Sproxton, two miles off the town; and thirdly, the discovery of a saline
spring, which suggested to a too constructive brain the possibility of
turning Treby Magna into a fashionable watering-place. So daring an idea
was not originated by a native Trebian, but by a young lawyer who came
from a distance, knew the dictionary by heart, and was probably an
illegitimate son of somebody or other. The idea, although it promised an
increase of wealth to the town, was not well received at first; ladies
objected to seeing "objects" drawn about in hand-carriages, the doctor
foresaw the advent of unsound practitioners, and most retail tradesmen
concurred with him that new doings were usually for the advantage of new
people. The more unanswerable reasoners urged that Treby had prospered
without baths, and it was yet to be seen how it would prosper with them;
while a report that the proposed name for them was Bethesda Spa,
threatened to give the whole affair a blasphemous aspect. Even Sir
Maximus Debarry, who was to have an unprecedented return for the
thousands he would lay out on a pump-room and hotel, regarded the thing
as a little too new, and held back for some time. But the persuasive
powers of the young lawyer, Mr. Matthew Jermyn, together with the
opportune opening of a stone-quarry, triumphed at last; the handsome
buildings were erected, an excellent guide-book and descriptive cards,
surmounted by vignettes, were printed, and Treby Magna became conscious
of certain facts in its own history of which it had previously been in
contented ignorance.

But it was all in vain. The Spa, for some mysterious reason, did not
succeed. Some attributed the failure to the coal-mines and the canal;
others to the peace, which had had ruinous effects on the country; and
others, who disliked Jermyn, to the original folly of the plan. Among
these last was Sir Maximus himself, who never forgave the too persuasive
attorney: it was Jermyn's fault not only that a useless hotel had been
built, but that he, Sir Maximus, being straitened for money, had at last
let the building, with the adjacent land lying on the river, on a long
lease, on the supposition that it was to be turned into a tape
manufactory--a bitter thing to any gentleman, and especially to the
representative of one of the oldest families in England.

In this way it happened that Treby Magna gradually passed from being
simply a respectable market town--the heart of a great rural district,
where the trade was only such as had close relations with the local
landed interest--and took on the more complex life brought by mines and
manufactures, which belong more directly to the great circulating system
of the nation than to the local system to which they had been
superadded; and in this way it was that Trebian Dissent gradually
altered its character. Formerly it had been of a quiescent, well-to-do
kind, represented architecturally by a small, venerable, dark-pewed
chapel, built by Presbyterians, but long occupied by a sparse
congregation of Independents, who were as little moved by doctrinal zeal
as their church-going neighbors, and did not feel themselves deficient
in religious liberty, inasmuch as they were not hindered from
occasionally slumbering in their pews, and were not obliged to go
regularly to the weekly prayer-meeting. But when stone-pits and
coal-pits made new hamlets that threatened to spread up to the very
town, when the tape-weavers came with their news-reading inspectors and
book-keepers, the Independent chapel began to be filled with eager men
and women, to whom the exceptional possession of religious truth was the
condition which reconciled them to a meagre existence, and made them
feel in secure alliance with the unseen but supreme rule of a world in
which their own visible part was small. There were Dissenters in Treby
now who could not be regarded by the Church people in the light of old
neighbors to whom the habit of going to chapel was an innocent,
unenviable inheritance along with a particular house and garden, a
tan-yard, or a grocery business--Dissenters who, in their turn, without
meaning to be in the least abusive, spoke of the high-bred rector as a
blind leader of the blind. And Dissent was not the only thing that the
times had altered; prices had fallen, poor-rates had risen, rent and
tithe were not elastic enough, and the farmer's fat sorrow had become
lean; he began to speculate on causes, and to trace things back to that
causeless mystery, the cessation of one-pound notes. Thus, when
political agitation swept in a current through the country, Treby Magna
was prepared to vibrate. The Catholic Emancipation Bill opened the eyes
of neighbors and made them aware how very injurious they were to each
other and to the welfare of mankind generally. Mr. Tiliot, the Church
spirit-merchant, knew now that Mr. Nuttwood, the obliging grocer, was
one of those Dissenters, Deists, Socinians, Papists, and Radicals, who
were in league to destroy the Constitution. A retired old London
tradesman, who was believed to understand politics, said that thinking
people must wish George III were alive again in all his early vigor of
mind: and even the farmers became less materialistic in their view of
causes, and referred much to the agency of the devil and the Irish
Romans. The rector, the Reverend Augustus Debarry, really a fine
specimen of the old-fashioned aristocratic clergyman, preaching short
sermons, understanding business, and acting liberally about his tithe,
had never before found himself in collision with Dissenters; but now he
began to feel that these people were a nuisance in the parish, that his
brother Sir Maximus must take care lest they should get land to build
more chapels, and that it might not have been a bad thing if the law had
furnished him as a magistrate with a power of putting a stop to the
political sermons of the Independent preacher, which, in their way,
were as pernicious sources of intoxication as the beerhouses. The
Dissenters, on their side, were not disposed to sacrifice the cause of
truth and freedom to a temporizing mildness of language; but they
defended themselves from the charge of religious indifference, and
solemnly disclaimed any lax expectations that Catholics were likely to
be saved--urging, on the contrary, that they were not too hopeful about
Protestants who adhered to a bloated and worldly Prelacy. Thus Treby
Magna, which had lived quietly through the great earthquakes of the
French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, which had remained unmoved by
the "Rights of Man," and saw little in Mr. Cobbett's "Weekly Register"
except that he held eccentric views about potatoes, began at last to
know the higher pains of a dim political consciousness; and the
development had been greatly helped by the recent agitation about the
Reform Bill. Tory, Whig, and Radical did not perhaps become clearer in
their definition of each other; but the names seemed to acquire so
strong a stamp of honor or infamy, that definitions would only have
weakened the impression. As to the short and easy method of judging
opinions by the personal character of those who held them, it was liable
to be much frustrated in Treby. It so happened in that particular town
that the Reformers were not all of them large-hearted patriots or ardent
lovers of justice; indeed, one of them, in the very midst of the
agitation, was detected in using unequal scales--a fact to which many
Tories pointed with disgust as showing plainly enough, without further
argument, that the cry for a change in the representative system was
hollow trickery. Again, the Tories were far from being all oppressors,
disposed to grind down the working classes into serfdom; and it was
undeniable that the inspector at the tape manufactory, who spoke with
much eloquence on the extension of the suffrage, was a more tyrannical
personage than open-handed Mr. Wace, whose chief political tenet was
that it was all nonsense to give men votes when they had no stake in the
country. On the other hand there were some Tories who gave themselves a
great deal of leisure to abuse hypocrites, Radicals, Dissenters, and
atheism generally, but whose inflamed faces, theistic swearing, and
frankness in expressing a wish to borrow, certainly did not mark them
out strongly as holding opinions likely to save society.

The Reformers had triumphed: it was clear that the wheels were going
whither they were pulling, and they were in fine spirits for exertion.
But if they were pulling toward the country's ruin, there was the more
need for others to hang on behind and get the wheels to stick if
possible. In Treby, as elsewhere, people were told they must "rally" at
the coming election; but there was now a large number of waverers--men
of flexible, practical minds, who were not such bigots as to cling to
any views when a good tangible reason could be urged against them; while
some regarded it as the most neighborly thing to hold a little with both
sides, and were not sure that they should rally or vote at all. It
seemed an invidious thing to vote for one gentleman rather than another.

These social changes in Treby parish are comparatively public matters,
and this history is chiefly concerned with the private lot of a few men
and women; but there is no private life which has not been determined by
a wider public life, from the time when the primeval milkmaid had to
wander with the wanderings of her clan, because the cow she milked was
one of a herd which had made the pastures bare. Even in that
conservatory existence where the fair Camellia is sighed for by the
noble young Pine-apple, neither of them needing to care about the frost,
or rain outside, there is a nether apparatus of hot water pipes liable
to cool down on a strike of the gardeners or a scarcity of coal. And the
lives we are about to look back upon do not belong to those conservatory
species; they are rooted in the common earth, having to endure all the
ordinary chances of past and present weather. As to the weather of 1832,
the Zadkiel of that time had predicted that the electrical condition of
the clouds in the political hemisphere would produce unusual
perturbations in organic existence, and he would perhaps have seen a
fulfillment of his remarkable prophecy in that mutual influence of
dissimilar destinies which we shall see gradually unfolding itself. For
if the mixed political conditions of Treby Magna had not been acted on
by the passing of the Reform Bill, Mr. Harold Transome would not have
presented himself as a candidate for North Loamshire, Treby would not
have been a polling-place, Mr. Matthew Jermyn would not have been on
affable terms with a Dissenting preacher and his flock, and the
venerable town would not have been placarded with handbills, more or
less complimentary and retrospective--conditions in this case essential
to the "where," and the "what," without which, as the learned know,
there can be no event whatever.

For example, it was through these conditions that a young man named
Felix Holt made a considerable difference in the life of Harold
Transome, though nature and fortune seemed to have done what they could
to keep the lots of the two men quite aloof from each other. Felix was
heir to nothing better than a quack medicine; his mother lived up a back
street in Treby Magna, and her sitting-room was ornamented with her best
tea-tray and several framed testimonials to the virtues of Holt's
Cathartic Lozenges and Holt's Restorative Elixir. There could hardly
have been a lot less like Harold Transome's than this of the quack
doctor's son, except in the superficial facts that he called himself a
Radical, that he was the only son of his mother, and that he had lately
returned to his home with ideas and resolves not a little disturbing to
that mother's mind.

But Mrs. Holt, unlike Mrs. Transome, was much disposed to reveal her
troubles, and was not without a counsellor into whose ear she could pour
them. On this second of September, when Mr. Harold Transome had had his
first interview with Jermyn, and when the attorney went back to his
office with new views of canvassing in his mind, Mrs. Holt had put on
her bonnet as early as nine o'clock in the morning, and had gone to see
the Reverend Rufus Lyon, minister of the Independent Chapel usually
spoken of as "Malthouse Yard."



CHAPTER IV.

    "A pious and painful preacher."--FULLER.


Mr. Lyon lived in a small house, not quite so good as the parish
clerk's, adjoining the entry which led to the Chapel Yard. The new
prosperity of Dissent at Treby had led to an enlargement of the chapel,
which absorbed all extra funds and left none for the enlargement of the
minister's income. He sat this morning, as usual, in a low up-stairs
room, called his study, which, by means of a closet capable of holding
his bed, served also as a sleeping-room. The bookshelves did not suffice
for his store of old books, which lay about him in piles so arranged as
to leave narrow lanes between them; for the minister was much given to
walking about during his hours of meditation, and very narrow passages
would serve for his small legs, unencumbered by any other drapery than
his black silk stockings and the flexible, though prominent, bows of
black ribbon that tied his knee-breeches. He was walking about now, with
his hands clasped behind him, an attitude in which his body seemed to
bear about the same proportion to his head as the lower part of a stone
Hermes bears to the carven image that crowns it. His face looked old and
worn, yet the curtain of hair that fell from his bald crown and hung
about his neck retained much of its original auburn tint, and his large,
brown, short-sighted eyes were still clear and bright. At the first
glance, every one thought him a very odd-looking rusty old man; the
free-school boys often hooted after him, and called him "Revelations";
and to many respectable Church people, old Lyon's little legs and large
head seemed to make Dissent additionally preposterous. But he was too
short-sighted to notice those who tittered at him--too absent from the
world of small facts and petty impulses in which titterers live. With
Satan to argue against on matters of vital experience as well as of
church government, with great texts to meditate on, which seemed to get
deeper as he tried to fathom them, it had never occurred to him to
reflect what sort of image his small person made on the retina of a
light-minded beholder. The good Rufus had his ire and his egoism; but
they existed only as the red heat which gave force to his belief and his
teaching. He was susceptible concerning the true office of deacons in
the primitive Church, and his small nervous body was jarred from head to
foot by the concussion of an argument to which he saw no answer. In
fact, the only moments when he could be said to be really conscious of
his body, were when he trembled under the pressure of some agitating
thought.

He was meditating on the text for his Sunday morning sermon, "And all
the people said, Amen"--a mere mustard-seed of a text, which had split
at first only into two divisions, "What was said," and "Who said it";
but these were growing into a many-branched discourse, and the
preacher's eyes dilated, and a smile played about his mouth till, as his
manner was, when he felt happily inspired, he had begun to utter his
thoughts aloud in the varied measure and cadence habitual to him,
changing from a rapid but distinct undertone to a loud emphatic
_rallentando_.

"My brethren, do you think that great shout was raised in Israel by each
man's waiting to say 'amen' till his neighbors had said amen? Do you
think there will be a great shout for the right--the shout of a nation
as of one man, rounded and whole, like the voice of the archangel that
bound together all the listeners of earth and heaven--if every Christian
of you peeps round to see what his neighbors in good coats are doing, or
else puts his hat before his face that he may shout and never be heard?
But this is what you do: when the servant of God stands up to deliver
his message, do you lay your souls beneath the Word as you set out your
plants beneath the fallen rain? No; one of you sends his eyes to all
corners, he smothers his soul with small questions, 'What does brother
Y. think?' 'Is this doctrine high enough for brother Z.?' 'Will the
church members be pleased?' And another----"

Here the door was opened, and old Lyddy, the minister's servant, put in
her head to say, in a tone of despondency, finishing with a groan, "Here
is Mrs. Holt wanting to speak to you; she says she comes out of season,
but she's in trouble."

"Lyddy," said Mr. Lyon, falling at once into a quiet conversational
tone, "if you are wrestling with the enemy, let me refer you to Ezekiel
the thirteenth and twenty-second, and beg of you not to groan. It is a
stumbling-block and offence to my daughter; she would take no broth
yesterday, because she said you had cried into it. Thus you cause the
truth to be lightly spoken of, and make the enemy rejoice. If your
faceache gives him an advantage, take a little warm ale with your
meat--I do not grudge the money."

"If I thought my drinking warm ale would hinder poor dear Miss Esther
from speaking light--but she hates the smell of it."

"Answer not again, Lyddy, but send up Mistress Holt to me."

Lyddy closed the door immediately.

"I lack grace to deal with these weak sisters," said the minister, again
thinking aloud, and walking. "Their needs lie too much out of the track
of my meditations, and take me often unawares. Mistress Holt is another
who darkens counsel by words without knowledge, and angers the reason of
the natural man. Lord, give me patience. My sins were heavier to bear
than this woman's folly. Come in, Mrs. Holt--come in."

He hastened to disencumber a chair of Matthew Henry's Commentary, and
begged his visitor to be seated. She was a tall elderly woman, dressed
in black, with a light-brown front and a black band over her forehead.
She moved the chair a little and seated herself in it with some
emphasis, looking fixedly at the opposite wall with a hurt and
argumentative expression. Mr. Lyon had placed himself in the chair
against his desk, and waited with the resolute resignation of a patient
who is about to undergo an operation. But his visitor did not speak.

"You have something on your mind, Mrs. Holt?" he said, at last.

"Indeed I have, sir, else I shouldn't be here."

"Speak freely."

"It's well known to you, Mr. Lyon, that my husband, Mr. Holt, came from
the north, and was a member in Malthouse Yard long before _you_ began
to be pastor of it, which was seven year ago last Michaelmas. It's the
truth, Mr. Lyon, and I'm not that woman to sit here and say it if it
wasn't true."

"Certainly, it is true."

"And if my husband had been alive when you'd come to preach upon trial,
he'd have been as good a judge of your gifts as Mr. Nuttwood or Mr.
Muscat, though whether he'd have agreed with some that your doctrine
wasn't high enough, I can't say. For myself, I've my opinion about high
doctrine."

"Was it my preaching you came to speak about?" said the minister,
hurrying in the question.

"No, Mr. Lyon, I'm not that woman. But this I _will_ say, for my husband
died before your time, that he had a wonderful gift in prayer, as the
old members well know, if anybody likes to ask 'em, not believing my
words, and he believed himself that the receipt for the Cancer Cure,
which I've sent out in bottles till this very last April before
September as now is, and have bottles standing by me--he believed it was
sent to him in answer to prayer; and nobody can deny it, for he prayed
most regular, and read out of the green baize Bible."

Mrs. Holt paused, appearing to think that Mr. Lyon had been successfully
confuted, and should show himself convinced.

"Has any one been aspersing your husband's character?" said Mr. Lyon,
with a slight initiative toward that relief of groaning for which he had
reproved Lyddy.

"Sir, they daredn't. For though he was a man of prayer, he didn't want
skill and knowledge to find things out for himself; and that's what I
used to say to _my_ friends when they wondered at my marrying a man from
Lancashire, with no trade nor fortune, but what he'd got in his head.
But my husband's tongue 'ud have been a fortune to anybody, and there
was many a one said it was as good as a dose of physic to hear him talk;
not but what that got him into trouble in Lancashire, but he always
said, if the worst came to the worst, he could go and preach to the
blacks. But he did better than that, Mr. Lyon, for he married me; and
this I will say, that for age, and conduct, and managing----"

"Mistress Holt," interrupted the minister, "these are not the things
whereby we may edify one another. Let me beg of you to be as brief as
you can. My time is not my own."

"Well, Mr. Lyon, I've a right to my own character; and I'm one of your
congregation, though I'm not a church member, for I was born in the
General Baptist connection: and as for being saved without works,
there's a many, I dare say, can't do without that doctrine; but I thank
the Lord I never needed to put _my_self on a level with the thief on the
cross. I've done _my_ duty, and more, if anybody comes to that; for I've
gone without my bit of meat to make broth for a sick neighbor: and if
there's any of the church members say they've done the same, I'd ask
them if they had the sinking at the stomach as I have; for I've ever
strove to do the right thing, and more, for good-natured I always was;
and I little thought, after being respected by everybody, I should come
to be reproached by my own son. And my husband said, when he was
a-dying--'Mary,' he said, 'the Elixir, and the Pills, and the Cure will
support you, for they've a great name in all the country round, and
you'll pray for a blessing on them.' And so I've done, Mr. Lyon; and to
say they're not good medicines, when they've been taken for fifty miles
round by high and low, rich and poor, and nobody speaking against 'em
but Dr. Lukin, it seems to me it's a flying in the face of Heaven; for
if it was wrong to take the medicines, couldn't the blessed Lord have
stopped it?"

Mrs. Holt was not given to tears; she was much sustained by conscious
unimpeachableness, and by an argumentative tendency which usually checks
the too great activity of the lachrymal gland; nevertheless her eyes had
become moist, her fingers played on her knee in an agitated manner, and
she finally plucked a bit of her gown and held it with great nicety
between her thumb and finger. Mr. Lyon, however, by listening
attentively, had begun partly to divine the source of her trouble.

"Am I wrong in gathering from what you say, Mistress Holt, that your son
has objected in some way to your sale of your late husband's medicines?"

"Mr. Lyon, he's masterful beyond everything, and he talks more than his
father did. I've got my reason, Mr. Lyon, and if anybody talks sense I
can follow him; but Felix talks so wild, and contradicts his mother. And
what do you think he says, after giving up his 'prenticeship, and going
off to study at Glasgow, and getting through all the bit of money his
father saved for his bringing-up--what has all his learning come to? He
says I'd better never open my Bible, for it's as bad poison to me as the
pills are to half the people as swallow 'em. You'll not speak of this
again, Mr. Lyon--I don't think ill enough of you to believe _that_. For
I suppose a Christian can understand the word o' God without going to
Glasgow, and there's texts upon texts about ointment and medicine, and
there's one as might have been for a receipt of my husband's--it's just
as if it was a riddle, and Holt's Elixir was the answer."

"Your son uses rash words, Mistress Holt," said the minister, "but it is
quite true that we may err in giving a too private interpretation to the
Scripture. The word of God has to satisfy the larger needs of His
people, like the rain and the sunshine--which no man must think to be
meant for his own patch of seed-ground solely. Will it not be well that
I should see your son, and talk with him on these matters? He was at
chapel, I observe, and I suppose I am to be his pastor."

"That was what I wanted to ask you, Mr. Lyon. For perhaps he'll listen
to you, and not talk you down as he does his poor mother. For after we'd
been to chapel, he spoke better of you than he does of most: he said you
was a fine old fellow, and an old-fashioned Puritan--he uses dreadful
language, Mr. Lyon; but I saw he didn't mean you ill, for all that. He
calls most folks's religion rottenness; and yet another time he'll tell
me I ought to feel myself a sinner, and do God's will and not my own.
But it's my belief he says first one thing and then another only to
abuse his mother. Or else he's going off his head, and must be sent to a
'sylum. But if he writes to the _North Loamshire Herald_ first, to tell
everybody the medicines are good for nothing, how can I ever keep him
and myself?"

"Tell him I shall feel favored if he will come and see me this evening,"
said Mr. Lyon, not without a little prejudice in favor of the young man,
whose language about the preacher in Malthouse Yard did not seem to him
to be altogether dreadful. "Meanwhile, my friend, I counsel you to send
up a supplication, which I shall not fail to offer also, that you may
receive a spirit of humility and submission, so that you may not be
hindered from seeing and following the Divine guidance in this matter by
any false lights of pride and obstinacy. Of this more when I have spoken
with your son."

"I'm not proud or obstinate, Mr. Lyon. I never did say I was everything
that was bad, and I never will. And why this trouble should be sent on
me above everybody else--for I haven't told you all. He's made himself a
journeyman to Mr. Prowd the watchmaker--after all this learning--and he
says he'll go with patches on his knees, and he shall like himself the
better. And as for him having little boys to teach, they'll come in all
weathers with dirty shoes. If it's madness, Mr. Lyon, it's no use your
talking to him."

"We shall see. Perhaps it may even be the disguised working of grace
within him. We must not judge rashly. Many eminent servants of God have
been led by ways as strange."

"Then I'm sorry for their mothers, that's all, Mr. Lyon; and all the
more if they'd been well-spoken-on women. For not my biggest enemy,
whether it's he or she, if they'll speak the truth, can turn round and
say I've deserved this trouble. And when everybody gets their due, and
people's doings are spoke of on the house-tops, as the Bible says they
will be, it'll be known what I've gone through with those medicines--the
pounding and the pouring, and the letting stand, and the weighing--up
early and down late--there's nobody knows yet but One that's worthy to
know; and the pasting o' the printed labels right side upwards. There's
few women would have gone through with it; and it's reasonable to think
it'll be made up to me; for if there's promised and purchased blessings,
I should think this trouble is purchasing 'em. For if my son Felix
doesn't have a strait-waistcoat put on him, he'll have his way. But I
say no more. I wish you good-morning, Mr. Lyon, and thank you, though I
well know it's your duty to act as you're doing. And I never troubled
you about my own soul, as some do who look down on me for not being a
church member."

"Farewell, Mistress Holt, farewell. I pray that a more powerful teacher
than I am may instruct you."

The door was closed, and the much-tried Rufus walked about again, saying
aloud, groaningly--

"This woman has sat under the Gospel all her life, and she is as blind
as a heathen, and as proud and stiff-necked as a Pharisee; yet she is
one of the souls I watch for. 'Tis true that even Sara, the chosen
mother of God's people, showed a spirit of unbelief, and perhaps of
selfish anger; and it is a passage that bears the unmistakable signet,
'doing honor to the wife or woman, as unto the weaker vessel.' For
therein is the greatest check put on the ready scorn of the natural
man."



CHAPTER V.

    1ST CITIZEN. Sir, there's a hurry in the veins of youth
                 That makes a vice of virtue by excess.

    2D CITIZEN.  What if the coolness of our tardier veins
                 Be loss of virtue?

    1ST CITIZEN.                      All things cool with time--
                 The sun itself, they say, till heat shall find
                 A general level, nowhere in excess.

    2D CITIZEN.  'Tis a poor climax, to my weaker thought,
                 That future middlingness.


In the evening, when Mr. Lyon was expecting the knock at the door that
would announce Felix Holt, he occupied his cushionless arm-chair in the
sitting-room, and was skimming rapidly, in his short-sighted way, by the
light of one candle, the pages of a missionary report, emitting
occasionally a slight "Hm-m" that appeared to be expressive of criticism
rather than of approbation. The room was dismally furnished, the only
objects indicating an intention of ornament being a bookcase, a map of
the Holy Land, an engraved portrait of Dr. Doddridge, and a black bust
with a colored face, which for some reason or other was covered with
green gauze. Yet any one whose attention was quite awake must have been
aware, even on entering, of certain things that were incongruous with
the general air of sombreness and privation. There was a delicate scent
of dried rose-leaves; the light by which the minister was reading was a
wax-candle in a white earthenware candle-stick, and the table on the
opposite side of the fireplace held a dainty work-basket frilled with
blue satin.

Felix Holt, when he entered, was not in an observant mood; and when,
after seating himself, at the minister's invitation, near the little
table which held the work-basket, he stared at the wax-candle opposite
to him, he did so without any wonder or consciousness that the candle
was not of tallow. But the minister's sensitiveness gave another
interpretation to the gaze which he divined rather than saw; and in
alarm lest this inconsistent extravagance should obstruct his
usefulness, he hastened to say--

"You are doubtless amazed to see me with a wax-light, my young friend;
but this undue luxury is paid for with the earnings of my daughter, who
is so delicately framed that the smell of tallow is loathsome to her."

"I heeded not the candle, sir. I thank Heaven I am not a mouse to have a
nose that takes note of wax or tallow."

The loud abrupt tones made the old man vibrate a little. He had been
stroking his chin gently before, with a sense that he must be very
quiet and deliberate in his treatment of the eccentric young man; but
now, quite unreflectingly, he drew forth a pair of spectacles, which he
was in the habit of using when he wanted to observe his interlocutor
more closely than usual.

"And I myself, in fact, am equally indifferent," he said, as he opened
and adjusted his glasses, "so that I have a sufficient light on my
book." Here his large eyes looked discerningly through the spectacles.

"'Tis the quality of the page you care about, not of the candle," said
Felix, smiling pleasantly enough at his inspector. "You're thinking that
you have a roughly-written page before you now."

That was true. The minister, accustomed to the respectable air of
provincial townsmen, and especially to the sleek well-clipped gravity of
his own male congregation, felt a slight shock as his glasses made
perfectly clear to him the shaggy-headed, large-eyed, strong-limbed
person of this questionable young man, without waistcoat or cravat. But
the possibility, supported by some of Mrs. Holt's words, that a
disguised work of grace might be going on in the son of whom she
complained so bitterly, checked any hasty interpretations.

"I abstain from judging by the outward appearance only," he answered,
with his usual simplicity. "I myself have experienced that when the
spirit is much exercised it is difficult to remember neck-bands and
strings and such small accidents of our vesture, which are nevertheless
decent and needful so long as we sojourn in the flesh. And you, too, my
young friend, as I gather from your mother's troubled and confused
report, are undergoing some travail of mind. You will not, I trust,
object to open yourself fully to me, as to an aged pastor who has
himself had much inward wrestling, and has especially known much
temptation from doubt."

"As to doubt," said Felix, loudly and brusquely as before, "if it is
those absurd medicines and gulling advertisements that my mother has
been talking of to you--and I suppose it is--I've no more doubt about
_them_ than I have about pocket-picking. I know there's a stage of
speculation in which a man may doubt whether a pickpocket is
blameworthy--but I'm not one of your subtle fellows who keep looking at
the world through their own legs. If I allowed the sale of those
medicines to go on, and my mother to live out of the proceeds when I can
keep her by the honest labor of my hands, I've not the least doubt that
I should be a rascal."

"I would fain enquire more particularly into your objection to these
medicines," said Mr. Lyon, gravely. Notwithstanding his
conscientiousness and a certain originality in his own mental
disposition, he was too little used to high principle quite dissociated
from sectarian phraseology to be as immediately in sympathy with it as
he would otherwise have been. "I know they have been well reported of,
and many wise persons have tried remedies providentially discovered by
those who are not regular physicians, and have found a blessing in the
use of them. I may mention the eminent Mr. Wesley, who, though I hold
not altogether with his Arminian doctrine, nor with the usages of his
institutions, was nevertheless a man of God; and the journals of various
Christians whose names have left a sweet savor, might be cited in the
same sense. Moreover, your father, who originally concocted these
medicines and left them as a provision for your mother, was, as I
understand, a man whose walk was not unfaithful."

"My father was ignorant," said Felix, bluntly. "He knew neither the
complication of the human system, nor the way in which drugs counteract
each other. Ignorance is not so damnable as humbug, but when it
prescribes pills it may happen to do more harm. I know something about
these things. I was 'prentice for five miserable years to a stupid brute
of a country apothecary--my poor father left money for that--he thought
nothing could be finer for me. No matter: I know that the Cathartic
Pills are a drastic compound which may be as bad as poison to half the
people who swallow them; that the Elixir is an absurd farrago of a dozen
incompatible things; and that the Cancer Cure might as well be bottled
ditch-water."

Mr. Lyon rose and walked up and down the room. His simplicity was
strongly mixed with sagacity as well as sectarian prejudice, and he did
not rely at once on a loud-spoken integrity--Satan might have flavored
it with ostentation. Presently he asked, in a rapid, low tone, "How long
have you known this, young man?"

"Well put, sir," said Felix. "I've known it a good deal longer than I
have acted upon it, like plenty of other things. But you believe in
conversion?"

"Yea, verily."

"So do I. I was converted by six weeks' debauchery."

The minister started. "Young man," he said, solemnly, going up close to
Felix and laying a hand on his shoulder, "speak not lightly of the
Divine operations, and restrain unseemly words."

"I'm not speaking lightly," said Felix. "If I had not seen that I was
making a hog of myself very fast, and that pig-wash, even if I could
have got plenty of it, was a poor sort of thing, I should never have
looked life fairly in the face to see what was to be done with it. I
laughed out loud at last to think that a poor devil like me, in a Scotch
garret, with my stockings out at heel and a shilling or two to be
dissipated upon, with a smell of raw haggis mounting from below, and old
women breathing gin as they passed me on the stairs--wanting to turn my
life into easy pleasure. Then I began to see what else it could be
turned into. Not much, perhaps. This world is not a very fine place for
a good many of the people in it. But I've made up my mind it shan't be
the worse for me, if I can help it. They may tell me I can't alter the
world--that there must be a certain number of sneaks and robbers in it,
and if I don't lie and filch somebody else will. Well then, somebody
else shall, for I won't. That's the upshot of my conversion, Mr. Lyon,
if you want to know it."

Mr. Lyon removed his hand from Felix's shoulder and walked about again.
"Did you sit under any preacher at Glasgow, young man?"

"No: I heard most of the preachers once, but I never wanted to hear them
twice."

The good Rufus was not without a slight rising of resentment at this
young man's want of reverence. It was not yet plain whether he wanted to
hear twice the preacher in Malthouse Yard. But the resentful feeling was
carefully repressed: a soul in so peculiar a condition must be dealt
with delicately.

"And now, may I ask," he said, "what course you mean to take, after
hindering your mother from making and selling these drugs? I speak no
more in their favor after what you have said. God forbid that I should
strive to hinder you from seeking whatsoever things are honest and
honorable. But your mother is advanced in years; she needs comfortable
sustenance; you have doubtless considered how you may make her amends?
'He that provideth not for his own----' I trust you respect the
authority that so speaks. And I will not suppose that, after being
tender of conscience toward strangers, you will be careless toward your
mother. There be indeed some who, taking a mighty charge on their
shoulder, must perforce leave their households to Providence, and to the
care of humbler brethren, but in such a case the call must be clear."

"I shall keep my mother as well--nay, better--than she has kept herself.
She has always been frugal. With my watch and clock cleaning, and
teaching one or two little chaps that I've got to come to me, I can earn
enough. As for me, I can live on bran porridge. I have the stomach of a
rhinoceros."

"But for a young man so well furnished as you, who can questionless
write a good hand and keep books, were it not well to seek some higher
situation as clerk or assistant? I could speak to Brother Muscat, who is
well acquainted with all such openings. Any place in Pendrell's Bank, I
fear, is now closed against such as are not Churchmen. It used not to be
so, but a year ago he discharged Brother Bodkin, although he was a
valuable servant. Still, something might be found. There are ranks and
degrees--and those who can serve in the higher must not unadvisedly
change what seems to be a providential appointment. Your poor mother is
not altogether----"

"Excuse me, Mr. Lyon; I've had all that out with my mother, and I may as
well save you any trouble by telling you that my mind has been made up
about that a long while ago. I'll take no employment that obliges me to
prop up my chin with a high cravat, and wear straps, and pass the
livelong day with a set of fellows who spend their spare money on shirt
pins. That sort of work is really lower than many handicrafts; it only
happens to be paid out of proportion. That's why I set myself to learn
the watchmaking trade. My father was a weaver first of all. It would
have been better for him if he had remained a weaver. I came home
through Lancashire and saw an uncle of mine who is a weaver still. I
mean to stick to the class I belong to--people who don't follow the
fashions."

Mr. Lyon was silent a few moments. This dialogue was far from plain
sailing; he was not certain of his latitude and longitude. If the
despiser of Glasgow preachers had been arguing in favor of gin and
Sabbath-breaking, Mr. Lyon's course would have been clearer. "Well,
well," he said, deliberately, "it is true that St. Paul exercised the
trade of tent-making, though he was learned in all the wisdom of the
Rabbis."

"St. Paul was a wise man," said Felix. "Why should I want to get into
the middle class because I have some learning? The most of the middle
class are as ignorant as the working people about everything that
doesn't belong to their own Brummagem life. That's how the workingmen
are left to foolish devices and keep worsening themselves: the best
heads among them forsake their boon comrades, and go in for a house with
a high door-step and a brass knocker."

Mr. Lyon stroked his mouth and chin, perhaps because he felt some
disposition to smile; and it would not be well to smile too readily at
what seemed but a weedy resemblance of Christian unworldliness. On the
contrary, there might be a dangerous snare in an unsanctified
outstepping of average Christian practice.

"Nevertheless," he observed, gravely, "it is by such self-advancement
that many have been enabled to do good service to the cause of liberty
and to the public well-being. The ring and the robe of Joseph were no
objects for a good man's ambition, but they were the signs of that
credit which he won by his divinely-inspired skill, and which enabled
him to act as a saviour to his brethren."

"Oh, yes, your ringed and scented men of the people!--I won't be one of
them. Let a man once throttle himself with a satin stock, and he'll get
new wants and new motives. Metamorphosis will have begun at his
neck-joint, and it will go on till it has changed his likings first and
then his reasoning, which will follow his likings as the feet of a
hungry dog follow his nose. I'll have none of your clerkly gentility. I
might end by collecting greasy pence from poor men to buy myself a fine
coat and a glutton's dinner, on pretence of serving the poor men. I'd
sooner be Paley's fat pigeon than a demagogue all tongue and stomach,
though"--here Felix changed his voice a little--"I should like well
enough to be another sort of demagogue, if I could."

"Then you have a strong interest in the great political movements of
these times?" said Mr. Lyon, with a perceptible flashing of the eyes.

"I should think so. I despise every man who has not--or, having it,
doesn't try to rouse it in other men."

"Right, my young friend, right," said the minister, in a deep cordial
tone. Inevitably his mind was drawn aside from the immediate
consideration of Felix Holt's spiritual interest by the prospect of
political sympathy. In those days so many instruments of God's cause in
the fight for religious and political liberty held creeds that were
painfully wrong, and, indeed, irreconcilable with salvation! "That is
my own view, which I maintain in the face of some opposition from
brethren who contend that a share in public movements is a hindrance to
the closer walk, and that the pulpit is no place for teaching men their
duties as members of the commonwealth. I have had much puerile blame
cast upon me because I have uttered such names as Brougham and
Wellington in the pulpit. Why not Wellington as well as Rabshakeh? and
why not Brougham as well as Balaam? Does God know less of men than He
did in the days of Hezekiah and Moses?--is His arm shortened, and is the
world become too wide for His providence? But, they say, there are no
politics in the New Testament----"

"Well, they're right enough there," said Felix, with his usual
unceremoniousness.

"What! you are of those who hold that a Christian minister should not
meddle with public matters in the pulpit?" said Mr. Lyon, coloring. "I
am ready to join issue on that point."

"Not I, sir," said Felix; "I should say, teach any truth you can,
whether it's in the Testament or out of it. It's little enough anybody
can get hold of, and still less what he can drive into the skulls of a
pence-counting, parcel-tying generation, such as mostly fill your
chapels."

"Young man," said Mr. Lyon, pausing in front of Felix. He spoke rapidly,
as he always did, except when his words were specially weighted with
emotion: he overflowed with matter, and in his mind matter was always
completely organized into words. "I speak not on my own behalf, for not
only have I no desire that any man should think of me above that which
he seeth me to be, but I am aware of much that should make me patient
under a disesteem resting even on too hasty a construction. I speak not
as claiming reverence for my own age and office--not to shame you, but
to warn you. It is good that you should use plainness of speech, and I
am not of those who would enforce a submissive silence on the young,
that they themselves, being elders, may be heard at large; but Elihu was
the youngest of Job's friends, yet was there a wise rebuke in his words;
and the aged Eli was taught by a revelation to the boy Samuel. I have to
keep a special watch over myself in this matter, inasmuch as I have need
of utterance which makes the thought within me seem as a pent-up fire,
until I have shot it forth, as it were, in arrowy words, each one
hitting its mark. Therefore I pray for a listening spirit, which is a
great mark of grace. Nevertheless, my young friend, I am bound, as I
said, to warn you. The temptations that most beset those who have great
natural gifts, and are wise after the flesh, are pride and scorn, more
particularly toward those weak things of the world which have been
chosen to confound the things which are mighty. The scornful nostril and
the high head gather not the odors that lie on the track of truth. The
mind that is too ready at contempt and reprobation is----"

Here the door opened, and Mr. Lyon paused to look around, but seeing
only Lyddy with the tea-tray, he went on--

"Is, I may say, as a clenched fist that can give blows, but is shut up
from receiving and holding aught that is precious--though it were
heaven-sent manna."

"I understand you, sir," said Felix, good-humoredly, putting out his
hand to the little man, who had come close to him as he delivered the
last sentence with sudden emphasis and slowness. "But I'm not inclined
to clench my fist at you."

"Well, well," said Mr. Lyon, shaking the proffered hand, "we shall see
more of each other, and I trust shall have much profitable communing.
You will stay and have a dish of tea with us: we take the meal late on
Thursdays, because my daughter is detained by giving a lesson in the
French tongue. But she is doubtless returned now, and will presently
come and pour out tea for us."

"Thank you, I'll stay," said Felix, not from any curiosity to see the
minister's daughter, but from a liking for the society of the minister
himself--for his quaint looks and ways, and the transparency of his
talk, which gave a charm even to his weakness. The daughter was probably
some prim Miss, neat, sensible, pious, but all in a small feminine way,
in which Felix was no more interested than in Dorcas meetings,
biographies of devout women, and that amount of ornamental knitting
which was not inconsistent with Non-conforming seriousness.

"I'm perhaps a little too fond of banging and smashing," he went on: "a
phrenologist at Glasgow told me I had large veneration; another man
there, who knew me, laughed out and said I was the most blasphemous
iconoclast living. 'That,' says my phrenologist, 'is because of his
large ideality, which prevents him from finding anything perfect enough
to be venerated.' Of course I put my ears down and wagged my tail at
that stroking."

"Yes, yes; I have had my own head explored with somewhat similar
results. It is, I fear, but a vain show of fulfilling the heathen
precept, 'Know thyself,' and too often leads to a self-estimate which
will subsist in the absence of that fruit by which alone the quality of
the tree is made evident. Nevertheless----Esther, my dear, this is Mr.
Holt, whose acquaintance I have now been making with more than ordinary
interest. He will take tea with us."

Esther bowed slightly as she walked across the room to fetch the candle
and place it near her tray. Felix rose and bowed, also with an air of
indifference, which was perhaps exaggerated by the fact that he was
inwardly surprised. The minister's daughter was not the sort of person
he expected. She was quite incongruous with his notion of ministers'
daughters in general; and though he had expected something nowise
delightful, the incongruity repelled him. A very delicate scent, the
faint suggestion of a garden, was wafted as she went. He would not
observe her, but he had a sense of an elastic walk, the tread of small
feet, a long neck and a high crown of shining brown plaits and curls
that floated backward--things, in short, that suggested a fine lady to
him, and determined him to notice her as little as possible. A fine lady
was always a sort of spun-glass affair--not natural, and with no beauty
for him as art; but a fine lady as the daughter of this rusty old
Puritan was especially offensive.

"Nevertheless," continued Mr. Lyon, who rarely let drop any thread of
discourse, "that phrenological science is not irreconcilable with the
revealed dispensations. And it is undeniable that we have our varying
native dispositions which even grace will not obliterate. I myself, from
my youth up, have been given to question too curiously concerning the
truth--to examine and sift the medicine of the soul rather than to apply
it."

"If your truth happens to be such medicine as Holt's Pills and Elixir,
the less you swallow of it the better," said Felix. "But truth-vendors
and medicine-vendors usually recommend swallowing. When a man sees his
livelihood in a pill or a proposition, he likes to have orders for the
dose, and not curious enquiries."

This speech verged on rudeness, but it was delivered with a brusque
openness that implied the absence of any personal intention. The
minister's daughter was now for the first time startled into looking at
Felix. But her survey of this unusual speaker was soon made, and she
relieved her father from the need to reply by saying--

"The tea is poured out, father."

That was the signal for Mr. Lyon to advance toward the table, raise his
right hand, and ask a blessing at sufficient length for Esther to glance
at the visitor again. There seemed to be no danger of his looking at
her: he was observing her father. She had time to remark that he was a
peculiar looking person, but not insignificant, which was the quality
that most hopelessly consigned a man to perdition. He was massively
built. The striking points in his face were large clear gray eyes and
full lips.

"Will you draw up to the table, Mr. Holt?" said the minister.

In the act of rising, Felix pushed back his chair too suddenly against
the rickety table close by him, and down went the blue-frilled
work-basket, flying open, and dispersing on the floor reels, thimble,
muslin-work, a small sealed bottle of attar of rose, and something
heavier than these--a duodecimo volume which fell near him between the
table and the fender.

"Oh, my stars!" said Felix, "I beg your pardon." Esther had already
started up, and with wonderful quickness had picked up half the small
rolling things while Felix was lifting the basket and the book. This
last had opened, and had its leaves crushed in falling; and, with the
instinct of a bookish man, he saw nothing more pressing to be done than
to flatten the corners of the leaves.

"Byron's Poems!" he said, in a tone of disgust, while Esther was
recovering all the other articles. "'The Dream'--he'd better have been
asleep and snoring. What! do you stuff your memory with Byron, Miss
Lyon?"

Felix on his side, was led at last to look straight at Esther, but it
was with a strong denunciatory and pedagogic intention. Of course he saw
more clearly than ever that she was a fine lady.

She reddened, drew up her long neck, and said, as she retreated to her
chair again--

"I have a great admiration for Byron."

Mr. Lyon had paused in the act of drawing his chair to the tea table,
and was looking on at this scene, wrinkling the corners of his eyes with
a perplexed smile. Esther would not have wished him to know anything
about the volume of Byron, but she was too proud to show any concern.

"He is a worldly and vain writer, I fear," said Mr. Lyon. He knew
scarcely anything of the poet, whose books embodied the faith and ritual
of many young ladies and gentlemen.

"A misanthropic debauchee," said Felix, lifting a chair with one hand,
and holding the book open in the other, "whose notion of a hero was
that he should disorder his stomach and despise mankind. His corsairs
and renegades, his Alps and Manfreds, are the most paltry puppets that
were ever pulled by the strings of lust and pride."

"Hand the book to me," said Mr. Lyon.

"Let me beg of you to put it aside till after tea, father," said Esther.
"However objectionable Mr. Holt may find its pages, they would certainly
be made worse by being greased with bread-and-butter."

"That is true, my dear," said Mr. Lyon, laying down the book on the
small table behind him. He saw that his daughter was angry.

"Ho, ho!" thought Felix, "her father is frightened at her. How came he
to have such a nice-stepping, long-necked peacock for his daughter? but
she shall see that I am not frightened." Then he said aloud, "I should
like to know how you will justify your admiration for such a writer,
Miss Lyon."

"I should not attempt it with you, Mr. Holt," said Esther. "You have
such strong words at command that they make the smallest argument seem
formidable. If I had ever met the giant Cormoran, I should have made a
point of agreeing with him in his literary opinions."

Esther had that excellent thing in woman, a soft voice with clear fluent
utterance. Her sauciness was always charming because it was without
emphasis, and was accompanied with graceful little turns of the head.

Felix laughed at her thrust with young heartiness.

"My daughter is a critic of words, Mr. Holt," said the minister, smiling
complacently, "and often corrects mine on the ground of niceties, which
I profess are as dark to me as if they were the reports of a sixth sense
which I possess not. I am an eager seeker for precision, and would fain
find language subtle enough to follow the utmost intricacies of the
soul's pathways, but I see not why a round word that means some object,
made and blessed by the Creator, should be branded and banished as a
malefactor."

"Oh, your niceties--I know what they are," said Felix, in his usual
_fortissimo_. "They'll go on your system of make-believe. 'Rottenness'
may suggest what is unpleasant, so you'd better say 'sugar-plums,' or
something else such a long way off the fact that nobody is obliged to
think of it. Those are your roundabout euphuisms that dress up swindling
till it looks as well as honesty, and shoot with boiled peas instead of
bullets. I hate your gentlemanly speakers."

"Then you would not like Mr. Jermyn, I think," said Esther. "That
reminds me, father, that to-day, when I was giving Miss Louisa Jermyn
her lesson, Mr. Jermyn came in and spoke to me with grand politeness,
and asked me at what times you were likely to be disengaged, because he
wished to make your better acquaintance, and consult you on matters of
importance. He never took the least notice of me before. Can you guess
the reason of his sudden ceremoniousness?"

"Nay, child," said the minister, ponderingly.

"Politics, of course," said Felix. "He's on some committee. An election
is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere
interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry. Eh, Mr. Lyon? Isn't
that it?"

"Nay, not so. He is the close ally of the Transome family, who are blind
hereditary Tories like the Debarrys, and will drive their tenants to the
poll as if they were sheep, and it has even been hinted that the heir
who is coming from the East may be another Tory candidate, and coalesce
with the younger Debarry. It is said that he has enormous wealth, and
could purchase every vote in the county that has a price."

"He is come," said Esther. "I heard Miss Jermyn tell her sister that she
had seen him going out of her father's room."

"'Tis strange," said Mr. Lyon.

"Something extraordinary must have happened," said Esther, "for Mr.
Jermyn to intend courting us. Miss Jermyn said to me only the other day
that she could not think how I came to be so well educated and ladylike.
She always thought Dissenters were ignorant, vulgar people. I said, so
they were, usually, and Church people also in small towns. She considers
herself a judge of what is ladylike, and she is vulgarity
personified--with large feet, and the most odious scent on her
handkerchief, and a bonnet that looks like 'The Fashion' printed in
capital letters."

"One sort of fine-ladyism is as good as another," said Felix.

"No, indeed. Pardon me," said Esther. "A real fine-lady does not wear
clothes that flare in people's eyes, or use importunate scents, or make
a noise as she moves: she is something refined and graceful, and
charming, and never obtrusive."

"Oh, yes," said Felix, contemptuously. "And she reads Byron also, and
admires Childe Harold--gentlemen of unspeakable woes, who employ a
hairdresser, and look seriously at themselves in the glass."

Esther reddened, and gave a little toss. Felix went on triumphantly. "A
fine-lady is a squirrel-headed thing, with small airs, and small
notions, about as applicable to the business of life as a pair of
tweezers to the clearing of a forest. Ask your father what those old
persecuted emigrant Puritans would have done with fine-lady wives and
daughters."

"Oh, there is no danger of such _mésalliances_," said Esther. "Men who
are unpleasant companions and make frights of themselves, are sure to
get wives tasteless enough to suit them."

"Esther, my dear," said Mr. Lyon, "let not your playfulness betray you
into disrespect toward those venerable pilgrims. They struggled and
endured in order to cherish and plant anew the seeds of a scriptural
doctrine and of a pure discipline."

"Yes, I know," said Esther, hastily, dreading a discourse on the pilgrim
fathers.

"Oh, they were an ugly lot!" Felix burst in, making Mr. Lyon start.
"Miss Medora wouldn't have minded if they had all been put into the
pillory and lost their ears. She would have said, 'Their ears did stick
out so.' I shouldn't wonder if that's a bust of one of them." Here
Felix, with sudden keenness of observation, nodded at the black bust
with the gauze over its colored face.

"No," said Mr. Lyon, "that is the eminent George Whitfield, who, you
well know, had a gift of oratory as of one on whom the tongue of flame
had rested visibly. But Providence--doubtless for wise ends in relation
to the inner man, for I would not enquire too closely into minutiæ which
carry too many plausible interpretations for any one of them to be
stable--Providence, I say, ordained that the good man should squint; and
my daughter has not yet learned to bear with his infirmity."

"She has put a veil over it. Suppose you had squinted yourself?" said
Felix, looking at Esther.

"Then, doubtless, you could have been more polite to me, Mr. Holt," said
Esther, rising and placing herself at her work-table. "You seem to
prefer what is unusual and ugly."

"A peacock!" thought Felix. "I should like to come and scold her every
day, and make her cry and cut her fine hair off."

Felix rose to go, and said, "I will not take up any more of your
valuable time, Mr. Lyon. I know that you have not many spare evenings."

"That is true, my young friend; for I now go to Sproxton one evening in
the week. I do not despair that we may some day need a chapel there,
though the hearers do not multiply save among the women, and there is no
work as yet begun among the miners themselves. I shall be glad of your
company in my walk thither to-morrow at five o'clock, if you would like
to see how that population has grown of late years."

"Oh, I've been to Sproxton already several times. I had a congregation
of my own there last Sunday evening."

"What! do you preach?" said Mr. Lyon, with brightened glance.

"Not exactly. I went to the ale-house."

Mr. Lyon started. "I trust you are putting a riddle to me, young man,
even as Samson did to his companions. From what you said but lately, it
cannot be that you are given to tippling and to taverns."

"Oh, I don't drink much. I order a pint of beer, and I get into talk
with the fellows over their pots and pipes. Somebody must take a little
knowledge and common-sense to them in this way, else how are they to get
it? I go for educating the non-electors, so I put myself in the way of
my pupils--my academy is the beer-house. I'll walk with you to-morrow
with pleasure."

"Do so, do so," said Mr. Lyon, shaking hands with his odd acquaintance.
"We shall understand each other better by-and-by, I doubt not."

"I wish you good-evening, Miss Lyon."

Esther bowed very slightly, without speaking.

"That is a singular young man, Esther," said the minister, walking about
after Felix was gone. "I discern in him a love for whatsoever things are
honest and true, which I would fain believe to be an earnest of further
endowment with the wisdom that is from on high. It is true that, as the
traveller in the desert is often lured, by a false vision of water and
freshness, to turn aside from the track which leads to the tried and
established fountains, so the Evil One will take advantage of a natural
yearning toward the better, to delude the soul with a self-flattering
belief in a visionary virtue, higher than the ordinary fruits of the
Spirit. But I trust it is not so here. I feel a great enlargement in
this young man's presence, notwithstanding a certain license in his
language, which I shall use my efforts to correct."

"I think he is very coarse and rude," said Esther, with a touch of
temper in her voice. "But he speaks better English than most of our
visitors. What is his occupation?"

"Watch and clock making, by which, together with a little teaching, as I
understand, he hopes to maintain his mother, not thinking it right that
he should live by the sale of medicines whose virtues he distrusts. It
is no common scruple."

"Dear me," said Esther, "I thought he was something higher than that."
She was disappointed.

Felix, on his side, as he strolled out in the evening air, said to
himself: "Now by what fine meshes of circumstance did that queer devout
old man, with his awful creed, which makes this world a vestibule with
double doors to hell, and a narrow stair on one side whereby the thinner
sort may mount to heaven--by what subtle play of flesh and spirit did he
come to have a daughter so little in his own likeness? Married
foolishly, I suppose. I'll never marry, though I should have to live on
raw turnips to subdue my flesh. I'll never look back and say, 'I had a
fine purpose once--I meant to keep my hands clean and my soul upright,
and to look truth in the face; but pray excuse me, I have a wife and
children--I must lie and simper a little, else they'll starve'; or 'My
wife is nice, she must have her bread well buttered, and her feelings
will be hurt if she is not thought genteel.' That is the lot Miss Esther
is preparing for some man or other. I could grind my teeth at such
self-satisfied minxes, who think they can tell everybody what is the
correct thing, and the utmost stretch of their ideas will not place them
on a level with the intelligent fleas. I should like to see if she could
be made ashamed of herself."



CHAPTER VI.

    Though she be dead, yet let me think she lives,
    And feed my mind, that dies for want of her.

                                 --MARLOWE: _Tamburlaine the Great_.


Hardly any one in Treby who thought at all of Mr. Lyon and his daughter
had not felt the same sort of wonder about Esther as Felix felt. She was
not much liked by her father's church and congregation. The less serious
observed that she had too many airs and graces and held her head much
too high; the stricter sort feared greatly that Mr. Lyon had not been
sufficiently careful in placing his daughter among God-fearing people,
and that, being led astray by the melancholy vanity of giving her
exceptional accomplishments, he had sent her to a French school, and
allowed her to take situations where she had contracted notions not
only above her own rank, but of too worldly a kind to be safe in any
rank. But no one knew what sort of woman her mother had been, for Mr.
Lyon never spoke of his past domesticities. When he was chosen as pastor
at Treby in 1825, it was understood that he had been a widower many
years, and he had no companion but the tearful and much-exercised Lyddy,
his daughter being still at school. It was only two years ago that
Esther had come home to live permanently with her father, and take
pupils in the town. Within that time she had excited a passion in two
young Dissenting breasts that were clad in the best style of Treby
waistcoat--a garment which at that period displayed much design both in
the stuff and the wearer; and she had secured an astonished admiration
of her cleverness from the girls of various ages who were her pupils;
indeed, her knowledge of French was generally held to give a distinction
to Treby itself as compared with other market-towns. But she had won
little regard of any other kind. Wise Dissenting matrons were divided
between fear lest their sons should want to marry her and resentment
that she should treat those "undeniable" young men with a distant scorn
which was hardly to be tolerated in a minister's daughter; not only
because that parentage appeared to entail an obligation to show an
exceptional degree of Christian humility, but because, looked at from a
secular point of view, a poor minister must be below the substantial
householders who keep him. For at that time the preacher who was paid
under the Voluntary system was regarded by his flock with feelings not
less mixed than the spiritual person who still took his tithe-pig or his
_modus_. His gifts were admired, and tears were shed under best bonnets
at his sermons; but the weaker tea was thought good enough for him; and
even when he went to preach a charity sermon in a strange town, he was
treated with home-made wine and the smaller bedroom. As the good
Churchman's reverence was often mixed with growling, and was apt to be
given chiefly to an abstract parson who was what a parson ought to be,
so the good Dissenter sometimes mixed his approval of ministerial gifts
with considerable criticism and cheapening of the human vessel which
contained those treasures. Mrs. Muscat and Mrs. Nuttwood applied the
principle of Christian equality by remarking that Mr. Lyon had his
oddities, and that he ought not to allow his daughter to indulge in such
unbecoming expenditure on her gloves, shoes, and hosiery, even if she
did pay for them out of her earnings. As for the Church people who
engaged Miss Lyon to give lessons in their families, their imaginations
were altogether prostrated by the incongruity between accomplishments
and Dissent, between weekly prayer-meetings and a conversance with so
lively and altogether worldly a language as the French. Esther's own
mind was not free from a sense of irreconcilableness between the objects
of her taste and the conditions of her lot. She knew that Dissenters
were looked down upon by those whom she regarded as the most refined
classes; her favorite companions, both in France and at an English
school where she had been a junior teacher, had thought it quite
ridiculous to have a father who was a Dissenting preacher; and when an
ardently admiring school-fellow induced her parents to take Esther as a
governess to the younger children, all her native tendencies toward
luxury, fastidiousness, and scorn of mock gentility, were strengthened
by witnessing the habits of a well-born and wealthy family. Yet the
position of servitude was irksome to her, and she was glad at last to
live at home with her father, for though, throughout her girlhood, she
had wished to avoid this lot, a little experience had taught her to
prefer its comparative independence. But she was not contented with her
life; she seemed to herself to be surrounded with ignoble, uninteresting
conditions, from which there was no issue; for even if she had been
unamiable enough to give her father pain deliberately, it would have
been no satisfaction to her to go to Treby church, and visibly turn her
back on Dissent. It was not religious differences, but social
differences, that Esther was concerned about, and her ambitious taste
would have been no more gratified in the society of the Waces than in
that of the Muscats. The Waces spoke imperfect English and played whist;
the Muscats spoke the same dialect and took in the "Evangelical
Magazine." Esther liked neither of these amusements. She had one of
those exceptional organizations which are quick and sensitive without
being in the least morbid; she was alive to the finest shades of manner,
to the nicest distinctions of tone and accent; she had a little code of
her own about scents and colors, textures and behavior, by which she
secretly condemned or sanctioned all things and persons. And she was
well satisfied with herself for her fastidious taste, never doubting
that hers was the highest standard. She was proud that the best-born
and handsomest girls at school had always said that she might be taken
for a born lady. Her own pretty instep, clad in a silk stocking, her
little heel, just rising from a kid slipper, her irreproachable nails
and delicate wrist, were the objects of delighted consciousness to her;
and she felt that it was her superiority which made her unable to use
without disgust any but the finest cambric handkerchiefs and freshest
gloves. Her money all went in the gratification of these nice tastes,
and she saved nothing from her earnings. I can not say that she had
pangs of conscience on this score; for she felt sure that she was
generous: she hated all meanness, would empty her purse impulsively on
some sudden appeal to her pity, and if she found out that her father had
a want, she would supply it with some pretty device of a surprise. But
then the good man so seldom had a want--except the perpetual desire,
which she could never gratify, of seeing her under convictions, and fit
to become a member of the church.

As for little Mr. Lyon, he loved and admired this unregenerate child
more, he feared, than was consistent with the due preponderance of
impersonal and ministerial regards: he prayed and pleaded for her with
tears, humbling himself for her spiritual deficiencies in the privacy of
his study; and then came down stairs to find himself in timorous
subjection to her wishes, lest, as he inwardly said, he should give his
teaching an ill savor, by mingling it with outward crossing. There will
be queens in spite of Salic or other laws of later date than Adam and
Eve; and here in this small dingy house of the minister in Malthouse
Yard, there was a light-footed, sweet-voiced Queen Esther.

The stronger will always rule, say some, with an air of confidence which
is like a lawyer's flourish, forbidding exceptions or additions. But
what is strength? Is it blind wilfulness that sees no terrors, no
many-linked consequences, no bruises and wounds of those whose cords it
tightens? Is it the narrowness of a brain that conceives no needs
differing from its own, and looks to no results beyond the bargains of
to-day; that tugs with emphasis for every small purpose, and thinks it
weakness to exercise the sublime power of resolved renunciation? There
is a sort of subjection which is the peculiar heritage of largeness and
of love; and strength is often only another name for willing bondage to
irremediable weakness.

Esther had affection for her father: she recognized the purity of his
character, and a quickness of intellect in him which responded to her
own liveliness, in spite of what seemed a dreary piety, which selected
everything that was least interesting and romantic in life and history.
But his old clothes had a smoky odor, and she did not like to walk with
him, because, when people spoke to him in the street, it was his wont,
instead of remarking on the weather and passing on, to pour forth in an
absent manner some reflections that were occupying his mind about the
traces of the Divine government, or about a peculiar incident narrated
in the life of the eminent Mr. Richard Baxter. Esther had a horror of
appearing ridiculous even in the eyes of vulgar Trebians. She fancied
that she should have loved her mother better than she was able to love
her father; and she wished she could have remembered that mother more
thoroughly.

But she had no more than a broken vision of the time before she was five
years old--the time when the word oftenest on her lips was "Mamma"; when
a low voice spoke caressing French words to her, and she in her turn
repeated the words to her rag doll; when a very small white hand,
different from any that came after, used to pat her, and stroke her, and
tie on her frock and pinafore, and when at last there was nothing but
sitting with a doll on a bed where mamma was lying, till her father once
carried her away. Where distinct memory began, there was no longer the
low caressing voice and the small white hand. She knew that her mother
was a Frenchwoman, that she had been in want and distress, and that her
maiden name was Annette Ledru. Her father had told her no more than
this; and once, he had said, "My Esther, until you are a woman, we will
only think of your mother: when you are about to be married and leave
me, we will speak of her, and I will deliver to you her ring and all
that was hers; but, without a great command laid upon me, I cannot
pierce my heart by speaking of that which was and is not." Esther had
never forgotten these words, and the older she became, the more
impossible she felt it that she should urge her father with questions
about the past.

His inability to speak of that past to her depended on manifold causes.
Partly it came from an initial concealment. He had not the courage to
tell Esther that he was not really her father: he had not the courage to
renounce that hold on her tenderness which the belief in his natural
fatherhood must help to give him, or to incur any resentment that her
quick spirit might feel at having been brought up under a false
supposition. But there were other things yet more difficult for him to
be quite open about--deep sorrows of his life as a Christian minister
that were hardly to be told to a girl.

Twenty-two years ago, when Rufus Lyon was no more than thirty-six years
old, he was the admired pastor of a large Independent congregation in
one of our southern seaport towns. He was unmarried, and had met all
exhortations of friends who represented to him that a bishop, _i.e._,
the overseer of an Independent church and congregation--should be the
husband of one wife, by saying that St. Paul meant this particular as a
limitation, and not as an injunction; that a minister was permitted to
have one wife, but that he, Rufus Lyon, did not wish to avail himself of
that permission, finding his studies and other labors of his vocation
all-absorbing, and seeing that mothers in Israel were sufficiently
provided by those who had not been set apart for a more special work.
His church and congregation were proud of him: he was put forward on
platforms, was made a "deputation," and was requested to preach
anniversary sermons in far-off towns. Wherever noteworthy preachers were
discussed, Rufus Lyon was almost sure to be mentioned as one who did
honor to the Independent body; his sermons were said to be full of fire;
and while he had more of human knowledge than many of his brethren, he
showed in an eminent degree the marks of a true ministerial vocation.
But on a sudden this burning and shining light seemed to be quenched:
Mr. Lyon voluntarily resigned his charge and withdrew from the town.

A terrible crisis had come upon him; a moment in which religious doubt
and newly-awakened passion had rushed together in a common flood, and
had paralyzed his ministerial gifts. His thirty-six years had been a
story of purely religious and studious fervor; his passion had been for
doctrines, for argumentative conquest on the side of right; the sins he
had chiefly to pray against had been those of personal ambition (under
such forms as ambition takes in the mind of a man who has chosen the
career of an Independent preacher), and those of a too restless
intellect, ceaselessly urging questions concerning the mystery of that
which was assuredly revealed, and thus hindering the due nourishment of
the soul on the substance of the truth delivered. Even at that time of
comparative youth, his unworldliness and simplicity in small matters
(for he was keenly awake to the larger affairs of this world) gave a
certain oddity to his manners and appearance; and though his sensitive
face had much beauty, his person altogether seemed so irrelevant to a
fashionable view of things, that well-dressed ladies and gentlemen
usually laughed at him, as they probably did at Mr. John Milton after
the Restoration and ribbons had come in, and still more at that apostle,
of weak bodily presence, who preached in the back streets of Ephesus and
elsewhere, a new view of a religion that hardly anybody believed in.
Rufus Lyon was the singular-looking apostle of the Meeting in Skipper's
Lane. Was it likely that any romance should befall such a man? Perhaps
not; but romance did befall him.

One winter's evening in 1812, Mr. Lyon was returning from a village
preaching. He walked at his usual rapid rate, with busy thoughts
undisturbed by any sight more distinct than the bushes and the hedgerow
trees, black beneath a faint moonlight, until something suggested to him
that he had perhaps omitted to bring away with him a thin account-book
in which he recorded certain subscriptions. He paused, unfastened his
outer coat, and felt in all his pockets, then he took off his hat and
looked inside it. The book was not to be found, and he was about to walk
on, when he was startled by hearing a low, sweet voice, say, with a
strong foreign accent--

"Have pity on me, sir."

Searching with his short-sighted eyes, he perceived some one on a
side-bank; and approaching, he found a young woman with a baby on her
lap. She spoke again more faintly than before.

"Sir, I die with hunger; in the name of God take the little one."

There was no distrusting the pale face and the sweet low voice. Without
pause, Mr. Lyon took the baby in his arms and said, "Can you walk by my
side, young woman?"

She rose, but seemed tottering. "Lean on me," said Mr. Lyon, and so they
walked slowly on, the minister for the first time in his life carrying a
baby.

Nothing better occurred to him than to take his charge to his own house;
it was the simplest way of relieving the woman's wants, and finding out
how she could be helped further; and he thought of no other
possibilities. She was too feeble for more words to be spoken between
them till she was seated by his fireside. His elderly servant was not
easily amazed at anything her master did in the way of charity, and at
once took the baby, while Mr. Lyon unfastened the mother's damp bonnet
and shawl, and gave her something warm to drink. Then, waiting by her
till it was time to offer her more, he had nothing to do but to notice
the loveliness of her face, which seemed to him as that of an angel,
with a benignity in its repose that carried a more assured sweetness
than any smile. Gradually she revived, lifted up her delicate hands
between her face and the firelight, and looked at the baby which lay
opposite to her on the old servant's lap, taking in spoonfuls with much
content, and stretching out naked feet toward the warmth. Then, as her
consciousness of relief grew into contrasting memory, she lifted up her
eyes to Mr. Lyon, who stood close by her, and said, in her pretty broken
way:

"I knew you had a good heart when you took your hat off. You seemed to
me as the image of the _bien-amié Saint Jean_."

The grateful glance of those blue-gray eyes, with their long
shadow-making eyelashes, was a new kind of good to Rufus Lyon; it seemed
to him as if a woman had never really looked at him before. Yet this
poor thing was apparently a blind French Catholic--of delicate nurture,
surely, judging from her hands. He was in a tremor; he felt that it
would be rude to question her, and he only urged her now to take a
little food. She accepted it with evident enjoyment, looking at the
child continually, and then, with a fresh burst of gratitude, leaning
forward to press the servant's hand and say, "Oh, you are good!" Then
she looked up at Mr. Lyon again and said, "Is there in the world a
prettier _marmot?_"

The evening passed; a bed was made up for the strange woman, and Mr.
Lyon had not asked her so much as her name. He never went to bed himself
that night. He spent it in misery, enduring a horrible assault of Satan.
He thought a frenzy had seized him. Wild visions of an impossible future
thrust themselves upon him. He dreaded lest the woman had a husband; he
wished that he might call her his own, that he might worship her beauty,
that she might love and caress him. And what to the mass of men would
have been only one of many allowable follies--a transient fascination,
to be dispelled by daylight and contact with those common facts of which
common-sense is the reflex--was to him a spiritual convulsion. He was as
one who raved, and knew that he raved. These mad wishes were
irreconcilable with what he was, and must be, as a Christian minister,
nay, penetrating his soul as tropic heat penetrates the frame, and
changes for it all aspects and all flavors, they were irreconcilable
with that conception of the world which made his faith. All the busy
doubt which had before been mere impish shadows flitting around a belief
that was strong with the strength of an unswerving moral bias, had now
gathered blood and substance. The questioning spirit had become suddenly
bold and blasphemous; it no longer insinuated scepticism--it prompted
defiance; it no longer expressed cool, inquisitive thought, but was the
voice of a passionate mood. Yet he never ceased to regard it as the
voice of the tempter: the conviction which had been the law of his
better life remained within him as a conscience.

The struggle of that night was an abridgment of all the struggles that
came after. Quick souls have their intensest life in the first
anticipatory sketch of what may or will be, and the pursuit of their
wish is the pursuit of that paradisiacal vision which only impelled
them, and is left farther and farther behind, vanishing forever even out
of hope in the moment which is called success.

The next morning Mr. Lyon heard his guest's history. She was the
daughter of a French officer of considerable rank, who had fallen in the
Russian campaign. She had escaped from France to England with much
difficulty in order to rejoin her husband, a young Englishman, to whom
she had become attached during his detention as a prisoner of war on
parole at Vesoul, where she was living under the charge of some
relatives, and to whom she had been married without the consent of her
family. Her husband had served in the Hanoverian army, had obtained his
discharge in order to visit England on some business, with the nature of
which she was not acquainted, and had been taken prisoner as a suspected
spy. A short time after their marriage he and his fellow-prisoners had
been moved to a town nearer the coast, and she had remained in wretched
uncertainty about him, until at last a letter had come from him telling
her that an exchange of prisoners had occurred, that he was in England,
that she must use her utmost effort to follow him, and that on arriving
on English ground she must send him word under a cover which he
enclosed, bearing an address in London. Fearing the opposition of her
friends, she started unknown to them, with a very small supply of money;
and after enduring much discomfort and many fears in waiting for a
passage which she at last got in a small trading smack, she arrived at
Southampton--ill. Before she was able to write, her baby was born; and
before her husband's answer came, she had been obliged to pawn some
clothes and trinkets. He desired her to travel to London where he would
meet her at the Belle Sauvage, adding that he was himself in distress,
and unable to come to her: when once she was in London they would take
ship and quit the country. Arrived at the Belle Sauvage, the poor thing
waited three days in vain for her husband: on the fourth a letter came
in a strange hand, saying that in his last moments he had desired this
letter to be written to inform her of his death, and recommend her to
return to her friends. She could choose no other course, but she had
soon been reduced to walking, that she might save her pence to buy bread
with: and on the evening when she made her appeal to Mr. Lyon, she had
pawned the last thing, over and above needful clothing, that she could
persuade herself to part with. The things she had not borne to part with
were her marriage-ring, and a locket containing her husband's hair, and
bearing his baptismal name. This locket, she said, exactly resembled one
worn by her husband on his watch-chain, only that his bore the name
Annette, and contained a lock of her hair. The precious trifle now hung
round her neck by a cord, for she had sold the small gold chain which
formerly held it.

The only guarantee of this story, besides the exquisite candor of her
face, was a small packet of papers which she carried in her pocket,
consisting of her husband's few letters, the letter which announced his
death, and her marriage certificate. It was not so probable a story as
that of many an inventive vagrant; but Mr. Lyon did not doubt it for a
moment. It was impossible to him to suspect this angelic-faced woman,
but he had strong suspicions concerning her husband. He could not help
being glad that she had not retained the address he had desired her to
send to in London, as that removed any obvious means of learning
particulars about him. But enquiries might have been made at Vesoul by
letter, and her friends there might have been appealed to. A
consciousness, not to be quite silenced, told Mr. Lyon that this was the
course he ought to take, but it would have required an energetic
self-conquest, and he was excused from it by Annette's own
disinclination to return to her relatives, if any other acceptable
possibility could be found.

He dreaded, with a violence of feeling which surmounted all struggles,
lest anything should take her away, and place such barriers between them
as would make it unlikely or impossible that she should ever love him
well enough to become his wife. Yet he saw with perfect clearness that
unless he tore up his mad passion by the roots, his ministerial
usefulness would be frustrated, and the repose of his soul would be
destroyed. This woman was an unregenerate Catholic; ten minutes'
listening to her artless talk made that plain to him: even if her
position had been less equivocal, to unite himself to such a woman was
nothing less than a spiritual fall. It was already a fall that he had
wished there was no high purpose to which he owed an allegiance--that he
had longed to fly to some backwoods where there was no church to
reproach him, and where he might have this sweet woman to wife, and to
know the joys of tenderness. Those sensibilities which in most lives are
diffused equally through the youthful years, were aroused suddenly in
Mr. Lyon, as some men have their special genius revealed to them by a
tardy concurrence of conditions. His love was the first love of a fresh
young heart full of wonder and worship. But what to one man is the
virtue which he has sunk below the possibility of aspiring to, is to
another the backsliding by which he forfeits his spiritual crown.

The end was, that Annette remained in his house. He had striven against
himself so far as to represent her position to some chief matrons in his
congregation, praying and yet dreading that they would so take her by
the hand as to impose on him that denial of his own longing not to let
her go out of his sight, which he found it too hard to impose on
himself. But they regarded the case coldly; the woman was, after all, a
vagrant. Mr. Lyon was observed to be surprisingly weak on the
subject--his eagerness seemed disproportionate and unbecoming; and this
young Frenchwoman, unable to express herself very clearly, was no more
interesting to those matrons and their husbands than other pretty young
women suspiciously circumstanced. They were willing to subscribe
something to carry her on her way, or if she took some lodgings they
would give her a little sewing, and endeavor to convert her from
Papistry. If, however, she was a respectable person, as she said, the
only proper thing for her was to go back to her own country and friends.
In spite of himself, Mr. Lyon exulted. There seemed a reason now that he
should keep Annette under his own eyes. He told himself that no real
object would be served by his providing food and lodging for her
elsewhere--an expense which he could ill afford. And she was apparently
so helpless, except as to the one task of attending to her baby, that it
would have been folly to think of her exerting herself for her own
support.

But this course of his was severely disapproved by his church. There
were various signs that the minister was under some evil influence: his
preaching wanted its old fervor, he seemed to shun the intercourse of
his brethren, and very mournful suspicions were entertained. A formal
remonstrance was presented to him, but he met it as if he had already
determined to act in anticipation of it. He admitted that external
circumstances, conjoined with a peculiar state of mind, were likely to
hinder the fruitful exercise of his ministry, and he resigned it. There
was much sorrowing, much expostulation, but he declared that for the
present he was unable to unfold himself more fully; he only wished to
state solemnly that Annette Ledru, though blind in spiritual things, was
in a worldly sense a pure and virtuous woman. No more was to be said,
and he departed to a distant town. Here he maintained himself, Annette
and the child, with the remainder of his stipend, and with the wages he
earned as a printer's reader. Annette was one of those angelic-faced
helpless women who take all things as manna from heaven: the good image
of the well-beloved Saint John wished her to stay with him, and there
was nothing else that she wished for except the unattainable. Yet for a
whole year Mr. Lyon never dared to tell Annette that he loved her: he
trembled before this woman; he saw that the idea of his being her lover
was too remote from her mind for her to have any idea that she ought not
to live with him. She had never known, never asked the reason why he
gave up his ministry. She seemed to entertain as little concern about
the strange world in which she lived as a bird in its nest: an avalanche
had fallen over the past, but she sat warm and uncrushed--there was food
for many morrows, and her baby flourished. She did not seem even to care
about a priest, or about having her child baptized; and on the subject
of religion Mr. Lyon was as timid, and shrank as much from speaking to
her, as on the subject of his love. He dreaded anything that might cause
her to feel a sudden repulsion toward him. He dreaded disturbing her
simple gratitude and content. In these days his religious faith was not
slumbering; it was awake and achingly conscious of having fallen in a
struggle. He had had a great treasure committed to him, and had flung it
away: he held himself a backslider. His unbelieving thoughts never
gained the full ear and consent of his soul. His prayers had been
stifled by the sense that there was something he preferred to complete
obedience; they had ceased to be anything but intermittent cries and
confessions, and a submissive presentiment, rising at times even to an
entreaty, that some great discipline might come, that the dull spiritual
sense might be roused to full vision and hearing as of old, and the
supreme facts become again supreme in his soul. Mr. Lyon will perhaps
seem a very simple personage, with pitiably narrow theories; but none of
our theories are quite large enough for all the disclosures of time, and
to the end of men's struggles a penalty will remain for those who sink
from the ranks of the heroes into the crowd for whom the heroes fight
and die.

One day, however, Annette learned Mr. Lyon's secret. The baby had a
tooth coming, and being large and strong now, was noisily fretful. Mr.
Lyon, though he had been working extra hours and was much in need of
repose, took the child from its mother immediately on entering the house
and walked about with it, patting and talking soothingly to it. The
stronger grasp, the new sensations, were a successful anodyne, and baby
went to sleep on his shoulder. But fearful lest any movement should
disturb it, he sat down, and endured the bondage of holding it still
against his shoulder.

"You do nurse baby well," said Annette, approvingly. "Yet you never
nursed before I came?"

"No," said Mr. Lyon. "I had no brothers and sisters."

"Why were you not married?" Annette had never thought of asking that
question before.

"Because I never loved any woman--till now. I thought I should never
marry. Now I wish to marry."

Annette started. She did not see at once that she was the woman he
wanted to marry; what had flashed on her mind was, that there might be a
great change in Mr. Lyon's life. It was as if the lightning had entered
into her dream and half awaked her.

"Do you think it foolish, Annette, that I should wish to marry?"

"I did not expect it," she said, doubtfully. "I did not know you thought
about it."

"You know the woman I should like to marry?"

"I know her?" she said, interrogatively, blushing deeply.

"It is you, Annette--you whom I have loved better than my duty. I
forsook everything for you."

Mr. Lyon paused: he was about to do what he felt would be ignoble--to
urge what seemed like a claim.

"Can you love me, Annette? Will you be my wife?" Annette trembled and
looked miserable.

"Do not speak--forget it," said Mr. Lyon, rising suddenly and speaking
with loud energy. "No, no--I do not want it--I do not wish it."

The baby awoke as he started up; he gave the child into Annette's arms,
and left her.

His work took him away early the next morning and the next again. They
did not need to speak much to each other. The third day Mr. Lyon was too
ill to go to work. His frame had been overwrought; he had been too poor
to have sufficiently nourishing food, and under the shattering of his
long deferred hope his health had given away. They had no regular
servant--only occasional help from an old woman, who lit the fires and
put on the kettles. Annette was forced to be the sick-nurse, and this
sudden demand on her shook away some of her torpor. The illness was a
serious one, and the medical man one day hearing Mr. Lyon in his
delirium raving with an astonishing fluency in Biblical language,
suddenly looked round with increased curiosity at Annette, and asked if
she were the sick man's wife, or some other relative.

"No--no relation," said Annette, shaking her head. "He has been good to
me."

"How long have you lived with him?"

"More than a year."

"Was he a preacher once?"

"Yes."

"When did he leave off being a preacher?"

"Soon after he took care of me."

"Is that his child?"

"Sir," said Annette, coloring indignantly, "I am a widow."

The doctor, she thought, looked at her oddly, but he asked no more
questions.

When the sick man was getting better, and able to enjoy invalid's food,
he observed one day, while he was taking some broth, that Annette was
looking at him; he paused to look at her in return, and was struck with
a new expression in her face, quite distinct from the merely passive
sweetness which usually characterized it. She laid her little hand on
his, which was now transparently thin, and said, "I am getting very
wise; I have sold some of the books to make money--the doctor told me
where; and I have looked into the shops where they sell caps and bonnets
and pretty things, and I can do all that, and get more money to keep
us. And when you are well enough to get up, we will go out and be
married--shall we not? See! and _la petite_" (the baby had never
been named anything else) "shall call you Papa--and then we shall never
part."

Mr. Lyon trembled. This illness--something else, perhaps--had made a
great change in Annette. A fortnight after that they were married. The
day before he had ventured to ask her if she felt any difficulty about
her religion, and if she would consent to have _la petite_ baptized and
brought up as a Protestant. She shook her head and said very simply--

"No: in France, in other days, I would have minded; but all is changed.
I never was fond of religion, but I knew it was right. _J'aimais les
fleurs, les bals, la musique, et mon mari qui était beau_. But all that
is gone away. There is nothing of my religion in this country. But the
good God must be here, for you are good; I leave all to you."

It was clear that Annette regarded her present life as a sort of death
to the world--an existence on a remote island where she had been saved
from wreck. She was too indolent mentally, too little interested, to
acquaint herself with any secrets of the isle. The transient energy, the
more vivid consciousness and sympathy which had been stirred in her
during Mr. Lyon's illness, had soon subsided into the old apathy to
everything except her child. She withered like a plant in strange air,
and the three years of life that remained were but a slow and gentle
death. Those three years were to Mr. Lyon a period of such
self-suppression and life in another as few men know. Strange! that the
passion for this woman, which he felt to have drawn him aside from the
right as much as if he had broken the most solemn vows--for that only
was right to him which he held the best and highest--the passion for a
being who had no glimpse of his thoughts induced a more thorough
renunciation than he had ever known in the time of his complete devotion
to his ministerial career. He had no flattery now, either from himself
or the world; he knew that he had fallen, and _his_ world had forgotten
him, or shook their heads at his memory. The only satisfaction he had
was the satisfaction of his tenderness--which meant untiring work,
untiring patience, untiring wakefulness even to the dumb signs of
feeling in a creature whom he alone cared for.

The day of parting came, and he was left with little Esther as the one
visible sign of that four years' break in his life. A year afterward he
entered the ministry again, and lived with the utmost sparingness that
Esther might be so educated as to be able to get her own bread in case
of his death. Her probable facility in acquiring French naturally
suggested his sending her to a French school, which would give her a
special advantage as a teacher. It was a Protestant school, and French
Protestantism had the high recommendation of being non-Prelatical. It
was understood that Esther would contract no Papistical superstitions;
and this was perfectly true; but she contracted, as we see, a good deal
of non-Papistical vanity.

Mr. Lyon's reputation as a preacher and devoted pastor had revived; but
some dissatisfaction beginning to be felt by his congregation at a
certain laxity detected by them in his views as to the limits of
salvation, which he had in one sermon even hinted might extend to
unconscious recipients of mercy, he had found it desirable seven years
ago to quit this ten years' pastorate and accept a call from the less
important church in Malthouse Yard, Treby Magna.

This was Rufus Lyon's history, at that time unknown in its fullness to
any human being besides himself. We can perhaps guess what memories they
were that relaxed the stringency of his doctrine on the point of
salvation. In the deepest of all senses his heart said--

    "Though she be dead, yet let me think she lives,
    And feed my mind, that dies for want of her."



CHAPTER VII.

    _M._  It was but yesterday you spoke him well--
          You've changed your mind so soon?

    _N._                    Not I--'tis he
          That, changing to my thought, has changed my mind.
          No man puts rotten apples in his pouch
          Because their upper side looked fair to him.
          Constancy in mistake is constant folly.


The news that the rich heir of the Transomes was actually come back, and
had been seen at Treby, was carried to some one else who had more
reasons for being interested in it than the Reverend Rufus Lyon was yet
conscious of having. It was owing to this that at three o'clock, two
days afterward, a carriage and pair, with coachman and footman in
crimson and drab, passed through the lodge gates at Transome Court.
Inside there was a hale, good-natured-looking man of sixty, whose hands
rested on a knotted stick held between his knees; and a blue-eyed,
well-featured lady, fat and middle-aged--a mountain of satin, lace, and
exquisite muslin embroidery. They were not persons of a highly
remarkable appearance, but to most Trebians they seemed absolutely
unique, and likely to be known anywhere. If you had looked down upon
them from the box of Sampson's coach, he would have said, after lifting
his hat, "Sir Maximus and his lady--did you see?" thinking it needless
to add the surname.

"We shall find her greatly elated, doubtless," Lady Debarry was saying.
"She has been in the shade so long."

"Ah, poor thing!" said Sir Maximus. "A fine woman she was in her bloom.
I remember the first county ball she attended we were all ready to fight
for the sake of dancing with her. I always liked her from that time--I
never swallowed the scandal about her myself."

"If we are to be intimate with her," said Lady Debarry, "I wish you
would avoid making such allusions, Sir Maximus. I should not like Selina
and Harriet to hear them."

"My dear, I should have forgotten all about the scandal, only you remind
me of it sometimes," retorted the baronet, smiling and taking out his
snuff-box.

"These sudden turns of fortune are often dangerous to an excitable
constitution," said Lady Debarry, not choosing to notice her husband's
epigram. "Poor Lady Alicia Methurst got heart-disease from a sudden
piece of luck--the death of her uncle, you know. If Mrs. Transome was
wise she would go to town--she can afford it now, and consult Dr.
Truncheon. I should say myself he would order her digitalis: I have
often guessed exactly what a prescription would be. But it certainly was
one of her weak points to think she understood medicine better than
other people."

"She's a healthy woman enough, surely: see how upright she is, and she
rides about like a girl of twenty."

"She is so thin that she makes me shudder."

"Pooh! she's slim and active; women are not bid for by the pound."

"Pray don't be so coarse."

Sir Maximus laughed and showed his good teeth, which made his laughter
very becoming. The carriage stopped, and they were soon ushered to Mrs.
Transome's sitting-room, where she was working at her worsted
embroidery. A little daily embroidery had been a constant element in
Mrs. Transome's life; but that soothing occupation of taking stitches to
produce what neither she nor any one else wanted, was then the resource
of many a well-born and unhappy woman.

She received much warm congratulation and pressure of her hand with
perfect composure of manner; but she became paler than usual, and her
hands turned quite cold. The Debarrys did not yet know what Harold's
politics were.

"Well, our lucky youngster is come in the nick of time," said Sir
Maximus: "if he'll stand, he and Philip can run in harness together and
keep out both the Whigs."

"It is really quite a providential thing--his returning just now," said
Lady Debarry. "I couldn't help thinking that something would occur to
prevent Philip from having such a man as Peter Garstin for his
colleague."

"I call my friend Harold a youngster," said Sir Maximus, "for, you know,
I remember him only as he was when that portrait was taken."

"That is a long while ago," said Mrs. Transome. "My son is much altered,
as you may imagine."

There was a confused sound of voices in the library while this talk was
going on. Mrs. Transome chose to ignore that noise, but her face, from
being pale, began to flush a little.

"Yes, yes, on the outside, I dare say. But he was a fine fellow--I
always liked him. And if anybody should ask me what I should choose for
the good of the country, I couldn't have thought of anything better than
having a young Transome for a neighbor who will take an active part. The
Transomes and the Debarrys were always on the right side together in old
days. Of course he'll stand--he has made up his mind to it?"

The need for an answer to this embarrassing question was deferred by the
increase of inarticulate sounds accompanied by a bark from the library,
and the sudden appearance at the tapestry-hung doorway of old Mr.
Transome with a cord around his waist, playing a very poor-paced horse
for a black-maned little boy about three years old, who was urging him
on with loud encouraging noises and occasional thumps from a stick which
he wielded with difficulty. The old man paused with a vague smile at the
doorway while the baronet got up to speak to him. Nimrod snuffed at his
master's legs to ascertain that he was not hurt, and the little boy,
finding something new to be looked at, let go the cord and came round in
front of the company, dragging his stick, and standing at a safe
war-dancing distance as he fixed his great black eyes on Lady Debarry.

"Dear me, what a splendid little boy, Mrs. Transome! why--it cannot
be--can it be--that you have the happiness to be a grandmamma?"

"Yes; that is my son's little boy."

"Indeed!" said Lady Debarry, really amazed. "I never heard you speak of
his marriage. He has brought you home a daughter-in-law, then?"

"No," said Mrs. Transome, coldly; "she is dead."

"O--o--oh!" said Lady Debarry, in a tone ludicrously undecided between
condolence, satisfaction, and general mistiness. "How very singular--I
mean that we should not have heard of Mr. Harold's marriage. But he's a
charming little fellow: come to me, you round-cheeked cherub."

The black eyes continued fixed as if by a sort of fascination on Lady
Debarry's face, and her affable invitation was unheeded. At last,
putting his head forward and pouting his lips, the cherub gave forth
with marked intention the sounds, "Nau-o-oom," many times repeated:
apparently they summed up his opinion of Lady Debarry, and may perhaps
have meant "naughty old woman," but his speech was a broken lisping
polyglot of hazardous interpretation. Then he turned to pull at the
Blenheim spaniel, which, being old and peevish, gave a little snap.

"Go, go, Harry; let poor Puff alone--he'll bite you," said Mrs.
Transome, stooping to release her aged pet.

Her words were too suggestive, for Harry immediately laid hold of her
arm with his teeth, and bit with all his might. Happily the stuffs upon
it were some protection, but the pain forced Mrs. Transome to give a low
cry; and Sir Maximus, who had now turned to reseat himself, shook the
little rascal off, whereupon he burst away and trotted into the library
again.

"I fear you are hurt," said Lady Debarry, with sincere concern. "What a
little savage! Do have your arm attended to, my dear--I recommend
fomentation--don't think of me."

"Oh, thank you, it is nothing," said Mrs. Transome, biting her lip and
smiling alternately; "it will soon go off. The pleasures of being a
grandmamma, you perceive. The child has taken a dislike to me; but he
makes quite a new life for Mr. Transome; they were playfellows at once."

"Bless my heart!" said Sir Maximus, "it is odd to think of Harold having
been a family man so long. I made up my mind he was a young bachelor.
What an old stager I am, to be sure! And whom has he married? I hope we
shall soon have the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Harold Transome." Sir
Maximus, occupied with old Mr. Transome, had not overheard the previous
conversation on that subject.

"She is no longer living," Lady Debarry hastily interposed; "but now, my
dear Sir Maximus, we must not hinder Mrs. Transome from attending to her
arm. I am sure she is in pain. Don't say another word, my dear--we shall
see you again--you and Mr. Harold will come and dine with us on
Thursday--say yes, only yes. Sir Maximus is longing to see him: and
Philip will be down."

"Yes, yes!" said Sir Maximus; "he must lose no time in making Philip's
acquaintance. Tell him Philip is a fine fellow--carried everything
before him at Oxford. And your son must be returned along with him for
North Loamshire. You said he meant to stand?"

"I will write and let you know if Harold has any engagement for
Thursday; he would of course be happy otherwise," said Mrs. Transome,
evading the question.

"If not Thursday, the next day--the very first day he can."

The visitors left, and Mrs. Transome was almost glad of the painful bite
which had saved her from being questioned further about Harold's
politics. "This is the last visit I shall receive from them," she said
to herself as the door closed behind them, and she rang for Denner.

"That poor creature is not happy, Sir Maximus," said Lady Debarry as
they drove along. "Something annoys her about her son. I hope there is
nothing unpleasant in his character. Either he kept his marriage a
secret from her, or she was ashamed of it. He is thirty-four at least by
this time. After living in the East so long he may have become a sort of
person one would not care to be intimate with, and that savage boy--he
doesn't look like a lady's child."

"Pooh, my dear," said Sir Maximus, "women think so much of those
minutiæ. In the present state of the country it is our duty to look at a
man's position and politics. Philip and my brother are both of that
opinion, and I think they know what's right, if any man does. We are
bound to regard every man of our party as a public instrument, and to
pull all together. The Transomes have always been a good Tory family,
but it has been a cipher of late years. This young fellow coming back
with a fortune to give the family a head and a position is a clear gain
to the county; and with Philip he'll get into the right hands--of course
he wants guiding, having been out of the country so long. All we have to
ask is, whether a man's a Tory, and will make a stand for the good of
the country?--that's the plain English of the matter. And I do beg of
you, my dear, to set aside all these gossiping niceties, and exert
yourself, like a woman of sense and spirit as you are, to bring the
right people together."

Here Sir Maximus gave a deep cough, took out his snuff-box, and tapped
it: he had made a serious marital speech, an exertion to which he was
rarely urged by anything smaller than a matter of conscience. And this
outline of the whole duty of a Tory was a matter of conscience with him;
though the _Duffield Watchman_ had pointed expressly to Sir Maximus
Debarry amongst others, in branding the co-operation of the Tories as a
conscious selfishness and reckless immorality, which, however, would be
defeated by the co-operation of all the friends of truth and liberty,
who, the _Watchman_ trusted, would subordinate all non-political
differences in order to return representatives pledged to support the
present government.

"I am sure, Sir Maximus," Lady Debarry answered, "you could not have
observed that anything was wanting in my manners to Mrs. Transome."

"No, no, my dear; but I say this by way of caution. Never mind what was
done at Smyrna, or whether Transome likes to sit with his heels tucked
up. We may surely wink at a few things for the sake of the public
interest, if God Almighty does; and if He didn't, I don't know what
would have become of the country--Government could never have been
carried on, and many a good battle would have been lost. That's the
philosophy of the matter, and common-sense too."

Good Sir Maximus gave a deep cough and tapped his box again, inwardly
remarking, that if he had not been such a lazy fellow he might have made
as good a figure as his son Philip.

But at this point the carriage, which was rolling by a turn toward Treby
Magna, passed a well-dressed man, who raised his hat to Sir Maximus, and
called to the coachman to stop.

"Excuse me, Sir Maximus," said this personage, standing uncovered at the
carriage-door, "but I have just learned something of importance at
Treby, which I thought you would like to know as soon as possible."

"Ah! what's that? Something about Garstin or Clement?" said Sir Maximus,
seeing the other draw a poster from his pocket.

"No; rather worse, I fear you will think. A new Radical candidate. I got
this by a stratagem from the printer's boy. They're not posted yet."

"A Radical!" said Sir Maximus, in a tone of incredulous disgust, as he
took the folded bill. "What fool is he?--he'll have no chance."

"They say he's richer than Garstin."

"Harold Transome!" shouted Sir Maximus, as he read the name in
three-inch letters. "I don't believe it--it's a trick--it's a squib:
why--why--we've just been to his place--eh? do you know any more? Speak,
sir--speak; don't deal out your story like a damned mountebank, who
wants to keep people gaping."

"Sir Maximus, pray don't give way so," said Lady Debarry.

"I'm afraid there's no doubt about it, sir," said Christian. "After
getting the bill, I met Mr. Labron's clerk, and he said he had just had
the whole story from Jermyn's clerk. The Ram Inn is engaged already, and
a committee is being made up. He says Jermyn goes like a steam engine,
when he has a mind, although he makes such long-winded speeches."

"Jermyn be hanged for a two-faced rascal! Tell Mitchell to drive on.
It's of no use to stay chattering here. Jump up on the box and go home
with us. I may want you."

"You see I was right, Sir Maximus," said the baronet's wife. "I had an
instinct that we should find him an unpleasant person."

"Fudge! if you had such a fine instinct, why did you let us go to
Transome Court and make fools of ourselves?"

"Would you have listened to me? But of course you will not have him to
dine with you?"

"Dine with me? I should think not. I'd sooner he should dine off me. I
see how it is clearly enough. He has become a regular beast among those
Mahometans--he's got neither religion nor morals left. He can't know any
thing about English politics. He'll go and cut his own nose off as a
landholder, and never know. However, he won't get in--he'll spend his
money for nothing."

"I fear he is a very licentious man," said Lady Debarry. "We know now
why his mother seemed so uneasy. I should think she reflects a little,
poor creature."

"It's a confounded nuisance we didn't meet Christian on our way, instead
of coming back; but better now than later. He's an uncommonly adroit,
useful fellow, that factotum of Philip's. I wish Phil would take my man
and give me Christian. I'd make him house-steward: he might reduce the
accounts a little."

Perhaps Sir Maximus would not have been so sanguine as to Mr.
Christian's economical virtues if he had seen that gentleman relaxing
himself the same evening among the other distinguished dependents of the
family and frequenters of the steward's room. But a man of Sir Maximus's
rank is like those antediluvian animals whom the system of things
condemned to carry such a huge bulk that they really could not inspect
their bodily appurtenance, and had no conception of their own tails:
their parasites doubtless had a merry time of it, and often did
extremely well when the high-bred saurian himself was ill at ease. Treby
Manor, measured from the front saloon to the remotest shed, was as large
as a moderate-sized village, and there were certainly more lights
burning in it every evening, more wine, spirits, and ale drunk, more
waste and more folly, than could be found in some large villages. There
was fast revelry in the steward's room, and slow revelry in the Scotch
bailiff's room; short whist, costume, and flirtation in the
housekeeper's room, and the same at a lower price in the servants' hall;
a select Olympian feast in the private apartment of the cook, who was a
much grander person than her ladyship, and wore gold and jewelry to a
vast amount of suet; a gambling group in the stables, and the coachman,
perhaps the most innocent member of the establishment, tippling in
majestic solitude by a fire in the harness-room. For Sir Maximus, as
every one said, was a gentleman of the right sort, condescended to no
mean enquiries, greeted his head-servants with a "good-evening,
gentlemen," when he met them in the park, and only snarled in a subdued
way when he looked over the accounts, willing to endure some personal
inconvenience in order to keep up the institutions of the country, to
maintain his hereditary establishment, and do his duty in that station
of life--the station of the long-tailed saurian--to which it had pleased
Providence to call him.

The focus of brilliancy at Treby Manor that evening was in no way the
dining-room, where Sir Maximus sipped his port under some mental
depression, as he discussed with his brother, the Reverend Augustus, the
sad fact that one of the oldest names in the county was to be on the
wrong side--not in the drawing-room, where Miss Debarry and Miss Selina,
quietly elegant in their dress and manners, were feeling rather dull
than otherwise, having finished Mr. Bulwer's "Eugene Aram," and being
thrown back on the last great prose work of Mr. Southey, while their
mamma slumbered a little on the sofa. No; the centre of eager talk and
enjoyment was the steward's room, where Mr. Scales, house-steward and
head-butler, a man most solicitous about his boots, wristbands, the roll
of his whiskers, and other attributes of a gentleman, distributed
cigars, cognac, and whiskey, to various colleagues and guests who were
discussing, with that freedom of conjecture which is one of our
inalienable privileges as Britons, the probable amount of Harold
Transome's fortune, concerning which fame had already been busy long
enough to have acquired vast magnifying power.

The chief part in this scene was undoubtedly Mr. Christian's, although
he had hitherto been comparatively silent; but he occupied two chairs
with so much grace, throwing his right leg over the seat of the second,
and resting his right hand on the back; he held his cigar and displayed
a splendid seal-ring with such becoming nonchalance, and had his gray
hair arranged with so much taste, that experienced eyes would at once
have seen even the great Scales himself to be but a secondary character.

"Why," said Mr. Crowder, an old respectable tenant, though much in
arrear as to his rent, who condescended frequently to drink in the
steward's room for the sake of the conversation; "why, I suppose they
get money so fast in the East--it's wonderful. Why," he went on, with a
hesitating look toward Mr. Scales, "this Transome p'r'aps got a matter
of a hundred thousand."

"A hundred thousand, my dear sir! fiddle-stick's end of a hundred
thousand," said Mr. Scales, with a contempt very painful to be borne by
a modest man.

"Well," said Mr. Crowder, giving way under torture, as the all-knowing
butler puffed and stared at him, "perhaps not so much as that."

"Not so much, sir! I tell you that a hundred thousand pounds is a
bagatelle."

"Well, I know it's a big sum," said Mr. Crowder, deprecatingly.

Here there was a general laugh. All the other intellects present were
more cultivated than Mr. Crowder's.

"Bagatelle is the French for trifle, my friend," said Mr. Christian.
"Don't talk over people's heads so, Scales. I shall have hard work to
understand you myself soon."

"Come, that's a good one," said the head-gardener, who was a ready
admirer; "I should like to hear the thing you don't understand,
Christian."

"He's a first-rate hand at sneering," said Mr. Scales, rather nettled.

"Don't be waspie, man. I'll ring the bell for lemons, and make some
punch. That's the thing for putting people up to the unknown tongues,"
said Mr. Christian, starting up and slapping Scales's shoulder as he
passed him.

"What I mean, Mr. Crowder, is this." Here Mr. Scales paused to puff,
and pull down his waistcoat in a gentlemanly manner, and drink. He was
wont in this way to give his hearers time for meditation.

"Come, then, speak English; I'm not against being taught," said the
reasonable Crowder.

"What I mean is, that in a large way of trade a man turns his capital
over almost as soon as he can turn himself. Bless your soul! I know
something about these matters, eh, Brent?"

"To be sure you do--few men more," said the gardener, who was the person
appealed to.

"Not that I've had anything to do with commercial families myself. I've
those feelings that I look to other things besides lucre. But I can't
say that I've not been intimate with parties who have been less nice
than I am myself; and knowing what I know, I shouldn't wonder if
Transome had as much as five hundred thousand. Bless your soul, sir!
people who get their money out of land are as long scraping five pounds
together as your trading men are in turning five pounds into a hundred."

"That's a wicked thing, though," said Mr. Crowder, meditatively.
"However," he went on, retreating from this difficult ground, "trade or
no trade, the Transomes have been poor enough this many a long year.
I've a brother a tenant on their estate--I ought to know a little bit
about that."

"They've kept up no establishment at all," said Mr. Scales, with
disgust. "They've even let their kitchen gardens. I suppose it was the
son's gambling. I've seen something of that. A man who has always lived
in first-rate families is likely to know a thing or two on that
subject."

"Ah, but it wasn't gambling did the first mischief," said Mr. Crowder,
with a slight smile, feeling that it was his turn to have some
superiority. "New-comers don't know what happened in this country twenty
and thirty years ago. I'm turned fifty myself, and my father lived under
Sir Maximus's father. But if anybody from London can tell me more than I
know about this country-side, I'm willing to listen."

"What was it, then, if it wasn't gambling?" said Mr. Scales, with some
impatience. "_I_ don't pretend to know."

"It was law--law--that's what it was. Not but what the Transomes always
won."

"And always lost," said the too-ready Scales. "Yes, yes; I think we all
know the nature of law."

"There was the last suit of all made the most noise, as I understood,"
continued Mr. Crowder; "but it wasn't tried hereabout. They said there
was a deal o' false swearing. Some young man pretended to be the true
heir--let me see--I can't justly remember the names--he'd got two. _He_
swore he was one man, and _they_ swore he was another. However Lawyer
Jermyn won it--they say he'd win a game against the Old One himself--and
the young fellow turned out to be a scamp. Stop a bit--his name was
Scaddon--Henry Scaddon."

Mr. Christian here let a lemon slip from his hand into the punch-bowl
with a splash which sent some of the nectar into the company's faces.

"Hallo! What a bungler I am!" he said, looking as if he were quite
jarred by this unusual awkwardness of his. "Go on with your tale, Mr.
Crowder--a scamp named Henry Scaddon."

"Well, that's the tale," said Mr. Crowder. "He was never seen nothing of
anymore. It was a deal talked of at the time--and I've sat by; and my
father used to shake his head; and always when this Mrs. Transome was
talked of, he used to shake his head, and say she carried things with a
high hand once. But, Lord! it was before the battle of Waterloo, and I'm
a poor hand at tales; I don't see much good in 'em myself--but if
anybody'll tell me a cure for the sheep-rot, I'll thank him."

Here Mr. Crowder relapsed into smoking and silence, a little discomfited
that the knowledge of which he had been delivered had turned out rather
a shapeless and insignificant birth.

"Well, well, bygones should be bygones; there are secrets in most good
families," said Mr. Scales, winking, "and this young Transome, coming
back with a fortune to keep up the establishment, and have things done
in a decent and gentlemanly way--it would all have been right if he'd
not been this sort of Radical madman. But now he's done for himself. I
heard Sir Maximus say at dinner that he would be excommunicated; and
that's a pretty strong word, I take it."

"What does it mean, Scales?" said Mr. Christian, who loved tormenting.

"Ay, what's the meaning?" insisted Mr. Crowder, encouraged by finding
that even Christian was in the dark.

"Well, it's a law term--speaking in a figurative sort of way--meaning
that a Radical was no gentleman."

"Perhaps it's partly accounted for by his getting his money so fast, and
in foreign countries," said Mr. Crowder, tentatively. "It's reasonable
to think he'd be against the land and this country--eh, Sircome?"

Sircome was an eminent miller who had considerable business transactions
at the Manor, and appreciated Mr. Scales's merits at a handsome
percentage on the yearly account. He was a highly honorable tradesman,
but in this and in other matters submitted to the institutions of his
country; for great houses, as he observed, must have great butlers. He
replied to his friend Crowder sententiously.

"I say nothing. Before I bring words to market, I should like to see 'em
a bit scarcer. There's the land and there's trade--I hold with both. I
swim with the stream."

"Hey-day, Mr. Sircome! that's a Radical maxim," said Mr. Christian, who
knew that Mr. Sircome's last sentence was his favorite formula. "I
advise you to give it up, else it will injure the quality of your
flour."

"A Radical maxim!" said Mr. Sircome, in a tone of angry astonishment. "I
should like to hear you prove that. It's as old as my grandfather,
anyhow."

"I'll prove it in one minute," said the glib Christian. "Reform has set
in by the will of the majority--that's the rabble, you know; and the
respectability and good sense of the country, which are in the minority,
are afraid of Reform running on too fast. So the stream must be running
toward Reform and Radicalism; and if you swim with it, Mr. Sircome,
you're a Reformer and a Radical, and your flour is objectionable, and
not full weight--and being tried by Scales, will be found wanting."

There was a roar of laughter. This pun upon Scales was highly
appreciated by every one except the miller and butler. The latter pulled
down his waistcoat, and puffed and stared in rather an excited manner.
Mr. Christian's wit, in general, seemed to him a poor kind of quibbling.

"What a fellow you are for fence, Christian," said the gardener. "Hang
me, if I don't think you're up to everything."

"That's a compliment you might pay Old Nick, if you come to that," said
Mr. Sircome, who was in the painful position of a man deprived of his
formula.

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Scales; "I'm no fool myself, and could parry a
thrust if I liked, but I shouldn't like it to be said of me that I was
up to everything. I'll keep a little principle if you please."

"To be sure," said Christian, ladling out the punch. "What would justice
be without Scales?"

The laughter was not quite so full-throated as before. Such excessive
cleverness _was_ a little Satanic.

"A joke's a joke among gentlemen," said the butler, getting exasperated;
"I think there has been quite liberties enough taken with my name. But
if you must talk about names, I've heard of a party before now calling
himself a Christian, and being anything _but_ it."

"Come, that's beyond a joke," said the surgeon's assistant, a fast man,
whose chief scene of dissipation was the manor. "Let it drop, Scales."

"Yes, I dare say it's beyond a joke. I'm not a harlequin to talk nothing
but jokes. I leave that to other Christians, who are up to everything,
and have been everywhere--to the hulks, for what I know; and more than
that, they come from nobody knows where, and try to worm themselves into
gentlemen's confidence, to the prejudice of their betters."

There was a stricter sequence in Mr. Scales's angry eloquence than was
apparent--some chief links being confined to his own breast, as is often
the case in energetic discourse. The company were in a state of
expectation. There was something behind worth knowing, and something
before them worth seeing. In the general decay of other fine British
pugnacious sports, a quarrel between gentlemen was all the more
exciting, and though no one would himself have liked to turn on Scales,
no one was sorry for the chance of seeing him put down. But the amazing
Christian was unmoved. He had taken out his handkerchief and was rubbing
his lips carefully. After a slight pause, he spoke with perfect
coolness.

"I don't intend to quarrel with you, Scales. Such talk as this is not
profitable to either of us. It makes you purple in the face--you _are_
apoplectic, you know--and it spoils good company. Better tell a few fibs
about me behind my back--it will heat you less, and do me more harm.
I'll leave you to it; I shall go and have a game of whist with the
ladies."

As the door closed behind the questionable Christian, Mr. Scales was in
a state of frustration that prevented speech. Every one was rather
embarrassed.

"That's an uncommon sort o' fellow," said Mr. Crowder, in an undertone,
to his next neighbor, the gardener. "Why, Mr. Philip picked him up in
foreign parts, didn't he?"

"He was a courier," said the gardener. "He's had a deal of experience.
And I believe, by what I can make out--for he's been pretty free with me
sometimes--there was a time when he was in that rank of life that he
fought a duel."

"Ah! that makes him such a cool chap," said Mr. Crowder.

"He's what I call an overbearing fellow," said Mr. Sircome, also _sotto
voce_, to his next neighbor, Mr. Filmore, the surgeon's assistant. "He
runs you down with a sort of talk that's neither here nor there. He's
got a deal too many samples in his pocket for me."

"All I know is, he's a wonderful hand at cards," said Mr. Filmore, whose
whiskers and shirt-pin were quite above the average. "I wish I could
play _écarté_ as he does; it's beautiful to see him; he can make a man
look pretty blue; he'll empty his pocket for him in no time."

"That's none to his credit," said Mr. Sircome.

The conversation had in this way broken up into _tête-à-tête_, and the
hilarity of the evening might be considered a failure. Still the punch
was drunk, the accounts were duly swelled, and, notwithstanding the
innovating spirit of the time, Sir Maximus Debarry's establishment was
kept up in sound hereditary British manner.



CHAPTER VIII.

    "Rumor doth double like the voice and echo."--_Shakespeare._

    The mind of a man is as a country which was once open to squatters,
    who have bred and multiplied and become masters of the land. But
    then happeneth a time when new and hungry comers dispute the land;
    and there is trial of strength, and the stronger wins. Nevertheless
    the first squatters be they who have prepared the ground, and the
    crops to the end will be sequent (though chiefly on the nature of
    the soil, as of light sand, mixed loam, or heavy clay, yet)
    somewhat on the primal labor and sowing.


That talkative maiden, Rumor, though in the interest of art she is
figured as a youthful, winged beauty with flowing garments, soaring
above the heads of men, and breathing world-thrilling news through a
gracefully-curved trumpet, is in fact a very old maid, who puckers her
silly face by the fireside, and really does no more than chirp a wrong
guess or a lame story into the ear of a fellow gossip; all the rest of
the work attributed to her is done by the ordinary working of those
passions against which men pray in the Litany, with the help of a
plentiful stupidity against which we have never yet had any authorized
form of prayer.

When Mr. Scales's strong need to make an impressive figure in
conversation, together with his very slight need of any other premise
than his own sense of his wide general knowledge and probable
infallibility, led him to specify five hundred thousand as the lowest
admissible amount of Harold Transome's commercially-acquired fortune, it
was not fair to put this down to poor old Miss Rumor, who had only told
Scales that the fortune was considerable. And again, when the curt Mr.
Sircome found occasion at Treby to mention the five hundred thousand as
a fact that folks seemed pretty sure about, this expansion of the butler
into "folks" was entirely due to Mr. Sircome's habitual preference for
words which could not be laid hold of or give people a handle over him.
It was in this simple way that the report of Harold Transome's fortune
spread and was magnified, adding much lustre to his opinion in the eyes
of Liberals, and compelling even men of the opposite party to admit that
it increased his eligibility as a member for North Loamshire. It was
observed by a sound thinker in these parts that property was ballast;
and when once the aptness of that metaphor had been perceived, it
followed that a man was not fit to navigate the sea of politics without
a great deal of such ballast; and that, rightly understood, whatever
increased the expense of election, inasmuch as it virtually raised the
property qualification, was an unspeakable boon to the country.

Meanwhile the fortune that was getting larger in the imagination of
constituents was shrinking a little in the imagination of its owner. It
was hardly more than a hundred and fifty thousand; and there were not
only the heavy mortgages to be paid off, but also a large amount of
capital was needed in order to repair the farm-buildings all over the
estate, to carry out extensive drainage, and make allowances to
in-coming tenants, which might remove the difficulties of newly letting
the farms in a time of agricultural depression. The farms actually
tenanted were held by men who had begged hard to succeed their fathers
in getting a little poorer every year, on land which was also getting
poorer, where the highest rate of increase was in the arrears of rent,
and where the master, in crushed hat and corduroys, looked pitiably lean
and care-worn by the side of pauper laborers, who showed that superior
assimilating power often observed to attend nourishment by the public
money. Mr. Goffe, of Rabbit's End, had never had it explained to him
that, according to the true theory of rent, land must inevitably be
given up when it would not yield a profit equal to the ordinary rate of
interest; so that from want of knowing what was inevitable, and not from
a Titanic spirit of opposition, he kept on his land. He often said to
himself, with a melancholy wipe of his sleeve across his brow, that he
"didn't know which-a-way to turn"; and he would have been still more at
a loss on the subject if he had quitted Rabbit's End with a wagonful of
furniture and utensils, a file of receipts, a wife with five children,
and a shepherd dog in low spirits.

It took no long time for Harold Transome to discover this state of
things, and to see, moreover, that, except on the demesne immediately
around the house, the timber had been mismanaged. The woods had been
recklessly thinned, and there had been insufficient planting. He had not
yet thoroughly investigated the various accounts kept by his mother, by
Jermyn, and by Banks the bailiff; but what had been done with the large
sums which had been received for timber was a suspicious mystery to him.
He observed that the farm held by Jermyn was in first-rate order, that a
good deal had been spent on the buildings, and that the rent had stood
unpaid. Mrs. Transome had taken an opportunity of saying that Jermyn had
had some of the mortgage deeds transferred to him, and that his rent was
set against so much interest. Harold had only said, in his careless yet
decisive way, "Oh, Jermyn be hanged! It seems to me if Durfey hadn't
died and made room for me, Jermyn would have ended by coming to live
here, and you would have had to keep the lodge and open the gate for his
carriage. But I shall pay him off--mortgages and all--by-and-by. I'll
owe him nothing--not even a curse!" Mrs. Transome said no more. Harold
did not care to enter fully into the subject with his mother. The fact
that she had been active in the management of the estate--had ridden
about it continually, had busied herself with accounts, had been
head-bailiff of the vacant farms, and had yet allowed things to go
wrong--was set down by him simply to the general futility of women's
attempts to transact men's business. He did not want to say anything to
annoy her: he was only determined to let her understand, as quietly as
possible, that she had better cease all interference.

Mrs. Transome did understand this; and it was very little that she dared
to say on business, though there was a fierce struggle of her anger and
pride with a dread which was nevertheless supreme. As to the old
tenants, she only observed, on hearing Harold burst forth about their
wretched condition, "that with the estate so burdened, the yearly loss
by arrears could better be borne than the outlay and sacrifice necessary
in order to let the farms anew."

"I was really capable of calculating, Harold," she ended, with a touch
of bitterness. "It seems easy to deal with farmers and their affairs
when you only see them in print, I dare say; but it's not quite so easy
when you live among them. You have only to look at Sir Maximus's estate:
you will see plenty of the same thing. The times have been dreadful and
old families like to keep their old tenants. But I dare say that is
Toryism."

"It's a hash of odds and ends, if that is Toryism, my dear mother.
However, I wish you had kept three more old tenants; for then I should
have had three more fifty-pound voters. And, in a hard run, one may be
beaten by a head. But," Harold added, smiling and handing her a ball of
worsted which had fallen, "a woman ought to be a Tory, and graceful, and
handsome, like you. I should hate a woman who took up my opinions and
talked for me. I'm an Oriental, you know. I say, mother, shall we have
this room furnished with rose-color? I notice that it suits your bright
gray hair."

Harold thought it was only natural that his mother should have been in a
sort of subjection to Jermyn throughout the awkward circumstances of the
family. It was the way of women, and all weak minds, to think that what
they had been used to was unalterable, and any quarrel with a man who
managed private affairs was necessarily a formidable thing. He himself
was proceeding very cautiously, and preferred not even to know too much
just at present, lest a certain personal antipathy he was conscious of
toward Jermyn, and an occasional liability to exasperation, should get
the better of a calm and clear-sighted resolve not to quarrel with the
man while he could be of use. Harold would have been disgusted with
himself if he had helped to frustrate his own purpose. And his strongest
purpose now was to get returned for Parliament, to make a figure there
as a Liberal member, and to become on all grounds a personage of weight
in North Loamshire.

How Howard Transome came to be a Liberal in opposition to all the
traditions of his family, was a more subtle enquiry than he had ever
cared to follow out. The newspapers undertook to explain it. The _North
Loamshire Herald_ witnessed with a grief and disgust certain to be
shared by all persons who were actuated by wholesome British feeling, an
example of defection in the inheritor of a family name which in times
past had been associated with attachment to right principle, and with
the maintenance of our constitution in Church and State; and pointed to
it as an additional proof that men who had passed any large portion of
their lives beyond the limits of our favored country, usually contracted
not only a laxity of feeling toward Protestantism, nay, toward religion
itself--a latitudinarian spirit hardly distinguishable from atheism--but
also a levity of disposition, inducing them to tamper with those
institutions by which alone Great Britain had risen to her pre-eminence
among the nations. Such men, infected with outlandish habits,
intoxicated with vanity, grasping at momentary power by flattery of the
multitude, fearless because godless, Liberal because un-English, were
ready to pull one stone from under another in the national edifice, till
the great structure tottered to its fall. On the other hand, the
_Duffield Watchman_ saw in this signal instance of self-liberation from
the trammels of prejudice, a decisive guarantee of intellectual
pre-eminence, united with a generous sensibility to the claims of man as
man, which had burst asunder, and cast off, by a spontaneous exertion of
energy, the cramping out-worn shell of hereditary bias and class
interest.

But these large-minded guides of public opinion argued from wider data
than could be furnished by any knowledge of the particular case
concerned. Harold Transome was neither the dissolute cosmopolitan so
vigorously sketched by the Tory _Herald_, nor the intellectual giant and
moral lobster suggested by the Liberal imagination of the _Watchman_.
Twenty years ago he had been a bright, active, good-tempered lad, with
sharp eyes and a good aim; he delighted in success and in predominance;
but he did not long for an impossible predominance, and become sour and
sulky because it was impossible. He played at the games he was clever
in, and usually won; all other games he let alone, and thought them of
little worth. At home and at Eton he had been side by side with his
stupid elder brother Durfey, whom he despised; and he very early began
to reflect that since this Caliban in miniature was older than himself,
he must carve out his own fortune. That was a nuisance; and on the whole
the world seemed rather ill-arranged, at Eton especially, where there
were many reasons why Harold made no great figure. He was not sorry the
money was wanting to send him to Oxford; he did not see the good of
Oxford; he had been surrounded by many things during his short life, of
which he had distinctly said to himself that he did not see the good,
and he was not disposed to venerate on the strength of any good that
others saw. He turned his back on home very cheerfully, though he was
rather fond of his mother, and very fond of Transome Court, and the
river where he had been used to fish; but he said to himself as he
passed the lodge-gates, "I'll get rich somehow, and have an estate of my
own, and do what I like with it." This determined aiming at something
not easy but clearly possible, marked the direction in which Harold's
nature was strong; he had the energetic will and muscle, the
self-confidence, the quick perception, and the narrow imagination which
make what is admiringly called the practical mind.

Since then his character had been ripened by a various experience, and
also by much knowledge which he had set himself deliberately to gain.
But the man was no more than the boy writ large, with an extensive
commentary. The years had nourished an inclination to as much opposition
as would enable him to assert his own independence and power without
throwing himself into that tabooed condition which robs power of its
triumph. And this inclination had helped his shrewdness in forming
judgments which were at once innovating and moderate. He was addicted at
once to rebellion and to conformity, and only an intimate personal
knowledge could enable any one to predict where his conformity would
begin. The limit was not defined by theory, but was drawn in an
irregular zigzag by early disposition and association; and his
resolution, of which he had never lost hold, to be a thorough Englishman
again some day, had kept up the habit of considering all his conclusions
with reference to English politics and English social conditions. He
meant to stand up for every change that the economical condition of the
country required, and he had an angry contempt for men with coronets on
their coaches, but too small a share of brains to see when they had
better make a virtue of necessity. His respect was rather for men who
had no coronets, but who achieved a just influence by furthering all
measures which the common-sense of the country, and the increasing
self-assertion of the majority, peremptorily demanded. He could be such
a man himself.

In fact Harold Transome was a clever, frank, good-natured egoist; not
stringently consistent, but without any disposition to falsity; but with
a pride that was moulded in an individual rather than an hereditary
form; unspeculative, unsentimental, unsympathetic; fond of sensual
pleasures, but disinclined to all vice, and attached as a healthy,
clear-sighted person, to all conventional morality, construed with a
certain freedom, like doctrinal articles to which the public order may
require subscription. A character is apt to look but indifferently,
written out in this way. Reduced to a map, our premises seem
insignificant, but they make, nevertheless, a very pretty freehold to
live in and walk over; and so, if Harold Transome had been among your
acquaintances, and you had observed his qualities through the medium of
his agreeable person, bright smile, and a certain easy charm which
accompanies sensuousness when unsullied by coarseness--through the
medium also of the many opportunities in which he would have made
himself useful or pleasant to you--you would have thought him a good
fellow, highly acceptable as a guest, a colleague, or a brother-in-law.
Whether all mothers would have liked him as a son is another question.

It is a fact perhaps kept a little too much in the background, that
mothers have a self larger than their maternity, and that when their
sons have become taller than themselves, and are gone from them to
college or into the world, there are wide spaces of their time which are
not filled with praying for their boys, reading old letters, and envying
yet blessing those who are attending to their shirt-buttons. Mrs.
Transome was certainly not one of those bland, adoring, and gently
tearful women. After sharing the common dream that when a beautiful
man-child was born to her, her cup of happiness would be full, she had
travelled through long years apart from that child to find herself at
last in the presence of a son of whom she was afraid, who was utterly
unmanageable by her, and to whose sentiments in any given case she
possessed no key. Yet Harold was a kind son: he kissed his mother's
brow, offered her his arm, let her choose what she liked for the house
and garden, asked her whether she would have bays or grays for her new
carriage, and was bent on seeing her make as good a figure in the
neighborhood as any other woman of her rank. She trembled under this
kindness: it was not enough to satisfy her; still, if it should ever
cease and give place to something else--she was too uncertain about
Harold's feelings to imagine clearly what that something would be. The
finest threads, such as no eye sees, if bound cunningly about the
sensitive flesh, so that the movement to break them would bring torture,
may make a worse bondage than any fetters. Mrs. Transome felt the fatal
thread about her, and the bitterness of this helpless bondage mingled
itself with the new elegancies of the dining and drawing-rooms, and all
the household changes which Harold had ordered to be brought about with
magical quickness. Nothing was as she had once expected it would be. If
Harold had shown the least care to have her stay in the room with
him--if he had really cared for her opinion--if he had been what she had
dreamed he would be in the eyes of those people who had made her
world--if all the past could be dissolved, and leave no solid trace of
itself--mighty _ifs_ that were all impossible--she would have tasted
some joy; but now she began to look back with regret to the days when
she sat in loneliness among the old drapery, and still longed for
something that might happen. Yet, save in a bitter little speech, or in
a deep sigh, heard by no one besides Denner, she kept all these things
hidden in her heart, and went out in the autumn sunshine to overlook the
alterations in the pleasure-grounds very much as a happy woman might
have done. One day, however, when she was occupied in this way, an
occasion came on which she chose to express indirectly a part of her
inward care.

She was standing on the broad gravel in the afternoon; the long shadows
lay on the grass; the light seemed the more glorious because of the
reddened and golden trees. The gardeners were busy at their pleasant
work; the newly-turned soil gave out an agreeable fragrance; and little
Harry was playing with Nimrod round old Mr. Transome, who sat placidly
on a low garden-chair. The scene would have made a charming picture of
English domestic life, and the handsome, majestic, gray-haired woman
(obviously grandmamma) would have been especially admired. But the
artist would have felt it requisite to turn her face toward her husband
and little grandson, and to have given her an elderly amiability of
expression which would have divided remark with his exquisite rendering
of her Indian shawl. Mrs. Transome's face was turned the other way, and
for this reason she only heard an approaching step, and did not see
whose it was; yet it startled her: it was not quick enough to be her
son's step, and besides, Harold was away at Duffield. It was Mr.
Jermyn's.



CHAPTER IX.

    "A woman naturally born to fears."--_King John._

                                     "Methinks,
    Some unborn sorrow, ripe in fortune's womb,
    Is coming toward me; and my inward soul
    With nothing trembles."--_King Richard II._


Matthew Jermyn approached Mrs. Transome taking off his hat and smiling.
She did not smile, but said--

"You knew Harold was not at home?"

"Yes; I came to see you, to know if you had any wishes that I could
further, since I have not had an opportunity of consulting you since he
came home."

"Let us walk toward the Rookery, then."

They turned together, Mr. Jermyn still keeping his hat off and holding
it behind him; the air was so soft and agreeable that Mrs. Transome had
nothing but a large veil over her head.

They walked for a little while in silence till they were out of sight,
under tall trees, and treading noiselessly on falling leaves. What
Jermyn was really most anxious about, was to learn from Mrs. Transome
whether anything had transpired that was significant of Harold's
disposition toward him, which he suspected to be very far from friendly.
Jermyn was not naturally flinty-hearted: at five-and-twenty he had
written verses, and had got himself wet through in order not to
disappoint a dark-eyed woman whom he was proud to believe in love with
him; but a family man with grown up sons and daughters, a man with a
professional position and complicated affairs that make it hard to
ascertain the exact relation between property and liabilities,
necessarily thinks of himself and what may be impending.

"Harold is remarkably acute and clever," he began at last, since Mrs.
Transome did not speak. "If he gets into Parliament, I have no doubt he
will distinguish himself. He has a quick eye for business of all kinds."

"That is no comfort to me," said Mrs. Transome. To-day she was more
conscious than usual of that bitterness which was always in her mind in
Jermyn's presence, but which was carefully suppressed:--suppressed
because she could not endure that the degradation she inwardly felt
should ever become visible or audible in acts or words of her
own--should ever be reflected in any word or look of his. For years
there had been a deep silence about the past between them; on her side
because she remembered; on his, because he more and more forgot.

"I trust he is not unkind to you in any way. I know his opinions pain
you; but I trust you find him in everything else disposed to be a good
son."

"Oh, to be sure--good as men are disposed to be to women, giving them
cushions and carriages, and recommending them to enjoy themselves, and
then expecting them to be contented under contempt and neglect. I have
no power over him--remember that--none."

Jermyn turned to look in Mrs. Transome's face: it was long since he had
heard her speak to him as if she were losing her self-command.

"Has he shown any unpleasant feeling about your management of affairs?"

"_My_ management!" Mrs. Transome said, with concentrated rage, flashing
a fierce look at Jermyn. She checked herself: she felt as if she were
lighting a torch to flare on her own past folly and misery. It was a
resolve which had become a habit, that she would never quarrel with this
man--never tell him what she saw him to be. She had kept her woman's
pride and sensibility intact: through all her life there had vibrated
the maiden need to have her hand kissed and be the object of chivalry.
And so she sank into silence again, trembling.

Jermyn felt annoyed--nothing more. There was nothing in his mind
corresponding to the intricate meshes of sensitiveness in Mrs.
Transome's. He was anything but stupid; yet he always blundered when he
wanted to be delicate or magnanimous; he constantly sought to soothe
others by praising himself. Moral vulgarity cleaved to him like an
hereditary odor. He blundered now.

"My dear Mrs. Transome," he said, in a tone of bland kindness, "you are
agitated--you appear angry with me. Yet I think, if you consider, you
will see that you have nothing to complain of in me, unless you will
complain of the inevitable course of man's life. I have always met your
wishes both in happy circumstances and in unhappy ones. I should be
ready to do so now, if it were possible."

Every sentence was as pleasant to her as if it had been cut in her bared
arm. Some men's kindness and love-making are more exasperating, more
humiliating than others' derision; but the pitiable woman who has once
made herself secretly dependent on a man who is beneath her in feeling,
must bear that humiliation for fear of worse. Coarse kindness is at
least better than coarse anger; and in all private quarrels the duller
nature is triumphant by reason of its dullness. Mrs. Transome knew in
her inmost soul that those relations which had sealed her lips on
Jermyn's conduct in business matters, had been with him a ground for
presuming that he should have impunity in any lax dealing into which
circumstances had led him. She knew that she herself had endured all the
more privation because of his dishonest selfishness. And now, Harold's
long-deferred heirship, and his return with startlingly unexpected
penetration, activity, and assertion of mastery, had placed them both in
the full presence of a difficulty which had been prepared by the years
of vague uncertainty as to issues. In this position, with a great dread
hanging over her, which Jermyn knew, and ought to have felt that he had
caused her, she was inclined to lash him with indignation, to scorch him
with the words that were just the fit names for his doings--inclined all
the more when he spoke with an insolent blandness, ignoring all that was
truly in her heart. But no sooner did the words "You have brought it on
me" rise within her than she heard within also the retort, "You brought
it on yourself." Not for all the world beside could she bear to hear
that retort uttered from without. What did she do? With strange sequence
to all that rapid tumult, after a few moments' silence she said--

"Let me take your arm."

He gave it immediately, putting on his hat and wondering. For more than
twenty years Mrs. Transome had never chosen to take his arm.

"I have but one thing to ask. Make me a promise."

"What is it?"

"That you will never quarrel with Harold."

"You must know that it is my wish not to quarrel with him."

"But make a vow--fix it in your mind as a thing not to be done. Bear
anything from him rather than quarrel with him."

"A man can't make a vow not to quarrel," said Jermyn, who was already a
little irritated by the implication that Harold might be disposed to use
him roughly. "A man's temper may get the better of him at any moment. I
am not prepared to bear _anything_."

"Good God!" said Mrs. Transome, taking her hand from his arm, "is it
possible you don't feel how horrible it would be?"

As she took away her hand, Jermyn let his arm fall, put both his hands
in his pockets, and shrugging his shoulders said, "I shall use him as he
uses me."

Jermyn had turned round his savage side, and the blandness was out of
sight. It was this that had always frightened Mrs. Transome: there was a
possibility of fierce insolence in this man who was to pass with those
nearest to her as her indebted servant, but whose brand she secretly
bore. She was as powerless with him as she was with her own son.

This woman, who loved rule, dared not speak another word of attempted
persuasion. They were both silent, taking the nearest way into the
sunshine again. There was a half-formed wish in both their minds--even
in the mother's--that Harold Transome had never been born.

"We are working hard for the election," said Jermyn, recovering
himself, as they turned into the sunshine again. "I think we shall get
him returned, and in that case he will be in high good-humor. Everything
will be more propitious than you are apt to think. You must persuade
yourself," he added, smiling at her, "that it is better for a man of his
position to be in Parliament on the wrong side than not to be in at
all."

"Never," said Mrs. Transome. "I am too old to learn to call bitter sweet
and sweet bitter. But what I may think or feel is of no consequence now.
I am as unnecessary as a chimney ornament."

And in this way they parted on the gravel, in that pretty scene where
they had met. Mrs. Transome shivered as she stood alone: all around her,
where there had once been brightness and warmth, there were white ashes,
and the sunshine looked dreary as it fell on them.

Mr. Jermyn's heaviest reflections in riding homeward turned on the
possibility of incidents between himself and Harold Transome which would
have disagreeable results, requiring him to raise money, and perhaps
causing scandal, which in its way might also help to create a monetary
deficit. A man of sixty, with a wife whose Duffield connections were of
the highest respectability, with a family of tall daughters, an
expensive establishment, and a large professional business, owed a great
deal more to himself as the mainstay of all those solidities, than to
feelings and ideas which were quite unsubstantial. There were many
unfortunate coincidences which placed Mr. Jermyn in an uncomfortable
position just now; he had not been much to blame, he considered; if it
had not been for a sudden turn of affairs no one would have complained.
He defied any man to say that he had intended to wrong people; he was
able to refund, to make reprisals, if they could be fairly demanded.
Only he would certainly have preferred that they should not be demanded.

A German poet was entrusted with a particularly fine sausage, which he
was to convey to the donor's friend at Paris. In the course of a long
journey he smelled the sausage; he got hungry, and desired to taste it;
he pared a morsel off, then another, and another, in successive moments
of temptation, till at last the sausage was, humanly speaking, at an
end. The offence had not been premeditated. The poet had never loved
meanness, but he loved sausage; and the result was undeniably awkward.

So it was with Matthew Jermyn. He was far from liking that ugly
abstraction rascality, but he had liked other things which had suggested
nibbling. He had to do many things in law and in daily life which, in
the abstract, he would have condemned; and indeed he had never been
tempted by them in the abstract. Here, in fact, was the inconvenience:
he had sinned for the sake of particular concrete things, and particular
concrete consequences were likely to follow.

But he was a man of resolution, who, having made out what was the best
course to take under a difficulty, went straight to his work. The
election must be won: that would put Harold in good-humor, give him
something to do, and leave himself more time to prepare for any crisis.

He was in anything but low spirits that evening. It was his eldest
daughter's birthday, and the young people had a dance. Papa was
delightful--stood up for a quadrille and a country-dance, told stories
at supper, and made humorous quotations from his early readings: if
these were Latin, he apologized, and translated to the ladies; so that a
deaf lady-visitor from Duffield kept her trumpet up continually, lest
she should lose any of Mr. Jermyn's conversation, and wished that her
niece Maria had been present, who was young and had a good memory.

Still the party was smaller than usual, for some families in Treby
refused to visit Jermyn, now that he was concerned for a Radical
candidate.



CHAPTER X.

    "He made love neither with roses, nor with apples, nor with locks
    of hair."--THEOCRITUS.


One Sunday afternoon Felix Holt rapped at the door of Mr. Lyon's house,
although he could hear the voice of the minister preaching in the
chapel. He stood with a book under his arm, apparently confident that
there was someone in the house to open the door for him. In fact, Esther
never went to chapel in the afternoon: that "exercise" made her head
ache.

In these September weeks Felix had got rather intimate with Mr. Lyon.
They shared the same political sympathies; and though, to Liberals who
had neither freehold nor copyhold nor leasehold, the share in a county
election consisted chiefly of that prescriptive amusement of the
majority known as "looking on," there was still something to be said on
the occasion, if not to be done. Perhaps the most delightful friendships
are those in which there is much agreement, much disputation, and yet
more personal liking; and the advent of the public-spirited,
contradictory, yet affectionate Felix, into Treby life, had made a
welcome epoch to the minister. To talk with this young man, who, though
hopeful, had a singularity which some might at once have pronounced
heresy, but which Mr. Lyon persisted in regarding as orthodoxy "in the
making," was like a good bite to strong teeth after a too plentiful
allowance of spoon meat. To cultivate his society with a view to
checking his erratic tendencies was a laudable purpose; but perhaps if
Felix had been rapidly subdued and reduced to conformity, little Mr.
Lyon would have found the conversation much flatter.

Esther had not seen so much of their new acquaintance as her father had.
But she had begun to find him amusing, and also rather irritating to her
woman's love of conquest. He always opposed and criticised her; and
besides that, he looked at her as if he never saw a single detail about
her person--quite as if she were a middle-aged woman in a cap. She did
not believe that he had ever admired her hands, or her long neck, or her
graceful movements, which had made all the girls at school call her
Calypso (doubtless from their familiarity with "Telémaque"). Felix ought
properly to have been a little in love with her--never mentioning it, of
course, because that would have been disagreeable, and his being a
regular lover was out of the question. But it was quite clear that,
instead of feeling any disadvantage on his own side, he held himself to
be immeasurably her superior: and, what was worse, Esther had a secret
consciousness that he was her superior. She was all the more vexed at
the suspicion that he thought slightly of her; and wished in her
vexation that she could have found more fault with him--that she had not
been obliged to admire more and more the varying expressions of his open
face and his deliciously good-humored laugh, always loud at a joke
against himself. Besides, she could not help having her curiosity roused
by the unusual combinations both in his mind and in his outward
position, and she had surprised herself as well as her father one day by
suddenly starting up and proposing to walk with him when he was going to
pay an afternoon visit to Mrs. Holt, to try and soothe her concerning
Felix. "What a mother he has!" she said to herself when they came away
again; "but, rude and queer as he is, I cannot say there is anything
vulgar about him. Yet--I don't know--if I saw him by the side of a
finished gentleman." Esther wished that finished gentleman were among
her acquaintances: he would certainly admire her, and make her aware of
Felix's inferiority.

On this particular Sunday afternoon, when she heard the knock at the
door, she was seated in the kitchen corner between the fire and the
window reading "Réné." Certainly in her well-fitting light-blue
dress--she almost always wore some shade of blue--with her delicate
sandaled slipper stretched toward the fire, her little gold watch, which
had cost her nearly a quarter's earnings, visible at her side, her
slender fingers playing with a shower of brown curls, and a coronet of
shining plaits, at the summit of her head, she was a remarkable
Cinderella. When the rap came, she colored, and was going to shut her
book and put it out of the way on the window ledge behind her; but she
desisted with a little toss, laid it open on the table beside her, and
walked to the outer door, which opened into the kitchen. There was
rather a mischievous gleam in her face: the rap was not a small one; it
came probably from a large personage with a vigorous arm.

"Good afternoon, Miss Lyon," said Felix, taking off his cloth cap: he
resolutely declined the expensive ugliness of a hat, and in a poked cap
and without a cravat, made a figure at which his mother cried every
Sunday, and thought of with a slow shake of the head at several passages
in the minister's prayer.

"Dear me, it is you, Mr. Holt! I fear you will have to wait some time
before you can see my father. The sermon is not ended yet, and there
will be the hymn and the prayer, and perhaps other things to detain
him."

"Well, will you let me sit down in the kitchen? I don't want to be a
bore."

"Oh, no," said Esther, with her pretty light laugh, "I always give you
credit for not meaning it. Pray come in, if you don't mind waiting. I
was sitting in the kitchen: the kettle is singing quite prettily. It is
much nicer than the parlor--not half so ugly."

"There I agree with you."

"How very extraordinary! But if you prefer the kitchen, and don't want
to sit with me, I can go into the parlor."

"I came on purpose to sit with you," said Felix, in his blunt way, "but
I thought it likely you might be vexed at seeing me. I wanted to talk to
you, but I've got nothing pleasant to say. As your father would have it,
I'm not given to prophesy smooth things--to prophesy deceit."

"I understand," said Esther, sitting down. "Pray be seated. You thought
I had no afternoon sermon, so you came to give me one."

"Yes," said Felix, seating himself sideways in a chair not far off her,
and leaning over the back to look at her with his large, clear, gray
eyes, "and my text is something you said the other day. You said you
didn't mind about people having right opinions so that they had good
taste. Now I want you to see what shallow stuff that is."

"Oh, I don't doubt it if you say so. I know you are a person of right
opinions."

"But by opinions you mean men's thoughts about great subjects, and by
taste you mean their thoughts about small ones: dress, behavior,
amusements, ornaments."

"Well--yes--or rather, their sensibilities about those things."

"It comes to the same thing; thoughts, opinions, knowledge, are only a
sensibility to facts and ideas. If I understand a geometrical problem,
it is because I have a sensibility to the way in which lines and figures
are related to each other; and I want you to see that the creature who
has the sensibilities that you call taste, and not the sensibilities
that you call opinions, is simply a lower, pettier sort of thing--an
insect that notices the shaking of the table, but never notices the
thunder."

"Very well, I am an insect; yet I notice that you are thundering at me."

"No, you are not an insect. That is what exasperates me at your making a
boast of littleness. You have enough understanding to make it wicked
that you should add one more to the women who hinder men's lives from
having any nobleness in them."

Esther colored deeply: she resented this speech, yet she disliked it
less than many Felix had addressed to her.

"What is my horrible guilt?" she said, rising and standing, as she was
wont, with one foot on the fender, and looking at the fire. If it had
been any one but Felix who was near her, it might have occurred to her
that this attitude showed her to advantage; but she had only a mortified
sense that he was quite indifferent to what others praised her for.

"Why do you read this mawkish stuff on a Sunday, for example?" he said,
snatching up "Réné," and running his eye over the pages.

"Why don't you always go to chapel, Mr. Holt, and read Howe's 'Living
Temple,' and join the church?"

"There's just the difference between us--I know why I don't do those
things. I distinctly see that I can do something better. I have other
principles, and should sink myself by doing what I don't recognize as
the best."

"I understand," said Esther, as lightly as she could, to conceal her
bitterness. "I am a lower kind of being, and could not so easily sink
myself."

"Not by entering into your father's ideas. If a woman really believes
herself to be a lower kind of being, she should place herself in
subjection: she should be ruled by the thoughts of her father or
husband. If not, let her show her power of choosing something better.
You must know that your father's principles are greater and worthier
than what guides your life. You have no reason but idle fancy and
selfish inclination for shirking his teaching and giving your soul up to
trifles."

"You are kind enough to say so. But I am not aware that I have ever
confided my reasons to you."

"Why, what worth calling a reason could make any mortal hang over this
trash?--idiotic immorality dressed up to look fine, with a little bit of
doctrine tacked to it, like a hare's foot on a dish, to make believe the
mess is not cat's flesh. Look here! 'Est-ce ma faute, si je trouve
partout les bornes, si ce qui est fini n'a pour moi aucune valeur?' Yes,
sir, distinctly your fault, because you're an ass. Your dunce who can't
do his sums always has a taste for the infinite. Sir, do you know what a
rhomboid is? Oh, no, I don't value these things with limits. 'Cependant,
j'aime la monotonie des sentimens de la vie, et si j'avais encore la
folie de croire au bonheur----'"

"Oh, pray, Mr. Holt, don't go on reading with that dreadful accent; it
sets one's teeth on edge." Esther, smarting helplessly under the
previous lashes, was relieved by this diversion of criticism.

"There it is!" said Felix, throwing the book on the table, and getting
up to walk about. "You are only happy when you can spy a tag or a tassel
loose to turn the talk, and get rid of any judgment that must carry
grave action after it."

"I think I have borne a great deal of talk without turning it."

"Not enough, Miss Lyon--not all that I came to say. I want you to
change. Of course I am a brute to say so. I ought to say you are
perfect. Another man would, perhaps. But I say I want you to change."

"How am I to oblige you? By joining the Church?"

"No; but by asking yourself whether life is not as solemn a thing as
your father takes it to be--in which you may be either a blessing or a
curse to many. You know you have never done that. You don't care to be
better than a bird trimming its feathers, and pecking about after what
pleases it. You are discontented with the world because you can't get
just the small things that suit your pleasure, not because it's a world
where myriads of men and women are ground by wrong and misery, and
tainted with pollution."

Esther felt her heart swelling with mingled indignation at this liberty,
wounded pride at this depreciation, and acute consciousness that she
could not contradict what Felix said. He was outrageously ill-bred; but
she felt that she should be lowering herself by telling him so, and
manifesting her anger; in that way she would be confirming his
accusation of a littleness that shrank from severe truth; and, besides,
through all her mortification there pierced a sense that this
exasperation of Felix against her was more complimentary than anything
in his previous behavior. She had self-command enough to speak with her
usual silvery voice.

"Pray go on, Mr. Holt. Relieve yourself of these burning truths. I am
sure they must be troublesome to carry unuttered."

"Yes, they are," said Felix, pausing, and standing not far off her. "I
can't bear to see you going the way of the foolish women who spoil men's
lives. Men can't help loving them, and so they make themselves slaves to
the petty desires of petty creatures. That's the way those who might do
better spend their lives for nought--get checked in every great
effort--toil with brain and limb for things that have no more to do with
a manly life than tarts and confectionery. That's what makes women a
curse; and life is stunted to suit their littleness. That's why I'll
never love, if I can help it; and if I love, I'll bear it, and never
marry."

The tumult of feeling in Esther's mind--mortification, anger, the sense
of a terrible power over her that Felix seemed to have as his angry
words vibrated through her--was getting almost too much for her
self-control. She felt her lips quivering; but her pride, which feared
nothing so much as the betrayal of her emotion, helped her to a
desperate effort. She pinched her own hand hard to overcome her tremor,
and said, in a tone of scorn--

"I ought to be very much obliged to you for giving me your confidence so
freely."

"Ah! now you are offended with me, and disgusted with me. I expected it
would be so. A woman doesn't like a man who tells her the truth."

"I think you boast a little too much of your truth-telling, Mr. Holt,"
said Esther, flashing out at last. "That virtue is apt to be easy to
people when they only wound others and not themselves. Telling the truth
often means no more than taking a liberty."

"Yes, I suppose I should have been taking a liberty if I had tried to
drag you back by the skirt when I saw you running into a pit."

"You should really found a sect. Preaching is your vocation. It is a
pity you should ever have an audience of only one."

"I see I have made a fool of myself. I thought you had a more generous
mind--that you might be kindled to a better ambition. But I've set your
vanity aflame--nothing else. I'm going. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Esther, not looking at him. He did not open the door
immediately. He seemed to be adjusting his cap and pulling it down.
Esther longed to be able to throw a lasso round him and compel him to
stay, that she might say what she chose to him; her very anger made this
departure irritating, especially as he had the last word, and that a
very bitter one. But soon the latch was lifted and the door closed
behind him. She ran up to her bedroom and burst into tears. Poor maiden!
There was a strange contradiction of impulses in her mind in those first
moments. She could not bear that Felix should not respect her, yet she
could not bear that he should see her bend before his denunciation. She
revolted against his assumption of superiority, yet she felt herself in
a new kind of subjection to him. He was ill-bred, he was rude, he had
taken an unwarrantable liberty; yet his indignant words were a tribute
to her: he thought she was worth more pains than the women of whom he
took no notice. It was excessively impertinent in him to tell her of his
resolving not to love--not to marry--as if she cared about that; as if
he thought himself likely to inspire an affection that would incline any
woman to marry him after such eccentric steps as he had taken. Had he
ever for a moment imagined that she had thought of him in the light of a
man who would make love to her?----But did he love her one little bit,
and was that the reason why he wanted her to change? Esther felt less
angry at that form of freedom; though she was quite sure that she did
not love him, and that she could never love any one who was so much of a
pedagogue and master, to say nothing of his oddities. But he wanted her
to change. For the first time in her life Esther felt herself seriously
shaken in her self-contentment. She knew there was a mind to which she
appeared trivial, narrow, selfish. Every word Felix had said to her
seemed to have burned itself into her memory. She felt as if she should
forevermore be haunted by self-criticism, and never do anything to
satisfy those fancies on which she had simply piqued herself before
without being dogged by inward questions. Her father's desire for her
conversion had never moved her; she saw that he adored her all the
while, and he never checked her unregenerate acts as if they degraded
her on earth, but only mourned over them as unfitting her for heaven.
Unfitness for heaven (spoken of as "Jerusalem" and "glory"), the prayers
of a good little father, whose thoughts and motives seemed to her like
the "Life of Dr. Doddridge," which she was content to leave unread, did
not attack her self-respect and self-satisfaction. But now she had been
stung--stung even into a new consciousness concerning her father. Was it
true that his life was so much worthier than her own? She could not
change for anything Felix said, but she told herself he was mistaken if
he supposed her incapable of generous thoughts.

She heard her father coming into the house. She dried her tears, tried
to recover herself hurriedly, and went down to him.

"You want your tea, father; how your forehead burns!" she said gently,
kissing his brow, and then putting her cool hand on it.

Mr. Lyon felt a little surprise; such spontaneous tenderness was not
quite common with her; it reminded him of her mother.

"My sweet child," he said gratefully, thinking with wonder of the
treasures still left in our fallen nature.



CHAPTER XI.

    Truth is the precious harvest of the earth.
    But once, when harvest waved upon a land,
    The noisome cankerworm and caterpillar,
    Locusts, and all the swarming foul-born broods,
    Fastened upon it with swift, greedy jaws,
    And turned the harvest into pestilence,
    Until men said, What profits it to sow?


Felix was going to Sproxton that Sunday afternoon. He always enjoyed his
walk to that outlying hamlet; it took him (by a short cut) through a
corner of Sir Maximus Debarry's park; then across a piece of common,
broken here and there into red ridges below dark masses of furze; and
for the rest of the way alongside of the canal, where the Sunday
peacefulness that seemed to rest on the bordering meadows and pastures
was hardly broken if a horse pulled into sight along the towing-path,
and a boat, with a little curl of blue smoke issuing from its tin
chimney, came slowly gliding behind. Felix retained something of his
boyish impression that the days in a canal-boat were all like Sundays;
but the horse, if it had been put to him, would probably have preferred
a more Judaic or Scotch rigor with regard to canal-boats, or at least
that the Sunday towing should be done by asses, as a lower order.

This canal was only a branch of the grand trunk, and ended among the
coal-pits, where Felix, crossing a network of black tram-roads, soon
came to his destination--that public institute of Sproxton, known to its
frequenters chiefly as Chubb's, but less familiarly as the Sugar Loaf,
or the New Pits; this last being the name for the more modern and lively
nucleus of the Sproxton hamlet. The other nucleus, known as the Old
Pits, also supported its "public," but it had something of the forlorn
air of an abandoned capital; and the company at the Blue Cow was of an
inferior kind--equal, of course, in the fundamental attributes of
humanity, such as desire for beer, but not equal in ability to pay for
it.

When Felix arrived, the great Chubb was standing at the door. Mr. Chubb
was a remarkable publican; none of your stock Bonifaces, red, bloated,
jolly, and joking. He was thin and sallow, and was never, as his
constant guests observed, seen to be the worse (or the better) for
liquor; indeed, as among soldiers an eminent general was held to have a
charmed life, Chubb was held by the members of the Benefit Club to have
a charmed sobriety, a vigilance over his own interest that resisted all
narcotics. His very dreams, as stated by himself, had a method in them
beyond the waking thoughts of other men. Pharaoh's dream, he observed,
was nothing to them; and, as lying so much out of ordinary experience,
they were held particularly suitable for narration on Sunday evenings,
when the listening colliers, well washed and in their best coats, shook
their heads with a sense of peculiar edification which belongs to the
inexplicable. Mr. Chubb's reasons for becoming landlord of the Sugar
Loaf, were founded on the severest calculation. Having an active mind,
and being averse to bodily labor, he had thoroughly considered what
calling would yield him the best livelihood with the least possible
exertion, and in that sort of line he had seen that a "public" amongst
miners who earned high wages was a fine opening. He had prospered
according to the merits of such judicious calculation, was already a
forty-shilling freeholder, and was conscious of a vote for the county.
He was not one of those mean-spirited men who found the franchise
embarrassing, and would rather have been without it: he regarded his
vote as part of his investment, and meant to make the best of it. He
called himself a straight-forward man, and at suitable moments expressed
his views freely; in fact, he was known to have one fundamental division
for all opinion--"my idee" and "humbug."

When Felix approached, Mr. Chubb was standing, as usual, with his hands
nervously busy in his pockets, his eyes glancing around with a detective
expression at the black landscape, and his lipless mouth compressed, yet
in constant movement. On a superficial view it might be supposed that so
eager-seeming a personality was unsuited to the publican's business; but
in fact, it was a great provocative to drinking. Like the shrill biting
talk of a vixenish wife, it would have compelled you to "take a little
something" by way of dulling your sensibility.

Hitherto, notwithstanding Felix drank so little ale, the publican
treated him with high civility. The coming election was a great
opportunity for applying his political "idee," which was, that society
existed for the sake of the individual, and that the name of that
individual was Chubb. Now, for a conjunction of absurd circumstances
inconsistent with that idea, it happened that Sproxton hereto had been
somewhat neglected in the canvass. The head member of the company that
worked the mines was Mr. Peter Garstin, and the same company received
the rent from the Sugar Loaf. Hence, as the person who had the most
power of annoying Mr. Chubb, and being of detriment to him, Mr. Garstin
was naturally the candidate for whom he had reserved his vote. But where
there is this intention of ultimately gratifying a gentleman by voting
for him in an open British manner on the day of the poll, a man, whether
Publican or Pharisee (Mr. Chubb used this generic classification of
mankind as one that was sanctioned by Scripture), is all the freer in
his relation with those deluded persons who take him for what he is not,
and imagine him to be a waverer. But for some time opportunity had
seemed barren. There were but three dubious votes besides Mr. Chubb's
in the small district of which the Sugar Loaf could be regarded as the
centre of intelligence and inspiration: the colliers, of course, had no
votes, and did not need political conversion; consequently, the
interests of Sproxton had only been tacitly cherished in the breasts of
candidates. But ever since it had been known that a Radical candidate
was in the field, that in consequence of this Mr. Debarry had coalesced
with Mr. Garstin, and that Sir James Clement, the poor baronet, had
retired, Mr. Chubb had been occupied with the most ingenious mental
combinations in order to ascertain what possibilities of profit to the
Sugar Loaf might lie in this altered state of the canvass.

He had a cousin in another county, also a publican, but in a larger way,
and resident in a borough, and from him Mr. Chubb had gathered more
detailed political information than he could find in the Loamshire
newspapers. He was now enlightened enough to know that there was a way
of using voteless miners and navvies at nominations and elections. He
approved of that; it entered into his political "idee"; and indeed he
would have been for extending the franchise to this class--at least in
Sproxton. If any one had observed that you must draw a line somewhere,
Mr. Chubb would have concurred at once, and would have given permission
to draw it at a radius of two miles from his own tap.

From the first Sunday evening when Felix had appeared at the Sugar Loaf,
Mr. Chubb had made up his mind that this 'cute man who kept himself
sober was an electioneering agent. That he was hired for some purpose or
other there was not a doubt; a man didn't come and drink nothing without
a good reason. In proportion as Felix's purpose was not obvious to
Chubb's mind, it must be deep; and this growing conviction had even led
the publican on the last Sunday evening privately to urge his mysterious
visitor to let a little ale be chalked up for him--it was of no
consequence. Felix knew his man, and had taken care not to betray too
soon that his real object was so to win the ear of the best fellows
about him as to induce them to meet him on a Saturday evening in the
room where Mr. Lyon, or one of his deacons, habitually held his
Wednesday preachings. Only women and children, three old men, a
journeyman tailor, and a consumptive youth, attended those preachings;
not a collier had been won from the strong ale of the Sugar Loaf, not
even a navvy from the muddier drink of the Blue Cow. Felix was sanguine;
he saw some pleasant faces among the miners when they were washed on
Sundays; they might be taught to spend their wages better. At all
events, he was going to try: he had great confidence in his powers of
appeal, and it was quite true that he never spoke without arresting
attention. There was nothing better than a dame school in the hamlet; he
thought that if he could move the fathers, whose blackened week-day
persons and flannel caps, ornamented with tallow candles by way of
plume, were a badge of hard labor, for which he had a more sympathetic
fibre than for any ribbon in the buttonhole--if he could move these men
to save something from their drink and pay a school-master for their
boys, a greater service would be done them than if Mr. Garstin and his
company were persuaded to establish a school.

"I'll lay hold of them by their fatherhood," said Felix; "I'll take one
of their little fellows and set him in the midst. Till they can show
there's something they love better than swilling themselves with ale,
extension of the suffrage can never mean anything for them but extension
of boozing. One must begin somewhere: I'll begin at what is under my
nose. I'll begin at Sproxton. That's what a man would do if he had a
red-hot superstition. Can't one work for sober truth as hard as for
megrims?"

Felix Holt had his illusions, like other young men, though they were not
of a fashionable sort; referring neither to the impression his costume
and horsemanship might make on beholders, nor to the ease with which he
would pay the Jews when he gave a loose to his talents and applied
himself to work. He had fixed his choice on a certain Mike Brindle (not
that Brindle was his real name--each collier had his _sobriquet_) as the
man whom he would induce to walk part of the way home with him this very
evening, and get to invite some of his comrades for the next Saturday.
Brindle was one of the head miners: he had a bright good-natured face,
and had given especial attention to certain performances with a magnet
which Felix carried in his pocket.

Mr. Chubb, who had also his illusions, smiled graciously as the
enigmatic customer came up to the door-step.

"Well, sir, Sunday seems to be your day: I begin to look for you on a
Sunday now."

"Yes, I'm a workingman; Sunday is my holiday," said Felix, pausing at
the door since the host seemed to expect this.

"Ah, sir, there's many ways of working. I look at it you're one of those
as work with your brains. That's what I do myself."

"One may do a good deal of that and work with one's hands too."

"Ah, sir," said Mr. Chubb, with a certain bitterness in his smile, "I've
that sort of head that I've often wished I was stupider. I use things
up, sir; I see into things a deal too quick. I eat my dinner, as you may
say, at breakfast-time. That's why I hardly ever smoke a pipe. No sooner
do I stick a pipe in my mouth than I puff and puff till it's gone before
other folks' are well lit; and then, where am I? I might as well have
let it alone. In this world it's better not to be too quick. But you
know what it is, sir."

"Not I," said Felix, rubbing the back of his head, with a grimace. "I
generally feel myself rather a blockhead. The world's a largish place,
and I haven't turned everything inside out yet."

"Ah, that's your deepness. I think we understand one another. And about
this here election, I lay two to one we should agree if we was to come
to talk about it."

"Ah!" said Felix, with an air of caution.

"You're none of a Tory, eh, sir? You won't go to vote for Debarry? That
was what I said at the very first go-off. Says I, he's no Tory. I think
I was right, sir--eh?"

"Certainly; I'm no Tory."

"No, no, you don't catch me wrong in a hurry. Well, between you and me,
I care no more for the Debarrys than I care for Johnny Groats. I live on
none o' their land, and not a pot's-worth did they ever send to the
Sugar Loaf. I'm not frightened at the Debarrys: there's no man more
independent than me. I'll plump or I'll split for them as treat me the
handsomest and are the most of what I call gentlemen; that's my idee.
And in the way of hatching for any man, them are fools that don't employ
me."

We mortals sometimes cut a pitiable figure in our attempts at display.
We may be sure of our own merits, yet fatally ignorant of the point of
view from which we are regarded by our neighbor. Our fine patterns in
tattooing may be far from throwing him into a swoon of admiration,
though we turn ourselves all round to show them. Thus it was with Mr.
Chubb.

"Yes," said Felix, dryly; "I should think there are some sorts of work
for which you are just fitted."

"Ah, you see that? Well, we understand one another. You're no Tory; no
more am I. And if I'd got four hands to show at a nomination, the
Debarrys shouldn't have one of 'em. My idee is, there's a deal too much
of their scutchins and their moniments in Treby Church. What's their
scutchins mean? They're a sign with little liquor behind 'em; that's how
I take it. There's nobody can give account of 'em as I ever heard."

Mr. Chubb was hindered from further explaining his views as to the
historical element in society by the arrival of new guests, who
approached in two groups. The foremost group consisted of well-known
colliers, in their good Sunday beavers and colored handkerchiefs serving
as cravats, with the long ends floating. The second group was a more
unusual one, and caused Mr. Chubb to compress his mouth and agitate the
muscles about it in rather an excited manner.

First came a smartly-dressed personage on horseback, with a conspicuous
expansive shirt-front and figured satin stock. He was a stout man, and
gave a strong sense of broadcloth. A wild idea shot through Mr. Chubb's
brain; could this grand visitor be Harold Transome? Excuse him: he had
been given to understand by his cousin from the distant borough that a
Radical candidate in the condescension of canvassing had even gone the
length of eating bread-and-treacle with the children of an honest
freeman, and declaring his preference for that simple fare. Mr. Chubb's
notion of a Radical was that he was a new and agreeable kind of
lick-spittle who fawned on the poor instead of on the rich, and so was
likely to send customers to a "public"; so that he argued well enough
from the premises at his command.

The mounted man of broadcloth had followers: several shabby-looking men,
and Sproxton boys of all sizes, whose curiosity had been stimulated by
unexpected largesse. A stranger on horseback scattering half-pence on a
Sunday was so unprecedented that there was no knowing what he might do
next; and the smallest hindmost fellows in sealskin caps were not
without hope that an entirely new order of things had set in.

Everyone waited outside for the stranger to dismount, and Mr. Chubb
advanced to take the bridle.

"Well, Mr. Chubb," were the first words when the great man was safely
out of the saddle, "I've often heard of your fine tap, and I'm come to
taste it."

"Walk in, sir--pray walk in," said Mr. Chubb, giving the horse to the
stable-boy. "I shall be proud to draw for you. If anybody's been
praising me, I think my ale will back him."

All entered in the rear of the stranger except the boys, who peeped in
at the window.

"Won't you please to walk into the parlor, sir," said Mr. Chubb,
obsequiously.

"No, no, I'll sit down here. This is what I like to see," said the
stranger, looking round at the colliers, who eyed him rather shyly--"a
bright hearth where workingmen can enjoy themselves. However, I'll step
into the other room for three minutes, just to speak half a dozen words
with you."

Mr. Chubb threw open the parlor door, and then stepping back, took the
opportunity of saying, in a low tone, to Felix, "Do you know this
gentleman?"

"Not I; no."

Mr. Chubb's opinion of Felix Holt sank from that moment. The parlor door
was closed, but no one sat down or ordered beer.

"I say, master," said Mike Brindle, going up to Felix, "don't you think
that's one o' the 'lection men?"

"Very likely."

"I heared a chap say they're up and down everywhere," said Brindle; "and
now's the time, they say, when a man can get beer for nothing."

"Ay, that's sin' the Reform," said a big, red-whiskered man, called
Dredge. "That's brought the 'lections and the drink into these parts;
for afore that, it was all kep' up the Lord knows wheer."

"Well, but the Reform's niver come anigh Sprox'on," said a gray-haired
but stalwart man called Old Sleck. "I don't believe nothing about'n, I
don't."

"Don't you?" said Brindle, with some contempt. "Well, I do. There's
folks won't believe beyond the end o' their own pickaxes. You can't
drive nothing into 'em, not if you split their skulls. I know for
certain sure, from a chap in the cartin' way, as he's got money and
drink too, only for hollering. Eh, master, what do _you_ say?" Brindle
ended, turning with some deference to Felix.

"Should you like to know all about the Reform?" said Felix, using his
opportunity. "If you would, I can tell you."

"Ay, ay--tell's; you know I'll be bound," said several voices at once.

"Ah, but it will take some little time. And we must be quiet. The
cleverest of you--those who are looked up to in the Club--must come and
meet me at Peggy Button's cottage next Saturday, at seven o'clock, after
dark. And, Brindle, you must bring that little yellow-haired lad of
yours. And anybody that's got a little boy--a very little fellow, who
won't understand what is said--may bring him. But you must keep it
close, you know. We don't want fools there. But everybody who hears me
may come. I shall be at Peggy Button's."

"Why, that's where the Wednesday preachin' is," said Dredge. "I've been
aforced to give my wife a black eye to hinder her from going to the
preachin'. Lors-a-massy, she thinks she knows better nor me, and I can't
make head nor tail of her talk."

"Why can't you let the woman alone?" said Brindle, with some disgust.
"I'd be ashamed to beat a poor crawling thing 'cause she likes
preaching."

"No more I did beat her afore, not if she scrat' me," said Dredge, in
vindication; "but if she jabbers at me, I can't abide it. Howsomever,
I'll bring my Jack to Peggy's o' Saturday. His mother shall wash him. He
is but four year old, and he'll swear and square at me a good un, if I
set him on."

"There you go blatherin'," said Brindle, intending a mild rebuke.

This dialogue, which was in danger of becoming too personal, was
interrupted by the reopening of the parlor door, and the reappearance of
the impressive stranger with Mr. Chubb, whose countenance seemed
unusually radiant.

"Sit you down here, Mr. Johnson," said Chubb, moving an arm-chair. "This
gentleman is kind enough to treat the company," he added, looking round,
"and what's more, he'll take a cup with 'em; and I think there's no man
but what'll say that's a honor."

The company had nothing equivalent to a "hear, hear," at command, but
they perhaps felt the more, as they seated themselves with an
expectation unvented by utterance. There was a general satisfactory
sense that the hitherto shadowy Reform had at length come to Sproxton in
a good round shape, with broadcloth and pockets. Felix did not intend to
accept the treating, but he chose to stay and hear, taking his pint as
usual.

"Capital ale, capital ale," said Mr. Johnson, as he set down his glass,
speaking in a quick, smooth treble. "Now," he went on, with a certain
pathos in his voice, looking at Mr. Chubb, who sat opposite, "there's
some satisfaction to me in finding an establishment like this at the
Pits. For what would higher wages do for the workingman if he couldn't
get a good article for his money? Why, gentlemen"--here he looked
round--"I've been into ale-houses where I've seen a fine fellow of a
miner or a stone-cutter come in and have to lay down money for beer that
I should be sorry to give to my pigs!" Here Mr. Johnson leaned forward
with squared elbows, hands placed on his knees, and a defiant shake of
the head.

"Aw, like at the Blue Cow," fell in the irrepressible Dredge, in a deep
bass; but he was rebuked by a severe nudge from Brindle.

"Yes, yes, you know what it is, my friend," said Mr. Johnson, looking at
Dredge, and restoring his self-satisfaction. "But it won't last much
longer, that's one good thing. Bad liquor will be swept away with other
bad articles. Trade will prosper--and what's trade now without steam?
and what is steam without coal? And mark you this, gentlemen--there's no
man and no government can make coal."

A loud "Haw, haw," showed that this fact was appreciated.

"Nor freeston', nayther," said a wide-mouthed wiry man called Gills, who
wished for an exhaustive treatment of the subject, being a stone-cutter.

"Nor freestone, as you say; else, I think, if coal could be made
above-ground, honest fellows who are the pith of our population would
not have to bend their backs and sweat in a pit six days out of the
seven. No, no; I say, as this country prospers it has more and more need
of you, sirs. It can do without a pack of lazy lords and ladies, but it
can never do without brave colliers. And the country _will_ prosper. I
pledge you my word, sirs, this country will rise to the tiptop of
everything, and there isn't a man in it but what shall have his joint in
the pot, and his spare money jingling in his pocket, if we only exert
ourselves to send the right men to Parliament--men who will speak up for
the collier, and the stone-cutter, and the navvy" (Mr. Johnson waved his
hand liberally), "and will stand no nonsense. This is a crisis, and we
must exert ourselves. We've got Reform, gentlemen, but now the thing is
to make Reform work. It's a crisis--I pledge you my word it's a crisis."

Mr. Johnson threw himself back as if from the concussion of that great
noun. He did not suppose that one of his audience knew what a crisis
meant; but he had large experience in the effect of uncomprehended
words; and in this case the colliers were thrown into a state of
conviction concerning they did not know what, which was a fine
preparation for "hitting out," or any other act carrying a due sequence
to such a conviction.

Felix felt himself in danger of getting into a rage. There is hardly any
mental misery worse than that of having our own serious phrases, our own
rooted beliefs, caricatured by a charlatan or a hireling. He began to
feel the sharp lower edge of his tin pint-measure, and to think it a
tempting missile.

Mr. Johnson certainly had some qualifications as an orator. After this
impressive pause he leaned forward again, and said, in a lowered tone,
looking round--

"I think you all know the good news."

There was a movement of shoe-soles on the quarried floor, and a scrape
of some chair legs, but no other answer.

"The good news I mean is, that a first-rate man, Mr. Transome, of
Transome Court, has offered himself to represent you in Parliament,
sirs. I say you in particular, for what he has at heart is the welfare
of the workingman--of the brave fellows that wield the pickaxe, and the
saw, and the hammer. He's rich--has more money than Garstin--but he
doesn't want to keep it to himself. What he wants is, to make a good use
of it, gentlemen. He's come back from foreign parts with his pockets
full of gold. He could buy up the Debarrys, if they were worth buying,
but he's got something better to do with his money. He means to use it
for the good of the workingmen in these parts. I know there are some men
who put up for Parliament and talk a little too big. They may say they
want to befriend the colliers, for example. But I should like to put a
question to them. I should like to ask them, 'What colliers?' There are
colliers up at Newcastle, and there are colliers down in Wales. Will it
do any good to honest Tom, who is hungry in Sproxton, to hear that Jack
at Newcastle has his belly full of beef and pudding?"

"It ought to do him good," Felix burst in, with his loud, abrupt voice,
in odd contrast with glib Mr. Johnson's. "If he knows it's a bad thing
to be hungry and not have enough to eat, he ought to be glad that
another fellow, who is not idle, is not suffering in the same way."

Every one was startled. The audience was much impressed with the
grandeur, the knowledge, and the power of Mr. Johnson. His brilliant
promises confirmed the impression that Reform had at length reached the
New Pits; and Reform, if it were good for anything, must at last resolve
itself into spare money--meaning "sport" and drink, and keeping away
from work for several days in the week. These "brave" men of Sproxton
liked Felix as one of themselves, only much more knowing--as a
workingman who had seen many distant parts, but who must be very poor,
since he never drank more than a pint or so. They were quite inclined to
hear what he had got to say on another occasion, but they were rather
irritated by his interruption at the present moment. Mr. Johnson was
annoyed, but he spoke with the same glib quietness as before, though
with an expression of contempt.

"I call it a poor-spirited thing to take up a man's straight-forward
words and twist them. What I meant to say was plain enough--that no man
can be saved from starving by looking on while others eat. I think
that's common-sense, eh, sirs?"

There was again an approving "Haw, haw." To hear anything said, and
understand it, was a stimulus that had the effect of wit. Mr. Chubb cast
a suspicious and viperous glance at Felix, who felt that he had been a
simpleton for his pains.

"Well, then," continued Mr. Johnson, "I suppose I may go on. But if
there is any one here better able to inform the company than I am, I
give way--I give way."

"Sir," said Mr. Chubb, magisterially, "no man shall take the words out
of _your_ mouth in this house. And," he added, looking pointedly at
Felix, "company that's got no more orders to give, and wants to turn up
rusty to them that has, had better be making room than filling it. Love
an' 'armony's the word on our Club's flag, an' love an' 'armony's the
meaning of 'The Sugar Loaf, William Chubb.' Folks of a different mind
had better seek another house of call."

"Very good," said Felix, laying down his money and taking his cap. "I'm
going." He saw clearly enough that if he said more, there would be a
disturbance which could have no desirable end.

When the door had closed behind him, Mr. Johnson said, "What is that
person's name?"

"Does anybody know it?" said Mr. Chubb.

A few noes were heard.

"I've heard him speak like a downright Reformer, else I should have
looked a little sharper after him. But you may see he's nothing
partic'lar."

"It looks rather bad that no one knows his name," said Mr. Johnson.
"He's most likely a Tory in disguise--a Tory spy. You must be careful,
sirs, of men who come to you and say they're Radicals, and yet do
nothing for you. They'll stuff you with words--no lack of words--but
words are wind. Now, a man like Transome comes forward and says to the
workingmen of this country: 'Here I am, ready to serve you and speak for
you in Parliament, and to get the laws made all right for you; and in
the meanwhile, if there's any of you who are my neighbors who want a
day's holiday, or a cup to drink with friends, or a copy of the King's
likeness--why, I'm your man. I'm not a paper handbill--all words and no
substance--nor a man with land and nothing else; I've got bags of gold
as well as land.' I think you know what I mean by the King's likeness."

Here Mr. Johnson took a half-crown out of his pocket and held the head
toward the company.

"Well, sirs, there are some men who like to keep this pretty picture a
great deal too much to themselves. I don't know whether I'm right, but I
think I've heard of such a one not a hundred miles from here. I think
his name was Spratt, and he managed some company's coal-pits."

"Haw, haw! Spratt--Spratt's his name," was rolled forth to an
accompaniment of scraping shoe-soles.

"A screwing fellow, by what I understand--a domineering fellow--who
would expect men to do as he liked without paying them for it. I think
there's not an honest man wouldn't like to disappoint such an upstart."

There was a murmur which was interpreted by Mr. Chubb. "I'll answer for
'em, sir."

"Now, listen to me. Here's Garstin: he's one of the company you work
under. What's Garstin to you? who sees him? and when they do see him
they see a thin miserly fellow who keeps his pockets buttoned. He calls
himself a Whig, yet he'll split votes with a Tory--he'll drive with the
Debarrys. Now, gentlemen, if I said I'd got a vote, and anybody asked me
what I should do with it, I should say, 'I'll plump for Transome.'
You've got no votes, and that's a shame. But you _will_ have some day,
if such men as Transome are returned; and then you'll be on a level with
the first gentleman in the land, and if he wants to sit in Parliament,
he must take off his hat and ask your leave. But though you haven't got
a vote you can give a cheer for the right man, and Transome's not a man
like Garstin; if you lost a day's wages by giving a cheer for Transome,
he'll make you amends. That's the way a man who has no vote can serve
himself and his country; he can lift up his hand and shout 'Transome
forever!'--'hurray for Transome!' Let the workingmen--let the colliers
and navvies and stone-cutters, who between you and me have a good deal
too much the worst of it, as things are now--let them join together and
give their hands and voices for the right man, and they'll make the
great people shake in their shoes a little; and when you shout for
Transome, remember you shout for more wages, and more of your rights,
and you shout to get rid of rats and _sprats_ and such small animals,
who are the tools the rich make use of to squeeze the blood out of the
poor man."

"I wish there'd be a row--I'd pommel him," said Dredge, who was
generally felt to be speaking to the question.

"No, no, my friend--there you're a little wrong. No pommelling--no
striking first. There you have the law and the constable against you. A
little rolling in the dust and knocking hats off, a little pelting with
soft things that'll stick and not bruise--all that doesn't spoil the
fun. If a man is to speak when you don't like to hear him, it is but
fair you should give him something he doesn't like in return. And the
same if he's got a vote and doesn't use it for the good of the country;
I see no harm in splitting his coat in a quiet way. A man must be taught
what's right if he doesn't know it. But no kicks, no knocking down, no
pommelling."

"It 'ud be good fun, though, if so-_be_," said Old Sleck, allowing
himself an imaginative pleasure.

"Well, well, if a Spratt wants you to say Garstin, it's some pleasure to
think you can say Transome. Now, my notion is this. You are men who can
put two and two together--I don't know a more solid lot of fellows than
you are; and what I say is, let the honest men in this country who've
got no vote show themselves in a body when they have got the chance.
Why, sirs, for every Tory sneak that's got a vote, there's fifty-five
fellows who must stand by and be expected to hold their tongues. But I
say let 'em hiss the sneaks, let 'em groan at the sneaks, and the sneaks
will be ashamed of themselves. The men who've got votes don't know how
to use them. There's many a fool with a vote, who is not sure in his
mind whether he shall poll, say for Debarry, or Garstin, or
Transome--whether he'll plump or whether he'll split; a straw will turn
him. Let him know your mind if he doesn't know his own. What's the
reason Debarry gets returned? Because people are frightened at the
Debarrys. What's that to you? You don't care for the Debarrys. If people
are frightened at the Tories, we'll turn round and frighten _them_. You
know what a Tory is--one who wants to drive the workingman as he'd drive
cattle. That's what a Tory is; and a Whig is no better, if he's like
Garstin. A Whig wants to knock the Tory down and get the whip, that's
all. But Transome's neither Whig nor Tory; he's the workingman's friend,
the collier's friend, the friend of the honest navvy. And if he gets
into Parliament, let me tell you it will be better for you. I don't say
it will be the better for overlookers and screws, and rats and _sprats_;
but it will be the better for every good fellow who takes his pot at the
Sugar Loaf."

Mr. Johnson's exertions for the political education of the Sproxton men
did not stop here, which was the more disinterested in him as he did not
expect to see them again, and could only set on foot an organization by
which their instruction could be continued without him. In this he was
quite successful. A man known among the "butties" as Pack, who had
already been mentioned by Mr. Chubb, presently joined the party, and had
a private audience of Mr. Johnson, that he might be instituted as the
"shepherd" of this new flock.

"That's a right down genelman," said Pack, as he took the seat vacated
by the orator, who had ridden away.

"What's his trade, think you?" said Gills, the wiry stone-cutter.

"Trade?" said Mr. Chubb. "He one of the top sawyers of the country. He
works with his head, you may see that."

"Let's have our pipes, then," said Old Sleck; "I'm pretty well tired o'
jaw."

"So am I," said Dredge. "It's wriggling work--like follering a stoat. It
makes a man dry. I'd as lief hear preaching, on'y there's naught to be
got by't. I shouldn't know which end I stood on if it wasn't for the
tickets and the treatin'."



CHAPTER XII.

    "Oh, sir, 'twas that mixture of spite and over-fed merriment
    which passes for humor with the vulgar. In their fun, they have
    much resemblance to a turkey-cock. It has a cruel beak, and
    a silly iteration of ugly sounds; it spreads its tail in
    self-glorification, but shows you the wrong side of the
    ornament--liking admiration, but knowing not what is admirable."


This Sunday evening, which promised to be so memorable in the experience
of the Sproxton miners, had its drama also for those unsatisfactory
objects to Mr. Johnson's moral sense, the Debarrys. Certain incidents
occurring at Treby Manor caused an excitement there which spread from
the dining-room to the stables; but no one underwent such agitating
transitions of feeling as Mr. Scales. At six o'clock that superior
butler was chuckling in triumph at having played a fine and original
practical joke on his rival, Mr. Christian. Some two hours after that
time he was frightened, sorry, and even meek; he was on the brink of a
humiliating confession; his cheeks were almost livid; his hair was
flattened for want of due attention from his fingers; and the fine roll
of his whiskers, which was too firm to give way, seemed only a sad
reminiscence of past splendor and felicity. His sorrow came about in
this wise.

After service on that Sunday morning, Mr. Philip Debarry had left the
rest of the family to go home in the carriage, and had remained at the
rectory to lunch with his uncle Augustus, that he might consult him
touching some letters of importance. He had returned the letters to his
pocket-book but had not returned the book to his pocket, and he finally
walked away leaving the enclosure of private papers and bank-notes on
his uncle's escritoire. After his arrival at home he was reminded of his
omission, and immediately dispatched Christian with a note begging his
uncle to seal up the pocket-book and send it by the bearer. This
commission, which was given between three and four o'clock, happened to
be very unwelcome to the courier. The fact was that Mr. Christian, who
had been remarkable through life for that power of adapting himself to
circumstances which enables a man to fall safely on all-fours in the
most hurried expulsions and escapes, was not exempt from bodily
suffering--a circumstance to which there is no known way of adapting
one's self so as to be perfectly comfortable under it, or to push it off
on to other people's shoulders. He did what he could: he took doses of
opium when he had an access of nervous pains, and he consoled himself as
to future possibilities by thinking that if the pains ever became
intolerably frequent, a considerable increase in the dose might put an
end to them altogether. He was neither Cato nor Hamlet, and though he
had learned their soliloquies at his first boarding-school, he would
probably have increased his dose without reciting those master-pieces.
Next to the pain itself he disliked that any one should know of it:
defective health diminished a man's market value; he did not like to be
the object of the sort of pity he himself gave to a poor devil who was
forced to make a wry face or "give in" altogether.

He had felt it expedient to take a slight dose this afternoon, and still
he was not altogether relieved at the time he set off for the rectory.
On returning with the valuable case safely deposited in his hind
pocket, he felt increasing bodily uneasiness, and took another dose.
Thinking it likely that he looked rather pitiable, he chose not to
proceed to the house by the carriage-road. The servants often walked in
the park on a Sunday, and he wished to avoid any meeting. He would make
a circuit, get into the house privately, and after delivering his packet
to Mr. Debarry, shut himself up till the ringing of the half-hour bell.
But when he reached an elbowed seat under some sycamores, he felt so ill
at ease that he yielded to the temptation of throwing himself on it to
rest a little. He looked at his watch: it was but five; he had done his
errand quickly hitherto, and Mr. Debarry had not urged haste. But in
less than ten minutes he was in a sound sleep. Certain conditions of his
system had determined a stronger effect than usual from the opium.

As he had expected, there were servants strolling in the park, but they
did not all choose the most frequented part. Mr. Scales, in pursuit of a
light flirtation with the younger lady's maid, had preferred a more
sequestered walk in the company of that agreeable nymph. And it happened
to be this pair, of all others, who alighted on the sleeping
Christian--a sight which at the very first moment caused Mr. Scales a
vague pleasure as at an incident that must lead to something clever on
his part. To play a trick, and make some one or other look foolish, was
held the most pointed form of wit throughout the back regions of the
Manor, and served as a constant substitute for theatrical entertainment:
what the farce wanted in costume or "make up" it gained in the reality
of the mortification which excited the general laughter. And lo! here
was the offensive, the exasperatingly cool and superior Christian,
caught comparatively helpless, with his head hanging on his shoulder,
and one coat-tail hanging out heavily below the elbow of the rustic
seat. It was this coat-tail which served as a suggestion to Mr. Scales's
genius. Putting his finger up in warning to Mrs. Cherry, and saying,
"Hush--be quiet--I see a fine bit of fun"--he took a knife from his
pocket, stepped behind the unconscious Christian, and quickly cut off
the pendent coat-tail. Scales knew nothing of the errand to the rectory;
and as he noticed that there was something in the pocket, thought it was
probably a large cigar-case. So much the better--he had no time to
pause. He threw the coat-tail as far as he could, and noticed that it
fell among the elms under which they had been walking. Then, beckoning
to Mrs Cherry, he hurried away with her toward the more open part of
the park, not daring to explode in laughter until it was safe from the
chance of waking the sleeper. And then the vision of the graceful,
well-appointed Mr. Christian, who sneered at Scales about his "get up,"
having to walk back to the house with only one tail to his coat, was a
source of so much enjoyment to the butler, that the fair Cherry began to
be quite jealous of the joke. Still she admitted that it really was
funny, tittered intermittently, and pledged herself to secrecy. Mr.
Scales explained to her that Christian would try to creep in unobserved,
but that this must be made impossible; and he requested her to imagine
the figure this interloping fellow would cut when everybody was asking
what had happened. "Hallo, Christian! where's your coat tail?" would
become a proverb at the Manor, where jokes kept remarkably well without
the aid of salt; and Mr. Christian's comb would be cut so effectually
that it would take a long time to grow again. Exit Scales, laughing, and
presenting a fine example of dramatic irony to any one in the secret of
Fate.

When Christian awoke, he was shocked to find himself in the twilight. He
started up, shook himself, missed something, and soon became aware what
it was he missed. He did not doubt that he had been robbed, and he at
once foresaw that the consequences would be highly unpleasant. In no way
could the cause of the accident be so represented to Mr. Philip Debarry
as to prevent him from viewing his hitherto unimpeachable factotum in a
new and unfavorable light. And though Mr. Christian did not regard his
present position as brilliant, he did not see his way to anything
better. A man nearly fifty who is not always quite well is seldom
ardently hopeful: he is aware that this is a world in which merit is
often overlooked. With the idea of robbery in full possession of his
mind, to peer about and search in the dimness, even if it had occurred
to him, would have seemed a preposterous waste of time and energy. He
knew it was likely that Mr. Debarry's pocket-book had important and
valuable contents, and that he should deepen his offence by deferring
his announcement of the unfortunate fact. He hastened back to the house,
relieved by the obscurity from that mortification of his vanity on which
the butler had counted. Indeed, to Scales himself the affair had already
begun to appear less thoroughly jocose than he had anticipated. For he
observed that Christian's non-appearance before dinner had caused Mr.
Debarry some consternation; and he had gathered that the courier had
been sent on a commission to the rectory. "My uncle must have detained
him for some reason or other," he heard Mr. Philip say; "but it is odd.
If he were less trusty about commissions, or had ever seemed to drink
too much, I should be uneasy." Altogether the affair was not taking the
turn Mr. Scales had intended. At last, when dinner had been removed, and
the butler's chief duties were at an end, it was understood that
Christian had entered without his coat tail, looking serious and even
agitated; that he had asked leave at once to speak to Mr. Debarry, and
that he was even then in parley with the gentleman in the dining-room.
Scales was in alarm; it must have been some property of Mr. Debarry's
that had weighted the pocket. He took a lantern, got a groom to
accompany him with another lantern, and with the utmost practical speed
reached the fatal spot in the park. He searched under the elms--he was
certain that the pocket had fallen there--and he found the pocket; but
he found it empty, and, in spite of further search, did not find the
contents, though he had first consoled himself with thinking that they
had fallen out, and would be lying not far off. He returned with the
lanterns and the coat tail and a most uncomfortable consciousness in
that great seat of a butler's emotion, the stomach. He had no sooner
re-entered than he was met by Mrs. Cherry, pale and anxious, who drew
him aside to say that if he didn't tell everything she would; that the
constables were to be sent for; that there had been no end of bank-notes
and letters and things in Mr. Debarry's pocket-book, which Christian was
carrying in that very pocket Scales had cut off; that the rector was
sent for, the constable was coming, and they should all be hanged. Mr.
Scales's own intellect was anything but clear as to the possible issues.
Crest-fallen, and with the coat-tail in his hands as an attestation that
he was innocent of anything more than a joke, he went and made his
confession. His story relieved Christian a little, but did not relieve
Mr. Debarry, who was more annoyed at the loss of the letters, and the
chance of their getting into hands that might make use of them, than at
the loss of the bank-notes. Nothing could be done for the present, but
that the rector, who was a magistrate, should instruct the constables,
and that the spot in the park indicated by Scales should again be
carefully searched. This was done, but in vain; and many of the family
at the Manor had disturbed sleep that night.



CHAPTER XIII.

    "Give sorrow leave awhile, to tutor me
    To this submission."--_Richard II._


Meanwhile Felix Holt had been making his way back from Sproxton to Treby
in some irritation and bitterness of spirit. For a little while he
walked slowly along the direct road, hoping that Mr. Johnson would
overtake him, in which case he would have the pleasure of quarrelling
with him, and telling him what he thought of his intentions in coming to
cant at the Sugar Loaf. But he presently checked himself in this folly
and turned off again toward the canal, that he might avoid the
temptation of getting into a passion to no purpose.

"Where's the good," he thought, "of pulling at such a tangled skein as
this electioneering trickery? As long as three-fourths of the men in
this country see nothing in an election but self-interest, and nothing
in self-interest but some form of greed, one might as well try to purify
the proceedings of the fishes, and say to a hungry cod-fish--'My good
friend, abstain; don't goggle your eyes so, or show such a stupid
gluttonous mouth, or think the little fishes are worth nothing except in
relation to your own inside.' He'd be open to no argument short of
crimping him. I should get into a rage with this fellow, and perhaps end
by thrashing him. There's some reason in me as long as I keep my temper,
but my rash humor is drunkenness without wine. I shouldn't wonder if he
upsets all my plans with these colliers. Of course he's going to treat
them for the sake of getting up a posse at the nomination and
speechifyings. They'll drink double, and never come near me on a
Saturday evening. I don't know what sort of man Transome really is. It's
no use my speaking to anybody else, but if I could get at him, he might
put a veto on this thing. Though, when once the men have been promised
and set a-going, the mischief is likely to be past mending. Hang the
Liberal cod-fish! I shouldn't have minded so much if he'd been a Tory!"

Felix went along in the twilight struggling in this way with the
intricacies of life, which would certainly be greatly simplified if
corrupt practices were the invariable mark of wrong opinions. When he
had crossed the common and had entered the park, the overshadowing trees
deepened the gray gloom of the evening; it was useless to try and keep
the blind path, and he could only be careful that his steps should be
bent in the direction of the park gate. He was striding along rapidly
now, whistling "Bannockburn" in a subdued way as an accompaniment to
his inward discussion, when something smooth and soft on which his foot
alighted arrested him with an unpleasant startling sensation, and made
him stoop to examine the object he was treading on. He found it to be a
large leather pocket-book swelled by its contents, and fastened with a
sealed ribbon as well as a clasp. In stooping he saw about a yard off
something whitish and square lying on the dark grass. This was an
ornamental note-book of pale leather stamped with gold. Apparently it
had burst open in falling, and out of the pocket formed by the cover,
there protruded a small gold chain about four inches long, with various
seals and other trifles attached to it by a ring at the end. Felix
thrust the chain back, and finding that the clasp of the note-book was
broken, he closed it and thrust it into his side-pocket, walking along
under some annoyance that fortune had made him the finder of articles
belonging most probably to one of the family at Treby Manor. He was much
too proud a man to like any contact with the aristocracy, and he could
still less endure coming within speech of their servants. Some plan must
be devised by which he could avoid carrying these things up to the Manor
himself: he thought at first of leaving them at the lodge, but he had a
scruple against placing property, of which the ownership was after all
uncertain, in the hands of persons unknown to him. It was possible that
the large pocket-book contained papers of high importance, and that it
did not belong to any of the Debarry family. He resolved at last to
carry his findings to Mr. Lyon, who would perhaps be good-natured enough
to save him from the necessary transactions with the people at the Manor
by undertaking those transactions himself. With this determination he
walked straight to Malthouse Yard, and waited outside the chapel until
the congregation was dispersing, when he passed along the aisle to the
vestry in order to speak to the minister in private.

But Mr. Lyon was not alone when Felix entered. Mr. Nuttwood, the grocer,
who was one of the deacons, was complaining to him about the obstinate
demeanor of the singers, who had declined to change the tunes in
accordance with a change in the selection of hymns, and had stretched
short metre into long out of pure wilfulness and defiance, irreverently
adapting the most sacred monosyllables to a multitude of quavers,
arranged, it was to be feared, by some musician who was inspired by
conceit rather than by the true spirit of psalmody.

"Come in, my friend," said Mr. Lyon, smiling at Felix, and then
continuing in a faint voice, while he wiped the perspiration from his
brow and bald crown, "Brother Nuttwood, we must be content to carry a
thorn in our sides while the necessities of our imperfect state demand
that there should be a body set apart and called a choir, whose special
office it is to lead the singing, not because they are more disposed to
the devout uplifting of praise, but because they are endowed with better
vocal organs, and have attained more of the musician's art. For all
office, unless it be accompanied by peculiar grace, becomes, as it were,
a diseased organ, seeking to make itself too much of a centre. Singers,
specially so called, are, it must be confessed, an anomaly among us who
seek to reduce the Church to its primitive simplicity, and to cast away
all that may obstruct the direct communion of spirit with spirit."

"They are so headstrong," said Mr. Nuttwood, in a tone of sad
perplexity, "that if we dealt not warily with them they might end in
dividing the church, even now that we have had the chapel enlarged.
Brother Kemp would side with them, and draw the half part of the members
after him. I cannot but think it a snare when a professing Christian has
a bass voice like Brother Kemp's. It makes him desire to be heard of
men; but the weaker song of the humble may have more power in the ear of
God."

"Do you think it any better vanity to flatter yourself that God likes to
hear you, though men don't?" said Felix, with unwarrantable bluntness.

The civil grocer was prepared to be scandalized by anything that came
from Felix. In common with many hearers in Malthouse Yard, he already
felt an objection to a young man who was notorious for having interfered
in a question of wholesale and retail, which should have been left to
Providence. Old Mr. Holt, being a church member, had probably had
"leadings" which were more to be relied on than his son's boasted
knowledge. In any case, a little visceral disturbance and inward
chastisement to the consumers of questionable medicines would tend less
to obscure the divine glory than a show of punctilious morality in one
who was not a "professor." Besides, how was it to be known that the
medicines would not be blessed, if taken with due trust in a higher
influence? A Christian must consider not the medicines alone in their
relation to our frail bodies (which are dust), but the medicines with
Omnipotence behind them. Hence a pious vendor will look for "leadings,"
and he is likely to find them in the cessation of demand and the
disproportion of expenses and returns. The grocer was thus on his guard
against the presumptuous disputant.

"Mr. Lyon may understand you, sir," he replied. "He seems to be fond of
your conversation. But you have too much of the pride of human learning
for me. I follow no new lights."

"Then follow an old one," said Felix, mischievously disposed toward a
sleek tradesman. "Follow the light of the old-fashioned Presbyterians
that I've heard sing at Glasgow. The preacher gives out the psalm, and
then everybody sings a different tune, as it happens to turn up in their
throats. It's a domineering thing to set a tune and expect everybody
else to follow it. It's a denial of private judgment."

"Hush, hush, my young friend," said Mr. Lyon, hurt by this levity, which
glanced at himself as well as at the deacon. "Play not with paradoxes.
That caustic which you handle in order to scorch others, may happen to
sear your own fingers and make them dead to the quality of things. 'Tis
difficult enough to see our way and keep our torch steady in this dim
labyrinth: to whirl the torch and dazzle the eyes of our fellow-seekers
is a poor daring, and may end in total darkness. You yourself are a
lover of freedom, and a bold rebel against usurping authority. But the
right to rebellion is the right to seek a higher rule, and not to wander
in mere lawlessness. Wherefore, I beseech you, seem not to say that
liberty is license. And I apprehend--though I am not endowed with an ear
to seize those earthly harmonies, which to some devout souls have
seemed, as it were, the broken echoes of the heavenly choir--I apprehend
that there is a law in music, disobedience whereunto would bring us in
our singing to the level of shrieking maniacs or howling beasts: so that
herein we are well instructed how true liberty can be nought but the
transfer of obedience from the will of one or of a few men to that will
which is the norm or rule for all men. And though the transfer may
sometimes be but an erroneous direction of search, yet is the search
good and necessary to the ultimate finding. And even as in music, where
all obey and concur to one end, so that each has the joy of contributing
to a whole whereby he is ravished and lifted up into the courts of
heaven, so will it be in that crowning time of the millennial reign,
when our daily prayer will be fulfilled, and one law shall be written on
all hearts, and be the very structure of all thought, and be the
principle of all action."

Tired, even exhausted, as the minister had been when Felix Holt entered,
the gathering excitement of speech gave more and more energy to his
voice and manner; he walked away from the vestry table, he paused, and
came back to it; he walked away again, then came back, and ended with
his deepest toned largo, keeping his hands clasped behind him, while his
brown eyes were bright with the lasting youthfulness of enthusiastic
thought and love. But to any one who had no share in the energies that
were thrilling his little body, he would have looked queer enough. No
sooner had he finished his eager speech, than he held out his hand to
the deacon, and said, in his former faint tone of fatigue--

"God be with you, brother. We shall meet to-morrow, and we will see what
can be done to subdue these refractory spirits."

When the deacon was gone, Felix said, "Forgive me, Mr. Lyon; I was
wrong, and you are right."

"Yes, yes, my friend, you have that mark of grace within you, that you
are ready to acknowledge the justice of a rebuke. Sit down; you have
something to say--some packet there."

They sat down at a corner of the small table, and Felix drew the
note-book from his pocket to lay it down with the pocket-book, saying--

"I've had the ill-luck to be the finder of these things in the Debarrys'
park. Most likely they belong to one of the family at the Manor, or to
some grandee who is staying there. I hate having anything to do with
such people. They'll think me a poor rascal, and offer me money. You are
a known man, and I thought you would be kind enough to relieve me by
taking charge of these things, and writing to Debarry, not mentioning
me, and asking him to send some one for them, I found them on the grass
in the park this evening about half-past seven, in the corner we cross
going to Sproxton."

"Stay," said Mr. Lyon, "this little book is open; we may venture to look
in it for some sign of ownership. There be others who possess property,
and might be crossing that end of the park, besides the Debarrys."

As he lifted the note-book close to his eyes, the chain again slipped
out. He arrested it and held it in his hand, while he examined some
writing, which appeared to be a name on the inner leather. He looked
long, as if he were trying to decipher something that was partly rubbed
out; and his hands began to tremble noticeably. He made a movement in an
agitated manner, as if he were going to examine the chain and seals,
which he held in his hand. But he checked himself, closed his hand
again, and rested it on the table, while with the other hand he pressed
the sides of the note-book together.

Felix observed his agitation, and was much surprised; but with a
delicacy of which he was capable under all his abruptness, he said, "You
are overcome with fatigue, sir. I was thoughtless to tease you with
these matters at the end of Sunday, when you have been preaching three
sermons."

Mr. Lyon did not speak for a few moments, but at last he said--

"It is true. I am overcome. It was a name I saw--a name that called up a
past sorrow. Fear not; I will do what is needful with these things. You
may trust them to me."

With trembling fingers he replaced the chain, and tied both the large
pocket-book and the note-book in his handkerchief. He was evidently
making a great effort over himself. But when he had gathered the knot of
the handkerchief in his hand he said--

"Give me your arm to the door, my friend. I feel ill. Doubtless I am
over-wearied."

The door was already open, and Lyddy was watching for her master's
return. Felix therefore said good-night and passed on, sure that this
was what Mr. Lyon would prefer. The minister's supper of warm porridge
was ready by the kitchen-fire, where he always took it on a Sunday
evening, and afterward smoked his weekly pipe up the broad chimney--the
one great relaxation he allowed himself. Smoking, he considered, was a
recreation of the travailled spirit, which, if indulged in, might endear
this world to us by the ignoble bonds of mere sensuous ease. Daily
smoking might be lawful, but it was not expedient. And in this Esther
concurred with a doctrinal eagerness that was unusual in her. It was her
habit to go to her own room, professedly to bed, very early on
Sundays--immediately on her return from chapel--that she might avoid her
father's pipe. But this evening she had remained at home, under a true
plea of not feeling well; and when she heard him enter, she ran out of
the parlor to meet him.

"Father, you are ill," she said, as he tottered to the wicker-bottomed
arm-chair, while Lyddy stood by, shaking her head.

"No, my dear," he answered feebly, as she took off his hat and looked in
his face enquiringly; "I am weary."

"Let me lay these things down for you," said Esther, touching the bundle
in the handkerchief.

"No; they are matters which I have to examine," he said, laying them on
the table, and putting his arm across them. "Go you to bed, Lyddy."

"Not me, sir. If ever a man looked as if he was struck with death, it's
you, this very night as here is."

"Nonsense, Lyddy," said Esther, angrily. "Go to bed when my father
desires it. I will stay with him."

Lyddy was electrified by surprise at this new behavior of Miss Esther's.
She took her candle silently and went.

"Go you too, my dear," said Mr. Lyon, tenderly, giving his hand to
Esther, when Lyddy was gone. "It is your wont to go early. Why are you
up?"

"Let me lift your porridge from before the fire, and stay with you,
father. You think I'm so naughty that I don't like doing anything for
you," said Esther, smiling rather sadly at him.

"Child, what has happened? You have become the image of your mother
to-night," said the minister, in a loud whisper. The tears came and
relieved him while Esther, who had stooped to lift the porridge from the
fender, paused on one knee and looked up at him.

"She was very good to you?" asked Esther, softly.

"Yes, dear. She did not reject my affection. She thought not scorn of my
love. She would have forgiven me, if I had erred against her, from very
tenderness. Could you forgive me, child?"

"Father, I have not been good to you; but I will be, I will be," said
Esther, laying her head on his knee.

He kissed her head. "Go to bed, dear; I would be alone."

When Esther was lying down that night, she felt as if the little
incidents between herself and her father on this Sunday had made it an
epoch. Very slight words and deeds may have a sacramental efficacy, if
we can cast our self-love behind us, in order to say or do them. And it
has been well believed through many ages that the beginning of
compunction is the beginning of a new life; that the mind which sees
itself blameless may be called dead in trespasses--in trespasses on the
love of others, in trespasses on their weakness, in trespasses on all
those great claims which are the image of our own need.

But Esther persisted in assuring herself that she was not bending to any
criticism from Felix. She was full of resentment against his rudeness,
and yet more against his too harsh conception of her character. She was
determined to keep as much at a distance from him as possible.



CHAPTER XIV.

    This man's metallic; at a sudden blow
    His soul rings hard. I cannot lay my palm,
    Trembling with life, upon that jointed brass.
    I shudder at the cold unanswering touch;
    But if it press me in response, I'm bruised.


The next morning, when the Debarrys, including the rector, who had
ridden over to the Manor early, were still seated at breakfast,
Christian came in with a letter, saying that it had been brought by a
man employed at the chapel in Malthouse Yard, who had been ordered by
the minister to use all speed and care in the delivery.

The letter was addressed to Sir Maximus.

"Stay, Christian, it may possibly refer to the lost pocket-book," said
Philip Debarry, who was beginning to feel rather sorry for his factotum,
as a reaction from previous suspicions and indignation.

Sir Maximus opened the letter and felt for his glasses, but then said,
"Here, you read it, Phil: the man writes a hand like small print."

Philip cast his eyes over it, and then read aloud in a tone of
satisfaction:--

    SIR,--I send this letter to apprise you that I have now in my
    possession certain articles, which, last evening, at about
    half-past seven o'clock, were found lying on the grass at the
    western extremity of your park. The articles are =1=, a well-filled
    pocket-book, of brown leather, fastened with a black ribbon and
    with a seal of red wax; =2=, a small note-book, covered with gilded
    vellum, whereof the clasp was burst, and from out whereof had
    partly escaped a small chain, with seals and a locket attached, the
    locket bearing on the back a device, and round the face a female
    name.

    Whereof I request that you will further my effort to place these
    articles in the right hands, by ascertaining whether any person
    within your walls claims them as his property, and by sending that
    person to me (if such be found); for I will on no account let them
    pass from my care save into that of one who, declaring himself to
    be the owner, can state to me what is the impression on the seal,
    and what the device and name upon the locket.

    I am, sir, yours to command in all right dealing,

    Malthouse Yard. Oct. 3, 1832.                    RUFUS LYON.

"Well done, old Lyon," said the rector; "I didn't think that any
composition of his would ever give me so much pleasure."

"What an old fox it is!" said Sir Maximus. "Why couldn't he send the
things to me at once along with the letter?"

"No, no, Max; he uses a justifiable caution," said the rector, a refined
and rather severe likeness of his brother, with a ring of fearlessness
and decision in his voice which startled all flaccid men and unruly
boys. "What are you going to do, Phil?" he added, seeing his nephew
rise.

"To write, of course. Those other matters are yours, I suppose?" said
Mr. Debarry, looking at Christian.

"Yes, sir."

"I shall send you with a letter to the preacher. You can describe your
own property. And the seal, uncle--was it your coat-of-arms?"

"No, it was this head of Achilles. Here, I can take it off the ring, and
you can carry it, Christian. But don't lose that, for I've had it ever
since eighteen hundred. I should like to send my compliments with it,"
the rector went on, looking at his brother, "and beg that since he has
so much wise caution at command, he would exercise a little in more
public matters, instead of making himself a firebrand in my parish, and
teaching hucksters and tape-weavers that it's their business to dictate
to statesmen."

"How did Dissenters, and Methodists, and Quakers, and people of that
sort first come up, uncle?" said Miss Selina, a radiant girl of
twenty, who had given much time to the harp.

"Dear me, Selina," said her elder sister, Harriet, whose forte was
general knowledge, "don't you remember 'Woodstock'? They were in
Cromwell's time."

"Oh! Holdenough, and those people? Yes; but they preached in the
churches; they had no chapels. Tell me, uncle Gus; I like to be wise,"
said Selina, looking up at the face which was smiling down on her with a
sort of severe benignity. "Phil says I'm an ignorant puss."

"The seeds of Nonconformity were sown at the Reformation, my dear, when
some obstinate man made scruples about surplices and the place of the
communion-table, and other trifles of that sort. But the Quakers came up
about Cromwell's time, and the Methodists only in the last century. The
first Methodists were regular clergymen, the more's the pity."

"But all those wrong things, why didn't government put them down?"

"Ah, to be sure," fell in Sir Maximus, in a cordial tone of
corroboration.

"Because error is often strong, and government is often weak, my dear.
Well, Phil, have you finished your letter?"

"Yes, I will read it to you," said Philip, turning and leaning over the
back of his chair with the letter in his hand.

There is a portrait of Mr. Philip Debarry still to be seen at Treby
Manor, and a very fine bust of him at Rome, where he died fifteen years
later, a convert to Catholicism. His face would have been plain but for
the exquisite setting of his hazel eyes, which fascinated even the dogs
of the household. The other features, though slight and irregular, were
redeemed from triviality by the stamp of gravity and intellectual
preoccupation in his face and bearing. As he read aloud, his voice was
what his uncle's might have been if it had been modulated by delicate
health and a visitation of self-doubt.

    SIR,--In reply to the letter with which you have favored me this
    morning, I beg to state that the articles you describe were lost
    from the pocket of my servant, who is the bearer of this letter to
    you, and is the claimant of the vellum note-book and the gold
    chain. The large leathern pocket-book is my own property and the
    impression on the wax, a helmeted head of Achilles, was made by my
    uncle, the Reverend Augustus Debarry, who allows me to forward this
    seal to you in proof that I am not making a mistaken claim.

    I feel myself under deep obligation to you, sir, for the care and
    trouble you have taken in order to restore to its right owner a
    piece of property which happens to be of particular importance to
    me. And I shall consider myself doubly fortunate if at any time you
    can point out to me some method by which I may procure you as
    lively a satisfaction as I am now feeling, in that full and speedy
    relief from anxiety which I owe to your considerate conduct.

   I remain, sir, your obliged and faithful servant,
                                                 PHILIP DEBARRY.

"You know best, Phil, of course," said Sir Maximus, pushing his plate
from him, by way of interjection. "But it seems to me you exaggerate
preposterously every little service a man happens to do for you. Why
should you make a general offer of that sort? How do you know what he
will be asking you to do? Stuff and nonsense! Tell Willis to send him a
few head of game. You should think twice before you give a blank check
of that sort to one of these quibbling, meddlesome Radicals."

"You are afraid of my committing myself to 'the bottomless perjury of an
et cetera,'" said Philip, smiling, as he turned to fold his letter. "But
I think I am not doing any mischief; at all events I could not be
content to say less. And I have a notion that he would regard a present
of game just now as an insult. I should, in his place."

"Yes, yes, you; but you don't make yourself a measure of Dissenting
preachers, I hope," said Sir Maximus, rather wrathfully. "What do you
say, Gus?"

"Phil is right," said the rector, in an absolute tone. "I would not deal
with a Dissenter, or put profits into the pocket of a Radical which I
might put into the pocket of a good Churchman and a quiet subject. But
if the greatest scoundrel in the world made way for me, or picked my hat
up, I would thank him. So would you, Max."

"Pooh! I didn't mean that one shouldn't behave like a gentleman," said
Sir Maximus, in some vexation. He had great pride in his son's
superiority even to himself; but he did not quite trust the dim vision
opened by Phil's new words and new notions. He could only submit in
silence while the letter was delivered to Christian, with the order to
start for Malthouse Yard immediately.

Meanwhile, in that somewhat dim locality the possible claimant of the
note-book and the chain was thought of and expected with palpitating
agitation. Mr. Lyon was seated in his study, looking haggard and already
aged from a sleepless night. He was so afraid lest his emotion should
deprive him of the presence of mind necessary to the due attention to
particulars in the coming interview, that he continued to occupy his
sight and touch with the objects which had stirred the depths, not only
of memory, but of dread. Once again he unlocked a small box which stood
beside his desk, and took from it a little oval locket, and compared
this with one which hung with the seals on the stray gold chain. There
was the same device in enamel on the back of both: clasped hands
surrounded with blue flowers. Both had round the face a name in gold
italics on a blue ground: the name on the locket taken from the drawer
was _Maurice_; the name on the locket which hung with the seals was
_Annette_, and within the circle of this name there was a lover's knot
of light brown hair, which matched a curl that lay in the box. The hair
in the locket which bore the name of Maurice was of a very dark brown,
and before returning it to the drawer Mr. Lyon noted the color and
quality of this hair more carefully than ever. Then he recurred to the
note-book: undoubtedly there had been something, probably a third name,
beyond the names _Maurice Christian_, which had themselves been rubbed
and slightly smeared as if by accident; and from the very first
examination in the vestry, Mr. Lyon could not prevent himself from
transferring the mental image of the third name in faint lines to the
rubbed leather. The leaves of the note-book seemed to have been recently
inserted; they were of fresh white paper, and only bore some
abbreviations in pencil with a notation of small sums. Nothing could be
gathered from the comparison of the writing in the book with that of the
yellow letters which lay in the box; the smeared name had been carefully
printed, and so bore no resemblance to the signature of those letters;
and the pencil abbreviations and figures had been made too hurriedly to
bear any decisive witness. "I will ask him to write--to write a
description of the locket," had been one of Mr. Lyon's thoughts; but he
faltered in that intention. His power of fulfilling it must depend on
what he saw in this visitor, of whose coming he had a horrible dread, at
the very time he was writing to demand it. In that demand he was obeying
the voice of his rigid conscience, which had never left him perfectly at
rest under his one act of deception--the concealment from Esther that he
was not her natural father, the assertion of a false claim upon her.
"Let my path be henceforth simple," he had said to himself in the
anguish of that night; "let me seek to know what is, and if possible to
declare it." If he was really going to find himself face to face with
the man who had been Annette's husband, and who was Esther's father--if
that wandering of his from the light had brought the punishment of a
blind sacrilege as the issue of a conscious transgression,--he prayed
that he might be able to accept all consequences of pain to himself. But
he saw other possibilities concerning the claimant of the book and
chain. His ignorance and suspicions as to the history and character of
Annette's husband made it credible that he had laid a plan for
convincing her of his death as a means of freeing himself from a
burdensome tie; but it seemed equally probable that he was really dead,
and that these articles of property had been a bequest, or a payment, or
even a sale, to their present owner. Indeed, in all these years there was
no knowing into how many hands such pretty trifles might have passed.
And the claimant might, after all, have no connection with the Debarrys;
he might not come on this day or the next. There might be more time left
for reflection and prayer.

All these possibilities, which would remove the pressing need for
difficult action, Mr. Lyon represented to himself, but he had no
effective belief in them; his belief went with his strongest feeling,
and in these moments his strongest feeling was dead. He trembled under
the weight that seemed already added to his own sin; he felt himself
already confronted by Annette's husband and Esther's father. Perhaps the
father was a gentleman on a visit to the Debarrys. There was no
hindering the pang with which the old man said to himself--

"The child will not be sorry to leave this poor home, and I shall be
guilty in her sight."

He was walking about among the rows of books when there came a loud rap
at the outer door. The rap shook him so that he sank into his chair,
feeling almost powerless. Lyddy presented herself.

"Here's ever such a fine man from the Manor wants to see you, sir. Dear
heart, dear heart! shall I tell him you're too bad to see him?"

"Show him up," said Mr. Lyon, making an effort to rally. When Christian
appeared, the minister half rose, leaning on an arm of his chair, and
said, "Be seated, sir," seeing nothing but that a tall man was entering.

"I've brought you a letter from Mr. Debarry," said Christian, in an
off-hand manner. The rusty little man, in his dismal chamber, seemed to
the Ulysses of the steward's room a pitiable sort of human curiosity, to
whom a man of the world would speak rather loudly, in accommodation to
an eccentricity which was likely to be accompanied with deafness. One
cannot be eminent in everything; and if Mr. Christian had dispersed his
faculties in study that would have enabled him to share unconventional
points of view, he might have worn a mistaken kind of boot, and been
less competent to win at _écarté_, or at betting, or in any other
contest suitable to a person of figure.

As he seated himself, Mr. Lyon opened the letter, and held it close to
his eyes, so that his face was hidden. But at the word "servant" he
could not avoid starting, and looking off the letter toward the bearer.
Christian, knowing what was in the letter, conjectured that the old man
was amazed to learn that so distinguished-looking a personage was a
servant; he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, balanced his
cane on his fingers, and began a whispering whistle. The minister
checked himself, finished the reading of the letter, and then slowly and
nervously put on his spectacles to survey this man, between whose fate
and his own there might be a terrible collision. The word "servant" had
been a fresh caution to him. He must do nothing rashly. Esther's lot was
deeply concerned.

"Here is the seal mentioned in the letter," said Christian.

Mr. Lyon drew the pocket-book from his desk, and after comparing the
seal with the impression, said, "It is right, sir: I deliver the
pocket-book to you."

He held it out with the seal, and Christian rose to take them, saying
carelessly, "The other things--the chain and the little book--are mine."

"Your name then is----"

"Maurice Christian."

A spasm shot through Mr. Lyon. It had seemed possible that he might hear
another name, and be freed from the worse half of his anxiety. His next
words were not wisely chosen, but escaped him impulsively.

"And you have no other name?"

"What do you mean?" said Christian, sharply.

"Be so good as to reseat yourself."

Christian did not comply. "I'm rather in a hurry, sir," he said,
recovering his coolness. "If it suits you to restore to me those small
articles of mine, I shall be glad; but I would rather leave them behind
than be detained." He had reflected that the minister was simply a
punctilious old bore. The question meant nothing else. But Mr. Lyon had
wrought himself up to the task of finding out, then and there, if
possible, whether or not this were Annette's husband. How could he lay
himself and his sin before God if he wilfully declined to learn the
truth? "Nay, sir, I will not detain you unreasonably," he said, in a
firmer tone than before. "How long have these articles been your
property?"

"Oh, for more than twenty years," said Christian, carelessly.

He was not altogether easy under the minister's persistence, but for
that very reason he showed no more impatience.

"You have been in France and in Germany?"

"I have been in most countries on the continent."

"Be so good as to write me your name," said Mr. Lyon, dipping a pen in
ink, and holding it out with a piece of paper.

Christian was much surprised, but not now greatly alarmed. In his rapid
conjectures as to the explanation of the minister's curiosity, he had
alighted on one which might carry advantage rather than inconvenience.
But he was not going to commit himself.

"Before I oblige you there, sir," he said, laying down the pen, and
looking straight at Mr. Lyon, "I must know exactly the reasons you have
for putting these questions to me. You are a stranger to me--an
excellent person, I dare say--but I have no concern about you farther
than to get from you those small articles. Do you still doubt that they
are mine? You wished, I think, that I should tell you what the locket is
like. It has a pair of hands and blue flowers on one side and the name
Annette round the hair on the other side. That is all I have to say. If
you wish for anything more from me, you will be good enough to tell me
why you wish it. Now then, sir, what is your concern with me?"

The cool stare, the hard challenging voice, with which these words were
uttered, made them fall like the beating cutting chill of heavy hail on
Mr. Lyon. He sank back in his chair in utter irresolution and
helplessness. How was it possible to lay bare the sad and sacred past in
answer to such a call as this? The dread with which he had thought of
this man's coming, the strongly-confirmed suspicion that he was really
Annette's husband, intensified the antipathy created by his gestures and
glances. The sensitive little minister knew instinctively that words
which would cost him efforts as painful as the obedient footsteps of a
wounded bleeding hound that wills a foreseen throe, would fall on this
man as the pressure of tender fingers falls on a brazen glove. And
Esther--if this man was her father, every additional word might help to
bring down irrevocable, perhaps cruel consequences on her. A thick mist
seemed to have fallen where Mr. Lyon was looking for the track of duty:
the difficult question, how far he was to care for consequences in
seeking and avowing the truth, seemed anew obscured. All these things,
like the vision of a coming calamity, were compressed into a moment of
consciousness. Nothing could be done to-day; everything must be
deferred. He answered Christian in a low apologetic tone.

"It is true, sir; you have told me all I can demand. I have no
sufficient reason for detaining your property further."

He handed the note-book and chain to Christian, who had been observing
him narrowly, and now said, in a tone of indifference, as he pocketed
the articles--

"Very good, sir. I wish you a good-morning."

"Good-morning," said Mr. Lyon, feeling, while the door closed behind his
guest, that mixture of uneasiness and relief which all procrastination
of difficulty produces in minds capable of strong forecast. The work
was still to be done. He had still before him the task of learning
everything that could be learned about this man's relation to himself
and Esther.

Christian, as he made his way back along Malthouse Lane, was thinking,
"This old fellow has got some secret in his head. It's not likely he can
know anything about me: it must be about Bycliffe. But Bycliffe was a
gentleman: how should he ever have had anything to do with such a seedy
old ranter as that?"



CHAPTER XV.

    And doubt shall be as lead upon the feet
    Of thy most anxious will.


Mr. Lyon was careful to look in at Felix as soon as possible after
Christian's departure, to tell him that his trust was discharged. During
the rest of the day he was somewhat relieved from agitating reflections
by the necessity of attending to his ministerial duties, the rebuke of
rebellious singers being one of them; and on his return from the Monday
evening prayer-meeting he was so overcome with weariness that he went to
bed without taking note of any objects in his study. But when he rose
the next morning, his mind, once more eagerly active, was arrested by
Philip Debarry's letter, which still lay open on his desk, and was
arrested by precisely that portion which had been unheeded the day
before:--"_I shall consider myself doubly fortunate if at any time you
can point out to me some method by which I may procure you as lively a
satisfaction as I am now feeling, in that full and speedy relief from
anxiety which I owe to your considerate conduct_."

To understand how these words could carry the suggestion they actually
had for the minister in a crisis of peculiar personal anxiety and
struggle, we must bear in mind that for many years he had walked through
life with the sense of having for a space been unfaithful to what he
esteemed the highest trust ever committed to man--the ministerial
vocation. In a mind of any nobleness, a lapse into transgression against
an object still regarded as supreme, issues in a new and purer
devotedness, chastised by humility and watched over by a passionate
regret. So it was with that ardent spirit which animated the little body
of Rufus Lyon. Once in his life he had been blinded, defeated, hurried
along by rebellious impulse; he had gone astray after his own desires,
and had let the fire die out on the altar; and as the true penitent,
hating his self-besotted error, asks from all coming life duty instead
of joy, and service instead of ease, so Rufus was perpetually on the
watch lest he should ever again postpone to some private affection a
great public opportunity which to him was equivalent to a command.

Now here was an opportunity brought by a combination of that unexpected
incalculable kind which might be regarded as the Divine emphasis
invoking especial attention to trivial events--an opportunity of
securing what Rufus Lyon had often wished for as a means of honoring
truth, and exhibiting error in the character of a stammering, halting,
short-breathed usurper of office and dignity. What was more exasperating
to a zealous preacher, with whom copious speech was not a difficulty but
a relief--who never lacked argument, but only combatants and
listeners--than to reflect that there were thousands on thousands of
pulpits in this kingdom, supplied with handsome sounding-boards, and
occupying an advantageous position in buildings far larger than the
chapel in Malthouse Yard--buildings sure to be places of resort, even as
the markets were, if only from habit and interest; and that these
pulpits were filled, or rather made vacuous, by men whose privileged
education in the ancient centres of instruction issued in twenty
minutes' formal reading of tepid exhortation or probably infirm
deductions from premises based on rotten scaffolding? And it is in the
nature of exasperation gradually to concentrate itself. The sincere
antipathy of a dog toward cats in general, necessarily takes the form of
indignant barking at the neighbor's black cat which makes daily
trespass; the bark at imagined cats, though a frequent exercise of the
canine mind, is yet comparatively feeble. Mr. Lyon's sarcasm was not
without an edge when he dilated in general on an elaborate education for
teachers which issued in the minimum of teaching, but it found a
whetstone in the particular example of that bad system known as the
rector of Treby Magna. There was nothing positive to be said against the
Rev. Augustus Debarry; his life could not be pronounced blameworthy
except for its negatives. And the good Rufus was too pure-minded not to
be glad of that. He had no delight in vice as discrediting wicked
opponents; he shrank from dwelling on the images of cruelty or
grossness, and his indignation was habitually inspired only by those
moral and intellectual mistakes which darken the soul but do not injure
or degrade the temple of the body. If the rector had been a less
respectable man, Rufus would have more reluctantly made him an object
of antagonism; but as an incarnation of soul-destroying error,
dissociated from those baser sins which have no good repute even with
the worldly, it would be an argumentative luxury to get into close
quarters with him, and fight with a dialectic short-sword in the eyes of
the Treby world (sending also a written account thereof to the chief
organs of Dissenting opinion). Vice was essentially stupid--a deaf and
eyeless monster, insusceptible to demonstration: the Spirit might work
on it by unseen ways, and the unstudied sallies of sermons were often as
the arrows which pierced and awakened the brutified conscience; but
illuminated thought, finely divided speech, were the choicer weapons of
the Divine armory, which whoso could wield must be careful not to leave
idle.

Here, then, was the longed-for opportunity. Here was an engagement--an
expression of a strong wish--on the part of Philip Debarry, if it were
in his power, to procure a satisfaction to Rufus Lyon. How had that man
of God and exemplary Independent minister, Mr. Ainsworth, of persecuted
sanctity, conducted himself when a similar occasion had befallen him at
Amsterdam? He had thought of nothing but the glory of the highest cause,
and had converted the offer of recompense into a public debate with a
Jew on the chief mysteries of the faith. Here was a model: the case was
nothing short of a heavenly indication, and he, Rufus Lyon, would seize
the occasion to demand a public debate with the rector on the
constitution of the true Church.

What if he were inwardly torn by doubt and anxiety concerning his own
private relations and the facts of his past life? That danger of
absorption within the narrow bounds of self only urged him the more
toward action which had a wider bearing, and might tell on the welfare
of England at large. It was decided. Before the minister went down to
breakfast that morning he had written the following letter to Mr. Philip
Debarry:--

    SIR,--Referring to your letter of yesterday, I find the following
    words: "I shall consider myself doubly fortunate if at any time you
    can point out to me some method by which I may procure you as
    lively a satisfaction as I am now feeling, in that full and speedy
    relief from anxiety which I owe to your considerate conduct."

    I am not unaware, sir, that, in the usage of the world, there are
    words of courtesy (so called) which are understood, by those
    amongst whom they are current, to have no precise meaning, and to
    constitute no bond of obligation. I will not now insist that this
    is an abuse of language, wherein our fallible nature requires the
    strictest safeguards against laxity and misapplication, for I do
    not apprehend that in writing the words I have above quoted, you
    were open to the reproach of using phrases which, while seeming to
    carry a specific meaning, were really no more than what is called a
    polite form. I believe, sir, that you used these words advisedly,
    sincerely, and with an honorable intention of acting on them as a
    pledge, should such action be demanded. No other supposition on my
    part would correspond to the character you bear as a young man who
    aspires (albeit mistakenly) to engraft the finest fruits of public
    virtue on a creed and institutions, whereof the sap is composed
    rather of human self-seeking than of everlasting truth.

    Wherefore I act on this my belief in the integrity of your written
    word; I beg you to procure for me (as it is doubtless in your
    power) that I may be allowed a public discussion with your near
    relative, the rector of this parish, the Reverend Augustus Debarry,
    to be held in the large room of the Free School, or in the Assembly
    Room of the Marquis of Granby, these being the largest covered
    spaces at our command. For I presume he would neither allow me to
    speak within his church, nor would consent himself to speak within
    my chapel; and the probable inclemency of the approaching season
    forbids an assured expectation that we could discourse in the open
    air. The subjects I desire to discuss are--first, the Constitution
    of the true Church; and secondly, the bearing thereupon of the
    English Reformation. Confidently expecting that you will comply
    with this request, which is the sequence of your expressed desire,
    I remain, sir, yours, with the respect offered to a sincere
    withstander,
                                                     RUFUS LYON,
    Malthouse Yard.

After writing this letter, the good Rufus felt that serenity and
elevation of mind which is infallibly brought by a preoccupation with
the wider relations of things. Already he was beginning to sketch the
course his argument might most judiciously take in the coming debate;
his thoughts were running into sentences, and marking off careful
exceptions in parentheses; and he had come down and seated himself at
the breakfast-table quite automatically, without expectation of toast or
coffee, when Esther's voice and touch recalled to him an inward debate
of another kind, in which he felt himself much weaker. Again there arose
before him the image of that cool, hard-eyed, worldly man, who might be
this dear child's father, and one against whose rights he had himself
grievously offended. Always as the image recurred to him Mr. Lyon's
heart sent forth a prayer for guidance, but no definite guidance had yet
made itself visible for him. It could not be guidance--it was a
temptation--that said, "Let the matter rest: seek to know no more; know
only what is thrust upon you." The remembrance that in his time of
wandering he had wilfully remained in ignorance of facts which he might
have enquired after, deepened the impression that it was now an
imperative duty to seek the fullest attainable knowledge. And the
enquiry might possibly issue in a blessed repose, by putting a negative
on all his suspicions. But the more vividly all the circumstances became
present to him, the more unfit he felt himself to set about any
investigation concerning this man who called himself Maurice Christian.
He could seek no confidant or helper among "the brethren"; he was
obliged to admit to himself that the members of his church, with whom he
hoped to go to heaven, were not easy to converse with on earth touching
the deeper secrets of his experience, and were still less able to advise
him as to the wisest procedure in a case of high delicacy, with a
worldling who had a carefully-trimmed whisker and a fashionable costume.
For the first time in his life it occurred to the minister that he
should be glad of an adviser who had more worldly than spiritual
experience, and that it might not be inconsistent with his principles to
seek some light from one who had studied human law. But it was a thought
to be paused upon, and not followed out rashly; some other guidance
might intervene.

Esther noticed that her father was in a fit of abstraction, that he
seemed to swallow his coffee and toast quite unconsciously, and that he
vented from time to time a low guttural interjection, which was habitual
with him when he was absorbed by an inward discussion. She did not
disturb him by remarks, and only wondered whether anything unusual had
occurred on Sunday evening. But at last she thought it needful to say,
"You recollect what I told you yesterday, father?"

"Nay, child; what?" said Mr. Lyon, rousing himself.

"That Mr. Jermyn asked me if you would probably be at home this morning
before one o'clock."

Esther was surprised to see her father start and change color as if he
had been shaken by some sudden collision before he answered--

"Assuredly; I do not intend to move from my study after I have once been
out to hand this letter to Zachary."

"Shall I tell Lyddy to take him up at once to your study if he comes? If
not, I shall have to stay in my own room, because I shall be at home all
this morning, and it is rather cold now to sit without a fire."

"Yes, my dear, let him come up to me; unless, indeed, he should bring a
second person, which might happen, seeing that in all likelihood he is
coming, as hitherto, on electioneering business. And I could not well
accommodate two visitors up-stairs."

When Mr. Lyon went out to Zachary, the pew-opener, to give him a second
time the commission of carrying a letter to Treby Manor, Esther gave her
injunction to Lyddy that if one gentleman came he was to be shown
up-stairs--if two, they were to be shown into the parlor. But she had to
resolve several questions before Lyddy clearly saw what was before
her--as that, "if it was the gentleman as came on Thursday in the
pepper-and-salt coat, was he to be shown up-stairs? And the gentleman
from the Manor yesterday as went out whistling--had Miss Esther heard
about him? There seemed no end of these great folks coming to Malthouse
Yard since there was talk of the election; but they might be poor lost
creatures the most of 'em." Whereupon Lyddy shook her head and groaned,
under an edifying despair as to the future lot of gentlemen callers.

Esther always avoided asking questions of Lyddy, who found an answer as
she found a key, by pouring out a pocketful of miscellanies. But she had
remarked so many indications that something had happened to cause her
father unusual excitement and mental preoccupation, that she could not
help connecting with them the fact of this visit from the Manor, which
he had not mentioned to her.

She sat down in the dull parlor and took up her netting; for since
Sunday she had felt unable to read when she was alone, being obliged, in
spite of herself, to think of Felix Holt--to imagine what he would like
her to be, and what sort of views he took of life so as to make it seem
valuable in the absence of all elegance, luxury, gayety, or romance. Had
he yet reflected that he had behaved very rudely to her on Sunday?
Perhaps not. Perhaps he had dismissed her from his mind with contempt.
And at that thought Esther's eyes smarted unpleasantly. She was fond of
netting, because it showed to advantage both her hand and her foot; and
across this image of Felix Holt's indifference and contempt there passed
the vaguer image of a possible somebody who would admire her hands and
feet, and delight in looking at their beauty, and long, yet not dare, to
kiss them. Life would be much easier in the presence of such a love. But
it was precisely this longing after her own satisfaction that Felix had
reproached her with. Did he want her to be heroic? That seemed
impossible without some great occasion. Her life was a heap of
fragments, and so were her thoughts: some great energy was needed to
bind them together. Esther was beginning to lose her complacency at her
own wit and criticism; to lose the sense of superiority in an awakening
need of reliance on one whose vision was wider, whose nature was purer
and stronger than her own. But then, she said to herself, that "one"
must be tender to her, not rude and predominating in his manners. A man
with any chivalry in him could never adopt a scolding tone toward a
woman--that is, toward a charming woman. But Felix had no chivalry in
him. He loved lecturing and opinion too well ever to love any woman.

In this way Esther strove to see that Felix was thoroughly in the
wrong--at least, if he did not come again expressly to show that he was
sorry.



CHAPTER XVI.

    _Trueblue._ These men have no votes. Why should I court them?

    _Grayfox._ No votes, but power.

    _Trueblue._ What! over charities?

    _Grayfox._ No, over brains: which disturbs the canvass. In a
    natural state of things the average price of a vote at Paddlebrook
    is nine-and-sixpence, throwing the fifty pound tenants, who cost
    nothing, into the divisor. But these talking men cause an
    artificial rise of prices.


The expected important knock at the door came about twelve o'clock, and
Esther could hear that there were two visitors. Immediately the parlor
door was opened and the shaggy-haired, cravatless image of Felix Holt,
which was just then full in the mirror of Esther's mind, was displaced
by the highly-contrasted appearance of a personage whose name she
guessed before Mr. Jermyn had announced it. The perfect morning costume
of that day differed much from our present ideal: it was essential that
a gentleman's chin should be well propped, that his collar should have a
voluminous roll, that his waistcoat should imply much discrimination,
and that his buttons should be arranged in a manner which would now
expose him to general contempt. And it must not be forgotten that at the
distant period when Treby Magna first knew the excitements of an
election, there existed many other anomalies now obsolete, besides
short-waisted coats and broad stiffeners.

But we have some notions of beauty and fitness which withstand the
centuries; and quite irrespective of dates, it would be pronounced that
at the age of thirty-four Harold Transome was a striking and handsome
man. He was one of those people, as Denner remarked, to whose presence
in the room you could not be indifferent; if you do not hate or dread
them, you must find the touch of their hands, nay, their very shadows,
agreeable.

Esther felt a pleasure quite new to her as she saw his finely-embrowned
face and full bright eyes turned toward her with an air of deference by
which gallantry must commend itself to a refined woman who is not
absolutely free from vanity. Harold Transome regarded women as slight
things, but he was fond of slight things in the intervals of business;
and he held it among the chief arts of life to keep these pleasant
diversions within such bounds that they should never interfere with the
course of his serious ambition. Esther was perfectly aware, as he took a
chair near her, that he was under some admiring surprise at her
appearance and manner. How could it be otherwise? She believed that in
the eyes of a well-bred man no young lady in Treby could equal her: she
felt a glow of delight at the sense that she was being looked at.

"My father expected you," she said to Mr. Jermyn. "I delivered your
letter to him yesterday. He will be down immediately."

She disentangled her foot from her netting and wound it up.

"I hope you are not going to let us disturb you," said Harold, noticing
her action. "We come to discuss election affairs, and we particularly
desire to interest the ladies."

"I have no interest with any one who is not already on the right side,"
said Esther smiling.

"I am happy to see at least that you wear the Liberal colors."

"I fear I must confess that it is more from love of blue than from love
of Liberalism. Yellow opinions could only have brunettes on their side."
Esther spoke with her usual pretty fluency, but she had no sooner
uttered the words than she thought how angry they would have made Felix.

"If my cause is to be recommended by the becomingness of my colors, then
I am sure you are acting in my interest by wearing them."

Esther rose to leave the room.

"Must you really go?" said Harold, preparing to open the door for her.

"Yes, I have an engagement--a lesson at half past twelve," said Esther,
bowing and floating out like a blue-robed Naïad, but not without a
suffused blush as she passed through the doorway.

It was a pity the room was so small, Harold Transome thought: this girl
ought to walk in a house where there were halls and corridors. But he
had soon dismissed this chance preoccupation with Esther; for before the
door was closed again Mr. Lyon had entered, and Harold was entirely bent
on what had been the object of his visit. The minister, though no
elector himself, had considerable influence over Liberal electors, and
it was the part of wisdom in a candidate to cement all political
adhesion by a little personal regard, if possible. Garstin was a harsh
and wiry fellow; he seemed to suggest that sour whey, which some say was
the original meaning of Whig in the Scottish, and it might suggest the
theoretic advantages of Radicalism if it could be associated with a more
generous presence. What would conciliate the personal regard of old Mr.
Lyon became a curious problem to Harold, now the little man made his
appearance. But canvassing makes a gentleman acquainted with many
strange animals; together with the ways of catching and taming them; and
thus the knowledge of natural history advances amongst the aristocracy
and wealthy commoners of our land.

"I am very glad to have secured this opportunity of making your personal
acquaintance, Mr. Lyon," said Harold, putting out his hand to the
minister when Jermyn had mentioned his name. "I am to address the
electors here, in the Market-Place, to-morrow; and I should have been
sorry to do so without first paying my respects privately to my chief
friends, as there may be points on which they particularly wish me to
explain myself."

"You speak civilly, sir, and reasonably," said Mr. Lyon, with a vague
short-sighted gaze, in which a candidate's appearance evidently went for
nothing. "Pray be seated, gentlemen. It is my habit to stand."

He placed himself at a right angle with his visitors, his worn look of
intellectual eagerness, slight frame, and rusty attire, making an odd
contrast with their flourishing persons, unblemished costume, and
comfortable freedom from excitement. The group was fairly typical of the
difference between the men who are animated by ideas and the men who are
expected to apply them. Then he drew forth his spectacles, and began to
rub them with the thin end of his coat tail. He was inwardly exercising
great self-mastery--suppressing the thought of his personal needs, which
Jermyn's presence tended to suggest, in order that he might be equal to
the larger duties of this occasion.

"I am aware--Mr. Jermyn has told me," said Harold, "what good service
you have done me already, Mr. Lyon. The fact is, a man of intellect like
you was especially needed in my case. The race I am running is really
against Garstin only, who calls himself a Liberal, though he cares for
nothing, and understands nothing, except the interests of the wealthy
traders. And you have been able to explain the difference between
Liberal and Liberal, which, as you and I know, is something like the
difference between fish and fish."

"Your comparison is not unapt, sir," said Mr. Lyon, still holding his
spectacles in his hand, "at this epoch, when the mind of the nation has
been strained on the passing of one measure. Where a great weight has to
be moved, we require not so much selected instruments as abundant
horse-power. But it is an unavoidable evil of these massive achievements
that they encourage a coarse undiscriminatingness obstructive of more
nicely-wrought results, and an exaggerated expectation inconsistent with
the intricacies of our fallen and struggling condition. I say not that
compromise is unnecessary, but it is an evil attendant on our
imperfection; and I would pray every one to mark that, where compromise
broadens, intellect and conscience are thrust into narrower room.
Wherefore it has been my object to show our people that there are many
who have helped to draw the car of Reform, whose ends are but partial,
and who forsake not the ungodly principle of selfish alliances, but
would only substitute Syria for Egypt--thinking chiefly of their own
share in peacocks, gold and ivory."

"Just so," said Harold, who was quick at new languages, and still
quicker at translating other men's generalities into his own special and
immediate purposes, "men who will be satisfied if they can only bring in
a plutocracy, buy up the land, and stick the old crests on their new
gateways. Now the practical point to secure against these false Liberals
at present is, that our electors should not divide their votes. As it
appears that many who vote for Debarry are likely to split their votes
in favor of Garstin, it is of the first consequence that my voters
should give me plumpers. If they divide their votes they can't keep out
Debarry, and they may help to keep out me. I feel some confidence in
asking you to use your influence in this direction, Mr. Lyon. We
candidates have to praise ourselves more than is graceful; but you are
aware that, while I belong by my birth to the classes that have their
roots in tradition and all the old loyalties, my experience has lain
chiefly among those who make their own career, and depend on the new
rather than the old. I have had the advantage of considering the
national welfare under varied lights: I have wider views than those of a
mere cotton lord. On questions connected with religious liberty I would
stop short at no measure that was not thorough."

"I hope not, sir--I hope not," said Mr. Lyon, gravely; finally putting
on his spectacles and examining the face of the candidate, whom he was
preparing to turn into a catechumen. For the good Rufus, conscious of
his political importance as an organ of persuasion, felt it his duty to
catechise a little, and also to do his part toward impressing a probable
legislator with a sense of his responsibility. But the latter branch of
duty somewhat obstructed the catechising, for his mind was so urged by
considerations which he held in danger of being overlooked, that the
questions and answers bore a very slender proportion to his exposition.
It was impossible to leave the question of church-rates without noting
the grounds of their injustice, and without a brief enumeration of
reasons why Mr. Lyon, for his own part, would not present that passive
resistance to a legal imposition which had been adopted by the Friends
(whose heroism in this regard was nevertheless worthy of all honor).

Comprehensive talkers are apt to be tiresome when we are not athirst for
information, but, to be quite fair, we must admit that superior
reticence is a good deal due to the lack of matter. Speech is often
barren; but silence also does not necessarily brood over a full nest.
Your still fowl, blinking at you without remark, may all the while be
sitting on one addled nest-egg; and when it takes to cackling, will have
nothing to announce but that addled delusion.

Harold Transome was not at all a patient man, but in matters of business
he was quite awake to his cue, and in this case it was perhaps easier to
listen than to answer questions. But Jermyn, who had plenty of work on
his hands, took an opportunity of rising, and saying, as he looked at
his watch--

"I must really be at the office in five minutes. You will find me there,
Mr. Transome; you have probably still many things to say to Mr. Lyon."

"I beseech you, sir," said the minister, changing color, and by a quick
movement laying his hand on Jermyn's arm--"I beseech you to favor me
with an interview on some private business--this evening, if it were
possible."

Mr. Lyon, like others who are habitually occupied with impersonal
subjects, was liable to this impulsive sort of action. He snatched at
the details of life as if they were darting past him--as if they were
like the ribbons at his knees, which would never be tied all day if they
were not tied on the instant. Through these spasmodic leaps out of his
abstractions into real life, it constantly happened that he suddenly
took a course which had been the subject of too much doubt with him ever
to have been determined on by continuous thought. And if Jermyn had not
startled him by threatening to vanish just when he was plunged in
politics, he might never have made up his mind to confide in a worldly
attorney.

("An odd man," as Mrs. Muscat observed, "to have such a gift in the
pulpit. But there's One knows better than we do----" which, in a lady
who rarely felt her judgment at a loss, was a concession that showed
much piety.)

Jermyn was surprised at the little man's eagerness. "By all means," he
answered, quite cordially. "Could you come to my office at eight
o'clock?"

"For several reasons, I must beg you to come to me."

"Oh, very good. I'll walk out and see you this evening, if possible. I
shall have much pleasure in being of any use to you." Jermyn felt that
in the eyes of Harold he was appearing all the more valuable when his
services were thus in request. He went out, and Mr. Lyon easily relapsed
into politics, for he had been on the brink of a favorite subject on
which he was at issue with his fellow-Liberals.

At that time, when faith in the efficacy of political change was at
fever-heat in ardent Reformers, many measures which men are still
discussing with little confidence on either side, were then talked about
and disposed of like property in near reversion. Crying abuses--"bloated
paupers," "bloated pluralists," and other corruptions hindering men from
being wise and happy--had to be fought against and slain. Such a time is
a time of hope. Afterward when the corpses of those monsters have been
held up to the public wonder and abhorrence, and yet wisdom and
happiness do not follow, but rather a more abundant breeding of the
foolish and unhappy, comes a time of doubt and despondency. But in the
great Reform-year Hope was mighty: the prospect of Reform had even
served the voters instead of drink; and in one place, at least, there
had been "a dry election." And now the speakers at Reform banquets were
exuberant in congratulation and promise: Liberal clergymen of the
Establishment toasted Liberal Catholic clergymen without any allusion to
scarlet, and Catholic clergymen replied with a like tender reserve.
Some dwelt on the abolition of all abuses, and on millennial blessedness
generally; others, whose imaginations were less suffused with
exhalations of the dawn insisted chiefly on the ballot-box.

Now on this question of the ballot the minister strongly took the
negative side. Our pet opinions are usually those which place us in a
minority of a minority amongst our own party:--very happily, else those
poor opinions, born with no silver spoon in their mouths--how would they
get nourished and fed? So it was with Mr. Lyon and his objection to the
ballot. But he had thrown out a remark on the subject which was not
quite clear to his hearer, who interpreted it according to his best
calculation of probabilities.

"I have no objection to the ballot," said Harold, "but I think that is
not the sort of thing we have to work at just now. We shouldn't get it.
And other questions are imminent."

"Then, sir, you would vote for the ballot?" said Mr. Lyon, stroking his
chin.

"Certainly, if the point came up. I have too much respect for the
freedom of the voter to oppose anything which offers a chance of making
that freedom more complete."

Mr. Lyon looked at the speaker with a pitying smile and a subdued
"h'm--m--m," which Harold took for a sign of satisfaction. He was soon
undeceived.

"You grieve me, sir; you grieve me much. And I pray you to reconsider
this question, for it will take you to the root, as I think, of
political morality. I engage to show to any impartial mind, duly
furnished with the principles of public and private rectitude, that the
ballot would be pernicious, and that if it were not pernicious, it would
still be futile. I will show, first, that it would be futile as a
preservative from bribery and illegitimate influence; and, secondly,
that it would be in the worst kind pernicious, as shutting the door
against those influences whereby the soul of a man and the character of
a citizen are duly educated for their great functions. Be not alarmed if
I detain you, sir. It is well worth the while."

"Confound this old man," thought Harold. "I'll never make a canvassing
call on a preacher again, unless he has lost his voice from a cold." He
was going to excuse himself as prudently as he could, by deferring the
subject till the morrow, and inviting Mr. Lyon to come to him in the
committee-room before the time appointed for his public speech; but he
was relieved by the opening of the door, Lyddy put in her head to say--

"If you please, sir, here's Mr. Holt wants to know if he may come in and
speak to the gentleman. He begs your pardon, but you're to say 'no' if
you don't like him to come."

"Nay, show him in at once, Lyddy. A young man," Mr. Lyon went on,
speaking to Harold, "whom a representative ought to know--no voter, but
a man of ideas and study."

"He is thoroughly welcome," said Harold, truthfully enough, though he
felt little interest in the voteless man of ideas except as a diversion
from the subject of the ballot. He had been standing for the last minute
or two, feeling less of a victim in that attitude, and more able to
calculate on means of escape.

"Mr. Holt, sir," said the minister, as Felix entered, "is a young friend
of mine, whose opinions on some points I hope to see altered, but who
has a zeal for public justice which I trust he will never lose."

"I am glad to see Mr. Holt," said Harold, bowing. He perceived from the
way in which Felix bowed to him and turned to the most distant spot in
the room, that the candidate's shake of the hand would not be welcome
here. "A formidable fellow," he thought, "capable of mounting a cart in
the market-place to-morrow and cross-examining me, if I say anything
that doesn't please him."

"Mr. Lyon," said Felix, "I have taken a liberty with you in asking to
see Mr. Transome when he is engaged with you. But I have to speak to him
on a matter which I shouldn't care to make public at present, and it is
one on which I am sure you will back me. I heard that Mr. Transome was
here, so I ventured to come. I hope you will both excuse me, as my
business refers to some electioneering measures which are being taken by
Mr. Transome's agents."

"Pray go on," said Harold, expecting something unpleasant.

"I'm not going to speak against treating voters," said Felix; "I suppose
buttered ale, and grease of that sort to make the wheels go, belong to
the necessary humbug of representation. But I wish to ask you, Mr.
Transome, whether it is with your knowledge that agents of yours are
bribing rough fellows who are no voters--the colliers and navvies at
Sproxton--with the chance of extra drunkenness, that they may make a
posse on your side at the nomination and polling?"

"Certainly not," said Harold. "You are aware, my dear sir, that a
candidate is very much at the mercy of his agents as to the means by
which he is returned, especially when many years' absence has made him a
stranger to the men actually conducting business. But are you sure of
your facts?"

"As sure as my senses can make me," said Felix, who then briefly
described what had happened on Sunday. "I believed that you were
ignorant of all this, Mr. Transome," he ended, "and that was why I
thought some good might be done by speaking to you. If not, I should be
tempted to expose the whole affair as a disgrace to the Radical party.
I'm a Radical myself, and mean to work all my life long against
privilege, monopoly, and oppression. But I would rather be a
livery-servant proud of my master's title, than I would seem to make
common cause with scoundrels who turn the best hopes of men into
by-words for cant and dishonesty."

"Your energetic protest is needless here, sir," said Harold, offended at
what sounded like a threat, and was certainly premature enough to be in
bad taste. In fact, this error of behavior in Felix proceeded from a
repulsion which was mutual. It was a constant source of irritation to
him that the public men on his side were, on the whole, not
conspicuously better than the public men on the other side; that the
spirit of innovation, which with him was a part of religion, was in many
of its mouthpieces no more of a religion than the faith in rotten
boroughs; and he was thus predisposed to distrust Harold Transome.
Harold, in his turn, disliked impracticable notions of loftiness and
purity--disliked all enthusiasm; and he thought he saw a very
troublesome, vigorous incorporation of that nonsense in Felix. But it
would be foolish to exasperate him in any way.

"If you choose to accompany me to Jermyn's office," he went on, "the
matter shall be enquired into in your presence. I think you will agree
with me, Mr. Lyon, that this will be the most satisfactory course."

"Doubtless," said the minister, who liked the candidate very well, and
believed that he would be amenable to argument; "and I would caution my
young friend against a too great hastiness of words and action. David's
cause against Saul was a righteous one; nevertheless not all who clave
unto David were righteous men."

"The more was the pity, sir," said Felix. "Especially if he winked at
their malpractices."

Mr. Lyon smiled, shook his head, and stroked his favorite's arm
deprecatingly.

"It is rather too much for any man to keep the consciences of all his
party," said Harold. "If you had lived in the East, as I have, you would
be more tolerant, for example, of an active industrious selfishness,
such as we have here, though it may not always be quite scrupulous: you
would see how much better it is than an idle selfishness. I have heard
it said, a bridge is a good thing--worth helping to make, though half
the men who worked at it were rogues."

"Oh, yes!" said Felix, scornfully, "give me a handful of generalities
and analogies, and I'll undertake to justify Burke and Hare, and prove
them benefactors of their species. I'll tolerate no nuisances but such
as I can't help; and the question now is, not whether we can do away
with all the nuisances in the world, but with a particular nuisance
under our noses."

"Then we had better cut the matter short, as I propose, by going at once
to Jermyn's," said Harold. "In that case, I must bid you good-morning,
Mr. Lyon."

"I would fain," said the minister, looking uneasy--"I would fain have
had a further opportunity of considering that question of the ballot
with you. The reasons against it need not be urged lengthily; they only
require complete enumeration to prevent any seeming hiatus, where an
opposing fallacy might trust itself in."

"Never fear, sir," said Harold, shaking Mr. Lyon's hand cordially,
"there will be opportunities. Shall I not see you in the committee-room
to-morrow?"

"I think not," said Mr. Lyon, rubbing his brow, with a sad remembrance
of his personal anxieties. "But I will send you, if you will permit me,
a brief writing, on which you can meditate at your leisure."

"I shall be delighted. Good-bye."

Harold and Felix went out together; and the minister, going up to his
dull study, asked himself whether, under the pressure of conflicting
experience, he had faithfully discharged the duties of the past
interview?

If a cynical sprite were present, riding on one of the motes in that
dusty room, he may have made himself merry at the illusions of the
little minister who brought so much conscience to-bear on the production
of so slight an effect. I confess to smiling myself, being sceptical as
to the effect of ardent appeals and nice distinctions on gentlemen who
are got up, both inside and out, as candidates in the style of the
period; but I never smiled at Mr. Lyon's trustful energy without falling
to penitence and veneration immediately after. For what we call
illusions are often, in truth, a wider vision of past and recent
realities--a willing movement of a man's soul with the larger sweep of
the world's forces--a movement toward a more assured end than the
chances of a single life. We see human heroism broken into units and
say, this unit did little--might as well not have been. But in this way
we might break up a great army into units; in this way we might break
the sunlight into fragments, and think that this and the other might be
cheaply parted with. Let us rather raise a monument to the soldiers
whose brave hearts only kept the ranks unbroken and met death--a
monument to the faithful who were not famous, and who are precious as
the continuity of the sunbeams is precious, though some of them fall
unseen and on barrenness.

At present, looking back on that day at Treby, it seem to me that the
sadder illusion lay with Harold Transome, who was trusting in his own
skill to shape the success of his own morrows, ignorant of what many
yesterdays had determined for him beforehand.



CHAPTER XVII.

    It is a good and soothfast saw;
    Half-roasted never will be raw;
    No dough is dried once more to meal,
    No crock new-shapen by the wheel;
    You can't turn curds to milk again,
    Nor Now, by wishing, back to Then;
    And having tasted stolen honey,
    You can't buy innocence for money.


Jermyn was not particularly pleased that some chance had apparently
hindered Harold Transome from making other canvassing visits immediately
after leaving Mr. Lyon, and so had sent him back to the office earlier
than he had been expected to come. The inconvenient chance he guessed at
once to be represented by Felix Holt, whom he knew very well by Trebian
report to be a young man with so little of the ordinary Christian
motives as to making an appearance and getting on in the world, that he
presented no handle to any judicious and respectable person who might be
willing to make use of him.

Harold Transome, on his side, was a great deal annoyed at being worried
by Felix in an enquiry about electioneering details. The real dignity
and honesty there was in him made him shrink from this necessity of
satisfying a man with a troublesome tongue; it was as if he were to show
indignation at the discovery of one barrel with a false bottom, when he
had invested his money in a manufactory where a larger or smaller
number of such barrels had always been made. A practical man must seek a
good end by the only possible means; that is to say, if he is to get
into Parliament he must not be too particular. It was not disgraceful to
be neither a Quixote nor a theorist, aiming to correct the moral rules
of the world: but whatever actually was, or might prove to be,
disgraceful, Harold held in detestation. In this mood he pushed on
unceremoniously to the inner office without waiting to ask questions;
and when he perceived that Jermyn was not alone he said, with haughty
quickness--

"A question about the electioneering at Sproxton. Can you give your
attention to it at once? Here is Mr. Holt, who has come to me about the
business."

"A--yes--a--certainly," said Jermyn, who, as usual, was the more cool
and deliberate because he was vexed. He was standing, and, as he turned
round, his broad figure concealed the person who was seated writing at
the bureau. "Mr. Holt--a--will doubtless--a--make a point of saving a
busy man's time. You can speak at once. This gentleman"--here Jermyn
made a slight backward movement of the head--"is one of ourselves; he is
a true-blue."

"I have simply to complain," said Felix, "that one of your agents has
been sent on a bribing expedition to Sproxton--with what purpose you,
sir, may know better than I do. Mr. Transome, it appears, was ignorant
of the affair, and does not approve it."

Jermyn, looking gravely and steadily at Felix while he was speaking, at
the same time drew forth a small sheaf of papers from his side pocket,
and then, as he turned his eyes slowly on Harold, felt in his
waistcoat-pocket for his pencil-case.

"I don't approve of it at all," said Harold, who hated Jermyn's
calculated slowness and conceit in his own impenetrability. "Be good
enough to put a stop to it, will you?"

"Mr. Holt, I know, is an excellent Liberal," said Jermyn, just inclining
his head to Harold, and then alternately looking at Felix and docketing
his bills; "but he is perhaps too inexperienced to be aware that no
canvass--a--can be conducted without the action of able men, who
must--a--be trusted, and not interfered with. And as to any possibility
of promising to put a stop--a--to any procedure--a--that depends. If he
had ever held the coachman's ribbons in his hands, as I have in my
younger days--a--he would know that stopping is not always easy."

"I know very little about holding ribbons," said Felix; "but I saw
clearly enough at once that more mischief had been done than could be
well mended. Though I believe, if it were heartily tried, the treatment
might be reduced and something might be done to hinder the men from
turning out in a body to make a noise, which might end in worse."

"They might be hindered from making a noise on our side," said Jermyn,
smiling. "That is perfectly true. But if they made a noise on the
other--would your purpose be answered better, sir?"

Harold was moving about in an irritated manner while Felix and Jermyn
were speaking. He preferred leaving the talk to the attorney, of whose
talk he himself liked to keep as clear as possible.

"I can only say," answered Felix, "that if you make use of those heavy
fellows when the drink is in them, I shouldn't like your responsibility.
You might as well drive bulls to roar on our side as bribe a set of
colliers and navvies to shout and groan."

"A lawyer may well envy your command of language, Mr. Holt," said
Jermyn, pocketing his bills again, and shutting up his pencil; "but he
would not be satisfied with the accuracy--a--of your terms. You must
permit me to check your use of the word 'bribery.' The essence of
bribery is, that it should be legally proved; there is not such a
thing--a--_in rerum natura_--a--as unproved bribery. There has been no
such thing as bribery at Sproxton, I'll answer for it. The presence of a
body of stalwart fellows on--a--the Liberal side will tend to preserve
order; for we know that the benefit clubs from the Pitchley district
will show for Debarry. Indeed, the gentleman who has conducted the
canvass at Sproxton is experienced in Parliamentary affairs, and would
not exceed--a--the necessary measures that a rational judgment would
dictate."

"What! you mean the man who calls himself Johnson?" said Felix, in a
tone of disgust.

Before Jermyn chose to answer, Harold broke in, saying, quickly and
peremptorily, "The long and short of it is this, Mr. Holt: I shall
desire and insist that whatever can be done by way of remedy shall be
done. Will that satisfy you? You see now some of the candidate's
difficulties?" said Harold, breaking into his most agreeable smile. "I
hope you will have some pity for me."

"I suppose I must be content," said Felix, not thoroughly propitiated.
"I bid you good-morning, gentlemen."

When he was gone out, and had closed the door behind him, Harold,
turning round and flashing, in spite of himself, an angry look at
Jermyn, said--

"And who is Johnson? an _alias_, I suppose. It seems you are fond of the
name."

Jermyn turned perceptibly paler, but disagreeables of this sort between
himself and Harold had been too much in his anticipations of late for
him to be taken by surprise. He turned quietly round and just touched
the shoulder of the person seated at the bureau, who now rose.

"On the contrary," Jermyn answered, "the Johnson in question is this
gentleman, whom I have the pleasure of introducing to you as one of my
most active helpmates in electioneering business--Mr. Johnson, of
Bedford Row, London. I am comparatively a novice--a--in these matters.
But he was engaged with James Putty in two hardly-contested elections,
and there could scarcely be a better initiation. Putty is one of the
first men of the country as an agent--a--on the Liberal side--a--eh,
Johnson? I think Makepiece is--a--not altogether a match for him, not
quite of the same calibre--a--_haud consimili ingenio_--a--in
tactics--a--and in experience?"

"Makepiece is a wonderful man, and so is Putty," said the glib Johnson,
too vain not to be pleased with an opportunity of speaking, even when
the situation was rather awkward. "Makepiece for scheming, but Putty for
management. Putty knows men, sir," he went on, turning to Harold: "it's
a thousand pities that you have not had his talents employed in your
service. He's beyond any man for saving a candidate's money--does half
the work with his tongue. He'll talk of anything, from the Areopagus,
and that sort of thing, down to the joke about 'Where are you going,
Paddy?'--you know what I mean, sir! 'Back again, says Paddy'--an
excellent electioneering joke. Putty understands these things. He has
said to me, 'Johnson, bear in mind there are two ways of speaking an
audience will always like: one is to tell them what they don't
understand; and the other is, to tell them what they're used to.' I
shall never be the man to deny that I owe a great deal to Putty. I
always say it was a most providential thing in the Mugham election last
year that Putty was not on the Tory side. He managed the women; and, if
you'll believe me, sir, one-fourth of the men would never have voted if
their wives hadn't driven them to it for the good of their families. And
as for speaking--it's currently reported in our London circles that
Putty writes regularly for the _Times_. He has that kind of language;
and I needn't tell you, Mr. Transome, that it's the apex, which, I take
it, means the tiptop--and nobody can get higher than that, I think. I've
belonged to a political debating society myself; I've heard a little
language in my time; but when Mr. Jermyn first spoke to me about having
the honor to assist in your canvass of North Loamshire"--here Johnson
played with his watch-seals and balanced himself a moment on his
toes--"the very first thing I said was, 'And there's Garstin has got
Putty! No Whig could stand against a Whig,' I said, 'who had Putty on
his side: I hope Mr. Transome goes in for something of a deeper color.'
I don't say that, as a general rule, opinions go for much in a return,
Mr. Transome; it depends on who are in the field before you, and on the
skill of your agents. But as a Radical, and a moneyed Radical, you are
in a fine position, sir; and with care and judgment--with care and
judgment----"

It had been impossible to interrupt Johnson before, without the most
impolitic rudeness. Jermyn was not sorry that he should talk, even if he
made a fool of himself; for in that solid shape, exhibiting the average
amount of human foibles, he seemed less of the _alias_ which Harold had
insinuated him to be, and had all the additional plausibility of a lie
with a circumstance.

Harold had thrown himself with contemptuous resignation into a chair,
had drawn off one of his buff gloves, and was looking at his hand. But
when Johnson gave his iteration with a slightly slackened pace, Harold
looked up at him and broke in--

"Well then, Mr. Johnson, I shall be glad if you will use your care and
judgment in putting an end, as well as you can, to this Sproxton affair;
else it may turn out an ugly business."

"Excuse me, sir; I must beg you to look at the matter a little more
closely. You will see that it is impossible to take a single step
backward at Sproxton. It was a matter of necessity to get the Sproxton
men; else I know to a certainty the other side would have laid hold of
them first, and now I've undermined Garstin's people. They'll use their
authority, and give a little shabby treating, but I've taken all the
wind out of their sails. But if, by your orders, I or Mr. Jermyn here
were to break promise with the honest fellows, and offend Chubb the
publican, what would come of it? Chubb would leave no stone unturned
against you, sir; he would egg on his customers against you; the
colliers and navvies would be at the nomination and the election all the
same, or rather not all the same, for they would be there against us;
and instead of hustling people good-humoredly by way of a joke, and
counterbalancing Debarry's cheers, they'd help to kick the cheering and
voting out of our men, and instead of being, let us say, half-a-dozen
ahead of Garstin, you'd be half-a-dozen behind him, that's all. I speak
plain English to you, Mr. Transome, though I've the highest respect for
you as a gentleman of first-rate talents and position. But, sir, to
judge of these things a man must know the English voter and the English
publican; and it would be a poor tale indeed"--here Mr. Johnson's mouth
took an expression at once bitter and pathetic--"that a gentleman like
you, to say nothing of the good of the country, should have gone to the
expense and trouble of a canvass for nothing but to find himself out of
Parliament at the end of it. I've seen it again and again; it looks bad
in the cleverest man to have to sing small."

Mr. Johnson's argument was not the less stringent because his idioms
were vulgar. It requires a conviction and resolution amounting to
heroism not to wince at phrases that class our foreshadowed endurance
among those common and ignominious troubles which the world is more
likely to sneer at than to pity. Harold remained a few minutes in angry
silence looking at the floor, with one hand on his knee and the other on
his hat, as if he were preparing to start up.

"As to undoing anything that's been done down there," said Johnson,
throwing in this observation as something into the bargain, "I must wash
my hands of it, sir. I couldn't work knowingly against your interest.
And that young man who is just gone out,--you don't believe that he need
be listened to, I hope? Chubb, the publican, hates him. Chubb would
guess he was at the bottom of your having the treating stopped, and he'd
set half-a-dozen of the colliers to duck him in the canal, or break his
head by mistake. I'm an experienced man, sir. I hope I've put it clear
enough."

"Certainly, the exposition befits the subject," said Harold, scornfully,
his dislike of the man Johnson's personality being stimulated by causes
which Jermyn more than conjectured. "It's a damned, unpleasant, ravelled
business that you and Mr. Jermyn have knit up between you. I've no more
to say."

"Then, sir, if you've no more commands, I don't wish to intrude. I shall
wish you good-morning, sir," said Johnson, passing out quickly.

Harold knew that he was indulging his temper, and he would probably have
restrained it as a foolish move if he had thought there was great danger
in it. But he was beginning to drop much of his caution and self-mastery
where Jermyn was concerned, under the growing conviction that the
attorney had very strong reasons for being afraid of him; reasons which
would only be reinforced by any action hostile to the Transome interest.
As for a sneak like this Johnson, a gentleman had to pay him, not to
please him. Harold had smiles at command in the right place, but he was
not going to smile when it was neither necessary nor agreeable. He was
one of those good-humored, yet energetic men, who have the gift of
anger, hatred, and scorn upon occasion, though they are too healthy and
self-contented for such feelings to get generated in them without
external occasion. And in relation to Jermyn the gift was coming into
fine exercise.

"A--pardon me, Mr. Harold," said Jermyn, speaking as soon as Johnson
went out, "but I am sorry--a--you should behave disobligingly to a man
who has it in his power to do much service--who, in fact, holds many
threads in his hands. I admit that--a--_nemo mortalium omnibus horis
sapit_, as we say--a----"

"Speak for yourself," said Harold. "I don't talk in tags of Latin, which
might be learned by a school-master's foot-boy. I find the King's
English expresses my meaning better."

"In the King's English, then," said Jermyn, who could be idiomatic
enough when he was stung, "a candidate should keep his kicks till he's a
member."

"Oh, I suppose Johnson will bear a kick if you bid him. You're his
principal, I believe."

"Certainly, thus far--a--he is my London agent. But he is a man of
substance, and----"

"I shall know what he is if it's necessary, I dare say. But I must jump
into the carriage again. I've no time to lose; I must go to Hawkins at
the factory. Will you go?"

When Harold was gone, Jermyn's handsome face gathered blackness. He
hardly ever wore his worst expression in the presence of others, and but
seldom when he was alone, for he was not given to believe that any game
would ultimately go against him. His luck had been good. New conditions
might always turn up to give him new chances; and if affairs threatened
to come to an extremity between Harold and himself, he trusted to
finding some sure resource.

"He means to see to the bottom of everything if he can, that's quite
plain," said Jermyn to himself. "I believe he has been getting another
opinion; he has some new light about those annuities on the estate that
are held in Johnson's name. He has inherited a deuced faculty for
business--there's no denying that. But I shall beg leave to tell him
that I've propped up the family. I don't know where they would have been
without me; and if it comes to balancing, I know into which scale the
gratitude ought to go. Not that he's likely to feel any--but he can feel
something else; and if he makes signs of setting the dogs on me, I shall
make him feel it. The people named Transome owe me a good deal more than
I owe them."

In this way Mr. Jermyn inwardly appealed against an unjust construction
which he foresaw that his old acquaintance the law might put on certain
items in his history.

I have known persons who have been suspected of under-valuing gratitude,
and excluding it from the list of virtues; but on closer observation it
has been seen that, if they have never felt grateful, it has been for
want of an opportunity; and that, far from despising gratitude, they
regard it as the virtue most of all incumbent--on others toward them.



CHAPTER XVIII.

    The little, nameless, unremembered acts
    Of kindness and of love.

                                  --WORDSWORTH: _Tintern Abbey_.


Jermyn did not forget to pay his visit to the minister in Malthouse Yard
that evening. The mingled irritation, dread and defiance which he was
feeling toward Harold Transome in the middle of the day depended on too
many and far-stretching causes to be dissipated by eight o'clock; but
when he left Mr. Lyon's house he was in a state of comparative triumph
in the belief that he, and he alone, was now in possession of facts
which, once grouped together, made a secret that gave him new power over
Harold.

Mr. Lyon, in his need for help from one who had that wisdom of the
serpent which, he argued, is not forbidden, but is only of hard
acquirement to dovelike innocence, had been gradually led to pour out to
the attorney all the reasons which made him desire to know the truth
about the man who called himself Maurice Christian: he had shown all the
precious relics, the locket, the letters, and the marriage certificate.
And Jermyn had comforted him by confidently promising to ascertain,
without scandal or premature betrayals, whether this man were really
Annette's husband, or Maurice Christian Bycliffe.

Jermyn was not rash in making this promise, since he had excellent
reasons for believing that he had already come to a true conclusion on
the subject. But he wished both to know a little more of this man
himself, and to keep Mr. Lyon in ignorance--not a difficult
precaution--in an affair which it cost the minister so much pain to
speak of. An easy opportunity of getting an interview with Christian was
sure to offer itself before long--might even offer itself to-morrow.
Jermyn had seen him more than once, though hitherto without any reason
for observing him with interest; he had heard that Philip Debarry's
courier was often busy in the town, and it seemed specially likely that
he would be seen there when the market was to be agitated by politics,
and the new candidate was to show his paces.

The world of which Treby Magna was the centre was, naturally, curious to
see the young Transome, who had come from the East, was as rich as a
Jew, and called himself a Radical--characteristics all equally vague in
the minds of various excellent ratepayers, who drove to market in their
taxed carts or in their hereditary gigs. Places at convenient windows
had been secured beforehand for a few best bonnets; but, in general, a
Radical candidate excited no ardent feminine partisanship, even among
the Dissenters in Treby, if they were of the prosperous and
long-resident class. Some chapel-going ladies were fond of remembering
that "their family had been Church"; others objected to politics
altogether as having spoiled old neighborliness, and sundered friends
who had kindred views as to cowslip wine and Michaelmas cleaning;
others, of the melancholy sort, said it would be well if people would
think less of reforming Parliament and more of pleasing God.
Irreproachable Dissenting matrons, like Mrs. Muscat, whose youth had
been passed in a short-waisted bodice and tight skirt, had never been
animated by the struggle for liberty, and had a timid suspicion that
religion was desecrated by being applied to the things of this world.
Since Mr. Lyon had been in Malthouse Yard there had been far too much
mixing up of politics with religion; but, at any rate, these ladies had
never yet been to hear speechifying in the market-place, and they were
not going to begin that practice.

Esther, however, had heard some of her feminine acquaintances say that
they intended to sit at the druggist's upper window, and she was
inclined to ask her father if he could think of a suitable place where
she also might see and hear. Two inconsistent motives urged her. She
knew that Felix cared earnestly for public questions, and she supposed
that he held it one of her deficiencies not to care about them: well,
she would try to learn the secret of this ardor, which was so strong in
him that it animated what she thought the dullest form of life. She was
not too stupid to find it out. But this self-correcting motive was
presently displaced by a motive of a different sort. It had been a
pleasant variety in her monotonous days to see a man like Harold
Transome, with a distinguished appearance and polished manners, and she
would like to see him again: he suggested to her that brighter and more
luxurious life on which her imagination dwelt without the painful effort
it required to conceive the mental condition which would place her in
complete sympathy with Felix Holt. It was this less unaccustomed
prompting of which she was chiefly conscious when she awaited her
father's coming down to breakfast. Why, indeed, should she trouble
herself so much about Felix?

Mr. Lyon, more serene now that he had unbosomed his anxieties and
obtained a promise of help, was already swimming so happily in the deep
water of polemics in expectation of Philip Debarry's answer to his
challenge, that, in the occupation of making a few notes lest certain
felicitous inspirations should be wasted, he had forgotten to come down
to breakfast. Esther, suspecting his abstraction, went up to his study,
and found him at his desk looking up with wonder at her interruption.

"Come, father, you have forgotten your breakfast."

"It is true, child, I will come," he said, lingering to make some final
strokes.

"Oh, you naughty father!" said Esther, as he got up from his chair,
"your coat-collar is twisted, your waistcoat is buttoned all wrong, and
you have not brushed your hair. Sit down and let me brush it again as I
did yesterday."

He sat down obediently, while Esther took a towel, which she threw over
his shoulders, and then brushed the thick, long fringe of soft auburn
hair. This very trifling act, which she had brought herself to for the
first time yesterday, meant a great deal in Esther's little history. It
had been her habit to leave the mending of her father's clothes to
Lyddy; she had not liked even to touch his cloth garments; still less
had it seemed a thing she would willingly undertake to correct his
toilette, and use a brush for him. But having once done this, under her
new sense of faulty omission, the affectionateness that was in her
flowed so pleasantly, as she saw how much her father was moved by what
he thought a great act of tenderness, that she quite longed to repeat
it. This morning, as he sat under her hands, his face had such a calm
delight in it that she could not help kissing the top of his bald head;
and afterward, when they were seated at breakfast, she said, merrily--

"Father, I shall make a _petit maître_ of you by-and-by; your hair looks
so pretty and silken when it is well brushed."

"Nay, child, I trust that while I would willingly depart from my evil
habit of a somewhat slovenly forgetfulness in my attire, I shall never
arrive at the opposite extreme. For though there is that in apparel
which pleases the eye, and I deny not that your neat gown and the color
thereof--which is that of certain little flowers that spread themselves
in the hedgerows, and make a blueness there as of the sky when it is
deepened in the water--I deny not, I say, that these minor strivings
after a perfection which is, as it were, an irrecoverable yet haunting
memory, are a good in their proportion. Nevertheless, the brevity of our
life, and the hurry and crush of the great battle with error and sin,
often oblige us to an advised neglect of what is less momentous. This, I
conceive, is the principle on which my friend Felix Holt acts; and I
cannot but think the light comes from the true fount, though it shines
through obstructions."

"You have not seen Mr. Holt since Sunday, have you, father?"

"Yes, he was here yesterday. He sought Mr. Transome, having a matter of
some importance to speak upon with him. And I saw him afterward in the
street, when he agreed that I should call for him this morning before I
go into the market-place. He will have it," Mr. Lyon went on, smiling,
"that I must not walk about in the crowd without him to act as my
special constable."

Esther felt vexed with herself that her heart was suddenly beating with
unusual quickness, and that her last resolution not to trouble herself
about what Felix thought had transformed itself with magic swiftness
into mortification that he evidently avoided coming to the house when
she was there, though he used to come on the slightest occasion. He knew
that she was always at home until the afternoon on market-days: that was
the reason why he would not call for her father. Of course it was
because he attributed such littleness to her that he supposed she would
retain nothing else than a feeling of offence toward him for what he had
said to her. Such distrust of any good in others, such arrogance of
immeasurable superiority, was extremely ungenerous. But presently she
said--

"I should have liked to hear Mr. Transome speak, but I suppose it is too
late to get a place now."

"I am not sure, I would fain have you go if you desire it, my dear,"
said Mr. Lyon, who could not bear to deny Esther any lawful wish. "Walk
with me to Mrs. Holt's, and we will learn from Felix, who will doubtless
already have been out, whether or not he could lead you in safety to
Friend Lambert's."

Esther was glad of the proposal, because, if it answered no other
purpose, it would be an easy way of obliging Felix to see her, and of
showing him that it was not she who cherished offence. But when, later
in the morning, she was walking toward Mrs. Holt's with her father, they
met Mr. Jermyn, who stopped them to ask, in his most affable manner,
whether Miss Lyon intended to hear the candidate, and whether she had
secured a suitable place. And he ended by insisting that his daughters,
who were presently coming in an open carriage, should call for her if
she would permit them. It was impossible to refuse this civility, and
Esther turned back to await the carriage, pleased with the certainty of
hearing and seeing, yet sorry to miss Felix. There was another day for
her to think of him with unsatisfied resentment, mixed with some
longings for a better understanding: and in our spring-time every day
has its hidden growths in the mind, as it has in the earth when the
little folded blades are getting ready to pierce the ground.



CHAPTER XIX.

    Consistency?--I never changed my mind,
    Which is, and always was, to live at ease.


It was only in the time of summer fairs that the market-place had ever
looked more animated than it did under that autumn midday sun. There
were plenty of blue cockades and streamers, faces at all the windows,
and a crushing buzzing crowd, urging each other backward and forward
round the small hustings in front of the Ram Inn, which showed its more
plebeian sign at right angles with the venerable Marquis of Granby.
Sometimes there were scornful shouts, sometimes a rolling cascade of
cheers, sometimes the shriek of a penny whistle; but above all these
fitful and feeble sounds, the fine old church-tower, which looked down
from above the trees on the other side of the narrow stream, sent
vibrating, at every quarter, the sonorous tones of its great bell, the
Good Queen Bess.

Two carriages, with blue ribbons on the harness, were conspicuous near
the hustings. One was Jermyn's, filled with the brilliantly-attired
daughters, accompanied by Esther, whose quieter dress helped to mark her
out for attention as the most striking of the group. The other was
Harold Transome's; but in this there was no lady--only the olive-skinned
Dominic, whose acute yet mild face was brightened by the occupation of
amusing little Harry and rescuing from his tyrannies a King Charles
puppy, with big eyes, much after the pattern of the boy's.

This Trebian crowd did not count for much in the political force of the
nation, but it was not the less determined as to lending or not lending
its ears. No man was permitted to speak from the platform except Harold
and his uncle Lingon, though, in the interval of expectation, several
Liberals had come forward. Among these ill-advised persons the one whose
attempt met the most emphatic resistance was Rufus Lyon. This might have
been taken for resentment at the unreasonableness of the cloth, that,
not content with pulpits, from whence to tyrannize over the ears of men,
wishes to have the larger share of the platforms; but it was not so, for
Mr. Lingon was heard with much cheering, and would have been welcomed
again.

The rector of Little Treby had been a favorite in the neighborhood since
the beginning of the century. A clergyman thoroughly unclerical in his
habits had a piquancy about him which made him a sort of practical joke.
He had always been called Jack Lingon, or Parson Jack--sometimes, in
older and less serious days, even "Cock-fighting Jack." He swore a
little when the point of a joke seemed to demand it, and was fond of
wearing a colored bandana tied loosely over his cravat, together with
large brown leather leggings; he spoke in a pithy familiar way that
people could understand, and had none of that frigid mincingness called
dignity, which some have thought a peculiar clerical disease. In fact,
he was "a charicter--" something cheerful to think of, not entirely out
of connection with Sunday and sermons. And it seemed in keeping that he
should have turned sharp round in politics, his opinions being only
part of the excellent joke called Parson Jack. When his red eagle face
and white hair were seen on the platform, the Dissenters hardly cheered
this questionable Radical; but to make amends, all the Tory farmers gave
him a friendly "hurray." "Let's hear what old Jack will say for
himself," was the predominant feeling among them; "he'll have something
funny to say, I'll bet a penny."

It was only Lawyer Labron's young clerks and their hangers-on who were
sufficiently dead to Trebian traditions to assail the parson with
various sharp-edged interjections, such as broken shells, and cries of
"Cock-a-doodle-doo."

"Come now, my lads," he began, in his full, pompous, yet jovial tones,
thrusting his hands into the stuffed-out pockets of his greatcoat, "I'll
tell you what; I'm a parson you know; I ought to return good for evil.
So here are some good nuts for you to crack in return for your shells."

There was a roar of laughter and cheering as he threw handfuls of nuts
and filberts among the crowd.

"Come now, you'll say I used to be a Tory; and some of you, whose faces
I know as well as I know the head of my own crab-stick, will say that's
why I'm a good fellow. But now I'll tell you something else. It's for
that very reason--that I used to be a Tory, and am a good fellow--that I
go along with my nephew here, who is a thorough-going Liberal. For will
anybody here come forward and say, 'A good fellow has no need to tack
about and change his road?' No, there's not one of you such a Tom-noddy.
What's good for one time is bad for another. If anybody contradicts
that, ask him to eat pickled pork when he's thirsty, and to bathe in the
Lapp there when the spikes of ice are shooting. And that's the reason
why the men who are the best Liberals now are the very men who used to
be the best Tories. There isn't a nastier horse than your horse that'll
jib and back and turn round when there is but one road for him to go,
and that's the road before him.

"And my nephew here--he comes of a Tory breed, you know--I'll answer for
the Lingons. In the old Tory times there was never a pup belonged to a
Lingon but would howl if a Whig came near him. The Lingon blood is good,
rich old Tory blood--like good rich milk--and that's why, when the right
time comes, it throws up a liberal cream. The best sort of Tory turns to
the best sort of Radical. There's plenty of Radical scum--I say, beware
of the scum, and look but for the cream. And here's my nephew--some of
the cream, if there is any: none of your Whigs, none of your painted
water that looks as if it ran, and it's standing still all the while;
none of your spinning-jenny fellows. A gentleman; but up to all sorts of
business. I'm no fool myself; I'm forced to wink a good deal, for fear
of seeing too much, for a neighborly man must let himself be cheated a
little. But though I've never been out of my own country, I know less
about it than my nephew does. You may tell what he is, and only look at
him. There's one sort of fellow sees nothing but the end of his own
nose, and another sort that sees nothing but the hinder side of the
moon; but my nephew Harold is of another sort; he sees everything that's
at hitting distance, and he's not one to miss his mark. A good-looking
man in his prime! Not a greenhorn; not a shrivelled old fellow, who'll
come to speak to you and find he's left his teeth at home by mistake.
Harold Transome will do you credit; if anybody says the Radicals are a
set of sneaks, Brummagem half-pennies, scamps who want to play
pitch-and-toss with the property of the country, you can say, 'Look at
the member for North Loamshire!' And mind what you'll hear him say;
he'll go in for making everything right--Poor-laws and Charities and
Church--he wants to reform 'em all. Perhaps you'll say, 'There's that
Parson Lingon talking about Church Reform--why, he belongs to the Church
himself--he wants reforming too.' Well, well, wait a bit, and you'll
hear by-and-by that old Parson Lingon is reformed--shoots no more,
cracks his joke no more, has drunk his last bottle: the dogs, the old
pointers, will be sorry; but you'll hear that the Parson at Little Treby
is a new man. That's what Church Reform is sure to come to before long.
So now here are some more nuts for you, lads, and I leave you to listen
to your candidate. Here he is--give him a good hurray; wave your hats,
and I'll begin. Hurray!"

Harold had not been quite confident beforehand as to the good effect of
his uncle's introduction; but he was soon reassured. There was no acrid
partisanship among the old-fashioned Tories who mustered strong about
the Marquis of Granby, and Parson Jack had put them in a good humor.
Harold's only interruption came from his own party. The oratorical clerk
at the Factory, acting as the tribune of the Dissenting interest, and
feeling bound to put questions, might have been troublesome; but his
voice being unpleasantly sharp, while Harold's was full and
penetrating, the questioning was cried down. Harold's speech "did": it
was not of the glib-nonsensical sort, not ponderous, not
hesitating--which is as much as to say, that it was remarkable among
British speeches. Read in print the next day, perhaps it would be
neither pregnant nor conclusive, which is saying no more than that its
excellence was not of an abnormal kind, but such as is usually found in
the best efforts of eloquent candidates. Accordingly, the applause
drowned the opposition, and content predominated.

But, perhaps, the moment of most diffusive pleasure from public speaking
is that in which the speech ceases and the audience can turn to
commenting on it. The one speech, sometimes uttered under great
responsibility as to missiles and other consequences, has given a text
to twenty speakers who are under no responsibility. Even in the days of
duelling a man was not challenged for being a bore, nor does this
quality apparently hinder him from being much invited to dinner, which
is the great index of social responsibility in a less barbarous age.

Certainly the crowd in the market-place seemed to experience this
culminating enjoyment when the speaking on the platform in front of the
Ram had ceased, and there were no less than three orators holding forth
from the elevation of chance vehicles, not at all to the prejudice of
the talking among those who were on a level with their neighbors. There
was little ill-humor among the listeners, for Queen Bess was striking
the last quarter before two, and a savory smell from the inn kitchens
inspired them with an agreeable consciousness that the speakers were
helping to trifle away the brief time before dinner.

Two or three of Harold's committee had lingered talking to each other on
the platform, instead of re-entering; and Jermyn, after coming out to
speak to one of them, had turned to the corner near which the carriages
were standing, that he might tell the Transome's coachman to drive round
to the side door and signal to his own coachman to follow. But a
dialogue which was going on below induced him to pause, and instead of
giving the order, to assume the air of a careless gazer. Christian, whom
the attorney had already observed looking out of a window at the Marquis
of Granby, was talking to Dominic. The meeting appeared to be one of new
recognition, for Christian was saying:

"You've not got gray, as I have, Mr. Lenoni; you're not a day older for
the sixteen years. But no wonder you didn't know me; I'm bleached like a
dried bone."

"Not so. It is true I was confused a meenute--I could put your face
nowhere; but, after that, Naples came behind it, and I said, Mr.
Creesstian. And so you reside at the Manor, and I am at Transome Court."

"Ah! it's a thousand pities you're not on our side, else we might have
dined together at the Marquis," said Christian. "Eh, could you manage
it?" he added, languidly, knowing there was no chance of a yes.

"No--much obliged--couldn't leave the leetle boy. Ahi! Arry, Arry, pinch
not poor Moro."

While Dominic was answering, Christian had stared about him, as his
manner was when he was being spoken to, and had had his eyes arrested by
Esther, who was leaning forward to look at Mr. Harold Transome's
extraordinary little gypsy of a son. But, happening to meet Christian's
stare, she felt annoyed, drew back, and turned away her head, coloring.

"Who are those ladies?" said Christian, in a low tone, to Dominic, as if
he had been startled into a sudden wish for this information.

"They are Meester Jermyn's daughters," said Dominic, who knew nothing
either of the lawyer's family or of Esther.

Christian looked puzzled a moment or two, and was silent.

"Oh, well--_au revoir_," he said, kissing the tips of his fingers as the
coachman, having had Jermyn's order, began to urge on the horses.

"Does he see some likeness in the girl?" thought Jermyn, as he turned
away. "I wish I hadn't invited her to come in the carriage, as it
happens."



CHAPTER XX.

    "Good earthenware pitchers, sir!--of an excellent quaint pattern
    and sober color."


The market dinner at "the Marquis" was in high repute in Treby and its
neighborhood. The frequenters of this three-and-sixpenny ordinary liked
to allude to it, as men allude to anything which implies that they move
in good society, and habitually converse with those who are in the
secret of the highest affairs. The guests were not only such rural
residents as had driven to market, but some of the most substantial
townsmen, who had always assured their wives that business required this
weekly sacrifice of domestic pleasure. The poorer farmers, who put up at
the Ram or the Seven Stars, where there was no fish, felt their
disadvantage, bearing it modestly or bitterly, as the case might be;
and although the Marquis was a Tory house, devoted to Debarry, it was
too much to expect that such tenants of the Transomes as had always been
used to dine there, should consent to eat a worse dinner, and sit with
worse company, because they suddenly found themselves under a Radical
landlord, opposed to the political party known as Sir Maxim's. Hence the
recent political divisions had not reduced the handsome length of the
table at the Marquis; and the many gradations of dignity--from Mr. Wace,
the brewer, to the rich butcher from Leek Malton, who always modestly
took the lowest seat, though without the reward of being asked to come
up higher--had not been abbreviated by any secessions.

To-day there was an extra table spread for expected supernumeraries, and
it was at this that Christian took his place with some of the younger
farmers, who had almost a sense of dissipation in talking to a man of
his questionable station and unknown experience. The provision was
especially liberal, and on the whole the presence of a minority destined
to vote for Transome was a ground for joking, which added to the good
humor of the chief talkers. A respectable old acquaintance turned
Radical rather against his will, was rallied with even greater gusto
than if his wife had had twins twice over. The best Trebian Tories were
far too sweet-blooded to turn against such old friends, and to make no
distinction between them and the Radical, Dissenting, Papistical,
Deistical set with whom they never dined, and probably never saw except
in their imagination. But the talk was necessarily in abeyance until the
more serious business of dinner was ended, and the wine, spirits, and
tobacco raised mere satisfaction into beatitude.

Among the frequent though not regular guests, whom every one was glad to
see, was Mr. Nolan, the retired London hosier, a wiry old gentleman past
seventy, whose square, tight forehead, with its rigid hedge of gray
hair, whose bushy eyebrows, sharp dark eyes, and remarkable hooked nose,
gave a handsome distinction to his face in the midst of rural
physiognomies. He had married a Miss Pendrell early in life, when he was
a poor young Londoner, and the match had been thought as bad as ruin by
her family; but fifteen years ago he had had the satisfaction of
bringing his wife to settle amongst her own friends, and of being
received with pride as a brother-in-law, retired from business,
possessed of unknown thousands, and of a most agreeable talent for
anecdote and conversation generally. No question had ever been raised
as to Mr. Nolan's extraction on the strength of his hooked nose, or of
his name being Baruch. Hebrew names "ran" in the best Saxon families;
the Bible accounted for them; and no one among the uplands and hedgerows
of that district was suspected of having an oriental origin unless he
carried a peddler's jewel-box. Certainly, whatever genealogical research
might have discovered, the worthy Baruch Nolan was so free from any
distinctive marks of religious persuasion--he went to church with so
ordinary an irregularity, and so often grumbled at the sermon--that
there was no ground for classing him otherwise than with good Trebian
Churchmen. He was generally regarded as a good-looking old gentleman,
and a certain thin eagerness in his aspect was attributed to the life of
the metropolis, where narrow space had the same sort of effect on men as
on thickly-planted trees. Mr. Nolan always ordered his pint of port,
which, after he had sipped it a little, was wont to animate his
recollections of the Royal Family, and the various ministries which had
been contemporary with the successive stages of his prosperity. He was
always listened to with interest: a man who had been born in the year
when good old King George came to the throne--who had been acquainted
with the nude leg of the Prince Regent, and hinted at private reasons
for believing that the Princess Charlotte ought not to have died--had
conversational matter as special to his auditors as Marco Polo could
have had on his return from his Asiatic travel.

"My good sir," he said to Mr. Wace, as he crossed his knees and spread
his silk handkerchief over them, "Transome may be returned, or he may
not be returned--that's a question for North Loamshire; but it makes
little difference to the kingdom. I don't want to say things which may
put younger men out of spirits, but I believe this country has seen it's
best days--I do, indeed."

"I am sorry to hear it from one of your experience, Mr. Nolan," said the
brewer, a large, happy-looking man. "I'd make a good fight myself before
I'd leave a worse world for my boys than I've found for myself. There
isn't a greater pleasure than doing a bit of planting and improving
one's buildings, and investing one's money in some pretty acres of land,
and when it turns up here and there--land you've known from a boy. It's
a nasty thought that these Radicals are to turn things round so as one
can calculate on nothing. One doesn't like it for one's self, and one
doesn't like it for one's neighbors. But somehow, I believe it won't
do: if we can't trust the Government just now, there's Providence and
the good sense of the country; and there's a right in things--that's
what I've always said--there's a right in things. The heavy end will get
downmost. And if Church and King, and every man being sure of his own,
are things good for this country, there's a God above will take care of
'em."

"It won't do, my dear sir," said Mr. Nolan--"It won't do. When Peel and
the Duke turned round about the Catholics in '29, I saw it was all over
with us. We could never trust ministers any more. It was to keep off a
rebellion, they said; but I say it was to keep their places. They're
monstrously fond of place, both of them--that I know." Here Mr. Nolan
changed the crossing of his legs, and gave a deep cough, conscious of
having made a point. Then he went on--"What we want is a king with a
good will of his own. If we'd had that, we shouldn't have heard what
we've heard to-day; Reform would never have come to this pass. When our
good old King George III. heard his ministers talking about Catholic
Emancipation, he boxed their ears all round. Ah, poor soul! he did
indeed, gentlemen," ended Mr. Nolan, shaken by a deep laugh of
admiration.

"Well, now, that's something like a king," said Mr. Crowder, who was an
eager listener.

"It was uncivil, though. How did they take it?" said Mr. Timothy Rose, a
"gentleman farmer" from Leek Malton, against whose independent position
nature had provided the safeguard of a spontaneous servility. His large
porcine cheeks, round twinkling eyes, and thumbs habitually twirling,
expressed a concentrated effort not to get into trouble, and to speak
everybody fair except when they were safely out of hearing.

"Take it! they'd be obliged to take it," said the impetuous young Joyce,
a farmer of superior information. "Have you ever heard of the king's
prerogative?"

"I don't say but what I have," said Rose, retreating. "I've nothing
against it--nothing at all."

"No, but the Radicals have," said young Joyce, winking. "The prerogative
is what they want to clip close. They want us to be governed by
delegates from the trades-unions, who are to dictate to everybody, and
make everything square to their mastery."

"They're a pretty set, now, these delegates," said Mr. Wace, with
disgust. "I once heard two of 'em spouting away. They're a sort of
fellow I'd never employ in my brewery, or anywhere else. I've seen it
again and again. If a man takes to tongue-work it's all over with him.
'Everything's wrong,' says he. That's a big text. But does he want to
make everything right? Not he. He'd lose his text. 'We want every man's
good,' say they. Why, they never knew yet what a man's good is. How
should they? It's working for his victual--not getting a slice of other
people's."

"Ay, ay," said young Joyce, cordially. "I should just have liked all the
delegates in the country mustered for our yeomanry to go into--that's
all. They'd see where the strength of Old England lay then. You may tell
what it is for a country to trust to trade when it breeds such spindling
fellows as those."

"That isn't the fault of trade, my good sir," said Mr. Nolan, who was
often a little pained by the defects of provincial culture. "Trade,
properly conducted, is good for a man's constitution. I could have shown
you, in my time, weavers past seventy, with all their faculties as sharp
as a pen-knife, doing without spectacles. It's the new system of trade
that's to blame: a country can't have too much trade if it's properly
managed. Plenty of sound Tories have made their fortune by trade. You've
heard of Calibut & Co.--everybody has heard of Calibut. Well, sir, I
knew old Mr. Calibut as well as I know you. He was once a crony of mine
in a city warehouse; and now, I'll answer for it, he has a larger rent
roll than Lord Wyvern. Bless your soul! his subscriptions to charities
would make a fine income for a nobleman. And he's as good a Tory as I
am. And as for his town establishment--why, how much butter do you think
is consumed there annually?"

Mr. Nolan paused, and then his face glowed with triumph as he answered
his own question. "Why, gentlemen, not less than two thousand pounds of
butter during the few months the family is in town! Trade makes
property, my good sir, and property is conservative, as they say now.
Calibut's son-in-law is Lord Fortinbras. He paid me a large debt on his
marriage. It's all one web, sir. The prosperity of the country is one
web."

"To be sure," said Christian, who, smoking his cigar with his chair
turned away from the table, was willing to make himself agreeable in the
conversation. "We can't do without nobility. Look at France. When they
got rid of the old nobles they were obliged to make new."

"True, very true," said Mr. Nolan, who thought Christian a little too
wise for his position, but could not resist the rare gift of an instance
in point. "It's the French Revolution that has done us harm here. It was
the same at the end of the last century, but the war kept it off--Mr.
Pitt saved us. I knew Mr. Pitt. I had a particular interview with him
once. He joked me about getting the length of his foot. 'Mr. Nolan,'
said he, 'there are those on the other side of the water whose name
begins with N. who would be glad to know what you know.' I was
recommended to send an account of that to the newspapers after his
death, poor man! but I'm not fond of that kind of show myself." Mr.
Nolan swung his upper leg a little, and pinched his lip between his
thumb and finger, naturally pleased with his own moderation.

"No, no--very right," said Mr. Wace, cordially. "But you never said a
truer word than that about property. If a man's got a bit of property, a
stake in the country, he'll want to keep things square. Where Jack isn't
safe, Tom's in danger. But that's what makes it such an uncommonly nasty
thing that a man like Transome should take up with these Radicals. It's
my belief he does it only to get into Parliament; he'll turn round when
he gets there. Come, Dibbs, there's something to put you in spirits,"
added Mr. Wace, raising his voice a little and looking at a guest lower
down. "You've got to vote for a Radical with one side of your mouth, and
make a wry face with the other; but he'll turn round by-and-by. As
Parson Jack says, he's got the right sort of blood in him."

"I don't care two straws who I vote for," said Dibbs, sturdily. "I'm not
going to make a wry face. It stands to reason a man should vote for his
landlord. My farm's in good condition, and I've got the best pasture on
the estate. The rot's never come nigh me. Let them grumble as are on the
wrong side of the hedge."

"I wonder if Jermyn'll bring him in, though," said Mr. Sircome, the
great miller. "He's an uncommon fellow for carrying things through. I
know he brought me through that suit about my weir; it cost a pretty
penny, but he brought me through."

"It's a bit of a pill for him, too, having to turn Radical," said Mr.
Wace. "They say he counted on making friends with Sir Maximus, by this
young one coming home and joining with Mr. Philip."

"But I'll bet a penny he brings Transome in," said Mr. Sircome. "Folks
say he hasn't got many votes hereabout; but toward Duffield, and all
there, where the Radicals are, everybody's for him. Eh, Mr. Christian?
Come--you're at the fountain-head--what do they say about it now at the
Manor?"

When general attention was called to Christian young Joyce looked down
at his own legs and touched the curves of his own hair, as if measuring
his own approximation to that correct copy of a gentleman. Mr. Wace
turned his head to listen for Christian's answer with that tolerance of
inferiority which becomes men in places of public resort.

"They think it will be a hard run between Transome and Garstin," said
Christian. "It depends on Transome's getting plumpers."

"Well, I know I shall not split for Garstin," said Mr. Wace. "It's
nonsense for Debarry's voters to split for a Whig. A man's either a Tory
or not a Tory."

"It seems reasonable there should be one of each side," said Mr. Timothy
Rose. "I don't like showing favor either way. If one side can't lower
the poor's rates and take off the tithe, let the other try."

"But there's this in it, Wace," said Mr. Sircome. "I'm not altogether
against the Whigs. For they don't want to go so far as the Radicals do,
and when they find they've slipped a bit too far they'll hold on all the
tighter. And the Whigs have got the upper hand now, and it's no use
fighting with the current. I run with the----"

Mr. Sircome checked himself, looked furtively at Christian, and, to
divert criticisms, ended with--"eh, Mr. Nolan?"

"There have been eminent Whigs, sir. Mr. Fox was a Whig," said Mr.
Nolan. "Mr. Fox was a great orator. He was very intimate with the Prince
of Wales. I've seen him, and the Duke of York too, go home by daylight
with their hats crushed. Mr. Fox was a great leader of Opposition:
Government requires an Opposition. The Whigs should always be in
opposition, and the Tories on the ministerial side. That's what the
country used to like. 'The Whigs for salt and mustard, the Tories for
meat,' Mr. Gottlib, the banker, used to say to me. Mr. Gottlib was a
worthy man. When there was a great run on Mr. Gottlib's bank in '16, I
saw a gentleman come in with bags of gold, and say, 'Tell Mr. Gottlib
there's plenty more where that came from.' It stopped the run,
gentlemen--it did indeed."

This anecodote was received with great admiration, but Mr. Sircome
returned to the previous question.

"There now, you see, Wace--it's right there should be Whigs as well as
Tories--Pitt and Fox--I've always heard them go together."

"Well, I don't like Garstin," said the brewer. "I didn't like his
conduct about the Canal Company. Of the two, I like Transome best. If a
nag is to throw me, I say, let him have some blood."

"As for blood, Wace," said Mr. Salt, the wool-factor, a bilious man, who
only spoke when there was a good opportunity of contradicting, "ask my
brother-in-law, Labron, a little about that. These Transomes are not the
old blood."

"Well, they're the oldest that's forthcoming, I suppose," said Mr. Wace,
laughing. "Unless you believe in mad old Tommy Trounsem. I wonder where
that old poaching fellow is now."

"I saw him half-drunk the other day," said young Joyce. "He'd got a
flag-basket with handbills in it over his shoulder."

"I thought the old fellow was dead," said Mr. Wace. "Hey! why, Jermyn,"
he went on merrily, as he turned round and saw the attorney entering;
"you Radical! how dare you show yourself in this Tory house? Come, this
is going a bit too far. We don't mind Old Harry managing our law for
us--that's his proper business from time immemorial; but----"

"But--a--" said Jermyn, smiling, always ready to carry on a joke, to
which his slow manner gave the piquancy of surprise, "if he meddles with
politics he must be a Tory."

Jermyn was not afraid to show himself anywhere in Treby. He knew many
people were not exactly fond of him, but a man can do without that, if
he is prosperous. A provincial lawyer in those old-fashioned days was as
independent of personal esteem as if he had been a Lord Chancellor.

There was a good-humored laugh at this upper end of the room as Jermyn
seated himself at about an equal angle between Mr. Wace and Christian.

"We were talking about old Tommy Trounsem; you remember him? They say
he's turned up again," said Mr. Wace.

"Ah?" said Jermyn, indifferently. "But--a--Wace--I'm very busy
to-day--but I wanted to see you about that bit of land of yours at the
corner of Pod's End. I've had a handsome offer for you--I'm not at
liberty to say from whom--but an offer that ought to tempt you."

"It won't tempt me," said Mr. Wace, peremptorily, "if I've got a bit of
land, I'll keep it. It's hard enough to get hereabouts."

"Then I'm to understand that you refuse all negotiation?" said Jermyn,
who had ordered a glass of sherry, and was looking around slowly as he
sipped it, till his eyes seemed to rest for the first time on Christian,
though he had seen him at once on entering the room.

"Unless one of the confounded railways should come. But then I'll stand
out and make 'em bleed for it."

There was a murmur of approbation; the railways were a public wrong much
denunciated in Treby.

"A--Mr. Philip Debarry at the Manor now?" said Jermyn, suddenly
questioning Christian, in a haughty tone of superiority which he often
chose to use.

"No," said Christian, "he is expected to-morrow morning."

"Ah!----" Jermyn paused a moment or two, and then said, "You are
sufficiently in his confidence, I think, to carry a message to him with
a small document?"

"Mr. Debarry has often trusted me so far," said Christian, with much
coolness; "but if the business is yours, you can probably find some one
you know better."

There was a little winking and grimacing among those of the company who
heard this answer.

"A--true--a," said Jermyn, not showing any offence; "if you decline. But
I think, if you will do me the favor to step round to my residence on
your way back, and learn the business, you will prefer carrying it
yourself. At my residence, if you please--not my office."

"Oh, very well," said Christian. "I shall be very happy." Christian
never allowed himself to be treated as a servant by anyone but his
master, and his master treated a servant more deferentially than an
equal.

"Will it be five o'clock? what hour shall we say?" said Jermyn.

Christian looked at his watch and said, "About five I can be there."

"Very good," said Jermyn, finishing his sherry.

"Well--a--Wace--a--so you will hear nothing about Pod's End?"

"Not I."

"A mere pocket-handkerchief, not enough to swear by-a--" here Jermyn's
face broke into a smile--"without a magnifying-glass."

"Never mind. It's mine into the bowels of the earth and up to the sky. I
can build the Tower of Babel on it if I like--eh, Mr. Nolan?"

"A bad investment, my good sir," said Mr. Nolan, who enjoyed a certain
flavor of infidelity in this smart reply, and laughed much at it in his
inward way.

"See now, how blind you Tories are," said Jermyn, rising; "if I had been
your lawyer, I'd have had you make another forty-shilling freeholder
with that land, and all in time for this election. But--a--the verbum
sapientibus comes a little too late now."

Jermyn was moving away as he finished speaking, but Mr. Wace called out
after him, "We're not so badly off for votes as you are--good sound
votes, that'll stand the Revising Barrister. Debarry at the top of the
poll!"

The lawyer was already out of the doorway.



CHAPTER XXI.

    'Tis grievous that with all amplification of travel both by sea and
    land, a man can never separate himself from his past history.


Mr. Jermyn's handsome house stood a little way out of the town,
surrounded by garden and lawn and plantations of hopeful trees. As
Christian approached it he was in a perfectly easy state of mind: the
business he was going on was none of his, otherwise than as he was well
satisfied with any opportunity of making himself valuable to Mr. Philip
Debarry. As he looked at Jermyn's length of wall and iron railing, he
said to himself, "These lawyers are the fellows for getting on in the
world with the least expense of civility. With this cursed conjuring
secret of theirs called Law, they think everybody is frightened at them.
My Lord Jermyn seems to have his insolence as ready as his soft sawder.
He's as sleek as a rat, and has as vicious a tooth. I know the sort of
vermin well enough. I've helped to fatten one or two."

In this mood of conscious, contemptuous penetration, Christian was shown
by the footman into Jermyn's private room, where the attorney sat
surrounded with massive oaken bookcases, and other furniture to
correspond, from the thickest-legged library-table to the calendar frame
and card-rack. It was the sort of a room a man prepares for himself when
he feels sure of a long and respectable future. He was leaning back in
his leather chair, against the broad window opening on the lawn, and had
just taken off his spectacles and let the newspaper fall on his knees,
in despair of reading by the fading light.

When the footman opened the door and said, "Mr. Christian," Jermyn said,
"Good evening, Mr. Christian. Be seated," pointing to a chair opposite
himself and the window. "Light the candles on the shelf, John, but leave
the blinds alone."

He did not speak again till the man was gone out, but appeared to be
referring to a document which lay on the bureau before him. When the
door was closed he drew himself up again, began to rub his hands, and
turned toward his visitor, who seemed perfectly indifferent to the fact
that the attorney was in shadow, and that the light fell on himself.

"A--your name--a--is Henry Scaddon."

There was a start through Christian's frame which he was quick enough,
almost simultaneously, to try and disguise as a change of position. He
uncrossed his legs and unbuttoned his coat. But before he had time to
say anything, Jermyn went on with slow emphasis.

"You were born on the sixteenth of December, 1782, at Blackheath. Your
father was a cloth-merchant in London: he died when you were barely of
age, leaving an extensive business: before you were five-and-twenty you
had run through the greater part of the property, and had compromised
your safety by an attempt to defraud your creditors. Subsequently you
forged a check on your father's elder brother, who had intended to make
you his heir."

Here Jermyn paused a moment and referred to the document. Christian was
silent.

"In 1808 you found it expedient to leave this country in a military
disguise, and were taken prisoner by the French. On the occasion of an
exchange of prisoners you had the opportunity of returning to your own
country, and to the bosom of your own family. You were generous enough
to sacrifice that prospect in favor of a fellow-prisoner, of about your
own age and figure, who had more pressing reasons than yourself for
wishing to be on this side of the water. You exchanged dress, luggage,
and names with him, and he passed to England instead of you as Henry
Scaddon. Almost immediately afterward you escaped from your
imprisonment, after feigning an illness which prevented your exchange of
names from being discovered; and it was reported that you--that is, you
under the name of your fellow-prisoner--were drowned in an open boat,
trying to reach a Neapolitan vessel bound for Malta. Nevertheless I
have to congratulate you on the falsehood of that report, and on the
certainty that you are now, after the lapse of more than twenty years,
seated here in perfect safety."

Jermyn paused so long that he was evidently awaiting some answer. At
last Christian replied in a dogged tone--

"Well, sir, I've heard much longer stories than that told quite as
solemnly, when there was not a word of truth in them. Suppose I deny the
very peg you hang your statement on. Suppose I say I am not Henry
Scaddon."

"A--in that case--a," said Jermyn, with wooden indifference, "you would
lose the advantage which--a--may attach to your possession of Henry
Scaddon's knowledge. And at the same time, if it were in the
least--a--inconvenient to you that you should be recognized as Henry
Scaddon, your denial would not prevent me from holding the knowledge and
evidence which I possess on that point; it would only prevent us from
pursuing the present conversation."

"Well, sir, suppose we admit, for the sake of the conversation, that
your account of the matter is the true one: what advantage have you to
offer the man named Henry Scaddon?"

"The advantage--a--is problematical; but it may be considerable. It
might, in fact, release you from the necessity of acting as courier,
or--a--valet, or whatever other office you may occupy which prevents you
from being your own master. On the other hand, my acquaintance with your
secret is not necessarily a disadvantage to you. To put the matter in a
nutshell, I am not inclined--a--gratuitously--to do you any harm, and I
may be able to do you a considerable service."

"Which you want me to earn somehow?" said Christian. "You offer me a
turn in a lottery?"

"Precisely. The matter in question is of no earthly interest to you,
except--a--as it may yield you a prize. We lawyers have to do with
complicated questions, and--a--legal subtleties, which are
never--a--fully known even to the parties immediately interested, still
less to the witnesses. Shall we agree, then, that you continue to retain
two-thirds of the name which you gained by exchange, and that you oblige
me by answering certain questions as to the experience of Henry
Scaddon?"

"Very good. Go on."

"What articles of property once belonging to your fellow-prisoner,
Maurice Christian Bycliffe, do you still retain?"

"This ring," said Christian, twirling round the fine seal-ring on his
finger, "his watch, and the little matters that hung with it, and a case
of papers. I got rid of a gold snuff-box once when I was hard up. The
clothes are all gone, of course. We exchanged everything; it was all
done in a hurry. Bycliffe thought we should meet again in England before
long, and he was mad to get there. But that was impossible--I mean that
we should meet soon after. I don't know what's become of him, else I
would give him up his papers and the watch, and so on--though, you know,
it was I who did _him_ the service, and he felt that."

"You were at Vesoul together before being moved to Verdun?"

"Yes."

"What else do you know about Bycliffe?"

"Oh, nothing very particular," said Christian pausing, and rapping his
boot with his cane. "He'd been in the Hanoverian army--a high-spirited
fellow, took nothing easily; not over-strong in health. He made a fool
of himself with marrying at Vesoul; and there was the devil to pay with
the girl's relations; and then, when the prisoners were ordered off,
they had to part. Whether they ever got together again I don't know."

"Was the marriage all right then?"

"Oh, all on the square--civil marriage, church--everything. Bycliffe was
a fool--a good-natured, proud, headstrong fellow."

"How long did the marriage take place before you left Vesoul?"

"About three months. I was witness to the marriage."

"And you know no more about the wife?"

"Not afterward. I knew her very well before--pretty Annette--Annette
Ledru was her name. She was of a good family, and they had made up a
fine match for her. But she was one of your meek little diablesses, who
have a will of their own once in their lives--the will to choose their
own master."

"Bycliffe was not open to you about his other affairs?"

"Oh, no--a fellow you wouldn't dare to ask a question of. People told
him everything, but he told nothing in return. If Madame Annette ever
found him again, she found her lord and master with a vengeance; but she
was a regular lapdog. However, her family shut her up--made a prisoner
of her--to prevent her running away."

"Ah--good. Much of what you have been so obliging as to say is
irrelevant to any possible purpose of mine, which, in fact, has only to
do with a mouldy law-case that might be aired some day. You will
doubtless, on your own account, maintain perfect silence on what has
passed between us, and with that condition duly preserved--a--it is
possible that--a--the lottery you have put into--as you observe--may
turn up a prize."

"This, then, is all the business you have with me?" said Christian,
rising.

"All. You will, of course, preserve carefully all the papers and other
articles which have so many--a--recollections--a--attached to them?"

"Oh, yes. If there's any chance of Bycliffe turning up again, I shall be
sorry to have parted with the snuff-box; but I was hard-up at Naples. In
fact, as you see, I was obliged at last to turn courier."

"An exceedingly agreeable life for a man of some--a--accomplishments
and--a--no income," said Jermyn, rising, and reaching a candle, which he
placed against his desk.

Christian knew this was a sign that he was expected to go, but he
lingered standing, with one hand on the back of his chair. At last, he
said rather sulkily--

"I think you're too clever, Mr. Jermyn, not to perceive that I'm not a
man to be made a fool of."

"Well--a--it may perhaps be a still better guarantee for you," said Jermyn,
smiling, "that I see no use in attempting that--a--metamorphosis."

"The old gentleman, who ought never to have felt himself injured, is
dead now, and I'm not afraid of creditors after more than twenty years."

"Certainly not;--a--there may indeed be claims which can't assert
themselves--a--legally, which yet are molesting to a man of some
reputation. But you may perhaps be happily free from such fears."

Jermyn drew round his chair toward the bureau, and Christian, too acute
to persevere uselessly, said, "Good-day," and left the room.

After leaning back in his chair to reflect a few minutes, Jermyn wrote
the following letter:--

    DEAR JOHNSON,--I learn from your letter, received this morning,
    that you intend returning to town on Saturday.

    While you are there, be so good as to see Medwin, who used to be
    with Batt & Cowley, and ascertain from him indirectly, and in the
    course of conversation on other topics, whether in that old
    business in 1810-11, Scaddon _alias_ Bycliffe, or Bycliffe _alias_
    Scaddon, before his imprisonment, gave Batt & Cowley any reason to
    believe that he was married and expected to have a child. The
    question, as you know, is of no practical importance; but I wish to
    draw up an abstract of the Bycliffe case, and the exact position in
    which it stood before the suit was closed by the death of the
    plaintiff, in order that, if Mr. Harold Transome desires it, he may
    see how the failure of the last claim has secured the
    Durfey-Transome title, and whether there is a hair's breadth of
    chance that another claim should be set up.

    Of course there is not a shadow of such a chance. For even if Batt
    & Cowley were to suppose that they had alighted on a surviving
    representative of the Bycliffes, it would not enter their heads to
    set up a new claim, since they brought evidence that the last life
    which suspended the Bycliffe remainder was extinct before the case
    was closed, a good twenty years ago.

    Still I want to show the present heir of the Durfey-Transomes the
    exact condition of the family title to the estates. So get me an
    answer from Medwin on the above mentioned point.

    I shall meet you at Duffield next week. We must get Transome
    returned. Never mind his having been a little rough the other day,
    but go on doing what you know is necessary for his interest. His
    interest is mine, which I need not say is John Johnson's.

                Yours faithfully,                MATTHEW JERMYN.

When the attorney had sealed this letter and leaned back in his chair
again, he was inwardly saying--

"Now, Mr. Harold, I shall shut up this affair in a private drawer till
you choose to take any extreme measures which will force me to bring it
out. I have the matter entirely in my own power. No one but old Lyon
knows about the girl's birth. No one but Scaddon can clench the evidence
about Bycliffe, and I've got Scaddon under my thumb. No soul except
myself and Johnson, who is a limb of myself, knows that there is one
half-dead life which may presently leave the girl a new claim to the
Bycliffe heirship. I shall learn through Methurst whether Batt & Cowley
knew, through Bycliffe, of this woman having come to England. I shall
hold all the threads between my thumb and finger. I can use the evidence
or I can nullify it.

"And so, if Mr. Harold pushes me to extremity, and threatens me with
chancery and ruin, I have an opposing threat, which will either save me
or turn into a punishment for him."

He rose, put out his candles, and stood with his back to the fire,
looking out on the dim lawn, with its black twilight fringe of shrubs,
still meditating. Quick thought was gleaming over five-and-thirty years
filled with devices more or less clever, more or less desirable to be
avowed. Those which might be avowed with impunity were not always to be
distinguished as innocent by comparison with those which it was
advisable to conceal. In a profession where much that is noxious may be
done without disgrace, is a conscience likely to be without balm when
circumstances have urged a man to overstep the line where his good
technical information makes him aware that (with discovery) disgrace is
likely to begin?

With regard to the Transome affairs, the family had been in pressing
need of money, and it had lain with him to get it for them: was it to be
expected that he would not consider his own advantage where he had
rendered services such as are never fully paid? If it came to a question
of right and wrong instead of law, the least justifiable things he had
ever done had been done on behalf of the Transomes. It had been a
deucedly unpleasant thing for him to get Bycliffe arrested and thrown
into prison as Henry Scaddon--perhaps hastening the man's death in that
way. But if it had not been done by dint of his (Jermyn's) exertions and
tact, he would like to know where the Durfey-Transomes might have been
by this time. As for right or wrong, if the truth were known, the very
possession of the estate by the Durfey-Transomes was owing to law-tricks
that took place nearly a century ago, when the original old Durfey got
his base fee.

But inward argument of this sort now, as always, was merged in anger, in
exasperation, that Harold, precisely Harold Transome, should have turned
out to be the probable instrument of a visitation which would be bad
luck, not justice; for is there any justice where ninety-nine out of
every hundred escape? He felt himself beginning to hate Harold as he had
never--

Just then Jermyn's third daughter, a tall slim girl, wrapped in a white
woollen shawl, which she had hung over her blanket-wise, skipped across
the lawn toward the greenhouse to get a flower. Jermyn was startled, and
did not identify the figure, or rather he identified it falsely with
another tall white-wrapped figure which had sometimes set his heart
beating quickly more than thirty years before. For a moment he was fully
back in those distant years when he and another bright-eyed person had
seen no reason why they should not indulge their passion and their
vanity, and determine for themselves how their lives should be made
delightful in spite of unalterable external conditions. The reasons had
been unfolding themselves gradually ever since through all the years
which had converted the handsome, soft-eyed, slim young Jermyn (with a
touch of sentiment) into a portly lawyer of sixty, for whom life had
resolved itself into the means of keeping up his head among his
professional brethren and maintaining an establishment--into a
gray-haired husband and father, whose third affectionate and expensive
daughter now rapped at the window and called to him, "Papa, papa, get
ready for dinner; don't you remember that the Lukyns are coming?"



CHAPTER XXII.

    Her gentle looks shot arrows, piercing him
    As gods are pierced, with poison of sweet pity.


The evening of the market-day had passed, and Felix had not looked in at
Malthouse Yard to talk over the public events with Mr. Lyon. When Esther
was dressing the next morning, she had reached a point of irritated
anxiety to see Felix, at which she found herself devising little schemes
for attaining that end in some way that would be so elaborate as to seem
perfectly natural. Her watch had a long-standing ailment of losing;
possibly it wanted cleaning; Felix would tell her if it merely wanted
regulating, whereas Mr. Prowd might detain it unnecessarily, and cause
her useless inconvenience. Or could she not get a valuable hint from
Mrs. Holt about the home-made bread, which was something as "sad" as
Lyddy herself? Or, if she came home that way at twelve o'clock, Felix
might be going out, she might meet him, and not be obliged to call.
Or--but it would be very much beneath her to take any steps of this
sort. Her watch had been losing for the last two months--why should it
not go on losing a little longer? She could think of no devices that
were not so transparent as to be undignified. All the more undignified
because Felix chose to live in a way that would prevent any one from
classing him according to his education and mental refinement--"which
certainly are very high," said Esther, inwardly, coloring, as if in
answer to some contrary allegation, "else I should not think his opinion
of any consequence." But she came to the conclusion that she could not
possibly call at Mrs. Holt's.

It followed that, up to a few minutes past twelve, when she reached the
turning toward Mrs. Holt's, she believed that she should go home the
other way; but at the last moment there is always a reason not existing
before--namely, the impossibility of further vacillation. Esther turned
the corner without any visible pause, and in another minute was knocking
at Mrs. Holt's door, not without an inward flutter, which she was bent
on disguising.

"It's never you, Miss Lyon! who'd have thought of seeing you at this
time? Is the minister ill? I thought he looked creechy. If you want
help, I'll put my bonnet on."

"Don't keep Miss Lyon at the door, mother; ask her to come in," said the
ringing voice of Felix, surmounting various small shufflings and
babbling voices within.

"It's my wish for her to come in, I'm sure," said Mrs. Holt, making way;
"but what is there for her to come in to? a floor worse than any public.
But step in, pray, if you're so inclined. When I've been forced to take
my bit of carpet up, and have benches, I don't see why I need mind
nothing no more."

"I only came to ask Mr. Holt if he would look at my watch for me," said
Esther, entering, and blushing a general rose-color.

"He'll do that fast enough," said Mrs. Holt, with emphasis; "that's one
of the things he _will_ do."

"Excuse my rising, Miss Lyon," said Felix; "I'm binding up Job's
finger."

Job was a small fellow about five, with a germinal nose, large round
blue eyes, and red hair that curled close to his head like the wool on
the back of an infantine lamb. He had evidently been crying, and the
corners of his mouth were still dolorous. Felix held him on his knee as
he bound and tied up very cleverly a tiny forefinger. There was a table
in front of Felix and against the window, covered with his watchmaking
implements and some open books. Two benches stood at right angles on the
sanded floor, and six or seven boys of various ages up to twelve were
getting their caps and preparing to go home. They huddled themselves
together and stood still when Esther entered. Felix could not look up
till he had finished his surgery, but he went on speaking.

"This is a hero, Miss Lyon. This is Job Tudge, a bold Briton whose
finger hurts him, but who doesn't mean to cry. Good-morning, boys. Don't
lose your time. Get out into the air."

Esther seated herself on the end of the bench near Felix, much relieved
that Job was the immediate object of attention; and the other boys
rushed out behind her with a brief chant of "Good-morning!"

"Did you ever see," said Mrs. Holt, standing to look on, "how wonderful
Felix is at that small work with his large fingers? And that's because
he learned doctoring. It isn't for want of cleverness he looks like a
poor man, Miss Lyon. I've left off speaking, else I should say it's a
sin and a shame."

[Illustration: FELIX HOLT AND JOB TUDGE.]

"Mother," said Felix, who often amused himself and kept good-humored by
giving his mother answers that were unintelligible to her, "you have an
astonishing readiness in the Ciceronian antiphrasis, considering you
have never studied oratory. There, Job--thou patient man--sit still if
thou wilt; and now we can look at Miss Lyon."

Esther had taken off her watch and was holding it in her hand. But he
looked at her face, or rather at her eyes, as he said, "You want me to
doctor your watch?"

Esther's expression was appealing and timid, as it had never been before
in Felix's presence; but when she saw the perfect calmness, which to her
seemed coldness, of his clear gray eyes, as if he saw no reason for
attaching any emphasis to this first meeting, a pang swift as an
electric shock darted through her. She had been very foolish to think so
much of it. It seemed to her as if her inferiority to Felix made a gulf
between them. She could not at once rally her pride and self-command,
but let her glance fall on her watch, and said, rather tremulously, "It
loses. It is very troublesome. It has been losing a long while."

Felix took the watch from her hand; then, looking round and seeing that
his mother was gone out of the room, he said, very gently--

"You look distressed, Miss Lyon. I hope there is no trouble at home"
(Felix was thinking of the minister's agitation on the previous Sunday).
"But I ought perhaps to beg your pardon for saying so much."

Poor Esther was quite helpless. The mortification which had come like a
bruise to all the sensibilities that had been in keen activity, insisted
on some relief. Her eyes filled instantly, and a great tear rolled down
while she said in a loud sort of whisper, as involuntary as her tears--

"I wanted to tell you that I was not offended--that I am not
ungenerous--I thought you might think--but you have not thought of it."

Was there ever more awkward speaking?--or any behavior less like that of
the graceful, self-possessed Miss Lyon, whose phrases were usually so
well turned, and whose repartees were so ready?

For a moment there was silence. Esther had her two little
delicately-gloved hands clasped on the table. The next moment she felt
one hand of Felix covering them both and pressing them firmly; but he
did not speak. The tears were both on her cheeks now, and she could look
up at him. His eyes had an expression of sadness in them, quite new to
her. Suddenly little Job, who had his mental exercises on the occasion,
called out, impatiently--

"She's tut her finger!"

Felix and Esther laughed, and drew their hands away; and as Esther took
her handkerchief to wipe the tears from her cheeks she said--

"You see, Job, I am a naughty coward. I can't help crying when I've hurt
myself."

"Zoo soodn't kuy," said Job energetically, being much impressed with a
moral doctrine which had come to him after a sufficient transgression of
it.

"Job is like me," said Felix, "fonder of preaching than of practice. But
let us look at this same watch," he went on, opening and examining it.
"These little Geneva toys are cleverly constructed to go always a little
wrong. But if you wind them up and set them regularly every night, you
may know at least that it's not noon when the hand points there."

Felix chatted, that Esther might recover herself; but now Mrs. Holt came
back and apologized.

"You'll excuse my going away, I know, Miss Lyon. But there were the
dumplings to see to, and what little I've got left on my hands now I
like to do well. Not but what I've more cleaning to do than ever I had
in my life before, as you may tell soon enough if you look at this
floor. But when you've been used to doing things, and they've been taken
away from you, it's as if your hands had been cut off, and you felt the
fingers as are of no use to you."

"That's a great image, mother," said Felix, as he snapped the watch
together and handed it to Esther; "I never heard you use such an image
before."

"Yes, I know you've always some fault to find with what your mother
says. But if ever there was a woman could talk with the open Bible
before her, and not be afraid, it's me. I never did tell stories, and I
never will--though I know it's done, Miss Lyon, and by church members
too, when they have candles to sell, as I could bring you to the proof.
But I never was one of 'em, let Felix say what he will about the
printing on the tickets. His father believed it was gospel truth, and
it's presumptuous to say it wasn't. For as for curing, how can anybody
know? There's no physic'll cure without a blessing, and _with_ a
blessing I know I've seen a mustard plaister work when there was no more
smell nor strength in the mustard than so much flour. And reason
good--for the mustard had lain in paper nobody knows how long--so I'll
leave you to guess."

Mrs. Holt looked hard out of the window and gave a slight, inarticulate
sound of scorn.

Felix had leaned back in his chair with a resigned smile, and was
pinching Job's ears.

Esther said, "I think I had better go now," not knowing what else to
say, yet not wishing to go immediately, lest she should seem to be
running away from Mrs. Holt. She felt keenly how much endurance there
must be for Felix. And she had often been discontented with her father,
and called him tiresome!

"Where does Job Tudge live?" she said, still sitting and looking at the
droll little figure, set off by a ragged jacket with a tail about two
inches deep sticking out above the funniest of corduroys.

"Job has two mansions," said Felix. "He lives here chiefly; but he has
another home, where his grandfather, Mr. Tudge, the stone-breaker,
lives. My mother is very good to Job, Miss Lyon. She has made him a
little bed in a cupboard, and she gives him sweetened porridge."

The exquisite goodness implied in these words of Felix impressed Esther
the more, because in her hearing his talk had usually been pungent and
denunciatory. Looking at Mrs. Holt, she saw that her eyes had lost their
bleak north-easterly expression, and were shining with some mildness on
little Job, who had turned round toward her, propping his head against
Felix.

"Well, why shouldn't I be motherly to the child, Miss Lyon?" said Mrs.
Holt, whose strong powers of argument required the file of an imagined
contradiction, if there were no real one at hand. "I never was
hard-hearted, and I never will be. It was Felix picked the child up and
took to him, you may be sure, for there's nobody else master where he
is; but I wasn't going to beat the orphan child and abuse him because of
that, and him as straight as an arrow when he's stripped, and me so fond
of children, and only had one of my own to live. I'd three babies, Miss
Lyon, but the blessed Lord only spared Felix, and him the masterfulest
and brownest of 'em all. But I did my duty by him, and I said, he'll
have more schooling than his father, and he'll grow up a doctor, and
marry a woman with money to furnish--as I was myself, spoons and
everything--and I shall have the grandchildren to look up to me, and be
drove out in the gig sometimes, like old Mrs. Lukyn. And you see what
it's all come to, Miss Lyon: here's Felix made a common man of himself,
and says he'll never be married--which is the most unreasonable thing,
and him never easy but when he's got the child on his lap, or when----"

"Stop, stop, mother," Felix burst in; "pray don't use that limping
argument again--that a man should marry because he's fond of children.
That's a reason for not marrying. A bachelor's children are always
young: they're immortal children--always lisping, waddling, helpless,
and with a chance of turning out good."

"The Lord above may know what you mean! And haven't other folks's
children a chance of turning out good?"

"Oh, they grow out of it very fast. Here's Job Tudge now," said Felix,
turning the little one round on his knee, and holding his head by the
back--"Job's limbs will get lanky; this little fist that looks like a
puff-ball and can hide nothing bigger than a gooseberry, will get large
and bony, and perhaps want to clutch more than its share; these wide
blue eyes that tell me more truth than Job knows, will narrow and narrow
and try to hide truth that Job would be better without knowing; this
little negative nose will become long and self-asserting; and this
little tongue--put out thy tongue, Job"--Job, awe-struck under this
ceremony, put out a little red tongue very timidly--"this tongue, hardly
bigger than a rose-leaf, will get large and thick, wag out of season, do
mischief, brag and cant for gain or vanity, and cut as cruelly, for all
its clumsiness, as if it were a sharp-edged blade. Big Job will perhaps
be naughty--" As Felix, speaking with the loud emphatic distinctness
habitual to him, brought out this terribly familiar word, Job's sense of
mystification became too painful: he hung his lip and began to cry.

"See here," said Mrs. Holt, "you're frightening the innocent child with
such talk--and it's enough to frighten them that think themselves the
safest."

"Look here, Job, my man," said Felix, setting the boy down and turning
him toward Esther; "go to Miss Lyon, ask her to smile at you, and that
will dry up your tears like the sunshine."

Job put his two brown fists on Esther's lap, and she stooped to kiss
him. Then holding his face between her hands she said, "Tell Mr. Holt we
don't mean to be naughty, Job. He should believe in us more. But now I
must really go home."

Esther rose and held out her hand to Mrs. Holt, who kept it while she
said, a little to Esther's confusion--

"I'm very glad it's took your fancy to come here sometimes, Miss Lyon. I
know you're thought to hold your head high, but I speak of people as I
find 'em. And I'm sure anybody had need be humble that comes where
there's a floor like this--for I've put by my best tea-trays, they're so
out of all character--I must look Above for comfort now; but I don't say
I'm not worthy to be called on for all that."

Felix had risen and moved toward the door that he might open it and
shield Esther from more last words on his mother's part.

"Good-bye, Mr. Holt."

"Will Mr. Lyon like for me to sit with him an hour this evening, do you
think?"

"Why not? He always likes to see you."

"Then I will come. Good-bye."

"She's a very straight figure," said Mrs. Holt. "How she carries
herself! But I doubt there's some truth in what our people say. If she
won't look at young Muscat, it's the better for _him_. He'd need have a
big fortune that marries her."

"That's true, mother," said Felix, sitting down, snatching up little
Job, and finding a vent for some unspeakable feeling in the pretence of
worrying him.

Esther was rather melancholy as she went home, yet happier withal than
she had been for many days before. She thought, "I need not mind having
shown so much anxiety about his opinion. He is too clear-sighted to
mistake our mutual position; he is quite above putting a false
interpretation on what I have done. Besides, he had not thought of me at
all--I saw that plainly enough. Yet he was very kind. There is something
greater and better in him than I had imagined. His behavior to-day--to
his mother and me too--I should call it the highest gentlemanliness,
only it seems in him to be something deeper. But he has chosen an
intolerable life; though I suppose, if I had a mind equal to his, and if
he loved me very dearly, I should choose the same life."

Esther felt that she had prefixed an impossible "if" to that result. But
now she had known Felix her conception of what a happy love must be had
become like a dissolving view, in which the once-dear images were
gradually melting into new forms and new colors. The favorite Byronic
heroes were beginning to look like last night's decorations seen in the
sober dawn. So fast does a little leaven spread within us--so
incalculable is one personality on another. Behind all Esther's
thoughts, like an unacknowledged yet constraining presence, there was
the sense, that if Felix Holt were to love her, her life would be
exalted into something quite new--into a sort of difficult blessedness,
such as one may imagine in beings who are conscious of painfully growing
into possession of higher powers.

It was quite true that Felix had not thought the more of Esther because
of that Sunday afternoon's interview which had shaken her mind to the
very roots. He had avoided intruding on Mr. Lyon without special reason,
because he believed the minister to be preoccupied with some private
care. He had thought a great deal of Esther with a mixture of strong
disapproval and strong liking, which both together made a feeling the
reverse of indifference; but he was not going to let her have any
influence on his life. Even if his determination had not been fixed, he
would have believed that she would utterly scorn him in any other light
than that of an acquaintance, and the emotion she had shown to-day did
not change that belief. But he was deeply touched by this manifestation
of her better qualities, and felt that there was a new tie of friendship
between them. That was the brief history Felix would have given of his
relation to Esther. And he was accustomed to observe himself. But very
close and diligent looking at living creatures, even through the best
microscope, will leave room for new and contradictory discoveries.

Felix found Mr. Lyon particularly glad to talk to him. The minister had
never yet disburdened himself about his letter to Mr. Philip Debarry
concerning the public conference; and as by this time he had all the
heads of his discussion thoroughly in his mind, it was agreeable to
recite them, as well as to express his regret that time had been lost by
Mr. Debarry's absence from the Manor, which had prevented the immediate
fulfillment of his pledge.

"I don't see how he can fulfill it if the rector refuses," said Felix,
thinking it well to moderate the little man's confidence.

"The rector is of a spirit that will not incur earthly impeachment, and
he cannot refuse what is necessary to his nephew's honorable discharge
of an obligation," said Mr. Lyon. "My young friend, it is a case wherein
the prearranged conditions tend by such a beautiful fitness to the issue
I have sought, that I should have forever held myself a traitor to my
charge had I neglected the indication."



CHAPTER XXIII.

    "I will not excuse you; you shall not be excused; excuses shall not
    be admitted; there's no excuse shall serve; you shall not be
    excused."--_Henry IV._


When Philip Debarry had come home that morning and read the letters
which had not been forwarded to him, he laughed so heartily at Mr.
Lyon's that he congratulated himself on being in his private room.
Otherwise his laughter would have awakened the curiosity of Sir Maximus,
and Philip did not wish to tell any one the contents of the letter until
he had shown them to his uncle. He determined to ride over to the
rectory to lunch; for as Lady Mary was away, he and his uncle might be
_tête-á-tête_.

The rectory was on the other side of the river, close to the church of
which it was the fitting companion: a fine old brick-and-stone house,
with a great bow-window opening from the library on to the deep-turfed
lawn, one fat dog sleeping on the door-stone, another fat dog waddling
on the gravel, the autumn leaves duly swept away, the lingering
chrysanthemums cherished, tall trees stooping or soaring in the most
picturesque variety, and a Virginian creeper turning a little rustic hut
into a scarlet pavilion. It was one of those rectories which are among
the bulwarks of our venerable institutions--which arrest disintegrating
doubt, serve as a double embankment against Popery and Dissent, and
rally feminine instinct and affection to reinforce the decisions of
masculine thought.

"What makes you look so merry, Phil?" said the rector, as his nephew
entered the pleasant library.

"Something that concerns you," said Philip, taking out the letter. "A
clerical challenge. Here's an opportunity for you to emulate the divines
of the sixteenth century and have a theological duel. Read this letter."

"What answer have you sent the crazy little fellow?" said the rector,
keeping the letter in his hand and running over it again and again, with
brow knit, but eyes gleaming without any malignity.

"Oh, I sent no answer. I awaited yours."

"Mine!" said the rector, throwing down the letter on the table. "You
don't suppose I'm going to hold a public debate with a schismatic of
that sort? I should have an infidel shoemaker next expecting me to
answer blasphemies delivered in bad grammar."

"But you see how he puts it," said Philip. With all his gravity of
nature he could not resist a slightly mischievous prompting, though he
had a serious feeling that he should not like to be regarded as failing
to fulfill his pledge. "I think if you refuse, I shall be obliged to
offer myself."

"Nonsense! Tell him he is himself acting a dishonorable part in
interpreting your words as a pledge to do any preposterous thing that
suits his fancy. Suppose he had asked you to give him land to build a
chapel on; doubtless that would have given him a 'lively satisfaction.'
A man who puts a non-natural, strained sense on a promise is no better
than a robber."

"But he has not asked for land. I dare say he thinks you won't object to
his proposal. I confess there's a simplicity and quaintness about the
letter that rather pleases me."

"Let me tell you, Phil, he's a crazy little firefly, that does a great
deal of harm in my parish. He inflames the Dissenters' minds on
politics. There's no end to the mischief done by these busy, prating
men. They make the ignorant multitude the judges of the largest
questions, both political and religious, till we shall soon have no
institution left that is not on a level with the comprehension of a
huckster or a drayman. There can be nothing more retrograde--losing all
the results of civilization, all the lessons of Providence--letting the
windlass run down after men have been turning at it painfully for
generations. If the instructed are not to judge for the uninstructed,
why, let us set Dick Stubbs to make our almanacs, and have a President
of the Royal Society elected by universal suffrage."

The rector had risen, placed himself with his back to the fire, and
thrust his hands in his pockets, ready to insist further on this wide
argument. Philip sat nursing one leg, listening respectfully, as he
always did, though often listening to the sonorous echo of his own
statements, which suited his uncle's needs so exactly that he did not
distinguish them from his own impressions.

"True," said Philip; "but in special cases we have to do with special
conditions. You know I defend the casuists. And it may happen that, for
the honor of the church in Treby, and a little also for my honor,
circumstances may demand a concession even to some notions of a
Dissenting preacher."

"Not at all. I should be making a figure which my brother clergy might
well take as an affront to themselves. The character of the
Establishment has suffered enough already through the Evangelicals, with
their extempore incoherence and their pipe-smoking piety. Look at
Wimple, the man who is vicar of Shuttleton--without his gown and bands
anybody would take him for a grocer in mourning."

"Well, I shall cut a still worse figure, and so will you, in the
Dissenting magazines and newspapers. It will go the round of the
kingdom. There will be a paragraph headed, 'Tory Falsehood and Clerical
Cowardice,' or else, 'The Meanness of the Aristocracy and the
Incompetence of the Beneficed Clergy.'"

"There would be a worse paragraph if I were to consent to the debate. Of
course it would be said that I was beaten hollow, and, that now the
question had been cleared up at Treba Magna, the Church had not a sound
leg to stand on. Besides," the rector went on, frowning and smiling,
"it's all very well for you to talk, Phil; but this debating is not so
easy when a man's close upon sixty. What one writes or says must be
something good and scholarly; and, after all had been done, this little
Lyon would buzz about one like a wasp, and cross-question and rejoin.
Let me tell you, a plain truth may be so worried and mauled by fallacies
as to get the worst of it. There's no such thing as tiring a
talking-machine like Lyon."

"Then you absolutely refuse?"

"Yes, I do."

"You remember that when I wrote my letter of thanks to Lyon you approved
my offer to serve him if possible."

"Certainly I remember it. But suppose he had asked you to vote for civil
marriage, or to go and hear him preach every Sunday?"

"But he has not asked that."

"Something as unreasonable, though."

"Well," said Philip, taking up Mr. Lyon's letter and looking
graver--looking even vexed, "it is rather an unpleasant business for me.
I really felt obliged to him. I think there's a sort of worth in the man
beyond his class. Whatever may be the reason of the case, I shall
disappoint him instead of doing him the service I offered."

"Well, that's a misfortune; we can't help it."

"The worst of it is, I should be insulting him to say, 'I will do
anything else, but not just this that you want.' He evidently feels
himself in company with Luther and Zwingle and Calvin, and considers our
letters part of the history of Protestantism."

"Yes, yes. I know it's rather an unpleasant thing, Phil. You are aware
that I would have done anything in reason to prevent you from becoming
unpopular here. I consider your character a possession to all of us."

"I think I must call on him forthwith and explain and apologize."

"No, sit still; I've thought of something," said the rector, with a
sudden revival of spirits. "I've just seen Sherlock coming in. He is to
lunch with me to-day. It would do no harm for him to hold the debate--a
curate and a young man--he'll gain by it; and it would release you from
any awkwardness, Phil. Sherlock is not going to stay here long, you
know; he'll soon have his title. I'll put the thing to him. He won't
object if I wish it. It's a capital idea. It will do Sherlock good. He's
a clever fellow, but he wants confidence."

Philip had not time to object before Mr. Sherlock appeared--a young
divine of good birth and figure, of sallow complexion and bashful
address.

"Sherlock, you have come in most opportunely," said the rector. "A case
has turned up in the parish in which you can be of eminent use. I know
that is what you have desired ever since you have been with me. But I'm
about so much myself that there really has not been sphere enough for
you. You are a studious man, I know; I dare say you have all the
necessary matter prepared--at your finger-ends, if not on paper."

Mr. Sherlock smiled with rather a trembling lip, willing to distinguish
himself, but hoping that the rector only alluded to a dialogue on
Baptism by Aspersion, or some other pamphlet suited to the purposes of
the Christian Knowledge Society. But as the rector proceeded to unfold
the circumstances under which his eminent service was to be rendered, he
grew more and more nervous.

"You'll oblige me very much, Sherlock," the rector ended, "by going into
this thing zealously. Can you guess what time you will require? because
it will rest with us to fix the day."

"I should be rejoiced to oblige you, Mr. Debarry, but I really think I
am not competent to----"

"That's your modesty, Sherlock. Don't let me hear any more of that. I
know Filmore of Corpus said you might be a first-rate man if your
diffidence didn't do you injustice. And you can refer anything to me,
you know. Come, you will set about the thing at once. But, Phil, you
must tell the preacher to send a scheme of the debate--all the different
heads--and he must agree to keep rigidly within the scheme. There, sit
down at my desk and write the letter now; Thomas shall carry it."

Philip sat down to write, and the rector, with his firm ringing voice,
went on at his ease, giving "indications" to his agitated curate.

"But you can begin at once preparing a good, cogent, clear statement,
and considering the probable points of assault. You can look into Jewel,
Hall, Hooker, Whitgift, and the rest: you'll find them all here. My
library wants nothing in English divinity. Sketch the lower ground taken
by Usher and those men, but bring all your force to bear on marking out
the true High-Church doctrine. Expose the wretched cavils of the
Noncomformists, and the noisy futility that belongs to schismatics
generally. I will give you a telling passage from Burke on the
Dissenters, and some good quotations which I brought together in two
sermons of my own on the Position of the English Church in Christendom.
How long do you think it will take you to bring your thoughts together?
You can throw them afterward into the form of an essay; we'll have the
thing printed; it will do you good with the Bishop."

With all Mr. Sherlock's timidity, there was fascination for him in this
distinction. He reflected that he could take coffee and sit up late, and
perhaps produce something rather fine. It might be a first step toward
that eminence which it was no more than his duty to aspire to. Even a
polemical fame like that of a Philpotts must have had a beginning. Mr.
Sherlock was not insensible to the pleasure of turning sentences
successfully, and it was a pleasure not always unconnected with
preferment. A diffident man likes the idea of doing something
remarkable, which will create belief in him without any immediate
display of brilliancy. Celebrity may blush and be silent, and win a
grace the more. Thus Mr. Sherlock was constrained, trembling all the
while, and much wishing that his essay were already in print.

"I think I could hardly be ready under a fortnight."

"Very good. Just write that, Phil, and tell him to fix the precise day
and place. And then we'll go to lunch."

The rector was quite satisfied. He had talked himself into thinking that
he should like to give Sherlock a few useful hints, look up his own
earlier sermons, and benefit the curate by his criticism, when the
argument had been got into shape. He was a healthy-natured man, but that
was not at all a reason why he should not have those sensibilities to
the odor of authorship which belong to almost everybody who is not
expected to be a writer--and especially to that form of authorship
which is called suggestion, and consists in telling another man that he
might do a great deal with a given subject, by bringing a sufficient
amount of knowledge, reasoning, and wit to bear upon it.

Philip would have had some twinges of conscience about the curate, if he
had not guessed that the honor thrust upon him was not altogether
disagreeable. The Church might perhaps have had a stronger supporter;
but for himself, he had done what he was bound to do: he had done his
best toward fulfilling Mr. Lyon's desire.



CHAPTER XXIV.

    If he come not, the play is marred.--_Midsummer Night's Dream._


Rufus Lyon was very happy on that mild November morning appointed for
the great conference in the larger room at the Free School, between
himself and the Reverend Theodore Sherlock, B.A. The disappointment of
not contending with the rector in person, which had at first been
bitter, had been gradually lost sight of in the positive enjoyment of an
opportunity for debating on any terms. Mr. Lyon had two grand elements
of pleasure on such occasions: confidence in the strength of his case,
and confidence in his own power of advocacy. Not--to use his own
phrase--not that "he glorified himself herein;" for speech and
exposition were so easy to him, that if he argued forcibly, he believed
it to be simply because the truth was forcible. He was not proud of
moving easily in his native medium. A panting man thinks of himself as a
clever swimmer; but a fish swims much better, and takes his performance
as a matter of course.

Whether Mr. Sherlock were that panting, self-gratulating man, remained a
secret. Philip Debarry, much occupied with his electioneering affairs,
had only once had an opportunity of asking his uncle how Sherlock got
on, and the rector had said, curtly, "I think he'll do. I've supplied
him well with references. I advise him to read only, and decline
everything else as out of order. Lyon will speak to a point, and then
Sherlock will read: it will be all the more telling. It will give
variety." But on this particular morning peremptory business connected
with the magistracy called the rector away.

Due notice had been given, and the feminine world of Treby Magna was
much more agitated by the prospect than by that of any candidate's
speech. Mrs. Pendrell at the Bank, Mrs. Tiliot, and the Church ladies
generally felt bound to hear the curate, who was known, apparently by an
intuition concerning the nature of curates, to be a very clever young
man; and he would show them what learning had to say on the right side.
One or two Dissenting ladies were not without emotion at the thought
that, seated on the front benches, they should be brought near to old
Church friends, and have a longer greeting than had taken place since
the Catholic Emancipation. Mrs. Muscat, who had been a beauty, and was
as nice in her millinery as any Trebian lady belonging to the
Establishment, reflected that she should put on her best embroidered
collar, and that she should ask Mrs. Tiliot where it was in Duffield
that she once got her bed-hanging dyed so beautifully. When Mrs. Tiliot
was Mary Salt, the two ladies had been bosom friends; but Mr. Tiliot
looked higher and higher since his gin had become so famous; and in the
year '29 he had, in Mr. Muscat's hearing, spoken of Dissenters as
sneaks--a personality which could not be overlooked.

The debate was to begin at eleven, for the rector would not allow the
evening to be chosen, when low men and boys might want to be admitted
out of mere mischief. This was one reason why the female part of the
audience outnumbered the males. But some chief Trebians were there, even
men whose means made them as independent of theory as Mr. Pendrell and
Mr. Wace; encouraged by reflecting that they were not in a place of
worship, and would not be obliged to stay longer than they chose. There
was a muster of all Dissenters who could spare the morning time, and on
the back benches were all the aged Churchwomen who shared the remnants
of the sacrament wine, and who were humbly anxious to neglect nothing
ecclesiastical or connected with "going to a better place."

At eleven the arrival of listeners seemed to have ceased. Mr. Lyon was
seated on the school tribune or dais at his particular round table;
another round table, with a chair, awaited the curate, with whose
superior position it was quite in keeping that he should not be the
first on the ground. A couple of extra chairs were placed farther back,
and more than one important personage had been requested to act as
chairman; but no Churchman would place himself in a position so
equivocal as to dignity of aspect, and so unequivocal as to the
obligation of sitting out the discussion; and the rector had beforehand
put a veto on any Dissenting chairman.

Mr. Lyon sat patiently absorbed in his thoughts, with his notes in
minute handwriting lying before him, seeming to look at the audience,
but not seeing them. Every one else was contented that there should be
an interval in which there could be a little neighborly talk.

Esther was particularly happy, seated on a side-bench near her father's
side of the tribune, with Felix close behind her, so that she could turn
her head and talk to him. He had been very kind ever since that morning
when she had called at his home, more disposed to listen indulgently to
what she had to say, and less blind to her looks and movements. If he
had never railed at her or ignored her, she would have been less
sensitive to the attention he gave her; but as it was, the prospect of
seeing him seemed to light up her life, and to disperse the old
dullness. She looked unusually charming to-day, from the very fact that
she was not vividly conscious of anything but of having a mind near her
that asked her to be something better than she actually was. The
consciousness of her own superiority amongst the people around her was
superseded, and even a few brief weeks had given a softened expression
to her eyes, a more feminine beseechingness and self-doubt to her
manners. Perhaps, however, a little new defiance was rising in place of
the old contempt--defiance of the Trebian views about Felix Holt.

"What a very nice-looking young woman your minister's daughter is?" said
Mrs. Tiliot in an undertone to Mrs. Muscat, who, as she had hoped, had
found a seat next her quondam friend--"quite the lady."

"Rather too much so, considering," said Mrs. Muscat. "She's thought
proud, and that is not pretty in a girl, even if there was anything to
back it up. But now she seems to be encouraging that young Holt, who
scoffs at everything, as you may judge by his appearance. She has
despised his betters before now; but I leave you to judge whether a
young man who has taken to low ways of getting a living can pay for fine
cambric handkerchiefs and light kid gloves."

Mrs. Muscat lowered her blonde eyelashes and swayed her neat head just
perceptibly from side to side, with a sincere desire to be moderate in
her expressions, notwithstanding any shock that facts might have given
her.

"Dear, dear," said Mrs. Tiliot. "What! that is young Holt leaning
forward now without a cravat? I've never seen him before to notice him,
but I've heard Tiliot talking about him. They say he's a dangerous
character, and goes stirring up the workingmen at Sproxton. And--well,
to be sure, such great eyes and such a great head of hair--it is enough
to frighten one. What can she see in him? Quite below her."

"Yes, and brought up a governess," said Mrs. Muscat; "you'd have thought
she'd knowed better how to choose. But the minister has let her get the
upper hand sadly too much. It's a pity in a man of God. I don't deny
he's _that_."

"Well, I am sorry," said Mrs. Tiliot, "for I meant her to give my girls
lessons when they came from school."

Mr. Wace and Mr. Pendrell meanwhile were standing up and looking round
at the audience, nodding to their fellow-townspeople with the affability
due from men in their position.

"It's time he came now," said Mr. Wace, looking at his watch and
comparing it with the schoolroom clock. "This debating is a new-fangled
sort of thing; but the rector would never have given in to it if there
hadn't been good reasons. Nolan said he wouldn't come. He says this
debating is an atheistical sort of thing; the Atheists are very fond of
it. Theirs is a bad book to take a leaf out of. However, we shall hear
nothing but what's good from Mr. Sherlock. He preaches a capital
sermon--for such a young man."

"Well, it was our duty to support him--not to leave him alone among the
Dissenters," said Mr. Pendrell. "You see everybody hasn't felt that.
Labron might have shown himself, if not Lukyn. I could have alleged
business myself if I had thought proper."

"Here he comes, I think," said Mr. Wace, turning round on hearing a
movement near the small door on a level with the platform. "By George!
it's Mr. Debarry. Come now, this is handsome."

Mr. Wace and Mr. Pendrell clapped their hands, and the example was
followed even by most of the Dissenters. Philip was aware that he was
doing a popular thing, of a kind that Treby was not used to from the
elder Debarrys; but his appearance had not been long premeditated. He
was driving through the town toward an engagement at some distance, but
on calling at Labron's office he had found that the affair which
demanded his presence had been deferred, and so had driven round to the
Free School. Christian came in behind him.

Mr. Lyon was now roused from his abstraction, and, stepping from his
slight elevation, begged Mr. Debarry to act as moderator or president on
the occasion.

"With all my heart," said Philip. "But Mr. Sherlock has not arrived,
apparently?"

"He tarries somewhat unduly," said Mr. Lyon. "Nevertheless there may be
a reason of which we know not. Shall I collect the thoughts of the
assembly by a brief introductory address in the interval?"

"No, no, no," said Mr. Wace, who saw a limit to his powers of endurance.
"Mr. Sherlock is sure to be here in a minute or two."

"Christian," said Philip Debarry, who felt a slight misgiving, "just be
so good--but stay, I'll go myself. Excuse me, gentlemen: I'll drive
round to Mr. Sherlock's lodgings. He may be under a little mistake as to
the time. Studious men are sometimes rather absent-minded. You needn't
come with me, Christian."

As Mr. Debarry went out, Rufus Lyon stepped on to the tribune again in
rather an uneasy state of mind. A few ideas had occurred to him,
eminently fitted to engage the audience profitably, and so to wrest some
edification out of an unforeseen delay. But his native delicacy made him
feel that in this assembly the Church people might fairly decline any
"deliverance" on his part which exceeded the programme, and Mr. Wace's
negative had been energetic. But the little man suffered from imprisoned
ideas, and was as restless as a racer held in. He could not sit down
again, but walked backward and forward, stroking his chin, emitting his
low guttural interjections under the pressure of clauses and sentences
which he longed to utter aloud, as he would have done in his own study.
There was a low buzz in the room which helped to deepen the minister's
sense that the thoughts within him were as divine messengers unheeded or
rejected by a trivial generation. Many of the audience were standing;
all, except the old Churchwomen on the back seats, and a few devout
Dissenters who kept their eyes shut and gave their bodies a gentle
oscillating motion, were interested in chat.

"Your father is uneasy," said Felix to Esther.

"Yes; and now, I think, he is feeling for his spectacles. I hope he has
not left them at home: he will not be able to see anything two yards
before him without them;--and it makes him so unconscious of what people
expect or want."

"I'll go and ask him whether he has them," said Felix, striding over the
form in front of him, and approaching Mr. Lyon, whose face showed a
gleam of pleasure at this relief from his abstracted isolation.

"Miss Lyon is afraid that you are at a loss for your spectacles, sir,"
said Felix.

"My dear young friend," said Mr. Lyon, laying his hand on Felix Holt's
fore-arm, which was about on a level with the minister's shoulder, "it
is a very glorious truth, albeit made somewhat painful to me by the
circumstances of the present moment, that as a counterpoise to the
brevity of our mortal life (wherein, as I apprehend, our powers are
being trained not only for the transmission of an improved heritage, as
I have heard you insist, but also for our own entrance into a higher
initiation in the Divine scheme)--it is, I say, a very glorious truth,
that even in what are called the waste minutes of our time, like those
of expectation, the soul may soar and range, as in some of our dreams
which are brief as a broken rainbow in duration, yet seem to comprise a
long history of terror or joy. And again, each moment may be a beginning
of a new spiritual energy; and our pulse would doubtless be a coarse and
clumsy notation of the passage from that which was not to that which is,
even in the finer processes of the material world--and how much
more----"

Esther was watching her father and Felix, and though she was not within
hearing of what was being said, she guessed the actual state of the
case--that the enquiry about the spectacles had been unheeded, and that
her father was losing himself and embarrassing Felix in the intricacies
of a dissertation. There was not the stillness around her that would
have made a movement on her part seem conspicuous, and she was impelled
by her anxiety to step on the tribune and walk up to her father, who
paused a little startled.

"Pray see whether you have forgotten your spectacles, father. If so, I
will go home at once and look for them."

Mr. Lyon was automatically obedient to Esther, and he began immediately
to feel in his pockets.

"How is it that Miss Jermyn is so friendly with the Dissenting parson?"
said Christian to Quorlen, the Tory printer, who was an intimate of his.
"Those grand Jermyns are not Dissenters surely?"

"_What_ Miss Jermyn?"

"Why--don't you see?--that fine girl who is talking to him."

"Miss Jermyn! Why, that's the little parson's daughter."

"His daughter!" Christian gave a low brief whistle, which seemed a
natural expression of surprise that "the rusty old ranter" should have a
daughter of such distinguished appearance.

Meanwhile the search for the spectacles had proved vain. "'Tis a
grievous fault in me, my dear," said the little man, humbly; "I become
thereby sadly burdensome to you."

"I will go at once," said Esther, refusing to let Felix go instead of
her. But she had scarcely stepped off the tribune when Mr. Debarry
re-entered, and there was a commotion which made her wait. After a
low-toned conversation with Mr. Pendrell and Mr. Wace, Philip Debarry
stepped on to the tribune with his hat in his hand and said, with an air
of much concern and annoyance--

"I am sorry to have to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that--doubtless
owing to some accidental cause which I trust will soon be explained as
nothing serious--Mr. Sherlock is absent from his residence and is not to
be found. He went out early, his landlady informs me, to refresh himself
by a walk on this agreeable morning, as is his habit, she tells me, when
he has been kept up late by study; and he has not returned. Do not let
us be too anxious. I shall cause enquiry to be made in the direction of
his walk. It is easy to imagine many accidents, not of a grave
character, by which he might nevertheless be absolutely detained against
his will. Under these circumstances, Mr. Lyon," continued Philip,
turning to the minister, "I presume that the debate must be adjourned."

"The debate, doubtless," began Mr. Lyon; but his farther speech was
drowned by a general rising of the Church people from their seats, many
of them feeling that, even if the cause were lamentable, the adjournment
was not altogether disagreeable.

"Good gracious me!" said Mrs. Tiliot, as she took her husband's arm, "I
hope the poor young man hasn't fallen into the river or broken his leg."

But some of the more acrid Dissenters, whose temper was not controlled
by the habits of retail business, had begun to hiss, implying that in
their interpretation the curate's absence had not depended on any injury
to life or limb.

"He's turned tail, sure enough," said Mr. Muscat to the neighbor behind
him, lifting his eyebrows and shoulders, and laughing in a way that
showed that, deacon as he was, he looked at the affair in an entirely
secular light.

But Mrs. Muscat thought it would be nothing but right to have all the
waters dragged, agreeing in this with the majority of the Church ladies.

"I regret sincerely, Mr. Lyon," said Philip Debarry, addressing the
minister with politeness, "that I must say good-morning to you, with the
sense that I have not been able at present to contribute to your
satisfaction as I had wished."

"Speak not of it in the way of apology, sir," said Mr. Lyon, in a tone
of depression. "I doubt not that you yourself have acted in good faith.
Nor will I open any door of egress to constructions such as anger often
deems ingenious, but which the disclosure of the simple truth may expose
as erroneous and uncharitable fabrications. I wish you good-morning,
sir."

When the room was cleared of the Church people, Mr. Lyon wished to
soothe his own spirit and that of his flock by a few reflections
introductory to a parting prayer. But there was a general resistance to
this effort. The men mustered round the minister and declared their
opinion that the whole thing was disgraceful to the Church. Some said
that the curate's absence had been contrived from the first. Others more
than hinted that it had been a folly in Mr. Lyon to set on foot any
procedure in common with Tories and clergymen, who, if they ever aped
civility to Dissenters, would never do anything but laugh at them in
their sleeves. Brother Kemp urged in his heavy bass that Mr. Lyon should
lose no time in sending an account of the affair to the _Patriot_; and
brother Hawkins, in his high tenor, observed that it was an occasion on
which some stinging things might be said with all the extra effect of an
_apropos_.

The position of receiving a many-voiced lecture from the members of his
church was familiar to Mr. Lyon; but now he felt weary, frustrated, and
doubtful of his own temper. Felix, who stood by and saw that this man of
sensitive fibre was suffering from talkers whose noisy superficiality
cost them nothing, got exasperated. "It seems to me, sirs," he burst in,
with his predominant voice, "that Mr. Lyon has hitherto had the hard
part of the business, while you of his congregation have had the easy
one. Punish the Church clergy, if you like--they can take care of
themselves. But don't punish your own minister. It's no business of
mine, perhaps, except so far as fair-play is everybody's business; but
it seems to me the time to ask Mr. Lyon to take a little rest, instead
of setting on him like so many wasps."

By this speech Felix raised a displeasure which fell on the minister as
well as on himself; but he gained his immediate end. The talkers dropped
off after a slight show of persistence, and Mr. Lyon quitted the field
of no combat with a small group of his less imperious friends, to whom
he confided his intention of committing his argument fully to paper,
and forwarding it to a discriminating editor.

"But regarding personalities," he added, "I have not the same clear
showing. For, say that this young man was pusillanimous--I were but
ill-provided with arguments if I took my stand even for a moment on so
poor an irrelevancy as that because one curate is ill furnished
therefore Episcopacy is false. If I held up any one to just obloquy, it
would be the well-designated Incumbent of this parish, who, calling
himself one of the Church militant, sends a young and weak-kneed
substitute to take his place in the fight."

Mr. Philip Debarry did not neglect to make industrious enquiry
concerning the accidents which had detained the Reverend Theodore
Sherlock on his morning walk. That well-intentioned young divine was
seen no more in Treby Magna. But the river was not dragged, for by the
evening coach the rector received an explanatory letter. The Reverend
Theodore's agitation had increased so much during his walk, that the
passing coach had been a means of deliverance not to be resisted; and,
literally at the eleventh hour, he had hailed and mounted the cheerful
Tally-ho! and carried away his portion of the debate in his pocket.

But the rector had subsequently the satisfaction of receiving Mr.
Sherlock's painstaking production in print, with a dedication to the
Reverend Augustus Debarry, a motto from St. Chrysostom, and other
additions, the fruit of ripening leisure. He was "sorry for poor
Sherlock, who wanted confidence"; but he was convinced that for his own
part he had taken the course which under the circumstances was the least
compromising to the Church. Sir Maximus, however, observed to his son
and brother that he had been right and they had been wrong as to the
danger of vague, enormous expressions of gratitude to a Dissenting
preacher, and on any differences of opinion seldom failed to remind them
of that precedent.



CHAPTER XXV.

    Your fellow-man?--Divide the epithet:
    Say rather, you're the fellow, he the man.


When Christian quitted the Free School with the discovery that the young
lady whose appearance had first startled him with an indefinable
impression in the market-place was the daughter of the old Dissenting
preacher who had shown so much agitated curiosity about his name, he
felt very much like an uninitiated chess-player, who sees that the
pieces are in a peculiar position on the board, and might open the way
for him to give checkmate, if he only knew how. Ever since his interview
with Jermyn, his mind had been occupied with the charade it offered to
his ingenuity. What was the real meaning of the lawyer's interest in
him, and in his relations with Maurice Christian Bycliffe? Here was a
secret; and secrets were often a source of profit, of that agreeable
kind which involved little labor. Jermyn had hinted at profit which
might possibly come through him; but Christian said inwardly, with
well-satisfied self-esteem, that he was not so pitiable a nincompoop as
to trust Jermyn. On the contrary, the only problem before him was to
find out by what combination of independent knowledge he could outwit
Jermyn, elude any purchase the attorney had on him through his past
history, and get a handsome bonus, by which a somewhat shattered man of
pleasure might live well without a master. Christian, having early
exhausted the more impulsive delights of life, had become a sober
calculator; and he had made up his mind that, for a man who had long ago
run through his own money, servitude in a great family was the best kind
of retirement after that of a pensioner; but if a better chance offered,
a person of talent must not let it slip through his fingers. He held
various ends of threads, but there was danger of pulling at them too
impatiently. He had not forgotten the surprise which had made him drop
the punch-ladle, when Mr. Crowder, talking in the steward's room, had
said that a scamp named Henry Scaddon had been concerned in a lawsuit
about the Transome estate. Again, Jermyn was the family lawyer of the
Transomes; he knew of the exchange of names between Scaddon and
Bycliffe; he clearly wanted to know as much as he could about Bycliffe's
history. The conclusion was not remote that Bycliffe had had some claim
on the Transome property, and that a difficulty had arisen from his
being confounded with Henry Scaddon. But hitherto the other incident
which had been apparently connected with the interchange of names--Mr.
Lyon's demand that he should write down the name Maurice Christian,
accompanied with the question whether that were his whole name--had had
no visible link with the inferences arrived at through Crowder and
Jermyn.

The discovery made this morning at the Free School that Esther was the
daughter of the Dissenting preacher at last suggested a possible link.
Until then, Christian had not known why Esther's face had impressed him
so peculiarly; but the minister's chief association for him was with
Bycliffe, and that association served as a flash to show him that
Esther's features and expression, and still more her bearing, now she
stood and walked, revived Bycliffe's image. Daughter? There were various
ways of being a daughter. Suppose this were a case of adoption; suppose
Bycliffe were known to be dead, or thought to be dead. "Begad, if the
old parson had fancied the original father was come to life again, it
was enough to frighten him a little. Slow and steady," Christian said to
himself; "I'll get some talk with the old man again. He's safe enough:
one can handle him without cutting one's self. I'll tell him I knew
Bycliffe, and was his fellow-prisoner. I'll worm out the truth about
this daughter. Could pretty Annette have married again, and married this
little scare-crow? There's no knowing what a woman will not do."

Christian could see no distinct result for himself from his industry;
but if there were to be any such result, it must be reached by following
out every clue; and to the non-legal mind there are dim possibilities in
law and heirship which prevent any issue from seeming too miraculous.

The consequence of these meditations was, that Christian hung about
Treby more than usual in his leisure time, and that on the first
opportunity he accosted Mr. Lyon in the street with suitable civility,
stating that since the occasion which had brought them together some
weeks before he had often wished to renew their conversation, and, with
Mr. Lyon's permission, would now ask to do so. After being assured, as
he had been by Jermyn, that this courier, who had happened by some
accident to possess the memorable locket and pocket-book, was certainly
not Annette's husband, and was ignorant whether Maurice Christian
Bycliffe were living or dead, the minister's mind had become easy again;
his habitual lack of interest in personal details rendering him
gradually oblivious of Jermyn's precautionary statement that he was
pursuing enquiries, and that if anything of interest turned up, Mr. Lyon
should be made acquainted with it. Hence, when Christian addressed him,
the minister, taken by surprise and shaken by the recollections of
former anxieties, said, helplessly--

"If it is business, sir, you would perhaps do better to address yourself
to Mr. Jermyn."

He could not have said anything that was a more valuable hint to
Christian. He inferred that the minister had made a confidant of Jermyn,
and it was needful to be wary.

"On the contrary, sir," he answered, "it may be of the utmost importance
to you that what passes between us should not be known to Mr. Jermyn."

Mr. Lyon was perplexed, and felt at once that he was no more in clear
daylight concerning Jermyn than concerning Christian. He dared not
neglect the possible duty of hearing what this man had to say, and he
invited him to proceed to Malthouse Yard, where they could converse in
private.

Once in Mr. Lyon's study, Christian opened the dialogue by saying that
since he was in this room before it had occurred to him that the anxiety
he had observed in Mr. Lyon might be owing to some acquaintance with
Maurice Christian Bycliffe--a fellow-prisoner in France, whom he,
Christian, had assisted in getting freed from his imprisonment, and who,
in fact, had been the owner of the trifles which Mr. Lyon had recently
had in his possession and had restored. Christian hastened to say that
he knew nothing of Bycliffe's history since they had parted in France,
but that he knew of his marriage with Annette Ledru, and had been
acquainted with Annette herself. He would be very glad to know what
became of Bycliffe, if he could, for he liked him uncommonly.

Here Christian paused; but Mr. Lyon only sat changing color and
trembling. This man's bearing and tone of mind were made repulsive to
him by being brought in contact with keenly-felt memories, and he could
not readily summon the courage to give answers or ask questions.

"May I ask if you knew my friend Bycliffe?" said Christian, trying a
more direct method.

"No, sir; I never saw him."

"Ah! well--you have seen a very striking likeness of him. It's
wonderful--unaccountable; but when I saw Miss Lyon at the Free School
the other day, I could have sworn she was Bycliffe's daughter."

"Sir!" said Mr. Lyon, in his deepest tone, half rising, and holding by
the arms of his chair, "these subjects touch me with too sharp a point
for you to be justified in thrusting them on me out of mere levity. Is
there any good you seek or any injury you fear in relation to them?"

"Precisely, sir. We shall come to an understanding. Suppose I believed
that the young lady who goes by the name of Miss Lyon was the daughter
of Bycliffe?"

Mr. Lyon moved his lips silently.

"And suppose I had reason to suspect that there would be some great
advantage for her if the law knew who was her father?"

"Sir!" said Mr. Lyon, shaken out of all reticence. "I would not conceal
it. She believes herself to be my daughter. But I will bear all things
rather than deprive her of a right. Nevertheless I appeal to the pity of
any fellow-man, not to thrust himself between her and me, but to let me
disclose the truth to her myself."

"All in good time," said Christian. "We must do nothing rash. Then Miss
Lyon is Annette's child?"

The minister shivered as if the edge of a knife had been drawn across
his hand. But the tone of this question, by the fact that it intensified
his antipathy to Christian, enabled him to collect himself for what must
be simply the endurance of a painful operation. After a moment or two he
said more coolly, "It is true, sir. Her mother became my wife. Proceed
with any statement which may concern my duty."

"I have no more to say than this: if there's a prize that the law might
hand over to Bycliffe's daughter, I am much mistaken if there isn't a
lawyer who'll take precious good care to keep the law hoodwinked. And
that lawyer is Mat Jermyn. Why, my good sir, if you've been taking
Jermyn into your confidence, you've been setting the fox to keep off the
weasel. It strikes me that when you were made a little anxious about
those articles of poor Bycliffe's, you put Jermyn on making enquiries of
me. Eh? I think I am right?"

"I do not deny it."

"Ah!--it was very well you did, for by that means I've found that he's
got hold of some secrets about Bycliffe which he means to stifle. Now,
sir, if you desire any justice for your daughter--step-daughter, I
should say--don't so much as wink to yourself before Jermyn; and if
you've got any papers or things of that sort that may come in evidence,
as these confounded rascals the lawyers call it, clutch them tight, for
if they get into Jermyn's hands they may soon fly up the chimney. Have I
said enough?"

"I had not purposed any further communication with Mr. Jermyn, sir;
indeed, I have nothing further to communicate. Except that one fact
concerning my daughter's birth, which I have erred in concealing from
her, I neither seek disclosures nor do I tremble before them."

"Then I have your word that you will be silent about this conversation
between us? It is for your daughter's interest, mind."

"Sir, I shall be silent," said Mr. Lyon, with cold gravity. "Unless,"
he added, with an acumen as to possibilities rather disturbing to
Christian's confident contempt for the old man--"unless I were called
upon by some tribunal to declare the whole truth in this relation; in
which case I should submit myself to that authority of investigation
which is a requisite of social order."

Christian departed, feeling satisfied that he had got the utmost to be
obtained at present out of the Dissenting preacher, whom he had not
dared to question more closely. He must look out for chance lights, and
perhaps, too, he might catch a stray hint by stirring the sediment of
Mr. Crowder's memory. But he must not venture on enquiries that might be
noticed.

When Mr. Lyon was alone he paced up and down among his books, and
thought aloud, in order to relieve himself after the constraint of this
interview. "I will not wait for the urgency of necessity," he said more
than once. "I will tell the child without compulsion. And then I shall
fear nothing. And an unwonted spirit of tenderness has filled her of
late. She will forgive me."



CHAPTER XXVI.

    Consideration like an angel came
    And whipped the offending Adam out of her;
    Leaving her body as a paradise
    To envelope and contain celestial spirits.

                                       --SHAKESPEARE: _Henry V_.


The next morning, after much prayer for the needful strength and wisdom,
Mr. Lyon came down stairs with the resolution that another day should
not pass without the fulfillment of the task he had laid on himself: but
what hour he should choose for this solemn disclosure to Esther must
depend on their mutual occupations. Perhaps he must defer it till they
sat up alone together, after Lyddy was gone to bed. But at breakfast
Esther said--

"To-day is a holiday, father. My pupils are all going to Duffield to see
the wild beasts. What have you got to do to-day? Come, you are eating no
breakfast. Oh, Lyddy, Lyddy, the eggs are hard again. I wish you would
not read Alleyne's 'Alarm' before breakfast; it makes you cry and forget
the eggs."

"They _are_ hard, and that's the truth; but there's hearts as are
harder, Miss Esther," said Lyddy.

"I think not," said Esther. "This is leathery enough for the heart of
the most obdurate Jew. Pray give it little Zachary for a football."

"Dear, dear, don't you be so light, miss. We may all be dead before
night."

"You speak out of season, my good Lyddy," said Mr. Lyon, wearily;
"depart into the kitchen."

"What have you got to do to-day, father?" persisted Esther. "I have a
holiday."

Mr. Lyon felt as if this were a fresh summons not to delay. "I have
something of great moment to do, my dear; and since you are not
otherwise demanded, I will ask you to come and sit with me up-stairs."

Esther wondered what there could be on her father's mind more pressing
than his morning studies.

Soon she knew. Motionless, but mentally stirred as she had never been
before, Esther listened to her mother's story, and to the outpouring of
her step-father's long-pent-up experience. The rays of the morning sun
which fell athwart the books, the sense of the beginning day had
deepened the solemnity more than night would have done. All knowledge
which alters our lives penetrates us more when it comes in the early
morning: the day that has to be travelled with something new and perhaps
forever sad in its light, is an image of the life that spreads beyond.
But at night the time of rest is near.

Mr. Lyon regarded his narrative as a confession--as a revelation to this
beloved child of his own miserable weakness and error. But to her it
seemed a revelation of another sort: her mind seemed suddenly enlarged
by a vision of passion and struggle, of delight and renunciation, in the
lot of beings who had hitherto been a dull enigma to her. And in the act
of unfolding to her that he was not her real father, but had only
striven to cherish her as a father, had only longed to be loved as a
father, the odd, way-worn, unworldly man became the object of a new
sympathy in which Esther exulted. Perhaps this knowledge would have been
less powerful within her, but for the mental preparation that had come
during the last two months from her acquaintance with Felix Holt, which
had taught her to doubt the infallibility of her own standard, and
raised a presentiment of moral depths that were hidden from her.

Esther had taken her place opposite to her father, and had not moved
even her clasped hands while he was speaking. But after the long
outpouring in which he seemed to lose the sense of everything but the
memories he was giving utterance to, he paused a little while, and then
said timidly--

"This is a late retrieval of a long error, Esther. I make not excuses
for myself, for we ought to strive that our affections be rooted in the
truth. Nevertheless you----"

Esther had risen, and had glided on to the wooden stool on a level with
her father's chair, where he was accustomed to lay books. She wanted to
speak, but the flood-gates could not be opened for words alone. She
threw her arms round the old man's neck and sobbed out with a passionate
cry, "Father, father! forgive me if I have not loved you enough. I
will--I will!"

The old man's little delicate frame was shaken by a surprise and joy
that was almost painful in their intensity. He had been going to ask
forgiveness of her who asked it for herself. In that moment of supreme
complex emotion one ray of the minister's joy was the thought, "Surely
the work of grace is begun in her--surely here is a heart that the Lord
hath touched."

They sat so, enclasped in silence, while Esther relieved her full heart.
When she raised her head, she sat quite still for a minute or two
looking fixedly before her, and keeping one little hand in the
minister's. Presently she looked at him and said--

"Then you lived like a workingman, father; you were very, very poor. Yet
my mother had been used to luxury, She was well born--she was a lady?"

"It is true, my dear; it was a poor life that I could give her."

Mr. Lyon answered in utter dimness as to the course Esther's mind was
taking. He had anticipated before his disclosure, from his long-standing
discernment of tendencies in her which were often the cause of silent
grief to him, that the discovery likely to have the keenest interest for
her would be that her parents had a higher rank than that of the poor
Dissenting preacher; but she had shown that other and better
sensibilities were predominant. He rebuked himself now for a hasty and
shallow judgment concerning the child's inner life, and waited for new
clearness.

"But that must be the best life, father," said Esther, suddenly rising,
with a flush across her paleness, and standing with her head thrown a
little backward, as if some illumination had given her a new decision.
"That must be the best life."

"What life, my dear child?"

"Why, that where one bears and does everything because of some great and
strong feeling--so that this and that in one's circumstances don't
signify."

"Yea, verily; but the feeling that should be thus supreme is devotedness
to the Divine Will."

Esther did not speak; her father's words did not fit on to the
impressions wrought in her by what he had told her. She sat down again,
and said, more quietly--

"Mamma did not speak much of my--first father?"

"Not much, dear. She said he was beautiful to the eye, and good and
generous; and that his family was of those who had been long privileged
among their fellows. But now I will deliver to you the letters, which,
together with the ring and locket, are the only visible memorials she
retained of him."

Mr. Lyon reached and delivered to Esther the box containing the relics.
"Take them, and examine them in privacy, my dear. And that I may no more
err by concealment, I will tell you some late occurrences that bear on
these memorials, though to my present apprehension doubtfully and
confusedly."

He then narrated to Esther all that had passed between himself and
Christian. The possibility--to which Mr. Lyon's alarms had pointed--that
her real father might still be living, was a new shock. She could not
speak about it to her present father, but it was registered in silence
as a painful addition to the uncertainties which she suddenly saw
hanging over her life.

"I have little confidence in this man's allegations," Mr. Lyon ended. "I
confess his presence and speech are to me as the jarring of metal. He
bears the stamp of one who has never conceived aught of more sanctity
than the lust of the eye and the pride of life. He hints at some
possible inheritance for you, and denounces mysteriously the devices of
Mr. Jermyn. All this may or may not have a true foundation. But it is
not my part to move in this matter save on a clear showing."

"Certainly not, father," said Esther, eagerly. A little while ago, these
problematic prospects might have set her dreaming pleasantly; but now,
for some reasons that she could not have put distinctly into words, they
affected her with dread.



CHAPTER XXVII.

    To hear with eyes is part of love's rare wit.

                                        --SHAKESPEARE: _Sonnets_.

                        Custom calls me to't;
    What custom wills, in all things should we do't.
    The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
    And mountainous error be too highly heaped
    For truth to over-peer.--_Coriolanus._


In the afternoon Mr. Lyon went out to see the sick amongst his flock,
and Esther, who had been passing the morning in dwelling on the memories
and the few remaining relics of her parents, was left alone in the
parlor amidst the lingering odors of the early dinner, not easily got
rid of in that small house. Rich people, who know nothing of these
vulgar details, can hardly imagine their significance in the history of
multitudes of human lives in which the sensibilities are never adjusted
to the external conditions. Esther always felt so much discomfort from
those odors that she usually seized any possibility of escaping from
them, and to-day they oppressed her the more because she was weary with
long-continued agitation. Why did she not put on her bonnet as usual and
get out into the open air? It was one of those pleasant November
afternoons--pleasant in the wide country--when the sunshine is on the
clinging brown leaves of the young oaks, and the last yellow leaves of
the elms flutter down in the fresh but not eager breeze. But Esther sat
still on the sofa--pale and with reddened eyelids, her curls all pushed
back carelessly, and her elbow resting on the ridgy black horsehair,
which usually almost set her teeth on edge if she pressed it even
through her sleeve--while her eyes rested blankly on the dull street.
Lyddy had said, "Miss, you look sadly; if you can't take a walk, go and
lie down." She had never seen the curls in such disorder, and she
reflected that there had been a death from typhus recently. But the
obstinate Miss only shook her head.

Esther was waiting for the sake of--not a probability, but--a mere
possibility, which made the brothy odors endurable. Apparently, in less
than half an hour, the possibility came to pass, for she changed her
attitude, almost started from her seat, sat down again, and listened
eagerly. If Lyddy should send him away, could she herself rush out and
call him back? Why not? Such things were permissible where it was
understood, from the necessity of the case, that there was only
friendship. But Lyddy opened the door and said, "Here's Mr. Holt, Miss,
wants to know if you'll give him leave to come in. I told him you was
sadly."

"Oh, yes, Lyddy, beg him to come in."

"I should not have persevered," said Felix, as they shook hands, "only I
know Lyddy's dismal way. But you do look ill," he went on, as he seated
himself at the other end of the sofa. "Or rather--for that's a false way
of putting it--you look as if you had been very much distressed. Do you
mind about my taking notice of it?"

He spoke very kindly, and looked at her more persistently than he had
ever done before, when her hair was perfect.

"You are quite right. I am not at all ill. But I have been very much
agitated this morning. My father has been telling me things I never
heard before about my mother, and giving me things that belonged to her.
She died when I was a very little creature."

"Then it is no new pain or trouble for you and Mr. Lyon? I could not
help being anxious to know that."

Esther passed her hand over her brow before she answered. "I hardly know
whether it is pain, or something better than pleasure. It has made me
see things I was blind to before--depths in my father's nature."

As she said this, she looked at Felix, and their eyes met very gravely.

"It is such a beautiful day," he said, "it would do you good to go into
the air. Let me take you along the river toward Little Treby, will you?"

"I will put my bonnet on," said Esther, unhesitatingly, though they had
never walked out together before.

It is true that to get into the fields they had to pass through the
street; and when Esther saw some acquaintances, she reflected that her
walking alone with Felix might be a subject of remark--all the more
because of his cap, patched boots, no cravat, and thick stick. Esther
was a little amazed herself at what she had come to. So our lives glide
on: the river ends we don't know where, and the sea begins, and there is
no more jumping ashore.

When they were in the streets Esther hardly spoke. Felix talked with his
usual readiness, as easily as if he were not doing it solely to divert
her thoughts, first about Job Tudge's delicate chest, and the
probability that the little white-faced monkey would not live long; and
then about a miserable beginning of a night-school, which was all he
could get together at Sproxton, and the dismalness of that hamlet, which
was a sort of lip to the coalpit on one side and the "public" on the
other--and yet a paradise compared with the wynds of Glasgow, where
there was little more than a chink of daylight to show the hatred in
women's faces.

But soon they got into the fields, where there was a right of way toward
Little Treby, now following the course of the river, now crossing toward
a lane, and now turning into a cart-track through a plantation.

"Here we are!" said Felix, when they had crossed the wooden bridge, and
were treading on the slanting shadows made by the elm-trunks. "I think
this is delicious. I never feel less unhappy than in these late autumn
afternoons when they are sunny."

"Less unhappy! There now!" said Esther, smiling at him with some of her
habitual sauciness, "I have caught you in self-contradiction. I have
heard you quite furious against puling, melancholy people. If I had said
what you have just said, you would have given me a long lecture, and
told me to go home and interest myself in the reason of the
rule-of-three."

"Very likely," said Felix, beating the weeds, according to the foible of
our common humanity when it has a stick in its hand. "But I don't think
myself a fine fellow because I'm melancholy. I don't measure my force by
the negations in me, and think my soul must be a mighty one because it
is more given to idle suffering than to beneficent activity. That's what
your favorite gentlemen do, of the Byronic-bilious style."

"I don't admit that those are my favorite gentlemen."

"I've heard you defend them--gentlemen like your Rénés, who have no
particular talent for the finite, but a general sense that the infinite
is the right thing for them. They might as well boast of nausea as a
proof of a strong inside."

"Stop, stop! You run on in that way to get out of my reach. I convicted
you of confessing that you are melancholy."

"Yes," said Felix, thrusting his left hand into his pocket, with a
shrug; "as I could confess to a great many other things I'm not proud
of. The fact is, there are not many easy lots to be drawn in the world
at present; and such as they are I am not envious of them. I don't say
life is not worth having to a man who has some sparks of sense and
feeling and bravery in him. And the finest fellow of all would be the
one who could be glad to have lived because the world was chiefly
miserable, and his life had come to help some one who needed it. He
would be the man who had the most powers and the fewest selfish wants.
But I'm not up to the level of what I see to be best. I'm often a hungry
discontented fellow."

"Why have you made your life so hard then?" said Esther, rather
frightened as she asked the question. "It seems to me you have tried to
find just the most difficult task."

"Not at all," said Felix, with curt decision. "My course was a very
simple one. It was pointed out to me by conditions that I saw as clearly
as I see the bars of this stile. It's a difficult stile too," added
Felix, striding over. "Shall I help you, or will you be left to
yourself?"

"I can do without help, thank you."

"It was simple enough," continued Felix, as they walked on. "If I meant
to put a stop to the sale of those drugs, I must keep my mother, and of
course at her age she would not leave the place she had been used to.
And I had made up my mind against what they call genteel business."

"But suppose every one did as you do? Please to forgive me for saying
so; but I cannot see why you could not have lived as honorably with some
employment that presupposes education and refinement."

"Because you can't see my history or my nature," said Felix, bluntly. "I
have to determine for myself, and not for other men. I don't blame them,
or think I am better than they; their circumstances are different. I
would never choose to withdraw myself from the labor and common burden
of the world; but I do choose to withdraw myself from the push and the
scramble for money and position. Any man is at liberty to call me a
fool, and say that mankind are benefited by the push and the scramble in
the long-run. But I care for the people who live now and will not be
living when the long-run comes. As it is, I prefer going shares with the
unlucky."

Esther did not speak, and there was silence between them for a minute or
two, till they passed through a gate into a plantation where there was
no large timber, but only thin-stemmed trees and underwood, so that the
sunlight fell on the mossy spaces which lay open here and there.

"See how beautiful those stooping birch-stems are with the light on
them!" said Felix. "Here is an old felled trunk they have not thought
worth carrying away. Shall we sit down a little while?"

"Yes; the mossy ground with the dry leaves sprinkled over it is
delightful to one's feet." Esther sat down and took off her bonnet, that
the light breeze might fall on her head. Felix, too, threw down his cap
and stick, lying on the ground with his back against the felled trunk.

"I wish I felt more as you do," she said, looking at the point of her
foot, which was playing with a tuft of moss. "I can't help caring very
much what happens to me. And you seem to care so little about yourself."

"You are thoroughly mistaken," said Felix. "It is just because I'm a
very ambitious fellow, with very hungry passions, wanting a great deal
to satisfy me, that I have chosen to give up what people call worldly
good. At least that has been one determining reason. It all depends on
what a man gets into his consciousness--what life thrusts into his mind,
so that it becomes present to him as remorse is present to the guilty,
or a mechanical problem to an inventive genius. There are two things
I've got present in that way: one of them is the picture of what I
should hate to be. I'm determined never to go about making my face
simpering or solemn, and telling professional lies for profit; or to get
tangled in affairs where I must wink at dishonesty and pocket the
proceeds, and justify that knavery as part of a system that I can't
alter. If I once went into that sort of struggle for success I should
want to win--I should defend the wrong that I had once identified myself
with. I should become everything that I see now beforehand to be
detestable. And what's more, I should do this, as men are doing it every
day, for a ridiculously small prize--perhaps for none at all--perhaps
for the sake of two parlors, a rank eligible for the churchwardenship, a
discontented wife, and several unhopeful children."

Esther felt a terrible pressure on her heart--the certainty of her
remoteness from Felix--the sense that she was utterly trivial to him.

"The other thing that's got into my mind like a splinter," said Felix,
after a pause, "is the life of the miserable--the spawning life of vice
and hunger. I'll never be one of the sleek dogs. The old Catholics are
right, with their higher rule and their lower. Some are called to
subject themselves to a harder discipline, and renounce things
voluntarily which are lawful for others. It is the old word--'necessity'
is laid upon me.

"It seems to me you are stricter than my father is."

"No; I quarrel with no delight that is not base or cruel, but one must
sometimes accommodate one's self to a small share. That is the lot of
the majority. I would wish the minority joy, only they don't want my
wishes."

Again there was silence. Esther's cheeks were hot in spite of the breeze
that sent her hair floating backward. She felt an inward strain, a
demand on her to see things in a light that was not easy or soothing.
When Felix had asked her to walk he seemed so kind, so alive to what
might be her feelings, that she had thought herself nearer to him than
she had ever been before; but since they had come out he had appeared to
forget all that. And yet she was conscious that this impatience of hers
was very petty. Battling in this way with her own little impulses, and
looking at the birch-stems opposite till her gaze was too wide for her
to see anything distinctly, she was unaware how long they had remained
without speaking. She did not know that Felix had changed his attitude a
little, and was resting his elbow on the tree-trunk, while he supported
his head, which was turned toward her. Suddenly he said, in a lower tone
than was habitual to him:

"You are very beautiful."

She started and looked round at him, to see whether his face would give
some help to the interpretation of this novel speech. He was looking up
at her quite calmly, very much as a reverential Protestant might look at
a picture of the Virgin, with a devoutness suggested by the type rather
than by the image. Esther's vanity was not in the least gratified: she
felt that, somehow or other, Felix was going to reproach her.

"I wonder," he went on, still looking at her, "whether the subtle
measuring of forces will ever come to measuring the force there would be
in one beautiful woman whose mind was as noble as her face was
beautiful--who made a man's passion for her rush in one current with all
the great aims of his life."

Esther's eyes got hot and smarting. It was no use trying to be
dignified. She had turned away her head, and now said, rather bitterly,
"It is difficult for a woman ever to try to be anything good when she is
not believed in--when it is always supposed that she must be
contemptible."

"No, dear Esther"--it was the first time Felix had been prompted to call
her by her Christian name, and as he did so he laid his large hand on
her two little hands, which were clasped on her knees. "You don't
believe that I think you contemptible. When I first saw you----"

"I know, I know," said Esther, interrupting him impetuously, but still
looking away. "You mean you did think me contemptible then. But it was
very narrow of you to judge me in that way, when my life had been so
different from yours. I have great faults. I know I am selfish, and
think too much of my own small tastes and too little of what affects
others. But I am not stupid. I am not unfeeling. I can see what is
better."

"But I have not done you injustice since I knew more of you," said
Felix, gently.

"Yes, you have," said Esther, turning and smiling at him through her
tears. "You talk to me like an angry pedagogue. Were _you_ always wise?
Remember the time when you were foolish or naughty."

"That is not far off," said Felix, curtly, taking away his hand, and
clasping it with the other at the back of his head. The talk, which
seemed to be introducing a mutual understanding, such as had not existed
before, seemed to have undergone some check.

"Shall we get up and walk back now?" said Esther, after a few moments.

"No," said Felix, entreatingly. "Don't move yet. I dare say we shall
never walk together or sit here again."

"Why not?"

"Because I am a man who am warned by visions. Those old stories of
visions and dreams guiding men have their truth; we are saved by making
the future present to ourselves."

"I wish I could get visions, then," said Esther, smiling at him, with an
effort of playfulness, in resistance to something vaguely mournful
within her.

"That is what I want," said Felix, looking at her very earnestly. "Don't
turn your head. Do look at me, and then I shall know if I may go on
speaking. I do believe in you; but I want you to have such a vision of
the future that you may never lose your best self. Some charm or other
may be flung about you--some of your attar-of-rose fascinations--and
nothing but a good strong terrible vision will save you. And if it did
save you, you might be that woman I was thinking of a little while ago
when I looked at your face: the woman whose beauty makes a great task
easier to men instead of turning them away from it. I am not likely to
see such fine issues; but they may come where a woman's spirit is finely
touched. I should like to be sure they would come to you."

"Why are you not likely to know what becomes of me?" said Esther,
turning away her eyes in spite of his command. "Why should you not
always be my father's friend and mine?"

"Oh, I shall go away as soon as I can to some large town," said Felix,
in his more usual tone--"some ugly, wicked, miserable place. I want to
be a demagogue of a new sort; an honest one, if possible, who will tell
the people they are blind and foolish, and neither flatter them nor
fatten on them. I have my heritage--an order I belong to. I have the
blood of a line of handicraftsmen in my veins, and I want to stand up
for the lot of the handicraftsman as a good lot, in which a man may be
better trained to all the best functions of his nature than if he
belonged to the grimacing set who have visiting-cards, and are proud to
be thought richer than their neighbors."

"Would nothing ever make it seem right to you to change your mind?" said
Esther (she had rapidly woven some possibilities out of the new
uncertainties in her own lot, though she would not for the world have
had Felix know of her weaving). "Suppose, by some means or other, a
fortune might come to you honorably--by marriage, or in any other
unexpected way--would you see no change in your course?"

"No," said Felix, peremptorily; "I will never be rich. I don't count
that as any peculiar virtue. Some men do well to accept riches, but that
is not my inward vocation: I have no fellow-feeling with the rich as a
class; the habits of their lives are odious to me. Thousands of men have
wedded poverty because they expect to go to heaven for it; I don't
expect to go to heaven for it, but I wed it because it enables me to do
what I most want to do on earth. Whatever the hopes for the world may
be--whether great or small--I am a man of this generation; I will try to
make life less bitter for a few within my reach. It is held reasonable
enough to toil for the fortunes of a family, though it may turn to
imbecility in the third generation. I choose a family with more chances
in it."

Esther looked before her dreamily till she said, "That seems a hard lot;
yet it is a great one." She rose to walk back.

"Then you don't think I'm a fool," said Felix, loudly, starting to his
feet, and then stooping to gather up his cap and stick.

"Of course you suspected me of that stupidity."

"Well--women, unless they are Saint Theresas or Elizabeth Frys,
generally think this sort of thing madness, unless when they read of it
in the Bible."

"A woman can hardly ever choose in that way; she is dependent on what
happens to her. She must take meaner things, because only meaner things
are within her reach."

"Why, can you imagine yourself choosing hardship as the better lot?"
said Felix, looking at her with a sudden question in his eyes.

"Yes, I can," she said, flushing over neck and brow.

Their words were charged with a meaning dependent entirely on the secret
consciousness of each. Nothing had been said which was necessarily
personal. They walked a few yards along the road by which they had come,
without further speech, till Felix said gently, "Take my arm." She took
it, and they walked home so, entirely without conversation. Felix was
struggling as a firm man struggles with a temptation, seeing beyond it
and disbelieving its lying promise. Esther was struggling as a woman
struggles with the yearning for some expression of love, and with
vexation under that subjection to a yearning which is not likely to be
satisfied. Each was conscious of a silence which each was unable to
break, till they entered Malthouse Lane, and were within a few yards of
the minister's door.

"It is getting dusk," Felix then said; "will Mr. Lyon be anxious about
you?"

"No, I think not. Lyddy would tell him that I went out with you, and
that you carried a large stick," said Esther, with a light laugh.

Felix went in with Esther to take tea, but the conversation was entirely
between him and Mr. Lyon about the tricks of canvassing, the foolish
personality of the placards, and the probabilities of Transome's return,
as to which Felix declared himself to have become indifferent. This
scepticism made the minister uneasy: he had great belief in the old
political watchwords, had preached that universal suffrage and no ballot
were agreeable to the will of God, and liked to believe that a visible
"instrument" was forthcoming in the Radical candidate who had pronounced
emphatically against Whig finality. Felix, being in a perverse mood,
contended that universal suffrage would be equally agreeable to the
devil; that he would change his politics a little, have a larger
traffic, and see himself more fully represented in Parliament.

"Nay, my friend," said the minister, "you are again sporting with
paradox; for you will not deny that you glory in the name of Radical, or
Root-and-branch man, as they said in the great times when Nonconformity
was in its giant youth."

"A Radical--yes; but I want to go to some roots a good deal lower down
than the franchise."

"Truly there is a work within which cannot be dispensed with; but it is
our preliminary work to free men from the stifled life of political
nullity, and bring them into what Milton calls 'the liberal air,'
wherein alone can be wrought the final triumphs of the Spirit."

"With all my heart. But while Caliban is Caliban, though you multiply
him by a million, he'll worship every Trinculo that carries a bottle. I
forget, though--you don't read Shakespeare, Mr. Lyon."

"I am bound to confess that I have so far looked into a volume of
Esther's as to conceive your meaning; but the fantasies therein were so
little to be reconciled with a steady contemplation of that divine
economy which is hidden from sense and revealed to faith, that I forbore
the reading, as likely to perturb my ministrations."

Esther sat by in unusual silence. The conviction that Felix willed her
exclusion from his life was making it plain that something more than
friendship between them was not so thoroughly out of the question as she
had always inwardly asserted. In her pain that his choice lay aloof from
her, she was compelled frankly to admit to herself the longing that it
had been otherwise, and that he had entreated her to share his difficult
life. He was like no one else to her: he had seemed to bring at once a
law, and the love that gave strength to obey the law. Yet the next
moment, stung by his independence of her, she denied that she loved him;
she had only longed for a moral support under the negations of her life.
If she were not to have that support, all effort seemed useless.

Esther had been so long used to hear the formulas of her father's belief
without feeling or understanding them, that they had lost all power to
touch her. The first religious experience of her life--the first
self-questioning, the first voluntary subjection, the first longing to
acquire the strength of greater motives and obey the more strenuous
rule--had come to her through Felix Holt. No wonder that she felt as if
the loss of him were inevitable backsliding.

But was it certain that she should lose him? She did not believe that he
was really indifferent to her.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

    _Titus._  But what says Jupiter, I ask thee?

    _Clown._  Alas, sir, I know not Jupiter:
              I never drank with him in all my life.

                                                --_Titus Andronicus_


The multiplication of uncomplimentary placards noticed by Mr. Lyon and
Felix Holt was one of several signs that the days of nomination and
election were approaching. The presence of the Revising Barrister in
Treby was not only an opportunity for all persons not otherwise busy to
show their zeal for the purification of the voting-lists, but also to
reconcile private ease and public duty by standing about the streets and
lounging at doors.

It was no light business for Trebians to form an opinion; the mere fact
of a public functionary with an unfamiliar title was enough to give
them pause, as a premise that was not to be quickly started from. To Mr.
Pink, the saddler, for example, until some distinct injury or benefit
had accrued to him, the existence of the Revising Barrister was like the
existence of the young giraffe which Wombwell had lately brought into
those parts--it was to be contemplated, and not criticised. Mr. Pink
professed a deep-dyed Toryism; but he regarded all fault-finding as
Radical and somewhat impious, as disturbing to trade, and likely to
offend the gentry, or the servants through whom their harness was
ordered: there was a Nemesis in things which made objection unsafe, and
even the Reform Bill was a sort of electric eel which a thriving
tradesman had better leave alone. It was only the "Papists" who lived
far enough off to be spoken of uncivilly.

But Mr. Pink was fond of news, which he collected and retailed with
perfect impartiality, noting facts and rejecting comments. Hence he was
well pleased to have his shop so constant a place of resort for
loungers, that to many Trebians there was a strong association between
the pleasures of gossip and the smell of leather. He had the
satisfaction of chalking and cutting, and of keeping his journeymen
close at work, at the very time that he learned from his visitors who
were those whose votes had been called in question before His Honor, how
Lawyer Jermyn had been too much for Lawyer Labron about Todd's cottages,
and how, in the opinion of some townsmen, this looking into the value of
people's property, and swearing it down below a certain sum, was a nasty
inquisitorial kind of thing; while others observed that being nice to a
few pounds was all nonsense--they should put the figure high enough, and
then never mind if a voter's qualification was thereabouts. But, said
Mr. Sims, the auctioneer, everything was done for the sake of the
lawyers. Mr. Pink suggested impartially that lawyers must live; but Mr.
Sims, having a ready auctioneering wit, did not see that so many of them
need live, or that babies were born lawyers. Mr. Pink felt that this
speculation was complicated by the ordering of side-saddles for lawyers'
daughters, and, returning to the firm ground of fact, stated that it was
getting dusk.

The dusk seemed deepened the next moment by a tall figure obstructing
the doorway, at sight of whom Mr. Pink rubbed his hands and smiled and
bowed more than once, with evident solicitude to show honor where honor
was due, while he said:

"Mr. Christian, sir, how do you do, sir?"

Christian answered with the condescending familiarity of a superior.
"Very badly, I can tell you, with these confounded braces that you were
to make such a fine job of. See, old fellow, they've burst out again."

"Very sorry, sir. Can you leave them with me?"

"Oh, yes, I'll leave them. What's the news, eh?" said Christian, half
seating himself on a high stool, and beating his boot with a hand-whip.

"Well, sir, we look to you to tell us that," said Mr. Pink, with a
knowing smile. "You're at headquarters--eh, sir? That was what I said to
Mr. Scales the other day. He came up for some straps, Mr. Scales did,
and he asked that question in pretty near the same terms that you've
done, sir, and I answered him, as I may say, ditto. Not meaning any
disrespect to you, sir, but a way of speaking."

"Come, that's gammon, Pink," said Christian. "You know everything. You
can tell me if you will, who is the fellow employed to paste up
Transome's handbills?"

"What do _you_ say, Mr. Sims?" said Pink, looking at the auctioneer.

"Why, you know and I know well enough. It's Tommy Trounsem--an old,
crippling, half-mad fellow. Most people know Tommy. I've employed him
myself for charity."

"Where shall I find him?" said Christian.

"At the Cross-Keys, in Pollard's End, most likely," said Mr. Sims. "I
don't know where he puts himself when he isn't at the public."

"He was a stoutish fellow fifteen year ago, when he carried pots," said
Mr. Pink.

"Ay, and has snared many a hare in his time," said Mr. Sims. "But he was
always a little cracked. Lord bless you! he used to swear he had a right
to the Transome estate."

"Why, what put that notion into his head?" said Christian, who had
learned more than he expected.

"The lawing, sir--nothing but the lawing about the estate. There was a
deal of it twenty year ago," said Mr. Pink. "Tommy happened to turn up
hereabout at that time; a big, lungeous fellow, who would speak
disrespectfully of hanybody."

"Oh, he meant no harm," said Mr. Sims. "He was fond of a drop to drink,
and not quite right in the upper story, and he could hear no difference
between Trounsem and Transome. It's an odd way of speaking they have in
that part where he was born--a little north'ard. You'll hear it in his
tongue now, if you talk to him."

"At the Cross-Keys I shall find him, eh?" said Christian, getting off
his stool. "Good-day, Pink--good-day."

Christian went straight from the saddler's to Quorlen's, the Tory
printer's, with whom he had contrived a political spree. Quorlen was a
new man in Treby, who had so reduced the trade of Dow, the old
hereditary printer, that Dow had lapsed to Whiggery and Radicalism and
opinions in general, so far as they were contented to express themselves
in a small stock of types. Quorlen had brought his Duffield wit with
him, and insisted that religion and joking were the handmaids of
politics; on which principle he and Christian undertook the joking, and
left the religion to the rector. The joke at present in question was a
practical one. Christian, turning into the shop, merely said, "I've
found him out--give me the placards"; and, tucking a thickish flat
bundle, wrapped in a black glazed cotton bag, under his arm, walked out
into the dusk again.

"Suppose now," he said to himself, as he strode along--"suppose there
should be some secret to be got out of this old scamp, or some notion
that's as good as a secret to those who know how to use it? That would
be virtue rewarded. But I'm afraid the old tosspot is not likely to be
good for much. There's truth in wine, and there may be some in gin and
muddy beer; but whether it's truth worth my knowing, is another
question. I've got plenty of truth, but never any that was worth a
sixpence to me."

The Cross-Keys was a very old-fashioned "public"; its bar was a big
rambling kitchen, with an undulating brick floor; the small-paned
windows threw an interesting obscurity over the far-off dresser,
garnished with pewter and tin, and with large dishes that seemed to
speak of better times; the two settles were half pushed under the
wide-mouthed chimney; and the grate with its brick hobs, massive iron
crane, and various pothooks, suggested a generous plenty possibly
existent in all moods and tenses except the indicative present. One way
of getting an idea of our fellow-countrymen's miseries is to go and look
at their pleasures. The Cross-Keys had a fungous-featured landlord and a
yellow sickly landlady, with a large white kerchief bound round her cap,
as if her head had recently required surgery; it had doctored ale, an
odor of bad tobacco, and remarkably strong cheese. It was not what
Astræa, when come back, might be expected to approve as the scene of
ecstatic enjoyment for the beings whose special prerogative it is to
lift their sublime faces toward heaven. Still, there was ample space on
the hearth--accommodation for narrative bagmen or boxmen--room for a man
to stretch his legs; his brain was not pressed upon by a white wall
within a yard of him, and the light did not stare in mercilessly on bare
ugliness, turning the fire to ashes. Compared with some beerhouses of
this more advanced period, the Cross-Keys of that day presented a high
standard of pleasure.

But though this venerable "public" had not failed to share in the recent
political excitement of drinking, the pleasures it offered were not at
this hour of the evening sought by a numerous company. There were only
three or four pipes being smoked by the firelight, but it was enough for
Christian when he found that one of these was being smoked by the
bill-sticker, whose large flat basket, stuffed with placards, leaned
near him against the settle. So splendid an apparition as Christian was
not a little startling at the Cross-Keys, and was gazed at in expectant
silence; but he was a stranger in Pollard's End, and was taken for the
highest style of traveller when he declared that he was deucedly
thirsty, ordered sixpenny worth of gin and a large jug of water, and,
putting a few drops of the spirit into his own glass, invited Tommy
Trounsem, who sat next him, to help himself. Tommy was not slower than a
shaking hand obliged him to be in accepting this invitation. He was a
tall, broad-shouldered old fellow, who had once been good-looking; but
his cheeks and chest were both hollow now, and his limbs were shrunken.

"You've got some bills there, master, eh?" said Christian, pointing to
the basket. "Is there an auction coming on?"

"Auction? no," said Tommy, with a gruff hoarseness, which was the
remnant of a jovial bass, and with an accent which differed from the
Trebian fitfully, as an early habit is wont to reassert itself. "I've
nought to do wi' auctions; I'm a pol'tical charicter. It's me am getting
Trounsem into Parl'ment."

"Trounsem, said he," the landlord observed, taking out his pipe with a
low laugh. "It's Transome, sir. Maybe you don't belong to this part.
It's the candidate 'ull do most for the workingmen, and's proved it too,
in the way o' being open-handed and wishing 'em to enjoy themselves. If
I'd twenty votes, I'd give one for Transome, and I don't care who hears
me."

The landlord peered out from his fungous cluster of features with a
beery confidence that the high figure of twenty had somehow raised the
hypothetic value of his vote.

"Spilkins, now," said Tommy, waving his hand to the landlord, "you let
one gentelman speak to another, will you? This genelman wants to know
about my bills. Does he, or doesn't he?"

"What then? I spoke according," said the landlord, mildly holding his
own.

"You're all very well, Spilkins," returned Tommy, "but y'aren't me. I
know what the bills are. It's public business. I'm none o' your common
bill-stickers, master; I've left off sticking up ten guineas reward for
a sheep-stealer, or low stuff like that. These are Trounsem's bills; and
I'm the rightful family, and so I give him a lift. A Trounsem I am, and
a Trounsem I'll be buried; and if Old Nick tries to lay hold on me for
poaching, I'll say, 'You be hanged for a lawyer, Old Nick; every hare
and pheasant on the Trounsem's land is mine'; and what rises the family,
rises old Tommy; and we're going to get into Parl'ment--that's the long
and the short on't, master. And I'm the head o' the family, and I stick
the bills. There's Johnsons, and Thomsons, and Jacksons, and Billsons;
but I'm a Trounsem, I am. What do you say to that, master?"

This appeal, accompanied by a blow on the table, while the landlord
winked at the company, was addressed to Christian, who answered, with
severe gravity--

"I say there isn't any work more honorable than bill-sticking."

"No, no," said Tommy, wagging his head from side to side. "I thought
you'd come in to that. I thought you'd know better than say contrairy.
But I'll shake hands wi' you; I don't want to knock any man's head off.
I'm a good chap--a sound crock--an old family kep' out o' my rights. I
shall go to heaven, for all Old Nick."

As these celestial prospects might imply that a little extra gin was
beginning to tell on the bill-sticker, Christian wanted to lose no time
in arresting his attention. He laid his hand on Tommy's and spoke
emphatically.

"But I'll tell you what you bill-stickers are not up to. You should be
on the look-out when Debarry's side have stuck up fresh bills, and go
and paste yours over them. I know where there's a lot of Debarry's bills
now. Come along with me and I'll show you. We'll paste them over, and
then we'll come back and treat the company."

"Hooray!" said Tommy. "Let's be off then."

He was one of the thoroughly inured, originally hale drunkards, and did
not easily lose his head or legs or the ordinary amount of method in his
talk. Strangers often supposed that Tommy was tipsy when he had only
taken what he called "one blessed pint," chiefly from that glorious
contentment with himself and his adverse fortunes which is not usually
characteristic of the sober Briton. He knocked the ashes out of his
pipe, seized his paste-vessel and his basket, and prepared to start with
a satisfactory promise that he could know what he was about.

The landlord and some others had confidently concluded that they
understood all about Christian now. He was a Transome's man, come to see
after the bill-sticking in Transome's interest. The landlord, telling
his yellow wife snappishly to open the door for the gentleman, hoped
soon to see him again.

"This is a Transome's house, sir," he observed, "in respect of
entertaining customers of that color. I do my duty as a publican, which,
if I know it, is to turn back no genelman's money. I say, give every
genelman a chance, and the more the merrier, in Parl'ment and out of it.
And if anybody says they want but two Parl'ment men, I say it 'ud be
better for trade if there was six of 'em, and voters according."

"Ay, ay," said Christian; "you're a sensible man, landlord. You don't
mean to vote for Debarry, then, eh?"

"Not nohow," said the landlord, thinking that where negatives were good
the more you had of them the better.

As soon as the door had closed behind Christian and his new companion
Tommy said--

"Now, master, if you're to be my lantern, don't you be a Jacky Lantern,
which I take to mean one as leads you the wrong way. For I'll tell you
what--if you've had the luck to fall in wi' Tommy Trounsem, don't you
let him drop."

"No, no--to be sure not," said Christian. "Come along here. We'll go to
the Back Brewery wall first."

"No, no; don't you let me drop. Give me a shilling any day you like, and
I'll tell you more nor you'll hear from Spilkins in a week. There isna
many men like me. I carried pots for fifteen year off and on--what do
you think o' that now, for a man as might ha' lived up there at Trounsem
Park, and snared his own game? Which I'd ha' done," said Tommy, wagging
his head at Christian in the dimness undisturbed by gas. "None o' your
shooting for me--it's two to one you'll miss. Snaring's more
fishing-like. You bait your hook, and if it isna the fishes' good-will
to come, that's nothing again' the sporting genelman. And that's what I
say by snaring."

"But if you'd a right to the Transome estate, how was it you were kept
out of it, old boy? It was some foul shame or other, eh?"

"It's the law--that's what it is. You're a good sort of chap; I don't
mind telling you. There's folks born to property, and there's folks
catch hold on it; and the law's made for them to catch hold. I'm pretty
deep; I see a good deal further than Spilkins. There was Ned Patch, the
peddler, used to say to me, 'You canna read, Tommy,' says he. 'No; thank
you,' says I; 'I'm not going to crack my headpiece to make myself as big
a fool as you.' I was fond o' Ned. Many's the pot we've had together."

"I see well enough you're deep, Tommy. How came you to know you were
born to property?"

"It was the regester--the parish regester," said Tommy, with his knowing
wag of the head, "that shows as you was born. I allays felt it inside me
as I was somebody, and I could see other chaps thought it on me too; and
so one day at Littleshaw, where I kep' ferrets and a little bit of a
public, there come a fine man looking after me, and walking me up and
down wi' questions. And I made out from the clerk as he'd been at the
regester; and I gave the clerk a pot or two, and he got it off our
parson as the name o' Trounsem was a great name hereabout. And I waits a
bit for my fine man to come again. Thinks I, if there's property wants a
right owner, I shall be called for; for I didn't know the law then. And
I waited and waited, till I see'd no fun i' waiting. So I parted with my
public and my ferrets--for she was dead a' ready, my wife was, and I
hadn't no cumbrance. And off I started a pretty long walk to this
country-side, for I could walk for a wager in them days."

"Ah! well, here we are at the Back Brewery wall. Put down your paste and
your basket now, old boy, and I'll help you. You paste, and I'll give
you the bills, and then you can go on talking."

Tommy obeyed automatically, for he was now carried away by the rare
opportunity of talking to a new listener, and was only eager to go on
with his story. As soon as his back was turned, and he was stooping over
his paste-pot, Christian, with quick adroitness, exchanged the placards
in his own bag for those in Tommy's basket. Christian's placards had not
been printed at Treby, but were a new lot which had been sent from
Duffield that very day--"highly spiced," Quorlen had said, "coming from
a pen that was up to that sort of thing." Christian had read the first
of the sheaf, and supposed they were all alike. He proceeded to hand one
to Tommy and said--

"Here, old boy, paste this over the other. And so, when you got into
this country-side, what did you do?"

"Why, I put up at a good public and ordered the best, for I'd a bit o'
money in my pocket; and I axed about, and they said to me, if it's
Trounsem business you're after, you go to Lawyer Jermyn. And I went; and
says I, going along, he's maybe the fine man as walked me up and down.
But no such thing. I'll tell you what Lawyer Jermyn was. He stands you
there, and holds you away from him wi' a pole three yard long. He stares
at you, and says nothing, till you feel like a Tomfool; and then he
threats you to set the justice on you; and then he's sorry for you, and
hands you money, and preaches you a sarmint, and tells you you're a poor
man, and he'll give you a bit of advice--and you'd better not be
meddling wi' things belonging to the law, else you be catched up in a
big wheel and fly to bits. And I went of a cold sweat, and I wished I
might never come i' sight o' Lawyer Jermyn again. But he says, if you
keep i' this neighborhood, behave yourself well, and I'll pertect you. I
were deep enough, but it's no use being deep, 'cause you can never know
the law. And there's times when the deepest fellow's most frightened."

"Yes, yes. There! Now for another placard. And so that was all?"

"All?" said Tommy, turning round and holding the paste-brush in suspense.
"Don't you be running too quick. Thinks I, 'I'll meddle no more. I've
got a bit o' money--I'll buy a basket, and be a pot-man. It's a pleasant
life. I shall live at publics and see the world, and pick 'quaintance,
and get a chance penny.' But when I'd turned into the Red Lion, and got
myself warm again wi' a drop o' hot, something jumps into my head.
Thinks I, Tommy, you've done finely for yourself: you're a rat as has
broke up your house to take a journey, and show yourself to a ferret.
And then it jumps into my head: I'd once two ferrets as turned on one
another, and the little un killed the big un. Says I to the landlady,
'Missus, could you tell me of a lawyer,' says I, 'not very big or fine,
but a second-size--a big-potato, like?' 'That I can,' says she; 'there's
one now in the bar parlor.' 'Be so kind as bring us together,' says I.
And she cries out--I think I hear her now--'Mr. Johnson!' And what do
you think?"

At this crisis in Tommy's story the gray clouds, which had been
gradually thinning, opened sufficiently to let down the sudden
moonlight, and show his poor battered old figure and face in the
attitude and with the expression of a narrator sure of the coming effect
on his auditor; his body and neck stretched a little on one side, and
his paste-brush held out with an alarming intention of tapping
Christian's coat-sleeve at the right moment. Christian started to a safe
distance, and said--

"It's wonderful. I can't tell what to think."

"Then never do you deny Old Nick," said Tommy, with solemnity. "I've
believed in him more ever since. Who was Johnson? Why, Johnson was the
fine man as had walked me up and down with questions. And I out with it
to him then and there. And he speaks me civil, and says, 'Come away wi'
me, my good fellow.' And he told me a deal o' law. And he says, 'Whether
you're a Tommy Trounsem or no, it's no good to you, but only to them as
have got hold o' the property. If you was a Tommy Trounsem twenty times
over, it 'ud be no good, for the law's bought you out; and your life's
no good, only to them as have catched hold o' the property. The more you
live, the more they'll stick in. Not as they want you now,' says
he--'you're no good to anybody, and you might howl like a dog foriver,
and the law 'ud take no notice on you.' Says Johnson, 'I'm doing a kind
thing by you to tell you. For that's the law.' And if you want to know
the law, master, you ask Johnson. I heard 'em say after, as he was an
understrapper at Jermyn's. I've never forgot it from that day to this.
But I saw clear enough, as if the law hadn't been again' me, the
Trounsem estate 'ud ha' been mine. But folks are fools hereabouts, and
I've left off talking. The more you tell 'em the truth, the more they'll
niver believe you. And I went and bought my basket and the pots,
and----"

"Come then, fire away," said Christian. "Here's another placard."

"I'm getting a bit dry, master."

"Well, then, make haste, and you'll have something to drink all the
sooner."

Tommy turned to his work again, and Christian, continuing his help,
said, "And how long has Mr. Jermyn been employing you?"

"Oh, no particular time--off and on; but a week or two ago he sees me
upo' the road, and speaks to me uncommon civil, and tells me to go up to
his office and he'll give me employ. And I was noways unwilling to stick
the bills to get the family into Parl'ment. For there's no man can help
the law. And the family's the family, whether you carry pots or no.
Master, I'm uncommon dry; my head's a-turning round; it's talking so
long on end."

The unwonted excitement of poor Tommy's memory was producing a reaction.

"Well, Tommy," said Christian, who had just made a discovery among the
placards which altered the bent of his thoughts, "you may go back to the
Cross-Keys now, if you like; here's a half-crown for you to spend
handsomely. I can't go back there myself just yet; but you may give my
respects to Spilkins, and mind you paste the rest of the bills early
to-morrow morning."

"Ay, ay. But don't you believe too much i' Spilkins," said Tommy,
pocketing the half-crown, and showing his gratitude by giving this
advice--"he's no harm much--but weak. He thinks he's at the bottom o'
things because he scores you up. But I bear him no ill-will. Tommy
Trounsem's a good chap; and any day you like to give me half-a-crown,
I'll tell you the same story over again. Not now; I'm dry. Come, help me
up wi' these things; you're a younger chap than me. Well, I'll tell
Spilkins you'll come again another day."

The moonlight, which had lit up poor Tommy's oratorical attitude, had
served to light up for Christian the print of the placards. He had
expected the copies to be various, and had turned them half over at
different depths of the sheaf before drawing out those he offered to the
bill-sticker. Suddenly the clearer light had shown him on one of them a
name which was just then especially interesting to him, and all the more
when occurring in a placard intended to dissuade the electors of North
Loamshire from voting for the heir of the Transomes. He hastily turned
over the bills that preceded and succeeded, that he might draw out and
carry away all of this pattern; for it might turn out to be wiser for
him not to contribute to the publicity of handbills which contained
allusions to Bycliffe _versus_ Transome. There were about a dozen of
them; he pressed them together and thrust them into his pocket,
returning all the rest to Tommy's basket. To take away this dozen might
not be to prevent similar bills from being posted up elsewhere, but he
had reason to believe that these were all of the same kind which had
been sent to Treby from Duffield.

Christian's interest in his practical joke had died out like a morning
rushlight. Apart from this discovery in the placards, old Tommy's story
had some indications in it that were worth pondering over. Where was
that well-informed Johnson now? Was he still an understrapper of
Jermyn's?

With this matter in his thoughts, Christian only turned in hastily at
Quorlen's, threw down the black bag which contained the captured Radical
handbills, said he had done the job, and hurried back to the Manor that
he might study his problem.



CHAPTER XXIX.

    I doe believe that, as the gall has severall receptacles in several
    creatures, soe there's scarce any creature but hath that emunctorye
    somewhere.--SIR THOMAS BROWNE.


Fancy what a game at chess would be if all the chessmen had passions and
intellects, more or less small and cunning: if you were not only
uncertain about your adversary's men, but a little uncertain about your
own; if your knight could shuffle himself on to a new square by the sly;
if your bishop, in disgust at your castling, could wheedle your pawns
out of their places; and if your pawns, hating you because they are
pawns, could make away from their appointed posts that you might get
checkmate on a sudden. You might be the longest-headed of deductive
reasoners, and yet you might be beaten by your own pawns. You would be
especially likely to be beat, if you depended arrogantly on your
mathematical imagination, and regarded your passionate pieces with
contempt.

Yet this imaginary chess is easy compared with the game a man has to
play against his fellow-men with other fellow-men for his instruments.
He thinks himself sagacious, perhaps, because he trusts no bond except
that of self-interest: but the only self-interest he can safely rely on
is what seems to be such to the mind he would use or govern. Can he ever
be sure of knowing this?

Matthew Jermyn was under no misgivings as to the fealty of Johnson. He
had "been the making of Johnson"; and this seems to many men as a reason
for expecting devotion, in spite of the fact that they themselves,
though very fond of their own persons and lives, are not at all devoted
to the Maker they believe in. Johnson was a most serviceable
subordinate. Being a man who aimed at respectability, a family man, who
had a good church-pew, subscribed for engravings of banquet pictures
where there were portraits of political celebrities, and wished his
children to be more unquestionably genteel than their father, he
presented all the more numerous handles of worldly motive by which a
judicious superior might get a hold on him. But this useful regard to
respectability had its inconvenience in relation to such a superior: it
was a mark of some vanity and some pride, which, if they were not
touched just in the right handling-place, were liable to become raw and
sensitive. Jermyn was aware of Johnson's weaknesses, and thought he had
flattered them sufficiently. But on the point of knowing when we are
disagreeable, our human nature is fallible. Our lavender-water, our
smiles, our compliments, and other polite falsities, are constantly
offensive, when in the very nature of them they can only be meant to
attract admiration and regard. Jermyn had often been unconsciously
disagreeable to Johnson, over and above the constant offence of being an
ostentatious patron. He would never let Johnson dine with his wife and
daughters; he would not himself dine at Johnson's house when he was in
town. He often did what was equivalent to poohpoohing his conversation
by not even appearing to listen, and by suddenly cutting it short with a
query on a new subject. Jermyn was able and politic enough to have
commanded a great deal of success in his life, but he could not help
being handsome, arrogant, fond of being heard, indisposed to any kind of
comradeship, amorous and bland toward women, cold and self-contained
toward men. You will hear very strong denials that an attorney's being
handsome could enter into the dislike he excited; but conversation
consists a good deal in the denial of what is true. From the British
point of view masculine beauty is regarded very much as it is in the
drapery business:--as good solely for the fancy department--for young
noblemen, artists, poets, and the clergy. Some one who, like Mr. Lingon,
was disposed to revile Jermyn (perhaps it was Sir Maximus), had called
him "a cursed, sleek, handsome, long-winded, overbearing sycophant";
epithets which expressed, rather confusedly, the mingled character of
the dislike he excited. And serviceable John Johnson, himself sleek, and
mindful about his broadcloth and his cambric fronts, had what he
considered "spirit" enough within him to feel that dislike of Jermyn
gradually gathering force through years of obligation and subjection,
till it had become an actuating motive disposed to use an opportunity;
if it did not watch for one.

It was not this motive, however, but rather the ordinary course of
business, which accounted for Johnson's playing a double part as an
electioneering agent. What men do in elections is not to be classed
either among sins or marks of grace; it would be profane to include
business in religion, and conscience refers to failure, not to success.
Still, the sense of being galled by Jermyn's harness was an additional
reason for cultivating all relations that were independent of him; and
pique at Harold Transome's behavior to him in Jermyn's office perhaps
gave all the more zest to Johnson's use of his pen and ink when he wrote
a handbill in the service of Garstin, and Garstin's incomparable agent,
Putty, full of innuendoes against Harold Transome, as a descendant of
the Durfey-Transomes. It is a natural subject of self-congratulation to
a man, when special knowledge, gained long ago without any forecast,
turns out to afford a special inspiration in the present; and Johnson
felt a new pleasure in the consciousness that he of all people in the
world next to Jermyn had the most intimate knowledge of the Transome
affairs. Still better--some of these affairs were secrets of Jermyn's.
If in an uncomplimentary spirit he might have been called Jermyn's "man
of straw," it was a satisfaction to know that the unreality of the man
John Johnson was confined to his appearance in annuity deeds, and that
elsewhere he was solid, locomotive, and capable of remembering anything
for his own pleasure and benefit. To act with doubleness towards a man
whose conduct was double, was so near an approach to virtue that it
deserved to be called by no meaner name than diplomacy.

By such causes it came to pass that Christian held in his hands a bill
in which Jermyn was playfully alluded to as Mr. German Cozen, who won
games by clever shuffling and odd tricks without any honor, and backed
Durfey's crib against Bycliffe--in which it was adroitly implied that
the so-called head of the Transomes was only the tail of the
Durfeys--and that some said the Durfeys would have died out and left
their nest empty if it had not been for their German Cozen.

Johnson had not dared to use any recollections except such as might
credibly exist in other minds besides his own. In the truth of the case,
no one but himself had the prompting to recall these out-worn scandals;
but it was likely enough that such foul-winged things should be revived
by election heats for Johnson to escape all suspicion.

Christian could gather only dim and uncertain inferences from this flat
irony and heavy joking; but one chief thing was clear to him. He had
been right in his conjecture that Jermyn's interest about Bycliffe had
its source in some claim of Bycliffe's on the Transome property. And
then, there was that story of the old bill-sticker's, which, closely
considered, indicated that the right of the present Transomes depended,
or, at least, had depended on the continuance of some other lives.
Christian in his time had gathered enough legal notions to be aware that
possession by one man sometimes depended on the life of another; that a
man might sell his own interest in property, and the interest of his
descendants, while a claim on that property would still remain to some
one else than the purchaser, supposing the descendants became extinct,
and the interests they had sold were at an end. But under what
conditions the claim might be valid or void in any particular case, was
all darkness to him. Suppose Bycliffe had any such claim on the Transome
estates: how was Christian to know whether at the present moment it was
worth anything more than a bit of rotten parchment? Old Tommy Trounsem
had said that Johnson knew all about it. But even if Johnson were still
above-ground--and all Johnsons are mortal--he might still be an
understrapper of Jermyn's, in which case his knowledge would be on the
wrong side of the hedge for the purposes of Henry Scaddon. His immediate
care must be to find out all he could about Johnson. He blamed himself
for not having questioned Tommy further while he had him at command; but
on this head the bill-sticker could hardly know more than the less
dilapidated denizens of Treby.

Now it had happened that during the weeks in which Christian had been at
work trying to solve the enigma of Jermyn's interest about Bycliffe,
Johnson's mind also had been somewhat occupied with suspicion and
conjecture as to new information on the subject of the old Bycliffe
claims which Jermyn intended to conceal from him. The letter which,
after his interview with Christian, Jermyn had written with a sense of
perfect safety to his faithful ally Johnson, was, as we know, written to
a Johnson who had found his self-love incompatible with that
faithfulness of which it was supposed to be the foundation. Anything
that the patron felt it inconvenient for his obliged friend and servant
to know, became by that very fact an object of peculiar curiosity. The
obliged friend and servant secretly doted on his patron's inconvenience,
provided that he himself did not share it; and conjecture naturally
became active.

Johnson's legal imagination, being very differently furnished from
Christian's, was at no loss to conceive conditions under which there
might arise a new claim on the Transome estates. He had before him the
whole history of the settlement of those estates made a hundred years
ago by John Justus Transome, entailing them, whilst in his possession,
on his son Thomas and his heirs-male, with remainder to the Bycliffes in
fee. He knew that Thomas, son of John Justus, proving a prodigal, had,
without the knowledge of his father, the tenant in possession, sold his
own and his descendants' rights to a lawyer-cousin named Durfey; that,
therefore, the title of the Durfey-Transomes, in spite of that old
Durfey's tricks to show the contrary, depended solely on the purchase of
the "base fee" thus created by Thomas Transome; and that the Bycliffes
were the "remainder men" who might fairly oust the Durfey-Transomes if
ever the issue of the prodigal Thomas went clean out of existence, and
ceased to represent a right which he had bargained away from them.

Johnson, as Jermyn's subordinate, had been closely cognizant of the
details concerning the suit instituted by successive Bycliffes, of whom
Maurice Christian Bycliffe was the last, on the plea that the extinction
of Thomas Transome's line had actually come to pass--a weary suit, which
had eaten into the fortunes of two families, and had only made the
cankerworms fat. The suit had closed with the death of Maurice Christian
Bycliffe in prison; but before his death, Jermyn's exertions to get
evidence that there was still issue of Thomas Transome's line surviving,
as a security of the Durfey title, had issued in the discovery of a
Thomas Transome at Littleshaw, in Stonyshire, who was the representative
of the pawned inheritance. The death of Maurice had made this discovery
useless--had made it seem the wiser part to say nothing about it; and
the fact had remained a secret known only to Jermyn and Johnson. No
other Bycliffe was known or believed to exist, and the Durfey-Transomes
might be considered safe, unless--yes, there was an "unless" which
Johnson could conceive: an heir or heiress of the Bycliffes--if such a
personage turned out to be in existence--might sometime raise a new and
valid claim when once informed that wretched old Tommy Trounsem the
bill-sticker, tottering drunkenly on the edge of the grave, was the last
issue remaining above-ground from that dissolute Thomas who played his
Esau part a century before. While the poor old bill-sticker breathed,
the Durfey-Transomes could legally keep their possession in spite of a
possible Bycliffe proved real; but not when the parish had buried the
bill-sticker.

Still, it is one thing to conceive conditions, and another to see any
chance of proving their existence. Johnson at present had no glimpse of
such a chance; and even if he ever gained the glimpse, he was not sure
that he should ever make any use of it. His enquiries of Medwin, in
obedience to Jermyn's letter, had extracted only a negative as to any
information possessed by the lawyers of Bycliffe concerning a marriage,
or expectation of offspring on his part. But Johnson felt not the less
stung by curiosity to know what Jermyn had found out: that he had found
something in relation to a possible Bycliffe, Johnson felt pretty sure.
And he thought with satisfaction that Jermyn could not hinder him from
knowing what he already knew about Thomas Transome's issue. Many things
might occur to alter his policy and give a new value to facts. Was it
certain that Jermyn would always be fortunate?

When greed and unscrupulousness exhibit themselves on a grand historical
scale, and there is a question of peace or war or amicable partition, it
often occurs that gentlemen of high diplomatic talents have their minds
bent on the same object from different points of view. Each, perhaps, is
thinking of a certain duchy or province, with a view to arranging the
ownership in such a way as shall best serve the purposes of the
gentleman with high diplomatic talents in whom each is more especially
interested. But these select minds in high office can never miss their
aims from ignorance of each other's existence or whereabouts. Their high
titles may be learned even by common people from every pocket almanac.

But with meaner diplomats, who might be mutually useful, such ignorance
is often obstructive. Mr. John Johnson and Mr. Christian, otherwise Mr.
Scaddon, might have had a concentration of purpose and an ingenuity of
device fitting them to make a figure in the parcelling of Europe, and
yet they might never have met, simply because Johnson knew nothing of
Christian, and because Christian did not know where to find Johnson.



CHAPTER XXX.

    His nature is too noble for the world:
    He would not flatter Neptune for his trident,
    Or Jove for his power to thunder. His heart's his mouth;
    What his breast forges, that his tongue must vent;
    And, being angry, doth forget that ever
    He heard the name of death.--_Coriolanus._


Christian and Johnson did meet, however, by means that were quite
incalculable. The incident which brought them into communication was due
to Felix Holt, who of all men in the world had the least affinity either
for the industrious or the idle parasite.

Mr. Lyon had urged Felix to go to Duffield on the fifteenth of December
to witness the nomination of the candidates for North Loamshire. The
minister wished to hear what took place; and the pleasure of gratifying
him helped to outweigh some opposing reasons.

"I shall get into a rage at something or other," Felix had said. "I've
told you one of my weak points. Where I have any particular business, I
must incur the risks my nature brings. But I've no particular business
at Duffield. However, I'll make a holiday and go. By dint of seeing
folly, I shall get lessons in patience."

The weak point to which Felix referred was his liability to be carried
completely out of his own mastery by indignant anger. His strong health,
his renunciation of selfish claims, his habitual preoccupation with
large thoughts and with purposes independent of everyday casualties,
secured him a fine and even temper, free from moodiness or irritability.
He was full of long-suffering toward his unwise mother, who "pressed him
daily with her words and urged him, so that his soul was vexed;" he had
chosen to fill his days in a way that required the utmost exertion of
patience, that required those little rill-like outflowings of goodness
which in minds of great energy must be fed from deep sources of thought
and passionate devotedness. In this way his energies served to make him
gentle; and now, in this twenty-sixth year of his life, they had ceased
to make him angry, except in the presence of something that roused his
deep indignation. When once exasperated, the passionateness of his
nature threw off the yoke of a long-trained consciousness in which
thought and emotion had been more and more completely mingled, and
concentrated itself in a rage as ungovernable as that of boyhood. He was
thoroughly aware of the liability, and knew that in such circumstances
he could not answer for himself. Sensitive people with feeble frames
have often the same sort of fury within them; but they are themselves
shattered, and shatter nothing. Felix had a terrible arm: he knew that
he was dangerous; and he avoided the conditions that might cause him
exasperation as he would have avoided intoxicating drinks if he had been
in danger of intemperance.

The nomination-day was a great epoch of successful trickery, or, to
speak in a more parliamentary manner, of war-stratagem, on the part of
skilful agents. And Mr. Johnson had his share of inward chuckling and
self-approval, as one who might justly expect increasing renown, and be
some day in as general request as the great Putty himself. To have the
pleasure and the praise of electioneering ingenuity, and also to get
paid for it, without too much anxiety whether the ingenuity will achieve
its ultimate end, perhaps gives to some select persons a sort of
satisfaction in their superiority to their more agitated fellow-men that
is worthy to be classed with those generous enjoyments of having the
truth chiefly to yourself, and of seeing others in danger of drowning
while you are high and dry, which seem to have been regarded as unmixed
privileges by Lucretius and Lord Bacon.

One of Mr. Johnson's great successes was this. Spratt, the hated manager
of the Sproxton Colliery, in careless confidence that the colliers and
other laborers under him would follow his orders, had provided carts to
carry some loads of voteless enthusiasm to Duffield on behalf of
Garstin; enthusiasm which, being already paid for by the recognized
benefit of Garstin's existence as a capitalist with a share in the
Sproxton mines, was not to cost much in the form of treating. A
capitalist was held worthy of pious honor as the cause why workingmen
existed. But Mr. Spratt did not sufficiently consider that a cause which
was to be proved by argument or testimony is not an object of passionate
devotion to colliers: a visible cause of beer acts on them much more
strongly. And even if there had been any love of the far-off Garstin,
hatred of the too immediate Spratt would have been the stronger motive.
Hence Johnson's calculations, made long ago with Chubb, the remarkable
publican, had been well founded, and there had been diligent care to
supply treating at Duffield in the name of Transome. After the election
was over it was not improbable that there would be much friendly joking
between Putty and Johnson as to the success of this trick against
Putty's employer, and Johnson would be conscious of rising in the
opinion of his celebrated senior.

For the show of hands and the cheering, the hustling and the pelting,
the roaring and the hissing, the hard hits with small missiles and the
soft hits with small jokes, were strong enough on the side of Transome
to balance the similar "demonstrations" for Garstin, even with the
Debarry interest in his favor. And the inconvenient presence of Spratt
was easily got rid of by a dexterously-managed accident, which sent him
bruised and limping from the scene of action. Mr. Chubb had never before
felt so thoroughly that the occasion was up to a level with his talents,
while the clear daylight in which his virtue would appear when at the
election he voted, as his duty to himself bound him, for Garstin only,
gave him thorough repose of conscience.

Felix Holt was the only person looking on at the senseless exhibitions
of this nomination-day, who knew from the beginning the history of the
trick with the Sproxton men. He had been aware all along that the
treating at Chubb's had been continued, and that so far Harold
Transome's promise had produced no good fruits; and what he was
observing to-day, as he watched the uproarious crowd, convinced him that
the whole scheme would be carried out just as if he had never spoken
about it. He could be fair enough to Transome to allow that he might
have wished, and yet have been unable, with his notions of success, to
keep his promise; and his bitterness toward the candidate only took the
form of contemptuous pity; for Felix was not sparing in his contempt for
men who put their inward honor in pawn by seeking the prizes of the
world. His scorn fell too readily on the fortunate. But when he saw
Johnson passing to and fro, and speaking to Jermyn on the hustings, he
felt himself getting angry, and jumped off the wheel of the stationary
cart on which he was mounted, that he might no longer be in sight of
this man, whose vitiating cant had made his blood hot and his fingers
tingle on the first day of encountering him at Sproxton. It was a little
too exasperating to look at this pink-faced rotund specimen of
prosperity, to witness the power for evil that lay in his vulgar cant,
backed by another man's money, and to know that such stupid iniquity
flourished the flags of Reform, and Liberalism, and justice to the
needy. While the roaring and the scuffling were still going on, Felix,
with his thick stick in his hand, made his way through the crowd, and
walked on through the Duffield streets, till he came out on a grassy
suburb, where the houses surrounded a small common. Here he walked
about in the breezy air, and ate his bread and apples, telling himself
that this angry haste of his about evils that could only be remedied
slowly, could be nothing else than obstructive, and might some day--he
saw it so clearly that the thought seemed like a presentiment--be
obstructive of his own work.

"Not to waste energy, to apply force where it would tell, to do small
work close at hand, not waiting for speculative chances of heroism, but
preparing for them"--these were the rules he had been constantly urging
on himself. But what could be a greater waste than to beat a scoundrel
who had law and opodeldoc at command? After this meditation, Felix felt
cool and wise enough to return into the town, not, however, intending to
deny himself the satisfaction of a few pungent words wherever there was
place for them. Blows are sarcasms turned stupid: wit is a form of force
that leaves the limbs at rest.

Anything that could be called a crowd was no longer to be seen. The show
of hands having been pronounced to be in favor of Debarry and Transome,
and a poll having been demanded for Garstin, the business of the day
might be considered at an end. But in the street where the hustings were
erected, and where the great hotels stood, there were many groups, as
well as strollers and steady walkers to and fro. Men in superior
greatcoats and well-brushed hats were awaiting with more or less
impatience an important dinner, either at the Crown, which was Debarry's
house, or at the Three Cranes, which was Garstin's, or at the Fox and
Hounds, which was Transome's. Knots of sober retailers, who had already
dined, were to be seen at some shop-doors; men in very shabby coats and
miscellaneous head-coverings, inhabitants of Duffield and not county
voters, were lounging about in dull silence, or listening, some to a
grimy man in a flannel shirt, hatless and with turbid red hair, who was
insisting on political points with much more ease than had seemed to
belong to the gentlemen speakers on the hustings, and others to a Scotch
vendor of articles useful to sell, whose unfamiliar accent seemed to
have a guarantee of truth in it wanting as an association with everyday
English. Some rough-looking pipe-smokers, or distinguished
cigar-smokers, chose to walk up and down in isolation and silence. But
the majority of those who had shown a burning interest in the nomination
had disappeared, and cockades no longer studded a close-pressed crowd,
like, and also very unlike, meadow-flowers among the grass. The street
pavement was strangely painted with fragments of perishable missiles
ground flat under heavy feet: but the workers were resting from their
toil, and the buzz and tread and the fitfully discernible voices seemed
like stillness to Felix after the roar with which the wide space had
been filled when he left it.

The group round the speaker in the flannel shirt stood at the corner of
a side-street, and the speaker himself was elevated by the head and
shoulders above his hearers, not because he was tall, but because he
stood on a projecting stone. At the opposite corner of the turning was
the great inn of the Fox and Hounds, and this was the ultra-Liberal
quarter of the High street. Felix was at once attracted by this group;
he liked the look of the speaker, whose bare arms were powerfully
muscular, though he had the pallid complexion of a man who lives chiefly
amidst the heat of furnaces. He was leaning against the dark stone
building behind him with folded arms, the grimy paleness of his shirt
and skin standing out in high relief against the dark stone building
behind him. He lifted up one forefinger, and marked his emphasis with it
as he spoke. His voice was high and not strong, but Felix recognized the
fluency and the method of an habitual preacher or lecturer.

"It's the fallacy of all monopolists," he was saying. "We know what
monopolists are: men who want to keep a trade all to themselves, under
the pretence that they'll furnish the public with a better article. We
know what that comes to: in some countries a poor man can't afford to
buy a spoonful of salt, and yet there's salt enough in the world to
pickle every living thing in it. That's the sort of benefit monopolists
do to mankind. And these are the men who tell us we're to let politics
alone; they'll govern us better without our knowing anything about it.
We must mind our business; we are ignorant; we've no time to study great
questions. But I tell them this: the greatest question in the world is,
how to give every man a man's share in what goes on in life----"

"Hear, hear!" said Felix in his sonorous voice, which seemed to give a
new impressiveness to what the speaker had said. Every one looked at
him: the well-washed face and its educated expression along with a dress
more careless than that of most well-to-do workmen on a holiday, made
his appearance strangely arresting.

"Not a pig's share," the speaker went on, "not a horse's, not the share
of a machine fed with oil only to make it work and nothing else. It
isn't a man's share just to mind your pin-making, or your glass-blowing,
and higgle about your own wages, and bring up your family to be ignorant
sons of ignorant fathers, and no better prospect; that's a slave's
share; we want a freeman's share, and that is to think and speak and act
about what concerns us all, and see whether these fine gentlemen who
undertake to govern us are doing the best they can for us. They've got
the knowledge, say they. Very well, we've got the wants. There's many a
one would be idle if hunger didn't pinch him; but the stomach sets us to
work. There's a fable told where the nobles are the belly and the people
the members. But I make another sort of fable. I say, we are the belly
that feels the pinches, and we'll set these aristocrats, these great
people who call themselves our brains, to work at some way of satisfying
us a bit better. The aristocrats are pretty sure to try and govern for
their own benefit; but how are we to be sure they'll try and govern for
ours? They must be looked after, I think, like other workmen. We must
have what we call inspectors, to see whether the work's well done for
us. We want to send our inspectors to Parliament. Well, they say--you've
got the Reform Bill; what more can you want? Send your inspectors. But I
say, the Reform Bill is a trick--it's nothing but swearing-in special
constables to keep the aristocrats safe in their monopoly; it's bribing
some of the people with votes to make them hold their tongues about
giving votes to the rest. I say, if a man doesn't beg or steal, but
works for his bread, the poorer and the more miserable he is, the more
he'd need have a vote to send an inspector to Parliament--else the man
who is worst off is likely to be forgotten; and I say, he's the man who
ought to be first remembered. Else what does their religion mean? Why do
they build churches and endow them that their sons may get paid well for
preaching a Saviour, and making themselves as little like Him as can be?
If I want to believe in Jesus Christ, I must shut my eyes for fear I
should see a parson. And what's a bishop? A bishop's a person dressed
up, who sits in the House of Lords to help and throw out Reform Bills.
And because it's hard to get anything in the shape of a man to dress
himself up like that, and do such work, they have to give him a palace
for it, and plenty of thousands a-year. And then they cry out--'The
Church is in danger,'--'the poor man's Church.' And why is it the poor
man's Church? Because he can have a seat for nothing. I think it _is_
for nothing; for it would be hard to tell what he gets by it. If the
poor man had a vote in the matter, I think he'd choose a different sort
of Church to what that is. But do you think the aristocrats will ever
alter it, if the belly doesn't pinch them? Not they. It's part of their
monopoly. They'll supply us with our religion like everything else, and
get a profit on it. They'll give us plenty of heaven. We may have land
_there_. That's the sort of religion they like--a religion that gives us
workingmen heaven, and nothing else. But we'll offer to change with
them. We'll give them back some of their heaven, and take it out in
something for us and our children in this world. They don't seem to care
so much about heaven themselves till they feel the gout very bad; but
you won't get them to give up anything else, if you don't pinch 'em for
it. And to pinch them enough, we must get the suffrage, we must get
votes, that we may send the men to Parliament who will do our work for
us; and we must have Parliament dissolved every year, that we may change
our man if he doesn't do what we want him to do; and we must have the
country divided so that the little kings of the counties can't do as
they like, but must be shaken up in one bag with us. I say, if we
workingmen are ever to get a man's share, we must have universal
suffrage, and annual Parliaments, and the vote by ballot, and electoral
districts."

"No!--something else before all that," said Felix, again startling the
audience into looking at him. But the speaker glanced coldly at him and
went on.

"That's what Sir Francis Burdett went in for fifteen years ago; and it's
the right thing for us, if it was Tomfool who went in for it. You must
lay hold of such handles as you can. I don't believe much in Liberal
aristocrats; but if there's any fine carved gold-headed stick of an
aristocrat will make a broomstick of himself, I'll lose no time but I'll
sweep with him. And that's what I think about Transome. And if any of
you have acquaintance among county voters, give 'em a hint that you wish
'em to vote for Transome."

At the last word, the speaker stepped down from his slight eminence, and
walked away rapidly, like a man whose leisure was exhausted, and who
must go about his business. But he had left an appetite in his audience
for further oratory, and one of them seemed to express a general
sentiment as he hurried immediately to Felix, and said, "Come, sir, what
do you say?"

Felix did at once what he would very likely have done without being
asked--he stepped on the stone, and took off his cap by an instinctive
prompting that always led him to speak uncovered. The effect of his
figure in relief against the stone background was unlike that of the
previous speaker. He was considerably taller, his head and neck were
more massive, and the expression of his mouth and eyes was something
very different from the mere acuteness and rather hard-lipped antagonism
of the trades-union man. Felix Holt's face had the look of habitual
meditative abstraction from objects of mere personal vanity or desire,
which is the peculiar stamp of culture, and makes a very roughly-cut
face worthy to be called "the human face divine." Even lions and dogs
know a distinction between men's glances; and doubtless those Duffield
men, in the expectation with which they looked up at Felix, were
unconsciously influenced by the grandeur of his full yet firm mouth, and
the calm clearness of his gray eyes, which were somehow unlike what they
were accustomed to see along with an old brown velveteen coat, and an
absence of chin-propping. When he began to speak, the contrast of voice
was still stronger than that of appearance. The man in the flannel shirt
had not been heard--had probably not cared to be heard--beyond the
immediate group of listeners. But Felix at once drew the attention of
persons comparatively at a distance.

"In my opinion," he said, almost the moment after he was addressed,
"that was a true word spoken by your friend when he said the great
question was how to give every man a man's share in life. But I think he
expects voting to do more toward it than I do. I want the workingmen to
have power. I'm a workingman myself, and I don't want to be anything
else. But there are two sorts of power. There's a power to do
mischief--to undo what has been done with great expense and labor, to
waste and destroy, to be cruel to the weak, to lie and quarrel, and to
talk poisonous nonsense. That's the sort of power that ignorant numbers
have. It never made a joint stool or planted a potato. Do you think it's
likely to do much toward governing a great country, and making wise
laws, and giving shelter, food, and clothes to millions of men? Ignorant
power comes in the end to the same thing as wicked power; it makes
misery. It's another sort of power that I want us workingmen to have,
and I can see plainly enough that our all having votes will do little
toward it at present. I hope we, or the children that come after us,
will get plenty of political power some time. I tell everybody plainly,
I hope there will be great changes, and that some time, whether we live
to see it or not, men will have come to be ashamed of things they're
proud of now. But I should like to convince you that votes would never
give you political power worth having while things are as they are now,
and that if you go the right way to work you may get power sooner
without votes. Perhaps all you who hear me are sober men, who try to
learn as much of the nature of things as you can, and to be as little
like fools as possible. A fool or idiot is one who expects things to
happen that never can happen; he pours milk into a can without a bottom,
and expects the milk to stay there. The more of such vain expectations a
man has, the more he is a fool or idiot. And if any working man expects
a vote to do for him what it never can do, he's foolish to that amount,
if no more. I think that's clear enough, eh?"

"Hear, hear," said several voices, but they were not those of the
original group; they belonged to some strollers who had been attracted
by Felix Holt's vibrating voice, and were Tories from the Crown. Among
them was Christian, who was smoking a cigar with a pleasure he always
felt in being among people who did not know him, and doubtless took him
to be something higher than he really was. Hearers from the Fox and
Hounds also were slowly adding themselves to the nucleus. Felix,
accessible to the pleasure of being listened to, went on with more and
more animation: "The way to get rid of folly is to get rid of vain
expectations, and of thoughts that don't agree with the nature of
things. The men who have had true thoughts about water, and what it will
do when it is turned into steam and under all sorts of circumstances,
have made themselves a great power in the world: they are turning the
wheels of engines that will help to change most things. But no engines
would have done, if there had been false notions about the way water
would act. Now, all the schemes about voting, and districts, and annual
Parliaments, and the rest, are engines, and the water or steam--the
force that is to work them--must come out of human nature--out of men's
passions, feelings, desires. Whether the engines will do good work or
bad depends on these feelings; and if we have false expectations about
men's characters, we are very much like the idiot who thinks he'll carry
milk in a can without a bottom. In my opinion, the notions about what
mere voting will do are very much of that sort."

"That's very fine," said a man in dirty fustian, with a scornful laugh.
"But how are we to get the power without votes?"

"I'll tell you what's the greatest power under heaven," said Felix, "and
that is public opinion--the ruling belief in society about what is right
and what is wrong, what is honorable and what is shameful. That's the
steam that is to work the engines. How can political freedom make us
better, any more than a religion we don't believe in, if people laugh
and wink when they see men abuse and defile it? And while public opinion
is what it is--while men have no better beliefs about public duty--while
corruption is not felt to be a damning disgrace--while men are not
ashamed in Parliament and out of it to make public questions which
concern the welfare of millions a mere screen for their own petty
private ends,--I say, no fresh scheme of voting will much mend our
condition. For, take us workingmen of all sorts. Suppose out of every
hundred who had a vote there were thirty who had some soberness, some
sense to choose with, some good feeling to make them wish the right
thing for all. And suppose there were seventy out of the hundred who
were, half of them, not sober, who had no sense to choose one thing in
politics more than another, and who had so little good feeling in them
that they wasted on their own drinking the money that should have helped
to feed and clothe their wives and children; and another half of them
who, if they didn't drink, were too ignorant or stupid to see any good
for themselves better than pocketing a five-shilling piece when it was
offered them. Where would be the political power of the thirty sober
men? The power would lie with the seventy drunken and stupid votes; and
I'll tell you what sort of men would get the power--what sort of men
would end by returning whom they pleased to Parliament."

Felix had seen every face around him, and had particularly noticed a
recent addition to his audience; but now he looked about him, without
appearing to fix his glance on any one. In spite of his cooling
meditations an hour ago, his pulse was getting quickened by indignation,
and the desire to crush what he hated was likely to vent itself in
articulation. His tone became more biting.

"They would be men who would undertake to do the business for a
candidate, and return him: men who have no real opinions, but who pilfer
the words of every opinion, and turn them into a cant which will serve
their purpose at the moment; men who look out for dirty work to make
their fortunes by, because dirty work wants little talent and no
conscience; men who know all the ins and outs of bribery, because there
is not a cranny in their own souls where a bribe can't enter. Such men
as these will be the masters wherever there's a majority of voters who
care more for money, for drink, more for some mean little end which is
their own and nobody else's, than for anything that has ever been called
Right in the world. For suppose there's a poor voter named Jack, who has
seven children, and twelve or fifteen shillings a-week wages, perhaps
less. Jack can't read--I don't say whose fault that is--he never had the
chance to learn; he knows so little that he perhaps thinks God made the
poor-laws, and if anybody said the pattern of the work-house was laid
down in the Testament, he wouldn't be able to contradict them. What is
poor Jack likely to do when he sees a smart stranger coming to him, who
happens to be just one of these men that I say will be the masters till
public opinion gets too hot for them? He's a middle-sized man, we'll
say; stout, with coat upon coat of fine broadcloth, open enough to show
a fine gold chain: none of your dark, scowling men, but one with an
innocent pink-and-white skin and very smooth light hair--a most
respectable man, who calls himself a good, sound, well-known English
name--as Green, or Baker, or Wilson, or let us say, Johnson----"

Felix was interrupted by an explosion of laughter from a majority of the
bystanders. Some eyes had been turned on Johnson, who stood on the right
hand of Felix, at the very beginning of the description, and these were
gradually followed by others, till at last every hearer's attention was
fixed on him, and the first burst of laughter from the two or three who
knew the attorney's name, let every one sufficiently into the secret to
make the amusement common. Johnson, who had kept his ground till his
name was mentioned, now turned away, looking unusually white after being
unusually red, and feeling by an attorney's instinct for his
pocket-book, as if he felt it was a case for taking down the names of
witnesses.

All the well-dressed hearers turned away too, thinking they had had the
cream of the speech in the joke against Johnson, which, as a thing worth
telling, helped to recall them to the scene of dinner.

"Who is this Johnson?" said Christian to a young man who had been
standing near him, and had been one of the first to laugh. Christian's
curiosity had naturally been awakened by what might prove a golden
opportunity.

"Oh--a London attorney. He acts for Transome. That tremendous fellow at
the corner there is some red-hot Radical demagogue, and Johnson has
offended him, I suppose; else he wouldn't have turned in that way on a
man of their own party."

"I had heard there was a Johnson who was an understrapper of Jermyn's,"
said Christian.

"Well, so this man may have been for what I know. But he's a London man
now--a very busy fellow--on his own legs in Bedford Row. Ha, ha! it's
capital, though, when these Liberals get a slap in the face from the
workingmen they're so very fond of."

Another turn along the street enabled Christian to come to a resolution.
Having seen Jermyn drive away an hour before, he was in no fear: he
walked at once to the Fox and Hounds and asked to speak to Mr. Johnson.
A brief interview, in which Christian ascertained that he had before him
the Johnson mentioned by the bill-sticker, issued in the appointment of
a longer one at a later hour; and before they left Duffield they had
come not exactly to a mutual understanding, but to an exchange of
information mutually welcome.

Christian had been very cautious in the commencement, only intimating
that he knew something important which some chance hints had induced him
to think might be interesting to Mr. Johnson, but that this entirely
depended on how far he had a common interest with Mr. Jermyn. Johnson
replied that he had much business in which that gentleman was not
concerned, but that to a certain extent they had a common interest.
Probably then, Christian observed, the affairs of the Transome estate
were part of the business in which Mr. Jermyn and Mr. Johnson might be
understood to represent each other, in which case he need not detain Mr.
Johnson? At this hint Johnson could not conceal that he was becoming
eager. He had no idea what Christian's information was, but there were
many grounds on which Johnson desired to know as much as he could about
the Transome affairs independently of Jermyn. By little and little an
understanding was arrived at. Christian told of his interview with Tommy
Trounsem, and stated that if Johnson could show him whether the
knowledge could have any legal value, he could bring evidence that a
legitimate child of Bycliffe's existed: he felt certain of his fact, and
of his proof. Johnson explained, that in this case the death of the old
bill-sticker would give the child the first valid claim to the Bycliffe
heirship; that for his own part he should be glad to further a true
claim, but that caution would have to be observed. How did Christian
know that Jermyn, was informed on this subject? Christian, more and more
convinced that Johnson would be glad to counteract Jermyn at length
became explicit about Esther, but still withheld his own real name, and
the nature of his relations with Bycliffe. He said he would bring the
rest of his information when Mr. Johnson took the case up seriously, and
place it in the hands of Bycliffe's old lawyers--of course he would do
that? Johnson replied that he would certainly do that; but that there
were legal niceties which Mr. Christian was probably not acquainted
with; that Esther's claim had not yet accrued, and that hurry was
useless.

The two men parted, each in distrust of the other, but each well pleased
to have learned something. Johnson was not at all sure how he should
act, but thought it likely that events would soon guide him. Christian
was beginning to meditate a way of securing his own ends without
depending in the least on Johnson's procedure. It was enough for him
that he was now assured of Esther's legal claim on the Transome estates.



CHAPTER XXXI.

    "In the copia of the factious language the word Tory was
    entertained, and being a vocal clever-sounding word, readily
    pronounced, it kept its hold, and took possession of the foul
    mouths of the faction.----The Loyalists began to cheer up and to
    take heart of grace, and in the working of this crisis, according
    to the common law of scolding, they considered which way to make
    payment for so much of Tory as they had been treated with to clear
    scores.----Immediately the train took, and ran like wildfire and
    became general. And so the account of Tory was balanced, and soon
    began to run up a sharp score on the other side."--NORTH'S
    _Examen_, p. 321.


At last the great epoch of the election for North Loamshire had arrived.
The roads approaching Treby were early traversed by a larger number of
vehicles, horsemen, and also foot-passengers than were ever seen at the
annual fair. Treby was the polling-place for many voters whose faces
were quite strange in the town; and if there were some strangers who did
not come to poll, though they had business not unconnected with the
election, they were not liable to be regarded with suspicion or especial
curiosity. It was understood that no division of a county had ever been
more thoroughly canvassed, and that there would be a hard run between
Garstin and Transome. Mr. Johnson's headquarters were at Duffield; but
it was a maxim which he repeated after the great Putty, that a capable
agent makes himself omnipresent; and quite apart from the express
between him and Jermyn, Mr. John Johnson's presence in the universe had
potent effects on this December day at Treby Magna.

A slight drizzling rain which was observed by some Tories who looked out
of their bedroom windows before six o'clock, made them hope that, after
all, the day might pass off better than alarmists had expected. The rain
was felt to be somehow on the side of quiet and Conservatism; but soon
the breaking of the clouds and the mild gleams of a December sun brought
back previous apprehensions. As there were already precedents for riot
at a Reformed election, and as the Trebian district had had its
confidence in the natural course of things somewhat shaken by a landed
proprietor with an old name offering himself as a Radical candidate, the
election had been looked forward to by many with a vague sense that it
would be an occasion something like a fighting match, when bad
characters would probably assemble, and there might be struggles and
alarms for respectable men, which would make it expedient for them to
take a little neat brandy as a precaution beforehand and a restorative
afterward. The tenants on the Transome estate were comparatively
fearless: poor Mr. Goffe, of Rabbit's End, considered that "one thing
was as mauling as the other," and that an election was no worse than the
sheep-rot; while Mr. Dibbs, taking the more cheerful view of a
prosperous man, reflected that if the Radicals were dangerous, it was
safer to be on their side. It was the voters for Debarry and Garstin who
considered that they alone had the right to regard themselves as targets
for evil-minded men; and Mr. Crowder, if he could have got his ideas
countenanced, would have recommended a muster of farm-servants with
defensive pitchforks on the side of Church and king. But the bolder men
were rather gratified by the prospect of being groaned at, so that they
might face about and groan in return.

Mr. Crow, the high constable of Treby, inwardly rehearsed a brief
address to a riotous crowd in case it should be wanted, having been
warned by the rector that it was a primary duty on these occasions to
keep a watch against provocation as well as violence. The rector, with a
brother magistrate who was on the spot, had thought it desirable to
swear in some special constables, but the presence of loyal men not
absolutely required for the polling was not looked at in the light of a
provocation. The Benefit Clubs from various quarters made a show, some
with the orange-colored ribbons and streamers of the true Tory
candidate, some with the mazarine of the Whig. The orange-colored bands
played "Auld Lang Syne," and a louder mazarine band came across them
with "Oh, whistle and I will come to thee, my lad"--probably as the tune
the most symbolical of Liberalism which their repertory would furnish.
There was not a single club bearing the Radical blue: the Sproxton Club
members wore the mazarine, and Mr. Chubb wore so much of it that he
looked (at a sufficient distance) like a very large gentianella. It was
generally understood that "these brave fellows," representing the fine
institution of Benefit Clubs, holding aloft the motto, "Let brotherly
love continue," were a civil force calculated to encourage voters of
sound opinions and keep up their spirits. But a considerable number of
unadorned heavy navvies, colliers, and stone-pit men, who used their
freedom as British subjects to be present in Treby on this great
occasion, looked like a possible uncivil force whose politics were
dubious until it was clearly seen for whom they cheered and for whom
they groaned.

Thus the way up to the polling-booths was variously lined, and those who
walked it, to whatever side they belonged, had the advantage of hearing
from the opposite side what were the most marked defects or excesses in
their personal appearance; for the Trebians of that day held, without
being aware that they had Cicero's authority for it, that the bodily
blemishes of an opponent were a legitimate ground for ridicule; but if
the voter frustrated wit by being handsome, he was groaned at and
satirized according to a formula, in which the adjective was Tory, Whig,
or Radical, as the case might be, and the substantive a blank to be
filled up after the taste of the speaker.

Some of the more timid had chosen to go through this ordeal as early as
possible in the morning. One of the earliest was Mr. Timothy Rose, the
gentleman-farmer from Leek Malton. He had left home with some
foreboding, having swathed his more vital parts in layers of flannel,
and put on two greatcoats as a soft kind of armor. But reflecting with
some trepidation that there were no resources for protecting his head,
he once more wavered in his intention to vote; he once more observed to
Mrs. Rose that these were hard times when a man of independent property
was expected to vote "willy-nilly;" but finally coerced by the sense
that he should be looked ill on "in these times" if he did not stand by
the gentlemen round about, he set out in his gig, taking with him a
powerful wagoner, whom he ordered to keep him in sight as he went to
the polling-booth. It was hardly more than nine o'clock when Mr. Rose,
having thus come up to the level of his times, cheered himself with a
little cherry-brandy at the Marquis, drove away in a much more
courageous spirit, and got down at Mr. Nolan's, just outside the town.
The retired Londoner, he considered, was a man of experience, who would
estimate properly the judicious course he had taken, and could make it
known to others. Mr. Nolan was superintending the removal of some shrubs
in his garden.

"Well, Mr. Nolan," said Rose, twinkling a self-complacent look over the
red prominence of his cheeks, "have you been to give your vote yet?"

"No; all in good time. I shall go presently."

"Well, I wouldn't lose an hour, I wouldn't. I said to myself, if I've
got to do gentlemen a favor, I'll do it at once. You see, I've got no
landlord, Nolan--I'm in that position o' life that I can be
independent."

"Just so, my dear sir," said the wiry-faced Nolan, pinching his
under-lip between his thumb and finger, and giving one of those
wonderful universal shrugs, by which he seemed to be recalling all his
garments from a tendency to disperse themselves. "Come in and see Mrs.
Nolan?"

"No, no, thankye. Mrs. Rose expects me back. But, as I was saying, I'm a
independent man, and I consider it's not my part to show favor to one
more than another, but to make things as even as I can. If I'd been a
tenant to anybody, well, in course I must have voted for my
landlord--that stands to sense. But I wish everybody well; and if one's
returned to Parliament more than another, nobody can say it's my doing;
for when you can vote for two, you can make things even. So I gave one
to Debarry and one to Transome; and I wish Garstin no ill, but I can't
help the odd number, and he hangs on to Debarry, they say."

"God bless me, sir," said Mr. Nolan, coughing down a laugh, "don't you
perceive that you might as well have stayed at home and not voted at
all, unless you would rather send a Radical to Parliament than a sober
Whig?"

"Well, I'm sorry you should have anything to say against what I've done,
Nolan," said Mr. Rose, rather crestfallen, though sustained by inward
warmth. "I thought you'd agree with me, as you're a sensible man. But
the most a independent man can do is to try and please all; and if he
hasn't the luck--here's wishing I may do it another time," added Mr.
Rose, apparently confounding a toast with a salutation, for he put out
his hand for a passing shake, and then stepped into his gig again.

At the time that Mr. Timothy Rose left the town, the crowd in King
Street and in the market-place, where the polling-booths stood, was
fluctuating. Voters as yet were scanty, and brave fellows who had come
from any distance this morning, or who had sat up late drinking the
night before, required some reinforcement of their strength and spirits.
Every public house in Treby, not excepting the venerable and sombre
Cross-Keys, was lively with changing and numerous company. Not, of
course, that there was any treating: treating necessarily had stopped,
from moral scruples, when once "the wits were out;" but there was
drinking, which did equally well under any name.

Poor Tommy Trounsem, breakfasting here on Falstaff's proportion of
bread, and something which, for gentility's sake, I will call sack, was
more than usually victorious over the ills of life, and felt himself one
of the heroes of the day. He had an immense light-blue cockade in his
hat, and an amount of silver in a dirty little canvas bag which
astonished himself. For some reason, at first inscrutable to him, he had
been paid for his bill-sticking with great liberality at Mr. Jermyn's
office, in spite of his having been the victim of a trick by which he
had once lost his own bills and pasted up Debarry's; but he soon saw
that this was simply a recognition of his merit as "an old family kept
out of its rights," and also of his peculiar share in an occasion when
the family was to get into Parliament. Under these circumstances, it was
due from him that he should show himself prominently where business was
going forward, and give additional value by his presence to every vote
for Transome. With this view he got a half-pint bottle filled with his
peculiar kind of "sack," and hastened back to the market-place, feeling
good-natured and patronizing toward all political parties, and only so
far partial as his family bound him to be.

But a disposition to concentrate at that extremity of King Street which
issued in the market-place, was not universal among the increasing
crowd. Some of them seemed attracted toward another nucleus at the other
extremity of King Street, near the Seven Stars. This was Garstin's chief
house, where his committee sat, and it was also a point which must
necessarily be passed by many voters entering the town on the eastern
side. It seemed natural that the mazarine colors should be visible
here, and that Pack, the tall "shepherd" of the Sproxton men, should be
seen moving to and fro where there would be a frequent opportunity of
cheering the voters for a gentleman who had the chief share in the
Sproxton mines. But the side lanes and entries out of King Street were
numerous enough to relieve any pressure if there was need to make way.
The lanes had a distinguished reputation. Two of them had odors of
brewing; one had a side entrance to Mr. Tiliot's wine and spirit vaults;
up another Mr. Muscat's cheeses were frequently being unloaded; and even
some of the entries had those cheerful suggestions of plentiful
provision which were among the characteristics of Treby.

Between ten and eleven the voters came in more rapid succession, and the
whole scene became spirited. Cheers, sarcasms, and oaths, which seemed
to have a flavor of wit for many hearers, were beginning to be
reinforced by more practical demonstrations, dubiously jocose. There was
a disposition in the crowd to close and hem in the way for voters,
either going or coming, until they had paid some kind of toll. It was
difficult to see who set the example in the transition from words to
deeds. Some thought it was due to Jacob Cuff, a Tory charity-man, who
was a well-known ornament of the pothouse, and gave his mind much
leisure for amusing devices; but questions of origination in stirring
periods are notoriously hard to settle. It is by no means necessary in
human things that there should be only one beginner. This, however, is
certain--that Mr. Chubb, who wished it to be noticed that he voted for
Garstin solely, was one of the first to get rather more notice than he
wished, and that he had his hat knocked off and crushed in the interest
of Debarry by Tories opposed to coalition. On the other hand, some said
it was at the same time that Mr. Pink, the saddler, being stopped on his
way and made to declare that he was going to vote for Debarry, got
himself well chalked as to his coat, and pushed up an entry, where he
remained the prisoner of terror combined with the want of any back
outlet, and never gave his vote that day.

The second Tory joke was performed with much gusto. The majority of the
Transome tenants came in a body from the Ram Inn, with Mr. Banks, the
bailiff, leading them. Poor Goffe was the last of them, and his worn
melancholy look and forward-leaning gait gave the jocose Cuff the notion
that the farmer was not what he called "compus." Mr. Goffe was cut off
from his companions and hemmed in: asked, by voices with hot breath
close to his ear, how many horses he had, how many cows, how many fat
pigs; then jostled from one to another, who made trumpets with their
hands, and deafened him by telling him to vote for Debarry. In this way
the melancholy Goffe was hustled on till he was at the polling-booth,
filled with confused alarms, the immediate alarm being that of having to
go back in still worse fashion than he had come. Arriving in this way
after the other tenants had left, he astonished all hearers who knew him
for a tenant of the Transomes by saying "Debarry," and was jostled back
trembling amid shouts of laughter.

By stages of this kind the fun grew faster, and was in danger of getting
rather serious. The Tories began to feel that their jokes were returned
by others of a heavier sort, and that the main strength of the crowd was
not on the side of sound opinion, but might come to be on the side of
sound cudgelling and kicking. The navvies and pitmen in dishabille
seemed to be multiplying, and to be clearly not belonging to the party
of Order. The shops were freely resorted to for various forms of playful
missiles and weapons; and news came to the magistrates, watching from
the large window of the Marquis, that a gentleman coming in on horseback
at the other end of the street to vote for Garstin had had his horse
turned round and frightened into a headlong gallop out of it again.

Mr. Crow and his subordinates, and all the special constables, felt that
it was necessary to make some energetic effort, or else every voter
would be intimidated and the poll must be adjourned. The rector
determined to get on horseback and go amidst the crowd with the
constables; and he sent a message to Mr. Lingon, who was at the Ram,
calling on him to do the same. "Sporting Jack" was sure the good fellows
meant no harm, but he was courageous enough to face any bodily dangers,
and rode out in his brown leggings and colored bandana, speaking
persuasively.

It was nearly twelve o'clock when this sally was made: the constables
and magistrates tried the most pacific measures, and they seemed to
succeed. There was a rapid thinning of the crowd: the most boisterous
disappeared, or seemed to do so by becoming quiet; missiles ceased to
fly, and a sufficient way was cleared for voters along King Street. The
magistrates returned to their quarters, and the constables took
convenient posts of observation. Mr. Wace, who was one of Debarry's
committee, had suggested to the rector that it might be wise to send
for the military from Duffield, with orders that they should station
themselves at Hathercote, three miles off: there was so much property in
the town that it would be better to make it secure against risks. But
the rector felt that this was not the part of a moderate and wise
magistrate, unless the signs of riot recurred. He was a brave man, and
fond of thinking that his own authority sufficed for the maintenance of
the general good in Treby.



CHAPTER XXXII.

    Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
    Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
    Alone upon the threshold of my door
    Of individual life. I shall command
    The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
    Serenely in the sunshine as before
    Without the sense of that which I forbore--
    Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
    Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
    With pulses that beat double. What I do
    And what I dream include thee, as the wine
    Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
    God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
    And sees within my eyes the tears of two.

                                            --MRS. BROWNING.


Felix Holt, seated at his work without his pupils, who had asked for a
holiday with a notion that the wooden booths promised some sort of show,
noticed about eleven o'clock that the noises which reached him from the
main street were getting more and more tumultuous. He had long seen bad
auguries for this election, but, like all people who dread the prophetic
wisdom that ends in desiring the fulfillment of its own evil
forebodings, he had checked himself with remembering that, though many
conditions were possible which might bring on violence, there were just
as many which might avert it. There would, perhaps, be no other mischief
than what he was already certain of. With these thoughts he sat down
quietly to his work, meaning not to vex his soul by going to look on at
things he would fain have made different if he could. But he was of a
fiber that vibrated too strongly to the life around him to shut himself
away in quiet, even from suffering and irremediable wrong. As the noises
grew louder, and wrought more and more strongly on his imagination, he
was obliged to lay down his delicate wheel-work. His mother came from
her turnip-paring, in the kitchen, where little Job was her companion,
to observe that they must be killing everybody in the High Street, and
that the election, which had never been before at Treby, must have come
for a judgment; that there were mercies where you didn't look for them,
and that she thanked God in His wisdom for making her live up a back
street.

Felix snatched his cap and rushed out. But when he got to the turning
into the market-place the magistrates were already on horseback there,
the constables were moving about, and Felix observed that there was no
strong spirit of resistance to them. He stayed long enough to see the
partial dispersion of the crowd and the restoration of tolerable quiet,
and then went back to Mrs. Holt to tell her that there was nothing to
fear now; he was going out again, and she must not be in any anxiety at
his absence. She might set by his dinner for him.

Felix had been thinking of Esther and her probable alarm at the noises
that must have reached her more distinctly than they had reached him,
for Malthouse Yard was removed but a little way from the main street.
Mr. Lyon was away from home, having been called to preach charity
sermons and attend meetings in a distant town; and Esther, with the
plaintive Lyddy for her sole companion, was not cheerfully
circumstanced. Felix had not been to see her yet since her father's
departure, but to-day he gave way to new reasons.

"Miss Esther was in the garret," Lyddy said, trying to see what was
going on. But before she was fetched she came running down the stairs,
drawn by the knock at the door, which had shaken the small dwelling.

"I am so thankful to see you," she said, eagerly. "Pray come in."

When she had shut the parlor door behind them, Felix said, "I suspected
that you might have been made anxious by the noises. I came to tell you
that things are quiet now. Though, indeed, you can hear that they are."

"I _was_ frightened," said Esther. "The shouting and roaring of rude men
is so hideous. It is a relief to me that my father is not at home--that
he is out of the reach of any danger he might have fallen into if he had
been here. But I gave you credit for being in the midst of the danger,"
she added, smiling, with a determination not to show much feeling. "Sit
down and tell me what has happened."

They sat down at the extremities of the old black sofa, and Felix said--

"To tell you the truth, I had shut myself up, and tried to be as
indifferent to the election as if I'd been one of the fishes in the
Lapp, till the noises got too strong for me. But I only saw the tail end
of the disturbance. The poor noisy simpletons seemed to give way before
the magistrates and the constables. I hope nobody has been much hurt.
The fear is that they may turn out again by-and-by; their giving way so
soon may not be altogether a good sign. There's a great number of heavy
fellows in the town. If they go and drink more, the last end may be
worse than the first. However----"

Felix broke off, as if this talk was futile, clasped his hands behind
his head, and, leaning backward, looked at Esther, who was looking at
him.

"May I stay here a little while?" he said, after a moment, which seemed
long.

"Pray do," said Esther, coloring. To relieve herself she took some work
and bowed her head over her stitching. It was in reality a little heaven
to her that Felix was there, but she saw beyond it--saw that by-and-by
he would be gone, and that they should be farther on their way, not
toward meeting, but parting. His will was impregnable. He was a rock,
and she was no more to him than the white clinging mist-cloud.

"I wish I could be sure that you see things just as I do," he said
abruptly, after a minute's silence.

"I am sure you see them much more wisely than I do!" said Esther, almost
bitterly, without looking up.

"There are some people one must wish to judge truly. Not to wish it
would be mere hardness. I know you think I am a man without feeling--at
least, without strong affections. You think I love nothing but my own
resolutions."

"Suppose I reply in the same sort of strain?" said Esther, with a little
toss of the head.

"How?"

"Why, that you think me a shallow woman, incapable of believing what is
best in you, setting down everything that is too high for me as a
deficiency."

"Don't parry what I say. Answer me." There was an expression of painful
beseeching in the tone with which Felix said this. Esther let her work
fall on her lap and looked at him, but she was unable to speak.

"I want you to tell me--once--that you know it would be easier to me to
give myself up to loving and being loved, as other men do, when they
can, than to----"

This breaking-off in speech was something quite new in Felix. For the
first time he had lost his self-possession, and turned his eyes away. He
was at variance with himself. He had begun what he felt he ought not to
finish.

Esther, like a woman as she was--a woman waiting for love, never able
to ask for it--had her joy in these signs of her power; but they made
her generous, not chary, as they might have done if she had had a
pettier disposition. She said, with deep yet timid earnestness--

"What you have chosen to do has only convinced me that your love would
be the better worth having."

All the finest part of Esther's nature trembled in those words. To be
right in great memorable moments is perhaps the thing we need most
desire for ourselves.

Felix as quick as lightning turned his look upon her again, and, leaning
forward, took her sweet hand and held it to his lips some moments before
he let it fall again and raised his head.

"We shall always be the better for thinking of each other," he said,
leaning his elbow on the back of the sofa, and supporting his head as he
looked at her with calm sadness. "This thing can never come to me twice
over. It is my knighthood. That was always a business of great cost."

He smiled at her, but she sat biting her inner lip and pressing her
hands together. She desired to be worthy of what she reverenced in
Felix, but the inevitable renunciation was too difficult. She saw
herself wandering through the future weak and forsaken. The charming
sauciness was all gone from her face, but the memory of it made this
childlike dependent sorrow all the more touching.

"Tell me what you would----" Felix burst out, leaning nearer to her; but
the next instant he started up, went to the table, took his cap in his
hand and came in front of her.

"Good-bye," he said, very gently, not daring to put out his hand. But
Esther put up hers instead of speaking. He just pressed it and then went
away.

She heard the doors close behind him, and felt free to be miserable. She
cried bitterly. If she might have married Felix Holt, she could have
been a good woman. She felt no trust that she could ever be good without
him.

Felix reproached himself. He would have done better not to speak in that
way. But the prompting to which he had chiefly listened had been the
desire to prove to Esther that he set a high value on her feelings. He
could not help seeing that he was very important to her; and he was too
simple and sincere a man to ape a sort of humility which would not have
made him any the better if he had possessed it. Such pretences turn our
lives into sorry dramas. And Felix wished Esther to know that her love
was dear to him as the beloved dead are dear. He felt that they must
not marry--that they would ruin each other's lives. But he had longed
for her to know fully that his will to be always apart from her was
renunciation, not an easy preference. In this he was thoroughly
generous; and yet, now some subtle, mysterious conjuncture of
impressions and circumstances had made him speak, he questioned the
wisdom of what he had done. Express confessions give definiteness to
memories that might more easily melt away without; and Felix felt for
Esther's pain as the strong soldier, who can march on hungering without
fear that he shall faint, feels for the young brother--the
maiden-cheeked conscript whose load is too heavy for him.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

    Mischief, thou art afoot.--_Julius Cæsar._


Felix could not go home again immediately after quitting Esther. He got
out of the town, skirted it a little while, looking across the December
stillness of the fields, and then re-entered it by the main road into
the market-place, thinking that, after all, it would be better for him
to look at the busy doings of men than to listen in solitude to the
voices within him; and he wished to know how things were going on.

It was now nearly half-past one, and Felix perceived that the street was
filling with more than the previous crowd. By the time he got in front
of the booths, he was himself so surrounded by men who were being thrust
hither and thither that retreat would have been impossible; and he went
where he was obliged to go, although his height and strength were above
the average even in a crowd where there were so many heavy-armed workmen
used to the pickaxe. Almost all shabby-coated Trebians must have been
there, but the entries and back streets of the town did not supply the
mass of the crowd; and besides the rural incomers, both of the more
decent and the rougher sort, Felix, as he was pushed along, thought he
discerned here and there men of that keener aspect which is only common
in manufacturing towns.

But at present there was no evidence of any distinctly mischievous
design. There was only evidence that the majority of the crowd were
excited with drink, and that their action could hardly be calculated on
more than those of the oxen and pigs congregated amidst hootings and
pushings. The confused deafening shouts, the incidental fighting, the
knocking over, pulling and scuffling, seemed to increase every moment.
Such of the constables as were mixed with the crowd were quite helpless;
and if an official staff was seen above the heads, it moved about
fitfully, showing as little sign of a guiding hand as the summit of a
buoy on the waves. Doubtless many hurts and bruises had been received,
but no one could know the amount of injuries that were widely scattered.

It was clear that no more voting could be done, and the poll had been
adjourned. The probabilities of serious mischief had grown strong enough
to prevail over the rector's objection to getting military aid within
reach; and when Felix re-entered the town, a galloping messenger had
already been dispatched to Duffield. The rector wished to ride out
again, and read the Riot Act from a point where he could be better heard
than from the window of the Marquis; but Mr. Crow, the high
constable, who had returned from closer observation, insisted that the
risk would be too great. New special constables had been sworn in, but
Mr. Crow said prophetically that if once mischief began, the mob was
past caring for constables.

But the rector's voice was ringing and penetrating, and when he appeared
on the narrow balcony and read the formula, commanding all men to go to
their homes or about their lawful business, there was a strong transient
effect. Every one within hearing listened, and for a few moments after
the final words, "God save the King!" the comparative silence continued.
Then the people began to move, the buzz rose again, and grew, and grew,
till it turned to shouts and roaring as before. The movement was that of
a flood hemmed in; it carried nobody away. Whether the crowd would obey
the order to disperse themselves within an hour, was a doubt that
approached nearer to a negative certainty.

Presently Mr. Crow, who called himself a tactician, took a
well-intentioned step, which went far to fulfill his own prophecy. He
had arrived with the magistrates by a back way at the Seven Stars, and
here again the Riot Act was read from a window, with much the same
result as before. The rector had returned by the same way to the
Marquis, as the headquarters most suited for administration, but Mr.
Crow remained at the other extremity of King Street, where some
awe-striking presence was certainly needed. Seeing that the time was
passing, and all effect from the voice of law had disappeared, he showed
himself at an upper window, and addressed the crowd, telling them that
the soldiers had been sent for, and that if they did not disperse they
would have cavalry upon them instead of constables.

Mr. Crow, like some other high constables more celebrated in history,
"enjoyed a bad reputation"; that is to say, he enjoyed many things which
caused his reputation to be bad, and he was anything but popular in
Treby. It is probable that a pleasant message would have lost something
from his lips, and what he actually said was so unpleasant that, instead
of persuading the crowd, it appeared to enrage them. Some one, snatching
a raw potato from a sack in the green-grocer's shop behind him, threw it
at the constable, and hit him on the mouth. Straightway raw potatoes and
turnips were flying by twenties at the windows of the Seven Stars, and
the panes were smashed. Felix, who was half-way up the street, heard the
voices turning to a savage roar, and saw a rush toward the hardware
shop, which furnished more effective weapons and missiles than turnips
and potatoes. Then a cry ran along that the Tories had sent for the
soldiers, and if those among the mob who called themselves Tories as
willingly as anything else were disposed to take whatever called itself
the Tory side, they only helped the main result of reckless disorder.

But there were proofs that the predominant will of the crowd was against
"Debarry's men," and in favor of Transome. Several shops were invaded,
and they were all of them "Tory shops." The tradesmen who could do so
now locked their doors and barricaded their windows within. There was a
panic among the householders of this hitherto peaceful town, and a
general anxiety for the military to arrive. The rector was in painful
anxiety on this head; he had sent out two messengers as secretly as he
could toward Hathercote, to order the soldiers to ride straight to the
town; but he feared that these messengers had been somehow intercepted.

It was three o'clock; more than an hour had elapsed since the reading of
the Riot Act. The rector of Treby Magna wrote an indignant message and
sent it to the Ram, to Mr. Lingon, the rector of Little Treby, saying
that there was evidently a Radical animus in the mob, and that Mr.
Transome's party should hold themselves peculiarly responsible. Where
was Mr. Jermyn?

Mr. Lingon replied that he was going himself out toward Duffield to see
after the soldiers. As for Jermyn, he was not that attorney's sponsor;
he believed that Jermyn was gone away somewhere on business--to fetch
voters.

A serious effort was now being made by all the civil force at command.
The December day would soon be passing into evening, and all disorder
would be aggravated by obscurity. The horrors of fire were as likely to
happen as any minor evil. The constables, as many of them as could do
so, armed themselves with carbines and sabres; all the respectable
inhabitants who had any courage, prepared themselves to struggle for
order; and many felt with Mr. Wace and Mr. Tiliot that the nearest duty
was to defend the breweries and the spirit and wine vaults, where the
property was of a sort at once most likely to be threatened and most
dangerous in its effects. The rector, with fine determination, got on
horseback again, as the best mode of leading the constables, who could
only act efficiently in a close body. By his direction the column of
armed men avoided the main street, and made their way along a back road,
that they might occupy the two chief lanes leading into the wine-vaults
of the brewery, and bear down on the crowd from these openings, which it
was especially desirable to guard.

Meanwhile Felix Holt had been hotly occupied in King Street. After the
first window-smashing at the Seven Stars, there was a sufficient reason
for damaging that inn to the utmost. The destructive spirit tends toward
completeness; and any object once maimed or otherwise injured, is as
readily doomed by unreasoning men as by unreasoning boys. Also the Seven
Stars sheltered Spratt; and to some Sproxton men in front of that inn it
was exasperating that Spratt should be safe and sound on a day when
blows were going, and justice might be rendered. And again, there was
the general desirableness of being inside a public house.

Felix had at last been willingly urged on to this spot. Hitherto swayed
by the crowd, he had been able to do nothing but defend himself and keep
on his legs; but he foresaw that the people would burst into the inn; he
heard cries of "Spratt!" "Fetch him out!" "We'll pitch him out!" "Pummel
him!" It was not unlikely that lives might be sacrificed; and it was
intolerable to Felix to be witnessing the blind outrages of this mad
crowd, and yet be doing nothing to counteract them. Even some vain
effort would satisfy him better than mere gazing. Within the walls of
the inn he might save some one. He went in with a miscellaneous set, who
dispersed themselves with different objects--some to the tap-room, and
to search for the cellar: some up-stairs to search in all the rooms for
Spratt, or any one else, perhaps, as a temporary scapegoat for Spratt.
Guided by the screams of women, Felix at last got to a high up-stairs
passage, where the landlady and some of her servants were running away
in helpless terror from two or three half-tipsy men, who had been
emptying a spirit decanter in the bar. Assuming the tone of a mob-leader
he cried out, "Here, boys, here's better fun this way--come with me!"
and drew the men back with him along the passage. They reached the lower
staircase in time to see the unhappy Spratt being dragged, coatless and
screaming, down the steps. No one at present was striking or kicking
him; it seemed as if he were being reserved for punishment on some wider
area, where the satisfaction might be more generally shared. Felix
followed close, determined, if he could, to rescue both assailers and
assaulted from the worst consequences. His mind was busy with possible
devices.

Down the stairs, out along the stones through the gateway, Spratt was
dragged as a mere heap of linen and cloth rags. When he was got outside
the gateway, there was an immense hooting and roaring, though many there
had no grudge against him, and only guessed that others had the grudge.
But this was the narrower part of the street; it widened as it went
onward, and Spratt was dragged on, his enemies crying, "We'll make a
ring--we'll see how frightened he looks!"

"Kick him, and have done with him," Felix heard another say. "Let's go
to Tiliot's vaults--there's more gin there!"

Here were two hideous threats. In dragging Spratt onward the people were
getting very near to the lane leading up to Tiliot's. Felix kept as
close as he could to the threatened victim. He had thrown away his own
stick, and carried a bludgeon which had escaped from the hands of an
invader at the Seven Stars; his head was bare; he looked, to
undiscerning eyes, like a leading spirit of the mob. In this condition
he was observed by several persons looking anxiously from their upper
windows, and finally observed to push himself, by violent efforts, close
behind the dragged man.

Meanwhile, the foremost among the constables, who, coming by the back
way, had now reached the opening of Tiliot's lane, discerned that the
crowd had a victim amongst them. One spirited fellow, named Tucker, who
was a regular constable, feeling that no time was to be lost in
meditation, called on his neighbor to follow him, and with a sabre that
happened to be his weapon, got away for himself where he was not
expected, by dint of quick resolution. At this moment Spratt had been
let go--had been dropped, in fact, almost lifeless with terror, on the
street stones, and the men round him had retreated for a little space,
as if to amuse themselves with looking at him. Felix had taken his
opportunity; and seeing the first step toward a plan he was bent on, he
sprang forward close to the cowering Spratt. As he did this, Tucker had
cut his way to the spot, and imagining Felix to be the destined
executioner of Spratt--for any discrimination of Tucker's lay in his
muscles rather than his eyes--he rushed up to Felix, meaning to collar
him and throw him down. But Felix had rapid senses and quick thoughts;
he discerned the situation; he chose between two evils. Quick as
lightning he frustrated the constable, fell upon him, and tried to
master his weapon. In the struggle, which was watched without
interference, the constable fell undermost, and Felix got his weapon. He
started up with the bare sabre in his hand. The crowd round him cried
"Hurray!" with a sense that he was on their side against the constable.
Tucker did not rise immediately; but Felix did not imagine that he was
much hurt.

"Don't touch him!" said Felix. "Let him go. Here, bring Spratt, and
follow me."

Felix was perfectly conscious that he was in the midst of a tangled
business. But he had chiefly before his imagination the horrors that
might come if the mass of wild chaotic desires and impulses around him
were not diverted from any further attacks on places where they would
get in the midst of intoxicating and inflammable materials. It was not a
moment in which a spirit like his could calculate the effect of
misunderstanding as to himself: nature never makes men who are at once
energetically sympathetic and minutely calculating. He believed he had
the power and was resolved to try, to carry the dangerous mass out of
mischief till the military came to awe them--which he supposed, from Mr.
Crow's announcement a long time ago, must be a near event.

He was followed the more willingly, because Tiliot's lane was seen by
the hindmost to be now defended by constables, some of whom had
firearms; and where there is no strong counter-movement, any proposition
to do something that is unspecified stimulates stupid curiosity. To many
of the Sproxton men who were within sight of him, Felix was known
personally, and vaguely believed to be a man who meant many queer
things, not at all of an everyday kind. Pressing along like a leader,
with the sabre in his hand, and inviting them to bring on Spratt, there
seemed a better reason for following him than for doing anything else. A
man with a definite will and an energetic personality acts as a sort of
flag to draw and bind together the foolish units of a mob. It was on
this sort of influence over men whose mental state was a mere medley of
appetites and confused impressions, that Felix had dared to count. He
hurried them along with words of invitation, telling them to hold up
Spratt and not drag him; and those behind followed him, with a growing
belief that he had some design worth knowing, while those in front were
urged along partly by the same notion, partly by the sense that there
was a motive in those behind them, not knowing what the motive was. It
was that mixture of pushing forward and being pushed forward, which is a
brief history of most human things.

What Felix really intended to do, was to get the crowd by the nearest
way out of the town, and induce them to skirt it on the north side with
him, keeping up in them the idea that he was leading them to execute
some stratagem, by which they would surprise something worth attacking,
and circumvent the constables who were defending the lanes. In the
meantime he trusted that the soldiers would have arrived, and with this
sort of mob which was animated by no real political passion or fury
against social distinctions, it was in the highest degree unlikely that
there would be any resistance to a military force. The presence of fifty
soldiers would probably be enough to scatter the rioting hundreds. How
numerous the mob was, no one ever knew: many inhabitants afterward were
ready to swear that there must have been at least two thousand rioters.
Felix knew he was incurring great risks; but "his blood was up"; we
hardly allow enough in common life for the results of that enkindled
passionate enthusiasm which, under other conditions, makes world-famous
deeds.

He was making for a point where the street branched off on one side
toward a speedy opening between hedgerows, on the other toward the
shabby wideness of Pollard's End. At this forking of the street there
was a large space, in the centre of which there was a small stone
platform, mounting by three steps, with an old green finger-post upon
it. Felix went straight to this platform and stepped upon it, crying
"Halt!" in a loud voice to the men behind and before him, and calling to
those who held Spratt to bring him there. All came to a stand with faces
toward the finger-post, and perhaps for the first time the extremities
of the crowd got a definite idea that a man with a sabre in his hand was
taking the command.

"Now!" said Felix, when Spratt had been brought to the stone platform,
faint and trembling, "has anybody got cord? if not, handkerchiefs
knotted fast; give them to me."

He drew out his own handkerchief, and two or three others were mustered
and handed to him. He ordered them to be knotted together, while curious
eyes were fixed on him. Was he going to have Spratt hanged? Felix kept
fast hold of his weapon, and ordered others to act.

"Now, put it round his waist, wind his arms in, draw them a little
backward--so! and tie it fast on the other side of the post."

When that was done, Felix said, imperatively:

"Leave him there--we shall come back to him; let us make haste; march
along, lads! Up Park Street and down Hobb's Lane."

It was the best chance he could think of for saving Spratt's life. And
he succeeded. The pleasure of seeing the helpless man tied up sufficed
for the moment, if there were any who had ferocity enough to count much
on coming back to him. Nobody's imagination represented the certainty
that some one out of the houses at hand would soon come and untie him
when he was left alone.

And the rioters pushed up Park Street, a noisy stream, with Felix still
in the midst of them, though he was laboring hard to get his way to the
front. He wished to determine the course of the crowd along a by-road
called Hobb's Lane, which would have taken them to the other--the
Duffield end of the town. He urged several of the men round him, one of
whom was no less a person than the big Dredge, our old Sproxton
acquaintance, to get forward, and be sure that all the fellows would go
down the lane, else they would spoil sport. Hitherto Felix had been
successful, and he had gone along with an unbroken impulse. But soon
something occurred which brought with a terrible shock the sense that
his plan might turn out to be as mad as all bold projects are seen to be
when they have failed.

Mingled with the more headlong and half-drunken crowd there were some
sharp-visaged men who loved the irrationality of riots for something
else than its own sake, and who at present were not so much the richer
as they desired to be, for the pains they had taken in coming to the
Treby election, induced by certain prognostics gathered at Duffield on
the nomination-day that there might be the conditions favorable to that
confusion which was always a harvest-time. It was known to some of these
sharp men that Park Street led out toward the grand house of Treby
Manor, which was as good--nay, better, for their purpose than the bank.
While Felix was entertaining his ardent purpose, these other sons of
Adam were entertaining another ardent purpose of their peculiar sort,
and the moment had come when they were to have their triumph.

From the front ranks backward toward Felix there ran a new summons--a
new invitation.

"Let us go to Treby Manor!"

From that moment Felix was powerless; a new definite suggestion overrode
his vaguer influence. There was a determined rush past Hobb's Lane, and
not down it. Felix was carried along too. He did not know whether to
wish the contrary. Once on the road, out of town, with openings into
fields and with the wide park at hand, it would have been easy to
liberate himself from the crowd. At first it seemed to him the better
part to do this, and to get back to the town as fast as he could, in the
hope of finding the military and getting a detachment to come and save
the Manor. But he reflected that the course of the mob had been
sufficiently seen, and that there were plenty of people in Park Street
to carry the information faster than he could. It seemed more necessary
that he should secure the presence of some help for the family at the
Manor by going there himself. The Debarrys were not of the class of
people he was wont to be anxious about; but Felix Holt's conscience was
alive to the accusation that any danger they might be in now was brought
on by a deed of his. In these moments of bitter vexation and
disappointment, it did occur to him that very unpleasant consequences
might be hanging over him of a kind quite different from inward
dissatisfaction; but it was useless now to think of averting such
consequences. As he was pressed along with the multitude into Treby
Park, his very movement seemed to him only an image of the day's
fatalities, in which the multitudinous small wickednesses of small
selfish ends, really undirected toward any larger result, had issued in
widely-shared mischief that might yet be hideous.

[Illustration: FELIX WOUNDED IN THE RIOT.]

The light was declining: already the candles shone through many windows
of the Manor. Already the foremost part of the crowd had burst into the
offices, and adroit men were busy in the right places to find plate,
after setting others to force the butler into unlocking the cellars; and
Felix had only just been able to force his way on to the front terrace,
with the hope of getting to the rooms where he would find the ladies of
the household and comfort them with the assurance that rescue must
soon come, when the sound of horses' feet convinced him that the rescue
was nearer than he had expected. Just as he heard the horses, he had
approached the large window of a room where a brilliant light suspended
from the ceiling showed him a group of women clinging together in
terror. Others of the crowd were pushing their way up the terrace-steps
and gravel-slopes at various points. Hearing the horses, he kept his
post in front of the window, and, motioning with his sabre, cried out to
the oncomers, "Keep back! I hear the soldiers coming." Some scrambled
back, some paused automatically.

The louder and louder sound of the hoofs changed its pace and
distribution. "Halt! Fire!" Bang! bang! bang!--came deafening the ears
of the men on the terrace.

Before they had time or nerve to move, there was a rushing sound closer
to them--again "Fire!" a bullet whizzed, and passed through Felix Holt's
shoulder--the shoulder of the arm that held the naked weapon which shone
in the light from the window.

Felix fell. The rioters ran confusedly, like terrified sheep. Some of
the soldiers, turning, drove them along with the flat of their swords.
The greater difficulty was to clear the invaded offices.

The rector, who with another magistrate and several other gentlemen on
horseback had accompanied the soldiers, now jumped on to the terrace,
and hurried to the ladies of the family.

Presently there was a group round Felix, who had fainted, and, reviving,
had fainted again. He had had little food during the day, and had been
overwrought. Two of the group were civilians, but only one of them knew
Felix, the other being a magistrate not resident in Treby. The one who
knew Felix was Mr. John Johnson, whose zeal for the public peace had
brought him from Duffield when he heard that the soldiers were summoned.

"I know this man very well," said Mr. Johnson. "He is a dangerous
character--quite revolutionary."

It was a weary night; and the next day, Felix, whose wound was declared
trivial, was lodged in Loamford Jail. There were three charges against
him: that he had assaulted a constable, that he had committed
manslaughter (Tucker was dead from spinal concussion), and that he had
led a riotous onslaught on a dwelling-house.

Four other men were committed: one of them for possessing himself of a
gold cup with the Debarry arms on it; the three others, one of whom was
the collier Dredge, for riot and assault.

That morning Treby town was no longer in terror; but it was in much
sadness. Other men, more innocent than the hated Spratt, were groaning
under severe bodily injuries. And poor Tucker's corpse was not the only
one that had been lifted from the pavement. It is true that none grieved
much for the other dead man, unless it be grief to say, "Poor old
fellow!" He had been trampled upon, doubtless, where he fell drunkenly,
near the entrance of the Seven Stars. This second corpse was old Tommy
Trounsem, the bill-sticker--otherwise Thomas Transome, the last of a
very old family-line.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

    The fields are hoary with December's frost,
    I too am hoary with the chills of age.
    But through the fields and through the untrodden woods
    Is rest and stillness--only in my heart
    The pall of winter shrouds a throbbing life.


A week after that Treby riot, Harold Transome was at Transome Court. He
had returned from a hasty visit to town to keep his Christmas at this
delightful country home, not in the best Christmas spirits. He had lost
the election; but if that had been his only annoyance, he had good humor
and good sense enough to have borne it as well as most men, and to have
paid the eight or nine thousand, which had been the price of
ascertaining that he was not to sit in the next Parliament, without
useless grumbling. But the disappointments of life can never, any more
than its pleasures, be estimated singly; and the healthiest and most
agreeable of men is exposed to that coincidence of various vexations,
each heightening the effect of the other, which may produce in him
something corresponding to the spontaneous and externally unaccountable
moodiness of the morbid and disagreeable.

Harold might not have grieved much at a small riot in Treby, even if it
had caused some expenses to fall on the county; but the turn which the
riot had actually taken was a bitter morsel for rumination, on more
grounds than one. However the disturbances had arisen and been
aggravated--and probably no one knew the whole truth on these
points--the conspicuous, gravest incidents had all tended to throw the
blame on the Radical party, that is to say, on Transome and on
Transome's agents; and so far the candidateship and its results had done
Harold dishonor in the county: precisely the opposite effect to that
which was a dear object of his ambition. More than this, Harold's
conscience was active enough to be very unpleasantly affected by what
had befallen Felix Holt. His memory, always good, was particularly vivid
in its retention of Felix Holt's complaint to him about the treating of
the Sproxton men, and of the subsequent irritating scene in Jermyn's
office, when the personage with the inauspicious name of Johnson had
expounded to him the impossibility of revising an electioneering scheme
once begun, and of turning your vehicle back when it had already begun
to roll downhill. Remembering Felix Holt's words of indignant warning
about hiring men with drink in them to make a noise, Harold could not
resist the urgent impression that the offences for which Felix was
committed were fatalities, not brought about by any willing co-operation
of his with the noisy rioters, but arising probably from some rather
ill-judged efforts to counteract their violence. And this urgent
impression, which insisted on growing into a conviction, became in one
of its phases an uneasy sense that he held evidence which would at once
tend to exonerate Felix and to place himself and his agents in anything
but a desirable light. It was likely that some one else could give
equivalent evidence in favor of Felix--the little talkative Dissenting
preacher, for example: but, anyhow, the affair with the Sproxton men
would be ripped open and made the worst of by the opposite parties. The
man who has failed in the use of some indirectness, is helped very
little by the fact that his rivals are men to whom that indirectness is
a something human, very far from being alien. There remains this grand
distinction, that he has failed, and that the jet of light is thrown
entirely on his misdoings.

In this matter Harold felt himself a victim. Could he hinder the tricks
of his agents? In this particular case he had tried to hinder them, and
had tried in vain. He had not loved the two agents in question, to begin
with; and now at this later stage of events he was more innocent than
ever of bearing them anything but the most sincere ill-will. He was more
utterly exasperated with them than he would probably have been if his
one great passion had been for public virtue. Jermyn, with his John
Johnson, had added this ugly, dirty business of the Treby election to
all the long-accumulating list of offences, which Harold was resolved to
visit on him to the utmost. He had seen some handbills carrying the
insinuation that there was a discreditable indebtedness to Jermyn on
the part of the Transomes. If any such notions existed apart from
electioneering slander, there was all the more reason for letting the
world see Jermyn severely punished for abusing his power over the family
affairs, and tampering with the family property. And the world certainly
should see this with as little delay as possible. The cool, confident,
assuming fellow should be bled to the last drop in compensation, and all
connection with him be finally got rid of. Now that the election was
done with, Harold meant to devote himself to private affairs, till
everything lay in complete order under his supervision.

This morning he was seated as usual in his private room, which had now
been handsomely fitted up for him. It was but the third morning after
the first Christmas he had spent in his English home for fifteen years,
and the home looked like an eminently desirable one. The white frost was
now lying on the broad lawn, on the many-formed leaves of the evergreens
and on the giant trees at a distance. Logs of dry oak blazed on the
hearth; the carpet was like warm moss under his feet; he had breakfasted
just according to his taste, and he had the interesting occupations of a
large proprietor to fill the morning. All through the house now steps
were noiseless on carpets or on fine matting; there was warmth in hall
and corridors; there were servants enough to do everything, and to do it
at the right time. Skilful Dominic was always at hand to meet his
master's demands, and his bland presence diffused itself like a smile
over the household, infecting the gloomy English mind with the belief
that life was easy, and making his real predominance seem as soft and
light as a down quilt. Old Mr. Transome had gathered new courage and
strength since little Harry and Dominic had come, and since Harold had
insisted on his taking drives. Mrs. Transome herself was seen on a fresh
background with a gown of rich new stuff. And if, in spite of this, she
did not seem happy, Harold either did not observe it, or kindly ignored
it as the necessary frailty of elderly women whose lives have had too
much of dullness and privation. Our minds get tricks and attitudes as
our bodies do, thought Harold, and age stiffens them into
unalterableness. "Poor mother! I confess I should not like to be an
elderly woman myself. One requires a good deal of the purring cat for
that, or else of the loving gran-dame. I wish she would take more to
little Harry. I suppose she has her suspicions about the lad's mother,
and is as rigid in those matters as in her Toryism. However, I do what
I can; it would be difficult to say what there is wanting to her in the
way of indulgence and luxury to make up for the old niggardly life."

And certainly Transome Court was now such a home as many women would
covet. Yet even Harold's own satisfaction in the midst of its elegant
comfort needed at present to be sustained by the expectation of
gratified resentment. He was obviously less bright and enjoying than
usual, and his mother, who watched him closely without daring to ask
questions, had gathered hints and drawn inferences enough to make her
feel sure that there was some storm gathering between him and Jermyn.
She did not dare to ask questions, and yet she had not resisted the
temptation to say something bitter about Harold's failure to get
returned as a Radical, helping, with feminine self-defeat, to exclude
herself more completely from any consultation by him. In this way poor
women, whose power lies solely in their influence, make themselves like
music out of tune, and only move men to run away.

This morning Harold had ordered his letters to be brought to him at the
breakfast-table, which was not his usual practice. His mother could see
that there were London business letters about which he was eager, and
she had found out that the letter brought by a clerk the day before was
to make an appointment with Harold for Jermyn to come to Transome Court
at eleven this morning. She observed Harold swallow his coffee and push
away his plate with an early abstraction from the business of breakfast
which was not at all after his usual manner. She herself ate nothing:
her sips of tea seemed to excite her; her cheeks flushed, and her hands
were cold. She was still young and ardent in her terrors; the passions
of the past were living in her dread.

When Harold left the table she went into the long drawing-room, where
she might relieve her restlessness by walking up and down, and catch the
sound of Jermyn's entrance into Harold's room, which was close by. Here
she moved to and fro amongst the rose-colored satin of chairs and
curtains--the great story of this world reduced for her to the little
tale of her own existence--dull obscurity everywhere, except where the
keen light fell on the narrow track of her own lot, wide only for a
woman's anguish. At last she heard the expected ring and footstep, and
the opening and closing door. Unable to walk about any longer, she sank
into a large cushioned chair, helpless and prayerless. She was not
thinking of God's anger or mercy, but of her son's. She was thinking of
what might be brought, not by death, but by life.



CHAPTER XXXV.

    _M._  Check to your queen!

    _N._                      Nay, your own king is bare,
          And moving so, you give yourself checkmate.


When Jermyn entered the room, Harold, who was seated at his library
table examining papers, with his back toward the light and his face
toward the door, moved his head coldly. Jermyn said an ungracious
"Good-morning,"--as little as possible like a salutation to one who
might regard himself as a patron. On the attorney's handsome face there
was a black cloud of defiant determination slightly startling to Harold,
who had expected to feel that the overpowering weight of temper in the
interview was on his own side. Nobody was ever prepared beforehand for
this expression of Jermyn's face, which seemed as strongly contrasted
with the cold impenetrableness which he preserved under the ordinary
annoyance of business as with the bland radiance of his lighter moments.

Harold himself did not look amiable just then, but his anger was of the
sort that seeks a vent without waiting to give a fatal blow; it was that
of a nature more subtly mixed than Jermyn's--less animally forcible,
less unwavering in selfishness, and with more of high-bred pride. He
looked at Jermyn with increased disgust and secret wonder.

"Sit down," he said curtly.

Jermyn seated himself in silence, opened his greatcoat, and took some
papers from a side pocket.

"I have written to Makepeace," said Harold, "to tell him to take the
entire management of the election expenses. So you will transmit your
accounts to him."

"Very well. I am come this morning on other business."

"If it's about the riot and the prisoners, I have only to say that I
shall enter into no plans. If I am called on, I shall say what I know
about that young fellow Felix Holt. People may prove what they can about
Johnson's damnable tricks, or yours either."

"I am not come to speak about the riot. I agree with you in thinking
that quite a subordinate subject." (When Jermyn had the black cloud over
his face, he never hesitated or drawled, and made no Latin quotations.)

"Be so good, then, as to open your business at once," said Harold, in a
tone of imperious indifference.

"That is precisely what I wish to do. I have here information from a
London correspondent that you are about to file a bill against me in
Chancery." Jermyn, as he spoke, laid his hand on the papers before him,
and looked straight at Harold.

"In that case, the question for you is, how far your conduct as the
family solicitor will bear investigation. But it is a question which you
will consider quite apart from me."

"Doubtless. But prior to that there is a question which we must consider
together."

The tone in which Jermyn said this gave an unpleasant shock to Harold's
sense of mastery. Was it possible that he should have the weapon
wrenched out of his hand?

"I shall know what to think of that," he replied, as haughtily as ever,
"when you have stated what the question is."

"Simply, whether you will choose to retain the family estates, or lay
yourself open to be forthwith legally deprived of them."

"I presume you refer to some underhand scheme of your own, on a par with
the annuities you have drained us by in the name of Johnson," said
Harold, feeling a new movement of anger. "If so, you had better state
your scheme to my lawyers, Dymock and Halliwell."

"No. I think you will approve of my stating in your own ear first of
all, that it depends on my will whether you remain an important landed
proprietor in North Loamshire, or whether you retire from the country
with the remainder of the fortune you have acquired in trade."

Jermyn paused, as if to leave time for this morsel to be tasted.

"What do you mean?" said Harold, sharply.

"Not any scheme of mine; but a state of the facts resulting from the
settlement of the estate made in 1729: state of the facts which renders
your father's title and your own title to the family estates utterly
worthless as soon as the claimant is made aware of his right."

"And you intend to inform him?"

"That depends. I am the only person who has the requisite knowledge. It
rests with you to decide whether I shall use that knowledge against you;
or whether I shall use it in your favor by putting an end to the
evidence that would serve to oust you in spite of your 'robust title of
occupancy.'"

Jermyn paused again. He had been speaking slowly, but without the least
hesitation, and with a bitter definiteness of enunciation. There was a
moment or two before Harold answered, and then he said abruptly--

"I don't believe you."

"I thought you were more shrewd," said Jermyn, with a touch of scorn. "I
thought you understood that I had had too much experience to waste my
time in telling fables to persuade a man who has put himself into the
attitude of my deadly enemy."

"Well, then, say at once what your proofs are," said Harold, shaking in
spite of himself, and getting nervous.

"I have no inclination to be lengthy. It is not more than a few weeks
since I ascertained that there is in existence an heir of the Bycliffes,
the old adversaries of your family. More curiously, it is only a few
days ago--in fact, only since the day of the riot--that the Bycliffe
claim has become valid, and that the right of remainder accrues to the
heir in question."

"And how, pray?" said Harold, rising from his chair, and making a turn
in the room, with his hands thrust in his pockets. Jermyn rose too, and
stood near the hearth, facing Harold, as he moved to and fro.

"By the death of an old fellow who got drunk and was trampled to death
in the riot. He was the last of that Thomas Transome's line, by the
purchase of whose interest your family got its title to the estate. Your
title died with him. It was supposed that the line had become extinct
before--and on that supposition the old Bycliffes founded their claim.
But I hunted up this man just about the time the last suit was closed.
His death would have been of no consequence to you if there had not been
a Bycliffe in existence; but I happen to know that there is, and that
the fact can be legally proved."

For a minute or two Harold did not speak, but continued to pace the
room, while Jermyn kept his position, holding his hands behind him. At
last Harold said, from the other end of the room, speaking in a scornful
tone--

"That sounds alarming. But it is not to be proved simply by your
statement."

"Clearly. I have here a document, with a copy which will back my
statement. It is the opinion given on the case more than twenty years
ago, and it bears the signature of the Attorney-General and the first
conveyancer of the day."

Jermyn took up the papers he had laid on the table, opening them slowly
and coolly as he went on speaking, and as Harold advanced toward him.

"You may suppose that we spared no pains to ascertain the state of the
title in the last suit against Maurice Christian Bycliffe, which
threatened to be a hard run. This document is the result of a
consultation; it gives an opinion which must be taken as a final
authority. You may cast your eyes over that, if you please; I will wait
your time. Or you may read the summing-up here," Jermyn ended, holding
out one of the papers to Harold, and pointing to a final passage.

Harold took the paper with a slight gesture of impatience. He did not
choose to obey Jermyn's indication, and confine himself to the
summing-up. He ran through the document. But in truth he was too much
excited really to follow the details, and was rather acting than
reading, till at once he threw himself into his chair and consented to
bend his attention on the passage to which Jermyn had pointed. The
attorney watched him as he read and twice re-read:--

    To sum up----we are of opinion that the title of the present
    possessors of the Transome estate can be strictly proved to rest
    solely upon a base fee created under the original settlement of
    1729, and to be good so long only as issue exists of the tenant in
    tail by whom that base fee was created. We feel satisfied by the
    evidence that such issue exists in the person of Thomas Transome,
    otherwise Trounsem, of Littleshaw. But upon his decease without
    issue we are of opinion that the right in remainder of the Bycliffe
    family will arise, which right would not be barred by any statute
    of limitation.

When Harold's eyes were on the signatures to this document for the third
time, Jermyn said--

"As it turned out, the case being closed by the death of the claimant,
we had no occasion for producing Thomas Transome, who was the old fellow
I told you of. The enquiries about him set him agog, and after they were
dropped he came into this neighborhood, thinking there was something
fine in store for him. Here, if you like to take it, is a memorandum
about him. I repeat that he died in the riot. The proof is ready. And I
repeat, that, to my knowledge, and mine only, there is a Bycliffe in
existence; and that I know how the proof can be made out."

Harold rose from his chair again, and again paced the room. He was not
prepared with any defiance.

"And where is he--this Bycliffe?" he said at last, stopping in his walk,
and facing round toward Jermyn.

"I decline to say more till you promise to suspend proceedings against
me."

Harold turned again, and looked out of the window, without speaking, for
a moment or two. It was impossible that there should not be a conflict
within him, and at present it was a very confused one. At last he said--

"This person is in ignorance of his claim?"

"Yes."

"Has been brought up in an inferior station?"

"Yes," said Jermyn, keen enough to guess part of what was going on in
Harold's mind. "There is no harm in leaving him in ignorance. The
question is a purely legal one. And, as I said before, the complete
knowledge of the case, as one of evidence, lies exclusively with me. I
can nullify the evidence, or I can make it tell with certainty against
you. The choice lies with you."

"I must have time to think of this," said Harold, conscious of a
terrible pressure.

"I can give you no time unless you promise me to suspend proceedings."

"And then, when I ask you, you will lay the details before me?"

"Not without a thorough understanding beforehand. If I engage not to use
my knowledge against you, you must engage in writing that on being
satisfied by the details, you will cancel all hostile proceedings
against me, and will not institute fresh ones on the strength of any
occurrences now past."

"Well, I must have time," said Harold, more than ever inclined to thrash
the attorney, but feeling bound hand and foot with knots that he was not
sure he could ever unfasten.

"That is to say," said Jermyn, with his black-browed persistence, "you
will write to suspend proceedings."

Again Harold paused. He was more than ever exasperated, but he was
threatened, mortified, and confounded by the necessity for an immediate
decision between alternatives almost equally hateful to him. It was with
difficulty that he could prevail on himself to speak any conclusive
words. He walked as far as he could from Jermyn--to the other end of the
room--then walked back to his chair and threw himself into it. At last
he said, without looking at Jermyn, "I agree--I must have time."

"Very well. It is a bargain."

"No further than this," said Harold, hastily, flashing a look at
Jermyn--"no further than this, that I require time, and therefore I give
it to you."

"Of course. You require time to consider whether the pleasure of trying
to ruin me--me to whom you are really indebted--is worth the loss of the
Transome estates. I shall wish you good-morning."

Harold did not speak to him or look at him again, and Jermyn walked out
of the room. As he appeared outside the door and closed it behind him,
Mrs. Transome showed her white face at another door which opened on a
level with Harold's in such a way that it was just possible for Jermyn
not to see her. He availed himself of that possibility, and walked
straight across the hall, where there was no servant in attendance to
let him out, as if he believed that no one was looking at him who could
expect recognition. He did not want to speak to Mrs. Transome at
present; he had nothing to ask from her, and one disagreeable interview
had been enough for him this morning.

She was convinced that he had avoided her, and she was too proud to
arrest him. She was as insignificant now in his eyes as in her son's.
"Men have no memories in their hearts," she said to herself, bitterly.
And then turning into her sitting-room she heard the voices of Mr.
Transome and little Harry at play together. She would have given a great
deal at this moment if her feeble husband had not always lived in dread
of her temper and her tyranny, so that he might have been fond of her
now. She felt herself loveless; if she was important to any one, it was
only to her old waiting-woman Denner.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

    Are these things then necessities?
    Then let us meet them like necessities.

                                        --SHAKESPEARE: _Henry IV_.

    See now the virtue living in a word!
    Hobson will think of swearing it was noon
    When he saw Dobson at the May-day fair,
    To prove poor Dobson did not rob the mail.
    'Tis neighborly to save a neighbor's neck:
    What harm in lying when you mean no harm?
    But say 'tis perjury, then Hobson quakes--
    He'll none of perjury.
                          Thus words embalm
    The conscience of mankind: and Roman laws
    Bring still a conscience to poor Hobson's aid.


Few men would have felt otherwise than Harold Transome felt, if, having
a reversion tantamount to possession of a fine estate, carrying an
association with an old name and considerable social importance, they
were suddenly informed that there was a person who had a legal right to
deprive them of these advantages; that person's right having never been
contemplated by any one as more than a chance, and being quite unknown
to himself. In ordinary cases a shorter possession than Harold's family
had enjoyed was allowed by the law to constitute an indefeasible right;
and if in rare and peculiar instances the law left the possessor of a
long inheritance exposed to deprivation as the consequence of old
obscure transactions, the moral reasons for giving legal validity to the
title of long occupancy were not the less strong. Nobody would have said
that Harold was bound to hunt out this alleged remainder-man and urge
his rights upon him; on the contrary, all the world would have laughed
at such conduct, and he would have been thought an interesting patient
for a mad-doctor. The unconscious remainder-man was probably much better
off, left in his original station: Harold would not have been called
upon to consider his existence, if it had not been presented to him in
the shape of a threat from one who had power to execute the threat.

In fact, what he would have done had the circumstances been different,
was much clearer than what he should choose to do or feel himself
compelled to do in the actual crisis. He would not have been disgraced
if, on a valid claim being urged, he had got his lawyers to fight it out
for him on the chance of eluding the claim by some adroit technical
management. Nobody off the stage could be sentimental about these
things, or pretend to shed tears of joy because an estate was handed
over from a gentleman to a mendicant sailor with a wooden leg. And this
chance remainder-man was perhaps some such specimen of inheritance as
the drunken fellow killed in the riot. All the world would think the
actual Transomes in the right to contest any adverse claim to the
utmost. But then--it was not certain that they would win in the contest;
and not winning, they would incur other losses besides that of the
estate. There had been a little too much of such loss already.

But why, if it were not wrong to contest the claim, should he feel the
most uncomfortable scruples about robbing the claim of its sting by
getting rid of its evidence? It was a mortal disappointment--it was a
sacrifice of indemnification--to abstain from punishing Jermyn. But even
if he brought his mind to contemplate that as the wiser course, he still
shrank from what looked like complicity with Jermyn; he still shrank
from the secret nullification of a just legal claim. If he had only
known the details, if he had known who this alleged heir was, he might
have seen his way to some course that would not have grated on his sense
of honor and dignity. But Jermyn had been too acute to let Harold know
this: he had even carefully kept to the masculine pronoun. And he
believed that there was no one besides himself who would or could make
Harold any wiser. He went home persuaded that between this interview and
the next which they would have together, Harold would be left to an
inward debate, founded entirely on the information he himself had given.
And he had not much doubt that the result would be what he desired.
Harold was no fool: there were many good things he liked better in life
than an irrational vindictiveness.

And it did happen that, after writing to London in fulfillment of his
pledge, Harold spent many hours over that inward debate, which was not
very different from what Jermyn imagined. He took it everywhere with him
on foot and on horseback, and it was his companion through a great deal
of the night. His nature was not of a kind given to internal conflict,
and he had never before been long undecided and puzzled. This
unaccustomed state of mind was so painfully irksome to him--he rebelled
so impatiently against the oppression of circumstances in which his
quick temperament and habitual decision could not help him--that it
added tenfold to his hatred of Jermyn, who was the cause of it. And
thus, as the temptation to avoid all risk of losing the estate grew and
grew till scruples looked minute by the side of it, the difficulty of
bringing himself to make a compact with Jermyn seemed more and more
insurmountable.

But we have seen that the attorney was much too confident in his
calculations. And while Harold was being gulled by his subjection to
Jermyn's knowledge, independent information was on its way to him. The
messenger was Christian, who, after as complete a survey of
probabilities as he was capable of, had come to the conclusion that the
most profitable investment he could make of his peculiar experience and
testimony in relation to Bycliffe and Bycliffe's daughter, was to place
them at the disposal of Harold Transome. He was afraid of Jermyn; he
utterly distrusted Johnson; but he thought he was secure in relying on
Harold Transome's care for his own interest; and he preferred above all
issues the prospect of forthwith leaving the country with a sum that at
least for a good while would put him at his ease.

When, only three mornings after the interview with Jermyn, Dominic
opened the door of Harold's sitting-room, and said that "Meester
Chreestian," Mr. Philip Debarry's courier and an acquaintance of his own
at Naples, requested to be admitted on business of importance, Harold's
immediate thought was that the business referred to the so-called
political affairs which were just now his chief association with the
name of Debarry, though it seemed an oddness requiring explanation, that
a servant should be personally an intermediary. He assented, expecting
something rather disagreeable than otherwise.

Christian wore this morning those perfect manners of a subordinate who
is not servile, which he always adopted toward his unquestionable
superiors. Mr. Debarry, who preferred having some one about him with as
little resemblance as possible to a regular servant, had a singular
liking for the adroit, quiet-mannered Christian, and would have been
amazed to see the insolent assumption he was capable of in the presence
of people like Mr. Lyon, who were of no account in society. Christian
had that sort of cleverness which is said to "know the world"--that is
to say, he knew the price-current of most things.

Aware that he was looked at as a messenger while he remained standing
near the door with his hat in his hand, he said, with respectful ease--

"You will probably be surprised, sir, at my coming to speak to you on my
own account; and, in fact, I could not have thought of doing so if my
business did not happen to be something of more importance to you than
to any one else."

"You don't come from Mr. Debarry, then?" said Harold, with some
surprise.

"No, sir. My business is a secret; and, if you please, must remain so."

"Is it a pledge you are demanding from me?" said Harold, rather
suspiciously, having no ground for confidence in a man of Christian's
position.

"Yes, sir; I am obliged to ask no less than that you will pledge
yourself not to take Mr. Jermyn into confidence concerning what passes
between us."

"With all my heart," said Harold, something like a gleam passing over
his face. His circulation had become more rapid. "But what have you had
to do with Jermyn?"

"He has not mentioned me to you then--has he, sir?"

"No; certainly not--never."

Christian thought, "Aha, Mr. Jermyn! you are keeping the secret well,
are you?" He said, aloud--

"Then Mr. Jermyn has never mentioned to you, sir, what I believe he is
aware of--that there is danger of a new suit being raised against you on
the part of a Bycliffe, to get the estate?"

"Ah!" said Harold, starting up, and placing himself with his back
against the mantelpiece. He was electrified by surprise at the quarter
from which this information was coming. Any fresh alarm was counteracted
by the flashing thought that he might be enabled to act independently of
Jermyn; and in the rush of feelings he could utter no more than an
interjection. Christian concluded that Harold had no previous hint.

"It is this fact, that I came to tell you of."

"From some other motive than kindness to me, I presume," said Harold,
with a slight approach to a smile.

"Certainly," said Christian, as quietly as if he had been stating
yesterday's weather. "I should not have the folly to use any affectation
with you, Mr. Transome. I lost considerable property early in life, and
am now in the receipt of a salary simply. In the affair I have just
mentioned to you I can give evidence which will turn the scale against
you. I have no wish to do so, if you will make it worth my while to
leave the country."

Harold listened as if he had been a legendary hero, selected for
peculiar solicitation by the Evil One. Here was temptation in a more
alluring form than before, because it was sweetened by the prospect of
eluding Jermyn. But the desire to gain time served all the purposes of
caution and resistance, and his indifference to the speaker in this case
helped him to preserve perfect self-command.

"You are aware," he said, coolly, "that silence is not a commodity worth
purchasing unless it is loaded. There are many persons, I dare say, who
would like me to pay their travelling expenses for them. But they might
hardly be able to show me that it was worth my while."

"You wish me to state what I know?"

"Well, that is a necessary preliminary to any further conversation."

"I think you will see, Mr. Transome, that, as a matter of justice, the
knowledge I can give is worth something, quite apart from my future
appearance or non-appearance as a witness. I must take care of my own
interest, and if anything should hinder you from choosing to satisfy me
for taking an essential witness out of the way, I must at least be paid
for bringing you the information."

"Can you tell me who and where this Bycliffe is?"

"I can."

"-----And give me a notion of the whole affair?"

"Yes; I have talked to a lawyer--not Jermyn--who is at the bottom of the
law in the affair."

"You must not count on any wish of mine to suppress evidence or remove a
witness. But name your price for the information."

"In that case I must be paid the higher for my information. Say, two
thousand pounds."

"Two thousand devils!" burst out Harold, throwing himself into his chair
again, and turning his shoulder toward Christian. New thoughts crowded
upon him. "This fellow may want to decamp for some reason or other," he
said to himself. "More people besides Jermyn know about his evidence, it
seems. The whole thing may look black for me if it comes out. I shall be
believed to have bribed him to run away, whether or not." Thus the
outside conscience came in aid of the inner.

"I will not give you one sixpence for your information," he said,
resolutely, "until time has made it clear that you do not intend to
decamp, but will be forthcoming when you are called for. On those terms
I have no objection to give you a note, specifying that after the
fulfilment of that condition--that is, after the occurrence of a suit,
or the understanding that no suit is to occur--I will pay you a certain
sum in consideration of the information you now give me!"

Christian felt himself caught in a vise. In the first instance he had
counted confidently on Harold's ready seizure of his offer to disappear,
and after some words had seemed to cast a doubt on this presupposition
he had inwardly determined to go away, whether Harold wished it or not,
if he could get a sufficient sum. He did not reply immediately, and
Harold waited in silence, inwardly anxious to know what Christian could
tell, but with a vision at present so far cleared that he was determined
not to risk incurring the imputation of having anything to do with
scoundrelism. We are very much indebted to such a linking of events as
makes a doubtful action look wrong.

Christian was reflecting that if he stayed and faced some possible
inconveniences of being known publicly as Henry Scaddon for the sake of
what he might get from Esther, it would at least be wise to be certain
of some money from Harold Transome, since he turned out to be of so
peculiar a disposition as to insist on a punctilious honesty to his own
disadvantage. Did he think of making a bargain with the other side? If
so, he might be content to wait for the knowledge till it came in some
other way. Christian was beginning to be afraid lest he should get
nothing by this clever move of coming to Transome Court. At last he
said--

"I think, sir, two thousand would not be an unreasonable sum, on those
conditions."

"I will not give two thousand."

"Allow me to say, sir, you must consider that there is no one whose
interest it is to tell you as much as I shall, even if they could; since
Mr. Jermyn, who knows it, has not thought fit to tell you. There may be
use you don't think of in getting the information at once."

"Well?"

"I think a gentleman should act liberally under such circumstances."

"So I will."

"I could not take less than a thousand pounds. It really would not be
worth my while. If Mr. Jermyn knew I gave you the information, he would
endeavor to injure me."

"I will give you a thousand," said Harold, immediately, for Christian
had unconsciously touched a sure spring. "At least, I'll give you a note
to the effect I spoke of."

He wrote as he had promised, and gave the paper to Christian.

"Now, don't be circuitous," said Harold. "You seem to have a
business-like gift of speech. Who and where is this Bycliffe?"

"You will be surprised to hear, sir, that she is supposed to be the
daughter of the old preacher, Lyon, in Malthouse Yard."

"Good God! How can that be?" said Harold. At once, the first occasion on
which he had seen Esther rose in his memory--the little dark parlor--the
graceful girl in blue, with the surprisingly distinguished manners and
appearance.

"In this way. Old Lyon, by some strange means or other, married
Bycliffe's widow when this girl was a baby. And the preacher didn't want
the girl to know that he was not her real father: he told me that
himself. But she is the image of Bycliffe, whom I knew well--an
uncommonly fine woman--steps like a queen."

"I have seen her," said Harold, more than ever glad to have purchased
this knowledge. "But now, go on."

Christian proceeded to tell all he knew, including his conversation with
Jermyn, except so far as it had an unpleasant relation to himself.

"Then," said Harold, as the details seemed to have come to a close, "you
believe that Miss Lyon and her supposed father are at present unaware of
the claims that might be urged for her on the strength of her birth?"

"I believe so. But I need not tell you that where the lawyers are on
the scent you can never be sure of anything long together. I must remind
you, sir, that you have promised to protect me from Mr. Jermyn by
keeping my confidence."

"Never fear. Depend upon it, I shall betray nothing to Mr. Jermyn."

Christian was dismissed with a "good-morning"; and while he cultivated
some friendly reminiscences with Dominic, Harold sat chewing the cud of
his new knowledge, and finding it not altogether so bitter as he had
expected.

From the first, after his interview with Jermyn, the recoil of Harold's
mind from the idea of strangling a legal right threw him on the
alternative of attempting a compromise. Some middle course might be
possible, which would be a less evil than a costly lawsuit, or than the
total renunciation of the estates. And now he had learned that the new
claimant was a woman--a young woman, brought up under circumstances that
would make the fourth of the Transome property seem to her an immense
fortune. Both the sex and the social condition were of the sort that
lies open to many softening influences. And having seen Esther, it was
inevitable that, amongst the various issues, agreeable and disagreeable,
depicted by Harold's imagination, there should present itself a
possibility that would unite the two claims--his own, which he felt to
be the rational, and Esther's, which apparently was the legal claim.

Harold, as he had constantly said to his mother, was "not a marrying
man"; he did not contemplate bringing a wife to Transome Court for many
years to come, if at all. Having little Harry as an heir, he preferred
freedom. Western women were not to his taste; they showed a transition
from the feebly animal to the thinking being, which was simply
troublesome. Harold preferred a slow-witted large-eyed woman, silent and
affectionate, with a load of black hair weighing much more heavily than
her brains. He had seen no such woman in England, except one which he
had brought with him from the East.

Therefore Harold did not care to be married until or unless some
surprising chance presented itself; and now that such a chance had
occurred to suggest marriage to him, he would not admit to himself that
he contemplated marrying Esther as a plan; he was only obliged to see
that such an issue was not inconceivable. He was not going to take any
step expressly directed toward that end: what he had made up his mind
to, as the course most satisfactory to his nature under present
urgencies, was to behave to Esther with a frank gentle manliness, which
must win her good will, and incline her to save his family interest as
much as possible. He was helped to this determination by the pleasure of
frustrating Jermyn's contrivance to shield himself from punishment, and
his most distinct and cheering prospect was that within a very short
space of time he should not only have effected a satisfactory compromise
with Esther, but should have made Jermyn aware by a very disagreeable
form of announcement, that Harold Transome was no longer afraid of him.
Jermyn should bite the dust.

At the end of these meditations he felt satisfied with himself and
light-hearted. He had rejected two dishonest propositions, and he was
going to do something that seemed eminently graceful. But he needed his
mother's assistance, and it was necessary that he should both confide in
her and persuade her.

Within two hours after Christian left him, Harold begged his mother to
come into his private room, and there he told her the strange and
startling story, omitting, however, any particulars which would involve
the identification of Christian as his informant. Harold felt that his
engagement demanded his reticence; and he told his mother that he was
bound to conceal the source of that knowledge which he had got
independently of Jermyn.

Mrs. Transome said little in the course of the story: she made no
exclamations, but she listened with close attention, and asked a few
questions so much to the point as to surprise Harold. When he showed her
the copy of the legal opinion which Jermyn had left with him, she said
she knew it very well; she had a copy herself. The particulars of that
last lawsuit were too well engraven on her mind: it happened at a time
when there was no one to supersede her, and she was the virtual head of
the family affairs. She was prepared to understand how the estate might
be in danger; but nothing had prepared her for the strange details--for
the way in which the new claimant had been reared and brought within the
range of converging motives that had led to this revelation, least of
all for the part Jermyn had come to play in the revelation. Mrs.
Transome saw these things through the medium of certain dominant
emotions that made them seem like a long-ripening retribution. Harold
perceived that she was painfully agitated, that she trembled, and that
her white lips would not readily lend themselves to speech. And this
was hardly more than he expected. He had not liked the revelation
himself when it had first come to him.

But he did not guess what it was in his narrative which had most pierced
his mother. It was something that made the threat about the estate only
a secondary alarm. Now, for the first time, she heard of the intended
proceedings against Jermyn. Harold had not chosen to speak of them
before; but having at last called his mother into consultation, there
was nothing in his mind to hinder him from speaking without reserve of
his determination to visit on the attorney his shameful
maladministration of the family affairs.

Harold went through the whole narrative--of what he called Jermyn's
scheme to catch him in a vise, and his power of triumphantly frustrating
that scheme--in his usual rapid way, speaking with a final decisiveness
of tone; and his mother felt that if she urged any counter-consideration
at all, she could only do so when he had no more to say.

"Now, what I want you to do, mother, if you can see this matter as I see
it," Harold said in conclusion, "is to go with me to call on this girl
in Malthouse Yard. I will open the affair to her; it appears she is not
likely to have been informed yet; and you will invite her to visit you
here at once, that all scandal, all hatching of law-mischief, may be
avoided, and the thing may be brought to an amicable conclusion."

"It seems almost incredible--extraordinary--a girl in her position,"
said Mrs. Transome, with difficulty. It would have seemed the bitterest,
humiliating penance if another sort of suffering had left any room in
her heart.

"I assure you she is a lady; I saw her when I was canvassing, and was
amazed at the time. You will be quite struck with her. It is no
indignity for you to invite her."

"Oh," said Mrs. Transome, with low-toned bitterness, "I must put up with
all things as they are determined for me. When shall we go?"

"Well," said Harold, looking at his watch, "it is hardly two yet. We
could really go to-day, when you have lunched. It is better to lose no
time. I'll order the carriage."

"Stay," said Mrs. Transome, with a desperate effort. "There is plenty of
time. I shall not lunch. I have a word to say."

Harold withdrew his hand from the bell, and leaned against the
mantelpiece to listen.

"You see I comply with your wish at once, Harold?"

"Yes, mother, I'm much obliged to you for making no difficulties."

"You ought to listen to me in return."

"Pray go on," said Harold, expecting to be annoyed.

"What is the good of having these Chancery proceedings against Jermyn?"

"Good? This good: that fellow has burdened the estate with annuities and
mortgages to the extent of three thousand a year; and the bulk of them,
I am certain, he holds himself under the name of another man. And the
advances this yearly interest represents, have not been much more than
twenty thousand. Of course, he has hoodwinked you, and my father never
gave attention to these things. He has been up to all sorts of devil's
work with the deeds; he didn't count on my coming back from Smyrna to
fill poor Durfey's place. He shall feel the difference. And the good
will be, that I shall save almost all the annuities for the rest of my
father's life, which may be ten years or more, and I shall get back some
of the money, and I shall punish a scoundrel. That is the good."

"He will be ruined."

"That's what I intend," said Harold, sharply.

"He exerted himself a great deal for us in the old suits: everyone said
he had wonderful zeal and ability," said Mrs. Transome, getting courage
and warmth, as she went on. Her temper was rising.

"What he did, he did for his own sake, you may depend on that," said
Harold, with a scornful laugh.

"There were very painful things in that last suit. You seem anxious
about this young woman, to avoid all further scandal and contests in the
family. Why don't you wish to do it in this case? Jermyn might be
willing to arrange things amicably--to make restitution as far as he
can--if he has done anything wrong."

"I will arrange nothing amicably with him," said Harold, decisively. "If
he has ever done anything scandalous as our agent, let him bear the
infamy. And the right way to throw the infamy on him is to show the
world that he has robbed us, and that I mean to punish him. Why do you
wish to shield such a fellow, mother? It has been chiefly through him
that you have had to lead such a thrifty, miserable life--you who used
to make as brilliant a figure as a woman need wish."

Mrs. Transome's rising temper was turned into a horrible sensation, as
painful as a sudden concussion from something hard and immovable when we
have struck out with our fist, intending to hit something warm, soft,
and breathing like ourselves. Poor Mrs. Transome's strokes were sent
jarring back on her by a hard unalterable past. She did not speak in
answer to Harold, but rose from the chair as if she gave up the debate.

"Women are frightened at everything I know," said Harold, kindly,
feeling that he had been a little harsh after his mother's compliance.
"And you have been used for so many years to think Jermyn a law of
nature. Come, mother," he went on, looking at her gently, and resting
his hands on her shoulders, "look cheerful. We shall get through all
these difficulties. And this girl--I dare say she will be quite an
interesting visitor for you. You have not had any young girl about you
for a long while. Who knows? she may fall deeply in love with me, and I
may be obliged to marry her."

He spoke laughingly, only thinking how he could make his mother smile.
But she looked at him seriously and said, "Do you mean that, Harold?"

"Am I not capable of making a conquest? Not too fat yet--a handsome,
well-rounded youth of thirty-four?"

She was forced to look straight at the beaming face, with its rich dark
color, just bent a little over her. Why could she not be happy in this
son whose future she had once dreamed of, and who had been as fortunate
as she had ever hoped? The tears came, not plenteously, but making her
dark eyes as large and bright as youth had once made them without tears.

"There, there!" said Harold, coaxingly. "Don't be afraid. You shall not
have a daughter-in-law unless she is a pearl. Now we will get ready to
go."

In half an hour from that time Mrs. Transome came down, looking majestic
in sables and velvet, ready to call on "the girl in Malthouse Yard." She
had composed herself to go through this task. She saw there was nothing
better to be done. After the resolutions Harold had taken, some sort of
compromise with this oddly-placed heiress was the result most to be
hoped for; if the compromise turned out to be a marriage--well, she had
no reason to care much: she was already powerless. It remained to be
seen what this girl was.

The carriage was to be driven round the back way, to avoid too much
observation. But the late election affairs might account for Mr. Lyon's
receiving a visit from the unsuccessful Radical candidate.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

    I also could speak as ye do; if your soul were in my soul's stead,
    I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at
    you.--_Book of Job._


In the interval since Esther parted with Felix Holt on the day of the
riot, she had gone through so much emotion, and had already had so
strong a shock of surprise, that she was prepared to receive any new
incident of an unwonted kind with comparative equanimity.

When Mr. Lyon had got home again from his preaching excursion, Felix was
already on his way to Loamford Jail. The little minister was terribly
shaken by the news. He saw no clear explanation of Felix Holt's conduct;
for the statements Esther had heard were so conflicting that she had not
been able to gather distinctly what had come out in the examination by
the magistrates. But Mr. Lyon felt confident that Felix was innocent of
any wish to abet a riot or the infliction of injuries; what he chiefly
feared was that in the fatal encounter with Tucker he had been moved by
a rash temper, not sufficiently guarded against by a prayerful and
humble spirit.

"My poor young friend is being taught with mysterious severity the evil
of a too confident self-reliance," he said to Esther, as they sat
opposite to each other, listening and speaking sadly.

"You will go and see him, father?"

"Verily will I. But I must straightway go and see that poor afflicted
woman, whose soul is doubtless whirled about in this trouble like a
shapeless and unstable thing driven by divided winds." Mr. Lyon rose and
took his hat hastily, ready to walk out, with his greatcoat flying open
and exposing his small person to the keen air.

"Stay, father, pray, till you have had some food," said Esther, putting
her hand on his arm. "You look quite weary and shattered."

"Child, I cannot stay. I can neither eat bread nor drink water till I
have learned more about this young man's deeds, what can be proved and
what cannot be proved against him. I fear he has none to stand by him in
this town, for even by the friends of our church I have been ofttimes
rebuked because he seemed dear to me. But, Esther, my beloved child----"

Here Mr. Lyon grasped her arm, and seemed in the need of speech to
forget his previous haste. "I bear in mind this: the Lord knoweth them
that are His; but we--we are left to judge by uncertain signs, that so
we may learn to exercise hope and faith toward one another; and in this
uncertainty I cling with awful hope to those whom the world loves not
because their conscience, albeit mistakenly, is at war with the habits
of the world. Our great faith, my Esther, is the faith of martyrs: I
will not lightly turn away from any man who endures harshness because he
will not lie; nay, though I would not wantonly grasp at ease of mind
through an arbitrary choice of doctrine, I cannot but believe that the
merits of the Divine Sacrifice are wider than our utmost charity. I once
believed otherwise--but not now, not now."

The minister paused, and seemed to be abstractedly gazing at some
memory: he was always liable to be snatched away by thoughts from the
pursuit of a purpose which had seemed pressing. Esther seized the
opportunity and prevailed on him to fortify himself with some of Lyddy's
porridge before he went out on his tiring task of seeking definite
trustworthy knowledge from the lips of various witnesses, beginning with
that feminine darkener of counsel, poor Mrs. Holt.

She, regarding all her trouble about Felix in the light of a fulfilment
of her own prophecies, treated the sad history with a preference for
edification above accuracy, and for mystery above relevance, worthy of a
commentator on the Apocalypse. She insisted chiefly, not on the
important facts that Felix had sat at his work till after eleven, like a
deaf man, had rushed out in surprise and alarm, had come back to report
with satisfaction that things were quiet, and had asked her to set by
his dinner for him--facts which would tell as evidence that Felix was
disconnected with any project of disturbances, and was averse to them.
These things came out incidentally in her long plaint to the minister;
but what Mrs. Holt felt it essential to state was, that long before
Michaelmas was turned, sitting in her chair, she had said to Felix that
there would be a judgment on him for being so certain sure about the
Pills and the Elixir.

"And now, Mr. Lyon," said the poor woman, who had dressed herself in a
gown previously cast off, a front all out of curl, and a cap with no
starch in it, while she held little coughing Job on her knee,--"and now
you see--my words have come true sooner than I thought they would. Felix
may contradict me if he will; but there he is in prison, and here am I,
with nothing in the world to bless myself with but half-a-crown a-week
as I've saved by my own scraping, and this house I've got to pay rent
for. It's not me has done wrong, Mr. Lyon; there's nobody can say it of
me--not the orphan child on my knee is more innicent o' riot and murder
and anything else as is bad. But when you've got a son so masterful and
stopping medicines as Providence has sent, and his betters have been
taking up and down the country since before he was a baby, it's o' no
use being good here below. But he _was_ a baby, Mr. Lyon, and I gave him
the breast,"--here poor Mrs. Holt's motherly love over-came her
expository eagerness, and she fell more and more to crying as she
spoke--"And to think there's folks saying now as he'll be transported,
and his hair shaved off, and the treadmill, and everything. Oh, dear!"

As Mrs. Holt broke off into sobbing, little Job also, who had got a
confused yet profound sense of sorrow, and of Felix being hurt and gone
away, set up a little wail of wondering misery.

"Nay, Mistress Holt," said the minister, soothingly, "enlarge not your
grief by more than warrantable grounds. I have good hope that my young
friend, your son, will be delivered from any severe consequences beyond
the death of the man Tucker, which I fear will ever be a sore burden on
his memory. I feel confident that a jury of His country-men will
discern between misfortune, or it may be misjudgment, and an evil will,
and that he will be acquitted of any grave offence."

"He never stole anything in his life, Mr. Lyon," said Mrs. Holt,
reviving. "Nobody can throw it in my face as my son ran away with money
like the young man at the bank--though he looked most respectable, and
far different on a Sunday to what Felix ever did. And I know it's very
hard fighting with constables; but they say Tucker's wife'll be a deal
better off than she was before, for the great folks'll pension her, and
she'll be put on all the charities, and her children at the Free School,
and everything. Your trouble's easy borne when everybody gives it a lift
for you; and if judge and jury wants to do right by Felix, they'll think
of his poor mother, with the bread took out of her mouth, all but
half-a-crown a-week and furniture--which, to be sure, is most excellent,
and of my own buying--and got to keep this orphin child as Felix himself
brought on me. And I might send him back to his old grandfather on
parish pay, but I'm not that woman, Mr. Lyon; I've a tender heart. And
here's his little feet and toes, like marbil; do but look"--here Mrs.
Holt drew off Job's sock and shoe, and showed a well-washed little
foot--"and you'll perhaps say I might take a lodger; but it's easy
talking; it isn't everybody at a loose-end wants a parlor and a bedroom;
and if anything bad happens to Felix, I may as well go and sit in the
parish pound, and nobody to buy me out; for it's beyond everything how
the church members find fault with my son. But I think they might leave
his mother to find fault; for queer and masterful he might be, and
flying in the face of the very Scripture about the physic, but he was
most clever beyond anything--that I _will_ say--and was his own father's
lawful child, and me his mother, that was Mary Wall thirty years before
ever I married his father." Here Mrs. Holt's feelings again became too
much for her, but she struggled on to say, sobbingly, "And if they're to
transport him, I should like to go to the prison and take the orphin
child; for he was most fond of having him on his lap, and said he'd
never marry; and there was One above overheard him, for he's been took
at his word."

Mr. Lyon listened with low groans, and then tried to comfort her by
saying that he would himself go to Loamford as soon as possible, and
would give his soul no rest till he had done all he could do for Felix.

On one point Mrs. Holt's plaint tallied with his own forebodings, and he
found them verified: the state of feeling in Treby among the Liberal
Dissenting flock was unfavorable to Felix. None who had observed his
conduct from the windows saw anything tending to excuse him, and his own
account of his motives, given on his examination, was spoken of with
head-shaking; if it had not been for his habit of always thinking
himself wiser than other people, he would never have entertained such a
wild scheme. He had set himself up for something extraordinary, and had
spoken ill of respectable trades-people. He had put a stop to the making
of saleable drugs, contrary to the nature of buying and selling, and to
a due reliance on what Providence might effect in the human inside
through the instrumentality of remedies unsuitable to the stomach,
looked at in a merely secular light; and the result was what might have
been expected. He had brought his mother to poverty, and himself into
trouble. And what for? He had done no good to "the cause"; if he had
fought about Church-rates, or had been worsted in some struggle in which
he was distinctly the champion of Dissent and Liberalism, his case would
have been one for gold, silver, and copper subscriptions, in order to
procure the best defence; sermons might have been preached on him, and
his name might have floated on flags from Newcastle to Dorchester. But
there seemed to be no edification in what had befallen Felix. The riot
at Treby, "turn it which way you would," as Mr. Muscat observed, was no
great credit to Liberalism; and what Mr. Lyon had to testify as to Felix
Holt's conduct in the matter of the Sproxton men, only made it clear
that the defence of Felix was the accusation of his party. The whole
affair, Mr. Nuttwood said, was dark and inscrutable, and seemed not to
be one in which the interference of God's servants would tend to give
the glory where the glory was due. That a candidate for whom the richer
church members had all voted should have his name associated with the
encouragement of drunkenness, riot, and plunder, was an occasion for the
enemy to blaspheme; and it was not clear how the enemy's mouth would be
stopped by exertions in favor of a rash young man, whose interference
had made things worse instead of better. Mr. Lyon was warned lest his
human partialities should blind him to the interests of truth: it was
God's cause that was endangered in this matter.

The little minister's soul was bruised; he himself was keenly alive to
the complication of public and private regards in this affair, and
suffered a good deal at the thought of Tory triumph in the demonstration
that, excepting the attack on the Seven Stars, which called itself a
Whig house, all damage to property had been borne by Tories. He cared
intensely for his opinions, and would have liked events to speak for
them in a sort of picture-writing that everybody could understand. The
enthusiasms of the world are not to be stimulated by a commentary in
small and subtle characters which alone can tell the whole truth; and
the picture writing in Felix Holt's troubles was of an entirely puzzling
kind: if he were a martyr, neither side wanted to claim him. Yet the
minister, as we have seen, found in his Christian faith a reason for
clinging the more to one who had not a large party to back him. That
little man's heart was heroic; he was not one of those Liberals who make
their anxiety for "the cause" of Liberalism a plea for cowardly
desertion.

Besides himself, he believed there was no one who could bear testimony
to the remonstrances of Felix concerning the treating of the Sproxton
men, except Jermyn, Johnson, and Harold Transome. Though he had the
vaguest idea of what could be done in the case, he fixed his mind on the
probability that Mr. Transome would be moved to the utmost exertion, if
only as an atonement; but he dared not take any step until he had
consulted Felix, who he foresaw was likely to have a very strong
determination as to the help he would accept or not accept.

This last expectation was fulfilled. Mr. Lyon returned to Esther, after
his day's journey to Loamford and back, with less of trouble and
perplexity in his mind: he had at least got a definite course marked
out, to which he must resign himself. Felix had declared that he would
receive no aid from Harold Transome, except the aid he might give as an
honest witness. There was nothing to be done for him but what was
perfectly simple and direct. Even if the pleading of counsel had been
permitted (and at that time it was not) on behalf of a prisoner on trial
for felony, Felix would have declined it: he would in any case have
spoken in his own defence. He had a perfectly simple account to give,
and needed not to avail himself of any legal adroitness. He consented to
accept the services of a respectable solicitor in Loamford, who offered
to conduct his case without any fees. The work was plain and easy, Felix
said. The only witnesses who had to be hunted up at all were some who
could testify that he had tried to take the crowd down Hobb's Lane, and
that they had gone to the Manor in spite of him.

"Then he is not so much cast down as you feared, father?" said Esther.

"No, child; albeit he is pale and much shaken for one so stalwart. He
hath no grief, he says, save for the poor man Tucker, and for his
mother; otherwise his heart is without a burden. We discoursed greatly
on the sad effect of all this for his mother, and on the perplexed
condition of human things, whereby even right action seems to bring evil
consequences, if we have respect only to our own brief lives, and not to
that larger rule whereby we are stewards of the eternal dealings, and
not contrivers of our own success."

"Did he say nothing about me, father?" said Esther, trembling a little,
but unable to repress her egoism.

"Yes; he asked if you were well, and sent his affectionate regards. Nay,
he bade me say something which appears to refer to your discourse
together when I was not present. 'Tell her,' he said, 'whatever they
sentence me to, she knows they can't rob me of my vocation. With poverty
for my bride, and preaching and pedagoguy for my business, I am sure of
a handsome establishment.' He laughed--doubtless bearing in mind some
playfulness of thine."

Mr. Lyon seemed to be looking at Esther as he smiled, but she was not
near enough for him to discern the expression of her face. Just then it
seemed made for melancholy rather than for playfulness. Hers was not a
childish beauty; and when the sparkle of mischief, wit and vanity was
out of her eyes, and the large look of abstracted sorrow was there, you
would have been surprised by a certain grandeur which the smiles had
hidden. That changing face was the perfect symbol of her mixed
susceptible nature, in which battle was inevitable, and the side of
victory uncertain.

She began to look on all that had passed between herself and Felix as
something not buried, but embalmed and kept as a relic in a private
sanctuary. The very entireness of her preoccupation about him, the
perpetual repetition in her memory of all that had passed between them,
tended to produce this effect. She lived with him in the past; in the
future she seemed shut out from him. He was an influence above her life,
rather than a part of it; some time or other, perhaps, he would be to
her as if he belonged to the solemn admonishing skies, checking her
self-satisfied pettiness with the suggestion of a wider life.

But not yet--not while her trouble was so fresh. For it was still _her_
trouble, and not Felix Holt's. Perhaps it was a subtraction from his
power over her, that she could never think of him with pity, because he
always seemed to her too great and strong to be pitied; he wanted
nothing. He evaded calamity by choosing privation. The best part of a
woman's love is worship; but it is hard to her to be sent away with her
precious spikenard rejected, and her long tresses too, that were let
fall ready to soothe the wearied feet.

While Esther was carrying these things in her heart, the January days
were beginning to pass by with their wonted wintry monotony, except that
there was rather more of good cheer than usual remaining from the feast
of Twelfth Night among the triumphant Tories, and rather more scandal
than usual excited among the mortified Dissenters by the wilfulness of
their minister. He had actually mentioned Felix Holt by name in his
evening sermon, and offered up a petition for him in the evening prayer,
also by name--not as "a young Ishmaelite, whom he would fain see brought
back from the lawless life of the desert, and seated in the same fold
even with the sons of Judah and of Benjamin," a suitable periphrasis
which Brother Kemp threw off without any effort, and with all the
felicity of a suggestive critic. Poor Mrs. Holt, indeed, even in the
midst of her grief, experienced a proud satisfaction; that though she
was not a church member she was now an object of congregational remark
and ministerial allusion. Feeling herself a spotless character standing
out in relief on a dark background of affliction, and a practical
contradiction to that extreme doctrine of human depravity which she had
never "given in to," she was naturally gratified and soothed by a notice
which must be a recognition. But more influential hearers were of
opinion, that in a man who had so many long sentences at command as Mr.
Lyon, so many parentheses and modifying clauses, this naked use of a
non-scriptural Treby name in an address to the Almighty was all the more
offensive. In a low unlettered local preacher of the Wesleyan persuasion
such things might pass; but a certain style in prayer was demanded from
Independents, the most educated body in the ranks of orthodox Dissent.
To Mr. Lyon such notions seemed painfully perverse, and the next morning
he was declaring to Esther his resolution stoutly to withstand them, and
to count nothing common or unclean on which a blessing could be asked,
when the tenor of his thoughts was completely changed by a great shock
of surprise which made both himself and Esther sit looking at each other
in speechless amazement.

The cause was a letter brought by a special messenger from Duffield; a
heavy letter addressed to Esther in a business-like manner, quite
unexampled in her correspondence. And the contents of the letter were
more startling than its exterior. It began:

    MADAM,--Herewith we send you a brief abstract of evidence which has
    come within our knowledge, that the right of remainder whereby the
    lineal issue of Edward Bycliffe can claim possession of the estates
    of which the entail was settled by John Justus Transome in 1729,
    now first accrues to you as the sole and lawful issue of Maurice
    Christian Bycliffe. We are confident of success in the prosecution
    of this claim, which will result to you in the possession of
    estates to the value, at the lowest, of from five to six thousand
    per annum----

It was at this point that Esther, who was reading aloud, let her hand
fall with the letter on her lap, and with a palpitating heart looked at
her father, who looked again in silence that lasted for two or three
minutes. A certain terror was upon them both, though the thoughts that
laid that weight on the tongue of each were different.

It was Mr. Lyon who spoke first.

"This, then, is what the man named Christian referred to. I distrusted
him, yet it seems he spoke truly."

"But," said Esther, whose imagination ran necessarily to those
conditions of wealth which she could best appreciate, "Do they mean that
the Transomes would be turned out of Transome Court, and that I should
go and live there? It seems quite an impossible thing."

"Nay, child, I know not. I am ignorant in these things, and the thought
of worldly grandeur for you hath more of terror than of gladness for me.
Nevertheless we must duly weigh all things, not considering aught that
befalls us as a bare event, but rather as an occasion for faithful
stewardship. Let us go to my study and consider this writing further."

How this announcement, which to Esther seemed as unprepared as if it had
fallen from the skies, came to be made to her by solicitors other than
Batt & Cowley, the old lawyers of the Bycliffes, was by a sequence as
natural, that is to say, as legally natural, as any in the world. The
secret worker of the apparent wonder was Mr. Johnson, who, on the very
day when he wrote to give his patron, Mr. Jermyn, the serious warning
that a bill was likely to be filed in Chancery against him, had carried
forward with added zeal the business already commenced, of arranging
with another firm his share in the profits likely to result from the
prosecution of Esther Bycliffe's claim.

Jermyn's star was certainly going down, and Johnson did not feel an
unmitigated grief. Beyond some troublesome declarations as to his actual
share in transactions in which his name had been used, Johnson saw
nothing formidable in prospect for himself. He was not going to be
ruined, though Jermyn probably was: he was not a high-flyer, but a mere
climbing-bird, who could hold on and get his livelihood just as well if
his wings were clipped a little. And, in the meantime, here was
something to be gained in this Bycliffe business, which, it was not
unpleasant to think, was a nut that Jermyn had intended to keep for his
own particular cracking, and which would be rather a severe astonishment
to Mr. Harold Transome, whose manners towards respectable agents were
such as leave a smart in a man of spirit.

Under the stimulus of small many-mixed motives like these, a great deal
of business has been done in the world by well-clad and, in 1833,
clean-shaven men, whose names are on charity lists, and who do not know
that they are base. Mr. Johnson's character was not much more
exceptional than his double chin.

No system, religious or political, I believe, has laid it down as a
principle that all men are alike virtuous, or even that all the people
rated for £80 houses are an honor to their species.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

    The down we rest on in our aëry dreams
    Has not been plucked from birds that live and smart;
    'Tis but warm snow, that melts not.


The story and the prospect revealed to Esther by the lawyer's letter,
which she and her father studied together, had made an impression on her
very different from what she had been used to figure to herself in her
many day-dreams as to the effect of a sudden elevation in rank and
fortune. In her day-dreams she had not traced out the means by which
such a change could be brought about; in fact, the change had seemed
impossible to her, except in her little private Utopia, which, like
other Utopias, was filled with delightful results, independent of
processes. But her mind had fixed itself habitually on the signs and
luxuries of ladyhood, for which she had the keenest perception. She had
seen the very mat in her carriage, had scented the dried rose-leaves in
her corridors, had felt the soft carpet under her pretty feet, and seen
herself, as she rose from her sofa cushions, in the crystal panel that
reflected a long drawing-room, where the conservatory flowers and the
pictures of fair women left her still with the supremacy of charm. She
had trodden the marble-firm gravel of her garden-walks and the soft deep
turf of her lawn; she had had her servants about her filled with adoring
respect, because of her kindness as well as her grace and beauty; but
she had had several accomplished cavaliers all at once sueing for her
hand--one of whom, uniting very high birth with long dark eyelashes and
the most distinguished talents, she secretly preferred, though his pride
and hers hindered an avowal, and supplied the inestimable interest of
retardation. The glimpses she had had in her brief life as a family
governess, supplied her ready faculty with details enough of delightful
still life to furnish her day-dreams; and no one who has not, like
Esther, a strong natural prompting and susceptibility toward such
things, and has at the same time suffered from the presence of opposite
conditions, can understand how powerfully those minor accidents of rank
which please the fastidious sense can preoccupy the imagination.

It seemed that almost everything in her day-dreams--cavaliers
apart--must be found at Transome Court. But now that fancy was becoming
real, and the impossible appeared possible, Esther found the balance of
her attention reversed: now that her ladyhood was not simply in Utopia,
she found herself arrested and painfully grasped by the means through
which the ladyhood was to be obtained. To her inexperience this strange
story of an alienated inheritance, of such a last representative of
pure-blooded lineage as old Thomas Transome the bill-sticker, above all
of the dispossession hanging over those who actually held, and had
expected always to hold, the wealth and position which were suddenly
announced to be rightly hers--all these things made a picture, not for
her own tastes and fancies to float in with Elysian indulgence, but in
which she was compelled to gaze on the degrading hard experience of
other human beings, and on a humiliating loss which was the obverse of
her own proud gain. Even in her times of most untroubled egoism, Esther
shrank from anything ungenerous; and the fact that she had a very lively
image of Harold Transome and his gypsy-eyed boy in her mind, gave
additional distinctness to the thought that if she entered they must
depart. Of the elder Transomes she had a dimmer vision, and they were
necessarily in the background to her sympathy.

She and her father sat with their hands locked, as they might have done
if they had been listening to a solemn oracle in the days of old
revealing unknown kinship and rightful heirdom. It was not that Esther
had any thought of renouncing her fortune; she was incapable, in these
moments, of condensing her vague ideas and feelings into any distinct
plan of action, nor indeed did it seem that she was called upon to act
with any promptitude. It was only that she was conscious of being
strangely awed by something that was called good fortune; and the awe
shut out any scheme of rejection as much as any triumphant joy in
acceptance. Her father, she learned, had died disappointed and in
wrongful imprisonment, and an undefined sense of Nemesis seemed half to
sanctify her inheritance, and counteract its apparent arbitrariness.

Felix Holt was present in her mind throughout; what he would say was an
imaginary commentary that she was constantly framing, and the words that
she most frequently gave him--for she dramatized under the inspiration
of a sadness slightly bitter--were of this kind: "That is clearly your
destiny--to be aristocratic, to be rich. I always saw that our lots lay
widely apart. You are not fit for poverty, or any work of difficulty.
But remember what I once said to you about a vision of consequences;
take care where your fortune leads you."

Her father had not spoken since they had ended their study and
discussion of the story and the evidence as it was presented to them.
Into this he had entered with his usual penetrating activity; but he was
so accustomed to the impersonal study of narrative, that even in these
exceptional moments the habit of half a century asserted itself, and he
seemed sometimes not to distinguish the case of Esther's inheritance
from a story in ancient history, until some detail recalled him to the
profound feeling that a great, great change might be coming over the
life of this child who was so close to him. At last he relapsed into
total silence, and for some time Esther was not moved to interrupt it.
He had sunk back in his chair with his hand locked in hers, and was
pursuing a sort of prayerful meditation: he lifted up no formal
petition, but it was as if his soul travelled again over the facts he
had been considering in the company of a guide ready to inspire and
correct him. He was striving to purify his feeling in this matter from
selfish or worldly dross--a striving which is that prayer without
ceasing, sure to wrest an answer by its sublime importunity.

There is no knowing how long they might have sat in this way, if it had
not been for the inevitable Lyddy reminding them dismally of dinner.

"Yes, Lyddy, we come," said Esther: and then, before moving--

"Is there any advice you have in your mind for me, father?" The sense of
awe was growing in Esther. Her intensest life was no longer in her
dreams, where she made things to her own mind: she was moving in a world
charged with forces.

"Not yet, my dear--save this; that you will seek special illumination in
this juncture, and, above all, be watchful that your soul be not lifted
up within you by what, rightly considered, is rather an increase of
charge, and a call upon you to walk along a path which is indeed easy to
the flesh, but dangerous to the spirit."

"You would always live with me, father?" Esther said, under a strong
impulse--partly affection, partly the need to grasp at some moral help.
But she had no sooner uttered the words than they raised a vision,
showing, as by a flash of lightning, the incongruity of that past which
had created the sanctities and affections of her life with that future
which was coming to her----The little rusty old minister, with the one
luxury of his Sunday evening pipe, smoked up the kitchen chimney, coming
to live in the midst of grandeur----but no! her father, with the
grandeur of his past sorrow and his long struggling labors, forsaking
his vocation, and vulgarly accepting an existence unsuited to
him.----Esther's face flushed with the excitement of this vision and its
reversed interpretation, which five months ago she would have been
incapable of seeing. Her question to her father seemed like a mockery;
she was ashamed. He answered slowly--

"Touch not that chord yet, my child. I must learn to think of thy lot
according to the demands of Providence. We will rest a while from the
subject; and I will seek calmness in my ordinary duties."

The next morning nothing more was said. Mr. Lyon was absorbed in his
sermon-making, for it was near the end of the week, and Esther was
obliged to attend to her pupils. Mrs. Holt came by invitation with
little Job to share their dinner of roast-meat; and, after much of what
the minister called unprofitable discourse, she was quitting the house
when she hastened back with an astonished face, to tell Mr. Lyon and
Esther, who were already in wonder at crashing, thundering sounds on the
pavement, that there was a carriage stopping and stamping at the entry
into Malthouse Yard, with "all sorts of fine liveries," and a lady and
gentleman inside. Mr. Lyon and Esther looked at each other, both having
the same name in their minds.

"If it's Mr. Transome or somebody else as is great, Mr. Lyon," urged
Mrs. Holt, "you'll remember my son, and say he's got a mother with a
character they may enquire into as much as they like. And never mind
what Felix says, for he's so masterful he'd stay in prison and be
transported whether or no, only to have his own way. For it's not to be
thought but what the great people could get him off if they would; and
it's very hard with a King in the country and all the texts in Proverbs
about the King's countenance, and Solomon and the live baby----"

Mr. Lyon lifted up his hand deprecatingly, and Mrs. Holt retreated from
the parlor-door to a corner of the kitchen, the outer doorway being
occupied by Dominic, who was enquiring if Mr. and Miss Lyon were at
home, and could receive Mrs. Transome and Mr. Harold Transome. While
Dominic went back to the carriage Mrs. Holt escaped with her tiny
companion to Zachary's, the new pew-opener, observing to Lyddy that she
knew herself, and was not that woman to stay where she might not be
wanted; whereupon Lyddy, differing fundamentally, admonished her parting
ear that it was well if she knew herself to be dust and ashes--silently
extending the application of this remark to Mrs. Transome, as she saw
the tall lady sweep in arrayed in her rich black and fur, with that fine
gentleman behind her whose thick top-knot of wavy hair, sparkling ring,
dark complexion, and general air of worldly exaltation unconnected with
chapel, were painfully suggestive to Lyddy of Herod, Pontius Pilate, or
the much-quoted Gallio.

Harold Transome, greeting Esther gracefully, presented his mother, whose
eagle-like glance, fixed on her from the first moment of entering,
seemed to Esther to pierce her through. Mrs. Transome hardly noticed Mr.
Lyon, not from studied haughtiness, but from sheer mental inability to
consider him--as a person ignorant of natural history is unable to
consider a fresh-water polyp otherwise than as a sort of animated weed,
certainly not fit for table. But Harold saw that his mother was
agreeably struck by Esther, who indeed showed to much advantage. She was
not at all taken by surprise, and maintained a dignified quietude; but
her previous knowledge and reflection about the possible dispossession
of these Transomes gave her a softened feeling toward them which tinged
her manners very agreeably.

Harold was carefully polite to the minister, throwing out a word to make
him understand that he had an important part in the important business
which had brought this unannounced visit; and the four made a group
seated not far off each other near the window, Mrs. Transome and Esther
being on the sofa.

"You must be astonished at a visit from me, Miss Lyon," Mrs. Transome
began; "I seldom come to Treby Magna. Now I see you, the visit is an
unexpected pleasure; but the cause of my coming is business of a serious
nature, which my son will communicate to you."

"I ought to begin by saying that what I have to announce to you is the
reverse of disagreeable, Miss Lyon," said Harold, with lively ease. "I
don't suppose the world would consider it very good news for me; but a
rejected candidate, Mr. Lyon," Harold went on, turning graciously to the
minister, "begins to be inured to loss and misfortune."

"Truly, sir," said Mr. Lyon, with a rather sad solemnity, "your allusion
hath a grievous bearing for me, but I will not retard your present
purpose by further remark."

"You will never guess what I have to disclose," said Harold, again
looking at Esther, "unless, indeed, you have already had some previous
intimation of it."

"Does it refer to law and inheritance?" said Esther, with a smile. She
was already brightened by Harold's manner. The news seemed to be losing
its chillness, and to be something really belonging to warm,
comfortable, interesting life.

"Then you have already heard of it?" said Harold, inwardly vexed, but
sufficiently prepared not to seem so.

"Only yesterday," said Esther, quite simply, "I received a letter from
some lawyers with a statement of many surprising things, showing that I
was an heiress"--here she turned very prettily to address Mrs.
Transome--"which, as you may imagine, is one of the last things I could
have supposed myself to be."

"My dear," said Mrs. Transome with elderly grace, just laying her hand
for an instant on Esther's, "it is a lot that would become you
admirably."

Esther blushed, and said playfully:

"Oh, I know what to buy with fifty pounds a-year, but I know the price
of nothing beyond that."

Her father sat looking at her through his spectacles, stroking his chin.
It was amazing to herself that she was taking so lightly now what had
caused her such deep emotion yesterday.

"I daresay, then," said Harold, "you are more fully possessed of
particulars than I am. So that my mother and I need only tell you what
no one else can tell you--that is, what are her and my feelings and
wishes under these new and unexpected circumstances."

"I am most anxious," said Esther, with a grave beautiful look of respect
to Mrs. Transome--"most anxious on that point. Indeed, being of course
in uncertainty about it, I have not yet known whether I could rejoice."
Mrs. Transome's glance had softened. She liked Esther to look at her.

"Our chief anxiety," she said, knowing what Harold wished her to say,
"is, that there may be no contest, no useless expenditure of money. Of
course we will surrender what can be rightfully claimed."

"My mother expresses our feeling precisely, Miss Lyon," said Harold.
"And I'm sure, Mr. Lyon, you will understand our desire."

"Assuredly, sir. My daughter would in any case have had my advice to
seek a conclusion which would involve no strife. We endeavor, sir, in
our body, to hold to the apostolic rule that one Christian brother
should not go to law with another; and I, for my part, would extend this
rule to all my fellow-men, apprehending that the practice of our courts
is little consistent with the simplicity that is in Christ."

"If it is to depend on my will," said Esther, "there is nothing that
would be more repugnant to me than any struggle on such a subject. But
can't the lawyers go on doing what they will in spite of me? It seems
that this is what they mean."

"Not exactly," said Harold, smiling. "Of course they live by such
struggles as you dislike. But we can thwart them by determining not to
quarrel. It is desirable that we should consider the affair together,
and put it into the hands of honorable solicitors. I assure you we
Transomes will not contend for what is not our own."

"And this is what I have come to beg of you," said Mrs. Transome. "It is
that you will come to Transome Court--and let us take full time to
arrange matters. Do oblige me: you shall not be teased more than you
like by an old woman: you shall do just as you please, and become
acquainted with your future home, since it is to be yours. I can tell
you a world of things that you will want to know; and the business can
proceed properly."

"Do consent," said Harold, with winning brevity.

Esther was flushed and her eyes were bright. It was impossible for her
not to feel that the proposal was a more tempting step toward her change
of condition than she could have thought of beforehand. She had
forgotten that she was in any trouble. But she looked toward her father,
who was again stroking his chin, as was his habit when he was doubting
or deliberating.

"I hope you do not disapprove of Miss Lyon's granting us this favor?"
said Harold to the minister.

"I have nothing to oppose to it, sir, if my daughter's own mind is clear
as to her course."

"You will come--now--with us," said Mrs. Transome, persuasively. "You
will go back with us now in the carriage."

Harold was highly gratified with the perfection of his mother's manner
on this occasion, which he had looked forward to as difficult. Since he
had come home again he had never seen her so much at her ease, or with
so much benignancy in her face. The secret lay in the charm of Esther's
sweet young deference, a sort of charm that had not before entered into
Mrs. Transome's elderly life. Esther's pretty behavior, it must be
confessed, was not fed entirely from lofty moral sources: over and above
her really generous feeling, she enjoyed Mrs. Transome's accent, the
high-bred quietness of her speech, the delicate odor of her drapery. She
had always thought that life must be particularly easy if one could pass
it among refined people; and so it seemed at this moment. She wished,
unmixedly, to go to Transome Court.

"Since my father has no objection," she said, "and you urge me so
kindly. But I must beg for time to pack up a few clothes."

"By all means," said Mrs. Transome. "We are not at all pressed."

When Esther had left the room, Harold said, "Apart from our immediate
reason for coming, Mr. Lyon, I could have wished to see you about these
unhappy consequences of the election contest. But you will understand
that I have been much preoccupied with private affairs."

"You have well said that the consequences are unhappy, sir. And but for
a reliance on something more than human calculation, I know not which I
should most bewail--the scandal which wrong-dealing has brought on right
principles or the snares which it laid for the feet of a young man who
is dear to me. 'One soweth, and another reapeth,' is a verity that
applies to evil as well as good."

"You are referring to Felix Holt. I have not neglected steps to secure
the best legal help for the prisoners: but I am given to understand that
Holt refuses any aid from me. I hope he will not go rashly to work in
speaking in his own defence without any legal instruction. It is an
opprobrium of our law that no counsel is allowed to plead for the
prisoner in cases of felony. A ready tongue may do a man as much harm as
good in a court of justice. He piques himself on making a display, and
displays a little too much."

"Sir, you know him not," said the little minister, in his deeper tone.
"He would not accept, even if it were accorded, a defense wherein the
truth was screened or avoided,--not from a vainglorious spirit of
self-exhibition, for he hath a singular directness and simplicity of
speech; but from an averseness to a profession wherein a man may without
shame seek to justify the wicked for reward, and take away the
righteousness of the righteous from him."

"It's a pity a fine young fellow should do himself harm by fanatical
notions of that sort. I could at least have procured the advantage of
first-rate consultation. He didn't look to me like a dreamy personage."

"Nor is he dreamy; rather, his excess lies in being too practical."

"Well, I hope you will not encourage him in such irrationality; the
question is not one of misrepresentation, but of adjusting fact, so as
to raise it to the power of evidence. Don't you see that?"

"I do, I do. But I distrust not Felix Holt's discernment in regard to
his own case. He builds not on doubtful things and hath no illusory
hopes; on the contrary, he is of a too-scornful incredulity where I
would fain see a more childlike faith. But he will hold no belief
without action corresponding thereto; and the occasion of his return to
this, his native place, at a time which has proved fatal, was no other
than his resolve to hinder the sale of some drugs, which had chiefly
supported his mother, but which his better knowledge showed him to be
pernicious to the human frame. He undertook to support her by his own
labor; but, sir, I pray you to mark--and old as I am, I will not deny
that this young man instructs me herein--I pray you to mark the
poisonous confusion of good and evil which is the wide-spreading effect
of vicious practices. Through the use of undue electioneering
means--concerning which, however, I do not accuse you farther than of
having acted the part of him who washes his hands when he delivers up to
others the exercise of an iniquitous power--Felix Holt is, I will not
scruple to say, the innocent victim of a riot; and that deed of strict
honesty, whereby he took on himself the charge of his aged mother, seems
now to have deprived her of sufficient bread, and is even an occasion of
reproach to him from the weaker brethren."

"I shall be proud to supply her as amply as you think desirable," said
Harold, not enjoying this lecture.

"I will pray you to speak of this question with my daughter, who, it
appears, may herself have large means at command, and would desire to
minister to Mrs. Holt's needs with all friendship and delicacy. For the
present I can take care that she lacks nothing essential."

As Mr. Lyon was speaking, Esther re-entered, equipped for her drive. She
laid her hand on her father's arm and said, "You will let my pupils know
at once, will you, father?"

"Doubtless, my dear," said the old man, trembling a little under the
feeling that this departure of Esther's was a crisis. Nothing again
would be as it had been in their mutual life. But he feared that he was
being mastered by a too tender self-regard, and struggled to keep
himself calm.

Mrs. Transome and Harold had both risen.

"If you are quite ready, Miss Lyon," said Harold, divining that the
father and daughter would like to have an unobserved moment, "I will
take my mother to the carriage and come back for you."

When they were alone, Esther put her hands on her father's shoulders and
kissed him.

"This will not be a grief to you, I hope, father? You think it is better
that I should go?"

"Nay, child, I am weak. But I would fain be capable of a joy quite apart
from the accidents of my aged earthly existence, which, indeed, is a
petty and almost dried-up fountain--whereas to the receptive soul the
river of life pauses not, nor is diminished."

"Perhaps you will see Felix Holt again and tell him all?"

"Shall I say aught to him for you?"

"Oh, no; only that Job Tudge has a little flannel shirt and a box of
lozenges," said Esther, smiling. "Ah, I hear Mr. Transome coming back. I
must say good-bye to Lyddy, else she will cry over my hard heart."

In spite of all the grave thoughts that had been, Esther felt it a very
pleasant as well as new experience to be led to the carriage by Harold
Transome, to be seated on soft cushions, and bowled along, looked at
admiringly and deferentially by a person opposite, whom it was agreeable
to look at in return, and talked to with suavity and liveliness. Toward
what prospect was that easy carriage really leading her? She could not
be always asking herself Mentor-like questions. Her young, bright nature
was rather weary of the sadness that had grown heavier in these last
weeks, like a chill white mist hopelessly veiling the day. Her fortune
was beginning to appear worthy of being called good fortune. She had
come to a new stage in her journey; a new day had arisen on new scenes,
and her young untired spirit was full of curiosity.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

    No man believes that many-textured knowledge and skill--as a just
    idea of the solar system, or the power of painting flesh, or of
    reading written harmonies--can come late and of a sudden; yet many
    will not stick at believing that happiness can come at any day and
    hour solely by a new disposition of events; though there is naught
    less capable of a magical production than a mortal's happiness,
    which is mainly a complex of habitual relations and dispositions
    not to be wrought by news from foreign parts, or any whirling of
    fortune's wheel for one on whose brow Time has written legibly.


Some days after Esther's arrival at Transome Court, Denner, coming to
dress Mrs. Transome before dinner--a labor of love for which she had
ample leisure now--found her mistress seated with more than ever of a
marble aspect of self-absorbed suffering, which to the waiting-woman's
keen observation had been gradually intensifying itself during the past
week. She had tapped at the door without having been summoned, and she
had ventured to enter though she had heard no voice saying, "Come in."

Mrs. Transome had on a dark warm dressing-gown, hanging in thick folds
about her, and she was seated before a mirror which filled a panel from
the floor to the ceiling. The room was bright with the light of the fire
and of wax candles. For some reason, contrary to her usual practice,
Mrs. Transome had herself unfastened her abundant gray hair, which
rolled backward in a pale sunless stream over her dark dress. She was
seated before the mirror apparently looking at herself, her brow knit in
one deep furrow, and her jewelled hands laid one above the other on her
knee. Probably she had ceased to see the reflection in the mirror, for
her eyes had the fixed wide-open look that belongs not to examination,
but to reverie. Motionless in that way, her clear-cut features keeping
distinct record of past beauty, she looked like an image faded, dried,
and bleached by uncounted suns, rather than a breathing woman who had
numbered the years as they passed, and had a consciousness within her
which was the slow deposit of those ceaseless roiling years.

Denner, with all her ingrained and systematic reserve, could not help
showing signs that she was startled, when, peering from between her
half-closed eyelids, she saw the motionless image in the mirror opposite
to her as she entered. Her gentle opening of the door had not roused her
mistress, to whom the sensations produced by Denner's presence were as
little disturbing as those of a favorite cat. But the slight cry, and
the start reflected in the glass, were unusual enough to break the
reverie, Mrs. Transome moved, leaned back in her chair, and said--

"So you're come at last, Denner?"

"Yes, madam; it is not late. I'm sorry you should have undone your hair
yourself."

"I undid it to see what an old hag I am. These fine clothes you put on
me, Denner, are only a smart shroud."

"Pray don't talk so, madam. If there's anybody doesn't think it pleasant
to look at you, so much the worse for them. For my part, I've seen no
young ones fit to hold up your train. Look at your likeness down below;
and though you're older now, what signifies? I wouldn't be Letty in the
scullery because she's got red cheeks. She mayn't know she's a poor
creature, but I know it, and that's enough for me; I know what sort of a
dowdy draggletail she'll be in ten years' time. I would change with
nobody, madam. And if troubles were put up to market, I'd sooner buy old
than new. It's something to have seen the worst."

"A woman never has seen the worst till she is old, Denner," said Mrs.
Transome, bitterly.

The keen little waiting-woman was not clear as to the cause of her
mistress's added bitterness; but she rarely brought herself to ask
questions, when Mrs. Transome did not authorize them by beginning to
give her information. Banks the bailiff and the head-servant had nodded
and winked a good deal over the certainty that Mr. Harold was "none so
fond" of Jermyn, but this was a subject on which Mrs. Transome had never
made up her mind to speak, and Denner knew nothing definite. Again, she
felt quite sure that there was some important secret connected with
Esther's presence in the house; she suspected that the close Dominic
knew the secret, and was more trusted than she was, in spite of her
forty years' service; but any resentment on this ground would have been
an entertained reproach against her mistress, inconsistent with Denner's
creed and character. She inclined to the belief that Esther was the
immediate cause of the new discontent.

"If there's anything worse coming to you, I should like to know what it
is, madam," she said, after a moment's silence, speaking always in the
same low quick way, and keeping up her quiet labors. "When I awake at
cock-crow, I'd sooner have one real grief on my mind than twenty false.
It's better to know one's robbed than to think one's going to be
murdered."

"I believe you are the creature in the world that loves me best, Denner;
yet you will never understand what I suffer. It's of no use telling you.
There's no folly in you, and no heartache. You are made of iron. You
have never had any trouble."

"I've had some of your trouble, madam."

"Yes, you good thing. But as a sick-nurse, that never caught the fever.
You never even had a child."

"I can feel for things I never went through. I used to be sorry for the
poor French Queen when I was young; I'd have lain cold for her to lie
warm. I know people have feelings according to their birth and station.
And you always took things to heart, madam, beyond anybody else. But I
hope there's nothing new, to make you talk of the worst."

"Yes, Denner, there is--there is," said Mrs. Transome, speaking in a low
tone of misery, while she bent for her head-dress to be pinned on.

"Is it this young lady?"

"Why, what do you think about her, Denner?" said Mrs. Transome, in a
tone of more spirit, rather curious to hear what the old woman would
say.

"I don't deny she's graceful, and she has a pretty smile and very good
manners: it's quite unaccountable by what Banks says about her father. I
know nothing of those Treby townsfolk myself, but for my part I'm
puzzled. I'm fond of Mr. Harold. I always shall be, madam. I was at his
bringing into the world, and nothing but his doing wrong by you would
turn me against him. But the servants all say he's in love with Miss
Lyon."

"I wish it were true, Denner," said Mrs. Transome, energetically. "I
wish he were in love with her, so that she could master him, and make
him do what she pleased."

"Then it is not true--what they say?"

"Not true that she will ever master him. No woman ever will. He will
make her fond of him, and afraid of him. That's one of the things you
have never gone through, Denner. A woman's love is always freezing into
fear. She wants everything, she is secure of nothing. This girl has a
fine spirit--plenty of fire and pride and wit. Men like such captives,
as they like horses that champ the bit and paw the ground: they feel
more triumph in their mastery. What is the use of a woman's will?--if
she tries, she doesn't get it, and she ceases to be loved. God was cruel
when He made women."

Denner was used to such outbursts as this. Her mistress's rhetoric and
temper belonged to her superior rank, her grand person, and her piercing
black eyes. Mrs. Transome had a sense of impiety in her words which made
them all the more tempting to her impotent anger. The waiting-woman had
none of that awe which could be turned into defiance: the Sacred Grove
was a common thicket to her.

"It mayn't be good luck to be a woman," she said. "But one begins with
it from a baby: one gets used to it. And I shouldn't like to be a
man--to cough so loud, and stand straddling about on a wet day, and be
so wasteful with meat and drink. They're a coarse lot, I think. Then I
needn't make a trouble of this young lady, madam," she added, after a
moment's pause.

"No, Denner, I like her. If that were all--I should like Harold to marry
her. It would be the best thing. If the truth were known--and it will be
known soon--the estate is hers by law--such law as it is. It's a strange
story: she's a Bycliffe really."

Denner did not look amazed, but went on fastening her mistress's dress,
as she said--

"Well, madam, I was sure there was something wonderful at the bottom of
it. And turning the old lawsuits and everything else over in my mind, I
thought the law might have something to do with it. Then she is a born
lady?"

"Yes; she has good blood in her veins."

"We talked that over in the housekeeper's room--what a hand and an
instep she has, and how her head is set on her shoulders--almost like
your own, madam. But her lightish complexion spoils her, to my thinking.
And Dominic said Mr. Harold never admired that sort of woman before.
There's nothing that smooth fellow couldn't tell you if he would: he
knows the answer to riddles before they're made. However, he knows how
to hold his tongue; I'll say that for him. And so do I, madam."

"Yes, yes; you will not talk of it till other people are talking of it."

"And so, if Mr. Harold married her, it would save all fuss and
mischief?"

"Yes--about the estate."

"And he seems inclined; and she'll not refuse him, I'll answer for it.
And you like her, madam. There's everything to set your mind at rest."

Denner was putting the finishing-touch to Mrs. Transome's dress by
throwing an Indian scarf over her shoulders, and so completing the
contrast between the majestic lady in costume and the dishevelled
Hecuba-like woman whom she had found half an hour before.

"I am not at rest!" Mrs. Transome said, with slow distinctness, moving
from the mirror to the window, where the blind was not drawn down, and
she could see the chill white landscape and the far-off unheeding stars.

Denner, more distressed by her mistress's suffering than she could have
been by anything else, took up with the instinct of affection a gold
vinaigrette which Mrs. Transome often liked to carry with her, and going
up to her put it into her hand gently. Mrs. Transome grasped the little
woman's hand hard, and held it so.

"Denner," she said, in a low tone, "if I could choose at this moment, I
would choose that Harold should never have been born."

"Nay, my dear," (Denner had only once before in her life said "my dear"
to her mistress), "it was a happiness to you then."

"I don't believe I felt the happiness then as I feel the misery now. It
is foolish to say people can't feel much when they are getting old. Not
pleasure, perhaps--little comes. But they can feel they are
forsaken--why, every fibre in me seems to be a memory that makes a pang.
They can feel that all the love in their lives is turned to hatred or
contempt."

"Not mine, madam, not mine. Let what would be I should want to live for
your sake, for fear you should have nobody to do for you as I would."

"Ah, then you are a happy woman, Denner; you have loved somebody for
forty years who is old and weak now, and can't do without you."

The sound of the dinner-gong resounded below, and Mrs. Transome let the
faithful hand fall again.



CHAPTER XL.

    "She's beautiful; and therefore to be wooed:
    She is a woman; therefore to be won."

                                               --_Henry IV._


If Denner had had a suspicion that Esther's presence at Transome Court
was not agreeable to her mistress, it was impossible to entertain such a
suspicion with regard to the other members of the family. Between her
and little Harry there was an extraordinary fascination. This creature,
with the soft, broad, brown cheeks, low forehead, great black eyes,
tiny, well-defined nose, fierce, biting tricks toward every person and
thing he disliked, and insistence on entirely occupying those he liked,
was a human specimen such as Esther had never seen before, and she
seemed to be equally original in Harry's experience. At first sight her
light complexion and her blue gown, probably also her sunny smile and
her hands stretched out toward him, seemed to make a show for him as of
a new sort of bird: he threw himself backward against his "Gappa," as he
called old Mr. Transome, and stared at this new comer with the gravity
of a wild animal. But she had no sooner sat down on the sofa in the
library than he climbed up to her, and began to treat her as an
attractive object in natural history, snatched up her curls with his
brown fist, and, discovering that there was a little ear under them,
pinched it and blew into it, pulled at her coronet of plaits, and seemed
to discover with satisfaction that it did not grow at the summit of her
head, but could be dragged down and altogether undone. Then finding that
she laughed, tossed him back, kissed, and pretended to bite him--in
fact, was an animal that understood fun--he rushed off and made Dominic
bring a small menagerie of white mice, squirrels, and birds, with Moro,
the black spaniel, to make her acquaintance. Whomsoever Harry liked, it
followed that Mr. Transome must like: "Gappa," along with Nimrod the
retriever, was part of the menagerie, and perhaps endured more than all
the other live creatures in the way of being tumbled about. Seeing that
Esther bore having her hair pulled down quite merrily, and that she was
willing to be harnessed and beaten, the old man began to confide to her,
in his feeble, smiling, and rather jerking fashion, Harry's remarkable
feats: how he had one day, when Gappy was asleep, unpinned a whole
drawerful of beetles, to see if they would fly away; then, disgusted
with their stupidity, was about to throw them all on the ground and
stamp on them, when Dominic came in and rescued these valuable
specimens; also, how he had subtly watched Mrs. Transome at the cabinet
where she kept her medicines, and, when she had left it for a little
while without locking it, had gone to the drawers and scattered half the
contents on the floor. But what old Mr. Transome thought the most
wonderful proof of an almost preternatural cleverness was, that Harry
would hardly ever talk, but preferred making inarticulate noises, or
combining syllables after a method of his own.

"He can talk well enough if he likes," said Gappa, evidently thinking
that Harry, like the monkeys, had deep reasons for his reticence.

"You mind him," he added, nodding at Esther, and shaking with low-toned
laughter. "You'll hear: he knows the right names of things well enough,
but he likes to make his own. He'll give you one all to yourself before
long."

And when Harry seemed to have made up his mind distinctly that Esther's
name was "Boo," Mr. Transome nodded at her with triumphant satisfaction,
and then told her in a low whisper, looking round cautiously beforehand,
that Harry would never call Mrs. Transome "Gamma," but always "Bite."

"It's wonderful!" said he, laughing slyly.

The old man seemed so happy now in the new world created for him by
Dominic and Harry, that he would perhaps have made a holocaust of his
flies and beetles if it had been necessary in order to keep this living,
lively kindness about him. He no longer confined himself to the library,
but shuffled along from room to room, staying and looking on at what was
going forward whenever he did not find Mrs. Transome alone.

To Esther the sight of this feeble-minded, timid, paralytic man, who had
long abdicated all mastery over the things that were his, was something
piteous. Certainly this had never been part of the furniture she had
imagined for the delightful aristocratic dwelling in her Utopia; and the
sad irony of such a lot impressed her the more because in her father she
was accustomed to age accompanied with mental acumen and activity. Her
thoughts went back in conjecture over the past life of Mr. and Mrs.
Transome, a couple so strangely different from each other. She found it
impossible to arrange their existence in the seclusion of this fine park
and in this lofty large-roomed house, where it seemed quite ridiculous
to be anything so small as a human being, without finding it rather
dull. Mr. Transome had always had his beetles, but Mrs. Transome----? it
was not easy to conceive that the husband and wife had ever been very
fond of each other.

Esther felt at her ease with Mrs. Transome: she was gratified by the
consciousness--for on this point Esther was very quick--that Mrs.
Transome admired her, and looked at her with satisfied eyes. But when
they were together in the early days of her stay, the conversation
turned chiefly on what happened in Mrs. Transome's youth--what she wore
when she was presented at Court--who were the most distinguished and
beautiful women at that time--the terrible excitement of the French
Revolution--the emigrants she had known, and the history of various
titled members of the Lingon family. And Esther, from native delicacy,
did not lead to more recent topics of a personal kind. She was copiously
instructed that the Lingon family was better than that even of the elder
Transomes, and was privileged with an explanation of the various
quarterings, which proved that the Lingon blood had been continually
enriched. Poor Mrs. Transome, with her secret bitterness and dread,
still found a flavor in this sort of pride; none the less because
certain deeds of her own life had been in fatal inconsistency with it.
Besides, genealogies entered into her stock of ideas, and her talk on
such subjects was as necessary as the notes of the linnet or the
blackbird. She had no ultimate analysis of things that went beyond blood
and family--the Herons of Fenshore or the Badgers of Hillbury. She had
never seen behind the canvas with which her life was hung. In the dim
background there was the burning mount and the tables of the law; in the
foreground there was Lady Debarry privately gossipping about her, and
Lady Wyvern finally deciding not to send her invitations to dinner.
Unlike that Semiramis who made laws to suit her practical license, she
lived, poor soul, in the midst of desecrated sanctities, and of honors
that looked tarnished in the light of monotonous and weary suns.
Glimpses of the Lingon heraldry in their freshness were interesting to
Esther; but it occurred to her that when she had known about them a good
while they would cease to be succulent themes of converse or meditation,
and Mrs. Transome, having known them all along, might have felt a vacuum
in spite of them.

Nevertheless it was entertaining at present to be seated on soft
cushions with her netting before her, while Mrs. Transome went on with
her embroidery, and told in that easy phrase, and with that refined
high-bred tone and accent which she possessed in perfection, family
stories that to Esther were like so many novelettes; what diamonds were
in the Earl's family, own cousins to Mrs. Transome; how poor Lady Sara's
husband went off into jealous madness only a month after their marriage,
and dragged that sweet blue-eyed thing by the hair; and how the
brilliant Fanny, having married a country parson, became so niggardly
that she had gone about almost begging for fresh eggs from the farmers'
wives, though she had done very well with her six sons, as there was a
bishop and no end of interest in the family, and two of them got
appointments in India.

At present Mrs. Transome did not touch at all on her own time of
privation, or her troubles with her eldest son, or on anything that lay
very close to her heart. She conversed with Esther, and acted the part
of hostess, as she performed her toilet and went on with her embroidery:
these things were to be done whether one were happy or miserable. Even
the patriarch Job, if he had been a gentleman of the modern West, would
have avoided picturesque disorder and poetical laments; and the friends
who called on him, though not less disposed than Bildad the Shuhite to
hint that their unfortunate friend was in the wrong, would have sat on
chairs and held their hats in their hands. The harder problems of our
life have changed less than our manners; we wrestle with the old
sorrows, but more decorously. Esther's inexperience prevented her from
divining much about this fine gray-haired woman, whom she could not help
perceiving to stand apart from the family group, as if there were some
cause of isolation for her both within and without. To her young heart
there was a peculiar interest in Mrs. Transome. An elderly woman, whose
beauty, position, and graceful kindness toward herself, made deference
to her spontaneous, was a new figure in Esther's experience. Her quick
light movement was always ready to anticipate what Mrs. Transome wanted;
her bright apprehension and silvery speech were always ready to cap Mrs.
Transome's narratives or instructions even about doses and liniments,
with some lively commentary. She must have behaved charmingly; for one
day when she had tripped across the room to put the screen just in the
right place, Mrs. Transome said, taking her hand, "My dear, you make me
wish I had a daughter!"

That was pleasant; and so it was to be decked by Mrs. Transome's own
hands in a set of turquoise ornaments, which became her wonderfully,
worn with a white Cashmere dress, which was also insisted on. Esther
never reflected that there was a double intention in these pretty ways
toward her; with young generosity, she was rather preoccupied by the
desire to prove that she herself entertained no low triumph in the fact
that she had rights prejudicial to this family whose life she was
learning. And besides, through all Mrs. Transome's perfect manners,
there pierced some undefinable indications of a hidden anxiety much
deeper than anything she could feel about this affair of the estate--to
which she often alluded slightly as a reason for informing Esther of
something. It was impossible to mistake her for a happy woman; and young
speculation is always stirred by discontent for which there is no
obvious cause. When we are older, we take the uneasy eyes and the bitter
lips more as a matter of course.

But Harold Transome was more communicative about recent years than his
mother was. He thought it well that Esther should know how the fortune
of his family had been drained by law expenses, owing to suits
mistakenly urged by her family; he spoke of his mother's lonely life
and pinched circumstances, of her lack of comfort in her elder son, and
of the habit she had consequently acquired of looking at the gloomy side
of things. He hinted that she had been accustomed to dictate, and that,
as he had left her when he was a boy, she had perhaps indulged the dream
that he would come back a boy. She was still sore on the point of his
politics. These things could not be helped, but so far as he could, he
wished to make the rest of her life as cheerful as possible.

Esther listened eagerly, and took these things to heart. The claim to an
inheritance, the sudden discovery of a right to a fortune held by
others, was acquiring a very distinct and unexpected meaning for her.
Every day she was getting more clearly into her imagination what it
would be to abandon her own past, and what she would enter into in
exchange for it; what it would be to disturb a long possession, and how
difficult it was to fix a point at which the disturbance might begin, so
as to be contemplated without pain.

Harold Transome's thoughts turned on the same subject, but accompanied
by a different state of feeling and with more definite resolutions. He
saw a mode of reconciling all difficulties, which looked pleasanter to
him the longer he looked at Esther. When she had been hardly a week in
the house, he had made up his mind to marry her; and it had never
entered into that mind that the decision did not rest entirely with his
inclination. It was not that he thought slightly of Esther's demands; he
saw that she would require considerable attractions to please her, and
that there were difficulties to be overcome. She was clearly a girl who
must be wooed; but Harold did not despair of presenting the requisite
attractions, and the difficulties gave more interest to the wooing than
he could have believed. When he had said that he would not marry an
Englishwoman, he had always made a mental reservation in favor of
peculiar circumstances; and now the peculiar circumstances were come. To
be deeply in love was a catastrophe not likely to happen to him; but he
was readily amorous. No woman could make him miserable, but he was
sensitive to the presence of women, and was kind to them; not with
grimaces, like a man of mere gallantry, but beamingly, easily, like a
man of genuine good-nature. And each day he was near Esther, the
solution of all difficulties by marriage became a more pleasing
prospect; though he had to confess to himself that the difficulties did
not diminish on a nearer view, in spite of the flattering sense that
she brightened at his approach.

Harold was not one to fail in a purpose for want of assiduity. After an
hour or two devoted to business in the morning, he went to look for
Esther, and if he did not find her at play with Harry and old Mr.
Transome, or chatting with his mother, he went into the drawing-room,
where she was usually either seated with a book on her knee and "making
a bed for her cheek" with one little hand, while she looked out of the
window, or else standing in front of one of the full-length family
portraits with an air of rumination. Esther found it impossible to read
in these days; her life was a book which she seemed herself to be
constructing--trying to make character clear before her, and looking
into the ways of destiny.

The active Harold had almost always something definite to propose by way
of filling the time; if it were fine, she must walk out with him and see
the grounds; and when the snow melted and it was no longer slippery, she
must get on horseback and learn to ride. If they staid indoors, she must
learn to play at billiards, or she must go over the house and see the
pictures he had had hung anew, or the costumes he had brought from the
East; or come into his study and look at the map of the estate, and hear
what--if it had remained in his family--he had intended to do in every
corner of it in order to make the most of its capabilities.

About a certain time in the morning Esther had learned to expect him.
Let every wooer make himself strongly expected; he may succeed by dint
of being absent, but hardly in the first instance. One morning Harold
found her in the drawing-room, leaning against a console-table, and
looking at the full-length portrait of a certain Lady Betty Transome,
who had lived a century and a half before, and had the usual charm of
ladies in Sir Peter Lely's style.

"Don't move, pray," he said on entering; "you look as if you were
standing for your own portrait."

"I take that as an insinuation," said Esther, laughing, and moving
toward her seat on an ottoman near the fire, "for I notice almost all
the portraits are in a conscious, affected attitude. That fair Lady
Betty looks as if she had been drilled into that posture, and had not
will enough of her own ever to move again unless she had a little push
given to her."

"She brightens up that panel well with her long satin skirt," said
Harold, as he followed Esther, "but alive I dare say she would have been
less cheerful company."

"One would certainly think that she had just been unpacked from silver
paper. Ah, how chivalrous you are!" said Esther, as Harold, kneeling on
one knee, held her silken netting-stirrup for her to put her foot
through. She had often fancied pleasant scenes in which such homage was
rendered to her, and the homage was not disagreeable now it was really
come; but, strangely enough, a little darting sensation at that moment
was accompanied by the vivid remembrance of some one who had never paid
the least attention to her foot. There had been a slight blush, such as
often came and went rapidly, and she was silent a moment. Harold
naturally believed that it was he himself who was filling the field of
vision. He would have liked to place himself on the ottoman near Esther,
and behave very much more like a lover; but he took a chair opposite to
her at a circumspect distance. He dared not do otherwise. Along with
Esther's playful charm she conveyed an impression of personal pride and
high spirit which warned Harold's acuteness that in the delicacy of
their present position he might easily make a false move and offend her.
A woman was likely to be credulous about adoration, and to find no
difficulty in referring it to her intrinsic attractions; but Esther was
too dangerously quick and critical not to discern the least awkwardness
that looked like offering her marriage as a convenient compromise for
himself. Beforehand, he might have said that such characteristics as
hers were not loveable in a woman; but, as it was, he found that the
hope of pleasing her had a piquancy quite new to him.

"I wonder," said Esther, breaking the silence in her usual light silvery
tones--"I wonder whether the women who looked in that way ever felt any
troubles. I see there are two old ones up-stairs in the billiard-room
who have only got fat; the expression of their faces is just of the same
sort."

"A woman ought never to have any trouble. There should always be a man
to guard her from it. (Harold Transome was masculine and fallible; he
had incautiously sat down this morning to pay his addresses by talk
about nothing in particular; and, clever experienced man as he was, he
fell into nonsense.)

"But suppose the man himself got into trouble--you would wish her to
mind about that. Or suppose," added Esther, suddenly looking up merrily
at Harold, "the man himself was troublesome?"

"Oh, you must not strain probabilities in that way. The generality of
men are perfect. Take me, for example."

"You are a perfect judge of sauces," said Esther, who had her triumphs
in letting Harold know that she was capable of taking notes.

"That is perfection number one. Pray go on."

"Oh, the catalogue is too long--I should be tired before I got to your
magnificent ruby ring and your gloves always of the right color."

"If you would let me tell you your perfections, I should not be tired."

"That is not complimentary; it means that the list is short."

"No; it means that the list is pleasant to dwell upon."

"Pray don't begin," said Esther, with her pretty toss of the head; "it
would be dangerous to our good understanding. The person I liked best in
the world was one who did nothing but scold me and tell me of my
faults."

When Esther began to speak, she meant to do no more than make a remote
unintelligible allusion, feeling, it must be owned, a naughty will to
flirt and be saucy, and thwart Harold's attempts to be felicitous in
compliment. But she had no sooner uttered the words than they seemed to
her like a confession. A deep flush spread itself over her face and
neck, and the sense that she was blushing went on deepening her color.
Harold felt himself unpleasantly illuminated as to a possibility that
had never yet occurred to him. His surprise made an uncomfortable pause,
in which Esther had time to feel much vexation.

"You speak in the past tense," said Harold, at last; "yet I am rather
envious of that person. I shall never be able to win your regard in the
same way. Is it anyone at Treby? Because in that case I can enquire
about your faults."

"Oh, you know I have always lived among grave people," said Esther, more
able to recover herself now she was spoken to. "Before I came home to be
with my father I was nothing but a school-girl first, and then a teacher
in different stages of growth. People in those circumstances are not
usually flattered. But there are varieties in fault-finding. At our
Paris school the master I liked best was an old man who stormed at me
terribly when I read Racine, but yet showed that he was proud of me."

Esther was getting quite cool again. But Harold was not entirely
satisfied; if there was any obstacle in his way, he wished to know
exactly what it was.

"That must have been a wretched life for you at Treby," he said--"a
person of your accomplishments."

"I used to be dreadfully discontented," said Esther, much occupied with
mistakes she had made in her netting. "But I was becoming less so. I
have had time to get rather wise, you know; I am two-and-twenty."

"Yes," said Harold, rising and walking a few paces backward and forward,
"you are past your majority; you are empress of your own fortunes--and
more besides."

"Dear me," said Esther, letting her work fall, and leaning back against
the cushions; "I don't think I know very well what to do with my
empire."

"Well," said Harold, pausing in front of her, leaning one arm on the
mantelpiece, and speaking very gravely, "I hope that in any case, since
you appear to have no near relative who understands affairs, you will
confide in me, and trust me with all your intentions as if I had no
other personal concern in the matter than a regard for you. I hope you
believe me capable of acting as the guardian of your interest, even
where it turns out to be inevitably opposed to my own."

"I am sure you have given me reason to believe it," said Esther, with
seriousness, putting out her hand to Harold. She had not been left in
ignorance that he had had opportunities twice offered of stifling her
claims.

Harold raised the hand to his lips, but dared not retain it more than an
instant. Still the sweet reliance in Esther's manner made an
irresistible temptation to him. After standing still a moment or two,
while she bent over her work, he glided to the ottoman and seated
himself close by her, looking at her busy hands.

"I see you have made mistakes in your work," he said, bending still
nearer, for he saw that she was conscious, yet not angry.

"Nonsense! you know nothing about it," said Esther, laughing, and
crushing up the soft silk under her palms. "Those blunders have a design
in them."

She looked round, and saw a handsome face very near her. Harold was
looking, as he felt, thoroughly enamored of this bright woman, who was
not at all to his preconceived taste. Perhaps a touch of hypothetic
jealousy now helped to heighten the effect. But he mastered all
indiscretion, and only looked at her as he said--

"I am wondering whether you have any deep wishes and secrets that I
can't guess."

"Pray don't speak of my wishes," said Esther, quite overmastered by this
new and apparently involuntary manifestation in Harold; "I could not
possibly tell you one at this moment--I think I shall never find them
out again. Oh, yes," she said, abruptly, struggling to relieve herself
from the oppression of unintelligible feelings--"I do know one wish
distinctly. I want to go and see my father. He writes me word that all
is well with him, but still I want to see him."

"You shall be driven there when you like."

"May I go now--I mean as soon as it is convenient?" said Esther, rising.

"I will give the order immediately, if you wish it," said Harold,
understanding that the audience was broken up.



CHAPTER XLI.

    He rates me as the merchant does the wares
    He will not purchase--"quality not high
    'Twill lose its color opened to the sun,
    Has no aroma, and, in fine, is naught--
    I barter not for such commodities--
    There is no ratio betwixt sands and gems."
    'Tis wicked judgment! for the soul can grow,
    As embryos, that live and move but blindly,
    Burst from the dark, emerge, regenerate,
    And lead a life of vision and of choice.


Esther did not take the carriage into Malthouse Lane, but left it to
wait for her outside the town; and when she entered the house she put
her finger on her lip to Lyddy and ran lightly up-stairs. She wished to
surprise her father by this visit, and she succeeded. The little
minister was just then almost surrounded by a wall of books, with merely
his head peeping above them, being much embarrassed to find a substitute
for tables and desks on which to arrange the volumes he kept open for
reference. He was absorbed in mastering all those painstaking
interpretations of the Book of Daniel, which are by this time well gone
to the limbo of mistaken criticism; and Esther, as she opened the door
softly, heard him rehearsing aloud a passage in which he declared, with
some parenthetic provisoes, that he conceived not how a perverse
ingenuity could blunt the edge of prophetic explicitness, or how an open
mind could fail to see in the chronology of "the little horn" the
resplendent lamp of an inspired symbol searching out the germinal growth
of an anti-Christian power.

"You will not like me to interrupt you, father?" said Esther, slyly.

"Ah, my beloved child!" he exclaimed, upsetting a pile of books, and
thus unintentionally making a convenient breach in his wall, through
which Esther could get up to him and kiss him. "Thy appearing is as a
joy despaired of. I had thought of thee as the blinded think of the
daylight--which indeed is a thing to rejoice in, like all other good,
though we see it not nigh."

"Are you sure you have been as well and comfortable as you said you were
in your letters?" said Esther, seating herself close in front of her
father and laying her hand on his shoulder.

"I wrote truly, my dear, according to my knowledge at the time. But to
an old memory like mine the present days are but as a little water
poured on the deep. It seems now that all has been as usual, except my
studies, which have gone somewhat curiously into prophetic history. But
I fear you will rebuke me for my negligent apparel," said the little
man, feeling in front of Esther's brightness like a bat overtaken by the
morning.

"That is Lyddy's fault, who sits crying over her want of Christian
assurance instead of brushing your clothes and putting out your clean
cravat. She is always saying her righteousness is filthy rags, and
really I don't think that is a very strong expression for it. I'm sure
it is dusty clothes and furniture."

"Nay, my dear, your playfulness glances too severely on our faithful
Lyddy. Doubtless I am myself deficient, in that I do not aid her infirm
memory by admonition. But now tell me aught that you have left untold
about yourself. Your heart has gone out somewhat toward this family--the
old man and the child, whom I had not reckoned of?"

"Yes, father. It is more and more difficult to me to see how I can make
up my mind to disturb these people at all."

"Something should doubtless be devised to lighten the loss and the
change to the aged father and mother. I would have you in any case seek
to temper a vicissitude, which is nevertheless a providential
arrangement not to be wholly set aside."

"Do you think, father--do you feel assured that a case of inheritance
like this of mine is a sort of providential arrangement that makes a
command?"

"I have so held it," said Mr. Lyon, solemnly; "in all my meditations I
have so held it. For you have to consider, my dear, that you have been
led by a peculiar path, and into experience which is not ordinarily the
lot of those who are seated in high places, and what I have hinted to
you already in my letters on this head, I shall wish on a future
opportunity to enter into more at large."

Esther was uneasily silent. On this great question of her lot she saw
doubts and difficulties, in which it seemed as if her father could not
help her. There was no illumination for her in this theory of
providential arrangement. She said suddenly (what she had not thought of
at all suddenly)--

"Have you been again to see Felix Holt, father? You have not mentioned
him in your letters."

"I have been since I last wrote, my dear, and I took his mother with me,
who, I fear, made the time heavy to him with her plaints. But afterward
I carried her away to the house of a brother minister at Loamford, and
returned to Felix, and then we had much discourse."

"Did you tell him of everything that has happened--I mean about
me--about the Transomes?"

"Assuredly I told him, and he listened as one astonished. For he had
much to hear, knowing naught of your birth, and that you had any other
father than Rufus Lyon. 'Tis a narrative I trust I shall not be called
on to give to others; but I was not without satisfaction in unfolding
the truth to this young man, who hath wrought himself into my affection
strangely--I would fain hope for ends that will be a visible good in his
less way-worn life, when mine shall be no longer."

"And you told him how the Transomes had come, and that I was staying at
Transome Court?"

"Yes, I told these things with some particularity, as is my wont
concerning what hath imprinted itself on my mind."

"What did Felix say?"

"Truly, my dear, nothing desirable to recite," said Mr. Lyon, rubbing
his hand over his brow.

"Dear father, he did say something, and you always remember what people
say. Pray tell me; I want to know."

"It was a hasty remark, and rather escaped him than was consciously
framed. He said, 'Then she will marry Transome; that is what Transome
means.'"

"That was all?" said Esther, turning rather pale, and biting her lip
with the determination that the tears should not start.

"Yes, we did not go further into that branch of the subject. I apprehend
there is no warrant for his seeming prognostic, and I should not be
without disquiet if I thought otherwise. For I confess that in your
accession to this great position and property, I contemplate with
hopeful satisfaction your remaining attached to that body of
congregational Dissent, which, as I hold, hath retained most of pure and
primitive discipline. Your education and peculiar history would thus be
seen to have coincided with a long train of events in making this family
property a means of honoring and illustrating a purer form of
Christianity than that which hath unhappily obtained the pre-eminence in
this land. I speak, my child, as you know, always in the hope that you
will fully join our communion; and this dear wish of my heart--nay, this
urgent prayer--would seem to be frustrated by your marriage with a man,
of whom there is at least no visible indication that he would unite
himself to our body."

If Esther had been less agitated, she would hardly have helped smiling
at the picture her father's words suggested of Harold Transome "joining
the church" in Malthouse Yard. But she was too seriously preoccupied
with what Felix had said, which hurt her in a two-edged fashion that was
highly significant. First, she was very angry with him for daring to say
positively whom she would marry; and secondly, she was angry at the
implication that there was from the first a cool deliberate design in
Harold Transome to marry her. Esther said to herself that she was quite
capable of discerning Harold Transome's disposition, and judging of his
conduct. She felt sure he was generous and open. It did not lower him in
her opinion that since circumstances had brought them together he
evidently admired her--was in love with her--in short, desired to marry
her; and she thought that she discerned the delicacy which hindered him
from being more explicit. There is no point on which young women are
more easily piqued than this of their sufficiency to judge the men who
make love to them. And Esther's generous nature delighted to believe in
generosity. All these thoughts were making a tumult in her mind while
her father was suggesting the radiance her lot might cast on the cause
of congregational Dissent. She heard what he said, and remembered it
afterward, but she made no reply at present, and chose rather to start
up in search of a brush--an action which would seem to her father quite
a usual sequence with her. It served the purpose of diverting him from a
lengthy subject.

"Have you yet spoken with Mr. Transome concerning Mrs. Holt, my dear?"
he said, as Esther was moving about the room. "I hinted to him that you
would best decide how assistance should be tendered to her."

"No, father, we have not approached the subject. Mr. Transome may have
forgotten it, and, for several reasons, I would rather not talk of
this--of money matters to him at present. There is money due to me from
the Lukyns and the Pendrells."

"They have paid it," said Mr. Lyon, opening his desk. "I have it here
ready to deliver to you."

"Keep it, father, and pay Mrs. Holt's rent with it, and do anything else
that is wanted for her. We must consider everything temporary now," said
Esther, enveloping her father in a towel, and beginning to brush his
auburn fringe of hair, while he shut his eyes in preparation for this
pleasant passivity. "Everything is uncertain--what may become of
Felix--what may become of us all. Oh, dear!" she went on, changing
suddenly to laughing merriment, "I am beginning to talk like Lyddy, I
think."

"Truly," said Mr. Lyon, smiling, "the uncertainty of things is a text
rather too wide and obvious for fruitful application; and to discourse
of it is, as one may say, to bottle up the air, and make a present of it
to those who are already standing out of doors."

"Do you think," said Esther, in the course of their chat, "that the
Treby people know at all about the reasons of my being at Transome
Court?"

"I have had no sign thereof: and indeed there is no one, as it appears,
who could make the story public. The man Christian is away in London
with Mr. Debarry, Parliament now beginning; and Mr. Jermyn would
doubtless respect the confidence of the Transomes. I have not seen him
lately. I know nothing of his movements. And so far as my own speech is
concerned, and my strict command to Lyddy, I have withheld the means of
information even as to your having returned to Transome Court in the
carriage, not wishing to give any occasion to solicitous questioning
till time hath somewhat inured me. But it hath got abroad that you are
there, and is the subject of conjectures, whereof, I imagine, the chief
is, that you are gone as companion to Mistress Transome; for some of our
friends have already hinted a rebuke to me that I should permit your
taking a position so little likely to further your spiritual welfare."

"Now, father, I think I shall be obliged to run away from you, not to
keep the carriage too long," said Esther, as she finished her reforms on
the minister's toilet. "You look beautiful now, and I must give Lyddy a
little lecture before I go."

"Yes, my dear; I would not detain you, seeing that my duties demand me.
But take with you this Treatise, which I have purposely selected. It
concerns all the main questions between ourselves and the
Establishment--government, discipline, state-support. It is seasonable
that you should give a nearer attention to these polemics, lest you be
drawn aside by the fallacious association of a State Church with
elevated rank."

Esther chose to take the volume submissively, rather than to adopt the
ungraceful sincerity of saying that she was unable at present to give
her mind to the original functions of a bishop or the comparative merit
of Endowments and Voluntaryism. But she did not run her eyes over the
pages during her solitary drive to get a foretaste of the argument, for
she was entirely occupied with Felix Holt's prophecy that she would
marry Harold Transome.



CHAPTER XLII.

    Thou sayst it, and not I; for thou hast done
    The ugly deed that made these ugly words.

                                     --SOPHOCLES: _Electra_.

                       Yea, it becomes a man
    To cherish memory, where he had delight.
    For kindness is the natural birth of kindness.
    Whose soul records not the great debt of joy,
    Is stamped for ever an ignoble man.

                                        --SOPHOCLES: _Ajax_.


It so happened that, on the morning of the day when Esther went to see
her father, Jermyn had not yet heard of her presence at Transome Court.
One fact conducing to keep him in this ignorance was, that some days
after his critical interview with Harold--days during which he had been
wondering how long it would be before Harold made up his mind to
sacrifice the luxury of satisfied anger for the solid advantage of
securing fortune and position--he was peremptorily called away by
business to the south of England, and was obliged to inform Harold by
letter of his absence. He took care also to notify his return; but
Harold made no sign in reply. The days passed without bringing him any
gossip concerning Esther's visit, for such gossip was almost confined to
Mr. Lyon's congregation, her Church pupils, Miss Louisa Jermyn among
them, having been satisfied by her father's written statement that she
was gone on a visit of uncertain duration. But on this day of Esther's
call in Malthouse Yard, the Miss Jermyns in their walk saw her getting
into the Transomes' carriage, which they had previously observed to be
waiting, and which they now saw bowled along on the road toward Little
Treby. It followed that only a few hours later the news reached the
astonished ears of Matthew Jermyn.

Entirely ignorant of those converging indications and small links of
incident which had raised Christian's conjectures, and had gradually
contributed to put him in possession of the facts; ignorant too of some
busy motives in the mind of his obliged servant Johnson; Jermyn was not
likely to see at once how the momentous information that Esther was the
surviving Bycliffe could possibly have reached Harold. His daughters
naturally leaped, as others had done, to the conclusion that the
Transomes, seeking a governess for little Harry, had had their choice
directed to Esther, and observed that they must have attracted her by a
high salary to induce her to take charge of such a small pupil; though
of course it was important that his English and French should be
carefully attended to from the first. Jermyn, hearing this suggestion,
was not without a momentary hope that it might be true, and that Harold
was still safely unconscious of having under the same roof with him the
legal claimant of the family estate.

But a mind in the grasp of a terrible anxiety is not credulous of easy
solutions. The one stay that bears up our hopes is sure to appear frail,
and if looked at long will seem to totter. Too much depended on that
unconsciousness of Harold's; and although Jermyn did not see the course
of things that could have disclosed and combined the various items of
knowledge which he had imagined to be his own secret, and therefore his
safeguard, he saw quite clearly what was likely to be the result of the
disclosure. Not only would Harold Transome be no longer afraid of him,
but also, by marrying Esther (and Jermyn at once felt sure of this
issue), would be triumphantly freed from any unpleasant consequences,
and could pursue much at his ease the gratification of ruining Matthew
Jermyn. The prevision of an enemy's triumphant ease is in any case
sufficiently irritating to hatred, and there were reasons why it was
peculiarly exasperating here: but Jermyn had not the leisure now for
mere fruitless emotion; he had to think of a possible device which might
save him from imminent ruin--not an indefinite adversity, but a ruin in
detail, which his thoughts painted out with the sharpest, ugliest
intensity. A man of sixty, with an unsuspicious wife and daughters
capable of shrieking and fainting at a sudden revelation, and of looking
at him reproachfully in their daily misery under a shabby lot to which
he had reduced them--with a mind and with habits dried hard by the
years--with no glimpse of an endurable standing-ground except where he
could domineer and be prosperous according to the ambitions of pushing
middle-class gentility,--such a man is likely to find the prospect of
worldly ruin ghastly enough to drive him to the most uninviting means of
escape. He will probably prefer any private scorn that will save him
from public infamy, or that will leave him with money in his pocket, to
the humiliation and hardship of new servitude in old age, a shabby hat
and a melancholy hearth, where the firing must be used charily and the
women look sad. But though a man may be willing to escape through a
sewer, a sewer with an outlet into the dry air is not always at hand.
Running away, especially when spoken of as absconding, seems at a
distance to offer a good modern substitute for the right of sanctuary;
but seen closely, it is often found inconvenient and scarcely possible.

Jermyn, on thoroughly considering his position, saw that he had no very
agreeable resources at command. But he soon made up his mind what he
would do next. He wrote to Mrs. Transome requesting her to appoint an
hour in which he could see her privately: he knew she would understand
that it was to be an hour when Harold was not at home. As he sealed the
letter, he indulged a faint hope that in this interview he might be
assured of Esther's birth being unknown at Transome Court; but in the
worst case, perhaps some help might be found in Mrs. Transome. To such
uses may tender relations come when they have ceased to be tender! The
Hazaels of our world who are pushed on quickly against their
preconceived confidence in themselves to do doglike actions by the
sudden suggestion of a wicked ambition, are much fewer than those who
are led on through the years by the gradual demands of a selfishness
which has spread its fibres far and wide through the intricate vanities
and sordid cares of an everyday existence.

In consequence of that letter to Mrs. Transome, Jermyn was, two days
afterward, ushered into the smaller drawing-room at Transome Court. It
was a charming little room in its refurbished condition: it had two
pretty inlaid cabinets, great china vases with contents that sent forth
odors of paradise, groups of flowers in oval frames on the walls, and
Mrs. Transome's own portrait in the evening costume of =1800=, with a
garden in the background. That brilliant young woman looked smilingly
down on Mr. Jermyn as he passed in front of the fire; and at present
hers was the only gaze in the room. He could not help meeting the gaze
as he waited, holding his hat behind him--could not help seeing many
memories lit up by it; but the strong bent of his mind was to go on
arguing each memory into a claim, and to see in the regard others had
for him a merit of his own. There had been plenty of roads open to him
when he was a young man; perhaps if he had not allowed himself to be
determined (chiefly, of course, by the feelings of others, for of what
effect would his own feelings have been without them?) into the road he
actually took, he might have done better for himself. At any rate, he
was likely at last to get the worst of it, and it was he who had most
reason to complain. The fortunate Jason, as we know from Euripides,
piously thanked the goddess, and saw clearly that he was not at all
obliged to Medea; Jermyn was, perhaps, not aware of the precedent, but
thought out his own freedom from obligation and the indebtedness of
others toward him with a native faculty not inferior to Jason's.

Before three minutes had passed, however, as if by some sorcery, the
brilliant smiling young woman above the mantelpiece seemed to be
appearing at the doorway withered and frosted by many winters, and with
lips and eyes from which the smile had departed. Jermyn advanced, and
they shook hands, but neither of them said anything by way of greeting.
Mrs. Transome seated herself, and pointed to a chair opposite and near
her.

"Harold has gone to Loamford," she said, in a subdued tone. "You had
something particular to say to me?"

"Yes," said Jermyn, with his soft and deferential air. "The last time I
was here I could not take the opportunity of speaking to you. But I am
anxious to know whether you are aware of what has passed between me and
Harold?"

"Yes, he has told me everything."

"About his proceedings against me? and the reason he stopped them?"

"Yes: have you had notice that he has begun them again?"

"No," said Jermyn, with a very unpleasant sensation.

"Of course he will now," said Mrs. Transome. "There is no reason in his
mind why he should not."

"Has he resolved to risk the estate then?"

"He feels in no danger on that score. And if there were, the danger
doesn't depend on you. The most likely thing is, that he will marry this
girl."

"He knows everything then?" said Jermyn, the expression of his face
getting clouded.

"Everything. It's of no use for you to think of mastering him: you can't
do it. I used to wish Harold to be fortunate, and he is fortunate," said
Mrs. Transome, with intense bitterness. "It's not my star that he
inherits."

"Do you know how he came by the information about this girl?"

"No; but she knew it all before we spoke to her. It's no secret."

Jermyn was confounded by this hopeless frustration to which he had no
key. Though he thought of Christian, the thought shed no light; but the
more fatal point was clear: he held no secret that could help him.

"You are aware that these chancery proceedings may ruin me?"

"He told me they would. But if you are imagining I can do anything, pray
dismiss the notion. I have told him as plainly as I dare that I wish him
to drop all public quarrel with you, and that you could make an
arrangement without scandal. I can do no more. He will not listen to me;
he doesn't mind about my feelings. He cares more for Mr. Transome than
he does for me. He will not listen to me any more than if I were an old
ballad-singer."

"It's very hard on me, I know," said Jermyn, in the tone with which a
man flings out a reproach.

"I besought you three months ago to bear anything rather than quarrel
with him."

"I have not quarrelled with him. It is he who has been always seeking a
quarrel with me. I have borne a great deal--more than any one else
would. He set his teeth against me from the first."

"He saw things that annoyed him; and men are not like women," said Mrs.
Transome. There was bitter innuendo in that truism.

"It's very hard on me--I know that," said Jermyn, with an
intensification of his previous tone, rising and walking a step or two,
then turning and laying his hand on the back of the chair. "Of course
the law in this case can't in the least represent the justice of the
matter. I made a good many sacrifices in times past. I gave up a great
deal of fine business for the sake of attending to the family affairs,
and in that lawsuit they would have gone to rack and ruin if it hadn't
been for me."

He moved away again, laid down his hat, which he had been previously
holding, and thrust his hands into his pockets as he returned. Mrs.
Transome sat motionless as marble, and almost as pale. Her hands lay
crossed on her knees. This man, young, slim, and graceful, with a
selfishness which then took the form of homage to her, had at one time
kneeled to her and kissed those hands fervently, and she had thought
there was a poetry in such passion beyond any to be found in everyday
domesticity.

"I stretched my conscience a good deal in that affair of Bycliffe, as
you know perfectly well. I told you everything at the time. I told you I
was very uneasy about those witnesses, and about getting him thrown into
prison. I know it's the blackest thing anybody could charge me with, if
they knew my life from beginning to end; and I should never have done
it, if I had not been under an infatuation such as makes a man do
anything. What did it signify to me about the loss of the lawsuit? I was
a young bachelor--I had the world before me."

"Yes," said Mrs. Transome, in a low tone. "It was a pity you didn't make
another choice."

"What would have become of you?" said Jermyn, carried along a climax,
like other self-justifiers. "I had to think of you. You would not have
liked me to make another choice then."

"Clearly," said Mrs. Transome, with concentrated bitterness, but still
quietly; "the greater mistake was mine."

Egoism is usually stupid in a dialogue; but Jermyn's did not make him so
stupid that he did not feel the edge of Mrs. Transome's words. They
increased his irritation.

"I hardly see that," he replied, with a slight laugh of scorn. "You had
an estate and a position to save, to go no farther. I remember very well
what you said to me--'A clever lawyer can do anything if he has the
will; if it's impossible, he will make it possible. And the property is
sure to be Harold's some day.' He was a baby then."

"I remember most things a little too well; you had better say at once
what is your object in recalling them."

"An object that is nothing more than justice. With the relation I stood
in, it was not likely I should think myself bound by all the forms that
are made to bind strangers. I had often immense trouble to raise the
money necessary to pay off debts and carry on the affairs; and, as I
said before, I had given up other lines of advancement which would have
been open to me if I had not stayed in this neighborhood at a critical
time when I was fresh to the world. Anybody who knew the whole
circumstances would say that my being hunted and run down on the score
of my past transactions with regard to the family affairs, is an
abominably unjust and unnatural thing."

Jermyn paused a moment, and then added, "At my time of life----and with
a family about me----and after what has passed----I should have thought
there was nothing you would care more to prevent."

"I do care. It makes me miserable. That is the extent of my power--to
feel miserable."

"No, it is not the extent of your power. You could save me if you would.
It is not to be supposed that Harold would go on against me--if he knew
the whole truth."

Jermyn had sat down before he uttered the last words. He had lowered his
voice slightly. He had the air of one who thought that he had prepared
the way for an understanding. That a man with so much sharpness, with so
much suavity at command--a man who piqued himself on his persuasiveness
toward women--should behave just as Jermyn did on this occasion, would
be surprising but for the constant experience that temper and selfish
insensibility will defeat excellent gifts--will make a sensible person
shout when shouting is out of place, and will make a polished man rude
when his polish might be of eminent use to him.

As Jermyn, sitting down and leaning forward with an elbow on his knee,
uttered his last words--"if he knew the whole truth"--a slight shock
seemed to pass through Mrs. Transome's hitherto motionless body,
followed by a sudden light in her eyes, as in an animal's about to
spring.

"And you expect me to tell him?" she said, not loudly, but yet with a
clear metallic ring in her voice.

"Would it not be right for him to know?" said Jermyn, in a more bland
and persuasive tone than he had yet used.

Perhaps some of the most terrible irony of the human lot is this of a
deep truth coming to be uttered by lips that have no right to it.

"I will never tell him!" said Mrs. Transome, starting up, her whole
frame thrilled with a passion that seemed almost to make her young
again. Her hands hung beside her clenched tightly, her eyes and lips
lost the helpless repressed bitterness of discontent, and seemed
suddenly fed with energy. "You reckon up your sacrifices for me: you
have kept a good account of them, and it is needful: they are some of
them what no one else could guess or find out. But you made your
sacrifices when they seemed pleasant to you; when you told me they were
your happiness; when you told me that it was I who stooped, and I who
bestowed favors."

Jermyn rose too, and laid his hand on the back of the chair. He had
grown visibly paler, but seemed about to speak.

"Don't speak!" Mrs. Transome said peremptorily. "Don't open your lips
again. You have said enough; I will speak now. I have made sacrifices
too, but it was when I knew that they were not my happiness. It was
after I saw that I had stooped--after I saw that your tenderness had
turned into calculation--after I saw that you cared for yourself only,
and not for me. I heard your explanations--of your duty in life--of our
mutual reputation--of a virtuous young lady attached to you. I bore it;
I let everything go; I shut my eyes: I might almost have let myself
starve, rather than have scenes of quarrel with the man I had loved, in
which I must accuse him of turning my love into a good bargain." There
was a slight tremor in Mrs. Transome's voice in the last words, and for
a moment she paused: but when she spoke again it seemed as if the tremor
had frozen into a cutting icicle. "I suppose if a lover picked one's
pocket, there's no woman would like to own it. I don't say I was not
afraid of you: I was afraid of you, and I know now I was right."

"Mrs. Transome," said Jermyn, white to the lips, "it is needless to say
more. I withdraw any words that have offended you."

"You can't withdraw them. Can a man apologize for being a dastard?--And
I have caused you to strain your conscience, have I?--it is I who have
sullied your purity? I should think the demons have more honor--they are
not so impudent to one another. I would not lose the misery of being a
woman, now I see what can be the baseness of a man. One must be a
man--first to tell a woman that her love has made her your debtor, and
then ask her to pay you by breaking the last poor threads between her
and her son."

"I do not ask it," said Jermyn, with a certain asperity. He was
beginning to find this intolerable. The mere brute strength of a
masculine creature rebelled. He felt almost inclined to throttle the
voice out of this woman.

"You do ask it: it is what you would like. I have had a terror on me
lest evil should happen to you. From the first, after Harold came home,
I had a terrible dread. It seemed as if murder might come between you--I
didn't know what. I felt the horror of his not knowing the truth. I
might have been dragged at last, by my own feeling--by my own memory--to
tell him all, and make him as well as myself miserable, to save you."

Again there was a slight tremor, as if at the remembrance of womanly
tenderness and pity. But immediately she launched forth again.

"But now you have asked me, I will never tell him! Be ruined--no--do
something more dastardly to save yourself. If I sinned, my judgment went
beforehand--that I should sin for a man like you."

Swiftly upon those last words Mrs. Transome passed out of the room. The
softly padded door closed behind her making no noise, and Jermyn found
himself alone.

For a brief space he stood still. Human beings in moments of passionate
reproach and denunciation, especially when their anger is on their own
account, are never so wholly in the right that the person who has to
wince cannot possibly protest against some unreasonableness or
unfairness in their outburst. And if Jermyn had been capable of feeling
that he had thoroughly merited this infliction, he would not have
uttered the words that drew it down on him. Men do not become penitent
and learn to abhor themselves by having their backs cut open with the
lash; rather, they learn to abhor the lash. What Jermyn felt about Mrs.
Transome when she disappeared was, that she was a furious woman--who
would not do what he wanted her to do. And he was supported as to his
justifiableness by the inward repetition of what he had already said to
her; it was right that Harold should know the truth. He did not take
into account (how should he?) the exasperation and loathing excited by
his daring to urge the plea of right. A man who had stolen the pyx, and
got frightened when justice was at his heels, might feel the sort of
penitence which would induce him to run back in the dark and lay the pyx
where the sexton might find it; but if in doing so he whispered to the
Blessed Virgin that he was moved by considering the sacredness of all
property, and the peculiar sacredness of the pyx, it is not to be
believed that she would like him the better for it. Indeed, one often
seems to see why the saints should prefer candles to words, especially
from penitents whose skin is in danger. Some salt of generosity would
have made Jermyn conscious that he had lost the citizenship which
authorized him to plead the right; still more, that his self-vindication
to Mrs. Transome would be like the exhibition of a brand-mark, and only
show that he was shame-proof. There is heroism even in the circles of
hell for fellow-sinners who cling to each other in the fiery whirlwind
and never recriminate. But these things, which are easy to discern when
they are painted for us on the large canvas of poetic story, become
confused and obscure even for well-read gentlemen when their affection
for themselves is alarmed by pressing details of actual experience. If
their comparison of instances is active at such times, it is chiefly in
showing them that their own case has subtle distinctions from all other
cases, which should free them from unmitigated condemnation.

And it was in this way with Matthew Jermyn. So many things were more
distinctly visible to him, and touched him more acutely, than the effect
of his acts or words on Mrs. Transome's feelings! In fact--he asked,
with a touch of something that makes us all akin--was it not
preposterous, this excess of feeling on points which he himself did not
find powerfully moving? She had treated him most unreasonably. It would
have been right for her to do what he had--not asked, but only hinted at
in a mild and interrogatory manner. But the clearest and most unpleasant
result of the interview was, that this right thing which he desired so
much would certainly not be done for him by Mrs. Transome.

As he was moving his arm from the chair-back, and turning to take his
hat, there was a boisterous noise in the entrance-hall; the door of the
drawing-room, which had closed without latching, was pushed open, and
old Mr. Transome appeared with a face of feeble delight, playing horse
to little Harry, who roared and flogged behind him, while Moro yapped in
a puppy voice at their heels. But when Mr. Transome saw Jermyn in the
room he stood still in the doorway, as if he did not know whether
entrance was permissible. The majority of his thoughts were but ravelled
threads of the past. The attorney came forward to shake hands with due
politeness, but the old man said, with a bewildered look, and in a
hesitating way--

"Mr. Jermyn?--why--why--where is Mrs. Transome?"

Jermyn smiled his way out past the unexpected group; and little Harry,
thinking he had an eligible opportunity, turned round to give a parting
stroke on the stranger's coat-tails.



CHAPTER XLIII.

    Whichever way my days decline,
      I felt and feel, though left alone,
      His being working in mine own,
    The footsteps of his life in mine.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Dear friend, far off, my lost desire
      So far, so near, in woe and weal;
      Oh, loved the most when most I feel
    There is a lower and a higher!

                                  --TENNYSON: _In Memoriam_.


After that morning on which Esther found herself reddened and confused
by the sense of having made a distant allusion to Felix Holt, she felt
it impossible that she should even, as she had sometimes intended, speak
of him explicitly to Harold, in order to discuss probabilities as to the
issue of his trial. She was certain she could not do it without
betraying emotion, and there were very complex reasons in Esther's mind
why she could not bear that Harold should detect her sensibility on this
subject. It was not only all the fibres of maidenly pride and reserve,
of a bashfulness undefinably peculiar toward this man, who, while much
older than herself, and bearing the stamp of an experience quite hidden
from her imagination, was taking strongly the aspect of a lover--it was
not only this exquisite kind of shame which was at work within her:
there was another sort of susceptibility in Esther, which her present
circumstances tended to encourage, though she had come to regard it as
not at all lofty, but rather as something which condemned her to
littleness in comparison with a mind she had learned to venerate. She
knew quite well that, to Harold Transome, Felix Holt was one of the
common people who could come into question in no other than a public
light. She had a native capability for discerning that the sense of
ranks and degrees has its repulsions corresponding to the repulsions
dependent on difference of race and color; and she remembered her own
impressions too well not to foresee that it would come on Harold
Transome as a shock, if he suspected there had been any love-passages
between her and this young man, who to him was of course no more than
any other intelligent member of the working class. "To him," said Esther
to herself, with a reaction of her newer, better pride, "who has not had
the sort of intercourse in which Felix Holt's cultured nature would have
asserted its superiority." And in her fluctuations on this matter, she
found herself mentally protesting that, whatever Harold might think,
there was a light in which he was vulgar compared with Felix. Felix had
ideas and motives which she did not believe Harold could understand.
More than all, there was this test: she herself had no sense of
inferiority and just subjection when she was with Harold Transome; there
were even points in him for which she felt a touch, not of anger, but of
playful scorn; whereas with Felix she had always a sense of dependence
and possible illumination. In those large, grave, candid gray eyes of
his, love seemed something that belonged to the high enthusiasm of life,
such as now might be forever shut out from her.

All the same, her vanity winced at the idea that Harold should discern
what, from his point of view, would seem like a degradation of her taste
and refinement. She could not help being gratified by all the
manifestations from those around her that she was thought thoroughly
fitted for a high position--could not help enjoying, with more or less
keenness, a rehearsal of that demeanor amongst luxuries and dignities
which had often been a part of her day-dreams, and the rehearsal
included the reception of more and more emphatic attentions from Harold,
and of an effusiveness in his manners, which, in proportion as it would
have been offensive if it had appeared earlier, became flattering as the
effect of a growing acquaintance and daily contact. It comes in so many
forms in this life of ours--the knowledge that there is something
sweetest and noblest of which we despair, and the sense of something
present that solicits us with an immediate and easy indulgence. And
there is a pernicious falsity in the pretence that a woman's love lies
above the range of such temptations.

Day after day Esther had an arm offered her, had very beaming looks upon
her, had opportunities for a great deal of light, airy talk, in which
she knew herself to be charming, and had the attractive interest of
noticing Harold's practical cleverness--the masculine ease with which he
governed everybody and administered everything about him, without the
least harshness, and with a facile good-nature which yet was not weak.
In the background, too, there was the ever-present consideration, that
if Harold Transome wished to marry her, and she accepted him, the
problem of her lot would be more easily solved than in any other way. It
was difficult, by any theory of Providence, or consideration of results,
to see a course which she could call duty: if something would come and
urge itself strongly as pleasure, and save her from the effort to find a
clue of principle amid the labyrinthine confusions of right and
possession, the promise could not but seem alluring. And yet, this life
at Transome Court was _not_ the life of her day-dreams: there was
dullness already in its ease, and in the absence of high demand; and
there was a vague consciousness that the love of this not unfascinating
man who hovered about her gave an air of moral mediocrity to all her
prospects. She would not have been able perhaps to define this
impression; but somehow or other by this elevation of fortune it seemed
that the higher ambition which had begun to spring in her was forever
nullified. All life seemed cheapened; as it might seem to a young
student who, having believed that to gain a certain degree he must write
a thesis in which he would bring his powers to bear with memorable
effect, suddenly ascertained that no thesis was expected, but the sum
(in English money) of twenty-seven pounds ten shillings and sixpence.

After all, she was a woman, and could not make her own lot. As she had
once said to Felix, "A woman must choose meaner things, because only
meaner things are offered to her." Her lot is made for her by the love
she accepts. And Esther began to think that her lot was being made for
her by the love that was surrounding her with the influence of a garden
on a summer morning.

Harold, on his side, was conscious that the interest of his wooing was
not standing still. He was beginning to think it a conquest, in which it
would be disappointing to fail, even if this fair nymph had no claim to
the estate. He would have liked--and yet he would not have liked--that
just a slight shadow of doubt as to his success should be removed. There
was something about Esther that he did not altogether understand. She
was clearly a woman that could be governed: she was too charming for him
to fear that she would ever be obstinate or interfering. Yet there was a
lightning that shot out of her now and then, which seemed the sign of a
dangerous judgment; as if she inwardly saw something more admirable than
Harold Transome. Now, to be perfectly charming, a woman should not see
this.

One fine February day, when already the golden and purple crocuses were
out on the terrace--one of those flattering days which sometimes precede
the north-east winds of March, and make believe that the coming spring
will be enjoyable--a very striking group, of whom Esther and Harold made
a part, came out at midday to walk upon the gravel at Transome Court.
They did not, as usual, go toward the pleasure grounds on the eastern
side, because Mr. Lingon, who was one of them, was going home, and his
road lay through the stone gateway into the park.

Uncle Lingon, who disliked painful confidences, and preferred knowing
"no mischief of anybody," had not objected to be let into the important
secret about Esther, and was sure at once that the whole affair, instead
of being a misfortune, was a piece of excellent luck. For himself, he
did not profess to be a judge of women, but she seemed to have all the
"points," and to carry herself as well as Arabella did, which was saying
a good deal. Honest Jack Lingon's first impressions quickly became
traditions, which no subsequent evidence could disturb. He was fond of
his sister, and seemed never to be conscious of any change for the worse
in her since their early time. He considered that man a beast who said
anything unpleasant about the persons to whom he was attached. It was
not that he winked; his wide-open eyes saw nothing but what his easy
disposition inclined him to see. Harold was a good fellow, a clever
chap; and Esther's peculiar fitness for him, under all the
circumstances, was extraordinary; it reminded him of something in the
classics, though he couldn't think exactly what--in fact, a memory was a
nasty uneasy thing. Esther was always glad when the old rector came.
With an odd contrariety to her former niceties she liked his rough
attire and careless frank speech; they were something not point device
that seemed to connect the life of Transome Court with that rougher,
commoner world where her home had been.

She and Harold were walking a little in advance of the rest of the
party, who were retarded by various causes. Old Mr. Transome, wrapped in
a cloth cloak trimmed with sable, and with a soft warm cap also trimmed
with fur on his head, had a shuffling uncertain walk. Little Harry was
dragging a toy vehicle, on the seat of which he had insisted on tying
Moro with a piece of scarlet drapery round him, making him look like a
barbaric prince in a chariot. Moro, having little imagination, objected
to this, and barked with feeble snappishness as the tyrannous lad ran
forward, then whirled the chariot round, and ran back to "Gappa," then
came to a dead stop, which overset the chariot, that he might watch
Uncle Lingon's water-spaniel run for the hurled stick and bring it in
his mouth. Nimrod kept close to his old master's legs, glancing with
much indifference at this youthful ardor about sticks--he had "gone
through all that"; and Dominic walked by, looking on blandly, and
taking care both of young and old. Mrs. Transome was not there.

[Illustration: ESTHER LYON AND HAROLD TRANSOME.]

Looking back and seeing that they were a good deal in advance of the
rest, Esther and Harold paused.

"What do you think about thinning the trees over there?" said Harold,
pointing with his stick. "I have a bit of a notion that if they were
divided into clumps so as to show the oaks beyond it would be a great
improvement. It would give an idea of extent that is lost now. And there
might be some very pretty clumps got out of those mixed trees. What do
you think?"

"I should think it would be an improvement. One likes a 'beyond'
everywhere. But I never heard you express yourself so dubiously," said
Esther, looking at him rather archly: "you generally see things so
clearly, and are so convinced, that I shall begin to feel quite
tottering if I find you in uncertainty. Pray don't begin to be doubtful;
it is infectious."

"You think me a great deal too sure--too confident?" said Harold.

"Not at all. It is an immense advantage to know your own will, when you
always mean to have it."

"But suppose I couldn't get it, in spite of meaning?" said Harold, with
a beaming inquiry in his eyes.

"Oh, then," said Esther, turning her head aside, carelessly, as if she
were considering the distant birch-stems, "you would bear it quite
easily, as you did your not getting into Parliament. You would know you
could get it another time--or get something else as good."

"The fact is," said Harold, moving on a little, as if he did not want to
be quite overtaken by the others, "you consider me a fat, fatuous,
self-satisfied fellow."

"Oh, there are degrees," said Esther, with a silvery laugh; "you have
just as much of those qualities as is becoming. There are different
styles. You are perfect in your own."

"But you prefer another style, I suspect. A more submissive, tearful,
devout worshipper, who would offer his incense with more trembling."

"You are quite mistaken," said Esther, still lightly. "I find I am very
wayward. When anything is offered to me, it seems that I prize it less,
and don't want to have it."

Here was a very baulking answer, but in spite of it Harold could not
help believing that Esther was very far from objecting to the sort of
incense he had been offering just then.

"I have often read that that is in human nature," she went on, "yet it
takes me by surprise in myself. I suppose," she added, smiling, "I
didn't think of myself as human nature."

"I don't confess to the same waywardness," said Harold. "I am very fond
of things that I can get. And I never longed much for anything out of my
reach. Whatever I feel sure of getting I like all the better. I think
half those priggish maxims about human nature in the lump are no more to
be relied on than universal remedies. There are different sorts of human
nature. Some are given to discontent and longing, others to securing and
enjoying. And let me tell you, the discontented longing style is
unpleasant to live with."

Harold nodded with a meaning smile at Esther.

"Oh, I assure you I have abjured all admiration for it," she said,
smiling up at him in return.

She was remembering the schooling Felix had given her about her Byronic
heroes, and was inwardly adding a third sort of human nature to those
varieties which Harold had mentioned. He naturally supposed that he
might take the abjuration to be entirely in his own favor. And his face
did look very pleasant; she could not help liking him, although he was
certainly too particular about sauces, gravies, and wines, and had a way
of virtually measuring the value of everything by the contribution it
made to his own pleasure. His very good-nature was unsympathetic; it
never came from any thorough understanding or deep respect for what was
in the mind of the person he obliged or indulged; it was like his
kindness to his mother--an arrangement of his for the happiness of
others, which, if they were sensible, ought to succeed. And an
inevitable comparison which haunted her, showed her the same quality in
his political views: the utmost enjoyment of his own advantages was the
solvent that blended pride in his family and position, with the adhesion
to changes that were to obliterate tradition and melt down enchased gold
heirlooms into plating for the egg-spoons of "the people." It is
terrible--the keen bright eye of a woman when it has once been turned
with admiration on what is severely true; but then, the severely true
rarely comes within its range of vision. Esther had had an unusual
illumination; Harold did not know how, but he discerned enough of the
effect to make him more cautious than he had ever been in his life
before. That caution would have prevented him just then from following
up the question as to the style of person Esther would think pleasant to
live with, even if Uncle Lingon had not joined them, as he did, to talk
about soughing tiles, saying presently that he should turn across the
grass and get on to the Home Farm, to have a look at the improvements
that Harold was making with such racing speed.

"But you know, lad," said the rector, as they paused at the expected
parting, "you can't do everything in a hurry. The wheat must have time
to grow, even when you've reformed all us old Tories off the face of the
ground. Dash it! now the election's over, I'm an old Tory again. You
see, Harold, a Radical won't do for the county. At another election, you
must be on the look-out for a borough where they want a bit of blood. I
should have liked you uncommonly to stand for the county; and a Radical
of good family squares well enough with a new-fashioned Tory like young
Debarry; but you see, these riots--it's been a nasty business. I shall
have my hair combed at the sessions for a year to come. But, heyday!
What dame is this, with a small boy?--not one of my parishioners?"

Harold and Esther turned, and saw an elderly woman advancing with a tiny
red-haired boy, scantily attired as to his jacket, which merged into a
small sparrow-tail a little higher than his waist, but muffled as to his
throat with a blue woollen comforter. Esther recognized the pair too
well, and felt very uncomfortable. We are so pitiably in subjection to
all sorts of vanity--even the very vanities we are practically
renouncing! And in spite of the almost solemn memories connected with
Mrs. Holt, Esther's first shudder was raised by the idea of what things
this woman would say, and by the mortification of having Felix in any
way represented by his mother.

As Mrs. Holt advanced into closer observation, it became more evident
that she was attired with a view not to charm the eye, but rather to
afflict it with all that expression of woe which belongs to very rusty
bombazine and the limpest state of false hair. Still, she was not a
woman to lose the sense of her own value, or become abject in her
manners under any circumstances of depression; and she had a peculiar
sense on the present occasion that she was justly relying on the force
of her own character and judgment, in independence of anything that Mr.
Lyon or the masterful Felix would have said, if she had thought them
worthy to know of her undertaking. She courtesied once, as if to the
entire group, now including even the dogs, who showed various degrees of
curiosity, especially as to what kind of game the smaller animal Job
might prove to be after due investigation; and then she proceeded at
once toward Esther, who, in spite of her annoyance, took her arm from
Harold's, said, "How do you do, Mrs. Holt?" very kindly, and stooped to
pat little Job.

"Yes--you know him, Miss Lyon," said Mrs. Holt, in that tone which
implies that the conversation is intended for the edification of the
company generally; "you know the orphin child, as Felix brought home for
me that am his mother to take care of. And it's what I've done--nobody
more so--though it's trouble is my reward."

Esther had raised herself again, to stand in helpless endurance of
whatever might be coming. But by this time young Harry, struck even more
than the dogs by the appearance of Job Tudge, had come round dragging
his chariot, and placed himself close to the pale child, whom he
exceeded in height and breadth, as well as in depth of coloring. He
looked into Job's eyes, peeped round at the tail of his jacket and
pulled it a little, and then, taking off the tiny cloth-cap, observed
with much interest the tight red curls which had been hidden underneath
it. Job looked at his inspector with the round blue eyes of
astonishment, until Harry, purely by way of experiment, took a bon-bon
from a fantastic wallet which hung over his shoulder, and applied the
test to Job's lips. The result was satisfactory to both. Every one had
been watching this small comedy, and when Job crunched the bon-bon while
Harry looked down at him inquiringly and patted his back, there was
general laughter except on the part of Mrs. Holt, who was shaking her
head slowly, and slapping the back of her left hand with the painful
patience of a tragedian whose part is in abeyance to an ill-timed
introduction of the humorous.

"I hope Job's cough has been better lately," said Esther, in mere
uncertainty as to what it would be desirable to say or do.

"I dare say you hope so, Miss Lyon," said Mrs. Holt, looking at the
distant landscape. "I've no reason to disbelieve but what you wish well
to the child, and to Felix, and to me. I'm sure nobody has any occasion
to wish me otherways. My character will bear enquiry, and what you, as
are young, don't know, others can tell you. That was what I said to
myself when I made up my mind to come here and see you, and ask you to
get me the freedom to speak to Mr. Transome. I said, whatever Miss Lyon
may be now, in the way of being lifted up among great people, she's our
minister's daughter, and was not above coming to my house and walking
with my son Felix--though I'll not deny he made that figure on the
Lord's Day, that'll perhaps go against him with the judge, if anybody
thinks well to tell him."

Here Mrs. Holt paused a moment, as with a mind arrested by the painful
image it had called up.

Esther's face was glowing, when Harold glanced at her; and seeing this,
he was considerate enough to address Mrs. Holt instead of her.

"You are then the mother of the unfortunate young man who is in prison?"

"Indeed I am, sir," said Mrs. Holt, feeling that she was now in deep
water. "It's not likely I should claim him if he wasn't my own; though
it's not by my will, nor my advice, sir, that he ever walked; for I gave
him none but good. But if everybody's son was guided by their mothers,
the world 'ud be different; my son is not worse than many another
woman's son, and that in Treby, whatever they may say as haven't got
their sons in prison. And as to his giving up the doctoring, and then
stopping his father's medicines, I know it's bad--that I know--but it's
me has had to suffer, and it's me a king and Parliament 'ud consider, if
they meant to do the right thing, and had anybody to make it known to
'em. And as for the rioting and killing the constable--my son said most
plain to me he never meant it, and there was his bit of potato-pie for
dinner getting dry by the fire, the whole blessed time as I sat and
never knew what was coming on me. And it's my opinion as if great people
make elections to get themselves into Parliament, and there's riot and
murder to do it, they ought to see as the widow and the widow's son
doesn't suffer for it. I well know my duty: and I read my Bible; and I
know in Jude where it's been stained with the dried tulip-leaves this
many a year, as you're told not to rail at your betters if they was the
devil himself; nor will I; but this I do say, if it's three Mr.
Transomes instead of one as is listening to me, as there's them ought to
go to the king and get him to let off my son Felix."

This speech, in its chief points, had been deliberately prepared. Mrs.
Holt had set her face like a flint, to make the gentry know their duty
as she knew hers: her defiant defensive tone was due to the
consciousness, not only that she was braving a powerful audience, but
that she was daring to stand on the strong basis of her own judgment in
opposition to her son's. Her proposals had been waived off by Mr Lyon
and Felix; but she had long had the feminine conviction that if she
could "get to speak" in the right quarter, things might be different.
The daring bit of impromptu about the three Mr. Transomes was
immediately suggested by a movement of old Mr. Transome to the
foreground in a line with Mr. Lingon and Harold; his furred and unusual
costume appearing to indicate a mysterious dignity which she must hasten
to include in her appeal.

And there were reasons that none could have foreseen, which made Mrs.
Holt's remonstrance immediately effective. While old Mr. Transome
stared, very much like a waxen image in which the expression is a
failure, and the rector, accustomed to female parishioners and
complainants, looked on with a smile in his eyes, Harold said at once,
with cordial kindness--

"I think you are quite right, Mrs. Holt. And for my part, I am
determined to do my best for your son, both in the witness-box and
elsewhere. Take comfort; if it is necessary, the king shall be appealed
to. And rely upon it, I shall bear you in mind as Felix Holt's mother."

Rapid thoughts had convinced Harold that in this way he was best
commending himself to Esther.

"Well, sir," said Mrs. Holt, who was not going to pour forth
disproportionate thanks, "I am glad to hear you speak so becoming; and
if you had been the king himself, I should have made free to tell you my
opinion. For the Bible says the king's favor is toward a wise servant;
and it's reasonable to think he'd make all the more account of them as
have never been in service, or took wage, which I never did, and never
thought of my son doing; and his father left money, meaning otherways,
so as he might have been a doctor on horseback at this very minute,
instead of being in prison."

"What! was he regularly apprenticed to a doctor?" said Mr. Lingon, who
had not understood this before.

"Sir, he was, and most clever, like his father before him, only he
turned contrary. But as for harming anybody, Felix never meant to harm
anybody but himself and his mother, which he certainly did in respect of
his clothes, and taking to be a low workingman, and stopping my living
respectable, more particular by the pills, which had a sale, as you may
be sure they suited people's insides. And what folks can never have
boxes enough of to swallow, I should think you have a right to sell. And
there's many and many a text for it, as I've opened on without ever
thinking; for if it's true, 'Ask, and you shall have,' I should think
it's truer when you're willing to pay for what you have."

This was a little too much for Mr. Lingon's gravity; he exploded, and
Harold could not help following him. Mrs. Holt fixed her eyes on the
distance, and slapped the back of her left hand again; it might be that
this kind of mirth was the peculiar effect produced by forcible truth on
high and worldly people who were neither in the Independent nor the
General Baptist connection.

"I'm sure you must be tired with your long walk, and little Job too,"
said Esther, by way of breaking this awkward scene. "Aren't you, Job?"
she added, stooping to caress the child, who was timidly shrinking from
Harry's invitation to him to pull the little chariot--Harry's view being
that Job would make a good horse for him to beat, and would run faster
than Gappa.

"It's well you can feel for the orphin child, Miss Lyon," said Mrs.
Holt, choosing an indirect answer rather than to humble herself by
confessing fatigue before gentlemen who seemed to be taking her too
lightly. "I didn't believe but what you'd behave pretty, as you always
did to me, though everybody said you held yourself high. But I'm sure
you never did to Felix, for you let him sit by you at the Free School
before all the town, and him with never a bit of stock round his neck.
And it shows you saw _that_ in him worth taking notice of;--and it is
but right, if you know my words are true, as you should speak for him to
the gentlemen."

"I assure you, Mrs. Holt," said Harold, coming to the rescue--"I assure
you that enough has been said to make me use my best efforts for your
son. And now, pray, go on to the house with the little boy and take some
rest. Dominic, show Mrs. Holt the way, and ask Mrs. Hickes to make her
comfortable, and see that somebody takes her back to Treby in the
buggy."

"I will go back with Mrs. Holt," said Esther, making an effort against
herself.

"No, pray," said Harold, with that kind of entreaty which is really a
decision. "Let Mrs. Holt have time to rest. We shall have returned, and
you can see her before she goes. We will say good-by for the present,
Mrs. Holt."

The poor woman was not sorry to have the prospect of rest and food,
especially for "the orphin child," of whom she was tenderly careful.
Like many women who appear to others to have a masculine decisiveness of
tone, and to themselves to have a masculine force of mind, and who come
into severe collision with sons arrived at the masterful stage, she had
the maternal cord vibrating strongly within her toward all tiny
children. And when she saw Dominic pick up Job and hoist him on his arm
for a little while, by way of making acquaintance, she regarded him with
an approval which she had not thought it possible to extend to a
foreigner. Since Dominic was going, Harry and old Mr. Transome chose to
follow. Uncle Lingon shook hands and turned off across the grass, and
thus Esther was left alone with Harold.

But there was a new consciousness between them. Harold's quick
perception was least likely to be slow in seizing indications of
anything that might affect his position with regard to Esther. Some time
before, his jealousy had been awakened to the possibility that before
she had known him she had been deeply interested in some one else.
Jealousy of all sorts--whether for our fortune or our love--is ready at
combinations, and likely even to outstrip the fact. And Esther's renewed
confusion, united with her silence about Felix, which now first seemed
noteworthy, and with Mrs. Holt's graphic details as to her walking with
him and letting him sit by her before all the town were grounds not
merely for a suspicion, but for a conclusion in Harold's mind. The
effect of this which he at once regarded as a discovery, was rather
different from what Esther had anticipated. It seemed to him that Felix
was the least formidable person that he could have found as an object of
interest antecedent to himself. A young workman who had got himself
thrown into prison, whatever recommendations he might have had for a
girl at a romantic age in the dreariness of Dissenting society at Treby,
could hardly be considered by Harold in the light of a rival. Esther was
too clever and tasteful a woman to make a ballad heroine of herself, by
bestowing her beauty and her lands on this lowly lover. Besides, Harold
cherished the belief that, at the present time, Esther was more wisely
disposed to bestow these things on another lover in every way eligible.
But in two directions this discovery had a determining effect on him,
his curiosity was stirred to know exactly what the relation with Felix
had been, and he was solicitous that his behavior with regard to this
young man should be such as to enhance his own merit in Esther's eyes.
At the same time he was not inclined to any euphemisms that would seem
to bring Felix into the lists with himself.

Naturally when they were left alone, it was Harold who spoke first. "I
should think there's a good deal of worth in this young fellow--this
Holt, notwithstanding the mistakes he has made. A little queer and
conceited, perhaps; but that is usually the case with men of his class
when they are at all superior to their fellows."

"Felix Holt is a highly cultivated man; he is not at all conceited,"
said Esther. The different kinds of pride within her were coalescing
now. She was aware that there had been a betrayal.

"Ah?" said Harold, not quite liking the tone of this answer. "This
eccentricity is a sort of fanaticism, then?--this giving up being a
doctor on horseback, as the old woman calls it, and taking to--let me
see--watchmaking, isn't it?"

"If it is eccentricity to be very much better than other men, he is
certainly eccentric; and fanatical too, if it is fanatical to renounce
all small selfish motives for the sake of a great and unselfish one. I
never knew what nobleness of character really was before I knew Felix
Holt."

It seemed to Esther as if in the excitement of this moment, her own
words were bringing her a clearer revelation.

"God bless me!" said Harold, in a tone of surprised yet thorough belief,
and looking in Esther's face. "I wish you had talked to me about this
before."

Esther at that moment looked perfectly beautiful, with an expression
which Harold had never hitherto seen. All the confusion which had
depended on personal feeling had given way before the sense that she had
to speak the truth about the man whom she felt to be admirable.

"I think I didn't see the meaning of anything fine--I didn't even see
the value of my father's character, until I had been taught a little by
hearing what Felix Holt said, and seeing that his life was like his
words."

Harold looked and listened, and felt his slight jealousy allayed rather
than heightened. "This is not like love," he said to himself, with some
satisfaction. With all due regard to Harold Transome, he was one of
those men who are liable to make the greater mistakes about a particular
woman's feelings, because they pique themselves on a power of
interpretation derived from much experience. Experience is enlightening,
but with a difference. Experiments on live animals may go on for a long
period, and yet the fauna on which they are made may be limited. There
may be a passion in the mind of a woman which precipitates her, not
along the path of easy beguilement, but into a great leap away from it.
Harold's experience had not taught him this; and Esther's enthusiasm
about Felix Holt did not seem to him to be dangerous.

"He's quite an apostolic sort of fellow, then," was the self-quieting
answer he gave to her last words. "He didn't look like that; but I had
only a short interview with him, and I was given to understand that he
refused to see me in prison. I believe he's not very well inclined
toward me. But you saw a great deal of him, I suppose, and your
testimony to any one is enough for me," said Harold, lowering his voice
rather tenderly. "Now I know what your opinion is, I shall spare no
effort on behalf of such a young man. In fact, I had come to the same
resolution before, but your wish would make difficult things easy."

After that energetic speech of Esther's, as often happens, the tears had
just suffused her eyes. It was nothing more than might have been
expected in a tender-hearted woman, considering Felix Holt's
circumstances, and the tears only made more lovely the look with which
she met Harold's when he spoke so kindly. She felt pleased with him; she
was open to the fallacious delight of being assured that she had power
over him to make him do what she liked, and quite forgot the many
impressions which had convinced her that Harold had a padded yoke ready
for the neck of every man, woman, and child that depended on him.

After a short silence, they were getting near the stone gateway, and
Harold said, with an air of intimate consultation--

"What could we do for this young man, supposing he were let off? I shall
send a letter with fifty pounds to the old woman to-morrow. I ought to
have done it before, but it really slipped my memory, amongst the many
things that have occupied me lately. But this young man--what do you
think would be the best thing we could do for him, if he gets at large
again. He should be put in a position where his qualities could be more
telling."

Esther was recovering her liveliness a little, and was disposed to
encourage it for the sake of veiling other feelings, about which she
felt renewed reticence, now that the overpowering influence of her
enthusiasm was past. She was rather wickedly amused and scornful at
Harold's misconceptions and ill-placed intentions of patronage.

"You are hopelessly in the dark," she said, with a light laugh and toss
of her head. "What would you offer Felix Holt? a place in the Excise?
You might as well think of offering it to John the Baptist. Felix has
chosen his lot. He means always to be a poor man."

"Means? Yes," said Harold, slightly piqued, "but what a man means
usually depends on what happens. I mean to be a commoner; but a peerage
might present itself under acceptable circumstances."

"Oh, there is no sum in proportion to be done there," said Esther, again
gaily. "As you are to a peerage so is not Felix Holt to any offer of
advantage that you could imagine for him."

"You must think him fit for any position--the first in the county."

"No, I don't," said Esther, shaking her head mischievously. "I think him
too high for it."

"I see you can be ardent in your admiration."

"Yes, it is my champagne; you know I don't like the other kind."

"That would be satisfactory if one were sure of getting your
admiration," said Harold, leading her up to the terrace, and amongst the
crocuses, from whence they had a fine view of the park and river. They
stood still near the east parapet, and saw the dash of light on the
water, and the pencilled shadows of the trees on the grassy lawn.

"Would it do as well to admire you, instead of being worthy to be
admired?" said Harold, turning his eyes from that landscape to Esther's
face.

"It would be a thing to be put up with," said Esther, smiling at him
rather roguishly. "But you are not in that state of self-despair."

"Well, I am conscious of not having those severe virtues that you have
been praising."

"That is true. You are quite in another _genre_."

"A woman would not find me a tragic hero."

"Oh, no! She must dress for general comedy--such as your mother once
described to me--where the most thrilling event is the drawing of a
handsome check."

"You are a naughty fairy," said Harold, daring to press Esther's hand a
little more closely to him, and drawing her down the eastern steps into
the pleasure-ground, as if he were unwilling to give up the
conversation. "Confess that you are disgusted with my want of romance."

"I shall not confess to being disgusted. I shall ask you to confess that
you are not a romantic figure."

"I am a little too stout."

"For romance--yes. At least you must find security for not getting
stouter."

"And I don't look languishing enough?"

"Oh, yes--rather too much so--at a fine cigar."

"And I am not in danger of committing suicide?"

"No; you are a widower."

Harold did not reply immediately to this last thrust of Esther's. She
had uttered it with innocent thoughtlessness from the playful
suggestions of the moment; but it was a fact that Harold's previous
married life had entered strongly in her impressions about him. The
presence of Harry made it inevitable. Harold took this allusion of
Esther's as an indication that his quality of widower was a point that
made against him; and after a brief silence he said, in an altered, more
serious tone--

"You don't suppose, I hope, that any other woman has ever held the place
that you could hold in my life?"

Esther began to tremble a little, as she always did when the love-talk
between them seemed getting serious. She only gave the rather stumbling
answer, "How so?"

"Harry's mother had been a slave--was bought, in fact."

It was impossible for Harold to preconceive the effect this had on
Esther. His natural disqualification for judging of a girl's feelings
was heightened by the blinding effect of an exclusive object--which was
to assure her that her own place was peculiar and supreme. Hitherto
Esther's acquaintance with oriental love was derived chiefly from
Byronic poems, and this had not sufficed to adjust her mind to a new
story, where the Giaour concerned was giving her his arm. She was unable
to speak; and Harold went on--

"Though I am close on thirty-five, I never met with a woman at all like
you before. There are new eras in one's life that are equivalent to
youth--are something better than youth. I was never an aspirant till I
knew you."

Esther was still silent.

"Not that I dare to call myself that. I am not so confident a personage
as you imagine. I am necessarily in a painful position for a man who has
any feeling."

Here at last Harold had stirred the right fibre. Esther's generosity
seized at once the whole meaning implied in that last sentence. She had
a fine sensibility to the line at which flirtation must cease; and she
was now pale and shaken with feelings she had not yet defined for
herself.

"Do not let us speak of difficult things any more now," she said, with
gentle seriousness. "I am come into a new world of late, and have to
learn life all over again. Let us go in. I must see poor Mrs. Holt
again, and my little friend Job."

She paused at the glass door that opened on the terrace, and entered
there, while Harold went round to the stables.

When Esther had been up-stairs and descended again into the large
entrance-hall, she found its stony capaciousness made lively by human
figures extremely unlike the statues. Since Harry insisted on playing
with Job again, Mrs. Holt and her orphan, after dining, had just been
brought to this delightful scene for a game at hide-and-seek, and for
exhibiting the climbing powers of the two pet squirrels. Mrs. Holt sat
on a stool, in singular relief against the pedestal of the Apollo, while
Dominic and Denner (otherwise Mrs. Hickes) bore her company; Harry, in
his bright red and purple, flitted about like a great tropic bird after
the sparrow-tailed Job, who hid himself with much intelligence behind
the scagliola pillars and the pedestals; while one of the squirrels
perched itself on the head of the tallest statue, and the other was
already peeping down from among the heavy stuccoed angels on the
ceiling, near the summit of a pillar.

Mrs. Holt held on her lap a basket filled with good things for Job, and
seemed much soothed by pleasant company and excellent treatment. As
Esther, descending softly and unobserved, leaned over the stone
banisters and looked at the scene for a minute or two, she saw that Mrs.
Holt's attention, having been directed to the squirrel which had
scampered on to the head of the Silenus carrying the infant Bacchus, had
been drawn downward to the tiny babe looked at with so much affection by
the rather ugly and hairy gentleman, of whom she nevertheless spoke with
reserve as of one who possibly belonged to the Transome family.

"It's most pretty to see its little limbs, and the gentleman holding it.
I should think he was amiable by his look; but it was odd he should have
his likeness took without any clothes. Was he Transome by name?" (Mrs.
Holt suspected that there might be a mild madness in the family.)

Denner, peering and smiling quietly, was about to reply, when she was
prevented by the appearance of old Mr. Transome, who since his walk had
been having "forty winks" on the sofa in the library, and now came out
to look for Harry. He had doffed his fur cap and cloak, but in lying
down to sleep he had thrown over his shoulders a soft Oriental scarf
which Harold had given him, and this still hung over his scanty white
hair and down to his knees, held fast by his wooden-looking arms and
laxly-clasped hands, which fell in front of him.

This singular appearance of an undoubted Transome fitted exactly into
Mrs. Holt's thought at the moment. It lay in the probabilities of things
that gentry's intellects should be peculiar: since they had not to get
their own living, the good Lord might have economized in their case that
common-sense which others were so much more in need of; and in the
shuffling figure before her she saw a descendant of the gentleman who
had chosen to be represented without his clothes--all the more eccentric
where there were the means of buying the best. But these oddities "said
nothing" in great folks, who were powerful in high quarters all the
same. And Mrs. Holt rose and courtesied with a proud respect, precisely
as she would have done if Mr. Transome had looked as wise as Lord
Burleigh.

"I hope I'm in no way taking a liberty, sir," she began, while the old
gentleman looked at her with bland feebleness; "I'm not that woman to
sit anywhere out of my own home without inviting and pressing to. But I
was brought here to wait, because the little gentleman wanted to play
with the orphin child."

"Very glad, my good woman--sit down--sit down," said Mr. Transome,
nodding and smiling between his clauses. "Nice little boy. Your
grandchild?"

"Indeed, sir, no," said Mrs. Holt, continuing to stand. Quite apart from
any awe of Mr. Transome--sitting down, she felt, would be a too great
familiarity with her own pathetic importance on this extra and
unlooked-for occasion. "It's not me has any grandchild, nor ever shall
have, though most fit. But with my only son saying he'll never be
married, and in prison besides, and some saying he'll be transported,
you may see yourself--though a gentleman--as there isn't much chance of
my having grandchildren of my own. And this is old Master Tudge's
grandchild, as my own Felix took to for pity because he was sickly and
clemm'd, and I was noways against it, being of a tender heart. For I'm a
widow myself, and my son Felix, though big, is fatherless, and I know my
duty in consequence. And it's to be wished, sir, as others should know
it as are more in power and live in great houses, and can ride in a
carriage where they will. And if you're the gentleman as is the head of
everything--and it's not to be thought you'd give up to your son as a
poor widow's been forced to do--it behooves you to take the part of them
as are deserving; for the Bible says gray hairs should speak."

"Yes, yes--poor woman--what shall I say?" said old Mr. Transome, feeling
himself scolded, and, as usual, desirous of mollifying displeasure.

"Sir, I can tell you what to say fast enough; for it's what I should say
myself if I could get to speak to the king. For I've asked them that
know, and they say it's the truth, both out of the Bible, and in, as the
king can pardon anything and anybody. And judging by his countenance on
the new signs, and the talk there was a while ago about his being the
people's friend, as the minister once said it from the very pulpit--if
there's any meaning in words, he'll do the right thing by me and my son,
if he's asked proper."

"Yes--a very good man--he'll do anything right," said Mr. Transome,
whose own ideas about the king just then were somewhat misty, consisting
chiefly in broken reminiscences of George III. "I'll ask him anything
you like," he added, with a pressing desire to satisfy Mrs. Holt, who
alarmed him slightly.

"Then, sir, if you'll go in your carriage and say, this young man, Felix
Holt by name, as his father was known the country round, and his mother
most respectable--he never meant harm to anybody, and so far from bloody
murder and fighting, would part with his victual to them that needed it
more--and if you'd get other gentlemen to say the same, and if they're
not satisfied to enquire--I'll not believe but what the king 'ud let my
son out of prison. Or if it's true he must stand his trial, the king 'ud
take care no mischief happened to him. I've got my senses, and I'll
never believe as in a country where there's a God above and a king
below, the right thing can't be done if great people was willing to do
it."

Mrs. Holt, like all orators, had waxed louder and more energetic,
ceasing to propel her arguments, and being propelled by them. Poor old
Mr. Transome, getting more and more frightened at this severe-spoken
woman, who had the horrible possibility to his mind of being a novelty
that was to become permanent, seemed to be fascinated by fear, and stood
helplessly forgetful that if he liked he might turn round and walk away.

Little Harry, alive to anything that had relation to "Gappa," had paused
in his game, and discerning what he thought a hostile aspect in this
naughty black old woman, rushed toward her and proceeded first to beat
her with his mimic jockey's whip, and then, suspecting that her
bombazine was not sensitive, to set his teeth in her arm. While Dominic
rebuked him and pulled him off, Nimrod began to bark anxiously, and the
scene was become alarming even to the squirrels, which scrambled as far
off as possible.

Esther, who had been waiting for an opportunity of intervention, now
came up to Mrs. Holt to speak some soothing words; and old Mr. Transome,
seeing a sufficient screen between himself and his formidable suppliant,
at last gathered courage to turn round and shuffle away with unusual
swiftness into the library.

"Dear Mrs. Holt," said Esther, "do rest comforted. I assure you, you
have done the utmost that can be done by your words. Your visit has not
been thrown away. See how the children have enjoyed it! I saw little Job
actually laughing. I think I never saw him do more than smile before."
Then turning round to Dominic, she said, "Will the buggy come round to
this door?"

This hint was sufficient. Dominic went to see if the vehicle was ready,
and Denner, remarking that Mrs. Holt would like to mount it in the inner
court, invited her to go back into the housekeeper's room. But there was
a fresh resistance raised in Harry by the threatened departure of Job,
who had seemed an invaluable addition to the menagerie of tamed
creatures; and it was barely in time that Esther had the relief of
seeing the entrance hall cleared so as to prevent any further encounter
of Mrs. Holt with Harold, who was now coming up the flight of steps at
the entrance.



CHAPTER XLIV.

           I'm sick at heart. The eye of day,
    The insistent summer noon, seems pitiless,
    Shining in all the barren crevices
    Of weary life, leaving no shade, no dark,
    Where I may dream that hidden waters lie.


Shortly after Mrs. Holt's striking presentation of herself at Transome
Court, Esther went on a second visit to her father. The Loamford Assizes
were approaching; it was expected that in about ten days Felix Holt's
trial would come on, and some hints in her father's letters had given
Esther the impression that he was taking a melancholy view of the
result. Harold Transome had once or twice mentioned the subject with a
facile hopefulness as to "the young fellow's coming off easily," which,
in her anxious mind, was not a counterpoise to disquieting suggestions,
and she had not chosen to introduce another conversation about Felix
Holt, by questioning Harold concerning the probabilities he relied on.
Since those moments on the terrace, Harold had daily become more of the
solicitous and indirectly beseeching lover; and Esther, from the very
fact that she was weighed on by thoughts that were painfully bewildering
to her--by thoughts which, in their newness to her young mind, seemed to
shake her belief that life could be anything else than a compromise with
things repugnant to the moral taste--had become more passive to his
attentions at the very time that she had begun to feel more profoundly
that in accepting Harold Transome she left the high mountain air, the
passionate serenity of perfect love forever behind her, and must adjust
her wishes to a life of middling delights, overhung with the languorous
haziness of motiveless ease, where poetry was only literature, and the
fine ideas had to be taken down from the shelves of the library when her
husband's back was turned. But it seemed as if all outward conditions
concurred, along with her generous sympathy for the Transomes, and with
those native tendencies against which she had once begun to struggle, to
make this middling lot the best she could attain to. She was in this
half-sad, half-satisfied resignation to something like what is called
worldly wisdom, when she went to see her father, and learn what she
could from him about Felix.

The little minister was much depressed, unable to resign himself to the
dread which had begun to haunt him, that Felix might have to endure the
odious penalty of transportation for the manslaughter, which was the
offence that no evidence in his favor could disprove.

"I had been encouraged by the assurances of men instructed in this
regard," said Mr. Lyon, while Esther sat on the stool near him, and
listened anxiously, "that though he were pronounced guilty in regard to
this deed whereunto he hath calamitously fallen, yet that a judge mildly
disposed, and with a due sense of that invisible activity of the soul
whereby the deeds which are the same in outward appearance and effect,
yet differ as the knife-stroke of the surgeon, even though it kill,
differs from the knife-stroke of a wanton mutilater, might use his
discretion in tempering the punishment, so that it would not be very
evil to bear. But now it is said that the judge who cometh is a severe
man, and one nourishing a prejudice against the bolder spirits who
stand not in the old paths."

"I am going to be present at the trial, father," said Esther, who was
preparing the way to express a wish, which she was timid about even with
her father. "I mentioned to Mrs. Transome that I should like to do so,
and she said that she used in old days always to attend the assizes, and
that she would take me. You will be there, father?"

"Assuredly I shall be there, having been summoned to bear witness to
Felix's character, and to his having uttered remonstrances and warnings
long beforehand whereby he proved himself an enemy to riot. In our ears,
who know him, it sounds strangely that aught else should be credible;
but he hath few to speak for him, though I trust that Mr. Harold
Transome's testimony will go far, if, as you say, he is disposed to set
aside minor regards, and not to speak the truth grudgingly and
reluctantly. For the very truth hath a color from the disposition of the
utterer."

"He is kind; he is capable of being generous," said Esther.

"It is well. For I verily believe that evil-minded men have been at work
against Felix. The _Duffield Watchman_ hath written continually in
allusion to him as one of those mischievous men who seek to elevate
themselves through the dishonor of their party; and as one of those who
go not heart and soul with the needs of the people, but seek only to get
a hearing for themselves by raising their voices in crotchety discord.
It is these things that cause me heaviness of spirit: the dark secret of
this young man's lot is a cross I carry daily."

"Father," said Esther, timidly, while the eyes of both were filling with
tears, "I should like to see him again before his trial. Might I? Will
you ask him? Will you take me?"

The minister raised his suffused eyes to hers, and did not speak for a
moment or two. A new thought had visited him. But his delicate
tenderness shrank even from an inward enquiry that was too curious--that
seemed like an effort to peep at sacred secrets.

"I see naught against it, my dear child, if you arrived early enough,
and would take the elderly lady into your confidence, so that you might
descend from the carriage at some suitable place--the house of the
Independent minister, for example--where I could meet and accompany you.
I would forewarn Felix, who would doubtless delight to see your face
again; seeing that he may go away, and be, as it were, buried from you,
even though it may be only in prison, and not----"

This was too much for Esther. She threw her arms round her father's neck
and sobbed like a child. It was an unspeakable relief to her after all
the pent-up, stifling experience, all the inward incommunicable debate
of the last few weeks. The old man was deeply moved, too, and held his
arm close round the dear child, praying silently.

No word was spoken for some minutes, till Esther raised herself, dried
her eyes, and, with an action that seemed playful, though there was no
smile on her face, pressed her handkerchief against her father's cheeks.
Then, when she had put her hand in his, he said, solemnly--

"'Tis a great and mysterious gift, this clinging of the heart, my
Esther, whereby it hath often seemed to me that even in the very moment
of suffering our souls have the keenest foretaste of heaven. I speak not
lightly, but as one who hath endured. And 'tis a strange truth that only
in the agony of parting we look into the depths of love."

So the interview ended, without any question from Mr. Lyon concerning
what Esther contemplated as the ultimate arrangement between herself and
the Transomes.

After this conversation, which showed him that what happened to Felix
touched Esther more closely than he had supposed, the minister felt no
impulse to raise the images of a future so unlike anything that Felix
would share. And Esther would have been unable to answer any such
questions. The successive weeks, instead of bringing her nearer to
clearness and decision, had only brought that state of disenchantment
belonging to the actual presence of things which have long dwelt in the
imagination with all the factitious charms of arbitrary arrangement. Her
imaginary mansion had not been inhabited just as Transome Court was; her
imaginary fortune had not been attended with circumstances which she was
unable to sweep away. She, herself, in her Utopia, had never been what
she was now--a woman whose heart was divided and oppressed. The first
spontaneous offering of her woman's devotion, the first great
inspiration of her life, was a sort of vanished ecstasy which had left
its wounds. It seemed to her a cruel misfortune of her young life that
her best feeling, her most precious dependence, had been called forth
just where the conditions were hardest, and that all the easy
invitations of circumstance were toward something which that previous
consecration of her longing had made a moral descent for her. It was
characteristic of her that she scarcely at all entertained the
alternative of such a compromise as would have given her the larger
portion of the fortune to which she had a legal claim, and yet have
satisfied her sympathy by leaving the Transomes in possession of their
old home. Her domestication with this family had brought them into the
foreground of her imagination; the gradual wooing of Harold had acted on
her with a constant immediate influence that predominated over all
indefinite prospects; and a solitary elevation to wealth, which out of
Utopia she had no notion how she should manage, looked as chill and
dreary as the offer of dignities in an unknown country.

In the ages since Adam's marriage, it has been good for some men to be
alone, and for some women also. But Esther was not one of these women:
she was intensely of the feminine type, verging neither toward the saint
nor the angel. She was "a fair divided excellence, whose fullness of
perfection" must be in marriage. And, like all youthful creatures, she
felt as if the present conditions of choice were final. It belonged to
the freshness of her heart that, having had her emotions strongly
stirred by real objects, she never speculated on possible relations yet
to come. It seemed to her that she stood at the first and last parting
of the ways. And, in one sense she was under no illusion. It is only in
that freshness of our time that the choice is possible which gives unity
to life, and makes the memory a temple where all relics and all votive
offerings, all worship and all grateful joy, are an unbroken history
sanctified by one religion.



CHAPTER XLV.

    We may not make this world a paradise
    By walking it together with clasped hands
    And eyes that meeting feed a double strength.
    We must be only joined by pains divine,
    Of spirits blent in mutual memories.


It was a consequence of that interview with her father, that when Esther
stepped early on a gray March morning into the carriage with Mrs.
Transome, to go to the Loamford Assizes, she was full of an expectation
that held her lips in trembling silence, and gave her eyes that
sightless beauty which tells that the vision is all within.

Mrs. Transome did not disturb her with unnecessary speech. Of late,
Esther's anxious observation had been drawn to a change in Mrs.
Transome, shown in many small ways which only women notice. It was not
only that when they sat together the talk seemed more of an effort to
her: that might have come from the gradual draining away of matter for
discourse pertaining to most sorts of companionship, in which repetition
is not felt to be as desirable as novelty. But while Mrs. Transome was
dressed just as usual, took her seat as usual, trifled with her drugs
and had her embroidery before her as usual, and still made her morning
greetings with that finished easy politeness and consideration of tone
which to rougher people seems like affectation, Esther noticed a strange
fitfulness in her movements. Sometimes the stitches of her embroidery
went on with silent unbroken swiftness for a quarter of an hour, as if
she had to work out her deliverance from bondage by finishing a
scroll-patterned border; then her hands dropped suddenly and her gaze
fell blankly on the table before her, and she would sit in that way
motionless as a seated statue, apparently unconscious of Esther's
presence, till some thought darting within her seemed to have the effect
of an external shock and rouse her with a start, when she looked around
hastily like a person ashamed of having slept. Esther, touched with
wondering pity at signs of unhappiness that were new in her experience,
took the most delicate care to appear inobservant, and only tried to
increase the gentle attention that might help to soothe or gratify this
uneasy woman. But, one morning, Mrs. Transome had said, breaking a
rather long silence--

"My dear, I shall make this house dull for you. You sit with me like an
embodied patience. I am unendurable; I am getting into a melancholy
dotage. A fidgety old woman like me is as unpleasant to see as a rook
with its wing broken. Don't mind me, my dear. Run away from me without
ceremony. Every one else does, you see. I am part of the old furniture
with new drapery."

"Dear Mrs. Transome," said Esther, gliding to the low ottoman close by
the basket of embroidery, "do you dislike my sitting with you?"

"Only for your own sake, my fairy," said Mrs. Transome, smiling faintly,
and putting her hand under Esther's chin. "Doesn't it make you shudder
to look at me?"

"Why will you say such naughty things?" said Esther, affectionately. "If
you had had a daughter, she would have desired to be with you most when
you most wanted cheering. And surely every young woman has something of
a daughter's feeling toward an older one who has been kind to her."

"I should like you to be really my daughter," said Mrs. Transome,
rousing herself to look a little brighter. "That is something still for
an old woman to hope for."

Esther blushed: she had not foreseen this application of words that came
from pitying tenderness. To divert the train of thought as quickly as
possible, she at once asked what she had previously had in her mind to
ask. Before her blush had disappeared she said:

"Oh, you are so good; I shall ask you to indulge me very much. It is to
let us set out very early to Loamford on Wednesday, and put me down at a
particular house, that I may keep an appointment with my father. It is a
private matter, that I wish no one to know about, if possible. And he
will bring me back to you wherever you appoint."

In that way Esther won her end without needing to betray it; and as
Harold was already away at Loamford, she was the more secure.

The Independent minister's house at which she was set down, and where
she was received by her father, was in a quiet street not far from the
jail. Esther had thrown a dark cloak over the handsomer coverings which
Denner had assured her were absolutely required of ladies who sat
anywhere near the judge at a great trial; and as the bonnet of that day
did not throw the face into high relief, but rather into perspective, a
veil drawn down gave her a sufficiently inconspicuous appearance.

"I have arranged all things, my dear," said Mr. Lyon, "and Felix expects
us. We will lose no time."

They walked away at once, Esther not asking a question. She had no
consciousness of the road along which they passed; she could never
remember anything but a dim sense of entering within high walls and
going along passages, till they were ushered into a larger space than
she had expected, and her father said:

"It is here that we are permitted to see Felix, my Esther. He will
presently appear."

Esther automatically took off her gloves and bonnet, as if she had
entered the house after a walk. She had lost the complete consciousness
of everything except that she was going to see Felix. She trembled. It
seemed to her as if he too would look altered after her new life--as if
even the past would change for her and be no longer a steadfast
remembrance, but something she had been mistaken about, as she had been
about the new life. Perhaps she was growing out of that childhood to
which common things have rareness, and all objects look larger. Perhaps
from henceforth the whole world was to be meaner for her. The dread
concentrated in those few moments seemed worse than anything she had
known before. It was what the dread of the pilgrim might be who has it
whispered to him that the holy places are a delusion, or that he will
see them with a soul unstirred and unbelieving. Every minute that passes
may be charged with some such crisis in the little inner world of man or
woman.

But soon the door opened slightly; someone looked in; then it opened
wide, and Felix Holt entered.

"Miss Lyon--Esther!" and her hand was in his grasp.

He was just the same--no, something inexpressibly better, because of the
distance and separation, and the half-weary novelties, which made him
like the return of the morning.

"Take no heed of me, children," said Mr. Lyon. "I have some notes to
make, and my time is precious. We may remain here only a quarter of an
hour." And the old man sat down at a window with his back to them,
writing with his head bent close to the paper.

"You are very pale; you look ill, compared with your old self," said
Esther. She had taken her hand away, but they stood still near each
other, she looking up at him.

"The fact is, I'm not fond of prison," said Felix, smiling; "but I
suppose the best I can hope for is to have a good deal more of it."

"It is thought that in the worst case a pardon may be obtained," said
Esther, avoiding Harold Transome's name.

"I don't rely on that," said Felix, shaking his head. "My wisest course
is to make up my mind to the very ugliest penalty they can condemn me
to. If I can face that, anything less will seem easy. But you know," he
went on, smiling at her brightly, "I never went in for fine company and
cushions. I can't be very heavily disappointed in that way."

"Do you see things just as you used to do?" said Esther, turning pale as
she said it--"I mean--about poverty, and the people you will live among.
Has all the misunderstanding and sadness left you just as obstinate?"
She tried to smile, but could not succeed.

"What--about the sort of life I should lead if I were free again?" said
Felix.

"Yes. I can't help being discouraged for you by all these things that
have happened. See how you may fail!" Esther spoke timidly. She saw a
peculiar smile, which she knew well, gathering in his eyes. "Ah, I dare
say I am silly," she said, deprecatingly.

"No, you are dreadfully inspired," said Felix. "When the wicked Tempter
is tired of snarling that word failure in a man's cell, he sends a voice
like a thrush to say it for him. See now what a messenger of darkness
you are!" He smiled, and took her two hands between his, pressed
together as children hold them up in prayer. Both of them felt too
solemnly to be bashful. They looked straight into each other's eyes, as
angels do when they tell some truth. And they stood in that way while he
went on speaking.

"But I'm proof against that word failure. I've seen behind it. The only
failure a man ought to fear is failure in cleaving to the purpose he
sees to be best. As to just the amount of result he may see from his
particular work--that's a tremendous uncertainty: the universe has not
been arranged for the gratification of his feelings. As long as a man
sees and believes in some great good, he'll prefer working toward that
in the way he's best fit for, come what may. I put effects at their
minimum, but I'd rather have the maximum of effect, if it's of the sort
I care for, than the maximum of effect I don't care for--a lot of fine
things that are not to my taste--and if they were, the conditions of
holding them while the world is what it is, are such as would jar on me
like grating metal."

"Yes," said Esther, in a lone tone, "I think I understand that now,
better than I used to do." The words of Felix at last seemed strangely
to fit her own experience. But she said no more, though he seemed to
wait for it a moment or two, looking at her. But then he went on--

"I don't mean to be illustrious, you know, and make a new era, else it
would be kind of you to get a raven and teach it to croak 'failure' in
my ears. Where great things can't happen, I care for very small things,
such as will never be known beyond a few garrets and workshops. And
then, as to one thing I believe in, I don't think I can altogether fail.
If there's anything our people want convincing of, it is, that there's
some dignity and happiness for a man other than changing his station.
That's one of the beliefs I choose to consecrate my life to. If anybody
could demonstrate to me that I was a flat for it, I shouldn't think it
would follow that I must borrow money to set up genteelly and order new
clothes. That's not a rigorous consequence to my understanding."

They smiled at each other, with the old sense of amusement they had so
often had together.

"You are just the same," said Esther.

"And you?" said Felix. "My affairs have been settled long ago. But
yours--a great change has come in them--magic at work."

"Yes," said Esther, rather falteringly.

"Well," said Felix, looking at her gravely again, "it's a case of
fitness that seems to give a chance sanction to that musty law. The
first time I saw you your birth was an immense puzzle to me. However,
the appropriate conditions are come at last."

These words seemed cruel to Esther. But Felix could not know all the
reasons for their seeming so. She could not speak; she was turning cold
and feeling her heart beat painfully.

"All your tastes are gratified now," he went on innocently. "But you'll
remember the old pedagogue and his lectures?"

One thought in the mind of Felix was, that Esther was sure to marry
Harold Transome. Men readily believe these things of the women who love
them. But he could not allude to the marriage more directly. He was
afraid of this destiny for her, without having any very distinct
knowledge by which to justify his fear to the mind of another. It did
not satisfy him that Esther should marry Harold Transome.

"My children," said Mr. Lyon at this moment, not looking round, but only
looking close at his watch, "we have just two minutes more." Then he
went on writing.

Esther did not speak, but Felix could not help observing now that her
hands had turned to a deathly coldness, and that she was trembling. He
believed, he knew, that whatever prospects she had, this feeling was for
his sake. An overpowering impulse from mingled love, gratitude, and
anxiety, urged him to say--

"I had a horrible struggle, Esther. But you see I was right. There was a
fitting lot in reserve for you. But remember you have cost a great
price--don't throw what is precious away. I shall want the news that you
have a happiness worthy of you."

Esther felt too miserable for tears to come. She looked helplessly at
Felix for a moment, then took her hands from his, and, turning away
mutely, walked dreamily toward her father, and said, "Father, I am
ready--there is no more to say."

She turned back again, toward the chair where her bonnet lay, with a
face quite corpse-like above her dark garments.

"Esther!"

She heard Felix say the word, with an entreating cry, and went toward
him with the swift movement of a frightened child toward its protector.
He clasped her, and they kissed each other.

She never could recall anything else that happened, till she was in the
carriage again with Mrs. Transome.



CHAPTER XLVI.

    Why, there are maidens of heroic touch,
    And yet they seem like things of gossamer
    You'd pinch the life out of, as out of moths.
    Oh, it is not loud tones and mouthingness,
    'Tis not the arms akimbo and large strides,
    That make a woman's force. The tiniest birds,
    With softest downy breasts, have passions in them,
    And are brave with love.


Esther was so placed in the Court, under Mrs. Transome's wing, as to see
and hear everything without effort: Harold had received them at the
hotel, and had observed that Esther looked ill, and was unusually
abstracted in her manner; but this seemed to be sufficiently accounted
for by her sympathetic anxiety about the result of a trial in which the
prisoner at the bar was a friend, and in which both her father and
himself were important witnesses, Mrs. Transome had no reluctance to
keep a small secret from her son, and no betrayal was made of that
previous "engagement" of Esther's with her father. Harold was
particularly delicate and unobtrusive in his attentions to-day: he had
the consciousness that he was going to behave in a way that would
gratify Esther and win her admiration, and we are all of us made more
graceful by the inward presence of what we believe to be a generous
purpose; our actions move to a hidden music--"a melody that's sweetly
played in tune."

If Esther had been less absorbed by supreme feelings, she would have
been aware that she was an object of special notice. In the bare
squareness of a public hall, where there was not one jutting angle to
hang a guess or a thought upon, not an image or a bit of color to stir
the fancy, and where the only objects of speculation, of admiration, or
of any interest whatever were human beings, that occupied positions
indicating some importance, the notice bestowed on Esther would not have
been surprising, even if it had been merely a tribute to her youthful
charm, which was well championed by Mrs. Transome's elderly majesty. But
it was due also to whisperings that she was an hereditary claimant of
the Transome estates, whom Harold Transome was about to marry. Harold
himself had of late not cared to conceal either the fact or the
probability: they both tended rather to his honor than his dishonor. And
to-day, when there was a good proportion of Trebians present, the
whisperings spread rapidly.

The Court was still more crowded than on the previous day, when our poor
acquaintance Dredge and his two collier companions were sentenced to a
year's imprisonment with hard labor, and the more enlightened prisoner,
who stole the Debarry's plate, to transportation for life. Poor Dredge
had cried, had wished he'd "never heared of 'lection," and in spite of
sermons from the jail chaplain, fell back on the explanation that this
was a world in which Spratt and Old Nick were sure to get the best of
it; so that in Dredge's case, at least, most observers must have had the
melancholy conviction that there had been no enhancement of public
spirit and faith in progress from that wave of political agitation which
had reached the Sproxton Pits.

But curiosity was necessarily at a higher pitch to-day, when the
character of the prisoner and the circumstances of his offence were of a
highly unusual kind. Soon as Felix appeared at the bar, a murmur rose
and spread into a loud buzz, which continued until there had been
repeated authoritative calls for silence in the Court. Rather
singularly, it was now for the first time that Esther had a feeling of
pride in him on the ground simply of his appearance. At this moment,
when he was the centre of a multitudinous gaze, which seemed to act on
her own vision like a broad unmitigated daylight, she felt that there
was something pre-eminent in him, notwithstanding the vicinity of
numerous gentlemen. No apple-woman would have admired him; not only to
feminine minds like Mrs. Tiliot's, but to many minds in coat and
waistcoat, there was something dangerous and perhaps unprincipled in his
bare throat and great Gothic head; and his somewhat massive person would
doubtless have come out very oddly from the hands of a fashionable
tailor of that time. But as Esther saw his large gray eyes looking round
calmly and undefiantly, first at the audience generally, and then with a
more observant expression at the lawyers and other persons immediately
around him, she felt that he bore the outward stamp of a distinguished
nature. Forgive her if she needed this satisfaction; all of us, whether
men or women, are liable to this weakness of liking to have our
preference justified before others as well as ourselves. Esther said
inwardly, with a certain triumph, that Felix Holt looked as worthy to
be chosen in the midst of this large assembly, as he had ever looked in
their _tête-à-tête_ under the sombre light of the little parlor in
Malthouse Yard.

Esther had felt some relief in hearing from her father that Felix had
insisted on doing without his mother's presence; and since to Mrs.
Holt's imagination, notwithstanding her general desire to have her
character enquired into, there was no greatly consolatory difference
between being a witness and a criminal, and an appearance of any kind
"before the judge" could hardly be made to suggest anything definite
that would overcome the dim sense of unalleviated disgrace, she had been
less inclined than usual to complain of her son's decision. Esther had
shuddered beforehand at the inevitable farce there would be in Mrs.
Holt's testimony. But surely Felix would lose something for want of a
witness who could testify to his behavior in the morning before he
became involved in the tumult?

"He is really a fine young fellow," said Harold, coming to speak to
Esther after a colloquy with the prisoner's solicitor. "I hope he will
not make a blunder in defending himself."

"He is not likely to make a blunder," said Esther. She had recovered her
color a little, and was brighter than she had been all the morning
before.

Felix had seemed to include her in his general glance, but had avoided
looking at her particularly. She understood how delicate feeling for her
would prevent this, and that she might safely look at him, and toward
her father, whom she could see in the same direction. Turning to Harold,
to make an observation, she saw that he was looking toward the same
point, but with an expression on his face that surprised her.

"Dear me," she said, prompted to speak without any reflection; "--how
angry you look! I never saw you look so angry before. It is not my
father you are looking at?"

"Oh, no! I am angry at something I'm looking away from," said Harold,
making an effort to drive back the troublesome demon who would stare out
at window. "It's that Jermyn," he added, glancing at his mother as well
as Esther. "He will thrust himself under my eyes everywhere since I
refused him an interview and returned his letter. I'm determined never
to speak to him directly again, if I can help it."

Mrs. Transome heard with a changeless face. She had for some time been
watching, and had taken on her marble look of immobility. She said an
inward bitter "Of course!" to everything that was unpleasant.

After this Esther soon became impatient of all speech; her attention was
rivetted on the proceedings of the Court, and on the mode in which Felix
bore himself. In the case for the prosecution there was nothing more
than a reproduction, with irrelevancies added by witnesses, of the facts
already known to us. Spratt had retained consciousness enough, in the
midst of his terror, to swear that, when he was tied to the finger-post,
Felix was presiding over the actions of the mob. The landlady of the
Seven Stars, who was indebted to Felix for rescue from pursuit by some
drunken rioters, gave evidence that went to prove his assumption of
leadership prior to the assault on Spratt,--remembering only that he had
called away her pursuers to "better sport." Various respectable
witnesses swore to Felix's "encouragement" of the rioters who were
dragging Spratt in King Street; to his fatal assault on Tucker; and to
his attitude in front of the drawing-room window at the Manor.

Three other witnesses gave evidence of expressions used by the prisoner,
tending to show the character of the acts with which he was charged. Two
were Treby tradesmen, the third was a clerk from Duffield. The clerk had
heard Felix speak at Duffield; the Treby men had frequently heard him
declare himself on public matters; and they all quoted expressions which
tended to show that he had a virulent feeling against the respectable
shopkeeping class, and that nothing was likely to be more congenial to
him than the gutting of retailer's shops. No one else knew--the
witnesses themselves did not know fully--how far their strong perception
and memory on these points was due to a fourth mind, namely, that of Mr.
John Johnson, the attorney, who was nearly related to one of the Treby
witnesses, and a familiar acquaintance of the Duffield clerk. Man cannot
be defined as an evidence-giving animal; and in the difficulty of
getting up evidence on any subject, there is room for much unrecognized
action of diligent persons who have the extra stimulus of some private
motive. Mr. Johnson was present in Court to-day, but in a modest,
retired situation. He had come down to give information to Mr. Jermyn,
and to gather information in other quarters, which was well illuminated
by the appearance of Esther in company with the Transomes.

When the case for the prosecution closed, all strangers thought that it
looked very black for the prisoner. In two instances only Felix had
chosen to put a cross-examining question. The first was to ask Spratt if
he did not believe that his having been tied to the post had saved him
from a probably mortal injury? The second was to ask the tradesman who
swore to his having heard Felix tell the rioters to leave Tucker alone
and come along with him, whether he had not, shortly before, heard cries
among the mob summoning to an attack on the wine-vaults and brewery.

Esther had hitherto listened closely but calmly. She knew that there
would be this strong adverse testimony; and all her hopes and fears were
bent on what was to come beyond it. It was when the prisoner was asked
what he had to adduce in reply that she felt herself in the grasp of
that tremor which does not disable the mind, but rather gives keener
consciousness of a mind having a penalty of body attached to it.

There was a silence as of night when Felix Holt began to speak. His
voice was firm and clear: he spoke with simple gravity, and evidently
without any enjoyment of the occasion. Esther had never seen his face
look so weary.

"My Lord, I am not going to occupy the time of the Court with
unnecessary words. I believe the witnesses for the prosecution have
spoken the truth as far as a superficial observation would enable them
to do it; and I see nothing that can weigh with the jury in my favor,
unless they believe my statement of my own motives, and the testimony
that certain witnesses will give to my character and purposes as being
inconsistent with my willingly abetting disorder. I will tell the Court
in as few words as I can, how I got entangled in the mob, how I came to
attack the constable, and how I was led to take a course which seems
rather mad to myself, now I look back upon it."

Felix then gave a concise narrative of his motives and conduct on the
day of the riot, from the moment when he was startled into quitting his
work by the earlier uproar of the morning. He omitted, of course, his
visit to Malthouse Yard, and merely said that he went out to walk again
after returning to quiet his mother's mind. He got warmed by the story
of his experience, which moved him more strongly than ever, now he
recalled it in vibrating words before a large audience of his
fellow-men. The sublime delight of truthful speech to one who has the
great gift of uttering it, will make itself felt even through the pangs
of sorrow.

"That is all I have to say for myself, my Lord. I pleaded 'Not guilty'
to the charge of manslaughter, because I know that word may carry a
meaning which would not fairly apply to my act. When I threw Tucker
down, I did not see the possibility that he would die from a sort of
attack which ordinarily occurs in fighting without any fatal effect. As
to my assaulting a constable, it was a quick choice between two evils: I
should else have been disabled. And he attacked me under a mistake about
my intentions. I'm not prepared to say I never would assault a constable
where I had more chance of deliberation. I certainly should assault him
if I saw him doing anything that made my blood boil: I reverence the
law, but not where it is a pretext for wrong, which it should be the
very object of law to hinder. I consider that I should be making an
unworthy defence, if I let the Court infer from what I say myself, or
from what is said by my witnesses, that because I am a man who hates
drunken, motiveless disorder, or any wanton harm, therefore I am a man
who would never fight against authority: I hold it blasphemy to say that
a man ought not to fight against authority: there is no great religion
and no great freedom that has not done it, in the beginning. It would be
impertinent for me to speak of this now, if I did not need to say in my
own defence, that I should hold myself the worst sort of traitor if I
put my hand to either fighting or disorder--which must mean to injure
somebody--if I were not urged to it by what I hold to be sacred
feelings, making a sacred duty either to my own manhood or to my
fellow-man. And certainly," Felix ended, with a strong ring of scorn in
his voice, "I never held it a sacred duty to try and get a Radical
candidate returned for North Loamshire, by willingly heading a drunken
howling mob, whose public action must consist in breaking windows,
destroying hard-got produce, and endangering the lives of men and women.
I have no more to say, my Lord."

"I foresaw he would make a blunder," said Harold, in a low voice to
Esther. Then, seeing her shrink a little, he feared she might suspect
him of being merely stung by the allusion to himself. "I don't mean what
he said about the Radical candidate," he added, hastily, in correction.
"I don't mean the last sentence. I mean that whole peroration of his,
which he ought to have left unsaid. It has done him harm with the
jury--they won't understand it, or rather will misunderstand it. And
I'll answer for it, it has soured the judge. It remains to be seen what
we witnesses can say for him, to nullify the effect of what he has said
for himself. I hope the attorney has done his best in collecting the
evidence: I understand the expense of the witnesses is undertaken by
some Liberals at Glasgow and in Lancashire, friends of Holt's. But I
suppose your father has told you."

The first witness called to the defence was Mr. Lyon. The gist of his
statements was, that from the beginning of September last till the day
of the election he was in very frequent intercourse with the prisoner;
that he had become intimately acquainted with his character and views of
life, and his conduct with respect to the election, and that these were
totally inconsistent with any other supposition than his being involved
in the riot, and his fatal encounter with the constable, were due to the
calamitous failure of a bold but good purpose. He stated further that he
had been present when an interview had occurred in his own house between
the prisoner and Mr. Harold Transome, who was then canvassing for the
representation of North Loamshire. That the object of the prisoner in
seeking this interview had been to inform Mr. Transome of treating given
in his name to the workmen in the pits and on the canal at Sproxton, and
to remonstrate against its continuance; the prisoner fearing that
disturbance and mischief might result from what he believed to be the
end toward which this treating was directed--namely, the presence of
these men on the occasions of the nomination and polling. Several times
after this interview, Mr. Lyon said, he had heard Felix Holt recur to
the subject therein discussed with expressions of grief and anxiety. He
himself was in the habit of visiting Sproxton in his ministerial
capacity: he knew fully what the prisoner had done there in order to
found a night school, and was certain that the prisoner's interest in
the workingmen of that district turned entirely on the possibility of
converting them somewhat to habits of soberness and to a due care for
the instruction of their children. Finally, he stated that the prisoner,
in compliance with his request, had been present at Duffield on the day
of the nomination, and had on his return expressed himself with strong
indignation concerning the employment of the Sproxton men on that
occasion, and what he called the wickedness of hiring blind violence.

The quaint appearance and manner of the little Dissenting minister could
not fail to stimulate the peculiar wit of the bar. He was subjected to
a troublesome cross-examination, which he bore with wide-eyed
short-sighted quietude and absorption in the duty of truthful response.
On being asked rather sneeringly, if the prisoner was not one of his
flock? he answered, in that deeper tone which made one of the most
effective transitions of his varying voice--

"Nay--would to God he were! I should then feel that the great virtues
and the pure life I have beheld in him were a witness to the efficacy of
the faith I believe in and the discipline of the Church whereunto I
belong."

Perhaps it required a larger power of comparison than was possessed by
any of that audience to appreciate the moral elevation of an Independent
minister who could utter those words. Nevertheless there was a murmur
which was clearly one of sympathy.

The next witness, and the one on whom the interest of the spectators was
chiefly concentrated, was Harold Transome. There was a decided
predominance of Tory feeling in the Court, and the human disposition to
enjoy the infliction of a little punishment on an opposite party, was in
this instance, of a Tory complexion. Harold was keenly alive to this,
and to everything else that might prove disagreeable to him in his
having to appear in the witness-box. But he was not likely to lose his
self-possession, or to fail in adjusting himself gracefully, under
conditions which most men would find it difficult to carry without
awkwardness. He had generosity and candor enough to bear Felix Holt's
proud rejection of his advances without any petty resentment; he had all
the susceptibilities of a gentleman; and these moral qualities gave the
right direction to his acumen, in judging of the behavior that would
best secure his dignity. Everything requiring self-command was easier to
him because of Esther's presence; for her admiration was just then the
object which this well-tanned man of the world had it most at heart to
secure.

When he entered the witness-box he was much admired by the ladies
amongst the audience, many of whom sighed a little at the thought of his
wrong course in politics. He certainly looked like a handsome portrait
by Sir Thomas Lawrence, in which that remarkable artist had happily
omitted the usual excess of honeyed blandness mixed with alert
intelligence, which is hardly compatible with the state of man out of
paradise. He stood not far off Felix; and the two Radicals certainly
made a striking contrast. Felix might have come from the hands of a
sculptor in the later Roman period, when the plastic impulse was stirred
by the grandeur of barbaric forms--when rolled collars were not yet
conceived, and satin stocks were not.

Harold Transome declared he had had only one interview with the
prisoner: it was the interview referred to by the previous witness, in
whose presence and in whose house it was begun. The interview, however,
was continued beyond the observation of Mr. Lyon. The prisoner and
himself quitted the Dissenting minister's house in Malthouse Yard
together, and proceeded to the office of Mr. Jermyn, who was then
conducting electioneering business on his behalf. His object was to
comply with Holt's remonstrance by enquiring into the alleged
proceedings at Sproxton, and, if possible, to put a stop to them. Holt's
language, both in the Malthouse Yard and in the attorney's office, was
strong: he was evidently indignant, and his indignation turned on the
danger of employing ignorant men excited by drink on an occasion of
popular concourse. He believed that Holt's sole motive was the
prevention of disorder, and what he considered the demoralization of the
workmen by treating. The event had certainly justified his
remonstrances. He had not had any subsequent opportunities of observing
the prisoner; but if any reliance was to be placed on a rational
conclusion, it must, he thought, be plain that the anxiety thus
manifested by Holt was a guarantee of the statement he had made as to
his motives on the day of the riot. His entire impression from Holt's
manner in that single interview was that he was a moral and political
enthusiast, who, if he sought to coerce others, would seek to coerce
them into a difficult, and perhaps impracticable, scrupulosity.

Harold spoke with as noticeable directness and emphasis, as if what he
said could have no reaction on himself. He had of course not entered
unnecessarily into what occurred in Jermyn's office. But now he was
subjected to a cross-examination on this subject, which gave rise to
some subdued shrugs, smiles, and winks, among county gentlemen.

The questions were directed so as to bring out, if possible, some
indication that Felix Holt was moved to his remonstrance by personal
resentment against the political agents concerned in setting on foot the
treating at Sproxton, but such questioning is a sort of target-shooting
that sometimes hits about widely. The cross-examining counsel had close
connections among the Tories of Loamshire, and enjoyed his business
to-day. Under the fire of various questions about Jermyn and the agent
employed by him at Sproxton, Harold got warm, and in one of his replies
said, with rapid sharpness--

"Mr. Jermyn was my agent then, not now: I have no longer any but hostile
relations with him."

The sense that he had shown a slight heat would have vexed Harold more
if he had not got some satisfaction out of the thought that Jermyn heard
those words. He recovered his good temper quickly, and when,
subsequently, the question came--

"You acquiesced in the treating of the Sproxton men, as necessary to the
efficient working of the reformed constituency?" Harold replied, with
quiet fluency--"Yes; on my return to England, before I put up for North
Loamshire, I got the best advice from practised agents, both Whig and
Tory. They all agreed as to electioneering measures."

The next witness was Michael Brincey, otherwise Mike Brindle, who gave
evidence of the sayings and doings of the prisoner among the Sproxton
men. Mike declared that Felix went "uncommon again' drink, and
pitch-and-toss, and quarrelling, and sich," and was "all for schooling
and bringing up the little chaps"; but on being cross-examined, he
admitted that he "couldn't give much account"; that Felix did talk
again' idle folks, whether poor or rich, and that most like he meant the
rich, who had "a rights to be idle," which was what he, Mike, liked
himself sometimes, though for the most part he was "a hard-working
butty." On being checked for this superfluous allegation of his own
theory and practice, Mike became timidly conscious that answering was a
great mystery beyond the reach of a butty's soul, and began to err from
defect instead of excess. However, he reasserted that what Felix most
wanted was, "to get 'em to set up a school for the little chaps."

With the two succeeding witnesses, who swore to the fact that Felix had
tried to lead the mob along Hobb's Lane instead of toward the Manor, and
to the violently threatening character of Tucker's attack on him, the
case for the defence was understood to close.

Meanwhile Esther had been looking on and listening with growing misery,
in the sense that all had not been said which might have been said on
behalf of Felix. If it was the jury who were to be acted on, she argued
to herself, there might have been an impression made on their feelings
which would determine their verdict. Was it not constantly said and seen
that juries pronounced Guilty or Not Guilty from sympathy for or against
the accused? She was too inexperienced to check her own argument by
thoroughly representing to herself the course of things: how the counsel
for the prosecution would reply, and how the judge would sum up, with
the object of cooling down sympathy into deliberation. What she had
painfully pressing on her inward vision was that the trial was coming to
an end, and that the voice of right and truth had not been strong
enough.

When a woman feels purely and nobly, that ardor of hers which breaks
through formulas too rigorously urged on men by daily practical needs,
makes one of her most precious influences: she is the added impulse that
shatters the stiffening crust of cautious experience. Her inspired
ignorance gives a sublimity to actions so incongruously simple, that
otherwise they would make men smile. Some of that ardor which has
flashed out and illuminated all poetry and history was burning to-day in
the bosom of sweet Esther Lyon. In this, at least, her woman's lot was
perfect: that the man she loved was her hero; that her woman's passion
and her reverence for rarest goodness rushed together in an undivided
current. And to-day they were making one danger, one terror, one
irresistible impulse for her heart. Her feelings were growing into a
necessity for action, rather than a resolve to act. She could not
support the thought that the trial would come to an end, that sentence
would be passed on Felix, and that all the while something had been
omitted which might have been said for him. There had been no witness to
tell what had been his behavior and state of mind just before the riot.
She must do it. It was possible. There was time. But not too much time.
All other agitation became merged in eagerness not to let the moment
escape. The last witness was being called. Harold Transome had not been
able to get back to her on leaving the witness-box, but Mr. Lingon was
close by her. With firm quickness she said to him--

"Pray tell the attorney that I have evidence to give for the
prisoner--lose no time."

"Do you know what you are going to say, my dear?" said Mr. Lingon,
looking at her in astonishment.

"Yes--I entreat you, for God's sake," said Esther, in that low tone of
urgent beseeching which is equivalent to a cry; and with a look of
appeal more penetrating still, "I would rather die than not do it."

The old rector, always leaning to the good-natured view of things, felt
chiefly that there seemed to be an additional chance for the poor fellow
who had got himself into trouble. He disputed no farther, but went to
the attorney.

Before Harold was aware of Esther's intention she was on her way to the
witness-box. When she appeared there, it was as if a vibration, quick as
light, had gone through the Court and had shaken Felix himself, who had
hitherto seemed impassive. A sort of a gleam seemed to shoot across his
face, and any one close to him would have seen that his hand, which lay
on the edge of the dock, trembled.

At the first moment Harold was startled and alarmed; the next, he felt
delight in Esther's beautiful aspect, and in the admiration of the
Court. There was no blush on her face: she stood, divested of all
personal considerations whether of vanity or shyness. Her clear voice
sounded as it might have done if she had been making a confession of
faith. She began and went on without query or interruption. Every face
looked grave and respectful.

"I am Esther Lyon, the daughter of Mr. Lyon, the Independent minister at
Treby, who has been one of the witnesses for the prisoner. I know Felix
Holt well. On the day of the election at Treby, when I had been much
alarmed by the noises that reached me from the main street, Felix Holt
came to call upon me. He knew that my father was away, and he thought
that I should be alarmed by the sounds of disturbance. It was about the
middle of the day, and he came to tell me that the disturbance was
quieted, and that the streets were nearly emptied. But he said he feared
that the men would collect again after drinking, and that something
worse might happen later in the day. And he was in much sadness at this
thought. He stayed a little while, and then he left me. He was very
melancholy. His mind was full of great resolutions that came from his
kind feeling toward others. It was the last thing he would have done to
join in riot or to hurt any man, if he could have helped it. His nature
is very noble; he is tender-hearted; he could never have had any
intention that was not brave and good."

There was something so naive and beautiful in this action of Esther's,
that it conquered every low or petty suggestion even in the commonest
minds. The three men in that assembly who knew her best--even her father
and Felix Holt--felt a thrill of surprise mingling with their
admiration. This bright, delicate, beautiful-shaped thing that seemed
most like a toy or ornament--some hand had touched the chords, and there
came forth music that brought tears. Half a year before, Esther's dread
of being ridiculous spread over the surface of her life; but the depth
below was sleeping.

Harold Transome was ready to give her his hand and lead her back to her
place. When she was there, Felix, for the first time, could not help
looking toward her, and their eyes met in one solemn glance.

Afterward Esther found herself unable to listen so as to form any
judgment on what she heard. The acting out of that strong impulse had
exhausted every energy. There was a brief pause, filled with a murmur, a
buzz, and much coughing. The audience generally felt as if dull weather
was setting in again. And under those auspices the counsel for the
prosecution got up to make his reply. Esther's deed had its effect
beyond the momentary one, but the effect was not visible in the rigid
necessities of legal procedure. The counsel's duty of restoring all
unfavorable facts to due prominence in the minds of the jurors, had its
effect altogether reinforced by the summing-up of the judge. Even the
bare discernment of facts, much more their arrangement with a view to
inferences, must carry a bias: human impartiality, whether judicial or
not, can hardly escape being more or less loaded. It was not that the
judge had severe intentions; it was only that he saw with severity. The
conduct of Felix was not such as inclined him to indulgent
consideration, and, in his directions to the jury, that mental attitude
necessarily told on the light in which he placed the homicide. Even to
many in the Court who were not constrained by judicial duty, it seemed
that though this high regard felt for the prisoner by his friends, and
especially by a generous-hearted woman, was very pretty, such conduct as
his was not the less dangerous and foolish, and assaulting and killing a
constable was not the less an offence to be regarded without leniency.

Esther seemed now so tremulous, and looked so ill, that Harold begged
her to leave the Court with his mother and Mr. Lingon. He would come and
tell her the issue. But she said, quietly, that she would rather stay;
she was only a little overcome by the exertion of speaking. She was
inwardly resolved to see Felix to the last moment before he left the
Court.

Though she could not follow the address of the counsel or the judge, she
had a keen ear for what was brief and decisive. She heard the verdict,
"Guilty of manslaughter." And every word uttered by the judge in
pronouncing sentence fell upon her like an unforgetable sound that would
come back in dreaming and in waking. She had her eyes on Felix, and at
the words, "Imprisonment for four years," she saw his lip tremble. But
otherwise he stood firm and calm.

Esther gave a start from her seat. Her heart swelled with a horrible
sensation of pain; but, alarmed lest she should lose her self-command,
she grasped Mrs. Transome's hand, getting some strength from that human
contact.

Esther saw that Felix had turned. She could no longer see his face.
"Yes," she said, drawing down her veil, "let us go."



CHAPTER XLVII.

    The devil tempts us not--'tis we tempt him,
    Beckoning his skill with opportunity.


The more permanent effect of Esther's action in the trial was visible in
a meeting which took place the next day in the principal room of the
White Hart of Loamford. To the magistrates and other county gentlemen
who were drawn together about noon, some of the necessary impulse might
have been lacking but for that stirring of heart in certain
just-spirited men and good fathers among them, which had been raised to
a high pitch of emotion by Esther's maidenly fervor. Among these one of
the foremost was Sir Maximus Debarry, who had come to the assizes with a
mind, as usual, slightly rebellious under an influence which he never
ultimately resisted--the influence of his son. Philip Debarry himself
was detained in London, but in his correspondence with his father he had
urged him, as well as his uncle Augustus, to keep eyes and interest
awake on the subject of Felix Holt, whom, from all the knowledge of the
case he had been able to obtain, he was inclined to believe peculiarly
unfortunate rather than guilty. Philip had said he was the more anxious
that his family should intervene benevolently in this affair, if it were
possible, because he understood that Mr. Lyon took the young man's case
particularly to heart, and he should always regard himself as obliged to
the old preacher. At this superfineness of consideration Sir Maximus had
vented a few "pshaws!" and, in relation to the whole affair, had
grumbled that Phil was always setting him to do he didn't know
what--always seeming to turn nothing into something by dint of words
which hadn't so much substance as a mote behind them. Nevertheless he
was coerced; and in reality he was willing to do anything fair or
good-natured which had a handle that his understanding could lay hold
of. His brother, the rector, desired to be rigorously just; but he had
come to Loamford with a severe opinion concerning Felix, thinking that
some sharp punishment might be a wholesome check on the career of a
young man disposed to rely too much on his own crude devices.

Before the trial commenced, Sir Maximus had naturally been one of those
who had observed Esther with curiosity, owing to the report of her
inheritance, and her probable marriage to his once welcome but now
exasperating neighbor, Harold Transome; and he had made the emphatic
comment--"A fine girl! something thoroughbred in the look of her. Too
good for a Radical; that's all I have to say." But during the trial Sir
Maximus was wrought into a state of sympathetic ardor that needed no
fanning. As soon as he could take his brother by the buttonhole, he
said--

"I tell you what, Gus! we must exert ourselves to get a pardon for this
young fellow. Confound it! what's the use of mewing him up for four
years? Example? Nonsense. Will there be a man knocked down the less for
it? That girl made me cry. Depend upon it, whether she's going to marry
Transome or not, she's been fond of Holt--in her poverty, you know.
She's a modest, brave, beautiful woman. I'd ride a steeple-chase, old as
I am, to gratify her feelings. Hang it! the fellow's a good fellow if
she thinks so. And he threw out a fine sneer, I thought, at the Radical
candidate. Depend upon it, he's a good fellow at bottom."

The rector had not exactly the same kind of ardor, nor was he open too
precisely that process of proof which appeared to have convinced Sir
Maximus; but he had been so far influenced as to be inclined to unite in
an effort on the side of mercy, observing also that he "knew Phil would
be on that side." And by the co-operation of similar movements in the
minds of other men whose names were of weight, a meeting had been
determined on to consult about getting up a memorial to the Home
Secretary on behalf of Felix Holt. His case had never had the sort of
significance that could rouse political partisanship; and such interest
as was now felt in him was still more unmixed with that inducement. The
gentlemen who gathered in the room at the White Hart were--not as the
large imagination of the _North_ _Loamshire Herald_ suggested, "of all
shades of political opinion," but--of as many shades as were to be found
among the gentlemen of that county.

Harold Transome had been energetically active in bringing about this
meeting. Over and above the stings of conscience and a determination to
act up to the level of all recognized honorableness, he had the powerful
motive of desiring to do what would satisfy Esther. His gradually
heightened perception that she had a strong feeling toward Felix Holt
had not made him uneasy. Harold had a conviction that might have seemed
like fatuity if it had not been that he saw the effect he produced on
Esther by the light of his opinions about women in general. The
conviction was, that Felix Holt could not be his rival in any formidable
sense. Esther's admiration for this eccentric young man was, he thought,
a moral enthusiasm, a romantic fervor, which was one among those many
attractions quite novel in his own experience; her distress about the
trouble of one who had been a familiar object in her former home, was no
more than naturally followed from a tender woman's compassion. The place
young Holt had held in her regard had necessarily changed its relations
now that her lot was so widely changed. It is undeniable, that what most
conduced to the quieting nature of Harold's conclusions was the
influence on his imagination of the more or less detailed reasons that
Felix Holt was a watchmaker, that his home and dress were of a certain
quality, that his person and manners--that, in short (for Harold, like
the rest of us, had many impressions which saved him the trouble of
distinct ideas), Felix Holt was not the sort of a man a woman would be
in love with when she was wooed by Harold Transome.

Thus, he was sufficiently at rest on this point not to be exercising any
painful self-conquest in acting as the zealous advocate of Felix Holt's
cause with all persons worth influencing; but it was by no direct
intercourse between him and Sir Maximus that they found themselves in
co-operation, for the old baronet would not recognize Harold by more
than the faintest bow, and Harold was not a man to expose himself to a
rebuff. Whatever he in his inmost soul regarded as nothing more than a
narrow prejudice, he could defy, not with airs of importance, but with
easy indifference. He could bear most things good-humoredly where he
felt that he had the superiority. The object of the meeting was
discussed, and the memorial agreed upon without any clashing. Mr.
Lingon was gone home, but it was expected that his concurrence and
signature would be given, as well as those of other gentlemen who were
absent. The business gradually reached that stage at which the
concentration of interest ceases--when the attention of all but a few
who are more practically concerned drops off and disperses itself in
private chat, and there is no longer any particular reason why everybody
stays except that everybody is there. The room was rather a long one,
and invited to a little movement; one gentleman drew another aside to
speak in an undertone about Scotch bullocks; another had something to
say about the North Loamshire hunt to a friend who was the reverse of
good-looking, but who, nevertheless, while listening, showed his
strength of mind by giving a severe attention also to his full-length
reflection in the handsome tall mirror that filled the space between two
windows. And in this way the groups were continually shifting.

But in the meantime there were moving toward this room at the White Hart
the footsteps of a person whose presence had not been invited, and who,
very far from being drawn thither by the belief that he would be
welcome, knew well that his entrance would, to one person at least, be
bitterly disagreeable. They were the footsteps of Mr. Jermyn, whose
appearance that morning was not less comely and less carefully tended
than usual, but who was suffering the torment of a compressed rage,
which, if not impotent to inflict pain on another, was impotent to avert
evil from himself. After his interview with Mrs. Transome there had been
for some reasons a delay of positive procedures against him by Harold,
of which delay Jermyn had twice availed himself; first, to seek an
interview with Harold, and then to send him a letter. The interview had
been refused; and the letter had been returned, with the statement that
no communication could take place except through Harold's lawyers. And
yesterday Johnson had brought Jermyn the information that he would
quickly hear of the proceedings in Chancery being resumed: the watch
Johnson kept in town had given him secure knowledge on this head. A
doomed animal, with every issue earthed up except that where its enemy
stands, must, if it has teeth and fierceness, try its one chance without
delay. And a man may reach a point in his life in which his impulses are
not distinguished from those of a hunted brute by any capability of
scruples. Our selfishness is so robust and many-clutching, that, well
encouraged, it easily devours all sustenance away from our poor little
scruples.

Since Harold would not give Jermyn access to him, that vigorous attorney
was resolved to take it. He knew all about the meeting at the White
Hart, and he was going thither with the determination of accosting
Harold. He thought he knew what he should say, and the tone in which he
should say it. It would be a vague intimation, carrying the effect of a
threat, which should compel Harold to give him a private interview. To
any counter-consideration that presented itself in his mind--to anything
that an imagined voice might say--the imagined answer arose, "That's all
very fine, but I'm not going to be ruined if I can help it--least of
all, ruined in that way." Shall we call it degeneration or gradual
development--this effect of thirty additional winters on the
soft-glancing, versifying young Jermyn?

When Jermyn entered the room at the White Hart he did not immediately
see Harold. The door was at the extremity of the room, and the view was
obstructed by groups of gentlemen with figures broadened by overcoats.
His entrance excited no particular observation: several persons had come
in late. Only one or two, who knew Jermyn well, were not too much
preoccupied to have a glancing remembrance of what had been chatted
about freely the day before--Harold's irritated reply about his agent,
from the witness box. Receiving and giving a slight nod here and there,
Jermyn pushed his way, looking round keenly, until he saw Harold
standing near the other end of the room. The solicitor who had acted for
Felix was just then speaking to him, but having put a paper into his
hand turned away; and Harold, standing isolated, though at no great
distance from others, bent his eyes on the paper. He looked brilliant
that morning; his blood was flowing prosperously. He had come in after a
ride, and was additionally brightened by rapid talk and the excitement
of seeking to impress himself favorably, or at least powerfully, on the
minds of neighbors nearer or more remote. He had just that amount of
flush which indicates that life is more enjoyable than usual; and as he
stood with his left hand caressing his whisker, and his right holding
the paper and his riding-whip, his dark eyes running rapidly along the
written lines, and his lips reposing in a curve of good-humor which had
more happiness in it than a smile, all beholders might have seen that
his mind was at ease.

Jermyn walked quickly and quietly close up to him. The two men were of
the same height, and before Harold looked round Jermyn's voice was
saying, close to his ear, not in a whisper, but in a hard, incisive,
disrespectful and yet not loud tone--

"Mr. Transome, I must speak to you in private."

The sound jarred through Harold with a sensation all the more
insufferable because of the revulsion from the satisfied, almost elated,
state in which it had seized him. He started and looked round into
Jermyn's eyes. For an instant, which seemed long, there was no sound
between them, but only angry hatred gathering in the two faces. Harold
felt himself going to crush this insolence: Jermyn felt that he had
words within him that were fangs to clutch this obstinate strength, and
wring forth the blood and compel submission. And Jermyn's impulse was
the more urgent. He said, in a tone that was rather lower, but yet
harder and more biting--

"You will repent else--for your mother's sake."

At that sound, quick as a leaping flame, Harold had struck Jermyn across
the face with his whip. The brim of the hat had been a defense. Jermyn,
a powerful man, had instantly thrust out his hand and clutched Harold
hard by the clothes just below the throat, pushing him slightly so as to
make him stagger.

By this time everybody's attention had been called to this end of the
room, but both Jermyn and Harold were beyond being arrested by any
consciousness of spectators.

"Let me go, you scoundrel!" said Harold, fiercely, "or I'll be the death
of you."

"Do," said Jermyn, in a grating voice; "_I am your father_."

In the thrust by which Harold had been made to stagger backward a
little, the two men had got very near the long mirror. They were both
white; both had anger and hatred in their faces; the hands of both were
upraised. As Harold heard the last terrible words he started at a
leaping throb that went through him, and in the start turned his eyes
away from Jermyn's face. He turned them on the same face in the glass
with his own beside it, and saw the hated fatherhood reasserted.

The strong man reeled with a sick faintness. But in the same moment
Jermyn released his hold, and Harold felt himself supported by the arm.
It was Sir Maximus Debarry who had taken hold of him.

"Leave the room, sir!" the baronet said to Jermyn, in a voice of
imperious scorn. "This is a meeting of gentlemen."

"Come, Harold," he said, in the old friendly voice, "come away with
me."



CHAPTER XLVIII.

    'Tis law as steadfast as the throne of Zeus--
    Our days are heritors of days gone by.

                                  ÆSCHYLUS: _Agamemnon_.


A little after five o'clock that day, Harold arrived at Transome Court.
As he was winding along the broad road of the park, some parting gleams
of the March sun pierced the trees here and there, and threw on the
grass a long shadow of himself and the groom riding, and illuminated a
window or two of the home he was approaching. But the bitterness in his
mind made these sunny gleams almost as odious as an artificial smile. He
wished he had never come back to this pale English sunshine.

In the course of his eighteen miles' drive he had made up his mind what
he would do. He understood now, as he had never understood before, the
neglected solitariness of his mother's life, the allusions and
innuendoes which had come out during the election. But with a proud
insurrection against the hardship of an ignominy which was not of his
own making, he inwardly said, that if the circumstances of his birth
were such as to warrant any man in regarding his character of gentleman
with ready suspicion, that character should be the more strongly
asserted in his conduct. No one should be able to allege with any show
of proof that he had inherited meanness.

As he stepped from the carriage and entered the hall, there were the
voice and the trotting feet of little Harry as usual, and the rush to
clasp his father's leg and make his joyful puppy-like noises. Harold
just touched the boy's head, and then said to Dominic in a weary voice--

"Take the child away. Ask where my mother is."

Mrs. Transome, Dominic said, was up-stairs. He had seen her go up after
coming in from her walk with Miss Lyon, and she had not come down again.

Harold throwing off his hat and greatcoat, went straight to his mother's
dressing-room. There was still a hope in his mind. He might be suffering
simply from a lie. There is much misery created in the world by mere
mistake or slander, and he might have been stunned by a lie suggested by
such slander. He rapped at his mother's door.

Her voice said immediately, "Come in."

Mrs. Transome was resting in her easy-chair, as she often did between an
afternoon walk and dinner. She had taken off her walking-dress and
wrapped herself in a soft dressing-gown. She was neither more nor less
empty of joy than usual. But when she saw Harold, a dreadful certainty
took possession of her. It was as if a long expected letter, with a
black seal, had come at last.

Harold's face told her what to fear the more decisively, because she had
never before seen it express a man's deep agitation. Since the time of
its pouting childhood and careless youth she had seen only the confident
strength and good-humored imperiousness of maturity. The last five hours
had made a change as great as illness makes. Harold looked as if he had
been wrestling, and had had some terrible blow. His eyes had that sunken
look which, because it is unusual, seems to intensify expression.

He looked at his mother as he entered, and her eyes followed him as he
moved, till he came and stood in front of her, she looking up at him,
with white lips.

"Mother," he said, speaking with a distinct slowness, in strange
contrast with his habitual manner, "tell me the truth, that I may know
how to act."

He paused a moment, and then said, "Who is my father?"

She was mute: her lips only trembled. Harold stood silent for a few
moments, as if waiting. Then he spoke again.

"_He_ has said--said it before others--that _he_ is my father."

He looked still at his mother. She seemed as if age were striking her
with a sudden wand--as if her trembling face were getting haggard before
him. She was mute. But her eyes had not fallen; they looked up in
helpless misery at her son.

Her son turned away his eyes from her, and left her. In that moment
Harold felt hard: he could show no pity. All the pride of his nature
rebelled against his sonship.



CHAPTER XLIX.

    Nay, falter not--'tis an assured good
    To seek the noblest--'tis your only good
    Now you have seen it; for that higher vision
    Poisons all meaner choice forevermore.


That day Esther dined with old Mr. Transome only. Harold sent word that
he was engaged and had already dined, and Mrs. Transome that she was
feeling ill. Esther was much disappointed that any tidings Harold might
have brought relating to Felix were deferred in this way; and, her
anxiety making her fearful, she was haunted by the thought that if there
had been anything cheering to tell, he would have found time to tell it
without delay. Old Mr. Transome went as usual to his sofa in the library
to sleep after dinner, and Esther had to seat herself in the small
drawing-room, in a well-lit solitude that was unusually dispiriting to
her. Pretty as this room was, she did not like it. Mrs. Transome's
full-length portrait, being the only picture there, urged itself too
strongly on her attention: the youthful brilliancy it represented
saddened Esther by its inevitable association with what she daily saw
had come instead of it--a joyless, embittered age. The sense that Mrs.
Transome was unhappy, affected Esther more and more deeply as the
growing familiarity which relaxed the efforts of the hostess revealed
more and more the threadbare tissue of this majestic lady's life. Even
the flowers and the pure sunshine and the sweet waters of Paradise would
have been spoiled for a young heart, if the bowered walks had been
haunted by an Eve gone gray with bitter memories of an Adam who had
complained. "The woman----she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." And
many of us know how, even in our childhood, some blank discontented face
on the background of our home has marred our summer mornings. Why was
it, when the birds were singing, when the fields were a garden, and when
we were clasping another little hand just larger than our own, there was
somebody who found it hard to smile? Esther had got far beyond that
childhood to a time and circumstances when this daily presence of
elderly dissatisfaction amidst such outward things as she had always
thought must greatly help to satisfy, awaked, not merely vague
questioning emotion, but strong determining thought. And now, in these
hours since her return from Loamford, her mind was in that state of
highly-wrought activity, that large discourse, in which we seem to stand
aloof from our own life--weighing impartially our own temptations and
the weak desires that most habitually solicit us. "I think I am getting
that power Felix wished me to have: I shall soon see strong visions,"
she said to herself, with a melancholy smile flitting across her face,
as she put out her wax lights that she might get rid of the oppressive
urgency of walls and upholstery and that portrait smiling with deluded
brightness, unwitting of the future.

Just then Dominic came to say that Mr. Harold sent his compliments, and
begged that she would grant him an interview in his study. He disliked
the small drawing-room: if she would oblige him by going to the study at
once, he would join her very soon. Esther went, in some wonder and
anxiety. What she most feared or hoped in these moments related to Felix
Holt, and it did not occur to her that Harold could have anything
special to say to her that evening on other subjects.

Certainly the study was pleasanter than the small drawing-room. A quiet
light shone on nothing but greenness and dark wood, and Dominic had
placed a delightful chair for her opposite to his master's, which was
still empty. All the little objects of luxury around indicated Harold's
habitual occupancy; and as Esther sat opposite all these things along
with the empty chair which suggested the coming presence, the
expectation of his beseeching homage brought with it an impatience and
repugnance which she had never felt before. While these feelings were
strongly upon her, the door opened and Harold appeared.

He had recovered his self-possession since his interview with his
mother: he had dressed and was perfectly calm. He had been occupied with
resolute thoughts, determining to do what he knew that perfect honor
demanded, let it cost him what it would. It is true he had a tacit hope
behind, that it might not cost him what he prized most highly: it is
true he had a glimpse even of reward; but it was not less true that he
would have acted as he did without that hope or glimpse. It was the most
serious moment in Harold Transome's life; for the first time the iron
had entered into his soul, and he felt the hard pressure of our common
lot, the yoke of that mighty resistless destiny laid upon us by the acts
of other men as well as our own.

When Esther looked at him she relented, and felt ashamed of her
gratuitous impatience. She saw that his mind was in some way burdened.
But then immediately sprang the dread that he had to say something
hopeless about Felix.

They shook hands in silence, Esther looking at him with anxious
surprise. He released her hand, but it did not occur to her to sit down,
and they both continued standing on the hearth.

"Don't let me alarm you," said Harold, seeing that her face gathered
solemnity from his. "I suppose I carry the marks of a past agitation. It
relates entirely to troubles of my own--of my own family. No one beyond
is involved in them."

Esther wondered still more, and felt still more relenting.

"But," said Harold, after a slight pause, and in a voice that was
weighted with new feeling, "it involves a difference in my position with
regard to you; and it is on this point that I wished to speak to you at
once. When a man sees what ought to be done, he had better do it
forthwith. He can't answer for himself to-morrow."

While Esther continued to look at him, with eyes widened by anxious
expectation, Harold turned a little, leaned on the mantelpiece, and
ceased to look at her as he spoke.

"My feelings drag me another way. I need not tell you that your regard
has become very important to me--that if our mutual position had been
different--that, in short, you must have seen--if it had not seemed to
be a matter of worldly interest, I should have told you plainly already
that I loved you, and that my happiness could be complete only if you
would consent to marry me."

Esther felt her heart beginning to beat painfully. Harold's voice and
words moved her so much that her own task seemed more difficult than she
had before imagined. It seemed as if the silence, unbroken by anything
but the clicking of the fire, had been long, before Harold turned round
toward her again and said--

"But to-day I have heard something that affects my own position. I
cannot tell you what it is. There is no need. It is not any culpability
of my own. But I have not just the same unsullied name and fame in the
eyes of the world around us, as I believed that I had when I allowed
myself to entertain that wish about you. You are very young, entering on
a fresh life with bright prospects--you are worthy of everything that is
best. I may be too vain in thinking it was at all necessary; but I take
this precaution against myself. I shut myself out from the chance of
trying, after to-day, to induce you to accept anything which others may
regard as specked and stained by any obloquy, however slight."

Esther was keenly touched. With a paradoxical longing, such as often
happens to us, she wished at that moment that she could have loved this
man with her whole heart. The tears came into her eyes; she did not
speak, but, with an angel's tenderness in her face, she laid her hand on
his sleeve. Harold commanded himself strongly and said--

"What is to be done now is, that we should proceed at once to the
necessary legal measures for putting you in possession of your own, and
arranging mutual claims. After that I shall probably leave England."

Esther was oppressed by an overpowering difficulty. Her sympathy with
Harold at this moment was so strong, that it spread itself like a mist
over all previous thought and resolve. It was impossible now to wound
him afresh. With her hand still resting on his arm, she said, timidly--

"Should you be urged--obliged to go--in any case?"

"Not in every case, perhaps," Harold said, with an evident movement of
the blood toward his face; "at least not for long, not for always."

Esther was conscious of the gleam in his eyes. With terror at herself,
she said, in difficult haste, "I can't speak. I can't say anything
to-night. A great decision has to be made: I must wait--till to-morrow."

She was moving her hand from his arm, when Harold took it reverentially
and raised it to his lips. She turned toward her chair, and as he
released her hand she sank down on the seat with a sense that she needed
that support. She did not want to go away from Harold yet. All the while
there was something she needed to know, and yet she could not bring
herself to ask it. She must resign herself to depend entirely on his
recollection of anything beyond his own immediate trial. She sat
helpless under contending sympathies while Harold stood at some distance
from her, feeling more harassed by weariness and uncertainty, now that
he had fulfilled his resolve, and was no longer under the excitement of
actually fulfilling it.

Esther's last words had forbidden his revival of the subject that was
necessarily supreme with him. But still she sat there, and his mind,
busy as to the probabilities of her feeling, glanced over all she had
done and said in the later days of their intercourse. It was this
retrospect that led him to say at last--

"You will be glad to hear that we shall get a very powerfully signed
memorial to the Home Secretary about young Holt. I think your speaking
for him helped a great deal. You made all the men wish what you wished."

This was what Esther had been yearning to hear and dared not ask, as
well from respect for Harold's absorption in his own sorrow, as from the
shrinking that belongs to our dearest need. The intense relief of
hearing what she longed to hear, affected her whole frame: her color,
her expression, changed as if she had been suddenly freed from some
torturing constraint. But we interpret signs of emotion as we interpret
other signs--often quite erroneously, unless we have the right key to
what they signify. Harold did not gather that this was what Esther had
waited for, or that the change in her indicated more than he had
expected her to feel at this allusion to an unusual act which she had
done under a strong impulse.

Besides the introduction of a new subject after very momentous words
have passed, and are still dwelling on the mind, is necessarily a sort
of concussion, shaking us into a new adjustment of ourselves.

It seemed natural that soon afterward Esther put out her hand and said,
"Good-night."

Harold went to his bedroom on the same level with his study, thinking of
the morning with an uncertainty that dipped on the side of hope. This
sweet woman, for whom he felt a passion newer than any he had expected
to feel, might possibly make some hard things more bearable--if she
loved him. If not--well, he had acted so that he could defy anyone to
say he was not a gentleman.

Esther went up-stairs to her bedroom, thinking that she should not sleep
that night. She set her light on a high stand, and did not touch her
dress. What she desired to see with undisturbed clearness were things
not present: the rest she needed was the rest of a final choice. It was
difficult. On each side there was renunciation.

She drew up her blinds, liking to see the gray sky, where there were
some veiled glimmerings of moonlight, and the lines of the forever
running river, and the bending movement of the black trees. She wanted
the largeness of the world to help her thought. This young creature, who
trod lightly backward and forward, and leaned against the window-frame,
and shook back her brown curls as she looked at something not visible,
had lived hardly more than six months since she saw Felix Holt for the
first time. But life is measured by the rapidity of change, the
succession of influences that modify the being; and Esther had undergone
something little short of an inward revolution. The revolutionary
struggle, however, was not quite at an end.

There was something which she now felt profoundly to be the best thing
that life could give her. But--if it was to be had at all--it was not to
be had without paying a heavy price for it, such as we must pay for all
that is greatly good. A supreme love, a motive that gives a sublime
rhythm to a woman's life, and exalts habit into partnership with the
soul's highest needs, is not to be had where and how she wills: to know
that high initiation, she must often tread where it is hard to tread,
and feel the chill air, and watch through darkness. It is not true that
love makes all things easy: it makes us choose what is difficult.
Esther's previous life had brought her into close acquaintance with many
negations, and with many positive ills too, not of the acutely painful,
but of the distasteful sort. What if she chose the hardship, and had to
bear it alone, with no strength to lean upon--no other better self to
make a place for trust and joy? Her past experience saved her from
illusions. She knew the dim life of the back street, the contact with
sordid vulgarity, the lack of refinement for the senses, the summons to
a daily task; and the gain that was to make that life of privation
something on which she dreaded to turn her back, as if it were
heaven--the presence and the love of Felix Holt--was only a quivering
hope, not a certainty. It was not in her woman's nature that the hope
should not spring within her and make a strong impulse. She knew that he
loved her: had he not said how a woman might help a man if she were
worthy? and if she proved herself worthy? But still there was the dread
that after all she might find herself on the stony road alone, and faint
and be weary. Even with the fulfillment of her hope, she knew that she
pledged herself to meet high demands.

And on the other side there was a lot where everything seemed easy--but
for the fatal absence of those feelings which, now she had once known
them, it seemed nothing less than a fall and degradation to do without.
With a terrible prescience which a multitude of impressions during her
stay at Transome Court had contributed to form, she saw herself in a
silken bondage that arrested all motive, and was nothing better than a
well-cushioned despair. To be restless amidst ease, to be languid among
all appliances for pleasure, was a possibility that seemed to haunt the
rooms of this house, and wander with her under the oaks and elms of the
park. And Harold Transome's love, no longer a hovering fancy with which
she played, but become a serious fact, seemed to threaten her with a
stifling oppression. The homage of a man may be delightful until he asks
straight for love, by which a woman renders homage. Since she and Felix
had kissed each other in the prison, she felt as if she had vowed
herself away, as if memory lay on her lips like a seal of possession.
Yet what had happened that very evening had strengthened her liking for
Harold, and her care for all that regarded him: it had increased her
repugnance to turning him out of anything he had expected to be his, or
to snatching anything from him on the ground of an arbitrary claim. It
had even made her dread, as a coming pain, the task of saying anything
to him that was not a promise of the utmost comfort under this
newly-disclosed trouble of his.

It was already near midnight, but with these thoughts succeeding and
returning in her mind like scenes through which she was living, Esther
had a more intense wakefulness than any she had known by day. All had
been stillness hitherto, except the fitful wind outside. But her ears
now caught a sound within--slight, but sudden. She moved near her door,
and heard the sweep of something on the matting outside. It came closer,
and paused. Then it began again, and seemed to sweep away from her. Then
it approached, and paused as it had done before. Esther listened,
wondering. The same thing happened again and again, till she could bear
it no longer. She opened the door, and in the dim light of the corridor,
where the glass above seemed to make a glimmering sky, she saw Mrs.
Transome's tall figure pacing slowly, with her cheek upon her hand.



CHAPTER L.

    The great question in life is the suffering we cause: and the
    utmost ingenuity of metaphysics cannot justify the man who has
    pierced the heart that loved him.

                                                --BENJAMIN CONSTANT.


When Denner had gone up to her mistress's room to dress her for dinner,
she had found her seated just as Harold had found her, only with eyelids
drooping and trembling over slowly-rolling tears--nay, with a face in
which every sensitive feature, every muscle, seemed to be quivering with
a silent endurance of some agony.

Denner went and stood by the chair a minute without speaking, only
laying her hand gently on Mrs. Transome's. At last she said
beseechingly, "Pray, speak, madam. What has happened?"

"The worst, Denner--the worst."

"You are ill. Let me undress you, and put you to bed."

"No, I am not ill. I am not going to die! I shall live--I shall live!"

"What may I do?"

"Go and say I shall not dine. Then you may come back, if you will."

The patient waiting-woman came back and sat by her mistress in
motionless silence, Mrs. Transome would not let her dress be touched,
and waved away all proffers with a slight movement of her hand. Denner
dared not even light a candle without being told. At last, when the
evening was far gone, Mrs. Transome said:

"Go down, Denner, and find out where Harold is, and come back and tell
me."

"Shall I ask him to come to you, madam?"

"No; don't dare to do it, if you love me. Come back."

Denner brought word that Mr. Harold was in his study, and that Miss Lyon
was with him. He had not dined, but had sent later to ask Miss Lyon to
go into his study.

"Light the candles and leave me."

"Mayn't I come again?"

"No. It may be that my son will come to me."

"Mayn't I sleep on the little bed in your bedroom?"

"No, good Denner; I am not ill. You can't help me."

"That's the hardest word of all, madam."

"The time will come--but not now. Kiss me. Now go."

The small quiet old woman obeyed, as she had always done. She shrank
from seeming to claim an equal's share in her mistress's sorrow.

For two hours Mrs. Transome's mind hung on what was hardly a
hope--hardly more than the listening for a bare possibility. She began
to create the sounds that her anguish craved to hear--began to imagine a
footfall, and a hand upon the door. Then, checked by continual
disappointment, she tried to rouse a truer consciousness by rising from
her seat and walking to her window, where she saw streaks of light
moving and disappearing on the grass, and heard the sound of bolts and
closing doors. She hurried away and threw herself into her seat again,
and buried her head in the deafening down of the cushions. There was no
sound of comfort to her.

Then her heart cried out within her against the cruelty of this son.
When he turned from her in the first moment, he had not had time to feel
anything but the blow that had fallen on himself. But afterward--was it
possible that he should not be touched with a son's pity--was it
possible that he should not have been visited by some thought of the
long years through which she had suffered? The memory of those years
came back to her now with a protest against the cruelty that had all
fallen on _her_. She started up with a new restlessness from this spirit
of resistance. She was not penitent. She had borne too hard a
punishment. Always the edge of calamity had fallen on _her_. Who had
felt for her? She was desolate. God had no pity, else her son would not
have been so hard. What dreary future was there after this dreary past?
She, too, looked out into the dim night; but the black boundary of trees
and the long line of the river seemed only part of the loneliness and
monotony of her life.

Suddenly she saw a light on the stone balustrades of the balcony that
projected in front of Esther's window, and the flash of a moving candle
falling on a shrub below. Esther was still awake and up. What had Harold
told her--what had passed between them? Harold was fond of this young
creature, who had been always sweet and reverential to her. There was
mercy in her young heart; she might be a daughter who had no impulse to
punish and to strike her whom fate had stricken. On the dim loneliness
before her she seemed to see Esther's gentle look; it was possible still
that the misery of this night might be broken by some comfort. The proud
woman yearned for the caressing pity that must dwell in that young
bosom. She opened her door gently, but when she had reached Esther's she
hesitated. She had never yet in her life asked for compassion--had never
thrown herself in faith on an unproffered love. And she might have gone
on pacing the corridor like an uneasy spirit without a goal, if Esther's
thought, leaping toward her, had not saved her from the need to ask
admission.

Mrs. Transome was walking toward the door when it opened. As Esther saw
that image of restless misery, it blent itself by a rapid flash with all
that Harold had said in the evening. She divined that the son's new
trouble must be one with the mother's long sadness. But there was no
waiting. In an instant Mrs. Transome felt Esther's arm round her neck,
and a voice saying softly--

"Oh, why didn't you call me before?"

They turned hand and hand into the room, and sat down on a sofa at the
foot of the bed. The disordered gray hair--the haggard face--the
reddened eyelids under which the tears seemed to be coming again with
pain, pierced Esther to the heart. A passionate desire to soothe this
suffering woman came over her. She clung round her again, and kissed her
poor quivering lips and eyelids, and laid her young cheek against the
pale and haggard one. Words could not be quick or strong enough to utter
her yearning. As Mrs. Transome felt that soft clinging, she said--

"God has some pity on me."

"Rest on my bed," said Esther. "You are so tired. I will cover you up
warmly, and then you will sleep."

"No--tell me, dear--tell me what Harold said."

"That he has had some new trouble."

"He said nothing hard about me?"

"No--nothing. He did not mention you."

"I have been an unhappy woman, dear."

"I feared it," said Esther, pressing her gently.

"Men are selfish. They are selfish and cruel. What they care for is
their own pleasure and their own pride."

"Not all," said Esther, on whom these words fell with a painful jar.

"All I have ever loved," said Mrs. Transome. She paused a moment or two,
and then said, "For more than twenty years I have not had an hour's
happiness. Harold knows it, and yet he is hard to me."

"He will not be. To-morrow he will not be. I am sure he will be good,"
said Esther, pleadingly. "Remember--he said to me his trouble was
new--he has not had time."

"It is too hard to bear, dear," Mrs. Transome said, a new sob rising as
she clung fast to Esther in return. "I am old, and expect so little
now--a very little thing would seem great. Why should I be punished any
more?"

Esther found it difficult to speak. The dimly-suggested tragedy of this
woman's life, the dreary waste of years empty of sweet trust and
affection, afflicted her even to horror. It seemed to have come as a
last vision to urge her toward the life where the draughts of joy sprang
from the unchanging fountains of reverence and devout love.

But all the more she longed to still the pain of this heart that beat
against hers.

"Do let me go to your own room with you, and let me undress you, and let
me tend upon you," she said, with a woman's gentle instinct. "It will be
a very great thing to me. I shall seem to have a mother again. Do let
me."

Mrs. Transome yielded at last, and let Esther soothe her with a
daughter's tendance. She was undressed and went to bed; and at last
dozed fitfully, with frequent starts. But Esther watched by her till the
chills of morning came, and then she only wrapped more warmth around
her, and slept fast in the chair till Denner's movement in the room
roused her. She started out of a dream in which she was telling Felix
what had happened to her that night.

Mrs. Transome was now in the sounder morning sleep which sometimes
comes after a long night of misery. Esther beckoned Denner into the
dressing-room, and said:

"It is late, Mrs. Hickes. Do you think Mr. Harold is out of his room?"

"Yes, a long while; he was out earlier than usual."

"Will you ask him to come up here? Say I begged you."

When Harold entered Esther was leaning against the back of the empty
chair where yesterday he had seen his mother sitting. He was in a state
of wonder and suspense, and when Esther approached him and gave him her
hand, he said, in a startled way--

"Good God! how ill you look! Have you been sitting up with my mother?"

"Yes. She is asleep now," said Esther. They had merely pressed hands by
way of greeting, and now stood apart looking at each other solemnly.

"Has she told you anything?" said Harold.

"No, only that she is wretched. Oh, I think I would bear a great deal of
unhappiness to save her from having any more."

A painful thrill passed through Harold, and showed itself in his face
with that pale rapid flash which can never be painted. Esther pressed
her hands together, and said, timidly, though it was from an urgent
prompting--

"There is nothing in all this place--nothing since ever I came here--I
could care for so much as that you should sit down by her now, and that
she should see you when she wakes."

Then with delicate instinct, she added, just laying her hand on his
sleeve, "I know you would have come. I know you meant it. But she is
asleep now. Go gently before she wakes."

Harold just laid his right hand for an instant on the back of Esther's
as it rested on his sleeve, and then stepped softly to his mother's
bedside.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour afterward, when Harold had laid his mother's pillow afresh, and
sat down again by her, she said--

"If that dear thing will marry you, Harold, it will make up to you for a
great deal."

But before the day closed Harold knew that this was not to be. That
young presence, which had flitted like a white new-winged dove over all
the saddening relics and new finery of Transome Court, could not find
its home there. Harold heard from Esther's lips that she loved some one
else, and that she resigned all claim to the Transome estates. She
wished to go back to her father.



CHAPTER LI.

    The maiden said, I wis the londe
      Is very fair to see,
    But my true-love that is in bonde
      Is fairer still to me.


One April day, when the sun shone on the lingering raindrops, Lyddy was
gone out, and Esther chose to sit in the kitchen, in the wicker-chair
against the white table, between the fire and the window. The kettle was
singing, and the clock was ticking steadily toward four o'clock.

She was not reading, but stitching; and as her fingers moved nimbly,
something played about her parted lips like a ray. Suddenly she laid
down her work, pressed her hands together on her knees, and bent forward
a little. The next moment there came a loud rap at the door. She started
up and opened it, but kept herself hidden behind it.

"Mr. Lyon at home?" said Felix, in his firm tones.

"No, sir," said Esther from behind her screen; "but Miss Lyon is, if
you'll please to walk in."

"Esther!" exclaimed Felix, amazed.

They held each other by both hands, and looked into each other's faces
with delight.

"You are out of prison?"

"Yes, till I do something bad again. But you?--how is it all?"

"Oh, it is," said Esther, smiling brightly as she moved toward the
wicker chair, and seated herself again, "that everything is as usual: my
father is gone to see the sick; Lyddy is gone in deep despondency to buy
the grocery; and I am sitting here, with some vanity in me, needing to
be scolded."

Felix had seated himself on a chair that happened to be near her, at the
corner of the table. He looked at her still with questioning eyes--he
grave, she mischievously smiling.

"Are you come back to live here then?"

"Yes."

"You are not going to be married to Harold Transome, or to be rich?"

"No." Something made Esther take up her work again, and begin to stitch.
The smiles were dying into a tremor.

"Why?" said Felix, in rather a low tone, leaning his elbow on the table,
and resting his head on his hand while he looked at her.

"I did not wish to marry him, or to be rich."

"You have given it all up?" said Felix, leaning forward a little, and
speaking in a still lower tone. Esther did not speak. They heard the
kettle singing and the clock loudly ticking. There was no knowing how it
was: Esther's work fell, their eyes met; and the next instant their arms
were round each other's necks, and once more they kissed each other.

When their hands fell again, their eyes were bright with tears. Felix
laid his hand on her shoulder.

"Could you share the life of a poor man, then, Esther?"

"If I thought well enough of him," she said, the smile coming again,
with the pretty saucy movement of her head.

"Have you considered well what it would be?--that it would be a very
bare and simple life?"

"Yes--without atta of rose."

Felix suddenly removed his hand from her shoulder, rose from his chair,
and walked a step or two; then he turned round and said, with deep
gravity--

"And the people I shall live among, Esther? They have not just the same
follies and vices as the rich, but they have their own forms of folly
and vice; and they have not what are called the refinements of the rich
to make their faults more bearable. I don't say more bearable to me--I'm
not fond of those refinements; but you are."

Felix paused an instant, and then added--

"It is very serious, Esther."

"I know it is serious," said Esther, looking up at him. "Since I have
been at Transome Court I have seen many things very seriously. If I had
not, I should not have left what I did leave. I made a deliberate
choice."

Felix stood a moment or two, dwelling on her with a face where the
gravity gathered tenderness.

"And these curls?" he said, with a sort of relenting, seating himself
again, and putting his hand on them.

"They cost nothing--they are natural."

"You are such a delicate creature."

"I am very healthy. Poor women, I think, are healthier than the rich.
Besides," Esther went on, with a mischievous meaning, "I think of having
some wealth."

"How?" said Felix, with an anxious start. "What do you mean?"

"I think even of two pounds a week: one needn't live up to the splendor
of all that, you know; we might live as simply as you liked: there would
be money to spare, and you could do wonders, and be obliged to work too,
only not if sickness came. And then I think of a little income for your
mother, enough for her to live as she has been used to live; and a
little income for my father, to save him from being dependent when he is
no longer able to preach."

Esther said all this in a playful tone, but she ended, with a grave look
of appealing submission----

"I mean--if you approve. I wish to do what you think it will be right to
do."

Felix put his hand on her shoulder again and reflected a little while,
looking on the hearth: then he said, lifting up his eyes, with a smile
at her----

"Why, I shall be able to set up a great library, and lend the books to
be dog's-eared and marked with bread-crumbs."

Esther said, laughing, "You think you are to be everything. You don't
know how clever I am. I mean to go on teaching a great many things."

"Teaching me?"

"Oh, yes," she said, with a little toss; "I shall improve your French
accent."

"You won't want me to wear a stock," said Felix, with a defiant shake of
the head.

"No; and you will not attribute stupid thoughts to me before I've
uttered them."

They laughed merrily, each holding the other's arms, like girl and boy.
There was the ineffable sense of youth in common.

Then Felix leaned forward, that their lips might meet again, and after
that his eyes roved tenderly over her face and curls.

"I'm a rough, severe fellow, Esther. Shall you never repent?--never be
inwardly reproaching me that I was not a man who could have shared your
wealth? Are you quite sure?"

"Quite sure!" said Esther, shaking her head; "for then I should have
honored you less. I am weak--my husband must be greater and nobler than
I am."

"Oh, I tell you what, though!" said Felix, starting up, thrusting his
hands into his pockets, and creasing his brow playfully, "if you take me
in that way I shall be forced to be a much better fellow than I ever
thought of being."

"I call that retribution," said Esther, with a laugh as sweet as the
morning thrush.



EPILOGUE.

    Our finest hope is finest memory;
    And those who love in age think youth is happy,
    Because it has a life to fill with love.


The very next May, Felix and Esther were married. Every one in those
days was married at the parish church; but Mr. Lyon was not satisfied
without an additional private solemnity, "wherein there was no bondage
to questionable forms, so that he might have a more enlarged utterance
of joy and supplication."

It was a very simple wedding; but no wedding, even the gayest, ever
raised so much interest and debate in Treby Magna. Even very great
people, like Sir Maximus and his family, went to the church to look at
this bride, who had renounced wealth, and chosen to be the wife of a man
who said he would always be poor.

Some few shook their heads; could not quite believe it; and thought
there was "more behind." But the majority of honest Trebians were
affected somewhat in the same way as happy-looking Mr. Wace was, who
observed to his wife, as they walked from under the churchyard
chestnuts, "It's wonderful how things go through you--you don't know
how. I feel somehow as if I believed more in everything that's good."

Mrs. Holt, that day, said she felt herself to be receiving "some
reward," implying that justice certainly had much more in reserve.
Little Job Tudge had an entirely new suit, of which he fingered every
separate brass button in a way that threatened an arithmetical mania;
and Mrs. Holt had out her best tea-trays and put down her carpet again,
with the satisfaction of thinking that there would no more be boys
coming in all weathers with dirty shoes.

For Felix and Esther did not take up their abode in Treby Magna; and
after a while Mr. Lyon left the town too, and joined them where they
dwelt. On his resignation the church in Malthouse Yard chose a successor
to him whose doctrine was rather higher.

There were other departures from Treby. Mr. Jermyn's establishment was
broken up, and he was understood to have gone to reside at a great
distance: some said "abroad," that large home of ruined reputations. Mr.
Johnson continued blonde and sufficiently prosperous till he got gray
and rather more prosperous. Some persons who did not think highly of
him, held that his prosperity was a fact to be kept in the background,
as being dangerous to the morals of the young; judging that it was not
altogether creditable to the Divine Providence that anything but virtue
should be rewarded by a front and back drawing-room in Bedford Row.

As for Mr. Christian, he had no more profitable secrets at his disposal.
But he got his thousand pounds from Harold Transome.

The Transome family were absent some time from Transome Court. The place
was kept up and shown to visitors, but not by Denner, who was away with
her mistress. After a while the family came back, and Mrs. Transome died
there. Sir Maximus was at her funeral, and throughout that neighborhood
there was silence about the past.

Uncle Lingon continued to watch over the shooting on the Manor and the
covers until that event occurred which he had predicted as a part of
Church reform sure to come. Little Treby had a new rector, but others
were sorry besides the old pointers.

As to all that wide parish of Treby Magna, it has since prospered as the
rest of England has prospered. Doubtless there is more enlightenment
now. Whether the farmers are all public-spirited, the shopkeepers nobly
independent, the Sproxton men entirely sober and judicious, the
Dissenters quite without narrowness or asperity in religion and
politics, and the publicans all fit, like Gaius, to be the friends of an
apostle--these things I have not heard; not having correspondence in
those parts. Whether any presumption may be drawn from the fact that
North Loamshire does not yet return a Radical candidate, I leave to the
all-wise--I mean the newspapers.

As to the town in which Felix Holt now resides, I will keep that a
se